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12.55 pm

Miss McIntosh: With the leave of the House. I welcome the acknowledgement of the national lottery's achievements and its contribution to national life. It is a lasting legacy of John Major and his Government, as so many hon. Members have said.

The debate has been positive and wide ranging, and many excellent contributions have been made. The hon. Member for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) paid tribute to the work of libraries. I was brought up in the county of Durham, and I join in his congratulations to the city, the county and its gymnasts.

The hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) rightly spoke about the necessity of distinguishing the core spending on education, health and the environment, which should rightly come from the Treasury, not the new opportunities fund, which increasingly funds such projects.

It is always a pleasure to hear from the hon. Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) with whom I share a boundary in North Yorkshire. My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) raised the genuine problem of funding school swimming pools, to which Sport England has drawn attention.

It is regrettable that the hon. Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Thomas) is not in his place. He made a welcome contribution in a wide-ranging speech. It was disappointing that the Secretary of State was not present to hear it because I am sure that she, like the rest of us, would have enjoyed it.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell (Chris Grayling) on his sterling contribution. It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Bryant); we were sparring partners on the Standing Committee that considered the Office of Communications Bill.

We should stand by the original purpose of the national lottery when it was set up in 1994. We should not substitute but recognise the principle of additionality. The lottery should fund projects and good causes in arts, sports, heritage and charities that are not funded by the Treasury. However, the new opportunities fund

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increasingly strays into funding health, education and the environment; that should not happen. I would welcome clarification of the difference between underspend and overcommitment. I was pleased that the Secretary of State said that it was good to reduce the time between commitment and payment to projects.

It is important, especially this year, when the Commonwealth games are coming to Manchester, to recognise Sport England's contribution to the City of Manchester stadium. Without the £92 million that it contributed, the stadium would probably not have been built, and perhaps the Commonwealth games would not be held in Manchester. I therefore share Sport England's anxiety about future funding. The pressures on its lottery fund continue to increase, while its annual lottery income has fallen. It stated that any further reduction in its income could have serious implications for English sport.

Many hon. Members have projects in their constituencies that have been turned down. Several village hall projects of essential benefit to a local, rural community have been rejected in my constituency. The emphasis should be on smaller, local projects that benefit communities rather than major national schemes. There should be a better balance between them.

Conservative Members want the lottery to be more responsive to local needs. The lottery application process remains a lottery: it is complex and burdensome and I welcome any Government efforts to simplify it. We believe that where projects primarily involve regeneration, but also involve sport and the arts, they should be covered by the national lottery guidelines.

The Secretary of State touched on two major areas: the new fair share arrangements and her programme for reform and consultation. Like the rest of the House, we welcome both, particularly the contribution that the fair share arrangements will make to the most deprived areas that have benefited least.

I pay tribute to the role of the distributing bodies, notably the community fund, in identifying the areas and pioneering new simplified procedures such as the one-stop lottery shop. All that will make the lottery more user-friendly for people applying for grants. I particularly welcome the fact that £10 million out of the £80 million committed by the community fund will go to help alleviate rural disadvantage.

In announcing her programme of reforms, the Secretary of State said that the Government would introduce deadlines, so that either projects would get under way more quickly or money would be committed further ahead. That is welcome. She also said that the Government would embark on a process for licence renewal.

This may be a good moment to remind the House that before the 1997 general election, Labour promised to select a not-for-profit operator. Curiously, the rules that were drawn up allowed the next operator to make a profit, and on 19 December 2000 Camelot was awarded the licence. Perhaps by consulting and starting the process earlier, as the Secretary of State has suggested, a less confusing procedure, with greater competition, will be in place for the next licence renewal.

We welcome the change in emphasis from capital payments to a focus on revenue funding. The Secretary of State said that distributors had to evaluate carefully the

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projects for which money would be given, and that a fine line had to be navigated. The Opposition would welcome a clearer commitment to the definition of additionality.

The House has benefited from and welcomes the role played by Members of Parliament in the process, as has been so colourfully displayed today.

When the Minister sums up the debate, there is one fact that he will not be able to escape. I shall not set him a quiz, such as he will remember from Radio 5 Live recently, but I shall ask him to have regard to a number of challenges that we face.

Ticket sales are falling. There is also a threat, as the hon. Member for Rhondda and my hon. Friend the Member for Epsom and Ewell said, from the gambling review in the Budd report. Another factor has been discussed both at Question Time on Monday and in the press: overcommitment or underspend. I would welcome any clarification that the Government can give.

There is increasingly greater competition among the good causes to be funded, and I regret the drop of £100 million in sports funding. There is a possible oversight involving the provision of training facilities for the key group of young athletes between 16 and 18, and I urge the Minister to close the gap.

I would welcome any contribution that the Government can make to the recognition of pockets of rural deprivation, such as the one that I mentioned earlier, Thirsk. In the otherwise prosperous district of Hambleton, Thirsk and other areas have suffered dramatically from the ongoing farming crisis.

We wait with bated breath for the Minister's reply to the debate. We recognise that not only have the dome, the Wembley complex, Tate Modern, the Manchester stadium and the Manchester aquatic centre benefited from lottery funding, but literally thousands of small projects all over the country have received grants.

It is right to give people more say in how their money—the lottery money—is spent. The Government should aim to encourage lottery distributing bodies to support projects identified and run by local people, for local people. It was precisely for such projects that the lottery was created.

1.4 pm

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): As the hon. Member for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh) said, I hope that Members at least acknowledge that the Government put the subject on the Order Paper because we considered the debate important to informing our decisions as we move forward.

I acknowledge that the previous Administration and the previous Prime Minister had the vision to introduce the national lottery in the mid-1990s and I hope that we have been able to refine it to ensure that it achieves its objectives, but it is unfortunate that the shadow Secretary of State has not come to the House to show the importance that the official Opposition attach to what I think is an extremely important debate. Indeed, some remarks made by the hon. Member for Vale of York on

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their commitment rang a little hollow. The shadow Secretary of State is not here and he has relied on her to open and close the debate.

Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): Where is the Secretary of State?

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman makes his comment from a sedentary position. Whether he saw the Secretary of State or not, she opened the debate and spent more than an hour in the Chamber. Although she has important business to deal with, I have no doubt that she will return, as we on the Government Benches think the lottery significant. The Opposition's remarks ring a little hollow and we would probably have had a more intelligent debate if they had the same vision as the previous Prime Minister.

Chris Grayling: We on the Conservative Benches perhaps pay less attention to hierarchy and more to specialism, which is why it is entirely appropriate for my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of York to be here. There are not many of us in the Chamber, but is the Minister disappointed that there are more Opposition than Government Members present, despite the fact that the Government have more Members of this Parliament than we do?

Mr. Caborn: Yes, but my hon. Friends the Members for City of Durham (Mr. Steinberg) and for Selby (Mr. Grogan) have given their apologies.

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