[Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]
I beg to move,
That this House has considered the future of society lotteries, the Health Lottery and limits on prize values.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward, in this important debate. You will remember that the launch of a national lottery back in the days of the Major Government was one of that Government’s great successes. When history is written, I think that it will be seen as a far-reaching and incredibly innovative measure. More than £38 billion has been raised for good causes around the country, and all colleagues will have examples of outstanding projects that have helped transform communities in their constituencies.
I have a great deal of respect for Camelot. I do not want to dwell too much on the national lottery or Camelot during this debate, because I want to talk specifically about society lotteries. Unfortunately, in recent years, Camelot has lost its way somewhat. Many of my constituents were incensed by the decision to double the price of tickets and add 10 extra numbers to the card. The impact on small family syndicates was significant, and I know a lot of constituents who pulled out of supporting the national lottery as a consequence. I want to concentrate on society lotteries, and to flag up the extraordinary revolution that has taken place over the past decade. It has been a remarkable story for the third sector.
I hesitate to interrupt my hon. Friend so early in his speech, but before he leaves the issue of the national lottery, whether one admires Camelot or not, is not the real difficulty Camelot’s length of tenure as an operator? It becomes more and more difficult to know whether it is performing as well as possible. The metrics simply are not there because of the monopoly that it has enjoyed.
That is a good point. Camelot has become complacent. It has a new chief executive now, as we know, but my right hon. Friend is absolutely correct. Conservatives remember well when it was launched, because we were in government at the time. There was a tremendous spirit of innovation and a great deal of aspiration, but Camelot has been there for a long time now, and has made some bad mistakes. One, incidentally, was taking the Health lottery to judicial review in an attempt to prevent it from being launched. If ever there were antics by a monopolistic organisation, that was it.
I want to focus on society lotteries. There are now more than 490 organisations running society lotteries. In 2011, they raised roughly £100 million for good causes. The figure is now more than £250 million. Society lotteries are different from the national lottery, as we know. They are regulated under the Gambling Act 2005, unlike the national lottery, which is regulated under the National Lottery Act 1993; they have an annual turnover limit, a draw limit and a prize cap; and they cannot operate in Northern Ireland or the Isle of Man. In contrast to the national lottery, they are highly regulated and controlled.
My hon. Friend is giving a characteristically powerful and well thought-out speech on this important subject. It is clear that we have allowed the national lottery to establish its market position, but as he highlighted, a huge number of different companies and societies offer products. It is an opportunity for the market to choose between different prizes, stakes and innovative games, and for customers to choose from a variety of good causes. We should welcome any effort to support the new organisations.
My hon. Friend makes a good point, which I will come to in a moment. One key aspect of the argument is that society lotteries complement the national lottery and do not compete directly with it. There is room for them both to operate.
The big difference, obviously, is the prize cap. As I pointed out, society lotteries are limited to 10% of the value of any one draw, with a theoretical maximum of £400,000. In practice, most of the top prizes are about £25,000. That is, frankly, scratchcard territory. I will return to that later in my short speech.
The impact on our constituents of society lotteries is significant. Most high street charities now run such lotteries: cancer research; military charities; disability support charities such as the Royal National Institute of Blind People; and environmental protection and animal welfare charities. Many contract an external lottery provider to service their lotteries. The two best known external providers are the Health lottery and the People’s Postcode lottery, which most colleagues will have heard of.
I have been doing some research in my constituency. Society lotteries’ contribution to good causes has been impressive. For example, a few years ago, the Benjamin Foundation, which runs a hub in Norfolk to help homeless 16 and 17-year-olds to get their lives back on track through short-term supported housing, received £10,000 from the Postcode lottery, having applied to the lottery and not succeeded for a variety of reasons. The strength of society lotteries is that they can be much more flexible and fleet of foot in considering need.
Elsewhere in Norfolk, the People’s Health Trust, supported by the Health lottery, has given numerous small grants. The East Anglian Air Ambulance lottery has done a great deal of fundraising. The organisation HealthSuccess in Norfolk has put money into a number of good causes around Norfolk: for example, supporting local branches of Scope, Dementia UK and the Royal Voluntary Service. It has put nearly £40,000 into creative training sessions with the Wayland Partnership Development Trust, and nearly £50,000 into the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Young Carers project. Those are examples of particular successes in Norfolk, which I welcome 100%.
The Health lottery has supported two key charities in my constituency, Trading Links and the Hanseatic Union. Across Norfolk as a whole, it has granted more than £1.6 million to 45 local projects since 2011, as part of nearly £100 million in grants supporting 2,600 projects and nearly 450,000 people across the entire country. I pay special tribute to the founders of the Health lottery, particularly Richard Desmond, one of our mostly highly regarded and respected philanthropists. They can be proud of what they have done.
There are arguments for reform, and they are becoming ever stronger—I mention above all the point about the prize limit, to which I will come in a moment. The proliferation of society lotteries is a good example of the big society at work, helping out at grassroots level. It is a movement that has grown organically and gathered momentum.
The key point, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Sevenoaks (Sir Michael Fallon) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Swindon (Justin Tomlinson) mentioned a moment ago, is that society lotteries are not in competition with the national lottery; what they do complements it. I believe strongly that people play the national lottery because they want to win a life-changing prize. They console themselves with the thought that although the odds against them are completely ridiculous, there is nevertheless a remote chance that they might win the prize, and they will also do some good work for charity. However, they have no idea which charities their small share of ticket income will support. That is quite unlike society lotteries, which are often locally based on people’s doorsteps. People can relate to them and understand what is done by the local charity that they are supporting and what impact it will have in the community in question.
I feel strongly that there is room for both. As the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands (Karen Bradley) said in a recent reply to a question:
“As Government, we of course want to ensure that we have one strong national lottery, but that does not mean that we cannot also have strong society lotteries.”—[Official Report, 16 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 565.]
I agree 100%.
We also need to bear in mind that, from the way Camelot has been carrying on, one would think that society lotteries were right there biting at its heels, with ticket sales in the billions. The truth of the matter is that total ticket sales by society lotteries last year were £586.66 million, compared with national lottery ticket sales of £6.92 billion—it is under 10% of the national lottery’s total sales. Frankly, the society lotteries deserve to have the chance to move up a gear, to increase their ticket sales and to do even more good for those causes in our constituencies.
Very simply, I am asking for some deregulation. I would like the draw limit to be raised from £4 million to at least £10 million; the annual turnover limit to increase from £10 million to £100 million; and the prize limit to be raised to £1 million—the Lotteries Council takes the view that it should be 50% of any one draw, but that could be too complicated. The key thing is that if the turnover limit is raised to £100 million, the administration costs would come down quite significantly. That is not the kind of prize that would change people’s lives in the way that the national lottery prizes can, but there is no question that it would be much more attractive. I would also like arrangements to be made for new society lotteries, which have significant start-up costs in their early years. There must be an argument for the aggregation of the 20% minimum charity contribution over a number of years.
