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EDITIONS
Friday, 6 October, 2000, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Lottery race gets fresh start
New Lottery Commission head Harriet Spicer
Harriet Spicer said fresh proposals would be re-examined
The new head of the National Lottery Commission says the process of deciding who should run the game will be given a fresh start.

Harriet Spicer took over as commission chairman from Dame Helena Shovelton after she resigned, blaming media "vilification", in the wake of a court ruling that current operator Camelot had been treated unfairly.


I do not need to believe either way at the moment because what I need to believe is we have a good, fair, thorough process

Harriet Spicer
Ms Spicer told the BBC the commissioners would now be putting aside their preference for Sir Richard Branson's non-profit People's Lottery.

Originally they had opted to deal exclusively with Sir Richard's consortium, although they were not completely satisfied with the bid and asked for improvements.

But the move prompted a furious row with Camelot who were eventually admitted back into the race following the High Court ruling last month.

Now commissioners will re-examine fresh proposals from both sides, Ms Spicer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I do not need to believe either way at the moment because what I need to believe is we have a good, fair, thorough process," she said.

Asked specifically whether she still felt the Branson bid would be better for the good causes, she said: "It is not necessarily the case that that is true."

Dianne Thompson
Camelot's Dianne Thompson: Wants decision process to be made public
Ms Spicer, a former managing director of the feminist publisher Virago, played down reports of her links with the Virgin tycoon.

"I for one disclosed at my interview to get this job that I had worked with Richard Branson on his first enterprise but had not seen him - because I am old enough to say this - for 30 years," she said.

"When I first met him (again) he mistook me for Dame Helena Shovelton so I do not think the bond is that great."

Commissioners operated on the basis of collective responsibility but Dame Helena resigned for "personal reasons" and there was no need for her colleagues to follow suit, Ms Spicer added.

"There were two possibilities for the judge - he could have set aside our abilities to act in this matter. He did not. He described us as a responsible public body."

The commissioners must decide which group will run the Lottery when the current contract expires next September.

The new contract will run for seven years.

Richard Branson
The People's Lottery was the preferred proposal
Fears have been raised that the legal wrangling could mean that the new operator will not be in place by the October 2001 deadline and that the game may have to be temporarily suspended.

On Thursday Culture Minister Alan Howarth insisted the contract could still be awarded in time.

"There have of course been delays which everybody is very well aware of, partly because the two contenders themselves needed to do more work and, of course, because of the decision of the court," he said.

"But the process is back on track and there is absolutely no case for speculation that it will not be possible to complete the processes in time."

Mr Howarth went out of his way to praise Dame Helena for the work she had done and her "generous" decision to stand down.

"Extraordinary vendetta"

Her resignation prompted strong reaction from the two contenders.

Simon Burridge, chief executive of the People's Lottery, claimed Dame Helena had been subjected to an "extraordinary vendetta" by Camelot in the media.

"They bullied her out of her job," he said.

But Camelot welcomed Dame Helena's resignation as a "step in the right direction" to ensure fair competition.

However, chief executive-designate Dianne Thompson was unhappy at Ms Spicer's appointment as the new chairman.

"We want an independent chairperson who has not been involved in the process before and will look at it with fresh eyes," she said.

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Harriet Spicer
"He described us as a responsible public body"

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05 Oct 00 | UK Politics
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