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Mrs. May: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. I consider the amendment to be both reasoned and reasonable. We are not playing party politics. Our aim is to protect the good work of a body that has had a lasting impact in communities throughout the country. It has restored historic buildings to their former glory, helped young people to achieve sporting greatness, supported local charities and funded arts projects. We must not allow it to become the Government's milch cow, to be milked by Ministers at will.
Chris Bryant: I understand the right hon. Lady's argument, but from the viewpoint of a constituency that is very different from hers, the Bill looks different. The original aims of the lottery were framed very much around a middle-class understanding of charity. The aims introduced in more recent times have made access to the funding much more possible for constituencies such as mine. Rhondda does not have many great historic buildings, or an opera house, or even a rowing museum. For some constituencies, especially former mining constituencies, it is extremely important that the lottery has been rejigged so that it meets the needs of the whole country, not just the needs of constituencies such as hers.
The hon. Gentleman refers to the big architectural and heritage projects, and of course not every
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constituency has one of those, but every constituency can benefit from money going to local arts projects, sports and charities. It is interesting that he comments on the amounts going to different constituencies, because it is my understanding that the top 100 constituency beneficiaries of national lottery distribution contains a significantindeed, overwhelmingnumber of Labour seats.
I am not making any claims about the political distribution. It is an interesting reflection that the hon. Gentleman is claiming that seats such as his do not have the ability to benefit from the lottery. My argument is that they have that ability, as set out in the clauses of what became the 1993 Act. Local sports clubs and arts projects can benefit, and should be benefiting, as well as local charities. That was the point of the lottery. Under the terms of the Bill, the Government are abandoning the idea that was crucial when the lottery was first established, namely, that distribution should be at arm's length from the Government.
Mrs. May: The Minister keeps saying that things have moved on. His argument is that the Government can now take the lottery money and spend it for themselves, and that that is all right because we are 10 years on and things have moved on. That is not what the issue is aboutit is about how the money that people think goes towards good causes should be distributed and whether the Government should be able to direct that money.
Mr. Caborn: I remind the hon. Lady that there have been two consultations. A number of opinion polls have been conducted, not by the DCMS or the Government, but by others. All the polls have indicated that people want health, education and the environment to benefit, and that has been happening since 1998. Full support has been given to what is in the Bill. I am talking about people who have been consulted. Does the hon. Lady reject the consultations? That information has come out following the two opinion polls to which I referred in my speech.
Mrs. May: I doubt whether the consultations gave full support to exactly what is in the Bill. As for the Big Lottery Fund, we have seen what has happened over the past few years given the Government's stealthy encroachment on the lottery. The percentage of the lottery over which Government have potential control has risen from an original 13 per cent. to 33 per cent. and now to 50 per cent. That is what the Bill does. In establishing the Big Lottery Fund, the fund will take 50 per cent. of the lottery proceeds to be allocated for prescribed expenditure, that being
On the maths that I have just set out, one does not have to be Carol Vorderman to see where the Government are taking us, which is to a single lottery distributor that is doing the bidding of Ministers. We believe that the lottery should be independent of Government but accountable to Parliament. It should not become a tool of Government.
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I shall give some more specific examples. The Bill will change the meaning of charitable expenditure in relation to lottery funding from expenditure by charitable, benevolent or philanthropic organisations to expenditure for a benevolent or philanthropic purpose. We realise that the Prime Minister sees himself as a benevolent ruler, but as a party we are not prepared to hand over the purse strings of the lottery for the benevolent use of his Ministers.
Pete Wishart : Opinion polls are being cited by the Front Benches, but we have found that 77 per cent. of respondents would like a say in decisions on which of the causes lottery money should be spent. Does the right hon. Lady think that that view should be taken seriously?
Mrs. May: I was going to mention that. During the election, we put forward a proposal to give people a much greater say in how lottery money should be spent. I think that there is value in trying to find ways of doing that.
We are concerned that the Big Lottery Fund will be required to comply with policy directions issued by the Secretary of State, whereas the previous rules only required the community fund to take account of the policy directions given to it.
The Big Lottery Fund will have to comply with directions from the Secretary of State rather than taking account of them, as happened previously. In one stroke of the pen, the Secretary of State is scooping up powers to dictate the direction of lottery funds.
Mrs. May: Indeed; there has been such a power throughout the lottery's existence. At the beginning, it was thought necessary to have a provision to ensure that lottery funds were not spent improperly or inappropriately. However, the Secretary of State will now prescribe expenditure by the Big Lottery Fund. He will set out ways in which it should channel its funds, and the purposes on which those moneys should be spent. Bit by bit, the Government have put their hand into the lottery pot. That change fundamentally undermines the independence and integrity of the grant-making system, along with, sadly, the esteem in which the lottery is held by the vast majority of the public. That undermines the independence of the Big Lottery Fund to determine its own strategic direction and to make decisions free from interference. We must not allow the Secretary of State to manipulate charitable works and good causes for political motives.
I am concerned that the legislation enables the Secretary of State to make orders specifying amounts and periods of lottery expenditure. I freely acknowledge
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the improvements in drafting that resulted in the draconian powers of the first National Lottery Bill being consigned to the wastepaper bin, but there is little doubt that the level of prescription is still too great. The Minister will know that many charities and organisations have expressed concern about the Secretary of State's new powers to move funds between lottery distributors. Ministers have said that that power would be used only as a last resort, but the sad truth is that those assurances only confirm that those powers are there for a reason. They can be used against good causes that do not please the Minister. If they are not used, they can be held as a big stick above charities' heads. The director of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations said:
"NCVO remains concerned that the lottery Bill still gives the Government too great a degree of control over lottery funding. There also remains no requirement on the Secretary of State to consult anyone outside of Government before making orders, issuing directions or defining expenditure".
It is not only the charities that are worried. Earlier, a number of hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) and my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Robert Key), expressed concern about the redistribution of balances, and there was an exchange with the Minister.
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