HC Deb 16 March 1998 vol 308 cc933-4
3. Mr. Yeo

What representations he has received on the appointment of a not-for-profit operator for the national lottery. [32899]

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

Nearly half the 71 responses to our White Paper commenting on our proposals on operation favoured a not-for-profit operator. We remain committed to the objective of not-for-profit operation, and the existing legislation allows that to happen.

Mr. Yeo

Regardless of the operator, why are the Government taking powers, through the National Lottery Bill, to use lottery money to pay for schemes that previously were funded out of general taxation? In particular, why will not he accept Opposition amendments that would at least limit the lottery money that he can divert from the good causes that ticket buyers want to support into projects that have been hand-picked by new Labour Ministers?

Mr. Smith

The overwhelming content of the responses to our consultation on the White Paper showed that our proposals were favoured by the general public. If the hon. Gentleman does not believe that lottery funds should be devoted to improving out-of-school-hours provision; to ensuring that we can provide decent child care in this country; to ensuring that we have healthy living centres in high streets and on estates throughout the country; and to ensuring that our teachers and librarians are competent to teach information technology to pupils and to people throughout their lives, I am afraid that he has a poor idea of the nature of our society.

Dr. Iddon

Does the Secretary of State believe that GTech is a fit and proper organisation to be involved in the running of the national lottery?

Mr. Smith

The director general of the Office of the National Lottery has summoned GTech to provide information, and he is considering the matter in great detail and with great care.

Mr. Maude

Given that Camelot is under investigation on this issue, does the Secretary of State regard it as satisfactory that it has been encouraged to become a sponsor of the millennium dome? It has agreed to sell tickets for the dome without recompense, and pressure is reportedly being put on its management for the company to become a full cash sponsor of the dome. To allay fears about a cash-for-licence-renewal deal, will the Secretary of State confirm that no further sponsorship will be accepted from Camelot?

Mr. Smith

That question astonishes me. The agreement is for Camelot to make provision through the lottery terminals for the sale of tickets for the millennium experience. It was sensible and worthwhile to secure such an agreement. There is no question whatever of any lessening of the proper scrutiny that the director general exercises over Camelot's running of the lottery. The forthcoming decision on the franchise in 2001 will not be affected by any such agreement.