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Margaret Hodge: The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the fact that there have been a few problems at Heathrow airport in recent weeks, but if we look at what happened to St. Pancras station and the channel tunnel rail link, we see that the welcome
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into the United Kingdom there has vastly improved. I hope that the teething troubles that we are experiencing with terminal 5 can be overcome by the airlines and by BAA. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that the welcome we give to our visitors, and the first feel that they get of coming to Britain—the speed of going through the airport and the sort of service they get from personnel there—are hugely important. That is why, together with VisitBritain, we are pursuing a whole set of initiatives and actions to ensure that we improve that welcome.

Mr. Adrian Sanders (Torbay) (LD): Would not one of the simplest, cheapest and easiest ways of massively increasing the amount of tourism product in this country be to move to an extra hour in summer time? People would be around in the evening, spending their money, instead of being asleep for an hour whilst there is sunshine in the morning.

Margaret Hodge: That issue is raised by some of the representative organisations in the tourism industry from time to time. As the hon. Gentleman will accept, it is a contentious issue. I have asked for better evidence on things such as safety for families or a reduction in road accidents and whether there is any evidence that it supports tourism. Portugal was the last country to try that experiment and there was very little evidence that it made any difference to tourism income. I have an open mind on the matter, however, and I have asked the various authorities to provide me with any evidence that they have.

Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): Will the Minister reaffirm her commitment to tourism and to our heritage by ensuring that the visitor facilities at Stonehenge are upgraded as soon as possible, as well as the roads? Can she bring us up to date and assure us that the Department for Transport is working as hard as English Heritage to resolve this crisis, which has been described as a national disgrace?

Margaret Hodge: The hon. Gentleman will know, from his conversations with me in the Chamber and informally, that I am working extremely hard with my colleagues in the Department for Transport and all of those who have a role to play, such as English Heritage, the National Trust and the various local and regional authorities, to ensure that we achieve better facilities for what is an iconic world heritage site. That process will involve the road infrastructure and the improvement of visitor facilities. I have given the hon. Gentleman a commitment to do everything in my power to ensure that by 2012, we have first-class facilities that will help us enjoy this first-class visitor site.

Seaside Amusement Arcades

5. Mr. David Jones (Clwyd, West) (Con): What assessment he has made of the effects of the Gambling Act 2005 on seaside amusement arcades; and if he will make a statement. [204452]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I have received representations and held discussions with the relevant trade bodies on those issues. At their request, I will hear further evidence from them this afternoon.

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Mr. Jones: I am pleased to hear that the Minister is speaking to the British Amusement Catering Trade Association later this afternoon. According to a survey that it recently conducted, amusement arcades have experienced an overall decline in revenue of 21 per cent. since the Gambling Act 2005 was implemented. The Minister has already acknowledged that there is a serious problem in the industry. Would he address the problem by increasing the number of class B3 machines permitted in amusement arcades, and by restoring the £2 stake for such machines?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for raising that issue; it is a matter of concern to a number of people. The Government feel that it is important that we get things right. B3 machines are a hard form of gambling and on the numbers, we have to get the balance completely right and take the right decisions. We have listened to evidence from BACTA, the Bingo Association and a number of other gaming bodies who are having difficulties. I understand the urgency and immediacy of the problem, but I want to ensure that we get the right solution.

Mr. Roger Gale (North Thanet) (Con): I do not think that it was the intention of the then Minister of State, the right hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Caborn), to damage the seaside industry when he took the Bill through Committee, but the fact is that the seaside amusement arcade is an integral part of the wet-weather offer that many seaside resorts, such as Margate and Herne Bay in my constituency, need. Amusement arcades are shutting as we speak. The industries that supply them, such as two manufacturing industries in Thanet—an area of high unemployment—are under severe threat. Does the Minister understand that unless he takes action now, this year, in time for this season, it will be too late?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I hope to make decisions reasonably soon— [Laughter.] Or, indeed, very soon. The hon. Gentleman has highlighted an issue, and there is some confusion that we need to clear up. We need to distinguish between seaside arcades that offer a lower risk of gambling and the adult gaming centres that are usually on the high street. The latter want more B3 machines and I am wrestling with the decision about whether that is appropriate. It is certainly not appropriate for seaside arcades.

John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare) (Con): May I echo the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for North Thanet (Mr. Gale) about the urgency of the issue? Many businesses in seaside towns throughout the country, especially in my constituency of Weston-super-Mare, are suffering huge problems, and swift action is vital.

