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Westminster Hall

Thursday 22 January 2009

[Janet Anderson in the Chair]

DCMS Annual Report

[Relevant documents: Department for Culture, Media and Sport Annual Report 2008 CM 7400, Department for Culture, Media and Sport Autumn Performance Report 2008 CM 7518 and Culture, Media and Sport Committee oral and written evidence HC 1000-i Session 2007-08.]

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Mark Tami.)

2.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon with you chairing proceedings, Mrs. Anderson. It is also good to see the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East (Mr. Ellwood) arrive.

It is a pleasure to update hon. Members who feel it appropriate to be here on the landmark year that we have had in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. As you will know from your time in the Department, Mrs. Anderson, since the DCMS was formed, one of its hallmarks has been the desire to increase access, participation and the quality of experiences for everyone. The Department’s strapline includes the aim

In 2008, we made huge steps towards that goal.

This afternoon, I intend to highlight some of the key issues and achievements. Although not exhaustive, my speech will show the range and depth of the issues faced in the Department and our commitment to maintaining progress.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): The Minister has given an overview of what he intends to say. Would it not also be appropriate for him to dwell on the areas in which the Department has failed? He is well aware of the large number of the Department’s targets that have not been met. Surely it is appropriate not only to discuss the achievements but to explain the reasons for the failures.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am usually grateful for the hon. Gentleman’s interventions, but not this afternoon. I do not recognise many failures, but I am sure that he will allude to those that there are in his speech, and perhaps I will respond to them afterwards.

On the whole, it has been a fantastic year for the DCMS, particularly in the area of sport. Sport in the UK had an incredible year in 2008. I had the enormous privilege of seeing Team GB in action at the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics. They brought back the biggest medal haul in living memory. That was down to the endeavour of the athletes, their coaches and the sport governing bodies. Athletes and their governing bodies realise that their level of performance was made possible by the increased funding for elite sport and a strategic shift in focus.

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Funding for Beijing was £265 million over four years, compared with £85 million for Athens and £69 million for Sydney. That increase played a massive part in ensuring that the target of 35 Olympic medals and the stretch target of 41 medals were surpassed. We ended up with 47 medals, much to the annoyance of our Australian counterparts. It was our best performance since 1920. Together with the incredible second-place ranking in the medals table achieved by the Paralympians, it has provided a launching pad for the London 2012 games and the wonderful decade of sport to come in the UK. That decade starts this year with the cricket Twenty20 world cup. That will be followed by the Ryder cup, the Commonwealth games and the Olympics in 2012. Hopefully that will be followed by successful bids for the rugby world cup and the soccer World cup.

As I have said, 2008 was a fantastic year for sport with Lewis Hamilton winning the Formula 1 championship and Joe Calzaghe maintaining his unbeaten record in the world of boxing. It was a good year not only for elite sport, but for sport at the grass-roots level. Since 2001, £1 billion of Exchequer and lottery money has gone into revitalising our local sporting landscape. More than 4,000 sports facilities have been built or upgraded since that time, and 90 per cent. of the population now live within 20 minutes of facilities offering at least two of the most in-demand sports. That has met our manifesto commitment.

To put that in context, Exchequer funding for Sport England has increased more than threefold from £33 million in 1997 to £133 million in 2008-09. Last year also saw the development of Sport England’s new strategy, through which a million more people will be playing sport by 2012, which will make up part of the 2 million people promised in the legacy action plan. To help deliver that target, Sport England announced an unprecedented £480 million funding award for national governing bodies shortly before Christmas. We have given national governing bodies a great responsibility. It is through them that we will deliver community sport. We wish them every success and will give them every assistance to ensure that they deliver.

The revolution of school sport in this country continues. We have established a network of 225 competition managers to increase competitive school sport and a network of dedicated further education sport co-ordinators to engage 16 to 19-year-olds in colleges. We held our first ever national school sports week and the third UK School Games.

Mr. Don Foster: Brilliant.

Mr. Sutcliffe: It was superb. It was held in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, and I acknowledge the part he played in ensuring that it was a great success. I know that all participants thought that it was a good experience.

Sport Unlimited was launched to attract more young people into sport by providing diverse new opportunities. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games awarded its Inspire mark to our “Young Ambassadors” programme, which has seen 5,500 young ambassadors inspiring their peers to take up sport.

Nine out of 10 pupils now do at least two hours of high-quality physical education or sport a week. That smashed our ambitious target of 85 per cent. of pupils doing two hours a week by 2008. To put that in context, in 2002 the level of participation was just 25 per cent.
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That means that four million more children are now playing sport. Our new ambition is to offer five hours a week of PE and sport to all five to 16-year-olds by 2011. That will be made possible by investments totalling £2.4 billion between 2003 and 2011. With the Department for Children, Schools and Families, we announced a further £100 million for dance, which is another good way for people to keep active.

