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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 583: debated on Thursday 3 July 2014

Culture, Media and Sport

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was asked—

National Lottery Funding

1. What steps he has taken to promote national lottery funding to sport, heritage and arts groups in the past 12 months. (904613)

Through the work of the national lottery promotions unit and individual national lottery distributors, we continue to raise awareness of funding for good causes. Demand for lottery funding continues to outstrip supply, with over £1.5 billion spent on national lottery projects in just the past 12 months.

The Heritage Lottery Fund recently made a large contribution to the new visitors centre at Bletchley Park in my constituency and also paid for the restoration of some of the old codebreaking huts. May I invite my right hon. Friend to visit Bletchley Park to see for himself what a vital role the Heritage Lottery Fund plays in preserving the heritage of the country?

I have visited Bletchley Park a number of times, as I am sure all hon. Members have done, to look at its vivid story and see how that is brought to life. I would be more than happy to do so again. It is a fitting tribute to the remarkable men and women who worked there, including a wonderful woman in my own constituency, Betty Webb, who served there. I am delighted that Bletchley Park has received funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund for its restoration. My hon. Friend is right to give credit to John Major, as he has done in the past, for setting up the fund.

The Secretary of State may know that as chair of the John Clare Trust, I have been the beneficiary of quite a lot of Heritage Lottery funding. I am delighted with it and would like more for projects going forward in my constituency, but will the right hon. Gentleman remember that it does not replace a Government committed to culture and heritage?

I am pleased to hear that the hon. Gentleman supports the work that the fund is doing for the causes that he holds dear, which are very good causes. The principle of additionality is very important and the distributors must adhere to it at all times.

The Secretary of State will be aware that alongside the national lottery, society lotteries contributed £145 million to good causes in 2012-13 and could provide a lot more if the prizes, draw and turnover rules were deregulated. His Department has long promised a consultation on this but has yet to publish it. In the light of the recent Centre for Economics and Business Research report on society lotteries, can he tell the House when the consultation might come?

Changes in lottery and gambling markets have made it clear to us that the consultation on society lotteries should be more wide ranging than we had previously thought. The Gambling Commission is providing us with further information and advice, and we are planning to conduct the consultation later this year.

The Arts Council announced this week that 99 organisations will be financed solely by the national lottery and it has to cut support to 58 other arts organisations because of the huge cuts in the Department. Local authorities have also been forced to reduce support to arts organisations. Given that London gets 20 times as much philanthropic money per person as the rest of the country, does the Secretary of State agree with the statement from the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) that arts organisations that cannot raise philanthropic funds are totally misguided and “pathetic”?

The hon. Lady will know that I do not agree with her. She knows that Government grants for arts funding have been cut because the Government of whom she was part left our country with the largest deficit in the industrialised world and left us with very difficult decisions to make. The good news is that the Arts Council receives funding from other sources and, taken together with total funding of almost £3 billion during the life of this Parliament, the level of funding is virtually unchanged from the situation in the previous Parliament.

Given that many regions, particularly in the north, generate disproportionately more revenue for the national lottery, what further steps will the Government take to ensure that other regions where more money is generated get their fair share of sport, heritage and arts funding?

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise that important point about the regional distribution of the funds. It is something we discuss with the lottery, and I shall be taking it up with it further.

Superfast Broadband

The Government’s broadband programme will provide superfast broadband to 95% of UK premises by 2017. In February 2014 we announced nearly £3 million in further grant funding to support superfast coverage in Cornwall.

One of my constituents who runs a small business in a not-spot area purchased satellite broadband after being told that they would not get a fibre-optic connection. Can they now bid for some money if Cornwall council is successful to enable other connections, and will it cost people more for any other type of connection?

Superfast Cornwall has a satellite broadband offer for premises that currently have slow-speed broadband and are not likely to gain a fibre-optic connection. The grant of almost £3 million that the Government gave in February in phase 2 will help increase coverage. My hon. Friend’s constituent can make an application to Superfast Cornwall, and that will be a decision for it to make. We are making progress on the issue, but I agree that there is much more to do.

10. Finland and Sweden will cover about 99% of their populations with 4G networks capable of delivering high-speed broadband, but the UK’s model of coverage with 2G and 3G has failed many people in rural and island areas. Will the Secretary of State consider a different approach to 4G for rural areas, including mast-sharing and controls on rents at mast sites, especially as 4G will deliver up to 30 megabits and might wirelessly reach areas that cable broadband might not reach? (904626)

The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that there has been a significant increase in superfast broadband coverage since 2010, rising from 45% to 73%, but there is much more to do. There has also been a significant change in 4G coverage in the UK, which many people use for broadband, as he rightly highlights. For example, O2, which has a licence for 4G, is committed to extending it to 99% of the country.

Order. I do not know why this question was not grouped, but I will treat it as though it had been. Mr Stephen Metcalfe.

7. Linford and parts of East Tilbury and West Tilbury in my constituency fall between the Tilbury and Stanford-le-Hope exchanges, which means that a small but significant community will not benefit from either the commercial roll-out of superfast broadband or the Government-funded programme. What options do I have to ensure that those residents are not disadvantaged by a geographic anomaly? (904623)

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that the Government have announced additional funding of £10.72 million for Essex under phase 2 of our superfast broadband programme. The local project team for Essex should be able to advise him on the revised coverage targets. The Government have also announced eight market testing pilots to explore supply solutions for improving broadband coverage beyond 95%.

