Labour MP calls on the government to give unclaimed Gift Aid to charities

John Robertson says £750m is unclaimed each year; but Chloe Smith, a junior Cabinet Office minister, denies there is a 'stockpile of unspent money'

John Robertson MP
John Robertson MP

The government should do more to allow charities to receive £750m in Gift Aid that goes unclaimed each year, a Westminster Hall debate in parliament heard yesterday.

John Robertson, Labour MP for Glasgow North, said Chloe Smith, the parliamentary secretary for the Cabinet Office, who was present at the debate, should explain what happened to unclaimed Gift Aid.

"Please do not tell me, minister, that it goes back to the Treasury," he said. "People really need it and we can direct it to some of those charities, rather than giving it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

"More than £750m of Gift Aid goes unclaimed each year. It is clear that more needs to be done to get that to those who need it most."

He said the government should introduce a central database of Gift Aid donors – a proposal being developed by the Charities Aid Foundation – and should introduce an awareness campaign to make more people aware of Gift Aid.

Robertson also called for more support for small charities to access text donations, and said more should be done to persuade Apple to allow donations through iPhone and iPad apps.

"The government has been looking publicly into the issue since about 2011, so why has nothing been done?" he said.

Robertson also called for the government to do more to scrutinise data on giving habits.

But Richard Fuller, Conservative MP for Bedford, said the government should scrap Gift Aid altogether and replace it with a system of tax breaks given directly to donors.

Smith told the debate that the government had no stockpile of unspent money allocated to Gift Aid that could be given to charities. "If money that is within the public finances is not spent on one thing, it is spent on another," she said.

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