HL Deb 06 July 1995 vol 565 cc1240-2

3.11 p.m.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will conduct a detailed review of the operation of the National Lottery and its effect on charities.

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, all aspects of the National Lottery are being kept under review, but we believe that it is much too early in the life of the lottery to be considering making changes at this stage. The Government have made a clear commitment to monitor charitable income, and are considering how best this can be carried out.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford

My Lords, while congratulating the Minister on his new appointment today, may I ask him whether he is aware that I do not join in the arrangement to give him an easy ride? Is the Minister further aware that the National Lottery is rapidly becoming a national scandal as regards the income of charities? Is he also further aware that Camelot, the company that runs the National Lottery, is taking for itself in terms of expenses and profit, a sum in the region of 10 per cent. to 12 per cent. of the weekly income, and that the contribution to charity has dropped from the projected 8 per cent. to only 5 per cent., while medical charities in particular are suffering as a result of that drop in income? Will the Minister today give an absolute guarantee that the Government will make good the shortfall in the income of medical charities, otherwise how can we cure illness if we cannot do medical research?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Ewing, is muddling two slightly separate things. Of course, we are all in favour of having as much research into medical matters as possible. At the same time, it was Parliament that set up the National Lottery and stipulated the way in which the proceeds of the lottery should be distributed as and when they were available. It is not right to look at this matter in terms of a particular shortfall in one area or another of charitable giving and spending. We now have a new situation. It is important for your Lordships to realise that it appears that charities as a whole may be benefiting by up to £320 million a year over and above the revenue they had before. We do not accept that it is necessarily the case that charitable giving has in fact declined because of the lottery. Because we take the matter seriously my noble friend Lady Blatch has had discussions with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. The Government are still considering how best it can take the matter forward so that we can debate this issue on the basis of fact rather than surmise.

Lord Mason of Barnsley

My Lords, is the Minister aware that up to 26th June this year 486 projects received lottery funds to the tune of £95 million, including the arts, the environment, sports, etc., and yet not one penny has gone to one project covering medical research? Can the Minister tell the House when medical research, and especially cancer research, will benefit from lottery funds?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, it is important that your Lordships understand the way in which the lottery money is divided and distributed. It is divided according to a formula laid down in the Act and then distributed according to a timetable. The National Lottery's Charities Board is not making any grants at all until October. It is up to that body to determine how it distributes the money which it will receive from the lottery. While it has indicated that it will place priority at this stage on charities concerned with poverty, it has not excluded the possibilities of medical research or, for that matter, any other charitable purpose, if it feels that the applications made are appropriate to receive disbursements.

Lord Aberdare

My Lords, has my noble friend had time to be aware of the fact that the income of the Football Trust has been reduced by 40 per cent. since last year, and that although we have been able to help the larger clubs to a very great extent, we are now facing great difficulties in providing help to the smaller clubs whose own resources are much less?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I thank my noble friend. I am aware of the problem to which he alludes. But there has been a reduction in pools' duty. In addition, I understand that the way in which the football pools themselves have been conducting their own business has changed. We believe that that will go a significant way towards ensuring that they recoup some of the losses which they believe they have suffered.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, is the Minister aware that when this matter was last discussed at Question Time in this House on 6th June, his predecessor stated—reported in Hansard at col. 1259—that the research into the impact of the National Lottery on charitable income had begun? Shortly after, in a letter to a colleague in another place, he adjusted that position and said that it had not yet begun. Will the Minister take this opportunity to help the House and clarify the exact position?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am delighted to be able to clarify what appears to be a degree of misunderstanding on this matter. I can confirm that the Government have given a commitment to monitor the effect of the National Lottery, and that they are still considering how best to take this forward. I hope that that makes the position clear beyond any doubt.

Baroness Rawlings

My Lords, perhaps I may add my congratulations to the noble Lord. Is he aware that the National Lottery has not been detrimental to all charities? Is he further aware that the British Red Cross Society has actually augmented its funds in its 125th anniversary year, having raised more money than ever before?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend. The British Red Cross is a most worthwhile charity, so it is encouraging to hear that it is doing so well. As I said in response to an earlier question, it is important that we deal with this kind of topic on the basis of evidence rather than supposition.

Lord Craig of Radley

My Lords, can the Minister confirm that the Treasury receives week by week 12 per cent. of the total takings from the sale of lottery tickets in the previous week? In view of the fact that the lottery is such a financial runaway success, will the Government consider reducing that 12 per cent., as it already represents over twice what each of the individual five good causes are earning?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, I am most grateful for that remark. I know of no current government plans to do what the noble Lord suggests.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, I join in the congratulations that have been expressed to the Minister. Does he agree that, although it may be too early to measure the overall effect on the income of charities as a result of the operations of the lottery, there are some specific effects which are already discernible? Is he aware that one of them is the enormous drop in the level of funds allocated to the arts by the charitable organisations sponsored by the football pools? Is he further aware that these losses are not going to be made up from other sources, and that many of the arts bodies have to face discontinuities in their income which are severely embarrassing?

Lord Inglewood

My Lords, as in all matters, the world is continuously moving on. One has to try to deal with these matters in the context of the realities of the time in which we are living. The National Lottery is now part of British public life, and that is something which organisations will have to take into account when making their plans.