HL Deb 28 February 1990 vol 516 cc776-804

5.32 p.m.

Lord Birkett rose to call attention to the advantages to the arts, sports and the environment of a nationwide lottery; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am happy to have the opportunity to propose the Motion. The notion of a lottery has been so little before your Lordships or the other place that it is an ideal subject for a short Wednesday debate. Such debates are expected to range as widely as possible over the subject in hand and I hope that this will be no exception. I have taken care to draft the Motion so that it is not broader than it need be. Noble Lords will note that it calls attention to the advantages to the arts, sport and the environment of a nationwide lottery.

I have chosen those areas to be the beneficiaries of a lottery because many noble Lords are as devoted as I to all three aspects of our national life. Surely, the arts refresh and recreate our spirits. In some cases, filtered through the great works of art and the great minds of genius, art can teach us more about life than life itself. It can enrich our lives in a mysterious way. Above all, it keeps us inquisitive and fresh.

If that is true of the arts for the mind, surely the same is true of sports for the body. Mens sana in corpore sano is not a particularly fashionable phrase but it is not a bad ideal. Perhaps Juvenal had it right and orandum est indeed say I. Sports also have the advantage of being capable of taking our rivalries and ambitions and working them out in a friendly and pleasant way. One may not know that from some of the sport which takes place today but the majority of sport is played in that spirit. The Olympic spirit is not dead.

The environment feeds us all, the arts and the sports, and makes us what we are. I fear that it is long past the time when one could rely upon the environment simply to be the unencumbered work of nature with man as a small insect crawling within it. Nowadays it is all too apparent that man is an exceedingly powerful and influential insect crawling upon it. We must work to defend and improve our environment. We can no longer rely upon its benevolence.

Noble Lords may ask why I did not propose a lottery beneficial to education, medicine and health, science, transport systems and even law and order. I believe that such elements of our national life are so deep-rooted in the structure of our society that they must be supported by government; that is to say by taxes. They must be a central governmental concern because without them we have no structure to our society.

I have been known to say exactly the same about arts, sports and the environment. However, I have long given up the hope that they will achieve the same automatic funding recognition as the other aspects I have mentioned. They need special support and for that reason I have framed the Motion as it appears on the Order Paper.

There is a history of lotteries in this country. In the 17th and 18th centuries they were common all over the world. In some cases a great deal of good resulted. The building of the British Museum owes a great deal to lotteries. There was a time when the Cinque ports could be repaired only through the benefits of a lottery. The great American universities of Harvard, Yale and Princeton owe a great deal of their foundation to lotteries. The Sydney Opera House, an unparalleled operatic spectacle, owes its existence to a lottery. The Olympic Games held in Canada, Moscow, Seoul and Mexico City, depended to a greater or lesser extent upon funds from lotteries.

The history of lotteries is beyond the scope of our debate tonight. However, it would be unfair not to mention the Royal Commission chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, in 1978. Its report is enormously scholarly and almost compendious in the way it deals with all forms of gambling. The Royal Commission reported on gambling in general but also examined the type of lottery with which I am dealing today and by and large approved it. That was 12 years ago but I do not suppose that anything has vitally changed.

Noble Lords will also notice that I used the words "nationwide lottery". I might well have said "national lottery". The important distinction is that I do not mean a state lottery run and governed by the Government. I am well aware that the Government do not wish to run a lottery and I see no reason why they should be compelled to do so. It is perfectly possible to run a lottery privately and without it being commercial in any way.

The only way in which one can determine or guess how successful a nationwide British lottery may be is by looking at the numerous lotteries throughout the world, extrapolating the figures and converting them into figures for this country. That is a very speculative game because it depends upon the size of the country concerned and it depends upon what statistics you take, whether you work or the basis of the population of the country, on its, per capita income or national income. There are all sorts of ways of looking at the matter.

In the USA a great many lotteries are state lotteries—not in the sense I have talked about but in the sense that they operate state by state across the United States. Nearly all our EC partners already have lotteries. The biggest, in France, in Spain and in Germany, are very successful. A single national lottery once it is up and going—for example, in its second year—is likely to produce a gross figure of something in the region of £2.5 billion per year. I make it clear that that is £2.5 thousand million per year. I am assured that is quite a reasonable capability of a national lottery.

Of course, national lotteries need a great deal of administration and very complex technical procedures. Therefore one must assume that about 20 per cent. of the figure will be paid out on the sheer administration of it. Apart from anything else, there needs to be a very large chain of people selling the tickets, very much as phone cards are now to be found in almost every shop in the land. That requires a very large back-up operation. I am glad to say that the technical expertise is to be found very largely in this country. We are already experts in many of the security printing systems essential for a lottery. Indeed, we supply them to other lotteries throughout the world. If 20 per cent. is taken off, that still leaves £2 billion.

The nature of such lotteries is usually that half the remaining money is taken for the prizes. Therefore, the prizes would amount to a very large sum indeed.

I am told that a concave structure is needed. In case your Lordships are wondering what a concave structure is, it means that there are very few large prizes at the top and lots and lots of small prizes at the bottom. So there is the excitement of a very large prize; we are perhaps talking of a prize at the top of £1 million. Of course, that is very rare and it is extraordinary to win that amount. However, there are lots and lots of prizes; for example, perhaps £5 or £2 on a £1 ticket. Those prizes are encouraging rather than profitable in any real sense. However, that is the shape which lotteries seem to take. It seems to work and to create no particular unhappiness.

Having dangled those extraordinary figures before your Lordships, you may ask whether we should have a lottery at all. You may ask whether or not lotteries are evil. If one believes as an article of faith that any form of gambling is automatically evil, then I can say nothing for that is an article of faith. I cannot change an opinion of that sort. It seems to me on balance, however, that so much of life is already speculative and chancy that to take advantage of it for worthy causes is not wrong in simple moral terms.

It is suggested that this sort of activity can become compulsive and a devastating social evil. I do not believe that a lottery is like that. The casino, race track or arcade seem to have an atmosphere which compels you to go on. Once you have lost too much, you go on to lose the rest. I do not believe that that applies to the cool and entirely chance-governed business of a lottery.

It is also a good reflection to think that if you lose £5 at a race track or in a casino, it gives you no satisfaction at all to think that the bookmaker or croupier will be having a good meal on the proceeds. However, if you lose £5 in the lottery I propose you may think that a new wood will be planted, that there will be a new sports ground or that a new orchestra will be maintained. I should have thought that an altogether more comfortable feeling.

It is also suggested that where very large sums of money are involved fraud is automatically involved. I believe that the security systems available to the world no longer make that a realistic proposition. ERNIE has been operating for years without a breath of scandal to his name. I believe that security systems are such that there can be a foolproof lottery which there would have to be in this case.

There is then the thought that lotteries might damage other forms of charitable giving; for example, the small charitable gambling which already exists. Experience from other countries has shown that that is not the case and that lotteries attract new money. Indeed, the Irish lottery, introduced in 1986, led to so many worries that a form of compensation legislation was produced enabling anyone able to show that an existing form of charitable gambling had been damaged to claim compensation. As far as I am aware, there has not yet been a claim.

In much larger terms, your Lordships may ask whether it would damage the football pools which, one must admit, provide an enormous amount of money for the Exchequer. Again, it does not seem that it would. It attracts new money, according to the experience of other countries, which is very considerable.

Let us suppose that one allows that a lottery is not bad and might do good. Who would look after those immense sums of money? I think that those responsible should be independent people. There should be no involvement of arts councils or sports councils, of many of the environmental bodies which are now springing up or of the Government, although everyone of those must be represented. It simply means choosing very responsible and knowledgeable people who know what they are talking about and who are outside the internecine battles which are sometimes waged within those spheres.

