HC Deb 19 January 1998 vol 304 cc671-4
1. Mr. Randall

If he will make a statement on his plans to reform the national lottery. [21440]

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

The National Lottery Bill, which received its Second Reading in another place last month, implements many of the proposals set out in the White Paper "The People's Lottery". These proposals commanded wide public support. They will make the lottery work better and increase the number of people who will benefit from the good causes which it supports.

Mr. Randall

Will the Secretary of State confirm that the funding of the national child care strategy demonstrates that lottery money is used to supplement core spending and is therefore in breach of its founding principles?

Mr. Smith

I cannot confirm that. The hon. Gentleman will know that we hold fast to the principle of additionality, as the Conservative Government did before us. The definition of additionality was enunciated by the previous Prime Minister in September 1994. The right hon. Gentleman said: The money raised by the Lottery will not replace public expenditure. That is precisely not what is happening with the child care strategy. I presume from the hon. Gentleman's question that he does not want the needs of child care to be properly addressed; we do.

Dr. Iddon

I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that, often, those who have been able to shout the loudest and who have been able to use the social networks have benefited most from lottery money. I understand that it is the Government's intention to allow the distributors of lottery money to seek applications in future. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that will be useful in driving forward projects in the areas of greatest need, such as some in my constituency?

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We are proposing two key changes, which will be set out in the National Lottery Bill. One change will enable lottery distributors to seek applications where they believe that there is unmet need. The second change will mean that lottery distributors will have to draw up proper strategies for the deployment of their funds. Neither of those two provisions has existed hitherto. Until now, it has been a case of the loudest applicants with the highest paid consultants coming up to the head of the queue. We want to change that so that the lottery addresses real need.

Mr. Maclennan

Does the Secretary of State accept that the revenue funding of the arts sector is in crisis, and that it has not been helped by a cut of £1.5 million this year by the Arts Council? Does he accept also that, in the past five years, the arts sector has lost £34 million in revenue, and that it seems that the crisis is not being taken account of by the Government in their redirection of the lottery funding? Is the right hon. Gentleman able to say how much money he believes will be forthcoming to deal with this acute problem?

Mr. Smith

I was able, with some difficulty, to hold the Arts Council's budget figure for the forthcoming year at the figure which had been set out in the Red Book previously. I am deeply aware, however, of the financial difficulties faced by many arts institutions around the country. That is because they have faced stringent financial provision for each of the past six years. One of the main provisions of the National Lottery Bill, which will enable lottery money to be spent on bricks, mortar and buildings and on supporting people and activities, will help to address that problem.

Kate Hoey

Will my right hon. Friend give serious consideration in the National Lottery Bill to making the 40 per cent. ruling more flexible in regard to primary schools, as it is difficult for primary schools to apply for lottery grants? Two neighbouring primary schools in an inner city will both want the community to use them, so it is impossible for the system always to work. Will my right hon. Friend give the House an assurance that he will look into the matter?

Mr. Smith

I shall certainly look into the point that my hon. Friend makes. Obviously, we are keen to ensure the greatest possible use by the local community of the facilities in schools up and down the country. There is a real synergy to be achieved between community and school use.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the arts world can expect £50 million less this year than last year, whatever the figures in the Red Book? The right hon. Gentleman has taken it on himself to deprive the arts, heritage, sport and charities of £50 million each, so they will receive £250 million less than they were expecting when I made a similar statement to the one that the right hon. Gentleman is making this week. He has deprived the arts and culture of a unique opportunity. The Chancellor, having helped himself once to lottery money, will repeat that time and again. Will the Secretary of State agree to fight harder and more successfully next year than he has this year?

Mr. Smith

I can confirm that the arts world will receive substantially less in revenue expenditure from the Arts Council in the coming year than it did four or five years ago, but the reason for that is the right hon. Lady's stewardship of the Department. I can also confirm that each of the four distributors that she mentioned—heritage, arts, sports and charities—will receive £1.8 billion during the current franchise of the lottery. That is exactly the amount that they expected to receive at the outset of the lottery.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

My hon. Friend will know that the National Audit Office can check whether taxpayers' money has been spent properly and effectively. Surely we should be considering similar powers for the National Audit Office in respect of lottery money, because some people believe that lottery money—which is a form of voluntary taxation and a form of public expenditure—should be subject to some auditing, as some of it is wasted.

Mr. Smith

As far as I am aware, the lottery distributary bodies, which are appointed bodies, are themselves subject to National Audit Office scrutiny in the same way as other public bodies. They, in turn, are responsible for the judicious stewardship of the grants that they award. Over the coming years, the National Audit Office and I will be keen to examine that stewardship to see whether it has been properly exercised.

Mr. Maude

The Secretary of State says that his National Lottery Bill has widespread public support. Will he confirm that no more than 90 individuals responded to the consultation? If that is wide public support, what does he expect for unanimity? Will the right hon. Gentleman withdraw his rather offensive remarks that organisations that have benefited from lottery grants have done so only because they made the most fuss and employed the most expensive consultants? Many organisations up and down the country will be gravely offended by that.

Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that his assertion, that lottery money spent by the new opportunities fund to fund the national child care strategy will not replace public spending, is directly not true? The Chancellor told us that the national child care strategy will be set up with Treasury funding, which will be replaced in due course by lottery funding. Will the right hon. Gentleman now confirm that what he has just told the House is directly incorrect?

Mr. Smith

No, I cannot agree with any of that. On his last point, the right hon. Gentleman may like to know what the noble Baroness Trumpington said in another place in November 1996. Speaking for the Conservative Government, she said: the use of lottery funds to secure projects or programmes beyond the scope of foreseeable affordability but similar to those hitherto financed by public expenditure, or adding lottery funds to the level of affordable public expenditure in any particular area"—[Official Report, House of Lords, 14 November 1996; Vol. 575, c. 567.] was precisely in line with additionality. That is what we are doing in setting up a national child care strategy. I am astonished that the Conservatives are clearly not interested in a proper national child care strategy to help people to get work and to help kids to grow up properly and become decent citizens. We are interested in that; they are clearly not.

Mr. Pike

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that one of the concerns of people making lottery applications in my constituency is that there should be continuity among those who deal with the applications—an essential reform which would need no legislation? Each change in personnel results in different rules applying. People feel that they are banging their heads against a brick wall at times.

Mr. Smith

I very much take that point. One of our changes will make the process friendlier and easier for the users and applicants, particularly for small-scale community and neighbourhood applications—schemes for which the deployment of lottery money can result in the greatest benefit.