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News - 1 July 2006

Brighton MP says chuggers need strict controls

As the warmer weather returns to our shores it brings with it all manner of delights such as buskers, street performers and al fresco dining. But it also brings out the beggars and the illegal traders and of course the chuggers.

The good news is that licensing of face-to-face fundraisers is in the pipeline. But the detail of how it will be enforced and what the new rules will allow is still to be ironed out.

Brighton Pavilion Labour and Co-operative MP David Lepper has welcomed the Governments plans to licence chuggers, following continuing problems in Brighton city centre. But he is concerned to ensure that the new regime is not based on a voluntary code.

Speaking in a debate on the Charities Bill in the Commons on June 26, David Lepper warned ministers that they must allow local councils to impose strict controls on chuggers when issuing licences and that the experience of traders and residents in Brighton and Hove was that voluntary codes of conduct do not work.

David Lepper quoted a letter sent by one constituent who told him: “The sheer rudeness of these people is breathtaking. The money would be better spent on helping those who the charity is trying to help” rather than on paying the collectors.

The letter added: “People should have the right to go about their business without being insulted for not being able to afford to give a monthly donation to charity.”

David Lepper told fellow MPs that, unfortunately, this was “not an unusual experience.”

David also reported the following comments made to him last week by Tony Mernagh, chief executive of the Brighton and Hove Business Forum, “Chuggers continue to be as much of a problem as they ever were. Our attempts to control the nuisance factor by a voluntary agreement did not work. The PFRA (Public Fund-Raisers Regulatory Association) were not prepared to agree to some of our requests and were half-hearted about asking their members to abide by the voluntary code and the vast majority do not.”

David Lepper continued, “Tony Mernagh attached an 11-point code, most of which is based on a national voluntary code with some local amendments, a code which, he told me, is still, by and large, being flouted.”

“People”, said David Lepper, “should think seriously about whether a spur-of-the-moment decision in the street to sign up to a regular donation to a charity is the best way to make such a donation. Payroll giving was by far the better alternative.” (see story in Knowledgebase entitled ‘Government offers charity incentives that could displace chuggers’)

Ed Miliband, parliamentary secretary to the Cabinet Office, replying at the end of the debate, told David Lepper, “In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Pavilion, clause 60 sets out the terms on which local authorities will be able to regulate fundraising.

“There are a number of ways in which they will be able to do that. The key aspect is that they must make a judgment about whether a collection would cause inconvenience to members of the public by reason of the day or the week or date on or in which, the time at which and the frequency with which it takes place, and so on. I hope that that is of some reassurance to my hon. Friend.”

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