• Does my right hon. Friend agree it is important to maintain not just diversity of supply but diversity of suppliers within the nuclear industry? Will he therefore welcome the progress made in the construction of unit 3 of the Fangchenggang power station in China, which is the reference plant for the proposed HPR1000 reactor at Bradwell-on-Sea? Will he reaffirm his support for that project, subject to the generic design assessment and regulatory approvals?

     
     
  • I agree with my right hon. Friend that having a diversity of energy sources is important, but so is having some degree of competition between suppliers. That is why I referred in my statement to the pipeline that is in prospect. On the GDA process, we of course welcome progress through that. For each of these projects, it is foundational that the safety case is demonstrated. It is important that they should meet that, but it is also important that they demonstrate that they offer value for money for both the taxpayer and the bill payer. In each of these cases, negotiations will focus on that as well as on other aspects.

I apologise to colleagues for delaying our proceedings, but I promise not to do so for too long. As the Minister pointed out, I am honoured to be chair of the all-party parliamentary groups on Belarus and on Ukraine, so I wanted to say a brief word about both those countries.

 

Last week, as it happens, I led a cross-party delegation to Minsk, in Belarus. I thank the Government of Belarus for their invitation and their hospitality during that time. Belarus is of course close to Russia. It is a member of the Eurasian customs union, and we should be under no illusion that it is likely to continue to be a close ally of Russia’s. Nevertheless, there are signs that it wishes to improve its relationship with the west, and one of the areas in which it can certainly do so is trade.

 

In 2015, according to the Foreign Office, the value of UK trade to Belarus was $214 million. The value of Belarusian exports to the UK was $3.2 million, making the UK the country’s second largest export market after Russia. Belarus has considerable potential, though both Belarus and Ukraine have considerable challenges as countries. Both offer us potential as trading partners. Politically, Belarus has a long way to go—in essence, it is a one-party state still—but it enjoys considerable growth and has major economic opportunities for us.

 

I shall not go through the list of all the various enterprises that my colleagues and I visited, but I shall highlight two. We visited Belaz, the biggest dump truck manufacturer in the world—the biggest in terms of not just numbers, but the size of the trucks, which were about the size of a house. The hon. Member for Oxford East talked about most—indeed, almost all—of the major enterprises being state owned. That is correct, but it was interesting to discover that the Belaz plant is considering an initial public offering to sell about 25% of the shares in the near future. A privatisation programme is under way.

 

The other enterprises that we visited were in the Hi Tech Park, which is the home of Viber, which many Members will know but may not realise is a Belarusian invention, and World of Tanks, which is one of the biggest electronic games in the world. Furthermore, by coincidence, I have a constituent in the IT industry who employs software engineers from Belarus to develop his products, so there are considerable opportunities for us in that country. I therefore welcome the agreement as a small measure that will, as the explanatory memorandum states, strengthen and

 

“promote international trade and investment.”

 

I shall say a few words about Ukraine too. Ukraine is different from Belarus; Ukraine is much more westward-looking. It has signed the association agreement with the European Union, and a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement. Plainly, therefore, it has a considerable wish to develop economic relations with the west and particularly with the UK.

 

Ukraine is beset with different problems. Part of the country is under Russian occupation, and that includes the major industrial areas in Donbass, which I visited last year with three of my parliamentary colleagues. Corruption is also is endemic from top to bottom. However, Ukraine is making progress towards reform. The anti-corruption court will—I hope—be established soon, and if we can gain greater confidence in the justice and enforcement system in that country, that, too, should promote economic opportunity.

 

The great potential in Ukraine is agriculture. The west of Ukraine has something like a third of the world’s black soil reserves. It used to be known as the breadbasket of the Soviet Union and, if it receives the support it needs in terms of modern technology and farming practices, it could become the breadbasket for most of Europe. Again, I hope that these arrangements to counter double taxation will provide businesses with greater confidence to invest in Ukraine and indeed Belarus.

 

The only other point I will leave the Minister with is not for his Department, but perhaps he can pass it on. The Department for International Trade is rightly looking to develop our trade with countries outside the European Union, and as a supporter of Brexit I strongly believe in the opportunities that exist. However, we seem to be devoting a lot of effort to signing trade agreements with small Commonwealth islands. Important as they may be, they are small in potential compared with two big countries such as Ukraine and Belarus, and very little attention is being given to those two countries. I have talked to the ambassadors in both countries, and there is a view that we could be doing much more to develop trade relations. I certainly intend to take that thought up with the Minister’s colleagues in the Department for International Trade. He is playing his part through these international agreements on taxation, but we could be doing much more now to assist those countries to reform and develop their economies, and also to benefit our own businesses. On that note, I shall say no more.

    • Q8.  As my right hon. Friend is aware, at the end of last year my constituent, Natalie Lewis-Hoyle, the daughter of Councillor Miriam Lewis and our right hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Sir Lindsay Hoyle), took her own life, having been in a coercive relationship and suffering mental abuse through what is known as gaslighting. Does my right hon. Friend agree that we need to raise awareness of this particular kind of abuse? Will she support Miriam Lewis in establishing the “Chat with Nat” website in memory of Natalie, to help and advise those affected by this behaviour? [905534]

       
       

 
  • I thank my right hon. Friend for raising what is a very important issue. I am sure that Members on all sides of this House will join me in offering our deepest sympathies and condolences to Councillor Miriam Lewis and the right hon. Member for Chorley (Sir Lindsay Hoyle). [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] I thank my right hon. Friend for bringing this website in memory of Natalie to my attention. I am happy to offer my full support to the project, which I am sure will provide much-needed help and advice to those who are in the most difficult and painful of circumstances.

     

    We have, of course, changed the law to introduce a new domestic abuse offence of coercion and control in intimate and familial relationships. Since the introduction of that offence, there have been almost 300 successful prosecutions. That shows what a problem this issue is out there. We are always looking for what more can be done and, in our consultation on transforming the law on domestic abuse and violence, we are currently looking for ideas on how the offence can be further strengthened, to ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.

  • I welcome the Government’s decision to cut the maximum permissible stake for B2 machines, but on what empirical research did the Minister base her decision to go so much further than the recommendation of the Gambling Commission that £30 or below would offer the necessary protection?

     
     
  • I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who started on this journey with me three years ago. We received a significant amount of evidence. The Gambling Commission actually recommended a cut to between £2 and £30, and we have gone to the lowest end, because that is what we think will most reduce harm.

  •  
  • 21.  Does my right hon. Friend share the widespread concern about Nord Stream 2, the proposed Russian gas pipeline? Does he agree that there appears to be no economic justification for it? It is instead a political project, designed to increase European dependence on Russian gas and weaken Ukraine. Will he press that point on our allies—particularly Germany and Denmark? [905301]

     
     
  • I assure my right hon. Friend that we in the UK Government are well aware of the deep controversy surrounding Nord Stream 2. We raise it not just in Ukraine but with other European friends and partners.

     

  • Will my right hon. Friend confirm that when the so-called WAIB—withdrawal agreement and implementation Bill—becomes law, we will be committing ourselves to a financial settlement that will be binding in international law? Does he therefore agree that we should seek to obtain as much detail as possible in the political declaration while we still have that leverage?

     
     
  • Of course, what will be binding in international law is what is written into the withdrawal agreement, and I would therefore expect Parliament to have views on what conditions should be in it.

 

    • Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I will take heed of your reminder about the time limit.

       

      It is now over 10 years since the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, of which I was Chair at the time, first conducted an inquiry into phone hacking. We conducted several subsequent inquiries, which helped to bring out the truth about the extent of phone hacking and other illegal practices. Without the work of the Committee, those would not have been revealed, although I pay tribute to The Guardian’s brilliant piece of investigative journalism. A lot of this debate concerns investigative journalism.

       

      I think all of us were shocked by the revelation of phone hacking and we were determined that action should be taken to prevent anything like that happening again. In the 10 years that have passed, however, a lot has changed. The News of the World closed down as a result of the revelations. There were prosecutions, with 10 journalists convicted for illegal practices, although it is worth bearing in mind that 57 were cleared.

       

      Obviously, we had the Leveson inquiry. Even if it did not complete all that it originally wanted to complete because of the ongoing criminal cases, it still took over a year and cost £49 million. It produced a swathe of recommendations, although the royal charter was not one of them. My right hon. Friend the Member for  West Dorset (Sir Oliver Letwin) had the brainchild of the royal charter and accompanying that, sanctions in the Crime and Courts Act 2013 for newspapers that did not sign up to a regulator recognised under the royal charter.

       

      Since that time, two major changes have taken place. When the royal charter was designed and the recognition panel was established, I do not think anybody in Parliament ever expected that not a single newspaper—certainly no national newspaper and virtually no local newspaper—would be willing to sign up to a regulator that applied for recognition under the royal charter. It was not just the usual whipping boys; the News International papers, the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror. The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and all the local newspapers refused. I have met the publications that have agreed to join IMPRESS, but they are micro-publishers. No major publisher was willing to go along with the royal charter. We originally invented the idea of sanctions with the view that one newspaper, or perhaps two, might stand out against the rest. We never intended to bring in a sanction that would punish, in what seems an incredibly unjust way, every single publisher. Their refusal to join is on a matter of principle, and we have to respect that.

