National Lottery Bill

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Adam Afriyie: Would the Minister entertain the idea that it was specific and made reference to the fact that the Government could not ask a distributor to place funds in a certain direction, rather than just generally any third party?

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Mr. Caborn: We would fall under the same rules. It is not the Government who are doing this; the BLF is coming to us asking for flexibility. It has been approached by funding partners who believe that they could add value to the lottery funds through this type of arrangement. There is an economy of scale, and it is a sensible approach. I understand the concerns, and we will be watching very carefully. In the spirit of co-operation we are prepared to allow this, but we do not want it to be overly influenced, with people who bring money to the fund determining where the lottery money should go. A balance has to be struck, but equally, we will be sensible and allow the people who are coming on to these boards to have the power to add value.

Mr. Swire: Seeing as the Opposition are at a disadvantage and are not privy to the conversations that the BLF is having with these other potential funders, will the Minister give the Committee an example of the sort of people who are coming to the BLF and the sort of projects they are seeking to do jointly?

Mr. Caborn: I will seek to speak to the BLF about that and get one or two examples of where it believes that type of partnership could work. We see what is happening in our constituencies where we are bringing schemes together with lottery funding, and I welcome that. I know that we will have a debate later about additionality, but sometimes we are so silent in this area that opportunities are missed to bring various funding schemes, including charitable funds, together. There are a number of areas where charitable funding could sit alongside the BLF and add value without distracting from its core purpose.

Mr. Foster: The Minister could pray in aid the Arts Council. It is a good example of a body that deals with funds from the lottery and another source—grant in aid from the Government. It is finding an effective way of adding value. There are some good examples around already.

Adam Afriyie rose—

Mr. Caborn: I give way to the hon. Member for Windsor.

Adam Afriyie: I am still marginally alarmed by this. The general concern is about the Government’s ability to direct the flow of funding, especially from the BLF. While other third parties may come in and place criteria on how that funding is matched, surely there must be some understanding of the concern that the Government should not be excluded from the list of funders who can ask that their money be earmarked for a particular project.

Mr. Caborn: That would be a judgment for the BLF. Again, this is not something that the Government necessarily want. The BLF has come to us to say that there are opportunities here. If it wanted to add to public funding and it believed that would add value, that would be permissible too. But it is a decision for the BLF, not the Government. Given the assurances
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that I have offered, the amendment should be withdrawn, and the BLF should be allowed to continue adding value to its work.

Mr. Swire: I am not necessarily reassured by the Minister’s response. The Big Lottery Fund wishes to act as independently as it can, so I should have thought that it would say to the Minister, “Look at the amendments. They give us more protection from undue interference from other Government funding sources or the private sector.” That is all that we seek to achieve, and I am sorry if the Minister thinks that we are attempting to tie the hands of the BLF board or constrain it in any way—our amendments would do the reverse. Nevertheless, I shall not press the amendment to a vote, as we and others can return to the issue later, and we must leave some meat for the wolves. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment by leave withdrawn.

Mr. Swire: I beg to move amendment No. 43, in clause 14, page 8, line 8, leave out

    ‘under any provision of this Act’

and insert

    ‘by the Big Lottery Fund’.

The Chairman: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 44, in clause 14, page 8, line 10, leave out

    ‘under any provision of this Act’

and insert

    ‘by the Big Lottery Fund’.

No. 45, in clause 14, page 8, line 11, leave out

    ‘under any provision of this Act’

and insert

    ‘by the Big Lottery Fund’.

Mr. Swire: The amendments are very straightforward. They confine the scope of the BLF’s ability to give advice to other lottery distributors to matters that relate to its own funding or operations. They would allow it, for example, to advise the Arts Council on any project on which the two bodies were joint distributors—we have heard from the hon. Member for Bath that the Arts Council is an organisation that has joint funding arrangements in place—but not on any other project.

One of the fears of other lottery distributors is that the Big Lottery Fund is or will be—depending on whether we think that it is set up, or is some sort of shadow administration—too big. I am not clear why it should be able to give advice to other lottery distributors whereas others, seemingly, cannot give advice back to it. I look forward to hearing the Minister’s comments.