We also announced the free swimming programme and I am delighted that 82 per cent. of councils have signed up to it. I am slightly concerned by the motives of some councils that have used not signing up as a political tool. In effect, it was local government that initiated the idea of free swimming in authorities such as Wigan and Durham. I hope that the authorities that are playing politics will look again at the opportunity to provide free swimming to their constituents. The Government investment of £140 million will enable 20 million people aged under 16 or over 60 to swim for free from this April. That will be another massive step forward in getting the nation healthier and more active. It will leave a lasting legacy from London 2012.

I will continue to discuss the theme of access and participation, but in the field of culture. In February we announced £25 million for the pathfinder “Find your talent” scheme. “Find your talent” is part of our plan to give young people access to five hours of quality cultural experience per week. It complements our policies on free museum access and enabling cultural initiatives such as creative partnerships. “Find your talent” allows young people to perform on stage, to get hands-on experience of the creative industries such as film making and radio and TV production, to learn musical instruments and to get involved in creative writing. It allows them to experience many other things at a professional level that they would probably never have had a hope of doing otherwise.

In September, we announced a £2.5 million scheme to provide free theatre tickets to young people. Between February this year and March 2011, 618,000 tickets will be available for those aged 26 and under to experience quality culture. It will increase access, build the audiences of the future and fill our theatres.

Sir Brian McMaster’s report was published in January with the aim of shifting the way in which we think about culture. It set out recommendations on how we recognise and reward excellence in the arts. We have started to implement the report’s findings. Free theatre stemmed from the recommendation for a free week of cultural events. Self-assessment and peer review was another important cornerstone, and the DCMS is working with national museums and galleries on a pilot programme. Arts Council England is leading a public consultation on the work of arts organisations.

We have looked at other areas of cultural provision. Public libraries, for example, play an important role in every community. However, they need to respond to a changing world where the digital content environment is developing daily, where there are new delivery models for local services, and where local government has a richer relationship with communities. We launched a modernisation review to refresh the Government’s vision for that local service and to support local authorities in delivering their aspirations for their communities.

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We are also looking to change perceptions about heritage with the “Engaging Places” initiative. In partnership with English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, we sought to bring local heritage to life by developing practical support for schools, so that children and young people can understand why their local buildings and places really do matter.

We have invested to regenerate by launching the “Sea Change” initiative and investing in seaside towns from Boscombe to Berwick to the tune of £15 million per year up to 2011. “Sea Change” will create new performance spaces, improve theatres, restore promenades, enable the redesign of beach fronts and provide new exhibition spaces.

When we talk about culture, we cannot forget the wonderful year that Liverpool has had as the capital of culture. With more than 7,000 events, there was something for everyone. Every child in Liverpool was involved—quite an incredible feat. I had some great times at the concerts and sporting events that I was able to attend. Such initiatives show that huge numbers will become involved, if they are inspired, and the capital of culture certainly inspired many people in Liverpool.

There has also been progress on supporting our creative industries, which since 1997 have grown at a faster rate than the rest of the economy. Making up 6.4 per cent. of gross value added, they are a vital part of Britain’s knowledge economy. In February, we launched “Creative Britain—New Talents for the New Economy”, which is a strategy for taking the UK’s creative industries from the margins to the mainstream of the nation’s economy. In the past year, we have worked with partners to deliver “Creative Britain” commitments, such as a £10 million investment in technology research and development for small and medium-sized creative businesses.

We launched in Liverpool the creativity and business international network, which will bring together the most influential international creative and business figures to shape the future development of the worldwide creative economy. We challenged employers to create 5,000 new high-quality jobs and apprenticeship places in the creative industries by 2013, and already more than 150 employers have signed up. And, of course, we commenced the nationwide digital switchover programme, which started at Whitehaven and has since progressed to plan.

There are also the darker challenges of the new media. In July, we started to implement the findings of the Byron review to protect children from harmful or inappropriate material, and we introduced a classification system for games in the internet age.

On gambling, we have worked with all sectors to realise the objectives of the Gambling Act 2005. Important measures have been taken to support bingo and to ensure that we assist other sectors that have had difficulties. We also want to ensure that we protect those who are vulnerable and have worked with the Responsibility in Gambling Trust and other agencies. In June, we introduced with the Home Office a yellow and red-card system to tackle problems with licensed premises.

Hon. Members can see that it has been a momentous and busy year for the DCMS. We may be challenged on some of the failures, but I do not believe that anyone can underestimate the tremendous success that we have had or the significant role that the Department plays in the quality of the UK’s sporting and cultural life. I look
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forward to the debate and assure hon. Members of the Department’s commitment to continuing the work that I have set out.

