Skip to main content

Culture, Media and Sport

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 3 November 2016

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport was asked—

Nuisance Calls

May I start by welcoming all Opposition Front-Bench Members? It is good to see a full complement of shadow Ministers and I look forward to working with everyone in the foreseeable future. [Interruption.] My side is slightly depleted. My right hon. Friend the Minister for Digital and Culture currently has Her Majesty visiting his constituency, and sends his apologies.

The Government are taking forward a range of measures to tackle nuisance calls. This includes the recent announcement to consult on making company directors liable for breaches of the direct marketing rules.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the update and the moves the Government have made so far. In the last Parliament I was vice-chairman of the all-party group on nuisance calls and we produced a report containing many recommendations. What other work is being done to implement them?

I thank my hon. Friend for the work of the all-party group. A number of its recommendations have been taken forward, including the new requirement for all direct marketing callers to provide caller-line identification, and I have just mentioned our intention to hold company directors to account. More needs to be done and I stand ready to make sure we do what we need to do to stamp out the dreadful nuisance that is nuisance calls.

Is the Secretary of State aware of the Fair Telecoms Campaign? It argues that, given the untargeted nature of the telephone, it is completely inappropriate for payment protection insurance and accident claims calls. It suggests that the Secretary of State should press colleagues at the Ministry of Justice to prohibit this entirely. Will she meet the campaign and my constituent David Hickson to sort this out?

I will look carefully at what the hon. Lady said, but I assure her that this is a cross-Government piece of work; we need to work together to tackle this and I fully recognise that nuisance calls can have a devastating effect on people.

Nuisance telephone calls are a modern menace, especially for the elderly. I am pleased to hear that the Government are taking more action. What will my right hon. Friend be doing to monitor whether the new action is actually being successful?

I will look carefully at whether the action we have taken so far has the desired effect, and if it does not I do not rule out taking further steps.

I am delighted that the UK Government have announced they will accept the provisions of my ten-minute rule Bill in their entirety and hold named directors to account for nuisance calls with effect from spring 2017. Does the right hon. Lady agree that we must not rest on our laurels and that we must continue to strive against nuisance calls to protect the vulnerable, all consumers and legitimate and ethical businesses, and will she keep the House updated on action going forward?

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for her Bill, which helped raise awareness of the issue, and I am pleased the Government are following her recommendations. We need to make sure this works; we need to work together to make sure that it does, and I will be very happy to continue updating the House on this matter.

Fixed Odds Betting Terminals

2. What assessment her Department has made of the effectiveness of regulation of fixed odds betting terminals. (907003)

Mr Speaker, you will recall that before I went on maternity leave I announced that the triannual review into stakes and prizes would happen this year, and I am pleased to say this promise has been kept. The review was published last week and will include a close look at fixed odds betting terminals.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Will she look carefully at the merits of reducing the maximum bet per spin for FOBTs from £100 to £2, and at the important contribution that could make to significantly reducing problem gambling and the problems families suffer as a result?

I am sure the House would not want me to prejudge the outcome of the review, but clearly the call for evidence will look at the stakes and prizes of all gaming machines, and I have no doubt that the Department will receive many representations on those of FOBTs.

The whole House is concerned about FOBTs, which are the crack cocaine of gambling. It is possible to spend £100 every 20 seconds, or £300 every minute, on them. They are affecting our constituents, and people have a real concern about them. I welcome the fact that we are going to have a review, but when will the Government also deal with the Gambling Commission, which seems to have sat behind this and allowed it to happen, alongside the inaction of the previous Government?

The review is looking at all stakes and prizes relating to gaming machines. The issue with FOBTs has clearly grown since the liberalisation of gambling, which was of course brought in by the Labour party when it was in government. The issue blights individuals and communities and I am very passionate about it. I look forward to the review concluding.

Perhaps it would be topical to point out that the term “crack cocaine of gambling” was first coined by Donald Trump in the 1980s. He was talking about video keno games affecting his casinos. Perhaps the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones) will start chanting “Lock her up” if we keep quoting Donald Trump. Can the Minister tell us what the point is of reducing the stakes on fixed-odds betting terminals in betting shops when people can go straight on to the internet and play exactly the same games with unlimited stakes and unlimited prizes?

I welcome my hon. Friend’s comments on these issues. He will of course be entitled to reply to the call for evidence on gaming machines. Online gaming is obviously an area of increasing concern that we keep under regular review.

