View from City Road: Think again on lottery secrecy

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The Independent Online
Nanny knows best, says Peter Davis, the new National Lottery regulator. Mr Davis is insisting on a blanket confidentiality clause that will prevent anyone tendering to run the lottery publicising details of their bids. He is worried that the public will find the details 'confusing' and that he will find himself at the centre of a public debate.

But why should he be worried? He maintains that there is not the faintest prospect that his decision will be influenced by lobbying by vested interests. True, he mumbled something yesterday about 'commercially sensitive information', but that will scarcely do: it is perfectly feasible to produce outlines of the proposals.

If discussion was appropriate during the recent television and radio franchise awards, it is much more so where the lottery is concerned. This bidding process is not only - or even mainly - about money. It is about the type of lottery Britain wants. Mr Davis should be eager to gauge public reaction: they are the customers who will ensure whether it is a success.

All this smacks of secrecy from the worst of motives - a secrecy designed to make life as comfy as possible for anyone taking decisions, such as Mr Davis. But he should think twice. Given the number and nature of those interested in participating in the bidding, details will undoubtedly leak. It would be better to have a well-informed debate than a distorted one.