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10.40 am

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham): We are always quick to criticise and complain, but we rarely offer congratulations. That is why I wanted to speak in the debate. I am sure that we all dream of being a winner in the national lottery, and I am equally sure that most people have some experience of the many excellent and worthwhile projects that have come to fruition as a direct result of the revenue generated by the national lottery and disbursed by the distributing bodies to support good causes such as sport, arts, charities and heritage.

It is too easy to sensationalise the more dubious awards that have been made by the distributing bodies. We all have our own views about how lottery money could be better spent, and on worthwhile projects which we think it should be used to assist. I admit that I have shared such views on many occasions—for example, about the huge amounts spent on projects that I regard as elitist.

We all have our own opinions about the amounts spent on the more questionable projects on which the media have focused, including the millennium dome. Although I understand the well-intentioned aims of the project, I admit that I joined many other people in pondering the many other laudable schemes that could have been assisted with the resources that were spent on the dome. However, I believe that the smaller, perhaps less sensational schemes have made a real difference to people's lives.

Very few hon. Members could honestly say that their community has not received some form of assistance from one of the good causes for a local project. Those range from relatively small schemes to the much bigger initiatives. The fundamental point—let us be quite clear about this—is that without the income generated by the national lottery, such schemes would not have been possible, and those who benefit from them would not be doing so.

Let us think about the projects funded for arts provision; valuable and important heritage schemes; the improvements and developments that have been made possible in sport; and the excellent charitable schemes that have been realised as a direct result of the national lottery. All hon. Members could cite several examples to demonstrate my point.

We all have our own ideas about what we will do when—or, perhaps more importantly, if—we win the lottery. When we pay our £1 or whatever, we all think of that with great relish. However, we probably do not think twice about the approximately 28 per cent. of the revenue generated from the sales that is handed over to the national lottery distribution fund, and how that money is being used. The lottery has made a real difference not just to the lucky winners who scooped the millions or the thousands, but to everyone who has benefited directly or indirectly from projects funded by the six distributing bodies.

Numerous community groups, sportsmen and women, and arts groups, not to mention charities, have been the recipients of financial assistance that has allowed excellent work and projects to be initiated, and in some cases to continue. New sports facilities have been built, equipment has been purchased and excellent development work has been undertaken. Many arts projects have been funded, and restoration schemes have ensured that local treasures have been safeguarded for the future.

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Community associations and groups have been rewarded for their valuable efforts, ranging from schemes for toddlers and young children right through the spectrum to the more senior members of our society. Schemes are being funded from which everyone throughout the country can benefit. Yes, we can all criticise, but perhaps it is time that we all took stock and realised just how much revenue is being ploughed back into every city, town, village and community as a result of the weekly flutter that most of us have.

I wanted to speak in the debate to highlight some of the achievements that have made a difference in my constituency, City of Durham, which is obviously the place closest to my heart. I hope that after I have described some examples, the lottery funds do not dry up! We have done quite well in Durham up to now.

A first-class specialist gymnastics facility, which will provide a much-needed centre of excellence for the gymnasts in the area, has been made possible. I know that the facility will make a huge difference to gymnasts in Durham and the region. For years its development has been an aspiration. It is questionable whether that would have been fulfilled without the input of £320,000 of national lottery funding. The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) spoke about the Olympic games. Who knows, we might see a future gold medallist as a result of that gymnasium.

Another excellent facility that has been opened in my constituency is an indoor bowling facility, which was made possible as a result of £450,000 of lottery funding. The new building provides a centre for bowling development for all members of the community, young and old, and has led to a huge growth in bowling in the area. Both of these projects, incidentally, were also funded by grants from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, for which I am extremely grateful. That organisation still has an important role to play in the distribution of grants to local organisations. We should not forget that, while we are congratulating the national lottery.

In 2000, Durham Sport, based in City of Durham, became the first sports partnership to receive £100,000 of revenue funding from the sports lottery fund for its active sports programme. The programme will lead to more young people taking part in many kinds of sport, more coaches being trained to deliver sporting activity to young people, and more junior clubs being developed to retain young people in sport. All hon. Members are aware of the recent reports about increasing obesity in young people and concerns that the country is not producing sufficient high-class performers. The programme in Durham will address both those important issues with the support of the national lottery.