The analyst, Redburn, has pointed out that claims that the UK is doing well on superfast broadband are

“only true using a rather unambitious definition of superfast”.

A number of European countries now have over 20% fibre- to-the-home penetration, with symmetric 100 megabits- per-second services. The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), told me in a written answer on 23 June that he does not know how much of that we have in the UK, but the industry estimates penetration to be about 0.5%. Surely we need to be doing much better.

The right hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that superfast coverage in the UK is the highest among the EU5 countries; it is higher than Germany, higher than Spain, five times higher than Italy and three times higher than France.

I was pleased when the Government announced the awarding of the contract to look into ways of using satellite to bring superfast broadband to remote areas of Scotland that fibre-optic cables cannot reach. It is very important that that work is done as soon as possible. What time scale does the Minister envisage for bringing superfast broadband to remote areas of the highlands and islands by satellite?

These pilots began in June, so they are very recent and it will take a number of months before any results are known. We have deliberately picked a number of different companies with different types of technology to ensure that we learn as much as we can. I envisage that we will have more information in six months.

Tourism Industry

The tourism industry is central to the Government’s long-term economic plan, which is why we are investing over £177 million, including partner funding, in the GREAT campaign and other international and domestic marketing campaigns. We recently re-launched the Tourism Council, a partnership between industry and the Government.

The Suffolk coast is well known as a very attractive place to visit, with its open skies, beaches and cultural offerings. You are certainly most welcome—both you, Mr Speaker, and the Secretary of State—as the shadow Secretary of State will know. However, also adding to the long-term economic plan will hopefully be the construction of Sizewell C. My local businesses have understandable concerns about the impact of the construction phase on tourism in the area. Can he offer any helpful advice?

I can tell my hon. Friend that I will be more than happy to visit. I am sure that Mr Speaker has been a number of times himself. The Suffolk coast is indeed beautiful—it is a jewel in Britain—and everyone should be encouraged to visit. She will know that I cannot comment on any planning application that is taking place, but she will be pleased to know that the Government will continue to work hard to promote Suffolk through VisitEngland and other organisations. The wonderful Suffolk coastline featured in VisitEngland’s “Coastal Escapes” marketing campaign was funded by the regional growth fund.

The NATO summit in Newport provides an opportunity to promote Wales to the world, boosting tourism and the wider economy. What discussions are the UK Government having with the Welsh Government to ensure that the summit has a distinct Welsh flavour?

We work very closely with the Welsh Government on these issues. There is a lot to be gained from cross-co-operation, and a number of initiatives are in place.

8. Inbound tourism is as strategic a sector for this country as advanced manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, and the Tourism Council presents an opportunity for it to punch its weight. Will my right hon. Friend set his sights high in terms of productivity, skills development, and co-operative working on distribution channels in marketing this country to the world? (904624)

I absolutely agree. My hon. Friend will be pleased to know, as will other hon. Members, that last year inbound tourism hit a new record high of 33 million visitors spending a record amount of £21 billion in the UK. He rightly points out the importance of improving skills, and we are working with the Tourism Council on that.

Despite recent sporting setbacks, our enthusiasm remains at fever pitch. Will the Minister, like me, be among the 3 million people it is anticipated will go to watch the start of the Tour de France this weekend? The Grand Départ will showcase some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside. Will he join me in wishing Yorkshire every success in hosting this event and wish every participant well, and, of course, success to our British riders? What is he doing to ensure that the event goes smoothly and that the region continues to benefit from the boost to tourism that it will get from hosting this event?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of the Grand Départ taking place in Yorkshire. It is a very important sporting moment for the UK. I will be visiting on day one, on Saturday, and I look forward to seeing him there. The Prime Minister will also be visiting, and the sports Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), will be helping as well.

14. Fylde is the golf capital of Lancashire, with outstanding courses including the Open championship course at Royal Lytham and St Annes. What are the Government doing to ensure that Britain is getting the most out of this lucrative section of the tourism market? (904632)

My hon. Friend will be pleased to know that VisitBritain has a specific initiative on promoting golf throughout the UK. That campaign is showing early signs of working, but we will be looking to see what more can be done.

FIFA: Corruption

4. What recent discussions he has had with England's international football representatives on allegations of corruption within FIFA. (904618)

These are very serious allegations. Of course, major sporting events need to be awarded in an open, fair and transparent manner, but, as the Prime Minister has already said, we need to wait to see the results of Michael Garcia’s inquiry before discussing next steps.

I thank the Minister for that very cautious response. I have just finished two years as chair of the sports committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and I am its rapporteur on corruption and governance in sport. Now that the investigative journalists of The Times have revealed how much corruption is going on, and Greg Dyke has spoken out very boldly on this, does the Minister agree that it may be time for a Joint Committee of the House to look at this question in some detail before the beautiful game is mired by the behaviour of FIFA?

