The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was asked—
This Government have not made any estimate of the value of the public stake in Channel 4.
Does my hon. Friend share my view that since Channel 4 barely makes an operating profit, any future economic value is more likely to come from cutting broadcasting and production costs, and there may therefore be little public service role for it if it were to be so treated?
I note what the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee says. No doubt under his new remit he will want to make an inquiry into Channel 4. That inquiry might note that Channel 4 has increased its investment in broadcasting by 15%, which is welcome.
The tourism sector directly contributed nearly £60 billion to the UK economy in 2014. Taking account of indirect benefits, the sector was expected to be worth more than £133 billion last year, supporting about 3.2 million jobs in the UK.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his campaign to make Southend the city of culture. It was, of course, narrowly beaten by Hull, but nevertheless I am aware that Southend has many attractions. As a fellow Essex MP I am in favour of anything that will attract more visitors to our county.
The fantastic tourism potential that lies in country sports is worth £1.6 billion to the economy, and some 480,000 shooters pursue their sport across the whole of the United Kingdom. What more can the Minister do to ensure that country sports and tourism can go forward together?
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the range of anniversary commemoration events taking place this year, which happen to include the 750th anniversary of the battle of Evesham in my constituency, not only showcase our heritage but provide a good boost for the tourism economy?
We are fortunate this year to celebrate a number of important anniversaries, including Agincourt, Waterloo and the first world war, and my hon. Friend is entirely right to remind the House that we can add the battle of Evesham to that list. The commemorations will not only increase awareness of our heritage, but will draw more visitors to this country.
The importance of persuading visitors that we have many attractions to offer outside London, as well as in London, is something I am very conscious of, not least because it was one of the principal recommendations of the Select Committee’s report on tourism. We will be responding to the report very shortly. I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Gentleman’s point. We will certainly, if not set targets, be doing our best to persuade visitors to enjoy all the attractions right across all the nations of the UK.
The Secretary of State will be aware of how important the tourism industry is to Cornwall, but is he aware of the damage that the Government’s current rules, which restrict families from taking their children out of school during term time, are having on the Cornish economy? Visit Cornwall estimates that it has cost the Cornish economy about £50 million. Will the Secretary of State be willing to meet me to discuss how we might address this issue and support the Cornish tourism industry?
I understand the point my hon. Friend makes, although he will appreciate that this is principally a matter for the Secretary of State for Education rather than my own Department. I understand that headteachers are encouraged to be flexible in setting their week, but children’s education is important, and we should not deprive them of it by changing their ability to go on holiday.
I am sure the Secretary of State will welcome the figures from the international passenger survey published last month, which showed that the number of overseas visitors to the UK is up 3% for the first four months. However, does he share my concern, and that of the tourism industry, that the figures show that expenditure is down 7% so far this year? If this trend continues to the end of the year, total revenue could be down by £1.53 billion compared with 2014, potentially putting 28,000 jobs at risk. Given those concerns, is it not time for the Government to put together a national strategy for tourism?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for highlighting the fact that the number of visitors has continued to increase and is at record levels. Nevertheless, he is right that there has been a small drop in spend. That may be more to do with the weakness of the euro than anything else. On his call for a national tourism strategy, my Department is reviewing all our policy areas. We will respond to the Select Committee report very shortly and set out precisely our intentions to promote tourism in the UK.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw the attention of the House to the many attractions of Cleethorpes. As I said, we are looking to boost tourism outside London. We already have specific projects in Yorkshire and in the south-west. I am sure the people of Cleethorpes will take maximum advantage in attracting the extra visitors who will no doubt be coming to the region to celebrate Hull’s city of culture status.
Female Participation in Sport
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the England women’s football team on winning bronze at the world cup in Canada. I am sure the whole House would agree with me that their performance in the world cup will inspire many girls to play football.
Female participation in sport is up since we won the Olympic bid in 2005 and is up since 2010, but despite an initial spike immediately post-London 2012, it has begun to decline since 2012. This downward trend is unsatisfactory and the forthcoming publication of our sport strategy will establish how the Government will reverse this trend.
