HC Deb 16 December 2002 vol 396 cc523-4
7. Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton)

When she last met Camelot to discuss methods of improving lottery ticket sales. [85575]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn)

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State discussed ticket sales with Camelot in April, and I plan to do so next month.

Mr. Flook

I thank the Minister for his reply. Given that there is a direct correlation between sales and the public's impression of money going to good and worthy causes, does he not agree that the lottery is being severely undermined, as falling ticket sales month in, month out have demonstrated, by the raiding of the cookie jar to support programmes that should be funded by the taxpayer? Should he not have met Camelot much earlier than next month?

Mr. Caborn

First, credit is due to the John Major Government for introducing the lottery, one of the most successful lotteries in the world. The House ought to reflect from time to time on the amount of damage done to what is now a national institution. Since its inception, £35.8 billion of tickets have been sold, and it has delivered £13.5 billion to good causes. Indeed, 100 of the most deprived local authorities are now receiving nearly half of the lottery moneys that are going out. The attacks on the lottery by the Daily Mail and others, including Members in the House this afternoon, are unfortunate. As I said, everyone in the House can take credit for the introduction of one of the best and most successful lotteries in the world. Papers and individuals—not the entire official Opposition—who undermine its credibility should reflect on the damage that they are doing to a national institution.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey)

When the Select Committee looked at the issue, it found that Camelot would be the best operator, but that Virgin had the best marketing for the lottery. Does my hon. Friend agree that the next time we advertise for the lottery, we should have a not-for-profit operator so that we can have the best operator and the best marketing company?

Mr. Caborn

As my hon. Friend knows, we are consulting on the next licensing round. All the points that he made will be factored into the discussions that are under way. It is in everyone's interests to make sure that we get the best deal possible for the lottery and thus the good causes.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)

But the Minister recognises that lottery sales are falling worryingly. Despite his protestations in the House this afternoon, they will fall if the public feel that their money is not being spent on causes of which they approve. Will he therefore tell us whether his Department has given any further thought to an idea floated some months ago—that in buying lottery tickets the public could have more discretion about where that money is spent?

Mr. Caborn

First, I have just come back from New Zealand, which is experiencing exactly the same problem of a decline in lottery sales. We had those problems before in 1996 and 1997, when lottery figures went down to £4,723 million. We have not reached that low this time and hopefully we will not—hopefully, ticket sales will plateau out and increase again. These things go through a cycle and need to be refreshed from time to time. Indeed, Camelot is doing so by bringing a number of products on to the market, with the support of the Government and the commission. I hope that the British public and Members of Parliament will get behind the lottery; as I said, it is a credit to all political parties.