HC Deb 16 February 1998 vol 306 cc746-7
3. Mr. Barnes

What representations he has received recently concerning the distribution of national lottery grants; and if he will make a statement. [27586]

11. Mr. Skinner

If he will make a statement on the equity of lottery grant distribution. [27595]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith)

We have received more than 1,000 letters since our White Paper was published, in addition to nearly 600 direct responses. The responses were overwhelmingly in favour of our reforms of the lottery, and we are now implementing our proposals through the National Lottery Bill. Among other things, it makes provision for us to be able to ensure a fairer geographical spread of lottery awards.

Mr. Barnes

I appreciate that many of my constituents make use of town-centre facilities, especially in Sheffield and Chesterfield, and to some extent in London, so that lottery awards to those areas also benefit my constituents. Are not poorer people much less mobile and, therefore, unable to make use of such facilities? Such maldistribution of lottery moneys, much of which is contributed by poorer people, is quite obscene. There is almost a 1,000-fold distinction between funding received in richer constituencies and in poorer ones. Hopefully, that is being tackled by my right hon. Friend's measures.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. By ensuring that lottery distributary boards draw up a strategy for the deployment of lottery resources, we shall ensure that, among other things, they help to tackle social exclusion. I look forward to discussing the matter further with my hon. Friend when I meet him in a few weeks' time.

Mr. Skinner

Some authorities—those mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes), Bolsover and others in Derbyshire and elsewhere—do not get a fair crack of the whip. In view of that, will my right hon. Frie nd make sure that he meets the people from Creswell crags—one of the oldest archaeological sites in the northern hemisphere—who tried to get money from the Conservative party without success? They were led up the garden path by the right hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), who was then in charge, with the result that they receive nothing like what they should. Is it too late to stop Heseltine's folly—the dome? There would then be even more money for redistribution.

Mr. Smith

I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend's constituents to discuss Creswell crags. At this stage, I cannot give any commitment on funding, but I shall be happy to discuss the matter with them.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware of the growing dismay in the heritage, arts and sports fields about the fact that they will be £60 million a year less well off than they anticipated. As a result, many applications that otherwise could have been confident of success are being rejected. Will the right hon. Gentleman publish the agreements he reached with the distributing bodies, because he has informed us that they have voluntarily given up that £60 million a year to put it into the new opportunities fund in advance of legislation? The arts, heritage and sports groups that spoke to me were very surprised that the councils had reached such an agreement voluntarily.

Mr. Smith

As usual—this is her usual question—the right hon. Lady is wrong. The amount that each of the existing distributors will have over the seven years of the franchise is £1.8 billion, as was anticipated when the lottery began. No money has been taken away from that amount.

Mr. Maude

Will the right hon. Gentleman seek to allay the growing torrent of criticism of his Department from luminaries of the arts world by making a firm commitment not to reduce the percentage of lottery proceeds devoted to the arts below what he currently intends?

Mr. Smith

The gentle criticism expressed by one or two figures in the arts world has been related entirely to the figure that the Conservative party put into the Red Book a year ago. I have no intention whatever of reducing that figure of £1.8 billion, which the arts, heritage, sports and charities always knew that they would get.