[Interruption.] Mr. Cook, thank you for giving me this opportunity to try to speak over the various extraneous noises.
This is an important pair of amendments. I begin by saying that I am not opposed to national lottery distributors giving information about how they use the money. [Interruption.] This is very difficult, but I shall continue.
I have no objection to lottery distributors using schemes such as the blue plaque scheme to give members of the public who spend money on the national lottery a good indication of where the money goes. Indeed, I would encourage them to do so. The Committee will recall my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson), whom I welcome to her place despite the interruptions, pointing out that, sadly, the public are misinformed about how lottery money is used. If, as we shall debate later, there are to be increased opportunities for members of the public to participate in decisions about where lottery good causes money goes, it is clear that there will be a need for high-quality information about how the money is spent.
I do not want anybody to misunderstand what I am saying. I am deeply concerned about lottery distributors encouraging people to play the national lottery.
I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman’s clarion opening to this morning’s deliberations. I agree with him and share his support for promotion by distributors of projects with which they are involved, but does he share my hesitation—indeed, my nervousness—that if the Bill blurs the lines between Government money and lottery money, Government Departments will be able to piggy-back on lottery announcements and claim some of the credit for themselves?
The hon. Gentleman is 100 per cent. correct, but, unfortunately, I disagree on one aspect. He said that Governments “could”, implying that they could do that in the future, but it already happens. If, like me, he is an assiduous reader of the annual report of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, he will be aware that it is extremely difficult in that report to disentangle money that has been provided by the lottery for various projects from that which has been provided by the Government from taxpayers’ money. It is not a case of a problem in the future; there is a serious problem now. I have urged the Government to address that problem by much more clearly separating in the Department’s annual report the two funding streams and the uses to which they are put.
My clear concern in the amendments is to ensure that nothing in the Bill will lead lottery distributors to believe that it is right to promote the playing of the various national lottery games. In a minute, the Minister will tell me that I need not be concerned, but I am deeply concerned. At the weekend I logged on to the website of the Big Lottery Fund. Incidentally, the BLF does not yet formally exist but it has a website. It is promoting national lottery day on its homepage:
“National Lottery Day is a celebration of the amazing things achieved with Lottery funding. Get involved!”
What does “get involved” mean? It means get involved in the national lottery. That is one example of promoting the national lottery.
In a second. I want to explain to the hon. Gentleman why I think that there is a cause for concern. Playing the national lottery is not the best way of giving money to good causes. The Committee will be well aware that if someone uses the most tax-efficient means of giving, the charity will receive £1.28 for every £1 donated, whereas if they give money via the national lottery, the good cause gets only 28p for every £1 given. If people wish the prime use of their £1—or whatever sum of money they have—to be in a good cause, giving it to the national lottery is not the most effective way of doing that.
The hon. Gentleman has cut me off. I was going to mention gift aid, but the hon. Gentleman has already mentioned it.
The Secretary of State is able to direct the staff of the distribution funds and is now seeking to enable those distribution funds to promote the national lottery and other elements. Paragraph (c) of new section 25E is quite broad because it states:
“encouraging participation in activities relating to the National Lottery in general.”
That is very vague, and I would describe it as a catch-all. Does the hon. Gentleman share my fear that the Secretary of State will use the distributors’ funds to promote not only the playing of the national lottery but any causes funded by the Government?
The hon. Gentleman is very perceptive because he had already been thinking about gift aid; I am sorry I cut him off on that. He raises an entirely appropriate point, which to some extent echoes the point made by the hon. Member for East Devon. As I said, I entirely agree with him.
My concern is shared by many people. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations stated in its briefing last week:
“It is entirely inappropriate for lottery distributors to promote playing the lottery as a way of giving to these causes.”
“publicity relating to “the National Lottery in general” should not be a function of distributors.”
I said that I was a perceptive man because I know what the Minister will tell me. We have already debated this issue on the Floor of the House on Second Reading, where I raised those concerns. The Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell) said—very clearly—in response to my concerns:
“The proposed changes are not intended to promote playing the lottery—they will not promote the sale of tickets—but to promote its benefits, especially support for good causes in general.”
There we have the Under-Secretary, on the Floor of the House, assuring me that I have got it totally wrong—despite the fact that I can point to advertisements—so presumably, my fears should have been allayed. But they were not; I remain deeply concerned about the matter.
Those assurances seem to be somewhat at odds with some of the other things that were said. In that same debate, the Under-Secretary said:
“the greater the trust in the lottery overall, the greater the number of sales”.—[Official Report, 14 June 2005; Vol. 435, c. 213.]
