HC Deb 12 December 1994 vol 251 cc505-98
1. Mrs. Angela Knight

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if he will ensure that millennium fund projects are evenly distributed around the country.

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Stephen Dorrell)

Under section 26 of the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 the Millennium Commission has been issued with directions as to matters which should be taken into account when distributing lottery proceeds. These include the need to ensure that major projects are supported in each country of the United Kingdom.

Mrs. Knight

My right hon. Friend will know of the considerable interest in the millennium fund. Is he also aware that in the midlands, and no doubt elsewhere in the country, there is concern that projects in London and the south-east will get preference? Can he assure me that that will not be the case? Can he also assure me that support will be given to projects which celebrate both the heritage and the future of some of our traditional industries—such as iron, steel, lace and engineering—upon which many parts of the country such as Erewash continue to depend?

Mr. Dorrell

I can certainly give my hon. Friend the assurance that she seeks. No preference will be given to projects based in London and the south-east; the Millennium Commission has made it clear that it will proceed without trying to distribute funds according to a quota and will judge each application on its merits, from wherever in the kingdom it comes.

The type of project that my hon. Friend outlined would be particularly appropriate in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and if local supporters put the idea to the Commission I am sure that it would be considered favourably. Her proposal has an attractive theme as it looks back over the past 200 years of achievement in those industries and forward to the prospects for those industries in the next millennium.

Mr. Enright

Will the Minister give particular consideration to Wakefield sculpture park which, with its Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth collections, is a leader not only in the United Kingdom but in the world?

Mr. Dorrell

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the Yorkshire sculpture park, which is a major centre of excellence. I am not aware whether it has made a bid to the Millennium Commission. If it has, the bid will of course be carefully considered.

Mr. Robert Banks

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it will be important for elements of the celebration of the millennium to have a theme? Does he consider that the best theme for this country would be a celebration of music? To that end, will my right hon. Friend give thought to setting up a music palace in London, which could act as a central point and which could be replicated in all our major cities? We could then leave a mark which would establish the music industry as one of our great industries.

Mr. Dorrell

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that the Millennium Commission must back projects with themes which communicate a clear message about the things that we value when celebrating the millennium. As to whether music should be such a theme, my hon. Friend may wish to put that to the Commission. I suspect that he would need to be able to demonstrate the extra elements that the Millennium Commission could add to such a project in addition to the backing that would come from the Arts Council, which would perhaps be a more natural lottery distributor body to deal with that part of the performing arts spectrum.

2. Mr. William O'Brien

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage when he last met the organisers of the national lottery to discuss the provision of outlets for the purchase of tickets; and if he will make a statement.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Iain Sproat)

The provision of outlets' for the purchase of lottery tickets is an operational matter and as such is entirely the responsibility of the operator, Camelot plc, and the regulator, the Director-General of the National Lottery. The director-general meets Camelot regularly to discuss operational matters.

Mr. O'Brien

May I put it to the Minister that m many areas the organisation put in place by Camelot is not working, particularly in my constituency which covers the community council area of Normanton and Altofts with a population of about 25,000, and the neighbouring rural area of Sharlston with a population of about 27,000? There is not one outlet in that area where people may purchase a lottery ticket, so any of my constituents in the area wishing to purchase a lottery ticket must travel by bus to Wakefield or Castleford. As the arrangements made by Camelot are not working, will the Minister use his persuasive powers to ensure that my constituents and those in other areas will have an opportunity to purchase lottery tickets?

Mr. Sproat

I am sorry to hear that all is not completely well in the hon. Gentleman's constituency and I will ensure that his remarks are brought to the attention of Camelot. He may be aware, however, that by the end of this year a postal subscription service will be on offer, which should solve some of the problems. Although he has drawn attention to one or two things that have gone wrong, it is perhaps right to point out that 11,250 outlets are working extremely successfully.

Mr. Jessel

I thank you for calling me, Madam Speaker, although I am not sure whether you will like what I am going to say. Will my hon. Friend see whether lottery tickets can be put on sale somewhere in the Palace of Westminster?

Mr. Sproat

As is often the case, my hon. Friend has suggested an interesting idea. I will certainly ensure that it is brought to the attention of the appropriate House authority.

3. Mr. Harry Greenway

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the anonymity provisions of the national lottery; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Sproat

The anonymity provisions in the licence issued to Camelot to run the national lottery state that the identity of any person who has won a prize shall not be disclosed without the prior written consent of that person. The director general has informed me that he is not aware of any cases in which Camelot has not complied with that condition.

Mr. Greenway

Does my hon. Friend hope to win £18 million in the national lottery some day? If so, what would he do with the money, and is he satisfied that the current anonymity provisions in the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 would ensure that no one knew about his win?

Mr. Sproat

As I have said, there appears to be no doubt that Camelot has adhered to the provisions to keep winners anonymous. It may be, however, that others have not done the same. If, for instance, it was felt that complaints about what has happened in the press were proper, they could be made to the Press Complaints Commission.

4. Mr. Nigel Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how much money has been raised to date via the national lottery.

Mr. Dorrell

In the four weeks since it began, the national lottery has raised more than £53 million for good causes.

Mr. Evans

I am delighted with that response. I had rather hoped that this would have been the appropriate time for me to declare an interest, but unfortunately I am not the person who has won £17.8 million—and good luck to whoever it happens to be. As well as people winning prizes from the lottery, are not vast sums of money now set to be distributed to good causes and is it not appropriate that some of the rural areas of the United Kingdom should attract some of that money? On Friday I was talking to heads and governors of schools who would like to get funds for a swimming pool, which they would not ordinarily be able to build. Does my right hon. Friend agree that they may be able to look to the Sports Council for national lottery money to enable them to provide that facility?

Mr. Dorrell

I am sorry that my hon. Friend is not able to declare the interest that he wanted to declare. He has, of course, drawn attention to the principal benefit of the national lottery to the great majority, because it is raising sums of money for good causes which could not reasonably have been expected from any other source. My hon. Friend has also drawn attention to the opportunity that the lottery represents for a community in his constituency to realise a long-cherished ambition. The picture that he has drawn will be repeated many times in constituencies up and down the country.

Mr. Chris Smith

In four weeks, has not the Chancellor of the Exchequer already made £25 million for the Exchequer through his 12 per cent. tax take on the national lottery? Does that not make it even more inexcusable that, as a result of the Budget statement last week, the Arts Council and the Sports Council have less money in real terms than they had two years ago, especially when arts, sport and heritage are at the very heart of the appeal of the national lottery?

Mr. Dorrell

I am at a loss to understand the hon. Gentleman's argument. He seems to be saying that, as the lottery represents an unprecedentedly large addition to the resources available to the arts and sports world, there must be an equally large addition from taxpayers' funds. The Government have made it clear that the lottery money is additional to the Government's funding to the major beneficiaries. We have delivered on that commitment in the public expenditure settlement that I announced the week before last and, in addition, the lottery is unleashing an unprecedentedly large sum towards those beneficiary groups.