Draft Big Lottery Fund (Prescribed Expenditure) Order 2006

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The Chairman: Order. I was tempted to rise a little earlier when the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) used the word “humbug”, which I believe borders on unparliamentary language. The hon. Gentleman is a very gracious man. I am sure that he will start to direct his remarks to the order, not the Conservative Opposition, and perhaps he will say that he did not mean it.
Mr. Foster: Thank you, Sir Nicholas, you put it so kindly. Of course, I am more than happy to remove any reference to the word “humbug”.
Mr. Caborn: Chocolate button.
Mr. Foster: That is not quite what I had in mind to replace “humbug”. It is a little bit rich for a Conservative party spokesman to claim that there will not be interference when his party has listed a large number of instructions. I was only beginning a lengthy list of instructions that the Conservative party¬ would give on how lottery money was to be used. However, I take note of what you say, Sir Nicholas, and will not go through the entire list.
It is important to note that, during the passage of the Bill¬ to which this statutory instrument relates, there was much debate about additionality. I think that all hon. Members were delighted that, when the Bill went to the House of Lords, the Government were eventually willing to agree that each of the lottery distributors, including the Big Lottery Fund, would, in respect of the House’s concerns about additionality, report annually to Parliament as to how it determined the way in which funds would be distributed. That was very welcome indeed. I was pleased that the Minister made it clear in his remarks that the only instructions to come from Government to the Big Lottery Fund once it is up and running on 1 December will be high-level instructions, as he described them, about such broad matters.
It is right and proper that that should be so. We were concerned during the passage of the Bill to ensure that at no point do we return to a situation in which the Government of the day, whichever party they might be, can give the sort of detailed instructions that the Minister generously acknowledged were given by the present Government to the New Opportunities Fund.
Sir Nicholas, you will be well aware that the New Opportunities Fund still exists. It will end only when the order comes into effect. I therefore ask the Minister whether it will be the responsibility of the Big Lottery Fund, in addition to everything in the order, to sort out any problems that might arise in relation to the New Opportunities Fund. I refer him particularly to my old favourite, the fund for PE and sports. I am not sure where in the statutory instrument the issue is covered. Which of these broad headings cover it? He might be able to help me on that.
In particular, can the Minister confirm that even as we speak, after the deadline has long passed, only 50 per cent. of the money in the fund has been spent, even though we were told that it would all be spent by the end of March this year? Can he also confirm that some money still remains in the fund—I acknowledge that it is a relatively small amount, possibly in the order of £10 million—that has not even been allocated yet to the purposes for which the fund was established?
That said, the order is sensible. It covers much of the ground covered during the passage of the legislation establishing the New Opportunities Fund. Therefore, I hope that we will not have to trouble the Committee with a Division. It is common sense. I am grateful for the way that the Minister introduced it. Sir Nicholas, I hope that he has noted that I have not risen to the bait on the issue of consultation, about which he and I have corresponded recently in the Financial Times, because I did not wish to incur your wrath by going out of order.
4.53 pm
Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Sir Nicholas. I hope that it will not be the last.
Notwithstanding the criticism of the money leaking from the Big Lottery Fund for other purposes than those for which it was intended, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster mentioned, I applaud some of the fund’s excellent projects, from which many of our constituents have benefited. For example—I have picked out just a few—2,100 new village halls have been built as a result of the Big Lottery Fund, an extra £850 million has been spent on new sporting facilities, which is superb, and 39,000 world war two veterans have been able to journey back to the battlefields. Many of us appreciate that.
I am also pleased to see that the new legislation will give small community groups and self-help groups an opportunity to access funds for regeneration projects as well as social enterprises. I seek the Minister’s guidance, though, on how he will respond when it comes to a public outcry against a project funded by the Big Lottery Fund, in light of the new Act stating that the fund needs only to take account of rather than comply with directions from the Secretary of State. I should be interested to hear his comments.
4.54 pm
Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent, Central) (Lab): I am grateful, Sir Nicholas, for an opportunity to say one or two things. As you will have noticed, there is general consensus in the Committee on the excellent work that the lottery has done, from which I do not dissent. Tribute should be paid to my right hon. Friend the Minister, who has been responsible for the matter for a number of years and must therefore take some of the credit for the good work. Equally, it is important to remind my right hon. Friend that concerns about additionality are not confined to the Opposition. They are held in all parts of the House and the Committee. When the lottery was set up it was generally agreed that it would be extra to Government policy and strategy. Although it has done many good things in all our constituencies and throughout the country over the years, there is no doubt that the principle of additionality has been severely eroded. That has often happened in good causes, but it is a cause of considerable concern.
The most radical erosion of the principle in recent years has been the way in which lottery funding has been directed towards the Olympics. Everybody in the country is delighted that the Government and the London Organising Committee were successful in winning the Olympics for us, but if it is something from which the whole country will benefit, surely the Government should support it rather than raid the lottery. That applies to all sport, which everybody wants to be developed. The way in which sport and the Olympics are said to be diverting money from the Heritage Lottery Fund is regrettable. Despite the extremely good work that the lottery has done for the heritage of the country, we have considerable problems and challenges in protecting it. It is sad to see lottery funding being diverted from that large agenda.
Having said that, I add that we agree about the excellence of the lottery. It has been a great achievement of Governments of both parties in the past 15 years. However, fears that it is becoming more and more a creature of Government are genuine and held across the House. I know that the Minister is only too aware of them and sensitive to them, but on occasions such as this he should be reminded of them. I hope that he will bear them in mind as he develops the lottery strategy over the next few years.