That shows that even talking about good causes, in the Under-Secretary’s eyes at least, is seen as a way of promoting the lottery overall. I began to get a bit worried about what he was saying. Then I thought to myself, “These people are honourable people. They have been clear and put it clearly on the record that it is not a matter of promoting the lottery because, like me, they recognise that it is not the most efficient way of giving money to charity. Perhaps I should not table the amendment.” I then did what all Committee members will have done, and studied in some detail the explanatory notes provided to us. They state that the clause
“will ensure that all the Lottery distributors are able to participate in the National Lottery Promotional Unit which seeks to raise positive awareness of and support for the benefits of the distribution of National Lottery funding across the whole country”— so there could still be a generous interpretation—
“while contributing to the brand health of the National Lottery” and, crucially,
“promoting loyalty and participation.”
What is the meaning of the word “participation” in that context? My real fear is that, without much clearer assurances than we have had from the Minister to date, “participation” will be interpreted in the same way I interpreted “Get involved!” in the Big Lottery Fund’s website advertisement. It will mean get involved—participate—by playing the national lottery. That is not what this clause should be about and I want very clear assurances from the Minister that that is not what it is about.
I am delighted to support the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), in whose name the amendments have been tabled. I share his concerns. What he says is absolutely right. I share the view that the amendments would remove the ability—we might regard it as a compulsion—of lottery distribution bodies to promote participation in activities relating to the national lottery in general. As we have seen throughout, the Bill often leaves out as much as it says. In all fairness, it is fairly clear in what it is trying to say, but what it does not say is the extent to which the distributors will be limited in what they can spend. Nowhere does the Bill indicate what the financial encouragement or financial constraints would be for any one distributor. It would be up to the distributors, I imagine. They could spend 100 per cent. of any funds that they had in promoting their particular enterprise. If one distributor ends up spending more than another, there is no in-built mechanism to redress that. An awful lot of money could end up going to the national lottery promotional unit, which sounds like a Kafkaesque cover for more Government spin, rather than being used to support the causes for which it is intended. I will return to that in a minute.
We feel that the clause will place too much onus on the distributors to gain publicity for the national lottery as a whole. That function would be more properly carried out by Camelot or the successor to Camelot, if there is to be one. More important, we feel that the clause will encourage the feeling that playing the lottery is a means of giving money to charities. I am conscious of time marching ever onwards so I will not repeat everything that the hon. Member for Bath said, but it is worth making the point again that there is a distinction between playing the lottery and giving money to charity.
At the beginning of our deliberations, the Minister and I—he was in listening mode back then, which he is not at the moment—discussed at some length the reasons why people play the lottery. I think that the Minister thought that I was being rather cynical and jaundiced about it. I said that people played the lottery because they wanted to win money and that it was not an act of altruism, but stemmed from a desire to win a prize. Perhaps there is a feel-good factor in the knowledge that a percentage of the outlay will go to charity, but there is a very different thinking process involved when somebody plays the lottery compared with when they respond to a charitable appeal or give money through gift aid. We have heard that the difference is that, through the lottery, only 28p in the pound reaches good causes, whereas through gift aid it is £1.28. Manifestly, that is completely different. It would be quite wrong for the Government to encourage people to play the lottery under the mistaken impression that it is part of giving to charity, when the adverse effect on charities might be significant.
Of course. There is no proof. However, I wonder whether the Minister or his Department have received any representations from any charities that are nervous about the clause. If we agree to the clause unamended, in theory any of the distributors could heavily outspend any charity. That is the point, is it not? The distributors could so trumpet their own projects with lottery money that any charity would be left miles behind in trying to attract what could at the end of the day be the same amount of money. That is why I and my hon. Friend the Member for Bath and, I think, many on the Opposition Benches agree.
I do not say that lottery distributors should not publicise their projects as they already do. They should continue to do so, but that is far removed from promoting the lottery as a way of giving to good causes. I urge the Minister to accept our amendment. It has the backing of the charity community, it is a non-partisan point, it makes eminent sense, it would protect the charity sector, which the Minister is so keen to help, and it would signal to the charity sector that we are listening to what it has to say.
I ask the Minister, by accepting our amendment, to give a strong commitment that distributors will not be obliged to act as marketing agencies for the lottery as a whole.
May I, by way of explanation, describe how we have arrived at protecting the lottery as it stands? You probably remember, Mr. Cook, that when we consulted on the Gambling Bill, there was a large discussion, and it included the Budd report “A Safe Bet for Success”. There was a big debate about putting the lottery into the marketplace and not protecting it, and much consultation took place about the protection of the lottery. It is a monopoly, and everyone accepts that, but the trade-off is that money is generated for good causes. Several charities made representations to us that we should consider charitable lotteries, and we did so in the Gambling Bill. I cannot recall the details, and I have no doubt that my officials will get them for me. If I remember right, we gave them roll-overs, an increase in stake prizes and an increase in the prizes themselves. That was welcomed. I think that we met all the charities’ requests.