England is hosting this year’s rugby world cup and I am delighted to be welcoming the cup itself, the Webb Ellis, to Halifax rugby club on 5 August. As a former fly-half for Lancaster University and the Halifax Vandals, may I say that it was disappointing that the latter team folded as we simply did not have the numbers to continue? Will the Minister tell me what lessons can be drawn from the Olympics to promote the rugby world cup as a means of encouraging women in particular to continue all types of sport into their adult lives?
The legacy of the rugby world cup is something we are taking very seriously. As somebody who has a premiership female rugby team in my constituency, I know it is a growing sport. The success of the England women’s sevens getting to Rio next year will continue to inspire many girls and ladies to play rugby in the future.
The number of females joining sports clubs in Wales since the 2012 London Olympics has increased by a massive 81%, while in England, as the Minister said, there has been a steady decline. The investment in grassroots sport by the Welsh Labour Government has enabled my constituents Hannah Brier and Emily Jones to come through the superb Sport Wales development structure. Hannah, aged 17, has already broken the 100 metres Welsh national record, which had stood for more than 30 years, and is now a member of the GB team going to the youth world championships. Emily, aged 10, has been supported to represent Disability Sport Wales and has won two national gold medals. Will the Minister join me in congratulating Hannah and Emily on their fantasmagorical achievements, and will she meet the sports Minister in the Welsh Labour Government, Ken Skates, to see whether she can pick up any tips?
I would be delighted to congratulate the hon. Lady’s constituents on their success so far. She herself will be encouraging of that, given her own history of competing for the GB youth team in Munich, and I know she takes grassroots sport incredibly seriously. It is important that we all do what we can to encourage the next generation of athletes, particularly women, to participate in sport.
May I suggest that other people copy my hon. Friend the Minister, who, in her personal capacity, has trained and led girls’ football teams? We need more people to understand that taking part in sport and then passing on one’s skills to others is one of the best ways of getting participation up. I congratulate her.
I am grateful for my hon. Friend’s kind comments. I think that participation in sport is incredibly important, but the only way to get people doing it is to have an absolutely solid group of volunteers helping to run grassroots sport. That is something I would like to encourage. We have seen phenomenal success from organisations such as Join In that help to facilitate participation across the country, and I would encourage everybody in the House to get involved with their local sports club.
There was a recent Grant Thornton report on the legacy and its impact on Scotland, and I would be happy to share those details with the hon. Gentleman. It is important that the legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics be felt across the United Kingdom, and that is something we will be developing further in the forthcoming sports strategy.
The women’s cycling tour recently held its Northamptonshire stage, whose triumphal arrival into Kettering, amid cheering crowds, was the highlight. Will the Minister agree that women’s cycling is leading the way in encouraging women to take part in sport?
Listed Sports (BBC)
This will be among the many issues up for consideration as part of the charter review, and I shall be making an announcement about the review in due course.
The Secretary of State will be aware that Ofcom is currently reviewing who is entitled to broadcast listed events. We are in Wimbledon fortnight, and the whole country is united in watching this great event, but with the BBC so financially constrained, how can he assure people that the whole country, regardless of ability to pay, will be able to follow the dramas and successes of British sports people in the future?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that we maintain a list of events that are required to be shown on free-to-air television, and the Wimbledon tennis finals are on that list. The non-finals matches are on the B list, which ensures that secondary coverage is protected. It is ultimately a matter for the sport, however, as to whom it sells the rights to.
The Secretary of State is obviously well aware of the debate about the effect that taking an individual sport off free-to-air television has on long-term participation in that sport because it does not get the exposure. Is his Department doing any work on assessing the effect that taking live action off free-to-air television has on long-term participation in those sports?
My right hon. Friend makes an interesting point, but as I have suggested to the hon. Member for Cambridge (Daniel Zeichner), it is a matter for individual sports governing bodies as to whom they sell their rights to, and each governing body will want to weigh up the balance between maximising the revenue that will go into sport and trying to ensure that as many people as possible have the opportunity not just to watch but, I hope, to participate.
