Culture, Media and Sport
The Secretary of State was asked—
My Department has held two publishing seminars, involving the Publishers Association and the Independent Publishers Guild, among others. In addition, I have recently met representatives of the British Library, the British Phonographic Industry, British Music Rights and the Advertising Association.
The Secretary of State will know that demand for e-books is growing. Penguin made as much on e-books in the first two months of this year as it did in the whole of 2007. How does he hope to protect the nascent development of e-books from peer-to-peer and other piracy involving internet service providers?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important question. New technology, of which e-books are a good example, can help us to enjoy music, literature and culture more freely, and that is to be celebrated. However, there is a genuine issue to do with the illegal sharing and downloading of material to which he alludes. It is already causing serious damage to our creative industries, particularly the music industry. Our first preference is for rights holders and internet service providers to reach voluntary agreements about access to content. I must say that I am disheartened by recent comments from within the ISP community to suggest that providers do not have any responsibility for illegal downloading. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that jointly with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, we will shortly publish a document that includes options for legislation if voluntary agreements cannot be secured.
But is my right hon. Friend aware of the anger felt by the community of writers, especially freelances—creative artists—about the swindles that deny them their property: their copyright? Mainstream papers, especially left-wing newspapers, are the worst culprits in that regard. We on the Labour Benches are short of a few votes; there are scores of thousands of people whom we could help. Will my right hon. Friend agree to meet a delegation from the recently formed all-party writers group? I am its vice-chairman, although I have not yet published any memoirs or diaries, and have no money that results from such publications in the bank account. Will he agree to meet members of the all-party group to discuss how we can be fair to the writers, creative artists and journalists of Britain, and get them all to vote Labour?
I certainly accept my right hon. Friend’s invitation, and I look forward to receiving his recipe for our return to popularity when I meet him. I repeat that these are incredibly urgent questions, not just for writers but for creators of all kinds in our society. We have to come up with ways to ensure that the creative process is respected and valued in the online world. If we cannot come up with solutions, we face the risk of damage to sectors in which Britain has traditionally been strong for many, many years. We all need to apply our minds to the issue with some urgency, and come up with solutions that are fair to industry and, crucially, to the creators of the high-quality content that people want.
I very much welcome the Secretary of State’s comments about the importance of copyright, and particularly his commitment to putting pressure on the ISPs to address the issue of illegal file-sharing. When he comes to look at the proposed copyright exception for format shifting, will he accept that the ways in which consumers enjoy music and video are different, so the proposals might be appropriate for the music industry, but not necessarily for the video industry? Will he listen carefully to the video industry’s representations on that point?
I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s opening remarks, and I thank him for his general approach on the issue; I think that we can strike a lot of common ground. I have read the report that his Committee—the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport—produced on the subject, and it raises incredibly important points. He is right to say that the internet has affected creative industries in different ways. Music has been the first in line to be affected; other industries have had more time, presumably because their files are larger, so it is harder to get the same traffic in file-sharing. I will apply a careful mind to the questions. We want to ensure that we have proportionate systems in place in all sectors. Coming up with solutions that protect our creative industries is absolutely at the top of my in-tray. If we do not do that, we risk doing serious damage to the industries in the short term, which will damage the country in the long term.
Tonight I will be chairing a meeting of the London branch of the National Union of Journalists, called to discuss the issue of copyright. What messages does my right hon. Friend have for journalists, who see themselves as particularly threatened by the new technology and want some reassurance?
There is a balance to be struck, is there not? It is a good thing that people can freely access information and the work of writers, but we must get the balance right. I urge them to read the Gowers review of intellectual property, which the Government commissioned and on which we have been consulting. The answer is always in voluntary solutions. All of us would prefer voluntary solutions that are proportionate and balanced, but I say again, in line with recommendation 39 of the Gowers review, that if such solutions fail to emerge, we will legislate. As a sign of our intent, we will shortly publish a consultation document containing some of those options.
Has the Secretary of State had time to consider the proposal from Commissioner McCreevy to end the historic discrimination against musicians and increase term copyright for sound recordings from 50 to 95 years? Is he prepared to back that enthusiastically and do the right thing for UK musicians and the UK music industry, to end the ludicrous situation where musicians lose payments in their old age?
I still have an open mind on the matter. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Gowers review did not back the extension in the same way as Commissioner McCreevy has done. I think I am right in saying that he is due to issue his detailed proposals in the summer. I will examine those proposals closely and take a view about whether it is in the interests of the music industry to take them forward. As I said, there is a balance to be struck between protecting the creative process and rewarding performers as well as composers, and creating a disincentive for any industry to invest in new and emerging talent, which none of us would want. That balance always needs to be struck.
