Previous Section Index Home Page

Mr. Caborn: I agree with my hon. Friend on two points. First, in terms of the role of the commission and internet gambling, that is the very reason for bringing the legislation forward—so that the Government have some controls over internet gambling. Secondly the Responsibility in Gambling Trust, which has been set up and is broadly run through GamCare, is looking at a
3 July 2006 : Column 503
wide education programme, as well as a prevention programme. I am meeting some of the industry tomorrow on those issues. There are concerns. To a large extent, that is why the 2005 Act was put on to the statute book: to give Government—indeed, Parliament—powers to intervene on behalf of the vulnerable in our society.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): We were assured by the Secretary of State that the new regime for regulating gambling and the process for awarding the regional casino licence would be open and transparent. The reality is that they are now mired in chaos, confusion and disarray. Local authorities are warning of the kind of chaos and confusion that we witnessed with the Licensing Act 2003. In addition, we have now learned that the Government are to face a legal challenge from unsuccessful applicants. In a further development, Labour Back Benchers representing failed bidders are openly being encouraged to lobby Ministers to overturn a decision made by the supposedly independent commission. Is the Minister aware that the whole process is descending into complete disarray?

Mr. Caborn: I have heard some rubbish from this Dispatch Box, but that is the biggest load of rubbish that I have heard for a long time. We have put in place the most transparent system—arm’s length from Government and my Department—to make an objective analysis of where the casinos should go. The confusion arose in the minds of Opposition Members when they decided to take the number of regional casinos from eight to one. They are now trying to get out of the issue politically and to blame the Government. That representation is totally untrue. We will stand by what we put in the 2005 Act and the process, which is transparent and fair. If people want to make a legal challenge, let them get on with it and take us to the courts.

Mr. Swire: But the Secretary of State has failed to ensure public confidence in the new regime. She will be aware, as will the Minister, that Ministers in her Department have already had to clarify four statements in relation to meetings held by her and her officials with overseas operators. Does the Minister consider it—to use the words he has just spoken at the Dispatch Box—transparent and arm’s length that senior Ministers are being entertained on the estates of American casino operators? Will he act urgently to ensure a complete and full disclosure of the facts to ensure public confidence and transparency in the process?

Mr. Caborn: That is absolutely disgraceful. The Deputy Prime Minister, who the hon. Gentleman is referring to, had no role in planning or negotiations, or in the siting of casinos. When Opposition Members start making those allegations, they ought to come up with the facts. What is being said is totally untrue and unfounded. If anyone is being brought into disrepute, it is the hon. Gentleman.

Royal Parks

6. Mr. Nicholas Soames (Mid-Sussex) (Con): When she next plans to have a meeting to discuss the state of the royal parks. [81367]

3 July 2006 : Column 504

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): I will be meeting the chief executive of the royal parks on 24 July.

Mr. Soames: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Secretary of State is a trustee for the nation of the 5,000 acres that comprise one of the most priceless assets that London has—the royal parks? Will he explain to the House why his Department’s grant to the royal parks has slipped by more than 20 per cent. since 1993? Will he further tell us why he is allowing these fragile environmental fabrics to be seriously degraded by too many unsuitable large-scale commercial events? Finally, will he deal with the £110 million backlog that the National Audit Office found in repairs undone?

Mr. Lammy: If I were not aware that my right hon. Friend is a trustee of the royal parks, that would be seriously remiss of me given that I have spent quite a lot of time over the past year in the royal parks, meeting the Friends of the Royal Parks and the chief executive.

The hon. Gentleman’s tastes may well not be the same as those of Londoners and much of the country, but the Prince’s Trust concert and the success of Live8 indicate that the Royal Parks Agency has been very successful at some of the events that it has put on. However, he is right that there is a balance to be struck between those events and the more reflective enjoyment of those in the parks. That is why this year there have been fewer events in Hyde park. We keep those things under review, working with the Royal Parks Agency and, as I said, I shall be meeting the chief executive shortly.

As to the money, the hon. Gentleman should remember that the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee said in his report that there was

It is right that the Government bear that in mind when making their grant in aid.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): On a beautiful day like today it is obvious how very many people—visitors to London, those who work in the city and tourists—make intensive use of the royal parks such as Hyde park, Richmond park, St. James’s park and so on. Would the Minister care to pay tribute to the work of the Royal Parks constabulary, which is responsible for the safety, enjoyment and relaxation of those many people in the parks, and will he lay to rest the rumour that it may fall victim to the merger mania of forces and be absorbed by the Metropolitan police? That would be a dreadful step, would it not?

