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It has always struck me as somewhat perverse that the tabloid press pillories those who have earned large sums of money in business activity, in contrast to the tabloids' championing of multimillion-pound lottery winners. Only last week in the national newspapers it was reported with distaste that thousands of workers in my City of London constituency were awaiting bonuses of £1 million or more, yet to earn similar sums or multiples of such sums by guessing six numbers on a national lottery ticket is regarded as legitimate and a desirable outcome.
Although I am not a supporter of what has become a highly progressive tax on lottery players, I believe that the House owes it to those who do play the game to promote transparency in what has become a national institution. Too much control over lottery distribution in the hands of the Secretary of State cannot be a sensible approach to a national lottery that is designed to serve all the people of this country. We shall take
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urgent steps to restore public confidence in our lottery by reducing both governmental and ministerial interference.
Mr. Don Foster: I begin by thanking the Minister yet again. All my speeches this afternoon have begun by thanking the Minister. I have been pondering whether to reproduce and include in the next edition of "Focus" to go round the Bath constituency the Minister's praise in the form of my new nickname, "Hawkeye", and his comments a few minutes ago. I am grateful for his praise and for the fact that he began by thanking a large number of people for their contributions during the lengthy passage of the Billwe have had almost 60 weeks of opportunity for consideration since its First Reading on 25 November 2004. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will pass on my thanks to his officials, who have been extremely helpful in discussing the Bill with me and with members of the Conservative Front-Bench team.
We have had a useful debate today. Unfortunately, however, in view of a range of other things that have been going on in and near the Palace of Westminster today, it will get limited coverage. In the House we had reference to sex, we had a statement on drugs, and we have just heard from the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) a revelation about rock 'n' roll. Other things have been going on in the various campaigns for the leadership of my party. I suspect, therefore, that our deliberation on the lottery will not get a great deal of coverage, although I note with interest that the lottery more generally is likely to arouse a great deal of interest, bearing in mind the £85 million jackpot on offer, following nine roll-overs. I understand that tickets are currently selling at the rate of about 100,000 an hour, so whatever our deliberations about good causes, we know that they will get more money in the near future.
Notwithstanding the limited publicity the debate has been important, and we have made good progress. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have praised the distributors' work on the lottery and pointed out that nearly 200,000 causes, many of which are universally popular, have benefited from lottery funding. We have discussed how lottery distributors are making it easier to apply for lottery grants, although I have argued that more progress is needed. Work remains to be done to persuade the public about some of the grants and not to believe everything that they read in their newspapers. Earlier, I referred to the claim in today's Daily Mail that St. Paul's cathedral has had to pull out of lottery funding for certain reasons, which have turned out to be entirely incorrect.
The distributors still have a lot of work to do publicising their good work. Although we did not persuade the Minister on this point, we have discussed the importance of ensuring that the lottery distributors, while promoting the good causes in which they are involved, do not promote playing the lottery, for the very good reason that that is not the most effective way to give money to good causes. As I have said, if someone buys a lottery ticket for £1, only 28p goes to a good cause. If someone gives £1 directly to a good cause, however, that good cause will receive £1.28 with gift aid. If one wants to give money to good causes, it is more efficient to give directly.
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We have made progress on a number of issues, and the Minister has made a number of welcome further assurances today. That said, unfortunately we have not made sufficient progress in a number of areas, the most important of which is additionalityensuring that the Government do not interfere in the use of lottery fundingto which the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster rightly referred. When the national lottery was initiated, the then Prime Minister, Sir John Major, made it clear that he did not want to see the Government getting their sticky little fingers on lottery money, and the current Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Minister have repeated that assurance. On Second Reading, the Minister said that a provision on additionality should be enshrined on the face of the Bill, but the Government have refused to include such a provision, which is one key reason why we will not support the Bill on Third Reading. We think that the distinction between Government spending and lottery spending is crucial.
We are equally concerned about some other aspects of the Bill, not least the powers of the Secretary of State. Line after line of the Bill refers to giving powers to the Secretary of State, which concerns us deeply. The Secretary of State's powers should be reduced, not increased, and that is particularly true of the powers on the redistribution of funds, which we discussed on Report.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) made an excellent 47-second speech in which she asked the Minister a question that he still has not answered. On Second Reading, he said:
The Minister cannot have it both wayseither heritage is protected or it is not. The reality is that heritage is not protected because the Government will be held to interfere in the way in which interest and balances are used.
The question was this: do we allow those who have large balances to profit by them? Good causes profit because the interest that is accrued is then redistributed, as in the case of distributions to sport and the arts. I gave two reassurances. Money that had been allocated from the lottery to the various distributors would be received, and no scheme would be stopped; it was simply that the balances would be reduced. There was a guarantee that once that expenditure had been confirmed it would continue, and they would not lose one penny piece of the money that had been allocated to
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the distributors from the lottery, that would have been accrued by interest. We believed that it was wrong to profit by that, which is why we distributed it in that way.
Mr. Foster: Indeed. What the Minister said in that letter, what he said in a previous speech and what he has said today is that it is important that as far as possible we ensure that lottery distributors are getting the money that they bring in out to good causes as quickly as possible and that we keep the balances as low as possible. Nobody disagrees with the Minister about that. However, it does not deal with the point that my hon. Friend the Member for East Dunbartonshire and I put to him: either there is something in the Bill that will allow money to be taken from heritage or there is not. He cannot have it both ways. [Interruption.] The reality is that the mechanism that he just described means that the money will be taken away[Interruption.]
During our deliberations about this issue, it was pointed out that there are differences in the way in which distributors operate because of the significant differences in the nature of the projects that they are engaged in. That is why some of us are concerned about the Secretary of State's power to redistribute those funds.
I continue to worry about an issue on which we have had no significant debatethe structure of the board that will oversee all this work. It is possible that it could be chaired by somebody who is there to represent a particular country, which could lead to a conflict of interest. I am also worried that the new definition of charitable expenditure potentially blurs the boundaries between public services and third sector good causes.
For those reasons, we cannot support the Bill on Third Reading. None of that should detract from the fact that we have made good progress during its passage. I hope that if we are not successful in defeating the Bill at this stage, progress will continue to be made in another place. There are some good things in the Bill; unfortunately, there are sufficient bad things to cause us to vote against it.
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