I have repeatedly made it clear that the Government intend to keep the guidelines to lottery distributors under regular review. The allocation of lottery funds, however, began barely eight weeks ago, and therefore I am not yet in a position to revise the guidelines.
Is the Minister aware that £680,000 of lottery money has just come to my constituency to fund a sports hall, yet that marvellous news was hijacked by the Liberal Democrats, who broke a press embargo 24 hours before the local elections, distributing thousands of leaflets in the constituency and claiming the credit? Is there not a case for reviewing this matter and ensuring that these sensitive announcements are not made during election periods, because otherwise people like the unscrupulous Liberal Democrats will hijack them and use them for electioneering purposes?
In these days of propriety, it would be improper for me to intervene in the arguments between Opposition parties. What I will say to the hon. Gentleman is that the announcement of the Sports Council distribution to which he referred was made not during an election period, but on the Friday after the election period was over.
We dream of getting £680,000 of the lottery in my constituency. I do not mind if the Liberals want to make the announcement first. I am an enthusiastic lottery punter and I look forward to winning the biggy so that I can clear off to the Caribbean, but a feeling exists in the east end that Camelot is creaming off far more than we are. Would it not be possible to have local committees that could take the money that goes into the lottery locally? We could then allocate some of the resources to good causes for the localities, rather than the money coming up to central London so that a bunch of toffs can allocate it to well-heeled Tories.
The hon. Gentleman's ambition to win the lottery and go to the Caribbean is widely shared on his behalf. On the suggestion that there should be local committees to distribute lottery proceeds, the different lottery distributors have set up structures to ensure that they are offered advice about the local scene before decisions are made. That is why the Arts Council takes the advice of the regional arts board, and why the Sports Council takes the advice of regional sports councils in making lottery distribution decisions. However, a national lottery needs to have a distribution process that culminates in an identifiable national distributor and that is subject, of course, to all the normal propriety disciplines imposed by the National Audit Office.
Is the Secretary of State aware that Cumbria, despite having 20 applications currently under consideration, has so far received nothing from the sport and arts fund? Will he draw to the attention of the great and good who distribute that money that Cumbria is not an offshore island and that it is time that something was done?
My right hon. Friend is an effective advocate of his constituents' interests. I am sure that his point will be taken on board. He will understand that a precise regional balance is not sought in each month's allocation but, taking the distribution programme as a whole, my right hon. Friend is right to say that we must ensure that proper regional balance is observed.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that there are far too many reviews? Surely there is no need for any review of the careful, and still recent, decision of the House that one quarter of the lottery's turnover should go to the five sets of good causes—the arts, heritage, sports, charities and the millennium fund. Will my right hon. Friend refuse to listen to the whiners, whingers, complainers and other small-minded and tiresome persons?
I shall certainly try to avoid listening to small-minded and tiresome persons. I agree whole-heartedly with my hon. Friend that we must allow the guidelines time to work before reaching considered judgments in assessing them. I repeat my original reply—that the Government will keep the guidelines under review. This is a new project, and clearly it is important that, as it matures, we learn the lessons of our experience.
Would it not be sensible to remove the existing requirement whereby the main distributive bodies are not allowed to seek applications but must simply sit and receive them? That system leads directly to the sort of disastrous decision taken over the Churchill papers. Surely it would be more sensible to take a more strategic approach, whereby the boards could consult widely with local authorities, business, trade unions and voluntary organisations to identify gaps and a proper pattern of provision.
The hon. Gentleman seems slightly at variance with the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), who was anxious that there should clearly be local input in the distribution process. One of the best ways is to ensure, before a lottery award is made, that there is clear evidence that the proposal has widespread and deeply felt local support. The most effective method is to ensure that lottery money is available to support local initiatives rather than engage in a kind of "goslot", which seems to be wanted by the hon. Gentleman.
The manner in which national lottery awards are publicised is a matter for each of the 11 independent distributing bodies. Distributing bodies are dealing with applications for funding as quickly as possible, given the need to ensure that their systems and procedures are robust and each application receives due consideration.
I congratulate the Government on a great success story—another one. The public would like a bit more information. Will my hon. Friend the Minister consider providing information about how much money has already been raised for good causes? The public would also like to know how much money has been given to good causes. Would it not be a good idea if the regulator published a list every month of all the awards made by the five agencies, so that the public could have a one-stop shop printout of all the awards made, without having to approach all the agencies that give them?
From memory, I can say that £495 million has been given to good causes, of which almost £60 million has already been allocated. As to my hon. Friend's interesting suggestion of collating information about the recipients of lottery awards and their value, if that were to help the House, I would certainly agree. My Department would do that, rather than the regulator. If the House wanted that information, we would certainly be prepared to place it in the Library at regular intervals.
Since much of the publicity surrounding the lottery and allocation from the lottery has not been helpful or in the best interests of this country and how it orders its priorities, is it not time that everything was re-examined? Many charities which have worked for years to raise money and ensure the protection of the most vulnerable in our society are now losing millions of pounds because of the way in which money is provided through the lottery and because many people think that, instead of giving directly to charity, spending money on the lottery is okay and the charities will somehow get it anyway.
On the first point, it is certainly true that there are lessons to be learned from the way in which the lottery is run. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, we shall certainly be reviewing that—perhaps after the first year or whatever seems a sensible time. The Charities Board is in fact a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary.