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Orders of the Day — National Lottery Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:22 pm on 14th June 2005.

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Photo of Theresa May Theresa May Shadow Secretary of State for the Family, Culture, Media and Sport 4:22 pm, 14th June 2005

Not only is it bizarre, it is unacceptable. It is particularly bizarre because the Minister needs to get the Bill through to establish the legislative backing for the Big Lottery Fund.

"We do not believe it would be right to use lottery money to pay for things which are the Government's responsibility."

We agree wholeheartedly—but those were not my words, they were those of the Prime Minister in 1997, spoken in the heady days of new Labour and cool Britannia—[Interruption.] The Minister says that he agrees with those sentiments.

Let us look at what the Government have actually done with lottery funding: £231 million has been spent on ICT training for teachers and school librarians; £93 million on hospital equipment, as my hon. Friend Mr. Johnson pointed out; £50 million on renewable energy; £42 million on the school fruit project; and, of course, there was the £45 million that the Government snaffled to pay for the Jamie Oliver school dinners project, trumpeted by the Secretary of State for Education and Skills as the Government's solution to the school dinners crisis. How many people bought their weekly lottery ticket thinking that the money would be spent on school dinners?

None of us would argue that those are not worthwhile projects and that they do not deserve support, but we take exception to the Government dipping their hand into the cookie jar to take money from good causes throughout the country. By establishing the Big Lottery Fund, the Government will establish in law the right to fund projects, through the lottery, that the taxpayer would rightly expect to be funded direct from Government. Training for school dinner ladies and the provision of hospital equipment are things that we all expect to be paid for by the taxes that the Chancellor raises, not to come from the coffers of charities and good causes. Every pound that the Government choose to snaffle in that way is a pound that cannot go to help community groups or to preserve our historic buildings.

The Minister claimed that the Bill will turn the lottery into something holistic and joined up. I say that the Government are turning the national lottery into yet another of the Chancellor's stealth taxes. I am surprised that we cannot see a great golden hand pointing down from heaven over No. 11 Downing street, because Members should have no doubt that, increasingly, the Chancellor will be a guaranteed lottery winner without even having to buy a ticket.

When the lottery was established in 1993 by the then Prime Minister, John Major, he was clear that its proceeds should be spent on the then five good causes: sport, the arts, charities, heritage and the millennium fund, which by definition was to be wound up by the end of the last decade. He was clear from the outset that lottery money should be used for additional spending on causes and activities that the taxpayer had not been able to cover. He said:

"By 'additional', I meant in addition to those existing resources already provided by the taxpayer through the Treasury."

This afternoon, the Minister told us that the additionality principle would not be eroded. In typical Labour sleight of hand, the Government have a new definition of additionality:

"Additionality has never meant that Lottery projects should be completely divorced from public services and existing Government initiatives. They must be additional and they can be additional in many different ways."

In the words of Stephen Bubb, who heads the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations—ACEVO:

"Good cause money mustn't be there to plug gaps in departmental budgets at the expense of charities."

The Government have carried out a smash-and-grab raid on lottery funds and the Bill will enable them to commit that crime again and again, without so much as an ASBO against them.