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Topical Questions

Volume 598: debated on Thursday 9 July 2015

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)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on all the work that he has done in supporting Hereford United over the past few years. We will look into these issues in further detail, but he has to wait a few more weeks for the support strategy to be published.

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?

As somebody with a constituency that has two areas of multiple deprivation, I do understand some of the concerns that the hon. Gentleman raises, and if my diary permits, I would be delighted to come to Nottingham.

T6. What steps will the Government take following the tragic and untimely death of a Tonbridge Angels player, Junior Dian, on Tuesday this week? (900849)

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.