Culture, Media and Sport
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was asked—
The Government’s broadband programme will increase superfast broadband coverage to 95% of UK premises by 2017. The programme has already delivered superfast broadband to more than 500,000 premises. A further 20,000 premises are gaining availability per week and that number is set to rise to 40,000 per week by the summer.
Who would have thought just a month ago, when my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) and I were sharing a drink at Birmingham City university, that he would be where he is now? I congratulate him on his appointment on behalf, I am sure, of both sides of the House.
My right hon. Friend talks about superfast broadband and there has been huge progress, but I am afraid that there are still large areas of the country where there is no broadband at all—the not spots. When will broadband coverage be as universal as electricity supplies?
I thank my hon. Friend for that warm welcome. I remember that drink well. He mentioned my constituency of Bromsgrove. Like his constituency, it is semi-rural and there is naturally concern among my constituents about broadband coverage. He will therefore be pleased to know that the Government are providing £780 million of central funding to support superfast broadband, so that 95% of UK premises can enjoy it by 2017. We have also launched a £10 million fund to explore with suppliers broadband solutions for the other 5%.
I begin by congratulating the Secretary of State on his appointment. We hope that he enjoys the next year in his job. This might be the first time that he has answered questions on broadband roll-out, but so great is the concern across the House that this is the 494th time that such questions have been asked. This week, we learned that no one in Oxfordshire has applied for the vouchers under the lacklustre £150-million super-connected cities programme. Why does he not adopt our proposal of switching half of those funds into helping the 15 million people who are digitally excluded?
Again, I thank the hon. Lady for her warm welcome. We looked at the previous Government’s proposals. The reason we changed the policy was that, frankly, it was not working. Already under this Government, superfast broadband coverage has risen from about 45% when we came to office to 73%. The UK has better coverage than the other EU5 countries. I hope that she will join us in implementing these policies.
16. The broadband programme in Suffolk is going rather well, but to reach the 95% figure and cover places such as Wangford and Yoxford, we need a bit more money from the Government. I hope that the Secretary of State and the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) will welcome our representations. (903821)
12. Although the roll-out of broadband to rural areas is going at some pace, it is going rather slowly in parts of rural Wales. I wonder whether the Secretary of State is happy with the manner in which the Welsh Assembly is doing this and whether it is meeting his expectations for the whole of the UK. (903817)
I also welcome the Secretary of State to his new post.
The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), was in my constituency a couple of weeks ago and may have heard one or two things from my constituents about the hard-to-reach rural areas where broadband will be difficult to install. Will he look again at the requirement for match funding for very rural areas? Quite simply it will not work, by definition, in areas where there are very few people.
I can tell my hon. Friend that the rural broadband programme is making good progress. I accept that it is patchy in certain parts of the country, but a number of projects have gone live as the roll-out has begun. I will examine the issue that he raises, but the current evidence shows the rate of connectivity rising and suggests that the match funding programme is progressing well.
9. We are grateful for the Government funding for superfast broadband in North Yorkshire, and we are well on the way to getting high penetration across the country. One way in which we can reach our most remote areas is through technology, and BT has a new, smaller fibre box, but it needs special regulatory approval. What can the Secretary of State do to help us move that process on so that we can deliver to our most remote areas? (903813)
My hon. Friend rightly highlights the significant role that BT plays as a huge stakeholder in rolling out superfast broadband around the country. I have already had a meeting with BT in my new role, and I look forward to having further meetings to see how the process can be taken forward.
I support freedom of the press while wanting to ensure that redress is available when mistakes are made, and I will welcome representations from a range of stakeholders who have an interest in the matter. My meetings will, of course, be a matter of public record through the Cabinet Office in the usual way.
I also welcome the right hon. Gentleman to his new job. I think it is probably the best job in government, and I hope he enjoys it.
I was not quite sure from the right hon. Gentleman’s answer whether he will meet victims. I hope he will, because as he will be aware, they are not happy with what has happened since the Leveson report and they are certainly not happy with attempts by some newspapers to set up a replacement for the discredited Press Complaints Commission. Does he agree with the Prime Minister, who said on oath to the Leveson inquiry that the test is
“not: do the politicians or the press feel happy with what we get? It’s: are we really protecting people who have been caught up and absolutely thrown to the wolves by this process”?
I know that the right hon. Gentleman feels passionately about the issue, and I am sure he recognises that since Lord Leveson’s report was published, we have made significant progress on the issue on a cross-party basis. As he knows, the royal charter has now been granted, and it is now for the press to decide what they wish to do next.
On the issue of meeting alleged victims, if they were to make a formal request, I would give it serious consideration.
