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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 469: debated on Monday 10 December 2007

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Lottery Funding

1. How much lottery funding was spent on sport in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement. (172197)

The five sports lottery distributors together drew down about £242 million from the national lottery distribution fund for expenditure in 2004-05, about £264 million in 2005-06 and, subject to audit, about £209 million in 2006-07.

While we are on the subject of sport, I am sure that the whole House will join me in congratulating British boxing on a fantastic weekend, and Amir Khan and Joe Calzaghe in particular on their victories. I pay especial tribute to Ricky Hatton, who throughout his 38 victories has been a great inspiration to my constituents in Hattersley and Hyde and who, in the manner and dignity of his defeat, will continue to be such.

I add my congratulations to our sporting heroes, whom the Minister has highlighted. However, is he aware that only 13.5 per cent. of the UK population are members of sports clubs? That compares unfavourably with other EU countries, such as Germany and France, where 33 per cent. and 26 per cent. of the population respectively are members of sports clubs. Is that because the Government are not giving enough from the lottery funds to our sports clubs, to encourage people to participate in sport more?

In fact, we have increased the amount of money going from the Exchequer to sport by seven times since 1997. We are completely committed to building a world-class community sports infrastructure, which is why we have asked Sport England to conduct a review in order to achieve exactly that.

May I welcome the money that the Government are putting into sport through the lottery? Will my right hon. Friend take a particular interest in the need for his Department to invest in sport in Stoke-on-Trent? We have an admirable gymnastics club, albeit with insufficient coaches, and we have great hopes that through the regeneration agenda and the building schools for the future programme we can invest more in sport. Will he look to ensure that we have the right—

I quite agree with my hon. Friend that we should increase the amount of money going into sport. The amount going in over the next three years will be higher than the amount going in this year, which is a great opportunity for Stoke to make its claim for increased investment in sport. I know that my hon. Friend has been a strong campaigner for that and, given her question, I am sure that she will welcome the emphasis that we are putting on having a world-class network of clubs and coaches.

The Minister knows that the money for sport from the lottery has gone down by about a third in recent years. Now the Government are taking away more than £500 million to fund the Olympic black hole. The Minister will have received an authoritative and detailed report showing how, by changing the taxation regime for the national lottery, additional money can go to both the Treasury and community sports, to deliver the Olympic legacy that we all want. Has he seen the report, does he accept it and what is he doing about it?

I take it that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the report into a gross profit tax for the lottery. I know that he is trying to supplement the Liberal Democrats’ money tree, but he knows well that even if that were possible, it would yield only a fifth of what he identifies as the black hole—in fact, the contribution from the lottery. It will be interesting to see whether the Liberal Democrats support that, and if not, where they would get the funding from. Given that the amount involved is only a fifth, that leaves nearly £500 million that he would have to find from somewhere else.

I hope that this is not the hon. Gentleman’s last Question Time as sports spokesman—there is an upcoming reshuffle, in the light of the leadership contest. I say sincerely to him that he is a credit to Opposition spokesmen. He is always a master of detail, constructive when necessary and tough when he feels he needs to be. I hope that we see him again.

Where will funding for activities such as cycling and walking come from in future? As a result of the redefinition of sport, which I understand excludes cycling and walking, there will be a shortfall in funding. Is that money likely to come from Departments such as the Department of Health, rather than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport?

No, we are committed to the goal that we set out in the Olympic bid of raising participation by 2 million. Sport England’s role in that is to raise participation in sport. One of our promises in the Olympic bid documents was to create a world-class infrastructure for sport in this country. We are well on the way to doing that in school sport; we have gone from 20 per cent. of young people doing two hours to more than 80 per cent., and we are now well on the way to five hours. On elite sport, the Australians are now copying us, rather than the other way around. Our priority is to deliver a world-class community sports infrastructure, to match that of school sport and elite sport.

Although lottery sports funding has been quite consistent over the past three years, we are set to lose £13.1 million from SportScotland to pay for the London games and London’s redevelopment. Now that we are to have the 2014 games in Glasgow, will the Secretary of State acknowledge that there is a case for Scottish lottery funding to remain in Scotland rather than diverting it to London to fund London redevelopment?

The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot describe the Olympics as the London games and then say that the Glasgow games are national games. There is an internal contradiction in his allegation. I met his colleague, the Minister for the arts, recently to discuss the lottery, and I would be happy to meet his colleague who leads on sport to discuss it. Indeed, we are convening a group to consider the issue. The Scottish National party cannot criticise the London games while championing the Glasgow games as a national event.

Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Anne Reid and her Into Work team in my constituency, who have recently received a cheque for nearly £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund? Part of their rehabilitation strategy is to encourage clients to participate in sports. Let us not be undermined by the arguments from the Opposition, who continually want to talk down Scotland. Substantial funding is still coming into Scotland from the Big Lottery Fund.

