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Clause 7 - National Lottery Distribution Fund: apportionment

Part of National Lottery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 11:30 am on 25th October 2005.

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Photo of Hugo Swire Hugo Swire Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 11:30 am, 25th October 2005

I wish that I could agree to the Minister's plea in his last sentence and not press the clause or the amendment to a vote, because that would mean that he had gone some way to reassuring us about them. However, I would be unpopular with the Opposition were I not to take the contrary view.

We had an interesting contribution from the hon. Member for East Dunbartonshire, whom I welcome. I think that this is the first Committee on which she has served. It is the first on which we have served together, and she said nothing with which I would disagree.

The Minister referred to the integrity of the lottery. He is keen on that, and we are certainly keen on it. He referred to it as an institution of which we can be proud. Of course it is. It is a wonderful institution, which was thought up by the Conservative party. It was very much the baby of the then Prime Minister, Sir John Major.

Those of us on the Committee who watch Andrew Marr on Sunday will have seen the ex-Prime Minister in a pair of smart pink socks telling Mr. Marr, who was not wearing a smart pair of pink socks—indeed, he may not have been wearing any socks at all—why he thought that this Bill went contrary to the spirit of the founding fathers. Sir John feels very strongly about that, but I shall not digress onto the principle of additionality about which he is so concerned.

The Minister says that we must keep in touch with what people out there believe the lottery is for. Most people, particularly in the Channel Islands, buy lottery tickets to acquire a good win; it is only human nature so to do. People have an interest in what lottery money should go to, not least if they happen to be associated   with some local endeavour seeking to attract lottery funding, but beyond that I am rather doubtful of their interest. We will return to the consultations that his Department has had with the people out there, as he refers to the great British public.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) said that there are 50 million people in this country, although I think that there are rather more than that. Perhaps he is confused by the number of people holidaying on the Isle of Wight. Of 50 million people, 800 responded to the consultation and we have heard of all the vested interests that many of those 800 people represent, from voluntary bodies to local authorities. My hon. Friend said that 5 per cent. disagreed, but 5 per cent. of 800 according to my limited mathematical ability is 40, so 40 people disagreed. That gives some indication of the ridiculousness of quoting that sample as meaning anything to anyone. It just does not stack up.

The provision vests tremendous power in the Secretary of State. Under the law of unintended consequences, a Secretary of State less scrupulous than the present one could direct 50 per cent. of what amounts to hundreds of millions of pound per annum to anything that he or she deemed fit, with the compliance of other Cabinet Members. That is unacceptable and the Minister's attempts to reassure us do not go far enough, which is why I shall press the amendment to a Division.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The Committee divided: Ayes 7, Noes 9.