1. Mr. French : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations he has received about the transfer of management responsibilities for local monuments from English Heritage to local authorities.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for National Heritage (Mr. Robert Key) : I have received numerous letters expressing concern, some of it ill-founded, about English Heritage's strategy. In fact, the document stressed that all its sites and monuments fully merit continued protection.
Mr. French : I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his answer. He will be aware of the importance that is attached to this subject in my constituency of Gloucester. Will he give the House an absolute assurance that in no circumstances will monuments be sold off to third parties? Will he also confirm that, whoever is responsible for their maintenance, they will be maintained to nationally agreed standards?
Mr. Key : Yes, I can confirm those points. There is no question of a sell-off of English Heritage assets. As my hon. Friend says, his constituency contains many examples of properties--for instance, Blackfriars--that might come into the category of consideration for local management ; but every case would be considered on its merits, and any case that might be acknowledged to be suitable for more local management than Savile row would, of course, be subject to the same standards of care as any other English Heritage monument.
Mr. Battle : I welcome the Minister's response. May I ask him, however, to examine carefully what his Department could do to secure a future for Kirkstall abbey, a 13th century Cistercian foundation, in my constituency?
Will the Minister support the efforts of Friends of Kirkstall abbey, who have turned to the local authority and to private sector interests to try to secure support but who know that, without Government intervention and backing, the abbey will be doomed to decay and disappear within our lifetime?
Mr. Robert Banks : Does my hon. Friend agree that a number of monuments could be enhanced as visitor attractions--for instance, Spofforth castle in my constituency? Will he ensure that local authorities have sufficient funds not only for the maintenance of such monuments but for the launching of projects to improve them--bearing in mind the fact that tourists from our country spend some £14.3 billion a year and that we have an obligation to provide them with visitor attractions?
Mr. Key : It must, of course, be for local authorities to prioritise their spending. There are many ways in which funds can be found to look after monuments : many local authorities and many bodies responsible for monuments now undertake plural funding. My hon. Friend is right to suggest that an integral part of my Department's work involves the very important tourist industry, to which all areas of our responsibility contribute-- notably, the heritage aspect. He is right also to point out that many of our monuments are not achieving their full potential, either in terms of education within their local communities or in terms of attractiveness to visiting tourists. That issue could be addressed more keenly if we could get the debate on the importance of local management off the ground.
Mr. Mandelson : Will the Secretary of State comment on the strong opposition to his idea for a public service broadcasting council? Will he acknowledge that not only the BBC but the ITV companies and Channel 4 believe that syphoning off money from the BBC in that way would undermine programme quality in the long term and that the only support for the idea-- apart from that of Mr. Melvyn Bragg--comes from elements within the Murdoch empire, No. 10's policy unit and the Tory Members of Parliament who want to do in the BBC?
Mr. Brooke : We have launched a consultation period which will last five months and have just completed the first week. I have already received a significant number of comments and I shall analyse the reactions given in answer to the question about that subject. It is good that the question has been asked and that we are getting answers.
Mr. Simon Coombs : Will my right hon. Friend give due cognisance to the view that no matter how the BBC is to be funded in the future, it makes very little sense for the resources that are available to it to be used to fuel a bidding war for feature films when they are available through so many other sources?
Column 577measures to preclude from the airways Sinn Fein and other aplogists for terrorism? Does the right hon. Gentleman agree also that the use of actors' voices or the interviewing of a person such as Sinn Fein Councillor Joe Austin on the pretext that he is bystander contravenes the spirit of the legislation and is offensive to the public? Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that the legislation is tightened?
Mr. Brooke : The interpretation of the notices, of which the hon. Gentleman is aware, is a matter for the broadcasters themselves. They must decide whether a person is speaking on behalf of an organisation named in the notices or is speaking in a different capacity. The notices are kept under general review. I currently have no plans to make any changes to them, although I receive representations that I should consider relaxing them.
Mr. John Marshall : Will my right hon. Friend consider widening the BBC's sources or revenue? Would he be willing to consider advertising as a source of revenue, as it has managed to give us a thriving independent television service?
Mrs. Clwyd : Why is it that the BBC can be riddled with accountants yet allow an overspend of £58 million? Why was such a huge overspend, involving millions of taxpayers' money, not made clear in the BBC's report presented to Parliament? Where is the Coopers and Lybrand report--why has it not been published? Why have the BBC's board of governors and board of management failed to ensure that financial management systems are in place?
