Previous Section Home Page

Mr. Benton: Everything should be examined properly and correctly, but there is no reason why the Government should not be ready to deal with the fundamental aspect of the national lottery. The Government have been tardy and unprepared and that is quite unjustified. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not appreciate what I am trying to explain--that the continuing success of the lottery will depend on satisfying people, whose number has not been quantified, who have been inspired to spend money on it because of its identification with charitable and worthy causes. I am sure that my hon. Friends will agree that many people have bought lottery tickets for that reason. The Government and the charities board should be prepared to deal with the worthy aims of the lottery.

Although the Minister is not in his place, I must put pointed questions because my constituents and I and the Liverpool school of tropical science need satisfactory answers. When will a definite date be given for the appointment of the chief executive? When will charities be given the opportunity to apply for funds and what process will be used for distribution? Will the charities board assure us that interest on the millions of pounds already collected for distribution to charities and voluntary organisations will be made available to the charities fund?

Those are reasonable requests on matters that are causing concern throughout the country. At the risk of repeating myself, may I say that the charities angle will lead to increased success for the lottery?

Much of what I wanted to say has already been said by my hon. Friends who covered the issues exactly and precisely. All I want are assurances on those points. I should like the Minister to deal with them in reply because, at this stage, people who contribute to the national lottery in aid of good causes should be confident and assured about the points that I have raised.

Column 1353

1.24 pm

Sir Ivan Lawrence (Burton): Unlike the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Benton), I am not burdened by a knowledge of the wonderful arguments and comments that have been made hitherto in the debate because I have only just been able to come into the Chamber. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will forgive me but I am afraid that I shall have to leave shortly after my few remarks. I know that his remarks will be of uplifting interest to all hon. Members.

I know that the House will forgive me for expressing some sense of pride in the success of the national lottery since, if I had not been able to present my private Member's Bill, I doubt very much whether we would have a lottery at this stage. It was inevitable that, at some time, some Government or other would have decided that a national lottery was a good thing because it is so self-evidently is. Apart from Albania, we were the last country in the civilised world to have a lottery. If we are the only country that is marching in the wrong direction, it is reasonable to suppose that we are wrong and that the others are right. I therefore have some considerable pride in having played perhaps a small but significant part in this outstanding success.

Mr. Tony Banks: Hear, hear.

Sir Ivan Lawrence: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman, who does not always give plaudits to Conservative Members. I am grateful also for his support during the debate on the private Member's Bill. One of its strengths was its all-party nature and the way in which party politics was subsumed. It is always a cheering matter when hon. Members forget their party political conflicts and unite, especially when they do so in a great cause, as the national lottery is becoming.

I congratulate Camelot on a most outstanding achievement. Before everything had been set up and was under way, we were, of course, apprehensive. I was concerned that we should not start or end up with a state lottery that was run, organised, led and funded in the early stages by the Government. We have not had that and we shall not have it as the private enterprise success develops.

The way in which the national lottery has been publicised, the way in which the public have been prepared for it and the public's response to Camelot's campaign have led to the lottery's outstanding success, with £53 million being raised for good causes in only four weeks. If only the Government could raise money as simply and as painlessly. The amount raised will be £9 billion by 2001. Already, fascinating signs exist of how the raising of the quality of life is beginning to permeate through society.

I know from experience that one or two small newsagent shops were having some difficulty prior to the lottery. One of them now takes 7, 000 to 8,000 lottery tickets a week and its take has increased by £400 a week. It means that small shops all over Britain which are now outlets will be able to stay open when they might otherwise have closed, and others have become prosperous when they might not otherwise have prospered. That means jobs. It has been estimated that when all the outlets are operating and when all the benefits of the lottery are spread throughout society, the provision of building works for charities, the arts and

Column 1354

sport will mean that many more building workers are employed. We can expect an addition of about 80,000 people in work as a result of the national lottery.

Mr. Banks: The hon. and learned Gentleman was here, I think, when I made my speech. The small shopkeepers who sell the tickets are having some problems. I know that the Minister was not in his place when I was speaking, but I hope that he will look at the problems. The profit margins are not particularly generous and there are cash flow problems. There is also the problem of interference with other people's trade because of the siting of the machines in certain locations. They are small matters, but they are significant to those selling the tickets.

Sir Ivan Lawrence: I am sure that the Minister and Camelot have taken a close interest in what the hon. Gentleman has said. I give an example. In the first week, there was one small outlet in Uttoxeter in my constituency. It was outside the centre of the town and everyone went there to buy lottery tickets. The owner of the shop said that the rest of his trade had fallen because there were such queues that people could not get in to carry out their normal business. That problem is resolved by siting the lottery machine away from the main till and the main operations of the shop. The queue becomes shorter, people proceed more quickly and there is then no interference with the shop's other work. The main solution to the problem is to have more than one outlet in Uttoxeter. I understand that Camelot is working on that.

