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12 Jan 2010 : Column 215WH—continued

Between 2009 and 2013, Sport England will give £37 million to cricket and £30 million to rugby union. The best figure I could find regarding how much money is raised for grass-roots cricket from broadcasting contracts was around £13 million. That figure came from a study by Deloitte for BSkyB. The amounts of money that go in from broadcasting and from the public purse are not dissimilar. It is worth remembering that £1.5 million of national lottery funding was invested in the new Welsh rugby union centre of excellence, which opened last month. SportScotland gave the Scottish Football Association £1.4 million last year.

If the governing bodies believe in an entirely free market approach, why are they receiving public money? They cannot have it both ways. If hard-pressed taxpayers and lottery players are funding sports, should they not be able to see some of the events on free-to-air TV?

There is another interesting phrase in the Government's consultation document:

According to Giles Clarke's written evidence to the Davies committee, 80 per cent. of cricket's income is from broadcasting revenue, double that of the next nearest sport, which I think is Scottish football where about 40 per cent. of income is derived from broadcasting. Clearly, there is an imbalance, which cricket needs to address.

There is some controversy over the figures for participation in cricket. Cricketing bodies argue that participation has increased in recent years, but research for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Sport England suggests that if there has been an increase it has been marginal compared with sports such as cycling and athletics, which have much greater exposure on free-to-air TV.

It is likely that sponsorship will be higher with free-to-air exposure. On 13 October 2009, The Times reported that Kevin Peake, the marketing director of npower, had hinted that having the Ashes back on free-to-air television
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might persuade the company to continue sponsorship beyond its present deal, which expires in 2011. A recent report from Deloitte, commissioned by BSkyB and entitled, "The impact of broadcasting on sports in the UK", noted that for rugby union, a key benefit of the Six Nations free-to-air strategy was the impact on sponsorship revenue. Exposure on free-to-air TV could have various effects.

I have a number of further points. I urge the Government to make a decision swiftly after the consultation period ends in March. As I understand it, this is an area where a Minister can decide; there is no further parliamentary process and it is something that can be wrapped up before the general election. I hope that free-to-air broadcasters look carefully at the new list, if there is one. There is a responsibility, particularly on the BBC, to look at the list that Parliament has decided on and do everything possible to ensure that events on the A list are shown on free-to-air TV.

Finally, the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, always told the parliamentary Labour party that it was through the little things in government that a difference could be made. This is not a matter of life and death, or peace and war, but-as the hon. Member for Castle Point (Bob Spink) pointed out-it affects the quality of life of many people. Many people have spent their lives volunteering as coaches, for example, in a variety of sports, and they would like to spend their retirement being able to watch the great national and international events on television. It is impossible to calculate the impact of sport on young people in inspiring them to take up cricket, rugby, football or athletics. When the Olympic games are on free-to-air TV-I am told that the BBC wants to show every event live in 2012-there will be a huge impact on the next generation in encouraging them to take up sport. That impact cannot be measured, but we know that it is of tremendous value to our society.

12.48 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Siôn Simon): Let me congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) on securing the debate and on his erudite and insightful tour d'horizon from which, I am sure hon. Members will agree, we have all profited. He has been a dogged campaigner on this issue for many years, and he now describes himself as chipper, which will please us all.

I start by reaffirming the Government's belief in ensuring that as many people as possible have the opportunity to enjoy our great sporting events via free-to-air television. We all recognise that sport is a key element in our national identity and part of the glue that binds us together as a society. The excitement and interest generated by major sports events is something that little else on television can match.

The decision to review the listed events regime, to ensure that it was fit for purpose, was based on a number of factors. The Government recognised, as my hon. Friend said, that with the development of digital technologies and other changes to the broadcasting environment, viewers now have a much greater choice of channels, as well as a greater range of different ways to view sporting events. Viewers' attitudes to subscription TV and the consumption of premium content, especially
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sports coverage, have changed, and to take account of those developments we set up an independent panel to review the regime and make recommendations to the Secretary of State. The panel, under the chairmanship of David Davies, was asked to review three areas: the principle of a list; the criteria against which listed events could be chosen; and the content of any list.

