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9. Chris Grayling (Epsom and Ewell): When she plans to bring forward legislation to establish the proposed media regulator Ofcom. [2429]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Dr. Kim Howells): The Government introduced a paving Bill on 12 July which will establish Ofcom and enable it and the existing regulators to begin the preparations for the proposed new regulatory regime. Ofcom will receive no regulatory functions until the main communications Bill is enacted.

Chris Grayling: I have been approached in recent weeks by a number of my constituents expressing great concern about what they see as the deterioration in the standard of television material seen in prime time. Will the Minister give the House an undertaking that he will ensure that both Ofcom and the current regulators take

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strong action to reverse that trend and to ensure that the material that we see on our prime time television is acceptable?

Dr. Howells: I would like very much to be able to do that. I cannot abide "Big Brother" and I would love it to be taken off our screens. However, I think the day when politicians and Whitehall officials decided what should be on television would be a very sad one.

Mr. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston): I welcome my hon. Friend's statement, especially as one of the people who wrote "Communicating Britain's Future", in which we argued the case for an umbrella organisation such as that which he announced. Has he closed his mind to broadening that umbrella or are the current suggestions about what should be included in Ofcom cut and dried?

Dr. Howells: No, those suggestions are not cut and dried, and the umbrella is of an indeterminate size at the moment. I have not shut my mind to anything. If I knew what my hon. Friend was on about, I might be able to answer him more specifically.

Mr. Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey): We Opposition Members welcome honesty whenever we hear it from the Labour Benches, although some in the industry think that Ofcom might turn into Big Brother. Does the Under-Secretary accept that the paving Bill that appeared last week offers no practical benefit to the media and communications industry, whose ability to meet the rapidly changing world in which it operates is being impaired by regulations that have not changed for five years and will not do so for at least another two years?I gently remind him that the Labour party first promised to reform regulation back in 1997. Is it not odd that, now that the Bill has eventually appeared, it not only promises the establishment of Ofcom but suggests a means for its premature demise? Why is that, and what is the sense in considering proposals for the reform of media regulation without any reference to the BBC, which still has almost 40 per cent. of audience share?

Dr. Howells: I believe in sunset clauses, because I think that when regulation is irrelevant or useless, we should get rid of it. Indeed, I should like that principle to be applied to most new regulation that comes before the House. We are sticking to our manifesto commitment to deliver Ofcom by 2003: that is what we are going to try to do. We never promised to include the regulation of the BBC—or, at least, the core of BBC regulation—as part of that new legislation.

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): I thank my hon. Friend for his answer to the initial question, especially as it was exactly the same as an answer given in Trade and Industry questions last Thursday. I presume that that means that we will see joined-up handwriting between the two Departments on this matter in the next two years. Does he believe that universal access is one of the most urgent issues on which Ofcom must deliver? The matter is especially important at a time when many parts of the country do not have digital terrestrial television coverage, cable coverage or ADSL—asymmetric digital subscriber

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line—coverage. This is a major issue for those who want the whole country and not just some parts of it to share in new technology.

Dr. Howells: The question of coverage must be one of the major tests before there is any idea of the analogue signal being switched off. My hon. Friend, who has the great privilege of representing the Rhondda valley, will know that we have a greater concentration of relay stations in that area than anywhere else in the United Kingdom. We must ensure that the question of coverage is solved, otherwise we will disfranchise many people from their main source of information and entertainment.

Athletics Stadium, Pickett's Lock

10. Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): If she will make a statement on the construction of the new athletics stadium at Pickett's Lock, with particular reference to the commencement of site works and the completion of the project. [2430]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I am tempted to refer the House to the answer that I gave to question 2, which concerned Wembley, as Sport England has concluded that it is not yet able to commit lottery funding to the Lee valley national athletics centre project. On 2 July, Sport England asked Patrick Carter, who is conducting the review of the English national stadium, to carry out a separate review to assess whether the project can be funded and managed in its present form. The Government welcome that review and look forward to receiving its conclusions.