As those of us who were in Parliament at the time remember well, when the national lottery was launched, there was an argument for it being a monopoly. Since, we have seen this revolution in society lotteries. The scenario has changed dramatically. When conditions change, the overarching regulation has to change as well. There is overwhelming support for these changes from every single third-sector charity that has been in contact with me. I quoted the Lotteries Council, which is very supportive, as was the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s last report.
Since I requested this debate from Mr Speaker and had it granted, I have had a significant number of emails from non-governmental and other such organisations. To pluck one out from a charity that I know well, ActionAid’s senior advocacy manager told me that he is incredibly supportive of the proposals that we are putting forward because:
“Such changes would mean more funds can be raised for important causes like ours and the many other UK charities benefiting from this funding source.”
He says that
“it would be useful…to mention ActionAid’s support for these proposals”.
If they go ahead, he says, ActionAid will be able
“to help tackle violence against women and girls in Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, and Rwanda”
as part of its outreach in Africa. That is quite powerful.
I understand that the Minister is waiting for advice from the Gambling Commission. Is there any news on that? As I understand it, these changes could be brought about by a simple statutory instrument. Perhaps she could comment on that, because that is within her power and a lot of pressure is building up.
Arguments have been put forward against these changes. I will not go into huge detail because that would take all afternoon and I do not want to get bogged down in arguments that are not particularly strong. The key argument that has been made is that a further proliferation of society lotteries would somehow take money out of the pool that is available for buying these tickets and that eventually goes to help good causes. I do not accept that argument at all, because the public are incredibly generous these days. If the ask is right, the public will continue. One very good example of that is national lottery sales, which did not dip in the slightest after the all-time record Red Nose Day.
When the Health lottery was launched in 2011, Camelot kept saying that there would be a huge diminution in the amount of support for the national lottery and in ticket sales, but it widened public support and the public view of lotteries, so the competition benefited everyone, including the national lottery. The public spent more on the society lotteries—through the Health lottery in this case—and on the national lottery.
I have also looked at independent reports. Most notably, in 2012, NERA Economic Consulting published an in-depth report on the impact of society lotteries on ticket sales and on the national lottery that found that they made absolutely no difference whatsoever. The Centre for Economics and Business Research published a report in 2014 which was quite interesting and pertinent in saying that
“there is little evidence to support the notion that society lotteries undermine the National Lottery…If regulations were to be relaxed, the potential increase in society lottery-donated funds to good causes would, in all likelihood, complement rather than detract from those provided by the National Lottery”.
That is very telling.
On the fall in national lottery income last year—it was not very significant, but it was a fall—the Financial Times reported Camelot as saying that
“the main reason for the fall in sales last year was the disappointing performance of The National Lottery’s core draw-based games—especially Lotto, with player confidence in the game still fragile following the recent game changes”.
Camelot is being incredibly candid and honest.
In conclusion, the Minister and the Secretary of State have both said that they believe in the big society, deregulation and a flowering of these different smaller organisations. They believe in communities taking control of their own destiny, and in charities in all our constituencies up and down the country working together to help those good causes. We are now at a stage in the development of lotteries in this country where we can take this important decision. The timing is absolutely spot on. There are many other competing issues in the Minister’s Department and she has many things on her plate, but I urge that this problem could be solved by a simple statutory instrument, which would have massive support from the public and from the organisations I have mentioned. I submit that now is the time to act and for the Minister, who is incredibly talented, to enhance her reputation still further by taking this action.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I thank the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) for securing this important debate. I intend to keep my contribution quite brief, which I am sure hon. Members will be glad to hear, but I will emphasise the important work that funding from society lotteries has been able to support, and reiterate the point that raising the turnover and prize draw limits could enable them to do even more.
Players of society lotteries raise over £250 million a year for thousands of charities and good causes across the United Kingdom. The Gambling Commission’s latest round of statistics highlighted that the money that society lotteries gave to good causes rose to 43.6% from 43% last year. In the constituency I serve, Ceredigion, the People’s Postcode lottery, one of the biggest charity lotteries, has supported several diverse local projects and charities that have been of great benefit to communities across the county. Last year, £9,750 of funding from People’s Postcode lottery players supported Age Cymru Ceredigion’s “Silver Steps” project—a great initiative that supports the building of safe walking trails to promote activity among older people. At the other end of the spectrum, a further £1,429 grant from the People’s Postcode lottery funded improvements to Rhydlewis village hall. Many of those smaller projects do not, or often cannot, access the grants available via the national lottery, and therein lies the real value of society lotteries: they are uniquely positioned to offer funding opportunities to those smaller projects. They can support the causes that the national lottery is unable to help. The hon. Gentleman stated, far more eloquently than I can, a point that is worth reiterating: there need not be any competition between the national lottery and society lotteries—in fact, they complement each other’s good work.
How society lotteries should be regulated is a question that has been exercising Parliament, the Gambling Commission, Government and others for nearly five years, which I am sure hon. Members from all parties agree is far too long. The charities supported by society lotteries would like the issue to be resolved as swiftly as possible. On behalf of Plaid Cymru, I urge the United Kingdom Government to take the necessary action to enable society lotteries to raise more money for good causes as soon as possible.
The Minister may well be aware of my party’s support for the Lotteries Council’s proposals, which the hon. Gentleman also mentioned: to increase the annual turnover limit from £10 million to £100 million and the draw limit from £4 million to £10 million. The existing turnover and draw limits are resulting in increased administration costs. Effectively, they are capping the funds that can go to the good causes that each charity lottery supports; indeed, for some charity lotteries, the limits are having the unintended effect of reducing the amount that they can provide to good causes to begin with.
In the light of the numerous studies and reports that have considered the issue, not least the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s 2014-15 inquiry, I am confident that changes to the limits would preserve the distinctiveness of the national lottery. I conclude by asking the Minister whether she recognises the crucial role that society lotteries play, and when we can expect a response to the call for evidence on lotteries that was launched by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in December 2014. Diolch, Sir Edward.
It is a delight to be called to speak in this important debate. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) on securing it. He spoke in great detail and with great knowledge about the benefits of society lotteries. I commend him for the strength of his case and his arguments; I agree with them all.
