[Relevant documents: Department for Culture, Media and Sport Annual Report 2008 CM 7400, Department for Culture, Media and Sport Autumn Performance Report 2008 CM 7518 and Culture, Media and Sport Committee oral and written evidence HC 1000-i Session 2007-08.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mark Tami.)
It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon with you chairing proceedings, Mrs. Anderson. It is also good to see the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) arrive.
It is a pleasure to update hon. Members who feel it appropriate to be here on the landmark year that we have had in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. As you will know from your time in the Department, Mrs. Anderson, since the DCMS was formed, one of its hallmarks has been the desire to increase access, participation and the quality of experiences for everyone. The Department’s strapline includes the aim
“to improve quality of life for all”.
In 2008, we made huge steps towards that goal.
This afternoon, I intend to highlight some of the key issues and achievements. Although not exhaustive, my speech will show the range and depth of the issues faced in the Department and our commitment to maintaining progress.
The Minister has given an overview of what he intends to say. Would it not also be appropriate for him to dwell on the areas in which the Department has failed? He is well aware of the large number of the Department’s targets that have not been met. Surely it is appropriate not only to discuss the achievements but to explain the reasons for the failures.
I am usually grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s interventions, but not this afternoon. I do not recognise many failures, but I am sure that he will allude to those that there are in his speech, and perhaps I will respond to them afterwards.
On the whole, it has been a fantastic year for the DCMS, particularly in the area of sport. Sport in the UK had an incredible year in 2008. I had the enormous privilege of seeing Team GB in action at the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics. They brought back the biggest medal haul in living memory. That was down to the endeavour of the athletes, their coaches and the sport governing bodies. Athletes and their governing bodies realise that their level of performance was made possible by the increased funding for elite sport and a strategic shift in focus.
Funding for Beijing was £265 million over four years, compared with £85 million for Athens and £69 million for Sydney. That increase played a massive part in ensuring that the target of 35 Olympic medals and the stretch target of 41 medals were surpassed. We ended up with 47 medals, much to the annoyance of our Australian counterparts. It was our best performance since 1920. Together with the incredible second-place ranking in the medals table achieved by the Paralympians, it has provided a launching pad for the London 2012 games and the wonderful decade of sport to come in the UK. That decade starts this year with the cricket Twenty20 world cup. That will be followed by the Ryder cup, the Commonwealth games and the Olympics in 2012. Hopefully that will be followed by successful bids for the rugby world cup and the soccer World cup.
As I have said, 2008 was a fantastic year for sport with Lewis Hamilton winning the Formula 1 championship and Joe Calzaghe maintaining his unbeaten record in the world of boxing. It was a good year not only for elite sport, but for sport at the grass-roots level. Since 2001, £1 billion of Exchequer and lottery money has gone into revitalising our local sporting landscape. More than 4,000 sports facilities have been built or upgraded since that time, and 90 per cent. of the population now live within 20 minutes of facilities offering at least two of the most in-demand sports. That has met our manifesto commitment.
To put that in context, Exchequer funding for Sport England has increased more than threefold from £33 million in 1997 to £133 million in 2008-09. Last year also saw the development of Sport England’s new strategy, through which a million more people will be playing sport by 2012, which will make up part of the 2 million people promised in the legacy action plan. To help deliver that target, Sport England announced an unprecedented £480 million funding award for national governing bodies shortly before Christmas. We have given national governing bodies a great responsibility. It is through them that we will deliver community sport. We wish them every success and will give them every assistance to ensure that they deliver.
The revolution of school sport in this country continues. We have established a network of 225 competition managers to increase competitive school sport and a network of dedicated further education sport co-ordinators to engage 16 to 19-year-olds in colleges. We held our first ever national school sports week and the third UK School Games.
It was superb. It was held in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I acknowledge the part he played in ensuring that it was a great success. I know that all participants thought that it was a good experience.
Sport Unlimited was launched to attract more young people into sport by providing diverse new opportunities. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games awarded its Inspire mark to our “Young Ambassadors” programme, which has seen 5,500 young ambassadors inspiring their peers to take up sport.
Nine out of 10 pupils now do at least two hours of high-quality physical education or sport a week. That smashed our ambitious target of 85 per cent. of pupils doing two hours a week by 2008. To put that in context, in 2002 the level of participation was just 25 per cent. That means that four million more children are now playing sport. Our new ambition is to offer five hours a week of PE and sport to all five to 16-year-olds by 2011. That will be made possible by investments totalling £2.4 billion between 2003 and 2011. With the Department for Children, Schools and Families, we announced a further £100 million for dance, which is another good way for people to keep active.
We also announced the free swimming programme and I am delighted that 82 per cent. of councils have signed up to it. I am slightly concerned by the motives of some councils that have used not signing up as a political tool. In effect, it was local government that initiated the idea of free swimming in authorities such as Wigan and Durham. I hope that the authorities that are playing politics will look again at the opportunity to provide free swimming to their constituents. The Government investment of £140 million will enable 20 million people aged under 16 or over 60 to swim for free from this April. That will be another massive step forward in getting the nation healthier and more active. It will leave a lasting legacy from London 2012.
I will continue to discuss the theme of access and participation, but in the field of culture. In February we announced £25 million for the pathfinder “Find your talent” scheme. “Find your talent” is part of our plan to give young people access to five hours of quality cultural experience per week. It complements our policies on free museum access and enabling cultural initiatives such as creative partnerships. “Find your talent” allows young people to perform on stage, to get hands-on experience of the creative industries such as film making and radio and TV production, to learn musical instruments and to get involved in creative writing. It allows them to experience many other things at a professional level that they would probably never have had a hope of doing otherwise.
In September, we announced a £2.5 million scheme to provide free theatre tickets to young people. Between February this year and March 2011, 618,000 tickets will be available for those aged 26 and under to experience quality culture. It will increase access, build the audiences of the future and fill our theatres.
Sir Brian McMaster’s report was published in January with the aim of shifting the way in which we think about culture. It set out recommendations on how we recognise and reward excellence in the arts. We have started to implement the report’s findings. Free theatre stemmed from the recommendation for a free week of cultural events. Self-assessment and peer review was another important cornerstone, and the DCMS is working with national museums and galleries on a pilot programme. Arts Council England is leading a public consultation on the work of arts organisations.
We have looked at other areas of cultural provision. Public libraries, for example, play an important role in every community. However, they need to respond to a changing world where the digital content environment is developing daily, where there are new delivery models for local services, and where local government has a richer relationship with communities. We launched a modernisation review to refresh the Government’s vision for that local service and to support local authorities in delivering their aspirations for their communities.
We are also looking to change perceptions about heritage with the “Engaging Places” initiative. In partnership with English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, we sought to bring local heritage to life by developing practical support for schools, so that children and young people can understand why their local buildings and places really do matter.
We have invested to regenerate by launching the “Sea Change” initiative and investing in seaside towns from Boscombe to Berwick to the tune of £15 million per year up to 2011. “Sea Change” will create new performance spaces, improve theatres, restore promenades, enable the redesign of beach fronts and provide new exhibition spaces.
When we talk about culture, we cannot forget the wonderful year that Liverpool has had as the capital of culture. With more than 7,000 events, there was something for everyone. Every child in Liverpool was involved—quite an incredible feat. I had some great times at the concerts and sporting events that I was able to attend. Such initiatives show that huge numbers will become involved, if they are inspired, and the capital of culture certainly inspired many people in Liverpool.
There has also been progress on supporting our creative industries, which since 1997 have grown at a faster rate than the rest of the economy. Making up 6.4 per cent. of gross value added, they are a vital part of Britain’s knowledge economy. In February, we launched “Creative Britain—New Talents for the New Economy”, which is a strategy for taking the UK’s creative industries from the margins to the mainstream of the nation’s economy. In the past year, we have worked with partners to deliver “Creative Britain” commitments, such as a £10 million investment in technology research and development for small and medium-sized creative businesses.
We launched in Liverpool the creativity and business international network, which will bring together the most influential international creative and business figures to shape the future development of the worldwide creative economy. We challenged employers to create 5,000 new high-quality jobs and apprenticeship places in the creative industries by 2013, and already more than 150 employers have signed up. And, of course, we commenced the nationwide digital switchover programme, which started at Whitehaven and has since progressed to plan.
There are also the darker challenges of the new media. In July, we started to implement the findings of the Byron review to protect children from harmful or inappropriate material, and we introduced a classification system for games in the internet age.
