Baroness Morgan of Cotes debates with Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

There have been 11 exchanges between Baroness Morgan of Cotes and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

Mon 29th June 2020 Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,165 words)
Tue 19th May 2020 Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (1,522 words)
Thu 30th April 2020 Charitable and Voluntary Sector (Lords Chamber) 3 interactions (375 words)
Thu 6th February 2020 Cairncross Review (Lords Chamber) 2 interactions (1,923 words)
Tue 28th January 2020 UK Telecommunications (Lords Chamber) 28 interactions (4,126 words)
Mon 27th January 2020 Huawei: UK’s 5G Network (Lords Chamber) 13 interactions (1,110 words)
Thu 23rd January 2020 Digital Inclusion (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (638 words)
Thu 23rd January 2020 Sport and Recreational Facilities (Lords Chamber) 12 interactions (595 words)
Thu 23rd January 2020 TV Licence Fee Enforcement (Lords Chamber) 10 interactions (552 words)
Thu 13th December 2018 Oral Answers to Questions 3 interactions (55 words)
Tue 20th February 2018 UK Basketball (Westminster Hall) 3 interactions (72 words)

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill

(Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords)
Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Monday 29th June 2020

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes (Con) [V] - Hansard

My Lords, I thank your Lordships for the opportunity to speak in this important part of the debate. I agree with much of what the previous four speakers have said with great power and conviction, although I reach a different conclusion from theirs on this amendment.

This House and the other House are signalling to the Government that both this issue and broader ones—such as the UK’s relationship with China in the light of recent events, security considerations, telecoms considerations and the involvement of Chinese companies in the UK—need serious review by the Government. I would argue that that review is best led in a calm and sober way by the Foreign Office and senior Ministers, with them not necessarily spending too much time on it. It is impossible to do that important review justice in the context of this Bill; I hope to set out why that is the case in the few moments that are available to me.

In Committee, I said that the noble Lord, Lord Alton, raised an important issue. He has spoken about setting a human rights threshold; he is right to do so and to remind us that, in terms of our international relationships—including investment by foreign companies in the UK’s infrastructure—it is right to think about sustainable investment, as the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, just talked about, and that that has to include human rights considerations.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, is also right to talk about transparent supply chains. There is no reason why the digital supply chain or the telecoms supply chain, which we are talking about today, should be different from other supply chains. That means that they should be considered as a whole, rather than sector by sector. The UK has led the way on modern slavery, particularly under the previous Prime Minister. Many people in both Houses, including the noble Lord, Lord Alton, have quite rightly campaigned on it for many years. Again, the UK should consider this area soberly and as a whole.

The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, talked about data capture and mentioned one particular company, which I will come back to. There is a lot of concern about the data that is captured from everybody’s mobile infrastructure, computers and networks by big tech companies. Again, that is another area of debate that it would serve us all well to consider as a whole.

This is a particularly short and focused Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others rightly anticipated the arguments that would be made about why this is neither the right time nor the right place for this amendment. Just because that has been anticipated does not mean that the arguments that I suspect the Minister will put in her response are not the correct ones. The Bill is about helping around 10 million people living in flats and apartments to have the right to ask their landlords to help them get better internet connectivity. In recent weeks, we have seen just how important better connectivity is and how things will continue like that. More people will work from home and more young people will probably end up doing more online schooling from home in the years to come. Obviously, we do not know for how long Virtual Proceedings or remote voting will continue in this House, but we need resilient and stable broadband connectivity to be able to participate. Those 10 million people are entitled to ask for that to be applied to them too.

The Bill was originally drafted to remove a specific barrier: that of landlords not engaging with telecoms operators. Other pieces of legislation will remove other specific barriers as well. The amendment talks about operators but, as noble Lords have talked about, the concerns that are outlined stem from one particular company and one particular country, neither of which is a telecoms operator. What is happening is that operators in the UK are seeking to use some Huawei equipment for 4G and 5G capability.

As the noble Lord, Lord Alton, said, the phrase “human rights” is extremely broad. Anybody who has ever dealt with the local planning process will know that, at some point, somebody comes along and says, “I’m going to object to this on the grounds of my human rights.” That is a very different set of human rights considerations from the human rights that, as noble Lords have set out, are being abused and where what is happening in China is seriously concerning.

As I said, this broad and important debate needs to happen but I would argue that making this amendment to the Bill will stop those who want to rely on better connectivity being able to do so. The noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, asked why those people could not perhaps have a short delay while other companies were found. The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, rightly pointed to other suppliers that may be able to replace Huawei in the buying of equipment. From looking at this very closely when I was the Digital Secretary, I can tell noble Lords that, while there is the possibility of other companies wanting to enter this market, none is yet in a position to do so. The Government have rightly committed to working with other suppliers to make sure that we are not in this position again in future, but it will take some time.

On delays, the amendment talks about these restrictions not coming in until 2023. So, some scope for delay was already built in and we are apparently saying that it is okay for operators to work with the companies under concern until 2023, but that cannot be right if the concerns outlined by noble Lords are absolutely valid and urgent, as they have suggested.

As I say, this debate is obviously about one company and one country. The concerns are all perfectly valid but they would be better placed in a broader debate. To those who have talked about our dependency on Huawei growing, I say this: that is absolutely not what the UK Government have committed to. The Government have made it very clear that dependency on Huawei is to be reduced. I absolutely understand this and think that we should push the Government to make sure that that commitment is followed up on; we should also see what the glide path down to zero involvement by Huawei is and how quickly that is going to be achieved.

As I say, our relationship with China needs a proper broader debate; this is a short and focused Bill that does not need any more barriers put in its way, when it is designed to remove a barrier in order to enable millions more people to have a chance to have better, faster broadband. I hope that discussions can continue between the proposers of the amendment and the Government. There may well be an opportunity to revisit this amendment, and certainly the broader debate, in future. However, if this amendment is put to a vote tonight, I will not support it.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay - Hansard

My Lords, I am conscious that we have had nearly an hour’s debate already on this and have a large number of noble Lords who wish to speak to this amendment. I appreciate that one of the difficulties of our current arrangements is that noble Lords might feel they have to make speeches of considerable length to pre-empt what my noble friend the Minister might say. The Companion allows a Minister to speak early if it might assist the House so, with the leave of the House, I suggest that she makes her speech at this point, to cover points that noble Lords might be anticipating.

Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill

(Committee: 1st sitting (Hansard): House of Lords)
Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(2 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, and I am extremely happy to be able to support Amendments 9 and 14, standing in the name of my good friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, and so ably moved by her this afternoon.

In tackling risks posed by high-risk vendors, she opens an extraordinarily important debate. Amendment 9 imposes a deadline on operators, and Amendment 14 puts in place a mechanism to ensure their removal should it be shown that they pose a national security concern. To pick up on a point the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, just made, I am delighted that the clerks have ruled the amendments to be within scope, and I hope that it will be possible, as I shall suggest in my later remarks, for us to build on them further on Report. However, in addition to supporting the amendments in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, I too am grateful to the Government for facilitating Second Reading speeches this afternoon.

These proceedings take me back to 1981, when in the House of Commons I served on the Standing Committee which considered the British Telecommunications Act 1981. It was a steep learning curve for me. Plessey was based in my Liverpool constituency, and it was inspiring to see British technology and companies at the very cutting edge. It is lamentable to see how far we have fallen back in manufacturing capacity. If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is surely that we must become more resilient and less dependent in our supply chains, especially when so many authoritarian countries mock our liberal values. Even worse, it cannot be in the United Kingdom’s interests to have become so dependent on authoritarian regimes for the manufacture of technology which can be utilised by them for anti-democratic purposes, to undermine free societies, human rights and the rule of law.

That is why I hope to build on these two admirable amendments when we come to Report. I am grateful to have received through correspondence over the weekend the support of the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, and the noble Lords, Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Adonis.

We should all do more to ensure that high-risk vendors credibly accused of egregious abuses of human rights, such as complicity in the modern slavery of Turkic Muslims in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, will be excluded from being beneficiaries of the provisions of this legislation. In this context, I should mention that I am a vice-chairman of the APPG on Uighurs and human rights in Xinjiang and that, on 15 occasions since 2018, I have raised in your Lordships’ House the plight of the Uighurs: their incarceration, forced re-education and use as slave labour in various ways.

In January, in relation to Huawei and 5G, I asked the Government

“what assessment they have made in relation to their decision to award contracts to Huawei and other companies of the implications of the government of China’s National Intelligence Law requiring Chinese organisations and citizens to support, assist and cooperate with the state intelligence work.”

I also asked the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, and the Government about

“Huawei’s compliance with the Modern Slavery Act”

and

“what consideration they have given to such compliance in regard to their decision to award contracts to Huawei”.

She replied:

“The UK Government expressed its concerns about China’s systematic human rights violations in Xinjiang, including credible and growing reports of forced labour, during the recent UN Human Rights Council.”

That deftly dodged my question and the issue of what we are going to do about the use of slave labour in our supply chains. Profiteering on the broken backs of enslaved Uighurs is either a criminal offence under British law or it is not. Either it is a nice slogan and good public relations or we take it deadly seriously and refuse to profit from it.

Be in no doubt about what we know. As long ago as December 2018, I pointed to reports that

“suggest that up to 1 million Uighurs have been incarcerated without trial in a network of sinister re-education camps: these are bristling with barbed wire and watchtowers, with torture and brainwashing that demands renouncing god and embracing Communism.”—[Official Report, 19/12/18; col. 1804.]

The Government do not disagree with these descriptions.

On 18 March 2020, I asked the noble Lord, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, about the use of Uighur forced labour and what assessment the Government had made

“of reports that the government of China transferred Uighurs from detention centres to work in factories where products are produced for global brands; and what plans they have to take action against such companies under the provisions of the Modern Slavery Act 2015.”

He replied:

“Recent reports indicating that Uyghurs are being used as a source of forced labour add to the growing body of evidence about the disturbing situation that Uyghurs and other minorities are facing in Xinjiang. Section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015 requires companies operating in the UK with a turnover of £36m or more to publish annual statements setting out what steps they have taken to prevent modern slavery in their organisation and supply chains. The Home Office keeps compliance under active review.”

In a Westminster Hall debate on 11 March, Nigel Adams, the Minister for Asia, said:

“We have also seen credible evidence to suggest that Uighurs are being used as a source of forced labour in Xinjiang and across China, and that if individuals refuse to participate, they and their families are threatened with extra-judicial detention.”

He went on to say:

“Our intelligence is that families are also obliged to host Chinese officials in their homes for extended periods, to demonstrate their loyalty to the Communist party. On the streets, Uighurs and other minorities are continuously watched by police, supported by extensive use of facial recognition technology and restrictions on movement.”—[Official Report, Commons, 11/3/20; cols. 149-50WH.]

That was the Government, but in a report entitled Uyghurs for sale, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute outlined how Uighurs and other ethnic Muslim minorities are uprooted, wrenched from their villages, separated from their loved ones, and coercively transported under guard, across China, to work in factories. That report estimates that, between 2017 and 2019, around 80,000 Uighurs were transferred from detention centres in Xinjiang to factories throughout China. Far from their homes, devoid of family contact, incarcerated in segregated dormitories and subjected to propaganda and systematic attempts to destroy their culture, religion and identity, the labourers are kept under 24-hour surveillance. The report examines the direct and indirect supply chains of 83 leading global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, such as Apple, BMW, Huawei, Nike and others.

Are these companies directly complicit? One of the Australian institute’s researchers, Vicky Xu, says that the idea that Huawei is not working directly with local governments in Xinjiang is “just straight-up nonsense”. The 2018 announcement of one Huawei public security project in Xinjiang—as posted on a Chinese government website in Urumqi—quoted a Huawei director as saying:

“Together with the Public Security Bureau, Huawei will unlock a new era of smart policing and help build a safer, smarter society.”

