There have been 12 exchanges between John Glen and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
|Thu 21st December 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||29 interactions (558 words)|
|Tue 5th December 2017||City of Culture 2021: Swansea Bid (Westminster Hall)||13 interactions (1,865 words)|
|Tue 28th November 2017||Dr Elsie Inglis and Women’s Contribution to World War One (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (2,325 words)|
|Tue 21st November 2017||City of Culture 2021: Sunderland Bid (Westminster Hall)||2 interactions (1,419 words)|
|Thu 16th November 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||11 interactions (142 words)|
|Wed 25th October 2017||National Railway Museum and Ownership of National Assets (Westminster Hall)||7 interactions (1,587 words)|
|Fri 20th October 2017||First World War Servicemen: Memorial Plaques||7 interactions (1,602 words)|
|Wed 11th October 2017||The Arts: Health Effects (Westminster Hall)||3 interactions (1,392 words)|
|Thu 14th September 2017||Oral Answers to Questions||45 interactions (881 words)|
|Tue 5th September 2017||Coventry City of Culture (Westminster Hall)||8 interactions (1,680 words)|
|Thu 13th July 2017||Passchendaele||24 interactions (3,596 words)|
|Wed 5th July 2017||Perth’s Cultural Contribution to the UK||4 interactions (1,641 words)|
3. What recent assessment she has made of the role of public libraries in increasing social mobility. 
The Minister will know from his time as a parliamentary candidate in Plymouth how important libraries are to social mobility in the city. The Conservative council in Plymouth has this year closed six of our libraries—two in the constituency I represent and four in the constituency in which the Minister stood. Will he spread some festive cheer and tell library users in Plymouth that there will be no more library closures in the new year?
Order. I congratulate the hon. Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone) on his tie, which is as flamboyant as my own.
Northamptonshire County Council is proposing to cut 28 of its 36 libraries. Will the Minister send in the Government’s libraries taskforce to see whether a county-wide libraries trust might be set up to save these vital public services?
Ebenezer Scrooge, and indeed Charles Dickens, would recognise exactly the mood in this country at the moment, with libraries closing and children being unable to go there to do their homework or access computers. What kind of Britain is this, when we think of Dickens and Scrooge at this time of year, with this Government?
Mr Speaker, I am sorry that my tie has not caught your eye as well as the tie of my hon. Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr Hollobone), did but I will try harder in 2018.
Does the Minister agree that all libraries can play a part in social mobility? Will he join me in thanking the volunteers of Colehill community library in my constituency for all their hard work? It is not just a traditional library; there is a jigsaw library and there are one-to-one computer sessions, and I have even held my surgery there.
It sounds very exciting.
My tie is very plain, Mr Speaker.
I can announce to the House that over 100 libraries closed this year. Libraries are genuine engines of social mobility. Why are the Government content with that situation, because the Minister seems to be? Does he agree with the editor of Public Library News, who recently stated:
“The example of other countries shows that the decline of the library in this country is not a natural thing: this is a man-made disaster, brought on by short-sighted but long-term cuts”?
He is right, is he not? And merry Christmas.
4. If she will assume responsibility for ensuring the delivery of broadband in Scotland. 
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5. What recent assessment she has made of the effect on public libraries of changes to local authority budgets. 
I thank the Minister for that response. My local authority, Labour-run Rochdale Borough Council, has endeavoured to keep all our public libraries open, recognising their importance to our communities. They are much more than just books; they are information, support and advice centres. I hold surgeries at our libraries, as does the citizens advice bureau. What action will the Minister take to support such good practice and, in the face of further cuts, how will he ensure its sustainability?
6. What recent assessment she has made of progress towards the target of 95% superfast broadband coverage. 
Break in Debate
T2. The opening of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi by President Macron last month demonstrated the power of culture to drive foreign and trade policy, but we all know that the glories of France are as nothing compared with the glories of our own country, so what can the Secretary of State and her Ministers do to advance British cultural diplomacy around the world, and might one element of that be our excellent cultural protection fund? 
T3. This week the German competition authority ruled that the collection and use of data by Facebook was abusive. Does the Minister agree? 
Break in Debate
Order. Just as a general piece of advice to the House, may I say that the best way to cope with the additional time pressure in topical questions is not to blurt out the same number of words at a more frenetic pace, but to blurt out fewer words?
As the Secretary of State is aware, Dundee city has put together a transformative bid to be the European city of culture. I desperately want Dundee—its bid will have clear benefits for all of Tayside—and the other cities to have a chance to test their bids. May I urge my right hon. Friend to find an alternative way of taking forward this contest so that all the time, money and, most importantly, vision for Dundee is not put to waste?
My hon. Friend will not be surprised to know that I agree with that.
We have already heard the famous quote by Dylan Thomas about Swansea as an “ugly, lovely town”. Well, he was right, it is lovely, and perhaps once it was ugly. Now, however, it is a beautiful city, not an “ugly, lovely town”, and today people can visit wonderful cultural institutions in Swansea, such as the Dylan Thomas Centre that we heard about earlier, which opened in 2014 to commemorate the centenary of his birth. They can also visit 5 Cwmdonkin Drive, and that is a short walk from Cwmdonkin park—the subject of the poem that I recited earlier—where there is a blue plaque and a permanent exhibition to commemorate him.
It is not only Welsh writers who have an association with Swansea. We have not yet heard mention of Kingsley Amis, who spent many years as a lecturer at University College, Swansea. He wrote “Lucky Jim” and “That Uncertain Feeling”—that was later made into a film with Peter Sellers called “Only Two Can Play”—while living in the Uplands in Swansea. It is a town with a real literary and cultural background. My very good friend, the artist Paul Edwards, is from Swansea. It is full of theatres, castles and galleries and has a vibrant cultural life.
As we have heard, Swansea University goes from strength to strength. I recently visited the new campus at Jersey Marine, and the Morgan Academy, which was set up in memory of the late, great Rhodri Morgan, who was my predecessor as MP for Cardiff West and the former First Minister of Wales. Given all that, it is clear that Swansea’s cultural life is truly worth celebrating, and its bid is very strong.
I would like briefly to mention the European capital of culture, because I think that relates to today’s debate. I have asked the Government for a list of meetings that were held in 2017 on that issue, given the recent announcement by the European Commission that Britain’s bid for European capital of culture will be withdrawn. Unfortunately, in answer to my parliamentary question, the Government referred me to a public list of meetings that goes only until June this year, and I think that we need a more serious response to explain what happened with the European city of culture. I hope that the Minister will be able to make a passing reference to that, and say a bit more about why the UK Government, and the bidding cities, which were spending money up until the last moment on their bids, were so blindsided by the announcement that the European capital of culture competition would not be going forward in the UK. I hope that the Minister will confirm—I am sure he will—that the competition for UK capital of culture will be going forward, and that the bidding cities have not been wasting their time and money.
We have heard a lot about the kind of impact that being city of culture can have. It does not magically create culture where it does not exist, but it celebrates and encourages great work that is already being done but is often under-publicised. As such, Swansea is already a city of culture, regardless of whether the bid is successful. I hope that the UK city of culture competition continues to thrive, and champions the cultural activities that make cities and towns across the UK such wonderful places that we can be proud of.
I know that the Minister will be looking, as the panel will be, at the past, present and future cultural offering for Swansea and other places, but will he be looking very carefully at relative deprivation? I say that because, as he knows, the average UK gross income is £19,106 but the average in Wales is £16,341 and in Swansea, £15,604. Weekly, that is £550 for the UK and less than £500 for Swansea. Can he confirm that he will be looking at the impact on deprivation and the inclusivity of these bids?
Although this is just an anecdote, does the Minister think it represents Hull? I remember going to a Cardiff City match against Hull where the Hull fans had a big banner saying, “Ghetto of excellence.” I think they can lose the “ghetto” bit now, after city of culture.
Will the Minister give way on that point?
I was going to have a watching brief in this debate and hold my tongue because there have been many great speeches on why Swansea should be the city of culture. Based on the football element, the Minister will be aware that the local football side St Mirren has renamed its stadium the Paisley 2021 stadium in support of the bid. That highlights the huge support it has across Paisley, Renfrewshire and indeed Scotland.
I am enjoying the Minister’s speech, but I just want to point out to him that we have two engines in the universities there that are producing enormous numbers of qualified people in both the arts and the sciences. One of the things we lack is the retention of those people in the city. Does he agree that city of culture status would enable them to stay in their home and build the economy, with visitors and tourism helping to fuel that fire?
I thank the Minister for his conclusion. It is clear that he is not the judge alone; he is the conduit to deliver the judges’ address and result on Thursday, but any influence that he can exert over them would be gratefully received by those of us in Swansea. We have clearly heard today that this is not just a city bid but a national bid. We have had support from Anglesey to Aberavon, covering a vast area—a rural area and a city area—and adjacent cities and counties across Wales. This is a very important bid to the people of Wales, and certainly to the city of Swansea.
I thank all my colleagues from all parts of the House for the cross-party support for Swansea’s city of culture bid. I am grateful to have so much support and to hear the various views and bids for Swansea to be given city of culture status. We have heard a lot about Swansea’s background and history—it was how I began my opening speech—but the city of culture bid is all about the future. It could offer so much to the people of Swansea. From youngsters going through school to the children who have not even been born yet, all can benefit from Swansea being named the city of culture for 2021. This is very important to us. As I said during my initial address, I was not pushing and supporting the bid from a feeling of unfairness because we had missed out in the past. Like all my colleagues, I support it because Swansea truly deserves to be the 2021 city of culture. Let us all hope on Thursday for the right result to be announced—that Swansea will be that city of culture in 2021.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered Swansea’s bid to be City of Culture 2021.
It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Davies. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South (Ian Murray) on securing today’s debate. We have heard some wonderful contributions, starting with his own, followed by a speech from the hon. Member for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk (John Lamont). My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport (Luke Pollard) made a good point about the statistics on the representation of women in public art; perhaps the Minister could reflect on that. Given what we have heard today, the representation of women in our public art is pitiful, and much needs to be done to rectify that, including collecting statistics. Indeed, another matter that the Minister could fruitfully give some thought to after the debate is the number of women artists represented in the Government’s art collection.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) reminded us of the role of women in the great war, but after being admonished by you, Mr Davies, he did not stray too far into the issues relating to the miners’ strike. I think the historical thread he was trying to draw out was understood by all concerned: women have made a huge contribution not only during national and international conflict, but during industrial conflict in this country.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) appropriately reminded us of the complexity of politics in Ireland at the time of the great war, embodied in the person he spoke about, Winnie Carney. That complexity is at last being much more openly acknowledged, as is the contribution that Irish men and women from all over Ireland made during the great war, prior to the Easter rising and the civil war that followed the great war. It is right that that should be much more openly acknowledged and debated in the UK and Ireland.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Christine Jardine) said that the women are part of a “glorious thread woven through British history”, and I entirely endorse that remark, which sums up in a single phrase what we are discussing this morning. My hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley Central (Dan Jarvis) spoke about Mary Barbour, a huge figure in the “Red Clydeside” movement at the time of the great war and thereafter. Indeed, as well as the rent strike, she organised the women’s peace crusade. When discussing the great war we should also talk about the complexities and the controversy in relation to the way that that war broke out and was fought.
