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Mr. Green: I shall speak mainly to amendments Nos. 8 and 1, but I shall first briefly address new clause 4. I regret the absence of the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan) in more than the usual formal sense in which those words are used in the House, because I am genuinely unsure about whether I have completely understood what he wants to achieve with his new clause. As I understand it, he wants to constrain the behaviour of the Secretary of State after the millennium fund has been wound up. That seems perfectly sensible and there is much to be said in favour of such a course of action, but, in a form of argument that will be familiar to those of my right hon. and hon. Friends who have attended debates at the Conservative party conference, I disapprove of the new clause because it does not go far enough.

8.15 pm

If it is sensible to restrain the behaviour of the Secretary of State after the winding up of the millennium fund,

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it would be equally sensible to do so now, especially in the context of the Bill which brings so much power over distribution under the Secretary of State's purview. One of the principal objections to the Bill has always been that it involves the nationalisation of large parts of the lottery distribution mechanism, turning it from a national lottery into a nationalised lottery. That lies at the root of many of the Opposition's objections to the Bill. One of the purposes of amendments Nos. 8 and 1 is to retain some independence for those bodies distributing to the good causes that have done so well over the past four years.

I am sure that the Minister will advance once again the specious argument that we heard several times in Committee; that the cake has got bigger, so it does not matter that the percentage of the cake that the existing good causes are to get is being reduced, as they were planning to receive only that amount of cake anyway. There are two reasons why that is an invalid and specious argument. First, if it can be done once, it can be done again. All the good causes will rightly realise that they have become a target for Ministers of this and future Governments--that they are seen as a convenient way of relieving public spending pressures in almost any circumstances. That will have a direct effect on the way they act from now on. The danger is not merely a theoretical possibility for the future, as many of the things the good causes do involve long-term planning; if they are less sure of the level of funding they are to receive for many years ahead and if they are to act prudently, as most do, they will not commit themselves to large projects or long-term revenue funding. That in itself will be damaging.

Secondly, the good causes are being cheated out of money. They recognised that the cake was growing faster than was originally forecast and planned accordingly. It is undeniable that the demand for bids has improved both in quantity and in quality over the years, as more bodies have got used to the methodology of bidding and worked out how to put together a successful bid. All the distributing bodies say that they would like to pass a higher proportion of bids now than they did two or three years ago, simply because they are generally of better quality, but the result of the Bill is that they will be able to pass only a lower percentage than before, which will be extremely damaging.

The ability to plan ahead will be particularly affected, and that will be increasingly harmful. In the past, large capital projects have been funded, but we all accept that, in future, lottery funding will move towards revenue funding. If the good causes feel that they have to cut off revenue funding after two or three years, future artists and athletes may not be given the opportunities that they deserve and that they could be given under the lottery as currently constituted.

Existing good causes will know that the new opportunities fund is open ended and can be expanded to almost any extent. The Bill would allow expansion to continue, so the good causes would be right to be even more fearful about the future as the opportunities for political manipulation introduced by the Bill become ever more attractive to future Secretaries of State.

The present division is crude but fair. Nobody would argue that there is any great science in deciding that five good causes should each receive 20 per cent. of the money. We could have had endless arguments about whether charities were more worthy than the arts and

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whether sport was more worthy than heritage. The simple method--which has, as far as I know, received barely a murmur of protest--of dividing the cake five ways by giving 20 per cent. to each cause is seen to be perfectly fair. In this case, complication is the enemy of trust inthe long term. By introducing complication into the distribution mechanism, the Government are eroding the trust that exists between them and the distributing bodies. That is likely to damage the bodies' morale and the amount of good that they can do.

I urge the Government to accept the amendments, which are in no way wrecking amendments. They would not stop the Government setting up the new opportunities fund or taking any of the significant measures in the Bill. If the House has a surprising burst of sanity and accepts the amendments, it will enshrine protection for the existing good causes so that although the Government could set up the new opportunities fund, that would not cause the collateral damage to the good causes that the Bill will inflict. I urge the Minister to have a last minute change of heart and accept the amendments.

Mr. Prior: It is rather sad that we have to debate amendment No. 1, which would increase the minimum allocation from 5 to 13.33 per cent. We should not feel obliged to do so. We are debating it because Conservative Members are genuinely concerned about protecting the good causes. The lottery has been a tremendous success, as has the distribution of lottery funds, but, over the past few months, in Committee and in debates in the House, many Conservative Members have come to feel that we can no longer trust the Government to ensure that the money is spent properly.

