HC Deb 05 February 1996 vol 271 cc4-9
5. Mr. David Evans

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many people have won more than £1 million on the national lottery. [11760]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

There have been more than 75 million prizes, worth £2.6 billion, and 153 of those prizes were for more than £1 million. The good causes have won as well. On Friday, the billionth pound was awarded to St. George's market in Belfast by the national heritage memorial fund. In all, 107 awards of £1 million-plus have been made to flagship projects of sporting, artistic or heritage excellence—projects that will underpin our sense of national pride for the next millennium.

Mr. Evans

I thank my right hon. Friend for her reply. Does she agree that this is another huge Conservative success story, after having to drag the lot opposite kicking and screaming to accept a national lottery? Does she further agree that winners of huge lottery prizes might like to contemplate what might happen to their winnings if we ever have a Labour Government—who might introduce a 98 per cent. tax on high earnings? Is it not the height of hypocrisy that that lot over there, who did not want a lottery, mumble and grumble about high prizes yet queue up every Saturday for their lottery ticket? Say one thing and do another—is that not what they are all about?

Mrs. Bottomley

I agree with my hon. Friend that the Labour party, on almost every issue and undoubtedly on the lottery, says one thing and does another. As my hon. Friend knows only too well, the Labour party would increase the operating costs and reduce the amount of money coming through to good causes. We are building a better Britain with the great range of projects now available. Opposition Members sneer, but my hon. Friends are only too aware that the massive number of awards in sports, heritage and the arts are bringing new opportunities to young and old across the country.

Mr. Rooker

Does the Secretary of State appreciate that the only lottery prize that concerns me at present is the millennium exhibition? Can she explain why she is conducting the negotiations connected with that important decision in secret? Why are those who wish to make bids unable to broadcast the contents of those bids to their relevant populations in either London or Birmingham? Why is this type of contract being put on Imagination Ltd. and the national exhibition centre? Is it just because—

Madam Speaker

Order. I have been very tolerant, but the hon. Gentleman is quite a long way off the question. There are questions about the millennium on the Order Paper; the hon. Gentleman should have tried to catch my eye when they were reached. The Secretary of State seems to be prepared to give him an answer, however, if he has reached the end of his question.

Mrs. Bottomley

I am indeed, Madam Speaker, because—[Interruption.]

Mr. Rooker

I did not intend to be out of order, Madam Speaker. The Secretary of State mentioned the developments that would result from the lottery—

Madam Speaker

I have to agree with the hon. Gentleman. The Secretary of State went very wide of the mark in her answer to the main question. The hon. Gentleman is quite right. Would he like to finish his question? See how generous I am.

Mr. Rooker

I have apologised to you, Madam Speaker, and I think that I have made my point to the Secretary of State.

Mrs. Bottomley

It is a very fair question. Certainly, those who stage the millennium celebration will win much more than £1 million: a substantial sum is involved. I recognise the hon. Gentleman's strength of feeling and that of other Birmingham Members, and London Members have also put their case forcefully. The Millennium Commission and I will look in great detail at the issues involved—the financial aspects, and the way in which the festival can be celebrated. I give the House one absolute assurance, however: it will be a magnificent festival. It will lead the world. This will be a great moment for the whole country to celebrate the passing of one millennium and the potential of a new one.

There must be a degree of confidentiality because of the size of the sum involved, and the complexity of the issue. The commercial aspects must be considered. The Labour party may approach everything with a warmer heart, but it does so with a pretty frozen head. The issue of the millennium must be approached with both a warm heart and a clear head.

6. Mr. Robert G. Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage how many charities which assist young people have been awarded funds from the national lottery. [11761]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

More than 1,000 awards, to a value of £75 million, have been made to organisations directly concerned with young people. Of those, 101, worth more than £15 million, have been made directly to schools.

Helping the nation's young people is an investment in our future. I propose to give lottery distributors the ability to provide revenue support for initiatives to help to develop sporting and artistic excellence in our country's young people.

Mr. Hughes

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on some marvellous achievements, including the grant for the Harrow leisure centre. That grant will enable the centre to reopen, and to help many young people in my constituency. Does my right hon. Friend agree, however, that a national team of young people should compete in each sport that is represented in the Olympic games? Does she also agree that, where we have no national team, the Sports Council should consider giving grants, so that young people playing volleyball, for instance, have a pinnacle to aim for—and can probably beat the world as well?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend makes an extremely good point, which I know has been heard by my hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for sport. I can tell him that, so far, 50 sports are benefiting from lottery money, and 1,226 different awards have already been made. They cover a wide range: for instance, 122 awards have been made to bowling clubs.

Dr. John Cunningham

It is true that the lottery has been hugely successful in raising funds—so much so that four major charities have today persuaded Dame Vera Lynn and Claire Rayner to launch a new scratchcard in an attempt to repair the damage to their revenue-raising that the lottery has caused. Three of the charities involved are the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Scope and the Cancer Research Campaign.

Ought not the Government to have taken a much closer look at the potential damage to charities' fund-raising before launching the lottery? What response does the Secretary of State give organisations whose revenue has now been undermined by it?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman did not read the recent account from the medical charities saying that they have had an extremely good year. In the face of expected concerns, many charities have devised a range of measures to increase their fund-raising. A recent Gallup survey suggested that, overall, there had been a 5 per cent. increase in donations to charities, and a MORI poll found that, whereas 2 per cent. of people said that they were planning to give less, 4 per cent. said that they were planning to give more. There is mixed evidence. Much information suggests that the charities have had a good year. Many of them are responding to the opportunity of scratchcards to raise their own cash, but the long and short of it is that 80 per cent. of the £1 billion that has been awarded has gone to charities. They have had a bonanza out of the lottery.

