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Unclaimed Lottery Prizes

5. Sir Teddy Taylor (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): What the total of unclaimed lottery prizes is; and what the largest single unclaimed prize is. [145831]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): Total unclaimed prizes up to the week ending 13 December 2003 were £597.2 million. The largest unclaimed prize to date is £3,011,065.

Sir Teddy Taylor : As the amount is substantial, has the Minister made any inquiries as to why so many people take the trouble to buy lottery tickets but not to claim the prizes, which, as she says, now amount to over £590 million? What happens to the money? Does it go to the lottery company or to worthwhile charities?

Estelle Morris: I am not sure that I can say why so many people do not claim their prizes, especially the one that was over £3 million. I am surprised. The hon. Gentleman asked the same question last year, and he will note that the amount of money unclaimed has increased. It goes up by 13 or 14 per cent. each year; it is a cumulative figure. Three of the four largest unclaimed prizes have been in the last two years, so the figure is now quite staggering. When the hon. Gentleman raised the question last year, my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism undertook to speak to Camelot, the organisation operating the lottery, about it and he did. Adverts are now put out shortly before the end of the period in which claims have to be made to try to get people to claim awards if they have not already done so, but the increase remains about the same. However, I reassure the hon. Gentleman and the House that the money goes to the Secretary of State and through her to the fund that is paid out for good causes, so Camelot stands to gain not a penny from anyone who does not claim their prize, but good causes stand to gain a lot.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Obviously, a huge amount of money is unclaimed, but rather than becoming embroiled in bureaucracy in deciding who to give it to, would not it be better if all unclaimed prizes went to the hospice movement, and then all communities would benefit?

Estelle Morris: I am sure that the hospice movement can apply for lottery funds in the same way as others can, but to set up a complicated procedure whereby there is another fund of money to which all will have access—one cannot simply give it to the hospice movement, because many other organisations would consider that they, too, had an equal claim to it—would result in the very bureaucracy against which my hon. Friend has just warned. We have an existing structure in the form of the fund for good causes, and it is right and proper that the unclaimed money should go there, but I do wish that the amount were lower. The notion of people not claiming the prize money does not sit well with encouraging more people to buy lottery tickets, which is what we are meant to be doing to get more money into the good causes kitty.

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Horse Racing

7. Mr. Bill Tynan (Hamilton, South) (Lab): What discussions she has had with the Scottish Executive regarding the future of horse racing in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) Scotland. [145833]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): We have not had any discussions with the Scottish Executive on horse racing arrangements.

Mr. Tynan : I thank the Minister for his comprehensive response. It would have been appropriate to have some discussions, because there is concern—[Interruption.] It has been suggested that I declare an interest because of the amount of money that I give to the impoverished bookmakers of Hamilton, South over the year. However, on a serious note, would the Minister take time from his busy schedule to visit the town of Hamilton and meet the representatives of the five race courses in Scotland, who are concerned about the proposals emanating from the Office of Fair Trading? If he could give assurances about such a visit, race course executives would be delighted.

Mr. Caborn: I would love to visit Scotland at some point in the future. As for the OFT, my hon. Friend is right that there are concerns about the uncertainty caused by its involvement, which are reflected in a letter from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to the chairman of the OFT, saying clearly that we want to make sure that there are comprehensive arrangements for racing across the country. We accept, however, that there must be compliance with competition law. I hope that all the parties get together because racing has a fantastic future and is on a growth path. More people now go to the races than before, and there is greater interest in horse racing. If the two parties can come together and submit their case to the OFT—I think that that is possible—my hon. Friend's fears will be allayed and horse racing will grow. It is a great sport, and is followed by all classes of people up and down the land.

Mr. Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): The Minister put his finger on the problem facing racing, not only in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom—the OFT's investigation into the control of horse racing. He and the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), who has ministerial responsibility for competition, have expressed a great deal of concern about what is likely to be proposed. The Minister said that racing has been doing rather well recently, so will he redouble his efforts to convince the OFT that the last thing that it needs at the moment is for the baby to be thrown out with the bath water? The racing industry is improving and making plans for the future. The last thing that it needs is a heavy-handed report from the OFT.

Mr. Caborn: Many will appreciate the hon. Gentleman's words. However, I repeat that if people in racing can come together—and I believe that they can—to reach a solution to the process introduced by the OFT's rule 14, the fears that he and my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) expressed

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can be allayed. It is very much in the hands of racing, not the OFT. However, I believe that the OFT will try to find a solution that complies with what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State asked it to do, and ensure that a full and diverse national programme of racing is the end result.