That is a very good point. I believe that the nationalists’ policy is to have a “Scot Lot”. Anyone who knows anything about lotteries will know that that would bring in less money, because it is the size of the jackpot that determines how many people play. That would be another cut as a result of their proposals. My hon. Friend is quite right to say that the Big Lottery Fund is investing in Scotland and in sport. In fact, it invested £238 million in 2005-06, and then £207 million, so the Big Lottery Fund is contributing to sport, as are the sports lottery funds.

Licensing (Town Centres)

2. What representations he has received on the effect of the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 on town centres. (172198)

5. What assessment he has made of the effect of the Licensing Act 2003 on town centres; and if he will make a statement. (172201)

We have received a number of views from local authorities, police, local residents and trade about the impact of the new legislation on town centres. They will inform our evaluation of the 2003 Act, which we expect to complete early in the new year. The report of the 10 scrutiny councils in July 2006 found that the Act had improved partnership working between enforcement agencies in tackling irresponsible retailers. We recently asked the councils for an update on their assessment, and that will form part of our evaluation.

Does the Minister not accept that the Licensing Act has led to an increase in problems resulting from alcohol abuse in many town and city centres—sadly, even in Macclesfield? Recent figures show that 98 per cent. of all applications for licences were granted, and that just 0.4 per cent. of licences have been reviewed. Why is there a presumption in favour of 24-hour licensing for supermarkets, which are the source of so many of the problems?

As the hon. Gentleman well knows, there is no such presumption. Indeed, far from thinking that the Licensing Act has led to these problems, I agree with his leader, who said recently:

“I think licensing reform is a good idea. I have always said so.”

It will be interesting to hear whether Opposition Members agree with their leader on that. I also disagree with the hon. Gentleman that the Act has created these problems. I am sure that, if I had visited Macclesfield with him before the Act came into force, we would have seen the same issues. The truth is that the Act has introduced much tougher powers to deal with them. Indeed, crime in the night economy is down by 5 per cent. overall across the country. Serious wounding is down by 5 per cent. Of course, it is too early to say whether that is a result of the Act; we shall need to examine that in our evaluation and again over time. So far, however, the evidence does not show that the Act has led to an increase in crime—indeed, quite the reverse.

I congratulate my local police and my local Pubwatch scheme in Reading on taking a proactive role in mitigating the worst effects of the Licensing Act. Despite their efforts, however, violent assaults have gone up by 13 per cent. in Reading town centre, and the police are having to use scarce resources to support town centre activities. The intention of the legislation was to create a café culture, but has it not simply added to the existing yob culture?

I note that the hon. Gentleman is disagreeing with his leader, which will not help him to progress to the Front Bench. He has cited his local police. I am happy to quote the police in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett), who asked the first question today. When talking recently about closing down a branch of Tesco for selling alcohol to under-age purchasers—which would not have been possible under previous legislation—the chief superintendent of the police force in Bexley said:

“This is another in a long line of successes for the collaborative working that has been such a key feature of the work here in Bexley, especially”—

the hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) will like this bit—

“since November 2005, when the new licensing regime came into effect”.

There we have the police saying that the Act has given them more powers to deal with the problems. That is why serious wounding is down by 5 per cent. in the night-time economy.

Has my right hon. Friend’s Department monitored the impact of the legislation on under-18 drinking and, if so, what have been the results?

The results are that it has fallen significantly. Failed test purchases have fallen from about 50 per cent. of cases to about 15 per cent. That is clearly still too much and we will be continuing our efforts, but again the Licensing Act has helped to create a much better collaborative approach between different agencies, which has meant that there has been a fall, although we want to continue to make further progress. It is clearly unacceptable for any licensed premises to be selling to under-age people.

There is much concentration on 24-hour drinking in relation to the 2003 Act, but that Act also introduced new powers for clamping down on under-age drinking and for restricting licences in town centres. Has the Department carried out any analysis of why councils or police authorities are not using the new powers that have been given to them?

The evidence that we have is that most are using the powers. Indeed, I was out with Chris Allison—[Interruption.]—who speaks on this matter in Westminster, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), who is intervening from a sedentary position. Chris Allison was saying what a great job the council and the local police were doing in using the powers given to them and that that has led to a real improvement in partnership working. It is a myth that the Act has led to 24-hour drinking. In fact, new figures show only modest increases in actual opening hours—on average, 20 minutes extra—and the number of 24-hour premises is less than 0.5 per cent. of the overall total.

At the time of the passage of the Licensing Act, the Government dismissed warnings that one of its consequences would be to damage the performance of live music in town centres and elsewhere. The Secretary of State will be aware that Live Music Forum has concluded that the Act is having that effect, so will he now consider making changes to it, as recommended by the forum, to ensure that live music continues to flourish throughout Britain?

