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15 Nov 2002 : Column 332—continued

Mr. Rendel: Does the hon. Gentleman agree with me and with the Public Accounts Committee that it is high time the BBC was part of the audit conducted by the National Audit Office and therefore open to inspection by the PAC?

Mr. Whittingdale: I am in favour of the BBC being subject to as much external examination as possible and that is certainly worth considering.

I now turn to the second Bill for which the right hon. Lady is responsible: the alcohol and entertainment licensing Bill, about which there have been a number of contributions today. Having been promised to thousands of first-time voters through text messages in the run-up to the general election, it is good to see that the Bill has finally arrived. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) and the hon. Members for North Durham (Mr. Jones) and for Selby, I broadly welcome the overall thrust of the Bill: to liberalise the existing laws on the licensing and sale of alcohol. However, the Government appear to be trying to have it both ways. They are trying to portray the Bill as a liberalising measure that will be welcomed by young people and at the same time they say that it is part of their strategy for tackling antisocial behaviour. We are willing to accept the Government's claim that allowing flexible opening hours will result in less thuggish behaviour from drunken louts, but we shall want to examine the evidence. We shall also be looking for safeguards for local residents, particularly in areas where there is already a high concentration of late-night drinking establishments.

Mr. Kevan Jones: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Whittingdale: If the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, I have very little time.

We do not believe that the case has been properly made for the decision to transfer the responsibility for issuing licences from magistrates to local authorities. As my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent said, many licensees are fearful that the new regime may turn out to be slower, inconsistent, more expensive and more bureaucratic. I was interested in the contribution of the hon. Member for West Lancashire (Mr. Pickthall), which was based on his experience in the Home Office. He talked about a mixed licensing board, and I hope that we will debate that suggestion in the coming months.

The Government have clearly made up their mind on the issue. We shall therefore seek to ensure that a Bill that is supposed to be deregulatory does not end up imposing even more regulation. In particular, the

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sensible principle of splitting the licensing of premises from the issue of a licence to a person is severely undermined by requiring the personal licensee to be named on the premises licence. That will mean that, instead of simplifying the existing procedure when a manager changes, it will be just as, if not more, complicated. My hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent was absolutely right. We will want to be assured that, rather than saving money for the licensee, the new system will not result in a significant increase in costs just when many small public houses are struggling to survive.

We are also concerned that, with the proposal for entertainments licensing, the Government may end up with a more restrictive system than we have now. The hon. Member for North Durham was right to say that the two-in-a-bar rule is widely accepted to be outdated and anomalous, and it has been the subject of a campaign by musicians that has been widely supported in the House. However, the Government are now proposing that an entertainments licence, as part of the premises licence, will be required even for one performer, and the exclusion of the current exemption from the transitional arrangements has raised fears that the Bill will lead to more bureaucracy for those pubs that currently do not need to apply for a licence. Finally, it is clear that the guidance that is to be issued to local authorities will be crucial in assessing the effects of the Bill. I hope therefore that the Secretary of State can assure us that this guidance will be published at the same time as the Bill so that it can be properly scrutinised.

One Bill that had been expected but that is not in the Queen's Speech is the gambling Bill. Following the report of the gambling review body, it has been clear that there is widespread support for reform of the existing laws, many of which are arcane and anomalous. Indeed, the Minister for Sport described them as

He rightly added:

Yet measures to put that right are absent from the legislative programme. At the very least, the Government should set up a shadow gambling commission, as we have been calling for. It would give the industry confidence and greater certainty about the future.

Once again, there is no mention of perhaps the biggest and most important industry for which the Secretary of State's Department is responsible: the tourism industry. A fortnight ago, she effectively announced the abolition of the English Tourism Council, which has been swallowed up by the British Tourist Authority. It will be interesting to know whether, in due course, that will require legislation, as the ETC was created by statute. Such legislation would allow us to raise our concern that, unlike Scotland and Wales, England now has no national voice. Instead, it appears that these reforms are once again being driven by the Government's regional agenda.

To turn to another failure by the Government to deliver on their promises, where is the Bill to amend the law on charitable purposes to make sport a charitable purpose in its own right? The Government made a clear

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promise in the 2001 Budget that community and amateur sports clubs would be given mandatory rate relief. Instead, the Government have tried to wriggle out of that promise by suggesting that clubs should apply for charitable status if they could demonstrate that they were promoting community participation in healthy recreation. Yet many clubs do not want to be answerable to the charity commissioners in their internal running, or to take on the extra administrative burden that it entails. The result is that just 334 out of well over 100,000 community and amateur sports clubs have actually applied. The Government should deliver on their promise to deliver mandatory rate relief as part of the Treasury's tax package.

