HL Deb 24 November 1994 vol 559 cc364-6

3.25 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether the first National Lottery draw has come up to their expectations.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, yes.

The Viscount of Falkland

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount for that rather bleak reply, because I believe that we have all had a rather jolly time. By all accounts, the lottery seems to have been a great success. It has obviously been a lot jollier for a very small number of people. Will the great impetus from the opening draw be maintained? I hope that the Government will ensure that the recipients of funds from the lottery will receive them rather sooner than was formerly planned. I understand that they are to receive them in a year's time. There will be great anxiety, which I can see mounting to near hysteria, if those bodies which expect to receive funds are not even told what they are to receive before the end of next year. Perhaps the noble Viscount will enlighten us in that regard.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the first week of the National Lottery has been a resounding success with around £45 million worth of tickets sold and a prize pool of £22 million from which well over 1 million people benefited. That is not a small number of people, which the noble Viscount seemed to imply.

The first contribution to good causes of £12.65 million was made to the National Lottery Distribution Fund for the five good causes on Tuesday 22nd November. The National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Sports Council, the Arts Councils of Wales and Northern Ireland, the Scottish Arts Council and the Sports Councils for Wales and Northern Ireland have already issued guidance to applicants for money. The Arts Council of England is to issue its guidance today; the Millennium Commission on 28th November; and the Scottish Sports Council on 1st December.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, we have heard a lot about all the money rolling in. Will he tell us when the charities will benefit from the money rolling out? Will he confirm that the charities board, the distributory body, is not yet operational? Will he tell us when that body will be operating and distributing the money to British charities?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, the National Lottery Charities Board faces possibly the most difficult task of all the distributing bodies, with well over 700,000 potential applicants for funds. It seems to be sensible that it should make sure that it gets it right, even if it means some delays in delivering the grants. It will be somewhat behind the other distributing bodies.

The Earl of Gowrie

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, although I have criticised the Government for the first ever cash cut in the history of the Arts Council—a cut which Scotland and Wales were spared—the National Lottery is, nevertheless, the best news for the arts and heritage industries in this century? From wherever one stands, the Government should be roundly congratulated.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, I welcome the support of my noble friend Lord Gowrie for the National Lottery. I am sure that he will be a distinguished chairman of the Arts Council and will have to make some difficult but, I am certain, wise decisions when it comes to dispensing the money.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, it is a fact that the National Lottery is a great success. However, is the noble Viscount aware that it would become an even greater success if there were more prizes rather than the exceedingly large ones that exist at present? The Government's great success in introducing the lottery would thereby be enhanced and the country would find it nice to indulge in.

Viscount Astor

My Lords, over 1 million people benefited in prizes from the first draw.

Lord Howell

My Lords, while we very much congratulate the Government on the success of the lottery, is the noble Viscount aware that charities have a great and legitimate concern? The over-the-top promotion of the first lottery, upon which £47 million was spent, is already leading to great concern among charities that they will suffer considerably, despite the 6p in the pound that they will receive from a lottery ticket which is designed to compensate charities for that loss. Can the Government assure us that they will keep such matters under observation? Will they also ensure that the BBC honours its Charter when advertising the lottery?

Viscount Astor

My Lords, we made that commitment during the passage of the Bill through your Lordships' House and I reiterate it. With regard to the BBC, it is a matter for the governors of the corporation to decide the conduct on the promotion of the lottery.

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