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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 512: debated on Monday 21 June 2010

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State for Culture Olympics, Media and Sport was asked—

Local and Regional Media

1. What plans he has to support the activities of local and regional media providers; and if he will make a statement. (2994)

13. What representations he has received on the future of local and regional media; and if he will make a statement. (3006)

It is a fundamental priority for this Government to reform the regulatory structure to allow the emergence of a new generation of local media companies, including high-quality local TV companies, which we have never properly had in this country, and I have already taken steps to make that happen.

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to focus on local media. We have a great tradition of local newspapers in this country, including in my constituency the magnificent Selby Times, and not forgetting The Press and Wetherby News. Does he see such local papers playing a role in the development of local television stations?

I welcome my hon. Friend to his position, particularly given his background in the telecoms industry. I hope he can contribute to a discussion of that policy area, given his understanding of convergence between telecoms and broadcast technologies. He is absolutely right that this is not simply about the future of local television, but about the future of our struggling local newspaper sector. He mentioned in glowing terms his local newspapers, but the truth is that for everyone in this country local newspapers are incredibly important as a focus for community activities and in holding locally elected politicians to account. I hope that by relaxing the cross-media ownership rules at a local level, local newspapers such as the ones in his constituency can develop into multi-media operations across different technology platforms.

What the Secretary of State just said flies in the face of the fact that one of his first decisions in government was to scrap the independently funded news consortiums that STV was depending on to deliver its news, which it finds increasingly expensive. STV is now very worried about the future of news, as are the people of Scotland, because we might be left with the BBC as the only pan-Scottish news deliverer on terrestrial television. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that STV can continue delivering news, and to ensure that a plurality of news is provided through terrestrial TV in Scotland?

I entirely agree with the hon. Lady that it is absolutely essential that we have a plurality of news provision. However, the previous Government’s policy in that respect was to have two state-funded regional news broadcasters in every part of the country, which I think is the wrong way to ensure plurality of provision. What has worked very well in British broadcasting is that we have some broadcasters funded by the licence fee, others by subscription, and others by advertising. That is what we need to look at, which is why we have a much more ambitious model. STV is obliged to continue broadcasting in Scotland under the terms of the licence until 2014. We need to make sure that new models are up and running by that time so that it is possible to go forward with proper plurality of news provision.

Thousands of my constituents watch BBC’s “Midlands Today” and ITV’s “Central Tonight” news, and indeed, they read the most successful regional paper, the Express and Star. Given that the Government have scrapped independently funded news consortiums, what guarantee can the Secretary give me that ITV will continue to provide a quality regional news service for the west midlands?

I welcome the hon. Lady to her position—I believe that she also name-checked the Express and Star in her maiden speech. If we had Wolverhampton TV, she could name-check that as well, which she should welcome, because that is very much a part of the Government’s vision. ITV news providers are obliged to continue under the terms of their current licences until 2014, as I told the hon. Member for Aberdeen South (Miss Begg), so we have a window between now and then in which to allow for the emergence of a new generation of strong, profitable, ambitious and successful local media companies. We are doing that by modernising the regulatory framework, which unfortunately was not done by the previous Government, and which was set up in the pre-internet era. That is why so many local papers are struggling. I hope the hon. Lady supports our plans, because I think that they would be good for local papers in her area and for a new generation of TV companies.

May I welcome the Secretary of State and his Ministers to the Front Bench? As everybody else is doing this, may I also name-check my local newspaper, the Huddersfield Daily Examiner? As someone who used to work in ITV regional news, I know the importance that Ofcom attaches to vibrant local and regional media for local democracy. Bearing in mind the current economic climate, what definite plans does the Secretary of State have for ensuring that ITV regional news provides strong competition for BBC regional news?

I also welcome my hon. Friend, and particularly as someone whose background includes working both as an ITV broadcaster and as a BBC journalist, because BBC journalists have often tended to be represented more on another side of the House. The answer to his question is that we have to ensure that BBC news provision has competition. That is essential, although it is not necessarily the case that that competition must come from ITV; it might come from more local news providers. That is why the plans that we are putting forward will be so significant.

I give a warm welcome to the Secretary of State and his colleagues in their new posts, but could he please explain to the House why he has allowed his Department to be downgraded, in that we have lost 15 minutes from our previously hour-long Question Time?

On regional news, is the reason why the hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), who is an excellent Member of this House, has been excluded from this Front-Bench team—indeed, why all Liberal Democrats have been excluded—that they agree with us on this question and not with the Secretary of State?

I thank the shadow Secretary of State for the courtesies that he extended to me when I was in his position and he was in mine. He will be amused to know that local newspapers from his area are still being delivered to my private office, because it takes some time to cancel the subscription. I would like now to give him a copy of the Western Morning News, in case he is missing it. Let me tell him that under this Government, my Department has not been downgraded; it has been upgraded, because we are now responsible for the Olympics, which we were not before.

