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3 Feb 2003 : Column 9continued
The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): My Department has received a number of representations from members of the public and other interested parties following my comments on some gangsta rap lyrics. Those representations have been both supportive and critical.
Dr. Howells: God forbid that we should have any influence over what people can or cannot put on the radio. The most important consideration of all is that politicians should keep their sticky fingers out of such decisions. I do, however, share the hon. Gentleman's belief that there should be a public debate about those issues and that the industry should think about doing anything to help to tackle the glamorisation of gun culture and the misogyny in some lyrics that I have heard over the years and criticised. I am prepared to debate that issue anywhere.
The most shameful thing of all is the way in which, from some liberal quartersthe hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) should not panic about thiswe are getting an incredibly condescending analysis, as if it does not matter what people write and sing; those analysts say that the words do not matter and are merely a reflection of poverty. There were very poor communities in this country in the 1920s and 1930s. They did not resort to those kinds of lyrics or to that kind of gun culture. We have a duty in the House to hold the line against the spread of guns and of gun culture.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington): The Minister will be aware that the Hackney and Tottenham areas have the highest levels of gun crime in the country. I take this issue very seriously, and although I agree with him that the lyrics of these songs are deplorable, dreadful, misogynistic, homophobic and the rest of it, he needs to be careful about confusing symptoms with underlying causes. He also needs to be aware that middle-aged people down the ages have fulminated against the music of younger people, and that that is exactly why younger people sometimes frame their culture in the way that they do. My Hackney constituents hear of some form of shooting in a club, street or residential area every weekend, and they want Ministers to pay attention to the underlying issues, which are tackling educational
Dr. Howells: I very much agree with a lot of what my hon. Friend says, but she will doubtless agree with me that sometimes, we have to take decisions about whom and what we are going to support on this issue. If we do not say these things, the assumption is sometimes made that such lyrics should be accepted and are a valid expression of a community. I do not believe that that is true, and we are on a very slippery slope if we believe otherwise. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that such lyrics and images do not turn people into murderers, but they do coarsen our sensibilities as a society, and we should be very wary of that, because it leads to some very dangerous places.
Pete Wishart (North Tayside): Given the build-up of guns in the Gulf just now, it would certainly be interesting to know what type of music George Bush is listening to. Does the Minister agree that governmental disapproval will only act as a recruiting sergeant for this music, and ensure its increasing popularity among young people?
Dr. Howells: No, I do not agree. Last year, 98 people died in this country as a result of gun crime, and 580 were very seriously injured. The hon. Gentleman seems to want to make quips to the effect that we cannot really address this issue because there is about to be a war. That is the most facile, condescending nonsense I have ever heard, and the hon. Gentleman should have the guts to stand up against such lyrics and say what he believes. Doing so would probably earn him a good deal more respect than will coming out with such parallels.
Angela Eagle (Wallasey): Will my hon. Friend take this opportunity to acknowledge that hip-hop and rap music also contain lyrics that condemn gun violence? Will he acknowledge, for example, Grandmaster Flash's seminal record "The Message", which preached against gun violence, Ms Dynamite's lyrics and the work of Missy Elliott? So there is a great deal of good, as well as some bad things, and I should not like the House to get the reputation for being fuddy-duddy and not actually listening to the lyrics of rap and hip-hop, some of which can be very inspiring.
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): As my hon. Friend knows, Birmingham is one of six cities on the shortlist that was recommended by an independent advisory panel, and which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced last autumn. The others
Richard Burden : I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Is he aware that Bill Clinton visited Birmingham for the G8 summit during his presidency, and that when he was more recently asked to comment on Birmingham's bid to be the capital of culture, he said:
Mr. Caborn: Whether I agree with it or not is probably irrelevant; indeed, those remarks ought to be sent to the panel that is making the judgment, and which will be advising the Secretary of State. However, I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will send to that panel a copy of Hansard when it is published tomorrow.
Mr. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey): Given the success of the European city of culture bid, is there any reason why we cannot have a UK city of culture every year, to attract more internal tourism from within the UK?
Mr. Caborn: We will consider that. The panel has said on a number of occasions that the industrial cities of the UK are going through a significant renaissance and becoming some of the leading cities of Europe in the 21st century. We ought to encourage that process, and we have done so by using the good offices of Bradford to develop the cities that failed to get on to the shortlist. We shall take my hon. Friend's point on board and respond in the future.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I have had many discussions about the Olympics within Government and with potential stakeholders, including the National Lottery Commission, Camelot, major interests in the City of London, the Association of London Government, the Mayor of London, the CBI and the Governor of the Bank of England. A prerequisite of Government support for any bid for 2012 will be to ensure that, unlike previous bids, the finances are sound and the liability for underwriting in the event of overspend is agreed at the outset.