What discussions is the Minister having with her colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with football governing bodies to bring about an end to the abuse of the migrant workers who are facing very serious human rights abuses building stadiums in Qatar?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. We of course expect Qatar and FIFA to ensure that the rights of all migrant workers are upheld and respected.

Mobile Telephone Coverage

5. If his Department will commission research on methods of improving mobile telephone coverage; and if he will make a statement. (904619)

We need to improve mobile coverage in the UK, and I have been discussing with Ofcom and the mobile network operators what more can be done. The mobile infrastructure project will extend coverage to remote and rural areas that currently have no coverage.

Many visitors from the European Union travel by ferry to my constituency of Dover and, because of international roaming, those from France get better mobile coverage than my own constituents. How can this be?

As usual, my hon. Friend makes a very good point. It is true that French nationals who visit the UK get better coverage than his constituents because of international roaming. I encourage operators in the UK to go further and I am discussing the issue with mobile operators and Ofcom. No firm decisions have been taken at this point, but it is a very important issue.

May I commend my right hon. Friend on his efforts to extend mobile coverage, but is he aware that many of my constituents have been without any mobile coverage for nearly three weeks due to Vodafone having to remove a mast from premises that the landlord required it to vacate? Will he consider looking at the electronic communications code to see whether it can be strengthened to give the same sorts of rights that already exist for other utilities, such as water and electricity?

I was not aware of that particular issue in my hon. Friend’s constituency, but now he has raised it I will certainly look into it and see whether we can help. The electronic communications code is a very important issue and I am looking into it right now, because I agree that it was set up for a different age and there need to be significant changes.


6. What comparative assessment he has made of the extent of broadband coverage in the UK and other EU member states. (904620)

As the House has already heard from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, the UK’s broadband coverage is among the best in Europe: 73% of premises can access superfast broadband compared with just 45% in 2010. Government investment will drive superfast coverage up to 95% by 2017.

Sadly, rural areas will be left behind. I understand from NYnet that Thirsk, Malton and Filey will have only 78% coverage by 2015-16. Given that farmers will have to apply digitally for farm payments from 2015, they will be grossly disadvantaged. Will the Government please make it a top priority to ensure that those who have the weakest coverage will be fast-tracked to superfast broadband?

We certainly will. NYnet is one of our most effective programmes and I praise the county council for its effective work. We have already passed 120,000 premises under this programme. We will have reached 170,000 by next spring and we have allocated further millions to take coverage even further.

The EU is a very big area, but Bridle road in Stanfree in Bolsover is relatively small. They told me to ask the appropriate Minister to sort out the broadband that they have been messing about with for four years in that Bridle road, Stanfree area. They must have a letter—get it sorted.

After a question such as that, it beggars belief that the Labour party would not have such a man on its national executive committee. On this side of the House, when the hon. Gentleman speaks, we act.

I am tempted to just say to the Minister, “Somerset—get it sorted.” The good news is that two more communities in my constituency—Fivehead and Milborne Port—will be connected over the next few months, but there are a lot of villages in exactly the position described by the hon. Member for Thirsk and Malton (Miss McIntosh) that will not be connected. Does the Minister recognise how critical Somerset’s bid to the superfast extension fund is in filling in some of those gaps and getting broadband to the rural areas that desperately need it?

Yes, I do. The whole point of all the completely justified questions that have been asked is that people want broadband. That is why we are putting £1.2 billion into rolling out rural broadband and why total funding of something like £70 million from BT, European funding and Broadband Delivery UK is going into connecting Devon and Somerset. More than 250,000 premises are planned to be networked and we have allocated a provisional £22 million for the next phase.

This issue is not just a rural problem. At my recent business event, companies told me how lack of access to fast broadband is seriously hampering their businesses. How will the Minister ensure that areas on the edge of major urban centres also get superfast broadband?

The whole point of the rural broadband programme is to help the areas she speaks about. Local councils are in charge of the roll-out, so they should know best where the money should go first for the most impact. As I say, we have had phase 1 to get to 90%; we now have phase 2 to get to 95%; and the money we have allocated for new technologies will give us the figure we need to get to 100%.

In some cases, the only way to improve broadband speeds is to install a new cabinet. Will my hon. Friend confirm that the cost of such installation is within the scope of the Government’s assistance scheme?

My understanding is that, where appropriate, new cabinets can be installed under the scheme. Much of the scheme will be for funding the upgrade of existing cabinets, but occasionally it can be for a new cabinet.

First World War Centenary

9. What steps he is taking to ensure that Commonwealth countries are included in the commemorative events planned for the first world war centenary. (904625)

The important contribution of all our Commonwealth partners will be commemorated as part of our centenary programme, starting with a service of commemoration on 4 August in Glasgow cathedral.

It is right that we honour the remarkable sacrifice of so many members of the Commonwealth during the first world war, including the 40,000 Indian and Anzac casualties at Gallipoli. Will the Minister assure me, as someone whose father fought and so nearly died in that controversial campaign, that the centenary events for Gallipoli next April will include full recognition of the contribution of the 27,000 French casualties and the 120,000 British casualties at Gallipoli?

As my hon. Friend will know, Gallipoli is one of our key dates in the Government’s programme. My Department is working very closely with the embassy in Ankara to ensure that the event at Cape Helles on 24 April next year marks the British and Commonwealth contribution appropriately. We are also working with the Gallipoli Association on a UK-led event, and I would welcome my hon. Friend’s input into its planning.

