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Parthenon Marbles

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what recent representations she has received from the Government of Greece concerning the return to Athens of the Parthenon marbles; and if she will make a statement. [27146]

Tessa Jowell: I received a letter from the Greek Minister for Culture, Mr. Evangelos Venizelos, in June 2001 to which I replied emphasising the importance of cultural connections between Britain and Greece. In connection with the Parthenon Sculptures I reminded the Minister of the position of Her Majesty's Government, which had recently been restated by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, namely that it is our view that the

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sculptures were acquired legally and that they are best housed in the British Museum in a multi-cultural context, seen free of charge by up to 5 million visitors a year.

It may also be helpful to be clear about the responsibility of the British Museum for the Sculptures. The Trustees have a statutory duty to protect their collections and this duty could only be over-ridden by primary legislation amending Section 5 of the British Museum Act 1963, relating to the disposal of objects in the collections.

Overseas Trips

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will list each of the overseas trips made by herself and other members of her ministerial team in each of the last four years specifying the purpose and cost of each trip. [30186]

Dr. Howells: I refer the hon Member to the answer given to him by my right hon Friend the Deputy Prime Minister on Monday 4 February, Official Report, column 707W.

Export Licences

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what recent discussions she has had with the European Commission about raising the sterling threshold for the requirement for export licences for cultural goods; and if she will make a statement. [29967]

Dr. Howells: My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Arts and DCMS officials use every available opportunity to press for the limits to be updated at least in line with inflation, as provided in Council Regulation (EEC) 3911/92 on the export of cultural goods. We have also welcomed the Commission's new initiatives to contribute to the effective functioning of the mechanisms set up by the Regulation, including making the maximum use of new technologies to improve its implementation.

Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what the estimated projected annual increase is in the number of export licences for cultural goods consequential on the decision by the EU Commission to leave the EU monetary threshold unchanged. [29966]

Dr. Howells: The effect of the EC Commission's decision to leave the thresholds unchanged has been to increase the number of licences issued by 69 per cent. between 1993 and 2000.

Sporting Events

Mr. Reed: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what steps she is taking to put in place a strategy to implement her Department's role in attracting world class sporting events. [30376]

Mr. Caborn: The PIU have been asked by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to carry out a joint study with DCMS examining long term sports policy. It will consider the roles and responsibilities of Government, the private and voluntary sectors in helping sport better achieve the objectives of increased grassroots participation in sport and elite sporting excellence. The

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PIU project team will seek to clarify the roles and responsibilities and interventions of Government to help sport better achieve its own objectives and develop an overall strategy for guiding Government's decisions on sports policy, including major events; in the context of Government's own wider objectives.

Millennium Experience

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what methods were considered to dispose of items from the millennium experience; [30014]

Dr. Howells [holding answer 24 January 2002]: Some 17,000 items were offered for sale by NMEC in an auction organised by Henry Butcher International held between 27 February and 2 March 2001. Henry Butcher valued these items at a total of £2 million. Around 10,500 of these items were sold in the auction and these were sold to the highest bidders in each case. As is the case at many auctions, a small proportion of the items were not paid for, and hence not collected, by successful bidders. Total income received from auction sales which were concluded was £3.5 million. Some 450 items were withheld from the sale because they were felt to be of use to a future owner of the dome. It was subsequently decided to sell these items, and items which had not sold in the auction, by private treaty. It was felt that this was more cost effective than seeking to hold a second auction. Henry Butcher International was retained to advise on the private treaty sales and benchmarked rates against auction prices in order to ensure value for money and tenders were sought for major items. Sales by private treaty realised £1 million. A feature of NMEC's balance sheet was that many assets purchased or developed for the millennium experience were unique to the dome. The costs to develop or buy these bespoke assets were much higher than the subsequent realisable values and it was always recognised that the auction would cover only a fraction of those creation costs. The total received by NMEC for the sale of assets in the auction and by private treaty was therefore £4.5 million. A further £1.3 million was achieved by the

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sale of certain assets to original suppliers under terms of contracts with NMEC. Not all the detailed information requested about the individual assets is available. The remainder is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Free Television Licences

Mr. Wood: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) how many pensioner households in England and Wales receive a free television licence; [32720]

Dr. Howells: TV Licensing, which administers for the BBC as Licensing Authority the free television licence concession for the over-75s, is not able to provide a breakdown by nation of the number of free licences currently in force in the United Kingdom. However, in the 12 months to December 2001, 3.398 million free licences were issued in England and Wales. The cost of these licences was £335 million, excluding administrative costs.

The cost of administering the concession in England and Wales cannot be disaggregated from the total for the United Kingdom, since much of it is systems-related and applies to the scheme as a whole. The estimated cost of administering the scheme throughout the United Kingdom in the months to December 2001 was £10.1 million.

Departmental Retirement Ages

Mr. Webb: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if she will list the retirement ages that apply to the employees of her Department and its agencies, including how many and which categories of employees are affected by each; and if she will make a statement on her Department's policy on flexible retirement. [32814]

Dr. Howells: The normal retirement age for all staff in the Department is 60. In the Royal Parks Agency the normally retirement age for staff is 60, except for the following:

DCMS and its agency are reviewing their retirement policy following the recommendations of the PIU "Winning the Generation Game" report.

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