It would be wrong to say that we did not take on board the charities’ concerns about their fundraising activities through lotteries. We did not, however, allow the national lottery to go into the marketplace as many asked us to. A political decision was taken, and to the best of my knowledge no one challenged it in either the Gambling Bill consultation or the consultation on this Bill, that whether or not people gambled on the lottery for the sake of gambling, it was a good institution for delivering and directing money to good causes. It is one of the most successful in the world to date, and it would be wrong to undermine it.
The Minister said that the lottery is one of the most successful in the world. He preceded that with a remark that it is one of the best mechanisms for directing money to good causes, but the hon. Member for Bath has made it clear that gift aid is far more effective—indeed, it is five times more effective at directing money to good causes. Does the Minister accept those figures, or is he saying that they are nonsense and that his assertion is built on evidence that overwhelms them?
Very much so. If the hon. Gentleman lived in the real world he would know that, for example, of the 140,000 sports clubs that we now have in this country, 40,000 to 50,000 are entitled to claim community amateur sports club status: after consultation with the Central Council for Physical Recreation and all the governing bodies, there are now tax breaks and 80 per cent. mandatory rate relief, for which sports clubs have been asking for more than 30 years. At the last count, slightly fewer than 3,000 of the 40,000 to 50,000 eligible clubs had applied for that in an 18-month period. They are now receiving tax breaks and mandatory rate relief worth £6 million to £7 million. I give that example only as a comparison for those who think that people will give to charities. Because of representations made to us, we have gone to great lengths to provide community amateur sports clubs status, which gives tax breaks and mandatory rate relief. In the real world, people give to charities and take advantage of gift aid and the other tax breaks, but anyone who believes that people will transfer from playing the lottery to giving direct to charities in the way described by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Turner) is living in cloud cuckoo land.
We may be going a little wide of the amendment, Mr. Cook. I was trying to explain that the real world is slightly different from the world portrayed by the hon. Member for Isle of Wight.
The Minister makes a fair point. Some people who will not give money to charity might give money to the lottery for reasons not related to giving to good causes and some of it might end up going to charity. I accept that entirely. However, our debate is simple. Is the intention that the Bill will lead to national lottery distributors promoting the playing of the national lottery? The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), said on Second Reading that it was not, so I do not see the point of the comments that the Minister for Tourism and Sport has just made. Either the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of encouraging participation in the national lottery for the reasons that he has just given, or he is not. We need to know which it is.
If the hon. Gentleman will bear with me, I shall explain, but I was trying to make a wider point first. The argument has been advanced this morning that if people do not play the national lottery they will give to charities. I challenge that assumption.
It is not for the national lottery to do that. It is for Camelot to promote the lottery and for the distributors to get people involved in the good causes. The Big Lottery Fund said of national lottery day, “Get involved!” It said that because there are many activities are taking place throughout the country that we can all celebrate and we can all get involved in those activities, which have been provided by the distributors through investment in all sorts of institutions, activities and projects. I was recently at the Eden project, which will figure in national lottery day. What is better than getting involved in the Eden project?
I am glad to hear that the Minister has visited the Eden project. If he had been there yesterday, he would have been there with the next leader of the Conservative party.
I should have said possibly the next leader of the Conservative party.
The explanatory notes describe the purpose of national lottery promotional unit as being
“to raise positive awareness of and support for the benefits of the distribution of National Lottery funding across the whole country,” which is quite in accord with what the Minister has just said. However, they add that the unit will do so
“while contributing to the brand health of the National Lottery and promoting loyalty and participation.”
That is precisely what the Minister is not saying, although the hon. Member for Bath is saying it. Of course the unit will promote the distributors, but the notes clearly state that it will also promote the national lottery as a whole.
As you know, Mr. Cook, the explanatory notes are merely a broad explanation of clauses. I shall give the definitive interpretation of the clause. I can see you getting quite angry this morning, Mr. Cook.
Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 would prevent lottery distributors from encouraging participation in activities involving the lottery in general. I understand why they have been tabled. Concern has been expressed by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations—I think the hon. Member for Bath asked who had made representations—that such activity would entail promotion of the lottery games and might imply that playing the lottery is an alternative to giving money to charity. There is no such intention.
Distributors are not in the business of promoting national lottery games. As I said earlier, that is Camelot’s responsibility under the terms of its licence. However, there is a connection between money that is spent playing the game and money that goes to good causes. It is important to recognise that and to ensure that distributors have the power to let the public see that link when they publicise where lottery players’ money has been spent. That has been an important element of the consultation on ways to involve the people who play the lottery, or at least to make the connection with what the investment and expenditure is spent on. We have been aiming for that during the consultation on moving the lottery forward.
