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Regional Television

7. Dr. George Turner (North-West Norfolk): What plans he has to address regional anomalies in television reception where viewers cannot receive appropriate regional variations of free-to-air broadcasts. [135342]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): I understand the reason for the question--my hon. Friend has a particular problem in his constituency. It is difficult to know how to resolve it, because the spectrum available for the improvement of terrestrial television services is currently limited. It is difficult to prevent regional anomalies from occurring through analogue and other terrestrial means. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I understand

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the problem, which is also experienced by my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, South (Mr. Chapman). If there is any way we can resolve it, we shall try to do so.

Dr. Turner: I thank my hon. Friend for the interest that she has shown in the matter, and especially for coming to my constituency, where she heard how irritating it is to be interested in the news of Norfolk but to have to watch news that is targeted at Yorkshire.

Under the previous Government, when digital services, which provide new possibilities for dealing with the problems, were introduced, my constituents were ignored. Will my hon. Friend give me a promise that I can take back to them--that they will not be ignored in the White Paper or subsequent legislation, and that every attempt will be made to ensure that seizing the opportunities of the digital era means that we can put the problem behind us?

Janet Anderson: My hon. Friend is quite right. I congratulate him on the tireless campaign that he has conducted in his constituency and in the House on behalf of his constituents. He is right to say that digital television uses the spectrum more efficiently and enables the number and range of services to be increased significantly.

The Government's priority is to deploy the scarce spectrum to enable the BBC and the Independent Television Commission to provide digital television services throughout the United Kingdom and to ensure, as far as possible, reception of the appropriate regional variations. I assure my hon. Friend that we will address the matter in the White Paper when it is published later this year.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): Will the White Paper consider the fact that Yorkshire Television cannot be received everywhere in North Yorkshire?

Janet Anderson: The hon. Lady cites yet another example. I am not sure of the number of such examples, but there are several around the country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I appreciate that people in particular areas would like to receive their own ITV regional service, especially regional news. We understand the concern that that causes. If we can do something about it, we shall.

Public Buildings

8. Mr. Phil Hope (Corby): What steps he is taking to improve the architectural quality of public buildings. [135343]

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): We have established the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment--CABE--to promote good architecture and design. We have published a statement of our commitment in a document entitled "Better Public Buildings", copies of which have been placed in the Library. It has been wholeheartedly endorsed by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in his foreword to the document.

Mr. Hope: In a recent debate that the early years network hosted in the House, the motion that

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public architecture is failing children was carried overwhelmingly. That is a great worry. In Corby, there is an early years excellence centre which is an example of excellent design for children in my constituency. Through sure start and the early years excellence programme, we are spending approximately £350 million on public buildings for children in the next few years. Will my hon. Friend assure me that the excellence that we have seen in Corby will encourage the rapid growth in, and injection of, capital into public architecture, to benefit children throughout the country?

Mr. Howarth: I agree with my hon. Friend. I am glad that the people of Penn Green in his constituency like the sure start building that has been built there. Large and increasing amounts of capital are spent on public buildings, but for decades, far too many were mediocre--if not downright ugly--in design, depressing for those who visited and worked in them, and unnecessarily expensive to operate and maintain.

The Government take it as axiomatic that we should design our public buildings well as a statement of civic values and our commitment to best value in every sense. My hon. Friend spoke about the importance of good quality in public buildings to which children have access. Peckham library, which won the Stirling prize at the weekend, is an example of the wonderful public design of a building that children use. I have asked CABE to work with the sure start unit to ensure that the new wave of sure start buildings enhances the quality of the environment, and lifts the spirit as well as providing first rate public services.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): I recognise that the quality of architectural design is a subjective issue, and I say that with some feeling. Does the Minister agree that the lottery funding of many buildings has aroused much greater public interest in the need for quality of design? I say this diplomatically: will the hon. Gentleman put his money where his mouth is and require that when Government Departments become clients they insist on good-quality buildings--even if that means more expensive buildings? Even if they are more expensive, good-quality buildings are a much better financial, as well as environmental, investment.

Mr. Howarth: The hon. Gentleman has certainly carried the flag for high-quality public architecture for many years, as I well know, and I pay tribute to him for that. From the beginning, the lottery distributors--this has been a commitment shared by Governments of both parties--have been insistent that the buildings funded from that remarkable source of capital funding should be of high quality. The Arts Council and the heritage lottery fund have done excellently in that regard.

My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has appointed Ministers in a range of Departments to be champions of high quality and high standards of architecture and design in and for the public sector buildings for which their Departments have responsibility. We are determined to push forward that crusade.

Mr. Tony Banks (West Ham): May I inform the Minister that I have a rather commodious office in Portcullis House, which regrettably rather resembles a Novotel? However, the architecture of the atrium of

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Portcullis House is stunning and wonderful. What will my hon. Friend do to encourage greater public access to that atrium, so that people can enjoy the architecture for which their tax has paid?

Mr. Howarth: My hon. Friend also has long been committed to high-quality architecture. Of course, he is always a lucky fellow. I am glad that he has a commodious office. Responsibility for the construction project--that is, Portcullis House--has been a matter for the House and not for the Government. All parties have been involved in the oversight of the project. I am sure that the House authorities will wish members of the public to have the best opportunity to see the remarkable piece of architecture by Michael Hopkins and Partners, which is also a remarkable piece of structural engineering. I do not doubt that my hon. Friend, who is always the most assiduous and conscientious of parliamentarians, will be receiving many delegations who will come to wait upon him in his office.

Millennium Dome

9. Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): If he will make a statement on the future of the millennium dome after 31 December. [135344]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): The Government are currently in discussion with Legacy plc, in relation to Legacy's proposal for a high-technology business campus at the Greenwich site. The Legacy proposal is currently being analysed by the competition team in advance of any decision on preferred bidder status. We hope to make an announcement in due course, but I can assure the House that the Government are determined to get the best possible deal to continue the regeneration of east London.

Dr. Lewis: One thing that the dome and its contents will not be doing next year is fulfilling the Prime Minister's boast that they would form the first paragraph of his general election manifesto. Is the Minister aware that last week the national health service pulled the plug on four community hospitals, including a long-awaited £22 million community hospital serving New Forest? How many more future consequences will there be for the people of this country as a result of the squandering of three quarters of a billion pounds on the millennium dome and its contents?

Janet Anderson: I do not know how the hon. Gentleman has the brass neck to ask that question. What the Government have done through the new opportunities fund has been popular. I refer him to a comment made by an Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), who said that health and education are things on which lottery money should not be spent? Perhaps the Conservative party would like to tell us what it would cut, in addition to £16 billion-worth of cuts in public spending. Would the Conservatives cut sport in schools? Would they cut the green spaces initiative? Would they axe the additional equipment for cancer patients, the after-school clubs and the healthy living centres? People outside the House will want those questions answered.

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