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Topical Questions

Volume 743: debated on Thursday 11 January 2024

As 2023 drew to a close, official statistics highlighted that under this Government the creative industries continued to thrive. They now employ almost 2.5 million workers, a growth of 4.4%, so we are well on our way to meeting our objectives to grow the creative industries by £50 billion and increase employment by 1 million by 2030.

Local commercial radio, whether in Lancashire or Suffolk, can fill the gap left by the reduction in BBC local radio coverage, but in the Lowestoft and Waveney area it is constrained in doing so, as the local digital audio broadcasting network has not been extended to cover the area. Please can my right hon. and learned Friend arrange for that important infrastructure, which is available throughout most of the UK, to be extended to north-east Suffolk as soon as possible?

I completely agree with my hon. Friend on the importance of local radio to listeners across the UK, and I know that he is an effective campaigner for his local area. The BBC and commercial radio are responsible for the operation of their respective radio networks, including the DAB radio networks, but I have asked my officials to engage with local DAB multiplex operators and broadcasters to look at whether there is a desire to increase local DAB coverage further.

T2. Does the Secretary of State agree that, in the media world, content is king, and that that is why we must support our world-leading creative talent? Will she take steps to require artificial intelligence developers to provide songwriters and composers with detailed information as to how their works are being used, including when authorisation has been granted for use of those works as training data? (900907)

The right hon. Member is absolutely right about the importance of protecting the original work of the creative industries. I have held a number of roundtables to ensure that we protect that originality. The Intellectual Property Office is working on that very issue, and I have been liaising with it and with the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology.

T3. The Secretary of State will be aware that the Premier League and the English Football League have held meetings, and yet have failed to come up with a solution for a fairer redistribution of funding. Given their inability to come to an agreement, will she get the two sides together round the table—she is probably already doing it—to encourage them to come up with a solution? Failing that, if legislation is necessary, will she consider it, because we do not want to see any clubs going under? (900908)

It is absolutely right that a deal should be done. The Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), and I have been encouraging all the authorities to come to an arrangement. We have been clear that if no arrangement is reached, there will obviously be a backstop in the legislation for the football regulator that we will bring forward to the House shortly.

T5. As the Secretary of State will be aware, charities are facing an extremely challenging fundraising environment and, at the same time, are trying to respond to increased demands due to the cost of living crisis. Will she explain why the Government continue to impose sales restrictions on charity lottery fundraising, the removal of which would not cost the Treasury a single penny, but would ensure much-needed additional funds for charitable causes? That would hugely benefit communities in my constituency and across the whole UK. (900910)

As probably one of the few Members of this House who have actually set up a charities lottery, I understand the importance of them. It is right to say that we did a significant review of them not so long ago. I know the hon. Member is probably referring to one particular lottery, and I have written to that lottery with suggestions, having consulted with the Gambling Commission, of ways it may be able to expand within the current remit. But, as a Department, we are extremely busy at the moment dealing with the gambling White Paper—that has to take priority. Once we have done that, we will consider what further work may need to be done on society lotteries.

T4. With both Wealdstone and Uxbridge football clubs embedded in my constituency, grassroots football is incredibly important to the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip. Clubs like those offer more than just football; they act as vital community hubs and support a significant increase in girls’ football through to special educational provision and much more. For the benefit of the clubs and fans across my constituency, will the Minister give the House an update on the progress being made to protect grassroots football, including how television revenues will be distributed, to ensure that those important community assets do not just survive but flourish? (900909)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of football clubs like Wealdstone and Uxbridge. They are incredibly important in providing opportunities for people to become physically active, but are also integral parts of our communities. That is why, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State just mentioned, we have been urging the football authorities to come up with a deal, so that that money can flow down and we can ensure that our great football sport that we have in this country continues to flourish.

