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Mr. Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) (Con):
The Minister will know that Britain is a great leader in video and computer games, and while I take on board many of the concerns expressed by the right hon. Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), will the Minister recognise that this is a global industry, not simply a European one, and in so far as we are going to
have the safeguards to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, we will clearly also need to have global regulation along those lines?
Mr. Simon: The system of regulation for which we have opted-the PEGI system-is pan-European, and as such, we see it as the building block to moving towards a global regulatory future. The key principle is that the markings on games should make it clear to parents which games are suitable for adults and which are suitable and unsuitable for children and young children. Adults should be allowed to access adult content; children most certainly should not.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): We are responsible for a number of important areas. We are announcing excellent results for our free swimming and free theatre tickets initiatives this week. I wish to add to the earlier congratulations to Andrew Strauss and his team on their superb result at Lord's. In doing so, we should not forget the achievement of our women's cricket team, who have won every international competition this year. We believe that they have made themselves the most successful English sporting team in a single year in history.
Sandra Gidley: The Secretary of State makes a good point about the influence of sport, but does he think it is right that sporting events should advertise alcohol? Does he not think it is time to bring an end to that?
Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Lady will know that we are considering that at the moment. There will always be a balance to be struck between the sort of messages that advertising sends out about healthy living and its health impact-those issues will concern people a great deal-and the importance of sporting events and sport generally being properly funded. That applies to many of the funds that go to sports at grass-roots level.
T3.  Hugh Bayley (City of York) (Lab): Local newspapers make politicians and public officials more accountable, but sadly, many titles have ceased printing because of a fall in advertising revenue and a migration of advertising to the internet. On 20 January, in Westminster Hall, I proposed cross-subsidising local papers with the internet revenue. In its early days Channel 4 was cross-subsidised with ITV advertising revenue, without that undermining Channel 4's editorial freedom. Will my right hon. Friend examine the possibility of applying the same principle to local newspapers being cross-subsidised by internet advertising revenue?
Mr. Speaker: Order. Before the Secretary of State replies, may I say to the House that there is a tendency now for topical questions to be more like discursive essays? What we are seeking is a pithy question and a pithy answer.
Mr. Bradshaw: I certainly share my hon. Friend's concern about the fate of local newspapers, as I believe we all do in this House. Those papers are the lifeblood of our local democracy, they hold local authorities and other bodies to account and they are a very important part of our democracy. If he has studied the recommendations in our "Digital Britain" White Paper, he will have seen a number of proposals that will help, including the establishment of independent news consortiums to help provide local and regional news. Such an approach could include ownership or part-ownership by existing or new newspaper organisations. We are examining a number of areas in order to help local newspapers, because we agree that they are vital.
T2.  Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): Does the Secretary of State agree that if the entire population of Exeter were kidnapped, that would make a huge news story, yet approximately the same number of people are trafficked every year in and around Europe, be it for debt bondage or as sex slaves? Will he put his name to a suggestion that the media launch a new initiative-a new crusade-to draw attention to this worldwide evil?
Mr. Bradshaw: I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for saying that it is not my job to tell media organisations what they should investigate and what they should do. However, may I pay tribute to the excellent work that he has done in this House to highlight the problem of human trafficking? I am very sorry that he will not be here in the future to continue doing that. Perhaps now that he, sadly, has more time on his hands, he will be able to spend some of it persuading media organisations to do exactly what he has just advocated.
Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock) (Lab): I want to ask the Minister what the news is following my intervention last Thursday with the education and skills people about the co-location of the Royal Opera House and National Skills Academy for Creative and Cultural Skills project in Thurrock. She will have noticed that I accused the Government of not being involved in joined-up government and of being confused and dysfunctional. To ask a pithy question: can we have the money to get this site under way this summer-yes or no?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Barbara Follett): To give a pithy answer, I am doing my utmost to get my hon. Friend the money. I am nagging, pushing and writing to the relevant Minister. I am doing everything I can to get the money, because I, too, have an interest in this.
T4.  Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): In 1934 there was a Labour Government in deep trouble in the midst of an economic recession. The only bright spot that year was the England cricket team beating the Australians at Lord's. The following year, Labour was turfed out and a Conservative Government were elected, who led the country out of recession. Does the Minister agree that it is great news that history is repeating itself?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe):
It is great news that the England cricket team won a test match at Lord's against Australia for the first time since 1934,
and it is also great that the England women's cricket team have won everything in their path. Another thing that has happened that has never happened before is the biggest investment there has ever been in sport, made by this Government. I hope that we will have more success, built on the success that we had at the Olympics and Paralympics in Beijing last year-and the hon. Gentleman should not count his chickens.
