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16 Dec 2002 : Column 523—continued

National Lottery

7. Mr. Adrian Flook (Taunton): When she last met Camelot to discuss methods of improving lottery ticket sales. [85575]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State discussed ticket sales with Camelot in April, and I plan to do so next month.

Mr. Flook : I thank the Minister for his reply. Given that there is a direct correlation between sales and the public's impression of money going to good and worthy causes, does he not agree that the lottery is being severely undermined, as falling ticket sales month in, month out have demonstrated, by the raiding of the cookie jar to support programmes that should be funded by the taxpayer? Should he not have met Camelot much earlier than next month?

Mr. Caborn: First, credit is due to the John Major Government for introducing the lottery, one of the most successful lotteries in the world. The House ought to reflect from time to time on the amount of damage done to what is now a national institution. Since its inception, #35.8 billion of tickets have been sold, and it has delivered #13.5 billion to good causes. Indeed, 100 of the most deprived local authorities are now receiving nearly half of the lottery moneys that are going out. The attacks on the lottery by the Daily Mail and others, including Members in the House this afternoon, are unfortunate. As I said, everyone in the House can take credit for the introduction of one of the best and most successful lotteries in the world. Papers and individuals—not the entire official Opposition—who undermine its credibility should reflect on the damage that they are doing to a national institution.

Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): When the Select Committee looked at the issue, it found that Camelot would be the best operator, but that Virgin had the best marketing for the lottery. Does my hon. Friend agree that the next time we advertise for the lottery, we should have a not-for-profit operator so that we can have the best operator and the best marketing company?

Mr. Caborn: As my hon. Friend knows, we are consulting on the next licensing round. All the points that he made will be factored into the discussions that are under way. It is in everyone's interests to make sure that we get the best deal possible for the lottery and thus the good causes.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): But the Minister recognises that lottery sales are falling worryingly.

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Despite his protestations in the House this afternoon, they will fall if the public feel that their money is not being spent on causes of which they approve. Will he therefore tell us whether his Department has given any further thought to an idea floated some months ago—that in buying lottery tickets the public could have more discretion about where that money is spent?

Mr. Caborn: First, I have just come back from New Zealand, which is experiencing exactly the same problem of a decline in lottery sales. We had those problems before in 1996 and 1997, when lottery figures went down to #4,723 million. We have not reached that low this time and hopefully we will not—hopefully, ticket sales will plateau out and increase again. These things go through a cycle and need to be refreshed from time to time. Indeed, Camelot is doing so by bringing a number of products on to the market, with the support of the Government and the commission. I hope that the British public and Members of Parliament will get behind the lottery; as I said, it is a credit to all political parties.

Media Ownership

8. Mr. John Grogan (Selby): If she will make a statement on the Government's policy on whether owners of large shares of the national newspaper market should be able to own terrestrial TV stations. [85576]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): We will deregulate cross-media ownership to promote investment in growth while retaining the key rules that safeguard a plurality of media voices. The Communications Bill, which is currently in Committee, therefore makes it possible for a large newspaper group to own Channel 5, which at present has only a 6 per cent. audience share and 80 per cent. coverage of the UK. To safeguard plurality, however, we will keep the rule that prevents a large newspaper proprietor buying into ITV which, in contrast to Channel 5, has universal access to a mass audience.

Mr. Grogan : Surely as a representative of the nice party and in the interests of plurality and democracy, my right hon. Friend must be a little worried about giving one man who owns 30 per cent. of our national newspaper market and the dominant satellite subscription system the chance to own Channel 5—a terrestrial channel with no public service obligations—and to cross-promote and hoover up rights, as that would seriously undermine other commercial broadcasters with significant public service roles, such as Channel 3 and Channel 4?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend has raised these matters on a number of occasions. He will be aware that the proposals in the Bill are proprietor-neutral. There are clear codes of guidance in relation to cross-promotion, which are currently monitored by the Independent Television Commission and will become the responsibility of Ofcom, once it is established.

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Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Does the right hon. Lady believe that the competition aspects of the Bill will be strong enough to deal with the type of scenario that she has just set out?

Tessa Jowell: Yes, precisely because of the balance between deregulation to promote competition and the safeguards to ensure that high-quality programming continues on our screens and radios.


10. Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): What progress she has made towards the goal of putting all libraries online. [85578]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The #100 million lottery-funded people's network programme to connect all UK public libraries to the internet is well on course—4,085 libraries have been connected. There are 69 libraries—39 in England and 30 in Scotland—that have still to be connected. I am pleased to say that that represents a further election pledge that the Labour Government have delivered.

Mr. Miller : I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement. If he comes to Ellesmere Port library, which, as he knows, is located close to some of the poorest parts of the constituency, he will see the fantastic enthusiasm of, and progress made by, many residents who have had little access to modern technology. Several organisations are helping to train people in the constituency. Training is the biggest gap remaining. Will he add to the commitment that he made by working with colleagues in other Departments to help the training of people from disadvantaged communities?

Mr. Caborn: Very much so: we are investing #20 million in a training programme to make sure that the 40,000 staff in UK libraries are information and communications technology-literate and can help the constituents to whom my hon. Friend referred. To give a flavour of the success of the programme, the net corner at Croydon library offers free internet access across a network of 15 personal computers. The corner is in constant use, offering some 1,700 user sessions per week to users who collectively speak 65 languages other than English. The service is opening up a whole new world to them. That is a small example of the scheme's impact across the United Kingdom.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): As a former librarian, I welcome the steps that the Government have taken in that regard. Does the Minister agree that the next step is to make the resources of public libraries more open and available? It is one thing to have online resources in public libraries, but another to open up their resources and riches to the community at large. May I draw to his attention a project based in my constituency at the National Library of Wales called XGathering the Jewels"? It includes not only libraries but the best resources in museums and other public institutions in Wales, and brings them together on one website with not just information but pictorial representations, maps, sound files, media files and so on.

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That is surely the way forward. I hope that he will look at the project and consider how it could be rolled out in libraries throughout the UK.

Mr. Caborn: I agree. As the hon. Gentleman says, libraries are now much more than they have traditionally been. They are a major resource for the community and open up all sorts of opportunities well beyond the scope of traditional libraries. What hon. Members have described is mirrored across the country by the progressive library service that we have.


11. Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham): What steps she is taking to (a) promote archaeological research in the UK and (b) safeguard sites of archaeological interest. [85579]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The Government are firmly committed to the maintenance of an effective framework of statutory protection for all the elements of the historic environment and widening our understanding of the heritage. Protection measures include a new order extending the definition of treasure and the introduction of portable antiques schemes. The commitment is to introduce a Bill preventing the illicit trade in cultural objectives and a review of our heritage protection legislation framework. English Heritage is developing a research framework both for its own work and for the sector as a whole.

Tim Loughton : The Minister may like to revisit some of the words that he used in that answer because they were wrong. Will he acknowledge that, weekly, important archaeological sites are being lost under the plough or because of new buildings and development? Will he read the new report from the parliamentary archaeological group, taken from a series of hearings held throughout this year, which shows patchy coverage in respect of sites and monuments records, that professional archaeologists have to survive on salaries of #12,000 or #13,000, and that competitive tendering provides the bare minimum for research in many parts of the country? Will he read that report, help to raise the profile of British archaeology and make his contribution by bringing together a much more joined-up approach to archaeology between his Department, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department for Education and Skills, so that one of them takes ownership of this subject?

Mr. Caborn: The answer is yes, I will read the report.

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