Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I remind the Committee that with this we are discussing the following amendments: No. 47, in clause 14, page 8, line 16, leave out ‘A direction’ and insert ‘guidance’.
No. 48, in clause 14, page 8, line 17, leave out ‘specify’ and insert ‘suggest’.
No. 49, in clause 14, page 8, line 19, leave out ‘specify’ and insert ‘suggest’.
No. 50, in clause 14, page 8, line 24, leave out ‘A direction’ and insert ‘guidance’.
No. 52, in clause 14, page 8, line 39, leave out ‘A direction’ and insert ‘guidance’.
No. 73, in clause 18, page 11, line 13, leave out subsections (2) and (3).
I am happy to give way again to my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner).
That question would be better addressed to the Minister than to me.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer, but my question is a rhetorical one. The Minister has given assurances on his own behalf and he is unlikely to speak again on the amendment, but I am not clear whether his assurances, which are of some significance to our interpretation of the Government’s intentions, apply similarly when the powers are exercised by the bodies listed in subsection (4).
My hon. Friend, in his customary way, makes an extremely good point.
We listened to what the Minister had to say on the subject and I return to the point that we are charged with making legislation that stands the test of time. Regardless of the present Secretary of State’s intentions on whether to use the powers, we must see the legislation as a very different Secretary of State might see it. We have already heard that the Community Fund did not have the powers that will be vested in the Big Lottery Fund. The Minister tried to sell that as a piece of housekeeping, arguing that by wrapping up the New Opportunities Fund and the Millennium Commission into the Big Lottery Fund, it could assume those powers. There is definitely an increase in the powers of the Secretary of State.
As has been the case throughout these deliberations, we are being asked to take a lot on trust. I am happy to take a certain amount on trust, but it is my job to ensure that the Bill can stand up to close examination. I return to the law of unintended consequences: in the hands of someone less honourable than the current Secretary of State, the whole process of control could be ratcheted up, severely restricting the controls, freedom and flexibility of the distributors, which the Minister argues he is keen on.
I thought at the beginning of the Minister’s response to the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) that he was nodding his assent—indeed, his head was nodding so vigorously that he reminded me of one of those dogs on the back shelf of a car. Given his other hat as the Minister for Sport, it was probably an old sports injury rather than an indication of assent. As is always the case, I was prepared to listen to the right hon. Gentleman, who was no doubt going to either give a reasonable explanation of why the Bill should be kept as it is, or concede ground to us. I believe neither to be the case, so I have no option but to press the amendment to a Division.
With this it will be convenient to discuss the following amendments: No. 59, in clause 14, page 8, line 35, leave out
‘obtain the Secretary of State’s consent’ and insert
‘consult the Secretary of State’.
No. 54, in clause 14, page 8, line 38, at end insert—
‘(3A)A direction under this section may not relate to the management and control of money received by the Fund.’.
No. 64, in clause 14, page 9, line 16, leave out ‘consult’ and insert ‘obtain the consent of’.
No. 65, in clause 14, page 9, line 17, leave out ‘obtain the consent of’ and insert ‘consult’.
These amendments cover similar territory to the amendments to the powers of direction that we have just debated and the amendments to the powers of prescription in clause 7 that we debated long and hard the day before yesterday.
Amendment No. 53 would remove the Secretary of State’s ability to direct the management and control of money received by the fund. Amendment No. 59 would remove the power of the Secretary of State to demand the Big Lottery Fund’s consent on various matters in her direction. Amendment Nos. 54 and 64 suggest that the Secretary of State should obtain the consent of the Big Lottery Fund before giving a direction. I do not suppose that that will be greeted with any great enthusiasm by the Minister. Lot 65—sorry, I thought for a moment that I was doing a charity auction. I have made that mistake before. Mind you, Mr. Gale, the amendments are not for sale. Amendment No. 65 is similar to the preceding amendment.
The Opposition are being consistent in our attempts to weaken the ability of the Secretary of State to direct where the money can go, and certainly to remove the Secretary of State’s ability to direct the management and control of the money received by the fund. We suggest in our amendments that the requirement should be to consult the Secretary of State, rather than to obtain his or her consent.
I do not intend to repeat the arguments that I advanced in relation to the previous group of amendments, but I should like to put to the Secretary of State a question relating to the assurances that he gave in the House and that we have heard repeated in Committee about the use to which he intends to put the directions. It is the question that I asked in my intervention on my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) during debate on the previous group of amendments.