This is not speculation, or evidence extrapolated from big data. This is straight from the horse’s mouth. We all know that safer, smarter policing is a euphemism that would make George Orwell roll in his grave. Huawei is making huge profits from Xinjiang’s unique techno-totalitarianism.

In December, our Government were alerted to the Australian report in a joint letter from parliamentarians from across both Houses, but again they sidestepped the issue. Their reply to us ignored the need for the Government to conduct the same human rights due diligence that they now demand of corporations. Where is that due diligence in the Bill? The more dependent we become on firms whose ties with the Chinese state extend as far as the construction of Xinjiang’s surveillance technology, the harder it will become to take a credible stance. The deeper our dependency becomes, the harder it is to stand up for our values. Huawei’s activities in Xinjiang should alert us to its true allegiances and values: its willingness to create mass surveillance technology and its devotion to, and dependency on, the Chinese Communist Party.

The most striking thing in the Government’s Statement to Parliament in January was the repeated admission of the risks involved, but where is that reflected in the Bill? And why take risks when alternatives are available? In January, like the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, I asked the Government to consider whether, in former times, the United Kingdom would have been willing to put its technology into the hands of the Kremlin, knowing what crimes were being committed in the gulags of Siberia, as in The Gulag Archipelago. The human rights-focused Helsinki process helped to bring an end to the Cold War and liberated the people suffering under the yoke of communist ideology. Today we need Helsinki with Chinese characteristics. We do not need to betray our values.

To mark Holocaust Memorial Day this year, I read Corrie ten Boom’s memoir, The Hiding Place. After sheltering Jews from the Nazi regime, Ms ten Boom was sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. She describes her experience of doing forced labour for Siemens in the camps where her sister and many others died. The Holocaust saw state-sponsored mass enslavement on an appalling scale. Ironically, on the morning following Holocaust Memorial Day, the United Kingdom National Security Council committed to sign over up to 35% of our 5G infrastructure to Huawei, a company that the Government know actively partners with the Xinjiang Government to make the world’s most dystopian system of governance possible. Is what happened at Ravensbrück, or in The Gulag Archipelago, so very different from the plight of these 1 million Uighur Muslims, incarcerated and forced to work for nothing? It is surely our duty to ensure that legislation such as this does not further entrench what academics have described as the world’s worst incident of state-sanctioned slavery.

The United Kingdom Government have, admirably, expressed their ambition to lead the world in their anti-slavery commitment. When we come to Report, I hope that the Government will put flesh on the bones of that commitment and ensure that no deals are made with any company for which there are credible reports of slave labour. For now, I support the amendment standing in the noble Baroness’s name.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes (Con) - Hansard

I thank noble Lords for the opportunity to speak on this Bill. I will speak to Amendments 9 and 14, but, as I did not speak at Second Reading and before I get to Amendment 9, it is important to set out some context.

I am pleased to see that both Houses are now focusing on business other than the current virus crisis. We have already been reminded today that our democracy is dependent on fast and reliable broadband, and we have seen the struggles that some of us have had with that. Therefore, fast and reliable broadband connectivity has become a national utility and something that people should expect as a right.

It is right that we pay tribute to all those who have kept that national utility going in the past few weeks, as we rely more and more on wi-fi, broadband and mobile connectivity. Although the people who have kept such critical national services going are perhaps not often referred to as key workers, I think that they should be included as such. They have connected loved-ones in hospitals, often at the worst possible time in anyone’s life, and provided online access to education—the subject of a wider debate. They have enabled online appointments for doctors working from home, which is a working pattern that is likely to continue, and family harmony—if anything is to be taken from the example of how much time my 12 year-old spends on his Xbox.

Therefore, the Prime Minister and the Government were right to make a clear commitment to gigabit connectivity nationwide by 2025, and it is important that Ministers stick with that target. I know from my time as Culture Secretary just how personally committed the Prime Minister is to this. Having that target of 2025 should concentrate minds both within government and outside in terms of those responsible for the rollout. I hope that there will be no let-up in making sure that the target is achieved.

Having better connectivity across the country is part of the Government’s levelling-up agenda. It will also be part of necessary infrastructure spend, which will be very important in getting our economy moving after at least the first wave of the current crisis has passed and we can see how much work needs to be done to get our economy restarted.

This Bill is an important part of removing all barriers to faster broadband rollout. As we have heard, it is about accessing premises where leaseholders want better broadband. In a similar vein, I know that the department is working on removing other barriers to deployment. Another important step will be making sure that all new-build developments have broadband connectivity points installed right from the start so that people do not have to move into new homes or new business premises only to find that they cannot get better connectivity.

This is a short and focused Bill. That is why I argue today that Amendments 9 and 14, although very important—as we have heard, noble Lords feel very strongly about the issues under discussion—are not right for this Bill. I know that the Secretary of State made a commitment in the other place to bring forward a telecoms security Bill, but obviously he was speaking before the events of the last few weeks. The commitment was to bring forward such a Bill before the Summer Recess, although I think we all appreciate that the legislative timetable has been somewhat disrupted. However, we can see from the debates so far on these amendments that there is a real appetite both in this House and in the other place to have these discussions.

I have to say to the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, that the decision to allow high-risk vendors to play a limited role in our national connectivity was not an easy one, and it certainly was not rushed through. It stemmed from years of looking at this situation, particularly the telecoms supply chain review conducted by my predecessor in the culture department, but I do think it was the right decision. I will talk about the Statement that I made in the House in January—not in March, as I think she said.

We need faster, better and resilient broadband. That is why having a number of key suppliers at this time is important, so that the infrastructure can be relied upon. It is also right, as I said in the Statement to the House on 28 January, that diversification of the suppliers’ market is important. We must not, as a country, find ourselves in this position again when we have to make difficult decisions about high-risk vendors. I understand the noble Baroness’s amendment but, as I say, the Government’s approach and the decision made at the National Security Council are right, not easy. I therefore hope that we will return to this important subject at a future date on a future Bill. Putting a hard deadline of the end of 2022 on it, although again understandable, also risks the wrong decisions being made and potentially a less resilient broadband network being rolled out across the country. That really will help no one in the longer term.

A full technical and security analysis was undertaken by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre. Its view and advice were central to the conclusions of the telecoms supply chain review and the decisions taken off the back of that. Just as a reminder, the UK Government’s approach is obviously to have a new telecoms security regime, which we will discuss in that future Bill, to diversify the supply chain. Although subject to the current crisis, of course, work should begin to start on that. It is very important that we work with our allies around the world on that supply chain to ensure that it is more diverse. However, we will put ourselves on the back foot if we ignore any key suppliers at the moment.

The third condition was the most important: we have to be clear about what makes a vendor high risk and have clear rules and guidance on how we mitigate the many cyber risks to our telecoms networks. We know that cyber risks come from a variety of sources. As I mentioned in that Statement, the most recent cybersecurity risks have come from Russia, and the Russians play no part in our telecoms infrastructure at all.

I said in the House back in January that

“high-risk vendors should be excluded from all safety-related and safety-critical networks in critical national infrastructure; excluded from security-critical network functions; limited to a minority presence in other network functions up to a cap of 35%; and be subjected to tight restrictions, including exclusions from sensitive geographic locations.”

I noted what the noble Baroness said about the answer that I gave to her back in January. I will certainly check the 2013 report again, but I also ask her to check the words that I used about the most sensitive networks. It is clear, as I also said in the Statement, that

“nothing in the review affects this country’s ability to share highly sensitive intelligence data over highly secure networks, both within the UK and with our partners, including the Five Eyes. GCHQ has categorically confirmed that how we construct our 5G and full-fibre public telecoms networks has nothing to do with how we share classified data. The UK’s technical security experts have agreed that the new controls on high-risk vendors are completely consistent with the UK’s security needs.”—[Official Report, 28/1/20; col. 1340.]

Given the current crisis, there will be time for a full-scale evaluation of the relationship between the UK and China. I should make it clear that companies such as Huawei could help their cause if they encouraged the Chinese Government to participate fully in any global inquiries, particularly into how the current coronavirus crisis was started.

We also need to be clear about the motivations of some who are objecting to the use of high-risk vendors and want to set dates. As we have heard in this debate but also in the other place, there are many different motivations. The noble Lord, Lord Alton, has just set out a very powerful case in relation to human rights, and I hope that will be part of a future debate. There are of course issues of security and intelligence sharing, but there are also those who use this particular concern and debate to advance other geopolitical strategies: namely, the successful conclusion of a UK-US trade agreement. The US has strong feelings about Huawei’s involvement, as we have seen in recent developments. We need to be very clear, and the Government were very clear in January, that we were making a decision about the involvement of high-risk vendors on the basis of what was right for the UK.

I hope that the House will not want to see this amendment in the Bill, but it is clear that we must return to this issue in the Bill. It is right that we hold the Government to account over the diversification strategy so that, as I say, that we are not in this position in any further future telecom supply chain decisions that we might have to make.

Lord Clement-Jones Portrait Lord Clement-Jones - Hansard

My Lords, we have heard some passionate speeches today, but, truth be told, this infrastructure Bill is about much more mundane matters. It is all about rights for operators getting access to install fibre broadband in order to achieve faster broadband rollout, not vendors or their equipment, or indeed high-risk vendors or their equipment, so we on these Benches do not believe that this is the appropriate time or place to discuss these amendments. Quite apart from that, the amendment deals with 5G infrastructure content and leads to our strong view that this debate is not appropriate now but will be when the telecom security Bill comes forward.

I do not say this very often, but I agree with the Government’s view on this, as expressed by the letter of the noble Baroness, Lady Barran. That will be the right peg for the noble Baroness’s amendments, and we should debate the substance then. For that reason, I am not going to engage with the substance of many of the statements made by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, in moving these amendments or indeed those of the noble Lord, Lord Alton.

The background is that, despite earlier speculation, as the noble Baroness, Lady Morgan, said, after some considerable consideration the Government made their Statement in January 2020 and said that Huawei would continue to play a limited role in delivering the 5G rollout. As she said, that decision took into account analysis and insight from several security bodies and experts in the UK, including GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre, and she explained the reasoning very clearly.

On these amendments specifically, there is of course a problem in the operators being given the right to install equipment from high-risk vendors now but ahead of a deadline set in future. Will that fibre have to be removed? What level of use by a telecoms operator and Huawei is sufficient—that its network supports connections from Huawei phones, or that it uses Huawei equipment in its 5G network but not in its fibre installation? What about a company that installs fibre under this legislation but then sells the infrastructure to another company? Why should operators be forced to develop plans to remove high-risk vendors on the advice of the NCSC when that advice is that the risk can be accepted up to a 35% network cap? Do companies now have to submit plans to reach 0% but without any expectation of that actually being implemented?

All this adds up to enormous uncertainty just at the point when we need the maximum rollout of fibre and 5G. That is why the Government are right in their approach—as I said, I do not say that very often—when they say that the issue of wayleads in the Bill should be kept separate from security considerations that will be covered by the telecoms security Bill.

For the information of the House, I do not underestimate the substantive arguments. I considered these matters very carefully myself some 10 years ago. I was a member of Huawei’s international advisory board, but I think that gives me a useful insight into these matters rather than any conflict in the current circumstances. I hope we can debate all these issues at a future date, but not in this Bill.

Charitable and Voluntary Sector

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Thursday 30th April 2020

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick Portrait Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Addington, for allowing us to engage in this important conversation together to seek answers. I declare my known interest as chancellor of Regent’s University London, which is a UK registered charity.

In the next academic year, all UK universities expect a major reduction in fee income from international students, both EU and non-EU. For Regent’s University in particular, as a registered charity, where 80% of our student population is international and comes from 140 different countries, this will obviously have a massive impact on our finances. It is a major blow to our positioning as an educational flag-carrier for Britain’s place in the world.

