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Broadcasting (Impartiality)

8. Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): If he will make a statement on the (a) provisions in the charter and agreement and (b) legislation which require the British Broadcasting Corporation and independent television and radio to treat politically controversial subjects with due impartiality. [46319]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The Independent Television Commission and the Radio Authority have a statutory duty to do all that they can to ensure that broadcasters in the commercial sector report news accurately and treat matters of political and industrial controversy with due impartiality. The BBC governors have equivalent obligations under the BBC charter and agreement. The regulators set out detailed requirements guidelines in their programme codes.

Dr. Lewis: I thank the Secretary of State for reminding the House about the statutory and other duties laid on the BBC and ITV to treat politically controversial subjects impartially. Is he aware of the fact that, on one of the most politically controversial subjects of the day--British entry into economic and monetary union--in a recent poll, 65 per cent. of people declared themselves against it, 33 per cent. in favour and only 2 per cent. undecided? In the light of that, will he agree that, if the BBC or ITV, in the months ahead, persist with pursuing a Euro-federalist propaganda initiative in their broadcasts, they will be behaving not only undemocratically, but illegitimately?

Mr. Smith: I see no difficulty in the true impartiality with which those matters--as all political matters--are dealt with by BBC and ITV journalists, in a truly professional manner. I notice that it has not stopped the hon. Gentleman, who was once a member of the Labour party in Newham, from doing a perfectly competent job at making a fool of himself on the Tory Benches.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): One way in which the BBC can escape its responsibilities is simply not to broadcast Parliament or any of its hearings--in other words, to substitute programmes in which political journalists interview other political journalists. What effort is my right hon. Friend making to monitor the correct reporting of Parliament?

Mr. Smith: I am very concerned to ensure that the BBC and other broadcasters continue to report Parliament fairly and effectively. I know that my hon. Friend, Madam Speaker and other hon. Members have made strong representations on that matter, and they will continue to monitor how the BBC performs.

Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): Bearing in mind the BBC's reluctance to listen to those who have made representations about its change of policies on the broadcasting of politically controversial issues, will the Secretary of State throw his weight behind proposals to establish an election

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commission, which would be independent and would be capable of bringing under its purview the whole issue of broadcasting and fairness, in respect not only of elections but of referendums, with which we are becoming more familiar?

Mr. Smith: I am not sure that an election commission is needed to establish the clear principle of impartiality in all such matters, be they parliamentary elections, other elections or referendums. The BBC and other broadcasters must remain impartial; that principle is clearly established, and I emphasise that it is the duty of the governors and of the ITC to ensure that that impartiality is upheld.

Football (Racism)

9. Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): What steps the football task force is taking to combat racism in football. [46321]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Tony Banks): The football task force has completed an excellent report into racism in football and made numerous practical recommendations to combat this blight on the game. I have written to all the organisations identified in the report as having a role to play, asking them how they intend to implement the recommendations relevant to them. I am very pleased with the positive responses that I have received from those organisations to date.

Mr. Wyatt: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. While we are waiting for a gap in the legislative process, could I persuade my hon. Friend to publish a league table of worst offenders in soccer, so that we can shame the clubs, and their shareholders?

Mr. Banks: On waiting for a gap in the legislative timetable, the House should be aware that the Government will amend the Football (Offences) Act 1991 to make racist abuse by individual spectators an offence, and that we want to do so as speedily as possible. My hon. Friend dangles before me an interesting and tempting proposition. I shall consider it in due course, and I may come back to him with a more considered response.

Millennium Commission Grants (North-west Region)

10. Helen Jones (Warrington, North): What proportion of the funding available to the Millennium Commission will be spent in the north-west region. [46322]

Mr. Banks: To date, the Millennium Commission has awarded grants totalling just over £93 million to 15 capital projects in the north-west region, from a national total of just under £1.24 billion. The north-west will also benefit from the £100 million millennium festival fund and the millennium awards scheme for individuals.

Helen Jones: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. However, is he not aware of the great disquiet in constituencies such as mine over uneven distribution of funds from the Millennium Commission? Will he undertake to do all in his power to persuade the commission to consider favourably applications from

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areas that have not yet received any millennium funding--which just happen to include my own constituency?

Mr. Banks: Yes, I accept that, for my hon. Friend, that is a bit of a bummer. We all like to see money coming into our constituency.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): The hon. Gentleman is a statesman.

Mr. Banks: I like to move around.

I tell my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington, North (Helen Jones) that a series of projects in the north-west will be of enormous benefit to the entire region. She will understand that, because of changes that we are making to lottery administration in the National Lottery Bill, a fairness test will be possible, to consider strategically how funds are spent across the country. One wants there to be greater evenness and fairness in distributing lottery funds, and I think that my hon. Friend can look with some hope to the future in respect of her constituency and large amounts coming from the lottery.

Creative Industries

11. Mr. Martin Linton (Battersea): What assessment he has made of the job creation potential of Britain's creative industries. [46323]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The latest job survey figures produced on behalf of the Department for Education and Employment by the Office of National Statistics show that some 1.5 million people are employed in the creative industries. I intend shortly to publish the results of an exercise undertaken on behalf of the creative industries task force to map in greater detail the wealth and job-creation scope of the creative industries.

