Under the whole sport plans that we have just agreed, we want to place sport governing bodies on the spot to
get more girls and women playing sport, to improve disability sport and to create more opportunities for people from black and ethnic minority communities. Those are not optional extras; they are critical targets if a sport wants to benefit from public funding.
Dr. Brian Iddon (Bolton, South-East) (Lab): May I thank my right hon. Friend for visiting two sports clubs in my constituency a few days ago, both of which offer cricket as one of their sports? Does he know from his constituency that such clubs are already under pressure as a result of reduced bar takings and three bad summers, which have meant reduced spectator takings? On top of that, very few of them are now able to employ a professional cricketer during the summer period, which has also resulted in fewer spectators and lower takings. If the surface water drainage charges are accepted, particularly in the way in which United Utilities is applying them to cricket clubs in my area of the north-west, it will be the last straw for cricket in many villages and many parts of Bolton.
Andy Burnham: I was pleased to visit the two cricket clubs, Darcy Lever and Bolton Indians, recently. It was not the first time that I had done so, because I used to play in the Bolton association league and was on the end of beatings handed out at both those grounds many times. I know the strength of cricket in my hon. Friends local area.
I have two points. First, cricket is the largest beneficiary under the new whole sport plan process that my hon. Friend the Sports Minister put in place with Sport England. More money is being directed to the development of cricket, in recognition of the fact that cricket has big needs and faces big costs for its facilities. Secondly, my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, South-East (Dr. Iddon) is right that water charges have a great impact on cricket clubs, given the surface area of most of them. It is important that we pursue the discussions that I mentioned and reach a good solution for cricket, recognising the particular needs of cricket clubs. I assure him that I will work diligently on all those things.
Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Con): According to the DCMSs own figures, funding for community sport has gone down by £15 million in the past three years. At a time when central Government have to tighten their belt, is this not precisely the moment that the lottery was set up for? Will the Secretary of State, perhaps with the zeal of a repenting sinner, finally consider returning the lottery to its original pillars so that sport can get the help that it so desperately needs?
Andy Burnham: First, may I offer the hon. Gentleman congratulations on two counts? I am sure that I speak for all Labour Members in giving him our warmest wishes on his recent engagement. I also congratulate him on retaining his Front-Bench position, although I do not know whether he is pleased or disappointed about that; we hope that he is pleased.
The hon. Gentleman repeatedly misses a point in the debate, and he has done so again. When the Government created the New Opportunities Fund, it specifically had the ability to invest money in schools. The lottery could not previously invest in the statutory sector. Following on from that, my right hon. Friend the Member for
Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) brought a major national initiative to fruition, which sawfrom memory around £750 million invested in school sport UK wide. That created a network of flood-lit, astro-turf pitches in my constituency, which are heavily used during the school day, at evenings and weekends. I am incredibly proud of that. The investment would not have gone to schools if we had left the lottery as it was. I therefore make no apology for enhancing sports facilities in schools in that way.
Mr. Hunt: But the Secretary of State misses the crucial point that my hon. Friend the Member for South-West Bedfordshire (Andrew Selous) made: there is a big increase in the drop-off rate of people taking part in sport when they leave school. That is why we need to continue to invest in not only school sport but community sports clubs. Funding for the latter has been cut. According to yesterdays papers, the Secretary of State has been hosting £3,000-a-head dinner parties for the great and the good. Is not that the wrong way to spend the Departments money at a time of economic crisis, when sports club budgets are being cut, and was not his spokeswoman wrong yesterday to say describe it as a coup for Britain?
Andy Burnham: With respect, the hon. Gentleman again misunderstands our policy. We have said that more money will be channelled through the national governing bodies of sport because they are the experts and should be able to decide which clubs to build up and which deserve more support. [Interruption.] Well, I will send him the figures. The funding will increase significantly in the next few years, when more than £90 million extra will be spent on improving sports clubs. I repeat that I will send him the figures. The community sports club fund has decreased, but because more money is going to the clubs through national governing bodiesI wish he would understand that.
