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The Minister for Sport and Tourism (Mr. Richard Caborn): We plan to bring the Act fully into force with effect from September 2007. We will consult interested bodies as we take forward the necessary preparatory work.
Mr. Grogan: Will my right hon. Friend clarify whether the Government intend to stick with the one regional super-casino, as was agreed by the last Parliament, or to raise the stakes, as has been suggested in press reports, and gamble on being able to secure parliamentary approval for up to four super-casinos?
Mr. Caborn: After all those gambles that we had to take before getting the Bill through, the answer is that obviously we do not rule out the possibility of asking Parliament at some future point to consider changing the numbers to which my hon. Friend refers. However, we are implementing the legislation on the basis of one super-casino.
Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): The Minister will be aware of the loophole in the law that allows leisure facilities such as cinemas to be converted into casinos without full planning permission, and he will know that there are about 100 such applications in the pipeline. Does he recall that the Secretary of State promised on Second Reading to make casinos a single-use category, so as to close that loophole? Can he therefore explain why, when the Government recently gave the single-use category to pubs, they did not include casinos in that category? When will the Secretary of State's promises be fulfilled?
Mr. Caborn: I have just said that we are looking at implementation, and the hon. Gentleman is right about single use. Indeed, that is the spirit in which we want the Act to be implemented. I said that in Committee, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said it tooand that is our intention. My officials will be considering the matter. As I said, full implementation of the Act will be in September 2007, and the gambling commission will be set up in October. The hon. Gentleman knows, because he served on the Committee, that we shall have to introduce statutory instruments, and we shall do that in the fullness of time.
Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend give me further information about the time scale for setting up the gambling commission, because my constituents in Blackpool are awaiting with some interest the commission's recommendation on the location of the regional casino?
Mr. Caborn: It would probably be more appropriate if my hon. Friend asked when the advisory panel would be set up, but the gambling commission will be set up around October, and the advisory panel that will advise my right hon. Friend on the 17 sitesthe small, the large and the one regional casinowill be set up at roughly the same time and will report towards the end of 2006, and the Act will become operational in 2007.
Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove)
(Con): I was heartened by the Minister's answer that he does not
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intend to grant more than one regional planning application for Las Vegas style casinos. However, will he reassure the House that the new regional casino will be up and running, so that we can judge its impact, before he comes back to the House and asks that permission for Las Vegas style casinos be extended elsewhere?
Mr. Caborn: May I make it absolutely clear what I said? We do not rule out the possibility of asking Parliament at some future point to consider changing the numbers. To be honest, I must say that before the general election we were pushed into the position of accepting the idea of one regional casino. Many people argue that to achieve the type of project involved with large regional casinos, there ought to be more than one of them. We shall implement the Act on the basis of there being one, but I believe that at some stage we need more than one, to allow the impact right across the United Kingdom to be reasonably assessed.
Mr. Frank Field (Birkenhead) (Lab): I thank my right hon. Friend for his statement. The Government's word is their bond on this matter and they are at present proceeding with one casino. However, the House is interested in whether that one casino, whether it is placed in Blackpool or elsewhere, will have a regeneration effect, so we need its impact to be monitored carefully. How will that monitoring be done?
Mr. Caborn: The panel of experts will look at a series of criteria when it evaluates the 17 casinoseight small, eight large and one regionaland regeneration will be one of the criteria when it recommends the site to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. Therefore, regeneration will be a factor in determining the location of the regional casino, and it will also be evaluated later. As provided in the Act, and as I said many times in Committee and on Report, we will report back to both Houses of Parliament.
6. Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD): What discussions her Department has held with Ofcom regarding its recent pledge to undertake research to explore the means of bringing digital television to a higher proportion of UK households than the 98.5 per cent. reached by analogue.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): I welcome Ofcom's announcement on 1 June, which should ensure that digital terrestrial coverage at switchover matches existing analogue coveragearound 98.5 per cent. of households. I particularly welcome Ofcom's commitment to consider how to bring digital television to yet more people beyond that 98.5 per cent.
I thank the Minister for that reply. However, he may be aware that 30 years after the Crawford report on universal broadcasting coverage, 3 per cent. of homes in Wales are still unable to receive television signals. Indeed, 36,000 homes in Wales cannot receive public service Welsh broadcasting. Given that little improvement appears likely before digital
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switchover in 2008, will he undertake to meet a delegation of Welsh MPs to find a solution to that disgraceful state of affairs?
James Purnell: I would be happy to meet a delegation of Welsh MPs. Digital terrestrial television will help the hon. Gentleman's constituents, once we switch off the analogue signalI believe that there is little digital terrestrial coverage in his constituency at present. Of course, consumers who want digital television before then can get satellite, and broadband television is in the pipeline, which will further help his constituents.
Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): My hon. Friend will be aware that the strength and reliability of the digital signal leaves a lot to be desired, not only in rural areas such as the rugged and remote SAS training grounds of Brecon and Radnorshire, but in my constituency, especially in respect of Channel 5. What reassurance can he give my constituents and the House that those issues will be satisfactorily addressed before a decision is made on digital switchover?
James Purnell: We will consider all those issues as part of our policy development for digital switchover, which should help his constituents receive digital terrestrial. That is why we have committed to maintain the current level of coverage, but Ofcom is also considering whether it can help my hon. Friend's constituents to get digital television in any other ways. For example, by 2012, if someone has electricity, they should be able to receive television through broadband, and that would help his constituents receive Channel 5.
Mr. Stephen Crabb (Preseli Pembrokeshire) (Con): What steps has the Minister taken to ensure that people living in social housing and multiple dwelling units, who rely on landlords to provide digital reception facilities, will be able to carry on watching television after digital switchover occurs?
James Purnell: The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue and, in the pilots that the Department will carry out on digital switchover, we will consider it carefully. In particular, we will consider whether the aerials on shared and social housing need to be improved to ensure that people get adequate reception.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): We are determined that every part of the UK, including the midlands, will benefit if we win the bid to host the games in 2012. There are many ways in which that can be achieved, including volunteering, hosting pre-games preparation camps and other economic opportunities that will arise.
There are several golden reasons why the London 2012 Olympics would be good for the UK, but according to the June "UK Economics Focus" report, the economic case would not even merit a
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bronze. It calculates a tiny boost of £9 billion over 12 years to the UK economy, which is about one sixteenth of 1 per cent. of GDP, and even that may be at the cost of London diverting jobs and investment from other English regions, such as the midlands. What does my right hon. Friend have to say to that?
Tessa Jowell: Every regional development agency supports London's bid for the Olympic games. My hon. Friend is right to underline caution; it is certainly the case that London will benefit more than other parts of the country, but we are determined, by active policies such as those I have outlined, that each part of the country will derive benefit. My hon. Friend should also take note of the high level of public support for the Olympic games among his constituents and, I suspect, among the constituents of every Member. Winning the Olympic bid is the greatest honour that sport can bestow, which is why the House is united in support of the London 2012 bid. I hope that the House will unanimously endorse good wishes for the chances of the team representing the United Kingdom and London in Singapore at the beginning of next month.
What plans does the Secretary of State have for Shropshire and, in particular, The Wrekin constituency, which, as she already knows, includes Lilleshall, the home of our national gymnastics association?
Tessa Jowell: I am quite sure that the good people of Shropshire will wish to volunteer to assist with the Olympic games. If we are successful, the games will require more than 70,000 volunteers so that they can be properly organised. The facilities that are already available could be extremely valuable as preparation camps and Members on both sides of the House will be able to speak up on behalf of such facilities and on behalf of their constituents to ensure that they, too, benefit from the games.
Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that the greatest legacy of the Olympics will be its inspiration to children and young people to achieve their potential in sport? That will give us a future generation of capable athletics and sports students who will be able to take us forward into the next century.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend (Mrs. Moon) is right. It is precisely to encourage and bring on that new talent and ambition for sport that we are creating entitlement to two hours of sport every week for every child in every school. It is also why we have introduced the 2012 Olympic scholarships from which, already, 100 of our most
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talented young athletes will benefit and which remove the obstacle that money is a prerequisite for athletic success.
Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): On behalf of the Conservative party, may I extend my very best wishes to the Secretary of State and the London bid team in their efforts to bring the games to London? Given the obvious benefits of the bid, can the Secretary of State explain to the House why the Government have not strengthened the London bid by rebating the tax take, as they have with Bob Geldof's concerts, thereby putting £320 million back into the Olympic games?
Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman is simply rehearsing an argument that has been paraded on the Floor of the House on many occasions. His argument relates specifically to the lottery and to the tax regime that will apply to the Olympics more generally, all the details of which are set out in the candidate file. There are clear rules about not varying the undertakings given once the candidate file has been published, and even if that rule did not exist we should abide by the present requirements.
Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): On behalf of the all-party group on the Olympics, may I wish the delegation well when it goes to Singapore next week? When we have won, is it the intention of the Secretary of State to hold an audit or big conference to explain to everyone who does not have a constituency in London how they can best benefit from the games?
Tessa Jowell: The Government's commitment to ensuring that the benefits are felt throughout the United Kingdom and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgend said, that young people and children begin to be inspired by the prospect of the Olympics coming to London in 2012 will be a very high priority. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey (Derek Wyatt) and give him a guarantee of undertaking.
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