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18 Jan 2010 : Column 14

Mr. Bradshaw: The first thing that I would say to my hon. Friend is that local newspapers and local newspaper groups have warmly welcomed the Government's proposals for the new regional news consortia. Many local newspaper groups are involved in bidding for some of the pilots to which I have just referred. I have some sympathy with his point about the impact of local government free sheets and their advertising on local newspapers. He might have noticed that we announced in December, just before Christmas, that we would continue to require local authorities to advertise in paid-for newspapers. The Department for Communities and Local Government is undertaking a review of the publicity code for local authorities, in which we have made our opinions quite clear.

Topical Questions

T1. [310907] Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey) (Lab): If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): My Department is responsible for a range of policies to support culture, media and sport, which, taken together, had their best year ever last year. They now account for 10 per cent. of the United Kingdom's gross domestic product, which is the highest proportion for the creative sectors, broadly speaking, of any country in the world.

Derek Wyatt: Will the Minister tell us why there has been such a delay in implementing the Legal Deposit Libraries Act 2003?

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): I agree that there has been an unacceptable delay in implementing one particular part of the Act, which is why we have taken action. Just two or three weeks ago, we put out to consultation the necessary drafts to ensure that we can implement at least part of the Act and so that libraries can start to collect books that are published online as well as hardback books. I accept the criticism and hope that the speedy action that I have taken will rectify that position.

T4. [310910] Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon) (Con): Has the Secretary of State made an assessment of the effect on the Met Office if it loses its contract with the BBC, and what safeguards can he give to the 1,200 employees of the Met Office who work in his own constituency?

Mr. Bradshaw: I am sure the hon. Gentleman recognises that the work of the Met Office is much broader and more comprehensive than simply the service that it provides to the BBC, although that is an important service. The BBC is required under its charter to review such contracts in terms of value for money for the licence fee payer. I am sure the Met Office, which is probably the best and most respected meteorological office anywhere in the world, in spite of recent criticisms of its long-term forecast for the winter, will have a strong chance of maintaining that contract.

T3. [310909] Mrs. Linda Riordan (Halifax) (Lab/Co-op): Will the Minister join me in congratulating the 16,000 people who signed up to the recent campaign to
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save our central library from the Tory council, which planned to bulldoze Halifax central library without any consultation? Will she outline the Government's plans to keep libraries at the centre of our communities in the 21st century?

Margaret Hodge: I take pleasure in congratulating the citizens of Halifax and the hon. Member who represents them on mounting such a successful campaign, which has kept that library open. I remind all local authorities that as they plan a comprehensive and efficient library service, it is imperative that they consult local people. Our policy statement on the future of libraries will, I hope, help us to keep libraries at the heart of every community throughout the country.

T5. [310911] Mr. Henry Bellingham (North-West Norfolk) (Con): Is the Secretary of State aware that of the last 160 BT exchanges that were upgraded to deliver enhanced broadband, none were located in either Norfolk or Suffolk? Will he find time to look at the excellent E astern Daily Press campaign on the subject, and will he also speak to the chairman of BT to find out why rural areas of England are being discriminated against?

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. One subject will do. I have had reason to mention that to him before, but I feel sure that I will not need to do so again.

Mr. Bradshaw: Without knowing the detail-I will look into it on behalf of the hon. Member for North-West Norfolk (Mr. Bellingham)-I imagine that that was a commercial decision made by BT, which is a strong argument in favour of the Government's policy of securing high quality next generation broadband for the whole of our country, including rural areas such as Norfolk, through a small fixed-line levy-a policy that is opposed by his party.

T8. [310914] John Robertson (Glasgow, North-West) (Lab): A recent report on illegal downloading by children found that 31 per cent. of children aged six to 14 admit that they regularly watch programmes that they have illegally downloaded or streamed to a television, and that 16 per cent. also download pirate films before they are released. That was a survey of 4,500 children. Will my right hon. Friend look into the matter? We cannot turn our children into criminals for having done something that they consider okay, but we need to educate them better-

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. The same principle applies: one question will suffice.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Siôn Simon): My hon. Friend is right. Large numbers of young people who are doing something that is illegal need to be educated and informed that that behaviour is not okay and that it is against the law. When the Bill comes from another place to this place, there will be specific provisions and procedures to explain to them gently that they cannot continue to break the law.

