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House of Commons

Monday 3 July 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—

Live Music

1. Mr. Iain Wright (Hartlepool) (Lab): What steps her Department is taking to support live music. [81361]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): The Government are committed to supporting live music in all its forms. Through the Live Music Forum, we are working to ensure that opportunities for the promotion of live music are realised to the full.

Mr. Wright: For 25 years, The Studio in my constituency has encouraged participation in grass-roots music by delivering a range of recording, training, rehearsal and performing opportunities, while giving local people access to internationally recognised musicians. Despite making cutbacks, including redundancies, it is forecast that, by the end of the year, The Studio will run out of money, although it requires only an additional £20,000 per annum to stay open. What steps will my hon. Friend take to ensure that small yet vital concerns such as The Studio stay open, so that live music can be enjoyed today and in future?

Mr. Lammy: I thank my hon. Friend for campaigning to make sure that there are the right music services, particularly for young people in his constituency. In relation to The Studio, I know that the Hartlepool local authority is looking at that issue very closely. It was keen to ensure that the services offered met its strategic priorities for the coming period, as it is an important funder. I hope that we can achieve that, and the Arts Council advises that it is keen to look into how arts provision is met at The Studio. It is important that the local authority and the Arts Council can work together on that over the coming months. I will keep a close eye on the matter but, as my hon. Friend knows, there is an arm’s length relationship between us and the Arts Council; it is right that the funding decisions are made independently.

It is important that we have the right facilities, particularly for young people in our most disadvantaged areas. I know that that is why my hon. Friend takes the issue seriously.

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Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): What would the Minister say to Steve Dickinson, the proprietor of Mojo’s café in Scarborough, who has had to curtail his popular Wednesday afternoon jamming sessions because the two-in-a-bar rule has been abolished? He now faces having to pay for a licence for such events, which allow local bands their first opportunity, and local people to hear music for free at no cost to the taxpayer, unlike the case in Hartlepool.

Mr. Lammy: I like a jamming session like anybody else, but we do have licensing provisions. It is clear that small venues have been able to apply for licensing, and that music is going on. We set up, and specifically tasked, the Live Music Forum, which has representatives from the unions and the industry, to look closely at the issue. It will report to us in the autumn so that we can be clear on how, or if, the licensing provisions have affected our live music venues.

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): May I wish you, Mr. Speaker, the happiest of birthdays and say how extraordinarily well you are looking? It will not have escaped your notice that at least one other Westminster character shares your birthday; I refer, of course, to PC John Harrigan, although it is also my birthday.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (West Derbyshire) (Con): You are older.

Stephen Pound: Parts of my body are considerably older.

Further to previous questions, may I ask the Minister whether the Department for Culture, Media and Sport will report on a study that I understand it intends to conduct into the experience of small venues and the impact of the Licensing Act 2003—not so much on Mojo’s of Scarborough, but on the wider musical scene?

Mr. Lammy: Yes, I can tell my hon. Friend that we will come back to Parliament on those issues in the autumn.

Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): If everything is so rosy in the field of live music, why do the results of a recent survey by the Musicians Union reveal that there has been a marked drop in live music in smaller venues, particularly those previously benefiting from the two-in-a-bar rule? If Ministers think that the Licensing Act 2003 is encouraging live music, why are they issuing new guidelines to local authorities? It is not the local authorities’ fault; no, it was the Government who passed the inadequate Licensing Act, and the Government who wrote the guidelines, and arrogant and incompetent Ministers who are only now waking up to the situation that we and thousands of musicians predicted over three years ago.

Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman made all sorts of spurious predictions on the record that have not stood up to the facts. If there is incompetence, it is on his side, and the Hansard record will show that.

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The unions are part of the Live Music Forum, which is conducting the research and the survey, and as I have already said, that forum will come back to us with its findings in the autumn.