In my seven and a half years as a Member of Parliament, I have been really moved and pleased to see the amazing actions and the positive impact of charities, particularly small charities, not only in my constituency but in other parts of the country and across the world. The commitment and dedication of charity workers, particularly volunteers, transforms lives and communities. I echo my hon. Friend’s words about the big society—that is exactly what we see in the dedication of motivated individuals who want to serve their community and help others. That is what we see from small charities and society lotteries: valuable support and service provision, responding to local needs in a way that central Government, big charities and bureaucracies quite frankly cannot and will not.
In my own constituency, I have seen many great charities supporting amazing causes, from branches of the Royal British Legion across Essex to remarkable charities such as Brainwave, which fundraises for itself, with no Government funding or support, but is changing the lives of children who suffer brain injuries and cerebral palsy and is also transforming the lives of their parents and families. From Farleigh hospice to the Witham Boys Brigade, people are working hard every week to support vulnerable people and enhance our local communities. The Health lottery, which my hon. Friend mentioned, has invested more than £45,000 in just one charity in my constituency, 2nd Witham Boys Brigade. The Health lottery is an astonishing vehicle for bringing direct support to the grassroots—the communities and charities that achieve a transformative effect. In the case of the Witham Boys Brigade, the money has gone to its stadium, a street project and a neighbourhood living project that is transforming the community and bringing employability skills and empowerment to a whole generation of young people. Enhancing outcomes for young people is something that we should all support, while also encouraging greater volunteerism within the community. Funding from the Health lottery not only enables young people to take part in activities, but helps to build skills for life and give them the confidence to become good citizens.
One of the benefits of local society lotteries is that the people who pay to play will see and know the good causes that they are supporting, because they will be surrounded by them in their local community. That is an enormous contrast with the national lottery, in which there is no direct link between someone’s stake and the various causes that it may go towards or support in some way. The national lottery’s funds go into a central pot and are redistributed from the centre—not a principle of redistribution that I support—whereas local society lotteries serve a genuine grassroots need. Their promoters are themselves active citizens within their communities, so they have that community connection.
I want to see more charities and good causes benefiting from funding from society lotteries. Having looked at this matter, I urge the Government, as other hon. Members have done, to support that goal by reforming the regulatory regime under which society lotteries work. In fact, one of the representations I received before the debate was from Essex and Herts Air Ambulance. Our air ambulances are amazing. Naturally, they believe in raising the cap on society lotteries to ensure that more money goes into communities—something that we all support.
In my former role in the Government, I saw for myself how society lotteries benefit international causes and charities—a point that my hon. Friend also mentioned. Causes such as Water Aid and Mary’s Meals, a charity that my former Department supported in Scotland, are given a tremendous helping hand in delivering support on nutrition. The People’s Postcode lottery and the Postcode Global Trust support many global charities that are helping young people around the world to develop new life skills and giving them new life chances. We should be very proud of that; I hope the Government will acknowledge it and be proud of it too.
It has been five years since a review of society lotteries was announced, but progress on regulatory reform has been slow. Local charities and organisations that support people are being held back by outdated legislation. By law, non-commercial fundraising lotteries must donate at least 20% of proceeds to charity. Outdated regulations designed to protect the national lottery from competition are preventing them from growing. That is simply not right.
The case has already been made for raising the maximum prize to £1 million—a proposition that is rightly supported by the sector. A higher prize fund will attract more players, which in turn—believe it or not—will generate more revenues for good causes. A £1 million prize is also a clear and memorable figure that is easy to market when promoting these very good society lotteries and charities with a strong local connection. I believe that society lotteries that are able to do so responsibly should be free to adapt their model, increase their maximum prize to attract more players and bring that money to our communities.
The real question for the Government is why society lotteries should be held back. We should give them the freedom to succeed and the trust and confidence to go out there and deliver the big society. We should empower more communities and charities. As a Conservative, I am naturally a great supporter of the freedom to succeed, choice, innovation and the role of the market. When playing lotteries, consumers should have a choice of causes to support, including causes that they themselves may be associated with or have an affinity with. That is really important, but it is being restricted by the existing regulatory framework. We should trust consumers to make informed choices about which lottery products they want to support. They should know how, and towards which causes, each £1 that they pay and play will be divided up, and what the ultimate benefit will be.
As we have heard already today, the national lottery has changed its product range, although that has not necessarily worked, and has put its prices up. We all want to support the next generation of Olympians and win more medals as a country, but some consumers quite frankly do not want to bankroll the fat-cat salaries of Camelot. Likewise, many people who give to charities do not want to bankroll large charities’ fat-cat salaries. As someone who has been a great advocate and supporter of local charities, and of moving moneys away from big charities and big causes, I think we should make absolutely sure that we empower smaller charities, so that they get out there and provide the support that is required.
The other point I will make—I say this with some personal experience, as my parents were shopkeepers—is that the national lottery’s monopoly completely restricts the opportunity for smaller lotteries to have a staging post in many retail outlets. The national lottery is very restrictive in terms of the regulations and the restrictions around it, and it places burdens on small shopkeepers, such as my parents once were, even though they run the types of shops that we should be supporting on high streets and in our villages, as well. They provide a great local service to our local communities, too.
Camelot has a monopoly and as there is only one national lottery that restriction obviously has ramifications and wider implications. The Government are supporting choice and competition in many other sectors—energy, banking, education or higher education—so there is an enormous opportunity for the Government now to grasp the nettle and to be incredibly proactive in this area.
This is an argument to support choice and competition, but fundamentally it is an argument to support our local communities and our local charities. Naturally, there will be benefits from increased competition, which is something I support. So, like my colleagues here today and like my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk, who secured this valuable debate, I feel that this is a wonderful opportunity to live and demonstrate the values of choice and competition, as well as to promote the role of our small charities, to show that the big society can exist and operate through the hard work of smaller charities and their lotteries, and through other society lotteries.
Sir Edward, it is always a pleasure to speak in Westminster Hall and I thank the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) for bringing this issue here for consideration.
A firm train of thought seems to be emerging today—that good cause lotteries can do a lot of good work. None the less, the topic is a very emotive one and at the outset I will say that I firmly believe that gambling can and does destroy lives throughout the United Kingdom. At the same time, I am also a firm believer that although adults have the right to make their own choices, regulation must be in place, so I am very keen on that. It is important that regulation protects individuals and families as much as possible, while at the same time allowing people the freedom to do what they want to do. That is why I support the case that the hon. Gentleman made. It is important that we consider what good cause lotteries can do across the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
At the same time, I advocate the lowering of stakes for the fixed-odds betting terminals and will continue to push for that. However, that is not a debate for today. I understand that, but it is an issue that many of us feel very strongly about, and while not many Labour Members are here today, there are those who subscribe to the same point of view that I do—and many in the Conservative party have the same opinion.