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T6. [310912] Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The AllStarz gymnastics group has benefited from the Government's extended schools programme, a supportive community school, Addington high, and the local authority, but its continued existence is somewhat compromised by financial difficulties. I know that English Gymnastics and Sport England are supportive, but where should I turn to try to get proper support for the group?

Margaret Hodge: The voluntary sector in arts and particularly dance activities is hugely important. There are some 50,000 voluntary organisations, and nearly 10 million people participate in some way in voluntary organisations in the arts and culture sector, so it is vital that we do all that we can to maintain and grow that sector. Dance is crucial not only for what it does for individuals' health, but because it is an innovative and creative art form. We have invested more than £5 million in a dance strategy for young people. I urge the hon. Gentleman-

Mr. Speaker: Order. May I gently say to the right hon. Lady that at topical questions I am always keen to get through the lot, if humanly possible? I appreciate the comprehensiveness, but we must move on.

Mr. Andy Reed (Loughborough) (Lab/Co-op): Those hon. Members who were present for the Special Olympics in Leicester in 2009 will be aware that it leaves a lasting legacy, but what can Ministers do to ensure long-term support and funding for Special Olympics Great Britain so that not just Leicester but the rest of the country can benefit?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Gerry Sutcliffe): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work for the Special Olympics in Leicester. He is quite right: sport should be available to everybody and be inclusive of everybody. We are working with other Departments, including the Department of Health and the Department for Work and Pensions, to see what we can do to fund the Special Olympics in all its formats.

T2. [310908] Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Digital Britain will bring many opportunities for the new, digital age, but it could create a two-tier system for commercial radio, which will not be treated as preferentially as BBC radio. Will the Government ensure that there is not a two-tier system, with second-rate commercial radio compared with the BBC?

Mr. Simon: I understand those concerns, and I am talking to the commercial radio industry all the time about the matter. The essence of the answer to the question is what is called an electronic programme guide, in which smaller commercial stations, which stay on FM, will appear by name on the dial of digital sets. An FM ghetto will not, therefore, be created, and stations will be accessible to consumers in the same way.

Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North) (Lab): Stoke-on-Trent city council has gone ahead with proposals to close down the city's gymnastics centre and Tunstall swimming pool at a time when the Government are trying to get more people involved in sport. Will my hon. Friend see that his officials urgently consider whether funding can be made available with a joint, holistic
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approach, so that the inequalities in a place such as Stoke-on-Trent can be reversed and we can get more people, not fewer, to participate in sport?

Mr. Sutcliffe: Clearly, that is what we want to achieve-to get 2 million more people involved in sport and physical activity. I am dismayed to hear about the situation in Stoke. I shall see what we can do, through my officials, and get back to my hon. Friend.

T7. [310913] Tony Baldry (Banbury) (Con): Does the Secretary of State anticipate his Department making any contribution to reducing the public deficit?

Mr. Bradshaw: Unlike the Opposition, we are committed to our spending review until 2011. We do not think that is it sensible, for economic reasons, to take money out of the economy now. We did not think that it was sensible last year, as the hon. Gentleman's party advocated, and we do not think that it is sensible this year. I am pleased to say that our record support for arts and culture, which has helped this country's creative sector become No. 1 in the world as a proportion of GDP, is a result of our investment; and I am confident that I can convince my Government colleagues that the very small amount of money that we spend in this country gives an absolutely fantastic return.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): My understanding is that the Government currently propose that analogue radio be switched off in 2013. If that is the case, it is absolutely potty. Will the Government reconsider?

Mr. Simon: My hon. Friend is, for once, slightly wrong on the detail. The policy is that we move to digital in 2015, but not that analogue radio be switched off. Most big radio stations will move to digital, but smaller commercial and community radio stations will stay on FM and will be, as I have said, on the same dial as the big digital stations.

T9. [310915] Mr. Peter Bone (Wellingborough) (Con): Does the Secretary of State believe that the wearing of the burqa in public should be banned?

Mr. Bradshaw: No.

Mrs. Ann Cryer (Keighley) (Lab): Is my hon. Friend aware that last summer Conservative-controlled Bradford city council excluded the wonderful Ilkley lido in my constituency from the free swimming initiative for young people and pensioners? Is he also aware that many of my constituents, having travelled from Keighley, were very disappointed to find that the lido was quite expensive?