We do not trust the Government because we are not convinced by their defence of the additionality principle. We are convinced by the Bill's wording that the lottery can no longer be described as being at arm's length from the Government. The combination of those two aspects of the Bill makes us feel the need to increase the minimum percentage allocation to protect the good causes.

What leads me to distrust the Government is the fact that they are legislating retrospectively and have been fiddling around with shadow accounts. There was no need to do that. If they had been honest, they could have increased the percentage to the new opportunities fund later, but they did not want to. They deliberately made the Bill retrospective to make it appear as if the percentage was less. That was a deeply unnecessary and reprehensible act. The Government will grab as much money as they possibly can to use for their own purposes. That was not the intention behind the lottery; it was not even the intention of the Government when they were in opposition, when they fought strongly for the additionality principle.

It is vital to protect the interests of good causes, first, for the sake of the lottery. As long as people see that the lottery is independent and that the money goes to good causes, not mainstream public spending, they will continue to play it. The danger of lottery fatigue setting in will be greater if the Bill is implemented.

We are anxious to protect good causes, secondly, for the sake of good government. It is important that taxation is transparent. The taxpayer and the electorate should know where the money comes from to finance public spending. This is sleight of hand--the Government are

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taking money from good causes to fund their pet projects. I do not necessarily disagree with the projects that they are spending the money on, but it is wrong that the money is being taken from the lottery.

The third reason why it is important to protect good causes is for the sake of the causes themselves. If lottery fatigue sets in and, over time, the causes that are supported by the distributing funds spend the money on revenue rather than capital, it is essential that they have a longer and longer time horizon. If there is in the background the permanent threat that the Government may take more money away from the good causes, that will undermine the causes in the long run.

For those three reasons I support, with some sadness, the proposed increase in the minimum allocation from 5 per cent. to 13.33 per cent.

Mr. Brooke: I declare an interest as the chairman of a trust involved in archaeology and ecology in the Andes, primarily in Peru, which has made an application to the National Lottery Charities Board. I see concern written on the face of the Minister for Sport; I give him a categorical assurance that I shall not communicate or correspond with him about it. I mention that body because, as the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) will recall, it was the charities' concern about their allocation in the original Act that occasioned a fair amount of debate between us.

There was a recognition that, as the Millennium Commission money ran out with the coming of the millennium, there would be an opportunity to consider the reallocation of the money and whether the charities should receive more. At that stage, we would know how they had spent the money so far. In that respect, I agree with new clause 4, which has been tabled by the right hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Mr. Maclennan) as it relates to the purpose of a review.

I have not had a briefing by the National Lottery Charities Board, which is my constituent. In the fourth sitting of the Standing Committee, on 30 April, my hon. Friend the Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) referred to such a briefing. I am not in any way acting on behalf of the board. I apologise for some unfamiliarity with the narrative. When I was a child, my mother taught me at her knee what I always believed to be a verse from the Old Testament: man look not back at the furrow ploughed by thee. I have never been able to find it in holy writ, but I have not given up hope. I do not spend much time revisiting my past and, if I am unfamiliar with any detail, I apologise.

My recollection is that the Home Office was originally responsible for the National Lottery Charities Board. I was conscious that my right hon. Friend the Member for South-West Surrey (Mrs. Bottomley), who was then Secretary of State for National Heritage, received into her Department the voluntary activity that had previously been looked after by the Home Office. I do not know whether she took responsibility for the charities fund at the same time, but I am conscious that the Government have moved the voluntary activities back into the Home Office. If the Government are creating a new good cause, it is a little illogical to spend money on issues that have nothing to do with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport when they criticised the earlier movement of voluntary activity to the Department of National Heritage.

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I say, as a bystander, that there has been a lack of coherence in the development of the Government's thinking. There was a Stephen Leacock character who jumped on his horse and rode off in four directions at once. There has been an element of that in the transmogrification of the Government's policy, which has been curious in view of the emphasis that they have placed on strategy and their criticism that there was a lack of strategy in the previous thinking.

I believe that the Minister for Sport will reply to the debate, and I welcome the opportunity to hear from him more precisely what the Government's intentions are. I do not know whether, in his responsibility for heritage buildings, he has been high over the nave in Wells cathedral, but if he has he will have seen etched on the floor the design work of the masons in the middle ages, which is still visible 500 or 600 years later. We shall see the Minister for Sport set out such markings, and we shall have an opportunity to verify them over the next five years. I had profound sympathy with the observation by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Green) that complication is the enemy of trust in these matters. The simpler the Government can make what they intend to do, the better it will be for the lottery.


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