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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 471: debated on Monday 28 January 2008

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Local Film Festivals

Film festivals are an important part of building an audience for film throughout the UK, and more than £1.6 million has already been spent on local film festivals in 2007-08. In addition, the former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), announced in November that the UK Film Council would make a further £4.5 million available for national film festivals and regional festivals with national significance.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, and I congratulate him on taking up his new post: we wish him well. I urge him to look at the website, to see for himself the success of the first Bacup film festival of last year. We want to build on that and expand the festival this year, in order to enhance the cultural life of the Rossendale valley. May I urge him to look at the funding for such small film festivals? I hope that he will be able to assist us.

I thank my hon. Friend for her question. It seems like only yesterday that we were discussing film policy together in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and I knew my luck was in when I saw that she had the first question today, because I could not think of a friendlier face to give me a gentler introduction to my new post.

I saw first-hand my hon. Friend’s work in setting up the Film Council, and she should take great pride in the British film industry’s success since the time she was a DCMS Minister. She is now doing the same for Bacup. I wish her well in that role, and I will certainly want to visit—I have been told that my new job is good for getting the hottest tickets, and I cannot think of better tickets than a couple on the front row at the Bacup film festival this year.

I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new post. There are plans for a film festival in my constituency, and I hope that there will be enough funding to go round. May I emphasise that it is essential that funding in the creative industries, particularly film, goes to the regions, especially as ITV is currently pulling back from regional news and investment? Therefore, any extra money that goes into film and television in the regions is important.

I entirely agree. As I mentioned in my previous answer, we have made money available over three years to support film festivals in all parts of the country. The hon. Gentleman will know that last year’s summer of British film, where funding was made available to support the use of digital screens, was another great success. In a changing broadcasting world, where there is lots of global content, regional and local programming is increasingly important to people in the UK.

Sport (Girls)

The annual school sport survey shows that, although the disparity in participation in sport between girls’ schools and boys’ schools is narrowing, there remains a need to reduce the gap further. Key to achieving that is to provide further sporting opportunities that respond better to girls’ needs and abilities. That is why we are investing an additional £100 million to offer physical education and sport to all pupils aged from five to 16, and three hours for those aged 16 to 19.

I welcome the progress the Minister is making in this area, but does he not share my concern that 1 million children still do not participate in two hours of sport a week? The Government’s own most recent figures show that they are failing to meet targets to increase the number of women participating in sport. Will the Minister explain what steps the Government are taking to ensure that activities that young girls want to participate in, such as dance, where demand outstrips supply—

I cannot see how 86 per cent. can be a failure, so we are clearly doing very well on school participation, but we want to do more, especially with girls. We must be careful that girls are not stereotyped by participating in certain sports: instead, we have to broaden the offer. We are doing that by, for instance, working with the Youth Sport Trust, and looking at whether we can introduce dance and creativity. I wonder whether the hon. Lady saw the news today that Kelly Holmes is looking at steps such as the wearing of loose-fitting clothes as opposed to tight PE skirts, to make people feel better about themselves and get more involved in sport.

I join other Members in welcoming my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to his new role; he is a great choice for the job. On the issue of girls’ and women’s participation in sport, it is understood that there is a bias in national funding, from the top to the bottom, in favour of sports played by men and boys, and that needs to be looked into. Members of the national women’s football team do not even receive salaries; they have to do other jobs. That is not an encouragement to girls. Will the new Secretary of State make it a priority to address that imbalance in funding from the top right down to the grass roots, which are so important?

This is an important point. We have been trying to ensure that the fastest increase is among girls playing football, and to ensure, through the Football Association, that we have an elite league and investment in women’s football. As I said earlier, through the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, we are trying to ensure that we stop any imbalance and promote opportunities for girls and women. A dance review is taking place, so the future looks good, but we must ensure that we get to those hard-to-reach groups.

Will the Minister agree to meet his Home Office colleagues to discuss the need to increase participation in sport of girls and boys in our young offender prison estate, where the provision of sport for young people is still far too low?

I heartily agree, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this issue. He will know that one of my previous roles was in the Home Office, dealing with young offenders. The busiest place in a young offender institution—and, indeed, a prison—is the gym, and we must try to channel that activity into sport. I believe that there is a great role for sport to play in helping support offenders and in getting them away from offending.

There is only one sport in which girls and boys participate equally in England and Wales—swimming. However, Paris has more 50 m swimming pools than England and Wales put together. That is partly because it is very expensive for local authorities to build and maintain swimming pools. Will the Government consider building more 50 m pools and making sure that funding comes from central Government, rather than local government?

