National Lottery Bill
January 19, 2006
Mr. Mark Field: The hon. Gentleman will be glad that I am here to protect the honour of my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron). The hon. Gentleman has rightly quoted the transcript, but my right hon. Friend continued his remarks to Mr. Naughtie on the "Today" programme by saying:
"Jim, I can’t pre-judge it because I’m having a meeting with the Prince’s Trust and the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme and the National Union of Teachers are coming in".
The lottery was one of a number of options that my right hon. Friend put forward in that interview for funding the national school leaver programme. No commitment has been made that contradicts our proposals in new clause 2.
Mr. Mark Field : Under new clause 2, we would introduce into the National Lottery Act 1993 a requirement to consider the additionality principle. I was very interested to hear what the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) had to say?we would very much support new clause 1 in any vote, if one is necessary?but I should like to explore one area with him, and perhaps the Minister will take my observation on board. Are there any circumstances in which certain projects could be paid for partly from the lottery and partly from Government expenditure? It was not entirely clear whether that could be possible with certain projects?for example, large-scale research. Again, we need to have a sense of transparency. We worry that too much in the Bill is entirely opaque.
We propose a definition of additionality in new clause 2, which states that
"funding should not be provided for the provision of services, benefits, and capital works which would usually be provided by government".
New clause 2 goes somewhat further than new clause 1. The first subsection of our new clause would apply that principle to the distributing bodies when distributing money or making or reviewing their strategic plans. The second subsection would apply the same principle to the Secretary of State or his Ministers when making directions to the Big Lottery Fund or other distributing bodies under section 36E of the 1993 Act.
As has become apparent, there is a plethora of new distributing bodies?Sports Council-related bodies, those related to the arts and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and so on. From the national lottery’s inception, the Government have stated their commitment to the principle of additionality during the debates that took place when the lottery was being established and in those that have taken place since May 1997.
Mr. Field: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. However, in fairness, we were trying to appreciate the fact that there are grey areas at times. We would like to think that the issue was entirely straightforward, but our contention is that that grey area has been greatly abused by the way in which the Government have sought to allow the Big Lottery Fund to make its own distributions.
As the hon. Gentleman rightly says, if we were to use the word "always", the provision could be open to all sorts of abuse. Indeed, the Government might be given an opportunity to walk away very happily from certain obligations. They could rely entirely on funding those obligations from lottery funds. We used the word "usually" to try, as far as possible, to adopt a pragmatic approach, while recognising that grey areas of expenditure may arise sometimes. Such financial provision might be covered generally by lottery funding, but also by Government expenditure?we are trying to get that balance right. Our contention?I think it is also that of the Liberal Democrats?is that we have not got that balance entirely right and that, recently, a coach and horses has been driven through the original idea and the original causes of the 1993 Act.
In the 1992 White Paper, in which the national lottery was initially suggested, it was stated that the lottery would fund only projects additional to those that would otherwise be funded by the public through general taxation. In written evidence to the fifth report of 2003?04 of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport defined the principle of additionality as not allowing lottery funding to
"become a substitute for funding that would normally fall into mainstream Government spending" and stated that it "remains firmly committed to that principle."
The Select Committee’s report on the reform of the national lottery said:
"Many witnesses told the Committee that the principle of additionality was becoming increasingly eroded."
Obviously, those witnesses are experts in the field. It continued:
"The Lottery Council told us that ‘additionality is something we take a strong line on, and we think that that line is getting blurred’ and that ‘there is a great deal of concern about the erosion of the additionality principle.’ The NCVO believed that ‘Lottery funding should be independent from Government but accountable to Parliament; that is should be additional to what should be properly spent by Government and not a substitute for it.’ It was concerned that that was not happening."
The Select Committee therefore found in its conclusion that the additionality principle was being eroded, and it deplored that erosion in paragraph 165 of the report to which I referred.
We believe that it is necessary to include provisions on additionality in the Bill. New clause 2 would do that in a practical fashion by requiring distributing bodies and the Secretary of State to have regard to the principle when exercising their relevant functions under the Bill.
We contend that the Government have betrayed the lottery’s founding principles by using lottery money for spending that should have come from taxes. Only this morning, as the hon.