4.58 pm
Mr. Brian H. Donohoe (Central Ayrshire) (Lab): I wish to comment on one aspect of lottery funding over the years. A letter in today’s Daily Record mentions the issue that I wish to raise: the loss of many people’s Christmas hampers because of Farepak going into administration. The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) indicated that some £10 million is floating about unused, and there is a lot of unclaimed money for which prize winners have not come forward. Some £2 million has been left outstanding in the past few weeks. Is it possible under the order to look favourably at the poor people whose Christmases will be wasted?
The Chairman: Order. I say to the hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a great deal of regard, that I do not believe his comments have been totally relevant. I indicated that I was using discretion, and I have been particularly generous to somebody from north of the border.
4.59 pm
Mr. Robert Walter (North Dorset) (Con): I do not want to break the general consensus and good nature of our consideration of the order, but I wish to make three brief points. The first is that when I go around my constituency I see a number of village halls and sports facilities that have benefited from large grants from the national lottery. Secondly, I should like to concentrate on article 3, which refers to small grants and awards for all. The issue is important for constituencies such as mine, with lots of small villages and small local groups.
Last Saturday I spent a delightful afternoon as a guest of the Witchampton women’s institute in my constituency. It had just won an awards for all grant for a project that it had conducted during last year as part of the women’s institute’s 90th anniversary, which involved 12 country walks. Witchampton women’s institute had turned the project into a book, which has been published with the help of awards for all and will raise funds for the branch.
I mention that because although the grant was for only a few thousand pounds and therefore a small award, it was for a group of just 17 ladies in a small village in my constituency who had none the less demonstrated a tremendous amount of community effort. If the national lottery can focus as much on those small groups as it does on the much larger, headline-grabbing projects, it is to be commended.
My third point, which has already been mentioned, is about the issue of additionality and ensuring that national lottery funds are not diverted to subsidise Government expenditure. The national lottery is additional. The people who buy tickets every week do so in the hope that that money will be used for good causes and not to prop up ailing programmes of Government expenditure. That is important, so I seek the Minister’s assurance that that will also be Government policy going forward.
5.2 pm
Mr. Caborn: It would be interesting to know how many statutory instrument Committees our Clerk has been responsible for during his career—[Interruption.]
The Chairman: Order. Are we getting the answer?
Mark Fisher: I apologise, Sir Nicholas.
Mr. Caborn: I think that my hon. Friend has his computer on there.
After the huge amount of debate that took place on being at arm’s length from the Government, I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster talking about ring-fencing the lottery and putting the funding into various schemes dictated by politicians. That would run absolutely contrary to what the order is about, which is to ensure at least that we respond to the public, even though politicians give the high-level direction. There has been a wide consultation, and I believe that the people’s money—which is what the lottery is—goes on what people want. That is why we took a lot of care over the consultation, which lasted for a long period, and why the 2006 Act commands the support that it does.
Mr. Foster: On that point, has the Minister received any feedback from the trial scheme, your pound, your choice? I appreciate that the scheme was a trial, but it gave an opportunity to find out what the public involvement led to and what ideas the public have come up with.
Mr. Caborn: I have not received any feedback yet, but I have no doubt that we will ensure that it is available to hon. Members in the Library.
The hon. Gentleman referred to the NOF for PE and sport. On the issue of additionality, I make just one point about the NOF’s funding for sport. One interesting feature is that moneys from the lottery were used to develop the school sports co-ordinator programme, which is an important part of involving young people in physical activity and sport. The initial programme was partly funded by the lottery, which enabled it to be trialled for three years before being taken into mainstream Government spending. That was a useful way of proving a scheme to be effective, and afterwards it could be taken over by the Government. Although hon. Members will argue the case that it is not additional to Government spending, a number of schemes could be identified that the lottery has enabled to get off the ground, and which were afterwards funded by mainstream Government spending.
Additionality, and the way in which the debate on it has been conducted, have distracted from value for money and from the lottery joining up with other lottery funding, public funding, and private sector funding. Many of the lottery distributors have been looking over their shoulders saying, “Is this the additionality?” and that has resulted in things being departmentalised. I hope that we can now have a new debate, given the transparency resulting from the annual report, and that that will enable us to take the lottery forward with confidence, and allow it to work with other funding streams so that additional value can be obtained from lottery funding.
Mr. Wilson: I am pleased that the Minister says that there will be an annual report and that there will be the chance to ask questions about it, but will all the lottery distributors adhere to a common framework for the report?
Mr. Caborn: It would be stupid for them to do so, because additionality for heritage will be different from that for sport. They should use their common sense. They will have to go through a learning curve and Members will put them under scrutiny, but I do not want to prescribe from the centre how they should make their report on additionality. It is up to them. They know their terms of reference and they should respond in the annual report on additionality as they do on other issues.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mark Fisher) made an important point on additionality and spoke about how the Olympics could deny resources to heritage. I remind him that one of the biggest investments in heritage was probably through the Millennium Commission, which was set up as a fund whose income would derive from the lottery for a limited period of time. By definition, that time was the millennium. The Olympics will cease as an operation in 2012, or just beyond; the Millennium Commission will cease to operate in November. The concept, though, is a sensible way of maximising the impact of the lottery. The Millennium Commission resulted in the Eden project, Tate Modern and many other investments in art and heritage. There was that opportunity at the time of the millennium. On 6 July 2005, when the announcement on the Olympics was made in Singapore by Jacques Rogge, there was an outburst of tremendous optimism in the nation. That kind of thing is exactly what the lottery funds are for. Many recent Olympics have been funded in part by the lotteries of various cities and nations. Munich is a classic example, because although, unfortunately, we know what it is remembered for, the heritage of the Munich Olympic park, which was funded by a lottery in Munich town, stands as a great symbol, not just for the Olympics, but for how lottery funding should be used.
I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central that heritage has not been lost; far from it. Lottery funding for the millennium, for example, has provided considerable investment into the heritage of our nation.
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Prepared 31 October 2006