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James Purnell: I understand my hon. Friend’s concern. Indeed, she has campaigned strongly and effectively on the importance of the creative industries in Plymouth. Plymouth has one of the fastest-growing creative industry sectors in the country, so the campaigning is clearly paying dividends. That further underlines the vital role of our public service broadcasters as anchors of production throughout our country.

Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that the broadcasting regulatory system is failing to work properly? What happened with quiz shows and competitions at BBC, ITV and Channel 4 over the summer clearly breached the broadcasting code. Yet that did not stop producers at all those channels contravening the code. What will the right hon. Gentleman do to make the broadcasting regulatory system work more effectively?

James Purnell: I agree that what happened was unacceptable. It is unacceptable for people to be cheated out of their money and for millions of phone calls to be made when people could not win. I have confidence in Ofcom and the way in which it is tackling the issue proactively. However, I have asked it to advise the House on whether the regulatory regime is robust enough. If the hon. Gentleman has any suggestions to make to that review, we would be happy to hear them.

Mr. Hunt: Is not the point that, if broadcasters have to be fined huge amounts of money, the system has already failed because viewers’ trust has been compromised? Rather than more regulation, does the Secretary of State agree that we need better observance of existing regulations before trust in broadcasting is further eroded?

James Purnell: Clearly, that is important, but the issue is so serious that we should not simply rely on that cultural change. We should also consider whether the regulatory regime is robust enough, especially the boundaries between the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services—ICSTIS—which is now Phonepay Plus, and Ofcom, and make sure that we have the right approach to ensure that the problem does not happen again.

Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend consider the impact, especially of staffing cuts, on BBC West Midlands, whether television or radio?

James Purnell: We have a well-established tradition in this country of the BBC being independent of Government. It would therefore be wrong for me to tell it where to employ its staff. We have given the BBC a fair and stable settlement, which provides a good platform for succeeding in the digital age.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that, in future, the BBC needs to do far less and that it should concentrate on providing public service media content where there is market failure?

James Purnell: I do not agree with the implication in the hon. Gentleman’s question that the BBC should retreat to a public service ghetto. That happens in America and is not the right way forward for us. The
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BBC’s task has always been to make the popular good and the good popular. That should remain its challenge in the 10 years to come.

Arts Funding

5. Sarah McCarthy-Fry (Portsmouth, North) (Lab/Co-op): What the change has been in the level of arts funding since 1997. [161002]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): Funding for the arts has already increased by 73 per cent. in real terms—up from £186 million in 1997-98 to £412 million this year. The Government have shown strong and consistent support for the arts. Earlier this month, we announced that, over the next three years, the Arts Council will receive a funding increase of 3.3 per cent. above inflation, taking it to £467 million in 2010-11.

Sarah McCarthy-Fry: I thank my right hon. Friend for that response. Dot to Dot is a community arts organisation that operates in a deprived part of my constituency. Its members are currently making costumes for the Hallowe’en happening for which I shall join them on Wednesday. Local people have also designed my Christmas card, which will go out to constituents this year. Does my right hon. Friend agree that funding such arts projects does a great deal for social regeneration in deprived areas and promotes community cohesion?

Margaret Hodge: Of course I agree with my hon. Friend that the funding of community arts projects not only raises the profile of the arts in her area but adds to community cohesion and regeneration. I am glad to see that the Arts Council’s funding has now gone up in Portsmouth, and that more than £250,000 goes to arts organisations in her area.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): I welcome any increase in the funding for the arts, not just in London but throughout the United Kingdom, and it is important that the arts are used as a showpiece for people visiting this country. Is it not therefore a shame that the Government have cut back on the grant to VisitBritain, thereby perhaps denying people abroad the opportunity of knowing what this country has to offer?

Margaret Hodge: I see the rather tenuous link between the issue of VisitBritain and this question. I would say to the hon. Gentleman in all seriousness that the way in which we attract visitors to the UK is partly through the heritage opportunities that are available, and partly through the arts and cultural opportunities. The increase in funding that we have been able to put into the arts and culture—and the opportunities that we will have to implement our commitment to the cultural Olympiad in particular—will improve the offer to visitors to this country.

Seaside and Coastal Towns (Heritage)

6. Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the role of heritage in regenerating seaside and coastal towns; and if he will make a statement. [161003]

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The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): English Heritage has carried out a detailed assessment showing how investment in heritage can support the regeneration of seaside and coastal towns. I welcome the publication of that report, which I understand was launched at a heritage conference in Hastings at which my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, South (Mr. Marsden) was present. We are working with colleagues across government to see how we can best respond to the challenges facing some of our seaside and coastal towns.