That may sound like the famous phrase, "The great and the good". The phrase is usually uttered with a faint edge of mockery. However, we do have great spirits, great minds and great administrators, and thank goodness. I believe in my sense of optimism that there are a very large number of men of goodwill, and I do not believe it is impossible to find an impeccable body of people to control such sums of money and use them for the best.

What should that best be? It is already late and I am within a minute of speaking for too long. I shall however steal a moment to make a few suggestions off the top of my head. The Royal Opera House has recently been involved in enormous controversy about how much money it must use in commercial enterprises in order to back what it has to put into revivifying its stage and so on. None of that would have been necessary with the proceeds of a lottery.

In the early 1970s the National Theatre was costing in the region of £20 million. What would it cost today? I suggest that it may cost £50 or £60 million. I doubt whether we could ever raise that now without a scheme of this sort. There are so many enterprises which should have been off the ground by now; for example, the Roundhouse, an arts centre for the black community, a national jazz centre and galleries for all the reserve collections which now are buried under our great museums. We all know that there are not enough of those collections on view and that we need galleries for them.

On exports of works of art, only two days ago there was a Question in your Lordships' House about "The Three Graces". Millions of pounds are needed to save that; similarly, a Sir Thomas Lawrence picture and a Paul de Lamerie inkstand. They are all going out of the country because of lack of funds to keep them here. I suggest that that would not be a problem if we followed my proposal of a lottery.

The playing fields of England need preserving. Coaching for the young is desperately needed. Indoor tennis and athletics are almost unknown in this country and will continue to be so until we start to provide proper facilities. We need skating facilities. We need sports centres all over the place. Millions of pounds are involved.

Lastly, as regards the environment, let us consider the woodlands. There are storms raging; we now seem to be a storm country. There will be an enormous amount of planting and care necessary throughout the land. We still need more and more parks with the encouragement of garden festivals.

I shall not continue because so many of your Lordships already have schemes in mind. All those schemes need to be endowed as well as created. I suggest that an endowment fund for anything new would be essential. Otherwise, the funding bodies may well say. "Thank you very much for providing the money to build but we cannot now fund it". An endowment fund to go with the building would be essential. Above all, I am talking about capital because there is no capital fund for the arts, sports or the environment at present. Sometimes people say that a scheme of this sort will let the Government off the hook. I suggest that the Government are not on the hook. Indeed I go further; I suggest there is no hook.

We desperately need a scheme such as this. I do not ask the Government to reply at this stage. If the noble Earl, when replying to the debate, cares to rise to his feet and say that he agrees with every word I said, I shall not protest. However, I do not expect that of him. I expect only that we all listen to what, for some of your Lordships, may be a very novel subject and see the climate of opinion. That is exactly what these debates are for.

I recommend a nationwide lottery to your Lordships, not because lotteries are in themselves a particularly good thing or a particularly bad thing, but because in this case one lottery with the legislation necessary for it could make a great deal of difference to the arts, to sport and to the environment. Those things make the difference to our society. With careful growth and really careful nursing we could approach the millenium with confidence and pride. They are the touchstone of our society; it is by them we shall be judged, I suspect. They are what make the difference between a more or a less civilised country. I beg to move for

5.51 p.m.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, the noble Lord has admirably presented a most excellent proposition. I am enthusiastically in favour of any plan which will make more money available for the arts. The noble Lord's proposal for a national lottery from which a large proportion of the proceeds will go to the arts is therefore quite irrestistible to me. I am particularly glad that he has not confined his remarks to capital, but included endowment, because the problem that arts face at the moment is not capital but an inability to continue at the proper level.

The need for money in the arts is so obvious and so real that I would embrace any scheme, whatever it was, so long as it was practical. The noble Lord's scheme would produce considerable sums of hard cash without taking it away from any particular individual. That, to me, is a great attraction. It is a much nicer way of raising money than taxation. When taxation rises it produces resentment and hatred; when it falls it leads to extravagence.

Lotteries, on the other hand, have no such results except that the occasional man who wins £1 million may get into some trouble for it, but usually not; there is no reason to.

Some people believe that increasing support for the arts might encourage laziness and slackness. They remind us that some of the greatest art of all times was produced by artists living in dire poverty, but that means only that their genius survived the garret, not that poverty gave any help to the creative art. Art flourishes in conditions of generous and enthusiastic patronage. When Maynard Keynes founded the Arts Council at the end of the last war, he started something which was meant to and could provide support; for a good many years it did provide such an atmosphere. The moment the cuts began the generosity disappeared and penny-pinching raised its ugly head.

Art cannot flourish in an accountant's world. Artists need the stimulus of the admiration of the patron who gives them a commission to do their particular job, whether it be to write a poem, a book, a symphony or an opera, to paint a picture, to produce a sculpture or even to design a building. When accountants have the upper hand the artists miss the appreciation of an enthusiastic patron, whether an individual or an institution like the Church or the Arts Council. The worst example of that can be seen all around us in the ribbon development we drive through when entering or leaving London. That we must try to avoid.

I do not think there is anything wrong with gambling. I certainly do not think it should be legislated against as such. Like alcohol, it is addictive, but not nearly as addictive as alcohol. However, it is addictive enough to wreck some homes. Most of us know some homes which have been wrecked by gambling. For 99 people out of 100 it is a harmless, fascinating indulgence. It is often maintained that filling in football pools and betting on horses and dogs involve elements of skill and judgment which remove those activities from the category of gambling proper. However, as results are unpredictable and virtually random, it is a superficial argument. I imagine, as was suggested by the noble Lord who opened the debate, that the Inland Revenue would be very unhappy to lose their returns from pools, racing and casinos, not to mention premium bonds. However, I repeat that I have no objection to gambling even in its purest and most undisguised form as in tossing a penny.

I turn to the question of whether there are practical objections to the noble Lord's scheme. cannot see any. The Irish have surely demonstrated that it is not too difficult and, as he told us, so have a large number of other nations. Apparently only Albania and ourselves stand out, but I hope not for too long.

In his figures the noble Lord allowed generously for expenses and prizes and he was therefore talking realistically when he spoke of £2 billion. That is a substantial amount and must not be sneezed at even by this very successful Government.

We are left with the question of whether such a venture, which is neither impractical nor immoral, is worth implementing. The answer is that of course it is. I cannot think of any better way of saving the arts from step-by-step lowering of their standards. As the Government gradually reduce support for the arts, something must be done in substitution. Private giving has done as well as anybody thought it could. It could be greatly increased if we adopted the US system, but that it too difficult for the Treasury to accept, because it is both useful and effective. Meanwhile, in spite of hard and not always unsuccessful pressure from the Minister on his somewhat philistine colleagues, we see crisis on every side of us in the arts.

The noble Lord referred to the opera. The Royal Opera House has a subsidy of 44 per cent. of expenditure as against 92 per cent. in Rome—and so on all around Europe. Last year the Royal Opera House was 89 per cent. filled for both opera and ballet for every day of the year bar Christmas—a remarkable figure—yet it has suffered a 15 per cent. real cut in its Arts Council support over the past five years. It is now reduced to hope rather than hard cash in planning the programmes for the next few years.

Twice as many people went to the opera as watched the Football League Cup; more people went to ballet performances than to Rugby Union football, yet the case of English National Opera is even worse than that of the Royal Opera House. Its annual grant is just over 50 per cent. of income. It sells some 400,000 seats a year. In a study financed by the Arts Council three years ago, Price Waterhouse concluded that a further £2.5 million of public money needed to be invested if ENO was to maintain its work and avoid significant deficits. Nothing has happened since then. It received a 2 per cent. increase last year. Admittedly, it was promised an 11 per cent. increase for next year, but it will not be able to carry on very much longer like that. Kent Opera has disappeared. It was a very good opera company, so that it is to be deplored.

