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National Lottery

5. Jon Trickett (Hemsworth) (Lab): What steps she has taken to ensure that lottery funds are directed to areas of social deprivation. [64572]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): Nearly half the total lottery money has gone to the 100 most deprived local authorities. It was this Government who directed lottery distributors to take into account the need to reduce economic and social deprivation in making awards. The largest programme to address deprivation has been the fair share programme operated by the former Community Fund and the New Opportunities Fund. With a total value of £179 million, including a £50 million 10-year expendable endowment, many rural areas, former coalfield areas and seaside towns have already benefited, including my hon. Friend's constituency.

Jon Trickett: I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. I commend the work of the ministerial team with the lottery to ensure that money is diverted to areas of social deprivation. Undoubtedly, my constituency, and many other coalfield areas, benefited from the fair share initiative. Does my right hon. Friend agree that deprived areas tend disproportionately to be engaged in putting money into the lottery? Now that the initiative has ended, organisations such as the Hemsworth and South Emswell homestarts group are experiencing difficulty in finding the necessary money. Will my right hon. Friend keep this matter under close scrutiny and, if necessary, ring-fence money, as she did in the fair share initiative, should we find that areas such as mine are beginning to suffer again?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I can give him the assurance that we shall do just that. If the share of lottery money going to deprived areas shows signs of falling back, we shall take steps to ensure that every part of the country, including the poorest communities, has the benefit of lottery funding. It is worth noting that we started on this course back in 1998 and, having established the under-investment by the lottery in the former coalfield areas, the number of awards to the coalfield areas is now five times as much as it was in 1998. We are determined that that important progress for those communities is not lost.

Paul Holmes (Chesterfield) (LD): The Department's stated aim for the lottery is to improve quality of life for all, yet a deprived region such as the east midlands receives only about 37 per cent. of lottery money per capita when compared with London. Of the 12 regions, the east midlands receives the 10th lowest amount of money from the lottery. What steps can the right hon. Lady take to ensure that this inequality of distribution is rectified? Can she put in a good word for some lottery money via Sport England to help the council in Chesterfield to rebuild the dilapidated leisure centre and swimming pool, the entire cost of which is falling on the council at present?
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Tessa Jowell: On the second point, I do not think that the hon. Gentleman would welcome the intervention of Ministers in decisions about specific lottery grants. His first point is about what he believes to be the unfair share that has been awarded to the east midlands, and about that I would say two things. First, every Member of the House is in a position to act as an advocate for their local community; secondly, if the hon. Gentleman would like organisations in the east midlands to meet my officials or officials from the relevant lottery distributors, I will be happy to ensure that that happens.

Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton) (Lab): My constituency has had moneys from the lottery fund. However, it seems to be rather bizarre that a rich football club such as Manchester United has access to lottery funds, which could have been spent in many more deprived areas throughout the country.

Tessa Jowell: I am glad that my hon. Friend, who is a great champion for the lottery for his constituency, has raised this point, which has been the subject of some controversy over the weekend. This is not a decision to which Ministers were party. Decisions about lottery spend are taken by the lottery distributors and not by Ministers. The decision was taken by the regional board of Sport England in pursuit of the objective of getting employers to boost the levels of activity and fitness of their employees. The point is that this is a grant—[Interruption.] It involves rich employers and less rich employers. That is absolutely right. There is a challenge to those employers. It involves £30,000 over three years, matched by £100,000 from the employer. The judgment of the lottery board is that that money is worth risking to get those who work for Manchester United, or any of the other 40 companies in the north-west who have been funded by the initiative, to become more active. Sometimes, it is worth looking at the broader context in which those grants are made before leaping to judgment and cheap headlines.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): One of the lottery's aims was to help people in deprived areas by supporting projects and good causes in those areas, but given what the Secretary of State has said, does she not fear that the award of £30,000 grants to wealthy football clubs and the cast of "Coronation Street" serve further to undermine the national lottery? Does she not accept that the best way to distance Government from lottery decisions, which is what she is arguing she wishes to do, is to agree with us in the other place this afternoon both to restrict the Government's prescriptive powers on lottery grants and to define the principle of additionality?

