1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of Mr Major’s contribution to the debate on the National Lottery held in the House of Commons on 7th April 1998.
Mr. Tom Pendry (Stalybridge and Hyde) I am delighted to be called to take part in this important debate on what I consider to be one of the most important Bills that the Government have introduced in this packed Session of Parliament.
I recall vividly during the passage of what was then the National Lottery etc. Bill some three years ago, when I led for the Opposition, pledging on behalf of my party full support for a national lottery, but expressing many doubts about the way in which the legislation had been drafted. Many people within the parliamentary Labour party also had reservations about that Bill. Nevertheless, we set about finding ways to improve it, and we were successful in obtaining several amendments.
For example, we managed to give some kind of level playing field to the pools companies. I say "some kind" of level playing field because it certainly has not been a true level playing field to date, and the pools companies have been hit enormously hard by the national lottery. However, we did obtain for them the ability to roll over prize money, the legalisation of the sale of coupons in shops, and permission to be allowed to sponsor television and radio programmes. Nevertheless, the pools have been significantly affected by the lottery. For example, in 1994, the pools companies paid £350 million in betting duty, but the figure has shrunk to £131 million today.
We also sought and achieved concessions to enable small charities and the lottery to compete, by raising the limit on the size of small lotteries to £1 million, and to prevent the national lottery from selling door to door in order to protect public collections. We also sought certain social safeguards. Whereas we wanted the sale of lottery tickets to be restricted to 18-
In 1995, my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), the then shadow Secretary of State for National Heritage, set up an advisory committee on which I served along with representatives of business, local government, Churches and charities. Its remit was to examine the lottery and suggest ways to improve the running of it. We consulted, we shared ideas, and we listened; we then published the best ideas in a paper entitled "The National Lottery Initiatives and Recommendations".
I remind the House of some of the recommendations. They included the creation of new beneficiaries from lottery money, more flexible distribution, the development of a strategic approach to distributors, fast tracking for small grants, giving access to children's play, and introducing a national endowment scheme, all of which have been included in this Bill, which tells me that the Government are listening to those who are making constructive suggestions.
At the same time, however, I want to put on record a few issues that I trust the Government, in the spirit of openness that they have shown so far, will deal with as the Bill progresses through the House. I have only 10 minutes in which to speak, so I shall confine my remarks to one issue alone -
My major concern is quite simply that the Bill represents a watering down of Labour's previous commitment to sport. Although sport has been one of the great beneficiaries, and sport's governing bodies have always placed on record their strong support for sport being one of the good causes, I trust that it will remain a permanent good cause after 2001. I am disappointed that the Government have not made such a firm commitment in the Bill.
All I ask is that we adhere to our promise in the manifesto, which I launched with numerous sports stars during the general election. It states:
“Sport will continue to be a permanent good cause for the purpose of Lottery Funding". All I ask is that when he replies, the Minister for Sport spells that out once and for all.
I welcome the New Opportunities Fund, because it addresses the Government's and the people's priorities, but I hope that the Government will recognise that sport and recreation are very much a people's priority. It is estimated that each week more than 22 million adults and 7 million children participate in sporting activity -
One of my top priorities was to promote sporting opportunities for all areas. Access was the watchword. I am glad that the Government have got off to a pretty good start by accepting some proposals, such as that to protect some playing fields. However, there is more to be done in that connection -
I hope that the New Opportunities Fund will not neglect the impact that sport can make on the twin priorities of health and education. Academic success is enhanced through physical education. A recent study concluded:
Students who are involved in sport tend to perform as well, or better, academically than less active students, even though academic curriculum time is reduced. I am especially concerned that no urban primary school has yet received sports lottery money. In total, just eight such schools have received that money, but all have been in leafy shire districts -
I should like to make another practical suggestion to improve sports funding. In our sports manifesto "Labour's Sporting Nation", we promised that the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts would offer support for sportspeople. Page 10 of that document states:
The endowment will not focus solely on excellence, it will be inclusive in its approach, encouraging access and partnership across the whole range of earth sciences, humanities, sports and arts. I am highly disappointed therefore that that commitment to sport, which I personally wrote into that document, is being dropped by the Government. If they are intent on doing that, I have a suggestion as to how they can assist sport through NESTA in another way.
