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20 Apr 2009 : Column 8

Kelvin Hopkins (Luton, North) (Lab): My hon. Friend touched on the wider problem of our industrial heritage in general. I am especially concerned about the motor industry and what might happen, especially in times of economic downturn, such as now. Is there not perhaps a case for giving local authorities more powers to preserve our industrial heritage and provide more resources to museum services to help ensure that we retain such archives in Britain?

Barbara Follett: I understand the concern of my hon. Friend, as one of the Members for Luton. In fact, local authorities have quite wide powers in this area. They also work with the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and they have money for that. We have to encourage local authorities to be aware of the value of such matters to local identity and local tourism.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): The hon. Lady says rather glibly that local authorities have money for that, but I do not think that anybody has money for anything at the moment. Local authorities would have money to secure archives of such national importance—as well as importance to this House, as we have just heard—by adopting Conservative plans for the national lottery, because those archives are precisely the sort of things that could be secured with lottery funding. It is not too late, but the clock is ticking. Why does the hon. Lady not persuade her right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to adopt our policies for the national lottery?

Barbara Follett: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his suggestion, but I am here to pursue our policies.


7. John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department’s expenditure on climbing in raising participation levels of young people in the sport. [269389]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): No overall assessment of the effectiveness of expenditure on climbing in raising participation levels of young people has been commissioned by my Department. However, the school sport survey demonstrates that mountaineering is offered by 13 per cent. of schools, which is up from 7 per cent. in 2003-04. Climbing is also proving very popular among young people through the Sport Unlimited project, which is managed by Sport England as part of the Government’s PE and sport strategy for young people. Nottinghamshire county sports partnership alone is investing around £8,000 in the period 2009-10 in climbing schemes that will involve more than 200 children and young people.

John Mann: Given that so many hon. Members are desperate to join the parliamentary climbing club—and they are welcome to do so—will the Minister, in the week of the British Mountaineering Council’s annual general meeting, congratulate the sport on the way in which it has involved a wide range of young people in recent years? Will he also undertake to liaise with his colleagues in the Department for Children, Schools and Families about the excellent myplace initiative, which involves the funding of more than 20 new climbing
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walls this year, and ensure that the BMC and his Department are fully involved in the design features of those walls?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am happy to support what my hon. Friend has said. I pay tribute to him for his work with the British Mountaineering Council. I was happy to host a reception at No. 10 last year for the council. What impressed me most was the breadth and depth of skills among those mountaineers and climbers. The point that my hon. Friend mentioned about the offer of climbing in school sport is also important. We are trying to widen participation and the number of sports available to young people, and climbing is one of the sports that can help us do that. We will continue to work with climbing and the BMC.

Horse Racing

8. Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): What assessment he has made of the effect of the economic downturn on horse racing. [269390]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): It is too early to make an assessment of the effect on horse racing, but we continue to monitor the situation in close consultation with industry representatives. I remain confident that the industry is taking the right action to sustain itself and prepare for recovery.

Jeff Ennis: I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but given the current economic situation, does he agree that now must be the time to modernise the future of horse racing by replacing the out-of-date levy system with a new system that is fit for the 21st century? That can be achieved only by all sections of the racing industry working together constructively to get that system off the ground.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work with the all-party group on racing and bloodstock industries. He has heard me say before that the important thing for racing is for the industry to work together to succeed. That means all parts of the industry: the owners, the trainers, the jockeys and the betting industry. They have to come together, and the mechanism for doing that is through the levy. We want to see a successful outcome to the levy discussions, but that does not remove the need to continue with the modernisation programme and ensure that a great industry goes from strength to strength.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): We all agree that the levy needs modernising, but does the Minister agree that the three-year deal offered by the bookmakers will provide stability for racing through difficult economic times and give some breathing space to allow a new, modernised levy to emerge, which probably would not happen if we continued with a year-on-year roll-over of the levy?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I also congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his work with the all-party group. He is right to say that, in these difficult times, a three-year deal would give a stability that no other sector would have, but that would certainly not prevent any modernisation from
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taking place. The two can go together in tandem. I would be very happy if a three-year deal could be agreed, but I would also want to ensure that we continued with the modernisation agenda.

