Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Tony Banks : My right hon. Friend knows that I am a passionate supporter of Chelsea football club and we receive a substantial income from our pools. Probably all the people who support their local football club pools do

Column 1242

so out of loyalty to the club, not because of the prizes offered. In many cases, the income to the clubs is vast in comparison with the relatively small prizes offered. I do not believe that such club loyalty would disappear with the introduction of a national lottery.

Mr. Orme : I accept that, but we will not know the effects until the national lottery is in operation.

Sufficient account has not been taken of the fact that there is only a limited amount of money available for spending on gambling. However, I accept that we spend a far larger percentage of money on gambling than any other European country. If there is only a limited amount to go round, something must give.

Other factors also come into play. The pools are now contributing more money to football and to the arts than they have ever done. That money has been given under pressure and those in control of the pools do not like it, but to jeopardise that money would be fatal. I believe that the Bill will prove disadvantageous to football. The Sports Council has expressed enthusiastic support for the Bill. I wish that it would campaign a little bit harder on the basis that it provides facilities for our society, which should be financed by the state. The provision of those facilities should not be left to a national lottery.

The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said that the introduction of a national lottery would not affect the financing of the health service as it will continue to be funded nationally by the state. However, he then said that some of the money could be given to the Medical Research Council. That is the thin end of the wedge. In the past people used to raise money for the NHS to provide such things as televisions or a room for visitors ; now that money is used to provide medical equipment. The same thing has happened in schools. In the past people raised money to pay for extra-mural activities ; now that money is spent on books. We must take that into account when considering the introduction of a national lottery.

The Bill takes us down the wrong road. I support small charities and the moneys that they raise. It is essential that their work continues. I would oppose anything that was done to damage them. Therefore, I shall vote against the Bill.

11.18 am

Rev. Ian Paisley (Antrim, North) : I oppose the Bill because the gambling principle lies behind it. Put simply, that principle works on risking something more or less valuable in the hope of winning more than one has hazarded.

I do not believe that gambling enhances human life. We already have enough outlets for gambling without the Government sponsoring further gambling. Whatever one expects from one's neighbour without offering an equivalent in time or money is either the product of naked theft or the principle of gambling in operation. Lottery tickets come into the same category. That which professes to bestow upon someone a good for which one gives no equivalent is the principle that we should be debating. The gambling craze is no new sprite but an old transgression that has come down the centuries, bringing with it a thousand woes.

The hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) said that, as a nation, we have already sold the

Column 1243

pass. I remind him that two wrongs do not make a right. He is now advocating that we should go all the way. I do not believe that that is a good policy.

The desire and aim to get money without doing the equivalent of necessary work strikes at the heart of the well-being of mankind. The man who works for what he gets is happy and contented. He is not shadowed with the frustration, disappointment, tension, agony and remorse of the gambler. A trade and occupation are ennobling things. They bring out, to the best advantage, the talents and energies of the individual. Anything that debases those talents and energies and puts them to a wrong use is not good for a person or humanity as a whole.

We are all aware--I am especially so from my pastoral work--of the power of the fever of gambling by mere chance. Even before the lottery begins, we have heard in the House charges of deception, cheating and corruption regarding its sponsorship. Whether those are real or unreal, they reflect what lies at the heart of the scheme. Gambling tells against domestic happiness. The charms of the home do not satisfy the person caught up in this craze : he wants louder laughter, something to win or lose and excitement to drive the heart faster, fillip the blood and fire the imagination.

The Bill is serious because it would put the imprimatur of the nation on gambling. Some say that there are enough outlets and that enough is spent on gambling. Paraded by the other side is the fact that there will be a tremendous increase in gambling and that billions of pounds will be made available. I should like the House to consider what happens to those who do not retain their winnings. Often, a deeper craze grips them, so winning becomes a more entangling net.

What of those who do not hold the lucky numbers? They remain tied and fettered to the wheel of eternal fortune. I do not believe that a lottery is the way in which we should finance our arts, sports or any other part of our national needs. It is a poor community, surely, that cannot find a better way of obtaining money for those necessary matters. We should find a means of augmenting our national income that will do the decent thing by everyone.