Turning to theatres, the noble Lord referred to the National Theatre. That has undergone an 18 per cent. cut over the past five years. We all know about the RSC, which has had its funding cut by 20 per cent. over the past five years and is now having to close for four months. A week or so ago we discussed the plight of museums and galleries. I will not go into that again, but reference to the debate will show that the British Museum, the V & A, the Tate Gallery and many others are all complaining desperately.

The truth is that the arts have been under-funded for years. An unacceptable state has gradually built up as a result. The arts have made a valiant effort to raise public support but that is now nearing its peak. Meanwhile, more often than not subsidies fail to keep up with inflation and always fall short of the annual increase in salaries which have to rise according to the Government's dictates. Most of the arts are highly labour-intensive, so they are especially hard put for it to keep up standards; yet keeping up and improving standards is the one aspect that matters to the arts themselves, to our visitors and to the people in this country who are patronising the arts more every year.

Speaking seriously, I believe our whole artistic heritage is at risk. By "heritage" I mean the achievements of living people rather than, say, old buildings—a subject which will be dealt with by my noble friend Lord Charteris in his contribution.

We should jump at the noble Lord's suggestion to put matters right. I have spoken about the arts but I have no doubt that the needs of the environment and sport are no less pressing and their value to the nation no less essential. At least these three sections of our lives are not concerned with profit and loss alone, or indeed takeover bids or insider trading, but directly and exclusively with the quality of life for everyone in the country.

Clearly there are a number of important details to be worked out; not least who settles what amount goes to whom. Here I differ from the noble Lord because for the arts my idea is that the task of distribution should remain where it is: with the Arts Council and the Museums and Galleries Commission, who, when given enough money, did the task extremely well. I hope that the Government will not simply say, "no" and turn their backs on the only scheme we have ever come across which might save the arts for us.

6.3 p.m.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, as this is the evening of Ash Wednesday perhaps I should start my few remarks on a suitably penitential note. The Churches simply do not have their act together over the issue of gambling in general. We are divided about it. Perhaps I may illustrate that with a little story. Some years ago the secretary of the Churches Council on Gambling was tackled by a certain gentleman who pointed out that gambling is referred to favourably in the pages of the New Testament. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that they drew lots and the lot fell on Matthias. The secretary was not at all put out by that because he immediately replied, "Yes, but whoever heard of Matthias again?" That perhaps does less than justice to St. Matthias but it illustrates the ambivalent attitude to gambling found in the Churches.

I remind your Lordships of the definition of gambling, because lotteries form one side of it: The [distribution] of money, or money value, by an appeal to an artificially created chance, where the gains of the winners are made at the expense of the losers and the gain is secured without rendering in service or in value an equivalent of the gains obtained". I am afraid that that is quite a mouthful from the Dictionary of Christian Ethics but it is a good reminder that we are dealing with the distribution of money—large sums of money—purely by chance.

It is argued of course that gambling is deeply rooted in human nature, and there is not the slightest doubt about that. People have always gambled and I suspect that they always will as long as this world lasts. Why is it, then, that some of us—I do not know if I am alone in this Chamber tonight but I am sure that it is true of the community in general—feel uneasy about the Motion put by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, in spite of the eloquent way in which he put forward his argument and the obvious means that he has put in front of us, which are tremendous?

If gambling were all small scale nobody would stop to ask about the justice of the principle behind it. If it were simply a matter of a few bob changing hands, giving innocent amusement here and there on raffles, and so on, nobody would question whether this was a just or unjust principle. It would not be worth it. In fact, gambling is not like that. Whether you take it in the form of betting, gaming, lotteries or pools—the various forms in which gambling appears—you find that there are very large sums of money in prospect; and what we have heard tonight puts in front of us the possibility of a nation-wide lottery involving extremely large prizes.

When that happens one is forced to examine the principle behind gambling and ask whether it is healthy either for individuals or for a society. In the Christian tradition we would be bound to say that although we live in a universe of chance, on the whole mankind has always struggled to bring order out of chaos. For example, the insurance principle is based on reducing the vagaries of chance. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, asked why we should not take advantage of the fact that there is chance in nature and in society; and why not make use of it and obtain money from it. The difficulty of that argument is that it does not seem to be a proper, rational principle in mankind simply to increase the distribution of money in a haphazard way and by chance.

No one in their right senses would suggest that we should ban something so deeply rooted in society and in human nature as are the possibilities for gambling. It gives pleasure and doubtless is a harmless pleasure for many people. I often attend church bazaars and am asked to guess the weight of a cake or, perhaps, the weight of Sir Cyril Smith. In fact, I know that he has signed a Motion in favour of a nation-wide lottery. That is all innocent enough and doubtless gives pleasure to many. I am frequently caught in my own parishes with a difficulty in that regard. Instead of guessing the weight of a cake or Sir Cyril I feel more ready to make a suitable donation for a raffle ticket but not take it.

The difficulty is that inevitably gambling becomes a bigger element in society step by step. Moreover, gambling rests on a socially unjust principle. If that is true, even though it is deeply rooted in society it ought to be kept within bounds. For example, prizes should be kept moderate in size. I quote again from the Dictionary of Christian Ethics: An individual or a community in whose life gambling plays too prominent a part betrays a false sense of values which cannot but impair the full development of the personality or the society. It should therefore be the concern of the state to control the indulgence within reasonable bounds". It is for that reason that I would not wish to see a nation-wide lottery established. I admit that when I quickly read the noble Lord's Motion I felt that what he was referring to was a state lottery. He has made absolutely clear that that is not the case. Inevitably, however, a nation-wide lottery becomes associated in the public mind with a state lottery. The state would, to some extent, have to participate actively to see that such a big operation was properly conducted.

If the Government were to go down that road one would have to accept that they would be giving support to something on which opinion is widely divided in our society today, and not only within the Churches. For example, there is the argument concerning greed. We have all received a briefing paper in which it is said that the suggestion that large prizes stimulate greed would not apply to a lottery which has so many environmental and social benefits, particularly as any donation to the lottery can be looked on as charity. It is said that that is questionable.

To my mind the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, contradicted that in what he said because instead of emphasising that the primary intention of those who took part in a nationwide lottery would be to support the arts he said that the primary intention would be to win prizes, and in some cases very large ones. I quote not from his speech but from his article in The House Magazine. He said that prizes, should be in what is technically known as a 'concave' structure"— and he explained this to us— with a few very large prizes (as big as a million pounds) at the top of the scale and a very large number of small consolation prizes at the bottom, with only a few middle sized prizes in between. The psychology behind this is that the very big prizes provide the excitement of a jackpot while the numerous small prizes give a statistically encouraging chance of at least some small winnings". Who can possibly claim that the prime intention behind giving to a nationwide lottery would not be the encouragement of greed rather than support of the arts? For example, a small stake in a raffle can be genuinely motivated by a desire to help the charity concerned. I do not believe that most people care too much whether they are going to win a bottle of whisky or whatever it may be. However, it is a very different matter indeed when we speak of money prizes of this order.

I have enormous sympathy with all of what the noble Lord said to us about the importance of the arts and of the difficulty in getting money to meet these many admirable causes which are so underfunded. For example, we went on holiday to France last year and my wife and I were enormously impressed—this is nothing to do with the arts, but with sport—that in virtually every small French village there are beautifully set out standard tennis courts. I should love to see that kind of provision in this country. But I am not at all sure that it is right to raise money even for such admirable aims as sport and the arts by producing a nationwide lottery.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said that the full list he could have given is larger by miles but the sums already run into hundreds of millions of pounds. The only feasible way of raising such sums seems to be a lottery and, from the experience of other countries, that method appears to be painless. I question the view that the experience would be painless. What does that really mean? On the surface many things can be painless: for example, the taking of certain drugs in personal life and in society, but the effects can be insidious, damaging and lasting.

