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National Lottery

Volume 512: debated on Monday 21 June 2010

6. What recent assessment he has made of the effects on the arts sector of the funding it receives from the national lottery; and if he will make a statement. (2999)

May I welcome my hon. Friend to these Benches and say what a delight it is to have such a distinguished author among us? I understand that her latest novel—

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman resume his seat? I do not want an essay at the start of a reply to a question. The hon. Gentleman will answer the question, and we will make do with that.

Order. May I say to the Minister that he should answer the question, and then we will move on?

I was about to do so, Mr Speaker. I was about to say that in my view the national lottery has had a transformative effect on the arts since its creation under the previous Conservative Government in 1994, putting £3.5 billion into the arts.

I thank the Minister for his welcome. May I say to him that my constituents have been dismayed to see national lottery funding for the arts, sport and heritage cut by more than 50% under Labour? Will he expand a little on how he intends to return lottery funding to its original purpose, so that it will help grass-roots organisations in my constituency?

I share my hon. Friend’s concern. In opposition, we campaigned against the cuts to national lottery funding imposed by the previous Government. I am delighted that we are bringing forward measures to increase the funding available for the arts from the national lottery: in two years’ time it will have increased by £50 million a year.

The Minister will know that the Heritage Lottery Fund was a major contributor to the award-winning Wedgwood museum in Stoke-on-Trent. He will also know that, as a result of Pension Protection Fund legislation, the museum is in real danger of closure and threatened with a dispersal of its collection and archive. Will he meet my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) and me, so that we can ensure that the Government have a proper solution to the impending court case?

The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished historian who recently won an important history prize. This is an important issue which we are watching very closely, and I should be delighted to meet him to discuss it.