Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): It is a pleasure to follow all four previous speakers in what has been a remarkably harmonious debate. I do not intend to change that. This is an important measure, and I welcome the fact that the Government have moved so swiftly to close the loophole that has been identified. I will not dwell on how it came about, but I merely observe that the Government are very fond of blaming almost every ill in society on the actions of the previous Government, and this is one of the very few examples where there may be some merit in that claim.

I hope that the Minister will address the questions raised by the previous speakers about the consequences of the loophole, because I share their concern about the status of those who have been convicted over the course of the past 25 years and the possibility of their bringing action for what now appear to have been unlawful convictions. I hope that he will spend a little more time on that subject when he responds.

I wish to make a few observations about the Video Recordings Act 1984. I always approach any such legislation with some suspicion, as I am fundamentally opposed to censorship. I believe that in a free society it is up to adults to choose what they wish to see, but there are two important qualifications to that. The first is that there will always be some material that is so unacceptable in its violent or explicitly sexual content that it is deemed to be damaging to people to view it. I accept that, and some examples have been given in the debate.

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Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): I congratulate the hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Burstow) on obtaining a debate on an extraordinarily important issue. There is no doubt that local newspapers face a crisis, which is why the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport is conducting an inquiry into the future of local and regional media and why we have received a lot of evidence. In our first session, Claire Enders, who is one of the most respected industry analysts, told us that half the country's 1,300 local newspapers will be out of business within five years. We then heard from the chief executives of Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror and the Guardian Media Group, all of whom agreed that the crisis is the greatest that the industry has faced.

This is not just a UK problem, but an international one. I have with me a chart showing the number of people employed in newspaper publishing in America. In 1947, the figure stood at about 240,000 and it grew steadily until about 1992. It peaked at 460,000, but in the 15 years since then it has fallen to 260,000, and it is still plummeting. All of us know of local papers from around the country that have closed, but even where papers have not closed, their offices on the high street are being shut, the number of journalists is falling and the number of photographers is no longer the same. As a result, the quality of local coverage is diminishing.

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Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford) (Con): As well as the consternation felt about the cut in the amount of lottery income going to heritage and at the absence of the draft Heritage Protection Bill, is the Minister aware of the consternation in the heritage sector at the original draft of planning policy statement 15, which the Royal Town Planning Institute called

    "a charter for people who want to knock buildings down"?

Can she confirm that she is talking to the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that the redraft offers historic buildings in this country the protection they need?

Margaret Hodge: I am indeed in constant conversations with my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government about their review of such planning guidance. I hope shortly to bring forward a statement-a cross-Government statement-about the importance of heritage. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that we should try to reintroduce the lost Bill as soon as we possibly can because it is an important Bill that would demonstrate our commitment to heritage. Until that comes about, however, I hope that my statement about the value of heritage and the work I do with colleagues across Government will reassure the heritage sector that we value its contributions.

10. Mr. John Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change when he next plans to review the effectiveness of the law on the export of nuclear waste; and if he will make a statement. [277928]

Mr. Mike O'Brien: Current legislation, some put in place as recently as December, effectively controls the export of nuclear waste.

23. Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families what recent representations he has received on the retention of information on the outcomes of Criminal Records Bureau checks on teachers. [279182]

Mr. Coaker: I am aware of representations made to the CRB in January 2009 by Southend-on-Sea borough council. The question concerned the retention of risk assessment information made by recruiting managers, including cases where an individual is appointed to a post after a CRB disclosure has been provided which includes relevant information. The CRB responded to the question, and DCSF officials undertook to consider the issue in the context of planned revisions to the Department’s “Safeguarding Children and Safer Recruitment” guidance.

19. Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations he has received on rights of appeal against a coastal access report under the provisions of the Marine and Coastal Access Bill; and if he will make a statement. [283396]

Huw Irranca-Davies: Following concerns raised during the Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the Bill and during its passage through the House of Lords, we brought forward schedule 1A to the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, as inserted by schedule 19 to the Marine and Coastal Access Bill. This will enable those with a relevant interest in affected land to make objections should they believe the proposals in Natural England's coastal access reports fail to strike a fair balance on certain grounds.

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for a national database maintaining records of (a) e-mails, (b) Voice Over Internet Protocol telephone calls and (c) instant messages; and if he will make statement. [283859]

Mr. Hanson: The Government have no plans to build a national database maintaining records of e-mails, VoIP telephone calls or instant messages. This was made clear in the public consultation “Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment” which was published by the Home Secretary on 27 April 2009.

14. Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent discussions he has had with internet service providers on maintaining records of electronic communications; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hanson: The Home Office has regular discussions with a wide range of communications service providers. These discussions include the implementation of the EU Data Retention Directive, and potential future policies set out in the recent consultation document, “Protecting the Public in a Changing Communications Environment”.

Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans he has for a compulsory register of mobile telephones; and if he will make a statement. [283858]

Mr. Hanson: We have no plans to introduce a mandatory registration scheme for mobile phones and would want firm evidence of the effectiveness of any such scheme before deciding whether legislation, as proposed by some European member states, was appropriate.

22. Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what plans have been made for total Departmental Expenditure Limits in real and cash terms for 2010-11 and 2013-14. [286213]

Mr. Byrne: Departmental budgets are set until April 2011. The exceptional economic uncertainty we now face means that it would not make sense to set budgets now for 2014, less than half way through the current spending review period. The Chancellor will set out economic and fiscal forecasts at the time of the Pre-Budget report, when he will return to this issue.