I do not know whether the Secretary of State, like our right hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), a marvellous journalist in his own right, saw The Guardian last Thursday, where Stephen Fry wrote that the BBC executives were naive in believing they could control the distribution of programmes online via their iPlayer service. I am sure the Secretary of State is aware that the BBC seems to be throwing out valuable content free of charge, which shows a naiveté about how the internet works. Will he comment on the article and that vulnerability?
I have not had a chance to read the article, but I will look it up, following my hon. Friend’s question. I would issue a note of caution. The iPlayer is proving incredibly popular extremely quickly. We have all paid for the content as licence fee payers, and there is a strong argument that we should be able to access it at our own convenience. I understand my hon. Friend’s point that it could undermine public service broadcasting in the long term if we allow people to access that content through other formats and they end up not paying a licence fee, but the BBC is to be congratulated on introducing a service that is already proving highly popular.
On the subject of protecting our creative industries and copyright, the Secretary of State is aware that nine out of 10 illegal films that come on to the market do so as camcorded videos. America, France, Italy, Russia, Spain and the Czech Republic have all made camcording a criminal offence. The Cinema Exhibitors Association says that the UK is becoming
“an increasingly safe haven for illegal camcording”.
Will the Government take urgent action to protect our film industry and ban camcording in cinemas?
The hon. Gentleman correctly says that that is an important issue for the film industry, and that the industry would like camcording in cinemas to be made a criminal offence. He is right to warn us that the improving quality of such films makes this an issue that we need to tackle. We have asked the industry to provide further evidence to support the case for action. My right hon. Friend the Minister of State is due to meet the industry shortly to discuss the matter further. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. We will consider any evidence that is produced, but in line with the general theme that I have adopted in response to all the previous questions, we see it as a top priority of the Department to protect the creative process and ensure that the people who create the content that we all want to see are properly rewarded for that work.
As I said in my written statement to the House on 5 March, the Government are preparing for an open-market sale of the Tote and have appointed advisers to undertake a strategic review of sale options. I expect to receive the report before the end of May. The Government will then decide on the next steps.
The Minister mentioned that the Tote is to be auctioned off, and I understand from the Financial Times that Goldman Sachs is acting for the Government. It is reported that Gala Coral is the front-runner in the auction. However, Goldman Sachs also acted as the chief adviser to Gala Coral last year, during its bid for the Tote. We all know that Goldman Sachs is the Government’s favourite banker, but it surely cannot be providing advice for both the bidder and the Government.
The normal procedures are being followed in terms of the appointment of Goldman Sachs. It acts on the basis of giving the Government the widest range of options. I am aware of a large number of interests in the sale of the Tote. Obviously, we have to get the best value for the taxpayer and make sure that we honour our commitment to give 50 per cent. of the proceeds to racing.
The Minister will be aware of the importance of the Tote to the Wigan economy, given the flexibility and high quality of the jobs that have been provided since its administration centre was moved to Wigan. Will he undertake to ensure that in any sale the jobs in the Tote will be preserved for a considerable period, so that they have the opportunity to bed in? We have had informal discussions for some months on the issue, but in addition to those, will the Minister meet my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) and me before he makes any decision on it?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield (Mr. McCartney) and the Secretary of State for their involvement in relation to the jobs in Wigan. Clearly, we want to make sure that we protect as many jobs as possible, and that will be a consideration when we look at the various options. I will be happy to meet my hon. Friend the Member for Wigan (Mr. Turner) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Makerfield to make sure that we go through every opportunity.
There is great interest in the House about the sale of the Tote; the issue has been with us for some time. We need to make sure that we get the best possible return. I should like to put on the record my tribute to the work force in Wigan and to the Tote’s management, who have been keeping going under difficult circumstances.
Did not the Minister hit the nail on the head in saying that the issue had been going for some time? Is not the real issue chronic indecision by the Government? This move was a manifesto promise in 2001; since then, there have been a botched nationalisation, the chaos and U-turns of the Gambling Act 2005 and consistently different signals. Can the Minister give a categorical assurance that the issue will be resolved in the lifetime of this Parliament, so that this damaging shadow can be lifted from one of Britain’s most important and most loved sports?
It is our intention to deal with the issue as quickly as possible, and in the best interests of the taxpayer. We will make sure that we do all the things that we said we would with regard to racing and making sure that the work force are protected. However, I will not take any lessons from the hon. Gentleman. Recently he was on the radio, talking about the Tote. He talked for 10 minutes, and at the end he said that he supported what the Government were doing.
The best option in terms of the rate of return for the public sector—for ourselves, for the Exchequer—would be to keep the Tote in the public sector, rather than privatising it. Will my hon. Friend, even at this stage, reconsider the decision and not sell the Tote off for what will be a knock-down price for privateers?
Our intention is not to sell the Tote at a knock-down price, but to get the best value for the taxpayer and make sure that we honour the commitments that we have made. Clearly, my hon. Friend has a point of view about where we are at, but for the reasons that I gave earlier, we think it important that the work force should be protected and that we act in the best interests of racing.
Is my hon. Friend seriously considering the option of retaining the on-course operations of the Tote while its off-course betting shops are sold? The on-course operations may be of less interest to commercial bookmakers and private equity houses, are best exploited by racing and would provide an income for racing.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his interest in this subject. We are looking at a whole range of options, including the one that he has just outlined, from the Goldman Sachs report. I am delighted to say that this time there is great interest in the sale of the Tote. Some wonderful options are coming forward, and we will be able to act in the best interests of the taxpayer, of racing and of the work force.
I have had no recent discussions with Sport England regarding financial support for lacrosse. The English Lacrosse Association has received over £1.6 million since 2005 from Sport England. Of this, £1.26 million is to support the delivery of the lacrosse whole sport plan during 2005-09. Sport England will soon begin discussions with the English Lacrosse Association for its whole sport plan 2009-13 and the associated funding.
Lacrosse is a very popular sport in my constituency; indeed, four of the men’s under-19 team live in Stockport. However, while it is recognised as a development sport and funded at club level, it is not recognised as an Olympic sport, so players cannot get funding from UK Sport for international events. The young men going to compete in the world championships in British Columbia in July are having to fund themselves. In the current review of Sport England, will the Minister consider introducing flexibility in its funding remit so that a sport that has financial support at club level is also properly funded at international level?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this issue and for the work that she does for the English Lacrosse Association, particularly in the north-west. I pay tribute to the youngsters who are going through to the world championships. She has hit on an issue that we have to deal with. These people have fallen through the gap in terms of the relationship between Sport England and UK Sport. UK Sport funds élite-level Olympic sports and Sport England deals with development sports. Following the review, I will undertake to look at what can be done to support lacrosse as an élite sport through UK Sport. This must also be accommodated in the whole sport plans that we have to develop with Sport England. I will be back in touch with my hon. Friend in due course.
In 2007, the deficit was £19.4 billion, reflecting the fact that greater prosperity and cheaper air fares mean that British people want to travel. However, record numbers of visitors came here from abroad in the past three years, and I am working hard with the industry to make sure that our tourism offer gets ever better.
I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Tourism is a very important industry for my constituency, with 1.9 million visitors and £100 million of spend. However, our market share in terms of visitors and spend has fallen consistently over the past 10 years. I know that under this Labour Government people are desperate to leave the country, even if it is just for a two-week holiday, but what is the Minister going to do to arrest that decline?
First, I am not sure whether the hon. Gentleman is going to tell his family or his constituents’ families that they should not take holidays abroad. That sounds a bit odd. In a free society, people will choose to take holidays, particularly with cheaper air fares and greater wealth and prosperity. I think that what the future holds for what is a very strong tourism industry lies in domestic tourism—where we spend our holidays. Eighty per cent. of the money earned through the tourism industry comes from domestic tourism. With increasing prosperity, it may be that we take a couple of breaks a year. We are aiming to get more and more people to take some, if not all of their breaks in many of the wonderful resorts and locations that we have in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency and across the whole of England. Tourism has grown year on year. The most recent figures that I have available indicate that inbound tourism grew by 5 per cent. in terms of numbers and 6 per cent. in terms of income. That shows that we are being successful.
We have a great product in the United Kingdom, particularly with the constant sunshine that we enjoy here—over the past couple of days, at least. Part of the problem, though, is that the first thing that people see when they come into this country from abroad and when they leave is the airport. In too many cases, they spend more time at Heathrow, for instance, than they would at any visitor attraction, so that they should send their postcards from the airport and take a photograph of their luggage as an enduring memory of what it used to look like. What can the Minister do to ensure that when people visit the UK they can come through Heathrow without all the hassles that have befallen them recently?
The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the fact that there have been a few problems at Heathrow airport in recent weeks, but if we look at what happened to St. Pancras station and the channel tunnel rail link, we see that the welcome into the United Kingdom there has vastly improved. I hope that the teething troubles that we are experiencing with terminal 5 can be overcome by the airlines and by BAA. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the welcome we give to our visitors, and the first feel that they get of coming to Britain—the speed of going through the airport and the sort of service they get from personnel there—are hugely important. That is why, together with VisitBritain, we are pursuing a whole set of initiatives and actions to ensure that we improve that welcome.
Would not one of the simplest, cheapest and easiest ways of massively increasing the amount of tourism product in this country be to move to an extra hour in summer time? People would be around in the evening, spending their money, instead of being asleep for an hour whilst there is sunshine in the morning.
