HC Deb 16 December 1996 vol 287 cc599-601
3. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations she has received in respect of the impact of the national lottery on (a) the Football Trust and (b) the bingo industry; and if she will make a statement. [7595]

Mr. Sproat

The Department has received more than 80 letters in respect of Football Trust funding from Members of Parliament and football clubs, in addition to representations from the trust itself. The Department has also received representations about the impact of the national lottery on the bingo industry, which have been passed to my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary, who has responsibility for bingo.

Mr. Wareing

In view of the impact of the national lottery on the Football Trust, will the Government consider allowing the smaller clubs in the Football League to implement the Taylor proposals on an extended timetable—say, to 2002 or 2003? How can the Secretary of State claim to be the champion of the bingo industry when she refuses it a level playing field with the national lottery? A level playing field would at least enable the bingo industry to advertise its own lottery.

Mr. Sproat

The hon. Gentleman is entirely right to say that the national lottery has had a serious effect on the finances of the Football Trust. However, we think that the trust's estimate of a shortfall of some £33 million is perhaps too high. The Football Licensing Authority has recently considered the figures and agrees that the estimate is perhaps a little too high. I hope that the trust and the FLA can work things out together. At the moment, we are certainly not thinking of increasing the time scale within which the Taylor proposals have to be implemented—we want to stick to August 1999.

As for bingo, that is a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.

Mr. Mans

My hon. Friend will know how important the Football Trust and the bingo industry are for the north-west of Britain, and Lancashire in particular. Will he therefore liaise with the Home Secretary and ensure that, if necessary, rules are introduced to make certain that the bingo industry can, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing) said, compete with the national lottery on a national field? Otherwise, we are likely to see the industry decline considerably in the years ahead—something that none of us wants.

Mr. Sproat

Yes, I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that he seeks because my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is currently considering, in the context of his review of the entire gambling industry, what further deregulation and liberalisation might help the bingo industry.

Mr. Pendry

Is the Minister aware that the Football Trust has today written to all clubs in the Football League and the Scottish League to say that the national lottery has so reduced its income that it has had to impose, with immediate effect, a moratorium on grants for the implementation of the Taylor report? In view of the dramatic decline in the trust's income, there will be an immediate halt on essential safety work at lower league clubs such as Blackpool, Portsmouth, Brighton, Luton, Exeter, East Fife, Falkirk and many more. In the light of the Secretary of State's helpful comments in the Football Trust's annual report 1995–96, highlighting the important work that lies ahead in helping smaller clubs to improve their spectator facilities by the 1999 season, will the Minister join her in meeting the trust in an attempt to remedy that worrying situation?

Mr. Sproat

As I said to the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Wareing), it is certainly true that the national lottery has had a serious impact on the Football Trust. However, as he will know, the Treasury has in effect forgone some 16 per cent. of pools duty—10 per cent. in two tranches of 5 per cent. is to help the pools industry and 6 per cent. is to go direct to the Foundation for Sport and the Arts and the Football Trust. In addition, the Premiership has signed a deal for £743 million for television rights for four years from 1997, while the Football League is in the first year of a five-year £125 million television deal. That should all be taken into account, but I should be happy to meet the Football Trust to try to find a better solution.

4. Mr. Michael Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many individual prizes have been won since the national lottery was established. [7596]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

As at 9 December, more than 133 million prizes had been won on the on-line game.

Mr. Brown

That is an excellent figure, but does my right hon. Friend agree that the public are still concerned that some of the prizes are exceptionally large, particularly in roll-over weeks? Does she agree that there is still a case for Camelot to examine whether the public would prefer 10 people to win £1 million in a weekend rather than £10 million being won by one person, as sometimes happens?

Mrs. Bottomley

The lottery remains under review, although there is no evidence so far that winning one of the large prizes has any adverse effect. Like others, I have studied Hunter Davies's book, "Living on the Lottery". On the whole, it told a favourable tale of what it is like to win a substantial prize. The allocation of prizes is designed to maximise the return to the good causes. In roll-over weeks, far more people play the national lottery. That means that even more good causes are supported. Seven good causes in my hon. Friend's constituency have already been assisted and I am sure that he will want to know that the national total is 10,394 awards, with £2.78 billion raised for good causes. There has not been a more effective lottery anywhere in the world.

Mr. Cunliffe

Is the Minister aware that some prizes have been claimed by under-age purchasers? Has she noticed the early-day motion signed by several hon. Members expressing concern about the ease with which under-age people can purchase tickets, especially scratchcards? Would it not be better to have further controls under the licensed betting office system with an age threshold of 18? That would obviously curtail many purchases by under-age children.

Mrs. Bottomley

I am entirely at one with the hon. Gentleman in condemning under-age play. I welcome the recent announcements by the Office of the National Lottery and Camelot about the further action that they intend to take. One of the most effective sanctions is the removal of the on-line game. Some 35,000 retail outlets currently benefit from being part of the national lottery, providing them with an average of £8,000 a year. The greatest sanction is the removal of that income. The hon. Gentleman is right to raise his concerns. We shall continue to be vigilant in ensuring that under-age children do not play.

5. Mr. Rowe

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many proposals from Kent have received funding in the various categories from the national lottery. [7597]

Mr. Sproat

A total of 171 lottery awards have been made in Kent, to a total value of more than £15 million. Eleven awards each have been made to the arts and the heritage, 97 to charities and voluntary organisations and 52 to sports projects.

Mr. Rowe

My hon. Friend will be glad to know that we in Kent are grateful for that, but we are still waiting for a major award. The county town is striving to create a new park along the river Medway, to give the town the ambience that it deserves. Can he give us any encouragement that the project—now being put forward for the second time of asking—has a chance of receiving support?

Mr. Sproat

My hon. Friend may be glad to know that, of the 58 county and unitary authorities, Kent comes 22nd in the list for the total amount received and eighth in the list for the number of projects for which awards have been made. I know from our previous conversations that my hon. Friend is very keen on the Maidstone river park project. It is up to the commission to decide whether to give it money, but it is a splendid project and I am sure that it will get a fair review.