Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Byford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for presenting and explaining the order to us tonight. I, too, an extremely concerned about the way in which the order is being used, as my noble friend Lady Anelay stated, with regard to prospective legislation. Other noble Lords share my concern that yet again parliamentary approval is being sought and moneys put aside even before legislation has come before either House.

Those of us who have taken part in debates on Bills recently have already expressed our misgivings about inadequately drafted legislation, or being without the necessary information in order properly to debate matters before us. Such disregard for parliamentary procedure is regrettable; and today we have yet another instance of disregard.

I have some questions on the order. Will the Minister inform the House what proportion of moneys currently held against the allocation for health, education and the environment will be used up by today's statement? Can the Minister assure the House that by paying the moneys to the New Opportunities Fund, under the provision made in Section 6(2) of the 1998 Act, he will not be depriving NESTA of its initial endowment provided for under Section 19(1) of the Act?

Is the Minister yet in a position to tell the House how much money he intends to pay across to NESTA, first, in the period from 1st July 1999 under Section 19(1); and, secondly, in the period between 2nd July 1999 to 31st December 1999 under Section 19(2)?

22 Mar 1999 : Column 1120

Does the Minister envisage, in the period 2nd July 1999 to 31st December 1999, under Section 19(2) of the 1998 Act, drawing on moneys originally intended for charities, the arts, sport or national heritage; and, if so, does he intend to do so evenly across the board?

The order includes the acquisition of land. Several noble Lords have spoken about that. In what geographical area will this be, and will the land be purchased freehold? How much does the Minister envisage spending on,


    "helping communities acquire, control and develop land which is important to them"?
Will that acquisition involve compulsory purchase?

Can the Minister also reassure us that all land acquired under the new opportunities initiatives will be subject to enduring covenants preventing its use, for example, for industrial or commercial development or for housing? Is part of that land to include land which would fall into the remit of the Government's proposals for access, an issue referred to by other noble Lords and my noble friend Lady Anelay. In a presentation last week in this House, the Countryside Commission put forward two papers: one on rights of way and the other on access. Perhaps I may refer to access first. I have a question I wish to ask. The order refers to the promotion of the use of land for the benefit of the community. In its presentation briefing, the Countryside Commission referred to developing,


    "a bid to the New Opportunity Fund for the creation and improving of 'community greenspace' near people's homes".
Have moneys already been allocated; and, if so, how much? Are the Government considering including allotments in the possible use of community green spaces? Many noble Lords will know that I keep raising in this House the question of allotments as they are being closed down and built on rather than preserved as an amenity for local communities.

In its presentation on rights of way, the Countryside Commission called for national targets to be set for the rights of way campaign in which local authorities update their statutory duties. Will any money from the New Opportunities Fund be spent on that?

I find it interesting that, on the one hand, money has been made available to promote the management of access to the countryside and that money has been made available for the acquisition of land under this order. But in the proposals for greater access to the countryside and the right to roam, it has been made clear that landowners are to receive no compensation and must carry third party liability. Perhaps the Minister will comment on those two different approaches.

I understand that £125 million has been set aside for the environment section. Will the Minister confirm that none of the green spaces covered by the 75 per cent. of allocation includes mountain, heathland or moorland, covered in the Statement on access debated in this House on 8th March? Lastly, will the Minister tell the House how the money allocated will be distributed geographically; whether it will be regarded as pump-priming or, as the noble Baroness said, it must be

22 Mar 1999 : Column 1121

for sustainable development? If not, how will the Government ensure that those projects will be financially viable in the future?

Finally, I return to the underlying concern which my noble friend expressed so well; namely, that money is being put aside for projects which have not been submitted to Parliament and certainly have not been approved by Parliament--the Bill on the right to roam.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful for some of the comments made. That is as far as I can go in the circumstances. I say immediately to the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, and the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, that there is no question of diverting moneys from the previous existing good causes. As has been made clear from the very beginning, the original good causes under the preceding Act will all receive more than the amount of money that they expected when the original allocation was set up.

The funding of the New Opportunities Fund and the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts is from additional money arising from the fact that, fortunately, the lottery has been much more successful than originally expected.

The noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said that she thought it right that some of the causes now being proposed would be of value to society. She thought the public had the right to expect that items would not be included that could be funded from taxation. She is entirely correct. I confirm that our position has not changed.

I shall try to deal with the issues across the range of speakers rather than go back between green spaces and cancer funding. I start with cancer. Two things must be said in response to the noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, and the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay. They asked why we have chosen cancer and not, for example, MS or schizophrenia. Cancer affects one in three people in this country and one in four deaths is from cancer. It is very different in scope from the other diseases mentioned.

I am delighted that, as a long-term project, over the next 10, 20 or 30 years it may be possible to tackle other diseases. However, cancer is the major killer in our society and is an area in which a great deal of research and care needs to be provided.

