Motion to Regret

Transfer of Functions (Dormant Accounts) Order 2010 – in the House of Lords at 7:30 pm on 15th March 2011.

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Moved by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

To resolve that this House regrets that the Transfer of Functions (Dormant Accounts) Order 2010 (SI 2010/2967) makes a very limited amount of money available to the big society bank in comparison to the cuts being made to voluntary organisations and youth services.

Relevant document: 19th Report from the Merits Committee.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office) 7:37 pm, 15th March 2011

My Lords, I make it clear that I support the use of dormant bank accounts for socially useful objectives. It was the previous Labour Government who took through the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008 to make provision for the Big Lottery Fund to distribute dormant account money to meet expenditure that has a social or environmental purpose. The big society bank clearly originates from those proposals. We proposed then that dormant money would be distributed to meet expenditure on or connected with the provision of services to support opportunities, to meet the needs of young people, to support the development of individuals' ability to manage their finances, or to a social investment wholesaler. Let me say that we welcome the Government's decision to continue the work of the social investment wholesale bank. However, it is currently unclear how the big society bank will be set up and on what terms it will receive capital from UK banks. I hope the Government will be able to explain how they will guarantee the social mission of the bank and ensure that it does not become just another mainstream lender.

There are serious questions about how the big society bank will function. What form will the capital from the Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays, HSBC and Lloyds take? Will it be legally incorporated? What working rate of return are the Government expecting to provide to the banks? What interest rate will the big society bank charge? Will it be allowed to issue bonds and raise additional wholesale finance? What kind of social enterprise will the big society bank favour? Will the big society bank have paid employees? What salary levels will be paid? What bonus structures will be used? When the funds are passed to the community groups and voluntary organisations on the ground, will they represent the total sums of money put into the big society bank?

I also ask the noble Lord what he has to say in response to your Lordships' Merits Select Committee, which reported on this statutory instrument. He will know that it made the comment:

"The infrastructure of the Big Lottery Fund is already up and running, and using it as a conduit offered potential economies of scale".

The Merits Committee wanted to know, and invited the House to ask, whether the policy proposals that the Government are bringing forward will result in an additional administrative cost. I would be grateful to the noble Lord for his response to that.

Going beyond the specific questions that I am asking the noble Lord, there is a more substantive issue at the heart of my Motion. In the face of tens of billions of pounds in spending cuts, which are more likely to be cut from public service contracts that impact directly on the voluntary sector-it holds many of those contracts-the limited amount of money that the big society bank will receive is very small beer. In fact, it is hard not to conclude that the big society is a misnomer for what this Government are all about. They are embarking on a destructive assault on our welfare state. It is clear that the voluntary and charitable sectors are taking a massive hit as a result.

Over the past few weeks, I have mentioned the situation of Birmingham on a number of occasions in your Lordships' House. In Birmingham, the CAB is threatened with closure and it is not alone. Many of the city's voluntary services are similarly threatened as a result of decisions made by the Conservative-Liberal Democrat council. At the same time, we are seeing large reductions being made in legal aid services. All those decisions will have a dramatic impact on the most vulnerable people living in Birmingham. What is happening in Birmingham is happening up and down the country. Libraries, children's centres, the youth service and the charitable sector-all are being adversely affected.

When the Government's big society policy concept emerged, the role of the voluntary sector was said to be crucial. Since then there have been various interpretations of what the big society has meant but I believe, from my reading of the various enunciations from Ministers, that the voluntary sector is still at the core of what it is about. I support and embrace the role of the charitable and voluntary sector.

When Labour was in office we took important steps to support the charitable sector and volunteering. But no one can volunteer at a library, the CAB or a children's centre if it is closed. No wonder many charity heads have warned that the speed and depth of the cuts imposed by local councils make the big society impossible to deliver. The director of Eaves and the POPPY Project, Denise Marshall, said:

"David Cameron, I get what he's trying to do ... but he needs to understand that groups like mine can't function without that funding. We can't go from year to year hoping that people will fill our begging bowls. We have to have proper funding ... domestic violence victims don't storm the town hall saying don't close down the refuge because they can't".

She said that the Government,

"needs to understand that and so do the others who are in charge of this funding".

That was only four weeks ago. She concluded:

"We are going to really mess up more services and we're going to make women's lives more difficult".

