HC Deb 05 January 2004 vol 416 c9
5. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con)

What the total of unclaimed lottery prizes is; and what the largest single unclaimed prize is. [145831]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris)

Total unclaimed prizes up to the week ending 13 December 2003 were £597.2 million. The largest unclaimed prize to date is £3,011,065.

Sir Teddy Taylor

As the amount is substantial, has the Minister made any inquiries as to why so many people take the trouble to buy lottery tickets but not to claim the prizes, which, as she says, now amount to over £590 million? What happens to the money? Does it go to the lottery company or to worthwhile charities?

Estelle Morris

I am not sure that I can say why so many people do not claim their prizes, especially the one that was over £3 million. I am surprised. The hon. Gentleman asked the same question last year, and he will note that the amount of money unclaimed has increased. It goes up by 13 or 14 per cent. each year; it is a cumulative figure. Three of the four largest unclaimed prizes have been in the last two years, so the figure is now quite staggering. When the hon. Gentleman raised the question last year, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism undertook to speak to Camelot, the organisation operating the lottery, about it and he did. Adverts are now put out shortly before the end of the period in which claims have to be made to try to get people to claim awards if they have not already done so, but the increase remains about the same. However, I reassure the hon. Gentleman and the House that the money goes to the Secretary of State and through her to the fund that is paid out for good causes, so Camelot stands to gain not a penny from anyone who does not claim their prize, but good causes stand to gain a lot.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab)

Obviously, a huge amount of money is unclaimed, but rather than becoming embroiled in bureaucracy in deciding who to give it to, would not it be better if all unclaimed prizes went to the hospice movement, and then all communities would benefit?

Estelle Morris

I am sure that the hospice movement can apply for lottery funds in the same way as others can, but to set up a complicated procedure whereby there is another fund of money to which all will have access—one cannot simply give it to the hospice movement, because many other organisations would consider that they, too, had an equal claim to it—would result in the very bureaucracy against which my hon. Friend has just warned. We have an existing structure in the form of the fund for good causes, and it is right and proper that the unclaimed money should go there, but I do wish that the amount were lower. The notion of people not claiming the prize money does not sit well with encouraging more people to buy lottery tickets, which is what we are meant to be doing to get more money into the good causes kitty.

Forward to