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Environmental Reviews

Mr. Pearson: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement about the forthcoming reviews of Environmental Campaign Ltd and the Environmental Action Fund. [135686]

Mr. Meacher: As part of the Government's programme of regular five-yearly financial, management and policy reviews of non-departmental public bodies and bodies similar to them, my Department has initiated a thorough review of Encams, the umbrella body through which we fund the Tidy Britain Group and Going for Green. The review will consider the case for continuing DETR funding of Encams' work programme in England, and whether Encams is the most appropriate body to carry out the functions funded by DETR. If appropriate it will then consider what changes may be necessary to the current strategic and financial relationship between the Department and Encams, to improve the value for money of any future funding. The review will be carried out by my Department's In House Policy Consultancy, which will consult widely with those organisations having an interest in Encams' activities.

We have also set in hand a review of the Environmental Action Fund (EAF) which will consider the effectiveness with which the £4 million per year of the EAF is spent on promoting sustainable living in England, examine the aims, terms, conditions and administration of these financial resources and, if appropriate, make recommendations for change to make sure that these resources are targeted most effectively. The review will be carried out by Quadrangle Consulting, who will consult widely with organisations having an interest in the work of the Fund.

I aim to ensure that any uncertainty caused by these reviews is kept to a minimum and I have asked both the In House Policy Consultancy and the EAF review team to report early in 2001.

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Television Licence Fees

Mr. Salter: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will announce the television licence fees that will come into force next year; and if he will make a statement. [135776]

Janet Anderson: On 21 February this year, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced the Government's conclusions on the recommendations of the independent review panel on the future funding of the BBC. In addition to a range of measures designed to improve BBC efficiency and accountability, the Government introduced a new funding formula which provides for changes in the licence fee of RPI plus 1.5 per cent. for each year from 2000-01 to 2006-07.

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This formula will enable the BBC to provide a strong and distinctive schedule of benchmark quality programmes and remain at the forefront of the development of digital broadcasting services.

Application of the RPI figure of 3.3 per cent. for the year to September 2000, plus 1.5 per cent., to the current unrounded licence fees produces new rounded totals of £109.00 for a colour licence and £36.50 for a black-and-white licence. The new licence fees will come into force on 1 April 2001. The necessary regulations to bring these fees into force will be laid before the House in due course.

Historic Aircraft

Mr. Hilary Benn: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if the Heritage Lottery Fund's terms of reference cover the making of grants to support the restoration, including to flying condition, of historic aircraft; and if he will make a statement. [134336]

Mr. Alan Howarth: The Heritage Lottery Fund can support a wide variety of projects relating to aviation heritage, including the restoration of historic aircraft. The Trustees are willing to consider projects involving the long-term conservation, housing and interpretation of important aircraft. However, they do not expect to fund projects which restore aircraft to flying condition, given the risk of accident.

Arts Sponsorship

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what plans he has to encourage increased commercial sponsorship of the arts. [134368]

Mr. Alan Howarth: Latest figures show that annual business support for the arts now stands at over £141 million--an impressive figure. My Department and the Arts Council of England are working closely with Arts and Business to increase that figure to £167 million by March 2002. We are actively promoting Arts and Business's New Partners programme, which will encourage businesses to develop closer, deeper and longer-term relationships with arts organisations. We are also providing funding for a new Arts and Business Information Unit, which will commission research to prove that such relationships can be of mutual benefit.

Regional Theatres

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the current deficit is of regional theatres in receipt of public funds; and if he will make a statement. [134597]

Mr. Chris Smith: The latest figure available from the Arts Council of England to the end of March 1999 is £4.4 million. I understand figures to March 2000 have been collected and will be available soon.

Communications White Paper

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when he expects to publish the Communications White Paper. [134484]

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Janet Anderson: The Communications White Paper will be published later this year. The White Paper will set out proposals for the reform of broadcasting and telecommunications legislation.

Millennium Dome

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what his policy is on the designation of the Millennium Dome as a listed building. [134620]

Mr. Alan Howarth: The general rule when looking at buildings for listing, is that those less than 10 years old are not listed. There is no reason for us to adopt a different policy for the Millennium Dome.

Television News Scheduling

Mr. Baker: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on his policy in respect of the scheduling of news programmes on BBC1 and ITV. [134617]

Janet Anderson: It is not the role of Government to intervene in detailed issues of programme content and scheduling. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has, however, expressed his misgivings about the rescheduling of evening news services. Television is a vital source of information in our democratic society and it is important that the overall audience for television news and the quality of the service provided is not diminished.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he has had with the BBC regarding the scheduling of the BBC One evening news; and if he will make a statement. [134605]

Janet Anderson: When my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State met the Chairman and Director-General of the BBC on 6 October to discuss a range of topics, he expressed misgivings about the BBC's decision to reschedule its evening news.

Disability Discrimination

Mr. Boswell: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what action he is taking to discourage disability discrimination in connection with practitioners and performers in the arts. [134217]

Mr. Alan Howarth: I am committed to ensuring that all DCMS policies are fully inclusive. I have met Equity, the Actors' Union, on a number of occasions and have asked them to bring to my attention any cases of alleged discrimination. I also meet regularly the Under-Secretary of State for Education and Employment, my hon. Friend the Member for Barking who is responsible for Disabled People, to discuss issues of mutual concern. I recently hosted a DCMS conference to discuss with representatives in the arts and leisure industries the impact of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 between now and 2004. My Department will shortly publish its social inclusion strategy for the arts, which will include specific policies for addressing the needs of disabled people.

British Museum

Mr. Ian Bruce: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions he had with

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(a) the Head of English Heritage and (b) others about the stone used on the South Portico of the British Museum. [134608]

Mr. Alan Howarth: The stone used in the South Portico of the British Museum's Great Court is a matter for the trustees of the British Museum, for English Heritage, for the Heritage Lottery Fund and for the London Borough of Camden, and not for me. My right hon. Friend and I have been kept informed and my right hon. Friend was shown the site earlier this year with representatives from the British Museum, English Heritage and the London Borough of Camden.

Regional Television News

Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on the provision of regional television news programmes. [134479]

Janet Anderson: The BBC is required, under its Charter and Agreement, to provide regional news and ITV licensees are required under the terms of their licences, to include in their regional programmes, minimum amounts of news of particular interest to viewers in their region. The BBC Governors give their assessment of the BBC's performance and compliance with its various obligations

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in their annual report and the Independent Television Commission gives its assessment of the extent to which the ITV licensees have complied with their licence requirements in the Commission's annual report.


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