The right hon. Gentleman might like to know that tickets to the Royal Opera House for him and his wife have been delivered to my home in London—tickets that I have been foolish enough to send back to the Department. However, given what he has just said about local and regional news, can he point to a single other European country—not America, where market conditions, including in the advertising markets, are completely different, as he knows—where his model flies?

I cannot, because no other country in the world is trying to allow the emergence of truly cross-platform multi-media local media operators in the way that we are envisaging. If we look at countries such as France and Germany, we see successful local TV stations in places such as Paris and Lyon. I would ask him why, when he was Secretary of State, he did nothing to progress proper local TV in this country, when it is something for which communities up and down the country are crying out.

Music Venues

2. What recent representations he has received on arrangements for the performance of live music in small venues. (2995)

I welcome this question from my honourable colleague. He has been a long-term campaigner on this issue, and he makes an important point. He will know, because we have had discussions on the issue, that we are committed to moving as fast and as positively as we can towards better arrangements for the performance of live music in small venues. I hope to be able to make an announcement on that in due course. Specifically in answer to his question, we have received one representation from a Member of the House of Lords and one from a member of the public.

I congratulate the Minister and all the Front-Bench team on their appointments. Let me say how delighted I am that the Minister has confirmed that this Government are pressing ahead to improve the position for live music performance in this country, and particularly in small venues. However, I hope that he will agree, first, that no further consultation is necessary, and secondly, that we need to make the case more effectively for more reliable and trusted data on the current position of live music in this country.

I take the hon. Gentleman’s point about the concerns about the quality of the data. I am told that the statistics produced by the Department are all compliant with Office for National Statistics guidelines, but there is a great deal of concern among live music performers in particular that although the data might be technically accurate, they do not represent the whole truth. However, if he or the industry has some specific examples of how they can be improved, I would be delighted to hear them.

I welcome the Minister to his post. Britain’s rich musical culture is still inhibited by restrictions on performances in small venues. Would it not be more rational to impose limitations on the volume of music—on amplification and decibels—and not on the numbers of musicians, and on where and what they play?

The hon. Gentleman has made the point during questions before—and very accurately—that it depends not on the number of people playing but on the volume to which the amplification machinery is cranked up. He is absolutely right. One of the crucial points that needs to be examined is whether there is a noise-nuisance solution as opposed to a solution to do with the number of performers, and that is one of the options that we will be looking at going forward.

Is my hon. Friend aware that the unanimous recommendation of the Select Committee—that there should be an exemption for smaller venues of a capacity below 200—was supported by the previous Government, who were intending to introduce a regulatory order to provide an exemption for venues of a capacity below 150, and that there was widespread disappointment that that was not done? Will he confirm that he sees no need for any further consultation and that he will move to introduce the necessary order as soon as possible?

My concern is that my hon. Friend’s proposal goes for a particular solution when there might be a broader and potentially more radical solution that should also be considered. If we go for other alternatives, we will need to consult on them, but if we decide to go down the route of ideas that have already been thoroughly canvassed, I would obviously want to move as fast as possible and reduce the level of consultation to the bare legal minimum.

One thing that really irritates fans of live music, whether in large or small venues, is all too often having to pay £200, £300 or £400 on the secondary ticket market for a ticket that at face value costs only £20, and that none of the money goes either to the venue or to the artist. Will the Minister look again at the issue of secondary ticketing?

Women’s Sport (Media Coverage)

As the hon. Lady will realise, it is not for the Government to intervene in the editorial policy of individual media organisations. However, the Government can help through investment to promote women’s sports, as they have through London 2012—I remember the hon. Lady’s contribution to the Committee involved—the Whole Sport plans and the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Research by the Women’ Sport and Fitness Foundation showed that 61% of girls find that watching successful sports stars inspires them to be more active, but while we have male sport stars all over our screens, there is far less coverage of women’s sport. Will the Government include some women’s sporting events on the free-to-air list to help promote female sporting role models to the nation’s girls?

The answer is in two parts. We have called for independent economic analysis on the listed events review. That is due in the Department this week. We will look at that carefully before coming to any formal decision. I absolutely agree with what the hon. Lady says about the positive promotion of female role models through sport. London 2012 is a fantastic opportunity for that, and I very much welcome the decisions made about women’s boxing and the equalisation of events in cycling. That, I believe, is the way to move forward.

I add my congratulations to the ministerial team on the Front Bench. It is good to know that the Government are to make a decision on the listed events—in the very near future, I hope. It is right that we have seen a massive increase in the number of sportswomen who have achieved success, and they have done that through bodies such as the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation. Can the Minister assure me that the funding for that organisation will continue? How can we have role models when the Government are doing things like cutting free swimming?

Free swimming was, of course, a mass participation scheme, not an elite scheme, so it is completely different. As far as the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation is concerned, we will know after tomorrow’s Budget what the overall funding envelope will be and will then be able to make a decision about that scheme.

2018 World Cup

I know that, as this question is about the World cup, the whole House will want to wish Fabio Capello and the England team every success in the crucial match on Wednesday night. With your permission, Mr Speaker, as this is the first day of Wimbledon, we also wish Andy Murray, Laura Robson and all the British competitors success.

