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Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Volume 664: debated on Thursday 3 October 2019

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

Tourism Sector

Thank you for calling me to respond, Mr Speaker, and I hope that your voice is fully recovered very soon.

The UK tourism industry is of vital importance to the UK, with 38 million visitors from overseas in 2018 spending £22.9 billion. A total of 1.6 million jobs are supported by the sector, and the Government are working closely with the industry on delivering both the tourism sector deal and the international business events action plan.

Since the expansion of the tourist industry has undoubted economic benefits but significant local costs, will the Minister accede to the request of local authorities of different political persuasions for the right to impose a small levy on overnight stays to defray some of those costs?

It is important to have a sensible conversation on this subject, and the Government are always keen to hear the views of all stakeholders. As the right hon. Gentleman implies, tourism brings great benefits to local areas but there are undoubtedly some costs and strains on the local economy. If he wishes to write to me with any further proposals, we are always interested to hear them.

I have Strepsils, Mr Speaker.

Our most popular tourist attractions are our national museums, led by the British Museum with more than 6 million visitors last year, but we also have some hidden treasures in our regional and local museums that have been squeezed dreadfully by the issues with local government funding. What plans does the Secretary of State have to help investment in that important part of our cultural heritage, which helps to educate future generations, boost regional identities and diversify tourist interest away from the capital?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that our local museums play a really important part in our local heritage and culture. I am thrilled to be heading up this Department, and I hope very much that we will be able to find the funding. I will be having conversations with the Treasury to ensure that we are investing in places, and in the feeling of place, right up and down the country, and I know that he will want to be involved in that process locally.

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government’s plan to put a £30,000 salary floor on migrants entering the UK will massively damage the tourism industry in the Lake District and the Yorkshire dales, leaving many unable to fill vital positions? Representatives of the tourism industry and I have spoken to Ministers past and present about the need to massively lower that figure. Will she listen?

I hope the hon. Gentleman will know that I am a Minister who always listens. He represents a beautiful part of the world in the Lake District, whose benefits I have been delighted to enjoy on many visits. I am very aware of this issue, which is obviously under active consideration. One point is that post 1 November, the UK will be able to set its own immigration policy that is right for this country. We are aware that the tourism sector is reliant on domestic talent, but also on recruiting from overseas.

Kettering may not be the first place people think of when it comes to tourism, but they would be wrong, because located in the beating heart of the east midlands, right in the middle of the town, is Wicksteed Park. It was the first ever leisure park in the UK devoted to children’s play, and it attracts 800,000 visitors a year. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it will be celebrating its centenary in 2021. Will the Secretary of State ensure that Wicksteed Park is at the forefront of her mind whenever she considers tourism?

As my hon. Friend knows, Kettering is very much in my heart because I go through it at least twice a week on the East Midlands Trains service to and from my constituency. I am delighted to hear that Wicksteed Park is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This goes to the heart of the fact that there are some real treasures up and down the country. This is about the importance of place and ensuring that we invest in it.

Online Disinformation

Tackling disinformation is a key Government priority, and in our online harms White Paper we seek to take a world-leading approach to doing just that. We also seek within that to develop a media literacy strategy that tackles it through the people who are reading it.

Civil servants have said they cannot see how the data being gathered by could help with Brexit preparations. With the Cambridge Analytica scandal still fresh in the memory, along with the arrogant refusal by Dominic Cummings to assist the departmental Select Committee with its inquiry in any way, does the Minister not see that another mass data gathering exercise in the run-up to an election is a huge red flag for all those worried about a free and fair process?

It is important to say in this context that what the Government are doing, via the Brexit website or any other website, is, first, nothing out of the ordinary, and secondly, serves a very useful purpose in ensuring that we, just like businesses, know our users.

I warmly welcome my hon. Friend and his fellow Ministers to their leadership roles in this remarkable Department.

I urge my hon. Friend to translate the online harms White Paper into legislation as swiftly as possible, and invite him to agree that doing so is not just good for the United Kingdom, because it will create a regulator with the authority to enforce a proper duty of care on online companies, but will also be an act of global leadership, whether or not other countries are acting as swiftly as we are.

I begin by paying tribute to the great work that my right hon. and learned Friend did in overseeing the birth of the online harms White Paper. He is completely right: we should be proud in this House that it is an open, liberal democracy such as the United Kingdom that seeks to lead the way in an immensely difficult area. He is right to say that we should move quickly, but we should also move at a pace that allows us to get this vital issue correct.