For the sector as a whole, even a 50% fall in international fee income, combined with the degree of deferral for home students, will result in the loss of over £3.1 billion of income in the next year. Some UK universities, as the Office for Students will know, have high levels of external borrowing and low levels of cash reserves. Regent’s is fairly typical in having about five to six months of liquidity. We know that all universities will be affected by the drop-off of international students, but those universities that have charitable status do not have the opportunity to act as commercial or public universities may do, with the same breadth. I have written to Ministers in the Department for Education on these matters and have not had the courtesy of a reply. Could the Minister inquire of Ministers in the department whether they might respond?

Universities may be able to take account of some of the Government’s coronavirus job retention schemes. However, the money that may be required to hold universities together, particularly international support universities, will be substantial and some kind of support programme for the next six months will be essential to preserve our vital university education sector.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, it is a pleasure to take part in this important debate. I know from my time in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport how important civil society is and how hard the Minister and her colleagues will have worked with Treasury Ministers to put together the support package for charities already announced, which is very welcome, and the other schemes referred to.

In the time available I want to raise three brief but, I hope, important points. First, we have received a lot of lobbying and briefing from the larger charities ahead of this debate. However, I think we all know that it is the tiny charities that make a real difference at the grass roots in this country, for which not a huge amount of money makes a tremendous difference. I draw attention to my registered interest as a director of the Loughborough Wellbeing Café Project, which supports people with mental health problems in this corner of the east Midlands in Leicestershire. It does an awful lot online at the moment because physical meetings are obviously no longer possible.

Secondly, as has been hinted at, there must be a way of making any application process for small charities, and for charities in general, as simple as possible. I draw the attention of the Minister and her officials to a letter that those of us speaking in this debate have received from Lloyds Bank Foundation, which asks a series of questions about access to the National Lottery Community Fund—about definitions and how it will work—and I hope that the Minister might provide some more answers and details on those questions to help charities access that important funding.

Finally, as we are worrying about a second wave with regard to health risks, we also know that there will be second-order economic consequences, including for charities. I therefore add my support for the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Sharkey, about the medical research charities. The package put in place at the moment is clearly designed to provide immediate crisis funding for our charities, but there are longer-term consequences, particularly for other, non-Covid-related conditions, where funding for medical research is critical. I hope the Government will provide funding to enable those important schemes to restart.

Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, on 27 March the Welsh Government announced an initial fund of £24 million to support Wales’s voluntary sector in response to the pandemic. The fund will support three distinct areas of activity: helping charities and third sector organisations financially through the crisis by providing direct financial support; helping more people volunteer; and helping volunteering services by supporting third sector organisations as well as strengthening essential third sector infrastructure, including the Volunteering Wales platform.

The primary issue for charities, however, is survival. After 10 years of austerity, they had already been cut to the very bone before this situation hit. Sickness levels of staff in charities have gone up, while organisations have seen an increased need for services, and calls for mediation and safeguarding are rising exponentially. Charities are also having to spend vast sums on PPE and sanitation products.

The charity Llamau works with young homeless people in Wales, and its chief executive, Frances Beecher, recently told me that her staff, who are working with vulnerable and already traumatised young homeless people struggling with lockdown, need all the expertise, resources and help to support them. The other big issue she raised was the lack of fundraising opportunities to bridge the gap between the income that charities receive and the cost of delivering services. It has been decimated: Llamau will lose over £600,000 this year.

Charities started as people were falling through the net of statutory support. The safety nets are now mainly with charities; it is where the knowledge and expertise are left. Many charities, especially regional and service delivery ones, will go to the wall. The fight to end youth homelessness or to combat domestic abuse will be stalled; the human cost will be huge. However, the financial costs will also be huge for statutory services, the criminal justice system and, indeed, mental health services. More support must be leveraged into the charity sector to prevent it being decimated. The Welsh Government have implemented measures, but they too need more funding. Can the Minister ensure that the UK Government also support charities and the voluntary sector with extra funding during these extraordinary times in which we live?

Cairncross Review

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Thursday 6th February 2020

(6 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord McNicol of West Kilbride Portrait Lord McNicol of West Kilbride (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, as we have heard, a fully functioning local media, is a valuable community resource. It is often a lifeline for many, keeping people informed on local matters and informing communities on how local, regional and national issues may affect their lives—even if it is a stolen pint of milk. With the rapid rise in social media, many people are beginning to rely solely on social media outlets as their main source of information. The noble Baroness, Lady Lane-Fox, focused on innovation. She is correct, but I do not see it as an either/or.

As Tom Watson outlined in a debate on this subject in the other place:

“We have lost 6,000 frontline reporter jobs since 2007; newspaper circulation rates have fallen by half; 350 local news titles have closed; and half of Britons are now worried about fake news.”—[Official Report, Commons, 12/2/19; col. 776.]

We need to ensure that local journalism is kept alive and, where possible, that local and regional media outlets have a sustainable future. We on these Benches therefore welcome the recommendations made in the Cairncross Review: to establish an institute for public interest news as well as direct funding for local public interest news. I will not repeat them but, to impress this on the Minister, I echo the questions asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, on this issue.

Another part of the Government’s response to the Cairncross Review was a plan of

“continuing to ensure a free and independent press in the UK and internationally”.

Is the Government’s recent decision to exclude certain journalists from No. 10 briefings really in this spirit, especially as that decision has been seen as undermining press freedoms? We need to ensure that local journalism is, where possible, protected and promoted. As I outlined beforehand, local media outlets are a vital community resource and I hope the Government will always have this issue at the forefront of their thinking as they follow through on the recommendations made in the Cairncross Review.

Before I sit down, I notice that the Minister is about to give her maiden speech to your Lordships’ House. Like all other noble Lords, I welcome her to this House and look forward to her contributions and interventions. I just hope that she has fewer hashtag-gate moments than she had in the other place—be that #handbaggate or #leathertrousersgate. I was tempted to wear my leather trousers to the debate today, but I was even more worried about the ire of our fantastic doorkeepers than what may come from the noble Baroness. I welcome her to this House.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Morgan of Cotes) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank your Lordships for this afternoon’s debate. I congratulate the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, on bringing this important issue before the House. Given how popular it has been and the expertise on all sides, I am sorry in many ways that this has been a short debate, but I am sure that we will return to these issues over the forthcoming months. I want to thank all those who have spoken. I have to fulfil the requirements of delivering my maiden speech as well as trying to do justice to some of the contributions made this afternoon. I will not get the image of the noble Lord, Lord McNicol, and his leather trousers out of my mind for some time.

First, I begin by formally thanking all noble Lords for their warm welcome since my introduction, particularly Black Rod and her staff, the doorkeepers and all the other staff, including the security and police officers who have, quite literally, pointed me in the right direction when it was clear that I had become rather lost in this red-carpeted end of the Palace. I would also like to thank my noble friends Lady Evans of Bowes Park, the Chief Whip, Lord O’Shaughnessy, Lady Chisholm of Owlpen and Lady Jenkin of Kennington, and my DCMS colleague and noble friend Lady Barran among many others for their advice and support in recent weeks. I must also thank my sponsors: my noble friend Lord Young of Cookham, who—in spite of the provocations from some of my former colleagues—was a fabulously calm and unflappable Chief Whip when I was a very junior Whip in the other place, and my noble friend Lady Verma, who has been a great ally in my adopted home of Leicester and Leicestershire and was a very talented Minister.

The last few years in UK politics have been both challenging and fascinating for reasons which are well rehearsed. I loved being a constituency Member of Parliament, but there came a time last year when my satisfaction from being in that role and my pride in being an MP and a Minister were outweighed by my dismay at the continuing parliamentary impasse and the constant online abuse and threats, and I concluded that a fresh start was needed for me, my family and my constituency. I had not envisaged that this fresh start might actually involve becoming a Member of this House quite so quickly, but it is an enormous privilege to be here. As my noble friend Lord Black mentioned, I shortly expect to succeed in my attempt to leave the Government and join colleagues on the Back Benches, where I hope I will have the chance to speak more freely about interests I have in character education, financial services—having served two years as chair of the Treasury Select Committee in the other place—the online harms agenda, digital and tech, and women and equalities issues, as well as having a greater presence in the Morgan home, which my family say that they want. I am not sure that I will necessarily leave behind a note, but I can assure my noble friend Lord Black that I shall certainly leave behind some handover instructions.

I turn to the subject of this debate. The Cairncross Review vividly outlined the threat to high-quality journalism in this country. As we have heard, there are now around 6,000 fewer journalists than there were roughly a decade ago. Print circulation of daily national papers fell from 11.5 million in 2008 to 5.8 million in 2018 and, in this same period, the circulation for local newspapers has also halved. The main driver is a rapid change in how we consume content. The majority of people now read news online, including 91% of 18 to 24 year-olds. As this shift takes place, publishers have faced significant challenges in creating sustainable online business models. This combination of market conditions threatens to undermine the future financial sustainability of journalism and should concern us all, as we have heard on all sides of this Chamber today. There has been universal agreement on the importance of local journalism in particular, but also high-quality public interest journalism from everyone.

What Dame Frances termed public interest journalism —investigative and democracy reporting—holds the powerful to account and is an essential component of our democracy. It helps us to shine a light on important issues—in communities, in courtrooms, in council chambers and in this Chamber—so its sustainability is very important to all of us, including the Government. Since the publication of the review, the Government have engaged widely on its findings and recommendations. Discussions have been held with representatives of the news industry, including: the News Media Association, the Society of Editors and the National Union of Journalists; a number of online platforms, including Google, Facebook and Twitter; the BBC; and the regulators, including the CMA, Ofcom, IPSO, the Charity Commission and many more. Last week, the Government published our initial response.

As has already been referred to, the Government support the majority of Dame Frances’s recommendations. In fact, we supported all the recommendations apart from one: the proposal to establish an institute for public interest news. Some noble Lords referred to this as the Government having rejected that recommendation—as ever, there is always something in the drafting—but I think the better way to look at it is that the Government have decided that it is not for the Government to take that recommendation forward. There may well be a very good argument for an institute for public interest news but, as ever with the media side of my brief, there is a decision to be taken about exactly what the Government’s role is in that. It may well be that there is another body or another way to take forward that particular recommendation.

The Government have already started to take forward some of the other interventions proposed in the review. We have worked with Nesta to deliver a £2 million pilot innovation fund, which launched in October. It seeks to invest in new technological prototypes, start-ups and innovative business models to explore new ways of sustaining the industry in this changing landscape. Last week, the Government also formally committed to extend the business rate discount for local newspapers until 2025, as part of their efforts to support local and regional journalism. The Chancellor will consider the case for a range of potential tax incentives to support the news publishing industry this year, including policy options on VAT, notwithstanding recent litigation in this area. I note those, including the noble Baroness opposite, who have appealed for VAT relief to be extended to all digital publications. Winning arguments about extending reliefs is challenging with the Treasury at the best of times, but I am sure that this will be an ongoing debate. In answer to my noble friend Lord Black, there will of course be a Budget in March and any changes in relation to tax would be made at such a fiscal event.

The Government are committed to taking forward work on the recommendation to create codes of conduct to rebalance and redefine the relationships between news publishers and online platforms, in alignment with wider work on digital regulation. We think that this will help to ensure that journalists in the UK are fairly treated and rewarded for their content. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, mentioned this in her opening remarks. We are working on the best way to take forward and enforce those codes and we will obviously keep the House updated. She and other noble Lords also mentioned the fact that there are a number of different reviews and publications in this space. As she set out, there are complex issues in this whole area, which need to be addressed in a systemic way. My noble friend Lord Black said that there were too many initiatives; he thought that we should identify some strategic issues. I do not disagree with that, but we have to think about how we do it. There are issues such as online advertising where it is right for the Competition and Markets Authority—which will publish its final report in July this year—to take that forward. I assure the House that, where it recommends action, the Government will act.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and I have already discussed the online harms work, on which we hope very much to make further announcements very shortly. Other noble Lords mentioned the media literacy work that is needed; it will be part of the online harms response. I entirely accept what the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, said about media literacy being needed for all ages; I often find that it is younger people who are perhaps looking at the news with a more sceptical eye than some of us, who might need to be reminded about sources of news and the different motivations of those writing articles. There will be further announcements on that in the work on online harms.

