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16 Dec 2002 : Column 519—continued

Hotels and Tourist Accommodation

3. Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the voluntary schemes for standards in hotels and other tourist accommodation. [85570]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): The English Tourism Council research shows clear benefits in terms of higher occupancy levels for those establishments that participate in the national quality assurance schemes.

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We want to improve their impact further and will shortly commission a review of accommodation quality as part of our tourism reform programme.

Lawrie Quinn : Does my hon. Friend agree that the work that Scarborough borough council has done to establish its own scheme, which feeds into the national scheme, should be regarded as an exemplar by many people around the country? If they met the high standards that exist on the Yorkshire coast, it would do the UK's tourism and hospitality industry an awful lot of good and would put us where we should be as a world leader.

Dr. Howells: My hon. Friend can justifiably be proud of Scarborough's achievement. It won the 2002 England for Excellence award as the most improved resort. It has faced great difficulties over the past 30 years and has succeeded to a significant degree in reinventing itself as a first-class resort and as a great tourist attraction.

Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South): Does my hon. Friend accept that booking hotel accommodation can be a bit of a lottery, as I found to my cost in Blackpool at the recent Labour party conference? Does he also accept that that lottery is made even more difficult when it comes to booking accommodation for people with a disability? Will he look into that specific aspect of regulation to ensure that guidance to hotels makes it clear that their advertisements should state whether they are wheelchair or disabled friendly?

Dr. Howells: I have been very concerned that hotels and bed and breakfasts that advertise themselves as being disabled friendly or wheelchair compatible turn out not to be so or to be only partially so. That often means that people who have spent very good money on holidays are greatly disappointed when they do not get the facilities that they require. I know that the English Tourism Council has also been very concerned about that and we will take it forward as an important theme in the review of our support for tourism in this country.

Crime Prevention

5. Mr. Graham Allen (Nottingham, North): What visits have been made to Nottingham, North constituency by ministers to discuss funding for sport to divert youngsters from crime since 1997. [85573]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): There have been 18 visits by the Department's Ministers to Nottingham, North since 1997 to discuss sport. I shall send my hon. Friend a total list of those 18 visits.

Mr. Allen : I know that the Minister for Sport is aware of the position of the Henry Mellish school, which hopes to come out of special measures and is the last school in the constituency to do so. It has problems in the local area with crime and hopes to divert youngsters from that by getting them involved in sport. Will my right hon. Friend give a fair wind to the new opportunities fund bid for a new #1 million sports hall so that we can use sport to divert those youngsters and youngsters outside school from activities that we do not want to

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encourage them into? Will he also put a possible opening date in his diary so that he or his right hon. Friend can come up and do the honours?

Mr. Caborn: I would love to give the bid a fair wind, but it is a matter for the new opportunities fund. I understand that congratulations are in order for the Henry Mellish school for passing the first stage of the new opportunities fund application. My hon. Friend knows that it is an arm's-length organisation and that it will make an objective assessment. The bid comes on the back of #750 million of investment in sports facilities through the new opportunities fund. We can all be proud of what the lottery has delivered. Contrary to what we read about school playing fields on the front page of The Guardian this morning, the investment in sports facilities and playing fields is at as high a level as it has been for many years.

Lottery Funding

6. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk): When she next expects to meet representatives of village communities to discuss lottery funding for local projects. [85574]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The lottery review has provided an opportunity for representatives of village communities to put forward their concerns about the lottery funds for local and rural projects. I welcome their representations and would be happy to meet them once the representations, which I gather have been submitted, have been considered.

Mr. Bellingham : Does the Secretary of State agree that some ridiculous and undeserving organisations have received substantial amounts of money? For example, the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns has received #740,000 to mount legal challenges against her Home Office colleagues while all the time deserving organisations in my constituency—local groups and parish groups—are being turned down. What will she do to ensure that the community fund changes its priorities? What will she do to get a grip on it?

Tessa Jowell: I am very surprised that the hon. Gentleman wants to associate himself with the nasty campaign against the community fund. I draw his attention to the fact that since 1995, it has awarded #109 million for building, extending and improving more than 2,200 village halls as part of #645 million that has been given to projects in rural areas. That is good constructive work, using lottery money to do the things that people want. It does neither the hon. Gentleman nor the Opposition any service at all to make that cheap point.

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): I am delighted to hear that my right hon. Friend will be meeting representatives of village communities, but may I urge her not just to think of villages as being places in rural areas? There are villages in former mining constituencies, many of which share the characteristics of rural constituencies, such as difficulties with access

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and, in particular, in attracting lottery funding. I urge her to keep under constant review the question of how we can fairly make more money available to former mining constituencies.

Tessa Jowell: As ever, my hon. Friend is speaking up for the interests of his constituents, who have benefited from his advocacy and, with other villages in coalfield communities, from the increased lottery allocation of which he will be aware. One of our concerns about the way in which the lottery operates is that village communities may find themselves falling between two or perhaps three different distributors when seeking lottery funds, and one of the tests of the review will be how effective it is in tackling such bureaucracy.

Mr. Nick Hawkins (Surrey Heath): The Secretary of State's appalling answer to the legitimate concerns expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) on behalf of his constituents will be unacceptable to my constituents. I have been besieged by letters from them protesting about the fact that a valuable village community centre has failed to get a grant from the community fund because it does not provide facilities for asylum seekers. If the Secretary of State wants to dismiss the concerns of millions of British citizens about the community fund's appalling decisions, she will rue the day. The Home Secretary has attacked one of those decisions—

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Tessa Jowell: We have heard a rant from a spokesman for the nasty party. The point remains that 5 per cent., or #12 million, of community fund grants go to asylum seekers, and those broad allocations were approved by the Government. As I have already made clear to the House, there has also been major investment in rural communities, as there should be. The community fund exists to serve communities of all kinds in all parts of the country; that is what we expect it to do and that is what it will do.

Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): Will the Secretary of State confirm that the new opportunities fund has significantly underspent its funding from rounds 1 and 2, it is rumoured by as much as #200 million? As that money was taken from the original good causes such as the community fund, whose funds are now even more depleted as a result of falling ticket sales, and as it is Christmas, will the Secretary of State consider returning some of that money to the original good causes for more community projects? It is not that there have not been any such projects, but many applications are turned down because of a lack of money. We need more community projects such as village halls and grass-roots sports clubs. That is not an unreasonable request.

Tessa Jowell: I would certainly like to see more money going into grass-roots sports facilities and into the communities on whose behalf Members on both sides of the House have been making representations.

I do not recognise the figures that the hon. Gentleman has just quoted. He may be confusing money committed by the community fund with money that is part of the income stream. I shall certainly look at the figures.

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In answer to his broad point, I am absolutely determined that the level of lottery balances will fall; the present level is unacceptably high. However, we have to distinguish clearly between money that has been committed but not yet spent by the projects concerned, and money that is available. That argument may be a touch too sophisticated for many of those on the Opposition Benches.


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