I am glad to be here on behalf of the Labour Front Bench and pleased to be able to contribute to this important debate during the period of the first world war centenary commemorations. As we have heard, the story of Dr Elsie Inglis is remarkable. Her work in setting up women’s medical units on the western front so soon after the outbreak of the war, and her later involvement in arranging women’s despatch units to attend to other areas of fighting, is an incredible story. As a result of her work, there were 14 Scottish women’s hospitals along the frontline, where almost 1,500 women served, often in atrocious conditions, serving an estimated 20,000 allied soldiers.
Today we have heard of Dr Inglis’ drive and her initiative and compassion, all of which led her to use her skills to help others. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South said that when she was told by the War Office to,
“go home and sit still”,
she turned to France for support to make her goal a reality. She also turned to the sisterhood and solidarity of the women’s suffrage organisations, which were crucial to her success, as they raised the equivalent of £53 million in today’s money in support of her cause. She is a fine example for us all to follow. Do not follow the Government’s advice at all times is one message I take from her example. We are grateful today for her service and her sacrifice, and indeed her belligerence, independence and stubbornness, which led her to carry on despite the opposition from her own Government. This month’s celebrations in Edinburgh are a fitting tribute to her work and I wish all the best for the service at St Giles’ Cathedral taking place tomorrow, which hon. Members have mentioned.
Earlier this year we had the opportunity to pay tribute in the Chamber to those who fought in Passchendaele. During that debate I was glad to be able to pay particular tribute, as a Member of Parliament representing a Welsh constituency, to the Welch Regiment, the South Wales Borderers and the Royal Welch Fusiliers, who all fought alongside each other in the 38th Division, and to the Welsh Guards who fought in the third battle of Ypres. In Wales we particularly remember the poignant death of the poet Ellis Evans, better known as Hedd Wyn, who was killed before he was able to claim his prize of the chair at the National Eisteddfod during the war; he was killed at Passchendaele. As ever, we remain in remembrance of their great sacrifice for the freedom and future of our country. In addition to paying tribute to the local forces as part of that debate, many Members talked of the brave work of women across the country, as well as from their particular constituencies, during the great war.
Across the UK women served at home and abroad to ensure the success of the allied forces. Many, like Dr Elsie Inglis, left for the western front to care for the wounded. In the munitions factories, as we have heard, many working-class women undertook hazardous manufacturing work. In fact, in the second world war, my father’s sister, my Auntie Mary, worked in the Currans munitions factory in Cardiff. In the first world war there were 11 munitions factories in Wales alone, and by the end of the war 80% of the workforce in those factories were women. It is a myth that women were not in paid work before the first world war. Many, like my own relatives, worked in service before getting married. Many of the women who worked in the munitions factories transferred their aprons working in service to work in overalls in the munitions factories. In that dangerous and dirty work, they found both a way to contribute to the war effort on the home front, and for many, for the first time, a way to earn a significant and stable independent income.
The percentage of women in paid work increased from 24% at the outset of the first world war to 37% by 1918. In 1917, 20,000 women joined the Women’s Land Army across the UK. In my constituency, the Green Farm became what is now the very large housing estate of Ely. That subject is quite topical in some ways, as the estate was part of the drive to build homes fit for heroes after the first world war. As a farm during the war, it was predominantly run by female farmhands. One of the workers, Agnes Greatorex, who left domestic service to work there, said:
“Every morning, we would get up at five o'clock and milk a hundred cows. We would then take the milk to Glan Ely Hospital,”
where many of the injured soldiers returning from the war were looked after. For many, such work was taken on in addition to the weight of domestic work. Although many men went to fight, women often became the breadwinner at home, bearing the brunt of the increased emotional and domestic labour of running a house and caring for a family. We should also remember that others served at home, but not in the armed forces. Like my grandfather, Edward Evans, they were not allowed to be conscripted in wartime because they worked in the coalmines, but they made their contribution serving at home. My grandmother, Gwellian Evans, worked in service and then domestically supported her husband.
Women such as Dr Elsie Inglis and Agnes Greatorex are a part our history, and we owe them a huge debt. I should also mention some prominent women from Wales. Gwendoline and Margaret Davies are better known as philanthropists in the arts, but they worked with the French Red Cross in canteens and organised convalescent hospitals and transit camps on the frontline. Annie Brewer, a military nurse from Newport, spent the war in France and won many medals for her courage. One citation applauded her
“coolness and total disregard of danger, lavishing her attention on men wounded under fire”.
That sums up some of the incredibly brave contribution made by women on the frontline during the war.
A poster during the first world war depicted a woman wearing overalls and said:
“On her their lives depend.”
Our tributes today make that same message abundantly clear. It is no coincidence that the centenary commemoration of women’s suffrage closely follows that of the first world war. As we know, the suffragettes largely suspended their organising during the war in order to concentrate on the war effort. In the end, the crucial contribution of women to the war helped change the perception of women in the UK, and in November 1918 women over the age of 30 were given the right to vote.
Given Dr Inglis’ commitment to women’s suffrage, it is particularly poignant that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh South reminded us, she died a year before the passage of the Representation of the People Act. It is a great injustice that despite her historic sacrifice for our country, she never had the opportunity to cast a vote in an election to this place.
