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Topical Questions

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 3rd March 2016.

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Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West 9:30 am, 3rd March 2016

If he will make a statement on his departmental responsibilities.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

As you will know, Mr Speaker, today is World Book Day.

Since our last question time, my Department has published a summary of the responses to our consultation on the BBC charter review, Sir David Clementi’s report on the governance and regulation of the BBC, and the results of independent research on the BBC’s market impact. All those publications will inform our thinking.

The House will be delighted to hear that the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend Tracey Crouch, has had a baby since the House last met. I am sure that Members will join me in congratulating her, and in wishing her and the new arrival well.

I know that the House will also join me in congratulating the British winners of last weekend’s Oscars, and in wishing our Davis Cup and track cycling teams well this weekend.

Photo of Chris Green Chris Green Conservative, Bolton West

The British horseracing industry has an economic impact of £3.5 billion a year, and the Aintree and Haydock racecourses are very popular with my constituents. Will my right hon. Friend tell us when he plans to require offshore bookmakers to make a financial contribution to racing, as those based in Britain already do?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the importance of horseracing to this country. I can tell him that we intend to introduce a new funding arrangement for British racing by April 2017. We will create a level playing field for British-based and offshore gambling operators, and will ensure a fair return for racing from all bookmakers, including those based offshore. The racing industry will be responsible for making decisions on the spending of the new fund. We will make further announcements shortly.

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

Four out of five tourism companies surveyed by UKinbound believe that staying in the European Union is important to their business. UKinbound’s chief executive officer, Deirdre Wells, has said:

“Saying ‘yes’ to staying in the EU sends a clear message that we are open for business.”

Why is the Secretary of State so intent on damaging our tourism industry by campaigning for Britain to leave the European Union, against the policy of his own Government?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I can tell the hon. Gentleman that, whatever the decision on Britain’s future membership of the European Union, this country will remain open to tourists, not just from the European Union but from across the world. We are already enjoying a steady increase in the number of international visitors, and I expect that to continue.

Photo of Suella Fernandes Suella Fernandes Conservative, Fareham

Fort Fareham is on Historic England’s heritage at risk register; it is listed as priority A. Built in 1861, it forms part of the region’s distinctive naval and coastal history. What support can the Minister give such heritage assets, which are at risk of rapid deterioration, particularly those in private ownership?

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I am well aware of Fort Fareham, which is one of several sites that testify to the important role of Portsmouth in the defence of our nation in the past. The purpose of the at risk register is to enable Historic England, and other partners, to target their advice and support at the sites that are in greatest need. I am pleased to say that Historic England is working with its partners in south Hampshire to make the most of the fantastic history of Portsmouth harbour.

Photo of Emma Lewell-Buck Emma Lewell-Buck Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government)

I am sure that the Secretary of State was as aggrieved as I was to learn that, late last year, the Royal Society of Arts ranked South Tyneside as one of the lowest boroughs in the country on its heritage index. He should know as well as I do that South Tyneside has a huge amount of history and culture to offer. Would he consider accepting an invitation to come to the borough, with members of the RSA? He could take part in our summer festival, explore our ancient Roman sites, or perhaps pull a rabbit out of a hat during the upcoming annual magic show at our brilliant arts venue, the Customs House.

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

That is an almost irresistible offer, given the attractions of South Tyneside. The magic show sounds highly enticing.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right to stress the importance of heritage to South Tyneside and, indeed, to the whole country. I hope that I shall manage to accept her invitation in due course, but I know that, in the meantime, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend Mr Evennett, is being assiduous in trying to visit as many tourism and heritage destinations as possible.

Photo of David Rutley David Rutley Conservative, Macclesfield

What steps is my right hon. Friend taking to ensure that all Government Departments get behind the Government’s excellent new sports strategy, particularly in relation to outdoor recreation, with its benefits for physical health and for the tourism economy in rural areas in Macclesfield and far beyond?

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point about the value of outdoor recreation and sport. We recognise this and we are committed to working across the Government Departments to ensure that the new Sporting Future strategy promotes opportunities for everyone to get involved in outdoor activities, no matter where they are. Indeed, Sport England already invests millions of pounds in activities as diverse as trail running, canoeing and mountaineering, which provide exciting opportunities. We will continue to work with other Departments to make sure that this happens.

Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Transport)

Across the regions of the UK, there are some 4,500 miles of road with no mobile phone signals, according to a recent RAC report. That includes 452 miles in the highlands without 4G, 3G or 2G, which means that no texts or calls can be made there. Will the Minister commit to taking action to plug these specific gaps in mobile coverage?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

I am pleased to be able to tell the hon. Gentleman that the emergency services network proposals will see 300 new mobile masts built, and our mobile infrastructure programme will see 75 miles covered.

