news vote 2001search vote 2001
 You are in: Vote2001: Main Issues
Main Issues 
Correspondent Analysis 
Crucial Seats 
Key People 
Results &  Constituencies 
Opinion Polls 
Online 1000 
Virtual Vote 
Talking Point 
Voting System 
Local Elections 

N Ireland 

BBC News

BBC Sport

BBC Weather
Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 16:21 GMT
The National Lottery

Ministers, civil servants and Camelot have found that the National Lottery doesn't always bring them good fortune.

Under the terms of devolution, arts and culture issues are dealt with in the respective national assemblies and the Scottish Parliament. The National Lottery and broadcasting regulation remain Westminster matters.


The National Lottery has caused a great deal of controversy since Labour took power in 1997 - and plenty of ammunition for opposition parties.

The decision over whose hand controls the purse strings was always going to be hotly contested. And the protracted selection of a new lottery operator caused the Department for Culture Media and Sport a great deal of embarrassment during the second half of 2000.

In August last year the Lottery Commission announced that the two bids for the franchise - from the incumbent Camelot and Richard Branson's People's Lottery - were not suitable.

But controversially the Lottery Commission said it would carry on negotiating with Richard Branson's People's Lottery with a view to transferring the franchise providing the bid could satisfy a number of criteria.

However, a High Court victory by Camelot put the holders back in the race. The ruling embarrassed the commission, prompting its chairwoman, Dame Helena Shovelton, to resign.

On 7 December the commission, headed by its new Chair Lord Burns, reversed the previous decision and decided that Camelot should win the new licence.

Richard Branson said he was flabbergasted at the decision but pulled back from legal action.

Camelot celebrated but Labour's opponents demanded to know what had happened to the party's 1997 pledge that it would seek to appoint a not-for-profit lottery operator.


While this led to scrutiny of the role of Culture Secretary Chris Smith, questions were also raised about the calibre of the government-appointed commission.

Commenting on the announcement Mr Smith said: "Once the dust has settled, I think we are going to have to have a look, speak to everyone involved and ask if we can come up with a better process the next time."

The Conservatives described the process of awarding the new licence an "incompetent scandal" and in October they called for the entire Commission to resign.

They also demanded an inquiry and said that the Commission's original decision to negotiate solely with the People's Lottery had "every appearance of a stitch-up".

When the licence was finally awarded to Camelot, the Shadow Culture Secretary Peter Ainsworth was damning of Chris Smith's handling of the process.

"Ever since he so unwisely welcomed the commission's illegal decision to kick Camelot out of the running last summer, the Lottery contract has been up there with the Dome and Wembley as a symbol of Smith's unsuitability for office," he said.

"The success of Camelot is a humiliation to the man who promised a 'not for profit operator' at the election and went out of his way to attack Camelot's directors personally."

MPs too blamed Chris Smith.

The Commons culture committee said Mr Smith had failed to ensure the National Lottery Commission - the body responsible for choosing the operator - had sufficient expertise.

But the committee's report into the handling of the affair stopped short of recommending a future operator must run on a not-for-profit basis.


While the number of people buying lottery tickets has declined, there are still around 30 million people regularly taking part.

Since its November 1994 launch, more than 10bn has been raised for the "good causes":

  • Sports
  • Arts
  • Charities
  • The Heritage Lottery Fund
  • The Millennium Commission (ceased Dec 2000)
  • The New Opportunities Fund

However, the level of awards has fluctuated wildly across the country and, on taking power, Labour pledged to address the imbalance.

This sixth good cause, New Opportunities, has proved a controversial use of lottery money as critics say that it covers projects that should be delivered out of government spending.

However, Labour in government pressed ahead with it and the fund is now involved in six major programmes, totalling 1.5bn.


Issues Finder

Arts, culture
and media


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites