Interview: Jeremy Hunt

Jeremy Hunt, shadow culture secretary, explains why the Tories want a change in the distribution of lottery money.

Jeremy Hunt
Jeremy Hunt

Shadow culture minister Jeremy Hunt may have been in post for less than a year, but he already has radical plans for the sector's lottery funding under a Conservative government.

The party's proposals, announced last month, would not only rebrand the Big Lottery Fund as the Voluntary Action Lottery Fund, but also redistribute the 16 per cent of BLF funds currently spent on statutory projects between charities, sports, arts and heritage groups to increase the amount of lottery money available to third sector organisations.

But what Hunt really seems to get excited about is his ideas on how to limit the politicisation of the lottery and ensure that the projects it funds provide services that are additional to those the state is responsible for.

"The concern is that government shouldn't use the lottery as a pool of money it can draw on when it's trying to pull together funds for its own initiatives," he says.

Highlighting issues such as the Government's 2005 healthy food programme, which was partly funded by a £60m BLF grant to the School Food Trust, Hunt suggests that all senior appointments, including the board, should be ratified by Parliament.

As for Sir Clive Booth's comments earlier this year that the Conservative Party was "hostile" to the third sector (Third Sector, 30 January), Hunt is still extremely put out. He is pursuing a complaint made to the Cabinet Secretary on the issue because he feels that Booth, who is in theory a politically neutral figure, should be more discreet.

"If a government minister made some comments like that, they would be taken with a pinch of salt," Hunt says. "But when someone in a non-political position makes that point, it has more weight behind it.

"Sir Clive has criticised our policy without knowing what it is. I don't think it's satisfactory or acceptable. If he apologises, we will let the matter rest."

However, Hunt is not willing to say what action should be taken or whether there could even be cause for Booth to step down. "I would see what the Cabinet Secretary says before I take a view on that," he says.

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