Before I close on the topic of women in the first world war, it is right to consider how these issues continue to play out today. Women’s work—their physical, professional and emotional labour—remains often underappreciated and underpaid. Of course, women play a vital frontline role in our armed forces today. We have come a long way since 1918, but it remains all too common that the contributions of women are underplayed, so I am pleased that this debate today has shone a spotlight on the accomplishments and sacrifices of so many historic women, from extraordinary actions to daily perseverance. I warmly welcome the WomensWork100 programme, which will launch in 2018 through the First World War Centenary Partnership. I thank all the organisations involved for their hard work throughout the commemoration period, in particular the Imperial War Museum.
Our armed forces communities continue to protect us, and I am proud of and humbled by the sacrifices they still make today. At home, the UK armed forces, supported by the entire armed forces community of families, reservists, veterans and cadets, continue to support responses to terrorist incidents and to protect our aerospace. Abroad, they are currently involved in more than 30 operations in 20 countries, from supporting the European Union and UN peacekeeping missions in South Sudan, to responding to the continuing threat posed by Daesh. As we take this time today to remember the contributions and sacrifices made during the first world war, we should also remember the sacrifices that have been made every year since then and are still being made by the brave men and women of the armed forces community. We should also redouble our efforts—all of us; men and women—to work for peace.
I thank the Minister and the shadow Minister for their wonderful contributions and the moving stories they told from their personal experience. What we see from the debate—from Dr Elsie Inglis, Mary Barbour and Florence Green, whom the Minister mentioned; from Plymouth to Wales to Glasgow to Edinburgh, from Barnsley to Caithness to Northern Ireland and right across the country; from the RAF, the Army and the Royal Navy—is that the contribution that these dedicated, passionate and often modest women made to the war effort, and subsequently, without any regard to their own safety, shows that we owe them a great deal of respect and remembrance. Perhaps, if someone from the BBC is watching, they might want to change “Dad’s Army” to “Mum’s Army” and make a new comedy series about the contribution of women to the war effort.
We will see many centenaries this year and next in the run-up to the centenary of the end of the first world war. For everyone who made an effort, particularly for women, we will do two things: thank them for the service they gave this country and say that we will always remember them.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered Dr Elsie Inglis and the contribution of women to World War One.
The names have changed a lot over the years. My hon. Friend the Member for Washington and Sunderland West (Mrs Hodgson) has the F Pit Museum and Washington Old Hall, the ancestral home of George Washington. Things of a cultural nature are happening right across the city.
There is not lukewarm support but passionate backing for a project that the people want and the city needs. Our bid has also garnered the support of people from across the north-east region. Even the old rivalries between Sunderland and Newcastle have been put to one side on this one—anyone who understands rivalries in football will really know how passionate those rivalries are at times. Newcastle City Council passed a motion in support of our bid.
Neither the city of culture nor the European capital of culture has ever been awarded to a city in the north-east of England, despite strong bids by our neighbours Newcastle and Gateshead for European capital of culture 2008 and Durham for city of culture 2013. We are hoping it will be third time lucky.
Sunderland gets what a difference it would make: we understand that change would be fundamental and long-lasting. It is not just about the huge investment that would follow. Hull—some people say Hull is a north-east city, but it takes more than three hours to get there from Sunderland—forecasts that more than £3 billion will have flowed into its city thanks to being this year’s city of culture. Attracting an extra 1.6 million visitors, being the UK city of culture would change the way Sunderland is perceived regionally, nationally and internationally. The city that to some has become the symbol of Brexit would once again be seen as the warm, welcoming, modest, hard-working, tolerant, creative and innovative city we know it is.
Winning city of culture would be the catalyst for growth in our creative industries. We believe it would enable the growth of 150 new creative businesses, bringing in 750 sustainable jobs that our city needs. We understand how a successful bid would improve our health and wellbeing and help us become a more cohesive city. It is widely known that engagement and participation in the arts can have a positive, long-term effect on improving someone’s health and wellbeing—and particularly someone’s mental health, which is very much in the spotlight at the moment. An extended and improved cultural sector delivering more opportunities for people to engage in the arts would therefore have a meaningful impact on the city’s wellbeing.
Sunderland struggles with some of the most acute health challenges in the country, partly because of lifestyle choices but also significantly from our heritage of industrial working. The injection of cultural opportunity would do more for communities in Sunderland than anywhere else.
Communities become stronger and more understanding when working together on artistic projects. The participatory and collaborative nature of the arts and their informality promotes friendships and greater tolerance across cultural divides, even bridging language barriers.
Our city-wide conversations have inspired three creative themes: light, inventiveness and friendship. Those themes connect our past and future. They resonate with our local communities and would provide the stimulus for world-class cultural activity throughout 2021. They would strengthen the three strands of any successful city: its society, economy and culture.
Our opening season would be themed around friendship, bringing together communities across Wearside and welcoming visitors from around the world to a programme of art and culture inspired by questions about how we live together, both locally and globally. Our middle season would take inspiration from innovators, inventors and trailblazers past, present and future, to create a programme that will tackle the questions of how we make and shape the future of the world around us through our creativity and ingenuity.
Sunderland was home to Joseph Swan, the inventor of the electric light bulb, although he lost out on the patent to Edison; and before him to the glass makers, who brought stained glass window making to this country more than 1,300 years ago. Nowadays, we “Mackems” continue to innovate and invent, particularly in the IT and digital sector, as well as having the most productive car plant in Europe, which is often talked about in this place. Our final season would be inspired by the theme of light, and would be a celebration of the power of art and culture to enchant, inspire and illuminate new possibilities. Sunderland has long been an inspiration for artists and writers such as L.S. Lowry and Lewis Carroll, and painters talk of the special light that casts a glowing warmth over our fantastic beaches and coastline.
I want everyone to know just how special Sunderland is and, more than that, what city of culture status would do for our city. My city is a truly wonderful place for creativity. It is ambitious, brave and collaborative, like our bid. Winning UK city of culture 2021 would bring so much to our city and would help to reaffirm that Sunderland’s best days are not behind us, but most definitely still to come.