The hon. Gentleman was—along with the Leader of the Opposition—a great supporter and advocate of the Licensing Act. We welcome his support, although I notice that we have still not heard from the Opposition whether they are disowning their leader or not. The hon. Gentleman is slightly exaggerating the consequences of the Act that the Live Music Forum found; it said that they had been broadly neutral. Clearly, we would like them to be positive, which is why we are looking positively at the forum’s recommendations with a view to coming forward with proposals shortly. We have also asked Feargal Sharkey to lead on the identification of a network of rehearsal spaces to do exactly that.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter was the topical debate only last Thursday? Anybody reading the Hansard of that debate will realise that one of the biggest problems in our drinking culture today is, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) pointed out, alcohol that is sold in our supermarkets at much less than the wholesale cost. As seen on TV adverts, bottles of spirits are going for £10 a time. Will my right hon. Friend look at the problem of young people—to use the new phrase—“pre-loading” at supermarkets before they go out to the pubs?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right; there is a problem in this country of a minority of people drinking too much. The Government are conducting a review of prices and promotions and we will report on it next year. It is clear that there is no single magic bullet that will solve the problem. The Licensing Act can help by providing tougher measures to deal with irresponsible retailers and pubs and clubs, but we need to act together across the board in tackling the health effects, looking at price and promotions and generally changing the culture around drinking in this country.

As the Secretary of State is keen that hon. Members have views consistent with that of their leader, can he explain why on taking office in July the Prime Minister, together with his spin doctors, had a lot of publicity, particularly in the tabloids, about how he was going to change the Act and stop 24-hour drinking? The Secretary of State has been a great advocate of the Act from the Dispatch Box today. I am slightly confused; I would like him to put me right.

We still do not know whether Conservative Members agree with their leader. I can enlighten the right hon. Gentleman, as the Prime Minister said none of those things. What he said was that we had announced a review in 2004 on the effect of the Act, which was confirmed when I was the Minister responsible for licensing in 2005. That is exactly what we are doing. That review has been under way for a number of years. It was announced in 2004 and it has been continuing. That is exactly the right thing to do with legislation: to look at the effect. The effect has been a 5 per cent. fall in serious wounding offences, and the most authoritative study has shown that admittances to accident and emergency departments are down by 2 per cent. What we know from today’s Question Time is that all Conservative Members seem to disagree with their leader.

Arts Funding

3. How much funding the Arts Council England has awarded to (a) opera and (b) brass bands over the last five years. (172199)

In the last five years, the Arts Council England has awarded £987,000 to brass bands. Individuals playing in brass bands have also benefited from grants to the arts under the Arts Council “Take It Away” loan scheme. Over the same period, funding for opera totalled £159.681 million. The Royal Opera House also received funding in excess of £116 million to promote ballet and opera.

I estimate that, over the last five years, for every £1 that brass bands have been given, opera has been given some £1,113. It is even worse than that, because funding for opera has risen by 28 per cent. in the last five years while funding for brass bands has decreased by 22 per cent. Will the Minister agree to meet me and representatives from the brass bands, particularly the community and youth band sector, to ensure that we level up and deal with that gross situation?

I certainly do not want my hon. Friend to be brassed off, so I say to him that I support opera and brass bands. In that spirit, I will of course be delighted to meet him.

As my constituency is the home of the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, may I request that a few brass bands—perhaps from Barnsley—visit my constituency? As far as I am aware, we have none that are funded.

Undoubtedly, the hon. Gentleman will encourage various community groups in his constituency to take up brass band music. He has a good brass section in the opera house orchestra.

Although it is right to subsidise a range of arts, does the Minister accept that a disproportionate amount of subsidy goes to opera, which I enjoy and agree should be subsidised? In particular, does she accept that other forms of art require more subsidy, especially jazz?

We should not get into a bidding process this afternoon. I make a serious point to my hon. Friend, which is that opera is the largest employer in the subsidised arts sector. That is because putting on an opera is complicated. There is a building, scenery and the orchestra to consider. However, we value brass bands and also jazz, which I particularly value.

Independent Cinemas

4. If he will make a statement on the future of independent cinemas with particular reference to the Ritz in Thirsk. (172200)

Independent cinemas are an important part of our thriving cinema industry, offering a wide variety of film experiences to audiences throughout the UK. The UK Film Council has invested more than £6 million in independent cinemas through its funding schemes. That includes £730,000 to support investment in new equipment and facilities, including £4,800 in 2006 for the Ritz in Thirsk, which was just one of the 10 awards in Yorkshire totalling more than £134,000.

Will the right hon. Lady join me in congratulating the Ritz on the sterling work that it does in Thirsk? It is manned by volunteers, who do sterling work through the regular evening performances. Will she reassure all of us who live in or near Thirsk and throughout Vale of York that independent cinemas such as the one in Thirsk will still operate in the digital age?

Indeed; we all value the role that independent cinemas play. I have looked at the statistics and am particularly pleased that, after years of decline in the number of independent cinemas in the UK, there has been the beginnings of an increase in the last year. In part, that is due to the support that the UK Film Council has given, especially in ensuring that the equipment is in place to enable the use of digitised film. That is cheaper and easier, and will offer a better future for independent cinemas.

As my right hon. Friend indicated, going to the movies is an attractive leisure activity, not only for older people, who enjoy daytime viewings, but of course for young people as well. The importance of cinemas to town and city centres is that they provide an alternative to alcohol-fuelled entertainment. My city of Chester has lost all its city-centre cinemas. We are trying to get the Odeon reopened. Will she do more to persuade local authorities to adopt cultural strategies and pursue planning policies that protect cinemas rather than allow them to be in their death-knell, as so many are?

First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on the vigorous campaign that she is pursuing in her constituency for her local cinema. Secondly, like her, I welcome the fact that box office earnings from cinemas have gone up 56 per cent. in the past nine years. Thirdly, the cultural infrastructure in our cities, towns and communities is hugely important because it makes them places where people want to live and work, and therefore makes them successful places.

Given that two out of three of our independent cinemas still do not have a digital projector, and given the right hon. Lady’s warm words about them, does she have a strategy for digital switchover for the rest of our independent cinemas?

I do not have a strategy, but the Film Council does. It is investing £11 million. About one in four of our cinemas have been converted. Of course, it must consider how it can take that further. It has just received a very generous funding settlement over the next spending review period and I have absolutely no doubt that it will bear the hon. Gentleman’s words and my love for cinema in mind as it decides how to distribute those moneys.

Cricket Clubs

Sport England wrote to the England and Wales Cricket Board in August to confirm that clubs affected by the floods were entitled to apply for funding from the National Sports Foundation. To date, two applications have been received. Sport England and the ECB are working together to resolve some outstanding issues surrounding those applications.

I am grateful to the Minister for that response. As he says, to date two applications have been made to Sport England for funding for cricket clubs affected by the recent flooding. Will he inform the House precisely how much money has been paid to those clubs, or can he give an indication of when the money will be paid if it has not been paid so far?

It might help the hon. Gentleman to know that a meeting is taking place today between the chief executive of Sport England and the ECB. I expect all outstanding issues to be resolved and the money to be paid across.

Does the Minister agree that the one club that was worst affected was Worcester cricket club? It lost a number of fixtures, had to relocate many fixtures and is seriously out of budget. Will he look particularly at that application?

Again, it is not me who will be looking at the applications; it will be Sport England through its meetings with the ECB. However, I understand the severity of the situation in Worcester. Obviously, we will do everything that we can to help.

Playing Fields

7. What steps his Department is taking to maintain numbers of playing fields; and if he will make a statement. (172203)

We have tough measures in place to protect community playing fields. Planning guidance to local authorities is clear: no playing field needed by the community should be removed. In addition, Sport England objects to all applications that would result in a loss of playing fields, unless there is a clear benefit to sport. Those protections are working well. The latest published data from Sport England show that 96 per cent. of all applications affecting playing fields represented a net gain or no loss to sport.

I thank the Minister for his reply. Harrow—St. George’s field—Waltham college and Barnet are just three examples in London of playing fields that may be at risk because of the five-year consultation period. During that time, Sport England has to be a consultee, but if a developer sits on the land for five years after that, Sport England is not required to be consulted. What discussions has he had with the Department for Communities and Local Government on that matter? When does he expect that loophole to be plugged?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has raised his concerns a number of times with various Departments. The guidance—in planning policy guidance note 17—is clear, and it is important for us to conform with it; but if any loopholes exist, we must be sure to close them. I shall consider the issue, and I should be happy to discuss it with the hon. Gentleman in more detail later.

Not only is it sacrilege to sell off playing fields, but it is sacrilege for those that are held by schools not to be used at weekends or during summer holidays. Can the Minister ensure that schools, universities and other organisations, including local authorities, work harder together to ensure that football clubs and other sporting clubs, particularly those with youth sections, have access to the fields? Clitheroe Wolves, of which I am president, finds it very difficult to obtain access to playing fields on Saturdays, and it does a tremendous amount of work for the local community.

I do not blame the hon. Gentleman personally, but we will take no lessons from the Opposition about the sale of playing fields. It was the selling off of school playing fields when the hon. Gentleman’s party was in power that created the problem in the first place. What we are doing is ensuring that participation increases along with investment in school sport, and that schools work with sports clubs. We are doing everything we can, including investing £4 billion over the last 10 years.

I hear what my hon. Friend says about the excellent policy of no sales, but surely we should also consider ways in which we can make more effective use of our playing fields. Will my hon. Friend have a word with Sport England about that? Where innovative schemes exist between the private sector and schools, for example, those are just the sort of initiatives that should be supported by appropriate funding.

