Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80-99)|
MP AND MR
25 OCTOBER 2007
Q80 Mr Evans: To be honest, as I
say, I welcome it, but in the wording of it specifically it says
"up to five hours". That seems to be the maximum. I
prefer to see the minimum being five hours not the maximum.
James Purnell: There are only
so many hours in the week. I think five hours is quite ambitious.
There are things we want to do. We also want to give young people
the chance to develop their cultural activities in and outside
school as well. We are very clear that sport and culture are part
of living a good life and make a big difference to people's health
and their life chances. We want to make sure that everyone has
access to that.
Q81 Paul Farrelly: One of the very
welcome and possibly undersold government policies towards encouraging
children's sport has been the Community Amateur Sports Club scheme.
This week we launched a campaign to try to extend that scheme
to allow junior subscriptions to qualify for gift aid. That was
launched in the House this week cross party. So far only 4,500
of a possible 44,000 clubs have taken advantage of this scheme.
We have a part to play as MPs, Government and local authorities
as well. Mine has not really done anything on this and I shall
be trying to remedy that. What would really give the scheme a
boost would be if you, Secretary of State, could join us in persuading
your old friend the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Andy Burnham,
who is a mean footballer himself, to get the Treasury to come
to a quick conclusion that that scheme should be extended to encourage
more youngsters by giving the clubs the gift aid element of junior
subscriptions. Will you join us in that campaign?
James Purnell: I actually run
a sports club of which he is the striker, so I shall be able to
lobby him on the football pitch. Clearly this was an important
initiative and the fact that around about 10% of people have signed
up for it is good, though we would obviously like to be able to
do more and there are issues which we would be happy to examine
with you. There are also issues which people raise about disposals
and the effect that tax status has on that. We are happy to look
at those with you. Clearly tax policy is a matter for the Treasury
and not for us but we are happy to look at the representations
you want to make around that.
Q82 Alan Keen: Two members have already
paid tribute to the hon Member for Sittingbourne and Sheppey and
I recall that in one of the first debates we had on the Olympics
he said that it need not be within the M25. As the escalating
costs go up and up, do you not regret that we did not take his
advice and have the Olympics on the Isle of Sheppey?
James Purnell: Clearly it is a
world destination and would have been appropriate. I think the
IOC were clear that they thought London was the one with the greater
chance of success; not that the Isle of Sheppey would have had
no chance at all.
Alan Keen: It must have been touch and
Q83 Janet Anderson: As I think you
know, the arts world was delighted with the financial settlement
they got. I understand you have indicated that you would like
a move away from targets. Could you set out for us what you are
expecting from the arts world in return and why you have started
to signal a different approach?
James Purnell: The targets can
work very well when you are trying to change the direction of
an organisational change to deal with a growing problem. Targets
have been effective in moving the debate around excellence and
access on to the next stage. I remember back in 1997, when we
started talking about the importance of access and you and Chris
Smith were doing that, that there was a big debate about whether
it could be done. Some people said you could not widen access
without dumbing down and I think that argument has been won now.
You hear very few people who make that argument, the argument
of principle. It is now time to move on to a much more enabling
relationship with the Arts Council, but also with other NDPBs,
and rather than having crude top-down targets we should have a
relationship based on clear strategic priorities. It is then for
them to say how they think that should be met in detail and to
liaise with their funding organisations about how to achieve that.
In terms of the goals we have for them, as you know we have set
up the McMaster review to think about how excellence can be promoted
both by the way that we play our role, the way the Arts Council
does and the way the museums play their role. That is because
there is fantastic work going on in Britain. The arts in Britain
are world class but we are quite clear that we need to make sure
that can continue to be the case and we want to make sure the
funding and organisational framework is set up as best it can
be to support excellence in the arts and in culture and in museums
in this country. The sine qua non of funding has to be
that the work is excellent. That, I believe, far from being in
opposition to access, supports access and indeed there is a virtuous
circle between the two that excellent work stimulates people to
come in. If you want to have a continuing world-class arts infrastructure
in this country that means having large audiences which are hungry
for innovative work, hungry for excellent work and prepared to
take risk and to go to sample a wide range of work but also to
have people who are going to be coming through to be the stars,
directors, actors of tomorrow. That balance of having excellence
and access working hand in hand is the key strategic goal for
them going forward. It is just that I do not think that I should
be telling them how to do that in very great detail. I want to
free them up to work out with funded organisations how they achieve
Q84 Janet Anderson: You quite rightly
talk about promoting excellence and bringing on new talent. I
have two small regional theatres in my constituency, the Royal
Court in Bacup and the Millennium Theatre in Waterfoot where I
shall be launching the Bacup Film Festival on Saturday evening;
international of course. Neither of those theatres receives any
kind of public funding at all. Am I right that the Arts Council
is going to have a review of funding to regional theatres? What
do you think will be the emphasis which comes out of it?
