Culture, Media and Sport
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was asked—
Small Production Companies: Cornwall
I hope you will indulge me, Mr Speaker, if I briefly pay tribute to the great George Weidenfeld, who died yesterday. He was a great patron and supporter of the arts.
The Government have taken steps to support small production companies across the UK through tax reliefs and grant schemes. In the last two years, Creative England has supported 51 productions in Cornwall, which has led to 439 shooting days in the county and an estimated on-location spend of nearly £7.5 million.
Tourism in North Cornwall has benefited hugely from the “Poldark” effect, but other television dramas are also produced across our beautiful coastline, including “Doc Martin” in Port Isaac and “Jamaica Inn”, filmed on Bodmin moor. Will my hon. Friend assure me that he will continue to support the film industry in my part of the country?
Of course. I am well aware of the “Poldark” effect. In fact, I am often mistaken for Aidan Turner’s body double. There are 13 great production companies in Cornwall. Our film tax relief has brought more than £7 billion of film investment to the UK as a whole, and I can assure my hon. Friend that we will continue to support productions in Cornwall.
Indeed. Independent production companies in Cornwall and other areas of the country benefit hugely from Channel 4’s unique not-for-profit commissioning strength. Will the Minister please explain why the creation of another business like ITV and Channel 5 is in the interests of production companies in Cornwall, and why it is in the public interest for Channel 4 to be privatised?
I feel like I am taking part in an episode of “Just a Minute” where the subject is Cornwall. We have gone from the south-west to the heart of Westminster, where Channel 4 resides, in its headquarters on Horseferry Road. As the hon. Gentleman is well aware—I know there is another question on Channel 4 later—we are considering all options to take this fantastic channel into the future.
Subsidised Satellite Broadband Programme
I am pleased to confirm that all those living in houses unable to get a speed of at least 2 megabits per second can now take advantage of a subsidised satellite broadband installation, which should deliver speeds of about 10 megabits per second or more.
Connecting Cumbria promised my constituents superfast broadband, but this has not happened quickly enough or to the original programme, which has denied my constituents access to vital services. What assurance can the Minister give that, under the universal service obligation, they will be provided with a minimum of 10 megabits per second by 2020?
I am pleased to say that the Cumbrian programme is going extremely well. About £20 million of Government money has been invested, and in the hon. Lady’s constituency we will reach 92% by the end of the programme, which is a fantastic result, considering that, commercially, less than half of her constituents would have got superfast broadband. We will soon be introducing a consultation on the universal service obligation, and we intend to proceed with haste.
This kind of option is very important in rural areas such as mine, where we have technology issues getting broadband to Longney and Elmore. We have done some good work with BT, but can the Minister guarantee that we will push ahead with all options to make sure everybody has access to broadband in my constituency?
Yes, I can guarantee that. We are moving as fast as we can to deliver superfast broadband, and we intend to reach 95% of the country by the end of 2017 and to have superfast broadband for everyone by 2020. We also have to think again about what we need to do in the decade after that.
In early December, the Minister cast himself as Santa Claus, announcing a “Christmas present” for UK homes and businesses: £60 million to provide satellite provision for those failed by his super-slow broadband crawl-out. As of Monday, a grand total of £8,000 had been spent and only 24 people had benefited from his supposed gift. Was it the fear of seeing him coming down their chimney that put people off or the fact that this is an inadequate stunt designed to fob off his Back Benchers and leaving millions digitally excluded for many Christmases to come?
I thank the hon. Lady for that “Bah Humbug” question. I am delighted that, thanks to our superfast broadband programme, we have reached around 90% of the country. We have cast aside the Scrooge-like 2 megabits target that Labour had for the country as a whole, but we promised everyone guaranteed speeds of 2 megabits, and that is what we have done by providing subsidised satellite services.
I am sure the Minister was busy at Christmas with rehearsals for the “Poldark” Christmas special. I welcome his announcement about enabling those in rural areas to get satellite broadband. This is a particular issue in Rossendale and Darwen where farmers struggle to get broadband. Will my hon. Friend undertake to work with the National Farmers Union and others who are in touch with those working in our rural industries to ensure that farmers find out about this fantastic offer the Minister made before Christmas?
Since a commitment was given in a Westminster Hall debate to expanding superfast broadband across Northern Ireland, I have been contacted by many constituents who have told me that they cannot increase their business—this is mainly small businesses and people who work from home—or start a business without it. What is the Minister doing exclusively to help people with small businesses in the rural community to advance this issue?
