Standing Committee C
Wednesday 25 April 2001
[Mr. Bowen Wells in the Chair]
Amendment of National Lottery etc. Act 1993
Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.
Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North): It is a pleasure to serve under your tutelage and chairmanship again, Mr. Wells. We joined with each other during the original debate on hunting with dogs, and enjoyed that immensely. I also pay a compliment to Members from all parties who are present, many from East Anglia and Norfolk, for coming along to support the Bill.
The cross-party support has been very important, not just to me in my isolation as promoter of the Bill, but to the people in East Anglia who can see clearly that they will benefit from being able to access lottery money as a result of the removal of an anomaly in the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 that refuses to allow people with money in endowment trusts to access one arm of the Act. If anyone can explain why that happened, I look forward to hearing the explanation. I do understand that when laws are drawn up, things are sometimes missed. However, that does not mean that I support the House of Lords for rectifying everything. I would much prefer that rectification was done in this place; hopefully, that will happen.
I also extend great thanks to the Minister and the staff behind the throne, as it werethe legal beaverswho have been exciting me with amendments to amendments to amendments, and their efforts to make it easy to amend the 1993 Act to allow what we want to happen to happen.
Sometimes I would like to short-circuit some of these processes. It would be nice if a lottery form was simply slipped into the post to groups such as the ``We Care'' appeal, which make a difference to the thousands of carers in Norfolk, accompanied by a message saying, ``Please, please apply. We are very sympathetic. Just get the application in and we will see how we can assess it.'' I know that the world does not always work so easily, and that we have to play along with some of the finer legalities.
I am very grateful for the support that I have received. I look forward to hearing what progress the Minister has made in the discussions with the legal support that she has had. I again thank everyone for the Second Reading debate, which was excellent. The Bill was subjected to good scrutiny, which has been well minuted and written up in Hansard. I am grateful for the opportunity today to progress the Bill further.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Kate Hoey): It is a pleasure to be here under your guidance, Mr. Wells. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) in particular, but also all the Members from Norfolk from all parties, and from East Anglia generally. This morning's sitting is rather like an Eastern region caucus and I feel slightly out of place, but it is good that we can get cross-party and all-party support for a measure to change what appears to be something that was not intended to happen but did happen. Unfortunately, as my hon. Friend said, the process of changing it can take an awful lot longer than one might expect for what seems on the surface to be a simple change.
As hon. Members know, the Bill received wide cross-party support at Second Reading, which was testament to all the work that my hon. Friend and all his friends from the region had doneand to the support of the Eastern Daily Press for the ``We Care'' 2000 appeal.
The Government still sympathise very strongly with the principles that underpin the Bill. We note that the 1993 Act does not appear to give the Community Fund, as the National Lottery Charities Board is now called, the power to make grants to endowments. It is important to point out, because many hon. Members raised the matter at Second Reading, that although it would still be a matter for the board of the Community Fund to take its own decision on individual grantsin other words, there is no obvious agreement that if the Bill passes into law, automatically those organisations would be supportedit is important, and we support the principle, that it should be able to make such grants.
We noted at Second Reading that there were some fairly minor but important technical flaws in the Bill, and we said that we might want to offer some correcting amendments. We had some amendments that we believed would have achieved our intentions. Unfortunately, during consideration of how those might be framed, some complex legal questions came to light, which we needed to investigate further in great depth. I am afraid that, consequently, we could not table the technical amendments in time for the Committee's consideration.
However, we have been able to clarify for our own purposesmy hon. Friend has been involved in this processthe legal issues to which the Bill gives rise, and we hope, and are making a commitment, that if the Bill makes further progress this morning, we will be in a position to offer amendments on Report. Those amendments will not be designed to alter the purpose of the Bill, but will simply improve the drafting to ensure that the Bill achieves my hon. Friend's intentions without affecting the powers of the other distributing bodies.
Our legal opinion on the latest draft of the amendments is favourable, and we are confident that we shall be in a position to table the amendments at the start of the week after next, in time for a Report stage, should we be able to get that Report stage beforewell, in case anything happens. I am not sure that anything will happen. We shall also table a minor amendment to extend the Bill to Northern Ireland, and an amendment on the date of commencement.
We give the Bill our full support. I am sorry that we cannot wrap it up today with the amendments, but I believe that Members will have no difficulty in supporting the amendments when they see them, and that all those who support the principle of the Bill will be pleased that we can move it forward.
Dr. Gibson: Will my hon. Friend assure me that the amendments would not deny other arms of the lottery funding the right to put money into endowment funds? I would not like us to penalise other organisations that have been very successful in obtaining lottery money.
Kate Hoey: My hon. Friend has come to the core of the point: the need for legal guidance. Some legal opinion implied that the changes that my hon. Friend and others want could affect the abilities of the other lottery distributors to do what they are already doing. We want to be absolutely certain that the Bill gives everyone the same opportunities to use endowments, and we are now confident that we have found the correct legal mechanism and the correct legal advice.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause 1 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.
Bill to be reported, without amendment.
The following Members attended the Committee:
Committee rose at twenty-one minutes to Eleven o'clock.
Wells, Mr. Bowen (Chairman)
Russell, Mr. Bob
Turner, Dr. George
Wright, Mr. Anthony D.