I confess that, like many Members, I am occasionally a political anorak and watch political campaigns. Over the past few weeks I have watched the Indian elections, and particularly the media coverage over there. May I impress upon my right hon. Friend the point that although the British press is far from perfect, we have to be mindful of throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
But it was not just one bad apple, was it? It was not one rogue reporter, it was systematic abuse of people who were the victims of crime themselves or had lost family members in Afghanistan. I hope the Secretary of State will understand that those victims of crimes and unethical conduct are deeply troubled by the creation of the Independent Press Standards Organisation, because it has been cobbled together by two Conservative Members of the House of Lords and is still a case of the press marking their own homework.
The hon. Gentleman will know that the industry and the Government agree, as I believe do all parties in this House, that self-regulation is the way forward. That was at the heart of the Leveson principles. As I said, the royal charter has been granted and the press have responded by setting up a self-regulator, and it is now for them to decide how they wish to take that further.
Gambling: Social Media Sites
The Government are aware of concerns about gambling-like activities on social media. The Gambling Commission has published a review of existing evidence and is working with all relevant bodies to analyse data and assess any relevant risk.
Will the Minister tell the House how she will ensure that no promotion of online gambling is targeted at young people using simulated gambling sites? Clearly, those people are already very vulnerable, and the temptation for real gambling to be advertised to those young people is immense. How will she ensure that that does not happen?
Of course, the remote gambling Bill that will be presented later this year will do an awful lot to deal with any abuse coming from online gambling. The risks of social gaming fall into two categories: consumer exploitation and problem gambling. The Gambling Commission is looking at both, and I am happy to speak to it and to take advice on the specific issue that the hon. Lady has brought to my attention.
My right hon. Friend makes a good point, and we have spent a considerable amount of time unravelling a lot of the work that Labour Members did over the past 13 years—so much so that I was happy to present a set of proposals and a package of reforms yesterday.
Problem gamblers tend to participate in a wide range of gambling rather than one particular form. The Gambling (Licensing and Advertising) Bill will allow consistent consumer protection for all British-based users of online gambling products.
Will the Minister explain the conflict between all this concern now about problem gambling online, and the nanny state regulations that she introduced yesterday—egged on by the Labour party—on fixed odds betting terminals, which will only lead to people moving their gambling from a controlled environment in betting shops to similar games and machines with unlimited stakes and prizes on the internet? Surely the proposals she put forward yesterday will only make online gambling problems worse.
I do not agree with my hon. Friend. The proposals put forward yesterday were a very sensible response from a responsible Government who want to assist local communities and protect highly vulnerable people. I believe that nothing more nor less would have been appropriate.
Yesterday, the Minister carried out a U-turn on online gambling and FOBT machines. She has accepted our call for councils to be given planning powers to restrict the clustering of betting shops, but she has done nothing for those who want to respond to local concerns about the numbers of FOBT machines they already have. We welcome the fact that after more than two years of refusing to act, the Government have finally accepted our proposals. She also announced a £50 limit on stakes on FOBT machines, which she relies on the betting industry to impose. What evidence has she seen that convinces her that a £50 limit will deal with problem gambling? She is aware of research being conducted by NatCen. If that says that the £50 limit should be lowered, will she act?
The hon. Gentleman raises a lot of issues and I will do my best to deal with them in the time available. The measures will certainly put an end to unsupervised easy cash-based staking above £50, allowing continued use of machines while ensuring greater opportunities for supervision and protection. The measures are targeted, reasonable and proportionate, and completely justified on a precautionary basis. We have made no change to the stake and prize. The U-turn is absolute nonsense. The shadow Minister knows that I have declared continually that there is no green light for FOBTs, and our package of reforms has been carefully considered. In my opinion, our proposals are targeted and proportionate; his proposals were knee-jerk and impractical.
I invite the Minister to take no lessons from the Opposition who are just opportunistic about FOBTs—in 2000 there were none, but in 2010 there was an explosion of 30,000 FOBT machines. The packages yesterday to protect communities are welcome in my constituency, which has seen a saturation-level of FOBTs, particularly in Palmers Green. Will she also consider the introduction of a cumulative impact test for licence applications? Is it part of the package? That would assist communities that want to take back control of this issue.
I know that my hon. Friend has considerable concerns about FOBTs, not just in his constituency but around the country. We will see strengthened play protections that will help to deal with the risks of FOBTs, wider self-exclusion and more intervention. I am happy to have a chat with him about the issue of impact assessments that he has raised.
