Oral Answers to Questions Debate

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Department: Attorney General

Oral Answers to Questions

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Thursday 3rd October 2019

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Attorney General
Sir Vince Cable (Twickenham) (LD) Hansard

1. What recent steps she has taken to support the tourism sector. [912533]

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nicky Morgan) - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:34 a.m.

Thank you for calling me to respond, Mr Speaker, and I hope that your voice is fully recovered very soon. The UK tourism industry is of vital importance to the UK, with 38 million visitors from overseas in 2018 spending £22.9 billion. A total of 1.6 million jobs are supported by the sector, and the Government are working closely with the industry on delivering both the tourism sector deal and the international business events action plan.

Sir Vince Cable Hansard

Since the expansion of the tourist industry has undoubted economic benefits but also significant local costs, will the Minister accede to the request of local authorities of different political persuasions for the right to impose a small levy on overnight stays to defray some of those costs?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:35 a.m.

It is important to have a sensible conversation on this subject, and the Government are always keen to hear the views of all stakeholders. As the right hon. Gentleman implies, tourism brings great benefits to local areas but there are undoubtedly some costs and strains on the local economy. If he wishes to write to me with any further proposals, we are always interested to hear them.

Tim Loughton (East Worthing and Shoreham) (Con) - Hansard

I have Strepsils, Mr Speaker.

Our most popular tourist attractions are our national museums, led by the British Museum with more than 6 million visitors last year, but we also have some hidden treasures in our regional and local museums that have been squeezed dreadfully by the issues with local government funding. What plans does the Secretary of State have to help investment in that important part of our cultural heritage, which helps to educate future generations, boost regional identities and diversify tourist interest away from the capital?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:36 a.m.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that our local museums play a really important part in our local heritage and culture. I am thrilled to be heading up this Department, and I hope very much that we will be able to find the funding. I will be having conversations with the Treasury to ensure that we are investing in places, and in the feeling of place, right up and down the country, and I know that he will want to be involved in that process locally.

Tim Farron Portrait Tim Farron (Westmorland and Lonsdale) (LD) - Hansard

Is the Secretary of State aware that the Government’s plan to put a £30,000 salary floor on migrants entering the UK will massively damage the tourism industry in the Lake District and the Yorkshire dales, leaving many unable to fill vital positions? Representatives of the tourism industry and I have spoken to Ministers past and present about the need to massively lower that figure. Will she listen?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:37 a.m.

I hope the hon. Gentleman will know that I am a Minister who always listens. He represents a beautiful part of the world in the Lake District, whose benefits I have been delighted to enjoy on many visits. I am very aware of this issue, which is obviously under active consideration. One point is that post 1 November, the UK will be able to set its own immigration policy that is right for this country. We are aware that the tourism sector is reliant on domestic talent, but also on recruiting from overseas.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:37 a.m.

Kettering may not be the first place people think of when it comes to tourism, but they would be wrong, because located in the beating heart of the east midlands, right in the middle of the town, is Wicksteed Park. It was the first ever leisure park in the UK devoted to children’s play, and it attracts 800,000 visitors a year. It is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and it will be celebrating its centenary in 2021. Will the Secretary of State ensure that Wicksteed Park is at the forefront of her mind whenever she considers tourism?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:38 a.m.

As my hon. Friend knows, Kettering is very much in my heart because I go through it at least twice a week on the East Midlands Trains service to and from my constituency. I am delighted to hear that Wicksteed Park is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. This goes to the heart of the fact that there are some real treasures up and down the country. This is about the importance of place and ensuring that we invest in it.

Gavin Newlands Portrait Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP) - Hansard

2. What recent steps she has taken to tackle fake news and disinformation online. [912535]

Break in Debate

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab) - Hansard

3. What assessment she has made of the adequacy of the rules for the governance of football. [912536]

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nicky Morgan) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:38 a.m.

It is the responsibility of the football authorities to govern the sport and provide assurances to fans that proper protections are in place. We welcome the EFL’s financial and sustainability review, and stand ready to support and feed into it as appropriate.

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith - Hansard

Football clubs are not just economic, or even sporting, entities: they are, as we have seen in the sad case of Bury, often the heart of their communities and of key significance in the lives of individual fans, without whom they are nothing. So would the Minister support legislating to give fans a right to be represented in boardrooms, to gain more influence over their clubs?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:43 a.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman very much indeed for his question. I should have said that my hon. Friend the Minister for Sport, Media and Creative Industries is sorry not to be here; he has given apologies, I think, both to your office, Mr Speaker, and to Opposition Front Benchers. He is overseas on departmental business.

I entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman about the importance of local football clubs and their place in the community, and the importance of bringing people together. We are obviously open to dialogue and we know how strongly fans feel about their investment in their clubs. We want to see how the EFL review goes and whether in fact there are wider questions to be asked too.

Gareth Thomas Portrait Gareth Thomas (Harrow West) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:44 a.m.

Further to the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Jeff Smith), the Premier League clubs and the Football Association have been resisting the idea of a supporter being elected to the board of football clubs for a very long time. Why should the EFL review be any different?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:45 a.m.

We have seen what happened to Bury and very nearly happened to Bolton over the summer, and we know how strongly people feel about this. We need to let that EFL review happen, but it might be that there are some wider questions that we should be asking too.

Vicky Ford Portrait Vicky Ford (Chelmsford) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

4. What recent steps her Department has taken to tackle online abuse. [912537]

Break in Debate

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

10. If she will make it her policy to maintain free TV licences for people over the age of 75. [912545]

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nicky Morgan) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:50 a.m.

The Government are very disappointed with the BBC’s decision on the future of the TV licence concession. We know that older people in particular value television as a source of companionship and entertainment, and as a way to stay connected with the world. I have met the chairman of the BBC board and the director-general of the BBC, and I have asked them to do more to help those affected by the decision.

Rachael Maskell Portrait Rachael Maskell - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:50 a.m.

Promises matter, and people who are elderly, lonely and housebound are not interested in squabbling in this place or in excuses—they want that promise honoured and their free TV licence. So will the Secretary of State say why she made a promise at the election, why she is letting down older people across the country and what she is going to do about it?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:51 a.m.

Of course this is not a promise that I made, because I took this job only in July, but the hon. Lady is right to say that there was a commitment. There was also an agreement with the BBC in the 2015 funding settlement; we committed to increase the licence fee in line with inflation and close the iPlayer loophole. She is right to say that the people are not interested in squabbling in this place, be it about TV licences or anything else. If older people are entitled to pension credit, they will get the help they need. The BBC will also be working to ensure that others are aware of that entitlement and the other support that is available.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:52 a.m.

We are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic, and for many older people television is their main source of company. For those who are housebound or live on their own, it is a window to the wider world. There are 5,170 households in my constituency who look set to lose their free TV licences, which they were promised by the Government at the last election. Does the Minister agree that you cannot means test for social isolation?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard

As the hon. Lady also knows, we are the first Government in the world to appoint a Minister to lead work on tackling loneliness, and last year we published the world’s first Government strategy on loneliness and secured £20 million of new grant funding for projects run by charities and community groups to bring people together. We know that there are people who are not claiming the pension credit who would be entitled and would fall into the categories she has mentioned. I hope that she, like me, as a local MP, will work with all local agencies to make sure that everyone who is entitled to that support gets it.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day (Linlithgow and East Falkirk) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard

6. What recent steps she has taken to tackle incidences of media (a) intrusion and (b) violations of privacy. [912541]

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nicky Morgan) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:53 a.m.

The Government firmly believe in press freedom. Clearly, that freedom comes with a responsibility to ensure that it is not abused. It is not unreasonable to expect the press to act with understanding in relation to sensitive personal stories. It is not for Government to arbitrate, but it is important that we have systems in place so that individuals can take complaints to independent bodies to be assessed.

Martyn Day Portrait Martyn Day - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:53 a.m.

Last month saw yet another example of a high-profile sports figure having to deal with tabloid newspapers publishing deeply personal and distressing information about his family’s private lifer. Leveson was supposed to change the way such publications operated. Does the Secretary of State agree that incidents such as that seem to suggest that it is just business as usual, with sales and profit being put before individuals’ rights to privacy?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. All of us have complete empathy with the strong feelings of both Ben Stokes—I believe that is the story the hon. Gentleman is referring to—and Gareth Thomas, who experienced a similar invasion of privacy in the same week. Decisions on whether the press’s actions in those cases were in breach of its agreed standards should be made by the independent regulatory bodies. The press said it wanted to be self-regulated. I wait to see in these particular examples, if complaints are made, how that self-regulation works.

