Ministers 'have no power to rule on Lottery grants'

Lottery minister Richard Caborn has given an assurance that ministers will not have the power to overturn grants to voluntary organisations when the Lottery Bill becomes law.

In a letter to Third Sector, Caborn rejected accusations from chief executives body Acevo that the Government was eroding the independence of the National Lottery (Third Sector, 20 July). In particular, he dismissed the idea that a clause in the Bill, allowing ministers to determine "persons and purposes" to which the Big Lottery Fund may or may not make grants, could be used to rescind specific awards.

"We have no intention to use clause 36E of the Bill to intervene in individual grants or to choose between voluntary organisations," he wrote. "Nor could the power be used to revoke a grant once given."

The Lottery Bill will be scrutinised by MPs when Parliament returns from its summer recess in October.

Acevo said it was heartened by the minister's comments. "The Government has stated it will not intervene in individual grants, regardless of whether they meet political priorities," said Gail Scott-Spicer, deputy chief executive of the association. "Our members will be pleased by this commitment to keep the lottery at arm's length from ministers. We would like to see it reiterated in Parliament. We will watch carefully to see how the principle is applied in practice."

Caborn added that the Government was committed to the principle of additionality. "We have defined additionality and we will stick to it," he said. That definition stated: "Lottery funding will not become a substitute for funding that would normally fall to mainstream government spending."

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