I support the central theme and thrust of the hon. Gentleman’s argument—more money for good causes. How can we make that happen? Many of us across the United Kingdom, including in my constituency of Strangford, are well aware of the national lottery, for instance, and the good work that it does, as well as the many organisations that it has benefited. Community groups and their projects have benefited from the national lottery, as have churches. There are many churches in my constituency that have benefited from the national lottery and some of those schemes were massive schemes, which, without that level of investment, would never have taken place.
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that because of the challenging financial envelope that a lot of hospices have had to deal with over the last few years, lotteries have played an ever more important role in those hospices being on top of their cash flow? Under the proposed changes—moving beyond the limit of £10 million—lotteries could become ever more important to those hospices, to ensure that they can serve more and more terminally ill people in the community.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention and that would be the thrust of my argument, as well; indeed, it is possible that many of us in this Chamber share his opinion. But how can we support such causes throughout the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?
In my opinion, today the debate should focus on how we can better regulate these society lotteries to ensure that as much as possible of the profit that they make goes to charities and is not swallowed up in administration. The right hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) referred to the administrative aspect of charities, and we have to be very cognisant of that issue; we cannot ignore it.
I remember seeing an investigative report on TV about how some charities were run so that only 5% of the money they raised actually went to the cause, and the rest was lost. We are aware of difficulties in the past, and it is important that we ensure that that does not happen again. I remember being horrified by that report and from then on I checked with charities to ensure that the bulk of the money that I donated would go to the actual charity. I am sure there are many parts of the United Kingdom where charitable giving is excellent—I do not doubt that and I will not say anything different—but I know that in Northern Ireland we have some of the highest levels of charitable giving in the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; my hon. Friend the Member for Belfast East (Gavin Robinson) can confirm that. We are that sort of people, we are that sort of a nation and we are that sort of a region, and I want to ensure that the bulk of the money that is donated goes to the actual charities.
Nobody expects volunteers in a charity shop to go without heating to keep costs down, but there is something to be said for ensuring good stewardship of money that people have donated. It is up to us to provide legislative protection to ensure that that is the case. There is also a need for charities’ staff to be paid, and they should always be paid a decent wage; that is not what we are trying to change when we talk about cutting administrative costs.
I am equally concerned about charities’ costs; administrative and advertising costs can be as high as 49% in some of these society lotteries. Obviously Camelot, because of scale, has much lower costs. However, does the hon. Gentleman agree that by increasing turnover, smaller charities would probably decrease their administrative cost per pound, which would increase the percentage of the money that goes to deserving causes?
There is certainly an argument for that, and I think we are all committed to ensuring that the vast majority of the money that people give goes to the good causes that we wish to see receiving the money. If we can achieve that, I believe we will be on our way.
My hon. Friend knows that the legislative framework in Northern Ireland for societal lotteries is different to that for the rest of Great Britain. We have prescribed limits to expenses: 20% where the revenue is over £10,000; and 15% where the revenue is lower than £10,000. Perhaps those prescriptive percentages of 20% and 15% respectively should be considered for the rest of the United Kingdom.
So we look to the Minister, as we always do, for a comprehensive response to the debate. It is always good to see her in her place and we deeply appreciate her interest in this matter.
Businesses should not reap the benefit of charitable rates and tax exemptions if the charitable project itself is not reaping the benefit of people’s charitable endeavours. For that reason, I am supportive of greater regulation to ensure that the most money possible goes to the charity. For example, when people make the decision to buy a Health lottery ticket over a national lottery ticket, it suggests that they want to help the health service, as the hon. Member for Eastbourne suggested in his intervention, and people who are ill. As much money as possible should go to health provision, as that is what people are trying to achieve.
I am not sure whether this issue is really within the remit of the Minister, but I must put something on the record. Whenever we watch TV—I only watch on very rare occasions—the Health lottery comes up. In the small print at the bottom of the screen, it says that the Health lottery is available in England, Wales and Scotland, but not in Northern Ireland. That might be because of our legislation, but I will put it on the record that many of my constituents wish to contribute to the Health lottery but cannot do so for whatever the reasons may be. So, I again look to the Minister, to give us some thoughts on how we can perhaps ensure that the good charitable giving of people in Northern Ireland can benefit the Health lottery, so that we can also contribute to good causes through that route.
Perhaps this will be helpful for the Minister as well. Legislation prescribes that somebody from Northern Ireland cannot purchase in person a ticket in the society lotteries in GB, and similarly somebody in GB cannot purchase in person. There is no prescription in law that stops somebody from Northern Ireland participating by post, by telephone or online.
There we are. We just have to spend extra money. I thank my hon. Friend for his helpful comment. Many would wish to contribute to the Health lottery and similar charitable causes through the lottery societies if they were given the opportunity. I put on the record that we are keen to be a part of that process. Perhaps we could do it in the same way as everybody else, using the methods that they use across the whole of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
I read an article recently that thankfully said that society lotteries generated more money for good causes in the year to March 2017 than ever before. That is good news, and if possible we would like to see that figure increase again as the process becomes more streamlined and more can go to the cause itself, as the hon. Member for North West Norfolk said in his introduction. Figures published by the Gambling Commission revealed that Britain’s 491 society lotteries raised £255 million, up from £212 million in 2016 and £190.6 million in 2015. It has been said that one of the reasons for the increase was that the percentage of sales income going to good causes had risen from 43% to 43.6%. The increase is exactly what the committee was looking for, and even more if possible.
The article went on to say that the funds generated by the Health lottery—again, we come back to that one—which consists of 51 local lotteries across Britain operating under one brand, have significantly increased the amounts raised by society lotteries since it was launched in September 2011. That is a supreme example of those who want to give charitably through a lottery and who do so for the benefit of all of the people—all bar one region—of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. We look to the Minister to give us some idea of how we can be a part of that process.
There is an argument that says the limits are increasingly out of date and should be raised to allow more money to be raised. The argument must be carefully considered, and I am sure the Government are doing so. That was the thrust of the contribution from the hon. Member for North West Norfolk, and I think it is the wish of the rest of us to see how we can do better. I urge the Minister to ensure that enough time is taken to safeguard individuals and families when considering any alteration of regulations with regard to any type of gambling, no matter how good the cause is.
It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Sir Edward. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) on securing this debate. I am particularly pleased because I have raised several questions in the House on this topic and have spent weeks applying for a debate myself. Between us we have managed to get there in the end. I am delighted to have the opportunity to talk about the reforms that have been discussed by hon. Friends and hon. Members this afternoon, and the opportunities that we could create for local charities and good causes.