Sporting Village

2. Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): What funds are available for the development of a sporting village. [81362]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): Just before I answer the question, I believe that most of the House would like to share in our deep sense of disappointment at England’s early exit from the World cup on Saturday, but it would be wrong if the House did not thank David Beckham, who has captained the England team for more than five years. Let me also thank him for the support that he gave to help London in securing the Olympic bid. To Sven—dreams were not realised, but I wish him the best for the future. To Steve McClaren—the man at the helm now—good luck, and I thank him for meeting some of the 300 young people who took part on Saturday; he realised their dreams.

The answer to the question— [ Interruption. ] Quite honestly, Opposition Members are being churlish when the World cup has been one of our biggest sporting events for many years.

There is no dedicated funding stream for sports villages, but between 2001 and 2006, the Government have invested about £1 billion of lottery and Exchequer funding in sports facilities, which represents the biggest sports facilities investment programme in decades. Derek Mapp, the ex-chair of East Midlands Development Agency, is currently leading a feasibility study looking at how this interesting and innovative concept might be developed further. The study will look at whether sports villages —[ Interruption. ] If Opposition Members listen, they might discover that there is to be one in their area. The study will consider whether sports villages have the potential to contribute to the regeneration and sustainability of communities on a wide range of fronts, as well as a role in delivering the Olympic 2012 legacy.

Mr. Hoyle: I agree with my right hon. Friend that the whole of England is disappointed that the World cup will not be lifted by David Beckham. Of course there is sorrow, but we look forward to four years’ time, when I believe that we can win it.

I agree with my right hon. Friend that sporting villages are very important. There must be a good geographical spread across the country, but I can think of nowhere better for one than in Chorley, because we are a former new town, with a lot of Government-owned land, where we ended up with housing with absolutely no facilities and no infrastructure to back up the people who have been left neglected. Will he meet members of the local authority and me to pursue the development of a sporting village in Lancashire, but based in Chorley?

Mr. Caborn: My hon. Friend is, without doubt, a great advocate for his constituents. Mr Mapp is getting Deloittes to do a survey, and as soon as that report comes out, which is towards the end of July or the
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beginning of August, I should be delighted to meet my hon. Friend and his constituents and, indeed, local authority representatives.

Digital Switchover

3. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): What plans are in place to help older people understand digital switchover. [81363]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): May I congratulate my hon. Friend on having got back from his constituency, where, this morning, he opened a new £100 million bridge? We were not sure that he would get back in time. We are very pleased that he is here.

To ensure that everyone, including older people, are able to enjoy the benefits of digital switchover by 2012, we are asking Digital UK to lead the campaign to provide relevant information to all households, as each TV region is switched.

Derek Wyatt: The Minister for Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), started off the bridge project, so I should thank him publicly.

Has my hon. Friend had a chance to talk to the Secretary of State for Education and Skills? We have hundreds and hundreds of specialist computer and technology schools, and one of the cheapest ways in which we could carry out the switchover would be to charge those schools with the task of being the local hub for switchover—to go into old people’s homes, to liaise and so on. That would save us millions of pounds and generate great community spirit in those centres.

Mr. Woodward: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that suggestion. We have not held direct discussions on that specific topic with the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, but I will, of course, now initiate discussions with Education Ministers and officials. We are actively engaged in discussions with charities and public bodies, particularly those that represent older people and those who are disabled, because we believe that those are the individuals who will face the greatest difficulties in the switchover. We are absolutely confident that we have a very good plan in place, but we take on board his suggestions.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): Does the Minister agree that the conversion of multiple dwelling units to digital reception presents particular challenges? What estimates have been made of the cost of converting MDUs, particularly for social landlords and local authorities? Does the Government propose to make any help available to them?

