National Lottery Bill


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Mr. Harris: Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that the Government are not being prescriptive enough?

Mr. Turner: The hon. Gentleman is suggesting nothing of the kind; he is asking why the Government want to give this power to the Secretary of State rather
 
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than to Parliament. If the Government are saying that it is right that there should be such prescription—that is what the hon. Member for Glasgow, South advanced—why are the Government saying the prescription should be made not by Parliament, but by the Secretary of State? We believe that it is not necessary for there to be such a high level of prescription, and would oppose it in any case.

However, I was trying to deal with the point that the hon. Member for Glasgow, South advanced. He was saying that there is not sufficient public confidence in the lottery, and that there is confusion among the public about the lottery and the Government. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman denies that he said that. We can read the record in due course, but perhaps I misunderstood him. I thought he said that the public held the Government accountable for the way in which lottery money is spent.

Mr. Harris: If I did suggest that there was confusion between the Government and the lottery fund, I will withdraw the statement. There certainly is an association, as there should be.

Mr. Turner: I will settle for that for the time being. The hon. Gentleman advances the theory that there is an association, and that there should be one. I am advancing the theory that there is confusion, which there should not be. One reason for the confusion is the promotion of the very association to which he refers. That promotion is undertaken by the Government, as, in addition to the powers that are set out in previous legislation, they tend to lean on the lottery to spend money on their favourite causes. We have given examples, and I shall not go over them again. The Government collar money from the lottery, or they persuade the New Opportunities Fund to spend money on their favourite causes. I do not know quite how they do it, but I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Ministers are capable of persuading the fund and the lottery distribution agencies that what they have in mind is a good way to spend the money, and—lo and behold—the money pops up and the Government spend it.

Mr. Swire: Does my hon. Friend agree that the best way of determining how the decisions are arrived at would be to invite the Minister to discuss a specific example?

The Chairman: Order. It would be helpful, especially as I am partially deaf, to address words directly to the Chair.

Mr. Swire: I apologise, Mr. Cook. I was suggesting to my hon. Friend that one way of illustrating how the Government arrive at these directives would be to invite the Minister to discuss a specific example such as, perhaps, the initiative of fruit for school lunches, with which Jamie Oliver was involved. I alluded to it earlier. It would be interesting and would perhaps answer my hon. Friend's question as to how the decision was made, what Government direction there was, what dialogue there was between Ministers and how it was decided in a panic to get the money from the lottery. That would be very informative.

Mr. Turner: I thank my hon. Friend for that suggestion. It would indeed be interesting to see the
 
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e-mails that were exchanged between the relevant Minister and Mr. Oliver. [Interruption.] The Minister is saying that I can see them.

Mr. Caborn: Under freedom of information.

Mr. Turner: Then I make that request here and now. Perhaps the Minister will place in the Library copies of the e-mails that were exchanged between the Secretary of State and the lottery distribution organisations that produced, almost overnight, such a large amount of money. Many lottery applicants in my constituency would count themselves lucky to receive a response on far smaller amounts of money in three to six months, let alone overnight.

Why are the Government asking Parliament to give the Secretary of State these powers? If it is so important to prescribe how lottery money is spent, why are they giving powers to the Secretary of State and not to Parliament? Parliament is not well known for overturning the decisions or preferences of Ministers. We do so when it is necessary, but we do so seldom. The Government would not lose power in that respect, but they would at least establish that a future Secretary of State could not distort funding decisions. My hon. Friend the Member for East Devon said that we should always try to legislate not just for the present but for the future.

Let me give an example. What if an incoming Secretary of State were to decide to promote a grammar school for every town? I accept that that is probably the policy that will be revealed this afternoon by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills. But what if a future Secretary of State wanted to do that? All that would be required would be for that Secretary of State to speak to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and suggest an amendment to the prescriptions and, lo and behold, all the money would be spent in a different way.

11.15 am

That is the power with which we are investing the Secretary of State, rather than Parliament. It has always been my contention that the less that is done by delegated legislation and the more that is done by Parliament, the more democratic the outcome; albeit that the outcome might be the same.

Mr. Caborn: I shall try to keep to the amendments rather than refer to the debates on Second Reading. The amendments are concerned with the things that the Big Lottery Fund will spend its money on, as well as the territories in which it can spend it. Amendment No. 24 would remove the Secretary of State's power to prescribe expenditure for the new good cause. Amendment No. 25 would remove the related order-making powers. Taken together, the amendments would mean that the Big Lottery Fund could not allocate money for any expenditure that is connected with health, education, the environment or charitable means. I am sure that that is not the intention of the hon. Member for East Devon.

I am aware that some people, particularly those in the voluntary and community sector, have questioned
 
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why the Government need a power to narrow down the good cause. There seems to be specific worry about our intention to use the power to set the three high-level themes, as described on Second Reading, about which the Big Lottery Fund has consulted. We could not be accused of not consulting the wider public. There may be a prosecution of cases in respect of single-issue organisations; I do not know. I submit to the Committee that all the consultation documents, licensing proposals and the national lottery funding decision document have all been subject to much debate. It came out clearly from those consultations that community learning and creating opportunity, promoting community safety and cohesion, and promoting well-being were the high-level themes. I wish to explain why the worries are misplaced.

The new good cause is much broader than the other good causes of sports, arts and heritage. It is therefore not sensible for half of the lottery money to be allocated to such a broad good cause without further instruction, while the other half is allocated to much more specific good causes and sub-divided between different distributors. We need to be able to set out clearly at the highest level the types of expenditure on which the Big Lottery Fund should focus. Given that that will be fundamental to the way in which the Big Lottery Fund operates, it is right that it should be done by secondary legislation to which reference has been made. Indeed, we have demonstrated to the Committee the openness of the type of secondary legislation that we propose. That, in itself, would be subject to parliamentary scrutiny.

Mr. Swire rose—

Mr. Caborn: Bear with me. Let me develop the theme. Parliamentary scrutiny is important to the integrity of the lottery; make no mistake about that. What has sometimes happened in Parliament could have undermined the lottery. The lottery is an institution that crosses all parties, but it cannot remain static. It needs to move in concert with what people believe to be the purpose behind it. That is why we have taken a lot of time and trouble to have wide consultation. Some people might not like consultation, but if they want to knock our consultation process with the British people, let them do so. We have acted in good faith because we believe the lottery to be an institution worth preserving.

As I said, the Big Lottery Fund has consulted on the three themes. There were more than 850 responses overall, with approximately 630 people specifically answering the questionnaire. Some 50 per cent. of responses were from the voluntary and community sector and 21 per cent. were from local authorities; the remainder of responses came from a mix of public bodies. The majority of respondents—58 per cent.—agreed that the themes, the accompanying outcomes and priorities will provide a sensible and flexible strategic framework for future funding. Only 5 per cent. of respondents disagreed.

Therefore, we believe that it is important to remember that the order-making powers will allow us to prescribe devolved expenditure. Devolved expenditure will be the responsibility of new country
 
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committees, subject to directions issued by the relevant devolved Administration.

The Bill represents a significant devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the ability to prescribe devolved expenditure is central to achieving that. For the reasons that I have given, we cannot accept the amendment, and I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw it.

I turn to the Government amendments about the Channel Islands, and I will then deal with other amendments.

 
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