|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Chris Grayling: The Government's approach manifests itself in funding allocations to different projects through the new opportunities fund. Let me give some examples. Some £213.5 million has been allocated to projects to reduce the burden of coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer. It is admirable to spend money on such things, but are they not rightly and properly the domain of the Department of Health, not the national lottery? Some £198.5 million has been allocated to child care, especially in deprived areas. I have no problem with the objective, but does that not fall within the ambit of the Department for Work and Pensions? Some £159 million has been allocated for a programme of environmental renewal and community regeneration, promoting recycling and developing renewable energy sources. Again, those are admirable aspirations, but is that money not more appropriately distributed by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs?
The hon. Member for Harrow, West referred to after-school projects in his constituency. I said that some of the funding for those schemes would traditionally have come from local authorities. For example, in the London borough of Merton, where I am a serving councillor for a few more days, the future of a play scheme in one of the local schools that catered for children with special educational needs caused a controversy for a number of years. It had always been partly funded by the local authority, but the Labour-controlled council decided that it could no longer do that. That is a classic example of funding that would traditionally have come from local authorities, but that is no longer possible because authorities have less and less discretionary funding to spend on such schemes. I would not want funding that, traditionally, comes from the local authority to be replaced by national lottery funding to enable the play scheme to continue. That is the risk associated with funding such schemes through the national lottery, rather than through traditional mechanisms.
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: I re-emphasise the fact that the new opportunities fund has added value. There was a huge demand for after-school provision in my constituency before the National Lottery Act 1998 came into force. Aided and abetted by a lack of proper funding from the then Conservative Government, the Liberal Democrat-controlled council had been unable to provide any funding whatever for after-school clubs in my constituency. It is only since the creation of the new
Chris Grayling: The hon. Gentleman is extremely keen to discover future Conservative policy, but I am afraid that he must wait a little while, particularly because, as he knows, we are regrettably some distance away from the next general election. It is clear that his Government are initiating major changes, and both Opposition parties must respond to them when they arise. I hope, however, that we will not have to respond to increasing politicisation of the national lottery in the next three or four years, or to a new opportunities fund that increasingly becomes a replacement for spending through taxation and which deals with matters that should be funded by the Government. I urge the Minister to ensure that that does not happen. The national lottery is not a political creature but an important part of the fabric of this country; it should not become an adjunct of Government.
I began my remarks on the new opportunities fund by drawing the Minister's attention to the fact that Millennium Commission finance has been transferred entirely to the new opportunities fund. Even though the commission related specifically to the millennium, it is a matter of regret that there is no replacement for it. In her opening remarks, the Secretary of State rightly referred to the important role that the lottery has played in encouraging the development of major capital schemes, and the commission made a real contribution to developing areas of strategic national importance.
A raft of welcome schemes emerged throughout the country, and I worry that in the next few years there will be no successor body to assistalbeit not to the same extent as in the run-up to the millenniumschemes like the Eden project, London's millennium bridge and the new bridge referred to by the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg), who is no longer in his place. Such schemes made a difference to communities throughout the country, and the commission had an important part to play in that regard. Within the framework of lottery funding allocation, a successor body to the Millennium Commission should be created. It need not be on the same scale, but it should take a strategic view of the nation as a whole, in the manner of the commission.
I conclude by discussing Millennium Commission funding allocations in the run-up to 200001. My remarks are based on the experience of a constituent of mine, Mr. Gordon Winborne, who feels very let down by his experience of the commission and the allocation of funding. On his behalf, I seek further clarification from the Minister. In 1995, Mr. Winborne submitted to the Millennium Commission a scheme for a series of slipways. It was initially rejected, but the commission subsequently invited him to resubmit his application. It was eventually rejected, however, on the ground of a lack of funding for such schemes. Mr. Winborne accepted that decision, but then he observed the unhappy process of funding the millennium dome, of which we are all well aware.
