The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to champion those small, local cultural establishments in our communities up and down the country that do so much to entertain us, but also to boost our wellbeing and our general sense of health. That is why, as part of the £1.57 billion culture recovery fund, the Barnett formula extended that funding to all the corners of our great nation. Indeed, the Northern Ireland Assembly saw £33 million, which of course it can choose to use how it wants to support all those wonderful cultural establishments that do so much for us.
Last week, the Prime Minister announced a very cautious but irreversible route out of lockdown, while also acknowledging that the threat from covid remains substantial. I recognise that, although this represents a turning point in the nation’s battle against coronavirus, many of our sectors will be impacted by continued restrictions and, of course, will be understandably frustrated at being unable to fully reopen just yet.
However, there is hope on the horizon through the events research programme announced in the road map, which will explore how larger events across the cultural and entertainment sectors can begin to reopen safely. I recognise, of course, that businesses are so keen to reopen as soon as possible, but, as the Prime Minister said, it is vital to take a measured and careful approach so that it is truly a one-way road out of this pandemic.
The success of the vaccination programme has offered us the protection to very tentatively start removing the restrictions. There will be five-week intervals between each of the four steps, to enable the scientific data to be evaluated and to ensure that the next step is truly safe before we take it.
Under the road map, outdoor sport and leisure facilities will be able to reopen at the second part of step 1, no earlier than
Step 3, no earlier than