On gambling, we have worked with all sectors to realise the objectives of the Gambling Act 2005. Important measures have been taken to support bingo and to ensure that we assist other sectors that have had difficulties. We also want to ensure that we protect those who are vulnerable and have worked with the Responsibility in Gambling Trust and other agencies. In June, we introduced with the Home Office a yellow and red-card system to tackle problems with licensed premises.
Hon. Members can see that it has been a momentous and busy year for the DCMS. We may be challenged on some of the failures, but I do not believe that anyone can underestimate the tremendous success that we have had or the significant role that the Department plays in the quality of the UK’s sporting and cultural life. I look forward to the debate and assure hon. Members of the Department’s commitment to continuing the work that I have set out.
It is a pleasure to be able to participate in this important debate on the annual report of the workings of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
My first question is why the Department has this debate in this particular context. For many other Departments, the report that scrutinises their work is written by the Select Committee—it is not written entirely by the Minister and his team. In this situation, we will get a rose-tinted picture. The first intervention, which came from the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster)—I want to call him my hon. Friend—was pertinent. Will the Minister deal with any of the more taxing issues, which he knows full well we are likely to start debating right now?
Appropriately, I begin where the Minister began by speaking about the Olympics, which is one of the biggest aspects of the Department, and by offering my congratulations—we cannot stop doing that. The haul of medals that we received in Beijing was fantastic, and a high bar was set for 2012. The Olympics are so important. The haul of medals reflected changes in funding in previous years. Funding is up to £265 million.
Much of the success was down to seeds that were sown by John Major during his tenure. He ensured that money went to grass-roots sport, and that is why we have had such success not in the big sports such as track and field but in those in which we perhaps did not expect to do well, such as cycling.
I add my congratulations to the Olympic teams and offer encouragement to all those who watched the heroes come back from Beijing, who are looking ahead to 2012 and thinking, “Yes, I would like to emulate that, I would like to be there, I would like to be one of the medal winners.” My party joins the Government in offering congratulations to the Olympic squad and in looking forward to 2012.
Of course, the Minister managed to circumnavigate all the issues around 2012 that lie ahead. On several occasions, we have questioned the Minister for the Olympics on our concern about the changes to funding and the way in which money has been taken away from other areas—good causes and so on—because of the escalating costs of the Olympics.
I believe that the costs have now settled down at about £9 billion. Because the Government will borrow more than £1 trillion during the entirety of the Parliament, the £9 billion is almost dwarfed, and on the horizon seems to be less and less. But perhaps the Minister could bring us up to date on the exact financial picture for the Olympic games. There is a concern that the stadium will not be sold to a football or rugby club. I believe that it is to become a centre for sports excellence, which is fantastic, but my concern is that it and the other athletic tracks around the country will not be able to do justice to the amount of money that will be poured into building them. An update on the Olympics would be most helpful.
Continuing with the sporting theme, we have, of course, done well in other sports, most notably Lewis Hamilton winning the Formula 1 drivers championship—a fantastic result, yet again putting Britain on the main stage of international motor racing—and of course Joe Calzaghe, who has done such a fantastic job. I do not know when he intends to retire. His sport may not get the profile that it deserves, so I was pleased that he received recognition this year with the BBC sports personality of the year award.
Sport is essential. The Minister touched on something that is personal to me. In Bournemouth, I see children who are growing up in a very different circumstances from those in which my parents and I grew up. Often they lack parental guidance and the role models for life that we so much enjoyed. The fact that there are more sporting opportunities for schools is critical to allowing such individuals to expend energy rather than hang around on street corners which, of course, can cause problems and be a detriment to society rather than something positive.
In Bournemouth, astroturfs have been installed as one of the initiatives through Sport England. Sport is an excellent way to allow children who perhaps lack a bit of direction in life to meet other people and community leaders, and to expend energy rather than go down a misguided route which can eventually lead to all sorts of troubles. Getting on the wrong side of the law could affect their prospects in life. I am pleased with such developments.
I am also pleased that there is encouragement for people to participate in sports for at least five hours a week. I believe that the objective is to get five to 16-year-olds involved.
I am biased in this sense. I confess—perhaps I should have said this at the beginning— that I chose to go to Loughborough university purely because it was a sporting university. Heaven knows how I ended up not representing England and coming here to Parliament. Something clearly went wrong.
The Minister touched on the political differences that have come about through the introduction of free swimming by councils. I do not like the way in which that has been used as a political football. There is concern that not all councils have the extra funding to be able to match that which has been put forward by the Government. The trouble is that the money has not fully come down from the Government to pay for that scheme. There is an obligation on councils and they are being forced, under difficult circumstances as we go through these difficult times, to cut services elsewhere to provide that important service. I think that all hon. Members agree with the principle, but there is concern about the financing model.
On the cultural aspects of the Department’s responsibilities, we welcome the encouragement to support libraries and to develop their use. If hon. Members go to any constituency, they will see that libraries have changed. They do not simply provide books; they provide all sorts of digital materials, including internet access. It is important, in this day and age, not to be stuck in the past. I am pleased that that initiative has gone forward.
I thought that the report became a little flippant when I saw, on page 12, which discusses media, a big bullet point saying,
“78% of people prefer digital TV to analogue TV.”
That is a bizarre question to have even asked. It is like asking, “How many people prefer to be in the sunshine than in the rain?” Such questions are obvious. A more pertinent thing to ask would be what percentage of people are lacking digital TV and what plans there are to introduce it. That would be more pertinent than asking whether they enjoy the facility.
The Minister congratulated the city of Liverpool on being the capital of culture and that is endorsed by the Opposition. However, a recent report by Visit Britain, which I am sure the Minister with responsibility for tourism is familiar with, mentions Virgin Trains’ concern arising from its wanting to build on that initiative and to provide a service to encourage people to visit Liverpool. I understand that it wrote to the Northwest Regional Development Agency, the city of Liverpool, Visit Britain and Visit England—I stand corrected if that is not so—and myriad other organisations, because it did not know who was responsible for the tourism marketing strategy for that city.
We in the Opposition feel that the marketing capability in respect of tourism in the UK has gone a little awry. That has been compounded by devolution, since 1998, by Visit Scotland and Visit Wales doing their thing and by the nine regions doing their own thing, too. Until we pointed it out to the Government, six different offices representing different corners of the UK were marketing their patch in Boston, Massachusetts. How ridiculous is that? Instead of having one voice saying, “Come to Great Britain”, all those organisations were spending a lot of money, with overlapping interests, trying to market their corner. People are not even aware of what is in the north-west of England, by way of a brand name, and certainly not the south-west—although they may have heard of Blackpool and Liverpool—but they will certainly have heard of Great Britain. That should be the starting point.
I am pleased that Visit Britain has now put forward a major review that starts to reconstruct our marketing capability to ensure that our overseas marketing tactics have one voice and that, as we filter to the lower levels, there is better co-ordination. Huge sums have been wasted and money has been prevented from getting to the front line of tourist destinations. I come from the south-west and represent Bournemouth, which is a great tourist seaside town, yet money gets stuck in the South West of England Regional Development Agency, never to be seen by the front line of tourism. That must change.
Of course, the tourism review was forced on Visit Britain, because the Department cut the budget over the next three years by 20 per cent. That is shocking when we are to host the Olympics in 2012, the most important sports event in a generation. We should be harnessing that opportunity and taking advantage of the pictures that will be broadcast to billions of people around the world. Has any money been put aside to take advantage of that opportunity? Not one single penny. Instead, the overall budget has been cut. That budget was stagnant for 10 years in a row at £35 million, which, year on year, means a decrease in real terms. Will the Minister look at the structure, ensure that we are getting value for money and, most importantly, see whether we are really harnessing the benefits of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
The Minister touched briefly on the money that is going to seaside towns: £14 million—
Yes, £15 million over the next three years. When that is divided up and sliced even further and given to the various seaside resorts, that is not a huge amount of funding. We need to look at that in more detail.
We have another opportunity in the sense that there is a recession on at the moment. People will revise where they may go on holiday. Certainly, from a domestic perspective there is now more opportunity, because people will say, “I cannot afford to go on that big holiday abroad any more. I’ll stay local.” But they will only stay local if they know that there are places and fantastic attractions to visit around the UK. That goes back to the marketing model that we have in the UK. We have some great brand names that are almost over-marketed—we know where they are—but other places do not even get a look in.
That is about our capability to encourage the domestic audience to stay in the UK. The situation I mentioned earlier is reflected in going to any travel agent, which will have a mass of leaflets, booklets and illustrative magazines enticing people to all corners of the globe, particularly Spain. There will often be a little section on Great Britain. On speaking to the travel agent, that person has probably actually visited Spain and stayed in a tourist resort there, so they can say, “Yes, I like this place”, and really encourage people to go there. We need to ensure that all travel agents are up to speed on the fantastic offerings that we have in the UK.
We are the sixth most visited place in the world. That is a fantastic position to be in, but if we compare that fact with the numbers involved in global tourism from 1997 to today, the statistics are sad to see. In 1997 we had 6.9 per cent. of the global tourism market, which is an impressive statistic. Today, that figure has dropped to 3.3 per cent. Of course, the Government say, every time, “Well, more people are coming to Britain.” That is true, but that is because more people are travelling, there is more money in our pockets and the easyJets of this world make it easier to travel. But as everybody’s ability to go abroad is increasing, we are actually losing out on the net global increase. Competition is getting tougher. Dubai did not really exist as a tourist destination 10 years ago and places such as Thailand were probably out of reach for many people, because it was too expensive. We need to continue to reinvent our offerings here in the UK.
On that point, given that the general thrust of the hon. Gentleman’s remarks is that the Government should take tourism seriously—as he knows, that is also the name of the campaign being run by the industry—does he not share my view that it was pretty disgraceful for the Prime Minister to claim that there was increased support for tourism and to announce huge tranches of additional money, only for us to discover that that money was coming from a combination of a further take from Visit Britain and from the industry, with no additional money from the Government?
The hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. I think that he is referring to the speech made in Liverpool only a couple of weeks ago. It is a prime example of double-accounting. No doubt the Minister will say what he always says when we put that case to him—I saw the notes being passed from the support element at the back—which is that it is not just £35 million; it is also the £350 million that is passed to the RDAs throughout the country and spent on tourism. But it is not spent on tourism—that is my point. It is not spent on the direct tourism market. It is lost in the mêlée of how RDAs run themselves. That is what we are saying. If we are to be serious about tourism, we need to ensure that there is not the double-accounting referred to by the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster), with the Prime Minister standing up and saying, “Yes, I very much support tourism.”
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. We do not often get the opportunity to have this type of debate among the three spokespeople on these issues. If he feels that the investment is not going in, will he explain how that would be helped by the announced policies of the leader of his party to cut public spending? It is all right attacking the Government for not putting in more money, but how would we cope with less money if the day ever came when the hon. Gentleman was part of the Government?
Unfortunately, the Chancellor of the Exchequer now comes regularly to the main Chamber to tell us that things are slightly worse than they were before. In fact, he popped in on Monday to say, “Well, I’m going to have to borrow a bit more,” as though he had just come back from the supermarket and had to pop back for another pint of milk. Things are getting bad in this country. I would not even be surprised if the Chancellor turned up one day and said, “Well, I now have to go to the International Monetary Fund for a bail-out.” I do not disagree with the Minister in saying that things are tough and money is tight, but if he is trying to encourage me to commit now to a certain amount of funding, of course I will not do that. It would be irresponsible when the world is changing so much around us. We will not even know the state of the real figures until there is a general election.
However, I can assure the Minister that there will be a new look at the way in which the current money is spent to ensure that there is better value for money. There is a lot of money kicking around at the moment that is being prevented from getting to the front line because it is getting stuck in the RDAs and because there is overlap. There is not even, from the perspective of a local authority, encouragement to get tourism going. I shall come on to that.
This is important; I am not trying to engage in a knockabout debate. The Leader of the Opposition has made statements in the House that there will be a reduction in the spending of each Department, including the DCMS. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that that would be the case—that the Conservatives would try to find efficiency savings and there would be a reduction in spending in the DCMS?
The Minister is doing his best to set traps for me, but I will not wander down that road. As many times as he asks me, I will not say here today that we will spend x amount more funding. Obviously, I will say, “Let’s take advantage of the opportunities.” That makes sense. Visit Britain makes it clear that for every £1 that it spends on advertising abroad, it brings £40 back into this country. We have seen the benefits of advertising not only to the UK market—the domestic market—but beyond. I do not think that I made this point strongly enough. The fact that the euro and the dollar are so strong means that those areas are looking for opportunities. They need to be harnessed. I am pleased that Visit London announced just this last week an extra £200,000 to market London to the continent.
That illustrates another problem. London is the powerhouse behind British tourism. Two thirds of all visitors coming to the UK for tourism go to Heathrow. Of course, the Heathrow experience is a whole other debate. Half of all tourists coming into the UK go to London. That is great. It obviously reflects the importance of the culture and heritage, the fantastic attractions and the retail opportunities. However, we need to ensure that people are aware that there are places other than London—other than Buckingham palace, Madame Tussauds and Oxford street. We need to make them aware that there is Stonehenge, the Lake district and the Bournemouth seaside—that they can go to other places in the UK. That is not being done at the moment. We are not sharing the huge tourism benefits that London produces with the rest of the country. Again, that reflects the system. London is very good, but there is not that communication with the nine RDAs.
I know that Visit England has been given a new voice, finally, because of the review, to say, “Let’s forget the nine RDAs. Of course there are some things we can do on a regional level, but let’s have a voice for England so that it can compete on a national basis with Scotland and Wales.” That will ensure that there is more cohesion between the many voices that make up our tourism industry, which is important.
Tourism is a £90 billion industry. It is the fifth biggest industry in the UK—bigger than fishing and bigger than the IT services industry. However, it is given scant regard in the House. I asked the Leader of the House whether we could have an annual debate so that hon. Members representing all corners of Great Britain could talk about tourism, but that request was denied, even though tourism is such an important industry. The 200,000 small and medium-sized businesses that make up our tourism industry need Government support. I know that the Minister has responsibility only for about one fifth of the tourism industry. I mentioned Heathrow. That is the responsibility of the Department for Transport. The fire regulations, which are the real burden on any farmhouse that is trying to run a bed and breakfast or hotel, were suddenly changed, which affected every bed and breakfast in the country. Was the Department for Culture, Media and Sport even questioned about that or consulted? No.
The price of visas jumped by 130 per cent. According to the Tourism Alliance, that means that we have lost out on tens of thousands of visitors, mostly from the Orient, to the UK. The UK has about 100,000 Chinese visitors every year. Compare that with France or Germany, which have 500,000. Why is that the case? Visas and all the other extra costs were imposed without any consultation with the Department that was supposed to be looking after tourism. I could go on and on. All sorts of legislation created in other Departments was put through with no consideration of the impact that it would have on the tourism industry. That is why greater cohesion is needed.
I tabled a parliamentary question on the issue. I asked how often the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport meets his colleagues from the Department for Transport, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and the other Departments to which there is a tourism aspect, but still there has been no reply. I am happy to be corrected, but I suspect that the answer is that there is no regular meeting whatever; they may touch base occasionally.
Stonehenge came up in parliamentary questions on Monday. The Government have spent £30 million on a paper exercise to work out what to do. That is our premier outdoor tourist attraction, yet we ignore its requirements. It is a timeless monument, and it seems that the Government have no time to look after it. Responsibility for whether there should be a road closure has been pushed around. The Minister knows that the spur road could be shut straight away, but the responsibility is being pushed around. Is it a regional responsibility? Is it the responsibility of Salisbury? Is it the responsibility of Visit England? Is it the responsibility of the DCMS? Is it the responsibility of Visit Britain? We need leadership in that regard, and that is exactly why a higher-profile role needs to be taken by the Minister responsible for tourism. That is one major change that a Conservative Government would make. We would have a Minister for Tourism with sole responsibility for communicating the messages from the industry and communicating with other parts of the Department.
We would examine structural issues. We need a more efficient process for marketing the UK. That is what I wanted to see in the annual report, but it pays scant regard to tourism. It talks about various other issues. As glossy as the document is—it is very colourful—it misses some of the most important aspects of that. I know that I have been talking for a long time and that other hon. Members want to speak, and I see that I am testing your patience, Mrs. Anderson, but I would like to touch on two other areas.
