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House of Commons

Monday 5 June 2006

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Ministerial Visits

1. Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): When she next plans to visit cultural attractions in Wakefield and west Yorkshire to discuss funding. [74917]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I are aware of the many cultural attractions that grace the Wakefield area, and I was delighted to be in the area recently celebrating the plans for the new Hepworth gallery that is being built there. I know that the Secretary of State will also be visiting the region with the Olympic roadshow in July.

Mary Creagh: I thank my hon. Friend for his reply, and for his visit to Wakefield to launch the Hepworth trust. Will he join me in congratulating the Yorkshire sculpture park on its recent new commission of James Turell’s fantastic Skyspace deer shelter in the park? It is the first major commission by the national art collection since Rodin’s Burghers of Calais, which stands outside this place. Will my hon. Friend pencil into his forward diary the opening of the new Hepworth gallery in Wakefield city centre in 2008? It will regenerate a swath of our historic waterfront and attract visitors from all over the world to our proud city.

Mr. Lammy: I know that my hon. Friend is doing a huge amount to promote culture and the arts in her region, and we are very grateful to her for that. When I was up in Wakefield, everyone was talking about the sculpture park and the Skyscape, and particularly about the way in which the three elements—the landscape, the architecture and the sculpture—combine to make the park really wonderful. I look forward to visiting it soon, and we have of course pencilled into the diary the coming to fruition of the Hepworth later on.

Olympic Games

2. Mr. Philip Dunne (Ludlow) (Con): What the Government’s latest estimate is of the likely cost of the 2012 Olympics. [74918]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The candidature file set out the key costs of staging the games. Since then, it has become clear that, in certain areas such as security, there are cost pressures. We are seeking to mitigate those pressures wherever we can, by cost reductions and by maximising the value of the Olympic site itself. That work is continuing.

Mr. Dunne: Given last month’s confusion over the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games—LOCOG—budget, will the Secretary of State provide the House with an accurate estimate of the Government’s contribution to infrastructure
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improvements in the east end? How much of that is specific to the Olympics, and how much would have been done anyway? Will the Secretary of State consider moving more of the events to places outside London—where facilities either already exist or could be provided more cheaply—such as Much Wenlock in my constituency, which is the home of the modern Olympiad, as she knows?

Tessa Jowell: I know that the hon. Gentleman has been a champion of bringing Olympic benefits to his constituency. I shall be taking part shortly, along with colleagues on both sides of the House, in the Olympic roadshow, which will be travelling around the country between 6 and 27 July. I am quite sure that Much Wenlock is on our itinerary, as it should be. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that the benefits of the Olympic games—which will be considerable in economic terms—should be felt around the country, and that is the overriding purpose of the Olympic tour.

In relation to the hon. Gentleman’s first question, I am sure that he will understand that the answer will depend on the conclusion of discussions and negotiations about the balance between the publicly funded parts of the Olympic park and those that might be funded by the private sector. It will be easier to give him an accurate answer when the Olympic Delivery Authority publishes its corporate plan in the autumn.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that an important part of the Olympics involves ensuring that funding is directed to the next generation of sports stars? Will she therefore look into the reasons why The Northern Echo newspaper in the north-east, which wants to raise funds for youngsters as part of its Olympic Dream campaign, has been blocked by the 2012 Olympic organising committee from using the word “Olympic” in the campaign? This public-spirited campaign has a lot of support in the north-east, but it is being blocked by bureaucratic nonsense.

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and I suspect that similar questions will come up quite often between now and the opening of the games. There are two elements of which he needs to be aware. The first is that the legislation precludes any kind of commercial association with the Olympics unless it is borne out by financial sponsorship. That protection has been established by the International Olympic Committee to address some of the issues that my hon. Friend raised in his first question.

That said, however, I am absolutely determined, as is my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, to ensure that young people from right around the country benefit from this unique opportunity to take part in sport, glorified by the Olympics. The UK school games has already been established, and we will work with colleagues on both sides of the House to ensure that the legislation required by the IOC is interpreted properly and proportionately and does not put off young people or key local sponsors from taking part in the Olympics.

Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): I wish the Secretary of State well in her efforts to mitigate any costs overrun, but can she give some clarity as to who
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will pay for any overrun? I represent a London seat, and my constituents already face a substantial bill over a long period. Can she assure me that the costs overrun will be borne nationally, not just by the people of London?

Tessa Jowell: No, I cannot give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. He knows that the agreement that was signed, which is part of the candidate file, made it absolutely clear that there was a budget that would fund the infrastructure for the Olympic games and that any costs beyond that would be met on the basis of a shared agreement, as at that time unspecified, between the lottery, the council tax payer and, ultimately, the Exchequer. It is worth reminding him that the costs of the Olympic games, again as a requirement of the IOC, are ultimately underwritten by the Exchequer.

The hon. Gentleman and his Front-Bench colleagues will know that the overriding consideration is to keep the cost of the Olympic games down, to maximise the benefit of the legacy and to maximise the benefit to young people in communities in every constituency in the country.

