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House of Commons

Monday 3 December 2001

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Holidays (Disabled People)

1. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South): What discussions she has had with (a) the English Tourism Council and (b) other bodies on marketing and expanding opportunities for domestic holidays for people with disabilities. [16983]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Dr. Kim Howells): Widening access to tourism for people with disabilities is a key commitment for the Government and the English Tourism Council. My Department has regular discussions with the ETC and other relevant bodies on that topic. The ETC currently has no marketing role, but that is under review. There is much more that we can do to co-ordinate private and public sector funds that are currently spent on marketing tourism in England.

Mr. Marsden: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Given that today is the International Day for Disabled

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People, does he agree that we have an appropriate opportunity to review what marketing bodies, under whatever heading, can do specifically to market holidays for disabled people? ETC research has shown that2.7 million people in this country would take such holidays, the majority of them domestic. Will he consider with other Departments the possibility of ring-fenced budgets specifically for such marketing, as well as other initiatives targeted on the community of people with disabilities?

Dr. Howells: The burden of marketing in this country lies with the private sector—with those who own attractions and with the resorts themselves. I hope that it will remain so, as I do not want politicians to try to second-guess how best to market resorts and so on. However, I agree with my hon. Friend that much more needs to be done to encourage those who are registered as disabled to take holidays in this country. I understand that 9.5 million people are registered as disabled; far too few have the opportunity to take holidays in Great Britain.

Mr. Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield): When considering those important matters in relation to disabled people, will the Minister bear in mind the excellence in that respect of Birmingham's bid to host the national stadium? Does he agree that Wembley has blown it through its own actions and that it is now right, not least because of the facilities for disabled people, that Birmingham should be the location of the national stadium?

Dr. Howells: That was a good try, but that is a matter for the Football Association.

Lottery Funding (South Yorkshire)

2. Caroline Flint (Don Valley): What progress has been made in ensuring an increased share of successful bids for national lottery money in south Yorkshire. [16984]

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The Minister for Sport (

Mr. Richard Caborn): Our data show that since the National Lottery Act 1998 and the revised policy directions issued to distributors that same year, the proportion of all lottery awards going to south Yorkshire has increased by 19 per cent.

Caroline Flint: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply, but I have a question about common sense in the assessment of applications for lottery funds. I do not know whether he has had a chance to investigate an application to the better play programme from St. Alban's school in Denaby Main in my constituency to have an underground spring diverted from the sports field to be used for a range of play and sports activities. The application was turned down

What choice or control can children have when their playing field is waterlogged?

Mr. Caborn: As my hon. Friend knows, we received a letter from her constituency office on 22 or23 November and officials are looking into the case. We want to reduce bureaucracy wherever we can. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced on 27 June to the lotteries monitoring panel that we were refocusing lottery funding on some of the poorer areas of the United Kingdom. I shall look into the case that my hon. Friend raises. The issue is one that we want to resolve quickly.

BBC (Political Impartiality)

3. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby): When she last met the chairman of the governors of the BBC to discuss political impartiality in the corporation's broadcasts. [16985]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I have met with the chairman of the governors of the BBC, but not to discuss political impartiality in the corporation's broadcasts—nor would it be appropriate for me to do so. That is a matter for the BBC governors.

Mr. Robathan: Notwithstanding the chairman's many attributes, including his success in making squillions while working for Goldman Sachs, does the Secretary of State agree that someone who was an adviser to Harold Wilson and James Callaghan and who is famously alleged to have wept when Neil Kinnock was defeated in the 1992 general election is bound to see the world and politics with an inherent bias—through, dare one say, rose or red-tinted spectacles? Would she be happy if the Director-General of the BBC, the chairman, the political editor and the editor of the "Today" programme were all paid-up members, or well-known donors, or active supporters of the Conservative party?

Tessa Jowell: The new chairman of the BBC was selected for the first time by the open Nolan principle. An advertisement was placed, applications were invited and the candidates were interviewed; a recommendation was made to me, then the Prime Minister, and was submitted to the Queen. That is how openness in public appointments and public confidence are maintained under a Labour Government. That is in stark contrast to the way

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in which Marmaduke Hussey, a recent chairman of the BBC, was appointed. He recorded that the telephone conversation went as follows:

We believe in openness; Gavyn Davies is an excellent candidate.

Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow): May I remind my right hon. Friend of the time long, long ago when there were wiser Tories in the leadership? When Reggie Bevins was Postmaster-General responsible for the BBC, he was goaded into saying, "I'll do something about 'That was the week that was'". The next morning, he arrived in his office and there was a little note saying, "Oh no you won't. Harold"—Macmillan.

Tessa Jowell: It is important to ensure that history does not repeat itself. Secretaries of State and Ministers do well to keep out of aspects of the governance of the BBC that are well protected by the BBC charter and the BBC governors.

Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne): Will the Secretary of State explain why, of all broadcasters, the BBC should be exempt from the supervision of Ofcom? Why should it remain the judge and jury on its own impartiality and coverage of politics in this country?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for broadcasting will deal with that matter later during Question Time. However, there is a common misunderstanding of the matter. When, subject to parliamentary approval, Ofcom is established, a common set of principles will apply to all broadcasters, including the BBC, other public service broadcasters and broadcasters in the commercial sector. We have made it clear that there will be a level playing field for regulatory expectations of the BBC and other broadcasters. The BBC wants that and, in fairness, so should the rest of the broadcasting market.

Mr. Stephen Pound (Ealing, North): Bearing in mind the earlier question about the national stadium, could I ask the Minister for Sport whether, like millions of Londoners, he has been following the correspondence in the Evening Standard on the possibility of having a national stadium at Northolt—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman cannot go back to the national stadium.

Sports Clubs (North-East)

4. Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham): What assistance is being given to local sports clubs in the north-east. [16986]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): Sport England's north-east regional office is working closely with sports clubs and a wide range of other partners in the region to deliver Sport England's national programmes. Additionally, to date voluntary sports clubs in the region

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have benefited from 83 awards from the lottery sports fund worth £9.3 million, and 277 grants worth £833,000 have been made under the awards for all programme.

Mr. Jones: I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply which, I know, will be welcomed in the north-east. However, I wish to raise the plight of the Hermitage school in Chester-le-Street in my constituency. A month ago, its community sports facilities were ravaged by fire, and it is in the process of making a sports lottery bid. However, it has been told by Sport England that it cannot use £0.5 million of insurance money as match funding for the project. Will my right hon. Friend look at the project to see what can be done to help re-establish community sports facilities again at that school?

Mr. Caborn: I understand the problem that my hon. Friend has set before the House. As for lottery funds and insurance, insurance is paid to rebuild facilities; if there is an enhancement of the facilities, that would qualify for lottery money. The school would therefore have to revisit its application and, in doing so, I hope that it will get some sort of support.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): How much longer will sports clubs in the north-east have to wait to get help with their rates bills, which are growing year after year? The promise of help was made by the Chancellor back in March. Friday's long-awaited further announcement promises yet more consultation, dither and delay. When will those clubs have a reduction in their tax bills and will local authorities be reimbursed for the cost?

Mr. Caborn: We move from rates to tax. A consultation document on tax is out for consultation at present. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions will make a statement to the House about the rate rebate structure, which I know has been a matter of concern to many sports clubs. I hope that in the not-too-distant future, we will be able to deal with the taxation problem in the light of the consultation document and the pre-Budget statement, and that the restructuring of local government finance will enable us to address the issue of mandatory rate relief for sports clubs.

Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow): Is my right hon. Friend aware that one of the fastest-growing community sports in the north-east is mini-football? Will he join me in thanking all the volunteers and parents who, every week, organise thousands of youngsters from seven to12 years old in organised leagues? Will my right hon. Friend give his support to the two local sports clubs in my constituency, at Perth green and Monkton stadium, which are bidding for centre of excellence status?

Mr. Caborn: Certainly. There are many good things going on in the north-east, and mini-football is one which I personally support. There is a good development at Durham university led by Peter Warburton, the director of sports. It is probably the best example of the development of multi-sports clubs around an academic institution. Hon. Members and anyone outside the House who wants to see the development of sport from the grass roots to excellence should look at Durham university,

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with which our director of Sport England in the north-east is working closely. That example should be followed in many other areas.

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