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House of Commons

Monday 31 January 2000

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Madam Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked--

National Lottery

1. Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): What was the average amount received from national lottery funds in each parliamentary constituency in the last year for which figures are available. [105937]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): According to my Department's national lottery awards database, £784 million of lottery money was awarded in the calendar year 1999. That equates to an average of £1,189,590 per constituency.

Mr. Sheerman: Many hon. Members will have been astounded by how much their constituents have spent on the lottery over five years. How is expenditure from lottery revenues evened out throughout the country? The last time my right hon. Friend reported to the House there seemed to be much uneven distribution in favour of London and the south-east, whereas Yorkshire and Humber and Huddersfield were not receiving their share of the cake. What are we doing to distribute that very welcome lottery money evenly throughout the country?

Mr. Smith: I am very pleased to tell my hon. Friend that since the lottery began Huddersfield has received £15.7 million, which is 42 per cent. more than the UK average. However, he correctly makes the general point that it is important to ensure that the geographical spread of lottery awards across the country is as fair as possible. That is why we put in place the National Lottery Act 1998, insisted that lottery distributers have proper strategic plans, introduced the small grants scheme and focused the new opportunities fund particularly on areas of need. I gave directions to all the lottery distributers insisting that they endeavour to secure a fairer geographical spread for awards.

Mr. John Townend (East Yorkshire): Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that every constituency could have had considerably more money if the Government had not wasted £399 million on the dome? Although it is always easy to be wise in hindsight, does he not agree that it

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would have been better to spend the money on a permanent memorial to the millennium, not one that will be knocked down in 10 years?

Mr. Smith: If the Government whom the hon. Gentleman supported had had their way, the dome would have been knocked down after a year. The decisions that we took in 1997, immediately on coming to office, ensure that it will be in place for many years, if not decades, to provide a permanent legacy.

Angela Smith (Basildon): Is my right hon. Friend aware that for the past two years I have been trying to obtain from Camelot comparative information on the number of tickets sold and the lottery grants awarded in my and other constituencies? I am pleased that the information has now been provided, albeit reluctantly. My constituents have spent about £60 million on lottery tickets and received £1.5 million back. Is not that Robin Hood in reverse and what action can he take to rectify it?

Mr. Smith: I well understand my hon. Friend's anxiety. It is important to remember that only 28p of every pound spent on lottery tickets goes to good causes, with 50p going in prizes. Funds also go to the administration of the lottery and to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. However, her point is important, which is precisely why we have put in place the new directions and new structures under the 1998 Act. They will seek, over time, to rectify the problem.

Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks): Why should an extra £60 million of lottery funding given for those good causes be diverted, as is reported, to bail out the dome, which clearly does not have the proper strategic plan to which the right hon. Gentleman referred? Of which is he proudest: the river that did not catch fire, the eye that does not revolve or the dome that nobody wants to visit?

Mr. Smith: The reality is that no application for additional funding has yet been made to the Millennium Commission. However, on the advice of its accounting officer, when we met on Friday we took a prudent view of what the commission's opinion would be if an application for cash flow support were to be made. It was sensible to make such a decision. I strongly point out to the hon. Gentleman that such funding will and must be repaid; it is not an outright grant.

Arts Organisations

2. Mr. Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside): If he will ensure that arts organisations benefiting from public funds make some unsold tickets available for use by schools. [105938]

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): I can confirm that we plan to introduce a requirement that every arts organisation subsidised by central Government must have an access policy for young people and that that should include an element of free or concessionary tickets. We have made it clear to the Arts Council of England that we intend to build that approach into the next revision of

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our funding agreement with it for 2000-01. Meanwhile, we have asked it to take account of that in on-going discussions with arts organisations.

Mr. Jones: I thank my hon. Friend for that initiative. With £125 million extra available for the arts, how, specifically, does he intend to achieve a better, fairer regional spread, with Wales and the north-west in mind? Many children do not have an early introduction to the availability of music and the theatre, so may I commend to him the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, which is working with families? Ian Wright, the timpanist, has informed me of the popularity of the concerts that the Phil organises for children. Can my hon. Friend ensure that more children are given returns and that the money made available is not wasted?

Mr. Howarth: My hon. Friend is right to praise the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society. I attended one of its concerts for children, and it was a very exciting and happy occasion.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning the extra £125 million that we have provided for the arts. With that additional resource, we have embarked on a determined policy of devolving funds to the regions. In the present financial year, combined grant-in-aid and lottery money have increased in the regional arts boards by an average of some 44 per cent. We are determined that all our people, and all young people in particular, should have access to the very best of our culture.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): I welcome the Minister's indication of the Government's thinking, and the direction of their spending. Does he accept, however, that if there is to be a universal entitlement to access to the performing arts, it will depend heavily on the willingness of education authorities and teachers to co-operate fully? When authorities and teachers are burdened with core curriculum requirements, examinations and form-filling, they are not always as responsive as they might be to the idea of taking children to such events. Will the Minister enter into a dialogue with his colleagues in the Department for Education and Employment, and with the teaching profession?