My noble friend Lord Attlee asked about Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. He will know, I am sure, that we included in the Conservative party manifesto a commitment to repeal Section 40, and we are looking for a suitable legislative vehicle to do that. He also asked about the Foreign Office and foreign travel advice. I assure him that any risks or appalling incidents, murders or attacks affecting journalists are part of the way in which the Foreign Office makes decisions about travel advice to those who are travelling overseas.

My noble friend Lord Holmes talked about internships and diversity, both of which are important issues. They are perhaps not necessarily for this particular review, but he is right to say that thinking about how we get young future talent from diverse backgrounds and perspectives into our local, and indeed national, media goes to the heart of the sustainability of that journalism. The Government will certainly take away those points.

The Cairncross Review also outlined how news publishers are increasingly reliant on the online advertising market, and the threat this poses to the future sustainability of journalism. We have committed to reviewing how online advertising is regulated. The Government will be commissioning work, and there will also be work by the Competition and Markets Authority. We published a call for evidence last week, seeking views on the challenges, as well as the benefits, that the rise of online advertising has brought for people and businesses, including news publishers.

There is a great deal of common ground between the recommendations made by Dame Frances and this Government’s wider programme of work to address the challenges raised by digital products and services. As we have heard, this includes the findings of the Furman report on digital competition and the forthcoming legislation to follow up the online harms White Paper. The Government will take account of all the work—I agree with the point made that we need a co-ordinated and coherent approach, but we also need to make progress.

There are many substantial recommendations in the review and, as a Government, we are committed to taking this work forward. I think we all agree that only high-quality journalism can hold the powerful to account and shine a light on society’s important issues. We are committed to getting this work right, so that future generations can be inspired and engaged by a free and vibrant press. I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this important debate and I have no doubt that this House will return to these issues in the near future.

UK Telecommunications

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Tuesday 28th January 2020

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Morgan of Cotes) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will make a Statement on the security of the telecoms supply chain.

This Government are committed to securing nationwide coverage of gigabit-capable broadband by 2025, because we know the benefits that world-class connectivity can bring: from empowering rural businesses, to enabling closer relationships for the socially isolated, to new possibilities for our manufacturing and transport industries. We are removing the barriers to faster network deployment and have committed £5 billion of new public funding to ensure that no area is left behind. It is of course essential that these new networks are secure and resilient, which is why the Government have undertaken a comprehensive review of the supply arrangements for 5G and full-fibre networks.

The telecoms supply chain review—laid in the other place in July last year—underlined the range and nature of the risks facing our critical digital infrastructure, from espionage and sabotage to destructive cyberattacks. We have looked at the issue of how to maintain network security and resilience over many months and in great technical detail. We would never take decisions that threaten our national security or the security of our Five Eyes partners. As a result, the technical and security analysis undertaken by GCHQ’s National Cyber Security Centre is central to the conclusions of the review. Thanks to its analysis, we have the most detailed study of what is needed to protect 5G, anywhere in the world. It is also because of the work of the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre Oversight Board, established by the NCSC, that we know more about Huawei and the risks it poses than any other country. We are now taking forward the review’s recommendations in three areas.

First, on world-leading regulation, we are establishing one of the strongest regimes for telecoms security in the world—a regime that will raise security standards across the UK’s telecoms operators and the vendors that supply them. At the heart of the new regime, the NCSC’s new telecoms security requirements guidance will provide clarity to industry on what is expected in terms of network security. The TSRs will raise the height of the security bar and set out tough new standards to be met in the design and operation of the UK’s telecoms networks. The Government intend to legislate at the earliest opportunity to introduce a new comprehensive telecoms security regime, to be overseen by the regulator, Ofcom, and government.

Secondly, the review also underlined the need for the UK to improve diversity in the supply of equipment to telecoms networks. Currently, the UK faces a choice of only three major players to supply key parts of our telecoms networks. This has implications for the security and resilience of these networks, as well as for future innovation and market capacity. It is a “market failure” that needs to be addressed. The Government are developing an ambitious strategy to help diversify that supply chain. This will entail the deployment of all the tools at the Government’s disposal, including funding.

We will do three things simultaneously: seek to attract established vendors to our country who are not present in the UK; support the emergence of new, disruptive entrants to the supply chain; and promote the adoption of open, interoperable standards that will reduce barriers to entry.

The UK’s operators are leading the world in the adoption of new, innovative approaches to expand the supply chain. The Government will work with industry to seize these opportunities, and we will partner with like-minded countries to diversify the telecoms market. It is essential that we are never again in a position of having limited choices when deploying important new technologies.

The third area covered by the review was how to treat vendors which pose greater security and resilience risks to UK telecoms. As I know the House has a particular interest in this area, I will cover this recommendation in detail. Those risks may arise from technical deficiencies or considerations relating to the ownership and operating location of the vendor. As noble Lords may recall, the Government informed the other place in July that they were not in a position to announce a decision on this aspect of the review. We have now completed our consideration of all the information and analysis from the National Cyber Security Centre, industry and our international partners. Today, I am able to announce the final conclusions of the telecoms supply chain review in relation to high-risk vendors.

In order to assess a vendor as high risk, the review recommends that a set of objective factors be taken into account. These include the strategic position or scale of the vendor in the UK network; the strategic position or scale of the vendor in other telecoms networks, particularly if the vendor is new to the UK market; the quality and transparency of the vendor’s engineering practices and cyber security controls; the vendor’s resilience, both in technical terms and in relation to the continuity of supply to UK operators; the vendor’s domestic security laws in the jurisdiction where the vendor is based and the risk of external direction that conflicts with UK law; the relationship between the vendor and the vendor’s domestic state apparatus; and, finally, the availability of offensive cyber capability by that domestic state apparatus, or associated actors, that might be used to target UK interests.

To ensure the security of 5G and full-fibre networks, it is both necessary and proportionate to place tight restrictions on the presence of any companies identified as higher risk. The debate is not just about “the core” and “the edge” of networks; neither is it just about trusted and untrusted vendors. Threats to our networks are many and varied, whether from cyber criminals or state-sponsored malicious cyber activity. The most serious recent attack on UK telecoms has come from Russia, and there is no Russian equipment in our networks.

The reality is that these are highly complicated networks relying on global supply chains, where some limited measure of vulnerability is inevitable. The critical security question is: how to mitigate such vulnerabilities and stop them damaging the British people and our economy.

For 5G and full-fibre networks, the review concluded that, based on the current position of the UK market, high-risk vendors should be excluded from all safety-related and safety-critical networks in critical national infrastructure; excluded from security-critical network functions; limited to a minority presence in other network functions up to a cap of 35%; and be subjected to tight restrictions, including exclusions from sensitive geographic locations.

These new controls are also contingent on an NCSC-approved risk mitigation strategy for any operator who uses such a vendor. We will legislate at the earliest opportunity to limit and control the presence of high-risk vendors in the UK network and to allow us to respond as technology changes.

Over time, our intention is for the market share of high-risk vendors to reduce as market diversification takes place. I also want to be clear that nothing in the review affects this country’s ability to share highly sensitive intelligence data over highly secure networks, both within the UK and with our partners, including the Five Eyes. GCHQ has categorically confirmed that how we construct our 5G and full-fibre public telecoms networks has nothing to do with how we share classified data. The UK’s technical security experts have agreed that the new controls on high-risk vendors are completely consistent with the UK’s security needs.

In response to the review’s conclusions on high-risk vendors, the Government have asked the NCSC to produce guidance for industry. This guidance was published earlier today on the NCSC’s website. The NCSC has helped operators to manage the use of vendors that pose a greater national security risk, such as Huawei and ZTE, for many years.

This new guidance will include how it determines whether a vendor is high risk, the precise restrictions it advises should be applied to high-risk vendors in the UK’s 5G and full-fibre networks, and what mitigation measures operators should take if using high-risk vendors. As with other advice from the NCSC on cybersecurity matters, this advice will be in the form of guidance. The Government expect UK telecoms operators to give due consideration to this advice, as they do with all their interactions with the NCSC.

I recognise that noble Lords may wish to pursue further the technical details of these proposals, not least with my officials and officials at the National Cyber Security Centre, who will be available to answer questions in Committee Room 11 from 4.30 pm today.

I hope the whole House will agree that if we are to achieve our digital connectivity ambitions, it is imperative that we trust the safety and security of our telecoms networks. Risk cannot be eliminated in telecoms, but it is the job of the Government, Ofcom and industry to work together to ensure that we reduce our vulnerabilities and mitigate the risks. The Government’s position on high-risk vendors marks a major change in the UK’s approach. When taken together with the tough new security standards that will apply to operators, this approach will substantially improve the security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks, which are a critical part of our national infrastructure. It reflects the maturity of the UK’s market and our world-leading cybersecurity expertise, and it follows a rigorous and evidenced-based review. It is the right decision for the UK’s specific circumstances.

The future of our digital economy depends on trust in its safety and security. If we are to encourage the take-up of new technologies that will transform our lives for the better, we need to have the right measures in place. That is what this new framework will deliver, and I commend this Statement to the House.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Statement and for the reassurance given in large measure by what she read to us. Of course, a number of questions are left open and will emerge. Given the time that was available to me to read the various pieces of literature, my questions will be bundled out and no doubt brought into more coherent shape as time passes.

I note that we are promised “world-leading” primary legislation but are not given an exact time. Yesterday, the word was mañana. Today, in answer to the question of when, the reply is, “at the earliest opportunity.” I am becoming accustomed to the various euphemisms for mañana that are put forward in government reports. It will be a new, comprehensive telecoms security regime. I suppose that the various measures that will be necessary to make sure that we oversee activity in this area will be set out in detail. It would be reassuring to have “at the earliest opportunity” unpacked, if that is at all possible, because we are in an area where developments happen so quickly that the more time that lapses, the more behind the action and the curve we become.

I note that, as the UK’s 4G network relies on Huawei, achieving zero presence today would be near impossible, so I suppose that a reduction to 35% is welcome. But will this reduce over time to wean operators off the Chinese provider, or will 35% be an enduring figure?

The NCSC’s security analysis, which again I read very quickly, concludes that

“threat analysis highlights that our telecoms sector is potentially vulnerable to a range of cyber risks. This analysis is backed up by evidence generated from security testing of telecoms networks and by security incidents.”

In other words, the risks are high—an added pressure, perhaps, to ensure that not too much time elapses before measures are brought before us.

There is talk of the diversification of vendors and the categories under which they might be grouped, but there is not much reference to help us to understand how much home-produced material or producers will come forward. There are a number of players on the global scene. Is the activity lively in our economy and will it produce its own home-produced involvements in the provision of these measures?

Under the objective factors that help us to identify high-risk vendors, the claim is that we know more about Huawei and the risks it poses than any other country, so, whatever investigations have taken place, it puts us in prime position—according to the claims made here—to know the mind of Huawei, its activities and all the rest of it. That leads me to ask: if that is the case, how do we measure Huawei’s performance against its domestic security laws? How did Huawei pass, given China’s law on compliance with state intelligence services and co-operation with the police in the mass detention of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, for example?

In other words, Huawei gets in at 35%. We welcome that, but suppositions and assumptions are made about Huawei that we still need to have clarified for us. A lot seems to go by on just remarks, assumptions and general statements. Attracting established vendors not present in the UK and new disruptive entrants in promoting open interoperable standards is welcome. But, given the subsidies that Huawei is said to use to get market access, how do we know whether the subsidies exist and how much they amount to, and how will new entrants compete tomorrow when they cannot today? Those are just a few of the questions that occur to me.

I should say that one or two of the quotations I have used in making my remarks are attributable to members of the noble Baroness’s own party—so these concerns are felt by all of us. So we welcome what is happening today because it does set a direction of travel—but we travel with a few questions that are still waiting to be answered.