Will these games help those whom we are told will benefit? I seriously doubt it. The additionality of EC moneys is a most controversial subject. Much of it is used to replace the contribution of the Treasury, not to enhance it. Will the Treasury further evade its responsibility by using money from the lottery kitty? The people whom I represent in Northern Ireland are aware of the cost of not getting EC money to take the measures that they need. Instead, the money is used by the Northern Ireland Office to finance its own programmes.

I ask the House and the sponsor of the Bill to consider some words of Holy Writ :

"He that getteth riches and not by right shall leave them in the midst of his days and at his end shall be a fool."

Hon. Members, including myself, should consider that.

Several Hon. Members rose --

Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. I remind the House that speeches between 11.30 am and 1 pm are caught by the 10-minute limit imposed by Mr. Speaker.

Column 1244

11.24 am

Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath) : I have already declared an interest that I have had for many years. It is the reason why I support the Bill, which I do not believe will go far in this Parliament. The vote, therefore, is not highly relevant, but the Bill offers an important opportunity for hon. Members to express their views.

The Rothschild committee on gambling was set up by the previous Labour Government, with whom I was involved. In 1968, it strongly recommended the creation of a national lottery. The Labour Chancellor included a lottery in the Finance Bill, but in a free vote it was turned down, mainly because of the arguments that we have heard today about small clubs and small lotteries. I congratulate the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) on introducing the Bill. I want to meet head on the arguments advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Orme), with whom I so often agree. I agree with him about the importance of Manchester United--second only to the importance of Aston Villa. If I thought for one minue that the Bill would affect its success or the interests of the workers in the sports industry, I should not support it. The quality of life available to people is fundamental to a healthy social life. We must therefore promote sport, arts and our heritage. I agree with the right hon. Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce), who is a former Minister for the Arts, that the need to develop sport, the arts and our heritage is overwhelmed by the financial size of the task. The hon. Member for Surbiton (Mr. Tracey), who is a former Minister for Sport, nods in agreement.

What do we want for sport? We want a national velodrome, a national ice skating rink, a national Olympic swimming centre and regional centres for athletics and football. A feasibility study is being carried out into Manchester's Olympic bid, which I have long said the Government should support and I hope that they will do so. But I ask my right hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East ; even if Manchester gets the £900 million that it says it needs for the Olympic bid, who will take it over and meet the revenue costs of running it year after year? That cannot possibly be met by the Exchequer or local authorities.

The right hon. Member for Shoreham mentioned orchestras, ballets and opera, to which I would add street and community theatre and community art. We must maintain our cathedrals, historic houses and areas of natural beauty in good order. Our churches are falling down. No Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to finance the colossal cost of meeting those needs and it would be false to say otherwise. The alternative is that we do not provide, unless we try to find other money.

Mr. George Howarth : Does my right hon. Friend seriously suggest that the long list of needs that he described would be funded by a national lottery?

Mr. Howell : Not at all, but there is a much better chance of getting £1 billion out of the £3 billion--or thereabouts--that is to be spent to help along the way. I agree that the task is gigantic, so let us start. The first step is very important.

I am sympathetic to local charities, as we all are. I am a member of two charities--Warwickshire cricket club and the Labour party--and I give to them out of conviction. It would not occur to me not to give to the Diabetic Research Association--I am a diabetic--or to Warwickshire cricket

Column 1245

or to the Labour party merely because I wanted to buy a lottery ticket. People give to causes out of conviction, but I am glad that the Bill states that charities should be included. I welcome that, but an alternative is for charities to become agents for the lottery and they would probably make much more money if they did. The arguments made by betting and pools organisations are ludicrous. Many millions of pounds have been spent on opposing the Bill by people who have vested interests. I am not against people with vested interests expressing their views--I have a lot of vested interests and they are perfectly legitimate--but we must deal with the arguments.

The arguments for the pools are best stated by Mr. Paul Zetter in a letter to The Times in December which contains a colossal contradiction. He begins :

"If we started a national lottery the turnover would be minuscule compared with European competitors and the prize money insufficient to attract people."

Halfway through the letter, he states that a lottery would destroy the pools.

That is utterly absurd, but the absurdity is carried further by the Betting Office Licensees Association. That includes William Hill and Ladbrokes-- they are good friends whom I have supported all my life and I shall continue to do so. The association said that the betting industry was delicately poised. When I see its accounts I cannot agree that there is any delicacy about the matter. The association also said that we should not be

"stimulating demand for betting and gaming".

