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House of Commons

Monday 6 October 2008

The House met at half-past Two o’clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Death of a Member

2.34 pm

Mr. Speaker: I regret to have to report to the House the death of John William MacDougall, the Member for Glenrothes. I am sure that Members in all parts of the House will join me in mourning the loss of a colleague and in extending our sympathy to the hon. Member’s family and friends.

Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked—

Sound Recordings (Copyright)

1. Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): What his policy is on the extension of copyright duration and terms affecting sound recordings; and if he will make a statement. [224370]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): Policy responsibility for intellectual property rests with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills. However, given my Department’s responsibility for the music industry, these are issues in which we have a close interest. The Government are considering the European Commission proposal currently on the table in Brussels. Discussions are still continuing at a European level.

Mr. Gray: A band named Pendragon in my constituency tells me that when it recently produced a new DVD it sold 50 copies in the first week, but in that same week 3,000 copies were illegally downloaded. Does the Secretary of State not agree that he ought now to implement the recommendation made two years ago in the Gowers report that would take some steps towards stamping out illegal downloading, which is driving smaller bands and small labels in particular to the wall, and is it not also about time that he accepted the Select Committee recommendation that copyright should be extended to 90 years?

Andy Burnham: There are two issues in that supplementary question, the first of which is about illegal downloading. The hon. Gentleman will have seen that in the summer the Government facilitated a memorandum of understanding signed between the film and music industries and the major internet service providers, with general agreement to achieving a significant reduction in illegal downloading within two to three years. He is right to raise this issue, because it goes right to the heart of the success of the British music industry in the long term; there are still far too many tracks downloaded illegally, and we have to take firm action. I hope that he agrees that the Government have changed their tone on this issue and are signalling far more urgency.

The question of term involves complicated issues, and while the Commission has put forward its proposals, I think it is fair to say that no consensus has yet emerged around them. Here, our Select Committee proposed the idea of term extensions to 70 years, so there are different ideas and we need to see if we can find a way through and a compromise position. Again, I am looking very closely at all the issues that the hon. Gentleman raises.

Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): The Secretary of State has consistently said that he wants to do something big for the music industry. Well,
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here is his chance. He talks about consensus; all the stakeholders in the music industry, from the labels to the musicians, collection agencies and publishers, want an end to this unique and historic discrimination against musicians. The draft directive is on the table in Brussels. All the Secretary of State has to do is say yes and support it. Why will he not do that?

Andy Burnham: The memorandum that I mentioned a few moments ago is something significant for the music industry, because illegal downloading is seriously threatening its future. On the question of copyright term, I think it is fair to say that there is not quite the unanimity that the hon. Gentleman seems to suggest. There is still some debate about whether the Commission’s proposals are the right ones. They take us a step further forward and they raise the question of benefits to performers, which is important, and which, from my Department’s perspective, I am keen to pursue. However, I do not think this is quite as easy as he seems to make out.

Stephen Pound (Ealing, North) (Lab): May I say what a pleasure it is to see a young Evertonian at the Dispatch Box, as opposed to an old Etonian? On this subject, does my right hon. Friend know whether Mr. Steven Wonder, the author of “A man with a plan”, is still receiving his loyalties at present? Finally, may I say that there is a great deal of confusion, and that while we seek illumination we seem to find caliginosity everywhere? Will the Secretary of State please undertake at some stage in the future to clarify this issue?

Andy Burnham: Well, I could do with some clarification myself, I think, after that question, but my hon. Friend is right that there is a need for clarification. These are complicated issues, which we are looking at very carefully. They raise strong feelings in the music industry, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) mentioned. We are looking at them very carefully and we will come to a UK Government position very soon.

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): If I write to the Secretary of State, will he look at the issue of copyright extension as it affects the British Film Institute, which, as he knows, has the largest and most important film archive in the world? Will he, furthermore, congratulate the BFI on its 75th anniversary, and in particular “Screenonline” for schools, which has brought schools, through digital media, to so many of our educational institutions?

Andy Burnham: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that question, and indeed I will congratulate the BFI. The scheme that he mentions is very worthy and valuable. Illegal downloading affects both the music industry and the film industry, although it has affected the music industry first, and the memorandum we signed affects both music and film. He also talked about copyright extension. These are issues that potentially have an impact on more than just the music industry, and we have to give careful consideration to rewarding people who have made content that is still very much in demand around the world while striking a fair balance for consumers who wish to get access to that content for the lowest possible price. These are complicated judgments. We have to come to the right decision, but I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I have the interests of the film and music industries very much at the forefront of my mind.

