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Topical Questions

Volume 748: debated on Thursday 18 April 2024

This Government recognise just how important the arts are, which is why the Chancellor used the Budget to extend, introduce and make permanent a range of tax reliefs to drive growth and investment in our creative industries. We have provided tax reliefs worth £1 billion over the next five years for museums, galleries, theatres, orchestras, independent film productions, film studios and the visual effects industry. In addition, as Sunday draws near, I want to wish all those running and taking part in the London marathon the best of luck—in particular, the shadow Secretary of State, the hon. Member for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire).

With Monday marking the 35th anniversary of the Hillsborough tragedy, we will always remember the 97 victims who were killed unlawfully. Does the Minister agree that, in their memory, we must take a stand against those who think it is acceptable to ridicule this disaster in order to rile up rival teams? If so, what is she doing to tackle this issue of so-called tragedy chanting?

Tragedy chanting is absolutely abhorrent and has no place in football, or indeed in any sport. The Government fully support the football leagues and the police in their efforts to identify and deal with the culprits. Tragedy chanting can be prosecuted as a public order offence, with guilty individuals being issued with football banning orders preventing them from attending matches in the future.

T3. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the amazing success of Romford football club, which has now got through to the FA vase final at Wembley on 11 May? Given the proud Essex town that Romford is, does she agree that BBC Essex and the regional TV and radio channels really should promote that in their broadcasting, instead of saying that we are not Essex? Does she agree that we should be given that prominence? (902371)

First, I extend my congratulations to Romford football club on reaching the final of the FA vase—it is a wonderful achievement and I wish the team the best of luck at Wembley. On the issue of BBC Essex, as my hon. Friend will know, the BBC is operationally and editorially independent of the Government, but I know that my hon. Friend has raised his concerns directly with the BBC, and I am sure that it will get back to him.

Since we last met, the media regulator Ofcom has again reprimanded GB News for breaching impartiality rules. Ofcom says that news programmes should not be presented by politicians. The Tory Benches host a plethora of Ofcom rule-breaching MPs who leave this place to freelance as pretendy news presenters on a channel that spreads conspiracy theories and disinformation, and that undermines Ofcom. I am on the side of journalism, not disinformation. Does the Minister agree with me that GB News should drop the propaganda and obey the regulator?

I am in favour of media plurality; I think it is important that there are channels for everybody to watch, and GB News is a very popular outlet. I think that the person to regulate GB News is Ofcom, not those on the shadow Benches.

Crewe Amateur Musicals Society opens what I am sure will be a fantastic production of “Kinky Boots” at Crewe Lyceum this evening, but I am concerned that Arts Council funding does not do enough to support existing groups and activities. As well as joining me in wishing the Crewe Amateur Musicals Society good luck this evening, can my right hon. Friend meet me to discuss Arts Council funding?

I wish the Crewe Amateur Musicals Society the very best of luck with their performance. We channel a very large amount of money to Arts Council England. With lottery funding and Government funding, that is about £444 million every year. We also have a number of tax reliefs for the performing arts. I also encourage the groups in my hon. Friend’s constituency to apply for the latest cultural development fund round, which opened in February and supports organisations such as the one he cites.

T2.   Cambridge has a long-established and flourishing local music scene but, as elsewhere, times are hard. The Music Venue Trust recently reported that, nationally, there have been 67 emergency cases for its experts so far in 2024. With soaring maintenance and operating costs, and with inflation meaning that the grassroots music sector is operating on a profit margin of just 0.2%, does the Minister accept that this is unsustainable for any business? (902370)

It has been a particularly difficult period for a number of music venues. Obviously, we went through the pandemic and then an energy crisis, and we tried to support venues through those difficult times. We are now working very closely with the Music Venue Trust, which has access to Arts Council funding that is helping it to buy the freehold of some music venues. We also have a grassroots music fund that is helping with some of the issues that the hon. Gentleman cites, and I am sure it would be happy to look into the particularly treasured venues in his constituency.

The Secretary of State will be aware of the proposal by Universal Studios for a theme park in Bedfordshire—a £10 billion investment in the country. She will also be aware of the strong local support, led by Conservative Mayor Tom Wootton, so can she assure me and other Bedfordshire MPs that she is working hard with the Treasury to get a response to that proposal, and that a Government proposal will be forthcoming before the summer?

My hon. Friend is right to raise this very exciting opportunity for Bedfordshire, which I am pleased to have discussed with him. We are liaising closely with the Treasury, and I am also happy to continue liaising with my hon. Friend.

