HC Deb 01 March 2002 vol 380 cc947-1001

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mrs. McGuire.]

9.33 am
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell)

I welcome the opportunity to debate the achievements of the national lottery and to take account of the Select Committee report on the operation of the national lottery published in March last year.

The national lottery is all about dreams. Some are glamorous, such as the new car, the yacht or the exotic holiday, and some are personal, such as support for the family or the funding of a career change. Other dreams are essential for the health and vitality of the community, such as the new arts centre, the new pavilion or the restoration of a local landmark. Whether people are spending winnings or working out what the good causes can do for them, the lottery relies on firing the imagination of millions of people up and down the country and inspiring their ability to dream. It is vital that everyone involved in the lottery remembers that and does as much as possible to fan, not extinguish, that fire of enthusiasm.

Every week, six out of 10 of us spend at least £1 on a lottery ticket. Since its launch in 1994, the lottery has become part of our national life and a major force in improving the quality of life. It is fair to recognise the amount of cross-party credit that is due for its success. The key challenge is to maintain public confidence. Although the Government and the Opposition have taken different approaches to the national lottery, a strong body of consensus underpins it, and that consensus is cause for public confidence.

The lottery has surpassed all expectations. It has become one of the most successful lotteries in the world. More than £12 billion has been raised for good causes and more than 100,000 awards have been made. The success is evident in the wide-ranging and varied projects that it has funded from the national flagship projects such as Tate Modern and the Eden centre, to the funding of sports events for people with disabilities, to new dance studies and the refurbishment of football pitches.

In many ways, the lottery is succeeding in meeting the needs of our diverse lives and interests. Instead of hanging around on the streets after school, children can pursue worthwhile interests and activities in the after-school clubs that are funded by the lottery or take advantage of the new sports co-ordinators to develop their interest in sport. People of all ages can improve their health by visiting one of the lottery-funded healthy living centres. Anyone can enjoy the parks that have been restored with funding from the heritage lottery fund.

However, the landscape is changing as our lifestyles are changing. Things are now possible that would have once seemed out of reach. We can be proud of the lottery's success. Sales of games have totalled nearly £36 billion. It is worth considering why the lottery has been so successful. It caught the public's imagination early on with high-profile big cash winners. That caused the public to take the national lottery to their heart; they believed that they really could be winners. Our system is well regulated. It strikes a good balance between allowing fun games at the soft end of gambling while ensuring that young people and the vulnerable are protected. People from all parts of our society enjoy playing it. For those reasons, the lottery has become part of our national life. It is good fun for good causes.

We have an efficient operator in place, but we have no grounds for complacency. We need constantly to consider ways to improve and therefore strengthen our national lottery. The market is changing, as is the technology available to deliver the lottery, which is why this is the right time to review its structure and regulation to ensure that we continue to achieve the maximum return for good causes. I welcome the opportunity to set out some of the matters dealt with in the review and the reforms that we need to address.

When we came to power in 1997, the Government wanted to make the lottery responsive to the needs of the whole population, acting and responding to criticisms that lottery funding was too often for the articulate few rather than the silent many. Large, well-resourced organisations were adept and experienced at securing funding, but the fruits of the lottery were passing entire communities by in too many parts of the country. People feel strongly that lottery money is their money and that it should support the things that they think are important, and we agree with them. So we delivered reform by making the lottery more accessible and responsive to people's needs.

We introduced a new good cause and created a new distributor—the new opportunities fund—that in turn has funded new initiatives in the areas that concern people most: health, education and the environment. We also changed the distributors' powers and responsibilities so that they could become more strategic and pro-active and work together better, made the application system less bureaucratic and more user-friendly, and pushed more decisions closer to the grass roots. We encouraged distributors to ensure that all parts of the UK have access to funding. We also gave them scope for reducing social and economic deprivation, highlighting the need for much greater emphasis on people, activities and access.

Those changes have yielded important success in the way in which money is awarded. The number of small grants—under £5,000—to community groups has more than trebled since 1998. Some 41 per cent. of all grants have gone to the 50 most deprived local authorities. The percentage of revenue funding awards has increased from 9 per cent. to 31 per cent., and more money is being invested in people and activities, rather than just buildings.

Lottery distributors have made significant advances in simplifying the application process, especially for smaller grants. They have launched a national telephone helpline to point callers to the right distributor for their project, and have undertaken to overhaul application forms. The awards for all programme, which involves a single distributor bringing together many other distributors, has been a tremendous success and has made lottery funding accessible to community groups throughout the country. UK-wide, it has awarded nearly £123 million to some 38,000 projects. The programme is also making money available for projects to celebrate the golden jubilee. We are encouraged by the enthusiastic take-up of that opportunity by extraordinary people throughout the country, who want to do extraordinary things for the jubilee.

Area-based schemes such as the community fund's Brass for Barnsley, which distributed £3 million to local voluntary and community organisations, have proved successful in distributing lottery money where it is needed most. I am sure that hon. Members can point to ways in which the national lottery has helped to regenerate and revitalise urban and rural areas in their own constituencies.

The Millennium Commission, which I chair, has injected more than £300 million into regeneration projects in places such as Belfast, Bristol, Coventry, London, Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West)

The Millennium Commission awarded some £46 million to help stimulate construction of the millennium stadium, in Cardiff. Will my right hon. Friend acknowledge on this St. David's day that the value of that award will be even more apparent when we beat Italy tomorrow and the renaissance in Welsh rugby begins?

Tessa Jowell

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend's welcome intervention. The millennium stadium will give many causes for celebration, not least as an example of the investment of lottery money.

Many other large-scale city developments have acted as a catalyst for further regeneration, triggering investment by commercial companies and thereby creating an even greater impact. Indeed, the Millennium Commission's programme of lottery-funded projects has generated some 7,000 jobs. However, as I said, maintaining public confidence is crucial. The lottery has been a success in so many ways, but there are no grounds for complacency. Public confidence in the lottery's integrity is key to its continuing success. Against that background, we must face some crucial challenges if we are to maintain the critical bond of trust between the public and the lottery.

I want to run through the key headlines for the programme of reform that, as I announced, I intend to initiate. The high level of funds in the national lottery distribution fund is rightly a cause for public concern. People ask why good applications are rejected as money appears to languish unspent, and some accuse Government or distributors of seeking to capitalise on the interest raised.

I want to take a moment or two to debunk a few myths. While lottery money continues to flow to the good causes, balances will never stand at zero, and nor should they. Lottery income is by its nature uncertain and distributors are right to hold on to a certain level of funds to cope with the inevitable fluctuations. They have commitments to the causes that they fund and cannot overdraw, but money held in the distribution fund is largely committed to projects. Awards have already been made and distributors are waiting for applicants to draw down the available funds. In fact, total commitments by all distributors stand at £3.82 billion, which is £290 million more than is held in the NLDF account. In one sense, therefore, they have not underspent at all. In reality, they have overcommitted, and interest received from the balance goes straight to the good causes.

Having said all that, I do not consider it right for money to sit needlessly unspent while some parts of the country lose out on lottery funding. A balance must be struck between managing money prudently and putting it to good use now, when it is needed. Action can be taken to speed up the flow of lottery funds. The steps that I am discussing with distributors include setting deadlines by which applicants must draw down funds, providing funds to help them manage their projects and get them under way more quickly, and committing funds further ahead to prevent them from silting up.

No one expects lottery balances to reduce dramatically by tomorrow, but I made it clear in firm terms to the distributors whom I met that excessive prudence makes no sense. They agree, and they accept that reducing the balance is an important priority. They have made absolutely clear their responsibility for achieving that aim, and they expect balances to halve by March 2004. I shall hold them to account in that regard.

On licence renewal, although the new Camelot licence began only a few weeks ago, the time is right to review the lottery's licensing and regulatory framework. I aim to publish a consultation document before the House rises for the summer recess to ensure effective competition for the next licence.

On the size of projects, as I said, since Government reforms in the 1998 legislation, a change of emphasis has been made from capital to revenue projects. I welcome that, because as a result more money is getting out to communities for smaller, people-based projects. However, the people to whom I have spoken have made it clear that there is still value in both large capital projects and small, more community-based ones. Some of the more ambitious capital projects have provided communities with facilities that they could never have dreamed of before the lottery intervened.

The important thing is that those projects, large or small, are seen to deliver value for money and to offer improvements to people's lives. I have asked the distributors to evaluate carefully the results of the projects that they fund, so that the lessons learned can be applied to subsequent funding policy.

Lottery funding should not and will not substitute for Government spending. The point is not what the Government could fund, but what they will fund. I accept that there is a fine line to be trodden here, and it needs to be navigated in a way that maintains public trust and confidence. The Government have never been able, and indeed have never aspired, to fund everything from the Exchequer. We fund cancer equipment, for example, but the demands are infinite, and so much more can be provided for local communities with the help of the voluntary sector, as has always been the case. Much more has been made possible by the introduction of lottery funding, and the lottery can do things that the Government cannot. I hope that we will begin to define those distinctions a bit more sharply in the review that I have announced.

The lottery is a fund for innovation, and lottery money should be available to take risks. We like to focus on the lottery's big successes, but nobody pretends that every last penny has been spent as wisely as it should have been. I hope that we can create a sense that lottery funding is venture capital for community enrichment. We have to accept that such a role means that distributors must be willing to take risks.

A further problem, which is often identified as an obstacle to the most effective operation of the lottery, is the overly bureaucratic distinction between the role of the different distributors, so a more joined-up lottery must be another objective. The lottery was designed to build on the experience of existing funders such as the Sports and Arts Councils, as well as creating the new ones, bringing us to the present total of 15 distributors, UK-wide. I am sure that there is value in such a diverse funding system, which builds on and develops particular areas of expertise, but there is also a need to ensure good co-ordination between distributors.

It is frustrating when people tell me that good projects have come to nothing because they have fallen between the remits of various distributors or they involve two or more distributors. It is vital that distributors work together more effectively when considering applications or providing advice to potential applicants. The awards for all programme, to which I referred to earlier, has been an encouraging example of such co-operation, but we need to be able to do more.

Another key challenge is to ensure local equity in the distribution of money. The lottery has always been open to all parts of the country and to all sections of society. The problem is that some areas, and some of the groups that live and work in them, are much more adept than others at identifying opportunities and applying for funding. Certainly, there seems to be a small-town problem, and we may well hear examples of that in the contributions of hon. Members this morning. There are areas that do not have an established infrastructure and funding network, and there is a risk that they will lose out on their fair share of lottery funding.

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

My right hon. Friend is referring to broad categories of areas with specific problems. Will she comment, in particular, on the problems faced by former coalfield communities? I know that her Department has done a great deal of work on those problems, as have all the funding bodies, but significant problems still face those communities, which attract only about 60 per cent. of the average funding received by other constituencies.

Tessa Jowell

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We are making progress in redressing the imbalance in the lottery allocation to coalfield areas. The trend is in the right direction, but there is still progress to be made. I recognise that we will be judged by whether or not the allocations, in time, become equitable. As I made clear when I addressed the coalfield communities conference last year, we need to consider carefully the way in which we build the capacity in some of those communities to tackle the obstacles to making good applications and navigating through the necessary processes. The Government's commitment to addressing the problems to which my hon. Friend referred remains as firm as it has always been.

That is an example of our desire to change the lottery to a proactive, rather than a reactive, fund, seeking out applications where they are not forthcoming and helping applicants and local communities with what, in many cases, may seem to be daunting paperwork. There is an important role for Members of Parliament here, and I commend the efforts of many right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House in fulfilling that role on behalf of their constituents. There is also a role for voluntary organisations and local authorities in ensuring a fairer distribution of lottery funding.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas

My right hon. Friend mentioned the role of Members of Parliament. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Dr. Gibson) introduced a private Member's Bill in the last days of the last Parliament to amend the National Lottery etc. Act 1993 to allow the national lottery charities board to make endowments. Has that particular glitch in the legislation been ironed out, or is it one of the issues that will be addressed by the consultation paper that she mentioned?

Tessa Jowell

My hon. Friend is right. We have signalled our support for the proposed change to extend, particularly to the community fund, the power to make endowments. That will require legislation at the appropriate time, and it is one of the changes that I propose to address in the consultation document.

Lottery distributors can begin to address the problem of inequity by building on the initiatives, a number of which are already under way, to target funds at those areas that have received less than the amount that they should rightly regard as their fair share. It is still a matter of huge concern for many, including Members of the House, that some deprived areas are chronically underfunded by the lottery. The time is right to develop a more targeted approach to reach those areas that are deprived—they are among the most deprived in the country—and receive less than their fair share of lottery money. Until that happens, areas at the bottom of the lottery league table will never be able to catch up with those that have the capacity and the experience to make bigger, more successful applications.

Mr. Kevin Hughes (Doncaster, North)

My right hon. Friend knows that my constituency is in the bottom 10 in terms of getting lottery awards. I welcome her fair share initiative, but I have a problem with its targeting. She announced yesterday that fair share money is intended to be targeted, which is welcome, but I do not believe that it will benefit my constituency and lift it out of the bottom 10. The figures for my constituency bear no comparison with those for neighbouring constituencies, and to target the money on a borough area will do nothing to lift Doncaster, North out of the bottom 10. In fact, even if my right hon. Friend were to allocate £1 million today to Doncaster, North, it would merely move into the bottom 20. Will she explain how she will redress the obvious imbalance?

Tessa Jowell

It might reassure my hon. Friend to know that my constituency spans two of the most deprived areas in the country—Lambeth and Southwark—but will not benefit from the fair share programme that I announced in a parliamentary answer yesterday, nor will the similarly deprived Sheffield, Central constituency of my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, who is to wind up the debate. My hon. Friend is a passionate advocate for his constituency and the rights of his constituents, many of whom live in deprived circumstances, to get their share of lottery income. If he is patient, I hope to address his points specifically.

In June last year, I announced our intention to introduce a new targeted initiative to inject millions of pounds of lottery funding into deprived areas that had not received their fair share. Yesterday, in response to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown), I was pleased to detail the 51 local authority areas in England that the community fund and the new opportunities fund have decided will benefit from the initiative. Fair share will begin in April 2002, and during the next three years the community fund aims to commit about £80 million of its income to programmes that fall within the terms of eligibility for the initiative. The new opportunities fund will allocate a further £50 million so that it, too, can contribute. In England, the new opportunities fund will target £39 million of its already announced transforming communities initiative money on the English fair share areas. In addition to fair share, the community fund will shortly announce £10 million fund to help rural areas that have been chronically underfunded by the lottery.

To respond to the intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes), I recognise that although fair share will make an important contribution in those 51 areas, it is not a panacea for all the problems. Some areas will still need and deserve a more equitable share of lottery money. However, I am confident that fair share will make a tangible difference to the 51 deprived communities whose claim on lottery funding has not been realised fully.

Mr. Bryant

I am sorry to have to press again the issue of coalfield communities, but I often hear Ministers announce new money for rural areas, or for metropolitan areas, and coalfield communities often lose out because they are neither one nor the other. No one would have lived in the area had it not been for coal, and the result is straggling communities that feel rural—everyone in my constituency lives within 250 yd of some sort of farm—but do not attract rural money, and are not metropolitan either. They tend to fall between two stools.

Tessa Jowell

I hope that my hon. Friend is reassured to learn that of the 51 areas announced yesterday, 11 are in coalfield areas. That benefit is in addition to the initiative and continuing drive to improve coalfield communities' access to lottery funding that I mentioned earlier.

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

There is a clear need to ensure that lottery funds are distributed equitably.

Often, better-off areas are more articulate in making bids than deprived areas. However, one of the lottery's founding principles was that it should be separate from Government and the distributing bodies should take the decisions. Will the right hon. Lady assure the House that the step that she is taking does not compromise that principle, or create a mechanism of Government-engineered investment in certain communities?

