Orders of the Day — National Lottery (Amendment) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 23rd March 2001.

Alert me about debates like this

Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I heard on my wireless this morning references to a statement in the House by the Deputy Prime Minister about the Marchioness tragedy. It was obvious that a number of people expected the matter to be brought to the House, and revealed to the House. Can you give us any indication, Mr. Speaker, of whether you have been asked to make provision for a statement by a Minister? It would be helpful to know that at this stage.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Speaker of the House of Commons

There will be a statement at 11 am. Let us now return to the National Lottery (Amendment) Bill.

Photo of Ian Gibson Ian Gibson Labour, Norwich North 9:34 am, 23rd March 2001

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

The Bill seeks to give the National Lotteries Charities Board an additional power to consider and, indeed, award grants towards the endowment of charities under the National Lottery etc. Act 1993, as amended in 1998.

The board was established as a non-departmental public body. The Act specifies the share of the national lottery to be received, and regulates the appointment of committees for grant-making. It gives the Secretary of State power to give directions relating to the matters to be taken into account in grant-making, and the conditions on which the money is to be distributed. This, then, is a permissive power, and the board thus has an opportunity to make the grants. The provision raises policy issues, but they would be for the board to consider, both in principle and at the point at which one of its grant-making committees received an application for funds for endowment of a charity.

The Bill has the support of all party members in Norfolk, some of whom are present. I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor), the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright). I also convey the apologies of the right hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard), my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Dr. Turner) and the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Prior), who has supported a charity that I am about to mention to the extent of working his socks off to secure money for it. I pay tribute to him for that: he survived. I doubt whether he will survive a general election, however, as his seat is very vulnerable.

My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) has supported the Bill as well, and others have shown great interest.

Let me begin by explaining how I came to be interested in the issue, and why I think that the 1993 Act needs to be adapted. With the support of the Eastern Daily Press, the "We Care" appeal 2000 was set up in Norfolk to endow the Norfolk millennium trust for carers. It aimed to raise £1 million in cash to establish the trust—which is registered as a charity—and enable it to become long-lasting, and to provide financial help for an estimated 130,000 unpaid carers in the county. Its purpose was to respond to the identified need of such carers. It sought to help with the purchase of equipment, and to improve the quality of life for carers.

I need not describe the emotional, financial and physical burden endured by carers, or the loneliness, frustration and sheer exhaustion involved.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the valuable work done by 6 million carers in this country, but does he think that £1 million would be sufficient? He will know of the economic difficulties now being encountered: the country is going rapidly from boom to bust. Would £1 million be enough to generate the same amount of income, given the likelihood of a fall in interest rates aimed at stimulating the economy during the period of bust?

Photo of Ian Gibson Ian Gibson Labour, Norwich North

That is a reasonable question, but I think that the sums needed to change the lives of many carers are quite small. I believe that, as long as investments were made properly, with good investment policy and advice, the money generated by an endowment fund over a long period would be enough to deal with many problems.

Investments are not made only by charities, however. The Government also invest money to help carers, and there is a genuine partnership between different organisations. The money does not supplement, but goes along with, other sources of finance. I doubt that we shall ever have enough money to deal with all the problems of carers, but by gosh, the Bill would go a long way towards doing so.

At a meeting that I had with the General Medical Council this week, we had a long debate about the withholding of support and help for terminally ill patients. It was pointed out—surprisingly—that carers would have a crucial role in determining some of the matters that exercise the minds of members of the GMC and the British Medical Association. Carers see, in the front line, the support that they receive from the medical services. In a world in which people are becoming litigious, some of the evidence that they muster and the experience that they gain might be important to the fashioning of the changes that the GMC and the BMA realise are needed. The media have now taken up the issue as well. Carers play an essential role and we must ensure that they are recognised not only as individuals helping others who are having problems but as professionals.

With the help of the Eastern Daily Press, the public in Norfolk have responded magnificently. Many events have been held, such as jumble sales and, as I said, walks round the county of Norfolk. Hon. Members distinguished themselves—or did not distinguish themselves—at a concert entitled "Aristosquits". The hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk told a lusty tale or two about his time in this place. I am really hoping that the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, South (Mr. Clarke) and I will be able to perform at a concert this June, when we shall sing, We are public guardians bold yet cheery". I believe my hon. Friend is up for that, although we may have to adapt the words to reflect the political times. In short, many hon. Members have been involved in the concerts, where our enjoyment of inter-party discipline is magnificent.

As I said, some hon. Members in the Chamber have played prominent roles in the effort, and the money raised has been invested in an endowment fund. The money generated by that fund is given to carers. Yesterday's Eastern Daily Press carries the headline, "Justice for Jemima", with the "We Care" appeal symbol underneath. It states that Smiling Jemima Hutson's courage and compassion will be revealed to the House of Commons tomorrow". I am now doing just that.

Jemima Hutson received £100 from the Norfolk millennium trust for carers, which, as I said, was established with £500,000. With that money, she is buying a tumble dryer which, according to the article, means no more damp clothes hanging about their Norwich home aggravating Jemima and her brother and sister's asthma while they get on with their remarkable job of caring for their disabled mother.Every day Jemima, nine, and Jessica, 14, along with four-year-old JB cook meals for the family, bathe their mother and help look after her. What reason could hon. Members have for entering politics other than to change things for people like Jemima? The support, help and interest in other humans shown by people like Jemima is amazing. If we can help such efforts by providing lottery money, we should do it.

Money is not being provided for every soft case that is presented; there are a fair number of rejections. A serious analysis is made of whether money will really help and support caring efforts. As I said, however, the sums required to change people's lives for the better are often quite small.

The charity has trustees who decide on grants. Paddy Seligman OBE is the appeal's chairman and was a leading light in Norfolk in establishing it. The other trustees are Barry Capon CBE, DL; John Alston CBE, DL, who is known to many hon. Members; Ann Mullender, from the charity Crossroads; and Dr. Jenny Blyth, a consultant in palliative care at the Priscilla Bacon lodge who looks after terminal cancer cases; Peter Furnivall, an eminent local solicitor who has helped me very much with the wording of my Bill; and Alastair Fish, a prominent local accountant. They provide a wide spectrum of excellence and professionalism in assessing applications, and they do a sterling job.