Will the Secretary of State tell the House exactly how he plans to involve the Scottish Government in the charter renewal process? Lord Smith says that the Scottish Government should be involved, but he is a bit vague about the process itself.
I have been in correspondence with the Scottish Government Minister and we have given an assurance that we will abide by the terms of the Smith commission agreement. We will, therefore, involve the Scottish Government and, indeed, the Governments of the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies in the charter review process. I shall give further details in due course.
Will the Secretary of State confirm whether decriminalisation of non-payment of the TV licence formed any part of his recent negotiation with the BBC when it agreed to fund the over-75s licence fee? Has he already conceded this issue to the BBC?
As I announced to the House on Monday, that does form part of the agreement we have reached with the BBC, in that we have said that decriminalisation will be considered as part of the charter review process. I shall publish David Perry’s report on that matter very shortly.
BBC Sport is phenomenally popular: 51.9 million people watched at least 15 minutes of the London Olympics—that is a whopping nine out of 10 people in this country—and this year’s England-France six nations match drew the largest ever rugby audience of 9.63 million. Can the Secretary of State guarantee that the Olympics will remain fully on the BBC and the six nations will be free-to-air?
The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the Olympics are in the group A of listed sporting events, so there is a guarantee that they ought to be shown free-to-air. As he will know, the pan-European rights have been acquired by Discovery. Whether or not the BBC reaches a deal with Discovery over those rights is something for the BBC and Discovery. However, I can give him the assurance that, because they are part of the list, the Olympics will be shown free-to-air.
Well, I am not sure that the Secretary of State is right about that, because the Office for Budget Responsibility says that the shabby little behind-stairs deal that he cooked up this week for the licence fee represents another 20% cut in real terms to the BBC. That is not a cold bath: it is a prolonged period in the deep freeze. Is it not the case that, when sports rights inflation is running into double digits, this BBC settlement means that the Secretary of State is in effect forcing sport off the BBC? Does he not realise that sport belongs to the fans, not to BSkyB, BT or Discovery, and the fans will be furious if the BBC can no longer compete for these important sports rights?
It is a matter for the BBC as to which rights it seeks to acquire, but the hon. Gentleman seems to ignore the contribution of other public service broadcasters. I point out to him that every single match of the rugby world cup will be shown free on ITV and that Channel 4 has developed its racing coverage, which is widely watched and admired by many people.
Children’s Creative and Cultural Experiences
Obviously, my Department works very closely with the Department for Education. In fact, the Secretary of State and I will do a joint event at the Creative Industries Federation and will talk about our massive success in music and cultural education. We might mention, for example, the £460 million that has been invested since 2012.
The problem is that that investment has not increased children’s cultural and creative experiences. The Warwick commission revealed a drastic decline in music education and that only one in 12 British people are, as it put it, culturally active. Will we continue to see this decline under the Conservative Government so that only those people who can afford to send their children to expensive public schools will be able to ensure that their children get the chance to learn music and to experience live theatre?
Our Taking Part survey shows that since 2008-09, participation by children aged between five and 10 has increased, the number of children going to our museums has increased, the number of pupils taking arts GCSEs has increased—and so on and so forth. I do not share the hon. Lady’s view.
No, he does not, because that is not the Education Secretary’s view. Labour Members seem to take the view that if we talk up science, we are somehow talking down the arts. My right hon. Friend was not doing that at all. I suggest the hon. Lady reads the speech.
Bassetlaw parliamentary summer school is having a wonderful week, not least—as shown by the incredible feedback I received last night—in respect of the session featuring you, Mr Speaker. Does the Minister not agree that there is a problem for children living way away from the big cities such as London, in that they do not have the same cultural opportunities as those who are living in the big cities, meaning that the Government need to intervene to ensure that resources go there to provide those opportunities?
I absolutely agree that we should support pupils wherever they live. That is why we have, for example, the museum and schools programme to help young people visit regional and national museums, and the heritage schools programme, which has been a huge success. I take the hon. Gentleman’s point, but we are working on it.
