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The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): On Thursday 13 April, I was delighted to announce the membership and terms of reference of the spoliation advisory panel. For those who may be unfamiliar with the jargon, I should explain that the Government have set up the panel with the aim of providing an alternative to litigation, and to facilitate a just resolution of claims made for cultural objects that may have been looted in the Nazi era between 1933 and 1945. The Government are determined to set an example of how a civilised society should conduct itself in making possible redress for historic wrongs committed during the Nazi era, including the looting of cultural objects.
Mr. Dismore: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Many of the claimants are now elderly and infirm, like Mr. Felix Davis, whose painting of Hampton Court is presently in the Tate gallery. I understand that there is not a great deal of dispute now between him and the Tate. Will the Minister use his best endeavours to ensure that the spoliation panel cracks on with its work to settle the claims as quickly as possible? If it turns out that its powers are not sufficiently strong, will he review them to see if they need to be strengthened?
Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Further to the first report of the national museum directors conference, can the Minister tell the House how many cultural objects and works of art have so far been shown to be of unknown provenance? What representations has he or the spoliation panel already received about them? Can he give the House some idea about the speed with which properly completed applications can be processed, so that the works of art looted by the Nazis can be returned as soon as possible to their rightful owners?
Mr. Howarth: The national museum directors conference has identified hundreds of cultural objects whose provenance in the Nazi era between 1933 and 1945 contains some element of uncertainty. However, it does not follow that they were all looted objects. Indeed, only one clear-cut claim has so far been made to a national collection, and that concerns the work to which my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) just referred--the Jan Griffier painting "View of Hampton Court Palace", which is in the Tate.
I can give the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) my absolute assurance that we are encouraging the spoliation advisory panel to act as rapidly as it can in examining the principles that ought to apply, and the specific rights and wrongs of the case that has been referred to it.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The new Wembley stadium will be one of the finest football and rugby stadiums in the world. I look forward to its being the centrepiece of England's staging of the 2006 world cup.
Mr. Clifton-Brown: Does the Secretary of State agree that the whole Wembley redevelopment scheme has been subject to dither and delay? That is shown not least by a report in The Daily Telegraph last Saturday that his officials were desperately negotiating with Brent council on who was to pay the £13 million redistribution and transport link costs. Will he now step in personally and take charge of the whole project to clear up the mess, so that our bid to host the world cup in 2006 is not prejudiced?
In all such cases there is, of course, a difficult negotiation to be undertaken between developers and local authorities rightly seeking planning gain. In this instance, the details have been very important, but what Brent has sought to achieve--rightly and understandably, in my view--is not only the development of a new stadium, but proper regeneration of the surrounding area and a good transport infrastructure so that people can travel to and from the stadium.
Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): Does the Secretary of State agree that Wembley stadium is arguably the most famous soccer stadium in the world, and certainly the venue for this country's greatest sporting achievement? Can he assure us that once the vandalism has taken place and the new stadium has been erected, football supporters will not be sitting in their coaches two hours after the final whistle, as happened after the Worthington cup final?
Mr. Smith: The whole point of the discussions that have been under way during the past few months between Brent and Wembley stadium is to ensure that such an eventuality is avoided. I have every confidence that the new Wembley will be even better than the old.
Mr. David Hinchliffe (Wakefield): A few moments ago, the Minister for Sport referred to the success of the rugby league cup final held at Murrayfield a couple of weeks ago. That final is, of course, normally held at Wembley. Will my right hon. Friend urge the Wembley authorities to reflect on the success of that match, away from Wembley? In recent years, many rugby league supporters have felt exploited by Wembley, by the south of England and by London. By contrast, they were made very welcome in Edinburgh and elsewhere in Scotland. The efforts that were made to ensure that a match could be played, although the pitch was 3 ft under water only two days before the final, were remarkable--but most remarkable of all was the fact that the match was played on a rugby union ground. A couple of years ago, that would have been unheard of.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): I hope that the general rejoicing is not premature. On 2 May, in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway), the Minister for Sport admitted that Ministers had been aware of Brent council's concerns over infrastructure
Mr. Smith: I am surprised at the hon. Gentleman, who was, I understand, a parliamentary private secretary in the previous Government. He does not understand the basic principle that Ministers in a Department cannot and should not intervene in planning decisions that may fall to the Deputy Prime Minister, as Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, to determine in his semi-judicial capacity. That is the reason for the answer that my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport gave.
The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): Many resorts have been included in the UK's proposals for the new objective 2 structural funds and assisted areas map. In addition, the English Tourism Council has set up a resorts task force, which is due to report in December with a programme of action to assist resorts with their regeneration strategies.
Mr. Waterson: Is not it the case that all the Government have done for English seaside resorts is to cut their grants and swamp them with red tape, and to abolish the English Tourist Board? Does that not in large measure explain why only last Thursday, in places as different as Torbay, Plymouth, Great Yarmouth, Blackpool, Southend--and, indeed, Eastbourne--the Government and their Liberal Democrat lackeys were resoundingly rejected?
Janet Anderson: I urge the hon. Gentleman to take the advice of the Conservative leader of the new ruling group in Rossendale, who said that there may have been one or two switches on Thursday, but not enough to make a difference at the general election.
In direct response to the hon. Gentleman's question, I remind him that it is the present Government who have taken steps to help seaside resorts, through single regeneration budget funding, through objective 2 and through the assisted areas map. I believe that this is the first time that any Government have given such priority to resorts; it is no wonder that so many of them are now represented by Labour Members.
Mr. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): Does my hon. Friend agree that if there is to be a real renaissance in seaside resorts throughout the country, building on the Government's extra help for those resorts, we need an urgent review of transportation corridors to places such as Scarborough--for example, the A64? What representations has she been able to make to Ministers at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions on that subject?
Janet Anderson: My hon. Friend will recall that on 1 March my Department held a tourism summit with Ministers from Departments throughout the Government--the first time that such a meeting had ever taken place. It was intended to ensure that tourism was put at the heart of government, and my hon. Friend's point is exactly the sort of issue that we raised with the DETR. We look forward to further discussions with that Department.
Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset): At the weekend I was fortunate to have with me a group of Russian parliamentarians, who came to see our tourism product, but also had the chance of seeing our local elections. They were of course delighted with tourism in Dorset, but were somewhat surprised by the Labour party's near annihilation in the local elections. Could the reason for Labour's election performance be that the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions has not been providing for places such as Weymouth, Portland and Purbeck grants to encourage tourism, which I know that the Minister supports? Will she please talk urgently to Environment Ministers to ensure that grant to encourage tourism is provided to local authorities--so that, for example, public toilets can be kept open?
Janet Anderson: As I said to the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson), this Government have done a great deal more than any previous Government to promote tourism. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's Russian friends enjoyed their visit to the United Kingdom. They will find that, increasingly, the United Kingdom has a quality tourism product that offers people value for money. No wonder so many people want to visit this country.