Member for Bath pointed out, the right-of-centre Centre for Policy Studies?[Interruption.] It is Conservative supporting, at least. The centre called for a stop to the Government’s "larceny" and "plundering". Perhaps we would not use such emotive terms in this era of modernised Conservative thinking, but none the less there is little doubt that lottery money has been used, and increasingly will be used, to bail out the Government on some of their spending plans.
We fear that if the Bill that is passed does not address additionality, we will simply entrench and extend the use of lottery funds for matters that should be met out of general taxation. As I am sure that the Minister will point out, there are sometimes grey areas regarding lottery expenditure, and it was thus difficult to couch the new clauses in exact terms. However, it is also clear that we have moved significantly away from the founding principles of the lottery.
We believe that the Labour Government are, via the Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, imposing on distributing bodies a mandatory policy direction that is in line with Government objectives. For example, a significant proportion of Heritage Lottery Fund grants are awarded to schemes that can show a measurable contribution towards addressing social and economic deprivation. We have no objection to the idea of addressing that problem, but we must question whether lottery money should be expended in such a way.
I was advised only this week by Trevor Watkins of Leonard Cheshire that a concentration on specific areas of the United Kingdom for eligibility has led to unnecessary duplication in bureaucracy for charities that work throughout the UK. The absence of a UK-wide Big Lottery Fund will mean that multiple applications for grants under the lottery will be required, which could be wasteful and create a strong disincentive for small nationwide charities to apply for funds to which they would otherwise be entitled.
I was sorry that the hon. Member for Bath stole my thunder by citing an entire quotation from the former Prime Minister, Sir John Major, during whose premiership the lottery was founded. However, I shall reiterate a few of those words. Sir John Major rightly said:
"When the Lottery Bill was going through Parliament, the Labour Opposition was at pains to stress the importance of government keeping an arms-length relationship from the Lottery and, in particular, grant distribution. But, since it took power, Labour has diverted Lottery funding into areas that have historically been funded by the Exchequer."
We tabled new clause 2 as an attempt to row back from that regrettable tendency, which undermines many of the objectives that are close to the hearts of the many millions of our fellow countrymen who play the national lottery. I hope that the Minister will give serious consideration to not only new clause 2, but new clause 1. We await his views with interest, but unless we are entirely satisfied, I give notice that we will press the matter to a Division.
Mr. Mark Field: In that context, will the Minister answer the point that I made in my initial comments in relation to the Leonard Cheshire homes? Because the charity is a UK-wide body, it would have a single template and thus avoid multiple applications for Big Lottery Fund distribution, but the nature of the distribution and the other giving is such that there are many small, quite regionalised award-giving bodies, which makes it necessary for such a charity to duplicate its paperwork many times over for the various applications, instead of making a single UK-wide application. Is there any proposal to do away with such wasteful duplication?
Mr. Mark Field: May I say that I agree with the Minister? St. Paul’s is in my constituency and I have had dealings with people there. I have also worked with people at St. Martin in the Fields, which in recent years received a very large grant. There were parallels between those cases, but it was accepted that St. Paul’s would need to reassess its application.
The Minister has described the process of giving information, but will he confirm that it will involve more than simply rubbishing press reports? The process should not be merely reactive?information should be made available regularly and proactively, to ensure that the spirit of new clause 3 and amendment No. 13 is retained.
Mr. Mark Field: I must confess that, not having served on the Standing Committee, it seems somewhat superfluous to refer to what happened 15 years ago. I am sure that the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and the other hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee will tell me otherwise, but I am sure that this is an entirely uncontroversial Government amendment. Perhaps I speak for myself on that matter, and perhaps we shall hear a longer speech from the hon. Gentleman before too long. The Government amendment obviously seems sensible. Their draftsmen no doubt have in mind a belt-and-braces approach. I do not think any great concern has been raised, and I therefore hope that we shall move swiftly on to the next group of amendments.
Mr. Mark Field: I beg to move amendment No. 2, in page 5, line 14, leave out ‘prescribed’.
Mr. Field: [Interruption.] And people say that there is no bugging in the House.