If the Government are determined to exclude the development of sporting talent from NESTA's remit because of the Sports Council's involvement with existing sports organisations, using lottery funding for such development, I suggest that the Secretary of State can nevertheless find a useful and worthwhile sporting role within NESTA's remit -
I mentioned the impact of the lottery on the football pools, and at this point I should like to declare an interest. As the House may know, I have recently been appointed chairman of the Football Trust. In the run-
Labour's proposal for the development of sport in "Labour's Sporting Nation" included the following commitment:
“We'll make the Football Trust the recipient of Lottery money so it may continue its essential work for football at all levels throughout the United Kingdom". Once in government, rather than extend distributor status, Labour decided that it would be appropriate for the trust to form partnerships with the Sports Councils in order to have access to lottery funding. I am pleased to be able to tell the House that in England the Sports Council and the football authorities have shown a great willingness to enter into partnership. As a result, the trust is able to continue to help the game at all levels in England.
We are also, we hope, in the last stages of putting together a successful partnership in Scotland, and I have opened discussions with the Sports Councils and the football authorities in Wales and Northern Ireland. It is essential that those also result in the formation of successful partnerships.
The trust's contribution to the game throughout the United Kingdom is vital. It has a huge part to play in maintaining football's place in the community. We are not only about bricks and mortar, but can handle grant-
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not think that I have been anything other than constructive, because I welcome the Bill and certainly give it two cheers. I trust that the Government will listen to what I have said and, more particularly, to what sports bodies on the ground have said, and recognise the strength of their case. I hope to come back to the House in a few months' time and give the Bill three good cheers.
Mr. John Major (Huntingdon) I think that it is common ground among hon. Members on both sides of the House that the lottery has been a stunning success over the past few years. The very fact that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is introducing a Bill that re-
Let me say at the outset: I am not opposed to any changes to the original Bill that was presented a few years ago. The situation is evolving. It was an evolutionary scheme. It was expected to evolve, and some of the Secretary of State's changes, subject to more careful examination, I have no qualms about at all. It is sensible for him to look at new regulatory provision in the light of experience, and I am delighted that he has introduced measures for us to examine.
The Secretary of State announced that consultation would take place on policy directives. We have not, of course, seen those directives yet, so I do not intend to give them blanket approval. If I heard him correctly, there is the prospect of moving rather more from capital funding to revenue funding, which was always envisaged at the outset and, again, is perfectly sensible. The only points at issue are the specific details of what is proposed and the timing. It is, I think, a natural evolution.
The Secretary of State will forgive me if, having said that, I make the point that to issue more directives of this sort flatly contradicts what the Government said in opposition, when they remarked repeatedly and powerfully that decisions of this sort should be left to the distributing bodies. That was their position in opposition. They wanted the then Government to be at arm's length from the money.
I had much sympathy with that view and did not dispute it when the Opposition made it a particular cause of theirs during the passage of the first Bill, but we now know that what they meant was that they wanted the Conservative Government to be at arm's length from the money, while the incoming Labour Government should get their sticky fingers on it, either by directives or directly, as speedily as they could. No wonder the Secretary of State had his tongue so far in his cheek during his speech. I was surprised from time to time that he did not choke.
I shall refer to some of the background, and then I have a couple of specific questions to ask, which are pertinent to lottery fund distributors and beneficiaries. When we decided to establish the lottery, there was much opposition to it. I should like to explain briefly why I thought that it was the right thing to do; this Bill illustrates why we thought that it was important, although we oppose some tiny elements of the Bill.
I believed, and still believe, that the arts, sport and the built heritage enhance the quality of life for everyone. They are part of a rounded life, yet the opportunity for everyone to enjoy them was clearly not there. Some people were more capable than others of viewing or taking part in sports and the arts.
I was concerned to ensure that a child who lived in a tower block had the same opportunity in arts and sport as the child who was the heir to rolling acres. It was part, if I may return to an old phrase, of what I thought of as a classless society. That intention was always implicit in our Bill.
We wanted to help small charities, particularly unfashionable small charities, which do tremendous work and have such dedicated supporters, but find it difficult to raise money. We also wanted to prepare for something that we shall never see again in our lifetime -
Why those causes? Why those of all the other good causes, some of which every hon. Member could name? It was largely because they were under-
I believed that the lottery and the funding flow that would follow, were it to be successful -
For those reasons, the lottery was underpinned by two objectives: first, that resources should be additional to existing public expenditure; and, secondly, that other areas of expenditure -
The argument about additionality is being conducted on the wrong basis. The point is: are the Government now using money for areas that are beyond the remit of the original five good causes? In one or two restricted areas, they are, and I shall try to set out later what those areas are.
This new money -
Lottery money was intended as capital provision in the first instance, for sound reasons that the House well understands. The aim was to build the facilities, but the implication was always there, that we would move beyond capital funding to revenue funding in due course. I thoroughly agreed with that, in certain cases with individual sponsorship as well. I have no objection to that in certain cases.