The 2018 World cup bid is an extraordinary opportunity for this country; the Government are wholly committed to it. The Prime Minister, my hon. Friend the Minister responsible for sport and the Olympics and I have spoken to or met the FIFA executive committee members who will make the decision.

I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. If I had not had the joy of being elected to this House, I would have been in South Africa right now, watching the games. [Hon. Members: “Ahh.”] I know it is sad, but I would rather be here representing. I hope to enjoy being able to watch the games here in 2018. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the people of England on their display of fervour for our team—including my local paper, the Evening Star, which for the World cup rebranded itself the “England Star”?

I was in South Africa at the weekend, doing my job. I saw for myself how a World cup can unify, enthuse and excite a country. I am determined that we do the same for this country in 2018.

I am sure that the Minister is aware that Newcastle is one of the cities bidding for the 2018 World cup, and that it is immensely proud of its premiership football team. What will the Secretary of State do to ensure that the supporters of teams such as Newcastle United—I should say that I am on its supporters trust—can take steps for the co-operative ownership of their football teams? Will he meet me to discuss the matter?

I am happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss that issue, which we are committed to exploring in a great deal more detail. If we win the 2018 World cup bid, Newcastle will be one of the successful host cities, which will be brilliant for her and fellow supporters of Newcastle United.

National Lottery

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his long-term interest in sports and local sports in his constituency. We will reform the lottery so that more money goes to arts, heritage and sport, and we will examine the case for moving to a gross profits tax. We will also stop wasteful spending, by banning lobbying activities by lottery distributors and by driving down their administration costs.

I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for that response and I congratulate him on his appointment. I am sure that he will do a tremendous job. There have been concerns about the distribution of funds, however, and it has been alleged that the previous Government siphoned off funds from the national lottery to pay for their pet projects, with the result that some worthwhile groups have missed out. Will he assure us that the matter will be looked at, to ensure that the good causes and groups that need the funds actually get them?

Indeed, I can. As a result of the change in shares that will be introduced over the next two years, there will be £50 million more per year for each of the major groups of good causes—the arts, heritage and sport—from 2012.

In his answer, the new Minister did not mention the Big Lottery Fund. It has contributed to many good causes across the country, including the Peter Pan special needs nursery in my constituency, which takes profoundly disabled children from birth. Will he give the House some comfort that that sort of cause will continue to be supported as he conducts his review?

I am delighted to make that commitment, although I cannot make promises for individual good causes, as that is rightly a question for individual lottery distributors. However, as a result of the share changes and tailing-off of the Olympic top slice from the lottery funders, the total available to voluntary and community sector organisations of the kind he mentions, within the Big Lottery Fund, should increase over the next two to three years in cash terms.

National Lottery

6. What recent assessment he has made of the effects on the arts sector of the funding it receives from the national lottery; and if he will make a statement. (2999)

May I welcome my hon. Friend to these Benches and say what a delight it is to have such a distinguished author among us? I understand that her latest novel—

Order. Will the hon. Gentleman resume his seat? I do not want an essay at the start of a reply to a question. The hon. Gentleman will answer the question, and we will make do with that.

Order. May I say to the Minister that he should answer the question, and then we will move on?

I was about to do so, Mr Speaker. I was about to say that in my view the national lottery has had a transformative effect on the arts since its creation under the previous Conservative Government in 1994, putting £3.5 billion into the arts.

I thank the Minister for his welcome. May I say to him that my constituents have been dismayed to see national lottery funding for the arts, sport and heritage cut by more than 50% under Labour? Will he expand a little on how he intends to return lottery funding to its original purpose, so that it will help grass-roots organisations in my constituency?

I share my hon. Friend’s concern. In opposition, we campaigned against the cuts to national lottery funding imposed by the previous Government. I am delighted that we are bringing forward measures to increase the funding available for the arts from the national lottery: in two years’ time it will have increased by £50 million a year.

The Minister will know that the Heritage Lottery Fund was a major contributor to the award-winning Wedgwood museum in Stoke-on-Trent. He will also know that, as a result of Pension Protection Fund legislation, the museum is in real danger of closure and threatened with a dispersal of its collection and archive. Will he meet my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) and me, so that we can ensure that the Government have a proper solution to the impending court case?

The hon. Gentleman is a distinguished historian who recently won an important history prize. This is an important issue which we are watching very closely, and I should be delighted to meet him to discuss it.

London Olympics

We have restored lottery funding to 20% of good causes money for sport, which will be of enormous benefit to community sports projects and the encouragement of competitive sport in schools.

Given that the Olympic stadium was built in substantial part with the taxes of Londoners, can the Secretary of State assure me that as part of negotiations with any London premiership team over its future use, as a key part of the sporting legacy of the Olympics, he will ensure that a representative of the football supporters trust will be on the board of any such team using the stadium in the future?

We are strongly in favour of supporters’ trusts being set up and represented on the boards of football teams, and of the presence of a football element in the legacy of the 2012 stadium. Most of all, however, we want to ensure that there is a sporting legacy that touches every school in the country, whether or not it is within travelling distance of the big Olympic venues.

A strong start can lead to the greatest of legacies. May I ask the Secretary of State whether the torch can come to Britain via Dover?

I welcome my hon. Friend to the House. He makes a powerful case, and I am sure that he will continue to do so.

I welcome the Secretary of State and his colleagues to the Front Bench. As I think the right hon. Gentleman will recognise, the achievement and ambition of the sporting legacy for the Olympics are widely acclaimed and appreciated by the International Olympic Committee. There has been sustained investment in sport in schools, an improvement in facilities, the introduction of free swimming, an unprecedented level of investment in elite sport, and lottery funding from more than just the sports lottery. A signal has already been sent that free swimming is to be abandoned. Will the Secretary of State give us a commitment that the sporting legacy—so clearly in place and so widely acclaimed—will be protected?

Let me take this opportunity to thank the right hon. Lady for her outstanding contribution to the Olympic project to date. I hope that she will be able to continue to contribute as the project reaches its final two years. I must tell her, however—while expressing the greatest respect for her efforts—that although some elements of a sporting legacy were in place, we do not believe that enough was in place. I am thinking particularly of the creation of a sporting legacy in schools throughout the country. We very much hope that we will be able to work with the right hon. Lady to ensure that every child in every school in the country is able to be touched by, and be part of, the Olympic dream, not just in 2012 but in every year thereafter.

Olympic Legacy (Wales)

10. What recent discussions he has had with representatives of business organisations in Wales on measures to ensure a positive legacy for the private sector in Wales from the London 2012 Olympics. (3003)

The Olympic Delivery Authority has met over 10,000 businesses as part of its engagement programme across the United Kingdom. To date, 10 businesses registered in Wales have won work supplying the ODA, and more are winning work in its supply chains, including one— B and W Tunnelling—in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency.

Indeed. I welcome the Minister to his post. Does he agree that the Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius”—swifter, higher, stronger—should apply not only to constituents of mine such as David Guest, who at the age of 20 has just become the highest-achieving decathlete apart from Daley Thompson, but to private companies such as Turfgrass Enterprises Ltd, which provided the turf for the Beijing Olympics? What more can he to do encourage excellence in the Welsh private sector?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his positive words about the process. The short answer is that the Olympic Delivery Authority has devoted a huge amount of time to taking the message around the country and encouraging firms to bid for contracts, and the organising committee is about to go through exactly the same process. I hope that he and other Members across the House will encourage firms in their constituencies to get involved. This is not a matter of party political difference: it is a huge opportunity for everybody and I encourage him and others to take it up.

Sporting Activity (Young People)

Increasing opportunities for young people through sport is one of my personal, top priorities. We have already announced an increased lottery share of 20% to sport to finance that, and further details of the Government’s plans for young people’s sport, including a schools’ Olympic-style competitive sport competition and a community sports legacy plan, will be announced shortly.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but I am somewhat confused. He has said, while chopping free swimming for under-16s and over-60s, that 73% of under-16s and 83% of over-60s would pay because they already swim, but his Department says that more than 50% of the people who use free swimming were non-swimmers before they started. Where does that lie in relation to the answer he has just given?

Very simply, like any Department, we have to establish that any scheme that we run gives value for money. The PricewaterhouseCoopers report, established under the previous Government in April 2009, shows—

No; they are PricewaterhouseCoopers’ figures, so they are not mine at all. The figures show that there is an 83% dead weight, and that does not, I am afraid, represent value for money.

That is an extremely good question—[Interruption.] The Opposition should try asking it themselves. Promoting competitive sport in schools is absolutely this Government’s key legacy objective for school sport. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is taking the lead in the Department’s initiative in that regard and he will make an important announcement about it next Monday.

Is the Minister aware that the schoolchildren of Shirebrook are only too anxious to help the sporting legacy of Britain on a brand new playing field, but unfortunately it is linked to the Building Schools for the Future programme. Will he ensure that it is built this year, so that we will have a sports field as well?

We will do everything possible to ensure that sports facilities are built up and down the country. That is a key part of the community sports legacy plan that we are working on. The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot today, before the Budget, give him a firm commitment on Building Schools for the Future, but the direction of Government strategy, and of this Department’s in particular, is very clear.

FM Radio

No estimate has been made of the future level of demand for FM radio, which will depend on a number of factors. However, FM radio remains a popular medium and currently plays an important part in UK life.

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are more than 100 million FM radios, enabling people to enjoy music and speech in their cars, in the various rooms of their houses and on their hi-fi equipment? It would be a tragedy if all that were switched off simply because even the majority of homes had bought one digital radio.

I am well aware of that; indeed, many of my constituents have made the same point to me. We are proceeding with digital switchover, with more than a quarter of the population now listening to digital radio, but we are taking all factors into account.

