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Topical Questions

Volume 577: debated on Thursday 13 March 2014

I have already mentioned in passing the £250 million superfast extension programme and our European pre-eminence in all matters broadband. Since we last met, we have published our spectrum strategy, and both the Secretary of State and the Sports Minister have travelled to Sochi to support the extremely successful Team GB, which had the best results in any winter Olympics for 90 years.

Trafford Park in my constituency is due to be connected to superfast broadband as part of the Greater Manchester rural broadband programme, which is vital for the many businesses located on the park. What can the Minister do to ensure that the programme remains on track so that every business in priority areas of economic growth is connected following the completion of the BDUK programme?

I will strain every sinew to ensure that the programme remains on track. That is my pledge to the hon. Lady and I am pleased to say that our programme is now ahead of schedule, that BT has completed its £2.5 billion commercial roll-out and that we have the best broadband of the big five in Europe.

T2. In Macclesfield, we are rightly proud of our rich silk heritage, which will be highlighted during the 200th anniversary of our Sunday school building, which is part of the Silk Museums Trust. With that in mind, will my hon. Friend tell the House what steps are being taken to celebrate the heritage of our traditional craft industries? (903005)

Of course I can. My Department works with the Heritage Crafts Association and other bodies on the Craft Industry Board set up by creative and cultural skills to support the economic growth of the craft sector. I am also delighted that the craft sector has been chosen as one of the groups in the second phase of the apprenticeship trailblazers and that, at the end of last year, we managed to list at grade I the Queen Street Mill in Burnley, which is a late 19th-century textile weaving mill. I thank my hon. Friend for that question.

It is the right of each and every child to have the experience of, and opportunities in, culture and the arts, and it is important for our economy too. So it is of great concern that at GCSE, fewer children are sitting art and design. Music is down 9% and drama is down 13%, and we see the same happening in A-levels. How can we nurture the next generation of talent and how can young people fulfil their potential as human beings and engaged citizens, never mind their creative potential in the arts, if they do not have the chance in school? Does the Secretary of State’s assertion that the Government are making great strides to ensure that the arts are a central part of every child’s education not sound increasingly out of touch?

I met the Minister for Schools only this week to discuss the success of our cultural and music education plans. We are the first Government to introduce a national music education plan. We set aside hundreds of millions of pounds to create music hubs, to extend the In Harmony scheme and to support the teaching of music in schools. The Secretary of State for Education has, through his own personal initiative, supported initiatives such as Shakespeare in schools and heritage schools, and the Arts Council has its bridge organisations. There is a lot going on in cultural education and in music education, and I urge the right hon. and learned Lady to have a look.

T3. Does the Minister agree that the BBC’s duty to provide fair and impartial coverage needs to reflect the views of the many people who question the so-called consensus on climate change and that the BBC must stop acting like the public affairs department of Friends of the Earth? (903006)

T5. Power sellers are purchasing thousands of tickets to top musical and sporting events online within seconds and selling them on minutes later for massive mark-ups. What are the Government doing to stop this distortion of the market and to stop fans being ripped off? (903009)

We do not have any plans to introduce legislation, which is what I am constantly asked about. We want all the various organisations and events as well as everyone else connected with ticketing to look at the facilities that are available and I am confident that that will happen so that people can enjoy events in the right way and access tickets at a fair and reasonable price.

T4. In a few weekends’ time, Tamworth council will hold its 10th St George’s day festival, which is a great day out for all the family and a boon to local businesses. Feel free to come along, Mr Speaker, if you wish. Will my hon. Friend support that initiative and encourage other local authorities to follow Tamworth’s lead, which makes the best use of our heritage assets and encourages local people to take a greater interest in the local history and traditions? (903008)

The Tamworth St George’s day festival is renowned throughout the country, if not the world, and I hope that many councils across the country will be looking at how Tamworth uses St George’s day to highlight its incredible heritage assets.

T6. The Minister responsible for the arts will, I am sure, be aware that the critically acclaimed film “Under the Skin”—which, incidentally, had its UK premiere at the excellent Glasgow film festival last month—was one of a number of UK co-productions in recent times. What assessment has the Department made of the impact of precluding co-productions from funding through the enterprise investment scheme on the British film industry? (903010)

The hon. Gentleman raises an interesting point. We support co-production across the world and have signed many co-production treaties over the past three years. I am not quite clear how those treaties are inhibiting the creation of British films; I rather thought they were supporting them. If he wants to write to me in greater detail, I will respond more fully.

T8. I refer Members to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Following the Minister’s January meeting with the Tourism Alliance, she was keen to secure a cross-Departmental council with the aim of boosting Government action to boost tourism growth. Will she advise the House on what progress has been made in setting up that council? (903012)

I remain keen to set up a tourism council at the earliest possible opportunity. A large amount of work has been done and I have asked my officials to work with colleagues in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to consider how best to achieve that.

T7. Many of my constituents are concerned about the advertising of gambling through broadcast media, particularly at times when children and young people see it—that is, the kind of advertising that makes it seem easy to win big money very quickly. What steps is the Minister taking to tackle that problem? (903011)

The Secretary of State recently made it quite clear in a statement and a speech that we have asked the appropriate regulators to look into gambling advertising in the context of the rules, regulations and guidelines.

Wiltshire council has more than met the match-funding requirements for Government support for broadband so far. I welcome the superfast broadband extension programme, but will the Minister assure me that that early commitment will count in favour of the council and not against it when the Government seek match funding for the latest scheme?

We want councils to match fund the money we have put up for the superfast broadband extension programme, as it is important that they are involved. I recognise the amazing work that has been done in Wiltshire, and I have visited to see the work being done on broadband roll-out. I hear what has been said.

My constituents are concerned about the impact a third betting shop will have on a small geographical area in Formby, and they are amazed that there is nothing that they or their councillors can do to prevent that shop from opening. Will the Minister listen to people up and down the country who are concerned about the impact of too many betting shops and will she allow local communities the powers to prevent the spread of such shops?

I always try to listen. These are important issues. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that local authorities have good powers at their disposal to control the location and number of betting shops through article 4 directions and use of their licensing conditions, but of course I shall continue to listen.

According to the recent health survey, the only two forms of gambling in which the poorest people are more likely to participate than the richest people are bingo and scratchcards. Given that fact, can the Minister justify allowing 16-year-olds to buy scratchcards when for any other form of gambling the minimum age is 18? Will she review that urgently and ensure that buying scratchcards is something that can only be done by 18-year-olds?

I am aware that my hon. Friend has considerable knowledge in this area. I am happy to look into the issue of scratchcards and come back to him.