We had a very successful broadband voucher scheme, which brought superfast broadband to something like 55,000 businesses. That scheme has come to an end, but we always review what specific help we can give to businesses. The roll-out in Northern Ireland is now picking up pace, which will help both homeowners and businesses alike.
Grassroots Sport: Deprived Areas
I fundamentally believe, and it is reflected in the new sports strategy, that sport has the power to change lives and communities, particularly in deprived areas. As a result, we will invest significantly in organisations that deliver programmes in deprived areas, which will make a difference in health outcomes, community cohesion and individual life chances.
As this will probably be the Minister’s last Question Time before the arrival of her new baby, may I wish her and her family well for the next few weeks?
Does the Minister agree that sporting programmes such as Kicks, run by the Premier League, and Hitz, supported by the rugby premier league, do excellent work tackling gang crime and antisocial behaviour and rehabilitating young offenders, and that they should be at the heart of the delivery of the Government’s new sports strategy?
I am a huge fan of both those schemes. The Premier League Kicks project, which is supported by a number of partners, including my own Department and now the Home Office, shows that 75% of its participants live in the top 30% most deprived areas in England. Where the scheme has been run, it has seen a 60% reduction in antisocial behaviour. It is exactly those kind of projects that will play a key role in delivering the new sports strategy.
Certain members of society that we are trying to reach to ensure that they participate more in sport rely on apps and a greater use of technology. It is something that we reference with a great deal of interest in the sports strategy. Having recently met the hon. Gentleman’s constituents, I know that a great deal of work is being done to increase the number of apps and make sure that technology plays a key part in ensuring that we get the nation active.
Kettering Town Harriers, of which I am proud to be a member, is a fantastic local athletics club, which offers great opportunities for boys, girls and adults from across the borough of Kettering and further afield. Does my hon. Friend agree that local athletics clubs are a great way to help people get involved in sport?
I certainly believe local athletics clubs can play an important role within their own communities. I know of athletics clubs across the entire country that want to make sure that they reach out beyond their core to ensure that all people who want to get involved in athletics—track and field—can do so. Major events, such as the Olympics coming up this year, will help to inspire others to get involved in the future.
May I join the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) in wishing the Minister all the best for her forthcoming maternity leave? I am sure that we all look forward to the birth of a budding young athlete.
While volunteers at the grassroots of sport struggle with scarce resources and ever-increasing charges for facilities, we are seeing a growing number of scandals involving those at the elite end of sport lining their pockets with money that could well be invested in the grassroots. That is demoralising for those who work so hard to deliver sport in our communities. Is it not time to insist that people who are found guilty of doping, match-fixing or accepting bribes are given life bans, no matter who they are? Are the Government demanding that all United Kingdom-based agencies, whether sporting, financial or criminal, actively search for evidence of corruption and cheating in our sport?
The hon. Gentleman is right to say that we need to ensure that as much money as possible is invested in grassroots sport. I am pleased that, as part of the sports strategy, we have managed to encourage the Premier League to at least double its investment in grassroots sport, which will be underpinned by the welcome settlement in the spending review. I was disappointed that the hon. Gentleman did not share our joy over that settlement.
Scandals and allegations of corruption are, unfortunately, ongoing. It is very disappointing when each scandal is reported. We in the Government will see what we can do, and if it is necessary to review existing legislation, we will do so. In the meantime, we are encouraging international federations to root out corruption as quickly as possible.
Amateur Sports Clubs: Flooding
After the floods became more widespread, Sport England doubled its emergency flood relief fund, which is designed to help finance necessary recovery work for amateur sports clubs that are affected by flooding. That is entirely a matter for Sport England, but the Department and I receive regular updates on issues that clubs in affected areas are facing. The Football Foundation and the England and Wales Cricket Board are providing additional flood funds to assist clubs that are ineligible for Sport England funds.
I thank the Minister for her reply, and wish her well for her forthcoming maternity leave.
The grounds of both Ramsbottom United football club and Ramsbottom cricket club, which are in my constituency, were completely submerged during the recent floods, which caused tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of damage. Although the supporters have worked valiantly and they have done what they can to help themselves, the clubs are still struggling to recover. What further help might the Government provide, as a matter of urgency, to help them to do so?
