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Topical Questions

Volume 626: debated on Thursday 29 June 2017

Since the last oral questions, the Department has lost an excellent Minister in Rob Wilson and I would like publicly to express my thanks for all his work. He is very sadly missed. We have, however, gained another excellent Minister, my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Salisbury (John Glen). I welcome him to the team and congratulate him on his stellar first performance at the Dispatch Box, which we have all just witnessed.

We are mid-way through a huge year for sporting events in the UK and I wish all British contestants well. I am sure all hon. Members will join me in wishing a very happy birthday to Britain’s biggest arts festival, the Edinburgh Festival, which turns 70 this summer. I will just check that my hon. Friend the Member for Mole Valley (Sir Paul Beresford) is not in his place before saying that I am sure all hon. Members will join me in wishing the British and Irish Lions well in their test at the weekend.

Research published by the campaign to cut VAT for tourism has shown how that could be transformative for this most crucial sector. Is this something the Secretary of State is discussing with her colleague, the Chancellor of the Exchequer? If it is not, may I suggest that she start soon? This was not just in our manifesto; it was also in the Democratic Unionist party’s.

I have been lobbied on this matter on a number of occasions. As the Member of Parliament who represents Alton Towers, I have, as I am sure the right hon. Gentleman can imagine, been lobbied on it on a number of occasions. It is, of course, a matter for the Treasury, but we continue to have conversations.

Will my right hon. Friend welcome the appointment of Alex Mahon as the new chief executive of Channel 4, who I hope will bring a fresh approach? Will she confirm that it remains the Government’s view that the distinctiveness of Channel 4 will be enhanced by its being relocated outside London?

T2. Victims of phone hacking were given a cast-iron promise by this Government to have a full inquiry into the offences, but the Government are now trying to jettison Leveson 2. Why should the public have confidence in other public inquiries when the Government cannot keep their promises on previous inquiries? (900067)

The first part of the Leveson inquiry took place six years ago. Many things have happened since that time and many changes have taken place. The manifesto was clear, but there is a consultation process which I, as Secretary of State, have to go through.

This House never intended vulnerable people in less-well-off areas to lose £100 several times a minute on fixed odds betting terminals. When will we have the opportunity to bring the stake down to £2?

Mr Speaker, I know that you always encourage brevity in topical questions, so I apologise for giving a tediously processy response. Although we launched the review in October 2016, purdah interrupted the final stages of our consideration of the evidence received and the subsequent internal cross-Government process of approval and sign-off, so I am afraid we are back at the start of the process. As a consequence of that taking at least 12 weeks, I would not expect any further announcement until October at the earliest.

T3. Croydon, with its vibrant Tech City, the redevelopment of Fairfield Halls and its unique street art scene, is fast becoming the new cultural hub of the south-east. Has the Minister lobbied for continued access to, or equivalent funding for, the £1.1 billion Creative Europe programme post-Brexit, which is such an important source of funding for the creative arts? (900068)

I have visited the tech scene and some of the creative hubs in Croydon, so I agree with the analysis that it is an extremely exciting place, and we are working on the question that the hon. Lady has raised.

A number of parents in my constituency are worried about the safety of their children online. Will my right hon. Friend update the House on what steps are being taken to make the internet a safer place?

As my hon. Friend will know, this is an incredibly important matter. Any parent knows the perils of young people growing up in the internet age, as well as the massive opportunities that it brings. The digital charter that Her Majesty announced as part of the Queen’s Speech will bring together those concerns and issues and ensure that we can lead the world in providing the right balance between freedom and security online.

T4. This month is the 10th anniversary of the floods in Hull, when the local BBC radio and television played such an important part in communicating with the local public. I understand that there are further discussions about cuts of up to £15 million to BBC services in England. Is the Secretary of State as worried as I am about the effect that that could have on the local community and democratic resource in all our constituencies? (900069)

I recently visited Hull as the city of culture. It is an absolutely fantastic place to be and I would encourage all hon. and right hon. Members to visit this year. Perhaps I could speak to the hon. Lady outside the Chamber about the issue she raises.

Further to the question from my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), does the Secretary of State agree that moving Channel 4 from London to Bradford or Leeds would give it a much better perspective on life? Instead of being stuffed full of London Labour luvvies, it might benefit from being moved to gritty West Yorkshire.