Letters have appeared in many publications describing the professionalism and work done by carers. However, I am sure that many hon. Members are already aware of that work from their surgeries and their daily work. I note that Mr. Speaker has also shown an interest in the functions performed and the role played by carers. The appeal is doing very prominent and important work.

The appeal is also working with other organisations. My Bill has received support from National Schizophrenia Fellowship; west Norfolk carers project; the Families' House organisation, in Norwich, which is concerned with the adoption of young people; and the Norfolk Eating Disorders Association. They represent a wide spectrum of good activities. The appeal committee takes no expenses, and administrative help has been provided free by Mills & Reeve, Norwich solicitors and by the Norfolk health authority. Additionally, the National Lottery Charities Board millennium festival has given £23,000 to cover the appeal's running costs.

I need not point out to right hon. and hon. Members that the number of carers is almost certain to increase, largely because of the increase in the elderly population. I should like to quote from a letter to the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport from the Eastern Daily Press editor, Peter Franzen, who was fully supported by his deputy editor, James Ruddy—both of whom have worked day and night on publicity for the appeal in the Eastern Daily Press and on television in the East Anglian region. Peter Franzen writes: We appreciate that the Government has in place a highly developed carer support strategy with many facets. Indeed carers are one of the few groups with national standing under the Carers' Recognition and Services Act 1995 and qualify for a specific carer's grant. Their rights and powers will be further expanded next April when the Carers and Disabled Children's Act becomes law.There are a number of other Government moves geared to supporting the complex array of carers who now exist in our society. The King's Fund initiative is widening the net to further categories, including ethnic minority carers, and the DfEE Challenge Fund is targeting work life balance, giving carers support in, for example, balancing work with caring.Ultimately, in a country where people are living longer and health advances are restoring the lives of many more of the sick and injured, the Government has carefully developed a partnership strategy in caring which recognises that the statutory services cannot cope fully with delivering all possible needs.Our appeal is already delivering the social inclusion 'medicine' which the Government has prescribed to ensure carers do not miss out completely on mainstream life. In cost-effective, yet significant, ways we are providing labour-saving and other methods of support to help carers to regain some of their normal life". I should like to set the appeal's aims against those of the National Lottery Charities Board. Page 1 of the recent annual report from the National Lottery Charities Board talks of funding groups which help those at greatest disadvantage to improve the quality of life …measures which will have long-term advantages rather than address short term issues", and of the fact that money wisely distributed can make a real improvement to the quality of life for vulnerable people who have little support and have significant needs". The board has an impressive record, which I shall not cite in detail as it is described in the report for hon. Members to peruse at their leisure. In one year, it has provided £450 million to 11,347 charities and voluntary groups. That is an impressive record and highlights the fact that administering the board's functions must be an awesome feat. I congratulate it on its fine work.

Page 36 of the annual report states: The 1998 National Lottery Act gave us the power to delegate our grant making to other organisations. This is an exciting opportunity which could enable grants to be awarded by more specialised or more local groups. We are currently consulting with the sector to see which organisations may be suitable and willing to take on these demanding responsibilities. There is obviously a case for the "We Care" appeal to be included among those organisations. The "We Care" appeal objective meets the stated funding criteria of the National Lottery Charities Board. The main grant programme criteria include the following statement: We aim to improve the quality of life of people and communities experiencing disadvantage and the effects of poverty. Projects we expect to fund include health projects and projects to support carers". The mission statement of the "We Care" appeal closely, if not exactly, fits those criteria. Its mission is to relieve the elderly, infirm, sick or disabled in Norfolk by providing financial aid and practical support to carers, either individually or through carers' groups.

It is not unprecedented for an endowment fund to be set up with major financial support from the national lottery. The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport did just that when, in 1998, he revised the National Lottery etc. Act 1993, providing expanded powers and allowing the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts to be funded by a one-off pay-out of £200 million from the national lottery. That was the first endowment fund of its type to be supported in that manner. The fund derives an income of about £10 million from the trust, and, like NESTA, it was established with the objectives of supporting and promoting "talent, innovation and creativity" in those spheres.

The fund was conceived as an endowment because the Government decided that it should be different from established lottery distribution bodies—which rely on fixed shares of funds held within the national lottery distribution fund that are issued with policy directives on distribution determined by the Secretary of State.

NESTA trustees have considerable scope to establish strategy and policy for an organisation that can be innovative and bold, take risks, act with flair and adapt quickly if necessary. Having endowment status gives it a sense of continuity and freedom from rigid external interference. It can also look ahead. Surely with an increase in the elderly population, carers in the voluntary sector will also increase in number and continue to perform their excellent task for many years to come.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Will the hon. Gentleman concede that there is at least one possible down side to his proposals? In order to raise the very large amount of money that would be required for such an endowment to be viable and to produce the necessary income stream, one would have to deny my many other good causes that money in the short term. So at the very least some difficult choices will have to be made, and in order to achieve long-term benefits many short-term sacrifices will potentially have to be made.

Photo of Ian Gibson Ian Gibson Labour, Norwich North

The right hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct to say that choices and assessments will have to be made to decide who will gain the money and so on. However, my proposals will not deny any organisation the right to apply for those grants, however big or small the need might be. The only factor is the distribution of the money and the competition for it. That will be determined by the trustees and the boards and the information that they receive about different charities—such as how well they are organised and the expertise of their trustees. There will always be such choices and they apply to these issues too.

NESTA is free from regular cash rounds or agreements with any Government Department. The programmes have to be in line with statutory mission statements. NESTA has a board and has tax status similar to a charity's. Its trustees are appointed by the Secretary of State, who has powers to issue directions to the endowment in respect of its financial conduct. The similarity to the "We Care" appeal is obvious. Both organisations target areas, groups and individuals where there is a need for support.

It is interesting that out of eight national lottery distributing bodies, only the charities board is prevented outright from granting endowments, although others are given guidelines that they should carefully consider such requests.