T9.  Jessica Morden (Newport, East) (Lab): With Cardiff's successful hosting of the Ashes and the Ryder cup coming to Newport next year, does the Minister agree that we should take full advantage of the growing levels of expertise in Wales in hosting major sporting events, so that we can have more in the future?
Mr. Sutcliffe: My hon. Friend is right. Not only did we have a successful test match in Glamorgan, but the school games will take place later this year, and the Ryder cup will be in Wales next year. In Wales, and all over the UK, expertise is being built up in sporting events, and I congratulate all involved in Wales on hosting some tremendous events.
T6.  Ann Winterton (Congleton) (Con): The British amusement industry believes that the Government should abandon their proposed gross profits tax as a further unnecessary administrative burden, and instead work with the industry to deliver efficiencies to benefit both Government and business. Will the Minister work with the industry to benefit not just the industry but the Treasury and the public, not least in the seaside arcade sector?
Mr. Sutcliffe: We have supported the seaside arcades. As the hon. Lady will know, we had a review of the category C and D machines and we have also considered category B. The gross profits tax is part of the overall issue, but we will continue to talk to the Treasury. We work with the industry on a regular basis and we have alleviated many of the problems of seaside arcades, although there is a lot more to be done.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that on a day when we have won the first Ashes test match at Lord's since 1934, it is a shame that it was shown only on a fee-paying channel, not a terrestrial channel where more people would have seen it and perhaps been encouraged to participate in the sport in the future?
Mr. Sutcliffe: That is why the Government have instituted a review, chaired by David Davies. We hope that his panel will respond by September. I agree with my hon. Friend that it is sad when people can only see edited highlights on Channel 5, and sometimes not even those. We have to strike a balance between money going into the game and the opportunity for a wider audience to see such significant events.
T7.  Dr. Evan Harris (Oxford, West and Abingdon) (LD):
Is the Secretary of State aware of concerns in the creative industries that the way in which English libel laws operate, or at least London's reputation as the libel capital of the world, is suppressing freedom of expression and creative freedom? Will he agree to meet
a cross-party delegation with leading members from the creative industries in the next few months to discuss their concerns?
Mr. Bradshaw: I am sure that my hon. Friend or I would be happy to meet the hon. Gentleman and a delegation, but he will be aware that this is primarily a matter for the Ministry of Justice. We are certainly aware of the concerns that he expresses: I understand that they will all be covered in a forthcoming consultation document that the Secretary of State for Justice will launch in the near future.
Mr. Sutcliffe: Yes: it was a decision to try to cut the bureaucracy within Sport England and to put the money directly into sports governing bodies, which we have done. We are working with county sports partnerships and local government. The regional sports bodies did well, but were not operating effectively and efficiently enough. That is why we made the change.
T8.  Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): My constituents are very concerned about the very high salaries paid to some at the BBC. Does the Secretary of State share those concerns?
Mr. Bradshaw: Those must be a matter for the BBC. It has plenty of senior managers who are well paid enough to make such decisions and account for them, without it being necessary for me to micro-manage salary levels for staff. I have always made it clear, including to the BBC, that we live in an age of transparency and accountability. We in this place have been through a painful process of moving towards that, which I welcome. In the long run it will do this place a great deal of good. I am not aware of any institution or organisation that has not benefited by being more open.
Mr. Jim Devine (Livingston) (Lab): Ronaldo sold for £80 million, Manchester City effectively owned by a country and offering John Terry wages of £250,000 a week, and an English manager saying that every player in Scotland is available at a price: is it not time we had an investigation into the running and funding of British football?
Mr. Sutcliffe: My hon. Friend will know that is exactly why we wrote to the premier league, the Football League and the Football Association with a number of questions about the sustainability of football, together with issues around home-grown players. It is right for the Government to express the concern of ordinary fans and our communities about what is happening in football. The premier league is the best in the world and we want it to remain so, but we need transparency and sustainability. I shall be writing to the football authorities in the next few weeks to try to help move this thing forward, because there is great concern about the sustainability and viability of many football clubs.
T10.  Mr. Andrew Mackay (Bracknell) (Con):
Following the earlier unsatisfactory exchange, will the Secretary of State now assure the House that the
Government are taking the threat of swine flu to the British tourism industry this year seriously? Will he tell us what representations he has been making to the industry?
