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Topical Questions

Volume 736: debated on Thursday 20 July 2023

The whole House has been enjoying this amazing summer of sport, with the Ashes, Wimbledon and the Grand Prix in recent weeks. The Open starts today, and I am sure the whole House will want to join me in wishing the Lionesses well in their first women’s World cup match on Saturday. We believe every community should have access to sports facilities, and since our last oral questions, we have renovated a third of our target of 3,000 tennis courts across Great Britain. That is also why we have delivered improvements to over 3,300 grass- roots football facilities up and down the UK, to improve and upgrade spaces where people can get active and enjoy sport.

Indeed, the football women’s World cup starts today, so we wish the very best of luck to the European champions, the fantastic Lionesses. Last year there was a staggering 83% drop in the number of European schoolchildren and students visiting the UK, hitting our tourism sector and leading to a loss of 14,500 jobs and £875 million. I am aware of the Prime Minister’s vague commitment to increase the number of schoolchildren coming over from France at the very least, but what exactly is the Government’s plan to deal with that shocking decline?

I am pleased that the hon. Member mentioned the discussions that the Prime Minister has had with France. That bilateral arrangement will improve mobility to the UK. It is really important that those young groups come, and I can assure the hon. Member that I am looking at that issue more broadly.

T2. One of my constituents, Wendy Metcalfe, has represented England as part of the England women’s shore angling team. However, she has recently expressed concerns that a trans woman has been selected to join the squad. Beach fishing requires significant upper body strength, strength in which a male-born competitor would have a distinct advantage over a woman. Will the Minister please confirm that she will speak to the Angling Trust to request that it properly considers the Sports Council Equality Group’s guidance on who is eligible for its women’s team? (906099)

These are clearly sensitive issues, and they need careful consideration and respect for those involved. The Government support the Sports Council’s guidance on transgender participation. When it comes to competitive sport, we believe that safety and fairness have to be the primary considerations. I encourage the Angling Trust to engage with the Sports Council’s guidance as it develops its thinking in this area.

Our creative industries are world leading, but they are rightly concerned about the impact of artificial intelligence on their creative endeavours. The Government’s botched AI and intellectual property plans show that our creative industries play second fiddle when we need genuine partnership between the tech sector and those industries. What is the Secretary of State doing to secure, protect and enhance this British success story in the digital age?

The shadow Minister is right to highlight AI, which presents potential opportunities as well as challenges, particularly in the domain of copyright and the creative industries. I am actively engaged with this issue and have held a number of meetings with the sector, including with the Creative Industries Council earlier this week, and with music, press and publishing stakeholders over recent weeks. This afternoon I will again meet with the Minister for AI and Intellectual Property, together with the Intellectual Property Office, to discuss this very issue.

T6. Many of my constituents think that the BBC licence fee is an outdated, regressive tax, and question why they should have to fund a broadcaster that they do not support and do not want to watch. If a formal review of the BBC’s funding model is indeed to take place in the autumn, surely abolishing the licence fee altogether has to be one of the options considered. (906104)

The Government have made it clear that the licence fee will remain in place for the remainder of this charter period, but my hon. Friend is right that there are challenges going forward. He may be aware that the number of people paying the licence fee has fallen by 1.9 million in the past five years, and it is therefore right that we look at possible alternative sources of funding for the BBC in the longer term. That will be the focus of the funding review.

T3. We all wish our women’s team all the best down under in the World cup that starts today—we are all a bit envious of the Minister—but at the same time, our national team is still doing battle with the Football Association over pay. How soon do the Government expect to implement the recommendations of Karen Carney’s review so that the beautiful game raises up standards for women, including Chloe Kelly from Acton, my favourite Lioness? (906100)

The hon. Lady is right to raise this important area. I am extremely grateful, as we all are in the Department, to Karen Carney for such an in-depth review of women’s football. We are obviously looking at the recommendations she made in that report, and that will be a continuous agenda item in my regular discussions with the FA.

My right hon. Friend is aware of the ongoing crisis at Southend United, where staff have gone unpaid for months and the 117-year- old club’s future is on a knife edge, which is absolutely devastating for the 6,000-plus loyal fan base. Please will my right hon. Friend agree to meet the Shrimpers Trust, my hon. Friend the Member for Rochford and Southend East (Sir James Duddridge) and me, urgently, to see what more can be done to save this vital community asset for the new city of Southend?

Order. Can I just say that nobody else is now going to get in on topicals, because this is the last question. Minister, we do have to think about other people. It is too short a Question Time, but if it is short, we need to help each other to get through it.

Can I praise my hon. Friend for the tremendous amount of work she has been doing on behalf of her constituents and the fans at Southend? I know how hard she is working. Of course, I would be more than happy to meet the fans group, as I have with those of other clubs, but I think this highlights the need for the independent football regulator.