Previous Section Index Home Page

10 Dec 2007 : Column 15

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): We did impress that upon the BBC—indeed, we put it at the heart of its purposes. In response, the BBC has announced that it will increase the share of production in exactly the way outlined by my hon. Friend, and that should help the independent producers in her constituency.

Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Con): This morning, 10 of the most senior chief executives of the tourism industry wrote to the Prime Minister expressing their

Despite the fact that 1.4 million people depend on the industry for their livelihood, one of the chief executives said that

Given that the Secretary of State’s Department has cut the VisitBritain budget and abandoned a public service agreement target to make tourism a £100 billion industry, will he say whether he has a vision for tourism, whether he has given up on the tourism industry, or whether this is what Baldrick would call “a cunning plan” to minimise the international attention on domestic Government crises by minimising the number of international visitors?

James Purnell: I am afraid that that was almost as laboured as the druid joke of the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood). The hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mr. Hunt) fails to recognise that we have a plan; it is published in the 2012 document, of which I am sure he is aware. We have also doubled over the past 10 years the amount of money going from central Government to tourism, and we have announced that we want to make sure that we use more effectively the £348 million that is being spent, which is why we have asked VisitBritain to conduct a review of how it does so.

Mr. Hunt: The Secretary of State may like to use soothing words, and this Government have always been good at words and reports, but here are the facts: since his Government came to power, this country’s market share of international tourist visits has fallen by 10 per cent. and our market share of international tourism spend has decreased by 14 per cent. The report mentioned was about the Olympics, which offers a huge opportunity to put this right, but tourism chiefs also said this morning that the Government were

to use the Olympics. Will the Secretary of State have the courage to revisit his approach, so that our hard-pressed tourism industry can thrive because of Government policies rather than despite them?

James Purnell: That is exactly what we are trying to do. The hon. Gentleman is failing to recognise the fact that since 1997 we have doubled the amount of money spent by central Government through the regional development agencies, which I believe he is committed to abolishing. Until he is prepared to match his criticisms with increased funding, the tourism industry will not pay any attention to him.

10 Dec 2007 : Column 16

T7. [172223] Mr. Jamie Reed (Copeland) (Lab): The Secretary of State has taken a detailed interest in the digital switchover process in my constituency, one of the most important parts of which was clearly the targeted assistance scheme. Now that switchover has occurred, has his Department made any assessment of the effectiveness of that scheme?

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): We shall be reviewing that as a consequence of the scheme in Copeland. The initial conclusion is that the scheme is broadly correct; it is the most generous in the world and it is one of the things that will help to smooth the process of digital switchover. We all recognise that this is a huge undertaking—it is a significant technological undertaking and a big social change—and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend and his local council and voluntary organisations which played such a proactive and confident role in ensuring that this was a success and in putting Copeland and Whitehaven on the map.

T3. [172219] Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): The Secretary of State recently announced that Sport England will no longer have responsibility for ensuring that people keep active and participate in exercise—that will now be the Department of Health’s responsibility. Will he set out what written undertaking he has received from the Department of Health that it will make this a priority? May we see a copy of any such written undertaking?

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): Given that it was leaked to The Observer recently, I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have read about it. It was rather misrepresented in The Observer as the newspaper talked about our wanting to focus on elite sport. We want to focus on having world-class community sport: we said in our Olympic promises that we would have a world-class sporting nation, and that is exactly what we will do. The goal of raising activity is important and legitimate. As the hon. Gentleman said, we shall be working with the Department of Health, and with other colleagues, on ensuring that a long-term cultural change takes place so that the problem of obesity is addressed. We need to be clear that that will be done partly through sport—that will be Sport England’s role—but not exclusively so.

T5. [172221] Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Is the Secretary of State concerned about the alleged horse race fixing in this country?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): We are always concerned when issues affect the integrity of a sport. I hope that the horse racing authorities will examine what happened in this individual case and make any necessary changes to their rules.

T6. [172222] Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): Will the Secretary of State have a word with all lottery distributors about the fairness of their grants, given that the much wealthier Buckingham constituency, which borders mine, has received more than three times as much grant as my constituency? Excellent applications from both Houghton Regis and Leighton Buzzard have recently been turned down. Will he look into the matter?

