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23 Jun 2008 : Column 15

Andy Burnham: My constituency is very close to that of my hon. Friend. When I look at Winter Hill and think about the signal being switched off in a little over a year’s time, it certainly focuses my mind.

I am aware of the problems in Skelmersdale, where people have historically received television programmes via a local authority-operated cable system that is now approaching the end of its useful life. Ofcom has required that a new relay transmitter to serve the town must be built and operational before switchover in the Granada area late in 2009. I understand that the process is likely to be completed as planned, subject to the availability of a suitable site, local planning permission and the allocation of suitable frequencies, but I assure my hon. Friend that I will pay the closest possible attention to the issue, and will ensure that her constituents benefit from switchover when the time comes.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware of the concern that has been expressed about his recent remarks that appear to rule out the possibility of taking advantage of the European Union audiovisual media services directive to allow some product placement on commercial television? If he has made up his mind on this issue, what is the point of having a consultation on it?

Andy Burnham: May I say to the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee that the Government often conduct a consultation on the back of a preference—a clearly stated view—and that is what I did in this instance? I take the view that British television has benefited from having standards and integrity, and that it has an international reputation for that. I further take the view that, especially when we contemplate the pressures that commercial television may face in the future, we in this country should think about allowing the space between programmes to be sold, and not the space within them. I do not believe that British viewers want to think that the hand of the ad sales director might have been at play in editorial decisions. That is my preference, but I said in my speech that I understood that others would say that there are benefits to product placement. We will conduct the consultation, and although I have made my initial preference clear I am prepared to hear other sides of the debate. If the hon. Gentleman holds different views, he is welcome to put them to me, and at the end of the process we will come to a considered decision.

T5. [212537] Sarah McCarthy-Fry (Portsmouth, North) (Lab/Co-op): Paulsgrove in my constituency is an area of high deprivation with no local swimming pool. Under the Building Schools for the Future programme, a learning campus is being built and the local community would very much like a swimming pool to be part of that development. What can we do to ensure that local authorities work with other partners, use all the means at their disposal and take up all opportunities to encourage swimming in deprived areas such as Paulsgrove?

Andy Burnham: I would be very willing to meet my hon. Friend to discuss those issues in order to see how we might be able to help take further forward the discussions in her area. Only on Friday, I opened the Leigh indoor sports centre. It is part of the £80-million Leigh sports village, which, frankly, is my pride and joy.
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It is a scheme that will, in a deprived part of the country such as my hon. Friend’s, give people access to the highest quality sports facilities. I could not be more proud of anything I have ever achieved than I am of that. If she is seeking to do something similar in her constituency, she will have my full support.

Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Con): In January, the Arts Council announced that it was cutting funding to respected organisations such as the Derby playhouse, the Yvonne Arnaud theatre in Guildford and the City of London Symphonia, yet over seven years its spending on administration has risen from 5p in every pound distributed to 12p in every pound distributed. What measures will the Department take to ensure that the public’s money is being spent on arts, not arts administration?

Margaret Hodge: Let me first say that in that same settlement, which was very generous, and under which there has been a £50 million increase in the money available to the Arts Council over what is a very tight spending review period, more than 80 new organisations received Arts Council funding for the first time. That is as it should be, because the arts change and it is important that the Arts Council reflects that in its distribution of moneys. I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern that we should always work towards reducing the money spent on administration and ensuring that it goes out to the front line. The Arts Council has been taking steps over the past years to reduce its administrative costs, and it has succeeded in doing so. [Interruption.] From the figures I have in front of me, I do not recognise the figures the hon. Gentleman puts to us, but of course there is more work to be done on this, and part of the Arts Council’s remit over the current spending review settlement period is to produce a cut in the administrative costs year on year.

T6. [212538] Ian Lucas (Wrexham) (Lab): Ashes cricket will be on television free to view next year, but only in Australia. Will the Government please take into account the additional money coming into English cricket through Stanford and through the Indian premier league and act now, rather than awaiting a review, to reinstate live Test cricket on the TV A-list?

Andy Burnham: I am as passionate about cricket—not just Test cricket but all cricket—as my hon. Friend is, and I understand how high passions run on this issue. However, I point out that when Test rights were drawn up on the secondary list—on the B-list—that allowed the England and Wales Cricket Board significantly to increase the amount of money it was able to invest in grass-roots cricket: £30 million in investment in facilities and clubs, and there is also the “Chance to shine” scheme, which has been a real success. There always has to be a balance between grass-roots investment and access to the sport. I hear what my hon. Friend says and I have a lot of sympathy with his wish to get more people watching cricket, but we always have to listen to the governing body and get money into the grass roots to get more young people playing.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): Do the Government acknowledge that amusement arcades and bingo clubs are on their knees? In February, the Minister with responsibility for such matters promised to respond to
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recovery proposals within a week. In March, he said that he would respond shortly; in May, he said that it would be very soon. And yet we are still waiting. Is he aware that while the softer forms of gambling are collapsing, there is a huge growth in the highly addictive and super-lucrative gaming machines in betting shops? Has he not got his priorities wrong, and how soon is very soon?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The hon. Gentleman knows that I have referred the issue of fixed-odds betting terminals to the Gambling Commission because of our concern about the migration to FOBTs. I am pleased to reassure him with the announcement that we will make a written statement this Wednesday to answer the issues of the British Amusement Catering Trade Association and the bingo industry.