That issue is raised by some of the representative organisations in the tourism industry from time to time. As the hon. Gentleman will accept, it is a contentious issue. I have asked for better evidence on things such as safety for families or a reduction in road accidents and whether there is any evidence that it supports tourism. Portugal was the last country to try that experiment and there was very little evidence that it made any difference to tourism income. I have an open mind on the matter, however, and I have asked the various authorities to provide me with any evidence that they have.
Will the Minister reaffirm her commitment to tourism and to our heritage by ensuring that the visitor facilities at Stonehenge are upgraded as soon as possible, as well as the roads? Can she bring us up to date and assure us that the Department for Transport is working as hard as English Heritage to resolve this crisis, which has been described as a national disgrace?
The hon. Gentleman will know, from his conversations with me in the Chamber and informally, that I am working extremely hard with my colleagues in the Department for Transport and all of those who have a role to play, such as English Heritage, the National Trust and the various local and regional authorities, to ensure that we achieve better facilities for what is an iconic world heritage site. That process will involve the road infrastructure and the improvement of visitor facilities. I have given the hon. Gentleman a commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that by 2012, we have first-class facilities that will help us enjoy this first-class visitor site.
Seaside Amusement Arcades
I have received representations and held discussions with the relevant trade bodies on those issues. At their request, I will hear further evidence from them this afternoon.
I am pleased to hear that the Minister is speaking to the British Amusement Catering Trade Association later this afternoon. According to a survey that it recently conducted, amusement arcades have experienced an overall decline in revenue of 21 per cent. since the Gambling Act 2005 was implemented. The Minister has already acknowledged that there is a serious problem in the industry. Would he address the problem by increasing the number of class B3 machines permitted in amusement arcades, and by restoring the £2 stake for such machines?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue; it is a matter of concern to a number of people. The Government feel that it is important that we get things right. B3 machines are a hard form of gambling and on the numbers, we have to get the balance completely right and take the right decisions. We have listened to evidence from BACTA, the Bingo Association and a number of other gaming bodies who are having difficulties. I understand the urgency and immediacy of the problem, but I want to ensure that we get the right solution.
I do not think that it was the intention of the then Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), to damage the seaside industry when he took the Bill through Committee, but the fact is that the seaside amusement arcade is an integral part of the wet-weather offer that many seaside resorts, such as Margate and Herne Bay in my constituency, need. Amusement arcades are shutting as we speak. The industries that supply them, such as two manufacturing industries in Thanet—an area of high unemployment—are under severe threat. Does the Minister understand that unless he takes action now, this year, in time for this season, it will be too late?
I hope to make decisions reasonably soon—[Laughter.] Or, indeed, very soon. The hon. Gentleman has highlighted an issue, and there is some confusion that we need to clear up. We need to distinguish between seaside arcades that offer a lower risk of gambling and the adult gaming centres that are usually on the high street. The latter want more B3 machines and I am wrestling with the decision about whether that is appropriate. It is certainly not appropriate for seaside arcades.
May I echo the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) about the urgency of the issue? Many businesses in seaside towns throughout the country, especially in my constituency of Weston-super-Mare, are suffering huge problems, and swift action is vital.
I remind the Under-Secretary that one of the reasons for reducing gambling in the Gambling Act 2005 was to reduce the risk of gambling addiction while the new super-casinos were introduced. Does not the fact that the Government have backed away from them mean that it is easier for him to make his urgent decision?
I understand the urgency. The House of Lords will consider the casino regulations later this week. We are examining all the issues in the context of putting consumer protection at the heart of the 2005 Act. However, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and to several other hon. Members, especially from seaside resorts, who know that the issue is pressing. I will try to reach a decision as soon as possible.
The Under-Secretary needs to make a decision. He has heard from absolutely everybody and he said on 17 January that he did not need to take more evidence because he had it all. Why cannot we now have a decision? Why is he being so tough on bingo associations and arcades and so lenient on fixed odds betting terminals and internet gambling? Let us have a decision—it is his to make, not the Treasury’s or anybody else’s. Let us support our seaside arcades and have a decision on the stakes and prizes today, not months and months later, while more and more important elements of our seaside tourism close.
Surely the hon. Gentleman wants me to meet BACTA, which I shall do this afternoon, and hear the further evidence that it wants to present to me. I am delighted to be able to hear that evidence. We will make the decision as soon as we can, provided that that is in the consumer’s interest.
The hon. Gentleman claims that we have taken a relaxed attitude to FOBTs, but we have not. We asked the Gambling Commission to consider FOBTS and BACTA’s concerns about people moving from adult gaming centres to the bookmakers. Clearly, the decision will be made as soon as we can, in the consumer’s interest.
Find Your Talent
We have received 141 expressions of interest from local areas wanting to take part in Find Your Talent. Of those, 89 were led by local authorities. Together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, I will shortly announce a programme of 10 pilot schemes that will trial ways to offer children and young people a range of high quality cultural experiences for five hours a week, in and out of school.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. He knows that Plymouth has a strongly developing cultural industry sector, in which there will be many jobs for young people of the future. May I ask him to discuss with colleagues in the Department for Children, Schools and Families a specific feature of the Plymouth bid, “Controlled Explosions”? If the name does not intrigue him, its contents should. Young people often fall by the wayside in their cultural development and the specific feature of the bid is about the way in which we see them through important transitions at various points in their school career to maintain their interest and go on to work in the cultural industries.
Thinking about the weekend’s press, it would have been good if some recent explosions were a little more controlled. However, we will not go into that.
I am intrigued by what has been happening in Plymouth, which has had a creative partnerships scheme. The theatre royal has done some work that is well thought of and has strong support.
More generally, Find Your Talent has genuine potential. The fact that 141 areas engaged in a dialogue with their creative partners to make a bid proves the cynics wrong. A survey of head teachers who are involved in creative partnerships, one of which is in my hon. Friend’s area, shows that 90 per cent. believed that the programme had improved pupils’ confidence and communications skills, and more than 70 per cent. believed that it had led to an improvement in educational attainment. That is the most compelling evidence for what we are doing. The figures speak for themselves and I am tremendously encouraged by the response to Find Your Talent.
This scheme is important for the Government: it was at the heart of the children’s plan and our plans to improve sports provision in schools. I speak to the Prime Minister about it regularly. I am confident that the plans that we will soon announce will change completely the level of cultural activity that we make available to our youngest children in school. In doing so, we will open their minds to a range of new possibilities that can only help their personal development and, more importantly, their academic achievements, too. I hope that the hon. Gentleman supports what we are trying to do—he is nodding away—because we cannot be cynical about what is an incredibly positive scheme.
Arts Council England
Arts Council England’s activities in Wirral, South include funding through the Grants for the Arts programme, Creative Partnerships, Artsmark and the Arts Award scheme. I realise that this is a trip through the tunnel, but Arts Council England’s investment in the wider region also includes major organisations, such as the Liverpool Philharmonic and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse theatres.
It is indeed a trip through the tunnel. The Minister’s answer highlights the fact that, notwithstanding the refocusing of Arts Council England’s funding, it tends to go to major facilities in sub-regional or regional centres. Does the Arts Council not need also to focus on areas outside those centres, and on local communities and suburban areas in particular?
I agree entirely with my hon. Friend’s remarks. When I was preparing for this question, I asked which applications from his constituency had been received and turned down by Arts Council England, and I was told that none had. I was further told that although the Big Lottery Fund has given £1.5 million to his constituency over the past 12 months, with a much higher success rate for applications than elsewhere, it is nevertheless trying actively to encourage more applications. I urge him to work with voluntary, community and other arts organisations to encourage more such applications from his constituents.
The Football Foundation, a partnership between the Football Association, the FA premier league and the Government, has helped to transform grass-roots football facilities, through £650 million of investment since 2001. A new three-year funding deal for the foundation, which was announced last week, commits my Department to providing £15 million each year to the foundation, matched by the FA and the premier league.
I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I am sure that he was as pleased as I was to learn on Saturday that Stourbridge FC—the glorious glassboys—has been promoted to the British Gas Business premier division. The club’s success was a combination of the skills of the players, obviously, and of the manager Gary Hackett and the president Hugh Clark. In common with many clubs at that level, however, Stourbridge FC has problems with its facilities. For instance, the club has to share its ground with the cricket club. What further assistance can the Government or the foundation give to promote football and Stourbridge FC’s march to further glory?
I hope that my hon. Friend will pass my congratulations to Stourbridge FC on securing promotion. I would urge her to encourage the club to go to the Football Foundation, which makes funding available for multi-sport schemes as an important part of its new funding agreement, and encourage her to work with the club, through the foundation, to secure investment in improving its facilities still further. It sounds like the club will have a good case, given that it is making firm strides on the pitch to get up the league.
The question does not specify that it is about association football, so it could well be about rugby football. May I therefore ask a lengthy question—although I hope that it is sufficiently short for you, Mr. Speaker. Will the Minister express appreciation to Macclesfield Town football club, which I am glad to say still resides comfortably in league division two, for its role in encouraging community football, particularly in the more deprived areas of my constituency? Will he also express appreciation to Macclesfield rugby union football club for getting such a huge number of young people playing rugby football? That is keeping young people off the streets and encouraging them to use their energy and exercise on the playing field.
That was a very inventive question, but I am happy to send my congratulations to both association football and rugby football in Macclesfield. The hon. Gentleman makes very well the point that sport can reach young people in a way that many other things cannot. It can really transform young lives.
Will the Secretary of State send for the papers about the dispute between the Football Association and Grays Athletic football club? Mindful that footballers should be role models, Grays dismissed from its football squad a player who was involved in and convicted of armed robbery, only to have the full force of the Football Association require performance of the contract. However, any employer has the right to dismiss someone who has brought its firm, game or team into disrepute. Will the Secretary of State look at the papers, as I believe that there is a political and Government dimension to the case? Grays Athletic stood up for having role models and for the quality and reputation of the game, whereas the Football Association has been unreasonable and has ignored that responsibility.
I am not aware of the case that my hon. Friend mentions, but I will look at the papers if he will make them available to me. However, I point out that, as part of its national game strategy, which was launched recently, the FA has placed great store in the Respect campaign, which encourages players to show respect on and off the pitch, particularly to match officials. That is an example of the FA putting its house in order.
Later this week, Manchester will host the UEFA cup final, and I am sure that the whole House, including you, Mr. Speaker, will join me in sending a good-luck message to Walter Smith and Glasgow Rangers. The authorities are expecting a large number of supporters to travel to Manchester, and we are working with the Home Office and Manchester city council to ensure that there is a successful final. Supporters will be able to gather at fan zones in Albert square, Piccadilly gardens and Cathedral gardens, where entertainment will be provided throughout the day and big outdoor screens will show the match in the evening.
The Government are also pleased to reciprocate the generous offer made by the Russian Government regarding visas, and have waived the fee for travelling Zenit supporters. We remain committed to bringing major sporting events to the UK. Following discussions with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the Treasury has confirmed to the FA that if the UK wins the right to host the UEFA champions league final in 2011, visiting teams and their players will not face tax charges.
Next week’s historic champions league final is the first between two English clubs, and we shall continue our work with our colleagues at the Foreign Office to provide support and information for supporters on its website. We will also work with our colleagues in the Home Office to make the event a success. [Hon. Members: “This is a statement.”] I am making an opening statement at the start of topical questions.
Finally, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in congratulating Everton football club on coming top of the 16-team real premier league, and more seriously, Manchester United and Sir Alex Ferguson on winning their 10th premier league title.
I thank the Secretary of State for his comments about football, which were welcome. Is he aware that next Tuesday is national schools cricket day? His Department recently announced that 80 per cent. of all state schools play cricket, but is he aware that the Cricket Foundation, which is the Government’s delivery body for grass-roots cricket, has stated that only 10 per cent. of pupils in state schools are playing cricket? Which of those figures is correct? Is not this another example of the Government spinning statistics for their own political agenda?
No, but I share the hon. Gentleman’s passion for cricket in state schools, having represented Lancashire as a schoolboy and having retained a close interest in cricket. I strongly believe that we must give young people access to cricket coaching in schools and the opportunity to play competitive cricket. I am as concerned as he is to see the situation improve, and the England and Wales Cricket Board, through its “Chance to Shine” initiative, is making real progress in giving young people the chance to play cricket. The Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Sutcliffe), and I meet representatives of the board regularly to discuss how we can further improve cricket in state schools.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his leadership of the campaign in Nottingham to ensure that the various bodies come together to use sporting activity to deal with the many issues that Nottingham faces. He is right to say that what we will be doing with the Sport England review is ensuring that national governing bodies draw up their whole sport plans and look at initiatives such as the one taking place in Nottingham, to ensure that people at all levels have the opportunity to be involved in sport. I would be happy to discuss this with him further, and I would like to meet him and the people of Nottingham to see how we can take this forward and perhaps use Nottingham as a pilot for future events.
Let me first correct what the hon. Gentleman has said. All organisations were given a period in which they could make representations—[Interruption.] It was a perfectly adequate period in which they could make representations, and there were also discussions. The Arts Council reconsidered and changed its view in the light of those representations, and it has now commissioned a review of the process and will be reflecting on that. I must also say to the hon. Gentleman that the arts change and grow, and if we want a flourishing arts sector in this country, it is absolutely right that the Arts Council should change the pattern of its expenditure investment so that we can maintain innovation and new arts organisations right across the UK.
Is the Secretary of State aware that national lottery administration costs are now so high that every penny raised for good causes in the first two months of every year is spent not on good causes but on administration? He appoints the distribution boards; when will he take concrete action to ensure that lottery money is spent not on bureaucracy, Olympics miscalculations and Government pet projects, but on helping the good causes that are now struggling, but which the lottery was set up to protect?