11. The Responsible Gambling Trust has made it clear that at least 37% of people using fixed-odds betting terminals can be deemed to be problem gamblers—[Interruption.] I rather think that the trust knows more than the hon. Member for Shipley (Philip Davies) about this. What are the Government going to do to deal with the problem of vulnerable people gambling? (907012)

The official statistic is that 1% of the adult population have a problem with gambling, but that still equates to 600,000 people, and in my view that is 600,000 too many.


3. What assessment she has made of trends in the level of tourism to the UK over the next five years. (907004)

Together with VisitBritain, we actively monitor inbound tourism trends to the UK. The latest figures predict a 27% growth in tourism visits between 2015 and 2020. International tourism has had a very strong summer, with August setting a new inbound record for that month with 3.8 million visits—up 2% on the same month last year—and July having the highest ever figure for that month.

Wales has seen the biggest rise in overseas visitors to the UK in 2016, and it is the only part of the UK to feature in the “Lonely Planet” guide’s list of the best places to visit in 2017. Hopefully, there will be many more. Does the Minister appreciate that there is great uncertainty in the sector over what Brexit will mean in practice? This means that we need Ministers to listen hard, have a plan and work closely with the Welsh Government to ensure that Welsh tourism goes from strength to strength.

The hon. Lady is right: the number of international visitors to Wales is up 15% and the figure for domestic visitors is 4%. That is a tribute to the hard work of VisitWales and VisitBritain. With the “Lonely Planet” guide placing north Wales in its top places to visit and with the Champions League final being played in Cardiff in June, things can only get better next year. I can reassure the hon. Lady that I meet Ministers from all the devolved Administrations regularly, and that we want to work closely to ensure that more people come to Britain, and that means all parts of Britain, and Wales.

For the first time for 12 years, Visit Isle of Wight will be at the World Travel Market, which takes place next week. Will the Minister pay a visit to the stand to show her support for tourism beyond London and, in particular, on my island?

My hon. Friend will be pleased to hear that the Secretary of State will be visiting the World Travel Market next week, and I am sure that if she has time she will pop by and visit the Isle of Wight’s stand.

What a fortunate and apparently prosperous fellow the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Turner) is! We are always pleased to get a bit of additional information.

The “Lonely Planet” guide must be in a galaxy far, far away if it does not mention Yorkshire. We in Yorkshire demand a greater share of all the people who come here. Too many tourists come to London but do not go beyond it. When are we going to get the balance right?

Visits to Yorkshire are in good health. One of the Government’s ambitions under the tourism action plan is to ensure that people get out of London and visit the rest of the country, and we are supporting that with the £40 million Discover England fund. I encourage the Yorkshire tourism industry to see whether it can apply for additional funds.

Like most of the sector, the Cornish tourist industry enjoyed a bumper summer, but there is still a degree of uncertainty about the impact on the industry of leaving the EU. What conversations has the Minister had with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union to ensure that the voice of the tourist industry is heard in the negotiations?

Cornwall has had many of my tourism pounds over the past few years. I reassure my hon. Friend and the whole House that we regularly meet the tourism industry as a whole. We have discussed Brexit issues at significant length and continue to do so. We have round tables and the Tourism Industry Council, and there are many other forums at which such issues are discussed. We are working hard to ensure that the industry’s concerns are represented.

The figures alluded to by the Minister, not least those for Wales, are welcome, but what assessment has she made of the further impact on the industry of the reduction in VAT on tourism and visitor attractions?

The Department and I are sympathetic towards cutting VAT on attractions and accommodation. However, the industry needs to make that argument to the Treasury, not to us.

Sadly, I do not own an island, but I do live in the glorious Ribble Valley. The falling pound should mean that far more foreign tourists look favourably at the United Kingdom. The Crown jewels may be in the Tower of London, but the real crown jewels are in the UK’s regions, whether Yorkshire, Wales or the Isle of Wight. What more can be done to attract tourism away from London and into the regions?

As I said earlier, we are working hard to ensure that we get visitors out of London and into the regions. I encourage my hon. Friend and his local destination organisation to apply for Discover England funding to ensure that we can attract visitors to all parts of the country, including Lancashire and his constituency, where one can purchase the finest sticky toffee pudding I have ever had.

Local Charities Day

Local Charities Day is an opportunity for all to celebrate small local charities across the country and for the Government to recognise the huge contribution that they make to local communities. Small charities make up 97% of the voluntary and community sector and have a massive impact, yet media attention usually focuses on the big players. Small local charities deserve much more recognition than they currently receive, and I encourage all hon. and right hon. Members to get involved on 16 December.

