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Culture, Media and Sport

Volume 556: debated on Thursday 10 January 2013

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


1. Whether she plans to reintroduce the gambling prevalence survey; and if she will make a statement. (136075)

I welcome the recent announcement by the Responsible Gambling Trust of a major research project into gaming machines. A new approach to collecting data on gambling prevalence and trends in problem gambling has been adopted by the Gambling Commission; this will be cost-effective and has the potential to provide more frequent information than the old gambling prevalence survey.

Compulsive gambling ruins lives and destroys families. The most addictive form of gambling is on fixed-odds betting terminals, or gambling machines, which are described as the crack cocaine of gambling. Are the Government seriously concerned about gambling addiction, and what are they going to do to address the problem?

Yes, the Government are seriously concerned about problem gambling. This is one of those quite tricky areas where common sense suggests that it is a major problem but there is a lack of evidence to back that up. I very much hope that the major research project that is being undertaken will give us the necessary evidence and, absolutely, once the problem is proved to exist, the Government will act.

Does the Minister agree that there is currently not much evidence to prove that fixed-odds betting terminals are the most addictive form of gambling? Although I applaud his concern for the problems caused by problem gambling, will he reassure the House that he will proceed only on the basis of firm evidence when that is available?

Absolutely, in accordance with the answer that I gave earlier. It is recognised that there is an issue in this area, but there is a lack of authoritative evidence to back that up, and that is precisely what we are looking for.

I completely agree with the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North (Kelvin Hopkins). Concern is shared across the House, so we want to see the Government doing something about it. We all know—there is bags of evidence—that gambling is blighting people’s lives, and blighting our high streets too, given the prevalence of betting shops. We need only look down our own high streets; we do not need a research project to see what is going on. The Government say that they want localism and that they are in favour of local people having a say, so will they change the planning laws so that local people have the power to prevent any more betting shops from opening up on their high streets if they do not want them?

The answer to the right hon. and learned Lady is yes, if the evidence supports that, but no Government of any colour have ever produced a policy without the backing of real evidence to support it. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart) was of course a Minister in the previous Government, so if she wishes to laugh that probably tells us rather a lot. She might wish she had kept her mouth shut. As I said, once we have the evidence we will proceed.

Public Libraries

2. If she will take steps to encourage use of public libraries and to discourage local authorities from closing or reducing the usage of such libraries. (136076)

We are doing a lot to support libraries. We have given Arts Council England responsibility for libraries and it has set up a £6 million fund to support culture in libraries. We have just appointed a specialist adviser. We have regular communications with councils. We have announced our e-learning review. Only at the end of last year we published our comparative reports on library performance.

Libraries provide a centre for deprived children to be able to study when there are no facilities at home. I highlight a case where Brent council closed six of its libraries last year. Since then, library visitor numbers have fallen by 130,000. The council attempted to save nearly £1 million by closing the branch libraries, but it has had to mothball them, which has cost it £500,000. Equally, £120,000 has been spent on legal fees. At the same time, it is negotiating—

Order. The hon. Gentleman must resume his seat. The question is simply too long, and it is not clear what it is.

No, the hon. Gentleman has taken far too long, and he has enough experience that he ought to be able to be more succinct. Let us have a brief response from the Front Bench.

Briefly, libraries are run and paid for by local authorities. I hear what my hon. Friend says. Perhaps it is best to point to good examples of Tory councils, such as Hammersmith and Fulham and Hillingdon, which have kept their libraries open and are reducing or freezing their council tax at the same time.

I wonder whether the Minister has had time to reflect on passing the responsibilities for library development to the Arts Council and whether he now regrets not using the money instead to create a perfectly formed, small library development agency.

In times of economic austerity one has to be careful with public funds, but in any event I think it is long overdue for the Arts Council to have responsibility for libraries, in order to join up responsibility for local libraries with local culture.

In my constituency, Sefton is proposing to close all the branch libraries, radically reducing access. Does the Minister think that that is the only or best way to deal with the budgetary squeeze and will he look into that particular case?

We always keep an eye on proposals by local authorities to reorganise their library services and we will certainly keep an eye on those proposals.