Lord Campbell of Pittenweem Portrait Lord Campbell of Pittenweem (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for the Statement and begin by declaring an interest: I was a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee when the security implications of Huawei’s involvement in these matters were first identified. I should confess that my attitude is still to a large extent conditioned by what we found then.

I do not share the enthusiasm of the noble Baroness for the compromises which have been announced, in particular since I spent two days last week in the United States. Any question of us being at odds with the US, and indeed other members of the Five Eyes, is something that we should not contemplate with anything other than great concern. The United States is of course our closest ally when it comes to intelligence, and I wonder to what extent account has been taken of the very strong expressions against our involvement that have come from the White House down. It has been said that the US will not share intelligence. By its very nature, we will not know what intelligence it will choose not to share—and, for all we know, such a failure may have considerable implications for the safety and the interests of this country.

Nothing that has been said or that I have read excludes in all circumstances the possibility of the risk that Huawei might be forced by the Chinese Government to exploit its position. Indeed, as has already been said, it is under something of a legal obligation to do so. I make that assertion without qualification because I am bound to say that were we in a situation where the positions were reversed and found ourselves with the kind of opportunities that a company acting on our behalf might have in a foreign nation and the national interests of the United Kingdom were at stake, we would undoubtedly seek to bring pressure on that company. That cannot be ignored.

Undertakings are frequently given, but we all know that, on many occasions, undertakings have a very short lifetime. They can be given and they can be conveniently forgotten. Throughout the discussion I have been asking this question: would the Chinese Government admit BT to such a sensitive opportunity as the United Kingdom is about to enlarge to Huawei? I doubt very much that they would.

I will conclude by saying this. It is an entirely laudable ambition to seek to extend broadband throughout the United Kingdom, but I hope that national security is not being sacrificed to that ambition.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank both noble Lords for their comments. Quite a lot of points have been raised and I am conscious that other noble Lords want to speak, so I shall try to deal with them quickly. The noble Lord asked when the legislation would be ready. Of course, it has not been possible to prepare the legislation until the decision made today by the National Security Council, but we are all very conscious of the need to legislate early. What today’s announcement means is that the National Cyber Security Centre is able to issue guidance to providers. Until now we have not had the ability, other than by asking nicely, to say, “Please do not use more than a certain percentage of high-risk vendor equipment in your networks”. The NCSC will be able to issue that guidance and that will by confirmed by legislation, which, as the noble Lord said, will provide for a legal enforcement mechanism by the regulator.

As both noble Lords have hinted, I am absolutely certain that noble Lords and Members of the other place will appreciate that this is a very complex decision, a point I touched on in the Answer to the Urgent Question that I repeated yesterday. There are undoubtedly concerns across the House—from Members of all backgrounds, regardless of which committees they have sat on—about the decision taken. People have different reasons for feeling that way.

The noble Lord mentioned the rollout of 5G and the speed; it is happening quickly and accelerating. Again, that is part of the reason for needing to take this step today: to be able to say to providers that there is a percentage above which they must not go on the edge of that rollout of 5G networks for high-risk vendors. I said in my Statement and reiterate that through market diversification we absolutely want to reduce the reliance on high-risk vendors over time. We want to get to a position in which we do not have to use a high-risk vendor in our telecoms network. That also ties in with the suggestion from the noble Lord, Lord Griffiths, who mentioned home-grown capability. The reality is that this is a market failure that we are dealing with. Although we have many excellent telecoms companies in this country, we do not have those that are making this equipment in such a world-leading way. As part of the diversification strategy, we therefore need to increase dramatically the amount of funding support we give to the research and development of companies in countries that we tend to work with and consider our allies, as well as the UK, to help plug this gap.

We know more about Huawei thanks to the actions taken over the years. Huawei started to be in our networks from 2006. In a way, the high-risk vendor test is perhaps not about meeting the criteria but about not meeting them. If the company does not meet them —in the sense that it operates in a system in which the Government expect companies or individuals to act in accordance with their wishes—that means the high-risk vendor test has not been met, so it is a high-risk vendor. Of course, the work of our services and the advice given to the National Security Council by the services is very much evidence-based.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, mentioned the Intelligence and Security Committee. I was struck yesterday when a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee in the previous Parliament said in the other place that he felt the risks with Huawei could be mitigated. Perhaps it depends on the evidence and inquiries that different Members have been involved with.

In relation to the Five Eyes relationship, the Prime Minister has spoken to President Trump. A number of us have been engaged in discussions with US counterparts over the last few months, and of course account has been taken of everything they have raised with us, but—because of our experience with Huawei and where we are on 4G and 5G—the view is taken that we are able to mitigate these risks. That is the advice we have had. I said in my remarks that today’s decision does not affect our ability to share sensitive intelligence data over highly secure networks both within the UK and with our partners, including the Five Eyes.

As I said in my Statement, it is not possible to exclude all risks in relation to telecoms. Cybersecurity and malicious cyberactivity are a 21st-century danger to all countries. That does not mean we should not have sophisticated telecoms networks and 5G networks. It means we have to be realistic about the risks and how we mitigate them. Finally, I absolutely assure the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, that in no way would this Government ever compromise national security, even for the very worthy goal of making sure that people in this country have access to broadband.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, the Secretary of State has made it clear that there are many risks in taking this decision about Huawei. Can she give the House some idea of what additional costs will be involved in monitoring technology and equipment manufactured and imposed on this country by a communist regime?

Yesterday I raised human rights with the Secretary of State, and I wonder what consideration has been given to the anti-slavery academics who describe what is happening in Xinjiang—where, as we have heard, probably 1 million Uighur Muslims are incarcerated and where Huawei is a key player—as the world’s worst incidence of state-sponsored slavery. What due diligence will be done on Huawei to ensure compliance with the UK’s legislation, which is world class and leading on anti-slavery and modern-day slavery issues? Can the Secretary of State say what consideration has been given to unbridled surveillance, mass imprisonment, relentless propaganda and egregious human rights violations, which are too high a price to pay for subsidised technology that endangers our security and compromises British values and a belief in human rights?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord. His latter point picks up on some of the points he made yesterday afternoon, when I was also standing in this position. To start with his first question, on the cost of compliance, thanks to the Huawei Cyber Security Evaluation Centre oversight board, there are already costs incurred of monitoring the use of Huawei technology in our networks. I cannot give him a specific figure now; if we are able to, I suspect it will be partly as a result of the necessary impact assessment that will have to be prepared by government and Ministers when putting legislation before this House. If I am able to give him anything approaching a figure at this stage, I will write to him with that information.

Yesterday, in this House, the noble Lord quite rightly raised the human rights abuses. The UK has been clear that China’s approach in Xinjiang must stop. We have led international condemnation of the systematic human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslims and other minorities in China. Ministers and senior officials regularly raise our concerns with the Chinese, and in October, the UK read a statement of concern on behalf of 23 countries at the United Nations in New York.

The challenge of today’s decision—and the reason Ministers rightly wanted to take a good length of time to consider it, and wanted there to be a secure and reliable evidence base on which to make it—is that although this is a decision about telecoms, it is set in a wider geopolitical context, some factors of which the noble Lord has highlighted. I do not agree with him that is an either/or situation. As a country, we have a relationship with China that gives us the ability to make statements to the United Nations of the sort I mentioned. Equally, Huawei is already in our networks. What we are doing today is constraining its use on the edge of the networks, which will also help with further market diversification so that we do not need to rely on Huawei in the future.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Statement. Will she explain, as I asked yesterday, why this decision has pre-empted the strategic defence and security review? The Minister spoke very strongly, and at length, on technical points, and I have the greatest respect for GCHQ and the National Cyber Security Centre, but this is not just a technical issue. This is critical national infrastructure that touches upon defence, security and many aspects of our foreign policy and foreign relations. The appropriate place to take this decision was during the strategic defence and security review. I hope that we have not added to the market failure that the Minister mentioned by political failure. I fear that this decision has been taken in a way that does not allow all necessary parties inside government who are interested to argue their case publicly and transparently. I hope I am wrong, but the idea that we can isolate one part of this system in the network world seems extremely optimistic.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord very much indeed for his points, which are based on great experience. He is right that we talked yesterday about the expected strategic defence and security review. While of course the decision took account of wider factors, as I have said, this is a decision about the telecom supply chain in this country, where the rollout of speedier connectivity is already happening and where we are not able, at the moment, to limit the use of high-risk vendors in those networks by providers who are already rolling this out. This decision was not taken overnight; this Government and the previous Government have been discussing it for quite a number of months. That is why the decision needed to be taken, and the factors talked about by the noble Lord were taken into account in the discussions to date.

Lord Howell of Guildford Portrait Lord Howell of Guildford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I welcome the Statement. The noble Lord, Lord Campbell, raised the matter of the American viewpoint. Is it not the position that the Americans regard China as their enemy and number one rival in a superpower world rivalry that some of us would regard as slightly out of date? But that is its position. Here, of course, we do not have the same viewpoint. In the networked world, we are taking a rather different, more subtle position. Does that not therefore mean that, provided we are very careful in the way that the Minister described, we can take a more balanced view than the Americans? Is it not really as simple as that?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank my noble friend very much indeed. He has boiled it down to a very simple point. He is absolutely right to say that we have taken the decision that is right for the United Kingdom, while, of course, listening to the views of allies around the world, including the United States. It is important that we make the right decision for the UK, for our connectivity and future networks. We are confident in the decision taken to ban Huawei from the core part of the network and for it to have limited access to the periphery of the networks. Although other countries have taken the view that that is not possible, the National Security Council’s advice is very much that it absolutely is.

Lord Ricketts Portrait Lord Ricketts (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I declare an interest as one of the rather small trade union membership of former national security advisers. I entirely agree with the Minister that there is no risk-free solution in this situation, or in any security and intelligence judgment. I welcome the fact that the National Security Council was able to take a decision in a context where very strong arguments were being put on all sides. To answer the noble Lord, Lord Reid, I am sure that all the relevant interests around Whitehall argued their cases vigorously in the NSC; that is what it is for. I am glad that the Government seem to have been able to take the very professional advice from our world-class experts on cybersecurity.

I am sure that Ministers were delighted to have the barrage of no doubt well-intentioned advice from across the Atlantic, but given that many American commentators seem to see the slightest role of Huawei in our system as an existential threat, is it not quite extraordinary that the US does not have its own 5G technology solution to offer to western allies? Perhaps one of the lessons of this, as the Minister suggested, is that there has been a market failure and that, before we get to 6G, the West ought to be much more co-ordinated in its approach so that we have an entirely reliable basis in technology to go forward. In the meantime, this seems to be the right risk-managed solution for a diversified network in the circumstances we find ourselves in.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord very much indeed for his support. He is of course right that Ministers must take the decision with the advice of experts and based on the circumstances as we face them. The Prime Minister and the whole council were very clear about the need for urgent work on a diversification strategy with companies in the United Kingdom, but also, of course, with the technology expertise of our allies, including the United States. I very much hope that we can progress those discussions very speedily.

Lord Scriven Portrait Lord Scriven (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, the Huawei cybersecurity evaluation oversight board says:

“The Oversight Board continues to be able to provide only limited assurance that the long-term security risks can be managed in the Huawei equipment currently deployed in the UK”.

It goes on to say that

“it will be difficult to appropriately risk-manage future products in the context of UK deployments, until the underlying defects in Huawei’s software engineering and cyber security processes are remediated … At present, the Oversight Board has not yet seen anything to give it confidence in Huawei’s capacity to successfully complete the elements of its transformation programme”.

Why can the Government not wait until the oversight board has seen and is content with Huawei’s transformation programme rather than going into this rather risky decision today?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

That is because the evidence of the oversight board—it is extremely vital to our relationship with Huawei, a world-leading structure to have over it, and it provided the evidence that our services provided to the National Security Council—was not the only evidence that the National Security Council received that gave us the reassurances to make this decision today. Some of it cannot be discussed in public. The board will absolutely continue to operate and to work with Huawei to improve standards.

