Clause 14 — Functions

Orders of the Day — National Lottery Bill – in the House of Commons at 4:34 pm on 19th January 2006.

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Amendment proposed: No. 11, in page 9, line 13, leave out 'comply with' and insert 'take account of'.—[Mr. Mark Field.]

The House divided: Ayes 171, Noes 259.

Division number 131 Orders of the Day — National Lottery Bill — Clause 14 — Functions

Aye: 171 MPs

No: 259 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Question accordingly negatived.

Order for Third Reading read.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport), Department for Culture, Media & Sport 5:13 pm, 19th January 2006

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I suppose that this would be a good time to thank all those who have been involved in the passage of the Bill, so I start by thanking the members of the Committee and all hon. Members who contributed on Report and, indeed, on Second Reading back in the summer. I especially thank the hon. Members for East Devon (Mr. Swire) and for Bath (Mr. Foster), who led for the Opposition in Committee and, in the latter case, on Report. Both hon. Members were nothing but dogged in their determination to test me on certain points. Hawkeye, as the hon. Member for Bath is now called, must undertake midnight reading of explanatory memorandums to ensure that everything is right with that as well. Of course, the doggedness of the hon. Member for East Devon actually paid off, and I would seriously like to congratulate him on his promotion to shadow Secretary of State. As I said earlier, I welcome Mr. Field to his post and have no doubt that we will clash over the Dispatch Box in the future.

The National Lottery Bill has been debated for a long time, as the hon. Member for Bath said. When we look at legislation in great detail, it is easy to lose sight—as we sometimes do in Committee—of the overarching principles. The Bill will allow money to go to the good causes that are funded by the lottery. The formal creation of the Big Lottery Fund out of the merger of the Community Fund and the New Opportunities Fund, and the dissolution of the Millennium Commission, will yield a predicted £6 million to £7 million a year more. That money will be available to be spent across a range of good causes. It is good to be able to say to our constituents that more money will be available. We all know of many examples in our constituencies whereby lottery funding has made a difference to the lives of individuals and, on many occasions, to communities as a well. Once the Bill is passed, we can look forward to our constituencies receiving even more money from lottery funding and to the lottery as a whole becoming more open and responsive to those who play it.

By enabling the public to have a say on lottery awards and the awards made in their communities, we will build on their confidence in the lottery. I can only reiterate that people vote with their feet—or their pockets—and if that can be taken as a sign, then the lottery is in good health. I said in Committee that the lottery came on to the statute book under a Conservative Administration. We have modernised it, and it is something of which we can all be proud. The lottery is now an institution. It is well respected, which is why people continue to play it. All the indications that we got from the consultation are that it is well respected and is doing a good job.

There have even been lottery funds for the constituency of Mr. Walker. The heroes return programme allows people who saw active service during world war two to fund commemorative visits. Of his constituents, it enabled six veterans, one widow, three spouses and seven carers to travel to France. That is what the lottery is all about. It can make all the difference to such brave people. Although the programme received a small amount, it probably changed, or at least enriched, their lives in a way that nothing else could.

The Bill exemplifies what we always say: that the lottery has been, and will continue to be, independent of the Government. It also paves the way for a streamlined and easier application process for lottery grants with the one-entrance approach. Stephen Dunmore and the staff at the Big Lottery Fund are working hard to ensure that once an application is made, it gets to the right department in an efficient way.

Under the Bill, the Government will take a lighter touch at the highest level on directing the way in which lottery money is spent. In addition, through the Bill, we will underline our commitment to ensuring that lottery money gets out of the door and into communities where it can do good as fast as possible.

Photo of Peter Bone Peter Bone Conservative, Wellingborough

When I was canvassing a few years ago, I knocked on a door that was opened by someone who said, "You Tories are wonderful", which was not the usual response at the time. He continued, "You brought in the national lottery and we won £50,000."

However, my serious point is that two villages in my constituency, Wollaston and Irchester, want to build a community hall. They have been turned down by the lottery, and I do not understand why. Does the Minister think that the Bill will make it easier for them?

