The Government are committed to the fair distribution of lottery money across all groups and areas of the country and have provided a framework, by means of the National Lottery Act 1998 and policy directions, to ensure that that happens. This framework is already ensuring that a greater number of grants are being given to benefit communities right across the country. Lottery distributors now have schemes in place to focus funding on areas of need, including those in outer London.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I congratulate her and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on their foresight in choosing Pickett' s Lock in my constituency as the site for the new national athletics stadium. I wish them good luck in their negotiations with the International Amateur Athletic Federation in Paris next week.
For national and international sport to thrive, however, we need good-quality local and community facilities. I welcome the recent changes introduced by the Government, but local sports men and women in my constituency, which is a deprived area, are still missing out. What further steps can be taken to redress the balance?
I am delighted that my hon. Friend welcomes the decision by UK Athletics, supported by all bodies in sport, that Pickett's Lock in the Lea Valley in his constituency should be proposed as the site for the world athletics championship in 2005. The championship will leave a legacy for the sport of athletics, and we look forward to the negotiations and to the work that must be done to ensure that the event takes place here.
I agree with my hon. Friend that we must get all our community groups involved and that they should get support from the lottery. We can do more by getting the lottery bodies to be more proactive. I hope that Sport England will go out and talk to the community groups when it first devises its application, so that time is not wasted gathering support and information. That will also save money: consultants often spend a lot of money that belongs to community groups devising applications that could have been compiled if the right support from the statutory organisations had been available to start with.
I recognise that successful lottery applications must be of good quality and that they must be effective in regenerating local areas. However, when the Minister makes her regional assessment, will she disentangle from the rather large amount that goes to London the pretty considerable element that goes to national institutions, as opposed to the amounts that go towards more local requirements? There is a feeling in outer London, and it is not confined to the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Love), that we do not get a proper share of the cake devoted to our great capital city.
I think that the hon. Gentleman speaks for the many people who feel that their areas do not get a fair share of the national lottery. However, it is true that a lot of money went to very large, high-prestige projects in the first few years of the national lottery, but that is probably only natural. I hope that we can now turn our attention to getting the money down to the grass roots, where it can make a real difference. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will certainly do all we can to ensure that that happens.
I am pleased to be able to answer this question, as there has been much erroneous press reporting on the matter in recent days. All the funds in the national lottery distribution fund available for distribution have been allocated to the national lottery distributing bodies, and all but £200 million of this money—just 6 per cent. of the overall amount—has already been committed by them. Where money remains in the fund, it earns tax-free interest that goes to the good causes, not to the Government.
Will the Secretary of State confirm that the amount of unspent lottery charity money is now in the region of £3.5 billion, and that the amount being spent on good causes is only one sixth of the amount people spend on lottery tickets? That is less than half the proportion of lottery proceeds that it was intended would go to good causes. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that as long as the money stays in the Government's hands, it will be regarded—quite rightly—as yet another example of a Labour stealth tax? Does he accept that that stealth tax will damage the success of the lottery, just as the Government's other stealth taxes are damaging the British economy?
No, the hon. Gentleman is wrong. For a start, the money is not in the hands of the Government. Secondly, although there is £3.5 billion in the national lottery distribution fund, 94 per cent. of that—more than £3 billion—has been committed by the distributing bodies to particular applications. If the hon. Gentleman thinks—as he seems to—that all normal public accountancy rules should be jettisoned and that, when a project is approved, the entire sum should immediately be given to the project rather being properly fed out as the project is built or developed, I suspect that his right hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice and Howden (Mr. Davis), the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, might have a thing or two to say to him.
Will my right hon. Friend consider allocating some of that unallocated money to Chorley Little theatre, which has applied on several occasions? The theatre would benefit greatly from the money, if my right hon. Friend would consider helping it.
I hear what my hon. Friend says. I am sure that a properly submitted application to the Arts Council of England would receive proper consideration. It is not for me to decide such things.
As we heard a moment ago, the Secretary of State has personally pledged £60 million towards the building of a new national athletics stadium. Can he give the House a single previous example of a Minister making such a pledge, at any time since the introduction of the lottery, before an application was received or, indeed, considered by the lottery distribution body? Can he tell us what personal representations he has received from Sport England as to the legality of how that figure of £60 million was arrived at? Most importantly, will he tell us where the estimated extra £70 million needed to build such a stadium will come from?
No money has yet been committed, because there must be a proper application before that can happen. However, £40 million that would have had to be spent by Sport England to create temporary athletics facilities at Wembley has been saved from the exercise. That money and the £20 million that is being returned to the pot by the world of football will—it is hoped—be used for the benefit of athletics. That is a sensible proposal.
Will my right hon. Friend consider making representations to the distribution body about allocating funds to pigeon fanciers in my constituency? They cannot currently benefit from national lottery money because pigeon fancying is not considered a sport. Were my constituents to keep clay pigeons and shoot them, they would be eligible for the money. Will my right hon. Friend take action to show his support for the pigeon fanciers' campaign?
My hon. Friend is right to point out the—perhaps anomalous—fact that pigeon fancying is not statutorily regarded as a sport. Consequently, it cannot, unfortunately, qualify for Sports Council lottery funding. However, if, for example, it was taking place on a piece of derelict ground, it might be eligible for funding under the green spaces initiative of the new opportunities fund. My hon. Friend may want to hold discussions with pigeon fanciers in her area on how to identify ingenious ways of using the lottery system to their benefit.
With regard to Wembley, the right hon. Gentleman should know that the £40 million to which he referred is disputed by Sport England, and that there is no guarantee of the £20 million from the Football Association. It would be nice to have a little more clarity and less spin on the issue.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman's response to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Mr. St. Aubyn) betray the fact that, yet again, the biggest lottery winner of all is the Chancellor of the Exchequer? Not content with taking 12 per cent. in tax for every pound spent, the Government have ensured that a full third of the good causes lottery money will be syphoned off and used to support core Government spending programmes. The Government are now presiding over a mounting pile of lottery cash, which—as far as most of us can see—is being used primarily to offset the public sector borrowing requirement. With interest rates at 6 per cent., what rate of return is that cash earning? Is it 3 per cent—or 3.5 per cent?
What does the right hon. Gentleman plan to do to unlock the lottery logjam? Will he be having a word with his right hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), the Labour candidate for mayor of London, who seems to have some curious views on the lottery?
The hon. Gentleman is wrong about Wembley, as he has been throughout the discussion about it. He is wrong also about the national lottery distribution fund. As I have said, there is only £200 million of uncommitted funds within the NLDF. To ensure that there is no doubt in future about what is happening, I have asked that there should be quarterly reports from each of the lottery distributors, detailing exactly how much they have in the NLDF, what proportion of the funds is committed and what proportion is uncommitted, and their proposals for the spending of that money.
It is clear that the hon. Gentleman does not think that the creation of the new opportunities fund, with projects being supported related to health, education and the environment, is something that the lottery should be supporting. That is the line that he took at the Tory party conference. Does he want to see under, God help us, a future Conservative Government a complete abandonment of the new opportunities fund and an abandonment of the after-school clubs, of the healthy living centres, the cancer initiative and the green spaces initiative? That is precisely what he seems to be telling the House.