I wholeheartedly agree that it is important for us to get all sectors working together to provide the best-quality playing fields and sporting venues for our sports people, at whatever level. I also agree that the relationship between the public and private sectors is vitally important.

Listed Buildings

Buildings are listed on the basis of their special architectural and historic interest. Those criteria, together with the general principles of selection, are set out in planning policy guidance note 15.

What is the Minister’s view on the process between applying for listed status and the granting or declining of that status?

We have been consulting on the whole process for a couple of years in the heritage protection review, and we intend to produce a draft Bill for consideration by the House next spring. It will propose opening up and expanding consultation, combining the various schemes in a single system so that there are no longer separate schedule and listing schemes, and the passing down of responsibilities to English Heritage.

I should also be interested in opening a debate on the listing of newer 20th-century buildings, especially those built in the last 75 years or so. We could consider criteria relating to, for instance, whether a building is still fit for purpose, the cost of maintaining it, and the context in which we determine whether to list it, namely the existence or otherwise of buildings of the same kind around the country.

May I draw the Minister’s attention to the magnificent Midland hotel in Morecambe, a listed building which has benefited from £4 million of Government funding and has been restored? May I invite her to visit Morecambe and view the project, and also to view another building—the Winter Gardens—which is in need of Government help?

My hon. Friend has spoken to me a great deal about both buildings. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State intends to go and see the renovation of the hotel in the spring. I hope that her local authority, or others with an interest in the theatre about which she is concerned, will consider whether our new fund of £15 million a year for three years to help coastal resorts in particular could be used to support its renovation and rehabilitation.

Is the Minister satisfied that listed building controls and protections work satisfactorily in relation to the insides as well as the facades of buildings?

If the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about that issue, I think we should discuss it in the context of the draft Bill that we are presenting next year. Members throughout the House have raised many listing issues with me on which—as we have the slot for the draft Bill, and legislation to follow it—we ought to have a serious discussion, hopefully non-partisan, with the aim of improving the system.

I am concerned about a building in my constituency, the Mechanics Institute, which contains the first workers’ library, built for the railway workers in Swindon. It is listed under the criteria that the Minister has announced, but is in danger of falling down through neglect. What powers has the Minister to step in when buildings are in such a state?

I congratulate my hon. Friend on her work to ensure that the institute—part of a tentative world heritage site—is properly looked after and preserved. Once a building is listed, it falls to the local authorities in the area to ensure that the heritage is protected. In this case, there have been three planning applications, all of which have been rejected. English Heritage and the local authority are anxious to engage in discussions with a private developer to secure the long-term future of this fine grade II* listed building.


Following the announcement in this House on 6 December that the Government will not continue with the A303 Stonehenge improvement scheme, the Under-Secretary of State for Transport, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, South (Mr. Harris), and I will meet key stakeholders this evening to discuss the way forward for Stonehenge. Our aim is to find a new solution to improve the setting for Stonehenge, including new visitor facilities, with work being completed in time for the Olympics in 2012.

The Minister has my ensured support for her every effort in finding something to save from the wreckage of the Department for Transport’s Stonehenge fiasco. In seeking to build a new visitors’ centre within five years, will she please not go for a cheap and cheerful option? It must be a world-class, high-quality visitors’ centre appropriate to the greatest world heritage site in this country. We must now look forward and not weep over what happened last week.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman and look forward to working with him to find a lasting solution to the problems affecting a wonderful world heritage site that is currently spoiled by the visitors’ facility and the surrounding road infrastructure. I hope that there will be co-operation across Government. He will know from his time with responsibility for the issue how difficult it is to get all the stakeholders together around the table absolutely determined to find a solution. The catalyst of the 2012 Olympics will, I hope, concentrate everybody’s minds.

Stonehenge is a first-rate heritage site with second-rate facilities supported by a third-rate tourism policy. Even the United Nation’s World Heritage Committee is complaining about the standards at Stonehenge. The Government now admit that they have nothing to show for 10 years of work after spending £23 million of taxpayers’ money. Does not this reflect the Government’s attitude towards tourism, with budgets cut and a failure to stand up to other Government Departments? It has been some time since the druids conducted their last human sacrifice at Stonehenge. Such is the anger at the Government that I suggest the Minister treats with caution any invitation to Stonehenge that she may receive for the next summer solstice.

I have already visited Stonehenge; it is an issue of major concern that I want to resolve. I have had good discussions on the subject with the hon. Gentleman’s Back-Bench colleague, the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key). This Government have invested more in the past 10 years in supporting our heritage and tourism than the previous Government managed in 18 years. I have no doubt that with good will on all sides—including the local Conservative county council and the local district council—I am sure we will reach a conclusion.