I have read about the awful damage at Ramsbottom cricket club and “Rammy United”, as I believe it is known. It seems that the wider community, sporting and otherwise, has done an incredible job in helping with the immediate clear-up. The ECB, the Football Foundation and others have pledged financial support, but if the clubs need assistance with anything else, my hon. Friend is welcome to get in touch, and we will try to ensure that they receive all the help and advice that can be provided.
My ministerial colleagues regularly meet a range of stakeholders to discuss issues relating to the work of the Department, including the future of Channel 4. The Government are considering a number of options, including those proposed by Channel 4’s leadership, but no decisions have yet been made.
Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Channel 4 on achieving a record number of both Oscar and BAFTA nominations this year? Does he agree that it would not be able to deliver its unique and invaluable remit if it had to return a profit to shareholders?
As I have said, my concern is to ensure the continuing success and viability of Channel 4, which is why we are considering a number of options. I understand that the last Labour Government did so as well, and that they also considered privatisation. We have not yet reached a conclusion, but I will adopt whatever policy I believe is best designed to ensure that Channel 4 continues to enjoy the success that the right hon. Gentleman has described.
Does the Secretary of State recognise the inherent tension in the fact that one of the purposes of privatisation would be to raise the maximum amount of money for the Treasury, and the more Channel 4 sticks to its distinctive and successful remit, the less money is likely to be raised? Can he assure the House that, when he makes his final decision, the preservation of the broadcasting and the creative success of Channel 4 will be uppermost in his mind?
I am very happy to give my right hon. Friend exactly that assurance. The reason why we are looking at different options for the future of Channel 4 is to ensure that it can continue to deliver the remit in what is going to become a very fast-changing and challenging environment. However, as I have made clear before, it is the remit that matters, and I want Channel 4 to continue to deliver it into the future.
Has the Secretary of State had an opportunity to consider the “One year on” report on Channel 4’s 360° diversity charter? Does he recognise that, while diversity is a pronounced feature in Channel 4’s particular vocation, increasing diversity is not only the job of Channel 4, and will he value diversity when he considers the BBC charter renewal?
I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The challenge of increasing diversity applies across all broadcasters. It is something that I know my hon. Friend the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy has paid close attention to—and indeed he was speaking only this week with Idris Elba, who is another person who competes with him in terms of his own attraction.
Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Chancellor of the Exchequer now believes Channel 4 privatisation will bring the Conservatives much public opprobrium for a relatively small financial return and that the Conservatives are now backing away from the idea of privatising this much loved public institution?
I hate to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, but, as I said earlier, no decisions have been taken. I have not had an opportunity to discuss the matter with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because we have not yet reached our own conclusions on it, but I look forward to doing so in due course.
First World War Commemorations
There are two key first world war events to commemorate this year. On 31 May, national events will be held in Orkney to mark the battle of Jutland and the wider war at sea, and on 1 July national events will be held both in Manchester and at the Thiepval memorial in France to commemorate the battle of the Somme. These form part of wider national commemorations over the next two years, and I would encourage all hon. Members to read details of the latest 14-18 NOW culture programme, which was announced yesterday.
I thank the Secretary of State for the work he and others, including the hon. Member for South West Wiltshire (Dr Murrison), have been doing in ensuring the smooth running of these commemorations. They will have seen the great success of the Tower poppies installation at the Yorkshire sculpture park, which reminds us all of the importance of ensuring that the commemorations extend to every corner of the country. Does he agree that in this important year of commemoration we should also find a moment in this House for Members to come together and pay their respects in this place? Will he use his good offices to ensure that such an opportunity is forthcoming?
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his words, and in turn thank him for his support. We may argue over many matters in this House, but I think all parties can come together in memory of those who sacrificed so much. He mentioned the weeping window and the wave sculptures, and I was delighted that the Chancellor has made more money available to allow us to take that sculpture to more parts of the country, including St Magnus cathedral, as part of the commemoration of Jutland. The hon. Gentleman’s suggestion that we should have an opportunity here to commemorate those who gave their lives is an excellent one. It is not entirely one I can deliver, but I am very happy to pursue it.
Can my right hon. Friend say how Devonport is going to be included in the battle of Jutland commemorations, since my grandfather was a gunnery officer and wrote an eyewitness account of it?
I entirely understand my hon. Friend’s wish to see the commemoration, given his own personal connection, and I pay tribute to his grandfather, and indeed all who served at that time. He will know that a series of events is being planned, including the ceremony at the Orkney islands. Descendants of those who served at the battle are invited to take part in the events and I hope he will apply—although he will need to be rather quick since the closing date is tomorrow. He may also be interested to know that the Royal Navy will be marking the centenary at memorials in his constituency at Devonport and also at Portsmouth and Chatham.