Sir Sydney Chapman: The right hon. Lady knows that, at the end of the last Parliament, her predecessor categorically stated in answer to a question from me that the Pickett's Lock project would go ahead. Will she confirm that, if it is going ahead, it must be built by 2004 to house the world athletics championships? If it is not going to go ahead, will she give an assurance that the Wembley stadium project will include an athletics track, which will be ready by 2004?

Tessa Jowell: We have made a clear commitment to host the 2005 world athletics championships in a world-class stadium. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that Pickett's Lock had been identified as the location for the stadium. However, there is a clear funding gap, and Sport England was not prepared to commit more money to the project until it was sure of its financial viability. I support that judgment and the review that Patrick Carter is carrying out.


The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Clergy (Conditions of Service)

33. Mr. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South): If he will make a statement on conditions of service for the clergy. [2455]

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Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): Conditions vary slightly from diocese to diocese. However, in addition to their stipend, based on a national stipends benchmark of £16,910 from April 2001, clergy receive free accommodation or a housing allowance, and membership of a non-contributory pension scheme. In addition, their working expenses should be fully reimbursed.

Mr. Chapman: Is my hon. Friend aware that there is anxiety about the form of the proposed clergy disciplinary tribunal and worries about the stipends review body, which, it is believed, will simply maintain the status quo? When is it intended to give the clergy conditions of service similar to those that others enjoy, appropriate contracts, and appropriate redress in cases of dismissal?

Mr. Bell: My hon. Friend may be anticipating the Clergy Discipline Measure which will shortly be before the Ecclesiastical Committee. He knows that the Government have powers under the Employment Rights Act 1996 to give ministers of religion some employees' rights. The Government have undertaken to issue a consultation document before exercising their powers under the Act. The Archbishops Council has set up a group to co-ordinate the Church's response. I am sure that the clergy will welcome that and I hope that my hon. Friend accepts the assurance that, ultimately, they will be properly looked after.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): I am sure that the clergy will welcome that response. May I take the opportunity to pay tribute to them, especially the vicars of the hillside parishes, which have been caught up in the dreadful foot and mouth crisis? I pay tribute to their tremendous efforts, which have been beyond the call of duty, to deal with the human stress and suffering at this time.

Mr. Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for drawing attention to the work of the clergy in rural areas. I also pay tribute to the Bishop of Bradford, who has worked hard in the aftermath of the riots there.


34. Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West): If he will make a statement about annual expenditure on prelates. [2456]

Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): The Church Commissioners spent £15.8 million in 2000 on bishops' stipends and working costs and looking after diocesan bishops' houses, which the Commissioners own. Housing and working costs budgets are agreed annually.

Mr. Swayne: Does the hon. Member agree that, notwithstanding the recent increases, the expenses continue to represent a bargain for the Church, especially when compared with our own expenses? What will the

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commissioners do to relieve prelates of administrative burdens so that they can concentrate on the teaching ministry of which the nation is in such great need?

Mr. Bell: Fortunately for me, I am not responsible for MPs' pay structures or costs. As Sue MacGregor said on Radio 4's "Today" programme when interviewing Professor Anthony Mellows, bishops are struggling to carry out their daily tasks because of mounting financial and other burdens. Professor Mellows, who is conducting the review of bishops' needs and resources, responded by saying that there was a great difference between the public perception, which was of rather grand life styles, and the reality of the position. The hon. Gentleman's point on the way in which the Church Commissioners can help to relieve bishops of their administrative burden is well taken and will be looked at.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Will the hon. Gentleman assure the House that he has absolutely no sympathy with the nitpicking Scrooges who would deprive bishops of the opportunity to obtain modest driving assistance? It is surely not right that bishops should have to drive themselves round their dioceses to all their engagements.

Mr. Bell: All that I can say to the hon. Gentleman is, "Amen to that."

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