I was privileged to be a guest at the table of Sir Ron Dearing, the chairman of Camelot, on the night of the launch. I somehow managed to be a winner in the first lottery, albeit that the £10 will not alter my life. The launch also enabled me to discuss various matters with Sir Ron. A point that I was especially anxious to get across to him--I think that he will respond positively to it--is that it is not just the newsagents and small shops in towns that should benefit. Small village stores have been closing at a tremendous rate of knots, unfortunately, partly because of the attractions of the bigger towns and partly because they were the sub-post offices and it was impossible to find enough people to staff some of them. I thought that a new lease of life would be injected into village shops and that they would be kept alive and flourishing as a result of the lottery. That has not happened so far. The reason is, as I understand it, that Camelot places a threshold on the catchment area of the likely purchasers of tickets before it allows the machines in. I have asked Sir Ron Dearing-- on asking, I got an encouraging response--that the matter be looked into. If we can lower the threshold of the available pool of players so that village shops can flourish, the lottery could make an even more substantial contribution to the quality of life.

The other matter that filled me with a great deal of pleasure was the sheer number of winners. I had my doubts about £10 prizes, but when a million people win in a week and when 800,000 win the following week, it is tremendously heartening. All right, they are not winning the big prizes, but to win something, to get one's money back plus and to feel that one has a real chance of getting some return is heartening. I know that that will go on.

Column 1355

Another great advantage has been the way in which the television programme has taken over a time that stops me from having to watch "Blind Date". For others who feel as I do about "Blind Date", it is a blessed relief to turn over to watch the lottery, even for 15 minutes.

Mr. Banks: I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that. Quite frankly, seeing Noel Edmonds playing around with a load of balls is not very appealing to me. May I take him back to the point that he was making about the small prizes? He missed some of the speeches this morning, but there is an argument about whether people want bigger prizes. The great incentive for ticket sales is that people know that there is a biggie at the end of the line. It is fine for there to be lots of £10 prizes, but people do not buy lottery tickets because they are looking for £10.

Sir Ivan Lawrence: I take the hon. Gentleman's point, but there is a biggie; there is a too biggie and a medium biggie. The wooden spoon--the consolation prize of £10--is a substantial bonus to people who have bought tickets.

Success always breeds problems in life and the outstanding success of the national lottery has bred some problems. Perhaps the most notable is the problem of what to do when the top prize amounts to £18 million. Nearly everybody would agree that nobody needs £18 million and that £2 million, £3 million or £4 million might be all that a reasonable person might need for enjoying the best standard of life. I think there is a general feeling throughout the country at the moment that if someone can win £18 million because the previous week's winnings can roll over again for as many as three times, goodness knows what might happen. There is no reason to suppose that, if the jackpot has reached £18 million in four weeks, in another four or 40 weeks it might not be considerably in excess of that. I shall give way to the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) as she was one of the most stalwart supporters of the private Member's Bill.

Ms Hoey: I am pleased that we have a national lottery. It is a pity that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not here earlier. He said that there was a general feeling that the very large prizes were too much, but I do not agree that that was the general feeling in the House and we discussed the point quite extensively this morning.

Sir Ivan Lawrence: The general feeling in the House is not necessarily the general feeling among the public. I am afraid that applies to too many issues and, certainly on Conservative Benches, we are learning that very fast.

Outside, people think that £18 million is a bit too much. It could be corrected so that, as one of my hon. Friends constructively said--I do not know whether it has been repeated this morning--the number of roll-overs is reduced and, if the fund builds up, one third of it is reallocated to the good causes, one third of it is spent in additional prizes and the remaining third rolled over. That would be a pretty sensible and fair breakdown to reduce the excesses of the No. 1 prize and perhaps, as the hon.

Column 1356

Member for Vauxhall said, to increase the number of alternative high prizes which would be an attractive element in the lottery.

Mr. Deva: I have followed my hon. and learned Friend's career with great interest and I was surprised to hear him say that he considers one sum is too much and another sum is not too much. Will he spend a few minutes trying to explain the philosophy behind why one amount is too much and another quantity is not too much?

Sir Ivan Lawrence: I shall not go down that line. I am not here to philosophise at large and to talk without considered thought because the time of the House is too precious. Although a company may make unlimited profits and use the money to expand its business, employ more people and produce more products, when we are talking about putting money into the pocket of an individual or family with a limited scope for expenditure, perhaps--I would not go to the stake on it--if we can spread the wealth of the lottery more widely, we may provide more benefits than by concentrating too much in the pockets of an individual or family. I do not want to spend any more time on that point. I think that it is a problem that we can resolve and it is certainly not the most important or serious problem currently facing the country.