On the hon. Gentlemans second point, let us be clear about the event. It was the launch of an international forum to promote Britain as the natural home of the creative industries. As part of that, we have recruited 25 of the biggest namesthe biggest playersin the world in the creative industries. [Hon. Members: Name them.] I can name them, and I will write to the hon. Member for South-West Surrey (Mr. Hunt). The event happened because they will give their time for free to advise this country on ensuring that we build on our strength in the creative industries. I am proud of the fact that this country has strength in those industries. The hon. Gentleman might be happy with the newspaper headlines that he has got, but he should not misrepresent the event or what it seeks to achieve.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Barbara Follett):
The Stonehenge project implementation group has considered the outcome
of the public consultation on the future of Stonehenge and recommended two options for the location of new visitor facilities.
Robert Key: I thank the Under-Secretary for her determination to press ahead with the extremely important project. Does she agree that, if it is decided to site the visitor centre at Airmans Cross rather than Fargo Plantation, which seems likely and would be acceptable, it will be even more important to get the transport link between the visitor centre and the stones? Will she promise us that the link, whether it is some sort of land train or other form of transport, will be part of the visitor experience, include technology explaining the journey from the centre to the stones as part of the prehistoric landscape and be a world-class facility in its own right?
Barbara Follett: I commend the hon. Gentleman on all the work that he has done on this extremely knotty problem and to reassure him that every effort will be made to ensure that the transport facilities, whichever site is decided upon, will be world class. We are talking about an iconic facilityEnglish Heritages most visitedand I want to ensure, just as he does, that the visitors centre and its transport minimise the impact on the landscape and the archaeology, but at the same time provide people who go with the best possible experience.
Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): May I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (Robert Key), who has spent an awful lot of time on Salisbury plain campaigning on the important issue of the Stonehenge visitor centre? [ Interruption. ] For 20 years, the Minister says. He has been there so long that he probably deserves honorary druid status. Unfortunately, however, the same cannot be said of the Government. They have spent £30 million on paper exercises, and still nothing happens. How long do we have to wait for some leadership? A Tory social action project would have had the work done by now. What is staggering is that we are the fifth biggest economic power in the world and the sixth most popular country to visit, and still we cannot even build a half-decent visitor centre for our top outdoor tourist attraction. Stonehenge is a timeless monument, but it seems that this Government can find no time to support it.
Barbara Follett: I commend the hon. Gentlemans enthusiasm, and I am glad that he brings it to this knotty problem. A lot of enthusiasm and a fair bit of money have gone into looking at alternatives. This Minister is determinedI told the House that I was an impatient woman, and that is what is making me so impatient.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham):
I am aware of concerns in all parts of the House about pressures on the local news industry. Last week I met the Society of Editors to discuss those issues and what can be done to support local newspapers.
I have also asked Lord Carter to look at local news media in his work on the Digital Britain report.
Ms Clark: I thank the Minister for his answer. Is he aware of the Scottish national issue and the announcement by Newsquest that it is to cut 40 editorial positions at the Glasgow Herald? The company is giving almost all the journalists redundancy and asking them to reapply for their jobs, despite making £23 million in Scotland in 2007. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet the National Union of Journalists to discuss not just that issue, but the wider issue of the press?
Andy Burnham: Like everybody, I feel for those people who have lost their jobs at the Glasgow Herald. I will certainly agree to my hon. Friends request for a meeting with the NUJ, although I should point out that many of the policy responsibilities in that area are the responsibility of the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. However, I recognise that local newspapers face pressures both from the current economic climate and from structural changes in the media industries. Only a few years ago the press accounted for 54 per cent. of the advertising spend in this country, but the figure is now down to 43 per cent., so there are real structural changes taking place. We need to take a careful look at local news outlets in the current climate and see whether more creative ways can be found to sustain high-quality media at the local level. Lord Carter will take forward that work in Digital Britain, but I am sure that colleagues in all parts of the House will want to pay close attention to the issue.
Richard Ottaway (Croydon, South) (Con): The Secretary of State will be aware that the Evening Standard is at the centre of Londons local news media industry. Under the circumstances, might it not be appropriate to conduct an inquiry into whether a former KGB member is a fit and proper person to own that newspaper?
Andy Burnham: The Evening Standard is indeed a well-loved part of London lifea view held on both sides of the House, I hasten to addand, whatever changes are in the offing, it should maintain its character and journalistic standards on all counts. I am sure that, like me, the hon. Gentleman will accept that what matters is not an individuals nationality but the plans that they have to uphold those standards and that character. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Ms Clark), these are principally matters for the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform.
Mr. Neil Turner (Wigan) (Lab): What confidence does my right hon. Friend have that the partnership between ITV and the BBC for regional television news can be maintained? What plans does he have to monitor the success of that partnership?
