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Events Research Programme

Volume 697: debated on Tuesday 22 June 2021

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement on the results of the events research programme.

The world-leading events research programme has conducted 14 pilot events across two phases since April. The findings from these events will inform decisions around the safe removal of social distancing at step 4 of the road map. We committed to publishing the final report ahead of step 4 of the road map, and that is what we will do. The report will cover key findings and the operational approach of the research programme. The events research programme has studied some highly complex questions. The guidance for the sector that comes out of this work will, however, be practical, clear and simply set out.

Following the delay to step 4, the Government will now run a third phase of the events research programme. This phase will gather more data, consolidating our evidence base and helping in our aim of getting spectators back to live events in greater numbers. Phase 3 will include trialling the practical use of covid certification at a range of events, alongside other mitigations. Some of these pilot events will be permitted at full capacity, providing visitors demonstrate their covid status. The men’s and women’s finals at Wimbledon, for example, will be played with centre court at full capacity, and those matches will be the first major outdoor sporting events held at full capacity in the UK since the start of the pandemic. The events research programme is continuing live discussions with a number of theatres and cultural and business event organisers about their inclusion in the programme, which would see events taking place with larger capacities.

I am sure that the House recognises how vital this research is in supporting the reopening of venues and sectors that we and our constituents are so passionate about. However, it is important to recognise that public safety is the main priority. Although we are not yet in a position to publish the full report, I assure the House that post-event data is closely monitored and has not shown any evidence of the events causing outbreaks. If the events had, we would have communicated that information urgently. As the Prime Minister has stressed, the road map is driven by the data, not target dates.

Like everybody present, I know how important it is for spectators to return to live events in greater numbers. We are hopeful that the events research programme will enable us to work with the experts and the events sectors to allow reopening as planned in step 4 of the road map.

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question, and the Minister for his response.

The terms of reference for the programme were published on 22 February; we are four months on and no results have been published. Last month, the Secretary of State said in a newspaper interview that 15 of the 58,000 ERP participants had tested positive for covid, but still no results have been published. I am afraid there was nothing in the Minister’s response to explain the failure to publish the results. What is the secret? Why will the Government not tell the public, the industry and us what the results are?

All those who have spent time and money on organising and hosting test events, and those who rely on the programme, would like to see the results. They wanted to see them in real time or, at the very least, at regular intervals over the past four months. Without seeing the results, how can they plan for the summer? How are the public to understand the Government’s plan for the sector?

Organisations involved in the ERP have told me that a report with those good results was produced by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, but they were not allowed to see it. They also told me that No. 10 refused to allow the report to be published last week because it did not fit with the communications grid. Did No. 10 block publication of the report last week?

What evidence are the Government using to make decisions about pilot events? Why are some organisations getting the go-ahead to test events and not others? Andrew Lloyd Webber refused to join the programme because the rest of the industry was not being treated equally; do companies have to have the Prime Minister’s mobile number to run a test event? Kendal Calling was cancelled yesterday because its application to participate in the third phase of the ERP was refused. Under what criteria was Wimbledon accepted as a pilot? When was that agreed? Will there be a fourth stage of the ERP if restrictions remain in place for the sector beyond 19 July? Finally, will the Minister just publish the ERP results today?

I thank the hon. Lady for her comments and agree with her that many people have been involved in the events research programme. We thank David Ross, Nick Hytner and all those involved—including hundreds of volunteers up and down the country—who have made the events so successful.

When we announced the programme, we outlined our intention to release the report prior to step 4 and that is exactly what we will do: we will release the report very soon. The ERP report is subject to a comprehensive and rigorous co-ordination and approval process across Departments; the academic institutions that have been involved in the programme, as the hon. Lady knows; and the ERP governance board.

The programmes have been selected in consultation with the science advisers on the events research programme science board. Those events involved in the latest phase, phase 3, have been approached based on the advice we received on the information we need to get out of the events research programme. They were approached on an equal basis. We will announce further ERP programmes shortly.

Many of the event organisers who took part in the pilots did so at a financial loss, purely to help their industry and the country more widely, so the delay in getting the vital data into the public domain is a huge let-down and is undoubtedly leading to cancellations, with Kendal Calling festival being the latest example just yesterday.

