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Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): May I first strongly endorse the trenchant remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant)? I also strongly welcome the Prime Minister’s statement this week that state funding for the arts is of fundamental importance. Although the Minister has said that funding has increased under Labour—and there is no question about that—we are still well behind the continent of Europe in that respect. Will he look further to those comparisons and fight for higher funding for the longer term?

Mr. Lammy: We are not behind continental Europe in terms of quality. It has always been the case in this country that there is a partnership between subsidy for the Arts Council, revenue that individual theatres can make—we have seen an increase in cafés and other facilities—and corporate investment. It is important that that partnership continues so that we see real health in the sector. When I have spoken to theatre directors and others, they have said that some of our friends in continental Europe are not seeing quite the quality that we have here, which is why we are picking up the awards. I hear what my hon. Friend says about public subsidy and our investment. He is right that we in government are very proud of the investment that we have been able to make in regional theatres.

Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): The Royal and Derngate theatre in Northampton has recently faced a financial crisis, which I am happy to say has been resolved. However, the crisis stemmed from the subsidy provided by the local authority to the theatre. I recognise that there is Government subsidy for the Arts Council, but what recent discussions has the Minister had with his opposite number in the Department for Communities and Local Government to look into the threat to local theatres posed by the growing pressure on local authority budgets?

Mr. Lammy: Spending on the arts by local authorities is £3 billion. I have spoken to my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, North (Ms Keeble), who also raised this issue with me. It is an issue and it is a great shame, because I have to say that the money that the Arts Council has put into the theatre—and the new investment, which is only months old—has been absolutely at the centre of regeneration in Northampton. It is a matter of great regret that the local borough has decided to withdraw funds in the way that it has suggested, but I know that discussions are ongoing, particularly with the county council. The Arts Council continues to support that theatre, which has been in receipt of many millions of pounds in the last few years. I hope, particularly for the people of Northampton and the wider east England area, that we can reach a satisfactory outcome.

Mr. Siôn Simon (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): Will the Minister take a look at the missing middle strand of theatre in Birmingham? We have excellent professional productions and a thriving amateur dramatics sector, but a definite lack in the middle. More arts centre space needs to be devoted to theatre, so that people are not reliant on the enthusiastic vicar and the kindly teacher for the sort of infrastructure that we need if we are to give access to theatre for
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future generations of the kind of people who do not necessarily go to the big productions or get involved with am-dram.

Mr. Lammy: I will discuss that with the regional team at the Arts Council. The creative partnerships in the midlands are important in taking into the community the work of the obviously very successful theatre in Birmingham. That work is going on, but I am happy to look at it further.

Olympic Games

5. Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): If she will make a statement on progress with support to improve the performance of athletes for future Olympic games. [124565]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell): I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate our athletes who performed so well at the European indoor athletics championship. I am particularly sure that my hon. Friend will want to congratulate Phillips Idowu, his constituent, who won the gold medal in men’s triple jump, together with Jason Gardener, Nicola Sanders, and the men’s 4x400 relay team, Robert Tobin, Dale Garland, Phil Taylor and Steve Green. In a way, that is the answer to my hon. Friend’s question. This time, we topped the medal table in the European championships; two years ago, we finished sixth.

An elite performance is going from strength to strength. Why? Because of the extra investment—the extra £300 million that is being promised—and the outstanding training facilities, such as the Lee Valley athletics centre in my hon. Friend’s constituency, which he opened with me only a short time ago and which was built on time and on budget.

Mr. Love: I thank my right hon. Friend for stealing all my thunder, but I will obviously add my congratulations, specifically on the 10 medals won by our team over the weekend. Of course my right hon. Friend mentions the fact that, in January of this year, she came to my constituency to open the new high-performance centre at Picketts Lock. That is the only six-lane indoor facility in the south of England, so when will she expand that facility? More importantly, when will we see facilities of a similar nature in other parts of the country?

Tessa Jowell: As my hon. Friend knows, a large 80,000-seat stadium will be built just down the road from the Lee Valley athletics centre at the heart of the Olympic park for the 2012 Olympics. On the strength of that, he will also be aware that in the nine regions of the country, under the auspices of the English Institute of Sport, facilities are being upgraded and improved. We have already had a list of some of the great centres in Bath, in Sheffield and in the sports city in Manchester, all of which offer specialist facilities to improve the performance of our best athletes. That shows that, if we combine investment with top-class facilities, we get gold medals.

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Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): Although I welcome the Government’s programme to trawl for Olympic talent in many of the deprived and poor areas of the country, the Secretary of State will be aware that world-class talent is, in itself, class blind. What reassurance can she give to the House that any child or any young person who lives anywhere in the country who might have the ability to win a gold medal at future Olympic games will have their talent picked up and nurtured?

Tessa Jowell: The intention is that the opportunity is available to every child—including, I stress, children who are disabled—and an increasing proportion of our talented athletes are coming via disability sports.

Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): Of course, much of the attention is on the Olympic games, but not so much is on the Paralympic games. I wonder whether the Minister could think about creating a fund for local authorities that have no disabled facilities, such as Kent county council, which is the largest authority in England. One of the ways of doing that would be to challenge the Treasury on the 12p in the pound tax that it takes from lottery tickets. What we need most of all is to get our disabled athletes to be as good as the Chinese disabled athletes, or better than them, for 2012.

Tessa Jowell: I take seriously what my hon. Friend says and ask him and the House to note that, in the run-up to Beijing, the funding available for Paralympians has doubled. For the Beijing games, UK Sport is supporting 23 Paralympic sports. That is an increase of eight over the number supported in Athens. It is that fundamental commitment to make sure that the Paralympics, Paralympians and disabled athletes have every equal opportunity with able-bodied athletes that will produce the results that we all want.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): I thank the Secretary of State for the much-deserved praise of the sporting facilities in Bath. I join her in welcoming what the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced last year: additional funding for elite athletes. But does she recognise that part of that announcement by the Chancellor was for £100 million to come from private sponsorship? Does she accept that little or no work has been done in preparing to raise that money, and will it not be particularly difficult, bearing in mind the National Audit Office’s recent comments, that private sponsorship for sport will be increasingly difficult given the uncertainty over the Olympic budget? When are we going to have a finalised budget for the Olympics?

Tessa Jowell: It is categorically not the case that, as the hon. Gentleman said, not very much if anything has been done. There are discussions in train between potential private sector partners and UK Sport. I also remind him— [ Interruption. ] If he would like to hear the answer, I remind him that the money does not come on stream and will not be required until after the Beijing games. As with every other aspect of Olympic planning, this aspect is on time, taking account of the fact that we all have to be ready for the opening ceremony in five years’ time.

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Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is quite right about continuing. I hope that she will continue the pressure to ensure that our elite athletes can get to the Olympics and win recognition. Surely she recognises that the prize is not just a gold medal; it is what the athletes do for the status of the clubs that they come from and the part that they play in their community as role models. They send a signal back to every youngster that, with determination and support, they too can get there.

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for that. He is absolutely right. That is why one of the important developments of recent years has been the willingness and the enthusiasm of so many of our lottery-funded athletes to go into schools, work with local clubs and provide precisely the kind of leadership and powerful role modelling that young people want.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): I associate the Conservative side of the House with the Secretary of State’s remarks regarding the success of our athletes in the indoor championships. She has just confirmed that no progress at all has been made in raising the £100 million of private money of the £300 million that the Chancellor alluded to more than a year ago. Can she further inform the House what kind of progress is being made in those negotiations, or is this just another case of press-release politics?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman fails to listen and then thinks that he can assert his view as fact if he stands at the Dispatch Box and shouts. With great respect, I have just given the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster) an answer to that question and I made it absolutely clear that there are discussions between potential private sector partners and UK Sport and that all that is timely, because the money is not needed until after the Beijing games. When it is needed, it will be in place.

Mr. Swire: Is that not yet another example of the Chancellor’s incompetence when it comes to money and the Olympics? It was the Chancellor who signed off the Secretary of State’s budget, which is now two or three times the original figure. It was the Chancellor who announced in the Daily Mail that he would get the nation fit for the Olympics, but who has not produced an extra penny to fund them, and the Chancellor who is now contemplating another devastating attack—

Hon. Members: He’s reading!

Mr. Speaker: Order. It is all right for Front Benchers to read. They need a bit more assistance than Back Benchers.

Mr. Swire: The Chancellor is contemplating another raid on the lottery to pay for his incompetence. Surely it is not the performance of elite athletes in 2012 that we should worry about, but the performance of the Chancellor, which is seriously undermining the credibility of the Olympics.

Tessa Jowell: Mr. Speaker, you were very kind to the hon. Gentleman, who needs as much help as he can get. The House should beware when he starts shouting,
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because there was no substance whatever in what he had to say. The plan to raise money for elite sport from the private sector, agreed as part of the elite sports funding agreement, is under way. It will be negotiated, and will be in place when it is ready.

Ticket Touts (Sporting Events)

6. John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): What steps her Department is taking to tackle ticket touts for sporting events; and if she will make a statement. [124566]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): Ticket touting is a serious issue affecting sporting events and other major cultural events. We are working closely with the industries in a series of summits, and with the public, to achieve a clampdown on touting.

John Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer, but ticket touting in sporting events has been going on for practically as long as I can remember. Given our application to host the World cup, and given that we have secured the Olympics, it has become a very serious issue. Is he aware of what happened last Thursday, when concert tickets for Take That went on sale? Before they even went on sale, websites were advertising tickets at twice their face value, and within 20 minutes of the tickets going on sale, they were being sold on eBay for well over double their value. Is it not time that the Government did something about ticket touting, and made sure that the people who do it end up in jails—the new ones that we are going to build?

