HC Deb 16 October 1995 vol 264 cc7-8
6. Mr. Roy Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what recent discussions she has had with Camelot concerning the level of prizes in the national lottery. [35903]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

I met Sir George Russell, chairman of Camelot Group plc, on 21 August. We discussed a number of issues concerning the national lottery, including prize levels.

Mr. Hughes

Does the right hon. Lady appreciate that in some cases the multi-million pound prizes actually cause social distress? Would it not be far wiser to limit the top prize to £1 million, thereby creating a more fair and equitable lottery?

Mrs. Bottomley

Looking at the background papers on the subject, I am reminded of the hon. Gentleman saying that he thought that the prizes were not large enough. Be that as it may, the hon. Gentleman will know that growing numbers of people play the lottery in a syndicate, so that very often, when a large prize is won, the proceeds are shared by a number of people. When large prizes are available, there is an enormous increase in the amount of money for good causes. The roll-over results in an increase of about 27 per cent. The lottery is required to maximise the return to good causes, to protect the interests of those playing, and ensure that it is conducted with propriety. I believe that on all three counts it is acting as a model.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the fact that many of my constituents would love to cope with the social distress to which the hon. Member for Newport, East (Mr. Hughes) referred if they were to win such magnificently high prizes? Indeed, that is precisely why so many of my constituents buy tickets. If they were not to do so due to all the petty restrictions beloved of Labour Members, there would be less money available to charities and the other many good causes.

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend sums up the situation precisely. If the Opposition parties had their way, they would cap the prizes and reduce the money coming through for good causes. As things are, we are all winners with the lottery. Millions are playing, millions are winning and, above all, 1,432 projects have already benefited. The Labour party cannot abide success.

Mr. Skinner

Is it true that the Secretary of State has issued a memo giving instructions to all the people who are concerned with grants and money from the lottery that in no circumstances should any money go to socialist Stratford?

Mrs. Bottomley

If the hon. Gentleman checked where the lottery money was falling, he would find that far more goes to socialist authorities than to Conservative authorities, for the very reason that the money is going towards regeneration projects which are totally improving the face of the country—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about Stratford?"] There are no special cases. However, perhaps I could give the hon. Gentleman a list of projects in the Stratford area—[HoN. MEMBERS: "And Stratford East"]—to reassure him on that front.

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