The second problem that has arisen is the question of anonymity. Most people are appalled by the thought that having bought a ticket on the assurance that one's identity will not be revealed, it is then revealed. Even though it has not yet been blasted all over the tabloid newspapers, everyone in Blackburn knows who is the winner of the lottery. The consequences of suddenly visiting such wealth upon an unassuming, law- abiding citizen are potentially very grave and serious. We do not need to list the obvious problems, whether massive numbers of begging letters, desperate people camping outside the door, threats or criminal activity. All those possibilities have to be thought about and worried over and, quite apart from a person's right to keep himself to himself, they are reasons why anonymity should be respected. I am sure that that is what people throughout the country feel.

The immediate reaction to the judicial decision that the injunction upholding anonymity should be lifted was one of disgust. It was wrongly directed--it was not the judge's fault that the law did not enable anonymity to be secured by an injunction or by any other means. There is a privity of contract between the person who buys a lottery ticket and the provider of that ticket and it is binding between those parties. If Camelot says that it will guarantee anonymity, that is a contractual undertaking that can be protected by the law. However, a third, fourth or fifth party, the press, or anybody else, is not bound by somebody else's contractual undertaking. That is the law and at the moment it is inadequate to protect the anonymity of an individual in such circumstances. There are three ways in which anonymity could be protected. First, the media could take a self- denying ordinance and not cause misery to the otherwise fortunate winner through the publication of his name. However, to expect the press to have a self-denying ordinance of any sort would be somewhat optimistic in the present climate. Obviously, people will buy more newspapers if an individual is exposed as a lottery winner. Even though this week the media have refrained from naming the winner, it

Column 1357

is unrealistic to expect them to be able to control themselves indefinitely. Therefore, I do not think that that would be a practical way of guaranteeing anonymity.

Parliament could make it a criminal offence for someone to disclose the name and particulars of a winner. However, that is not the way to use the criminal law and, anyway, it would be almost impossible to prove that the offence had been committed by someone and it would take an inordinate amount of police time. It is not the sort of public wrong that the law should remedy, even if it were practicable to do so. The breaches of anonymity which are likely to happen will inevitably, however, hasten the day when we introduce a tort of privacy. I should welcome that. I regret that we do not have one already. As Sir David Calcutt said in his examination on two occasions of the abuses of press power, a tort of privacy is the sensible conclusion to which one must be driven.

Unfortunately, the press is so powerful in public life now that it can destroy individuals. I know of a former parliamentary colleague who was destroyed by the media for daring to introduce a Bill of privacy. Not only that, the press can, by implication, bring pressure to bear on entire political parties. If we come to consider whether going to war with the press is a good idea as we move towards the next general election, I should think that plenty of voices will, say that there are plenty of things that we need to do other than pick a fight with the press.

The effect is that the media--in particular the press, but not only the press--including the broadcasting media have always been set against permitting us to introduce a tort of privacy which might restrict the ambit of press activity. When Kelvin MacKenzie was the editor of The Sun , he did not make any secret of the fact that he intended to make life difficult for anyone who thought that the abuses of the press were so excessive that legislation ought to be introduced against them.

I cannot see any way of guaranteeing the anonymity of a very substantial winner other than a tort of privacy. A tort of privacy is inevitable and I look forward to its introduction in due course. Perhaps in due course, when the economy is more flourishing, the press might be able to obtain income from advertising, which has been in decline in recent years. When the press is able to expand along that line, perhaps it will be less determined to go in for the extravagance which has been a feature of its activity in recent times and, therefore, less strong in its objection to a tort of privacy, which would enhance the quality of life of individuals in our society, as the lottery is doing in a different arena and on a different scale.

The problems that I have outlined are the problems of success. To some degree they may be solved in the coming months and years. At any rate, this national charity has seen off the whiners, whingers, killjoys and the Liberal Democrats, who opposed the concept of a national lottery. I am delighted that some Opposition Members such as the hon. Member for Bootle, who were against the national lottery, now feel that its advantages have outweighed its disadvantages. I know that there is anxiety about charities. There always was. We were told during the proceedings on my Bill that charities' income had fallen in Ireland since the introduction of the national lottery. That argument was not well sustained in the light of the fact that charities' income had fallen in Northern Ireland where there was not a national lottery. I never thought that charities would

Column 1358

suffer as a result of the lottery. If someone knocks on the door and asks for a fiver for the church roof, the scout hut or some pet cause, people are unlikely to say, "I am sorry. I would have given, but I have bought a lottery ticket this week." I do not believe that sort of thing happens in ordinary life.