The reality is, as the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations has estimated, that the voluntary sector will face a reduction in funding of £1.14 billion this year, rising to £3.1 billion per year by 2014. The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives has said that,

"in the short term, there are real fears that spending cuts will impact adversely on the capacity of the charitable/not-for-profit sector. Far from taking on more, and providing capacity to enable a shift away from the state, it may be able to do rather less".

Let me come back to the details that arise from this order. The big society bank is providing loans or risk capital, not revenue. Any funding made available to civic society cannot be treated as a replacement for grants and earned income that organisations are likely to lose. I would be grateful if the noble Lord would say when he thinks that the big society bank is likely to be operational. But if it is not operational until, say, the third quarter of 2011 and as a wholesale bank, as the NCVO has warned, it will take time for those funds to reach the front line. The problem is that the big society is clothed in warm words about empowering individuals, neighbourhood groups and communities to choose how to deal with their own affairs. But, as my noble friend Lord Beecham has written, it is one thing for the Government to use the big society as a cover for savage cuts in public expenditure but what is emerging is that its very name is a misnomer. In fact, what the Government are seeking is a small society, with the role of the state reduced and replaced by a fragmented society.

I do not want to go on. Noble Lords will have got the thrust of what I want to say tonight. The noble Lord needs to understand that at the moment many of the organisations on which so many people depend- whether it is in the concept of a big society or a great society, call it what you will-are very vulnerable. The point that I really want to put across is that I support the use of these dormant accounts. It follows the policy enunciated and developed by the previous Government. But the sorts of funds likely to be available are very small. In the mean time, many of the essential things that those charitable and voluntary organisations do are in jeopardy.

Photo of Baroness Butler-Sloss Baroness Butler-Sloss Crossbench 7:45 pm, 15th March 2011

My Lords, I have put down a take note Motion so perhaps your Lordships' House will permit me to go next. I have to declare an interest as a member of the Merits of Statutory Instruments Committee, which is why I have read this order, which I support. I congratulate the Government and I support them rather more perhaps than the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, has done.

I have absolutely no intention of suggesting that there is anything wrong with this order, nor do I intend to go outside what might be called the parameters of the order, unlike the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath. However, there are some points and questions that need to be asked within the confinements of this order, which provides for a very sensible amendment of the 2008 Act. The questions that I would like to ask are based on the fact that the present position is very vague and it would be helpful to know rather more as to how this new bank is intended to work.

The present position, under Section 16(1) of the 2008 Act, is that the purpose is to be social or environmental. Under Section 18(1), the distribution will focus on providing places to go for young people. That is one of the main objectives. From what I have read of what has been said recently about the proposed big society bank, neither of those matters has figured. It is important to go back to see what the purpose of the Act was to which this order relates. Is one of the destinations of the big society bank to be providing places for young people to go to? How will the bank apply social or environmental purposes? Who will be the recipients? What will be the spending priorities? How will the bank work as the "social investment wholesaler"-what a terrible phrase-in investing and managing financial intermediaries? What are the financial intermediaries intended to be?

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of King's Heath, and the Select Committee on Merits also raised the issue of the additional costs. Undoubtedly, the current structure is set up under the Big Lottery Fund. Consequently, any move to the bank is going to cause some additional costs. How are those going to be met? Is it likely that the administration will be so expensive that the £100 million or more from the dormant accounts-I hope those will provide much more than £100 million-will not cover it? One does not want too much of that spent on the additional cost of this big society bank. I am hoping that those costs can be kept to a minimum, but I am somewhat concerned about the movement from the Big Lottery Fund to this new bank.

I would also be interested to know to what extent, if any, there will be any form of parliamentary scrutiny of the bank's activities. It would be helpful if Parliament had the opportunity to know what was going on and to express a view. I do not wish to comment on what the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has said about the wider picture, but we ought to know rather more about how the big society bank is going to work within the confines of the 2008 Act. The debate on the Bill in this House undoubtedly raised considerable expectations and it is crucial that the big society bank should fulfil them.

Photo of Lord Newby Lord Newby Liberal Democrat

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to return to the joys of the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008. I may be the only person in your Lordships' House who sat through the entire proceedings of that Bill.