To tackle the needs of the more senior members of our society, Age Concern in County Durham has been the recipient of £208,000 of funding via the National Lottery Charities Board, as it was then, which has made possible the establishment of offices in various locations in the county. That has enabled the organisation to work more effectively at local level, mapping existing provision, identifying unmet needs and working towards the development of new services.

As a result of lottery funding, the Durham Light Infantry museum has been refurbished, remodelled and its exhibits redisplayed. The museum, managed by the county council's arts, libraries and museums service, is a

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major tourist draw in our historic city. The £1.5 million refit has attracted considerable critical acclaim. The museum, which is set in the parkland of Aykley Head, is now fit for the 21st century. The remodelled displays and associated activities programmes are focused on the family, especially younger people and school parties. The Durham Light Infantry Regiment may have been disbanded in 1968, but its history is indelibly linked with the identity of my constituents. The staff are therefore ensuring that future generations understand their spiritual inheritance.

Durham county council is a firm believer in the value of cultural services to the local community. It may be some years since the small village of Cassop- cum-Quarrington was mentioned in the House, but I can report that its local history society, with the support of the national lottery, has established a mobile visual display outlining the history and past events of the parish.

This comparatively modest initiative is contributing to a regionwide digitisation project managed by the county council, which is entitled "Tomorrow's History". It is creating a local heritage database covering every community in the north-eastern region, from Berwick to Guisborough and from Haltwhistle to Hartlepool. That would not be happening without the national lottery.

Community initiatives in the villages of Brandon, Shincliffe and Bowburn in my constituency have greatly benefited from the regional initiative. The same project has encouraged the Durham Dialect Association to survey communities spanning all age groups to illustrate the survival of the local vocabulary, pitmatic included. The expression "Whey aye, man" will, I hope, continue to be used for many years to come.

Age Concern has contributed to "Tomorrow's History" on intergenerational work for senior citizens. It is collaborating with school children on local history topics. Once again, that is because of the national lottery.

I shall mention work that is going on in other small villages throughout my constituency—for example, Bearpark, New Brancepeth and Ushaw Moor—as a consequence of new opportunities fund moneys that the arts, libraries and museums department is utilising to broaden community access to learning, working with local community associations.

Last summer, archaeology was actually brought to life in a small village called Coxhoe, with a "time detectives" local equivalent for youngsters as part of the learning strand of the new opportunities fund. This, and many other schemes, are countywide, but of immense benefit to my constituents. For example, the elements drama development programme is encouraging youth theatre, commissioning new work and stimulating the touring of professional plays in the rural areas of my constituency.

Last year, a new play, "Set in Stone" explored the harrowing account of a Durham first-world-war soldier, who was shot at dawn for alleged cowardice. Thankfully, this man's name is now remembered in the rolls of honour, the evidence leading to his death being questionable to say the least. The national lottery has helped to right an 80-year-old wrong.

Last year, the arts, libraries and museums department established "The Forge", an arts in education development agency, again with the benefit of lottery funding, this time through the regional arts lottery programme. I cannot speak too highly of the work of this organisation in local

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schools, for example. It is providing the springboard for collaboration with the recently established Sunderland and Durham creative partnership that I hope will encourage more creative activity among schoolchildren in the area.

There are six libraries in my constituency and the county council's policy is clear: libraries are the hub of community activity. I shall quote from the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), who said:

Lottery funding has enabled libraries in my area to play their full part in meeting those objectives. Investment from the new opportunities fund has enabled the provision of additional PCs, scanners and printers, the extension of an upgraded data transmission network and, most importantly, the training of all library staff to the European computer driving licence standard. All the libraries in County Durham have had free internet access since 1998. They are the base for lifelong learning programmes in association with local colleges. They provide mediated information and advice, and are the hub of community activity.

All in all, the national lottery has stimulated new ways of thinking, new collaborations and exciting new initiatives. I believe that the Durham pleasure gardens, which fell into disuse in the early years of the century, could well be restored, at least virtually, through a partnership between the archaeology section of the arts, libraries and museums service and its Northumberland counterparts, because they are jointly developing virtual models of archaeology sites in the north-east, again with the assistance of lottery money.