Ticket Touting

The Government have no plans to extend existing legislation covering the resale of tickets. However, those protections are in place under the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 and under most legislation involving major sports events.

I am sure the Minister is aware that it is increasingly difficult for genuine sports, music and theatre fans to buy tickets, especially at the last minute, and even within days of tickets going on sale. He says that there is coverage for the Olympics, but does he agree that this cover should be extended? Does he agree that we should consider introducing legislation to tackle the practice of buying tickets in bulk and selling them to people at huge profits, as that takes the price of tickets totally out of some people’s reach?

The hon. Lady makes a fair point. Indeed, I looked at the issue in view of quite a lot of the work that was bequeathed to us by the previous Administration. There is a practical problem relating to the police. I am afraid that it is very rare that ticket touts ever come to court, even when the police catch them, because the amount of police time involved in bringing the prosecution makes that very unlikely. I think that the previous Administration adopted the correct approach, which is to encourage a much more vibrant secondary ticket sale market and much more vibrant exchange market, so that fans who buy tickets but cannot attend the event can readily exchange them.

Does the Minister agree with the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport in the previous Parliament, which found that the secondary market for tickets was perfectly legitimate, and with the Office of Fair Trading, which found that it often works in the consumer’s best interests?

British Summer Time

16. What recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills on the introduction of single and double summer time. (3010)

I am delighted to confirm that, in line with my hon. Friend’s long campaign and, indeed, with the support of both the Liberal Democrats and the Labour party when it was in government, we are committed to examining this issue tremendously carefully, and I have already had conversations with my opposite numbers at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Today is the longest day, and no one needs to be a visitor to Stonehenge or, indeed, a great reader of the Bournemouth Echo to realise that this is a very popular move that has cross-party support. Does my hon. Friend agree that the tourism industry at least would like such a change? Indeed, it has been calling for it for a number of years.

I agree that the tourism industry would like such a change, but some people have very grave and important concerns that we would do well to listen to as well. Notably, people who live in the north of the UK, particularly in the northern parts of Scotland, are deeply worried about the issue, and we need to ensure that we take their valid concerns into account.

Topical Questions

In my first month as Secretary of State, I have established key priorities for my Department, including boosting philanthropy to the arts and culture, introducing a network of new local TV companies, promoting super-fast broadband, creating an Olympic tourism legacy for 2012 and setting up an Olympic-style school sports competition, and we have made good progress in all areas.

I welcome my right hon. Friend to his place; I am delighted to see him there. He will obviously be aware that a school tennis tournament is taking place in my constituency this fortnight. He will also be aware of the Davies review of listed events. Will he please ensure that the Davies review’s proposal to alter the status of the Wimbledon tennis tournament, which both the Lawn Tennis Association and the All England Club have decried as affecting investment in grass-roots sport, will be looked at by his Department before it proceeds?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. We are looking at the independent analysis of precisely the factors that he mentions. We have a strong desire not to do anything that would restrict investment in grass-roots sport, and we will announce a decision by July.

We have heard a bit about the legacy for sport in the Olympics, but in my constituency we are seeking the legacy of skills post-2012. What discussions is the Secretary of State having with other Departments, because decisions taken by his Department now could have a major impact on the legacy delivered by others after 2012?

I thank the hon. Lady for that question. Indeed, it gives me the opportunity to pay tribute to the work of the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) in this regard. Someone told me about a month or so on from the election that, in terms of the greater legacy, it is not that nothing is happening but that we have possibly not got it into the right sort of story that people can understand. We are looking at all the different components of the legacy. We are working out how best to bring them together, and we will certainly take on board the points that the hon. Lady raises.

T2. I welcome the recent speech given by the Secretary of State on improving internet access right across our country, especially in rural areas. That is particularly welcome to my constituents in Suffolk who suffer from not-spots and slow spots. Will he meet me particularly to discuss the fact that fibre optics are available across parts of our country, but they have been paid for by the state, and there are concerns that European state-aid rules are blocking access to something that could be used to the benefit of people right across our country? (3015)

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. I completely take on board the point that she makes. Indeed, I have raised it with officials. My understanding is that this is a grey area on which local authorities need some clarity.

Earlier, the Minister claimed that free swimming did not represent value for money, but in Wythenshawe, where many people are at the wrong end of health inequality, there has been a 56% increase in the use of the local pool by young people. Where is the value in cutting a scheme that helps to keep them healthy?

I think that I said, when the figures were announced at the end of last week, that the scheme was a luxury that we could no longer afford. The fact remains—[Interruption.] I could get political about this. [Interruption.] Okay; right. One might ask some questions about a Government who, as the main plank of their sports legacy, approve a scheme that, when independently audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers, is shown to have an 83% dead-weight figure.

T3. In the careful discussion of the summer time issue that the Minister mentioned, will he bear in mind not only the needs of northern Britain, but the unacceptability of a time zone boundary at Berwick, despite the potential advantage of my being able to arrive at my daughter’s house at a time before I had set out? (3016)

Such a thing would never do. I am happy to confirm to the right hon. Gentleman that the issue is not a delegated matter; it is therefore the responsibility of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, and we agree that it should stay that way.

