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Local Tennis Courts

Volume 708: debated on Thursday 10 February 2022

9. What progress her Department has made on implementing its plans to refurbish local tennis courts, announced on 2 October 2021. (905562)

We are fortunate in this country to have some of the world’s top tennis talent, including Emma Raducanu, Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid, and I should take this opportunity to wish our athletes in Beijing the very best of luck—we have talent across so many sports. At the spending review, the Government announced £30.1 million to renovate park tennis courts in the UK, in partnership with the Lawn Tennis Association. Plans involved reviving over 4,500 courts, including those in poor or unplayable condition at more than 1,500 venues.

I am grateful to the Minister. That superb mapping exercise across the country by the LTA to benefit, as he said, over 4,500 public courts could be of huge benefit to families, sport, health, local pride and community improvements. My question is a nice and simple one: when will the application forms be ready? Will my hon. Friend share with us some good news?

I thank my hon. Friend for his excitement about our work on tennis courts. He never misses an opportunity to ask that question—I cannot venture into the Tea Room without him doing so—but I appreciate his persistence. Delivery will commence in the next financial year, from April 2022, because I am aware, as he is, that this will make a really big difference to tennis in this country.

May I ask the Minister to take this even more seriously? I know that the English team has not being doing well in some sports, but can we look seriously at the opportunities to get a much broader range of young people coming in to play tennis and, in particular, cricket? There seems to be a real difficulty for children in many schools to pursue cricket and tennis, and it seems that most of the people who end up rising to the top come from very privileged backgrounds.

The hon. Member raises some important points. We do punch above our weight in global sport and that is partly due to the success and investment from Sport England and, indeed, UK Sport. We will be refreshing the school sport and activity action plan and working closely with the Department for Education, focusing very much on engaging young children in a whole variety of sports, for the reasons that he expressed.

I am standing in for the Culture Secretary, who is today promoting the UK’s national day at the Dubai Expo and welcoming the Queen’s baton ahead of the Commonwealth games. Our Department is at the heart of the levelling-up agenda, through fantastic digital connectivity for all and initiatives such as the new national youth guarantee to enrich the lives of young people in every corner of our country.

We continue to make brilliant progress on our plans for a blockbuster 2022, during which we will honour Her Majesty the Queen, who this week marked 70 years of steadfast service to our country. Two nights ago, we celebrated the best of our world-class music industry at the BRITs. To echo the comments from the Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston), the ministerial team would like to wish the very best of luck to Team GB, who are flying the flag for the entire country at the Beijing winter Olympics.

Musicians in Newport West and across the UK have been campaigning alongside leaders in the Musicians’ Union, such as Councillor Sarah Williams, for a touring visa that will allow them to showcase British musical prowess. When will the Minister wake up and fight for the musicians’ passport that people so desperately want and need?

I thank the hon. Member for raising the issue of touring. I have been doing a lot of work with officials and other Departments to ease some of the challenges that people have had since we left the EU, and I will continue to work on this issue.

T5. Broadcast news has a long-standing duty of balance, which moderates public debate, tests opposing views and helps forge consensus across our country, but today’s digital world means that more and more of us get our news through social media platforms, where individual filter bubbles can feed us more of one side without ever showing an alternative view, driving extremism, radicalisation and division instead. Is it now time to extend that duty of balance to include social media platforms? (905553)

My hon. Friend raises an important question, but we need to distinguish between broadcasters, or indeed newspapers, that are exercising editorial judgment, and social media platforms that are carrying content generated by other users. However, we will introduce shortly—in the coming weeks—an online safety Bill that will impose new duties on social media firms in connection with illegal content, content that is harmful to children and content, including disinformation, that is harmful to adults. I hope that will go a long way towards addressing the points that he rightly raises.

I am afraid that the Minister’s answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport West (Ruth Jones) was far too vague. Musicians and orchestras are facing a touring crisis. We need an EU-wide cultural touring agreement that includes allowances for cabotage, carnets and customs rules. That needs to happen now, so what are Ministers doing to sort the problem as a matter of urgency?

We have been working closely across Government to deal with some of the cabotage issues. The issues around agreements with member states are being addressed on a bilateral basis. We have had great breakthroughs with Spain and are working closely with Greece, but most people can work in those countries for up to 90 days. I am happy to engage with the hon. Gentleman further on the issue.

