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Orders of the Day — National Lottery Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 7:00 pm on 14th June 2005.

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Photo of James Purnell James Purnell Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Media and Tourism), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 7:00 pm, 14th June 2005

I thank Mr. Swire for his kind remarks at the beginning of his speech. It is a genuine pleasure to make my first speech from the Dispatch Box in such an interesting debate. There have been many excellent contributions from all parties, including from several new Members.

My hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Ms Smith) and for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon) showed their passion for their constituencies and their genuine understanding of the issues. I was impressed by the speech of Mr. Horwood, and James Brokenshire made some strong points. Debate on and scrutiny of the Bill as it proceeds will benefit greatly from the knowledge of people who have clearly had experience before entering the House of matters that are highly relevant to it.

We start with some common ground between the parties. We all believe that grants should be made independently of Government and that the money should be spent as efficiently as possible and with as little as possible used on administration. There is also common ground on the reforms that need to be made to the competition for the next licence.

Mr. Foster made some points about the licence. I hope that I can reassure him by saying that it is, indeed, our intention to have one major licence. The powers in the Bill are only back-stop powers should we fail to obtain the right outcome. It is worth saying that the signs are encouraging at this stage. Several organisations have shown an interest in the next licence, and we therefore hope to get a good level of competition. The powers to break up the contract into smaller contracts exist to be used only if there are problems with getting one major contract. We hope that those powers, including the changes that we are making to the National Lottery Commission, will enable a smoother and more effective process than that which took place last time.

I hope that I can reassure the hon. Member for Bath about promoting the lottery. The proposed changes are not intended to promote playing the lottery—they will not promote the sale of tickets—but to promote its benefits, especially support for good causes in general. There was previously a constraint and a concern that lottery distributors could promote only their good causes. The proposals will give them more freedom to promote the lottery overall. The idea behind that is that the greater the trust in the lottery overall, the greater the number of sales and thus the greater the amount for good causes. I hope that those two points will reassure the Liberal Democrat Opposition.

Several points were raised and I shall try to answer as many as I can. [Interruption.] I shall try not to take three hours—I do not think that I would make it back on to the Terrace alive if I did that. Several detailed points were made but it is worth starting with those that are of genuine concern to voters. My hon. Friends the Members for Caerphilly (Mr. David) and for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) made important points on anxieties about access to lottery funds by constituencies that are away from the metropolitan centres and that had experienced genuine problems with access to grants under the old regime, before the changes that we introduced in 1998. That should concern hon. Members of all parties because, without support from constituencies throughout the country, it would not be a genuinely national lottery, there would be no genuine support and the amount of money raised through ticket sales would fall.

My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly made a crucial point about the need to integrate lottery spending into local strategies and to give distributors more flexibility to ensure that lottery money is spent in tune with local priorities. That is one of the Bill's key objectives.

Several hon. Members, including Mrs. Dorries, mentioned additionality. The subject has clearly worried people, and we have been accused of breaching additionality and thus reneging on the principle laid down either by John Major or the Prime Minister. I want to make it clear that we are doing no such thing. We are putting in place the same framework on additionality that existed in 1993 when the original Act came into force. The only difference is that we have taken account of what the public tell us are their priorities.

We do not decide that the Government should spend money on one cause and not another. We do not claim that the Government should spend money on education but not on the arts or sport. The logic of the Opposition's position is that the arts, sports, heritage and charities are not Government priorities. I presume that they do not claim that, owing to the changes that they advocate, they would reduce the amount of money in grant in aid for the arts and sport, heritage and charities. The arts and sport are Government priorities in the same way as education and health. We should decide on the basis not of the causes but the projects.