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Lord Redesdale: My Lords, I have a number of questions about the amendment. Its purpose is to expose some of the problems that we see over the way in which the new opportunities fund has been set up. First, if subsection (9) were to be left out of the Bill, what effect would that have on the moneys that have been set aside? If the money had to be put back into the funds immediately, would that mean an enormous cash injection to the existing five good causes? Could they then go ahead with some of the projects that they have put on hold? If that is the case, the Minister may have been mistaken when he said that it would have no effect on the projects that the five good causes are planning.
At an earlier stage of the Bill, the Minister said that the Government needed to set up these shadow accounts retrospectively so that the money would be available for the new opportunities fund to put in place immediately the Bill became law. He even went so far as to say that if the money were not made available, 25 per cent. of money available for good causes would have to be put aside and spent on the new opportunities fund to fund the new initiatives. I have a slight problem here, because we have had the jargon of the people's lottery. But these new initiatives have to be classified as government initiatives. The Minister said that the projects had already been put forward and so they had to go forward. I examined carefully what was said at the previous stage. I find that they were initiatives put forward by the Government in their manifesto, and this is a way of funding them.
I have a problem also with the fact that the figure would have to be 25 per cent. if the matter could not be dealt with retrospectively. I find that a seductive argument, because it is open ended. These are government initiatives. So if something comes forward which is said by the Government to have massive popular appeal they might have to provide for a larger percentage of lottery money to be allocated to it. Is that the Government's intention? The least we can expect is an assurance from the Government.
I offer the Minister this salutary thought. If a Liberal Democrat government were to be formed after the next election, this would be a Liberal Democrat new opportunities fund. We would be able to push it in our direction. A proposition that the Government might find less attractive is that if the Conservatives were to win the next election, it would be a Conservative new opportunities fund. I support the initiatives put forward by the new opportunities fund. But they are open ended. There is a good deal of concern that they will follow the political agenda of the party in power.
One of the reasons why I cannot support the amendment is that I support the formation of NESTA. I agree with the underlying reason for its formation. I like the idea of the Government becoming a business angel. However, I have difficulties over the way that the
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am grateful, paradoxically, to the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, for introducing the amendment as he did, because he gave a summary of the more serious objections which, I know, he and his party have to the Bill. I realise, as he does, of course, that the first three points were not specifically relevant to the amendment. But that helps us to treat, as I think we must learn to do, the Motion that the Bill do now pass as a formality rather than a repetition of earlier debate. Although he will forgive me if I respond only to the amendment, it was welcome to have the noble Lord's broader views on the record at this stage.
The noble Lord made the points about the amendment extensively in Grand Committee and on Report. It behoves me to repeat, with all the force that I can, that we are not doing anything illegal or improper. There is some misconception that the Government and the distributors have been acting illegally by keeping shadow accounts since last October which show how the National Lottery Development Fund would be distributed if the legislation were in force. There is nothing illegal about that arrangement. Neither the department nor the distributors needs any statutory authority to keep such accounts.
I say in response to the fourth question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, that that is why there are no precedents in legislation for us to bring before the House. It has never been a matter of primary legislation for shadow accounts to be set up. That does not mean that it has not happened. It just means that I cannot find it in legislation.
There is nothing improper or unusual about the fact that the subsection, which the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, is pressing us to remove, uses as its effective date a date before Royal Assent. That is not unfair; it is accepted and welcomed by the distributors. I must repeat the point that it makes no difference to the amount of money which will be allocated to the new opportunities fund and NESTA over the licence period. Therefore, my answer to the third question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, is that, because it is neutral over time and since money has been put aside in shadow accounts, it will be necessary to have a higher percentage for a shorter time in order to obtain the same money. No more money will be required as a whole.
My answer to the noble Lord's first question--I am sorry to answer them in the wrong order, but that is the way it has worked out--is that if there were no subsection (9)--in other words, if the amendment were to be carried--there would not be a cash injection to
I must continue to resist the suggestion that there is anything unfair or unreasonable about that proposition. By introducing the date of 14th October 1997, we are spreading the percentage over a longer period rather than having a much higher percentage coming into effect only after Royal Assent. The fundamental fact is that the total amount of money available to the good causes will be no different whether or not the amendment is carried, but the damage done by carrying the amendment would be the serious loss of momentum by the new opportunities fund and NESTA. It would take them longer to get themselves up and running and making grants, and we believe that that would be thoroughly undesirable.
Lord Skidelsky: My Lords, we do not accept retrospection as the right procedure, but we recognise that we have come to the end of the Bill in your Lordships' House. I conclude by making one observation. We are witnessing the Government's determination to annex for their own purposes the money which was originally intended for arts and leisure activities in this county. Through the National Lottery, we created a unique opportunity to raise the standards of our civilisation, with benefits stretching well into the next century.
The National Lottery etc. Act of 1993 provided a unique opportunity to escape from the Treasury straitjacket. It enabled us to make modest preparations for the good life, which is, after all, the task of economics to make possible. Instead of seizing the moment and running with it, the Government now intend to encumber that civilising opportunity with their own largely utilitarian programmes. I am certain that the cultural life of our country will be the poorer for it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill do now pass. In doing so, I wish to thank all those who have taken part in the passage of the Bill in the House and behind the scenes. I am grateful in particular to the noble Lord, Lord Skidelsky, and the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, for agreeing that the
From the Conservative Benches, I am grateful to the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Rees, and to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser, for drawing attention to the Scottish and Welsh aspects of the Bill. I am pleased that it was possible to make clear to your Lordships that convergence between devolution legislation and other legislation passing through the House has been well planned and well resolved as between my department and the Scottish and Welsh offices. It was helpful to have that issue drawn to your Lordships' attention.
From my own Benches my noble friends Lord Howell and Lord Bassam were particularly helpful. From the Cross-Benches, the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, took an active and helpful part and I hope that we have gone some way to meet his concerns. The right reverend Prelates the Bishops of Oxford and Southwell raised the issue of under-age betting which gives them and us great concern. I am grateful to them for their contribution.
Obviously, I have left out some noble Lords, but I hope that I have recognised the contributions made in front of the camera, so to speak, during the passage of the Bill. Behind the camera there lies a highly efficient and responsive Bill team and I am grateful to them for their contributions. I wish them well as the Bill goes to the other place.