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Clause 7 - National Lottery Distribution Fund: apportionment

Part of National Lottery Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 12:15 pm 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 12:15 pm, 25th October 2005

When the Minister sat down earlier, I thought that he did so as an admission of defeat and exhaustion. However, he has come back fighting. Clearly, his experience on the Committee that considered the London Olympics Bill has served him well.

My hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight referred earlier to the Boer war, on which I am not an expert. However, for sheer effrontery there has been nothing like what the Government are doing since the early raids in the desert by the long range desert group, of which I am reminded this afternoon. We are clearly seeing what has been referred to as the Government's raid on the lottery beginning to unravel. The Minister used the phrase ''crystal clear''; what is crystal clear is that if we were not to press the amendment, we would enable the national lottery to fund anything by direction. That, of course, is the reason behind all this.

The Minister is an honourable man. You will quickly correct me, Mr. Cook, and say that in this   Room we are all honourable men and ladies. Perhaps one day, over a drink in years to come, when the Minister has been promoted to the other place, we shall discuss this again. Sitting on the Terrace on a moonlit night, he may concede that it was at this stage that the national lottery ceased to be a quasi-independent operator and became effectively a Government Department.

The Minister talked about the need for flexibility, which immediately sent a shudder down my spine; when, in a debate on a very important Bill, a Minister talks about the need for flexibility, he is suggesting that there could be a Pandora's box. The Minister also said that the Big Lottery Fund should have the flexibility if it judges that to be right; if that completely independent organisation judges it to be right.