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Sports Involvement (Women)

9. Vera Baird (Redcar): What steps the Department is taking to involve more (a) women and (b) girls in sport. [137031]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): My Department and Sport England ensure that public funding will be made available only to those governing bodies with equity agreements in place. Specifically, Sport England is putting £200,000 a year into the Women's Sports Foundation, the organisation that seeks to promote the participation of women in sport, and £180,000 a year into Sporting Equals.

Vera Baird : I am grateful for that answer. Redcar has quite good women's participation in sport. Indeed, we recently received funding to develop girls' rugby. Does my right hon. Friend agree that it would be much easier to involve more women in sport if there were better media coverage of women's sporting events? In particular, will she take up the issue with the BBC, which has a charter commitment to provide balanced viewing? The Women's Sports Foundation is starting a campaign next week to promote better coverage. Will she use her best endeavours to ensure that it has some success?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. and learned Friend raises two important points. The lack of coverage, or under-representation, of women and their success in sport by the media is a fact, as recent analysis of the coverage of women's success, as opposed to men's success, in the Commonwealth games clearly showed. On the BBC, that is a good example of why the review of its charter will be accompanied by an unprecedented level of public involvement and public consultation so that those issues are raised.


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

Clergy Pensions

21. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth): If he will make a statement about measures to improve the level of clergy pensions. [137043]

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25. Mr. Gordon Prentice (Pendle): What steps are being taken to increase the pensions of the clergy. [137047]

Second Church Estates Commissioner (Mr. Stuart Bell): Following wide consultation on remuneration levels for serving and retired clergy, the Church believes the level of the clergy pension, which includes a lump sum on retirement, is reasonable in relation to the clergy stipend. At a time when many employers are switching to money purchase pension schemes—in effect switching risk on to the employee—the Church stands by its commitment to a defined benefit scheme.

Mr. Edwards : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that answer. Does he agree that although the pension for those clergy who achieve maximum service is reasonable, there are concerns about those who do not achieve it either because they have come into the vocation later in life or they are female ordained clergy? Will he consider the circumstances of such people, in particular whether they can transfer their previous pension entitlement into the Church Commissioners' fund?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that. He will know that pensions increased on 1 April 2003 and a further 3 per cent. increase is planned for April next year. The full service pension will rise to £11,343 per annum and the full-service lump sum to £34,030. In relation to those who joined the clergy at a later date, I confirm that they can transfer their pensions. On the wider point as to whether we should consider the circumstances as they affect their interests, I am happy to give him that assurance.

Mr. Prentice: You will know, Mr. Speaker, that three years ago responsibility for financing the clergy pensions transferred to parishes. I have been reading the ecclesiastical press and it seems that some well intentioned people believe that wealthy parishes are salting away their surpluses. I want to know where those wealthy parishes are, because it is not a Church-like thing to do. The money should be redistributed as between the wealthy parishes and those that are less well off.

Mr. Bell: That was a question for you, Mr. Speaker, rather than for me, but I am happy to answer it.

It is a fact that pensions that have fallen due since 1998 fall on the parishes. Before that date, they stay with the Church Commissioners. Parishes are obliged to meet their commitments. I am not aware of any parish that does that in an unchristian, unfriendly manner.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet): Would the Second Church Estates Commissioner agree that the Church Commissioners' ability to help clergy with their stipends and pensions is entirely dependent on returns from their assets, whether in property, equities or whatever? Is it not true that a commendable proportion of the Church Commissioners' assets or income goes to clergy stipends and pensions?

Mr. Bell: I am grateful, as ever, to the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. He is entirely right that a

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substantial part of our income goes towards meeting those pensions. Over the past few years, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taken £20 million from our income, which will change to about £12 million in 2004. That impacts on finances that go towards pensions for clergy and, of course, their wives and dependants.

Mr. John Bercow (Buckingham): Given that the hon. Gentleman's defence of clergy pensions was subject to the rather critical caveat that those pensions reflected the stipend, can I seek to tempt him to say whether he agrees that clergymen are grossly undervalued in the course of their working lives, so the size of the pensions accorded to them ought to be significantly uprated? In that context, can he advance any moral argument as to why he, I and other right hon. and hon. Members should receive a larger pension than the dedicated moral clergymen of our country?

Mr. Bell: I am only too happy to answer the hon. Gentleman. The two points, if I may put my lawyer's hat on, are mutually exclusive, and one does not relate to the other. However, the hon. Gentleman is certainly right in his belief that the clergy are undervalued in our parishes. They provide an enormous contact between Church and state, which is valued by everyone. As for the basis for determining the benefits provided by the Church, which consist of a lump sum on retirement plus a pension, we try to take into account all the factors in the interests of the clergy.


The hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

Local Government Elections

22. Mr. John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): What discussions the commission has had with the Scottish Executive in connection with the single transferable vote and local government elections. [137044]

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking): My hon. Friend the Member for Gosport (Mr. Viggers) is abroad on parliamentary business, and I have been asked to reply. The commission has responded to a Scottish Executive consultation exercise on the matter, stating that local government elections in Scotland do not fall within the remit that it has been given by the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, and that as a matter of policy it does not offer views on the merits or otherwise of particular voting systems. Accordingly, the commission offered no substantive views on the use of STV—the single transferable vote—in Scottish local elections.

John Robertson: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, following the introduction of the single transferable vote in the Scottish local government elections, we will have four different kinds of electoral system within Scottish boundaries? As Scottish parliamentary elections and

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local government elections are taking place on the same day, would the Committee consider looking at the possibility of both using the same system, namely STV?

Mr. Malins: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, but in response to the suggestion that the voting system for the Scottish Parliament should be changed, the commission has said that as a matter of policy it does not express a view on the merits or otherwise of particular voting systems. However, he has made a fair point about the electorate's ability to understand what is going on, and the confusion that may arise if many different systems are operating. The commission's research reports, which were published last year, considered public attitudes to voting systems in the 1999 elections, and showed that understanding of the system was a factor that affected the decision about whether or not to vote in a small percentage of cases. The commission's statutory reports on the 2003 elections in Scotland and Wales will certainly draw on the results of research on public opinion to measure the electorate's comprehension of different voting systems.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside): Does the hon. Gentleman agree that if there were STV for local authority elections in Scotland there would be an end to those undemocratic, monolithic Labour councils, such as the one in Glasgow, which received a minority of the vote but is controlled with a massive majority?

Mr. Malins: I can do no more than repeat that the commission has said that it does not express a view on the merits or otherwise of particular voting systems, but the hon. Gentleman has made his point in his usual forceful way.

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