With regard to the most recent revelation, the hon. Lady and the House will be aware that the audit committee of the BBC has published its view and that corrective action is being taken. The BBC recognised that there were faults in its systems and has moved to correct them as quickly as possible.
Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith : When the great debate is over and a plan of what the BBC should or should not be doing in the future has been suggested for serious consideration by the House, will my right hon. Friend ensure there there is a proper, independent financial appraisal of the consequences of what is proposed?
Mr. Brooke : The consultation period on the Green Paper will be concluded on 30 April next year. After that, the Government will of course be engaged in reviewing the responses that have been received and will no doubt consider them from different perspectives.
3. Mr. William O'Brien : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what representations he has received from local charitable organisations expressing concern over the possible loss of income with the introduction of the national lottery scheme ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Key : My right hon. Friend and I have received a number of representations from charitable organisations about the introduction of a national lottery. We are considering how we might be able to help small lotteries maintain their position following the introduction of the national lottery.
Mr. O'Brien : I am satisfied that the Minister accepts as a fact that there will be problems for the small charitable organisations if a national lottery is introduced without proper safeguards for them. I refer especially to the hospice movement, which relies on many charities raising money for it, and to the churches and village halls, which need the protection to which the Minister refers. Will he assure the House and the country that, with the introduction of a national lottery, which will raise billions of pounds through national advertising and through the pressure on people to buy tickets, proper provision will be made to protect the charities and organisations that rely on local lotteries and on local raffles to maintain the services that they have to provide to communities?
Mr. Key : I am pleased to give the hon. Gentleman that undertaking. We have already had constructive talks with charities and their representative organisations, and we shall continue to do so. It is important to get the problem into perspective. The charities have an annual turnover of £15 billion a year, so the effect in those terms will be marginal--although I acknowledge that the small charities to which the hon. Gentleman refers are concerned. We are addressing those problems. It is important also to recognise that we are doing what we can to discuss with colleagues in the Home Office ways in which we can improve the local lotteries, so that they are more acceptable and more able to compete.
Mr. Harry Greenway : Does my hon. Friend accept that there is strong national support for the national lottery? However, people do not want existing football pools to be undermined. What studies has my hon. Friend commissioned to discover how new money can be brought into the national lottery? That must be the successful basis on which it will operate.
Mr. Key : My hon. Friend is absolutely right ; he has put his finger on the matter. The national lottery research which we have commissioned has shown that we are looking for a completely new market. I expect that those who wish to do the football pools and those who want to bet on greyhounds will continue to do so. We are looking at a new market, the principal competition for which is more likely to be magazines, soft drinks and ice creams than hard gambling.
Mr. Pendry : Is the Minister aware that there is a great deal of disquiet, not only in the House but outside, about the way in which his Department is handling the national lottery? Not only the small charities and large charities, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Normanton (Mr. O'Brien) referred, but many voluntary organisations and thousands of football pools employees in Liverpool, Cardiff, east London and elsewhere are concerned about the impact of the national lottery on jobs. Why does not the Minister shake off his coat of secrecy and publish the GAH Group report, to which he referred, to ensure that we all have an informed debate on this important issue?
Mr. Key : There are two reasons : first, because it is an internally commissioned document ; and, secondly, because it contains a good deal of commercially sensitive information. It would be wrong for the Government or anyone else to commission research and then to publish all the results from companies, organisations and individuals.
I do not accept the hon. Gentleman's proposition that there is widespread concern. There is enormous interest and there is a huge will to ensure that the national lottery succeeds, which is the most important point. We shall, of course, continue to talk to the pools industry and to hon. Members. My right hon. Friend and I will meet leaders of the pools industry later this week. We shall continue to do our best to ensure that the strong support for the national lottery, which has been very evident for many months, is recognised as soon as practicable by the publication of the Bill.
Mr. Brandreth : As the chairman of a national charity, the National Playing Fields Association, may I assure my hon. Friend that national charities and local charities welcome the advent of the lottery, although there is concern that the level playing field between the pools industry and the national lottery is maintained? The hope is that the whole cake will become larger. Will my hon. Friend assure us that consultation will continue with the pools industry to establish that level playing field?
Mr. Key : Of course I can give my hon. Friend that undertaking ; we will continue to consult. I acknowledge my hon. Friend's work over many years for the National Playing Fields Association, whose annual conference I visited a couple of weeks ago. We shall continue to ensure that consultation takes place. The most important thing is that the national lottery is seen to be a huge success which adds a new seam of money which would not otherwise be available for a whole range of good causes.
