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16 Dec 2002 : Column 526continued
Mr. Cameron : I thank the Minister for that answer, but is not the revocation of one regulation in the past two years a little disappointing? If his Department is to be the ministry for fun, is it not time for it to do better? As the Government are fond of targets, why do they not have some for getting rid of the bossy regulations that apply to everything from bingo to bookmakers? Will he introduce a moratorium on new regulations, such as those discussed earlier in respect of the Licensing Bill, that could impose new burdens on churches, music teachers and local organisations?
Dr. Howells: As a humble Under-Secretary of State, I do not have the money to visit a casino and find out whether deregulation has had the effect that the hon. Gentleman suggests. In introducing the Licensing Bill, we are certainly looking to reduce the burden of regulation wherever possible. Instead of the current plethora of licences, including those for holding entertainment in public houses, there will be only one licence: a premises licence that will include other forms of entertainment and cut cost and bureaucracy. I am sure that he will welcome that.
Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): Will my hon. Friend consider urgently the case for new regulations in sport to help with the possibility of our hosting the Olympic games? Such regulations should be considered, not least because of the huge benefits that the Olympic games would bring for sport, business and regeneration.
Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): Is it not a triumph of stultifying bureaucracy over freedom of expression that the ludicrous three-in-a-bar rule should be replaced with a none-in-the-bar rule? What on earth has the Minister's Department got against live music?
Dr. Howells: It is the two-in-a-bar rule, not the three-in-a-bar rule, but I know what the hon. Gentleman is talking about. I can assure him that, as a great supporter of live music and especially of some of the brands of music that are sung in pubs in Somerset, I will do all that I can to ensure that such venues are strengthened, not weakened.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary intends to present a Bill on measures to combat antisocial behaviour during this Session, but as the House is aware, we have also recently introduced into the House of Lords a Licensing Bill containing a number of measures designed to tackle alcohol-related and antisocial behaviour. That includes extending the
Linda Gilroy : I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and welcome the forthcoming measures in the new Bill. She will be aware that her colleagues in the Department of Health have an alcohol harm reduction strategy out to consultation. Will she undertake to consider the early lessons that may emerge in January, before the Bill comes to the House of Commons?
Tessa Jowell: In tackling under-age drinking and the aspects of antisocial behaviour that concern my hon. Friend and, I suspect, the whole House, it will of course be important to consider the conclusions drawn from the work undertaken by the Department of Health with the Prime Minister's strategy unit and to ensure that the Licensing Bill takes them into account. I am also sure that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary will want to bear those issues in mind in considering the detailed drafting of the Bill on antisocial behaviour.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster): The Licensing Bill is currently going through the House of Lords. How does the Secretary of State think that the Government's plan to stamp out antisocial drinking is compatible with the idea of 24-hour licensing, which will give a free rein to anyone who wishes to drink in parts of my constituency such as Soho and Covent Garden that are beset by drunken incidents in the early hours of the morning, especially on Saturdays and Sundays?
Tessa Jowell: The Government certainly sympathise with the hon. Gentleman on the second point, and we are considering the adequacy of measures to deal with the problem. One reason for our introduction of flexible opening hours for pubs, however, is the current detrimental effect on law and order caused by the presence of large numbers of people on the streets at the same time. Indeed, all the evidence shows that staggered opening hours reduce the number of people staggering out of the pubs.
29. Martin Linton (Battersea): What discussions he has held with the Electoral Commission about (a) grants to political parties for training, for e-communications and for international work and (b) increased grants for policy development. 
Mr. A. J. Beith (representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission): The commission has told us of its intention to launch a project in spring next year to review the existing system for policy development grants. It will consider the case for extending the areas on which those funds can be spent.
Martin Linton : Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is now cross-party support for training, e-communications and international work, and that there was cross-party support for policy development grants during the passage of the Bill that became the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000? That gives us the first opportunity for a generation to proceed on a cross-party basis, and extend state funding to areas of party political activity that are generally agreed to be part of the functioning of our democracy.
Mr. Beith: Some of those matters are covered by the review, but others may extend beyond the Commission's present responsibilities into the area where, for instance, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy works with the support of grant-in-aid from the Foreign Office. All concerned, however, will have heard the hon. Gentleman's expression of support.
Simon Hughes (Southwark, North and Bermondsey): Will my right hon. Friend confirm that there is huge support for the work of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, which has supported democracy building in such places as Sierra Leone and the non-EU applicant countries in eastern Europe and elsewhere? Could the Commission examine ways in which we can maximise the benefit of public sector, voluntary sector and party funding to ensure that best practice here and in Europe is spread in other countries that are keen to learn from our experience?
Mr. Beith: I will draw my hon. Friend's remarks to the attention of the commission, which is of course aware of the role played by the foundation and the parties themselves in promoting democracy in many parts of the world. That is not the focus of the commission's own responsibilities, but there is obviously experience to be shared.
Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West): If there is to be more public funding for the work of political parties, will the right hon. Gentleman discuss with the commission ways of ensuring that the money is well spentnot least because since 1997, Short money has been increased by 300 per cent. without any discernible improvement in the Tory party's performance?
30. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): What representations he has received from clergy who have not had their licences renewed by their bishops about their financial and employment position. 
Mr. Stuart Bell (Second Church Estates Commissioner, representing the Church Commissioners): I have not received any such representations from clergy who have not had their licences renewed; neither has the Archbishops Council.
Andrew Selous : What protection does the hon. Gentleman feel the Church should afford to some clergy who, I understand, have had to give up their licences and their vicarages when they have felt that doctrine did not agree with the views held by their bishops?
Mr. Bell: I am always grateful for the opportunity to comment as well as answer a question. In answer to the question, financial assistance may be provided in cases of especial hardship experienced by those to whom the hon. Gentleman referred. Most such clergy have their licences renewed or find another post without undue difficulty. However, the Archbishops Council supports improvements to the security of clergy without freehold, and we are now discussing the matter with the Department of Trade and Industry. The Clergy Discipline Measure that comes before the Ecclesiastical Committee next week will doubtless cover it.
Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): My hon. Friend knows that, in recent years, the Church has maintained a steady policy of trying to persuade more clergy to have not freehold but short, temporary licences of between five and seven years. We do not give clergy proper employment rights. Does not that mean that the Church is becoming one of the worst employers in the land?
Mr. Bell: My hon. Friend should know that better than me, given his past. Off the top of my head, there are approximately 5,000 freehold clergy, 3,000 clergy on contract and 3,000 stipendiary clergy. On employment relations, the ministry is a mission of Christ, as my hon. Friend knows, and it is therefore for the incumbent to owe allegiance to Christ. However, employment relations and employment law are not mutually exclusive and my hon. Friend will be happy to know that we are moving rapidly on employment rights, which are linked to the Clergy Discipline Measure that the Ecclesiastical Committee will consider next week.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire): Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is not the Church of England's policy to abolish the freehold? If so, will he encourage bishops to stop abolishing it by stealth?
Mr. Bell: Again, I am asked to comment rather than answer a specific question. It is not the Church of England's intention to reduce the number of freehold clergy. The position of freehold clergy, contract clergy and stipendiary clergy forms part of the document that we have submitted to the Department of Trade and Industry. It will be available in the House of Commons Library. I believe that the hon. Gentleman and the House will find it positive.