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Clause 7 - National Lottery Distribution Fund: apportionment

Part of National Lottery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm 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 12:15 pm, 25th October 2005

Although my name is attached to amendment No. 27, I hope that at some stage the hon. Member for Bath will join in our deliberations; perhaps he will do so on this group of amendments.

This rather large group of amendments form another area of significant difference between us—I hope that that means Her Majesty's Opposition and the Liberal Democrats—and the Government. It concerns not only the powers of the Secretary of State over the Big Lottery Fund, but the exact degree to which the fund's expenditure should be charitable.

We have discussed my amendment to make all Big Lottery Fund expenditure charitable and we voted on that. I hope that we are now in more agreeable territory because, according to the Minister's previous statement, there is clear agreement on how much Big Lottery Fund expenditure should be charitable.

On Second Reading back in June, the Minister said that  

''between 60 and 70 per cent. of the Big Lottery Fund's income will go to communities or charities.''—[Official Report, 14 June 2005; Vol. 435, c. 175.]

Disagreements over the exact definition of charitable expenditure aside, I have a simple proposition for the Minister that would allow us to withdraw the amendment. Amendment No. 27 would simply take the commitment that the Minister made verbally in the House and other places and put it in the Bill. That having been his stated position, I do not see how he can now argue against it. If he does, he will only serve to confirm suspicions throughout the charitable sector that were aroused by his comments a few moments ago that his commitment will remain, at best, a vague one. The amendment, not surprisingly, has the strong support of the voluntary sector.

The Minister will say—indeed, he has said so—that it is adequate for him to put his commitment on the record. I fundamentally disagree with that. His commitment, if it is a commitment, must be enshrined in law if it is to be meaningful and lasting. He may, for example, find himself in a different position in the Government, even out of Government or in that other place to which I alluded earlier and be replaced by a Minister who did not make that verbal commitment. Who would then be accountable and who would ensure that the current Minister's commitment of 60 to 70 per cent. was reached? It is true that the commitment has also been made by the Big Lottery Fund board, but, technically, that is just the board and it is due to be replaced by 2009.

Not only should the commitment be in the Bill, there should also be a legislative framework for Parliament—not the Secretary of State—and the public to check that it is being met. That is why the amendments No. 94 and 95 would require the Big Lottery Fund to make clear how that 70 per cent. target is achieved. There is no need to miss those targets or to say that things did not happen in some way, because we propose that there will be an statement of accounts at each financial year. Amendment No. 95 states:

''prepare a statement in respect of each financial year detailing the sums allocated or loaned to charities or other institutions established for charitable, benevolent or philanthropic purposes.'.''

That is how we would ensure that the Minister's stated commitment, which we now want in the Bill, will be met under amendments Nos. 94 and 95.