Football Stadiums

Current policy on safety at football stadiums in England and Wales has developed as a result of the Taylor report, following the Hillsborough tragedy. Thankfully, there have been no major incidents resulting from safety failures at those stadiums since then.

Unfortunately, safety is configured on what has happened previously, not on what could happen in future. Is it the case that all football stadiums in this country have been tested for mass evacuation on nothing other than a computer model that presumes perfect behaviour by all in the stadium?

Guidance is issued by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority, which produces “The Guide to Safety at Sports Grounds”, commonly known as the green guide. That includes guidance on the importance of inspections and testing of contingency plans, including full evacuation procedures. The guidance is there. If that is not happening, that should not be the case.

Given the impossible task that clubs face to keep some fans seated at football matches, is it not time to carry out an assessment of whether it would in fact be safer for grounds to introduce safe standing areas rather than people continuing to stand in areas that are not designed for standing?

The requirement to have all-seater stadiums was, as the hon. Gentleman will know, one of the recommendations of the Taylor report. I undertook to look at this area when the coalition came to power in 2010. All the advice I received from the football authorities, the police and everybody involved in public safety was to make no change. For any Minister to make a change ignoring the prevailing safety advice would be extremely unwise.

Olympic Legacy

We are already seeing the positive impact of the Olympics and Paralympics across our legacy programme, clear benefits to our international reputation, shifts in the perception of disability, both at home and abroad, and, importantly, more people, particularly women, playing sport. Investment in grass-roots and elite sport is designed to maintain that important momentum.

I thank the Secretary of State and commend the Government’s work. The sad truth is that, in difficult economic times, with council bills rising, some community clubs, particularly boxing clubs, which are proven to do so much good work in the community, are struggling to stay open. Will she confirm that she will continue to support those clubs so that they can maintain our legacy and, indeed, furnish us with future Olympians?

Grass-roots clubs such as those mentioned by my hon. Friend are vital if even more people are to participate in sport. That is why we have given great priority to investing in local sports venues. This Government have also introduced the Places People Play programme, which is giving £150 million to upgrade 1,000 local sports venues. That is just the sort of action that I am sure my hon. Friend would see as positive.

Will the Minister pledge this morning to analyse how the legacy cascades to all the regions of Britain? She will know of the threatened imminent closure of the Sheffield stadium, which was built for the student games in a past era. The fact is that regions such as Yorkshire are not getting the benefits of the legacy of the Olympics seen in places such as the south of England.

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Although the games were called London 2012, they were Olympic and Paralympic games for the whole country and it is important that those benefits come through at a regional level. I believe that we will enable that through all our programmes, including Places People Play, which I have mentioned, as well as many others. We will continue to look at regional benefits.

Team GB achieved great success on the water at the Olympics, not just in rowing, but through Bradford-on-Avon’s Olympic gold medallist Ed McKeever in the kayaking. Is the Secretary of State satisfied that sculler schools and canoeing clubs have enough access to rivers, and will she consider having discussions with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about a possible right to roam?

The hon. Gentleman is right that it is important that people who are involved in those water sports have access to water. We have to balance that with the requirements of other sporting groups, such as anglers, but we will continue to monitor the access to important water facilities because I, like other right hon. and hon. Members, want to see further success at the Rio games.

An Olympic legacy must begin in our schools, yet this Government have cut school sport partnerships, the school sport survey and outdoor play spaces in our schools, and abolished minimum targets for school sport. We are still waiting for their announcement on school sport, which we all expected before Christmas. It is no wonder that less time is being spent doing sport in our schools. When will her Department get to grips with the Secretary of State for Education and lay the foundations that we need for a true sporting legacy?

The hon. Gentleman is right to focus on the importance of sport in the earliest years. I am sure that he will join me in applauding what the Government have done through the school games and the £1 billion youth strategy, and the role of people such as Ellie Simmonds and Jess Ennis at the Olympic games in inspiring the next generation. Perhaps he should focus on that positive record and applaud the work of the Government.


We are making very good progress. Nine local projects have agreed contracts, and I switched on the first street cabinet supported by the rural broadband programme at Ainderby Steeple in North Yorkshire on 13 December.