Let us remember that the association includes William Hill, Ladbrokes and Coral. Every time I open the newspapers and see their adverts inviting me into their plush betting offices or to ring up to listen to their commentaries, it is not to encourage me to place a bet but to inform the nation who is winning the jockeys' championship or who has won the 2.35 pm at Sandown in which we have an academic interest. Let us put all such nonsense to one side and recognise the facts.

I am much more sympathetic to the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers. That is why--as the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) knows--on behalf of the national lottery I met representatives of the pools industry and told them that if there is any danger to their workers in Lancashire--we want to site the national lottery there--we are ready to talk to them about their running it. That is a reasonable and generous offer, but they turned it down.

I followed up that offer by writing an article in The Times which I concluded by saying that, based on the Italian experience, I am certain that pools and lotteries can run side by side. The organisations should be talking to each other to ensure that we do not put anyone out of work. That suggestion was not taken up, but, as far as I am concerned, it remains on the table. I am encouraged by the fact that the pools organisations--or some of them--say that if they lose the argument, they would like to run the lottery, which is another extraordinary inconsistency.

I can offer the workers some assurances. When we were discussing the Labour party's policy document on sport and the arts--which the Labour party has honoured and to which my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) will refer--we arranged that we should come out not now but after the election--to quote the leader of the Labour party--saying that more of the money made out of sports should be put back into sports.

Column 1246

That must be an acceptable proposition to everyone. We would put everything in the pot and consider all the issues together, including betting and gambling. I have always supported the idea of a national lottery, but I go along with the Labour party's policy in that respect.

I believe that the Government will say much the same today. I prophesy that they will wait, but, according to the leak in The Guardian, they will say that they do not like the Bill, but that they accept the principle of a national lottery. If they do, we shall be saying the same thing--we must consider how to get more money from betting and gambling which is made out of sport back into sport--that should unite us all--and to give the protection that everyone wants.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington) : I apologise for not being here at the start of the debate. Most of us have received letters from the Lotteries Council. I know that my right hon. Friend has a special interest in Birmingham City and Aston Villa football clubs. They are among the number of small charities--they are run by the supporters' clubs--that believe that a national lottery would virtually put them out business and rob them of a very important source of money.

Mr. Howell : My hon. Friend has only just arrived, but if he reads Hansard, he will see that I have dealt with that issue. I shall move on to the main argument, which involves Europe.

The Minister said previously that European lotteries cannot operate in this country. Gambling is the twelfth largest industry in Europe and, given the terms of the European Community, it is inconceivable that when the Commissioners have finished their current review--it is likely to be finished during the British presidency--they will say that competition should not apply in the twelfth largest industry. We know that it will apply and that is another good reason for the pools industry and its workers to anticipate their future.

There is no doubt that in two or three years the European lotteries will come into this country because they cannot be stopped under the terms of the treaty of Rome.-- [Interruption.] My hon. Friends are entitled to their views, but that is what we shall find. At the end of the day, the European Court will uphold the purpose of the treaty. In such circumstances, the question to be answered will be whether we want lottery tickets that are sold in this country to benefit European sports and arts or whether we want British people to be paying for British sports, British arts and British heritage. The arguments in the Bill are overwhelming. We can protect the pools' interests. As a long-standing friend of the pools and one who acknowledges their contribution to the sports--especially when I was a Minister--I want to protect them. We can also protect the interests of the charities. Indeed, these issues will be in hand if the organisations walk side by side.

I appeal to my hon. Friends to stop saying--as Paul Zetter said in his letter--that it is either pools or the lottery but not both. That is a mistaken approach. It is political advice and I hope that the House will see the common sense in accepting the Rothschild royal commission's recommendation of 14 years ago and proceed to a national lottery which the sports, arts and heritage of this country desparately need if we are to expand and promote their interests.