Tessa Jowell

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The legislation is clear. The Government set the legislative framework in the National Lottery Act 1998, which made changes to the operation of the lottery consistent with the Labour Government's priorities. It is for distributors, operating at arm's length from Government, to implement the legislation. I assure the House that there is no question of political interference or of fixing lottery funds distribution. That is a matter for the distributors consistent with the powers given to the Secretary of State in legislation that is debated by both Houses. That is what the relationship should be and what it will continue to be.

There is an urgent need now to get fair share money out to those whom the community fund and new opportunities fund will benefit. We all know how much communities can achieve when they are empowered to decide their own priorities and get on with things. We all want fair share to achieve that. In three years, I want all of our most deprived areas to be getting their fair share of lottery funding. To achieve that, the efforts of all the lottery distributors will be required. That is why I shall ask distributors other than the community fund and the new opportunities fund to look long and hard at those areas that have received less of their funding in the past. It is clear that different areas lose out in respect of different good causes. A flexible approach is needed on the part of distributors, and our approach should be the same: we should aim to tackle disadvantage and reduce the wide variation in the amount of lottery money per head received by each area.

I pay respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Morley and Rothwell (Mr. Challen) and to the work that he and other hon. Members, including my hon. Friends the Members for Doncaster, North and for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden)—he is not able to be here today—are doing to identify the obstacles to lottery funding in their constituencies. There is a group of hon. Members of different parties working in the interests of their local communities. I met them in January to discuss how to remove the obstacles surrounding other communities that have received less than their fair share of lottery funding. I shall meet them again after Easter to review progress and to identify practical steps that can be taken.

I hope that the House shares my judgment that the lottery has been a resounding success. It allows people throughout the country to dream. Its tickets are habitually bought by individuals and syndicates, and it grants a lifeline to the communities it reaches, whether as a £10 prize or as a £100 million grant. It has touched the lives of millions of British people, even though it is less than eight years old. Any eight-year-old is shaped and continues to be shaped by his experiences, and the lottery is no different. It needs to be given more freedom and, in 1998, it was. It now needs to begin to exploit that freedom. It needs to be nimbler and more responsive, and encouraged to develop new and better ways of achieving its goals. I am not prepared to stand and wait for that development to happen over many years because communities are impatient for change, as are the Government.

Fair share is an expression of the Government's determination to deliver more equity in distribution now, as well as insisting on longer-term improvements. Three-year plans are all very well, but they do not help people who are impatient and in need now. I want support for the imaginative and essential projects that local communities, for whatever reason, have struggled to fund. I want to start now.

I want distributors to use the powers that they were given in the 1998 legislation to help people to apply for funds. I want to ask people to apply for funds, and I want them to work together to make people believe that the system that pays those funds is simple and fair. The only mystery about the lottery should be which numbers come out of the machine. I want more delegation of cash resources and of decision making to the local level.

The lottery cannot make everyone a millionaire but, as Secretary of State, I can and will insist that while the games may work on the rules of random chance, the distribution of the cash raised for good causes in communities the length and breadth of the country does not.

10.11 am
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York)

I am delighted to respond on behalf of the official Opposition to this welcome debate on the achievements of the national lottery. I personally welcome the Secretary of State on one of her rare appearances at the Dispatch Box, having missed an interesting debate on Ofcom on Second Reading and a debate on the earlier Select Committee report on the subject.

Today we celebrate the national lottery as one of the lasting achievements of the Major Government, as it was launched in November 1994. It has raised £12 billion for good causes, and £36 billion has been spent on tickets. We also welcome this first major debate on the lottery.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Camelot, whose lottery is consistently ranked among the top lotteries in the world in terms of efficiency and returns to good causes and Government. The lottery duty paid to the Government over this period has been £4.2 billion; retailer commission has reached £1.8 billion; and the total of prizes across games has reached more than £7.3 billion.

Like the Secretary of State, I congratulate the distributing bodies. The Arts Council and others; the community fund; Sport England and others; and the national lottery fund each distribute 16 per cent. of the total, while the Millennium Commission distributes 20 per cent.

During the second licence period, it is estimated that the national lottery will help to create and secure in the region of 121,600 jobs. The national lottery has made more than 97,000 awards, benefiting thousands of communities across the UK.

The overall size of a jackpot ticket is in the region of £2 million, and the overall average amount going to jackpot winners is £639,301. I would like to declare an interest, in that having purchased a lottery ticket on normal weeks, I do not seem to have become a jackpot winner. About 60 per cent. of the adult population plays the national lottery generally. The average spend per week is £3.32 and there are approximately 36,000 national lottery retailers throughout the UK.

As the Secretary of State has suggested, every constituency in the land has benefited, and Vale of York is no exception. The Leonard Cheshire foundation received £146,000 from the community fund; a playground at Newton-on-Ouse received £37,000; Topcliffe and Asenby village hall received £5,000; Topcliffe playing field received almost £5,000; Stillington village hall received almost £5,000; and Thairsk hockey club received just under £2,000 from Sport England.

Nationally, by September 2001 the Sports Council across the UK awarded nearly 17,000 grants, worth nearly £1.6 billion. It is important to recognise that the lottery fund contributed to the success of Great Britain's team at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, where Britain won 28 medals, finishing tenth in the overall medals table. At the Paralympic games, Britain won 131 medals, finishing second in the medals table. At the recent Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Britain had its best result since 1934, and I add our congratulations on their magnificent achievement, which was recognised on Monday.

Before we get carried away by the huge successes and achievements of the national lottery, let us pause to consider the fact that there are disappointments under the stewardship of this Secretary of State and this Government. My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo)—who leads for the Opposition—said at Question Time on Monday, with reference to a written answer from the Minister for Sport on 13 February, that: lottery-funded spending on sport had fallen by one third since 1997—a drop of more than £100 million a year".—[Official Report, 25 February 2002; Vol. 380, c. 427.]

If it is correct that more than £3 billion in unspent lottery funds is sitting unused—the Secretary of State alluded to this—the rejection of proposals such as that from the university of Hertfordshire to build an Olympic-sized swimming pool is, as my hon. Friend said on Monday, profoundly discouraging for budding sportsmen and sports fans, and undermines the chances of future Olympic success.

It has come to my notice that there is a category of young athlete, aged 16 to 18, who currently do not qualify for any training funds under the sports fund. I take this opportunity to make a special plea that they should qualify in future.

An earlier disappointment, to which the Secretary of State referred, was the setting up of the new opportunities fund. On 7 April 1998, the former Prime Minister and right hon. Member for Huntingdon, John Major, said in a debate on the National Lottery Bill: A small part—or perhaps not so small; we do not yet know—of the New Opportunities Fund will use lottery money for what I envisaged would always be tax-based expenditure. I have no problem with some elements of the New Opportunities Fund, but expenditure on children's play, coaching in literacy and numeracy and science and technology—all of which are worthy areas for expenditure—should properly be tax borne. The lottery is substituting for what we all, including the Secretary of State, know should be tax-borne expenditure. That is a source of grievance to us and to the distributing bodies … Those areas of expenditure are not, not, not in the original sprit of the lottery.

Tessa Jowell

The hon. Lady refers to the record of the previous Prime Minister and to his comments that funding for certain activities now funded by the new opportunities fund should be tax borne. Why did the previous Government never take steps to fund such activities from tax?

Miss McIntosh

The right hon. Lady will recall that, particularly in relation to health, we had a year-on-year increase in spending.

Tessa Jowell


Miss McIntosh

It is very well for the right hon. Lady to say that, but I stand by my Government's record. Subsequent to the eloquent intervention of my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling), it is a source of concern to the Opposition not only that lottery funds are being diverted from the good causes for which they were originally intended, but that the Government appear to be intervening to set objectives for lottery distributors.

Also in the debate in 1998, John Major said: They"— this Government— infringe the principles that Labour demanded of the previous Government when the original Bill went through the House … The Government are raiding the lottery, raising the fear that they will do it again—and possibly again and again. —[Official Report, 7 April 1998; Vol. 310, c. 189-90.]

Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

Will the hon. Lady give way?

Miss McIntosh

Why not?

Mr. Steinberg

Is the hon. Lady saying that if we had a Conservative Government in 20 or 30 years' time, they would stop that sort of expenditure and not keep the new opportunities fund, which has given millions of pounds to constituencies throughout the country for many different schemes, which would never have been paid for by the taxpayer, neither under this Government or the previous one?

Miss McIntosh

I fear I would be ruled out of order if I set out the objectives of a future Conservative Government. When the time comes, we shall have plenty of opportunities to discuss our priorities.

The raiding of the lottery for causes that were always intended to be funded from general taxation is deeply regrettable. General tax spending is substituted by money raised through the generosity of ordinary people who purchase lottery tickets week in, week out, in the belief that they may win the jackpot—in the Secretary of State's words, their personal dream—safe in the knowledge that they are contributing to good causes. Their trust should not be abused.

That money is not public money—it is not taxpayers' money—and the two should not be confused. Even the right hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) who, regrettably, is not in the Chamber today, has been known to refer to lottery money in that way. Let us recognise and rejoice in the generosity of national lottery players, who raise funds for good causes which, historically, taxpayers' money has not reached.

I welcome the Secretary of State's refinement of the definition of the principle of additionality and her further commitment to it. The principle that lottery money should be additional to existing public expenditure is as relevant today as it was in 1994. Even now, good causes are under threat from another direction. The Budd review on the deregulation of betting shops and other gambling outlets could pose a threat to the national lottery and money raised for good causes. I am sure that the right hon. Lady will have received, as all Opposition Members have, many heartfelt representations from lottery distributors about that.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas

Pinner Wood school in my constituency has just received an £18,000 grant to run an after-school club. Is the hon. Lady's party committed to abolishing the new opportunities fund? Will she make a commitment today, or has she secured a commitment from her education and Treasury spokesmen, that her party would match from general taxation the money that would be lost by schools like Pinner Wood to fund after-school clubs, which were not being provided when this Government came to power?

Miss McIntosh

I repeat the commitment that we made when the lottery started and welcome the Government's devotion to a successful concept. I hope that when the Minister for Sport makes his winding-up speech, he will give a commitment to the principle of additionality and that there will be no further raids on the lottery coffers.

Chris Grayling

Does my hon. Friend recognise that in many parts of the country groups that are taking advantage of finance through the new opportunities fund traditionally received much greater support from the local authority? As she will know, local authorities this year are under increasing pressure because they are underfunded for things like teachers' pay. Discretionary spending for grants to the kind of schemes to which the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) referred cannot come through local authorities because of that underfunding.

Miss McIntosh

My hon. Friend makes a pertinent point which shows how shire counties in particular have suffered in this year's spending round. I shall return to that subject later.

This week, the Government almost broke with their recently established tradition of burying, or causing to seep out, bad news on Fridays. An announcement on the English fair share areas could have been made during departmental questions on Monday, so we have to ask ourselves why the Secretary of State held it up until yesterday in a written answer to the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson). My hon. Friend the Member for South Suffolk received that information via his fax machine at approximately 4.08 pm, and the Secretary of State elaborated further on the scheme today.

Tessa Jowell

With great respect, the hon. Lady must do better. She has been abandoned by the Opposition spokesman, who is away from the House, to handle this debate. As Secretary of State, I am here. The hon. Lady, having chosen a debate on the lottery in Government time to raise the issue, will have to give a better explanation of why answering a parliamentary question yesterday to clarify the position on fair shares can possibly be described as burying bad news. The 51 areas that will benefit from the scheme will regard it as a reason to celebrate this weekend.

Miss McIntosh

I am grateful to the right hon. Lady for her assistance. In announcing the fair share agreement in her written answer and her opening remarks today, she referred to her announcement on 27 June 2001. I wish to spare her blushes, but one must ask why it has taken nine months for an announcement originally promised on 27 June to seep out in that elaborate form. Following the targeted lottery initiative announcement on 27 June, one is tempted to ask why the Secretary of State has waited so long to make yesterday's announcement. What reason for such a long delay can there possibly be?

Tessa Jowell

I must put the hon. Lady out of her agony. The announcement about the fair share areas was made in today's debate and a parliamentary answer was given yesterday, because the programme will start in April. The announcement is timely; it is properly timed for the start of the programme by the new opportunities fund and the community fund at the beginning of April.

Miss McIntosh

If an announcement had been made in January, the programme could have started in March. If an announcement had been made in September, it could have started in November. However we shall not debate the meaning of the word "timely" because that is not why Members are here.

The written answer to which I referred—it has been expanded on by the Secretary of State—refers to direct support in respect of 51 of our 100 most deprived areas. The community fund and the new opportunities fund have analysed areas that receive less than the average amount of funding from the community fund and from other lottery distributors collectively. Those areas are to receive direct support from fair share. I congratulate the community fund on targeting money on the most deprived areas in that way. The Secretary of State mentioned that £80 million of community fund money will be targeted. I gather that £10 million will subsequently make its way to rural areas, but it should be made clear whether that money is additional to the £80 million or part of it.

I also congratulate the community fund on following the Secretary of State's request that it simplify its procedure. It has pioneered the one-stop shop and even taken advantage of the popular radio programme "The Archers" to explain how the procedures will work. I urge her to go further and to encourage other distributors—especially those concerned with heritage and the arts—to make efforts to put similar money into the fair share initiative.

I add one note of caution. I recognise that the majority of the 100 most deprived areas are not rural—the list given in the written answer speaks for itself. I welcome the fact that the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Altrincham and Sale, West (Mr. Brady) will benefit. None the less, Barking and Dagenham, Barnsley, Darlington, Doncaster, Kingston upon Hull, Peterborough and Portsmouth—the list goes on—could hardly be described as rural. I gather that the regional sparsity factor is one of the indices used to create the relevant criteria, so I make this plea: the fair share initiative, which appears from the written answer mostly to represent urban areas, for the reason given by the Secretary of State, should be matched by the Government with a similar rural initiative. I add to that plea a request that the Government examine exactly how the rural indices are arrived at and calculated.

The Secretary of State may not be aware that Thirsk is now among the 10 per cent. most deprived areas in the country, according to a recent newspaper report; yet Hambleton district would not be considered in the same way. The Government must address that conundrum. They have failed to do so today. I invite them to work with the Countryside Agency to identify and assist areas such as Thirsk, which have been especially badly hit by the foot and mouth crisis. Such areas need the benefit of such a rural scheme.

The Secretary of State did not seem to welcome my appearance at the Dispatch Box. She will have noted that I am the official Opposition spokesman for the lottery. I mentioned that I would welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate. I am glad to see her recognise from a sedentary position that this is an important subject.

The Secretary of State referred at some length to underspend and the £3.82 billion that is committed. She said that in one sense, such money is not underspent but overspent, as it is committed. A very alarming report was published in The Mail on Sunday on 24 February, referring to a scandal of a £3.6 billion cash mountain that the lottery chiefs are sitting on and cannot give away. I am not entirely persuaded by her explanation. Is it true that there is such a mountain? If so, it is indeed a scandal, but if such reports are not true, the Government should not allow their press machine to go into overspin. If the article is correct, this will not be the first Secretary of State who has had to apologise this week for not being entirely straight with the House and the British public.

In that context, I should like to refer to the answer given by the Minister for Sport yesterday to a written question tabled by the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey). The answer contains two tables, one of which lists all the distributing bodies. Rather alarmingly, it gives the amount held in the lottery distribution fund in millions of pounds. The balance of outstanding commitments is also given. Perhaps the Minister will give some more sense to the table.

Tessa Jowell

I should like to be absolutely clear about what the hon. Lady is saying. Is she suggesting that any of the information that I have given to the House this morning is misleading or incorrect? Does she accept that I made a clear distinction in respect of the important difference between balances being committed and spent? The distributors are not allowed to overspend, but they can overcommit.

