National Lottery Bill


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Mr. Caborn: They may well be, but for the clarity of the Bill we believe that it is important that that provision be amended as well, to ensure that there is no dubiety. Therefore, we believe that the clause needs to make it clear that we are moving away on this. We have an opportunity, do we not, when bringing in the new lottery fund and NOF to find out what mistakes were made and to find out by means of consultation what people want the money to go to. There is a restriction on that if it is kept on the narrow part of charitable.

I have explained which organisations were not allowed to be funded under the old regime. We believe that they ought to be funded under this new one. In that sense, this is belt and braces. We are ensuring that it is crystal clear. It is not just about the definition of ''charitable''; it can go beyond that. It is about the purpose. Therefore, there is no contradiction. We are putting that in the Bill to ensure that we respond to the need.

Mr. Turner: The Minister seems to be arguing that he is inserting a clause because the existing words ''charitable expenditure'' are interpreted as meaning only expenditure by charities. Section 44(1)(b) of the 1993 Act, to which my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire referred him, says that the institutions may be established not only for charitable purposes but for

    ''benevolent purposes or philanthropic purposes''.

Therefore, why does the Minister need the change?

Mr. Caborn: I believe that the Community Fund's experience was that it was limited in its ability to give to organisations that it would have given to had the definition been different. We now have an opportunity to put that right, and that is what we are recommending.

Adam Afriyie: I repeat my question again. Will the Minister now give an example of what was excluded under the current legislation? I think that the examples he gave were incorrect.

Mr. Caborn: That is not true. The definition that I gave to the hon. Gentleman is the correct one. The Community Fund—I will return the note because I cannot read it properly—was not able to fund organisations as charitable beneficiaries because restrictions were placed on it. That is why I gave the examples of those that were not allowed to be funded, and were not funded—social enterprises, mutuals and residents associations. They were turned down for funding because of the narrow eligibility criteria, even though their projects were clearly for the public good. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the Community Fund was not allowed to fund organisations—and did not fund them—because of the wording of the 1993 Act?

Mr. Foster: The Committee is asking the Minister why those organisations were turned down when the definition in the current legislation, which he wishes to change, specifically refers not only to charities but to
 
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    ''institutions, other than charities, that are established for charitable purposes (whether or not those purposes are charitable within the meaning of any rule of law), benevolent purposes or philanthropic purposes;''.

Will the Minister do as the hon. Member for Windsor keeps asking and give an example of something that was legitimately turned down because it fell outside the definition?

Mr. Caborn: The specific example is the residents associations. They are not set up for charitable purposes, and therefore would not have been eligible under the 1993 Act. That is a fact; that is what I am told by officials quite clearly. We are trying to rectify that under the Bill.

Mr. Foster: I hope that you will not get too upset with us, Mr. Cook, but we must pursue this. The Minister has to say not only that residents associations were not set up for charitable purposes, but that they were not set up for

    ''benevolent purposes or philanthropic purposes''.

Did residents associations fall outside all three purposes? If so, what are residents associations meant to be?

The Minister keeps saying that he is trying to solve a particular problem, but changing the definition to include ''charitable . . . purpose'' does not alter a whole swathe of other concerns raised by hon. Members. I hope that he will refer to those concerns, too.

Mr. Caborn: Whether or not the hon. Gentleman believes that his interpretation is correct, a distinction was made because residents associations were elected bodies. They, and other organisations, did not receive that lottery fund, and we believe that that was wrong. There could well be an argument about whether that was a correct interpretation of the Community Fund rules at the time, but I am saying what happened. We want to make sure that it does not happen again, and I believe that what we are putting into the Bill will make sure that it does not happen again.

I am sure that hon. Members agree that residents associations, and other organisations to which I have referred, ought to have access to that fund. There is no disagreement in the Committee; we are saying that, rightly or wrongly, the earlier definition was interpreted by the distributing body—the Community Fund—in a way that did not allow those bodies to receive that money. We are now trying to rectify that and make sure that the same thing does not happen in future. I am sure that, on that basis, the hon. Member for East Devon will withdraw his amendment.