May I take this opportunity to thank the Minister for his earlier kind words about my new Front-Bench role? We have a number of things in common. We are both keen football fans?a rarity, perhaps, among Opposition Members, but less so among Labour Members. The Minister might not recall that I first met him some years before I was elected to the House at the erstwhile ground of Reading football club?my home town?at Elm Park. Unfortunately, Reading have remained a thorn in the side of Sheffield United, and I suspect that they will remain so for much of this season, as they both try to get into the premiership next year. Good luck to the Blades and good luck obviously to the Royals as well.
The Minister and I also have another thing in common: we share a birthday.
It may be obvious that he is a few years older than me. Suffice it to say that he came of age on the day that I was born, and of course coming of age in 1964?the year that I was born?was a somewhat different proposition to what it may be today. There is one other Member of the House with whom we share a birthday, although he does not attend regularly: the hon. Member for Belfast, West (Mr. Adams). Suffice it to say that if I grow a beard, we will be almost indistinguishable as a trio of people born on 6 October. However, enough of this frivolity, Mr. Deputy Speaker, let me turn to amendments Nos. 2 and 3.
A major theme of the Bill is the way in which the Secretary of State is taking more power over lottery expenditure than she has at present. Worry about that was expressed on Second Reading and in Committee, and it is one of the reasons why we have tabled the amendments. Section 22 of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 sets out the division of funds among good clauses. Clause 7(2)(b) of the Bill will merge the charitable, health, education and environmental pots for the purposes of creating the Big Lottery Fund. However, that sum is allocated for "prescribed expenditure", rather than expenditure that falls simply within the specific categories set out in section 22 of the 1993 Act. The expenditure is, of course, prescribed by the Secretary of State by order.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 would remove the Secretary of State’s ability to prescribe expenditure in such a way. The Big Lottery Fund should be able to spend on any matter that its objects allow, rather than be limited to the pet projects of any Secretary of State.
We have in mind a situation in which there is discretion in the hands of the distributor, instead of a mandatory stick of compliance that is wielded by the Secretary of State.
The Bill sets out clearly and transparently the purposes of Big Lottery Fund expenditure, but we do not think that that should be narrowed down by the Secretary of State’s orders. We will run the risk of that happening unless the amendments are accepted. While the Secretary of State has powers over spending due to sections 25 and 26 of the 1993 Act, the prescribed expenditure is a new and further way of directing funds. We find the proposal objectionable and think that we need some means of overturning it. In summary, amendments Nos. 2 and 3 would put the Big Lottery Fund in the same position as other distributing bodies and remove the prospect of the Secretary of State being able to override it. We may return to that matter later in the debate.
Amendment No. 4 would apply to charitable and voluntary groups that are not charities. It would put in the Bill the assurance that the Minister gave on Second Reading that some 60 to 70 per cent. of Big Lottery Fund expenditure would go to voluntary or community groups. We decided that as the Minister is a generous man and he intended to provide reassurance to those groups, we would pitch for the higher figure of 70 per cent. in amendment No. 4.
On Second Reading, the Minister said:
"I acknowledge that some have said that a Big Lottery Fund could lead to voluntary and community sector organisations losing out. I can give a categorical assurance that that will not happen . . . The Big Lottery Fund has given a clear undertaking that 60 to 70 per cent. of its funding will go directly to the sector."?[Official Report, 14 June 2005; Vol. 435, c. 170.]
It was thus somewhat disappointing that the Minister resisted such an amendment in Committee, when he said:
"As that undertaking has been given by the boards of the Community Fund and the New Opportunity Fund, not the Government, it would not be appropriate to enshrine it in the Bill"
"It is not for the Government to decide whether it is 60 or 70 per cent.; it is a decision for the Big Lottery Fund."?[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 25 October 2005; c. 40.]
As I pointed out when I spoke to amendments Nos. 2 and 3, we want to ensure that the Big Lottery Fund has proper discretion. Given the assurances that were made on Second Reading, I hope that the Minister will accept amendment No. 4.
Indeed, on Second Reading, the Minister said:
"I give a guarantee that between 60 and 70 per cent. of the Big Lottery Fund’s income will go to communities or charities."
In case there was any mistake, his ministerial colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), said in the same debate:
"We guarantee that between 60 and 70 per cent. of Big Lottery Fund grants will go to the voluntary sector"?[Official Report, 14 June 2005; Vol. 435, c. 175, 218.]