Miss McIntosh

I am grateful for that clarification. I was trying to say that that the Secretary of State has not made the position entirely clear and that even the written answer is misleading in many respects. I welcome the opportunity for elaboration on that point; perhaps it can be further clarified later in the debate.

We are also considering this morning the first report of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport. The report, which was published in October 2001, is an excellent recognition of the national lottery's contribution to the life of the nation. I want to draw the House's attention to three points in relation to the report. First, conclusion (v) states: We see no justification for the view that the Lottery is a tax, whether on the poor or anyone else. The purchase of a National Lottery ticket is a wholly voluntary decision, which players make to take part in the dream of winning a large amount of money. I note that the Government welcome that conclusion. Secondly, conclusion (xxvi) states that the Committee was disappointed that the Government saw fit to exclude the question of the National Lottery's regulation from the current Gaming Review Body. It goes on to state: This issue should therefore be considered by the review of the selection process announced by the Secretary of State. I want to express my disappointment that no mention was made of that point in respect of the review and reforms on which the Secretary of State has announced that consultation will occur before the House rises for the summer. Finally, in conclusion (xxxvi) the Committee states that the Government must allow the good causes to evolve and consider changes in the future. The final conclusion states: We expect the Government, in considering the good causes, to adhere to the principles under which the Lottery was established and ensure that it continues to enhance the quality of life. I commend the report to the House. I also welcome the review, reforms and consultation announced by the Secretary of State. The Opposition hope to play a full part in the process.

I would welcome a clearer definition of additionality. I have mentioned the concept of underspend or overcommitment, and I believe that the great British public would benefit from greater clarification in that regard.

In conclusion, we seek an undertaking from the Secretary of State that she will restore the clear separation between lottery funds and taxpayers' money, and that the procedures through which the public apply to the lottery distributing bodies for funds will be streamlined to ensure that they are as user-friendly and efficient as possible. We want the Government to admit that they are responsible for a £100 million drop in lottery-funded spending on sport. I am sure that the whole House will unite in condemning that drop. I repeat my plea that all young athletes will qualify in respect of training, including the category of 16 to 18-year-olds, whom I gather do not currently qualify. Perhaps the Minister for Sport was not aware of that point.

We seek an assurance that the suspected £3 billion underspend will be confirmed as a firm spending commitment, that the national lottery will operate as the Conservative Government envisaged—free from Government interference and run for the benefit of good causes, big and small, across the country—and that there will be a proper balance in the distribution of funds by all the lottery bodies and distributing bodies between rural and urban areas, recognising the devastation suffered in rural communities as a result of the on going farming crisis.

10.40 am
Mr. Gerry Steinberg (City of Durham)

We are always quick to criticise and complain, but we rarely offer congratulations. That is why I wanted to speak in the debate. I am sure that we all dream of being a winner in the national lottery, and I am equally sure that most people have some experience of the many excellent and worthwhile projects that have come to fruition as a direct result of the revenue generated by the national lottery and disbursed by the distributing bodies to support good causes such as sport, arts, charities and heritage.

It is too easy to sensationalise the more dubious awards that have been made by the distributing bodies. We all have our own views about how lottery money could be better spent, and on worthwhile projects which we think it should be used to assist. I admit that I have shared such views on many occasions—for example, about the huge amounts spent on projects that I regard as elitist.

We all have our own opinions about the amounts spent on the more questionable projects on which the media have focused, including the millennium dome. Although I understand the well-intentioned aims of the project, I admit that I joined many other people in pondering the many other laudable schemes that could have been assisted with the resources that were spent on the dome. However, I believe that the smaller, perhaps less sensational schemes have made a real difference to people's lives.

Very few hon. Members could honestly say that their community has not received some form of assistance from one of the good causes for a local project. Those range from relatively small schemes to the much bigger initiatives. The fundamental point—let us be quite clear about this—is that without the income generated by the national lottery, such schemes would not have been possible, and those who benefit from them would not be doing so.

Let us think about the projects funded for arts provision; valuable and important heritage schemes; the improvements and developments that have been made possible in sport; and the excellent charitable schemes that have been realised as a direct result of the national lottery. All hon. Members could cite several examples to demonstrate my point.

We all have our own ideas about what we will do when—or, perhaps more importantly, if—we win the lottery. When we pay our £1 or whatever, we all think of that with great relish. However, we probably do not think twice about the approximately 28 per cent. of the revenue generated from the sales that is handed over to the national lottery distribution fund, and how that money is being used. The lottery has made a real difference not just to the lucky winners who scooped the millions or the thousands, but to everyone who has benefited directly or indirectly from projects funded by the six distributing bodies.

Numerous community groups, sportsmen and women, and arts groups, not to mention charities, have been the recipients of financial assistance that has allowed excellent work and projects to be initiated, and in some cases to continue. New sports facilities have been built, equipment has been purchased and excellent development work has been undertaken. Many arts projects have been funded, and restoration schemes have ensured that local treasures have been safeguarded for the future.

Community associations and groups have been rewarded for their valuable efforts, ranging from schemes for toddlers and young children right through the spectrum to the more senior members of our society. Schemes are being funded from which everyone throughout the country can benefit. Yes, we can all criticise, but perhaps it is time that we all took stock and realised just how much revenue is being ploughed back into every city, town, village and community as a result of the weekly flutter that most of us have.

I wanted to speak in the debate to highlight some of the achievements that have made a difference in my constituency, City of Durham, which is obviously the place closest to my heart. I hope that after I have described some examples, the lottery funds do not dry up! We have done quite well in Durham up to now.

A first-class specialist gymnastics facility, which will provide a much-needed centre of excellence for the gymnasts in the area, has been made possible. I know that the facility will make a huge difference to gymnasts in Durham and the region. For years its development has been an aspiration. It is questionable whether that would have been fulfilled without the input of £320,000 of national lottery funding. The hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) spoke about the Olympic games. Who knows, we might see a future gold medallist as a result of that gymnasium.

Another excellent facility that has been opened in my constituency is an indoor bowling facility, which was made possible as a result of £450,000 of lottery funding. The new building provides a centre for bowling development for all members of the community, young and old, and has led to a huge growth in bowling in the area. Both of these projects, incidentally, were also funded by grants from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts, for which I am extremely grateful. That organisation still has an important role to play in the distribution of grants to local organisations. We should not forget that, while we are congratulating the national lottery.

In 2000, Durham Sport, based in City of Durham, became the first sports partnership to receive £100,000 of revenue funding from the sports lottery fund for its active sports programme. The programme will lead to more young people taking part in many kinds of sport, more coaches being trained to deliver sporting activity to young people, and more junior clubs being developed to retain young people in sport. All hon. Members are aware of the recent reports about increasing obesity in young people and concerns that the country is not producing sufficient high-class performers. The programme in Durham will address both those important issues with the support of the national lottery.

To tackle the needs of the more senior members of our society, Age Concern in County Durham has been the recipient of £208,000 of funding via the National Lottery Charities Board, as it was then, which has made possible the establishment of offices in various locations in the county. That has enabled the organisation to work more effectively at local level, mapping existing provision, identifying unmet needs and working towards the development of new services.

As a result of lottery funding, the Durham Light Infantry museum has been refurbished, remodelled and its exhibits redisplayed. The museum, managed by the county council's arts, libraries and museums service, is a major tourist draw in our historic city. The £1.5 million refit has attracted considerable critical acclaim. The museum, which is set in the parkland of Aykley Head, is now fit for the 21st century. The remodelled displays and associated activities programmes are focused on the family, especially younger people and school parties. The Durham Light Infantry Regiment may have been disbanded in 1968, but its history is indelibly linked with the identity of my constituents. The staff are therefore ensuring that future generations understand their spiritual inheritance.

Durham county council is a firm believer in the value of cultural services to the local community. It may be some years since the small village of Cassopcum-Quarrington was mentioned in the House, but I can report that its local history society, with the support of the national lottery, has established a mobile visual display outlining the history and past events of the parish.

This comparatively modest initiative is contributing to a regionwide digitisation project managed by the county council, which is entitled "Tomorrow's History". It is creating a local heritage database covering every community in the north-eastern region, from Berwick to Guisborough and from Haltwhistle to Hartlepool. That would not be happening without the national lottery.

Community initiatives in the villages of Brandon, Shincliffe and Bowburn in my constituency have greatly benefited from the regional initiative. The same project has encouraged the Durham Dialect Association to survey communities spanning all age groups to illustrate the survival of the local vocabulary, pitmatic included. The expression "Whey aye, man" will, I hope, continue to be used for many years to come.

Age Concern has contributed to "Tomorrow's History" on intergenerational work for senior citizens. It is collaborating with school children on local history topics. Once again, that is because of the national lottery.

I shall mention work that is going on in other small villages throughout my constituency—for example, Bearpark, New Brancepeth and Ushaw Moor—as a consequence of new opportunities fund moneys that the arts, libraries and museums department is utilising to broaden community access to learning, working with local community associations.

Last summer, archaeology was actually brought to life in a small village called Coxhoe, with a "time detectives" local equivalent for youngsters as part of the learning strand of the new opportunities fund. This, and many other schemes, are countywide, but of immense benefit to my constituents. For example, the elements drama development programme is encouraging youth theatre, commissioning new work and stimulating the touring of professional plays in the rural areas of my constituency.

Last year, a new play, "Set in Stone" explored the harrowing account of a Durham first-world-war soldier, who was shot at dawn for alleged cowardice. Thankfully, this man's name is now remembered in the rolls of honour, the evidence leading to his death being questionable to say the least. The national lottery has helped to right an 80-year-old wrong.

Last year, the arts, libraries and museums department established "The Forge", an arts in education development agency, again with the benefit of lottery funding, this time through the regional arts lottery programme. I cannot speak too highly of the work of this organisation in local schools, for example. It is providing the springboard for collaboration with the recently established Sunderland and Durham creative partnership that I hope will encourage more creative activity among schoolchildren in the area.

There are six libraries in my constituency and the county council's policy is clear: libraries are the hub of community activity. I shall quote from the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), who said: Libraries contribute to four of this Government's most important policy objectives. They underpin education, providing essential support for schoolchildren, students and lifelong learners; they enhance public access to the world's storehouse of knowledge and information; they promote social inclusion by helping to bridge the gap between those who can afford access to information and those who can't, and increasingly have a role to play in the modernisation and delivery of public services. Lottery funding has enabled libraries in my area to play their full part in meeting those objectives. Investment from the new opportunities fund has enabled the provision of additional PCs, scanners and printers, the extension of an upgraded data transmission network and, most importantly, the training of all library staff to the European computer driving licence standard. All the libraries in County Durham have had free internet access since 1998. They are the base for lifelong learning programmes in association with local colleges. They provide mediated information and advice, and are the hub of community activity.

All in all, the national lottery has stimulated new ways of thinking, new collaborations and exciting new initiatives. I believe that the Durham pleasure gardens, which fell into disuse in the early years of the century, could well be restored, at least virtually, through a partnership between the archaeology section of the arts, libraries and museums service and its Northumberland counterparts, because they are jointly developing virtual models of archaeology sites in the north-east, again with the assistance of lottery money.

On something entirely different, only last weekend, a new bridge—the first new bridge for more than 40 years—was erected across the Wear in Durham. The Millennium Commission, Durham city council and Durham county council are funding that £460,000 bridge, which links Framwellgate Waterside with the Sands, as part of the city's millennium city project. The bridge would never have been possible without national lottery funding.

Of particular significance to the people of Durham, and to those who are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit such a magnificent city, is the Durham millennium city development. This wonderful and fantastic scheme has transformed the city centre. It will be a legacy to the efforts of all those involved in bringing it to fruition, and to the significant funding input from the national lottery via the Millennium Commission. There was a grant of more than £13 million from the commission, which has been matched by the local authority.

I hope that when Members visit Durham they will also visit that new development. It has regenerated an area of the city that was little more than a car park on a derelict site for more than 30 years. The development has acted as a catalyst for the redevelopment and improvement of the central part of Durham. I am sure that many Members have fond memories of Durham. Only yesterday, I was away with members of the Public Accounts Committee; two members of it were at Durham university. Many Members know Durham well, including the city. When they revisit, I hope that they will see what I am talking about.

The scheme includes the fantastic Gala theatre, the state of the art Clayport library, a new tourist information centre, a visitors' centre, access to information and advice for everyone, and space for community groups. The city council, in attracting investment for the development, has realised a dream for the people of Durham. That development has been a local Labour party manifesto item for as long as I can remember or for as long as I have been in politics, which is 30 years. Now the scheme has come to fruition.

The Gala theatre has been designed as multi-purpose building. It can house theatre shows but it converts to a dance hall, a conference centre or an exhibition hall, to name but a few uses. It is a venue for everyone for seven days a week, from early morning to well into the evening. At long last, it will give the people of Durham the opportunity to experience different forms of entertainment without having to travel out of the city, which they have had to do for many years.

On the opposite side of the Millennium square is the new Clayport library, which will offer a huge range of facilities. The lifelong learning centre will provide ideas and opportunities for learning or leisure, work or hobbies, stimulation or relaxation. It occupies three floors, with full access for the disabled to all levels. Here we can learn, brush up on our IT skills, browse for a book from the 18,000 volumes that are on loan and explore online the catalogue of the county's 800,000 stockholdings. Information can be sought from a mixture of traditional reference works or from the latest in electronic formats, and visitors will feel at home in one of the 60 study places. A community resource centre, incorporating office and meeting facilities for community and voluntary organisations, provides community services in one easy to access location.

I must declare an interest because I have recently moved my constituency office into the new building. The development has given a much-needed facelift to what was a rather drab part of the city, and the careful selection of facilities will ensure that the people of Durham can really benefit from what it has to offer for many years to come.

One of the potential knock-on effects includes an increase in revenue from visitor activities, as the facility will offer the many visitors to the city a number of further opportunities. I do not need to state that the additional permanent local jobs that have already been generated and will be generated by the scheme are very much welcomed.

Durham city council's endeavours to implement an extensive redevelopment programme, geared to the regeneration of the city centre, have been especially apparent in recent years, with a number of key projects being completed. The realisation of the Durham millennium city project was a significant part of that regeneration, which would never have taken place without the crucial funding offered by the national lottery. It was always a dream that would never be accomplished; now, thanks to the national lottery, it has been accomplished. Just as Durham cathedral has been a magnificent landmark in the city, the millennium city development was a wonderful way to mark the beginning of the new millennium.

I have mentioned only a few examples of the many excellent schemes that have been made possible in Durham as a result of national lottery funding; I could have gone on to mention many more. I am personally aware of the huge difference that the national lottery has made to the facilities and services that are on offer to my constituents in a wide range of areas, including sport, recreation, arts, heritage projects, education and projects affecting the lives of entire communities. Virtually everyone in my constituency has benefited from the national lottery in some way. That is a significant achievement in anyone's terms. I hope that it will last for a long time to come and that we will continue to benefit from national lottery grants.

11.1 am

Nick Harvey (North Devon)

Since its launch in 1994, the national lottery has been of great benefit to many people. The money that it has raised has allowed much regeneration in our communities, enhanced the lives of many people and improved all our constituencies. The hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) paid a heartfelt tribute to what it has achieved in his constituency, which I visited for the first time a few weeks ago. I do not know how many of its treasures can be directly attributed to the national lottery, but if it is helping to keep the city as wonderful as it is, it is clearly doing good.

Such achievements should not be underestimated. Hon. Members have already mentioned the sums of money that have been raised. However, in many cases the value of the projects that have been funded by lottery proceeds cannot be calculated because of the lottery's success in unlocking other forms of finance, triggering many projects that would not otherwise have happened and which therefore go beyond what the lottery has directly funded or stimulated.

