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Margaret Hodge: After a long time in which English Heritage had a flat cash settlement from the Government, we have been able in the latest comprehensive spending review settlement to ensure that it has additional resources over a three-year period. The House will shortly be considering the draft legislation resulting from the heritage protection review and I hope that, in that context, we can have an interesting discussion about the varying
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roles of English Heritage, the Department and other stakeholders, and the proper processes and funding required to carry them out.

Mr. Stewart Jackson (Peterborough) (Con): Flag Fen, to the east of Peterborough, is one of the finest bronze age sites in Europe, having been discovered literally by accident in 1982. It is presently in receipt of only English Heritage funding—no other Government funding—to the extent that its excavation and exhibition work is under threat. Will the Minister give an undertaking to look further into the level of funding for Flag Fen so that we can preserve this unique site for future generations?

Margaret Hodge: I do not know the details of the particular issues surrounding Flag Fen in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, so I would be extremely grateful if he would write to me with them so that I can consider the matter. English Heritage is one of the organisations with resources available to it to try to ensure that we protect and look after our valuable and wonderful heritage that is such an intrinsic part of Britain today.

School Sport

7. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): What steps his Department is taking to encourage participation in sport by girls of school age. [192289]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): Through the joint Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Department for Children, Schools and Families physical exercise and sport strategy for young people, the Government are investing an additional £100 million to offer five hours of high quality PE and sport to all pupils aged five to 16 and three hours for those aged 16 to 19. That will bring our total investment to at least £755 million over the next three years and will enable the provision of further sporting opportunities that recognise and respond to girls’ needs and abilities.

Ben Chapman: I welcome the investment in PE and sport during school hours, but does the Minister agree that we also need to provide resources for out of school hours activities? Port Sunlight rugby club in my constituency has used a £10,000 grant from Awards for All to develop a sport against crime initiative, which encourages young people off the streets and into sport, particularly into playing tag rugby, which being a non-contact sport can be played by both sexes. I commend that programme to the Minister and invite him to visit Wirral, South to see for himself the work that the Port Sunlight rugby club is doing.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am always delighted to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency and look forward to doing so, particularly to watch the tag rugby. It is important that rugby is played by girls, and I commend the Rugby Football Union’s work on that. I was not being complacent earlier. We need to encourage more women and girls into sport. It is necessary to ensure that they can participate and that we end the appalling drop-out rates of girls and women in sport. I am minded to support the idea of Sue Tibballs, the chief executive of the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, to look at setting up a taskforce to see what we can do to widen the participation of women in sport.

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Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): The hon. Member for Wirral, South (Ben Chapman) asked an excellent question. Is it not important that the Government and local government give every encouragement to private sporting clubs that encourage young girls to participate in physical sport, such as the Macclesfield rugby union football club, which encourages young girls to take part in touch rugby, which is ideal for young women? Is it not important, too, that we do not allow any school playing field to be sold, because even the playing fields of those schools that are closed could be merged with those of a school next door, so that sport both during school hours and after school hours can be encouraged for boys and girls?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his involvement in trying to ensure that more people become involved in sports, and, in particular, I congratulate Macclesfield on its work. We will address the issue of playing fields shortly, but we have put many safeguards in place to protect them. However, the issue is not just about playing fields; it is about sports provision. Like me, he too may have, over the course of many years, spent cold days on playing fields when it might have been better to play indoors, because more people would have participated. Playing fields are important, but they are not the only issue.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): One of the most popular sports with girls of school age is, of course, swimming. The Minister will be aware of the controversy over the closure of local authority baths, which are often being replaced by smaller private pools that are less accessible to the general public. The Sport England active places website claims that there are 171 such pools. Over the weekend it was alleged that 51 of them are in independent schools and six are on military bases, so they are hardly accessible to girls of school age. Why did that occur and has the Minister any evidence that it is happening in other sports, and therefore that the entire survey is flawed?

Mr. Sutcliffe: The hon. Gentleman has tabled a number of parliamentary questions that will be answered shortly, giving the detail of the figures that he requests on the breakdown of pools, both public and private. I am sure that if he wants to pursue the matter further, he will do so following that answer. In general terms, however, swimming is vital to us. It is one of the biggest participation sports in which girls and everybody else can get involved. We want to see investment in swimming. I am a bit put out by the campaign run by The Daily Telegraph, which I think is inaccurate, and I will be happy to meet The Daily Telegraph to talk about it.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Of course everybody wants to see more girls playing sport, but we have to ensure that they have the ability to go to sporting grounds. Can we also ensure that we encourage them to play more than just football—and besides rugby union, there is a thing called rugby league, which is the great sport of the north—so that more girls play cricket following the success of the England women’s cricket team, unlike the men’s team?

