§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read a Second time.11.47 am
§ Mr. Forth
Having said that, the question is whether that point applies simply to the Bill or to the context in which the Bill is promoted. Although the Bill focuses on a particular element of the availability of lottery funding, I am always nervous when there is apparent unanimity on a measure. That bothers me greatly. I am also nervous when, obviously with the best possible motives, Members seek to build on one particular worthy cause or case and then claim that that legitimises taking the matter more widely. The Bill's contents raise several much wider questions about which we should at least satisfy ourselves before we allow it to make progress. I suspect that the Bill will be given a Second Reading today, but enough has already been said by my hon. Friends and in my few remarks to suggest that it will need careful scrutiny in Committee and on Report.
The first question is the role of Government and taxpayer funding relative to moneys channelled through the lottery. That is not a new question, but we should keep a close eye on it.
When the lottery was set up, I remember well that the philosophy behind it was that lottery funding should be available for matters that did not or could not attract Government—I prefer to say taxpayer—funding. As the years have passed, however, the distinction has been constantly blurred—especially, it must be said, under the present Government—to such an extent that it is now almost non-existent. The Government are using—I might even say plundering—the substantial lottery funds to do many things that we have thought hitherto should be done with Government, or taxpayers', money.
§ Mr. Fabricant
My right hon. Friend has raised the important question of additionality. When the lottery was established, we looked at examples in France, where the state—the taxpayer—traditionally funds grandiose projects of a kind that we in this country do not generally fund, at least not since the Victorian era. When the millennium fund was set up, it was planned that on its closure the money would be distributed among the existing funds. Is he aware that it was this Government, and this Government only, who decided that the money—money normally spent by the taxpayer—should instead be spent on health and education?
§ Mr. Forth
I think that we should emulate very little of what happens in France, although one exception might be, funnily enough, the French health service. We should perhaps look closely at that, not least because it was recently rated the best health service in the world. It is odd that we do not take a closer look at what the French apparently do better than we do: there may be lessons to be learned.
My hon. Friend's point reinforces my concern. I understand, for example, that the new opportunities fund has already been used to finance a network of healthy living centres, out-of-schools learning, out-of-schools child care, information and communications technology 613 training for teachers and librarians, and the improvement of cancer prevention, detection and treatment. No one would claim that those were not the worthiest causes, but we must still ask why we have slid away from the proposition that the Government of the day should accept responsibility for such matters through, say, the national health service or the Department of Social Security. The Government look increasingly to lottery funds for those purposes, which is a radical departure from the philosophy that originally underpinned the lottery.
Let us leave aside the question of whether the lottery itself is a good or a bad thing. I think that we have largely finished with that argument, although there will always be echoes of it. We are now in danger of accepting that lottery funding is to be subsumed in general taxpayer, or Government, funding, and then used for what Ministers, bureaucrats or boards consider worthy purposes.
I say all this because I think that the Bill takes it for granted that the process is complete, and that there can be no further controversy about it. I am not ready to accept that proposition; I put it no higher than that. It appears to blur seriously the relative roles of Government and taxpayer, of the lottery and ticket buyers—what ticket buyers think is happening to their money is an important consideration—and of charities and community-based local activities. That last element was described eloquently by the hon. Member for Norwich, North. The Bill entails a risk of continued blurring of the distinction between those activities.
I have another reservation, which concerns the overall principle of endowment. That has been mentioned by other Conservative Members and, indeed, by the hon. Member for Norwich, North. It is apparently taken as read that endowment is a good thing, and the more we have of it the better. Whether private individuals who have taken out endowment policies, or endowment-linked policies, for their private provision would agree with that is an interesting question. Indeed, many hon. Members—probably more Labour than Conservative—have recently expressed reservations about endowment as a principle, mechanism or approach. I am not sure that it is as incontrovertibly beneficial as the Bill seems to suggest.
