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Culture, Media and Sport

Volume 491: debated on Monday 20 April 2009

The Secretary of State was asked—

Lap-dancing Clubs

1. How many times temporary event notices have been issued for events organised by lap-dancing clubs in the past 12 months; and if he will make a statement. (269383)

We do not hold information on the type of temporary event for which a notice is given. Although the Licensing Act 2003 covers the provision of regulated entertainment, it does not censor the content of such entertainment.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, although I am disappointed by it. He may or may not be aware that local councils’ licensing offices are getting more and more concerned about temporary event notices because they are being used increasingly by lap-dancing clubs, and also bars and pubs; one notice can be applied for per month. One owner of a lap-dancing club told me that the notices would be good for business because he would be able to move his “stable” of girls from venue to venue more often and develop his business. This is a big loophole. Will the Minister meet me and agree to look into that loophole as soon as possible?

Certainly. I appreciate the work that my hon. Friend has been doing on the Policing and Crime Bill and on the issues relating to the proliferation of lap-dancing clubs. There clearly is an issue, although I am not sure that the way to resolve it is through temporary event notices. When my hon. Friend is able to see me, we can have further discussions on how we can look at using the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1982 and the new Bill to try to prevent the occurrences that she has referred to.

Given the proliferation of lap-dancing applications throughout the country, is the Minister convinced that the interests of local residents are best served by the new licensing authorities—or by the magistrates courts, which were part of the regime before the 2003 Act came into force?

The 2003 Act is working and powers are available to local authorities and the police to close down premises, including lap-dancing clubs, that are not operating in a proper manner. But there certainly is an issue around lap dancing; that is why it is important that while the Policing and Crime Bill is before the House we seek to strengthen any provisions that would stop the proliferation of such clubs.

Is the Minister aware of Newcastle’s “Sinners” bar, which is one of these horrible places? Young Newcastle university students went there recently and saw a notice saying “Whoever shows her”—the word begins with t and ends in s—“to bar staff gets a free shot! Girls only!” Will the Minister congratulate Newcastle university students who launched a boycott and a demonstration outside that wretched establishment? One of them, a young lady, said:

“it promotes the degradation of women and binge drinking and I think it’s demoralising.”

Will the Minister encourage other university students to take on that feminist message? I declare an interest: that young lady was my daughter.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend’s daughter and the other Newcastle university students. What he mentioned was clearly irresponsible advertising and it is not what we want to see, particularly where alcohol is concerned. However, the powers are there to deal with irresponsible advertising and with lap-dancing clubs when local people do not want them. If we can strengthen those powers, we will do so.

Will the Minister please look seriously at the democratic loophole that prevents elected representatives from making representations to the decision maker in respect of temporary event notices? Only the police can make such representations, and only on very narrow grounds.

We have to be careful. Temporary event notices came about at the request of many Back-Bench MPs, who wanted village halls and parent-teacher associations to have the opportunity to put on events for which licensing requirements were in place. More than 120,000 temporary event notices have been granted, and there has been no real trouble. However, during our discussion of the Licensing Bill, we said that if there was a problem we would look at it. If the police feel that events will be inappropriately dealt with, they have the power to stop them. The temporary event notices have been a power for good, not for evil.

I should like to pick up the point made by the right hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane). Is the Minister aware that there is a little hypocrisy in the Government on the issue? Last year, Jobcentre Plus advertised 351 vacancies in the adult entertainment industry, including for topless and semi-nude bar staff. If the Government are to start looking anywhere to sort the matter out, they had better look at themselves.

I do not want to get into a debate about offers of jobs in the adult entertainment industry—and you would not allow me to, Mr. Speaker. We are here to talk about the Licensing Act 2003, and its provisions dealing with the establishments under discussion. I do not think that there has been any hypocrisy on the part of the Government; we are trying to do our best to make sure that people can pursue what they want to pursue within the framework of the law.