As hon. Members will recall, through the Millennium Commission the House initially allocated £449 million to the New Millennium Experience Company and thus the dome. When the dome experienced financial problems in 2000, a further £179 million was allocated. The Government have always statedin this House and in written responsesthat that additional sum did not come from funds that would otherwise have been allocated to other good causes. However, Mr. Winborne believes that his project, and many others like it, were unable to receive funding because additional funds had to be allocated to the dome. He made the not illogical point that, if additional money had to be found in 2000 for the New Millennium Experience Company and the dome, it had to come from somewhere. It did not appear from thin air; nor did it come from the taxpayer. It must therefore have come from lottery funding that would otherwise have been allocated to other sources.
As one can imagine, my constituent was disappointed not to receive fundingas, I suspect, were many others who applied to the Millennium Commission for various worthy projects. It remains a matter of considerable frustration that so much extra money had to be invested in the dome. For the benefit of my constituent and others in his position, I ask the Minister to explain from what budget the additional funding for the dome was taken, so that he can be reassured about what happened. That would set to rest an issue that has irritated him, and others like him, for a number of years.
In conclusion, I urge the Minister not to politicise the national lottery. It has made a major contribution to this nation and continues to contribute to communities throughout the land. I support many hon. Members' aspirations for it to make a difference in communities of all sorts and all levels of prosperityperhaps communities that have not seen fit to seek lottery funding in the past. However, the national lottery must not and cannot become an adjunct of Government spending, or an excuse for the Treasury to take a slice off spending that should come through Government Departments and use the national lottery as an alternative route for spending. That must not happen.
I commend all those who work in the national lotterythose who allocate funding, those who raise money, and those who operate the tills in shops in my constituency and elsewhere. It has been a great success and I hope that it continues to be so.
Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): Although many have waxed lyrical about the lottery today, my original feelings about it were mixed. Perhaps because I was exposed to too much Methodism in my youth, I have always been rather puritanical about gambling, and when the concept of the national lottery was introduced, I thought it was a classic instance of redistribution of wealthtaking mainly from the poor to make a few people rich, which is not the socialist way.
I remember hearing Prime Minister John Major saying that when he heard about the amount of money involved, it made his fingers itch. That was a poor start for the national lottery, not least because it put me in mind of Fagin's lines in Lionel Bart's splendid musical "Oliver!":
Other problems included the fact that initially a significant proportion of the money spent by the different agencies went to capital projects, and capital projects alone. At the time, I worried that we were creating a vast number of white elephantsthat throughout the country there would be lots of wonderful buildings built over five or 10 years that had no decent revenue stream. They would either provide significant problems to local authorities that would have to provide funding assistance, or fall empty to lie fallow within a decade or less.
I am glad that, thanks to the Labour Government, changes have been made to the structure and to the way in which money is spent. A large proportion of the money is now spent on revenue streams, and I shall speak presently about certain issues that need to be resolved in that respect. Furthermore, the lottery has scored some great successes. I confess that my Calvinist and puritanical initial thoughts about gambling were inappropriateperhaps Mr. Major had it right.
Not least among those successes is an element of socialist redistribution: £4.2 billion of lottery money has gone straight to the Treasury and therefore into more traditional forms of funding public services. There has been some redistribution to the Rhondda. We have had twoalthough only twomajor cash prizes: one person got £182,824, which is more than any house in the Rhondda costs, and a syndicate got £249,105. We can only wish them luck.
Before focusing on specific considerations, I wish to make one general point, which is that when debating the national lottery it is important that we eschew narrow parochialism in any form. Several hon. Members have referred to specific constituency cases, and I, too, will do so, but we must take into account regional centres of excellence, especially in sports and the arts. It would not be right if we spent every penny or expected every penny to be spent purely on redistribution to every constituency. A fair distribution of money will also mean that regional centres will attract specific amounts of money.
Reference has been made to 50 m swimming pools. There is currently no 50 m pool in Wales, although we are building one at Swansea. If we are to see real success in the swimming and diving pool, we will have to make sure that we have more 50 m and high-diving pools. Otherwise, we will not win medals in the future.
