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Oral Answers to Questions

Volume 593: debated on Thursday 26 February 2015

Culture, Media and Sport

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

Grass-roots Sport

The Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone and The Weald (Mrs Grant), who is responsible for sport, and I have regular discussions with the Premier League and the Football Association. Together we work in partnership to ensure that funding for grass-roots football remains strong.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, but does he recognise that there is a growing crisis in grass-roots football, in terms of facilities, pitch quality and fees, which local authorities have often been increasing because of local government cuts? Will he back Labour’s call for the Premier League to use some of its new windfall to meet its 5% commitment to fund grass-roots football?

I join the hon. Gentleman in his suggestion that there should be more investment in grass-roots football, and he will know that the Government allocated more money in the last autumn statement. Together with the Premier League and Football Association money, that is £100 million of new money going into grass-roots football over the next three years. On his point about the Premier League, I should say, first, that the Premier League already does a lot—I welcome that and we should all commend it. However, with the recent increase in its finances, we can all expect it to do more.

Moving the FIFA World cup in 2022 to the winter could have significant financial consequences for the Premier League and for all levels of football in England and Europe. Will the Secretary of State be raising this issue with FIFA? Will he be discussing it with other European Sports Ministers?

A few years ago when it was first announced that the 2022 World cup would be held in Qatar, my son Suli, who was 10 at the time, said to me, “How are they going to hold this competition in such blazing heat?” If my 10-year-old son knew that, I do not know why Sepp did not. We take a close interest in this, but ultimately the decision has to be made by the relevant football authorities.

Previous TV deals with the Premier League have not resulted in comparable increases in funding for the grass roots and football family. Does the Secretary of State accept that the only way of guaranteeing future funding is for this Parliament to legislate to ensure that 5% of Premier League revenue goes to the grass-roots and football family?

I do not accept that there is a need for legislation. What there is a need for is a continued and active dialogue between Government and the Premier League to make sure that its investment in grass-roots football continues. As I said, given the recent news that the Premier League had of a windfall, we should encourage it to do more.

Film Festivals

Film festivals make a valuable contribution to promoting the film economy and enhancing the cultural life of the UK. In addition to running two festivals of its own, the BFI, as the Government’s lead agency for film, provides £1 million of lottery funding each year to support film festivals right across the UK.

I thank the Secretary of State for that reply. I am sure he will be aware that one festival the BFI helps to fund is the Glasgow film festival, the UK’s third largest and best festival, which is under way in Glasgow and is finishing on Sunday with the UK premier of “Force Majeure”. He has talked about the BFI funding, but given that the BFI’s grant in aid budget will be 10% lower next year than it was last year, what is he going to do to ensure that film festivals such as Glasgow’s continue to get that vital support?

Like the hon. Gentleman, I am delighted about the Glasgow film festival, which I believe is in its 10th year and which is going from strength to strength. He will know that it has received funding: it has been awarded £25,000 by the BFI this year, which is a good result. As well as the grant in aid funding, the BFI has access to lottery funding, which it is using wisely. That is partly reflected in the success of British film: just last year we had a record year of investment in British film and of success, and I am sure that he would join me in welcoming that.

Of course a Shropshire film festival would be very welcome indeed. Is the Secretary of State aware of a recent decision by Gapictures, which was due to film “Dracula” on location in Shropshire, to switch to another European country? Given that Shropshire has been home to many famous films, including, more recently “Atonement”, will the Secretary of State look at new ways in which the United Kingdom can keep those production companies that want to film in locations such as Shropshire, rather than have them switch to other European countries?

If my hon. Friend had auditioned, a different decision might have been made!

There has been an increase in the number of films made in the regions of the UK. “Dracula Untold” was recently made in Northern Ireland. We have had “Outlander” in Scotland, “Testament of Youth” in Yorkshire and “Far from the Madding Crowd”, which is set in Dorset, to name but a few, so there has been great success in regional films. What my hon. Friend says about Shropshire is quite right. There are some fantastic locations and there is some fantastic talent in Shropshire, and I think the film industry should be listening.

In a week when we have seen British success at the Oscars and London Fashion Week, and last night at the Brits, no one should be in any doubt about the importance of our film, fashion and music industries and all our creative industries. The basis of future jobs and investment in those creative industries depends on the protection of intellectual property. Will the Secretary of State ensure that, in consideration of the European digital single market, he will be absolutely vigilant to protect our creative industries, including small and medium-sized enterprises, and ensure that he rethinks the paper that the Prime Minister sent to Juncker, which would allow for changes that would pose a real threat to many independent projects? Will he insist that there is time for proper consultation before its implementation?

The right hon. Lady is right about the importance of intellectual property to our creative industries. One of the reasons why we have been successful in this area for many years is that as a Government we have taken the right approach. It is right that the EU looks at the issue. It will be a good thing in principle for the creative industries throughout Europe to have a better single digital market, but we must take a well-balanced approach. The paper that the right hon. Lady refers to was a discussion paper. The Government have not decided on their final policy or approach, and there should be more consultation.

Superfast Broadband

3. For what proportion of parliamentary constituencies the 95% target for the roll-out of superfast broadband will be reached by 2017. (907741)

Ninety-five per cent. of the UK will have access to superfast broadband by 2017. I have placed our estimate of coverage by constituency in the House of Commons Library.

