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House of Commons
Session 2005 - 06
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Standing Committee Debates

Fourth Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation

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Fourth Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation

The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Mr. Mike Weir

†Afriyie, Adam (Windsor) (Con)
†Caborn, Mr. Richard (Minister for Sport and Tourism)
†Cunningham, Mr. Jim (Coventry, South) (Lab)
†Ellman, Mrs. Louise (Liverpool, Riverside) (Lab/Co-op)
†Foster, Mr. Don (Bath) (LD)
†Keen, Alan (Feltham and Heston) (Lab/Co-op)
†Laxton, Mr. Bob (Derby, North) (Lab)
†Lazarowicz, Mark (Edinburgh, North and Leith) (Lab/Co-op)
†Mann, John (Bassetlaw) (Lab)
†McCarthy-Fry, Sarah (Portsmouth, North) (Lab)
†Selous, Andrew (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con)
Swinson, Jo (East Dunbartonshire) (LD)
†Swire, Mr. Hugo (East Devon) (Con)
Turner, Mr. Andrew (Isle of Wight) (Con)
†Walker, Mr. Charles (Broxbourne) (Con)
†Ward, Claire (Watford) (Lab)
Dr Hannah Weston, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

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Thursday 10 November 2005

[Mr. Mike Weir in the Chair]

Draft New Opportunities Fund
(Specification of Initiatives) (No. 2) Order 2005

8.55 am

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the draft New Opportunities Fund (Specification of Initiatives) (No. 2) Order 2005.

Mr. Weir, we have just been saying how fit we are, running down to this place this morning to consider the order. The purpose of the order is to allow NOF to continue distributing lottery money for good causes in the fields of health, education and the environment. Although NOF and the Community Fund have been operating under the name of the Big Lottery Fund since June 2004, they remain distinct legal bodies working within the powers and duties conferred on them by the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. In particular, NOF may distribute money only to projects designed to give effect to initiatives specified in an order by the Secretary of State under section 43B of the 1993 Act.

NOF’s existing orders relate to specific funding initiatives that are either coming to an end or are narrowly prescribed and would not allow a full range of funding. We need this new order to allow NOF and the Community Fund, working as the Big Lottery Fund, to launch the exciting range of new programmes that they announced earlier this year.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Exciting.

Mr. Caborn: Exciting is the word, and scintillating.

We shall issue new policy directions to NOF and the Community Fund. The order and the directions mirror closely those that will be used by the Big Lottery Fund following enactment of the National Lottery Bill. However, they do not pre-empt proper consideration of the Bill in this House or in another place. The order, like the directions, is an interim measure to ensure that NOF can continue to fund good projects in communities throughout the United Kingdom.

The order specifies new funding initiatives for NOF based on three high-level themes, which have been subject to intensive consultation, particularly involving hon. Members on this statutory instrument Committee this morning. I remind hon. Members that the three themes are an initiative to promote community learning, an initiative to promote community safety and cohesion, and an initiative to promote physical and mental well-being.

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The order repeals NOF’s existing initiative orders—I am sure that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) will be pleased about this—except the order relating to transformational grants. All NOF’s other programmes being carried out under the existing initiative orders can be carried out within the three main initiatives set out in this order. One exception is the small-scale grants scheme, awards for all, so this order retains the initiative that relates to such grants.

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): When the Minister winds up the debate, will he let the Committee know whether organisations that promote relationship support and education, such as community family trusts, which already receive small amounts of Government funding, will qualify under the community cohesion heading? I would be particularly interested if the Minister enlightened me on that point.

Mr. Caborn: I will do that when I wind up the debate.

The order reflects the Government’s policy to adopt a much less prescriptive approach with the Big Lottery Fund than we did with NOF. I am sure that hon. Members will welcome that approach. The order sets out only broad, high-level themes of funding. In contrast, NOF orders often set out narrow funding initiatives detailing not only the specific outcomes to be achieved, but the way in which they should be achieved. Under the new order and the accompanying directions, it will be NOF, not the Government, that takes all the important decisions. The fund will have sole responsibility for deciding on programmes, choosing delivery mechanisms, identifying partners and selecting projects. I stress, though, that less prescription does not mean a lack of clarity. The terms used in the order are well understood by the fund and the wider voluntary and community sector to which the funds are dispensed.