My hon. Friend has made his pitch for a location for Channel 4; perhaps he would like to make the same pitch to the board and management of Channel 4.

T5. Further to my earlier question to the Secretary of State, there are concerns that the tendering process for BBC Radio could lead to a weakening of pay and terms and conditions. Will the Minister join me in asking the BBC to reconsider that figure and the impact it could have on people’s employment? (900070)

We are determined that it will have exactly the opposite effect, but I will of course meet the hon. Lady to discuss that.

Will the Minister join me in sending good luck not only to the British and Irish Lions this summer but to Scotland’s women’s football team? They have done what the men’s team have painfully failed to do for 19 years and qualified for an international football tournament, in which we will meet England on 19 July.

The one thing I will say is that I hope the women’s football match between Scotland and England will be far more thrilling than the men’s match was.

T6. Further to the point raised by the hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), will the Minister get a move on and get a grip on the crack cocaine of gambling—the fixed odds betting terminals? Shettleston Road, Tollcross Road and Baillieston Main Street in my constituency are awash with bookmakers, and we need action on this sooner rather than later. (900071)

I welcome the hon. Gentleman to the House. I share the frustration of many people across the House; I have been dealing with this issue as a Minister since I walked into the Department in 2015. We must ensure that we have a proper evidence-based response to the issue of stakes and prizes. We are in the process of analysing that, but I should also point out that powers on the issue of FOBTs have been devolved to Scotland.

On Sunday I will be in the lovely village of Doddington, where Olympic gold medallist Georgie Twigg will be opening a new cycle path from her home village to Lincoln, enabling people young and old to get out, enjoy the countryside and improve their fitness. Georgie Twigg and the rest of our women’s hockey team have achieved great success. What is the Secretary of State doing to ensure that more young women can get involved in sport, so that we can see more of the same in future?

I share my hon. Friend’s enthusiasm for the women’s hockey team, having been honoured to be at the semi-final in Rio, where we had that glorious victory, and to meet the team afterwards. The initiative that she talks about sounds very exciting.

T7. The Stockton international riverside festival, which will be held from 3 until 6 August, attracts thousands of visitors, and has grown into one of the country’s greatest street arts events. This year it celebrates its 30th anniversary. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Stockton Borough Council on its vision in setting up the festival, and congratulating the Arts Council on recognising it for the tremendous success that it has become? (900072)

It gives me great pleasure to congratulate Stockton Borough Council on the wisdom of its investment. It provides a good example for many other local authorities, demonstrating that when they invest in the arts, they will get a very good return.

The announcement this week that £15 million of lottery funding is going to Hull to support its fishing heritage is very welcome, although I have to say that across the river in the Grimsby-Cleethorpes area there is disappointment that repeated attempts to secure similar funding have been rejected. Will the Minister look again at the balance of the share-out of lottery funding between different towns and cities?

I should be happy to do so. There are some challenges with lottery funding. I have already met the chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, with whom I shall have further conversations, and I should be happy to meet my hon. Friend as well.

T8. May I join the Secretary of State in wishing the Edinburgh international festival a happy 70th anniversary? There is no doubt that it shows that the United Kingdom has some of the best sporting and entertainment events in the world. What plans have the Government to control ticket prices, and to ensure that the re-sellers market does not rip off ordinary fans? (900073)

The hon. Gentleman is right to celebrate the Edinburgh festival. It is Britain’s biggest festival, and I am looking forward to visiting it later this year, as is the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Salisbury (John Glen). As the hon. Gentleman will know, in the Digital Economy Act 2017 the Government legislated to outlaw the use of bots for the purpose of secondary ticketing, and we work closely with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to ensure that consumers are treated fairly.

The Winsford Colts Under-21s, based in my constituency, are the first Cheshire team ever to be invited to play in the Costa Blanca cup, which they will do this year. They have fundraised £8,000 to get there. Will the Minister wish them luck, and thank all those who have supported their attempt to achieve and to represent Cheshire out in Spain?

I am very happy to congratulate the Colts on their endeavours, and I wish them all the very best of luck in the competition in Costa Blanca.

I wish them very well, and I hope that we will have an update from the hon. Member for Eddisbury (Antoinette Sandbach) in due course. In fact, I feel sure that we will.