National Heritage (Salisbury)
The Salisbury area has many wonderful heritage treasures. These have benefited from substantial investment from both the Government and the Heritage Lottery Fund, and include the famous cathedral, Stonehenge and the Avebury world heritage site.
Salisbury Cathedral has the finest copy of Magna Carta, and June Osborne and her team have put together a spectacular range of events to celebrate the 800th anniversary. Two hundred children from across my constituency will gather this evening to perform the Magna Cantata musical. Will the Minister affirm that the Government will continue to support this wonderful building and all that goes on there?
I congratulate my hon. Friend on getting so many young children in his constituency engaged in celebrating the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. This fantastic project has received more than £400,000-worth of investment through the Heritage Lottery Fund, while the cathedral itself has benefited from £600,000 from our first world war centenary cathedrals repair fund. Salisbury Cathedral will continue to be eligible to apply for further support from our listed places of worship grant scheme and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
First World War
We will commemorate the Battle of Jutland on 31 May 2016 and the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 2016. We are in the early stages of planning appropriate events in 2017 and 2018.
The Prime Minister Harold Wilson was severely wounded in 1915 at the Battle of Loos, which I understand will be commemorated in Scotland in September. Can my right hon. Friend assure us that when it comes to the 100th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, it will be commemorated in the great northern cities of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, recognising the contribution of the northern pals?
And possibly the Wilson family, too. I am most grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for your assistance. My hon. Friend nevertheless makes an important point—that the sacrifice of our citizens in the first world war represented contributions made by every single part of the United Kingdom, and it is extremely important to commemorate that. As my hon. Friend will be aware, on the centenary day of 1 July next year, there is a major event at Thiepval in northern France. I am sure that other parts of the UK will want to participate, including the great cities that he mentioned.
Local Community Radio
Community radio is a fantastic success story in this country. We have almost 230 radio stations on air and we maintain our community radio fund.
The current regional system for awarding FM licences to community radio stations has resulted in Cannock Radio having no clear timeframe in which to apply. Would my hon. Friend consider replacing that system with one that is more predictable, fair and frequent?
I hear what my hon. Friend says, and I know that the Leader of the House visited the brilliant Cannock Radio station with her recently. At the moment, we want to keep the regional system because we believe that it provides greater certainty than an on-demand system. However, I will certainly talk to Ofcom about the point that she has made.
Champions League (Cardiff)
I congratulate Cardiff on securing the 2017 Champions League final. The Government have made no formal assessment of the economic benefit of the event, but we know that fans travelling to the 2013 Champions League final at Wembley are estimated to have contributed more than £40 million to the London economy, so we expect that hosting the biggest club game in football will provide a positive boost to the Welsh economy.
I thank my hon. Friend’s Department for helping to bring the Champions League final to Wales. I should also point out that the first Ashes test started in Cardiff yesterday. Will the Minister continue to do everything she can to help to attract major sporting events to Wales, to boost our economy and further encourage people to take an interest in sport?
In recent years, Cardiff has shown the world that it is the home of major sporting events, including the current Ashes test, the UEFA super cup and the canoe slalom, as well as games in the rugby league world cup and the upcoming rugby union world cup. I fully expect any future bids, along with the city itself, to benefit from Cardiff’s success in staging such events, and we will continue to work with UK Sport and the Welsh Government to identify and secure top-class sporting events for the city.
The charter review is the appropriate process through which the Government consider all aspects of the BBC’s activities, its scope and scale, its funding, and how it is governed. A key aspect of this will be to consider its integrity and independence and how these are best upheld.
The Secretary of State is a reasonable man, and I like him a lot. We would both agree that the BBC is not perfect, but will he put a stop to this BBC phobia? When we look at any part of the foreign press, we can see that the BBC is the best broadcasting service and that the balance of broadcasting in this country is the best in the world. Please do not damage it without thinking.
The hon. Gentleman was very kind in his first remarks, and I therefore could not possibly disagree with him. And I do not: the BBC does have many outstanding qualities, and it is the intention that, in the charter review process, we shall endeavour to strengthen them, not weaken them.