I was a little disturbed when I heard the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, say that he would accept any scheme which helped to fund the arts. I cannot believe that in his more sober moments he really believes that. I should be quite prepared to give him privately one or two examples of roads down which he would not be prepared to go, but I do not think I should quote them in front of your Lordships tonight.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I believe that the right reverend Prelate would have very great difficulty in finding any.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I suggest to the noble Lord that he would not exactly encourage a scheme in which the proceeds of prostitution were used to fund the arts.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, it was the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who said many years ago, when he was chairman of the Arts Council, that he would receive money for the arts from anywhere, including brothels. I share that view.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester

My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, has fallen into the same error, but I am not responsible for the views of either noble Lord. The danger is twofold. There is an erosion of the public sense of what charitable giving is all about. It has to do with generosity to causes about which men and women know something and which appeal to their best motives and their sympathies for them to give what they can without expecting anything in return.

I have a fear that a nationwide lottery would be yet another twist to something which is already happening. In many senses we are already a very mean nation. I believe that recent figures produced on personal giving show that to be true. We should be very careful of anything which gives a further twist to that kind of meanness and which means that giving is always associated with getting something, or the hope of something, in return. In the Churches we are faced with a tremendous crisis concerning personal giving and that is an experience which is relevant here. We should love to have these kinds of shortcuts which would relieve us of the burden of the enormous sums of money required to maintain, for example, the Victorian churches in my diocese. Yet I believe that there is no real substitute for the education of people as to what giving really means in order to increase the amount of money given. Within my own diocese the level of giving is not very good at all.

That is one danger. The second is the erosion of a proper sense of taxation and public funding and what they really mean. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has drawn a distinction between provisions that should be properly funded by the state. He has put subjects such as the arts, sport and the environment on the other side of the line. I am sure he will agree that he has not done that completely, but he has certainly tended to do so by saying that these subjects should be funded in other ways.

I am not at all sure about that distinction. What is needed is a proper campaign of education by those responsible for both local and national taxation policies in order to help people to understand that these provisions make for a good life in our community. The Government have an important educative role in that respect and so do members of all political parties. It is a tragedy when leaders of political parties simply favour the idea that taxation should be kept as low as it possibly can be without emphasising the positive side of what taxation is needed for in order to improve life in the community.

What is the positive answer to the very strong case which the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has put in front of us tonight concerning these tremendous needs in our society for more money? I believe the answer lies in public education and in generating enthusiasm for the causes which exist. I agree that is a slow road and one which offers no immediate relief from the enormous crises that face us in this field. I believe that if we were to go down the road of establishing a nationwide lottery we might be doing damage to the social fabric of this country which we cannot see at the moment, but which will become visible in later years.

6.17 p.m.

Earl Attlee

My Lords, I begin by congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, on introducing this short debate. Though I am in full agreement with a nationwide lottery, I diverge from his views as to what should be covered by it. I do not believe that the noble Lord will like that, and neither will the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester like what I am going to say now.

If I understood him correctly, if one gives a few pence, though one needs thousands, that is all right, but if one gives thousands of pence, for example, for the fabric of churches, that is wrong. I went to your Lordships' Library before lunch to find a good quotation about lotteries, but I could not find one at all in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. In another book, the only one I could find stated that marriage was a lottery. Some people like that lottery so much that they go in for marriage more than once, and I am one of them.

It is thought that lotteries are something new. There are lotteries in Belgium, France, Italy and Spain which are all Christian Roman Catholic countries. A lottery has done those countries no harm. There are also lotteries in Germany, Holland and even Russia. I am not suggesting that those countries are not religious, but they are not quite as religious as some other countries. We also have lotteries in the USA and Australia. As the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, said, only Albania and the United Kingdom do not have a lottery. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, pointed out that we used to have a lottery in this country. However, it was terminated in 1823, though no one seems to know why.

As I understand it, the arguments against a nationwide lottery fall roughly into one or two fairly closely defined areas. We are told that it would encourage the poor to spend money that they could ill afford and that it would upset the various churches, charities and large football pool companies. I lived in Brussels for some 18 months. I always bought a few tickets for the state lottery. I quite honestly did not expect to win a major prize. I would win a few hundred francs and immediately go out and buy some more lottery tickets. In the countries I have mentioned there has been no evidence to show that running a lottery has done anything but good.

The right reverend Prelate was worried about gambling. But let us consider what we gamble on today. We gamble on the football pools, on horse racing and dog racing, on bingo, on one-armed bandits in arcades and in pubs and on premium bonds. We gamble in casinos, at church fetes, at charity functions and even in pubs where there are various draws. One of the biggest gambles is on the Stock Exchange, with people buying and selling shares.

The Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976 set a limit of £180,000 on the total amount of prize money and a limit of £12,000 on the highest individual prize. Those limits were set in 1976. How much would that money be worth today? It would be worth very little. Unless people are offered the chance to win a big prize they will not go in for a lottery. Why else do football pool companies publicise their big winners? Joe Bloggs who wins £1.5 million is given terrific publicity. People think that if he can do it, so can they. There is nothing wrong with that. What will happen if we in this country do not go in for a lottery? I know personally and I have read it in newspapers that the organisers of continental lotteries will invite citizens of this country to put money into their lotteries. If that happens to any great extent money will leave this country to help the citizens of another country. It will not benefit this country at all. That would be a terrible shame.

I believe that we should have weekly lotteries. We should have El Gordo, which is what the Spanish call their big prize. In English it means "the fat one". Each main ticket should be subdivided, whether into 10, 20 or even 50 parts. If one buys one-fiftieth of a ticket and the big one comes up, one receives one-fiftieth of the top prize. I do not agree with the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, that such lotteries should be limited to the arts, sports and the environment. I appreciate what he means by "the environment" because he explained it very carefully in his article in the House Magazine.

The arts, the theatre and the opera cater for the few. My wife will kill me for saying this. The mass of the people do not go and probably are not interested in them. If we are to have a nationwide lottery, surely the proceeds should go to the benefit of all citizens, wherever they are, whether they are rich or poor, and whether or not they are interested in the arts. The Arts Council provides money for the opera and ballet which stage productions with extravagant costumes and settings. What is wanted is something more simple. Let us have opera and ballet but let us bring them to the people. Let us not spend so much of the grant on these fancy productions. By all means keep what we have for the few, but I am not interested in a lottery for the few. I want a lottery for everyone.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, specifically stated that he did not want lottery proceeds to go to schools and education. I disagree fundamentally with him. I believe that the vast majority of the money raised by a lottery should go to provide more facilities for schools and to buy highly sophisticated and expensive equipment for our hospitals, equipment which could not otherwise be supplied and which could help the sick and injured. I should like in particular for this money to go towards helping the disabled. They may be supplied with the basic necessities but disabled people have expenses which are not covered by anything else.

I am dyslexic. I have a little friend called Timothy Bakewell who is in a special unit in school. The equipment needed to teach him how to read and how to make his writing legible is expensive. In the case of my little friend I am not talking of someone who is backward. Tim has an IQ of 122. If we spread our net wider we shall help everyone in this country. We shall help not just the rich or the poor but everyone. We can plant our trees and do all those things. We can help to make this country a better place for all its citizens. That is what we require.

6.28 p.m.

Lord Charteris of Amisfield

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, not only on having won the lottery for short debates but on having chosen this subject when he won it. I hope very much that the Government will look seriously at making it possible for a nationwide lottery to be held.

