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Topical Questions

Volume 643: debated on Thursday 21 June 2018

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is the Department for all the things that make life worth living. This week, one moment that really made life worth living was Harry Kane’s 91st minute winner against Tunisia. I am sure the whole House will join me in wishing the England team the best of luck on Sunday and beyond. In the past week, we have seen three records set in cricket, with Scotland beating England and the women’s and men’s England cricket teams both setting world records. We send our admiration and congratulations to them all.

I obviously support the Secretary of State in what he says about the English teams, especially the women’s cricket team, which was brilliant. Could I ask him to consider carefully our big towns, such as Huddersfield, which are not cities? Up to now, it has never had a consensus on becoming a city. Big towns such as Huddersfield really suffer from not receiving much money, which goes to cities. Is there some fund, or some way, in which the big towns could get their fair share of resources?

Yes, absolutely. Representing four towns myself, I entirely understand where the hon. Gentleman is coming from. We try to ensure that the funds that we supply through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport are available right across the country, whether that means vouchers for broadband, or the cultural development fund to improve the cultural life of an area. Huddersfield, like many other towns, is very welcome to apply for them all.

T2. Although we welcome the Gigabit voucher scheme, which was introduced by my right hon. Friend, may I ask him what steps he has taken to explore alternative methods of broadband delivery, such as TV white space, as in the project that is currently being trialled in Kinross-shire in my constituency? (905981)

We will certainly review the white space option. Fixed wireless solutions are already widely available in those hard-to-reach areas, but the universal service obligation will deliver high-speed broadband connectivity through wired or wireless technologies.

One in five children in their last year of primary school are obese. What plans does the Secretary of State have to restrict further junk food advertising on television?

We are working with all stakeholders—the Department of Health and Social Care as well as the public service broadcasters—to take this question forward. Of course, it is not just a matter of advertising. To tackle obesity in this nation, we need a full spectrum approach that looks at all matters. Possibly some of the most important measures are those that encourage reformulation so that everybody benefits from eating healthier food.

I thank the Secretary of State for his answer, but as a former Digital Minister, he will know that children now spend more of their time online than watching TV. If he does not create a level playing field on advertising, will revenues not just flood from TV to targeted advertising on YouTube, a company that is less regulated and has proved itself many times over to be less responsible and less transparent than ITV and Channel 4? What is the Minister going to do about online junk food advertising?

As I said in my previous response, we need a full spectrum response. It is akin to the debate we had earlier about gambling advertising. This is not just a matter of TV. Increasingly, people are watching things through all the technologies available. We have to make sure that the response is appropriate to that.

T6. There is enormous potential in 5G mobile technology, especially to enable the delivery of our industrial strategy to the whole UK, so what will the Secretary of State do to ensure that our great towns keep pace with our cities? (905986)

The Government want all of the UK to benefit from 5G, and the future telecoms infrastructure review will create the right policy and regulatory environment to support this aim. After these questions, I will be visiting one of the 5G test bed pilots that is already up and running in Guildford, so I can assure my hon. Friend that across the whole UK, towns as well as cities will benefit from our commitment to 5G.

T3. Yesterday, the European Parliament’s Legal Affairs Committee approved a draft of the proposed directive on copyright in the digital single market. Does the Minister agree that we cannot miss the significant opportunity to address the transfer value experienced by the music industry, and will he assure the House that the Government remain committed to closing the value gap and ensuring that our great British creators, and those who invest in them, are properly rewarded for the use of their work? (905982)

Yes, absolutely. Property rights are the foundation of a market economy and intellectual property rights are the 21st-century version of that. The copyright directive is a good directive. We have to get the details right in its implementation, but it is a good step forward and I look forward to it becoming law.

It is great to hear so many references to cricket this morning. I am sure that you, Mr Speaker, and the Secretary of State are well aware that the cricket world cup will come to England next year. It will include games between New Zealand and Afghanistan and between Australia and Pakistan, at the glorious county ground in Somerset—in Taunton, indeed. What steps is the Department taking to ensure that the event will attract the maximum number of international visitors, as well as home visitors, including, perhaps, the Secretary of State himself?

It is almost as if my hon. Friend had some connection with Taunton. [Laughter.] She certainly speaks well for it.

We are absolutely determined that when the cricket world cup comes to this nation next year we will gain the full benefit, including all the business people who will come here. I went to India with the world cup trophy itself to encourage Indian tour operators to send as many people as possible from that fine nation to this country, and that includes Taunton.

T4. In their election manifesto, the Tories promised:“Our Universal Service Obligation will ensure that by 2020 every home and business in Britain has access to high speed broadband.” No ifs, no buts. Can the Secretary of State confirm that that is still the Government’s position, and that every home and business will be connected by 2020? (905983)

Yes, of course. We passed legislation to introduce the universal service obligation to ensure that everyone could have access to decent broadband by 2020. It has been harder in Scotland—we have been waiting five years for the Scottish National party Government to spend the £20 million that we promised them—but now we are just getting on with it and delivering directly to the people of Scotland.

