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Topical Questions

Volume 635: debated on Thursday 8 February 2018

It is a pleasure to take my first session of topical questions as Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for the things that make life worth living.

We at the DCMS are focused on building Britain’s digital future, growing our nation’s brilliant creative and cultural life, backing a free media fit for the modern age, and supporting sport. With that in mind, I am sure that the whole House will want to join me in wishing good luck to Team GB at the Winter Olympic and Paralympic games in PyeongChang. I am sure that our Olympic athletes will do us proud and we wish them all the very best of British.

I join the Secretary of State in that wish.

I hope you do not mind, Mr Speaker, if I ask the question I asked earlier, because it was not answered. Will the Secretary of State or the Minister answer this question simply: when do they expect the split between BT and Openreach to occur?

Last year, Ofcom agreed with BT the outlines of the legal separation and the work to ensure that that happens is ongoing. The deadline set by Ofcom was April this year and it is for BT to take the action with the regulator.

T2. My cup really doth runneth over today: I have a topical question as well. I welcome the progress the Government are making on superfast broadband, but can my hon. Friend the Minister assure me that the remaining 17% of premises in my constituency that do not have access to fibre broadband will have it as soon as possible? (903840)

We are all very happy for my hon. Friend.

Progress has continued to bring superfast broadband to Cornwall: access coverage is now 91%. A further 3% of premises in Cornwall will be covered by December 2019 through the current broadband contract between Cornwall Council and BT. I also draw my hon. Friend’s attention to the rights of her constituents under the universal service obligation.

Order. Today Front-Bench Members will have to be particularly brief as there is heavy pressure on time and I am trying to accommodate a lot of colleagues.

What action does the Secretary of State think should be taken against an app that breaches key provisions of the Data Protection Act and the privacy and electronic communications regulations, and that is not GDPR—general data protection regulation—compliant?

I think that all apps should be compliant with the law, and I am delighted to say that the Matt Hancock app is.

Exactly, because the app I am talking about does not just belong to the Secretary of State, but is named after him, and the general public need to be protected from their privacy being invaded by Matt Hancock, their personal information being shared with third parties by Matt Hancock and their private photos being accessed by Matt Hancock. Will he undertake to ensure that Matt Hancock complies fully with all data protection regulations in future, and explain why he thinks other people should abide by their legal obligations with regard to data protection if Matt Hancock does not?

I must say that I am surprised the Secretary of State did not call his app “Hancock-Disraeli”.

Very good, Mr Speaker.

Of course the app does comply but, more importantly, I think we should use digital communications in all their modern forms to communicate with our constituents. I am delighted by the response the app has had—it has been far bigger than I could possibly have imagined—and I look forward to communicating with my constituents over Matt Hancock for many years to come.

T3. I, too, congratulate the Government on the progress made in passing the 95% target for coverage of superfast broadband, but what message can my right hon. Friend give to the over 2,000 households in my constituency who are unable to receive 10 megabits per second, and particularly the over 10% of households in the village of Purleigh who cannot even receive 2 megabits per second? (903841)

The message I can give those households is that the cavalry is coming: this House has legislated so that everybody shall be able to get 10 megabits per second as an absolute minimum by 2020, and the Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is driving the secondary legislation through necessary to make that happen.

T5. Obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking. In my health board area, 26% of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese. Junk food advertising is the key driver of this, so what assessment have the Government made of the financial impact of the 2007 Ofcom advertising restrictions on children’s broadcasters? (903845)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. Of course making sure we have a healthy and buoyant advertising market in the UK is important, but it is also absolutely critical that we do what we can to reduce the amount of obesity in the nation. This is a matter on which I have had discussions with the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. I am very happy to talk to the hon. Gentleman in more detail.

T4. What steps is the Department taking, alongside the Department for Education, to improve access to sport for our young people, both during school hours and outside them, given the associated health and wellbeing benefits? (903842)

A huge amount of work is ongoing. We have managed, through the sugar tax, to double the amount of funding for school sport. I pay tribute to the Minister for Sport for all the work that she has done on this—she cannot be here today because she is flying to the Winter Olympics—and I am sure that she will be happy to work with my hon. Friend to see what more we can do.

The gross yield of the gambling industry is £13 billion a year, yet GambleAware has been able to raise only £8.6 million through the voluntary levy. Come on, Minister—we have to do better than that.

I will take that as another consideration in the gambling review, the response to which we are looking at right now.

T6. Back to the app. Too many users of Android phones have been unlucky enough to read the words “Matt Hancock has stopped” when the app crashes. Can the Secretary of State reassure us that, for all the fun we have had over this, it is a genuinely meaningful attempt to get in touch with constituents and that, as the owner of the fastest-growing social network in the country, he will continue to press on? (903846)

I can assure my hon. Friend that I have not stopped and I will not stop communicating with my constituents, which is what this is all about.

Is the Minister aware of the recent estimate by the Centre for Economics and Business Research that 121,000 users of fixed odds betting terminals could be classed as problem gamblers, and that each suffers an average annual loss in welfare of nearly £10,000?

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for the work she has done as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on FOBTs. She has raised the issue repeatedly and I look forward to working with her on it.

The Secretary of State will know that climbing will be a new Olympic sport in Tokyo in 2020. Outfit Moray, a great group in my constituency, is encouraging local kids to get involved. What can the Government do across the UK to ensure that we have enough facilities and coaches for this new sport?

Climbing is a cracking new sport. In fact, last week I went climbing, as we celebrated funding some of the athletes, including the world champion female climber, who is British and looking forward to competing at the Tokyo Olympic games.

It is a fact that, when it comes to the 95% broadband target, the UK Government underfunded the Scottish Government, who had to make up the shortfall. When it comes to 4G coverage, England has 60% landmass coverage and Scotland has only 17%. What are the UK Government doing to make up for this double deficit?

Of course, we have increased mobile phone coverage in Scotland more as a percentage than elsewhere in the UK. When it comes to fixed broadband, I will not take that from the Scottish National party. We gave the SNP £20 million over three years ago and it has not spent it yet. Every single person in Scotland who does not have superfast broadband knows that they could have got it if the SNP had got on with it instead of just worrying about independence.

On a similar topic, a Scottish Government report found that in 2012 over half of my constituents did not even receive 3G service. Six years later I do not feel that enough progress has been made. Can my right hon. Friend assure me that more is being done to ensure that rural constituents are not being left behind?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The roll-out of mobile phone coverage needs to go further. We have made very good progress, but a lot more needs to be done. I commend her constructive tone, which is so much more useful.