Previous Section Index Home Page

Ian Stewart (Eccles) (Lab): I have made all my falderals thanking and congratulating you, Mr. Speaker, so I will move straight to the Minister, who visited my constituency
20 July 2009 : Column 567
and saw the Hamilton-Davies trust and the Barton Athletic club projects in partnership with Salford city council. Does he agree that the project to encourage young people leaving school to take up non-traditional sports such as boxing, wrestling and martial arts is to be commended? Does he also agree that the 70 and 80-year-olds whom he saw training at Barton Athletic was a great example to others?

Mr. Sutcliffe: It was a great pleasure to visit my hon. Friend's constituency and to meet people at the Barton Athletic sports club. He is right that we saw young people getting involved in a range of different sports, but I was very happy to see a 70-year-old and an 80-year-old rowing and achieving fast times in preparation for entering the world senior games. As we are talking about older people, let me say that it was a great pleasure to see Tom Watson nearly become the British open champion yesterday. I congratulate the winner, but Mr. Watson's performance gave great hope to all those older golfers.

Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): The Minister has rightly said that increases in sports participation are a critical part of the legacy plan for 2012, but does he acknowledge that after a good early start there has been stagnation? Does he accept that the latest figures show that in six out of nine key sports there has been no increase in participation in the past 12 months; that in three of those sports-rugby, football and athletics-there has been a significant fall in participation; and that fewer women and fewer people with limiting disabilities are participating in sport? The Government must do more. Will he acknowledge that there are good ideas out there, such as gift aid for junior membership of sports clubs and the Active Generation programme by the Prince's Trust? What are we to make of newspaper reports of some new scheme to be announced next year?

Mr. Sutcliffe: Let me say again that, although the hon. Gentleman normally gets his facts right, he has unfortunately got them wrong today. He keeps criticising the legacy that we are trying to create, but he will know that involving 2 million more people in sport and physical activity by 2012 has never been achieved by any other host of the Olympic games. There is a fantastic challenge ahead of us, but we are already making progress. As the hon. Gentleman will know, the new funding arrangements for Sport England are enabling the national governing bodies to increase participation: money is going to where sport is. More than £5 billion of lottery and Government funds has been invested since 1997.

I hope that the Opposition will now stop carping. If good ideas are emerging, let us hear them.

Mr. Foster: I have just given the Minister some ideas.

Mr. Sutcliffe: The hon. Gentleman has given me one idea. I look forward to hearing more from him. The legacy will be great, and we will achieve our figures.

Bingo Industry

8. Mr. David Amess (Southend, West) (Con): What recent representations he has received on the future of the bingo industry; and if he will make a statement. [287444]

20 July 2009 : Column 568

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): We have not received any recent representations on the future of the bingo industry, but I am aware that such representations are being made to my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We recognise the important social role that bingo plays in many of our communities, and continue to engage with the industry on a range of issues affecting the state of the sector.

Mr. Amess: Sadly, we have not got very far with the Treasury. Many of my constituents have contacted me to say that they are very worried about the future of Southend Mecca, and that they thoroughly enjoy playing the game. One hundred bingo halls have already closed over the past three years because of the 32 per cent. tax. Will the Minister have another word with the Treasury, in order to establish whether it can provide parity for the industry and lower the tax to the rightful level of 15 per cent.?

Mr. Sutcliffe: We continue to have frequent discussions with the Treasury, but the hon. Gentleman will know how much work the DCMS itself has done to support bingo. He will know, for instance, that in February we increased the permitted number of B3 machines in bingo halls from four to eight, and also examined stake and prize levels for category C and D machines.

The hon. Gentleman is wrong about the number of bingo halls that have closed. In fact, between 37 and 40 have closed over the past 12 months, which represents 6 per cent. of the industry, but that is still too many clubs. We are aware of the important part that bingo plays in our communities, and we will continue to work with the industry and the Treasury to try to alleviate its problems.

Mr. David Drew (Stroud) (Lab/Co-op): I hear what my hon. Friend says, but surely there is a need to lobby the Treasury to ensure that there is some consistency in the tax rates. If ever there was a need for a taskforce to work on saving one of our great British institutions, this is it. Would my hon. Friend consider leading such a taskforce?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am always happy to be involved with a taskforce, but given my hon. Friend's reputation for becoming involved in key issues, he might want to chair this one. He will know that the Prime Minister has been involved in the discussions about bingo. He met a deputation from the Bingo Association, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley, Central (Mr. Illsley), to consider the issues in greater detail. We continue to work with the Treasury and others to ensure that we add to the work that we have already done to support bingo.

Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): When I next speak to those at the very successful bingo club at the Elephant and Castle, or the very successful bingo club in Surrey Quays, will I be able to tell them that the Minister's Department will look again at the taxation of bingo, and lobby the Government, as soon as we know the court decision on participation valued added tax? That will give the Government another
20 July 2009 : Column 569
opportunity. The Department lost the last battle, but can the Minister assure us that it is determined to win the war?

Mr. Sutcliffe: The hon. Gentleman has made a good point. We await the outcome of the court case, but we continue to work with the Treasury. For example, we are discussing the current consultation on gross profits tax relating to gaming machines. As the sponsoring Department, we are working closely with the industry in the sector to try to ensure that its case is heard wherever necessary.

Digital Television Switchover

9. Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries and Galloway) (Lab): What lessons learned from digital switchover in the Border TV region will be used in planning for switchover in other regions. [287445]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Switchover has been successfully completed in the Selkirk and Douglas transmitter group areas of the Border region, with the Caldbeck group area due to complete on Wednesday. A number of findings resulting from research carried out during the switchover have been used to refine switchover further for the next regions to switch.

Mr. Brown: As my right hon. Friend has said, in two days switchover will be completed in the Border TV region. I sincerely hope that my good lady wife will ensure that everything is in order when that happens in my absence. I believe that the digital switchover help scheme initially caused concern. Has the uptake that we budgeted for been as great as my right hon. Friend expected?

Mr. Bradshaw: It has not been as great as we expected; there is a considerable underspend. We do not think that, by and large, that is because the scheme is too complicated, but issues raised in my hon. Friend's area have been looked at, and the new advice and videos that are being provided are intended to make it less complicated. The main reason for the underspend is that most people have simply done it for themselves, perhaps helped by friends or family. The help scheme has been a great success, and has been valued by those who have used it. Nevertheless, there are always lessons to be learned, and we hope that we are learning them from the switchover in my hon. Friend's area.

Pub Industry

10. Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): What recent representations he has received from the public house industry on the future of that industry; and if he will make a statement. [287446]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The Department has regular dialogue with representatives of the pub industry and other areas of the tourism and hospitality industry. That is essential to ensure that licensing policy reduces unnecessary burdens on small businesses while maintaining the necessary public protection.

20 July 2009 : Column 570

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: That is all very interesting, but is the Minister aware that although responsible publicans-I am thinking particularly about such a group in the city of Wells-are doing what they can to counter irresponsible and antisocial drinking, when big retail chains sell loss-leading and discounted alcohol the pubs are blamed for the consequences? What is the Minister doing to counter that? What discussions has he had with the drinks trade to stop that particular unfairness, which is undermining responsible publicans?

Mr. Sutcliffe: The right hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He is right that responsible publicans ensure that they do not serve people who have had too much alcohol. Sometimes that causes problems outside their premises. We are working with the drinks industry. We responded to the all-party group on beer, members of which are present in the House today, in trying to look at the issues around pricing, and at a mandatory code to ensure that people do not have irresponsible promotions. Many such promotions are seen on the high street-for example, women can drink for free, or for £5 people can drink as much as they can. They are irresponsible promotions. Like him, I congratulate those publicans who act responsibly.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): My hon. Friend is aware that the pub is part of the community. It is an important part of that fabric, but has he thought about the number of pubs that are empty? Has he considered the challenge of alcohol-free pubs as an alternative for young people? They would be a way of controlling young people, and of giving them a new way of life and an outlet.

Mr. Sutcliffe: My hon. Friend raises a good idea that has already been acted on in a number of areas. Buildings are being taken over and alcohol-free pubs are in place. I do not want people to run away with the idea that we think that that is a substitute for good community pubs. We want to see good, strong community pubs, and with empty pubs that may be a good idea to develop.


11. James Duddridge (Rochford and Southend, East) (Con): What assessment has been made of the effect of his Department's renaissance programme on regional museums in (a) England and (b) the east of England. [287447]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Barbara Follett): My Department has invested £242 million in the renaissance in the regions programme, which aims to raise standards and participation in museums across England. Since its inception in 2002, visitor numbers have increased by 18.5 per cent. In the east of England, visits by children aged 16 and under to hub museums have increased by 216 per cent. In addition 72 new jobs have been created in hub museums in the eastern region.