Will my hon. Friend commit to releasing all available data as a matter of urgency and writing to the Select Committee with what we know to date? Does he recognise that the clear failure to do so adds to a growing impression that some decision makers are being swayed by unaccountable scientists without the proper and relevant data being put before them? After all, we are a democracy, not some sort of scientocracy.

My hon. Friend, who chairs the Select Committee, highlights the importance of making sure that information is correct and data is accurate, because it will help inform decisions about opening up. We will also be using the events research programme to provide guidance to the sector. We are well aware that it needs that guidance as far in advance as possible in order to help with events and logistical arrangements when they open. My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I completely agree. We want to get the information and data out very soon. We will be doing so before the next phase, as we stated at the beginning of the programme.

The events and live music sector has been calling for Government covid insurance help for months, as have the SNP and many Tory MPs, including members of the Select Committee. Why are Ministers not listening to their colleagues on this issue? What are the arguments against offering insurance help for this vital sector, which desperately needs it?

I should say that we very much appreciate the work that has been happening with the devolved Administrations, co-operating with information sharing relating to the events research programme. As the Secretary of State made clear at the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on Thursday 13 May, the Government are very aware of the wide concerns about securing indemnity for the live events sector. We continue to assess options to provide further support to the sector within the public health context. These are live considerations.

The work that DCMS has done in getting cash to businesses in the arts sector in my constituency and beyond has been great, but getting people into venues is now what is required, as highlighted to me last weekend when I visited the Empire theatre in Consett, and at a national level, by great organisations such as UK Music. I welcome the events research programme and what it is doing to look at reopening. It sounds like it is good news. Publishing it soon will be vital for the sector, so that they can get on with planning to reopen. If it is good news, it is also going to be vital for public confidence in booking. Will the Minister commit to publishing the findings as soon as possible, so that theatres, nightclubs and other venues in my constituency can get on with planning to reopen?

As my hon. Friend says, the purpose of the events research programme was precisely for those goals—to help inform decision making around the opening of public events and large events on a scale that we have not been able to experience over the last few months. We will be publishing the information shortly, as well as guidance to help events open.

My constituency is home to internationally-known theatre and music venues and exhibition centres. They tell me they are still waiting for promised Government funds, an insurance scheme that gives them certainty on reopening and, specifically, the publication of the events research programme report. One industry source told me today that failure to publish

“is both creating confusion and eroding confidence across the events industry.”

What should I tell them, their customers and their staff?

As I mentioned, we are considering the indemnity issues. The sector has had support through, for example, the culture recovery fund, which is a £2 billion fund, as well as other support from Government. The whole purpose of the events research programme was and is to enable the sectors to open as soon as possible.

It is important to stress as well that under step 3 of the road map, indoor events of up to 1,000 people and outdoor events of up to 4,000 people or, in some cases, 10,000 people, can happen. We have not gone back—that is still possible under step 3 of the road map. Many events are taking place right across the country precisely because of that.

In my constituency and others, many events over the summer, such as highland games, agricultural shows and the rest, have been cancelled for a second year in a row. Was there ever an expression of interest from the Scottish Government to hold any test events north of the border? Should any event organisers in mine or any other Scottish constituency approach DCMS for permission to be made a test event, would the Minister consider that?

We are co-operating with the devolved Administrations, as I mentioned. They run separate programmes. The programme held in England is the largest that we are aware of in the world, and the most comprehensive and broadest. We will be sharing information and data. The spirit of co-operation is there across the nations, but there are no plans for the English-based ERP programme to consume the Scottish programme at this moment in time. We need to co-operate.

I trust that I am always consistent in what I say—what I am about to ask will come as no surprise to either the Minister or the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight). If the Government were to underwrite insurance for events and festivals, it would be a real boost and would really get them going again. There is a precedent, when it comes to terrorism. Her Majesty’s Government do rather well out of that—they make a profit on the deal. Will the Government think again?

As I said previously, we are aware of the wider concerns about the sector, including the insurance and the indemnity issues. We are considering options, and we are taking those issues very seriously.