Tessa Jowell: With great respect, the decision was made by the regional sports board of Sport England to fulfil its obligation to increase participation in sport and physical activity, given the inactivity and consequent ill health of many people in the north-west. We will never reach a point where every single lottery grant is greeted with universal enthusiasm and acclaim. I accept—[Interruption.] No, it is not a huge embarrassment. It is a small investment that is clearly within the rules. It is a pilot that targets 40 businesses in the north-west of England, with the aim of making people in that part of
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the country more active and fitter. Rather than joining the campaign of condemnation the hon. Gentleman should be prepared to suspend judgment until the pilot exercise has worked by producing more physical exercise.

Mr. Swire: We have suspended quite a lot of judgment recently, so perhaps the Secretary of State will indulge me this afternoon. It is not my business to get her out of this particular hole. Because money has not gone to deprived areas—many Labour Back Benchers clearly want it to go to such areas—support for the national lottery has been eroded. Indeed, a new lottery, Monday, has just been created in response to the concerns of 70 of Britain's most respected charities. When will the Secretary of State take on board the argument that the lottery has been consistently undermined, not least by the creation of the Big Lottery Fund? What will she do to stop the haemorrhaging of support for the national lottery, and does she share the concern of bodies that are not involved in Monday that yet again they will be the losers?

Tessa Jowell: First, many of the staff who work in the 41 organisations funded by Sport England come from precisely those deprived areas in Greater Manchester at which lottery money should be directed. [Interruption.] They may work for Manchester United football club, but they live in some of the deprived areas that should be beneficiaries of lottery money. Secondly, it is nonsense to suggest that support for the lottery is haemorrhaging. Ticket sales have increased, and the lottery is succeeding. The Olympic lottery has already exceeded expectations, and if the hon. Gentleman is as concerned about the future of the lottery as the people of this country he should not talk it down.

Jonathan Shaw (Chatham and Aylesford) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is quite right to distance herself from the decision, but assessment is important when we look at the long-term viability of capital projects such as Buckmore park in my constituency. Sport England awarded it a grant, but did not talk to the local authority. When I asked the National Audit Office to investigate, the papers on the decision were missing. Is it not vital that there is a clear assessment of long-term viability so that a project that is welcomed by the community is sustainable?

Tessa Jowell: Again, my hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is worth taking this opportunity to reflect on the fact that, on average, every single parliamentary constituency in England has about 50 lottery-funded projects, enriching the lives of those in the local community and bringing important local value. Every single Member of this House has a role as an advocate for the lottery in their local community, as he is.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): While the Secretary of State's statement today that the Government should not be interfering in lottery distribution is very welcome, it is clearly in marked contrast to her Government's previous decision to establish the New Opportunities Fund, which was in clear breach of that additionality principle. Does she accept that, within the national lottery, there are clear rules ensuring that areas of social
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deprivation benefit from it? Will not that benefit be put in jeopardy by the establishment of the new online Monday national lottery, for which there are no such rules? Was that lottery not established as the result of a loophole in current legislation, and what action does she intend to take about that loophole?

Tessa Jowell: To deal specifically with the hon. Gentleman's point, no, we would not accept that the new lottery was funded by a loophole. It was licensed by the Gambling Commission. Secondly, he is right that the national lottery, which I believe will always be the dominant lottery in this country, has now and will continue to have an obligation across all its distributors to give particular attention to the needs of deprived communities.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) (Lab): If we can get back to these deprived communities, does my right hon. Friend recall that in the coalfield area of Bolsover, we lost our baths because of subsidence, which is part of what happens in mining. We tried to get it back. Sadly, the lottery funds began to decline because some people over there on the Opposition Benches were talking it down. I do not want that to happen again. We want the lottery funds to increase. Why? Because we have got the Bolsover baths idea back on the agenda. I think that she might have a word with somebody—I know that she cannot make the decision—to make sure that we get the baths for this deprived area. It will help in the Olympic games, as we can send all those Bolsover swimmers to win the medals.

Tessa Jowell: First, let me say how much it is my hope that my hon. Friend is successful in his long campaign of advocacy for a new swimming pool for Bolsover. He makes a second important point in relation to potential Bolsover champions. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport has also been very keen to pursue the campaign for the new baths in Bolsover, and I want hon. Members from all parts of the House to do everything that they can to ensure that their constituents benefit from all available funds to promote sport and participation, and ensure that every part of the United Kingdom benefits in the multitude of available ways from the fact that London is hosting the Olympic games in 2012.

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