In the past, the Government did not consult anyone other than the lottery distributor and the devolved Administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland about orders and directions issued to them. On this occasion, however, we sought comments from stakeholders and other interested parties on a draft of the order and policy directions. That is in line with our policy of increasing transparency as we move forward to the Big Lottery Fund. The consultations ended on 30 September [Interruption.]—I know the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) does not like wide consultations, because it is very difficult to knock the rationale of the British public. Sometimes that has been difficult to come to terms with. I stress that this has been a wide consultation.

Mr. Swire: The big conversation?

Mr. Caborn: The big consultation, which, in the long term, will make sure that the lottery is acknowledged by the great British public. The lottery has already been endorsed by them voting with their pockets, and feet, and buying a lot more lottery tickets. Therefore, I think we are in tune with the public.

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The consultations ended on 30 September and it was clear that respondents had welcomed the opportunity to comment. There was no comment on the substance of the order. There was broad support for the directions as well as some helpful comments. We plan to make one change to the directions as a result of the consultation, and copies of the revised directions have been made available for information. A summary of the consultation and a list of respondents has been published on our website.

The order is needed so that the Big Lottery Fund can launch its new programmes. They will be worth over £2.3 billion between 2006 and 2009. The fund hopes to begin launching new programmes as soon as the new order and policy directions are in place.

Programmes reflect two rounds of public consultation and the fund will continue to involve stakeholders as they are developed. Underpinning all the programmes is the fund’s mission to improve communities and the lives of people most in need. Programmes will deliver the funding themes set out in the order. They will also help achieve the four outcomes and the funding priorities in the policy directions. The fund has said that it will distribute no less than one-third of its funding via demand-led programmes, which encourage organisations and groups to bring forward their ideas and local solutions for funding. The planned programmes include: up to £150 million to support the voluntary and community sector infrastructure; £155 million for children’s play; up to £354 million for environmental projects; and up to £165 million for well-being programmes. Full details are on the fund’s website.

In conclusion, the statutory instrument will allow the Big Lottery Fund to launch its new programmes and will enable the fund to continue getting money out to deserving projects the length and breadth of the country. The instrument, and the programmes that will be launched as a result, have been subject to an unprecedented level of public consultation and, I am pleased to say, of input from all the stakeholders. I commend the order to the House.

Mr. Swire: May I say that serving under your chairmanship is a pleasure, Mr. Weir? This is a reunion for some of us on the Committee who have debated these matters long and hard over the past few weeks. No doubt we will be returning to some points over the next few hours, depending on how long we proceed.

The Minister—properly for the Minister for Sport—said earlier that he had run here and how many miles he had run. He started the proceedings with a feeling of speed. That is not the case for what we are debating. Speed is the opposite of what we have seen.

We have heard that the Big Lottery Fund was set up in June 2004, but clearly we would not now be debating anything had the Government’s legislative programme been speedier in passing the legislation. Having debated in Committee the whole National Lottery Bill, we do not yet have a date for Report or Third Reading. We are told that that may even go into 2006. That is a long period since 2004.

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We needed to put why we are here in context. The Minister rightly dresses the Bill up as an interim measure—his own words—so that the BLF can launch its new programmes. The truth is that without the Bill, I do not believe that the Big Lottery Fund could do anything. How many organisations up and down the country have been haemorrhaging over the past few months, because either they have not received the due funding, owing to the uncertainty, or they have not applied for other funds, because they do not know to whom they should apply or how? I ask the Minister to comment on that uncertainty when he winds up.

There are plenty of good words in the explanatory memorandum about a

    “high level, unprescriptive and flexible approach”.

Members of the Committee heard much about that and, no doubt, the Minister is even more flexible after a six-mile run around the Serpentine this morning. I am not quite sure what “high level” means; perhaps the Government Whips can talk about that after having been involved in high-level negotiations during the past 24 hours. As for the word “unprescriptive”, we find this measure particularly prescriptive inasmuch as control will go back to the Secretary of State. We see problems with some of the matters that the Minister outlined, not least on the promotion of physical and mental well-being. Those are a matter of health so, again, we see a breach of the principle of additionality, which we have debated at length and will return to at the earliest opportunity after the Government finds time for Report stage and Third Reading.

I was intrigued by one aspect of the explanatory note provided by the Department in paragraph 8.1, entitled “Impact”, which states:

    “A regulatory Impact Assessment has not been prepared for this instrument as it has no impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies.”

