HC Deb 09 November 1998 vol 319 cc2-5
3. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

In what ways environmental projects have benefited from the national lottery. [57242]

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

The Heritage Lottery Fund, the Millennium Commission and the National Lottery Charities Board have all funded environmental projects. Next year, the new opportunities fund will launch an initiative to help urban and rural communities across the country to understand, improve and care for their environment, in particular through the creation, improvement or acquisition of green spaces.

Helen Jackson

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. My constituency, like many others, includes both beautiful countryside and large concentrations of people. That can be a problem for the countryside, but we want to use the potential for opening up the countryside to more educational and leisure uses. How, practically, can the lottery help us to get such projects off the ground?

Mr. Smith

Our proposals for further initiatives under the new opportunities fund specifically aimed at environmental improvement will help to do precisely that. We will shortly issue a consultation paper on them. We will be interested to see what the public have to say and will then come to Parliament with specific proposals on the new initiatives.

Mr. Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South)

In view of the substantial funding for environmental projects by the lottery in Regent's Park, why is it necessary to introduce parking charges there at weekends?

Mr. Smith

I confess that I am unaware of the particular lottery funded scheme or schemes to which the hon. Gentleman refers. However, he touches on an extraneous matter: the Royal Parks agency proposal to introduce weekend parking charges to assist with the general upkeep of the parks and their management at weekends, when their usage is greatest. That is ultimately a matter for the agency to determine.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Does my right hon. Friend agree that many areas of Britain could qualify under the new funding arrangements for environmental projects? Does he also agree that, in the coalfield areas, which have suffered greatly as a result, in some cases, of 100 years of pit life and which are now scarred by the closure of all those pits, a lot of work needs to be done, not least in order to provide additional work? Will he give a guarantee that, when he speaks at Barnsley tomorrow, he will pay attention to those issues, so that coalfield areas will be able to benefit from the available funding?

Mr. Smith

I can indeed give my hon. Friend precisely that guarantee. As he knows, we are holding a major conference in Barnsley tomorrow, which will look at ways in which the lottery can provide assistance to the coalfield areas. The extent of the problem is perhaps most graphically illustrated by the fact that, to date, the amount spent by the lottery good causes in Barnsley is £17 per head, whereas the national average for England as a whole is –70 per head.

Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport)

Does the Minister agree that parks are an essential part of our national heritage? To that end, will he use his good offices to influence the national lottery people, some of whom do not work like normal people, to consider giving parks more lottery funding? I have in mind some of the parks that are rotting in many local authority areas, and it is to local authorities that are strapped for cash that help should be given. One such park in my area is Hesketh park, which is based on Lord Birkenhead's design and which we really want to preserve.

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman is assiduous and effective in promoting the interests of his constituency. I was delighted to see that his representations regarding the fate of the pier at Southport have now been fully taken account of by the Heritage Lottery Fund. He will know that the fund has for some time had a major programme of support for the improvement and enhancement of urban parks. I strongly support that programme: it has already done a lot of good work and there is more in the pipeline. In addition, the work that the new opportunities fund is able to put in place under the green spaces initiative will also help.

4. Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South)

In what ways education projects will benefit from the national lottery. [57243]

14. Mr. Nigel Griffiths (Edinburgh, South)

How education projects will benefit from the national lottery. [57256]

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

The new opportunities fund will provide £400 million for out-of-school-hours activities, including child care; it will spend £300 million on new technology training for teachers and librarians; and next year it will help to increase access to lifelong learning, particularly by contributing to the creation of the public library network. That is in addition to the work that the Millennium Commission is already doing in funding projects such as the university of the highlands and islands and the Everyman books for schools.

Mr. Cunningham

Can my right hon. Friend elaborate on that answer? I am sure that he is aware that Coventry was one of the pioneers of adult education. Although we welcome his announcement about children's education, will he tell us more about how he plans to develop adult education?

Mr. Smith

Alongside the green spaces initiative to which I have already referred, one of the key proposals for new opportunities fund initiatives is support for lifelong learning in the community—precisely the area to which my hon. Friend rightly draws attention. We shall shortly issue a consultation paper setting out our ambitions in that respect.

Mr. Griffiths

Although we greatly welcome the £500 million for education from the lottery under the new opportunities fund, will my right hon. Friend consider initiatives for the most deprived areas?

Mr. Smith

Yes, indeed. I have already issued a new set of directions to all the lottery distributors, including the new opportunities fund, to ensure that they pay attention to the particular needs of areas of social deprivation. One of the things that I have always felt is important in lottery policy is that it should not be only wealthy areas of the country—represented by the well heeled, the well advised and the people who can afford consultants and readily produce business plans—that benefit from the funds of the national lottery. People of all classes and from all parts of the country play the national lottery; people of all classes and from all parts of the country should benefit from it.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

In view of the answers given to the three questions on the Order Paper which have already been reached, has the right hon. Gentleman dispensed with the additionality principle?

Mr. Smith

Not at all. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the additionality principle is that we will make no case-by-case reductions on conventional public spending programmes to take account of awards from the Lottery. The money raised by the Lottery will not replace public expenditure". That is a quotation from the then Prime Minister, the right hon. Member for Huntingdon (Mr. Major), in September 1994. We stand firmly by that principle.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham)

The Secretary of State has given the game away. He is not in favour of case-by-case reductions; he treats the whole budget as one case and makes a reduction accordingly. Given that lottery funds are now being used to fund mainstream education projects, is it not the case that the additionality principle is worth no more than a discarded Labour election pledge? Now that the right hon. Gentleman has been exposed as a pickpocket of lottery funds, will he tell the House how many other instances of such pickpocketing it should take into account?

Mr. Smith

Judging by the first part of the hon. Gentleman's question, he disagrees passionately with the former leader of his party. That does not surprise me in the least, given the extent of division in the Tory party these days.

In answer to the main apparent thrust of the hon. Gentleman's question, surely he agrees that a national programme of after-school clubs for children has never been funded to the extent that we are proposing, and that it will be of enormous benefit to children and parents throughout the country. He should also acknowledge that we put that proposal to the electorate during the election campaign last year; they supported it, and we are fulfilling the commitments that we gave them.