10 Dec 2007 : Column 1

House of Commons

Monday 10 December 2007

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Lottery Funding

1. Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): How much lottery funding was spent on sport in each of the past three years; and if he will make a statement. [172197]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): The five sports lottery distributors together drew down about £242 million from the national lottery distribution fund for expenditure in 2004-05, about £264 million in 2005-06 and, subject to audit, about £209 million in 2006-07.

While we are on the subject of sport, I am sure that the whole House will join me in congratulating British boxing on a fantastic weekend, and Amir Khan and Joe Calzaghe in particular on their victories. I pay especial tribute to Ricky Hatton, who throughout his 38 victories has been a great inspiration to my constituents in Hattersley and Hyde and who, in the manner and dignity of his defeat, will continue to be such.

Mr. Evennett: I add my congratulations to our sporting heroes, whom the Minister has highlighted. However, is he aware that only 13.5 per cent. of the UK population are members of sports clubs? That compares unfavourably with other EU countries, such as Germany and France, where 33 per cent. and 26 per cent. of the population respectively are members of sports clubs. Is that because the Government are not giving enough from the lottery funds to our sports clubs, to encourage people to participate in sport more?

James Purnell: In fact, we have increased the amount of money going from the Exchequer to sport by seven times since 1997. We are completely committed to building a world-class community sports infrastructure, which is why we have asked Sport England to conduct a review in order to achieve exactly that.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): May I welcome the money that the Government are putting into sport through the lottery? Will my right hon. Friend take a particular interest in the need for his Department to invest in sport in Stoke-on-Trent? We have an admirable gymnastics club, albeit with insufficient coaches, and we have great hopes that through the regeneration agenda and the building schools for the future programme we can invest more in sport. Will he look to ensure that we have the right—

Mr. Speaker: Order. There is supposed to be only one supplementary.

James Purnell: I quite agree with my hon. Friend that we should increase the amount of money going into sport. The amount going in over the next three years will be higher than the amount going in this year, which is a great opportunity for Stoke to make its claim for increased investment in sport. I know that my hon. Friend has been a strong campaigner for that and,
10 Dec 2007 : Column 3
given her question, I am sure that she will welcome the emphasis that we are putting on having a world-class network of clubs and coaches.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): The Minister knows that the money for sport from the lottery has gone down by about a third in recent years. Now the Government are taking away more than £500 million to fund the Olympic black hole. The Minister will have received an authoritative and detailed report showing how, by changing the taxation regime for the national lottery, additional money can go to both the Treasury and community sports, to deliver the Olympic legacy that we all want. Has he seen the report, does he accept it and what is he doing about it?

James Purnell: I take it that the hon. Gentleman is referring to the report into a gross profit tax for the lottery. I know that he is trying to supplement the Liberal Democrats’ money tree, but he knows well that even if that were possible, it would yield only a fifth of what he identifies as the black hole—in fact, the contribution from the lottery. It will be interesting to see whether the Liberal Democrats support that, and if not, where they would get the funding from. Given that the amount involved is only a fifth, that leaves nearly £500 million that he would have to find from somewhere else.

I hope that this is not the hon. Gentleman’s last Question Time as sports spokesman—there is an upcoming reshuffle, in the light of the leadership contest. I say sincerely to him that he is a credit to Opposition spokesmen. He is always a master of detail, constructive when necessary and tough when he feels he needs to be. I hope that we see him again.

Mr. Bob Laxton (Derby, North) (Lab): Where will funding for activities such as cycling and walking come from in future? As a result of the redefinition of sport, which I understand excludes cycling and walking, there will be a shortfall in funding. Is that money likely to come from Departments such as the Department of Health, rather than the Department for Culture, Media and Sport?

James Purnell: No, we are committed to the goal that we set out in the Olympic bid of raising participation by 2 million. Sport England’s role in that is to raise participation in sport. One of our promises in the Olympic bid documents was to create a world-class infrastructure for sport in this country. We are well on the way to doing that in school sport; we have gone from 20 per cent. of young people doing two hours to more than 80 per cent., and we are now well on the way to five hours. On elite sport, the Australians are now copying us, rather than the other way around. Our priority is to deliver a world-class community sports infrastructure, to match that of school sport and elite sport.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Although lottery sports funding has been quite consistent over the past three years, we are set to lose £13.1 million from SportScotland to pay for the London games and London’s redevelopment. Now that we are to have the 2014 games in Glasgow, will the Secretary of State acknowledge that there is a case for Scottish lottery funding to remain in Scotland rather than diverting it to London to fund London redevelopment?

10 Dec 2007 : Column 4

James Purnell: The hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. He cannot describe the Olympics as the London games and then say that the Glasgow games are national games. There is an internal contradiction in his allegation. I met his colleague, the Minister for the arts, recently to discuss the lottery, and I would be happy to meet his colleague who leads on sport to discuss it. Indeed, we are convening a group to consider the issue. The Scottish National party cannot criticise the London games while championing the Glasgow games as a national event.

Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Anne Reid and her Into Work team in my constituency, who have recently received a cheque for nearly £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund? Part of their rehabilitation strategy is to encourage clients to participate in sports. Let us not be undermined by the arguments from the Opposition, who continually want to talk down Scotland. Substantial funding is still coming into Scotland from the Big Lottery Fund.

James Purnell: That is a very good point. I believe that the nationalists’ policy is to have a “Scot Lot”. Anyone who knows anything about lotteries will know that that would bring in less money, because it is the size of the jackpot that determines how many people play. That would be another cut as a result of their proposals. My hon. Friend is quite right to say that the Big Lottery Fund is investing in Scotland and in sport. In fact, it invested £238 million in 2005-06, and then £207 million, so the Big Lottery Fund is contributing to sport, as are the sports lottery funds.

Licensing (Town Centres)

2. Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): What representations he has received on the effect of the provisions of the Licensing Act 2003 on town centres. [172198]

5. Mr. Rob Wilson (Reading, East) (Con): What assessment he has made of the effect of the Licensing Act 2003 on town centres; and if he will make a statement. [172201]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): We have received a number of views from local authorities, police, local residents and trade about the impact of the new legislation on town centres. They will inform our evaluation of the 2003 Act, which we expect to complete early in the new year. The report of the 10 scrutiny councils in July 2006 found that the Act had improved partnership working between enforcement agencies in tackling irresponsible retailers. We recently asked the councils for an update on their assessment, and that will form part of our evaluation.

Sir Nicholas Winterton: Does the Minister not accept that the Licensing Act has led to an increase in problems resulting from alcohol abuse in many town and city centres—sadly, even in Macclesfield? Recent figures show that 98 per cent. of all applications for licences were granted, and that just 0.4 per cent. of licences have
10 Dec 2007 : Column 5
been reviewed. Why is there a presumption in favour of 24-hour licensing for supermarkets, which are the source of so many of the problems?

James Purnell: As the hon. Gentleman well knows, there is no such presumption. Indeed, far from thinking that the Licensing Act has led to these problems, I agree with his leader, who said recently:

It will be interesting to hear whether Opposition Members agree with their leader on that. I also disagree with the hon. Gentleman that the Act has created these problems. I am sure that, if I had visited Macclesfield with him before the Act came into force, we would have seen the same issues. The truth is that the Act has introduced much tougher powers to deal with them. Indeed, crime in the night economy is down by 5 per cent. overall across the country. Serious wounding is down by 5 per cent. Of course, it is too early to say whether that is a result of the Act; we shall need to examine that in our evaluation and again over time. So far, however, the evidence does not show that the Act has led to an increase in crime—indeed, quite the reverse.

Mr. Rob Wilson: I congratulate my local police and my local Pubwatch scheme in Reading on taking a proactive role in mitigating the worst effects of the Licensing Act. Despite their efforts, however, violent assaults have gone up by 13 per cent. in Reading town centre, and the police are having to use scarce resources to support town centre activities. The intention of the legislation was to create a café culture, but has it not simply added to the existing yob culture?

James Purnell: I note that the hon. Gentleman is disagreeing with his leader, which will not help him to progress to the Front Bench. He has cited his local police. I am happy to quote the police in the constituency of the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett), who asked the first question today. When talking recently about closing down a branch of Tesco for selling alcohol to under-age purchasers—which would not have been possible under previous legislation—the chief superintendent of the police force in Bexley said:

the hon. Member for Reading, East (Mr. Wilson) will like this bit—

There we have the police saying that the Act has given them more powers to deal with the problems. That is why serious wounding is down by 5 per cent. in the night-time economy.

Natascha Engel (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): Has my right hon. Friend’s Department monitored the impact of the legislation on under-18 drinking and, if so, what have been the results?

James Purnell: The results are that it has fallen significantly. Failed test purchases have fallen from about 50 per cent. of cases to about 15 per cent. That is
10 Dec 2007 : Column 6
clearly still too much and we will be continuing our efforts, but again the Licensing Act has helped to create a much better collaborative approach between different agencies, which has meant that there has been a fall, although we want to continue to make further progress. It is clearly unacceptable for any licensed premises to be selling to under-age people.

Mr. Kevan Jones (North Durham) (Lab): There is much concentration on 24-hour drinking in relation to the 2003 Act, but that Act also introduced new powers for clamping down on under-age drinking and for restricting licences in town centres. Has the Department carried out any analysis of why councils or police authorities are not using the new powers that have been given to them?