We could spend much time debating that matter because the instrument certainly has a potential adverse effect on charities and voluntary bodies. This morning, the Minister will have no doubt read in the Daily Mail an excellent, if I might say, quotation from me, referring to the fact that £5 million of lottery cash has been blown on the merger of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund. A spokesman for the Big Lottery Fund has said that the cost of creating that body was offset by £3.5 million of savings, which have already been generated by the assimilation of the two organisations. Somewhere, money has been lost. Any money lost to the lottery is a loss of money, eventually, to good causes. The Government have some gall to claim that a regulatory impact assessment has not been prepared for the instrument because it has no impact on business, charities or voluntary bodies. That is plainly wrong.

I am tempted to continue, but I see that the hon. Member for Bath is revving up, having received some papers. That is pertinent to comments that the Minister has made in another place, which closely mirror what he said this morning. No doubt, their lordships were as diligent as we shall be in probing the extremely high-level, unprescriptive and flexible approach that the Minister claims he has adopted.

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Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I, too, welcome you to the Chair, Mr Weir. I thank the hon. Member for East Devon for his generous introduction to the few remarks that I intend to make. I wish to begin with genuine congratulations to the Minister. On a number of occasions, I have been privileged to sit on a Committee that has debated a statutory instrument after it has been debated in another place. I have therefore had the opportunity to study the words of the Minister in another place and compare them closely with today’s speech. I congratulate the Minister for using many of the same words, but in a different order. I had some difficulty checking which paragraph was going to come next. I further congratulate the Minister on making a somewhat briefer speech than that made by Lord Davies. The hon. Member for East Devon would be wrong to suggest that there was a great deal of scrutiny in another place. In fact, Lord Davies’s contribution was longer than all other contributions put together. It would be wrong for us to follow that example.

The hon. Member for East Devon rightly pointed out that, had the Government been able to push on with the passage of the National Lottery Bill, which has the effect of creating, as a body corporate, the Big Lottery Fund, we would not need to meet today. Nevertheless, they have not been able to do so. I was interested to hear the Minister’s remarks—of which, as I said, I have a version in front of me—about allowing the Big Lottery Fund to be able to operate, despite the fact that we have not yet passed the legislation required to set it up as a body corporate. During another opportunity to debate these issues, I mentioned that the Big Lottery Fund, which does not yet exist, has headed notepaper, a website, a helpline and many other things.

I attended an excellent event last night at which the Minister spoke. I am told that he spoke extremely well, although unfortunately I arrived after his speech. At that event, I discovered that there is also a Big Lottery Fund mug, and I was delighted to receive one. I am not sure whether the mug should be declared in the Register. There appears to be silver paint on it, which suggests it might be quite expensive.

Notwithstanding the fact that the Big Lottery Fund does not yet exist as a body corporate, what is important is that the order means that changes have been made to what the Big Lottery Fund’s New Opportunities Fund element will do.

I was slightly amused to hear the Minister say that there has been an “unprecedented level of public consultation” on the order and policy direction. Of course it was unprecedented, because, as the Minister’s own words admit, there was very little consultation whatsoever in the past, when a limited number of bodies were consulted. That said, more consultation occurred than normal. There were a good number of responses, 58 per cent. of which supported the recommendations. A small proportion—5 per cent., I think—were opposed to the order. That gives us some encouragement that the Government are moving in the right direction.

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They are also moving in the right direction by adopting a less prescriptive approach to funding with the Big Lottery Fund. The Minister said that the Government were highly prescriptive in the past. They were scandalously prescriptive, because the Government should not be prescribing anything that relates to the lottery. That is why many of us have discussed the whole question of additionality in another meeting.

I am prepared to acknowledge that the proposals are far less prescriptive than before. I welcome that fact. The issue of whether there should be any level of prescription from the Government still needs to be debated, however. Nevertheless, we are moving in the right direction.

I want to ask the Minister a couple of questions on the high-level themes that will now be so important to the work of the New Opportunities Fund element of the body that we currently call the Big Lottery Fund. Had the Minister read out Lord Davies of Oldham’s entire speech, he would have given us some more detail on the impact that the high-level themes will have.

The Minister rightly referred to the key themes: an initiative to support community learning and to create opportunity; an initiative to promote community safety and cohesion; and an initiative to promote well-being. Those themes are supported by four outcomes, which are listed under “England and UK Programmes 2006-2009”. I draw hon. Members’ attention to one outcome in particular, which is

    “stronger communities, with more active citizens working together to tackle their problems”.

I link that to the third outcome, which is

    “improved rural and urban environments, which communities are better able to access and enjoy”.