Although the national lottery is a relatively new creation, we must be aware that it is likely to have a limited lifespan. The experience of lotteries elsewhere around the world is that however successful they may seem to be for a considerable time, in the end they inevitably roll over and implode. No one can predict with any certainty how long they will last. Indeed, our own lottery has shown some diminution in ticket sales, and we cannot afford the luxury of believing that it will last for ever, continuing to generate the revenue figures that it has so far enjoyed.

We must ensure as best we can that we maximise ticket sales and thereby the investment that the distributing bodies are able to make; that the lottery operates in a manner that is fair, accountable to the punter and protects the vulnerable; that the distributors have extracted the best value for money from the funds that have been made available through ticket sales; that that money is administered in the best and most efficient manner; and that investment is maximised in every sense. In short, we must ensure that we make the most out of the lottery because, like all good things, it will eventually come to an end. Whatever money is raised, and however it is raised, it is most important that we spend it wisely.

The funds raised for good causes—28p in the pound for every ticket sold—are distributed between arts, sports, charities and heritage, and education, health and the environment. Historically, arts, sports, heritage and charitable causes have been low down on the Treasury's list of priorities.

When we look around, we can all see examples of what the lottery has achieved. Mention was made of the millennium stadium in Cardiff, which I visited on Sunday for the Worthington cup final. It is a fantastic stadium and it was wonderful to see a full house. The atmosphere that is created when a match is played with the roof closed is extraordinary. That would not have happened without lottery proceeds being made available, and the same can be said for much of what has been achieved in the arts, sport and heritage and for charitable causes.

The same cannot be argued in respect of health and education. Those are high up on the list of voters' priorities, and they expect the Government to fund services in those sectors appropriately and adequately. We have already talked about additionality. The hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) challenged the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) on whether she would want finance to be withdrawn from after-school clubs. After-school clubs are clearly an adjunct to the education system, not one of the core parts that have traditionally, as the average member of the public would expect, been paid for by the taxpayer. If those are the sorts of new opportunities that the fund is creating, that is consistent with the original aims and objectives of the lottery.

However, when one starts to consider using the new opportunities fund to pay for hospital equipment, which the man in the street would expect the Government to fund from Exchequer revenues, one begins fundamentally to stray from the original purposes and objectives of the lottery. When the new opportunities fund was established, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport said: The principle is clear. Lottery money must not replace Exchequer spending".—[Official Report, 7 April 1998; Vol. 310, c. 166.] The Secretary of State touched on that this morning when she said that lottery money should not and will not be a substitute for such spending. She acknowledged that there is a fine line to be navigated. There certainly is, and in some cases the new opportunities fund has ended up on the wrong side of it.

Chris Grayling

Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern that the new opportunities fund may become an excuse for the Government not to consider funding certain areas? One example is the hospice movement, where the voluntary sector has traditionally played an important role in appeals—such as that for the Shooting Stars hospice, which was so memorably not visited by the hon. Member for Richmond Park (Dr. Tonge). The Government should consider providing additional support in that area, but it is easy for them to use the new opportunities fund as a smokescreen for not doing so

Nick Harvey

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point that echoes my worry about the current scope of the new opportunities fund. Welcome as the additional expenditure may be, it is not the right place for it to come from. That is not only a matter of principle, but central to my point about all good things coming to an end, including lotteries and the funding stream that they bring with them.

The Government are using lottery money to fund their commitment to cancer care through the £150 million living with cancer programme, which the public may not want to think is contingent on lottery funding for its existence. The principle of additionality—that any funds created by the lottery should add to, not substitute for, services provided by the Government—was enshrined in the original legislation. At best that is being ignored, and at worst abused. That was the point that the hon. Gentleman was making.

Time and again, the Government pledge themselves to universal access to health—a comprehensive NHS that cares for all regardless of ability to pay—and, rightly, attack plans to make the less fortunate pay extra for their health care. The Government commit themselves to broadening the spectrum of education and to improving the infrastructure in our schools. Those are laudable objectives, but they should not be paid for by siphoning off funds that lottery players think are going to the original good causes. Such funds should not be pumped into the health service and education, which the public think are being financed by general taxation revenues. That is the most regressive form of taxation. Certainly it is not in the spirit in which the lottery was originally set up.

Of course those extra forms of funding are welcome, but in the long term they are not a right or sustainable method of funding. Are we to presume that the scanners, the new breast screening equipment and the cancer prevention projects funded by the new opportunities fund would not have gone ahead otherwise? If teaching our teachers and librarians to use the computers and the internet is funded in that way, would it never have happened without lottery funding? If so, although those may be among the biggest achievements of the national lottery, one would have to say that the lottery was propping up public services that the public would expect to be provided by Government.

What would happen if the lottery funding eventually dried up? Surely the cancer care would not be withdrawn from the NHS and the teachers withdrawn from the training programmes. The lottery funding is not a long-term answer to the long-standing funding problems from which both the health and the education system suffer.

The new opportunities fund was set up to focus particularly on the needs of the most disadvantaged—an aim reiterated both in its list of key objectives and throughout the mission statement for its projects. However, four of the 81 most deprived districts in the UK received no new opportunities fund money in 2001, and 33 of them received less than the national average. Of the 80 districts that received more than £10 per head, not even half appear on the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions list of the most deprived districts. Clearly there is a problem, and I was pleased to hear the Secretary of State acknowledge it this morning. I hope that the initiatives announced yesterday will begin to make serious progress in solving that problem.

Once the funds reach the distribution bodies, how should they be distributed? When I tabled questions, I received the answer that the prompt payment of grant by distributors to successful applicants was "desirable". In my opinion, it is more than desirable, it is essential. We all understand that when funds are committed they cannot necessarily be paid at once, because proper performance of what the bid entails has to be achieved to the satisfaction of the distributing bodies first.

We cannot be glib and pretend that there are simple solutions, and I welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has entered a dialogue with each of the distributing bodies to try to address the serious problem that has built up. The reserve funds of the distributing bodies have continued to grow—by almost £150 million since December 2000—and now stand at almost £3.5 billion. That is more than a quarter of the £12 billion that the lottery has raised since it began; the equivalent of almost two years' net income has not yet been distributed. One understands some of the reasons why that has happened, but there is a clear need for action to sort it out. I hope that what the Secretary of State is now proposing will succeed.

The amount going to the distributors has been falling every month, and one can understand that that may cause a cash flow problem in the fulness of time. I do not believe that the present situation is the result of an attempt to manage a cash flow problem, but I hope that if the trend continues—we all hope that it will not—such a problem will not arise in the future. We all hope that Camelot's new plans will begin to reverse the trend.

In many cases, the lottery distributors do a fine job of distributing funds, and also provide excellent advice to project leaders, not only about how to make their bids but how the projects can be carried on.

Community sports clubs would benefit, and their financial affairs would be made much easier, if they were given the tax concessions for which they are now campaigning. I welcome the sounds that the Minister for Sport was making at Question Time on Monday, and if it is possible to persuade the Charity Commissioners to allow clubs to act as if they were charities, but in a less bureaucratic way than the rest of the charity movement has to endure, that would be welcome. If it could be pulled off, I suspect that many other charities would look on with envious eyes and wonder whether such an arrangement could be extended more widely.

When grants are provided by distributors, the promises that applicants make and the contracts that they sign must be upheld. Where they are not, we should have no hesitation in trying to recover moneys. I hope that in the case of Wembley, with the unfortunate saga that has dogged it in recent years, that will not ultimately prove necessary.

As the lottery pledged the money for Wembley so long ago, it is a great pity that more progress was not made, and it was not possible to find a solution to the Wembley conundrum in time for the World athletics championships to be held there in 2005. It will be a supreme irony if a stadium, which we are now told will be compatible with athletics, opens either for the cup final in May 2005 or the charity shield in August of that year—because that will be a month or so either side of the very athletics championships that we hoped would be conducted at Wembley. However, there is now a new plan on the stocks for Wembley; we must wish it success and hope that the athletics capability will come to fruition, and that in the fulness of time we shall see a major athletics tournament conducted there.

Very few of the projects would have gone ahead at all if it were not for the success of the lottery and its high sales. Camelot has done an exceptional job in operating an efficient lottery; ours is consistently ranked among the best and most successful lotteries in the world. Dwindling sales are a concern, but we must hope that the sales improvement programme that Camelot is now putting together will lead to a significant improvement.

The Secretary of State made a series of remarks about her plans for the future. For example, before the summer recess she will issue a licensing consultation document, and I look forward to seeing that and commenting on it. As she said, additionality is a fine line to navigate, and I hope that we shall debate further exactly where that line is to be drawn.

The recognition that local equity needs to be improved is welcome, and I hope that the plan announced yesterday will enjoy success. The Secretary of State has already been asked about amending the legislation to allow endowments, and she said that the Government would do so. It would be useful to have the facility to do that, but endowments are an expensive way of bringing a funding stream into a project, so I hope that using lottery funds in that way will not become widespread.

The Secretary of State said that she wanted to see devolution of decisions to the most local level possible. We all welcome that, but I cannot understand how, at the same time, the same Department is beginning to devolve decision making in sport, yet appears willing to smile on a movement in the opposite direction in the arts. I hope that in the end, the Government will not agree to that movement.

The national lottery has achieved a great deal. However, we cannot assume that funding streams can be sustained at the current level indefinitely, so when we decide how to use the money we must avoid the mistake of making any essential public services dependent on lottery proceeds.

There is a great deal to celebrate. I hope that in the coming months we will be able to consider the various suggestions that the Secretary of State has made today about how the lottery can be improved, that we will find ways to sustain and improve it, and that there will continue to be a lot to celebrate for many years to come.

11.19 am
Mr. John Grogan (Selby)

It gives me great pleasure to take part in this debate. I want to draw on four different areas of my experience to make four different points on the lottery. First, from my experience as a constituency Member, I want to draw local lessons from the operation of the lottery in Selby, which might have a wider resonance. Secondly, as a keen punter, I want to consider the impact of the gambling review on the lottery. Thirdly, as chairman of the all-party BBC group, I want to consider television coverage of the lottery, which is becoming an issue again. Fourthly, drawing on my experience in the previous Parliament on the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs—incidentally, hon. Members may be interested to know that the average spend on the lottery, and on the football pools, in Northern Ireland is greater than anywhere else in the United Kingdom—I want to conclude with a few remarks on the lottery in Northern Ireland.

Before I do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will allow me one preliminary remark. Yesterday, I attended the memorial service commemorating one year after the tragedy at Great Heck. It was an extremely moving service in Selby abbey. Coming down on the train last night, I heard that there had been a similar accident at Nocton, south of Lincoln. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all hon. Members present in sending our deepest sympathy to the bereaved family and our best wishes to all those who were injured in that crash.

To return to the lottery and to the local lessons in Selby, it is interesting that, in my constituency, £5.6 million of lottery grants have been given out in recent years—a total of 156 awards. Forty of those awards have been made in the past 14 months. That is no accident. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport mentioned that in some smaller towns the councils and the voluntary sector have got their act together to try to provide advice to voluntary groups and sporting groups on making lottery applications.

When I first became a Member of Parliament, I was astonished that one of the first things my office was asked to do was to help out with a lottery application. I was therefore keen to support the efforts of Gill Cashmore of the Selby association of voluntary services and Steve Shaw-Wright of the town council to obtain professional advice. That has worked—the Selby association of voluntary services now has a full-time funding office. Indeed, just before Christmas the local evening paper contained the extremely welcome headline: "Midas Mike aims to make a million for good causes". "Midas" Mike Dunne said: I have been trained to hit the right notes and tell the charity fund managers what they want to hear. The great thing from my point of view is that I am helping groups who have found applications quite daunting in the past. And the quality of life for people that benefit can be raised tenfold by even a small grant. I love this job, and over the next two years I want to become a millionaire fundraiser. He has certainly made a difference in the Selby area.

The new opportunities fund has been mentioned not least by the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), who is a fellow North Yorkshire Member. I have looked carefully at new opportunities fund funding in my constituency, which has been almost exclusively concentrated on after-school clubs and holiday clubs in villages that would not have had a hope of having such facilities and opportunities previously. Hemingbrough—a very rural village—has recently been funded for 16 before-school and 24 holiday places for children aged between three and 11. The beekeepers club in Fulford in my constituency and Space Base in Riccall provide similar opportunities. That would never have happened before in a rural area like Selby. North Yorkshire county council has been allocated £3.5 million from the new opportunities fund to improve sports facilities in schools in the North Yorkshire area. A Conservative county council is therefore enthusiastically embracing the new opportunities fund, and Councillor Carl Les is heading up the initiative in North Yorkshire.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) talked about the hopes of the Welsh for Cardiff Arms Park and about a possible renaissance in Welsh rugby, and we have similar hopes for Yorkshire cricket, which we have achieved. Headingley has a new lottery-funded development, and we are now the county champions. Headingley is not quite finished, but it is getting better every day and will be a fitting home for the county champions when it is finished. Local club cricket is very strong in Yorkshire, and no fewer than five cricket teams—Cawood, Tadcaster, Saxton, Bolton Percy and Appleton Roebuck—have benefited from lottery grants. In illustration of the fact that there are a wide range of sporting activities in Selby, a further seven sports—hockey, martial arts, football, swimming, bowls, tennis and horse riding—have also received grants.

The heritage fund can be flexible in funding big projects such as Selby abbey—which has received nearly £400,000—where the memorial service to which I referred took place yesterday. That funding is essential in ensuring that Selby abbey continues to be the centre of the town for future generations. The lesson is that it is often worth persisting with such applications. The abbey was knocked back the first time, took some advice, went back and was successful on its second application.

There have also been much smaller heritage fund successes in my constituency. For example, Smeatons magazine team, which produces a community magazine for the villages of Kirk Smeaton and Little Smeaton, received an award of just £670 to cover the cost of publishing, which was as important for the team as the big grant was for Selby abbey.

To draw a couple of wider lessons from our experience in Selby, one experiment that I tried only last week during our half-term break was to take a minibus of those representing not only lottery funders but the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and landfill tax funders to look at the areas of Selby where there are the biggest problems—areas such as Selby South, which is in the top 300 wards for child poverty, and Brothertaon. We looked at projects that the lottery can partly fund, but that other funders would be interested in as well. That seemed to be a success and I hope that it will bear fruit in future.

I now want to consider the impact of the Budd review. Of the 167 recommendations of that review, the national lottery is worried about three—side-betting, the deregulation of charity lotteries and the liberalisation of bingo prizes. In terms of the future of the lottery, we must be cautious about side-betting. The only example of allowing betting on the lottery in bookmakers is in Ireland, which seemed to lead to a reduction of about 20 per cent. in lottery funds. As a regular attender in betting shops on Saturday mornings—after my surgery, obviously—to put on bets for the afternoon, I know that they have had a good deal from the Government in the past year in terms of the abolition of betting duty. We therefore need to be cautious. If we deregulate immediately the lottery rules regarding other charities, large charities might combine with big retailers, which might have a significant effect on the national lottery. We must certainly think about that carefully. I am less worried about liberalising bingo prizes—bingo took a big hit when the national lottery was first introduced but it has adapted and is largely a distinct market.

Television coverage is extremely important for the national lottery. Since 1994 when the lottery started, the BBC has had the contract for the lottery. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman) has always been critical of that, as the BBC made a payment for the national lottery at the time. The market was very competitive at that stage. I do not see anything wrong in that—rights to screen the lottery are comparable to rights to screen test matches or the Oscars. Now, however, the BBC's contract is coming to an end—I think that it has been extended until just after the jubilee celebrations, but there is no guarantee that it will continue.

The market has changed, and I understand that ITV, buoyed up by the success of "Pop Idol" and other Saturday night attractions, is not making a big bid for the lottery this time. It is essential for the lottery programme to remain on terrestrial television. Were it to go to satellite TV, its importance would be much diminished, so I would encourage the BBC, if it is successful, and the national lottery to reach a long-term agreement.