James Purnell: Everyone pays for
the arts and everyone has the right to be able to access excellent
work. We do have the arm's-length principle in this country and
I am not going to start getting into saying which one they should
be funding and which one they should not. The principle is very
clear, which is that all regions of the country have the right
to be able to access really excellent work.
Q85 Mr Sanders: You mentioned earlier
the Cultural Olympiad. Everyone I speak to has a different idea
of what the Cultural Olympiad is actually about: arts, culture,
heritage, all three. Can you define for us what the Cultural Olympiad
James Purnell: There is a slightly
trite answer to that which is that eight objectives are set out
in the agreement with the IOC for the Cultural Olympiad and they
form part of the promises we made. That is the core of the Cultural
Olympiad. What we have been working on in the first few months
of meetings has been the overall spending framework and by providing
that uplift for museums and the arts we hope it will allow them
to contribute to the Cultural Olympiad. It clearly will not be
limited just to the work in those eight objectives: it will be
a whole range of people who want to do work in the run-up to the
Olympics and Olympic year which is culturally relevant. The thing
I was really keen to avoid was getting more money, keeping a bunch
of it back and making people bid for it and then only being able
to get money from us for the Cultural Olympiad or from local authorities
for the Cultural Olympiad. That would have been wrong. Instead,
what we have done is given people that money in their baseline,
given them a clear overall goal of contributing to the Cultural
Olympiad and it is for them to decide how they do that.
Q86 Mr Sanders: Presumably you want
value-added from this. Would you preclude an existing event, festival,
gathering of some nature that fitted into the theme set out, from
accessing any funding because they simply tweak what they are
doing and put five rings on it and call it an Olympiad event?
James Purnell: Not at all. It
is a slightly false distinction between existing work and additional
work. What we are doing is funding organisations to be able to
run themselves well and there is an opportunity with the Cultural
Olympiad to do work which benefits from the fact that people will
be coming here, using the themes of the Olympics and people far
more creative than I will be able to decide how to do that. We
also have these eight commitments in the Tier 2 projects, as it
is called in the jargon, which are the big national projects.
There are the opening and closing ceremonies which LOCOG are responsible
for. There is also a whole series of events which will be happening
in the regions under the so-called Tier 3 project. There will
be a wide range of events, local, regional, national and the ceremonies
themselves and I really think it is going to be one of the great
things about the Olympics. It will be a real sporting celebration
but also a cultural celebration.
Q87 Mr Sanders: I think everybody
agrees that it is a wonderful idea. There are fears that, for
example, something like the BBC Proms, in the run-up to the Olympics,
could market themselves as part of the Cultural Olympiad and access
funding which might otherwise have gone to funding a new music
festival somewhere else in the capital or outside. I just want
to know whether you will try to encourage more value-added, new
events, perhaps more diverse, perhaps at a more local level than
just looking at some of the national events which take place and
maybe seeing this as an opportunity to subsidise what they already
James Purnell: I think that is
a slightly false choice in the sense that we will be able to fund
local and regional events and indeed through the Legacy Trust
and the Tier 3 events there are plans to do exactly that. There
will also be national events and indeed one of the eight commitments
is for a festival of live music. I do not think we should say
the money should only go to an organisation which is not planning
to do an event already. Some of them will be entirely new events;
others will be museums putting on events which are part of their
normal course of exhibitions but which reflect Olympic themes
or which are somehow related to the Cultural Olympiad. It would
be wrong for me as a politician to start to impede that cultural
and creative process.
Q88 Philip Davies: May I ask, whilst
you were on the football field with Andy Burnham, whether or not
you asked him when the Treasury were going to implement the Goodison
Review recommendations which would deliver more money into the
James Purnell: The Goodison Review
was about philanthropy and now is a good time to start thinking
about how we can get more charitable investment in the arts. Real
progress has been made on the tax treatment of charitable giving
and that is something which genuinely benefits people and their
cultural and heritage sectors, but if we had been in the position
where we had been cutting money to the arts, it would have been
harder to say to the private sector that we want them to give
more. Given that we have now been able to reach what is not a
bad settlement, we can now work with the Arts Council and others
to see what more can be done, for example to encourage new money,
people who have made significant amounts of money in the City
to put more money into culture.