Mr. Brooke : No estimate can be made of the cost of restoring Windsor castle until the damaged areas have been fully surveyed and a decision has been taken on the form that the restoration will take. However, I can tell the House that I am setting up an inquiry to assess the adequacy of fire protection measures at all royal palaces for which I have a financial responsibility.
Mr. Skinner : Is there not something brutally unfair about the fact that it is estimated that at least £60 million will be paid out by taxpayers to the richest woman in Britain to repair one of her homes without any contribution from herself, when only 400 yards away from another of her homes, Buckingham palace, people have to live in cardboard boxes and pensioners will die this winter from hypothermia? Is not the truth of the matter that the Queen should pay the lot herself and not call upon impoverished taxpayers to foot the bill?
Mr. Brooke : The figure of £60 million which the hon. Gentleman quotes has been generated by the media. That figure has not emanated in any way from the Government. In respect of the second part of the hon. Gentleman's
Column 580question, I remind the House that the apartments that burnt in the great fire at Windsor were essentially state apartments, either those open to the public or those in which great state occasions occur. They were not apartments in which Her Majesty lives.
Sir John Wheeler : When my right hon. Friend carries out his estimate of the cost of restoring the state apartments at Windsor castle, will he bear in mind that the castle has been in public ownership since 1831? Will he also calculate the advantage to the public interest of the hundreds of thousands of visitors throughout the year who spend money to go to Windsor castle? Will he take that equation into account as well?
Mr. Brooke : I am grateful for my hon. Friend's points, which are clearly part of the debate. They will not necessarily specifically affect the estimate, which will be a rather more nicely judged calculation.
Mr. Maclennan : When considering what form the replacement should take, will the Secretary of State bear in mind that Windsor castle displays the needs, tastes and artistic talents of nearly 1,000 years of English history? Will he consider the appropriateness of replacing the buildings that have been damaged and destroyed with something that is truly representative of the best of Britain today and which meets public needs, which have changed somewhat since the last part of the building was constructed?
Mr. Brooke : The hon. Gentleman has identified a question which has already provoked a healthy debate, as I am sure that he would acknowledge. I hope that out of the fire, and the scar that it leaves, will emerge a reconstruction that commands widespread admiration and a sense of national achievement ; however, the debate about the precise form that that should take is still going on.
Mr. Cormack : In this season of goodwill, will my right hon. Friend ignore the rather bilious and malicious rhetoric of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), who must surely be the Queen's favourite beast? Will my right hon. Friend miss no opportunity to point out that we are dealing with the official home of our head of state? Will he produce comparative figures to show that we do rather better than many nations with presidencies? Will he also point out to those who talk about the works of art in Windsor castle that they are not available to be sold and that they are not Her Majesty's possessions to do with as she will? They are ours and we see most of them for much of the year.
Mrs. Clwyd : On Friday, the Minister claimed to have placed in the Library a report on the cause of the fire at Windsor castle. The report consisted of one and a half pages. Does the Secretary of State not realise that the public believe that that report has been doctored and that the real report lies elsewhere? Why does not the Secretary of State publish the truth about the fire, and not simply expect the public to foot a bill of up to £60 million without having their questions answered? Why has he not answered the questions that he promised to answer on 23 November? When can I expect an answer to those questions?
Mr. Brooke : The hon. Lady is casting doubt on the Royal Berkshire fire service and the report that it rendered. She knows from the report who comprised the investigating team, whose members were unanimous in their agreement on the conclusions.
If the hon. Lady refers to my statement on 23 November, she will see that in the first instance there was to be a report on the origins of the fire, to which Friday's announcement applied. I have announced today that there will be a further inquiry into issues relating to fire precautions and fire prevention and aspects surrounding the fire, and that will of course take several months. On the matters on which the hon. Lady was subsequently kind enough to write me a letter, I have written a letter in reply.
Mr. Gallie : Does my right hon. Friend recognise the impassioned pleas of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)? Does he recognise also the pressures on the public purse? Will he think about what the hon. Member for Bolsover has said and consider privatisation?
Mr. Brooke : I have received one letter expressing concern about the settlement for the arts in 1993-94. I have noted some more general comments in the press. In a difficult year, a 2 per cent. increase in the Arts Council's grant in aid is by no means a bad outcome.