T7. [212539] John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): The “Creative Britain” paper outlined that internet service providers must take concrete steps to curb illegal downloads, or consultation would begin in the spring on anti-piracy legislation. Given the obstinacy of some ISPs, such as Carphone Warehouse, in not doing their duty, can my right hon. Friend say when he proposes to introduce the proposals to regulate these people that have long been needed in this industry?

Margaret Hodge: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue, which is of prime importance. The question is how, given the changing technology, we ensure that proper value is obtained for creators across all our sectors—be it music, film or the written word. We said in our “Creative Britain” document that if we could not get a voluntary agreement between the ISPs and the industry on these issues, we would introduce proposals for regulation. We stand by that, but I am pleased to report to my hon. Friend that the mere publication of the document is already encouraging both parties to come to the table. We are hopeful that we can in the near future obtain a voluntary agreement between them, to the benefit of all those who create in Britain today.

T10. [212542] Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): The BBC is one of the few foreign broadcasting organisations that have been given permission to broadcast from the Olympics. Will the Minister give a commitment to the House that the Minister concerned will speak to the BBC Trust and to the BBC director-general to ensure that if there are human rights protests at the Olympic games in Beijing, they will not be censored by the Chinese or, indeed, by the BBC?

Andy Burnham: The questions that the hon. Gentleman raises are straightforwardly an editorial matter for the BBC, but in all her discussions with the Chinese authorities my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics has repeatedly made the point that there should be progress toward full freedom of speech on all issues. She continues to make that case at every opportunity.

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T8. [212540] Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): How will the new arrangements between Sport England and the national bodies encourage people to participate more in sport?

Andy Burnham: As my hon. Friend knows, we have made our new policy for Sport England public in the past few weeks, and it is very much a policy of working through the national governing bodies of sport. We want to get 1 million more people playing organised and competitive sport, and that means having a clear relationship with the governing bodies in order to provide more coaching and more competitive opportunities to young people, thus expanding the talent pool at the very bottom, so that we can increase the chances of international success for the country. That is the vision that we have set out. It is a clear vision that sharpens the distinction between sport and physical activity. We think it is the right way to go, when coupled with initiatives such as free swimming, which will help to get more people active.

T9. [212541] Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): In view of FIFA’s statement that our world cup bid for 2018 will be decided entirely on its merits, with no reference having been made to the fact that we insist, as a nation, that all matches are shown on live, free-to-air TV, will Ministers now vigorously defend the principle that all matches in future world cup and European finals tournaments should be kept on the A-list of protected events and thus be available to the many, not the few?

Andy Burnham: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend’s work on listed sporting events and his robust defence of the need for such a list to ensure free-to-air access to our main national sports. I am as committed as he is to that principle, because it is important to balance giving sports access to the widest possible public and getting money into the grass roots. He will be aware that the list is subject to some challenge in Europe—for example whether it is possible to maintain such a policy. I assure him that I am vigorously defending the principles of the list, and I look forward to having continued discussions with him on this subject.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked—

Training Sites

1. Mr. Ben Wallace (Lancaster and Wyre) (Con): What assistance she plans to give to potential Olympic training sites to make contact with overseas sporting bodies. [212558]

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): Responsibility for promoting Olympic training sites lies with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, which will publish a pre-games training camp guide at the Beijing games this summer. In addition, £25,000 will be made available by LOCOG as a credit to help attract national Olympic committees to the UK to set up pre-games training camps.

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I would like to take this opportunity to remind all Members that they can act as advocates for their local authorities and constituencies. The hon. Gentleman’s constituency contains a training camp, which has been deemed suitable for equestrian events. There is the possibility for Members of this House to act as advocates and bring teams to this country.

Mr. Wallace: As the Minister rightly says, Myerscough college in my constituency has been deemed a place for equestrian training. Unfortunately, although it has great facilities, it lacks the international networking skills that perhaps the larger venues already have. Will she assure us that any plans that Sport England and the Olympic committee put in place will help to target the smaller venues as well as to assist the larger ones?

