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Orders of the Day — National Lottery Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 14th June 2005.

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Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 3:32 pm, 14th June 2005

Absolutely, I do not disagree with that at all—what the hon. Lady has said is sensible. A balance must be struck, however, in relation to having money in the bank that could be used for other purposes and it not being there to cover that type of heritage expenditure. We have given assurances, and I will refer later to the undertakings that we have given to one of the distributors, the Heritage Lottery Fund. We have tried to take on board what we believe is a reasonable request to reduce those balances. We have done that in consultation with the Treasury and given new guidelines, and we have also taken on board what the National Audit Office has said. If the hon. Lady believes that she is the sole custodian of wisdom in this area, and far better than the National Audit Office or anyone else, that is fine, and she will table relevant amendments in Committee. I hope that at the end of the process the Opposition will defend keeping public money in accounts when it could be used for good causes—[Interruption.] It is public money, and if the Opposition are not going to use it, that is fine, and they will defend that at another time. Money has been drawn down and spent on good causes, probably in some Opposition Members' constituencies. There is over £1 billion less waiting in the bank now than there was two and a half years ago, and I do not believe that taking out that £1 billion has done any damage to the heritage lottery distributors or to any scheme in the pipeline. That £1 billion is helping many projects up and down the country.

What does the Bill propose? The Bill will make changes to the framework of the lottery to make it more responsive to people's priorities and to maximise the money going to good causes. Clauses 1 to 5 deal with the regulation of the lottery through the National Lottery Commission. The chairman would no longer change annually and it would be possible to have executive board members, putting the commission in the same position as the companies with which it will be dealing. Clause 6 and schedule 1 deal with amendments to the licensing structure of the lottery. As we announced in November last year, the new system is designed to deliver significantly greater competition to the licensing process with a clear presumption that there will be a single licence.

Clause 7 deals with the apportionment of the national lottery fund. The new good cause will be set up for the Big Lottery Fund covering half of lottery funding. This good cause will be very wide so that the Secretary of State will have the power to prescribe expenditure at the highest level. She will also be able to prescribe "devolved expenditure", which will be the responsibility of country committees set up by the Bill and subject to direction from the appropriate devolved administration.

Clause 8 provides for a reserve power to re-allocate excessive unspent balances from one distributor to another in the same good cause. It would be used only as a last resort after consultation and affirmative resolution by Parliament.