Mr. Sutcliffe: Again, I congratulate the England women’s cricket team on its excellent work and on the agreement reached between it and the federation on
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being paid appropriately. Perhaps football could learn from that lesson. My hon. Friend is right. We need to widen the sports in which girls participate beyond traditional sports to dance and other activities, while ensuring that they have access to physical recreation.

Gambling Act

8. Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): What assessment he has made of the likely effects on urban regeneration of the establishment of new casinos under the Gambling Act 2005. [192290]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The independent Casino Advisory Panel was asked to choose a range of areas in need of economic development and regeneration. An assessment of the economic and social impact of the 16 large and small casinos will be carried out three years after the first of the new casinos has begun trading. We expect that the assessment will be completed by 2014.

Mr. Robathan: I should declare an interest in that I gamble and have lost money on many different bets in several different countries, and very occasionally I have won a little bit as well.

Notwithstanding that answer, most people in Britain remain to be convinced of any benefit that building a casino in a disadvantaged area would bring to regeneration. Will the Minister tell me what on earth a Labour Government are doing encouraging gambling, unless it is because of lobbying by companies that make their money out of other people, who may ill be able to afford it, losing money?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I wonder whether one of those bets that the hon. Gentleman placed was on the last Tory party leadership.

Mr. Robathan: It was, actually. The Minister is quite right.

Mr. Sutcliffe: Did the hon. Gentleman win or lose?

Mr. Robathan: I won.

Mr. Sutcliffe: It should be stressed that the casino policy was pursued at the request of local government. The Budd report on gambling was published in 2000, and it was felt that existing legislation affecting casinos should be updated. The policy is well travelled in the House, and I think that it enjoys the support of all parties in the House.

Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove) (Con): The Minister will be only too aware of the crisis affecting our seaside resorts and their urgent need for redevelopment funds. Although he was not in his present post at the time of the Gambling Act, can he explain why his party was wrong-headed enough not to follow the example of, for instance, France, which deliberately gave casino licences to its seaside and other resorts in order to improve their attraction to visitors?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am sure that the hon. Lady will welcome the £45 million that is being invested in seaside towns as we try to find a way of regenerating our coastal resorts. As I have said, the gambling policy relating to casinos is well travelled. We asked the
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independent Casino Advisory Panel to examine the options available to us, and it came up with the idea of 16 casinos as well as a large regional casino. We are not proceeding with the large regional casino, but we are going ahead with the other 16.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Although there is extensive evidence of the potential economic and social damage caused by regional casinos and no such evidence relating to their poorer cousin the bingo hall, some bingo halls are teetering on the brink of closure, not least because of double taxation. Does the Minister share my hope that the Budget statement will contain an announcement that bingo will be put on the same basis as other similar activities, so that bingo halls can survive and continue to provide the considerable social benefits that they provide in many towns throughout the nation?

Mr. Sutcliffe: The plight of bingo halls is an important issue in all our constituencies, but, as my hon. Friend knows, taxation is a matter for the Chancellor and the Treasury. We look forward to hearing what is said in Wednesday’s Budget statement. As my hon. Friend will also know, the DCMS and other Departments have been working with the Bingo Association to establish what else can be done to support the bingo community.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): As my hon. Friend the Member for Blaby (Mr. Robathan) said in his declaration of an interest, our perspective on gambling is that it should be treated as a form of entertainment in which one is likely to lose rather than as a form of investment in which one thinks one might win. However, we also think that there should be the right level of legislation, whether it applies to a casino, a bingo hall or an arcade. As has just been illustrated, bingo has been hit heavily by the Gambling Act, as indeed have arcades. Is it not time to support early-day motion 840 and support our arcades, and also to review the use of category B3 machines? We need to stop bingo halls and arcades from closing, thus driving people from a soft to a hard form of gambling in the name of fixed-odds betting terminals.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I think that the hon. Gentleman should be cautious about using the FOBTs argument. As he will know, I have asked the Gambling Commission to consider the impact of high-stake machines and prizes on gambling. I agree that we do not want to do anything that will make problem gambling any worse.

