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Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I wholeheartedly agree with the noble Baroness. Indeed, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was delighted to join in partnership in relation to this event. It was a hugely successful tour to Belgrade. It has done much for cultural diversity and has demonstrated beyond peradventure how great are the benefits of removing Milosevic.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, since the Government came into being they have given staunch support to the British Council. It is with great pleasure that we are able to increase the money given to the British Council by 10 per cent. The noble Baroness will know that the Department for International Development has rightly concentrated on the elimination of poverty. This is all funded by public money. We are extremely proud of the record that the Department of International Development has established worldwide. We are also extremely proud of the efforts made by my noble friend Lady Kennedy, who has led the British Council with great distinction since taking up its chairmanship.
Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for making reference to my tenure of the chairmanship of the British Council, of which I am enormously proud. It is right that in recent times the council has received an increase in funding, for which we are grateful. However, the noble Baroness on the Opposition Benches is also right in saying that we have seen a great down-turn in the contracts we have fulfilled for DfID. The effect of that has been very real. Can the Minister assure the House that the impact of the British Council is considerable in promoting British culture abroad? Given that the impact is so important, does she agree that there should be a continuing increase in the funding of the council and that we can look forward to the Government making that possible in the next spending round?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, again I endorse what the noble Baroness has said in relation to the considerable contribution made by the British Council to promoting British culture abroad and, indeed, to helping reinforce the benefits of democracy. As a result--due in large part to the noble Baroness's leadership--the council has done increasingly well. I am confident that at the next spending round the council will be able to show that it uses its current budget extraordinarily well and that it will present a strong case for more funding.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, those who behave badly abroad never bring distinction on to themselves or on to Great Britain. However, we hope that our other talents--which are considerable--will outshine them.
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the BBC World Service is also a tremendous ambassador for Britain? Quite apart from the excellence of its broadcasts, its website is one of the best in the world. Can the noble Baroness assure the House that the funding of the BBC World Service and its website is secure for years to come?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we were also able to make an increase in relation to the BBC World Service. I agree that it plays a vital role in increasing respect and good will for Britain around the world. It set out to be, and has become, the best known and most respected voice in international broadcasting. For many, it will always be the voice of freedom. We are very proud of the BBC World Service and we shall continue to support it.
Lord Freyberg: My Lords, will the Minister join me in congratulating the British Council on recently winning the prestigious ARCO international award in Madrid, which is given to the institution that has done most internationally to promote, disseminate and educate in the field of contemporary art? Yet the council has seen a 25 per cent decline in its arts budget over the past five years and begins the next five years on a standstill budget. Can the Minister offer any help in this respect?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I join the noble Lord in congratulating the British Council. The award to which he refers was extremely well received. The key tool was the British Council's collection of 7,000 works, of which some 5,500 are on show at any one time. In relation to the cut of 25 per cent over the past five years, the British Council has had to reallocate its resources taking into consideration a broad spectrum of points. I understand what the noble Lord says; however, these issues are being addressed energetically and there is a concentration on young artists, which will benefit us all in the long term.
Lord Puttnam: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the fact that in 1995 a conference was held in London under the title "Britain and the World", at which the Foreign Secretary, Mr Cook, the then Foreign Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Hurd, and the then Prime Minister, Mr John Major, all confirmed unequivocally that cultural diplomacy represented the best value for money in presenting Britain to the rest of the world? Has anything happened in the past six years that would allow Mr Cook to think that that is no longer true?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, absolutely not. It is incredibly good value. Britain's creative sector, including music, design and advertising, generates more than £112.5 billion each year and employs more than 3.3 million people. It is growing faster than the economy as a whole: in 1997-98 it was growing at 16 per cent a year. Exports total £10.3 billion. It is a very vibrant sector, of which we are rightly and justly proud.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the Government have today presented a Bill in the Commons to provide 50 per cent mandatory rate relief to all village food shops. They have also announced that they intend to extend this relief, by means of secondary legislation, to sole village pubs and petrol filling stations. The mandatory relief will be available to food shops with rateable values up to £6,000, the same as that currently available to sole post offices and general stores. It will be available to sole village pubs and petrol filling stations with rateable values up to £9,000. In order to assist farmers to diversify, the Bill also provides 50 per cent mandatory rate relief for five years for new small-scale non-agricultural enterprises on farms.
Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that very helpful and welcome Answer. I seem to be timing my questions rather well this month. Is it true that the Bill removes the proposed restrictions on the kind of pub that will receive relief, so that it will be available to all rural pubs no matter who owns them or whether they have particular resources which make them a cultural centre? A pub is a pub, is a pub--and they are all worth supporting.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, first, I congratulate the noble Lord on his knowledge of pubs--although I suspect that most British pubs like to differentiate themselves a little from each other. As regards the changes, we have not pursued the definition "singly owned" in the Green Paper; in order to qualify, however, a pub must be the sole pub in the community.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the mandatory rate relief to which I have referred will be fully funded. Under the existing scheme and under the scheme that is proposed, local authorities have further abilities to top up the funding to 100 per cent relief. In that situation the Government would fund 75 per cent of the top-up or discretionary relief.
Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, are the Government doing more to help farmers with diversification through access to broadband data transmission? ADSL will not be available in country areas for some time. I understand that there is a restriction on having two
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