HC Deb 15 September 2003 vol 410 cc575-6
5. Mr. Peter Luff (Mid-Worcestershire)

If she will make an assessment of the criteria used by the lottery funding bodies to distribute their resources to applicants. [129555]

The Minister for the Arts(Estelle Morris)

The criteria vary from distributor to distributor, but they are based on national lottery financial and policy directions issued to distributors by the Department, and on distributors' own strategic plans and funding policies.

Mr. Luff

Does the Minister share my concern that the current use of highly selective types of disadvantage and deprivation by many lottery funding bodies to target their funding is causing frustration, disillusion and even anger among many other groups facing similar levels of deprivation, but who feel excluded from access to lottery funds?

Estelle Morris

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter with me. He has sent a letter to the Department, which we will reply to shortly. I took the trouble to look into the background of that letter, because I thought that it may have been the reason for his question. On the face of it, the matter that came before his constituent has been clumsily dealt with by Awards for All in the west midlands. I agree with the hon. Gentleman about that. I have no control over what Awards for All writes in letters, but had I been the hon. Gentleman's constituent and read about the priority for funding as explained to him, I may have had the same response as he had. I hope that that message gets back.

The letter to the hon. Gentleman's constituent was clumsily written, but the policy is not clumsy or ill-thought-out. It is important that all lottery distributors examine how money is being distributed and ensure that under-represented groups are assisted to make better quality applications or to get their fair share. The letter was a reflection of that. The groups that were highlighted in the letter have been significantly under-represented in applications and awards from the Awards for All lottery fund. The issue could have been described in a much better way that would not have antagonised people.

Groups other than those highlighted receive funds from Awards for All. May I compare the hon. Gentleman's constituency with mine as an example? His constituency has had £500,000 in 147 awards, whereas my constituency has had £31,000 in eight awards. On that basis, perhaps it is me rather than him who should be complaining about the criteria and the priorities.

Tony Lloyd (Manchester, Central)

Will my right hon. Friend pause to consider the winner of last night's "Restoration" programme? Victoria baths, which lies between my constituency and that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton (Mr. Kaufman), was refused lottery funding on a number of occasions. That does not necessarily reflect on the lottery per se, but it shows that the people sometimes have very different priorities from those of the lottery. Will she join me in congratulating Gill Wright and all the many people who made the bid for Victoria baths so successful?

Estelle Morris

Of course I will join my hon. Friend. With my connections, affection for the city and knowledge of the area, I am delighted that the people expressed that view. In the consultation paper on the national lottery, we are looking for ways in which the general public can make clear their priorities. Perhaps there is a message from last night, which may reach the ears of those who make the decisions. If so, I would be thrilled.

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay)

We could argue until we are blue in the face about the distribution of lottery funds. Is not the issue the reduction in sales of lottery tickets, as a result of which less money is available to distribute? When the lottery began it was supposed to be a competition with one big jackpot. Since then it has fragmented. What proposals does the Minister have to increase lottery sales that do not involve further fragmentation?

Estelle Morris

Ours is still the most successful lottery in the world. Since it was launched in the mid-1990s, £14.77 billion has been raised. If the hon. Gentleman looks at the pattern of sales and receipts for lotteries elsewhere in Europe and beyond, he will find that sales fall off and plateau after a number of years, and new games are needed. I have no plans to launch new games because that is not my responsibility, but the hon. Gentleman will know from an announcement made last week that Camelot has launched its first new game for some years, and it plans to diversify the games over the next few years to increase funds. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that more sales mean more money for good causes.

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