Regional Museums and Galleries

11. What steps his Department is taking to encourage (a) national collections and (b) the royal collection to loan works of art to regional museums and galleries. (904627)

First, may I welcome my hon. Friend to the Chamber? This is the first opportunity I have had the chance to welcome him to the House.

In 2012-13, national museums sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport lent objects to more than 1,500 museums around the country through touring exhibitions, star object loans, loans of local significance and long-term loans.

Regional museums would benefit from a much more active programme of loans from national museums, which are sitting on hundreds of thousands if not millions of works of art that are rarely if ever seen by the general public. The Secretary of State recently viewed the site of the new Newark national civil war museum, which is a perfect example of a regional museum that would benefit from active loans from national institutions. What can the Department do to encourage national museums to review their civil war collections and to loan them to our museum in Newark?

I know for a fact that the Secretary of State thoroughly enjoyed his visit to the new National Civil War centre, which was awarded a grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund of £3.5 million in 2012, and we look forward to its opening next year. I am certainly happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss what we can do to encourage loans of civil war objects from national museums, but it is important for the House to remember that national museums are of course independent and do not simply do what the Government tell them.

Broadband: Wales

12. What assessment he has made of the success of the broadband roll-out programme in Wales and that programme’s effect on the tourism industry in Wales. (904628)

Independent research estimates that the Government’s investment will generate £20 for every £1 by 2024. Wales has received almost £70 million from the UK Government for the roll-out of superfast broadband. We are confident that this will benefit the Welsh tourist industry, as well as the Welsh economy more generally.

My hon. Friend will be aware that I consider his Department’s decision to allocate funding for rural broadband to the Welsh Government to be a mistake. A total of £120 million has now been allocated from taxpayer funds for the roll-out of broadband in rural Wales, yet my constituents and businesses in the tourist sector in my constituency are no nearer to getting any answers from the Welsh Government about when and where they will have roll-outs. Does my hon. Friend agree that transparency is crucial when £120 million of taxpayer funding is being spent?

It is important that roll-out is as transparent as possible—people need to know when broadband is coming to their area. More than 160,000 premises have been passed but I am sure that Opposition Members will have a word with their Labour colleagues in Wales to encourage them to be more transparent with my hon. Friend.

Tour de France

There has been a strong legacy of cycling from the London 2012 games and I am sure that the Grand Départ in Yorkshire will inspire cycling across the region and the UK as a whole.

I sincerely hope so. I know the Minister will join me in congratulating City of York council and the other local authorities involved, along with the cycling organisations, on all the preparations they have made for the race. In terms of public participation, cycling is the third most popular sport in the country. The biggest single disincentive for cyclists is the state of the roads and the danger. Will her Department set up a joint initiative with the Department for Transport to improve road safety and so get more people on their bikes and cycling?

I think that the Tour de France Grand Départ will be a tremendous success. All plans are on track, and I join the hon. Gentleman in thanking all those involved in the preparations—the teams in Yorkshire, Essex, London and Cambridge. It will be an amazing highlight for the year and one we will never forget. I am happy to have a chat with him about his suggestion. Thank you.

We are uncharacteristically ahead of schedule today, but as all the principals are present we should now proceed straight away to topical questions.

Topical Questions

Although England’s footballers and Andy Murray have sadly fallen, our sporting season is still in full swing. This weekend sees the climax of the Wimbledon championships, the grand prix at Silverstone and the Tour de France Grand Départ, as we have just heard. Politicians who wish sports stars well seem to jinx them, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish all of Mark Cavendish’s rivals the best of luck.

The additional £5 million arts funding allocated to Hull this week is very welcome, but is a drop in the ocean compared with the money that goes to some of our national institutions, such as the National Theatre, which gets £18 million a year. What pressure can the Secretary of State bring to bear on national institutions to make sure they do everything they can to support our national city of culture for 2017, bearing in mind that Hull has had a 25% cut in our council funding during this Parliament?

I know that the hon. Lady is as excited as I am that Hull is the city of culture for 2017. It won against strong competition and has done extremely well. She is right to point out the recent announcement of additional funding from the Arts Council. It also announced that Hull will become a major partner museum, which is a significant step forward. The Hull initiative for 2017 and beyond will boost the local economy and jobs, which I am sure she will welcome. I am happy to look into what more can be done to help.

T2. Given BT’s virtual monopoly in contracts for superfast broadband and the problems with that company that have been raised by hon. Members today and previously, is it not about time that the Government held an inquiry into its performance, or would that be better done by the competition authorities? (904604)

The National Audit Office conducted an inquiry. I am confident that BT is doing its job incredibly effectively. We are passing a total of 20,000 premises a week with broadband, and that figure will soon be up to 40,000 a week. More than £60 million has been allocated to Lancashire and more than 130,000 homes there will get superfast broadband as a result.

The evidence before the Leveson inquiry laid bare the pain and suffering caused to victims of press abuse. The press felt they could act with impunity as there was no proper complaints system, and all parties in both Houses agreed to a new system of independent self-regulation for the press. Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the appointment of David Wolfe as chair of the recognition board for the new press complaints system? Does he agree that the rest of the board should be appointed as soon as possible, and will he join me in encouraging the press to establish and put forward for recognition a Leveson-compliant, independent regulator so that there is an effective complaints system that is independent of both politicians and the press?