My hon. Friend the Member for Forest of Dean (Mr. Harper) talked about the responsibility and conduct of these establishments. As the Minister will be aware, the so-called designated premises supervisor is legally responsible for the conduct of any pub, club or lap-dancing establishment. However, there is no requirement for that supervisor to be present in his establishment at any time; he can verbally hand over responsibility to an untrained manager with no qualifications. Will the Minister examine whether that is the best way to ensure that pubs, clubs or lap-dancing operations are run properly? The feedback from local authorities with vibrant town centres is that it is not.

Designated door supervisors have been a force for good in the sense of working with establishments, the police and local authorities. I made an enjoyable visit in my Bradford constituency to police on the licensing route late one Friday night, to see at first hand how door supervisors were working. [Interruption.] No, lap dancing was not on at that venue that evening. We are trying to ensure that local authorities, the police and the industry are working together in trying to protect the public.

“Digital Britain”

Good progress has made been since publication of the “Digital Britain” interim report on 29 January. On 13 March, we published, jointly with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, a discussion paper, “Copyright in a digital world—What role for a Digital Rights Agency?”, and on 17 April we held a successful “Digital Britain” summit at the British Library. We remain on course to publish the final report by the summer.

As the Secretary of State knows, the interim report proposes a universal service commitment to broadband speeds of a minimum of 2 megabits per second from 2012. However, given that speeds of up to 15 Mbps are regularly available in urban areas, does he acknowledge that that is a very unambitious target that is likely to push rural areas even further behind urban areas by 2012?

These are primarily matters for the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, but Lord Carter is looking at them closely in the context of the final “Digital Britain” report, and I will ensure that the hon. Gentleman’s comments are brought to his attention. In any universal service obligation it is important that all parts of the country are able to benefit; indeed, that is the purpose of such a commitment. It has an historic potential to ensure that, as with postage and telephony, all citizens of this country have access to the highest quality communications infrastructure —and that applies to all parts of the United Kingdom.

Does my right hon. Friend agree—this was touched on in the Lords Communications Committee report—that contestable funding is needed if we are to fill the gap in relation to public broadcasting and ensure that regional news survives? Has he looked into that, and what will he do to support it and to ensure that it is in the “Digital Britain” report when it is produced in full?

I share my hon. Friend’s passion for regional news and welcome the determined role that he has played down the years in making the argument for the importance of high-quality, impartial news at a regional level. At this stage, I have had a chance to read only the headline conclusions of the report from the Lords Communications Committee. It makes some interesting observations, and it will be important in the context of our final considerations on the “Digital Britain” report. In general terms, I agree with him about the crucial importance of regional news. It is vital that the final report comes up with specific proposals to encourage the continuation of high-quality news at not only a regional but a local level.

In following up the excellent question from the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle), will the Secretary of State take account in the “Digital Britain” review of the fact that this year licence fee income to the BBC is likely to exceed total advertising revenue for commercial television? Does that not strengthen the case for making part of the licence fee available for other public service broadcasting objectives such as regional news, children’s television, and supporting Channel 4, as was recommended by the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee more than 18 months ago?

I always listen very carefully to the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Last week the hon. Gentleman’s Committee made some broader points—although on the more narrow subject of BBC Worldwide—about preserving high-quality public service broadcasting. I would say to him, if I may, that it is a little premature to make assumptions about any supposed surplus in this licence fee period. We are only at the very beginnings of digital switchover. We will not have a clear picture of how the costs of the digital switchover help scheme are panning out until the Winter Hill transmitter for the north-west region is switched over later this year. I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman’s objectives. Of course, Labour Members want to see a strong BBC as well as high-quality provision beyond the BBC. We are working through our final consideration of these issues and we will come forward with clear proposals in the final “Digital Britain” report.