I can tell the Secretary of State that thousands of people in my constituency, one of the most urban in Scotland, have no guarantee of getting superfast broadband by 2017 or any date after that. I have raised this with local government, the Scottish Government and the UK Government. I do not want to ascribe blame; I want to see some action so that the residents who have contacted me again and again, such as the ones in Western Harbour, Leith who contacted me recently, will have some guarantee that they will get superfast broadband in their houses.

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the importance of superfast broadband both to residents and to businesses. Considerable progress has been made in his constituency in the past five years. Today, 87% of homes and businesses there have access to superfast broadband. That will rise to 98% by 2017, and that is better than the national target of 95% by that time. However, I hear what he says, and he is right to mention the importance of the issue.

The villages of Affetside and Holcombe in my constituency will not be covered by the roll-out of superfast broadband in phases 1 or 2, so when villagers ask me when they will be covered, what should I tell them?

My hon. Friend raises a very important point. He should tell those villagers that the Government have an active programme to reach the most remote areas with superfast broadband. He will be interested to know that in the middle of last year we undertook a pilot, with seven projects using mostly wireless and other types of hybrid technology. We are now having a good look at the results of that pilot, and I shall be able to make a further announcement shortly.

Businesses in my constituency, from farmers in Carrington to multi-million pound exporters on Trafford Park, complain that they are still waiting for superfast broadband. They are paying 10 times the price for one fifth of the speed, with a damaging effect on their business. These are not remote rural areas; they are a stone’s throw from Manchester city centre. Can the Secretary of State explain why they are waiting so long for the basic support that their businesses need?

There has been a significant improvement in superfast broadband access over the past five years. Coverage throughout the UK has doubled from 40% to 80%. We have the best coverage among large EU nations and the highest average speeds, as well as the lowest average prices in Europe, but we can still do better. In urban areas, it is difficult, if not sometimes impossible, for the Government to provide a subsidy, as they do in non-commercial areas, but I am looking actively at what more we can do in urban areas.

The experience of my constituents this winter is that it is too easy for BT to declare MBORC—matters beyond our reasonable control—and then to take months to repair faults, or not turn up for appointments. Will the Secretary of State examine BT’s licensing conditions with a view to tightening up the rules so that it cannot just use the MBORC cop-out?

This important issue has been raised several times, and Ofcom frequently looks at the role of organisations such as BT to ensure that the market is as competitive as possible. However, I will take a closer look at the situation in my hon. Friend’s area.

14. I have been working with the Altrincham and Sale chamber of commerce, which tells me that it is vital that businesses club together to ensure that communication nodes go to more remote parts, even in urban areas. Does the Secretary of State agree that it is vital that businesses co-operate to ensure that they can get the broadband they need? (907755)

I do agree with the hon. Gentleman. He will know that we offer vouchers for businesses in more than 22 cities under the superconnected cities programme, of which more than 10,000 companies have taken advantage. Many of the companies have clubbed together and I encourage others to do so.

Villages in the borough of Kettering on the Northamptonshire-Leicestershire border—right in the middle of England—will be among the last to get broadband, at the end of 2017, yet innovative cross-border thinking involving BT exchanges on the other side of the county boundary might bring about a quicker solution. Will the Secretary of State encourage such an innovative approach?

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend, who has taken a strong interest in this matter. I have heard him speak in the House on behalf of his constituents on a number of occasions, and once again he comes up with an excellent idea, which we shall follow up.

The Government’s own figures show that Somerset’s rate of access to superfast broadband is only 41%, which hardly meets the needs of rural businesses and residents. Connecting Devon and Somerset allows bids from other suppliers in the Dartmoor and Exmoor national parks, but I understand that, because of the reason of screening of information, only BT, as a monopoly supplier, will be able to bid for the second phase. I have written to the Competition and Markets Authority; will the Secretary of State do the same and investigate exactly what has happened?

As my hon. Friend raises a specific issue, I will have to take a closer look at it. I am glad that she has written to the Competition and Markets Authority, but if this is a competition issue, it should be dealt with by the independent regulator. However, if there is more that she thinks I can do, I shall take a closer look.


The tourism industry was worth an estimated £127 billion, gross value added, to the UK economy in 2013. Some £56 billion of that is direct contribution. Tourism supports 3.1 million jobs in the UK.

The economy of Staffordshire and Tamworth has a growing leisure and tourism component, but that is putting an increasing strain on our transport infrastructure. Will my hon. Friend encourage the Department for Transport and Staffordshire county council to invest in local roads so that they will be fit for our leisure economy?

Last December, as my hon. Friend knows, the Government announced £1.4 billion for road investment in the midlands, creating about 900 new construction jobs for the area. That will help to support the leisure industry in the whole of the region, including Tamworth.

Tourism makes an important contribution to the north-east’s economy, but north-east tourism attractions and projects are missing out on European funding. Will the Minister intervene to support job creation and growth in the region?

There are considerable efforts to ensure job creation and growth in the area. The north-east is a fabulous area for tourism. Our local growth fund, the regional growth fund, the coastal communities fund and the rural development programme, which effectively involves European money, are pockets of funding that could certainly benefit the hon. Lady’s constituency.

