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Clause 16

Apportionment of dormant account money

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I beg to move amendment No. 8, page 9, line 17, after ‘State’, insert

Mr. Deputy Speaker: With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 5, in Clause 17, page 9, line 31, after ‘meeting’, insert ‘revenue or capital’.

No. 6, page 9, line 31, after ‘of’, insert ‘existing or new’.

No. 7, page 9, line 38 , at end insert—

‘(1A) At least three-quarters of the dormant account money for meeting English expenditure distributed in each financial year shall be distributed for the purposes set out in (1)(a) above.’.

No. 1, in Clause 18, page 10, line 5, at end insert—

‘(1A) Any order made under this section shall ensure that at least half of the distribution of dormant account money for meeting Welsh expenditure must be made for meeting revenue or capital expenditure on or connected with the provision of existing or new services, facilities or opportunities to meet the needs of young people.’.

No. 2, in Clause 19, page 10, line 15, at end insert—

‘(1A) Any order made under this section shall ensure that at least half of the distribution of dormant account money for meeting Scottish expenditure must be made for meeting revenue or capital expenditure on or connected with the provision of existing or new services, facilities or opportunities to meet the needs of young people.’.

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No. 3, in Clause 20, page 10, line 25, at end insert—

‘(1A) Any order made under this section shall ensure that at least half of the distribution of dormant account money for meeting Northern Ireland expenditure must be made for meeting revenue or capital expenditure on or connected with the provision of existing or new services, facilities or opportunities to meet the needs of young people.’.

No. 13, in Schedule 3, page 19, line 13, at end insert—

‘(2A) The strategic plan for England must have regard to the likely level of the funds transferred to the Big Lottery Fund from the Reclaim Fund and shall set out the allocation of these funds between the priorities set out in section 17(1).’.

No. 14, page 19, line 27 , after ‘(3)(b)’, insert

No. 4, page 24, line 26, at end insert—


No. 15, page 24, line 32 , at end insert ‘which shall include—

(i) the amount distributed in the year in—

(a) England,(b) Wales,(c) Scotland, and(d) Northern Ireland;

(ii) the amount of expenses defrayed in the year in accordance with subsections (1) and (2) of section 25;

(iii) the amount paid to the Consolidated Fund in accordance with subsections (3)(a) and (b) of section 25.’.

Simon Hughes: All the amendments in this group are in my name, except for amendments Nos. 13, 14 and 15 which were tabled by the hon. Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban). They deal not with how the money gets into the pot but with how it is distributed, and they follow our helpful Second Reading and Committee debates.

I tabled these amendments to encourage the Government to be more specific about their general commitments. Amendment No. 8 tests the Government on the time scale for implementation. Ministers have been very helpful; indeed, I have been offered a meeting later this month with the Financial Secretary, which I intend to take up to discuss how soon money can be forthcoming, particularly for youth projects, about which I wish to speak in particular. Earlier this year, Ministers indicated that some of the money that they anticipate coming from dormant bank and building society accounts could, so to speak, be advanced against the expectation. Does that offer remain on the table or will we definitely have to wait for money to be collected, identified and transferred to the Big Lottery Fund before it can be distributed?

Amendments Nos. 5 and 7 seek to probe the Government’s intentions about how much of the money in the kitty can go to services for young people and to test the sort of funds and projects that can be linked. I shall come back to that issue in a second.

Amendment No. 7 identifies a minimum percentage of the total. As colleagues will know, there are three identified projects for England, one of which is youth services. Ministers have been helpful in indicating that they intend that, in England, most of the money could
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go to youth services and I have heard reports that the proportion might be up to four fifths of the total. I would be keen to hear whether that suggestion can be tied down.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3 relate to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. I hesitate to trespass in that area, because Ministers have said that they will leave that entirely to the devolved legislatures. However, I have picked up very positive messages about the keenness of people in Scotland and Wales—I have not tested this in Northern Ireland—to spend the money on youth services there. I want to see whether the Government would be willing to encourage that to happen elsewhere in the devolved Administrations.

Amendment No. 4 is about Big Lottery Fund procedures, and seeks to ensure that people know in advance what will come down the track in their direction.