2.43 pm

Mr. Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth, East) (Con): It is a pleasure to be able to participate in this important debate on the annual report of the workings of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

My first question is why the Department has this debate in this particular context. For many other Departments, the report that scrutinises their work is written by the Select Committee—it is not written entirely by the Minister and his team. In this situation, we will get a rose-tinted picture. The first intervention, which came from the hon. Member for Bath (Mr. Foster)—I want to call him my hon. Friend—was pertinent. Will the Minister deal with any of the more taxing issues, which he knows full well we are likely to start debating right now?

Appropriately, I begin where the Minister began by speaking about the Olympics, which is one of the biggest aspects of the Department, and by offering my congratulations—we cannot stop doing that. The haul of medals that we received in Beijing was fantastic, and a high bar was set for 2012. The Olympics are so important. The haul of medals reflected changes in funding in previous years. Funding is up to £265 million.

Much of the success was down to seeds that were sown by John Major during his tenure. He ensured that money went to grass-roots sport, and that is why we have had such success not in the big sports such as track and field but in those in which we perhaps did not expect to do well, such as cycling.

I add my congratulations to the Olympic teams and offer encouragement to all those who watched the heroes come back from Beijing, who are looking ahead to 2012 and thinking, “Yes, I would like to emulate that, I would like to be there, I would like to be one of the medal winners.” My party joins the Government in offering congratulations to the Olympic squad and in looking forward to 2012.

Of course, the Minister managed to circumnavigate all the issues around 2012 that lie ahead. On several occasions, we have questioned the Minister for the Olympics on our concern about the changes to funding and the way in which money has been taken away from other areas—good causes and so on—because of the escalating costs of the Olympics.

I believe that the costs have now settled down at about £9 billion. Because the Government will borrow more than £1 trillion during the entirety of the Parliament, the £9 billion is almost dwarfed, and on the horizon seems to be less and less. But perhaps the Minister could bring us up to date on the exact financial picture for the Olympic games. There is a concern that the stadium will not be sold to a football or rugby club. I believe that it is to become a centre for sports excellence, which is fantastic, but my concern is that it and the other athletic tracks around the country will not be able to do justice to the amount of money that will be poured into building them. An update on the Olympics would be most helpful.

Continuing with the sporting theme, we have, of course, done well in other sports, most notably Lewis Hamilton winning the Formula 1 drivers championship—a
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fantastic result, yet again putting Britain on the main stage of international motor racing—and of course Joe Calzaghe, who has done such a fantastic job. I do not know when he intends to retire. His sport may not get the profile that it deserves, so I was pleased that he received recognition this year with the BBC sports personality of the year award.

Sport is essential. The Minister touched on something that is personal to me. In Bournemouth, I see children who are growing up in a very different circumstances from those in which my parents and I grew up. Often they lack parental guidance and the role models for life that we so much enjoyed. The fact that there are more sporting opportunities for schools is critical to allowing such individuals to expend energy rather than hang around on street corners which, of course, can cause problems and be a detriment to society rather than something positive.

In Bournemouth, astroturfs have been installed as one of the initiatives through Sport England. Sport is an excellent way to allow children who perhaps lack a bit of direction in life to meet other people and community leaders, and to expend energy rather than go down a misguided route which can eventually lead to all sorts of troubles. Getting on the wrong side of the law could affect their prospects in life. I am pleased with such developments.

I am also pleased that there is encouragement for people to participate in sports for at least five hours a week. I believe that the objective is to get five to 16-year-olds involved.

I am biased in this sense. I confess—perhaps I should have said this at the beginning— that I chose to go to Loughborough university purely because it was a sporting university. Heaven knows how I ended up not representing England and coming here to Parliament. Something clearly went wrong.

The Minister touched on the political differences that have come about through the introduction of free swimming by councils. I do not like the way in which that has been used as a political football. There is concern that not all councils have the extra funding to be able to match that which has been put forward by the Government. The trouble is that the money has not fully come down from the Government to pay for that scheme. There is an obligation on councils and they are being forced, under difficult circumstances as we go through these difficult times, to cut services elsewhere to provide that important service. I think that all hon. Members agree with the principle, but there is concern about the financing model.

On the cultural aspects of the Department’s responsibilities, we welcome the encouragement to support libraries and to develop their use. If hon. Members go to any constituency, they will see that libraries have changed. They do not simply provide books; they provide all sorts of digital materials, including internet access. It is important, in this day and age, not to be stuck in the past. I am pleased that that initiative has gone forward.

I thought that the report became a little flippant when I saw, on page 12, which discusses media, a big bullet point saying,

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