Children and Young People: Access to Sport
A positive experience of sport at a young age can create a lifelong habit of participation. It is therefore important that all children have the opportunity to engage in sport and physical activity in a way that interests them, and that sits at the very heart of the new sports strategy.
I thank the sports Minister for her question and I wish her well with her maternity. I am aware that she will have other notable diary commitments, but I would like to invite her and other parliamentary colleagues to join me, the BBC and ITV on 2 February for the parliamentary launch of the Six Nations rugby season. Does she agree that free-to-air sports, underpinned by the listed events regime, are crucial to inspiring young people to take up sport?
I am conscious of the fact that my hon. Friend’s injury is sport-related and that at this moment he might therefore not be the best advert for encouraging people to get involved in sport. On his specific question, I understand that the Secretary of State is hoping to attend the event on 2 February. Alas, I shall—I hope—be otherwise engaged. However, I do of course agree that sport on free-to-air TV, underpinned by the listed events regime, is crucial to inspiring youngsters to take up sport. Like so many others, I am looking forward to the Six Nations, even though I shall be watching it from my armchair.
May I gently point out to both Front-Bench teams that I do not seem to have heard the words “England”, “cricket”, “South Africa”, “Joe Root” or “Yorkshire” this morning? Can we congratulate the English team on what they achieved in South Africa, as we have not already done so? On young people’s access to sport, is it not a question, in this age of childhood obesity, of young people getting out into the countryside and walking as well as engaging in sport? As the chair of the John Clare Trust, I know how difficult it is to get children from poorer areas into the countryside so that they can learn about it and learn to love it.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving me the opportunity to congratulate our England cricket stars on their sporting success in South Africa. We should also congratulate our English men and women down in Australia, who appear to be doing incredibly well in the Big Bash tournament. Of course, ensuring that children are involved in sport is incredibly important and we need to ensure that they are inspired by all the different sports that are available to them. The sports strategy is very much designed to encourage people who want to do all sorts of sports and physical activities, whether traditional sports or other outdoor activities such as mountaineering or climbing, and to ensure that they have access to them.
The Government are supporting an increase in visitor numbers to Yorkshire through the work of VisitBritain, VisitEngland and the GREAT campaign. Yorkshire received record inbound tourist numbers in 2014, and we are continuing to work hard to attract domestic and international visitors to the county. That is why the Prime Minister has published his five-point plan on tourism and why at the recent spending review we secured a new £40 million Discover England fund.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that when a heritage item is movable, there is a case for occasionally placing it on display outside London and the south of England? Is he aware that Hull is our city of culture next year, and that many people in Yorkshire have been expecting that the aeroplane used by the Hull-born aviator Amy Johnson will be on display in the region? However, the London-based Science Museum has refused to give its permission, saying that the plane must stay in London. Will he join me in asking the London-obsessed Science Museum to think again, and will he agree to meet me to discuss this matter?
I am very much aware that Hull is to be the next city of culture; I recently had a meeting with the organisers, as did both my ministerial colleagues, to discuss that. I quite understand why Hull should want to celebrate the life of Amy Johnson, who was born in the city. I know that there has been a lengthy dialogue about the specific issue that my right hon. Friend has raised and that the Science Museum is concerned about the delicate state of the aeroplane and the potential cost of the move, but I am happy to look into the matter further and I am of course willing to meet my right hon. Friend to discuss it.
I am sure the Secretary of State will be delighted to know that Hull now ranks in the top 10 cities of the world to visit, according to the “Rough Guide”. On that basis, I am very pleased that one of my constituency neighbours, the right hon. Member for East Yorkshire (Sir Greg Knight), has supported the bid to bring Amy Johnson’s plane to Hull. Also on that basis, will the Secretary of State press the Treasury to fill the £5 million gap that has resulted from the Arts Council turning down an application for funds to refurbish the New theatre in the city? That refurbishment needs to go ahead in time for the 2017 celebrations. I make this request in the light of the fact that the Treasury has found £78 million to pay for a new theatre in Manchester.
The hon. Lady is quite right to highlight the autumn statement and the settlement that was achieved, which included money for arts institutions across the country. I am aware of the issue relating to the New theatre in Hull, and of course I am keen to support as much as possible in the city during this very important year approaching. I am happy to continue to press the case, but obviously she will understand that there are a lot of competing bids. We are determined to make Hull a success as the UK city of culture.
