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February Adjournment

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:23 pm on 13th February 2020.

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Photo of Carolyn Harris Carolyn Harris Shadow Minister (Equalities Office) (Women and Equalities) 1:23 pm, 13th February 2020

I, too, congratulate the hon. Members for Bosworth (Dr Evans), for Wrexham (Sarah Atherton) and for Guildford (Angela Richardson) on their eloquent and passionate speeches. They all have big shoes to fill, but I am sure that they will do so with integrity and compassion. Let me say to the hon. Member for Wrexham that while I cannot profess to share her love of real ale, if she decides to diversify into gin I shall be more than happy to offer myself as a sampler.

Today I wish to raise the issue of charity lottery reform. Many Members will be familiar with the people’s postcode lottery, the local hospice lottery and the health lottery, but in fact there are 400 charity lotteries operating across Britain, which demonstrates just how crucial this form of fundraising is to the charity sector. The income generated from those lotteries enables charities to fulfil their purpose of helping and supporting many communities and causes across Britain. In my own constituency, charities such as Forest School Swansea Neath Port Talbot and Friends of Primrose Park rely heavily on lotteries.

However, for years these charities have been operating under out-of-date legislation, which is hampering fund raising. Sales limits have a detrimental impact on both the charities and those who rely on the services that they offer. Sadly, it is the smaller local charities that are suffering the most. Ministers should already be aware of the nfpSynergy report “Small Change: How charity lottery limits impact on small charities”, which I helped to launch last year. Alarmingly, the report shows that local charities have lost out on a staggering £45 million of funding, and that, shockingly, only three in 10 applications from small charities could be awarded over two years. I was appalled to learn that as many as five small charities in my constituency had fallen victim to these sales limits, but, unsurprisingly, the report reveals that Swansea East is not alone. Virtually every constituency has been affected, and I urge all Members to read the report to see for themselves how many amazing charities in their own constituencies are losing out.

As someone who recognises the necessity for local charities in communities, I find the Government’s lack of urgent action to address charity lottery reform infuriating. I am not suggesting that this is a party-political issue; I know that Members across the House are as tired and riled about it as I am. However, I must give credit where credit is due—although it is painful! Last month the Government did introduce legislation to update the limits, which should, in theory, be a welcome catalyst for change. I also know that the Gambling Commission is conducting a short technical consultation, which will end on 12 March. I am pleased that charity lottery reform is under the spotlight, but it feels as though the issue has been discussed multiple times before, at length. How many more millions of pounds must charities lose before action is taken?

I hope that Ministers will encourage the Gambling Commission—I frequently challenge the commission on this—not to delay reviewing the responses to the consultation. I propose that a date should be fixed for it to publish the outcomes of its consultation so that reform can at last take place, and I ask Ministers to support me in that proposal.

Finally, in order to offer hope and assurance to the charity sector that change is coming, may I ask Ministers to clarify when exactly they expect the long-awaited charity lottery reform to come into force? Charities and communities alike have waited long enough: it is time to move on.