Skip to main content

Lottery Funding (Sport)

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

9. What recent assessment he has made of the likely effect of the recession on lottery funding for sport. (269391)

So far, national lottery ticket sales and returns to good causes have held up well. We expect to see an increase when end-year results are announced in May. The National Lottery Commission and Camelot, the operator, are working hard to ensure that the lottery is in the strongest position and that it will generate maximum returns for all good causes, including sport.

Since Labour came to power, lottery funding for sport has halved, yet administration costs have doubled. Is that a record to be proud of?

There is a fact that Opposition representatives continue to overlook when it comes to the lottery and sport: the new good causes fund—previously called the New Opportunities Fund and more recently named the Big Lottery Fund—has put considerable funds into sport. The average figure for the past five years is £100 million a year. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stop misrepresenting this position—

I hope that he will stop not giving a fully accurate reflection of this position. Because of the changes that this Government have made—including the creation of the New Opportunities Fund, which enabled lottery funds to be spent in schools and hospitals for the first time—a £1 billion investment was put into school sport in 1999. That enabled the creation of floodlit astroturf pitches in schools up and down the country, and those that were created in my constituency at that time are still heavily used to this day.

May I congratulate the Secretary of State on the success of his team in yesterday’s FA cup semi-final?

The right hon. Gentleman sent me a letter just before Christmas refuting the claims that I had made about the decline in funding for grass-roots and community sport—claims that have been echoed today by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone). Just a few weeks ago, however, the Secretary of State supplied me with parliamentary answers that confirm precisely the fact that there has been a dramatic fall in lottery funding for grass-roots and community sport. Which of his two answers is correct?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his congratulations. It was a marvellous day at Wembley yesterday, and I apologise for being a touch croaky today. It is not always possible to be an impartial Secretary of State, and that has produced a bit of a rift in the Department today, although we are patching things up as best we can.

I will give the shadow Secretary of State a similar response to that which I have just given the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone). The figures that he cites not only miss out the funding from the Big Lottery Fund, significant sums of which have gone into grass-roots sport, but exclude funding provided by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in accordance with the PE and school sports strategy, which the DCSF and my Department co-sponsor. We are now talking about £200 million a year in that regard, so I hope that, if we are to have a debate about funding for sport, we can put all the facts on the table and take into account all the investment that is going into grass-roots and school sport. If I have heard the shadow Chancellor correctly in recent times, I must conclude that if he were standing where I am now, he would be having to explain to the House on what level he was cutting sport funding. I understand that it is Conservative policy to cut Department for Culture, Media and Sport spending now, this year, and we would be interested to hear where the axe would fall on grass-roots sport.

If we are to believe what we read in the papers this morning, Government briefings suggest that it is the Chancellor, not the shadow Chancellor, who is talking about spending cuts of £15 billion. The last Conservative Government set up the lottery precisely in order to support grass-roots sports, the arts and our heritage when times are tough. Is not the reason that funding for grass-roots sport has halved under the right hon. Gentleman’s Government the appalling way in which they have managed the national lottery, in particular by diverting more than £1 billion to supporting Government spending programmes, so that, in the crucial run-up to 2012, when we want more people to be able to enjoy community sport, fewer people will actually be able to do so?

It is simply inaccurate to say that funding has halved. This Government have invested at every level of sport—school and community sport, club sport and elite sport—which is why sport in this country is in a better position today than it has been for many years and why nine out of 10 young people do two hours of sport in school every week. What was the position when the hon. Gentleman’s party was in government? It was appalling; it was terrible. I was at school and I remember what happened—sport simply dried up. The hon. Gentleman keeps talking about a big diversion of funds and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics—