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Sir Nicholas Winterton: Does the Minister accept that that is a tragedy? In many urban areas outside towns and in many rural areas, the pub is the only social community facility. Will the Government introduce some policies to try to preserve pubs in this country, even if that goes against their inclination to increase tax on beer? Beer is a popular British tradition. I like it, people like it, let us keep it.

Mr. Sutcliffe: Of course, tax is a matter for the Chancellor and the Treasury, and I am sure that the Chancellor will have heard the hon. Gentleman's comments. However, I agree that pubs play a major role in our communities, whether in urban or rural areas. We have been happy to support the community pubs initiative; we are supporting the sector where we can; and I was happy to respond to and, indeed, accept most of the recommendations concerning pub closures from the all-party beer group, chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan). We have to accept that there has been a change in drinking culture, with people having different drinks, but we certainly want to support community pubs, and we will do our best to make sure that we do so.

Football Stadiums

15. Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Whether the Government provide support to football clubs to improve or develop their stadiums. [298025]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): The Government currently do not provide any financial support to improve or develop professional football club stadiums. However, the football stadia improvement fund, which is funded equally by the premier league and the Football Association and administered by the Football Foundation, has to date invested more than £100 million in 1,099 projects. My Department also sponsors the work of the Football Licensing Authority, which, by working with clubs, local authorities and the emergency services, will help to ensure that our football stadiums are some of the safest in the world.

Mr. Hollobone: Would the Minister for Sport accept an invitation from me to visit Kettering Town football club for its FA cup second round clash with Leeds United, when he might be able to discuss with the club and its fans potential Government support, through planning guidelines or finance, for the redevelopment of the stadium?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I might take the hon. Gentleman up on his offer, as the next game is against Leeds United, and Kettering beat Hartlepool 1-0 on Saturday. That shows that the Sport Minister is well informed. The serious point is that clubs such as Kettering Town act as a strong community focus, and if there are issues about planning or any other areas where we can offer support, we will do that.

Topical Questions

T1. [298029] Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

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The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): My Department has a broad range of responsibilities. Today I had the privilege to open with the German ambassador an art installation by a young Welsh artist and a young German artist to commemorate the happy events in Berlin 20 years ago. It is an ice wall in the middle of the street outside the German embassy in Belgrave square, not far from here; and, if hon. Members get the chance, it is well worth seeing before it melts.

Mr. Grogan: Will Ministers urge Ofcom to press ahead with remedies for excessive concentration in the pay TV market-BSkyB accounts for 85 per cent. of all subscriptions-and so increase choice, value and competition for TV viewers across the range of cable, satellite and broadband platforms?

Mr. Bradshaw: I am sure that Ofcom will have heard the words of my hon. Friend, who has submitted his own representations to its review. It is not up to me to tell Ofcom how to conduct its reviews-it is an independent regulator-but so far it has conducted them well and speedily, and I expect this one to be no different.

T2. [298030] Mr. Mark Harper (Forest of Dean) (Con): Rural areas such as mine often have slower broadband speeds than in urban areas, which damages consumers and business. The Secretary of State's solution is a broadband tax. We do not support that, but since he does, can he confirm that the £150 million or so that it will raise each year means that it will take some 20 years to pay for the necessary investment?

Mr. Bradshaw: No. The hon. Gentleman is assuming that that will be the only source of funding, but it will be pump-priming. We have come up with the idea of a modest levy which represents a smaller amount than that which people have saved from their fixed lines because of the reductions in bills over recent years, yet his party has come up with absolutely no solutions for funding. It is amazing to me that Conservative Members, who represent rural areas in particular-it is the rural areas that will lose out, because the market will not deliver broadband to them-have so far offered no solution. We have a solution; I hope that he will support it.

T4. [298032] David Taylor (North-West Leicestershire) (Lab/Co-op): Tory-dominated Leicestershire county council is ignoring Disraeli's aphorism, "The most successful man is he who has the best information", in planning to slash spending by replacing dozens of professional librarians with self-service machines. Will the Minister ensure that library services in Leicestershire and elsewhere are protected from such miserly cuts by making this vital service a statutory one?

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): The service is already statutory under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Local authorities have a duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service. I hope shortly to publish a consultation paper so that we can discuss how libraries can be fit for purpose in the 21st century.

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T3. [298031] Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware that numerous grass-roots community groups in my constituency have received welcome grants from the excellent Awards for All scheme? Why has that scheme now been scrapped?

Margaret Hodge: It has not.

T6. [298035] Ann Coffey (Stockport) (Lab): My right hon. Friend will be aware of the strong interest of north-west publishers, including the publishers of the Manchester Evening News and the Stockport Express, in becoming the English pilot for regional news. Can he give me any further information as to the time scale for making that decision?

Mr. Bradshaw: I am well aware of, and gratified by, the strong interest in the north-west-as in most of the English regions and in Scotland and Wales-in the Government's proposals to help to save the very important service of regional news. We hope to proceed with this as soon as possible. We will be going out to tender shortly, and we hope to announce by March the preferred bidders for the English region chosen and for Wales and Scotland.

T5. [298033] David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): Could one of the Ministers tell us why people who are registered blind still have to pay 50 per cent. of their TV licence? Is it so that the BBC can continue to bribe people with London living allowances to live in Manchester?

Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman will be aware that that issue was discussed in great detail at the time of the last licence fee review. As he will be aware, this Government introduced concessions for TV licences for the elderly, but there was no consensus, in this House or among several different organisations representing different interest groups, on who else should be added to the list-so none was added. The time to make those representations is during the next licence review; given what he says, I am sure that he will do that.

Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South) (Lab): Have my right hon. and hon. Friends had a discussion with STV about the reconfiguration of its news programmes? People are very concerned about that in the north-east of Scotland, particularly in my constituency, where broadcasts are made under what used to be the Grampian licence-the studios are in my constituency. I am concerned that that area of news will be sucked into Glasgow and have a central-belt bias.

Mr. Bradshaw: I was in Glasgow last week discussing that very matter with the director of STV, who assured me that its plans for the future would safeguard and build on the local and sub-regional provision to which STV is committed. In order to do that, however, it needs to have a sustainable funding model. That is why it is important that Members in all parts of the House get behind and support our proposals for these regional-or, in the case of Scotland, independently funded-news consortiums to put regional news on a long-term sustainable footing. Without some level of intervention, the market will not sustain it for the long term.

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Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP): Does the Secretary of State agree that, if we are serious about growing our creative economy and determined that artists and creators are properly rewarded for their work, we must effectively challenge illegal file sharing and end the something-for-nothing culture that exists online? Will he assure me that when he brings forward the digital economy Bill he will consider all necessary measures to protect the 2 million jobs in the creative industries and ensure that creators are properly rewarded for the work that they produce?

Mr. Bradshaw: I am delighted to have that level of support from the hon. Gentleman, which is perhaps not surprising given his previous career. Yes, I will do that, and he is right to highlight the importance of the creative industries to the UK economy. Not many people realise this, but the United Kingdom is No. 1 in the world in the proportion of gross domestic product in the creative industries. This Government want to ensure that we stay that way.

David Cairns (Inverclyde) (Lab): On his visit to Glasgow, the Secretary of State heard the good news from BBC Scotland about the increase in programmes made in Scotland that are shown throughout the network. Does he agree that the timetable for meeting its target by 2016 is a bit generous, and that it could do it more quickly?

Mr. Bradshaw: I have some sympathy with that, and in my conversations with the senior BBC management in Scotland they seemed to acknowledge that they could do it a bit quicker than that.

T7. [298036] Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): A redundant church in Macclesfield, Christ church, in the centre of the town, is a magnificent part of Macclesfield's heritage. With a certain amount of money spent on it, it could become a wonderful community facility. The Churches Conservation Trust does not have a great deal of funds. Will the Minister meet me and the CCT to discuss the matter, so that that building can be saved and used for the benefit of people?

Margaret Hodge: I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman, and of course there are other opportunities for funding to turn some of our churches into facilities that are open to the community.

Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): In considering regional news pilots, will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State take into account the experience of the consolidation of ITV news programmes, and also the quality of media such as we find in the south-west?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes. My hon. Friend and her constituents in Plymouth have suffered in the same way as mine in Exeter from the deterioration in both the quality and localness of regional news provided by ITV in the past 12 months. That is exactly why the Government have brought forward our proposals. Not only do I think that we can avert any further decline, but I think that we can return to much higher-quality and more local news provision on ITV with those proposals.

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T9. [298038] Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): Rugby has Twickenham, football has Wembley, and now volleyball has Kettering. Would the Minister like to congratulate the English Volleyball Association on choosing Kettering for its national training and competition centre, which opened at the weekend?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): Of course I would love to do that-congratulations to Kettering. The world-class facilities that we now have up and down the country show that the investment that we have put into sport is coming to fruition. There are world-class facilities not only for elite sport but for community and school sport.

Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): Following on from the question asked by the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), can the Secretary of State guarantee that if the additional income generated by his measures to cut off illegal file sharers does not exceed the cost of the regulatory burden, he will shelve his plans?

Mr. Bradshaw: I would think that that is highly unlikely in practice. As my hon. Friend knows, the film industry alone estimates that it is currently losing £200 million a year because of theft from illegal file sharing. I suggest that the regulatory costs of introducing the legislation will not get anywhere near that amount.

Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): During business questions last week I called for a debate on the legacy of the London Olympics and was told to bring up the subject today, so I am. Given that there is genuine concern about the promise of increased grass-roots participation in sport not being delivered upon, and the fact that there are 1,000 days between now and the Olympics, will the Secretary of State join my call for a debate on this very important subject as soon as possible?

Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman is wrong. Both our targets-1 million extra people becoming physically active and 1 million extra people becoming involved in sport-are on target, and we will deliver them.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): There are huge discrepancies in Arts Council revenue and grant funding in Birmingham and the black country boroughs. For example, Birmingham receives 15 times per capita the amount that Wolverhampton does. Will the Minister please look into that?

Margaret Hodge: Indeed I will. It is really important that there is a proper regional spread of Arts Council funding, and more important that funding is not concentrated in the regional cities but goes out to all the surrounding areas.

Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): I congratulate the Secretary of State on being voted Stonewall politician of the year, but I am somewhat disappointed to find that in the annual review for ministerial responsibilities, he has been demoted to the bottom of the Cabinet. Does the Prime Minister not share the other organisation's view of him?

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Mr. Bradshaw: I do not know to what list the hon. Gentleman is referring, but I suspect that it is the list that is regularly published. I suspect the reason why I am 14th or last or whatever it is in the list is that I am the most recently appointed.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked-


1. Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): What recent discussions she has had on the size of the Olympic budget; and if she will make a statement. [298001]

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The budget of £9.325 billion that I announced in March 2007 remains unchanged. I publish regular quarterly economic updates, the next being due at the end of November, and I provide regular financial briefings, which are sometimes commercially sensitive, to Opposition spokesmen.

Mr. Evennett: I thank the Minister for her response on an issue that is of considerable concern to my constituents, who will be paying quite an amount and footing a lot of the bill for the Olympics, which we strongly support. However, will she give details about which operations will be scaled back if there is a shortfall in sponsorship or private sector investment?

Tessa Jowell: First, I am quite sure that the hon. Gentleman's constituents will celebrate with the rest of London when the games are held. It is important to remember that 89 per cent. of the budget is being borne by sources other than London. Every host city makes a contribution.

On the hon. Gentleman's point about scaling back, the London Organising Committee, which is a private company, is on target, even during a recession, with its sponsorship income budget. Of course, we keep these things under regular review, but the committee should be congratulated on its success.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): According to the memorandum of understanding signed between the Minister and the previous Mayor in June 2007, the national lottery is due to be repaid once the London Development Agency has recovered its land acquisition and disturbance costs. In that memorandum of understanding, it was explicitly stated that those costs were not expected to exceed £650 million. Is that estimate still accurate?

Tessa Jowell: The figure that was used in the memorandum of understanding, as the hon. Gentleman will remember, was the most conservative figure at the time, which represented the lowest point in performance of land sales for a 20-year period. Obviously, given the impact of the global downturn on land prices, decisions about the sale of the Olympic lands will be taken in the
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best possible market conditions, but the formula for distribution and reimbursement of the lottery remains the same.

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