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Arts Council (Jazz Funding)

8. Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab): What estimate she has made of the funding made available through the Arts Council to support jazz. [64575]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): During 2006–07 the Arts Council will provide more than £1 million to support 13 organisations that specialise in jazz music. The jazz sector also benefits from Arts Council funding to a range of organisations that promote jazz in a wider music programme and through its grants for the arts funding stream.

Mr. Blizzard: On 10 May, at 7 pm in the Terrace Pavilion, the all-party jazz appreciation group will host the second annual parliamentary jazz awards. Our MC is Paul Gambaccini and our music is by Liane Carroll and we thank you for your support for the event, Mr. Speaker. It is clear that the more people have the opportunity to listen to jazz, the more people like it. With that in mind, does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential to establish a new jazz radio station through Ofcom's new licensing arrangements for digital radio, especially given the sad degeneration of Jazz FM into Smooth FM?

Mr. Lammy: My hon. Friend is right that Ofcom has a duty to ensure plurality of music across the digital stations. He knows that, in the end, the decision is for Ofcom. To be fair to Jazz FM, now Smooth FM, it claims that there is as much jazz on the station as before; it is simply played in the evening rather than the afternoon. I appreciate that my hon. Friend has raised the issue previously. Jazz plays an increasingly important role in our music repertoire. We have a rich heritage in this country and we can be proud of jazz, to which many of our constituents—young and old—listen.

Football Regulation

11. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): What recent discussions she has had with the Football Association on the regulation of professional football; and if she will make a statement. [64579]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): I have regular discussions with the football authorities and I will meet the Football Association again on 15 May. I will continue to urge the FA to implement the Burns review recommendations to ensure that it is fit for purpose in the 21st century, and to make the necessary changes without delay.

David Taylor: The £45 million of debt that successive owners of Derby County football club have accumulated threatens the professional existence of that fine east midlands club. Does the Minister agree with my constituent, James Wheeler, secretary of the Rams supporters trust, that the recent inquiry into the FA's structure should have proposed equipping it with sufficient regulatory power to protect supporters and employees from business doctors and other opportunists who continue to live the dream at the expense of the genuine supporters who will always pay to watch their side play?
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Mr. Caborn: I do not know all the details about Derby County and its finances. However, the Football League has introduced the new code for fit and proper persons on boards, financial transparency and, indeed, much better management control than existed before the collapse of ITV Digital. I reiterate that implementing the Burns report would go some way to allaying my hon. Friend's fears and ensuring good governance and regulation of the game. That is needed and it is why Burns is so important to the future of football in this country.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): As someone who represents a small professional club in the Ryman league, where salaries push £100 a week, I should like to know whether the Minister has spoken to the competition authorities about the ability of some large professional clubs to continue to operate and compete while running losses of tens of millions of pounds a year. Does that constitute the unfair business practice of predation?

Mr. Caborn: I hope that the hon. Gentleman has noted that Sheffield United have been promoted to the premier division. I just want to put that on record. In regard to the overall governance of football both here in England and in the wider Europe, we initiated—with UEFA—a review of football that is now addressing some of the issues that the hon. Gentleman has mentioned. I hope that the review will report by the end of May. It is looking into such matters as the licensing of agents, salaries, fit and proper persons and home-grown players. It is taking a comprehensive look at football in the European Union, based on the Nice declaration of 2000, and is trying to implement that declaration in an effective way.

Digital Television

12. Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): What steps she is planning to take to facilitate local digital television. [64580]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): We are continuing to work on the policy options for local digital television, including what will best make services sustainable and what might be included in a potential licensing regime.

Ian Lucas: I am grateful to the Minister for that response. In my constituency, the North-East Wales institute of higher education and Yale college contain talented young people who have produced excellent animation and digital storytelling. The difficulty is that not enough people are able to access these programmes to see the quality of the work. Will the Minister please ensure that digital local television can be introduced, so that digital television is used not just for more and more gaming channels but to provide opportunities for worthwhile work to be seen by local people?

James Purnell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that Wrexham has a great deal of that kind of talent, and also that digital television must provide opportunities for much more local content. Ofcom will develop its policy on this and will give us advice over the
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next few months. Of course, it is open to my hon. Friend's constituents to develop a service for broadband, cable and mobile telephones, as well as waiting for the possibility of the licensing of these services for digital local terrestrial television.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): I very much welcome the prospect of the development of local television, but will the Minister bear in mind the concerns being expressed by the Newspaper Society and others about the ambitions of the BBC in this regard? Will he encourage the BBC to work with local newspapers whenever possible? Will he also confirm that any new local service will be subject to the new regulatory arrangements outlined in the White Paper?

James Purnell: I am happy to give the hon. Gentleman an assurance on both those points. We have spoken to representatives of the BBC who are talking to local newspapers and will be happy to co-operate wherever that is the sensible thing to do. The governors of the BBC have made it clear that any proposed service will have to go through the public value test even before the new charter comes into force.


The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Pension Fund

18. Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): If he will make a statement on the financial position of the pension fund operated by the Commissioners. [64558]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell): The Commissioners are responsible for meeting clergy pensions arising from service up to the end of 1997. By way of a statement, at the end of 2005, the Commissioners' actuaries estimated that about £1.7 billion was required to meet their clergy pension obligations. This represented 35.6 per cent. of their fund.

Miss McIntosh: I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that reply. Will he give the House an assurance that individual pensions for retiring vicars, particularly those from rural parish churches, will be adequate to fund their ability to purchase a home—they will lose their home on retirement—and that the pension will maintain its value during their retirement?

Sir Stuart Bell: It should be noted that all pensions earned from service to date are secure. It might be useful also to inform the hon. Lady that the full service clergy pension to which clergy are entitled after 37 years' service increased earlier this month by 3 per cent. to £12,037 a year. For the year from 1 April 2005, the full service pension was £11,868 a year, which ought to be adequate for the purpose that she mentioned.
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David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Will my hon. Friend urge the Church Commissioners not to transfer any deficits or bridge funding requirements to the dioceses, which would pass them directly on to rural parishes that are strapped for cash? That would inevitably lead to a ratcheting down of the future of the stipendiary ministry in this country, which cannot be in the interests of the Church of England.

Sir Stuart Bell: My hon. Friend should know and will be aware that there is a Church-wide consultation on pensions policy, which was launched on 1 March 2006. There is a clear concern in the Church about the increasing cost of the current pension scheme as a result of reduced investment returns, increased life expectancy and the impact of the new pensions regulatory framework. I will ensure that his points are properly registered within the consultation period.

Steve Webb (Northavon) (LD): The hon. Gentleman will be aware that if an employee of a private firm has his pension fund wound up with insufficient funds, the Pension Protection Fund comes into play and provides a safety net. What would be the safety net for retiring Church of England clergy were the Church of England pension fund to have insufficient resources to meet its liabilities?

Sir Stuart Bell: The hon. Gentleman makes an interesting point. As I mentioned, the pensions policy consultation is taking place. He ought to know that in 1998, 50.3 per cent. of the fund was required for pensions. That figure has been reduced to 35.6 per cent. due to investment performance exceeding actuarial assumptions. The problem is complicated, but the situation to which he refers should not arise.

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