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National Lottery

10. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East): If he will make a statement on the geographical distribution of lottery funds. [105946]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): Some regions have fared better than others from the lottery. Following the National Lottery Act 1998 and my revised policy directions, distributors must now take into account the need to ensure that all parts of the country have access to funding and the scope for reducing economic and social deprivation. Working with the lottery distributors, we have also commissioned joint research to establish what more can be done to help areas where the take-up of lottery funding has been low.

Sir Teddy Taylor: I thank the Minister for those assurances. However, is he aware of the frustration and anger in my constituency, because we spend 50 per cent. more than average on lottery tickets, but Rochford and Southend receive less lottery funding than almost any other area in the United Kingdom? In particular, is he aware that our pier--the longest in the world, and a very great one--was turned down for funding, whereas some rubbishy piers elsewhere received substantial amounts of money? I fully appreciate that the Minister is not responsible for handing out the funds, but will he let the distributors of the funding know that Southend-on-Sea feels that it has had a rotten deal so far, and that it is looking for an improvement?

Mr. Smith: I am sure that the lottery distributors will have heard the hon. Gentleman's views loud and clear. I do not want to disparage the wonderful piers at Southport, Brighton and elsewhere, which have received lottery awards. However, the various changes that we have put in place, particularly those to ensure that the lottery distributors must take account of geographical distribution when making their decisions, will gradually take effect. That is why I was very pleased that the figures for the past year show that the number of small grants awarded by the lottery distributors, right down to community level and right across the country, has doubled in the past year. It is why I am also pleased that the figures show that, up to the end of the last financial year, 41 per cent. of the money from the lottery in England has gone to the 50 most deprived local authorities.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): Does my right hon. Friend know whether any Members of Parliament have said how grateful they were for money that their constituency has received from the lottery? I thought that I might have been in that position until I realised that my constituents in West Ham had spent more than £50 million. Any hon. Member who believes that there is

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a metropolitan bias should examine the situation in London, because clearly there is no such imbalance.

Would it not be helpful if Camelot told us how many winners there have been in each constituency? I do not think that there have been any large winners in my area of West Ham, and I should certainly like to set an example.

Mr. Smith: I am delighted to tell my hon. Friend that West Ham has received £10.7 million from lottery distributors over five years. That is almost bang on the national average.

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): It now appears that the lottery has become the easy bank for the millennium experience, and that Greenwich is receiving a disproportionately large amount of lottery money. Could the Secretary of State tell me, pursuant to his earlier reply, why £60 million may need to be made available to the dome? Is it because sponsors have not paid up? If it is because of falling ticket income, how on earth, in the remaining 48 weeks of its life, will the dome earn the £1.25 million a week necessary to pay back this sum of public money?

Mr. Smith: I am delighted to tell the right hon. Gentleman that Fylde has received £11.8 million in lottery money over five years, which is of course above the national average. As for the dome, I have already explained that no application for additional assistance has been received from the New Millennium Experience Company. However, if such a request does emerge, we at the Millennium Commission will want to give the most careful scrutiny to the dome's finances, expenditure projections, income projections and ticket numbers before making money available.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): As chairman of the Millennium Commission, is the right hon. Gentleman not ashamed that, within a month of its opening, the dome has had to come back for more lottery money?

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): Have you been to it?

Mr. Ainsworth: Yes I have, thank you very much.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): Who paid?

Mr. Ainsworth: I did, and I am beginning to wonder whether it was money well spent. If even the sponsors are refusing to throw good money after bad, why should lottery players? How much money is the right hon. Gentleman prepared to squander on a life support system for the dome? By when must it be paid back?

Mr. Smith: The hon. Gentleman clearly has not heard what I have been saying. No such application has yet been received. All the surveys that have been undertaken, even by the most hostile of newspapers, show that, overwhelmingly, visitors to the dome have thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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Millennium Commission

11. Mr. Ben Bradshaw (Exeter): If he will make a statement on his plans for the money allocated to the Millennium Commission in future years. [105947]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): When the Millennium Commission's income from the lottery comes to an end, its share will be transferred to the new opportunities fund.

Mr. Bradshaw: Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the best uses of millennium money has been to support the national cycle network, half of which will be opened this summer? Would it not be very sad if this exciting and permanent project were left half finished? Can he give me any encouragement that more money will be made available to complete it?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Sustran is one of the best schemes that the Millennium Commission is supporting. By the end of the year, I believe, some 5,000 miles of cycle route will be in place from the very north of Scotland to the foot of Cornwall. When the Millennium Commission's work comes to an end, we hope that some of Sustran's work may be applied to the green spaces and sustainable communities initiative under the new opportunities fund, which we have established, and which every Conservative Member opposed.


The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked--


30. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): What plans the Church Commissioners have to mark the millennium in 2000. [105967]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): The commissioners have consistently encouraged every appropriate attempt to mark the millennium year as the 2000th anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ. We all enjoyed the activities around new year's eve, even those around the millennium dome. However, churches will continue to stress the Christian story throughout the year, particularly during Pentecost--or Whit--weekend in June when hundreds of inter-church celebrations are planned all over the country.

Miss McIntosh: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that helpful reply. Does he agree that one of the best ways to mark the millennium would be to reduce value added tax on church repairs? Can he update us on whether the Paymaster General has had legal advice to the effect that we can offer a reduced rate of VAT on repairs to churches?

Mr. Bell: I congratulate the hon. Lady on her tenacity. I raised the matter in an Adjournment debate in November, during which my hon. Friend the Paymaster

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General referred to a forthcoming meeting with the Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies to review its research on how the VAT rate could be reduced at minimal revenue cost. The Church expects to participate in the meeting, and will continue to press a case for VAT relief on buildings. I shall ensure that the hon. Lady's point is included in the discussions.

Mr. Peter L. Pike (Burnley): While we do not want any obelisk or granite block to mark the millennium, does my hon. Friend not think that the Church Commissioners should use every means possible to dedicate the millennium to peace and to avoiding a repeat of the follies of the 20th century?

Mr. Bell: Yes. There was once a pamphlet titled "Peace, jobs and freedom", which someone said was better than "War, slavery and unemployment". The Church is naturally committed to peace and to promoting the message of peace. We shall ensure that we get that message across at home and in third world countries.

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