That is not an answer. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman would have taken a similar decision had he been sitting on this side of the House. We could not afford to undertake the scheme that was on the table and we need to find a lasting, better and—

Topical Questions

Among the responsibilities of my Department is ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy world-class cultural and sporting activity. To that end, in my recent speech to the Youth Sport Trust I announced a review by Sport England which aims to ensure that we have a world-class community sports system. We put in place funding to ensure that all children will have the chance to do five hours of sport a week. Now my Department is working closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families on a new ambition to give all children a five-hour offer of culture in and out of the curriculum. Our ambitions will be set out in the children’s plan, published this week.

In view of the serious problems affecting football in England, including the stewardship of the game’s affairs, questionable financial matters, parasitic agents, increasing foreign ownership of clubs and the huge influx of foreign players to the detriment of the national side, is it not time that the Government arranged for a royal commission to consider the long-term interests of English football?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has asked about that before, but I do not think that the solution to the issues arising in English football is for politicians to step in and run it. However, it is important—I suspect the hon. Gentleman and I agree on this—that we all look at our role in making sure that we get over our recent problem with qualification. That means that we must look at our role in school sport, which we are doing—we are going from very few people doing sport to all children being offered five hours. It also means that the Football Association must look at its role and make sure that it does not compromise in terms of the reforms of the FA, that it implements the Burns report recommendations in full, and also that we have as independent chair of the FA someone who has the credibility to do that job as we would all want it to be done.

T2. Earlier this year, the BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, undertook to increase BBC Scotland’s contribution to the national network to more than 8 per cent. However, its current share is very much lower that that, and this has had a consequent effect on commissions to independent TV companies, some of which are based in my constituency and are struggling to survive. I ask the Minister to impress upon the BBC that it must address this issue as a matter of urgency to ensure the survival of the industry in Scotland. (172218)

We did impress that upon the BBC—indeed, we put it at the heart of its purposes. In response, the BBC has announced that it will increase the share of production in exactly the way outlined by my hon. Friend, and that should help the independent producers in her constituency.

This morning, 10 of the most senior chief executives of the tourism industry wrote to the Prime Minister expressing their

“anger and disappointment with the Government’s tourism policy.”

Despite the fact that 1.4 million people depend on the industry for their livelihood, one of the chief executives said that

“the DCMS is inadequately defending our interests.”

Given that the Secretary of State’s Department has cut the VisitBritain budget and abandoned a public service agreement target to make tourism a £100 billion industry, will he say whether he has a vision for tourism, whether he has given up on the tourism industry, or whether this is what Baldrick would call “a cunning plan” to minimise the international attention on domestic Government crises by minimising the number of international visitors?

I am afraid that that was almost as laboured as the druid joke of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood). The hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mr. Hunt) fails to recognise that we have a plan; it is published in the 2012 document, of which I am sure he is aware. We have also doubled over the past 10 years the amount of money going from central Government to tourism, and we have announced that we want to make sure that we use more effectively the £348 million that is being spent, which is why we have asked VisitBritain to conduct a review of how it does so.

The Secretary of State may like to use soothing words, and this Government have always been good at words and reports, but here are the facts: since his Government came to power, this country’s market share of international tourist visits has fallen by 10 per cent. and our market share of international tourism spend has decreased by 14 per cent. The report mentioned was about the Olympics, which offers a huge opportunity to put this right, but tourism chiefs also said this morning that the Government were

“squandering a once in a lifetime opportunity”

to use the Olympics. Will the Secretary of State have the courage to revisit his approach, so that our hard-pressed tourism industry can thrive because of Government policies rather than despite them?

That is exactly what we are trying to do. The hon. Gentleman is failing to recognise the fact that since 1997 we have doubled the amount of money spent by central Government through the regional development agencies, which I believe he is committed to abolishing. Until he is prepared to match his criticisms with increased funding, the tourism industry will not pay any attention to him.

T7. The Secretary of State has taken a detailed interest in the digital switchover process in my constituency, one of the most important parts of which was clearly the targeted assistance scheme. Now that switchover has occurred, has his Department made any assessment of the effectiveness of that scheme? (172223)

We shall be reviewing that as a consequence of the scheme in Copeland. The initial conclusion is that the scheme is broadly correct; it is the most generous in the world and it is one of the things that will help to smooth the process of digital switchover. We all recognise that this is a huge undertaking—it is a significant technological undertaking and a big social change—and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and his local council and voluntary organisations which played such a proactive and confident role in ensuring that this was a success and in putting Copeland and Whitehaven on the map.

