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Millennium Dome

8. Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): If he will make a statement on the total amount of national lottery and public money invested in the millennium dome. [128203]

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The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): A total of £538 million of national lottery money has been granted to the project. No taxpayers' money has been invested in the construction or running of the dome or in its contents.

Mr. Corbyn: I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. Will he assure the House and many people outside that no further national lottery money will go into the dome, and that it will have to survive on what it has had thus far? What is likely to happen to the building in the long run? Will the massive amount of lottery money that has gone into it be recouped and spent on other public projects or will the dome remain open and for public use for some other purpose in the future?

Mr. Smith: As I told the House in Question Time a month ago, we have made it clear to the New Millennium Experience Company that it must operate within the budget now set for it. I was delighted that Mr. Gerbeau has confirmed on a number of occasions that he will not be returning to the Millennium Commission for extra funds.

A decision on the future legacy of the dome as a structure will be taken shortly by ministerial colleagues--I am not involved in that decision. There are two competing bids for the future maintenance of the dome, both of which involve substantial public access to the dome and its surroundings. I remind my hon. Friend that before we came into office the Conservative party's intention was to tear down the whole building and leave no legacy whatever.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire): The Secretary of State remains brazenly proud of what most of the nation realises is a disgraceful waste of public money. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the figure of 3 million. Does he agree with me that the difference between the dome and Tate Modern is that 5,000 fewer people a day go to the dome than visit the Tate Modern? The reason for that is because the dome contains classic new Labour tat, whereas the contents of the Tate Modern are first class. Is not the Secretary of State concerned that, when Mr. Gerbeau names and shames at the end of this year, his name will be in the headlights?

Mr. Smith: The hon. Gentleman is right to point to the wonderful success of Tate Modern. I am proud of the role that the Government have played in helping to ensure that success. However, he perhaps has not noticed the actual figures. For example, on 25 June the dome had its highest Sunday attendance ever at 27,234 people.

Cultural Strategies

9. Mr. Chris Pond (Gravesham): What progress is being made by local authorities in developing local cultural strategies. [128204]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State published draft guidance on local cultural strategies for all local authorities in England in June last year. The guidance emphasises the importance of cultural services in improving the quality of life for all.

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In February, we sent all local authorities a mid-term progress report on the experiences of 14 authorities that have been piloting the guidance, and good progress is being made.

Mr. Pond: I thank the Minister for visiting my constituency last week to see how we are using our culture and heritage as a driving force for economic regeneration, and to see for herself why Gravesend is now such a tourist hot spot. Does she agree with me that good local cultural strategies are a powerful way of helping to regenerate local economies, and that cultural and multicultural strategies draw local communities together?

Janet Anderson: My hon. Friend is right. The local cultural strategies initiative stems from the Government's belief, as stated in our election manifesto, in the value of all local authorities producing cultural strategies to draw together all aspects of local cultural activity. I much enjoyed my visit to my hon. Friend's constituency. I place on record my congratulations to Gravesham council for the active pursuit of a local cultural strategy. I did not know until I went to Gravesend that Pocahontas is buried there under St. George's church, and I had a pleasant visit to the home of Charles Dickens, in which he wrote "Great Expectations". I urge those who have not been to Gravesend to do so very soon.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): We on the Conservative Benches have nothing particularly against local cultural strategies, although a growing number of local authorities are coming round to our view that regional cultural consortiums are a waste of space and money.

While on the subject of cultural strategies, I wonder whether the hon. Lady ever gets a chance to read the Tatler magazine? [Interruption.] There we go--a typical knee-jerk reaction from old Labour. Labour Members might find that new Tatler is more closely in tune with contemporary arts than new Labour. The latest edition features a rare interview with V.S. Naipaul, who is in many people's view one of the--if not the--most distinguished living British writers. He accuses the Government of cultural vandalism. I quote from the interview:

Next time the Government sit down to work out their cultural strategy, why do they not think of the only strategy that matters--the exit strategy? [Interruption.]

Madam Speaker: Order. Did the Minister hear a question? I did not. I probably missed it because of all the noise.

Janet Anderson: Thank you, Madam Speaker. I will try to identify the question. I suggested earlier that the hon. Gentleman try to find a new script writer. I suggest now that he tries to find a new researcher who reads something other than the Tatler.

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Regional cultural consortiums are working very well and have been widely welcomed throughout the country. The move is an attempt by the Government to put cultural strategies and cultural services at the heart of regeneration, something that the hon. Gentleman's Government singularly failed to do. For the first time ever, where local authorities are bidding for beacon council status, the cultural services and strategies that they have put in place will be taken into account.

Mr. Tony McWalter (Hemel Hempstead): It has not quite reached the pages of the Tatler yet, but is my hon. Friend aware that many local authorities are desperately strapped for cash, particularly because some programmes have not benefited from the increase in Government funding for local authorities? In particular, my local authority, Dacorum, is faced with a 41 per cent. reduction in its funds next year because of the change to resource accounting. Will she ensure that local authorities are genuinely enabled to have the resources to spend on what is a worthwhile project?

