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The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell):
Because of our commitment to strengthening the links between the Indian and the UK film industries, I signed a substantive framework for the UK/India film co-production agreement in New Delhi on 5 December. We will now work closely with our Indian counterparts to finalise the agreement as early as possible in the new year.
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Stephen Pound: So comprehensive, so fulsome and so welcome were my right hon. Friend's words that the House may well feel that only a bounder could be so churlish as to trespass upon my right hon. Friend's patience by troubling her with a supplementary question. So, will my right hon. Friend join me in commending the positive role played by the UK Film Council and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in making the co-production treaty happen? Furthermore, will she consider leading a UK business delegation to Asia's largest entertainment summit, Frames, in 2006, to look at ways in which our new co-production relationship with India can be even further strengthened?
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): Some of my Soho constituents welcome the Chancellor's announcements on film financing in the recent pre-Budget report. I accept that other Soho folk might have welcomed somewhat different concessions. The Chancellor's announcements, however, were a belated recognition of the essential need for long-term planning in the film business. Will the Secretary of State acknowledge the key importance of commercial certainty in that internationally competitive market, especially in the Indian subcontinent?
Tessa Jowell: Yes, the Chancellor and I certainly recognise that. The House will want to pay tribute to the announcement in the pre-Budget report of the new outline tax regime for film, which has been widely welcomed and has created a climate of stability, although there is still detail to be finalised. It has exceeded the expectations of the UK Film Council and is already beginning to signal new inward investment, which we should all welcome.
Dr. Ashok Kumar (Middlesbrough, South and East Cleveland) (Lab): I praise the Secretary of State for building up this great link between ourselves and the Indian film industry. The former pit village of Fishburn in the north-east is now the setting for a Bollywood blockbuster, which has provided great opportunities, believe it or not, for young Asian stars to take part and make a success of it. What effort is she making to promote opportunities for young Asian stars to get into the film industry and make such a success?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question. The example that he gives is a vivid illustration of the benefits that such film collaboration and co-production bring in practice. While we would want to ensure diversity and opportunities for young Asian talent in every aspect of the film industry, in many senses the market does that because of the scale of demand. People want to watch young Asian stars, so selling the case for their training and involvement is not an enormous amount of trouble. I thank him, however, for his advocacy.
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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): The vast majority of households in North Yorkshire can, with the appropriate equipment, receive digital television services. The Government are committed to ensuring that at digital switchover everyone in the UK who can currently get the main public service broadcasting channels in analogue form can receive them on digital without needing to pay a subscription.
Miss McIntosh: I wonder why the Vale of York, which is covered by both Yorkshire Television and Tyne Tees Television, will be among the last areas to be switched over, and why, given that the Treasury will benefit directly from the proceeds of the auction of analogue spectrum, the BBC is to pay for the switchover?
James Purnell: The order in which regions will be turned off was decided by Ofcom in consultation with technical experts and was not really a matter for Government. It would be inefficient and a waste of taxpayers' money to continue to broadcast in both analogue and digital format. Of course, that money is not for the Treasury but for the taxpayer, and looking after the taxpayers' interests is exactly what we are doing.
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The Department is committed to its public service agreement target of increasing the number of women participating in sport by 3 per cent. by 2008. We are implementing a range of measures to achieve that objective.
Sandra Gidley: Does the Minister agree that role models are all-important? He will be aware that of the just more than £6 million given in athlete personal awards last year, £3.8 million was given to men, but only £2.3 million to women. What is he doing to address that inequality and to increase the participation of women at other levels to feed into the highest level of sport?
I do not recall the figures that the hon. Lady has given, but I can tell her that we have an equity agreement with all the governing bodies, which is observed by UK Sport and Sport England. I believe that 44 per cent. of scholarships went to women during the last round of awards under the talented athlete scholarship scheme. As for world-class performance, it will depend on the position held in the world-class rankings by the Paralympic and Olympic teams and, indeed, by others in the elite. There is an agreement between the governing bodies on that. I accept that
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more can be done to encourage females to participate in sport, but I think that that is being achieved by many of the initiatives launched by the governing bodies, Sport England and UK Sport.
There has been a massive increaseof some 53 per cent.in the number of women taking part in football over the past three or four years following an investment of some £3 million by the Football Foundation in coaching of women and girls, and a major increase in investment by the active sports body, which is Sport England[Interruption.] I do not know what the hon. Lady is saying from a sedentary position, but across the spectrum we have moved the agenda forward dramatically.
Vera Baird (Redcar) (Lab): Has my hon. Friend had a chance to consider the impact on women in sport of public authorities' duty to promote gender equality, which will come into force when the Equality Bill is enacted? I am thinking particularly of schools. The Women's Sports Foundation has found that some single-sex classes, especially swimming classes, are being stopped because of fears that they do not comply with equality legislation. Participation in sport remains low among women and girls despite our best efforts, although it is increasing, and single-sex classes and teams are an important tool for the encouragement of such participation. Will my hon. Friend ensure that good guidance is available when that gender duty comes onstream, so that the distinction is drawn between equality and treating everyone in the same way?
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Next time he speaks to the appropriate football authorities, will the Minister raise with them the issue of the international competitions in which our teams are involved? In some countries, women cannot attend and watch football matches. Are we not acquiescing, by our silence, in gender discrimination? We are supporting lucrative sports from which women spectators are excluded. I am thinking particularly of the exclusion of women from international football matches in Iran.
Mr. Caborn: That stretches a question about women's participation in sport in England, but having just returned from Saudi Arabia I understand what my hon. Friend means. I attended a graduation ceremony where four females received graduate awards from Loughborough and Manchester universities. That was a major step in the right direction. I hope that the process will continue in Saudi Arabia and will eventually reach Iran, because I agree with my hon. Friend that everyone should be able to enjoy sport, including football.
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