Rugby World Cup Tickets
5. What steps he is taking to prevent tickets for the 2015 rugby world cup being purchased by organised syndicates of touts. (903809)
I am grateful to the hon. Lady and the members of the all-party parliamentary group on ticket abuse for the important work they have done on this issue. However, while I am aware of the concerns of the rugby world cup organisers, there is no evidence to suggest that introducing legislation to prohibit ticket touting is needed to deliver a successful event this year.
I know that the Secretary of State has his own opinions on this issue, but he will no doubt have heard this question being answered in the same way month after month. The Government seem to think that there will not be a problem, but if they bothered to look online, they would see that there already is a problem. Thousands of tickets for the rugby world cup are already for sale online at many times face value. If the Secretary of State will not accept the Opposition Front Bench’s offer of co-operation in banning the unauthorised resale of tickets, will he at least accept the recommendation of the all-party group on ticket abuse that calls for greater transparency and adequate protection for consumers?
I know that the hon. Lady is very passionate about this issue and I commend her for her leadership, alongside my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mike Weatherley), of the APPG on ticket abuse. She will know that the Culture, Media and Sport Committee looked at this issue in 2008, as did the previous Government in 2009. I agree with their broad conclusion that there is no need for further legislative action. However, I would be more than happy to sit down with the hon. Lady and discuss her concerns further.
Football Clubs: Finance
6. What steps he is taking to help football clubs in financial difficulty. (903810)
I continue to work closely with the football authorities to press for improvements in governance. They have made some good progress, notably putting clubs on a much stronger financial footing through the introduction of the financial fair play rules.
I thank the Minister for that reply and I congratulate the Secretary of State on his new job, to which he is bringing his characteristic freshness and intelligence.
Last Saturday, Hereford United won their do-or-die relegation battle to stay in the conference premier league despite extremely difficult financial circumstances. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the Bulls players and staff, and in recognising the massive role played by the club’s supporters in sustaining the club? Does she share my view that all the football authorities need to get together now and look at what more they can do to preserve our football heritage and support clubs in the lower leagues?
My hon. Friend the Member for Amber Valley (Nigel Mills) is not in his place, so I can congratulate the Bulls on their win over Alfreton. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), who has worked tirelessly to help Hereford United, which has had a difficult time recently. Running a football club is a challenging matter and supporter trusts play a crucial role in that regard. I will follow the Hereford United Supporters Trust bid for the club with eager interest.
Does the Minister agree that one of the best ways to ensure financial security is to get football supporters involved in clubs? Some three years ago the Culture, Media and Sport Committee recommended a working group be set up to look at the issue and the Government agreed. The Government are now in Fergie time on this, so is it not time that the working group was set up?
The right hon. Gentleman makes an excellent point latterly. The setting up of the expert group is one of my priorities, and I am determined to see it established. The support of fans is crucial and I expect the group to meet for the first time in the coming weeks.
Kettering Town football club has scored more goals in the lifetime of the FA cup competition than any other club in the country. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] Despite this distinguished record, in recent years it has had far more than its fair share of financial difficulties and is now in the very minor leagues. There is a feeling among constituents that there is far too much money in the Premier League, with overpaid footballers getting ridiculous salaries and not enough money going into football at the grass roots.
I take on board what my hon. Friend says. We have to look after all our football clubs. Financial issues are critical and the football authorities have made significant changes in recent years, introducing an early-warning system for tax debts, salary caps and, as I mentioned, the financial fair play rules. Those changes are helping clubs across the piece to stay on a stronger financial footing.
I know the Minister and the whole House will want to take the opportunity to wish Ballymena United all the very best on Saturday in the Irish cup. Does the Minister plan to visit Northern Ireland and meet the Irish Football Association to see what assistance, development and help she can give to the IFA in the development of the beautiful game in Northern Ireland?
First World War Commemorations
Culture has always been absolutely central to how we understand and try to make sense of the first world war and, in the same way, it will be central to the centenary commemorations. The 14-18 NOW programme will deliver a UK-wide programme of cultural events in 2014, 2016 and 2018. It will inspire people of all ages, and from all backgrounds, to take part in the centenary.
Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating my local museums in Saltash and Liskeard, which provide boxes for schools to enhance the cultural experience of young people, so that they can better understand what happened in world war one? I recommend that he visit the excellent display in Saltash on the Suffragette movement, a campaign important both at the time and for women like me today. Does he agree that adequate funding must be provided to help museums progress with such wonderful initiatives, lest we forget?
Local cultural institutions have a key role to play in the first world war centenary commemorations. I am delighted to hear about the contribution from Saltash. As my hon. Friend says, it reminds us of the vital contribution that women made during the war. I will certainly be interested in a visit.
