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Mr. Speaker: Order. A little excitement is a good thing; too much excitement is a bad thing. I appeal to hon. Members to be conscious of the way in which we are viewed by people outside the House who regard a lot of raucous noise as pretty undesirable.

Topical Questions

T1. [318868] Hugh Bayley (City of York) (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 wide range of policies that support the arts, culture and sport, which are all essential to our nation's sense of well-being and identity, as well as making an invaluable contribution to the British economy.

Hugh Bayley: My right hon. Friend was in York last month, and perhaps he knows that, at the British Museum at the moment, there is an exhibition of some of the greatest treasures from Yorkshire, including the Middleham jewel, the Coppergate helmet and the Ormside bowl. Will the Minister encourage members of the public, particularly Londoners, to go to the British Museum to see what makes York so special, perhaps as a taster to encourage them to go north in the summer and visit the real thing in Yorkshire?

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Margaret Hodge): I am delighted that the temporary closure of the Yorkshire museum has made it possible for those jewels in our crown to be exhibited in a room in the British Museum. I encourage everybody to go and see them. The partnership between national and regional museums is hugely important in ensuring that all the country's wealth of artefacts are enjoyed by many more people. It is this Government who, through a renaissance in the regions, have made that partnership possible. That is why it is enormously important that we continue to fund that programme.

Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin) (Con): Although I am sure the whole House would want to congratulate Amy Williams on winning her gold medal at the winter Olympics, does the Minister believe that the British taxpayer got value for money from those games?

Mr. Bradshaw: That sounds like a suggestion that we should not invest in sport. It is not just about the number of medals that people win in competitions, though I repeat what I said to the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride)-that this was the best performance by a British team for many, many years. It is also about all the training, and all the investment that goes into improving people's lives and giving them the opportunity to train for those events. Winning medals is great, but the investment that we put into sport in this country is about far more than just winning medals.

T3 . [318870] Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton) (Lab/Co-op): What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of next generation digital access, particularly in a region such as the south-west, which is largely rural? How will he stop people in the south-west becoming second-class consumers, citizens and patients?

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Mr. Bradshaw: My hon. Friend raises an important point, particularly for regions such as ours in the south-west, which are largely rural and bits of which are very sparsely populated-that is, that the free market will not deliver high-quality next generation broadband to all those areas. Everybody accepts that, except the Conservative Opposition. That is why we are proposing a very small levy on fixed phone lines-smaller than the amount by which the cost of those lines has decreased in recent years-to help ensure that no one is left out of the digital revolution, and that individuals and businesses in Devon and elsewhere in similar regions can continue to flourish.

T4 . [318871] Mr. Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con): According to the Department's website, three quarters of children aged between eight and 15 have a television in their bedrooms. Given the dubious effects of television at best on the development of young minds, their attention spans and school attendance, does the Secretary of State think that is a good thing or a bad thing?

Margaret Hodge: On the whole, the facilities that are enabled by new communication and better communication can have a beneficial impact on children, their educational attainment and their knowledge of the world, but that has to be controlled by parents, in the first instance. Parents play the most important role. If they allow children to have televisions in their own room, I hope they do something to ensure that children do not spend all their time watching television or playing games.

Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): Will my right hon. Friend use his influence to do whatever is possible to support the supporters of clubs such as Chester and Portsmouth, who have been so badly let down by financial backers?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes. My hon. Friend raises an important point. There remain some tough questions for the football authorities to address, following the events at Portsmouth and elsewhere-issues of debt and takeovers, and the need to strengthen the financial governance of football. I commend to my hon. Friend the model that my own football club in Exeter uses, which is that of a supporters trust. The club is owned by the fans, and it has no insolvency or debt problems because it does not have any debt. It is democratic, it is a co-operative, and it is a great model of labourism. That is the sort of model that I would like to see spread throughout the game.

T5. [318873] Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York) (Con): Will the Secretary of State accept that he is plain wrong about the speed of broadband being rolled out to areas in north Yorkshire? The speed is nothing like he claims. Why are we being treated so unfairly and so uncompetitively within the digital broadband economy, compared with the rest of the United Kingdom?

Mr. Bradshaw: Forgive me. I was not making claims about current speeds. I was talking about the future in answer to a question about the future. The point that I made was that there is nobody in the industry or the country except the hon. Lady's party who does not believe that there must be some intervention to ensure that constituents exactly like hers get the benefits that
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those living in urban areas get. We are proposing a solution to deliver high-quality fast broadband to her constituency. Her party will not intervene in the market to deliver that. It will leave 30 to 40 per cent. of her householders and her businesses without broadband, and her constituents need to be aware of that.

Mr. Tom Watson (West Bromwich, East) (Lab): Are leaked proposals to close BBC Radio 6 Music and the Asian Network a betrayal of the Reithian principles to support diverse culture creation, or the BBC capitulating to the culture bully boys on the Conservative Front Bench?