Jim Sheridan (Paisley and Renfrewshire, North) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is aware that the rest of the UK will benefit from the 2012 London Olympics, but can she advise the House, given that other cities will benefit, whether other, devolved bodies will be expected to make any financial contribution towards the London Olympics?

Tessa Jowell: There is no assumption that any direct funding will come from any of the devolved authorities. Obviously, the lottery will be a major contributor to the costs of the Olympics, and funding the Olympics means that there will be some diversion from other good causes, so indirectly there will be a consequence for the devolved Administrations. The funding formula for the Olympics has been clearly set out and the Olympic lottery is doing very well—better than we expected—but, no, there is no intention that, other than through the lottery, there should be a direct impact on any of the devolved Administrations.

Susan Kramer (Richmond Park) (LD): The Secretary of State will be well aware that the £625 million already agreed as London taxpayers’ burden for the Olympics includes £50 million for cost overruns such as she has described as possibly occurring. Will she then at least agree to cap London’s burden at that £625 million, given that an overrun is already included in that figure?

Tessa Jowell: As well as being Secretary of State, I am Member of Parliament for a London constituency. My constituents are as concerned as those of the hon. Lady about the impact on the council tax. It is our responsibility to ensure that the council tax burden is minimised. We have had here and in another place many debates on whether the ultimate amount should be capped, and the reasons as to why not have been clearly set out.

Mr. John Randall (Uxbridge) (Con): The Secretary of State has said that her constituents, like mine in Uxbridge, are concerned about the cost and the legacy
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of the Olympics. Is she aware that in the London borough of Hillingdon we have plans for a 25 m pool ready to go ahead, but we are just waiting for a little more investment from either Sport England or the Government to make it a 50 m pool, which would be a superb legacy for the swimmers of west London? A 50 m pool is desperately needed in west London, so can she give us a little hope that her Department will look into this matter a little more seriously?

Tessa Jowell: I am delighted that a new pool is planned for the young people of Hillingdon. The decision on whether it will be a 25 m or a 50 m pool should be made by Sport England, and should be made in the context of proper distribution of 50 m pools—which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, are the standard facility required for competitions.

I cannot tell the hon. Gentleman conclusively at this stage whether Hillingdon is the prime location for a 50 m pool, but I am sure that the pool will be a much-used facility if it measures 25 m. I suggest, however, that on behalf of his constituents the hon. Gentleman should arrange to meet representatives of Sport England, and representatives of UK Sport if necessary, to discuss the distribution of pools and whether Hillingdon is the right place for one.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Obviously my right hon. Friend will be considering funding issues, but does she recognise that Lancashire can play a role in the Olympics too? I am thinking particularly of Chorley, which hosted the mountain biking and road cycling events in the Commonwealth games. Could my right hon. Friend find funds to support a sporting village in the Chorley constituency?

Tessa Jowell: I am sure that my hon. Friend will raise that with me on many occasions between now and 2012.

Our intention and hope is that a combination of increased Government investment in sporting facilities and the activities of local clubs, local authorities and the private sector will produce a substantial rise in the number of facilities not just in my hon. Friend’s constituency, but throughout the country. I look forward to having many more discussions with my hon. Friend, and support his advocacy of a sporting village in his home town.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): The question of how we empower young people through sport remains the one wholly uncosted element of the entire Olympic equation. Given that the amount of lottery funding for sport has fallen from £390 million in 1998 to £264 million last year, and given that the proposed big lottery fund has only £19 million earmarked for it, how will the Government finance the key Singapore commitment to empowering young people through sport?

Tessa Jowell: I would not rely only on lottery money, which, as the hon. Gentleman knows, is spent principally on facilities. Some 2,000 new facilities have
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been or are being developed on the strength of lottery funds. The programme is not yet complete; it will be complete next year.

The hon. Gentleman should incorporate in his sums the money that is being invested in school sport—some £500 million a year—the money being invested in coaches, the money being invested in the talented athlete scholarship scheme and, of course, the money being invested by the Chancellor in the development of elite sport, as announced in the Budget. It will help participation to ensure—and this will be done by 2010—that every child engages in at least two hours of sport each week in curriculum time and has the opportunity to take part in sporting activity outside school, and that there is competition in schools for young people.

The hon. Gentleman must accept that the money that has been invested over the past three years is now producing results. It is producing results for one specific reason: this Government are wholeheartedly committed to sport being part of every child’s life, and we have provided the means for that to happen.

Licensing Act

4. Mr. Adrian Bailey (West Bromwich, West) (Lab/Co-op): What assessment she has made of the impact of the Licensing Act 2003. [74920]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The new licensing laws have been in place for six months, and it is still too soon to draw any conclusions about their success. What does seem clear is that there has been no discernible increase in alcohol-related crime, and there have been many reports of better working relationships between the police, local authorities and other relevant local partners. Monitoring and evaluation, particularly through the work of the scrutiny councils, will give us a clearer picture of the impact in the longer term, and will guide us in respect of any changes that may be necessary.