I appreciate that overall income might have reduced in some cases, but the Government were particularly careful to avoid that with steps to improve the position of charities. Prizes can increase to £25,000 or 10 per cent. of turnover, and the allowable turnover has increased to £500,000. Restrictions on preventing one body from running too many lotteries have been lifted. Given the small effect of the national lottery on charities that have total turnover of £15 billion, they will not suffer even if they are not to be lottery beneficiaries. It is not just that they have 20 per cent. of the 28 per cent. Arts, sport, heritage and the millennium are all charities, and charities will be substantially enhanced by the lottery. I thank Camelot and Peter Davis, Director General of Oflot, for their activities in getting this great ship of quality of life launched. I thank also the Government--not only my hon. Friend the Minister who graces us with his presence today but my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage, his predecessor, my right hon. Friend the Member for City of London and Westminster, South (Mr. Brooke) and a former Home Secretary, my right hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Mr. Baker)--without whose driving force in the Cabinet the lottery would not have got off the ground. We can all share pride, and perhaps the greatest pride of all is knowing that apart from obvious exceptions, the overwhelming feeling of all parties in the House is that the lottery was a good thing, is a good thing and will continue to be a good thing--and that it will raise the standard of living and quality of life of millions of people in Britain today.

1.52 pm

Mr. Fisher: This interesting debate has been notable for agreement in all parts of the House that the national lottery is a good project, has great potential for giving pleasure, and can address important social and cultural problems. There was also a measure of agreement on the need for scrutiny and on key issues such as anonymity. My hon. Friends the Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) and for Bootle (Mr. Benton) all made good speeches and raised pertinent questions that need answering by the Minister when he replies.

My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle asked questions about the National Lottery Charities Board to which the Minister must respond. Why has it not yet been established? Why is there no chief executive? Why will charity grant applications not be received until the middle of next year? Why will money not be paid to charities until the second half of next year at the earliest? That is sheer incompetence.

The Home Secretary--not Mr. David Sieff, chairman of the charities board-- must be held responsible. He has known the requirements for more than a year. If the Department of National Heritage can get its boards right--and it is to be congratulated on doing that, and the Arts Council in particular is to be congratulated on its excellent documents--why cannot the Home Secretary do so? I suspect that it is a matter of considerable

Column 1359

embarrassment to the Department of National Heritage. There is no reason for it. The Home Office must get started soon, and the Minister must say on behalf of the Home Secretary--why he should have to answer for the Home Secretary, I do not know--what steps will now be taken to put the matter right. It is not satisfactory.

Mr. Deva: Does the hon. Gentleman responsible for sports in the Labour party agree that the best possible criteria must be evolved to decide how moneys are distributed, and that that must be done before we distribute them?

Mr. Fisher: I agree entirely, but that is true also of the four other boards, which have their acts together. I am drawing attention to the fact that a board has not even been set up by the Home Secretary. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been disgracefully incompetent and he should be called to account. A problem that has not been raised is the distortion of the entire charity world. The guidelines that have been published so far specify that only charities that are concerned with the needs of people qualify. However, there are many other charitable bodies that focus on human rights, animals and a range of other subjects. If the guidelines are to be adhered to, such charities will not qualify. If the National Council for Voluntary Organisations is correct and charity donations will be affected, to be offset by £100 million to £150 million a year, that offset will apply only to charities that deal with human needs. Only those charities will qualify. Other charitable sectors, such as animal welfare, will not benefit. Such charities will be doubly prejudiced and disadvantaged. The Minister should consider that and perhaps vary the guidelines.

I hope that the Minister will respond to my arguments. I hope also that he will give us up-to-date figures and details of the dates of distribution. I hope also that he will respond to the questions that I have asked about eligibility for science, libraries, children's play, English Heritage, film and one or two other matters. The hon. Gentleman needs to put the record straight. As the hon. and learned Member for Burton (Sir I. Lawrence) said, I hope that he will respond on the need for privacy law and also on the Calcutt report. We have waited too long for responses on both issues. The Minister should now get ready to present them.

I would like to think that the Minister will give reassurances on the other key issues that have been raised today. I refer to the status and future of small projects throughout the country, the problems between capital and revenue, those of additionality and those relating to the restraints on Camelot's profits, as well as others concerning anonymity and roll-over. I suspect that on those wider issues he will not be able to satisfy the House. He must, however, respond on the National Lottery Charities Board and give us some up-to-date figures so that we know where we are.

1.58 pm

Mr. Sproat: With the leave of the House, may I say that it is a great pleasure to be back at the Government Dispatch Box after such a long interval and after such a short contribution from the Opposition Front Bench in

Column 1360

reply to the debate? I did not expect such brevity, but I would need the full half hour that is now at my disposal, if events so pan out, to answer the many extremely interesting questions that have been raised so far.

I shall start with a response to an intervention in my first speech this morning from the hon. Member for Belfast, South (Rev. Martin Smyth). The hon. Gentleman asked me if I had read an article in last night's Evening Standard . I said that I had not, and he kindly passed me the newspaper during the debate. So riveting were the speeches at that time that I found that although I read the article, I had not taken it in. I shall read it in privacy with concentration and in due course send the hon. Gentleman a letter setting out my responses.