Column 1247

11.39 am

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale) : I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) on having won what is clearly the best prize of the many lotteries run by the House, in coming first in the private Members' Bill ballot. I congratulate him too, on his choice of a National Lottery Bill, which provides a long overdue opportunity for the House to debate gambling issues. I understand, and have much sympathy with, the enthusiasm for a national lottery. However, on closer examination a number of factors argue against such a lottery, and Parliament must consider those before any lottery can begin. My worry is that if Parliament were to approve the Bill and set up the regulatory framework, that momentum would mean that we would end up with a lottery without proper regard having been had to the other crucial issues affected.

I shall examine some of the arguments in favour of a lottery--first, the European question. I do not believe that the flood of European lottery tickets is as certain as supporters of the Bill have suggested. Gambling is not covered by the single European market, as my hon. Friend the Under- Secretary has often made clear. Even if the European Commission were to try to introduce a directive to free up the availability of lotteries and gambling opportunities across the Community, with this as with many other matters affecting society, the Government could argue the public good principle in order to prevent any lottery tickets from other countries from being readily available in this country.

There is much discussion about what can be provided as a result of a national lottery. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton spoke with his usual authority, and with considerable enthusiasm, about the many facilities that a national lottery could provide, and which many people, both inside and outside the House, feel need to be provided in Britain, and which are available in other countries, especially sporting facilities and support for the arts. I must tell my hon. and learned Friend that in Europe such facilities are often supported by central, local and regional government, not just from the proceeds of national lotteries. In fact, my hon. and learned Friend made a good case for our right hon. Friends in the Cabinet to look at our manifesto commitments on the provision of sport and leisure facilities. We should be doing more about that, although I accept that if a national lottery were set up it could provide a valuable source of funding.

I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) is not here, because I wanted to tell him how much I disagree with him about support for the arts. The Sports Council and the Arts Council were set up as the result of an imaginative joint initiative by the Government and the pools promoters. How glad we were at Opera North to receive an endowment of £250,000 for which no other funding was ever likely to be available. That demonstrates the opportunities, and shows why a national lottery has such a great appeal.

However, there are objections, and perhaps my hon. and learned Friend dismissed those a little lightly. First, we must question how much more money is available from the pockets of the British people for gambling. It has been suggested that £3 billion may be wagered. There is some difference of view on how much existing betting turnover

Column 1248

amounts to. The Select Committee on Home Affairs carried out inquiries, and we were left in no doubt that the gross amount already wagered is about £13.4 billion. I believe that that makes this country the biggest gambling nation in Europe.

Supporters of the national lottery say that we should consider the next spend after prize money. No doubt many regular betting shop punters have a purple patch when they win more than they lose, but it may concern the House that the sum of money wagered by one individual or one family can already be substantial. That is why the Home Office is right to have a general policy of non-stimulation of gambling, betting and gaming.

I have yet to see how a £3 billion turnover could be achieved without changing that policy. Advertising and promotion of a national lottery would be essential to achieve such a turnover in a short time. My hon. and learned Friend agreed that lottery tickets would have to be sold at a large number of outlets, which suggests a considerable relaxation of current policy.

Only last summer my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary spoke to the Home Affairs Committee about outlets for the Tote. The Tote would like to run a national lottery, and, were that to happen, as its facilities are based in Wigan, Lancashire, the prospects of its being run from Lancashire are good. The Tote would like to locate betting terminals in high street locations, as does the French tote, the Paris Mutuel, which operates in cafes, bars and restaurants throughout France. In response to that idea my hon. Friend said : "I think the problem would come if there is the possibility of making bets from terminals in cafes, bars or restaurants, and that would certainly breach the rules over gambling which successive governments have had and of which the Home Office is the guardian." The Select Committee has found many anomalies in gambling legislation which need to be re-examined. Betting shops operate under great restrictions. Evening opening of betting shops and Sunday racing are two issues affecting gambling legislation which Parliament should now consider. Pool betting on greyhound racing is not permitted either off-course or between greyhound tracks. Advertising and promotion of most forms of gambling is strictly curtailed. Lotteries used in sales promotion and those run under local authority licences face restrictions. In my constituency when a lottery was run by the Ryedale York rugby league football club, offering the prize of a motor car, the chap who won it was not allowed to have it because the prize was too valuable for a lottery licensed by a local authority. That was nonsense.