Next week we mark the 30th anniversary of black Thursday, when Mrs. Thatcher came to power. In the period—[Interruption.] In the period for which she was in power and indeed since, it has been impossible to propose public spending to underpin industrial policy. Will my right hon. Friend comment on the remarks last Friday of that dangerous radical Lord Mandelson, who suggested substantial public investment to provide 50 Mbps broadband so that people, families and businesses in city, urban and rural settings will at long last have something adequate to support their lives and businesses? If Australia can do it on a grander scale, with 100 Mbps broadband and a rather left-of-centre Prime Minister, perhaps we can aspire to something similar.

I do not know what event my hon. Friend has planned for next Thursday, but I look forward to receiving an invitation.

This issue is critical not just to the creative industries or TV and broadcasting but to the entire economy. The way in which all businesses operate will be determined by the capability and quality of this country’s communications infrastructure. It will determine their productivity and efficiency, as well as how their staff can work in future—whether they can do more home working and whether there can be more opportunity to work flexibly using the highest-quality new technology. This is a matter of the highest order for the country.

Stephen Carter has made his proposal for a universal service obligation for broadband, which, as I said to the hon. Member for Clwyd, West (Mr. Jones) a moment ago, is a significant and historic commitment. Of course, working with private sector partners and other Departments, we want to ensure that we put in place an infrastructure that will set up the whole economy for the future and, crucially, enable all citizens of this country to play their part in the communications revolution.

On Friday the Secretary of State admitted that his Government were playing catch-up on their digital responsibilities. Today we have heard from Members on both sides of the House real concern about the measly proposal for 2 Mbps broadband in this country. As we have heard, many other countries are willing to go to much higher speeds. Given that the Secretary of State has said that the matter is mainly the responsibility of his noble Friend Lord Carter, will he at least tell the House whether he accepts that 2 Mbps broadband for this country is woefully inadequate?

These are matters that will be concluded in the final “Digital Britain” report, and I repeat that they are not primarily for me. However, I accept that they are crucial to my Department and the industries that it sponsors. I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, but he would have to acknowledge that a bigger commitment to higher capability for all parts of the country would have significant public spending implications. It is not possible to make the claim for ever greater capacity and capability without recognising that there will be a difficult judgment to be made about the level of public sector investment that we can put in. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor) a moment ago, this matter is fundamental to how the whole economy and all businesses will operate in future, so the case for investment is overwhelming.

The future of public service broadcasting is at the heart of the “Digital Britain” review. The executive chairman of ITV has described the Government’s decision not to reduce the regulatory burden on ITV as “perverse” and as leaving the channel

“in a curious twilight zone”.

Given the Secretary of State’s refusal to deregulate, what is his alternative solution to the pressures that ITV is under?

The hon. Gentleman is somewhat pre-empting the final discussion on “Digital Britain”. We have had discussions with ITV, and I have said on the record that I will take a pragmatic approach to ensuring that it can make the transition from the old media world to the new, as all media businesses are struggling to do.

The hon. Gentleman’s comment related to product placement. I know that he favours a relaxation of regulations in that area, but I have said strongly that I believe that British broadcasting has a reputation around the world for integrity, quality and high standards in programme making. Those things should not simply be thrown away because we feel pressure as we move to the future. It is right to say that we should keep what we are known for and good at, which is high-quality programming. Let us keep the line between editorial and advertising where it should be, so that people know which is which, but at the same time let us face the future pragmatically and help good British businesses keep quality programming at the core of everything that they do.

Minton Archive

On 12 March I hosted a meeting, which was attended by interested parties, including my hon. Friend, to discuss the future of the unique artistic and industrial archive and to consider what action might be taken to keep it in Britain, should its new owners, KPS Capital Partners, agree to release it. I have also written to KPS to ask about its plans and I hope to speak to its representatives in the next 24 hours to establish a dialogue. The Government welcome and support in principle any proposals that would keep the archive in its entirety in an appropriate UK collection.