The last shall be first in this instance, and I shall start with the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Fisher) and respond to his comments in his opening speech. First, I thank him for his kind words about certain aspects of the lottery. It is fair to say that there are worries, and I shall deal with each of them in due course. I hope that the House will agree that I have not sought to disguise that there are some legitimate concerns about what has happened. I believe that they are all minor and that the lottery has been an overwhelming success. I shall readily deal with issues such as anonymity and roll-over which were raised in the debate. When the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central began his speech he offered kind words, as is his wont, but then gave some less kindly words about the Government's performance, as is also his wont. He used the word "complacent". I cannot remember whether he chucked it at me or the Government as a whole or spread it around the Chamber, but I can assure him that we are not complacent.

I shall not repeat all that I said earlier, but the national lottery is a massive innovation in our public life. It is inconceivable that such a major innovation could be introduced without a number of things going wrong. With the exception of the problem of privacy, other difficulties have, in the main, been small. I do not discount the disappointment of hon. Members whose constituencies have not received as many terminals as they would have wished, or in whose constituencies terminals have gone wrong. I do not underestimate those problems, but they are not enormous in the overall context of the national lottery.

The national lottery has been going for only four weeks--since 14 November, the day on which tickets could first be bought. It would be unreasonable to say, after the experience of four weeks, that we must change things immediately. I know that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was not saying that. We shall look closely at a number of matters, notwithstanding the fact that the national lottery has been going for only four weeks. We shall continue to look carefully at the way in which the lottery proceeds.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was buoyed up by his party's success last night, on which I congratulate him. We all have ups and downs in politics and I advise him to be happy while he can because the evil day followeth as surely as night followeth day. The hon. Gentleman said that everything was going wrong for the Government--what nonsense. I agree that last night's result was one of our less happy moments, but whatever may be going wrong, the lottery is not--it is an overwhelming success. While I am eager to investigate

Column 1361

those aspects that can be improved, as I said at the beginning of the debate, the lottery is certainly a great success.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central set out three principles by which he thought that the lottery should be operated. He said that it should be free of undue political influence. Obviously, the House of Commons has an influence on the lottery. The principle that lay behind the choice of distributor bodies was to place at arm's length decisions on which projects should be supported and how much money should go to them from the Government of the day. We put such decisions in the hands of the Sports Council, the Arts Council, the national heritage memorial fund and the two new organisations, the charities board and the Millennium Commission. I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was altogether serious --I detected a slight note of carping, criticism or even a lighter touch on the tiller--about having only one member chosen by the Opposition. We did not want the Millennium Commission to be politically dominated by the Government and thought it right for the Secretary of State for National Heritage, whoever he or she might be, to be its chairman. To show that it was not a party political decision, we deliberately said that one member should be chosen by the Opposition. They wisely chose a man of the calibre of Mr. Michael Montague. We did not intend the commission to be a political organisation and the fact that we invited the Opposition to nominate somebody shows that we were keen to adopt the fair principle that it was not to be a party political matter.

The hon. Gentleman said that the next principle that he would like to see applied would be open finance, which I took to mean accountability. I outlined the percentage figures earlier: 50 per cent. goes to prize winners, 12 per cent. to the Treasury, 5 per cent. to retailers, and 5 per cent. to Camelot--that is 5 per cent. over seven years; it may rise or fall a little. The rest, which amounts to some 27 or 28 per cent., should be divided between the various bodies. I think that that is a pretty fair and open system. The hon. Member for Vauxhall (Ms Hoey) suggested in her very interesting speech, as did the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks), that one should put a monetary ceiling on what the company could earn. I understand why that might be thought, but that is getting on to dangerous ground, because the company would then say, "Well, wait a minute. We've invested £100 million up front. If it's a failure we would like a safety net beneath it." Whereas we said, "No, it will be 5 per cent. It is a risk. In some years you may do well and in some years you may do less well." That is a fair and open way to do it. It covers all the expenditure made by Camelot. The question of ICL computers was raised, but whether the sum that is paid to ICL is high or low--personally I have no idea, as I know nothing about the computer sales market or about looking after computer terminal markets--it is coming out of the 5 per cent. already agreed. It is not a case of whether, if ICL had charged less, the money would have gone to charities.

Mr. Tony Banks: Surely the national lottery is a licence to print money. There was no doubt from the word go that it would be a success. A number of people wanted the franchise to organise the lottery. I ask the Minister to think on, because if--I am sure that it will--the lottery goes from strength to strength, enormous windfall gains

Column 1362

will be coming to Camelot. It could be very embarrassing to the Minister in the end. Perhaps he should think of a formula now.

