Select Committee on Liaison First Report


APPENDIX A

CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT COMMITTEE

Memorandum to the Liaison Committee

Introduction

1.  On 14 December 2000 the Culture, Media and Sport Committee agreed its First Special Report of 2000­01 entitled Review of Reports, Recommendations and Responses, 1997-2000 (HC 57). This initiative was undertaken in response to a recommendation of the Liaison Committee in its First Report of Session 1999-2000.[30]

2.  In its follow­up report in March 2001, the Liaison Committee concluded that the review of activity and impact by select committees had been a success and looked forward to the process continuing.[31] This memorandum, which has been agreed by the Committee as a whole, seeks to respond to that expectation.

3.  There was a General Election in June 2001 with the House dissolving on 11 May. The year 2001 was not therefore a typical one and this memorandum reflects that. We have agreed to undertake a full review exercise for the end of 2002.

January - May 2001

4.  The previous Committee, which produced four of the reports set out below, was constituted as follows:
Mr Gerald Kaufman MP (Labour, Manchester Gorton) (Chairman)
Mr David Faber MP (Conservative, Westbury)
Mr Ronnie Fearn MP (Liberal Democrat, Southport)
Mr Christopher Fraser MP(Conservative, Dorset Mid and Poole North)
Mrs Llin Golding MP (Labour, Newcastle­under­Lyme)
Mr Alan Keen MP (Labour, Feltham and Heston)
Miss Julie Kirkbride MP (Conservative, Bromsgrove)
Mr John Maxton MP(Labour, Glasgow Cathcart)
Mrs Diana Organ MP (Labour, Forest of Dean)
Ms Claire Ward MP (Labour, Watford)
Derek Wyatt MP (Labour, Sittingbourne and Sheppey)

New Parliament, new Committee

5.  The present Committee was appointed on 16 July 2001, the 17th working day of the new Parliament, and we met first on 19 July. The members of the Committee are:
Mr Gerald Kaufman MP(Labour, Manchester Gorton) (Chairman)
Mr Chris Bryant MP (Labour, Rhondda)
Mr Frank Doran MP(Labour, Aberdeen Central)
Michael Fabricant MP (Conservative, Lichfield)
Mr Adrian Flook MP(Conservative, Taunton)
Alan Keen MP (Labour, Feltham and Heston)
Miss Julie Kirkbride MP (Conservative, Bromsgrove)
Rosemary McKenna MP (Labour, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth)
Ms Debra Shipley MP(Labour, Stourbridge)
John Thurso MP (Liberal Democrat, Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross)
Derek Wyatt MP(Labour, Sittingbourne and Sheppey)

On 20 November 2001 we published our first report and our second on 15 January 2002. In our view this represents a very reasonable start to the 2001 Parliament

Activity

Reports

6.  Since December 2000, and the first review, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee has published the following Reports:


Report

Reference

Date of publication

Session 2000-01

The Operation of the National Lottery

First Report, HC 56

12 March 2001

Government reply: Cm 5270, published October 2001

The Communications White Paper

Second Report, HC 161

15 March 2001

Government reply: Cm 5316, published November 2001

Staging International Sporting Events

Third Report, HC 286

3 April 2001

Government reply: Cm 5288, published October 2001

Tourism...and Foot and Mouth

Fourth Report, HC 430

8 May 2001

Government reply: Cm 5279, published October 2001

Session 2001-02

Unpicking the Lock: the World Athletics Championships in the UK

First Report, HC 264

20 November 2001

Reply expected shortly

Testing the water: the sport of swimming

Second Report, HC 418

15 January 2002

Reply expected around 15 March 2002

    In addition, the previous Committee published Special Reports in 2000­01 containing further Government memoranda in reply to earlier Reports on Cultural Property: return and illicit trade and Public Libraries.[32]

Follow­up

7.  The previous Committee held informal meetings at the British Library and the British Museum to follow up its work in 1999­2000 on cultural property and illicit trade.

8.  In addition to following up work on staging international sporting events—something of a niche for this Committee—with the First Report of 2001­02, we agreed to return to the subject of communications policy in the light of the delay to the Government's timetable for the relevant legislation. This on­going work is described below.

