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National Lottery

Volume 504: debated on Monday 18 January 2010

8. What proportion of national lottery income has been spent on heritage in each of the last three years? (310894)

Since 1997, the national lottery has raised more than £3.3 billion for the heritage sector. The Heritage Lottery Fund spent almost £1 billion of lottery money in the last three years, equivalent to 26.2 per cent., 21.3 per cent. and 22.3 per cent. of total lottery income during those years.

That is all very well, but the Minister knows full well that, in 2008-09, the Heritage Lottery Fund distributed £88 million less than in 2005-06. One of the reasons for that, as she knows equally well, is that, consistently over the years, the Government have raided more than £3 billion to shore up their own pet projects. Is it not time, in the dying days of this Government, for them to support the Conservative policy of having a new national lottery independence Bill, which would stop the Government sticking their sticky fingers into lottery funds?

It may be “all very well”, but it is actually true that the percentage of the lottery fund that went to heritage during the three years that the hon. Gentleman asked about exceeds the percentage that the Conservatives would give under their proposals. The way in which we currently administer the lottery fund is in the interests of the country. Were the Conservative party’s proposals to be put in place, investments in community libraries and other good causes would go. Furthermore, the money that goes to heritage is only partly funded through the lottery fund. More than £660 million comes directly from my Department, and £130 million comes from the Big Lottery Fund. Under the Conservative party’s proposals, those amounts would be—

Does my right hon. Friend know that the university of Sunderland is exhibiting its glass in the Upper Waiting Hall? I hope that the ministerial team will visit the exhibition and congratulate the university on it. In what way is her Department supporting the brilliant work that is being done by universities such as Sunderland? It is internationally renowned and now, through the national lottery, has accepted responsibility for the National Glass Centre.

I will indeed to try to visit the exhibition by the university of Sunderland. Many of our universities have excellent museums, and I consider at regular intervals how they are to be funded and sustained to ensure that we maintain the excellence that many of those university museums promote.

As well as the consternation felt about the cut in the amount of lottery income going to heritage and at the absence of the draft Heritage Protection Bill, is the Minister aware of the consternation in the heritage sector at the original draft of planning policy statement 15, which the Royal Town Planning Institute called

“a charter for people who want to knock buildings down”?

Can she confirm that she is talking to the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that the redraft offers historic buildings in this country the protection they need?

I am indeed in constant conversation with my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government about their review of such planning guidance. I hope shortly to bring forward a statement—a cross-Government statement—about the importance of heritage. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should try to reintroduce the lost Bill as soon as we possibly can, because it is an important Bill that would demonstrate our commitment to heritage. Until that comes about, however, I hope that my statement about the value of heritage and the work I do with colleagues across Government will reassure the heritage sector that we value its contributions.

As well as cutting the funding to heritage, does the Minister take note of the report of the Public Accounts Committee, which pointed out that the Department’s targets for broadening the audience were unrealistic, obsolete and set without clear evidence, and that free education visits to heritage sites had fallen by 20 per cent.? Is that not another damning indictment of her Department’s heritage policy?

At a recent speech, the hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mr. Hunt) quoted Harold Pinter as saying

“as important as what is said, is that which is left unsaid”.

I urge the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey) to have regard to those words when he sets his questions. The PAC report was not about the heritage sector as a whole; it was about English Heritage. English Heritage contributes to the targets we set across the heritage sector as a whole. Those targets are important, because we want to see who participates and enjoys the vast array of heritage on offer in this country. We will continue with those targets, although we will have regard to the PAC recommendations on other matters that pertain to English Heritage alone.