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Topical Questions

Volume 662: debated on Thursday 4 July 2019

Semi-finals are dangerous places for England’s sports teams. I am sure that the whole House will wish to offer its commiserations to the Lionesses following Tuesday’s result, but also our huge congratulations on their performance throughout the World cup competition. Although it did not produce the result that we wanted, Tuesday’s match attracted the largest live television audience so far this year, and the team has sparked a significant change in the visibility of, and support for, women’s football and women’s sport generally. That in itself is a fantastic achievement. We also send our best wishes to the England men’s cricket team for their semi-final next week in a world cup that has given people around the world another good reason to visit the United Kingdom this year.

Tourism is a significant but often overlooked part of our economy, and last week we launched the tourism sector deal, the first of its kind. The coming together of industry and Government will mean more investment in accommodation, skills and apprenticeships and data to ensure that we attract even more tourists and business visitors. We also intend to ensure that everyone can visit by making the UK the most accessible tourism destination in Europe by 2025. Tourism matters greatly in many of our constituencies, and the sector deal will give it the long-overdue Government recognition that it deserves.

May I associate myself with the remarks of the Secretary of State about the Lionesses, and also of course wish good luck to the England cricket team?

The epidemic of appalling online bullying demonstrates that the online world is effectively not abiding by the same rules as the offline world, and people are suffering right now, so now that the consultation on the White Paper on online harms has closed, will the Secretary of State urge the new Prime Minister to prioritise legislative time so that we can sort this law out and protect people who are suffering right now?

Yes. I believe that this is a priority, and I believe that the next Government should see it as such, and I believe that we should see legislation coming forward in the next parliamentary Session. The hon. Lady is right; the consultation on the White Paper concluded yesterday, but as she will have heard me say before, I believe that this is a groundbreaking change that we need to get right, so the Government intend to continue to listen, notwithstanding the fair point she makes about the urgency of the situation.

Order. I want to take this opportunity—I hope the House will join me as I do so—to congratulate the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire) and the other three members of the string quartet known as Statutory Instruments on their magnificent performance in Speaker’s House on Tuesday lunchtime; it was a virtuoso display of outstanding music—stirring, inspiring and admirable in every way. If you haven’t heard them, you haven’t lived.

Yes, particularly the cellist, as the Government Whip on duty chunters from a sedentary position to very considerable public benefit.

Will the Minister update the House on the prospect of the Bayeux tapestry coming to this country on loan after the Bayeux museum is temporarily closed after 2020?

We very much look forward to that prospect. Of course, as my hon. Friend will recognise, there are some technical challenges to be overcome to ensure that the tapestry can be properly displayed and protected, but this is an example of Anglo-French co-operation of which we expect to see a great deal more in the future.

More than 6 million people watched England take on Scotland in the women’s World cup and, as the Secretary of State just said, nearly 12 million people watched England take on the USA, and we send our condolences to the Lionesses. We have had some iconic and memorable moments. Hayley Lauder from my Livingston constituency got her 100th cap, and none of us will forget that magnificent celebration from Megan Rapinoe that made women and girls everywhere across the world say, “You can take up space; you can celebrate and you can be in sport.”

However, a recent study found that 65% of broadcast sport in Scotland was taken up by men’s football alone, and, as the Secretary of State knows, only 2% of print media is about women’s sport. We must do more to capitalise on the incredible results from the women’s World cup to make sure that women’s sport, and particularly women’s football, continues to be recognised in the way it has been.

I agree with the hon. Lady; she has been a passionate advocate for this for as long as she has been in the House, and I am sure long before, and she is right. But I think we should recognise that some significant progress has been made over the last few weeks and months; even six months ago, if we had said in this House that we expected a women’s football match to have the largest live TV audience of the year so far, standing as we are in July, I do not think any of us would have believed it. So significant progress is being made. It was great to be able to see that match on the BBC on Tuesday and for there to be such a large audience for it. It is, as the hon. Lady says, inspiring girls and women to play more sport, and that is exactly what we want to see more of.