Will the Secretary of State join me in thanking David Dimbleby for the role that he played for 25 years at the helm of “Question Time”, and does he agree that, in a year that marks 100 years of women’s suffrage, the baton should be passed to a woman?

I think the whole House will want to congratulate David Dimbleby on his achievement as he steps down. While of course the job must be awarded on merit, I do think it is about time there was a woman at the helm of “Question Time”.

T7. We have with us here today pupils and staff from Wick high school, in my constituency, who have won a national first prize for inventing a very clever cycling safety device. What will the Government do to ensure that these pupils have the best possible access to state-of-the-art digital communications, so that they can make the very best of their future careers? (905987)

There is no greater enthusiast for digital technology than me, and I warmly welcome the pupils and staff from Wick high school. Of course, technology must be used appropriately in schools. There are many incredibly bright schoolchildren in the Visitors’ Gallery, and I hope that they can make the most of all the digital technologies that are available.

Cornish pilot gig rowing is one of the fastest-growing participation sports in the country, but it struggles to gain the recognition that it needs because it is registered under British rowing, which is a very different type of sport. Will the sports Minister meet me to discuss how we can secure better recognition for pilot gig rowing and support this excellent participation sport?

You will be shocked to learn, Mr Speaker, that I did in fact do some gig rowing last year, when I was in Mousehole in Cornwall. I should be more than happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss how we can promote it further.

The Great Exhibition of the North, a summer-long celebration of the culture and science of the north, will open tomorrow evening in Gateshead, overlooking Newcastle. Does the Secretary of State agree that culture, science and engineering are essential parts of a vibrant economy, and will he tell us how that legacy will be ensured?

I am absolutely delighted that the hon. Lady has mentioned the Great Exhibition of the North, which will be launched tomorrow in Newcastle and Gateshead. I shall be going straight up there after questions, and the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Northampton North (Michael Ellis), will be going tomorrow. It will be a brilliant celebration of everything that the north of England has delivered to the nation in the past and will deliver in the future, and the hon. Lady is a great example of that.

On the subject of the north of England, let us hear from north Yorkshire. Mr Kevin Hollinrake.

My report “Solutions for the fifteen per cent”, which I have sent to the Secretary of State, makes a compelling case for the use of fixed wireless to deliver broadband to the hardest-to-reach areas. Will the Secretary of State meet me and colleagues to discuss how those initiatives might be implemented?

My hon. Friend is also a great example of the future of the north of England, and I would be delighted to meet him to discuss these new technologies that are coming on stream that will help improve connectivity in Yorkshire.

In Bristol, Bristol Plays Music and the Music Trust are developing a cultural curriculum with Bristol Old Vic and various other arts organisations. Will the Secretary of State or the Culture Minister, the hon. Member for Stourbridge (Margot James), visit Bristol when this curriculum is implemented, and will the Culture Minister support it being used in other schools across the country?

I look forward to hearing more about that excellent venture. I recently met the hon. Lady at an excellent meeting with the Musicians’ Union, and I admire her passion and share it.

Order. I will be able to call all remaining questioners if they confine themselves to a short sentence each.

John Rowbotham and his staff at the Stirling Observer play a crucial role in the life of the communities I serve. What is being done to support local newspapers?

The first thing we have done is fought off attempts to put more costs on to local newspapers, and now we have the Cairncross review, which I hope my hon. Friend will engage with, which is looking at how we can make them sustainable for the long term.

Two fires in the last three months have destroyed three listed buildings in Glasgow, and over 100 listed buildings in Glasgow are at risk, so will the Minister engage with the Treasury and ensure they restore VAT relief on the renovations of listed buildings in this country?

Of course tax is a matter for the Treasury, but we are always looking at ways to protect and conserve our historic and heritage buildings; they are crucially important to all of us and we will always look to do that.

Redditch is only about 20 miles away from Coventry which is due to be the city of culture. What are the Government doing to ensure that Redditch also benefits from this fantastic event?

The UK city of culture, Coventry 2021, is going to be a fantastic thing for Coventry and also for its environs, including my hon. Friend’s area, and we know from Hull, and we will see in Coventry, the tremendous effects of the UK city of culture.

Fewer than 2% of people who have a problem with gambling receive help, yet this industry is worth £13.8 billion and only £10 million of it went into helping them. Is it not time for a levy?

We already have a levy, but it is a voluntary levy, and I am sure the hon. Gentleman saw that earlier this week the Secretary of State visited the NHS gambling addiction centre and has pledged to work very closely with Public Health England to ensure we continue to fund help for those with gambling addictions.