I welcome the Secretary of State to her position, and I look forward to her appearing before us at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 16 October. She knows that we undertook a large inquiry into fake news and disinformation, for which the Prime Minister’s chief adviser refused to attend the Committee, and is therefore in contempt of Parliament. Would she like to bring Mr Dominic Cummings with her on 16 October?

I hesitate to speak on behalf of the Secretary of State in response to every aspect of that question, but I am confident that she does not need to bring a man to answer questions for her.

We would have a world-class regime for shutting down fake news and disinformation if we had courts that were actually accessible in the fight against misbehaviour by big tech. The breakthrough in the Court of Appeal yesterday, in the case of Richard Lloyd, shows just how hard it is to bring to account big tech firms, like Google, that have clearly misbehaved. So when the Minister brings the online harms Bill to the House—he might tell us when he expects that to happen—will he look again at the proposals that we will table in Committee to make it far easier to bring class actions against some of the biggest firms on earth? He has the chance to level the legal playing field against big tech; will he tell the House that he is determined to seize it?

We are absolutely determined to tackle these vital issues, because we know that the behaviour of social media companies is not always acting in the best interests of all our constituents. Of course we will look at any proposals that are advanced by the Labour party, but it is important to say that we need to get this right, and that requires us to work with industry, as well as against it.

Football Governance

It is the responsibility of the football authorities to govern the sport and provide assurances to fans that proper protections are in place. We welcome the EFL’s financial and sustainability review, and stand ready to support and feed into it as appropriate.

Football clubs are not just economic, or even sporting, entities: they are, as we have seen in the sad case of Bury, often the heart of their communities and of key significance in the lives of individual fans, without whom they are nothing. So would the Minister support legislating to give fans a right to be represented in boardrooms, to gain more influence over their clubs?

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much indeed for his question. I should have said that my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, Media and Creative Industries is sorry not to be here; he has given apologies, I think, both to your office, Mr Speaker, and to Opposition Front Benchers. He is overseas on departmental business.

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of local football clubs and their place in the community, and the importance of bringing people together. We are obviously open to dialogue and we know how strongly fans feel about their investment in their clubs. We want to see how the EFL review goes and whether in fact there are wider questions to be asked too.

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith), the Premier League clubs and the Football Association have been resisting the idea of a supporter being elected to the board of football clubs for a very long time. Why should the EFL review be any different?

We have seen what happened to Bury and very nearly happened to Bolton over the summer, and we know how strongly people feel about this. We need to let that EFL review happen, but it might be that there are some wider questions that we should be asking too.

Online Abuse

Online abuse is unacceptable and far too prevalent. Close to half of UK adults say that they have seen hateful content in the last year alone. As has been mentioned, we published the online harms White Paper in April. It tackles legal but harmful and also illegal content, including hate crime, harassment and cyber-stalking. We will seek to bring that forward.

Recent events have highlighted the high levels of online abuse faced by Members of Parliament, especially women. The threats of violence and intimidation towards those in public life undermine democracy and cannot be acceptable. The Jo Cox Foundation is calling on all political parties to commit to a joint standard of conduct to uphold the highest standards in public life. Does my hon. Friend the Minister support that initiative?

I pay tribute not only to my hon. Friend for the work that she has done in this area, but to the foundation for the work that it is doing. She is right that we should seek to do all we can, cross-party, not only to discourage the abuse that she speaks of, but to encourage people to come into politics. That will not happen so long as the level of abuse is as it is, and we will look closely at the proposals, as well as those others that have come forward.

Has the Minister, or anyone in his Department, had discussions with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster concerning these matters since the Chancellor was appointed?

I have discussed aspects of this with the Minister for the Cabinet Office, who obviously reports directly to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and I will continue to do so.

The Minister says that the abuse is unacceptable, and he is right. Some time ago, there was a picture on the internet of my young son being executed, but nobody seems to be able to do anything whatever about this. We say it is unacceptable, but we do not seem to be able to do anything. What are the Minister’s ideas?

My hon. Friend is completely right that, as things stand, we are not able to take the action that we should be able to. It is also important to say that social media companies themselves have also not taken the action required of them in a civilised society. The online harms White Paper and its journey into legislation will be a crucial method of tackling this, but it is not the only one, and I would like to continue to work with the social media companies to bring forward much more rapid progress.

Good morning, Mr Speaker. May I welcome the Secretary of State to her new role and, on behalf of my team, welcome her team to their new roles too?

