Question for Short Debate
My Lords, it is a pleasure to return to a topic that I spoke on for the first time in your Lordships’ House 20 years ago. I am conscious of the wealth of expertise and knowledge that noble Lords bring to the subject, and I look forward to their contributions today.
The National Lottery has undoubtedly been a huge success, operated successfully by Camelot since its inception, making a tangible difference to organisations and communities across our country, protecting and enhancing our heritage, and supporting the arts and sport since it began in 1994. The fact that it exists and has had such a positive, enduring impact is down to the foresight and leadership of Sir John Major. In a recent article, Nigel Farndale compared Sir John to the Cosimo de’ Medici of our age. We all have reason to be very grateful to him.
The National Lottery’s record of success is impressive by anyone’s standards. With 28% of its take going to good causes, that has totalled more than £32 billion since 1994—a phenomenal sum. A few facts demonstrate the scale of that success: on average, each week, more than £33 million is raised for good causes; more than 450,000 individual awards have been made across the United Kingdom; £12.6 billion has been paid to the Exchequer in lottery duty; those who have benefited include 700 playing fields, 1,400 museums and galleries, more than 37,000 heritage projects, from grand ones such as Tate Modern to funding 90% of Great Britain’s Olympic 2012 medallists—and many more.
How has this changed society? We should not forget that what is now part of our national weekly life was not without controversy when the idea was advanced in the early 1990s. Many at the time argued that for several decades, we had had smaller lotteries. We also faced the risk of competition from European lotteries and that our National Lottery would change society. It has, but not in the negative way that many predicted. A piece in this week’s FT described it as possibly the most successful example of crowdfunding ever. I confess that for many years, I looked forward to a lottery ticket from Father Christmas in my stocking. We are given the opportunity to dream about what we might do if we won and, through millions of individual ticket purchases, as a society we have achieved a revolution in the funding of good causes.
With success come challenges. In a legitimate desire to broaden access, we must make sure that, in increasing appeal, we do not create a crude market price that does not fully capture the true, often intangible, value. The popularity and increasing awareness of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will distribute £375 million next year, has also driven up the number and quality of bids, meaning that only 35% will be funded, compared to 70% in 2006.
The filling-out of an application can be a labour-intensive and costly business. I encourage all those bodies distributing money from the National Lottery to reflect on how they might make their membership and decision-making process more transparent, simpler and more user friendly, without losing rigour and financial assurance. Much of the success and popularity of the National Lottery has been down to the combination of a chance to win and dream, the fact that buying a ticket helps to fund good causes—not, I repeat, not, to its being a substitute for core spending on such things as education and roads—and to the simple fact that there is only one National Lottery.
I feel very strongly that the National Lottery should remain true to these founding principles, that it should remain the only true national lottery, and that, despite some of the changes made by the previous Government, it should hold true to the additionality principle. As the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Big Lottery Fund look towards future funding priorities, I counsel them to resist mission creep. With regard to society lotteries, perhaps more commonly seen as charity raffles, they can and should exist alongside the National Lottery, and they do fantastic work. However, I support the view of the Minister, who has acknowledged that careful consideration and wider consultation on this issue need to be undertaken.
Similarly, while I know that the scale of the National Lottery leads many to suggest it is invulnerable to competition, I feel that the Health Lottery has begun to blur boundaries. I am wary of the precedent it sets. My counsel is one of caution: considerable good is already being done by the National Lottery and charity raffles or lotteries, and we should avoid anything that could harm that.
I conclude by returning to my speech on 17 November 1994:
“The National Lottery is expected to provide huge additional resources for our national heritage, the arts, sport and charities. I agree with my noble friend Lord Rothschild who said recently that the National Lottery Act 1993 could easily overtake the National Heritage Act 1980 as being the most important piece of legislation in the heritage field since the Second World War. In boosting our arts, heritage and sport, we are underpinning our culture, which for most of us is the core of our identity and a source of security”.—[Official Report, 17/11/94; col. 64.]