A Government guarantee was given to the House on Second Reading. Both Ministers who spoke in the debate made it clear that the matter was for the Government to decide, which is why amendment No. 4 should be accepted.
Amendment No. 5 is designed to add to the persons?bodies representing the voluntary sector?who need to be consulted before the Secretary of State prescribes expenditure. It is based on proposals by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, which helped the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to prepare for our discussion on Report. I shall also give it credit where credit is due at a later point. I understand that the hon. Members for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) and for Bath (Mr. Foster) put their names to the amendment in Committee.
Whether particular voluntary organisations or their projects will be able to obtain grants from the Big Lottery Fund will depend on whether their activities are within the expenditure prescribed by the Secretary of State. She should therefore identify representative bodies and ensure that she consults them before making such important decisions.
There has been concern about consultation on lottery issues. The NCVO concludes:
"the Department for Culture, Media and Sport . . . and its affiliates have frequently ignored or overlooked"
a range of bodies that perhaps should have been consulted. I appreciate that the charitable and voluntary sector in particular is in a constant state of flux, with bodies starting up, closing down or amalgamating at any one time.
It will be difficult to keep a rigorous list of those groups that should be consulted, but concern has been reiterated by a number of bodies about whether there has been sufficient consultation. On that basis, I hope that considerable thought will be given to what we are trying to do to ensure that a proper and comprehensive consultation process takes place.
We want agreement on the consultation between the DCMS and the voluntary and community sectors. The NCVO gave a specific example. It felt that there was
"A series of failures over an 18 month period by the DCMS to consult with the voluntary sector in a meaningful or clear way in regards to the proposed merger of the Community Fund and NOF."
On multiple occasions during that period there were also breaches of its consultation code. Many of us, as constituency Members, will have anecdotal evidence of that. Many of my residents and local groups are concerned about another aspect of the DCMS?the royal parks. They think that they should be consulted from time to time and feel outside the consultation loop. As I said, I appreciate that rigorous consultation is difficult when a large number of groups is set up and amalgamated, but it should be given proper consideration.
I again thank the NCVO for its assistance in helping us to propose amendment No. 11. Clause 14 covers the functions of the Big Lottery Fund, including the power to distribute funds and to give advice, and the policy and financial direction of the fund. The amendment would ensure that the statutory framework for the new distributor more accurately reflected the statutory framework of the former distributors. The Community Fund was required only to take account of such policy directions while the New Opportunities Fund was required to comply. Since its creation in 1993, the Community Fund has been required to take account of matters concerning grant making and the conditions under which the money is distributed by the Secretary of State. That should continue with the amalgamation of the funds into the Big Lottery Fund. We are suggesting that we have continuity in the manner in which the issues are debated.
There was concern among voluntary and community sector organisations at the time of the merger that the new distributor would more closely resemble the New Opportunities Fund than the Community Fund, representing a significant increase in Government control of funding for the charitable good cause. In Committee, the Minister said:
"We are combining NOF with the Community Fund and the Millennium Commission in the Big Lottery Fund, and we are taking no more powers than already exist under NOF."?[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 27 October 2005; c. 112.]
In oral questions as recently as 24 October last year and elsewhere, assurances were given that the Big Lottery Fund would not be subject to any greater powers of direction than its former distributors. It now transpires, however, that that means no greater powers of direction than were given to the New Opportunities Fund. Had that been mooted at the time of the merger, it would probably not have received such overwhelming backing from the voluntary and community sector, and certainly not from the NCVO.
In its submission to DCMS in June 2003, the NCVO stated:
"The Secretary of State currently has the power to specify the initiatives to which NOF will give effect (i.e. the programmes which it is required to run) . . . To strengthen the independence of the new body and the additionality of its funding"?
I will not reopen our earlier debates on that subject, but the submission refers to the additionality of funding "both actual and perceived". Perception is important, as we discussed in relation to the last amendment. The submission said that, to strengthen the independence of the new body and the additionality of its funding
"there should be no comparable powers in the legislation setting up the new body."
Concerns about the New Opportunities Fund will multiply unless we use the words "take account of" instead of "comply with".