BBC Charter Renewal
Good progress is being made on the BBC charter review programme. The consultation launched in July received 192,000 responses. We are, of course, committed to reading and analysing all of them, and we reached 150,000 earlier this month. In addition, I have commissioned further reviews and research, including an independent review of governance and regulation led by Sir David Clementi. In the coming months, my Department will work towards publishing proposals for the future of the BBC.
Does the Minister not accept that the huge number of responses to the consultation—the second largest response to any Government consultation—shows the concern for and interest in the BBC? In the interests of full transparency, will the Secretary of State now give, as my constituents are demanding, a specific timetable for the Government publishing their full response to the BBC consultation?
As I say, I am very pleased about the volume of responses we have had, although approaching 150,000 of them came in within 48 hours; 38 Degrees has boasted of its success in generating all those responses. That does not mean they are not valid expressions of opinion; it just means that perhaps they are not wholly representative of public opinion at large. However, we are committed to reading every one. That is proving a logistical challenge and it has taken longer than we anticipated, but we will be publishing both a summary of the consultations and our proposals as soon as we are able.
There have been persistent reports that, as a part of cost-cutting, the BBC will downgrade news coverage and its parliamentary coverage. Does the Secretary of State agree that the public reasonably expect a news channel and comprehensive parliamentary reports to be essential parts of a public service broadcaster’s remit?
My constituents tell me that they do not want the BBC dismantled or diminished, and they certainly do not want its remit narrowed. This Government have flogged off more of our national assets than almost any other, so can we really trust them with the BBC?
The BBC charter expires at the end of this year, and that provides an opportunity to look at all aspects of the BBC in what is a very fast-changing media landscape. That is the purpose of the charter review. We have not reached any decisions yet and we are listening to all expressions of opinion about the future of the BBC, of which there are very many.
13. How does the Secretary of State explain the worrying discrepancy between the amount raised via licence fees and the amount spent in Scotland? There is a mismatch between the £335 million in income for the BBC from Scotland and the £190 million spent there. Does he not agree that a fairer share of that income would boost our broadcasting sector and provide funding for the restructuring of BBC Scotland? (903153)
Of course, viewers in Scotland, just as elsewhere in the United Kingdom, benefit from the national programming of the BBC. She will be aware that the director general recently gave evidence to the Scottish Education and Culture Committee, in which he pointed out that in 2014 £108 million was spent on local content and that that rose to more than £200 million when central support and distribution costs were included.
Ninety-seven per cent. of the adult population of the UK use the BBC services for an average of 18 hours every week, and their perceptions of the BBC have improved over the past 10 years. According to the BBC Trust, 85% of the public support the BBC’s main mission to inform, educate and entertain. Those figures are a remarkable endorsement of the public service ethos of the BBC. The consultation on charter renewal of the Secretary of State’s Department closed on 8 October last year, and he has now spent more time considering the responses to that consultation than he allowed for the public to respond. When will he get his act together and publish the results? Can he just give us a date today, please?
May I begin by welcoming the hon. Lady to her new position? I have been doing this job for a relatively short time—just eight months—and she is now the third Opposition spokesman I have faced. I do hope that she survives a little longer than her immediate predecessors. In relation to her question, I am keen that we should publish our proposals, but we did not anticipate 192,000 responses. She will understand that, if I were to get up and publish our conclusions, she would quickly be at the Dispatch Box claiming that we had not properly analysed them and that this was a cosmetic exercise. It is not a cosmetic exercise and we are reading the responses carefully.
I am afraid that the right hon. Gentleman sounds as if he is procrastinating. The BBC charter expires at the end of this year, but he has not even got around to publishing his White Paper because the consultation is taking so long. Will he guarantee that his Department’s time wasting will not result in some kind of debilitating short-term charter extension beyond the end of the year? Will he be clear today that the next charter will be for a minimum of 10 years?
Charter review comes round once every 10 years and I am determined that we should get it right. We will take however long it takes to ensure that we fully consult and consider the options, and we will publish as soon as we are ready. We are currently considering the length of the next charter, which was one of the questions in the Green Paper, and it will form part of our conclusions when we come to publish them.
