HC Deb 19 May 1997 vol 294 cc361-3
3. Mrs. Organ

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what plans he has to make the national lottery more relevant to ordinary people. [362]

Mr. Chris Smith

Unlike the previous Government, we have listened to what the people have to say about the lottery. The Bill to reform the lottery will ensure that some of the proceeds of the lottery go to health and education-related projects and are used to nurture young talent in the arts and sciences. I shall be reviewing the way in which the existing good causes benefit to see that they, too, are increasingly relevant to the widest possible range of people.

Mrs. Organ

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his reply, but what assurances can he give the people of the Forest of Dean that they will receive an equal and fair share of lottery funding, as should other rural areas? Can he assure the people of the Forest of Dean that the distribution system for lottery funds will be reformed so that it does not become metrocentric, as it did under the previous Government?

Mr. Smith

I start by welcoming my hon. Friend to the House and saying how pleased we are to see her here. I am glad that my campaigning visit during the general election campaign was such a success.

I aim to ensure that all parts of the country benefit fully and fairly from the lottery. Early this summer, we shall issue a White Paper for consultation in preparation for the National Lottery (Amendment) Bill, which will be introduced later this year. In the White Paper, we shall address precisely such issues.

Mr. Alan Clark

As the Secretary of State seems to have a completely open mind about where lottery funds are directed, will he apply his mind to the issue of the British Olympic pistol shooting team, which appears likely to be wiped off the map by his Government's intemperate legislation?

Mr. Smith

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will wish to make those points when legislation is rightly introduced to ban handguns. However, I can say to him that we have one very firm purpose in mind-to ensure that the proceeds of the national lottery are spent on the things that the people of this country want them to be spent on. That is why we came up with proposals during the general election campaign. It may surprise Opposition Members to know that the present Government—exceptionally—believe in fulfilling the commitments that we made during the general election campaign.

Mr. Maxton

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment to what I consider to be the most interesting and one of the most important jobs in Government. May I suggest three quick ways in which he might improve the lottery?

First, will my right hon. Friend ensure that sports councils and arts councils can allocate money especially to areas of multiple deprivation? At present, the process of allocating funds is entirely bid led. Secondly, will my right hon. Friend ensure that a larger part of the total amount given to those projects is distributed in areas of multiple deprivation?

Mr. Fabricant


Mr. Maxton

Thirdly—I have forgotten.

Mr. Smith

I thank my hon. Friend for his question; if he remembers the third question in due course, I shall be happy to discuss it with him afterwards.

The answer to the first question is yes: one aspect of the lottery that bothers me is the fact that it is entirely application driven, which is one reason for the apparent misdistribution of lottery funds regionally across the country.

The answer to the second question is that I believe very strongly indeed that funds from the lottery must benefit those areas of deprivation that can most benefit from them.

Mr. Dafis

In Wales, there is a fair amount of praise for the work done by the National Lottery Charities Board and by the system of distribution of funding for sports and the arts, but there is a fair amount of dissatisfaction regarding the work of the heritage fund and the Millennium Commission, and that dissatisfaction probably has something to do with the fact that there is no specific Welsh organisational structure with reference to those. Will the right hon. Gentleman discuss with the Secretary of State for Wales how that situation might be rectified, and specifically what that might have to do with the establishment of a Welsh Assembly or Parliament?

Mr. Smith

I certainly wish to discuss with my right hon. Friend all matters relating to the deployment of lottery funds in Wales—especially, of course, in relation to the establishment of a Welsh Assembly.

One of the things that please me most about what the lottery boards are doing is the work of the National Lottery Charities Board, especially in making small-scale grants at neighbourhood and community level to pensioner groups, tenants and residents associations, and so on, throughout the country, including Wales.