Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Bill [HL]
Lord Davies of Oldham (Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household; Labour)
My Lords, the noble Viscount is well versed in these issues. I was not going to suggest that there was 100 per cent approval from the Delegated Powers Committee—heavens, I have far too much respect for its members to think that they cannot find a number of weaknesses in the legislation. On the question of scrutiny, however—I believe that the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, would concede this point—the committee regarded the Government's position as being well within the confines of the way in which the provisions of the National Lottery Act already operate. Indeed, this House considered that Act, as did the other place, to a very great extent a few short years ago.
The amendment deals with the powers of the Secretary of State. The noble Baroness is distressed that one particular Secretary of State is vested with the responsibility of exercising these powers. I make the obvious point that there must always be one. In circumstances in which it is clear that a number of Ministries have a real interest in this issue, I assure the House that the work will be the product of interdepartmental work by civil servants. However, there must be ministerial responsibility, and the appropriate Ministry here is the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
Big plays a very important part in the operation of the lottery, and this House has recognised that role. The suggestion is that Big should operate under the National Lottery Act without excessive constraints, but that in its operation of this particular issue, there should be additional parliamentary scrutiny of the direction. Let me say that the affirmative procedure—in other words, if the Secretary of State had to table approval for the decisions that he has to take—would exaggerate the necessity. It was not thought necessary with the National Lottery Act, which set up a public body. This is a private body; yet it is being suggested that the parliamentary scrutiny of that body should be at that level of intensity.
I cannot recall a time when noble Lords opposite—certainly not noble Lords speaking for the Official Opposition—have suggested that a private institution should be subject to this degree of intensive parliamentary scrutiny. It seems odd that this was not suggested with regard to the lottery, but that it is suggested in this rather specific and relatively small-scale operation of Big. It is suggested that those directions should be subject to this intensive parliamentary scrutiny, and I can maintain only that the demands are excessive and unnecessary. This body will be accountable, transparent and answerable. There is no question that it will not be subject to public scrutiny as envisaged in the Bill. I hope that the noble Lord will accept the Government's argument.