It is obviously important that we should have low administration costs, and that is a matter for the different agencies. The Big Lottery Fund is the agency that the hon. Gentleman was referring to. It is not appropriate, however, for him to pick on the lowest one, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and to use it as an example of the administration costs right across all the providers. That is a little bit disingenuous. We are going to ensure that the good causes get the maximum amount that is available to them, and we will also ensure that administration costs are kept to the lowest level.
I say to my hon. Friend that I know that this issue raises strong feelings; as the House knows, there is currently a private Member’s Bill on the subject. In January, new restrictions on the advertising to children of foods high in salt, sugar and fat were brought in. It is my position, and it makes sense, to take some time to evaluate the success of those restrictions before considering going further. Some evidence is already emerging that they are indeed having an effect.
Let me also say to my hon. Friend that tackling obesity is obviously a complicated issue and there is no one simple answer to it. Speaking as someone with three young children, I know that it is important to say that these days children get their messages from a huge array of sources, so the idea that simply restricting or controlling advertising on television will solve the problem fails to grapple with the real issues. It is also important to say that children’s programming generally is under pressure, yet that is an area of TV where young people can get good responsible messages. My hon. Friend needs to consider the impact on children’s programming of any further restrictions on television advertising.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising this matter, which is an issue of concern to me in my discussions with the British Paralympic Association and the variety of bodies that are involved. We want to ensure that people with learning disabilities can, if they are able to, compete in London 2012 and we are working to ensure that that happens. He will appreciate that we need to provide open access to everybody; it is not about tokenism, but about ensuring that the appropriate people with the right classification can go forward. As to the particular issue of individuals who are in the position that he described, I will certainly look at it and try to provide all the support I can to ensure that they have adequate funding for 2012 and the training that they require.
I do not know whether my hon. Friend was present in the reception in the House last week at which we marked the successful completion by the BBC of 100 per cent. subtitling on all programmes —a condition and requirement laid down in the Communications Act 2003. Other public service broadcasters are currently reaching about 90 per cent., I believe, and I hope that they will follow the BBC’s lead and work towards 100 per cent. subtitling. Watching TV and enjoying programmes at the same time as other people is an incredibly important part of ensuring that there are no barriers and no discrimination in our society. I pay tribute to the work of the Royal National Institute for Deaf People, and indeed of my hon. Friend, on this issue.
What are the Government doing to enforce existing legislation against ticket touting? Ahead of the FA Cup final, for example, there are numerous illegal tickets available online. Now the head of the UK policing unit has written to me, saying that
“the majority of Police Match Commanders do not deem it appropriate or necessary for police resources to be deployed to deal with ticket touts”.
How can anyone take seriously the Secretary of State’s promise to get tough on ticket touts when the police do not?
There is more we can do in this area. I have been disappointed—in fact it is worse; frankly, I have been appalled—at some of the reports I have read of people profiteering on the back of football supporters in this country in the run-up to the UEFA cup final, the champions league final and, indeed, the FA cup final. I take the view that there is more we can do, so I am working with the governing bodies in sport and the promoters of major music and others. For some events, we take the principle that access should be enshrined in legislation for broadcasting purposes, but I personally believe that we should have a stronger system of ticket allocation around sporting events, particularly when they are of national significance. I believe that with the new technology that is available, we can put more security into ticketing arrangements and ensure that more tickets get into the hands of the real fans. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will work with me in trying to achieve that objective. It is difficult, though, to make changes for events coming up in the near future.
My hon. Friend will know from my discussions with her that the two criteria to which English Heritage has regard in determining whether to recommend to the Department to list a building are the architectural and historic value of the building. In the context of the consideration of draft legislation by the departmental Select Committee, I hope that a debate will take place on whether other subsidiary criteria can be considered, particularly for recently constructed buildings, before a recommendation is made to the Department. Economic regeneration would be one such criterion.
I am looking closely at all the issues related to digital switchover, and particularly their impact on vulnerable people or those with disabilities. I want to ensure that all the benefits that we presently enjoy, and more, continue to be available after switchover. I think that my hon. Friend’s local transmitter switches in the latter part of next year. I will discuss with her precisely the issues that she has raised, so that her constituents are helped through the process and given a broader range of information and entertainment than they currently receive.
The Minister for the Olympics was asked—
Beijing Olympic Games
I shall speak very quickly, Mr. Speaker.
I plan to attend the whole of the Olympic games and part of the Paralympic games, including both closing ceremonies, with the handover to London, at which point London becomes host city for both the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics.
Will the Minister be accompanied to Beijing by the Sports Ministers of the devolved Parliaments and Assemblies of the United Kingdom? If so, will she discuss with the Minister from Northern Ireland its prospects of getting some of the Olympic games when the London Olympics take place? What is in it for Northern Ireland?