Mr. Linton: Is my right hon. Friend aware that that 1.5 million figure, coupled with the 1.7 million figure comprising those working in the tourism industries, mean that he is responsible for two of the largest industries and biggest earners of foreign exchange in the United Kingdom? Is he aware that those industries have constantly to be replenished with new talent? Will he therefore discuss with employers in the theatre, film and television industries how they can make the new deal available to young self-employed artists, especially through open learning, in the same way as the music industry has made the new deal available to young musicians?

Mr. Smith: The answer to my hon. Friend's specific question is yes. We are already in discussion with those parts of the world of the arts to ensure that they can take full advantage of the new deal. On the general point, not only are those sectors of enormous economic importance but they are currently growing at twice the rate of the overall economy. That is why we take those parts of our economy seriously--although, from their earlier comments, it is quite obvious that Opposition Members do not.

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MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (MILLENNIUM EXPERIENCE)

The Minister was asked--

Millennium Experience

29. Mr. John M. Taylor (Solihull): How much money from the private sector has been raised so far for the millennium experience at Greenwich. [46342]

The Minister without Portfolio (Mr. Peter Mandelson): Over £100 million of private sector sponsorship has been identified so far. The New Millennium Experience Company is in active discussion with a number of companies, and is on course to achieve the target of £150 million by the end of the year.

Mr. Taylor: Can it be true that the Minister is spending £500,000 trying to find out what makes us British? Will he accept it from me that one of our finest manifestations is the English language, which he is murdering by calling the British zone "UK at Now"?

Mr. Mandelson: I am not quite sure what that question has to do with private sector sponsorship of the millennium dome. I should have thought that the hon. Gentleman--before moving on to a different matter, with which I shall deal in a moment--might have congratulated the company on its success in identifying that amount of money to date. One year ago, not one penny of private sector sponsorship had been identified by the previous Administration. I have read, with interest, the same articles as the hon. Gentleman on the national identity zone. However, I have to say that, just last Friday, as I visited the design company and team working on the zone, I did not recognise much in the reports that was true. As for the specific issue of the opinion poll--which will not be costing £500,000--I should prefer to see in the dome what the British people themselves regard and express as their national identity. I am rather more interested in the views of the British people than I am in those of any team of designers, the millennium organisers or the Minister without Portfolio.

Mr. Ivor Caplin (Hove): Has my hon. Friend seen the report by the English tourist board, which suggests that the millennium experience and the dome will be a huge boost for jobs in the south-east, which will have a direct impact on my constituency and the outlying areas of Sussex and Kent?

Mr. Mandelson: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The report by the English tourist board is extremely encouraging and confirms one reason--employment creation and its benefit to the British economy--of the many for going ahead with the millennium project in the first place. In addition, the British Tourist Authority has said that, on a conservative estimate, the experience will generate £300 million to £500 million of overseas revenue, and the true amount could be double that-- £1 billion could be the economic halo effect for Britain of our holding this millennium experience.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): I am not entirely sure that the hon. Gentleman has finally crossed his t's

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and dotted his i's in terms of the sponsorship that he claims but, be that as it may, I want to be helpful about the dome--[Hon. Members: "No!"] Oh yes, I want to be helpful. Is not the single biggest impediment the fact that, in the hands of the Minister without Portfolio, the project is increasingly being seen as a party political bandwagon, albeit one that has already lost a couple of wheels? Would not the most helpful thing be for the Minister now to give way to a non-political person of real independence and stature who can get to grips with the project and pull in the remaining sponsorship that is so badly needed?

Mr. Mandelson: The hon. Gentleman says that he wants to be a little more supportive. He may not have noticed that the question that he has just asked is exactly the question asked by his predecessor, not only at the previous session of oral questions, but at the one before, so the hon. Gentleman seems to be stuck in a bit of a rut. I am surprised because the hon. Gentleman was a member of the Government and of the National Heritage Department team that originally developed the proposals for the millennium experience in the first place. I hope that, on that basis, we can look forward to a little more encouragement and support for the excellent work being undertaken.

Mr. Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): Will my hon. Friend point out to the House that the private sector companies investing in the millennium dome are this country's world-class companies? It is a tribute to them that they see it as an opportunity to sell their wares and the talents and skills of this country. It is difficult these days to ask a question in support of the millennium dome because of the awful attitude of the Opposition; some London Labour Members who do not know what is a good investment in their own backyard; and The Daily Telegraph, which calls us sycophants if we show any support, but does my hon. Friend accept that he has our support and will continue to have it because the project is good for Britain and good for our future?

Mr. Mandelson: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that support. The fact is that no comparable event has raised such a large sum of money so quickly in private sector sponsorship, or so far in advance of the event taking place. That is absolutely unprecedented and very encouraging. As my hon. Friend points out, our best and most forward-looking companies are picking up the challenge because they see their commercial interest coinciding with the national interest. We are on course to meet our ambitious sponsorship target. It is very ambitious indeed, but I am confident that we shall meet it by the end of the year. I look forward to announcements of further substantial sponsors quite soon.


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