The Minister mentioned bingo, and I know that he will be upset if I do not bring that up, particularly after our debate. The issue of gambling is a difficult subject, and requires the right level of legislation, whether someone is in a penny arcade at the seaside or in Crockfords casino. We must ensure that we protect those who get sucked into the world of gambling and find that they cannot get out. That is important.
The prevalence survey, which is run by the Gambling Commission, looks at how many people get caught on the wrong side of gambling. It shows that bingo halls and arcades are not as great a concern as some other aspects of gambling—such as internet gambling and fixed-odds betting terminals—which are growing in popularity. Fixed-odds betting terminals are found in bookmakers and are here to stay. They will not change. We need to view the bigger picture by stepping back and looking at what is happening to all aspects of gambling, rather than taking things in individual slices.
This week, we debated a statutory instrument on category B3 machines in bingo halls. It was as if we could somehow tweak that issue on its own without really looking at its impact or at any other aspects. The measure was bizarre in its own right because it moved the number of category B3 machines that bingo halls are allowed to own from four to eight. If a bingo hall has only eight machines, every one of them can now be a B3 machine, which is a heavy-duty, big-stake, big-prize machine. However, if it is a massive bingo hall with 50 machines—and there are some—it too can have only eight big, high-paying B3 machines.
That statutory instrument takes an illogical approach. I would have suggested that a percentage—one fifth—of all machines in bingo halls should be allowed to be B3s. There are myriad consultations on various aspects of gambling and they are all reporting at different times rather than taking stock of gambling in its entirety. The changes that are taking place with the advent of technology are not really covered in the report, yet the advent and growth of internet gambling, and the concerns linked to that, are some of the biggest issues that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will be dealing with over the next five to 10 years.
Finally, I would like to look at the annual report and ask the Minister to comment on some of the targets mentioned in it. I begin with the sports target on page 34:
“Increasing the number of people from priority groups who participate in active sports at least 12 times a year by 3 % and increasing the number who engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity level sport, at least three times a week, by 3 %.”
In its own words, the report describes the progress made as “slippage.” I will not read out all the targets, but the same applies to the arts target on page 35—progress is reported as “slippage”. Progress on the museums and galleries target on page 36 is reported as “slippage.” The historic environment target—
Slippage, we hear. I did not even need to say it. For all the targets set by the DCMS, the progress has been summed up as slippage. Surely the Minister should give us some reason why that is the case, and tell us what is being done to rectify it. The purpose of our annual debate on culture, media and sport is to understand where this is going.
I shall end where I began by saying that the DCMS is a wonderful Department and provides for those important aspects of life that are perhaps less serious than in other Departments, but just as important because they regard quality of life. We are all united in wanting to support that. However, the report suggests that the Government are missing their targets, and the Minister should respond and tell us what is being done to change that situation.
Let me start with two apologies. First, I did not intend to speak, because I cannot stay for the debate’s entirety. However, given the somewhat limited turnout, I thought that rather than intervening, I would explore a few of my points in more detail. My second apology is because although I would probably be able to get back in time for the wind-ups if the debate runs its full course, I might not be able to do so if they take place earlier than anticipated.
I have been scribbling a few notes—I have to rise to the challenge of attempting to read my rather poor handwriting. My contribution relates mainly to sport. I know that this is an overarching debate, but my particular interest—notwithstanding some of the other issues that have been mentioned—is sport, especially for young people.
I will not spend time rehearsing the advantages of sport. We are all well versed in the arguments about the need to promote health, particularly when an increasing number of young people do not participate in sporting activities and we have challenges, such as that of obesity, to address. From my experiences as a parent and by observing young people who participate in local sport, I know how important sport can be in developing confidence. My two sons are now in their teens and they are both particularly shy. By engaging in sport, playing and performing well before their peers and in a team context, they have developed a degree of confidence that no other aspect of their lives would have enabled them to develop.
We are well aware that local community sports clubs play a key role in helping to divert young people away from less-sociable activities. My concern is to ensure that we promote participation at a grass-roots level across the board, and the Government are rising to that challenge. Without participants, and without enthusing young people, all sports will wither, from a grass-roots to a national level. Today’s young participants are not only the players of the future, but the coaches, team managers, organisers, ground preparers and all the people who are essential if sport is to flourish.
A statistic in the annual report claims that
“173,253 adults were involved in sports volunteering during 2006-07.”
That looks an impressive figure but, unless my arithmetic is wrong, it boils down to about 260 adults per constituency. If I were to do an audit or calculation off the top of my head for the number of adults who participate as volunteers in my constituency, it would be well in excess of that figure. If that is a robust figure, it means that in some parts of the country, a considerably lower number of people participate as volunteers. Volunteering is an important element of any sports development strategy.
Coaching is probably the single most important investment that we can make for the development of sport. I have made that point to the Minister on numerous occasions, and I know that the Government are doing a great deal to fund and promote coaching, but perhaps we could do even more. Without coaches, we cannot generate the enthusiasm and passion for sport that is essential.
In particular, we need to promote the involvement of young women in sport. Figures demonstrate that although we can engage young women at primary school level, we lose them in large numbers as they get older and go to high school. If the Minister wants a good local example of how to engage young women in sport, he need look no further than the Airedale and Wharfedale junior cricket league, which now has a thriving women’s section. Clubs have invested time and effort in organising and managing teams and putting the league together, and female coaches have gone into primary schools and engaged with young people—young women in particular—which has developed their interest in the sport. If that can be true of cricket, it can be true of many other sports.
Following on from that, and the support that the Government could give to community amateur sports clubs, I note that the CCPR—it never seems to call itself the Central Council for Physical Recreation—has successfully conducted a campaign over the past few years to persuade the Treasury and the Government to give tax relief to sports clubs generally. That has been a great advantage. Some sports clubs in my constituency have been able to take advantage of it, but it does not push the boat out as much as we would hope when it comes to tax concessions.
The current “Subs for Clubs” campaign is about giving tax relief on junior club subscriptions. Given that it represents a fairly small amount of money, and given the impact and advantage that it would give clubs, particularly as we are entering a recession and it will become increasingly difficult for voluntary bodies such as sports clubs to generate funding, I hope that we will be pushing at an open door. I hope that the Minister constantly reminds his Treasury colleagues what a good idea it would be, and that it would be a natural corollary to what has already been agreed. I hope that we can make progress on that front.
My next point relates to specialist sports colleges. If there is one thing that the Government could rightly and legitimately hold up as an example of what they have achieved with the funding that they have put into the development of sport, it is the foundation of community sports colleges. It may be because I come from a somewhat unreconstructed, oldish Labour background that I had misgivings about the idea of specialist colleges, whatever their specialism.
The two specialist sports colleges in my constituency— St. Mary’s school at Menston and Priesthorpe school in Pudsey—have completely dispelled any reservations that I may have had about schools pursuing a specialist remit, especially given the resources that accompany it. They have made tremendous strides, and have a great record of achievement by cascading their resources, their sports co-ordinators and their other expertise to scores of surrounding high schools and junior schools. I believe that their contribution to promoting grass-roots sport will stand as one of the Government’s achievements.
One thing concerns me, however. There does not always seem to be the degree of joined-up thinking necessary to promote sport through sports colleges, or to promote the partnerships that the colleges can develop with the local community, amateur sports clubs, local authorities and other key players. One point is continually reiterated to me. When schools qualify for Building Schools for the Future funding, they are not always able to say, “We are a sports college. Can we factor in the need to develop our sports facilities not only for our students, but for the partnership, to which we are central?” Until now, the answer has generally been that it is not part of the process. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will put pressure where it is needed—on colleagues in other Departments—to ensure more joined-up thinking on that front.
Whether sports facilities are paid for through BSF or other funding, there is nevertheless a tremendous shortage of facilities for sports colleges and community sports partnerships to draw on. In my area, for example, which is covered by Leeds city council, an audit has been made of pitches and sports facilities. Not surprisingly, it found a tremendous shortfall in football, rugby and other pitches. I wonder whether more scrutiny needs to be given by the Government and the Minister’s Department of how resources that are meant for the development of sport—not just in schools but across the wider community—can be brought together more effectively by local authorities. I am not sure that Leeds city council necessarily distinguishes itself when drawing on the tremendous expertise, the voluntary support and the enthusiasm and energy that the community sports partnerships are able to provide, with the sports colleges being at the forefront of that for areas such as Pudsey and Leeds. I would be interested to hear my hon. Friend’s comments on that.