I think that my hon. Friend has been speaking to the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) about 50 m pools. We clearly need to see investment in sports infrastructure, and we are proud of our record over the past 10 years. It is important that local authorities play their part. We want them to have facility strategies, so that they can work out what is required in their areas. We hope that the sports partnerships can help them to build more pools, if that is what is required.

May I start by welcoming the new Secretary of State to his post? The two greatest barriers to increasing female participation in sport are a reluctance among girls to take part in the conventional school sport offer, and an appalling post-school drop-out rate. Given the Government’s reorganisation of Sport England, will the Minister be absolutely clear about whether the responsibility for increasing the number of girls doing dance, yoga and the like lies with Sport England, or has been transferred to the Department of Health?

Increasing participation is a target across government, but what is important is that we make sure that all Government Departments can contribute. On participation, we are working very closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families and with the Department of Health to make sure that there are no gaps for people to fall through. However, the question of where the responsibility will lie depends on the outcome of the Sport England review, which we hope will take place toward the end of February. The review will doubtless make sure that we do not let girls and hard-to-target groups fall through such gaps.

Commonwealth Games (Glasgow)

3. What progress has been made in his Department’s work with the organising company and the Scottish Executive on providing support for the 2014 Commonwealth games in Glasgow. (182024)

We are committed to working with the organising company and all the key partners to ensure a successful Commonwealth games in Glasgow that can be enjoyed by the whole of the UK.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and I hope that he will take the opportunity to visit Glasgow in the near future, and to see the benefits of the new facility provided by Glasgow city council. However, does he agree that the somewhat churlish attitude adopted by the nationalists in opposing the Olympics is counter-productive? The interest in sport that will be generated by the Olympics, and the knowledge and experience that we will gain from it, will be of direct benefit to Glasgow and to the games.

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for her comments. I note that not many Scottish Nationalists are in their seats this afternoon to talk about this important sporting issue. As the UK Minister with responsibility for sport, I am concerned that we have the unified voice that we need in promoting sport. The Commonwealth games will benefit the whole of the UK, and UK Sport contributes to the success of athletes, particularly Scottish athletes. We must make sure that there is no narrow nationalist line affecting sport’s ability to unite all our nations.

As a London Member, may I welcome Glasgow’s getting the Commonwealth games, which is every bit as much a national games as the Olympics in 2012? However, what plans are afoot to ensure that there is a specific national lottery game for the Glasgow Commonwealth games before 2012, as well as in the two-year period up to Commonwealth games?

The commissioning of new games is a matter for the National Lottery Commission. If such a game is needed, I am sure that discussions will be held about that. Clearly, we will want to work with the organising company when it is set up—it is in its early stages—and these are the sorts of issues that we will discuss.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the focus on the 2012 Olympics means there is a challenge in promoting the 2014 Glasgow games throughout the UK? Will he hold early discussions with the Welsh Assembly Government to promote across Wales the excellent prospect of a Commonwealth games in Glasgow?

Again, I would be happy to do that. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work on all things sporting, not least his prowess on the football pitch for the parliamentary football team. He makes an important point. I shall have regular meetings with the Welsh sports Minister and the Scottish Executive sports Minister to ensure that we co-ordinate our response to the benefit of both the Olympic and Commonwealth games.

Members on both sides of the House have rightly emphasised the importance of the legacy of the Olympic games. Will there be a legacy of the Commonwealth games? What will Glaswegians benefit from after those excellent games in 2014 have ended?

I hope that Glaswegians benefit from the inspiration of sport—it can help people’s health and education. We are looking forward to a decade of sport. This is not just about the London Olympics in 2012 and the Commonwealth games in 2014, because from next year a major sporting event will be held in the UK every year. I hope that we can unite to ensure that all our different spheres benefit from making sport successful.

Portable Antiquities Scheme

The portable antiquities scheme is funded by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. In recognition of the scheme’s importance, the MLA intends to maintain current funding for the next financial year while it undertakes a review, with the British Council and other stakeholders.

I know that the Minister is aware of the excellent work of the portable antiquities scheme—it has recorded more than 314,000 finds on its database and its website received 82 million hits last year. It is probably one of the few successful Government databases to date. She will also be aware of the concerns expressed in my early-day motion, which has been signed by 161 Members, from all parties. Does she realise that the MLA’s proposal to freeze the funding will result in the loss of five front-line, important jobs? Is it not time to transfer the direct responsibility for the PAS to the British Museum, which has been running the scheme successfully and is best placed to promote and expand it in the best interests of promoting culture in this country? The British Museum has had such success in promoting culture through the PAS.