The biggest concern of the tourism and hospitality sector is access to the labour force once we leave the EU. Will the Minister confirm that he has got this message, and will he update the House on what representations he is making to the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on the matter?
T6. In September, the NEC Group agreed to operate the Bradford Odeon as the largest mid-sized venue outside London. This could attract a further quarter of a million visitors to Bradford. Does the Minister agree that this shows a huge confidence in Bradford, and will he look at bridging the funding gap after the local authority has added extra funds? Will he also meet me to look at the restoration of this world-class site? 
Break in Debate
The Minister responsible for tourism will be aware of the importance of the industry to Torbay. It may seem strange to say this in winter, but many people will soon be starting to think about their summer holidays. What work will he do to ensure that people think of coming to Britain’s great coastline next summer when they book their holiday at Christmas 2017?
T7. Will Ministers look at the situation whereby the 2018 winter Olympics would in their entirety be a listed event, with the expectation that they would be shown on live free-to-air TV, as before, in their entirety? In fact, most of the live coverage will be on Discovery’s Eurosport without, as yet, any reference to Ofcom. 
Break in Debate
The Natural History Museum is embarking on the monumental task of digitising 800 million items, including a collection of dung beetles and flea beetles. These items could hold the keys to our future biodiversity, climate change and pollution problems, so they are very important. Does the Minister agree that this is the kind of project the Government should be supporting in conjunction with our global partners?
I am sorry to disappoint remaining colleagues, but there is heavy pressure on time today in light of the Backbench Business Committee debates and the statements before them, so we must now move on.
Indeed. My mother’s brothers and my grandfather were coalminers who were part of that whole process. Further, one of the first jobs I had as a young man was working over the summer as a platelayer in the British steelworks at Llanwern. I had some real hands-on experience of working on the railway, and can tell the House that lifting lines and packing ballast under the tracks and sleepers quickly convinced me that politics was a much better profession to go into. It is an easier occupation than working on the railways, which is a tremendously skilled but very labour-intensive job.
Later, as a skills Minister, I had the great opportunity to visit Pete Waterman’s site at Crewe—he of “The X Factor” fame—where lots of young people are trained as apprentices to work on the wonderful heritage railway lines and schemes we have around the country. As the older engineers were all dying off, that skill and knowledge had to be passed on to the next generation. I commend the work that Pete Waterman, as a railway enthusiast, has done over many years to ensure that those skills are indeed passed on.
This country’s heritage railway industry is extraordinary. I looked earlier at the list and thought I might read out a few, but I am not going to because there are countless wonderful heritage railway lines around the country. It is appropriate that we are debating that today. This debate is very important. We have heard about the National Railway Museum in York, where visitors can enjoy two centuries of railway history. As we heard, it was opened in 1975; it nearly doubled in size during its expansion in 1990, and in 2004, along with the local authority, it opened the museum in Shildon, which my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland mentioned earlier—the first national museum in the north-east.
It would be helpful if, when the Minister replies, he answers the questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North and some questions that I would like to add. We have rightly focused on the National Railway Museum today but, as hon. Members may know, the Government are currently carrying out a museums review. Will the Minister give us a steer as to when he expects the review to surface? I understand it is very close to completion—perhaps the write-around is going on among Ministers at the moment—but it would be helpful to the House to know. That is reasonable; this should not be a state secret.
Will the Minister also tell us what impact cuts to local authority budgets are having on local museums—in particular, on opening hours? Has he undertaken any kind of survey of local museums to try to estimate that? My hon. Friend the Member for Darlington mentioned the fact that her local railway museum is generally closed on Mondays and sometimes, at this time of year, on Tuesdays as well. Is that something that the Minister is worried about and is it getting worse?
We also heard the concern of my hon. Friend the Member for Luton North about how museums manage their collections. Will the museum review deal with questions regarding ethical disposal and collection management? Is that going to be part of the review? Will the Minister confirm that the Government intend to keep Labour’s policy of free admission to our national museums, which the previous Labour Government introduced, including the National Railway Museum at York? My hon. Friend also raised specific concerns about the disposal of three locomotives. He did not quite accuse the Minister or the National Railway Museum of the great train robbery, but he did raise questions that the Minister needs to answer about consultation, transparency, tendering and fairness, as well as compliance with the National Heritage Act 1983.
In conclusion, Britain has a remarkable museums sector. We welcome the museums review that the Government are undertaking and that Neil Mendoza is doing for them. We are concerned that, unlike with previous reviews under Labour, no new resources will be made available to support museums, which are under severe financial pressure as a result of those cuts at the local level. That will inevitably lead to further issues around the disposal of museum collections. I hope the Minister will give the House reassurances on those issues.
I speak both as a railway enthusiast and an officer of the all-party group on heritage rail, which is particularly interested in ensuring that locomotives are in steam and that people see them running. I have visited York on many occasions and the days on which the locomotives are in steam draw the real crowds. Will the Minister assure us that if locomotives are transferred, whether to Swanage or wherever, they can be seen operating on the many preserved lines we have up and down the country?
I thank the Minister and all hon. Members for their contributions. I am pleased that I raised this important issue, because the debate has shone a light on a subject that may not have been illuminated before.
I would perhaps demur from some of the Minister’s points. The rules under the National Heritage Act are fairly strict, including the criteria by which assets can be disposed of, and I do not think that they have been observed properly in this case. However, we have heard some interesting contributions. I do not have time to go into them in great detail, but I thank everybody for them. I hope that in future we will guard all our national assets, in every kind of museum or gallery, with great reverence and ensure that the public interest is protected at all times, so that we keep our wonderful heritage accessible to all, free of charge, throughout the country, both nationally and locally.
