Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): My right hon. Friend is referring to broad categories of areas with specific problems. Will she comment, in particular, on the problems faced by former coalfield communities? I know that her Department has done a great deal of work on those problems, as have all the funding bodies, but significant problems still face those communities, which attract only about 60 per cent. of the average funding received by other constituencies.

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend makes an important point. We are making progress in redressing the imbalance in the lottery allocation to coalfield areas. The trend is in the right direction, but there is still progress to

1 Mar 2002 : Column 952

be made. I recognise that we will be judged by whether or not the allocations, in time, become equitable. As I made clear when I addressed the coalfield communities conference last year, we need to consider carefully the way in which we build the capacity in some of those communities to tackle the obstacles to making good applications and navigating through the necessary processes. The Government's commitment to addressing the problems to which my hon. Friend referred remains as firm as it has always been.

That is an example of our desire to change the lottery to a proactive, rather than a reactive, fund, seeking out applications where they are not forthcoming and helping applicants and local communities with what, in many cases, may seem to be daunting paperwork. There is an important role for Members of Parliament here, and I commend the efforts of many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House in fulfilling that role on behalf of their constituents. There is also a role for voluntary organisations and local authorities in ensuring a fairer distribution of lottery funding.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: My right hon. Friend mentioned the role of Members of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) introduced a private Member's Bill in the last days of the last Parliament to amend the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 to allow the national lottery charities board to make endowments. Has that particular glitch in the legislation been ironed out, or is it one of the issues that will be addressed by the consultation paper that she mentioned?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is right. We have signalled our support for the proposed change to extend, particularly to the community fund, the power to make endowments. That will require legislation at the appropriate time, and it is one of the changes that I propose to address in the consultation document.

Lottery distributors can begin to address the problem of inequity by building on the initiatives, a number of which are already under way, to target funds at those areas that have received less than the amount that they should rightly regard as their fair share. It is still a matter of huge concern for many, including Members of the House, that some deprived areas are chronically underfunded by the lottery. The time is right to develop a more targeted approach to reach those areas that are deprived—they are among the most deprived in the country—and receive less than their fair share of lottery money. Until that happens, areas at the bottom of the lottery league table will never be able to catch up with those that have the capacity and the experience to make bigger, more successful applications.

Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North): My right hon. Friend knows that my constituency is in the bottom 10 in terms of getting lottery awards. I welcome her fair share initiative, but I have a problem with its targeting. She announced yesterday that fair share money is intended to be targeted, which is welcome, but I do not believe that it will benefit my constituency and lift it out of the bottom 10. The figures for my constituency bear no comparison with those for neighbouring constituencies, and to target the money on a borough area will do nothing to lift Doncaster, North out of the bottom 10. In fact, even if my right hon. Friend were to allocate £1 million today to

1 Mar 2002 : Column 953

Doncaster, North, it would merely move into the bottom 20. Will she explain how she will redress the obvious imbalance?

Tessa Jowell: It might reassure my hon. Friend to know that my constituency spans two of the most deprived areas in the country—Lambeth and Southwark—but will not benefit from the fair share programme that I announced in a parliamentary answer yesterday, nor will the similarly deprived Sheffield, Central constituency of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, who is to wind up the debate. My hon. Friend is a passionate advocate for his constituency and the rights of his constituents, many of whom live in deprived circumstances, to get their share of lottery income. If he is patient, I hope to address his points specifically.

In June last year, I announced our intention to introduce a new targeted initiative to inject millions of pounds of lottery funding into deprived areas that had not received their fair share. Yesterday, in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown), I was pleased to detail the 51 local authority areas in England that the community fund and the new opportunities fund have decided will benefit from the initiative. Fair share will begin in April 2002, and during the next three years the community fund aims to commit about £80 million of its income to programmes that fall within the terms of eligibility for the initiative. The new opportunities fund will allocate a further £50 million so that it, too, can contribute. In England, the new opportunities fund will target £39 million of its already announced transforming communities initiative money on the English fair share areas. In addition to fair share, the community fund will shortly announce a £10 million fund to help rural areas that have been chronically underfunded by the lottery.

To respond to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes), I recognise that although fair share will make an important contribution in those 51 areas, it is not a panacea for all the problems. Some areas will still need and deserve a more equitable share of lottery money. However, I am confident that fair share will make a tangible difference to the 51 deprived communities whose claim on lottery funding has not been realised fully.