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

Very much so. I hope that the one-door approach to the Big Lottery Fund will help those villages. It will be able to solicit applications and give advice, which will also help such applications. The lottery has evolved over the decade or so in which it has been in operation, and it is now sensitive to such needs. I am not saying that it is perfect, because it will not be, but we will continue to review it against the background of the consultation. The Big Lottery Fund fits in with the public mood. It is important that it is transparent and has credibility and integrity, because then people will continue to play it. That is why it is the great institution that it is. All in all, the Bill creates a framework that will allow the lottery to continue to be modern, dynamic and successful, so I am delighted to commend it to the House.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) 5:19 pm, 19th January 2006

It is a great pleasure to make my Front Bench debut speaking on the culture and arts brief. I noticed with horror, however, that in my previous incarnation as the shadow Minister for London and the shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury I confessed on my website to a cultural expertise that extended only to a passion for rock and pop music. I will have to do better in future.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

Indeed, but I will have to do better in future, not least because the Royal Opera house and the Royal Albert hall are both in my constituency. As Mr. Foster and the Minister pointed out, the Bill's passage has been long and drawn out. Second Reading took place as long ago as June, and the Committee stage meandered through October and November. As a conscientious Opposition, we have endeavoured to table reasonable amendments, and I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Windsor (Adam Afriyie), for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) and for Broxbourne (Mr. Walker) for their sterling efforts in Committee.

While some progress has been made, we remain concerned about a number of provisions in the Bill that undermine the fundamental principles of the national lottery. We shall continue to oppose in the strongest terms the vastly increased Government control and direction over the distribution of lottery funds. It is unacceptable that money should be withheld from the original deserving causes to be channelled into areas for which state funding should be preserved. Furthermore, the lottery was set up to improve the daily quality of life for all people in Britain by earmarking funds for activities that might otherwise be neglected in the everyday distribution of tax receipts.

In short, the flagrant breach of the additionality principle has fuelled the public's faltering confidence in the lottery. Controversial awards are always meat and drink to an ever more voracious press, but a strict focus on directing lottery receipts to the arts, heritage, sport and charity would doubtless minimise such criticism. Additionality is a principle that has been widely recognised, and political concern about it took up a significant part of our debates both on Report and in Committee. There is no doubt in our mind that the Big Lottery Fund has been used and, we presume, will continue to be used to replace core Government expenditure. We therefore sought to introduce a new clause that would provide a double lock in an effort to apply the principle that lottery money should not be spent on the services and works that are usually provided by Government. That applies not only to the Secretary of State in her activities but to the distributing bodies in their strategic plans. The additionality principle is central to all that is best about the national lottery, and it is highly regrettable that the Government have sought to flout it.

It was understood by Members on both sides of the House when the original lottery legislation proceeded through Parliament that Governments of whatever party should maintain an arm's length relationship with lottery operations and, perhaps more important, all aspects of grant distribution. Since 1997, however, there has been a systematic and presumably focus group-led strategy to allocate lottery money to projects whose funding should be the responsibility of the Government. When the Millennium Commission was wound up in 2001, its one-fifth share of lottery funds was transferred to the New Opportunities Fund, thus accounting for one third of good causes money in health, education and the environment. Inevitably, the strain on the public purse has resulted at the very least in the emergence of a grey area, with health and education funding for projects divided between departmental budgets and New Opportunities Fund expenditure. Expenditure on healthy living centres and a programme to provide cancer equipment in England has taken up almost £400 million of lottery resources, which has been spent on projects that, arguably, should be regarded as mainstream NHS responsibilities. The same applies to the information and communications technology training for teachers and the school librarians initiative and the out-of-school-hours learning programme, which account for a similar aggregate sum in education.

The Conservatives would like a more transparent system. The Big Lottery Fund has been charged over the past 18 months with the distribution of half the good causes money from the amalgamation of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund. We believe that the latter should be restored, and that by scrapping the Big Lottery Fund we would save some £450 million, which would be released annually for charities, sport, arts and heritage.

We appreciate the need for a special London Olympic lottery initiative before 2012, but otherwise we favour a system granting 25 per cent. of lottery funding to each of the four pillars of the lottery that I just mentioned. That would help restore confidence in a distribution process that has increasingly become discredited in the eyes of the general public. Indeed, the Conservatives estimate that the four original causes have missed out to the tune of £1.29 billion in the five years to 2004.

We remain doubtful of the Government's wisdom in inserting clause 19 to widen the definition of charitable expenditure. We hope that a full debate will take place on the matter before the Bill goes to another place.

Where does the national lottery go from here? I have a small confession to make. I am one of the small minority of people who have never played the national lottery. [Hon. Members: "Shame!"] That is not because of my technical inexpertise, but I have always regarded it with a somewhat puritanical eye.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

I will take the hon. Gentleman to the nearest newsagent and help him fill in one of the lottery forms.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

I will accept that kind offer only if the Minister will also pay the £1 fee that is required for the purchase of such a ticket.

