National Lottery Bill

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Mr. Swire: I am grateful to the Minister. I have just had a little inspiration. I think that the NCVO has already published its worries about the matter and I am sure that it is available. During the break before our next sitting, we shall make it available to the Minister. I say ''we'', but, of course, I am not a spokesman for the NCVO.

Mr. Caborn: I can only say that the hon. Gentleman has not done a bad job.

In one way or another, the amendments are all concerned with the Big Lottery Fund and the voluntary and community sector. Amendments Nos. 27, 94 and 95 are concerned with the Big Lottery Fund's undertaking that between 60 and 70 per cent. of its funding will go directly to voluntary and community sector organisations. Amendment No. 27 would insert a new subsection into section 22 of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 that requires the Big Lottery Fund to allocate 70 per cent. of its funding to bodies—other than public bodies or local authorities—whose activities are not carried out for profit.

Amendment No. 94 would insert new wording into new schedule 4A of the 1993 Act requiring the Big Lottery Fund to keep, as part of its accounting record, information about the percentage of the funds allocated to those bodies. Amendment No. 95 would insert new wording into new schedule 4A to the 1993 Act requiring the fund, as part of its statement of accounts, to prepare a statement for each financial year. That statement would detail the sums allocated or loaned to charities or other institutions established for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes.

I reassure hon. Members that they need not be worried about the loss of the separate charitable good cause. Voluntary and community sector organisations
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will not lose out. We all acknowledge that such organisations play a vital role in our society and provide a lifeline for many people who are sometimes in desperate need. That is why the Big Lottery Fund has already given an undertaking that 60 to 70 per cent. of its funding will go directly to voluntary and community sector organisations. That is a significantly higher proportion than has been the case under the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund combined. As that undertaking has been given by the boards of the Community Fund and the New Opportunity Fund, not the Government, it would not be appropriate to enshrine it in the Bill, although as I clearly said on Second Reading, we support the approach of the boards.

The Big Lottery Fund has worked closely with the voluntary and community sector stakeholders to discuss and develop the definition of voluntary and community sector organisations for the purposes of the 60 to 70 per cent. undertaking and the plans for monitoring it. The fund will audit the undertaking as part of its internal audit processes. In addition, it will ask independent auditors to monitor where its funding has been going and the results will be published in the fund's annual report. That will be deposited in both Houses of Parliament. It will be open to public scrutiny. If members of the Opposition want to use their days to discuss it or force debates on the Floor of the House on the matter, they are entitled to do so. If the Select Committee wants to scrutinise the report, it has the power to do so.

As I said, the independent, audited report will be placed in Parliament. A separate and more user-friendly document will also be published outlining the fund's progress against the undertaking on a country and UK-wide basis.

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I believe that the fund's actions show its full commitment to delivering on the undertaking and to doing so in a transparent and accountable way. That has not been the case before, either in relation to the House or the general public, where its accounts have not been opened up. Indeed, in my office, Stephen Dunmore told the voluntary services that he is going to try to put information into the public domain. I hope that in light of that the hon. Gentleman will not press his amendment to a vote.

Mr. Foster: The Minister suggested that he would tell the Committee why he is not willing to place a figure between 60 and 70 per cent. in the Bill. We still have not heard why that figure cannot be included.

Mr. Caborn: It is not for the Government to decide whether it is 60 or 70 per cent.; it is a decision for the Big Lottery Fund. We do not believe that it is necessary to include that in the Bill. The hon. Gentleman has seen enough in this place to know that when a figure is put in the Bill it is set in stone. [Interruption.] Either we accept the integrity of people who are serving or we do not. I must admit that I am a little dismayed at the way that the hon. Member for East Devon impugns the integrity of people who serve on the Community Fund, the NOF and what will be the Big Lottery Fund.
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Mr. Swire: That is disingenuous.

