Previous SectionIndexHome Page

11.19 am

Mr. John Grogan (Selby): It gives me great pleasure to take part in this debate. I want to draw on four different areas of my experience to make four different points on the lottery. First, from my experience as a constituency Member, I want to draw local lessons from the operation of the lottery in Selby, which might have a wider resonance. Secondly, as a keen punter, I want to consider the impact of the gambling review on the lottery. Thirdly, as chairman of the all-party BBC group, I want to consider television coverage of the lottery, which is becoming an issue again. Fourthly, drawing on my experience in the previous Parliament on the Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs—incidentally, hon. Members may be interested to know that the average spend on the lottery, and on the football pools, in Northern

1 Mar 2002 : Column 972

Ireland is greater than anywhere else in the United Kingdom—I want to conclude with a few remarks on the lottery in Northern Ireland.

Before I do so, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will allow me one preliminary remark. Yesterday, I attended the memorial service commemorating one year after the tragedy at Great Heck. It was an extremely moving service in Selby abbey. Coming down on the train last night, I heard that there had been a similar accident at Nocton, south of Lincoln. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all hon. Members present in sending our deepest sympathy to the bereaved family and our best wishes to all those who were injured in that crash.

To return to the lottery and to the local lessons in Selby, it is interesting that, in my constituency, £5.6 million of lottery grants have been given out in recent years—a total of 156 awards. Forty of those awards have been made in the past 14 months. That is no accident. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport mentioned that in some smaller towns the councils and the voluntary sector have got their act together to try to provide advice to voluntary groups and sporting groups on making lottery applications.

When I first became a Member of Parliament, I was astonished that one of the first things my office was asked to do was to help out with a lottery application. I was therefore keen to support the efforts of Gill Cashmore of the Selby association of voluntary services and Steve Shaw-Wright of the town council to obtain professional advice. That has worked—the Selby association of voluntary services now has a full-time funding office. Indeed, just before Christmas the local evening paper contained the extremely welcome headline: "Midas Mike aims to make a million for good causes". "Midas" Mike Dunne said:

He has certainly made a difference in the Selby area.

The new opportunities fund has been mentioned not least by the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), who is a fellow North Yorkshire Member. I have looked carefully at new opportunities fund funding in my constituency, which has been almost exclusively concentrated on after-school clubs and holiday clubs in villages that would not have had a hope of having such facilities and opportunities previously. Hemingbrough—a very rural village—has recently been funded for 16 before-school and 24 holiday places for children aged between three and 11. The beekeepers club in Fulford in my constituency and Space Base in Riccall provide similar opportunities. That would never have happened before in a rural area like Selby. North Yorkshire county council has been allocated £3.5 million from the new opportunities fund to improve sports facilities in schools in the North Yorkshire area. A Conservative county council is therefore enthusiastically embracing the new opportunities fund, and Councillor Carl Les is heading up the initiative in North Yorkshire.

My hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) talked about the hopes of the Welsh for Cardiff Arms Park and about a possible renaissance in Welsh rugby, and we have similar hopes for Yorkshire

1 Mar 2002 : Column 973

cricket, which we have achieved. Headingley has a new lottery-funded development, and we are now the county champions. Headingley is not quite finished, but it is getting better every day and will be a fitting home for the county champions when it is finished. Local club cricket is very strong in Yorkshire, and no fewer than five cricket teams—Cawood, Tadcaster, Saxton, Bolton Percy and Appleton Roebuck—have benefited from lottery grants. In illustration of the fact that there are a wide range of sporting activities in Selby, a further seven sports—hockey, martial arts, football, swimming, bowls, tennis and horse riding—have also received grants.

The heritage fund can be flexible in funding big projects such as Selby abbey—which has received nearly £400,000—where the memorial service to which I referred took place yesterday. That funding is essential in ensuring that Selby abbey continues to be the centre of the town for future generations. The lesson is that it is often worth persisting with such applications. The abbey was knocked back the first time, took some advice, went back and was successful on its second application.

There have also been much smaller heritage fund successes in my constituency. For example, Smeatons magazine team, which produces a community magazine for the villages of Kirk Smeaton and Little Smeaton, received an award of just £670 to cover the cost of publishing, which was as important for the team as the big grant was for Selby abbey.