I am grateful to the Under-Secretary—I know that she appreciates the importance of the collection and the archive, not only nationally but internationally. With those of Spode and Wedgwood, it is one of the great ceramics industry archives, with all the designs of great designers such as Christopher Dresser. It would be a tragedy if it were broken up, so I urge my hon. Friend to take whatever steps she can to persuade KPS. I believe that the company is well intentioned, but that support and pressure from Her Majesty’s Government are needed to stress the extreme importance of keeping the archive together, not only in one piece, as one archive, but in Britain, and especially north Staffordshire.

I commend my hon. Friend for the hard work that he and others have put into getting the archive recognised and saved. As Minister for tourism, I recognise its unique value because there is huge interest in our industrial heritage, which we need to exploit. I will work as hard as I can to keep the archive in Britain, especially in north Staffordshire. I know that the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council is working in collaboration with Advantage West Midlands through a small working group to ascertain what can be done.

Could South Staffordshire come to the support of north Staffordshire and express the hope that the incomparably rich archive will be kept in this country? Once it is broken up, that is it for ever. Does the Under-Secretary realise that the matter has genuine parliamentary significance? After all, Minton made the tiles in the Palace.

Trust the hon. Gentleman to know such a detail. I commend him for that and his interest in all things artistic—he is an example to us all. I am glad that South Staffordshire is weighing in with north Staffordshire on the matter. We need as much help as possible, and we stand ready to do what we can to save the archive.

My hon. Friend touched on the wider problem of our industrial heritage in general. I am especially concerned about the motor industry and what might happen, especially in times of economic downturn, such as now. Is there not perhaps a case for giving local authorities more powers to preserve our industrial heritage and provide more resources to museum services to help ensure that we retain such archives in Britain?

I understand the concern of my hon. Friend, as one of the Members for Luton. In fact, local authorities have quite wide powers in this area. They also work with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and they have money for that. We have to encourage local authorities to be aware of the value of such matters to local identity and local tourism.

The hon. Lady says rather glibly that local authorities have money for that, but I do not think that anybody has money for anything at the moment. Local authorities would have money to secure archives of such national importance—as well as importance to this House, as we have just heard—by adopting Conservative plans for the national lottery, because those archives are precisely the sort of things that could be secured with lottery funding. It is not too late, but the clock is ticking. Why does the hon. Lady not persuade her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to adopt our policies for the national lottery?

Climbing

7. What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department’s expenditure on climbing in raising participation levels of young people in the sport. (269389)

No overall assessment of the effectiveness of expenditure on climbing in raising participation levels of young people has been commissioned by my Department. However, the school sport survey demonstrates that mountaineering is offered by 13 per cent. of schools, which is up from 7 per cent. in 2003-04. Climbing is also proving very popular among young people through the Sport Unlimited project, which is managed by Sport England as part of the Government’s PE and sport strategy for young people. Nottinghamshire county sports partnership alone is investing around £8,000 in the period 2009-10 in climbing schemes that will involve more than 200 children and young people.

Given that so many hon. Members are desperate to join the parliamentary climbing club—and they are welcome to do so—will the Minister, in the week of the British Mountaineering Council’s annual general meeting, congratulate the sport on the way in which it has involved a wide range of young people in recent years? Will he also undertake to liaise with his colleagues in the Department for Children, Schools and Families about the excellent myplace initiative, which involves the funding of more than 20 new climbing walls this year, and ensure that the BMC and his Department are fully involved in the design features of those walls?

I am happy to support what my hon. Friend has said. I pay tribute to him for his work with the British Mountaineering Council. I was happy to host a reception at No. 10 last year for the council. What impressed me most was the breadth and depth of skills among those mountaineers and climbers. The point that my hon. Friend mentioned about the offer of climbing in school sport is also important. We are trying to widen participation and the number of sports available to young people, and climbing is one of the sports that can help us do that. We will continue to work with climbing and the BMC.

Horse Racing

It is too early to make an assessment of the effect on horse racing, but we continue to monitor the situation in close consultation with industry representatives. I remain confident that the industry is taking the right action to sustain itself and prepare for recovery.