Since the House last met for these questions, the Minister for sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), has launched the first Government sports strategy in more than a decade and the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy, my hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), has become the longest serving arts Minister in history. We have also seen the sad passing of some of our great cultural icons. I am sure the whole Chamber will join me in extending our sympathies to the families, and indeed the fans, of David Bowie, Jimmy Hill, Alan Rickman and Lemmy, and also in celebrating the enormous contribution that each made to the sporting and cultural life of our country.
The success in attracting the “Star Wars” trilogy to the UK underlines the terrific talent available in our creative industries as well as the incredible variety of filming locations. What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the impact of tax credits on the film and other creative industries?
My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the success we have had in attracting international investment in film to this country not just in “Star Wars”, but in a huge proportion of the major films now being made. Part of the reason for that is indeed our creative industry’s tax credits. In 2013, the creative industries accounted for 5% of the economy, and our tax credits are one way of our supporting them. The film tax credit has been responsible for nearly £7 billion of investment in the UK, and our high-end TV tax credit has helped to support more than £800 million of investment.
T5. What assistance will the Department give to local authorities to keep their regional museums open following the recent Museums Association report, which stated that one in five regional museums has closed in part or in full and that one in 10 expect to introduce entrance charges to cover reductions in local authority funding? (903163)
I read the Museums Association report, and I welcome the fact that 60% of museums have seen their visitor numbers increase and that 40% of museums have seen their museum outreach increase. We want to work with local authorities and to work through the Arts Council with local authorities. I urge Labour authorities such as Lancashire to look again at their horrific plans to close their museums.
T7. What progress has been made in securing at least 5% of the Premier League TV deal for grassroots football? Children’s football is virtually unplayable at this time of year, yet the Premier League continues to throw money around as though it is going out of fashion. (903165)
The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that through negotiations and discussions with the Premier League I have managed to secure at least double what it currently invests in grassroots football. That will be more than £100 million per annum from the domestic TV rights, which equates to about 6.5% of the total.
T3. The long-serving Minister responsible for arts and broadband will share my disappointment that despite his welcome promise to ensure that no home in the country has broadband speeds of less than 2 megabits per second, there are apparently parts of my constituency in Gloucester that have still not reached that speed. I have raised one particular area and problem with BT since 2013. First BT promised to upgrade the cabinet, then it failed to do so, and now it says that it is commercially unviable. Will the Minister meet me and celebrate his long tenure by resolving this problem? (903161)
I will happily meet my hon. Friend at any point. I am pleased that at least 93% or 94% of his constituents have superfast broadband. Of course, it is more difficult because of state aid rules to subsidise broadband in cities, but I will certainly meet my hon. Friend and discuss the particular issues he faces.
I, too, wish the Minister well on maternity leave. I hope that it all goes well and that we see her back in her role.
A recent response from the Gambling Commission to a freedom of information request has revealed 633 possible incidents of money laundering in betting shops in the past 12 months alone. Not only that, but online we are seeing videos of fixed odds betting terminals being smashed up with chairs and hammers. What are the Government going to do to protect lone staff and vulnerable people in betting shops?
I take the issue of money laundering in gambling very seriously and the Gambling Commission is currently consulting on proposed regulatory changes to strengthen the fight against that crime. I understand that the Treasury will be consulting on the EU directive on money laundering, which will include gambling. On the issue of violence in betting shops, there has of course been an increase in the number of police callouts to high street shops. Whether the callout is related to FOBT machines is not recorded, but as a keen campaigner on BT machines I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will be interested to know that today I have published on the gov.uk website the evaluation of the £50 regulations introduced last April, and I expect a triennial review of stakes and prizes to begin soon.
T4. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the many towns across the UK that will be laying on cultural experiences in the coming year? In Horsham, that varies from a brand new cultural festival we are putting on in the summer to pancake racing next month. The Secretary of State would be very welcome to join me at either. (903162)
I am very happy to join my hon. Friend in congratulating all those towns holding arts festivals, which include not just Horsham but Maldon. I am particularly pleased that there are plans in my hon. Friend’s constituency, as part of a festival, to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, which will be marked not just across the country but around the world. I would be very happy to visit an event in my hon. Friend’s constituency, although I cannot promise to participate in the pancake race.
Despite the Secretary of State’s earlier bluster about national programming, people in Scotland were shocked by the £145 million differential between income and expenditure as regards the BBC licence fee. That could free up £100 million for direct production in Scotland, which would support 1,500 jobs and add a boost of £60 million to the economy. Will he commit to full devolution of broadcasting to make that happen?