First, I agree with the hon. Gentleman’s remarks about the success of the scheme—we all think it is an incredibly successful scheme. Of course, it is another mark-up for a Labour Government, because we introduced it in 1997. Secondly, rumours abound about a loss of staff, but that has not been approved by anybody and is a matter for the scheme itself. It has received not only a bit of inflationary funding from the MLA, but extra funding from the British Museum, so I am unsure why those running the scheme feel the need to make a cut.

In a tight fiscal environment, we want to see how we can best maintain and grow the scheme and where the best synergies lie. That could be with the British Museum, through the renaissance in the regions programme or by the scheme’s remaining in the MLA. Those are the options that will be examined by the British Museum and all other stakeholders during the review.

The House will be familiar with the reign of the late third century Roman emperor of Britain, Carausius, who was overthrown in a coup d’état by his finance Minister—no change there, then. Two very valuable golden coins from his reign were recently unearthed by an east midlands farmer and they have joined the 330,000 discoveries in the portable antiquities scheme collection. Will the Minister reassure the House that incentives will be given for future finds of that kind to go to the PAS, because otherwise for lack of finance such finds will not be interpreted and the British public will not be able to identify with their past of two millenniums ago?

I would love to see the coins to which my hon. Friend refers. I have been privileged to see a number of the finds for which the scheme has been responsible. We know how successful the scheme has been, because in 2006, the last year for which figures are available, 97 per cent. of the finds by members of the public came through funds liaison officers, who work on that scheme.

The scheme is in a good place. Confirmation of the continuation of the MLA’s funding of the scheme, at a time when its own funding has been quite severely constrained, demonstrates the general regard in which the scheme is held. I have no doubt that all those working on the review will try to ensure that the scheme is maintained over time.

I encourage the Minister, in her constant battle with the Treasury, to ensure that the scheme is expanded rather than frozen. It is one of the great success stories in the world of archaeology and my county archaeologist told me only this morning that in Wiltshire alone—which has the world heritage site of Stonehenge and Avebury—more than 20 Roman sites a year are being identified. Relations with metal detectorists, which have been bad for years, are suddenly coming good, and that is to the benefit of the whole of archaeology.

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we have very good relationships with the Treasury, not least because we have an ex-Chief Secretary as our Secretary of State. We achieved a good settlement in tight fiscal circumstances for the whole of the DCMS budget. I have no doubt that the scheme will continue in good health, but a review is sensible, to discover whether any good synergies will emerge from relocation. That could save money at the back end so that more can be spent on front-line services.

When something is working, is it not a good idea to leave it alone? Could the Secretary of State not be persuaded to understand that before this scheme was working efficiently, many archaeological finds were lost to the United Kingdom and even to museums in general? Would it not be more sensible simply to accept that far from putting the scheme into the freezer while we consider whether it is successful, we should give it more money and encouragement, especially as—for once—we have managed to get something working efficiently?

I have a great regard for my hon. Friend, but I do not agree that the best way to protect and promote good schemes is to leave them untouched. There is always room to see whether we can improve the effectiveness of the scheme or find efficiencies. The context in which we run schemes can change, and my hon. Friend will be aware, as I am, of the current fiscal constraints. We have to ensure that we get best value for every £1 we spend.

As we are discussing archaeology, I remind the Minister that the scheme was started in 1996 by the Conservative Government. How can she describe as a good settlement a 25 per cent. cut in the MLA’s funding, a £3 million cut in its budget and the loss of five posts from a scheme that she herself has said is incredibly successful?

The hon. Gentleman is being selective in his use of statistics. The MLA’s budget has not been cut: it has risen with inflation. However, we have chosen to prioritise within its budget the funding for the renaissance programme, which will ensure that we can conserve, and build on, the great advances that we have made in our regional museums. That is important for all sorts of reasons, not just because we want to conserve those very good collections. Regional museums can provide the first experience of museum visiting for those who cannot travel to the national museums. If children go to museums, they are much more likely to go as adults, so I do not apologise for making that a priority.

Within the remaining funding that is available to the MLA, we have to look for financial efficiencies, but I repeat that this particular scheme has not been cut. The cut of five posts is not justified in relation to the budget figures, although there may be management reasons for it—I do not know. I applaud the MLA, because all hon. Members on both sides of the House agree that it is a good scheme that should continue. However, it should still be reviewed, because that is the responsible thing to do.

National Museums (Children)

Some 8.4 million children under 16 visited national museums in 2006-07. That represents a 79 per cent. increase in child visits since the introduction of free admission for children in April 1999.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer. She will know that the renaissance in the regions programme introduced by the Government has been of tremendous benefit to local museums. As a member of Friends of Luton Museums, I know that many more young children have been to our museums as a result of the increased funding. What more will she do to help even more children to go to national museums, especially children who live long distances away?