Mr. Sproat: No doubt when the franchise comes to an end in 2001, or in the run-up to 2001, those matters will be looked at. I emphasise to the hon. Gentleman--it has been said before, but it bears repeating--that the more money that Camelot makes as its percentage, by definition the more money goes to the charities. It was in the interest of whichever company ran the lottery to do extremely well, because that was the best way in which to ensure that charities did well. Perhaps Opposition Members have reservations about the role of the private sector, but I believe that this is the best way in which to do it.

The hon. Member for Vauxhall said that she would have liked to have seen a charitable trust run the lottery, rather than a private sector company. Charitable trusts could have applied, but none did. They would not have been ruled out if they had done so. On balance, the choice of a private sector company in general, and Camelot in particular, was well made.

As to Camelot's percentage to cover its operating costs and profits, I have looked around the world at the percentage taken by other bodies running lotteries, and have not been able to find a single body doing it on a leaner margin than Camelot. Camelot's margin was the leanest of all those who applied, and was leaner than Virgin. There was a misunderstanding about what Virgin wanted. I think that it is right that a private sector company is driving the lottery forward. In Camelot, with its lean percentage to cover operating costs and margins, we have the right company.

Ms Hoey: The Minister said that we will be able to consider the matter in 2001. Is he saying that no changes can be made to any of Camelot's operating costs and so forth between now and then?

Mr. Sproat: In the House, one is always under pressure to be a little more succinct and shorthand than one should be. I was trying to say that a new franchisee will be chosen in 2001. In the run-up, we will no doubt consider whether there were elements in the way in which Camelot was chosen on which we would want to improve for the new franchisee. I cannot think of any major ones off the top of my head. Camelot applied with all the other applicants on a level playing field, and won. In general and in particular it would not be fair to change the laws of the game and move the goal posts once it had got under way. That was all that I was trying to say. The third principle that the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central mentioned in his opening speech was that the proceeds should be fairly distributed. They are fairly distributed as far as sports, the arts, national heritage and the millennium fund are concerned, if only in the sense that each gets the same percentage--20 per cent. The proceeds include the prize money, and I will mention the roll-over later, without going into the arguments again. The main Government element, the tax of 12 per cent. to the Treasury and the 20 per cent. to each of the distributing boards, is fair.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked whether we would reconsider the effect on the football pools and charities. Yes, of course we will. I wrote to the Pools Promoters Association some weeks ago to tell it how grateful we were for its support for the Foundation

Column 1363

for Sport and the Arts, which brings in about £60 million a year--£40 million to sport and £20 million to the arts--which is certainly not to be sniffed at, and for its support for the Football Trust.

The hon. Member for Vauxhall mentioned safety at sports grounds, which I will deal with in full when I deal with her speech, but we owe a great deal to the pools promoters and once the lottery has had fair time--it might be a year, nine months or 18 months--we will study the matter again and decide whether they have been fairly treated, which is what I told them. We made a number of concessions to them. We reduced to 16 the age at which people could participate, allowed coupons to be sold in shops, allowed a roll-over and allowed them to sponsor television programmes.

I heard what the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and for Vauxhall said--that the pool promoters should be allowed to advertise and not merely to sponsor and that is one of the issues that we shall consider. The House in its wisdom--before I was in charge of such matters--decided that that was the way that it should be.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central properly mentioned the departure of Mr. Hinton as the chief executive of the Millennium Commission. I can tell him all that I know, which is that Mr. Hinton is a man of very great abilities, who impressed very much at the initial interview. When he was nominated and it came to trying to work with the commissioners, however, they found that his and their ideas did not gel. Far from the first payment from the lottery funds going to pay off Mr. Hinton, I regret that I have only just discovered that that payment came not from the lottery but from my Department's funds, so that is a double blow for me. I give my word to the hon. Gentleman that, as far as I know, there is no more to it than that. He can always ask the commissioners and find out whether their view is different.

The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central mentioned a private sector monopoly, horrendous profits and so forth. I do not want to go over that again. We decided that private sector companies were the best way. Hon. Members may not agree, but the House so decided and what has since happened --in terms of the benefits to good causes--shows that that was a pretty good decision on balance.

We now come to the question of the National Lottery Charities Board, which several hon. Members raised. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central raised it in his opening remarks and again in his brief second speech. Most of the matters that he raised are, indeed, a matter for the Home Office and if he is concerned about those matters beyond what I shall say now--I shall answer directly the questions of the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Benton) as well--he may table questions to the Home Secretary.

However, this may be a suitable moment to answer the questions asked by the hon. Member for Bootle. He asked when a chief executive will be appointed. The answer is, as I understand it, that the members of the board had a chief executive in mind and they were about to appoint him when he was offered another job in the City. So now they are negotiating again to see whether they can consider another pay package for him. It is nothing to do with me, but the hon. Gentleman asked the fair question and the answer is that it is under negotiation and I expect

Column 1364

the decision to be announced fairly shortly, in the next few weeks. That is why it has not been announced already.

