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Mr. Roger Williams (Brecon and Radnorshire) (LD):
The Brecon access group in my constituency, whose purpose is to promote access for disabled people to public buildings and private businesses, complains that when licensed premises undertake substantial refurbishment the opportunity is not often taken to make reasonable adjustment, as in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, to allow disabled people to use their facilities. Will the Minister see whether anything can be done through the advice notes to local
authorities or by changing the legislation to make sure that licensed premises are available to disabled people and that they can enjoy them in the same way as more able people?
Mr. Woodward: Of course. I hope we have reached a point in our society in 2006 when it does not require regulation and licensing to encourage responsible people out there to make sure that access is available to all, regardless of disability.
Jessica Morden (Newport, East) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware that in Newport city centre, robbery, assault and violence are down this year by 40 per cent., which Gwent police attribute to the new licensing laws and the staggered opening hours? Will he join me in congratulating the police, the council and the licence holders on their teamwork, which has cut city centre crime?
Mr. Woodward: Absolutely. I welcome my hon. Friends comments, but the picture is not always so rosy. As we know, there have been problems with young people, particularly. The new licensing regime has enabled the police to deal more effectively with those. Police can issue £80 fines to those who act in a drunk and disorderly manner, and they have not been afraid to use them, with 8,000 fixed penalty notices being issued during the enforcement campaign last Christmas alone.
Mr. Robert Goodwill (Scarborough and Whitby) (Con): Is the Minister aware that many tourists on the north Yorkshire coast this summer have been disappointed at not being able to have a drink in small hotels and guesthouses because the owners of those premises have been put off by the cost and the bureaucracy involved, so the tourists have to go into seaside towns to other institutions where there may have been a lot of trouble in the past, which have longer opening hours and more problems?
Mr. Woodward: I am not aware of the specific venues to which the hon. Gentleman refers. By and large, however, the effect of the Licensing Act has been to simplify procedures, although there are problems in relation to the forms. We have been considering the length and complexity of the forms that have had to be filled in. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to write to me about the establishments of which he speaks, I will be more than happy to look into the specifics.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I welcome the new measures under the licensing law. Will my hon. Friend review the level of fines for convenience stores that have alcohol licences and which are found guilty of selling alcohol to people under the age of 16? There is growing concern about the matter in my constituency. The minimum fine is too low. If it were raised to £2,000, so that a store could opt to go to a magistrates court and risk a higher fine, the measure would become more self-policing and we would be more effective in stopping young people gaining access to alcohol.
As my hon. Friend knows, the Licensing Act has already increased fines for selling alcohol to under-18s from £1,000 to £5,000. That is welcome.
However, he rightly draws attention to another aspect. He may wish to know that, as well as the review that will take place after 12 months, I and the Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, my hon. Friend the Member for Gedling (Mr. Coaker), are meeting the trade this afternoon to discuss those matters. We will continue to keep them under review, because under-age drinking and the problems associated with it are a menace in our society, and it is the job of Government and all parties in the House to deal with it.
The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): Before I answer the questions, I am sure the whole House will join me in remembering Lord MonroHector Monrowho, sadly, died on 30 August. He held many ministerial posts, but the one that he held with the greatest pleasure was the one that I now hold, as the Minister with responsibility for sport. He and I have something in common: we were both brought back from Australia, where we were watching rugby. He was brought back in the 1970s when he was manager of the Scottish team, and I was brought back in 2003 when I wanted to watch England win the World cup. The great game of rugby union binds us together.
Can the Minister confirm that it is alleged that people are being recruited and trained as croupiers in the area around Greenwich to work in the former millennium dome? If that is the case, does it not suggest that the entire selection process may be a farce? Can he state categorically that some deal was not cooked up on a dude ranch somewhere in America, and that that is not a means of getting rid of that white elephant, the dome, which has remained an embarrassment to the Government?
Mr. Caborn: Can I say very clearly that the panel that is now looking into the siting of these casinos is independent? What the hon. Gentleman has just said is very serious. We have brought together an independent panel under Professor Crow, and what the hon. Gentleman says brings Professor Crows integrity into disrepute. That is very serious. Professor Crow will make the decision, and that decision will come back to the House, and if the hon. Gentlemanor, indeed, any other Memberwants to question that decision of the panel led by Professor Crow when it comes back to the House, they have the right to do so. There will be an affirmative vote of this House to determine where those sites will be. Members ought to remember this: we have brought in an independent person of the integrity of Professor Crow to head this panel, and to impugn his integrity in this House is unacceptable.
