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Chris Grayling: I realise that the lottery and its funding apply to a broader range of areas than they used to, but surely the review suggested by the hon. Gentleman would not be the responsibility of Transport for London. Should it not feature in the Strategic Rail Authority's plans, or indeed those of the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions? It would be a sad day when their jobs were abdicated in favour of lottery funding.

Mr. Thomas: Sadly, I do not control Transport for London and nor do the Government; otherwise the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be entirely appropriate. Perhaps a business organisation or other pan-London body should seek lottery funding for this purpose.

There have been four new proposals for tram routes in London, involving a cross-river transit from Camden to Brixton, a west London transit from Uxbridge to Shepherd's Bush and other systems in Greenwich and east London. They are all significant schemes in their own right, but they do not interlink. Moreover, it will have cost between £250,000 and £750,000 just to establish a sensible route for each scheme. Again, we need a proper assessment.

NESTA has initiated important new thinking in technology and science, and, through its transforming communities programme, the new opportunities fund has done the same in regard to renewable energy that will not damage the environment. That is another instance in which the lottery could add strategic value, and help to solve some of the problems of the country and London in particular. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State suggested that the lottery should be seen as venture capital for community enrichment. An assessment of the potential for trams would be useful in that context as well.

The 1998 Act has made a huge difference to the running of the lottery, although the rules need some further tweaking. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look carefully at the bids from Wealdstone football club and, when it comes, from the Pinner Association to give a proper home to the excellent Heath Robinson collection, but I commend the work that the Government have already done, and look forward to the consultative document.

12.6 pm

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): As a number of hon. Members have said, the national lottery has become one of the most influential developments in society over recent years. It has reached many communities and organisations, and many different parts of our daily lives. It has made a huge contribution.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) and others for paying tribute to the work of the former Prime Minister, John Major, and his Government in launching the lottery. There are often important differences across the Floor of the House, but Governments do not always get things wrong from the perspective of the Opposition. I think that members of all

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political parties can say that the lottery was a positive development that has continued to make a real difference to many people since its launch eight years ago.

I want to refer to some of the lottery's successful contributions, but I want in particular to discuss the new opportunities fund. Earlier, I spoke of the potential politicisation of parts of lottery funding. I also want to deal with an issue raised with me a number of times by a constituent—money relating to the Millennium Commission. I hope the Minister will give some clarification.

My constituency does not receive as much lottery money as many others. As I have no doubt that the transcript of this debate will be read by a number of people involved in the allocation of lottery money, I will take the opportunity to plug my constituency, and say that I hope that in the months and years ahead the shortfall that has existed for the past few years will be addressed.

In my part of mid-Surrey, the borough of Epsom and Ewell—which contains most of my constituents—has received 32 awards in recent years, Reigate and Banstead, which represents a small part of the constituency, has received 61, and Mole Valley has received 50. Let me compare that with what has happened in other areas not too far away. Guildford has received 122 awards, Mid-Sussex 85 and East Hampshire 124. There is clearly a gap which must be filled.

Of course the process of securing funds for a constituency depends partly on the local community's determination to deliver positive ideas that are worthy of lottery funding. I also acknowledge the role of the local MP in trying to encourage organisations to seek opportunities to bring money into the constituency.

The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) said that in his constituency it was easy for less well-off areas to be masked by better-off areas. The same applies to my constituency, which is certainly in one of the more prosperous parts of the United Kingdom. It contains affluent areas, but also pockets of deprivation. At least three estates have genuine social problems. Lottery funds could make an important contribution to tackling such problems. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is tremendously important that decisions on lottery funding are not made on the basis of blanket coverage across significant geographical areas but take into account specific local circumstances. That should be a caveat for the Government when they set out the rules on the allocation of funding to individual local authority areas. There is always a danger that individual circumstances within a locality are lost in headlines that relate to an overall local authority area or a broader geographic area. As the Government stipulate how funding is to be allocated on a geographical basis, they need to be watchful of that problem.

If the funding in my constituency has not been as high as it has in many others, the national lottery has made one important contribution to my constituents and, indeed, throughout the country. It has played an essential role in supporting small local retailers in some of the smaller arcades that have struggled to survive as shopping patterns have changed. There is no doubt that many small shopkeepers, such as newsagents and grocers, have found it difficult to keep their businesses going against a background of new shopping patterns and the unfair business rating system for small shops. Hon. Members

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will be aware that the rate for a small shop is calculated on the basis of a shop's frontage, much in the same way as the rateable levels for major supermarkets are determined. The system does not take into account the individual difficult circumstances that such businesses face.

The national lottery's role in delivering a secure flow of business to those retailers on a weekly basis is welcome. It is an essential part of the future of smaller arcades. For those of us who are committed to seeing them survive and flourish as neighbourhood resources, the issue is important. As the Minister looks forward to the development of the lottery, I hope that that aspect of the way in which the lottery is structured will remain sacrosanct and will not be threatened.

The most visible sign of the lottery in many communities is the high-profile facilities that it has created, such as the sporting facilities for the Commonwealth games, the Lowry centre, the Eden project and the millennium bridge in central London. It has contributed to sporting achievement, as reflected in the successful results that our national teams have enjoyed in, for example, recent Olympic games. However, as hon. Members rightly said, the smaller contributions can make the most difference within communities. The spread of village halls around the country engendered by the Millennium Commission in the run-up to the millennium was a welcome development. That has strengthened the sense of community in many towns and villages and is a fundamental part of the lottery as it develops. Improvements to local sports clubs are also welcome. Sport has a vital role to play in tackling social problems in areas of deprivation where there is a prevalence of anti-social behaviour. That will be a fundamental part of the lottery's role.

I am anxious about how the lottery is evolving. I am especially concerned about the new opportunities fund in its present form. Prior to the millennium, 20 per cent. of lottery funding was allocated to the Millennium Commission and 13 per cent. to the new opportunities fund. All Millennium Commission money is now distributed through the new opportunities fund. As I said in my remarks to the Secretary of State, two of the core founding principles of the national lottery were that decisions on individual grants should be taken at arm's length by the distribution bodies and that lottery grants should be additional to core Government spending. The Government seemed to acknowledge those in their White Paper on the lottery published in July 1997. The Government claimed that they

That commitment has become questionable as the new opportunities fund has developed. There is evidence that the Government are starting to use the new opportunities fund to pay for what can only sensibly be described as pet projects that reinforce their core political strategy in matters such as health, education and the environment. It can be argued that many of those should be funded from core Government spending.

The Government are also becoming increasingly prescriptive about the way in which lottery money is distributed. An essence of the lottery is that the money is supposed to be devolved to the distributing bodies to allocate, but the Government are dictating strategies and

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priorities to bodies that are supposed to operate independently of Government. Lottery funding is starting to be allocated in a way that serves a political purpose. For example, at the Labour party conference in 2000, the Prime Minister announced the spending of £750 million on sports facilities in schools through the new opportunities fund. That money was not allocated until 12 months after the statement. In particular, I question whether it is right and proper for the Prime Minister to use the detailed allocation of funds through the national lottery to create a party political platform given that the lottery is supposed to be independent of Government. I see the hon. Member for Rhondda itching to get to his feet. I will happily give way if he wishes to intervene.

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