The cyber-security fund forms part of this Government’s approach to combating harmful online activity, but serious doubts have been raised about the fund’s management. Given the concern, can the Minister or the Secretary of State confirm today whether Hacker House is a UK-based company?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we discussed this subject in an urgent question earlier this week. As far as Companies House is concerned, and as far as all the due diligence that was done at the time was concerned, Hacker House met all the criteria. He also knows, however, that we are looking into this matter, and that a review will report to the House by the end of this month.

Last week, the Minister made a statement to the House in which he gave the impression that Hacker House was UK-based when he referred to a UK phone number owned by the company. My team phoned it and it was answered by a woman in California.

The Minister mentions Companies House. I looked at the Companies House website this morning and saw that there has been a registration detail change—one of the principal directors now registers their state of residence as the United States. So I remain concerned, not least because Hacker House’s accounts show receipt of a loan of £700,000 from one of the company’s directors. Can the Minister assure us that this unusual transaction was not used to unlock a taxpayer-funded Government scheme?

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are having a review that will look into all these matters. As he knows, the residence of an individual director is not one of the defining characteristics of whether a company is based in the UK.

Free TV Licences: Over-75s

10. If she will make it her policy to maintain free TV licences for people over the age of 75. (912545)

The Government are very disappointed with the BBC’s decision on the future of the TV licence concession. We know that older people in particular value television as a source of companionship and entertainment, and as a way to stay connected with the world. I have met the chairman of the BBC board and the director-general of the BBC, and I have asked them to do more to help those affected by the decision.

Promises matter, and people who are elderly, lonely and housebound are not interested in squabbling in this place or in excuses—they want that promise honoured and their free TV licence. So will the Secretary of State say why she made a promise at the election, why she is letting down older people across the country and what she is going to do about it?

Of course this is not a promise that I made, because I took this job only in July, but the hon. Lady is right to say that there was a commitment. There was also an agreement with the BBC in the 2015 funding settlement; we committed to increase the licence fee in line with inflation and close the iPlayer loophole. She is right to say that the people are not interested in squabbling in this place, be it about TV licences or anything else. If older people are entitled to pension credit, they will get the help they need. The BBC will also be working to ensure that others are aware of that entitlement and the other support that is available.

We are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic, and for many older people television is their main source of company. For those who are housebound or live on their own, it is a window to the wider world. There are 5,170 households in my constituency who look set to lose their free TV licences, which they were promised by the Government at the last election. Does the Minister agree that you cannot means test for social isolation?

As the hon. Lady also knows, we are the first Government in the world to appoint a Minister to lead work on tackling loneliness, and last year we published the world’s first Government strategy on loneliness and secured £20 million of new grant funding for projects run by charities and community groups to bring people together. We know that there are people who are not claiming the pension credit who would be entitled and would fall into the categories she has mentioned. I hope that she, like me, as a local MP, will work with all local agencies to make sure that everyone who is entitled to that support gets it.

Media Intrusion

6. What recent steps she has taken to tackle incidences of media (a) intrusion and (b) violations of privacy. (912541)

The Government firmly believe in press freedom. Clearly, that freedom comes with a responsibility to ensure that it is not abused. It is not unreasonable to expect the press to act with understanding in relation to sensitive personal stories. It is not for Government to arbitrate, but it is important that we have systems in place so that individuals can take complaints to independent bodies to be assessed.

Last month saw yet another example of a high-profile sports figure having to deal with tabloid newspapers publishing deeply personal and distressing information about his family’s private lifer. Leveson was supposed to change the way such publications operated. Does the Secretary of State agree that incidents such as that seem to suggest that it is just business as usual, with sales and profit being put before individuals’ rights to privacy?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. All of us have complete empathy with the strong feelings of both Ben Stokes—I believe that is the story the hon. Gentleman is referring to—and Gareth Thomas, who experienced a similar invasion of privacy in the same week. Decisions on whether the press’s actions in those cases were in breach of its agreed standards should be made by the independent regulatory bodies. The press said it wanted to be self-regulated. I wait to see in these particular examples, if complaints are made, how that self-regulation works.

In March last year, the current Secretary of State for Health and Social Care stood at that Dispatch Box and axed the second part of the Leveson inquiry because he said that the culture in the media had changed. When we look at what has happened to the Duchess of Sussex, Gareth Thomas and Ben Stokes, we see that the culture of invasion of privacy has not changed. The Secretary of State says it is not for the Government to arbitrate such matters, so will she now resurrect the independent inquiry and let us properly move this forward?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, but I do not agree. The media landscape has changed significantly in the six years since the Leveson inquiry report was published. We believe that the steps we have taken mean that to continue with part 2 of Leveson is no longer appropriate, proportionate or in the public interest.