Mr. Banks : I realise that the right hon. Gentleman is an amiable old cricket buff with tastes that are somewhat less exotic than those of his predecessor, but is he not ashamed that, unlike the right hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), he does not have such a good deal for the arts this year? Why has he conceded the principle of the three-year funding regime which was established in 1989? Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman should have a word with his immediate predecessor to find out how he was able to stand up firmly for the arts.
Mr. Brooke : The issue of three-year funding goes rather more widely than my Department, although I am flattered that the hon. Gentleman should think that I should be able to change the Government's total policy from within my Department. Funding for 1993-94 will be 17.5 per cent. above the funding that was available in 1989-90.
Mr. Brooke : I am delighted to say that good progress has been made. At the end of last month, I announced that the business sponsorship incentive scheme, which was set up in 1984, has raised more than £50 million of new sponsorship for the arts. The Association for Business
Column 582Sponsorship of the Arts said last week that, despite the recession, sponsorship for the arts rose by 28 per cent. last year.
Mr. Sheldon : The hon. Gentleman's responsibility for the funding of the arts and for the Arts Council is probably his greatest responsibility. Will he bear in mind the important way in which the development of the funding arrangements, which have been fairly satisfactory, has proceeded over the past few years? It is up to the right hon. Gentleman to bring to bear the great pressure that the House brought in reaching the terms that were finally acceptable to the House.
Mr. Brooke : I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will share my pleasure that the arts funding in 1995-96, despite the current difficult circumstances, will in real terms be in excess of the funding that was available in 1991-92.
Mr. Key : In financial terms the Arts Council intends to spend £239,000 this year in support of youth activities, an increase of 200 per cent. on 1991-92. In addition, we acknowledge and encourage the many thousands of youth orchestras and bands up and down the country, whether they perform pop music, jazz, classical or other styles of music.
Mr. Bowis : I thank my hon. Friend for that response. As he will know, our right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was present the other day at the Royal Albert hall to hear the superlative performances by county and borough youth orchestras, choirs and bands at the school prom. Does he accept that that was a great tribute to the young musicians, their teachers and those who initiate and support county and borough-based groupings--in many cases the local education authority? Will he talk to his colleagues at the Department for Education to ensure that, with the changing nature of LEAs in the future, such quality is not allowed to wither and that we can enhance the standards of musicianship?
Mr. Key : Yes, that is extremely important. My hon. Friend has put his finger on a problem which has been faced. The Arts Council of Great Britain has produced a recent report stating that, although about a third of local education authorities have cut music service budgets since 1989, the majority have experienced no change and a few have expanded and improved provision.
My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Education and for Wales propose in the Education Bill that there should be a two-year transitional period during which LEAs will be able to sell designated services to grant- maintained schools, which will offer sufficient time for private suppliers to move in.
Mr. Michael : Does the Minister not recognise that that is a disgraceful response to a serious crisis that faces many excellent orchestras and bands around the country such as the South Glamorgan youth orchestra and the many junior orchestras and choirs which involve hundreds of young people in high-quality music? Those young people
Column 583will not have that opportunity if the legislation goes through, if education is organised in the way in which the Minister and his colleagues seem to want, and if we have such a low settlement for local authorities. There will not be such a thing for the Minister to be proud of in the future unless he acts now.
Mr. Key : I have rarely heard such arrant nonsense from any hon. Member of the House. The hon. Member for Cardiff, South and Penarth (Mr. Michael) is saying that he wishes to substitute his judgment for the judgment of the individual schools involved. Those schools will ensure that there is excellent musical provision for their pupils and that provision will continue to be made.
Mr. Thurnham : Will my right hon. Friend carefully consider the wishes of those people who do not want to pay a compulsory levy to a state broadcasting company? Is he aware that among the most difficult fines for Her Majesty to enforce are those for single parents who cannot easily afford the licence fee but who are quite happy for their children to watch commercial television?
Dr. Kim Howells : Will the Secretary of State consider carefully the submissions suggesting that funding for the regional broadcasting companies of the BBC, such as BBC Wales, should be cut? Such companies are easy targets for cuts. Does he recognise that those companies are very important to Wales, Scotland and the English regions, and that he must do everything in his power to protect and nourish them?
