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Roman Sites

4. Bob Russell (Colchester) (LD): What action she is taking to promote Britain’s Roman heritage as tourist attractions. [109409]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The promotion of Britain’s Roman heritage is an important part of the work of VisitBritain, and that of English Heritage, both of which the Department sponsors. A new dedicated area of VisitBritain’s website to promote further our Roman heritage will be launched shortly.

Bob Russell: I am grateful to the Minister for that positive response. He will probably be aware that, two years ago this month, the remains of the only Roman chariot racing stadium in Britain were discovered. It was Britain’s largest Roman building, and the circus could house up to 15,000 spectators. The setting is now threatened by new housing and a car park. In view of the international and national importance of the discovery, will he receive a delegation from Colchester to consider how that national site can best be preserved from such destruction?

Mr. Woodward: I am well aware of the interest that the hon. Gentleman has taken in the Roman chariot racing stadium in Colchester, which is of national architectural importance. It is a matter for Colchester borough council and English Heritage, however, and I understand that discussions are taking place with local developers about future management of the site. As that is a planning issue, it will ultimately be a matter for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware that part of the heritage left to us by the Romans was the road system in Britain. That road system, and particularly Watling street, passes through the jewel in the crown, Tamworth. As so many road developments now run alongside, if not on the original Roman roads, will he assure me that some measure will be taken to maintain that road system for future generations?

Mr. Woodward: In the interests of brevity, Mr. Speaker, after my previous response, the answer is yes; I will take my hon. Friend’s point into consideration.

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Anne Main (St. Albans) (Con): On behalf of Verulamium, or St. Alban’s, our proximity to London means that we would very much like to benefit from visitors to the 2012 Olympics. My council is keen to do that and is setting up a taskforce—even though it is a Liberal Democrat council, it has my full support on this matter. Is the Minister prepared to help us to capitalise on our assets in Verulamium?

Mr. Speaker: Order. Unless those assets are something to do with the Roman empire— [Interruption.] Perhaps the Minister can answer.

Mr. Woodward: The Department is always happy to help and we would be delighted to do so in any way in relation to Roman history. I hope that the hon. Lady and her councillors have made representations under the “Welcome>Legacy” document; if they have not, I invite them to do so.

Olympic Games

5. Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): What estimate she has made of the public liability arising from the 2012 Olympic games in excess of the sums already guaranteed from London councils and the national lottery. [109411]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): On 21 November, in front of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, I announced that a further £900 million would be required for the Olympic park. I explained that we are awaiting the results of the assessment by the Olympic Delivery Authority’s delivery partner, CLM. I also said that the Government are discussing the requirements for security, contingency and the treatment of tax. I will report to the House when those discussions are concluded.

Dr. Cable: To ease public anxiety that the rising costs of the Olympics will fall on London or national taxpayers or the lottery, will the Secretary of State confirm that she and the Mayor are both operating strictly within the budget agreed on an all-party basis when the bid was submitted? Will she specifically rule out new items such as the £400 million now proposed for an Olympic delivery partner?

Tessa Jowell: No, I cannot. It seems to be a quirk of the Liberal Democrats’ approach to public spending that the need is for more but the means to raise it is denied. In relation to the Olympics, the hon. Gentleman has described himself as being like Victor Meldrew on a bad day. He wrote forcefully in the Richmond Informer that London did not need the Olympics. Let me reassure him, in a spirit of Christmas cheer, that he is adrift of the 75 per cent. of Londoners—and rising—who support the Olympics, see the benefit that it will bring to the city and support the great legacy. A number of those who provide such echoing endorsement also live in his constituency.

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): I think—the Secretary of State will tell me if I am wrong or right—that the Olympic lottery fund is ahead of the set budget, so more will be spent. Outside the M25,
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there is a real love for the Olympics. What the nations and regions need, however, is a fund. Has she been able to persuade the Treasury to part with 12p in the pound from a lottery ticket to make that a challenge fund for the nations and regions for Olympic facilities?

Tessa Jowell: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s work as chairman of the all-party Olympic group. He is right: it is important for the high levels of support for the Olympics around the United Kingdom to be maintained, and for the people’s confidence to be justified. That means branding local activities as being associated with the games, and also—as my hon. Friend says—producing evidence of benefit, such as investment in support, culture, creativity and other activities allied with the games.

There is not yet a specific challenge fund, and it is for the Chancellor of the Exchequer rather than the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to determine lottery duty, but I entirely agree with my hon. Friend about the need for the whole country to understand the benefit that will result from the games in London.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): Two of the largest threats to the Olympic budget are clearly the VAT bill and the level of contingency funds. Given that the whole Cabinet approved the original budget, which waived VAT and set funds for contingencies and preliminaries at a level—23.5 per cent.—considerably lower than is currently being mooted, and given that those clear commitments were presented to the world, accepted in Singapore and confirmed to the House on countless occasions during the passage of the London Olympics Bill, why is the Treasury now threatening to renege on them?

