I am carefully considering the evidence submitted during the consultation, and I hope to respond in the first half of this year.
Despite many warm words stretching back over several years, the Government have shown a distinct lack of urgency in considering the future of society lotteries. It has now been six months since the consultation closed and, all the while, charities and good causes are losing desperately needed funds. Will the Minister now confirm that the Government’s preferred option of a £100 million annual sales limit will be applied and implemented, as previously stated, on 6 April? If not, why not?
I accept the hon. Gentleman’s point that there is a real strength of feeling on this matter. The fact that I am still regularly meeting colleagues and hearing from the sector shows that we want to get this right. I understand the sense of urgency, but I appreciate that we need to get the balance right. Society lotteries are important, and they make a huge contribution to the fundraising landscape, with £296 million raised for good causes last year alone. Of course we need to balance that alongside supporting the national lottery, too.
In concurring with the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Brendan O’Hara), does the Minister agree that the request by society lotteries to raise the maximum prize to £1 million is both popular and reasonable, and that there is no evidence this would damage the national lottery? She will be aware that society lotteries do untold good in our constituencies, so will she now stand foursquare behind them?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and it is right to admit and react to the fact that we consulted on the £1 million prize, but we need to balance it with any potential impact on the national lottery. There is a balance to be made. Society lotteries, as we well know, are widely used as a fundraising tool across our communities to support local charities and hospices. To my mind, if we find this balance, we will grow the pie and help all lotteries to survive.
The players of the People’s Postcode lottery, based in my constituency of Edinburgh North and Leith, have raised an amazing £400 million for good causes, but achieving that incredible fundraising milestone has been greatly hindered by this outdated legislation. The Government said last June that a £100 million annual sales limit is their preferred option. Why has that not been implemented? When exactly will they bring forward the legislation to do just that?
I know that the People’s Postcode lottery does a huge amount in the hon. Lady’s constituency. In fact, it recently brought George Clooney to her constituency to celebrate this success. I am very disappointed not to have been able to accept the invite—can’t think why!
The work of the People’s Postcode lottery has supported our building connections fund, with £11.5 million going to tackle loneliness. It is right that we balance all these great but competing opportunities to support charities across the country.