I acknowledge the work that my hon. Friend has done in his constituency. There are two museums in Luton: the Stockwood Discovery Centre, where we are investing £6 million, and the Wardown Park museum, which is about to receive an excellent touring exhibition on ancient Greece from the British Museum. [Hon. Members: “A Tory exhibition?”] A touring exhibition. It is due to open on 3 March.

What we can do consists partly of what we have already done, which Opposition Members seem to think is not a good idea—ensuring that the renaissance in the regions programme is protected and expanded a little bit in the current comprehensive spending review period. The other thing that we can do involves a programme similar to the very successful sports offer in school, which we introduced, which gives children an entitlement to two hours of sport a week rising to five hours. We are working on introducing a cultural offer giving children two hours a week rising to five hours of experiencing and participating in culture. Part of that must involve going to museums. If people go to museums as children, they are far more likely to go as adults.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of representing the leader of my party in Liverpool at the deeply moving holocaust memorial event. It struck me how difficult it is to convey a sensitive subject such as wartime atrocities to all age ranges. Will the Minister of State join me in expressing admiration for how the Imperial War museum and the Royal Air Force museum, to take but two examples, manage to cover the whole spectrum, supplying information to children at one end and those undertaking the deepest academic research at the other?

It is wonderful to find unity across the House. I concur completely with everything that the hon. Gentleman said. Work is done on that subject by a range of organisations, including our museums, as well as the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, which does an enormous amount of important work, particularly in schools, to bring to life for this generation the atrocities of past generations. It is hugely important work, and we need to continue it in future generations.

My right hon. Friend will have heard the comments of the previous Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell), when I raised with him the problems that have occurred as a result of the wonderful success of the free entry programme. The programme has caused problems for museums such as the National Waterways museum in my constituency. He made a very positive statement in relation to the work of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. Can the Minister of State give us a progress report and tell us when we will see some positive evidence of delivery to help my museum?

I am aware of the problems relating to the National Waterways museum, and I know that my right hon. Friend the previous Secretary of State met representatives from the museum early in his tenure to discuss them. The truth is that it will be extremely difficult for us, given the budget constraints, to introduce new museums into the national family eligible for free admission. I am happy to meet my hon. Friend and any others he wants to bring along to discuss alternative funding sources to ensure the continuation of that valuable museum resource in his constituency.

Arts (North-East)

Arts Council England is responsible for Government support for the arts. Its budget for the north-east is £ 13.5 million this year.

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment, and wish him well for many years to come? The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art is very popular, thanks to financial support from the Government and Middlesbrough council: the funding that has been provided has gone down very well. So far this year, 150,000 people have visited the art gallery. May I invite my right hon. Friend to visit the gallery and see for himself the great success that the Labour Government have created in Middlesbrough?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend, both for his question and for his kind invitation. Indeed, I will take him up on it, and go to Middlesbrough at the earliest opportunity. In towns in both the north-east and the north-west, we see the crucial role that arts and culture can play in leading regeneration. I saw it myself in Liverpool on Saturday, where the new Museum of Liverpool is changing the shape of the Liverpool waterfront. He is absolutely right to say that arts and culture can be the centrepiece of successful regeneration programmes, and I look forward to seeing what is happening in his own area of Middlesbrough.

Notwithstanding the Secretary of State’s comments, is he aware of the serious concerns expressed by many arts organisations, including the Compass theatre in Sheffield, that decisions by the Arts Council are dictated more by questions of social engineering than of artistic merit? Will he undertake an urgent review of the guidelines under which the Arts Council operates?

May I tell the Chairman of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport that it is a long-standing principle that the Arts Council should operate at arm’s length from the Department and from Government generally? It would be quite inappropriate for me to breach that principle so soon into my job. In a former role, I made it clear that all public sector bodies should be subject to challenge and that money should be moved around the system to fund greater excellence. I support the Arts Council in what it is doing to ensure that that goal is achieved.

May I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment? The last time the Lindisfarne Gospels visited the north-east at the Laing art gallery in Newcastle, record numbers of visitors came to see them. Would he agree to meet a delegation of people who are campaigning for a return visit of the gospels to the north-east, particularly in light of the exposé in The Journal in Newcastle of the concerted campaign by the metropolitan cultural snobs on the board of the British Library, who have worked hard to try to prevent them from visiting the region again?

I am grateful for that question, but I will not pass comment—[Interruption.] I hesitate to agree with my hon. Friend, as that would be a sure way to the exit door. However, I would, of course, be happy to meet him and a delegation from the north-east.

Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), has the Secretary of State in the short time in which he has been in post, had an opportunity to see the grant application form from the Arts Council, which asks people who have applied to funding to give the number of members of their management committee who are bisexual, gay, lesbian or heterosexual? Will the Secretary of State explain why on earth funding should be based on people’s sexual orientation, and is funding for the arts in the north-east really dependent on how many gays and lesbians happen to apply for it?

I am dismayed by the tone of the hon. Gentleman’s question. I know that he is following the tone set by the Leader of the Opposition, who complained that the Arts Council was giving too many grants to “one-legged Lithuanian lesbians”. That is wrong on two counts: it is not just offensive but it breaches the Arts Council’s arm’s length principle. It is important to point out that the excellent McMaster report, published just a few weeks ago, says very clearly that we should move from measurement to judgment: we should reduce the targets for arts organisations, fund excellence, and give those organisations the freedom to put on the very best possible work for as many people as possible. I entirely endorse that principle, and I do not believe that politicians in the House should meddle in the Arts Council’s decisions.

Participation in Sport

8. What recent estimate he has made of the level of participation in sport in the UK; and if he will make a statement. (182029)

The 2006-07 school sport survey showed that 86 per cent. of pupils were doing at least two hours of high quality physical education and school sport a week, exceeding the 85 per cent. target.

Hopefully the new Secretary of State believes that sports clubs will play a key role in increasing participation in sport across the country. If so, what does he make of the dreadful figures showing that so few people are members of sports clubs in our country compared with our European neighbours? Could those figures have something to do with this Government having not given sufficient lottery money to sports clubs and having deprived them of money that should have gone to them?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that sports clubs play a hugely important role in encouraging young people and others to take up sport. My constituency has some of the best amateur rugby league clubs in the country, and the Government have supported them through initiatives such as the community club development fund, which has got money through governing bodies straight to the clubs. We have also introduced community amateur sports clubs tax relief, which helps amateur sports clubs. In this job, it will be my passion to increase, improve, help and support the network of sports clubs in this country, which give so much more back to communities than simply the opportunity to play sport.

Will my right hon. Friend congratulate Stafford Town football club on receiving £670,000 from the lottery and the National Sports Foundation for its community work? Will he accept the suggestion made to me last week by sixth-formers at Wolgarston high school, Penkridge, who said that we should forge stronger links between community amateur sports clubs and schools, so that when young people’s interest in sport is sparked at school, they can continue it outside and after school?

I entirely endorse my hon. Friend’s comments. I am one of those who was unfortunate enough to be at school in the 1980s under a previous Administration. I remember when competitive sport was taken away: I was aged 15 at the time, and cricket and football ended—it was a devastating blow. We need to get those links right, so that we get competitive sport back in schools. We need strong links with local clubs, so that players come through and go on to play for those clubs. That is exactly the right way to go.

Regional Theatre

9. What the Government’s policy is on regional theatre in England; and if he will make a statement. (182030)

Policy on regional theatre is determined by the Arts Council England. It published its theatre policy document in November 2006, and it is available on its website. The document sets out its priorities for theatre from 2007 to 2011.

While I imagine that most hon. Members on both sides of the House subscribe to the principle of the arm’s-length funding of the arts, which the new Secretary of State has articulated, equally I think that many hon. Members on both sides of the House will be perplexed and bemused by some of the recent Arts Council decisions with regard to the regional funding of theatres, not least the Bush theatre in London and, more locally to me, the Northcote theatre in Exeter, which has just received £2 million in renovation grants from the Arts Council and was set to receive its budget grant. Now there has been a volte-face, which I welcome. With the new Secretary of State in his post and the outgoing chief executive of the Arts Council, Peter Hewitt, being replaced by Alan Davey from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, it is timely to have a fundamental review of the guidelines—my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), the Select Committee Chairman, just asked the Secretary of State for such a review—outlining what the Arts Council should be doing in the 21st century that does not compromise the principle of arm’s-length funding.

The implication of the hon. Gentleman’s remarks is that the only thing that has gone wrong and on which he wants to intervene is the arm’s-length funding. If we were to interfere with that principle, it would kill off freedom of expression, inhibit artistic freedom and destroy much of the excellence in the arts of which we are so proud in Great Britain today. Beyond that, the Arts Council works to guidelines set by the Department, answerable to Parliament, in each spending review period. Within that framework, it should be left alone to make the best judgments. As the hon. Gentleman well knows, no final decisions have been made yet—they will be made later this week.

