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House of Commons

Monday 18 January 2010

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-

Premier League 4 Sport

2. Mr. Bill Olner (Nuneaton) (Lab): How many premier league 4 sport partnerships have been established; and what assessment he has made of their effectiveness. [310888]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): There are 20 premier league 4 sport partnerships, which have led to 240 clubs being set up in schools, with associations to 75 community hub clubs. Data on the number of young people who took part in a premier league 4 sport session during its first term will be available by the end of this month.

Mr. Olner: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer and congratulate the premier league 4 sport partnerships, but how do schools manage to connect with the programme? We have a sporting college in my constituency, but I wonder how readily schools and other organisations know how to start a partnership with that excellent scheme.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising the issue. I know that he does a lot of work on sport in his constituency and that he has excellent sports colleges in his constituency. The idea behind the programme is that the premier league, with all the power of its branding, can work with schools to give youngsters tasters in some of the sports in which they would not normally be involved, including Olympic and Paralympic sports such as badminton, volleyball, table tennis and judo.

Product Placement

3. Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): What recent representations he has received on product placement in UK-made television programmes. [310889]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Siôn Simon): Around 1,400 responses have been received to the Department's consultation on this subject.

Mr. Hoyle: I am sure that my hon. Friend would agree that product placement is needed. Indeed, there is cross-party support for product placement, which provides an important revenue stream to ensure that we can have political programmes in our regions. However, would he agree that we need a European standard, because at the moment, we have children watching films from America that are uncensored in any way for product placement?

Mr. Simon: My hon. Friend makes his point outstandingly well and in his inimitable fashion. We are currently at a competitive disadvantage compared with other European nations and other English-speaking countries-

Mr. Edward Vaizey (Wantage) (Con): America.

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Mr. Simon: Indeed. The hon. Gentleman wisely helps me along from the Opposition Front Bench. However, many of the consultation responses are about ensuring that we put in place the right safeguards to protect children, in both the programming and the product categories that we allow.

Christopher Fraser (South-West Norfolk) (Con): The British Medical Association has said of product placement:

We still await the Government's response to the review launched last November, but can the Minister clarify what safeguards have been considered in the event of the status quo being retained?

Mr. Simon: The consultation, which closed a couple of weeks ago, mainly concerned itself with the programme categories that might be excluded-children's programming is already excluded under the European directive-but it also looked at whether we should include family entertainment or other programming that children might watch, even though it might not be aimed at them, and whether we should include product categories, such as alcohol or foods that are high in fat, sugar or salt.

Competitive Sports (Schools)

4. Mr. Shailesh Vara (North-West Cambridgeshire) (Con): What recent steps he has taken to encourage children to undertake competitive sports in school. [310890]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): There has been a steady rise in the number of young people taking up competitive sport since 2003, thanks to the large investment in both schools sport in general and competitive sport in particular, so that, for example, 100 per cent. of primary schools and 98 per cent. of secondary schools held sports days in the past academic year.

Mr. Vara: I am grateful to the Secretary of State for that response, but notwithstanding his comments, a recent report by the British Heart Foundation found that more than 1.5 million children are either overweight or obese. Given that, how do the Government propose to deal with the fact that less than a fifth of pupils in years 3 to 13 regularly take part in active sport between schools?

Mr. Bradshaw: That is not strictly the case. If the hon. Gentleman looks closely at the figures, instead of the rather tendentious coverage of them given by one or two newspapers, he will find that whereas only one in four children did at least two hours of high-quality PE and sport each week in 2002, more than 90 per cent. of children do so now. When it comes to competitive sport between schools, 69 per cent. of pupils were involved in competitive sports within schools, on top of their regular PE, and 44 per cent. of schools were involved in inter-school activities. Each of those figures is higher than the year before, and each figure for the year before was higher than the year before that. There has been a year-on-year increase. However, I have to tell the hon. Gentleman
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that the way to get school and pupil activity up is by continuing to invest in this area, which is something that his party is not committed to doing.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend take this opportunity to join me in congratulating Iqbal Singh Bola, a British gold medallist in taekwondo who has lived in Slough since he was born in 1989? He provides an inspiration for other young people in sport. Will my right hon. Friend urge communities to recognise the contribution that excellence and winning in sport can make to fostering aspiration among young people?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, I gladly congratulate my hon. Friend's constituent. She makes a good point, because she has named a sport mentioned by some who are critical of the broad range of sports and physical activities now offered to children in schools. Not only traditional sports but less traditional ones are being offered, which means that some children who would not otherwise have become physically active or involved in sport are now doing so, like her constituent.

