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Topical Questions

Volume 614: debated on Thursday 8 September 2016

I would like to use this opportunity to hail Team GB’s historic medal haul in Rio. I am sure that the rest of the Chamber will join me in paying tribute to the incredible achievement of all our athletes.

You may remember, Mr Speaker, that the last time I was at the Dispatch Box you arrived a little late to a debate, as you had been watching your hero Roger Federer at Wimbledon. It was a shame that he was not at the Olympics because of an injury, but I am sure you enjoyed watching our flagbearer Andy Murray’s wonderful gold medal-winning match, alongside all the other British successes. Our greatest Olympic performance in a century owed much to UK Sport’s no-compromise approach and an increase in funding.

Since we were last at the Dispatch Box, the Office for Civil Society has moved into the Department and I have a fantastic ministerial team. I pay tribute to all the previous Ministers, including my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale), my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) and Baroness Neville-Rolfe for their sterling work.

The Paralympic games began yesterday. I know the whole House will join me in wishing Paralympic Team GB well. I am delighted that Lee Pearson was selected as the flagbearer at the opening ceremony. He is a stunningly successful Paralympian who has won medals, most of them gold, at four different games. I am very proud to say that he is one of my constituents.

I can also announce that Sir Nicholas Serota is the new chair of Arts Council England. Sir Nicholas has a superb pedigree in the arts and is stepping into the shoes of Sir Peter Bazalgette, who did a brilliant job.

I welcome the Secretary of State to her new role. I wrote to her in July, as co-chair of the all-party group on women’s sport and fitness, to tell her of our concerns about the impact we felt the loss of listed events could have on women’s sport. There is a threat to listed events, because the threshold of qualifying criteria of 95% reception for public service broadcasters is at threat due to the level of streaming used to watch programmes. Can she let me have a response to my letter? If we do not have reassurance, this matter should be dealt with in the Digital Economy Bill.

I am aware of the issue; it has been raised by a number of Members. We need to ensure that we have sport on free-to-air, so that we increase participation and make sure people enjoy sport. The Minister for Digital and Culture will be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss this matter further.

T4. I welcome my right hon. Friend and constituency neighbour to her place. I also welcome the positive progress the Government are making in promoting the benefits of outdoor recreation. Will my right hon. Friend tell the House what steps she is taking to promote outdoor activities in the Peak district, which our constituents hold so dear? (906147)

The Peak district is most definitely a very important part of both the Macclesfield and Staffordshire Moorlands constituencies. I know my hon. Friend is a great hill walker and often walks in The Roaches. I enjoy walking in his constituency, too. I absolutely agree that we should be promoting the Peak district and all national parks as great places for outdoor activities. The Sport England inspired facilities fund has invested nearly £170,000 in mountain biking, gliding and sailing at venues and clubs across the Peak district. I am sure the whole House will join me in welcoming that.

In the Secretary of State’s keynote speech in Liverpool on 9 August, she set out plans for social impact bonds to address deep-rooted social problems, notably drug and alcohol dependency. She failed, however, to make any reference to the nightmare of gambling addiction, in which fixed odds betting terminals play such a major role. Why have the Government refused consistently to address this scourge in our communities, which damages so many lives and families despite being raised so often by hon. Members in this Chamber.

I am aware of the issues relating to FOBTs, not least through my work in the Home Office. I am well aware of the problems and we will speak to the hon. Gentleman further about this in due course.

T3. Lindsey Lodge hospice in my constituency does wonderful work locally. It was an early signatory to the Fundraising Standards Board, but is concerned about the arrangements for the Fundraising Regulator. What is the Minister doing to make sure that the Fundraising Regulator does not increase pressures and costs on charities such as Lindsey Lodge? (906146)

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. At one point I thought I was going to be like the loser’s ribbons at the FA cup final—taken to the game but not used. [Hon. Members: “Aah.”] The sympathy vote.

I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concerns and I will take a look at that particular instance. The proposals come from the sector itself and are necessary to ensure that elderly and vulnerable people are protected from poor fundraising practices, including high-pressure tactics. Committing to a proper fundraising practice should not be viewed as a regulatory burden, but as a means of restoring and increasing public trust in charities.

