The right hon. Gentleman's statement will be viewed as utterly reckless and ill considered. It has been presented entirely for electoral purposes. That is shown by the Home Secretary's wild departure today from the Government's statement on this very subject on 17 January. The forthcoming election has caused that.
There have been no consultations with the pools companies. We spoke to them this morning and they are annoyed that the Government have reneged on the promises made by the Under-Secretary of State, who is in his place, on 17 January.
The nature of gambling in Britain is such that none of us here today even knows whether a national lottery is viable—[Interruption.] We do not know. For example, we do not know what form of regulation would be used vis a vis the pools. We do not know what the taxation will be. Will it be 37·5 per cent. as it is for the pools? It would be irresponsible of hon. Members on either side of the House to talk about £1 billion in prizes for good causes when none of us knows what the figure will be.
From his experience of other EC countries, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the probability of two long odds gambling regimes co-existing is very doubtful? There are serious risks. The Belgian experience, to which he referred, was that the pools were wiped out within three weeks. In Britain, that would mean the loss of one third of a billion pounds to the Exchequer. The Government are not bothered about that any more. They are spending money like water—borrowing, borrowing, borrowing.
There are 6,500 full-time jobs on Merseyside and 70,000 collectors' jobs that need to be considered. The right hon. Gentleman had little to say about that. We are also worried—and I cannot underline this enough—about the effect that the lottery could have on charities, especially small charities. It could undermine a great deal of good work in this country. The Labour party wants to ensure that the charities are properly protected.
Labour party policy is to review the fund-raising arrangements for sport, the arts, charities and other bodies, and we will do so when we form the Government in the next few weeks. As we said in September 1991, we shall sympathetically consider the question of a national lottery while ensuring that the football pools and charities are properly protected.