To touch on some of the points that other Members have made, why is reform needed? What is the purpose of society lotteries? Put simply, society lotteries are one of several ways in which charities can raise all-important funds for good causes. As Members we go to many different events and support charities in many different ways. Society lotteries engage support in a slightly different way from other forms of fundraising. In fact, they are a way of recruiting supporters. They can find themselves getting new donors and also volunteers. Some charities that have society lotteries say that people buy lottery tickets and go on to take out direct debits and leave legacies. Society lotteries have become an increasingly successful way for charities and good causes to raise all-important funds at a time when we know that demands on their services are on the increase.
The numbers speak for themselves, as my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk mentioned in his speech. In 2011, society lotteries raised around £100 million for good causes. They now raise more than £250 million. They have become a vital way in which well-known national charities can raise funds. My right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) mentioned the British Legion, which runs the poppy lottery. There are also the more regional and local charities such as St Giles Hospice and the Midlands Air Ambulance in my area.
External lottery managers provide services to operate lotteries. The best known are the Health lottery and the People’s Postcode lottery. We can see the ways in which they help. The People’s Postcode lottery operates to help raise funds for local, national and international good causes, supporting 70 larger charities and 3,000 smaller charities and local community organisations. The Health lottery has raised around £100 million, helping 400,000 people and supporting 2,500 charities, including providing just over £25,000 to Media Climate CIC in my constituency to support a project called Get Active with Music, a two-year project that is looking to deliver a weekly media creation and learning project for a group of 30 adults with learning difficulties.
As both my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk and my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham mentioned, such action is a good example of the big society. Before the general election in 2010, long before I entered this House, I conducted some market research to look at the concept of localism and the big society to try to understand how people understood it. The project is a really good example of exactly what the big society is and what it looks like on the ground in our individual constituencies.
In short, society lotteries provide invaluable funding for charities and good causes, particularly for small and local charities and good causes. Charitable need outstrips supply. Data from the People’s Postcode lottery shows an increasing gap between the funding applications received and the funds available to the three grant-giving society lotteries managed by them.
For some time there have been calls for changes and reform in the law. Society lotteries have been incredibly successful, but there is scope for them to do even more. My hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk outlined the limits on society lotteries, so I will not go into those in detail again. Needless to say, there is scope and a need to increase the limits and caps in order for society lotteries to fulfil their full potential. The reforms being sought, as he mentioned and which I fully support, are modest. The sector is calling not for caps to be removed completely, but simply for the draw and turnover limits to be increased and jackpot prizes increased to £1 million. In the case of the minimum charity contribution, there are calls for the rules to be changed so that it is aggregated over an extended period for newly created lotteries, recognising the additional start-up costs in the early years.
Reforming in such a way, as hon. Members have mentioned, it would enable a strong national lottery as well as a strong society lottery sector. They can both work together, maintaining their unique positons and their very different characteristics. My hon. Friend made the point, which I fully support, that they are different. There are different motivations for engaging with the national lottery and with a society lottery. The national lottery is about winning big, life-changing sums of money. Society lotteries are about contributing to good causes, with a small benefit of perhaps winning some money along the way.
As other hon. Members have mentioned, reform has been discussed for some time. Indeed, it was in 2012 that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport first announced that it intended to review society lotteries. Five years on, following a Select Committee inquiry, a review by the Gambling Commission and two general elections, we are still having the same discussion about when reform is likely. I raised the matter in departmental questions in the House last month, and I urge the Minister to come forward with plans to reform the law as hon. Members have outlined. I should specifically like to know what plans her Department has to reform society lottery law, and what timetable is being considered for implementation of reforms.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Sir Edward. I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) on securing the debate.
Many hon. Members will have spent a lot of time in their constituencies in recent weeks—as they will in forthcoming weeks—at charitable events. That brings home to us what an impact charities and local organisations make at the heart of our communities. They are local people supporting local causes that benefit the community. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk for reminding us how much money lotteries have raised for good causes. Today we have an opportunity to recognise the work of such organisations, as well as looking to the future. When we think about lotteries, often we think of the national lottery or the Heritage Lottery Fund, but if we dig under the surface of our communities, we find many much smaller, often local, society lotteries—the ones we are talking about. The amounts of money involved may be much smaller, but the work being done is none the less vital. The financial contribution may not be great, but it can make a big difference in the community.
Society lotteries give people choice. A person who wants to support a specific cause can choose a lottery accordingly. My hon. Friend the Member for Cannock Chase (Amanda Milling) has mentioned a couple in the west midlands—St Giles Hospice and the Midlands Air Ambulance. They are two among many. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to see in this country and internationally many tremendous examples of charity work, but today I want to highlight an organisation in my constituency that has benefited from the People’s Postcode lottery. Manor Farm community association in Rushall does incredibly valuable work with local people at the heart of the community, often helping more vulnerable individuals who need a little extra support. Thanks to the People’s Postcode lottery, it received support in 2012 for its project called “It’s Just the Job!”, and this year lottery funding supported its “silver connections” programme as well. I have looked at the sums, which may not be vast compared with the sums given out by other big lotteries—sums of £9,000 or £18,000—but they are big enough to make a big difference to such organisations’ work.
Smaller charities often find it more difficult to find sources of funding, and that is why society lotteries are so important. We have heard today of many organisations that benefit, including the Canal & River Trust, Royal Voluntary Service, Magic Breakfast, Whizz-Kidz and Volunteering Matters. It will come as no surprise to the Minister that demand for charity funds is outstripping the available funding, and she will be aware that there are calls, as my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk clearly explained, for reform of the society lottery sector. That would include raising the limits on charity lottery funding, to help to reduce admin costs and increase the funds going to the charities. That would mean more local charities and organisations like Manor Farm having the opportunity to bid for funds, which I would welcome.
Perhaps the Minister can clarify a specific point about operational costs. The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) spoke of a minimum amount from the ticket price going to charity. I understand that there is a requirement that a minimum of 20% of the ticket price should go to charity, but often it can be much more. I have seen one instance of a minimum of 31% going to charity. That is an example of a society lottery putting much more back into good causes.
The Minister will no doubt want to continue with careful consideration of the matter, including the role of society lotteries, but I believe there must be a place for a strong national lottery and strong society lotteries. I hope it will not be too long before we hear from her following the consultation. Hon. Members will all know from constituency examples that charities and community voluntary organisations often provide extra little support services that Government cannot and perhaps should not provide but which make a difference to our constituents’ lives. Those organisations often work quietly as the unsung heroes at the heart of communities, supporting older and vulnerable people, the environment and other good causes. We have heard a lot about the big society—perhaps we do not talk about it as much as we once did, but I still think there is a big society out there, and that it is worthy of our continued support.
