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11.34 am

Angela Watkinson (Upminster): I add my words of welcome for the success of the national lottery, which has become nothing short of a national institution. It has created many jobs and provided money for myriad good causes. We should not forget all those individual lottery winners whose lives have been transformed by big money prizes.

There are six distributing funds, so there is enormous competition. I was surprised to see still listed among them the Millennium Commission. Will the Minister clarify its position and whether it has an intended lifespan?

Mr. Bryant: A millennium.

Angela Watkinson: I hope not. Does the commission have a relationship with the millennium dome, which has already received £628 million of lottery funding? Considerable maintenance costs are still involved in keeping it closed until it is disposed of. Will the Minister kindly tell the House whether the moneys devoted to maintaining the closed dome come from the Millennium Commission and thus from lottery funding?

If the money allocated to the commission were redistributed among the other distributing funds, that would have a significant effect on the money available for other good causes. The lottery money—28 per cent. of the proceeds—would go to only five funds and that which goes to the commission could be divided among them, representing, for example, a funding difference of almost 1 per cent. to Sport England.

The largest lottery grant received by my constituency of Upminster as part of the London borough of Havering was for a swimming pool, which was much needed to replace a facility that had gone beyond its natural life. A full-size competitive pool was required, however. The Secretary of State referred to the remit and style of advice given to lottery applicants. There was much discussion about the nature of a community facility, as eligibility rested on community facility status. I would have thought that a swimming pool was a community facility, but, on its own, it was not eligible for the grant. Other ancillary facilities had to be provided, and the result compromised the size of the pool.

A six-lane pool has been approved whereas an eight-lane competitive pool is necessary to establish a facility suitable for galas, which would have generated income. Such a pool would be suitable for the user groups, such as two well-established swimming clubs that use the pool continually, and a high-diving club. Many local schools also use it.

The new pool will have less water space than the existing one, which means that there will be insufficient room. Coach loads of schoolchildren need a certain amount of space so as to enter the water at the same time, but the new pool will be too small for that purpose. There

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will be no high-diving area, so the club will have to go elsewhere to practise, and the two swimming clubs that train at the pool say that the new one will be insufficient.

Mr. Bryant: The hon. Lady may know that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recently produced a report on the sport of swimming which amplified many of those issues. It might be worth her while reading it, if she has not already done so. There are terrible problems with finding money for sport and, in particular, 50 m pools. London is ill served compared with, for example, Paris.

Angela Watkinson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that information. I have not had the opportunity to read the report, but I shall do so.

The restrictive interpretation of the availability of and access to funds has resulted in a compromise solution in Upminster. The new pool is welcome, as are the ancillary facilities, but the full-size competitive pool would have been a triumph for Upminster.

I should also like to draw attention to the community fund. A chart showing the community fund allocation to London boroughs ranks the boroughs in order of the deprivation index. Although Havering comes quite low down on the list—it is 26th out of 33—it has within it an area of deprivation that is masked by other areas of my constituency that are relatively affluent. I seek some means of addressing that problem.

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: I wish to support the thrust of the hon. Lady's remarks, because I represent a constituency in a similar suburban area. One of the real challenges for suburbs is that they rarely qualify for the additional funding that is often available to inner cities and rural areas, yet they have pockets of deprivation where the poverty is just as acute as in inner-city or rural areas. I therefore urge my right hon. Friend the Minister, in a non-partisan spirit, to consider further how those pockets of poverty can be provided with additional support through the lottery programme.

Angela Watkinson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his helpful comments.

Mr. Bryant: One of the problems that I face in my constituency is that we are often lumped in with Rhondda Cynon Taff. The Rhondda has some of the poorest wards in Wales—12 of the 100 poorest—whereas Rhondda Cynon Taff has five of the wealthiest. The money seems to go to the wealthy wards, rather than the poorer ones.

Angela Watkinson: I should like to draw attention to some apparent anomalies on the community fund chart. Although seven London boroughs are even less deprived than Havering, if I may put it that way, they have all received more money per head from the community fund than the London borough of Havering. Indeed, Havering has received the lowest per capita amount of all London boroughs—£7 per head. All the seven boroughs below it have received considerably more, even discounting the City of London, which received £40 per head. Given its small resident population, the City of London is atypical, so I shall not include it. Even Sutton and Kingston upon Thames, the two least deprived London boroughs, have received £14 per head from the community fund, which is twice as much as Havering has received.

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I should be grateful if the Minister would clarify that point and assist me in seeking a fairer allocation of community fund provision for the London borough of Havering.