As the right hon. and learned Lady points out, there was rightly a cross-party approach on this important issue. The key to that consensus was that whatever transpired needed to be independent of Government and that there needed to be a self-regulatory body. I will not comment on anyone who is appointed to the recognition panel, because I do not believe that that is a job for Government. It is an independent process and the Government, including my Department, have no role in it. It would therefore not be proper for me to talk about any individual.

As for whether a body should apply for recognition, it is up to the body to decide whether the incentives that we have put in place are enough to encourage it to join. The Government have done what they set out to do.

T3. Last week, I organised a music skills day at Glossopdale community college in my constituency in conjunction with UK Music, at which more than 100 students from across High Peak learned about the different skills in the industry. The Secretary of State will know that the creative industries are a big economic force in this country and earn about £70 billion each year for the economy. The music skills event gave young people information about the opportunities to work in that sector. Will he say what else is being done to provide even more support to the creative industries across the country? (904605)

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I join him in welcoming the work of UK Music in promoting careers in that industry to young people. Just this week, a report showed that the creative industries have added more than £70 billion to the economy over the past year and that they employ more than 1.7 million people. Employment is growing five times faster in that sector than in the rest of the economy. Just yesterday, I helped to launch the industry-led creative industries strategy, which is full of more good ideas.

T4. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the excellent Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums and other arts organisations based in Newcastle upon Tyne on their successful Arts Council bids? In doing so, will he acknowledge that there is still a problem with the disproportionate amount of private sector arts funding—the figure is 82%—that is drawn into the capital and not to the regions of England, and consider the remedy that is set out in “Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital”? If he has not read that report, I commend it to him. (904606)

I am very happy to join the right hon. Gentleman in congratulating Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums—it is a fantastic place that I have visited on at least one occasion. I am pleased that following the Arts Council settlement the balance between London and the regions has shifted in favour of the regions. As he knows, I believe that every arts organisation around the country is capable of raising private funding and should be doing so.

T5. I thank the Minister for the assistance that he and Ofcom have given the community radio station in my constituency, MKFM, in its bid for a permanent FM licence. Will he assure me that he will continue to do all he can to assist such community radio stations to expand the vital service they provide to local communities? (904607)

My hon. Friend has made an excellent case for MKFM—his excellent local community radio station. I am very pleased that the independent regulator, Ofcom, listened and included MKFM on its timetable for early consideration for an FM licence.

T6. Ministers will know that cyber-bullying is a growing problem, particularly among teenagers, but the offences fall, confusingly, between five different Acts. Is it not time for Ministers to talk to their colleagues in other Departments to bring about a specific offence of cyber-bullying that mirrors the offence of harassment in the real world? (904608)

I hear what the hon. Gentleman says. I work closely with the Minister for Policing, Criminal Justice and Victims and the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for Crewe and Nantwich (Mr Timpson), on the UK Council for Child Internet Safety. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman’s representations have been heard and they will be considered in the usual way.

T9. Will the libraries Minister join me in congratulating Northamptonshire county council’s library and information service on being named the best council services team at this year’s Municipal Journal awards? Whereas other local authorities are closing libraries and cutting opening times, the Conservative council in Northamptonshire is extending opening to seven days a week and extending the range of services on offer, and has recruited more than 600 library volunteers. (904611)

Libraries are funded and run by local authorities, and it does not surprise me that an excellent Conservative local authority is investing in its libraries.

T7. I congratulate the Minister for creative industries on his outstanding work in encouraging international film makers, especially from Bollywood, to come and make their films in the United Kingdom. Does he agree that it is important that that helps with jobs, growth and the diversity of UK film making? (904609)

I am very pleased to have that question from the right hon. Gentleman. Although we obviously welcome investment from the west coast of America, particularly yesterday’s announcement by Warner Bros. that it will be filming J. K. Rowling’s “Fantastic Beasts”, it is important to remember that Bollywood is bigger than Hollywood, and we need also to encourage Indian film makers to make films in this country with our excellent crew and casts.

T10. To reinforce points already made this morning, what assurance can the Minister give my constituents in Stroud valleys and vale that they will have access to broadband so that their businesses and lifestyles can thrive? (904612)

We are putting more than £1 billion into broadband roll-out. We continue to invest to take it to 95%. I will happily work with any Member to ensure that the broadband rural programme goes smoothly in their constituency.

T8. The theme of much of this morning’s exchanges has been broadband and mobile coverage. Will the Minister meet me and other interested rural and island Members of Parliament to discuss how proper 4G coverage on a Swedish or Finnish model may help the aims of comprehensive mobile and fast broadband coverage in the years to come? (904610)

Broadband is going extremely well in the UK, mainly because we are better together. We are working with Scotland and Wales to roll out broadband and 4G coverage. The hon. Gentleman should not be so modest: we have outstripped a lot of the Scandinavian countries. We have just laid 400 km of undersea cable to the highlands and islands. That could not have been done without the UK Government working with the devolved Government to bring broadband to our rural areas. We are better together.

