Digital, Culture, Media and Sport: Support Measures

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:31 pm on 8th October 2020.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jonathan Gullis Jonathan Gullis Conservative, Stoke-on-Trent North 4:31 pm, 8th October 2020

My right hon. and hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench will be delighted to see my mug before them once again, because they regularly hear from me on sports, culture, Chatterley Whitfield and “silicon Stoke”. I start by praising the Government’s £1.57 billion investment into our culture and arts sector, which is unprecedented in these unprecedented times. They deserve full credit for how they have engaged with Members on a regular basis. I thank them on behalf of Middleport Pottery and Ford Green Hall, which received money from the Heritage Lottery Fund to ensure that those vital community tourist destinations will continue and have some help in the dark winter months. As we enter spring and see a bright future ahead, the funds will go a long way.

I add my name to the long list of moaners when it comes to the fact that we cannot get people into football stadiums. Port Vale FC is a fine football club—I am proud to be a season ticket holder—and it had a plan in place to allow 4,000 fans to sit in its 22,000-seat stadium in a safe and secure way but, sadly, we have been unable to have that access. It is a football club in League Two that relies on extensive matchday revenue, and the sports Minister, my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston, has spoken with me about this issue at length. He has received a letter from me and the fantastic chair and co-owner Carol Shanahan, and I know that, privately, he would like to see fans back in the stadiums as soon as possible so that he does not have to hear us lot moaning about it from the Back Benches any further.

Turning to the future, because the motion refers to “after” covid, I want to talk about “silicon Stoke”, of which the Minister is all too aware. We received £9.2 million of DCMS funding to install 104 km of full-fibre gigabit-capable equipment. When I say “gigabit” I do not mean 100 megabits; I am talking about 1,000 megabits into and out of the home. That will revolutionise Stoke-on-Trent and put it at the heart of the tech revolution.

We want to build a full-fibre academy that will become Stoke-on-Trent’s digital version of the BRIT School and ensure we have a bright future. We want to build a health and social care service that can be delivered through a full-fibre network and to trial and pilot some of the really exciting technologies coming into the health sector. We want a digital enterprise zone, which will enable us to create a digital innovation hub. We want to be the heart of the video game industry, because Staffordshire University is the UK’s leader in digital and video game creation. The industry, which is worth more than £1 billion, is based in Dundee and Leamington Spa at the moment, but I want a big chunk of that business in Stoke-on-Trent for the future. I look forward to hearing the Minister support us in trying to become a full gigabit city.