The family of my Livingston constituent Kirsty Maxwell have faced the unimaginable tragedy of losing her in suspicious circumstances in Benidorm in 2017, when she fell to her death from a balcony. To compound that horror, they have since had to face repeated violations of their privacy and intrusion from some journalists and media outlets. Does the Secretary of State agree that we have a duty of care to our citizens, especially those who have been traumatised and faced a loss of such magnitude, to protect their privacy and the memory of their loved ones? Will she meet me to discuss this and the recommendations that will be in my upcoming report on deaths abroad and support for families when they face media intrusion?

I would of course be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss this issue. I am very sorry for everything that has happened to Kirsty’s family and friends after that unimaginable tragedy. I hope that at our meeting we can discuss whether in fact complaints have been made and how the system of self-regulation has worked in that case.

Heritage-Led Regeneration

There is overwhelming evidence from academics and respected organisations such as Historic England that heritage-led regeneration provides substantial economic and social benefits. Last month, we were delighted to announce a £95 million investment in high street heritage action zones, which will support ambitious projects to revive our historic high streets, thereby boosting local economies and quality of life throughout the country. I congratulate my hon. Friend on his constituency’s successful bid for £1.9 million from the scheme to revitalise Gloucester’s cathedral quarter.

The Government have done wonders for heritage regeneration, and I am grateful for the Minister’s confirmation of the successful bid by Gloucester’s cathedral quarter to the heritage action-zone fund, which will enable the medieval Fleece hotel to be regenerated after two decades of sitting shut. My hon. Friend knows that culture is also important for inspiring young people to stay and work in small cities. Will she consider setting up a small pot for the 15 unsuccessful runners-up to the cultural development fund?

My hon. Friend is a tremendous campaigner for heritage funding in his constituency. In fact, since he has been MP for Gloucester, his constituency has secured more than £15 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and it has now secured close to £2 million for a heritage action zone. But clearly my hon. Friend wants more. He asked about the cultural development fund, which also supports the use of culture and heritage as a catalyst for regeneration and economic growth; the Government are monitoring the success of the fund and will in due course consider whether there will be future rounds of funding.

I do not know whether the Minister is aware, but we value heritage a great deal in Huddersfield. We have more listed buildings than Gloucester, Bath and York, and we are keen to have our fair share of the money for regeneration. Will she look into the role of some of the people high up in English Heritage who seem to want to stop any positive, forward-looking project if they do not like it?

I believe that the hon. Gentleman’s constituency was successful in securing some support from the heritage high streets action-zone scheme, so I congratulate his constituency on that. I look forward to seeing that funding make a positive impact in his area.

Leaving the EU: Creative Industries

8. What assessment her Department has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the UK’s creative, digital and media industries in the last three months. [R] (912543)

14. What recent assessment she has made of the effect of the UK leaving the EU on the UK’s creative industries. (912549)

The UK’s creative, digital and media industries are a global success story. Our creative industries continue to outperform the wider economy: their value went up from £95 billion in 2016 to £102 billion in 2017. As Europe’s leading tech hub, we generate more billion-dollar tech businesses than any other country in Europe. Over the past three years, we have maintained a dialogue with the creative industries on EU exit. I recognise that the movement of people and goods are among their concerns, but the UK is a global leader in these sectors, and our decision to leave the EU will not change that.

I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Will the Minister guarantee that musicians and others in the creative industries, with their roadies and their techies, will be able to work across the EU as they do now—as they need to do to make a living—if we leave with or without an agreement, taking their instruments, their kit and their merchandise in a system that works across borders without carnets or additional costs?

We are talking to the industry about exactly those concerns. I have already had some conversations along these lines, as has the Secretary of State, who met UK Music earlier this week. It is true that, when the UK leaves the EU on 31 October, free movement as it currently stands will end. In the event of a no-deal exit, creative professionals will need to check whether they need a visa or a work permit for the EU country that they are visiting. I am very optimistic that we will get a deal, and I would encourage the hon. Lady to vote for it when she has the opportunity to do so.

The Musicians Union states that most UK musicians rely on performing and touring in the EU to make a living, so a bad deal or a no-deal Brexit will jeopardise their careers. I have listened to what the Minister has had to say, but we are almost at Brexit date. What discussions has her Department had with the Home Office about creating a musician’s passport that is inexpensive, lasts for a minimum of two years, and would do away with the need otherwise for permits, permissions and so on, which are unsustainable for the music industry?