       

      What did happen was that they created a new regulator called IPSO, which has steadily evolved. To begin with, it was deficient in some ways. I had talks with IPSO and pointed out to it the areas where I felt that it needed to make changes, particularly through the introduction of an arbitration scheme, which was one of the key requirements under Leveson and which did not exist. However, IPSO has now made a lot of changes, including, as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State pointed out, the inclusion of an arbitration scheme, which is compulsory for members who sign up to it. Those that are outside it are the local newspapers, against which virtually no complaint has ever been made, and which face the greatest peril from the economic situation that exists for newspapers.

       
       
    • The Select Committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a wonderful Chair, recently recommended unanimously, cross-party, the partial commencement of section 40 to give those publications protections—to protect investigative journalism—if they joined the approved regulator. That was one of the options in the consultation. What is wrong with that course?

       
       
    • The hon. Gentleman is an old friend—we sat together on the Committee for 10 years—and I have some sympathy with what he says. When I talked to the publications that had joined IMPRESS, they said that one reason they had done so was because of the possible protection offered if they were part of a recognised regulator, in that they would not have to pay costs even if they lost. That is a separate matter, but in this debate we are talking about the introduction of an amendment to provide not the carrot, but the stick—the punishment for newspapers that do not wish to sign up to a Government-approved regulator.

       
       
    • Does my right hon. Friend think, deep in his heart, that anything has changed since IPSO was introduced?

       
       

 
  • Deep in my heart, yes I do. As I was about to say, I believe that there is a different climate. Of course, it does not mean that no newspaper ever does something that is a cause for complaint or invades people’s private lives—I have suffered at the hands of the press, but that is the price we pay in this place. However, I believe that the imposition of sanctions of the type that are proposed under the amendments would be deeply damaging to a free press.

     

    In terms of what has changed, I challenge those who criticise IPSO to say where it now fails to meet the requirements under the royal charter. I have been through the royal charter, and there are perhaps three tiny sections where we could say that the wording of the IPSO codes is not precisely in line with the royal charter, but those are incredibly minor. They make no substantial difference whatever. IPSO has not applied for recognition under the royal charter, not because it does not comply, but because there is an objection in principle on the part of every single newspaper to a Government-imposed system, which this represents.

     
     
  • The fundamentally worrying thing is that this seeks to make a connection between local media organisations having to join the state regulator and their facing, if they do not, the awful costs that they might have to pay even if they win a court case. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) described that as an incentive, but it is not—it is coercion. It is only an incentive inasmuch as a condemned man on the gallows has an incentive not to stand on the trapdoor.

     
     
  • Of course, I agree entirely with my hon. Friend, and I am glad that he focused on local newspapers, because I referred to two changes. The first is the establishment of IPSO, which I believe in all serious respects is now compliant with what Lord Leveson wanted. The second is the complete change in the media landscape that has taken place in the last 10 years.

     

    My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State mentioned the number of local newspapers that have gone out of business. We are seeing more continue to do so. There is likely to be further consolidation within the newspaper industry and the economics are steadily moving against newspapers. That is a real threat to democracy, because newspapers employ journalists who cover proceedings in courts, council chambers and, indeed, in this place. The big media giants who now have the power and influence—Google, Facebook and Twitter—do not employ a single journalist, so my right hon. Friend is absolutely right to have established the examination into the funding and future of the press. It is about looking forward, and that is where the House should be concentrating its efforts. It should not be looking backwards and going over again the events of more than 10 years ago; the world has changed almost beyond recognition.

     
     
  • My Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee colleague, the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly)—I call him my hon. Friend—raised the recommendations of the Committee last year. One was that for IPSO to be considered compliant in any way with the spirit of Leveson, it should have a compulsory industry-funded arbitration scheme. While IPSO might not be perfect, does my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Mr Whittingdale) agree that this is one of the most significant areas where IPSO has responded to pressure to try to make itself more compliant?

     
     
  • I agree very much with my hon. Friend. Indeed, I would have found it far harder to make the argument that IPSO was basically now compliant with Lord Leveson had it not introduced the scheme that is now in place. That was the biggest difference between the system as designed by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset in the royal charter and IPSO, and that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Damian Collins) said, has rightly been removed.