It is as always a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship this afternoon, Sir Edward. I congratulate the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) on securing this important debate, and pay tribute to all those who contributed. The SNP in this place and the Scottish Government agree that the current law covering society lotteries is past its sell-by date and is in need of an overhaul. The restrictions placed on charity lotteries make that kind of fundraising increasingly difficult and complicated, and limit charity lotteries’ ability to support those working at the front line at a time when demands have never been greater and budgets have never been tighter.
Increasing the annual turnover limit and the draw limit will ensure that the moneys raised by society lotteries can be used to fund charities across the UK and the wider world, making a significant difference to the lives of individuals and communities. Like many hon. Members, while preparing for this debate I was contacted by numerous organisations seeking a change in the law. Among them was ActionAid, which explained that like many other UK charities it uses the income from its lottery to provide a level of service and support it would otherwise not be able to provide. The money that ActionAid receives goes on life-saving work here and around the world, including programmes aimed at tackling violence against women and girls in Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia and Rwanda. As a result, ActionAid and many other charities are strongly petitioning the Government to change the legislation to allow the annual turnover on a single society lottery to rise from the current £10 million to £100 million, and to raise the individual draw limit on a single society lottery from the current £4 million to £10 million.
I take on board what the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) said, when he made his usual sensible contribution and highlighted the danger of encouraging further gambling, but I feel that there is a growing consensus that a change in the law is required. We have heard the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the Lotteries Council, the Institute of Fundraising, the Hospice Lotteries Association, and many other charities such as ActionAid calling for that change.
One of the biggest concerns is the fear that increasing the scope of society lotteries will somehow have an adverse effect on the national lottery—as has been mentioned, there has been a drop in national lottery income and funds going to good causes this year. As I understand it, however, there is no evidence to suggest that the success of society lotteries has had a negative impact on the national lottery. Numerous studies by a range of organisations between 2012 and 2015 came broadly to the same conclusion that society lotteries complement the fundraising of the national lottery. The recent drop-off in people participating in the national lottery is believed to be due more to changes made by Camelot to the games themselves—both the Gambling Commission and Camelot recognise that.
In February this year the Gambling Commission stated:
“Despite remaining the most popular gambling activity, there has been a continued decline in participation in the National Lottery draws coinciding with, amongst other factors, the increase in ticket price from £1 to £2 which was introduced in October 2013.”
In September, Camelot was reported in the Financial Times as saying that
“the main reason for the fall in sales last year was the disappointing performance of the National Lottery’s core draw based games—especially Lotto, with player confidence in the game still fragile following the recent game changes.”
Let me be clear: this is not a case of playing off the national lottery against society lotteries. Indeed—perhaps worryingly—I find myself in complete agreement with the Secretary of State who said last month that
“we of course want to ensure that we have one strong national lottery, but that does not mean that we cannot also have strong society lotteries”.—[Official Report, 16 November 2017; Vol. 631, c. 565.]
I am therefore pleased therefore that Nigel Railton, Camelot’s new CEO, is on record as saying that, following an internal company review, he is optimistic that the national lottery will return to growth next year. I believe that we can have a world in which the national lottery and society lotteries co-exist, and that charities and good causes can continue to benefit.
We are all aware of the billions that the national lottery raises for good causes and we are delighted by that, but society lotteries also make a hugely valuable contribution and are successful in raising much needed funds for a wide range of charities and good causes. As the hon. Member for Cannock Chase (Amanda Milling) said, the current law means that there is a growing gap between what society lotteries do and what they could do. Nevertheless, they still raise a huge amount of money—as the hon. Members for Ceredigion (Ben Lake) and for North West Norfolk said, in 2011 society lotteries raised around £100 million for good causes, but they now raise more than £250 million. Such has been their success that that money has become one of the principal means of survival for many charities and organisations. As the hon. Member for Ceredigion said, society lotteries can help small local charities that could not otherwise access national lottery funding.
The hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton) and the right hon. Member for Witham (Priti Patel) spoke eloquently about the scope of local charities in their constituencies, and they were right to do so. However, not only local charities benefit. Many of the UK’s best known charities, such as Children 1st, the Red Cross, the Marine Conservation Society, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Dogs Trust, Save the Children, WaterAid, the Riding for the Disabled Association, and the wonderful Mary’s Meals in my constituency, all benefit as well. Collectively, those charities are asking the Government to revisit the Gambling Act 2005 and make it fit for purpose. They argue that raising the existing cap on what society lotteries can pay out will allow more money to go to charity and good causes while reducing administration costs. The proposed changes have been much talked about—indeed, I understand that the Government’s review was announced on 15 December 2012, which means that this was first discussed five years ago this week.
If we raise the prize money cap on society lotteries, the amounts of money won would not be the complete life-changing experience that happens by winning the national lottery. The Select Committee recognised that. The Secretary of State said recently that the Government remain committed to helping both the national lottery and society lotteries to maximise their contribution to good causes by establishing the right conditions to help them thrive with the appropriate level of regulation. Again I agree, but surely it is time for them to get on and create the conditions that will allow both to thrive.
There is clearly broad cross-party consensus for change. We know that those changes will not come at a cost to the taxpayer or damage the national lottery, and they can be brought forward easily via secondary legislation. It therefore remains only for Ministers to stop delaying and to bring forward the proposed changes as soon as possible. If the Minister is unable to make an announcement today, will she at least provide a timescale for when we can expect such an announcement?
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward. I thank the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) for securing this debate.
As many Members have said, society lotteries do fantastic work across the country and support a wide range of key local causes, including hospices, air ambulances, sports clubs, health charities, animal welfare and support for the elderly, and many other charities across the globe. At a time when Government budgets have been cut across all Departments and in local government, some of that support has been vital.
Hon. Members will agree that there are fantastic examples of good causes being supported in our constituencies. In Tooting, for example, a local day care centre was the recipient of a new garden, a health space was created for young homeless people, a new project to help older people get online was started, and many other such groups have received essential funding. Society lotteries are a force for good, and we welcome all efforts by hon. Members to consider ways to make the system better. We must give this sector a greater degree of certainty and clarity about its rules and governance, to ensure that maximum funding is available for good causes. With that in mind, will the Minister consider raising the minimum good cause contribution for larger society lotteries?
I agree with some of the recommendations made by the Lotteries Council, and believe that their members’ No. 1 priority is to generate more income for good causes each year. Deregulation must not come at the expense of those good causes. The system and any changes to legislation that we consider must put good causes at its heart, and they cannot be forgotten in the rush to cut red tape.
I support calls for greater transparency in society lotteries, and information about where the money goes should be readily available. Given the data-driven society in which we live, why is it not the norm for us to be able to see how each lottery’s proceeds are spent? If we could see what portion of each ticket is spent on causes, prizes and expenses, that would increase trust in the system, which is especially important if the Government are considering raising the annual turnover or draw limit. Will the Minister implement the Committee’s recommendation of a 35% cap on operating costs for the largest lotteries?
