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National Lottery (Community Chest)

3.31 pm

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): I beg to move,

There are so many people in the Chamber; I did not appreciate how much interest there was in the Bill.

The Bill is in two parts. The first is a measure to ensure that there is a network of terminals for the lottery in every community throughout the United Kingdom. Local post offices will often be the most appropriate sites for that access, particularly in remote and rural areas, but we should also consider shops, petrol stations and village halls.

Under the original legislation there were supposed to be 35,000 lottery terminals, but there are now only 24,300 terminals in the UK. Highly populated urban centres are much better served than our more isolated rural communities. The Bill will ensure universal access to the national lottery.

In addition, all post office branches, local shops and petrol stations should have lottery terminals to access the internet for e-mail and e-commerce. Those terminals would quickly create nationwide network access for people who do not have information technology facilities at home. The Bill will help to resolve some of the digital divide--a key subject in last week's G8 talks. We should create 100,000 new terminals.

The measures outlined in my Bill provide a much needed boost for local post offices, which already provide an array of services to the community in addition to postal services. They are crucial for the dissemination of information, and they are a focus for local people to meet. We must find more creative new roles for them, and I suggest that this is one of those.

The second part of the Bill seeks to introduce an additional cause: the community awards cause. Currently, there are six good causes: arts, charities, sport, millennium, heritage and the New Opportunities Fund. At the end of the year, the millennium cause will cease and

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the six will become five. The Bill seeks to create a new cause: the community chest. I know that the Sports Council for Wales already has that cause.

Research by the House of Commons Library--I commend the report to the House and urge Members to read and digest its findings--demonstrates some interesting statistics. I have taken four constituencies at random: Sedgefield; Richmond, Yorks; Ross, Skye and Inverness, West; and Sittingbourne and Sheppey.

Since 1994, Sedgefield constituents have spent £537 per head on lottery tickets, or nearly £41 million. However, they have won only £5.3 million in lottery awards. Richmond has spent £334 per head of adult population, or £36 million, but has received just under £7 million in lottery awards. Ross, Skye and Inverness, West clearly knows something. It has spent £502 per head of adult population, which means expenditure of £30 million on tickets, and has received almost £10.5 million in return. Sittingbourne and Sheppey has spent £672 per head, or expenditure of £43.5 million, but has won only £1.2 million.

My Bill seeks to change the nature of the lottery good causes. It proposes introducing a new cause, the community chest, which will receive 20 per cent. of the revenue from ticket sales after prize money and costs have been allocated in each constituency.

The community chest good cause would still be able to spend revenues only on the five existing causes. The difference would be that it would be quicker than the current bureaucratic system, more effective and--dare I say it--more popular.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Derek Wyatt, Mrs. Diana Organ, Mr. Alan Meale and Mr. Lawrie Quinn.

National Lottery (Community Chest)

Mr. Derek Wyatt accordingly presented a Bill to amend the National Lottery Act 1998 to require lottery terminals to double as internet access points and a proportion of revenue from ticket sales to be kept in a community chest: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 3 November, and to be printed [Bill 171].

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Speaker's Statement

3.37 pm

Madam Speaker: In 1992, when the House elected me to be Speaker, I pledged two things: to do my best to justify its confidence, and to do all in my powers to preserve and to cherish its traditions. Now, as I prepare to lay down this great office, it is for you to judge my performance against those promises. Be assured that on this occasion, I shall not rule you out of order.

For my part, being Speaker has afforded me a unique opportunity to serve Parliament, for which I am immensely grateful. However, before I go further, I wish to thank those who have given me such loyal service throughout the years. Although--thank goodness for me, and for you too--I have not come anywhere near Speaker Onslow's record of 31 years in this Chair, I have nevertheless seen three Clerks of the House, each giving invaluable service--Sir Clifford Boulton, Sir Donald Limon and the current occupant, Bill McKay. To each of them I owe a very great deal.

I also wish to pay tribute to my two secretaries. Sir Peter Kitcatt steered me through the first very strange and very demanding days of my new job and gave me absolutely splendid support. I was very fortunate, too, in his successor, Nicolas Bevan, who came new to the House, but swiftly acquired an encyclopaedic knowledge not only of Members' names and interests, but of the ways of Westminster. Since 1993 he has been constantly at my side, whether in this House or on visits abroad--never tiring, never ruffled, but showing great patience, great loyalty and personal commitment. My very best thanks go to Nicolas.