As has emerged from our exchanges so far, it is at least possible that from time to time, and in different circumstances, the endowment principle may not be appropriate. It may give rise to difficult choices and decisions. Given the money available to us for good causes now—I shall leave aside the source for the moment; I have already touched on that argument briefly—is it better to put a large proportion into an endowment from which we hope to receive a continuing beneficial income or to distribute those funds more widely among many causes for their immediate benefit? It is not self-evident that the endowment approach is necessarily better in all circumstances.
The hon. Member for Norwich, North said that, through his preferred mechanism, it would be possible to apply for an endowment and the decision involved would be exactly that—a decision. I merely say that, on the face of it, the decision will not necessarily be easy.
§ Dr. Gibson
Did the right hon. Gentleman understand what I was saying? I said that it was not a case of 614 "either/or"; both mechanisms were available, and the charities board, given its control, would decide whether the relevant endowment scheme, or any other scheme, was the best in the circumstances. We used the case of carers because it was obviously long term, but we are certainly not trying to prevent money from being spent quickly to benefit many people as he describes. Those are both mechanisms that we should use, and the board will control them.
§ Mr. Forth
I shall deal in a moment with whether the charities board, or indeed any board, is always the best authority to make such decisions.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman says, but it is the choice that causes the problem. To make sense, an endowment fund must involve a large sum, especially at times of low yield and low interest rates. All I am saying is that I would not like to have to decide whether to sink a large amount of lottery money into an endowment—however worthy the cause—or to provide it immediately, in much smaller amounts, for the benefit of a much wider range of equally good causes. That is a difficult choice, and I do not envy those who must make it. We are talking about a difficult choice, and not about something that is necessarily obvious.
§ Dr. Gibson
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that NESTA's endowment is invested by the national debt commissioners in a combination of cash and short-dated, fixed-interest United Kingdom Government issues? The mechanism already exists, regardless of whether it returns 5 or 10 per cent. annually. We therefore already operate a very successful national endowment fund, which is called NESTA. Although we shall see how it operates over time, it currently yields more than £10 million annually, which by any account is good news for investment in the projects that it supports. It supports, for example, young people who may require only £5,000 to conduct a short-term scientific experiment. We have to meet that type of need.
§ Mr. Forth
If one says it fairly quickly, £10 million sounds like a lot of money. However, let us examine the size of endowment fund necessary to yield that £10 million. I would guess that the sum is not unadjacent to £100 million, and may be even more than that. However, what could we do with the £100 million that is yielding the £10 million for the excellent causes that the hon. Gentleman (11 scribed? That is the nature of the decisions that we have to take.
§ Mr. Fabricant
I never like to criticise my right hon. Friend, especially for his arithmetic. However, he will be aware that interest rates currently yield 6 per cent. It is therefore more likely that £180 million would be required to yield that £10 million.
§ Mr. Forth
I always defer to my hon. Friend in such sophisticated matters. However, he reinforces the point that I am trying to make and illustrates the choice facing us.
Speaking of wisdom, it was my hon. Friend who mentioned the recent great millennium fiasco. That was, in a different guise, another of the lottery-funded good causes in which boards, bureaucrats and well-meaning people decided what to do with large lottery sums. The result was the dome and a wobbly bridge. That does not 615 gives me much confidence that the great, the good and the well-meaning and well-intentioned will always make the wise choices about how to use the money that those of us who assiduously buy lottery tickets—to say nothing of increasingly put-upon taxpayers—expect of them. Those elements are all combined in the Bill.
I recognise that the Bill is relatively limited in its scope and focused, for which I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Norwich, North. The Bill is, in a sense, uncontroversial in that it is shot through with motherhood and apple pie, which are the type of thing that appeal to the House. However, it also contains important questions that we should resolve before we rush forward.
I should like to flag up some issues to which we may have to give some attention later. Clause 1(2) states:the Charities Board may impose such conditions as they see fitin making a grant under section 38 of he National Lottery etc. Act 1993. Although I have no doubt that that is a proper approach to take, it places an enormous burden on the charities board to make appropriate and sensible decisions when it is granting the money. That could have considerable repercussions.