I am proud that those words, spoken in hope in 1994, have been borne out. In an age when many people and groups seek to highlight those things that divide us as a country, we are reminded of the ability of culture and sport, our shared heritage, to transcend differences and bring us together, and that so much more unites us as a nation than divides us. The contribution of the National Lottery to that cause is something of which we, as a country, can and should be immensely proud. We must make certain that it continues for many decades to come.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for bringing this subject to the House. It is a very appropriate one for us to discuss, particularly on this anniversary of two decades of the National Lottery.
When we cast our minds back, we should remember why we had a National Lottery: we were failing to fund important parts of our society and structure properly from the centre. Voluntary contributions were not doing it. Private contributions and sponsorship were not doing it. We had to do something else.
In this area, sport is the activity in which I have been most keenly involved. We had an infrastructure for sport at grass-roots level that was effectively falling apart. This is probably the most effective sticking-plaster, in government terms, you have ever seen. It has gone in there and become something solid. It has given a structure, support and point of reference that it is almost impossible to see us doing without, because finding government money to replace it is something we cannot see happening. I cannot see the Department for Education taking over those sports facilities and that structure which happened outside it, as it was supposed to do before and always failed to do. It never did enough, because there was always another priority that was that little bit politically sexier, which had to be done first. When sport was within the Department for Education, you suddenly discovered that its priority was a new literacy scheme. It usually got that wrong as well. However, the National Lottery came in and gave us a new pillar on which to build these things. The same is true of the arts and heritage.
We must never forget why we introduced the National Lottery. We brought it in to give a structural point whereby funding is generated by the general public, effectively on a voluntary basis, so that they will say, “This is for you”.
Having said that, the success stories that go with it are wonderful. Going back to sport, the improvement in funding for the elite level is almost unanswerable. That said, I say: change the way you fund sport, because you are not fair to team sports. I would also say: yes, you have succeeded; now, be brave and do something else. There will always be discussion about how we go forward with our heritage projects. Now there is greater awareness that we have enough stately homes and that we should also preserve industrial heritage. All this has proceeded from this great central fund. It is something we must do.
These become very short speeches if you just say, “Yes, it’s great”, and do not look to future problems. The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, is the not the first and she will not be the last person to speak about the introduction of the Health Lottery. My statement when I contributed a Starred Question in this House was to the effect that if it is not against the law, it is against the spirit of the law—something, I discovered, that has been said again. Can my noble friend give us some idea about what the Government are going to do to prevent, going with the Health Lottery, the sports lottery, the heritage lottery, the “Let’s pick up litter lottery”, using the same legislation and the same way forward? That is what we are worried about: the idea that this central pillar of funding that we have built and that we cannot see being done somewhere else, gets changed. If these lotteries are to come in, what responsibility will they have to the causes that are dependent on them? That is a very fair question. Will UK Sport be guaranteed the future funding it needs if we have another lottery that starts to hack into its funding stream? We must hear the answer to that. If the legislation needs to be changed we know how to do it—indeed, we are apt to change legislation rather too quickly. However, making sure that we have this guarantee of lines of progress is essential. If the Health Lottery is prepared to play ball, to become involved and to take on some of this responsibility, some of my objections start to be removed. If not, my objections start to grow. How are we going to bring this together?
Having dealt with that central point, will the Minister give me some reassurance about the eternal temptation for all Governments to cut the pie again and again, and to rebrand it? We have seen this in the past and there will always be a temptation to say that we should go on, saying, “We’re making quite a lot of money here, let’s put some more somewhere else”.
This is an argument that has gone on throughout the history of the lottery. I forget how many good causes there were supposed to be at first but then we stuck another one in. I think the noble Baroness was putting up five fingers but I cannot remember exactly how many there were at first. It becomes a blur. There has been a constant argument about how it is done and redistributed. What have the Government done to make sure that there is some consensus about what happens here? Unless we are all involved in that discussion, there may be a new and wonderful scheme that sounds terribly good, and for which you get a little applause, and then you realise that you have done damage to the other things. You will also have cut off the necessity for other bits of government and public funding to be channelled to do that job in the future. The National Lottery finds it difficult to give up a responsibility once it has had it. If my noble friend can give me some assurance on that, I would feel more comfortable.