9.  The First Report of 2001­02, on staging the 2005 World Athletics Championships, a proposal for a national athletics centre at Picketts Lock and the enduring question of a national stadium at Wembley, was itself followed up by a debate secured on the floor of the House on an Estimates Day.[33]

Government replies to Committee reports

10.  The track record of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in replying to the previous Committee's work has, in our view, been extremely poor. Replies to some of the previous Committee's reports, for example on the multi-media revolution and a Wembley national stadium, have failed to demonstrate evidence that the Department considered the Committee's work in other than a cursory and superficial way.

A case in point: work on staging international sporting events

11.  The previous Committee declined even to publish the Government's reply to the first report it produced on staging international sporting events in May 1999[34]—citing its "inadequacy" subsequently. Responses to the Committee's follow­up work in this area have been received both too soon and too late. In March 2000 the then Secretary of State dismissed the Committee's report on a Wembley national stadium almost before its launch was concluded.[35] Conversely, the reply to the Committee's report of March 2001 on staging international sporting events[36] was published by the Department some seven months, and one election, after publication of the report. By this time the Government was in a position to agree with some of our conclusions which had certainly not been the stance of the incumbent Secretary of State at the time the report was made to the House.[37]

12.  We note the possibility that, after two years of seeking alternative provision, the Government and relevant sporting authorities will return to the 1999 plan for a national stadium at Wembley capable of staging football, rugby and, occasionally, athletics events. This has always been the Committee's preferred option.

13.  In the light of the UK's loss of the opportunity to host the World Championships in Athletics in 2005, squandering credibility, goodwill and a good deal of effort and resources across the sporting landscape, it is impossible for the Committee to feel satisfaction with the accuracy of its previous analyses on the subject. However, we hope these circumstances highlight for Ministers in the Department, and across Government, the value of a genuinely constructive dialogue with the relevant select committee.

14.  It is not that Members of Parliament on the backbenches are unused to a bit of fencing over information and argument with the government of the day—Parliamentary Questions, from time to time, constitute a game well understood on both sides. What is so galling is that a scant Government reply to a select committee report shows so little respect for the often considerable time and effort put in by witnesses to our inquiries.

15.  The Liaison Committee's Report in the last Parliament, to which reference is made above, said of Government replies that:

    "The quality of government replies is patchy. Some are exemplary but too many are superficial ­ and give the impression that they have been drafted with only a cursory look at the summary of recommendations, ignoring the analysis and argument in the body of the report."

    We whole­heartedly agree with the previous Liaison Committee in that "Government needs to sharpen up its act" and take careful note of the suggestion that:

    "...part of the remedy also lies with committees themselves. A sub­standard response should automatically result in the responsible Minister spending an uncomfortable morning or afternoon supplying what was missing."[38]

    We look forward to a more constructive relationship with the Secretary of State and other Ministers in the Department in this first Parliament of the new Millennium.

Publication of replies

16.  In order to distinguish more clearly between the findings of this Committee and the response from Government, we have requested that the Department cease the practice of submitting its replies by way of memoranda to be published by us as 'special' reports. Henceforward the Department has undertaken to publish its replies itself as Command papers.

17.  One prosaic disadvantage of this approach relates to the extensive use now made of the Internet to gain access to public documents. Where a department has published its own reply to a select committee report a link is created on the Parliamentary Website (www.parliament.uk) to bring the reader to the relevant pages of the departmental site. A recent informal review of such links on our Homepage (www.parliament.uk/commons/selcom/cmshome.htm) revealed that a significant proportion did not function correctly. This has since been rectified and we are seeking a solution to prevent this difficulty in future. We will return to the subject in our next annual report.