I listened with the greatest respect to the views of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. I do not agree with them. We are, for better or worse, a nation of inveterate gamblers. It may not be a good thing that we are, but we are. There is every advantage in diverting that passion into charitable purposes as opposed to gambling on cards or on the horses.

My personal interest as chairman of the National Heritage Memorial Fund is that there should be more money for the arts and for the environment. The task laid on the fund by Parliament was to give financial assistance for the acquisition, maintenance and preservation of land, buildings and objects of historical or other interest to the heritage. I am putting in a firm plug here to say that if we have these lotteries, I hope that the National Heritage Memorial Fund will receive some of the lolly, because we need more money to do our job.

Those of us who work for the fund receive applications from museums and galleries because they need our help to purchase items. We also receive a great many applications from the National Trusts of England and Scotland and the other amenities societies because they wish to take over houses or to preserve our hertiage.

Perhaps I may say something about the museums and galleries. We must remember that their purchase grants have been frozen since 1985. That is nearly five years ago and this is happening at a time when the cost of works of art is rocketing. No one now asks for less than a million for a painting. That is absolutely terrifying. It is no good saying that museums and galleries have got so much stuff stacked away downstairs that they ought not to buy any more. Unless museums and galleries can buy they become fossils. It is absolutely essential that somehow or other they should have the power to increase or improve their collections.

When it comes to the National Trusts and the various societies for the preservation of woods and so on, it looks as if we shall be asked to provide as much assistance in the future as we did during the first 10 years of the fund's existence when we paid out £110 million. At least half of that figure was for buildings, woods, coastline, bogs, fens and flats. What is especially attractive about the lottery idea is the fact that it would tap new money. The amount of money available from generous benefactors, from trusts and from business sponsorship is limited.

The National Heritage Memorial Fund has never felt it right to appeal to any of those bodies for money to top up what the Government have given. The reason is that we think that it would be poaching. The Government have an obligation to keep us in funds, but organisations like the two National Trusts depend entirely upon subscriptions from the public for their survival. If we were to enter into the picture, we would take from them what they should be receiving.

As I said, I think that the lottery would tap a completely new source of money. Therefore I am much in favour of its introduction. I suppose that the greatest help for the arts and the environment so far as concerns my fund knowledge comes from the taxation system, the in-lieu provisions improving the douceur and so on. However, that aspect must be looked at separately.

I have but one further point to make. Even if we have lotteries they will not solve the problem. I know that the Government will remember that they have an absolute responsibility to put money into the arts and especially, if I may say so in a loud voice, into the National Heritage Memorial Fund.

6.33 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney

My Lords, perhaps I may begin by expressing my appreciation to your Lordships for allowing me to intervene in what I believe is called the "gap" of the debate. I did not put my name down to speak because I have an important engagement this evening in Putney and I did not realise that the debate would take place early enough to enable me to fulfil both obligations. I hope that noble Lords will return my impudence with the kindness of allowing me to depart after I have spoken. The reason I must go to Putney is that an important event is taking place there this evening. We are selecting our parliamentary candidate for the next general election. The process is devoted to the important task of enabling Mr. David Mellor to return to more lucrative work at the Bar as a QC after the next election. Therefore, I am sure that Members on all sides of the House will understand that I must be there.

However, before I depart I must say that I am in a little difficulty this evening because I find myself in principle on the side of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester but wondering whether in practice some good might come to the arts out of the proposal put forward by my noble friend—I think I can call him that—Lord Birkett. I find myself divided on the issue. I am quite sure, I suppose because of the puritan source from which I come, that gambling is wrong. The Labour Party has always taken that view. Indeed, it has been expressed trenchantly from these Benches in this House and from those in another place from time to time. We have always taken the view that a national lottery is not for us.

The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, pointed out that a large number of Catholic countries on the Continent run lotteries. That is the trouble with Catholics; they get it wrong. They fail to distinguish between what is important and what is not important. They sometimes miss the important matters and seem to favour the unimportant ones. Therefore in principle I find myself agreeing with the right reverend Prelate.

I am quite sure that nothing should be done to break the principle of ultimate government responsibility for the arts. I think that that is a vital and important principle. If the effect of a national lottery were to diminish the feeling of government responsibility and the amount of government investment in the arts, even to prevent it from increasing, then what is proposed is a thoroughly bad idea.

The reason that government support is vital is that it is distributed on a rational basis. The Government devolve upon the Arts Council the function of choice; in other words, it does not happen by chance. It is vital to the arts that this distinction of distributing money on a basis which is judged by people who know about the area to be the right thing to do is vitally important and in my view it should be maintained. It is precisely why the arts in this country have flourished during the period since the war. They have flourished because that method of distribution of funds has been maintained.

I am worried that the introduction of the proposed scheme may destroy this vital basis upon which the arts have thrived for so long in this country. It is why the arts in this country are better on the whole than those in the United States. It is interesting to note that the Americans are now moving back from commercial support for the arts to a larger degree of state intervention. In many cities it will be found that there is an excellent plurality of support from federal, state and city sources. In many cases that matches or sometimes even exceeds the totality of business and individual contributions, which is certainly an extremely vital part of arts support in the United States. For those reasons I am doubtful about the idea of a lottery.

However, whatever we may say, it may well be that we shall move in that direction. I do not know what the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will say to us this evening and unfortunately I shall not be present to hear his reply. I shall read it eagerly in Hansard tomorrow morning, or it may be that I shall be able to listen to a recording of the debate later this evening. It is important to discover whether he will maintain the position put forward very convincingly by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, on the last occasion when the subject was debated in this Chamber. She set out the position which has hitherto been held by the Government and did so very effectively. I could not quite discover the philosophical basis of her argument but it was very effective for all that. From our side it stems from a puritan background. Where it comes from on the other side we shall perhaps hear later.

Suppose nevertheless that the lottery is to come. What would be a good use for it? A good use would be for it to go to a beneficiary which is not yet receiving money; it could not then be dissipating government support. That point is vital. A beneficiary which has been almost totally neglected is the buildings for the arts, which are running down. The theatres are running down and getting into bad condition. There is no money to repair them. The museums are running down; the art galleries are running down. In many cases they are in quite a desperate situation. There is no money for this purpose.

Therefore if we could produce a substantial sum of money from a lottery—I am satisfied with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, that the money would be substantial—that sum would preserve the foundation on which our arts exist. Unless we have buildings in which to contain areas where people perform or which we can visit in order to see the valuable and enchanting objects which we have, the foundation on which the arts are based will not be there. So if we are to have a lottery it should be dealt with in that way. At present we are living off the fat of past investment and there is not much fat left.

If we do not invest in theatre buildings, no matter how much support we give to the arts, theatre activities will contract. In some places they may have to cease altogether. The only way to remove theatre buildings from risk and to ensure their care to very high standards is to create a really generous capital endowment fund, and this is a possible source for it.

There would have to be safeguards. The endowment fund for each theatre would have to be held and managed by an independent trust. I suggest that the freehold of the site or some substantial part of it should be held by a body such as the Theatres Trust. Here I must state my interest, for I was the first director of the trust and I am now its consultant.

My experience as Minister for the Arts tells me that much of what I have said about the theatre applies, as the lawyers would say, mutatis mutandis to buildings. Many of them are quite splendid but they are now in serious trouble. They house museums, art galleries and cinemas. Here is a cause for a national lottery which could do no harm. It would fill a gap which is not filled by any other means. It would be a good goal, as all of your Lordships would agree, if it could be done in that way.

However, I must come back to my roots here and say that fundamentally I do not believe that gambling is right. In the Labour Party our feeling has always been similar to our views about alcohol and perhaps even tobacco: a little of it does not do you much harm. A little wine does not do us much harm. But to have it encouraged on a national scale so that everybody becomes drunk is not a good thing at all. That possibly explains why we take the view that we do.