T5. With the continuing success of Formula 1—and, incidentally, the success of teams based here—does the Minister agree that we should be encouraging more young people to go into engineering and engage in motor sport? (906148)

I was weaned on Formula 1. It is always exciting to see success for British drivers, and, indeed, for teams. The Government are working closely with the engineering community to boost employer engagement with young people, teachers, schools, colleges and universities, and to showcase the exciting and diverse careers that are available, including careers in motor sport.

T7. I am very glad that you marked the death of Thomas Kettle MP, Mr Speaker. Will the Minister join me in wishing the Northern Irish and Irish Paralympians—along with everyone else from Great Britain—the very best, following the thrills that we experienced during the Olympics? Will she also note the extra bit of funding that they need to cross over to this side of the water, where the excellent facilities exist? (906150)

I am pleased to join the hon. Gentleman in wishing our Paralympics GB team all the very best. I look forward to heading out to Rio myself next week to watch our team, as I did during the Olympics. We have increased funding for Tokyo 2020, working with UK Sport to ensure that all our Olympians and Paralympians are well funded in the future.

T6. When in opposition, we conceived the National Citizen Service. Our ambition was that, while it would never be compulsory, it would nevertheless become universal. Is that still the Government’s ambition? (906149)

Yes. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the Government are committed to ensuring that there is a place on the NCS for every young person who wants one. This summer, more young people than ever before have taken part in its life-changing programme. We will publish national data soon, but I am pleased to report real progress in my right hon. Friend’s own area: more than 1,500 young people in Hampshire are participating.

T8. Figures published yesterday by the National Police Chiefs Council show a lasting rise in hate crime. Sections of the press share a responsibility for creating the climate in which that is happening, and all of them have an opportunity to change it. Will the Secretary of State meet newspaper editors to discuss their contribution to building social cohesion? (906151)

The last time I stood at the Dispatch Box, we were discussing this very issue of hate crime. Let me now reiterate that there is no place for hatred in our society. There is no excuse for it, and anyone who is a victim must report that crime. I am, of course, meeting editors and others to discuss many points, and I assure the hon. Gentleman that I will raise this one.

T9. Does my right hon. Friend agree that superfast broadband should be a statutory function in all new build properties? (906152)

We are introducing the universal service obligation to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to benefit from high-quality superfast broadband when that is possible, and fast broadband when necessary. Broadband is no longer merely a “nice to have”; it is vital to participation in modern society, and we want to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to acquire it.

As many Conservative Members accept, it was a terrible mistake to hand over all the superfast broadband funding to one company, and communities throughout the country are suffering as a result. Will the Minister make a fresh start, and recognise the key role of competition in driving the adoption of superfast broadband?

I strongly agree with the right hon. Gentleman that competition is incredibly important to the delivery of superfast broadband, especially in fibre. I am glad to say that in the second round of Broadband Delivery UK there is competition, rather than just one company dealing with the delivery. I can also report that more than 91% of properties in the United Kingdom now have access to superfast broadband, and we will not rest until the figure becomes universal.

T10. I recently had an opportunity to visit the Corby Smash Table Tennis Centre and see those excellent new facilities, and also to meet the staff and volunteers who work there. What steps are the Government taking to promote the sport, and does the Minister fancy coming along for a game when she is next in the area? (906153)

I am glad to learn that my hon. Friend has been inspired by Paul Drinkhall, the first GB player in 24 years to reach the last 16 in the Olympics. I would love to come and visit, but I should warn my hon. Friend that I am not sure whether my officials would allow me to do so. The last time I visited a table tennis event, I got a bit over-competitive with some table-tennis-playing pensioners.

May I take this opportunity to welcome the two new Front-Bench teams? I do not know whether my hon. Friends on the Opposition Front Bench are as surprised to see them there as I am. None the less, will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating UK Sport on its successful Olympics? Team GB won more gold medals in more sports than any other country and came second in the table, but there is still an issue with team sports. There is more work to be done in sports such as basketball, possibly handball and others. Will she therefore join me in congratulating UK Sport but also urge it to do more work on team sports?

I of course congratulate UK Sport. Like the sports Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), I was in Rio and I will be visiting it again for the Paralympics. I am incredibly proud of all the achievements in all our sports, but I have to take the hon. Gentleman up on his comment about team sports. I was at the women’s hockey semi-final. There is no doubt that the women’s hockey team is one of the greatest teams we have and we should all congratulate them on their gold medal success.