We must be diligent in ensuring that caps on prize limits reflect the current political and economic climate, and that any renegotiation of the cap does not increase or promote bad gambling habits. Have the Government assessed the impact that increasing the prize caps may have on gambling habits? The Minister and I were both at the Gamble Aware conference last week, where that issue was raised.
One major concern that is often cited is the potential competition that the deregulation of the society lottery sector may bring to the national lottery. I believe that one main national lottery must be retained to maximise player participation and the financial benefits for good causes, but we must consider how the national lottery is set up and managed, given its recent drop in contributions. One organisation that is missing out is the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has announced that its budgets have been cut by more than £200 million. I am keen for the Government to have a plan to ensure that fantastic organisations that do incredible work across the UK do not lose out. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of the reduction in national lottery good cause funding?
Does the Minister believe that expanding the ability of society lotteries to increase their prize draws would have a negative effect on the national lottery? Given that the current turnover and draw limit were set in 2005, it is right to look again at the rates and, potentially, to raise them. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee, as it then was, made a number of recommendations in 2015, but the Government have yet to take any action. Lotteries have been left in limbo for years, and the Government need to provide greater clarity about their intentions. Can the Minister tell me when the Government, whatever their decision, will make an announcement on any changes to the limits?
I said at the start of my remarks, and I think we all agree, that the main aim of society lotteries is and should remain to raise money for those who seek to do the best they can for the people at the heart of our communities. Motivations for playing the smaller lotteries, which are often tied to particular causes, are different from those for the national lottery, which people play to win for a life-changing amount. Both kinds raise millions for good causes, but they are distinct, and when considering easing the regulations on society lotteries, it is important to maintain that distinction. Any rises in prize thresholds must ensure a balance between the ability of society lotteries to raise more money for good causes and the national lottery’s ability to do so being protected. If we move to liberalise the market, we must take steps to ensure that where the number of players, and the prize draws, increase the potential associated dangers or harms are fully assessed as part of the reforms.
It is a pleasure, as always, to serve under your chairmanship, Sir Edward.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham) for calling what has been a stimulating and wide-ranging debate on an important issue, and I thank all Members who have taken part. Many of the issues that have been raised are complex, and are exactly the ones my Department has been grappling with for a while now, so it has been timely and invaluable to hear everyone’s considered views.
I will start with some specific comments. The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Ben Lake) asked whether I recognised the value of society lotteries. Of course I do. I certainly do. Like those of many colleagues, my constituency has benefited from society lottery funding, including for Kent search and rescue and the Luton Millennium Green community nature park. So naturally, like many people, I understand the value of both society lotteries and national lotteries.
I want to deal up front with the issue of the advice from the Gambling Commission, which has been raised by many colleagues. I have received the commission’s advice and have been considering it carefully. The commission will publish the advice in due course, and I hope to update Members soon. One particular piece of the advice, on transparency, was published just this afternoon. Many Members will know that the Gambling Commission recently consulted on introducing new licence codes to improve the transparency of society lotteries, and its proposals include requiring lotteries to publish the various proportions of their proceeds. I want first to deal with those issues—I will come back to the timetable later in my speech.
It is clear that the society lottery sector plays an important and growing role in supporting a diverse and wide range of good causes in the UK. We have seen sustained growth in the sector since 2008, when the per draw sales limit was doubled from £2 million to £4 million. Indeed, sales have increased by more than 100% in the last five years. Last year, a record £255 million was raised for good causes, which was an increase of more than 20% on the previous year. Not only are society lotteries raising more funds for good causes, they are giving a greater proportion of their sales back to good causes, with a sector average of just less than 44%.
Each year, more charities and good causes start their own lotteries to raise funds to support their important work. I recognise that, for charities, money raised through society lotteries has become an important source of funding, which allows their work to continue and grow. Colleagues will appreciate that I am the Minister with responsibility not only for gambling but for civil society so, whatever we do on the issue, I recognise the contribution the lotteries make to charities that I support in another part of my brief.
In 2015, I was a member of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, the report of which many colleagues have cited today. We looked at society lotteries in some detail. The guiding principle then, as now, was that the regulatory regime which governs society lotteries should encourage the maximum return to good causes. The licensing regime should be light, protecting players without placing unnecessary burdens on operators. In some bizarre twist, I, in my role as the Minister responsible for lotteries, and the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the right hon. Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), who had previously been the Chairman of the Committee, agreed either to accept the report’s recommendations, or to explore them with expert advice from the Gambling Commission. The issues are important and complex, and it has been prudent to take our time over them and to consider a number of options.
My hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk and other colleagues mentioned limits, which was a recommendation for review in the Select Committee report. However, before making any changes to the current rules, it is important that all options are looked at and consideration is given to the wider picture. We do not want any unintended consequences.
The key consideration in the reforms has been how to strike the right balance between society lotteries and the national lottery. The sectors grew in tandem for many years, and it is important that any reforms enable them both to flourish. I want to pause here to acknowledge the importance of the national lottery. This year marks its 23rd anniversary and, since 1994, more than £37 billion of national lottery funding has been raised—an average of more than £30 million each week—for more than half a million projects all over the UK. The national lottery has had an unparalleled impact on 21st century Britain, making a valuable contribution to funding our many Olympians and Paralympians, our historical buildings and monuments, and even our Oscar winners, one of whom I was fortunate enough to meet a fortnight ago, alongside some of our future stars who are benefiting from film clubs run with lottery funding. It is, of course, our communities who benefit most of all from the lottery. The majority of national lottery money goes straight to the heart of our communities. Last year, most of the grants made were for £10,000 or less—small amounts going to community-led projects that make a huge impact.
I was sorry to hear that my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel) is unaware of some of the national lottery funding in her constituency. We are working with all distributors to ensure that people are made more aware of the local as well as the national good causes that the lottery supports. Just as a headline, in my right hon. Friend’s constituency the national lottery has funded the Museum of Power—somewhere we should all visit—Tollesbury sailing club and the local rifle club. I know that Braintree District Council covers more than her constituency, but it has had more than £18 million of Sport England funding. I do not know the details of all the other national lottery distributors, but I will ensure that we write to her with them.
I know very well the distribution of national lottery funds and support in my constituency and I thank the Minister’s officials for giving her the chance to tell the House today where the money has gone. But there is a point of principle here, which is that of competition and choice in communities—also the purpose of the debate—ensuring that society lotteries are able to compete with the national lottery and that a wider pool of funds goes to a much wider range of local charities and communities.