My hon. Friend raises a very important point. I can reassure her that the 14-18 NOW summer 2014 season will be truly UK-wide, with events across the country for all people to take part in. The ambition is to reach at least 10 million people over the four years of the cultural programme.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his new post. I look forward to working with him and with those on my Front Bench in the coming months to ensure that we deliver a fitting commemoration. It is of course right that we focus on the service and sacrifice of those who lost their lives on the front line, but we should also ensure that we recognise the contribution of men and women on the home front who toiled in the mines and the factories, worked the land and cared for the wounded. Will the Secretary of State say how we can ensure that their voices are heard?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind words and for the support he has given to the centenary commemorations—I really welcome that cross-party support. He raises a very important point. It is important to ensure that the efforts on the home front are properly commemorated, and I am happy to discuss that with him further if he thinks we can do more.
The United Kingdom is hosting a series of major sporting events between now and 2019. VisitEngland is working closely with the organisers of the Tour de France and the rugby world cup 2015 to maximise the potential benefits, which could be considerable.
The Minister mentioned the rugby world cup, which is now just 500 days away. Will she join me in congratulating the 13 cities which will host the matches, and which are creating additional attractions for the rugby fans throughout the world who will want to visit the birthplace of the game, where it all started in 1834 when William Webb Ellis picked up the ball and ran?
Tourism is a growth industry in the north-east, supporting 18,000 jobs in an area that still suffers from the highest levels of unemployment in the country. What is the Minister doing to support tourism in areas such as the north-east in the light of the forthcoming major sporting events, given that such events provide an excellent opportunity for its promotion?
I grew up in an area close to the north-east, and I know how fabulous it is. We have an excellent domestic tourism package, and VisitEngland has launched two brilliant “holidays at home” campaigns, which have generated millions of pounds of incremental spending. I hope that the hon. Lady’s constituency will benefit from that.
As chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on American football—and I declare my interest in that regard—I can tell the House that when it comes to sport-related tourism, I know of no sport that has the same potential. Will my hon. Friend join me in congratulating the National Football League on hosting three American football games at Wembley this year, and will she welcome the visitors who will come to support the Miami Dolphins, the Oakland Raiders, the Detroit Lions, the Atlanta Falcons, the Dallas Cowboys and the Jacksonville Jaguars?
The Minister rightly mentioned the Tour de France, but will she also note the fact that the opening stages of the Giro d’Italia cycling race will take place in Northern Ireland next week? That is important in the context not only of world cycling, but of the Northern Ireland Executive’s efforts to bring major sporting events to Northern Ireland, thus greatly increasing the tourism potential of the Province.
Reallocation of Television Spectrum: BBC Three
11. What recent discussions he has had with Digital UK and Ofcom on the re-allocation of the television spectrum to be vacated by BBC Three. (903816)
The BBC Trust is currently considering the proposal to stop broadcasting BBC Three. I have not yet discussed what may happen to BBC Three’s Freeview channel number with either Digital UK or Ofcom.
I know that the Minister is very conscious of the concern felt by people in Scotland about Scottish Television’s proposals to introduce local television. Is it not a problem—I have spoken to Ofcom about this—that the BBC seems to think that it can keep the BBC Three channel and invent BBC One plus one, even though it is currently failing to use the channel properly? Is it not important for the BBC not to have a monopoly, and for the channel to be available to other public broadcasters?
I know that the hon. Gentleman met Ofcom this week, and that he has raised this subject in the House and led a debate on it. The BBC Trust will make the final decision on whether the BBC Three channel should go to an online service, but I understand that Digital UK will allocate the channel in the normal way, taking account of the due prominence rules in the public service broadcasting guidelines. However, I have noted the hon. Gentleman’s point, and will follow it up.
It is two years since Digital UK completed the changeover from analogue and a large number of households were persuaded to buy Freeview boxes. There have been reports that Freeview is now under threat. Given that many households in my constituency rely on it rather than on cable and satellite, which are more expensive, can the Minister assure them that Freeview will continue?
Fixed Odds Betting Terminals
I regularly meet groups and individuals interested in gambling. Earlier this year I chaired a meeting of faith groups, care providers and campaign groups to discuss issues of concern.
Can the Minister explain what impact assessment was made of how many small and independent betting shops will close and how many jobs will be lost as a result of the measures she announced yesterday, coming on top of the increase in tax announced in the Budget?
As I have said previously, these are sensible measures taken by a responsive Government and they will assist local communities and protect vulnerable people. They are balanced, proportionate and have business in mind too. Nothing more or less would have been appropriate.
