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Air Passenger Duty

6. Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport): What discussions his Department has had with Treasury officials concerning air passenger duty. [105942]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): My Department regularly reminds the Treasury of the tourism industry's concerns about air passenger duty, at both ministerial and official level. Any decisions about the duty are of course a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his forthcoming Budget.

Mr. Fearn: Does the Minister recognise that air passenger duty in the United Kingdom is the highest in the world and that it will provide £70 million to the Treasury in the coming year, on top of the £350 million that we have already lost through it? That £70 million could be used to exempt children from the duty. Will she urge the Chancellor to do that?

Janet Anderson: As I said, this is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor, but we have regular discussions at both ministerial and official level about the importance of the duty for the tourism industry, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, we take very seriously indeed.

Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe and Nantwich): Will my hon. Friend encourage the Chancellor to have a bit of hypothecation and use the money to train a few more skilled workers in the catering trades and to give them proper wages? If people, including those working in the House, got proper rates of pay, there might be greater expertise available.

Janet Anderson: As my hon. Friend will know, we have been very encouraged by the participation of the hospitality industry generally in the new deal. Together with Springboard, the national training organisation, we mounted a careers festival last year, and another is coming this year, to encourage people into the industry, which has also signed up to the minimum wage and was represented on the commission that considered it.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Will the Minister join me in hoping that, having recognised the principle of hypothecation in other transport sectors, the Government will use this opportunity to use the airport passenger tax to improve airports, bearing in mind that

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many United Kingdom airports have taken an enormous cut in earnings because of the loss of duty free last year and that the tax is used in many other European Union countries to build new airports, as in Athens and Brussels?

Janet Anderson: That is an interesting suggestion but, as I am sure that the hon. Lady realises, it is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor and for Ministers with transport responsibilities.

Strategy for Sport

7. Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): When he intends to publish the strategy for sport. [105943]

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): I hope to publish the sports strategy in the next few weeks.

Mr. Wyatt: When my hon. Friend publishes the strategy, will it be fully costed and fully funded, and will it include details of the new opportunities fund with respect to green spaces? My constituency has very few green spaces and would love to buy up some brown ones.

Kate Hoey: The new opportunities fund announcement will be made separately. Any strategy must take into account what resources are needed and where. The strategy will be a major statement about how we can bring together everyone working in sport and form a clear view of where we are going and the pathways from participation to excellence.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Will the Minister confirm that the strategy was originally due at the beginning of last autumn and has been delayed time and again, and that one of the reasons is that when she took up her current ministerial role she found that the strategy had not been worked out at all by her predecessor, who we all know is far more concerned about football than about the other sports in which she takes an interest? Will she further confirm that the shambles over Wembley stadium is once again rearing its ugly head and that she has a great task on her hands in correcting the mistakes of her predecessor?

Kate Hoey: The answer to all those questions is no. I do not feel that there has been any delay on the sports strategy. I took office in July and I wanted to talk to everybody involved in sport. I especially wanted to work with the Department for Education and Employment and other Departments, because it is important that we get the sports strategy right. It has taken a few extra months--the previous Minister hoped that it would come out in the autumn--but that will not make any difference, and may even be a benefit.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): I have grown used to criticising Labour Ministers for delay, dither and indecision, but nothing better illustrates that tendency than the absurd delay in the delivery of the sports strategy. My hon. Friend the Member for Surrey Heath (Mr. Hawkins) said that it was due in autumn last year, but I thought that it was due as early as the spring. Summer and autumn came and went, and then we were told that it would be published in the winter. Then we were told it would

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be early in the new year and now we are told in a few weeks or in the spring--again. However, given that the only substantive decision that Ministers have taken across the whole of their brief involves the fiasco of Wembley stadium, I say that they should carry on dithering. The last thing that we need is decisions from Ministers. Better still, it would be a relief for all concerned if Ministers made way for people who could get a grip on their brief.

Kate Hoey: The hon. Gentleman should know that it would have been a fiasco if we had not made the decisions that we did about Wembley. Today is the first time that I have commented on the sports strategy to the House, and I have said that it will be out in the next few weeks.

