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23 Oct 2002 : Column 289—continued

Mr. Andrew Turner: Will the Secretary of State give way?

Tessa Jowell: No, I want to make a little more progress.

As the House knows, the community fund yesterday confirmed a grant of #336,000 to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. The grant will be paid subject to a number of conditions that will address directly the concerns that I and my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary had about the original grant. The funds will be issued to support individual case work, not doctrinaire campaigning, and they will not be used to fund support for people who are being deported because they have criminal convictions. The chief executive of the community fund made it clear in a television interview last night that the money will not be paid unless those conditions are met.

Mr. Turner: The right hon. Lady is reading her speech very well, but she seems to have ignored the point made by the representative of that organisation—on the television programme on which she herself appeared last night—who said that the money was very welcome because it would pay salaries this month. What control is there over the payment of those salaries to those people this month?

Tessa Jowell: Responsibility for ensuring the proper spending of this grant within the terms under which it has been awarded now rests with the community fund. That is one of the many illustrations of the arm's-length principle to which the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford referred, and which the House is united in believing to be the proper principle to govern lottery grants and their distribution. A consequence of the arm's-length principle is that I doubt that it would be possible to go through a list of the grants awarded by any of the 15 distributors and find unanimity, either in the House or in our constituencies. By definition, the arm's-length principle means that government and parliamentary lobbying is removed from having a direct influence on grants. This is a cross-party principle, and I believe that there is cross-party consensus that it is right.

Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): Will the right hon. Lady give way?

Tessa Jowell: No, I want to make a little more progress.

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The community fund has made its decision without interference from me or anyone else, and whatever my own views about this grant, I will defend utterly the fund's right to make its decision without any political interference. As I have already said, there is long-established cross-party support for the principle that lottery funding decisions are taken at arm's length from government, out of the reach of meddling by politicians. That means that lottery distributors will sometimes fund grants about which we are passionately supportive and, at other times, they will fund grants with which we violently disagree.

Mr. Bellingham: In the light of the fact that there are about seven different funds—or more, if we take into account Scotland and Wales—does the Secretary of State feel that it might make sense to have one overall strategic body in charge of the different funds, the chief executive of which would report directly to her? Would that not make life a bit easier?

Tessa Jowell: There might well be a case for looking at rationalising the number of lottery distributors, but not in such a way that would put politicians in control of making decisions about how lottery grants are made and what those grants were.

Having said all that, I now consider this matter closed. We should learn the lessons of this saga, and we should move on. The community fund, too, is learning the lessons. It is producing guidance that was not available to the commissioners when they made that award. It will produce guidance on the nature of political activity engaged in by organisations applying for grants. Those that encourage the breaking of the law will not be eligible for funds. The community fund has also asked the National Audit Office to review its processes in the particular case of the grant to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns. I welcome that; but there is one thing I do not intend to ask the fund to do.

Mr. Mark Francois (Rayleigh): If the matter is now closed, as the Secretary of State says, does she expect lottery ticket sales to go up again?

Tessa Jowell: I certainly believe that if we—as a country, as a Government, as a Parliament and as constituency MPs—focus more on the way in which lottery investment has changed and improved people's lives, rather than identifying specific grants that are in themselves bad cases and generalising about the performance of the lottery, lottery sales will increase again and public trust in the lottery will begin to be restored.

I want to make clear what I will not ask the fund to do. I will not ask it to end its support for the most marginalised groups and individuals in our society. I will not ask it to end the support—5 per cent. of its total allocation—that is given to drug addicts, homeless people, people with AIDS and, yes, asylum seekers and migrants. The lottery gives us a great and unique opportunity to help build a strong civil society—a society in which we can live and thrive; a society that is pluralistic and mostly tolerant. It is in all our interests for marginalised people to find a place in our society,

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and there should be no bar in principle to their eligibility for funds to support and sustain services provided for them.

Sandra Osborne (Ayr): My right hon. Friend speaks of marginalised groups. Is she aware that 20 years ago groups such as Women's Aid, which supports abused women and their children, were marginalised? That was not a mainstream issue, as it is now. It was not generally accepted to be a worthwhile cause. Indeed, such groups were regarded by certain people—for instance, some Conservative Members—as nutters. They would certainly not have attracted the support of funding bodies. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is extremely important for vulnerable groups to have a voice through the lottery?

Tessa Jowell: Yes. In their day, the suffragettes were probably regarded as politically correct. Certainly this party, when in opposition, was denigrated for making efforts to get more women into Parliament, in order to secure a Parliament that would be more representative of society as a whole. My hon. Friend makes a very good point about the way in which grants to progressive voluntary organisations can in turn improve the cohesion and solidarity of society more generally.

Mr. Gerald Howarth: The Secretary of State will have heard my earlier intervention on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale). While I do not think anyone present would describe ex-service people as marginalised, will she give us some idea of the Government's view on the eligibility of the many wonderful ex-service organisations, which do such wonderful work? Do the Government really think it fair that they should receive so little of the cake?

The right hon. Lady is at pains to say where she thinks the priorities should lie. Perhaps she will say something about where she thinks service charities come into the equation, because they do not receive Government money.

Tessa Jowell: I will come on to that point. It is worth recording that some 200 veterans' organisations have already had #1 million in grant from the community fund. I welcome the fact that Simon Weston is to be invited to meet members of the community fund board in order to discuss with them lottery funding for veterans' groups. At its heart, lottery money exists to make a difference, to add value to other Government and voluntary sector activity and to be a form of venture capital for communities that cannot get funds through more orthodox routes. Sometimes it will take risks, therefore by definition some grants will be more successful and popular than others, but without that element of risk the lottery would simply become an agent of the status quo.

The lottery must support and reflect society, so it must change as society changes. If we are to retain public confidence it must adapt or die a slow death. To take one example, Gateshead council and the Arts Council took a risk when they commissioned Anthony Gormley, one of our greatest sculptors, to build the Angel of the North. It was ridiculed in the media, but now we have one of the most stunning pieces of public

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art in Europe and the north-east has an icon of its regeneration and its renewed regional pride. Who now would say that the Angel of the North was a mistake? It was a risk, but one that paid off handsomely.

The previous Administration left us a legacy of a lottery that had the power to transform the country, and it has. It has provided #13 billion to good causes ranging from the Gateshead millennium bridge and the Manchester Commonwealth games to the Northumberland family camping group which gives holidays to low-income families. There are hundreds of other examples in each and every one of our constituencies.

Ms Candy Atherton (Falmouth and Camborne): My right hon. Friend has mentioned many examples of the national lottery making a difference to communities. Does she agree that in Cornwall the Eden project has been the very beacon, along with objective 1 status, which has made a tremendous difference to the whole economy of the county?

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