On something entirely different, only last weekend, a new bridge—the first new bridge for more than 40 years—was erected across the Wear in Durham. The Millennium Commission, Durham city council and Durham county council are funding that £460,000 bridge, which links Framwellgate Waterside with the Sands, as part of the city's millennium city project. The bridge would never have been possible without national lottery funding.

Of particular significance to the people of Durham, and to those who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit such a magnificent city, is the Durham millennium city development. This wonderful and fantastic scheme has transformed the city centre. It will be a legacy to the efforts of all those involved in bringing it to fruition, and to the significant funding input from the national lottery via the Millennium Commission. There was a grant of more than £13 million from the commission, which has been matched by the local authority.

I hope that when Members visit Durham they will also visit that new development. It has regenerated an area of the city that was little more than a car park on a derelict site for more than 30 years. The development has acted as a catalyst for the redevelopment and improvement of

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the central part of Durham. I am sure that many Members have fond memories of Durham. Only yesterday, I was away with members of the Public Accounts Committee; two members of it were at Durham university. Many Members know Durham well, including the city. When they revisit, I hope that they will see what I am talking about.

The scheme includes the fantastic Gala theatre, the state of the art Clayport library, a new tourist information centre, a visitors' centre, access to information and advice for everyone, and space for community groups. The city council, in attracting investment for the development, has realised a dream for the people of Durham. That development has been a local Labour party manifesto item for as long as I can remember or for as long as I have been in politics, which is 30 years. Now the scheme has come to fruition.

The Gala theatre has been designed as multi-purpose building. It can house theatre shows but it converts to a dance hall, a conference centre or an exhibition hall, to name but a few uses. It is a venue for everyone for seven days a week, from early morning to well into the evening. At long last, it will give the people of Durham the opportunity to experience different forms of entertainment without having to travel out of the city, which they have had to do for many years.

On the opposite side of the Millennium square is the new Clayport library, which will offer a huge range of facilities. The lifelong learning centre will provide ideas and opportunities for learning or leisure, work or hobbies, stimulation or relaxation. It occupies three floors, with full access for the disabled to all levels. Here we can learn, brush up on our IT skills, browse for a book from the 18,000 volumes that are on loan and explore online the catalogue of the county's 800,000 stockholdings. Information can be sought from a mixture of traditional reference works or from the latest in electronic formats, and visitors will feel at home in one of the 60 study places. A community resource centre, incorporating office and meeting facilities for community and voluntary organisations, provides community services in one easy to access location.

I must declare an interest because I have recently moved my constituency office into the new building. The development has given a much-needed facelift to what was a rather drab part of the city, and the careful selection of facilities will ensure that the people of Durham can really benefit from what it has to offer for many years to come.

One of the potential knock-on effects includes an increase in revenue from visitor activities, as the facility will offer the many visitors to the city a number of further opportunities. I do not need to state that the additional permanent local jobs that have already been generated and will be generated by the scheme are very much welcomed.

Durham city council's endeavours to implement an extensive redevelopment programme, geared to the regeneration of the city centre, have been especially apparent in recent years, with a number of key projects being completed. The realisation of the Durham millennium city project was a significant part of that regeneration, which would never have taken place without the crucial funding offered by the national lottery. It was always a dream that would never be accomplished; now, thanks to the national lottery, it has been accomplished.

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Just as Durham cathedral has been a magnificent landmark in the city, the millennium city development was a wonderful way to mark the beginning of the new millennium.

I have mentioned only a few examples of the many excellent schemes that have been made possible in Durham as a result of national lottery funding; I could have gone on to mention many more. I am personally aware of the huge difference that the national lottery has made to the facilities and services that are on offer to my constituents in a wide range of areas, including sport, recreation, arts, heritage projects, education and projects affecting the lives of entire communities. Virtually everyone in my constituency has benefited from the national lottery in some way. That is a significant achievement in anyone's terms. I hope that it will last for a long time to come and that we will continue to benefit from national lottery grants.

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