Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers (Resumed). - National Lottery Funding.

Eric J. Byrne

Question:

14 Mr. E. Byrne asked the Minister for Finance the percentage of national lottery funding that went to projects in the various regions in 1995; the percentage that went to Dublin, Cork and Limerick cities; the percentage of national lottery funding that went to the voluntary sector in 1995; the plans, if any, he has to further review disbursement of national lottery funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8599/96]

Details of national lottery allocations and actual expenditure are set out, respectively, in an appendix to the Estimates volume and in the annual Appropriation Accounts. Copies of these are available in the Oireachtas Library. The 1995 Appropriation Accounts will be published in the autumn. National lottery allocations are decided by the Government in the context of the annual Estimates process, so the allocations and expenditure are shown under the Votes of the relevant spending Ministers under specific subheads.

To try to assemble all this information on a geographic basis would be an enormous task. It should also be remembered that much assistance from the lottery surplus is given on a national basis — for example to a national organisation — so geographic breakdown is hardly relevant. It can, however, be said, given the wide variety of lottery schemes operated by a number of Ministers, that all areas of the country benefit significantly.

There would be similar difficulties in giving a definitive breakdown of the amount for voluntary services. The arrangements for the disbursement of national lottery funding are kept under continuous review.

I understand what the Minister has said, but it disappoints me that the figures are not available. The Minister will be aware of the disproportionate influence which the lobby of rural TDs has on many aspects of political life in Ireland.

(Interruptions.)

That includes Dublin South-Central as well.

I notice all the rural TDs shouting me down.

From the rural fields of Dublin South-East.

Perhaps we do not have a strong enough voice in this House.

Let us hear Deputy Byrne without interruption.

Would the Minister agree that it is time for urban TDs, like the Minister, to organise an urban voice so as to adequately counteract the present imbalance? Will he agree, as Minister for Finance, to sanction and release lottery money only on a fair and proportional basis and that, as Dublin and its environs represents one third of the population, has by far the highest unemployment and disadvantage and, ironically, purchases more lottery tickets than the rest of the country, it is time to target at least one third of the surplus funds to Dublin projects?

The Deputy's question is a separate one and I hesitate to answer it in any definitive way because there are so many issues surrounding it. The question of the allocation of lottery moneys is determined by the legislation under which the lottery was set up. A proportion of moneys goes to different categories of activity. The relevant Departments such as Health, Education and Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the sports section of the Department of Education make their own decisions based on applications for lottery funds in the first instance and on their own view of the priorities that should inform those allocations. The suggestion that we should further exacerbate divides between people of one religion and another, people from one region and another and people from urban as against rural areas is not the kind of subdivision this country needs — quite the contrary. I can understand the Deputy's sentiment, but it is totally counterproductive and very unprogressive.

The Minister's comments are interesting because his party colleague, Deputy Pat Upton, has gone to great lengths to expose the degree of disadvantage experienced particularly in the Dublin area and has gone so far as to call for a Minister for Dublin. Perhaps the Minister would like to comment on that. The Minister mentioned the legislative basis for the disbursement of lottery funds. Would he agree that there is a need to thoroughly overhaul the national lottery legislation to incorporate new procedures for advertising the grants and placing a ceiling on the proportion of funds which can be spent to plug gaps in State spending? Would he not agree that there is a greater need for democratic accountability and transparency, and that, rather than attempting to drive a wedge between rural Deputies and those who represent urban areas, I am doing the opposite in trying to redress the present imbalance in the spending of lottery funds in favour of rural Ireland? The Minister's party colleague has been to the fore in denouncing the degree of spending away from Dublin in favour of other regions.

I am merely seeking the equal treatment or fair share that Dublin and other urban areas deserve which is not the case at present.

Deputy Eric Byrne referred to a study undertaken by my friend and colleague, Deputy Upton on the Department of the Environment's allocation of national lottery funding. The sample was not of the total national lottery allocation but rather that component distributed by the Department of the Environment to which I omitted to refer in my original and supplementary replies. On the basis of his analysis, the Deputy concluded that Dublin received 68 per cent only of national average allocations from the national lottery to the Department of the Environment based on a per head of population criterion. One would have to compare like with like and examine the uses to which those moneys were put in other parts of the country. For example, some people could take the view that already many sections of the Dublin community are reasonably well endowed with certain aspects of environmental development. On the basis of the study as I know it, the Deputy's conclusions are incomplete. It was for that reason my Department undertook a much broader, more detailed analysis of the issues. I hope to be in a position to return to this subject at a future date.

No doubt the Minister is also aware of a very detailed study undertaken on the expenditure of surplus national lottery funds which manifested a lack of democratic accountability, specifically highlighting the inability of health boards to present relevant figures. I am very disappointed that to date we have not been given a breakdown of the moneys retained for spending by State and semi-State companies and that proportion being allocated to the voluntary sector since the national lottery was established to assist the voluntary sector. Would the Minister agree that political bureaucrats have their hands on the levers that control the spending of surplus national lottery funding——

That is no way for the Deputy to describe the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Gay Mitchell.

——which was very apparent under Fianna Fáil administrations?

It has not changed under the control of this Government.

Would the Minister agree to examine the Act establishing the national lottery with a view to ensuring greater democratic control——

(Interruptions).

Let us hear the Deputy in possession.

The Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Gay Mitchell, will be upset by Deputy Eric Byrne's allegation.

I take issue with the phrase —"political bureaucrats"— used by Deputy Byrne since, at national and local level, civil servants who work in the interests of this country have given very good service of which we should all be very proud and be grateful for——

Deputy Byrne is not talking about this jurisdiction, perhaps the former USSR or somewhere else but not Ireland.

Ultimately, this House is accountable for any allocation of national lottery funding. However, the Deputy made a number of salient points I will examine and about which I will be in touch with him in due course.

Are these "political bureaucrats" those who are checking on the Department of Social Welfare?