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23 Oct 2002 : Column 295—continued

Mr. Lansley: The Secretary of State has referred to many distinct communities and areas. She has not so far mentioned rural areas, even though such areas often have the fewest facilities. There has been valuable support under the community fund for village halls and clubs, for example, which give a sense of community focus, but that support has diminished. Does the right hon. Lady agree that further resources should be made available for village halls in rural areas from the new opportunities fund?

Tessa Jowell: I have two points to make in response to that intervention. First, the difficulty of securing lottery funding for village halls is an example of why we must get lottery distributors to work together more closely and collaboratively. Secondly, the fair shares programme has sought to tackle the low level of lottery funding in deprived communities. There will soon be an announcement—if such an announcement has not been made already—that that programme will be extended to rural areas, as should be the case. Each lottery distributor has a responsibility to ensure that the interests of rural communities in pursuit of the equity to which I have referred are properly reflected in the way that lottery funds are distributed.

I am considering a number of ways in which the practical obstacles to the greater involvement of players in the lottery can be overcome, but the principle is secure. In connection with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Caroline Flint), the review is important because the lottery must show that it has the capacity to adapt and change in accordance with the circumstances in which it operates.

The lottery's future depends on public confidence in its operation. That is why it can never stand still. We must prove to people every day that their lottery pounds are well spent. Whether or not we play the national lottery, we all win in some way or other.

We will maintain the lottery as a powerful force for good in this country. We take very seriously the bond of trust that exists between the lottery and the people of

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this country. Despite the Opposition carping from the sidelines, we will give the lottery back to the people of this country.

4.53 pm

Bob Russell (Colchester): First, I wish to thank the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale) for having the decency to praise the former right hon. Member for Huntingdon, Prime Minister and leader of the Conservative party. It is a long time since a senior Conservative politician has uttered such praise.

However, I felt that the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford was very ill at ease when he made his contribution. He is a decent man, but I draw the House's attention to the 27 words in the Opposition's otherwise excellent motion which I suggest have been inserted to appeal to the racist tendencies of the Daily Mail. The motion, which otherwise would be likely to command respect around the Chamber, is thereby contaminated.

There is no doubt that the national lottery has been of great benefit to the people of the United Kingdom since it was launched in November 1994, notwithstanding any objections and reservations that may have been expressed at the time by the Methodist tendency of the Liberal Democrat party. Since then, nearly #12 billion has been raised for good causes, and every one of the communities that we represent has been improved as a result. We have new community centres, sports facilities, cultural projects and heritage centres, all as a direct result of lottery funding. For that, we must thank the former right hon. Member for Huntingdon.

Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale): Is the Methodist tendency in the hon. Gentleman's party still prevalent, and is that why they are boycotting his speech?

Bob Russell: I commend the hon. Gentleman for that wise observation. However, I am pleased to say that we command far more respect north of the border than does his party.

We should be grateful for the support of the people who buy tickets—about 60 per cent. of the population—and to those who have spent lottery grants effectively to the benefit of all our communities. Of course, there have been times when some have said that lottery money has not been spent wisely. For the most part, however, the money raised and spent has been invested in improving the quality of life for just about everyone. This debate should be set against the background of that Major success.

The thousands of charities and organisations that have applied for, received and spent lottery money since 1994 should be congratulated on what they have done. The volunteers and paid staff of various organisations should be applauded for helping our top athletes achieve the medals to which the Secretary of State has referred, which have made this country so proud. They should be applauded for running our local clubs and improving access and participation for people, whatever their race, age or ability. Let us make no mistake—many of these projects would never have seen the light of day or got off the ground without such funding. In the case of the

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millennium dome, that would have been a blessing, but there are many other projects for which we have only the lottery to thank.

A pat on the back should also go to Camelot for running one of the most successful lotteries in the world. It has helped fund 121,000 projects and supported countless small retailers across the country. It is vital to the financial viability of many of our small shops and sub-post offices that they do not have their terminals removed because sales figures are considered too low. I would welcome an assurance from the Minister who is to respond to the debate that the Government will use their best endeavours to persuade those who are responsible for issuing and maintaining terminals to ensure that very small shops are not penalised if they are in areas where sales do not reach a perceived target.

Over the past seven years, Sport England has received #1.6 billion from the lottery, which has been distributed to sporting good causes. However, Sport England's lottery income has fallen from a peak of around #270 million in 1996–97 to just #200 million this year, and it is projected to fall even further to #185 million in the financial year ahead. That was before the recent drop in sales, so the figures are now even more dire for sport.

Every constituency has benefited, as have 62 different sports. So far, 2,800 lottery-funded capital projects have been completed and opened. I am told that the majority, some 85 per cent., are local facilities specifically earmarked for community use.

I congratulate the Government on their lottery funding aims, and Sport for All on developing sporting opportunities for all sections of our community—the active communities development fund, sport action zones and school sport co-ordinators. These are all good positive messages. However, Mr. Gordon Neale, the chief executive of Disability Sport England—which is nothing to do with Sport England—has contacted me because he wishes the House to be made aware that, when it comes to lottery funding, all is not well in the world of sport. Mr. Neale informed me that

Let us not forget the silent beneficiary of the lottery, however. It sits there, raking in millions of pounds each year. So far, it has enjoyed #4.6 billion of lottery money, about a third of the amount raised for good causes. It does not need to account for its spending of that money in particular—the money is merely added to the pot and divvied up later. I am talking, of course, of the Treasury. The lottery has added #4 billion to the pot for our public services. That is something else for which we can be grateful.

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We know that not everything is rosy in the lottery garden, but we must bear in mind the fact that the lottery's contribution to the arts, sports, heritage and charities—causes that are traditionally low on the list of the Treasury's priorities—is invaluable. The same cannot be said of other recipients of lottery funds, however; for them, the amounts are more significant, the causes more important and the issue more fundamental. I am talking about the observance of the principle of additionality.

The Secretary of State has pointed out that the principle that lottery money cannot replace Exchequer spending is clear. Indeed, her predecessor said:

There is thus consistency between two Secretaries of State.

However, the new opportunities fund lottery money is being used to implement Government objectives, as is clear from press releases and consultative documents. Health and education feature high on the Treasury's list of priorities—rightly so. They also top the list of voters' priorities; they are services that are legitimately and correctly funded from general taxation, and on which the Government have staked their reputation. Yet those services are being part-funded by lottery cash. Why should the Government be permitted to shirk their fiscal responsibilities by funding health and education programmes with lottery money?

The lottery is funding the Government's commitments to cancer care via a #150 million living with cancer programme. It is also meeting part of the Government's commitment to education via the school sports facilities programme. In the words of the Government, lottery funding should

That principle, enshrined in the legislation that created the lottery, is at best being ignored and at worse being abused by such funding. We have a Government who are siphoning off lottery money, which the players think is going to good causes, and using it to pay for their election pledges—[Hon. Members: XOh."] The legislation made it clear that lottery money should not be used for that. An election manifesto is one thing; legislation in this place is another.

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