Does the Minister agree that food tourism is now vitally important to the British economy? Will she send her congratulations to Craig Bancroft and Nigel Haworth of Northcote hotel, who for 15 years have successfully run a food festival called Obsession, which runs for 15 days with five courses with matching wines of international and national repute? If I send her the date for next year, will she put it in her diary? I may be able to get Nigel Haworth to make her his traditional Lancashire hotpot.

That sounds great. I can’t wait—I love Lancashire hotpot. Yes, please send me an invitation. Many congratulations on those food tourism efforts.

Children and the Arts

5. What steps he plans to take to ensure that children learn about or experience the creative arts. (907744)

It is wonderful to have a question from the hon. Lady. For one terrible moment I thought she might not be here, but I am so pleased to see that she has arrived in time to hear me answer that we believe strongly that children should have every opportunity to learn about and experience the arts. At the beginning of this year, we announced another £109 million for music and cultural education. That takes the amount we have invested in music and cultural education to £400 million in this Parliament.

Perhaps the Minister would like to have a conversation with his friend the Mayor of London about the state of traffic in south London this morning.

Why has the number of children who experience the creative arts, except for film, declined every year that the hon. Gentleman has been responsible for this field? Why has the number of children studying art, drama and dance—creative subjects—at GCSE fallen so radically while he has been in charge?

At the very last Department for Culture, Media and Sport questions of this Parliament, every one of which I have attended, I think the hon. Lady makes a slightly snippy point, particularly as the Taking Part survey shows that participation by children has increased for those aged between five and 10 and stayed at the very high level of 99.4% for those aged 11 to 15. There has been an 8% increase in those taking arts GCSE subjects since 2010 and participation in music, dance, art and design continues.

Order. I always enjoy the mellifluous tones of the hon. Gentleman. I have known him 25 years and they never pall, but we do want to get through the business.

The new Progress 8 measure for secondary schools will provide more space for the arts in school accountability measures. What discussions has the Minister had with colleagues in the Department for Education to ensure that there is the greatest incentive for schools to provide high-quality arts education, including through prioritisation by Ofsted?

I co-chair the cultural education group with the Minister for Schools. We are having a meeting next week. I was pleased to see that Ofsted has made it clear that under its new inspections beginning later this year, an inspection must take account of whether a school offers a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum. Music will be a clear element of that.

Does the Minister accept that whatever spin he may put on it, when the Education Secretary told pupils not to study arts subjects because it would hold them back for the rest of their lives, she and his Government were systematically undermining artistic education for all children in this country? Is he not ashamed that on his watch the number of children taking part in music in schools has fallen from 55% to 36%? Does he not realise that a strong artistic and cultural education should be the universal entitlement of every single child in this country, because it is good for them, good for the economy and good for this nation?

This week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Jennie Lee’s first White Paper on the arts, and I am pleased that 50 years later we continue to support the arts, particularly in education. The Education Secretary did not say what the hon. Gentleman claims that she said; she said that for too long people had thought that science had held back their careers. She has praised arts education and she is giving a very important speech on cultural education next week. The hon. Gentleman is invited.

Does the Minister agree that cultural education is vital for our children and that, under this Government, we have raised the status and standing of arts GCSEs and A-levels so that they are genuinely worthwhile qualifications?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That is why we have seen an increase in the number of students taking arts GCSEs, for example.


6. What steps he has taken to promote tourism and develop the tourism industry throughout England. (907745)

We have invested a total of £10 million in VisitEngland’s Holidays at Home are GREAT campaign, with the fourth campaign launching this spring. VisitEngland is also promoting and developing domestic tourism through its Growing Tourism Locally campaign.

My constituency enjoys a vibrant tourist economy that includes Royal Lytham & St Annes golf club, Lytham music festival and Ribby Hall village, to name but a few. What steps is the Minister taking to promote further tourism investment growth in the north-west?

The Government have recently announced £10 million of funding for tourism in the north of England, which is very good news for my hon. Friend’s constituency, the wider north-west and tourism across the north of England. We hope that the agreed project will commence this April.

I do not know why that question was not grouped with Questions 12 and 13—these people are sometimes a law unto themselves—but if the Members who tabled those questions wish to come in, they are welcome to do so.

12. Today the civic buildings and street lamps across Rugby are festooned with dressing for the rugby world cup, which will be held later this year, celebrating Rugby’s status as the home of the game. During the tournament, visitors will be able to visit a fan zone and see where it all started back in 1823. Does the Minister agree that people coming to this, the third largest sporting event, provides a valuable economic opportunity not only to Rugby, but to venues across the UK? (907752)

Yes, I absolutely agree. These major sporting events are absolutely fabulous for the economy and for tourism, and of course they inspire people to participate in sport.

13. May I thank my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for recently meeting a delegation from Plymouth to discuss Mayflower 400, which of course is about commemorating the founding of the American colonies and will hopefully boost our tourist economy? What support might the Department be able to give this really historic event down in Devon in 2020? (907753)

It will be a marvellous event, and I know that my hon. Friend has been fully involved in the programme, which will be fabulous for tourism. I am pleased to announce today additional funding of £35,000 for the city’s Mayflower museum, which will help to ensure a strong legacy for the celebrations. [Interruption.] We hope to be able to offer further support for the programme in due course.

The hon. Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) is chuntering from a sedentary position, to no obvious benefit or purpose, but no doubt we will be enlightened later.