James Duddridge: I thank the Minister for that reply. Perhaps it shows my ignorance but I do not know what a hub museum is. The museums in Southend are very good, but residents and children in particular from Southend often travel to London to visit some of the
20 July 2009 : Column 571
larger museums. What more can be done through the renaissance programme to encourage visits to regional museums, particularly by people from the east of England and other regions that are quite close to central London?

Barbara Follett: I know that the Department's statutory body, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, has been working with Southend to increase its offer. I know that the council has many exciting projects, particularly concerning the Saxon King museum, and that a bid has been submitted for the Southend pier head project. As Minister for the East of England, I am obviously watching all those things closely and I am happy to help the hon. Gentleman with that work.

David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Snibston discovery park is a regional museum based on the former colliery of that name, sunk by the great George Stephenson. Would the Minister accept an invitation to come and look at the work that is done there? Creativity, energy and professionalism has enabled the museum to reinvent itself in the most impressive fashion. It is a successful museum for an area much wider than north-west Leicestershire. We could do worse than to have that as a beacon for the way ahead.

Barbara Follett: I would be delighted to accept my hon. Friend's invitation.

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): As this is my first appearance under your watchful eye, Mr. Speaker, may I add to the legion of congratulations that have been sent your way and put on record my huge admiration for the job you are doing? [Hon. Members: "More!"] I still have three minutes, and I could go on.

On Wednesday, the Minister will publish her independent review of renaissance in the regions, which she will describe as a real success. The report itself is, however, highly critical of the management of renaissance in the regions, including the criticisms of incomplete accounts, a lack of financial reporting and a lack of documentation. Is this why the report, which was given to the Minister at the beginning of March, is being published only at the end of July-the beginning of the summer recess?

Barbara Follett: The report is, in fact, being published in two days' time. [Interruption.] Yes, but that is not the end of July. It is being published on 22 July, and until it comes out I shall not comment on it.

Broadcasting Bill

12. Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): What plans he has for pre-legislative scrutiny of the broadcasting Bill. [287448]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The digital economy Bill is not one of those in the draft programme proposed for pre-legislative scrutiny. Many of its proposals were contained in the interim "Digital Britain" document that we published in January. They have been the subject of reports by Select Committees in both Houses, and we are currently consulting on the proposals made in the final report last month.

Derek Wyatt: I thank the Secretary of State for that answer, and I welcome him to his new position. I am sorry that that Bill will not be in the pre-legislative programme, because if it were there would have been
20 July 2009 : Column 572
something for us to do in October and November before the Queen's Speech. May I take it as read, however, that it will definitely be in the Queen's Speech?

Mr. Bradshaw: My hon. Friend will, of course, understand that we cannot at this stage say what will definitely be in the Queen's Speech-we cannot do so until Her Majesty stands up and delivers her Gracious Speech-but given that it is in the draft programme and it has been heralded by the Government as one of the mainstays of our active industrial strategy, I think he can be fairly confident that it has good prospects of being there.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Given the possibility that such a Bill might be in the legislative programme, will the Secretary of State confirm that it will cover access to foreign language stations after the digital switchover for radio coverage?

Mr. Bradshaw: I am afraid that I will have to write to the hon. Lady about that, if she will allow me.

Video Games

13. Keith Vaz (Leicester, East) (Lab): What recent discussions he has had with pan-European game information on the age classification of video games. [287449]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Siôn Simon): I have spoken to the Video Standards Council-the current UK agents for the PEGI system-about the classification of video games and have another meeting scheduled with it very soon. I have also had discussions with the British Board of Film Classification. Both organisations are working hard to ensure the success of the new system.

Keith Vaz: I thank the Minister for his answer and welcome the steps that the Government are taking on this issue. However, it is still a matter of concern that a game such as "RapeLay", which shows extreme violence against women, can be downloaded from the internet. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that such games are not accessed from the internet, so that children and young people are properly protected?

Mr. Simon: We should be clear that the game was not classified, but was briefly available on Amazon and then was banned. The point that my right hon. Friend is making is about games that, like other brutal, unpleasant, illegal content, can be available on the internet. All steps that apply to any other content on the internet will apply to games. Specifically, as part of the Byron review we set up the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to work with content providers, internet service providers and all aspects of Government to make sure that such content cannot be accessed, particularly by children.

Next Section Index Home Page