T4.   What discussions have the Government had, or would be willing to have, with Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government on the prospect of Glasgow stepping in to host the 2026 Commonwealth games? (902372)

This country is proud to have hosted the Commonwealth games twice in the past decade, most recently in Birmingham. I have had conversations with the Commonwealth Games Federation on its plans, and I know it is currently considering a host of options. I will see what it comes out with before I commit to any further engagement.

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the magnificent and mighty Portsmouth football club on winning League One and securing promotion to the championship this week? Does she agree with me that Pompey’s fantastic victory demonstrates the magic of football in bringing communities together, inspiring young people and encouraging health and fitness?

I am very pleased to congratulate Portsmouth football club on its success. My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of local clubs and what they do in their communities. It is not just the match on a Saturday; it is also about what they do to encourage people to get involved in their community and to get fit and active. Going around the country, I have seen some fabulous examples of what sports clubs—not just football but rugby and cricket—do for their local areas.

T6.   The Carney review revealed that women’s football has a long way to go on minimum professional standards, union representation, mental health support and more. Will Ministers give these recommendations parity with the changes needed in the men’s game? (902375)

I am pleased to have spoken to Karen Carney on a number of occasions about her review and the importance of women’s football, and I am also pleased to take on board all her recommendations. The Government approved all the review’s recommendations, and I am pleased to chair the first implementation group, which is ensuring that the recommendations will be implemented by the Football Association and others.

Since I last raised the closure of small music venues, two a week continue to close. There is now a growing consensus within the live music sector that a £1 levy should be put on large music venues and those who are making massive profits at live events. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee is looking at this, and I have listened very carefully to the evidence. If it is recommended, will the Minister put in place a levy similar to the one in other countries across Europe?

We are very sympathetic to that concept, which has worked well in football. We are closely watching the industry discussions about the idea of a levy that would support grassroots music venues which, as we all know, are the talent pipeline for our world-leading music industry. We do not want to see them wither, so we are watching this matter closely and I have had recent discussions with relevant organisations on it.

Further to that question, and as others have said, brilliant grassroots music venues all over the country are struggling with spiralling costs. The Grayston Unity is one such venue that is crucial in not only ensuring access to music, but developing the skills pipeline for people working in that sector and, we hope, becoming the stars of tomorrow. What is the Minister doing to ensure that she understands, and reassures those venues that she gets, the spiralling costs they face?

As I have said, we have a number of initiatives under way. Arts Council funding is supporting the Music Venue Trust in relation to owning freeholds of properties and we have our supporting grassroots music fund, which has been topped up recently because of some of the issues cited by the hon. Lady. We want to try to help music venues through these difficult times, because we believe they are so valuable, not only to the talent pipeline, but in giving communities access to local music and performing opportunities. We hope that these venues will continue long into the future.

The “Space Investigators” exhibition at the Great North Museum celebrates the amazing history of the north-east in designing and manufacturing telescopes. What support does the Minister offer so that regions such as ours can better understand and promote our great industrial heritage?

I am pleased that work has been going on in the hon. Lady’s constituency on these important matters. Of course, through Arts Council funding and through Department for Culture, Media and Sport funding, we support institutions across the country that support the history of, and what is going on in, their local communities, as well as arts across the country.

This is the 900th anniversary of the founding of Edinburgh city and St Giles’ cathedral. Celebrations are planned to mark it, so will the Minister tell us whether the Department is going to be working with the devolved Administration and supporting the local council in celebrating that anniversary? And would she like to come and join the party?

It sounds like a superb party and I shall certainly send the invitation to Lord Parkinson, who is the ministerial lead on these issues.

At the most recent British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, I asked the Irish Tourism Minister about their ticketing policy and its success, and they said it was very much a success. So may I suggest that rather than dismiss Labour’s proposals, the Government should look at the evidence from the Irish Government, rather than listening to outlaw companies such as Viagogo?

I spoke to officials this week about the Irish example and they were concerned that it had led to an increase in fraudulent activity. However, we will obviously keep this under review.

Omaze has had a big impact on charity fundraising. Although it is raising money for extremely good causes, does the Secretary of State agree that when people buy tickets for fundraising they should have some idea of what proportion of the money they are spending is actually going to those charities? Should we not have more transparency in this area?

The hon. Gentleman raises an important point. He will be aware that we have looked at a range of issues in relation to gambling, lotteries and society lotteries. The prize draws are an area of work we are examining at the moment to get a better understanding of what the market is like. He rightly says that it is important that people are aware of how much of the money they are spending is going to charities, and we will continue to work in this area.