Sports Lottery

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Arts and Leisure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:00 pm on 29th April 2002.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:00 pm, 29th April 2002

4. asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure what steps have been taken to influence the sports lottery in its allocation of funding.

(AQO 1223/01)

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

The National Lottery is a reserved matter under the functional responsibility of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure acts as an agent of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for the receipt and distribution of the proceeds of the National Lottery by the Sports Council. Decisions on the allocation of the sports lottery fund are a matter for the Sports Council, based on recommendations from its lottery committee. Such decisions are also made against set council criteria regarding policy directions issued to it by my Department on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Funding decisions by the Sports Council are made independently of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, and I do not seek any input to the process before decisions are made. My role and my Department’s role is in agreeing the strategic context for such decision making, whether in respect of capital or recurrent grants.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

In previous replies to other Members, the Minister has outlined where the funds have gone. Is it of no concern to the Minister that around 50% of the funding is going to one sport, a minority sport that is virtually a single-identity sport — namely Gaelic games? Most Unionists do not participate in that sport because it is a cold house for them. Is the Minister concerned that so much of the National Lottery sports funding is going to that sport and not to other sports that cater to all sections of the community?

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

The National Lottery revenue is broken down: 28% goes to good causes; 50% goes to prizewinners; and 13% goes to the Treasury. So far, £12 billion has been raised for good causes in the United Kingdom. That is broken down into a variety of funds, one of which is sport. Since its foundation, the sports lottery in Northern Ireland has received £60 million. Mr Poots said that 50% has gone to one minority sport, but I am concerned about the accuracy of that figure.

I am not aware that £30 million has gone to one sport, whether it be a single- or multi-identity one. The suggestion that half of the figure of £60 million has gone to one sport, if not accurate, is mischievous. This is unfortunate, bearing in mind that we received this money from the lottery and that it is money that we would not have but for the lottery. Currently we receive 2·6% of the national sum and, under the current review by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, I am arguing strongly that that figure should rise to 4·5%, together with arts. That is a more realistic and reasonable figure. The argument that I hear today will not help the arguments that I will be making about the benefits of the lottery money to sport in Northern Ireland, and they have been considerable.

Photo of Mrs Annie Courtney Mrs Annie Courtney Social Democratic and Labour Party 3:15 pm, 29th April 2002

I listened carefully to the Minister’s response to Mr Poots’s question, and the question I want to ask is more to do with the Northern Ireland Events Company than with the sports lottery application. Nevertheless, perhaps the Minister can give me a response. I recognise the amount of money put into the community and how it benefits the community. However, can the Minister use his influence to ensure that the application for the annual Foyle Cup in the Derry City Council area, which is due for a decision next week, is given consideration? It encourages the youth of the area and has an economic impact, given that 68 teams will take part over five days this year.

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

I can refer to the Foyle Cup, although it is not a part of Mr Poots’s question. I welcome lottery funding, but the Foyle Cup application was made to the Northern Ireland Events Company in December and did not meet the criteria. The company had discussions with the organisers of the Foyle Cup and, as I understand it, they have amended their application, and it may now meet the criteria. I do not interfere with the decision-making process of the Northern Ireland Events Company. It has a robust evaluation process and a board that governs decisions. The decision will issue shortly.

Photo of Derek Hussey Derek Hussey UUP

I want to return to the original question about lottery money for sport. I realise the limitations that the Minister declared in his original answer. Is he aware of under-representation in the allocation of lottery funding to sport in the rural west, particularly west Tyrone? Will he at least use his influence to persuade the Sports Council to be more proactive in redressing the imbalance?

Photo of Michael McGimpsey Michael McGimpsey UUP

I do not necessarily accept the premise behind that question. The Sports Council’s lottery committee responds to the applications it receives, and it is for that committee to treat everyone equitably. The committee is governed by the rules that every other part of Government is concerned with, including those to do with equality and TSN. The committee assured me that treating disadvantaged areas — or any area — unfairly is not part of its remit. Rather than getting suggestions like this, I wish that I could have some sort of evidence, because then I would be in a position to act. As I have said, although I do not have or seek any influence in the day-to-day making of decisions, I agree with the strategic context in which those decisions are made, and part of that is that all Northern Ireland is treated with equity.