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As for two-in-a-bar versus big screens, the hon. Gentleman knows that the arguments were well ventilated when the Act was debated. Parliament reached its conclusions, and we are getting on with
implementing them in a way that reduces alcohol-related crime and disorder, keeps children safe from harm and gives responsible adults a better time than they would otherwise have.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): The Department for Culture, Media and Sport funds Arts Council England to promote and invest in music and dance. Funding levels for these sectors are at their highest ever, with music receiving more than £100 million a year and dance more than £34 million. Investment in folk music and dance has quadrupled since 2002.
Bob Russell: I hear the answer that the Minister has given but he has not put any figures in it. He will be as aware as I am that Arts Council England is guilty of artistic cleansing of Englands traditional, indigenous, working-class folk dance and song. As English pride reaches a climax with the World cup approaching, does he agree that Arts Council England should invest more in English folk dance and song, and not invest in contemporary Latin American art, as in foisting a £5.5 million art gallery on Colchester, which people there do not want?
Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman is just plain wrong about the new visual arts centre that is coming to Colchester, of which the Latin American arts component, which is the university of Essexs contribution to the art gallery, is but a small part. The visual arts can bring regenerative effects, and we all hope to see them in Colchester, as we have seen them in Salford, Newcastle and Gateshead. Yes, he is right: of course the Arts Council should invest in all art forms. That is why it has quadrupled the amount of money that it has given to folk dance, of which he is such a fan; but money has also gone to Colchesters museum service, which has increased, and to the Mercury theatre in Colchester and to the Colchester arts centre. Across the board, the arts have experienced a funding increase in Colchestersomething that he should be pleased about and proud of.
Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Does the Minister agree that today, which is world environment day, is a prime day to encourage people to holiday in the UK, to enjoy our folk music and dance and to acknowledge the important role played by local authorities in promoting tourism in the UK? Will he write to the British Resorts and Destinations Association, which has its conference this weekend, to congratulate it on the input of local authorities into tourism in the UK, as well as into promoting folk dance and music?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Yes, I will write, but I am also speaking to the Local Government Association on Wednesday, when I will be talking about those very issues, which have caused a revival, not just in our inner city areas but across the
country, because local authorities are taking culture and the contribution that the arts can make very seriously.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): Switchover across the UK will begin in 2008 and be completed in 2012. In the hon. Gentlemans constituency, as he knows, there are three broadcasting regions: Anglia, Central and London. Switchover for Anglia and Central will take place in 2011 and be completed, with London, in 2012.
Andrew Selous: Is the Minister aware that some of the information on the Digital UK website is not accurate and could lead viewers to subscribe to commercial packages that they do not need? In areas, such as mine, on the edge of a Government region, will he investigate whether the Department could do more to clarify which digital transmitters will transmit programmes to areas outside their own regions?
Mr. Woodward: The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. Given that the Government are committed to ensuring that switchover happens across the whole country by 2012, it is absolutely important that we get it right. At this stage, of course, what we have conducted are pilot schemes and trials. In 2008, we begin in the Border region. There are lessons to be learned, and the point that he makes is well takenI will certainly take it back and look at itbut I propose to write to all hon. Members in the coming weeks to begin to set out what I think the timetable will be. We will have further, final revision of that timetable in the autumn, and I will write again to hon. Members. If questions are raised by hon. Members constituentsif people are worried about suddenly losing television pictures and issues of that sortwe will want to satisfy them, and working together with Digital UK, I am sure that we can get this right.
Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for coming to Carlisle and addressing the conference on the digital switchoverit was very much appreciatedand for saying that his Department will co-operate with the parliamentary Committee that will be set up to look at it. The Border Television area, part of which I represent, will be the first to switch over in 2008. I understand that the pilot scheme that was recently carried out in Bolton has now reported. Are there any lessons that people in the Border Television area can learn from the results of that pilot?
I thank my hon. Friend for chairing an excellent conference a few weeks ago, which I enjoyed attending. He is right that Border will be the first region where digital switchover will happen. We know from the pilots so far that 97 to 98 per cent. of
people in Bolton who experienced switchover liked it. We also found that it was the oldest people and those who are the most severely disabled who had a problem, so we are rightly focusingin terms of practical help, call centres and targeting of resourceson those whom we believe are most likely to need help. We have learned a lot from the pilots and we are intending to build that into our programme for the Border region. I am sure that, before we begin the work, which after all is still two years away, there will be more lessons to be learned so that we can ensure that my hon. Friend and his constituents are not only the first chapter of the story but one of the best.
Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): Will the Minister explain what help will be given when the analogue signal is switched off to those living in isolated rural communities who cannot receive the digital signal?
Mr. Woodward: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. We estimate that, when switchover is complete, 98.5 per cent. of the country will be able to receive digital television services. As he will know, that is roughly comparable with the number of people who can receive analogue services and we expect the 1.5 per cent. who cannot broadly to map each other, although it will not be exactly the same.
We will need to address the issue of those who will not be able to receive pictures in 2012. We are conscious of that and working on it now. It is a significant number of people. It is worth bearing it in mind, though, that 1.5 per cent. of the country does not receive television pictures. We need to improve on that and undoubtedly technology will help us in that process. We are determined to work with the hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members who may have constituents who do not receive analogue pictures so that we can bring everything we know and the technology to bear to help every constituent in the country.
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The provision of sports facilities is primarily a matter for local authorities, which take into account local views. On top of that, there has been unprecedented investment in sports facilities over the past five yearsin excess of £1 billion of lottery and Exchequer money. Much of that is now coming on stream. In addition, at the heart of the building schools for the future investment strategy of more than £40 billion over the next 15 years are sports facilities to which the community generally will have access.
I welcome that answer, but will my right hon. Friend join me in condemning Liberal Democrat Stockport council for its decision to deny the community group, Friends of Reddish Baths, the
opportunity to run the beautiful Edwardian baths in my constituencythe only public swimming baths that serve the north of the borough of Stockportdespite the fact that the group has produced a superb business plan and the councils only alternative is for the building to remain empty?
Mr. Caborn: I would love to condemn the Liberal council, but I will refrain from doing so, because I can tell my hon. Friend that the local authority has now gone into partnership with the Friends of Reddish Baths and agreed to join the group in meeting the cost of a feasibility study on options for replacing the baths in Reddish, and will help with the bid for the capital cost of any replacement. I hope that common sense is now prevailing and that some agreement can be reached so that they can continue to have that facility in Reddish. That would be on top of one of the biggest investment programmes in swimming poolsin excess of £250 million invested in swimming complexes over the past eight years.
Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Does the Minister accept that, given the reduction in and redistribution to sports of funding for good causes, voluntary groups in particular have lost out? Will he therefore ensure that funding for good causes is increased to the original 25 per cent?
Mr. Caborn: That is fundamentally wrong. A huge amount of investment is going into sport, well beyond that coming from the lottery that is directed to Sport England. As I said, building schools for the future is one of the biggest investment programmes in sports facilities. The investment via local authorities is over and above that from Sport England. Our investment in schools and the school sport partnership is the biggest investment. There will be 3,000 school sports co-ordinators. That means a teacher having two to three days a week backfilled by another teacher, which is a huge investment.
On coaching, we will have 3,000 community coaches on the ground by the end of next year. We are talking about the biggest investment in coaching, led by sports coach UK. The overall investment in sport is definitely the largest that we have seen and makes up for some of the massive under-investment under the Conservative Administration, who sold off playing fields, under-invested and cast sport aside.
Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op):
My right hon. Friend is correct to highlight the record investment, but, rightly, the question was about the role of volunteers in sport. Does he acknowledge that sports volunteering makes up 26 per cent. of all volunteering? We still have problems in terms of access for many people, the number of Criminal Records Bureau checks and numerous bits of red tape that get in the way of people volunteering at local level. Will he ensure that, at every stage, volunteering is made easy for local people who just want to contribute to their
sports club or sports arena, or to contribute through the schools that he mentioned? Will he get rid of as much of the unnecessary bureaucracy as possible to make things easier for people?
Mr. Caborn: I agree with my hon. Friend. Some of that red tape is important because of the safeguards that it provides for parents and those involved in sport, but the Russell report made clear to the Government what really needs to be done not just to get the investment, but to build the capacity in volunteering. We are taking that seriously and I hope that, over the next few months and years, we will build an infrastructure for volunteering that will be second to none. I acknowledge what my hon. Friend is saying, but the investment in volunteeringdirectly, through the governing bodies and through the Learning and Skills Councilis to be commended and will reap great dividends.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): In line with the commitment in the Green Paper, the Government are conducting a funding review to determine the level of the licence fee to apply from April 2007 and we will announce the outcome of that review later this year.
