It is a pleasure to be here under your guidance, Mr. Wells. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) in particular, but also all the Members from Norfolk from all parties, and from East Anglia generally. This morning's sitting is rather like an Eastern region caucus and I feel slightly out of place, but it is good that we can get cross-party and all-party support for a measure to change what appears to be something that was not intended to happen but did happen. Unfortunately, as my hon. Friend said, the process of changing it can take an awful lot longer than one might expect for what seems on the surface to be a simple change.
As hon. Members know, the Bill received wide cross-party support at Second Reading, which was testament to all the work that my hon. Friend and all his friends from the region had done—and to the support of the Eastern Daily Press for the ``We Care'' 2000 appeal.
The Government still sympathise very strongly with the principles that underpin the Bill. We note that the 1993 Act does not appear to give the Community Fund, as the National Lottery Charities Board is now called, the power to make grants to endowments. It is important to point out, because many hon. Members raised the matter at Second Reading, that although it would still be a matter for the board of the Community Fund to take its own decision on individual grants—in other words, there is no obvious agreement that if the Bill passes into law, automatically those organisations would be supported—it is important, and we support the principle, that it should be able to make such grants.
We noted at Second Reading that there were some fairly minor but important technical flaws in the Bill, and we said that we might want to offer some correcting amendments. We had some amendments that we believed would have achieved our intentions. Unfortunately, during consideration of how those might be framed, some complex legal questions came to light, which we needed to investigate further in great depth. I am afraid that, consequently, we could not table the technical amendments in time for the Committee's consideration.
However, we have been able to clarify for our own purposes—my hon. Friend has been involved in this process—the legal issues to which the Bill gives rise, and we hope, and are making a commitment, that if the Bill makes further progress this morning, we will be in a position to offer amendments on Report. Those amendments will not be designed to alter the purpose of the Bill, but will simply improve the drafting to ensure that the Bill achieves my hon. Friend's intentions without affecting the powers of the other distributing bodies.
Our legal opinion on the latest draft of the amendments is favourable, and we are confident that we shall be in a position to table the amendments at the start of the week after next, in time for a Report stage, should we be able to get that Report stage before—well, in case anything happens. I am not sure that anything will happen. We shall also table a minor amendment to extend the Bill to Northern Ireland, and an amendment on the date of commencement.
We give the Bill our full support. I am sorry that we cannot wrap it up today with the amendments, but I believe that Members will have no difficulty in supporting the amendments when they see them, and that all those who support the principle of the Bill will be pleased that we can move it forward.