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House of Commons

Monday 6 November 2006

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]


London Local Authorities and Transport for London Bill



Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.

London Local Authorities Bill [ lords]



Transport for London Bill [ lords]



Whitehaven Harbour Bill [ lords]



Message to the Lords to acquaint them therewith.

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Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Sharing Collections

1. Dr. Roberta Blackman-Woods (City of Durham) (Lab): What steps her Department is taking to encourage museums and the British Library to share their collections and take them into schools. [99146]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): Thanks to the Government’s support for the renaissance in the regions programme, museums across England are working with schools in greater numbers than ever before. I am pleased that, as a result of our investment, every school in Durham will benefit from educational access to museum collections.

Dr. Blackman-Woods: I thank the Minister for that reply. Will he join me in pressing the British Library to move the Lindisfarne gospels on a permanent or temporary basis to the north-east, so that local people, including schoolchildren and visitors, can better appreciate their significance to the cultural heritage of the region?

Mr. Lammy: There is no doubt that the Lindisfarne gospels are one of our greatest national treasures, and are certainly a great source of pride in the north-east of this country. My hon. Friend will know that it is important that Ministers at the Dispatch Box always maintain the independence of the British Library and the decisions that its board feels that it needs to make about the gospels. However, I am pleased that I will meet her this week to discuss these matters in greater detail.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): As I am sure the Minister knows, the chief executive of the British Library appeared before the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport last week. Can the Minister therefore assure us that the British Library will not face cuts under the comprehensive spending review? He knows that we have been told that if that happens, it will have to cut its opening hours and some of the other things that it does, never mind be able to take its collections and share them with schoolchildren throughout the country.

Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman is right to suggest that the British Library has done much in the last few years to ensure that it takes its collections into schools across the country. It has completed a successful modernisation programme and many of its collections are online. It is also in conversations with organisations, such as Microsoft, to ensure that its collections, many of which only it has, remain at the forefront, so it has an obligation not only to this country but to the rest of the world. However, the hon. Gentleman knows that I cannot undertake to say
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what the results of the spending review will be. The review is in the mind of one person—the Chancellor of the Exchequer—and I do not think that he has yet completed his deliberations on those matters.

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): In his speech in Oxford last week, the Prime Minister encouraged us all to become more scientific. He said that we must become a more scientifically literate society and make the subject popular again. Does my hon. Friend agree that science centres and science museums have an important role to play in that respect? In particular, I would mention the national marine aquarium in the city of Plymouth. Will he consider the balance of funding and how it might be made more favourable, to enable such centres and museums to share their expertise and help us all to become scientifically literate?

Mr. Lammy: My hon. Friend is right. There is no doubt that a key part in making young people not just want to take an interest in science but become scientists themselves is the work that our museums are doing. Both the national marine aquarium and the Science museum are doing a huge amount to make science accessible to young people and in getting through the doors to work with schools and with parents. As she would expect, we are looking at all these issues closely as we enter the comprehensive spending review.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Will the Minister congratulate the director of the Macclesfield silk museum, which was recently visited by His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, on involving junior schools and their curricula with the textile history and tradition of Macclesfield? Will he go a little further and assure me and the House that small museums will not be neglected in respect of funding? They are critical to the history and tradition of our country and, in particular, of Macclesfield and the textile industry in the north-west.

Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman is right to attach his museum to the social cohesion that is no doubt important in Macclesfield. The museum in Macclesfield has benefited from the renaissance in the regions programme, which has £147 million for our regional museums up to 2008. That money was not there before. Our regional and local museums were in a dire state prior to that funding. In the House last week, I was pleased that so many people, and so many Members, were able to attend an event at which we celebrated the success of that programme, which Macclesfield has benefited from.

National Lottery

2. Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): When she next expects to meet representatives of the Big Lottery Fund to discuss grants to village and community halls in rural areas. [99147]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): I am sure that the House would like to congratulate Alex Ferguson on 20 years at Manchester United as one of the nation’s most successful managers—and he is a really nice guy, as well.

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I have no immediate plans to meet representatives to discuss the subject of the hon. Gentleman’s question, but I know that the fund has launched a well-received £50 million community buildings programme to benefit projects across England. In addition, the national lottery has already awarded £258 million to villages and community halls.

Mr. Bellingham: Is the Minister aware that although a number of village and community halls in my constituency have received lottery grants, for which they are grateful, many others have been refused grants, much to their dismay and disappointment? He mentioned Sir Alex Ferguson. I was not going to mention him today, but is the Minister aware that Manchester United, one of the richest football clubs in the world, recently received £30,000 from the lottery to run yoga classes and fitness sessions for its staff? What is going on? Why are Ministers and the lottery so against rural areas?

Mr. Caborn: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his supplementary question. To answer the first part of it, there are a number of applications from village halls which, because the right information has not been given, have not been granted. It is right that there is that prudence with public funds. The hon. Gentleman has raised this matter a number of times on behalf of his constituency—particularly in relation to Terrington St. John, which he also raised last time. That will be looked into, and has been looked into.

As far as Manchester United and many other employers are concerned, we are trying to get corporate UK to be active—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would agree with this—in making our nation much fitter. We are spending billions of pounds in relation to obesity. Through Sport England and the north-west regional sports board, that initiative is being tried. I congratulate people on that.

