Weekly Lottery Draws

Oral Answers to Questions — National Heritage – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 3rd March 1997.

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Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 12:00 am, 3rd March 1997

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what discussions she has had with the Office of the National Lottery regarding the introduction of additional weekly national lottery draws. [16710]

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

That is a great pity; it shows just how out of touch the Secretary of State is with the way in which people feel about the second weekly draw. Camelot could have used separate numbers for the second weekly draw, but it deliberately chose not to do so. Some 50 per cent. of people who play the lottery use the same numbers, so they are automatically dragged into the lottery. Camelot is now talking about a third weekly draw. When will the right hon. Lady get a grip on the matter? This is her last appearance as Secretary of State answering questions on national heritage, and all Opposition Members are very pleased about that, but she still has a few weeks left to get a grip on Peter Davis, the toothless Oflot watchdog, and to try to ensure that Camelot looks after the people who play the lottery, not itself.

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage

There is no question of the lottery being anything other than extremely carefully regulated. Parliament laid down the regulator's duties: he must protect players' interests, ensure propriety and ensure that the return goes to good causes. I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman's constituency has already benefited from 13 awards of more than £1 million. In his area of London, another nine awards for well over £1 million are providing regeneration and worthwhile activities and opportunities for the young. So far, there has been no evidence of excessive participation—the average household spends about £2.40 a week, which is much less than a packet of cigarettes. There will be no further activity if it might jeopardise the good name and effectiveness of our very successful national lottery.

Photo of Nigel Evans Nigel Evans , Ribble Valley

I partly support the idea of using a different set of numbers for the mid-week game, but does my right hon. Friend get as brassed off as I do by the moaners and whingers on the Opposition Benches who can see no good in the national lottery? We have the most successful national lottery in the world; it has raised more than £1 billion for good causes, some of which involve small rural activities that have never received grants in the past. At one stage the Opposition wanted to cap the limit on prizes, but they changed their mind when they discovered how successful the national lottery was. Is it not about time that they started to spread the good word about the national lottery and stopped moaning and complaining about it?

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage

Good news is always bad news for the Labour party. Its attitude to the national lottery is an example of its endless meddling and tinkering. Labour Members could not bring themselves to support the national lottery on Second Reading.

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage

No. They sat on the fence and abstained. What we are now hearing is a "united" Opposition who are only too keen to demonstrate that they all did different things—I believe that to be true, and I think that many others do too. They deeply resent Camelot because it makes a profit—they are hostile to success and want to penalise anybody who has made a profit. They said that they would cap the prizes, but now believe that that is unpopular. Most of their suggestions about the lottery look like applications for a Sports Council kite-flying prize. As for the rest of us, we thank goodness that the national lottery was introduced by this Government, that it was this Prime Minister's idea and that it is enormously benefiting the towns and cities of this country.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Party Chair, Liberal Democrats

What action does the Secretary of State propose to take to deal with the legitimate concerns of the football pools industry about the impact of the mid-week draw on its fortunes and, in particular, on the Foundation for Sport and the Arts? Does she believe that she can save that valuable institution?

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage

I accept the difficulty that many of the pools organisations have had, and it is important to ensure that we can support the various initiatives that they were assisting. However, at a time when £441 million has already been spent on 2,603 awards for sports, we can see that sports in this country are benefiting as never before.

Photo of Mr Donald Thompson Mr Donald Thompson , Calder Valley

Did my right hon. Friend hear any complaints about the national lottery when she visited my constituency a few Fridays ago, and met business women and some of the ladies and gentlemen who have benefited from the £2 million of lottery money and millennium money that my constituency has received in the past few years?

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage

I enormously enjoyed my visit to my hon. Friend's constituency. I was delighted to meet carers and the group from the nursery class. Last week, I was struck to learn that, apparently, 277 playgroups have already received lottery awards, and as the figures come through, it becomes progressively more exciting to see the difference that they make. Above all, I commend my hon. Friend's youth council. Last week, we launched our "Young people make a difference" strategy, which is intended to ensure that all young people who want to volunteer can do so. There is now up to £500 million available for youth volunteering initiatives, and I also announced up to 130 posts at volunteer bureaux with youth facilitators. I believe that that will make a lasting difference to our young people and our communities, which I know will be extremely welcome to all responsible citizens.

Dr. John Cunningham:

Does the Secretary of State recognise that the football world will be deeply disappointed by her response in respect of the Football Trust? The trust's income has decreased by two thirds as a consequence of the huge success of the national lottery in raising funds; that in turn has prevented the essential safety work on football grounds that the public, fans and all those who love our national game want. Is it not clear that there are extenuating—indeed, very special—circumstances, and should she not join the Labour party in our commitment to make up that shortfall with money from the national lottery so that essential ground safety work can proceed?

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Secretary of State for National Heritage

As ever, Labour Members look for a cloud over every silver lining—they are desperate to look for the downside. If ever anybody had any doubt about how Labour Members would treat the national lottery, they have heard this afternoon that there would be meddling, tinkering and interference. There have been 355 lottery awards for football—never has so much gone into sport and into football in particular. Those of us with slightly longer memories than the right hon. Gentleman will recall that Euro 96 was a spectacular success and that our stadiums are among the best in the world, which had a great deal to do with the Government and the steps that we took to ensure that.