Regional news on ITV produces strong feelings on both sides of the House. Many representations have been made to me about the need to maintain a provider of news in the regions, and my hon. Friend has also made that case in a very forthright way over the years. I suggested some time ago that a partnership between the BBC and ITV in the regions would be a
good way of sharing costs and sustaining those important news services. I am encouraged by reports that the two sides have made good progress on establishing a partnership arrangement. Ofcom will say more this week about public service broadcasting, in the culmination of its second stage review. We will need to consider all these matters in the round when we come to make our decisions, but there is good progress to report and I hope that my hon. Friend will continue to support the need for a good solution for the north-west and other parts of the country.
Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con): The Minister will know that one of the biggest issues facing local newspapers across the United Kingdom is the increased power of the online offering from the BBC. I do not want to use this as an opportunity to bash the British Broadcasting Corporation
Mr. Field: tempting though that might be. More importantly, will the Minister tell us today about his concerns in this regard? The BBC has a monopoly interest and can rely on a large licence fund from the taxpayer, and it is crowding out any sense of competition from local news media in many parts of the country.
Andy Burnham: My right hon. Friend the Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) set up the BBC Trust to examine precisely the issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised. It not only looks at the desire of the BBC to launch new services but applies a wider public value test so that the actions of the BBC can be considered in terms of the effect that they will have on other parts of the media industry. The hon. Gentleman will know that the BBCs local video service was tested by the trust on that basis, and the trust made its decision late last year. Listening to his question, I imagine that he will have found that decision favourable. Obviously, these issues need to be carefully considered. The local media are an important part of the health of our democracy in every hon. Members constituency, and, this year, we need to pay closer attention to the pressures on local newspapers and to helping them to survive into the digital age.
Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): With reference to the earlier question about the possibility of the London Evening Standard being bought up by a Russian oligarch, and given that Roman Abramovich is reported to be trying to sell off Chelsea to middle eastern interests, how long will it be before Londoners see their evening paper being traded from an oligarch to the middle east?
Andy Burnham: There is obviously a limit to what I can say on this matter. Indeed, the policy responsibility rests with the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. However, as I have said many times in relation to the ownership of football clubs, it is not nationality that matters, but the importance of any individual who purports to own an important part of British national life having the best of intentions and seeking to uphold its standards, character and integrity. That is all that can be said on this matter for the time being.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in congratulating Liverpool on an exceptional year as European capital of culture, and in recognising the role played by Phil Redmond and Bryan Gray in achieving that success. Two weeks ago, the Minister with responsibility for culture and I hosted a national tourism summit to consider how best the Government can help this crucial industry in these challenging economic times. We will make further statements on actions arising from that in due course. On Wednesday, Ofcom will publish its review of public service broadcasting, and I shall arrange for copies of the report to be placed in the House Library. I will also address the Oxford media convention on Thursday, and Lord Carters interim Digital Britain report will follow next week.
Christine Russell: My right hon. Friend has just mentioned the amazing success of Liverpool as European capital of culture, and he will be aware of the significant contribution that the designation of world heritage site status in 2004 made to the economic regeneration of Liverpool. Will my right hon. Friend or his ministerial colleague give me an assurance that in the ongoing review there will be no change of policy that could in any way undermine the aspiration of my city, Chester, for world heritage site status on the basis of its well preserved and unique mediaeval rows?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Barbara Follett): As my hon. Friend will know, we are consulting on the World Heritage for the Nation consultation paper. That consultation will close next month and we will have to consider the responses very carefully. No decision has yet been made about future nominations and no decisions about them will be made until that has been done. Chester is one of the most ancient and pretty towns in England, which has won lots of awards for its visitor experience, and I hope that it continues to do so.
T2.  James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): With the decline in the pound against the euro and a number of other currencies, what can the Department do to encourage people to make more use of tourism in the United Kingdom, particularly short breaks in excellent areas such as Southend?
Barbara Follett: As Minister for the East of England, I have a particular affection for Southend, which has just acquired its first university, of which I am very proud. I am working with VisitBritain and various other tourism trade bodies to ensure that we have a very good offer. As the hon. Gentleman will know from recent reports, the number of people intending to take their holidays in Britain has risen by 50 per cent., so we have to take advantage of that, as well as of the demand for international tourism.