We are looking at bingo halls and amusement arcades, both the “soft” children’s sections of arcades and the adult game incentives. We need to get the balance right. We have received representations from the British Amusement Catering Trade Association, to which I shall respond shortly.

Convergence Think Tank

9. Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): If he will publish the minutes of the meetings of the convergence think tank; and if he will make a statement. [192291]

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The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): The Government intend to publish the proceedings of all the convergence think tank seminars on the dedicated website. Most of the proceedings of the first seminar on 7 February this year will be posted on the website today.

Bill Wiggin: The Secretary of State did not mention the fact that the convergence think tank is costing some £300,000. Given that Ofcom is doing a great deal of the work, is it not a little tactless to spend that kind of money on so few seminars—I believe that one of them is on Arsenal football club—when the portable antiquities scheme and hundreds of other arts organisations are fighting for survival as a result of Government cuts?

Andy Burnham: The hon. Gentleman is scraping the barrel in trying to find a subject on which to launch an attack. This issue is of huge importance to the whole of British society; it is about people’s ability in a fully converged digital world to get access to high-quality content. It is important that there is the widest possible debate among the telecommunications, media and other industries on developing a sensible and consensual policy to take us through this changing world. The process mentioned, led jointly with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, is a good example of how Government should make policy; listening to the views of industry, working closely with consumer groups and, at the end of the day, coming up with the right answers. The money spent on that process will be well spent.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will remember that way back in time—in respect of the Broadcasting Act 1996—it was argued, by the technical director of ITV, I think, that convergence had happened and that we were now dealing with a series of subsets of the same technology. That is the case and now, after several years of Ofcom, is it not time to consider looking carefully at the size and shape of the umbrella that we created to produce Ofcom and to determine whether it meets the needs of current developing technologies?

Andy Burnham: In the short time that it has existed, Ofcom has been incredibly successful in establishing an authority and a clear lead on these important issues. The difficult question to answer in terms of the changing communications industry is how we in this House keep pace while ensuring that the legislative environment is not a barrier to the industry’s success. That is the line we have to tread. In those circumstances, it is very important that we work with our regulators and industry. That is why we have established this process. A similar process led to the creation of the Communications Act 2003, which has been a success.


10. Mr. John Spellar (Warley) (Lab): How much his Department has paid to S4C in 2007-08; and what his estimate is of the level of such payments in 2008-09. [192293]

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The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): The grant in aid payment to S4C in 2007-08 is £92,817,000. The grant in aid estimate for 2008-09 is £98,112,000.

Mr. Spellar: I am trying to work out how to get my congratulations to West Bromwich Albion on reaching the FA cup semi-finals into my question, but I fear that I shall have to confine myself to asking the Secretary of State why, with all the valid demands on his Department’s funds, it has spent £0.5 billion over the past six years propping up this television station. Would it not be better to transfer responsibility to the Welsh Assembly so that it can decide and, if it wants to keep it, it can pay for it?

Andy Burnham: Tempted as I am to stray into football matters, I think that I had better answer my right hon. Friend’s question directly. As he will know, broadcasting is a reserved matter, which is right as it affects the whole of the United Kingdom. It is important that the traditional strengths of British public service broadcasting be maintained and built upon. Colleagues representing Welsh constituencies might have a different perspective than my right hon. Friend on the issues he has raised. The funding settlement for S4C has worked well and it has worked within the overall British context in which we consider broadcasting.

Topical Questions

T1. [192273] Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): Two events this week highlight the vital role culture, media and sport play in the economic and social life of the country. I have just come from the launch of British tourism week. Tourism is incredibly important to people in constituencies up and down the country. We have a fantastic product to sell and a tremendous opportunity in the run-up to the 2012 Olympic games, and I hope that Members of all parties will get out this week and support this important initiative in their constituencies. At the end of the week, there is Sport Relief, an event that shows the unique power of sport to bring communities together and to get people to be active and have fun while raising money for people in need in the UK and in some of the poorest countries in the world. I think that there are a few candidates in this House who could do with getting out and doing a bit of sport and physical activity this weekend.

Mark Pritchard: Although many in this House are looking forward to the Beijing Olympics, why do the Government continue to turn a blind eye to the Chinese regime’s human rights abuses, unspeakable animal cruelty and continual repression of religious minorities?

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