Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Don Foster, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath

Are you concerned about the relationship between the Government and the Big Lottery Fund?

Absolutely. It is a situation in which government interference is potentially greater than we would like.

Let me suggest something that may seem radically silly to some: I would like to see a situation in which government would be in the same position as any other organisation when putting forward proposals to a lottery distributor. If government has a good idea, it ought to be able to propose it.

Under what circumstances could this happen?

Government could do that only in a situation in which we knew that what was being proposed would be given no greater consideration than proposals from any other organisation. You cannot possibly be in a position where that could happen until you know with certainty that lottery distributors' decisions are genuinely independent from government.

The real test of independence would be when a government, government department or minister makes a suggestion for how lottery money might be spent. That suggestion should then be given a weight equal to but no greater than any other proposal. Sadly, at the moment I don't think government should be making proposals.

How do you view the lottery distributors' pledge to create an additionality policy and make it publicly available?

The comments made during the Lottery Bill's remaining stages by Richard Caborn, the lottery minister, as a result of his meeting with the lottery distributors signify a move in the right direction. I welcome the initiative, but I think it is disappointing that we still have not secured anything about additionality - and even Caborn himself said he wanted this.

What concerns you in particular?

Clearly, if additionality is not in the legislation, subsequent parliaments, ministers and heads of the various lottery distributors could take a different view from the one they currently hold.

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