Mr. Anthony D. Wright
Even with that consideration taken into account, do not all the other lottery boards have the right to grant endowments`? Therefore, is it not anomalous that the National Lotteries Charities Board cannot do the same? The Bill is about remedying that anomaly.
§ Mr. Forth
I accept the hon. Gentleman's point. However, would not one approach be to remove that discretion from the other boards? If he is saying that we should make the charities board more like the Millennium Commission, I am not sure that I agree. I do not accept his assertion that, because the others do it, it is a jolly good idea for the charities board also to do it. For all I know, that might be a rotten idea. In fact, I suspect that, in some circumstances, it is a rotten idea.
I do not accept Labour Members' obsession with the one-size-fits-all approach, which they seem to like in the European Union and in all sorts of other things. I am a bit of a flexibility man myself. I like horses for courses. I like discretion and freedom. Such an approach therefore does not appeal to me. The hon. Gentleman, in trying to lead me down that road, asked, "Because the others do it, should not this board be able to do it?" To my mind, that is not a compelling argument.
As I said, the Bill states:the Charities Board may impose such conditions as they see fit".I should like to flag up an issue that may be more for Committee or Report—whether the board can subsequently alter those conditions if it sees fit, and in what circumstances.
Clause 1(2) also states:The Charities Board may acquire and dispose of land for the purpose of enabling them to exercise their functions under this section.I confess that such provisions always make me feel nervous. Although I shall for the moment leave to one side the matter of whether the Millennium Commission acquired the land on which the dome sits, or the dome itself, I am not convinced that it is necessarily a good thing that a body such as the charities board should be 616 able to become a landowner or landlord. That is not self-evidently wise in such cases. Indeed, I can imagine that there may be some circumstances in which such an arrangement could be grotesquely unwise.
§ Dr. Gibson
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that such an arrangement is not new, but already exists in the National Lottery etc. Act 1998?
§ Mr. Forth
Again, that does not make it good. If the hon. Gentleman is saying that just because something has happened, we must repeat it in his Bill, that may be his judgment, but it is not necessarily the right approach. There may have been errors from which we should learn. We should not seek to repeat a mistaken approach simply because it has been done before. I do not find that argument compelling. What worries me about bringing the ability to acquire and dispose of land into the provisions is that it introduces a greater permanence and inflexibility that may not be entirely desirable. Certain elements of the Bill need further consideration.
I am sure that the Bill should receive a Second Reading so that we can consider it in more detail. I hope that it receives proper scrutiny in Committee and on Report as it involves such large sums of money. The fact that it is lottery money does not make that less important. These days we have to be accountable not just for taxpayers' money, but for the disposition and use of lottery money because it is our money, although, as we have given it voluntarily through buying tickets, it is a slightly different category from taxpayers' money. Nevertheless the sums involved are very large indeed, so it is incumbent on us to satisfy ourselves as far as we reasonably can that there are mechanisms to ensure that the funds are properly disposed of and accountable and that the flexibility allowed to those who make the decisions is appropriate. Having said that, I shall watch the progress of the Bill with interest to see that we all discharge our duty to make sure that it is fit for the purpose for which it was intended.
§ 12.7 pm>
§ Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West)
It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth) in supporting the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson). I begin by apologising to the House for my absence at the start of the debate. I had to host a meeting between the Minister of State, Home Office, my right hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng) and my local authority in seeking to persuade my right hon. Friend of the rightness of Harrow's case for more funding for a CCTV bid.
I support my hon. Friend's Bill and welcome the fact that it seeks to close a loophole and allow the National Lottery Charities Board to make grants to endowments of charities and other organisations. I know that the background to the Bill is the difficulties faced by the "We Care" 2000 appeal in establishing and getting lottery funding for an endowment fund to support carers in Norfolk. I should like to mention another example of an excellent community project which may well benefit from an endowment fund provided by the National Lottery Charities Board and to support the purpose of my hon. Friend's Bill.
