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

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:30 pm on 28th February 2011.

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Photo of Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Lord Evans of Temple Guiting Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 3:30 pm, 28th February 2011

My Lords, I rise to speak briefly as a great admirer of NESTA, an organisation that works in an exciting and important area of our society to create a viable commercial future for science, technology and the arts. NESTA's core objective is to combine capital investment with non-financial support to help innovative early-stage companies to turn their ideas into commercial success. These target companies, referred to as seed companies, are vital for the cultural success and economic growth of this country. Without this assistance in the early stages of development, these companies will be held back from reaching their full potential. We should all be grateful to NESTA for its part in facilitating the creative industries' £50 billion annual contribution to the economy.

NESTA is a unique organisation with a world-class reputation. It is the UK's leading expert on innovation and carries out some cutting-edge work with the creative industries. Let me give your Lordships three examples. Its creative mentoring programme brings together new creative businesses with successful figures in the industry to help them to grow. It has worked with the National Theatre to bring live theatre to more people through the power of digital distribution. It is also working with our fashion industry to encourage the best UK designers to work more closely with British high-tech manufacturers.

NESTA is also recognised as one of the UK's leading organisations producing world-class research, concentrating on exploring future areas of economic growth. It has always enjoyed a greater level of independence than any other non-departmental public body because of its unique set-up. NESTA has an endowment from the National Lottery, as we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Warner, and therefore operates at no cost to the Exchequer. In this case, moving NESTA from the public to the third sector will, in principle, allow it to continue its vital work as an early-stage seed funder and to act as a test bed for innovative solutions to some of our greatest challenges in the commercial creative sector.

In terms of detail, it would be helpful if the Minister could comment on the following points, which have also been raised by my noble friends Lord Warner and Lord Dubs. What consultation have the Government undertaken with the board and different interested groups about the change? What process will the Government use, as my noble friend Lord Dubs asked, to select and appoint trustees? The Minister may also like to inform the House, in light of the Public Administration Committee's recent report on quangos, why this body is one of the few bodies to have been singled out for charitable status.