Topical Questions

I take on this new role at a time of tremendous opportunity for culture, sport and media in this country, and I will work enthusiastically to ensure that we make the most of that opportunity. I pay tribute to my predecessor—and, indeed, to my predecessor’s predecessor—for setting the Department on a clear direction towards delivering world-class cultural and sporting activity. I intend to continue that work, and my primary focus will be where the Government’s should be: on the base of the talent pyramid, giving people new opportunities to develop artistic and sporting talents. The Government have made progress, but too much talent is still going unspotted. That is the challenge, in my dream job—to make sure that everyone else has the opportunity to realise their dreams.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. I echo the good wishes of all Members of the House and congratulate him on his new appointment.

I am the Member of Parliament for the most diverse constituency in the UK. Will the Secretary of State say whether he supports the new McMaster review on excellence, and in particular, its recommendations on diversity?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question and for her warm welcome. I am happy to endorse fully the conclusions of the McMaster report. People who have read it will have seen that it is the very opposite of elitist. It seeks to reclaim the word “excellence” from those who push an elitist view of the arts. It is not without its challenges. On diversity, McMaster says:

“We live in one of the most diverse societies the world has ever seen, yet this is not reflected in the culture we produce, or in who is producing it.”

My hon. Friend is right to highlight diversity as an incredibly important issue for the arts in the years to come. There is more to do, but we have set out the right direction in this report, and we will follow it through.

T2. The new Secretary of State has a lot of experience of comprehensive spending reviews. In the 2004 review, the Government set a target for the growth of the tourism and creative leisure industries. By 2007, no mention was made of tourism at all. Why was there that change in Government priorities? (182005)

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman mentioned the funding settlement for the Department; my right hon. Friend the Minister of State also mentioned it a moment ago. Like her, I pay tribute to the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury for securing such a marvellous settlement for the Department. The Department has more funds; it can prioritise and ensure that the Olympics bring more tourists into this country. Like everybody else, the tourism authorities in this country have to prioritise and make sure that they spend their funds as wisely as possible. That is what they will do.

T3. Sport is topical at the moment. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the most important thing is to get people to play sport and that they have to have facilities? Will he ensure, through his good offices, that funding will be available for sporting villages, which Chorley sorely lacks at the moment? (182007)

I heartily agree with my hon. Friend; a sports village in Chorley would be more than welcome. We are happy to work with him and the agencies to ensure that we have the sporting infrastructure to build on the £4 billion of investment in sport that there has been in the past 10 years. The Government cannot be accused of not investing in sport. We want to do more and to get more people actively involved.

I believe that the Secretary of State is an Everton fan, so he will know the importance of stable management at the top of clubs. No doubt he will be as bemused as we are that he is the third Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport in just eight months. However, we warmly welcome him to his post.

The Secretary of State said that he fully endorsed the McMaster report. One of its recommendations is that the Arts Council should have a representative in the recruitment processes for every organisation that he funds. Is that not an appalling imposition of central control that completely breaches the arm’s-length principle of arts funding and is completely against the spirit of letting a thousand flowers bloom?

I thank the shadow Secretary of State for his kind introduction. Mr. David Moyes is probably a fine example to everybody in Government of stability and making the right decisions for the long term.

I spent the weekend studying the McMaster report in some detail. It articulates the right way forward at this precise moment in time for arts in this country. It does not involve a debate between access on the one hand and excellence on the other, but is about having the two together so that the highest quality art can be made available to as many people as possible. Not every recommendation in the report falls to the Government—some of them are for arts organisations and the Arts Council to consider and take forward. It is a good principle that those who care about and are passionate about the arts are involved in the decision-making process.

I appreciate that the Secretary of State is new to his role, but may I ask him about an important point in the McMaster report, which specifically says that the Arts Council should have a representative involved in the recruitment processes of all the organisations that it funds? As he will appreciate, such a representative would have enormous weight in that process because of the money that the Arts Council wields. Would not that mean a huge increase in the Arts Council’s central control of the way in which its funded operations operate and, among many good recommendations in the McMaster report, be a bad step backwards?

I hear what the hon. Gentleman is saying. If he has genuine concerns about that particular part of the McMaster report, I would be happy to discuss it further with him. I read it not as an attempt to extend the reach of the Arts Council into every organisation, but as a sensible attempt to ensure clarity throughout the system and consistency in how decisions on arts funding are taken. However, there is, of course, an opportunity for debate to take place about this very important report for the future of the arts. If the hon. Gentleman has a different view, I would be happy to discuss it with him, but I am very encouraged and enthused by what Sir Brian McMaster has put forward to the Department.

I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend to his new post, even as an Everton supporter.

My right hon. Friend rightly talks about the encouragement of diversity in our arts. The Arts Council North West has threatened LipService, the radical and innovative theatre company, and Queer Up North with cessation of funding. He may be right that the Government should not directly influence the views of the Arts Council, but should not they be saying to the Arts Council that it is unreasonable of it not to give adequate notice of or to have proper discussion about when it is going to withdraw funding, because that is the real issue about the incompetent way in which this year’s funding proposals have been taken forward?

