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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): The veterans reunited programme is providing a total of £37.3 million of lottery funding to a wide range of activities and projects to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the events that led to the end of the second world war and to allow a new generation to learn from the experiences of those who lived through that time.
I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but can he update me on what progress is being made for veterans awareness week next month? Will he join me in paying tribute to the hundreds of organisations throughout the country that are organising events and initiatives to support this very important occasion and, not least, to the Royal British Legion in the Vale of
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Glamorgan, which plans to refurbish the hall of memories in the Barry memorial hall as a tribute to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice?
Mr. Lammy: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is an historic opportunity, not just for those who lived through the war and who are now able to go back and visit places where friends fell, but to ensure that a new generation benefits from those individuals and their experiences. Alongside the veterans centre, 12 museums will be able, because of funding from the big lottery, to take part in a living museum exhibition so that those veterans' experiences are shared. This is an historic opportunity and I hope that the lottery will be able to support veterans beyond this year and into the future.
Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Obviously, we welcome that statement. The 60th anniversary has been important because people have been able to return and recap their memories. Will my hon. Friend ensure that the programme will continue, because it will be the 25th anniversary of the Falklands war in two year's time? We ought not to forget that and should allow veterans to return to the Falklands. Will he consider funding for that as well?
Mr. Lammy: My hon. Friend will know that it is not for me to make individual decisions from the Dispatch Box about who gets funding. I have recognised the 60th anniversary of the second world war, and I am sure that the chair of the lottery fund will be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss anything that they might be able to do for veterans of the Falklands war.
The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): We want to see all areas of the country and all sections of the population benefiting from the huge success of the national lottery. Lottery distributors need to respond to people's priorities, but must also be prepared to look at new things and take a little risk from time to time. The Big Lottery Fund will be responsible for determining its own programmes and how they are delivered, and for making all funding decisions.
Tony Baldry: Is the Minister aware that, in and around Oxford, a number of medical research charities do invaluable work and that they are concerned that they will be squeezed out of national lottery funding because they are not necessarily nationally well known and their work is not immediately glamorous? How are such medical research charities going to be protected under the procedure of the Big Lottery Fund?
First, health and the developments on the additionality side of that will obviously be part of the Big Lottery Fund. The hon. Gentleman will probably have an opportunity to make an impact on this issue tomorrow on the Second Reading debate of the National Lottery Bill, a major part of which is about the development of the Big Lottery Fund. We have given
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clear assurances to those who have been funded previously that they will be catered for in the development of the three into one and the Big Lottery Fund. However, if the hon. Gentleman catches your eye tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, no doubt he will be able to underline that point.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): So as better to inform us in advance of tomorrow's Second Reading debate, will the Minister state whether he believes in the Prime Minister's categorical statement back in 1997:
Given the new definition of charitable expenditure in the National Lottery Bill, what directions will he be giving to the Big Lottery Fund and the distributors to ensure that the principle of additionality does not continue to be breached and that smaller and less populist charities will continue to get their fair share of lottery funding?
Mr. Caborn: As I said, the debate on the new Big Lottery Fund will take place tomorrow on Second Reading. We have reiteratedthis came out clearly in the consultationthat additionality is one of the cornerstones of the lottery fund. Indeed, it will be a cornerstone and the heart of the Bill that we will consider tomorrow. We are not breaching that principle, and that was shown in the two consultations that took place throughout the whole country.
Chris Bryant: It is good to see my hon. Friend still in his jobwhile reshuffles occur, he stays put. Some 220 women will be ordained this year, so the number of women ordinands is rapidly catching up with the number of male ordinands. When does he hope to be able to bring forward legislation to abolish the stained glass ceiling that exists for women in the Church and allow the ordination of women bishops?
He will know that the General Synod has been debating the elevation of women to the episcopate for some time. It noted a theological examination of the matter in February, and will consider in July whether the process of removing legal obstacles to the ordination of women
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to the episcopate should be set in train. His remarks and interest in the matter are well noted and will be encouraged.
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): How concerned is the hon. Gentleman about the reducing number of applications for people to join the Church? Is he aware that we have been waiting a long time in Lichfield for a replacement dean? When are we going to get himor her?