T1. If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities. (903783)
It is a pleasure to join you for my first oral questions as Secretary of State, Mr Speaker. The Department continues its work in a large number of areas, including but not limited to extending sporting and cultural opportunities to as many people as possible, promoting the creative industries, encouraging both international and domestic tourism and delivering a transformation of broadband.
I welcome the Secretary of State to his new role. We know of the multiple benefits of sport in all its forms, but particularly of the social and health benefits. However, a recent survey by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found that more than half of girls are put off physical activity as a result of their experiences in school. I appreciate that measures are already in place to provide support, but what more will the Secretary of State commit to doing to increase women’s participation—or is support for women something that an increasingly male-dominated Cabinet does not like to provide?
The hon. Lady has asked questions about this issue before and I know she is passionate about it. She has made an important point, and it is a shame that she had to finish with party political point scoring on what is a very important issue. She will be aware that the Government have taken a number of initiatives in this area already, and despite her attempt to make a petty point at the end, I will be happy to meet her if she wants to discuss any ideas she has about what more we can do in this important area.
T2. I am sure that the Minister will be interested to read the forthcoming report from the RadioCentre, called “Action Stations”, on the output and impact of commercial radio. I am proud that my local commercial radio station, High Peak Radio, is mentioned in the report, which also outlines the economic benefits of commercial radio: every £1 invested yields £8 for the advertisers. The report will be officially launched on 13 May and I am sure the Minister will study its findings, but does he agree that commercial radio plays a significant role not just in the country’s economy but in supporting communities such as mine in High Peak? (903784)
Commercial radio is vitally important both locally and nationally. Some 35 million people listen to commercial radio every week, and UK radio revenues continue to increase. We have seen the launch of the first national talk radio station, LBC, and digital radio is vital to commercial radio’s future. I know that the Secretary of State is keen to meet commercial radio operators as soon as possible.
I add my congratulations to the right hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) on his promotion. His elevation to a seat at the Cabinet table sends out a strong signal that in this country, our politics must be for people from all communities, all ethnicities and all walks of life, and I wish him well in his job.
As the right hon. Gentleman takes over leadership of this important Department, we will be urging him to fight hard for the arts and to promote the crucial role that the BBC plays in the cultural life of this country. I want to ask him about young people and music. Creativity is being squeezed out of the curriculum; fewer pupils are taking music at GCSE and A-level; music services have been cut by almost 30%; and now the Department for Education wants to cut a further 12% of music resources available to schools through the education services grant. Will he intervene with the Education Secretary and make the case for music in schools?
I thank the right hon. and learned Lady for her warm welcome. The work that she did when in government, especially on equalities, has had a lasting impact and I welcome much of it. Music and arts in schools are important, and I have already had a discussion with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education on that issue. Action that we have already taken, such as ring-fencing funding for music in schools, is very helpful, but I want to see whether there is more we can do.
T4. Mobile phone coverage in parts of Wales is as bad as coverage in places in Africa, Kazakhstan and the Alps. Does the Minister have a view on when we can expect a 20th-century service in Wales, let alone a 21st-century one? (903786)
I am pleased to say that a 21st-century service is well on its way. We have the greatest roll-out of 4G technology anywhere in the world and the major mobile providers will complete their 4G mobile coverage two years ahead of schedule. We will then take a look at how effective that is and we will continue to work with mobile operators to improve mobile coverage.
T3. What is the Government’s current position on net neutrality, particularly given recent discussions and decisions in both Europe and the United States? (903785)
I like to think that we were ahead of the curve in putting together a code of conduct, to which the major internet service providers and mobile phone companies have subscribed, under which they agreed that they would not block traffic for anti-competitive reasons. Obviously, we are carefully examining the telecoms package that the European Commission has proposed, which includes a potential regulation on net neutrality.
T5. Between 18 April and 31 May, Belper, a town in my constituency, is holding its annual arts festival, throughout which 179 events in 99 different venues will be drawing in the region of 16,000 visitors to the local area. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Belper, led by volunteer George Gunby, and other towns and villages that are holding similar events? What is the Minister doing to support such initiatives? (903787)
I congratulate my hon. Friend on the amazing work she does to promote Derbyshire in this House, She has so effectively led the Derbyshire embassy, which I was delighted to attend. The Belper arts festival is putting together a fantastic and enticing programme. I am also pleased to see that the Arts Council is supporting the Red Earth theatre in Belper, the Buxton arts festival and the Wirksworth festival in Derbyshire.