Why did the Secretary of State not put in his manifesto that he was planning to axe free swimming for under-16s and pensioners?

We did not put that in our manifesto, but why did the hon. Gentleman’s party not put in its manifesto that it had £50 billion of uncosted spending commitments? If his party wants schemes such as free swimming, which in principle we like, the best thing that it could do is have a sustainable financial basis for this country.

T4. The Secretary of State was right to refer to the football World cup and the Wimbledon tennis tournament, which are taking place at the moment. May I remind him of the sport that attracts the second highest number of spectators in the country—horse racing? It continues to produce a magnificent sporting product, including the Cheltenham gold cup in my constituency and Royal Ascot, which was last week, but horse racing does not get the publicity that it deserves. Is there anything that the Secretary of State can do to help it to increase its profile, because it has many good— (3017)

Despite the fact that horse racing does not directly fall into my brief, I can answer my hon. Friend’s question, for the simple reason that many of the races that attract the largest television audiences are, of course, part of the listed events review. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has said, we have called for an independent economic analysis and are looking through it at the moment, and we hope to make an announcement at the beginning of July.

MPs from all parts of the House attended a seminar convened by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport on race hate and the internet. What is the next stage for the Department in this important initiative?

I understand that we are working closely with Home Office colleagues on the initiative. I read a letter from the hon. Gentleman to me only today, and I shall meet him shortly to discuss the next stages of his important initiative.

T5. As we seek to host the World cup, will the Minister ensure that FIFA focuses less on excluding women in orange dresses, and more on including ordinary spectators, who are increasingly priced out of watching the beautiful game? (3018)

I thank my hon. Friend for his excellent question. He is absolutely right that the great opportunity in hosting an event such as the World cup is the opportunity for people to go to these hugely exciting events who may otherwise not have the opportunity to do so. We talked about that to FIFA, and the big strength of our bid is that it will mean that 4.5 million more people play football; that every girl in the country gets the opportunity to play it; and that we have a disability football centre set up. So there are huge strengths in getting more people involved in the game.

Order. May I gently say to Ministers that while it is absolutely understandable that they look behind them, they must face the House? Otherwise, they are not as widely heard as they might be.

Cycling fans like me will be glued to the television over the next few weeks, cheering on Britain’s competitors in the Tour de France. With more road races in this country being cancelled than ever before as a result of out-of-date regulations and other problems associated with police support and the rest of it, will the Secretary of State or the Minister with responsibility for sport, the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Hugh Robertson), meet representatives from British Cycling and me, and make ironing out those problems their top priority?

Not only can I give the hon. Gentleman that undertaking now, but I have already given it; British Cycling wrote to me as soon as I was appointed—it was a very nice letter, as he would expect—and asked if it could come and meet me to discuss exactly that issue.

T6. Would the Secretary of State be good enough to update the House on plans and preparations for the diamond jubilee of Her Majesty the Queen in 2012? (3019)

I am delighted to tell my hon. Friend that, after questions, I have a meeting with the Queen’s private secretary to progress discussions in that very area.

It is 15 years since the publication of the Bannister report, which looked at the vital role played by student sport in the Commonwealth games, which Glasgow will host, the London Olympics and the future World cup. What plan does the Secretary of State have for a second Bannister report to develop student sport?

I have not had the chance to do so since becoming Minister, but in the five years in which I shadowed this brief in opposition, I met a number of university sports groups, although none of them asked me for a new review. What they wanted was a higher profile for their sport and increased opportunities. With London 2012, we have a magnificent opportunity, when this country’s sport is in the eye of the world, to do precisely that.

T7. My constituency of Kingswood in Greater Bristol is excellently served by the Bristol Evening Post, whose local reporters are well established and can get into the issues that matter to the local community, particularly people who do not often use the internet to get their news. Will the Minister assure us that we can support local print media better? (3020)

The best way for us to support local print media is by not constraining them with regulations that prevent them from evolving new business models that work in the digital age. Those are exactly the plans on which my colleagues and I are working right now.

Will the Secretary of State commit his Government to pursuing the measures agreed in the Digital Economy Act 2010, or will he take advice from the hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), who rejected the measure with his hon. Friends and now have it as Liberal Democrat policy to repeal large sections of it?

The Act remains on the statute books, and it will be implemented. I remind the hon. Gentleman that the next stage, when Ofcom may decide to suspend connections, requires a decision by the Government. Parliament has to be consulted in that process. We will look at the progress of the earlier measures before deciding whether to proceed to that critical next stage.

Leader of the House

The Leader of the House was asked—

Backbench Business Committee

As I am sure the hon. Gentleman will know, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House heard the views of hon. Members from all parts of the House in the debate last Tuesday.

