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Topical Questions

Volume 534: debated on Thursday 3 November 2011

With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to inform the House that on Monday we will be announcing the route of the torch relay for next year’s Olympics. The torch arrives on 18 May. It will be travelling for 70 days, going through 1,000 communities. Unfortunately, it will not go through every hon. Member’s constituency, but I can assure the House that 99% of the population will be within 20 miles of the torch route.

People often think of DCMS as the Ministry of Fun. Does the Secretary of State just have fun or is there a serious side to his Department in terms of the growth agenda and getting our country doing well in future years?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. We focus heavily on growth through our broadband agenda, our tourism agenda and the economic boost of the Olympics next year, but I would not want to deceive him by saying that it is not fun as well. He could be part of that fun by coming along regularly to DCMS questions.

Sorry to spoil the fun. With mounting evidence of the Murdoch empire knowingly using illegal phone hacking, and with the Press Complaints Commission appointing a Tory peer, former Thatcher Cabinet Minister Lord Hunt, as its new supposedly independent chair, it is ever more evident that radical change is necessary and must not be kicked into the long grass. Will the Secretary of State tell the House when he expects to be in a position to bring forward his Green Paper, and when he expects to be able to introduce legislation?

I welcome the right hon. and learned Lady to her position. I hope that she agrees with me that this is the best job in government and that it has some fun in it as well as the serious issues that she mentions. I agree with her entirely. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Rhondda (Chris Bryant) is making comments from a sedentary position. Let me remind him that 300 breaches of the Data Protection Act were brought to the attention of the previous Government by the Information Commissioner and they did nothing about that. We have had one, and we are overhauling the system of press regulation. We do not want to go too far in the opposite direction and stop the press being free, vibrant and robust. That is very important. The independent inquiry by Lord Justice Leveson will be reporting on press regulation and the relationship between the press and politicians by September next year, and we hope to be able to bring to the House a White Paper before the end of next year, which will include what we think should happen on the basis of his recommendations.

T2. I welcome what the Government have already done to enhance super-fast broadband opportunities. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need a clarion call to all businesses and communities, especially in rural areas such as Gloucestershire, to make sure that people understand that there is a strong demand for enhanced service? (78194)

I completely agree with my hon. Friend and thank him for his excellent work. I have been to Gloucestershire, where the county council is on fire with excitement, which I was not expecting, at the prospect of super-fast broadband getting to the most remote villages. It has a big role, he has a big role and we must do everything we can to bang the drum.

T5. Lord Taylor’s inquiry into the Hillsborough disaster recommended the banning of standing in football stadiums in the top two divisions. Does the Minister agree? (78197)

T3. Has the Minister seen a demonstration of TalkTalk’s HomeSafe system, which enables families to keep their children safe not only from internet porn, but from sites on suicide and on bomb-making, and all sorts of unsuitable sites? Does he agree that unless internet service providers do more to enable family-friendly systems to protect children, the Government will have to legislate? (78195)

My hon. Friend makes a good point. I have seen the TalkTalk system. I have said to ISPs again and again that I prefer self-regulation to legislation, but the mood of the House is for action and legislation. This is not about censorship, but about giving families the tools to protect their children from inappropriate content, and we rely on ISPs to come up with solutions.

T6. May I again press the Secretary of State on phone hacking in News International? Will he guarantee full co-operation between his Department and Lord Leveson’s inquiry? (78198)

Not only will I guarantee it, but we commissioned the inquiry, so it is very much in our interests to give it every help.

T4. Is the Minister aware of concerns over the quality and frequency of subtitling services on television? A constituent of mine who relies entirely on subtitling feels that the service could be significantly improved and that in the 21st century it should be 100% accurate. (78196)

I hear what my hon. Friend says. We are all aware of inaccurate spelling in subtitling services. Sixty-nine of the 72 broadcasters exceed the minimum requirements, but I will continue to press them to provide an efficient service.

In 2007, News International’s lawyers, as we now know but have recently learned, wrote to senior management at the News of the World, including James Murdoch, to make it explicit that the “sole rogue reporter” line was completely untrue. Does the Secretary of State really believe, with BSkyB’s annual general meeting coming up on 29 November, that James Murdoch is a fit and proper person to chair the company any longer?

The hon. Gentleman has campaigned extensively on this. The most important thing is that the truth comes out. James Murdoch is speaking to the Select Committee, Lord Justice Leveson is conducting an inquiry and there are extensive police inquiries. It would be inappropriate for me to make specific comments on who should do what job before the inquiries are completed, but this Government launched the process to resolve this and are doing everything possible to ensure that we end up in the right place.

T7. Will the Minister commend the work of Attitude is Everything, which works extremely hard to promote disabled access to music venues? Going to a music concert is brilliant for the morale of many disabled people and people in wheelchairs, and access— (78199)

Order. The hon. Gentleman will resume his seat when asked to do so. He is making a very important point, but it must be made briefly, and that is the end of it.

I received my hon. Friend’s invitation and immediately sent it to my officials with a note stating, “This invitation comes from one of the most important Members of the House and a rising star, and we must take his concerns seriously.” He raises the important issue of disabled access, which we have already discussed in relation to sport.

The Government have spent the past year attacking FIFA following the World cup bidding process, but does the Minister think that a flimsy assurance from the organisation’s president is sufficient guarantee that a Team GB Olympic football team will not compromise the footballing independence of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England?

The key thing with FIFA is not what it says but what it does, and as far as the larger reform programme is concerned we will judge FIFA by its results. It has been absolutely categorical about this issue, and it is about time everybody stopped playing politics with it and remembered the athletes, who have an unbelievable opportunity to compete in a home Olympics. Can we get behind the athletes and stop playing politics?

My constituent Julia Donaldson is the author of many much-loved children’s books, including “The Gruffalo”, and she is also the children’s laureate. As a passionate advocate of the benefits of reading for children, she is also concerned about the possible impact of library closures. Will the Secretary of State agree to meet Julia and a group of campaigners to discuss the issue?

I have met Julia in the past, and I should be delighted to meet her again. I am not sure whether she wants to meet me, but if she did I would be delighted.

On the question of Olympic security, most competing nations will have training centres and cultural homes or houses. May I ask the Minister whether the list has finally been published, and seek an assurance that those venues will be protected during the course of the games?

The final list has not yet been published, because negotiations are still ongoing and there is quite a long tail in Olympic terms, with smaller nations and so on and so forth; indeed, some of the larger ones are split between a number of venues. It is the responsibility of those nations to tie up security with the local police force, but that is very much part of the agreement and will be done.

Now that the International Association of Athletics Federations has received an assurance that the athletics track will remain in the Olympic stadium, what has been done to help promote London as an outstanding city for the world athletics championships?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question, which is a good one at the end of Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport questions. We have already had the evaluation commission in London; the Mayor and I spent two days with it. The bid comes up next week, and I am sure that everybody in the House will want to wish UK Athletics and the bid team—and probably even me as part of it—all the very best of luck, because it would be a fantastic tournament to bring home to this country.