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Topical Questions

Volume 593: debated on Thursday 26 February 2015

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.