Tessa Jowell: That is absolutely the case in respect of smaller sports, smaller countries and smaller venues. May I underline the hon. Gentleman’s role in advocating, on behalf of the equestrian movement, the benefits of the facilities in his constituency?

Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye) (Lab): My home town of Hastings has made an offer, through the high commissioner, to provide some facilities to Sierra Leone. In respect of both pre-training and the occasions of the Olympics, the problem is frequently the cost of getting athletes from highly indebted countries to the event. Could some assistance be provided to help with the plane fares?

Tessa Jowell: This is precisely the kind of issue that LOCOG is addressing. I am happy to have further discussions with my hon. Friend about this matter, so that he can continue to pursue the interests of the Sierra Leone team.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): The key concern on Olympic training sites and, indeed, the wider London 2012 project is security. Last week, a KPMG report was extremely critical of security planning, noting:

That conclusion was then backed by the National Audit Office report on Friday. Three years after Singapore, and given the obvious importance of the issue, why is there no full, costed security plan?

Tessa Jowell: The fully costed security plan, as the hon. Gentleman well knows, is in the process of being prepared. It is being led by the Home Office with proper oversight and management arrangements. Yes, work has been under way for some time, but we wish to ensure that the security budget pays only for those matters that are specifically relevant to the Olympics, and that no further additionality or other wish lists are being funded from the Olympic budget. Because of the lead that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has taken, there is confidence that the planning of security is properly under control and we will have a safe and secure games, with security a proportionate part of the way in which the games are run and managed.

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Ms Sally Keeble (Northampton, North) (Lab): Are the funds that my right hon. Friend mentioned just for the training camps or will local authorities and local sports partnerships be able to access them to help to attract sporting bodies to our areas, as we want to do in Northamptonshire?

Tessa Jowell: The £25,000 credit to which I referred is specifically available to encourage national Olympic teams to come to any of the 600-plus preferred and approved training camp venues. That money is not available if an Olympic team chooses to use non-approved facilities.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Will the Minister confirm also that the assistance that will be given will include advising potential Olympic training sites on what to tell overseas sporting bodies about the action that the Government intend taking in relation to safeguarding the future of the Olympic village and how much additional investment might be required to ensure that that is delivered?

Tessa Jowell: That is a good try at getting in a question about the financing of the Olympic village, on which the hon. Gentleman has been briefed, as has the Conservative spokesman. The hon. Member for Carshalton and Wallington (Tom Brake) will understand that because of the economic downturn, Lend Lease has experienced difficulty in raising all the debt that it originally sought to finance the village, but there is full confidence that the financing package will be completed by the end of this year, and work on the site has already begun.

Target Pistol Shooting

2. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): What facilities she plans to provide for target pistol shooting at the 2012 London Olympics. [212559]

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The Royal Artillery Barracks at Woolwich has been designated as the venue for all the shooting competitions at the 2012 games, including target pistol shooting. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Olympic Delivery Authority are currently developing their plans for the facilities at Woolwich.

Mr. Amess: As an enthusiastic supporter of the Olympic games coming to London, I am increasingly worried about the state of the British economy. Will the Minister now explain how she can justify having this competition in a temporary building in Woolwich at a cost of £28 million, which is against the Olympic charter of a lasting legacy, when the competition could easily be held at the headquarters in Bisley?

Tessa Jowell: First, the cost that the hon. Gentleman refers to has not been confirmed. Secondly, yes, the venue at Woolwich will be temporary, but the intention
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is that the facilities will be relocated in other parts of the country. Part of the commitment to holding down costs and living within the Olympic budget is the need to strike a proper balance between temporary venues, which the Olympic park will include, and the permanent venues that will provide a lasting legacy.

Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme) (Lab): The target pistol shooters will of course be housed with the other athletes in the Olympic village, for which the private sector financing deal is now in some difficulty. Last week, I saw some Olympic Delivery Authority figures: £450 million from the private sector and £550 million from the ODA for that facility. However, my understanding is that the baseline contribution of the ODA in the budget is only £300 million, with the balance—of up to £1.5 billion, not £1 billion—to be provided from the
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private sector and other contributions. Can my right hon. Friend shed some light on the discrepancies in these figures?

Tessa Jowell: With respect to my hon. Friend, I think that he might be referring to the figures for the Olympic village, not the figures for target pistol shooting, which have not been published. The figures for the Olympic village have been subject to some coverage. They have been fully disclosed at this stage to the National Audit Office and are on the public record. The important thing is that the deal is a matter for commercial negotiation and as such, it is not right nor possible—neither is it the best way to protect taxpayers’ money—to make every step of the negotiations available. However, in the spirit of the cross-party running of the games, I have shared the information in real time with Opposition spokesmen and the Select Committee.

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