1997 Onwards -
Below is the text of John Major’s article on the National Lottery, published in the New Statesman on 8th November 1999.
The case for the National Lottery has always seemed so straightforward that it surprised me in government -
Some of the opposition to this innovation was unexceptionable. When the bill went though the Commons, MPs from Merseyside put up a doughty defence of the pools industry and complained about the threat the Lottery posed to it-
None of this bothered me. What did was the unstated sentiment that lay behind so much other hostility to the scheme: hostility from the Labour and Liberal benches as well as from Tories. Many outspoken opponents actually minded not a jot whether there was a lottery -
I knew from experience that this was paternalist nonsense and it made me all the keener to set up the Lottery. People don't tend to bankrupt themselves, or pin all their hopes on false promises, or act against their own interests -
The other reason I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Lottery was more prosaic. I knew it was the only way we could fund a rebirth of cultural and sporting life in Britain. Government has always passed scraps to the arts at the end of the spending round, but never more than scraps. The Treasury's thinking on the matter was drummed into me when I was chief secretary and later chancellor. The competing demands of health, education, pensions and defence would always come first. I knew there was no chance of funding the long-
It's the reason I set up safeguards to protect Lottery money from Whitehall spending limits, and one reason I created a new department, with cabinet status, to oversee our national heritage. It has worked, too. In my autobiography, I claim that it is "the most successful innovation of any government for years", and I don't think that's much of an exaggeration. Billions have been raised in the past five years, most of it going not to a handful of big-
And five years is such a short time. My hopes for the Lottery were always longer term. As a cricket-
Under new Labour, the Treasury is beginning to ransack the Lottery. The Millennium Fund expires at the end of the year. The government plans to replace it with a New Opportunities Fund, cutting as it does so the percentage of Lottery money going to good causes. The new fund covers spending areas coaching in numeracy, literacy, science and technology which, although worthy in themselves, are mainstream government expenditure and should be funded by the taxpayer and not the Lottery. After the millennium, I had hoped to find funds from the Lottery to put sports teachers into schools. I want us to win the World Cup, the Six Nations trophy, the Test matches, the Davis Cup. Rooting a love of sport and the arts in schools would have been the right thing to do. I do hope it might yet be possible. It won't be unless the Treasury is kept at bay. Will Tony Blair and Chris Smith stand up to Gordon Brown?