It’s just a little daunting to realise that it was twenty years ago this week that I was first elected to Parliament. That first session proved to be a pretty bruising introduction to Parliamentary life. The controversy over the European Union led to many days of late night votes – or more accurately early morning votes – on the implementation of the Maastricht Treaty. It all culminated in the Tony Blair landslide of 1997.

Yet a lot of good things happened in those difficult times; in particular a series of reforms that started an economic recovery that handed Tony Blair and his government a really strong economic inheritance.

There was one thing in particular we achieved in those challenging years which still brings huge benefits to Worcestershire, something we now almost take for granted – the National Lottery. It was John Major’s brainchild and we should all be really grateful to him for it.

Since 1994, when the Lottery began, over £27 billion has been raised for good causes. That’s a huge sum for really important projects that otherwise probably would never have found the money to go forward.

I have, quite literally, lost count of the number of village halls in my constituency that have been rebuilt or improved with Lottery money. One of the most important grants came from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the reopening of the Droitwich Canals.

A wide range of community groups have also received funding for local initiatives, for example, earlier this month the Big Lottery Fund awarded £900,000 to a project to improve the lives of Worcestershire children from families with complex problems.

Only last week Sport England announced £50,000 of funding for the Droitwich Amateur Boxing Club. The Club has launched a major appeal to meet the costs of a much-needed new gymnasium. The current one in Kidderminster Road is on its last legs, and although it achieves great things for the young men and women who use it, we must get the Club to the new home available for it at King George’s Fields.

And as Vice President of the Severn Valley Railway, I know how much Lottery money has meant to one of the county’s major tourist attractions. Now I’m helping to win Lottery money to open Hartlebury Castle to the public.

John Major had a pretty torrid time as Prime Minister, but many good things happened on his watch – as the good causes that have won so much from his initiative in setting up the National Lottery show so clearly.


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