I thank the Minister for that answer. It is excellent news that Wiltshire council is now able to roll out superfast broadband. However, the Minister has to agree that a small percentage of households—typically 2% to 3%—will not be affected by the roll-out. What does he have to say about the small number of rural communities that will not take advantage of the roll-out of broadband across the county and across England?

Our ambition is to get 90% of premises connected to superfast broadband, but to get all premises connected to broadband speeds of 2 megabits per second. There should be a broadband service for almost all households and that will be technologically neutral, so it should be the right technology solution for them.

The Government were wrong to drop the previous Government’s commitment to deliver a universal broadband service of 2 megabits per second by last year. Has the Minister seen this week’s report by Policy Exchange, which re-emphasises the importance of finally delivering the universal availability of broadband of 2 megabits per second, particularly in rural areas, where businesses are so dependent on it?

The right hon. Gentleman is a distinguished former telecoms Minister, so I take what he says very seriously. I was at the launch of the Policy Exchange pamphlet, but I do not agree with him. I think that it is right that we have a superfast broadband commitment of 90% by 2015, which is realistic and achievable.

A considerable amount of money is being released from the sale of spectrum for reinvestment in broadband. Superfast broadband is important to business, but surely rural areas should also benefit. Is 2 megabits really too much to ask?

No, 2 megabits is not too much to ask, which is why we will deliver 2 megabits to the last 10%.

As my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms) said, Policy Exchange produced an important report yesterday, which I thought the Minister had welcomed. It said that the Government should stop

“pursuing speed as a proxy for progress”

and focus

“explicitly on economic and social outcomes”.

The report pointed out that 16 million people lack basic IT skills and that that is one of the major reasons that people give for not getting online. What specific action will the Minister take to help those people?

I hear what the hon. Lady says. It is good to hear her endorsing the work of Policy Exchange, a distinguished centre-right think-tank. I hope that she will continue to support its policy proposals. As I said at the launch of the Policy Exchange pamphlet, Go On UK is doing extraordinarily good work to encourage people to go online. Along with all the councils that are procuring superfast broadband, we have a strategy to encourage people to take up broadband.

Sport (Disabled People)

For the first time, access to sport for disabled people is at the heart of Sport England’s £1 billion youth and community sports strategy. UK Sport recently announced more than £70 million of funding for our elite Paralympic athletes, which is 43% more than the investment they received for London 2012. Last month alone, we invested more than £10 million in 44 community sports projects for people with disabilities.

Voluntary sports groups in my constituency have worked for a number of years with local special schools to provide coaching for disabled children. They are now working with sports colleges, developers and councillors to create a new sports park to increase and improve access for all. Does my right hon. Friend agree that that is excellent work and will she commend those groups? Can her Department help us to make the dream a reality?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Such innovative working can make a real difference for disabled children, and help disabled adults get access to sporting facilities. I want the Department to do everything it can to support such work, and I point my hon. Friend towards the funding that the Government have already made available for such community sport projects, which I hope will help him.

It was great to see so many Paralympians recognised in the new year’s honours list, but does the Secretary of State share my disappointment that disabled sportsmen and women appear to have to do so much more than others to achieve similar recognition?

I hope the hon. Gentleman will recognise that this time around there has been much more recognition for our Paralympic athletes, and rightly so. We must continue to strive to do even better, but I hope he will agree with me that the sort of investment that the Government are putting into Paralympic sports will ensure that Paralympic athletes have better support in the future to achieve their very best.

Club Sport

7. What steps she is taking to ensure that participants in club-level sport have access to suitable and sustainable facilities. (136082)

Sport England’s Places People Play programme has already helped to upgrade and improve 732 local sports facilities as part of the London 2012 sports legacy, including three projects in my hon. Friend’s constituency. In addition, it has invested more than £20 million in 12 new large scale multi-sport facilities.

Does the Minister agree that local councillors have a big part to play, and will he join me in congratulating Councillor David Elvidge and other Conservative councillors in Beverley who are working hard to find additional football pitch availability in that area? Mike Bryan and other councillors in the Hedon area are supporting Eastside Community Sports, and many clubs are doing much good work, making a real difference and building on the Olympic legacy.

I absolutely agree, and the two important points are, first, that local councils prioritise that issue—we all know that the economic climate is tough, but they have had a fantastic launch pad through London 2012 and it is now up to them to make it work. Secondly, councils will need the support of local volunteers. I am delighted to add my congratulations to the people mentioned by my hon. Friend.

