HC Deb 27 March 2000 vol 347 cc12-3
8. Angela Smith (Basildon)

If he will take steps to consult national lottery players on a regional basis on how the proceeds of the lottery are allocated. [114859]

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

Under the National Lottery Act 1998, I instructed lottery distributors to produce and consult on strategic plans, which proposed their priorities for funding. Distributors now have plans in place on which there has been broad consultation. Distributors also take account of public opinion through open meetings, polls and other research.

The National Lottery Charities Board selects two committee members in each region by lot, using the lottery draw numbers to identify potential members from the electoral roll. The Arts Council has now delegated a substantial proportion of lottery decision making to the regional arts boards. I welcome these moves by the distributors.

Angela Smith

I welcome that answer from my right hon. Friend. He will be aware that I do not think that my constituents get a fair deal from the lottery. They have spent £60 million on tickets and received back only £1.5 million. I greatly welcome the changes that are being made, but will my right hon. Friend look into the matter to ensure that they come into force quickly? I accept that it is not possible to allocate funds and to link money and expenditure on a constituency basis, but it can be done on a regional basis. I ask for greater consultation with my constituents, given the amount of money that they spend on tickets, on how the money is being spent in their region.

Mr. Smith

My hon. Friend raises an entirely understandable point. The changes that we brought in with the 1998 Act have enabled the distributors for the first time—this was not put in place by the previous Government—to delegate decision making to a regional level. I believe that to be extremely important. Regional cultural consortiums have a specific remit to advise the lottery distributors on the regional priorities for spending. That will be an added way of ensuring that the voice of the regions in this process is firmly heard.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex)

Will the right hon. Gentleman acknowledge that the regional voice, because of the substantial size of some of the regions, is not always nearly sharp enough on constituency applications. I endorse entirely what the hon. Member for Basildon (Angela Smith) has said. Sussex has not done well under the national lottery distribution. Will the right hon. Gentleman see what he can do to refine the structure that is there already to ascertain whether he could take up the hon. Lady's suggestion to take the advise-giving process lower than regional level?

Mr. Smith

I am sure that it will be possible for regional cultural consortiums, regional arts boards, regional committees of the National Lottery Charities Board and other regional elements in the structures now being put in place to consult widely, deep down within the regions, as to the people's priorities for the spending of lottery money. We now have in place—again for the first time ever—an instruction to all the distributing bodies to ensure a fairer geographical spread of national lottery funds. That is beginning to take place, especially as the smaller grants programmes begin to roll out. That contrasts with what happened at the outset when there was a concentration on very large capital projects.