As part of its work, the panel recognised the importance of ensuring that its recommendations were informed by as wide as possible a range of views. It undertook a public consultation from 8 April to 20 July. At the same time it wrote to 187 sporting, media, broadcasting, viewer and other organisations-domestic and international -inviting them all to participate in the consultation exercise. It consulted very widely; Davies did not just make it up. Some of the organisations had meetings with panel members; others made submissions in writing. The panel visited the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly and arranged a joint meeting of the all-party groups on media and sports to hear Members' views directly. The panel also commissioned quantitative and qualitative research to ascertain broader public views, and an initial analysis of viewing patterns, as well as a general analysis of the impact of listing on the sale of sports broadcast rights.

The panel reached clear conclusions as to the criterion that should be used in determining whether an event was capable of being listed-the major event test. It should be an event that

Such an event is likely to be a pre-eminent national or international event in sport or to involve the national team or national representatives, and is likely in any event to command a large television audience. The panel identified a number of events that it felt passed the test, as set out in the report.

In response to the report, the Secretary of State has provisionally concluded that he should accept the panel's recommendations on the retention of a list in principle and the use of the major event test to draw up the list. He has also provisionally accepted the events that have been identified as passing the major event test. The Secretary of State considers that the panel has come forward with a persuasive set of reasons for retaining the listing system. He provisionally agrees that as many members of the UK population as possible should have access to the important sporting events in question.

The media landscape is changing fast, but it appears from the material before the panel that for varying reasons a significant proportion of the population do not have access to pay television and that although some can see such events in other ways-perhaps, expensively, at the pub-a significant proportion of the population do not do so and will not in future. The Secretary of State is particularly concerned about the inability of those on low incomes to access subscriber services upon which such events might otherwise be broadcast. He considers it important that the UK and its individual nations should be able to promote their individual sense of identity. One way in which that is achieved is through our all being able to join together in enjoyment and celebration of such important events. However, it is important to recognise that the panel
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expressed no view about, and took no account of, the impact or consequences of listing on a sport or sporting body, stating that it considered that such matters were for the Secretary of State to take into account. My hon. Friend the Member for Selby put forward, interestingly and at some length, arguments to offset those that he anticipates will be put by some sporting bodies whose events have been added to the list.

The Secretary of State's provisional conclusion is that, in making any final decision on which events should be listed, he should take account of the possible impacts that such listing might have on the sport in question and on those broadcasters affected. For that reason he considers that the major event test should be accompanied by an impact assessment. That will involve his considering any matters relating to the impacts of listing that are drawn to his attention, and then assessing whether listing would have a disproportionate impact on the interests of those adversely affected by it. Having reached his provisional conclusions the Secretary of State is required to carry out a statutory consultation with the broadcasting authorities and any affected rights holders, in line with the Broadcasting Act 1996, before announcing his final decision. The principal factors that the Secretary of State has provisionally concluded should be taken into account are set out in the consultation document, which was published last month.

It is important to emphasise that the Secretary of State has provisionally arrived at the conclusion that he will accept the recommendations in the report, but that he will consider the implications for sporting bodies and grass-roots sport, and has not reached any final views. He is still considering the issues.

Bob Spink: The Minister is making an impressive speech, as always. When will the Secretary of State make an announcement? Will it be before the general election?

Mr. Simon: The Secretary of State firmly intends to make an announcement before the election, even though the consultation process does not close until, I think, the first week of March. It is a tight timetable in which to do a proper job, but that is clearly his intention. The consultation is intended as an opportunity for those who want to respond to do so.

Mr. Rob Wilson: Will the Minister be clear about when the impact assessment is taking place-particularly for the home Ashes series? Is it under way? Otherwise, how will it be possible to make an announcement before the general election?

Mr. Simon: The impact assessment is the consultation process. As part of that process the impact on sports and their revenues and on grass-roots sport is to be considered now, given that it was not considered as part of the Davies review. All of that will inform the firm conclusions that the Secretary of State will seek to reach- having provisionally announced the conclusions that he has already come to-as soon as possible after the consultation closes at the beginning of March.

As hon. Members will know, listing does not guarantee that an event will be shown live on free-to-air television. Similarly, excluding an event from the list does not necessarily mean that it will be lost to free-to-air television.
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We await the Secretary of State's final views. We must not, and I cannot, pre-empt the consultation. Hon. Members, and my hon. Friend the Member for Selby in particular, made good points and expressed strong views in the debate. The process remains open for interested parties to make input on any aspect of the consultation, particularly on the impact on finances and grass-roots sport. It is open to anyone, so I encourage anybody with a strong view to put in their views before 5 March. I reiterate the Secretary of State's firm intention to reach a final conclusion swiftly after that.

