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Arts Funding

8. Mary Creagh (Wakefield) (Lab): What discussions she has had with the Treasury on the financial settlement for the arts in the 2007 comprehensive spending review. [111459]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. David Lammy): Discussions on the comprehensive spending review are still under way.

Mary Creagh: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. [Laughter.] I am sure that there is more to come.

I was at an Arts Council training event in Bradford last Monday, with representatives of a variety of west Yorkshire-based arts organisations, who were extremely concerned about the 2007-08 spending review. May I ask the Minister to make the point, when he has discussions with our right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that investment in the arts brings social regeneration, tourism, job creation and community pride, and that a pound spent on the arts is a pound well spent?

Mr. Lammy: I thank my hon. Friend for that and make it clear that, across the House, we all understand the real contribution that arts and culture have made to regeneration throughout the country. If we look at cities such as Newcastle, Manchester, Glasgow—

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The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): Sheffield.

Mr. Lammy: And Sheffield. If we consider such cities, the arts have made a tremendous contribution, as they have in schools, with creative partnerships touching the lives of many young people. I hope that it is understood, and certainly we continue to make the case to colleagues in the Treasury, that the work that we have been doing over the past few years has huge benefits throughout the country.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Is the Minister aware that the British Library, for one, is acutely concerned about its future? Will he give the House an assurance that he will fight hard to ensure that the greatest library in the world is not jeopardised by a very miserly settlement such as is being threatened at the moment?

Mr. Lammy: The hon. Gentleman is right: the British Library is a No. 1 institution in the world. It has made huge efforts over the past few years to modernise; it has been pivotal in the digital revolution that we are experiencing in this country and in ensuring that all the records in its keep are online for people not only in this country, but throughout the world. It has been very helpful in our negotiations with the Treasury and has provided us with very useful information. I am pleased to be going to the British Library on Wednesday.

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): Last Friday, I visited the Wilbury Way primary school in my constituency to see the work being carried out by creative partnerships: a partnership between primary schools and community arts organisations to develop learning among young people. Will my hon. Friend do everything that he can to persuade the Chancellor of the efficacy of such arts projects, which provide learning opportunities to our youngest pupils?

Mr. Lammy: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. The Chancellor has been able to see the Ofsted report on creative partnerships, which demonstrated that the programme is not just successful in relation to the arts but in increasing attainment across the school curriculum because of the benefits provided by creativity. My hon. Friend spotlights a programme that is valued in the schools in which it operates, which are mostly in deprived areas. That programme has touched the lives of pupils in more than 3,000 schools across the country.

Internet Gambling

9. Dr. John Pugh (Southport) (LD): What progress has been made on measures to regulate internet gambling; and if she will make a statement. [111460]

The Minister for Sport (Mr. Richard Caborn): From September 2007, the Gambling Act 2005 will introduce one of the world’s strictest licensing regimes for remote gambling. New provisions include a duty on operators to act in a socially responsible way. On 31 October 2006, the Government hosted an international summit for more than 30 jurisdictions, and the process of establishing international standards is now under way.
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There was widespread agreement on further co-operation in several key areas to ensure that gambling remains fair, and that the vulnerable and all those who gamble are protected.

Dr. Pugh: I thank the Minister for that response. But given the addictive nature of the internet and internet gambling in particular, will the Government keep under review the possibility of credit card restrictions, which exist in some countries?

Mr. Caborn: Yes, we considered that issue in our discussions on both national and international regulation. I could not concur more with the hon. Gentleman. This country now has 60 million television sets; 14 million households are connected to the internet; and, on average, we all have a mobile phone. All of those are now platforms for gambling, and that is why it is so important that the legislation comes into effect by 1 September. Those platforms are seeing the real growth in gambling, and the vulnerable people who need to be protected are among their users.

Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): What power does my right hon. Friend have over offshore internet sites, and what power would he like to exercise over them?

Mr. Caborn: We have no power other than our ability to stop those sites advertising in this country. We now have a white list, and those who want to operate in the United Kingdom must comply with its conditions: that we can have access to the information; that their licensing regime is robust and transparent; and the three core conditions, which are that their operation is crime-free, that it looks after the vulnerable, including children, and that it ensures people a fair bet. If they comply with those requirements and are open to scrutiny, they can operate here, but they must be on the white list.

Church Commissioners

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—

Church Repairs (VAT)

18. Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): What assessment the commissioners have made of the impact of VAT on repairs to church buildings which are not listed. [111469]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell): Parish estimates indicate that in 2003, the latest year for which we have figures, the estimated cost of major repairs required to the 4,000 unlisted Church of England churches was £50 million. At the full rate, VAT of £8.75 million would be charged on those works, if they were carried out.

Angela Watkinson: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his reply, as he will understand the enormous burden on congregations of ordinary churches of trying to raise the large sums of money necessary to maintain
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their buildings and grounds. My church happens to be on a corner, so members of the public, as well as members of he church, take a short cut through the grounds, and last year our pathways needed to be relaid. When VAT was added to the bill, it came to the enormous sum of £45,000, which is very difficult to raise. As he will understand, the burden of VAT on such small numbers of people is extremely onerous.

Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for making that point. The listed places of worship grant scheme, introduced by the Chancellor in 2001, has paid out more than £42 million to English churches. I recognise the difficulty for unlisted churches, and in “Building faith in our future” we asked for a fresh funding partnership between the church and state. As I have said many times in the House, those who have ears, let them hear.

Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): The hon. Gentleman will be conscious that unlisted buildings usually come after listed buildings in the pecking order, and listed buildings are very dependent on grant from English Heritage, which, over the past few years, has had an increase of just a miserly 3 per cent. in its budget. Presumably, he answers questions because he is part of the Government, so when he negotiates the settlement for English Heritage with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will he lobby the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy), who is at the Dispatch Box, and say that English Heritage needs a much greater chunk of cash to help our churches—

Mr. Speaker: Order. That is far too wide of the question.

Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful for your protection, Mr. Speaker.

In relation to grant money, we have a new memorials grant scheme, which has paid out more than £190,000 in England since this time last year. On the question of lobbying the heritage fund and the appropriate Department, that is done mercilessly and without ceasing, and, one hopes, at the end of the day, with some results.

Electoral Commission Committee

The hon. Member for Gosport, representing the Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—

Voting Age

20. Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): What further research the commission is considering into the social and political awareness of those at or near the current minimum voting age in relation to proposals to reduce that age. [111471]

Peter Viggers (Gosport): I am informed by the Electoral Commission that no such further research is currently planned.

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Bob Spink: The vast majority of 16 and 17-year-olds are decent, caring and responsible youngsters who have complex and important decisions to make about their careers and education, and they pay taxes and can join the services. They have a bigger stake in democracy than any of us in the House. Does my hon. Friend agree that we should not be afraid of trusting them with the vote? Will he ask the commission to drive the issue up the agenda?

Peter Viggers: That is ultimately a matter for the Government. I recall that on a previous occasion, my hon. Friend asked whether there could be a discussion about that during the passage of the Electoral Administration Bill, and there was indeed such a discussion. At that point, the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs, said:

My understanding is that that remains the Government’s view.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): It is my impression that as citizenship is being taught in schools, the rising generation know a lot more about the electoral system than their predecessors and their parents. However, one thing they lack is a philosophical understanding of the differences between the various political views. Will the hon. Gentleman recommend that some component of philosophy be built into citizenship studies so that young people know what they are voting on as well as how to vote?

Peter Viggers: The commission is concerned about that and it is happening. It has said that the developments in citizenship education and new research information may lead to different conclusions over time. Its position is that it stated in 2004 that it would undertake a further review of the issue within seven years, but it will need to consider whether that remains appropriate in the light of any changes to its mandate following the recent report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life.

Church Commissioners

The hon. Member for Middlesbrough, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—


21. Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): How many (a) male and (b) female priests were ordained by the Church of England in the last year for which figures are available. [111473]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell): Two hundred and sixty seven men and 238 women were ordained in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available.

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Robert Key: Will the hon. Gentleman meet me either here or in Church house to discuss ways in which we can improve the collection and updating of church statistics, which are a little less forthcoming than we might hope for some of the complicated debates that we have? Notwithstanding that, the figures that he gave are remarkable. They are up 100 in a decade for the Church of England and compare remarkably with other figures of ordination for Great Britain in the last year for which they are available, when only 25 priests were ordained for the Roman Catholic Church.

Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for suggesting that we meet in Church house. As he knows, it will reopen in March, and that would be a good inaugural meeting.

I think that the Church would be amenable to any suggestion that we expand the information we provide, although clearly there are resourcing implications, which will need to be worked out. I shall, however, put the hon. Gentleman in touch with the relevant colleague at the Archbishops Council and together we will see how his point can be taken forward.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): As the hon. Member for Salisbury (Robert Key) observed, those are remarkable figures. What is particularly welcome is the near-parity between women and others who are ordained. Does my hon. Friend agree, however, that the future of our Church will depend increasingly on the availability of high-quality, committed non-stipendiary ministers? Of the 500 who were ordained, how many went into non-stipendiary posts and how many were to be paid clergy?

Sir Stuart Bell: The number of ordinations rose from 493 in 2003 to, in fact, 505 in 2005. As the hon. Gentleman says, the number has increased. As for the non-stipendiary ministers, he should be aware that there are vocational events helping people to explore their calling. We hope that that will encourage people to come forward in the interests of the Church’s ministry and its administration.

Mr. Speaker: John Bercow.

John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): I was not standing, Mr. Speaker.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Of the total number ordained, how many applied for and were recruited to rural parishes, and what is the level of recruitment generally? Does the hon. Gentleman share my concern, and the concern in rural communities, about the number of rural parishes that are having to “double up” when there is only one parish priest looking after three or four parishes?

Sir Stuart Bell: I do not know the exact recruitment figure, but I shall be happy to relay it to the hon. Lady. I know of her concern about the ministry in rural areas, which her question reflects. The Church recognises that worshipping congregations are at the heart of rural life and it seeks to appoint a stipendiary, resident priest where possible, but as the hon. Lady
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knows, it is not always possible. That it why it is sometimes difficult to attract stipendiary clergy into rural areas.


22. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): What advice is given by the commissioners to cathedral chapters on programmes to encourage non-worshippers to use cathedral spaces. [111474]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Sir Stuart Bell): As the hon. Gentleman knows, such programmes are arranged locally, but the commissioners are aware that there are all kinds of initiatives to encourage as many people as possible to visit our cathedrals and appreciate their special significance.

Michael Fabricant: My hon. Friend has been, at my invitation, to the Lichfield festival of the arts, which is held mainly in Lichfield cathedral. I know that he has also been to a number of other non-worshipping events in the cathedral. He says, rightly, that it is up to local communities to decide what they can do, but can there not be a sharing of knowledge between cathedrals and churches about what they do? Are not the Church Commissioners the ideal fountain to pool such information and disseminate it to all bodies?

Sir Stuart Bell: I am grateful for that excellent suggestion. I agree that there ought to be a body to co-ordinate the work of the cathedral chapters, provide a benchmark and pass on information.

As the hon. Gentleman said, I have visited Lichfield. I know that it has many visitors, and that some may participate in worship and some may not. The fact that people visit at all is greatly encouraging, and if they do worship in the Christian faith, so much the better.

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