Tourism is a major economic generator in Colchester. Does the Minister agree that the best way to support tourism is by reducing VAT on tourism to 5%? Will he have a chat with the Chancellor, please?

As my hon. Friend knows, VAT is a matter for the Chancellor. We keep all taxes under review, but there is no plan to reduce tax for the tourism sector.

Sarah Hunter from North Tyneside is part of the England women’s rugby squad. Despite what the Minister said earlier, will he join me in wishing Sarah and the team the best of luck as they head off to the women’s rugby world cup in Paris this summer?

I enjoyed visiting that wonderful rainbow festival, London Pride, over the weekend in our capital. It has become a magnet for hundreds of thousands of tourists, who enjoy the rich diversity of the United Kingdom.

With the ability to convert civil partnerships into marriage later this year, does the Secretary of State believe that there is even more to celebrate in pride festivals throughout the UK in the coming months and years?

My hon. Friend makes a good point, and I agree with him. He may be interested to know that the Government will today lay the draft regulations for converting civil partnerships to marriage. The Government previously said that the cost of conversion would be calculated on a cost recovery basis, and that is correct. We had indicated about £100, but I am happy to say that, in almost all cases, the cost will be £45. It would be unfair to charge couples who were in civil partnerships before same sex marriage was available, so I am pleased to announce that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has agreed to waive the conversion fee for one year from 10 December.

Tourism is important to my constituency of Strangford. It definitely brings jobs and opportunities, as promoted by the Northern Ireland Tourist Board. Will the Minister consider joint tourism promotions with the Northern Ireland Tourist Board so that we can benefit from tourism throughout the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland?

I will consider all good ideas and sensible suggestions to promote tourism in this country, and I am happy to have a chat with the hon. Gentleman. As he knows, VisitBritain and VisitEngland do a good job in promoting the regions and the nations.

Will the Minister join me in welcoming two pieces of excellent nautical news for Portsmouth harbour? Not only will it play host to Sir Ben Ainslie’s new America’s cup sailing team hub, but today it welcomes Oceans of Hope—the first yacht to complete a global circumnavigation with a working crew with multiple sclerosis, including my Gosport constituent Phil Gowers.

Of course I congratulate them, and I think the Oceans of Hope project is fantastic. The crew are a real inspiration and deserve our warmest congratulations.

The Minister will no doubt be aware that Northern Stage’s excellent adaptation of Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22” closed at the weekend at Richmond, following a successful nationwide run. What is the Minister doing to ensure that regions outside the north-east benefit from the excellent cultural talent that we produce?

The latest round of Arts Council funding has pushed more money out to the regions, and I am particularly pleased about the new £15 million fund it has set up specifically to support talent outside London, and to keep people outside London working in our regional theatres and doing innovative work.

Earlier this week I visited GamCare at its headquarters in Clapham to see the wonderful work it does helping people with problem gambling. May I urge the Secretary of State and the Minister to go themselves to listen to the counsellors, as I did, and to get their perspective on what we can best do to help people who sadly develop a gambling addiction?

My hon. Friend makes a good point. GamCare has been to see me, and I am happy to arrange a visit in the coming months.

I forgot to welcome the Secretary of State, so I do so warmly and ask whether he will support our all-party effort to get at least 150 MPs to read a poem of the countryside, and raise funds to get kids from poorer parts of our country out to the countryside this year?

I certainly will; that is an excellent initiative. Since A. E. Housman came from my constituency, that would be a good start.

There is concern that the Government’s approach to allocating funding for the superfast broadband extension programme will leave most rural areas at a disadvantage. What help and assurances will the Minister give to constituents in the villages of Rumburgh, St James and Ringsfield that they will not be penalised?

The principle behind the programme is that we allocate funding in order to get to 95% coverage. We expect local authorities to match that, and we will then work with them to target the areas where it is needed most. I am happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss the best way forward.

Women and Equalities

The Ministers for Women and Equalities were asked—

Rights of Women and Girls

1. What recent discussions she has had with her counterparts overseas on protecting the rights of women and girls internationally. (904633)

The Government are committed to the protection and promotion of women’s rights in the UK and internationally. I met many of my overseas counterparts at the global summit to end sexual violence in conflict last month, which brought together 128 country delegations, UN agencies and civil society. We discussed how best to achieve that aim, including providing opportunities for international collaboration and the exchange of best practices.

I thank the Minister for that answer. What can the Government do to help prevent distressing cases such as that of Mariam Ibrahim which arose simply because she was a Christian?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising this case, and pleased that Mariam Ibrahim and her family have now been released. They are currently staying at the US embassy in Khartoum. The British embassy in Khartoum continues to follow the case closely and is in close contact with the defence team. We continue to raise our concerns about this case and the broader human rights situation in Sudan with the Sudanese authorities, including with a recent delegation of Sudanese female MPs whom I met. We will continue to work bilaterally and in international forums such as the UN to tackle violence and all forms of discrimination against women.

Ministers are right to draw attention to the appalling sexual violence faced by women and girls in conflict, but we also have responsibilities when women seek sanctuary in the UK. Will the Minister set out what action is being taken following the serious allegations and concerns about operations at Yarl’s Wood detention centre?