How are we going to make up our minds? I dont know.
Mr. Caborn: There will be a recommendation to the House on one regional site, eight large sites and eight small. As for how that decision is brought about, the hon. Lady might wish to look at the Gambling Act 2005, as she will find guidance in it. The panel has been set up under it, and there will be a recommendationand the final decision will be taken by this House.
Mr. Clive Betts (Sheffield, Attercliffe) (Lab): I am sure that the Minister will agree that the whole process for selecting a site for a regional casino has to be seen to be transparent and fair. Is it his understanding of the process that the casino advisory panel will listen to representations from local authorities and will then make a recommendation to this House about which local authorities should be chosen, and that the local authority should then decide, through a proper and open process, who the operator for that site will be? Does he therefore understand that it is slightly against at least the spirit of that process for local authorities to come forward with what are effectively joint proposals and joint bids from an operator who has already been selected in advance of the whole process being started?
Mr. Caborn: I advise local authorities not to go down that course. There are three stages. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire) would listenand, indeed, read the Acthe would not make comments as stupid as those he made to the Conservative party conference, but that is an aside, Mr. Speaker. I see you have a smile on your face, so you obviously appreciated the joke.
The Gambling Commission will find out whether those applying to run a casino in our country are fit and proper to do so. It is then up to local authorities to site casinos in their areaanybody would think that we were haranguing local authorities, but we are not. They will come forward on two matters: premises licenses and planning under planning regulation 106. It is up to them to get the best possible deal. I advise any local authority not to pre-commit themselves. They have a fantastic negotiating positionif they get an offer from Professor Crows committee in respect of siting.
Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that a key element in the deliberations of the panel should be the strength of local support and interest in a regional casino bid? If he does, will he note the comments of Professor Crow at the Blackpool examination that there were more people at that examination than at any of the others all together? Will he underline to Professor Crow and his associates the need to take into account the groundswell of public opinion when reaching their decision?
Mr. Caborn: My hon. Friend is a great advocate for Blackpool. I will not go down the route that he wishes me to go down, other than to say that clear terms of reference have been set out. I think that what he mentions will be factored into that, because the terms of reference under which Professor Crow and his colleagues are operating would allow that. So the answer to the point he makes is yes, but equally that goes for every other local authorityand, indeed, lobbying groupas well.
Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): In Scotland, there are an estimated 30,000 people with gambling problems. Does the Minister think that that figure is likely to increase or decrease if the one regional casino is sited in Glasgow?
Mr. Caborn: In commissioning the Budd report, the issue was not casinos but online and internet gambling, which is the big growth area. The 2005 Act for the first time protects children and the vulnerable through an Act of Parliament, which the Gaming Act 1968 does not. I am absolutely confident that the Gambling Commission and the actions that we will take under the 2005 Act will protect the vulnerable and probably provide more protection than any other country in the world provides. Many countries are looking at the Gambling Commission, which we put on to the statute book, to see whether they can use the same model.
Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): I suppose that the Ministers having paid so much attention to what I said at last weeks highly successful Conservative party conference is a form of progress. However, it is astonishing that, just weeks away from the decision on the super-casino licence, we still do not know the criteria by which the pilot scheme will be judged a success or failure. Is not the reason that the Minister and his Department have already decided that they want more super-casinos, and will use any excuse to increase the number? The Minister said in an earlier answer that this matter would be brought before Parliament by the casino advisory panel, but he should be aware that, under clause 175 of the 2005 Act, the Secretary of State has the right to increase the number. Will the Minister take this opportunity to rule out increasing the number of super-casinos, even if the panel fails to recommend just one? A simple yes or no will suffice.
The hon. Gentlemans definition of success differs from mine, to be honest. If he thinks that the Conservative party conference was a success, he will have to go a long, long way before he occupies the seat occupied by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. If that conference was a success, he needs to keep on going. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government proposed eight regional casinos and the proposal was in the wash-up before the last general election. The Conservatives decided to come back with the proposal of one regional casino, which we accepted because we wanted to get the Bill on to the statute book in order to protect the vulnerable in our society. That is where it now stopsat one regional casinounless the hon. Gentleman says to the Government that the Conservatives want to change the proposal. The proposal is very clear: one regional casino, and eight large and eight small.
