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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

With permission, Madam Speaker, I should like to make a statement on funding for culture and sport. Last Tuesday, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced a spending review outcome that enables me to give the House details of the highest ever levels of public support for sport and the arts in England. Over the next three years, there will be a real terms increase in my Department's expenditure of 13.5 per cent. That has, of course, been made possible by my right hon. Friend's prudent management of the economy over the past three years. Because we have set the economy on a stable course, reduced public debt and got unemployment down, we are now able to make a sustained investment in our cultural and sporting future.

When we began the spending review, I set my top priority as the need to improve the provision of sport in our schools. Sporting opportunities for young people—both in school and after school—have been in serious decline for the past 15 years. There was a 70 per cent. decline in competitive fixtures between state schools under the Tories—between the late 1980s and mid-1990s—and we are now reaping the results of that damage. The Tories tore the heart out of school sport, with after-school activity in particular disappearing from schools across the country. Today, I am able to take the first steps to repair that damage and to help to put English sport back on its feet.

We want to give all children the chance to play sport and to develop their sporting abilities. We want to bring back competitive inter-school leagues in football, rugby, cricket, netball, athletics, and other sports. Playing sport helps individual fulfilment. It assists in boosting academic success, in ensuring health, in reducing crime, and in teaching young people about winning and losing. Building a broad base of sporting opportunity for our young people is our only chance of putting our national sporting performance back on its feet.

In setting today's budget for sport I have listened carefully to the powerful arguments of Trevor Brooking and his team at Sport England, together with UK Sport and the Central Council of Physical Recreation. I have worked closely—and will continue to do so—with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. I am able to tell the House that the annual Exchequer funding for sport, which currently stands at just over 50 million, will double to 102 million by 2003–04, which is an increase of almost 100 per cent. over three years, to help to give our children a sporting chance.

With this new funding, we will be able to double our investment in the programme of school sports co-ordinators that has recently been launched by Sport England. Our aim will be to have at least 1, 000 co-ordinators in place across the country, each of them working with a family of primary and secondary schools to support PE teachers, to bring qualified coaches into schools, to provide links to specialist colleges, sports clubs and national governing bodies, and to put in place competitive sports programmes within and between schools.

In addition, we will be able to provide funds to enhance and modernise the work of many of the governing bodies of particular sports, and to develop further the excellent work of the sportsmatch scheme.

As we set out in our recent sports strategy "A Sporting Future for All", our approach is based both on the regeneration of sport in school and at the grass roots, and on support for our very best sportsmen and sportswomen. The settlement therefore also enables us to provide funds for the running of the United Kingdom Sports Institute. Over and above the figures I have already announced, we are able to provide new, additional funding of 10.5 million for the Commonwealth games in Manchester in 2002.

Earlier today we launched the Football Foundation, a new partnership between the Football Association, the premier league and Government. It will help to bring substantial resources from the broadcasting income of the game into the creation of decent and modern facilities, pitches, changing rooms and equipment at grass-roots level across the country, including in schools. That sits alongside the programme of investment under the capital modernisation fund that we have already announced, to develop space for sport and arts activity in primary schools.

The arts are part of the core script of Government. They enrich our lives in countless ways, and any Government who lose sight of the need to invest fully in the artistic life of the nation put at risk the nurturing of a civilised society. Our policy has throughout been based on three pillars: sustaining artistic and creative excellence, seeking to broaden access to that excellence to the greatest possible number of people, and realising the educational opportunities that can come from involvement in the arts. Those goals remain fundamental to our approach.

Between 1992 and 1997, by contrast, Government funding for the arts fell by 7 per cent. in real terms. For year after year, the last Government starved the arts of the funds that they desperately needed. Two years ago we were able to start putting that right, and I am pleased to announce today that we can do even better over the next three years. Arts funding this year stands at 238 million; in 2003–04, it will be 338 million. With this new settlement, arts funding will have increased by 60 per cent. in real terms in five years.

When Gerry Robinson, chairman of the Arts Council, called in his recent lecture for an increase of 100 million in arts spending, most commentators said there was no chance that that ambition would be fulfilled. Over the next three years, we will fulfil it.