I listened closely to what the Minister said about local authorities, but in Liverpool, which has seen a £252 cut per head, it is challenging for the local authority to make such decisions to prioritise sport and to have that investment available. What will the Government do to help councils that have seen such drastic cuts to ensure that sporting facilities, particularly local clubs, are supported?

Nobody would pretend that this issue is easy and we all know the economic conditions. As I said, London 2012 has given sport in this country a fantastic launch pad, and a city such a Liverpool—which the hon. Lady represents—is synonymous with sport. My advice would be that the most successful projects I have seen are a combination of local authority funding, private funding and grants from Sport England. If the hon. Lady has projects that she wishes to promote, she should look to Sport England and the Places People Play initiative and see what she can do. I wish her every good fortune in doing that.

Leveson Inquiry

8. When the Government plan to announce what further steps they will take in response to the report of the Leveson inquiry. (136083)

Lord Justice Leveson’s report, which was welcomed by the Government, set out the need for independent self-regulation of the press. I believe the press will be setting out their new self-regulatory approach in line with Leveson later today. As all parties agree, the report did not provide a fully formed blueprint but rather an outline that requires further work and consideration. The Government are working on a cross-party basis and with interested groups, and I believe we are making progress.

I thank the Secretary of State for that positive reply. May I encourage her to ensure that the cross-party talks reach a conclusion before the end of this Session of Parliament, so that if we need to legislate not just on the difficult issue of statutory underpinning of press regulation but on clearing up the relationship between the police and the press, we can do so in the next Session?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Making progress and ensuring we have momentum is vital for two reasons. First, we need to ensure that we do not see the unacceptable treatment of victims again in future. Secondly, all who have watched this lengthy process want it to come to a speedy conclusion. I can give him a clear undertaking today that that is exactly where we are.

Hon. Members have heard the clichés about no more drinking at the last-chance saloon for the press, but can the Secretary of State assure us that the Government’s engagement with the press on this matter has not simply been a lock-in at the Long Grass Arms, where the Government’s order is, “Whatever you’re having yourself”?

The Leveson report clearly gives us a framework to ensure we make progress on the important issues that will make a difference to press regulation, and to ensure that we do not have the problems we have had and the same treatment of victims in future. It is not possible for us to do anything other than make progress if we are to implement Leveson, and that is what we are looking to do.


In the recent UK Sport and Sport England funding announcement, our elite boxers receive £13.8 million to help them prepare for Rio 2016, a 44% increase on the amount available at the last Olympics, which reflects their success. Under the whole sport plan, the Amateur Boxing Association of England will receive £5.8 million to drive up participation, an increase of 22% on the previous funding period. Boxing is a part of the school games, and schools are free to provide their pupils with non-contact boxing opportunities should they choose to do so.

As boxing is unique in rewarding participants for landing blows to the head and causing damage to that most vulnerable of human organs, the brain—damage that is serious, cumulative and irreversible—should the Government not encourage sports that measure athleticism without inflicting brain damage?

No is the simple answer to that question. Many sports contain an element of risk—riding and cycling, both of which have much higher injury tallies than boxing, come to mind. At London 2012, the majority of injuries were not from boxing, but from other sports. Most young people like an element of risk, and boxing has a really important role to play in encouraging young people to take up sport, particularly in deprived and inner-city areas. I am keen to encourage them to do so.

It is clear that new ways to fund sports and the arts must be found, particularly for local and regional projects. In Darlington, Project Vane involves exciting private sector partners who want to invest in bringing an old arts centre back to life, which may well hold boxing too—

Yes, indeed, Mr Speaker. May I invite the Minister to look at our bid to the Arts Council for capital investment—there are no ongoing revenue needs requiring public sector investment—to help us to bring that project along?

The best thing to say is that I wish the hon. Lady every good fortune. I am not responsible for the Arts Council—I suspect that a submission from the Minister with responsibility for sports would get a fairly dusty response—but I wish her every good fortune.