I am delighted that the Backbench Business Committee has been set up, and pay tribute to the Minister and to his colleague for doing so. Something that can be immensely frustrating for Back Benchers is having to take a ten-minute Bill or a private Member’s Bill through the ludicrous shenanigans of a Friday morning. Will the Minister undertake to make sure that private Members’ Bills are looked at by the Committee, so that we consider them on a Wednesday evening, for the greater convenience of all hon. Members?

Again, as the hon. Gentleman may know, that was debated last Tuesday. We all share the frustrations of having private Members’ legislation blocked in the extraordinary procedure that we use in the House for such legislation. The Chair of the Procedure Committee, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Mr Knight), suggested that he wished to look at the whole process of private Members’ legislation, and I hope that his Committee can do so as a high priority. We will certainly keep in touch with that Committee and with the Backbench Business Committee in the hope of finding a better way of doing that particular area of business.

House of Commons Commission

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—

LED Lighting

2. If he will bring forward proposals to introduce low-cost LED lighting across the House of Commons part of the parliamentary estate. (3023)

Several trials of LED technology have been undertaken in the House of Commons, and LED lighting has been installed in the upper Committee corridor, the Commons Library, the Lower Waiting Hall, the New Palace Yard turnstiles and other places. Following those trials, we have included further installations of LED lamps in Parliament’s low-energy lighting programme, such as at 1 Parliament Street and Derby Gate stairwells.

I welcome the progress made by the House authorities. Given the fact that LED lighting uses just 5% of the electricity used by normal bulbs, hardly ever needs to be replaced, and contains no mercury, so it can be recycled very healthily, have they given any consideration to lighting Big Ben with LED technology?

That is an intriguing question so early in the parliamentary Session, and one that the Commission would be happy to look into. As the hon. Gentleman knows, incandescent lighting on the parliamentary estate has been gradually replaced with lower energy lighting over the past five years. The majority of these replacements have occurred during routine lamp changes. Due to the size and complexity of the estate, detailed records of light bulbs are not kept and the proportion of low-energy lamps is not known. However, on the point that the hon. Gentleman makes, we keep developments in lighting technology under review and we will adopt low-energy solutions as they become available.

Leader of the House

The Leader of the House was asked—

Sittings Patterns

3. What proposals he plans to put to the House for the pattern of sittings of the House for the rest of 2010 and 2011. (3024)

The House has already agreed to a sitting in September this year. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I would welcome Members’ views on how the pattern of sittings should be organised.

May I make an early bid for a pattern of fixed and family-friendly sittings that allows colleagues to be away some time for school holidays in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland as well as in England, and that gives us an annual regular cycle, with the wash-up at the end of the Session in September before the conferences, and a fixed date for the start of the parliamentary year every October?

I recognise the issue of Scottish, English, Welsh and Northern Irish school holidays. Different local education authorities have different term dates, so it would be impossible to align the sittings of the House completely with the school terms, but I have a great deal of sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion. There is a case for a more fundamental review of the annual sitting patterns of the House.

Will the hon. Gentleman also take into account the extra-curricular activities of MPs of the better kind, such as contributing to VSO overseas? I have reluctantly cancelled a two-week engagement with VSO this summer because of the uncertainty. It is undoubtedly the case that the additional activities that MPs undertake—for example, on promoting workers’ rights overseas—are to be protected. Will the hon. Gentleman take that into account as well, in looking at how we manage our timetable?

I am not sure that we can guarantee to protect the timetable for all the extra-curricular activities of hon. Members, but the hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. We indicated at the earliest opportunity what we would be doing this summer, but hon. Members want a degree of certainty about the parliamentary calendar, so far as that is possible. I hope the hon. Gentleman will contribute to the review that we will set up to look at that.

Public Confidence (House of Commons)

We will bring forward powers for public petitions to trigger debates in the House of Commons and to initiate legislation, and we will introduce a new public reading stage for Bills. The House has also voted for significant new powers to hold the Government to account through the establishment of the Backbench Business Committee.

I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his answer, and a good answer it was too. Does he agree that the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has been a bit of a shambles? We brought it in without thinking about it. Can we make sure that there is consultation with Members and staff, to ensure that the reputation of the House is upheld, rather than the way it is at present?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, and I know that a number of colleagues have had difficulties in accessing the system. The whole purpose of allowances is to facilitate and enable MPs to represent their constituents and hold the Government to account. I am considering whether we can have a proper channel of communication between the House and IPSA to get a sensible dialogue under way. I hope he welcomes the announcement a few days ago that there will be a review of the scheme later this year.

Since the start of this Parliament, the coalition Government have repeatedly ignored the House of Commons when making major policy announcements, thus avoiding scrutiny in the Chamber. There have also been some major leaks. Today we have the BBC announcing that the Chancellor will freeze council tax in the Budget, and the Department of Health announced major changes to the NHS operating framework to the media hours before a written ministerial statement on those changes. The Government’s discourtesy also means that copies of statements are delivered late to the Opposition Front Bench, often with only minutes to spare. Will the right hon. Gentleman, who I think believes that good scrutiny leads to good government, assure us that statements will be made first to the House and not to the media, and that the Opposition Front-Bench team will receive a copy of the statement at least an hour before it is delivered?

