HC Deb 20 November 1995 vol 267 cc325-6
8. Mr. Congdon

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many charities which assist the elderly have been awarded funds from the national lottery. [488]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The lottery is for everyone; the silver generation will have access to facilities made possible by lottery funds including the arts, sport and heritage and community and environmental projects which are the focus of millennium funding. So far, 77 caring charities for elderly people, such as Age Concern, have benefited from total lottery grants of over £5 million.

Mr. Congdon

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the national lottery is stimulating many innovative ideas in the voluntary sector as well as providing a valuable source of extra funding for it? What steps can be taken to ensure that local authorities do not use it as an excuse to cut their grants to the voluntary sector?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is right to ask us to ensure that the excellent lottery awards are not exploited by local authorities. All the distributing bodies are having discussions about precisely that. The lottery has led to the opportunity for regeneration and community involvement, and for participation in the arts, sport and heritage and in a range of caring projects. It has quite exceeded expectations, and it is making a lasting difference to life in this country.

Mr. Fisher

Of course the lottery is a great success, but should not the Secretary of State temper her complacency about that? Would there not be more money to distribute to the elderly and other good causes if she acted more decisively on the distribution of lottery funds? Camelot has taken £392 million. That is 9 per cent. of the total and almost twice as much as the 5 per cent. that it is pledged to take.

The boards are sitting on hundreds of millions of pounds undistributed. Apart from the millennium board and the arts board, the record of boards is appalling. The heritage board is holding back nearly £200 million and the charities board, which should concern the hon. Member for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Congdon), has distributed only £75 million out of the £253 million it has received— less than 30 per cent. Should not the Secretary of State be a deal less complacent and galvanise herself into action to ensure that the boards distribute their money?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman speaks, as always, with the spirit of the Labour party: in tones of the politics of envy. The operator has organised the most efficient lottery in the world. After an open competition, it gave the best return for the good causes at the lowest cost. As ever, he cannot resist attacking the profit made by the operator, even though it is maximising return for good causes.

It is important that all distributing bodies make urgent progress in ensuring that they continue to make their awards. The caring charities board had to start from scratch. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will welcome today's extra announcements of the 548 charities that will benefit. He will be reassured to know that, while the money is waiting to be distributed, it is earning interest, which goes precisely to those good causes.

Mr. Robathan

Will my right hon. Friend confirm the report that I heard on Radio Leicester as I was driving south this afternoon, which said that Age Concern, Leicester—a charity that certainly assists elderly people— has today received £100,000 from the charities board? Along with Lutterworth tennis club, which received £65,000 two weeks ago, and Cosby sports club, that shows that my constituents, both aged and younger, are certainly benefiting from charity.

Mrs. Bottomley

I can confirm that today's announcements have been supported not only by Age Concern, Leicester, but by Age Concern, Durham, and that many projects—for guides, scouts, Samaritans, MIND and Mencap—have received substantial awards today. I urge hon. Members to ensure that charities in their constituency are aware of the opportunities of the lottery and apply for awards wherever they have a popular cause that should be supported.

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