T6. This year, in Scotland, we will have the chance to see the Scottish football team on terrestrial television. That is a rare opportunity—not just because we have qualified, but because Scottish football, like other sports, is becoming increasingly difficult to view, because it is increasingly behind a paywall. That is damaging its attraction to young people who want to see it. Will the Minister tell us what discussions are taking place to try to alleviate that problem? (900911)

I am glad that people in Scotland will be able to watch their national team. I believe that our current list works well. It is important that we strike the right balance, because we have to ensure that the sport rights holders use the income they get to benefit the whole of that sporting environment. That is something we look at constantly, but I think that at the moment we have the right balance.

Given Ofcom’s comments that it is considering whether its proposals for regulation of local radio are still appropriate in the light of the BBC’s changes to local radio provision, does the Minister agree that the BBC’s mid-term review is a good opportunity to look at how the BBC delivers for older audiences, particularly in its local radio provision?

The mid-term review is a very important point where we can look further, and indeed have looked further, at a number of issues, including competition, complaints and impartiality. We will be publishing the results of the mid-term review very shortly.

The Minister will know that Warwick and Leamington—Leamington being also known as Silicon Spa—enjoys the greatest concentration of games companies in the world. I appreciate what was said in the autumn statement, but there is a skills shortage. Can the Minister update us on what is being done to address that?

The gaming industry in this country is world leading, and I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of gaming companies to see how they are thriving. We have a creative industries skills package, which we committed to in the creative industries sector vision, to ensure a pipeline of talent all the way from primary school right up until someone’s second or third job, and there are measures at every single one of those steps.

Wallington FC is an amazing local football club in Roundshaw, in Carshalton and Wallington, but it is having trouble maintaining its lease with the new owners and its very old sports pavilion needs an overhaul. Can the Minister set out what support is available from the Department or other organisations to help with that?

The volunteers that my hon. Friend mentions are absolutely the lifeblood of community sport and it is vital that they have those facilities, as I mentioned earlier. Again, we are investing more than £320 million, and any team can have discussions with the local authority and the Football Foundation. I am happy to meet him privately to discuss that and perhaps give him some pointers.

Performers in the UK are having their images, voices or likenesses reproduced by others using AI technology, without their consent. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, which regulates performers’ intellectual property, does not account for AI. When will this Government act to protect the rights of artists, performers and other creatives in the UK, or are they content to see this continued exploitation and violation of people’s intellectual property rights?

The hon. Member will know that in the UK we have world-leading protections for copyright and intellectual property. We want to make sure that, as we move into a new technological age with generative AI, we continue to protect creative work. I assure her that we are working closely with the industry and the Intellectual Property Office to ensure that we get the best protections we can, and I know that an update on the IPO’s work will be published shortly.

One of the key recommendations of the Carney review into women’s football was the need for an improvement in mental health provision in elite women’s sport. I think the Government have accepted most of the recommendations of the Carney review, so can the Secretary of State give us an update on how she thinks mental health provision needs to be improved in women’s elite sport?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight that important piece of work in Karen Carney’s review. I know that football authorities such as the FA, for example, are starting work in this area, but that is precisely why we will be introducing the implementation group, because we want to ensure that pressure is put on to do the work that is needed, and to do it quickly.

Labour has a programme for a new generation of youth hubs, because we know that our young people are struggling with mental health challenges, school, themselves and others, and some are being picked off by criminal gangs. In contrast with our programme, the YMCA has identified a 70% cut in funding since 2010 and a loss of 4,500 frontline youth workers. When will the Government invest in our young people and in a comprehensive youth service?

I am grateful for the hon. Lady’s question, because this is something I feel very passionately about. I am very proud that we are investing £500 million in our national youth guarantee, and that we already have in place a programme to build youth clubs—we have already built 87 throughout the country, spending £300 million. We want constructive things for people to do, which is why we are spending £300 million on our sports pitches. I have strengthened the statutory guidance in relation to what local authorities are required to do, and we are working across Departments to ensure that our young people have something to do, somewhere to go and someone to talk to.