Lottery Funding (Sport)

9. Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What recent assessment he has made of the likely effect of the recession on lottery funding for sport. [269391]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): So far, national lottery ticket sales and returns to good causes have held up well. We expect to see an increase when end-year results are announced in May. The National Lottery Commission and Camelot, the operator, are working hard to ensure that the lottery is in the strongest position and that it will generate maximum returns for all good causes, including sport.

Mr. Bone: Since Labour came to power, lottery funding for sport has halved, yet administration costs have doubled. Is that a record to be proud of?

Andy Burnham: There is a fact that Opposition representatives continue to overlook when it comes to the lottery and sport: the new good causes fund—previously called the New Opportunities Fund and more recently named the Big Lottery Fund—has put considerable funds into sport. The average figure for the past five years is £100 million a year. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will stop misrepresenting this position—

Mr. Bone: Pardon?

Andy Burnham: I hope that he will stop not giving a fully accurate reflection of this position. Because of the changes that this Government have made—including the creation of the New Opportunities Fund, which enabled lottery funds to be spent in schools and hospitals for the first time—a £1 billion investment was put into school sport in 1999. That enabled the creation of floodlit astroturf pitches in schools up and down the country, and those that were created in my constituency at that time are still heavily used to this day.

Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Con): May I congratulate the Secretary of State on the success of his team in yesterday’s FA cup semi-final?

The right hon. Gentleman sent me a letter just before Christmas refuting the claims that I had made about the decline in funding for grass-roots and community sport—claims that have been echoed today by my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone). Just a few weeks ago, however, the Secretary of State supplied me with parliamentary answers that confirm precisely the fact that there has been a dramatic fall in lottery funding for grass-roots and community sport. Which of his two answers is correct?

Andy Burnham: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his congratulations. It was a marvellous day at Wembley yesterday, and I apologise for being a touch croaky today. It is not always possible to be an impartial Secretary of State, and that has produced a bit of a rift in the Department today, although we are patching things up as best we can.

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I will give the shadow Secretary of State a similar response to that which I have just given the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Bone). The figures that he cites not only miss out the funding from the Big Lottery Fund, significant sums of which have gone into grass-roots sport, but exclude funding provided by the Department for Children, Schools and Families in accordance with the PE and school sports strategy, which the DCSF and my Department co-sponsor. We are now talking about £200 million a year in that regard, so I hope that, if we are to have a debate about funding for sport, we can put all the facts on the table and take into account all the investment that is going into grass-roots and school sport. If I have heard the shadow Chancellor correctly in recent times, I must conclude that if he were standing where I am now, he would be having to explain to the House on what level he was cutting sport funding. I understand that it is Conservative policy to cut Department for Culture, Media and Sport spending now, this year, and we would be interested to hear where the axe would fall on grass-roots sport.

Mr. Hunt: If we are to believe what we read in the papers this morning, Government briefings suggest that it is the Chancellor, not the shadow Chancellor, who is talking about spending cuts of £15 billion. The last Conservative Government set up the lottery precisely in order to support grass-roots sports, the arts and our heritage when times are tough. Is not the reason that funding for grass-roots sport has halved under the right hon. Gentleman’s Government the appalling way in which they have managed the national lottery, in particular by diverting more than £1 billion to supporting Government spending programmes, so that, in the crucial run-up to 2012, when we want more people to be able to enjoy community sport, fewer people will actually be able to do so?

Andy Burnham: It is simply inaccurate to say that funding has halved. This Government have invested at every level of sport—school and community sport, club sport and elite sport—which is why sport in this country is in a better position today than it has been for many years and why nine out of 10 young people do two hours of sport in school every week. What was the position when the hon. Gentleman’s party was in government? It was appalling; it was terrible. I was at school and I remember what happened—sport simply dried up. The hon. Gentleman keeps talking about a big diversion of funds and my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics—

Mr. Speaker: Order. I must make progress down the Order Paper; otherwise, it is unfair to Back Benchers.

Local News Media

11. Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): If he will bring forward proposals to provide support to news media organisations for the provision of local news. [269393]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): I am well aware of the intense challenges facing local news providers, including radio and television as well as local newspapers. Building on my recent
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discussions with relevant bodies, I will hold a summit at the end of this month to discuss options for local news services.

