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10.6 am

Mr. John MacGregor (South Norfolk): I thank the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) for his very kind remarks. He is right, in that when I spoke in the Budget debate, I said that, in common with my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), it might be my last speech in the House. I am delighted that it was not. Indeed, there may be many more--I do not know when the election will be.

The Bill is of great significance to Norfolk, and indeed the whole country. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his success in the ballot, and I am delighted that he has chosen this subject. I agree with everything that he said, apart from two points. In his tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Prior), he suggested that his seat might be in jeopardy. I assure him that that is not the case. My hon. Friend has done remarkable work for his constituency, which will be well rewarded by an increased majority.

The other point on which I disagreed with the hon. Gentleman was when he said that he hoped to be performing in one of the appeal's charitable concerts in the summer. I do not know when the election will be, but I am sure that he is hoping that it will be way beyond the summer, because I am sure that he will not want to participate as an ex-Member. However, this is very much a bipartisan occasion, so I will not continue on that tack.

I strongly support the appeal, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk would have been here had it not been for their constituency duties. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the latter's remarkable sponsored walk efforts. I, too, have supported the appeal by action as well as words. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) and I took part in what used to be called a variety concert, in Wolterton hall in north Norfolk last summer, and we raised more than £1,000.

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In my constituency, in a new restaurant in part of an old agricultural building owned by my constituent Mr. Ben du Brow--a remarkable example of farm diversification--my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) and I did a cabaret last November. She and I have participated in the palace of varieties in St. John's Smith square on three occasions, on two of which we did a mind-reading act. On those occasions we were very much limited in time, because of the number of acts, but I am glad to say that in the cabaret for the Eastern Daily Press "We Care" appeal, we were able to demonstrate our mind-reading skills at greater length and managed to raise £11,400. I am deeply grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest for participating in that. I want to pay a warm tribute to Mrs. Paddy Seligman for her remarkable enthusiasm and leadership and to the Eastern Daily Press for its constant support, which has been so important.

What is interesting about the nearly £550,000 that has been raised is that it is the result of a variety of fund-raising events. In addition to the event in which I participated, which raised a substantial sum, countless small events have taken place all over the county. They have involved all age groups, including many young people and school children. That shows how remarkably good the appeal and cause are.

Norfolk has an above average proportion of elderly people, because it is an attractive place to which to retire. Many people are dependent on carers. The hon. Gentleman referred to my good friend and constituent, Mrs. Ann Mullender, who for many years has done a splendid job in the caring sector. She has often talked to me about it. All Hallows hospital in my constituency provides respite care for a large number of people and many constituents have told me how that seven-days respite care is enormously appreciated. The service has been under threat in recent years and I hope that the appeal will enable All Hallows to continue to provide it.

I am in no doubt about the importance of the appeal and of its significance to many people in Norfolk. The hon. Gentleman mentioned small improvements, such as a dishwashing machine, which can make a remarkable difference to the lives of the people he described. Respite care is another example. The East Norfolk health authority recently commissioned social research for its intermediate services review. Support for carers was one of the top five priorities for action identified by all the audiences that took part.

The hon. Gentleman has considered the subject in detail; indeed, his legal research was most interesting and enables me to avoid asking the Minister one or two questions, for which I am sure she is grateful. However, I remain puzzled by some definitions in the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 and why a contribution from a charity to an appeal does not count as expenditure for charities. Other charitable bodies are able to provide contributions for endowment funds. It must be an historical anomaly. I have been told that the reason that the National Lottery Charities Board cannot make grants to endowment trusts has been lost in the mists of time. We are talking about not a principle or precedent, but an exception. I did not speak in earlier debates, so I do not understand why that exception has been made.

On NESTA, the House has accepted the principle for a substantial endowment fund as part of the activity of lottery charities. The Bill to establish that got through the

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House quickly and, I think, with all-party support. That might be of interest to the hon. Gentleman. We are dealing with an anomaly and there are clear precedents for what the Bill is attempting to achieve.