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Elite Athletes

2. Mrs. Sharon Hodgson (Gateshead, East and Washington, West) (Lab): What steps he plans to take to aid the identification and development of elite athletes. [224372]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): The Government and UK Sport are working with sports governing bodies to identify and develop elite Olympic and Paralympic athletes through our world-class performance programme. We have seen a fundamental shift in the way in which elite sport is resourced—from £63 million of lottery funding for Sydney to £265 million of lottery and Exchequer funding for Beijing, building to a significant package of lottery, Exchequer and private funds for London 2012.

Mrs. Hodgson: I am sure that the Secretary of State will join me in congratulating the Sunderland boxer Tony Jeffries on the bronze medal that he won in Beijing. However, the Secretary of State may not be aware of the problems that Tony Jeffries encountered trying to secure funding for his pre-Olympic training. My friend and neighbouring MP, my hon. Friend the Member for Blaydon (Mr. Anderson), thanks to some good work, managed to secure some funding on Tony Jeffries’ behalf. Can the Secretary of State assure me that the same problems will not be encountered by north-east athletes or indeed athletes from anywhere in the UK in the run-up to 2012?

Andy Burnham: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, who gives me a useful prompt to say that I am sure that the whole House wishes to join me in congratulating our Olympians and Paralympians on their outstanding success at the Beijing Olympics in the summer. They truly inspired and lifted the entire nation, and we all pay tribute to them; it was the best ever performance by Great Britain on foreign soil in an Olympic games. I saw Tony Jeffries fighting while I was in Beijing, and I am sure that we would want to congratulate him, too, on his bronze medal. I know that he faced particular challenges leading up to Beijing, although he did benefit from some world-class performance funding. What this says to me is that as we move forward, we need to put in place a package of support that really lets our young people focus on sport. That is the real benefit of world-class performance funding—giving them some certainty, so that they can focus on what they do best. We can all learn the lessons of the run-up to Beijing, and try to do even better as we come into the London Olympics.

Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): In a similar vein to that of the hon. Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Mrs. Hodgson), I wonder whether the Secretary of State will join me in wishing the very best of luck to Jake Arkell and Callum Frowen, from my constituency, who this weekend will be participating in the world drugs-free powerlifting championships in Antwerp. They trained at the Forest fitness centre in Cinderford, which trains people across my constituency. I am sure that the Secretary of State will join me in wishing them the very best of luck.

Andy Burnham: I certainly will. I am sure that everybody wishes to see British sporting success continue and the momentum that we established in Beijing go on and on, so they have my very best wishes.

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Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): I am sure that my right hon. Friend will not mind if we do not run through all the medallists that we have in Loughborough; we would probably be here for some time, and I think that we came 34th in the medal table at Beijing this time round. However, he will know that there is still the substantial shortfall of £100 million of funding—it has probably reduced a little now, to £69 million—leading up to 2012. Unless there is a significant change in the Government’s position in the immediate future, the cuts to the programme could put at risk all the success that we achieved by coming fourth in the Olympic and Paralympic tables in Beijing. Will my right hon. Friend as a matter of urgency make sure that this thing is sorted out by the time of UK Sport’s December board meeting?

Andy Burnham: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that we do not wish to lose any momentum that we have gained on the Olympic games. It is also important to say that the public support available now to our elite Olympians and Paralympians is obviously unprecedented, but we always said that wished to supplement it with funds raised from private sponsorship in the private sector, so we have come to a package of support for elite athletes that is essentially a mixed economy of lottery and Exchequer funds and funds from the private sector. In the long term, that will be the best way to sustain elite sport. We will soon announce a new scheme called “medal hopes”, which will provide opportunities for businesses up and down the country to be associated with the world-class performance programme, and I am very confident that we will raise the money needed to ensure that we get even more success in London 2012.

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that the National Rifle Association at Bisley has done a tremendous amount of work in the past few years in encouraging young people to develop their skills and their participation in the Olympic sport of target shooting? Wonderful work has been done. Can the Government say anything to encourage that improvement among young people that the NRA has started? Can he say a word or two about Bisley’s future as far as the Olympics are concerned?

Andy Burnham: I would not disagree with anything that the hon. Gentleman said; the NRA does extremely good work. My hon. Friend the Minister for Sport has visited Bisley, and we remain in close discussion with the NRA and the Home Office, which has an interest in these matters. We shall continue to take forward those discussions, and I entirely endorse what the hon. Gentleman said.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): May I associate myself entirely with the Minister’s remarks about our Olympians and Paralympians?