No greater pleasure is given to people than when a great athlete or artist thrills the world with their particular abilities. I remember how the House practically came to a stop when Torvill and Dean mopped up, winning gold medals all over the place. I have no objection to individual sponsorship to produce more Torvills and more Deans and, if we could find a few fast bowlers as well, I should be even happier.
The lottery has been a huge success throughout the country. Look, for example, at the Derby dance centre, the Cambridge Arts theatre, which I know extremely well, or the arts for everyone express scheme. Look -
Everyone in this debate wishes that to continue, but, for it to do so, two conditions are necessary: first, lottery funding should continue to be additional and, secondly, it should not be reduced and siphoned off to some other sector. The Secretary of State has re-
A small part -
The lottery is substituting for what we all, including the Secretary of State, know should be tax-
The Government are raiding the lottery, raising the fear that they will do it again -
Many of the fears of the distributing bodies and much of the controversy of the Bill would be removed by assurances on two questions, which I shall spell out for the Secretary of State. As a result of the New Opportunities Fund, the share of lottery funds for the other good causes will fall from 20 per cent. to 16.75 per cent. The Government have always said that that does not matter because the good causes will still receive the £1.8 billion each that was originally envisaged. The Government claim that they are merely redistributing the funds raised by the extra success of the lottery. It has raised £10 billion instead of £9 billion and the Government claim to be taking only the extra £1 billion.
I shall not repeat the excellent arguments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham on that, but the Secretary of State must know that his argument is pure sophistry. It is spurious. When the 20 per cent. level was agreed, no one knew what the cash figure would be. The percentages were always at the heart of the proposals, because nobody knew what future revenue would be. Suppose that the economy begins to contract and the excellent growth rate that the Government were fortunate enough to inherit begins to slip away. That would have many effects on the economy, including a reduction in lottery resources, resulting in a smaller pot from which to distribute to the five good causes -
I do not think that the new estimate of £10 billion will be an underestimate. If more than £10 billion is raised, where will the extra go? Will it go to the original good causes, to the New Opportunities Fund or to both? That is highly relevant to the fears of the arts and sports distributors. The Government know that it is more than likely that the £10 billion estimate will be exceeded. The Minister for Sport nodded when I said that, so the Government are clearly aware of the issue and have considered it. They must know what they plan to do with any excess. I waited for the Secretary of State to tell us, but he did not mention the subject. I hope that he will have decided before the end of the debate. Who gets any money over -
My second question is equally straightforward. The distributing bodies need security to plan ahead. That is not a wicked point from the previous Government, but one of the points that were implicit in the White Paper, "A People's Lottery". I hope that the Secretary of State will forgive me if I digress for a moment, but I hope that the Government will grow out of their silly sloganising. We have long known that any country that is called a democratic republic is notably undemocratic. Anything called the people's something gives the people a good deal less say than they had before. We have a people's lottery, a people's money and cool Britannia.
I am sure that the Secretary of State is ambitious -
Will the Government guarantee the percentage for the good causes beyond 2001 -
Given the Government's substantial majority, the Secretary of State will get the Bill through the House. However, a failure to answer my question will cause disruption and concern for those who make the lottery live by distributing the money to the good causes, severely damaging their confidence in their future and what they can do with the long, continuing flow of lottery resources.
I have asked the Secretary of State two clear questions. If he is not clear about them, I shall speak to him or his officials outside, so that he can be absolutely clear about what I seek. I am going to a significant arts event elsewhere this evening, but I shall miss most of it because I want to come back for the winding-
Mr. Banks Trust us.
Mr. Major Where have I heard that before? "No new taxes -
If the Minister is in answering mode, perhaps he can answer one or two other questions. Who will bear the cost of setting up the New Opportunities Fund? I hope that it will not be the other good causes, for that would rub salt into an already open wound. Will the Minister answer that at 9.30? Will he also confirm whether there will be further endowments to NESTA at the expense of the other good causes? He must know the answer to that. He cannot ignore the question: either he answers it, or everybody will make the only assumption that they can, that the Government will take more money away. I hope that, in the interests of arts, sports and other fund distributors, the Minister will give us unequivocal answers this evening.
I shall reiterate one point. I am not, in Luddite fashion, opposing any changes, because I was particularly in favour of the National Lottery etc. Bill, which was introduced when I was Prime Minister. Times change; we learn from experience. There are changes are to be made, and I shall support them, but some of the Secretary of State's changes are wrong. I would have made other changes -
Despite the Government's astonishing honeymoon, we are coming to know them and how they manoeuvre whenever they are under any pressure at all. They are never too scrupulous in pursuit of their own interests. I hope that, this evening, they will redeem themselves just a little by giving clear-