The hon. Lady is right, and it is important and extremely welcome that the Government set up last month’s global summit. Those who seek asylum in the UK need to be offered protection, and the Government are committed to making our asylum system more gender sensitive. We have made significant progress, including putting in place new enhanced guidance supported by high-quality training for all decision makers. Women who seek asylum can request a female interviewing officer and interpreter. They can also bring a friend with them to interviews to provide emotional support if needed.

In last night’s Adjournment debate, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown) talked about the case of the abducted girls in Nigeria. He made the point that the problem is not that those girls were abducted, or that others have been abducted since, but that many are at risk and are no longer going to school. Will the Minister look at that speech and prepare a written statement on behalf of her Department to respond to the points my right hon. Friend made?

I certainly will look at that speech—I am afraid I did not have a chance to read it in full before this morning’s Question Time. The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right that one of the tragedies of the situation that has evolved in Nigeria is that the girls who were abducted were doing exactly the right thing—they were in school and taking exams. We absolutely do not want to put girls around the world off their education. The UK remains committed to helping to find the schoolgirls. I shall look at the speech and think about how best to respond.

Gender Pay Gap

Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. It is good to be back. May I place on the record my thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff Central (Jenny Willott) for the fantastic job she did in covering my maternity leave?

The full-time pay gap has now been almost eliminated for women under the age of 40, but we must close the gap across all ages and for part-time workers. We are promoting transparency through the “Think, Act, Report” initiative. As the pay gap is partly driven by the different sectors and jobs in which men and women work, we are encouraging girls and young women to consider a wider range of careers through the “Your Life” initiative.

I, too, welcome the Minister back to her place. The Equal Pay Act 1970 dates back some 44 years, so why does the Minister think that last year the difference between earnings for men and women went up and not down, and why have women in their 20s seen the gender pay gap double since her Government came to power?

The 0.1% increase in the pay gap in the past year is certainly not a sign of things going in the right direction, although it was a very small increase. The hon. Lady is absolutely right to highlight the fact that 40 years after equal pay legislation, it is not good enough that we still have a pay gap in this country. We need to look at the causes of that pay gap, which might include time out of the workplace. The new flexible working entitlements regime that came in this week will help to change the culture of our workplace. As I mentioned, we need to look at occupational segregation. We also need to look at discrimination and outdated attitudes when women are not being paid the same for the same work. We need to change that, which is why we are working with businesses.

What more can be done to get women to consider a wider range of careers, particularly in science and engineering?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this issue. Only 7% of engineers are women. That difference in the sectors is a significant driver of the pay gap. The problems start very early in children’s lives, so we need to look at the messages that are being put out through the education system but also more widely in the media regarding stereotypes and what young girls are encouraged to aspire to. We are encouraging parents and schools to have the information they need to assist their children.

I, too, welcome the Minister back.

Progress on narrowing the pay gap has all but come to a standstill. Progress was much quicker under Labour, so will the Minister admit that narrowing the gap by 0.1% in four years is just not good enough?

I certainly agree that we need to ensure that we close the pay gap. This is an important issue. It is ideal if we can work with employers to do so. The “Think, Act, Report” initiative means that 200 employers covering 2 million employees in the work force are working to improve the situation for women. They have already made significant steps forward since joining up and since that initiative started in 2011. Two thirds of those employers say that they now publish more information on gender pay. Nearly half of them now do pay audits. That would not have happened without this Government’s initiative, but we have said that we will keep the issue under review, because we need success.

Global Economy

3. What discussions she has had with her counterparts overseas on the contribution of women and girls to the global economy. (904636)

In June I met many of my overseas counterparts at a global ministerial round table at the global summit of women held in Paris. This event brought together business, professional and governmental leaders to explore strategies and best practices in accelerating women’s economic progress worldwide. The most important task for the UK Government, as for the rest of the global community, is to build a stronger, fairer economy capable of delivering lasting prosperity. Women and girls are essential to the UK’s economic growth.

I thank my right hon. Friend for that comprehensive reply. What issues were identified in those recent discussions?

What was really interesting about going to the international summit—it was the same when I went to the Commonwealth summit in Bangladesh last year—was just how many of the same issues we share around the world in terms of enabling women to play their full part in economies. We talked about gender equality, parental leave, returners to work, supporting older workers, women’s access to finance and the importance of coaching, mentoring and role models in encouraging women to set up their own businesses.

Last week we had national women in engineering day. As the Minister says, only 7% of professional engineers in this country are women. What she did not say is that that is the lowest figure in Europe. In eastern European countries, the figure is 30% and countries such as China and India are far ahead of us. In her conversations, will she see what we can learn from other countries that are more successful?

When I speak to counterparts overseas, I always engage with the lessons Britain can share and what we can learn from other countries. I am proud to represent Loughborough university, which has, I am told, the highest number of female engineers in the country. I understand that last night the hon. Lady was at the Royal Academy of Engineering awards, where more than one half the rising stars awards went to female engineers. There is, however, more progress to be made.

We want young girls to achieve and to travel the world. Many young girls want to get into business and to travel. If they do not have science and maths as a basis for getting into business and getting good careers, they will not succeed.