Janet Anderson: I thank my hon. Friend for that question. May I remind him that the last local government settlement was the best that local authorities had received for 15 years? That is not to say that we do not understand the problems faced by many local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I have regular meetings with local government associations to ensure that we are in tune with their needs. Leisure services and cultural services are, of course, discretionary. Nevertheless, local authorities have strongly welcomed our initiative on local cultural strategies and played a full part in developing our guidance.


10. Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): If he will make a statement on his targets to increase the number of hours each week spent by (a) adults and (b) young people on participating in sport. [128206]

The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): Increasing participation in sport across all age groups and abilities is a key feature of the recently published Government sports strategy, "A Sporting Future For All".

Mr. Hughes: That was a bit of an unspecific answer. Will the Minister use her enthusiasm to try to change the current statistics? Although more young people are participating in sport, the average length of time that they spend doing so is about seven and a half hours a week, whereas they watch television for about 11 and a half hours a week. The amount of time spent on physical education in schools across all age groups has dropped considerably over the past five years.

Will the Minister have a word with her colleagues in the Department for Education and Employment to ensure that school timetables do not drive out swimming, PE and participation in sport, so that there is a chance that the appetite for sport and the opportunity for excellence will

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be encouraged? We might then win a few more things later, as well as give much greater satisfaction to many of our fellow citizens.

Kate Hoey: The hon. Gentleman is right. The more participation, the more chance there is of spotting the talent, getting to the top and winning, which is what the country wants.

On working more closely with the Department for Education and Employment, I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have been spending a lot of time on precisely that. Part of the reason for having a very good strategy was to show how what was happening in education and outside schools mattered. That kind of working together is so crucial.

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Sports governing bodies and everyone involved in sport must recognise that these days there are many more attractions for young people. They must be more imaginative about how they sell their sport. That is why part of the implementation group for the sports strategy is looking at precisely those issues.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): Does not Labour's sports strategy owe a huge debt to the last Government? One billion pounds of lottery funding has gone into 3,000 grass-roots sports projects. Given that so many initiatives mentioned in the Minister's own White Paper depend on the continuation of lottery funding--for instance, the space for sports and the arts initiative in schools--and on destroying the arm's-length principle in regard to the lottery that Labour thought so important when in opposition, can the Minister tell us who has overall responsibility for investment in schools projects? Is it her Department, the Department for Education and Employment, or the lottery funding bodies?

If the sports strategy does not go according to plan, can the Minister promise that neither she nor her successor will say, as she has said in respect of our failed world cup bid, that the policy was doomed to failure from the start?

Kate Hoey: That is nonsense. As the hon. Gentleman will hear if he listens to the tape, what I said was that many people felt from the beginning that those who could not secure the support of their own region obviously started at a disadvantage. I said nothing that others have not said--nothing that the chairman of the Football Association, for instance, has not said in the past few days. I hope that we shall all learn the lessons of what has happened with the world cup bid.

As for the hon. Gentleman's specific question, he should be aware that more lottery money than ever is being invested. It was originally forecast that only £1.8 billion would be invested over the lifetime of the current licence; the amount will now be more than £2 billion.

This Government believe in partnership, which means taking all opportunities to make money available. Those involved in sport do not care where the money comes from, as long as it is there.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover): I hope my hon. Friend can tell me that the Labour Government are not carrying out Tory party policy, because Tory party policy was to close all those playing fields and sell them off. On top of

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that, the Tories closed 600 pits--which meant that nearly half the miners' welfares, all with massive playing fields, were closed and sold off as well.

The last thing that this new Labour Government ought to do is take any notice of that lot. Ought we not to stop selling off playing fields, and make sure that the miners' welfares that remain have plenty of lottery money so that we can provide sport for the many, not the few?

Kate Hoey: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why we have been so determined to stop the compulsory sale of playing fields. The last Government sold many of our young people's opportunities down the river by selling so many. We are ensuring that that does not happen now.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): Does the Minister not recognise that many sales of school playing fields were carried out by Labour local authorities, and that, despite her much vaunted policy, few projected sales have been stopped by it? It is all very well to have the rhetoric; the practice is entirely contrary to it.

Kate Hoey: If the hon. Gentleman looked at the figures, he would see that the rhetoric is the fact--and the fact is that now, rather than 40 playing fields being sold on a regular basis, three have been sold.

What we did was stop compulsory sales. Some local authorities, and even the National Playing Fields Association, now happily accept that it is sometimes better to sell a playing field, and to use the money to provide another sporting facility that can be used by all. We could never have a policy stating that no playing field would ever be sold. The important question is how playing fields are being replaced. We must ensure that those with an interest--Sport England, the local community and local schools, for instance--all have a say before a decision is made.

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