The Secretary of State is in India where he is banging the drum for British business, culture, sport and tourism. Today, he has been giving a speech on the importance of a free internet for the future prosperity of the UK, India and the world. He has also launched a new programme of sport and education for girls, supported museum partnerships between the UK and India and attended a memorial event to commemorate the contribution of Indian soldiers during the first world war. Here at home, his colleagues have also been busy, and we have confirmed our £90 million investment in a new model for English Heritage. In sport, I am pleased to say that all four home nations went undefeated in their European championship qualifying matches.
I particularly welcome that last point. If the research commissioned by the Responsible Gambling Trust into fixed-odds betting terminals is inconclusive or fails to provide coherent conclusions about the impact of the £100 maximum stake, will the Minister proceed on a precautionary basis and cut the maximum stake to £2 per spin?
It is certainly our intention to keep an open mind on this issue. The Government will consider all the relevant evidence fairly and openly and will act accordingly.
Tickets for the 2015 rugby world cup are going for eye-watering amounts on the secondary market. The official top price for England-Wales tickets is £315, but viagogo is selling them today at £1,136. What actions are the Government taking to stop fans being ripped off on the secondary market for the rugby world cup?
I am aware of those concerns, but I am very confident, having met Ticketmaster and seen its 10-point plan, that the tickets will get into the hands of rugby fans. I am sure that the event will be a great success and I ask the hon. Gentleman to take note of the fact that successive Governments and Select Committees have said that regulation should be a last resort.
I call Miss Anne McIntosh—not here.
There are manifest and clear benefits from the game of chess as an educational and sporting tool, but while other countries continue to develop the game, in the UK participation is collapsing, particularly in the state primary school sector. Will the Minister meet me and other members of the newly formed all-party parliamentary group on chess to discuss substantive and low-cost changes that we could make to help the sport?
We do not recognise chess as a sport, as my hon. Friend knows, because it is not a physical activity, but I would be happy to meet him to discuss the current state of the game.
It is now three years to the month since the Government published a response in which they said that they would set up expert working groups on the barriers to football fans’ owning football clubs. Yesterday, the Minister said that she has set up the expert working group—three years on. She went on to say that it will consider some of the consumer issues about pricing. I have the report in my hand and it clearly says that the expert group will look into issues to do with supporter ownership of football clubs, so the Minister seems to have rewritten the terms of reference. Can she tell us who is on the working group, when it will meet and whether the members of the group know that she has rewritten the terms of reference? Is it not actually the case that the Government have used the expert working group to avoid giving football fans a real voice in the running of their football clubs?
I do not accept anything that the hon. Gentleman has just said. I am determined to set up this expert group of supporters, which is about to be launched. We have members, we have a chair, with whom I had a meeting very recently, and the hon. Gentleman will hear announcements very soon. The group itself will consider ownership, debt and all the various issues that are likely to be of concern to fans.
Clonter Opera theatre in Congleton has produced highly professional productions for 40 years as well as educational events. Last month, I enjoyed an excellent production of Gounod’s “Faust”, which transferred to London. However, despite strong local support, the future of Clonter is now in question. Will the Minister meet me and Clonter to discuss how support can be obtained to ensure it continues to make its unique contribution to arts in the north for many years to come?
I know that the opera company makes a fantastic contribution and has also received funding from the Arts Council, but I will certainly meet my hon. Friend to discuss its future.
Does the Minister agree that we should be very concerned about the early sexualisation of children through exposure to pornography? May I share with him the thoughts of my constituent, who, on getting a new free service for their television, found that their children had access to free pornographic sites? What can we do to protect children from that kind of exposure?
As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have worked with internet service providers to supply free filters that can be fitted to consumers’ internet connections. They are working to put together a £25 million a year campaign called Internet Matters, but we should certainly examine the point that he raises as well.
The all-party group for women in Parliament produced a report a few months ago in which it examined sexism in the media. Will my hon. Friend look into that issue and work with the Minister for Women and Equalities to determine what we can do to hold the media to account?
We are more likely to find high-stakes fixed odds betting terminals in deprived areas of urban constituencies such as mine than in the leafy towns of Suffolk, so it is betting shop staff in places such as Stockton and Billingham who will have to consider giving permission to punters who want to place stakes of greater than £50 a time. Will the Minister explain how the Government decided on the sum of £50, the criteria that they would have betting staff use when deciding whether to grant permission, and how the system will be monitored and enforced?
There is a lot in that question, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the proposals I announced in April were measured and proportionate. They give more powers back to local authorities and, most importantly, more protection to consumers.
I congratulate the Minister on the fact that England’s museums and galleries attracted almost 5.9 million visitors in August. That figure was up more than 10% on the year before and represented the highest monthly total ever recorded. To what does he attribute that success?
Those record figures were partly thanks to this Government’s decision to maintain free admission to museums, and also down to the leadership of our national and regional museums shown by some incredible men and women.
After a remarkable 43-year career as a reporter at the Corby Telegraph, Helen O’Neill retires next week. Will the Minister join me in sending congratulations to her and in saying that she shows the very best that local journalism and newspapers can be, and how much they can contribute to our communities?
I think that Helen O’Neill’s 43-year career in journalism is a testament to the fantastic contribution that local newspapers make to our democracy. I am pleased that I will be sitting down with the National Union of Journalists for a seminar on local newspapers because I, for one, want to do everything I can to ensure that they have a vibrant and brilliant future.
Unfortunately we ran out of time before I could ask Question 14, which was about the video games industry. The Minister is aware of how crucial that industry is to the economy of my home city of Dundee. What progress is being made on extending the three-year period for the skills investment fund?
I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not mind that I often pray in aid Dundee as a brilliant example of a city that supports the video games industry. I am happy to tell him that the skills investment fund that we set up has put millions of pounds into skills training. Yesterday I attended the opening of the Industrial Light and Magic headquarters in London, which will employ 200 people in the visual effects industry, and we will certainly consider whether it is possible to extend the scheme.
Our competitors in shooting sports—rifle and shotgun disciplines—contributed some 20 medals at the Commonwealth games. The Minister will know that pistol shooting is restricted legally in the United Kingdom. What steps can she take to relax that restriction so that even more people can be introduced to pistol shooting and win more medals?
The Secretary of State said in September that the terms of reference for the BBC review would be published “very shortly”. Will the Minister tell us what “very shortly” means, and whether the terms of reference will take account of the impact of evasion levels and collection costs on the BBC’s funding?
Whitehall terms are often obscure. For example, it is well known that the Whitehall term “to be published in the spring” covers the period from February to November. However, “very shortly” means exactly what it says—we will publish the terms of reference very shortly. We will certainly take into account the hon. Gentleman’s point about the impact on the BBC.