Mr. Bradshaw: It is rather difficult to know, because one day last week the Opposition broadcast spokesman, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey), said that he supported the BBC's proposal to close 6 Music and then, two days later, when he was inundated with angry e-mails, he did another U-turn-the third in one week. My hon. Friend makes a very early representation to the consultation that the BBC Trust will have to conduct when it finally comes up with proposals. I would rather comment on those proposals than give a running commentary on leaks.

T6 . [318875] Paul Rowen (Rochdale) (LD): With one premiership football club in administration and several others in hundreds of millions of pounds of debt, what steps will the Secretary of State take to ensure that there is financial probity in football?

Mr. Bradshaw: Without repeating too much of what I said in answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Ellesmere Port and Neston (Andrew Miller), I simply point out to the footballing authorities, which often look to Government to help them resist some of the more draconian proposed regulation from the European Union, that if they want our help on such proposals, they must get their own house in order. We still await the full implementation of the Burns recommendations. Some have been implemented, and we welcome that, but the football authorities need to get a move on. What has happened at Portsmouth should act as a real wake-up call for them to do so.

Mr. John Grogan (Selby) (Lab): Further to the question from my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Watson), and given that a BBC press release on 15 February said that BBC Radio 6 Music was a distinctive service that did a great deal to fulfil the BBC's public purposes, should not the argument behind any proposal to close 6 Music be examined very carefully, indeed?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, of course. [ Interruption. ] No, the question was: should the consultation be very carefully considered? Unlike the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey), I do not give a running commentary on how the BBC should run its affairs. I have said that this is a matter for the BBC; there has been a leak; and we should wait for the full report. There will then have to be a full consultation on that- [ Interruption. ]

Mr. Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the Secretary of State. The hon. Member for Wantage (Mr. Vaizey) should not witter away from a sedentary
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position in evident disapproval of the stance taken by occupants of the Treasury Bench. The hon. Gentleman can speak from the Dispatch Box, but he should not speak from his seat.

Mr. Bradshaw: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. If the hon. Gentleman has anything useful to say he can get up on his feet and say it. My hon. Friend the Member for Selby (Mr. Grogan) is absolutely right: there must be proper consultation on any proposal that the BBC makes. Of course people will have strong views-there will be those who feel very strongly in favour of that proposal or very strongly in favour of another. I am sure that my hon. Friend, who always shows a very strong interest and has great expertise in the matter, will be central to that consultation.

T7 . [318876] John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): Given the talk today of major cuts in local government funding, what action will the Government take to protect the crucial library service?

Margaret Hodge: Shortly we will publish our document on the review of, and way forward for, the library service. At the end of the day, local authorities have to take their own decisions on funding priorities, but they have a statutory duty to provide a comprehensive and efficient service, and it is up to the Secretary of State to ensure that they do so.

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): Will my colleagues on the Front Bench reaffirm to the good people of Chorley that there will be free swimming lessons for young people and pensioners in the next financial year?

Mr. Bradshaw: Yes, and it is very much to be deprecated that, almost exclusively, those local authorities that do not offer free swimming to young people and pensioners are Conservative-controlled.

T8 . [318877] Mr. David Evennett (Bexleyheath and Crayford) (Con): What steps are being taken to encourage community sports clubs to work more with local schools in order to increase the opportunity for young people to participate more in competitive sport?

Mr. Bradshaw: If the hon. Gentleman has not yet visited his local school sports partnership, I suggest that he does so. I am sure that he will be able to discover for himself the amazing work done locally in his constituency between groups of schools and sports clubs and sports organisations to give young people the opportunity to do two hours of quality sport and physical education a week. More than half do three hours of sport a week, but the target is five, and that includes competitive sport. There are more than 3,700 new coaches in schools-new competitive managers, as they are called-specifically to deliver the competitive sport that I am sure the hon. Gentleman wants to see take place. We certainly do.

Rob Marris (Wolverhampton, South-West) (Lab): Even bearing in mind that Birmingham is the capital of the west midlands region, the city receives far too much Arts Council funding per capita when compared with other towns and cities such as Wolverhampton. What measures can the Minister take to address this outrageous imbalance?

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Margaret Hodge: Birmingham's rich cultural infrastructure is of benefit not only to the residents of Birmingham but to residents of the surrounding area. I was delighted that last week Birmingham succeeded in reaching the shortlist for the UK's first city of culture in 2013, and I wish it well in taking that bid forward to the next stage. Of course, we want to see arts and culture spread throughout the country in the best way possible, but this is a matter for the Arts Council. Politicians should not intervene in the distribution of resources to arts and cultural projects-that would be an extremely dangerous road to go down. It is for the Arts Council to decide where it should best place its money.