I owe a debt of thanks also to all the others who have served on my office and constituency staff, and on my personal staff in Speaker's House--and, of course, to the Deputy Speakers who throughout the years have supported me so well.

When I first entered the House, the Speaker was Selwyn Lloyd, and I recall his leaving speech. He paid very generous tribute to the Members of those days, but he went out of his way to mention what he described as their "collective faults". He summed those up as long-windedness, sedentary interruptions, points of order that are not points of order, and an inability to scrutinise Bills and statutory instruments as they should be scrutinised. Things don't change much, do they?

One of the privileges of the Speaker is to be able to represent this House abroad, both at Speakers' Conferences and on bilateral visits. I am glad to have been able to accept invitations to represent Westminster in every continent, and to have visited many countries, both large and small, on your behalf. What has always come across clearly to me is the respect felt abroad for the British system of parliamentary democracy. It comes across especially among the emerging democracies of central and eastern Europe, where there is a very keen desire to learn from our experience as they develop their own systems of government. I know that the advice and assistance that we are able to give at both parliamentary and staff level are enormously appreciated.

Sadly, however, I have to say that the high reputation of Westminster abroad is not entirely reflected at home. I know from my postbag how much disillusion about the

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political process there is among the general public. The level of cynicism about Parliament, and the accompanying alienation of many of the young from the democratic process, is troubling. It is an issue on which every Member of the House should wish to reflect. It is our responsibility, each and every one of us, to do what we can to develop and build public trust and confidence.

Let us make a start by remembering that the function of Parliament is to hold the Executive to account. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] That is the role for which history has cast the Commons. It is the core task of Members not merely to act as representatives of their constituents, important though that certainly is. It is in Parliament in the first instance that Ministers must explain and justify their policies. Since becoming Speaker in 1992, I have made my views known about that, both publicly and behind the scenes, to both Governments. I have taken action to ensure that those who advise Ministers should never overlook the primacy of Parliament. This is the chief forum of the nation--today, tomorrow and, I hope, for ever.

Question Time offers a prime opportunity to hold Ministers to account, and I share the disappointment at the slow progress that is made. Too many Back-Bench Members are being deprived, by the long-windedness of colleagues, of their chance to question Ministers. We are not moving down the Order Paper as we should. There is also an issue of quality as well as quantity. There is, from time to time, a risk that engagement with the real issues is seen to be overshadowed by political point scoring simply for its own sake.

Parliament's other prime function is the scrutiny of Government legislation. There is, I believe, throughout the House a general recognition that that is an area ripe for improvement. Committees of the House, as well as outside bodies, are making a substantial contribution to the debate. The issues are serious and complex, and there is no simple solution. The debate should not be conducted on party lines--nor on the simplistic basis of the Executive versus the rest of us. The objective, to my mind, must be improved scrutiny leading to better legislation--perhaps through the greater use of pre-legislative arrangements; I think that they might be useful to us. Again, the issue is as much one of quality of scrutiny as of quantity.

Furthermore, the House must be prepared to put in the hours necessary to carry out effective examination of the Government's legislative programme. If that means long days, or rearrangement of the parliamentary year, so be it. Of course, I have been here long enough to recognise the importance of enabling parliamentarians to enjoy a domestic life; it should not be impossible to meet both objectives--but where there is a clash, the requirements of effective scrutiny and the democratic process must take priority over the convenience of Members.

Those of you who were here when I submitted myself to the will of the House in 1992 will recall that I said, in all honesty, that for me the Commons had never been just a career; it had been my life. Now, after eight and a half years as Speaker, that is more true than ever. Quite apart from the honour of being Speaker and the many fascinations of the work, I have enjoyed the job. I was going to say that I have enjoyed every minute of it. Let me say that I have enjoyed almost every minute of it. That has been helped by the fact that I have presided over a House containing so many characters and so many

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stalwart Members, on whom it depends so much. I have not had a boring day in my working life, and for all that, I am grateful to all of you.

When I came to the conclusion that it was right for me to go, my thoughts went to that famous passage in the book of Ecclesiastes, about there being

Well, my dancing days are long past--[Hon. Members: "No!"]--and I promise the House that I shall not weep, but I shall certainly mourn the fact that an all-important phase in my life has come to a natural end. However, it is time for laughter as well, as we remember all the lighter moments that we have enjoyed together--

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