Sport (Television Rights)

8. Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton): What steps he is taking to encourage professional sports bodies to invest income from the sale of television rights in local and non-professional sport. [105944]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): Many governing bodies have signed the Central Council for Physical Recreation's voluntary code, under which a minimum of 5 per cent. of broadcasting income is invested in grass roots development. The football authorities, in particular, have recently reaffirmed their commitments to allocating 5 per cent. of future broadcasting revenues in that way. The Government are in detailed discussion with them about how best to ensure that those funds are used to improve the development of grass roots football in England.

Mr. Love: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and wish to draw his attention to the plight of Enfield Town football club, which was refused promotion because it lacked the finance to improve its facilities. Recently, it took the decision to sell its ground in the teeth of local opposition and it now has to play its home fixtures in St. Albans, which--frankly speaking--might as well be on the other side of the world. Does he agree that we need to ensure the redistribution of resources gained from television contracts to the grass roots, and that a deal providing a higher proportion would enable clubs such as Enfield Town to look forward to a more secure future?

Mr. Smith: I say three things to my hon. Friend. First, St. Albans is a wonderful place--almost as wonderful as Edmonton. Secondly, the supporters of his local club might be interested in the initiative that we announced last week--the setting up of the supporters direct unit, which will encourage local supporters to take an equity stake in the ownership of their clubs. A line of finance is being made available by the Co-operative bank to ensure that that can happen. Thirdly, it is important that money flows from the top of football through the game to smaller clubs and grass roots football at school and park level. We are in active discussion with the Football Association and the Premier League on that issue and we hope to make some substantive announcements shortly.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): Should the television rights to racing be sold to the highest bidder?

Mr. Smith: The television rights to racing are a matter for the racing authorities and the broadcasters to decide.

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However, the listed events provision ensures that the Grand National must be shown on free-to-air terrestrial television.

Tourism Summit

9. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South): If he will make a statement on the matters to be discussed at the forthcoming tourism summit. [105945]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): The tourism summit, set for 1 March 2000, will be a meeting of Ministers from a range of Departments whose responsibilities have significant implications for the development of tourism. Our agenda will include consumer issues and quality improvement, sustainability and transport, employment, and training and information systems.

Mr. Marsden: Is my hon. Friend aware of how crucial for constituencies such as mine is the link that the Government have forged between tourism promotion and economic regeneration? Will she use the tourism summit to strengthen the message to her colleagues in other Departments that more seaside towns should be included in those areas receiving funds under the objective 2 and assisted area status schemes? Will she also make sure that the Treasury is aware of the benefits that it, too, might bestow on seaside towns?

Janet Anderson: I thank my hon. Friend for the welcome that he has given to the assistance that we have tried to provide for seaside resorts, which is in stark contrast to the record of the previous Government. I assure my hon. Friend that the Department of Trade and Industry and the Treasury will be represented at our tourism summit. We look forward to pressing the case of resorts such as Blackpool and others then.

Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex): Will the Minister, at the tourism summit or on another occasion, consider reviewing the very unattractive colour used in this country to point out major attractions? Will she see what she can do to come up with a new and more handsome colour that might be more in keeping with the exhibits that the signs point out?

Janet Anderson: The hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that the summit will discuss signage. I am sorry that he does not like the present colour of the signs. However, given the clamour for more of them around the country, I think that he is probably in the minority.

Helen Jones (Warrington, North): Will my hon. Friend also ensure that the tourism summit studies ways in which non-traditional tourist areas, especially those in places such as the north-west, can benefit from the tourism strategy? Many such places have good hotels, and their good transport links enable easy access to the tourism areas. Areas such as Warrington, for instance, may have a lot to gain from the tourism strategy.

Janet Anderson: I have visited Warrington many times, and I agree that it has a great deal to offer. We are in the process of establishing the regional cultural

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consortiums, on which tourism will be well represented. The consortiums will work in close conjunction with the regional development agencies to ensure that regeneration in the regions is taken seriously at all levels.

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