I hope that the Minister accepts that perception is important. The lowest common denominator?perhaps, from the Government’s point of view, it is the highest common factor?means that there will be more Government control, which is not healthy. The NCVO submission to DCMS in June 2003 said:
"NOF only has the scope to consult on the way in which initiatives will be administered, not on what those initiatives will be. This is in contrast to the Community Fund which has the freedom to set its own strategic direction, priorities and programmes, following consultation with stakeholders, including the Secretary of State, albeit within broad Policy Directions.
The new body should be given the freedom and independence, in particular from government, to set its own strategic direction, priorities and programmes after consultation, within a broad framework set by the legislation and Policy Directions."
The control afforded to the Secretary of State in clause 14 as currently drafted threatens to undermine the independence of the Big Lottery Fund.
It is vital that lottery distributors remain free from Government interference but accountable to Parliament. Research shows that the public are strongly in favour of the national lottery, particularly if it remains independent of the Government. Some 73 per cent. of respondents to an ICM opinion poll commissioned only last year said that an independent public body should decide how lottery money is spent. In Committee, hon. Members were provided with illustrative policy directions, and the Minister gave us the assurance that the Government have no intention of using those powers to intervene in individual grant decisions. Nevertheless, the future independence of lottery distributors cannot be guaranteed if those powers remain in the Bill. I hope that the Minister will consider our arguments carefully, as they are at the heart of several of our amendments and we intend to divide the House if we do not receive a satisfactory response.
Finally, with your consent, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I do not wish to press amendment No. 10. We have expressed concern that there is little reason to change the definition of charitable expenditure in section 44 of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993. There is certainly a good case for updating the guidance to ensure that it enables the new distributor to fund all the relevant organisations. However, my party takes seriously the work of organisations such as the Social Enterprise Coalition, whose representatives we have met on many occasions. The coalition’s opinion is that the new definition proposed by clause 19 will give the lottery much greater scope for funding social enterprises that would otherwise fall short of the definition and be outside the scope of a lottery award. We appreciate that the issue should be subject to further consultation so that we get it right, and I hope that the Minister can initiate such consultation before the Bill goes to another place. On that basis, although we do not seek to press amendment No. 10, we trust that the other amendments that my colleagues and I have tabled will receive further consideration.
Mr. Mark Field: I am afraid that that is wishful thinking on the part of the Minister.
First, I want to thank the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) for her kind words of welcome. Clearly, I am far too gallant to continue the conversation that I had with the Minister about ages. Suffice it to say, however, that the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire is the youngest Member of the House, and the only one to have been born in the 1980s. At some point in the future, a Member who was born in the 1980s will be seen as an old Member; perhaps she will be in that position in several decades’ time.
In relation to the amendments, I must confess that I am not terribly satisfied by the Minister’s responses. He made a robust case?as robust as he was in Committee?but we remain concerned about the excessive prescription and emphasis on compliance. Subject to your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker, we want to press amendments Nos. 2 and 11, about which we feel strongly, to the vote. We will not press the other amendments in the group to the vote.
Question put, That the amendment be made:?
he House divided: Ayes 174, Noes 262.
Mr. Mark Field : I beg to move amendment No. 8, in page 5, line 41, leave out clause 8.
Mr. Field: Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are designed to prevent a reallocation of funds that would result in current commitments not being kept or being delayed by force. The impact on projects of breaking commitments or delaying funding could be catastrophic.
Problems with lottery funding could also lead to a loss of matched funding, which would be disastrous for the distributors concerned.
We were delighted to receive backing from the National Campaign for the Arts in tabling these amendments. It recognises that the intention behind providing the power to transfer money between distributors is to encourage a reduction in balances, and we accept that there is no intention that this power be misused. It also recognises that there are powerful reasons both for and against providing the imperative drastically to reduce distributors’ balances. On the one hand, it is important that organisations receive money as quickly as possible; on the other, we should be wary of creating a situation in which distributors cannot be fully responsible for their financial planning. The uncertainty that that would create would be felt at the level of individual organisations, which could have the money allocated to their projects removed due to a transfer of money to another distributor.