We probably have, in the National Lottery, something that has done a good job, but I feel that there was an admission of failure when it came in to do that good job. What we can say to Camelot is, “That’s 20 years well done, but there’s no guarantee”. If we can make sure that the National Lottery, under whoever funds it, has this guarantee of funding from this one source, I will be slightly more comfortable. We must make sure that we, first, say what the responsibilities are in the future and, secondly, give an absolute assurance about the process of discussion and negotiation we will have before we expand the responsibilities of that type of funding. I would then feel much more comfortable on this subject.
My Lords, it is a complete privilege to speak in this debate. If there were a medal competition, the National Lottery would certainly be a serious podium finisher for me. I thank my noble friend Lady Rawlings for initiating this debate. She covered the ground in glorious Technicolor. It has been 20 years, and what a journey. There were many who said that it would not last and some who said that it would undermine the moral fabric of our nation. Twenty years on, it is tremendous to see that both the lottery and the moral fabric—and moral fibre—of our nation are in rude health.
I would like to speak about my experience of the National Lottery as a recipient, as a distributor and as an administrator. While I was competing for Great Britain, the lottery came in midway through my career. Until that point, success happened but it happened largely in spite of, rather than because of, any direct support. The Sports Aid Foundation did an excellent job but it was as nothing, compared to what the National Lottery promised.
When it first arrived, funding was limited to capital projects. There was nervousness about revenue funding and direct awards to athletes, which was understandable with such a new lottery. But when we came back from Atlanta in 1996, it was clear that moves were afoot to get that revenue funding directly to athletes, to enable world-class performance through world-class services being wrapped around us as athletes. The lottery athlete personal award enabled that physio care, that sports medicine or that biomechanics—whatever we needed—to be a reality. It was such a change and it was phenomenal to know that through being part of sport before and after the National Lottery arrived. It is fantastic to see now that athletes starting their careers take sport lottery funding for granted, as they should. They are athletes and their job is to perform; that is what the athlete’s personal award is about.
I was then lucky enough to be on the board at UK Sport, to drive a really tight ship with low costs—the lowest cost of any lottery distributor—and to get that money out of the door to sport. It is the national governing bodies and the athletes that give the performances which win gold, silver and bronze medals. Our job at UK Sport was to ensure efficient, effective distribution of that funding with the right level of assurance, as your Lordships would expect with such funds.
I then went to the Paralympic Games to administer a serious grant of tens of millions from the Olympic lottery distributor. Look at east London: at that park and those stadia of concrete, steel and glass. A new community was developed as a result of significant National Lottery funding through the Olympic lottery distributor. The Paralympic Games could not have happened in the way that they did without the Olympic lottery distributor. To connect the lottery brand to the Paralympics was fantastic—to know that it was on board, enabling us to have a sell-out and to broadcast the Games to hundreds of millions around the world. It enabled us to have a Paralympic Games that were a games-changer.
I do not want to be the spectre at the feast, or to draw a long shadow, but I feel that I must for a moment mention what happened to the lottery under the previous Government and the disgraceful diverting of funds into areas of the public sector which were never intended to be the destination for lottery funding. Health and education are good causes; of course they are. It had a fair amount of popularity; of course it would. It was obvious that it would but was that the right thing to do with lottery funds? Was that what the National Lottery was set up for? Absolutely not, and it is right that the percentages for those initial good causes have been put back exactly to where they were always intended to be.
So to the man who was the father of the National Lottery, and who has already been mentioned by my noble friend Lady Rawlings. What courage and commitment there was from Sir John Major, and what a bold and brave decision. Now, 20 years on, it seems an obvious and natural part of the United Kingdom but his courage and commitment—the bravery he showed in having the political courage to take that decision —were absolutely superb. I remember talking to Sir John years later. He said that when the lottery was launched, he went to Victoria Station after the launch and bought some tickets. He then spent the rest of that week in a cold sweat, thinking not just of what would happen if he won but how he would possibly explain to Norma and the family why he would not be able to claim the prize. Ah, Sir John: heavy is the head that wears a prime ministerial crown.