Mr. Marsden: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply and, indeed, for the consistent interest that she has shown in seaside and coastal towns. The conference at which I was present, along with my hon. Friends the Members for Hastings and Rye (Michael Jabez Foster) and for Milton Keynes, South-West (Dr. Starkey), made exactly those points. We in Blackpool have already benefited from a £50,000 feasibility study grant for the new theatre museum that we are anxious to see established. May I, however, press my right hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to see whether there are further ways in which heritage, which is a key issue in relation to regenerating seaside and coastal towns, might be supported and funded by the Department?

Margaret Hodge: I congratulate my hon. Friend on the consistent hard work that he has done to ensure that the regeneration of seaside and coastal towns has been kept at the forefront of the Government’s concerns. He does not have to press me very hard on this. I know the importance to Blackpool of this type of opportunity, and we are examining every opportunity that we can think of—whether in arts and culture or in heritage—to try to help the regeneration of his constituency.

Mr. Douglas Carswell (Harwich) (Con): Coastal towns such as Clacton-on-Sea in my constituency desperately need some sort of regeneration. What specific advice can the Minister give to local authorities to ensure that they help to deliver that regeneration?

Margaret Hodge: One of the ways in which English Heritage has worked well in the past—and which we want to explore further in the future—has involved giving some money to kick-start the regeneration in a particular coastal town, which brings in other public and private resources. I can give the hon. Gentleman some examples. In Great Yarmouth, £380,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund released £2 million of private sector investment in the area. In St. Annes, £121,000 of Heritage Lottery Fund released £3 million of public and private money. If local authorities were to look at this kind of partnership, they could go far with their regeneration projects. I have seen excellent examples throughout Great Britain of local authorities and heritage organisations finding a project that acts as a catalyst for regeneration in the area.

Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye) (Lab): My right hon. Friend is right to say that such a catalyst can often be found. In Hastings, the birthplace of television, the Baird project, run by Alastair Fairley and others, has recently brought jobs and opportunities to the town. Can the Minister suggest any funds that might be available to develop that kind of initiative?

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Margaret Hodge: My hon. Friend has recently written to me about his constituency and I am considering the contents of his letter as we speak. I am also examining what further funds we can bring to coastal towns to help with their regeneration. There are already funds such as the heritage lottery fund, and the regional development agencies have considerable resources that they can bring to bear in these circumstances. There are also the local authorities, as the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Carswell) pointed out. Corralling all those together, and encouraging private sector investment, is the way in which we can bring regeneration to our coastal towns.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): It seems that tourism is not a priority for this Government. The Minister will know that under this Government’s watch, more Britons are choosing to holiday abroad than ever before rather than going to our seaside towns, for example, and inbound visitor numbers are well below the international average. Does the Minister really believe that cutting VisitBritain’s budget—a subject that she has refused to touch on so far—effectively slowing the engines that power Britain’s fifth largest industry, is the way to maximise British tourism opportunities in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympics?

Margaret Hodge: The first thing is that the hon. Gentleman should get his facts right. The most recent figures for the three months up to August 2007 show an increase in the number of UK residents who choose to go abroad by 2 per cent.— [Interruption.]—sorry, I mean a decrease. Let us get it right; there has been a 2 per cent. decrease in the number choosing to go abroad. As to VisitBritain, we have asked for a strategic review of how we best use our resources to market the UK. Across the public sector, in excess of £350 million is being invested in marketing the UK. Some of it comes from VisitBritain, and a lot comes from regional development agencies and some from local authorities. We want to use that money smartly—and any responsible politician in a responsible Government would think it wholly appropriate to have a strategic review in order to ensure fit-for-purpose organisations for marketing the country at home and abroad.

Sandra Osborne (Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock) (Lab): The Minister will understand that I am very disappointed that the Ailsa Craig-Girvan gateway project in my constituency was turned down for living landmarks Big Lottery Fund money. She has already pointed out the important role that these projects can play in regenerating seaside towns. This was a genuine community-led project. Given the amount of time, resources and money put into developing a business plan, what advice would my right hon. Friend give that group for securing alternative sources of funding?

Margaret Hodge: I am not aware of the details of the project to which my hon. Friend refers, but I would be happy to meet her to discuss the details and see whether we can find a way forward and help her meet the interests of her community.

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National Museums and Galleries

7. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the effect of the Comprehensive Spending Review on national museums and galleries. [161004]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): I was delighted to announce on 12 October that grant-in-aid to our national museums and galleries will increase from £302 million this year to £332 million in 2010-11—an increase slightly above inflation. That investment in excellence means that free admission for all is guaranteed for a further three years.

Andrew Miller: My right hon. Friend should be congratulated on the assiduous way in which he negotiated the Department’s grant in the comprehensive spending review. May I ask him to focus his attention on the collection in the National Waterways museum and to use his good offices to ensure that the project continues in its three locations? The collections are defined by his own Department as being of national importance in their own contexts.

