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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): I thank the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) for his kind remarks at the beginning of his speech. It is a genuine pleasure to make my first speech from the Dispatch Box in such an interesting debate. There have been many excellent contributions from all parties, including from several new Members.
My hon. Friends the Members for Sheffield, Hillsborough (Ms Smith) and for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon) showed their passion for their constituencies and their genuine understanding of the issues. I was impressed by the speech of the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Horwood), and the hon. Member for Hornchurch (James Brokenshire) made some strong points. Debate on and scrutiny of the Bill as it proceeds will benefit greatly from the knowledge of people who have clearly had experience before entering the House of matters that are highly relevant to it.
We start with some common ground between the parties. We all believe that grants should be made independently of Government and that the money should be spent as efficiently as possible and with as little as possible used on administration. There is also common ground on the reforms that need to be made to the competition for the next licence.
The hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) made some points about the licence. I hope that I can reassure him by saying that it is, indeed, our intention to have one major licence. The powers in the Bill are only back-stop powers should we fail to obtain the right outcome. It is worth saying that the signs are encouraging at this stage. Several organisations have shown an interest in the next licence, and we therefore hope to get a good level of competition. The powers to break up the contract into smaller contracts exist to be used only if there are problems with getting one major contract. We hope that those powers, including the changes that we are making to the National Lottery Commission, will enable a smoother and more effective process than that which took place last time.
I hope that I can reassure the hon. Member for Bath about promoting the lottery. The proposed changes are not intended to promote playing the lotterythey will not promote the sale of ticketsbut to promote its benefits, especially support for good causes in general. There was previously a constraint and a concern that lottery distributors could promote only their good causes. The proposals will give them more freedom to promote the lottery overall. The idea behind that is that the greater the trust in the lottery overall, the greater the number of sales and thus the greater the amount for good causes. I hope that those two points will reassure the Liberal Democrat Opposition.
Several points were raised and I shall try to answer as many as I can. [Interruption.] I shall try not to take three hoursI do not think that I would make it back on to the Terrace alive if I did that. Several detailed points were made but it is worth starting with those that are of genuine concern to voters. My hon. Friends the Members for Caerphilly (Mr. David) and for Rhondda (Chris Bryant)
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made important points on anxieties about access to lottery funds by constituencies that are away from the metropolitan centres and that had experienced genuine problems with access to grants under the old regime, before the changes that we introduced in 1998. That should concern hon. Members of all parties because, without support from constituencies throughout the country, it would not be a genuinely national lottery, there would be no genuine support and the amount of money raised through ticket sales would fall.
My hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly made a crucial point about the need to integrate lottery spending into local strategies and to give distributors more flexibility to ensure that lottery money is spent in tune with local priorities. That is one of the Bill's key objectives.
Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mrs. Dorries), mentioned additionality. The subject has clearly worried people, and we have been accused of breaching additionality and thus reneging on the principle laid down either by John Major or the Prime Minister. I want to make it clear that we are doing no such thing. We are putting in place the same framework on additionality that existed in 1993 when the original Act came into force. The only difference is that we have taken account of what the public tell us are their priorities.
We do not decide that the Government should spend money on one cause and not another. We do not claim that the Government should spend money on education but not on the arts or sport. The logic of the Opposition's position is that the arts, sports, heritage and charities are not Government priorities. I presume that they do not claim that, owing to the changes that they advocate, they would reduce the amount of money in grant in aid for the arts and sport, heritage and charities. The arts and sport are Government priorities in the same way as education and health. We should decide on the basis not of the causes but the projects.
Mr. David: Will my hon. Friend confirm that additionality has never been defined as something that is in contradistinction to Government policy? It has always been viewed as something that can legitimately enhance Government initiatives.
That is a good point. It we took the argument to its logical conclusion, we would never grant money to anything on which the Government might conceivably spend. That would lead to a bad allocation of public funds. The Opposition may remember that our manifesto in 1997 was widely supported. We made a commitment to spend money on health and education because that was what the public wanted. That was confirmed in 2000 by a MORI poll. The hon. Member for Hornchurch asked earlier about the question in that poll. It asked what were the two or three things that people most wanted the lottery to fund. Fifty-five per cent. of people said education, and I believe that, for 69 per cent., the top priority was health. The top priorities were clearly health and education. YouGov repeated the question, asking people which existing good causes they most favoured. Charities were well
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supportedI believe that the figure was 30 per cent.but, again, the most popular replies were health, education and the environment. If people who play the lottery tell us that, we must reflect their priorities.
We must reflect the public's priorities and continue to spend money on the arts, sport and heritage because they are Government priorities, but we must also spend on the other priorities of health, education, the environment and community well-being. Do the Opposition genuinely claim that the public are wrong? Will they issue press releases tomorrow, condemning spending on MRI scanners? Will any Opposition Member volunteer to do that? Will they issue press releases condemning spending on Macmillan nurses, physical education for young people or letting young people in schools learn from veterans about history? If any Opposition Member wants to volunteer to issue such a press release, I should be happy to see the coverage in the local paper.
Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I am grateful to the Under-Secretary for giving way because it gives me an opportunity to put the record straight. The people whom he claims might protest about not having MRI scanners have already paid for them through national taxation. Indeed, they have paid for them through record taxation, which the Government have imposed on them. The money that the Under-Secretary claims should go into the national health service should go to smaller charities, voluntary groups, organisations and those people who are in the community trying to do great work. It is not a case of one or the other but a matter of the Government diverting the funds where taxpayers' money should be spentfor example, on such scanners.
James Purnell: I notice that the hon. Gentleman is not putting out a press release, but if he does do so, I shall look forward to receiving it and to him opposing the money for what are, in fact, MRI scanners. I suspect that we have all been involved in raising money for cancer charities, and the point is that that can dovetail with the money raised by Government. This Government have spent more money on health than ever before. Therefore, the MRI scanners are in addition to what the Government are putting in and they benefit people's health. His constituents, I believe, would widely welcome them. If he changes his mind about putting out a press release, I shall look forward to it.
Mr. Don Foster:
I, too, congratulate the Minister on his appointment. He has been given a pretty bad hand and is making quite a good fist of it. Ultimately, does not he acknowledge that there is huge confusion in the country at large about what we mean by additionality? Does he agree with his right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport and Tourism who said earlier today that it is important that an understanding of additionality is
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enshrined in new legislation? Would he be prepared to work with all parties to get an agreed definition to include in the Bill?
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