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland) (Lab): I heard what my right hon. Friend said, but does he accept that thousands of jobs are at risk and small race courses throughout the country could close if the OFT's suggestions are implemented? Will he use his offices to ensure that those small race courses are looked after, and the OFT's proposals do not result in the loss of thousands of jobs?

Mr. Caborn: I can only repeat what I have already said. The statistics for the past few years on horse racing show that there is no reason for race courses to close. If anything, there is growth in the marketplace—there is no doubt that the statistics show that. If people in racing come together and make a submission to the OFT, a solution can be found. Some may disagree, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Rule 14 has been introduced, and there must be a response. We believe that there is a way out—if people in the industry and the sport come together, they can find a solution to the problem.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): When the Minister eventually gets around to having discussions with Scottish Ministers, will he discuss the impact of the OFT report on national hunt racing? Perth race course is situated in my constituency. It is a great example of a small but successful national racecourse. Will he give a reassurance that national hunt racing will survive what is suggested in the report?

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): And support hunting.

Mr. Caborn: The latter comment is not the answer. If the Scottish Executive asks for discussions with my Department, we will be more than willing to have those discussions. In the light of what has been said, that is a high possibility because of some of the concerns that exist. None the less, I reiterate that, to a large extent, a solution lies in the industry and the sport themselves.

Crystal Palace Sports Centre

8. Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham) (Con): What discussions she has had on the future of Crystal Palace sports centre. [145834]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): Owing to the constituency interest of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in respect of Crystal Palace, I am dealing with this question.

I discuss Crystal Palace with the chairman and chief executive of Sport England on a regular basis. On 26 November, I also attended a meeting with the Mayor of London, the chairman of Sport England and representatives from the London borough of Bromley to discuss the matter.

Mrs. Lait: I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, and I understand the Secretary of State's difficulties with

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this issue, which I am sure he will realise is directly a constituency interest of mine. He will be aware that, on 18 December, his colleague Lord McIntosh stated:

I have recently received a copy of a letter from Colin Kirkwood, a former president of Beckenham swimming club, to the Mayor of London. The letter argues that the pool at Crystal Palace should not be shut before any new facilities are in place. I urge the Minister to give me some assurances about that, because the centre is crucial for high-performance athletes and the nearest Olympic-size pool is situated in Dunkirk.

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Lady raises a number of questions. First, there is an agreement that Sport England will withdraw from the deal on 31 March 2004. Bromley has known about that agreement for a considerable period, and that is what we are working towards. We would want to keep the facilities in operation, and we believe that the proposition made by the Mayor of London to take over their running, which is part of the discussions and negotiations that are currently going on—I hope that they will be successful—will see their continuation. Although there may be redevelopment in terms of the track, we hope that that can be decoupled from the sports facilities so that we can continue to run the athletics grand prix this year.

I say to the hon. Lady that, unless that is done by the end of January, it will be very difficult to run grands prix here. My Department is working hard with the Mayor and other Departments to try to achieve that objective. I want the track to continue and I would like to see a new facility. Community usage is now at more than 80 per cent. Sport England is there not to run facilities, but to take a strategic overview for sport. The running of facilities is for local authorities, the private sector or joint ventures.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath) (Con): Does the Minister recognise that the work that he is seeking to do to try to broker a deal, if I can put it that way, to keep Crystal Palace open is crucial in terms of the prospects for our Olympic bid? Not only do many potential future Olympians use Crystal Palace as their training base, as my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mrs. Lait) said, but most unfortunate signals would be sent if Crystal Palace were seen to close. I know that he cares about the prospect of the Olympic bid as much as me, and, I am sure, hon. Members in all parts of the House, but will he recognise that, as part of the Government's job of leadership, it is vital that we do not see chains and padlocks on Crystal Palace at the end of March?

Mr. Caborn: We are working very hard to ensure that those padlocks do not appear. As part of the wider Olympic bid, we are considering proposals for an aquatic centre that I hope will provide the type of 50 m pool facilities to which he is referring. Indeed, that is being discussed not only at a community level in the sport, but with the governing body, the swimming association. That process will continue to ensure coverage throughout the country in terms of such facilities. On Crystal Palace, we will continue to try to

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ensure that a deal is done, and we will try to ensure that the athletics grand prix also takes place. That three-way deal will have to be done. I understand from Sport England that we have continued to support the facilities in Bromley way beyond any other facilities for community use. A decision should be made by the end of March.

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