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Orders of the Day — National Lottery Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:22 pm on 14th June 2005.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Secretary of State for the Family, Culture, Media and Sport 4:22 pm, 14th June 2005

Indeed; there has been such a power throughout the lottery's existence. At the beginning, it was thought necessary to have a provision to ensure that lottery funds were not spent improperly or inappropriately. However, the Secretary of State will now prescribe expenditure by the Big Lottery Fund. He will set out ways in which it should channel its funds, and the purposes on which those moneys should be spent. Bit by bit, the Government have put their hand into the lottery pot. That change fundamentally undermines the independence and integrity of the grant-making system, along with, sadly, the esteem in which the lottery is held by the vast majority of the public. That undermines the independence of the Big Lottery Fund to determine its own strategic direction and to make decisions free from interference. We must not allow the Secretary of State to manipulate charitable works and good causes for political motives.

I am concerned that the legislation enables the Secretary of State to make orders specifying amounts and periods of lottery expenditure. I freely acknowledge the improvements in drafting that resulted in the draconian powers of the first National Lottery Bill being consigned to the wastepaper bin, but there is little doubt that the level of prescription is still too great. The Minister will know that many charities and organisations have expressed concern about the Secretary of State's new powers to move funds between lottery distributors. Ministers have said that that power would be used only as a last resort, but the sad truth is that those assurances only confirm that those powers are there for a reason. They can be used against good causes that do not please the Minister. If they are not used, they can be held as a big stick above charities' heads. The director of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said:

"NCVO remains concerned that the lottery Bill still gives the Government too great a degree of control over lottery funding. There also remains no requirement on the Secretary of State to consult anyone outside of Government before making orders, issuing directions or defining expenditure".

Charities are deeply worried about the implications of the Bill, and we should listen to them.

It is not only the charities that are worried. Earlier, a number of hon. Members, including Mr. Drew and my hon. Friend Robert Key, expressed concern about the redistribution of balances, and there was an exchange with the Minister.