The report speaks of some of the developments at sport’s elite level. As the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) pointed out, the nation needs to celebrate that. However, I return to one of my main themes: when encouraging new people to participate at the elite level, we are not always careful enough to ensure that we take a clear view of their personal welfare.
Without going into detail about the personal circumstances that led to that observation, whatever the sport, elite groups are probably funded from the lottery and other sources. As a result, the young people participating in them are under enormous pressure. That is understandable. If they want to achieve at the highest level, they need to make that commitment and be prepared to put in the time necessary for coaching, competitive participation and fitness. However, I sometimes worry whether sufficient scrutiny is applied to the operation of those regimes.
It is tempting for young people—and sometimes their parents—to play through or to carry injuries rather than letting the side down or running the risk of losing their place because they cannot participate 100 per cent. of the time. That is always a worry. I do not suggest, in any way, shape or form, that we are going back to the sort of extremes that used to characterise the countries behind the iron curtain; we know that many activities took place then that never featured in the promotion of sport in our country. However, we need to scrutinise the child welfare issues more acutely, not always leaving it to those who are responsible for developing elite sports people because they themselves might be under pressure to turn a blind eye to such problems.
My next point in this ragbag of points relates to the television coverage of sport. My hon. Friend will know that, along with many colleagues in the House, I still have a bee in my bonnet about sports that are no longer included among the so-called crown jewels of sport. The best example is cricket. It is probably clear to everyone that the massive opportunity generated in 2005 by the successful Ashes series has been lost. That happened for a number of reasons, and I do not want to make a detailed analysis of it. One reason is that the national side has failed to perform particularly effectively since then.
I and those to whom I speak are convinced that another reason is terrestrial television’s loss of live test match coverage. We heard that the England and Wales Cricket Board received a huge amount of money, and that it was essential for the continuation of the sport. However, before being convinced by those arguments, whether from the ECB or other governing bodies, we should audit how much of that money goes to grass-roots sport.
I am not sure that we necessarily do that, and it is a trade off. If we are convinced that the money is going to grass-roots sport, we might be persuaded that there is an argument for such contracts. Until then, however, I remain of the view that many young people whose parents, for whatever reason—whether income or principle—are unwilling to subscribe to companies such as Sky, will be deprived of the opportunity to watch their sporting heroes and heroines. Psychologically, as we all know, that is one of the main ways to generate young people’s passion for sport. It is certainly what generated my sporting passion, and I am sure that that is true for many here today.
For my final point, I break away entirely from sport, and I am prompted by the hon. Gentleman’s comments on marketing and tourism. I do not regard this as a great attribute, but I have not taken a holiday outside the UK since 1989. Some people might regard that as sad, but I do not, because there are so many places in this country worth visiting, as he said. I could spend a lifetime going on holiday and still not visit them all. I endorse all his comments, therefore, about promoting tourism, and of course I make a special plea to promote tourism to what the Minister will know is God’s own county—Yorkshire—in which both our constituencies are located. Many of the attractions of that great county can be seen in Leeds and Bradford without even having to go out to the Yorkshire dales or the seaside towns. Given the circumstances that the hon. Gentleman went through in some detail, and which I shall not reiterate, the promotion of tourism in the UK is a crucial part of the Department’s role and strategy. It needs to boost the industry and give people access to holidays that perhaps they could not afford elsewhere given the economic situation.
With those apologies and longwinded comments, I shall sit down. As I said, I will have to leave almost as soon as I do so, and I cannot come back for about an hour. I hope that you will accept that apology, Mrs. Anderson.
It is wonderful to see you in the Chair, Mrs. Anderson, and it is particularly wonderful to follow the hon. Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell). Given that he must leave in a second, I want to say now that I endorse every remark that he has made. In particular, I welcomed his reference to the importance of sport volunteers. I suspect that he would join me in going further in saying that many of our other cultural activities benefit from the tremendous work done by many volunteers.
Also, I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the urgency of the work of the committee set up to look at the list of those sports that will appear on free-to-air television. I welcome the fact that the Government have set it up, and I join him in saying that, of all the sports that need looking at very carefully, cricket is the most important. He was right to say that we should not dwell on the history, but it is worth reflecting that a deal was struck between Lord Smith of Finsbury, the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and the England and Wales Cricket Board. When Lord Smith agreed to take cricket off the list, it was meant to ensure that there would still be a lot of free-to-air viewing. Sadly, that deal does not appear to have been stuck to. I hope that we will consider carefully whether cricket should go back on the list, notwithstanding the hon. Gentleman’s valid points about the issues that need to be investigated to ensure that the grass roots of sports benefit either from more free-to-air viewing or from television receipts.
The Minister began with a paean telling us how wonderful the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is. The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) then pointed out one or two areas of failure, and I intervened pointing out that the Minister ought to be taking some of those failures more seriously. I hope to give the Minister the chance to do that by picking up some of the points made already and adding one or two others. However, he is right to say that there have been some fantastic successes in the areas covered by the DCMS.
None of us could give such a list without beginning with the tremendous success of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes in Beijing. As the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East has said, along with many others in recent weeks, it was a fantastic achievement that sets the bar very high for 2012. That is definitely the pinnacle, but there have been many other great successes. The Minister was right to praise Liverpool for the fantastic achievement in being chosen as the capital of culture and for the wonderful events that have taken place.
In an intervention, I managed to squeeze in a reference to the UK school games, which took place in Bath and Bristol. They were a fantastic success, which was down to the efforts of a large number of people who made it happen, including many volunteers who made a huge contribution. I wish those taking on the baton in Wales this year all the success in matching, and possibly even bettering, what we achieved, although that will be very difficult.
No mention has yet been made of the fantastic success of our film industry, and we should all be very proud of our public sector broadcasting. With the BBC, the multi-award winning Channel 4 and so on, we are the envy of the world. We just hope that some of the deliberations currently under way, to which I shall make brief reference later, will lead to a sustainable future for public service broadcasting to ensure that we remain the envy of the world while developing the range of services that the people of this country increasingly want as we go digital.
I welcome, of course, a number of the Government’s initiatives. One could cite some of them, but to pick one at random, I refer to the additional support being given to seaside towns, which is urgently needed. In other areas, I welcome, if not what is happening on the ground, at least some of the language being used by the Department. I welcomed the commitment of the “Creative Britain” initiative to what we hope will be achieved in that area, although I confess that I am not as sanguine as the Minister about the success of the initiatives so far proposed. As we have praised the volunteers, it is important to praise the many organisations, whether sports clubs or theatre and education groups, doing tremendous work helping to make all these successes happen.
The Department is very important, but it does not get the recognition that it deserves in this place. It is disappointing that relatively few Members have turned up for this important debate. Whatever we think of the Department at times, it reaches into more parts of people’s lives than any other Department: whether through voting in “Strictly Come Dancing”; attending sporting events; going to the cinema, theatre or an art gallery; visiting the pub, bingo hall or the bookies; handing over money at the Tote; or going on holiday. All those things, which are really important in people’s lives, are determined in large measure by decisions made within the DCMS. It is a really important Department, and I am grateful for this opportunity to deliberate on its annual report.
I shall turn to some of my concerns, which will to some extent replicate the comments made by the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East. The Minister was glowing in his tribute, but the hon. Gentleman picked up on some of the Department’s targets. I have been reading through the Government’s report. The Minister has said that he is sceptical about some of my figures and will challenge me later. However, let us not disagree about what it actually says in the report. After that, we can come on to some of the details.
The one outstanding public service agreement from the 2002 spending review is referred to on page 29 of the annual report. Of that target, it simply says, “Slippage.” We then come to the 2004 spending review and PSA1, which the report says is “ahead” of its target. We welcome that agreement on getting youngsters in school to take part in two or more hours of physical education a week, and I shall return to that later. We are told that PSA2 has “not yet been assessed”, which is not surprising, because the final figures are not expected until 2010. We could not, therefore, have expected too much data. However, page 33 tells us that we have some data for earlier years, which seem to indicate that the percentage of obese young people is stabilising. I am enormously worried, however, because it says that the figures are estimates going back a number of years and that they are subject to “sampling error”. If we are being told that we cannot rely on the figures at the start of the period because of the possibility of a sampling error, I wonder whether we can rely on whatever assessment is made at the end of the period of time.
With regard to the next set of targets, PSA3, which is about participation in art and sport by people in priority groups, we are told that overall, there has been slippage. The overall summary is then broken down into sports, arts, museums and galleries and historic environment, all of which suffered from “slippage”.