Mr. Turner rose—

The Chairman: Do I assume that the Minister has completed his response?

Mr. Caborn: I am doing my very best. I will allow an intervention.

Mr. Turner: I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He has not referred at all to clause 19; nor has he given us the definitions that we asked for of ''benevolent'' and ''philanthropic''. Perhaps he is thinking about it before he answers.
 
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The Minister has just said that he is opening the door to organisations that we all agree should be included in the definition, and that he believes were not included previously. My point—perhaps I did not make it clearly enough—is that he is also opening the door to some organisations that many of us feel should not be included, such as the Conservative party or the anti-war coalition.

Mr. Caborn: We do not give directions; that was a previous argument in Committee. We believe that directions need to be given, both at a high level and, based on the consultation, by the Big Lottery Fund. That fund will take heed of its own consultation, as well. The organisations to which the Big Lottery Fund will give grants and in which it will invest its money is a clearly defined area. That would be a judgment made by the Big Lottery Fund, not the Government. The high-level definitions that we give are based on our consultations. Further definitions have been given by the Big Lottery Fund, concerned with health, education and so on. We expect the Big Lottery Fund to give grants to and invest in bodies that are concerned with those areas.

The bottom line is how the Big Lottery Fund spends the money; that is more important than what the money is spent on. The fund is spending that money. We are talking about the organisations that that can be done through. That is what we are trying to sort out in the Bill, with regard to two things; the experience of the Big Lottery Fund and NOF, and what, after consultation, we broadly believe people want that money to be spent on. The two debates that we have had this morning are really about that.

Some may argue that the Community Fund did not apply the full criteria in the right way, and that may be the case. All I would say is that our experience of how the Community Fund operated was that it led, rightly or wrongly, to some organisations that we believe benefit our communities not having access to that money; we are changing that.

12.15 pm

Mr. Swire: When the Minister sat down earlier, I thought that he did so as an admission of defeat and exhaustion. However, he has come back fighting. Clearly, his experience on the Committee that considered the London Olympics Bill has served him well.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight referred earlier to the Boer war, on which I am not an expert. However, for sheer effrontery there has been nothing like what the Government are doing since the early raids in the desert by the long range desert group, of which I am reminded this afternoon. We are clearly seeing what has been referred to as the Government's raid on the lottery beginning to unravel. The Minister used the phrase ''crystal clear''; what is crystal clear is that if we were not to press the amendment, we would enable the national lottery to fund anything by direction. That, of course, is the reason behind all this.

The Minister is an honourable man. You will quickly correct me, Mr. Cook, and say that in this
 
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Room we are all honourable men and ladies. Perhaps one day, over a drink in years to come, when the Minister has been promoted to the other place, we shall discuss this again. Sitting on the Terrace on a moonlit night, he may concede that it was at this stage that the national lottery ceased to be a quasi-independent operator and became effectively a Government Department.

The Minister talked about the need for flexibility, which immediately sent a shudder down my spine; when, in a debate on a very important Bill, a Minister talks about the need for flexibility, he is suggesting that there could be a Pandora's box. The Minister also said that the Big Lottery Fund should have the flexibility if it judges that to be right; if that completely independent organisation judges it to be right.

Mr. Caborn: Let me explain. On the one hand, the hon. Gentleman is saying, ''Don't give directions; we should leave it wide open''. We say, ''No, we want to give some directions because that represents the results of our consultation.'' Within the broad policy resulting from that consultation, we give a broad direction. There have been further consultations by the Big Lottery Fund, which has refined the issue and laid it out again. We will use secondary legislation, subject to a vote in the House, to define the issue further.

On the one hand, the hon. Gentleman argued that the BLF was too constrained, and on the other that it was not constrained enough, and that it could go as wide as it wanted, which is not true. The BLF will act within the constraints that Parliament has placed on it and will operate according to that direction. Within those constraints, I said that there would be flexibility.

 
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