Mr. Bradshaw: Those conversations go on all the time. I urge Opposition Front Benchers not immediately to see parallels with foot and mouth, which involved a completely different set of circumstances. At the time, mistakes were made; too much of the countryside was closed down for the wrong reasons-partly because we were under pressure from the agricultural industry not to let people walk over land. In all the reviews of foot and mouth it has been acknowledged that that was a mistake At this stage, there is no suggestion that the swine flu epidemic need impact at all on tourism or on the sort of gatherings that my Department sponsors-sporting or cultural, or festivals. I was at two festivals over the weekend-[Hon. Members: "Which ones?"] Latitude and the wonderful Tolpuddle Martyrs festival. People should carry on leading their lives as normal.
The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The £9.325 billion funding package that I announced to the House in March 2007 remains the budget for the Olympics. The project remains on budget and on time, and as part of my commitment to budget transparency, I have since May 2009 been publishing updates on a quarterly basis. The latest quarterly update was published earlier today.
Ann Winterton: Bearing in mind the United Kingdom's present economic difficulties, is the Minister confident that sufficient funds will be forthcoming from the private sector for the 2012 games, and that the contingency fund will prove sufficient to fill the potential funding gap?
Tessa Jowell: Yes, I am. That is an important question, so it is worth placing it on record that 65 per cent. of the contingency remains unspent. We are confident that it is sufficient to complete construction and the other commitments made in the budget. In relation to the hon. Lady's questions about the private sector, she will know-because I have reported to the House-that contingency funding was used to make good the shortfall in private sector contributions both to the press and broadcast centre and to investment in the Olympic village-an investment that will yield about 2,800 homes. The private sector contribution to the staging cost of the games through the organising committee remains well on target, at more than £500 million.
Janet Anderson (Rossendale and Darwen) (Lab):
May I add my congratulations to you on your election, Mr. Speaker? I urge my right hon. Friend the Minister
to take particular note of a gifted young tenor who sings "Jerusalem" at the Ashes. His name is Sean Ruane and he comes from Rossendale in my constituency. May I also urge my right hon. Friend to give serious consideration to whether he might have a musical role in the 2012 Olympics?
Tessa Jowell: I thank my hon. Friend. I am sure that Sean's talents, now recorded in Hansard, will go from strength to strength. I draw her attention to the consultation that is taking place around the country about the content of the opening ceremony, which I hope will be many things, but in no small part a showcase for great young British talent.
Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): What recent changes have been made to the budget to support the ambitious new programme that, according to The Independent on Sunday, the Government are apparently launching to support grass-roots sport? How much sooner does the Minister think the Government will reach the target of getting 1 million more people into sport as a result of the campaign?
Tessa Jowell: The budget to which I have just referred is almost entirely for construction, security and non-sport, non-participation activity. The costs to which the hon. Gentleman referred are being met in a variety of ways: the investment in school sport, community sports clubs and the reconstruction of facilities, and the £100 million a year that the Big Lottery Fund is spending on sport. That all means that whereas in 1997, when this Government came to power, Exchequer investment in sport was £50 million, that figure is now £400 million, so the campaign to get 1 million more people taking part in sport on top of the participation by young people at school is being funded by a steady increase in investment.
Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that one way in which we will measure the success of the Olympics is by participation in sport beyond 2012? Does she recognise the important and value-for-money role that can be played by non-for-profit voluntary organisations in delivering that and encouraging participation in sport as we approach the Olympics?
Tessa Jowell: My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and frequently makes that point. The thousands of sports clubs throughout the country are the backbone of participation, and their contribution will enable us to achieve the target of getting 1 million more people active in sport.
Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con):
A key element in containing the overall budget is the use of the stadium in legacy mode. I think that everybody would agree that Manchester showed the way after the Commonwealth games. In her initial public pronouncements Baroness Ford, the new chairman of the legacy company, has indicated her desire to re-examine the issue of a football use, and both the Rugby Football
Union and the Rugby Football League are keen to use the stadium to support their bids. Given that the last four European cup finals have been played in dual-use stadiums, is the right hon. Lady prepared to re-examine her opposition to such a move?
Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman knows that I have discussed this with Baroness Ford. We have not yet won the right to host the World cup in 2018. Clearly, if our excellent bid is successful, there will of course be a case for re-examination, but this is not cost-free, and the House should understand that plans will proceed to make sure that we honour our commitment to the International Olympic Committee and to athletes across the country in the bid book, that we will have, as a legacy for the games, a 20,000-seater, grand prix-capable athletics stadium. We are making good progress in building the legacy. Tenants include a school, the English Institute of Sport and the National Skills Academy. Baroness Ford is eager to squeeze every last benefit of legacy from every single venue, and I support her in that, but I want certainty and planning for the legacy of the stadium.
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