Alex Norris Portrait Alex Norris (Nottingham North) (Lab/Co-op) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:53 a.m.

In March last year, the current Secretary of State for Health and Social Care stood at that Dispatch Box and axed the second part of the Leveson inquiry because he said that the culture in the media had changed. When we look at what has happened to the Duchess of Sussex, Gareth Thomas and Ben Stokes, we see that the culture of invasion of privacy has not changed. The Secretary of State says it is not for the Government to arbitrate such matters, so will she now resurrect the independent inquiry and let us properly move this forward?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:54 a.m.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question, but I do not agree. The media landscape has changed significantly in the six years since the Leveson inquiry report was published. We believe that the steps we have taken mean that to continue with part 2 of Leveson is no longer appropriate, proportionate or in the public interest.

Hannah Bardell Portrait Hannah Bardell (Livingston) (SNP) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:55 a.m.

The family of my Livingston constituent Kirsty Maxwell have faced the unimaginable tragedy of losing her in suspicious circumstances in Benidorm in 2017, when she fell to her death from a balcony. To compound that horror, they have since had to face repeated violations of their privacy and intrusion from some journalists and media outlets. Does the Secretary of State agree that we have a duty of care to our citizens, especially those who have been traumatised and faced a loss of such magnitude, to protect their privacy and the memory of their loved ones? Will she meet me to discuss this and the recommendations that will be in my upcoming report on deaths abroad and support for families when they face media intrusion?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 9:55 a.m.

I would of course be happy to meet the hon. Lady to discuss this issue. I am very sorry for everything that has happened to Kirsty’s family and friends after that unimaginable tragedy. I hope that at our meeting we can discuss whether in fact complaints have been made and how the system of self-regulation has worked in that case.

Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con) - Hansard

7. What assessment she has made of the effectiveness of heritage-led regeneration projects. [912542]

Break in Debate

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. [912550]

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nicky Morgan) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:02 a.m.

As I said earlier, this is my first oral questions since I was appointed, and I am thrilled to be holding this role and working to make the country better connected and more creative.

This week, the Government announced £5 billion further to support the roll-out of gigabit connectivity, delivering greater connectivity to those who need it. Hon. Members will be aware of our ongoing work to keep people safe online and our proposals around age verification for online pornography. I wish to notify the House that the standstill period under the EU’s technical services and regulations directive expired at midnight last night. I understand the interest in this issue that exists in all parts of the House, and I will update the House on next steps in due course.

Finally, I am sure that the whole House will want to congratulate Dina Asher-Smith, who won a 200 metres gold medal at the World Athletics Championships. She is the first British woman to win a major global sprint title and the first Brit to win a world or an Olympic sprint title since 1993.

Daniel Zeichner Portrait Daniel Zeichner - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:03 a.m.

The Government have been taking out full-page newspaper adverts, including in the Cambridge News, to warn businesses of the issues ahead. On data issues, they have been inviting businesses to take out standard contractual clauses. One business in my constituency tells me that they will have to take out 72,000 such clauses, so will the Secretary of State tell us how many clauses will have to be negotiated for the entire economy and how many are actually in place?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:04 a.m.

The hon Gentleman is right that, if we are not able to reach a deal with the European Union, one of the ways—the recommended way—to handle the transfer of personal data is to insert standard contractual clauses in relevant contracts, and the Information Commissioner’s Office has full details. We have tried to make that as easy as possible. Inevitably, many private businesses are, of course, reliant on, or focusing on, running their business, but I refer really to what my ministerial colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham and Mid Kent (Helen Whately), said earlier on: if we want to avoid any of these problems, the best way is to have a deal and for Members to vote for that deal when, hopefully, it is presented to them.

Sir Henry Bellingham (North West Norfolk) (Con) Parliament Live - Hansard

Can the Secretary of State confirm that the Prime Minister’s very welcome announcement yesterday about broadband access and mobile phone connectivity really will have a transformational impact on rural areas such as North West Norfolk. Can she also confirm that it is actually new money?

Break in Debate

Sir Henry Bellingham Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:04 a.m.

I would rather the Secretary of State answer my question actually, if the Minister does not mind.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:05 a.m.

Yes, it is new money, but it is also very much intended to ensure that our rural areas do not lose out in the search for greater connectivity. My hon. Friend will know from his constituency work just how important it is that businesses and households in his constituency are fully connected to the internet and how important that is for driving up productivity in our economy.