Two weeks ago, Mr. Speaker was kind enough to select youth crime in Greater London as the subject for an Adjournment debate in Westminster Hall. It was a well-attended debate, involving colleagues from both sides of the House. It was very positive. People said that a huge number of very good initiatives in the communities in all the 33 local authorities were doing well, had done well and could do well. The burden of most people’s song in that debate, and certainly the burden of mine, was that rather than seeking to reinvent the wheel and to obtain money through public processes and the Big Lottery Fund for a new project or a capital project, we should seek to support existing projects and to build them up. Many colleagues, when they talk about different issues to do with the voluntary sector, make the case that the trouble is often that groups can apply for money for a new capital project but cannot necessarily apply for money to continue the revenue spend on a project that is already up and running.

Two days after the debate in Westminster Hall, and just over the river in the Royal Festival Hall, there was the launch of a campaign by a coalition of organisations, principally in Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth. It is called “Enough! Make Youth Violence History” and seeks to bring together organisations that are doing very good work to deter young people from knife crime, gun crime and violence, and to give them positive and alternative role models. The message from that successful event was that some very good organisations work with young people in the front line and that they should be supported and built up.

One of the aims of the event was to say to the Government that they should recognise what good work those organisations do. Ministers in the Home Office were helpful and supportive. As it happened, they could not attend that evening, but I know that they have been positive towards the initiative. The other message of that evening was that when people ask, “What can I do to help deter people from violence, gun crime and knife crime?”, those groups should say, “Come and volunteer with us.” Many organisations are looking for volunteers, so it is a matter of matching the corporate sector volunteer or the private individual volunteer with those organisations.

Given that there is no statutory obligation in England—or anywhere across the UK—to provide youth services, this Bill is the only place in the current legislative programme where campaigns for developing existing youth organisations tie into the Government’s programme
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for being helpful and putting more money in the kitty. That is a welcome proposition.

Amendment No. 8 would amend clause 16, and would seek to ensure that the amount was prescribed in good time every year for it to be really useful. The proposal in the amendment is that the Government should prescribe the amount by 1 March every year, ahead of the new financial year, so that there is clear notice of what the total amount will be. That will mean that everybody will know in good time what the total sum will be for which people can bid.

The next few amendments are very clear, and I want to ensure that the Government are also clear that the intention behind the amendments is to put on the face of the Bill the fact that the money could go both to revenue spend and capital projects. I hope that the Government will be helpful and will say, “Yes, there will be no barrier to people bidding for money from the Big Lottery Fund for revenue projects.”

In my constituency, a state-of-the-art youth centre—one of the best in the country—is about to be opened. Ministers have been very helpful and supportive, particularly the Minister for Children, Young People and Families. It is called the Salmon youth centre in Bermondsey, and it is a fantastic state-of-the-art project. We also have other good smaller projects, as we all do in our constituencies. They are not looking for new buildings, but for money to support additional workers.

Let me give two examples. A project called XLP works across the south London boroughs and takes a double-decker bus out to estates to offer young people positive things to do. However, it does not yet have the personnel to do that all the time. It would like to, but it needs a bit more revenue funding. It goes into schools with a very good show called “Gunz Down”, which takes an hour and plays to the third, fourth and fifth years in secondary schools. It could do more if it had more revenue funding.

Another good youth project, funded by Oasis, runs just over the bridge from us here, on the Lambeth-Southwark borders. It has a radio project for young people, which teaches them skills in presenting and so on. The project, like the youth clubs, is open certain nights of the week but it cannot open every night because it does not have the funds. There is not much money to fund such youth work. The plea from such groups is, “Please allow us to have the money for revenue not just for capital.”

Amendment No. 6 says, “Please will you confirm, O Government, that we can have the money for existing projects, not just new projects?” I think that that is the case—I have heard nothing to suggest that it is not—but it would be very helpful if that could be confirmed.

Amendment No. 7 seeks to test how much money the Government envisage will go to the first of the three categories that they have set out. They have set out three purposes. The first is

The second is

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That is obviously important. The third is that such payments should be

There are three identified projects in England. The Government have said that they intend that the bulk of the money will go to youth services. Amendment No. 7 asks whether we should have a bottom line that says that at least three quarters of the funds should go to that cause, whether that is a reasonable line to draw and whether the Government are willing to make that commitment. If not, can we hear from the Minister what the bottom line is intended to be?

