HC Deb 16 October 1995 vol 264 cc2-5
3. Mr. Janner

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans she now has for future allocation of lottery funds. [35900]

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

Parliament decided that each of the five good causes should benefit equally from the proceeds of the national lottery. I see no reason to change this at present.

Mr. Janner

Does the Secretary of State understand that almost the entire British public at every level consider that the way in which the Government have organised this expenditure of public funds is a public disgrace? Will she see whether there are other ways in which other people's money could be spent which they would find acceptable, whatever the Government may think?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware that the way in which the funds were distributed—through the five independent distribution bodies—was debated carefully in the House. The fact is that the lottery has been the most remarkable success: it has raised more money for good causes than anyone expected. I am sure that, like me, the hon. and learned Gentleman looks forward to the caring charities making their awards later this month.

Mr. Jessel

As the lottery is giving widespread pleasure and excitement to large numbers of people while raising massive new sums for thousands upon thousands of good causes and also producing some useful revenue for the Government, is it not time that the hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner) stopped carping and complaining and gave the Government credit for a brilliant national achievement?

Mrs. Bottomley

I totally endorse my hon. Friend's comments. Of course it is characteristic of the Labour party that it is unable to welcome such a formidable success. The hon. and learned Member for Leicester, West (Mr. Janner), who asked the question, failed to recognise that in Leicester the lawn tennis club, the Haymarket theatre, Thurmaston parish council, Leicester rowing club and Loxton leisure services all received lottery money. It is characteristic of the Opposition to look for the cloud rather than the silver lining.

Mr. Maxton

Is it not absurd that major arts organisations in Scotland such as Scottish Opera and Glasgow Citizens Theatre should face a major funding crisis at a time when so much money is coming into the lottery and is available to the arts? Is it not time that the rules on funding for the arts were changed so that at least some revenue spending as well as capital spending can be funded?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that already in Scotland the Scottish Arts Council has made 66 grants totalling almost £6 million. I agree that overall, in the country as a whole, the figures are 462 grants and £190 million. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that I have been having discussions with the chairman of the Arts Council as to whether there are ways in which, as the lottery money unfolds, it would make sense to modify the rules. However, nobody should underestimate the phenomenal contribution to the arts as a result of this very successful lottery.

Mr. Dicks

Does my right hon. Friend not feel ashamed of the way in which, in the media today, she tried to defend the allocation of £21 million to Sadler's Wells, bearing in mind that two medical charities in which I am involved have got nothing? Does she agree that the best thing she could do is to say to the Chancellor, "If you want to make public expenditure cuts, close my Department and the Arts Council and everything that goes with it"?

Mrs. Bottomley

I have been looking forward to debating this matter with my hon. Friend and I hope that he will come on a number of visits with me. I was recently at Sadler's Wells watching some of the youngsters rehearsing ballet and I thought particularly of my hon. Friend and wondered whether he would do me the honour of coming with me on such occasions. The constituency Member, the hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), may wish to debate with my hon. Friend some of the detail involved in the prospects for inner-city regeneration and the popularity of ballet, to which some 2.9 million people went last year.

I share my hon. Friend's wish that medical charities should be supported, and when the Caring Charities Board starts to make its announcements later in the month I hope, like my hon. Friend, that medical charities will have a part to play.

Mr. Chris Smith

Does the Secretary of State realise that Camelot, the operator of the lottery, is currently taking 1 per cent. as pure profit and that that percentage will inevitably rise as its start-up costs diminish? That means, does it not, that Camelot's profit for this year alone will stand at some £50 million? Would it not be far better for the operation of the lottery to be put on a not-for-profit basis, with the money saved going to charities whose fund raising is currently suffering grievously?

Mrs. Bottomley

Labour Members never learn and never change. They have this ideological hostility to any organisation ever making a profit. I commend to the House today's report by Peter Davis of Oflot in which he further discusses the award of the operating licence to Camelot. That was commended by no less a body than the National Audit Office. Writing of Camelot, Mr. Davis said that it offered the greatest contribution to the good causes … and retained the lowest percentage of turnover to cover its operating costs and profits. The Labour party threatens to undermine the good that is going to good causes because of its ideological opposition to anybody ever making a profit.

Sir Patrick Cormack

Does my right hon. Friend accept that when the distribution of lottery money was debated in the House there was virtually no opposition to the present system? Will she try to ensure that in future the charities board gets a better record and reports more regularly, and that all the announcements by the various grant-making bodies are co-ordinated? Would that not reduce much of the current criticism?

Mrs. Bottomley

I appreciate my hon. Friend's reminding me that those matters were debated thoroughly by the House, and the independence of the distributing bodies was emphasised by both sides. We are now reaching the stage at which the flow of good announcements is such that everyone is having constantly to amend the figures: 1,432 projects have now received help to the tune of £545 million. My hon. Friend is right to say that the Caring Charities Board has had to work hard to establish procedures for the distribution of money, but the caring charities receive £300 million a year which they could not otherwise have expected.

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