The Home Affairs Committee was in no doubt that all that needed to be examined afresh, and it made a sensible recommendation in its report on the Tote--that the Home Office should

"undertake a thorough review of the legislation to ensure that controls on gambling keep pace with changes in society and in technology."

With regard to the effect on other forms of gambling and on charities, my right hon. Friend the Member for Shoreham (Sir R. Luce) put his finger firmly on the issue when he said that none of us knows what the effects of a national lottery on other forms of gambling and on charities would be. Many of us have genuine concerns about that. They go beyond special pleading, and should not be lightly dismissed.

Current legislation on gambling urgently needs a wide-ranging review. There are too many anomalies for

Column 1249

comfort. Furthermore, the increase in the amount of money wagered that is contemplated by the proposals is of such magnitude that it could have an adverse effect on other charities, causing them to lose money. Some worthy causes could lose state support. Both those aspects must be considered before the House passes legislation for a national lottery, not afterwards.

11.49 am

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Mossley Hill) : A number of seductive but misleading arguments have been put by hon. Members, especially by the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence), to support the idea of a national lottery. I hope that by the conclusion of our debate hon. Members will have carefully considered the implications of a lottery, not least the implications for jobs, and will recognise that this is one gamble which the House should not take.

Before turning to my principal reasons for opposing the Bill, I will address some of the bogus arguments put in the debate. One country that has been quoted as a place in which a national lottery co-exists with the football pools is Italy. Taking Italy as an example, with the dubious base of gambling there, reveals the reason why the football pools and the lottery are able to co-exist. Presumably, along with importing Italian methods, we shall also bring in some of the Italian family-based companies from Naples and from Sicily.

For months, many hon. Members have said that we must have a lottery because, come 1992, the European floodgates will open and punters will desert the pools for French or German lotteries. Huge prizes will lure away the stakes and British money will be sucked into a European black hole. That argument has seduced hon. Members and charities. Despite its obvious appeal to xenophobia, the argument, if true, would have to be taken seriously. The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which works for the under- privileged and those at risk, responded to the original inquiry about a national lottery by saying, not surprisingly :

"as the Common Market will allow other countries' national lotteries to sell tickets in this country, it would be as well to have one established as a defence."

In other words, if we are going to be bitten, it might as well be by a British snake rather than by a foreign one.

The myth that continental lotteries will flood the United Kingdom market needs to be destroyed once and for all. It was abundantly clear during the European Commission hearings on gambling that all member states were implacably opposed to the principle of cross-border trading in lotteries. Most lotteries are state monopolies, so it is hardly surprising that national Governments are extremely reluctant to put the proceeds of national lotteries which they run at risk in a single market. Our Government have endorsed that view, despite all that was said by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell).

We know the Government's view from the written reply that the Under- Secretary gave to the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). As recently as 12 December 1991, the Minister said that the Home Office had no proposals to include gambling within the terms of the single market. A flood of continental lotteries--[ Hon. Members :-- "Liberal Democrat policy?"] I can tell hon. Members what Liberal Democrat policy is because it was discussed at our parliamentary party meeting last week. I

Column 1250

am glad to say that we have come out against the principle of a national lottery. A flood of continental lotteries, 1992 and the European Community are all imaginary windmills at which the House will, I hope, tilt today.

The second myth is the dreamland of unimagined riches. We are told that hidden pots of gold will be produced to provide £3 billion for Sports Council projects. Let us think of a figure--£2 billion or £3 billion every year, depending on the person to whom one listens--for the sum that would flood into the Exchequer. That would be the equivalent of 1.5p off income tax. That is the scale of the fabulous windfall. If the figures were true, Treasury Ministers would be queuing up to speak in the debate today and would argue in favour of a national lottery. In a country in which more than £52 billion of consumer debt is currently outstanding and in which economists are concluding that people cannot afford to spend their way out of the recession, where will the money come from?

The United Kingdom gambling market is already the biggest in Europe. The country spends more per head of population on gambling than the rest of Europe--£4.50 per head per week. If the new money is to come through extra gambling, who will that affect? All the figures show that it will be lower income groups who will be milked. They spend the most. Why should they disproportionately pay for Covent Garden, the National gallery or the Sports Council? Even if the figures could be believed, they are based on a regressive principle which the House should reject. Those are the flawed arguments of those who promote a national lottery.