That was a fascinating process because the original purpose of the Bill was to do what the Government plan to do, namely to make the funding available from bank accounts to a new social investment bank-the brain-child of the current leader of the Labour Party. When it became clear that some new funding was available, other members of the Cabinet thought it might be a good idea if they had a share. Therefore, a new purpose was added to the Bill to make expenditure available for the provision of services for young people-Ed Ball's proposal that every community should have a new youth club. This was the second purpose inserted after the first purpose. The third purpose about financial literacy was inserted by the Treasury because it was fed up that it was not getting a look-in. So we ended up with an Act which was a muddle. It had started with a simple purpose and ended up with three purposes.

The relevance of that to the report of the Merits Committee is that it explains why the Big Lottery Fund has a role in the Act as it is currently set out. If you were going to have, as was originally envisaged, part of the funding going to establish a national network of youth clubs, somebody had to be in charge of allocating the money for those youth clubs. And if you were going to make money available for financial literacy, somebody had to decide where the money went. It was agreed that the Big Lottery Fund was a logical home for that. It was never intended that the Big Lottery Fund would have any role to play in terms of the social investment wholesaler because that is not what it does. I suspect that the only role of the Big Lottery Fund now, given that the first two purposes have fallen by the wayside and we have got back to the original intent of the Bill, is to decide who the social investment wholesaler will be. Someone has to do that, so it has to be either a civil servant or the Big Lottery Fund. I doubt very much whether there will be any additional cost involved with that.

Regarding the original purpose of the Bill, I believe it is extremely important that the big society bank is established. Whether you agree with the cuts or not, it is undoubtedly the case that many public services are being better delivered today than they were yesterday because they are being delivered by social enterprises. I have referred in previous debates in your Lordships' House to Sandwell healthcare services, which provide facilities in the West Midlands for half the price previously provided by the local authority. I know this because the chief executive came before the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Enterprise, which I chair. When asked how Sandwell was able to do that for half the price, he said that nobody is paid any less but some simple things have been done such as reducing the average number of days' sick leave from 32, when the services were administered by the local authority, to two. He has made huge efficiency savings by motivating staff and freeing them from a bureaucratic environment.

The problem with the social enterprise sector is that it is full of organisations such as Sandwell healthcare services doing tremendous things but on a small scale. One of the main reasons they are not doing things on a large scale is that it is very difficult to get access to finance. Very often social enterprises do not have the business record because a lot of them are relatively new, nor do they have assets against which a loan can be secured. Therefore, the mainstream banks do not lend to them. The big society bank, with the combination of funding from this Act and from the high-street banks, will for the first time provide a significant pool of capital for social enterprises.

As I say, whatever you think about the cuts, having more social enterprises will enable public services to be delivered more efficiently and more effectively than is often done at present. Therefore, I strongly welcome the establishment of the bank. This is a minor order that helps clear the way for that and it has my full support.

Photo of Baroness Pitkeathley Baroness Pitkeathley Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords)

I want to speak in favour of the motion proposed by my noble friend Lord Hunt. I declare two interests. Until 31 March 2011, I am the chair of the advisory body to the Office for Civil Society, which has responsibility for the big society bank. I was also a member of the original Commission on Unclaimed Assets, chaired by Sir Ronald Cohen, so in that sense I go even further back than the noble Lord, Lord Newby.

I want to remind your Lordships of what Sir Ronald said at the time of the launch of the Commission on Unclaimed Assets, which was set up originally in 2005 and launched in 2007. He said:

"As for the money that remains unclaimed, we must never forget that this is neither the Government's nor the banks' property - but the people's money ... the money should be spent in order to have the biggest impact possible on deprived communities in Britain".

Further, it was pointed out that,

"the unclaimed asset funds could help to create new and profitable investment opportunities within local communities".

That was the spirit of the Commission on Unclaimed Assets and its purpose was that it would support the local voluntary and community sector. If that was the purpose then, how much more important is that purpose now when, as we all know, the voluntary and community sector is somewhat in difficulties because of the withdrawal of funding?

That metamorphosed into the big society bank. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Newby, that it is good that we have returned to the original purposes of the Act. However, there are two major problems with the big society bank being promoted as the solution to the problems of the voluntary sector. First, nobody knows how much money there is and on what terms it will be available. The second, and even greater, problem is one of timing. It will take much longer than anybody thought for the big society bank to come on stream and be available to local voluntary and community groups. I bow to no one in my admiration of the charitable sector and its ability to adapt, but it cannot adapt that quickly. In order to re-establish itself, to effect mergers and partnerships and so on, or to replace funding, it needs a lot more time than it is being given at the moment.