First, may I thank the Minister for his personal visit to my constituency and to the fantastic Puzzlewood attraction? I know that he had a fantastic time and helped to sell the benefits of my constituency more widely. On this particular subject, though, I am a little confused. When the Government do not publish something, it is normally because it is bad news and they are trying to hide it away. I have a very strong suspicion that this set of data is fantastically positive. It must be ready for publication because it must have been prepared for last week when step 4 was due to announced. My fear is that it demonstrated the opposite of the decision that the Prime Minister announced last week and that we could have opened safely on 21 June. That is the real reason it has not been published. Why does the Minister not publish it today and put our minds at rest?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his initial comments. I very much enjoyed meeting his constituents and visiting his constituency. I am afraid that I would not buy into some of his conspiracy theories around this. We have said already that, if there were major concerns, we would have made sure that that information was in the public arena. That would be the responsible thing to do. Some of the initial data points were already announced by the Secretary of State back in May. The report needs to be comprehensive and it needs to be reviewed by a large number of stakeholders in Government. We will be releasing it very soon.

The live events sector, musicians and the creative industries have been severely hit during this pandemic, with many excluded from Government support schemes. They deserve clarity, but instead of transparency, the Government have been busy trying to hide information, including the findings from the events research programme, which should have been published last month as initially promised. Can the Minister confirm whether the Prime Minister had access to the events research programme and used the findings to inform his decisions about extending lockdown restrictions? If seeing that information was important enough for him, why is it not good enough for this Parliament and for people who are desperately trying to plan to reopen their businesses?

Again, I am afraid that I do not buy into some of the conspiracy theories circulating around here. Clearly, the goal of the Government—the goal of the whole House—is to open up sectors as soon as we can in a responsible way. The events research programme is providing vital and pivotal information to enable us to do so. We will be providing additional guidance to the events sector, and we have been providing further support for these vital sectors—[Interruption.] I agreed with the hon. Gentleman’s first comment. These are pivotal sectors for the economy and for our livelihood and we want to provide them with support.

Is not the example of Israel, where a high level of vaccination among the general population acted as a means to avoid any restrictions on events, one for the Government to follow? If my hon. Friend were to publish this report, he most certainly would not be damned.

I am not sure how to read that, but I thank my hon. Friend for his comments. I think he makes an important point about the correlation between opening up and the vaccination programme. We would not be where we are, even with some of the smaller events that we have already enabled to open up or with the events research programme, were it not for the incredibly successful vaccination programme to date. I thank everyone involved in that, because that is what is enabling these sectors to open up, with all the economic and mental health benefits that come with these major events taking place.

The delay in the publication of this ERP data is not without real-world consequences, particularly for us in north Lancashire and south Cumbria where we saw the cancellation yesterday of the Kendal Calling festival. That is a festival that has received no support from the culture recovery fund, and it has been cancelled now for a second year. That will have real-world economic consequences in my local area. I have listened very carefully to what the Minister has said, but he has failed to give any credible reason for the delay in publishing this data. Can he try once to give one credible reason for the delay in publishing this data?

We will be announcing phase 3 of the culture recovery fund very shortly, and I am sure that it will be received as positively across the whole House as the previous phases. It is important to be very clear that we are unable to get to step 4 of the road map not because of the delay in the release of this document but because of increases in infection rates, concerns about the variants of concern, and the inability to meet the tests required to get to phase 4. That is why we are not able to open all the events programmes as we would like to at this moment in time. It is responsible for us to continue with the events research programme so as to be in the best possible position to take full advantage when we are able to open.

I welcome the work that has been done through the events research programme. However, does my hon. Friend agree that even when step 4 is reached, the events sector will need some confidence that it can plan for future events knowing that they are either considered to be safe because of the work of the events research programme or because there is sufficient insurance in place to protect them in case new restrictions come, and that without that confidence it will be very difficult for events organisations to plan for the future?

My hon. Friend, who has a lot of credibility and experience in this area, makes absolutely the right points. Even when we can open, there will be a need to build confidence in the public arena, and some of these sectors have been hit so hard that it will take several years for them to recover. We will be continuing to support them through the next phase of the CRF and other support measures. We will publish guidance along with the report that will also help these sectors to open up.

I thank the Minister for his responses so far. Does he agree that mixed messages are being sent about safety outdoors, with schools still making parents and children carry on wearing masks, yet they can walk from school to the playground without a mask? Will he undertake to clarify the requirements for outdoor activities as a whole and not be limited to the pilot schemes for large-scale events so that all Government Departments can send the same message across all Departments and all regions, particularly the Northern Ireland Assembly? All information can then be shared equally, and there can be the same policy across all the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

I would not want to step into some of the devolved issues or indeed some of the concerns being expressed. However, to be fair, most of the devolved Administrations, as well as the UK Government, are setting clear guidance about when facemasks are required. The events research programme has been trialling events without social distancing and without facemasks precisely to look at where we can open up further, which I think is the point the hon. Gentleman is trying to make.