So what precisely is the difficulty, and how should we overcome it? There is an ambiguous clause in the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. Section 38 (1) states: The National Lottery Charities Board may make out of any money it receives grants for meeting the expenditure of charities. The guidelines to other boards state that they may "fund or assist in funding" projects. Clearly, an endowment fund is not regarded as expenditure of a charity.

I have not been able to unearth the reasons for this anomaly, but I understand that when laws are drawn up, consideration of every event and every detail cannot always be scrutinised and we learn by operating Acts over a period of time. The result is that the board can only make specific grants over a specific period of time. The "We Care" appeal sets out to give moneys to various projects without a fixed time dimension.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said: The National Lottery will now be able to respond more effectively to the needs of every community. I had two very single aims in reforming the lottery—to ensure people have confidence in the way it is run and to ensure that the money it raises is allocated fairly and goes where it is needed.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale

As we have discussed the matter, the hon. Gentleman knows our view on the Bill and I commend him for his support for the charity that he has espoused. As he is bringing his remarks to a conclusion, can he tell us how far the appeal has progressed in trying to raise £1 million and what sum of money it might apply for in grant from the National Lottery Charities Board were the Bill to be enacted?

Photo of Ian Gibson Ian Gibson Labour, Norwich North

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. So far the appeal has accrued something like £550,000. Of course it would love to get the rest through a lottery grant. However, it continues to receive support and help and in a month or three months' time after Members of Parliament strut their stuff at local concerts and so on, who knows how much more will come in? [Interruption.] Our side will certainly be there. An all-Labour all singing, all dancing Aristosquits concert is a wonderful idea. I think that the appeal will be asking for at least £200,000 to spin out over some time.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State told the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that my proposed changes appeared to be sensible. The amendments would allow endowment-funded charities to apply. We believe that endowments must be restricted to charities rather than extended to similar benevolent or philanthropic institutions. That is because English law does not recognise purpose trusts unless they are also charities and therefore does not recognise gifts to such institutions unless they are used for charitable purposes. Grants to such institutions or charitable projects for immediate expenditure are still acceptable, as countenanced by the 1993 Act, so they are not excluded, but the retention of grants by such bodies for purposes which are not desirable is a problem.

Let me define "charitable", "benevolent" and "philanthropic" as they have been addressed in court cases. There are differences between charitable and benevolent. I have really enjoyed getting into the legal processes and definitions. Thank goodness I never wanted to be a lawyer, and I would never let any of my children be lawyers. There is an absolute mish-mash of definition and counter-definition.

"Picarda", a famous legal publication, contains the following definition: The word 'benevolent' is a word of somewhat shadowy meaning. One thing, however, is certain. There is judicial unanimity that `benevolent' goes beyond what is charitable in law. It is not synonymous with 'charitable'. For that reason, as noted elsewhere, gifts for charitable or benevolent purposes have failed as going beyond what is exclusively charitable, even though gifts for `charitable and benevolent purposes' have been upheld. I am absolutely certain that hon. Members understood that perfectly.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

On the subject of "benevolent", I have one little reservation about the hon. Gentleman's Bill, although I broadly support it. He will be aware that there are private benevolent organisations. In his own area, Bonds of Norwich, which is part of the John Lewis Partnership, gives to charity. Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that if the Bill is enacted. organisations such as the John Lewis Partnership may no longer feel the need to give, as they will assume that there is already a structure in place to replace the good works that they do?

Photo of Ian Gibson Ian Gibson Labour, Norwich North

I should stress that there is nothing to prevent organisations from applying for lottery money. They are not restricted by the provisions of the 1993 Act. That will not change, but the problem will persist. I shall address the hon. Gentleman's point later in my speech.

I return to the standard legal definitions which demonstrate the nonsense of how the whole process operates: In Income Tax Comrs v. Pemsel (1891), Lord Bramwell, attempting to draw the distinction between charitable and benevolent, said: 'I think there is some fund for providing oysters at one of the Inns of Court for the Benchers. This, however benevolent, would hardly be called charitable'. It may, however, be hyperbole to classify such a purpose as benevolent. And his example of a trust to provide a band of music on a village green is probably charitable rather than benevolent.The Shorter Oxford Dictionary defines the word in relation to persons as connoting of a kindly disposition, charitable, generous, and its Latin origins indicate a notion of well wishing. An appeal to send a particular child abroad for a medical operation has been instanced as directed to a benevolent rather than a charitable end. I am sure that right hon. and hon. Members are now much more aware of the definitions. I dare not penetrate into the definitions of philanthropy as they would confuse us even more at this stage.

Section 38 of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 requires adaptation. I have had advice from Government lawyers and from Mr. Peter Furnivall of Mill & Reeve solicitors in Norwich, which has been most welcome. Section 44 of the Act describes charitable expenditure as expenditure by charities or similar bodies, as compared, for instance, with investment of moneys by charities in order to produce an income stream for future expenditure. Section 22(3)(d) restricts the use of lottery money to charitable expenditure. If we want money to go to charities such as the "We Care" appeal, the definition of charitable expenditure will have to be changed or the terms of section 22 will have to be extended.

The Bill adds a new subsection (1)(b) to section 38. Perhaps there was no need to repeat the whole section, but the key aspect is that the additional words extend grants to endowment, which means a gift that can be used for expenditure or for retention as capital. The Charities Act 1993 says that a permanent endowment is money held by a charity subject to the restriction that it must be expended for the purposes of the charity and that only the income from it may be so expended, and the capital must be retained permanently. That is clearly defined in the Clergy Orphan Corporation case of 1894 and reaffirmed in the Charities Act 1993. The case of Smith v. Kerr of 1899 cross-refers to the Charitable Uses Act 1601.

We have amended the definition of charitable expenditure, so there is no need to make any change at all to the wording of section 22. Charitable expenditure will no longer mean expenditure by charitable or similar bodies only but will extend to expenditure on grants to such bodies. That is an essential change, meaning that endowment can be retained as capital rather than spent from year to year. Indeed, if the endowment is defined as permanent, it cannot be spent at all, and must be retained for as long as the charity exists in its present form.