I keep talking to charities which say, "We'll be gone in four weeks' time. We have no more money". That is a major problem. Therefore, we should stop promoting the big society bank as the solution to all the problems currently faced by the voluntary and community sector, on which so many in our society depend. There is a lot more that we need to do to support it than rely on the big society bank.

Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Health) 8:00 pm, 15th March 2011

My Lords, I must apologise for not being in the House when my noble friend Lord Hunt opened this debate, especially as he was kind enough to make reference to me subsequently-although I did hear that.

I want to take up one point, on which my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley touched almost in passing, while welcoming the principle of the order and of the bank and recognising that there is certainly some potential for helping the voluntary and community sector. She mentioned in general the terms under which investments and loans will be made. Can the Minister give us any assurances about that? Sir Ronald Cohen, who is a very enthusiastic supporter of the principle, has suggested that interest will be at commercial rates. If that is the case, is there not a danger that voluntary organisations, which after all will be seeking investment anyway because they are having some financial difficulties, will find it difficult to proceed when they are being expected to pay commercial rates of interest on loans? It would be different if grants were being made, but my understanding is that this is to be a rolling investment fund and that it will be a question not of grants but of loans. It would be helpful if the Minister were able to give an indication on that issue.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

My Lords, I am sorry if my slowness in rising rather gave the impression that the debate would be longer than I had imagined. I am not reluctant to spring to my feet for I believe that this is a very welcome debate and thank all noble Lords who have participated in it, in particular those two noble Lords whose Motions are before us this evening, because it gives me an opportunity to expand further on the Government's plans and actions deriving from the order which is the debate's subject.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, has expressed concern over the current challenges facing voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations. I share the view that the VCSE sector plays a crucial role in our society and economy, but as I will make clear in these closing remarks, the big society agenda, with its emphasis on social action, community empowerment and public sector reform, will open up many new opportunities for these organisations to thrive in the future. This Government are taking a number of measures which will directly support the sector through this difficult time in the short term, but which will help to ensure a more secure and stable future in the long run. Those measures include the setting-up of the big society bank.

I join the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in welcoming the coming-into-force of the transfer of functions order. As the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, will know, and as he said, this derives from legislation enacted under the previous Government which we supported. It marks an important step on the way to meeting the Government's ambitious plans for a big society bank. With this order, the Minister for the Cabinet Office can now direct the Big Lottery Fund on how to use England's portion of released dormant accounts to achieve social benefits in line with the provisions of the Dormant Bank and Building Society Accounts Act 2008.

As the Prime Minister announced in July 2010, the Government intend to use all the dormant accounts money available for spending in England to capitalise an independent big society bank, or-I apologise to the noble and learned Baroness for the phrase-social investment wholesaler. The role of the big society bank will be to help build a sustainable social investment market, making it easier for voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations to access the finance and advice that they need. Although a nascent social investment market has emerged over the past decade, it remains small and fragile. Many of these organisations tackle our most intractable social problems and deliver vital public services. They empower local communities and work with the most marginalised members of society, yet still struggle to access the finance they need to grow and develop.

The big society bank will work with a range of social investment intermediaries to increase the overall pool and variety of capital available to front-line organisations. In the long term, our vision is of a fully functioning and more sustainable social investment market which will enable voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations to grow and develop, and to become more resilient.

There are many ways in which the bank will work to achieve this. For example, I believe that there are people and organisations, including the public sector, willing to invest in social impact. There are also organisations trying to create that social impact but few mechanisms to bring the two together. Some new ideas include social impact bonds, community bonds and community share schemes. One of the things the big society bank might do is support innovation, particularly proposals that find new ways of matching the needs of front-line organisations with potential providers of capital.

There are also organisations-community groups, social enterprises, charities-which are viable businesses but are unable to access working capital or capital to buy new assets from commercial banks. The big society bank could increase the flow of capital via intermediaries which specialise in affordable loans to these institutions. And for organisations which are looking to expand and grow, the big society bank will look to increase the availability of risk capital, where the investor takes a stake in the future success of the organisation.

In refocusing the priorities of dormant accounts allocation, we are not downgrading the importance of youth and financial inclusion. We would like the bank to include both themes within its investment mandate and believe that far better outcomes can be achieved through the social enterprise and community-led solutions that the bank will support. I am grateful for the support of my noble friend Lord Newby and the noble Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, in recognising that the Government's proposals build on the original Act in a positive way.