Secondly, historically, it is a mixed economy, so to speak, in the sense that a great deal of the most valuable work in cancer research and cancer provision is carried out by the charitable and voluntary sectors. About £140 million of charitable money goes to cancer every year. Those who are involved in such charitable activities for cancer have clearly welcomed the proposals for the extensions to be provided from the New Opportunities Fund. Nicholas Young, Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Relief stated:


    "This is a golden opportunity. We must make sure that this financial boost ... is used effectively".
Dr. McArmstrong of the BMA stated that the equipment and services are precisely the areas currently paid for through local fundraising or major cancer charities.

22 Mar 1999 : Column 1122

These are items of expenditure which it is impossible for the National Health Service to provide to the satisfaction of, and to meet the needs of, the people in this country who suffer from cancer. Those who know about it are determined that this is the right way to proceed.

I turn to the subject of green spaces and sustainable communities. I have been asked for assurances, to quote a spokesperson in yesterday's Sunday Telegraph, that the suggestion that this is funding right-to-roam activities by the backdoor is wrong. That was true yesterday and is true today. There is no departure from that. The New Opportunities Fund moneys will not be used to pay for the new statutory right to roam. They will be used for purposes which are additional and complementary to the statutory functions. Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, that there is no question of any disregard for parliamentary procedure and no question of money being put aside before legislation. In due course, when legislation is put before Parliament on the right to roam, those matters which will cost money will have to be funded. However, they will not be funded by money from the New Opportunities Fund which is being approved today. They cannot be funded in that way. There is no legal power, for example, for the compulsory acquisition of land in pursuit of the right-to-roam objective.

There is a whole range of things which the New Opportunities Fund can do. I can cite many examples: the creation of new powers; the upgrading of existing powers; the provision of facilities for those with disabilities; information about existing or new access opportunities; better way-marking and provision of local maps. The NOF can do all of those things. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Byford, asked me a whole series of precise questions about what has been committed now. The answer can and must be, in accordance with the arm's length principle, that these are not matters for government but for the New Opportunities Fund. It is in accordance with the general guidelines laid down in the orders that the New Opportunities Fund will be operating.

Indeed, if we were to seek to give very detailed answers to the questions which she asked--I understand her sincerity in asking them--we would be accused immediately by her Front Bench of breaching the arm's length principle and of going way beyond the legitimate separation of the responsibilities of the funds from the responsibilities of government.

I agree with noble Lords, and with the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that the problem before the New Opportunities Fund is a difficult one. Only general guidelines and powers are being given to the New Opportunities Fund. They are not precise and a great deal of responsibility will be required.

Before I leave this point, perhaps I may assure the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, that this will have no effect whatever on the funding of NESTA. The funding of NESTA was set up under the National Lottery Act 1998. There is no diminution of that funding, which has already been established. At the same time, there are no plans at the moment to make any further endowments

22 Mar 1999 : Column 1123

to NESTA under Section 19(2) of the Act; the £200 million is already there; it is one of the top grant-making trusts in the country and will receive up to £10 million a year under the guidelines.

The noble Lord, Lord Rotherwick, asked me a very precise question about whether the funds could be used for mapping by the Countryside Agency. The answer is no; there is no power to do that.

The noble Lord, Lord Rowallan, made a number of wider points. He thought that these are diffuse powers. Indeed, they are guidelines, not detailed instructions. I can assure the noble Lord that, as my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley said, there is close collaboration between the NOF and the five original good causes. Where there is overlap between them, they are making sure that it is beneficial rather than damaging.

On the issue of unspent money, to which the noble Lord refers at what seem to be regular intervals, I can assure him that it is not the case that unspent money is greater for this lottery than for any other. The money in the fund is allocated to each good cause. It is committed to projects over the next few years but is not paid over until actually needed. Where it is kept in the National Lottery Development Fund--in other words, before it is paid over--it gains interest and all that interest goes to the good causes, not to the Treasury.

The noble Lord, Lord Annaly, asked about playing fields, which, if I may make a party political point, was unwise. Under the previous government, over 5,000 fields were sold off and a further 2,600 were under threat. We are determined to stop and reverse that. We are requiring the Secretary of State's approval for every proposal to build on a playing field. We believe that all young people should have access to quality facilities. The Football Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board have welcomed the proposals. The question of who gets the money, schools or local authorities, depends entirely on local circumstances, on who owns the fields and on who needs the money.

On community access to lifelong learning, the noble Baroness, Lady Anelay, said--and I think that she is right--that the life of hardware can be short and that it needs to be updated. All lottery funding is finite; it does not go on for ever. If it did, after a few years there would be nothing left for new projects. However, I can assure the noble Baroness that the provisions for the learning centres will include not only the hardware but also the very expensive software, such as interactive learning materials, which have to be built up at the beginning, and can include provision for initial staffing.

I think that I have covered adequately the major points raised by noble Lords and I hope that I have given the assurance that our adherence to the arm's length principle and to the principle of additionality means that a very large number of the legitimate worries that have been expressed are the responsibility of the New Opportunities Fund, which is why we are moving the order in this form. I commend it to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

22 Mar 1999 : Column 1124


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page