Lord West of Spithead (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, in an ideal world we would not want the Chinese to provide us with telecoms equipment, build our nuclear power stations, own all our CCTV structures, buy British Steel or invest so much in the City, but we are not in an ideal world. The Americans make a lot of complaints about risks to intelligence. I was in the intelligence world for six years. I do not believe that there will be a risk to intelligence unless they say that they will not give information. This is extraordinary, bearing in mind that they released several hundred thousand of our very sensitive signals using SIPRNet, WikiLeaks and Snowden. We have to be a bit careful about shouting the odds about intelligence.

Does the Minister not think it inconceivable that the director of GCHQ and the head of the NCSC, who know more about this issue than probably anybody else in the UK, would ever give advice that put our intelligence at risk, bearing in mind that intelligence has been their bread and butter all their lives?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

It is a delight to agree with the noble Lord. I and my colleagues have been thoroughly impressed with the careful, systematic way in which GCHQ, the NCSC and other services have advised the National Security Council on this matter. He is right: if they felt that different advice should have been given, it would have been given. I put on record my thanks to them for all the work that they have done on this.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is real concern when dealing with a totalitarian state that thinks not in electoral cycles but in the long, long term? Can she give a total assurance that this matter will be kept under constant surveillance and review? I and many others fear that we may be going for short-term advantage and creating long-term vulnerability.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I can give the assurance to the noble Lord that this matter will, of course, be kept under constant review. That is one reason why we want to legislate to give the regulator and the Government the power not only to ask nicely for high-risk vendors not to be overly involved in our networks, but also to enforce a cap. In relation to the periphery, I stress again, for the benefit of all those watching or listening, that the high-risk vendors will not be part of our core network infrastructure. The noble Lord set out the concerns of many in relation to dealings with China, which we have fully understood and reflected in our discussions.

Lord Young of Norwood Green Portrait Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I welcome the report, because it is evidence-based and has a comprehensive structure for reviewing and endeavouring to control. We should not underestimate the importance of the 5G network to the future of the UK in terms of the fourth industrial revolution and, as the Minister mentioned, to connectivity. Perhaps at the core—an unfortunate choice of word—of this decision is the view that you can separate Huawei’s involvement in the edge of the networks from any involvement at the core. Are we likely to get any more information at this meeting at 4.30 pm on what led to that conclusion?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I fear that the noble Lord may be asking whether it is worth attending that meeting. Of course, it is always worth attending meetings with my officials and others, but yes, that is certainly something which will be discussed there. I draw his attention to the two documents published alongside the Written Ministerial Statement. One is the guidance note from the NCSC, which will go to the providers. The other is a more detailed note on the security analysis for the UK telecoms sector of the information that can be made public. It explains the difference between core and edge, and why our services have taken that view. The guidance note sets out very clearly, for those who are technically minded, exactly what the high-risk vendors are able and not able to be involved with. I join him in saying that 5G is very important for the productivity and growth of our economy and the levelling-up agenda that the Prime Minister has talked about so much.

Baroness Neville-Rolfe (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I visited Huawei in Shenzhen. There is no doubting the quality of its products, which will make it difficult for the West to compete. Can my noble friend comment on the governance that we have in the UK for Huawei, which she has touched on? Is it adequate? I am conscious that, for example, if we sell arms in the US, we have to set up special boards which involve US citizens rather than UK citizens, to ensure that there are no problems for the US. Are the governance structures in the UK for this sensitive area adequate?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank my noble friend. I have already talked about the Huawei cyber security oversight board and its governance. In the discussions I have had with officials, no question has been raised about the adequacy of the governance. As a noble Lord set out earlier, the board needs to work through the conclusions with Huawei to make sure it is satisfying some of the points which have been raised. I will certainly take away the issue she has raised and check whether, in the course of carrying out these changes, there is anything further we should do on the governance structure.

Lord Wood of Anfield Portrait Lord Wood of Anfield (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, is this approach of separating access to core and non-core parts of the network now a general policy with regard to companies from other countries, wherever they are from? If so, would we apply the same principle if it were, say, a company from North Korea, Iran, Russia or any other country which applied to participate in the future?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

As I said earlier, if the noble Lord looks at the documents, he will see that the process sets out clearly how a high-risk vendor is defined, which was one of the points raised by his Front Bench. The requirements that a company does not meet—there is a list of them—determine how it will be considered a high-risk vendor. Once it is considered a high-risk vendor, and if a provider wanted to include it in the networks, that would trigger involvement by the NCSC in working out how its involvement could be mitigated. So, there are a number of steps that I would expect, based on today’s announcement and where we are with the providers and rollout of 5G. I have made it clear that we want to reach a stage where there is no need for any high-risk vendors in our system. However, we are some way off that, which is why the NSC has taken the decision it has taken today.

Lord West of Spithead - Hansard

My Lords, the issue of governance boards, rightly raised by the noble Lord without a tie, is a valid one. It was first flagged up that we had problems with Huawei, after a number of years, when it stated that it could no longer guarantee security. Huawei was told to put in place a lot of investment—£2 billion, I think. Has that investment been put in to harden up the systems and to correct those problems?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

The oversight board’s conclusions are, I believe, public documents. As we heard earlier, there are question marks about things that Huawei has been asked to do which it has not done. I would need to check the specifics on whether it has spent that money and where we are in the latest process—the oversight board publishes its report annually—and I am happy to write to the noble Lord with further details.

Lord Sterling of Plaistow Portrait Lord Sterling of Plaistow (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, this subject is larger than telecommunications. After 31 January we will be ready to go global—widening and working together, particularly with the Five Eyes. What the outcome might have been I do not know but the point that has been made is, what was the rush? We have not yet decided our long-term policy and we have not had our discussions on security. Supposing we had said, “We will make a decision by June or December”. Can the Minister explain what the huge disadvantage would have been in waiting until then and having aired here some of the concerns, which I somewhat share?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

The concerns that have been aired in this House today—which I am sure are being raised in the other place following a Statement by my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary—are shared by many, even by those of us who have made the decision we have made today. It was not an obviously clear-cut decision of the kind that those who have been Ministers or involved in the leadership of any organisation will know it is sometimes easy to make.

The noble Lord asked about speed and why it was necessary to make these decisions. I am looking for that information but, on the rollout of 5G, as I said earlier, more and more companies are installing the masts and connecting not just tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands of premises to 5G, which is using Huawei equipment. At the moment there is no ability—other than, as someone said, asking nicely—to limit the involvement of Huawei. Today, with this guidance, the NCSC is able to say that on the periphery of the networks, involvement by Huawei is limited to 35%. That is a constraint for a number of providers; they will have to get down to that figure, which we expect to encourage wider diversification. The NSC could not have put off this decision for much longer, given the ongoing speed with which 5G is being rolled out in this country.

Huawei: UK’s 5G Network

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Monday 27th January 2020

(6 months, 2 weeks ago)

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Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Morgan of Cotes) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I shall now repeat in the form of a Statement an Answer given earlier today in the other place by my honourable friend the Minister for Digital and Broadband on the security of the telecoms supply chain. The Statement is as follows:

“New telecoms technologies and next generation networks such as 5G and full fibre can change our lives for the better. They can give us the freedom to live and work more freely; they can help rural communities to develop thriving digital economies; and they can help the socially isolated maintain relationships. So the security and resilience of the UK’s telecoms networks is of paramount importance.

The UK has one of the world’s most dynamic digital economies, and we welcome open trade and inward investment. However, our economy can prosper and unleash Britain’s potential only when we, and our international partners, are assured that our critical national infrastructure remains safe and secure.

As part of our mission to provide world-class digital connectivity, including 5G, my department carried out a cross-Whitehall evidence-based review of the telecoms supply chain to ensure a diverse and secure supply base. That review’s findings were published in July 2019 and set out the Government’s priorities for the future of our telecommunications. These priorities are strong cybersecurity across the entire telecommunications sector, greater resilience in telecommunications networks and diversity across the entire 5G supply chain.

The review considered the entire UK market position, including economic prosperity, the industry and consumer effects, and the quality, resilience and security of equipment. However, in July 2019 it did not take a decision on the controls to be placed on high-risk vendors in the UK’s telecoms networks. Despite the inevitable focus on Huawei, this review was not about one company, or even one country, and we would never take a decision that threatens our national security or the security of our allies.

The Government’s telecoms supply chain review is a thorough review into a complex area and it has made use of the best available expert advice and evidence. Its conclusions on high-risk vendors will be reported once ministerial decisions have been taken. The National Security Council will meet tomorrow to discuss these issues. This work is an important step in strengthening the UK’s security framework for telecoms and ensuring the rollout of 5G and full-fibre networks. I know that honourable Members on all sides of the House feel strongly about this issue, and this Government will make a Statement to this House to communicate final decisions on high-risk vendors at the appropriate time. We will always put national security at the top of our agenda.”

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Baroness for repeating the Answer to the Urgent Question given in the other place. She will be aware, as we all are, that there has been so much speculation on this matter for so long that the prospect, even tomorrow, of having something that might be direct and to the point and show us the way forward is to be welcomed.

We have allowed the development of a situation that seems to be becoming unsustainable. We have not completed the rollout of 4G, for example, and the present Government have to improve the universal service obligation for broadband that previous Administrations have dragged their heels on, or at least not delivered on. However, at the same time, operators are already buying into 5G provision, some without knowing at all how much they can rest in the certainty that their investment will be rewarded. The head of MI5 has said that he is confident that US intelligence-sharing with the UK will not be jeopardised if Britain uses Huawei technology in future 5G mobile phone networks, and there are such phone networks that have been using Huawei technology for some time.

In the other place, the colleague of the noble Baroness, in answering the Question, hid behind the fact that we have to wait for tomorrow, and of course mañana is what we all feel obliged to wait for. We will be interested to see how the noble Baroness dresses up “tomorrow” and gives us lots of assurances.

The fact is that we need certainty that 5G is the way forward, but the United States is putting all kinds of pressures on us that have little to do with the business case. Can the noble Baroness therefore give us the assurance that tomorrow everything we hope for today will be delivered?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord very much for his measured response on this issue. Obviously I cannot assure him that everything he hopes for tomorrow will be answered, but I certainly expect to come back to this place with an update for this House, and my colleagues will do that in the other place as well. I join the noble Lord in saying that I think a decision on this matter, should a decision be taken tomorrow—I am sure that noble Lords who have been in government or worked with government will understand that I do not want to get ahead of myself in saying that the decision will be taken—will be welcomed.

The noble Lord is right to say, and I think Members of this House will agree, that improving connectivity across the UK is very important for all residents. He is right to say that the rollout of 5G is already taking place and that those involved in that rollout obviously need guidance and a government view on who to involve in it. While I made it very clear in the Answer that this is not just about one company, Huawei is of course already involved in the 4G rollout. I am hesitant to say as a new Member of this House “Watch this space”, but I am afraid that that is probably going to be the basis of my answers today.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, this is an extraordinary Statement, not least the part that states:

“The National Security Council will meet tomorrow to discuss these issues.”

Then why make a Statement today?

Is the Minister aware that we, like everyone in this House, always put national security at the top of our agenda? However, to claim that despite the inevitable focus on Huawei this review is not about one company or even one country becomes a little difficult to swallow, given all the air traffic around about the activities of the US Government to influence our Government’s decision. I therefore want to make sure that the Government are sticking by the advice they are getting from their security services and their own best-informed sources? We must recognise that we have to decide whether this is a decision about “America First” or about our own best interests. This is supposed to be the golden age of co-operation between the UK and China across a wide range of issues. We have to be able to make security decisions in our way and in our national interest while protecting those wider interests.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord. In the interests of time, I will say briefly that I am having to give this Answer today because an Urgent Question was asked in the other place so quite rightly we are answering that in both Houses. I agree with him that it is quite correct that it is the UK Government who are taking this decision. There are a number of factors in making such a decision. We will rely on the best expert advice from our services that we have, but we will make the decision as a Government in the interests of this country.

