HC Deb 16 December 1996 vol 287 cc606-7
10. Mr. Barnes

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if she will introduce proposals to ensure a more equitable distribution of lottery awards by the size of population in each geographic area; and if she will make a statement. [7602]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

I have instructed the lottery distributors to be aware of the need to ensure a fair and even spread of awards throughout the United Kingdom. Although my directions to the distributing bodies prevent them from soliciting particular applications, they may, where necessary, target their publicity efforts towards certain areas to encourage the submission of the right quality and quantity of applications.

Mr. Barnes

When we speak of lottery awards, we are talking about big spondulicks: £40 for every man, woman and child in the country has been paid out so far in lottery awards, so reasonable distribution of those awards is important. Awards are often more readily accessible under the National Lottery Charities Board provision, yet only one seventh of the money goes to it. Should not money be moved from projects such as the millennium fund to the board, so that local voluntary organisations can get access to it?

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman will find that, as the different series of awards are announced, all communities, and all parts of the country, will benefit. I have been concerned about the lack of applications from his area, and have visited it to try to encourage more applications to be submitted. In the past quarter, the biggest increase in awards has been in the west midlands, so I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's thoughts in mind. I do not believe that it is sensible to tinker with the different lottery award streams, and I hope that those involved in arts and sport will realise that the Labour party is threatening to reduce—for the first time ever—the amount for such causes.

The hon. Gentleman may be aware that, apart from the large projects, 370 village halls and 250 millennium greens are involved, and many coastal restorations and canal schemes are going ahead. The Millennium Commission announced today another £40 million for canal restoration, regeneration and a temple in the west midlands.

Mr. Skinner

East midlands, not west.

Dr. Spink

Does my right hon. Friend agree that distribution of national lottery awards is important because it determines the distribution of the 100,000 jobs that such awards are sustaining around the country? Is she aware that quite a number of jobs are being sustained in my constituency where, for example, the Castle Point volunteer bureau recently received £28,000 from the national lottery, which was very well received?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is right. He will recall the words of the hon. Member for Cynon Valley (Mrs. Clwyd), who first described the lottery as a threat to jobs and the unacceptable face of nationalisation."—[Official Report, 25 January 1993; Vol. 217, c. 731.] The Henley Centre predicted that 110,000 new jobs would be created over five years as a result of the national lottery. Investment in Doncaster, Portsmouth harbour, Newcastle and Bristol, and major schemes throughout the country are bringing new opportunities, jobs and prosperity to all parts of the United Kingdom.

Dr. John Cunningham

On the equitable distribution of lottery and millennium funds, does the right hon. Lady agree that, although we want a successful exhibition at Greenwich, it should not take place at any price or be allowed to pre-empt more and more Millennium Commission funds, which should legitimately go to other parts of the United Kingdom? If she really wants all-party support for future decisions about that exhibition, will she ensure that deliberations and decision-taking are inclusive rather than exclusive, as they have been until very recently? Will she also finally end the exclusion of Greenwich borough council from the discussions? Is not it absurd to be planning a project in the borough, which will perhaps cost £1 billion, and not include the borough's leadership in consideration of it?

Mrs. Bottomley

The millennium exhibition is an extremely exciting prospect for Britain; it is Britain's shopfront as we go into a new century. It is a complex project, and the right hon. Gentleman is aware of some of the detailed figures involved. I hope that it will be possible to make more announcements in the near future. As he knows, the Millennium Commission and, indeed, the Government are quite as concerned as he is not to sign a blank cheque, but to ensure that there is good value for grant. The project provides a real opportunity for Britain to celebrate the new millennium.

Alongside the project is the festival involving the nation as a whole, £200 million of millennium awards and the great range of projects throughout the country, some of which I have just mentioned, such as those involving village halls, village greens, woodlands and canal restoration. I hope that everyone will be encourage by the canal restoration in Huddersfield, the Ballymena town park, the Yorkshire dales project, the Croydon lighting scheme, the Norfolk broads announcement, and the 205th scout group to receive support—this time in Manningtree, Essex.