Oral Answers to Questions

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Thursday 23rd May 2024

(1 month, 3 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Mark Logan Portrait Mark Logan (Bolton North East) (Con)
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In the spirit of one-upmanship, I would just like to announce that Mr Speaker does not read the Financial Times or listen to Radio 4. No, he reads the Bolton News and listens to Bolton FM. We were very disappointed at the weekend, because we lost to Oxford United. I spoke to Keith Harris from Bolton FM this morning, and he wants assurances that the Government will do all they can to ensure that local radio is an essential tool for democracy, that it gets the legal support it needs, and that Government, both locally and nationally, can do more to support local platforms.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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On a point of clarification, I read the Chorley Guardian and the Lancashire Evening Post. I would definitely still be listening, as Peter Kay would say, to Chorley FM—coming all over!

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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The Bolton News, Bolton FM and the Chorley Guardian—we could not live without them. My hon. Friend is absolutely right about the importance of local radio. As Media Minister, I fought hard to make sure that we included provisions for local radio in the Media Bill, and I very much hope that it will be passed in the wash-up.

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Matt Hancock Portrait Matt Hancock
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I, too, rise to make my last contribution in this House. May I thank you, Mr Speaker, and all the staff of the House, who have helped me enormously over many years? I have answered thousands of questions from the Dispatch Box, and asked hundreds from the Back Benches. I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend, who has been an exemplary Minister and representative of Pudsey.

It is perhaps fitting that my final question is about horseracing, which is at the heart of the West Suffolk constituency and, of course, Newmarket. It requires significant support in these difficult times. I know that the Minister and the Secretary of State have been working incredibly hard to try to settle the latest levy negotiations. Can he assure me that he will do everything he possibly can to use the last few days in which this Parliament is sitting to get that deal over the line? We now want certainty to be able to take this great sport from strength to strength.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I think that was a valedictory speech.

Stuart Andrew Portrait Stuart Andrew
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My right hon. Friend has certainly been an advocate of and a hard campaigner for horseracing, and not just in his constituency but for the wider sport. Significant progress has been made on increasing levy contributions on a voluntary basis, and a great deal of thanks must go to the British Horseracing Authority, the Betting and Gaming Council, and DCMS officials for all their efforts and engagements throughout this process. With an offer on the table, we urge both sides to agree on the terms of the deal, which will see increased investment in the sport, allowing it to grow and secure its sustainability. We will do everything we can to ensure that is agreed.

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Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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I am really delighted to have an opportunity to answer this question about funding in Wales, because, notwithstanding the fact that arts is devolved to Wales, this Government have given £4 million through the Arts Council to Welsh National Opera—the same amount that the Welsh Government have given. Furthermore, the Arts Council has given transition funding. In fact, Welsh National Opera has been in the top 10% of organisations that have been funded. My position is that the Labour Government in Wales have reduced their funding to the Arts Council of Wales by 10%, and have been called out by those in Wales, so I am very grateful to the hon. Member for giving me the opportunity to point that out.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Secretary of State.

Thangam Debbonaire Portrait Thangam Debbonaire (Bristol West) (Lab)
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Can the Secretary of State, or anyone else on the Tory Benches, honestly tell the young people in Bristol and across the UK that they are better off, after 14 years of Conservative failures on youth services, failures on education and failures on skills development, than they would be under a Government led by Keir Starmer and a changed Labour party?

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Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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My hon. Friend is a huge campaigner. She was awarded £5 million at the spring Budget to support the development of cultural projects in her area. She will know that it is a matter for each council to identify the most suitable project to be funded in their area. I am sure she will work very closely with them to ensure that funding will be distributed appropriately.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
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I hope that it is in order for me to thank all the ministerial team for when they have been absolutely courteous to us and when we have been able to work together on matters. I particularly pay tribute to the Under-Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew), who is not only a gent, but a champ.

However, we have two music venues closing every week; British artists prevented from touring in Europe; the UK art market falling from second to third in the world; A-level music students down by 45%; museums and galleries struggling with the cost of living; ballerinas told to retrain; theatre and opera touring slashed; and an apprenticeship levy that does not work for the creative industries. Was that all part of the plan? Or, in the words of RuPaul, is it not time for this appalling Government to sashay away?

