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Topical Questions

Volume 669: debated on Thursday 16 January 2020

May I take this opportunity to congratulate my right hon. Friend the former Member for Loughborough on her elevation to the other place? We continue to work very closely together. She is still the Secretary of State, and it is good to see her watching over us with a beady eye this morning.

This week it was announced that gambling with the use of credit cards is to be banned throughout Britain from April, with the exception of non-remote lotteries. This is an important step: we are acting decisively on our manifesto commitment to take whatever action is necessary to protect vulnerable people from gambling-related harm. I should also like to use this opportunity to congratulate our on-screen and off-screen talent on their incredible success at the Golden Globes, where 40% of the awards went to Brits or to shows and films with a predominantly British-led production team. This clearly shows the exceptional talent that Britain has.

It is important that we act to ensure that big social media companies do more to protect people from harmful content online, and that this should be overseen by an independent regulator with statutory powers to ensure that they do so. This major issue was looked at in the last Parliament by the Government and by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Can the Minister confirm the press reports that the Government will respond in the next few weeks to the online harms White Paper, and that we can expect to see a Government Bill in this Parliament as well? I would be happy to accept either an answer from the Minister at the Dispatch Box or a positive hand gesture from the Secretary of State in the Gallery.

My hon. Friend is going to have to settle for an answer from the Box. We are committed to making the UK the safest place to be online and the best digital economy in the world. As the Prime Minister said at Prime Minister’s questions, we are developing legislative proposals at pace and we will bring forward a Bill as soon as possible.

My father used to enjoy a weekly 10 bob yankee down the bookies, but he would have been appalled at the sheer volume of advertising and the dodgy practices that are going on in picking on vulnerable people in relation to gambling. The Government seem to be following rather than leading events in this regard, with today’s intervention from the NHS leadership adding to that. When are the Government going to introduce the new gambling Bill that is so long overdue? Will the Minister tell us that right now?

I am slightly surprised by the tone of the hon. Gentleman’s question. The Government have been taking steady steps to increase protections to ensure that people can gamble safely, unlike previous Labour Administrations, who oversaw a huge liberalisation of gambling. As we committed to doing in our manifesto, we will be launching a review of the Gambling Act 2005, and work is going on right now to identify the scope and timeframe of that review.

T2. Many people have had their lives ruined by a gambling addiction, so I commend my hon. Friend for her decision to ban people from gambling using credit cards and therefore using money that they often do not have. What other steps are the Government taking to deal with the scourge of problem gambling? (900219)

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is absolutely right to raise this again, because there is a huge level of concern about gambling in this country. As he says, we announced this week that we were banning gambling on credit cards, because we know that that is particularly harmful. We are also going to review the Gambling Act to ensure that it is fit for the modern age. Also, in healthcare, there is increasing support for people who are struggling with gambling addiction, including 14 new clinics being opened to provide specialist support.

T3. It is six months to the day since the Government announced that the limits on charity lotteries would be raised, but to the frustration of charities and good causes, nothing has been done and they are losing millions of pounds of potential funding. Could the Minister perhaps text the Public Gallery and ask the Secretary of State when this will be done? (900220)

As the hon. Gentleman said, we announced last year that we would be increasing society lottery sales and prize limits. These changes require affirmative secondary legislation, and our aim is to lay this in Parliament very soon.

T5. While I warmly welcome the pledge to deliver gigabit broadband, many of my constituents in Grimston, Heacham, Brancaster and other places have yet to receive speeds of 10 megabits per second. Will the Minister confirm that the plans are ready to deliver minimum speeds from March, and that the Government will hold BT to account to do that? (900222)

My hon. Friend is right that we must ensure that the 10-megabit universal service obligation is delivered on the ground. We will of course continue to talk to the two providers— BT and KCOM—to ensure that it is there when it needs to be in March this year.

T4. The Scottish Government received just £21 million of UK Government funding for broadband—3.5% of the total funding in Scotland—with the other £580 million being paid by the Scottish Government. Despite the nonsense we often hear in this Chamber, broadband is a matter reserved to the UK Government. Will the Minister therefore explain why the UK Government are failing properly to fund broadband in Scotland? (900221)

The hon. Lady is right that we hear a lot of nonsense in this Chamber—primarily from the SNP Benches. It is deeply disappointing that the Scottish Government’s delivery of R100 has been delayed again. The UK Government have provided significant amounts of funding, and we will continue to work with the Scottish Government to provide the help they so clearly need.

T7. The Conservative-led Stoke-on-Trent City Council is working to roll out full fibre broadband across the Potteries with this Government’s unique funding. Given that Staffordshire University is a pioneer in game design and video production and that this new Conservative Government will be rolling out full gigabit broadband across the country, does my hon. Friend agree that silicon Stoke is a real possibility? (900224)

Silicon Stoke is certainly a real possibility, and my hon. Friend is right that that is in part due to this Government’s £5 billion commitment. I welcome the council’s work with certain companies, which shows that if we look further than the usual suspects, we can get action on the ground that delivers huge economic growth.

T6. The EU copyright directive could be of real help to those who make perhaps a modest living in the creative industries. Actors who appeared in shows such as “Casualty” or “Holby City”, for example, would find it easier to get the repeat fees to which they are entitled. Will the Government assure us that the directive will be transposed into UK law as soon as possible? (900223)

We will of course consider whether to adopt the copyright directive. I agree that it contains many protections for our creative sector, but the decision will be taken over the coming year.