I have asked the Arts Council to give priority to two particular programmes of work within the new allocation. The first is to try and resolve, once and for all, the endemic problems of regional producing theatres up and down the country. In far too many of our towns and cities, theatres are struggling financially. Some are dark for long periods. Artistic excellence is threatened. Following on from the Boyden report, this settlement will enable those problems to be addressed.

Of equal importance is the work that I have asked the Arts Council to lead in developing creative partnerships in particular areas of need, bringing together all the artistic and cultural organisations in an area to work with primary and secondary schools and provide new opportunities for young people to experience, and participate in, the very best of our cultural life. Our aim is to start the process in at least 12 of the most deprived areas in the country.

The chance to experience the arts can transform a child's life. As my hon. Friend the Member for Tottenham (Mr. Lammy) said in his powerful maiden speech last week, we need to invest in people's souls as well as their skills. This proposal enables us to start doing so.

In addition to the new investment that I am announcing in sport and the arts, the other areas of my Department's work will benefit. In 2003–04, funding for museums, galleries, libraries and archives will have risen by 61 million over this year's level. That will enable us to maintain our existing commitments to free access; to invest substantial sums in repair and improvement for the buildings housing our national museums; and to transform the present designated museums challenge fund into a new, enhanced fund of 10 million a year to help regional museums, galleries and collections.

I am pleased to announce that, from 2002–03, we will restore the public lending right payments to authors to their full real-terms value. In addition, we will increase funding in cash terms for film and for the royal parks by nearly 10 per cent.; for English Heritage by 8 per cent.; for the English Tourism Council by over 20 per cent.; and for the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment by well over 100 per cent. We are providing funds in the next financial year to ensure that a memorial fountain can be created within the royal parks to commemorate the life of Diana, Princess of Wales.

I invite the House to compare the present Government's record on funding for arts, culture and sport with that of the Conservative party. The Conservative Government cut funding for the arts in real terms in every year of the previous Parliament. Sport was cut by 5 million. Museums were encouraged to introduce charges. Now it is becoming clear that the Tories plan to cut cultural spending again. They are pledged to find cuts of 16 billion from the Government's spending plans by 2003.

People who care about sport, the arts and culture will want to know where the Tory axe will fall. Will they take back the money that we have announced today to put school sport back on its feet? Will regional theatres face funding cuts and an uncertain future? Will the money that we are providing to give children cultural and creative opportunities—and an enriched education—be lost? Will national museums and galleries be forced to reintroduce entry charges? Will the new fund that we are setting up to support regional and local museums be scrapped? Those are the questions that the Conservative party cannot dodge. We await clear and unequivocal answers from the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth).

Today's announcement brings to fruition the commitment that was made in our first spending review, first, to put right the long years of underfunding presided over by the Tories and, secondly, to build on the foundations that we have laid in order to widen the opportunities for everyone to enjoy culture and sport and to get more out of life. There are few more important tasks than that.

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Mr Peter Ainsworth (East Surrey, Conservative)

I thank the Secretary of State for his statement and for the brief advance notice that we received of it.

Progress towards the statement has followed a familiar pattern. There are, in descending order of accuracy, accidental leaks, deliberate leaks and leaks from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Leaks from the Department are designed to create headlines such as "School Sport Cash Bonanza" and "100 million boost for arts in UK". I have to give it to the Secretary of State: he has become rather good at headlines, but he has been up to his old tricks again. The spending figures that he has announced today have been fiddled, spun and inflated out of all recognition.

Two years ago, many people were prepared to give the Secretary of State's extravagant promises the benefit of the doubt. Two years ago, we were also told of a cash bonanza for the arts and sport. What have we had since then? We have had theatres closing, orchestras closing, cultural vandalism, playing fields still being sold off, less sport in schools, thousands of heritage sites officially "at risk" and a near trebling of the balance of trade deficit in tourism.

What has the Secretary of State brought us? He has brought us any number of eye-catching initiatives with which he is personally associated—such as the shambles over the United Kingdom Sports Institute, the fiasco over Wembley stadium and the prospect of having to host the world athletics championship with nowhere for it to be held. He is also associated with a world cup bid that, according to the Minister for Sport, was doomed from the start, and, of course, with the dome—that perfect emblem of new Labour.