T7. I am sorry that the sports Minister, the hon. Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant) and indeed the Secretary of State were not able to attend the all-party group on basketball event yesterday on Speaker’s Green, where Opposition Members were able to out-dunk Government Members by 56 to 33. The Minister will, however, be aware of the deep concern across the House about the future of our national basketball teams after UK Sport withdraw all their elite-level funding. What consideration has she given to providing elite-level development funding for accessible team sports such as basketball which fall foul of the no-compromise model of UK sport? (903790)
I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and I am sorry that I could not attend the event—I wanted to but I had a clash. I believe a Conservative won the event, and that is always welcome. As she well knows, sports governing bodies, including that for basketball, have received large amounts of public money—taxpayers’ money. It is certainly no gravy train and if sports cannot deliver increasing participation, it is absolutely right that the money should be diverted to those that can do so. I do not believe that doors are ever closed for ever and I would be happy to have a chat with her about the proposal she makes.
As usual, my hon. Friend raises an important point. Support from the corporate sector for the cultural sector is very important. It amounted to around £110 million last year, almost a fifth of total investment. In the past couple of weeks, I have been to the Globe, which is supported by Deutsche Bank, and the Matisse exhibition at Tate Modern, which is supported and sponsored by Bank of America. Just yesterday I went to the Vikings exhibition at the British Museum, which is supported by BP. It was held in a new exhibition hall, which received the majority of its funding from the Sainsbury family.
Parents tell us that they want age ratings on music videos that are unsuitable for younger children. We consulted on legislation to introduce the British Board of Film Classification age ratings for music DVDs. We will introduce legislation to Parliament within the coming months, and we will bring into force new age rating requirements as soon as possible. I am also working with the music industry to get age ratings for online music videos as well.
T8. I join others in welcoming my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to his new position and invite him to visit Bournemouth, the UK’s premier seaside resort, at the end of this month when it is organising its first free wheels festival, which will include historic classic cars, monster trucks and supercar demonstrations on the sea front. Does that not illustrate how the experience offered to visitors is just as important as good accommodation and a picturesque location? (903792)
The Secretary of State has just whispered to me that he really does look forward to visiting Bournemouth, and I am, on his behalf, happy to congratulate Bournemouth council on organising this wheels festival. I am sure that this free-to-visit family event will attract visitors over the Whitsun bank holiday weekend, boosting the local economy and raising the town’s very special profile.
People whose homes and businesses were recently flooded will know, as we did in Hull in 2007, of the benefit of having local BBC radio stations. Those radio stations are often seen as the extra emergency service in times of crisis. Will the Minister confirm that, in any future negotiations on funding for the BBC, protection is given to local radio services?
Absolutely. I echo what the hon. Lady says. During the severe floods in Oxfordshire in 2007, BBC Radio Oxford certainly played an invaluable role. I can assure her that the value of all BBC services, including local and regional services, will be considered as part of the review of the BBC’s charter. We have not yet announced the timing, scope and process of the charter review, so it would be premature of me to say anything further at this point.
May I also add my congratulations to the Secretary of State on his appointment? The Blackdown hills and villages such as Upottery, Clayhidon and Rousdon are finding it difficult to get broadband. We welcome the Government’s money, but BT is finding things difficult and there is secrecy about where the broadband will be delivered throughout the constituency. Will the Secretary of State meet me and local representatives to discuss the way in which we can roll out this broadband in a much better way?
Absolutely. It is important to point out that the progress of rural broadband is really picking up pace, with 20,000 homes passed every week, but we must get out the information to local residents. I am sure that the Secretary of State will meet my hon. Friend at the earliest opportunity to discuss his points.
When imposing the changes to the betting and gaming industry, did the Government consider conducting an impact assessment on the potential job losses? Before yesterday, William Hill had already announced 109 betting shop closures, with the loss of 420 jobs, which mainly affect young women between the ages of 18 and 24.
We are of course always mindful of jobs, not just for women but for everyone. The package I announced yesterday was sensible and proportionate and it deals with a number of concerns about powers for local authorities, controls for the community and the importance of protecting highly vulnerable people. We have acted where it has been needed, which is more than the Labour party did during its 13 years in power.
Women and Equalities
The Ministers for Women and for Equalities were asked—
Violence Against Women
The Ministers for Women and for Equalities attend the quarterly Home Office inter-ministerial group on violence against women and girls and are committed to supporting the Government action plan, published on 8 March, to end violence against women and girls. The Government have taken recent key actions such as rolling out the domestic violence disclosure scheme and domestic violence protection orders, and we commissioned Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary’s review of domestic abuse and have announced steps to ensure the recommendations are acted on. I highlighted the action plan when the Minister for Equalities and I gave a presentation to Cabinet this Tuesday on policy issues of particular relevance to women.
