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24 Jan 2005 : Column 44W—continued

Digital Switch-over

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps the Government are taking to ensure the revised target date of 2012 for switch off of the analogue signal is met; and if she will make a statement. [210013]

Estelle Morris: The Government will confirm the timetable for switchover once the few remaining issues relating to digital switchover are resolved and we are satisfied that the interests of consumers, especially the most vulnerable, are well protected.

We are working with broadcasters, Ofcom, leading charities, consumer groups and other stakeholders to determine the most appropriate timetable. This has to meet the interests of consumers and the economy as a whole and be achievable by the broadcasters.

Mr. Sayeed: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what progress the Government have made towards meeting its targets for digital switchover. [210014]

Estelle Morris: Great progress has been made. We welcome the fact that Ofcom have issued Digital Replacement Licences to the Commercial Public Service Broadcasters.

Following the recommendations of the independent Ofcom Consumer panel and Digital Television Consumer Expert Group reports, we are working with leading charities to consider how to best protect the interest of consumers, particularly the most vulnerable.
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Stakeholders are also now working on the structure and remit of a switchover implementation body, which should be in place this year. Digital take-up is well above industry forecasts. Almost 60 per cent. of households are now estimated to have a digital television.

Freedom of Information Act

Mr. Soley: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will make a statement on the applicability of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 to the Press Complaints Commission; and if she will designate the Press Complaints Commission as a public body for the purposes of the Act. [210147]

Estelle Morris: The Freedom of Information Act does not apply to the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) as it is not a public authority. The Government strongly believes that a press free from any state intervention is fundamental to democracy. Designating the PCC a public authority would not be compatible with the Government's support for an independent body overseeing Press self-regulation

Liquor Licensing

Mr. Todd: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what representations she has received from local authorities concerning the proposed (a) transition fees and (b) annual fees for liquor licensing. [209663]

Mr. Caborn: The draft fee levels payable under the Licensing Act 2003 were subject to a public consultation which concluded on 23 December 2004. Views from everybody with an interest in fee levels have been considered, including from local authorities. Responses were received from 136 individual local authorities. Separate responses were also received from the Local Government Association and Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS); and from the Association of London Government; on behalf of local authorities.

Lottery Funding (Sunderland)

Mr. Etherington: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what support her Department is giving to visitor attractions in Sunderland; and if she will make a statement. [209536]

Mr. Caborn: DCMS supports the tourism industry as a whole. For example, visitor attractions in Sunderland will benefit from my Department's funding for VisitBritain, which for 2004–05 includes £35.5 million for marketing Britain as a tourism destination overseas, and £10.4 million for marketing England to the domestic tourism market.

The Regional Development Agencies have strategic responsibility for tourism in the regions. In 2004–05 my Department is contributing £330,000 to the Government's funding for One North East.

Attractions in Sunderland have also benefited directly from National Lottery funding.

PSA Targets

Mr. Swire: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the cost was to (a) her
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Department, (b) other Government Departments and (c) Government sponsored bodies were of (i) formulating, (ii) implementing and (iii) assessing her Department's public service agreement targets four and five, as set out in the departmental annual report 2004. [210111]

Mr. Caborn: The information is not available in the form requested. The Department attributes expenditure incurred in delivering its objectives in schedule 5 of the resource accounts. Expenditure incurred on the public service agreement (PSA) targets springing from these objectives is included within expenditure allocated to each objective. Such expenditure, however, is not separately identifiable in the expenditure figures in schedule 5, and could be provided in the detail required in the question only at disproportionate cost.

The PSA targets referred to in the 2004 departmental annual report relate to the spending review 2000 period. The expenditure incurred in delivering the objectives for the 2002 sending review period were reported in the 2003–04 resource accounts, which were not available at the time the 2004 annual report was published.

Underwater Heritage

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport when the Government will ratify the Unesco Convention on Underwater Heritage; and if she will make a statement. [210917]

Mr. Caborn: The UK Government has no current plans to sign the Unesco Convention but has adopted the annex of the Convention as best practice for archaeology.

Mr. Dismore: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for what reason the Government has not yet ratified the Unesco Convention on Underwater Heritage; and if she will make a statement. [210918]

Mr. Caborn: The UK Government did not ratify the Unesco Convention because we would be required to protect all underwater cultural heritage over 100 years old. This is not practical as there are over 10,000 known wreck sites in UK waters.

We believe that it is better to focus our efforts and resources on protecting the most important examples of our underwater cultural heritage.

We have however shown commitment to archaeological best practice by adopting the annex to this Convention and ratifying the Valetta Convention (Treaty of Malta also known as the European Convention on Protection of the Archaeological Heritage 1992).

Video Violence

Mr. Spring: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what assessment her Department has made of the effectiveness of measures in place to prevent children from gaining access to violent films and video games; [209737]

(2) what legal sanctions may be imposed against retailers who sell or supply 18 films or video games with an 18 classification to children; [209736]
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(3) what assessment her Department has undertaken of possible links between violent crime and violent television programmes and video games. [209739]

Estelle Morris: Access by children to films in video/DVD format and computer games is controlled by the Video Recordings Act 1984, under which supplying videos, DVDs or games classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) to those who do not meet the age requirements is punishable by a fine of up to £5,000, a prison sentence of up to six months, or both. The Cinemas Act 1985, provides for the licensing of cinemas by local authorities, and under these arrangements controls on access by children to cinemas can be stipulated. In 2003, only 32 (or 2 per cent.) of the 1,484 computer games published depicted 'gross violence' and therefore required legal classification by the BBFC. Of these, just seven were considered to be suitable for only those aged over 18.

Local trading standards officers have enforcement powers under the 1984 Act. On 10 December 2004, my officials met members of the Trading Standards Institute and the Local Government Association along with representatives of the retail sector to discuss how the sale of violent computer games could be better regulated. Further discussions on enforcement are to be held.

A great deal of research has been carried out on whether violent films, television or games have an impact on real-life behaviour, but there is much conflicting opinion. The Department has recently commissioned a review of the existing research to determine whether the alleged link between playing violent computer games and real-life violence has any substance.

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