I very much appreciate the hon. Lady’s concerns and those of the industry, as I have already said. The Secretary of State, in fact, spoke to the Musicians Union earlier this week. We are acutely mindful of the concerns that exist, but I will say yet again that the best way through this is to have a deal and, when there is the opportunity to vote for one, I encourage her please to do so.

I refer to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

I agree with my hon. Friend about the importance of a deal, but she will recognise that the concerns of the Incorporated Society of Musicians are legitimate and need to be addressed. Will she also speak to those who run our major opera companies? Britain is a world leader in this regard and the ability to fly in replacements—often from the EU—at the last minute for roles, which, often, very few people can actually sing, is very important to our international status in this art form.

As my hon. Friend will know, I am new to this post, but I very much look forward to talking to representatives from the opera sector and making sure that we continue to support this hugely successful part of our economy as we leave the European Union.

Topical Questions

As I said earlier, this is my first oral questions since I was appointed, and I am thrilled to be holding this role and working to make the country better connected and more creative.

This week, the Government announced £5 billion further to support the roll-out of gigabit connectivity, delivering greater connectivity to those who need it. Hon. Members will be aware of our ongoing work to keep people safe online and our proposals around age verification for online pornography. I wish to notify the House that the standstill period under the EU’s technical services and regulations directive expired at midnight last night. I understand the interest in this issue that exists in all parts of the House, and I will update the House on next steps in due course.

Finally, I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate Dina Asher-Smith, who won a 200 metres gold medal at the World Athletics Championships. She is the first British woman to win a major global sprint title and the first Brit to win a world or an Olympic sprint title since 1993.

The Government have been taking out full-page newspaper adverts, including in the Cambridge News, to warn businesses of the issues ahead. On data issues, they have been inviting businesses to take out standard contractual clauses. One business in my constituency tells me that they will have to take out 72,000 such clauses, so will the Secretary of State tell us how many clauses will have to be negotiated for the entire economy and how many are actually in place?

The hon Gentleman is right that, if we are not able to reach a deal with the European Union, one of the ways—the recommended way—to handle the transfer of personal data is to insert standard contractual clauses in relevant contracts, and the Information Commissioner’s Office has full details. We have tried to make that as easy as possible. Inevitably, many private businesses are, of course, reliant on, or focusing on, running their business, but I refer really to what my ministerial colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately), said earlier on: if we want to avoid any of these problems, the best way is to have a deal and for Members to vote for that deal when, hopefully, it is presented to them.

Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Prime Minister’s very welcome announcement yesterday about broadband access and mobile phone connectivity really will have a transformational impact on rural areas such as North West Norfolk. Can she also confirm that it is actually new money?

Yes, it is new money, but it is also very much intended to ensure that our rural areas do not lose out in the search for greater connectivity. My hon. Friend will know from his constituency work just how important it is that businesses and households in his constituency are fully connected to the internet and how important that is for driving up productivity in our economy.

Given that spending on youth work has fallen by £880 million since 2010, I was very interested in the Government’s announcement this week, but note that it is just £50 million a year in revenue for the sector. Given that at least 760 youth centres have closed their doors and 14,500 youth and community workers have lost their jobs since 2010, does the Secretary of State think that the announcement of just 60 new youth centres really cuts it?

I do find it extraordinary that there is no welcome—only criticism—from the Opposition Front Bench for this £500 million youth investment fund to be spent in myriad different ways. Actually, the sector has shown itself to be very strong and resilient. Of course, it is typical of the Labour party to focus on buildings and facilities, not on what is going in or on the support offered to young people.

Further to that answer from my right hon. Friend, let me say that the £500 million youth investment fund is warmly welcomed across the country. What steps will she take to ensure that young people can participate in sport, drama and music as a result of the fund?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I can give him that reassurance. Access to art, drama, sport, and other creative and cultural activities is an absolute right and entitlement for young people. I am delighted and excited to find that this Department is responsible for youth policy outside of school hours. I hope that my hon. Friend will encourage organisations in his constituency to put in bids for this funding when details are announced.

T2.   On the question of online abuse, what steps are the Government taking with regard to those who pour out bile while hiding behind anonymous accounts, so that these people can be held to account for their comments? (912551)

As part of our online harms work, we will of course look at the benefits and costs of online anonymity. We are very conscious that online anonymity can be important for purposes such as whistleblowing, but we all also know that people hide behind anonymity as keyboard warriors.

The Stirling constituency is the third worst constituency for mobile phone coverage in Scotland. What are the Government doing to remedy this?

