National Lottery Bill
Mr. Foster: I am grateful to the Minister. The Committee has heard where he is coming from. He is clearly not going to agree to the amendment. Given that he has said that any change should be based on the consultation that will take place, could he at least tell the Committee why he is not prepared to include among the list of bodies that will be consulted the very group about which we are talking? I hope at least he can acknowledge that that is crucial and accept that that is an omission.
Mr. Caborn: I think that I ought to continue and explain the other amendments, because that will probably answer the points that the hon. Gentleman has raised.
Amendments Nos. 28 and 38 are concerned with the Secretary of State's order-making powers, set out in new section 22(3A) and inserted by clause 14. The two amendments would add to the list of people the Secretary of State must consult before making such orders
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That is to say; the voluntary and community sector. Amendments Nos. 61, 62 and 63 would require statutory consultation with the sector and the public before directions about English devolved expenditure or financial directions are given under section 36E, inserted by clause 14.
We certainly expect to consult widely with representatives of the voluntary and community sector—and, indeed, with others with an interest, such as local authorities and social enterprises—before making any order. Of course, we are already obliged to comply with the Cabinet Office guidance on consultations and with the requirements of the Compact code of practice, which I referred to earlier. We have shown our good faith in that regard in consulting recently on the interim order for the New Opportunities Fund. Indeed, as I said earlier, we have been accused of creating consultation fatigue. However, we require a degree of flexibility in our approach. There is a statutory requirement to consult the Big Lottery Fund and the devolved Administrations because, unlike representatives of the voluntary and community sector, they are directly affected. Our actions and the safeguards in the Bill provide a compelling assurance that there will be ample opportunity to consider and comment on the Big Lottery Fund orders. I therefore ask the hon. Member for East Devon to withdraw his amendment.
New section 36C, which is inserted by clause 14, gives the Big Lottery Fund new powers to work as an agent distributing money for other public bodes, the Government or private foundations. There are a number of potential advantages of allowing the Big Lottery Fund to distribute non-lottery funds, consisting of both public and private charity money. It could streamline and simplify a range of funding, lead to further developments of specialisms, skills and knowledge, and reduce the costs of distribution and grant management because of economies of scale.
Amendment No. 42 would constrain those new powers so that money could be distributed only to non-governmental, non-profit organisations. It is not a major activity for the fund to distribute non-lottery money to local authorities, but I ask a simple question. Why ban it? We shall not ban local authorities after 11 years from applying for lottery money, so why ban the fund from distributing non-lottery money to them? The fund must have flexibility to get involved where it thinks that it can add value, and the amendment removes that degree of flexibility. With that explanation, I ask the hon. Gentleman to withdraw the amendment.
Mr. Swire: This is a case of methinks the Minister doth protest too much. It will be interesting to read Hansard, and perhaps we can debate that at a later time. As I said to the Minister when he got a bit rattled, I have at no stage sought to impugn the reputation either of the Secretary of State, or of any of the Minister's officials. Instead, from memory I think that I said ''were there to be in future a less scrupulous Secretary of State''; Hansard will bear that out.
The real question is about why the Minister reacted in that way. It can be only because what he now refers to as the support he gave to the BLF was not support but a verbal commitment. I hope that the hon. Member for Bath would agree. The Minister now seems to say that it is support. That seems to be a rather watered down version of a commitment.
I welcome the remarks that the Minister made and the undertaking he gave about an independent, audited report. It goes some way to meeting our desire to see whether the percentage is being reached.
Mr. Foster: The Minister did not make that commitment; he merely informed the Committee that it is a commitment made by the Big Lottery Fund. Just as with the 60 or 70 per cent., which the Minister said could be changed, surely it would be better to have those commitments also in the Bill.
Mr. Swire: I stand corrected. If that is the case, I had misunderstood it, and the hon. Gentleman is right. It does not detract from the main point of this group of amendments, which is about putting the percentage in the Bill. I understand that to be the position of the Liberal Democrats as well.
Adam Afriyie: Perhaps my hon. Friend can clarify something for me. Could the Big Lottery Fund decide to spend all the money on public body financing?
Mr. Swire: Well, I suppose that there is nothing to stop the fund doing that if it meets the directives from the Secretary of State through the Big Lottery Fund board. However, the point is that if the Minister is so committed to and supportive of the aspiration for the percentage to be part of the Big Lottery Fund remit, I do not see why he has a problem with it being in the Bill, unless he feels that it will be binding. That is precisely what we are seeking to do, because we want the commitment to be an unshakeable, unwavering commitment in cement.
Mr. Turner: I am disappointed that ''I give a guarantee'' no longer appears to mean I give a guarantee. It means that the Big Lottery Fund has given a guarantee.
Mr. Caborn: That's right.
Mr. Turner: The Minister says ''That's right''. ''I give a guarantee'' does not mean I give a guarantee, and the Minister says ''That's right''. Further, in what position is the Big Lottery Fund to give such a guarantee? The Big Lottery Fund does not exist in law; the members have not been appointed in law; the members may be different after the Bill is enacted from those who currently act in that capacity. On what is the Minister's so-called guarantee founded?
Mr. Swire: My hon. Friend needs to be careful of what he accuses the Minister, otherwise my hon. Friend will be accused of impugning the Minister's reputation.
Given the time, I have no further comment to make. We shall return to those arguments, but I am afraid that we are unable to comply with the Minister's wish to withdraw the amendment. I should therefore ask for a division.
Question put, That the amendment be made:—
The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.
Division No. 3]
The Chairman: I should advise the Committee that in my concern to avoid inhibiting debate and to allow its free flow, which has certainly taken place this morning, I am asking my Clerk to report to my co-Chairman my considered view that a stand part debate on clause 7 would be not only inappropriate but unnecessary.
It being after One o'clock, The Chairman adjourned the Committee without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Adjourned till this day at Four o'clock.
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