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Topical Questions

Volume 731: debated on Thursday 27 April 2023

I will shortly be making an oral statement setting out details of a White Paper to bring our gambling regulations into the smartphone age. My Department has recently unveiled landmark reforms to our broadcasting regulation with a new draft Media Bill. We have given 43 youth centres a share of £90 million and backed our outstanding bid to bring Euro 2028 to the UK and Ireland.

With days to go until the historic coronation of King Charles III, I am sure Members across the House will join me in thanking everyone who is working so tirelessly to apply the finishing touches to what will be a magnificent celebration of British national life.

On this business of musicians being turned away at our borders, having tried to enter the UK via the permitted paid engagement route, can the Secretary of State have stronger words with the Home Office? I know that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s job tends to be treated as a bit of a one-off gig by this Government, but she needs to show some heft and really get stuck into the Home Office on this issue. How can we credibly argue with our European neighbours that our musicians should be getting better access to go and play in Europe when we are treating European musicians trying to enter this country to do a few gigs like criminals?

I am pleased that the hon. Gentleman highlights that the DCMS has some heft, because we are responsible for some world-leading departments. We are absolutely committed to supporting the creative sector to adapt to requirements for touring in the EU, and actually the vast majority of member states, including the UK’s biggest touring markets, offer visa and work permit-free routes for musicians and creative performers. Of course, there is more we can do, and my Department is looking closely at this. I spoke to the Foreign Secretary about it yesterday, and I know that he raised the challenges faced by touring artists at the Partnership Council at the end of March.

T2. The Advertising Standards Authority, despite its misleading name, is a self-regulating body. Nevertheless, it has considerable powers within DCMS’s areas of responsibility. If those were used for social engineering rather than factual accuracy purposes, would that cause Ministers some concern? (904680)

I know how strongly my hon. Friend feels about freedom of speech and thought, and I have great admiration for the work that he does in this wider area. He is right that the ASA is a self-regulating body for the advertising industry, and he is also right that it is at its best when it focuses on its core purpose of making sure that consumers get legal, decent, honest and truthful adverts, rather than value judgments on social issues and pushing a certain world view.

This week, yet another case of music copyright dominated headlines. Our proud creative industries are facing significant challenges, as we have heard. The role that AI will play in the future is also concerning for many. Exactly what action is the Minister taking to ensure that emerging tech and our world-leading creative industries are supported rather than sidelined?

I am very conscious of this issue. We have fantastic creative industries that do original work, and we need to protect them. That is why I have held roundtables with the music industry to discuss that very issue. The idea is to put together a code of conduct, working closely with industry, to ensure that we protect the original work that they produce.

T4.   Last Saturday, the National Piers Society launched its national touring exhibition of seaside pier posters at the Claremont pier in Lowestoft. There is a concern that the international promotion of tourism is too London-centric, and I would be grateful if the Minister could outline the work that is being done to promote the unique offer of coastal Britain to overseas visitors, as illustrated in those posters. (904682)

My hon. Friend is very fortunate to represent one of our beautiful coastal communities, and he is right about the importance of promoting non-London destinations. There is a tremendous amount of fantastic things to visit out there beyond our capital. To give a couple of examples, we have a GREAT-funded campaign to see things differently, which includes the Pembrokeshire coast national park, Thorpe Bay beach and Brighton pier. Earlier this year, VisitBritain welcomed more than 120 international trade buyers in the travel industry for a series of educational visits across Britain that focused on coastal communities. I hope that they will take the wonderful things that they saw back to the buyers in their own countries.

T3. First, I wish to thank you, Mr Speaker, for hosting last week’s reception celebrating the successful four decades of our Great North Run. Chuter Ede community centre in South Shields is facing closure, as are many other centres with sports facilities across the country. Does the Minister think it is the lack of Government help with their high energy bills, the Conservative cost of living crisis or the Conservative-led local authority cuts that are to blame? (904681)

This Government have given significant support to organisations up and down the country to help with cost of living issues. That is on top of the programmes that we are providing, including the ones that I was talking about a moment ago, for grassroots sport. We are putting more money into grassroots sport now than has been put in for probably decades.

British motorsport, in order to stay at the cutting edge, wishes to transform itself to use synthetic and sustainable fuels, but the taxation regime disincentivises that. Will the Minister work with me and colleagues in the Treasury to ensure that the use of sustainable fuels is incentivised?

I completely agree about the importance of motorsport in this country, and I pay tribute to my hon. Friend for his commitment and hard work in this area. We already support sustainable and synthetic fuels under the renewable transport fuel obligation scheme. Tax policy, as he knows, is a matter for the Treasury, but I will of course work with him and ensure that his ideas are shared across Government.

T5. The reputation of the BBC has been dragged through the mud by the grubby loan deal that Richard Sharp made with a former Prime Minister, which allegedly was to curry favour to become BBC Chairman. Does the Minister therefore think that the current Prime Minister’s pally-pally relationship with Sharp is why he has not sacked him yet? (904683)

As the hon. Member will know, the Commissioner for Public Appointments is looking into this matter, and it would not be appropriate to comment until it has published its full report.

The Folkestone library at Grace Hill in the town was one of the early Carnegie libraries, an important cultural hub as well as a working building. It is currently closed because structural repairs are required. Does the Minister agree that the Arts Council strategy should recognise not only the need to support working library facilities, but that they are often important heritage assets that benefit the whole local community?

Library facilities are very important, and I was pleased to visit a library facility recently. We have put more funding into libraries and into communities across the country.

BBC Radio York keeps North Yorkshire connected to the local community, but the reforms will remove that vital link. It would be such little cost to keep afternoon programming and “Drive Time” running. Will the Minister look at the real cost of running that programme and ensure that the BBC does not cull BBC local radio?

As the Minister of State has already mentioned, decisions on BBC programming are a matter for the BBC; as she also mentioned, the BBC will have heard the points made today about how strongly Members of this House and people across the country feel about this issue.

Will the Minister join me in congratulating the Rutland-to-Melton CiCLE Classic—the only international men’s single-day race cycling competition in the whole UK? It was best listened to on Rutland and Stamford Sound, Rutland’s only radio station, but we need three RSL licences to cover all our three towns. Will the Minister please meet me to discuss those urgent needs?

Any day now I will be going on maternity leave, but I will be covered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir John Whittingdale), who is an absolutely passionate supporter of the radio industry and who as a Back Bencher spoke to me about radio issues. I am sure that he will be happy to look into the licensing issue that my hon. Friend highlights.

The Rugby Football Union has announced groundbreaking policies on maternity, pregnant parent and adoption leave, which have been said to normalise motherhood in sport. Will the Minister encourage more sporting bodies to introduce similar inclusive policies?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to raise this. One of the key elements that we will be looking at in the sporting strategy is how we increase opportunities for women and girls in sport. I am pleased to say that we have made significant announcements about equal provision in our schools—but yes, we absolutely push the governing bodies to do all they can to increase opportunities in the way the hon. Lady suggests.