10 Dec 2007 : Column 17

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): It is important that all constituencies do their utmost to get as much money from the lottery as possible. Clearly, that depends on the quality of the bids, so is it important that the hon. Gentleman helps his constituents to ensure that the bids that they put forward are quality bids. I am sure that they will then get the money to which they are entitled.

T8. [172224] Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Hebden Royd town council on its successful People’s Millions bids to develop and reform Calder Homes park following a momentous regional head-to-head battle on television, which genuinely allowed the people to vote?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I congratulate my hon. Friend’s constituents on the outstanding bid that they put forward. The point that we are making about bids is not so much about the quality, but about the number of bids received by the lottery funders. It is important that people consider what they are trying to achieve with the different types of bids for the different types of funds that are available.

T9. [172225] Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): Is the Minister aware that there is still real concern in my constituency, particularly among pensioners, about the rising costs of the Olympics? Will he reassure my constituents that London council tax payers will not be responsible for funding any Olympic losses, and that their contribution will be capped?

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): The Mayor has been quite clear on that matter. I understand that these issues are best addressed in the next set of questions to my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics.

T10. [172226] Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): Could the Minister of State explain the contradiction in the fact that Stonehenge is considered a national issue by her Department but it is considered a regional one where transport is concerned?

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): Stonehenge is a national issue because it is one of our world heritage sites, but decisions on transport priorities are best left to the regions. I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman, as a Liberal Democrat, would support the decentralisation of decision making in all areas of government.

Mr. Gordon Marsden (Blackpool, South) (Lab): I and other seaside MPs warmly welcome the dedicated £45 million investment. Will my right hon. Friend consider the charms of the proposal to relocate the theatre museum to Blackpool and, more prosaically, how quickly the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment will produce the guidelines and open the competition for the funding?

Margaret Hodge: I congratulate my hon. Friend and the group of MPs who have worked with him to persuade us of the importance of investing in our seaside resorts. We are waiting for CABE to come forward with some
10 Dec 2007 : Column 18
guidelines and proposal for its management of that budget. The money comes on stream from April and we would like to get it spent as quickly as possible.

Anne Milton (Guildford) (Con): Despite the tough stance taken by Guildford borough council on town centre drinking and standing up to big business, residents of Guildford continue to suffer from alcohol-fuelled crimes in some of our streets. What action will the Secretary of State take to give comfort to my residents?

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (James Purnell): I do not know whether the hon. Lady grew up in Guildford, as I did, but there was no problem then and, as my family continue to live there, I know that it emerged before the Licensing Act 2003, which was introduced to provide people with tough powers. I take it that the hon. Lady also disagrees with her leader when he said— [ Interruption. ] I am sure that the Opposition do not like—

Mr. Speaker: Order.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked—

Budget (Essex)

1. Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Con): What estimate she has made of the proportion of the budget for the 2012 Olympic Games which will be spent in Essex; and if she will make a statement. [172189]

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): Weald country park in Essex will host the mountain biking at the Olympic games. There will be enormous opportunities for the people of Essex and the rest of the UK to take full advantage of the commercial opportunities, the chance to volunteer and the cultural events that will form part of 2012. I also draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the statement that I issued this morning confirming that, following a detailed review, the baseline budget for the Olympic Delivery Authority remains at £6.1 billion, with a contingency of just over £2 billion, within the total Government funding package I announced in March of £9.325 billion.

Bob Spink: I am grateful for that answer, but I still have no real information about how much of the budget will be spent in Essex. Most of the county is within an hour of the Olympic site and, in order for it to partake in the construction and the service industry that will make the games the great success that they must be, and for Essex people to go and enjoy the games, we need our infrastructure upgraded. Will any of the money be spent on improving our roads and railways so that we can contribute to the games?

Tessa Jowell: There will be substantial opportunities for businesses in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency to compete for the thousands of contracts that will be let over the next few months. He should ensure that all
10 Dec 2007 : Column 19
businesses receive electronic alerts to let them know that contracts are becoming available and he should encourage his constituents to volunteer for the games. There will also be opportunities in relation to training camps and so on. The initiative lies with Essex because the Olympic opportunities are available.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): What discussions has my right hon. Friend had with the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Department for Transport about the need to sort out the parlous junction of the A13 and M25 just north of the Dartford-Thurrock crossing before the Olympic games? Unless that is addressed, many visitors to the Olympics will be frustrated. I want to see joined-up government, because we need some movement on that issue.

