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20 Apr 2009 : Column 14

Derek Twigg (Halton) (Lab): As a lifelong Liverpool fan and someone who was at the Hillsborough disaster, may I say that my right hon. Friend’s presence at last week’s memorial service was most welcome? Most people there wanted to hear with interest what he had to say. On that point, will he say more about the papers that might be released as a result of work being done currently and whether that includes not just police files, but Government, health authority, health agency and local council papers that might be relevant to what happened on that day? Can he also give me the assurance that the families will be involved in this process and that no one in government will stop it continuing?

Andy Burnham: I thank my hon. Friend for his kind comments. He more than anybody will know that those events are still unbearably painful and very difficult to talk about, particularly in a public context. I agree with everything he said. I believe that it is not right to expect the families who have suffered so much in the 20 years since the disaster to wait a further 10 years to see full disclosure of documents. I favour very much the full disclosure of all documents held by any relevant public body that was connected with the tragedy. I am happy to give him the assurance today that, at all times, the Hillsborough Family Support Group should be fully consulted about the manner and the process by which this is taken forward.

T4. [269426] Andrew Stunell (Hazel Grove) (LD): I was very pleased indeed to hear the Secretary of State announce the summit on media options, particularly as journalists and other workers on the Stockport Express were given their redundancy notices over Easter. In future, newsgathering will be in the hands of an overcrowded newsroom in Manchester. What are some of the options that he will put on the table for the summit to consider?

Andy Burnham: I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments. The summit has been called in response to a suggestion from the all-party National Union of Journalists group in the House. The idea is to bring forward all relevant organisations in this debate. That will obviously include the Newspaper Society, the Society of Editors, the Local Government Association and others.

At this stage, we want to consider all potential options, and I am open-minded about what they might be. It may be that, rather than titles simply being closed, we allow a space whereby other local solutions could be considered to sustain a newspaper title that has been important in any local community down the years.

As I have said, I am open-minded. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take part in next week’s debate, but I believe that we could take a broad range of measures to help local news organisations, and I intend the final “Digital Britain” report to contain clear proposals on this important topic.

T2. [269424] Mr. Jim Cunningham (Coventry, South) (Lab): I appreciate that there is to be a summit on the future of the newspaper industry, but does my right hon. Friend realise that the rationalisation process has been going on for about two years? The hon. Member for Hazel Grove (Andrew Stunell) said that redundancy notices had been received fairly recently,
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but the process has been going on for a long time in the west midlands, and it requires a little more than a summit.Why cannot the newspaper industry be treated like any other industry? The Government have gone out of their way to give the motor car industry large sums of taxpayers’ money. Why do they not take a good look at the newspaper industry at the same time? Many local people—particularly pensioners and those who are housebound—depend on their local newspapers as much as they depend on benefits.

Andy Burnham: I agree with my hon. Friend that we may have taken local papers for granted for a little too long. We all know from our constituencies how important they are to the quality of local debate and information, and it is high time that the House devoted some of its time to considering them.

As I have said, I believe that a broad range of measures could come to the aid of local news organisations. It may also be possible to establish stronger partnerships with other media organisations, notably the BBC, to ensure that local newspapers have attractive content that people will wish to access via websites. The problem this year is the combination of structural change, with people turning increasingly to online news sources, and pressures in the economy. Our aim, however, must be to help local newspapers through these difficult times and set them up for the future, and that is what we intend to do.

T7. [269430] Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): I know that the sports Minister shares my desire to widen opportunities for those with learning disabilities to participate in sport. Will he join me in congratulating the initiative of Wingate and Finchley football club? I visited the club recently, along with the leader of Barnet council, Mike Freer. It had worked with the local branch of Mencap to host a disability open day on which more than 30 adults with learning disabilities were able to play football and then watch a match. That set a very positive example, and I believe that we should encourage similar initiatives throughout the country.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I am happy to congratulate the club on that event, because it showed that we can provide sport for all. People with learning disabilities should have an opportunity to play sport at a number of different levels. I congratulate the hon. Gentleman’s local authority on the work it has done, and congratulate him on his own work in the House.

T3. [269425] Mr. David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab): May I return to the topic of Hillsborough? Ten years ago I worked with trade unionists in Liverpool to support people who had gone through that trauma, and the fact that they are still seeking justice 10 years on beggars belief. I congratulate the Secretary of State and his colleagues on the work that they have done, but let me tell the Secretary of State very clearly that what is being done now may well not be enough. Will he undertake to work closely with support groups and families to ensure that the truth comes out?

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Andy Burnham: I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for the work that he has done to support those families. As I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Halton (Derek Twigg), I was at the other semi-final on that terrible day, and I shall never forget seeing the news of six dead at Hillsborough on the score board at Villa Park. Our delight turned to despair as we thought of friends at the other ground, and of what they were going through.

