HC Deb 20 November 1995 vol 267 cc318-20
2. Sir David Knox

To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage if she will make a statement about the effect of the national lottery. [481]

The Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mrs. Virginia Bottomley)

The national lottery is an outstanding success. More than £1.2 billion of new money has been raised for the five good causes, with awards to more than 3,000 projects throughout the country so far. We are investing unprecedented sums in sport and culture. It will provide a huge boost to regeneration, jobs and prosperity.

Sir David Knox

My right hon. Friend will be aware of concern about the national lottery's impact on charities. Does she think that that concern is justified?

Mrs. Bottomley

It is early days to form a judgment. The Home Office is undertaking its long-standing commitment to research the lottery's effect on charities, but there are examples of charities that have had a very good year. They include the Marie Curie Cancer Centre, the Cancer Relief Macmillan Fund and the British Red Cross—all of which report a favourable year. In a recent MORI survey, while 2 per cent. of those questioned said that they might reduce the amount of money that they gave to charity while playing the lottery, 4 per cent. said that they intended to increase the sum.

Mr. MacShane

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the Daily Mirror on its crusade against people under the age of 18 betting on the national lottery? One third of 11 to 14-year-olds to whom I recently spoke at a school in Rotherham said that they bet on it. Is the right hon. Lady not concerned that, unless the age limit for the lottery is raised to the same as it is for other institutions on which people bet, she will go down in history as the woman who turned a nation's pre-adolescent schoolchildren into gambling junkies?

Mrs. Bottomley

Our lottery, like others around the world, forbids children under 16 to play. I was delighted recently when Camelot withdrew the licence of a retailer who was knowingly selling to children under 16. It is vital that retailers who enjoy the huge benefits of the lottery understand the rules.

The suggestion that children over 16 should not be able to play the lottery when they can get married at that age seems to me to take nannying to ludicrous heights. I am delighted that a great number of children's projects throughout the country have benefited greatly from the lottery. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that it is all right to buy cigarettes when over 16 but not to buy a lottery ticket, his judgment needs examining.

Mrs. Lait

Does my right hon. Friend accept that large jackpots and rollover jackpots sell more tickets, so more money goes to good causes? Is she also aware that some local charities raising money for revenue causes are finding it difficult to compete with some of the Camelot products? Will she please take revenue spending into account when looking at future developments for the lottery?

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is right to say that large jackpots result in even more for good causes. Oflot is instructed to ensure that we maximise the return for good causes. The £1.2 billion already raised shows just how successful our national lottery has been. In some circumstances, the distributing bodies can give a revenue grant. My hon. Friend will know that, with the distributing body chairmen, I am looking at the unfolding of the lottery to see whether any modifications of the rules would be appropriate.

Mr. Alan Howarth

As the Secretary of State confers with the Home Secretary on the impact of the national lottery on charities, will she bear it in mind that four NOP surveys commissioned by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations have shown that members of the public have a greatly exaggerated view of the proportion of lottery turnover that goes to good causes? They think that about 20p in the pound, rather than the real figure of 5.6p, goes to them. The surveys also show that, by June of this year, 14 per cent. fewer people were giving to charity than in 1993, and that there has been a 10 per cent. fall in the number of people buying charity lottery and raffle tickets. Will she ensure that, while the national lottery continues to contribute importantly to good causes, any damaging features of its impact are remedied?

Mrs. Bottomley

I regret that the hon. Gentleman's figures are inaccurate: 28p in the pound of lottery money goes to good causes—

Mr. Howarth


Mrs. Bottomley

And the vast majority of that goes to charities, through the good causes, because most of the arts and sports money goes to good causes, supporting many disabled people's projects and extending access. In addition, the hon. Gentleman will be aware of the UK Charities Lottery, which says that this year it has enjoyed a fivefold increase in the amount that it raises for charity.

That is another demonstration of the lottery producing more money for good causes and having a good effect on the country at large.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Will my right hon. Friend highlight the beneficial effect of the national lottery on teenagers—contrary to what the Opposition have said? For instance, a gymnastic club in my constituency which caters for many talented teenagers, Meapa, has received nearly one third of a million pounds towards the building of a gymnasium, to be installed in a school in a deprived area of my constituency. It will be of immense value to teenagers there.

Mrs. Bottomley

My hon. Friend is right. Young and old throughout the country are benefiting from our successful lottery. The Labour party can only carp and criticise; it cannot abide success. There have been over 900 awards to sporting groups throughout the country, and an excellent number of arts projects have been supported. The success of the lottery has exceeded all expectations.

Dr. John Cunningham

Given the large disparities in the allocation of awards and the disturbingly low level of awards to the northern region of England, including Merseyside and Cumbria, is the Secretary of State satisfied with the way in which resources are being distributed? Is she not concerned, for example, that the requirements for matching funding may be militating against some of the most disadvantaged regions and preventing them from obtaining a reasonable share of the very successful lottery proceeds? Will the right hon. Lady undertake to examine those problems and report to the House?

Mrs. Bottomley

I am pleased that the right hon. Gentleman recognises the great success of the lottery. It is early days to measure the effect of lottery awards on different parts of the country. The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that I wrote recently to all hon. Members inviting them explicitly to encourage good projects in the area that they represent to apply for lottery awards. As the year progresses, we shall examine the way in which different funding bodies have achieved successful awards in different areas. We shall then build further on the success of our remarkable lottery.