Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:49 pm on 8th October 2020.

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Photo of Craig Williams Craig Williams Conservative, Montgomeryshire 3:49 pm, 8th October 2020

I thank my hon. Friend Julian Knight and Kevin Brennan for securing this important debate today. It is good to see so many Members here to talk about this subject. I will be brief and concentrate my remarks on two areas: first, the creative industries; and, secondly, broadband, which seems to have been forgotten in this debate until now.

First, on the creative industries, I wish to talk about the supply chains, but, before I do so, I will just mention Theatr Hafren. What I say is: never mind the west end, because in mid Wales, Theatr Hafren is where it’s at. This fantastic theatre is linked to Newtown College, which is causing it problems in accessing funding through the Arts Council of Wales, the Welsh Government and other Government agencies, because they are saying that it could lean on the college. Well, our colleges are also under financial strain and, of course, they should focus on their core mission of education. I ask the Minister to work with the Welsh Government and find out whether there are any vehicles or avenues to support the theatres that are linked to colleges, or, indeed, to schools. These are the least subsidised theatres in Wales, and they are the ones that have been delivering during these tough financial times and the ones that I would argue need the most support.

Let me turn now to the supply chains in the creative industry. Mid Wales Music Centre, which is the largest music retailer in Wales, is run by Phil and Bobbie Barnwell. It is a brilliant shop, with a huge reach. It has been operating for 33 years, but it is now restructuring to try to get the family business to survive. It has stepped up and provided equipment to music tutors to help them through tough times. It is incumbent on the UK Government, the Welsh Government and other agencies now to support it.

Given that I have just one minute left, I will touch very briefly on broadband. If there is one thing that this crisis has brought out, it is the need for a decent broadband connection. Representing a constituency that covers 840 square miles, I can say that broadband is incredibly important to many of the businesses and residents. I welcome the universal service obligation and I welcome what the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the UK Government and other partners are doing in this regard, but as we come out of covid, we must not forget the lesson that we have learned about how much we need those internet connections. Some 12.5% of my constituency qualifies for USO, which means that 12.5% of my constituency currently get less than 10 megabits. That is not a stable connection and my constituents, like others, have struggled.

In conclusion, we must support the rural economy. Our creative talent and supply chains mean as much there as they do in the west end. Can we carry on rolling out that USO and get some decent broadband?