When we come to PSA4, which is about improving the productivity of tourism and the creative and leisure industries, we are again told that there has been “slippage”. That is it; there are no more PSA headlines. The vast majority of the PSAs say “slippage”. Therefore, the Minister should have come to us with a bit more humility than he did in his opening remarks.
The Minister will be aware—because he is the Minister with responsibility for sport and studies these things in detail—that the targets are broken down into sub-targets. With regard to the findings on participation, he will know that the four targets that I have mentioned are broken down into 20 different sub-targets. Of those 20 targets, 16 have been missed. Every single one of the sporting participation targets for people in priority groups has been missed, and there has been a decline in the number of people in some of the groups. For example, 241,000 fewer people with limiting disabilities now take part in active sport. There has also been a 2 per cent. drop in the proportion of women taking part in active sport.
The interesting thing that is not covered by the report is the deeply worrying fact that the Government could not have claimed success in many of the targets because they do not collect the data that is necessary to assess them. We know that until the introduction of Sport England, which I welcome, data on the money that goes to groups that help the disabled, women or people from black and minority ethnic groups were not even collated. Therefore, it would not have been possible for the Government to claim any success in those areas, because they did not have data. That is almost more worrying than the slippage on the targets. If the Government say that those matters are important, then one has to ask how serious they are if they do not even ensure that the necessary data are collected.
Sadly, the same is true in relation to the sub-targets on art participation. Five out of six of the arts targets were missed. There were some 195,000 fewer adults participating in the arts, yet the Minister concentrated on the issue of getting young people involved in schools and the two-hour target. I accept that we are ahead of target there, and I welcome the growth in the number of people who are going forward. However, may I say to the Minister that I hope he will acknowledge that that still means that three quarters of a million children are not participating in two hours of sport? May I also ask him to look again at the details of this scheme to see whether research can be conducted into finding out how much of that two hours is taken up with changing time as opposed to physical activity? Currently, changing time is included within the two-hour target, when it should be excluded. We have much work to do to get young people to continue participating in sport after they leave school. Well over 50 per cent. of young people drop out of involvement in any physical sporting activity.
The Government have introduced measures—the Minister referred to them—to increase participation in sport and the arts. I know that he has accused some people of playing party politics with the concerns that have been expressed about the free swimming scheme, but he was wrong to do so. He may be aware that when the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport came to my constituency to discuss a range of issues with local people, including that particular one, he was told very clearly that my local authority would willingly join the free-swimming scheme, if it had the resources to do so. However, in a very harsh financial climate, it would have great difficulty in providing both parts of the scheme. That was not a party political attack on the Government. It was simply that the sums of money that are being made available do not add up. The Government wanted a scheme on a shoestring. The Minister shakes his head, but the Local Government Association made it quite clear that the sums of money would be inadequate to provide a full scheme.
The Minister misses my point. I am not trying to make a party political point. I said that Chris White, who leads for the LGA on such matters, is a Liberal Democrat to make the point that there is a problem with the funding arrangements. If one looks at the total package, it may work out, but there are huge variations from one local council to another, and it is their individual circumstances that make it difficult. That scheme is no different from schemes from other Departments, such as free transport for the over-60s, which is of great benefit to many older people and which I welcome. Unfortunately, the funding scheme means that it is difficult for some local authorities not to end up having to put some of their own money into the scheme.
May I mention a missed opportunity? The free-swimming scheme, as it is currently designed, enables two groups of people—younger people and older people—to benefit from free swimming. Of course, that is a good thing, but the Government failed to take the opportunity to do something about swimming lessons. They failed to give more young people the opportunity to learn to swim, which is the missing part of the scheme.
The same could be said of the free theatre tickets in the project for arts inclusion. The Minister knows that £2.5 million was committed to get 1 million free tickets into theatres. Everybody can do the maths; 1 million into £2.5 million means £2.50 a ticket. Clearly, that would mean that any theatre that got involved in the scheme would have to subsidise it or get money from elsewhere. As a result, we do not have 1 million people participating in the scheme—although we have good take-up. Again that scheme was done on a shoestring, but it got the good headlines.
The one missing element in all this is education. Everybody whom I have spoken to has made it clear that linking a free theatre visit with an educational experience that prepares young people for the theatre would significantly enhance the benefit of such a scheme. I hope that the Minister will have an opportunity to talk to his colleagues in other Departments about that issue.
Much has been said about those areas that are covered by DCMS and receive money from the national lottery that are losing out because of the second take of money to pay for the burgeoning budget of the Olympics. As the Minister knows, two years ago the Liberal Democrats proposed a rethink of the way in which the national lottery is taxed, and I am delighted to say that the Conservatives have now given us their support. The figures that have been compiled independently show that if we were to move from the current tax regime to gross profits tax, it would lead to a significant increase in funding not only for the good causes, but for the Exchequer itself.
The Secretary of State promised me that he would do everything in his power to push the Treasury. I accept that it is a Treasury decision, but the pressure from the Department is critical. We were disappointed that no reference was made to it in the pre-Budget report. I suspect that the Minister shares the view that it would be a great benefit, but I would be grateful for an update on where his or the Department’s discussions with the Treasury are. The matter no longer divides people who are concerned about the Department.
I join the hon. Member for Pudsey, who has had to leave the Chamber, in saying that there are other ways of getting money in that require pressure from the Department. The hon. Gentleman mentioned the campaign by the CCPR in respect of gift aid for junior club subscriptions. As the Minister will know, that would cost a small amount of money compared with the Department’s overall budget, and I would be grateful, as I know that the hon. Gentleman would be, to hear what progress has been made in the Department’s thinking on that, what pressure is being put on the Treasury, and whether the Department supports the proposal.
Unfortunately, the work of the DCMS often depends to some extent on other Departments. I have just given two examples—GPT and gift aid for junior membership—where Treasury agreement is necessary, but other Departments partly block some of the things that DCMS wants to achieve, such as on playing fields. The Minister will be well aware that departmental representatives get up and say, “We’ve done a great job. Aren’t we wonderful in reducing the number of playing fields that have been sold?”, but, depending on how we take the figures, that is not entirely true.
Aside from that, and even if we accept for a minute that the measures that the Government have put in place are welcome—they are welcome, but I do not think that the Government are achieving as much as they claim—there are two matters on which they have promised, since as far back as 2002, further to tighten up the rules. The first thing is the size of the school playing fields that have to be considered. For schools, it is 0.2 hectares and above, but for all other playing fields that effectively have to go through the process of winning the approval of Sport England, the current limit is 0.4 hectares and above. The DCMS committed to pressing for a change in the rule, and other Departments with responsibility have promised it, but it has not happened. Indeed, the consultation that was yet again promised—
The Minister knows only too well the number of times that he has said “soon”, and I have waited nearly a year to get an answer, as was demonstrated recently in a debate on a statutory instrument. Will the Minister give me greater precision than “soon”, “very soon” or “imminent”, which are words that he frequently uses when speaking to me? What is happening about the reduction from 0.4 to 0.2 hectares?
Secondly, and equally importantly, what about the bizarre rule that allows a field that is fenced-off, and therefore not used for a period of up to five years, to be exempted from the rules? That needs to be changed. Again, I have had assurances that it will be changed, but absolutely nothing has happened.
Finally on playing fields, may I pay a huge tribute to Fields in Trust, which has done a tremendous amount of work since 1948 to protect playing fields in this county? In discussions with me, it has expressed real concern that when fields are sold off and the money goes into sports—rightly, sometimes it does—there is a huge disparity, because for every £1 that is spent on an outdoor playing field and the facilities that go with it, around £2 is spent on indoor facilities. That needs to be addressed.
The creative industries are crucial but, as I have said, although I welcome the rhetoric, I am not convinced that there is any real action on the ground. Indeed, the PSA targets on the creative industries have not been met. When the Minister replies, will he say more about what he is going to do about the creative industries? For example, what about the computer games industry, which has been overtaken by Canada from a position of third in the world? That happened because tax breaks were given to that industry in Canada. I am not saying that tax breaks are the way forward when it comes to helping the computer games industry, but they should be seriously considered. We give tax breaks to the film industry, for example, and we ought to consider doing so for the computer games industry. That is one of the many examples I could give.
