Previous SectionIndexHome Page


3. Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): What progress has been made in making darts an officially recognised sport. [194568]

The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): Decisions as to whether particular activities and pastimes should be recognised as sports for official and funding purposes are made by unanimous agreement between the sports councils. I understand that the sports councils are unlikely to reach a consensus on the recognition of darts as a sport in the foreseeable future.

Bob Russell: Does the Minister agree that millions of people who play darts regard it as a sport, as do local and national newspapers and television? Is it not time that the sports bodies in this country recognised darts as a sport, as millions of people believe it to be, and stopped behaving in an elitist—[Hon. Members: "Snobbish."]—and snobbish way?

Mr. Caborn: I know that the hon. Gentleman feels strongly about this, but I refer him again to the Sports Council, which is certainly not elitist and does an extremely good job, as he knows. The definition goes back to the Physical Training and Recreation Act 1937. I ask him to reflect on whether darts fits into the category of "physical training and recreation". The sports bodies say no, and that was confirmed in a review in 1997, and again by UK Sport in 2000, as he has been told on previous occasions.

Public Service Broadcasting

4. Nick Harvey (North Devon) (LD): If she will make a statement on the recently published Ofcom review of public service broadcasting, with specific reference to its implications for regional television. [194569]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The second phase of Ofcom's public service television review, published on 30 September, represents an important contribution to the debate about the future of public service broadcasting. All Ofcom's proposals, including
1 Nov 2004 : Column 7
those relating to regional television in England, are currently out to consultation, following which Ofcom will publish its final recommendations in due course.

Nick Harvey: What is the Government's vision for the future of ITV? Does the Minister understand the concern of the people working in regional ITV and watching it about Ofcom's proposal to reduce the obligations and its warning that even that reduced level may not be sustainable? Does she want ITV to continue into the longer term as a regional broadcaster? Given that, after digital switchover, the licence will not have its previous value, what system of sticks and carrots could she bring to bear to ensure that ITV remains a regional broadcaster?

Estelle Morris: The vision is one that continues ITV's current regional obligations. Members of Parliament will well know the importance of regional broadcasting as a means of communicating, at least from this place, to people elsewhere. After digital switchover, whenever it arrives, things will change, and I see the paper that Ofcom has published very much as an opportunity to discuss important issues about what regional programming might look like in the future. It is not for Government to comment now. The consultation is still open, and Ofcom will reflect on it and let us know its decision. There is a statutory framework that means that regional programming obligations will continue, but how they are manifested is not set in stone. We must keep our minds open about what changes may be necessary in the light of technological advances.

Jim Knight (South Dorset) (Lab): The creative industries are among the most important industries in the south-west, working closely with higher education establishments in places such as Plymouth, Bristol and Bournemouth. Those establishments in turn have a strong and important relationship with regional broadcasters, which help to sustain them as institutions. Will my right hon. Friend assure me that she will be robust with Ofcom to ensure that regional TV production is retained, in order to support the important creative industries in my region?

Estelle Morris: I acknowledge the importance of the creative industries as a sector that is growing at twice the rate of any other industrial sector in our country, so of course we must ensure that we train for it and establish links from universities into its work. I do not foresee a future with no regional programming obligations on either ITV or the BBC, and I believe that the Ofcom report made that clear, but we are in a period of change, and change brings uncertainty. With digital switchover on the horizon, it would be silly to bury our head in the sand and think that those regional obligations could continue in exactly their current form, but I am sure that Ofcom will bear in mind the important and valuable point that my hon. Friend makes.

Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry) (Con): Does the Minister accept that regional television, including regional news, is as clear a case as can be of public service broadcasting, as it would simply not be provided for profit, and is not Ofcom therefore entirely right to point out that the old matching inducement of cheap analogue spectrum to
1 Nov 2004 : Column 8
finance it is of diminishing value? Will she be prepared to bite the bullet and at least not rule out in advance any sensible and imaginative means of finding the resources to fund this essential local programming when, before very long, it becomes necessary?

Estelle Morris: I agreed with the first two thirds of the hon. Gentleman's question, but it is too early to go beyond the consultation on the Ofcom document. It would be unwise, while that consultation continues, to say what the Government's plans are. The nature of the consultation is to listen. Let there be no misunderstanding: the proposal in the document concerned a reduction from three hours to one and a half affecting non-news items at off-peak hours only. He did not mention it, but I share his great concern that regional news should be covered at a regional level. That is an important element of a strong democracy, with strong accountability. Let me put it on the record that Ofcom has not suggested any change on that.

Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Is the Minister aware of real concern in Wales about the possible loss of an independent terrestrial broadcaster, and is she aware in particular of the important role of independent TV news? Will she assure us that she will not countenance a situation in which the BBC operates the only regional TV news network in Wales?

Estelle Morris: I take my hon. Friend's point; the BBC has an important part to play in regional broadcasting, but there is an issue about making sure that more than one organisation has that obligation. I will reflect on his comments and make sure that they are fed back as part of the consultation process.

Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion) (PC): Further to that answer, does the Minister agree that ITV in the Welsh context is not just a regional broadcaster but the national English-language broadcaster? There is more to culture and nation than simply news: in fact, most people do not listen to the news but to drama and light entertainment, which also help to inform their views about democracy. From that perspective, is it not vital that we retain a commercial interest and a commercial station broadcasting in Wales, and in the regions of England?

Estelle Morris: The hon. Gentleman is right in some ways. In the regions of England, it probably is the news that is most important and of most interest. The position in the other countries is different from that in England, and Ofcom recognised that in its consultation document and is giving the point special attention. I join the hon. Gentleman in saying that regional television in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is important linguistically and culturally, and I am pleased that that has been reflected in the consultation document.

Olympic Games

5. Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): If she will make a statement on progress with the 2012 Olympic bid. [194570]
1 Nov 2004 : Column 9

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The London 2012 Olympic bid is making excellent progress and was given a huge boost by the presence of more than 10,000 British sports fans at the Athens games in August, along with exceptional support from the Prime Minister, the Sports Minister, Ken Livingstone, Lord Coe and myself. The candidate file for the bid will be presented to the International Olympic Committee on 15 November, and we have already begun planning for the crucial IOC evaluation commission visit, which will take place from 16 to 19 February next year.

Mr. Love: My right hon. Friend will be aware of the recent poll showing 70 per cent. support for the Olympic bid. We all also welcome the fact that 200,000 people turned out in London to welcome home our Olympic athletes.

All the evidence from both Athens and Sydney is that we will need a large number of volunteers to make the Olympics successful. In Sydney, for example, 50,000 volunteers were needed, and I suspect that that figure will translate to 60,000 for London. What efforts are my right hon. Friend and the bid partners making to ensure we get that level of support and have enough volunteers when the Olympics come here?

Tessa Jowell: The bid team is already beginning work on recruiting volunteers, and we estimate that 70,000 to 80,000, from all over the country, are likely to be needed. What is important about our bid, as my hon. Friend made clear, is that support in London is beginning to take off, and we have to ensure that that support is echoed all around the country. The members of the International Olympic Committee will need to be confident that they are awarding the games to a city in a country that really wants them. The message we want to send out loud and clear is that Britain really wants the Olympics, and London really wants the Olympics.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): As a fellow London Member, does the Secretary of State regard it as acceptable that the Mayor of London has signed a blank cheque on behalf of all Londoners for the overrun costs of the Olympic games? Is this in fact a London or a national Olympic games?

Tessa Jowell: It is the London Olympics in the United Kingdom. We have always been absolutely clear about that, and that is the basis on which Opposition parties have supported the games. It simply is not true to say that the Mayor of London has signed a blank cheque. He has made very clear the level of council tax that Londoners will pay—

Mr. Field indicated dissent.

Tessa Jowell: That, frankly, is the old Tory trick. The Mayor has set out the position absolutely clearly— 38p a week. If the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field) wants to stand up for the bid in London, he will stop playing political games with it.

Pete Wishart (North Tayside) (SNP): On the poll that the Secretary of State referred to, she will have noted
1 Nov 2004 : Column 10
that support in Scotland for a London Olympics is significantly lower than in the rest of the United Kingdom. There are some good reasons for that. She must explain clearly to those in Scotland what is in this for them. What would she say to the Scottish people who remain concerned that the use of lottery funds should not mean that our charities, grass-roots sports and good causes are raided to pay for a London Olympics?

Tessa Jowell: London, along with all the other parts of the United Kingdom, including Scotland, will benefit from the Olympic games. Support has not been as high as we would have liked, but there is an opportunity for every Member who represents a Scottish constituency, or who goes to Scotland, to talk up the benefit of the bid, not only for London, but for the whole UK.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): May I take this opportunity to reiterate our support for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic bid as something that will benefit all parts of the United Kingdom? The Secretary of State will be aware that the current plans require a great deal of the funding for the bid, if successful, to come from the Olympic lottery that is to be introduced. Is she aware that the regulatory impact assessment for the Gambling Bill shows that, if that Bill goes ahead, the receipts to the Olympic lottery will be cut, possibly by as much as £27 million a year, which is more than £100 million over five years? How does she plan to plug that gap?

Tessa Jowell: We will discuss the detail of the Gambling Bill later. Suffice it to say that maintaining the strength of the lottery was an important consideration in judging the legislative proposals in that Bill—hence our rejection of Sir Alan Budd's recommendations that side betting on the lottery be allowed or that there be a single regulator.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): Nobody who saw the Athens Olympics could doubt the benefits that hosting the games brings to any city. However, given that the Sydney games overspent by £1.3 billion and that Athens has overspent by nearly £3 billion to date, will the Secretary of State confirm that any overspend on the London bid will be split between the lottery and London council tax payers? The cost to both could be considerable.

Tessa Jowell: Neither the Sydney games nor the Athens games had the degree of budgetary detail established at the point at which we are now. We have substantial contingency in the estimated call on the public finances, through both council tax and the lottery, and we are confident that a London games will be run within the budgetary limits that will be set out in the candidate file.
1 Nov 2004 : Column 11

Next Section IndexHome Page