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Clause 7 - National Lottery Distribution Fund: apportionment

Part of National Lottery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:45 am on 25th October 2005.

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Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 10:45 am, 25th October 2005

The hon. Gentleman will know that language is everything, particularly, no doubt, in Glasgow, South.

Section 6(3) of the National Lottery Act 1998—I happen to have the relevant information in front of me—amended section 22 of the 1993 Act, which clause 7 will also amend. The 1998 Act mentions 16 and two thirds per cent.—I will not repeat each allocation, although we will argue why they were right as opposed to what is now proposed in relation to the Big Lottery Fund. It clearly says that 16 and two thirds per cent. shall be allocated for expenditure. Before that, section 22(2) of the 1993 Act stated:

''So much of the sum as the Secretary of State considers appropriate shall be allocated.''{**tw4**}

The difference between the Secretary of State's being able to consider what is appropriate and a guarantee that certain amounts of money will be allocated for expenditure is very different from 50 per cent. of lottery being allocated for prescribed expenditure. That is the kernel of the argument. One is guidance and the other is an instruction. That is the key to the debate, and the hon. Gentleman has done this Committee a favour by rightly putting his finger on it at an early stage.

The powers of prescription mark a fundamental difference between, on the one hand, the Opposition, the Liberal Democrats, almost the entire voluntary sector, and numerous other bodies and institutions, and on the other hand, the Government, who sit like Canute in a rising sea of opposition. They are oblivious to the clamouring of dissatisfaction with their Bill. Only yesterday, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations called on the Government to rethink their powers of control over the BLF, saying that the Bill

''compromises the independence of the BLF and its ability to make decisions free from Government interference.''

I alluded earlier to the fact that the Big Lottery Fund itself is nervous about the perception of Government control over its deliberations. Amendments Nos. 24 and 25 would place the BLF on a par with all other lottery distributors. The amendments are reasonable and would not adversely   affect the operations of the BLF, but simply give it more independence, which it would like very much.