There are hon. Members on both sides who are somewhat sceptical about the proposed millennium centre at Cardiff. Some would argue that the valleys in south Wales have not attracted the funding that they should haveespecially for the artsand that yet another building going to Cardiff is inappropriate. My feeling is that many of my constituents would be happy to go to Cardiff to a centre of excellence to see theatre, opera or dance. If that building were not to be built in Cardiff, it is unlikely that those people would have any opportunity to see the best in music, theatre, opera or dance. That is why I wholeheartedly support the millennium new centre that is being built there, while still wanting more money spent in my constituency. [Laughter.] Parochialism will triumph in the end.
I mentioned earlier the subject of coalfield communities. In many of the debates to which I have listened since becoming a Member of Parliament, people have stated that there are either rural communities or urban communities. In fact, many of the coalfield communities in this country fall into neither of those categories. They have some of the characteristics of rural communities, in that they are isolated and do not have particularly good transport links. Public transport is often deficient and many people live within 200 yards of a farm; that is certainly true in my constituency. However, they also suffer from all the problems of urban communities, in that they have relatively high levels of unemployment and sickness and poor multiple deprivation indices.
In respect of the lottery, that has produced some particular problems. The emphasis on major capital projects at the start of the lottery meant that many small communitiessuch as the Rhondda Fawr and the Rhondda Fach, with 15 small, separate communitieswere unable to sustain or create a single such project. That means that we have not been able to attract funding.
Similarly, the time limit on revenue funding from the lottery has been difficult for poorer communities. The lottery funding bodies have said, quite legitimately, that it is unlikely that such communities will be able to sustain a large revenue project across several years and that there is a long-term doubt about whether such a project would be sustainable. That has caused problems in many coalfield communities.
Many people are uncertain about whether the lottery and the funding bodies are for areas such as their own. They hear about the Royal Opera house, the national theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and other big projects and ask what relevance they have to themselves. Some organisations feel that they are not the kind that should be making an application.
Many of the forms are still far too complex for some organisations to fill in. I know that all the organisations have made valiant efforts to simplify the processes, but many smaller organisations that do not have full-time staff still find it difficult to go through the processes.
The low limit of £5,000 on grants for the simplified version of the forms is a problem. This means that in many areas such as the coalfield communities organisations have decided to go for grants of £3,000 or £4,000 rather than larger amounts.
Those problems have already been highlighted by the Department in successive reports on coalfield communities. The end result is that, before reforms were introduced a couple of years ago, grants of only £54.62 per capita went to coalfield communities, compared with an average of £100.65 for communities across the UKonly 45 per cent. of the national average went to coalfield communities. The Government have changed some rules, which has led to significant change; now, £35.64 per capita is being given to coalfields, compared with £58.94 across the UK. That is 60 per cent. of the national average, but it is still significantly less than that average.
The position is even worse in certain areas of lottery funding. In the arts, for instance, coalfield communities, before Government reforms, attracted £5.95 per head, while the rest of the UK attracted £20.94. Since the reforms, the grant has been £1.87 in coalfield communities and £7.83 for the rest of the UK, which
By contrast, we are doing rather better in sport. Before reform, £7.25 per capita was being given to coalfield communities, which was 47 per cent. of the national average of £15.47. After reform, there was significant improvement, and coalfields received £7.23 per capita, which was 65 per cent. of the national average of £11.04. No coalfield community would expect to get more than the national average; many are straggled-out isolated communities and would not even expect to get up to 95 per cent. of the average. However, we aspire at least to get three quarters or four fifths of the national average.
In the past, national figures have been gathered on all the coalfields in England, Scotland and Wales. My office has tried to do some research into the specific problems of south Wales coalfields. We have worked out that we still receive only 40 per cent. of the national average: we receive a total of £5.7 million, while the national average is £14.1 million. There is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure that the south Wales coalfields in particular attract the funding that they deserve.
It is not all negative; there have been some wonderful awards in the Rhondda. The Blaenllechau community regeneration project in one of the more remote and beautiful parts of the Rhondda recently received £149,000. Valleys Kids has done well, and has attracted several awards. Holy Trinity church in Tylorstown and other churches in the Rhondda have done well from the heritage fund. Indeed, I could not continue without mentioning all the bands in the Rhondda that have received money: the Treherbert silver band, the Parc and Dare band, the Rhondda big band, the Ynyshir welfare band and the Tylorstown band (valleys line). Our bands have done well, which is only appropriate because the best brass band in the country[Interruption.] No, it is an objective fact, as three years in a row we have won all the awards that can be won. Successful bands include the Cory band, once known as the Ton temperance band, but whose full name is now the Buy As You View Cory band.