I am aware of the concerns in Scotland about this, and, as I said earlier to the hon. Member for Edinburgh North and Leith (Deidre Brock), it is something that the director-general discussed with the Select Committee last week. I shall be seeing the director -general later. It is important that the BBC should serve all parts of the country, but I do not think that we can simply sit down and allocate spending precisely in proportion to the licence fee. It is a national broadcaster.
T6. I, too, wish my hon. Friend well in her imminent personal sporting challenge. As she knows, Faversham and Mid Kent is rich in fascinating tourist destinations, such as Leeds castle and the historic market town of Faversham itself, so I welcomed the recently announced £40 million Visit England fund. Will organisations such as Visit Kent have a chance to bid for a share of this fund? (903164)
I am proud that “Downton Abbey” was made in Ealing—the below-stairs servants quarters were in my constituency—but the series has now ended, so what are the Government doing to increase representation on and off-screen of the nation’s ethnic, regional and gender diversity so that the airwaves are not all dominated by the classes upstairs?
I fully support the sentiment behind the hon. Lady’s question. We have worked closely with the broadcasters to have stretching targets. We have put the Creative Diversity Network on a permanent footing and we have clear guidance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on what broadcasters can do—but they need to get on with it.
T8. Destination Staffordshire recently submitted its bid for funding from the European regional development fund. In the interests of brevity, will my right hon. Friend encourage Ministers in the Department for Communities and Local Government to look favourably on the bid—yes or no? (903166)
My hon. Friend is right to stress the importance of tourism to Staffordshire as it contributes to the economy of so much of our country. He will know that this is a matter for my colleagues in the Department for Communities and Local Government. I understand that discussions have taken place and my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton), the Minister with responsibility for local growth and the northern powerhouse, would be happy to set up a meeting to discuss the position.
I am very conscious of the challenge to ensure that we get the message out that Yorkshire and other parts of the country affected by flooding are open for business. We will be looking closely at what we can do to support those businesses affected by flooding. I hope we will be able to say more about that quite soon.
Did I just hear the Minister confirm that there would be a triennial review this year, and will she comment on exactly when and what that will be?
Andy Murray, who hails from my constituency, won again last night. He is a hero and the epitome of integrity in sport. He made some comments this week about matchfixing. We have had the International Association of Athletics Federations report and the FIFA fiasco. Can the Minister assure me that we will do all we can to make sure that we are a shining example of promoting integrity in sport, as epitomised by Andy Murray?
I am happy to join the hon. Gentleman in that call. I have spoken this week with the Lawn Tennis Association, the All England tennis club and the Association of Tennis Professionals. We are determined to do all we can to support them in ensuring that the game is absolutely clean, and I know they are committed to that as well. We will be holding a summit later in the year, looking at the challenge of tackling corruption across all sectors, including sport.
Given the imminent demise of the largely unsuccessful Arqiva mobile infrastructure programme, what can now be done to improve the “not spot” situation, which is wholly unsatisfactory in relation to the £400 billion rural economy?
I am pleased that we should have 75 sites erected as a result of the mobile infrastructure programme. Thirty-two people living in Wales have benefited from a new mobile site that has just been erected. I am pleased that under the deal that we negotiated with mobile operators, they will increase their coverage to 90% geographic coverage.
I congratulate my local team, East Kilbride football club, on reaching the last 16 of the Scottish cup for the very first time. Does the Minister agree that it is unfair that while English fans can watch their national team free of charge, Scottish fans have to pay? Will she meet the Scottish Government’s sports Minister to discuss and resolve the situation?
That is a matter for the home nation football associations, so the Scottish FA should negotiate with UEFA, under its central sales strategy, which broadcasts qualifying or friendly matches. We have a listed events regime whereby we can see home nations compete in the European championship and, of course, world cup final tournaments, but home nations need to qualify to be able to do so.
The hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) has a nerve trying to claim to be the champion of betting shop workers. If his policies were adopted there would be far fewer of them, because many betting shops would close. Does the Minister agree that if we want to see more staff employed in betting shops—I certainly do—they need to have a viable financial future, particularly in relation to negotiations on machines and the levy?
There are some very strict rules and statutory requirements, particularly on the number of staff in betting shops. They are subject to health and safety regulations, and voluntary minimum standards are required across the industry. I expect all operators to adhere to those standards in order to protect their staff on the high street.
