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Ms Angela C. Smith (Sheffield, Hillsborough) (Lab): As previous speakers have noted, this debate is taking place in the context of rising lottery sales—an increase that bucks the global trend. Moreover, the overall volume of lottery grants since 1994 now totals nearly £17 billion. This is a necessary debate on a Bill that will extend the reach of lottery funding even further, thus building on this Labour Government's previous efforts to spread the sums available more fairly. The Tories may have created the lottery, but Labour has taken action to distribute funds more equitably.

I welcome the measures in this Bill, which are designed to bring the funds created by the lottery closer to the people who spend their money on tickets every week, year in and year out. I am especially pleased that the Bill contains a new strategic emphasis for the distribution of funds. That three-part emphasis focuses attention on promoting well-being, on community learning and creating opportunities, and on community safety and cohesion. That emphasis is important, because it recognises not only the principal motivating factors that propel people to work on behalf of their community, but the crucial preconditions for creating successful neighbourhoods—the feeling on the part of those who live, work and play in any given community that they belong and have a valuable contribution to make to that community and its well-being.

The strategic direction outlined in the Bill should therefore result in a grant distribution system that is fairer and more effective than it has ever been before. Indeed, the evidence that that will be the case is already there, with the first wave of funding programmes already announced, including £155 million for children's play, £354 million for environmental programmes—including a welcome £90 million for parks—£165 million for well-being programmes, and £155 million for investment in the infrastructure of the voluntary sector. The latter programme is especially pleasing because it recognises and underlines the importance of the voluntary sector in the Bill in building and maintaining cohesive and successful neighbourhoods, as my right hon. Friend the Minister pointed out. It recognises that not everything can be done by the state and that in some instances the job is best done by those who are most knowledgeable about what it is that actually needs to be done.

The services I am talking about, which provide the glue that holds many of our communities together, are familiar to all of us. We have services, for instance, that play a huge role in providing things to do and places to go for young people. In my constituency, the lottery has already made grants available to the High Green scouts, the Stocksbridge scouts and the Ecclesfield guides. Those groups, like many others that deliver services for young people, do great work, helping young people engage in purposeful activities and negotiate their way through the sometimes difficult transition to adulthood.

In my area, the lottery has also funded several self-help voluntary groups, such as the Appletree after-school club in Grenoside, the Busy Bees toddler group in High Green and the Hillsborough one-parent group,
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all of which provide either pre-school or after-school activities. Some £750,000 has been allocated to the Hillsborough community development trust for the refurbishment of a sports pavilion, a project that will not only play a key part in the regeneration of Hillsborough park, but help to sustain the availability of high quality sports facilities for local people. That is a particularly important investment, given the recognised need to increase the level of, and participation in, sporting activities on the part of most people if we are to reduce levels of heart disease and diabetes. It is a very appropriate investment for lottery funding.

On a more modest scale, the Grenoside Young at Heart and Agewell group has been given small sums, year on year, to fund dance and exercise sessions, as well as day trips and Christmas dinners. That is a valuable grant that recognises the importance of exercise and social interaction in maintaining good health as one grows older. Last, but not least, we have Action for Stannington, which has been awarded nearly £15,000 to establish a recycling culture in the village.

All those services are delivered to a significant degree by the people living in those communities, and that is why they are successful. The activities are shaped and delivered by local people who understand best the needs and aspirations of the communities they serve. They are essential services, but delivered voluntarily and at highest quality. It is therefore pleasing to find that the Bill will follow that principle and take the funding of facilities closer to the communities that need and use the services eligible for lottery funding. It will maximise the social return on the investment that is made week after week by those who buy tickets in the national lottery.

I am also pleased that the Bill will simplify the process for applying for lottery funds, with a suggested extra yield from that measure of between £6 million and £12 million. That will result from a reduction in bureaucracy and administration costs, which will surely be welcomed by all hon. Members, given the nature of the debate in the recent general election. Even if the lower figure applies, it will still be excellent news for voluntary groups, as is the measure to prevent the excessive accumulation of balances by lottery fund distributors, which will also contribute to the maximisation of the return on the lottery to those very communities who create the fund in the first place. I wholeheartedly support the Bill, because it will bring lottery funding closer to the people and the communities who need it the most.

5.35 pm

Mrs. Nadine Dorries (Mid-Bedfordshire) (Con): The Government claim that the proposals outlined in the Bill will simplify the rules and procedures relating to lottery funding. I am afraid that my experiences in my constituency in the past eight years do not inspire me with confidence. The National Lottery Bill's stated aim is:

Well, in Mid-Bedfordshire a good cause is apparently a primary care trust. I know that I am a new Member and could be forgiven for making incorrect assumptions, but is a PCT a good cause or something that should be funded by general taxation?
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In May 2004, £237,000 was awarded to Bedfordshire county council to modernise school changing rooms. I quote from the report by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations—the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) also mentioned this—which said:

School changing rooms and primary care trusts should be funded by the Government; they should not be additional to Government spending.

This may be a good point at which to remind ourselves of the Prime Minister's words. He said that funding should be used for good causes and not for things that should normally be paid for by the Government. The merging of the New Opportunities Fund and the Community Fund has given Ministers control of 50 per cent. of the funding. Mid-Bedfordshire is bordered by Luton, South and Bedford and Kempston. In the past eight years £8 million of lottery funding has gone into my constituency. Luton, South has received a staggering £23.4 million. Bedford and Kempston have received an equally staggering £15 million. That undermines the political process. Many people in my constituency have applied for grants over the years and have been refused without being told why or how the money has been spent.

The Minister said earlier that when the public were asked where they wanted funding to go they said that they wanted it to go into health and education. I want to know how that question was asked. If the public were asked, "Would you like money to be spent on health and education via the lottery fund?", I think that they would have said no. The public want money to be spent on health and education out of general taxation. Inequitable funding serves only to undermine the political process. Such funding is by stealth, by the back door; it is inequitable and disingenuous. It makes a mockery of the original aims and objectives of the lottery, which were to support the arts and culture.

In 1997, my constituency received £50,000 for the arts and culture. In 2004, it received £12,000. In 1998, charities received £79,000 and so far this year they have received £6,000. I think that charities could be classed as good causes. In my constituency, spending on health and education has increased at the same rate as spending on the arts and culture, charities and traditional good causes has decreased. I have no wish to denigrate the many worthy schemes that money may go to in my constituency, in Luton, South and in Bedford and Kempston, but I should like the Minister to know that some worthy schemes have applied for funding. I have been contacted in the past few days by 12 of those schemes that have been refused. They could have been counted as very good causes.

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