It is excellent that all those awards have been won in the Rhondda. However, some of the figures compiled by Camelot and other organisations on the Rhondda are inaccurate. They often think that everything that goes to Rhondda Cynon Taff, the local authority, goes to the Rhondda. According to Camelot, £531,000 was granted for an indoor bowls hall. I have toured up and down the Rhondda and I can neither find the hall nor see any prospect of its being built; I do not think that there is a piece of land flat enough to accommodate it. Perhaps it will be located somewhere else in RCT. Similarly, the £500,000 given last year to RCT for sport was spent elsewhere in the area. So the figures for the Rhondda and some other coalfield communities are masked by moneys that are going to other areas.
There is much still to do. In my constituencylet me be thoroughly parochial for a momentwe have a great theatre, the Parc and Dare, which is named after two collieries up in Treorchy. It is a splendid theatre with
It is my firm belief that there should be a decent theatre in each of the constituencies in the south Wales valleys and that we should build on what we have in the Parc and Dare. After all, Paul Robeson appeared there many years ago, and it would be a delight to have a decent theatre. To get such a theatre, we need to buy the chapel next door, so it can be converted into decent backstage facilities to ensure that actors, in rehearsals as well as performances, and audiences can have a decent theatrical experience.
Similarly, the Abergorki hall, which is located a little bit further up the road in Ynyswen and is a classic example of a miners' institute, has a very fine facade, while everything behind it is terrible. The people who run the hall have a significant revenue stream from a gym, aikido classes, an arts class and all sorts of different healthy living classes, as well as the Rhondda Civic Society. However, that revenue provides nowhere near enough to convert the building into a decent healthy living centre, and there is terrible difficulty in attracting the initial seedcorn funding to get the feasibility study done on rebuilding while retaining the facade and changing the back. In such areas, where many people are unaware of the processes that must be used to attract funding, it is vital that specific support is provided either by the local authority or the lottery funding bodies to ensure that they can be successful in significant long-term capital bids.
I should like to make one final parochial point about the Rhondda heritage park, which some hon. Members may have visited. It is a museum that is run by the local authority in the old Lewis Merthyr colliery, a fine example of the industrial heritage of mining communities in south Wales. Indeed, even Her Majesty will be visiting it as part of her jubilee tour in June. We look forward to that visit. However, the park currently has a problem. Just as the Government have rightly done in England, the National Assembly for Wales has made entrance to national museums free, but that creates a problem for local authority-run museums that cannot take advantage of the same funding stream. The Rhondda heritage park has 55,500 visitors every year, but it is currently having difficulties because people clearly find it much more attractive to go to Big Pit, which is only a few miles away and is free because it is a national museum, than to come to the heritage centre.
Interestingly, having looked through the figures for Rhondda, I notice that practically no money has yet come from the new opportunities fund. We have a problem in terms of ensuring that the new opportunities fund gets around to spending its money. As far as I can see, only £29,074 has been spent from the fund in the Rhondda. I suspect that that may be replicated in other constituencies in the south Wales coalfields. I hope that the fund will consider specifically what it is doing in former coalfields.
The Arts Council of Wales is doing a good job of not spending its money, as is shown by interesting figures which I have. I accept that, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, there must be a cautionary element in how any of the bodies spend their money, as
The worst case was last October, when the Arts Council of Wales received £2.22 million and spent only £670,000. If that happened in just one month it could be overlooked, but as it has been happening systematically throughout the past year, we need to look into the matter to make sure that we are not being so frugal and troubled about how we give out money that the bodies that could be receiving the money and doing good things with it are not receiving it.
Reference has already been made to the £3.5 billion of reserve that has been accumulated. I welcome the earlier comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about trying to make sure that more of that money is spent and that we are not quite so precautionary, but we need to move further.