What is the status of the Secretary of State’s assurances in relation to those bodies that are mentioned in subsection (4) of new section 36E of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993? We are legislating not only for England, but for the United Kingdom. It is proposed to hand powers that in England are exercised by the Secretary of State, with the assurances that he has given us, to devolved bodies and in some cases to Ministers in devolved bodies without any clear set of assurances. What discussions has the Secretary of State had and what assurances has he been given by the devolved bodies mentioned in subsection (4) that the assurances that he has given to us apply equally in respect of those bodies?
Indeed, but I am still a Minister of State—a paid one.
The amendments all relate to the directions that will be issued to the Big Lottery Fund under new section 36E(3)(a) of the 1993 Act, which is inserted by clause 14 of the Bill. Amendments Nos. 53, 54 and 59 relate to the financial directions that the Secretary of State will issue to the Big Lottery Fund. Amendment No. 53 would delete new section 36E(3)(a), which provides that directions issued to the fund may relate to the management and control of money received by the fund. Amendment No. 54 would go further, adding a new subsection to section 36E stating explicitly that directions to the fund may not relate to such matters. Amendment No. 59 would require the Big Lottery Fund to consult the Secretary of State rather than seek her consent before taking actions of a specified kind.
I hope that the hon. Member for East Devon will forgive me if I say that I am somewhat confused by the amendments. Under section 21 of the 1993 Act, the Secretary of State is responsible for the control and management of the national lottery distribution fund. That is why under section 26 of the 1993 Act all lottery distributors are required to comply with any directions that she considers appropriate for securing the proper management and control of money paid to the body.
The financial directions will incorporate financial controls similar to those that apply to all non-departmental public bodies, so they are financial memorandums. They may require a distributor to obtain the consent of the Secretary of State before doing anything specified, or of a description specified, in the directions. The requirements in section 26 of the 1993 Act are exactly the same as those placed on the Big Lottery Fund by new section 36E(3)(a) and (d)(ii). For example, existing financial directions require distributors to seek approval for the controlling systems that they maintain to prevent and detect fraud.
I see no reason why the Big Lottery Fund should be treated differently from any other lottery distributor. After all, as I said before, the Secretary of State must be able to protect public money by ensuring that all distributors comply with basic financial and operational good practice. As she cannot devolve her accountability to Parliament, it is essential that she alone has the power to issue financial directions to ensure consistency across the UK. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman does not disagree and I ask him not to press the amendments.
Amendments Nos. 64 and 65 would provide that before directions are given about Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland devolved expenditure, the devolved Administrations must obtain the consent of the Big Lottery Fund and consult the Secretary of State. As the Bill stands, they must consult the fund and obtain the consent of the Secretary of State. The Bill represents a significant devolution of power to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Country committees will exercise the fund’s functions in respect of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland expenditure, operating under policy directions issued by the relevant country, but there must be a balance between devolution and the proper management of what remains a UK-wide lottery. It is therefore right that directions should be issued by the devolved Administrations only with the consent of the Secretary of State.
New section 36E(3)(a) states:
“A direction under this section may... relate to the management and control of money received by the Fund”.
No. We are taking exactly the same approach. Such provision is not just about lottery funds; it is about the financial management of NDPBs across the board. That is a fairly standard format to ensure accountability to Parliament through the Secretary of State. There are two routes of accountability: via the chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, as he is the accounting officer and accountable to Parliament through the Public Accounts Committee and the National Audit Office; and directly to Parliament through the Secretary of State—we are dealing with the financial powers of the Secretary of State.
Obtaining the consent of the fund is not a requirement in any of the directions issued to the Big Lottery Fund or to the other funds in existing legislation. I cannot see any reason to make a special case here. In the light of my explanation, I hope that the hon. Member for East Devon will withdraw the amendment.
I have listened hard to the Minister and take on board the points he made about amendments Nos. 53, 59 and 54, but I am concerned that he has not answered the points raised on amendment No. 64. I will not press amendments No. 53, 59, 54 and 65, but I shall seek a Division on amendment No. 64.
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.
Question accordingly negatived.
The Chairman, beingof the opinion that the principle of the clause and any matters arising thereon had been adequately discussed in the course of debate on the amendments proposed thereto, forthwith put the Question, pursuant to Standing Orders Nos. 68 and 89, That the clause stand part of the Bill:—
On a point of order, Mr. Gale. There have been some doubts about a quotation in Hansard and perhaps it would be appropriate for me to respond to the question raised by the hon. Member for East Devon this morning. I had not then had time to read Hansard, but I would like to refer to the question raised about appointments made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State—
Order. I understand the Minister’s request, but I have to tell him that he would be out of order were to do that. It is of course perfectly open to the Minister to write to the hon. Gentleman and to place his opinion on the record in that way, but he cannot do it here and now.