I note that Michael Grade, who has a Channel 4 background, is much involved with the lottery. Interestingly, cricket and the BBC have agreed under their new radio coverage contract to promote the game across BBC radio—for example, Radio 1 is trying to appeal to youth—and I hope that, under any new deal, the lottery considers involving more BBC stations in coverage. One of the lottery's problems is also faced by politicians—attracting young people's interest. The age profile of those who buy lottery tickets reveals a dip in the 20s, and I hope that any new TV and broadcasting deal considers that carefully.

The lottery is more popular in Northern Ireland in terms of participation than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and it is worth noting that the UK lottery is characterised by many people spending a little, which is a good thing. It is ranked 34th in the world in terms of per capita spending and has a broad reach across the population.

I want to draw out the issue of the proposed national stadium for Northern Ireland, so it is appropriate that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport will reply to the debate. The sports lottery fund is distributed according to population, and Northern Ireland contains about 2.8 per cent. of the UK population. I shall not go into details, but proposals are being developed for a national stadium, which would have a cementing effect on the peace process. There is no non-sectarian stadium in Northern Ireland. Windsor Park is the home of football, but it is much associated with one section of the community.

A national stadium, not just for football but for rugby and Gaelic sports, would be a big advance. A former chairman of the Sports Council, Mr. Allen, commented: If we had a stadium in a neutral venue and Northern Ireland were playing a big international match then the minimum I expect would be around about 30,000. If we had a stadium venue, it would encourage people to go into a peaceable and enjoyable atmosphere to support a team whether they win or lose, and that would be very significant in peace and reconciliation terms. The matter is now devolved, but the Administration and the Assembly are considering proposals on making a lottery bid to support their ideas for a national stadium. I ask Ministers to consider whether there is a way around the rules on per head sports funding so that the project can be advanced.

Speaking as a constituency MP in respect of the funding going to Selby, as a Yorkshire MP in respect of Headingley and as a Member of this place, I think that our 1998 changes have made a real difference on the ground. For example, the after-school club in the village of Heminbrough, rather than the Churchill papers, has received funding. That is welcome, and proof that priorities have changed over recent years.

11.34 am
Angela Watakinson (Upminster)

I add my words of welcome for the success of the national lottery, which has become nothing short of a national institution. It has created many jobs and provided money for myriad good causes. We should not forget all those individual lottery winners whose lives have been transformed by big money prizes.

There are six distributing funds, so there is enormous competition. I was surprised to see still listed among them the Millennium Commission. Will the Minister clarify its position and whether it has an intended lifespan?

Mr. Bryant

A millennium.

Angela Watkinson

I hope not. Does the commission have a relationship with the millennium dome, which has already received £628 million of lottery funding? Considerable maintenance costs are still involved in keeping it closed until it is disposed of. Will the Minister kindly tell the House whether the moneys devoted to maintaining the closed dome come from the Millennium Commission and thus from lottery funding?

If the money allocated to the commission were redistributed among the other distributing funds, that would have a significant effect on the money available for other good causes. The lottery money—28 per cent. of the proceeds—would go to only five funds and that which goes to the commission could be divided among them, representing, for example, a funding difference of almost 1 per cent. to Sport England.

The largest lottery grant received by my constituency of Upminster as part of the London borough of Havering was for a swimming pool, which was much needed to replace a facility that had gone beyond its natural life. A full-size competitive pool was required, however. The Secretary of State referred to the remit and style of advice given to lottery applicants. There was much discussion about the nature of a community facility, as eligibility rested on community facility status. I would have thought that a swimming pool was a community facility, but, on its own, it was not eligible for the grant. Other ancillary facilities had to be provided, and the result compromised the size of the pool.

A six-lane pool has been approved whereas an eight-lane competitive pool is necessary to establish a facility suitable for galas, which would have generated income. Such a pool would be suitable for the user groups, such as two well-established swimming clubs that use the pool continually, and a high-diving club. Many local schools also use it.

The new pool will have less water space than the existing one, which means that there will be insufficient room. Coach loads of schoolchildren need a certain amount of space so as to enter the water at the same time, but the new pool will be too small for that purpose. There Will be no high-diving area, so the club will have to go elsewhere to practise, and the two swimming clubs that train at the pool say that the new one will be insufficient.

Mr. Bryant

The hon. Lady may know that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently produced a report on the sport of swimming which amplified many of those issues. It might be worth her while reading it, if she has not already done so. There are terrible problems with finding money for sport and, in particular, 50 m pools. London is ill served compared with, for example, Paris.

Angela Watkinson

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information. I have not had the opportunity to read the report, but I shall do so.

The restrictive interpretation of the availability of and access to funds has resulted in a compromise solution in Upminster. The new pool is welcome, as are the ancillary facilities, but the full-size competitive pool would have been a triumph for Upminster.

I should also like to draw attention to the community fund. A chart showing the community fund allocation to London boroughs ranks the boroughs in order of the deprivation index. Although Havering comes quite low down on the list—it is 26th out of 33—it has within it an area of deprivation that is masked by other areas of my constituency that are relatively affluent. I seek some means of addressing that problem.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas

I wish to support the thrust of the hon. Lady's remarks, because I represent a constituency in a similar suburban area. One of the real challenges for suburbs is that they rarely qualify for the additional funding that is often available to inner cities and rural areas, yet they have pockets of deprivation where the poverty is just as acute as in inner-city or rural areas. I therefore urge my right hon. Friend the Minister, in a non-partisan spirit, to consider further how those pockets of poverty can be provided with additional support through the lottery programme.

Angela Watkinson

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his helpful comments.

Mr. Bryant

One of the problems that I face in my constituency is that we are often lumped in with Rhondda Cynon Taff. The Rhondda has some of the poorest wards in Wales—12 of the 100 poorest—whereas Rhondda Cynon Taff has five of the wealthiest. The money seems to go to the wealthy wards, rather than the poorer ones.

Angela Watkinson

I should like to draw attention to some apparent anomalies on the community fund chart. Although seven London boroughs are even less deprived than Havering, if I may put it that way, they have all received more money per head from the community fund than the London borough of Havering. Indeed, Havering has received the lowest per capita amount of all London boroughs—£7 per head. All the seven boroughs below it have received considerably more, even discounting the City of London, which received £40 per head. Given its small resident population, the City of London is atypical, so I shall not include it. Even Sutton and Kingston upon Thames, the two least deprived London boroughs, have received £14 per head from the community fund, which is twice as much as Havering has received.

I should be grateful if the Minister would clarify that point and assist me in seeking a fairer allocation of community fund provision for the London borough of Havering.

11.43 am
Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West)

First, let me pay tribute to the general thrust of the remarks of the hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), as I said in an intervention. On a less positive note, I regard it as a discourtesy to the House that the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman could not even be bothered to be present for the two Front-Bench speeches, at the very least.

Miss McIntosh

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Thomas

I shall give way in a second. It would have been useful to have had the shadow spokesman present so that we could have sought some clarity about whether the Opposition intend to abolish the new opportunities fund. In her speech, the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) read great chunks of the speech of the former Prime Minister, John Major, in the 1998 lottery discussion about how the new opportunities fund was potentially a raid on the lottery. We could usefully have had some clarity from the Opposition on whether they intend to abolish it.

Miss McIntosh

I fear that the Secretary of State set a trend for the senior Opposition spokesman not being present. On Fridays, we are used to fielding those who are most responsible for the brief and, as I mentioned, that falls to me.

Mr. Thomas

The Secretary of State not only spoke in the debate, but stayed to listen to the hon. Lady. I hope that she will pass on the concern that the Opposition appear not to want proper scrutiny of their policies on this subject. However, I pay tribute to the former Prime Minister: the establishment of the national lottery was the only visionary measure to come out of the 1992–97 Parliament. It was significantly improved on by the former Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), in the National Lottery Act 1998. The lessons from the operation of that Act nevertheless suggest that some further reform and tweaking are necessary. I welcome the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that further consultation is due to occur.

I wish to highlight some local examples of lottery achievements and to outline the case for using the national lottery at a local level in a couple of other areas. I shall go on to suggest how the lottery's purpose to add value could usefully be deployed to deal with some strategic issues that London faces.

St. George's church, which is based in the Headstone parish of my constituency, is a significant focal point for part of the community of north Harrow. Friends of mine have been married in the church, which has one of the last surviving examples of an electromagnetic organ built by F. J. Rothwell, who also built the organ at St. George's chapel, Windsor. All hon. Members present will understand that music is crucial to many church communities; it is often a symbol of the vibrancy of such communities. The £16,000-plus grant awarded by the national lottery to St. George's church has allowed the electromagnetic organ to be restored, preserved and returned to full working order, to the delight of the church community.

Nearby in the same parish is Headstone manor, the last moated manor house in Middlesex and a designated ancient monument. It is perhaps most famous for the fact that Thomas à Becket stayed at the manor on his last ill-fated journey to Canterbury. In the borough of Harrow, Headstone manor is a focal point for heritage and cultural activities, as the Harrow museum and heritage centre is now located on the site. I am delighted to say that £1 million has been allocated by the national lottery to develop the buildings in the manor area, including the restoration of, and structural works to, the manor house and the neighbouring tithe barn. Work is due to start this summer.

The £1 million grant has already helped to provide some storage facilities, too, at the manor house. I mention that because the storage facilities house an excellent collection of works by Heath Robinson, the international artist and book illustrator who became particularly famous for his drawings of mad inventions. Sadly, there is nowhere to hang his paintings in Harrow, despite the fact that from 1912 to 1918 he was a resident of Pinner, part of my constituency. The William Heath Robinson trust, in partnership with the Pinner Association, a local residents' organisation, is campaigning and fundraising successfully to bring the now derelict West house back into use as a permanent home for the Heath Robinson collection. West house is also important to the community of Pinner because it has acted as a shrine to Pinner's dead from two world wars. The Pinner Association has already raised more than £50,000. Consultants have estimated that some £350,000 would be needed to fund a temporary art gallery to house exhibitions, and that more than £2 million would be necessary to complete the restoration of the house to act as a proper home to the Heath Robinson collection. Clearly, national lottery moneys would be a highly appropriate way to fund such works.

I want to touch on the benefits to sport from the national lottery, because as all hon. Members know it has been a crucial source of additional funding for sport. More than £1.5 billion has gone to sporting good causes. So far, more than 2,700 lottery-funded capital projects have been completed and opened specifically for sport. Wembley has been mentioned as a recipient of lottery money, and I look forward to the last links in the chain being completed soon and work at last beginning to restore and build a new national stadium at Wembley.

Perhaps most importantly the national lottery has funded the school sports co-ordinators programme, which in its short life already seems to have achieved a significant increase in the number of extra-curricular activities, and in the number of participants in sport. Sport England says that there has been a 29 per cent. increase in extra-curricular activities, and more than a 40 per cent. increase in the number of young people taking part in sport through that programme.

Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, whose report on obesity served as a wake-up call for a variety of agencies and those of us who hold political office, suggested that if effective action is not taken, by 2005 one in five men and one in four women will be obese. That is clearly a huge concern.

The other issue that Sport England has recently highlighted is that, although programmes such as the school sport co-ordinators have begun to address the issue of participation in sport, there is nevertheless a concern that sports participation could continue to drop if further action is not taken.

As hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Vale of York, have said, the national lottery has also helped to support our elite athletes and the facilities that they use. I am looking forward to the Commonwealth games, which will take place in Manchester this summer. The lottery has been a crucial stimulus to the building of appropriate facilities for those games.

I have long believed that we should bid for the 2012 Olympic games to come to London. The national lottery would be a crucial source of funding for the building of the sports facilities to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) referred. There is a lack of 50 m sports pools in London compared with other cities, and that problem clearly needs to be addressed if an Olympic bid is to be successful.

The national lottery could provide further useful assistance to a number of sports projects in my constituency. There has long been a healthy rivalry in Harrow between the excellent Harrow Borough football club, which is currently in the Ryman premier division, and its near neighbours, the Wealdstone football club, which is located in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty). It has put together a major development proposal, which will work only if the national lottery provides the necessary funding through the new opportunities fund.

The development involves Wealdstone FC building a 3,000-seater stadium on a 44-acre site that was once playing fields. The scheme will bring into use 16 football pitches and two all-weather pitches, and make them available to the whole community of Harrow: the schools especially will benefit.

The club at Wealdstone has already secured £5.7 million of private funding, working with the Royal Bank of Scotland and a private health club. To complete the financial package, the club has applied for a further £800,000 for pitches and changing rooms to the grassroots development fund of the Football Foundation, and £250,000 for the stadium costs from the same source. All that is needed to complete the project and to make it a success is that a bid for £500,000 from the new opportunities fund to top up the finances for pitch landscaping and fencing be approved.

That £500,000 from the new opportunities fund would ensure that a project that is rooted in the community and has clear sporting benefits for the people of Harrow comes to fruition. That £500,000 out of a total cost of £7.45 million will ensure a true state-of-the-art sporting facility in the centre of suburban London. It would be a powerful message that the national lottery funding for sport is as much use to suburban areas, such as my London borough, as it is and has been to rural and inner-city areas. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do all that he can to assist in the success of this highly worthwhile project.

Sport England has suggested further changes that would help its work of extending access to sports funding, such as a relaxation of the rules on partnership funding to help to attract more private sector money alongside lottery proceeds. It has also suggested that it would be worthwhile considering the possibility of lottery distributors providing applicants with loans, as opposed to grants, in a limited number of cases. I would be interested to know from the Minister whether he intends to allow such innovations to be considered as part of the consultation on tweaking the rules.

One other area that has not received attention thus far in the debate is the excellent work of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, which was set up under the National Lottery Act 1998 and is chaired by Lord Puttnam. Some £200 million of lottery money has funded the first ever national endowment, and has been invested to provide an annual income of almost £10 million. Last year, some £4 million was spent on an invention and innovation programme that offered 43 inventors assistance to take their ideas to the market. There was also a £2.5 million education programme to fund innovative educational programmes for science, technology and the arts, and a £2 million fellowship programme last year offered 18 awards to exceptional individuals to challenge, rethink and explore new ideas in science and technology.

Given the congestion difficulties that many of our major cities face, a particularly interesting idea funded through a £75,000 award by NESTA's invention and innovation programme award is to develop a driverless taxi. The scheme has already attracted £18 million of funding from the National Assembly for Wales. That is on the back of a trial that took place back in January on a 1 km track around Cardiff bay. A successful experiment was carried out with three battery-powered driverless vehicles.

It looks as if that initial £75,000 NESTA award will, in about a year, produce the first routes in Cardiff on which up to four passengers with pre-purchased tickets can be taken to their destinations at one time. Transport along dedicated guideways will be powered by a series of magnets. The project has attracted interest from a number of other European countries. People from Italy, Holland and Sweden attended a conference in February to discuss the potential of the driverless taxi as a model for future transport systems. Sadly, no one from either the Mayor of London's office or Transport for London attended. London has particularly serious congestion problems, which generate huge frustration and huge delays and costs for business. My constituents and other Londoners are forced to suffer the effects of pollution, and other health problems.

The new opportunities fund and NESTA are working together to promote such projects as renewable energy schemes and technological innovations in an attempt to deal with environmental challenges. Over the next few years, perhaps they could consider funding a proper strategic assessment of the potential of, say, a London light rail network. There could be an overground network of tram routes connecting with existing transport hubs, and significantly increasing the capacity and attractiveness of public transport in our capital. The lottery was established to add value. Perhaps, in the absence of a Government-led study or any work by the Mayor or Transport for London, it could fund such an assessment.

Chris Grayling

I realise that the lottery and its funding apply to a broader range of areas than they used to, but surely the review suggested by the hon. Gentleman would not be the responsibility of Transport for London. Should it not feature in the Strategic Rail Authority's plans, or indeed those of the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions? It would be a sad day when their jobs were abdicated in favour of lottery funding.