Anticipating his later question, there is a wide range of reasons why some appointments can take longer than others. As for the appointment in Lichfield cathedral, I often think that a delay is a blessing in disguise because it allows for greater reflection and, often, a better appointment. I am sure that he will be agreeably surprised when the appointment is made.
Peter Viggers (Gosport) : I am advised that responsibility for making marked electoral registers available lies not with the Electoral Commission but with the relevant authorities for the election concerned, such as the Clerk of the Crown for parliamentary elections. In its comprehensive report on the marked electoral register published in February 2005, the Electoral Commission made a number of recommendations for change relating to the availability of marked electoral registers, but did not address the issue of making them available in electronic form.
Mr. Allen: Hon. Members representing all parties in the House will know that the marked register is a vital tool for increasing participation in our democracy. One can discern those people who choose to vote, and those who choose not to vote, by getting hold of the marked register, but if hon. Members wish to do that, they must write to Pickfords, in Bow, east London, and pay for a photocopy of the register. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is about time that we had the document in electronic form so that all parties in here who are interested in contacting their electorsunlike somecan do so for the benefit of our democracy?
With respect to the hon. Gentleman, it would be perverse for the marked register to be made available in electronic form if it is not available in an unmarked form. Progress is being made, however. The object of CORE, the co-ordinated online register of electors projectco-ordinated by the Department for
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Constitutional Affairsis to produce a register in electronic form in due course. That could be one step on the way to an electronic register in marked form, if the authorities choose to follow that through.
Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst) (Con): Surely the problem is that if we can, sadly these days, hardly trust the written form of the register and ballot papers, how on earth can we be expected to trust a twisted, obscure, vague electronic form? Will my hon. Friend guarantee that nothing will be done to make voters vulnerable to electronic fiddling and intervention of a kind that few of us can possibly understand?
Peter Viggers: One point on which the Electoral Commission has reached a view is that voters should not be deprived of voting in person at ballot stations. I am also sure that my right hon. Friend's comments on the technique will be noted.
Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Electoral Commission intervene with the relevant authorities? I applied to receive a photocopy of the marked register two days after the election. I am still awaiting a response and have not heard whether it will be made available. Surely that is far too long to wait to get that essential information.
Peter Viggers: I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman's complaint is noted. The Electoral Commission's view that polling progress information should not be available before polls close is relevant, although I recognise that his complaint relates to an application after the polls closed.
Mr. Jonathan Djanogly (Huntingdon) (Con): In many ways, the Electoral Commission shows itself as more advanced than the Government in highlighting the need to deal with electoral fraud. Does the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission believe, however, that a more efficient electronic marked register might aid the ability to check frauds after the election has happened?
Peter Viggers: Indeed. The CORE project is intended to do exactly that. The Government are working with various agencies, including those responsible for drawing up different electoral registers, and are trying to ensure that work is co-ordinated so that there is a national scheme, on a mandatory basis, in due course.
Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): I welcome the hon. Gentleman's last remarks. I would welcome the day when my constituents and I can access a website that allows us to see whether they have voted, so ensuring that impersonation has not taken place. Double checking that information is a method of controlling electoral fraud. Electronic information is often available to the parties and party workers, but not to members of the public.
The Electoral Commission has recommended that marked registers of returned votes and polling progress information should not be available before polls close, as they have been in some pilot schemes. Surveys have shown that making the
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marked register available could undermine public confidence in the electoral process, and only 15 per cent. of people wanted that information to be made available during the election.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome) (LD): Following on from the question of the hon. Member for Tamworth (Mr. Jenkins), there was concern about the integrity of the electoral processin particular that of postal votesduring the recent election. Recommendation 11 in the Electoral Commission's excellent report "Securing the vote" is that the lists and records of absent votersthose who have applied for postal votes or a proxy voteshould be made available before the date of the election so that people can check whether they have "applied for" an absent vote. Has that received any support from the Government?
Peter Viggers: The Government have responded to the publication "Securing the vote" and to other recommendations made by the Electoral Commission. It made 43 recommendations, virtually all of which have been accepted. It is particularly pleased that there was room in the Queen's Speech for a proposal to introduce a Bill in the coming Session.
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