Those two outcomes clearly relate to the old, simple heading of “the environment”. Indeed, we are aware, because the Minister told us, that a number of schemes will be demand-led. Communities will be able to suggest their own ideas for funding, although those ideas must meet the broad themes and the four listed outcomes.

In a private conversation with the Minister last night, I mentioned briefly that I have been in communication with residents of a community in the north of England. They are keen to find ways for the local community to tackle the issue of climate change as best they may. For example, they are looking at ways to reduce their reliance on non-renewable fuels. They have other ideas, too.

When that community group contacted the Big Lottery Fund, it was told categorically that no funds were available for such projects. Does the Minister share my surprise that the group was given that answer? Even if at present there is no programme in that area and I suspect that was the correct answer, does the Minister agree that it would be reasonable to anticipate, and perfectly appropriate under the broad themes and the four outcomes, for a demand-led project on those lines to receive a favourable response from the Big Lottery Fund? I apologise for asking such
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a specific question, but it would help the Committee to understand precisely the Minister’s interpretation of the proposals.

9.15 am

Even if in some senses I would love him to do so, I hope the Minister will not undertake to instruct the Big Lottery Fund that it must accept this type of programme. [Interruption.] As the Minister said, from a sedentary position, that would be a huge contradiction. In a definition of additionality, I have long argued that there is nothing wrong with the Government, other political parties, or anyone else for that matter, being able to make a proposal to any of the lottery distributors knowing that they have no better chance than anyone else of having their scheme accepted. That is the position that I would ultimately like us to arrive at. I see no problem in any one of us, the Minister included, being able to suggest ideas to the lottery distributors. I just hope the Minister is never again in a position to be able to instruct the distributors to operate in a certain way.

I had grave reservations in the beginning about the establishment of the new opportunities fund, and continue to have concerns that even in the reduced form there is still some Government prescription about the use of lottery funds. However, the proposal moves in the right direction and will enable a number of very good projects to be developed and some to continue. I shall therefore not oppose the measure.

Mr. Caborn: I shall try to respond to several of the points that have been made. I shall park on one side that Tory rag the Daily Mail, because it is not particularly objective; I have not read it this morning, anyway. On the more serious point made by the hon. Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous), the groups that offer relationship counselling would be eligible for funding, but it will be a decision for the Big Lottery Fund.

On the regime impact assessment, the order will have no impact on charities and voluntary community service bodies. It is an enabling instrument and does not place burdens on any organisations. That is why the RIA has not been done. However, the hon. Gentleman acknowledges that the RIA was done on the National Lottery Bill.

The hon. Member for Bath raised the issue of funding for environmental projects, not just with me last night but with Sir Clive Booth, the chairman of the Big Lottery Fund.

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Mr. Foster: I am grateful to the Minister for reminding me. I should have said earlier that I was tempted to refer to the chairman of the Big Lottery Fund and the excellent job he is doing, but he assured me that every time I referred to him in this place his mother got very excited. He urged me not to do so, but he is doing a very good job.

Mr. Caborn: Obviously his mother will have another word with him later today. We were discussing the environment and not just in respect of the Big Lottery Fund. I referred in my conversation last night to the Olympics. One of the chapters in the candidate file was about the environment, which we hope will be a major feature of the development of the facilities and the new Olympic park. The environment is a theme that runs through the project. The hon. Member for Bath, Sir Clive and I were surprised at the answer that was given to the hon. Gentleman’s constituent. I will write to Sir Clive, not to prescribe anything, but to remind him of the concerns that have been expressed and ask him to raise them with his board. That is probably the best way forward.

The hon. Member for Bath asked about the uncertainty about funding. It is exactly the case that the Big Lottery Fund needs the order to allow the start of the programmes that I think that all of us welcome. One could argue and make political points about the delays in the Bill’s progress through the House, but I think that we all acknowledge that the way in which the Big Lottery Fund is going in terms of the consultation that has taken place is gaining a lot of support from the general public. That is reflected in the fact that people are buying lottery tickets.

As I said last night, there is a big tick in the box in terms of confidence in the lottery and we want that to continue. I think that we are proceeding in the right way. We therefore want to give the powers to the Big Lottery Fund before the Act comes into place. I am sure that hon. Members would agree with that, and I hope that they will not oppose the order.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft New Opportunities Fund (Specification of Initiatives) (No. 2) Order 2005.

Committee rose at twenty-one minutes past Nine o’clock.


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