Lord Howell of Guildford Portrait Lord Howell of Guildford (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I know the final decision is due to come tomorrow but my noble friend’s Statement speaks about diversity, as indeed did the telecoms review in the summer. Can she reassure us that diversity really can be maintained and dependence on a vendor, particularly a high-risk vendor, avoided? If an integrated system can be assured technically, there seems to be not much of a problem to worry about and some of the American threats seem rather empty, particularly because, while we need a trade deal eventually, getting one is not of high urgency because we already have vast trade with the US under the present system.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank my noble friend, who is right to pick up on diversity. Diversification of supply is a critical issue in this whole debate. Obviously I cannot pre-empt decisions that might be made tomorrow or the discussions to be had, but that is of course one of the factors. The Prime Minister has said that it would help if those who wish us to take a particular decision had a particular alternative. There are other suppliers but I hope to say more if and when a decision is taken.

Lord Alton of Liverpool Portrait Lord Alton of Liverpool (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, notwithstanding the anxiety of our US allies, will the Minister say something about the anxieties expressed in your Lordships’ House on two occasions last week about human rights concerns and the surveillance technology that has been developed by Huawei in places such as Xinjiang, where over 1 million Uighur Muslims have been incarcerated? Will she cast her mind back to ask this question: would we in former times have made this kind of deal and opened up our technology, our security and the possibility of human rights abuses to the Soviet Union if we had known then what we knew later about what it was doing in places such as the Gulag Archipelago?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

The noble Lord makes a very important point. I said in answer to the question just now that there will be a number of factors involved in making a decision of this importance. We will obviously take all of the advice from the services on a number of different issues. It would not be appropriate for me to pre-empt the decisions or some of the detailed factors, but I am absolutely certain that we will return to some of the issues he raised in this place.

Lord Reid of Cardowan (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I will differ from other noble Lords and say to the Minister that there is no reason why this decision should be taken tomorrow, particularly since we are on the eve of a strategic defence and security review. Does it not make more sense to discuss this issue in the context of that review, given the critical nature of our digital infrastructure for the defence and security of this country? We have waited long enough. There is no reason why we cannot wait another few months or a year to get this right, because it is absolutely critical and should be decided in context, not out of it.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

Again, the noble Lord makes a very important point. He is right to say that all decisions, whether on this matter or other related matters such as a defence review, are interconnected. There are issues relating to our foreign policy and our wider relationships with countries around the world. He is right to say that digital infrastructure is critical. However, this decision has been under debate and discussion in this House and the other place, and more broadly, for some time. We know that, as that digital infrastructure has been rolled out, providers are looking for guidance. The noble Lord highlights one of the factors that has to be balanced in making this decision.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine (Non-Afl) - Hansard

My Lords, will the noble Baroness accept that while she emphasises the importance of 5G connectivity, it is the very connectivity that she talked about that will be jeopardised if we give control of our vital core services and infrastructure to a company which is controlled by the state? That is exactly what will be jeopardised. When she talks about the need for speed, will she not appreciate that we are better off waiting and getting the decision right, particularly when there are alternatives such as Ericsson, Nokia and Samsung, as well as UK-US co-operation that might deliver a more secure network in our national security interests?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

The noble Baroness is right to highlight this. Some of the points she raises are part of the discussions between Ministers. I give her and the whole House the absolute assurance that high-risk vendors never have been and never will be involved in our most sensitive networks.

Digital Inclusion

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Thursday 23rd January 2020

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

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Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Lucas and with his permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in his name on the Order Paper, and I welcome my noble friend to the Dispatch Box for the first time.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Morgan of Cotes) (Con) (Maiden Speech) - Hansard

My Lords, before I answer the Question, as this is the first time that I have addressed your Lordships’ House, I extend my sincere thanks to all noble Lords and particularly to the staff of this House, who have given me such a warm welcome since my introduction.

Moving to the Answer, digital inclusion is a priority for this Government, since almost 12 million people do not have the full complement of essential digital skills needed for day-to-day life. From August, the Government will introduce a legal entitlement for adults with no or low digital skills to undertake new digital qualifications free of charge.

Lord Hayward Portrait Lord Hayward - Hansard

I thank my noble friend for that Answer. During the original digital revolution, government and agencies made a lot of effort to ensure that people were not excluded by a lack of facilities, or age, and so on. The great thing about the technological revolution is that it is moving at an ever-faster pace, but there is, therefore, a risk that people who were included are now at risk of being excluded from the digital revolution. Can my noble friend ensure that all government departments and agencies make efforts to keep included those who are at risk of being excluded?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank my noble friend; he is absolutely right. My department has launched a digital inclusion innovation fund, designed to tackle digital exclusion among older and disabled people, and I have just talked about the qualifications. What he also hinted at is that, for many people, it is a case of simply finding it difficult to go online or to complete government forms. We want to make sure that there is support available; for example, in our network of around 3,000 libraries, in accessible locations, there are trained staff and volunteers and assisted access to a wide range of digital public services.

Baroness Kidron Portrait Baroness Kidron (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I add my welcome to those of others to the Secretary of State and refer the House to my interests in the register. Does she agree that inclusion is about more than getting the greatest number of people online as quickly as possible, and depends on the digital environment being designed in a way that respects the needs and rights of users, be they women in public life, vulnerable users, or children and young people? In particular, can she take the opportunity of welcoming the age-appropriate design code, published by the ICO yesterday, and tell the House when she expects to lay it before Parliament?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Baroness. She and I had a brief conversation recently about some of these issues, and I look forward to discussing this further with her. She is absolutely right to say that the digital and tech environment is very exciting, but that it of course brings new challenges, not just about the new technology itself but about behaviours online. That is why the Government will legislate following the online harms White Paper and will develop further legislation. I welcome the publication yesterday by the Information Commissioner’s Office of the age-appropriate design code, and I hope that all parliamentarians will have the opportunity to take note of it.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I offer my words of welcome to the noble Baroness. The last time that we were in the same place, she was on the receiving end of a 25-minute sermon from me; I promise that my question will be shorter. We have heard some reassurances, but there are really two questions regarding inclusivity: spreading the availability of the service and deepening the skills required to take advantage of what is available. The noble Baroness has indeed answered the first question I would challenge her with by saying much of what was in my mind. But what about the users of universal credit—a service that I understand is entirely online? How do we measure the impact and the way that service is proceeding to be sure that people are not disadvantaged and marginalised because of the technology that they have to master?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

One of the briefs I received in preparing for these questions said that answers should be short, so the noble Lord can be assured that my answer will not be 25 minutes long—it may be 25 words long. He is absolutely right to say that digital inclusion matters particularly for those accessing government benefits and services, as I know from my service in the Commons and from supporting constituents in accessing universal credit. I mentioned access through libraries, but there is also access through job centres, and citizens advice bureaux provide a service to support people who have never been online. Colleagues in the Department for Work and Pensions take this very seriously, because there is obviously no point in providing support for people if they find they cannot access it or update their records.

Lord McNally Portrait Lord McNally (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I too welcome the Secretary of State, who has now made more comebacks than Frank Sinatra. I hope she will be there long enough to follow the parallel to the ICO code, which was the work of this House and of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, in particular. Will she support my paving Bill for a duty of care on online harms, which will allow Ofcom to get ahead with preparation for such legislation?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord. He will be pleased to know that since my singing voice is nothing like Frank Sinatra’s, I will not inflict it on your Lordships’ House. I was very interested to read about his Bill. As he will know, the Government have done a significant amount of work on the online harms space, and I hope we will be able to work together. The Government intend to develop legislation, so while I might not support his Bill, I think we can absolutely make common cause on this very important issue.

Lord Holmes of Richmond Portrait Lord Holmes of Richmond (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I also welcome my noble friend to the Dispatch Box and declare my interests as set out in the register. She has rightly highlighted the digital divide. In the light of that, can I ask her to have a gentle word with the BBC, while obviously respecting its independence, to ask about its plans to switch off the red button teletext service, which is a vital source of news and information for many older and disabled people, and others who find themselves on the wrong side of that digital divide?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank my noble friend, who has raised a very important issue. I am having a number of words with the BBC at the moment—we may come on to that in another Question in a moment. I take what he has said. This is obviously a matter for the BBC but he is absolutely right that, whether it is the BBC, the Government or other institutions, be they private or public, accessibility for everyone is very important regardless of disability, experience or anything else. The Government have of course legislated to make that clear.

Sport and Recreational Facilities

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Thursday 23rd January 2020

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan - Hansard

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport what steps she is taking to improve access to sport and recreational facilities and opportunities (1) during, and (2) outside of, school hours.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Morgan of Cotes) (Con) - Hansard

The cross-government School Sport and Activity Action Plan sets out how we will help young people live healthy, active lives. We will publish more details of our ambitious plans later this year. The Chancellor recently announced a £500 million Youth Investment Fund, which will be spent on youth centres and youth workers, but I am very keen that there are also activities, including sports activities, that help to build the character and resilience, as well as the fitness and well-being, of our young people.

Lord Moynihan Portrait Lord Moynihan (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I congratulate my noble friend the Secretary of State, and no one could be more delighted than I am that responsibility for sport is now in this House—sport has come home. My noble friend will be aware that more than 33% of our medallists at the Olympic Games came from the independent sector, which represents 7% of our children. Given that there is so much sporting talent to be identified and developed in the state sector, will she launch a new strategy, with her colleagues in education, to ensure that all independent schools—not just those which already demonstrate that best practice but all independent schools that are in receipt of charitable status—continue to build school sports partnerships with the state sector, local clubs and the community as part of their public benefits requirement?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

The noble Lord is absolutely right that my department works with the Department for Education. From my previous experience, I think that learning goes both ways. Of course, the independent sector may have the facilities to support others, but I also know that, equally, there are some fantastic maintained schools, funded by the state, that offer a wonderful sporting experience. However, I am sure there is more to be done. I am just about to see the Secretary of State for Education, so I shall certainly mention it. Briefly, the noble Lord mentioned the Olympic Games and I am sure that as we turn into 2020, when the Tokyo Games are happening, all noble Lords will want to wish our Olympic and Paralympic athletes the very best in their preparations.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I need not issue the welcome a second time. The Olympic Games are the starting point for my question, but I refer to those that took place here in 2012. I declare my interest as chair of the board of directors of the Central Foundation Schools of London, where there is not a blade of grass for anybody to play anything on. The boys’ school is within three miles of Stratford and the Olympic Village. I cannot see how the ambitions raised in the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, can be fulfilled without rather a lot of resource being put in to get people out of these inner-city schools to somewhere they can play their games and have their exercise. Does the Minister have some ambitious and recently imagined plan that will help me go to my board and say, “There’s hope round the corner”?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

The noble Lord is right that it is impossible to have sports facilities without the necessary funding. There are a number of funds, and I am always happy to share their details with noble Lords. The Sport England strategic facilities fund is making up to £40 million of National Lottery funding available to invest in facilities projects. There is also the Sport England community asset fund, which is £15 million. The Government are investing £10 million and £15 million respectively into facilities for the 2021 Rugby League World Cup and, in cycling, the 2019 Road World Championships. We have also announced funding for more 3G sports pitches, which are extremely important, particularly in inner-city and urban areas. We want to make sure that they are as widely available as possible.