I echo everything that the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East has said about tourism. The Government do not take tourism anywhere near seriously enough—the cut to Visit Britain was a stark example of that. There is a problem, as I said in an intervention, when the Prime Minister pretends to be interested and announces money, only for us to find later that the money is not the Government’s, but other people’s. That does not send out the right signals. We must start taking tourism seriously.
I am not going to talk about the Olympics or gambling, because the Minister and I will have the opportunity to do so in more detail later, so I shall talk finally about heritage. Someone mentioned Stonehenge, but heritage is hardly ever mentioned in our debates. There has been a significant cut in the money available to heritage. Heritage Lottery Fund money has decreased tremendously, and it now rejects some 80 per cent. of applications that meet its criteria—they are good applications. There are nearly 30,000 properties on the at-risk register, and there has been a real reduction in the number of young people visiting stately homes on school visits and the like.
We must take the heritage of this country much more seriously. There is hardly any talk of heritage within the Department—there is at least a lot of talk about tourism—and the final insult was for the Department to drop, or allow to be dropped, the heritage protection Bill from the Government’s programme. That was the final blow for anyone who felt that the Government are interested in heritage; they clearly are not. Dropping the Bill has let the heritage sector down.
I began by saying that there have been a number of improvements, which I welcome. There is a lot of work still to be done, and there is a degree of complacency in the way in which the Minister has so far taken us through the report. I hope that he will now rebut some of the challenges that have been made, or at least explain why the Department has failed in quite a large number of areas.
What we lack in numbers we have not lacked in quality, even if I disagree with large amounts of what was said by the hon. Members for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) and for Bath (Mr. Foster). Nevertheless, I am impressed by their commitment to the DCMS’s work. The hon. Member for Bath was spot on when he said that the impact of the Department on the lives of our constituents is perhaps not noticed by many of our parliamentary colleagues. We can look at that in two ways: the fact that nobody is here means that far from being complacent, people are happy with the work that we are doing and so do not wish to come here to complain; on the other hand, it would have been nice to have more contributions from hon. Members on both sides of the House, because these matters affect all our constituents’ lives.
I shall try to be as quick as I can given what might be happening in the main Chamber. Elite sport funding is vital. We were proud to have the investment in place for the Beijing Olympics and pleased that we can do considerably more for London as hosts of the games. What is important to me and the Secretary of State is a long-term commitment to elite funding. We have lottery funding and Exchequer funding, but we need a private sector stream of funding as well to maintain elite funding post-2012, into 2016 and beyond. It is important that sport infrastructure is in place. We have created that with our work through the Youth Sport Trust, which deals with school and youth sport, and Sport England, which deals with community sports.
I fully understand the points made by the hon. Member for Bath about PSA targets. I know that he accepts that failure to reach the targets does not mean that there have not been increases in certain areas—he acknowledged that at Question Time the other day.
We must be careful about continually attacking the burgeoning costs of the Olympics. It is quite right that people should question and scrutinise the costs, because the Olympics are a major spend, but my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics has stated to Opposition parties her willingness to explain in great detail the amount of spend and the reason for the changes. I hope that that continues to be the case. I am slightly concerned about scrutiny of the Olympics, because we should not turn people off them. We are all committed to the success of the London 2012 Olympics, and we all agree on the great benefits that they will bring.
The Minister has made an important point, and we should be careful about our comments to ensure that we do not turn people off the games. As he has said, however, it should not prevent us from scrutinising what is going on, including the bigger decisions. Why, when we knew years ago that we would be bidding for the Olympics, was Wembley stadium not built with a running track? Why is Bisley, a state-of-the-art, internationally competitive shooting arena, not being used? Why will many of the places that will host disciplines of sport during the 2012 Olympics be only temporary? In China, horse racing took place in Hong Kong and aquatics took place miles from Beijing. I do not understand why we are not using existing facilities more appropriately, thereby saving money.
The hon. Gentleman’s party was involved in the original bid proposals—as was the hon. Member for Bath, who led for his party on this matter—so he will know what was required in putting together the bid, what the International Olympic Committee agreed, and what the IOC will expect from the London games. Commitments were made in those bidding documents. My right hon. Friend and I sit on the Olympic Delivery Authority board, and discussions have been held about what opportunities exist to make variations, not only for the sake of cost but for legacy reasons as well. I can honestly say that decisions are taken with maximum involvement and consideration of the commitments given, as well as of the legacy. The hon. Gentleman will know that the Mayor of London sits on the board and has made similar points.
It is obviously the Opposition’s right to scrutinise what goes on, but we need to get the balance right. We may give the impression that costs are out of control and things are not going well, but the reality is quite different. The IOC was here recently, and it has given its support to the progress made. There is a great deal of energy and enthusiasm, not only in east London but across London and the UK, for the success of the games. We must balance the position of the Olympics with their possible impact, which we all want to see, on developing sports participation and culture in this country.
The hon. Gentleman asked what will happen to the stadium. Work is being done with the London Development Agency, the partners and the ODA on what its future use should be. Again, however, commitments were made to athletics about the need for an athletics stadium with a warm-up track, and the stadium’s future outcomes for the legacy must be considered. There is no doubt in my mind that the success of the Olympians and Paralympians in Beijing, to which we all pay tribute, has created enthusiasm, interest and inspiration for London 2012. We need to maximise the benefits.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned free swimming, as did the hon. Member for Bath. I make no apologies for the attacks that I made on those local authorities that are playing politics with that issue. I accept that there were some problems with flexibility, but we have tried to accommodate that in the outcomes by considering their impact on over-60s and under-16s. I also accept that it is for local authorities to make that decision. We did not say that a Government scheme would be imposed on local authorities; we said that our surveys show that swimming is the activity that most people can do and that it is most likely to gain the support of local government in terms of impact and development.
We are pleased at our ability to get other Departments, such as the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health and the Department for Children, Schools and Families, to contribute to that bigger picture. One authority, a Liberal Democrat authority in Hull, told me quite bluntly that the over-60s are not a priority. If that is the authority’s decision, fine, but it seems like a wasted opportunity to me. The issue was about not only free swimming, but the opportunities that free swimming gave for local authorities to offer other recreational services, which could have enhanced the sport offer. However, we have been flexible. We have tried to work with local government and will continue to do so. Hopefully, some who said no will reconsider their position in future rounds of bidding.
The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East welcomed library modernisation and made a relevant point about how libraries must reflect the changing nature of society. He also discussed the digital switchover, which is going to schedule. Some 80 per cent. of UK homes have taken up digital TV, and we want to work with others to ensure that everybody has the opportunity.
I was not too sure about the attack on the regional development agencies and the hon. Gentleman’s perception that they have problems passing on money. The Northwest Regional Development Agency has been outstanding in its work with Liverpool, and Liverpool’s position as a capital of culture gave the regional economy an £800 million boost.
The Minister said that although there are not many Members here, an exchange such as this provides us with an opportunity to tackle and scrutinise issues in detail. I place on the record that of all the RDAs that I have visited, the Northwest Regional Development Agency is probably the best, but the reason why it is the best is that it does not hang on to money centrally. It has five areas with key brand names, such as Blackpool and Manchester, and those brand names are probably recognised the world over. The RDA does not say, “Come to the north-west.” Instead, it says, “Come to these five distinct areas.” That is not the case in other parts of the country. Nor is there a huge amount of communication between the RDAs on best practice. If the approach of the Northwest Regional Development Agency were replicated throughout the country, we would have a much better system, and I would be less critical in speaking about it.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for making the point in more detail. I understand what he has said, although I might not agree with him. I will have the opportunity to meet the RDAs next week, funnily enough, so I will try to pursue and develop his point on good practice.
The other interesting thing about Liverpool is that there were 3.5 million first-time visitors to the region, which is another testament to what was done there.
I am grateful for hon. Members’ support for seaside regeneration, even though I was chided for the fact that the sum involved is only £15 million. That is still a significant investment, and it will give great opportunities for development.
I was not trying to be party political when I mentioned spending plans. Opposition parties cannot continue to say that we are spending too much and that investment is too great, when they have said on the record that their spending plans would reduce the amount spent on tourism.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Mr. Truswell), whose constituency neighbours mine, for portraying the benefits of Leeds and Bradford. My hon. Friend the Member for Wakefield (Mary Creagh), who was sitting behind me, also said, “Don’t forget Wakefield,” meaning our commitment to the tourism industry there. That city is looking forward to its new Hepworth gallery, which will open soon. I agree that west Yorkshire in particular has tremendous assets, not least of which is the National Media museum in Bradford, which is the most visited museum outside London and contributes to our tourism economy.