There is a difference between an endowment fund and a permanent endowment fund. When Opposition Members want to endow universities, they had better get the type of endowment right.

This is a complex area, but I have had good legal advice and choices have been made. I want to give the charities board more flexibility. The change may open the floodgates to requests for endowments from a host of charities, but it is already open to all charities or benevolent or philanthropic institutions to apply to the board for money for immediate charitable expenditure. The legal change that I seek makes no difference to that. The board already has complete discretion about what grants to make to which bodies and under what terms. It may be asked how charities are to be dissolved and whether the trustees have legal responsibilities.

The Charity Commission document CC3 defines the trustees' duties very carefully. It refers to trustees' fundraising responsibilities and their powers in respect of investments, property, accounts and so on. If a charity is permanently endowed and the governing document contains no power of dissolution, it cannot usefully be wound up, but if the trustees are satisfied that it no longer serves a useful purpose—the one for which it was established, and which is now fulfilled by other means— the commissioners can make a scheme to amalgamate it with other charities. The trustees are under a duty to apply to the commission for a scheme to change the purposes of the charity. The five commissioners are appointed by the Home Secretary and are answerable to the courts, the Home Secretary and Parliament.

The Bill gives the charities board more flexibility in supporting both short-term and long-term projects. People will be aware of the problems for carers. As they increase in number, in line with our increasing elderly population, their organisations will need the support of lottery money. People feel that the lottery money is theirs and they want to see it coming their way. It is our duty to find ways of overcoming the restrictions. I am sure that the measure will be popular and will help to support this amazing group of people who do so much for our country. Eventually, it will also open up help to other groups that want to retain their presence in our communities in the long term, providing much-needed support and help.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for South Norfolk. We thought that he had made his last speech, but I look forward to his making a further speech in support of the Bill. He has done a marvellous job for Norfolk.

I commend the Bill to the House and hope that it will find support.

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Conservative, South Norfolk 10:06 am, 23rd March 2001

I thank the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) for his very kind remarks. He is right, in that when I spoke in the Budget debate, I said that, in common with my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), it might be my last speech in the House. I am delighted that it was not. Indeed, there may be many more—I do not know when the election will be.

The Bill is of great significance to Norfolk, and indeed the whole country. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his success in the ballot, and I am delighted that he has chosen this subject. I agree with everything that he said, apart from two points. In his tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Prior), he suggested that his seat might be in jeopardy. I assure him that that is not the case. My hon. Friend has done remarkable work for his constituency, which will be well rewarded by an increased majority.

The other point on which I disagreed with the hon. Gentleman was when he said that he hoped to be performing in one of the appeal's charitable concerts in the summer. I do not know when the election will be, but I am sure that he is hoping that it will be way beyond the summer, because I am sure that he will not want to participate as an ex-Member. However this is very much a bipartisan occasion, so I will not continue on that tack.

I strongly support the appeal, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Norfolk (Mrs. Shephard) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk would have been here had it not been for their constituency duties. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the latter's remarkable sponsored walk efforts. I, too, have supported the appeal by action as well as words. My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) and I took part in what used to be called a variety concert, in Wolterton hall in north Norfolk last summer, and we raised more than £1,000. In my constituency, in a new restaurant in part of an old agricultural building owned by my constituent Mr. Ben du Brow—a remarkable example of farm diversification—my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest (Mrs. Laing) and I did a cabaret last November. She and I have participated in the palace of varieties in St. John's Smith square on three occasions, on two of which we did a mind-reading act. On those occasions we were very much limited in time, because of the number of acts, but I am glad to say that in the cabaret for the Eastern Daily Press "We Care" appeal, we were able to demonstrate our mind-reading skills at greater length and managed to raise £11,400. I am deeply grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Epping Forest for participating in that. I want to pay a warm tribute to Mrs. Paddy Seligman for her remarkable enthusiasm and leadership and to theEastern Daily Press for its constant support, which has been so important.

What is interesting about the nearly £550,000 that has been raised is that it is the result of a variety of fund-raising events. In addition to the event in which I participated, which raised a substantial sum, countless small events have taken place all over the county. They have involved all age groups, including many young people and school children. That shows how remarkably good the appeal and cause are.

Norfolk has an above average proportion of elderly people, because it is an attractive place to which to retire. Many people are dependent on carers. The hon. Gentleman referred to my good friend and constituent, Mrs. Ann Mullender, who for many years has done a splendid job in the caring sector. She has often talked to me about it. All Hallows hospital in my constituency provides respite care for a large number of people and many constituents have told me how that seven-days respite care is enormously appreciated. The service has been under threat in recent years and I hope that the appeal will enable All Hallows to continue to provide it.

I am in no doubt about the importance of the appeal and of its significance to many people in Norfolk. The hon. Gentleman mentioned small improvements, such as a dishwashing machine, which can make a remarkable difference to the lives of the people he described. Respite care is another example. The East Norfolk health authority recently commissioned social research for its intermediate services review. Support for carers was one of the top five priorities for action identified by all the audiences that took part.

The hon. Gentleman has considered the subject in detail; indeed, his legal research was most interesting and enables me to avoid asking the Minister one or two questions, for which I am sure she is grateful. However, I remain puzzled by some definitions in the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 and why a contribution from a charity to an appeal does not count as expenditure for charities. Other charitable bodies are able to provide contributions for endowment funds. It must be an historical anomaly. I have been told that the reason that the National Lottery Charities Board cannot make grants to endowment trusts has been lost in the mists of time. We are talking about not a principle or precedent, but an exception. I did not speak in earlier debates, so I do not understand why that exception has been made.

On NESTA, the House has accepted the principle for a substantial endowment fund as part of the activity of lottery charities. The Bill to establish that got through the House quickly and, I think, with all-party support. That might be of interest to the hon. Gentleman. We are dealing with an anomaly and there are clear precedents for what the Bill is attempting to achieve.

