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Concessionary Television Licences

11. Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): If he will review the regulations covering concessionary TV licences in sheltered residential accommodation for elderly people. [128207]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): This concessionary scheme was examined last year by the Davies panel which concluded that, despite its obvious drawbacks, it should be retained since no superior alternative, funded through the licence fee, could be found. We decided to accept the panel's recommendation that the scheme should be retained and have no plans for a further review.

Mr. Blizzard: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. People in my constituency welcome the free television licence for over-75s. However, I should like to draw my hon. Friend's attention to the situation in Samford Court, Worlingham, in my constituency, where all 40 flats lost their entitlement to the shared television licence scheme because the housing association moved in one resident who was 59. Although I think that the housing association should have known better, and that the case demonstrates

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rather insensitive management, I also think that the case demonstrates the continuing unsatisfactory nature of the licence regime for sheltered accommodation.

Given that the remit for the Gavyn Davies report was very broad, would my hon. Friend re-examine that one detailed issue in the television licence regime? I should add that the residents in Samford Court know that, if ever the Tories got back into office, even 75-year-olds would lose their free television licences.

Janet Anderson: I could not agree more with my hon. Friend on that last point. He also raises a very important issue that I know causes concern in many constituencies across the country. We have always said that we recognise that the £5 accommodation for residential care--the ARC--concessionary television licence scheme is unsatisfactory. We also know that that dissatisfaction and unsatisfactory way of operating continue. However, about 80 per cent. of ARC beneficiaries are 75 or over, and the over-75 concession will help the very elderly living alone, who represent some of the most glaring examples of the unfairness of the ARC scheme.

Recently, we did make one change to the scheme, in recognition of some of those problems. On 1 April, we made the change to replace references in the regulations to "pensionable age" with the gender-neutral phrase "aged 60 years or more". When men over 60 are in those residential schemes, therefore, that will not jeopardise entitlement to the concessionary licence.

We do recognise that it is an unjust and unfair scheme, but at least we have begun to do something about it--unlike Conservative Members, who in 18 years refused to face up to the problem.

Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire): That was a remarkable answer. If the Minister admits that it is not fair for those who are 60 to 74 and outside a sheltered home not to get a concession whereas those who are inside such a home do get one, why is she not doing something about it?

Janet Anderson: The hon. Gentleman is obviously not listening: the scheme that operated under the previous Government was patently unfair, and we have begun to do something about it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer decided that he could begin to afford to strip that unfairness out of the system. Consequently, 3 million pensioners over 75 will benefit from a free television licence. Many of them did not benefit from such a concession before.

Museums and Galleries

12. Gillian Merron (Lincoln): What steps his Department has taken to support investment in new buildings for museums and galleries since May 1997. [128208]

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): Since May 1997, my Department has provided an additional £100 million for museums and galleries through grant-in-aid and other programmes. My Department directly supports the Designation Challenge fund and Resource, which provide funding to enable museums and galleries to undertake feasibility studies and

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options appraisals for new buildings. The lottery, which is sponsored by my Department, has provided almost £35 million towards new buildings for museums and galleries. That is in addition to the very substantial sums awarded by the lottery towards the improvement of existing museum and gallery facilities.

Gillian Merron: My hon. Friend will undoubtedly be aware not only of Lincoln's contemporary and historical significance, but of the fact that we currently do not have a museum in which to celebrate, to put on displays or to offer educational and leisure opportunities both to visitors and to local people--so that we can really show off the city's heritage and culture. How can the Department for Culture, Media and Sport support Lincoln in developing a much needed county and city museum that would certainly be very popular and well used?

Mr. Howarth: My hon. Friend has the privilege of representing a great, historic and extremely beautiful city. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had the pleasure of visiting Lincoln recently, and I know that he listened carefully to the views expressed by my hon. Friend and others about the importance of the project to which she has referred, and he has passed on those considerations to the heritage lottery fund. She is a doughty advocate on behalf of her city, and I wish her well in her quest.

Heritage Initiatives

14. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): What steps he is taking to support local heritage initiatives. [128210]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): We welcome the heritage lottery fund's decision to make local heritage one of its four main priorities. It has committed £8 million to its local heritage initiative, which is designed to help local communities to investigate, explain and care for their landscape, landmarks, traditions and culture.

Mr. Chapman: I thank and congratulate my right hon. Friend. What role does he envisage for the local pub in any local heritage initiative?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the role of the British pub as an integral part of the local heritage in many parts of the country. Not only buildings but the names of pubs often reflect local history or events. Many pubs have changed their names for various reasons over the years, but there appears to be a growing fashion of rebranding pubs with names such as "The Dog and Doughnut" or "The Goose and Granite"--names which appear to have little relevance to the history of any area.

We are surely in danger of losing an important part of local history and folk memory. It is up to the owners of a business to choose its name, but I hope that breweries will bear in mind the unique historic role that many of our public houses have and think twice before destroying that

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link with the past. Certainly, consulting a pub's regulars and the wider local community before renaming it would not seem too much to ask.

Mr. Geoffrey Clifton-Brown (Cotswold): I am pleased to hear that the Secretary of State is so keen on pub names. Will he undertake some research and tell us how many pubs are called "The Spinner", as that might be of some benefit to the Labour party?

Mr. Smith: I suspect that the number is similar to that of pubs named "The Silly Question".


15. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South): What steps his Department is taking to obtain the views of tourism organisations in British seaside resorts. [128211]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): My officials and I have regular contact with local authorities and business partnerships from seaside resorts, and with organisations such as the British Resorts Association, in which my hon. Friend plays a leading role. Let me say how pleased I was to attend the association's annual meeting both this year and last.

Mr. Marsden: My hon. Friend is zealous in defending within the Government the interests of seaside towns. I hope that she will have time to visit seaside towns and talk to local hoteliers this summer and that she will listen to the concerns that many of them have about assisted area status grants for tourism under tier 3, and relay those concerns to her colleagues in the Department of Trade and Industry. Will she also raise the issue of lottery grants for seaside towns, given the recent reports that they have not been getting their fair share?

Janet Anderson: I remind my hon. Friend that when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State published his report on lottery funding for former coalfield areas, Sheffield Hallam university, which undertook the research, said:

We shall continue to look at that very closely. I reassure him that I will visit his constituency on the first day of the seaside town tour that my right hon. Friend and I will undertake at the beginning of the summer recess, and that I have fixed a meeting with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Trade on the other matter that he raised.

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