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. I assume that he supports the EBacc and that he welcomes the work of the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend the Member for South West Norfolk (Elizabeth Truss), who I think has done more than anyone else in recent years to triumph and to talk about the importance of all students, particularly girls, studying science and maths. [Interruption.] I am glad to hear the hon. Gentleman was there supporting her, too.

Female Entrepreneurs

The Government offer a wide range of support to women entrepreneurs—for example, the new enterprise allowance, mentoring, business advice and start-up loans. I also recently announced a £1 million challenge fund specifically to support women to move their businesses online and take advantage of superfast broadband. We know these measures are making a difference, with more women running their own businesses than ever before.

Which particular areas have the Government identified where we can celebrate the success of women entrepreneurs?

There are many different areas, but let me just pick one. The latest statistics from the Federation of Small Businesses show a dramatic increase in the number of women starting up businesses in the retail sector, and high streets across the country are seeing the benefit. Half of all small businesses established in retail in the past two years are primarily owned by women. That is in stark contrast with 20 years ago, when it was less than a quarter. That demonstrates the fundamental role that women are playing in helping the country to recover from recession. I hope that Members on all sides of the House will encourage retail businesses on their high streets to apply for the Future High Streets Forum’s Great British high streets awards.

Nobody doubts the Minister’s commitment to equality, but why are there so few black and Asian women sitting on the boards of our companies?

It is a very good question. There is no doubt that more progress is needed. Earlier this week I was at an event for the 30% Club, which has been campaigning for a voluntary business-led approach, started by Lord Davies, to get more women in particular on the boards of companies. Part of that is about working with executive search companies and asking the chairmen of companies to think differently about appointments. Often the traditional and expected route of a CV is not something that women or others, particularly from black and minority ethnic communities, can put forward. We need to broaden the way in which chairmen of boards, and the boards themselves, appoint new directors.

6. The rise and rise of women in business is boosting growth and opportunity across the country. We have an inspiring role model in Gloucester, in the first female editor of the Gloucester Citizen in its 138-year history, Jenny Eastwood. The chair of the Gloucestershire local enterprise partnership, Diane Savory, is one of only three female chairs of the 39 LEPS. Will my right hon. Friend join me in recognising their achievements, and in encouraging both Jenny and Diane to do even more to promote new female “Gloucesterpreneurs” like Sarah Churchill of the award-winning Artisan Kitchen? (904640)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on coining the new word “Gloucesterpreneurs”, and I hope that he will campaign vigorously under that slogan over the next few months. I am happy to join him in congratulating Gloucestershire Media on its Women in Business awards. Through the work of the Minister for Cities—my right hon. Friend the Member for Tunbridge Wells (Greg Clark)—and the Deputy Prime Minister, the Government are focusing on regional growth, city deals and the power of local enterprise partnerships, and on encouraging growth outside London. That is why I am particularly pleased to hear about the new female entrepreneurs in Gloucester who have set up businesses during the past few years.

Participation in Sport

5. What recent steps the Government have taken to encourage access for, and participation by, under-represented groups in (a) grass-roots and (b) professional sports. (904638)

Sport England and UK Sport are committed to achieving equality in grass-roots and elite sport. They invest in a range of expert bodies to work with sport to remove barriers to participation among under-represented groups.

Does my hon. Friend agree that we might achieve even more success in international sporting competitions if our sporting authorities had deeper contacts among ethnic minorities, and were able to use their expertise in what we might consider to be minority sports, but what in their countries of origin are majority sports?

My hon. Friend has made an interesting point. UK Sport and national governing bodies capitalise on a wealth of diverse global expertise in order to get athletes on to the podium. Sport England also invests in organisations such as Sporting Equals to promote physical activity and diversity in all sport.

I know that I speak for a certain proportion of people in this country who were dreadful at sport at school and never improved thereafter. What will the Minister do to encourage people who have never had a positive experience of sport to take our necessary exercise by that means?

The hon. Lady has made a very interesting point. I would say that there is a sport out there for absolutely everyone. We need to listen to what people want, and give it to them.

Marriage Certificates

7. What steps she is taking to ensure that mothers' names are included on marriage certificates; and if she will make a statement. (904641)

The content of marriage registers has not changed since civil marriage was introduced in 1837, so it is about time we took a further look. I have discussed this matter with my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, and we are currently considering a range of options.

The Minister has referred to a range of options. Given that Labour changed the law in respect of same-sex couples and adoption back in 2002, what consideration has he given to ensuring that any changes that may be made to marriage certificates reflect the fact that many individuals now have legal parents of the same sex?

I agree with the hon. Gentleman, who has raised a very important point. When the rules were drawn up in 1837, equality was not a priority for our society. Today, thankfully, it is, so those are just the kind of changes that we are considering.

Can the Minister tell us how much it would cost to bring marriage certificates into the 21st century? If he cannot, why are his colleagues in the Home Office team saying that it would be too expensive? What price do he and the Government place on equality?

If the hon. Lady had been listening carefully, she would have already heard the answer to that question; I talked about civil partnerships earlier. We have rightly said that when people are converting civil partnerships into marriage, having entered into those partnerships before same-sex marriage was available, we will waive the fee. I think that that demonstrates the Government’s priorities.