There are other reasons why the House should decline to give the Bill a Second Reading, and the first is jobs. In Liverpool, 71,601 people are currently unemployed. Some 15,000 women are unemployed in Liverpool. They are bread winners for the family and they do not receive pin money ; it is their livelihood. As the right hon. Member for Finchley (Mrs. Thatcher) said when she came to open the new Vernons building in Liverpool, "three cheers" for the workers there, and for the excellence and standards maintained in the factory. Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters employ more than 6,500 people in Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff and London. A further 70,000 are paid as agents collecting coupons every week.

By contrast, computerised and centralised national lotteries dispose of people. In France, just 400 people operate the national lottery, while in Germany one large lottery employs just 180 people. When we are told that jobs may come even to Wigan or to the north, let us realise that the substitute for jobs is a loss of almost 6,500 jobs compared with a maximum of 400 jobs needed to run the national lottery. At a time of increasing dole queues, is the House seriously going to gamble with the livelihood of more than 6,000 people? Is not it also the height of irony that we have three successful private companies which will effectively face nationalisation without compensation if the Bill is successful today? That is what is coming from the champions of private enterprise.

In a letter to The Times, already quoted, on 26 December, Paul Zetter said :

"the choice is stark : football pools or a national lottery. You will readily understand why I oppose a national lottery." Malcolm Hughes, the managing director of Vernons, says : "It is not possible to find an example anywhere in the world of a National Lottery and a Pools industry thriving side

Column 1251

by side. In case after case, arrival of a lottery has squeezed out Pools Games and the examples of Australia, Belgium and, more recently, Greece all bear testimony to this fact."

Malcolm Davidson, the managing director of Littlewoods, quoted from a letter to the financial director, Colin Thwaite, from Coopers and Lybrand Deloitte. We have already heard part of it. The letter says :

"A UK national lottery would effectively kill off the football pools within a period of weeks A successful national lottery would act as a substitute for the football pools as a result of this the level of employment within the industry will be dramatically reduced."

In a letter to me on 16 December, the Prime Minister confirmed that the Government see those implications. He said :

"I can assure you that we are very well aware of the potential implications for existing charitable lotteries and for the existing gambling industry, in particular the football pools who, as you say, are an important source of employment in the Liverpool area and who make payments to football and now more widely to sport and the arts via the new Foundation."

Apart from jobs, a national lottery would also hit existing football clubs' lotteries and charities. The letter from the Lotteries Council has already been quoted. It says that some lotteries would face extinction from a national scheme. The Irish experience, to which other hon. Members have referred, points to that. In July 1991, 16 leading charities wrote to the Taoiseach saying that charitable lotteries had lost half their income and that "the situation has reached crisis point."

In other words, 50 per cent. of the money going into charities was lost as a result of the national lottery. Not only would our charities be hit, but sports, the arts and the Football Trust would stand to lose £100 million. The Treasury would say goodbye to the £300 million generated by the pools.

The third substantial reason for opposing the Bill centres on the undesirability of deliberately stimulating gambling as a way in which to finance public services and needs. If a hospital needs a dialysis machine, if a school needs a soccer pitch or if a community needs an arts centre, surely we should pay for it through taxation and voluntary effort, not by proliferating the modes of gambling. By destroying the football pools, a national lottery gambles with people's jobs. It would undermine existing lotteries run by charities and football clubs. It would promise Alice-in- Wonderland gains, while risking the £300 million now generated by the pools. I hope that, in this pell-mell rush to a national lottery, the House will consider these matters and will vote against the Bill.

11.59 am

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton) : I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Burton (Mr. Lawrence) on winning the ballot and on selecting this most important and interesting topic for legislation. I dare say that hon. Members who, like me, glanced at the sports page of The Times this morning, will have been worried to read the headline,

"England chances hit as Lawrence drops out".

Fortunately for the supporters of the Bill, the story referred to Mr. David Lawrence, the England bowler--although, as a cricket fan, I cannot say that that is good news for the England team.

Column 1252

The people of Britain are waiting for a national lottery whose time has truly come. A recent poll conducted by the Sports Council, one of the prime supporters of the Bill, showed that three quarters of the population want to participate in a national lottery and that 90 per cent. strongly support the idea that the proceeds from it should go to the arts, sport, heritage and charities. Those who talk the idea down should be aware that, in doing so, they could seriously hit the nation's expectations.