First, I say to my hon. Friend that final decisions have yet to be taken and we will know what they are by the end of this week. Secondly, he is right to say that proper notice should be given, and the Arts Council intends to work through that with individual arts organisations. Thirdly, the Arts Council takes diversity in funding of the arts extremely seriously, as we do, and we will have to see whether that is reflected in its decisions; I hope and believe that it will be.

T5. The Minister will be aware of the iconic “Angel of the South” sculpture proposed for the Ebbsfleet area. This morning, the five finalist artists have been chosen. How much say does he think that local people should have in the final choice? (182009)

The hon. Gentleman touches on a matter that we all feel is extremely important—that local people should be engaged in the decision-making process on public art ventures in localities. The art is for them, will be enjoyed by them, and will give an identity to the place in which they live. They should therefore feel that they too are engaged in the decisions about which artist is commissioned and which particular bit of sculpture they have.

T8. Has the Minister had a chance to discuss proposals by the British Council to downgrade activities and funding for the promotion of British art abroad and instead to spend the money on more conferences, multi-resource interactive facilities, networking and so on? Does she agree that it is essential that we promote the best of British art abroad, and will she make that clear to the Foreign Office and to the British Council? (182013)

I totally agree with the right hon. Gentleman. It is crucial that we promote the best of British art—a field in which we are so great—abroad, not just because of what it says about Britain, but because of the role it plays more broadly in the creative industries. The Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary and his Ministers believe, as we do, that that is important. I am aware of the proposals made by the British Council to change the way in which it works in the arts field, and we are in discussion with the council to ensure that it meets the right hon. Gentleman’s aspirations and ours.

I welcome the Secretary of State to his new role, and I also welcome his praise for the McMaster report, including its recommendation to reduce targets. Is he aware that his new Department has failed to meet its target to boost participation and attendance at artistic events? If there are no longer to be targets in that area, can he assure us that he will continue to work to ensure that we see an increase in attendance, and not a reduction, as in the past 12 months?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words of welcome, and I also thank him for his support for the McMaster report. It is important for the arts world to hear that there is consensus in the House on these matters.

I was considering the spending review from a different vantage point only a few days ago, but we are trying to create a framework in the review whereby the level of ambition in a target is set at a local level, so that local organisations have ownership of that target and can believe that setting such a target is the right thing to do. Such targets can be made part of the local area agreements that local authorities are currently striking. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there should be no let-off in our ambition to get people into the arts, but it is also right that we hear the complaints made about having too great a reliance on targets, and that we free up organisations up to fund what they want to do.

May I draw the Secretary of State’s attention to an exchange I had with the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families on 17 December, in which I alleged that there is cultural impoverishment of many schoolchildren because they are denied access to and experience of quality opera, ballet and classical music? Will he ensure that that issue does not fall between two ministries? We must really address this matter of cultural impoverishment. Will he allow me to bring the English Youth Ballet and the national chamber music school, Pro Corda, to see him and an education Minister to see how we can remedy this wrong? It is working class children in particular who are denied access to such quality culture.

My hon. Friend is on the right theme as far as I am concerned, because the issue is a passion of mine. We can look forward to significant progress in this area with the development of what we call the cultural offer, whereby we make available a much wider range of cultural and artistic opportunities to young children at school. Some arts organisations, such as the Royal Opera House and others, are doing a great job in forging links with schools and making new opportunities available. I will be happy to meet my hon. Friend to see whether we can take that agenda still further forward.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked—

Legacy Objectives

1. What recent discussions she has had on achieving the legacy objectives of the 2012 Olympic Games; and if she will make a statement. (182014)

The London 2012 Olympics will be the first ever games to build legacy in from the outset. That legacy is built around the five main themes of sport, regeneration of the east end of London, opportunities for young people, sustainability and the UK’s profile in the world. We will shortly publish the detailed access plan, which will describe how each of those specific commitments will be realised.

I have had extensive discussions with a wide range of interested parties about how we maximise the legacy. We have also extended an invitation to people in every region of the country through two 2012 roadshows, the UK School Games and, as recently as two weeks ago, the launch of the new business opportunities network; £6 billion and 75,000 contracts will be available for British firms to bid for throughout the country.

I thank the Minister for that answer. She will know, obviously, that the Olympic village will have 3,600 new homes. In the spirit of the Paralympics, will she tell me how many of those homes will be fully accessible for disabled people?

My understanding is that the whole Olympic village will be constructed to the highest accessibility standards.