Mr. Robathan: Many of my constituents, and I believe a great many others, are unhappy with the licence fee. There is a general feeling that it does not provide value for money and that the BBC no longer delivers the high-quality public service broadcasting that it once did. Does the Minister consider that, in todays digital age, when, for instance, one can receive television pictures on mobile telephones, a compulsory tax on television ownership is the right way to deliver high-quality public service broadcasting in the 21st century?
Mr. Woodward: The hon. Gentleman makes a point that I am sure reflects the views of a minority of people. The majority of people are extremely satisfied with the service that the BBC produces. We have concluded that the right way to proceed for the foreseeable future is through the licence fee. When he and the leader of his party go around caricaturing the BBC, as in a recent speech made to the Newspaper Society by the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) [ Interruption. ] I remember it well. When the right hon. Gentleman made that speech, he caricatured the BBC and claimed that it squashed all sorts of businesses. The BBC has been a source of, and a benchmark for, the greatest broadcasting anywhere in the world. We are determined to get the review of the licence fee right to ensure that people in this country will have the finest broadcasting and the best public service broadcasting. We will not allow any kind of politics to interfere with that.
Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): Will my hon. Friend tell me whether his Department, rather than Parliament, will set the licence fee and whether there will be a debate in the House about the level of the fee?
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The Gambling Act will introduce one of the strictest regulatory regimes anywhere in the world. The Gambling Commission is conducting a study into the prevalence of gambling and will report next year. That study will provide the baseline against which we can measure future trends.
Mr. Swayne: I remember Jim Callaghan saying that the Labour party owed more to Methodism than to Marxism. Should not reducing the level of gambling be a perfectly proper objective of Government policy?
Mr. Caborn: Jim Callaghan was also a realist and he faced up to the responsibilities of government. That is indeed what this Government have done, which is why we had the Budd report, the playing for success initiative and the 2005 Act. The Act brought in the new regulatory authority, the Gambling Commission, and if we had not introduced that, we would have exposed a lot of this countrys population to online gambling and remote gambling over which the Government had no control at all. The Budd report and the 2005 Act were instigated to give the Governmentand, indeed, Parliamentthe ability to intervene when necessary. If we had not done that, we would have been irresponsible, and even Jim Callaghan would not have thanked us for that.
Mr. Geoffrey Robinson (Coventry, North-West) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that most hon. Members have confidence in his and the Departments ability to bring the proper regulation of gambling into operation? Is he further aware that the provisional shortlist from the casino advisory panel has caused dismay throughout the midlands because there is a yawning gap in the proposals for the super-casino? I declare an interest as a shareholder in, and director of, Coventry City football club. It is clear that Coventrys bid stands pre-eminent among those from the midlands, especially the west midlands. Will my right hon. Friend give us an early opportunity to make representations to him and the advisory panel so that we can stress the great benefits that such a development could bring?
I thank my hon. Friend for the vote of confidence that he gave my Department and me in being able to implement the Gambling Act 2005. The
decisions on the casinos were made against the background of the Opposition forcing the number of regional casinos down from eight to one. I stress that an independent panel sat and made the judgments that have come back to the Government and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State and I will meet my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry, North-West (Mr. Robinson) so that Coventry can put its case to us.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Is it not a fact that, in yet another example of what we have come to recognise so well as a lack of joined-up government, the Ministers Department is still using a different estimate of the number of problem gamblers from officials in what was the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister? Is it not also the case that the Gambling Commission has not even commenced work on a prevalence study on problem gamblers, which, in any case, will now report only after the green light for the casino pilot and the massive growth in online gambling? Given that we have no firm criteria for judging results, will the Minister tell us what will constitute the success or failure of the regional casino?
Mr. Caborn: I do not accept that the point on which the hon. Gentleman predicates his question is a fact. As I told the House, the prevalence study is under way and will report. Pilot schemes are being instigated, so we will learn from them. We take the baseline seriously, which is why the prevalence study is wide and detailed and will give sound information with which we can measure future trends. The hon. Gentleman asks about success, but this country has the lowest levels of problem gambling and, as I have said, we embodied the principles of the Gaming Act 1968 into the 2005 Act, along with establishing the regulator, the Gambling Commission, which probably has more powers to intervene than any other regulatory authority in this country. Indeed, many people abroad are examining the way in which the commission will be operating.
as things stand its an explosion over which we have very little control.
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