Endowment funds are common in charitable activities. John Lewis has been mentioned. Many charitable trusts have endowment funds for the good reason that they are enabled over many years to go on making a considerable contribution for the purposes for which they were established and not just in the early years or in the first year. It is true that current interest rates mean that not a great deal of income is coming from the funds, but that is not an argument against the principle because at other times the returns will be much higher. Many trusts have been set up with such funds, so they obviously fulfil an important purpose.

Mr. Forth: Does my right hon. Friend concede that when the yield from an endowment fund is low--like now, and rates could get even lower--it might bias the difficult decision on the use of such funds towards using the money for the immediate benefit of a much larger number of causes?

Mr. MacGregor: That is an interesting issue. I have been involved in discussions about whether, in the case of educational endowment funds, there should be a relaxation of the restrictions on income, especially in a period of high total returns because of the behaviour of the stock market or substantial capital gains. I accept that there are other issues to consider. There will be fluctuations in interest rates, but the continuation of the funds is more important than the concern that my right hon. Friend raises. If he is right, why, after centuries, would so many endowment funds still be in existence and providing such significant benefits? The Oxford and Cambridge colleges are a good example of that. The principle behind such funds are well accepted and the benefits well understood.

I mentioned the tremendous activities of the Eastern Daily Press "We Care" appeal, which are largely due to its splendid leadership and the obvious acceptance of the worthiness of the cause. However, it will not be possible to have a major fund-raising activity every year, because it has involved a massive amount of work by many people. Thus to argue that the establishment of an endowment fund means that it is impossible to direct the moneys raised to a specific cause does not hold water. The advantage of an endowment fund is that it continues to provide income for causes for many years.

The general principle is the need to match funds, which applies to the National Lottery Charities Board. It gives individual grants for one-off purposes for one year only, usually when an organisation to which it is giving the money has demonstrated by its own efforts that it has raised a good deal of the sums itself. That same principle will apply under the Bill; it is not true that organisations such as John Lewis will be prevented from continuing to give. The body to which it is suggested that charitable money should go as an endowment will have to demonstrate, as the EDP appeal did, that it has put a huge effort into the process and has raised a great deal of money. All we are doing is continuing the principle of

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lottery funding. We are giving the same incentive as we give to endowment funds to those bodies that are trying to secure money from the board.

I am delighted to delay returning to my constituency to support the Bill and, again, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his achievement. For all the reasons that we have given, I hope that if the Bill is not enacted in this Parliament, the winner of the election will pick it up and make it law. The hon. Gentleman has done Norfolk and the House a great service by introducing the Bill.

10.19 am

Mr. Anthony D. Wright (Great Yarmouth): I am happy to support the Bill. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) for introducing it and I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate. It is heartening to see hon. Members from both sides of the House who represent Norfolk constituencies in the Chamber and it is always a pleasure to speak about a Bill that has all-party support. I hope that the Bill also has the Government's support. It has the backing of the local media, and a consensus appears to have been reached.

Having mentioned the media, I should, of course, make it clear that I am talking about the Eastern Daily Press, which has already done such sterling work, with its "We Care" appeal. It is through the newspaper's campaigning zeal that the anomaly in the National Lottery etc. Act 1993, which this Bill seeks to correct, has been brought to public attention. I pay tribute to the work that it has done. Clearing up the anomaly that prevents the National Lottery Charities Board from making grants to endowments is long overdue.

