Science and design are lottery winners

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The Independent Online
The Government was accused of "going on the grab" yesterday as it unveiled a host of new areas to be funded through the National Lottery.

Promised education and health projects which will receive pounds 1bn under a new white paper could include refurbishment, staffing or organisation. Grants to talented individuals will go to scientists and designers as well as to artists and craftspeople.

Chris Smith, the Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said as he launched the paper that the lottery expansion would not be allowed to stray into areas usually funded through the Treasury.

However, a Bill to be published later this year will give the Government the power to identify the initiatives to be funded by its new "good cause". It will also allow the distributors of lottery grants to solicit applications where groups do not come forward spontaneously.

Mr Smith's Conservative shadow, Francis Maude, told the House of Commons that the Government was planning to use lottery money to fill a "black hole" in its finances.

"They have got themselves in a mess and as they so often do they have tried to extricate themselves by going on the grab," he said. "The people's lottery has become the Government's lottery."

Mr Smith denied the allegation. "What the lottery supports should be additional to those things that the Treasury funds. That principle we stick very strongly to. That is why we are not proposing that lottery funds should be used to employ teachers or nurses," he said.

The white paper says the lottery is expected to make pounds 1bn more than was originally estimated by 2001, and that should be used for education, health and the environment. Environmental projects will not come on stream for another two or three years, though.

Among the new projects will be a major training initiative for 500,000 teachers and 10,000 library staff to help them to use new technology to promote learning. A range of out-of-school clubs will allow children to take part in drama, sport and other activities. A network of healthy living centres will be funded, with cash being directed into the most deprived areas where ill health is often endemic.

A new National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts will help talented individuals to fulfil their potential, possibly by giving grants to help them develop commercial ideas. They might be asked to pay some of their earnings into NESTA to help others.

The white paper promises fairer distribution of lottery funds, and says the regulator will have a new power to impose financial penalties on the lottery operator if serious license breaches occur.

Rumours that the Government had dropped its commitment to a "not for profit" lottery operator after Camelot's licence ran out in 2001 were untrue, Mr Smith said. The white paper quotes Labour's election pledge on the subject but goes on to say that the main criteria for choosing a new operator will be the amount of money which would go to good causes.

"We will be seeking bids from wherever they come, including Camelot, Richard Branson and others," Mr Smith said.