HL Deb 08 September 2003 vol 652 cc7-8

2.51 p.m.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as president of the Motorsport Industry Association.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what support they plan to provide to secure world-class motorsport events in the United Kingdom, including the British Grand Prix and the World Rally in Wales.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey)

My Lords, the Government are working with motorsport to secure major international events for the United Kingdom. The East Midlands Development Agency is working with Formula 1 management, Octagon and the British Racing Drivers' Club with a view to guaranteeing the long-term future of the British Grand Prix. The Welsh Assembly and Development Agency have successfully worked with the rallying sector to secure the Wales leg of the World Rally GP for at least the next three years.

Lord Astor of Hever

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that relatively positive response. However, Canada has just lost its Grand Prix. Ours could go the same way, with disastrous consequences for our very successful motorsport industry. Can the Minister assure the House this afternoon that urgent action will be taken to secure the British Grand Prix?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Astor, is asking me about action that will be taken, but action has been taken. As he will know, after his Unstarred Question last October, we set up a motorsport competitiveness panel which has brought together all of those interested in motorsport. The panel reported in July and its report was well received. The Department of Trade and Industry has provided funding for a motorsport development board, and of course the retention of the Grand Prix is one of its objectives.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that as important as motorsport is to those who follow motorsport activities, the Government recognise that the research and development undertaken by the industry, particularly in engine technology, is applicable also to the mass motor car industry, and therefore helps to underpin that vital part of our manufacturing base?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

Yes, my Lords, that is certainly true—it is, again, one of the conclusions from the motorsport competitiveness panel. The question of favourable tax treatment for research and development in the motorsport industry is one of the matters on which the competitiveness panel reported and about which the development board will be making recommendations to the Treasury.

Viscount Falkland

My Lords, can the noble Lord help the House by telling us to what extent this very successful automotive sport contributes to employment and the economy in this country?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, I think that every speaker in the dinner-hour debate last October gave the figures: about £3.5 billion and—although it is quite difficult to calculate—50,000 jobs. Although the figures have undoubtedly changed since then, the sport is clearly of great importance to our economy, which is why the Department of Trade and Industry has taken such positive and widely welcomed action.

Lord Moynihan

My Lords, just to be clear, are the Government prepared to step in directly with funding to safeguard the 850-acre Silverstone site?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, the Government have stepped in directly with funding. The Government put an extra £8 million into the A43 bypass specifically for that purpose, and of course the total funding for that is £28 million. If the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, is asking about the infrastructure of Silverstone itself, then I would say that certainly there are issues about the quality of the pit stops and spectator and entertainment facilities there. However, the motorsport industry is not poor. I cannot say that it would be right for Sport England nationally to contribute to that.

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