Will the Minister tell the House how the Small Charitable Donations and Childcare Payments Bill will help charities such as the Leyland Project, which works with young people in my constituency?

I pay tribute to the Leyland Project, which does such great work in my hon. Friend’s constituency, and possibly elsewhere in Lancashire. The Bill represents yet another commitment that we are making to small local charities that will help to ensure that the gift aid small donations scheme is more accessible to small and new charities. It is expected to be worth an additional £15 million a year for the sector. That means £41 million a year from the small donation scheme, which, when added to gift aid of £1.3 billion a year, should help an awful lot of small charities.

Is the Minister aware that the latest findings from the national trustee survey reveal that almost a quarter of charity trustees have considered quitting due to mounting pressure and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit trustees? Given how important trustees are to the sector, what plans do the Government have for further support so that trustees can fulfil their roles?

The right hon. Lady is absolutely right to mention the role of trustees, who do a fantastic job up and down the country supporting charities in their amazing work. The Government’s job is to help charities big and small to become more independent, resilient and sustainable. That is exactly what we intend to do.

Tourism: Exchange Rate

5. What assessment she has made of the effect of recent changes in the currency exchange rate on tourism in the UK. (907006)

It is too early to draw conclusions about the impact of changes in the currency exchange rate on tourism. Many trips to the UK are booked far in advance. Thanks to our world-class attractions, heritage and great marketing campaign, July and August set new records for inbound visits and spending.

Since the EU referendum result, the pound has devalued dramatically, and last month the Conservatives were celebrating the rising number of tourists coming to the UK. Is it now the Government’s policy to encourage a weak pound in order to increase the number of visitors to UK tourist sites?

I appreciate that this is a Labour party attack on the Government following Brexit, but the British tourism industry is going from strength to strength. The softening of the pound is a welcome boost for that, but it is a concerted action by Government and industry that has been driving record-breaking numbers of visitors to our shores. The hon. Gentleman should welcome that, because the number of visitors to west Yorkshire is up.

The latest VisitBritain report showed that every £1 spent on international marketing brought in £23 in incremental tourism spend. Is that a good way to spend money, given the weakness of the pound?

We want to ensure that we have the best marketing campaigns to encourage international visitors to these shores, and I hope people will continue to get behind the GREAT campaign, because it is working incredibly well.

Creative Industries

The UK’s creative industries are an economic success story, worth more than £87 billion to the UK economy and growing twice as fast as the economy as a whole. They account for almost 2 million jobs and export more than £19 billion-worth of services to the rest of the world.

This Government’s northern powerhouse is not just about improving transport. In the words of the former Chancellor, it is also, importantly, about “creative, cultural, beautiful places”. This Government have committed to providing £78 million towards Manchester’s new theatre and exhibition space. That is welcome, but what are the Government doing to drive the creative industries in Yorkshire and the city of Bradford? Will the Minister agree to meet me, Bradford Council and business leaders to discuss what more could be done to support a new theatre and exhibition space in Yorkshire and the city of Bradford?

The hon. Lady will know that this Government are committed to promoting creative industries across the whole of the north of England, which is why Hull is the city of culture next year, we have the “Great Exhibition of the North” in Newcastle and Gateshead in 2018 and we have a legacy fund of £15 million, on top of the money for that exhibition, to promote the creative industries across the whole of the north of England. Bradford has many great creative industries, particularly in tech and gaming, and I want to make sure we do all we can to foster the economic climate in which they can thrive.

In the post-Brexit economy, the creative industries will be more important than ever. Those 2 million jobs the Secretary of State mentioned, in music, TV production, film, video games, art, design, publishing, dance, drama and literature, are one of our strongest hands as we find a new trading place in the world. When I checked the Government website this morning, I noticed that the Secretary of State attends a Brexit Cabinet Sub-Committee but not the main Brexit Committee, which means the creative industries have no voice at the top table. May I help the Secretary of State in some way? Would she like me to write to the Prime Minister about this, because the creative industries need a voice at that table?

It is very kind of the hon. Gentleman to offer to help, but I think he would agree that there is no higher table than the Cabinet, and I can assure him that the creative industries are fully represented at that top table. It is also worth pointing out that I have held round-table meetings with the creative industries, and the Creative Industries Council last week had a specific session looking at the work it has done to examine not only the threats there are from Brexit, but its many, many opportunities. This is a global industry in which the UK is a world leader, and he should take comfort from the fact that the Prime Minister mentioned the creative industries specifically in her conference speech as one of those strengths that we want to build on, here in the UK and in the rest of the world.

Homophobia in Sport

There is absolutely no place for homophobia in sport or anywhere in society. In the sports strategy, we asked Sport England to

“place equal emphasis on the support for LGB&T people in sport as it does for other characteristics”

that are protected. Some research has been commissioned, and Sport England is currently considering its findings.

When the chairman of the English Football Association said that it was not the time for gay footballers to come out in the male Premier League he shamed himself and he shamed football. Does the Minister agree that those comments are wholly unacceptable, and that the FA and Premier League clubs in England should follow the example of Scotland, which, with the Equality Network, has developed an LGBT sports charter? Will she work with me and others to take that forward?

The reported comments are indeed unhelpful and we should encourage and support people in all sports who wish to come out. We need to ensure that we use existing legislation to stop homophobic chanting and language during sporting events. I know that the Football Association is working hard trying to support people in the game and that progress has been made in tackling homophobia, but we need to consider other means of doing that as well. Supporting players is absolutely essential.

I thank the Minister for her comments. I found the comment in the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Livingston (Hannah Bardell) that the FA was unable to offer protection in the event of a player coming out to be the most damning. Does the Minister agree that we require real leadership on this issue and that the Government, the Football Association, the Premier League and the Football League must now come together to create a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex-focused Kick it Out campaign, as the quicker that we can rid society of these appalling views the better off we will all be?

Advances have been made in fighting discrimination in football over recent years, and the FA is putting its support behind the European Football v. Homophobia campaign, and it is trying to ensure that everybody understands homophobia and transphobia. Stonewall’s recently relaunched Rainbow Laces campaign helps. With regard to the Kick it Out campaign, it is a fantastic app that enables people to report any kind of abuse as it happens, and we should do more to encourage people to do that when it is related to homophobia.

Since Justin Fashanu took his own life, no professional footballer has come out in England. The FA chair has recently admitted that the FA is still not doing enough to tackle homophobic abuse. Homophobia is rife, and has been for far too long. How are the Minister and the Government working with the FA to tackle homophobia at every level, from Sunday league to Premier League?

First, may I welcome the hon. Lady to the Despatch Box? I look forward to sparring with her over the course—[Interruption.] It’s okay. I can hold my own, don’t you worry. There has been progress in the Football Association, but there is always more to be done. It is important that the FA remembers that it is there as the national governing body to support footballers. Our own strategy sets out a cross-Government vision for sport and will encourage more tolerance at every single level of all sports, including grassroots and Premier League football.

Topical Questions

Since the last oral questions, we have launched a call for evidence on gaming machines and a consultation on press regulation. We have also seen our Paralympians win 147 medals, 64 of which are gold. I am sure that the whole House will join me in celebrating their achievements.

Mr Speaker, as you will remember from my maiden speech, King John rode from his castle at Odiham to sign the Magna Carta. Eight hundred years later, the national lottery provided a three-day festival for our community to learn more about our heritage. Will the Secretary of State commend the Odiham Society for its work and celebrate the fact that the national lottery is awarding its 500,000th grant?

Mr Speaker, you only mentioned it to me yesterday.

Of course I will join my hon. Friend. The national lottery does fantastic work for good causes in all our constituencies, and immediately after this session—quite literally immediately—I will be hotfooting it on a train to Ipswich to visit a charity and sports organisations that have benefited from lottery grants. It behoves all of us in this House to celebrate those good causes in our constituencies that the national lottery supports, and make sure that we do all we can to support the lottery to keep giving to those good causes.

Yesterday, Facebook made the welcome announcement that it would not be allowing Admiral to use its data to determine insurance premiums. While the Government have been dragging their feet and refusing to update data protection legislation, private companies have been harvesting our personal data, against our knowledge, without our consent and to our detriment. When will the Government act?

I know that the hon. Lady, who is on the Digital Economy Bill Committee, is doing considerable work in this area. I look forward to working with her to ensure that we achieve all that we want to. May I make the point that the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is an incredibly important part of our law enforcement around data protection, is currently being hijacked and prevented from making progress and receiving Royal Assent because of press regulation? It is important that we get that matter of national security on the statute book to protect us all.