I have six or seven district centres in my constituency, all of which have a strong sense of community. The people of Pinner have had to endure the sight of West 617 house, a property that is surrounded by parkland, being in a dilapidated condition for much of the past 20 years. It is close to a residential area and the excellent West Lodge school. The fact that the premises have been dilapidated for so long undoubtedly spoils the amenity of the area. Clearly if West house could be brought back into community use it would be of enormous benefit to the people in the immediate environs of West house, the Pinner Memorial park and the school.
The house was originally owned by the Cutler family and was acquired by public subscription in the late 1940s as a memorial to the war dead of Pinner. The money was collected by subscriptions from local people, and there was a real sense of community ownership of the house.
The upstairs room was used as a shrine to the war dead, with a war memorial book recording on vellum the names of those who had perished in the two world wars. The rest of the house was used for a wide variety of community purposes, not least by the Workers Educational Association. It was also used as a park cafeteria. I have distant recollections of having attended band practices there in my youth.
In 1991, the then Tory-controlled Harrow council took the decision to close West house because of its unwillingness to put in the funds to restore it from its state of dilapidation. The building looks out over the heart of Pinner. From it, one can see the parish church, the station and the shopping centre. Since 1991, the excellent Pinner Association has been campaigning to get it back into use. It has been working in partnership with the council to improve Pinner Memorial park and has established a peace garden.
Various options for West house have been considered. One possibility that was canvassed for some time was to convert it into an exclusive restaurant. Another was to use it as sheltered housing. For a variety of reasons, neither of those ideas came to fruition. In 1995, the council, in partnership with the Pinner Association, established a West house working party, of which I was privileged to be a part in my former role as a Harrow councillor.
The working group drafted in consultants from Prometheus to produce a feasibility study on a proposal to establish a museum and art gallery on the site. With the work under way, the house has been used very occasionally, for instance for VE Day and millennium celebrations. The most significant progress was the approach by the William Heath Robinson Trust, which was seeking a location in Pinner for the artist's 500 to 600 works. Heath Robinson was an international artist, a humorous book illustrator famous for his cartoons and drawings of mad inventions. If he were alive today, he might design, as one of my constituents suggested, an instrument to allow a Member of Parliament to eat smoked salmon sandwiches while twisting the Prime Minister's arm to get more funds for Harrow.
Heath Robinson's ingenuity gave great enjoyment to many people. I am delighted to say that he lived in Pinner from 1912 to 1918, and the trust is keen to bring his collection back to Pinner, primarily for the enjoyment of the people of Pinner and Harrow, and to give the works a permanent home. Sadly, there is nowhere in the borough at present properly to hang an exhibition of either his or any other artist's works. We have the slightly bizarre 618 situation of Harrow council and Harrow Heritage Trust having secured lottery money to create storage space at the nearby Headstone manor for all the works but still not having a permanent place in which to house them.
The consultants have drawn up plans of what a refurbished facility might look like. Stage one is to raise about £350,000 to bring West house back into permanent use, with a gallery for temporary art exhibitions, community rooms and a public cafeteria. Some £2 million is needed to complete an education centre and the permanent location to house more of the Heath Robinson collection.
The Pinner Association and Harrow council have undertaken a considerable amount of work. The Charity Commission has confirmed that a charitable trust to manage the West house estate will be established, and the association has organised a fund-raising campaign. I pay tribute to Martin Verden and Keith Schofield, the chair and vice-chair of that campaign, which in a short time has raised £35,000. If the Bill becomes law and the National Lottery Charities Board makes a grant towards an endowment, that will help those people who want to bring West house back into community usage. It will be good to have the funding to put the collection of the William Heath Robinson trust on public display.