Mr. Thomas

Sadly, I do not control Transport for London and nor do the Government; otherwise the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would be entirely appropriate. Perhaps a business organisation or other pan-London body should seek lottery funding for this purpose.

There have been four new proposals for tram routes in London, involving a cross-river transit from Camden to Brixton, a west London transit from Uxbridge to Shepherd's Bush and other systems in Greenwich and east London. They are all significant schemes in their own right, but they do not interlink. Moreover, it will have cost between £250,000 and £750,000 just to establish a sensible route for each scheme. Again, we need a proper assessment.

NESTA has initiated important new thinking in technology and science, and, through its transforming communities programme, the new opportunities fund has done the same in regard to renewable energy that will not damage the environment. That is another instance in which the lottery could add strategic value, and help to solve some of the problems of the country and London in particular. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State suggested that the lottery should be seen as venture capital for community enrichment. An assessment of the potential for trams would be useful in that context as well.

The 1998 Act has made a huge difference to the running of the lottery, although the rules need some further tweaking. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look carefully at the bids from Wealdstone football club and, when it comes, from the Pinner Association to give a proper home to the excellent Heath Robinson collection, but I commend the work that the Government have already done, and look forward to the consultative document.

12.6 pm

Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell)

As a number of hon. Members have said, the national lottery has become one of the most influential developments in society over recent years. It has reached many communities and organisations, and many different parts of our daily lives. It has made a huge contribution.

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) and others for paying tribute to the work of the former Prime Minister, John Major, and his Government in launching the lottery. There are often important differences across the Floor of the House, but Governments do not always get things wrong from the perspective of the Opposition. I think that members of all political parties can say that the lottery was a positive development that has continued to make a real difference to many people since its launch eight years ago.

I want to refer to some of the lottery's successful contributions, but I want in particular to discuss the new opportunities fund. Earlier, I spoke of the potential politicisation of parts of lottery funding. I also want to deal with an issue raised with me a number of times by a constituent—money relating to the Millennium Commission. I hope the Minister will give some clarification.

My constituency does not receive as much lottery money as many others. As I have no doubt that the transcript of this debate will be read by a number of people involved in the allocation of lottery money, I will take the opportunity to plug my constituency, and say that I hope that in the months and years ahead the shortfall that has existed for the past few years will be addressed.

In my part of mid-Surrey, the borough of Epsom and Ewell—which contains most of my constituents—has received 32 awards in recent years, Reigate and Banstead, which represents a small part of the constituency, has received 61, and Mole Valley has received 50. Let me compare that with what has happened in other areas not too far away. Guildford has received 122 awards, Mid-Sussex 85 and East Hampshire 124. There is clearly a gap which must be filled.

Of course the process of securing funds for a constituency depends partly on the local community's determination to deliver positive ideas that are worthy of lottery funding. I also acknowledge the role of the local MP in trying to encourage organisations to seek opportunities to bring money into the constituency.

The hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) said that in his constituency it was easy for less well-off areas to be masked by better-off areas. The same applies to my constituency, which is certainly in one of the more prosperous parts of the United Kingdom. It contains affluent areas, but also pockets of deprivation. At least three estates have genuine social problems. Lottery funds could make an important contribution to tackling such problems. As the hon. Gentleman said, it is tremendously important that decisions on lottery funding are not made on the basis of blanket coverage across significant geographical areas but take into account specific local circumstances. That should be a caveat for the Government when they set out the rules on the allocation of funding to individual local authority areas. There is always a danger that individual circumstances within a locality are lost in headlines that relate to an overall local authority area or a broader geographic area. As the Government stipulate how funding is to be allocated on a geographical basis, they need to be watchful of that problem.

If the funding in my constituency has not been as high as it has in many others, the national lottery has made one important contribution to my constituents and, indeed, throughout the country. It has played an essential role in supporting small local retailers in some of the smaller arcades that have struggled to survive as shopping patterns have changed. There is no doubt that many small shopkeepers, such as newsagents and grocers, have found it difficult to keep their businesses going against a background of new shopping patterns and the unfair business rating system for small shops. Hon. Members will be aware that the rate for a small shop is calculated on the basis of a shop's frontage, much in the same way as the rateable levels for major supermarkets are determined. The system does not take into account the individual difficult circumstances that such businesses face.

The national lottery's role in delivering a secure flow of business to those retailers on a weekly basis is welcome. It is an essential part of the future of smaller arcades. For those of us who are committed to seeing them survive and flourish as neighbourhood resources, the issue is important. As the Minister looks forward to the development of the lottery, I hope that that aspect of the way in which the lottery is structured will remain sacrosanct and will not be threatened.

The most visible sign of the lottery in many communities is the high-profile facilities that it has created, such as the sporting facilities for the Commonwealth games, the Lowry centre, the Eden project and the millennium bridge in central London. It has contributed to sporting achievement, as reflected in the successful results that our national teams have enjoyed in, for example, recent Olympic games. However, as hon. Members rightly said, the smaller contributions can make the most difference within communities. The spread of village halls around the country engendered by the Millennium Commission in the run-up to the millennium was a welcome development. That has strengthened the sense of community in many towns and villages and is a fundamental part of the lottery as it develops. Improvements to local sports clubs are also welcome. Sport has a vital role to play in tackling social problems in areas of deprivation where there is a prevalence of anti-social behaviour. That will be a fundamental part of the lottery's role.

I am anxious about how the lottery is evolving. I am especially concerned about the new opportunities fund in its present form. Prior to the millennium, 20 per cent. of lottery funding was allocated to the Millennium Commission and 13 per cent. to the new opportunities fund. All Millennium Commission money is now distributed through the new opportunities fund. As I said in my remarks to the Secretary of State, two of the core founding principles of the national lottery were that decisions on individual grants should be taken at arm's length by the distribution bodies and that lottery grants should be additional to core Government spending. The Government seemed to acknowledge those in their White Paper on the lottery published in July 1997. The Government claimed that they don't believe it would be right to use Lottery money to pay for things which are the Government's responsibilities". That commitment has become questionable as the new opportunities fund has developed. There is evidence that the Government are starting to use the new opportunities fund to pay for what can only sensibly be described as pet projects that reinforce their core political strategy in matters such as health, education and the environment. It can be argued that many of those should be funded from core Government spending.

The Government are also becoming increasingly prescriptive about the way in which lottery money is distributed. An essence of the lottery is that the money is supposed to be devolved to the distributing bodies to allocate, but the Government are dictating strategies and priorities to bodies that are supposed to operate independently of Government. Lottery funding is starting to be allocated in a way that serves a political purpose. For example, at the Labour party conference in 2000, the Prime Minister announced the spending of £750 million on sports facilities in schools through the new opportunities fund. That money was not allocated until 12 months after the statement. In particular, I question whether it is right and proper for the Prime Minister to use the detailed allocation of funds through the national lottery to create a party political platform given that the lottery is supposed to be independent of Government. I see the hon. Member for Rhondda itching to get to his feet. I will happily give way if he wishes to intervene.

Mr. Bryant

I am contemplating it.

Chris Grayling

The Government's approach manifests itself in funding allocations to different projects through the new opportunities fund. Let me give some examples. Some £213.5 million has been allocated to projects to reduce the burden of coronary heart disease, stroke and cancer. It is admirable to spend money on such things, but are they not rightly and properly the domain of the Department of Health, not the national lottery? Some £198.5 million has been allocated to child care, especially in deprived areas. I have no problem with the objective, but does that not fall within the ambit of the Department for Work and Pensions? Some £159 million has been allocated for a programme of environmental renewal and community regeneration, promoting recycling and developing renewable energy sources. Again, those are admirable aspirations, but is that money not more appropriately distributed by the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions or the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs?

The hon. Member for Harrow, West referred to after-school projects in his constituency. I said that some of the funding for those schemes would traditionally have come from local authorities. For example, in the London borough of Merton, where I am a serving councillor for a few more days, the future of a play scheme in one of the local schools that catered for children with special educational needs caused a controversy for a number of years. It had always been partly funded by the local authority, but the Labour-controlled council decided that it could no longer do that. That is a classic example of funding that would traditionally have come from local authorities, but that is no longer possible because authorities have less and less discretionary funding to spend on such schemes. I would not want funding that, traditionally, comes from the local authority to be replaced by national lottery funding to enable the play scheme to continue. That is the risk associated with funding such schemes through the national lottery, rather than through traditional mechanisms.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas

I re-emphasise the fact that the new opportunities fund has added value. There was a huge demand for after-school provision in my constituency before the National Lottery Act 1998 came into force. Aided and abetted by a lack of proper funding from the then Conservative Government, the Liberal Democrat-controlled council had been unable to provide any funding whatever for after-school clubs in my constituency. It is only since the creation of the new opportunities fund that the need for after-school provision in my constituency has largely been met. The hon. Gentleman should ask his Front Bench whether the Conservatives would abolish that funding stream. Would they abolish the new opportunities fund?

Chris Grayling

The hon. Gentleman is extremely keen to discover future Conservative policy, but I am afraid that he must wait a little while, particularly because, as he knows, we are regrettably some distance away from the next general election. It is clear that his Government are initiating major changes, and both Opposition parties must respond to them when they arise. I hope, however, that we will not have to respond to increasing politicisation of the national lottery in the next three or four years, or to a new opportunities fund that increasingly becomes a replacement for spending through taxation and which deals with matters that should be funded by the Government. I urge the Minister to ensure that that does not happen. The national lottery is not a political creature but an important part of the fabric of this country; it should not become an adjunct of Government.

I began my remarks on the new opportunities fund by drawing the Minister's attention to the fact that Millennium Commission finance has been transferred entirely to the new opportunities fund. Even though the commission related specifically to the millennium, it is a matter of regret that there is no replacement for it. In her opening remarks, the Secretary of State rightly referred to the important role that the lottery has played in encouraging the development of major capital schemes, and the commission made a real contribution to developing areas of strategic national importance.

A raft of welcome schemes emerged throughout the country, and I worry that in the next few years there will be no successor body to assist—albeit not to the same extent as in the run-up to the millennium—schemes like the Eden project, London's millennium bridge and the new bridge referred to by the hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg), who is no longer in his place. Such schemes made a difference to communities throughout the country, and the commission had an important part to play in that regard. Within the framework of lottery funding allocation, a successor body to the Millennium Commission should be created. It need not be on the same scale, but it should take a strategic view of the nation as a whole, in the manner of the commission.

I conclude by discussing Millennium Commission funding allocations in the run-up to 2000–01. My remarks are based on the experience of a constituent of mine, Mr. Gordon Winborne, who feels very let down by his experience of the commission and the allocation of funding. On his behalf, I seek further clarification from the Minister. In 1995, Mr. Winborne submitted to the Millennium Commission a scheme for a series of slipways. It was initially rejected, but the commission subsequently invited him to resubmit his application. It was eventually rejected, however, on the ground of a lack of funding for such schemes. Mr. Winborne accepted that decision, but then he observed the unhappy process of funding the millennium dome, of which we are all well aware.

As hon. Members will recall, through the Millennium Commission the House initially allocated £449 million to the New Millennium Experience Company and thus the dome. When the dome experienced financial problems in 2000, a further £179 million was allocated. The Government have always stated—in this House and in written responses—that that additional sum did not come from funds that would otherwise have been allocated to other good causes. However, Mr. Winborne believes that his project, and many others like it, were unable to receive funding because additional funds had to be allocated to the dome. He made the not illogical point that, if additional money had to be found in 2000 for the New Millennium Experience Company and the dome, it had to come from somewhere. It did not appear from thin air; nor did it come from the taxpayer. It must therefore have come from lottery funding that would otherwise have been allocated to other sources.

As one can imagine, my constituent was disappointed not to receive funding—as, I suspect, were many others who applied to the Millennium Commission for various worthy projects. It remains a matter of considerable frustration that so much extra money had to be invested in the dome. For the benefit of my constituent and others in his position, I ask the Minister to explain from what budget the additional funding for the dome was taken, so that he can be reassured about what happened. That would set to rest an issue that has irritated him, and others like him, for a number of years.

In conclusion, I urge the Minister not to politicise the national lottery. It has made a major contribution to this nation and continues to contribute to communities throughout the land. I support many hon. Members' aspirations for it to make a difference in communities of all sorts and all levels of prosperity—perhaps communities that have not seen fit to seek lottery funding in the past. However, the national lottery must not and cannot become an adjunct of Government spending, or an excuse for the Treasury to take a slice off spending that should come through Government Departments and use the national lottery as an alternative route for spending. That must not happen.

I commend all those who work in the national lottery—those who allocate funding, those who raise money, and those who operate the tills in shops in my constituency and elsewhere. It has been a great success and I hope that it continues to be so.

12.25 pm
Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda)

Although many have waxed lyrical about the lottery today, my original feelings about it were mixed. Perhaps because I was exposed to too much Methodism in my youth, I have always been rather puritanical about gambling, and when the concept of the national lottery was introduced, I thought it was a classic instance of redistribution of wealth—taking mainly from the poor to make a few people rich, which is not the socialist way.

I remember hearing Prime Minister John Major saying that when he heard about the amount of money involved, it made his fingers itch. That was a poor start for the national lottery, not least because it put me in mind of Fagin's lines in Lionel Bart's splendid musical "Oliver!": When I see someone rich, both my thumbs start to itch. That was unfortunate because it created expectations, especially in many of the constituencies represented by Labour Members, that could never be met in the short term.

Other problems included the fact that initially a significant proportion of the money spent by the different agencies went to capital projects, and capital projects alone. At the time, I worried that we were creating a vast number of white elephants—that throughout the country there would be lots of wonderful buildings built over five or 10 years that had no decent revenue stream. They would either provide significant problems to local authorities that would have to provide funding assistance, or fall empty to lie fallow within a decade or less.

I am glad that, thanks to the Labour Government, changes have been made to the structure and to the way in which money is spent. A large proportion of the money is now spent on revenue streams, and I shall speak presently about certain issues that need to be resolved in that respect. Furthermore, the lottery has scored some great successes. I confess that my Calvinist and puritanical initial thoughts about gambling were inappropriate—perhaps Mr. Major had it right.

Not least among those successes is an element of socialist redistribution: £4.2 billion of lottery money has gone straight to the Treasury and therefore into more traditional forms of funding public services. There has been some redistribution to the Rhondda. We have had two—although only two—major cash prizes: one person got £182,824, which is more than any house in the Rhondda costs, and a syndicate got £249,105. We can only wish them luck.

Before focusing on specific considerations, I wish to make one general point, which is that when debating the national lottery it is important that we eschew narrow parochialism in any form. Several hon. Members have referred to specific constituency cases, and I, too, will do so, but we must take into account regional centres of excellence, especially in sports and the arts. It would not be right if we spent every penny or expected every penny to be spent purely on redistribution to every constituency. A fair distribution of money will also mean that regional centres will attract specific amounts of money.

Reference has been made to 50 m swimming pools. There is currently no 50 m pool in Wales, although we are building one at Swansea. If we are to see real success in the swimming and diving pool, we will have to make sure that we have more 50 m and high-diving pools. Otherwise, we will not win medals in the future.

There are hon. Members on both sides who are somewhat sceptical about the proposed millennium centre at Cardiff. Some would argue that the valleys in south Wales have not attracted the funding that they should have—especially for the arts—and that yet another building going to Cardiff is inappropriate. My feeling is that many of my constituents would be happy to go to Cardiff to a centre of excellence to see theatre, opera or dance. If that building were not to be built in Cardiff, it is unlikely that those people would have any opportunity to see the best in music, theatre, opera or dance. That is why I wholeheartedly support the millennium new centre that is being built there, while still wanting more money spent in my constituency. [Laughter.] Parochialism will triumph in the end.