Mr. Brooke

Does my right hon. Friend take pleasure in or feel concern for the fact that more than half the oral questions tabled for her to answer today were about the national lottery?

Mrs. Bottomley

My right hon. Friend, who has much responsibility for the fact that we have this magnificent and, in practice, successful lottery, asks a question that is precisely to the point. The lottery has taken over as the great conversation piece not only in the House but in all our newspapers. It is our favourite topic of conversation. It is doing a huge amount of good and is working.

Mr. Simon Hughes

In the same vein, will the Secretary of State confirm that many of the teachers, youth leaders and people who provide facilities for young people are most concerned that, nowadays, things outside the national curriculum—the opportunity to go to theatres, concerts, films, swimming pools or sports arenas—are increasingly prohibited because of the charges that are imposed? Young people have no access to those facilities. Given the initiative that she took last week, will she consider the way in which national lottery money could help young people to have access to facilities outside core education? Otherwise, those young people, especially if they are in lower-income families, will not have access to such facilities any more.

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman will be only too aware that his part of the world, for example, contains the magnificent new bankside project—which has received £50 million—a museum of modern arts and the Globe theatre. It is not so far away from another important lottery project. We intend that the change in rules, on which we are consulting, will enable youngsters to participate in our great artistic and cultural heritage, through concessionary tickets, through support for touring and through a range of educational measures. Once the consultation is complete, it will be for the arts, heritage and sporting organisations to take the opportunities and to make their applications to use that lottery money. We must invest in the country's talent as well as in its buildings.

Mr. Anthony Coombs

I recognise the lottery's fantastic achievement in funding sports facilities for young and old alike, including the new Starport sports centre in my constituency—which will give a new home to both the Starport hockey club and the Starport athletics club—but does my right hon. Friend agree that it is time to consider the possibility of setting up a trust fund, out of which payments could be made for sports scholarships and sports expenses for talented young sportsmen?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend deals with an issue that we have raised during our consultation on how to modify the rules. We were anxious to take forward the consultation on the modification of the rules precisely to invest in a talent fund to promote the youngsters of tomorrow to ensure that we have Olympic athletes, as well as to extend further participation generally.

7. Mr. Tony Banks

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what assessment she has made of the impact on good causes of the national lottery. [11763]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The national lottery is a resounding success. In just over a year, more than £300 million has been raised for each of the five good causes.

Mr. Banks

I am not sure that I heard the right hon. Lady say that at our last dinner party. Whatever the impact of the lottery on good causes, will she give a categorical assurance that in no circumstances will any lottery money be used to finance the construction of a new royal yacht?

Mrs. Bottomley

I know not whether I said that at a recent dinner party or whether it was said, for example, by the people who were interviewed about the hon. Gentleman's salary a few days ago. If he had asked those people about the lottery, they would have been much more enthusiastic in their response to that than they were about the remuneration of hon. Members.

Be that as it may, the hon. Gentleman might like to provide advice on how he has managed to scoop the jackpot in his constituency. I see that it has received no fewer than 12 different awards for caring charities, ranging from the Newham Bengali community trust to the pier training shop and Victim Support. The hon. Gentleman has done better than any other hon. Member.

In terms of other projects for which lottery funding might be made available, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that the distributing bodies decide on the basis of applications. I am aware of no distributing body that has had an application in respect of the matter that he describes.

Mr. John Greenway

How quickly can we get money through to the good cause of young people who have won places at arts, drama, music and dance colleges but cannot get a discretionary grant to fund their places at those colleges? Is it for the Arts Council to decide these matters? Could we not have something in place so that young people who are to go to those colleges and schools this autumn have a chance of proper funding from the lottery?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend raises an issue that is of legitimate concern to hon. Members. Overall, the lottery intends to provide talent funding for those who would not otherwise be entitled to funding from local authorities. In all sorts of areas it is possible to increase talent and promote excellence. Fundamentally, that is a matter for local education authorities, and a number of the interests that are involved are seeing whether it would be possible to assist and encourage education authorities to face their responsibilities with some assistance from lottery money.

Mr. Fisher

Since one of the best causes will be the millennium exhibition and the celebrations associated with it, does the Secretary of State agree that, whatever site the Millennium Commission chooses for the exhibition, these are difficult celebrations to get right? The time until the end of the century is very short and the experience of Seville and other places shows the difficulties. Therefore, will the right hon. Lady turn her attention from the rhetoric on which she relies to some action, and establish a cross-departmental working party, to include the Department of Transport, the Department of the Environment and the Home Office, to look urgently at problems of infrastructure for tourism, policing, the environment and transport? Will she change this rhetoric for some action? The Government are in danger of dragging their feet and of turning what should be a great national success into a very questionable event.

Mrs. Bottomley

The hon. Gentleman is right in suggesting that the millennium festival is of such an order that it is far above and much more complex than the great run of awards made by the distributing bodies. The Millennium Commission has made about 303 awards so far ranging from cycle tracks, to the renaissance of Portsmouth harbour to millennial forests. The festival is an occasion of great significance and importance. When we make the announcement, we shall consider what measures the Government might wish to announce alongside the activities of the Millennium Commission itself.

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