I know that my hon. Friend is a dedicated campaigner in this area. The Government recognise that violence against women and girls is strongly linked to gender inequality. Our action plan sets out work to raise the aspirations and ambitions of women and girls and the Government are also taking strong action to support women’s economic empowerment and making lasting changes to ensure that our workplaces match the needs of women in modern Britain, including by extending the right to flexible working, increasing child tax credits and extending the free entitlement to early education.
I welcome the hon. Lady to her new role. Two women a week in England and Wales are killed by a current or former partner and in my constituency we have had two violent murders of women in just eight months. Both of the women were in their 20s with a young child or children. Women’s Aid has warned that cuts to services mean that women and children are likely to remain in abusive situations or are more likely to return after they have left. Is it not time for the Government to accept Labour’s idea of an independent commissioner on domestic and sexual violence to champion victims such as those in my constituency and to drive improvement?
This is an incredibly serious issue and I am sure that Members on both sides of the House have dealt with tragic cases of women who have been put at risk of violence or who have suffered violence at the hands of their partner or someone close to them. Protective injunctions remain within the scope of legal aid, and immigration cases in which domestic violence is a factor continue to qualify for funding. We have also recently scrapped the application fee for those injunctions to ensure that there are no unnecessary barriers between people and the help they need, and we have said that if there are any other areas in which legal aid is not being made available, we want to be made aware of them. I am happy to look again at the issues that the hon. Lady has raised.
Most police officers are sympathetic and helpful when women report incidents of domestic violence, but sadly some still have a negative attitude. What more does my hon. Friend think can be done to ensure that police responses are consistent, which is particularly important for women reporting serial offences?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right that there are many excellent police officers up and down the country who respond incredibly sympathetically and supportively to those who make complaints or allegations of violence. It is important that victims of sexual abuse feel empowered to come forward to report that abuse and I know that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and all Ministers across Government would like to encourage people to do that and to encourage the police to take all allegations seriously. If there is anything further we should be doing, I am happy to look into it.
I welcome both Ministers to their new roles. We have the new Minister for Equalities, and it is always good to see people from ordinary backgrounds at the top table of politics, and the new Minister for Women, and it is a pleasure to shadow another woman from the east midlands in this role.
Violence against women is one of the many examples of how women’s equality cuts across all Departments. In fact, all Government decisions are relevant to women, so will the Minister for Women be attending all Cabinet meetings?
Women’s Sport: Media Coverage
We have seen some progress from the media, and especially from broadcasters, in this area. The top-quality coverage of our inspirational women in Sochi was absolutely tremendous, but of course more needs to be done.
I thank the Minister for that response. Has she had time to reflect on the links between media coverage and sponsorship, and does she not find it extraordinary, in the 21st century, that sponsorship of women’s sport pales into insignificance when compared with that of men’s sport?
My right hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He is quite right that the level of women’s sport sponsorship deals is very low indeed, compared with all deals; it is at about 2%. Having top-level women’s sports events covered in the media will of course encourage companies to get involved. I congratulate Helena Morrissey and her company, Newton, on their smart decision to sponsor the women’s boat race.
Glasgow’s Commonwealth games will be a marvellous opportunity to highlight excellence in women’s sport, but regrettably, regional TV and radio coverage of women’s sport is woeful in this country. I would be grateful if the Minister confirmed whether she has made any representations to public service providers and commercial radio about the need for women’s sport to be covered in much more volume and detail.
The hon. Lady makes a good point. Women’s sport is one of my priorities, and visibility and coverage of women is key to so many things, including sponsorship. We have had a number of meetings with the media and print magazines. Sky and the BBC have certainly upped their game since the 2012 Olympics, through more coverage and dedicated sports programmes focusing on women. Female individuals such as Clare Balding and Barbara Slater are an important part of that process.
First World War Commemorations
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the significant contribution of ethnic minority soldiers to Britain’s war effort. He may be interested to know that just last week I made a private visit to Ypres; I went to the Menin gate memorial remembrance service and saw for myself that among the names of soldiers whose graves are unknown, there were many from the Indian subcontinent.
I thank the Minister for Equalities for that answer and welcome him to his position. More than 1 million people from ethnic minorities served our country in the first world war, and 12 soldiers from the Indian subcontinent have been awarded the Victoria Cross for valour. What are the Government doing to ensure that Victoria Cross recipients from minority communities born in other countries are properly commemorated?
I warmly congratulate the Secretary of State on his appointment. This is the first time in the history of this country that a majority of Ministers in a Department are from the ethnic minority communities—all with different hairstyles, but all appointed on merit. I strongly support what the hon. Member for Gillingham and Rainham (Rehman Chishti) said. Could we have a physical representation of that, and may I offer Leicester as a city in which a monument could be put up to those who served in the war?