Question put and agreed to.
That this House has considered the National Railway Museum and ownership of national assets.
I thank my hon. Friend for that nice story. It is right that we should commemorate. This is only part of the story, but it is fitting for those homes to bear those plaques.
What is the Government’s role? The Government would like to do everything they possibly can, but it is really up to the community to recognise that the plaques mean something. I would love to see a national memorial to the fallen, or for the plaques to go to local regiments, local museums or even the Military Heritage Society. Personally, I would like for Charles Edward Woodward’s plaque to be displayed here in the House of Commons. I understand, however, that because he does not have any ties with the Commons, that cannot be the case—maybe it could be displayed in the green case downstairs for a short time. I would therefore like to round off this emotive speech by letting him go home and handing the plaque to my hon. Friend the Member for Louth and Horncastle (Victoria Atkins).
Will you allow me a moment, Madam Deputy Speaker, to thank my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale for making such a moving speech, and also for presenting me with a valuable and special token of the, sadly, very short life of someone who would have lived in Spilsby, in my constituency?
The Minister is talking about museums. We have a wonderful museum in Alford, just as few miles down the road from Spilsby, where that young man came from. It is run by volunteers, and currently has an exhibition commemorating the centenary of the first world war. The collection has been gathered from local people who have lent objects that have been found in their attics, or in their grandparents’ homes, to the museum at Alford Manor House. It will be my very great honour to lend this plaque to the museum until next year—with, obviously, the consent of my hon. Friend.
Families now remember their fallen by dedicating a corner of their living room to the young man, or young woman, who is lost. They have the helmet, the hat, the belt and the medal. The medal usually has the young person’s name on it, written around the ring. The families generally have the letter of condolence as well. Families whom I have visited, because the people whom they have lost were under my command when they were killed, have had one of these pennies in the room. That brings family history to life, because, from the first world war to the present, it shows the family connection. It is wonderful to see that.
This has been an excellent debate, as everybody has said. I congratulate the right hon. Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey), and the APPG and Lord Howarth for all the work they have done. The right hon. Member for Wantage set out the debate very well, talking about the way the arts can alter the morphology of the brain and make a real change. He called for a culture change in society with respect to the arts and their interaction with health. He also said that education was a debate for another day. I am not sure that the Opposition agree that that is the case, and I may come back to that point. He rightly mentioned that Alan Johnson, when he was a Health Minister, emphasised that point, and he quite rightly called upon current Health Ministers to engage actively in this debate, which I also welcome.
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Gloria De Piero) on making a timely intervention and on her recent work with my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen (Tracy Brabin) on the Acting Up report, which was commissioned by the Opposition Front Bench to try to emphasise the importance of the arts—particularly access to the arts—for working-class children in the area of acting and across the piece. That point on access was raised by other hon. Members and is absolutely essential. My hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman) very powerfully emphasised the issue of access to the arts.
I also congratulate the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr Seely), who spoke very lyrically about his constituency and the great work done there in the arts and health. The hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) gave us a psychologist’s insight, which was extremely useful. She talked about the way that art can give inmates the opportunity for rehabilitation. That certainly reminded me of the campaign that I ran in the last Parliament, when the Government mistakenly made a move to stop prisoners having access in prison not only to books but to guitars. I started a campaign with Billy Bragg and I praised the Government at the time for changing their mind, to allow prisoners the opportunity to express themselves creatively as part of their rehabilitation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol North West (Darren Jones) is a very accomplished musician, as he told us. He quite rightly mentioned the Musicians Union campaign. Like him, the new general secretary of the MU, Horace Trubridge, is a saxophonist and I look forward to a duet at some point, perhaps accompanying MP4, the world’s greatest and only parliamentary rock band, of which I am a member.
The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) quite rightly pointed out the value of the arts to veterans who have been through the experience of serving our country, and he was quite right to emphasise that point and bring it to our attention. My hon. Friend the Member for High Peak (Ruth George) spoke about Project eARTh, a mental health and arts initiative that brings real benefits in her constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen quite rightly mentioned education—I will come back to that point—and my hon. Friend the Member for East Lothian (Martin Whitfield) told us about his constituent, Grace, and the Teapot Trust, in a very valid contribution. My hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Clwyd (Chris Ruane) really is a world leader, as a parliamentarian, on mindfulness, bringing it into Parliament and spreading the word about its importance, and the arts as part of that. He spoke about the primal nature of creativity, and how it is intertwined in our DNA and so important to us. He gave us a frightening statistic about the growth in the use of antidepressants. He quite rightly mentioned, in Libraries Week, the importance of libraries as a creative outlet for people.
Time is fairly short, and it is right that the right hon. Member for Wantage and the Minister should have an opportunity to respond. I want to emphasise a couple of points. We have rehearsed well the value of the arts and creativity to health and wellbeing, and there has been widespread agreement across the House on that. In calling for a culture change, which the right hon. Gentleman rightly did, the difficulty is that while a culture change is needed across the country, it is also needed, if I may say so to the Minister, in Government and among some of his colleagues.
There is nothing wrong with putting an emphasis on basic skills in education. It is quite right that that should concern us all, and it should not be a party political football, but accountability measures in education are set in such a way that they result in some of the statistics that my hon. Friend the Member for Batley and Spen reminded us of. Between November 2010 and November 2015 the number of art and design teachers in our schools fell by 9%. That is a fact; it is going on right now in our schools. We have all said what a wonderful thing music is and what a wonderful contribution it makes to our wellbeing, and I include myself in that, but the number of students taking GCSE music has dropped by 9%. We all know that drama—my brother is a professional actor, as was my hon. Friend—is a tremendous outlet and means of expression for some young people who can find no other means to do that or find it very difficult to do so. The number of students taking drama A-level has fallen by 26% since 2010.