I wish to pick up on the point made by the hon. Member for Loughborough (Mr. Reed). Over the past month, I have met every sports organisation involved with sourcing this missing £100 million—UK Sport, the British Olympic Association, the governing bodies of the individual sports or even Fast Track—and not one of them believes that the full amount is deliverable from the private sector, simply because so many other organisations are in the market looking for private
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funding. The Secretary of State must be aware that that uncertainty is having an extremely damaging effect on preparations for London 2012. Have any of those key organisations given him the same warning that they have given me?

Andy Burnham: I shall come to the hon. Gentleman’s question, but first I wish to put some facts on the table. Some £265 million of public money was made available to support our Olympians and Paralympians in preparing for the games in Beijing. Let us cast our minds back. Practically nothing was available in the run-up to the Atlanta Olympics and Britain came 36th in the medals table. [Interruption.] Opposition Members say, “Before the lottery”. It may have escaped the hon. Gentleman’s attention that some Exchequer funding was put into the effort to support the team for Beijing.

The hon. Gentleman talks about a missing £100 million. It has always been our plan to put in place at least the same amount of support that we had for the Beijing games and then to supplement that with contributions from the private sector. We are working out the details of that scheme. Before the end of this year we will make a detailed set of announcements that give sport certainty going into this Olympic period—a unique period when the world spotlight will be upon us. I am proud of what we have done so far to support elite sport, and I am confident that we will build on the momentum and success that we achieved in Beijing.

World Heritage Sites

4. David Wright (Telford) (Lab): What plans he has further to support World Heritage Sites in the UK. [224374]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Barbara Follett): With your permission, Mr. Speaker, before I answer the question I should like to pay tribute to the work done by my predecessor and friend, the right hon. Member for Barking (Margaret Hodge), and wish her husband, Henry, a very speedy recovery.

The Government are reviewing their UK world heritage policy, and as part of that review we will examine the costs and benefits of world heritage status and the future of the UK tentative list. We propose to consult widely on that shortly, and we are also looking to enhance protection for our world heritage sites through the planning framework.

David Wright: Do we not need to do more to promote UK world heritage sites around the world? Do not the 2012 Olympics give us an excellent opportunity to promote world heritage and world games? Will the Minister agree to meet me—I chair the all-party group on world heritage sites—and the Local Authority World Heritage Forum to discuss how the Government can support the better promotion of world heritage sites in the run-up to 2012?

Barbara Follett: I would be very happy indeed to do that, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he and the all-party group on world heritage sites do. I know that he has a particular interest in the site at Ironbridge.

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Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): May I warmly welcome the Minister to her new role and urge her to put Stonehenge at the top of her priorities? Since Stonehenge was declared a world heritage site, more than 50 Ministers have had some responsibility for it, which is probably why nothing has happened so far. Will she assure me that she will meet the new roads Minister to discuss the current proposals, the consultation on which ends this month, so that she can make progress on Stonehenge, taking into account not only its international and national significance, but the burden put on local communities by the lack of proper facilities at Stonehenge and the gridlock that occurs there every weekend?

Barbara Follett: I commend the hon. Gentleman; when I was a Parliamentary Private Secretary in this Department, I had great admiration for his tenacity on this subject. I will indeed do as he asks and meet the Transport Minister responsible.

Sir Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton) (Lab): In congratulating my hon. Friend on her new role, may I invite her to visit Gorton monastery in my constituency, one of the most superbly refurbished world monuments in this country—

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham) (Lab): Like its MP!

Sir Gerald Kaufman: We’ve had MacShane: what about Lucan?

In inviting my hon. Friend the Minister to visit the monastery, may I ask her to consult colleagues about the ludicrous anachronism that prevents civil marriage ceremonies from taking place there, because the Marriage Act 1994 prevents civil marriages from taking place in a former place of worship? In her new role, will she show her dedication to world monuments by consulting colleagues to put that right?

Barbara Follett: I thank my right hon. Friend, and I would be very happy to visit the monastery. I have a family interest in such matters as my husband writes about them extensively. I will also consult colleagues on the Marriage Act.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Saltaire is a marvellous world heritage site in my constituency, and the biggest problem that it experiences is congestion at Saltaire roundabout. Does the Minister agree that the regional transport board that decides such matters should take into account the visitor experience at that world heritage site, and will she use her good offices to try to persuade the board that funding for improvement of that roundabout should be a priority?

Barbara Follett: I will indeed. It is a great heritage site, and as a regional Minister I know how important it is to get regional engagement on these matters.

Mr. Stephen Hepburn (Jarrow) (Lab): The Minister’s predecessor not only agreed to support the Jarrow-Wearmouth bid for world heritage site status, but agreed to meet a delegation on the issue. May I take it that the Minister will confirm her support for the bid and carry on the commitment to meet the delegation from Jarrow?

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