HC Deb 01 July 1996 vol 280 cc534-6
2. Mrs. Bridget Prentice

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what recent discussions she has had with the bodies dispensing national lottery moneys. [33659]

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

I have regular meetings with the chairmen of the English and United Kingdom distributing bodies.

Mrs. Prentice

Is the Secretary of State aware that she has been extremely reticent in coming to the House to explain how much money the Millennium Commission will spend in Greenwich? Will she now tell the House and the people of Greenwich and of London as a whole how much money will be spent, in what way and who will be involved in making the decisions?

Mrs. Bottomley

I look forward to being able to come to the House to make a further statement to inform colleagues of the details of the Millennium Commission's progress. The funding packages are highly complex and I much appreciate the co-operation of the Labour party and of Greenwich borough council in ensuring that we make progress swiftly and effectively by sorting out the details. I can tell the House how much money has been spent by the national lottery in the hon. Lady's constituency: in Lewisham, 29 awards have been made, amounting to more than £3 million. The lottery is a phenomenal success.

Mr. Fabricant

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the foremost arts festival in England, the Lichfield festival., begins at the end of this week and will last for 10 days? Is she further aware of how grateful the festival is for the recent award of more than £68,000 for stage and display equipment?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am delighted to share my hon. Friend's endorsement the Lichfield festival and I especially commend the artistic director, Paul Spicer and the dean and chapter of Lichfield cathedral. The festival brings more people into contact with the Church and brings people together by providing an outlet for creative activities. That £68,000 is only one of 1,245 arts awards, which amount to £483 million since the start of the national lottery.

Dr. John Cunningham

Does the Secretary of State recognise that, although we support the proposed exhibition at Greenwich and we want it to succeed, we feel uncomfortable when we read regular briefings from Sir Peter Levene about the Millennium Commission' activities, but we cannot have full statements in the House? Can the Secretary of State explain why Greenwich borough council is still being excluded from the deliberations when it wants the event to be a success and to make a positive contribution to the raising of private sector funding? Is it the case, as has been suggested in the newspapers, that the life of the Millennium Commission will be extended by one year to give it an extra £250 million to cover the eventual costs of the exhibition? Finally—[Interruption.] I make no apology for asking a further question because this is the first opportunity that we have had to ask these important questions and the House is entitled to know. Is it true that funding for regional exhibitions is being reduced to vire resources to the national exhibition at Greenwich?

Mrs. Bottomley

The right hon. Gentleman, like other hon. Members, wants more information about the festival at Greenwich and I hope that I shall be able to write to hon. Members in my role as chairman of the Millennium Commission before the recess. As the right hon. Gentleman will know, a Labour party nominee, Michael Montague, sits on the Millennium Commission and, on all occasions, we have sought to avoid any party political issues. I recognise and accept the collaboration of the Opposition. We are seeking to stage the largest event of its sort anywhere in the world and, inevitably, the financial negotiations are highly complex. The commission took the view that £200 million was an appropriate amount for it to put into the festival. When it became clear that the business case required more funding, we sought the co-operation of the private sector.

My right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister and Sir Peter Levene have had some extremely encouraging meetings, as I have myself. Once the plans are finalised, we will be able to make firm statements. When hon. Members see the full details of the Imagination proposals—I share their impatience—they will share the sense of excitement and exhilaration that members of the commission have felt. The regional festivals are part of the proposals and the majority of flagship projects funded so far by the Millennium Commission are outside London. It is important that all parties of the country share in the millennium.

Mrs. Lait

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that she has no intention of extending lottery funding to replace the Government's funding of education and health, which is in contrast with the report in June's edition of "Lottery Monitor" which says that the Labour party is considering doing so?

Mrs. Bottomley

I can, indeed, reassure my hon. Friend on that point. It is well understood that the Opposition's proposals would betray the principles of additionality. They would betray those who benefit from the lottery as they would increase the operating costs, and they would betray the 30,000 or so retailers who earn about £8,000 a year from their lottery outlet.

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