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Topical Questions

Volume 621: debated on Thursday 9 February 2017

Today, my Department published the first annual report setting out our progress against “Sporting Future”, our sport strategy for an active nation. Since the last oral questions, my ministerial team and I have held a series of roundtable meetings with representatives from various DCMS sectors. The purpose of these meetings is to identify challenges and opportunities as the United Kingdom prepares to leave the European Union.

Last week, when I visited Deptford Green secondary school, a teenager from the school council asked me a question, and she started by saying, “It’s not political.” She asked me, “Why are there not more sports facilities for young girls in the area?” Female sports participation is half men’s—this was a very political question from a young girl—and is that any surprise when female role models such as Steph Houghton, England’s women’s football captain, is paid £65,000 a year, while Wayne Rooney is paid £250,000 a week? That is £12 million—

Order. I am sorry—it is a very good question, but it is far too long. Topical questions have got to be much shorter. I am sorry to interrupt, but I think we have got the gist.

I very much got the gist of the question, Mr Speaker. I do appreciate the point. We are well aware of it, and we are working across the Government to address it.

T2. Will the Minister tell the House what work her Department is doing to help small charities to secure public service contracts? (908700)

My right hon. Friend raises a very important point. We all know that the voluntary sector has the ability to bring greater social value to our public services, but we also know that it can sometimes face barriers when up against more established providers. That is why we announced a new programme of measures in this area in December and why an implementation group chaired by Sir Martyn Lewis and attended by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Mr Wilson), the Minister for Civil Society, met for the first time yesterday to lead our work on this issue.

Keeping our children safe online is one of the Government’s most important responsibilities. That is why section 67 of the Serious Crime Act 2015 rightly made it a criminal offence for adults to send sexual messages to children, yet the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says that, two years on, the law is still not enforced and the police cannot enforce it. Will the Minister explain to the House why the Government are dragging their feet on this and ensure that this legislation is implemented immediately?

It is very good to see a member of the shadow team who has been voting with the rest of the shadow Front Bench this week.

On the important issue that she addresses, ensuring internet safety is, as she knows, at the top of the Government’s agenda. It has been a crucial part of the Digital Economy Bill, and the proposal she makes is also something we are considering very seriously.

T3. Malton is widely recognised as the horse-racing capital of the north. The many racing stables and the hundreds of staff there very much welcome the introduction of the new horserace betting levy, which will bring up to £30 million a year into the industry. Will the Minister update us on the progress on its implementation? (908701)

I recognise the valuable contribution that horse-racing makes to the north and, indeed, to the whole country. We remain on course to implement the reforms to the levy in April 2017, and we will lay legislation to that effect shortly.

T6. Every gay player, coach and volunteer in every sport should be made welcome. Will the Minister join me in praising the leadership shown by rugby league in tackling homophobia in sport, on this the day that the Super League season kicks off? (908704)

I certainly join the hon. Gentleman in praising rugby league for all its efforts to make progress on this issue. Homophobia should not be allowed in sport. We share the same rugby league team, Leeds, and we wish them well this evening against St Helens.

T4. English and Welsh wine is a great British quality success story and will be producing more than 12 million bottles by 2020. I know that the Secretary of State personally does her bit to boost wine consumption, but what is she doing to promote the use of English wine as standard in her Department and across Departments, and its tourist value in attracting visitors to our emerging wine regions? (908702)

I have in my constituency Chapel Down, one of the finest English wines that we sell in this country. I am certainly very passionate about English wine, for all the right reasons, and we must ensure that it is a key part of the tourism offer.

Manchester United should be applauded for its recent announcement on increasing the number of disabled supporters attending games by 300, but this is not a step that clubs at all levels can afford to take. What will the Minister do to support the smaller clubs that are looking to improve the experience of disabled supporters attending their matches?

Manchester United should be applauded for this. A number of other premier league clubs are improving their offer for disabled spectators, but it is true that clubs in lower leagues find it difficult. They are working well with Level Playing Field to ensure that they meet their commitment going forward, and we as a Government do all we can to support that.

T5. If a broadband service is advertised as fibre, should it not be full fibre, and should not the service speed advertised be accessible by at least half of all those paying for it? (908703)

I agree with my hon. Friend, who makes an important point. The Advertising Standards Authority, a non-statutory body, is looking into some of these issues, but it needs to look more broadly to make sure that people know what they are getting and advertising is proper and fair.

In 2014-15, nearly £4 million was lost in fixed odds betting terminals in my constituency by those who can least afford it. I know that the Minister is aware of the concerns again highlighted last week in a report by the all-party parliamentary group on fixed odds betting terminals. May I urge her to respond positively? Let us have lower stakes for these machines.

The Government announced a review of gaming machines, including FOBTs, on 24 October 2016. I am currently considering its findings and will publish my recommendations shortly.

T7. Melksham Town football club in my constituency is part of the very fabric of the Melksham community. It has inspired generation after generation to participate in sports and stay healthy, and fostered a sense of town pride. Will the Minister therefore join me in welcoming the opening of Oakfields, the home of Melksham’s football and rugby teams, thanks to a £7 million investment? (908705)

I am very pleased to hear that Oakfields has now opened. Having the right facilities in the right places and combining sports within them is not only important in driving up participation but excellent value for money.

The tech sector’s No. 1 Brexit concern is that, when we leave, it will become unlawful to send personal data from Europe to UK firms unless the European Commission has declared our data protection arrangements to be adequate. What steps are being taken to secure that declaration in time?

This is a very important point. It is vital to make sure that we have an unhindered flow of data between the UK and the EU, and indeed other trading partners around the world such as the US. We are implementing the general data protection regulation in full, to make sure that we can have that unhindered flow of data.

T8. In 2020, as my right hon. Friend knows, Plymouth will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower setting sail to found the American colonies. What discussions has she had with the Secretary of State for Transport to make sure that tourists can get to Plymouth to celebrate this wonderful event? (908706)

Last week, I had the honour of meeting the team who are putting together the Mayflower 400 celebrations. I also attended an event at the US embassy last summer where I saw a replica of the Mayflower that is going to be part of the celebrations that we look forward to in 2020. It is important that as many people as possible can visit those celebrations. I had discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport on this matter only last night.

When the Government reduced the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals to £50, they accepted the principle that lowering the stake would have a positive impact on problem gambling. As part of the review, will you examine the success of that measure and, if it has been successful in dealing with that problem, will you consider reducing the stake even further?

I will do neither of those things, but the Minister might do one or the other or, conceivably, if the hon. Gentleman is a lucky boy, both.

We have had plenty of responses to the consultation, and you will be very welcome to help to consider them, Mr Speaker. I will be making my recommendations shortly. We are looking through the body of evidence that came to us as a consequence of the review that was published in October. I expect to publish the recommendations and the findings of the call for evidence in the spring.