Our changes to the licences of mobile providers will require 90% geographical coverage, which will also result in improvements in mobile coverage.

Photo of Stephen Phillips Stephen Phillips Conservative, Sleaford and North Hykeham

My right hon. Friend the Sports Minister pro tem will have seen yesterday’s suggestion from distinguished luminaries in the medical world—including from places such as the University of the Pacific, wherever that might be—that we ban any form of tackling in rugby in schools. Does he agree that it is time to stop this mollycoddling of young people, and, while doing all we can to ensure that sport is safe, to let schools get on with teaching contact sports and the values that they represent?

Photo of David Evennett David Evennett Government Whip, The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

My hon. and learned Friend will be well aware that the Government are committed to ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to get involved in sport from a young age, provided that it is made available within a safe environment. The Department for Education is responsible for sport in schools. Rugby and many other sports always carry an element of risk, and we expect those supervising sport at that level to ensure the safety of all participants. He will be interested to note that as part of our strategy on sport and physical activity, a full review of the duty of care in sport is to be carried out, chaired by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

Photo of Tristram Hunt Tristram Hunt Labour, Stoke-on-Trent Central

Local authority budgets are now under extreme pressure, and the Treasury is urging councils to liquidate all extraneous assets. Will the Secretary of State confirm from the Dispatch Box that that should not include the antiquities, paintings and artefacts in local authority museums and galleries? None of us wants to see a fire sale of our national heritage on the back of this Government’s stumbling economic policy.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

One treasure that I hope will not be liquidated is the hon. Gentleman. I hope he will not be liquidated by the Momentum campaign in Stoke and that he will be reselected. We are all praying for him on this side of the House. In answer to his question, it is obviously up to individual local authorities, but they must adhere to the code of ethics of the Museums Association. I take a very dim view of local authorities getting rid of their heritage assets, particularly those that have been left to them by prominent members of the community.

Photo of Damian Collins Damian Collins Conservative, Folkestone and Hythe

There have been numerous resignations from the board of London 2017. Has the Secretary of State had the chance to discuss the reasons for that with London 2017, and does he have any concerns about its working relationship with UK Athletics?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

This is a matter that we keep under review, but I have not had a chance to discuss it recently. I will certainly look into it further and discuss it with the appropriate authorities.

Photo of Rupa Huq Rupa Huq Labour, Ealing Central and Acton

To prevent our pop charts from being disproportionately dominated by acts from private schools, and to prevent another all-white Brit awards like the event that was criticised last week, would the Minister consider starting a scheme similar to the much missed music action zones that the Labour Government created to encourage creativity and talent in music in non-classroom contexts?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

This country produces some of the finest music acts in the world. A lot of the ones that I go to see certainly did not go to public school, and I am looking forward to going to see Muse and, I hope, Rainbow in the coming months. Of course, I want to see opportunity for everybody who has talent to succeed.

Photo of Philip Davies Philip Davies Conservative, Shipley

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating Victoria Pendleton, the Olympic champion, on riding her first winner over fences at Wincanton yesterday, on Pacha Du Polder, a horse owned by Andy Stewart and trained by Paul Nicholls? Her exploits are a big boost for the racing industry. Will the Secretary of State confirm that when he sets the rate of the new levy, he will be taking into account all the current streams of funding that go into racing from bookmakers, such as picture rights?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I of course join my hon. Friend in congratulating Victoria Pendleton. I heard her talking about her success this morning, and it shows how somebody can achieve great accomplishment in one sport and then go on to succeed in a second. On the specific point he raises about the extension of the levy to cover offshore, the amount will be determined by an analysis, which we have commissioned, of the funding and costs of racing. That will take account of all sources of revenue, including media rights, as he points out.

Photo of Clive Lewis Clive Lewis Shadow Minister (Energy and Climate Change)

Will the Secretary of State tell the House why his Government have gone from promising victims of press abuse that part 2 of Leveson will happen to saying that it “may” happen? Will he also tell the House how many meetings he and his Cabinet colleagues have had with newspaper proprietors over the past year and whether that was a topic of conversation?

Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We have always said that any decisions about whether or not Leveson 2 should take place will be taken once all the criminal proceedings have been completed. We are not at that stage; further criminal proceedings are under way. Once those are completed, we will come back to look at this question. We regularly publish a record of all meetings with newspaper proprietors, with victims of press intrusion and with ministerial colleagues. Of course, I have regular meetings with all of those, and I am looking forward to having a further meeting with Hacked Off to discuss these matters in a few weeks’ time.