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but given the current economic situation, does he agree that now must be the time to modernise the future of horse racing by replacing the out-of-date levy system with a new system that is fit for the 21st century? That can be achieved only by all sections of the racing industry working together constructively to get that system off the ground.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work with the all-party group on racing and bloodstock industries. He has heard me say before that the important thing for racing is for the industry to work together to succeed. That means all parts of the industry: the owners, the trainers, the jockeys and the betting industry. They have to come together, and the mechanism for doing that is through the levy. We want to see a successful outcome to the levy discussions, but that does not remove the need to continue with the modernisation programme and ensure that a great industry goes from strength to strength.

We all agree that the levy needs modernising, but does the Minister agree that the three-year deal offered by the bookmakers will provide stability for racing through difficult economic times and give some breathing space to allow a new, modernised levy to emerge, which probably would not happen if we continued with a year-on-year roll-over of the levy?

I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his work with the all-party group. He is right to say that, in these difficult times, a three-year deal would give a stability that no other sector would have, but that would certainly not prevent any modernisation from taking place. The two can go together in tandem. I would be very happy if a three-year deal could be agreed, but I would also want to ensure that we continued with the modernisation agenda.

Lottery Funding (Sport)

9. What recent assessment he has made of the likely effect of the recession on lottery funding for sport. (269391)

So far, national lottery ticket sales and returns to good causes have held up well. We expect to see an increase when end-year results are announced in May. The National Lottery Commission and Camelot, the operator, are working hard to ensure that the lottery is in the strongest position and that it will generate maximum returns for all good causes, including sport.

Since Labour came to power, lottery funding for sport has halved, yet administration costs have doubled. Is that a record to be proud of?

There is a fact that Opposition representatives continue to overlook when it comes to the lottery and sport: the new good causes fund—previously called the New Opportunities Fund and more recently named the Big Lottery Fund—has put considerable funds into sport. The average figure for the past five years is £100 million a year. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stop misrepresenting this position—

I hope that he will stop not giving a fully accurate reflection of this position. Because of the changes that this Government have made—including the creation of the New Opportunities Fund, which enabled lottery funds to be spent in schools and hospitals for the first time—a £1 billion investment was put into school sport in 1999. That enabled the creation of floodlit astroturf pitches in schools up and down the country, and those that were created in my constituency at that time are still heavily used to this day.

May I congratulate the Secretary of State on the success of his team in yesterday’s FA cup semi-final?

The right hon. Gentleman sent me a letter just before Christmas refuting the claims that I had made about the decline in funding for grass-roots and community sport—claims that have been echoed today by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone). Just a few weeks ago, however, the Secretary of State supplied me with parliamentary answers that confirm precisely the fact that there has been a dramatic fall in lottery funding for grass-roots and community sport. Which of his two answers is correct?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his congratulations. It was a marvellous day at Wembley yesterday, and I apologise for being a touch croaky today. It is not always possible to be an impartial Secretary of State, and that has produced a bit of a rift in the Department today, although we are patching things up as best we can.

I will give the shadow Secretary of State a similar response to that which I have just given the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone). The figures that he cites not only miss out the funding from the Big Lottery Fund, significant sums of which have gone into grass-roots sport, but exclude funding provided by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in accordance with the PE and school sports strategy, which the DCSF and my Department co-sponsor. We are now talking about £200 million a year in that regard, so I hope that, if we are to have a debate about funding for sport, we can put all the facts on the table and take into account all the investment that is going into grass-roots and school sport. If I have heard the shadow Chancellor correctly in recent times, I must conclude that if he were standing where I am now, he would be having to explain to the House on what level he was cutting sport funding. I understand that it is Conservative policy to cut Department for Culture, Media and Sport spending now, this year, and we would be interested to hear where the axe would fall on grass-roots sport.

