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The Minister for Tourism, Film and Broadcasting (Janet Anderson): On 15 February, my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister announced that the Government had terminated the existing competition. Although Legacy plc made progress towards meeting the preferred bidder terms, it did not meet them and its exclusivity therefore expired. The Government have now asked English Partnerships to invite any interested parties to lodge expressions of interest for the dome and the regeneration of the peninsula.
Mr. Bercow: I am grateful for that answer, even though it was an essay in complacency. Given that Lord Falconer said on "Newsnight" on 15 February that the point might come at which he felt that he had to resign and that he has handled the running of the dome appallingly, botched two bids for it, faced calls from almost every national newspaper to quit his post and arrogantly refused to apologise for what everyone now sees is a national scandal, why does the noble Lord not have the decency, the dignity and the sense of responsibility to resign his office forthwith?
Janet Anderson: I very much resent the hon. Gentleman's attempts to make cheap party political points. My noble Friend Lord Falconer has conducted an extremely difficult exercise with great skill and judgment. As for the latest position, I remind the hon. Gentleman of a comment made by one of his hon. Friends:
If the dome is to remain in place, why on earth are the Government pulling the contents out before they know who will buy it? I apologise for not attempting the accent but, in the words of P-Y Gerbeau:
Janet Anderson: May I deal, first, with the auction, which will take place from tomorrow? As the Government have always said, nothing will be done that would prejudice future uses of the dome, including the option of a new leisure attraction. The Government have no plans to subsidise the operation of the dome.
The hon. Gentleman mentioned running costs. The current monthly running costs of the New Millennium Experience Company are between £2.5 million and £3.5 million, excluding physical decommissioning costs. It is intended that monthly running costs will reduce as the company moves towards solvent liquidation. Following decommissioning we estimate that the running costs of the dome will be £500,000 a month.
In line with the advice of the hon. Member for East Surrey (Mr. Ainsworth), who said that the competition with Legacy should be ended and that a new competition should be opened, we will soon announce details of that and are determined to get value for money. However, the Government are also determined that the dome should stay on site, as it is recognised as an icon around the world. It is the most successful tourist attraction in this country, and attracted 6.5 million visitors in the course of a year. We are determined to get the best deal in future.
Mr. Ainsworth: In the context of the dome, the words "value for money" are, frankly, laughable. As the future of the dome is inevitably mired in past and present controversies, will the Minister give the House an absolute assurance that at no time did Mr. Alastair Campbell solicit sponsorship money from commercial companies?
Janet Anderson: I can certainly give the hon. Gentleman that assurance. While we are on the subject, may I remind him that the dome has been a major catalyst for regeneration activity on the peninsula, which less than a decade ago was one of the most derelict sites in England? The first residents have moved into the millennium village, an exciting new venture of mixed housing. A new primary school has just opened and will soon be followed by brand new health centres, a state-of-the-art cinema and major retail outlets. The Government are convinced that that would not have happened without the dome acting as a catalyst for regeneration.
The Minister for Sport (Kate Hoey): Neither I nor my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State have discussed the Welsh bid with the National Assembly. The sports cabinet discussed the need for co-ordinating bids for major events at its recent meetings.
Mr. Edwards: I was delighted to attend the launch of the 2009 Ryder cup bid to be held, I hope, at the Celtic Manor hotel in the beautiful Usk valley, near my constituency. I should like to pay tribute to Mr. Tony Lewis, the chairman of the Welsh bid. Does my hon. Friend agree that bringing the Ryder cup to Wales would be a tremendous boost for golf and for Wales? Will she join me in commending Mr. Terry Matthews for all the investment that he has made in the business and sporting life of south-east Wales?
Kate Hoey: My overall aim is to bring the Ryder cup to the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend has been involved with the Welsh bid and has done a great deal to support it. There is also a Scottish bid and a bid from north-east England, so there are three UK bids. All those bids are commendable and are worth considering. At the end of the day, we will have the UK bids and one eventual winner. Co-ordination is important to ensure that different parts of the United Kingdom do not compete against one another. However, the Ryder cup is specifically not a governing body-led event; it is led by an organising team. I wish all the bids great success.
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr. Chris Smith): The teaching of physical education in the national curriculum is statutory at key stages 1 to 4--for ages five to 16. On 11 January 2001 we set out our intention to offer children an entitlement to two hours a week of high-quality sport and physical education both within and outside the school day. We will consult schools, professional associations and all other interested parties to identify how best to make this happen and how to monitor it.
Caroline Flint: I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer, but I should like to raise two issues, the first of which is the sometimes erratic way in which schools organise inter-school tournaments. The organising of such fixtures is lacking, and Ofsted should look into that. My right hon. Friend should ensure that it is a condition of good Ofsted reports that inter-school competition is very much a feature of sport activity.
The second issue is transport, problems with which often prevent children from taking part in after-school or weekend activities. It is a disadvantage for schools if they have to raise money and use the bulk of their sports budget on transport.
Mr. Smith: My hon. Friend makes two extremely important and valid points. We are in discussion with Ofsted about inter-school competition. Children's sport and sporting opportunities are key parts of their development. In many parts of the country, the provision of inter-school competition is not only erratic in far too many areas, it is non-existent. Under the stewardship of the Tory Government, there was a massive decline in inter-school sport. We are rectifying that, and the appointment of 1,000 school sports co-ordinators throughout the country to encourage and facilitate inter-school competitive sport is one of the ways in which we are doing so.
Dr. Julian Lewis (New Forest, East): It is nice that the Government believe in some degree of competitiveness in schools, albeit only on the non-academic side. The Secretary of State says that the Government intend that pupils should have up to two hours of sport a week, but it is not clear what part of that will be within the school working day. Will the right hon. Gentleman at least give an undertaking that 50 per cent. of that time will be within the school working day? Otherwise, was that not a typical meaningless Government announcement?
Mr. Smith: The hon. Gentleman is talking nonsense. We believe fundamentally that competitive sport is excellent for children. It teaches children a great deal about how to win and lose, how to live their lives and how to work in teams. It prepares them for citizenship. Competitive sport is good as a sports policy and as an education policy.
Gillian Merron (Lincoln): Will my right hon. Friend commend the running of football in the community schemes for children? They are organised by clubs such as Lincoln City FC, which is to be congratulated on having become the first community owned and run football club in the country. Will he ensure that his Department and Supporters Direct, both of which have been extremely helpful in giving critical support to Lincoln City FC, put the involvement of children at the heart of their work in cementing the relationship between football and the community?
Mr. Smith: We warmly commend the work that Lincoln City has been doing in that respect. I congratulate the supporters trust, which has taken over the ownership of Lincoln City football club. I am pleased that we put Supporters Direct in place nearly a year ago. It has been working hard with supporters trusts around the country to assist groups of supporters in local areas to take a stake in the equity of their clubs. Lincoln City is an excellent
Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross): I agree with the Secretary of State about the importance of out-of-hours opportunities for sport and for the arts. What discussions has he had with his colleagues and with teachers about possible bottlenecks resulting from the fact that teachers may not be eager to undertake such work without additional resources?
Mr. Smith: We have been in close discussion with the Department for Education and Employment and teachers. Because of the current difficulties facing teachers, we are putting in place school sports co-ordinators and extending the provisions of the new deal to enable sports assistants to be created in schools. We realise that teachers cannot do the work all on their own. They need support, help and assistance with co-ordination, which school sports co-ordinators will provide.