Mr. Lammy: I am happy to pay tribute to the Royal Parks constabulary. Two of our parks have been awarded the green flag for 2005, and five are being put forward for a green flag for this year. A key criterion of that is that people who enter the parks feel safe, and that is largely down to the work of the constabulary. We ought to remember when thinking and talking about these issues that on Friday in Regent’s park there
3 July 2006 : Column 505
will be a memorial for the victims of the London bombings. The parks play a huge and important role in our national life.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): In answer to the hon. Member for North-West Leicestershire (David Taylor), the merger has already taken place. The Royal Parks constabulary is now part of the Metropolitan police; I am assuming that the Minister was aware of that fact.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Sussex (Mr. Soames) rightly pointed out, our royal parks should be an oasis of calm and quiet contemplation for Londoners, commuters and tourists alike. The notion that in summer 2012 they should become one huge campsite to house those in London for the Olympic games, as suggested by the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for St. Helens, South (Mr. Woodward), is barmy. It is also in direct breach of the assurances given by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in this House in a debate initiated by me on 24 May 2004. Moneys can be raised to preserve the royal parks by other means, as my hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) will point out—he was acting as an auctioneer at one such event last week. Will the Minister assure us that he will keep the Treasury at bay and his Department’s hands off our royal parks?

Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman is confused; the Royal Parks is an agency of the Government. The idea that the Government could keep their hands off is ridiculous given that we are funding it to the tune of £25.6 million. The hon. Gentleman’s tastes may not be the tastes of ordinary Londoners, but the Royal Parks always consults on its strategy for events, as he would expect, and it is right that we support it on the events taking place this year and in coming years.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): Is the Minister aware that the financial position of the royal parks is now so dire that routine maintenance is having to be funded out of lottery grants? Is that an appropriate way to manage either the parks or lottery funds?

Mr. Lammy: The national lottery, in particular the Heritage Lottery Fund, is funding parks throughout the country, and the constituencies of many hon. Members have benefited. Funding for the royal parks is increasing this year to £26.1 million. The hon. Gentleman knows that we are in the middle of the spending review, and it is right and proper that we consider the PAC’s comment that there is “untapped potential” to raise even more revenue from our parks. That is the position, and it is one that the Government have maintained for many years.

Digital Switchover

7. Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): If she will make a statement on digital availability in the Lewes constituency. [81368]

3 July 2006 : Column 506

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): Ofcom estimates that approximately a quarter of homes in the Lewes constituency currently receive digital terrestrial television, although the vast majority of homes can receive digital TV via satellite, with the right equipment. Proceeding with digital switchover will allow all those who currently receive a good analogue signal to receive digital TV via an aerial, ensuring that the vast majority of people have access to a digital platform.

Norman Baker: Does the Minister understand the strong feelings of the bulk of my constituents who cannot receive much of the BBC’s television programme output because they have no access to a digital terrestrial set-top box that works in the constituency, and will not have until 2012? Do they not deserve a reduction in the BBC licence fee for the time being? What is the position of those of my constituents for whom, when switch-off occurs, a digital set-top box will still not work and who will therefore have to use a satellite dish, but may be prevented from doing so by planning rules because they live in a conservation area or a listed building?

Mr. Woodward: Obviously we are aware of the problems experienced by the hon. Gentleman’s constituents. We are working towards ensuring maximum access for everybody while preserving the Government’s position of platform neutrality. I remind the hon. Gentleman that switching off the analogue signal in 2012 will automatically provide a major boost to the digital signal. Ofcom is working on how to deal with the small percentage of homes in his constituency that might still have problems. Our hope is that we will have solved that problem by the time of switchover.

Understanding Slavery Initiative

8. Ms Diana R. Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, North) (Lab): What assessment she has made of the work of the Understanding Slavery Initiative producing materials for schools about the trans-Atlantic slave trade to support the teaching of history and citizenship. [81369]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): The Understanding Slavery Initiative is having a real and positive impact on the teaching of that complex issue, and has produced high-quality materials and training for teachers and museum educators across the country.

Ms Johnson: I thank my hon. Friend for his recent visit to Hull to see our preparations for Wilberforce 2007. Will he join me in congratulating Hull university, which this week opens the Wilberforce institute for the study of slavery and emancipation, which will study the present-day context of slavery and what we can learn from the slave trade, as well as work alongside local schools?

Mr. Lammy: I truly enjoyed my visit to Hull on Monday last week to join my hon. Friend and many other colleagues on the trip to the Wilberforce museum. Hull has been key to the development of the training resource. It is important that teachers are able
3 July 2006 : Column 507
to discuss sensitive and difficult issues at key stage 3 and have the right materials to do that. Hull has been absolutely brilliant, especially in its work with the National Maritime museum to develop those resources. I wish everyone in Hull the best of luck for the launch of WISE on Friday. I understand that Desmond Tutu is the president of that important new research facility. The work done at Hull, together with work carried out in Liverpool, Bristol and London, will help to ensure that the commemorations and celebrations of the abolition of slavery next year are a huge success.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Does the Minister accept that Wilberforce was not only Hull’s greatest son, but probably the greatest Back Bencher in the history of the House?

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): And a Conservative.

Sir Patrick Cormack: He did not belong to any party. It was Wilberforce’s parliamentary campaign that led not to the abolition of slavery in 1807, but the abolition of the slave trade. Can those facts be emphasised to all young people as they study what can be achieved by a persistent parliamentary campaign?

Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman is right. That is why a Committee of both Houses, very much with the grace of Mr. Speaker, is examining closely how those issues can be conveyed next year. It is true that Wilberforce played a key role as a parliamentary campaigner, but it is also true that the Quakers, who, for obvious reasons, sometimes remain silent about the role that they played, should be remembered, as should many of the black former slave campaigners.

Ms Dawn Butler (Brent, South) (Lab): Happy birthday to you, Mr. Speaker and to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Stephen Pound), who assures me that refreshments are on him today.

Will the Minister indicate whether he agrees with and will support a grass-roots-led UK annual memorial day regarding the transatlantic slave trade?

Mr. Lammy: My hon. Friend is right that some Members and communities have asked for a memorial day. There have been differences of opinion about what day that should be and about whether we should focus on a day or on other things to do with celebrations of the abolition of slavery. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has said that he keeps an open mind on these issues, so we will see whether a consensus can be arrived at.

Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry) (DUP): Next year is the 200th anniversary of the death of the slave ship commander turned Christian hymn writer, John Newton. After his conversion on board a slave ship, he wrote one of the most famous hymns of all time, “Amazing Grace”. Will the Minister ensure that next year there is some formal recognition of that amazing figure in English religious literature?

Mr. Lammy: We are in discussions with colleagues in the Department for Education and Skills on these issues, as we are with leaders of our cultural institutions, some of whom sit on the advisory committee that is led by the Deputy Prime Minister. I will ensure that that specific issue is raised.

3 July 2006 : Column 508

Sports Participation

9. Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): What estimate she has made of the number of people who play football, tennis or cricket at least once a week. [81370]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): This information is not available on a weekly basis, but according to the general household survey of 2002-03, 1.8 million adults had played football, 745,000 had played tennis and 235,000 had played cricket in the previous four weeks. The Department’s taking part survey will provide a complete picture of current participation levels in sport, including football, tennis and cricket, later this year.

Simon Hughes: As the House sends its commiserations to the England team for not winning on Saturday night in that dramatic penalty shootout, as it reflects on the great legacy of Fred Trueman, who died at the weekend, and as it salutes the great performance of Andy Murray, whom we hope will go further, does the Minister think that there is scope for the Government to lead on engaging the great motivating potential of people such as Andy Murray, Rio Ferdinand and Andy Flintoff to make many more people who watch sport go on to participate in it, with all the benefits that that brings us all?

Mr. Caborn: Very much so. The hon. Gentleman is right that such people are incredibly powerful in the community. There is no doubt that they are icons. The sporting champions whom we are developing are playing a major role and talent is being identified through the talented athlete scholarship scheme, right up to possible world-class performers. Young people in schools from the age of 10 will be picked up not by chance, but by design, and they can be put on the pathway to excellence to allow them to realise their potential. I agree that we need to use the sporting icons in our nation more effectively than we do, and we are working to that end.

Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend share my concern that the lack of cricket coverage on free-to-air TV might have an adverse effect on the number of children who regularly play the sport? On average, only 200,000 viewers watch Sky’s coverage, compared with a peak of 8 million or 9 million people who watched Channel 4’s coverage last year. Does he also accept the good wishes of many cricket followers for the talks that he is initiating with broadcasters? There is widespread hope that that might lead to the return of at least some live test match cricket coverage to free-to-air TV.

Mr. Caborn: I can partially agree with that, but may I put on record my great appreciation of a legend of Yorkshire cricket, Freddie Trueman? I saw him at Bramall Lane with my dad when I was about 10 years old, and he is truly a legend, as Dickie Bird said on Saturday night.

3 July 2006 : Column 509

On Sky television and terrestrial broadcasting of cricket, we must remember what was in the Select Committee report. Had it not been for all the investment of television money in cricket, I do not think that we would have won the Ashes, which was a great feat, or had the coaching programmes and central contracts that the England and Wales Cricket Board now has. One must pay credit to the ECB for the modernisation that it has gone through. It is can now choose a team that can take the Ashes—which that team did, and we wish it well over Christmas and the new year in Australia—and also get more young people under coaching in cricket than there have been for many years. Credit must go to the ECB for that, and the funding—whether we like it or not—has largely come through television revenues.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): No doubt the Minister would encourage participation in sport by boys and girls, and men and women, in equal numbers, so does he agree that it is unfortunate that the Wimbledon authorities still insist on paying much smaller amounts of prize money to their women champions than to their men champions, even though women are willing and able to play as many sets as men?

Mr. Caborn: I think that the hon. Lady really believed what she said, so I have no doubt that she can join my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and none other than the Prime Minister in having a joint approach to the All England Club authorities. Let us have hope for the negotiations that are taking place with the Women’s Tennis Association. I hope that the All England Club listens carefully in the meetings that I know that its representatives will attend in the next few months, and I hope that this ill will have been rectified when the Wimbledon tournament takes place next year.

Next Section Index Home Page