What assessment has the Minister made of the much greater contribution tourism could make to the economy were VAT on tourism to be reduced, which is something that all but three countries in the EU have been able to deliver?

VAT is a matter that is constantly raised with me, but it is one for the Chancellor. He keeps all taxes under review, and I am sure that he will keep this one under review too. The hon. Gentleman might like to know that I am holding a round-table meeting on VAT with the industry in the next two weeks.

Mr Speaker, I was merely observing that the Mayflower commenced its journey to America from Harwich and merely stopped off at Plymouth en route.

I think that question was rhetorical, but if the Minister particularly wishes to respond she may.

Sports Pitches (Redevelopment)

7. If he will take steps to ensure that mitigation conditions are enforced when sports pitches are redeveloped. (907746)

It is vital that appropriate playing fields are preserved for local communities. We will always work to protect and improve their provision. Enforcement of mitigating conditions at a local level is a matter for the local authority.

The Minister is right; it is a matter for the local authority. In the case of Westinghouse sports ground in Chippenham, the problem has caused Sport England to send an impressively assertive solicitors letter to Wiltshire council suggesting grave concerns about its resolve to secure mitigation for the loss of sports facilities. Will the Minister give her support to Sport England in insisting that Wiltshire council does not allow a precious sports pitch to slip through its fingers?

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I understand from Sport England that work is planned to begin replacing the cricket pavilion at Westinghouse sports ground, and that is very good news. Sport England has been in regular contact with the developer, the council and residents, and I know that the hon. Gentleman has too. It wants sporting facilities to be maintained at the site as per the section 106 agreement, and will continue to help and provide expertise. I support the stance that Sport England is taking.

It is important that sporting facilities are available to everybody, particularly people with disabilities. I know that the Minister is working very hard on providing those facilities for disability sport. She may be aware that the England cerebral palsy football team will not be able to play at the next Paralympics because cerebral palsy football has been dropped off the agenda for Paralympic sport. Is she as concerned about that as I am?

Yes, I am very concerned. Although this is a decision for the International Paralympic Committee, I recently met the chief executive of the British Paralympic Association to discuss the issue, and disability sailing as well. We are a great footballing nation, and a great sailing nation too, and I understand the frustrations about this decision. I therefore intend to speak to the IPC president, Sir Philip Craven, in the next couple of weeks.

Creative Industries

8. What recent assessment he has made of the contribution of the creative industries in London to the UK economy. (907747)

Let me tell you, Mr Speaker, that these final DCMS questions are turning into an absolute joy. I can see your heart lifting every time I reach the Dispatch Box, and now I have done so to tell you that the creative industries make a fantastic contribution to London’s economy, employing half a million people.

My constituency is home to the west London creative industries hub, comprising hundreds of TV, IT and other creative industry businesses. To be successful, these businesses need to be connected. My hon. Friend and colleagues have done great work in delivering superfast broadband especially in rural areas, but will he consider some of the creative companies in west London that are still waiting to be superfast?

On Tuesday night I spoke to the Hounslow chamber of commerce at the headquarters of iBurbia in Chiswick. The managing director there rushed up to me to say that he had just got superfast broadband by using one of our super-connected voucher schemes. He also said to me, utterly unprompted, that he thought my hon. Friend was one of the hardest-working people he had ever met. He told the entire room, full of hundreds of business people, that fact.

Obviously London is an important creative hub in terms of its contribution to the UK economy, but other cities such as Bristol can make a real contribution too. What assessment has the Minister made of programmes like Plus Tate, in which the Tate is working with other galleries such as the Arnolfini in Bristol, that enable the London institutions to help places in other cities?

Plus Tate is a fantastic programme that belies the statistics saying that London has more money spent on the arts than the rest of the country. The money that goes to the Tate helps to support 24 contemporary art museums around the country, and the scheme is very successful. It is worth bearing that in mind.

Is my hon. Friend aware of the concern expressed by creative industries in London and elsewhere about the way in which the EU regulation covering temporary structures is being interpreted as that could lead to huge extra costs in the building of film sets and theatrical and musical stages? Is he aware that other European countries are not interpreting it in this way, and will he ensure that we are not gold-plating unnecessarily?

Yes, I am well aware of this issue. The Secretary of State is also closely aware of it and discussing it keenly. I am sure that my hon. Friend understands where our sympathies lie.

Mobile Phone Coverage

As you know, Mr Speaker, improving mobile coverage is a priority for the Government. Thanks to the Secretary of State’s negotiations with the mobile operators, we have reached a legally binding agreement with them. Under that agreement, not spots in the hon. Gentleman’s constituency will fall from 5.4% to just 1.3%.

Mobile coverage in Wrexham is not super. After five years of this Government, businesses and individuals in Wrexham town centre complain constantly about this issue. I am surprised that the Secretary of State did not reply on this, because he heard about it in Wrexham recently. Why have this Government failed?

It is certainly true that the Secretary of State met the brilliant local campaigner in Wrexham, Andrew Atkinson, and had long discussions with him about improving mobile coverage. If the hon. Gentleman wants to support Mr Atkinson’s campaign to improve mobile coverage, he is welcome to do so.