James Purnell: My hon. Friend has run a determined campaign on behalf of the museum in his constituency—and he was right to do so. I am delighted to be able to inform the House that, in addition to the extra funding already announced for national museums, we will continue to invest in our regional museums and galleries over the next three years with an inflation-proof settlement. That will mean that funding for the “renaissance in the regions” programme will increase from £45 million this year to more than £48.7 million in 2010-11. That will enable museums across England to revitalise their collections, reach new audiences and strengthen their educational work. As my hon. Friend noted, the National Waterways museum has a collection that has been designated as being of national importance. I hope that, in the light of the money that we are announcing today, the museum’s dialogue with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council will enable it to plan the future on a secure footing.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): I welcome the funding. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the north-east regional museums hub on its tremendous work not just on increasing visitor numbers but on cross-working between museums in the north-east? Will he assure me that its good work, and the lessons that are being learned from the hub, can be used in other regions throughout the UK?

James Purnell: Yes, that is exactly what we want to do. We want to learn from the hub areas and spread that knowledge around the country. My hon. Friend raised the issue of funding the “renaissance in the regions” programme at the last Question Time. I hope that he welcomes our announcement. As he says, the hub areas have had an important impact. The number of people visiting local and regional museums has, we think, gone up from about 8 million to 14 million. That is a huge achievement, thanks to all the people who have been involved in the local and regional work that has been possible.

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Seaside Resort Tourism

8. Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): If he will make a statement on the future of seaside resort tourism. [161005]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): My Department is committed to the future of all our seaside resorts. We are working with colleagues across Government to see how we can best respond to the challenges that some of them face. We will consider their future fully in the tourism strategic review that we have recently announced.

Mr. Sanders: Is not the answer here not just to help and develop tourism, but to look across Government at how we can bring together all the various regeneration pots of money and focus them on some of our larger seaside resorts that have had a poor show over the past 20 or 30 years? Will there be a commitment from the Government to do just that—to work across Government and focus support on coastal resort economies?

Margaret Hodge: I have an easy answer to that: I agree entirely with everything that the hon. Gentleman says. There is a commitment to work across Government in the way that he sets out.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked—

Diamond Jubilee

20. Andrew Rosindell (Romford) (Con): What preparations she has made to host the Olympics in a manner sympathetic to the Queen’s diamond jubilee in 2012. [160990] The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The combination of the Queen’s diamond jubilee and the Olympic games in 2012 was highly persuasive with the International Olympic Committee in awarding the bid to London. We are at the very early stages of discussion with the royal household, but meetings are held on a regular basis to make sure that every opportunity of the Olympics is taken to focus on the Queen’s diamond jubilee, and vice versa. I expect that the whole House will hope that the royal family will be one of the many families in this country that brings home a gold medal after the games.

Andrew Rosindell: I thank the Minister for her reply. Does she agree, however, that because the diamond jubilee will be a great national celebration, it is important that the Olympic games do not overshadow that historic landmark in our nation’s history? Does she also agree that millions of people who come for the Olympics in 2012 will appreciate the diamond jubilee celebrations and want to participate in them?

Tessa Jowell: There is absolutely no chance whatsoever that the Olympics will overshadow the diamond jubilee. When planning in the years up to that, we are determined
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to ensure that the diamond jubilee is a national celebration, followed by the Olympic games, which will be another national celebration.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): I am sure that nothing will be more sympathetic to the Queen than a good old patriotic fly-past. Will my right hon. Friend use this occasion to quash the ridiculous story that the Red Arrows have been barred from the opening ceremony of the Olympics?

Tessa Jowell: I can absolutely, unequivocally and categorically assure my hon. Friend that there is no truth whatsoever to that story. It was highly regrettable that in the face of the scale of denials from Lord Coe, who I understand took the trouble to e-mail every Member of Parliament, and the clear statement that there was no truth in the story, the party operation of the Opposition—Conservative central office—continued to try to get a campaign going. The important thing is that the Red Arrows—part of every national celebration—are also part of the Olympics. I want to see that happen.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Would the Minister care to substantiate the remark that she has just made and give us one shred of evidence that, somehow or other, it was the Opposition who perpetuated the myth about the Red Arrows? That is quite untrue; she is misled on that point. The Leader of the Opposition has gone to great lengths to ensure, through his noble Friend the Conservative peer Lord Coe, that the Red Arrows will play a leading part in the Olympics.

Tessa Jowell: On the basis that I am given an absolutely categorical assurance that no attempt was made at any stage by Opposition Members to blow up this campaign and to exploit what everybody knew to be untrue, I am prepared to let the matter lie. [ Interruption. ] I place on record that there is not and has never been any question of the Red Arrows somehow being prevented from taking part in the Olympic games opening ceremony. [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. Mr. Mackay, you are very fussy about the rules of the House, and you should apply them to yourself. Do not shout at the Minister when she is speaking. That is unfair.

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