Of course, statements should be delivered to the Opposition on time, and during the last Parliament Opposition spokesmen did receive copies of statements later than they should have, but I wholeheartedly reject the hon. Lady’s allegation about statements. By the end of today, Ministers will have made no fewer than 10 statements since the Queen’s Speech, and I think that she will find that that is a higher strike rate than was achieved by the last Government. Of course, the House should be the first place to hear of any changes in Government policy.

Business of the House

5. If he will assess the merits of providing the House with provisional information on its business for more than two weeks in advance. (3026)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to deal for a second with future engagements, in offering my congratulations to my hon. Friends the Members for East Dunbartonshire (Jo Swinson) and for Chippenham (Duncan Hames) on their announcement at the weekend of their coalition arrangements.

I can see that there would be advantages to hon. Members in announcing the business further in advance, but decisions about the business for three or four weeks’ time is usually too provisional to be helpful to the House.

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words.

Most other workplaces manage to make some plans more than two weeks in advance, albeit on the understanding that sometimes plans have to change. Publishing greater information about future business would help hon. Members to manage their time more effectively and lead to a better functioning of the House. Will he consider experimenting with more advance notice about the business of the House?

I certainly agree with the principle that my hon. Friend sets out, but this place is not quite like other places in that business on the Floor of the House is subject to many factors, including the progress of business in Committee and in another place, and decision making within Government. It is not always possible to schedule business with any certainty more than two weeks in advance, and there is a risk that providing the House with very provisional information that is subject to change could frustrate rather than inform hon. Members in their diary planning. In addition, we always seek to be topical, and that might be lost if we planned too far ahead. However, I certainly take my hon. Friend’s point.

Programming of Business

6. What his policy is on the use of programme motions to regulate proceedings on legislation; and if he will make a statement. (3027)

The Government intend to provide adequate time for consideration of Bills on Report, when the most serious problems occurred in the last Parliament.

The Minister and I regularly used to vote against the previous Government’s routine use of programme motions in the last Parliament. What will be different about this Government, so that we do not have the situation where people in opposition complain about programme motions, but in government routinely use them?

The hon. Gentleman remembers well what happened in the last Parliament, when very often huge parts of Bills were not considered by the House, which was a disgrace. What will be different is that there will be fewer Bills, better drafted Bills and an end to the automatic guillotine of the Report stage. However, that depends on all parts of the House having a grown-up attitude to how we consider business. [Interruption.] I hear the grown-up attitude evinced by Opposition Members.

Is not the answer to remove timetabling, or at least relax it, so that it no longer strangles debate in the House? For years now, Bills have gone through with very little debate on key parts. The answer is to go back to a time before the Jopling proposals, when we had full and free debate, and when the House could sit as late as was necessary.

This is the first opportunity that I have had to welcome the hon. Gentleman back to the House. I am very pleased to see him here.

Yes, we want to ensure that the bits of Bills that need longer scrutiny receive that scrutiny, and that we have a sensible dialogue with all Members of the House—the establishment of the Backbench Business Committee will help us in non-legislative areas—to ensure that the House has its say on matters about which it is concerned, and that we do not waste time on areas where no one has a genuine interest. That is what I mean when I talk about a grown-up way of looking at the business of the House. Let us hope we get it.

Oral Statements

7. What recent representations he has received on the process for Ministers making oral statements in the House. (3028)

A number of Members have raised issues surrounding ministerial statements in the House in recent weeks. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and I are always happy to continue to take representations on that and other issues.

When in opposition, the Deputy Leader of the House, like his right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, was very concerned about the leaking of statements, the overuse of written statements and the lack of advance notice that was given to shadow Ministers. When will the hon. Gentleman and his colleague practise what they preach?

As my right hon. Friend said, we have had 10 statements in 13 sitting days, which is not too bad. Of course, we will ensure as far as possible that Opposition spokespeople have the chance to see statements at the earliest possible opportunity.

Parliamentary Representation

8. What discussions he has had with ministerial colleagues on the implications for the House of the recommendations of the Speaker’s Conference on parliamentary representation. (3029)

The Government wholeheartedly agree that we should take all the steps that we can to increase diversity in Parliament, and that there is a real need to make political parties reflective of the communities that they serve. We are considering the Speaker’s Conference report and recommendations very carefully as we develop policies and agree priorities. As part of our coalition agreement, we have already made an early commitment to introduce extra support for disabled people who want to become MPs, councillors or other elected officials—one recommendation of the Speaker’s Conference.

Women now make up 22% of the House—notably, the majority are Labour Members. At the start of a new Government, perhaps we ought to look at the issue with fresh eyes, so will the Deputy Leader of the House look again at the over-representation of middle-aged, middle-class white men in the House?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. I have to say that my party is, very sadly, under-represented in terms of women in the House, and we deeply regret that. The ministerial responsibility for the issue lies with the Minister for Women and Equalities, and I hope that she will make very swift progress on bringing proposals before the House.