11. I may be wrong, but I believe I glimpsed the Minister in my constituency—on a mini-digger and endangering a cabinet that was about to be upgraded. While he was there, did he get any information about the timeliness of the roll-out of broadband in Wales, given that the Government have contributed £57 million to the project? (907751)

I was indeed in Brecon. Our rural broadband programme is so important that it is a case of all hands to the pump. I was happy to get on a mini-digger and help to get my hon. Friend’s constituency more superfast-connected.

In my Ynys Môn constituency, 2G is poor, 3G is patchy and 4G is non-existent; yet my constituents pay exactly the same contract prices as people who have full coverage in cities. Does the Minister agree that there should be some sort of differential on contract prices for, or even a rebate from, companies that do not provide a full service?

We have the fastest roll-out and the fastest take-up of 4G anywhere in the world. The contract between a customer and the mobile phone company is a matter for them, and it is a matter for consumer law, rather than for the telecoms roll-out.

Sailing (Disabled People)

10. What assessment he has made of the benefits of sailing for disabled people; and if he will make a statement. (907749)

The Government are committed to seeing everyone realise their sporting potential. Sport England is investing £800,000 in the Royal Yachting Association’s sailability programme, designed to make sailing accessible for disabled people. Thanks to that investment, more than 11,000 people with disabilities were able to enjoy sailing in 2013-14.

The great advantage of sailing over almost every other sport is that both disabled and non-disabled people can work together as equals. The loss of sailing from the Tokyo Paralympics would represent a giant step backwards. What more can the Minister do, working with Paralympic and sailing organisations both UK-based and elsewhere in the world, to reinstate sailing as a sport in the 2020 Paralympics.

Although that is a decision for the International Paralympic Committee, I recently met the chief executive of the British Paralympic Association to discuss this very issue. On several occasions, I have met my hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt), who is also very concerned. Britain is a great sailing nation, and I completely understand the frustration of our Paralympic sailors. I therefore intend to speak to the IPC president Sir Philip Craven in the very near future.

Topical Questions

In the past month, British talent has enjoyed incredible success at the Grammys, the Baftas, the Brits and the Oscars. That is just another demonstration of the way in which this country’s creative industries lead the world. I am sure that the House will join me in congratulating all our award-winning actors, film makers and musicians, no matter what school they went to.

BBC news coverage in north-east Wales is poor. Does the Secretary of State agree with the proposal in today’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee report that the BBC should work closely with local news organisations to improve regional news coverage?

I warmly welcome the report, which I shall study very closely. It is an important contribution to the future of the BBC, and all its suggestions, including the one the hon. Gentleman mentions, will be taken account of when the charter review process starts.

T5. Two weeks ago, Tamworth won growth funding to regenerate its town centre and build an enterprise and creative quarter. Will my hon. Friend say what more the Government can do to help our creative industries and allow Tamworth to take full advantage of this wonderful opportunity? (907762)

We will work incredibly hard with my hon. Friend as the excellent local MP for Tamworth to support that creative cluster. We will also work with the local enterprise partnership and Creative England, which supports the creative industries outside London.

It has not been a good week for the Secretary of State, but it has been a good week for entertainment and sports fans. If the Government had listened to us, thousands of fans buying tickets for the rugby world cup, the Ashes and many other events would have been saved from having to pay several times the face value for tickets that were hoovered up by organised gangs of touts. Everyone accepted our argument that action was needed on secondary ticketing, except for the Secretary of State, who should have been representing those fans. Will he ensure that the measures in the Consumer Rights Bill will be implemented without delay? While he is at it, will he come to the Dispatch Box and apologise to the fans he has so badly let down?

My view on this issue has not changed. Consumers must always be put first. That means that they should be allowed to sell tickets that they no longer need, and that fans who were not able to get them the first time should be able to buy them. Those principles have not changed. However, we were not prepared to jeopardise the Bill’s safe passage through the House and accepted the amendment. The important thing is to see how it works in practice. The amendment includes a statutory review, which I hope will look at all the issues, and we will see how it actually works.

T7. I do not know if it is the same for you, Mr Speaker, and other hon. Members, but quite often late at night or in the early hours, my spouse looks at me quite suspiciously when she notices that I have been online. (907764)

Absolutely. I am delighted that in Old Windsor and across the constituency, 2,000 more people are now connected to superfast broadband. Will Ministers continue the roll-out and, in particular, focus on satellite technology, which can bring a better experience, even when we are doing constituency correspondence?

First, I encourage my hon. Friend’s spouse to ensure that the family filters are turned on in the Afriyie household. His point about the greater use of satellite technology throughout the UK is well made. That is something that we are actively looking at.

T2. The Music Venue Trust will launch its report on the challenges faced by small and medium venues at an event that I am hosting in Parliament on 9 March. What value does the Secretary of State place on the importance of the live music circuit to the UK’s world-dominating music industry? If he is not able to drop in on 9 March, may I send him a copy of the report, so that he can hear the concerns about the challenges facing venues? (907758)

The hon. Lady makes an important point. I will see whether I or the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy can drop in on 9 March. She has campaigned actively on behalf of venues in her constituency, some of which I know well. I went to The Fleece during my youth in Bristol. She is a great champion for such venues and I hope that we can work together on these issues.