To conclude, I am going to call it out this way: in the Department for Education the Schools Minister, who has been almost a constant fixture in that Department, has been a blockage, in my view, to some of the good rhetoric that comes out of Government about the importance of creativity. At some point, someone in Government, a Minister, has got to do something about it—it starts at the top, it should be the Prime Minister—and has got to say that the pendulum has swung too far, and creativity and the arts are being squeezed out of our education system. All the calls we make for culture change will come to nothing unless action is taken on that point.
2. What assessment she has made of trends in the level of tourism to the UK in the next five years. 
Mansfield is the biggest and best town in Nottinghamshire, with a wonderful theatre, a nationally acclaimed museum and Sherwood forest on its doorstep, but we do not make the most of those assets. In fact, we do not have a single major hotel in the constituency. Will the Minister join me in commending the work of Mansfield Town football club, which is striving to bring such a hotel to the constituency, and will he offer the Government’s support in making Mansfield a tourist destination in the future?
North Wales has been identified as one of the places to go to in the world this year, and with Chester on our doorstep and Liverpool close by, we are a tourist destination of choice. When can the Minister give certainty about visas, or the potential for visas, for European Union citizens post the EU exit, because we service Ireland and we have many visitors from the mainland EU?
Stafford has wonderful tourist attractions, not least the town centre, but also Shugborough and Weston Park. However, to get to Stafford from the M6, people have to come off at junctions 13 or 14, both of which are blighted constantly by lots and lots of litter. What can my hon. Friend do to persuade Highways England of the need to keep our major roads cleaner to attract more tourists?
My constituency, Edinburgh West, is—like the rest of Edinburgh and much of Scotland—highly dependent on tourism. We have the new attraction of the bridge, Edinburgh zoo, the rugby and the world’s biggest international festival. Will the Minister assure me that he will press Her Majesty’s Treasury to take the same sort of initiative on lowering VAT for the tourism industry that our partners in the EU have done to support that industry and boost their communities?
3. If she will make it her policy to allow the installation of community ATMs in listed phone boxes without their having to first be de-listed. 
I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for that clear answer. BT provided a phone box cashpoint in Odiham in my constituency, and I have asked it to do the same in Hartley Wintney, but it is restricted by the listed status there. Will my hon. Friend meet me to discuss how the community benefit can be delivered either through amendments to the listed status or through other measures, which could prevent the boxes from being removed in future?
4. What progress her Department has made on establishing a public service broadcasting contestable fund. 
Break in Debate
6. What recent discussions her Department has had with the National Trust on its stewardship of places of cultural value and heritage. 
I thank the Minister for his answer. I should say that I am a member and a supporter of the National Trust. I must ask, however, whether the licensing for trail hunting on National Trust land is consistent with his aim of preserving and protecting historical places and spaces, considering the growing evidence of illegal hunting, particularly under the false alibi of trail hunting, and the damage that can cause.
I thank the Minister for his recent visit to Cornwall. I am pleased to be able to confirm to the House that the Minister is a fine figure of a man when wearing a wetsuit. On his visit, I am sure he will have learned that Cornwall has a disproportionately high number of National Trust properties, many of which are kept going not just by the paid staff but by an army of volunteers. Will he join me in paying tribute to those volunteers and thanking them for their excellent work in maintaining our National Trust properties?
Alongside the National Trust, the Minister will be aware of the press coverage over the weekend about a number of high-profile charities that own seats in the Albert Hall. Trustees of those charities have been selling those seats at a very high price. That is a despicable practice; it is no way for such charities to act in a modern society. Will the Minister support the Charity Commission in trying to resolve that issue to ensure that despicable practice stops?
7. What discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on her departmental priorities for the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. 
Break in Debate
12. What progress she has made on improving accessibility to heritage sites. 
Clifford’s Tower in York is about to have a £2 million upgrade, but it will not be accessible to disabled people afterwards. It is 22 years since the passing of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, yet heritage organisations hide behind the term “reasonable adjustments”. What is the Minister doing to ensure that heritage sites are accessible to everyone?
On 21 October, the town of Wellington will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone that commemorates the Duke of Wellington’s success at the battle of Waterloo. Although that wonderful monument, which can be seen from the M5, is accessible from the outside, the staircase on the inside is not, because the monument is undergoing a massive restoration project. Will the Minister join me in wishing all the people of Wellington well in the celebrations—in which I will take part—and does he agree that it is very important to restore monuments of such magnitude? That benefits not just local people, but those nationally and internationally, because such monuments are very important to our history.
T1. If she will make a statement on her departmental responsibilities. 
Break in Debate
T2. Scottish politics can be rather tribal, but yesterday Scottish politics united in support of Paisley’s bid to become the UK City of Culture in 2021. Paisley’s bid is now Scotland’s bid. The final stage of the competition is looming, and a win for Paisley would create a bigger legacy than a win for anywhere else. Will the Minister join us in supporting Paisley 2021? 
T7. The Minister will be aware of the great success of initiatives such as the Seafood Coast in promoting tourism in Torbay. What further support will the Government offer to encourage more people to come to the coast in the south-west? 
T3. Following the creation of the Ebacc, the take-up of music education is going down. Given the value of the UK’s world-leading music industry to our economy—it was £123 million in Bristol alone in 2015—will the Minister please listen to the music industry, reverse the Ebacc and invest in music teaching? 