That is what we agreed before the election, and that is the basis on which the 2005 Act went through. [Interruption.] Absolutely no: there will be one regional casino, and eight large and eight smallunless the Opposition propose an alternative that is acceptable to us, up to a figure of eight.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): We recognise the important role that skateboarding and other non-traditional sporting activities can play in attracting young people to participate in sport. Sport England advises that, over the last 10 years, skateboarding has received some £1.5 million in lottery funding.
Dr. Kumar: Recently, I had the opportunity to open a skate plaza in my constituency. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating Middlesbrough council and Councillor Coppinger, who has been the driving force behind this project, which has been of great benefit to the community? Does my hon. Friend also recognise that young people indulging in sport is one way to keep them occupied, instead of getting involved in antisocial behaviour?
Mr. Lammy: My hon. Friend is right, and we want to associate ourselves with, and to encourage, such informal sports. I congratulate Middlesbrough on having one of the best skateboarding facilities for young people in the region. That is precisely what we need to avoid antisocial behaviour in our communities, and my hon. Friend and Middlesbrough council need to be congratulated in that regard.
Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire) (Con): May I publicly thank Mr. Ken Lynch of Sandy, who works tirelessly with youngsters in my constituency to identify and provide facilities such as skate parks for the many who wish to practise the sport responsibly? However, may I share his concern with the Minister that, when these facilities are planned, enough attention should be paid to securitylighting and closed circuit televisionin order to protect such youngsters, who are often bullied by others who want to disrupt them? I should be grateful if the Minister ensured that, when these facilities are planned, proper attention is paid to security to encourage youngsters, so that they are not driven away by those who are out to spoil their sport.
Mr. Lammy: Yes; in a context in which Sport England has put more money into providing more skateboard parks and we now have a play fund of £155 million for even more skateboard parks, I will be happy to discuss that with Sport England.
Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab):
I welcome the Ministers announcement, but what steps are his Department taking to encourage teenagers to have a say in the process of obtaining
facilities in their local area and to engage with those youngsters so that they can be kept away from antisocial behaviour?
Mr. Lammy: My hon. Friend is right. He knows that the Government will shortly be introducing a local government White Paper and appreciates that, while Sport England wants to ensure that it consults young people on its plans, a large part of sporting provision is run by local authorities. I hope that, when we debate the White Paper, we can take those issues forward.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State visited Stonehenge last month. She will be speaking at the launch of the English Heritage report on 15 November and will visit more English Heritage sites in an official and private capacity by the end of the year.
Mr. Gray: My constituency probably has more listed buildings than almost any other area of England and I was pleased recently to welcome both the chairman and chief executive of English Heritage to the underground bunkers in Corsham and to Brunels famous Box tunnel, but is the Minister not concerned that, if the rather peculiar plan to bring in a hybrid Bill to de-list and then to demolish to Commonwealth Institute building in London is brought forward, that will set a worrying precedent for buildings at risk across England?
Mr. Lammy: We are having discussions on the Commonwealth Institute, but those discussions are unique. There is no other building whose sale and listing have a bearing on education in the Commonwealth. We clearly have a responsibility in that regard and that is why we are having the discussions.
Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): It is always a pleasure to welcome the Minister to the Stonehenge world heritage site in my constituency and it was a pleasure to welcome the Secretary of State last month, together with the chairman of English Heritage and the Roads Minister, and, significantly, a Treasury official. Are the Government fully apprised of the importance of the development of the visitor centre at Stonehenge, of getting the decision on the road right and of the fact that this is about the Olympics as well? It is not in competition with the Olympics but should be seen as complementary to the Olympics, as showcasing the best of English Heritage properties to the world.
Mr. Lammy: There is no doubt that Stonehenge is a great iconic site and incredibly important to Britains heritage, and that is why the Secretary of State made her visit recently and why I too have visited it in my present capacity. The hon. Gentleman will know that, because of the huge cost implications in relation to that site, there was a review that will be considered by Ministers shortly, and that must be right. I make no comment in relation to the planning matters raised, because those have been called in by the local authority.
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