T3. The Secretary of State recently announced that Sport England will no longer have responsibility for ensuring that people keep active and participate in exercise—that will now be the Department of Health’s responsibility. Will he set out what written undertaking he has received from the Department of Health that it will make this a priority? May we see a copy of any such written undertaking? (172219)

Given that it was leaked to The Observer recently, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have read about it. It was rather misrepresented in The Observer as the newspaper talked about our wanting to focus on elite sport. We want to focus on having world-class community sport: we said in our Olympic promises that we would have a world-class sporting nation, and that is exactly what we will do. The goal of raising activity is important and legitimate. As the hon. Gentleman said, we shall be working with the Department of Health, and with other colleagues, on ensuring that a long-term cultural change takes place so that the problem of obesity is addressed. We need to be clear that that will be done partly through sport—that will be Sport England’s role—but not exclusively so.

We are always concerned when issues affect the integrity of a sport. I hope that the horse racing authorities will examine what happened in this individual case and make any necessary changes to their rules.

T6. Will the Secretary of State have a word with all lottery distributors about the fairness of their grants, given that the much wealthier Buckingham constituency, which borders mine, has received more than three times as much grant as my constituency? Excellent applications from both Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard have recently been turned down. Will he look into the matter? (172222)

It is important that all constituencies do their utmost to get as much money from the lottery as possible. Clearly, that depends on the quality of the bids, so is it important that the hon. Gentleman helps his constituents to ensure that the bids that they put forward are quality bids. I am sure that they will then get the money to which they are entitled.

T8. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Hebden Royd town council on its successful People’s Millions bids to develop and reform Calder Homes park following a momentous regional head-to-head battle on television, which genuinely allowed the people to vote? (172224)

I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituents on the outstanding bid that they put forward. The point that we are making about bids is not so much about the quality, but about the number of bids received by the lottery funders. It is important that people consider what they are trying to achieve with the different types of bids for the different types of funds that are available.

T9. Is the Minister aware that there is still real concern in my constituency, particularly among pensioners, about the rising costs of the Olympics? Will he reassure my constituents that London council tax payers will not be responsible for funding any Olympic losses, and that their contribution will be capped? (172225)

The Mayor has been quite clear on that matter. I understand that these issues are best addressed in the next set of questions to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics.

T10. Could the Minister of State explain the contradiction in the fact that Stonehenge is considered a national issue by her Department but it is considered a regional one where transport is concerned? (172226)

Stonehenge is a national issue because it is one of our world heritage sites, but decisions on transport priorities are best left to the regions. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman, as a Liberal Democrat, would support the decentralisation of decision making in all areas of government.

I and other seaside MPs warmly welcome the dedicated £45 million investment. Will my right hon. Friend consider the charms of the proposal to relocate the theatre museum to Blackpool and, more prosaically, how quickly the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment will produce the guidelines and open the competition for the funding?

I congratulate my hon. Friend and the group of MPs who have worked with him to persuade us of the importance of investing in our seaside resorts. We are waiting for CABE to come forward with some guidelines and proposal for its management of that budget. The money comes on stream from April and we would like to get it spent as quickly as possible.

Despite the tough stance taken by Guildford borough council on town centre drinking and standing up to big business, residents of Guildford continue to suffer from alcohol-fuelled crimes in some of our streets. What action will the Secretary of State take to give comfort to my residents?

I do not know whether the hon. Lady grew up in Guildford, as I did, but there was no problem then and, as my family continue to live there, I know that it emerged before the Licensing Act 2003, which was introduced to provide people with tough powers. I take it that the hon. Lady also disagrees with her leader when he said—[Interruption.] I am sure that the Opposition do not like—


The Minister for the Olympics was asked—

Budget (Essex)

1. What estimate she has made of the proportion of the budget for the 2012 Olympic Games which will be spent in Essex; and if she will make a statement. (172189)

Weald country park in Essex will host the mountain biking at the Olympic games. There will be enormous opportunities for the people of Essex and the rest of the UK to take full advantage of the commercial opportunities, the chance to volunteer and the cultural events that will form part of 2012. I also draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the statement that I issued this morning confirming that, following a detailed review, the baseline budget for the Olympic Delivery Authority remains at £6.1 billion, with a contingency of just over £2 billion, within the total Government funding package I announced in March of £9.325 billion.

I am grateful for that answer, but I still have no real information about how much of the budget will be spent in Essex. Most of the county is within an hour of the Olympic site and, in order for it to partake in the construction and the service industry that will make the games the great success that they must be, and for Essex people to go and enjoy the games, we need our infrastructure upgraded. Will any of the money be spent on improving our roads and railways so that we can contribute to the games?

There will be substantial opportunities for businesses in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to compete for the thousands of contracts that will be let over the next few months. He should ensure that all businesses receive electronic alerts to let them know that contracts are becoming available and he should encourage his constituents to volunteer for the games. There will also be opportunities in relation to training camps and so on. The initiative lies with Essex because the Olympic opportunities are available.

What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport about the need to sort out the parlous junction of the A13 and M25 just north of the Dartford-Thurrock crossing before the Olympic games? Unless that is addressed, many visitors to the Olympics will be frustrated. I want to see joined-up government, because we need some movement on that issue.