Cat Smith Portrait Cat Smith (Lancaster and Fleetwood) (Lab) - Hansard

Given that spending on youth work has fallen by £880 million since 2010, I was very interested in the Government’s announcement this week, but note that it is just £50 million a year in revenue for the sector. Given that at least 760 youth centres have closed their doors and 14,500 youth and community workers have lost their jobs since 2010, does the Secretary of State think that the announcement of just 60 new youth centres really cuts it?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Hansard

I do find it extraordinary that there is no welcome—only criticism—from the Opposition Front Bench for this £500 million youth investment fund to be spent in myriad different ways. Actually, the sector has shown itself to be very strong and resilient. Of course, it is typical of the Labour party to focus on buildings and facilities, not on what is going in or on the support offered to young people.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard
3 Oct 2019, 10:06 a.m.

Further to that answer from my right hon. Friend, let me say that the £500 million youth investment fund is warmly welcomed across the country. What steps will she take to ensure that young people can participate in sport, drama and music as a result of the fund?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I can give him that reassurance. Access to art, drama, sport, and other creative and cultural activities is an absolute right and entitlement for young people. I am delighted and excited to find that this Department is responsible for youth policy outside of school hours. I hope that my hon. Friend will encourage organisations in his constituency to put in bids for this funding when details are announced.

David  Hanson  (Delyn)  (Lab) Parliament Live - Hansard

T2.   On the question of online abuse, what steps are the Government taking with regard to those who pour out bile while hiding behind anonymous accounts, so that these people can be held to account for their comments? [912551]

Break in Debate

Robert Courts Portrait Robert Courts (Witney) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

It has been another brilliant year for National Citizen Service schemes in Witney, through which young people learn vital life skills and have great fun at the same time. Will the Minister please confirm that the scheme continues, and will continue, to have the Government’s full support?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am happy to provide that commitment. We think the National Citizen Service is a fantastic scheme. I think it is the fastest growing youth activity scheme in the country. My hon. Friend has obviously enjoyed his visits to see it; I very much enjoyed my visits to NCS in Loughborough.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T6. Yesterday, the Premier League announced a new chief executive, who will face the same old problems: lack of financial transparency, lack of fan engagement and disreputable ownership. The Secretary of State talked about the English Football League review, but she cannot leave our premier sporting and economic asset in the hands of the vested interests of self-regulation. Will she urgently meet fans to ensure that whatever the results on the pitch—as a Newcastle United fan, I know that they can be up and down —fans are the winners off the pitch when it comes to the financial regulation of football? [912555]

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard

The hon. Lady is right to say that being a fan of a football club is quite an emotional experience; it can be a bit of a rollercoaster. I think that we ought to see how the new appointee decides to embrace the role, but of course I and the Minister with responsibility for sport are always very happy to meet organisations.

Damian Hinds Portrait Damian Hinds (East Hampshire) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

Gigabit fast would be fantastic, but a bit fast would be great for many East Hampshire homes and businesses. What comfort can my hon. Friend give to not just the hardest-to-reach 20% and 10%, but the hardest-to-reach 5% and 3%?

Break in Debate

Jeff Smith Portrait Jeff Smith (Manchester, Withington) (Lab) - Parliament Live - Hansard

T7. Age UK has warned that the changes to eligibility for a free TV licence are likely to result in a big increase in fraudulent activity targeting vulnerable elderly people. Is that not yet one more reason why the Government should stop outsourcing their social policy and commit to keeping TV licences free for all over-75s? [912556]

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard

The BBC has provided assurances that it will deliver the most sensitive possible handling for those who are affected and will work with older people’s groups, charities and voluntary organisations to design a bespoke system to support all those over 75 that will include new easy payment plans and an information and advice programme. We want everyone who is eligible for pension credit to make sure that they claim it, so that they get the benefit of the free TV licence.

Mr Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con) - Parliament Live - Hansard

I declare my interest as a member of Kettering Borough Council. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the council on its decision to match-fund its successful £2 million bid for a heritage action zone in Kettering town centre with a further £2 million, and does she agree that that £4 million proactive investment in the local high street must be good news for the local economy?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am delighted to congratulate Kettering Borough Council on its match funding. It shows that Government investment will often unlock other funding, whether from the private sector, the local authority or others, to make sure that our high streets are the thriving places that we all want them to be.

The Attorney General was asked—