Draft New Opportunities Fund (Specification of Initiatives) Order 2001

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Mr. Winnick: The hon. Gentleman said that the lottery should be a success. I assume, therefore, that he encourages all his constituents to play it. Does he play it himself?

Mr. Greenway: Absolutely, although intermittently. Sadly, I often forget to buy a ticket, but my wife and daughter both play.

I am not trying to encourage people to play the lottery. They can do so if they wish. I remind the hon. Gentleman that, alone of all gambling opportunities, the lottery is allowed to advertise because the Government believed that it was a soft form of gambling. Like the hon. Gentleman, I have some concerns about under-age players and young people who spend their pocket money on the lottery.

Mr. Winnick: I would certainly not encourage under-age players. Although I believe that the lottery was a good initiative, and I pay tribute to those in the previous Government who were responsible for its introduction, I certainly would not encourage people to play the lottery if they do not have the means to do so. I am concerned that many people on small incomes are participating, wrongly in my view, because their chances of winning are remote and they cannot afford the tickets.

The Chairman: Order. I am being indulgent of this exchange, but it is ranging very wide of the order and I do not want the Committee to be detained for longer than necessary. I hope that the answer will be swift and to the point.

Mr. Greenway: Thank you, Mr. Wells. In raising the subject, I acknowledged that I was straying outside the terms of the order, but I simply wanted to remind the Committee that all the fund money is predicated on the success of the national lottery.

The lottery was extremely successful in its early years, but ticket sales have since fallen off. I will not go into some of the reasons why they have fallen off in recent months, except to say that it is in the Government's power to help to promote the lottery. How they do so is for them to decide. I am equally confident that if people see lottery funding being put to good use—and not being given to projects such as the one down the Thames, which has been the subject of more than enough discussion in this place—they are more likely to participate, despite the fact that, as the hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) said, they have a slim chance of winning.

5.8 pm

Mr. Bob Russell: This is a carefully structured package of goodies, which it is difficult for anyone other than a puritan to oppose. That said, I never thought that I would see the day when a Labour Government would want parts of the national health service to be funded by the receipts of gambling, because that is the effect of the initiative.

The order says:

    ``to improve the prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, coronary heart disease and strokes''.

Those are core features of the national health service and should be funded through the NHS budget, not from the receipts of gambling.

Considering some of the other initiatives, will the Minister say whether this is additional money or recycled money that would have to be provided if NOF did not exist? We know that 75 per cent. of youngsters are not fulfilling the basic requirement of two hours of physical education within the school curriculum. I cannot see why additional money should be made available to fund something that, by the Government's own admission, is not being achieved. Is it new money, or are the Government trying to catch up and fill the gaps?

We have league tables for just about everything, but the Government will not have a league table for physical education in school. The hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) raised the spectre of physical recreation and education teachers being funded from gambling. I thought that the Labour movement did not believe that it was worth while paying teachers with gambling money, but the money needed to staff those additional recreational facilities will have to come from somewhere. The staff will have to be trained; one cannot simply take people off the dole queue and make them sports teachers.

We need to flesh out what is meant in paragraph (7)(d)(i) and (ii). Sub-paragraph (d)(i) states:

    ``the generation of electricity primarily from crops grown for the purpose''.

What exactly is meant by that? Where will those crops be grown? What will they replace? Sub-paragraph (d)(i) continues:

    ``or by using offshore wind-powered generators''.

It makes no reference to wave-generated electricity, which has long been promoted by those who support alternative forms of energy . Successive Governments have failed to deliver that. I suggest that the money gained from the offshore wind-powered generators is, to coin a phrase, a drop in the ocean. It is a sop to those who, genuinely and sincerely, advocate obtaining energy from self-sufficient sources—the wind and the tide. The order mentions only offshore wind-powered generators.

Sub-paragraph (d)(ii) states:

    ``the provision of heat, or heat and power, in local communities.''

As the Committee knows, considerable opposition has been expressed about using incinerators to burn waste. What will provide the heat, or the heat and power, for local communities? What is the basic commodity that is to be converted into heat and energy? We are not told. I come back to the point that I made in an intervention: is it a camouflage to assist the Deputy Prime Minister to succeed with his waste incinerator policy, which is not very popular among the environmental or the green lobbies?

The package has some good points, and no one could reasonably object to it. However, gambling money is being used to fund core parts of the national health service, possibly to fund teaching and to fund alternative forms of energy generation. It is important that we are given answers to those questions—if not today then quickly, because people might want to know the answers during the next few weeks.

5.14 pm

Ms Debra Shipley (Stourbridge): For me, the lottery initiatives are about quality of life. I welcome the health initiatives if they enhance the quality of life for those who have little of it left and for their families who support them. The Minister's comments are particularly welcome.

The initiatives and measures for extra-curricular activities that are taking place in my constituency have been popular and have helped to build the community, particularly in areas that have difficulties with youths. I hope that it will have a positive effect on the community.