Certainly, transport infrastructure investment is an important part of the Olympic legacy, in the area around the Olympic park in London and elsewhere. I am happy to write to my hon. Friend about the junction he refers to.

A year ago, in relation to the Olympic budget, the Minister told the Select Committee:

“I want to be absolutely sure that nobody draws any conclusion that ‘programme contingency’ translates inevitably into ‘additional cost’.”

Now that the chairman of the ODA and the permanent secretary have both suggested that it is likely that it will all be extra cost, can the Minister say whether she expects that any of the programme contingency will remain unspent?

Let me answer the hon. Gentleman’s question with two points. First, as he is well aware, the contingency provision that is available to the ODA, at just over £2 billion, is net of £500 million that has already been allocated through the internal government funders committee to the ODA. Secondly, it is important to be clear that the money drawn from contingency is to meet risks that may be encountered as the development proceeds. Over the next six months, some £5 billion of projects related to the Olympic park will be commissioned and will begin. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that contingency meets risk, and, no, it is not certain that the whole contingency will be drawn down, but the chairman of the ODA is absolutely right: we will be clear about that only when the games are over. However, the probability assessment, which confirms the robustness of the budget, gives us grounds for optimism that not all the contingency will be used.


2. If she will make a statement on the opportunities and procedures for volunteering in relation to hosting the 2012 Olympics. (172190)

The London Organising Committee estimates that 70,000 volunteers will be needed for the 2012 games. Since we won the bid, some 160,000 people have registered their interest in becoming volunteers for the games. We hope that, beyond the 70,000 who will be recruited to work in the Olympic park, there will be opportunities for people around the country who wish to volunteer, so that the good will and enthusiasm is all used.

I thank the Minister for her reply, but what would she say to my formidable constituency secretary, Marjorie Ramsey, who could probably organise the London Olympics single-handed, who telephoned to offer her services and was told that she was too old? What will the Minister do to ensure that the London Organising Committee operates an equal opportunities policy?

I would say that that was a shocking and no doubt wholly unintended offence. Perhaps on the strength of the publicity that Marjorie Ramsey’s application has been given, she will phone again.

I understand that, when people put their names forward to be volunteers, they are told to go off and do some volunteering activity. Does my right hon. Friend think that we need to have something more coherent and planned in relation to volunteers to ensure that they are properly equipped and trained to do the job when it comes up?

My hon. Friend makes some important points. This is an opportunity to engage not just people in the Olympic park, but some of the most disadvantaged people across the 11 London boroughs, who will have their first opportunity to learn skills through volunteering that could get them the job that they have never had. There are many opportunities, and volunteering as a way of acquiring and developing skills is one of the great legacy opportunities for the Olympics which we intend to realise.

Given that it will encourage even more people to volunteer for this wonderful project if the financial arrangements are sound, can the Minister not only guarantee that the budget will be transparent but answer the question dodged by the Secretary of State and guarantee that the London Olympic precept will not be raised by the current Labour Mayor?

May I thank the right hon. Lady for the briefing that her Department gave me this morning?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) said, volunteers are key to the delivery of the pledges on mass participation that were such an important part of London’s bid in Singapore. Given that the budget announced this morning confirms that only £290 million is available for very specific sports tasks related to the Olympics, and, of course, that the national lottery is being hit further to pay for the Olympics themselves, how on earth will the commitments on mass participation in sport be met?

I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the birth of his son, James, who will probably be a bit too young to be a volunteer, even in 2012.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point in that there is certainly provision in the budget—some £290 million—to cover the cost of not only some elite sport, but some community sport development. However, outside and beyond the Olympic budget, which will regenerate the park and build the transport and venues, there are the Olympic opportunities that will be met right across government and will boost participation in both sport and physical activity. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has clearly described, that will be one of the important ambitions that will be realised, and the detail will be set out when we publish the legacy action plan next year.


3. What steps are being taken to improve the skills of local people seeking work on the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games. (172191)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s long campaign on increasing skills, especially among the most disadvantaged people. She will be pleased to know that the Olympic site will become a national skills academy for construction, providing specialist skills to local workers through at least 1,000 job and training placements, with more than 500 apprenticeship places. Training is also under way in other key sectors: media, sport and hospitality.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I am thinking about Olympic projects up and down the country as well. What kind of work is the Department doing to identify the skills that will be needed between now and 2012 so that places such as Laing O’Rourke, which is near my constituency—it is between Bolsover and Bassetlaw—and employs 320 skilled workers, can benefit from those projects?

That is precisely what we want to achieve. I know that my hon. Friend will work closely with her regional development agency, which has ambitious plans, and the Learning and Skills Council to ensure that her constituents have the opportunity to become skilled and be eligible for jobs in not only the Olympic park but her constituency.