My right hon. Friend talks about strengthening the BBC, and he is right to say that it has many good values, but one of the problems that has existed over a number of years—the BBC itself has admitted this—is that it has tended to be very much an EU-biased organisation. It is almost institutionally biased. Is that something that the review will take into account?
The question of how the BBC meets its impartiality requirements is certainly part of the charter review process, as that forms an essential component of its governance. My hon. Friend will be aware that the BBC Trust adjudicates complaints against the BBC about impartiality at the moment. Some people have questioned that, and it is certainly something that we will be considering.
Universal Service Obligation (Broadband)
As part of the digital communications infrastructure review published in March, we said that we would look into a universal service obligation of 5 megabits, as that could be particularly helpful in reaching the last 5% for broadband access.
I thank the Minister for his answer and urge him to implement a universal service obligation as soon as possible in order to achieve that final 5%. I represent a constituency whose rural areas suffer from a lack of broadband, but the large town of Kilmarnock, with 50,000 people, also has areas that lack broadband access. The UK is rightly proud of the Royal Mail’s universal service obligation, and the 21st century equivalent should be a similar obligation for broadband.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question about helping urban areas that do not have superfast broadband. He is right to point that out, as about a fifth of the last 5% are in urban areas, and we must do more there as well. I am very pleased that the roll-out in Scotland is going so brilliantly well, thanks to the hundreds of millions of pounds supplied by the Westminster Government.
The sports Minister has, quite rightly, paid tribute to the English women’s team for their third place finish in the recent world cup. We should likewise pay tribute to Team GB who returned from the European games in Baku with an impressive haul of 47 medals, 18 of which were gold, placing them third in the medals table. I am sure that Members will also be watching the latter stages of Wimbledon and the Ashes very closely and hoping for further British triumphs.
I am grateful to the Secretary of State for his answer, and I add my congratulations, too. Back in 2011, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee reported on football governance, and recommended that there should be changes to the way the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League were governed. It said that, if they did not change their own governance, the Government would legislate. Those organisations have not come forward with those changes, so will the Government now legislate?
The hon. Gentleman is quite right; I remember that report extremely well. It is the case that some progress has been made in the right direction since then, but we shall continue to press for further change. I have regular meetings with the Football Association and the Premier League, and we will be publishing our sports strategy shortly.
T2. With the Ashes series beginning and the sun out, many of our local cricket clubs in Cornwall are once again opening their doors for the summer season. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to make it easier for sports clubs to access grant funding and planning consent to improve facilities for our young cricketers in Cornwall, to give them the opportunity to one day pull on the three lions and play at the highest level? (900843)
Access to good facilities is at the heart of our nation’s sporting offer, and I am grateful to Sport England for its excellent work in helping local clubs to fund new facilities, investing £3.2 million across 85 sports facilities in Cornwall since 2012, including two cricket projects in my hon. Friend’s own constituency. I encourage any local clubs with queries about facilities to get in touch with Sport England, as it offers a range of grant programmes.
The Secretary of State was forced to tell us elements of the financial settlement for the BBC, but there is still no proper process for charter renewal. He says now that he will publish the Green Paper. Will he make an oral statement to the House on this matter before the summer recess? The simple one-word answer “yes” will do us nicely for today.
T3. The whole House will have been appalled by the mindless destruction of cultural heritage sites by terrorists in the middle east. The ancient Iraqi city of Hatra is just one of the many historic sites cruelly targeted as part of a concerted campaign to destroy the history and heritage of us all. Will my right hon. Friend assure the House that the Government are doing all they can to prevent the senseless destruction and exploitation of our ancient history? (900844)
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to draw attention to that matter. Obviously, our first priority is the human cost of these terrible conflicts, but the devastation to some of the most important cultural sites in the world is also of profound concern. We are uniquely placed to assist with this. We are developing a cultural protection fund to support the protection of cultural heritage, and I hope that we can give further details shortly.
The Minister will know of my support for local television services in Mold, in my constituency. Will he, ahead of the meeting that we have with my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Ian C. Lucas) on Wednesday, indicate what progress he has made in his discussions with the BBC about using financial support to help expand that service for north-east Wales as a whole?