What careers there have been, launched off the back of the lottery. There was Mystic Meg and who would have thought that somebody would have the title “The voice of the balls”? Here’s to you, Alan. Add to that the original catchphrase or slogan, “It could be you”. For many thousands of people—in terms of multimillion -pound prizes, hundred thousand-pound prizes, scratchcards and so on—it has been them. More important, though, for sport, the arts, heritage, for charities, for the cultural foundations of our nation, it has been you, it is you and will continue to be you for decades to come.
My Lords, I should begin by declaring an interest as chairman of the Wordsworth Trust in Cumbria, which has been the recipient of a number of grants that were very handsomely and generously provided by the Heritage Lottery Fund. As the shadow Secretary of State, I was present 20 years ago at the Tower of London when the National Lottery was launched. I join heartily in the words of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, whom I congratulate on choosing this topic for debate this afternoon, in her tribute to the former Prime Minister, John Major. I am not sure that he has all the attributes of Cosimo de’ Medici, but certainly, in conceiving and bringing to birth the National Lottery, he gave significant service to this country and I trust that it will be part of what history remembers him for with admiration.
Over those 20 years, the lottery has made an incalculable difference to our nation’s life: to arts, sport, charities, voluntary organisations, heritage, museums and the countryside. Here I shall differ, just for a moment, from the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Holmes. There was a change some 17 to 18 years ago in the number of causes supported by the National Lottery. That change was possible because so many more people were playing the lottery than had originally been anticipated, so the funds were there to enable an expansion in the range of good causes that it was possible to support, while not substituting—on this I absolutely agree with all the previous three speakers—the principle of additionality, which is that the lottery should not be supporting things that ought to be part of normal, government-supported activity. That is absolutely crucial. If we were able to extend the lottery into some areas related to fields of education, health and the environment, those were things that it was not possible to support by straightforward, direct government grant. That should always be at the heart of what the lottery is all about.
The way that the lottery was initially established did lead to one or two perversities in the early days. The first of those was a tendency to support buildings rather than people or activities. That has long since been put right. There is now a wide range of activities that the National Lottery supports, and rightly so. Indeed, applications now are looked at in the round, not just the capital construction work that is proposed but, alongside that, the activities that will be generated, the income that will come from that and the costs that will arise. The whole package is looked at and encouraged by the lottery distributors.
One of the other perversities that emerged in early days—and I think that we have not yet quite got this right—is that the process of applying for lottery funding, as the noble Baroness alluded to, can be difficult, complex and a hassle. For those who are not well advised, not well heeled and unused to putting in applications, that can make for problems. It is one of the reasons why some of the geographical distribution of lottery largesse has been a bit skewed in some parts of the country. When I was Secretary of State we tried to put that right by dreaming up what we called the “Brass for Barnsley” scheme. We earmarked a portion of funding that we said would go to Barnsley. We then assisted all the voluntary, charitable and third sector organisations in Barnsley to put in applications by making available facilitators and co-ordinators to ensure that they were able to put in the complex applications that were needed. The result was spectacular. A flow of applications for incredibly good schemes came forward and we were able to make sure that Barnsley got its fair share of lottery funding across all the various lottery distributors. We need more such schemes. We need to enable and facilitate organisations in some of the most deprived and worthy areas of this country to put in applications and to be successful in doing so.
As Secretary of State and chairman of the Millennium Commission, I was very proud to see many of the spectacularly successful projects that we have now in this country coming to fruition, whether it was the British Museum Great Court, the breathtaking Tate Modern or the Eden Project in Cornwall. But in some ways it was the smaller schemes, the little things and the individuals who were able to be helped that meant the most. All noble Lords who have contributed to the debate have mentioned the support for individual elite athletes and the dramatic impact that that has had on our performance in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I was very proud to help put that in place. It has made a huge difference. In addition to that, there is the transformation of village greens, church floodlighting, renovating village halls, putting church bells back into working order, ensuring that local Victorian parks can be restored to their former glory and rebuilding footpaths on highland mountains. One of my favourites is a little bit of what I like to think of as democratic socialism, smuggled past Tony Blair when he was not looking: the Scottish Land Fund, which has helped local communities in parts of the Highlands and Islands to purchase collectively their land, their crofts and their villages, and to make a huge success of running that.
