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The noble Baroness said: My Lords, the amendment inserts a new clause after Clause 10 requiring a triennial report to Parliament on the operation of the dormant account arrangements. As the Minister will recall, we had long discussions in Committee about the arrangements to transfer dormant account money. Very broadly, we argued for more specificity in this Bill, but the Ministers consistent response was that these arrangements constituted a private scheme undertaken voluntarily. He said that the reclaim fund was a private fund and that Part 1 merely facilitated private arrangements. That was the Governments main reason for resisting a large number of amendments.
We simply do not buy the approach of little involvement from the Government but, importantly, almost no involvement from Parliament. The Government have reached an agreement with the British Bankers Association and the Building Societies Association that they will hand over the dormant money; and that
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Instead of tabling a raft of detailed amendments, we have decided to propose this amendment to give the Treasury and Parliament more insight into various aspects of the arrangements. We have chosen a pragmatic path, which involves reporting to Parliament on the scheme as it starts to work. My amendment requires a report by the Treasury to be published and laid before both Houses of Parliament every three years. It has to cover many of the things that we have already discussed today, and I hope it meets the concerns of the charities behind the Unclaimed Assets Charities Coalition, to which the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, who is no longer in her place, spoke.
New subsection (2)(a) deals with the issue of the register. We debated that matter earlier today. We firmly believe that it is important that there is continuing scrutiny about how well those arrangements are working in practice. We recognise that many in the charity sector doubt whether they will do so. Parliament needs to keep that under review.
Paragraphs (b) and (c) focus on how much is actually being transferred to the scheme and how much could be transferred. Again, there are doubts about whether this voluntary scheme will be fully complied with. This will allow an ongoing review. That was one of the concerns outlined by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay, and it is an alternative approach to compulsion. Paragraph (e) focuses on whether the repayment arrangements work in practice. They have to work well if consumers are to have confidence in a scheme that transfers their money ultimately to the Big Lottery Fund.
I have already spoken this afternoon about how banks identify accounts as dormant. The Bills minimalist approach may or may not cause problems in practice. The Bill says that dormancy will start only after 15 years, which is way in excess of any other international scheme. We need to keep under review the evidence of the relationship between the expiry of time and dormancy. This and other issues in relation to dormancy are covered by paragraph (e).
As we debated in Committee, the Bill modestly confines itself to the accounts held in banks and building societies. We were unable to table amendments to cover the wider range of other assets that are similarly lying unclaimed. We want to keep public focus on expanding the range of assets to be liberated from dormancy and put to good use. That concern is also shared by the Unclaimed Assets Charities Coalition. This is provided by paragraph (f); and paragraph (b) will allow any other matters to be addressed.
The report will require the Treasury to identify unsatisfactory arrangements and say how improvements could be made and whether legislation is required. We do not believe that legislation is automatically required where deficiencies are identified. The nature of a
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In Committee, the Minister told us that the Treasury would review the scheme at some time and in some way. It was not clear whether such a review would be published. That is not good enough. We believe that parliamentary involvement should be hard-wired into this Bill on the basis of a regular report. I beg to move.
Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, our names are attached to this amendment and I would like to speak to it. I would call this accountability and action. As the Minister said earlier, this is a novel way of going forward; if so, it had better be right. The triennial report would be a very good way to consider that and to see whether reuniting is going fine, whether the reclaim fund is working well and whether we have confidence in the voluntary scheme.
I am particularly attracted to the paragraph that says we need to raise the horizons and look at other orphan assets. We know that in other places, such as Ireland, other assets have been brought in. If this report is brought forward, it will enable people watching the scheme to look at international comparisons. I hope that the scheme is a great success. As the Minister indicated, I am an enthusiast for the scheme. I hope that insurance, unclaimed dividends, shares and betting slipsyou name itcan be brought into the scheme.
Earlier today the Minister said, Lets see if we are proved right. One way in which we can see if the Government are proved right is to get a report about how things are doing and to lay it before Parliament.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Government think that in principle the Opposition have a strong argument. We agree in principle with the concepts that lie behind the amendment. This is a good opportunity to look to a time when the scheme is up and running. We need to consider such matters because this is an innovative scheme. I emphasise the fact that the transfer of money into the scheme will be managed by a reclaim fund run by the private sector, under private arrangements put in place by the reclaim fund of the banks. That will be in compliance with the legislation, the Banking Code and the FSA regulations.
We agree that the Government should not lose sight of the scheme once it is inaugurated. We have no intention of losing sight of it. It is right that at some stage the Government will return to it after its implementation to review whether the scheme is effective and delivering the right outcomes for consumers.
We will think further about these issues. We are by no means convinced that this amendment should be in the Bill. I listened to the questions today and in Committee about the scope of the Bill. I remind the House that this Bill is restricted only to bank and building society accounts and that other assets and other schemes are outside the scope of the legislation. Therefore, when we look at the review we will be looking at that. I also do not see any great merit in the amendment which suggests that there should be regular reviews every three years. I cannot see the logic behind that.