Baroness Bull Portrait Baroness Bull (CB) - Hansard

My Lords, I join others in welcoming the Minister to her place. Does she share my concern that the disparity in facilities referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, extends to arts facilities? It was no less an actor than Benedict Cumberbatch who pointed out to me that this reduces opportunities not only for less affluent children but for creative innovation, where different voices come together. Does she agree with me that it should not take Sherlock to point out that there are significant benefits from opening up these facilities for wider use?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

The noble Baroness is absolutely right. I mentioned earlier the Youth Investment Fund, which is not just about places and people, although those are important, but about entitlement. There are many schools in the independent and state sectors which do arts provision extremely well, and we want to build on their example. Also—and my noble friend the Minister is working very intensively on this —I feel that we should make sure the fund offers arts opportunities for after-school activities as well. The noble Baroness also mentioned the important word “creativity”; we want to see much more focus on that.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I welcome the Minister to her new role. The Government have a situation where schools that used to provide many of the facilities for junior clubs in their start-up role are increasingly finding doors locked. What duty is being placed on those schools to get in touch with the governing bodies of these sports to let them know what facilities are potentially available, possibly upping the revenue of these schools?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

The noble Lord asks a very good question. As I said, I am about to talk to the Secretary of State for Education; I will put that on the agenda of the meeting. The noble Lord is right that facilities do not have to be offered just in school premises. Working with local community facilities or other sports facilities, for example, and making sure that those links are built is important. If he has any specific examples he wants to share with me and the department so that we can pursue this, I would be interested to receive them.

Lord Lexden (Con) - Hansard

Is it not the case that partnership schemes in sport between independent and state schools, of which there are over a thousand, are already making a useful contribution to the sharing of facilities and staff? At the same time, I support my noble friend Lord Moynihan’s call for the further extension of this valuable work.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

My noble friend is right that there are already many great partnerships that are transforming our young people’s opportunities in sport. There are always more lessons that can be learned. As I say, those experiences often go both ways; it is not just about the independent schools offering facilities to the state sector.

TV Licence Fee Enforcement

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Thursday 23rd January 2020

(6 months, 3 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Lord Young of Norwood Green Portrait Lord Young of Norwood Green - Hansard

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport what assessment she has made of the report by David Perry QC, TV Licence Fee Enforcement Review, published in July 2015; and what steps she has taken since that report was published.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait The Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Morgan of Cotes) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, David Perry QC’s TV Licence Fee Enforcement Review concluded in July 2015 that, under the current licence fee model, the current enforcement regime should be maintained. The Government considered those findings and subsequently confirmed the model in the charter review of 2015-16. In December of last year, the Prime Minister said:

“We are looking at the possibility of decriminalising”

and we will set out next steps in due course. We do believe that it is right to look again at whether criminal sanctions remain appropriate for TV licence fee evasion, given ongoing concerns about whether the criminal sanction is unfair and disproportionate.

Lord Young of Norwood Green Portrait Lord Young of Norwood Green (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I declare an interest as a former governor of the BBC and welcome the noble Baroness to her new appointment. I also take the opportunity to congratulate the soon to be departing director-general on his service to the BBC. The noble Baroness is right that the Perry report was an independent review, which concluded that the licence fee was fair, proportionate and value for money. Does the noble Baroness recognise that taking people to court is in fact the very last resort in these cases and that, even when they are in court, people are given an opportunity to pay? Although it is true that it is a criminal conviction, perhaps a lot of noble Lords do not know that it is not recordable in a DBS check—so there is a difference there. I am aware of the comments that have been made, but I hope that, in any further review of the role of the BBC and the way that the licence fee is applied, we will recognise the importance of the organisation and the services that it provides. They are still very good value for money.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord. I know that these issues were also considered briefly by this House yesterday during a Question responded to by my noble friend. Like the noble Lord, I will take the opportunity to pay tribute to the leadership of the BBC that the outgoing director-general has shown over the last seven years. It will undoubtedly be a challenging act for the board to find somebody to replace him.

I take what the noble Lord said about the way that TV licence evasion prosecutions are handled. However, it is correct that, in 2018, 121,203 people were prosecuted and sentenced for non-payment of a licence and, as I think came up yesterday, the broadcasting landscape is changing, people across the country are concerned about the payment of the licence fee, and it is right that the Government should look at the system overall, with lots of consultation.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock Portrait Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, but what are the Government doing to ensure the continuation of free TV licences for all people over 75?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

Well, I discuss this issue regularly with senior management of the BBC. The Government of course remain disappointed that, despite the settlement agreed with the BBC over the licence fee in 2015, which was welcomed by the BBC at the time, this step has been taken. Discussions continue, but we think that the BBC should be funding free TV licences for the over-75s.

Lord Foster of Bath Portrait Lord Foster of Bath (LD) - Hansard

My Lords, I too welcome the Secretary of State. Will she confirm that the terms of the currently BBC charter specifically rule out any change to the BBC’s mission or public purposes during the whole of its lifetime? What assurances can the Secretary of State give that no steps will be taken, including the decriminalisation of licence fee offences, which would cost £200 million a year to the BBC, that would threaten or undermine the BBC’s ability to fulfil all its charter requirements?

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

It is a pleasure to rejoin the noble Lord in another House of Parliament, although of course we remain on opposite sides. He is absolutely right to say that the mission of the BBC is set under the current charter. I want to say that the BBC is a very important institution to this country that produces some outstanding programming. But, as I say, the changing broadcasting landscape means that the funding model will need to be looked at again. Decriminalisation requires primary legislation; that could be done under the existing royal charter, and, as I say, any changes will require significant consultation, which I am sure will involve many thousands of people having their say, including BBC employees and management.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) - Hansard

My Lords, I think it is fair to say that the issues that have just been raised are not the direct responsibility of the new Secretary of State, whom I welcome to her place, but she certainly has to inherit responsibility for them. The Government putting in their manifesto that they would find the funds for over-75s and then withdrawing that is certainly something that the party opposite will not escape with for very long.

Having said that, I will ask a rather narrow question, although it relates to the same issue. More by luck than good judgment, we have got out of the situation where the licence fee and the royal charter are renewed at the same time as general elections. That is to be welcomed. That having been said, we have a mid-term review, which I think is now scheduled for 2022. We have not yet seen the terms of reference for the review, so I would be grateful to know whether they will be published. I would also be grateful if the noble Baroness could repeat what was said yesterday in an answer during Oral Questions: that the mid-term review will remain, as was agreed during legislative discussions on the royal charter last time round, a light-touch review that will not deal with substantial issues to do with licensing, the licence fee or, indeed, the charter itself.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Baroness Morgan of Cotes - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord very much. One recommendation from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in the House of Commons was that there should be more transparency in the process around the licence fee. We think that that is absolutely right. The Lords Communications Committee recently published a report on these issues, which the Government will respond to shortly. In asking about transparency, the noble Lord is absolutely right to say that there is an iterative process leading up to charter renewal. Also, we will need to start thinking about these issues as a Government, as a Parliament and as a country; we should not leave it all until the end of the process.

Oral Answers to Questions

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Thursday 13th December 2018

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Jeremy Wright Portrait Jeremy Wright - Parliament Live - Hansard

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that important matter. It is vital that anyone engaging in such transactions does so in full possession of the information they need and understands the consequences of their decisions. No one should be taken advantage of in this way. She will understand that this is a matter predominantly for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, which has policy responsibility in this area, but I will certainly discuss it with colleagues there. We will see what more we can do.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con) - Hansard
13 Dec 2018, 10:04 a.m.

The 2018 Leicestershire Promotions tourism and hospitality awards were held at the end of November. Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the almost 800-year- old Loughborough fair, which won the best free event category? Perhaps next November, rather than joining the rollercoaster here, he would like to join the rollercoaster in Loughborough.

Jeremy Wright Portrait Jeremy Wright - Parliament Live - Hansard
13 Dec 2018, 10:04 a.m.

That sounds a lot more fun. I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend and congratulate all those involved in the event that she mentions. As she suggests, the importance of what we are doing on tourism, and I hope that this will be reflected in the sector deal, is that tourism can be a hugely successful career—not just a summer job or short-term employment, but a career, and a satisfying one at that. It is important that we make that position clear to all those who seek to enter the workforce, so that we have a high-quality workforce offering a superb tourism product to a large number of people around the world.

UK Basketball

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Excerpts
Tuesday 20th February 2018

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Sir Mike Penning Portrait Sir Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead) (Con) - Hansard
20 Feb 2018, 9:47 a.m.

It is a pleasure to take part in this debate, not least because the national cup champions, Hemel Storm, are in my constituency. I want to talk about two points. I agree completely, looking at aspiration, that there has to be an opportunity for our young boys and girls to start at school, come through the clubs and go on to play for England. If the funding is just about winning at the top all the time, there will never be that transition. While I absolutely agree with the policy of Sport England on elitism, money has to be put to one side to bring the different places through.

I slightly disagree with the hon. Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel): it is not all about young people. The average crowd at Hemel Storm—I see here some of the referees that have come to me—is 700. That club started seven years ago. We had a club many years ago; the franchise was bought out, and it went to Milton Keynes. When we restarted the club—I say “we”, because it is completely a community project—we made sure it was set up as a trust, so that it could never be sold off again.

From that moment on, the community came in. We have great-great-grandparents in the audience on a regular basis, and toddlers who cannot even walk. They are mostly not there because of the players. Of course, the families and loved ones of the players are there, but we could not get those sorts of numbers from only families and loved ones, in a town that has baseball, professional rugby league and three football clubs—I could go on. There is an elite gym where Max Whitlock and Jess Stretton, who won Olympic golds, came from. The crowd is there because it is a community thing. It is us coming together.

When we went to east London, to the Docklands, for the final against Manchester Magic, they never realised what happened to them, because we had 500-plus of our people in the crowd and I think Manchester Magic had about half a dozen, or perhaps fewer than that. I am not saying that that is why Manchester Magic lost; they lost because they were not as good as Hemel Storm—it is as simple as that.

The issues I have heard are not new to me. I have players playing for England at junior level. In the past, I have had families come to me and ask, “Can we help fundraise?”, to help these young players come through. Like many colleagues, I have had correspondence from young people with aspirations who want to get up there. They have been selected for the England junior team. Marina Christie and Jack Burnell are both coming through and should be playing for England soon. They have had problems, but the families are brilliant and support them. While I fully support saying that we need to get more help from central funding, if we are really honest with ourselves, basketball needs to come together better across the board, so that we have the structures we need, right from the bottom to the top.

Baroness Morgan of Cotes Portrait Nicky Morgan (Loughborough) (Con) - Hansard
20 Feb 2018, 9:50 a.m.

Does my right hon. Friend agree with what the Leicester Riders said to me: basketball has a unique case for funding, because it is not just a sport, but a way to engage disengaged young people? He has been a Minister; he knows about young people who might fall the wrong way. Basketball can be a way to get them back on the right track, as sport generally is for young people.

Sir Mike Penning Portrait Sir Mike Penning - Hansard
20 Feb 2018, 9:50 a.m.

I completely agree on the latter point: sport is aspirational. It is one of the great ways forward for people like me, born and bred in north London. I got into the armed forces because I could play rugby pretty well. It was pretty obvious that I would not have got in on my academic abilities, but I boxed and I played rugby pretty well. I did try to play basketball, but it was the wrong shaped ball for me, and they were all up here somewhere, even though I was in the Guards.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Nicky Morgan) has touched on a very important point. Look at the people in the crowd watching: they are young and old, and from across our community. I am not going to pick on any particular area; at the end of the day, we come together as a community. Interestingly, Hemel Storm have only one overseas player. That is quite remarkable given the progression that we have made, but we simply did not have the money at the time to bring in players from Spain and America; we have one American player now.

We looked at how this could be funded, and we need to look at that all the way through. Look at the sponsorship of Hemel Storm: Epson, an international company; Vanarama, one of the largest leasing companies in the country and sponsors of the Vanarama football league; McDonald’s, interestingly enough, which is genuinely trying to show what it does with its healthy food; and Arriva, which has donated us a bus completely plastered with “Hemel Storm”, which we use when we are away.

Interestingly and importantly, Mr Bailey, when I was at the cup final, I saw absolutely no advertising. There was no marketing and no sponsorship. To me, that is the missing link. We can ask the lottery and Sport England for more money, but we also have to come together in the basketball community to get the sponsorship that we need.