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Wednesday, 30 September, 1998, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Lottery health plans provoke outrage
Lottery Balls
Lottery may raise 100m for breast cancer screening
The government's announcement of a multi-million pound boost for cancer screening services funded from the National Lottery has provoked outrage from opposition parties.

The announcement followed Mr Blair's speech to the Labour conference in Blackpool in Tuesday afternoon, in which he said the money would be used to "make our cancer services the best anywhere in the world."

Mr Blair said a total of 400m would be shared between the NHS, education and the environment.

Anne Widdecombe
Widdecombe: is health being turned into s lottery?
But Tory Shadow Health Secretary Ann Widdecombe warned that if the prime minister went ahead with the plan, he would be using Lottery money for inappropriate causes.

Miss Widdecombe, who plans to raise the issue in the Commons when parliament resumes next month, called on Labour to "admit that what they doing is using the lottery money as a supplement for taxation".

Lottery proceeds originally were designed to help projects in sport and the arts which otherwise would not be funded by taxes, she said.

'Confusion'

"What's happening now is confusion. The government is saying 'we are managing inefficiently, therefore we are going to take lottery money to support tax'."

The Liberal Democrats have also criticised the government's announcement, saying lottery money should not be used for "core" services such as breast cancer screening.

'Policies for headlines'

Party health spokesman Dr Evan Harris said: "The day after Gordon Brown said he wouldn't change policy for a good headline, Tony Blair has done just that.

"Lottery money is supposed to be used for non-core NHS services. Breast cancer services are absolutely core and essential.

"Does this now mean that breast cancer services are at the mercy of lottery ticket sales?"

He protested: "Tony Blair seems to be playing with women's expectations for political gain.

"This is not the way to run a modern health service. When will Labour learn we need real doctors, not spin doctors?"

But reacting to the critical response the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said lottery funds may be used for health projects, under new measures in the Lottery Act passed during the summer.

The Cancer Research Campaign welcomed the government announcement.

Director general Professor Gordon McVie said: "We are delighted that lottery money is finally going to where it was always intended - to support the fight against cancer and other debilitating diseases.

"We applaud the Prime Minister for honouring the pledge made to the people of Britain by his predecessor, who sold the whole notion of a national lottery on the back of cancer research, treatment and care.

"We will renewing our efforts to persuade government that research holds the key to cancer and lottery money could help bring about the cure that people so desperately seek."

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