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House of Commons

Monday 8 May 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. Dr. Ian Gibson (Norwich, North): What assessment his Department has made of the impact of the changes to the national lottery introduced by the National Lottery Act 1998. [119872]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The changes in the 1998 Act reflect the Government's commitment to ensuring that lottery money gets to where it is needed. The strategic plans that distributors are obliged to produce under the Act place a high priority on targeting areas of social and economic deprivation, and new powers of delegation mean that decisions are now being taken at a more local level.

Dr. Gibson: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that, in the past few days, there has been discussion about delivering the funds and making life better for people and that the changes in the lottery fund have done just that? They have brought confidence to people with cancer because of the provision of radiotherapy machines; they have brought our crazy brilliant young scientists money to try out their ideas and they have thrown money at the right areas of sport. However, does my right hon. Friend agree that the greatest success has been in cities, such as Norwich, where funds have been put into areas of great deprivation so that the young and the old alike can indulge in pursuits that give them confidence and optimism for the future?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is right. Indeed, we promised the electorate that we would make such changes when we went to the country in the general election. I am very pleased that we have now put those promises into action. None of the things that have happened--the establishment of the new opportunities fund, the ability to solicit applications from areas that need them, the ability to establish joint schemes between distributors, the fairer geographical spread that is now coming through and,

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above all, the focus on areas of social deprivation--would have been possible without the changes that we introduced in the 1998 Act.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): Whatever the merits of the new opportunities fund--I note what the Secretary of State has just said about the promises made before the previous election--is it not in total contrast to what the Prime Minister said about the lottery fund when he was Leader of the Opposition? He said that he did not

Mr. Smith: My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister was right to say that when he did and it remains the Government's clearly stated policy; it is what we are doing. Lottery funds are used for things that are additional to the core responsibilities of government; they do not replace Government expenditure.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will know that the Library has produced a fine research document on where lottery money is spent. In many constituencies, £30 million, £40 million or £50 million is spent on lottery tickets, but much less is returned to those communities--between £2 million and £5 million. In the light of that, does he feel that there should be a stronger community element in a new lottery Act?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is right to identify a discrepancy, which is partly due to the fact that only 28p out of every £1 spent on lottery tickets comes back to any of the good causes established. The average figure per constituency of spending on good causes by lottery distributors is about £10 million, but I am well aware that many constituencies have not reached that level of expenditure. I can fully understand the anxiety that colleagues on both sides of the House have in ensuring that a fair share of lottery money is spent across the country as a whole. In that respect, I welcome the fact that, over the past year, the number of small grants made by lottery distributors has doubled, because that means that more money reaches the grass roots and local communities everywhere across the country.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): I seem to remember that the Secretary of State's constituency does rather well out of the lottery.

Is not the centrepiece of the Government's changes to the lottery the creation of the new opportunities fund, which is the Government's lottery fund? Does the Secretary of State think that it is doing all right because, of the £540 million that it has so far received, it has to date paid out only £61 million? That means that, effectively, the Government are sitting on £480 million worth of lottery players' money. What is the explanation for that? Is it that there is a lack of projects, which I doubt; is it incompetent bureaucracy, which is entirely possible; or are we dealing with a slush fund that was deliberately and cynically created to buy back failing support in the run-up to a general election? After last Thursday, I think that we can all guess the answer.

Mr. Smith: The hon. Gentleman's questions get more unbelievable every month. The new opportunities fund

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has already embarked on its out-of-school education and child care initiative, for which £400 million is earmarked. It has also embarked on its information communications technology training and content creation for teachers and its health living centres programme, for each of which £300 million has been earmarked, and its cancer prevention, treatment and care initiative, for which £150 million has been earmarked. Detailed bidding for the green spaces and sustainable communities initiative and the access to lifelong learning initiative is about to begin.

All those are at the core of the new opportunities fund mission to provide projects related to health, education and the environment, and have been welcomed in constituencies throughout the country. The Tories are effectively telling the nation that they would scrap after-school clubs, healthy living centres and initiatives on cancer prevention, treatment and care if they got back into government.


2. Mr. David Kidney (Stafford): What action his Department is taking to promote environmentally sustainable tourism. [119873]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): The Government's strategy, "Tomorrow's Tourism", published in February 1999, places sustainability at its core and seeks to integrate the economic, social and environmental implications of tourism.

Mr. Kidney: I recall my hon. Friend coming to Stafford last year to launch the borough council's strategy for tourism, and I thank her very much for that. I am aware of how much good work her Department does to promote the maximising of the economic advantages of tourism while preventing environmental harm to the attractions themselves, and more widely. What is my hon. Friend's Department doing to persuade others such as councils, tourism organisations and private owners to have a similarly high regard for sustainability?

Janet Anderson: My hon. Friend is right, and I congratulate him and Stafford borough council on the work that they are doing in that area.

It is important to get the balance right. Tourism is the fastest growing industry in the world and we want our fair share of it. However, we want to ensure that future generations, too, can avail themselves of such opportunities. I hope that the strategy paper that the English Tourism Council's task force is producing this autumn will give councils throughout the country good advice on that matter.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): Does the Minister agree that uninhibited access to environmentally sensitive countryside can sometimes do immense damage to the attractiveness of the very landscape that visitors and tourists want to enjoy, and can threaten wildlife and conservation? Clearly, there is consensus on the need for a balance. However, will the Minister join me in urging her ministerial colleagues in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions to listen to the concerns of Britain's 4 million anglers and reject a Labour

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Back-Bench proposal to allow an unrestricted right of access to all river banks and fisheries, which would be extremely damaging to the sport of fishing, as well as fish stocks and other wildlife?

Janet Anderson: That is not a matter for my Department. However, I assure the hon. Gentleman that the sustainable tourism component of our strategy has been informed by our consultation document, "Tourism--towards sustainability", which formed part of the wider consultation conducted by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on updating the United Kingdom's sustainable development strategy. That represented the first ever attempt by Government to consult on such a scale.

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