Those events are still unbearably difficult to deal with, but we must now finally answer questions that are still unanswered, and ensure full disclosure. It is important for us to uncover the full picture. Obviously that may resurrect difficult and painful issues, but judging by the public comment and debate of recent days, I think that the mood in the country is very much in favour of a process that will enable us finally to answer the questions raised by that terrible day, to ensure that it never happens again, and to bring some—I emphasise the word “some”—respite to families who, while suffering terrible indignities and injustices down the years, have conducted themselves with enormous dignity at all times.

T8. [269431] Angela Watkinson (Upminster) (Con): Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for New Forest, West (Mr. Swayne) on the vast scale of digital piracy and the impracticality of suing such immense numbers of people, will the Secretary of State agree to meet representatives of the creative industries to discuss the possibility of introducing technical measures such as throttling bandwidth?

Andy Burnham: The hon. Lady sounds more technically up to date than me; I do not know whether “throttling bandwidth” is a technical term, but it certainly sounds interesting. I think that technical solutions may well hold the answer, but the hon. Lady will know from the Pirate Bay court case in Sweden last week that there are enormous technical challenges in tackling illegal downloading. The Government have clearly and unequivocally said that there has to be a solution and that there has to be a solution quickly. In my view, that solution has to be international; there has to be an international consensus, because that is the very nature of the online space. Later this year, having concluded our own discussions on this issue in “Digital Britain”, we will seek at the Cabinet forum in the autumn to build an international consensus on the right way to tackle illegal downloading in the long term. The signs are very encouraging, and the rights holders and internet service providers are engaging very well on these issues, but the Government are absolutely clear that if there is not a solution we will, in the end, have to legislate.

T6. [269428] Natascha Engel (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): As my hon. Friend the Minister is aware, I am lucky enough to have the world’s first ever football club, Sheffield FC, in my constituency. Given the fantastic work it does in the community, particularly through community football, will my hon. Friend commit to working with Sheffield FC in promoting England as the venue for the 2018 World cup?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I can do that. Clearly, the 2018 World cup bid is important to the country, and we want all who can contribute to do so, and particularly Sheffield FC, which is now based in Dronfield. It was founded
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in 1857 and it celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2007, so it clearly is well placed to help us bid successfully for the 2018 World cup.

T9. [269432] Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Given that we spend far too much time in this country celebrating cultures other than our own, is it not time to start redressing the balance by creating a public holiday to celebrate St. George’s day?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Barbara Follett): I commend the hon. Gentleman for the work he does in promoting Englishness and the flag of St. George. I would have to discuss with Government colleagues the idea of holding a public holiday to celebrate St. George’s day, but I hope that people will follow the suggestion of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and celebrate St. George’s day, while also remembering that we will also be celebrating the birth of William Shakespeare.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked—


1. Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): What her latest estimate is of expenditure on the London 2012 Olympics, and if she will make a statement. [269375]

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The estimate of public expenditure on the London 2012 games remains within the £9.325 billion package that I announced in March 2007.

Mr. Harper: I thank the Minister for that answer. Now that the Olympic Delivery Authority has decided that Woolwich is to be the site for shooting events at the Olympics, will she arrange for the KPMG report on the venues to be published in full? I know that it has been published, but only with all the rather interesting financial information missed out, and British shooting does not feel that it has been given a fair crack of the whip. Will she therefore arrange for that report to be published in full and placed in the Library of the House?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that I met the advocates for the Bisley case very particularly, as I also met the advocates for other venues, and the Olympic Board confirmed its decision at its last meeting. It is certainly my intention to publish the KPMG report once the issues of commercial sensitivity have passed and the relevant negotiations have been completed.

Ms Diane Abbott (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington) (Lab): What reassurance can my right hon. Friend give that at least some of that expenditure will positively aid the regeneration of the Olympic boroughs?

Tessa Jowell: The reassurance that I can give my hon. Friend is that of the ODA’s baseline budget of £6.1 billion, plus the provision for £2 billion for contingencies—so
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far, 20 per cent. has been allocated from both sources of contingency funding—75p in every pound spent is spent on regeneration: on the physical regeneration of the area. She will be aware of the enormous efforts that we are making, of which she has been such a powerful advocate, to make sure that in the post-Olympic period the east London boroughs, one of which she represents, have a higher level of skill and more people in work than before the Olympics.

Mr. Humfrey Malins (Woking) (Con): On the subject of shooting, we all know that one of the factors in choosing Woolwich was cost, so will the Minister today tell us the cost estimate for staging the shooting at Woolwich, and for staging it at Bisley?

Tessa Jowell: I will make both those figures available to the House—

Mr. Malins: Today?