Wembley will be the location for the football part of the Olympic games and as such will be seen around the world, to our great pride.

The Minister has committed to use the Olympics to help to create a £100 billion tourism industry in the UK by 2010. Indeed, even more ambitious figures have been put forward. However, the most recent DCMS figures on tourism productivity show that the Government’s original estimates were wildly over-optimistic—to a factor of 12. Does the Minister agree that the £9 million cut to VisitBritain’s budget means that it is now impossible to achieve a sustainable Olympic tourism legacy?

No, I do not accept that at all. The estimate of the tourism premium from the Olympic games is about £2 billion. Every regional development agency has developed its own Olympic plan. Plans for the development of tourism and the realisation of the tourism potential are critical parts of those Olympic plans. No doubt has been cast on the feasibility of whether those plans will deliver the Olympic tourism premium.

Olympic Delivery Authority

2. What her latest estimate is of the budget required for the Olympic Delivery Authority to hold the 2012 Olympic Games in London. (182015)

On 10 December 2007, I announced public funding for the Olympic Delivery Authority of £6.09 billion plus a contingency of just over £2 billion against the known programme-wide risks and risks outside the ODA’s control. That amounts to a total public funding commitment of just under £8.1 billion to build the venues and infrastructure needed for the games. Recent scrutiny of the programme and the budget shows that the ODA remains on budget and on-track to deliver in line with my announcement of last March.

While I share the Minister’s enthusiasm for the Olympics, does she share my belief that the finances need to be utterly transparent? Last November, the permanent secretary in her Department said that most, if not all, of the contingency fund would have to be spent because of the complex and high-risk nature of the project. In the circumstances, would it not be helpful to set out how she envisages that the contingency fund will have to be spent and to publish a revised budget?

There is no need to publish a revised budget. The point that the permanent secretary made to the Select Committee on Public Accounts was accurate—at this stage in the development of a highly risky construction project, the only safe assumption is that the contingency will be fully used. However, the further assessment of the budget for the ODA has shown that there is an 80 per cent. probability that the Olympic park will be developed for less than £8.1 billion, a figure that includes the contingency. The finances are under control and transparent, and I have made clear commitments to ensure that the House is updated on the budget at six-monthly intervals.

In Athens, rising security costs were the key reason why the budget overran so disastrously. Given that myriad organisations are involved—the Army, the police, the security services and the private sector—and that there will always be a temptation for the police to put a number of desirable items in their budget through on the Olympic balance sheet, what precise control mechanism are the Government putting in place to ensure that that does not happen here?

The hon. Gentleman asks an important question and we are determined that the Olympic security budget will pay for costs that are directly incurred by the Olympics rather than other matters. He knows that there are three responsible elements: the organising committee for the games, the Olympic Delivery Authority and the Home Office, which takes the lead. He also knows that the governance arrangements for security to ensure the effectiveness of the plan and proper cost control are in place. We expect the Olympic security plan to be completed and published in the next few months. However, it must be subject to continual review and updating between now and 2012.

Legacy (Northamptonshire)

The east midlands strategy for the 2012 games has made some significant commitments, including to increased participation in sport, raising the profile of tourism in the region and providing support to businesses to enable them to win 2012 contracts. Already, 17 of the contracts have been let by the ODA to firms in the east midlands. There will be further opportunities for the east midlands to get involved in the cultural olympiad and in volunteering. However, none of that will happen by chance and I extend an invitation to the hon. Gentleman and all his colleagues to utilise fully the many opportunities for his constituents in the east midlands to be part of the 2012 games.

I asked about Northamptonshire rather than the east midlands, but is it not it a fact that there will not be a legacy for the east midlands? The Olympics are a good thing to have and will be a great success for this country, but we must not pretend that there will be a legacy for anywhere north of Watford.

It is not the case that there will be no legacy for the east midlands and for the hon. Gentleman’s constituents in Wellingborough. There are opportunities for engaging in volunteering and potentially developing training camps. An economic legacy derives from bidding for Olympic contracts. The opportunity to ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s constituency benefits is in his hands.

Does my right hon. Friend know that, in Northamptonshire, we are setting up a champion’s fund to pay for young athletes to be trained for the Olympics? Does she agree that one of the great legacies that we in Northamptonshire are creating for ourselves is ensuring that we have more highly trained, elite athletes, who can take part in the Olympics and other international and national games?

That is absolutely the point. I pay the warmest tribute to my hon. Friend, who has shown genuine leadership in Northampton in bringing together businesses and local organisations in pursuit of the Olympic potential for young people in her constituency. I congratulate the young athletes in the talented athlete programme and I commend the Northamptonshire champion’s fund, of which she has been such a powerful advocate.