6.44 p.m.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I too am glad and grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has chosen such an interesting subject for his debate this evening. The debate comes at an opportune time because there has been considerable interest and much comment has been made recently about the possibilities of a national lottery. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, made out a persuasive and enthusiastic rationalisation of his case this evening. He gave a long list of mouth-watering opportunities which would arise from a national lottery One could only be attracted by the idea of the retention of pictures which would otherwise go abroad. There would be a greater number of theatres and greater flexibility for work within the theatres. There would be additional woodlands and parks and other benefits which the noble Lord described.

As all speakers have said, no one could possibly go against the benefits which the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, described this evening as coming from a national lottery. He had strong support from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. I thought that the latter's lust for the arts went rather too far when he even suggested that the proceeds from a brothel could go into the building of theatres. He would not take me with him there, and I am rather glad that a female is responding from these Benches this evening.

Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge

My Lords, I must intervene to ask whether, if the proprietress of a brothel came forward and said, "I have been earning money evilly for years. I want to give you money for the arts", the noble Baroness would not accept it. I should.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I am afraid that I see myself in rather a different position from that of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. I think I should not be drawn any further down that route.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the noble Baroness. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, was suggesting that the noble Baroness would be the recipient, not the donor!

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, I am grateful for that clarification. It brings much relief to my anxiety. I believe that everybody has agreed that the objective of raising funds for the arts is thoroughly acceptable. It was interesting to hear the historical background which the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, gave this evening. It is worthy of note that, as he said, the principle of state lotteries was accepted as far back as 1569, when the first recorded lottery took place under state auspices. It was mainly for the repair of the Cinque Ports. The system went on, as he again said, to cover an important objective: a lottery to buy and house a collection for the British Museum. Then in 1826 there came the last state lottery, following the recommendation of the Select Committee in the House of Commons.

However, even if lotteries stopped there, that has not been the case on the Continent. As noble Lords have said, at present all our EC partners have national lotteries. The total EC sales are now £11.6 billion. Much of this money is used for various good causes. I understand that the proposition put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has attracted a great deal of support. I have received a paper written by the Adam Smith Institute and copies of many articles that have been written. The interest and support are certainly there. Arguments have also been made regarding the dangers of powerful European lotteries anticipating the opportunity to fill Britain's void in the European lottery market. That telling point was made by the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, this evening.

For my part I wish to make one or two comments about the proposition, first from the gambling point of view. The moral question of gambling has been well covered by the right reverend Prelate this evening. It was difficult to disagree with anything that he said. I also wish to point out how a national lottery would affect other existing forms of gambling and then I wish to examine the fund raising aspect. I shall say a word about the mechanics of establishing a lottery. Finally I wish to put one or two questions to the Minister of which I have given him warning.

As regards gambling, it has been mentioned and it must be said that the United Kingdom has the greatest diversity of legal gambling to be found anywhere in the world. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, has mentioned most of the different forms. But, apart from the football pools, which is the biggest, there are premium bonds, horse racing and greyhound racing betting, betting shops, casinos, bingo, gaming machines and a multitude of small lotteries. So one might conclude that the appetite for gambling is already catered for, and that the arrival of a national lottery would undoubtedly take money away from this market, although I noticed this evening that several noble Lords thought that it would be new money that went into the lottery.

Attitudes towards lotteries as a form of gambling have varied over the years. There was a time when it was thought immoral for anyone to be able to gain a large sum of money without any skill or effort on his part. As I said, the right reverend Prelate made a very good case for that. Nevertheless it is evident that a more tolerant attitude has evolved towards gambling, so long as it is conducted under proper control.

On the matter of control, the 1978 Royal Commission on Gambling accepted the principle of lotteries, as the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said, but it made some very important points. As regards control, it stated: All lotteries must be strictly controlled. Lotteries may be socially harmless but they present greater possibilities for fraud than either betting or gaming, because the punter does not see what is happening to his money. Moreover lottery frauds often go undetected, because most people have little expectation of winning a prize and take for granted the integrity of those who organise the lottery. That was one of the many very good points that the Royal Commission on Gambling brought out with regard to lotteries.

My next point is the way in which lotteries are viewed from the point of view of fund raising. There is little doubt that it is reasonable and perfectly acceptable that proceeds provided by the public should be used to fund something needed by the public. The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, gave some very good examples. My noble friend Lord Jenkins, who has not yet gone, also provided some very good examples of how funds could be used, though I suspected that my noble friend rather wanted it both ways. It was difficult to go against gambling but yet to want to have the proceeds. So he wanted to have his cake and eat it, but I cannot say that I blame him for that.

What I do not think should happen is that money raised in this way should replace any kind of government funding. That is what my noble friend Lord Jenkins and other speakers said. There are many services which must be provided for and controlled centrally. Otherwise injustice and imbalance occur.

Although I know that this debate has nothing to do with the National Health Service, there was an appeal for the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children and so much money was raised for it that, in the end, it was felt quite certain that money was withdrawn from other children's hospitals which needed it as much or possibly even more. So that the system certainly created an imbalance for hospitals around the country. I see a danger that, if the proceeds from national lotteries were used to finance the arts, sports and the environment, government would be under a very great temptation to withdraw funding.

I should like to make one short point about the mechanics of setting up a lottery. A study made by a promotions company showed the necessary stages. First, and most important, the public must be in favour. Next it must be ascertained whether legislation is necessary. Then it must be decided what type of administration would be best to organise and run a lottery. Should it be a private commercial body, as in West Germany, a state-controlled body as in Holland or, as in Ireland, an independent, semi-state body running the lottery? Then there is the appointment of a lottery administration, the making of arrangements for the distribution of money raised, the prize structure and so on. So a very complex mechanism is necessary to produce a fair system which prevents fraud and makes for efficiency. There is little doubt that getting the right answers to these questions is critically important.

I should like to ask the following questions of the Minister. Can he say what representation, if any, he or his right honourable friend the Home Secretary has received from the general public who are either in favour of or against the introduction of a national lottery? Can he say to what extent foreign lotteries are mailing tickets to UK residents? I have heard of examples of this happening and I wonder to what extent it has gone on. Also can the Minister say what measures Her Majesty's Government have taken to prevent these lottery companies operating in this country? Can he say, too, whether there would be a need for new legislation to enable a national lottery to operate in the United Kingdom, or would present legislation be amended?

This is a difficult subject on which to take an inflexible position and I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, who said that lotteries are neither good nor bad, but they make a big difference. The day of the national lottery in Britain may be brought about either by public acclaim or by outside pressure, through trying to protect ourselves from the intrusion of foreign lotteries.

But may I end by saying something which has not been said this evening? It is mainly the poor who buy lottery tickets. This has been proved by experience in other countries. People buy tickets to win prizes and they do it because they need the money. I was asking an Irish parliamentarian yesterday about his experience in Ireland. He replied: "I would not have them any more. I have seen members of my constituency go to buy their lottery tickets sometimes on the way back from collecting their family benefit. That is where the new money comes from. It comes from people who want to make money out of the prizes. This is the danger."

So if it is the poorer group in society who invest the money, it is surely they who should benefit from the proceeds. It is for that reason that, if there was a national lottery, the proceeds should be channelled for a wide distribution. This is where I agreed with the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, and with the noble Lord, Lord Henderson of Brompton, who would have made the point if he had been able to speak today. It is the charitable organisations and voluntary agencies who could benefit from those funds. Some of them might put money into sport or the arts but, on the whole, they would put money into ways of assisting the people who invested money in these lotteries. I very much look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say in response to this debate.