It has always struck me as somewhat perverse that the tabloid press pillories those who have earned large sums of money in business activity, in contrast to the tabloids' championing of multimillion-pound lottery winners. Only last week in the national newspapers it was reported with distaste that thousands of workers in my City of London constituency were awaiting bonuses of £1 million or more, yet to earn similar sums or multiples of such sums by guessing six numbers on a national lottery ticket is regarded as legitimate and a desirable outcome.

Although I am not a supporter of what has become a highly progressive tax on lottery players, I believe that the House owes it to those who do play the game to promote transparency in what has become a national institution. Too much control over lottery distribution in the hands of the Secretary of State cannot be a sensible approach to a national lottery that is designed to serve all the people of this country. We shall take urgent steps to restore public confidence in our lottery by reducing both governmental and ministerial interference.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 5:27 pm, 19th January 2006

I begin by thanking the Minister yet again. All my speeches this afternoon have begun by thanking the Minister. I have been pondering whether to reproduce and include in the next edition of "Focus" to go round the Bath constituency the Minister's praise in the form of my new nickname, "Hawkeye", and his comments a few minutes ago. I am grateful for his praise and for the fact that he began by thanking a large number of people for their contributions during the lengthy passage of the Bill—we have had almost 60 weeks of opportunity for consideration since its First Reading on 25 November 2004. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pass on my thanks to his officials, who have been extremely helpful in discussing the Bill with me and with members of the Conservative Front-Bench team.

We have had a useful debate today. Unfortunately, however, in view of a range of other things that have been going on in and near the Palace of Westminster today, it will get limited coverage. In the House we had reference to sex, we had a statement on drugs, and we have just heard from Mr. Field a revelation about rock 'n' roll. Other things have been going on in the various campaigns for the leadership of my party. I suspect, therefore, that our deliberation on the lottery will not get a great deal of coverage, although I note with interest that the lottery more generally is likely to arouse a great deal of interest, bearing in mind the £85 million jackpot on offer, following nine roll-overs. I understand that tickets are currently selling at the rate of about 100,000 an hour, so whatever our deliberations about good causes, we know that they will get more money in the near future.

Notwithstanding the limited publicity the debate has been important, and we have made good progress. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have praised the distributors' work on the lottery and pointed out that nearly 200,000 causes, many of which are universally popular, have benefited from lottery funding. We have discussed how lottery distributors are making it easier to apply for lottery grants, although I have argued that more progress is needed. Work remains to be done to persuade the public about some of the grants and not to believe everything that they read in their newspapers. Earlier, I referred to the claim in today's Daily Mail that St. Paul's cathedral has had to pull out of lottery funding for certain reasons, which have turned out to be entirely incorrect.

The distributors still have a lot of work to do publicising their good work. Although we did not persuade the Minister on this point, we have discussed the importance of ensuring that the lottery distributors, while promoting the good causes in which they are involved, do not promote playing the lottery, for the very good reason that that is not the most effective way to give money to good causes. As I have said, if someone buys a lottery ticket for £1, only 28p goes to a good cause. If someone gives £1 directly to a good cause, however, that good cause will receive £1.28 with gift aid. If one wants to give money to good causes, it is more efficient to give directly.

We have made progress on a number of issues, and the Minister has made a number of welcome further assurances today. That said, unfortunately we have not made sufficient progress in a number of areas, the most important of which is additionality—ensuring that the Government do not interfere in the use of lottery funding—to which the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster rightly referred. When the national lottery was initiated, the then Prime Minister, Sir John Major, made it clear that he did not want to see the Government getting their sticky little fingers on lottery money, and the current Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Minister have repeated that assurance. On Second Reading, the Minister said that a provision on additionality should be enshrined on the face of the Bill, but the Government have refused to include such a provision, which is one key reason why we will not support the Bill on Third Reading. We think that the distinction between Government spending and lottery spending is crucial.

We are equally concerned about some other aspects of the Bill, not least the powers of the Secretary of State. Line after line of the Bill refers to giving powers to the Secretary of State, which concerns us deeply. The Secretary of State's powers should be reduced, not increased, and that is particularly true of the powers on the redistribution of funds, which we discussed on Report.