Tessa Jowell: Certainly, transport infrastructure investment is an important part of the Olympic legacy, in the area around the Olympic park in London and elsewhere. I am happy to write to my hon. Friend about the junction he refers to.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): A year ago, in relation to the Olympic budget, the Minister told the Select Committee:

Now that the chairman of the ODA and the permanent secretary have both suggested that it is likely that it will all be extra cost, can the Minister say whether she expects that any of the programme contingency will remain unspent?

Tessa Jowell: Let me answer the hon. Gentleman’s question with two points. First, as he is well aware, the contingency provision that is available to the ODA, at just over £2 billion, is net of £500 million that has already been allocated through the internal government funders committee to the ODA. Secondly, it is important to be clear that the money drawn from contingency is to meet risks that may be encountered as the development proceeds. Over the next six months, some £5 billion of projects related to the Olympic park will be commissioned and will begin. The answer to the hon. Gentleman’s question is that contingency meets risk, and, no, it is not certain that the whole contingency will be drawn down, but the chairman of the ODA is absolutely right: we will be clear about that only when the games are over. However, the probability assessment, which confirms the robustness of the budget, gives us grounds for optimism that not all the contingency will be used.


2. Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): If she will make a statement on the opportunities and procedures for volunteering in relation to hosting the 2012 Olympics. [172190]

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The London Organising Committee estimates that 70,000 volunteers will be needed for the 2012 games. Since we won the bid, some 160,000 people have registered their interest in becoming volunteers for the games. We hope that, beyond the 70,000 who will be recruited to work
10 Dec 2007 : Column 20
in the Olympic park, there will be opportunities for people around the country who wish to volunteer, so that the good will and enthusiasm is all used.

Angela Watkinson: I thank the Minister for her reply, but what would she say to my formidable constituency secretary, Marjorie Ramsey, who could probably organise the London Olympics single-handed, who telephoned to offer her services and was told that she was too old? What will the Minister do to ensure that the London Organising Committee operates an equal opportunities policy?

Tessa Jowell: I would say that that was a shocking and no doubt wholly unintended offence. Perhaps on the strength of the publicity that Marjorie Ramsey’s application has been given, she will phone again.

Mr. Andrew Love (Edmonton) (Lab/Co-op): I understand that, when people put their names forward to be volunteers, they are told to go off and do some volunteering activity. Does my right hon. Friend think that we need to have something more coherent and planned in relation to volunteers to ensure that they are properly equipped and trained to do the job when it comes up?

Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend makes some important points. This is an opportunity to engage not just people in the Olympic park, but some of the most disadvantaged people across the 11 London boroughs, who will have their first opportunity to learn skills through volunteering that could get them the job that they have never had. There are many opportunities, and volunteering as a way of acquiring and developing skills is one of the great legacy opportunities for the Olympics which we intend to realise.

Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): Given that it will encourage even more people to volunteer for this wonderful project if the financial arrangements are sound, can the Minister not only guarantee that the budget will be transparent but answer the question dodged by the Secretary of State and guarantee that the London Olympic precept will not be raised by the current Labour Mayor?

Mr. Speaker: Order. The subject is volunteering.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): May I thank the right hon. Lady for the briefing that her Department gave me this morning?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) said, volunteers are key to the delivery of the pledges on mass participation that were such an important part of London’s bid in Singapore. Given that the budget announced this morning confirms that only £290 million is available for very specific sports tasks related to the Olympics, and, of course, that the national lottery is being hit further to pay for the Olympics themselves, how on earth will the commitments on mass participation in sport be met?

Tessa Jowell: I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the birth of his son, James, who will probably be a bit too young to be a volunteer, even in 2012.

10 Dec 2007 : Column 21

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point in that there is certainly provision in the budget—some £290 million—to cover the cost of not only some elite sport, but some community sport development. However, outside and beyond the Olympic budget, which will regenerate the park and build the transport and venues, there are the Olympic opportunities that will be met right across government and will boost participation in both sport and physical activity. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has clearly described, that will be one of the important ambitions that will be realised, and the detail will be set out when we publish the legacy action plan next year.

Next Section Index Home Page