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Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
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I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Robbie Moore), whom I met earlier this week, is very engaged in this issue, and our stakeholders in the south-west and Visit England are looking into any necessary information that they can give to tourists. They will continue to keep that under review, but I empathise deeply with local businesses, particularly tourism businesses, and residents. It is important to say that the majority of those businesses in Brixham were not affected by this outbreak. It is a wonderful place to visit. It has a fantastic local MP, and I am sure that he will provide everybody who visits the region with a very warm welcome.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

Kirsty Blackman Portrait Kirsty Blackman (Aberdeen North) (SNP)
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Can I thank our shadow Culture Secretary? I am proud of the work that he has done and that I have been able to do alongside him on behalf of the SNP and the people of Scotland.

Mr Speaker, can I also echo your comments about Liam Laurence Smyth? The number of times I have gone to Liam and said, “I want to get up to some mischief, can you help me?” I have really appreciated all the advice that he has given me.

I would like to ask the Secretary of State whether the Media Bill will be part of wash-up, because a number of organisations, including STV, have contacted me this morning asking for it to be.

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Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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We are all looking forward to the Olympics and good luck to Team GB. UK Sport invested £382 million of Exchequer and lottery funding for the Paris Olympics. We also want to ensure, with the change maker programme initiative, that, when our athletes come back from the Paris games, they give back to communities such as those of my hon. Friend.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab)
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The Guardian reports that, as a result of the Conservative Government’s Brexit deal, the costs of touring in the EU are now so high that 74% fewer UK bands are now touring there. The UK touring scene is all the more valuable for musicians and bands now, but opportunities to perform here are being lost, as music venues and festivals are forced to close due to rocketing operational costs. Does the Secretary of State see just how the Government have failed the music industry? Is it not time for a Labour Government, who will support our excellent musicians, our venues and our festivals?

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Lucy Frazer Portrait Lucy Frazer
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We have special money for areas across the country, because every year the Arts Council has £444 million to spend. It spends a significant amount of that money in music.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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The hon. Gentleman did not mention the rugby league result on Sunday.

The hon. Member for South Norfolk, the Chairman of the Public Accounts Commission was asked—
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Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend. He is right to highlight to the House that there are pressures in some areas, and he is also right to point out that the parish network across the whole of England—across every one of our constituencies in England—is extremely precious. We must do everything we can to preserve it, and I make that point at every opportunity. I know that many Members of Parliament, including my hon. Friend, also make that point regularly, and that message has been heard at the top of the Church, which is why we are putting the vast majority of our funding back down into parishes. Of course, we are also encouraging parishes to do what they can to raise money at the local level, but my hon. Friend’s point is absolutely right.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call George Galloway—not here.

The hon. Member for Broxbourne, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—
Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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8. What recent progress the Commission has made on using digital tools to support the work of hon. Members.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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First, may I just say to Sir Charles that I am sorry you are stepping down? I thank you for all you have done. You have been a wonderful servant of this House, and I thank you for everything, including your service on the Commission.

Charles Walker Portrait Sir Charles Walker (Broxbourne)
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Thank you for that, Mr Speaker. It has been a great privilege to serve with you on the Commission, and it has been such an honour to be in this amazing institution and to serve my country in the way I have, with the wonderful people here. Gosh, I wasn’t going to get sentimental.

Since my last answer on this issue in February 2024, the Parliamentary Digital Service has been assessing Microsoft’s generative AI toolset, Copilot, which includes artificial intelligence for mailboxes. That tool will aid Members and staff in their management of day-to-day administrative activities across Microsoft 365 applications. PDS is conducting further necessary technical work, and it is expected that a trial of the new capability will start with Members before the end of the year. I am not sure if it is Nokia compatible, but if it is, I hope it can be put on my Nokia.

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Richard Graham Portrait Richard Graham (Gloucester) (Con)
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My hon. Friend will know that the diocese of Gloucester has been very supportive of those in need—whether asylum seekers, refugees or, indeed, the homeless and rough sleepers in our city of Gloucester. Will he therefore join me in congratulating it on the fact that the planning approval for its first modular housing in Gloucester—with six modular homes—should go through Gloucester City Council imminently, and that more will be coming soon to help people in need?

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I think the question may also be about the help that Gloucester’s diocese has given to the people of Gaza.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous
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I am very grateful to my hon. Friend, and he is right that—both in Gaza and Gloucester—there is absolutely the need for significant reconstruction. I know that he has been a long-term advocate of that in Gloucester, and I commend the work he has done with the Bishop of Gloucester. Of course, there will also be a massive need for reconstruction in Gaza, which we all want to see.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Thank you.

The hon. Member for Luton South, representing the Speaker’s Committee on the Electoral Commission, was asked—