The events and conferences sector has such a positive impact on our economy, not least because it showcases the UK around the world, provides a platform for businesses to export and attracts inward investment, yet it is on its knees as one of the last sectors still to be almost shut down because of the covid emergency. Will the Minister publish this data? He has acknowledged that the pilot events have not led to increased infection rates. Is it not time to give the events and conferences sector a clear timetable for reopening?

I could not agree more about the sector’s pivotal role and its absolutely pivotal importance to our economic wellbeing, as a lot of sales go on at business events, conferences and so on right across the country. It is a major part of our economy and we want to get it open as soon as possible. We have had a business event as part of the ERP programme and we are hoping to have another one as well. It is a sector that I pay close attention to, as it is a pivotal part of the economy, and I will be happy to work with my right hon. Friend to promote it in the long term. It was mentioned in the tourism recovery plan last week as a major part of our potential growth.

It is good to see the success of events such as the Download festival pilot, which gives us all a glimpse of a post-covid restriction life that might be possible. However, it is only possible for these events to go ahead with Government underwriting. Can the Minister not see the necessity of extending events insurance if more events like this one are to go ahead?

Indeed, the event last weekend—a little bit of rain did not put off a lot of people from attending—was very successful and provides key learning. As I have said, we are looking at indemnity options.

I am incredibly heartened to hear the Minister say that the reinsurance scheme is under active consideration. I am further heartened that he accepted the point made by the hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) that the last time we did this kind of thing it made the Exchequer money—we got the planes off the ground after 9/11 and made a profit for the Treasury. Does the Minister agree that the industry, which is worth £84 billion a year, really deserves the confidence of a reinsurance scheme, and that it is a vote of confidence in global Britain and in our vaccine scheme?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This is a hugely important sector to our economy; it employs 1.5 million people right up and down the country, and there are whole households that rely on it. That is exactly why we have the events research programme: to try to build confidence so that we can get the sector up and running again. We will be looking at alternative ways in which we can continue to support the sector, including indemnity.

Organisers have done their side of the bargain and so have people attending these testers, but now the Government’s lack of communication is threatening a summer’s worth of events. Industry experts such as Tysers and the Association of Independent Festivals are clear that a Government-backed insurance scheme would protect events and unlock a potential £9 billion boost to our economy, but what we have heard today from the Minister is equivocation about plans that might come forward in the future. It is already the middle of June, so will he meet the moment now and give people the definitive answer that they are all waiting for?

At the risk of repeating myself, it is really important that we recognise that the whole point of the events research programme is to do exactly what the hon. Gentleman is asking for: to provide confidence that these events can go ahead. As I have said—this is important, because there has been a lack of clarity about this and some misinformation being spread—events of a certain size can go ahead already, including indoor events of up to 1,000 people and outdoor events of 4,000, or in exceptional cases up to 10,000. Many events can go ahead. The major events will be sharing the learnings from the events research programme very soon, which will be pivotal to helping those major events take place.

It was great to see thousands of people enjoying the Download festival this weekend: it reminded us all of the more normal times that we all crave and gave hope to all those who are hoping to attend Boardmasters in Newquay this summer. Boardmasters brings £45 million into our local economy and supports more than 400 jobs. Can the Minister confirm that, provided that we take step 4 on 19 July, with the continued successful roll-out of the pilot scheme, we have every hope that Boardmasters will go ahead in August? Will he ensure that those who run Boardmasters are provided with the guidance that they need in a timely manner so that they can make the necessary preparations to run the event safely?

I know what a huge supporter of the sector my hon. Friend is. Boardmasters sounds like a very exciting event; I know that there have been some problems in the past with being able to hold it, but we want to ensure that that event and others planned for later in the summer get guidance. We are working on that guidance at this moment in time. The events research programme learnings will provide information going into that guidance, which we hope to be able to release prior to the announcement of step 4. My hon. Friend makes the really important point that the organisers need to plan ahead and plan the logistics. We want to help them with that.

Kendal Calling, in a statement on its website cancelling this year’s event, says:

“Our understanding is that…DCMS…are keen to publish the ERP findings and guidance, but that it now does not fit around No. 10’s communications plan. This is insulting to our entire industry, who have been awaiting the results of a pilot event that took place almost 2 months ago to inform our approach to staging events safely this summer.”

