Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: I hoped that what I said would have persuaded the noble Lord that we were taking what he said extremely seriously and considering it very properly. I do not want to prolong this discussion too much at this stage, but I shall just deal with the two main points he made.

29 Jan 1998 : Column CWH116

The word "individuals", the noble Lord pointed out, carried us away on a romantic idea about starving artists in garrets. Performing and creative artists usually have a pretty bad time financially, even if one hopes they do not starve in garrets. It is also true that talented scientists and inventors have similar problems. It is not true that one cannot have the same idea about helping people who are talented in the fields of science and technology just as in the arts--whether the performing arts or the creative arts--and giving them the help that they would not be able to get in any other way. That would be a very worthwhile thing to do.

On the issue of trying to help market British inventions, I do not quite know why the noble Lord keeps repeating that this is not provable. When the Japanese Government say that 50 per cent. of the inventions it processes come from Britain, that is part of the proof of something going wrong. I do not think it is arguable that Britain has been as successful as the United States and Japan, and even as some other European countries, in making full use of and fully exploiting economically and technically the inventions of its own scientists and technologists. The noble Lord spoke about whether NESTA is going to be in competition with banks.

Lord Redesdale: I apologise for intervening at this point. One of the problems that many of the people who develop ideas have at the moment--and my own brother-in-law is a designer--is that when taking your product to market it is often easier to get it developed and produced overseas, because the processing is so much cheaper over there. Would NESTA also look along those lines of the secondary manufacture of designed goods?

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: Why not? This would be up to NESTA. NESTA will have as its object what we have put down. The way it could try to achieve its end of helping British inventors to market their inventions properly would be up to NESTA, and I would see no problem in it looking at all these potential ways of doing it.

With regard to the question of being in competition with banks, NESTA is not meant to be in competition with anybody and certainly not banks. What NESTA is about is reaching the parts that other methods do not reach in this sense of giving help and support. Yes, the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, is right in that there may be losses here, and the reason why venture capital is sometimes reluctant to help create a genius, as we have said earlier, is because there are big risks involved. We therefore must accept that NESTA will have to take risks, and NESTA will undoubtedly back some things which will lose money. That is why NESTA will have to take risks which venture capital will not be prepared to take, but that is one of the reasons why I believe we need NESTA.

Lord Skidelsky: We will not prolong this. One day I hope to persuade the noble Baroness that the Japanese examples she cited are part of what is called the diffusion of technology. There is nothing sinister whatever; it is a

29 Jan 1998 : Column CWH117

very natural process that goes on the world over. She has, I believe, hinted that the Government will look at this. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 37B not moved.]

Lord Skidelsky moved Amendment No. 37C:

Page 18, line 13, leave out subsections (3) and (4)

The noble Lord said: We would see no need for these subsections if subsection (2) had been amended as we proposed. NESTA's remit in that case would cover everything which we believe it should do. If I am wrong about this, will the Minister give examples of the kind of changes in remit which might be required? We probably should not have a long discussion on this, because it may fall within the reconsideration of the previous amendment, but I should like to say that this was the reason behind it. If the Government accept the intention of our previous amendments, it seems to me that the Secretary of State's duties become largely redundant. I beg to move.

4.45 p.m.

Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: I should make it clear that we do not accept the intentions behind the previous two amendments. I was trying to be very reasonable and appreciative about the points that the noble Lord was making, but we do not accept the intention behind the previous two amendments. On this amendment--and it hangs together with the next one, Amendment No. 37D--it has been a principle from the beginning, as I tried to say when I was speaking to the first two amendments, that NESTA's policies and procedures should be at arm's length from the Government. Ministers should have no power of policy direction over NESTA; that is exactly right and as it should be. NESTA's objects are described in Clause 15(1), and there is no reason why these objects should change as time goes by.

Clause 15(2) describes the means by which NESTA is to achieve its objects. It is conceivable that those means might need to change, or other means might need to be added, if NESTA is to be able to meet its objectives. After all, NESTA is meant as a project for the 21st century. Science, new technology and the arts are developing at a fantastic pace, and we cannot predict what the circumstances will be in 10 years' time, let alone 20 or 30 years' time. We believe that it would be unwise to tie NESTA indefinitely to the means we have identified today.

NESTA's chair and trustees will need to be in command of the latest developments in their fields. They will be chosen to be able to do that. They will be charged with keeping NESTA at the forefront of encouraging new opportunities as they arise. As the arts, sciences and new technology develop, they may find in the future that they could achieve their objects more effectively by different means. Clause 15(3) and (4) give the Secretary of State power to amend the means by which NESTA is to achieve its objects, subject to an affirmative resolution procedure in both Houses of Parliament.

29 Jan 1998 : Column CWH118

I should emphasise that this power is exercisable only at the request of the chair and trustees of NESTA itself. There is no question of the Secretary of State being able to change the nature of NESTA's activity of his own volition. I should also say that the Government have no particular circumstances in mind in including this provision. It was felt that it would be too restrictive not to give the chair and trustees of NESTA the opportunity to put the case for different or additional means. With this in mind, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, will agree that, far from allowing ministerial influence on NESTA's policy, Clause 15(3) and (4) are important provisions to ensure that NESTA remains at the cutting edge of innovation. I therefore invite him to withdraw his amendments.

Lord Skidelsky: I note that the Minister said at the beginning of her remarks that the Government are not really disposed to accept the intention behind the previous amendment on which this hangs. Therefore, in withdrawing the amendment, I reserve my right to return to previous ones. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 15 agreed to.

Clause 16 [General duty and powers]:

[Amendment No. 37D not moved.]

Clause 16 agreed to.

Clause 17 [Initial and subsequent endowment]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 38:

Page 19, line 6, leave out ("and") and insert ("or").

The noble Lord said: This is a drafting amendment. I am grateful to my noble friend Lady Young of Old Scone for drawing my attention to the point. Clauses 5 and 6 define the new good cause as "health, education or the environment", but Clause 17, as currently drafted, shows it as "health, education and the environment". I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Redesdale moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 19, line 11, leave out from ("allocated") to the end of line 14 and insert ("for expenditure on or connected with health, education and the environment.").

The noble Lord said: The purpose of the amendment is to look at the funding of NESTA. Many of us believe that NESTA will be a very exciting and innovative project and we wish it the best of luck in all it does. However, one aspect about which we are concerned is that under the provisions set out at present funds for NESTA are already accumulating in the shadow funds for the new opportunities fund. With the inclusion of the amendment, we want to probe the Government's intentions over where future finance will come from. We believe that further endowments from the Secretary of State should come from the new opportunities fund rather than from the other good causes, which would give considerable alarm to them. This issue was flagged up by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, at Second Reading. The purpose of the amendment is to get an assurance from the Government that it is their intention

29 Jan 1998 : Column CWH119

that any further endowment to NESTA should come from the new opportunities fund in the future and not from the other good causes. I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page