I understand that a meeting of the sports cabinet will take place tomorrow, which will be an opportunity to discuss some of the issues. In advance of the Beijing games, I will be spending two days in Northern Ireland, when I will have an opportunity to discuss its preparation for the Olympics.
Amnesty International recently reported that the current wave of oppression in China is occurring not in spite of the Olympics but because of it. Does the Minister intend to attend the Beijing Olympics regardless of China’s clear breach of its commitments to the International Olympic Committee?
In practice, the commitments made by China to the IOC were specifically about increasing press freedom. Eighteen months ago, I secured, as did other colleagues in negotiation with counterparts, the free movement of accredited and non-accredited journalists in the run-up to the Olympics. That is a specific and important freedom, which we must now ensure continues after the games in continuing dialogue with China.
2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games
I shall be meeting the new Mayor of London on Wednesday to discuss our preparations for the Olympic games. I welcome the fact that he shares the great priorities of his predecessor: to ensure a positive legacy, and to minimise any further cost to the London council tax payer.
Just as I worked closely with the last Mayor, I shall work closely with the new Mayor, who will co-chair the Olympic Board. However, I am sure that the whole House will want to take this opportunity to record its gratitude and appreciation for the long service—eight years—of Ken Livingstone as Mayor. He brought enormous distinction to the first mayoralty of London and great wealth and benefit to London, which included his playing a key part in London’s securing the Olympic games.
I am enormously grateful to the Minister for her reply, particularly her reference to the last Mayor’s ability to keep the Olympic budget down. As she will know very well, he recently said:
“I decided to bid for the Olympics…because…it was the only way of getting any government…to invest billions of pounds in rebuilding the East End”.
When he was told that that made it sound like a con trick, he said “Literally, absolutely!” Given that it was a con trick, is the Minister pleased that the new Mayor of London, with whom she will co-chair the board, is a much more serious politician, who will be an asset to London and to the Olympics?
I think we have gone beyond the point at which campaign insults can usefully be traded across the Dispatch Box. The Government made the clear decision that if we secured the Olympics, they would be used to drive the regeneration of the east end of London. That was not a con trick, but a clear commitment by the Government to bringing new homes and jobs to one of the most deprived parts of London.
I firmly believe that my right hon. Friend is well placed to hold discussions not only with the Mayor of London, but with all other people who are determined to make the games successful. Will she be sure to oversee such matters as transport, so that my constituents can get the very best out of what I expect to be fantastic games?
Of course. The opportunity to upgrade London’s transport infrastructure is one of the great legacies that the games will leave, while the Olympic transport plan will enable my hon. Friend’s constituents and those of other Members to travel to them safely and easily.
In a recent article in the Manchester Evening News, Lord Coe said he regretted that London’s sporting facilities lagged 30 years behind those of the great northern cities. Given that enabling young people through sport was one of the key commitments of the London bid, what will the Minister be doing—both as Olympics Minister and as London Minister—to correct that?
There are two issues. It is still true that too many of our sporting facilities are too old to be attractive to young people, but over the past seven or eight years some 4,000 new facilities have been built, many with lottery money and increasingly as part of Building Schools for the Future. Hosting the Commonwealth games was a great driver of sport regeneration for Manchester and the north-west. The hon. Gentleman has already heard this afternoon about the remarkable achievements of the school sport programme, which is transforming sport for young people in schools. It will continue to build an element of the great legacy towards 2012 in ensuring that a generation of young people’s lives are transformed through sport.
2012 Olympic Games (Budget)
In March 2007, I announced a funding package of £9.325 billion for the Olympic games. That has not changed, and I confirmed to the House earlier this year that the budget for the Olympic Delivery Authority remained the same, with £2 billion of contingency funds untouched. In January this year, we published the scope of what would be delivered from the funding package.
The Public Accounts Committee reported recently that there were foreseeable costs that had been omitted from the original Olympic budget. That is, of course, the same budget that Ken Livingstone agreed had been a con trick. What confidence can we have in the current figures that the Minister has just given the House? Will there be an element of independent scrutiny, so that we can all be assured that the budget has been properly handled?
First, there is independent scrutiny, quite apart from regular scrutiny by this House. I invited the National Audit Office to provide continuing advice on value for money, and in due course a proper reply to the Public Accounts Committee will be provided. The increase in security, for instance, in the wake of the 7/7 attacks in London could not in fairness be regarded as a foreseeable cost. VAT and contingency are the other two costs, but the fact is that the budget is now on a secure footing, as is testified by the NAO.
The budget is not apportioned regionally, but the opportunities for hosting training camps and volunteers, and particularly the opportunity to take up the some 750,000 contracts that will be let during the development of the Olympic park and the preparations for the Olympics, mean that, as is the case with Wales and Scotland, Northern Ireland businesses should benefit. The CompeteFor network is designed to ensure that they do so.