I pay tribute to the Pinner Association, which has campaigned assiduously on the issue during the past 10 years, and, in particular, to its secretary, Cynthia Wells, for whom the project has been especially important. I know that the Bill's purpose is to remedy an anomaly and a problem that is faced by people in Norfolk who want to support carers. However, it holds out the prospect for people in Pinner of seeing West house brought back into use, as a museum for the Heath Robinson collection, helping to educate future generations of people who are born in my constituency. I warmly commend the Bill to the House.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Kate Hoey)
I, too, congratulate my hon Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) on his success in introducing the Bill and in bringing together so many people from all parties to support it. It is pleasant to spend a Friday morning dealing with a Bill that has such support, which is especially strong among MPs with Norfolk constituencies. I know how much work my hon. Friend has put into the project and recognise that it means a great deal to him and other hon. Members from that region. I am also grateful for his interpretation of the legal difficulties with benevolent and philanthropic law. As I am not a lawyer, I am pleased that my hon. Friend gave a detailed and incisive explanation of the differences. If the Bill goes into Committee, his work will be useful.
The Bill has been inspired by the "We Care" 2000 appeal, launched by the Eastern Daily Press in October 1998 with the aim of raising £1 million to establish an endowment fund—the Norfolk millennium trust for carers. I commend the hard work and dedication of everyone involved in the campaign, especially the staff and readers of the Eastern Daily Press. There is a huge number of unpaid carers and we would surely all agree that they are unsung heros and heroines who merit our admiration and support. I was struck by the way in which 619 my hon. Friend read out the article about his constituent, Jemima Hutson. That strongly conveyed the huge amount of work, effort and love that carers put in to what they do, and the attention that their work requires.
My hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright) gave a moving account of his constituents, Christine and Tanya. We all have constituents who fit that bill. Perhaps that is one reason why there is cross-party support for my hon. Friend's Bill.
I want to point out how much national lottery support is going into Norfolk and how much the lottery is doing across the country to help carers and other groups of volunteers. Although it is only six years old, it has had a tremendous impact on our national life and is one of the most successful lotteries in the world. More than £8.8 billion has already been awarded to more than 82,000 projects across the country. The National Lottery Charities Board has made more than 40,000 grants, worth nearly £1.9 billion, to help meet the needs of those at greatest disadvantage in society and to improve the quality of life in our communities.
In Norfolk alone, the board has made nearly 500 grants, worth more than £19 million, to voluntary and community groups. They include a contribution of some £23,000, as has already been mentioned, towards the administrative costs of the "We Care" 2000 appeal. Across the United Kingdom, the board has already made grants worth more than £15 million to projects related to carers.
The current wording of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 allows the National Lottery Charities Board to help fund expenditure by charities or similar organisations but not to contribute towards endowment funds. The hon. Member for Lichfield (Mr. Fabricant), who apologised for having to leave before the end of the debate, asked if all the other distributors could do that. They can, which is why the situation is, in some senses, an anomaly.
The Government sympathise in principle with the changes proposed by my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson), which would help to put the NLCB on the same footing as the other lottery distributors, enabling it to make grants towards endowments when it wished to do so. However, it is important to point out that the NLCLB, in common with all the other lottery bodies, makes its own decisions on individual grants, independent of Government. Should the Bill become law, it would therefore still be up to the board to decide how to use this new power. That might answer one of the points made by the right hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Mr. Forth), although it is always very difficult to satisfy him completely.
The board would have a number of issues to consider carefully before deciding how to use the new power. An endowment must be of a considerable size to yield a reasonable annual income. Sometimes it is felt that lottery funds can provide greater benefits by directly supporting activities through specific, time-limited grants. In a way, the board would have the discretion to decide about that. Those running the "We Care" 2000 appeal clearly feel strongly that they could satisfy the National Lottery Charities Board if they were given the opportunity to do so. It is not really for us to be pedantic about whether the board would give an endowment grant to a particular charity, because such matters would have to be taken into account by the board. However, it does not seem sensible 620 to me that one distributing body has different rules for a particular function and can do something if it thinks it right when another cannot.
§ Mr. Forth
Is there any appeal mechanism against decisions? The board could decide to put a very large amount of money indeed into an endowment—it would have to be large to yield any meaningful income—and a lot of other good causes would feel that they had been unreasonably and unfairly deprived of what they could otherwise have had. Do they have any appeal mechanism once the decision has been made and the money committed?
