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Sports Funding (South-West)

6. Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes): If she will increase the Government's funding commitment for sports facilities in the west country. [137028]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): Following Sport England's rationalisation and the establishment of regional sports boards, the majority of funding decisions will be taken at a regional level. Funding allocations have yet to be set by Sport England. The south-west received some 29 community capital awards from Sport England's lottery programme, totalling just over £8.5 million in the last financial year.

Mr. Steen : Is the Minister aware that selling off school sports fields has accelerated the couch-potato mentality of young people? In fact, nearly 10 per cent. of young people under the age of six are now obese, and more than 50 per cent. of the adult population are considered overweight. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the Food Standards Agency's prophecy that by 2010 health problems and other health-related issues will be costing the taxpayer £3.8 billion? Would it not be better to invest the money now in sports facilities and other physical activity in schools, rather than allowing the taxpayer to spend so much money on rectifying obesity?

Mr. Caborn: We have had to pick up the bits that the previous Administration left us in 1997. I should make it clear that this is the first time a Government have committed such investment in sport and physical activity. We are doing so not for philanthropic reasons but because obesity is costing the economy some £2 billion. Cases of type 2 diabetes are increasing among our young people, and the projection is that if something is not done about obesity, the economy will have to bear £3.5 billion in related costs by 2010. That is why we are investing in two hours of quality physical activity and sport for every child, every week, from the ages of five to 16; why we are investing £750 million in new sports facilities; and why we are investing the further £100 million that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State secured in respect of the Olympic bid. My

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announcements on mandatory rate relief, community amateur sports clubs and the £60 million investment in sports clubs are the best song that has been sung on this issue, and the biggest investment in sport for many years.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frome): Perhaps we could return to the question of why the west country region gets the worst deal from the Government in terms of support for sports. We do not have major stadiums or the same investment in facilities largely because those who would benefit from such projects in terms of dealing with deprivation are spread evenly across the peninsula rather than being congregated in cities. Will the Minister address that underlying and fundamental problem with funding for the west country?

Mr. Caborn: I would, but the hon. Gentleman is fundamentally wrong. I shall read out the figures for the south-west and compare them with those for the north-east for 2003–04, which some of my hon. Friends will be interested to hear. The total cost of schemes for the north-east was just over £11.4 million, and the total project costs were £37 million. The 29 projects in the south-west cost £8.5 million, and the total project costs were £14.5 million. So the investment—

Mr. Heath: That is half.

Mr. Caborn: I should point out to the hon. Gentleman that I accept that there are problems in the south-west—indeed, I have made that point before in respect of football. The south-west has no premier league club, and such clubs are very important to the sporting infrastructure.

Mr. Bercow : Let us have an Adjournment debate about it, then.

Mr. Speaker: Order.

Mr. Caborn: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

However, in terms of investment in sport, the south-west is no better off, and no worse off, than the rest of the country.

Museum Collections (Human Remains)

7. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield): What plans she has to amend legislation to permit museums to repatriate human remains; and if she will make a statement. [137029]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): I hope to be able to use the Department of Health's proposed Bill on human tissue to relax current statutory prohibitions on the repatriation of human remains.

Michael Fabricant : I am grateful to the Minister for that answer. Several thousand human remains are held by various British museums, and a number of claims have been made over the years—mainly by native Americans, the Australian Government and the New Zealand Government—for their repatriation. The Government introduced a review two years ago, and 159

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pages later, that review—the report of the working group on human remains—was published. But the Natural History Museum, which holds most of those remains, says that it achieves nothing, because under the criteria virtually none of the remains would be repatriated. So where are we now?

Estelle Morris: The hon. Gentleman is still sitting on the Bench behind the Front Bench. That is where he is at the moment.

The report has been published, there will be a period of consultation and the Government will respond to the report and consultation in due course. I know that the hon. Gentleman has taken a keen interest in this subject, but I do not think that the director of the museum was saying that nothing would be achieved. He was taking issue with one of the recommendations in the report. What has undoubtedly changed is that the Government have said—we agree with the hon. Gentleman about this—that human remains should be able to be repatriated. At the moment, by law, museums cannot do that even if they wish to. I would have hoped that he would welcome that announcement as a major step forward, and also welcome the fact that the Government have taken an early legislative opportunity to make that happen.

Let us consult and wait for the details of the working party's report. I repeat, however, that it is the Government intention to make sure that, when museums want to repatriate human remains, they will be able to do so. I hope that legislation on that will pass through both Houses of Parliament next Session.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove): Will the right hon. Lady reassure the House that, in seeking to change the law on this important matter, she will pay due regard to the fact that the human remains kept in British museums have as much right to be considered the property of mankind—they possess both our future and our past in their genetic structures—as they have to be repatriated to some ethnic groups who wish to have them taken back?

Estelle Morris: The hon. Lady puts very well both sides of the argument, and we have to find a way through that. However, it is true that some countries have to seek information from abroad if they wish to examine the remains of indigenous people, because no such remains rest in those countries. That cannot be right. I envisage a situation in which the Natural History museum and the British Museum are willing to repatriate some of the remains if they are legally able to do so. They will be able to do that once the Bill is passed.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to suggest that there will be cases in which museums think that research needs to be carried out in this country. Part of the Government's response to the report must deal with the issue of how differences of opinion between the requests and the views of holding museums are to be resolved. I assume that she will continue to take a close interest in that subject.