Ministers farcically still maintain that the dome is a huge success, although it has swallowed 140 million in extra funds in the past year and is again teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. The Secretary of State will have no compunction at all about bailing out the dome with money that could have been used on any number of good causes, including regeneration.

The Secretary of State runs a Department for Culture in which there is a culture of dither, delay, incompetence and confusion. He stands accused of presiding over a Department where there is an us and them mentality which divides the Department and its stakeholders all the way down. He is accused of opting for "the lowest common denominator" and having "unclear and fraught relationships" with the bodies that he sponsors. He stands accused of a "lack of focus", "management by nagging" and assessment by "gossip".

Who has levelled these accusations? They are from an internal review by a panel chaired by the head of Inland Revenue, whose report on the Secretary of State's Department is entitled "The Pale Yellow Amoeba". The Secretary of State has turned his Department into something resembling the lowest form of life, with no backbone and a tendency to spread itself by random osmosis. However, the arts, sport, heritage and tourism deserve better than that. They also deserve more honesty over their funding arrangements.

According to the Secretary of State's mathematics, his departmental expenditure will increase by 225 million by 2003–04. Someone, however, has been spinning, and that figure miraculously ballooned into 485 million, as reported in some newspapers and on BBC Online—which should know better. As I am sure that the Secretary of State would not wish to be associated with an artificially inflated figure, I hope that he will take the opportunity shortly to repudiate it.

While entering a general caveat that, like the rest of the country, the Opposition are increasingly sceptical of any figures from the Government, I shall make a leap of faith. I shall assume that the Secretary of State's figure for departmental spending next year—stated at 1.12 billion—is correct. Will the Secretary of State confirm that, on page 175 of his recent annual report, his departmental spending is shown as 1.1 billion? Will he therefore confirm—it is not a very difficult sum; he should not have too much trouble over this—that the difference between the two is 20 million? Will he comment on that in the light of his own admission that 60 million of next year's funding has already been announced?

Looking further ahead, the Secretary of State predicts total departmental spending of 1.24 billion in 2003–04. Will he confirm that that is an increase of 140 million over three years, not 225 million, let alone 485 million?

Will the Secretary of State also take into account the impact of the Government's raid on the national lottery, which was established by the previous Government—whom he so derided today—and which so far has produced 1 billion for 3, 000 sport centres and projects across the country and millions of pounds for the arts and heritage? Is it not the case that, on the assumption that levels of play remain constant, the lottery beneficiaries will be denied about 130 million annually which they had every right to expect would be theirs?

The raid on the lottery, coupled with a decision to transfer all the Millennium Commission's share into the new opportunities fund from next year, means that, having taken account of the consequences of today's announcement, the arts and sport can look forward to a net reduction in their expected total funding of almost 300 million and 360 million respectively over the next three years. Stripped of spin, that is the sum of the right hon. Gentleman's achievements—some bonanza!

No wonder the Government have chosen today to claim credit for the news that, in 1997, the football authorities agreed to plough 5 per cent. of their television rights money back into the grass roots of sport. When the football posts go up in the garden of No. 10, we know that things must be really bad. It is typical of a Government who take credit for everything, but take responsibility for nothing.

Instead of devoting so much of his statement this afternoon to misleading attacks on the previous Administration and the Opposition, why does the Secretary of State not get his act together? We are more than three years into this Government. People in sport, the arts, heritage and tourism are looking for delivery, not promises; results, not spin doctoring; clarity, not confusion. They will get none of those things from the "pale yellow amoeba", and it is time the right hon. Gentleman was written out of the core script of government.

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

It is perhaps no accident that the hon. Gentleman wanted to talk about absolutely anything but the statement that I have just made. He gave us a little tour of the horizon. He touched on the dome, which of course has no Exchequer funding. He speculated about misleading newspaper reports, for which presumably the editors of the newspapers are responsible, not me. He alluded briefly to the excellent and extremely positive peer review report on the workings of my Department, and then he gave us the tired old story about the national lottery, ignoring the fact that the arts and sports were each promised 1.8 billion at the outset of the lottery from the seven-year period of funding. They are now set to receive more than 1.8 billion each.

