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DCMS Update

Volume 719: debated on Monday 5 September 2022

I would like to inform the House of a number of DCMS updates.

Over summer recess we also reached another key milestone in the transformation of the UK’s broadband networks—announcing that over 70% of homes and businesses across the country now have access to lightning-fast, gigabit connections.

It has also been an incredible summer of sport, with my Department helping to successfully host both the UEFA Women’s Euros and the Birmingham Commonwealth games.

Building on the spectacular performance of the Lionesses at the Euros final, I wish to inform the House that on 2 September, the Government have officially launched a review of the future of women’s football.

Launch of the future of women’s football review

The Lionesses’ Euros victory rightfully put women’s sport at the centre of the agenda. Record numbers of viewers watched their success: 574,875 tickets were sold at the tournament, with sell-out crowds wherever the Lionesses played. The final also broke the attendance record for a Euros final—in either the women’s or men’s game. While it is right that we celebrate and reflect on that success, we must now refocus to ensure that this success translates to the continued growth of the women’s game.

The fan-led review of football governance, conducted in 2021, recognised the different issues that the women’s game faces in comparison to men’s football. The fan-led review therefore recommended that women’s football should receive its own dedicated review. Government accepted this recommendation. Rather than the issues of financial mismanagement and fit and proper owners that the fan-led review considered, the review of the women’s game will focus on capitalising on popularity and continuing to grow the game.

The review will be chaired by former England and Great Britain footballer Karen Carney MBE. Karen has extensive knowledge of women’s football and the issues affecting it, having had a very successful playing career and later moved on to become a respected broadcaster and columnist on both women’s and men’s football. Karen’s unique experience will be invaluable in ensuring that the review makes proposals that help to continue the growth and success of the women’s game.

The review will now commence with stakeholders and fan groups having the opportunity to provide evidence on the issues affecting the women’s game. There will be a particular focus on assessing the potential audience reach and growth of the game, examining the financial health of the game, its financial sustainability for the long term and the structures within women’s football.

The findings and recommendations arising from this review will be set out in a published report next year.

We have further updates to make on the gifting of Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth games assets, and the removal of facsimile services from the universal service order.

Gifting of assets following the conclusion of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth games

During the summer recess my Department has been working with the organising committee of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth games to prepare to donate the sports equipment assets to Sport England for onward distribution to community organisations in Birmingham and the west Midlands. This will ensure maximum legacy opportunities for communities and sporting organisations to benefit from the games.

It is normal practice when a Government Department (in this instance an arm’s length body of the Department) proposes to make a gift of a value exceeding £300,000, for the Department concerned to present to the House of Commons a minute giving particulars of the gift and explaining the circumstances; and to refrain from making the gift until 14 parliamentary sitting days after the issue of the minute, except in cases of special urgency.

As the games equipment was being passed to Sport England immediately after the conclusion of the games, and with the games having taken place during summer recess, DCMS wrote to Dame Meg Hillier MP as chair of the Committee of Public Accounts, and Julian Knight MP as chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee on 29 July 2022, informing them of the proposed course of action.

Ministers at HM Treasury have approved the proposal in principle. If, during the period of 14 parliamentary sitting days beginning on the date on which this minute was laid before the House of Commons, a Member signifies an objection by giving notice of a parliamentary question or a motion relating to the minute, or by otherwise raising the matter in the House, final approval of the gift will be withheld pending an examination of the objection.

I inform the House today of the Departmental minute which sets out the detail of the decision, which has been laid in both Houses.

The distribution of sports equipment from Sport England onwards is expected to commence in October.

A copy of the departmental minute will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Removal of the Fax USO

Tomorrow, the Government will amend the Electronic Communications (Universal Service) Order 2003 to remove facsimile services from the USO. This will come into force on 1 October 2022.

DCMS previously wrote to Ofcom to consult it ahead of potentially removing fax from the universal service order. This was in light of the industry-led migration from the public switched telephone network to all-internet protocol telephony, which will mean that fax machines will no longer work in the same way. This was in accordance with section 65(4) of the Communications Act 2003 which states that, before making or varying the universal service order, the Secretary of State must consult Ofcom and such other persons as they consider appropriate.

After a public consultation, Ofcom concluded it would be appropriate to remove fax from the USO. Ofcom noted the low usage of fax, as well as the availability of reliable alternatives, many of which are free of charge. DCMS officials conducted further investigations with the healthcare, tourism, legal, and energy sectors, and found that the use of fax was minimal and alternatives are being sought where its use still continues.

DCMS is content that it is appropriate to remove fax from the telephony USO. As a result, the designated providers BT and KCOM will no longer be required to provide fax services. We are making this change now given the ongoing changes to the UK’s telephone networks, as well as recognising that the limited existing use of fax services makes their inclusion in the USO unnecessary.

Fax services will remain available on existing PSTN connections until the service is withdrawn by the industry in 2025. BT has also indicated that fax services may continue to function over its digital voice services, though they are not guaranteed in the same way. Furthermore, the move from fax services to alternatives will have already been a part of many sectors’ preparation for migration to all-IP. DCMS has been working closely with other Government Departments to raise awareness of this change and others expected as part of PSTN migration.

The Government will also be making a minor clarification to the USO with regard to the term “publicly available telephone service”, as recommended by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments in 2011.

[HCWS284]