11.43 am

Mr. Gareth R. Thomas (Harrow, West): First, let me pay tribute to the general thrust of the remarks of the hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), as I said in an intervention. On a less positive note, I regard it as a discourtesy to the House that the Conservative Front-Bench spokesman could not even be bothered to be present for the two Front-Bench speeches, at the very least.

Miss McIntosh: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Thomas: I shall give way in a second. It would have been useful to have had the shadow spokesman present so that we could have sought some clarity about whether the Opposition intend to abolish the new opportunities fund. In her speech, the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) read great chunks of the speech of the former Prime Minister, John Major, in the 1998 lottery discussion about how the new opportunities fund was potentially a raid on the lottery. We could usefully have had some clarity from the Opposition on whether they intend to abolish it.

Miss McIntosh: I fear that the Secretary of State set a trend for the senior Opposition spokesman not being present. On Fridays, we are used to fielding those who are most responsible for the brief and, as I mentioned, that falls to me.

Mr. Thomas: The Secretary of State not only spoke in the debate, but stayed to listen to the hon. Lady. I hope that she will pass on the concern that the Opposition appear not to want proper scrutiny of their policies on this subject. However, I pay tribute to the former Prime Minister: the establishment of the national lottery was the only visionary measure to come out of the 1992–97 Parliament. It was significantly improved on by the former Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith), in the National Lottery Act 1998. The lessons from the operation of that Act nevertheless suggest that some further reform and tweaking are necessary. I welcome the announcement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State that further consultation is due to occur.

I wish to highlight some local examples of lottery achievements and to outline the case for using the national lottery at a local level in a couple of other areas. I shall go on to suggest how the lottery's purpose to add value could usefully be deployed to deal with some strategic issues that London faces.

St. George's church, which is based in the Headstone parish of my constituency, is a significant focal point for part of the community of north Harrow. Friends of mine have been married in the church, which has one of the last surviving examples of an electromagnetic organ built by F. J. Rothwell, who also built the organ at St. George's chapel, Windsor. All hon. Members present will

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understand that music is crucial to many church communities; it is often a symbol of the vibrancy of such communities. The £16,000-plus grant awarded by the national lottery to St. George's church has allowed the electromagnetic organ to be restored, preserved and returned to full working order, to the delight of the church community.

Nearby in the same parish is Headstone manor, the last moated manor house in Middlesex and a designated ancient monument. It is perhaps most famous for the fact that Thomas à Becket stayed at the manor on his last ill-fated journey to Canterbury. In the borough of Harrow, Headstone manor is a focal point for heritage and cultural activities, as the Harrow museum and heritage centre is now located on the site. I am delighted to say that £1 million has been allocated by the national lottery to develop the buildings in the manor area, including the restoration of, and structural works to, the manor house and the neighbouring tithe barn. Work is due to start this summer.

The £1 million grant has already helped to provide some storage facilities, too, at the manor house. I mention that because the storage facilities house an excellent collection of works by Heath Robinson, the international artist and book illustrator who became particularly famous for his drawings of mad inventions. Sadly, there is nowhere to hang his paintings in Harrow, despite the fact that from 1912 to 1918 he was a resident of Pinner, part of my constituency. The William Heath Robinson trust, in partnership with the Pinner Association, a local residents' organisation, is campaigning and fundraising successfully to bring the now derelict West house back into use as a permanent home for the Heath Robinson collection. West house is also important to the community of Pinner because it has acted as a shrine to Pinner's dead from two world wars. The Pinner Association has already raised more than £50,000. Consultants have estimated that some £350,000 would be needed to fund a temporary art gallery to house exhibitions, and that more than £2 million would be necessary to complete the restoration of the house to act as a proper home to the Heath Robinson collection. Clearly, national lottery moneys would be a highly appropriate way to fund such works.

I want to touch on the benefits to sport from the national lottery, because as all hon. Members know it has been a crucial source of additional funding for sport. More than £1.5 billion has gone to sporting good causes. So far, more than 2,700 lottery-funded capital projects have been completed and opened specifically for sport. Wembley has been mentioned as a recipient of lottery money, and I look forward to the last links in the chain being completed soon and work at last beginning to restore and build a new national stadium at Wembley.

Perhaps most importantly the national lottery has funded the school sports co-ordinators programme, which in its short life already seems to have achieved a significant increase in the number of extra-curricular activities, and in the number of participants in sport. Sport England says that there has been a 29 per cent. increase in extra-curricular activities, and more than a 40 per cent. increase in the number of young people taking part in sport through that programme.

Sir John Bourn, the Comptroller and Auditor General, whose report on obesity served as a wake-up call for a variety of agencies and those of us who hold political

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office, suggested that if effective action is not taken, by 2005 one in five men and one in four women will be obese. That is clearly a huge concern.