There has been much talk about how the Bill would extend gambling. The hon. Member for Antrim, North (Rev. Ian Paisley) made much play of that, but a national lottery would not represent a form of high-level gambling that would corrupt our morals or our minds--rather, the spirit behind it should be seen as extending the fun of the flutter. In the minds of our people, that is perfectly right and proper, and we should not stand out against it.

Mr. Mark Wolfson (Sevenoaks) : Does my hon. Friend agree that, because of the intentions of the lottery and the use to which profits from it would be put, it would be a benefit rather than negative in moral terms?

Mr. Tracey : My hon. Friend is right.

It is extraordinary to think that, if the House opposes the Bill and frustrates the expectations of the British people, we shall be putting ourselves in the same position as countries such as Albania. The rest of Europe has lotteries--indeed, in all, some 170 nations run lotteries.

Given the success of the lotteries run by our European partners and neighbours, we should be extremely shortsighted if we stood in the way of a lottery here or delayed its introduction. In Denmark, the result of the delay was that the country was immediately flooded with lottery tickets from neighbouring Germany. Despite what some hon. Members have said, those who run foreign lotteries are already taking a great interest in getting into the market in this country through the post, and even though we hear of attempts to prevent such letters coming in, that often does not happen. My hon. Friend the Member for Pendle (Mr. Lee) produced a letter posted in Brussels inviting him to participate in an Australian lottery. I regularly receive letters from Amsterdam inviting me to participate in a European lottery, which I do not.

I believe that we should have a British national lottery contributing to British national stadia and to the British arts. I want to be able to contribute to that. In that respect, my attitude is four-square with that of the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Howell), one of my predecessors as Minister for Sport, and agree with him that we should not allow contributions to foreign lotteries.

During the past week, we have heard from a number of sporting personalities and leading figures in sport and the arts who feel that there is a need for an extra contribution, over and above anything that the national Government can produce, to fund our sports and arts facilities. When I was Minister for Sport, I visited magnificent sports stadia, athletics tracks and swimming pools abroad, and I can remember thinking how ideal it would be if we could have them here. The secret of those facilities was that they were provided through a national lottery.

Mr. Wilson : Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Tracey : I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to speak when I have finished.

Column 1253

The Sports Council has sent us a list of what could be done, which includes worthy proposals not only for Olympic facilities in Manchester but for regional facilities such as velodromes, hockey stadia, swimming pools, athletics training facilities and indoor tennis training facilities. To get those facilities, we need a national lottery. They are desirable, and we shall have them if we give the Bill its Second Reading and so set the climate fair for a national lottery.

What of the attitude of our critics? I shall refer in a moment to the attitude of the pools companies, but, as we have heard about local government's attitude towards a national lottery, I wish first to tell the House that I have received a letter from the Association of Metropolitan Authorities, with which I sometimes disagree but which declares itself four -square behind the idea of a national lottery to give additional funding, over and above that which it expects to come from the Treasury, for sport and the arts. So we can again call in evidence the support of local authorities.

As a former Minister for Sport, I pay tribute to the pools companies for what they have done in support of the Football Trust and the Football Grounds Improvement Trust. I do not understand why they are so opposed to a national lottery. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Mossley Hill (Mr. Alton) referred to Italy. I do not understand his view. Surely, the greatest pillar of society in Italy is the Roman Catholic Church and it must therefore be wrong for the hon. Gentleman to place a slur on the Italians. Italy has a strong national lottery and a strong national pools set-up, which contributes greatly to its communities and national life. I see no reason why this nation of ours, which so strongly supports football, should be any different from Italy or why the football pools should win any less support here than in Italy. The national lottery will interest those many thousands of women in Britain who would never even dream of sitting down and filling in a pools coupon. They will go into a post office or newsagent and take part in the national lottery, so enhancing the funds available to it. Finally, I remind the House that, in opposing the idea of a national lottery, the pools companies saw fit to say that, if the Government decided to introduce a national lottery, they would like to run it. Does not that fact speak for itself? Surely we need no more evidence than that. 12.9 pm

Next Section

  Home Page