In addition, the hon. Gentleman ignored the fact that the new opportunities fund, which we have been able to create with the additional funds that have come into the national lottery, has provided money to put into after-school clubs, school sports co-ordinators, drama, music and arts for schoolchildren; and, through the new opportunities fund green spaces initiative, to bring back some of the playing fields that were sold off under the Conservative Government. I presume that that is money that the hon. Gentleman derides, as he did at the Tory party conference, when he said: A new pot for health and education, things that shouldn't be funded by the Lottery. In that respect, he disagrees clearly with the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Miss Kirkbride), who told ITN on 24 May that the public purse should do things which it ought to be doing, like spending the lottery cash on health and education. We are entitled to ask which Tory party is speaking here. Is it the one represented by the hon. Member for East Surrey or the one represented by his hon. Friend?

The hon. Gentleman had the gall to say that playing fields were still being sold off—this from the party that sold off 5, 000 playing fields during its time in office. In that time, the average number of sales was running at 40 a month. 1 am pleased to say that it is now down to three a month. That is still too many, and we are working on that, but it is a considerable improvement on the record of the previous Government.

I can confirm to the House that this settlement from the Chancellor—new money announced in his statement last week—amounts to 20 million in the first year, 130 million in the second year and 200 million in the third year. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for calling it a bonanza for school sport, because that is precisely what it is.

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Mr Gerald Kaufman (Manchester, Gorton, Labour)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in that outpouring of inarticulate rubbish which, unbelievably, he must have spent some time preparing, the Opposition spokesman has explained why the people of Manchester have thrown out every Tory Member of Parliament and councillor?

The hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth) failed to mention the Government money that is going towards the opening and closing ceremonies of the Commonwealth games, which is important for the Queen's golden jubilee games that will be staged in Manchester in 2002. Is my right hon. Friend aware that in a city such as Manchester we are highly gratified that, by assisting school sport in the country's premier sporting city and by connecting schoolchildren with the arts, he is providing hope, training and a future—cultural and sporting—for the children of this country, who suffered so badly under the Tory Government? His statement is excellent and we look forward to the next review, when we are sure it will be even better.

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend. His analysis of the work output and psychology of the hon. Member for East Surrey is—as ever—absolutely accurate. He is particularly right about the importance of ensuring that cultural and sporting opportunities are available to all our young people, especially in our schools.

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Mr Ronnie Fearn (Southport, Liberal Democrat)

I will try to stick to fact rather than the fiction that we heard from the Conservative Benches.

The funding is welcome, although it is long overdue—it could have been allocated last year or the year before that. We expected more over the three years.

Sports funding will increase from 50 million to 102 million over four years. Will the Secretary of State tell us how much will be available in the first year? That is crucial to the sporting fraternity. Will he also tell us the amount for the second year, if possible?

There will be funding of 100 million for the arts. That is more than welcome because, until now, that service has been neglected by the right hon. Gentleman's Department. How much will be allocated during that first crucial year? Many performances and some theatres will be saved if funding is received during the first year.

I welcome even more the initiative on sport in schools. That matter has been energetically debated for some time on both sides of the House. The announcement is positive, but how will it reflect on the youth service, where sport is neglected? Sport in schools is extremely important, but at present, many schoolchildren do not continue with sport when they reach the end of their school life. They may move into other fields—but certainly not the sporting field.

How can we help the youth service? In Merseyside and Manchester, there are youth games, but they are struggling. The games are supported by sponsorship, but each year it becomes thinner and meaner. How will the settlement help that youth service work?

Swimming was not mentioned in the statement, although the phrase "other sports" was used. Swimming is important not only for those in school, but for those out of school—perhaps especially for those aged over 50. It is important that swimming be considered. Many swimming baths and their buildings have come to the end of their useful life. They have been patched and repaired, but many local authorities have great difficulty in finding any funding to replace swimming baths. How will the settlement help?

I welcome the 20 per cent. increase for the English Tourism Council. We know that a forum has been established, but so far we have heard precious little from it, because the ETC cannot get to grips with it. In time, that will occur, but I should like some of that settlement to go to seaside resorts. I acknowledge that I have an interest, but seaside resorts are important.