10. Whether her Department has commissioned research into the effect of fixed-odds betting terminals on the prevalence of problem gambling; and if she will make a statement. (136085)

The Government are aware of the concerns that have been raised about these types of gaming machines and are committed to looking at the evidence around B2 machines and problem gambling. In addition, the Responsible Gambling Trust has recently announced the largest programme of academic research into gaming machines ever undertaken in Britain, which should provide a much better understanding of problem gambling behaviour.

I welcome what the Minister has said. We need an independent look at the seriousness of fixed-odds betting terminals in our country and their prevalence in independent bookmakers. May I ask him to look at the matter with urgency, and not to move forward quickly with the recommendations of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, which would create an open season for fixed-odds betting terminals across the country?

I entirely acknowledge the concerns that the right hon. Gentleman puts so well. A response to the Committee’s report is due shortly—clearly, once we have that, I will be in a position to say more—but I acknowledge his concerns and the need for proper evidence to underpin our response.

I share some of the concerns expressed by the right hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr Lammy), and I urge those who have heard reports about what the Select Committee said to look at the report itself. The report did not say that there should be widespread liberalisation; it said that in specific areas local authorities that had concerns about the number of betting shops could consider whether they might be met by some flexibility in the numbers. I specifically agree with the right hon. Gentleman on the desperate need for more empirical evidence and research in this area. That must be addressed as a priority before we start taking decisions.


As I have already said, our aim is to have universal 2 megabit broadband available to everyone by 2014. Already, 89.9%—approximately 90%—of people have 2 megabit broadband.

I think it was Ofcom that reported recently that approximately 10% of broadband connections —about 2.6 million households—do not have access to 2 megabit broadband. Further to the answer the hon. Gentleman gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) and my right hon. Friend the Member for East Ham (Stephen Timms), given that access to broadband is vital to building a sustainable, modern economy, why will he not think about introducing a universal service obligation?

I do not think that a universal service obligation would be appropriate for broadband, but, as I have said, we have an ambitious programme, with £500 million going to ensuring that everyone has access to 2 megabit broadband by the end of this Parliament.

Women’s Sport

I am absolutely committed to seeing more coverage of women’s sport, and I support the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation’s call for more action in this area. The Olympics and Paralympics showed clearly that there is an appetite for women’s sport, for which the BBC and Channel 4 secured strong audiences. Rather than have an inquiry, I am bringing together broadcasters, journalists and women leaders in sport to ensure more coverage of all our sporting achievements by both men and women.

The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation says that the media devote about 5% of their sports coverage to women’s sport. However, about 20% of the BBC’s coverage is of women’s sport, which raises questions for other outlets. Some 36% of the medals won at the Olympics were won by women, but women’s sport receives only 0.5% of sport sponsorship. What will the Secretary of State do to tackle this unacceptable situation?

The hon. Lady has shown that this is not about asking what the problem is—she has clearly articulated it. There is an appetite to watch women’s sport and we need to ensure that it is followed up by more broadcasting and coverage in the press. I was pleased to hear the BBC announce in December that it will broadcast all of England’s UEFA European women’s championship games when the team heads to Sweden in July, and the semi-finals and finals, across BBC 2 and BBC 3. In addition, all other peak-time matches will be broadcast on BBC 3. That is the sort of action we want to see, and it will set a bar for the other channels and media to follow.

The coverage and reporting of women’s sport is incredibly important, but the issue should not be seen in isolation. Will the Secretary of State explain how we can encourage better commercial opportunities in women’s sport, as that will encourage girls and women to participate more?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right and I know she takes a deep interest in this matter. The sports marketing bureau, which will be launched shortly, will do exactly what she is talking about: highlight marketing opportunities in women’s sport and across the board. We want to see companies capitalising on the clear interest and appetite for women’s sport to ensure that it grows.


UK Sport is investing record levels into Olympic and Paralympic sport for the 2016 games. This includes more than £5 million for the wheelchair basketball team. Sadly, the elite Olympic basketball team did not meet the UK Sport investment criteria for this cycle. England Basketball has, however, received £6.75 million from Sport England, including £1.5 million of talent development funding.

I am sure the Minister is aware, first, that Team GB came within two points of beating Spain, who went on to win the silver medal, and actually beat China, who are top-10 seeded in the world, and secondly that it took hockey more than 20 years of elite-level funding before it received a bronze medal at this year’s Olympics. In the light of that and of my letter to him on 20 December, will he agree to meet me and other members of the all-party group on basketball to discuss this important matter?