If we are to believe what we read in the papers this morning, Government briefings suggest that it is the Chancellor, not the shadow Chancellor, who is talking about spending cuts of £15 billion. The last Conservative Government set up the lottery precisely in order to support grass-roots sports, the arts and our heritage when times are tough. Is not the reason that funding for grass-roots sport has halved under the right hon. Gentleman’s Government the appalling way in which they have managed the national lottery, in particular by diverting more than £1 billion to supporting Government spending programmes, so that, in the crucial run-up to 2012, when we want more people to be able to enjoy community sport, fewer people will actually be able to do so?

It is simply inaccurate to say that funding has halved. This Government have invested at every level of sport—school and community sport, club sport and elite sport—which is why sport in this country is in a better position today than it has been for many years and why nine out of 10 young people do two hours of sport in school every week. What was the position when the hon. Gentleman’s party was in government? It was appalling; it was terrible. I was at school and I remember what happened—sport simply dried up. The hon. Gentleman keeps talking about a big diversion of funds and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics—

Local News Media

11. If he will bring forward proposals to provide support to news media organisations for the provision of local news. (269393)

I am well aware of the intense challenges facing local news providers, including radio and television as well as local newspapers. Building on my recent discussions with relevant bodies, I will hold a summit at the end of this month to discuss options for local news services.

While the town of Congleton retains its local newspaper, the Congleton Chronicle, which is not part of a national news media group, many offices in rural constituencies, including mine, have closed because of the centralisation of news coverage to places such as Manchester. Is the Secretary of State concerned that local people will not be able to access news about court proceedings, council proceedings and so forth unless they have a local news service? How can that best be delivered?

I certainly understand the hon. Lady’s concerns; indeed, they are shared across the House. Part of the answer is market forces, as newspapers operate in a market, but I think we would all agree that local newspapers perform a vital public service at local level and are crucial to the health of local democracy. I hope that the hon. Lady will attend the seminar I have called in Portcullis House next week, as I would be interested in debating the available options. It is, of course, difficult for local news organisations to make the transition to the fully digital era. There is pressure in respect of the cost of newsprint and a difficult advertising market, and structural challenges are arising together with the pressures in the economy. We all care enough to hope that we can plot a way forward for local news organisations, which we should work towards.

City of Culture

I have set up a working group, chaired by Phil Redmond. The group’s remit is to consider what the vision for a UK city of culture should look like, the criteria for eligibility and how the bidding process might work. The working assumption is that the first UK city of culture could be in 2013 and would work on a four-year cycle.

I am anxious that the criteria—whatever they are—do not discriminate against newer cities such as my own, Milton Keynes. I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that the criteria allow a bid, which could build on the marriage of Milton Keynes’s history with the varied heritage of the large numbers of communities that have moved into the city from elsewhere in the UK and from abroad.

I hear what my hon. Friend says. I attended one of the meetings of the working group I mentioned, and I can assure her that the consensus around the table was that we should work with the broadest possible definition of city of culture, which would allow as many parts of the country as possible to join the competition.

This UK city of culture proposal has real potential, as we saw in Liverpool last year when there was an £800 million boost to the regional economy. More than anything, the association with culture gave the whole city a lift and brought some real civic pride to Liverpool. We will pursue the proposal carefully, but we believe that it has real potential for areas all around the country, not just for the larger cities.

Topical Questions

Last week, I attended a memorial service at Anfield to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough stadium disaster. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in paying respects to the families of the 96 people who tragically lost their lives on that terrible day. In advance of this, working with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle), I called for the full disclosure of any documents held by public bodies relating to the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath. I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement, and I will work closely with her and other colleagues across the Government to determine the process by which to take this forward.

Following formal concerns raised by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, we recently announced an inquiry into the provision of library services in the Wirral.

If the Government are successful in achieving their target, announced in “Digital Britain”, of reducing illegal file sharing by 70 per cent., that will still leave 2 million individuals to be sued. That is clearly an unrealistic possibility. Will the Secretary of State look again at the technological possibilities of excluding the miscreants, rather than clogging up our courts? “Digital Britain” should be a huge opportunity for creative industries to lead the country out of recession, but at the moment, for every file legally downloaded, 600 are stolen.