Endowment funds are common in charitable activities. John Lewis has been mentioned. Many charitable trusts have endowment funds for the good reason that they are enabled over many years to go on making a considerable contribution for the purposes for which they were established and not just in the early years or in the first year. It is true that current interest rates mean that not a great deal of income is coming from the funds, but that is not an argument against the principle because at other times the returns will be much higher. Many trusts have been set up with such funds, so they obviously fulfil an important purpose.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Does my right hon. Friend concede that when the yield from an endowment fund is low—like now, and rates could get even lower—it might bias the difficult decision on the use of such funds towards using the money for the immediate benefit of a much larger number of causes?

Photo of Mr John MacGregor Mr John MacGregor Conservative, South Norfolk

That is an interesting issue. I have been involved in discussions about whether, in the case of educational endowment funds, there should be a relaxation of the restrictions on income, especially in a period of high total returns because of the behaviour of the stock market or substantial capital gains. I accept that there are other issues to consider. There will be fluctuations in interest rates, but the continuation of the funds is more important than the concern that my right hon. Friend raises. If he is right, why, after centuries, would so many endowment funds still be in existence and providing such significant benefits? The Oxford and Cambridge colleges are a good example of that. The principle behind such funds are well accepted and the benefits well understood.

I mentioned the tremendous activities of the Eastern Daily Press "We Care" appeal, which are largely due to its splendid leadership and the obvious acceptance of the worthiness of the cause. However, it will not be possible to have a major fund-raising activity every year, because it has involved a massive amount of work by many people. Thus to argue that the establishment of an endowment fund means that it is impossible to direct the moneys raised to a specific cause does not hold water. The advantage of an endowment fund is that it continues to provide income for causes for many years.

The general principle is the need to match funds, which applies to the National Lottery Charities Board. It gives individual grants for one-off purposes for one year only, usually when an organisation to which it is giving the money has demonstrated by its own efforts that it has raised a good deal of the sums itself. That same principle will apply under the Bill; it is not true that organisations such as John Lewis will be prevented from continuing to give. The body to which it is suggested that charitable money should go as an endowment will have to demonstrate, as the EDP appeal did, that it has put a huge effort into the process and has raised a great deal of money. All we are doing is continuing the principle of lottery funding. We are giving the same incentive as we give to endowment funds to those bodies that are trying to secure money from the board.

I am delighted to delay returning to my constituency to support the Bill and, again, congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his achievement. For all the reasons that we have given, I hope that if the Bill is not enacted in this Parliament, the winner of the election will pick it up and make it law. The hon. Gentleman has done Norfolk and the House a great service by introducing the Bill.

Photo of Anthony D Wright Anthony D Wright Labour, Great Yarmouth 10:19 am, 23rd March 2001

I am happy to support the Bill. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) for introducing it and I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate. It is heartening to see hon. Members from both sides of the House who represent Norfolk constituencies in the Chamber and it is always a pleasure to speak about a Bill that has all-party support. I hope that the Bill also has the Government's support. It has the backing of the local media, and a consensus appears to have been reached.

Having mentioned the media, I should, of course, make it clear that I am talking about the Eastern Daily Press, which has already done such sterling work, with its "We Care" appeal. It is through the newspaper's campaigning zeal that the anomaly in the National Lottery etc. Act 1993, which this Bill seeks to correct, has been brought to public attention. I pay tribute to the work that it has done. Clearing up the anomaly that prevents the National Lottery Charities Board from making grants to endowments is long overdue.

Norfolk Members of Parliament have also done their bit. I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North for introducing the Bill, the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) for the large sums that he has raised and the hon. Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Prior), who has already raised many thousands of pounds for the appeal with a sponsored walk around his constituency. I, too, was invited to do something along those lines, but I am afraid that I did not at that time consider myself to be at peak fitness—not that I can remember when I was at peak fitness. However, all right hon. and hon. Members may soon have the opportunity to do a lot of walking around their constituencies, and if that is the case, it should prove good fitness training for taking part in a sponsored walk for the appeal in the not-too-distant future, and I certainly intend to be a part of that.

My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North listed the reasons for the Bill. I would like to highlight the Bill's relevance to my constituency of Great Yarmouth, particularly to three constituents. Recent statistics have shown that Great Yarmouth is the fifth most deprived area in the United Kingdom. That measure of deprivation takes in many factors, but it is undoubtedly true that many people in Great Yarmouth will benefit from the aim of the Norfolk millennium trust for carers, which is: to relieve the elderly, infirm, sick or disabled in Norfolk by the provision of financial and practical support to their carers either individually or through carers' groups. There are carers the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, all doing a fantastic job, but I know from my experience as Great Yarmouth's MP just how many people there are on my own doorstep, often unseen or unheralded by the rest of society, who are caring full-time for loved ones. Indeed, only this week I received a letter from a constituent who gave up her well-paid job as a geologist to look after her disabled mother full-time. She asked a perfectly reasonable question about whether anybody could really live properly on the £66.35 a week that she is paid.

There is still much more for the Government to do on this issue, but the Bill could make an immediate impression by allowing endowment trusts for carers, such as that established by the "We Care" appeal, to benefit from lottery funds. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North spoke about carers, but there is no harm in reiterating just how big a contribution the army of carers in our midst makes to society.

It is estimated that nationally one in seven of the population is an unpaid carer. In the county of Norfolk, that comes to approximately 110,000, which translates to around 13,000 in my constituency. Depending on the condition of the individual who is being cared for, round-the-clock care can easily cost £500 a week. Therefore, any carer who is receiving, for example, the £66.35 a week, such as the constituent I mentioned earlier, is saving society more than £400 a week. It has been calculated that, nationally, carers save the Government approximately £34 billion a year.