T8. Further to the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner), does the Minister agree that the decision of the International Paralympic Committee to exclude sailing from the Tokyo games in 2020 is not only an enormous setback for that important British sport, but will rob us of the next generation of inspiring sailing sportsmen, such as Fareham’s Geoff Holt? (907765)

T3. I am grateful to the Minister for his support in my Adjournment debate for Premier Christian Radio staying on Digital One. His predecessor, speaking about digital radio to the Broadcasting Bill Committee in 1996, said that“no more than two of the stations on the multiplex should be aimed at predominantly the same…audience”.—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 14 May 1996.]What is the current policy on station diversity on Digital One and, in future, on Digital Two? (907760)

In what may be my last answer in Culture, Media and Sport questions, having attended every single session since the beginning of this Parliament, may I say that I was very happy to support the right hon. Gentleman’s campaign to keep Premier Christian Radio on the multiplex? I will certainly check after questions what the current policy is on diversity on the multiplex, as that might add another string to his very important argument, if that is not too much of a mixed metaphor to end on.

The mixed ability rugby world cup will take place for the first time ever in my constituency later this year. I know that the Minister has met the event organisers, for which I am grateful, and I also thank the hon. Member for Bradford South (Mr Sutcliffe) for his strong support for the event. Will the Minister set out what support the Government can provide to attract sponsorship for the event, to make it the great success that it deserves to be?

I have met the gentlemen from my hon. Friend’s constituency, and they gave me a fabulous black and yellow rugby shirt, which I put on. They are called the Bumbles, and they are fabulous. I will be happy to have a meeting or discussion with my hon. Friend about funding that event.

T4. Earlier, the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy dodged his way around the figures that I cited from the Warwick report about the drastic decline in children’s experience and learning in creative subjects. Perhaps he will respond more positively to another of its recommendations, which is that every publicly funded organisation that deals with cataloguing and archives on the net should be encouraged to use the same mechanisms for the cataloguing of GLAM—galleries, libraries, museums and archives—so that the archives can be more easily accessed and searched by everyone. (907761)

I was obviously premature in my last answer, Mr Speaker.

I have a lot of sympathy with that recommendation. Putting museum and archive content online and making it easily accessible to both teachers for their lesson plans and students for their learning is an important issue. I will have a number of meetings in the coming weeks to discuss some ideas about it.

Women have traditionally been under-represented in the classical music world. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State therefore congratulate Milton Keynes city orchestra on organising a special concert under the baton of Sian Edwards on international women’s day to recognise the huge talent of women in classical music today?

I join my hon. Friend in warmly commending the Milton Keynes city orchestra. I have three young daughters who all learn instruments, and I know that they take huge inspiration from seeing more and more women in orchestras and in music, which I warmly encourage.

T6. Although it is not a universally rewarding experience being an away fan following Fulham, it is certainly the case that travelling supporters bring vibrancy, atmosphere and colour to football fixtures. Given the largesse that now exists in the Premier League, does the Minister agree that it would be a good measure for clubs to take to ensure that there is a cap on the price of standard away tickets, so that some of the benefit of the additional TV revenue comes to the fans who help make the atmosphere of the games? (907763)

I believe that fans are the lifeblood of the game—where would we be without them? They always have the best interests of their club at heart, and clubs should do everything they possibly can to make tickets as affordable as possible.

I fear that my hon. Friend the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy was being even more premature than he thought. A couple of weeks ago, he extolled the virtues of the fantastic portable antiquities scheme, which has now brought in more than 1 million artefacts. Is he aware that there has been a 5% cut to the scheme this year, and that several finds liaison officer posts are under threat? We really need to find a more sustainable, long-term solution for funding that excellent scheme.

I am having more comebacks than Frank Sinatra.

I am a huge supporter of the portable antiquities scheme, and in fact we ring-fenced its funding when we came into government. I will do all that I can to support that very effective scheme.

T9. Will the Secretary of State welcome tomorrow’s meeting in Nottingham between “Get Creative”, from the BBC, and “What Next?”, which is organised locally? Will he also underline the strong commitment that he gave me at the last Culture, Media and Sport questions that he considers arts, culture and heritage just as important for the outer cities as for the often oversubscribed inner cities? (907766)

I wholeheartedly agree. The hon. Gentleman has teamed up with two excellent organisations, and I wish him well.

Women and Equalities

The Minister for Women and Equalities was asked—

Homophobic Bullying

Homophobic bullying is absolutely unacceptable, and we are committed to eliminating it. That is why we have announced £2 million of grant funding to support schools to address the issue more effectively. That complements the £4 million that the Department currently provides to charitable organisations to tackle all forms of bullying.

Is the Minister aware that Mr Gay World, Stuart Hatton, lives in my constituency? He recently launched a fantastic anti-bullying campaign called “So What?”. His message is simple: some of us are straight, some of us are gay, so what? With Stonewall reporting that nearly a quarter of lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils miss school because of homophobic bullying, his message is sorely needed. Labour’s shadow Ministers are backing Stuart’s campaign. Will the Minister?

I very much welcome the hon. Lady setting out her constituent’s campaign, and I will be happy to look at it as it sounds excellent. We all agree that tackling homophobic bullying must be a real priority for the reasons that she outlined in her question, and because of the impact that it has on LGBT young people, and indeed other young people, as this issue also affects those who are not LGBT.

Homophobic bullying in schools is completely unacceptable. Will the Minister ensure that Ofsted is getting the message through to head teachers and schools that they must do everything in their power to eradicate that wicked thing?

The short answer is yes, and the national professional qualification for headship contains information on how to tackle bullying, including homophobic bullying.


