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Topical Questions

Volume 616: debated on Thursday 3 November 2016

Since the last oral questions, we have launched a call for evidence on gaming machines and a consultation on press regulation. We have also seen our Paralympians win 147 medals, 64 of which are gold. I am sure that the whole House will join me in celebrating their achievements.

Mr Speaker, as you will remember from my maiden speech, King John rode from his castle at Odiham to sign the Magna Carta. Eight hundred years later, the national lottery provided a three-day festival for our community to learn more about our heritage. Will the Secretary of State commend the Odiham Society for its work and celebrate the fact that the national lottery is awarding its 500,000th grant?

Mr Speaker, you only mentioned it to me yesterday.

Of course I will join my hon. Friend. The national lottery does fantastic work for good causes in all our constituencies, and immediately after this session—quite literally immediately—I will be hotfooting it on a train to Ipswich to visit a charity and sports organisations that have benefited from lottery grants. It behoves all of us in this House to celebrate those good causes in our constituencies that the national lottery supports, and make sure that we do all we can to support the lottery to keep giving to those good causes.

Yesterday, Facebook made the welcome announcement that it would not be allowing Admiral to use its data to determine insurance premiums. While the Government have been dragging their feet and refusing to update data protection legislation, private companies have been harvesting our personal data, against our knowledge, without our consent and to our detriment. When will the Government act?

I know that the hon. Lady, who is on the Digital Economy Bill Committee, is doing considerable work in this area. I look forward to working with her to ensure that we achieve all that we want to. May I make the point that the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is an incredibly important part of our law enforcement around data protection, is currently being hijacked and prevented from making progress and receiving Royal Assent because of press regulation? It is important that we get that matter of national security on the statute book to protect us all.

T5. Will my right hon. Friend support any of the home nations who choose to display a poppy next week to remember all those from every part of the world who sacrificed so much? Will she also pass on to FIFA the anger that there is in this House and among our constituents? (907021)

My hon. Friend is right. We stand right behind the FA and the Scottish FA in their decision to wear poppies. I will be at the match next week and I will make sure that I pass on those comments. It is absolutely right that home nations should, if they choose, wear poppies to commemorate those who sacrificed their lives, and I hope that FIFA will see sense and withdraw any threat of sanctions for those who do so.

T2. Many grassroots music venues are struggling, with 40% closing in London alone over the past decade. There are many pressures on venues, but will the Minister look specifically at the call from the Music Venue Trust for PRS for Music to scrap its minimum tariff, which is hitting grassroots venues very hard, and to introduce the 3% fee across the board? (907018)

I know that the hon. Lady is campaigning hard on this issue and I will look at all that she has said.

T7. On a recent visit to Lambourn I saw at first hand the significance of the horse-racing industry to our rural economy, so will the Minister confirm that the proposed replacement of the horse-racing betting levy is on track for April 2017? (907023)

T3. Eureka!, the much loved National Children’s Museum in my constituency, receives no day-to-day funding from central Government, despite being a national museum. Will the Secretary of State review this decision so that as many families as possible can enjoy Eureka! without the barrier of an entrance fee? (907019)

May I take the points that the hon. Lady has made and consider them? Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister of State could meet her to discuss the matter.

I am not sure whether you are a football fan, Mr Speaker—[Interruption.] Oh yes, you are. Perhaps you could change your allegiance, because Taunton Town football club has reached the first round proper of the FA cup for the first time in 35 years. Will the Minister join me in praising all those who have worked so hard for years and years as volunteers at the club to help it to get this far, as well as the paid people? Will the Minister also join me in wishing the club the very best of luck for the big match on Sunday?

I am well aware, Mr Speaker, that you are a football fan, albeit for the wrong north London team. I am delighted to join my hon. Friend in praising Taunton Town football club for its progress in the FA cup and I wish it all the best.

I hope I enjoy Sunday lunchtime more than the hon. Lady does. I say to the hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) that I am, of course, a fanatical Arsenal fan.

T6. Sheffield has a proud and fabulous offer of cultural and sporting services, and many young people have benefited from Labour’s scheme to give them five hours a week of cultural experience to improve access to the arts. What is the Minister doing to monitor the level of access to culture and the arts, and to enable young people from all backgrounds to gain access to them? (907022)

I am determined to make sure that there is access to the arts for everyone across the country. We have to make this a country that works for everyone, and that means access to the arts. From a sporting perspective, I am sure the hon. Lady will welcome the first Parklife activities that took place in Sheffield last week, which the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch). attended.

Are Ministers aware that Dr Peter Aitken, the chair of the faculty of liaison psychiatry at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, told the Health Committee on Tuesday that gambling addiction is becoming a major cause of suicide? Will Ministers be emboldened to take the issue further?

I have seen the transcript of Dr Peter Aitken’s comments, in which he said that we should not overlook gambling as one of the significant addictions of our day. As somebody who spent a lot of time working on addiction issues in this House before I was made a Minister, I could not agree more. I discussed the matter only last week with GambleAware, formerly the Responsible Gambling Trust.

T8. The Minister will be aware that a devastating fire destroyed one of the most historic and best loved parts of Exeter city centre last Friday and Saturday. The owners have said that they intend to restore the building to its former glory, which is very welcome, but will she guarantee that English Heritage will make absolutely sure on behalf of my constituents that it is restored to the highest possible standard? (907024)

I am very aware of the devastating fire in Exeter—I was actually in the west country over the weekend and saw the local news coverage. Having visited Exeter on a number of occasions, I know how important that building is in the cathedral precinct. Historic England sent a team of experts to the site on Monday to assess the situation, but I will take up the points that the right hon. Gentleman has raised.

When the Minister for Digital and Culture has finished hobnobbing with Her Majesty, will he agree to meet me and my residents to see if we can get Weaver Vale connected with 21st-century broadband speeds?

The favourable exchange rates mean that many people from the United States are visiting the Republic of Ireland for their holidays. What discussions has the Minister had with the Minister for the Economy in Northern Ireland to ensure that they also come north to Northern Ireland and across to the mainland?

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. As I said earlier, I meet people from all the devolved Administrations, and I will be doing so again later this month. We have seen increasing numbers of tourists visiting Northern Ireland, specifically to see the Titanic exhibition. We will continue to market Northern Ireland as a great place to visit.