On Thursday Westminster Hall held a debate on the annual report of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe announced that Exchequer funding for Sport England (the English sports council) has increased from £33 million in 1997 to £133 million in 2008-09, and that nine out of ten pupils now do at least two hours of "high-quality physical education or sport a week". That is good as far as it goes, but they should be doing at least two hours of sport, period. And Lottery funding for sport is an altogether different matter, as Labour have raided that source of money for other purposes.
Between February this year and March 2011, 618,000 free theatre tickets will be available for people aged 26 and under. £15 million a year up to 2011 will be invested in a project called "Sea Change”, to "create new performance spaces, improve theatres, restore promenades, enable the redesign of beach fronts and provide new exhibition spaces".
A creativity and business international network has been launched in Liverpool, to "bring together the most influential international creative and business figures to shape the future development of the worldwide creative economy".
The minister also assured the Hall that the Government is working to combat problem gambling.
Tobias Ellwood, a Shadow DCMS Minister, responded for the Tories:
"My first question is why the Department has this debate in this particular context. For many other Departments, the report that scrutinises their work is written by the Select Committee—it is not written entirely by the Minister and his team. In this situation, we will get a rose-tinted picture.
Of course, the Minister managed to circumnavigate all the issues around 2012 that lie ahead. On several occasions, we have questioned the Minister for the Olympics on our concern about the changes to funding and the way in which money has been taken away from other areas—good causes and so on—because of the escalating costs of the Olympics.
We in the Opposition feel that the marketing capability in respect of tourism in the UK has gone a little awry. That has been compounded by devolution, since 1998, by Visit Scotland and Visit Wales doing their thing and by the nine regions doing their own thing, too. Until we pointed it out to the Government, six different offices representing different corners of the UK were marketing their patch in Boston, Massachusetts. How ridiculous is that? Instead of having one voice saying, “Come to Great Britain”, all those organisations were spending a lot of money, with overlapping interests, trying to market their corner. People are not even aware of what is in the north-west of England, by way of a brand name, and certainly not the south-west—although they may have heard of Blackpool and Liverpool—but they will certainly have heard of Great Britain. That should be the starting point.
We are the sixth most visited place in the world. That is a fantastic position to be in, but if we compare that fact with the numbers involved in global tourism from 1997 to today, the statistics are sad to see. In 1997 we had 6.9 per cent. of the global tourism market, which is an impressive statistic. Today, that figure has dropped to 3.3 per cent."
The Shadow DCMS team, ably led by Jeremy Hunt, is in fine shape.