Q89 Philip Davies: Would Mr Stephens,
given his distinguished career in the Treasury, be able to explain
why the Goodison Review was set up by the Treasury and then completely
ignored by the Treasury for a number of years afterwards.
James Purnell: That is a slightly
political question, if I may say so, so I might take that one
back. I do not accept that we have not made progress on philanthropy.
Real progress has been made and the Goodison Review will be a
helpful input into the work we will be doing on that.
Q90 Paul Farrelly: One of the other
reviews we have looked at has been the heritage protection review.
That envisages local authorities, unitary and second-tier authorities,
taking on a great deal more responsibility and yet it is not clear,
particularly with respect to conservation, where the money for
that is coming from, nor the additional expertise. I just wondered
how you were addressing those issues.
James Purnell: We have been able
to give English Heritage a cash increase for the next period and
they have made clear in their statements following that that they
want to move forward with the heritage protection review and will
liaise with ourselves and local authorities about exactly how
to do that. Overall a large part of that extra work they will
be doing will be working with local authorities on training, on
how to run this new system effectively. That is a large contribution
towards local authority costs. We believe that in the medium term
when this is implemented it will make the management of place
by local authorities much more effective and therefore there is
a lot for local authorities to get from it.
Q91 Paul Farrelly: Are you suggesting
then, quite apart from the extra responsibilities English Heritage
have, that local authorities must look to that £5 million
from English Heritage to fund their responsibilities and not more
direct funding for authorities themselves?
James Purnell: We do not fund
local authorities. What I am saying is that the English Heritage
money is going to be spent on supporting local authorities to
implement this new system and it will be something which local
authorities all round the country will be raising with MPs. I
am sure you have probably had letters about buildings which they
did not think should be listed getting in the way of regeneration
programmes, for example. This is a process to try to respond to
that concern that local authorities have put to us.
Q92 Paul Farrelly: What arguments
are you making elsewhere in Government on their behalf?
James Purnell: This is just a
reflection of what English Heritage have said in their statements
around the CSR. They want to look at how we can move forward on
the heritage protection review. We want to work with them on that
and we are not going to prejudge those discussions.
Q93 Paul Farrelly: May I make one
plea? I am the founding patron of an organisation called Urban
Vision North Staffordshire, which is one of the 15 or so CABE
seed-funded architecture and design centres around the country.
It is a fact in areas such as mine, which have every quango alive
marching across our patch, all pinching people off each other
by virtue of offering bigger salaries at each stage with no expansion
of the total expertise available, that these architecture and
design centres have contributed to that in attracting young enthusiastic
people who normally would not want to work for councils which
are overloaded. May I ask you to be a champion for those within
your Department? They often have to look for funding from bodies
sponsored by the CLG or BERR, as it is now known, through the
RDAs. I should like to see the Department standing up for centres
like that and standing its ground with the other departments,
making sure they are made a priority.
James Purnell: I certainly agree
that CABE's work around that has been successful and that they
have been a very good initiative. CABE and English Heritage have
a really positive role to play in terms of defining that sense
of place in terms of regeneration. What we want to move away from
is the sense that there is an opposition between these two, that
actually by treasuring and supporting the historic environment
as well as having new design which CABE particularly focused on
we can really make place born again. That is the goal which has
been achieved brilliantly in many of our cities around the UK
and which this settlement and the heritage protection review allows
us to take to the next level.
Q94 Paul Farrelly: After English
Heritage, who will you pick on next? I see that the Resource Accounts
from the Department state that a further peer review of a major
non-departmental body will be carried out this year. Which one
of your non-departmental public bodies is going to be in line
for peer review treatment?
Mr Stephens: We have not announced
that yet, but I am very happy to write to you as soon as we do.
Q95 Paul Farrelly: When are you going
Mr Stephens: I do not know. Happy
Q96 Paul Farrelly: Any idea? Before
Mr Stephens: Soon.
Q97 Paul Farrelly: Soon. Before Christmas?
James Purnell: Happy to write
before Christmas. 
Q98 Chairman: Are you able to give us
any more detail about the settlement package for specific initiatives,
for instance for Renaissance in the Regions, which we in our last
Report praised and said must continue to be funded.
James Purnell: We will be making
announcements on that very shortly.
Q99 Chairman: And the National Heritage
James Purnell: We will be making
announcements on that very shortly.
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