Work in train

Communications

18.  The Committee is currently examining the Government's developing policies in the communications field, the prospects for a draft Bill on the integrated regulation of communications (expected in March 2002) and a range of related issues. The full terms of reference are:

    (i) the implications of the delay to the expected legislation establishing the new single regulator 'OFCOM' (and any significant issues raised by the paving Bill currently before Parliament);

    (ii) developments in policy, since the previous Committee's Report on these issues, with regard to:

      - the Government's overall objectives on: the UK communications & media market; access to high quality diverse services; and the safeguarding of citizens and consumers;

      - defining and providing public service broadcasting

      - the development and promotion of digital broadcasting, including local/community services and radio

      - progress towards analogue TV switch­off

      - cross­media ownership

    (iii) a range of broader issues:

      - progress towards universal internet access in the UK;

      - progress towards effective broadband, and higher bandwidth, networks; and

      - the impact of technological developments on the protection of privacy; and on the balance to be struck between the protection of intellectual property rights and individual 'fair use' of broadcast, or internet, material.

19.  This follows up a previous Report on the White Paper of December 2000, A New Future for Communications (Cm 5010) and, looking further back, a Report entitled The Multi­Media Revolution published in 1998.[39]

20.  The Committee prepared itself for the start of this inquiry by holding an informal meeting on communications policy with: the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)[40]; BT; and Mr Matthew Horsman of Henderson Croswaithe Investec.

Developments in the arts

21.  The Committee has taken evidence from the Arts Council, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the South Bank Centre on the plans of the latter two organisations for substantial physical redevelopments of their main sites. The Committee has also taken an interest in the implications of the intended organisational reform of the Arts Council itself.[41] A short report is likely to be produced after gathering further evidence and visits to both sites.

Gambling

22.  Having covered topics across the Department's responsibilities for culture, media and sport, we have agreed in principle to look at the Department's new responsibility for policy on gambling. This seems timely in view of the Government's intentions to take forward the conclusions of Sir Alan Budd's review of current gambling regulation and policy.[42]

23.  A response to Sir Alan's findings is expected from the Department in March 2002. Consultation on this response is likely to take place thereafter leading to conclusions, and perhaps draft legislation, by the turn of the year. The Committee intends to take evidence on this topic reporting in time to inform the Government's own consideration of the need for new legislation.

24.  Recently we were able to inform ourselves on the experience in the USA of gambling centred on resort hotels through the opportunity to hold an informal meeting at the House of Commons with the visiting Mayor of Atlantic City, Mr James Whelan.

A national stadium

25.  In the light of the Secretary of State's recent announcements on the prospects for a national stadium at Wembley,[43] the Committee may return to this topic in due course once the Government's deadline for approving final proposals for that project has passed.


30   First Report from the Liaison Committee, 1999-2000, Shifting the balance: select committees and the executive, HC 300, paragraph 52. Back

31   First Report from the Liaison Committee, 2000-01, Shifting the balance: unfinished business, HC 321, paragraphs 52-58. Back

32   Second Special Report, 2000-01, HC 316, Cultural Property: Return and Illicit Trade: Further Government Response to the Seventh Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC 371; and Third Special Report, 2000-01, HC 466, Public Libraries: Further Government Response to the Sixth Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 1999-2000, HC 241Back

33   First Report, 2001-02, Unpicking the Lock: the World Athletics Championships in the UK, HC 264; & HC Deb, Tuesday 11 December 2001, cols 740ff. Back

34   Fourth Report, 1998-99, Staging International Sporting Events, HC 124. Back

35   Fourth Report, 1999-2000, Wembley National Stadium, HC 164; and see paragraph 49 of the Third Report, 2000-01, Staging International Sporting Events, HC 286. Back

36   Third Report, 2000-01, Staging International Sporting Events, HC 286. Back

37   See for example the First Report, 2001-02, HC 264, paragraphs 44 and 46. Back

38   First Report from the Liaison Committee, 1999-2000, Shifting the balance: select committees and the executive, HC 300, paragraphs 47 and 48. Back

39   Second Report, 2000-01, The Communications White Paper, HC 161; and Fourth Report, 1997-98, The Multi-Media Revolution, HC 520. Back

40   POST was at the time in the final stages of producing a report communications policies and technologies, now published as 'e is for everything', Report 170. Back

41   Evidence taken before the Committee on 8th and 15th January 2002-to be published as HC 489.  Back

42   Report of the Gambling Review Body, Cm 5206, July 2001. Back

43   HC Deb, Wednesday 19 December 2001, cols 292ff. Back


 
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Prepared 7 February 2002