The lottery has much to be proud of. It hardly seems to have been 20 years; but in the course of those years it has helped to transform Britain much for the better.
My Lords, I too would like to thank the noble Baroness for initiating this very important debate. Earlier this week, in Grand Committee, I was reminded by my noble friend Lord Rooker that when the National Lottery was launched, many in my party had strong reservations and concerns about it and even opposition to the principle. The concerns have been mentioned already. Would the funds raised replace government expenditure on things that should be paid for out of taxes, such as nurses, teachers and road repairs? To address such concerns John Major’s Government adopted the principle of additionality, which meant that the funds would go to projects that would not happen without them and would have to be spent on capital projects. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Smith, that the expansion of the good causes under the previous Government did not breach that principle; it maintained that principle, which allowed a broader range of schemes.
The approach of the millennium saw a focus on grand building projects which it was hoped would result in a “culturally led regeneration” of inner-city areas. The Dome may have failed in terms of its broader cultural and educational objectives but it has led to regeneration of a depressed part of London, with most Londoners today being pleased with its subsequent use as the successful O2 entertainment centre. However, that success came with additional investment of £350 million from the private sector. Rowan Moore, in his recent excellent piece in the Observer, reminds us of some of the successes. The noble Lord, Lord Smith, has also reminded us of some. The Tate Modern now attracts about 5 million visitors a year. The Eden Project, Cornwall, captured the public imagination and earned impressive visitor numbers. Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North was firmly established as a symbol of Gateshead, and other towns seek to emulate it. We also have the American Air Museum in Duxford, designed by Norman Foster, which won the Stirling Prize. These are just a few examples of the remarkable range of new-built and refurbished cultural buildings. However, with local authorities being so severely constrained in their ability to support the arts, we could find, if we are not careful, that many of these facilities are empty and simply going to waste.
As we have heard in the debate, the National Lottery has delivered more than the iconic projects that I have highlighted. More than 450,000 individual awards have been made across the UK, with 12 independent specialist organisations awarding the money; 70% of National Lottery grants are for £10,000 or less, helping, as the noble Lord, Lord Smith, identified, small projects that make a big difference in their community. National Lottery funding has saved more than 700 playing fields, supported 1,400 museums and galleries, restored 6,000 village halls, enabled 57,000 World War II veterans to go on commemorative visits, bought and restored 72,000 hectares of land to protect key habitats and rare species, and given more than £750 million to regenerate public parks. As we heard from the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, at the London 2012 Olympics, nine out of 10 Great Britain and Northern Ireland medallists were lottery funded. Eighteen lottery-funded films have gone on to win a total of 31 BAFTAs and 14 Oscars.
It is a well established requirement that lotteries should be the exclusive preserve of good causes, an issue which has been raised in the debate. However, I am becoming increasingly concerned about the prevalence of gambling products that do not clearly differentiate themselves from lotteries and appear to trade on the good name of lotteries for commercial gain. Can the Minister reassure me that the Government will take steps to maintain the important distinction between lotteries and gambling? The use of external lottery managers—ELMs—and umbrella brands have historically been a means, as the noble Baroness pointed out, by which society lotteries can maximise their returns to good causes, without competing substantially with the National Lottery. I, too, have raised in recent times my concerns with the Minister over the use of ELMs by the Health Lottery. It is supposedly made up of 51 separate companies, yet has the same three directors, the same office and the same branding—in effect enabling it to operate as an alternative to the National Lottery. It is competing with the National Lottery and people think that it is a national lottery. It is even called a “national lottery”, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Addington, said, is in breach of the spirit, though not the letter, of the law. While many might say that the Health Lottery’s turnover is a fraction of that of the National Lottery, I am concerned that such a loophole might lead others, such as a big retail chain, to be tempted into the market because they have the infrastructure capability to do it. Does the Minister believe that operations such as the Health Lottery which utilise ELMs to run multiple society lotteries under one brand remain within the spirit of the original legislation? We need an answer.