The Minister for the Olympics was asked-

Olympic Legacy (North-West)

1. Andrew Miller (Ellesmere Port and Neston) (Lab): What legacy is expected for the north-west from the London 2012 Olympics. [318878]

The Minister for the Olympics (Tessa Jowell): The north-west, as with every region in the UK, will gain from sporting, economic and cultural opportunities created by the London 2012 games. Even two and a half years away, 44 north-west businesses have won Olympic contracts-for example, the steel for the Olympic stadium taking shape in the Olympic park is supplied by a Bolton company. There are 45 games-inspired cultural projects across the north-west. There are 65 Olympic and 25 Paralympic pre-games training camps in the north-west, with Thailand, Oceania and the Australian Olympic team already committed to basing themselves there. As my hon. Friend will know, the north-west will also host the Olympic football at Old Trafford.

Andrew Miller: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. She is aware of the partnership in my area that could lead to a sports village at the Cheshire Oaks complex. May I put on record my thanks to Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson for her magnificent support for that project? Will my right hon. Friend come up and visit that project to see what she could do to help this development for people in my constituency?

Tessa Jowell: I commend my hon. Friend for the energy that he has put into supporting the development of the Cheshire Oaks sports village; and yes, I would be absolutely delighted to come and see this exemplary new sporting project in his constituency.

Vancouver Winter Olympics

2. Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes) (Con): What assessment she has made of the lessons to be learned from the Vancouver 2010 winter Olympics for the London 2012 Olympics. [318879]

Tessa Jowell: Once again, the whole House will want to congratulate Amy Williams on her gold medal in the skeleton bob. The celebrations continue in Cambridge and in Bath, where she trained.

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While in Vancouver, I had a full programme of meetings, and I am happy to place a list of these in the Libraries of both Houses. The value of those meetings is that they provided real-time opportunity to discuss a number of issues related to city operation of the games and security. I know that the hon. Gentleman will be particularly interested in the time that I spent considering the risk of an increase in human trafficking associated with the Olympic games, and I worked closely with the security services and police officials at federal, district and city level on that. I have met representatives of non-governmental organisations in Vancouver and here, since I returned. We will in due course publish a proper debrief on the Olympic and the Paralympic games.

Mr. Steen: Given that all major sporting events attract an increase in criminal activity, and in view of the fact that the Metropolitan police have said that there are already new indications that criminal activity in east London is increasing, two years before the Olympics, will the Minister consider a major poster campaign on all London buses, on the underground and on sites, to highlight the fact that Britain is no longer a welcome place for human trafficking and to ensure that human traffickers realise that they are no longer welcome in Britain?

Tessa Jowell rose-

Mr. Speaker: Order. We do need briefer questions and pithy answers.

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely correct in his last point, and the focus of all the meetings, visits and engagement that I have had on the issue has been that we want to send a signal to traffickers and criminals from around the world that London will not welcome them in the run-up to the 2012 games. The hon. Gentleman should reflect, as I know he does, on the complexity of the matter. No simple conclusions should be drawn, and we are ensuring that we mitigate the risks.

Tom Brake (Carshalton and Wallington) (LD): Cheap ticket prices were fundamental to the success of Vancouver, allowing real sports fans to attend and witness the superb success of Amy Williams from Bath. Some 50,000 free tickets were issued, and 100,000 were issued at less than £16. Equivalent figures in London would be 300,000 free tickets and 600,000 below £16. How many cheap and free tickets does the Minister expect to be issued for London 2012?

Tessa Jowell: The hon. Gentleman knows that I am enormously concerned about ensuring that families with children from right around the country can afford to come to the games, and that tickets are affordable for Londoners. The pricing of tickets is, however, a matter for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games, which will make announcements about it later this year. I am quite sure that it will listen to the messages that are coming loud and clear from the House about the importance of affordability.

Hugh Robertson (Faversham and Mid-Kent) (Con): May I add my congratulations to Amy Williams on her gold medal? That is a fantastic way to end Olympic questions for this Parliament. However, her achievement should not disguise the fact that we under-shot the
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Government's UK Sport medal target of three; that Snowsport GB, the governing body responsible for snow sports, went into receivership on the eve of the games; and that at a time when we have successfully raised more than £600 million of sponsorship for London 2012, despite the £6 million of lottery and Exchequer funding that has gone into winter sports we have not attracted a major sponsor into that area. As we move forward to the Sochi Olympics-

Mr. Speaker: Order. May I just gently say to the hon. Gentleman that there are other questioners on the Order Paper? I hope that he will bring himself to a question very quickly.

Hugh Robertson: I was actually just going to finish by asking whether, given all those factors, the Minister now feels it is time for a fundamental review of where we are going with winter sports before Sochi.

Tessa Jowell: I do not want anything to detract from Amy Williams's gold medal or the significant number of top 10 finishes that our athletes had, and nobody in the House should talk down the efforts of team GB, every single member of which deserves our congratulation. It is worth noting that investment in winter sport doubled between Salt Lake City and Vancouver, from £3 million to £6 million for the same number of athletes. I am quite sure that UK Sport, as the responsible body, will want to review progress and the funding strategy.

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