6.58 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, this may have been only a short debate, and 0there may not have been so many of your Lordships participating in it, but for all that I have found it most interesting. I was deeply indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, when he said at one moment that he did not want a reply. I should have been happy to oblige, but I thought that it would be discourteous if I took what he said at face value.

What he wanted to do by raising this matter was to hear the climate of opinion, and he has done that. He made a very diverse and persuasive case himself and I heard a number of your Lordships side with him over that. It was interesting to hear the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester offer a cautionary approach to this business of gambling. He agonised over the principles of it and said that it might damage the social fibre of the nation. Each of your Lordships will have to consider whether that is so.

When I heard the right reverend Prelate speak, my mind was taken back to 20 years ago when the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester, as he then was, who subsequently became the Bishop of London, introduced a debate on gambling. In his speech he happened to refer to the fact that a certain club had opened in London. It was called the Playboy Club. It invited various Members of your Lordships' House to have membership for a year for nothing. The right reverend Prelate had also received that invitation. Together with the invitation came a small leaflet depicting the advantages of membership in glorious technicolour. I remember the right reverend Prelate saying, in that glorious episcopal phrase: I wish that such enthusiasm had been put to greater effect". I shall not follow the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, down the bizarre avenue that he introduced as to whether the arts should be supported by the proceeds of brothels. That extended the level of debate a good deal further even than the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, had intended. I shall explain the present position with regard to the law and policy on lotteries which operate under the Lotteries and Amusements Act 1976. Public lotteries in this country are in general permitted only as fund-raising activities of registered societies, such as charities and sports clubs, or of local authorities.

The law limits the total value of the tickets which may be sold and the amount of the maximum prize which may be offered in any lottery. The limits were increased last September so that in the biggest lottery the turnover may be £180,000 and the maximum prize £12,000. The limits are set at modest levels deliberately for a number of reasons. They aim to prevent the undue stimulation of what is after all a form of gambling—I know that that will meet with the approval of the right reverend Prelate—but they also allow small societies to compete with larger ones. Both because of their small scale and because they benefit charitable or other good purposes, those lotteries are specifically exempted from gambling duty.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, and the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, referred to the fact that we had lotteries until the early 19th century. I believe that the noble Earl asked why they stopped. The last British state lottery was held in 1826. Lotteries were then ended, not because of the problems of buying lottery tickets, which were too expensive for the majority of people, but because of the widespread illegal betting on the drawing of numbers in the lottery itself. A Select Committee set up in 1808 reported: by the effects of the lottery…idleness, dissipation and poverty are increased, the most sacred and confidential trusts are betrayed, domestic comfort is destroyed, madness often created, crimes subjecting the perpetrators of them to the punishment of death are committed and even suicide itself is produced". The right reverend Prelate might take succour from those words of nearly 180 years ago.

A major difference between lotteries under the current law and major lotteries is that in major lotteries the gambling element is seen to predominate over that of charitable giving. As the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, has said, there can be a distinct difference between a state lottery and a major lottery on a national scale. A state lottery is a lottery run by government. That would involve the state in the promotion of gambling, and if that were the noble Lord's proposal—which as he explained, it is not—I am bound to tell him that it would not meet with the Government's approval as it would run counter to our policies on deregulation and privatisation.

The idea of major lotteries on a national scale, though, is different. There could be one or more major lotteries. They would be privately run but they would have to be subject to regulation in order to protect both the punter and the intended beneficiaries. New legislation would therefore be required.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, referred to the fact that people in the United Kingdom are receiving lottery tickets from abroad. One might think that if that is so—I understand that it is—it is slightly ironic for a British person to be invited to take part in a lottery to build an opera house in Cologne when it is against the law to participate in a lottery to build an opera house in, let us say, Bournemouth.

The position is that it is unlawful to promote or to conduct major lotteries here, including lotteries based outside Great Britain. Some in West Germany and Canada have been promoted here by post and it can be difficult to curtail that activity. Action is being taken to deal with it. Customs and Excise has impounded quantities of promotional letters which were intended to be posted individually although they were imported in bulk. In addition, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has taken steps to end the attempts by lotteries which are based abroad to circumvent the law here.

The authorities in the Federal Republic of Germany have been alerted to the problem, and information is being exchanged with them with a view to stopping the posting here of invitations to participate in lotteries in West Germany. Similar action is being taken in respect of Canadian-based lotteries. In addition, since the beginning of the year Customs and Excise has impounded 390,000 envelopes containing material on West German or Canadian lotteries. It has alerted postal depots nationally to look for material.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford

My Lords, I hope that the Customs and Excise will not impound my winnings, if I get them, from a West Germany lottery in which I take part.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I suggest that the noble Lord waits to see whether he is lucky and wins before he comes up with such a speculative idea.

I was about to advise your Lordships in answer to the question asked by the noble Baroness that a trade organisation representative of British domestic postal distribution companies has warned and advised its members not to accept contracts for the distribution of foreign lottery material. Advertisements for some foreign lotteries have appeared in magazines here and the Gaming Board for Great Britain has drawn the attention of the publishers concerned to the provisions of our law. The publishers have undertaken not to carry such advertisements again.

Some people are worried about the position under the single European market. Our present understanding is that the law on lotteries will not be affected by its advent in 1992. A good defence of our prohibition on major lotteries could, if necessary, be made if the prohibition were to be challenged under the Treaty of Rome as it stands. I know that that would not satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, because he would not wish us to defend the prohibition: he would wish us to remove it.

It is right and sensible to consider some of the complex factors which a major British lottery would raise. The noble Baroness asked what representations the Home Office had received. In the past 12 months we have received representations about a major lottery from 30 people. Those representations are varied. Some have advocated or inquired about the merits of a major lottery or lotteries and some have complained about the attempted marketing here of foreign lotteries. I am sure that the noble Baroness will agree that that is not a good guide to public opinion.

The noble Baroness also asked a number of very penetrating questions. She asked: if we were to change the law, how would we set about it? Would the new law allow one national lottery or a number of them? Who would decide who would run and who would benefit from the lottery—the Secretary of State or a lotteries board? What would the criteria be for accepting one application but rejecting others?

If there were more than one lottery the advantages would be dissipated by the other contestants. The large prize money of £1 million or so, which has been mentioned by many noble Lords, depends on huge circulation. The greater the number of lotteries the smaller are the prizes and the smaller the benefits—and the less the attractions. If there were to be one lottery it is more likely that the prize money and the benefits would be considerable, but such a lottery would be a monopoly. The questions would then be: who should benefit from that monopoly and who should be denied that benefit?

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, is certain that that monopoly should be granted to the arts, sport and the environment, which were his particular hobby-horses. Those causes are undoubtedly worth while, but I fancy that there would be many other worthwhile causes which would come knocking at the door. The noble Earl, Lord Attlee, suggested some. He referred to dyslexia. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, asked who would distribute the money. That is a very pertinent question. I fancy that causes such as cures for cancer might be considered suitable targets, as might the homeless, the starving or animals. It would be no easy matter for Parliament or any quango to decide between the multitude of legitimate but competing interests which could bid for that privilege.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, referred to the Roundhouse, the jazz centre, galleries, woods, skating, and retaining pictures which would otherwise go abroad. I got the feeling that if only we had a lottery that would be the panacea for all our troubles and everything would be easy thereafter.

Even if it were decided which area of our national life should be the beneficiary, who would decide which opera house should be built and which should not, or whether a picture should be purchased or an orchestra assisted? Should those have priority over a football stadium? The noble Lord, Lord Charteris, made no bones about it. He wanted money for the National Heritage Memorial Fund. He gets a fair stack already, but that does not satisfy him. He wants more. He banged the drum very effectively for that cause. I fancy that the gentle rustle of sharpening steel would be deafening.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, was worried that the Government had reduced their support for the arts. The noble Lord, Lord Charteris, said that the Government must fund the arts. It is important that the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, should remember that we are giving 22 per cent. more money to the arts over the next three years. That is an additional sum. In 1990–91, £175 million is being given, 12.5 per cent. more than at present. That is well above inflation. The noble Lord would be the first to say that that is not enough but I hope he will agree that it is a considerable increase.

