Topical Questions

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 22nd November 2012.

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Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats 9:30 am, 22nd November 2012

If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

As hon. Members will have noticed, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State is not with us for oral questions. He is currently in Rio de Janeiro leading a delegation to share London’s knowledge and expertise with our Brazilian counterparts, helping them to prepare for the World cup in 2014 and the Olympics and Paralympics in 2016—and, importantly, banging the drum for British business. With £70 million of contracts already won for UK companies in Rio, we are continuing to deliver an economic legacy for the UK from the most successful games of modern times.

Photo of Simon Hughes Simon Hughes Deputy Leader, Liberal Democrats

Rio in November—it must be a hard life!

There is often lots of conversation about the difficulties of broadband access in rural areas. What can Ministers do to help people in urban areas such as mine, where in Rotherhithe, for example, people are not near the telephone exchange and broadband is therefore very poor indeed?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The right hon. Gentleman raises an issue with which many people in the Chamber will identify. Urban areas by no means always receive the sort of connectivity that our constituents want. That is why it is important that we have put in place not only the rural broadband programme to deliver better connectivity in rural areas but the urban broadband fund for our urban areas, which will ensure that London has some £25 million to achieve the improvements that he talks about.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport)

The “Chance to Shine” survey published this week shows that the majority of parents who were surveyed—54%—said that since the Olympics their children have played less than two hours of sport and PE per week. Participation in sport in school is on the way down. The PE and sports survey published in 2010 told us that over 90% of schoolchildren were doing sport in schools. If we are to have any chance of instilling a sporting habit for life in our young children, we will have to start in schools. Will the Minister tell us what the Government intend to do to monitor what is going on in our schools?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right; we have to instil that habit of sport at the earliest age. As I have said before, I share his concern about participation levels among young people. We will be looking carefully at the findings from the “Chance to Shine” survey. I have already talked to him and to other Members about the school games, in which 50% of schools have participated, and through our youth sport strategy £1 billion is going towards supporting further participation. I hope that he will welcome those facts.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

The London Olympics and Paralympics were clearly an outstanding success delivered on time and within budget, with an outstanding performance by Great Britain. Now comes the long-term challenge of delivering the legacy. Will my right hon. Friend confirm the position as regards progress in dismantling some of the venues that are due to be moved elsewhere so that everyone can enjoy that success?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The decommissioning of venues is already well under way, with the transference of temporary venues to new owners, whether it is the volleyball courts or the beach volleyball courts that were just round the corner from here, from which the sand has been taken and used to create tens of new volleyball courts throughout London, including one in Wimbledon park.

Photo of Stephen Timms Stephen Timms Shadow Minister (Work and Pensions)

The Conservative party used to support a competitive telecommunications market. Why on earth are Ministers now establishing a new private sector monopoly in rural superfast broadband by simply handing all the Government subsidy over to BT?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I cannot keep on making this point, but I will. We are not handing the money to BT. It is a competitive tendering process, and if BT wins the contracts that local authorities put out, that is a matter for those local authorities.

Photo of Jason McCartney Jason McCartney Conservative, Colne Valley

My hon. Friend Mark Pawsey mentioned the rugby world cup in 2015. I must just clarify that he was referring to the rugby union world cup. The rugby league world cup is happening next year. Switching to football, do Ministers accept the case for introducing, on a trial basis, limited standing areas at football grounds for premiership and championship clubs whose management want to participate?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We believe that seated stadiums offer the best experience for spectators and the best safety measures. That view is supported by the Government, the police and the sport.

Photo of Nicholas Dakin Nicholas Dakin Opposition Whip (Commons)

Given the importance of the high standards and diversity in our media, will the communications Bill include any Leveson inquiry recommendations on media and cross-media ownership?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We have always made it clear that we will take Lord Leveson’s thoughts and findings into account as we draw the Bill together.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker Conservative, Worcester

I recently attended Worcester’s Gheluvelt park for a moving service to mark the 98th anniversary of the battle of Gheluvelt, at which the Worcestershire Regiment stopped the Prussian guard and stabilised the western front. As the 100th anniversary of those heroic actions draws near, what can the Secretary of State do to ensure that local connections with the first world war will be properly recognised amidst the national commemorations?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

An important part of the work that we will do to commemorate the first world war will be to ensure that every community, and indeed every individual, has the opportunity to find their own story, whether they have overseas connections or not. The Heritage Lottery Fund will be important in delivering the finances for that.