No. In particular, the power in question will ensure that all lottery distributors can take part fully in the activities of the national lottery promotional unit, which is intended to raise positive awareness of, and support for, the benefits of national lottery funding across the country.
As for who distributes the money and how they do that, I think that it was on your watch, Mr. Cook, that I accused the hon. Member for East Devon of at least questioning—
The hon. Gentleman can read Hansard. His hon. Friend the Member for East Devon said in the Committee’s first sitting:
“Honeyed words indeed, but unfortunately clause 36E(1) of the Government’s own Bill states:
‘In exercising any of its functions the Big Lottery Fund shall comply with any direction given to it by the Secretary of State’.
We shall debate later just what the Big Lottery Fund is and just who is responsible for appointing it. I think that we shall find—lo and behold—that it will be the Secretary of State, so we are not reassured by that. This is another example of the Government’s raid on the lottery.—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 25 October 2005; c. 32.]
So it goes on. People will read that in Hansard.
Order. I was being very tolerant there in an attempt to discover the point that was being made. I advise the Committee that we have had sufficient discussion on that point, and we have had ample opportunity to check Hansard. May we return to discussion of amendments Nos. 14 and 13?
On a point of order, Mr. Cook. I think that you will agree that I cannot just let what the Minister said pass. He has several times accused me of impugning the Secretary of State or his officials. The occasion, apparently, was the one he just quoted, but I think that he would agree that that was a bit of a damp squib that said nothing about anyone.
Thank you, Mr. Cook. An American president once claimed that he could not walk and chew gum at the same time; I confess that I have had difficulty discussing the amendments and listening to the frequent announcements about the fire that was or was not burning in this building. As I did not hear what was being said, I confess that I have no idea about whether we are about to go up in flames. It seemed slightly unfair that other hon. Gentlemen were able to make their contributions in a quieter environment.
None the less, I listened carefully to the Minister. He seems to be trying to convince us that explanatory notes are a sort of broad-brush document, that they are not intended to explain the Bill and that we should not be concerned even if they are slightly misleading. I did not think that explanatory notes were intended to be like that, but so be it. If that is the case, do we not need an absolutely clear assurance from the Minister that a national lottery distributor will not engage in activities that by any stretch of the imagination could be interpreted as promoting the playing of national lottery games? That is a clear question, and we want a clear assurance.
The hon. Gentleman will have better luck than I if he gets an answer from the Minister. Does he share my concern that the Minister has not addressed two other points? The hon. Gentleman may be coming to them. The first is the direct question that I asked about the financial mechanism governing how much distributors can spend on promoting activities; the second was whether the Minister had had any representations from charities that were concerned about the ability of distributors to outspend them in promoting so-called charitable causes.
The hon. Gentleman and I worked together effectively and, I hope, efficiently, but on this occasion he is 100 per cent. correct on only one of two points. In fairness to the Minister—I am always keen to support and defend the Minister when it is appropriate—he did answer the second question by making specific reference to NCVO having been in touch with him, although it would be interesting to know whether any other bodies have been in touch. For example, I suspect that the Minister, like the rest of the Committee, has received the briefing from the National Campaign for the Arts, which is also concerned.
The hon. Member for East Devon is 100 per cent. correct that we have not heard anything from the Minister about his fair point on the proportion of money that a lottery distributor can spend on promotional activities. One would hope that such activities would promote the good causes to which the money will be put, rather than the playing of national lottery games.
One thing that we often do in these sittings is raise points, perhaps through probing amendments, and the Minister responds. If we think that we have a fairly clear answer from him, we agree to withdraw the amendment. I am willing to do that on this occasion, but I need an opportunity to study the Minister’s words carefully. I am not convinced that I have been given anything definitive enough to persuade me that the Minister is making it clear that national lottery distributors will not promote the playing of national lottery games, but I am prepared at least to examine the record.
The problem is that we are sometimes even more confused if we read the record. To illustrate what I am saying, during our deliberations last week, the Minister stated, in response to the hon. Member for East Devon,
“In any case, the amendment is unnecessary as the reallocation powers apply only to balances and not to commitments made by a lottery distributor.”
I then voiced concern about what he was saying, and the Minister in response to that stated:
“I am talking about the expenditure and the commitments that go with it.”—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 27 October 2005; c. 147.]
Even when we read the record, we find ourselves confused. On this occasion, I would like the opportunity to read carefully what the Minister has said. If I and other Committee members are not reassured, I hope that we will have the opportunity to probe the Minister further at a later stage.
Perhaps in the interim the Minister will reflect on the words he has used to see if he can bring himself to say, “National lottery distributors shall not be allowed to promote the playing of the national lottery and national lottery games.” If the Minister persuaded himself to say that now, it would be even easier. Since he is not prepared to do that, and with a clear hope that we shall return to the matter if the words do not satisfy me, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.