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Television Reception (Rural Areas)

8. David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde): What recent discussions she has had with the BBC concerning television reception in rural areas. [137030]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): Under the digital television action plan, we are to determine and agree a target level of UK coverage for digital terrestrial public services post-switchover. We will be discussing this with the BBC and other digital broadcasters.

David Cairns : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for that reply. Does she not agree that there is now utter confusion in the provision of television signals in this country? We have analogue terrestrial, digital terrestrial, freeview, cable, satellite, in-the-clear and free-to-air. Solus cards that used to be free and gave one all five channels now only provide the BBC channels until one pays £20 to be able to watch the ITV channels, and people now choose satellite and digital because they have to, because they cannot receive a decent signal elsewhere. Would not a way through this confusion be the adoption of the simple principle that, if people pay for a television licence, they should be able to receive a television signal? If they cannot get a TV signal, they should not have to pay for a TV licence.

Estelle Morris: I am not sure that it is a complicated system. If my hon. Friend wants to return to the days when there was hardly any choice of television channels, the list of ways in which to receive the signals would be shorter than the one that he has just described. I do not think that anybody wants to return there.

I sympathise absolutely with my hon. Friend, in that many of his constituents are in the 0.6 per cent. of people in this country who do not receive analogue terrestrial coverage. I appreciate their frustration. They are left out in that they do not receive the television signals that most of our constituents probably receive. However, we are in a period of change and many forms of receiving television signals are being introduced to give the public the choice they want of what to watch. That is absolutely right.

Nothing is set in stone. I know that my hon. Friend is about to meet the BBC to discuss specific issues. We regularly meet the BBC and other broadcasters, and we are in for a period of change. To some extent, we are being held back by the development of the technology that would enable signals to reach the areas that they do not yet reach. I will continue to work with my hon. Friend and broadcasters, and I hope that the particular problems that his constituents experience will not go on for too much longer.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): Access to freeview television is currently something of a postcode lottery. What would the Minister say to my constituents, such as Mrs. Agland of Seaton in East Devon, who wish to access digital programmes but cannot afford to pay for Sky television?

Estelle Morris: Over the next few years, there will be a development of both digital satellite and digital terrestrial television. I am absolutely certain that in the years to come, the hon. Gentleman's constituents, like

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all our constituents, will find that they can receive the channels they want. As he knows, digital television coverage is progressing well and the Government are well on course to meet their target of making a decision, if they wish, by 2010. They have made it absolutely clear that the cost for individuals will be subject to the digital plans on which they are currently working, announcements of which will be made in due course.

Mr. Chris Bryant (Rhondda): The Minister referred to choice in broadcasting, which many hon. Members would agree is great. However, the truth of the matter is that my constituents have absolutely no choice if they are to receive most of the BBC channels and go digital—they have to get a Sky box. Will she speak to the BBC and point out that most people think that if they pay the licence fee, they should be entitled to get the BBC for free? Will she try to disabuse it of the horrible complacency into which it has fallen over the roll-out of digital terrestrial television?

Estelle Morris: I sympathise with my hon. Friend. When making any recommendations that we can to the BBC, we shall point out the simple fact to which he and my hon. Friend the Member for Greenock and Inverclyde (David Cairns) have referred. I completely accept that one of the characteristics of public sector broadcasting is that it is a unifying force throughout the country. I accept that it is a problem if some people—no matter how few—cannot access the core provision of television channels. I undertake to do what I can, but there is no easy solution waiting to be announced tomorrow. The matter requires research, investment and, sadly, time.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford): Does the Minister accept that people in rural areas who are able to receive television only via satellite will resent having to pay an extra £20 one-off charge on top of the £116 annual fee that they already pay to get the BBC? Rather than charging the viewer, would it not be fairer to meet the cost of the viewing cards out of the licence fee, as at present?

Estelle Morris: I do not think that that would be the appropriate way forward. I thought that the hon. Gentleman might have congratulated my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on bringing about a solution to the problem caused by the BBC's decision to change satellites earlier this year. I think that his constituents, and most hon. Members' constituents, will feel that paying £20 to receive the choice and channels that they want will represent money well spent.

Mr. Whittingdale: I do not think that people will think that paying £20 is especially fair, given that they currently do not have to pay anything. Will not the number of people living in rural areas who cannot receive terrestrial or cable television be even greater if the Government go ahead with analogue switch-off? Will the Government ensure that when and if analogue transmission ceases, those who have to buy a satellite receiver will not have to pay far more than those who simply need a freeview box?

Estelle Morris: We are nowhere near the end of the line on the adaptations that need to be made so that

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more people may receive digital television. We made it absolutely clear in the switchover plan that the number of people who will be able to receive a digital signal should be the same as the number who can currently receive a terrestrial signal. The hon. Gentleman will see that the percentages will have increased by 2010. There are key decisions to be taken about investment in digital television and the switch from terrestrial. As I said to other hon. Members, we are in a period of change in which there is significant investment. We are making progress year on year in the number of people who have access to digital, and thus the choice that many of us take for granted.

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