New Clause 1 - GUIDANCE TO DISTRIBUTING BODIES

Part of National Lottery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 1:15 pm on 3rd November 2005.

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Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 1:15 pm, 3rd November 2005

I am not prepared to go down that road for the reasons that I gave. I can just imagine the hon. Gentleman and I arguing the matter in court. If there was a definition, the result would be one constituent versus one lottery fund in a lawyers’ paradise. The discussion this afternoon shows the reasons why we do not want to define the term in any way.

Let me proceed, because what I say should be genuinely helpful to the Committee and the House and will make sure that debates about additionality can be taken in the round, and not focus on the specific. If we get down to specific cases, such as cancer services or a school playground, there is a danger of litigation. We politicians are setting out a broad framework, which it is for distributors, not politicians, to operate. The distributors are arm’s length bodies whose members are appointed because of their knowledge, skills and wisdom to distribute funds in the way that our consultation on the lottery demands.

A definition would result in bureaucracy, which would require distributors to fund only projects that fell within a strict and necessarily narrow definition and would negate the many improvements that have allowed distributors to offer excellent joint schemes such as awards for all, which offers simplified applications and quicker decision-making processes designed to encourage those who are most in need to apply and to benefit. I firmly believe that distributors must have the flexibility to support innovative projects and the opportunity to get involved in something to which they can really add value. Trying to anticipate   what sort of projects might be supported necessarily results in the imposition of restrictions limiting the extent to which they can add value.

The new clause proposes that the Government be required to consult specific bodies, including not-for-profit organisations—a very general term. It also requires the Government to have regard to the 1998 compact on relations between the Government and the voluntary and community sector in England. By so doing, the new clause proposes legislation in an area in which we believe it is simply not necessary. Distributors and the Government already consult widely—even more widely than is anticipated under proposed new subsection (2) of the new clause, which I see does not include members of the public. As I have said previously, our aim is to adhere fully to the 1998 compact. That is why I recently met representatives from the voluntary and community sector to explain how the new arrangements will work and, in particular, how we will preserve additionality.

My officials and representatives of the lottery distributors already meet and consult widely with the voluntary and community sector. That is not a sham; it is real consultation. Recently, as well as holding one-to-one consultations we have tried to make sure that the consultation is as wide and as informed as possible. We are indebted to a number of voluntary and community sector representatives for assisting the Big Lottery Fund-led project team by commenting on and testing an improved website and helpline facilities for potential lottery grant applicants. We are trying to ensure that there is a one-stop shop and that the process is much more user-friendly. Their input will help to ensure that the new facilities, which are to be launched early next year, meet the needs of those whom they are intended to benefit.

The new clause would also require distributors to report from time to time on how they are taking such matters into account. We are already working with distributors to ensure that failed applicants get the feedback they want on their applications and that the criteria for successful grant applications are made clear when programmes are launched.

At the meeting between the voluntary and community sector and myself to which I referred earlier, the chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund, Stephen Dunmore, agreed to produce an annual report showing how the additionality principle had been observed. We had an extensive discussion around the table in my office. Concerns were expressed then, and have been again in our debate today. Stephen Dunmore said that he would produce an annual report, which I have agreed will go before both Houses of Parliament and which will be a well-founded source of information that can be used by individuals, by Select Committees and by hon. Members for scrutiny.

Having the matter quantified in the broad annual report is a step in the right direction. One swallow does not make a summer; we have to be careful not to predicate the whole of a policy on one isolated case. We are trying to produce an annual report that, in the round, shows how funds have been used for good causes and how they are additional to other   expenditure. Stephen Dunmore is keen to ensure that that happens and it is important to the lottery’s integrity.