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Topical Questions

Volume 671: debated on Thursday 13 February 2020

I am sure that the whole House will join me in congratulating the British film “1917” on picking up three awards at the Oscars, along with the seven BAFTAs that it picked up earlier this month. “1917” is one of thousands of film productions that has benefited from the Government’s creative industry tax reliefs, which the producer of “1917” said were “crucial” to supporting our world-leading production industry.

As we heard, yesterday the Government published their initial response to the online harms White Paper, confirming their commitment to free speech and that they want the UK to be the safest place for users to be online.

Bridgend’s local council is proposing to increase the fees that it charges local sports clubs by up to 500%. Many of these clubs tell me that they will need to close if that is implemented. Does my hon. Friend agree that every step should be taken, at all levels of government, to improve grassroots sport?

That is absolutely right. I agree that the Government should seek to support sport and physical activity at every level so that everyone, regardless of their age or ability, has the option to get more active. That is why, through Sport England, we are investing more than £1 billion between 2017 and 2021 to get more people active and to reach out to people who traditionally have not necessarily thought that sport and physical activity is for them.

DCMS has not published impact data on the National Citizen Service since 2016. With former partner organisations going out of business and the transition to new contracts reported as being, at best, turbulent, what are the Government doing to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent appropriately and for the benefit of all young people across the UK?

I remind the hon. Lady that the National Citizen Service has benefited almost 600,000 young people in disadvantaged areas across the country. It teaches life skills, improves confidence—I have seen that in my constituency—and boosts employability. It is still the fastest-growing youth movement that we have had in this country for a century.

T2. Football fans have long called for safe standing in stadiums. Does my hon. Friend agree that if the fans want it, and it can be done safely, we should work with clubs towards introducing standing options in their stands? (900789)

I fully intend to deliver on our commitment to work with fans to move towards standing at football. In one of my first meetings following the election, I met the Premier League, the English Football League, the Football Association, the Sports Grounds Safety Authority and the Football Supporters’ Association to discuss this pledge with them. Last week, I was pleased to receive the interim findings of the Sports Grounds Safety Authority’s research, and I have asked it to continue that research with a view to delivering safe standing at football for football supporters.

T4. The Department’s contribution to the funding of S4C is due to cease in 2022. Does the Minister intend the licence fee to make up the shortfall? Given the present uncertainty about the fee, will he, as a matter of urgency, make a statement about how the funding will be protected post 2022? (900791)

The funding model that was agreed in 2015 is guaranteed, and the licence fee model is guaranteed until 2027. S4C is a very important public service broadcaster. Conversations will continue from this period onwards, and the funding element of S4C will feature strongly in them.

T3. While cities embrace 5G, 3G is a dream for many of my constituents, particularly in the Teme valley, which is a large rural notspot. Can the Minister confirm that tackling poor mobile signals in rural areas is very much part of the Government’s commitment to levelling up? (900790)

I absolutely can confirm that. I know how important any kind of mobile coverage still is in some parts of the country. My hon. Friend will have heard the earlier answer about the shared rural network. It is still being negotiated, and the exact sites that will benefit first will be negotiated by the mobile networks themselves, but I would welcome the opportunity to meet my hon. Friend and talk about where we can benefit her constituents most.

Since the Glazers took over Manchester United in 2005, more than £1 billion has been taken out of the club, which they are using as a personal cash cow. Does the Minister agree that that model of ownership is not what we want for our football clubs?

The hon. Gentleman makes a good point. Football clubs such as Manchester United are at the heart of local communities. They have unique social value, and many of them have a great history. We have committed ourselves to a fan-led review of football governance, which will include consideration of the owners and directors test, but, as the hon. Gentleman says, it is very important for us to ensure that our game is protected for the fans.

T5. Given the almost weekly stories showing the unsuitability of Huawei as a high-risk, high-tech vendor of our 5G, is the Minister aware that while we in this country are saying that we can build a 5G network that separates core and periphery, nearly all our closest allies and their cyber agencies say that that cannot be done? (900792)

As my hon. Friend knows, the Government will legislate at the earliest opportunity to ensure that we do everything in line with the advice of our agencies, which is that with the “ban and cap” approach, we can ensure that national security is our top priority while also building the 5G network that we deserve safely.

I have lost count of the number of times I have raised the faltering roll-out of broadband in my vast and remote constituency. The UK Government give money to the Scottish Government to ensure that that roll-out happens. May I suggest that the UK Government carry out some kind of audit to see where the money has gone—or, in my case, not gone?

The hon. Gentleman is right to say that no one is happy with the speed of the roll-out in Scotland, particularly in constituencies such as his. That is why I look forward to working with my Scottish counterpart to improve the position. I expect the Scottish audit authorities to take careful note of what he has just said.

T6. Local newspapers are crucial both to our local democracy, in holding people to account, and to bringing our local communities together. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that newspapers such as the Jewish Telegraph in my constituency have the support that they need to flourish? (900793)

My hon. Friend is right to mention the important role played by local newspapers—not least the Selby Times. It is clear to the Government that they play an invaluable role in the fabric of our society, ensuring that there is a healthy democracy both nationally and locally. On 27 January, we published our formal response to the independent Cairncross review, which outlines the steps that regulators, Government and industry will take to support the future of the news publishing industry nationally and locally.

In the first weekend of this year, nearly 200,000 people participated in parkrun events. As the chair of the new all-party parliamentary group on parkrun, may I ask the Minister to meet me to discuss how the Government can support this new social phenomenon and improve public health?

I will definitely meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss this issue. Park runs have taken off phenomenally well across the country. As yet, my schedule has been so busy that I have not managed to fit one in, but I am sure that the opportunity will arise. Park runs are great things—they are great for community meeting—so let us potentially do one together.

T7. I should like to reiterate the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnorshire (Fay Jones). Does the Minister agree that, while every effort is rightly being made to roll out 5G, it is not just rural communities that are having a problem? The peripheries of towns such as Wrexham are also struggling to obtain 3G. Will he please meet me as well? (900795)

I look forward to having a meeting with my hon. Friend on this subject, but I reiterate that it is not only rural areas that will benefit from the shared rural network; urban and suburban areas will benefit as well.