I mentioned earlier the subject of coalfield communities. In many of the debates to which I have listened since becoming a Member of Parliament, people have stated that there are either rural communities or urban communities. In fact, many of the coalfield communities in this country fall into neither of those categories. They have some of the characteristics of rural communities, in that they are isolated and do not have particularly good transport links. Public transport is often deficient and many people live within 200 yards of a farm; that is certainly true in my constituency. However, they also suffer from all the problems of urban communities, in that they have relatively high levels of unemployment and sickness and poor multiple deprivation indices.

In respect of the lottery, that has produced some particular problems. The emphasis on major capital projects at the start of the lottery meant that many small communities—such as the Rhondda Fawr and the Rhondda Fach, with 15 small, separate communities—were unable to sustain or create a single such project. That means that we have not been able to attract funding.

Similarly, the time limit on revenue funding from the lottery has been difficult for poorer communities. The lottery funding bodies have said, quite legitimately, that it is unlikely that such communities will be able to sustain a large revenue project across several years and that there is a long-term doubt about whether such a project would be sustainable. That has caused problems in many coalfield communities.

Many people are uncertain about whether the lottery and the funding bodies are for areas such as their own. They hear about the Royal Opera house, the national theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and other big projects and ask what relevance they have to themselves. Some organisations feel that they are not the kind that should be making an application.

Many of the forms are still far too complex for some organisations to fill in. I know that all the organisations have made valiant efforts to simplify the processes, but many smaller organisations that do not have full-time staff still find it difficult to go through the processes.

The low limit of £5,000 on grants for the simplified version of the forms is a problem. This means that in many areas such as the coalfield communities organisations have decided to go for grants of £3,000 or £4,000 rather than larger amounts.

Those problems have already been highlighted by the Department in successive reports on coalfield communities. The end result is that, before reforms were introduced a couple of years ago, grants of only £54.62 per capita went to coalfield communities, compared with an average of £100.65 for communities across the UK—only 45 per cent. of the national average went to coalfield communities. The Government have changed some rules, which has led to significant change; now, £35.64 per capita is being given to coalfields, compared with £58.94 across the UK. That is 60 per cent. of the national average, but it is still significantly less than that average.

The position is even worse in certain areas of lottery funding. In the arts, for instance, coalfield communities, before Government reforms, attracted £5.95 per head, while the, rest of the UK attracted £20.94. Since the reforms, the grant has been £1.87 in coalfield communities and £7.83 for the rest of the UK, which represents a reverse in arts funding. Twenty-eight per cent. of the national average for arts funding used to be attracted to coalfield funds, but now the figure is only 24 per cent., which shows that there is a significant issue for the Government and lottery bodies to address. How can we get more arts projects to attract lottery funding in coalfield communities?

By contrast, we are doing rather better in sport. Before reform, £7.25 per capita was being given to coalfield communities, which was 47 per cent. of the national average of £15.47. After reform, there was significant improvement, and coalfields received £7.23 per capita, which was 65 per cent. of the national average of £11.04. No coalfield community would expect to get more than the national average; many are straggled-out isolated communities and would not even expect to get up to 95 per cent. of the average. However, we aspire at least to get three quarters or four fifths of the national average.

In the past, national figures have been gathered on all the coalfields in England, Scotland and Wales. My office has tried to do some research into the specific problems of south Wales coalfields. We have worked out that we still receive only 40 per cent. of the national average: we receive a total of £5.7 million, while the national average is £14.1 million. There is still a great deal of work to be done to ensure that the south Wales coalfields in particular attract the funding that they deserve.

It is not all negative; there have been some wonderful awards in the Rhondda. The Blaenllechau community regeneration project in one of the more remote and beautiful parts of the Rhondda recently received £149,000. Valleys Kids has done well, and has attracted several awards. Holy Trinity church in Tylorstown and other churches in the Rhondda have done well from the heritage fund. Indeed, I could not continue without mentioning all the bands in the Rhondda that have received money: the Treherbert silver band, the Parc and Dare band, the Rhondda big band, the Ynyshir welfare band and the Tylorstown band (valleys line). Our bands have done well, which is only appropriate because the best brass band in the country—[Interruption.] No, it is an objective fact, as three years in a row we have won all the awards that can be won. Successful bands include the Cory band, once known as the Ton temperance band, but whose full name is now the Buy As You View Cory band.

It is excellent that all those awards have been won in the Rhondda. However, some of the figures compiled by Camelot and other organisations on the Rhondda are inaccurate. They often think that everything that goes to Rhondda Cynon Taff, the local authority, goes to the Rhondda. According to Camelot, £531,000 was granted for an indoor bowls hall. I have toured up and down the Rhondda and I can neither find the hall nor see any prospect of its being built; I do not think that there is a piece of land flat enough to accommodate it. Perhaps it will be located somewhere else in RCT. Similarly, the £500,000 given last year to RCT for sport was spent elsewhere in the area. So the figures for the Rhondda and some other coalfield communities are masked by moneys that are going to other areas.

There is much still to do. In my constituency—let me be thoroughly parochial for a moment—we have a great theatre, the Parc and Dare, which is named after two collieries up in Treorchy. It is a splendid theatre with lovely front-of-house areas, but terrible backstage facilities. We have many amateur theatrical groups—I am seeing "Oliver!" in two weeks' time and the Cambrian male voice choir next Saturday evening—but the backstage facilities are so poor that it is very difficult for the theatre to stage decent productions that attract support from across the whole of the Rhondda.

It is my firm belief that there should be a decent theatre in each of the constituencies in the south Wales valleys and that we should build on what we have in the Parc and Dare. After all, Paul Robeson appeared there many years ago, and it would be a delight to have a decent theatre. To get such a theatre, we need to buy the chapel next door, so it can be converted into decent backstage facilities to ensure that actors, in rehearsals as well as performances, and audiences can have a decent theatrical experience.

Similarly, the Abergorki hall, which is located a little bit further up the road in Ynyswen and is a classic example of a miners' institute, has a very fine facade, while everything behind it is terrible. The people who run the hall have a significant revenue stream from a gym, aikido classes, an arts class and all sorts of different healthy living classes, as well as the Rhondda Civic Society. However, that revenue provides nowhere near enough to convert the building into a decent healthy living centre, and there is terrible difficulty in attracting the initial seedcorn funding to get the feasibility study done on rebuilding while retaining the facade and changing the back. In such areas, where many people are unaware of the processes that must be used to attract funding, it is vital that specific support is provided either by the local authority or the lottery funding bodies to ensure that they can be successful in significant long-term capital bids.

I should like to make one final parochial point about the Rhondda heritage park, which some hon. Members may have visited. It is a museum that is run by the local authority in the old Lewis Merthyr colliery, a fine example of the industrial heritage of mining communities in south Wales. Indeed, even Her Majesty will be visiting it as part of her jubilee tour in June. We look forward to that visit. However, the park currently has a problem. Just as the Government have rightly done in England, the National Assembly for Wales has made entrance to national museums free, but that creates a problem for local authority-run museums that cannot take advantage of the same funding stream. The Rhondda heritage park has 55,500 visitors every year, but it is currently having difficulties because people clearly find it much more attractive to go to Big Pit, which is only a few miles away and is free because it is a national museum, than to come to the heritage centre.

Interestingly, having looked through the figures for Rhondda, I notice that practically no money has yet come from the new opportunities fund. We have a problem in terms of ensuring that the new opportunities fund gets around to spending its money. As far as I can see, only £29,074 has been spent from the fund in the Rhondda. I suspect that that may be replicated in other constituencies in the south Wales coalfields. I hope that the fund will consider specifically what it is doing in former coalfields.

The Arts Council of Wales is doing a good job of not spending its money, as is shown by interesting figures which I have. I accept that, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said earlier, there must be a cautionary element in how any of the bodies spend their money, as they are never sure quite how much they will receive from the lottery each month. None the less, the figures for last year show that in each month there was a significant gap between the sum that came into the Arts Council of Wales and the sum that went out. In other words, the council has been receiving far more than it has been spending.

The worst case was last October, when the Arts Council of Wales received £2.22 million and spent only £670,000. If that happened in just one month it could be overlooked, but as it has been happening systematically throughout the past year, we need to look into the matter to make sure that we are not being so frugal and troubled about how we give out money that the bodies that could be receiving the money and doing good things with it are not receiving it.

Reference has already been made to the £3.5 billion of reserve that has been accumulated. I welcome the earlier comments of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State about trying to make sure that more of that money is spent and that we are not quite so precautionary, but we need to move further.

I have some suggestions which I hope my right hon. Friend the Minister will consider, if not today, then in due course. First, there is a specific need in the south Wales coalfields for a means of ensuring that every organisation that might possibly make a decent application has the tools to do so. I ask Ministers to consider encouraging the lottery funding bodies to provide a single lottery officer to work in the south Wales coalfields with all the bodies—arts, sport, community and heritage—to foster more applications. It is true that a higher percentage of the applications made in the south Wales coalfields is successful than elsewhere in the country, but there are still not enough applications. More should be fostered.

Secondly, I hope that we can encourage the Arts Council of Wales and other organisations to consider making revenue commitments for a longer period. Last year they finally agreed to make revenue commitments for three years, but in poorer communities such as mine we need to consider a five-year programme of funding support. Also, the limit of £5,000 for the simplified system—the fast-track process, as it were—should be increased to £10,000 or £15,000. That would make a significant difference in areas such as mine.

I welcome the announcement yesterday of the 51 areas of special need, but should we not also top-slice part of the money for the poorest areas in Wales?

The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) made an excellent point about the importance of lottery outlets in retail premises in ensuring continuing support for local businesses. As I said earlier, I have 15 small communities in my constituency, which makes it difficult to know where to hold my surgeries. It is essential that people have a local shop. There are areas such as Stanleytown, where I live, and Blaenllechau, which are poorly served in that respect. Sometimes, in the smaller communities, the presence of a lottery outlet has made it possible for Spars, post offices and others to remain in business. I hope that Camelot will work hard to make sure that all those communities are well served in the future, and that there are sufficient outlets to maintain local communities.

Perhaps we should follow the example of the Prince's Trust more closely. In the fostering of a new entrepreneurial spirit, especially among young people from poor backgrounds in poor communities, the Prince's Trust has done remarkable work. There is a young man called Jamie Rowland who, I am sure, will not mind my mentioning the Bicycle Doctor shop that he set up in Porth. He has already won an award from the trust in Wales. It was not a large amount of money that made a significant difference to him—I think that £300 was the original grant, with a loan of £500 to set up the shop. The significant difference was the hands-on personal support and advice that he received from the trust. Is there a way of the lottery finding the means of providing that support for young people to foster an entrepreneurial spirit?

I have two final points, which are not parochial. The first is the state of theatre in the United Kingdom. One of the problems is that many theatres were built within a short period in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Many of them were built by Frank Matcham, and many of them are fine and beautiful buildings. They were designed for a particular form of theatre. There is a proscenium arch and a certain form of stage machinery. The theatres were built at a time when those who had money expected not to be sitting in the same area as those who worked for them as servants. There would be separate entrances to the balcony, up into the gods and around the corner. Such theatres would have a dress circle and stalls, as well as bars and so on.

Many of these theatres are wholly inappropriate now for a modern theatre-going audience. In many west end theatres and regional theatres throughout the country, there are cramped conditions for audiences, poor front-of-house facilities and seats that have needed re-upholstering for many years. Back stage, there are conditions in which no one should be expected to work. Actors are working in conditions that often come close to the edge in terms of health and safety.

Before more money is spent on theatres by the lottery and by the Arts Councils of England and Wales, perhaps an audit should be undertaken. Unique for tourists, especially American tourists, is our theatre. American tourists, who spend significantly more than most other tourists on the theatre, expect good theatres. It is not only the play itself that matters, but the entire theatrical experience. The Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport recently visited the Royal Shakespeare theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. If there is an emblem that is at the heart of British tourism, it is Stratford. I think of it not as an English resource but a British resource.

The theatre is wholly inadequate both back stage and front of house. I know that English Heritage would like to preserve the building; indeed, it is listed. The staircase is even more listed, as it were, than the rest of the building. However, I believe that it should be rased as fast as possible. It is a hideous carbuncle. I know that we have become accustomed to it, rather like a rude aunt who comes every Christmas for lunch, but it is time that we got rid of it and built something appropriate—that is, a theatre that would be able to show the best of British acting talent and the best of Shakespeare and others of his era.

It would be an attraction for American tourists and for my constituents. When I suggested that it was only old fogies who went to Stratford, I received many letters from my constituents telling me that there were not old fogies and that they went to Stratford.

As a tiny footnote, it would be nice to see funding arrangements between the Arts Councils of England and Wales to allow the Royal Shakespeare Company to tour in Wales. Every child in Wales studies Shakespeare. It would be good to see the RSC perhaps performing in a reinvigorated Parc and Dare theatre in Treorchy.

We have the Budd report, which looks into gambling and how that affects the lottery. The Select Committee will be producing its own report on the Budd report. Many of us accept that we need to take a more liberal attitude towards gambling, notwithstanding some puritanical instincts that I might have. It is important that we ensure that in the process of liberalising some regulations on gambling, we do not remove the protection that the lottery has. Although it may seem that we shall allow more charities to run lotteries and therefore attract more money for their own organisations, the end result may be that we give less money, not more, to charities and good causes that need support.

12.55 pm
Miss McIntosh

With the leave of the House. I welcome the acknowledgement of the national lottery's achievements and its contribution to national life. It is a lasting legacy of John Major and his Government, as so many hon. Members have said.

The debate has been positive and wide ranging, and many excellent contributions have been made. The hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) paid tribute to the work of libraries. I was brought up in the county of Durham, and I join in his congratulations to the city, the county and its gymnasts.

The hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) rightly spoke about the necessity of distinguishing the core spending on education, health and the environment, which should rightly come from the Treasury, not the new opportunities fund, which increasingly funds such projects.

It is always a pleasure to hear from the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) with whom I share a boundary in North Yorkshire. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) raised the genuine problem of funding school swimming pools, to which Sport England has drawn attention.

It is regrettable that the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) is not in his place. He made a welcome contribution in a wide-ranging speech. It was disappointing that the Secretary of State was not present to hear it because I am sure that she, like the rest of us, would have enjoyed it.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) on his sterling contribution. It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant); we were sparring partners on the Standing Committee that considered the Office of Communications Bill.

We should stand by the original purpose of the national lottery when it was set up in 1994. We should not substitute but recognise the principle of additionality. The lottery should fund projects and good causes in arts, sports, heritage and charities that are not funded by the Treasury. However, the new opportunities fund increasingly strays into funding health, education and the environment; that should not happen. I would welcome clarification of the difference between underspend and overcommitment. I was pleased that the Secretary of State said that it was good to reduce the time between commitment and payment to projects.

It is important, especially this year, when the Commonwealth games are coming to Manchester, to recognise Sport England's contribution to the City of Manchester stadium. Without the £92 million that it contributed, the stadium would probably not have been built, and perhaps the Commonwealth games would not be held in Manchester. I therefore share Sport England's anxiety about future funding. The pressures on its lottery fund continue to increase, while its annual lottery income has fallen. It stated that any further reduction in its income could have serious implications for English sport.

Many hon. Members have projects in their constituencies that have been turned down. Several village hall projects of essential benefit to a local, rural community have been rejected in my constituency. The emphasis should be on smaller, local projects that benefit communities rather than major national schemes. There should be a better balance between them.

Conservative Members want the lottery to be more responsive to local needs. The lottery application process remains a lottery: it is complex and burdensome and I welcome any Government efforts to simplify it. We believe that where projects primarily involve regeneration, but also involve sport and the arts, they should be covered by the national lottery guidelines.

