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Museum and Gallery Visits

7. Maria Eagle (Liverpool, Garston): What the impact has been of the abolition of museum charges on the number of pensioners and children visiting national museums and galleries; and if he will make a statement. [158142]

The Minister for the Arts (Mr. Alan Howarth): Since free admission at Department for Culture, Media and Sport-sponsored national museums and galleries was extended for children, on 1 April 1999, and for the over-60s, on 1 April 2000, there have been more than half a million additional visits by children and more than 400,000 additional visits by the over-60s. Within those figures, at the museums and galleries that previously charged, there have been almost 435,000 additional visits by children and more than 127,000 additional visits by the over-60s. Those figures are most encouraging.

Maria Eagle: Does my right hon. Friend agree that one fact highlighted by the figures is that compulsory charges act as a disincentive for people to make such visits? Does he also accept that there are still families in the United Kingdom who cannot afford to go to their museums and galleries because of the adult entry free? When might we expect to have universal access to museums and galleries without any charges at all?

Mr. Howarth: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that it is of basic importance to ensure that children are able to visit museums and galleries without there being the type of insurmountable obstacles that there have been for all too many of them. She is also quite right that it will be an enormous advantage when we are able to advance to universal free entry, so that parents will not have to

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pay and more of them will take their children--or their children will take them--to museums and galleries. We have provided the resources to enable that to happen, on 1 December 2001, and we are very hopeful that all the institutions that we sponsor will respond to that opportunity.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Under the partial free access policy, how, when and to what extent does the right hon. Gentleman expect admission revenues forgone to be offset? In the context of the increased visitor numbers to which he has just referred, has he made any assessment of the proportion of that increase that is accounted for by tourists visiting from overseas?

Mr. Howarth: We are compensating the institutions to enable them to be able to introduce free entry without financial penalty to them. The figures for tourism of course vary enormously, and I think that it would be very rash of me to attempt to make an assessment here and now. We have spent much of this Question Time discussing problems about the numbers of tourists visiting Britain at the moment.

Lottery Funding

8. Mr. Mike Gapes (Ilford, South): What steps he will take to reduce the variations between (a) sales of national lottery tickets and (b) average expenditure of the National Lottery Charities Board in parliamentary constituencies. [158143]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): It is important to bear in mind that 28p of each lottery pound goes to the good causes overall. It is also difficult to seek a direct correlation between ticket sales and the value of lottery awards, as all parts of the country should have access to lottery funding according to need. However, our commitment to ensuring that lottery funding is fairly distributed both geographically and across all groups of society is reflected in the changes made to lottery distribution through the National Lottery Act 1998 and the revised policy directions issued to distributors in summer 1998.

Mr. Gapes: Is my right hon. Friend aware that my constituents in Ilford, South are very generous towards the national lottery? The most recent figures that I have, compiled at the end of 1999, showed that £759 per adult was spent on the lottery, which put us 68th highest constituency in the country. However, we received back only 4p in the pound for projects in my constituency. Will my right hon. Friend have urgent discussions with the London board of the community fund about the disparities in payment between London boroughs and the fact that some constituencies and boroughs, including my own, are not getting their fair share of payments?

Mr. Smith: I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that the picture is now a little better than the one that he described. His constituency has received overall from the national lottery so far £3.9 million and 77 lottery awards. However, he is right to draw attention to the fact that that is somewhat below the average for the country as a whole. Among the changes introduced by the National Lottery Act 1998 were a greater emphasis on small-scale schemes

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at local community level to enable a much better spread across the country as a whole, a move away from an emphasis on buildings--bricks and mortar--to support for people and activities, and an attempt to ensure that areas of social deprivation can be particularly helped by the lottery distributors.

Those changes are already beginning to have an impact. For example, during the past year, the number of small grants made by the lottery distributors has trebled. I am delighted by the progress that is already being made; I hope that it will continue and that it will benefit Ilford, South as well as other parts of the country.

Mr. Graham Brady (Altrincham and Sale, West): The Secretary of State has just made it clear that one of his criteria for fairness in allocating lottery resources is redistribution of wealth from better off areas to less well off areas. That may be a legitimate thing to do, but I do not think that many people who buy lottery tickets are aware of that. Will the Secretary of State publish the criteria that are used to decide where the money goes so that the process is open and transparent and people cannot accuse the Government or the National Lottery Charities Board of wrongly distributing funds?

Mr. Smith: The directions to which I referred were placed in both Libraries of both Houses some two years ago. If the hon. Gentleman has not seen them yet, he has not been doing his homework.


9. Angela Smith (Basildon): What recent advice he has received on the importance of sport for the health of young people. [158145]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): A number of reports have drawn attention to the importance of sport and physical activity for the health of young people, most recently the National Audit Office's report entitled "Tackling Obesity in England". The Government fully accept that physical activity and sport have a range of benefits, including better health, and our plan for sport spells out our policies and strategy for increasing participation among all sections of the community, particularly young people.

Angela Smith: I welcome my right hon. Friend's response. It is clear that he is committed to encouraging young people to be active in sport. May I therefore ask for his help in removing two barriers to participation for young people that have been drawn to my attention by Amy Cox, who is the Youth Parliament member for Thurrock, and a constituent of mine? The first is the cost of participation for young people using facilities--what may be a relatively small sum for adults is expensive to someone who is 13 or 14 years old. The second problem is the cost of transport for young people, as many 14-year-olds have to pay full fare on buses to get to these facilities. Will my right hon. Friend put it to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions that there should be a bus pass for young people on the same basis as bus passes for pensioners?

Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend makes a number of important points. I was pleased to hear of the interest

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taken by the Youth Parliament in the importance of sport for young people. We are bearing in mind the cost of participation and of transport to sporting facilities as we develop the programme of the appointment of school sport co-ordinators and the replacement of playing fields--many of which were sold off under the previous Government--and ensure that inter-school league competitions, which fell so drastically and severely during the 1980s, are put back in place.

Mr. Bob Russell (Colchester): Does the Secretary of State agree that, in the fourth year of a Labour Government, 75 per cent. of our young people are still not getting the minimum two hours of physical education a week? What discussions has he had with the Secretary of State for Education and Employment to put that right?

Mr. Smith: I am pleased to say that we have had substantial discussions with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment, and that is why we have indicated that over the course of the next three years we want to put in place--for every pupil who wishes to claim it--an entitlement to two hours of sporting or physical recreation activity during the course of the school week.

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