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Topical Questions

Volume 603: debated on Thursday 3 December 2015

Since the last Culture, Media and Sport questions, Adele’s new album “25” has enjoyed record-breaking chart success, the latest Bond film continues to do excellent business, we concluded our hosting of a tremendous rugby World cup and, of course, Great Britain has won the Davis cup, but we have seen the ability of sport to bring people together in an incredibly powerful and moving way at the England-France game at Wembley. The positive impact of the many areas sponsored by my Department on our economy, culture and general wellbeing were recognised and reflected in the spending review.

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating rugby league star Kevin Sinfield on being shortlisted for the BBC sports personality of the year award? Following the autumn statement, will he say how the Government are supporting the sport of rugby league and, in particular, the bid for the rugby league World cup in 2021?

I would, of course, like to congratulate all 12 contenders for the sports personality of the year award. However, hon. Members might be aware that there are some fans of Leeds Rhinos in the Department, one of whom is not sitting a million miles away from me, and I am sure that she will be very vocal in supporting Kevin Sinfield. However, with regard to the rugby league World cup, when we hosted the competition two years ago, it drew more than 450,000 fans and generated an estimated £9.6 million. Officials are due to meet the rugby league next week to discuss its proposed 2021 rugby league World cup bid.

T6. The Immigration Bill seems to make it harder and harder for people in the creative industries, like all others, to work with people across the globe. Has the Secretary of State considered the benefits to our creative industries of a new short-term visa, and will he speak to the Home Secretary about the possibility? (902524)

The hon. Lady raises an important topic. We have a close relationship with the Home Office and keep in close contact with it in on this important issue. Working with organisations such as Tech City UK, we have reformed immigration rules to allow people with the right kind of high-level skills to enter the country and work in our creative industries, and we will continue to work with the Home Office on the issue.

T2. The Minister will be delighted to know that last night, Telford Town Park was announced as the UK’s best park. Will she join me in congratulating all those involved, particularly in Hollinswood and Randlay Parish Council, Friends of Telford Town Park and Telford and Wrekin Council, for the important work that they do? (902519)

This is excellent news for the people of Telford, and I congratulate everyone involved on winning the best park award. Urban parks are vital in providing opportunities for people to get active in the fresh air, and it is important that we protect them for the benefit of local communities.

T3. As we come to within two days of Small Business Saturday, the Secretary of State will be aware that Channel 4 currently works with more than 350 production companies, including a large number of small and medium-sized businesses. Can he assure us that in the event of any privatisation of Channel 4, the livelihood of those important small businesses will not be threatened by the desire to centralise and rationalise to save money? (902520)

I share the hon. Gentleman’s admiration of Channel 4’s work in supporting our creative industries. I am concerned to ensure that Channel 4 continues to have a sustainable and viable future and deliver its remit. With regard to the possible ownership structures, no decisions have been taken, but we are examining a number of different options, including the one put forward by Channel 4 management. Whatever decision we reach will be designed to ensure that Channel 4 continues to make a considerable contribution to our creative economy.

T4. I am grateful for the work that is currently being undertaken to review the case for greater integration of outdoor recreation in the current sport strategy. What steps are being taken to promote outdoor recreation, to further boost domestic and international tourist activity in rural areas in Macclesfield and across the country? (902522)

Outdoor activity is a hugely important part of the tourism offer in rural areas across the whole UK, and the total annual tourism spending attributed to leisure activities is phenomenal. It is of course a key strand of the new strategy, and as tourism Minister I can say that it links in nicely with some of our other activities.

T9. There is mounting evidence that the BBC and its licence fee are inhibiting local newspapers’ ability to develop online. If the Secretary of State is to water down his previous antipathy to the licence fee, will he at least prevent it from being used in a way that hurts non-licence fee-funded local media? (902527)

I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern about local newspapers, which play a vital role in local democracy. I welcome the fact that discussions have been taking place between local media groups and the BBC to determine what the BBC might do to assist local newspapers. I understand that very good progress has been made, and I hope that the BBC will therefore be able to play its part in recognising the contribution that local newspapers make to news provision and giving them some recompense for that.