Tessa Jowell: With great respect, I do not think the hon. Gentleman should mistake a proper engagement relating to large sums of public money in the interest of the biggest capital project in the country for reneging on an agreement. The nature of contingency provision is different. The hon. Gentleman is right: project contingency provision for each and every venue is about 23 per cent. The question is whether programme contingency is necessary to safeguard against further risks. All who apply it in the construction industry would say that contingency provision diminishes over time, not necessarily because it is drawn on but because as delivery becomes closer, the risks themselves begin to diminish.

We are discussing those matters in Government. I have also had discussions with the Opposition, in the spirit of cross-party consensus on the Olympics, and will continue to do so.

Meg Hillier (Hackney, South and Shoreditch) (Lab/Co-op): In my constituency we expect to see great investment in our area of the Olympic park, for which many Hackney residents are extremely grateful. We are already seeing investment in the burying of power lines, in the East London line—which is currently being built—and, from next November, an increased service on the North London line. I understand that none of that investment is in the Olympic funding envelope.

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Will my right hon. Friend tell me, and my constituents, what discussions she is having with agencies and other Departments about investment in jobs for the future, after the Olympics? That is one of the main concerns in my constituency.

Tessa Jowell: I pay tribute to the work that my hon. Friend has done for her constituents in making them aware of the potential benefits of the Olympics. She is also right to draw attention to the extent of investment in 2012, beyond any Olympic funding package. During that period, the eyes of the world will be on London and the United Kingdom. Both London and the United Kingdom more widely will benefit from expenditure decisions—whether in the private sector or by local government and other public bodies—enabling new projects, such as the investment in London’s transport infrastructure, to be completed in time for 2012.

Slave Trade

6. Sarah McCarthy-Fry (Portsmouth, North) (Lab/Co-op): If she will make a statement on Government support for commemorations of the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. [109412]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): As the Prime Minister's statement on 27 November made clear, the Government fully support plans to commemorate the 2007 bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade. The Deputy Prime Minister's advisory group on the bicentenary is due to meet tomorrow to discuss plans, which include a wide range of national and community-based events in museums, archives and other cultural organisations.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I was in Ghana in September and I visited the Cape Coast slavery centre where the full horror of that shameful episode in our history hit home. May I draw the Minister’s attention to what the United Nations has referred to as modern-day slavery? Bonded labour affects about 27 million people around the world. Does the Minister have any plans to raise awareness of that while we commemorate the 200th anniversary of legislation to abolish slavery?

Mr. Lammy: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. As I am sure she knows, the Deputy Prime Minister met Kofi Annan and, during their discussions, they talked about what slavery has meant for Africa and the Caribbean nations. That is why a UN resolution has been introduced. I am pleased about the work that the community in Hull has done with Ghana as we prepare for next year. My hon. Friend is right to focus on the awful trade that is happening now. As she knows, colleagues in the Home Office are clear about redoubling their efforts in relation to human trafficking, and we have a new centre dedicated to bringing together all the work on it. She will also be aware of the work of Anti-Slavery International to highlight that throughout next year. She is right that there is a serious problem throughout the country that we must all redouble our efforts to deal with.

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Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): Public opinion on the slave trade would not have been changed as early as it was without the meticulous research and lifelong campaigning of Thomas Clarkson of Wisbech in my constituency. While the bicentenary celebrations rightly focus on the parliamentary efforts of William Wilberforce and his connection with Hull, does the Minister agree that that should not be to the exclusion of other key abolitionists and their links to other constituencies?

Mr. Lammy: With close proximity to Peterborough, I am happy to put on record the work of the people of Wisbech, and particularly Thomas Clarkson who, alongside Wilberforce and people such as Equiano and Ignatio Sancho, did a lot to bring the impact of the slave trade to the attention of the people of that era. Thomas Clarkson was certainly a key figure in that movement.

Underlying what the hon. Gentleman said—and why next year is so important—is that supporting the clamour for the abolition of the slave trade were many ordinary men and women who petitioned, marched and boycotted in towns and villages throughout the country, and it is right that they should be remembered. Many Christian people were involved in that, particularly Quakers, who led the fight many years before others had caught on to it.

Kerry McCarthy (Bristol, East) (Lab): Bristol welcomes the support that the Government have given to its efforts to commemorate Abolition 2000, including the £770,000 that the Heritage Lottery Fund recently gave to the British Empire and Commonwealth museum for a two-year exhibition. On 5 December, Bristol city council passed a motion calling for a national African remembrance day, similar to the holocaust memorial day, to be commemorated in August each year. What discussions are taking place at Government level about whether we should have such a national day of remembrance?