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12.58 pm

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Hood, and I am grateful for the opportunity for this debate. I am pleased to see the Minister. I admire him greatly for his conscientiousness in his task, and for his care and concern about the issues for which he is responsible.

I am also pleased that other hon. Members can be here to support the debate, and shall be happy to give way liberally to anyone who wants to intervene, and, subject to your consent, Mr. Hood, and the Minister's, to cede time to hon. Members who want to contribute. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Heeley (Meg Munn) returned from Kurdistan only this weekend, and I am sure that hon. Members will be keen to hear what she has to report to the House. I know that the right hon. Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill (Mr. Clarke), who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan region in Iraq, will also want to contribute to the debate.

I place on record my appreciation of Ibrahim Dogus, who has lobbied me since I was a London assembly member in 2000 on Kurdistan and the interests of the Kurdish community here. We have a very large Kurdish community in Croydon. I would also like to place on record my thanks to Akif Wan, of the Peace in Kurdistan campaign, for all the briefings that he has given me over the years.

In the debate today, we have to canter through the issues, in terms of Kurdistan sitting abreast of Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran. However, I will try to touch on those concerns one after the other.

In many ways, as British people we have some responsibility in the area, bearing in mind both the failure of the commitments we made, up to and including the treaty of Sèvres, and the 1946 expulsion of the Kurdistan Democratic party from Iraq by Britain after the second world war. However, that should not distract us from the fact that we have vital interests, separate from those of Kurdish people, in seeing proper peace and good trade in Kurdistan, not only because we are suffering from the difficulties of a clash of civilisations but because the region is of high importance to us in terms of our own energy security and that of our European partners.

Of course, those considerations should not blind us to the importance of continuing to support the Government's policy of being strongly opposed to any terrorist outrages by the PKK-the Kurdistan Workers party. However, I think we can be very positive about the approach that Kurds take. In the main, Kurds are secularist and have a very good understanding of the geopolitics of why it is not in the interests of the west to see an independent Kurdistan.

We need to recognise that the Kurdish community in London is a very large contributor to the city. There are 250,000 Kurds in London and the rest of the UK. Obviously that is a smaller number than the 2 million who are in Istanbul, but none the less one can recognise the important part the Kurdish diaspora plays in Turkey.

Turkey is a country that, in many ways, is a bulwark for security in Asia Minor. It is an ally of ours that has one of the biggest armies in NATO, an economy that is dynamic and a population with a very young age profile.
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Therefore it would make a worthy entrant to the European Union. Nevertheless, it is important for us that any discussions about EU membership for Turkey should take the best possible advantage of any leverage to secure the proper treatment of Kurdish minorities, particularly defence of Kurdish people's right to use their own language fully-not only within Turkish courts, as is currently allowed, but within political discourse in Turkey-and most importantly in terms of human rights.

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this important debate. However, does he share my disappointment that the EU does not appear to have effectively used its influence to get Turkey to change its attitude to human rights generally and to the Kurds in particular? I am sure that he will acknowledge our debt to Kurds and Kurdistan, and that the UK has a historical duty to those people and that region. This country has betrayed those people for more than a hundred years, not least in failing to defend them properly during the atrocities-

Mr. Jim Hood (in the Chair): Order. I think that the hon. Gentleman is making a speech and not an intervention.

Mr. Pelling: I am very grateful, Mr. Hood, for the comments of my hon. Friend. Britain has a great historical responsibility to the Kurds and it is incumbent upon the Government and indeed upon Members of the European Parliament to continue to be active in ensuring that further discussions on Turkish EU membership are used to the best advantage.

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): In Birmingham, there are quite a few Sorani Kurds. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the lessons to learn in terms of protecting all sorts of minorities-be it Turkmen minorities within Kurdish areas or otherwise-are on the ways to avoid disputes developing into more volatile disputes involving terrorism?

Mr. Pelling: I know that the hon. Gentleman has an important Sorani Kurd community in his constituency. In that regard, it is interesting to note how the Kurdistan regional government, or KRG, area has thrived, which shows, as he said, the importance of combating the temptation to go down the terrorist route. What is perhaps encouraging is that the Kurdish community has quite often acted in a very responsible way despite having many reasons for feeling antagonised.

Obviously we are going through one of those periodic bands of Kurdish political parties that reflect the rather complicated army/democracy or non-secularist/secularist Ataturk traditions in Turkey. However, it is entirely unhelpful that we have ended up in a situation where the DTP-the Democratic Society party-is again facing the prospect of being banned.

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