National Lottery Bill
Mr. Swire: Honeyed words indeed, but unfortunately clause 36E(1) of the Government's own Bill states:
We shall debate later just what the Big Lottery Fund is and just who is responsible for appointing it. I think that we shall find—lo and behold—that it will be the Secretary of State, so we are not reassured by that. This is another example of the Government's raid on the lottery. We shall resist it in the only way we can. Therefore, without further ado, I shall press the amendments to a Division.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.
Division No. 2]
Mr. Swire: I beg to move amendment No. 27, in clause 7, page 4, line 26, at end insert—
The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments:
No. 28, in clause 7, page 5, line 3, at end insert—
No. 94, in schedule 2, page 22, line 17, after 'records,', insert
No. 95, in schedule 2, page 22, line 18, at end insert
No. 38, in clause 14, page 7, line 27, at end insert—
No. 42, in clause 14, page 7, line 38, after '(1)', insert
No. 61, in clause 14, page 9, line 8, leave out 'and'.
No. 62, in clause 14, page 9, line 9, at end insert—
No. 63, in clause 14, page 9, line 13, at end insert—
Mr. Swire: Although my name is attached to amendment No. 27, I hope that at some stage the hon. Member for Bath will join in our deliberations; perhaps he will do so on this group of amendments.
This rather large group of amendments form another area of significant difference between us—I hope that that means Her Majesty's Opposition and the Liberal Democrats—and the Government. It concerns not only the powers of the Secretary of State over the Big Lottery Fund, but the exact degree to which the fund's expenditure should be charitable.
We have discussed my amendment to make all Big Lottery Fund expenditure charitable and we voted on that. I hope that we are now in more agreeable territory because, according to the Minister's previous statement, there is clear agreement on how much Big Lottery Fund expenditure should be charitable.
Disagreements over the exact definition of charitable expenditure aside, I have a simple proposition for the Minister that would allow us to withdraw the amendment. Amendment No. 27 would simply take the commitment that the Minister made verbally in the House and other places and put it in the Bill. That having been his stated position, I do not see how he can now argue against it. If he does, he will only serve to confirm suspicions throughout the charitable sector that were aroused by his comments a few moments ago that his commitment will remain, at best, a vague one. The amendment, not surprisingly, has the strong support of the voluntary sector.
The Minister will say—indeed, he has said so—that it is adequate for him to put his commitment on the record. I fundamentally disagree with that. His commitment, if it is a commitment, must be enshrined in law if it is to be meaningful and lasting. He may, for example, find himself in a different position in the Government, even out of Government or in that other place to which I alluded earlier and be replaced by a Minister who did not make that verbal commitment. Who would then be accountable and who would ensure that the current Minister's commitment of 60 to 70 per cent. was reached? It is true that the commitment has also been made by the Big Lottery Fund board, but, technically, that is just the board and it is due to be replaced by 2009.
Not only should the commitment be in the Bill, there should also be a legislative framework for Parliament—not the Secretary of State—and the public to check that it is being met. That is why the amendments No. 94 and 95 would require the Big Lottery Fund to make clear how that 70 per cent. target is achieved. There is no need to miss those targets or to say that things did not happen in some way, because we propose that there will be an statement of accounts at each financial year. Amendment No. 95 states:
That is how we would ensure that the Minister's stated commitment, which we now want in the Bill, will be met under amendments Nos. 94 and 95.
Mr. Harris: At the risk of going over previous discussions, the hon. Gentleman seems once again to be contradicting his own arguments. Does he believe that the Government are being too prescriptive or not prescriptive enough? The amendment that we are discussing is extremely prescriptive. That is exactly the criticism that he made of the Government in an earlier debate.
Mr. Swire: I think that the hon. Gentleman wants to row back. We do not like the Bill at all. We do not like the way that the national lottery is being hijacked by the Government, nor the way in which the funds are being diverted to fund what we believe should be core Government expenditure. That is an argument in relation to additionality.
All I am seeking to do, on behalf of the voluntary sector, is to ensure that if the Government are to get their hands on 50 per cent. of lottery spend, which is hundreds of millions of pounds a year, and if, through the Secretary of State and the Big Lottery Fund board, they are to give themselves powers to use that money pretty much where they deem fit, we should at least have a guarantee that 70 per cent. of that money will be reserved for charitable expenditure. If the hon. Member for Glasgow, South has a problem with that, he should say so. He should not blame the Opposition. We do not want it in the first place.
The figure in the amendment applies either to registered charities or to charitable and voluntary groups that are not registered charities, but it excludes public bodies.
Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): I rise to pursue the line of the hon. Gentleman's response to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South. The hon. Gentleman said that the money should be prescribed for bodies for charitable purpose. With respect, that is not incorporated in the amendment, which says
Mr. Swire: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish. If he feels that I have not answered his question by the end, I am more than happy to return to that.
Further to our wish to see a guaranteed proportion of lottery funds go to the voluntary sector, as has been a founding principle of the lottery since its inception, we also feel that the voluntary sector is not included enough in the Secretary of State's powers of discretion. Amendments Nos. 28, 38 and 61 to 63 would ensure that the voluntary sector is consulted by the Secretary of State when issuing directions concerning expenditure to the Big Lottery Fund. Such amendments would enshrine the status of the voluntary and community sector as key stakeholders—to use the Government's favourite phrase—in the national lottery.
The case for such consultation is made all the more pressing by the poor consultation record to date of the DCMS. I regret that for a Department so proud of its record of consultation on the lottery—we have heard a lot about that this morning and I suspect that we will do so again this afternoon—it has attracted so much scorn on its consultation record on the lottery. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations concludes that
agreements on consultation between the DCMS and the voluntary and community sectors.
The NCVO goes on to give a specific example:
Column Number: 36
That is just one reason why the amendments to enshrine the Secretary of State's duty to consult the voluntary and community sectors on Big Lottery Fund funding is so important.
The Minister is fond of saying that the Bill responds to exactly what the public want. He has done so on a number of occasions this morning. Since its consultation process has been so flawed, I cannot see that that is the case. Of the list of respondents to the first round of lottery consultation, I could identify just three people who could be classed as ordinary members of the public.
|©Parliamentary copyright 2005||Prepared 25 October 2005|