Thursday, 19 January 2012

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but....

It's the Commons Select Committee meeting on the health lottery today. The Gambling Commission will have to justify their decision to give licences to a national health lottery set up as 51 separate companies under a law that is supposed to prevent competition to the national lottery but allow local ones- like the many great hospice lotteries that we all support.

And ahead of this , the health lottery people had an interesting press conference yesterday. In the Savoy- that well known haunt of healthy living.

Their briefing paper was all sadly rather incoherent and rambling. In particular it rather took issue with me. I'm " out of touch with reality" apparently.

Jeremy Muller is one of the directors of the 51 CICs that manage the lottery. He says that I have " never been in business" and built my career through the unions.

Yes Jeremy. Guilty. It's true I ve never worked in the private sector.

But what an odd accusation. Are you really suggesting that only people who have worked in " business", by which you mean the private sector, are in touch with reality? So you must think all those health charities you want to support don't know anything about business too? I know from my health sector members that they very much have a business like approach to their organisation. And as many of my health CEO members have, like me, never worked in the private sector he must think they are out of touch too !

I think it is always a mark of desperation when an opponent thinks they have to attack you personally. And frankly when you look at the other allegations he makes you understand the desperation.

As he did on the Today programme he produces clearly inaccurate figures to justify only giving 20p in contrast to the national Lottery 28p.

In the year to 31 March 2011, The National Lottery returned £1,665.1 million to National Lottery Good Causes. With total sales for the 2010/11 financial year of £5,822.4 million, this works out at 28.59 pence in the pound - not 27 pence as Mr Muller incorrectly claims.

He also said that the national lottery only gave 10p to charities. Wrong again. He just does not know the sector. Much of the money for arts, sport and heritage also goes to charities. Brilliant schemes run by ACEVO members that use music to support better mental health or sport among young people that encourage community cohesion and tackling obesity . And heritage too- only this morning the Dickens Trust were on talking about their plans for the bicentenary of Charles Dickens' birth. They too are a charity and have been supported by funds from the national lottery.

The idea behind the good cause allocation by the national lottery is that it will support all the causes that the British people give money to. An entirely noble idea. I object to being told there is a hierarchy of giving or charities. Snide comments about opera or the Olympics should not obscure the simple fact that the health lottery gives only 20p not 28p away. And it has been set up to compete with the national lottery, so if it draws people away from the national lottwery our sector overall will suffer.

And let's face it , anyone who has seen their advertising knows they are competing head on. A big full page advert in the Star recently ( guess the proprietor of that paper! ) said " 7 times more likely to win our top prize".

Today the Gambling Commission will have to justify their extraordinary decision to register the health lottery using legislation designed to promote local society lotteries like hospices.

Frankly gambling Commission folk; if it looks like a duck and quacks lie a duck then it probably is one. So why have you decided its a pigeon?

Something's not right here. And so I was not surprised when you refused my request to see the papers on your decision making process.

The task for the Select Committee is simple. Force the truth out about how the Gambling Commisison made this decision. And if it shows there is a loophole then the Government must urgently amend the legislation.

In the meantime Mr Muller and Mr Desmond: you can sort this argument by taking a cut in profit and giving 28p in the pound to our marvellous health charities.

1 comment:

Roy Norris said...

Absolutely right Sir Stephen - see my (star) letter in 24 January Third Sector.