Amendments Nos. 1, 2, and 3 are intended to test whether the Government are willing at least to say that half the money going to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland should be for youth facilities. I hope that the Government will be encouraging the devolved Administrations even if they are unwilling to be prescriptive. That would be welcome in Scotland and Wales, as I know from all the conversations that I have had. If the Bill is to be seen to have a purpose, a very good purpose across the four countries of the United Kingdom would be to spend the money on youth facilities.

7 pm

Amendment No. 4 is a plea that the Big Lottery Fund should publish no later than a month before the end of one financial year an estimate of the money that it expects to distribute in the following year. That is intended to help the planning of the voluntary sector and to help people to know exactly what should be expected. The Big Lottery Fund is well established as an organisation. I am perfectly content—others might be slightly less content—about the fact that it is the distributor. It has the credibility to do that, but the most helpful thing is that people should know in advance how much money will come and how much they can bid for.

I hope that these amendments are seen to be pertinent and appropriate. They are obviously probing amendments. If the Minister is helpful, I will call off the hounds. If he is really unhelpful, the troops will be summoned. I hope that we can do this in a spirit of consensus and that we will have a positive outcome that will reassure some very good projects.

This is a welcome Bill. The money will be very well used, and I emphasise that those organisations do not expect to depend entirely on this money or entirely on money that comes from the Government to the Big Lottery Fund. Many of those organisations are very willing to raise their own money, to go to the private sector to raise money and to apply to charities and so on. They see this money as welcome support. The House has recently said that it is united in making it clear that the majority of young people are good citizens. They want to be good citizens, and the more opportunities that we can give them, the better.

Mr. Hoban: I shall start by saying a few words about the amendments tabled by the hon. Member for North Southwark and Bermondsey (Simon Hughes). He will find, as we found in Committee, that the Government’s main priority is expenditure on youth services. That has been a recurrent theme, and it is clear from debates in the House and the other place that that is where the bulk of the money will go. Although he might not get commitments to absolute percentages, he is pushing at
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an open door. Amendment No. 4 is sensible; people will need some idea of how much money will be available for those causes.

I want to continue the theme of the distribution of money and to pick up the final spending priority identified for England: the social investment wholesaler. I tabled amendment No. 13 to deal with that, and I shall spend a short time talking about it. It is fair to say that people who work in social enterprise and social investment had expected that the unclaimed assets would be used to help to fund a social investment wholesaler. Certainly, there has been a great deal of debate about that. The Commission on Unclaimed Assets, chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, considered the amounts that would flow from dormant bank and building society accounts as the way in which a social investment wholesaler could be set up. Subsequent to its report, it did some work in trying to set up the appropriate framework into which moneys could be transferred.

As I suggested earlier, however, it is clear that the Government’s order of priority for spending is very much that set out in the Bill. Spending on youth services comes first, followed by financial inclusion, and the social investment bank comes very much at the bottom of the list. The Minister said in Committee that the social investment bank would receive resources to get off the ground if resources permit. It was clear to me that the amount of money available could be relatively small. That will disappoint the people in that sector who saw this as an opportunity to receive investment in social enterprise. In evidence given to the Treasury Select Committee, it was suggested that about £330 million over five years would be required to set up a social investment wholesaler. At the moment, it is not clear how much money will be available, not just to that cause but to the other two causes. Again, the Minister said that there is still great uncertainty about the quantum of resources available to the Big Lottery Fund. We touched on that on Second Reading and in Committee.

In amendment No. 13, I ask the Government, when looking at the Big Lottery Fund’s pattern of expenditure during the next few years, to recognise that transfers into the BLF are likely to be of a lumpy nature. We expect that, in the first year, significant moneys will be released from banks to the reclaim fund and the BLF. In effect, the money accumulated in dormant accounts over a long period will be released to the BLF in the very early stages of the process. That significant lump sum will create the opportunity for money to be put into a social investment bank, the investment profile of which will be front-loaded. It needs a large injection of capital up front, followed by top-ups at a later stage.

Clearly, if the Government want to give some money to a social investment bank, recognising the fact that the flow into the fund will mirror the large amount at the outset and that smaller amounts will come every year thereafter, as a new year’s worth of dormant bank accounts become available for transfer to the reclaim fund, the opportunity might perhaps arise at the start of the process for significant investment in a social investment wholesaler. It is much less likely, as the unclaimed assets process continues, that sufficient money will be available to set up a social investment wholesaler of sufficient magnitude to make a difference to the third sector.

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