Mr. Woodward: Multiple dwelling units present a particular problem, of which the hon. Gentleman has made particular efforts to make the House and departmental officials aware. There are especial problems associated with MDUs and we must adopt a sophisticated approach to them. We are in active discussion with all the relevant bodies and we believe that we are on course
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to solve most of the problems. I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is still nearly 18 months to two years before we begin the process of switchover. We believe that during the next 12 months the discussions that we are holding will bear the fruits and the policies that the hon. Gentleman wants to see.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): The Government already recognise rightly the impact of energy costs on the households of older people. Is the Minister aware that only today the Energy Savings Trust produced a report that showed that the additional energy costs of digital set-top boxes could add £30 a year to household budgets for older people, and an even greater cost with certain new digital television sets? Will the Minister agree to work with manufacturers to find ways of reducing those costs, not least by putting off buttons on digital set-top boxes, and also to ensure that there is energy-use labelling on new equipment, along the lines of that provided on white goods?

Mr. Woodward: The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. Yes, we are aware of the report; yes, we are in discussion with manufacturers about it and yes, it is our intention, when switchover takes place, for special codes to be introduced. It is not a problem that applies only to digital switchover; it applies to all digital equipment—mobile phone recharger units and just about everything in the house that uses the digital system. The Government are aware of the issue and are confronting it. I am sure that there will be bipartisan support for our efforts.

4. Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): How the digital switchover pilot schemes have informed future policy; and if she will make a statement. [81365]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): There have been two sets of relevant pilot schemes. The first of those examined the process of switchover in Llansteffan and Ferryside, and the second considered the needs of vulnerable groups in Bolton. Both pilots provided valuable real-time information. Above all, they confirmed people’s enthusiasm, and that, with support, digital television is popular. We will, of course, take those specific lessons into account in future planning. The results of both pilot studies are available in the Libraries of both Houses.

Mr. Mackay: Is not the Secretary of State concerned that there is a lack of public awareness and that there are still people buying analogue televisions? Is there not much more that the right hon. Lady’s Department needs to do so that when switchover takes place in 18 months’ time it is not another Government failure?

Tessa Jowell: There have been many Government successes. The process of digital switchover, commended by the Select Committee as a bold step and a bold decision, will be one of them. The right hon. Gentleman is right that people need to be properly informed, because, then, their apprehension about switchover—apprehension that tends to be higher among elderly and isolated people—falls. There is encouraging information from Digital UK. A £200 million public information campaign is now under way and in May, the first month of that
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campaign, the awareness in the borders—the right hon. Gentleman knows that that will be the first region to switch over—rose from 39 to 57 per cent. In Wales, awareness across the country rose from 3 to 22 per cent., as a result of targeted promotion and information. We will ensure that that is available consistently in the years up to switchover.

Hywel Williams (Caernarfon) (PC): The Llansteffan pilot was a notable success. I am sure that the Secretary of State welcomes the fact that there is a significantly greater take up of digital television in Wales than elsewhere. Does the right hon. Lady agree that the real challenge for future policies is to ensure that all people in Wales have access to television that is produced in Wales for them? At present, 2 to 3 per cent. of people are unable to see Welsh television.

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. The key answer is the maintenance of platform choice. For example, in the case of the right hon. Member for Bracknell (Mr. Mackay), only 9 per cent. of his constituents can get a decent signal through digital terrestrial television, and so they rely on satellite. There are other parts of the country, however, where satellite may be a more difficult option. The maintenance of platform choice is one of the ways in which the constituents of the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Hywel Williams) will receive the service to which I believe many of them will be looking forward.

Gambling Commission

5. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): When the Gambling Commission will publish a new regulatory regime. [81366]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): The Gambling Act 2005 will be fully implemented from September 2007. Between now and then, my Department will consult on and make the necessary orders and regulations, and the commission will continue to consult on, and publish, guidance and codes of practice on how it will operate the new licensing regime. Local authorities have a vital role to play in the new regime, as well. I am meeting the chair of the Local Authorities Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services on Thursday to address the concerns that it has about the timing issues.

Ben Chapman: With the British Medical Association warning only last week that one in 20 12 to 15-year-olds are showing signs of addiction to gambling, is it not time to educate and regulate? Some parts of the industry—such as, for example, internet poker—seem to be virtually untouched by any controls whatsoever. I understand that consultation and the appropriate actions have to be undertaken, but is it not now a matter of urgency?

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