Tessa Jowell: I understand my hon. Friend's feelings, and it is for that reason that we are looking at two sources in developing the potential funding package for an Olympic bid: the lottery, and a new Olympic game; and a precept on London, in clear recognition that London will be the principal beneficiary, but that London must pay. In the event of a bid for London, it would be our aim to ensure that, through lottery investment, facilities were developed around the country, particularly training camps that athletes would need in advance of the games to acclimatise. We must make sure that as many events as possible are held in different parts of the country, and that lottery investment funds facilities that will benefit communities after the Olympics.
Mr. Djanogly: So many other countries are jumping at the highest levels to have the privilege of hosting the 2012 Olympics. Why are our Government equivocating and not getting on with it? The Olympics would be a massive opportunity for our country and the stimulus for improving infrastructure in London.
Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman would be among the first of a chorus to castigate the Government if we walked into this without being absolutely clear on the financial liabilities. Germany is still contemplating whether to bid, as is Paris, and there may well be a bid from Moscow that has not yet been announced. Cities take increasingly seriously the decision to bid. We must make sure that if we bid, win and stage the games, we are not left with years and years of debt, as so many Olympic cities have been in the past.
Mr. David Watts (St. Helens, North): Will the Secretary of State assure me that if the bid were to go ahead, deprived communities such as St. Helens and many in the north-west would not be deprived of the resources they need?
Tessa Jowell: That is an extremely important question. In assessing whether to bid, we are considering ways of ensuring that existing programmes, such as the investment, through the lottery, in school support for deprived communities and other parts of the country to which I referred earlier, is not put at risk by a decision to bid for and, therefore, to fund the staging of the Olympics. My hon. Friend is absolutely right; we very much want to preserve that discipline.
Nick Harvey (North Devon): Does the Secretary of State accept that 2012 is the last realistic chance for a London Olympics? Land in the capital is at such a premium that none will be available the next time that Europe has the chance to stage the games. Does she agree that London stands a good chance of winning a
Tessa Jowell: No, it would not be the last chance for London, although it would probably be the last chance to use the sites in Stratford, which are currently available but which, after 2012, are likely to have been sold off and used for some other purpose. It is not the last chance but it is a good opportunity, given the likelihoodalthough not the certaintyof the games coming to Europe in 2012. All those factors weigh heavily on the Government's decision. Incidentally, I hope that, if the Government decide to bid, every party in the House will sign up to that wholeheartedly, and that we can have a suspension of the usual hostilities of cross-party politics.
Mr. Gareth Thomas (Harrow, West): Is the real reason that we should bid not that it would be a great festival of sporteven though that would certainly be one benefitbut the huge benefits to our economy? Is it not the case that Australia benefited to the tune of about £3 billion of extra spending on tourism and that the Spaniards benefited from net investment of about £11 billion? Is not that the real reason why an Olympic bid should go ahead?
Tessa Jowell: No. I do not agree with my hon. Friend. The case for bidding for and hosting the Olympics is not a value-for-money, economic one. If we decide to bid for and host the Olympics, we do so because as a proud country we want to host the greatest sporting event in the world.
Mr. John Greenway (Ryedale): The need for certainty about costs and resources is understandable and we support the Secretary of State on that. However, does she recognise that the British Olympic Association needs an urgent decision from the Government? Will she recommend support for a bid to the Prime Minister? Who in the Government will take charge of the bid? If the bid is successful, preparations for 2012 would span three Parliaments, so I agree with the right hon. Lady that all-party support is vital. May I suggest that she consider setting up a cross-party ministerial group so that the Government and the Opposition can each play their part in achieving success for Britain and the Olympic movement?
Tessa Jowell: I thank the hon. Gentleman for those questions and shall deal with his third point first. Securing cross-party support throughout what will be a long process is critical. We must show that the Government of the United Kingdom are four-square behind a bid and that there is no risk that it becomes prey to party politics. We shall certainly want to look into the hon. Gentleman's suggestion. Furthermore, as the hon. Gentleman had the opportunity, with my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, to examine the Arup report in full, I hope that he appreciated that.
Matters relating to the machinery of Government are for the Prime Minister and will be dealt with when any decision is taken to support a bid. I have made my view clear at the Dispatch Box: there is a strong sporting case for a bid. My Cabinet colleagues, whose principal