I remind the Under-Secretary that one of the reasons for reducing gambling in the Gambling Act 2005 was to reduce the risk of gambling addiction while the new super-casinos were introduced. Does not the fact that the Government have backed away from them mean that it is easier for him to make his urgent decision?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I understand the urgency. The House of Lords will consider the casino regulations later this week. We are examining all the issues in the context of
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putting consumer protection at the heart of the 2005 Act. However, I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman and to several other hon. Members, especially from seaside resorts, who know that the issue is pressing. I will try to reach a decision as soon as possible.

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): The Under-Secretary needs to make a decision. He has heard from absolutely everybody and he said on 17 January that he did not need to take more evidence because he had it all. Why cannot we now have a decision? Why is he being so tough on bingo associations and arcades and so lenient on fixed odds betting terminals and internet gambling? Let us have a decision—it is his to make, not the Treasury’s or anybody else’s. Let us support our seaside arcades and have a decision on the stakes and prizes today, not months and months later, while more and more important elements of our seaside tourism close.

Mr. Sutcliffe: Surely the hon. Gentleman wants me to meet BACTA, which I shall do this afternoon, and hear the further evidence that it wants to present to me. I am delighted to be able to hear that evidence. We will make the decision as soon as we can, provided that that is in the consumer’s interest.

The hon. Gentleman claims that we have taken a relaxed attitude to FOBTs, but we have not. We asked the Gambling Commission to consider FOBTS and BACTA’s concerns about people moving from adult gaming centres to the bookmakers. Clearly, the decision will be made as soon as we can, in the consumer’s interest.

Find Your Talent

7. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): How many local authorities have applied to take part in the pilots of Find Your Talent. [204454]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): We have received 141 expressions of interest from local areas wanting to take part in Find Your Talent. Of those, 89 were led by local authorities. Together with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, I will shortly announce a programme of 10 pilot schemes that will trial ways to offer children and young people a range of high quality cultural experiences for five hours a week, in and out of school.

Linda Gilroy: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. He knows that Plymouth has a strongly developing cultural industry sector, in which there will be many jobs for young people of the future. May I ask him to discuss with colleagues in the Department for Children, Schools and Families a specific feature of the Plymouth bid, “Controlled Explosions”? If the name does not intrigue him, its contents should. Young people often fall by the wayside in their cultural development and the specific feature of the bid is about the way in which we see them through important transitions at various points in their school career to maintain their interest and go on to work in the cultural industries.

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Andy Burnham: Thinking about the weekend’s press, it would have been good if some recent explosions were a little more controlled. However, we will not go into that.

I am intrigued by what has been happening in Plymouth, which has had a creative partnerships scheme. The theatre royal has done some work that is well thought of and has strong support.

More generally, Find Your Talent has genuine potential. The fact that 141 areas engaged in a dialogue with their creative partners to make a bid proves the cynics wrong. A survey of head teachers who are involved in creative partnerships, one of which is in my hon. Friend’s area, shows that 90 per cent. believed that the programme had improved pupils’ confidence and communications skills, and more than 70 per cent. believed that it had led to an improvement in educational attainment. That is the most compelling evidence for what we are doing. The figures speak for themselves and I am tremendously encouraged by the response to Find Your Talent.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Given the importance of the Find Your Talent scheme and the Prime Minister’s particular interest in such issues, may I ask the Secretary of State what consultations and dialogue he has had with the Prime Minister on it?

Andy Burnham: This scheme is important for the Government: it was at the heart of the children’s plan and our plans to improve sports provision in schools. I speak to the Prime Minister about it regularly. I am confident that the plans that we will soon announce will change completely the level of cultural activity that we make available to our youngest children in school. In doing so, we will open their minds to a range of new possibilities that can only help their personal development and, more importantly, their academic achievements, too. I hope that the hon. Gentleman supports what we are trying to do—he is nodding away—because we cannot be cynical about what is an incredibly positive scheme.

Arts Council England

8. Ben Chapman (Wirral, South) (Lab): If he will make a statement on the activities of Arts Council England in Wirral, South constituency. [204455]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): Arts Council England’s activities in Wirral, South include funding through the Grants for the Arts programme, Creative Partnerships, Artsmark and the Arts Award scheme. I realise that this is a trip through the tunnel, but Arts Council England’s investment in the wider region also includes major organisations, such as the Liverpool Philharmonic and the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse theatres.

