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I take this opportunity to welcome you to the Chair, Mr. Gale, although I made reference to your chairmanship earlier. I shall seek to persuade the Committee to vote against clause 13 standing part of the Bill. I do so with considerable reluctance because, as I said earlier in response to the tirade that the Minister unleashed on the hon. Member for East Devon, I have very high regard for Sir Clive Booth and the team currently working with him on what has become called the Big Lottery Fund. I have no doubt that they will do phenomenally good work.
However, we are talking not about individuals but about a Government proposal. The first thing that strikes me is how odd it is to be here debating whether we should vote to allow the establishment of the Big Lottery Fund when, as everybody knows, it already exists and has done so for a long time. Indeed, we have received briefings from a body called the Big Lottery Fund, with a nice pink logo. We have noticed that it appears to have a website—www.biglotteryfund.org.uk—and a big advice line, which has been up and running for some time. It even produces a magazine called “The Big Times”. I am sure that you are an avid reader, Mr. Gale. If not, I am sure that it will not be long before it features as one of the publications on “Have I Got News For You”.
The Big Lottery Fund, the body that we are discussing whether to establish under the clause, was formally launched way back on 1 June 2004. That seems extremely odd. That is not to say that I am critical of the work being done by the organisation that has been masquerading as the Big Lottery Fund. Nevertheless we must ask ourselves whether we are entirely happy with the existence of that body.
Had the Minister been more willing to accept some of the amendments that were moved earlier today, I might have taken a different view about whether to support the clause. The Minister told us yesterday during Culture, Media and Sport questions:
yet today we have been debating at some length the fact that the Government are taking considerably more powers in respect of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund than before. I will give the Minister some examples in a second, because he is looking puzzled.
The starter for 10 in all of this is whether we are happy with the continuation of one part of what is to be the Big Lottery Fund, namely the New Opportunities Fund. I am sure that you will be well aware of this, Mr. Gale, because you were a critic of the NOF’s establishment, as were all your colleagues and mine. We are carrying through into the Big Lottery Fund something about which we had deep concerns.
The Minister had an opportunity to allay manyof those concerns with new definitions of “charity” and the removal of certain powers of direction by the Secretary of State, but he chose not to do that. He said that our concerns about the NOF will continue into the Big Lottery Fund. Indeed, he will go further. He said yesterday that no additional powers were being taken on. Yet, although we are not debating clause 14—I fully appreciate that—it describes the function of the body that is to be set up by clause 13 and the directions given by the Secretary of State.
We will have an opportunity to discuss this in more detail later, but I remind the Committee of the precise powers of the Secretary of State over the body. Section 36E in clause 14 states:
“In exercising any of its functions the Big Lottery Fund shall comply with any direction given to it by the Secretary of State (subject to subsection (4)).”
It goes on to say that a direction under this section may
“(a)specify persons to whom the Fund may or may not make grants or loans;
(b)specify purposes for which the Fund may or may not make grants or loans;
(c)relate to the process used to determine what payments to make;
(d)relate to the terms and conditions on which the Fund makes grants or loans.”