We recognise that the current economic situation and the need to tackle the deficit create a challenging and sometimes painful environment for many organisations, including those in the voluntary, community, charitable and social enterprise sectors. We also understand that organisations might have difficulties managing the transition to a tighter funding environment and getting to a position where they can take advantages of the future opportunities presented by the big society agenda. This transition is more difficult in an environment than either the Government or the previous Government would have wished.

This is why we have set up a £100 million transition fund to give a lifeline to those VCS organisations that are delivering front-line services and are affected by reductions in public spending. The fund provides grants of between £12,500 and £500,000 to help organisations make the necessary changes in order to thrive in the long term and take advantage of the opportunities presented by the big society and public service reform. Already, following a large number of applications, 18 early transition awards have been made and many hundreds more will be announced in the coming weeks and months.

We will also shortly be announcing a programme of work to give front-line organisations access to support and expert advice beyond funding matters that will enable them better to meet their changing needs. We also want to help the sector access a wider range of funding to increase its strength and resilience for the long term. That is why we are aiming to capitalise a big society bank to increase levels of capital investment in the sector and we are also reviewing ways to incentivise further philanthropy and charitable giving. We are committed to opening up public sector delivery so that voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations can compete for national and local government contracts and access a greater proportion of government spending.

We have established a red-tape taskforce, chaired by my noble friend Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, to remove the barriers that get in the way of sector involvement. They are looking at a range of issues that we know cause difficulties for voluntary organisations, including charity law, licensing, insurance and funding, and will be reporting in May. We have also introduced new powers to help communities save local facilities and services threatened with closure and give the communities the right to bid to take over local state-run services.

We are working hard to set up a big society bank. Not surprisingly, this is a complex process. None the less, by April of this year, we aim to have arrangements in place so that we are able to start making early investments as soon as the first round of dormant accounts money becomes available in the summer. It will take longer for an independent big society bank to be set up and fully operational but we are already in the process of seeking the state-aid approvals necessary to capitalize it with dormant accounts. We have been delighted that Sir Ronald Cohen, previously head of the Social Investment Taskforce, and Nick O'Donohoe, formerly head of global research at JP Morgan and head of its social finance unit, have volunteered to develop a proposal for an independent big society bank. We look forward to working with them and other social investment experts. In addition to the investment from dormant accounts, as the Prime Minister announced on 9 February as a part of a broader package, four of the UK's largest banks have agreed to invest a further £200 million in a fully fledged big society bank. We expect that the final bank will be a lean organisation, and I assure this House that we are conscious of the need to keep any administrative costs to an appropriate level.

In this way, with the combination of dormant accounts money and the support of the banks, we expect that the big society bank will be capitalised with at least £300 million over the next two years, with further injections of capital as more money is released from dormant accounts. This is a significant sum, especially when we consider that in 2010 the entire amount of social investment in the UK was less than £200 million.

In addition, we expect that the bank will attract increasing levels of private sector investment over time, generating hundreds of millions of pounds for charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups, and creating a strong, vibrant and sustainable social investment market in the future.

I will try to answer some of the questions that noble Lords have asked. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, asked whether the bank would be able to raise capital, what rates it would set and the salary levels. The big society bank will be able to raise capital although it is unlikely to be able to do so in its first few years. The details of the BSB investment will be decided by its management. They will have to be demonstrably in keeping with its social mission. Salaries will be set in line with the sector, but I know that Sir Ronald Cohen and Mr O'Donohoe are giving their services free to the project to set up the bank.

The noble Lord also asked what form capital from the bank will take. That is being negotiated with the banks and we want to ensure that the terms enable the BSB to deliver its social mission. How will the social mission be guaranteed? The BSB is being set up as an independent, non-public organisation, but we have made it clear that we will direct dormant accounts only to organisations that have a clear, protected social mission in their founding articles, and governance accountability arrangements to protect that mission.

Rather predictably, the noble Lord also asked about the citizens advice bureau in Birmingham, because we have debated that in another context and I suspect that we might debate it further. Perhaps I can put that decision in context. As the noble Lord will know, the Government have a strategy for basing these decisions at a local level. Many councils have made substantial savings through increasing efficiency in back-office functions rather than passing on cuts to the VCSE groups which, as the noble Lord admits, do excellent work. The Government have set out reasonable expectations of councils challenging them to work with the sector and organisations and not to pass on disproportionate cuts. We expect that from local government throughout the country.