The success of the National Lottery over the past 20 years is testament to the monopoly model designed by Parliament which encourages a lot of people to play a little, and has created a national institution. More than £32 billion has been raised since the National Lottery began in 1994. More than £12.6 billion has been paid to the Exchequer in lottery duty. Around 70% of adults in the UK play on a regular basis. This year, Camelot commissioned Frontier Economics to re-examine the case for this monopoly, and its findings continue to support this model. Evidence from a number of countries shows that larger jackpots attract more players. By concentrating sales, a single lottery provider maximises the available jackpots, and thus maximises sales and returns to good causes. It is the good causes on which we need to be focused. Uncertainty in the market could lead to operators being less willing to bid for future licences to run the National Lottery or demanding increased margins to do so, which could reduce returns to good causes.
I hope the Minister will state clearly the Government’s ongoing commitment to maintain and protect this model for the foreseeable future.
My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend on securing this debate so soon after the 20th anniversary of the first National Lottery draw, and thank all noble Lords for such an exceptional debate. They have come with such experience across the House.
As my noble friends Lady Rawlings and Lord Holmes of Richmond remarked, when a national lottery was first proposed, it is fair to say that there was scepticism, verging on strong opposition, about the proposal. We can now see what a success it has been. In preparation for the new lottery, Sir John Major’s Government did some work to assess how much it could raise for good causes. The best-case scenario that officials envisaged was a lottery raising £1 billion a year. In fact, more than £32 billion pounds has been raised for good causes since the start of the lottery. This is a truly staggering sum of money, equating to £4.5 million every day.
However, as a wise man once said, it is not necessarily the size that matters but what you do with it that counts. More than 450,000 grants have been made to good causes. That is an average of 692 per parliamentary constituency. My noble friend Lady Rawlings and the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, have already set out many of the facts and statistics regarding the scale of benefits of the National Lottery. As a result, one sees the National Lottery crossed-fingers logo right across the country in galleries, museums, churches, sports facilities, villages, market towns, suburbs and cities. Some of those buildings have been built, saved or renovated thanks to lottery funding.
The National Lottery has enabled the fulfilment of very large projects in major cities. In London, the National Lottery has funded the rebuilding of the Royal Opera House and put a new roof on the British Museum. The lottery has funded the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Sage—both in Gateshead—the Museum of Liverpool and the Lowry Centre in Manchester. In Scotland, it has funded the refurbishment of the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh and access to the Glasgow School of Art. In Wales, it has funded the Millennium Centre and, in Belfast, the refurbishment of St George’s Market.
The National Lottery also funds events of national significance. There were, of course, the unforgettable 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. How fortunate we are to learn from the experience of my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond as a recipient, distributor and administrator. The National Lottery funded not only the infrastructure and staging of the Games but the athletes who competed so memorably and successfully. How proud our country was of them. One cannot adequately describe the euphoria felt across the whole nation, let alone in the stadia of the Games and the sense of a proud, tolerant and united country. So, onward to Rio. In addition, the lottery funded the cultural Olympiad and continues to fund Olympic legacy projects to this day through the Spirit of 2012 Trust. The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, raised this particular point.
Recently, the National Lottery has been integral in the commemorations of the centenary of the start of the First World War. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded over £60 million to more than 1,000 First World War centenary projects, covering nearly three-quarters of constituencies across the UK. One grant for over £12 million enabled the National Museum of the Royal Navy to turn HMS “Caroline” into a visitor attraction in Belfast in time for the centenary commemorations of the 1916 Battle of Jutland.
