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House of Commons

Monday 9 November 2009

The House met at half-past Two o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Oral Answers to Questions

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State was asked-

Stonehenge Galleries

1. Robert Key (Salisbury) (Con): Whether his Department's proposed funding for the visitor centre at Stonehenge includes provision for partnership joint funding of Stonehenge galleries at (a) Salisbury and (b) Devizes museum. [298009]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The specific £10 million that we announced last month does not, but English Heritage has agreed funding for the Salisbury and Devizes museums as part of a separate partnership agreement, and the two museums together have received over £500,000 since 1999 as part of the Government's support for regional museums.

Robert Key: That is very good news, for which I thank the Secretary of State.

The Salisbury and South Wiltshire museum is making a tremendous effort to co-ordinate its fundraising for new galleries with the visitor centre operation. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with English Heritage on marketing and the display of objects. Please will the Secretary of State urge English Heritage to go the extra mile, and help both the museums and local people, to encourage this wonderful new project?

Mr. Bradshaw: I shall be very happy to do that. I know that English Heritage is engaged in active discussions, and, as the hon. Gentleman said, has already signed a memorandum of understanding. I believe that discussion is still taking place about the amount of support that will become available, but I am confident that both museums will be pleased with the outcome.

Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire) (Con): Those of us who represent the other side of Salisbury plain are immensely proud of the fact that our area contains the Wiltshire historical records centre in Chippenham. Does the Secretary of State agree that now is the right time for it to be balanced by a suitable museum and visitor centre south of the plain, covering the heritage of which we on the northern side are so proud?

Mr. Bradshaw: I shall be happy to look into the matter, and either my right hon. Friend the Minister of State or I will write to the hon. Gentleman.


2. Mr. Andrew Dismore (Hendon) (Lab): What his policy is on the return from UK collections of items looted during the Nazi era; and if he will make a statement. [298010]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his achievement in piloting the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Bill through the Commons. I also congratulate Lord Janner on leading the support for it in the other place. I am delighted that the Bill, which the Government were pleased to support and which received all-party support throughout, will receive Royal Assent shortly.

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The 17 institutions named in the Bill will be allowed to return objects lost during the Nazi era, in response to a claim and when the return of the object is recommended by the Spoliation Advisory Panel and agreed by Ministers.

Mr. Dismore: Will my right hon. Friend say what she can do to try to encourage people with potential claims to come forward, and what attitude she will take when the Spoliation Advisory Panel recommends restitution?

Margaret Hodge: I hope that, in co-operation with my hon. Friend-because of his efforts in steering the Bill through Parliament-we shall be able to provide the maximum publicity when the Bill finally receives Royal Assent. I can tell him that Ministers have never turned down any advice from the Spoliation Advisory Committee in the past, and I do not expect that to change in the future.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) on steering the Bill through the House. I also congratulate the Government on their efforts to bring it to fruition as soon as possible.

Can the Minister assure me that, when people would rather receive compensation than have their belongings returned to them, the Government will examine individual cases carefully to ensure that the wishes of the families, who are, no doubt, those most affected by the holocaust, are listened to and acted on as swiftly as possible?

Margaret Hodge: I agree that we should act as swiftly as possible. The ability to receive financial compensation rather than the return of artefacts already exists; indeed, the problem was that financial compensation was the only form of compensation that people could receive. My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Mr. Dismore) and I felt that that was grossly unfair. The issue was brought to our attention by a case in which the Fitzwilliam museum was able to return a particular object, whereas the British Museum was not able to return another that belonged to the same family. That was one of the reasons for our seeking this change in the legislation.

Davies Committee

3. Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): When he plans to publish the report of the Davies committee review of listed sporting events. [298011]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): We look forward to receiving the David Davies report, which will be published in due course.

Mr. Grogan: Will my hon. Friend view favourably the rumoured recommendations of the Davies committee that Ashes cricket, the entire Wimbledon tennis tournament, the football qualifying matches of the home nations and Welsh international rugby should be returned to the A list, thus putting the opinions of ordinary viewers and sports fans above, say, those of the Murdoch family?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I congratulate my hon. Friend, who I believe has written to David Davies expressing his views.

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): Answer!