Mr. Lammy: I am aware of the work that has been going on in Bristol, and I am grateful for all that my hon. Friend has been doing to lead and steer some of that work and also to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has given grants amounting to more than £21 million to organisations large and small across the country. Discussions about that memorial day continue. She will understand that there are differences of opinion about whether the date should be the one in August or the March date. We continue to talk to the members of the advisory group about that, and I think that that debate must continue into next year.

BBC (Live Music)

7. Mr. Michael Fallon (Sevenoaks) (Con): If she will meet the chairman of the BBC to discuss the promotion of live music. [109413]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): Although the Secretary of State meets the chairman of the BBC from time to time, matters of editorial policy are of course solely a matter for the BBC.

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Mr. Fallon: Is the Minister aware of the extraordinary proposal to cut drastically the broadcasting of live concerts on Radio 3, which could affect a number of classical concerts, especially those put on in the regions? Is this not yet another example of cultural dumbing down that will reduce listener choice, and where is the accountability in this regard?

Mr. Woodward: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that, today, the BBC’s conditions for Radio 3 were published by the BBC Trust, two of which it is essential that he recognise. First, 50 per cent. of Radio 3’s music output each year will consist of live or specially recorded music; secondly, it must broadcast at least 500 live or specially recorded performances each year. That is a noble objective for the BBC, which safeguards the situation that the hon. Gentleman is worried about.

John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): I hear what my hon. Friend is saying, but he will be aware that, during consideration of the Communications Bill, it was agreed that a significant amount of live music would be played on the radio, and to me, “significant” means a lot more than the amount that he has been describing. Can he have a word with the BBC about regional live music in particular? It is all very well saying that so many concerts are being broadcast and so much live music is being played, but we want to hear it out in the regions, and to hear local and ethnic music being played on the BBC.

Mr. Woodward: Again, I entirely appreciate my hon. Friend’s concerns about regional music, but if I may, I shall give one more instance. The BBC has published a number of commitments to live music for 2006-07. For example, Radio 1 will broadcast a minimum of 250 new sessions and “Live Lounge” performances.

Anne Milton (Guildford) (Con): There is considerable confusion about the rules and guidance on live music in the Licensing Act 2003 affecting the BBC and many smaller live music events. I understand that a 73-page simplification plan from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport acknowledges the need to clarify the situation, citing carol singing as an example. Does the Minister acknowledge the absurdity of reviewing live music guidance after Christmas, rather than sorting it out before the festive season? I know that Christmas comes earlier each year, but perhaps he could tell us whether he is aware of any carol singing events planned for this March.

Mr. Woodward: In the Christmas spirit, may I suggest to the hon. Lady that these issues were resolved last year through the 2003 Act? The live music study, which is indeed a significant document, was published last week, on 7 December, and is available for her to read. On carol singing, I would always be happy to go carol singing with the hon. Lady, and as she knows there are many venues where no licence is required.

Olympic Games

8. Jeremy Wright (Rugby and Kenilworth) (Con): When the revised budget for the London 2012 Olympics will be published. [109414]

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The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): The budget for the Olympic games will be agreed as early as possible next year, when the work under way on a number of outstanding issues, including security, contingency and tax, has been finished.

Jeremy Wright: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer. She will know that the last two Olympic games had cost overruns of more than 100 per cent. Given those circumstances, is it not reasonable to expect further upward revisions of the Olympic budget? If that happens, and given that the national lottery fund is not inexhaustible—and if London taxpayers are not to be asked to pay more—will the Secretary of State guarantee that my constituents and others outside London will not see their taxes rise to pay for filling the gap?

Tessa Jowell: It is extraordinarily difficult to establish comparisons with other Olympic games, but I certainly have not seen any figures suggesting—particularly in relation to Sydney—that the cost overrun exceeded 100 per cent. The confusion arises because of what is included under Olympic costs, which is why, when I talk about them, I refer not to the regeneration costs but specifically to the costs associated with the Olympic park. On the hon. Gentleman’s second question, there is a memorandum of understanding on how the financing of the Olympic project remains secure and costs are rigorously and continuously controlled, and the Government’s work on the issue has been heavily informed by advice from KPMG.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): My right hon. Friend knows that not all the Olympic events will take place in the Olympic park. Rowing, for example, will take place on the borders of my constituency. Can she ensure that the budget covers the build-up to the events for constituencies in far-flung areas such as mine?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is right about the importance of that and I can assure her that it is being taken full account of in the planning both by the local organising committee and by the nations and regions group, which is considering how to maximise the benefit across the country. The benefit is maximised if one plans early, and that is what we are doing.

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