James Purnell: The evidence that we have is that most are using the powers. Indeed, I was out with Chris Allison— [Interruption.]—who speaks on this matter in Westminster, in the constituency of the hon. Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. Field), who is intervening from a sedentary position. Chris Allison was saying what a great job the council and the local police were doing in using the powers given to them and that that has led to a real improvement in partnership working. It is a myth that the Act has led to 24-hour drinking. In fact, new figures show only modest increases in actual opening hours—on average, 20 minutes extra—and the number of 24-hour premises is less than 0.5 per cent. of the overall total.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): At the time of the passage of the Licensing Act, the Government dismissed warnings that one of its consequences would be to damage the performance of live music in town centres and elsewhere. The Secretary of State will be aware that Live Music Forum has concluded that the Act is having that effect, so will he now consider making changes to it, as recommended by the forum, to ensure that live music continues to flourish throughout Britain?

James Purnell: The hon. Gentleman was—along with the Leader of the Opposition—a great supporter and advocate of the Licensing Act. We welcome his support, although I notice that we have still not heard from the Opposition whether they are disowning their leader or not. The hon. Gentleman is slightly exaggerating the consequences of the Act that the Live Music Forum found; it said that they had been broadly neutral. Clearly, we would like them to be positive, which is why we are looking positively at the forum’s recommendations with a view to coming forward with proposals shortly. We have also asked Feargal Sharkey to lead on the identification of a network of rehearsal spaces to do exactly that.

Mr. Eric Illsley (Barnsley, Central) (Lab): Is my right hon. Friend aware that this matter was the topical debate only last Thursday? Anybody reading the Hansard of that debate will realise that one of the biggest problems in our drinking culture today is, as the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) pointed out, alcohol that is sold in our supermarkets at much less than the wholesale cost. As seen on TV adverts, bottles of spirits are going for £10 a time. Will my right hon. Friend look
10 Dec 2007 : Column 7
at the problem of young people—to use the new phrase—“pre-loading” at supermarkets before they go out to the pubs?

James Purnell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right; there is a problem in this country of a minority of people drinking too much. The Government are conducting a review of prices and promotions and we will report on it next year. It is clear that there is no single magic bullet that will solve the problem. The Licensing Act can help by providing tougher measures to deal with irresponsible retailers and pubs and clubs, but we need to act together across the board in tackling the health effects, looking at price and promotions and generally changing the culture around drinking in this country.

Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con): As the Secretary of State is keen that hon. Members have views consistent with that of their leader, can he explain why on taking office in July the Prime Minister, together with his spin doctors, had a lot of publicity, particularly in the tabloids, about how he was going to change the Act and stop 24-hour drinking? The Secretary of State has been a great advocate of the Act from the Dispatch Box today. I am slightly confused; I would like him to put me right.

James Purnell: We still do not know whether Conservative Members agree with their leader. I can enlighten the right hon. Gentleman, as the Prime Minister said none of those things. What he said was that we had announced a review in 2004 on the effect of the Act, which was confirmed when I was the Minister responsible for licensing in 2005. That is exactly what we are doing. That review has been under way for a number of years. It was announced in 2004 and it has been continuing. That is exactly the right thing to do with legislation: to look at the effect. The effect has been a 5 per cent. fall in serious wounding offences, and the most authoritative study has shown that admittances to accident and emergency departments are down by 2 per cent. What we know from today’s Question Time is that all Conservative Members seem to disagree with their leader.

Arts Funding

3. Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): How much funding the Arts Council England has awarded to (a) opera and (b) brass bands over the last five years. [172199]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): In the last five years, the Arts Council England has awarded £987,000 to brass bands. Individuals playing in brass bands have also benefited from grants to the arts under the Arts Council “Take It Away” loan scheme. Over the same period, funding for opera totalled £159.681 million. The Royal Opera House also received funding in excess of £116 million to promote ballet and opera.

Jeff Ennis: I estimate that, over the last five years, for every £1 that brass bands have been given, opera has been given some £1,113. It is even worse than that, because funding for opera has risen by 28 per cent. in the last five years while funding for brass bands has decreased by 22 per cent. Will the Minister agree to meet me and representatives from the brass bands,
10 Dec 2007 : Column 8
particularly the community and youth band sector, to ensure that we level up and deal with that gross situation?

Margaret Hodge: I certainly do not want my hon. Friend to be brassed off, so I say to him that I support opera and brass bands. In that spirit, I will of course be delighted to meet him.

Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): As my constituency is the home of the Royal Opera House and English National Opera, may I request that a few brass bands—perhaps from Barnsley—visit my constituency? As far as I am aware, we have none that are funded.

Margaret Hodge: Undoubtedly, the hon. Gentleman will encourage various community groups in his constituency to take up brass band music. He has a good brass section in the opera house orchestra.

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): Although it is right to subsidise a range of arts, does the Minister accept that a disproportionate amount of subsidy goes to opera, which I enjoy and agree should be subsidised? In particular, does she accept that other forms of art require more subsidy, especially jazz?

Margaret Hodge: We should not get into a bidding process this afternoon. I make a serious point to my hon. Friend, which is that opera is the largest employer in the subsidised arts sector. That is because putting on an opera is complicated. There is a building, scenery and the orchestra to consider. However, we value brass bands and also jazz, which I particularly value.

Next Section Index Home Page