Does the Minister agree that one of the crucial aspects of tackling loneliness is raising awareness of the services, support and activities that are available in local communities, and what are the Government doing to achieve this?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this point, because it is so important. Nobody walks around with an arrow on their head saying that they are lonely. There are times in our life when we feel lost or isolated and we need someone to turn to, so the 1,000 social prescribers will be very helpful. I know that my hon. Friend has done something directly in his own constituency with an older people’s fair—an event around loneliness—to do just that, and I welcome all constituencies doing this.

On behalf of all my colleagues on the Benches behind me, I would like to wish the very best of luck to the England cricket team. We also wish the best of British to all our British tennis players at Wimbledon, and we would like to thank the Lionesses for inspiring a generation.

Our children are facing a deadly obesity crisis. Obesity is rivalling smoking as a leading cause of cancer. Being healthy is about keeping fit and having a healthier diet, but the sugar tax has also been very welcome in promoting a healthier lifestyle, especially for children and young people. The Sports Minister has a responsible role to play in tackling obesity, so will she today publicly commit to resisting any call to scrap the sugar tax, even from her favoured candidate for Prime Minister?

I thank the hon. Lady for raising this issue. She and I share a great passion for getting and keeping our young people active. I hope to announce the school sports action plan, alongside colleagues in the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Education, before the summer recess. We are very close to this. All money that comes into PE and sport from the premium—the levy has doubled this—is important. I hope to see Government investment in school sport continue in any way, shape or form.

As this is 4 July, Independence Day, and despite this week’s football result, will the Secretary of State, who like me has an American spouse, comment—positively, of course —on the very many benefits of our special relationship with the US?

Neither my hon. Friend nor I would dare to do anything else, today or on any other day. He is right to suggest that this remains a very special relationship, not just in our households but across the nation.

T2. I welcome this week’s announcement from the big five gambling companies that they will pay towards treatment in acknowledgement of the harm that they have caused, but given the industry’s track record, I am sceptical about their reliability. Will the Minister please look at a “polluter pays” mandatory levy? (911755)

The hon. Lady passionately believes, as do I, in ensuring that help gets to those who need it. Those who are affected by problem gambling, and whose lives are ruined thereby, need help as quickly as they can get it. The reason that I think it appropriate to welcome the moves that have been made by those five companies, as she has done, is that this will deliver help quickly and in the sort of amounts that a mandatory levy was always designed to deliver. Having said all that, if those voluntary commitments are not met, the Government will reserve the right to pursue a mandatory route instead. But let’s get the help to those who need it as quickly as we can.

Manned by local volunteers, the local heritage centres in Desborough, Burton Latimer and Rothwell in the borough of Kettering do much to encourage an interest in local heritage in small communities that have seen much change as a result of new housing developments. What importance does the Department attach to encouraging the promotion of such venues?

The answer is huge importance. My hon. Friend makes the important point that heritage is local as well as national. We can transform our communities in a number of ways, one of which is to give people clearer insights into the wonderful heritage around them. The heritage high streets fund will do that, as will many of the other measures that have been referred to.

T3. The Secretary of State will know that Coventry will be the city of culture in 2021. However, the Priory Visitor Centre in Coventry has closed through lack of funding. Will he talk to the relevant authorities to ensure that the Priory centre is adequately funded? Equally importantly, the House must remember that, at the time of the Wars of the Roses, the Parliament of Devils was held in Coventry. (911757)

I will certainly look at what is happening at the Priory centre, but I know that the hon. Gentleman will appreciate, as I do, that £8 million was found in the Budget to support Coventry city of culture, and we both look forward to it being a tremendous success.

T4. As we head towards the long summer holidays, sports centres are becoming increasingly important for families. Two years ago, Staffordshire County Council pulled the plug on my pool at the Kidsgrove Sports Centre. After lots of false starts and undelivered promises, we are still without a swimming pool. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can actually deliver a pool for my constituents? (911759)

I would be happy to meet the hon. Lady. Sport England is active in communities to ensure that nobody is barred from getting involved in sport, and swimming is crucial as we come to the summer holidays.

T5. Ministers are aware of the nervousness about Brexit in the creative industries. What assurances can they give that the copyright protections in the European directive will be fully preserved? (911760)

We applauded the decision to pass the EU copyright directive, and I have met with bodies from the creative industries to discuss how best to implement it in the UK. That will take a certain amount of time, but we will be looking to protect the intellectual property and artistic creations of our designers and this country’s brilliant creative industries.