Norfolk Members of Parliament have also done their bit. I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North for introducing the Bill, the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) for the large sums that he has raised and the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Prior), who has already raised many thousands of pounds for the appeal with a sponsored walk around his constituency. I, too, was invited to do something along those lines, but I am afraid that I did not at that time consider myself to be at peak fitness--not that I can remember when I was at peak fitness. However, all right hon. and hon. Members may soon have the opportunity to do a lot of walking around their constituencies, and if that is the case, it should prove good fitness training for taking part in a sponsored walk for the appeal in the not-too-distant future, and I certainly intend to be a part of that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North listed the reasons for the Bill. I would like to highlight the Bill's relevance to my constituency of Great Yarmouth, particularly to three constituents. Recent statistics have shown that Great Yarmouth is the fifth most deprived area in the United Kingdom. That measure of deprivation takes in many factors, but it is undoubtedly true that many people in Great Yarmouth will benefit from the aim of the Norfolk millennium trust for carers, which is:

There are carers the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, all doing a fantastic job, but I know from my experience as Great Yarmouth's MP just how many people there are on my own doorstep, often unseen or

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unheralded by the rest of society, who are caring full-time for loved ones. Indeed, only this week I received a letter from a constituent who gave up her well-paid job as a geologist to look after her disabled mother full-time. She asked a perfectly reasonable question about whether anybody could really live properly on the £66.35 a week that she is paid.

There is still much more for the Government to do on this issue, but the Bill could make an immediate impression by allowing endowment trusts for carers, such as that established by the "We Care" appeal, to benefit from lottery funds. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North spoke about carers, but there is no harm in reiterating just how big a contribution the army of carers in our midst makes to society.

It is estimated that nationally one in seven of the population is an unpaid carer. In the county of Norfolk, that comes to approximately 110,000, which translates to around 13,000 in my constituency. Depending on the condition of the individual who is being cared for, round-the-clock care can easily cost £500 a week. Therefore, any carer who is receiving, for example, the £66.35 a week, such as the constituent I mentioned earlier, is saving society more than £400 a week. It has been calculated that, nationally, carers save the Government approximately £34 billion a year.

As a way of illustrating the ceaseless work that so many carers undertake, I would like to concentrate on the experiences of two constituents whom I have come to know very well over the past few years. Even before I became Great Yarmouth's MP, I knew of Tanya and Christine Harrison. Tanya is a bright, intelligent and charming young lady who was tragically struck down with myalgic encephalomyelitis, otherwise known as CFS--chronic fatigue syndrome. It took five years to diagnose her condition. Christine is her mother. Some right hon. and hon. Members will know that I am the chairman on the all-party group on ME, and through that work I have come to know much more about these remarkable ladies. Indeed, only on Wednesday of this week I received a report from the Action for ME charity highlighting the shortcomings in NHS treatment for those who are most severely affected by that debilitating condition. Inevitably, the task of providing full-time care for these unfortunate people, many of whom are still very young, tends to fall on their families.

Tanya is currently completing her degree course at the university of London, a remarkable achievement for someone so severely affected. The only reason that she has been able to do that is because Christine lives with her on the university campus and is there for her 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as she has been for the past 10 years, since she was forced to give up her job working for Mencap. Tanya has been bedridden for those past 10 years.

I was speaking to Christine about it only this week. There is so much that can be said about the emotional, physical and financial stresses that she, her daughter and the rest of the family have been through. However, Christine said that it is possible to sum it up in one sentence:

She said:

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I could say much more about the physical and emotional stress that Christine and Tanya have dealt with over the years, but I should like to say a little about their financial circumstances, as the Bill could make a difference. As Christine says:

There is much more of Tanya and Christine's story that I could tell, but I am sure that I have given right hon. and hon. Members a flavour of it. However, I hope that their story demonstrates not only the terrific devotion and dedication of one particular carer--a story that is repeated millions of times up and down the land--but the need for further financial and practical assistance for these selfless people.

Initiatives such as the "We Care" appeal provide for the endowment of charities. That is so important because it enables secure and long-term funding arrangements to be put in place. There is nothing wrong with the National Lottery Charities Board making one-off grants for various charitable expenditure as it does at the moment, but the continuing and permanent nature of the work of carers requires financial and practical support over a far longer time scale and it is clearly wrong that the lottery cannot at the moment provide that. For that reason, the Bill has my wholehearted support.

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