The hon. Member for Bath said that the Government do not take tourism seriously. I wonder what he thinks about the £130 million in planned investment over the period 2008 to 2011 for Visit Britain and Visit England to market the UK. That is a tremendous level of investment. The Secretary of State meets his Cabinet colleagues on a regular basis. Particularly at this time, where the economy is concerned, we want to strengthen—
I say to the Minister that I am delighted that extra money will be spent, but I remind him that that extra money was nothing to do with the Government. That money came from top-slicing the already reduced budget of Visit Britain and from a contribution made by the tourism industry. Am I correct, or am I wrong?
I just go by the figures and I think that £130 million is considerable. I will speak to the Minister with responsibility for tourism, my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage (Barbara Follett), about that issue. Clearly, investment of £130 million is welcome; that is great. It is not a lack of commitment from the Government to support tourism—
I believe that tourism is at the heart of the way we want to boost Britain. That is why we have the regional development agencies and devolution to ensure that we boost the opportunities for tourism. The best way to do that is through local communities, regional communities and the home countries promoting their areas. As I said, the Secretary of State meets on a regular basis with his Cabinet colleagues.
The issue of Stonehenge was raised earlier. As I understand it, there is a Stonehenge project board, jointly chaired by the Secretary of State and the Minister with responsibility for tourism, and decisions will be made very shortly. The Minister with responsibility for tourism is very impatient to make progress and I am sure that she will do so.
The hon. Member for Bournemouth, East raised the issue of gambling and the fixed-odds betting terminals. That is a very complex area and I will not spend too much time on it now. However, he will know that we need to look at what the Gambling Commission says about the FOBTs, that the Gambling Act 2005 was the first time that gambling had been looked at by Government since 1968, that the Budd report on gambling in 2000 was a key report, and that the Government have acted responsibly on gambling, particularly problem gambling.
We now come to the public service agreement targets, which the hon. Member for Bath raised. I have to say that it is disappointing that we have not met those PSA targets. However, although some targets were not met, improvements took place and he acknowledged that. Regarding the heritage targets, I understand that there have been some significant increases in the final out-turns, for instance in attendance by black and minority groups and also by lower socio-economic groups. For all adults, there were increases between 2005-06 and 2007-08. However, the hon. Gentleman is right to continue scrutinising us to see how we try to achieve these targets. He will know that as a result of missing the targets we had a review of what we were doing with Sport England. Again, I am grateful to him and to the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East for supporting the changes that we have made to Sport England, and I know that he will ensure that we keep the governing bodies under scrutiny, so that they meet the challenging targets that we have set them.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey on the work that he has done in his own constituency on the development of grass-roots sport. I know that he feels very passionately about the issue, be it investment in grass-roots sport or the number of volunteers that we need. I think that the figure in the report is a reflection of what we are trying to achieve in London 2012. It is not about volunteering across the country; it is about the number of people who have applied via the website. We are looking for 70,000 volunteers, but I think that 170,000 people have applied.
The issue of volunteering is vital, as is the issue of coaching. If we do not recruit coaches at the right level, we will not be able to deliver what we want to achieve, in school sport in particular. I am putting a lot of effort into, ensuring that we invest in coaches. We are perhaps now seeing coaches in a different way in the UK. We want to have volunteers but we also want to see coaching progress, so that it can be seen as a career path, in the same way that it is seen as a career path in the United States, where school and college coaches are seen as key members of society.
I am happy to congratulate Airedale-Wharfedale girls cricket team. It is important that we support women’s sport. That is why we supported the review of the needs of women’s sport and why we are looking forward to that report when it comes, which will be pretty soon.
I also want to put on record my thanks to the England women’s cricket team, and to Charlotte Edwards in particular because I think that it is her expertise and inspiration that have caused many girls to become involved in cricket. We look forward to the England women’s team’s performance in Australia, where they are at the moment.
The hon. Member for Bath asked me to recommit, as it were, the DCMS view on the national lottery, the community amateur sports clubs scheme and taxation issues such as gross profit tax. Those are issues that we continue to pursue with the Treasury and clearly a balance must be struck when it comes to the final decisions. Both at the pre-Budget report and at the Budget, we will be pressing those issues again.
Very much so. We continue to work with the Central Council of Physical Recreation and a variety of other organisations to push the Treasury. To be fair to the Treasury, it hears what we say and it then has to make the final decision, with regard to the overall position of the economy.
My hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey raised the issues of specialist sports colleges, competition managers and school sports partnerships, which have been vital and effective in developing sport and competition in schools. He was also right to raise the issue of the Building Schools for the Future programme. It is of concern to me and he will be pleased to know that we are having a seminar very shortly with the relevant governing bodies about how we can develop BSF by ensuring that the sporting provision is there.
On the issue of elite sport, my hon. Friend talked about there being perhaps too much passion shown by individuals, so that there are concerns about people pushing themselves too hard. I am pleased to say that that issue is also being looked at, through UK Sport. The way we deal with our elite sportsmen and sportswomen, particularly at a young age, is vital. We must ensure that people do not burn out, which I think is what happened in the past. Now people are channelled into the right levels, so that they receive the support and expertise in playing the games that they do.
We have rightly paid tribute to the success of our Paralympic team in Beijing, which came second in the league table of medals, which was fantastic. I had the pleasure of sharing a bungalow complex with Tanni Grey-Thompson when I was at Loughborough university and she certainly epitomises the success of Britain and encourages others to participate in sport.
I want to ask the Minister whether he is concerned about the tributes that were made in the new year’s honours list. There was a definite disparity between the honours given to those in the Olympics for their successes and those given to the equally successful members of the Paralympics team.
It is difficult for me to comment on that in detail, because the honours system is an independent system. The Government make recommendations. We recommended a number of sportsmen and women from both the Olympics and the Paralympics. At the end of the day, however, it is an independent body that decides the honours. I am pleased to say that a large number of Paralympians were congratulated and honoured. That is an issue that the hon. Gentleman may want to take up with the honours committee, but I do not think that it is something that I should comment on in detail.
UK Sport and Mission 2012 are important. Mission 2012 is a new way of looking at elite sport and how elite sport can develop. What UK Sport did certainly helped us to reach the position we did in Beijing and it will develop our sport further for the London Olympics.
I am grateful for the acknowledgement by the hon. Member for Bath of the committee that the Secretary of State has set up to examine television coverage of sport. I know that that is a very emotive issue and many parliamentary colleagues have raised questions about cricket and other sports being on terrestrial television. We look forward to the findings of that committee. I also welcome the fact that today the CCPR has made an announcement on the discussions that it has had. Clearly we need to look at the details of the proposals, but I am happy to support anything that helps that situation.
Across the areas of the Department’s work, we have a fantastic impact on people’s lives. One matter that the hon. Member for Bath raised, on playing fields, gives me slight concern. I am happy to support the work of Fields in Trust, or FIT, but this issue is about not just playing fields, but sports provision. We have talked to many of the governing bodies in sport about that. We want to retain playing fields, and we have put safeguards in place. On the change from 0.4 to 0.2 hectares, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that we intend to make an announcement on that in due course—that is the new phrase that I shall use today—but that will be very soon. When that announcement is made, I believe that we will be in the right place for him to give me the congratulations that I will deserve. This is not just about the quality of playing fields—it is also about the quality of sports provision.
I hope that I have mentioned most of the points that hon. Members have raised. We appreciate the work that has been done by all those involved in the DCMS and by all the Members of Parliament who support and contribute to that work.
Before the Minister sits down, I should like to make one more important point, as there is time to do so. I understand that some councils have decided to close their tourism operations and get rid of their directors of tourism so that they can shift the money that they will save to other local authority objectives in order to meet Government targets, for which they will then be financially rewarded. I shall not cite which councils they are, because it is important for the Government to have the opportunity to reconcile the dilemma that we are facing. It is madness for certain councils to choose not to have a tourism strategy and to close departments in order to chase targets on recycling, for example. Of course, those targets are important, but they should not have a detrimental impact on tourism.
I agree that it is unfortunate if that is happening, and I shall take it up with the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Stevenage, who has responsibility for tourism, if there is a problem.
The Department does a great deal of good, and I commend its work to the House.
Question put and agreed to.