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Topical Questions

Volume 588: debated on Thursday 27 November 2014

May I begin by saying how saddened I was to learn this morning that the young Australian cricketer Phil Hughes has died. I am sure that I speak on behalf of the whole House in saying that our thoughts are with his team mates, his friends and his family.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Lewis Hamilton on his second Formula 1 world title, to applaud the record crowd that supported England’s women at Wembley this Sunday and to wish a happy 20th birthday to the national lottery.

Today is Lancashire day, when we celebrate all that is great about the red rose county. Will my right hon. Friend join me in celebrating Lancashire, and encourage people to come and visit our tourist attractions such as East Lancashire railway, Healey Dell and Turton Tower, as well as the other tourism jewels in the red rose county?

I will wholeheartedly join my hon. Friend, not least because I was born in Lancashire and it is my home county, so I know more than most, perhaps, about everything that Lancashire has to offer by way of attractions, sites and heritage. Lancashire day is a fantastic day to showcase that.

T2. The Secretary of State knows a lot about social investment tax relief. I worked happily with him on many aspects of crowdfunding, and he knows that crowdfunding provides an amazing opportunity for people to get together to start cultural and artistic events and raise the money for that. Will he have a quiet word with his old boss, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, about increasing the cap on social investment tax relief before the autumn statement? (906300)

The hon. Gentleman will have to wait to see what is in the autumn statement, but he raises an important point. I remember the discussions we had about crowdfunding, and he is right about the importance that it has for businesses and for cultural activities. I have discussed that on many occasions with colleagues.

T4. My right hon. Friend will be aware that the town of Rugby is the birthplace of the great game in which England’s men were world cup winners in 2003 and they were awarded the freedom of the borough of Rugby. Will he join me in congratulating England’s women rugby players on winning their world cup earlier this year and on their award of the freedom of the borough of Rugby, which will be made at a ceremony in Rugby next month? (906303)

It is fantastic that the women’s team is visiting Rugby on 10 December. I am very pleased that they are being rightly recognised in the same way as the men were when they won the world cup in 2003. The support that our women’s team has been receiving is brilliant.

T3. I thank the Sports Minister for her diligent work in securing the funding for our GB basketball teams from Sport England, which means that our women’s team can go off to take part in the EuroBasket tournament next year. Does the hon. Lady agree that supporting elite team sports should be the role of UK Sport? Does she therefore share my hope that the consultation currently under way on the future of UK Sport will result on it focusing on delivering social value and support for team sports, as well as medals? (906301)

Sport England and UK Sport together do a very good job in supporting not only elite sport, but grass-roots sport.

T5. As a cricketer, I echo the sympathies for the wonderful Phil Hughes, whose loss is tragic. I welcome the announcement that Ponteland middle school will have a new artificial grass football pitch funded by the Premier League, the Football Association and Sport England. May I urge the DCMS to carry out an audit of all my constituency so that other pitches may be installed very soon? (906305)

I am delighted that Ponteland community middle school has been successful in its application. Artificial pitches are amazing and increase participation, community involvement and talent development, which is how we will grow the game. I am happy to look, with my hon. Friend, at what scope there might be for further projects.

T6. Given reports that alcohol advertising in Formula 1 might go the same way as tobacco advertising, and given that this is an area where there has been some concern in the past, can the Minister give an assurance that any discussions that are entered into with Formula 1 teams will be open and accountable, and will seek to preserve our great British motorsport industry as well? (906306)

The great British motorsport industry is an incredible industry and we must look after it. I am happy to have a chat with the hon. Gentleman about the issues that he raises.

Does the Secretary of State agree with the hon. Member for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen) who said last week that £2.80 or so a week for the BBC

“is tremendous value, but only if you watch it.”

Given that over 96% of people access the BBC every week, does that not show what good value the licence fee is?

Like my hon. Friend, I am very proud of the BBC. It is well respected not just at home, but abroad, and rightly so. However, we have to recognise that there have been serious changes in technology over the past decade, and when the charter review takes place, all issues should be looked at, including those raised by colleagues.

T7. On the 20th anniversary of the national lottery, it is a fact that twice as many households in the north-east play the lottery, compared with London, but the region receives only half the grants that London gets. Does the Minister think that is fair? (906307)

I do not think that is correct. It seems that over the past 10 years 80% of lottery grants were for outside London.

May I add my condolences to those already expressed on the death of Phil Hughes? I declare an interest, as my brother is Sky television’s cricket correspondent.

I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for meeting me and a delegation from Plymouth earlier this month to talk about Mayflower 2020, the anniversary of the founding of the American colonies. Does he agree that Mayflower 2020 could contribute similar levels of growth in Devon and Cornwall to those we have seen from the “Gathering” in Northern Ireland and Ireland?

I was pleased to meet my hon. Friend and representatives from his constituency to discuss that important point in history, which I think it is right to mark. Another good reason to look at it is that it could do a lot for the local economy.

Five years ago the previous Labour Government made a commitment on universal broadband access for everyone. The Minister might talk superfast, but the fact is that up and down the country people and businesses are waiting to get decent broadband so that they can carry on their business and that essential part of their lives that is now lived online. What is he going to do about it?

Five years ago the previous Labour Government made an unfunded commitment to deliver 2 megabits broadband. There was no way in which they would be able to see that through. We have doubled the availability of superfast broadband and provided 2 megabits to 97% of the country. One in four now have superfast broadband. We have the best broadband in the EU big five, and the cheapest.

What discussions has the hon. Lady had with her colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government to ensure that in growing towns such as Chippenham development brings more sports pitches and pavilions, not fewer?

Our £1 billion youth and community strategy helps to ensure that lots more people engage in and enjoy sport. Sport England has also recently invested £70 million in improving facilities.

The Newcastle United supporters trust fully supports Labour’s football governance strategy, which will mean that for the first time supporters will be guaranteed a place on the board. Will the Minister join me in congratulating the trust on developing a credit union in the best interests of the supporters and people in the north-east?

I am very happy to congratulate the hon. Gentleman. I know that supporters always have the best interests of their club at heart, and I think that it is very important that their voice is always heard.

It is clear from the number of complaints I have received that the Telephone Preference Service is simply not working. I urge the Secretary of State to take whatever action is needed to stop nuisance telephone calls.

Ofcom ran an inquiry into the Telephone Preference Service, which showed that being a member does significantly reduce the number of nuisance calls received. As my hon. Friend must be aware, we have consulted extensively and changed the law in order to reduce the impact of nuisance calls.

We have heard about the success of our tourism section, but the business tourism sector is sometimes overlooked. The conference market is very international and huge in scale. It plays a significant role in my constituency, with the Harrogate International Centre driving much of our local economy. I ask the Minister to focus on that, alongside all her other work to promote our tourism sector.

I am happy to focus on that and to do everything I possibly can to support our wonderful tourism sector.