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Mr. Sutcliffe: I am sure that my hon. Friend would want me to read the report before embarking on any deliberations.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): As a result of the de-listing of cricket, we now have a women's cricket team that leads the world. We have also poured an awful lot of money into disability cricket and grass-roots schemes such as the Chance to Shine scheme, which is active in almost every Member's constituency. What assessment has the Department made of the amount that it has been possible to invest in such schemes as a result of the de-listing of cricket?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I acknowledge all that the hon. Gentleman has said. It was this Government who introduced the system, which was last examined in 1998. Controversial issues are clearly involved, but we want to ensure that we protect sport in the way that he has described while also meeting the needs of the public. We will read the report with great interest, and we look forward to our deliberations on it.

Product Placement

4. Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): What recent discussions he has had on product placement in UK-made television programmes. [298013]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I have had a number of discussions on product placement, and we have today issued a consultation document on the matter.

Paul Rowen: I welcome the Secretary of State's announcement today, but, as he said in his press statement, other European Union countries have already introduced a new regime and he does not want our commercial programme makers to be put at a disadvantage. Can he therefore tell us when he expects a new regime to be in place?

Mr. Bradshaw: I do not think the hon. Gentleman is quite right in saying that all other EU countries have already introduced it. Certainly, however, the vast majority of EU countries have indicated that, like us, they intend to move in that direction, and we would hope that, with the consultation launched today, we would be able to make a decision in January and a new regime would be introduced early in the new year.

David Cairns (Inverclyde) (Lab): With your permission, Mr. Speaker, may I congratulate my right hon. Friend on winning-this is long overdue-the Stonewall politician of the year award?

Knowing this question was coming up, over the weekend I started counting how often products were placed on the television programmes I was watching, which were mainly imported from the United States, and I gave up after counting well over 20 occasions. I am not remotely corrupted by this. We should stop being so prissy, get on with it, and give some money to ITV to make up for the huge drop in advertising revenue it has experienced.

Mr. Bradshaw: It was for those very reasons that I took a different view from my predecessor, although I think the arguments were finely balanced. However,
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the reason why we are having a consultation is because there are at the same time important safeguard issues, and important health issues around the protection of children and so forth. We want to make sure that we get this right so that we maximise income for producers and for commercial television, which is going through a very hard time at present, while at the same time ensuring that we have the correct safeguards in place.

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): I welcome the consultation paper, and all of this does, of course, represent a complete reversal of the position of the Secretary of State's predecessor. Does the Secretary of State accept, however, that product placement will do only a small amount to assist commercial broadcasters, who are facing huge economic difficulty, and that we will need to go further and look at other deregulatory measures that will assist all the commercial public service broadcasters to survive?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight that this will not be a panacea for commercial broadcasting. There are a number of things we can do to help ease the plight of commercial broadcasting further, and we are looking into them. Ofcom has in the last year relaxed the rules on the responsibilities of commercial broadcasting, such as in respect of news in the regions. As the hon. Gentleman will know, we have imaginative, sensible and practicable solutions to the problems and pressures facing regional news and other important areas of commercial broadcasting.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Product placement is the way forward. Who knows? We may have something above the Speaker's Chair. This is a welcome move and goes a small way to ensuring that there is programme making within the great Granada region. However, will the Secretary of State do even more-he has touched on this-to make sure that regional news and current affairs programmes will continue to be made within "Granadaland"?

Mr. Bradshaw: Given the conservatism of this place, I suspect, Mr. Speaker, that your Chair is the last place where we will see a product placed. As far as I am aware, under the EU directive, products would not be allowed to be placed in news and current affairs programmes anyway. My hon. Friend's point about regional television news is very important. Many of us have seen our news regions amalgamated and journalists lose their jobs, and the quality and localness of news provision suffer as a result. That has happened in my own region of the south-west. The Government have come up with a sensible and imaginative way of securing the future of regional news, and it would be nice if we felt we had support from hon. Members on both sides of the House for that proposal.

Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): Berry's in the Ribble valley make good chairs, Mr. Speaker, if you are thinking of going down the route just mentioned.