Mr. Foster: I raised this point earlier in relation to the national lottery funding decision document of July 2003. I selected from that document four activities that it suggested might be the responsibility of the Big Lottery Fund. The Minister confirmed that the four that I read out are all covered by the clause that we are now debating. On the assumption that the Minister is correct—I take him at his word—what assessment has
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been made of the cost that the BLF will incur in undertaking those additional activities? What impact will that have on the Government’s estimate that appears in the explanatory notes and various other documents of the sum that will accrue as a result of the economies of scale that will come from the merger of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund? My point is simple: I am not convinced that, in assessing the financial benefits of economy of scale, account has been taken of the additional responsibilities that will be undertaken by the Big Lottery Fund.

Mr. Caborn: I remind the hon. Gentleman that the Millennium Commission will also be feeding into the process, bringing a lot of expertise. Our 2003 national lottery funding decision document, as the hon. Member for Bath says, set out a number of areas of joint working between lottery distributors in which it was appropriate for the Big Lottery Fund to take the lead. That included handling cross-cutting issues. New section 36D will allow the Big Lottery Fund to take the role of lead distributor by allowing it to give advice beyond its own functions. For example, potential applicants are not always sure to which distributor or programme they should apply. Many of us have found that to be the case in our constituencies. The Bill will allow the BLF to take the lead in providing a single point of advice for new applicants who are unsure where they should seek advice or guidance or to which distributor they should apply. We hope that this is more user-friendly and that it will be easier for people to apply for lottery money, thereby ensuring that it goes to good cause projects more quickly.

The Big Lottery Fund will be able to take a lead in developing common standards such as applications and complaints procedures. It will reduce administrative costs for all lottery distributors and ensure that more money goes to good causes. It will be able to share best practice, particularly as the successor to the Millennium Commission, to which I referred earlier, and to become a centre of excellence, advice and expertise for the management of major capital projects, for which there is great capacity. We want to encourage innovative advice on the best management of projects, particularly capital projects. Although distributors can and do work well together, someone needs to take a lead as a centre of excellence, and we believe that the Big Lottery Fund is best placed to do so.

The amendments would prevent the Big Lottery Fund from taking such a leading role by limiting its power to giving advice to its own functions, a role that it will have in any case.

Mr. Foster: The Minister has not answered my question, which is simply this: what is the estimated cost of the provision of these additional services? While the Minister seeks inspiration for an answer, I remind him that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on reforming the national lottery, which the Committee produced in the 2003–04 session, said:

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    “We agree that the extra services provided under the merged body will enhance the distribution process but very much hope the cost of these will not erode the grants given by the new body.”

It therefore assumed that there was an additional cost. I assume that there is an additional cost, and I believe that the Committee wants to know the Government’s estimate of that cost and how it will be offset against the savings from economies of scale achieved through the merger.

Mr. Caborn: I do not know the estimated costs. We expect savings to be made in the merger, but that is not the hon. Gentleman’s point. He is talking about the cost of the service that is actually being delivered, even though savings might be made by merging the three bodies. That is fine, but the hon. Gentleman is asking what is the cost of providing that one-stop shop for advice. I cannot answer that question, but I shall ask my officials to look into the matter.

All I can say is that we found a great deal of expertise at the Millennium Commission when we were considering its reorganisation, and we believed that that expertise could rightfully be used among lottery distributors. That is why we moved them quite early on to the shadow board of the Big Lottery Fund, which is working quite well.

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I understand what the hon. Gentleman is saying. As I said, I cannot answer his question now, but I shall ask my officials to come back with estimates of the cost of the one-stop shop and of keeping the advice inside the organisation.

Mr. Swire: I am sorry that once again the Minister did not address my point. From what he is saying, it sounds as though the Big Lottery Fund can act like Big Brother and intimidate other lottery distributors by its very size. Perhaps that is what is intended, if one subscribes to the view that this is phase 1 of the Big Lottery Fund becoming the sole distributor. That, however, is not a debate for this afternoon.

Mr. Caborn: For the record, my Secretary of State has given a very clear assurance that the three funding boards—for heritage, arts and sport—will be included alongside the Big Lottery Fund up to and beyond the implementation of the new licence. I reiterate that clear statement, which was made during Question Time earlier this week.

Mr. Swire: I am glad to hear that again, because the heritage sector has been extremely nervous about the situation beyond 2009.

Given the time and the Minister’s thoughts on the intentions behind the amendments, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Further consideration adjourned.—[Claire Ward.]

Committee adjourned at Seven o’clock till Thursday 27 October at half-past Nine o’clock.

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