Ben Chapman: It is indeed a trip through the tunnel. The Minister’s answer highlights the fact that, notwithstanding the refocusing of Arts Council England’s funding, it tends to go to major facilities in sub-regional or regional centres. Does the Arts Council not need also to focus on areas outside those centres, and on local communities and suburban areas in particular?

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Margaret Hodge: I agree entirely with my hon. Friend’s remarks. When I was preparing for this question, I asked which applications from his constituency had been received and turned down by Arts Council England, and I was told that none had. I was further told that although the Big Lottery Fund has given £1.5 million to his constituency over the past 12 months, with a much higher success rate for applications than elsewhere, it is nevertheless trying actively to encourage more applications. I urge him to work with voluntary, community and other arts organisations to encourage more such applications from his constituents.


9. Lynda Waltho (Stourbridge) (Lab): What steps he is taking to support grass-roots football. [204456]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): The Football Foundation, a partnership between the Football Association, the FA premier league and the Government, has helped to transform grass-roots football facilities, through £650 million of investment since 2001. A new three-year funding deal for the foundation, which was announced last week, commits my Department to providing £15 million each year to the foundation, matched by the FA and the premier league.

Lynda Waltho: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I am sure that he was as pleased as I was to learn on Saturday that Stourbridge FC—the glorious glassboys—has been promoted to the British Gas Business premier division. The club’s success was a combination of the skills of the players, obviously, and of the manager Gary Hackett and the president Hugh Clark. In common with many clubs at that level, however, Stourbridge FC has problems with its facilities. For instance, the club has to share its ground with the cricket club. What further assistance can the Government or the foundation give to promote football and Stourbridge FC’s march to further glory?

Andy Burnham: I hope that my hon. Friend will pass my congratulations to Stourbridge FC on securing promotion. I would urge her to encourage the club to go to the Football Foundation, which makes funding available for multi-sport schemes as an important part of its new funding agreement, and encourage her to work with the club, through the foundation, to secure investment in improving its facilities still further. It sounds like the club will have a good case, given that it is making firm strides on the pitch to get up the league.

Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): The question does not specify that it is about association football, so it could well be about rugby football. May I therefore ask a lengthy question—although I hope that it is sufficiently short for you, Mr. Speaker. Will the Minister express appreciation to Macclesfield Town football club, which I am glad to say still resides comfortably in league division two, for its role in encouraging community football, particularly in the more deprived areas of my constituency? Will he also express appreciation to Macclesfield rugby union football club for getting such a huge number of young
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people playing rugby football? That is keeping young people off the streets and encouraging them to use their energy and exercise on the playing field.

Andy Burnham: That was a very inventive question, but I am happy to send my congratulations to both association football and rugby football in Macclesfield. The hon. Gentleman makes very well the point that sport can reach young people in a way that many other things cannot. It can really transform young lives.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Will the Secretary of State send for the papers about the dispute between the Football Association and Grays Athletic football club? Mindful that footballers should be role models, Grays dismissed from its football squad a player who was involved in and convicted of armed robbery, only to have the full force of the Football Association require performance of the contract. However, any employer has the right to dismiss someone who has brought its firm, game or team into disrepute. Will the Secretary of State look at the papers, as I believe that there is a political and Government dimension to the case? Grays Athletic stood up for having role models and for the quality and reputation of the game, whereas the Football Association has been unreasonable and has ignored that responsibility.

Andy Burnham: I am not aware of the case that my hon. Friend mentions, but I will look at the papers if he will make them available to me. However, I point out that, as part of its national game strategy, which was launched recently, the FA has placed great store in the Respect campaign, which encourages players to show respect on and off the pitch, particularly to match officials. That is an example of the FA putting its house in order.

Topical Questions

T1. [204438] Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Andy Burnham: Later this week, Manchester will host the UEFA cup final, and I am sure that the whole House, including you, Mr. Speaker, will join me in sending a good-luck message to Walter Smith and Glasgow Rangers. The authorities are expecting a large number of supporters to travel to Manchester, and we are working with the Home Office and Manchester city council to ensure that there is a successful final. Supporters will be able to gather at fan zones in Albert square, Piccadilly gardens and Cathedral gardens, where entertainment will be provided throughout the day and big outdoor screens will show the match in the evening.

The Government are also pleased to reciprocate the generous offer made by the Russian Government regarding visas, and have waived the fee for travelling Zenit supporters. We remain committed to bringing major sporting events to the UK. Following discussions with my right hon. Friend the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the Treasury has confirmed to the FA that if the UK wins the right to host the UEFA champions league final in 2011, visiting teams and their players will not face tax charges.

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