Mr. Howarth: The right hon. Gentleman makes an important point. We are already engaged in close dialogue with friends and colleagues at the Department for Education and Employment.

The right hon. Gentleman will have noted that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment has asked the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to look again at the role of education for creativity in the curriculum, in response to the thoughtful and important report by Professor Kenneth Robinson and his group. He will also know of the establishment of the National Foundation for Youth Music and the additional resources from both the Department for Education and Employment and my Department that are being spent on music for schools.

We recognise the importance of the issue that the right hon. Gentleman has raised, and are already vigorously pursuing policies that I hope he will endorse.

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Social Exclusion (Sport)

3. Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston): What steps his Department is taking to encourage the use of sport to combat social exclusion. [105939]

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): The social exclusion unit's policy action team on sport and the arts, which was led by the Department, looked specifically at this issue, and is proceeding with recommendations made in the report that it launched in July last year.

Sport England recently announced the designation of 12 sport action zones, which will aim to increase sporting participation and performance in areas of high economic and social deprivation.

Maria Eagle: I welcome the establishment of a sport action zone in my city of Liverpool. Indeed, I know that it will be widely welcomed. What can my hon. Friend do to ensure that girls in Liverpool, as well as boys, are encouraged to participate in the initiative and in sport?

Kate Hoey: I am glad that my hon. Friend welcomes the sport action zone. I know that it does not quite touch on her constituency, but I think that the whole of Liverpool will benefit.

Persuading more young women to participate in sport is very important to Sport England, to schools and to everyone who cares about sport. There have been a number of initiatives; but one of the most important requirements is that no lottery money should go to any sporting project unless it can prove that it has an equal-opportunities policy, and that young women and girls in particular are being helped to become involved in sport.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): In the light of the Secretary of State's remarks to the Labour party conference about the unnecessary sale of school playing fields, can the Minister tell us in what circumstances she would judge such a sale to be necessary?

Kate Hoey: The Government have a clear commitment to protect school playing fields. We have introduced a number of strong measures, because too many in the past were not working. The last Government allowed schools to sell off their playing fields willy nilly, when it suited them; indeed, they required the Government to sell off playing fields when they considered them to be surplus to requirements. The present Government have introduced new legislation requiring all schools to seek consent for the sale of playing fields. Sometimes it is a very balanced judgment.

Sometimes, the playing field is sold to increase sporting opportunities, but, clearly, there is a balance to be struck. No one wants a kick-around area that young people can enjoy for play to be sold. The Government are delivering on their policy. We have not got it completely right. We are determined to ensure children's sporting opportunities will not be sacrificed through selling off playing fields.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon): Does the Minister accept that sport offers great potential not only for combating social deprivation, but for economic regeneration, not least in areas of high social deprivation

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such as parts of Merseyside, south Yorkshire, Wales and Cornwall, which have been designated by Europe for objective 1 status? Does she accept that objective 1 money can give sporting projects in those areas even greater value? Given the resignation of the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), partly because of a lack of match funding from the Treasury, can her Department ensure that money from the Treasury is maximised, so that European funds are taken up?

Kate Hoey: The right hon. Gentleman knows that, as Minister for Sport, I have responsibility for many things--which I am learning--but that I do not have responsibility for many of the things that he has asked me about. I am sure that he would welcome the fact that the south Yorkshire coalfield area was one of the designated sport action zones. We are aware of the particular problems of coalfield areas and mining communities. Of course, any regeneration will be helped by the sport initiatives that we are putting into place, but I cannot answer his specific questions. I am sure that the Treasury Ministry would be delighted to answer his questions.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock): Why has not Sport England allocated funds to the eastern region in respect of the United Kingdom sports institutes? Does my hon. Friend realise not only that the region has problems of social exclusion--some deep pockets of it exist there--but that some of our finest athletes come from the region, and Essex in particular? Is it not about time that the decision was revisited, bearing in mind that it discriminates against my constituents and the people of six eastern England counties?

Kate Hoey: Clearly, my hon. Friend knows that Sport England, even with huge amounts of money, could not possibly put institutes in every region and every part of the country. It is important that the institutes reach out to all parts of the country. I am aware of the talent in his constituency and in the region. Indeed, I shall visit his constituency quite soon. I am sure that he will be able to introduce me to some of the initiatives that his local authority is involved in to improve participation in sport in the area.

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