While I am discussing sport, I should congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). He made a powerful case in support of a 2012 Olympic bid for London. I am also grateful to him for advocating the case of Stratford, which is close to my constituency in Essex, and not the alternative on the other side of London. We share his enthusiasm for the bid. It will need to be credible, with plans for the necessary infrastructure and a well established legacy. We believe that there is a strong case for London to bid for the games, and we hope that the Government will come forward soon with proposals.

I also agree with the hon. Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner), who made a powerful case for more sport in schools. I spent most of my school days trying to avoid playing sport, but I share his wish to have more sport in schools. We agree with him about the importance of that matter.

There is a lot more going on in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport that I would have liked to raise, but I am conscious that, because of the number of contributions to the debate—all of which were well worth listening to—there is no time to do so now. I close by saying merely that the two Bills that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport has managed to get into the Queen's Speech are welcome, although we shall of course want to examine them closely. It is the absence from the Gracious Speech of any measures to tackle the issues that I have mentioned that is the real mark of the right hon. Lady's and the Government's failure.

2.15 pm

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The debate has been both wide ranging and thoughtful and I pay tribute to hon. Members on both sides of the House who have contributed. I mention in particular the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lancashire (Mr. Pickthall), who emphasised the tremendous success of the Government's policy on free access to museums—a flagship policy that is a direct expression of the Government's commitment to access to excellence for everyone.

The hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson) spoke about the Olympics. I note that his complete acceptance of the figures in the Arup report has resulted in his making, on behalf of his party, a #2 billion spending commitment. The Government are considering extremely carefully that report and the case for bidding for the 2012 Olympics. A decision will be made against criteria of affordability, deliverability and

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legacy. The hon. Gentleman is right about those issues. In the spirit of openness and transparency that we think should characterise that important discussion, there will be a parliamentary debate, if not before Christmas, then certainly before the Government make a decision.

My hon. Friend the Member for Brent, North (Mr. Gardiner) made an excellent speech in which he set out proposals on how to increase the amount of sport played in schools. I will say more about that later.

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) on his speech and thank him for his contribution to his work on the Joint Committee. I note his point about the strength of the obligation in the communications Bill in respect of regional broadcasting. No doubt, that will be debated as the Bill passes through its parliamentary stages.

I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr. Jones), who has long experience of licensing matters. In connection with the concerns that have been raised, let me underline the fact that the control of the density of licensed premises is a responsibility of both the licensing regime and the planning system.

Like the hon. Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale), I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Bognor Regis and Littlehampton (Mr. Gibb) for his extremely thoughtful speech.

I shall concentrate on the points that arise from my Department's responsibility. Several speeches by Opposition Members reminded me of GK Chesterton's words:

As he turns in his grave, Chesterton must be saying, XThank goodness for a new Labour Government." That point is underlined by the absence of their spokesmen from the Liberal Democrats' Front Bench.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Skills made much of the close working relationship between our Departments. That relationship is important if we are to instil in this country's children and young people a sense of pride and purpose. That sense of talent and creativity being unlocked that sport and the arts can, almost uniquely, bring provides a good example of the way in which participation in sport and creativity is both a means to an end and an end in itself. In the coming year, in 16 of the most deprived parts of the country, creative partnerships will bring the expertise of creative people—sculptors, actors, poets and musicians—into schools to support the curriculum, to improve creativity and to raise standards, as well as to grow the audiences for great cultural events of tomorrow.

I shall say a few words about the importance that we attach to investment in sport in schools. In many of the areas that we inherited as a Government, we inherited degradation and decay. The state of school sport after 18 years of Conservative Government is an example of degradation and decay. We are committed to rebuilding the opportunity to play sport and to compete in sport as part of every child's life.

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We are already investing in 2,000 professional and dedicated sports staff to drive up the quality of school sport. We are investing also more than #1 billion in rebuilding the infrastructure that makes playing high-quality sport possible. We are impatient for sport and we are impatient for progress. We shall bring better quality teaching of sport and more after-school activity. That is already being shown in the school sport partnership areas. There are more competitive inter-school fixtures. Again, that is a break with the past, when the Conservative Government devastated the opportunity of state schools to take part in competitive sport. Links are being made between schools and local sports clubs so that children who are talented and gifted in sport face no obstacle to their ambition other than the extent of their talent and ambition.

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