Mrs. Madeleine Moon (Bridgend) (Lab): Kenfig Pyle Community Youth, which serves three village communities in my constituency, was recently awarded £300,000 to continue its work offering alternatives to drink, drugs and antisocial behaviour. That work is appreciated by the police and there is great acknowledgement of the benefits that that lottery money will bring to the community. May I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for her support in meeting the group from Kenfig Pyle Community Youth, and may I urge the importance of providing—

Mr. Speaker: Order. One supplementary question is fine.

Mr. Caborn: I am pleased that my hon. Friend made those comments. They clearly show how the Big Lottery Fund can add real value to a number of funding streams. When the legislation was going through Parliament a few weeks ago, the wide consultation throughout the whole of the United Kingdom showed that there was a desire to make sure that the lottery money was used positively to add real value to many funding streams.

Mr. Graham Stuart (Beverley and Holderness) (Con): Rural communities have been disadvantaged by post office closures, they have been infuriated by
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community hospital cutbacks, they have, in many cases, been driven into poverty by the single farm payment fiasco, and they have been infuriated by the hunting ban. Will the Minister accept that rural communities feel abandoned and betrayed, and will he play a personal role in ensuring that our village halls at least get an investment in their social capital, which he otherwise preaches so much about?

Mr. Caborn: I understand the points to which the hon. Gentleman refers, but I have already said that the lottery has invested £258 million in village halls. When we were in the process of winding up the Millennium Commission money, we noticed that considerably more village halls had been supported in Scotland and Wales than in England, because those in England had not made applications. The hon. Gentleman can read the minutes of the Millennium Commission: Lord Heseltine and I were concerned that many of the village halls in England had not made submissions, which was regrettable.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): I am sure that my right hon. Friend is aware that a load of village hall applications are in the pipeline. When he meets representatives of the Big Lottery Fund, will he stress the importance of supporting the over-60s at Croston village hall, and others in Chorley? Will he point out the benefits that supporting them would bring to Chorley?

Mr. Caborn: I make it absolutely clear that all the lottery funds, including the Big Lottery Fund, operate at arm’s length from the Government. My strong advice to my hon. Friend is that he help his constituents to ensure that they make full applications. I have no doubt that the various lottery distributing authorities will give such applications a very good hearing.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Of course, the correct answer to my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham) is that there is less money for village and community halls as a result of the Government having absorbed—shall we say?—£3.2 billion of national lottery money since 1997. It is only thanks to pressure from the Daily Mail and the Conservative party that money has now been found for the armed forces memorial. Will the Minister agree to re-examine the criteria to ensure that applications such as that made by the armed forces memorial fund, which has overwhelming public support, are able to attract lottery funding without needing to obtain the support of a national newspaper?

Mr. Caborn: First, may I say that there is no doubt that the memorial is an excellent idea? There has been considerable investment by the lottery: there has been £45 million to commemorate and preserve the experiences of those who lived and fought through the second world war; 39,000 veterans of world war two—and their widows and carers—were funded for the journey back to the battlefields; and 11 million people participated in the veterans unite programme. By any standard, I do not think that anyone could say that there has not been investment, and rightly so.

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When the armed forces memorial trust made this application, it was told that unfortunately, anything below £10 million would not meet the criteria. The amount came in at £4.4 million. On Friday last week, my chief executive from the Millennium Commission phoned me to find out whether it could assist to ensure that the application was met. After I had consulted the trustees and those of the Big Lottery Fund, at 4 pm on Friday, Lord Heseltine and I cleared the £2 million that was subsequently released. The outcome was not pushed by the Daily Mail or any other body. The application went through in the normal way. As you know, Mr. Speaker, there are politicians—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I say to the Minister that perhaps he could send a letter to the hon. Member for East Devon (Mr. Swire), with a copy placed in the Library for the benefit of the House.

Mr. Swire: Cut off in his prime, Mr. Speaker.

Will the Minister confirm or deny reports that Treasury officials intend to make another hit on the national lottery to pay for Olympic overspend, which would mean that even less money would go to community groups and the original good causes?

Mr. Caborn: The hon. Gentleman knows that there is a joint agreement among the three funding partners—and that is what we are sticking to. If he could start thinking a little for himself, instead of being informed by the journalists of the Daily Mail, some original thinking might actually come from the Conservative party, rather than their pathetic attempts at the moment.

Olympic Games

3. Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): What steps her Department is taking to encourage greater participation in sport by children and young people in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic games. [99148]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The Government are doing a lot to promote participation by young people. Some 80 per cent. of both primary and secondary school children are doing at least two hours of sport and physical activity a week, which is up from 25 per cent. in 2003. By 2010, every child who wants to, will be able to do four hours a week. We have reintroduced competitive sport in state schools, and there is record investment in elite athlete development. I place on record my particular thanks to my right hon. Friend the Minister for Sport for his work on establishing the UK school games. We are also seeing a net increase in modern sport facilities. London’s promise at Singapore was to inspire a generation of young people through sport, and we are proud of the progress that we have made. I am especially proud to commend the efforts of my hon. Friend. She and the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Binley) have brought together community organisations in Northampton to ensure that Northampton and its young people get the maximum benefit from the possibilities of the Olympics.

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