I was glad to hear the Minister say that fully trained people would conduct the adventure and sports programmes, and I am sure that there are many highly qualified people who are capable of doing that. However, I doubt whether proper vetting procedures are in place, and that must be carefully considered. My concerns about that are well grounded, as I was the Member who introduced what is now the Protection of Children Act 1999. Will the Minister write to me about the matter?

The arts are flourishing in Stourbridge. It has received more grants for small initiatives than anywhere else in the west midlands. That is helping the regeneration of the area. Stourbridge town centre is relatively prosperous, but it is surrounded by areas of great poverty. Artists in the community are now able to reach out into those areas, and they are making a significant improvement to the quality of life. Therefore, I welcome the initiative.

5.16 pm

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby): I do not intend to make a lengthy speech, particularly as my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, South and Shoreditch (Mr. Sedgemore) has suggested that, if I do, nasty accidents might befall me.

I do not want to discuss the carping criticism and praise with faint damns of the hon. Member for Ryedale or the amazing resurgence of the non-conformist conscience of the Liberal Democrats—the Methodist biomass. However, I want to express my enthusiastic support for the measure. When I was notified by the Whip's Office that I would have the pleasure of serving on the Committee my joy was unbounded. I realised that the Whips were imposing a weighty responsibility on me, and I told them that I was prepared to fight for the cause on such a difficult and bitterly contested order, and defend Labour party policy in my usual vigorous fashion.

On the comments made by the hon. Member for Colchester, I especially support paragraph 2(5). Palliative care and other similar matters are not core activities of the health service. The same applies in relation to sub-paragraph (4). Many such activities are served by raising money through various local and national charitable endeavours. It is right that lottery money should be used for that purpose. With regard to paragraph 2(5), the St. Andrews hospice in Grimsby is trying to develop a hospice for young people, which is an important social purpose not provided for by the health service. It is so valuable that great effort has been expended locally, with the support of Radio Humberside, on a big fund-raising campaign. We want to apply for lottery funding for that purpose and this provision makes it available.

In expressing my gibbering gratitude for having served on the Committee, my only request to the Minister is that she informs us on what basis money will be made available for that purpose and when applications will be processed.

5.18 pm

Kate Hoey: I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) for his response to one of the points made by the hon. Member for Colchester. He gave a good answer. It is precisely the charitable and voluntary sector that is being targeted for help. It is not mainstream funding.

On palliative care, many people would prefer to die at home surrounded by people who love and care for them—I am not implying that staff in hospitals or hospices do not. That lack of support has resulted in many people having to go into hospital or a hospice, and adequate support, information and so on will make a difference.

I thank the hon. Member for Ryedale for his undertaking that a Conservative Government would honour the financial commitments and for his general support for our announcements. He raised some individual points, as did the hon. Member for Colchester. It is a question not of paying the salaries of physical education teachers and those involved in outdoor activities, but of releasing them two days a week to work in co-ordination with other schools. The new opportunities fund will provide the money for the activities. It has been carefully crafted to get round the fact that one area of funding must be additional and one is mainstream. The partnership between the Department for Education and Employment and the new opportunities fund is unique and I am certain that it will work very well. It is already beginning to roll out, and by September there should be 200 school sports co-ordinators.

The hon. Member for Ryedale referred to deprivation and I made it clear that that does not mean deprivation in urban areas. We all know that there is deprivation in rural communities, especially in access to community, sporting and arts facilities. It is sometimes more difficult for people living in rural areas to have access to such facilities.

There is an extra arm to the lottery with the new opportunities fund, which everyone supported strongly in 1998. It has not resulted in a reduction in the amount of money going to the sports lottery because the lottery has done so well and much better than we had forecast. The distributors have had around £200 million more than expected during the past seven years. I accept the point in percentage terms, but in real terms the available money has been more than originally anticipated. I join the hon. Gentleman in urging people to continue to play the lottery. Whenever I am opening anything that has received sports lottery funding, I tell people that it is not Sport England money or Sports Council money but money that was provided by them and all of us. I am sure that you buy a ticket each Saturday, Mr. Wells, as I do.

Lord Commissioner to the Treasury (Mr. Jim Dowd): And Wednesday.

Kate Hoey: No, I buy a ticket only on Saturdays. I never get round to buying one on Wednesdays, but I make a point of buying one on Saturdays. Everyone should do that, particularly Members of Parliament, including the Government Whip, who is probably lobbying for lottery money to be spent in his constituency. It is important that he and other hon. Members make their contributions.

I shall write to the hon. Member for Colchester in detail on electricity generation and renewable energy. I would be surprised if renewal energy had been left out, but it seems not to have been included. I do not know why and I shall write to the hon. Gentleman about it. I shall also respond to a couple of other minor points in writing.

I commend the order to the House.

Question and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft New Opportunities Fund (Specification of Initiatives) Order 2001.

        Committee rose twenty-four minutes past Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Wells, Mr. Bowen (Chairman)
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Dowd, Mr.
Greenway, Mr.
Hoey, Kate
McKenna, Mrs.
Mitchell, Mr.
Russell, Mr. Bob
Sedgemore, Mr.
Shipley, Ms
Winnick, Mr.

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