Mr. Bryant: I am sorry to have to press again the issue of coalfield communities, but I often hear Ministers announce new money for rural areas, or for metropolitan areas, and coalfield communities often lose out because they are neither one nor the other. No one would have lived in the area had it not been for coal, and the result is straggling communities that feel rural—everyone in my constituency lives within 250 yd of some sort of farm—but do not attract rural money, and are not metropolitan either. They tend to fall between two stools.

Tessa Jowell: I hope that my hon. Friend is reassured to learn that of the 51 areas announced yesterday, 11 are in coalfield areas. That benefit is in addition to the initiative and continuing drive to improve coalfield communities' access to lottery funding that I mentioned earlier.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): There is a clear need to ensure that lottery funds are distributed equitably.

1 Mar 2002 : Column 954

Often, better-off areas are more articulate in making bids than deprived areas. However, one of the lottery's founding principles was that it should be separate from Government and the distributing bodies should take the decisions. Will the right hon. Lady assure the House that the step that she is taking does not compromise that principle, or create a mechanism of Government- engineered investment in certain communities?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The legislation is clear. The Government set the legislative framework in the National Lottery Act 1998, which made changes to the operation of the lottery consistent with the Labour Government's priorities. It is for distributors, operating at arm's length from Government, to implement the legislation. I assure the House that there is no question of political interference or of fixing lottery funds distribution. That is a matter for the distributors consistent with the powers given to the Secretary of State in legislation that is debated by both Houses. That is what the relationship should be and what it will continue to be.

There is an urgent need now to get fair share money out to those whom the community fund and new opportunities fund will benefit. We all know how much communities can achieve when they are empowered to decide their own priorities and get on with things. We all want fair share to achieve that. In three years, I want all of our most deprived areas to be getting their fair share of lottery funding. To achieve that, the efforts of all the lottery distributors will be required. That is why I shall ask distributors other than the community fund and the new opportunities fund to look long and hard at those areas that have received less of their funding in the past. It is clear that different areas lose out in respect of different good causes. A flexible approach is needed on the part of distributors, and our approach should be the same: we should aim to tackle disadvantage and reduce the wide variation in the amount of lottery money per head received by each area.

I pay respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Mr. Challen) and to the work that he and other hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Doncaster, North and for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden)—he is not able to be here today—are doing to identify the obstacles to lottery funding in their constituencies. There is a group of hon. Members of different parties working in the interests of their local communities. I met them in January to discuss how to remove the obstacles surrounding other communities that have received less than their fair share of lottery funding. I shall meet them again after Easter to review progress and to identify practical steps that can be taken.

I hope that the House shares my judgment that the lottery has been a resounding success. It allows people throughout the country to dream. Its tickets are habitually bought by individuals and syndicates, and it grants a lifeline to the communities it reaches, whether as a £10 prize or as a £100 million grant. It has touched the lives of millions of British people, even though it is less than eight years old. Any eight-year-old is shaped and continues to be shaped by his experiences, and the lottery is no different. It needs to be given more freedom and, in 1998, it was. It now needs to begin to exploit that freedom. It needs to be nimbler and more responsive, and

1 Mar 2002 : Column 955

encouraged to develop new and better ways of achieving its goals. I am not prepared to stand and wait for that development to happen over many years because communities are impatient for change, as are the Government.

Fair share is an expression of the Government's determination to deliver more equity in distribution now, as well as insisting on longer-term improvements. Three-year plans are all very well, but they do not help people who are impatient and in need now. I want support for the imaginative and essential projects that local communities, for whatever reason, have struggled to fund. I want to start now.

I want distributors to use the powers that they were given in the 1998 legislation to help people to apply for funds. I want to ask people to apply for funds, and I want them to work together to make people believe that the system that pays those funds is simple and fair. The only mystery about the lottery should be which numbers come out of the machine. I want more delegation of cash resources and of decision making to the local level.

The lottery cannot make everyone a millionaire but, as Secretary of State, I can and will insist that while the games may work on the rules of random chance, the distribution of the cash raised for good causes in communities the length and breadth of the country does not.

Next Section

IndexHome Page