If it is reasonable for the Government to use that data, and if the data is in a fit state for the Government to use to make decisions, is it not reasonable to make it available to businesses to allow them to plan?

As I have said repeatedly, we will be releasing the information and data very soon. I will have to repeat this, because it has obviously not been understood: the reason that we were not able to get to step 4 and that events cannot take place at this moment in time at a scale that we would all desire is not that the release of the report has not happened, but that there has been an increase in infection rates and that there are concerns around the delta variant. That is the reason for the delay in step 4.

If, when the Minister looks at the results, he does not find any differentiation between the sporting arenas that are largely seated and those that are largely not seated, will he look to equalise the allowable crowd capacities at the two types of venue? The latter will suffer an awful lot during the next four weeks.

I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for his comments. I know how passionate he is about this sector, in particular racing. I have had conversations with the sector about this. We can increase capacity up to 10,000 where there is a seated capacity of over 16,000. However, we still have some concerns about events where there is the potential for mingling and, taking public health advice, we have been unable to allow further opening at this moment in time. I am aware of the impact that has had on certain sectors, in particular racing, and that is exactly why we want to get the events research programme moving and all these sectors open as soon as possible.

Many businesses in my constituency of Blaydon are involved in the events industry and have suffered. What assessment has the Minister made of the impact of this latest lockdown on the events industry?

Indeed, this is a hugely important sector up and down the country; it is a major employer and makes a major contribution to our economy. That is precisely why a variety of schemes, including the Government’s general support measures and the culture recovery fund, have been pivotal in helping the events sector. Importantly, we are also encouraging those in the supply chain to apply for the additional restriction grant, and we are encouraging councils up and down the country to be sympathetic to applications to that programme from events supply chain businesses.

The events research programme has been an invaluable lifeline for many flagship events. The British Grand Prix at Silverstone, due to be held between 15 and 18 July, is the UK’s largest annual sporting event, with more than 140,000 in attendance. It contributes more than £100 million to the local economy in my constituency and neighbouring areas, sitting in the heart of “motorsport valley”, supporting 40,000 UK jobs. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that the Formula 1 British Grand Prix goes ahead as part of this programme, as a fully attended spectator event?

It does not surprise me at all that my hon. Friend raises this issue; we have had many conversations about the importance of the motorsport sector. We continue to work very closely with our partners in Formula 1 and elsewhere in Government to deliver this year’s Silverstone grand prix with as many fans as possible. Plans are progressing very well, the discussions are constructive, and we hope to be able to set out further details shortly.

As 2017 UK city of culture, we in Hull know how vital the arts and cultural events sector is for keeping existing jobs and generating new ones. Creative Hull, the Humber Street Sesh and the Freedom festival have all made preparations, based on Government guidance, to be covid-safe and secure, and have invested time and money. Should they be able to become pilot events if they so wish?

Of course, we cannot involve every single event, worthy though many of them are, in the ERP. We have had conversations, or are currently in conversations, with those entities that are in the consideration set at the moment. I am afraid that we will not be able to include all those we would like to, but I encourage events to take place to the greatest extent that they are able within current step 3 guidance if they cannot be part of the current phase 3 of the events research programme.

I am excited to tell the House that the world-famous Buxton International festival will be going ahead from 8 July, as will the fantastic Buxton Fringe alongside it, and Eat in the Park later in the year. Unfortunately, not all events locally are as fortunate. The fantastic Hope show, one of the UK’s biggest and best agricultural shows, has already had to be cancelled, and it is still uncertain whether the Y Not festival, which is due to take place at the end of July, can go ahead. These incredibly important local events are the lifeblood of our local economy, but they take a long time to plan, with large up-front costs. I urge the Minister to pull out all the stops to restore confidence in the events sector, including looking at an indemnity scheme, so that we can look forward to a great British summer of events.

My hon. Friend is clearly passionate about the events sector and has a large number of events planned in his constituency, which is fantastic. Some of them are able to go ahead—that is great; I encourage them to do so, obviously within existing guidance and by talking to local public health. Later in the year—as soon as we possibly can—it is absolutely our ambition to open up far more events at much greater scale, and we will provide guidance that will help enable them to do that.

In March, the Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee’s report said:

“The hospitality and entertainment sectors have not seen sufficient data to underpin decisions relating to their industry…building trust with these sectors is absolutely essential and the level of transparency has not been sufficient.”