As a way of illustrating the ceaseless work that so many carers undertake, I would like to concentrate on the experiences of two constituents whom I have come to know very well over the past few years. Even before I became Great Yarmouth's MP, I knew of Tanya and Christine Harrison. Tanya is a bright, intelligent and charming young lady who was tragically struck down with myalgic encephalomyelitis, otherwise known as CFS—chronic fatigue syndrome. It took five years to diagnose her condition. Christine is her mother. Some right hon. and hon. Members will know that I am the chairman on the all-party group on ME, and through that work I have come to know much more about these remarkable ladies. Indeed, only on Wednesday of this week 1 received a report from the Action for ME charity highlighting the shortcomings in NHS treatment for those who are most severely affected by that debilitating condition. Inevitably, the task of providing full-time care for these unfortunate people, many of whom are still very young, tends to fall on their families.

Tanya is currently completing her degree course at the university of London, a remarkable achievement for someone so severely affected. The only reason that she has been able to do that is because Christine lives with her on the university campus and is there for her 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as she has been for the past 10 years, since she was forced to give up her job working for Mencap. Tanya has been bedridden for those past 10 years.

I was speaking to Christine about it only this week. There is so much that can be said about the emotional, physical and financial stresses that she, her daughter and the rest of the family have been through. However, Christine said that it is possible to sum it up in one sentence: I've given my life up to enable Tanya to have a life. She said: The effects are simply endless; it is just impossible to have a normal family life. I have to cook all her meals and take them to her in bed. There is no such thing as the whole family sitting downtogether for a meal. If Tanya is lonely I have to go and sit on her bed to talk to her. Christmas time can be very difficult. This Christmas my 80-year-old mother was ill with flu, but I couldn't go and visit her because of the devastating effect it would have if I picked up the virus and transmitted it to Tanya. We live very near the beach, but it is impossible for Tanya and I just to go for a walk on that beach. My son has been marvellously understanding and has a great relationship with Tanya, but as a parent you sometimes can't help but feel guilty that you aren't giving him the same attention. I could say much more about the physical and emotional stress that Christine and Tanya have dealt with over the years, but I should like to say a little about their financial circumstances, as the Bill could make a difference. As Christine says: It's not that you don't want to be a carer for your daughter: of course you do, but the financial impact is very great.I give her 24 hour care 365 days a year. If I didn't give up my whole life she would be in a home and the Government would have to pay. I receive £40.40 a week for being a carer. Over the 168 hours in a week that works out to 24.05p an hour …168 hours at the previous minimum wage of £3.70 an hour is £621.60.Giving up your job and career has massive financial implications in itself, but then you face other expenses such as extra heating bills and in our case we've still had to pay for things such as medicines and eye tests at full rate. You also worry about things such as your pension arrangements as well.We seem to have had a constant battle with doctors and social services to get benefits. It hasn't just been a case of waiting, but of fighting. It can really wear you down constantly having to reiterate to others the seriousness of the situation and always having to explain how ill Tanya really is.The emotional, physical and financial impact on the carer can be very hard. I think sometimes respite care can be needed as much for the carer as for the patient. It would be great to have a break and to have a meal cooked for me just for once. There is much more of Tanya and Christine's story that I could tell, but I am sure that I have given right hon. and hon. Members a flavour of it. However, I hope that their story demonstrates not only the terrific devotion and dedication of one particular carer—a story that is repeated millions of times up and down the land—but the need for further financial and practical assistance for these selfless people.

Initiatives such as the "We Care" appeal provide for the endowment of charities. That is so important because it enables secure and long-term funding arrangements to be put in place. There is nothing wrong with the National Lottery Charities Board making one-off grants for various charitable expenditure as it does at the moment, but the continuing and permanent nature of the work of carers requires financial and practical support over a far longer time scale and it is clearly wrong that the lottery cannot at the moment provide that. For that reason, the Bill has my wholehearted support.

Photo of Keith Simpson Keith Simpson Opposition Whip (Commons) 10:28 am, 23rd March 2001

I congratulate the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) on having secured a high place in the ballot and on his perspicacity in introducing this Bill.

As other right hon. and hon. Members have said, there has been a touch of common cynicism in the belief that most of the private Members' Bills in this Session would be killed off, not in the massacre of the innocents by the Government Whips on a Friday, but by the onset of a general election. Indeed, I suppose that until almost the beginning of the week, that would have been the inevitable fate of this Bill. However, I suspect that many of us are no longer sure that that will be so. I understand that the Prime Minister is now taking command of the foot and mouth crisis—the advisers and spin doctors have been banished, at least for this week—and if he decides to postpone the election, one plus would be that the Bill may have a fair wind and become law. Most Members present would fully support that.

Like other right hon. and hon. Members, I think that the outstanding work of the Eastern Daily Press, and especially of its deputy editor, James Ruddy, and his colleagues, has massively boosted the appeal. I also pay tribute to the hard graft of the appeal's director, Paddy Seligman. I do not want to embarrass her, but the analogy that I would use is that she is a larger than life, Mo Mowlam character with a serious dash of Margaret Thatcher on top. She is like a gutsy, explosive culinary dish. It takes such people to drive things through and energise local businesses and voluntary organisations.

We are discussing in general terms a private Member's Bill that will have an effect across the board, but like others who have spoken I want to talk about the particular. The hon. Member for Norwich, North is trying to correct an anomaly, as my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) said. The Eastern Daily Press "We Care" appeal has two aspects.

The first is a general principle. As a Conservative, I believe in smaller government and in rigorous control of public expenditure. However, when public expenditure is required, every effort should be made to use it in the most useful and expeditious way. Having established the principle, the practice is also important. The most important practice in this case should be seen from a narrow Treasury point of view. We should make every effort to encourage voluntary organisations.

What makes the United Kingdom different from many other countries is not necessarily language and history, but the marvellous British tradition of volunteering. Without the hundreds of thousands of unpaid volunteers, not only the caring sector but all parts of our society would grind to a halt. Under our current party political organisation, most of us rely on the voluntary spirit at that most narrow basic level.

Attempts should be made to ensure that moneys raised can be used more expeditiously. The irony is that that saves public expenditure in the long term. In Norfolk, there is a core of 110,000 carers—relatives and others. Those people fulfil a fundamental role, as the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright) graphically described. If they did not do so, the people whom they look after would either suffer or, more likely, would be an even greater burden on the local authority social services. The social services budget for Norfolk county council is more than £2 million in the red.