Swimming is massively important not just for health reasons, but for safety in our island nation. Saltash swimming pool is an excellent facility. What more can the Government do to ensure the long-term future of such facilities?

I know that my hon. Friend is passionate about this issue, because we spoke about it when I visited her constituency last year. She is right that swimming is a vital life skill, as well as being very good for our physical and mental health. We have provided the sport sector with £1 billion of financial support through the pandemic, and launched the £100 million national leisure recovery fund precisely to try to ensure that swimming pools stay open. Further investment through Sport England and other bodies is forthcoming. I would be happy to facilitate further discussions between my hon. Friend and Sport England.

T2. The Minister will remember that the Government were strangely reluctant to implement a ban on the Chinese firm Huawei to prevent it from participating in the United Kingdom’s critical digital infrastructure because of the potential significant security risks. We now discover that the man who has just been appointed director of communications at No. 10 lobbied very hard against that ban. In the light of that information, will the Minister undertake to review the timeline for removing Huawei from our critical infrastructure, to ensure that Britain’s security cannot be compromised by the interests of the Prime Minister’s pals? (905549)

One of my first Acts as a Minister in DCMS was to take through the Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021. We take these issues incredibly seriously, and I offer the hon. Gentleman reassurance that we have a whole package of work to ensure that our telecoms networks are secure. Those matters have not been influenced by other issues.

Technology is changing the way in which listeners tune in to their favourite radio stations. Will the Minister set out her plans to secure future access for UK radio stations to smart speakers?

My hon. Friend raises an important point about social media platforms potentially becoming gatekeepers for radio stations. We are looking closely at this issue to ensure that radio stations can have their own data, protect their listenership and so on. I offer him reassurance on that point.

T3. This Sunday I shall be taking part in a walk with members of The Big Step to highlight the issue of gambling advertising in football. The campaign recognises the harm that gambling does every single day, and the part that football advertising plays in grooming children and normalising gambling among adults. With a gambling Bill seemingly getting further and further away, are there any measures that will be in the final Act that could be implemented now, rather than waiting to dot every i and cross every t? Will the Secretary of State meet me and other members of the all-party parliamentary group for gambling related harm to discuss the matter further? (905550)

I thank the hon. Member for his question and for the meetings that we have had with the hon. Member for Swansea East (Carolyn Harris) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Sir Iain Duncan Smith). He is right to raise this serious issue, as people are suffering harm from gambling addiction. The review is getting very close now—he will not have to wait much longer—and the issues that he is raising will be squarely addressed. I am happy to meet him and the other members of the APPG at any time; if they just get in touch, we would be happy to organise a meeting.

Good broadband connectivity is vital not only for leisure, but for working from home. But one street in my constituency is a street of two halves—one with 8 megabits per second and the other with 1,000 megabits per second. How can we address these issues? Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we deal with urban notspots?

I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend to discuss these matters. We are trying to target public subsidy at areas that are not being covered, including looking at individual premises. I will look into her particular case.

T4. Last year it was revealed that across the whole sporting sector, only 7.9% of board members were from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background. That is damning, given the contributions made by black men and women across sport. Representation matters; it brings different experiences and perspectives—and, most importantly, it leads to better decision making. It is Race Equality Week, and the theme this year is “Action, not just words”. Does the Minister agree that the time for action to increase representation at board level across the sporting sector is now? What action will he take to make that happen? (905552)

The hon. Lady makes very important points. As we discussed earlier, sport should be for all, on and off the pitch. We need to make sure that there are opportunities right across sport. I believe that progress is being made—diversity and inclusivity are at the top of the agenda for many sportspeople I talk to—but she is right that we need more action, not just warm words.

I welcome greater efforts by the Government to improve internet access, but I met the families federations of the Navy, Army and the RAF, and they are concerned about access to the internet across the military estate. May I invite the Department to do a study on internet access on bases for our armed forces, and to report back to Parliament?

I thank my right hon. Friend for raising that issue in the Chamber; it has not been raised with me before. I would be happy to look into improving access to the internet for our military.

I must say that Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport questions are a major agenda item, and I do not think that we give it long enough. I hope that others will listen to that. So many people could not get their question in; I can only say sorry. I believe that it should be a full hour.