My great-grandfather fought in the great war, a fact that I became aware of only in the past decade. May I impress on my right hon. Friend that as well as a written record of history, there is often an oral history of acts of great bravery in the Indian and, specifically, Sikh regiments?
I thank my hon. Friend for the question, and for the contribution his family made to the great war—as did, obviously, many other families, but especially, as he highlighted, people of ethnic minority backgrounds. He has made an important point, and I will certainly look at that.
The Commonwealth contribution to the first world war was significant. In particular, one in 10 people who served came from undivided India. In Northern Ireland we have a very large Indian community. What discussions has the Minister had with the bodies responsible in Northern Ireland to ensure that the community’s significant contribution is commemorated?
The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He will know that more than 70,000 soldiers from the Indian army made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of Britain in the great war. With respect to Northern Ireland, I have not had any discussions so far in my new role, but I will certainly raise the matter at the earliest opportunity.
Bullying in Schools
This Government are committed to tackling all forms of bullying in schools, and have provided advice to schools on how to tackle this harmful behaviour. However, we know that homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying persists and we have therefore recently awarded the contract for a new project to identify the best ways to help drive out this type of bullying.
I am pleased that the Government have this week announced the contract for the review of evidence of what works in tackling such bullying. Can the Minister explain how she expects the outcome of this work to be taken forward and how the findings will be made available to schools in a way that will easily and practically help to inform their approach?
I welcome my hon. Friend’s support for this important project. This type of bullying is completely unacceptable. It must be addressed and we must learn the best way to do that. NatCen Social Research, to whom the contract has been awarded, has already started looking at the evidence for the most effective measures to tackle such bullying. It will report in the summer and we will use its report to develop and pilot interventions in schools. The learning from those pilots will be consolidated into a single package of guidance on what works, so that we can share that experience widely across all schools. That will help to ensure that the outcomes of the project live beyond the funding that is available and that they are embedded in future support for schools.
Clearly, any kind of homophobic bullying is completely unacceptable in schools or anywhere else. I just wonder whether the Department has a hierarchy of bullying—whether it considers homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying to be more serious than other forms of bullying, or whether it considers all forms of bullying to be equally important.
Clearly, bullying is bullying, regardless of the intent behind it. All forms of bullying need to be tackled in schools and stamped out. It has a hugely detrimental impact on the ability of children to enjoy school and on their achievements and their grades at the end of it. In 2012 this Government introduced the requirement that when inspecting schools, Ofsted should consider how the school tackles bullying. That is now considered part of Ofsted’s inspection, to make sure that schools are tackling all forms of bullying, regardless of the intent behind it.
Older Women’s Employment
Jobcentre Plus uses a range of innovative approaches to help older claimants. Local schemes include IT support aimed specifically at older people, dedicated advisers for those aged over 50, and help to convert dated qualifications into certifications that are relevant for modern employers. Overall female inactivity is now at a record low.
I am disappointed by the hon. Lady’s question. More than 3.5 million women aged over 50 are in employment, which is more than 63% of that age group. Across the UK more women are in work than ever before. There has been additional support for older women. One example of the support that jobcentres are providing that has made a real difference is the new employment allowance that helps people to set up their own business. Nearly a quarter of those who have set up businesses using that allowance are over the age of 50 and it is proving particularly popular.
Women are revered in many societies for their knowledge and wisdom, but the first thing that comes up in a Google search for “employing older women” is toyboywarehouse.com. In America, women will not stand for invisibility or marginalisation and have created OWL—the Older Women’s League—to fight for older women in public policy and the workplace. Does my hon. Friend believe that we should do the same in the UK?
The Government are in the process of appointing a business champion for older workers, and an announcement will be made in the next couple of months. That person will have a responsibility to ensure that older workers—in particular women, as the proposal came out of the recommendations of the Women’s Business Council—are taken more seriously by employers and have their skills and experience recognised. This may well be an issue that the champion would like to take up.
The Minister mentioned the older workers business champion, but that was promised over a year ago following a recommendation from the Women’s Business Council. Why have we had to wait for more than a year? The Minister said that the Government are looking at appointing such a champion, but is the year’s delay a result of older women not being a priority?
The Women’s Business Council made a wide range of important recommendations on how women interact in the economy from school age to leaving the work force, and the Government have been working carefully to ensure that we implement as many of them as possible. That element is now in track. The older workers business champion will be appointed shortly, and I hope that we will then see the next part of the process taken forward.