I welcome the inclusion of regional theatres, but will traditional and popular theatre arts—such as dance—still be encouraged, along with modern artistic trends? They do not command a large audience, but they should be considered—even though they do not put bums on seats.

Will the current museum charges be stopped?

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his very constructive comments and questions.

First, on the specific figures, for sport, the figures are 52 million for this year, 67 million for next year, 83 million for the following year and 102 million for the following year. For the arts, the figures are 238 million for this year, 253 million for next year, 298 million for the following year and 338 million for the following year.

The hon. Gentleman asked about sport in schools and how that would relate to the youth service. It will of course be part of the task of the school sports co-ordinators to build those links, not just between schools but between schools and the youth service, local sporting clubs, and specialist sporting colleges, because it is those links that can encourage youngsters, when they leave the formal school environment, to maintain sporting prowess and activity further into life.

In answer to the hon. Gentleman's question about swimming, it will of course be included as part of that whole approach.

The English Tourism Council is already hard at work with a special working party, looking at the issues relating to seaside resorts. I very much look forward to the fruits of those researches because, as the hon. Gentleman and many of my hon. Friends will undoubtedly recognise, seaside resorts that have depended on traditional tourism activity, which is in decline, do require special attention, and it is being given to them. That is one of the reasons why I am very pleased that, for example, we have ensured assisted area status for quite a number of seaside resorts already.

In relation to the arts, there will of course be scope in regional theatre for traditional as well as modern theatrical work. In relation to museums and galleries, we are of course pledged that those national museums and galleries that are currently free to everyone will remain so.

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Mr John Maxton (Glasgow Cathcart, Labour)

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the statement, and in particular on the extra money that is going into sport. May I ask him to ensure that, both in terms of provision for money and money for schools, it goes to areas of deprivation above all else? It is there that we need to increase the level of fitness and health among our youngsters and among our adults. Secondly, may I ask him to ensure that some—in fact, a large part—of that money goes to improve the facilities for girls and women in sport, which are sadly lacking at the present time? Indeed, I ask my right hon. Friend to ensure that no grants are given to any sporting organisation, at any level, that still carries out policies that discriminate against women in sport.

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

The answer to the question on deprivation is yes. We will indeed wish to ensure that the particular needs of areas of deprivation, both urban and rural, will be addressed. The need for facilities for girls and women playing sport is very much recognised now by Sport England, UK Sport and ourselves. Indeed, it is one of the rules for lottery funding that when any discrimination is practised by a particular sporting organisation, it does not qualify for funding.

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Mr Robert Key (Salisbury, Conservative)

The continuing disbursement of taxpayers' money across a wide range of cultural and sporting activities in my constituency is very important and we are grateful for it. There is, however, one area for which the Secretary of State is solely and wholly responsible, and that is the guardianship of Stonehenge. Will he now say whether this announcement will make any difference to the speed and effectiveness of finding a solution, which has been sought by Governments over many years, to the problem of the visitor centre at Stonehenge? I regret to say that, under this Government, things have been no different from how they were under the previous Government, except that a lot of money has been spent on—no doubt very worthy—design concepts and reports. We have as yet seen nothing on the ground to improve what is one of this country's greatest tourist monuments.

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

I am afraid that I have to disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Essential roadworks to the two major roads that affect the Stonehenge area are included in the forward roads programme, and have been for the past two years. Planning work is well under way and, as he will recognise, it takes time to plan for, obtain the necessary permissions for and then construct road schemes. That process is now well under way.

On the visitor centre at Stonehenge, we have made available this financial year to English Heritage the funds necessary to buy the site for the visitor centre.

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Mr Derek Wyatt (Sittingbourne and Sheppey, Labour)

I too congratulate my right hon. Friend and Ministers on the statement, which is a substantial improvement.

May I ask for clarification on one issue on which we have corresponded and that I have mentioned before? There is a weakness in coaching education, sport psychology and sport medicine. One way that we could use some of the new licence fee money is for the BBC to have a public service sports channel covering sports education in schools and coaching. Will that be allowed under the new regulations?

Given the fantastic achievements of Pete Sampras, and of Tiger Woods at the weekend, could we not devise a new way of recognising—it could be something like an order of merit—outstanding international sporting achievement in this country?