The other issue that Sport England has recently highlighted is that, although programmes such as the school sport co-ordinators have begun to address the issue of participation in sport, there is nevertheless a concern that sports participation could continue to drop if further action is not taken.

As hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Vale of York, have said, the national lottery has also helped to support our elite athletes and the facilities that they use. I am looking forward to the Commonwealth games, which will take place in Manchester this summer. The lottery has been a crucial stimulus to the building of appropriate facilities for those games.

I have long believed that we should bid for the 2012 Olympic games to come to London. The national lottery would be a crucial source of funding for the building of the sports facilities to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant) referred. There is a lack of 50 m sports pools in London compared with other cities, and that problem clearly needs to be addressed if an Olympic bid is to be successful.

The national lottery could provide further useful assistance to a number of sports projects in my constituency. There has long been a healthy rivalry in Harrow between the excellent Harrow Borough football club, which is currently in the Ryman premier division, and its near neighbours, the Wealdstone football club, which is located in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, East (Mr. McNulty). It has put together a major development proposal, which will work only if the national lottery provides the necessary funding through the new opportunities fund.

The development involves Wealdstone FC building a 3,000-seater stadium on a 44-acre site that was once playing fields. The scheme will bring into use 16 football pitches and two all-weather pitches, and make them available to the whole community of Harrow: the schools especially will benefit.

The club at Wealdstone has already secured £5.7 million of private funding, working with the Royal Bank of Scotland and a private health club. To complete the financial package, the club has applied for a further £800,000 for pitches and changing rooms to the grassroots development fund of the Football Foundation, and £250,000 for the stadium costs from the same source. All that is needed to complete the project and to make it a success is that a bid for £500,000 from the new opportunities fund to top up the finances for pitch landscaping and fencing be approved.

That £500,000 from the new opportunities fund would ensure that a project that is rooted in the community and has clear sporting benefits for the people of Harrow comes to fruition. That £500,000 out of a total cost of £7.45 million will ensure a true state-of-the-art sporting facility in the centre of suburban London. It would be a powerful message that the national lottery funding for sport is as much use to suburban areas, such as my London borough, as it is and has been to rural and inner-city areas. I hope that my right hon. Friend will do all that he can to assist in the success of this highly worthwhile project.

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Sport England has suggested further changes that would help its work of extending access to sports funding, such as a relaxation of the rules on partnership funding to help to attract more private sector money alongside lottery proceeds. It has also suggested that it would be worthwhile considering the possibility of lottery distributors providing applicants with loans, as opposed to grants, in a limited number of cases. I would be interested to know from the Minister whether he intends to allow such innovations to be considered as part of the consultation on tweaking the rules.

One other area that has not received attention thus far in the debate is the excellent work of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, which was set up under the National Lottery Act 1998 and is chaired by Lord Puttnam. Some £200 million of lottery money has funded the first ever national endowment, and has been invested to provide an annual income of almost £10 million. Last year, some £4 million was spent on an invention and innovation programme that offered 43 inventors assistance to take their ideas to the market. There was also a £2.5 million education programme to fund innovative educational programmes for science, technology and the arts, and a £2 million fellowship programme last year offered 18 awards to exceptional individuals to challenge, rethink and explore new ideas in science and technology.

Given the congestion difficulties that many of our major cities face, a particularly interesting idea funded through a £75,000 award by NESTA's invention and innovation programme award is to develop a driverless taxi. The scheme has already attracted £18 million of funding from the National Assembly for Wales. That is on the back of a trial that took place back in January on a 1 km track around Cardiff bay. A successful experiment was carried out with three battery-powered driverless vehicles.

It looks as if that initial £75,000 NESTA award will, in about a year, produce the first routes in Cardiff on which up to four passengers with pre-purchased tickets can be taken to their destinations at one time. Transport along dedicated guideways will be powered by a series of magnets. The project has attracted interest from a number of other European countries. People from Italy, Holland and Sweden attended a conference in February to discuss the potential of the driverless taxi as a model for future transport systems. Sadly, no one from either the Mayor of London's office or Transport for London attended. London has particularly serious congestion problems, which generate huge frustration and huge delays and costs for business. My constituents and other Londoners are forced to suffer the effects of pollution, and other health problems.

The new opportunities fund and NESTA are working together to promote such projects as renewable energy schemes and technological innovations in an attempt to deal with environmental challenges. Over the next few years, perhaps they could consider funding a proper strategic assessment of the potential of, say, a London light rail network. There could be an overground network of tram routes connecting with existing transport hubs, and significantly increasing the capacity and attractiveness of public transport in our capital. The lottery was established to add value. Perhaps, in the

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absence of a Government-led study or any work by the Mayor or Transport for London, it could fund such an assessment.

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