Mr. Sutcliffe: I am concerned that the council in question signed up to that initiative for the over-60s and under-16s but excluded Ilkley. That was a big mistake, and the council should look at its swimming pool strategy. I shall work with my hon. Friend to try to put the situation right.

Dr. Vincent Cable (Twickenham) (LD): This morning, the Minister of State wrote to me about her unpopular decision to introduce car parking charges for the use of royal parks. Will she explain how the environmental
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objective of reducing the flow of traffic through those beautiful parks is helped by singling out a very small percentage of users-mainly local people-who go there specifically to walk?

Margaret Hodge: Car park charges are being introduced in the two parks, so that there are car park charges in all the royal parks across the whole of the capital. If there is a charge, it can be said to act as a disincentive to the use of cars. Today, I will be going from the Chamber to a meeting with the leader of the hon. Gentleman's local authority and other local authority leaders to discuss whether we can provide some sort of train to go across Richmond park, to make it easier for elderly people to enjoy all aspects of the park, right across the park.

Several hon. Members rose -

Mr. Speaker: Order. There will now be questions for the Minister for the Olympics. I reiterate that there are only 10 minutes for this session, so we need pithy questions and pithy answers.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked-


1. Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): What steps she is taking to control the size of the budget for the London 2012 Olympics. [310879]

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The £9.325 billion public sector funding package that I announced in March 2007 remains unchanged. The rigorous scrutiny includes significant savings-£390 million alone in 2008-09. I shall sacrifice the rest of my answer in the interests of pith.

Andrew Selous: Are the assumptions about land values still valid following the recession?

Tessa Jowell: The land values have certainly been reviewed. As the hon. Gentleman may be aware, negotiations are currently taking place between the Government, the Mayor and the board of the legacy company to determine on what terms and at what level debt should be reassigned.

Mr. Don Touhig (Islwyn) (Lab/Co-op): Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that there will be no further raids on lottery funds to sustain and keep up the budget for the Olympics?

Tessa Jowell: Until 2012, the Olympics are a sixth good cause, as was the millennium in 2000. There will be no further take from the lottery, but the lottery is contributing in a very handsome way towards the creation of the Olympics, which will be one of the greatest events that people in the whole UK have ever known.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Around 250,000 Olympics devotees are desperate to volunteer in 2012, yet only 70,000 of them will be able to act as official volunteers. What steps will the right hon. Lady
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take to ensure that the existing budget provides meaningful and satisfying volunteering opportunities for the hundreds of thousands of sports fans who are not going to be part of the official volunteering team?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that thousands more people want to volunteer for the Olympics than there are specific opportunities in the Olympic park. We are looking across the UK to create what I hope will become the biggest participation and engagement programme ever. I also hope that one of the criteria that will attach to the selection of volunteers in the Olympic park will be experience of having volunteered in the community.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): During a recent briefing, the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games reported that one of its greatest operational challenges was Government Departments outside the Government Olympic Executive rowing back on their commitments in the current public expenditure round. Those Departments promised to deliver on those commitments at the time of the bid. Is the right hon. Lady in a position to tell us what action she has taken to prevent that, and can she place in the Library of the House a copy of all those commitments, across Government, with the budgets attached?

Tessa Jowell: I am surprised by the hon. Gentleman's remarks; those concerns have not been raised with me in those terms by LOCOG. Nineteen Government Departments are engaged in delivering the games and to my knowledge, through the Cabinet Committee and other forms of co-ordination, Government Departments are making every bit of their contributions. For instance, the Home Office is overseeing perhaps the most difficult job of all-security. The Olympics will be the biggest peacetime logistical exercise, and they could not happen without the wholehearted support of the Government; London 2012 has that.

London 2012 (UK Businesses)

3. Jim Dobbin (Heywood and Middleton) (Lab/Co-op): What her latest assessment is of the financial effects on UK businesses of the London 2012 Olympics. [310881]

Tessa Jowell: The games are creating work and business opportunities for businesses large and small across the UK. The Olympic Delivery Authority has awarded more than £5 billion-worth of contracts to more than 1,000 suppliers. It has been our determined effort to make sure that businesses right around the country, including those in my hon. Friend's region, benefit from this shot in the arm for UK plc at a time of downturn.

Jim Dobbin: More specifically, can the Minister say what benefits the games construction programme has delivered to companies in the north-west?

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