I would make two points on that. First, hockey is a good example of what basketball needs to do. It had great success in 1988, with its gold medal, but then went bust and had its funding cut completely for lack of performance. It built itself back up, however, and got itself to the stage where it was medalling again, as it did in London. Secondly, I am aware that basketball has made an appeal to UK Sport. Once we know the result of that, I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady.

UK Sport funding is handed out in a four-year Olympic cycle. Does the Minister believe that that is the right way forward, or does he think there needs to be change?

I am sorry to say it to my hon. Friend, but that is not actually correct. The funding for the Rio cycle includes considerable funding for developing athletes that will take them through to the 2020 games.

Topical Questions

I am pleased that we have started the new year with such a positive set of announcements about the support in the honours system for Olympic and Paralympic athletes. I hope that all hon. Members, on both sides of the House, will join me in congratulating individuals who have received such honours.

Given that Government funding might not extend rural broadband to really isolated areas, what plans do they have to assist communities in putting in their own piping infrastructure and compelling successful bidders to make use of that?

In addition to the £56.9 million allocated to Wales as part of the rural broadband programme, a top-up of £4 million is available as part of the rural community broadband fund, which is designed for just the purposes that my hon. Friend has described.

The creative industries and tourism are hugely important sectors, contributing £88 billion each year, or 7% of the UK economy. It was astonishing, therefore, that the coalition’s mid-term review pledges for the remainder of this Parliament made no mention of either of those crucial industries. Which Minister—I do not mind which one—will tell the House why they have dropped the C from DCMS?

I think the hon. Gentleman needs to be a little more cautious in his comments. He knows absolutely our commitment to the creative industries and to having the infrastructure necessary to ensure that they thrive. The facts speak for themselves, given the progress being made in industries such as the film industry and the gaming industry. I would draw his attention to those facts when he considers this matter further.

T2. Earlier this week, a group of respected ex-journalists in Scotland expressed concern that the 120 jobs being cut at BBC Scotland would cause “real damage” to the quality of news and current affairs it is able to produce. Does the Secretary of State agree that this could not happen at a worse time, when the people of Scotland need a fair and well informed debate leading up to the referendum, and will she raise this matter with the BBC Trust? (136096)

It is important—I am sure the hon. Lady will agree—that the BBC is independent of government in these matters, and it is for it to make these decisions. I hear what she says though—it is important that we have a strong BBC in Scotland—and I am sure that her comments will have been noted.

T3. I am pleased that the creative industries Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), is planning to visit silicon spa in Leamington, which is one of our country’s leading centres for the video games industry. Video games contributed £1.4 billion in exports to the UK economy in 2010, but we often do not promote the sector in the same way as we do our country’s successful film industry. Will he inform the House of what steps the Government are taking to better support this growing sector? (136097)

I am delighted to reiterate this Government’s commitment to the creative industries, with the establishment of the creative industries council, the video games tax credit—as well as for high-end television and animation—and the visit of the Minister for creative industries to Leamington Spa in the near future.

T5. How does the Secretary of State expect to inspire the sporting habit for a lifetime in our young people if we are cutting back on spaces where children can play sport in our schools? (136099)

T4. May I thank the Minister, who has responsibility for broadband, for meeting me yesterday and for understanding the true complexities in the provision of broadband in Northumberland? Surely the true broadband nirvana for all rural MPs will be when we have the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, BDUK—Broadband Delivery UK—BT and county councils working as one, in joined-up government. (136098)

I had a very enjoyable meeting with my hon. Friend yesterday to discuss the roll-out of broadband for his constituents in Northumberland. I assure him that I will work closely with my DEFRA colleagues to deliver nirvana.

T6. Given increased concerns about the safety and security of betting shops, what discussions has the Secretary of State had with the Association of British Bookmakers about how it can improve its guidance to shop workers, many of whom are women and many of whom work alone? (136101)

I entirely acknowledge the concerns that the hon. Gentleman raises. I have met the Association of British Bookmakers on two occasions. I have to say that on neither occasion has it raised that as a concern—[Hon. Members: “You need to raise it!”]—but once the cheap seats have piped down, I might finish by saying—[Interruption.] Actually, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) is extremely expensive—that St Paul’s education cost a fortune, didn’t it?