Vice and fraud are always just round the corner where any form of gambling is concerned. The whole exercise would have to be carefully controlled. A number of questions would have to be asked: has the draw been fair? Has it indeed been undertaken? Have all the purchasers participated? How many have participated? The greater the number of major lotteries the more those problems of regulation would arise. We would have to be careful too that if the purpose of the lottery was to be charitable in the loosest sense of the term the recipients were chosen because they were correctly deserving and not because they happened to have a public profile which would attract heavy participation in the lottery.

Successive governments, including our own since 1979, have allowed various gambling activities to go ahead, but only to the extent needed to meet unstimulated demand for them. All forms of major gambling here are therefore subject to a variety of controls ranging from restrictions on advertising to limits on the number of outlets. The evidence from other countries is that major lotteries require heavy advertising in order to attract maximum participation. Persistent public promotion might well therefore be a necessary condition if major lotteries are to be successful in this country. An exception of that nature for this particular purpose might be not too easy to defend.

Should a national lottery be free to advertise for example, on television and, as it were, to tout for participants, whereas established gambling interests such as football pools cannot? If football pools and the like were not also permitted to advertise they might reasonably complain of unfair competition. They would say that if there is only a certain amount of money floating about, as it were, in the gambling area it would inevitably be drawn away from those who are not allowed to advertise on television to those who are.

The total turnover of all pools, betting, bingo, casinos and gaming machines is about £10,000 million, of which some £2,400 million is what might be termed new money. Of that total the Exchequer takes about £1,000 million. So if we introduce a new form of gambling which has no tax attached to it, not only may all the existing members in the industry suffer but so also may the Treasury. If, in compensation, the lottery or lotteries were taxed, the profits would diminish accordingly.

Much of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, rests on the fact that major lotteries would attract new money only, leaving the expenditure on current gambling by the public unaffected. That is an untested proposition and experience in other countries may not necessarily be a reliable guide. No other country which is comparable to ours appears to have as varied a gambling industry as we have with which any new gambling enterprise would have to compete. It is commonly assumed that a major lottery would divert current spending, in particular away from the football pools. I suggest that there must be a limit to the amount of money which is waiting to find a home in the general area of gambling, although that was not evident from some of the speeches this afternoon.

The possible impact on charitable giving also has to be considered. A major lottery might damage the current modest lotteries which exist at present. The proponents of major lotteries, like the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, say that the evidence from other countries suggests that modest and major lotteries can thrive side by side. That may be so but such international comparisons need to be treated with caution.

There is then the question of whether a major lottery or lotteries might damage charitable giving. The right reverend Prelate said that there was not enough charitable giving in this country and that new lotteries might curtail even further what he believes is already inadequate. Let us assume that money could be attracted to lotteries which are designed for specific charitable or other good purposes. There is certainly some concern that the lotteries would nevertheless draw from a pool of money which charities as a whole could otherwise tap directly and more cost-effectively.

I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, will feel that I have made a somewhat negative and unhelpful speech. That has not been my objective. I have tried merely to indicate some of the curious slugs which start to crawl out from under this particular stone when one starts to move it. The noble Lord has put forward a very persuasive case for a national lottery. My aim has been to try to point out some of the difficulties which might arise if we were to go down that path. It has not been to question the merits of the environment, the arts or sport. Nobody doubts those. My purpose has been simply to lay before your Lordships some of the complexities which need to be taken into account if we are to look to lotteries to fund some of those requirements.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, said that he did not want a reply. I am not giving him a reply; I am stating a fact. I am bound to tell him that the Government have no plans at present to amend the law to introduce one or more major lotteries. However, I can assure him that we shall continue to consider whether, and if so how, some of those complexities might be addressed. The views which your Lordships have expressed this evening will be of great assistance.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, I am immensely obliged to everyone who has taken part in today's debate. As the noble Earl said, few though we were, many of the contributions were distinguished and thought-provoking, which is exactly what I had hoped. Obviously, in the few last minutes allotted to me, I cannot comment in general or in detail on what has been said, but there are one or two small points which might just as well be cleared up.

Many noble Lords have been worried that a scheme such as I proposed would encourage the Government—any government—to withdraw their support for the arts, sports or the environment. That was never my intention. I do not believe that that will happen. I should be able to persuade the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, the right reverend Prelate and the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, that I am talking about capital. Capital does not exist at present. I did not mention it as an example, but, if one wanted to build a home for the Welsh National Opera—at present all it has is a dotted line and no money—there is no way in which one could look to a fund or even to the Government. One might look to the Government, but it would not be fair to expect them automatically to say yes to something which cost about £60 million or £65 million. The fund would not conflict with or get in the way of present or even future arrangements in terms of revenue. That point was made by so many noble Lords that I thought I should make it clear that the scheme that I advocated did not have that effect.

I can reassure all those who wanted the money to go their way, including the noble Lord, Lord Charteris, that that is exactly the way it should go. The objects of the National Heritage Memorial Fund would be exactly paralleled by what I seek to do. It would have been a help to the noble Lord. I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, that I am talking about theatres and their upkeep.

I also agree with many noble Lords, including the noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, and the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, in that I recognise how difficult the security and organisational problems are and how difficult it is to choose who will adminsister the scheme in the end. I do not think that any of those problems are insuperable, however.

The noble Baroness, Lady Ewart-Biggs, thought that it was always poorer people who went in for lotteries. Everything that I have heard points to the contrary. American statistics show that it is the upper income bracket far more than the lower income bracket which go in for them, quite disproportionately so. The social effects predicted by the noble Baroness will probably not therefore come about.

There is no way that at this time of night I can contribute to the debate as to what the uses should be. In proposing such a Motion for the arts, sports and the environment, in whichever proportion, I recognise that other people will say that other subjects should be included. The disabled would automatically be included and would receive sums of money under any such scheme. However, there would be no resolution of the problem as long as the scheme lasts. As the noble Earl said, if there are too many lotteries, it spoils the point of having them. Is it fair to have a monopoly or a monopoly that breaks advertising conventions? I recognise those problems. They will have to be solved and I believe that they are soluble.

However, the interesting problem raised by the right reverend Prelate is not soluble. Does the question of lotteries relate to greed rather than charitable giving? There is no answer to that and I do not think that there ever can be unless there is a separate answer on every ticket. My own guess in practical terms is that, if one invents a lottery such as this with £1 tickets, even if there is a million pound prize, one knows that one's chance of winning is so remote that it is a vague pipedream. Even one's chance of winning £2 is likely to be about one in eight. It amounts to charitable giving with a little shiver of excitement just in case something else might happen. That is how most rational beings would look at the matter. I suspect that that will not reassure the right reverend Prelate on the subject of greed, but I believe that that is what would happen.

Finally, perhaps I may deal with the question of competition from abroad. I am interested to hear from the noble Earl what is being done to ensure that we are not overwhelmed with competition. However, I was struck by his recognition that, however much one may legislate, promoting or selling tickets for lotteries abroad will be easy. Whether it is before or after 1992 and whatever the legislation may be, I suspect that it will be difficult to stamp out competition completely. As the noble Earl said, it would be galling if a major enterprise arose in Germany out of British citizens' contributions to their lottery. We should be better off with our own.

That was how I started this evening. I must conclude by renewing my thanks to everyone who took part and to the noble Earl for such a considered reply. I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.