David Tredinnick (Bosworth) (Con): Will the Minister then support the Conservative initiative for a schools Olympics? Does it not fit in with his policy, and would it not be another way to improve health care?

Mr. Bradshaw: We already have what I would call two schools Olympics. They are the UK School Games, which give elite athletes from our schools a chance to compete annually, and National School Sport week, which involves every school in the country competing. I do not know what would be new about the Conservatives' idea except that they would have a major row with the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games for copyright reasons if they tried to use the Olympics name.

Sport (Integrity and Reputation)

5. John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department's measures to protect the integrity and reputation of sport. [310891]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): It is the responsibility of sport's national governing bodies to run their sports in a way that protects their integrity and reputation. Government will assist where appropriate and where it is necessary to safeguard those involved, not least participants and spectators. Recent measures include setting up the anti-doping agency to tackle the traffic and supply of doping substances and commissioning an independent report on sports betting integrity.

John Robertson: I thank my hon. Friend for his answer, but he will be aware of what effect internet gambling could have on sport in years to come. The Government have set up the Sports Betting Integrity Panel. When can we expect its report so that we can find out exactly what is going on and protect the integrity of sportsmen and women?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. I know that he is keen on sport and the integrity of sportsmen and women. We are dealing
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with the issue in a particular way because we want to ensure that those people who participate in sport know the dangers of betting issues. I commissioned a report by Rick Parry, which I hope will be delivered soon. There are issues relating to the work of the Gambling Commission to be ironed out, but we expect the panel's report very soon. I think that most sport is clean, but the panel will set about ensuring that people who participate know the rules and the penalties if they do not operate properly and that sports have the right rules for dealing with integrity issues.

Philip Davies (Shipley) (Con): Given that bookmakers are usually the victims when there is any such cheating in sport, and given that the Government are trying to extricate themselves from a levy on horse racing, does the Minister agree that it would be completely wrong to have a sports levy?

Mr. Sutcliffe: The hon. Gentleman has been involved with such issues for some time; indeed, as a member of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, he has taken evidence on them. There must be a fair return to sport, and I am keen to ensure that. I would prefer it to be through a voluntary arrangement, but we must ensure that where the Government are involved-he is right that we want to extricate ourselves from the levy, but that is proving more difficult than we thought it might-there needs to be a balance between racing and betting. I hope that both parties can work together.


6. Natascha Engel (North-East Derbyshire) (Lab): If he will take steps to maintain the financial independence of the BBC. [310892]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The financial independence of the BBC helps guarantee its editorial independence and, until recently, has been respected by all parties. The Labour party will do all that it can to ensure that financial and editorial independence are maintained and defended.

Natascha Engel: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I am grateful that he has put on record our strong support for the BBC's independence, and I hope that he shares my concern that the constant threat to BBC funding from Opposition parties serves only to undermine the BBC's editorial independence and creative output.

Mr. Bradshaw: I agree entirely. It would be helpful if my Conservative opposite number would take this opportunity to clarify his party's policies, as it is not at all clear whether the Conservatives support the licence fee or, as Greg Dyke does-he chairs their media group but has not yet reported, rather to our surprise-funding by taxation.

Mr. Speaker: Order. May I say gently to the Secretary of State that I know that he will not want to dilate on Opposition policy, or indeed expect Opposition Members to do so? He will have more than enough to say about Government policy.

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Mr. Don Foster (Bath) (LD): Although, as the hon. Member for North-East Derbyshire (Natascha Engel) rightly pointed out, the Conservatives threaten the independence of the BBC, does the Secretary of State not accept that he and his party are just as guilty? Does not top-slicing mean that the BBC will constantly have to look over its shoulder to ensure that it does not offend the Government of the day, for fear that the top-slicing will be made even bigger, as happened in Ireland, for example? How does top-slicing defend the independence of the BBC?

Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman knows very well that there is nothing in the charter that obviates the use of a fraction of the licence fee to help to fund digital switchover, as we are already doing. What would threaten the independence of the BBC would be to fund it through general taxation, which at least some of the Conservatives seem to be proposing. I do not believe that the public would want that, because they value the independence of the BBC very highly, and they would be worried by the prospect of a taxation-funded BBC, given the liability of Governments to interfere, editorially and financially.

Television Licence Fee

7. Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): What recent representations he has received on the level of the television licence fee. [310893]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): I regularly receive representations on the licence fee, but, for the reasons that we have just been discussing, we believe that it is an important guarantee of the BBC's independence, and that Governments should therefore respect the multi-annual nature of the license fee agreement.

Mr. Evans: Well, here is another representation. Forty-nine executives at the BBC earn more than the Prime Minister. That means that the licence fee payments of all the constituents of Ribble Valley and neighbouring Chorley go on their salaries alone. If that were happening in any other institution, the "Today" programme would have done a hatchet job on it by now. Can we have a freeze on the licence fee until Auntie sorts herself out?

Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman needs to speak to those on his own Front Bench. That is indeed what they advocated last year, but their position changed in October. It changed again in November, and it has now changed back to the original one-[Hon. Members: "What is your policy?"] Our policy is as I have stated. There has been consensus on both sides of the House for decades that an important guarantor of the BBC's independence is that Governments do not interfere with or-as some in the hon. Gentleman's party have advocated-tear up the multi-annual licence fee agreement. If we were to go down that road, we would be threatening the very independence of the BBC. That is an important matter for the British people, because they value the BBC's independence, which would be threatened by his party's policies.

Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, in any assessment of the level of the licence fee, it is well worth taking into account the
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recent report by Deloitte, which observed that the licence fee generated £7.2 billion, which is twice its value in terms of the BBC's support of the independent sector and the wider creative economy?

Mr. Bradshaw: I agree with my hon. Friend. We can all make criticisms of individual decisions that the BBC may or may not have taken, but the licence fee costs about the equivalent of a pint of beer a week. It costs considerably less than the licence fee for German television, which carries adverts. Anyone who has ever suffered German television will agree with me that the BBC is far better, and delivers far better value for money than many of its competitors abroad.

National Lottery

8. Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): What proportion of national lottery income has been spent on heritage in each of the last three years? [310894]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): Since 1997, the national lottery has raised more than £3.3 billion for the heritage sector. The Heritage Lottery Fund spent almost £1 billion of lottery money in the last three years, equivalent to 26.2 per cent., 21.3 per cent. and 22.3 per cent. of total lottery income during those years.

Mr. Swire: That is all very well, but the Minister knows full well that, in 2008-09, the Heritage Lottery Fund distributed £88 million less than in 2005-06. One of the reasons for that, as she knows equally well, is that, consistently over the years, the Government have raided more than £3 billion to shore up their own pet projects. Is it not time, in the dying days of this Government, for them to support the Conservative policy of having a new national lottery independence Bill, which would stop the Government sticking their sticky fingers into lottery funds?

Margaret Hodge: It may be "all very well", but it is actually true that the percentage of the lottery fund that went to heritage during the three years that the hon. Gentleman asked about exceeds the percentage that the Conservatives would give under their proposals. The way in which we currently administer the lottery fund is in the interests of the country. Were the Conservative party's proposals to be put in place, investments in community libraries and other good causes would go. Furthermore, the money that goes to heritage is only partly funded through the lottery fund. More than £660 million comes directly from my Department, and £130 million comes from the Big Lottery Fund. Under the Conservative party's proposals, those amounts would be-

Mr. Speaker: Order. We have got the drift. That is very helpful, thank you.

Ms Dari Taylor (Stockton, South) (Lab): Does my right hon. Friend know that the university of Sunderland is exhibiting its glass in the Upper Waiting Hall? I hope that the ministerial team will visit the exhibition and congratulate the university on it. In what way is her Department supporting the brilliant work that is being done by universities such as Sunderland? It is internationally renowned and now, through the national lottery, has accepted responsibility for the National Glass Centre.

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