Those projects are but the tip of the iceberg. In fact, less than 1% of all National Lottery funding is spent on projects over £1 million. The overwhelming majority of people have benefited from the National Lottery at community level, to which your Lordships have alluded. People across the country have had their lives enhanced through grass-roots organisations in villages, suburbs and towns. I urge noble Lords to visit the National Lottery Good Causes website, where the projects that compete in the National Lottery Awards can be found. The successful projects give a sense of the extraordinary range stressed by the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury.
I will give a flavour of some of the projects that were nominated for awards this year. Come Eat Together is a project helping older people to get together and enjoy healthy food as a community in County Durham. Active East is a project in the east of Glasgow encouraging young people to engage in more sports and activities. Hooray for Homework, a project in Mansfield, gives children a safe space where they can go after school to do their homework. I hope that my noble friend Lord Addington will be pleased to hear about Carry a Basketball, Not a Blade, a project in east London helping to reduce knife-crime-related violence among young people. The Jubilee Sailing Trust gives disabled and able-bodied people the opportunity to sail tall ships together. The noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, mentioned the work of the Wordsworth Trust, with which he is most familiar.
However, even these awards fail to capture the impact that the National Lottery has had at the grass-roots level. In the constituency of Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, in which I live, the National Lottery has funded this year: the refurbishment of the Debenham community swimming pool; two community events aimed at involving people with disabilities in fun activities; a project remembering the First World War in Bramford; the staging of the Hoxne music festival; the refurbishment of Bredfield and Cotton village halls; purchasing computers for Worlingworth Primary School; and a number of other art and community projects. This is a snapshot of what is happening across the country. The National Lottery is supporting projects that are put forward by local communities for the benefit of their communities. Over 90% of grants from the National Lottery are for projects less than £100,000, and most projects receive a great deal less than that.
I thank my noble friend Lady Rawlings for this debate because it has provided an important opportunity for your Lordships’ House to mark the National Lottery’s extraordinary success. It has benefited thousands of people across the country and transformed their lives over the past 20 years. Furthermore, the prospects for the future look positive. Ticket sales are strong, on track to be at least the second highest ever. Camelot, the National Lottery operator, continues to build on the success that it has had in running the lottery for 20 years, managing one of the most widely-played and cost-effective national lotteries in the world.
My noble friends Lady Rawlings and Lord Addington and the noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, expressed some caution—perhaps I am understating that—about competition from society lotteries, with particular reference to the Health Lottery. The Government agree with this sense of caution. We will shortly issue our call for evidence on society lotteries, which explores how we can ensure that society lotteries continue to raise funds for good causes but only in the context of a single, successful National Lottery. We must not, and will not, put the National Lottery at risk. The noble Lord, Lord Collins of Highbury, mentioned gambling products, external lottery managers and the Health Lottery. We will ensure that these important points are involved and fully represented in our call for evidence.
My noble friend Lord Addington asked about the “cutting of the cake”. The Government do not have any plans for changes. It is fair to say that at the beginning of this Parliament the Government restored the shares of the arts, heritage and sport good causes to 20% each, up from 16.7%. That, along with ticket sales growth, meant that arts, heritage and sport together received more than £200 million in 2013-14 than was predicted in 2010. This afternoon, all of us have stressed the enormous benefits that have been seen across the country because of that.
My noble friend Lady Rawlings and the noble Lord, Lord Smith of Finsbury, mentioned distribution bodies and making decision-making more transparent, simpler and more user-friendly. Again, the Government agree with that, and we will continue to work with distributors to improve application processes. Distributors are currently running a pilot in Doncaster—not far from Barnsley, of course—to encourage more people from disadvantaged backgrounds to access National Lottery funding. That is extremely important.
The Government will work to ensure the continued success of the National Lottery. We want to build on the success of the last 20 years for the next 20 years and beyond. We started this debate by referring to Sir John Major. There can be no doubt that we owe him all the accolades that he richly deserves. We now witness the extraordinary contribution that the proceeds of the National Lottery make to the lives of so many people. Sir John’s legacy extends to every part of this country—it is a force for good. I cannot think of a better legacy for a Prime Minister.