Female long-term unemployment has fallen by more than 90,000 on the year—the largest annual fall on record––to 237,000, demonstrating the success of the Government’s long-term economic plan.

Under this Government there are more young women who have been out of work for over a year than there were four years ago. Does the Minister agree that that is a terrible indictment of the Government’s so-called long-term economic plan?

I am pleased the hon. Gentleman recognises that we have a long-term economic plan that is also successful—two things that the Labour party does not have. The previous Government removed people who were about to become long-term unemployed from the claimant count by putting them on training programmes. We have stopped that charade and now have an honest measure. We have a record number of women in work, a record female employment rate, a record number of older women in work, a record older female employment rate, and a female participation rate that is close to the highest on record—a record of which I am very proud.

In the last year I have dealt with a number of cases concerning older women who have previously been in work but are now struggling to secure a new position having found themselves unemployed. They often feel that discrimination plays a part in the refusals they have been given, but they simply do not have the means to challenge the companies and organisations involved, so that discrimination is left unchallenged. What should women who find themselves in that situation do?

First, as I said in answer to the hon. Member for Livingston (Graeme Morrice), a record number of older women are in work and we have a record employment rate for older females—that is obviously good news. For those in the position that the hon. Lady sets out, we have looked at programmes to help older workers return to work. New pilots were announced in the autumn statement last year to look at barriers to work, and at our sector-based work academies and work experience programmes that are particularly tailored to the needs of older workers.

Unemployment is down by 37% in my constituency. Does my hon. Friend welcome the fact that UK women are getting into work faster than in any other country in the G7, which shows that the Government’s long-term economic plan is working in my constituency?

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for her question and I will be visiting her constituency tomorrow to speak to local businesses—

The hon. Lady says, “What a surprise”, but my hon. Friend is holding an event to talk about getting more disabled people back into work with a number of excellent local employers. The hon. Lady should congratulate her on that, rather than being churlish about it.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right, and I cannot do better than report what the OECD said, which was that we had a long-term economic plan and effective economic policies, and that the performance of the labour market in the United Kingdom was “remarkable”.

Order. Progress is very slow and we must speed up matters. We can be guided in that by a legendary parliamentarian, Mr Philip Davies.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, aside from the strong record he has outlined, about 80% of the growth in female employment in the past four years has come in managerial, professional and technical professions?

The number of young women claiming jobseeker’s allowance for more than one year is up by 30%. Bankers have done very well under this Government, so why does the Minister not use a tax on bank bonuses to pay for a guaranteed job for young women?

It is fascinating. Only a few weeks ago, in the debate on Labour’s job guarantee, the Secretary of State pointed out that Labour had spent the bank bonus tax 11 times with 11 different policies. If spending it for a 12th time is the best the hon. Lady can do, she needs to go back to the drawing board.

Equal Pay

The gender pay gap has fallen to its lowest level ever and has been entirely eliminated among full-time workers under the age of 40, but our goal must be to eliminate it entirely. We are tackling systemic pay inequalities through a range of measures: the Your Life initiative to get more girls into science, technology, engineering and maths; improved child care; extending flexible working; and introducing shared parental leave.

Forty four years after Labour’s Equal Pay Act 1970, sadly women earn on average 81p for every £1 that men earn. Tomorrow, my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Sarah Champion) has a Bill providing for transparency in larger companies. Will the Government support it?

The Government’s position is not to support that particular Bill, but we are encouraging much more transparency through the Think, Act, Report initiative, to which more than 270 employers, covering 2.5 million employees, have signed up. Nearly half of them have done an equal pay audit in the last year and two thirds are publishing more information on gender equality. I agree that this is a hugely important issue on which we need to make more progress, and we are committed to doing so.

Which employment sector has the greatest gender pay gap, which has the least and what is the Minister doing to get representatives of the one to talk to the other?

That is a fantastic question, and I shall write to the hon. Gentleman with the specific statistics for different sectors. Sectoral differences are a significant part of the gender pay gap. We know that occupational segregation—the congregation of women in much lower paying sectors—is a significant driver of about one third of the pay gap, which is why the initiatives to get more girls studying STEM subjects are so important.

Will the Minister cheer on Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech, in which she called for equal pay in the arts, particularly in the film industry?

If so—I see that both Ministers are nodding—what will Ministers do to ensure pay equality in the British film industry?

I wholeheartedly endorse the speech by Patricia Arquette—I have already welcomed it on Twitter because I think it needed to be brought to a wider audience. In the UK arts industry, as in all industries, it is important that there be greater transparency and support for women in the workplace in terms of promotion and seniority. That is what we will continue to promote.

I am sure that like me my hon. Friend is pleased that the Work programme is helping the long-term unemployed, both men and women, back into work. Will she confirm that the number of long-term unemployed people has fallen to its lowest in five years and that the claimant count in my constituency has fallen by 42%?

The hon. Gentleman has got mixed up: the previous question was about unemployment, but this one is about equal pay, so I shall take his question as rhetorical. We are grateful to him for getting his observations on the record.

Domestic Violence

4. What assessment she has made of the effects on employed women who are victims of domestic violence of means-testing when they attempt to access a refuge. (907731)

Employed people entering refuge accommodation can claim help with their housing costs through housing benefit, which is both an in-work and out-of-work benefit. When paid to claimants who are in work, it is calculated on the basis of their earnings. The Government have provided £6.5 billion in housing-related support over this spending review period so that when someone enters a refuge the support element of the provision will not be means-tested.