Mr. Caborn: It might seem disingenuous, but the hon. Gentleman should refer back to what he said previously about people who will be nominated by Government and the Secretary of State. He then starts impugning the integrity of people who give up their time to serve on those bodies.

Mr. Swire: The Minister must give way at that point. It is a direct accusation.

Mr. Caborn: I will give way when I want to give way, and it will be after I have finished. I feel very strongly about this. Although the Secretary of State may appoint, it is done in accordance with Nolan in a very transparent way. People who put their names forward for public service in this way need to be protected. The fact that it happens to be the Secretary of State who appoints them to the Big Lottery Fund does not mean that they act in concert with the Government. We in Parliament are laying out the directions for the Big Lottery Fund to operate. That is the way in which we approached that matter. The hon. Gentleman may argue with me, but I am just saying that he should not impugn the integrity of people who work in public service.

Mr. Swire: I really do not need lessons from the Minister on this. It is absolutely ridiculous. At no stage during any of our deliberations have I impugned the reputation of his officials or, indeed, the Secretary of State. If the Minister can only hide behind those rather lacklustre accusations, I suggest that there is something about the Bill he is trying to hide.

If the Minister would return for one moment to the amendment we are supposed to be debating, he will find that he has not provided an answer. It is not my intention to withdraw it. He has given an undertaking; he is now saying that he did not give it, but that the Big Lottery Fund did. The Minister also gave an undertaking, which he will not include in the Bill. That is our charge. It stands and it has nothing to do with his reputation, that of his officials or anyone else. If he is asking the Opposition to take in good faith anything the Government say without a commitment, he can think again.

Mr. Caborn: I rest on Hansard. When the hon. Gentleman reflects on what he said about the appointments to the Big Lottery Fund and what he said about the Secretary of State, we can come back to this point and if he wants to question me at that time, that is fine.

Mr. Foster: I am grateful for the answer that the Minister has given to the hon. Member for East Devon because it at least clears my name. I hope that the Minister will accept that I have on no occasion impugned the integrity of the Minister, the Secretary of State or Sir Clive Booth, who currently heads the Big Lottery Fund, in whom I have enormous confidence. He will do fantastic things with it.

The Minister just said, prior to his tirade to the hon. Gentleman, that the decision relating to 60 to 70 per cent. figure is for the Big Lottery Fund. Clearly, therefore, it is possible for the fund to change that decision. It is the will of some Committee members, if
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not the Minister, to ensure that that decision is not changed. We want that figure to be included in the Bill to ensure that it will not be changed in the future. That would mean that if there was a need for a change at a later date, it would require a change to the legislation to achieve it—that, of course, is always possible. I hope that the Minister is absolutely clear: we want Parliament to decide the figure, not just the Big Lottery Fund, which could at a future date change its mind without the approval of Parliament.

Mr. Caborn: Unfortunately, I cannot go down that road. I will reflect on Hansard when it is published and we will see what was said. I was not referring my remarks to the hon. Member for Bath.

Let us return to the issue of 60 or 70 per cent. We need to leave that flexibility for those who are making the decision. We do not believe the figure ought to be included in the Bill. I have given support to what the Community Fund, the New Opportunities Fund and the Big Lottery Fund have said. I made that clear on Second Reading. We believe that the matter is better left with those people who are going to carry things out. Given that different circumstances might arise, we believe that that is the right way in which to put the legislation on to the statute book. It does not tie down the fund. Within the constraints that we have laid down in terms of the broad policy and the further consultation, we believe that the Bill provides the flexibility for the Big Lottery Fund to act in that way.

I understand the other argument, but I do not accept it. We believe that our approach is correct. I have said clearly that we support the Big Lottery Fund in its declared objectives. There will be scrutiny in a report in a way in which there has never been before. If the hon. Gentleman and his party want to raise the matter on the Floor of the House, they are entitled to. If the Select Committee wants to challenge the decision, it has every right to do so. We do not believe that it is necessary to enshrine the figure in the Bill.

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Prepared 25 October 2005