If the hon. Member for Blaenau Gwent (Nick Smith) would like to write me a letter, I will take the matter up with the Association of British Bookmakers.

T7. The blue plaque scheme in London is greatly loved. I remember serving on the historic buildings committee of the Greater London council 35 years ago with Sir John Betjeman. When it was abolished, we were given an absolutely firm commitment, by a Conservative Government, that the blue plaque scheme would carry on. Now that it is in danger, will the Minister intervene to stop the silly games between the chief executive officer and the chair of English Heritage and tell them to get a move on and carry on with this much loved scheme? (136102)

Before the Minister answers, I say to the right hon. Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Hugh Robertson) that, for the avoidance of doubt, the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) is neither cheap nor expensive; she is simply priceless.

My hon. Friend is right to point out the important role of the blue plaque scheme. The chairman of English Heritage made it clear yesterday that the scheme is continuing, but I am sure that my hon. Friend, in his many roles in the House, would want us to look carefully at how it is run in future, because at the moment we are spending some £250,000 a year, employing four people putting up six plaques a year. I am sure there are different ways that we could run the scheme; and I am sure that consideration will be given in the future to him having his own plaque.

In Hackney there are more than 70 betting shops and last year £167 million was spent gambling on fixed-odds betting machines. What further evidence does the Minister need to take action on reducing either the number of machines or the frequency of bets that can be laid, which are taking money from my poorest constituents?

As I have said on a number of occasions today, I recognise the issue that the hon. Lady raises. I assure her that once we have sufficient evidence, if action needs to be taken, it will be, but it has to be taken on the basis of national evidence, not just evidence from individual constituencies.

T8. Given that the grand départ of the Tour de France is coming to God’s own county—namely Yorkshire—in 2014, may I ask the Minister to say what pressure the Government are bringing to bear on UK Sport to support fully Yorkshire’s successful bid to host the start of the world’s biggest annual sporting event? (136103)

The Government have to be careful about this, because the money used to support such bids is national lottery funding and so is not open to the Government to direct. My hon. Friend will also be aware that despite the excellence of Yorkshire’s bid, it chose not to be in a position to share the commercial details of the bid with UK Sport before it made it. Now that Yorkshire has won, it is meeting UK Sport. I very much hope that a way will be found to achieve precisely the end that he is advocating.

To discourage the closure of libraries such as Aintree library in my constituency, the Government need to ensure that the money is available to keep them open. Will the Secretary of State speak to her colleagues across Government to ensure that the necessary funding is in place to safeguard library services such as those in my constituency that are under threat from cuts to council funding?

This is a time when everyone is having to tighten their belt, and we are clearly having to make savings. If Labour wants to make it clear which cuts it would reverse, it should by all means do so, but these crocodile tears are pointless. The council needs to run its library service; it is responsible for doing that. It should look at Hammersmith and Fulham council, which has closed no libraries and is reducing its council tax.

T9. Returning to the question of broadband roll-out, the Minister has reaffirmed the 2015 deadline, and the Policy Exchange report that he commended states that no public money should be made available after that date. Is he aware, however, that there are real practical considerations as to whether it will be possible to complete the programme by 2015, owing to a lack of capacity on the part of BT, even though the funding has been allocated? (136104)

We have set aside more than £15 million for broadband roll-out in the hon. Gentleman’s area, and we are confident that we are still working towards our target of 2015. Of course, we have money allocated for broadband after 2015. We have not decided specifically how that money will be used, but we will make a decision on that in the fullness of time.

What representations has the Secretary of State made to the Football Association to request that it issues clear guidance to support players at local and national level who are the subject of homophobic, sexist and racist abuse?

Let me join the hon. Lady in saying that everyone who follows football, and indeed many of those who do not, have been extremely concerned by the increase in the prevalence of racist incidents over the past six months or so. The Football Association has just produced a comprehensive 92-point plan, which has been welcomed by many of those involved in the game, and I very much hope that it will play a significant role in bringing this unfortunate chapter to a close and improving the situation rapidly.