The Secretary of State touched on two major areas: the new fair share arrangements and her programme for reform and consultation. Like the rest of the House, we welcome both, particularly the contribution that the fair share arrangements will make to the most deprived areas that have benefited least.

I pay tribute to the role of the distributing bodies, notably the community fund, in identifying the areas and pioneering new simplified procedures such as the one-stop lottery shop. All that will make the lottery more user-friendly for people applying for grants. I particularly welcome the fact that £10 million out of the £80 million committed by the community fund will go to help alleviate rural disadvantage.

In announcing her programme of reforms, the Secretary of State said that the Government would introduce deadlines, so that either projects would get under way more quickly or money would be committed further ahead. That is welcome. She also said that the Government would embark on a process for licence renewal.

This may be a good moment to remind the House that before the 1997 general election, Labour promised to select a not-for-profit operator. Curiously, the rules that were drawn up allowed the next operator to make a profit, and on 19 December 2000 Camelot was awarded the licence. Perhaps by consulting and starting the process earlier, as the Secretary of State has suggested, a less confusing procedure, with greater competition, will be in place for the next licence renewal.

We welcome the change in emphasis from capital payments to a focus on revenue funding. The Secretary of State said that distributors had to evaluate carefully the projects for which money would be given, and that a fine line had to be navigated. The Opposition would welcome a clearer commitment to the definition of additionality.

The House has benefited from and welcomes the role played by Members of Parliament in the process, as has been so colourfully displayed today.

When the Minister sums up the debate, there is one fact that he will not be able to escape. I shall not set him a quiz, such as he will remember from Radio 5 Live recently, but I shall ask him to have regard to a number of challenges that we face.

Ticket sales are falling. There is also a threat, as the hon. Member for Rhondda and my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell said, from the gambling review in the Budd report. Another factor has been discussed both at Question Time on Monday and in the press: overcommitment or underspend. I would welcome any clarification that the Government can give.

There is increasingly greater competition among the good causes to be funded, and I regret the drop of £100 million in sports funding. There is a possible oversight involving the provision of training facilities for the key group of young athletes between 16 and 18, and I urge the Minister to close the gap.

I would welcome any contribution that the Government can make to the recognition of pockets of rural deprivation, such as the one that I mentioned earlier, Thirsk. In the otherwise prosperous district of Hambleton, Thirsk and other areas have suffered dramatically from the ongoing farming crisis.

We wait with bated breath for the Minister's reply to the debate. We recognise that not only have the dome, the Wembley complex, Tate Modern, the Manchester stadium and the Manchester aquatic centre benefited from lottery funding, but literally thousands of small projects all over the country have received grants.

It is right to give people more say in how their money—the lottery money—is spent. The Government should aim to encourage lottery distributing bodies to support projects identified and run by local people, for local people. It was precisely for such projects that the lottery was created.

1.4 pm

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn)

As the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) said, I hope that Members at least acknowledge that the Government put the subject on the Order Paper because we considered the debate important to informing our decisions as we move forward.

I acknowledge that the previous Administration and the previous Prime Minister had the vision to introduce the national lottery in the mid-1990s and I hope that we have been able to refine it to ensure that it achieves its objectives, but it is unfortunate that the shadow Secretary of State has not come to the House to show the importance that the official Opposition attach to what I think is an extremely important debate. Indeed, some remarks made by the hon. Member for Vale of York on their commitment rang a little hollow. The shadow Secretary of State is not here and he has relied on her to open and close the debate.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West)

Where is the Secretary of State?

Mr. Caborn

The hon. Gentleman makes his comment from a sedentary position. Whether he saw the Secretary of State or not, she opened the debate and spent more than an hour in the Chamber. Although she has important business to deal with, I have no doubt that she will return, as we on the Government Benches think the lottery significant. The Opposition's remarks ring a little hollow and we would probably have had a more intelligent debate if they had the same vision as the previous Prime Minister.

Chris Grayling

We on the Conservative Benches perhaps pay less attention to hierarchy and more to specialism, which is why it is entirely appropriate for my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York to be here. There are not many of us in the Chamber, but is the Minister disappointed that there are more Opposition than Government Members present, despite the fact that the Government have more Members of this Parliament than we do?

Mr. Caborn

Yes, but my hon. Friends the Members for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) and for Selby (Mr. Grogan) have given their apologies.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. Perhaps we have dealt adequately with the matter. Will the Minister get on to the substance of his remarks?

Mr. Caborn

Very much so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but I have no doubt that the theme of the debate is that the Opposition's remarks were not as constructive as they ought to have been. Indeed, they reflect the legacy that the previous Administration left this nation. There is no doubt that the lottery is a national institution that most people think of as good. We all ought to acknowledge that and try to keep the ethos going.

May I make a general reply to points that were made by a number of Members? On sport, changes have been made to the allocation and national distribution of lottery funding. My parliamentary answer of 13 February shows that sport received £302 million in 1997 while the figure for 2002–03 is £202 million—a reduction of a third. However, in 1998, we revised the distributors and introduced the new opportunities fund and the community fund. Both are making major contributions to sport. In fact, over the next two to three years, the school sport initiative will receive £750 million. That is probably three times greater than the annual income that goes to Sport England.

Some £30 million from the new opportunities fund is going to the school sports co-ordinators and a further £25 million is going to space for sport and arts. The football museum will receive £9.3 million from the heritage lottery fund. We are also making a major contribution out of Exchequer expenditure to the school sports co-ordinators through Sport England.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) referred to the millennium stadium in Cardiff, which was given £46 million by the Millennium Commission. Hampden Park in Scotland was given £24.2 million. A total of £884 million has been given to sport as a result of the changes in distribution made in 1998, so the contribution to sport has not been reduced by a third, as the Opposition claim. On the contrary, it has increased.

Miss McIntosh

How would the right hon. Gentleman respond to Sport England's criticism that ticket sales are falling? The hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) said that in many countries the lottery got off to a cracking start but then imploded and had no sense of permanence. Sport England has said that it regrets any further cuts. Will the Minister respond to the lack of facilities for 16 to 18-year-olds, who are the next generation? We want them to do just as well as the winter Olympics athletes have done this year.

Mr. Caborn

I was going to deal later with falling ticket sales, but as the hon. Lady has raised the matter I shall deal with it now. It is unfortunate that a fall occurred as a result of the licensing round. Camelot has been experiencing difficulties for nearly two years. I shall not go into all the details of that, because they have been extremely well rehearsed, but there was a considerable decline in participation in the lottery and no fresh ideas were being developed. However, lottery ticket sales are now levelling out. The latest figures that I saw were for January, and they were beginning to increase.

I know that Camelot is putting a lot of effort into relaunching the lottery later this year, and I hope that we can now put the licensing round behind us. The new licensing review is all about learning from that. I hope that, with the help of Camelot and cross-party support, we can now support the lottery in a way that will encourage an increase in ticket sales. The past couple of years have been extremely difficult and the consequence has been a decline in participation, and a subsequent decline in income to good causes. That has now been stemmed and, although one swallow does not make a summer, the January figures have increased.

On investment in sport, I reiterate that more money is going into sport via the lottery, through the NOF, the community fund and Sport England. I understand Sport England's concern that the £750 million from the NOF should have gone through the offices of Sport England rather than through local education authorities. Nevertheless, that is the decision that was made. I know that the new chief executive of Sport England is working closely with the NOF and I hope that that working relationship will be strengthened and that sport will gain from that.

It would be wrong to see these matters in isolation, because a major investment is being made in sport, not only through the lottery but through the education structure—sports colleges, school sports co-ordinators, whom I mentioned earlier, and the links with primary schools. We are dealing with the group of young people whom the hon. Member for Vale of York rightly mentioned—the 16 to 18-year-olds, among whom there is a massive fall-off in participation in sport—not by providing a short-term fix, but by making the structures sustainable. We are doing that not just with lottery money but with general education money, encouraging local clubs to work with their local communities. It is important that we do not regard lottery money as standing in isolation from other sources of funding, whether for sports, the arts or anything else.

Earlier this week when I visited Canterbury I saw the very first sports hall that had been built with private finance initiative and sports lottery money. That is to be encouraged, because it serves the education structure and the community. A sports college has been funded directly out of taxation, which enhances the investment that has been made by Sport England.

I want to put on the record the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is again present. The development that she referred to in her persuasive and perceptive opening remarks showed that we want to move the lottery on from where it is now. We want to ensure that the review that she announced produces a sensible debate on how we can make the lottery more effective.

Hon. Members argue that the lottery has been politicised, but they should consider the dome, which was one of the great fixes of previous Administrations, and compare that with the question of coalfield communities raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda. The Deputy Prime Minister made no bones about it. He believes that we need to do something for coalfield communities, and to use lottery funds to do so. I do not think that the vast majority of British people have any objections to that. They believe that it is right to do that. Hon. Members may argue that that was a political decision, as was the direction from a Prime Minister that there was a weakness in our sport infrastructure so our new opportunities fund should direct £0.75 billion into sports facilities in our schools. I do not believe that many people in this country would disagree with that. Government's are elected to effect policy, and in the broad context of developing policy Governments have a right to tell distributors how we believe the policies that we have been elected on should be implemented.

Chris Grayling

The concern that I raised was that the announcement of the money for sport in schools was used as a policy announcement at a Labour party conference. My concern is that the more individual allocations of funds from the national lottery become used for specific party political policy announcements, the more they will become an adjunct of Government, and the national lottery's independence from Government will be compromised.

Mr. Caborn

I do not remember where the dome was announced, but I shall find out. The Wembley stadium project was also initiated by a previous Administration. I shall look back at some of the speeches made at Tory party conferences when it was in power. It would be wrong for the impression to be given that we are not investing in sport.

I made the point that the fair shares scheme is yet another refinement of the lottery to meet the needs of the nation. As my right hon. Friend said, it is not the last, and we shall continue to keep the lottery under review. That is important, because we want a sensible debate on how to take it forward.

On the national balances, the commitment by distributors totalled £3.82 billion at the end of December 2001. That was £290 million more than was in their balances, so if everyone drew down on those funds immediately, they would be left with a deficit of £290 million. The corresponding figures for the end of September 2001 were £3.6 billion and an over-commitment of £159 million, which shows that they were committing more funds, not fewer. If everyone drew down on those funds, they would be over-committed. As that commitment is over a period of time, we need to revisit the subject of how those balances are used. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that very clearly this morning, and has said the same to all the distributors. I shall meet each of them during the coming months to ensure that they do what has been suggested. We want the balances to be reduced by about 50 per cent., and we think that that can be done in the next couple of years. We are committed to a better use of resources, as are the funding bodies. We also think that some of the money could be distributed more effectively.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda spoke of simplifying application processes. That could indeed make the lottery more efficient, and distributors are currently simplifying the system of applications for smaller grants. The heritage lottery fund, for instance, introduced a simple application form for capital grants of less than £50,000, which came into force in April 2001. The community fund has launched a new grant programme relating to awards of between £500 and £60,000, based on the awards for all programme. There is a short, simple application form and a quick turnaround time. I have told the new opportunities fund that I want some fast-tracking in the distribution of the £750 million for school sport: I want things to start happening by the summer.

We shall continue to engage in constructive dialogue with distributors. We shall ensure that they are diligent and that public funds are protected, but we shall also ensure that there is not too much bureaucracy, and that the smaller organisations mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda move more quickly.

My hon. Friend also mentioned coalfields. I understand the problems. I am glad that my hon. Friend acknowledged—as has the coalfield communities campaign—that we have made significant progress since 1998, but structural weaknesses still exist. As my hon. Friend knows, at a conference late last year we discussed with the coalfield communities how the applications system could be made simpler and more effective. Some local authorities have received money to enable them to help organisations in coalfield areas to make their applications. We will keep the situation under constant review, and hope to see improvements. I was not aware of the figures relating to the arts that my hon. Friend mentioned, but the matter should be given more consideration.

I have expressed our concerns about the last licensing round. Camelot—to which, like others, I pay tribute for the efficient way in which it deals with the lottery—embarked on a new seven-year licence in January. I hope that our review will consider how that could have been handled more effectively. Certainly it could not have been handled any worse.

At the time of the Budd report in 1997, the lottery had already been subjected to one review, and people did not think it very logical for another to take place. Time will tell whether they were right or wrong, but I think our licensing review is important in the context of Budd. A number of the report's 176 recommendations could affect the lottery, and we must consider them carefully. As I think we have all agreed, the lottery is almost a national institution, and is recognised as such. We must think carefully before making changes that might affect that status. The Government are close to reaching a conclusion on the three-month review by Budd. I hope that soon we will be able to announce to the House our reflections on it and the many submissions that were made during the consultation period.

The hon. Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) mentioned a constituent who had problems with the allocation of money for the millennium dome. As I understand it, the additional £179 million did not come from lottery money but from the Millennium Commission. I think that the allegation was that it slowed down or detracted from the allocation of other lottery funds. As I do not want to mislead the House or the hon. Gentleman's constituent, I will get my officials to look into the matter and write to him to clear up the problem once and for all. I do not have the information that I need to make a definitive statement on it now.

The contribution by the hon. Member for Vale of York was not as constructive as I would have expected it to be. Perhaps it was written by central office, because all Friday speeches seem to be. She gave some interesting statistics. We may not believe that MORI polls are always right, but the poll in question was carried out on behalf of several organisations. It asked people to identify two or three of the most important recipients of lottery funding out of a list of 10. Some 69 per cent. of respondents identified health, 55 per cent. identified education and 26 per cent. identified the environment as causes on which lottery money should be spent. Obviously we would have to look at the survey in more depth to understand why people think that. However, it is interesting that people outside the House in the real world think that health, education and the environment can gain from lottery involvement.

Miss McIntosh

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the National Council for Voluntary Organisations conducted another survey that vindicates the Conservatives' view that lottery distribution bodies should operate free from Government interference and that the Treasury should pay for health, education and the environment? Only one in eight thought that they should be paid for by the new opportunities fund.

Mr. Caborn

We can bandy figures around because there is room for debate. All I am citing is the MORI poll—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) can laugh, but it does no justice to our discussion. The vast majority of hon. Members have made a constructive contribution.

The MORI poll, which was conducted on behalf of two major organisations, set out health, education and the environment as priorities. There has been a positive response to the money for coalfield communities, the new opportunities fund as it relates to schools and for school sports co-ordinators. I have seen projects throughout the country that have received investment as part of a major investment strategy by Sport England and know that they have been welcomed across the board. We could make party political capital out of that, but I do not think that it would do any good.

The argument about lottery money for Wembley stadium has been well rehearsed over the years. We hope that progress will be made on it. My right hon. Friend laid down clear criteria against which the decision will be made and we are awaiting the response of the Football Association.

I think that I have dealt with most of the points that were raised. The hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) asked about a swimming complex in her constituency. I do not have the relevant details, but I have asked my officials to look into the matter and I shall write to her when I have that information.

This has been an extremely interesting debate, which Labour Members have approached constructively. We believe that the fair shares announcement was necessary and is a move in the right direction. It is part of the process of modernising the lottery and ensuring that it delivers what people want it to deliver. That process is not set in tablets of stone, and it needs to move on from time to time. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has set out a programme of consultation that includes the potential for change, and through it we want to take people with us in partnership.

It is totally untrue to say that we have politicised the new opportunities fund or any other aspect of the lottery. The Opposition never say how they would deal with funding demands if they came to power in the next 20 or 30 years. They have already committed themselves to reducing public expenditure to 35 per cent. of gross domestic product, which, in reality, would entail a cut of £60 billion. However, they cannot tell us what they would do with the new opportunities fund. All that they do is whinge and carp and make grandiose statements about cutting £60 billion from public expenditure—should they ever be returned to power. Would they politicise the new opportunities fund? I leave the British people to make their judgment.

Angela Smith (Basildon)

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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