Mr. Bailey: I thank my right hon. Friend for her reply. I share her view that giving local communities more control over licensing has been an important step forward. However, coming up is the combination of light nights and World cup fever, which could be the supreme test of the new licensing laws. What special measures are being taken to improve coordination between the industry, police and local authorities to ensure that everyone has an enjoyable World cup?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for his question and pay tribute to his local authority for its implementation of the Licensing Act 2003. There will be a nationwide programme of policing and enforcement during the World cup, but it is important to note and to take some reassurance from the fact that most World cup matches will be played during the daytime or the early evening. It is not as if the World cup is being played on the other side of the world, which would mean that people were up long after what has become the more normal closing time. However, the police will operate under gold command,
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co-ordinating across the UK with local forces. Individual establishments are carrying out risk assessments. Licence conditions such as not taking glasses out of the pub are being employed and CCTV is being used. I am encouraged not only by the focus of the police and the seriousness with which they are taking the matter, but by the new spirit of collaboration with local authorities.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware of the latest research by the Central Council of Physical Recreation, which shows that, contrary to the claim by the Minister for Sport, over 75 per cent. of amateur sports clubs fall outside band A and therefore face significant extra bills as a result of the Act? Is she aware that many village halls, including that in Maldon in my constituency, used up their entire entitlement to temporary event notices by the end of January? Will she ask Sir Les Elton’s committee to address those problems as a matter of urgency and act on its recommendations?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman has made it clear that he understands the process by which these questions will be settled. An independent panel sitting under Sir Les Elton is examining fee levels and their impact. He will report later this year.

On the hon. Gentleman's second point, which was about temporary event notices, we have just concluded a consultation on whether there should be any change, but he should remember the importance of getting a proper balance between the interests of local residents, who have greater powers of redress under the Licensing Act, and the wish of village halls and other organisations to be able to put on events with the minimum of bureaucracy. We will address those issues and publish the conclusions later this year.

Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): As my right hon. Friend knows, there is a section within the Licensing Act that states that every sale of alcohol has to be under the supervision of the licence holder. In south Yorkshire, the police have taken that to mean that the licence holder cannot be absent from the premises even for one day and, despite the advice from the Crown Prosecution Service, they have pursued a prosecution of a licence holder who took a few days holiday. In a letter to me that arrived this morning, South Yorkshire police are standing by that interpretation of the legislation and are looking to bring the matter before the courts to try to clarify whether, under the law, which I think is section 19, every sale of alcohol has to be supervised. Will she look at that matter with some urgency because, with the law as it stands, South Yorkshire police will not allow licence holders to take any form of holiday?

Tessa Jowell: I am obviously concerned by my hon. Friend’s point and will be delighted to write to him about it.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): While the Secretary of State is absolutely right to say that it is far too soon to judge the impact of the Licensing Act on binge drinking, does she nevertheless agree that one impact
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has been to create a bureaucratic nightmare for many people? Only today we have heard reports that up to one in six public houses may be trading illegally because they are still awaiting the licence for their premises.

The Secretary of State has just told us, on village halls, amateur sports clubs and so on, that the Government are to consider the matters raised earlier and report on them later. Yet only today I have discovered that the carrying out of the initial part of the Elton report is many months late.

Is the Secretary of State also aware that we have discovered today that the Government are miles behind in their work and consultation on temporary events notices? What is she going to do about that?

Tessa Jowell: With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, I have to say that that is the kind of diatribe I have come to expect of him. I do not accept all his charges. I am extremely circumspect about making any prediction at this stage on the impact of the Licensing Act, but it will be judged in terms of the objectives set out within it: does it reduce alcohol-related crime and disorder; and does it protect the vulnerable and keep children safe from harm? Those are the tests against which the Act will be judged, and the House will be able in due course to pass its own judgment.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend work closely with her colleagues at the Department of Health to monitor the impact of relaxed licensing laws on consumption and on the implications for the country’s long-term health? Is she, like me, concerned about rising levels of alcohol-related disease, particularly deaths from cirrhosis of the liver?

Tessa Jowell: Yes, of course I am, and yes we are working closely with colleagues at both the Home Office and at the Department of Health for the very reasons that my hon. Friend has outlined.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Will not the public think it completely barmy, if typical of this incompetent Government, that a pub needs a licence for one or two musicians in the bar but does not need one to show World cup matches on big screens to hundreds of inebriated supporters? Will the Secretary of State tell us just how much taxpayers’ money is being used on extra policing, under the alcohol misuse enforcement campaign, in order to massage the crime and disorder figures associated with showing World cup matches?

Tessa Jowell: I shall certainly provide the hon. Gentleman with the figures for spending on the AMEC campaign, which is just concluding. Even he, I think, will judge that spending on past campaigns, which have seen a reduction in alcohol-related violence, has represented excellent value for money.

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