The big society is not a cover for cuts. The challenge that we face in terms of public finance cannot be ignored, but the big society was an approach developed before the recession, which is at the heart of the Government's programme of reform. The big society will give individuals and communities a role in shaping the provision of services and give more power to communities rather than central government.

The noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, asked particularly about parliamentary scrutiny. The aim is for the big society bank to be independent in order to have flexibility to respond to the market, but our key criteria for directing BSB money include robust governance and accountability arrangements, which will include the principle of transparency. Parliament will, in the normal way, be able to scrutinise government spending directions of dormant accounts and in that way scrutinise the whole function of the big society bank as the recipient of those funds.

The noble Lord, Lord Newby, said that in many ways the Government had gone back to the original Bill, and showed how the social enterprise sector can be an effective deliverer of community services and how these proposals will provide much-needed funding.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, asked a number of questions, but I can reassure her that the whole purpose is to use this money-people's money, as she said-to support the voluntary, community and social enterprise sectors. She is right that the big society bank is not the whole solution, but it is part of the development of this sector, which I know she believes in greatly.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, seeks in his Motion to place the Government's proposals in the context of the spending review and ignores the state of the public finances under the previous Government, which made budgetary reduction a vital part of the coalition's strategy for rebuilding the economy. He has also chosen to ignore the degree to which the Government have sought not just to protect the VCSE sector but the measures, of which this is part, to provide it with the opportunity and ability to play its part in reshaping the economy for the future.

This has been a useful debate and I hope that I have been able to reassure the House that this instrument is being used to positive effect. I would like to thank the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Butler-Sloss, for tabling her Take Note Motion and her support of the order. In the light of this, and my comments, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, will feel able to withdraw his Motion of Regret.

Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Health)

Before the noble Lord sits down, will he comment on the rate of interest that the bank might be deploying and whether it is likely to be a commercial rate?

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach Conservative

The bank will be operating in the market, and it is unlikely that the bank is going to be able to provide finance at a subsidised rate. None the less, the most important thing to secure is the availability of the funding. That is the direction of travel of the bank at this time.

Photo of Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Lord Hunt of Kings Heath Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Lords, Shadow Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for his response and for some of the details he gave to noble Lords. However, from what he said, it seems that it will be some months before money starts to flow and the amounts seem likely to be modest. His contribution was, as ever, meant to be as constructive as possible-until at the end when we heard from him about the deficit and the financial position of the public sector. He made no mention of the global financial context in which the last Government had to move to protect the economy. Also, the Government do have a choice-they can slavishly carry on as now, or, as I hope, they can take steps to deal with faltering growth in our economy; establish a plan to create jobs in the private sector to deal with the crisis of youth unemployment; and take steps to support the voluntary and charitable sector.

I appreciated the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Newby, and his tour de horizon on the passage of the 2008 Act. I agree that social enterprises are invaluable and that we want to support the sector. I also agree with his point about access to finance. However, as my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley says, the voluntary and charitable sector is running short of cash now. At the very least, it needs an injection of resources and time to adapt. As my noble friend Lord Beecham suggested in his question about commercial rates, that is highly pertinent. I know that access to capital is an issue, but when very little revenue is available from traditional sources of funding, the cost of capital becomes a major inhibition on the very organisations the noble Lord is relying on.

The noble Lord is ambitious for the future, for the proposals contained in the order and for the role of the voluntary and charitable sector. I applaud that ambition. However, many of the organisations on which he wants to rely are not going to survive. That is why I continually come back to the situation of the CABs in Birmingham. Of all the organisations on which one would have thought the Government would have depended to provide that kind of infrastructure support, I cannot think of a more important organisation than the CAB. Indeed, that is why in the Public Bodies Bill we are seeing the CAB being asked to take on the responsibilities of a number of consumer organisations. How can the Government say they are supporting and relying on the sector when a key part of that structure in this country's second city is under threat of complete closure?

I respect the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, enormously. We support the use of dormant accounts but the context in which we find ourselves is that the very organisations on which the Government depend so much are being obliterated by the impact of the cuts taking place. I commend the Motion.

Division on Motion.

Contents 102; Not-Contents 159.

Motion disagreed.

Division number 1

See full list of votes (From The Public Whip)