To draw a couple of wider lessons from our experience in Selby, one experiment that I tried only last week during our half-term break was to take a minibus of those representing not only lottery funders but the Coalfields Regeneration Trust and landfill tax funders to look at the areas of Selby where there are the biggest problems—areas such as Selby South, which is in the top 300 wards for child poverty, and Brotherton. We looked at projects that the lottery can partly fund, but that other funders would be interested in as well. That seemed to be a success and I hope that it will bear fruit in future.

I now want to consider the impact of the Budd review. Of the 167 recommendations of that review, the national lottery is worried about three—side-betting, the deregulation of charity lotteries and the liberalisation of bingo prizes. In terms of the future of the lottery, we must be cautious about side-betting. The only example of allowing betting on the lottery in bookmakers is in Ireland, which seemed to lead to a reduction of about 20 per cent. in lottery funds. As a regular attender in betting shops on Saturday mornings—after my surgery, obviously—to put on bets for the afternoon, I know that they have had a good deal from the Government in the past year in terms of the abolition of betting duty. We therefore need to be cautious. If we deregulate immediately the lottery rules regarding other charities, large charities might combine with big retailers, which might have a significant effect on the national lottery. We must certainly think about that carefully. I am less worried about liberalising bingo prizes—bingo took a big hit when the national lottery was first introduced but it has adapted and is largely a distinct market.

Television coverage is extremely important for the national lottery. Since 1994 when the lottery started, the BBC has had the contract for the lottery. My right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Gorton

1 Mar 2002 : Column 974

(Mr. Kaufman) has always been critical of that, as the BBC made a payment for the national lottery at the time. The market was very competitive at that stage. I do not see anything wrong in that—rights to screen the lottery are comparable to rights to screen test matches or the Oscars. Now, however, the BBC's contract is coming to an end—I think that it has been extended until just after the jubilee celebrations, but there is no guarantee that it will continue.

The market has changed, and I understand that ITV, buoyed up by the success of "Pop Idol" and other Saturday night attractions, is not making a big bid for the lottery this time. It is essential for the lottery programme to remain on terrestrial television. Were it to go to satellite TV, its importance would be much diminished, so I would encourage the BBC, if it is successful, and the national lottery to reach a long-term agreement.

I note that Michael Grade, who has a Channel 4 background, is much involved with the lottery. Interestingly, cricket and the BBC have agreed under their new radio coverage contract to promote the game across BBC radio—for example, Radio 1 is trying to appeal to youth—and I hope that, under any new deal, the lottery considers involving more BBC stations in coverage. One of the lottery's problems is also faced by politicians—attracting young people's interest. The age profile of those who buy lottery tickets reveals a dip in the 20s, and I hope that any new TV and broadcasting deal considers that carefully.

The lottery is more popular in Northern Ireland in terms of participation than anywhere else in the United Kingdom, and it is worth noting that the UK lottery is characterised by many people spending a little, which is a good thing. It is ranked 34th in the world in terms of per capita spending and has a broad reach across the population.

I want to draw out the issue of the proposed national stadium for Northern Ireland, so it is appropriate that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport will reply to the debate. The sports lottery fund is distributed according to population, and Northern Ireland contains about 2.8 per cent. of the UK population. I shall not go into details, but proposals are being developed for a national stadium, which would have a cementing effect on the peace process. There is no non-sectarian stadium in Northern Ireland. Windsor Park is the home of football, but it is much associated with one section of the community.

A national stadium, not just for football but for rugby and Gaelic sports, would be a big advance. A former chairman of the Sports Council, Mr. Allen, commented:

a big international match

The matter is now devolved, but the Administration and the Assembly are considering proposals on making a lottery bid to support their ideas for a national stadium. I ask Ministers to consider whether there is a way around the rules on per head sports funding so that the project can be advanced.

1 Mar 2002 : Column 975

Speaking as a constituency MP in respect of the funding going to Selby, as a Yorkshire MP in respect of Headingley and as a Member of this place, I think that our 1998 changes have made a real difference on the ground. For example, the after-school club in the village of Heminbrough, rather than the Churchill papers, has received funding. That is welcome, and proof that priorities have changed over recent years.

Next Section

IndexHome Page