HC Deb 31 January 2000 vol 343 cc775-6
10. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East)

If he will make a statement on the geographical distribution of lottery funds. [105946]

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

Some regions have fared better than others from the lottery. Following the National Lottery Act 1998 and my revised policy directions, distributors must now take into account the need to ensure that all parts of the country have access to funding and the scope for reducing economic and social deprivation. Working with the lottery distributors, we have also commissioned joint research to establish what more can be done to help areas where the take-up of lottery funding has been low.

Sir Teddy Taylor

I thank the Minister for those assurances. However, is he aware of the frustration and anger in my constituency, because we spend 50 per cent. more than average on lottery tickets, but Rochford and Southend receive less lottery funding than almost any other area in the United Kingdom? In particular, is he aware that our pier—the longest in the world, and a very great one—was turned down for funding, whereas some rubbishy piers elsewhere received substantial amounts of money? I fully appreciate that the Minister is not responsible for handing out the funds, but will he let the distributors of the funding know that Southend-on-Sea feels that it has had a rotten deal so far, and that it is looking for an improvement?

Mr. Smith

I am sure that the lottery distributors will have heard the hon. Gentleman's views loud and clear. I do not want to disparage the wonderful piers at Southport, Brighton and elsewhere, which have received lottery awards. However, the various changes that we have put in place, particularly those to ensure that the lottery distributors must take account of geographical distribution when making their decisions, will gradually take effect. That is why I was very pleased that the figures for the past year show that the number of small grants awarded by the lottery distributors, right down to community level and right across the country, has doubled in the past year. It is why I am also pleased that the figures show that, up to the end of the last financial year, 41 per cent. of the money from the lottery in England has gone to the 50 most deprived local authorities.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham)

Does my right hon. Friend know whether any Members of Parliament have said how grateful they were for money that their constituency has received from the lottery? I thought that I might have been in that position until I realised that my constituents in West Ham had spent more than £50 million. Any hon. Member who believes that there is a metropolitan bias should examine the situation in London, because clearly there is no such imbalance.

Would it not be helpful if Camelot told us how many winners there have been in each constituency? I do not think that there have been any large winners in my area of West Ham, and I should certainly like to set an example.

Mr. Smith

I am delighted to tell my hon. Friend that West Ham has received £10.7 million from lottery distributors over five years. That is almost bang on the national average.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde)

It now appears that the lottery has become the easy bank for the millennium experience, and that Greenwich is receiving a disproportionately large amount of lottery money. Could the Secretary of State tell me, pursuant to his earlier reply, why £60 million may need to be made available to the dome? Is it because sponsors have not paid up? If it is because of falling ticket income, how on earth, in the remaining 48 weeks of its life, will the dome earn the £1.25 million a week necessary to pay back this sum of public money?

Mr. Smith

I am delighted to tell the right hon. Gentleman that Fylde has received £11.8 million in lottery money over five years, which is of course above the national average. As for the dome, I have already explained that no application for additional assistance has been received from the New Millennium Experience Company. However, if such a request does emerge, we at the Millennium Commission will want to give the most careful scrutiny to the dome's finances, expenditure projections, income projections and ticket numbers before making money available.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey)

As chairman of the Millennium Commission, is the right hon. Gentleman not ashamed that, within a month of its opening, the dome has had to come back for more lottery money?

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Have you been to it?

Mr. Ainsworth

Yes I have, thank you very much.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Who paid?

Mr. Ainsworth

I did, and I am beginning to wonder whether it was money well spent. If even the sponsors are refusing to throw good money after bad, why should lottery players? How much money is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to squander on a life support system for the dome? By when must it be paid back?

Mr. Smith

The hon. Gentleman clearly has not heard what I have been saying. No such application has yet been received. All the surveys that have been undertaken, even by the most hostile of newspapers, show that, overwhelmingly, visitors to the dome have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.