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

On launching any new channel, the BBC would have to come to me for approval to do so. If it came to me with a proposition that involved setting up, at huge expense to the licence fee payer, a purely commercial sports channel, I would have serious doubts about whether that was a core part of the BBC's responsibility. However, if it made a proposal that was particularly focused on assistance for school sports, that would be a completely different matter. It is not for me to tell the BBC that that is what it should be doing.

On my hon. Friend's general welcome for the statement and his point about the need to improve our national sporting performance, unless we get the grass roots of sport right and, in particular, encourage sporting participation on a wide scale among young people in schools, we will never produce the great athletes and great sportsmen and women of the future that we will need if we are to make our way internationally.

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Mr David Faber (Westbury, Conservative)

Will the Secretary of State confirm the exact amount that is included in his statement towards the building of Pickett's Lock? If the answer is nothing at all, can he say when he expects a further lottery application to be made and how much that will be for?

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

As the hon. Gentleman will know, UK Athletics is preparing, with the Lee Valley regional park authority, a lottery application for funding to assist with the creation of Pickett's Lock. No Exchequer money is earmarked for that purpose, nor should it be.

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Mr Dennis Skinner (Bolsover, Labour)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in the past two or three minutes since the Tory Front-Bench spokesman sat down, at least two Tory Members have spoken—and they both want money? They want money for Stonehenge and money for Pickett's Lock and they are the same people who marched into the Lobbies not only to close school playing fields, but the pits as well. The result is that we lost all the miners' welfares that produced all the fast bowlers that worked down the pit and played in the Bassetlaw league with me before going on to play for England. Now they have all gone.

Unlike Tory Members, I support public expenditure. When my right hon. Friend talks of the language of priorities, will he bear it in mind that we want baths at Bolsover—write that down—and that I will do the Pavarotti at Bolsover castle?

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

I am delighted that my hon. Friend is in fine fettle and that he will ensure that Bolsover receives the best possible service in arts and sport. I am sure that we shall all make sure that that happens.

My hon. Friend rightly points to a fundamental dichotomy in the views of Tory Members. The shadow Chancellor keeps on telling us that he wants to spend less public money and that he wants to cut public expenditure—I am sure that he would make the Department for Culture, Media and Sport one of the first Departments to bear the brunt of his axe—while other Tory Members get up to demand more spending. There is something wrong there.

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Mr John Redwood (Wokingham, Conservative)

Can the Secretary of State tell us whether his core script for what Mr. Gould now calls a tarnished brand includes financial provision to pay for the losses of the dome in its remaining months of trading? If the Secretary of State is going to tell us that there is no money in his budget and no money from the lottery, is he worried that the New Millennium Experience Company is trading while insolvent?

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

Mr. Smith: No, and no.

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Mrs Alice Mahon (Halifax, Labour)

I too congratulate my right hon. Friend on obtaining this huge amount of real money, especially the increase for English Heritage. He will be aware that my constituency has a high proportion of listed buildings, which are extremely expensive to look after. Will he agree to review all of Calderdale with a view to seeing how we can keep our wealth of heritage in good condition? Will he accept my invitation to visit Piece Hall, which is a unique asset that is about to make a bid to the English Heritage lottery fund?

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

I should be delighted to accept my hon. Friend's invitation to re-visit Piece Hall, which I last saw some years ago. She is right to draw attention to the importance of heritage in Halifax, and I shall draw her proposal for a review of all of Calderdale's heritage to the attention of English Heritage which, I am sure, will be extremely interested in her suggestion.

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Miss Julie Kirkbride (Bromsgrove, Conservative)

Following the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. Redwood), can the Secretary of State tell us more about the dome's financing? Why has his Department yet to announce which rival bid is going to be accepted for the dome? Has that announcement been postponed because the reality is that there will be no recompense to the public purse when the dome is sold, as the money will all go towards paying off its debts? Will the Secretary of State confirm that?

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

That question has nothing whatsoever to do with the statement about Exchequer expenditure. Analysis of contending bids for the future life of the dome—a process in which I am not involved at all, as the hon. Lady knows, having been present at the sitting of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport at which I gave evidence—is due to reach a conclusion later this week.