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his question. We had a useful meeting with him and his colleagues. There is an opportunity to make progress. I cannot update him in the House, but I will update him at the meeting in short order.
T4. I have been recently contacted by a constituent whose nine-year-old daughter, Lola, is a talented young ice skater. Lola competes in skating competitions all across the UK. Although her family do all they can to support her financially, they find it difficult to secure sponsorship because of her age. Will my hon. Friend provide any guidance on where my constituent can apply for funding to ensure that we continue to encourage and support our stars of the future? (900845)
I appreciate the challenge that Lola’s family have faced in securing support for her talent. I imagine that many of us have constituents in similar positions. I understand that my hon. Friend’s office has already contacted Sport England for advice on this matter. The usual funding route for talented young athletes is through SportsAid. However, this support is mainly aimed at the over-12s. At the age of nine, it is more common for talented athletes to get sponsorship in kind from local businesses that want to support athletes, and I would very much encourage Lola to explore that route.
Last month, the new platform, Apple Music, was prompted into paying artists during its three-month free trial period, after concerns were raised by many people, including Taylor Swift, that they would not be paid for their work. This issue affects many music artists, including those in Liverpool and across the country, who struggle to make a decent living. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that music artists are paid fairly for their work in the digital age?
I hope it is in order for me, Mr Speaker, to congratulate the hon. Lady on her recent marriage. She makes an extremely important point. I thought that Taylor Swift’s intervention was well made. As technology changes how we access and buy music, it is important that we put the rights of the creators at the forefront of our minds. This Department, particularly under this Secretary of State, will do everything that it can to preserve the intellectual property rights of creators and ensure that they are fairly remunerated.
T5. On Saturday, I will have the colossal joy of sitting at Edgar Street and watching the first home game of Hereford football club—the new football club in my constituency. Will the sports Minister join me in congratulating the new club, the Hereford United Supporters Trust and all the fans who have got behind it? Does she share my view that more can be done to crack down on and improve the owners and directors test, which has signally failed so far and which needs to be improved if we are to improve governance in our grassroots football? (900846)
Does the sports Minister accept that a lot of culture, media and sport often appears to be somewhat middle class? Will she do her bit to ensure that the deprived areas of the UK are properly looked after by visiting Nottingham North, my constituency, and examining the state of sport there?
First, may I offer my sympathies to the family and friends of Junior Dian? It is always a tragedy when such events occur in sport. My hon. Friend and I share a constituency border so I am especially aware of the local coverage of this matter. I agree with him that it is an important area to look at. In Italy, for example, all amateur and professional athletes are screened for heart conditions, which has resulted in an 89% drop in the death rate since its introduction. It is an important area, and one that I will look at in some detail in the forthcoming sport strategy.
The magnificent Llangollen international eisteddfod, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Clwyd South (Susan Elan Jones), has been bedevilled by artists having difficulty in securing visas to visit the site. This did not happen to Burt Bacharach, whom I saw earlier this week, but it does tend to affect visitors from Africa and the Indian subcontinent. Will the right hon. Gentleman meet the Home Secretary to try to address this problem?
I have previously visited the eisteddfod, so I know what a magnificent event it is, and I hope that perhaps I will have a chance to do so again in the future. I am very conscious of the issue that the hon. Gentleman raises. I am anxious that those who have skill and talent should be able to visit this country, so that as many people as possible can enjoy them at the eisteddfod and elsewhere, and I will certainly continue to pursue this matter with the Home Secretary.
T7. Many of my constituents living in Tanners Gate, Titchfield Common, have been struggling for the past two years with the serious problem of poor broadband connectivity, only getting 15% of the speed they have paid for, and complaints to BT have been in vain. Will my hon. Friend help me to remedy the situation? (900850)
I should be delighted to help my hon. Friend. I am pleased that broadband roll-out has reached something like 95% in her constituency, so coverage is very good, but I am delighted that Ofcom has recently announced new rules under which consumers can leave their broadband provider with no penalty if the provider does not provide the promised speeds.