The test events seem to have gone well. In Liverpool, apparently only 11 of 13,000 people tested positive and the local director of public health said the event caused “no detectable spread” of the virus. However, we know that only from the press reports, because the data has not been published for that event or any other. The Minister has still not explained properly why that is. Does he think that is an acceptable way to rebuild trust and transparency with these businesses?

As everybody knows, a huge amount of information and data at a local level about infection rates is available weekly online; in fact, it is updated daily. As I said at the beginning, if there were a major outbreak, we would inform the House and others about it. We will publish the information in due course, but it is vital that we do so sensibly. The report is pretty comprehensive, and we must go through due process before releasing it.

Does the Minister agree that the 1.5 million people who work in the events industry are largely self-employed and thus often miss out on furlough payments, so reopening events and conferences is crucial to their and their families’ welfare?

I agree with my right hon. Friend that this is a hugely important part of our economy. Many have been able to access some—but, admittedly, not all—of the support programmes offered by the Government. There are additional discretionary schemes available through local government for some of the smaller suppliers. In particular, as I have mentioned previously in the House, we want the events supply chain to benefit from the additional restrictions grants; I appealed to local authorities to be very generous with such applicants.

I think that everybody who organises these events understands that during a pandemic there can be unforeseen circumstances beyond anyone’s control that mean an event has to be cancelled or significantly reduced. However, the uncertainty about event insurance underwritten by the Government is due entirely to the Government’s refusal to answer the question already asked numerous times this afternoon. When should the events sector expect to know whether Government support for covid cancellation insurance will ever be forthcoming?

As I have said previously, we are well aware of the sector’s concerns and the uncertainty with which it is living. That is precisely why we are trying to get as much open as soon as possible. The sector needs to have confidence to reopen and do what it does best: getting out there, entertaining people and enabling people to enjoy themselves at sporting events and so many other things. The Secretary of State did say to the Select Committee that we are aware of the concerns about indemnity and looking at options.

Thanks to the brilliant events research programme, thousands of people have been able to enjoy events including the FA cup final and Euro 2020 fixtures at Wembley. Following the programme’s success, does my hon. Friend agree that there is no reason why we should not be able to open up football stadiums at full capacity from the start of the new season in August?

I absolutely share my hon. Friend’s hope and aspiration. That is precisely why we conducted the programme. Despite the cynicism we have heard from Opposition Members, the events research programme is important not just for its scientific learnings but in helping to lift the mood of the nation. The fact that we have been able to watch football with crowds in stadiums again has been fantastic. We will shortly see other events such as Wimbledon, with centre court again at full capacity. Life is getting back to normal, and that is something we should be celebrating.

Following on from what my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster and Fleetwood (Cat Smith) said earlier, has the Minister actually read what the Kendal Calling festival said about the reason it cancelled? It stated that, crucially, it was the Government’s failure to publish the research from the events research programme, and with it safety guidance. That is why it had to cancel, even though the festival fell beyond the reopening dates. The Society of London Theatre said that research from the Crucible theatre and the snooker world championship showed no difference—a negligible difference—between 25% and 100% capacity. Why are the Government hiding this information from the public, to the detriment of our theatres, our venues and our festivals?

I am very disheartened to hear that events are cancelling, but we need to be clear: events could not necessarily take place under step 3 of the road map. We need to be in step 4 before many of these events can open. So the hon. Gentleman is confusing the release of the publication of a report with the rules and regulations regarding the steps in the road map. They are two different things.

I thank the Minister and his Department for allowing thousands of cricketing fans like me and others to go to Edgbaston to watch the recent England and New Zealand test match. The thrill of being back in the stadium is a great thing, even if the cricket was a bit sketchy. I also welcome the inclusion of the England versus Pakistan one-day international on 13 July. Does he agree that the public accept the cautious nature of what the Government are doing, and appreciate the careful consideration of all the data to ensure that we approach step 4 properly?

I thank my hon. Friend for his comments and I agree with him completely. As I said, a huge amount of work and effort has been done by event organisers, as well as by those involved in the events research programme, including the chairs, Nick Hytner and David Ross, for whom we have extreme appreciation. Such events are very valuable and are lifting our spirits in the way described by my hon. Friend.