Mr. Woodward: My hon. Friend makes some very important points, but it is also important for hon. Members to consider the consumer evidence that we received recently, which asked the Government to be proportionate in their interventions. That is not to say that there should not be good practice. As a result of that evidence, we have been working with both the primary industry and the secondary industry, and at the end of the year there will be additional EU legislation clamping down on the practices about which my hon. Friend is concerned. Our dialogue is ongoing, and we are intent on clamping down on gross ticket touting.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): This year, the T in the Park festival has had to limit ticket sales to two per person to try to beat ticket touting, and I understand that Michael Eavis is considering photo ID registration to try to beat the ticket touts at Glastonbury. Why is it being left to the music industry to try to address the problem? Surely the Government should be doing more to protect music fans from touting.

Mr. Woodward: The hon. Gentleman makes an important point, but it is also important to remember that, in their evidence, the public told us that they want the reaction to be proportionate, and they do not want the Government to over-intervene. Where it is fair, members of the public want to be able to sell on tickets themselves. He mentioned Glastonbury and the photo experiment taking place there, and we will look into
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that. However, on the selling of T in the Park tickets, he should be aware that there were 80 items displayed on eBay, and that is out of the 40,000 tickets that were sold. We condemn the practice where it is wrong, but it is important to get a grip on the proportions of the problem, because it is only a minority who are involved in touting, albeit a minority whom we condemn.

Local Radio

7. Mr. Mark Hendrick (Preston) (Lab/Co-op): What steps she is taking to encourage and improve the provision of news and music by radio to local communities. [124567]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The Government have an active policy to promote local radio and local communities, through both local independent radio and community radio.

Mr. Hendrick: Given what my hon. Friend says, is he as concerned as I am that the centralisation of the provision of news and music is becoming much more widespread, to the detriment of a local focus, particularly in news? That has certainly been the case in my constituency; because of centralisation, Rock FM in Preston has just lost 20 per cent. of its jobs to north-east England.

Mr. Woodward: My hon. Friend makes an important point. He has worked hard to bring jobs to his constituency and, indeed, to keep them there, so I know that he takes the loss of those jobs at the radio station personally. It is important to bear it in mind, however, that those are commercial decisions made by radio stations. The definition of localness for commercial radio stations is a matter for Ofcom. Its guidelines state:

Ofcom will, however, consider requests for co-location on a case-by-case basis. I accept the point made by my hon. Friend, and I am happy to follow it up if he wishes to write to me.

Licensing Act

8. Mr. Malcolm Moss (North-East Cambridgeshire) (Con): What assessment she has made of the effect of the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 on the performance of live music. [124568]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Shaun Woodward): The live music forum will produce its analysis in the next few weeks. Current evidence is anecdotal, but it none the less suggests a broadly neutral impact.

Mr. Moss: According to the MORI research commissioned by the Minister’s Department, only 60 per cent. of smaller venues that previously offered live music were given licences under the Licensing Act 2003, many of which have expensive conditions attached. Will the Minister tell the House what proportion of that group implemented the conditions?
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If he cannot do so, does that not render the statistics worthless, and what is the value of the Department’s boast that the Act is good for live music?

Mr. Woodward: As the hon. Gentleman knows—he takes a keen interest in this area, which we welcome—the research published in December looked at 2,000 small establishments. It discovered that in only 3 per cent. of cases the new licensing requirements were a deterrent. From the anecdotal evidence, however, the impact appears to be broadly neutral, although it may be better than that. The hon. Gentleman will know that we are conducting a detailed analysis, which we will publish later. He should remember that the new process means that there is only one application, one fee and no renewals. The additional bonus is that local residents, who were seriously affected in the past by live music, now have a say, which is important.

Anne Milton (Guildford) (Con): I wonder whether the Minister is aware that over 38,000 people have signed the Downing street petition on live music. What comfort can he give that ever-growing body of people? Does he agree with the person who was recently reported in the press as saying that whoever dreamt up Downing street petitions was—and I quote with apologies, Mr. Speaker—“a prat”?

Mr. Woodward: We absolutely agree with the 30,000 people who rightly do not want music and dance to be restricted by burdensome licensing regulations. If the hon. Lady looks at the changes, she will see that there is one application process and one fee, with no renewals. Inconsistent fees, which were often excessive, and the standard book of conditions have been removed, and the fact that 63 per cent. of venues have either obtained a music licence or put on live music via other means shows that the Act is working. In a survey, 55 per cent. of people said that they found the process easy, although I admit that 25 per cent. found it hard. We will work to improve the system—we believe that it has already been improved—and we will take very seriously the evidence submitted in the next few weeks to see whether there are more improvements to be made.

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