Mr. Brooke : Without wishing to burden my official, Mr. Lister, who is in receipt of those letters, one of the effective ways in which people in Wales, or Scotland--I see another hon. Member nodding--would be to communicate about the consultation document. In the end, the allocation of resources is a matter for the BBC.
Mr. Nigel Evans : Is my right hon. Friend aware that I am in receipt of many letters from senior citizens in my constituency who find it extremely difficult to find the £80 to pay the licence fee but that many senior citizens who live in sheltered accommodation receive their broadcasts via a £5 licence? Will he consider that matter carefully? Perhaps the best solution would be that which has been suggested in the past--to release everyone from the compulsory licence fee and allow people to choose what they view. Funding could be either by subscription or by advertising.
Mr. Dafis : The Secretary of State will be aware that the BBC provides 10 hours a week of programmes for S4C, the Welsh medium television channel--about a third of its programme output. Those 10 hours are funded with a portion of the licence fee. Will he give an assurance that the provision from the licence fee will be maintained and that that crucially important component in the Welsh medium programmes, including the news, will be maintained?
Mr. Key : In addition to scientific items retained following decisions of the reviewing committee on the export of works of art, I have accepted that natural history objects, including fossils, should be brought within our export controls.
Mr. Howarth : I thank my hon. Friend for his recognition of the significance of the issue. But will he examine carefully the system for safeguarding important items of our scientific heritage and ensure that it is made more robust? Will he look at the Waverley criteria? He may agree with me that the requirement that an object must be of outstanding aesthetic importance misses the point for scientific items. Does he also agree that the requirement that an object should be more than 50 years old could mean that items from the outstandingly creative phase of British science since the war could be lost?
Mr. Key : I acknowledge my hon. Friend's expertise on the matter. He is right that we have taken a fresh look at it both on our own initiative and as a result of changes within the European Community. The Waverley criteria have stood the test of time, but also look set to stand the test of the future. The criteria--each one of which may apply--have yielded positive results. There is a growing list of items that have been safeguarded for the nation in that way.
Mr. Mullin : Does the Minister recall that the Government used to say that no newspaper proprietor would be permitted more than a 20 per cent. share of any satellite television company? Mr. Murdoch now has 50 per cent. of BSkyB and 35 per cent of all national newspaper circulation. So we must take it that, as they used to say in the Nixon White House, "The previous promise is
Column 585inoperative." What level of ownership by a newspaper proprietor of a satellite television company will be necessary before the Minister faces up to the issues posed by Mr. Murdoch's grip on the market?
Mr. Key : It is all very well for the hon. Gentleman to talk in those terms, but it is important to recognise that BSkyB does not have a monopoly. It is subscriber based. Indeed, it has created a ready-made market for other broadcasters to enter. Satellite television subscribers represent only about 13 per cent. of households in Britain. Those who watch satellite television on cable systems are unaffected. Ownership restrictions were thoroughly debated during the passage of the Broadcasting Bill and subsequent legislation. The Government will consider the need to change the legislation if a sound case can be proved.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : May I put it to my hon. Friend--I do not necessarily wish him to come to a conclusion today--that the coming together of satellite dominance with major print ownership was not the intention of the Government or of the House. Even leaving satellite on one side, will my hon. Friend consider whether it is desirable that one proprietor should own 35 per cent. of national newspaper or whether it is a suitable case for reference to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission?
Mr. Key : The Monopolies and Mergers Commission is required to take into account all matters that appear to be relevant, especially the need for accurate news presentation. It is for my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to decide whether to give consent to a newspaper transfer, but, as my hon. Friend knows, the Fair Trading Act 1973 contains special provisions to deal with such transfers. We keep that issue under review as it is important. One of the most important things to remember, especially with regard to satellite television, is that increasingly we are operating in an international market and we shall keep under review the interplay between that market in broadcasting and the national market in newspapers.
Mr. Soley : Does the Minister understand that one small part of the reason that there is so much public anger about journalistic standards is that the concentration of monopolistic ownership leads to circulation wars, in which people come second to proper journalistic standards and accuracy in news reporting? Is it not right that we should consider cross-ownership and the concentration of ownership--as the hon. Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley) rightly pointed out--to prevent monopolistic control from destroying a free press and a free media in the United Kingdom?
Mr. Key : I recognise the hon. Gentleman's concern. We look forward to finding out what Calcutt has to say on the matter. I recognise that there is concern, although there seems to be less concern in my mail bag than there perhaps is in his, but the matter is serious and we shall keep it under review.