The pilot scheme means that, although some events are going ahead at full capacity, other events cannot continue at all. Contradictions in Government guidance mean that amateur choirs cannot even rehearse indoors with protective measures in place, despite other non-professional activities, such as amateur orchestras, brass bands, theatre and grassroots team sports being allowed indoors. Can the Minister explain why choirs have been singled out from other similar risk activities? Will the Government update guidance to allow non-professional choirs to resume their valuable activities, or do they have to apply to be pilot events to be allowed to rehearse and perform?

The hon. Lady is correct in highlighting the difference between professional and non-professional choirs. In accordance with performing arts guidance, non-professional groups of up to six people can now sing indoors. They can also perform or rehearse in groups of up to 30 outdoors, or in multiple groups of 30 outdoors, provided that the groups are kept separate. Those limits do not apply to commercial activities. We all know from our mail bags that this is an area of importance to our constituents, and we want to get choirs up and running again in all formats as soon as possible.

I fear there is a two-tier system when it comes to data. The data tends to exist for football, motor racing, tennis and horse racing, yet there is no data to support outdoor events in my constituency. The Black Deer festival takes place in Eridge park. It is a music event. It is completely covid-safe, with track and trace and a covid manager in an outdoor area, yet it had to cancel, which has knocked our local economy and is undermining local jobs. What advice and support can the Minister give to Gill, who has unfortunately had to cancel the Black Deer festival, which was hoping to host around 10,000 people in an arena fit for 40,000?

I was very sorry to hear that the Black Deer festival has been unable to take place this year. I know that is enormously disappointing to many of my hon. Friend’s constituents and indeed to her, because I have spoken to her about this. She has lobbied very effectively on behalf of the festival and all the stakeholders, including Gill, who has also been in contact with the Department. I am afraid we have not been able to make every event, including many incredibly worthy events, ERP events, even in phase 3. But I must say to my hon. Friend that it is not true they are all sporting events; a wide variety of events—indoor, outdoor events, music events, business events and so on—are all part of the events research programme, because we want to get learnings across multiple sectors.

Like many Warringtonians, and indeed a number of other hon. Members who I know plan to attend, I am massively looking forward to Warrington’s Neighbourhood Weekender festival, which has been rescheduled for September. Naturally, news that the Kendal Calling festival has been cancelled has caused huge concern to the events sector, as has the lack of publication of the events research programme. Festivals cannot plan ahead on a vague promise of “very soon” from the Minister, so what recent discussions has the Minister had with festivals across the country that need to make imminent decisions impacting on jobs, livelihoods and events of cultural significance to ensure they can go ahead?

I can assure the hon. Lady that I, other Ministers and officials in the Department are in frequent contact with stakeholders across the variety of sectors that are reliant on the results of the events research programme, and also the guidance she mentions, beforehand. So it is absolutely the intent to release the report prior to step 4. We also want to make sure that the events sector has the relevant guidance so that it can help events to open as effectively and efficiently as possible as soon as they are able to do so.

Will my hon. Friend join me in praising the events sector, especially those businesses and organisations in Stoke-on-Trent, for the measures they have put in place and taken to cautiously begin reopening in line with restrictions over the past few months, and does he agree that the events research programme will play a crucial role in supporting the sector to be able to bring back much larger events over the coming months?

I agree with my hon. Friend. As I have said, this is a hugely important sector at both a local and a national level in terms of the economic impact, and I thank those in the sector for their incredibly constructive engagement throughout the process. That engagement will continue, because we all want to see numbers increase over time so that they can get back to doing the things that they love and we love them doing.

I really feel for the Minister, who has clearly been sent here to say as little as possible in an hour, and in that he has largely succeeded, but it does a real disservice to the creative arts, the exhibition and the events sector, which want to be able to plan ahead. He says, “data, not dates”, and I agree with him. Where is the data to allow these companies and organisations to be able to plan ahead? Get on with it, cut the waffle and publish the data.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his constructive advice. I can absolutely share that. I sense the frustration in the Chamber. Believe me, we all have the same goal here. We want the events sector to open as soon as possible as safely as possible and to get back to doing the things that we love it doing. Absolutely, we all recognise that. But Opposition Members did vote with the Government last week on the step 4 programme. One of the points of that is in terms of the timing of being able to open events. We listen, we look at the data and see what is appropriate to open at the appropriate time. As I have said, before we are able to open the broader sector under step 4, we will be releasing the report and we will be releasing guidance to achieve the goals that he and I both want to achieve.