I find myself in the unusual position of wanting to agree with the hon. Gentleman—a very unusual position—because I do not believe that the right way to approach this matter is via a legislative route. Clearly, behavioural change on a large scale is required. Lots of downloads are not paid for. That is true of music in particular, but other creative content could follow shortly.

The right approach is to encourage better dialogue between rights holders and internet service providers so that new opportunities emerge for how people may pay differently for music, film and other content in future. That would keep within the spirit in which the internet has been so good: people could explore music and could have full access to all the creative content they wanted. We believe that that is the right approach, but be in no doubt that the Government are determined to find solutions, because unless we have a workable system of copyright in the digital age we will weaken our creative industries in the long term.

As a lifelong Liverpool fan and someone who was at the Hillsborough disaster, may I say that my right hon. Friend’s presence at last week’s memorial service was most welcome? Most people there wanted to hear with interest what he had to say. On that point, will he say more about the papers that might be released as a result of work being done currently and whether that includes not just police files, but Government, health authority, health agency and local council papers that might be relevant to what happened on that day? Can he also give me the assurance that the families will be involved in this process and that no one in government will stop it continuing?

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind comments. He more than anybody will know that those events are still unbearably painful and very difficult to talk about, particularly in a public context. I agree with everything he said. I believe that it is not right to expect the families who have suffered so much in the 20 years since the disaster to wait a further 10 years to see full disclosure of documents. I favour very much the full disclosure of all documents held by any relevant public body that was connected with the tragedy. I am happy to give him the assurance today that, at all times, the Hillsborough Family Support Group should be fully consulted about the manner and the process by which this is taken forward.

T4. I was very pleased indeed to hear the Secretary of State announce the summit on media options, particularly as journalists and other workers on the Stockport Express were given their redundancy notices over Easter. In future, newsgathering will be in the hands of an overcrowded newsroom in Manchester. What are some of the options that he will put on the table for the summit to consider? (269426)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments. The summit has been called in response to a suggestion from the all-party National Union of Journalists group in the House. The idea is to bring forward all relevant organisations in this debate. That will obviously include the Newspaper Society, the Society of Editors, the Local Government Association and others.

At this stage, we want to consider all potential options, and I am open-minded about what they might be. It may be that, rather than titles simply being closed, we allow a space whereby other local solutions could be considered to sustain a newspaper title that has been important in any local community down the years.

As I have said, I am open-minded. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take part in next week’s debate, but I believe that we could take a broad range of measures to help local news organisations, and I intend the final “Digital Britain” report to contain clear proposals on this important topic.

T2. I appreciate that there is to be a summit on the future of the newspaper industry, but does my right hon. Friend realise that the rationalisation process has been going on for about two years? The hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) said that redundancy notices had been received fairly recently, but the process has been going on for a long time in the west midlands, and it requires a little more than a summit.Why cannot the newspaper industry be treated like any other industry? The Government have gone out of their way to give the motor car industry large sums of taxpayers’ money. Why do they not take a good look at the newspaper industry at the same time? Many local people—particularly pensioners and those who are housebound—depend on their local newspapers as much as they depend on benefits. (269424)

I agree with my hon. Friend that we may have taken local papers for granted for a little too long. We all know from our constituencies how important they are to the quality of local debate and information, and it is high time that the House devoted some of its time to considering them.

As I have said, I believe that a broad range of measures could come to the aid of local news organisations. It may also be possible to establish stronger partnerships with other media organisations, notably the BBC, to ensure that local newspapers have attractive content that people will wish to access via websites. The problem this year is the combination of structural change, with people turning increasingly to online news sources, and pressures in the economy. Our aim, however, must be to help local newspapers through these difficult times and set them up for the future, and that is what we intend to do.