I support the Bill because it addresses both principle and practice. I pay tribute to the work of my parliamentary colleagues in Norfolk. The hon. Member for Great Yarmouth and I are both built more for comfort than speed—I hope he takes that remark in the spirit in which it is offered—whereas the hon. Member for Norwich, North is built more like a racing snake and my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk has feline body language. I particularly pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for North Norfolk (Mr. Prior), who is an outstanding MP. His constituents will want to return him with an even bigger majority. He did a long walk along the north Norfolk coast and raised a remarkable £10,000.

I hope that that was not the valedictory speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk. He is a distinguished member of the Magic Circle, and as a magician—pouf, just like that—he may reappear in a few weeks' time if we do not have a general election. He has been an outstanding Member for South Norfolk, and has supported many of the charities that we are discussing.

I hope that my Front-Bench colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), will give general and generous support to the Bill. I realise that, as with all private Member's Bills, it is not a belt-and-braces measure and does not meet all the Government's requirements, but the Secretary of State gave warm consideration to the proposals of the hon. Member for Norwich, North when a delegation of us met him several weeks ago.

I hope that the Bill will be given a fair wind by the House. It addresses an anomaly that affects a number of charitable organisations, especially the Eastern Daily Press appeal in Norfolk.

Photo of John Greenway John Greenway Conservative, Ryedale 10:37 am, 23rd March 2001

I congratulate the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) on securing such a high place in the ballot, which many of us would cherish but few achieve, and on using the opportunity to advance support for such a worthy cause, not just in his constituency, but in those of many right hon. and hon. Members, as we have heard.

The issues that the hon. Gentleman raised deserve detailed scrutiny. However, we are not here to discuss the merits of the charity or to second-guess whether, were it able to do so, the National Lottery Charities Board would support that charity. I pay tribute to him for the way he researched the Bill and the issues surrounding it. He mentioned the NLCB's current programme and the work that it is doing to provide funds for various projects that support charitable groups. The question for us is whether the proposed change is desirable, whether it would improve the workings of the NLCB and provide greater equity of opportunity to obtain grants from the board, or whether it would have adverse consequences for the work of the board or the operation of the lottery funding bodies.

Our role in the limited time that we have to look into the matter is to give our views in principle on the aims of the Bill. We should discuss policy on the NLCB funding of endowments, and the impact of any change in the national lottery legislation on the funding bodies and the distribution of funds to them by the lottery.

There is no point in widening the remit of a funding body if the funds available are insufficient to meets its programme of work. We should not oppose a change that would allow the NLCB to provide grants to endowments where the endowment was the vehicle being used to deliver a charitable project that it would otherwise have supported. If the point is that a problem in the current legislation has prevented support for a particular charitable project because it was being funded by an endowment, we feel that a change in law would be entirely reasonable. A difficulty would arise, however, if the NLCB felt obliged to fund endowments that would deal with the money as grant-making bodies.

We all know of charities in our constituencies that have received revenue funding for fixed periods, perhaps three years. I can think of two such charities in my constituency. The Ryedale detached youth work project is a street-level support project for youngsters in rural Ryedale and reaches out to youngsters who take drugs, suffer alcoholism or are homeless. We have received funding for three years, but there is nothing beyond that. Similarly, the NLCB has funded a national charity that happens to be based in Ryedale, the Encephalitis Support Group, which helps families in which a member—often a child—suffers from a difficult virus about which little is medically known. Again, the money will be exhausted at the end of a specified period.

When charities are funded, they usually receive money that will enable them to carry on their work for an appreciable period. That differs, however, from providing an endowment that could be invested and used to provide grants to individuals in perpetuity. The NLCB is right to be concerned that that might be an adverse consequence arising from the change proposed by the hon. Member for Norwich, North. None the less, if the law as it stands prevents the funding of a charitable project simply because the vehicle delivering the funding is an endowment, we should think it wholly reasonable for the law to be changed.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the different legislative provisions of section 33(1) of the 1993 Act, which restricts the NLCB to grants for charitable expenditure, as opposed to funding projects. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) commented that it is difficult to understand why the NLCB was treated differently and why endowments were excluded. In the most charitable way possible, I have to point out that he was a member of the Cabinet at the time, which just goes to show the extent to which the detail of proposals can go beyond what we can possibly cover on Second Reading. These are technical and complex legal issues.

My right hon. Friend also highlighted the success of endowments in general. As we prepare to be the next Government, we think that endowments should indeed be an important vehicle by which to deliver a number of projects. We have drawn up detailed plans on how endowments could be used to fund arts, cultural and sporting organisations in order to give them the financial base that they need.

We are not likely to resolve such technical issues today. The NLCB has had legal advice that there are technical deficiencies in the Bill, particularly as concerns philanthropic and benevolent bodies. The hon. Member for Norwich, North made a good fist of trying to explain the technical difficulties of the law in that area, but the problems reinforce the need to review and reform charity law in general. The lottery legislation reflects charity law and case law, and there is a growing sense that we need to reconsider the position in collaboration with the Charity Commission as well as the NLCB.

We should remember the point about interest rates referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk, and about which my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) expressed his concern in an intervention. That is not an argument against endowments, which we strongly favour. We need, however, to bear it in mind when we consider the best use of the NLCB's limited resources.

In a Committee earlier this week, the Minister and I had a discourse on the Government's proposals for the funding initiatives now available to the new opportunities fund. I mentioned that the NLCB's share of lottery funding had been reduced from 20 per cent. to 16.67 per cent. I understand the Government's view that the lottery was so much more successful than everyone imagined that all the funding bodies received more money than they expected. However, their funding has gone down.

This is neither the time nor the place to debate the way in which lottery funds are distributed among bodies, but we all know of many charities that have applied for lottery funding and been refused. All kinds of reasons are advanced for that—including the argument that a charity is an endowment and, therefore, does not qualify—but one reason why the NLCB must decline many applications is that it simply does not have the funds to meet all the demands placed on it. The resources of the NLCB are by far the most stretched of all the lottery funding bodies.