The hon. Member for Bootle then asked when the charities could apply for funds--a point which was reinforced by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central. I cannot tell him the exact answer to that because the structure of the way in which applications should be made by the charities to the board is currently being discussed between the board and Mr. Sieff. I hope that they will come up with an answer fairly shortly. All I can tell him is that the chairman of the board has said that the first sums of money handed out to the charities will be in September and that will certainly mean that applications will have to be in several months before that. So, we are probably talking about midsummer. The hon. Member for Bootle may not like the answer but he asked for it and that is it.

In response to the pertinent question of whether interest will be earned in the meantime on moneys in the distribution fund, the answer is yes. Interest will be earned and so the charities will get the benefit of that when applications are made and granted.

I shall now return to the question about the millennium fund which the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked. Yes, it is very important that the fund is nationwide. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) referred to that important point in his speech. It is essential that the millennium fund considers things on a United Kingdom basis and it will do so. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central asked whether it would be fairer to small bodies and smaller applications than the dozen major landmark projects. Yes, it will seek to do so.

The hon. Gentleman pointed out the difficulty. One says that one wants some smaller projects, but what happens if none of them is very good? The short answer if that one has a problem. The millennium commissioners will take into account the facts that the fund must be nationwide and that they want smaller projects; no doubt, they will find their way to solve that conundrum when they have the applications before them. It is not easy to discuss in principle. In practice, I do not think that it will be so difficult. If the hon. Gentleman feels in due course that the commissioners have got it wrong, no doubt he will say so. However, I promise him that I share entirely his view that small projects should get a fair crack of the whip.

The hon. Gentleman asked a list of questions on what will happen to various institutions such as libraries. They will be able to apply for funds from the national heritage memorial fund for new buildings and the refurbishment of existing buildings where facilities are needed for library collections that are important to the national heritage. They can also apply for projects which fall under the definition of capital, such as cataloguing. I cannot see another example in my notes, which just say that they can apply in some circumstances. Cataloguing is a good example of where libraries certainly could apply and could be granted funds.

Mr. Fisher: The Minister's voice dropped when he was describing the libraries' eligibility. He seemed to qualify the eligibility for libraries by saying that only those library projects which deal with the national heritage would be eligible. He will understand that there are very important

Column 1365

library projects relating to new information technology, the super-highway, and community arts. Libraries do much more than conserve the national literary heritage. I am sure that the Minister's response was carefully worded. Is he saying that only library issues that relate to conserving the national heritage will qualify? If he is, that is a serious mistake and he should look at the matter again.

Mr. Sproat: If I did drop my voice it was due to weariness after four and a half hours in the Chamber, for one and a half hours of which I have been on my feet. The hon. Gentleman mentions many library projects that he would like to see supported. Support for most of those will come from Department of the Environment funds which go to local authorities, because it is up to local authorities to distribute those. I said that libraries would be eligible for NHMF funds but just in those areas for which that fund is responsible. Normal library expenses must be covered in the normal way, otherwise they would breach the additionality principle which states that no lottery money should be used for any project that is normally eligible for Government funding.

Mr. Fisher: The Minister is saying that a really imaginative library project that looked to the future of public libraries and had to do with new technologies such as CD-Rom would not be eligible because it was unconnected with national heritage. That is an extraordinary statement, and the Government seem to have missed an opportunity. They say that they are keen on the new generation of information technology, but the Minister's statement seems to deny that. Libraries will be at the centre of that technology and will be the point of contact for most people. As well as being good in their own right, these imaginative new projects are surely ideal millennium projects to celebrate going into the new information age. If what the Minister says is the last word, the Government are circumscribing libraries far too much and I urge them to think again.

Mr. Sproat: All I am saying is that libraries will not be eligible for lottery funds to cover aspects for which they would normally get funding from the local authority which was responsible for them. I agree that super-highways and the other matters that the hon. Gentleman mentions are important, but funds for them will not come from the national lottery. Perhaps a library can devise a millennium application that would cover them, in which case good luck to it. I am not knocking the importance of the matters that the hon. Gentleman mentions: I am just saying that they would not normally be eligible for lottery funding.

The hon. Gentleman told us to think again. I am glad to tell him that the Government are prescient in great things as in small, and we are currently conducting a public library review. All these matters will be given true consideration.

Organisers of children's play can apply to the Sports Council and if it thinks that a proposal is a good idea, it will cough up. I have another powerful piece of prose to read out on science. Science can benefit from funds from the Millennium Commission. The national heritage memorial fund will also make money available for projects to improve access to scientific collections and museums, which is an important way to introduce people to science.