It is almost a year since World Rugby established its hall of fame, appropriately at the birthplace of rugby in the Rugby art gallery and museum. We will shortly have the annual induction of more greats of the game. Does the Sports Minister agree that this could play a major role in attracting local and international tourism?
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The Sandstone Ridge arts festival in my constituency is looking to have a suffragette theme next year to celebrate women getting the vote. What funds are available for community arts programmes to celebrate that magnificent achievement?
T6. Blaydon has a growing number of small and micro-charities, many of which are trying to fill the gaps left by Government cuts to local authorities, and their survival is often precarious. Following the Secretary of State’s discussions within the sector, what action is she taking to help those charities with fundraising and other support? 
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Sir David. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), on securing this timely debate. As other right hon. and hon. Members, irrespective of political hue, would agree, Coventry is a great city, for many reasons. However, I shall briefly focus on its history, its industrial heritage and its multiculturalism.
Coventry grew to become one of the most important and strategically significant medieval cities in the UK. Today we have countless culturally significant medieval buildings and ruins dotted throughout the city. We are an historic symbol of the terror and devastation that war can cause, but also of the importance of reconciliation and peace. Equally, Coventry has made significant industrial contributions to cultural advancement. We were the birthplace of the modern bicycle and the motor car, and we continue to be a leading light in automotive engineering, thanks to the role played by Jaguar Land Rover, the London Taxi Company, the University of Warwick and Coventry University. Finally, Coventry’s cultural identity is strengthened and enhanced by our city’s multiculturalism. We have some of the most diverse and integrated communities in the UK, and I am proud to represent the most diverse area of the city.
Coventry has some great cultural assets, but it is also an understated city that has struggled to make the most of the historical and cultural resources at its disposal. That is why I am pleased that it has put itself forward to be the UK city of culture in 2021. I believe, of course, that we deserve to win. Winning the title would give the city a once in a lifetime opportunity to make sense of its cultural resources and use them to tell its story to the rest of the nation and the world, using the energy, excitement and hope that that would provide, to create a lasting economic and social legacy for current and future generations.
In the presence of my hon. Friend the Member for Torbay (Kevin Foster), who was a member of Coventry City Council, I would point out that Coventry lost out under the structure of Advantage West Midlands. The Minister has spoken about investment; does he agree that the absolute commitment of the new Mayor of the West Midlands to back the bid, and for the region to get behind Coventry’s case, should help us to win?
I am sorry for intervening so late in the debate, Sir David, but I knew I could count on your indulgence, for which I am very grateful, and, indeed, on the Minister’s. I will say a few words along the lines of exactly what the Minister was saying about Coventry. It is all of the things he said, but it is also a city of youth—that is our appeal. On the grounds that Scotland and the north-east have had a city of culture, and Londonderry in Northern Ireland was the city of culture, if there is any sort of turn to be taken or regional coverage to progress, it is clearly time for the midlands to have one. Coventry is at the centre of the midlands, which is at the centre of our bid, and we can assure the House and the country of a very fine series of great, exciting and innovative events, in line with the long tradition of innovation in Coventry.
The Minister is certainly making an impressive case for Coventry. I have no doubt that Coventry would hold the city of culture title with distinction, and that Coventry 2021 would be a huge success. However, with the bigger emphasis on regeneration in this year’s competition, does he agree that Paisley, with its economic and social needs, allied with its many cultural delights, has a strong chance of winning?
We now come to the general debate on the commemoration of Passchendaele—[Interruption.] I trust, as we are about to consider such a sombre and serious matter as those who gave their lives a century ago for the freedom that we now enjoy, that hon. Members who wish to leave the Chamber will have the decency to do so quietly. We now come to the general debate on the commemoration of Passchendaele, the third battle of Ypres.
Just before I call the Minister to introduce the debate I would like, most unusually, to welcome to the Palace of Westminster the two police officers who apprehended the murderer of our late colleague, Jo Cox. Craig Nicholls and Jonathan Wright are here with us, and we welcome them and commend them for their bravery. It is fitting that we should do so as we are about to have a debate commemorating those who gave their lives for freedom and democracy.
I also congratulate the two police officers on their bravery. Does the Minister have any plans to commemorate the battle of Loos?
I, too, want to add my commendation to the police officers who are with us today. The South Wales Borderers and the 2nd Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment showed incredible heroism and made great sacrifices at Passchendaele. Both included members from my constituency. Soldiers were also lost in the days leading up to the battle. The 2nd Battalion the Monmouthshire Regiment moved up to the forward line on 29 July in preparation for the battle on 31 July. As we entirely appropriately remember those who gave so much in the battle, can we also remember those whose lives were lost, perhaps through wounds, in the days before?
I apologise to the Minister because I have to be briefly absent for part of the debate, but I will return at the earliest opportunity. I know that props are not always welcome in the Chamber, but in the light of what he said about photographs, may I share with him a pair of photographs? They show Passchendaele village in June 1917 and in December 1917, and it is possible even from a distance to see how entirely the landscape was obliterated by the bombardment.
Order. The Minister is right that the whole House will welcome the right hon. Gentleman’s illustration, but the House will note that there is a good reason why we do not use props. I did not stop the right hon. Gentleman in this exceptional circumstance, because he showed us the photographs with the very best of intentions. I am not quite sure how Hansard will record the pictures, but the Minister is right to note the right hon. Gentleman’s point.
I think my hon. Friend knows what I am about to say, but does he recall that, through him and the Wiltshire Regiment, I presented the city of Salisbury with a bugle that was used by the 1st Wiltshire Regiment? I understand that it is now in the museum as a recognition and a memory of the brave people who fought in that wonderful battle.