T7. I know that the sports Minister shares my desire to widen opportunities for those with learning disabilities to participate in sport. Will he join me in congratulating the initiative of Wingate and Finchley football club? I visited the club recently, along with the leader of Barnet council, Mike Freer. It had worked with the local branch of Mencap to host a disability open day on which more than 30 adults with learning disabilities were able to play football and then watch a match. That set a very positive example, and I believe that we should encourage similar initiatives throughout the country. (269430)

I am happy to congratulate the club on that event, because it showed that we can provide sport for all. People with learning disabilities should have an opportunity to play sport at a number of different levels. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman’s local authority on the work it has done, and congratulate him on his own work in the House.

T3. May I return to the topic of Hillsborough? Ten years ago I worked with trade unionists in Liverpool to support people who had gone through that trauma, and the fact that they are still seeking justice 10 years on beggars belief. I congratulate the Secretary of State and his colleagues on the work that they have done, but let me tell the Secretary of State very clearly that what is being done now may well not be enough. Will he undertake to work closely with support groups and families to ensure that the truth comes out? (269425)

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he has done to support those families. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), I was at the other semi-final on that terrible day, and I shall never forget seeing the news of six dead at Hillsborough on the score board at Villa Park. Our delight turned to despair as we thought of friends at the other ground, and of what they were going through.

Those events are still unbearably difficult to deal with, but we must now finally answer questions that are still unanswered, and ensure full disclosure. It is important for us to uncover the full picture. Obviously that may resurrect difficult and painful issues, but judging by the public comment and debate of recent days, I think that the mood in the country is very much in favour of a process that will enable us finally to answer the questions raised by that terrible day, to ensure that it never happens again, and to bring some—I emphasise the word “some”—respite to families who, while suffering terrible indignities and injustices down the years, have conducted themselves with enormous dignity at all times.

T8. Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) on the vast scale of digital piracy and the impracticality of suing such immense numbers of people, will the Secretary of State agree to meet representatives of the creative industries to discuss the possibility of introducing technical measures such as throttling bandwidth? (269431)

The hon. Lady sounds more technically up to date than me; I do not know whether “throttling bandwidth” is a technical term, but it certainly sounds interesting. I think that technical solutions may well hold the answer, but the hon. Lady will know from the Pirate Bay court case in Sweden last week that there are enormous technical challenges in tackling illegal downloading. The Government have clearly and unequivocally said that there has to be a solution and that there has to be a solution quickly. In my view, that solution has to be international; there has to be an international consensus, because that is the very nature of the online space. Later this year, having concluded our own discussions on this issue in “Digital Britain”, we will seek at the Cabinet forum in the autumn to build an international consensus on the right way to tackle illegal downloading in the long term. The signs are very encouraging, and the rights holders and internet service providers are engaging very well on these issues, but the Government are absolutely clear that if there is not a solution we will, in the end, have to legislate.

T6. As my hon. Friend the Minister is aware, I am lucky enough to have the world’s first ever football club, Sheffield FC, in my constituency. Given the fantastic work it does in the community, particularly through community football, will my hon. Friend commit to working with Sheffield FC in promoting England as the venue for the 2018 World cup? (269428)

I can do that. Clearly, the 2018 World cup bid is important to the country, and we want all who can contribute to do so, and particularly Sheffield FC, which is now based in Dronfield. It was founded in 1857 and it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007, so it clearly is well placed to help us bid successfully for the 2018 World cup.

T9. Given that we spend far too much time in this country celebrating cultures other than our own, is it not time to start redressing the balance by creating a public holiday to celebrate St. George’s day? (269432)

I commend the hon. Gentleman for the work he does in promoting Englishness and the flag of St. George. I would have to discuss with Government colleagues the idea of holding a public holiday to celebrate St. George’s day, but I hope that people will follow the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and celebrate St. George’s day, while also remembering that we will also be celebrating the birth of William Shakespeare.