My hon. Friend Jo Swinson made an excellent 47-second speech in which she asked the Minister a question that he still has not answered. On Second Reading, he said:

"Nothing in the Bill will allow money to be taken from heritage and spent on something else."—[Hansard, 14 June 2005; Vol. 434, c. 169.]

whereas, in Committee, he said:

"if the hon. Member for Bath is asking me whether it"— heritage—

"will lose out on interest accrued from large balances, the answer is yes, because that will be distributed."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 27 October 2005; c. 150.]

The Minister cannot have it both ways—either heritage is protected or it is not. The reality is that heritage is not protected because the Government will be held to interfere in the way in which interest and balances are used.

Photo of Richard Caborn Richard Caborn Minister of State (Sport), Department for Culture, Media & Sport

The question was this: do we allow those who have large balances to profit by them? Good causes profit because the interest that is accrued is then redistributed, as in the case of distributions to sport and the arts. I gave two reassurances. Money that had been allocated from the lottery to the various distributors would be received, and no scheme would be stopped; it was simply that the balances would be reduced. There was a guarantee that once that expenditure had been confirmed it would continue, and they would not lose one penny piece of the money that had been allocated to the distributors from the lottery, that would have been accrued by interest. We believed that it was wrong to profit by that, which is why we distributed it in that way.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I am grateful to the Minister for repeating what he said earlier—

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Indeed. What the Minister said in that letter, what he said in a previous speech and what he has said today is that it is important that as far as possible we ensure that lottery distributors are getting the money that they bring in out to good causes as quickly as possible and that we keep the balances as low as possible. Nobody disagrees with the Minister about that. However, it does not deal with the point that my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire and I put to him: either there is something in the Bill that will allow money to be taken from heritage or there is not. He cannot have it both ways. [Interruption.] The reality is that the mechanism that he just described means that the money will be taken away—[Interruption.]

Photo of Alan Haselhurst Alan Haselhurst Deputy Speaker and Chairman of Ways and Means

Order. We cannot have a series of sedentary comments.

Photo of Don Foster Don Foster Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for that protection from the Minister, who has until now been exceedingly courteous and kind to me. I do not know why I have suddenly riled him.

During our deliberations about this issue, it was pointed out that there are differences in the way in which distributors operate because of the significant differences in the nature of the projects that they are engaged in. That is why some of us are concerned about the Secretary of State's power to redistribute those funds.

I continue to worry about an issue on which we have had no significant debate—the structure of the board that will oversee all this work. It is possible that it could be chaired by somebody who is there to represent a particular country, which could lead to a conflict of interest. I am also worried that the new definition of charitable expenditure potentially blurs the boundaries between public services and third sector good causes.

For those reasons, we cannot support the Bill on Third Reading. None of that should detract from the fact that we have made good progress during its passage. I hope that if we are not successful in defeating the Bill at this stage, progress will continue to be made in another place. There are some good things in the Bill; unfortunately, there are sufficient bad things to cause us to vote against it.

Photo of Charles Walker Charles Walker Conservative, Broxbourne 5:39 pm, 19th January 2006

When the lottery was introduced, it was a great, noble and aspirational idea. It was a little like a marvellous African bull elephant in its prime. However, the Bill has brought it low. Introducing the measure is a little like shooting that beautiful bull elephant in the leg. It will not kill it—the bull elephant will run off into the undergrowth, settle for a few months and then return. It will have recovered but it will have a limp and not be quite as wonderful as it was.

The Minister claims that the lottery is a great national institution. It was, but I fear that the Bill makes it simply another institution. That is a great shame. The measure gives central Government far too much control over the destination of lottery money. The Minister claims that the Big Lottery Fund will be kept at arm's length but it will be the hand at the end of the Government's arm. In essence, it will be a dead hand. The Bill dissipates so many of the aspects that make the lottery a great national institution.

Too much money is being siphoned off to fund central Government expenditure on health, education and the environment. Again, that is a great shame. The Minister gave a wonderful, uplifting example of what the national lottery has done in Broxbourne, where it was used to take second world war veterans overseas to France, to places that they had perhaps not visited for 60 years. That is what the national lottery is for. It is for special things—village greens, community halls, the arts and museums. It is not for cancer and heart scanners—the national health service is for that. The lottery is for those people in Broxbourne to whom the Minister referred. I sincerely hope that he and the Government remember that.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 246, Noes 159.

Division number 132 National Lottery Bill — Clause 14 — Functions

Aye: 246 MPs

No: 159 MPs

Ayes: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Nos: A-Z by last name

Tellers

Absent: 236 MPs

Absents: A-Z by last name

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read the Third time, and passed.