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The Government claim that the proposals outlined in the Bill will simplify the rules and procedures relating to lottery funding. I am afraid that my experiences in my constituency in the past eight years do not inspire me with confidence. The National Lottery Bill's stated aim is:
"to make the Lottery more responsive to people's priorities and to ensure that Lottery money goes efficiently to good causes."
Well, in Mid-Bedfordshire a good cause is apparently a primary care trust. I know that I am a new Member and could be forgiven for making incorrect assumptions, but is a PCT a good cause or something that should be funded by general taxation?
In May 2004, £237,000 was awarded to Bedfordshire county council to modernise school changing rooms. I quote from the report by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations—Mr. Foster also mentioned this—which said:
"Lottery funding should be additional to what should be properly spent by government and not a substitute for it."
School changing rooms and primary care trusts should be funded by the Government; they should not be additional to Government spending.
This may be a good point at which to remind ourselves of the Prime Minister's words. He said that funding should be used for good causes and not for things that should normally be paid for by the Government. The merging of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund has given Ministers control of 50 per cent. of the funding. Mid-Bedfordshire is bordered by Luton, South and Bedford and Kempston. In the past eight years £8 million of lottery funding has gone into my constituency. Luton, South has received a staggering £23.4 million. Bedford and Kempston have received an equally staggering £15 million. That undermines the political process. Many people in my constituency have applied for grants over the years and have been refused without being told why or how the money has been spent.
The Minister said earlier that when the public were asked where they wanted funding to go they said that they wanted it to go into health and education. I want to know how that question was asked. If the public were asked, "Would you like money to be spent on health and education via the lottery fund?", I think that they would have said no. The public want money to be spent on health and education out of general taxation. Inequitable funding serves only to undermine the political process. Such funding is by stealth, by the back door; it is inequitable and disingenuous. It makes a mockery of the original aims and objectives of the lottery, which were to support the arts and culture.
In 1997, my constituency received £50,000 for the arts and culture. In 2004, it received £12,000. In 1998, charities received £79,000 and so far this year they have received £6,000. I think that charities could be classed as good causes. In my constituency, spending on health and education has increased at the same rate as spending on the arts and culture, charities and traditional good causes has decreased. I have no wish to denigrate the many worthy schemes that money may go to in my constituency, in Luton, South and in Bedford and Kempston, but I should like the Minister to know that some worthy schemes have applied for funding. I have been contacted in the past few days by 12 of those schemes that have been refused. They could have been counted as very good causes.