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Topical Questions

Volume 623: debated on Thursday 16 March 2017

Since we last had oral questions to my Department, it has launched the Government’s digital strategy, which will ensure that we have the infrastructure, regulation and skills that we need to build a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone. The Dormant Assets Commission identified a potential £2 billion in such assets, which could open up new streams of funding for good causes, and we are considering the best way to proceed on that. I visited South Korea for the third Korea-UK Creative Industries Forum, launched the UK-Korea year of culture, and signed a joint statement on co-operating on the content industry. Finally, I am sure that at least most Members will join me in wishing the England team well this weekend in their attempt to break New Zealand’s record for the most consecutive wins in top-level rugby.

To echo what my hon. Friend the Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) said, the Secretary of State will be well aware that the maximum stake on fixed odds betting terminals is £100, which is 50 times the permitted cap on other high-street fruit machines. That particularly affects areas of severe deprivation, as there is great proliferation of these machines on high streets in such areas right across the UK. Does the Secretary of State recognise that that is an anomaly in gambling regulation and that far tougher regulation is required?

As the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), just said, we will make an announcement on this in the spring.

T5. I know that you are a tennis fan, Mr Speaker, but women’s cricket is going from strength to strength. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating Somerset county cricket ground on being selected as one of just four locations to host the international women’s world cup this year? The big match to get to is England v. Sri Lanka, which is on Sunday 2 July. I shall be there, and you are warmly invited, Mr Speaker, as are all the ministerial team. (909308)

I am sure that we all share my hon. Friend’s excitement at the women’s cricket world cup returning to England this summer. We are not alone in looking forward to the tournament; I understand that a record number of tickets have been sold for the final at Lord’s, which is great news. Hon. Members may be interested to know that the first games of the tournament will coincide with Women’s Sport Week, which will provide further opportunities to celebrate women’s sport and encourage participation.

The hon. Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) is permanently excited, not only about matters of sport, but about all matters under the sun, as far as I can tell.

Ah, very good. That is interesting, because that manifesto promised to lift the number of women on sports’ governing bodies to 25% by 2017, but it is 2017 already, and we have not achieved that. Did the Secretary of State think that nobody would notice, or, like the Chancellor on national insurance, did she not bother to read the manifesto?

We will be at 30% in 2017, which exceeds the manifesto commitment, because of the Government’s work on reforming sports governance, and our work with governing bodies to make sure that we have the right diversity and representation on those bodies.

Suicide is the leading cause of death of young people and the biggest killer of men under 50. The Secretary of State will know that there are clear links between certain types of media reporting and an increase in suicide rates. Will she join me in commending the work done by Samaritans through its media guidelines, and its tireless work to reduce suicide rates? Will she meet me to discuss the findings in the Health Committee’s report on preventing suicide, which is out today, given the role of the media, social media and the internet, and to discuss what we can do to reduce rates?

I commend my hon. Friend for her work on the Health Committee and look forward to reading the report. She is right that the media have an incredibly important role in helping to prevent suicides, not to cause them. I will, of course, sit down with her to discuss the matter.

T2. Is the Minister aware that more than 300 local newspapers have closed in the past 10 years? While Members might enjoy reading about skateboarding ducks, such newspapers are also a critical part of our democracy. Will the Minister therefore join me in supporting the National Union of Journalists in its “Local News Matters” campaign and week, and will he meet the union to discuss this critical part of our democracy? (909302)

Absolutely. Local newspapers are incredibly important. As constituency MPs we all engage with them, as well as with the national media. I will be happy to meet the NUJ and take part in the week, as the hon. Gentleman suggests.

Ely cathedral has benefited from funding for essential building work from the first world war centenary cathedral repairs fund. The cathedral makes a significant and real contribution to community life. What future long-term funding is there for cathedrals?

I was delighted recently to announce additional funding for many cathedrals around the country, including Ely. Cathedrals play an important part in our appreciation of heritage in the United Kingdom, so we continue to support the Heritage Lottery Fund to ensure that it continues to invest in cathedrals and other buildings of great importance.

T3. S4C is a much-loved Welsh language public service broadcaster that was hard fought for. I am sure that the Ministers on the Treasury Bench—and you, Mr Speaker—watch it whenever they are in Wales. What are the Government doing to safeguard the future prominence of public service broadcasters, especially with regard to nations’ services? (909305)

The prominence of PSBs is important. We are ensuring that S4C gets the funding that it needs—more than £6 million last year and more than £6 million next year. We have repeatedly made it clear that we strongly support S4C, which was a great Tory invention.

In a woeful performance before the Home Affairs Committee earlier this week, managers from Google, Twitter and Facebook admitted that they do virtually nothing proactively to reduce hate speech, extremism or child abuse from being hosted on their sites. Is it not time that we proactively pursued a policy similar to German proposals that would see social media companies penalised with large fines if they failed to take down such sites within 24 hours, or to prevent them in the first place?

I saw my hon. Friend’s comments about this in the newspapers this morning, and I reassure him that the Government are determined to do everything that we can to stamp out hate crime, which has absolutely no place in society. We have some of the strongest legislation on hate crime, and we expect social media companies to respond quickly to incidents of abusive behaviour on their networks. However, there is much more that we can do. We have just announced work on an internet safety strategy, which I will take forward with other colleagues, that is aimed at making Britain the safest country in the world for children and young people online.

T4. Many of my constituents have contacted me with concerns about children and young people accessing extreme internet pornography. Will the Minister tell me what the Government are doing to work with Ofcom and internet service providers to protect children and young people? (909306)

This is an important point. The Digital Economy Bill brings forward age verification processes so that all pornography cannot be accessed by those under the age of 18. ISPs will be required to block sites that do not put such age verification in place—that is incredibly important. The Bill is in the Lords at the moment but it will come back to this House shortly.

I add my excitement to that of my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow), because the women’s cricket world cup will actually launch in Derby. I recently discovered my inner warrior when playing rugby with England Rugby and my local Derby team—in fact, I made my first tackle—so will the Secretary of State tell me what we are doing to encourage more women to play sports?

I know from personal experience that Derby has fantastic sporting opportunities for everyone. It is incredibly important that more women play sport and feel that they can take part. The “This Girl Can” campaign, for which I am sure my hon. Friend has seen the television advertisements, is part of that, as is the fantastic women’s cricket world cup. I know that one of the matches is in Derby, but I have to confess that I am going to the one in Leicester.

Following on from the question from my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown), I met Realgrassroots, which explained that it had been campaigning against the exploitation of young footballers since 2010 and that the Scottish Parliament is investigating the issue. Will the sports Minister meet me to discuss it further, and commit to ensuring that football clubs abide by basic employment legislation, the enforcement of which is reserved?

I am always delighted to meet honourable colleagues, and I would be delighted to meet the hon. Gentleman, too.