I have some suggestions which I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister will consider, if not today, then in due course. First, there is a specific need in the south Wales coalfields for a means of ensuring that every organisation that might possibly make a decent application has the tools to do so. I ask Ministers to consider encouraging the lottery funding bodies to provide a single lottery officer to work in the south Wales coalfields with all the bodiesarts, sport, community and heritageto foster more applications. It is true that a higher percentage of the applications made in the south Wales coalfields is successful than elsewhere in the country, but there are still not enough applications. More should be fostered.
Secondly, I hope that we can encourage the Arts Council of Wales and other organisations to consider making revenue commitments for a longer period. Last year they finally agreed to make revenue commitments for three years, but in poorer communities such as mine we need to consider a five-year programme of funding support. Also, the limit of £5,000 for the simplified systemthe fast-track process, as it wereshould be increased to £10,000 or £15,000. That would make a significant difference in areas such as mine.
The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) made an excellent point about the importance of lottery outlets in retail premises in ensuring continuing support for local businesses. As I said earlier, I have 15 small communities in my constituency, which makes it difficult to know where to hold my surgeries. It is essential that people have a local shop. There are areas such as Stanleytown, where I live, and Blaenllechau, which are poorly served in that respect. Sometimes, in the smaller communities, the presence of a lottery outlet has made it possible for Spars, post offices and others to remain in business. I hope that Camelot will work hard to make sure that all those communities are well served in the future, and that there are sufficient outlets to maintain local communities.
I have two final points, which are not parochial. The first is the state of theatre in the United Kingdom. One of the problems is that many theatres were built within a short period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of them were built by Frank Matcham, and many of them are fine and beautiful buildings. They were designed for a particular form of theatre. There is a proscenium arch and a certain form of stage machinery. The theatres were built at a time when those who had money expected not to be sitting in the same area as those who worked for them as servants. There would be separate entrances to the balcony, up into the gods and around the corner. Such theatres would have a dress circle and stalls, as well as bars and so on.
Many of these theatres are wholly inappropriate now for a modern theatre-going audience. In many west end theatres and regional theatres throughout the country, there are cramped conditions for audiences, poor front-of-house facilities and seats that have needed re-upholstering for many years. Back stage, there are conditions in which no one should be expected to work. Actors are working in conditions that often come close to the edge in terms of health and safety.
Before more money is spent on theatres by the lottery and by the Arts Councils of England and Wales, perhaps an audit should be undertaken. Unique for tourists, especially American tourists, is our theatre. American tourists, who spend significantly more than most other tourists on the theatre, expect good theatres. It is not only the play itself that matters, but the entire theatrical experience. The Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport recently visited the Royal Shakespeare theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. If there is an emblem that is at the heart of British tourism, it is Stratford. I think of it not as an English resource but a British resource.
The theatre is wholly inadequate both back stage and front of house. I know that English Heritage would like to preserve the building; indeed, it is listed. The staircase is even more listed, as it were, than the rest of the building. However, I believe that it should be rased as fast as possible. It is a hideous carbuncle. I know that we have become accustomed to it, rather like a rude aunt who comes every Christmas for lunch, but it is time that we got rid of it and built something appropriatethat is, a theatre that would be able to show the best of British acting talent and the best of Shakespeare and others of his era.
It would be an attraction for American tourists and for my constituents. When I suggested that it was only old fogies who went to Stratford, I received many letters from my constituents telling me that there were not old fogies and that they went to Stratford.
As a tiny footnote, it would be nice to see funding arrangements between the Arts Councils of England and Wales to allow the Royal Shakespeare Company to tour in Wales. Every child in Wales studies Shakespeare. It would be good to see the RSC perhaps performing in a reinvigorated Parc and Dare theatre in Treorchy.
We have the Budd report, which looks into gambling and how that affects the lottery. The Select Committee will be producing its own report on the Budd report. Many of us accept that we need to take a more liberal attitude towards gambling, notwithstanding some puritanical instincts that I might have. It is important that we ensure that in the process of liberalising some regulations on gambling, we do not remove the protection that the lottery has. Although it may seem that we shall allow more charities to run lotteries and therefore attract more money for their own organisations, the end result may be that we give less money, not more, to charities and good causes that need support.