Photo of Fiona Mactaggart Fiona Mactaggart Labour, Slough

We have talked in this Question Time about the contribution of schools to developing sporting activities among children. Schools are also key to developing creativity among children, and Britain leads the world in the creative industries. Will the Secretary of State meet the Secretary of State for Education to discuss the effect of the EBacc plans on creative subjects in the curriculum, and to ensure that creativity is part of our children’s education?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The hon. Lady needs to understand that the English baccalaureate has creativity at its heart. It includes English, maths, science, history, geography and languages, and will give students the opportunity to explore the heritage of this country’s literature. Sitting alongside that, the 123 new music hubs that have been established will ensure that creativity is at the heart of our children’s education.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

Essex is an important engine of economic growth in the United Kingdom. Businesses in our county are being held back by poor broadband infrastructure, and yet we have been placed 31st out of 35 on the Broadband Delivery UK project framework. Will the Secretary of State support local businesses in Essex by prioritising the roll-out of high-speed broadband?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Essex has been awarded £6 million for its rural broadband programme. Although it is low on the list because of when it submitted its application to BDUK, we will work with Essex and a lot of work can be done before procurement.

Photo of Alex Cunningham Alex Cunningham Labour, Stockton North

There has been a huge increase in the number of betting shops opening in generic shopping units and the subsequent installation of the high-stake, high-price fixed odds betting terminals, which contribute to gambling addiction. Will the Secretary of State meet the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to agree a policy that places betting shops in a specific planning category to stop the increase in betting shops and high-stake machines? Will she carry out an investigation into the impact of those machines on gambling addiction?

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

On the final part of the hon. Gentleman’s question, we believe that there is a need for more evidence on the impact of gambling within society. We are collecting that evidence now and are looking carefully at all the issues that he raised.

Photo of Alun Cairns Alun Cairns Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan

I pay tribute to the Secretary of State, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Mr Vaizey and Ofcom for the auction arrangements, which satisfy all the mobile phone operators. However, will Ministers reassure the House that planning guidance will be put in place to enable mobile operators to introduce higher masts and bring about 4G roll-out much more quickly?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We are looking at the planning regulations on mobile phone masts. We will bring forward proposals and consult on them in the appropriate manner. My hon. Friend’s point is well made. If we want to benefit from 4G, we have to make it easier to deploy networks.

Photo of Ben Bradshaw Ben Bradshaw Labour, Exeter

I was concerned by the Secretary of State’s answer to my hon. Friend Fiona Mactaggart. The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has been taking evidence in its inquiry into the creative industries. Every single witness has said that the Government’s plans for the EBacc will be devastating for the arts and culture. The Secretary of State must be the champion for arts and culture in government and must ask the Education Secretary to think again.

Photo of Maria Miller Maria Miller Minister for Women and Equalities, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

The right hon. Gentleman needs to understand that as well as Ebacc’s creative content, many things are going on around that in schools. The issue has been carefully considered by Ofsted, which assesses the cultural development of individuals in schools. That is at the heart of what we are doing.

Photo of Therese Coffey Therese Coffey Conservative, Suffolk Coastal

Today is the feast day of Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music, and it also marks the launch of celebrations in Aldeburgh for Benjamin Britten’s centenary year. Will the Secretary of State join me next year at the Red House to celebrate one of our greatest ever composers?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I have already accepted a number of invitations on behalf of the sports Minister, and I am happy to confirm that the Secretary of State will, I am sure, make it to Aldeburgh next year to celebrate the centenary of one of our greatest composers who children will learn about in school, particularly after we publish our national cultural education plan—the first of its kind in our history.

Photo of Luciana Berger Luciana Berger Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

Does the Department plan any legislative changes to the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964, and if so, when?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I am happy to confirm to the hon. Lady that the Government are doing an enormous amount to help libraries. We have given responsibility for libraries to the Arts Council, which has set up a £6 million fund to support them, and we have appointed a new libraries adviser, Yinnon Ezra. We are piloting the compulsory membership of libraries for schoolchildren and we have the Seighart review on e-lending. We continue strongly to support libraries. This is not about legislation, it is about action.

Photo of Guy Opperman Guy Opperman Conservative, Hexham

Under the previous Government, broadband provision in Northumberland was woeful, disorganised and underfunded. That situation is slowly improving, which brings great benefits. Will the Minister meet me—rather than the sports Minister having that pleasure—and fellow representatives in Northumberland, to discuss how we can improve the provision of broadband in Northumberland?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

As a matter of principle I never refuse a meeting with an hon. Member under my portfolio, and I would be happy to meet my hon. Friend—in fact, I would be delighted.