I am grateful for my right hon. Friend’s point, which—she is right—the whole debate has addressed. It is important, however, and other colleagues have made this point, that we have a strong national lottery. It has become a part of our national fabric, but that does not mean that we cannot also have strong society lotteries. The Secretary of State made that point recently.
We are constantly reviewing matters. The Gambling Commission constantly keeps the national lottery under review, and I am sure that colleagues are aware that discussions are already beginning about the next licence procedure. We have to have a healthy mix of lotteries. I recognise, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Witham pointed out, that not everyone is aware of the local good causes. There has been an issue that the national lottery money that goes to those good causes has not necessarily been promoted as well as it could be. Society lotteries have done that much better, and we want to ensure that we have a vibrant mix of national and society lotteries.
I am the Minister with responsibility for charities, so I have heard from many charities that benefit from society lottery funding, whether that is their own or a grant from such lotteries as the People’s Postcode lottery or the Health lottery, both of which support a multitude of good causes throughout the country. We have heard about some of those good causes today.
I have spent a long time looking at the evidence on the relationship between the national lottery and society lotteries. We know that the two sectors offer different and distinct propositions to players. The national lottery enables players to support a wealth of good causes in the hope of winning a life-changing prize, while society lotteries focus for the most part on affinity with a specific cause and are subject to limits on their annual and per draw sales and their maximum prize. For that reason, I do not believe there has been significant competition between the two sectors up to now, but reforms must be considered through that lens.
It has been interesting to hear the arguments regarding the prize limits on offer through various lotteries. It is no coincidence that when the national lottery draws have big rollovers, there is an increase in ticket sales—bigger prizes attract more players—but I do not think people are attracted to society lotteries in the same way. Many large society lotteries offer relatively low prizes but are still thriving, which speaks to the point that my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk made. It is not always about the size of the prize; what is important is maintaining the balance and variety currently on offer.
I will briefly respond to the points made by our Northern Ireland colleagues. Although lotteries carry a lower risk of harm than commercial gambling, they are still a form of gambling, and tickets can be bought at 16. That is one reason why we are considering the evidence carefully before making a decision. Gambling policy in Northern Ireland is devolved, as was pointed out. I have listened with interest to the points that the hon. Member for Strangford and others have raised, and I encourage them to raise them with the Northern Ireland authorities. In addition, colleagues will know that I announced a consultation on social responsibility on 31 October. It will look at advertising, which was a point that the hon. Gentleman raised, and I encourage him to feed into the consultation. I continue to keep the devolved Administrations up to date on our work on this issue.
The Minister will be aware that the Northern Ireland legislation on gambling and social charities has not been revised since 1994. The Department for Communities started a consultation in 2011, and we still have not got the outcome of that process. It is no surprise that there is huge divergence between the legislative framework in Northern Ireland and that in the rest of the United Kingdom. Given that we do not have devolved institutions at the moment, and regrettably might not for some time, it might be worth the Minister engaging with the Department for Communities to get an update on where that consultation is.
I would be very happy to do that. The hon. Gentleman makes a good point.
The other comment I wanted to make was on the call for evidence. Responses to the call for evidence have been considered alongside the Gambling Commission advice. The process has taken time. There have been two general elections since it started, but I assure colleagues that it is very much at the forefront of my current work. We are carefully considering the evidence. While colleagues may say that there is consensus for change, which is true, I respectfully point out that there is not necessarily consensus within the sector on what the changes should be, and we are looking at that area as part of our consideration. As my hon. Friend the Member for North West Norfolk and others have pointed out, changes to the limits for sales and prizes can be made by statutory instrument, but the parliamentary process, as many know—there are some very experienced colleagues in this room—can take around nine months to conclude from when an announcement is made. We are trying to work the issues through. I hope to be able to update colleagues in more detail in the new year.
To conclude, society lotteries, both large and small, play a rich, varied and important role in supporting and championing good causes. For some, they may well be the mechanism for providing their main sources of income, and it is my intention to ensure that the sector has every opportunity to grow and thrive. I thank my hon. Friend for giving us the opportunity to set that on the record.
First, I thank my hon. and right hon. Members for their support. What has been notable in this debate is the extraordinary cross-party support and the strong support from all parts of the United Kingdom: Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and many different parts of the country. There is overwhelming support for the changes. I should not forget the official Opposition, who gave significant support to my proposal.
One thing that struck me is that every hon. and right hon. Member who has spoken has made it clear that society lotteries are truly distinct from the national lottery. There is space for both to operate. I am very grateful to the Minister for her remarks. I am absolutely convinced that the positive response she gave will be greatly appreciated. I accept entirely that these things always take longer than we expect, and I respect and understand her wish to avoid unintended consequences. I also entirely appreciate that there are issues around some aspects of gambling, but the people who buy society lottery tickets—yes, of course they are interested in that prize—want to support a charity on their doorstep that they feel an affinity with. They have a sense of ownership and commitment and passion towards that. We are only talking about a small prize—as I mentioned in my speech, £25,000 is scratchcard territory—and there has to be a bigger incentive or prize at the end of the draw. A prize limit of £1 million would not in any way trespass on the national lottery, which offers life-changing sums.
I want to pick up on one point that the Minister made. I absolutely respect her—I think she is one of the best Ministers in the Government. Her knowledge and expertise on, and passion for, her brief always come across to me. She is so knowledgeable not only on sports, but other issues as well. I absolutely expect her to look at this in great detail and go through all the arguments. She said there was not widespread or overwhelming sector support, but the only organisations that pushed back, as diplomats would say, when I launched the debate, were the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and Camelot, and I think we can discount Camelot fairly quickly. What the NCVO said was very interesting. It wants to see the process simplified to allow more society lotteries into the market. We support that 100%. It wants more transparency, which I think we can deliver. It wants to see less admin, and raising the draw limit to £10 million would greatly reduce the level of administration. Indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Gordon (Colin Clark) made that point very clearly.
Interestingly, the briefing from the NCVO has changed. Earlier in the year, it said clearly that it would be better not to go down the route of having any significant SI or deregulation, but it now recommends that proceeds and prize caps should be increased—it is simply a matter of what they are increased to. So long as that is combined with greater transparency, the NCVO is more or less on side. I challenge the Minister to let me know, perhaps in writing, whether other organisations are putting forward a contrary point of view to the very strong arguments advanced this afternoon.
What the Minister can take away from the debate is that there is widespread support across the nations of the UK to make the changes. We have a great relationship and understanding with her, and she has our respect. We now want her to deliver, and if she does, she will have the overwhelming support of the House. As I think has come through this afternoon, that support will be not just on the Government Benches, but across the entire House.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the future of society lotteries, the Health Lottery and limits on prize values.