Public Bodies Bill [HL] — Committee (7th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:15 pm on 28th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Dubs Lord Dubs Labour 3:15 pm, 28th February 2011

My Lords, I, too, am a supporter of what NESTA has done and of its very innovative work and enormously important initiatives. I looked with some puzzlement at the Government's proposals and join my noble friend in asking some further questions to see whether we can be clear about what the Government propose. My noble friend has already asked about the status of discussions between the Government and the Charity Commission on the future of NESTA. It is not always easy setting up a charity, as-quite properly-certain conditions have to be met. How far have the Government got with those discussions to be satisfied that charitable status is appropriate and proper and would be reasonably easy to achieve?

Furthermore, I understand that in the new scheme of things there is to be an individual called the "protector", who will, presumably in addition to the Charity Commission, have supervisory responsibilities. What will be the powers and responsibilities of the protector and how will they sit alongside the responsibilities of the Charity Commission?

Will the Minister further confirm that there is at present no burden on the taxpayer because of the endowments held by NESTA? Therefore, there will really be no change in public expenditure or public responsibilities if and when NESTA becomes a charity. In other words, there is clearly no financial benefit in all this except possibly at the margin, where I am told that there might be some savings in not having to deal with civil servants or something of that sort. I am not quite clear how that will work, so maybe the Minister could explain that.

I have two further questions. If not all NESTA's current endowments are appropriate for charitable purposes, I therefore assume that not all the money will be transferred to the new charity. However, if it is not transferred, where will it go? In other words, there are some functions of NESTA that are not totally charitable; clearly, these are now funded by the endowments. What will happen to the money appropriate to those non-charitable functions? Secondly, given that there are trustees to be appointed to run a charity if the proposal goes ahead, how will the trustees be appointed? By what process will they be appointed and what will be the safeguards?