As my hon. Friend knows, we have recently announced £5 billion that will cover connectivity in all its forms, and that will of course include Scotland. It is probably worth saying that I recently met Paul Wheelhouse, my opposite number in the Scottish Government. We got on well and will work well together. It is a good job that we got on well, because broadband needs all the help it can get under the Scottish National party.

T3. Major national cultural institutions such as the Tate should put their brands as well as the art in their collections behind efforts to support regional and local art galleries and museums. Will the Minister therefore encourage the Tate to support proposals for pop-up Tate galleries at art galleries such as Harrow Arts Centre, which serves my constituents? (912552)

That is an excellent proposal. I have already visited the Tate since becoming a Minister, and I am well aware of the huge amount of work that it and other museums and galleries do to ensure that their collections are available around the country and to support other parts of the country as well as London.

A number of my constituents are stuck with a single broadband provider, which is in a monopoly position, so it is charging very high prices for very poor service. What steps are the Government taking to ensure greater competition, which will drive down prices and improve the service?

We are acutely conscious that the best possible market is one driven by competition. As we take forward our huge investment to ensure a better connected country, one of our key long-term aspirations will be to develop greater competition.

T4. We have been waiting since July for the Government to raise the charity lottery annual sales limit to £50 million. Every month of dither and delay means good causes across the UK missing out. When will this widely supported and carefully consulted on policy finally be delivered? (912553)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, the Government ran a consultation from June to September 2018, reviewed the 1,600 responses and concluded that the per-draw limit for society lotteries would increase from £4 million to £5 million and that the prize limit would increase from £400,000 to £500,000. The Government are committed to making sure that the regulatory framework for lotteries is appropriate and that both society lotteries and the national lottery can thrive. The Gambling Commission will, however, run a consultation seeking views on additional transparency measures before the new limits are implemented.

It has been another brilliant year for National Citizen Service schemes in Witney, through which young people learn vital life skills and have great fun at the same time. Will the Minister please confirm that the scheme continues, and will continue, to have the Government’s full support?

I am happy to provide that commitment. We think the National Citizen Service is a fantastic scheme. I think it is the fastest growing youth activity scheme in the country. My hon. Friend has obviously enjoyed his visits to see it; I very much enjoyed my visits to NCS in Loughborough.

T6. Yesterday, the Premier League announced a new chief executive, who will face the same old problems: lack of financial transparency, lack of fan engagement and disreputable ownership. The Secretary of State talked about the English Football League review, but she cannot leave our premier sporting and economic asset in the hands of the vested interests of self-regulation. Will she urgently meet fans to ensure that whatever the results on the pitch—as a Newcastle United fan, I know that they can be up and down —fans are the winners off the pitch when it comes to the financial regulation of football? (912555)

The hon. Lady is right to say that being a fan of a football club is quite an emotional experience; it can be a bit of a rollercoaster. I think that we ought to see how the new appointee decides to embrace the role, but of course I and the Minister with responsibility for sport are always very happy to meet organisations.

Gigabit fast would be fantastic, but a bit fast would be great for many East Hampshire homes and businesses. What comfort can my hon. Friend give to not just the hardest-to-reach 20% and 10%, but the hardest-to-reach 5% and 3%?

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right to raise this issue. In some ways, we have look at the very hardest-to-reach areas first, because while it is important to upgrade commercial areas to gigabit levels, it is in areas where there is very often no broadband at all that we will make the greatest social and economic impact.

T7. Age UK has warned that the changes to eligibility for a free TV licence are likely to result in a big increase in fraudulent activity targeting vulnerable elderly people. Is that not yet one more reason why the Government should stop outsourcing their social policy and commit to keeping TV licences free for all over-75s? (912556)

The BBC has provided assurances that it will deliver the most sensitive possible handling for those who are affected and will work with older people’s groups, charities and voluntary organisations to design a bespoke system to support all those over 75 that will include new easy payment plans and an information and advice programme. We want everyone who is eligible for pension credit to make sure that they claim it, so that they get the benefit of the free TV licence.

I declare my interest as a member of Kettering Borough Council. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the council on its decision to match-fund its successful £2 million bid for a heritage action zone in Kettering town centre with a further £2 million, and does she agree that that £4 million proactive investment in the local high street must be good news for the local economy?

I am delighted to congratulate Kettering Borough Council on its match funding. It shows that Government investment will often unlock other funding, whether from the private sector, the local authority or others, to make sure that our high streets are the thriving places that we all want them to be.