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Mr. Foster: New clause 3 deals with the important issue of the ease of applying for lottery grants. Many Members are well aware that in the early days of the national lottery, applying for a grant from any of the then distributors was quite a cumbersome affair. Things have become much better since then, year on year, but the purpose of the new clause is to insert in the Bill a mechanism to ensure that ease of application remains at the forefront of the thinking of all distributors.
I said that the arrangements had been problematic in the past. Only two or three years ago, Sport England had to employ highly paid consultants to help people fill in forms that had been drawn up by Sport England itself. Not only did sports clubs express concern, but David McNeil of the Arts Council, reflecting on the early days, said that the difficulty in applying for grants
As I said, things have improved. In the days when Lord Smith of Finsbury was Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, he made it almost a requirement for all lottery distributors and those responsible for creating the forms to attend a presentation by the Plain English Campaign. That clearly was helpful. There are other tangible examples of progress. For example, the Heritage Lottery Fund has undoubtedly simplified its procedures and speeded up the way in which lottery money reaches projects, especially small grants to bodies that do not have easy access to professional help in filling in the forms. It is worth quoting figures showing how much progress has been made. Of those people who applied for grants in
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200203, 71 per cent. felt that the amount of documentation required was "about right". That was a significant improvement on the previous year, when only 56 per cent. of grantees supported that statement.
Since then, there has been further progress. That has been particularly the case since the Government's review of lottery funding, which I welcomed and that was published in January 2003. We should all place on the record our praise to the relevant Ministers and their staff for their work on that. The report acknowledged that progress was made, but went on to say that more needed to be done. It said:
As I say, progress has continued to be made since that time. However, it is worth reflecting on how problematic it can still be. I could choose many examples, but shall give just one. The chairman of the Aln Valley Railway Society, Mr. Stuart Manley, pointed out that it had to spend £100,000 on putting together its bid for funding from one of the lottery distributors. It got £6 million as a result of the success of that investment of £100,000, but that was a huge amount.
We should praise the distributors, who are making progress. I welcome that and recognise that they acknowledge that more work still needs to be done. The HLF is consulting on its strategic plan, which will run from 2008. Included in that consultation is the issue of simplification and accessibility. The Big Lottery Fund has said that it has made enormous progress, but intends to continue to make progress. During the passage of the Bill in Committee, the Minister talked about the way in which the Big Lottery Fund will become a one-stop shop, or, as some people want to call it, one front door, for all lottery applications. I think that that will be an enormous help.
I am delighted that there has been support for the new clause from a number of organisations, including the Central Council of Physical Recreation, all of which have acknowledged that, while progress has been made, there is a need for more to be done. Therefore, new clause 3 requires that the issue of accessibility, of ease of application, be placed in the Bill so that we continue to be reminded of its importance.
Amendment No. 13 raises a different issue: whether it is right for lottery distributors to be promoting the playing of the national lottery. I said in Committee that it was right that the lottery distributors should promote the work that is done with the money that they distribute. They should be engaging in debate with the public about how that money should be spent. During the Committee stage, I tabled an amendment that basically had a similar effect, but in a different way. At the end of the consideration of the amendment I said:
"the Minister will reflect on the words he has used to see if he can bring himself to say, 'National lottery distributors shall not be allowed to promote the playing of the national lottery and national lottery games.' If the Minister persuaded himself to say that now, it would be even easier. Since he is not prepared to do
I gave the Minister a chance to say those words thentoday, I am giving him another chance to make it absolutely clear that the lottery distributors will not be able to promote the playing of the national lottery or national lottery games.
"Distributors are not in the business of promoting national lottery games . . . that is Camelot's responsibility under the terms of its licence."[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 1 November 2005; c. 174, 171.]
I also want to put on the record how important it is for the distributors to promote the uses to which they put the moneys that they distribute. There is huge confusion in the mind of the public about the various projects. I referred in Committee to the ICM poll that found that people believed that the same amount of money went to help asylum seekers as to supporting disabled peoplealthough the ratio is really 10:1 in favour of disabled people. I make no comment on whether that is right or wrong; I am merely pointing out that there is a huge misconception in the mind of the public.
That is not helped by some newspaper stories about applications being turned down for politically correct reasons, which often turn out to be a load of nonsense. For example, in October The Times ran an article about the Severn Area Rescue Association's application being turned down because it could not provide details of the social background of the people whom it rescued. That turned out to be totally untrue. The Times published the story on 18 October and had to correct it on 27 October.
The worry is that the problem continues to this day. Only today, in the Daily Mail, we are told yet again that St. Paul's Cathedral was turned down for funding because it did not appeal to a diverse audience. Again, that story is not true. The Daily Mail says:
I talked today to the people from the HLF and they assured me categorically that that story is untrue. St. Paul's voluntarily withdrew its application, which largely related to cleaning the outside of the building. It is worth reading out exactly what the HLF said in its briefing to me today, to put it clearly on the record:
"It's not true that the application was rejected because it didn't have wide enough appealclearly not the case at such a popular attraction and important cathedral. HLF has funded more than 2,000 places of worship and is committed to supporting this important expression of our heritage".
It is important that the lottery distributors should engage with the public about the way in which money is used. I welcome the "Restoration" and "The People's Millions" programmes, and many other examples, but I worry about distributors promoting the playing of the
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lottery itself. The reason for that is simple. The best way to give money to a charity or other good cause is not by playing the national lottery. If someone plays the national lottery and spends £1 on their ticket, only 28p goes to the good cause, but if someone gives £1 directly to a good cause, using the benefit of Gift Aid, £1.28 goes to the good cause. If we want to give money to a charity, it is much more efficient to give it directly, preferably using Gift Aid, than through the national lottery. However, people play the national lottery not just to give money to good causes, but to have a chance of winning one of the prizes. That is understandable and I make no criticism of that, but that does not mean that playing the lottery is the best way of giving money to a charity.
We must ensure that lottery distributors do not promote playing the lottery or lottery games, but I am very keen for them to promote the activities that they engage in, using the money that they have raised. That is the purpose of amendment No. 13.
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