Column 1366

The Arts Council will deal with film. Applications for the making of new films or the protection of archives can be made through the Arts Council, which will take the advice of the British Film Institute in arriving at a decision. The hon. Gentleman asked about English Heritage. It will be eligible for money from the lottery, but a series of Chinese walls will have to be constructed because English Heritage is also an adviser to the NHMF. In cases where English Heritage applies for lottery funds, the fund will take independent advice from an outside adviser who is not in English Heritage. This is a difficult issue. We must watch it closely and ensure that it does not become incestuous and that Chinese walls are not breached. Commercial bodies, another important issue, are at perfect liberty to apply for lottery funds. The point is not the applicant's status but the project's status. A project is eligible if it is for the general public good. It cannot be for the benefit of the commercial body, notwithstanding the publicity that arises from sponsoring a good cause.

In considering putting together partnerships, let us take the classic example of someone wanting to build a new eight-lane, 50 m Olympic swimming pool in his constituency. He tries to raise 50 per cent. of the funds by going to the local authority, the local community and perhaps a local sponsor, who will become involved not for commercial reasons but to make a contribution to the community's life, which would be acceptable. That has dealt with that difficult list of points.

Capital versus revenue is an important and difficult issue. The Government wisely decided that financial prudence demanded that we should not give too much revenue funding. By definition, revenue funding would mean giving out revenue costs for a project that is five years away without having received a penny for that project. That is clearly dangerous. The Government said, therefore, that they would provide the money for capital projects where they knew exactly--the British library notwithstanding--how much they would pay at the end of the day.

In considering the matter, however, it became clear that revenue funding would form an important part of projects. There is a limit to the number of eight-lane, 50 m Olympic swimming pools that one can build. It is clear that one will have to maintain such a pool, pay the electricity bills and pay people to look after it. We have therefore modified our attitude to capital and revenue. We now say that there can be a revenue tail to a capital project and that revenue money can form part of an application as long as that money is entirely consequential on the capital project. I hope that that is clear. In my mind, there is no doubt as to what we are doing. We are saying that one can ask for money to run a new swimming pool at the same time as one applies for money to build that pool.

Mr. Fisher: Does that also apply to concert halls or arts centres? There is no point in building one of those if one does not have a programme for it. Will the running costs of the programme be eligible for the revenue tail?

Mr. Sproat: Ultimately that question must be answered by the Arts Council, just as the Sports Council must decide whether the revenue tail in the example that I gave is justifiable. The Arts Council will take account of the arguments. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Ainsworth) mentioned the Arts Council package, which shows that there can be revenue funding.

Column 1367

Since she is in her place, I shall deal with the remarks of the hon. Member for Vauxhall. She said that the pools should be placed on an equal footing with the lottery. That is a serious point and we are considering it. I have said to the pools promoters that we shall consider it again when the lottery has had a chance to bed down. I did not say--I apologise if I gave this impression--that the people running Camelot were naive as business men. I said that they would be naive to think that, by giving the press a few titbits on the identity of a lottery winner, they could buy the press off. We all know that people who are wise in some areas can be extremely foolish in others. I do not know if that is what the people at Camelot thought. I was told that that was what they thought. If so, they were naive in their belief, although their running of the business has been exemplary.

The hon. Member for Vauxhall said that we must continue to monitor the way in which the Sports Council, the Arts Council and the other distributor bodies do their job. That is very important. The Sports Council projects taking on 43 people specially to do the lottery work. We shall look closely at the financial openness--this was the second important point made by the hon. Member for Bootle--and the accountability of the Sports Council. We shall also look jolly carefully at the projects that it chooses. I cannot tell the council what to do, but I very much hope that its wisdom will tell it that it wants a strategic plan so that we do not have three 50 m, eight- track swimming pools within a 15-mile area. I am sure that the council would not do that. It will be wisely guided by the ministerial nominees and the sports councils in the regions.

My hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Mr. Jessel), as so often in the House, gave a speech full of common sense and authority. He raised the question of counselling. Counselling is done automatically by Camelot--

It being half-past Two o'clock, the motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael Morris): With the leave of the House, I shall put motions Nos. 2 and 3 together.

Ordered ,


(1) at the sitting on Wednesday 11th January, the Speaker shall-- (i) put the Question necessary to dispose of proceedings on the Motion in the name of Mr. Tony Newton relating to the Committee of Selection not later than Six o'clock; and

(ii) notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted business)--

(a) put the Question on the Motion in the name of Mr. Secretary Gummer relating to the draft Cleveland (Structural Change) Order 1994 not later than one and a half hours after it has been made; and (b) put the Questions on the Motions in the name of Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory relating to the Value Added Tax (Buildings and Land) and (Transport) Orders 1994 not later than one and a half hours after the first of them has been made,

and these Motions may be proceeded with, though opposed, after Ten o'clock; and

Next Section

  Home Page