I can see the necessity for the Government to respond to the principle of review, and so at Third Reading we will come back with a statement on how we think that review should be carried out. We will consider carefully when an appropriate time for the implementation of the review will be, in line with better regulation practice and we will take into account the available data on participation levels and the amount transferred to Big for distribution. The noble Baroness may be right that after three years we will be in a position to make those judgments. We do not think that we are in a position at this stage, and certainly it would be wrong to place in the legislation an amendment which ties us down on the matter. The noble Baroness is right that this scheme should not be implemented or operated without a review. I undertake
Lord Norton of Louth: My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord, particularly on Report, but he referred to a statement at Third Reading rather than the possibility of bringing forward an amendment. May I draw his attention to the fact that a precedent was set on the Pensions Bill by agreeing an amendment that provided for some degree of post-legislative scrutiny, which is what is being sought here?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I understand that point but the noble Lord will recognise that I have crucial reservations about the amendment. We agree with the principle and we will take steps to implement it. However, we do not think that it should be in the Bill, and certainly not in the terms of the amendment. There is no disagreement between us in principle as regards the objective, which we will seek to realise. I undertake to be clearer at Third Reading than I am today as regards how the Government foresee that happening.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, I find the Ministers statement somewhat puzzling. He is saying that the measure will not be in the Bill, that the Government will do something about the matter in some other, unspecified way, but that we will not find out what that is until Third Reading. He has had long enough to think about this rather simple point. Can he give us some clue about what the Government have in mind?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I indicated why the amendment is unacceptable to us and the reservations we have about it. The noble Lord makes the obvious
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Baroness Noakes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and the noble Lord, Lord Shutt, for supporting the amendment. When the Minister started to speak I thought that we were getting somewhere but, as he pointed out, we considered a very similar amendment in Committee. He said very similar things in responsethat thatthere would be some kind of review at some timebut he gave no indication of what would be in it, when it would take place, whether Parliament would be involved, or of a lot of other things. The only advance we have made concerns the things that the Minister does not want. He does not want there to be a regular report to Parliament and he certainly does not want it to include other assets. We think that those two aspects are very important.
The Minister has made no attempt to talk to me about the content of a report, notwithstanding the fact that we started Committee in early December. I hear what he says about making a statement on the Governments view at Third Reading but I cannot believe that that will be satisfactory. I wish to test the opinion of the House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, we return to territory that is familiar to those of us who have been in Grand Committeethe name of the dormant account money that is in the hands of the Big Lottery Fund. I suggest that this should be called the Reawakened Fund.
The Minister made some helpful comments in Committee. It is clear that the fund will be kept separate, that it will be marketed separately and that it will be accounted for separately. I want to be certain that it will be labelled separately. In a sense, there is a lot of re about this Billthere is reference to reuniting and reclaiming, so it is appropriate that these dormant funds are being reawakened. I indicated in Committee that there are peopleperhaps they are a minority, even a small minority, but they are therewho do not want to apply for, or use, funds that they believe are from the National Lottery. They believe that their causes should not benefit from the proceeds of gambling. Therefore it is very important that the fund is properly named. We have had a week or two to think about it. I have not come up with anything else and neither have the Government. So let us have another try and use the word reawakened. I beg to move.
Lord Bach: My Lords, we on this side appreciate and admire the noble Lords spirited attempt to ensure that the investment of dormant account funds in communities across the UK is properly recognised. It is our intention that the distribution of dormant account funds should be appropriately publicised, reflecting the unique opportunity they present to make a real difference to communities across the UK. However, the effect of the noble Lords amendment is to impose a UK-wide brand. I hope that the House will appreciate that, just as it is important that the devolved Administrations set their own spending areas, so it is important that the use of dormant account resources is branded in a way appropriate to each of their communities. At this early stage, it is not appropriate to take decisions about the branding and publicising of dormant account fund investments that would then stand, whether they were right or wrong. I hope that when the appropriate time comes, expert and public opinion will contribute to the consideration. There may well be a degree of consultation, particularly among young people, about what the brand should be in Scotland, Wales and England.
With the greatest respect, these are matters that should be properly beyond the House. This does not need to be in the legislation. If the amendment was prompted by a desire for government reassurance yet again about the ways in which dormant account funding would be delineated from other funds distributed by Big, which I know in large measure it is, let me once again try to reassure the noble Lord and the House. Big is clear that any non-lottery funding will be accounted for and promoted independently from lottery funding. The Bill requires Big to report annually on any grants made with dormant account money, and Big has committed regularly to update its website with grant details. This will be clearly branded as distinct and separate from lottery funding.
The Big Lottery Fund is fully accountable to the Secretary of State and Parliament for lottery distribution.
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