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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.
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.
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.
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
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.