In Committee, the Minister said that the Government had said that they would not exercise the power in a way that would threaten, or put into doubt, any commitment on the part of a distributor from which they proposed transferring a fund balance, and that he was happy to repeat that undertaking. We believe, however, that no convincing reason has been given as to why such a provision cannot be included in the Bill. We recognise that not all aspects of policy can, need or should be included in legislation. However, as the Minister is aware and as we said several times in Committee, the lottery is intended to promote and enable the good work carried out by thousands of organisations. They deserve no less than an absolute guarantee from the Government that promised funds will be delivered. We believe that Amendment No. 7 would secure that undertaking, and we ask all parts of the House to support it.
I appreciate that time is tight and that the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) would like to say a few words, so if I may I shall canter through our Amendments Nos. 6 and 8. The former seeks to change clause 8 by replacing the word "order" with "appropriate subsection of section 23."
Clause 8 enables the Secretary of State to reallocate funds to different bodies without changing the purpose of funding. For example, the Big Lottery Fund could be authorised to spend some of the money allocated for arts or national heritage, instead of Arts Council England or the National Heritage Memorial Fund doing so.
Section 23 of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 sets out the various distributing bodies. The Bill as originally drafted provided for distribution by a different body, as specified in section 23. Amendment No. 6 confines the ability to reallocate funds between distribution bodies to those that are in the same category, so reallocation could take place between Arts Council England and the Scottish Arts Council, for example, as both are included under section 23(1) of the 1993 Act. However, the amendment would not allow a reallocation from Arts Council England to, for example, the Big Lottery Fund.
We believe that there is no good reason why the BLF, which, as the Minister said only minutes ago, will have some 50 per cent. of the moneys in any event, should be able to redistribute the remaining arts, sports or heritage moneys. In practice, our amendment provides that the funds of the Heritage Lottery Fund and the national lottery charity fund cannot be reallocated. That is the right way forward, particularly given that the BLF will account for some 50 per cent. of all allocatable funds.
Amendment No. 9 would delete clause 9, which makes a change that, although apparently technical, will have a substantial impact on the good causes. Currently, the national debt commissioners invest moneys that are not immediately needed by distributing bodies, under section 32 of the 1993 Act. The interest received is paid back to the distributing body whose money it is.
Clause 9 will put that interest into a general lottery pot to be distributed among all the distributing bodies on the original proportionate basis. Those bodies funding projects with long lead-in times, such as major arts or heritage projects?like some of the projects in my constituency, which the Minister may have been too polite to mention earlier?will lose more interest on their funds than they will get back in the redistribution.
Clause 9 is an important mechanism for transferring money from heritage and lottery causes to the Big Lottery Fund, and imperils existing funding commitments. That was made clear in the Culture, Media and Sport Committee report on the reform of the national lottery. The Committee received significant evidence from the Heritage Lottery Fund that all the money currently held in the lottery national distribution fund, and £188 million extra, was not being badly managed but had already been allocated.
I hope that the Minister will give some thought to these amendments, as we are concerned about the reallocation proposals. I appreciate that time is tight, and that he might not be able to deal with all the points in full. If that is the case, he may prefer to do so in writing at some point. However, these are important issues and they go to the heart of the concern that the Secretary of State is gaining ever more power to prescribe. We believe that that is the wrong way to go.
Mr. Mark Field: We are asking only that the Minister ensure that the balances are reduced. That is what we want to happen, but we also want the interest balance to go to projects to which money has already been allocated, rather than into the Big Lottery Fund. That is the purpose behind the amendments.
Mr. Mark Field: It is a great pleasure to make my Front Bench debut speaking on the culture and arts brief. I noticed with horror, however, that in my previous incarnation as the shadow Minister for London and the shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury I confessed on my website to a cultural expertise that extended only to a passion for rock and pop music. I will have to do better in future.
Mr. Swire: It is a start.
Mr. Field: Indeed, but I will have to do better in future, not least because the Royal Opera house and the
Royal Albert hall are both in my constituency. As the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) and the Minister pointed out, the Bill’s passage has been long and drawn out. Second Reading took place as long ago as June, and the Committee stage meandered through October and November. As a conscientious Opposition, we have endeavoured to table reasonable amendments, and I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) and for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) for their sterling efforts in Committee.
While some progress has been made, we remain concerned about a number of provisions in the Bill that undermine the fundamental principles of the national lottery. We shall continue to oppose in the strongest terms the vastly increased Government control and direction over the distribution of lottery funds. It is unacceptable that money should be withheld from the original deserving causes to be channelled into areas for which state funding should be preserved.