T5. Will my right hon. Friend support any of the home nations who choose to display a poppy next week to remember all those from every part of the world who sacrificed so much? Will she also pass on to FIFA the anger that there is in this House and among our constituents? (907021)

My hon. Friend is right. We stand right behind the FA and the Scottish FA in their decision to wear poppies. I will be at the match next week and I will make sure that I pass on those comments. It is absolutely right that home nations should, if they choose, wear poppies to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives, and I hope that FIFA will see sense and withdraw any threat of sanctions for those who do so.

T2. Many grassroots music venues are struggling, with 40% closing in London alone over the past decade. There are many pressures on venues, but will the Minister look specifically at the call from the Music Venue Trust for PRS for Music to scrap its minimum tariff, which is hitting grassroots venues very hard, and to introduce the 3% fee across the board? (907018)

I know that the hon. Lady is campaigning hard on this issue and I will look at all that she has said.

T7. On a recent visit to Lambourn I saw at first hand the significance of the horse-racing industry to our rural economy, so will the Minister confirm that the proposed replacement of the horse-racing betting levy is on track for April 2017? (907023)

T3. Eureka!, the much loved National Children’s Museum in my constituency, receives no day-to-day funding from central Government, despite being a national museum. Will the Secretary of State review this decision so that as many families as possible can enjoy Eureka! without the barrier of an entrance fee? (907019)

May I take the points that the hon. Lady has made and consider them? Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister of State could meet her to discuss the matter.

I am not sure whether you are a football fan, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] Oh yes, you are. Perhaps you could change your allegiance, because Taunton Town football club has reached the first round proper of the FA cup for the first time in 35 years. Will the Minister join me in praising all those who have worked so hard for years and years as volunteers at the club to help it to get this far, as well as the paid people? Will the Minister also join me in wishing the club the very best of luck for the big match on Sunday?

I am well aware, Mr Speaker, that you are a football fan, albeit for the wrong north London team. I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in praising Taunton Town football club for its progress in the FA cup and I wish it all the best.

I hope I enjoy Sunday lunchtime more than the hon. Lady does. I say to the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) that I am, of course, a fanatical Arsenal fan.

T6. Sheffield has a proud and fabulous offer of cultural and sporting services, and many young people have benefited from Labour’s scheme to give them five hours a week of cultural experience to improve access to the arts. What is the Minister doing to monitor the level of access to culture and the arts, and to enable young people from all backgrounds to gain access to them? (907022)

I am determined to make sure that there is access to the arts for everyone across the country. We have to make this a country that works for everyone, and that means access to the arts. From a sporting perspective, I am sure the hon. Lady will welcome the first Parklife activities that took place in Sheffield last week, which the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch). attended.

Are Ministers aware that Dr Peter Aitken, the chair of the faculty of liaison psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told the Health Committee on Tuesday that gambling addiction is becoming a major cause of suicide? Will Ministers be emboldened to take the issue further?

I have seen the transcript of Dr Peter Aitken’s comments, in which he said that we should not overlook gambling as one of the significant addictions of our day. As somebody who spent a lot of time working on addiction issues in this House before I was made a Minister, I could not agree more. I discussed the matter only last week with GambleAware, formerly the Responsible Gambling Trust.

T8. The Minister will be aware that a devastating fire destroyed one of the most historic and best loved parts of Exeter city centre last Friday and Saturday. The owners have said that they intend to restore the building to its former glory, which is very welcome, but will she guarantee that English Heritage will make absolutely sure on behalf of my constituents that it is restored to the highest possible standard? (907024)

I am very aware of the devastating fire in Exeter—I was actually in the west country over the weekend and saw the local news coverage. Having visited Exeter on a number of occasions, I know how important that building is in the cathedral precinct. Historic England sent a team of experts to the site on Monday to assess the situation, but I will take up the points that the right hon. Gentleman has raised.

When the Minister for Digital and Culture has finished hobnobbing with Her Majesty, will he agree to meet me and my residents to see if we can get Weaver Vale connected with 21st-century broadband speeds?

The favourable exchange rates mean that many people from the United States are visiting the Republic of Ireland for their holidays. What discussions has the Minister had with the Minister for the Economy in Northern Ireland to ensure that they also come north to Northern Ireland and across to the mainland?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. As I said earlier, I meet people from all the devolved Administrations, and I will be doing so again later this month. We have seen increasing numbers of tourists visiting Northern Ireland, specifically to see the Titanic exhibition. We will continue to market Northern Ireland as a great place to visit.