T5. With the highly successful Westminster gaming event having taken place earlier this month, does my hon. Friend the Minister agree that computer programming and gaming are viable career options for many young people in our rural communities? (902523)

I certainly agree with my hon. Friend, who makes an excellent point about not only the fantastic broadband roll-out in Cornwall, but the south-west’s fantastic games economy, regarding which we can talk about companies such as the Engine Room, Auroch Digital and Opposable Games. As a strong supporter of games and a successful roller-out of broadband, I wholeheartedly agree with both elements of his question.

I cannot let the Minister get away with his comments about S4C. In May, the Conservatives’ manifesto said that they would safeguard the funding of S4C. How does the Chancellor’s statement last week safeguard the funding of S4C along the lines of that manifesto commitment?

S4C will continue to receive funding from DCMS and the BBC, and it will continue to be the most generously funded media company in the country in terms of the number of viewers that it gets.

T7. In September, a new memorial to the miners who lost their lives in the local pits was unveiled in Rugeley. On Saturday night, one of the four statutes was severely damaged by a driver who crashed into it and fled the scene. Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State join me in condemning the action of this callous individual and tell me whether any Government support is available for the repair, maintenance and renewal of local memorials? (902525)

I entirely share my hon. Friend’s feelings. I was concerned to hear about the damage to the memorial to the miners who lost their lives, especially as it came so soon after more than 2,000 people lined the town’s streets for its unveiling in September. I am sure that the whole House will join my hon. Friend in condemning the actions of the person responsible. I can tell her that my Department administers the memorial grant scheme. If a registered charity is responsible for the care of the memorial, it will be able to benefit from a refund of VAT paid on repair work.

If the Government are really serious about opening up culture and the arts to disadvantaged communities, will the Secretary of State explain to my constituents why £150 million was announced for London museums in the comprehensive spending review and there is £100 million for a new arts complex in Battersea, yet Hull, which is the 2017 UK city of culture, is getting a share of £1 million allocated by the Chancellor? How does that work?

I have been to Hull twice now to find out what is going on, and it is fantastic to see the improvements—[Interruption.] Labour Front Benchers can mock what is going on there, but the people of Hull will see those Members laughing at their efforts to produce a great capital of culture.

The hon. Lady does not mention the £78 million for the Factory in Manchester. She does not point out that the intention of the £150 million to get storage out of Blythe house is to get objects away from London and out to the regions. I welcome Hull, even if Labour condemns it as the capital of culture.

The Minister is an exceptionally excited fellow this morning. I do not know what he or the hon. Member for Wolverhampton South West (Rob Marris) had for breakfast, but I shall probably take care to avoid it.

T8. The Minister will be aware of the campaign by the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association to safeguard sculpture in the outdoor realm either from removal or from being sold off. This is a worthwhile cause, so what can the Government do to safeguard and support public sculpture? (902526)

I feel strongly about this issue, Mr Speaker, but I shall try not to get too excited about it. I was pleased to secure the future of the Henry Moore sculpture on Abingdon Green, as well as to campaign to keep a Henry Moore sculpture from being sold by Tower Hamlets and to prevent a Hepworth sculpture from being sold by a shopping centre, so I will support any public campaign that keeps a sculpture where it is meant to be.

I, too, am delighted by the nomination for BBC sports personality of the year of Leeds Rhinos legend, Kevin Sinfield, who is now of Yorkshire Carnegie, and I am equally delighted by the nomination for Otley cycling world champion, Lizzie Armitstead. Given the popularity of cycling, will the Department and the Government get behind making the Tour de Yorkshire a four-day event so that we can build on its huge success last year?

As I said earlier, I congratulate all those who have received nominations for BBC sports personality of the year. It is a testament to how many successful sportsmen and women we have in this country that this year’s line-up is so strong. I am strongly aware of that cycling tournament in the north and we will certainly consider that.