We should need reassurance on the technical issues if the Bill were to proceed. Normally, such issues could be explored in Committee, but we suspect that they will be left to the next Parliament. The lottery has been a major success, indeed one of the major—in two senses of the word—successes of the final years of the Government of my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major). None the less, it needs further reform, and I assure the hon. Member for Norwich, North that if it falls to us to be the next Government, as I sincerely hope that it will, we shall take the matters that he has raised into account in the review of lottery legislation that we intend to conduct early in the next Parliament.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield 10:49 am, 23rd March 2001

It is always a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), although I am not sure that he was right to say that these matters may fall to the next Parliament. I suspect that the general election may well be delayed. The Prime Minister has a difficult choice to make. He knows of the crisis that faces farmers the length and breadth of our country. At the same time, he will be conscious of the economic crisis that faces the world and our country. He will be only too aware that, while he has boasted that his Government have presided over boom and boom, if we are heading for a bust, it will not say much for his understanding of economic policy.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

Does my hon. Friend agree that one of the factors that the Prime Minister will have to take into account when considering whether to call a general election will be private Members' Bills such as this one? If he calls a premature election a year ahead of when he need do, this Bill, along with many others, could become a victim of that decision.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

My right hon. Friend makes a powerful point. There has been so much speculation that there will be a general election in May that people do not realise that constitutionally, under the Parliament Acts, the Prime Minister could leave it until June 2002.

My purpose today is to talk not about the date of the general election but about this admirable Bill. I feel that I have to rise as a non-Norfolk Member of Parliament. There has been much talk about the importance of the Bill to Norfolk charities, but we should make it clear that the same applies to charities throughout the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, it is right and proper to pay tribute to the work of the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson). I congratulate him on having the good luck to be drawn so high in the ballot that he can present a Bill, and on his good intentions and good judgment in presenting this one.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) spoke about the excellent work of Paddy Seligman. If I were her, I am not sure that I would be so pleased with his description of her as "gutsy but explosive". I am a fan of Indian cuisine, and it sounds like a description of a Sainsbury's vindaloo, which I tried last night and can confirm was indeed gutsy and explosive.

It has been a unique experience for me to see how so many people and organisations have worked together for good common purpose to see this Bill become law. It is extraordinary that the provision applies only to the National Lottery Charities Board. I shall be grateful if the Minister will confirm that only the NLCB is affected by the Bill and that the lottery boards for sports, heritage and the arts are not constrained in the establishment of endowments. If they are so constrained, ought not the Bill to be expanded so that those boards also have the freedom to do so if they see fit?

My right hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) raised an important point. He said that, although it might not be wrong to set one up, an endowment would create difficult choices for the relevant lottery board. Interest rates are low at present. We may be heading for a period of economic decline over the next few months as the Stock Exchange collapses and the boom that has lasted since 1993, although the rate of growth of the economy has slowed since 1997, comes to an end. If we are entering a period of bust, interest rates will go even lower, unless of course we join the euro.

If we join the euro, we will not be in a position to decide our interest rates. We will be in a strange position. If Germany were enjoying a strong economic position, the interest rates set in Frankfurt would not apply to the position in the United Kingdom. I digress; I will not further consider whether we should enter the euro.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst

My hon. Friend makes an important point. Surely those who make the decisions, be it anonymous boards of bureaucrats or the charities, to go for an endowment approach to take money now for immediate benefit will have to factor in forecasts of trends in interest rates, which is a hazardous business. Does he think that that has been brought out sufficiently in the debate so far? We have heard glowing accounts of how wonderful endowments are, but there is a down side.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant Conservative, Lichfield

There is always a down side. Money does not grow on trees, and difficult decisions always have to be made. The NLCB will have to bear it in mind that if it establishes endowments for tens or even hundreds of millions of pounds, that money, as my right hon. Friend says, will not be available to give in grants for day-to-day expenditure in a particular year. However, that is not an argument for saying that endowments should not be established. He is right that there is a down side as well as an up side.

My right hon. Friend the Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) raised an interesting point when he said that, at a time of economic downturn when interest rates are low, it might be necessary to draw on capital sums from the endowment. Presumably, charities would pay back into the endowment when interest rates were higher. Will the Minister confirm that such flexibility will be possible? Will the boards be able to draw on the capital amounts set on the endowment at times of low interest rates in order to return the sums at times of high interest rates? Such flexibility will be important if lottery funds are not to be irrevocably damaged.

There are many examples of organisations that have been funded with large capital grants by various lottery boards. In my constituency, the heritage lottery fund has given large sums of money to a series of projects. I live next door to the Erasmus Darwin museum in the centre of Lichfield. Erasmus Darwin house was severely damaged by earth subsidence some years ago and lovingly restored with a grant from the fund. It is now an open secret that the museum is having difficulty funding its day-to-day operations.

If a lottery board felt that it was worth continuing with such projects—projects throughout the country are experiencing difficulty with their day-to-day funding—provided that the difficulty was temporary, it would be right and proper to provide assistance with the day-to-day running of an organisation. I make it an important proviso that the difficulties should be temporary. An endowment might be the ideal way to do that, but it is important that endowments should not be used to prop up lame ducks. If they are, the money will not be available to fund programmes such as those that the hon. Member for Norwich, North has already spoken about, or other worthwhile projects.

The Bill has exposed an anomaly in the way in which the lottery funding boards were established. It seems strange that the sport, heritage and arts lottery boards are impeded by the problem. I think that the Minister will confirm that that is the case. This admirable Bill will ensure that the anomaly is corrected and in that respect, I support it.

Photo of Eric Forth Eric Forth Conservative, Bromley and Chislehurst 10:59 am, 23rd March 2001

I must admit that I am torn by the Bill. I see a number of aspects to it. It is in many ways the ideal private Member's Bill. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) for presenting it to the House. It is focused and deliberately narrow in its intention, although much broader in its potential effect. It is on the face of it—

It being Eleven o'clock, MR. SPEAKER interrupted the proceedings, pursuant to Standing Order No. 11 (Friday sittings).