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Social Inclusion

4. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): What discussions she has had with regional cultural consortiums on policies to promote social inclusion. [216950]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The regional cultural consortiums are the Department's strategic cultural bodies in the regions and we communicate with them regularly on a range of policies and issues, including those that promote social inclusion.

Joyce Quin: Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Tyne and Wear museums on the record visitor numbers that they have achieved and the way in which they have promoted social inclusion? Does she agree that that success would be further enhanced if there were a regular—or, better still, a permanent—display of the Lindisfarne Gospels in the region? Will she at least meet me to discuss that issue, which is of great local importance?

Estelle Morris: I congratulate my right hon. Friend on again bringing to our attention her campaign to get the Gospels back to the north-east. I am delighted with Tyne and Wear museums. They are a national leader in work on regeneration and social inclusion. I am sure that she would acknowledge that the more than £6 million that the Government have given Tyne and
 
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Wear museums through the renaissance in the regions project has gone a long way to help that, but the plaudits really go to them for the initiatives that they have taken.

I would be more than happy to meet my right hon. Friend. I know that she awaits a reply from the director of the British Library and that negotiations are ongoing. She will accept that it is not my decision, but if a meeting with me would help, I would be more than happy to have one with her.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): Given new Labour-speak, will the Minister explain what the question means?

Estelle Morris: I can, but I am not sure that it is worth the hon. Gentleman asking that question. It means that we agree on devolving to the front line. We want each region to take charge of its cultural activities. We want it to set its own priorities and to be a regional voice for the arts. We want the regions to tell us how we can help them. We are committed to that activity on the ground and the evidence of that is reflected in the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Joyce Quin). The regions make a huge contribution. The fact that the hon. Gentleman wants an explanation of social inclusion tells us more about the Tory party in 2005 than it does about anything else.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): May I help the Minister and the hon. Member for West Derbyshire (Mr. McLoughlin) by explaining that the business of social inclusion in the arts relates to the fact that some of the poorest and most deprived children do not have access to quality classical music, the ballet or the opera? Can we therefore have a manifesto commitment that every schoolchild will have access each year to a performance of classical music and other arts, including opera? After all, their mums and dads buy the wretched lottery tickets that pay for the quality performances enjoyed by the middle classes and the rich people on the Conservative Benches.

Estelle Morris: It is not for me to commit our party to what may or may not be in the manifesto. The important point about social inclusion is that the treasures held in our museums, and the skills of our actors and of those who play in our orchestras, benefit everyone, no matter what sort of family background or region children are born into. We know from the statistics that whole groups of people do not access the arts because they do not think they are for them. We are determined, through all the measures that we take, to give them the confidence to ensure that they access the arts and get from them what many of us have always got from them. I hope that my hon. Friend will join me in celebrating the fact that more children go to the theatre, listen to orchestras and watch the ballet than did in 1997. Equally, I accept from him that even more needs to be done.

Leisure (Wales)

5. Huw Irranca-Davies (Ogmore) (Lab): What discussions she has had with her counterparts in the National Assembly for Wales Government on the use of leisure to assist physical and mental well-being. [216951]
 
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The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): Sport and physical activity was on the agenda at the last sports cabinet meeting in April last year. The sports cabinet, comprising the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the four home country Ministers with responsibility for sport, provides for a collective political discussion of the most strategic priorities across the UK, including those of UK Sport.

Huw Irranca-Davies: In an era of devolved government—different approaches adopted in different regions and different countries in the UK—it is more important than ever that England, Wales and Scotland learn from each other about best practice. In the five-year-old Petri dish of devolution, what specifically are Wales and England learning from each other's experiments on the use of leisure to help physical and mental well-being?

Mr. Caborn: Sport and physical activity was on the agenda at the last sports cabinet meeting because we wanted to discuss the free swim pilot schemes in Wales, which I understand from the statistics have been hugely successful. We also discussed community coaching, which has largely been based in England, although we are sharing those experiences with colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. There is a great desire to learn through best practice to ensure that we deliver the best possible services, particularly in grass-roots participation.

Mr. Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab): When the sports cabinet next meets, will the Minister ensure that it discusses the idiocy of the Football Association's rolling over before the BBC on the timing of football matches, which was a major contributory factor to the disgraceful scenes perpetrated by a minority in my constituency on Saturday?

Mr. Caborn: That probably will not be a subject for the sports cabinet because, as my hon. Friend knows, there are separate football associations for Scotland and for England. However, I agree that we may have to revisit the subject of the start time of 5.30 pm, particularly for matches that clearly have some problems attached to them. The FA and the authorities ought to look at that. The long way that we have come in getting the rogue element out of football ought not to be spoiled by a handful of spectators who on Saturday night yet again brought our national game into disrepute.

Osborne Estate Act

6. Mr. Andrew Turner (Isle of Wight) (Con): What plans she has to amend the Osborne Estate Act 1902. [216953]

The Minister for the Arts (Estelle Morris): The Government are committed to seeking Parliament's approval to amend the Osborne Estate Act 1902. We have not yet found a suitable legislative slot, but we continue to explore all avenues.
 
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Mr. Turner: Is the right hon. Lady aware that the closure of the convalescent home at Osborne was announced as far back as 11 May 1999? The home was closed in 2000, leaving excellent premises lying empty and depriving islanders of job opportunities and the island of revenue. This is the fifth question that I have asked on this subject since 2001. When will the Government either comply with the legislation, which requires that the premises be devoted to use for the benefit of officers of Her Majesty's naval and military forces and their wives, or amend the Act to enable a wonderful asset to be used for the benefit of my constituents and the millions of people each year who visit the Isle of Wight?

Estelle Morris: I have some sympathy with the hon. Gentleman and the position that his constituents are in. It is important first to amend the legislation. The Isle of Wight's plans for development of the site look to have gained local approval. It is up to the Isle of Wight, but perhaps that will go ahead. The proposed legislation is ready. The hon. Gentleman will know that it just failed to find parliamentary time before the last general election. We have a private Member's Bill ready should he be lucky enough to be drawn early in the ballot. The best and most optimistic way forward might be to use a regulatory reform order. Following his question and my looking at the matter, I very much hope that we might be able to do that. That is not a promise—we have not yet received a message that that would be appropriate—but I am with him, and we will introduce the legislation as soon as we can.


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