§ Kate Hoey
There is an appeal mechanism to the lottery distribution boards if a body or group does not get money. In the sports lottery distribution, for example, a number of groups make appeals and elicit the help of Members of Parliament in doing so. Much as it would be nice as a Minister to be able to decide where the money is to go, I am glad that we do not have to make that difficult decision. Through the powers that Parliament gives us, we appoint the members of these bodies, and we expect them to weigh things up and to realise the importance of their task.
Anyone who is against the Bill must say why the National Lottery Charities Board should be treated differently from the other lottery distributors under the current law.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I entirely agree that that is an anomaly. Does the Minister agree with me that if the £1 million target is achieved, about £50,000 a year—even at today's interest rates—is a significant sum for carers every year?
§ Kate Hoey
The right hon. Gentleman is right, it is a significant sum. The point about endowments is that they provide long-term benefit, sustainability and certainty. That is why they are an attractive mechanism for charities and other bodies.
The technical points will have to be dealt with in Committee. The Government recognise that the funding of endowments can be an appropriate use of lottery funds. We have already established the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts under the National Lottery Act 1998 as a national endowment with £200 million of lottery funds. NESTA was set up as an independent, permanent fund to support and promote talent, innovation and creativity. It has so far provided funding for innovations in a wide range of areas, and for talented individuals in areas as diverse as interactive technology, poetry, film-making and science centres.
In addition, the Millennium Commission is establishing a £100 million endowment fund to ensure a permanent future for its highly successful millennium awards scheme. The scheme helps individuals to undertake projects that fulfil a personal ambition while benefiting the wider community. By 2004, 40,000 people will have benefited from that scheme, and the endowment will ensure that it continues to help individuals, which is what it is envisaged the millennium trust for carers and the "We Care" 2000 appeal will do.
I have no idea whether the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) was making his last speech to the House. He has had a long and distinguished career, 621 and he was supportive of my hon. Friend's proposal. Indeed, it is amazing how the Members of Parliament in Norfolk work closely together in charitable giving and get involved in activities such as singing for charity. I am sorry that neither the hon. Member for Mid-Norfolk (Mr. Simpson) nor my hon. Friend the Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Wright) feel that they are physically active enough to participate in sport. I hope that the Government's policies on sport will help them to do so in future.
The right hon. Member for South Norfolk said that the NLCB offers grants for one year only. That is not right. Grants can be time-limited, and some are for two or three years. The NLCB will consider a maximum extension of up to six years.
The hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) and I have similar views on this issue. We support the Bill in principle, and the Government sympathise with the concerns expressed given what has happened. The hon. Gentleman will want to take up the technical suggestions that he has made when the Bill goes into Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) expounded on the value of one of the many projects in his constituency, at West house, providing an illustration of the difference that so many hon. Members have seen the lottery make in their communities. I am grateful to him for supporting the Bill.
The Government sympathise in principle with what my hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North is trying to achieve. We may wish to offer technical improvements should his Bill make further progress, but we shall not oppose it today.
§ Dr. Gibson
With the leave of the House, I thank all those who have spoken so confidently and well about what I am trying to do. The Bill would be valuable to the people whom we represent, and I appreciate the support given to it. I hope that the speech made by the right hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr. MacGregor) was his last. This is the second time that I have had to compliment him, and I should not want to have to do so again.
§ Mr. MacGregor
In my youth, there were, on the variety boards all around the country, several farewell appearances from someone called G. H. Elliot, the chocolate-coloured coon. I must warn the hon. Gentleman that I may repeat that process.
§ Dr. Gibson
That might be quite enjoyable.
The principle of the Bill, which appears to have been accepted, is that the National Lottery Charities Board should consider short and long-term money and benefits. I accept that the technicalities need to be hammered out in another arena, but the additional flexibility that the Bill will give to the board will enrich its work and be much appreciated by all the people who pay their pounds every day of the week to support lottery funding. I thank all those who have turned out to support the Bill. I cannot wait to get into Committee, though my haste has nothing to do with the date of the general election. Sooner or later, we shall go into Committee, and I hope to see all those present today on that occasion.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 63 (Committal of Bills).