Does the Minister agree that the safety of women suffering domestic violence ought to be prioritised over their ability to access funds at a time of personal crisis? If so, will she support my call for means testing to include an assessment of the economic impact of abusive and controlling relationships?

I know that the hon. Gentleman has done a lot of work with the charity My Sister’s Place, based in his constituency, and I agree that at a time of personal crisis the first thing refuges do—this will be the case for most of the refuges I have spoken to—is offer security, not ask how somebody will pay. He will have seen the ministerial letter to My Sister’s Place making it clear that where a victim of domestic violence takes up temporary accommodation, while also making arrangements to return to their home, housing benefit for both properties can be payable. Discretionary housing payment is also available.

The Berkshire women’s refuge serves my constituency incredibly well. We all abhor domestic violence, particularly towards women, so does my right hon. Friend, like me, welcome the victim surcharge, which ensures that those who commit these acts contribute to making reparations?

I absolutely welcome the victim surcharge, which results in important payments being made. I am sure that he will also want to welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government just before Christmas of an extra £10 million to secure refuge accommodation for the next two years.

Childcare Business Grants Scheme

5. What estimate she has made of the potential benefit to working families of the extension of the childcare business grants scheme announced in the autumn statement 2014. (907733)

Working families benefit from a thriving child care sector, with the scheme supporting up to 3,000 new child care businesses in the next financial year. I am pleased to inform the House that, from this April, we are doubling the value of the grants available to childminders and nurseries. We will also extend the scheme to existing child care businesses that have been trading for less than a year.

In my constituency, there is a huge demand from mothers with young children for safe and secure childminders from a diverse background. What further measures is my right hon. Friend able to take to ensure that those young mothers can return to work knowing that their children are safe and secure?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right that childminders are a crucial part of the child care sector. We want to see more of them, which is why we have enabled the establishment of childminder agencies. To date, the childcare business grant scheme has benefited more than 4,000 childminders, including almost 30 in my hon. Friend’s constituency. The scheme has also benefited seven nurseries in Harrow, East—MiniSteps, for example.

Disabled People (Access to Work)

Over 3 million working-age disabled people are now in employment. There are 141,000 more disabled people in work than a year ago, and the employment rate has risen, demonstrating that disabled people are benefiting from the Government’s long-term economic plan.

In September last year, the Minister published statistics showing that only 206,000 of 529,400 personal independence payment applications had been cleared. When he published those statistics, he said:

“By the end of the year we expect that no-one will be waiting for an assessment for longer than 16 weeks.”

Yet when the updated figures were published in January, they did not include the number of those who had waited longer than 16 weeks. Will the Minister now ensure that those figures are published so we can see whether the anecdotal evidence we get from our constituents is correct?

I can confirm to the hon. Gentleman that I published statistics just ahead of my appearance at the Work and Pensions Select Committee. Last year, when I got this job, the average wait for a claimant was unacceptably high, at around 30 weeks. After sustained effort from my Department and our assessment providers, we had more than halved that by the end of the year. I am very pleased, and we will continue that focus.

Recent figures have shown that only 7% of disabled people on employment and support allowance gained sustained employment through the Government’s Work programme, which is worse than if there were no programme at all. In Sir Bert Massie’s report on the link between disability and poverty, he highly recommends replacing this clearly failing programme with one of locally controlled specialist support for disabled people. A Labour Government would commit to do this, so can the Minister tell us his Government’s position on this issue? If they do not believe that change is necessary, how can they justify those figures?

I do not need to justify those figures. If the hon. Lady had used more up-to-date figures, she would know that performance has significantly improved and that more people are being helped into work through the Work programme, work choice and access to work. Yes, more disabled people are being helped than before. As I said in response to an earlier question, 141,000 more disabled people are in work now than last year. I think that is a record to be proud of. There is more to do, but good progress is being made.

Discrimination Claims

8. What change there has been in the number of people bringing discrimination claims since the introduction of tribunal fees. (907736)

Although the number of people bringing discrimination claims to the employment tribunals is not collected centrally, the number of complaints of discrimination from ET claims is collected. From July to September 2014, there were 5,475 complaints of discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation, or of having suffered a detriment or unfair dismissal due to pregnancy, or complaints relating to equal pay. This compares to just over 18,000 in the quarter from April to June 2013, a fall of 71%.

There has been a particularly shocking fall of more than 90% in the number of sex discrimination cases, including those involving pregnancy-related discrimination. Many women on low incomes cannot apply for fee remission in order to go to an employment tribunal, not because of their own incomes, but because of their partners’ incomes or savings. Does the Minister think that that system is giving those women fair access to justice? Furthermore, is it not penalising good businesses that do not try to get away with poor, discriminatory practices, unlike others which know that there will be no danger of a challenge if they do so?

Pregnancy discrimination in the workplace is unacceptable and unlawful, and the Government have recognised the need to tackle it. In November 2013, we announced an extensive programme of research on perceived pregnancy and maternity discrimination in Great Britain. We have made a commitment to conduct a review of the introduction of the fees, and we will do so, but we think that this is a matter for the next Administration and the next Parliament.