Ann Winterton: While the town of Congleton retains its local newspaper, the Congleton Chronicle, which is not part of a national news media group, many offices in rural constituencies, including mine, have closed because of the centralisation of news coverage to places such as Manchester. Is the Secretary of State concerned that local people will not be able to access news about court proceedings, council proceedings and so forth unless they have a local news service? How can that best be delivered?

Andy Burnham: I certainly understand the hon. Lady’s concerns; indeed, they are shared across the House. Part of the answer is market forces, as newspapers operate in a market, but I think we would all agree that local newspapers perform a vital public service at local level and are crucial to the health of local democracy. I hope that the hon. Lady will attend the seminar I have called in Portcullis House next week, as I would be interested in debating the available options. It is, of course, difficult for local news organisations to make the transition to the fully digital era. There is pressure in respect of the cost of newsprint and a difficult advertising market, and structural challenges are arising together with the pressures in the economy. We all care enough to hope that we can plot a way forward for local news organisations, which we should work towards.

City of Culture

13. Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West) (Lab): What progress has been made in developing his proposal for a UK city of culture. [269395]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): I have set up a working group, chaired by Phil Redmond. The group’s remit is to consider what the vision for a UK city of culture should look like, the criteria for eligibility and how the bidding process might work. The working assumption is that the first UK city of culture could be in 2013 and would work on a four-year cycle.

Dr. Starkey: I am anxious that the criteria—whatever they are—do not discriminate against newer cities such as my own, Milton Keynes. I urge my right hon. Friend to ensure that the criteria allow a bid, which could build on the marriage of Milton Keynes’s history with the varied heritage of the large numbers of communities that have moved into the city from elsewhere in the UK and from abroad.

Andy Burnham: I hear what my hon. Friend says. I attended one of the meetings of the working group I mentioned, and I can assure her that the consensus around the table was that we should work with the broadest possible definition of city of culture, which would allow as many parts of the country as possible to join the competition.

Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): Is it for the UK?

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Andy Burnham: This UK city of culture proposal has real potential, as we saw in Liverpool last year when there was an £800 million boost to the regional economy. More than anything, the association with culture gave the whole city a lift and brought some real civic pride to Liverpool. We will pursue the proposal carefully, but we believe that it has real potential for areas all around the country, not just for the larger cities.

Topical Questions

T1. [269423] Mr. Desmond Swayne (New Forest, West) (Con): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Andy Burnham): Last week, I attended a memorial service at Anfield to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hillsborough stadium disaster. I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in paying respects to the families of the 96 people who tragically lost their lives on that terrible day. In advance of this, working with my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Garston (Maria Eagle), I called for the full disclosure of any documents held by public bodies relating to the Hillsborough disaster and its aftermath. I welcome the Home Secretary’s statement, and I will work closely with her and other colleagues across the Government to determine the process by which to take this forward.

Following formal concerns raised by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, we recently announced an inquiry into the provision of library services in the Wirral.

Mr. Swayne: If the Government are successful in achieving their target, announced in “Digital Britain”, of reducing illegal file sharing by 70 per cent., that will still leave 2 million individuals to be sued. That is clearly an unrealistic possibility. Will the Secretary of State look again at the technological possibilities of excluding the miscreants, rather than clogging up our courts? “Digital Britain” should be a huge opportunity for creative industries to lead the country out of recession, but at the moment, for every file legally downloaded, 600 are stolen.

Andy Burnham: I find myself in the unusual position of wanting to agree with the hon. Gentleman—a very unusual position—because I do not believe that the right way to approach this matter is via a legislative route. Clearly, behavioural change on a large scale is required. Lots of downloads are not paid for. That is true of music in particular, but other creative content could follow shortly.

The right approach is to encourage better dialogue between rights holders and internet service providers so that new opportunities emerge for how people may pay differently for music, film and other content in future. That would keep within the spirit in which the internet has been so good: people could explore music and could have full access to all the creative content they wanted. We believe that that is the right approach, but be in no doubt that the Government are determined to find solutions, because unless we have a workable system of copyright in the digital age we will weaken our creative industries in the long term.

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