Clearly, we might see the end of Newton and Ridley beer being served at the Rover's Return on "Coronation Street", but we have some very good brews around my constituency-Bowland, Thwaites, Moorhouse's and the like-which could be served there. Does the Secretary
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of State agree that product placement should not be allowed in news programming, as people want to ensure the neutrality of programmes in that area?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, I do agree with that, but I do not agree that the hon. Gentleman's area has better beers than mine, Mr. Speaker, as you cannot beat a pint of Otter ale.

Illegal File Sharing

5. Jo Swinson (East Dunbartonshire) (LD): What plans he has to reduce levels of illegal file sharing; and if he will make a statement. [298015]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Siôn Simon): We intend to introduce legislation to address this serious problem in the next parliamentary Session. Our proposals include a system of notifications to those infringing copyright online and action against the most serious infringers.

Jo Swinson: I thank the Minister for that answer. There is genuine public concern about the Government's proposals, and in particular the prospect that people who have done nothing wrong could have their internet disconnected. An appeal system has been announced by the Government, but will the Minister give an assurance that people will have a chance to defend their innocence before any decision is taken to disconnect their internet connection?

Mr. Simon: I am grateful to the hon. Lady for that question. People who have done nothing wrong should not be in any danger of having their internet interfered with at all. Hardly anybody, other than the most serious and egregious recidivistic offenders, should ever be in danger of having any of their internet affected, and nobody will have their bandwidth squeezed or their account suspended until they have had repeated letters, been given a healthy notice period and then had a right of appeal-indeed, two rights of appeal-as she requests.

Mr. Brian Jenkins (Tamworth) (Lab): I welcome, as anyone does, the warm words spoken by my hon. Friend, but he must realise that when we set these organisations up they grow like Topsy; they start impinging and pushing the rules. Will he ensure that it is implicit in the Bill that that will not happen and that we will not create a large sledgehammer to crack a small nut?

Mr. Simon: I can assure my hon. Friend of that. We are not creating a sledgehammer; we are creating a light-touch regime to enforce the existing law.

Mr. Jeremy Hunt (South-West Surrey) (Con): Everyone understands the need for safeguards, but will the Minister confirm that, assuming the successful passage of the digital economy Bill, the earliest an illegal file sharer could have their internet connection temporarily cut off is February 2012? That is hardly an example of the Government at their most decisive.

Mr. Simon: First, no I cannot confirm that; how long it will take to reach that point will depend on how things go. In any case, how long it takes to get to a tiny number of very serious infringers having their internet
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interfered with is not the measure of success. If everything goes well, nobody will reach that point because earlier measures will do the job. I would be grateful if the hon. Gentleman could confirm to the House that he supports the proposals as they stand.

Mr. Hunt: I am happy to confirm that the Conservatives support the proposals. We just do not think that they, on their own, will do the job. Does the Minister accept that if we are to tackle this problem, we also have to look at reforming the outdated intellectual property laws on digital content? If we do not do that, we will not, in the end, deal with the nub of the problem. Will the Secretary of State be addressing intellectual property laws or will that issue be put in the file marked "Post-election: someone else's problem"?

Mr. Simon: That issue is very firmly in the file marked "Announced by my right hon. Friends at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills last week." As the hon. Gentleman says, we need reform of licensing and copyright legislation to bring the system into line with the new technology. That goes hand in hand with the measures to enforce copyright online, as does the message sent out clearly from the Government that the content industries, which will profit from these measures, need to step up to the plate and put some work in to develop new business models and new technology to give people what they need, at a price they can afford.

Football Association

6. David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): What recent discussions he has had with the Football Association on reforms to its (a) management structure and (b) role; and if he will make a statement. [298016]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I wrote to the Football Association, as well as the premier league and the Football League, on 23 September, outlining the Government's views on their responses to the seven governance and regulation questions put to them by a former Secretary of State. In that letter, I asked those bodies to work more closely together on key issues in football and to support the full implementation of Lord Burns' recommendations in his 2005 report. I will be meeting all three organisations in the very near future to discuss these issues.

David Taylor: The FA is not implementing the 2005 Burns report and still has a management board that fails to respect and reflect the diversity of those involved in our national game. What more can the Minister do, given the FA's attitudes, to protect the interests of supporters, players and clubs by dragging this antediluvian, dysfunctional clique out of the 1950s?

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