Newly-published government papers dating back 30 years have shown that Jimmy Savile approached then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher about increasing tax relief on charitable donations.
He also met her several times to drum up support for his Stoke Mandeville Hospital appeal – a successful campaign, as the government eventually donated £500,000 to the £10m appeal.
Official records of meetings and a number of letters between the pair were published by the National Archives just before the new year, under the 30-year rule.
One paper shows that the late TV presenter approached the PM at a Downing Street event for the NSPCC on 6 February 1980, to ask how he might “pursue the question of tax deduction for charitable donations”.
At the time, the rules on the charitable covenant – the precursor to gift aid – meant that a donor would have to commit to donate to a charity for seven years before the gifts became eligible for tax relief.
According to the papers, Thatcher thought this was unreasonably long and favoured reducing the period to three years in order to boost public donations.
Almost three weeks after the Downing Street reception, she wrote to Savile to assure him that she was interested in the subject herself “and am now looking into it”.
“Please leave it with me,” she wrote, “and I will write to you about it again within a few weeks. It is quite a complicated subject and I am sorry that I cannot give you any instant answer.”
However, other papers show that she knew by then that the time period for charitable covenants was to be relaxed from seven years to four, and that it would be announced by then-Chancellor Geoffrey Howe in that year’s Budget. But she had been forbidden by the Treasury from “even hinting” at this to Savile, as it was a “Budget secret”.
Later Thatcher wrote again to Savile about the changes to the covenant. A suggested draft of the letter from the Inland Revenue stated that the changes had been considered “a little time ago” but this was omitted from the actual letter she sent.
Prolific sexual predator
The Metropolitan Police and the NSPCC have today published a report detailing the shocking extent of Savile’s sexual offending over five decades. The 30-page report, Giving Victims a Voice, reveals that 450 people have reported abuse by the TV star; 214 crimes were recorded across 28 police force areas, including 34 of rape or penetration.
Helpline calls up 43 per cent in two years
Meanwhile, calls to the child sexual abuse helpline, Stop it Now!, run by the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, reached record levels in December after ten years of operation.
The numbers of calls was up 21 per cent year-on-year to 5,034, and up 43 per cent in the last two years.