Previous SectionIndexHome Page

10 Mar 2003 : Column 13—continued

Digital and Satellite Broadcasting

9. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire): What steps she is taking to strengthen the public service requirements for major providers of commercial digital and satellite broadcasting services. [101462]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): Through the Communications Bill, the Government are extending the requirements for subtitling, signing and audio description on digital terrestrial television services to digital cable and digital satellite services. Furthermore, all licensed broadcasters who meet threshold conditions will be required to promote training, equality of opportunity between men and women and between persons of different racial groups, and the fair treatment of disabled persons in relation to employment with them.

David Taylor : Further to the points raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan), should not the Government introduce a ratchet requirement so that as the audience share of commercial, digital and satellite broadcasting services increases, so too should their public service obligation to produce a high standard of quality and content? Otherwise, are we not likely to be submerged in a tide of dire and facile transatlantic pap—plenty of Scooby-Doo, but a paucity of serious drama and substantial documentaries?

Dr. Howells: I do not agree with a word of that. If my hon. Friend cares to examine the wonderful magazine Broadcast, which I believe is weekly, he will see that the entire top 50 programmes were made in Britain and broadcast on terrestrial channels. Whether my hon. Friend likes it or not, they are the most popular programmes in this country. There is an almost complete dearth of the kinds of programmes that he mentioned—which I understand him to assume are made in America or Australia.

Kevin Brennan (Cardiff, West): On the subject of public service requirements on digital television services, can the Minister do anything about the size of the picture that is transmitted on the BBC Parliament channel on the freeview service? It takes up only about a quarter of the screen. At any time, there must be dozens of people around the country who are watching the Parliament channel. They would welcome the opportunity to see hon. Members in full widescreen.

Dr. Howells: Seeing hon. Members in full widescreen would at least keep children away from touching the screen.

10 Mar 2003 : Column 14


11. Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): If she will make a statement on the extent of tennis practice and tuition in maintained schools. [101465]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): We do not collect detailed data on particular sports in maintained schools. Schools choose the precise activities and sports that they offer their pupils. Tennis may be taught as part of the games element of national curriculum PE; games is one of six areas of activity within the national curriculum PE and is compulsory for all pupils aged between five and 14. Pupils aged from 14 to 16 must choose two of the six areas.

Mr. Bercow : Frankly, that answer literally oozes complacency. It is nearly 67 years since Britain had a men's singles champion at Wimbledon and nearly 26 years since Britain had a female singles champion at Wimbledon. Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that the dearth of tennis practice and tuition in schools is a serious problem? What discussions has he had with his hon. and right hon. Friends in the Department for Education and Skills about it? To increase participation in tennis, does the Minister have any plans to play some demonstration games himself?

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman ought to reflect on the last 18 years of the period that he describes, which were under his party's Administration. That was when the seeds of rot were sown. As the hon. Gentleman knows, since coming to power we have invested in sports colleges—of which we will be rolling out 400—and in 3,000 school sports co-ordinators. The Lawn Tennis Association has acknowledged and welcomed all of that. We have just given £9.3 million to the LTA to develop the club structure for tennis, along the lines of what we have done with football, rugby and other sports. We are having to clear up 18 years of mismanagement in sport and we are doing so very successfully indeed. If ever we go out of office, we will have champions—unlike Conservative Members, who undermined our champions.

Regional Museums

12. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West): What plans she has for the development of regional museums. [101466]

The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Dr. Kim Howells): We will be providing £70 million for regional museums from this year until 2005–06, which will represent a 200 per cent. increase in central Government funding by the end of the spending review period. The funds will be used to modernise and improve the quality of regional museums' services. Extra funding will also be made available to the national museums to enable them to work in partnership with regional museums. Additionally, there will be funds from the Department for Education and Skills to support museum education projects.

Joyce Quin : I welcome that news and the fact that Tyne and Wear Museums is one of the new pathfinder

10 Mar 2003 : Column 15

museum hubs. Is my hon. Friend aware that the British Library has made arrangements to show facsimile versions of the Lindisfarne gospels in two locations in the north-east, in Durham and on Lindisfarne? Although that is welcome, can he reassure me that that does not preclude the originals being on display in the region, at least from time to time and, hopefully, permanently, because that would give a big boost to the region's tourism industry and its economy generally?

Dr. Howells: I am sure that it must be a priority for the museums and our Department to work that out. I have long believed that we should make far greater use of travelling exhibitions of some of the great treasures that are held in our national museums. I am sure that that would benefit people who live in all parts of the country.


The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Employment Directives

20. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire): To ask the honourable Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners what recent representations the Church Commissioners have received concerning European Union employment directives as they affect churches. [101626]

Second Church Estates Commissioner (Mr. Stuart Bell): The Commissioners have received no representations. The Archbishops Council has had extensive conversations with the Department of Trade and Industry about the proposed implementation of the directives on employment and race agreed in the 2000 document, as set out in "Towards Equality and Diversity".

Andrew Selous : I thank the hon. Gentleman for mentioning that. Does he share the concern expressed to me by a number of my local clergy that they may be forced to employ people who are hostile to the aims of their churches? Does he also agree that that could be a problem for all faiths, not just for the Church of England?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question. The Archbishops Council responded to the document on employment and race in January. I accept that the Church faces questions on occupation or employment. The hon. Gentleman and others can take up questions on doctrine with the Archbishops Council. I shall be glad to draw any comments or fears that he has to its attention.

Mr. Steve Webb (Northavon): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the directives impinge not merely on parish churches, but on a wider range of organisations that the Church Commissioners support? Although it would be quite wrong to expect the Labour party to employ a card-carrying Conservative, church

10 Mar 2003 : Column 16

organisations are being expected to employ people who do not necessarily share their fundamental beliefs. Does he accept that analogy?

Mr. Bell: I would be surprised if the Church of England employed, or gave gainful occupation to, clergy who do not support the doctrines of the Church. There may be diverse differences on what that doctrine should be. The Church Commissioners would not be involved in those arguments, but I shall be glad to draw the hon. Gentleman's worries to the Archbishops Council.

Angela Eagle (Wallasey): May I caution my hon. Friend not to get too worried about that? As someone who was around when the directives were negotiated, I know that great protections are in place. Those who think that churches can be exempt from discrimination legislation and employment protection do the reputation of their churches no good. Will he take it from me that the directives allow for the exceptions that have been outlined?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful for the assistance of my hon. Friend on the matter and for the knowledge that she brings to the subject. Overall, the Church is concerned about so-called employment rights or occupation rights. That is seen in its reference to the Department of Trade and Industry discussion document on employment terms. We as a Church wish to observe good practice in the treatment of our clergy and we are moving rapidly to some consultation conclusions in that regard.

Next Section

IndexHome Page