Tessa Jowell: No, not today; I shall do so once the negotiations, which are inevitably sensitive, are concluded. I know of the hon. Gentleman’s great concerns about Bisley, and his advocacy for it. He will understand that there were two factors that led the Olympic Board to conclude that Woolwich should be the preferred venue for shooting. The first was on the grounds of cost, to which he referred. The second was certainty, the judgment being that, at this stage, Bisley simply involved too much risk, in terms of delivering an acceptable venue.

Mr. David Clelland (Tyne Bridge) (Lab): Is the Minister aware that the way in which large amounts of public money—£500 million, I believe—have been distributed by UK Sport through the governing bodies of sports is threatening the viability of state-of-the-art facilities in places such as Gateshead stadium? Will she look into that? Will she assure the House that the way in which money is distributed will not threaten the future of facilities such as those in Gateshead stadium, and that the preparation for the Olympics will, as she has said in the past, benefit all regions?

Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I know that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport will have been listening to his concern. My hon. Friend will also be aware of the benefit being brought to venues around the country from their designated status as potential training-camp venues. I am sure that he will be a powerful advocate for the venues in his region that have been so designated.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): The European Investment Bank website has revealed that an application for a £255 million loan for the athletes’ village was lodged in February and approved on 7 April. Given that this is the first that many of us have heard of the matter, is the Minister able to throw some more light on the subject today? In particular, will she tell us at what interest rate the loan was agreed, what conditions govern that loan, and what their effect will be on the Olympic balance sheet?

Tessa Jowell: The European Investment Bank has certainly given in-principle agreement to a loan in two parts. Part of it would assist with the financing of the
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social housing; the other part would assist with the financing of the Olympic village. The hon. Gentleman will know, because of the transparency in the financial briefing of the Opposition parties, of the background to that, and of the negotiation with the private sector partners. Obviously, once a decision has been taken about how much of that loan facility will be taken up and applied to those two projects, I will make a statement to the House.

Olympic Legacy (Young People)

2. Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): What plans she has for the legacy use of Olympics sporting venues by young people. [269376]

Tessa Jowell: The Olympics sporting venues in east London and around the UK will be available for use after the Olympics in a way that involves residents of all levels of ability, from starters to elite athletes. That is a fundamental aspect of the Olympic legacy ambition.

The legacy business plans being prepared for the sports venues—including the stadium in the park, the aquatics centre and the velodrome and velopark—have the provision of affordable access for young people at their heart. Some 500,000 visits a year are anticipated for the aquatics centre, of which more than 100,000 will be use by schools for swimming lessons.

The stadium will include, in addition to a 25,000-seat, International Association of Athletics Federations-compliant athletics facility, provision for a school and a sports academy, providing skills training focused on the 18 to 24 age group. Central to that is the affordability of entrance. I remember my hon. Friend the Member for Hackney, North and Stoke Newington (Ms Abbott)—who is no longer in her place—making the point some years ago that the legacy will mean nothing if the facilities cannot be afforded by people who live in the area. I absolutely and wholeheartedly endorse that point, and we are working to ensure that that promise is delivered.

Mr. Bone: I am grateful for the Minister’s response, which gave good news of progress. How far have we gone in obtaining an anchor tenant for the Olympic stadium?

Tessa Jowell: The question of an anchor tenant is a bit of an obsession— [ Interruption. ] It is a misguided
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obsession, because we already have a commitment to a school, so that between 300 and 400 young people will attend school at the Olympic stadium and legacy every day. Hundreds of young people will use the stadium as the base for their skills learning and development. It will be a base for the English Institute of Sport, and it will host major athletics events. Although there will be a management structure, there will be not a single anchor tenant—on the basis of present negotiation—but a wide range of central sporting interests that will ensure that it is a living stadium, used every day of the year.

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): Will the Minister give the House a little more detail of what practical action is being taken now to ensure that these expensive venues have a long-lasting legacy for all the people of London and beyond in future years?

Tessa Jowell: I can give the hon. Gentleman a lot of practical information about that, including the way in which, in several instances such as the aquatics centre, the designs have been amended—sometimes at additional cost—to ensure that they can be properly adapted for community use after the games have finished. Extra money is being spent on the velodrome which will be the best and fastest in the world. I have also outlined specific proposals for the Olympic stadium. No city has ever been this advanced before in planning the legacy use of its Olympic venues and honouring its commitment to young people, who will be the principal beneficiaries.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): One proposed legacy use for the Olympic park is as a university, and the Government are in discussions about that. What is the estimated cost, how much public subsidy might be required and how much finance has been proposed by private financiers?

Tessa Jowell: There have been discussions with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and, particularly, with the Higher Education Funding Council. There is an agreement to carry out a feasibility study, and there is also interest in collaboration with a Beijing university, which the Mayor and I have been discussing since the games in the summer. Once the feasibility study is concluded, the hon. Gentleman’s questions will be answered.

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