Restoration and Renewal
2. What steps the Commission plans to take to ensure public and parliamentary scrutiny of the restoration and renewal of the Palace of Westminster after a decision on the options for that project has been made. (903180)
I anticipate that both Houses will have an opportunity to debate the matter once the Joint Committee on the Palace of Westminster has reported. The question of future scrutiny will be aired in those debates and the House of Commons Commission will listen carefully to the views expressed before making any decisions.
Many of my constituents find it difficult to understand how we can consider spending billions of pounds on a palace—literally a palace—for parliamentarians when so many of them can barely afford a roof of any kind over their heads. Can we have an assurance that the Joint Committee, which so far has met entirely in private, will soon meet in public and that all documentation relating to its considerations will be made public?
I am sure that the Joint Committee and the Leader of the House will have heard the hon. Gentleman’s comments and will want to respond positively. It is worth underlining the fact that we have neglected the upkeep of this building for many decades and that we do need to make investment in what is, after all, a world heritage building.
I would like to thank the House of Commons Commission for contacting me, as chair of the all-party group for disability, to ensure that we are involved in plans to restore the Palace of Westminster. Will the right hon. Gentleman ensure that all restoration and renewal work fully addresses issues of accessibility for people who have disabilities?
I do not want to pre-empt what the Joint Committee will come up with, but I am sure it will carefully consider that matter. I think that every Member of the House will agree that it would be a completely missed opportunity if these works did not also ensure that the Palace is fully accessible to anyone with disabilities.
As well as having an opportunity to debate the R and R programme, it is hugely important that Members have an opportunity to promote businesses in their constituencies that can take part in the works. For example, Crown Paints, based in Darwen, would be a fantastic company to provide paint and to advise at this early stage to ensure that costs are reduced.
The hon. Gentleman makes a very good point. Clearly, a project on this scale will require the participation of small, medium and large businesses from all over the country. When the project comes forward, I hope that the initiatives used to promote opportunities for businesses in the run-up to the Olympics will be deployed for the restoration of the Palace.
Could the House of Commons Commission and the Joint Committee consider the idea of an historic trust into which the estate could be placed in order to separate the politics of renewal from the restoration of a national asset?
I am all for scrutiny, public and parliamentary, but can the right hon. Gentleman confirm that a decision will definitely be reached before the end of this Parliament and that we will not waste any further time or public money debating this very important issue in the next Parliament?
I am not in a position to give the hon. Gentleman that reassurance because it is for the Joint Committee to decide what it recommends as a way forward. I think that everyone in this place knows that this work must be undertaken, and it is in our interest and that of the taxpayer that it is pursued vigorously. The longer we delay, the greater the costs associated with the works.
May I urge the right hon. Gentleman to look seriously, and imaginatively, at how this reconstruction is going to be funded—perhaps by public subscription through a form of crowdfunding? May I warn him not to enter into a careless public finance initiative like the one in Halifax, where £770 million has been paid back on a hospital that cost £70 million?
I hope that everyone in this place has learned the lessons of PFI. Again, it is not for me to work out what the financial arrangements are going to be, but clearly PFI may well be one of the more expensive options. I hope that the Treasury will look at something that is perhaps more straightforward in funding these improvements.
Equality, diversity and inclusion are core to the way in which the House of Commons service works. The Commission agreed a diversity and inclusion strategy that promotes gender equality, and receives regular updates on its delivery. Key measures include targets for the number of women in the senior pay bands, fair and open recruitment, and promotion of flexible working.
The right hon. Gentleman may remember that in the previous Parliament I raised the issue of the representation of women, both as politicians and authors, in the Parliamentary Bookshop. When perusing its bookshelves, visitors from all over the world, potential MPs among them, would gain the impression that the House was almost exclusively male and white—as they would, for that matter, when viewing the walls in the Palace of Westminster. What steps is he taking to ensure that, superficially at least, the Palace of Westminster better represents the people and diversity of this country?
Again, the appropriate authorities will have heard the hon. Lady’s question. Like her, I think it is important that we recognise the very important role that women have played, and continue to play, in politics, and I hope that will be reflected in what is on offer in the bookstores.
It is very important that the House of Commons sets the agenda for gender equality. The right hon. Gentleman has outlined some of the things that have been done, but what more is being done to let people outside this House know that we are leading the way and setting the examples in raising gender equality issues?
Independent assessments are carried out of how Parliament addresses the issue of equality. For instance, members of the public could look at Stonewall’s assessment. That puts Parliament nearly in the top quarter, so progress is being made. More still could be done, but that is a very good way for members of the public to assess the progress we are making.