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Mr Barry Jones (Alyn and Deeside, Labour)

My right hon. Friend appears to have carried out a smash and grab raid of no mean proportions on heavily guarded Treasury funds. In the rough old world of politics and the bitchy world of arts politics he should receive great credit for that.

What has my right hon. Friend done, and how will his statement help, to assist the beleaguered regional orchestras of Britain, not least the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, to which I subscribe and of which I am a life member? Does my right hon. Friend know that Peter Johnson, the chairman of the orchestra, has laboured manfully against heavy financial problems to keep that great world class orchestra on the road? Will the stabilisation fund now be bigger? How will my right hon. Friend link the future of that great orchestra to the schools of Liverpool, where there are great social problems, but where the orchestra is giving the lead to develop a great society and helping to regenerate Merseyside's economy?

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Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

I have to disagree about this being a smash and grab raid. It is, of course, a prudent and sustainable increase in spending resulting from the Chancellor's prudent handing of the economy over the last couple of years.

The Arts Council put in place a substantial package of support for regional orchestras as a result of the previous comprehensive spending review settlement that we made available to it, which included wiping out historic deficits, using stabilisation programmes, and a forward plan of financial assistance to each orchestra. That included the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. I know that there is discussion about the precise nature of the stabilisation programme and how it will affect the Liverpool Phil. I hope that the programme will be happily agreed by all sides and that the Liverpool Phil will be able to survive and thrive well into the future. In taking a lead in working with schools in Liverpool, the Philharmonic is charting the way for the creative partnerships approach, particularly in deprived areas, which I set out in the statement.

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Mr John Butterfill (Bournemouth West, Conservative)

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is important that arts provision is not concentrated in the great cities, and that some goes out to smaller towns and villages? Does he agree that the work of travelling orchestras, such as the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra, is particularly important, and that their work is more expensive than that of static orchestras and therefore requires greater provision? Does he share my regret that it was under his Government that the Bournemouth Sinfonietta was forced to close for lack of funds? Will he join me in supporting the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra this week at the Promenade concerts, and will he show his support in a rather more tangible form in future?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith

Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

The hon. Gentleman is of course right that funding should be available not only in cities but in rural areas. That is entirely understood and put into practice by the Arts Council. Its support for the Bournemouth Symphony orchestra is extremely welcome, and it takes into account the particular needs of orchestras that conduct touring work. I went to the Proms last Sunday evening and will go again on Thursday evening, and I regret that I will be unable to go a third time in one week.

Photo of Mr John Cryer

Mr John Cryer (Hornchurch, Labour)

Is my right hon. Friend aware that outer London has been denuded of theatres, cinemas and art galleries for many years? In Hornchurch, however, we have the Queen's theatre, which is the most successful of its kind in the entire country. Despite money from the London Arts Board, the theatre still has a shortfall. When can it look forward to receiving some of the Government's welcome largesse?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith

Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the excellent work of the Queen's theatre in Hornchurch. I suggest that he discusses the matter with the London Arts Board, which will be in a position to make decisions in the next year or two.

Photo of Mr Christopher Fraser

Mr Christopher Fraser (Mid Dorset and North Poole, Conservative)

Despite the initiatives announced by the Secretary of State, the figures show that sport, tourism, heritage and the arts seem to be the losers in the comprehensive spending review. Does not the right hon. Gentleman consistently punch below his weight when it comes to departmental spending?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith

Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

First, they are winners, not losers. Secondly, no.

Photo of Mr John McDonnell

Mr John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington, Labour)

May I declare a non-pecuniary interest as vice-president of Hayes football club. As my right hon. Friend will know, we reached mid-table in the nationwide conference last season and fully expect to be promoted to the league in the coming season. Just in case some mishap prevents us from being promoted, will he assure me that conference clubs will be able to share in the resources of the Football Foundation and, more importantly, in the decision-making processes of bodies such as the Football Association council?

Photo of Mr Chris Smith

Mr Chris Smith (Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media & Sport; Islington South and Finsbury, Labour)

My hon. Friend will, I trust, convey my congratulations to Hayes football club on its undoubted success. The detail of how the FA makes its decisions is up to it, but we have encouraged it, in its democratisation process, to make real change. The FA' s structure has been modernised over the past year or so, and that is extremely welcome.