Furthermore, the lottery was set up to improve the daily quality of life for all people in Britain by earmarking funds for activities that might otherwise be neglected in the everyday distribution of tax receipts.
In short, the flagrant breach of the additionality principle has fuelled the public’s faltering confidence in the lottery. Controversial awards are always meat and drink to an ever more voracious press, but a strict focus on directing lottery receipts to the arts, heritage, sport and charity would doubtless minimise such criticism.
Additionality is a principle that has been widely recognised, and political concern about it took up a significant part of our debates both on Report and in Committee. There is no doubt in our mind that the Big Lottery Fund has been used and, we presume, will continue to be used to replace core Government expenditure. We therefore sought to introduce a new clause that would provide a double lock in an effort to apply the principle that lottery money should not be spent on the services and works that are usually provided by Government. That applies not only to the Secretary of State in her activities but to the distributing bodies in their strategic plans. The additionality principle is central to all that is best about the national lottery, and it is highly regrettable that the Government have sought to flout it.
It was understood by Members on both sides of the House when the original lottery legislation proceeded through Parliament that Governments of whatever party should maintain an arm’s length relationship with lottery operations and, perhaps more important, all aspects of grant distribution. Since 1997, however, there has been a systematic and presumably focus group-led strategy to allocate lottery money to projects whose funding should be the responsibility of the Government. When the Millennium Commission was wound up in 2001, its one-fifth share of lottery funds was transferred to the New Opportunities Fund, thus accounting for one third of good causes money in health, education and the environment.
Inevitably, the strain on the public purse has resulted at the very least in the emergence of a grey area, with health and education funding for projects divided between departmental budgets and New Opportunities Fund expenditure. Expenditure on healthy living centres and a programme to provide cancer equipment in England has taken up almost £400 million of lottery resources, which has been spent on projects that, arguably, should be regarded as mainstream NHS responsibilities. The same applies to the information and communications technology training for teachers and the school librarians initiative and the out-of-school-hours learning programme, which account for a similar aggregate sum in education.
The Conservatives would like a more transparent system. The Big Lottery Fund has been charged over the past 18 months with the distribution of half the good causes money from the amalgamation of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund. We believe that the latter should be restored, and that by scrapping the Big Lottery Fund we would save some £450 million, which would be released annually for charities, sport, arts and heritage.
We appreciate the need for a special London Olympic lottery initiative before 2012, but otherwise we favour a system granting 25 per cent. of lottery funding to each of the four pillars of the lottery that I just mentioned. That would help restore confidence in a distribution process that has increasingly become discredited in the eyes of the general public. Indeed, the Conservatives estimate that the four original causes have missed out to the tune of £1.29 billion in the five years to 2004.
We remain doubtful of the Government’s wisdom in inserting clause 19 to widen the definition of charitable expenditure. We hope that a full debate will take place on the matter before the Bill goes to another place.
Where does the national lottery go from here? I have a small confession to make. I am one of the small minority of people who have never played the national lottery. [Hon. Members: "Shame!"] That is not because of my technical inexpertise, but I have always regarded it with a somewhat puritanical eye.
Mr. Caborn: I will take the hon. Gentleman to the nearest newsagent and help him fill in one of the lottery forms.
Mr. Field: I will accept that kind offer only if the Minister will also pay the £1 fee that is required for the purchase of such a ticket.
It has always struck me as somewhat perverse that the tabloid press pillories those who have earned large sums of money in business activity, in contrast to the tabloids’ championing of multimillion-pound lottery winners. Only last week in the national newspapers it was reported with distaste that thousands of workers in my City of London constituency were awaiting bonuses of £1 million or more, yet to earn similar sums or multiples of such sums by guessing six numbers on a national lottery ticket is regarded as legitimate and a desirable outcome.
Although I am not a supporter of what has become a highly progressive tax on lottery players, I believe that the House owes it to those who do play the game to promote transparency in what has become a national institution. Too much control over lottery distribution in the hands of the Secretary of State cannot be a sensible approach to a national lottery that is designed to serve all the people of this country. We shall take urgent steps to restore public confidence in our lottery by reducing both governmental and ministerial interference.