Public dismay at Churchill papers sale

Poll shows that more than half think MP should have donated wartime leader's archive to nation
Click to follow
More than half the British public think that Winston Churchill, the Tory MP for Davyhulme, Manchester, should have donated his grandfather's archive to the nation instead of selling it for £12.5m.

The strength of public anger about the sale has emerged in a poll carried out by the Harris Research Centre for the Independent. Of those asked, 52 per cent believed the family should have given the papers to the country for nothing. A further 35 per cent said that although the Churchill family had the right to sell the papers, the sum paid was far too much. Only 8 per cent agreed with the statement: "His family has every right to sell the papers and this was a reasonable use of lottery money."

Last week's announcement by the National Heritage Memorial Fund that it had bought Sir Winston Churchill's archive, which includes his Second World War speeches, provoked harsh criticism from politicians and historians because the sale did not include the lucrative copyright and because many of the official papers were thought to be already the property of the state. The heritage fund justified the purchase on the grounds that it had paid a bargain price for the archive of 1.5 million documents and photographs which could otherwise have gone abroad or been split up.

The survey comes on the eve of today's announcement about which charities stand to benefit from lottery money. It also provides the first definitive insight into the way Britons believemoney from the game should be spent and how little they understand about where it actually goes. The poll reveals that 14 per cent of people think 50p from each £1 lottery ticket is donated to charities and 43 per cent think that 25p is donated. Only 18 per cent knew the correct figure - 5p per £1 - while a further 20 per cent thought the donation was 10p.

When asked how much money should go to charities, one-fifth said 40p or more should be given. Just under one-quarter of those surveyed said that they thought the right amount would be between 11p and 20p for every £1 ticket and 10 per cent believed nothing at all should be given.

In contrast, the public is much less in favour of supporting the arts with lottery cash. More than one-quarter - 27 per cent - said they thought no money should go to the arts and only 2 per cent said they should get 40p for every £1 or more. In fact, the arts get the same amount as charities.

The poll also discloses a common wish that will disturb the Government - a quarter of the public believe that 40-60p from every £1 of lottery money should be spent on the National Health Service and education. But these areas, often the main beneficiaries of lottery money in the United States and the rest of Europe, are in Britain barred by law from benefiting.

8 The Harris Research Centre conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,029 people.

Lottery poll, page 3

Leading article, page 14