Reopening sports, live music and theatre is obviously very important. Many companies, such as Stage Audio Services in Dudley South, rely on community events, and business events and conferences as well. Will my hon. Friend make sure that the next phase does include such business events, so that we can bring people back safely to the full range of events and all of the jobs that rely on them?

First, I have to say that that is a fantastic tie. In terms of the events sector, my hon. Friend knows as well as I do, as a west midlands MP, that he is making a really important point. As for the per capita contribution, the business events sector is greatest in the west midlands. We have major, fantastic, world-class events facilities and we want to get them back up and running as soon as possible. I look forward to working with him, because he is a fantastic champion for his constituents, to make sure that we can do so as soon as possible. I hope that we will have—we are planning on having—a business event in the latest programme as well. The final details, which have yet to be concluded on, will be announced soon.

The cancellation of Kendal Calling in the north of England has been devastating to the whole region. In the statement that Kendal Calling issued, it said that its understanding was that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had the information from the events research programme and could release it, but that No. 10 did not want it released. That is staggering if true. What assessment has the Minister made of the economic impact on the livelihoods of people working in this area in the north of England specifically, because many of the events being mentioned here are in the south? There seems to be a huge lack of recognition of the hugely important work done in the north and the number of people’s jobs that rely on the industry.

I can absolutely assure the hon. Lady that we recognise the importance of these sectors right across the country. If she remembers, phase 1 of the events research programme had a particular focus on Liverpool because of its ability to work with and focus with us. I recognise that some of the events that have been announced recently are particularly focused in the south. We will announce more events right across the country. She makes a really important point: these sectors thrive in the right conditions right across the country, and I want to work with them to do so again. They are hugely important to all our constituencies.

The excellent Minister has talked about publication being in due course, shortly, very soon, as soon as possible. I was going to ask: what does that mean in English? Does it mean this week or next week? But I want to ask him something more important, bearing in mind that this was sort of agreed with the Secretary of State in the Chamber a week or so ago. Would the Minister consider making this House of Commons a pilot event for one Wednesday before recess, ripping out these stupid barriers, getting the public back in and voting in the Lobbies to see what happens?

I dare not step on anybody’s toes in answering this one. I am sure that the appropriate authorities have heard my hon. Friend’s question, and it is an intriguing one.

Throughout this pandemic, transparency is key, and while, on the one hand, we can understand how circumstances have changed with the delta variant, it makes no sense in ensuring public trust and business trust that the data is not presented now so that we can get a sense of, for example, outdoor versus indoors and seated versus mingling. There will be broad-brush conclusions that can be drawn from the data as seen. Why will the Government not treat people like grown-ups, and why will they not release the data and then let us have a debate about what happens next?

As I have said repeatedly, we will be releasing the information and data. If there were major concerns, we would have released that information already, but it is a report that has comprehensive information. There are many stakeholders involved in gathering it together and producing it and we need to go through due process before releasing it. We have said all along that we will release it before step 4. That is exactly what we will be doing.

I am extremely proud that my constituency is home to the world-renowned theatreland in the west end. Sadly, the latest figures from the Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre suggest that, this year, theatres will return to only 67% of 2019 levels and 66% of that is planned for stage 4. While the theatre sector is keen to provide as much data as possible to prove that its environments are safe, will my hon. Friend confirm that the reopening of theatres at stage 4 will not be delayed to analyse data from the events research programme?

My hon. Friend is a passionate supporter of all DCMS sectors, particularly in London, and she makes really important points. We are seeing a strong recovery in domestic tourism, arts, sports and so on, but London has some particular issues. That is precisely why we focused on London and the cities as part of the tourism recovery plan. She will be seeing an appeal for people to visit cities, and to spend money and time in cities, as part of the Escape the Everyday campaign. We will be releasing further information in due course and I will be happy to have a follow-up conversation with her.

Don’t forget to look after Rugby League either, Minister.

I have received a report from the Tellers in the Aye Lobby for the Division at 7.30 pm yesterday on the Opposition day motion on local involvement in planning decisions. The hon. Member for Nottingham South (Lilian Greenwood) has informed me that the number of aye votes was erroneously reported as 231, rather than 212. I will direct the Clerk to correct the numbers in the Journal accordingly. The ayes were 212 and the noes were none. The names were correctly recorded in Hansard.