     

    What we do in this debate is being watched around the world. This country is seen as a bastion of freedom and liberty, and a free press is an absolutely essential component of that. I say to those who are proposing these amendments: do not just listen to the newspaper industry, which is, as I say, united against this—that includes The Guardian, despite the efforts of Labour Front Benchers to somehow exclude them. Listen to the Index on Censorship, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists—campaigning organisations that are fighting oppression of the press around the world. They say that if this House brings in this kind of measure it would send a terrible signal to those who believe in a free press. I therefore hope that the amendments will be rejected.

  • T10.  My right hon. Friend will be aware that last year a pilot project allowed television cameras into courts to film and broadcast sentencing procedure. Will he say what assessment he has made of that pilot and what plans he now has to extend it further? [904928]

     
     
  • I know my right hon. Friend cares deeply about this important matter and he has raised it with me several times. Transparency is very important, and we are looking at the pilot. I am happy to update him, and I am looking forward to our meeting tomorrow with the Society of Editors.

  • Does my right hon. Friend agree that one of our best assets against Russian disinformation and propaganda is the BBC World Service, and will she consider ways of extending its reach, perhaps by incorporating world television? Does she also agree that we need to be very careful not to give any pretext, however unjustified, for the Russians to take action against the BBC and other free media outlets?

     
     
  • I would hope that the Russian state would be prepared to accept the importance of the free media, but sadly, from one or two things we heard last night, it seems that that might not be the case. My right hon. Friend is right, however, that the broadcasting of the BBC World Service is an important element of the UK’s reach and an important outlet for those who believe in democracy, the rule of law and free speech and expression.

  • Is it not increasingly clear that we are engaged in hybrid warfare with Russia that includes disinformation, political interference, cyber-attacks and now very possibly this act of attempted murder? In considering how to respond, will my right hon. Friend also look at what additional help we might give to the people of Ukraine, who are the front line in resisting Russian aggression and expansionism?

     
     
  • I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments. He is absolutely right: we need to look across the diverse nature of the threat that we face and the actions that we are taking. We have already been taking a number of actions in support of Ukraine. That is also an important part of our deliberations and of our response.

  • It is almost exactly four years since the annexation of the sovereign territory of Ukraine in Crimea by Russia. It is two years since the public inquiry concluded that President Putin almost certainly approved the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. Is it not clear therefore that existing sanctions are failing to deter Russia, possibly even from carrying out further assassinations on British soil, and that the time has come to impose far tougher sanctions against targeted individuals associated with President Putin’s regime?

     
     
  • I am very grateful to my right hon. Friend for that. Obviously, we cannot prejudge the outcome of this investigation, as that would not be right. As I have said repeatedly, in the formula I have used, if the suspicions of Members on both sides of the House are confirmed, such sanctions are going to have to be one of the options we look at.

    • I strongly welcome my right hon. Friend’s statement. Does he agree that, now more than ever, newspapers play a vital role in holding both the Government and the Opposition to account? He is absolutely right that, rather than looking backwards at the events of 10 years ago and adding to the costs of local newspapers, we should be supporting newspapers in meeting the challenges of the internet giants.

 
 
  • I agree wholeheartedly with my right hon. Friend, not least because, as he points out, one of the jobs of a Secretary of State is to look forward and consider how to solve the problems of today. The problems of local newspapers are not a marginal or side issue. More than 200 local papers have closed in the past decade and a bit, including local papers in my patch. I do not want to see that accelerated by the actions of this House, and that is what would happen if we do not take the course of action I have proposed today.

  • Has my right hon. Friend seen the report prepared by the European Parliament’s policy department for citizens’ rights and constitutional affairs, which concludes that a technical solution allowing free movement of persons under a common travel arrangement and a low-friction border for the movement of goods will be possible, and that there is no reason why we should not start to implement that straight away?

     
     
  • I have not had the pleasure of reading that particular report from the European Parliament yet, but I shall certainly add it to my reading list. What my right hon. Friend has just said is evidence that there are people here, as well as in the Brussels institutions  and the 27 national Governments of our EU partners, who are keen to work constructively together to find an outcome that brings benefits to us all.

    • I welcome this week’s announcement of extra funding to tackle FGM in Africa and beyond. With over 5,000 cases reported in a year in this country, does my hon. and learned Friend share my concern that we are still to bring a successful prosecution?

       
       

 
  • My right hon. Friend is correct to raise some of the obstacles that prosecutors have faced over the years, and barriers have caused real issues in the investigation of such cases. I am glad to say that a case is currently before the courts—I will not comment on it—but it is also important to remember that protection and prevention is vital, and our FGM protection orders are being used to good effect, with 179 having been granted to the end of September last year.

  • T3. I, too, congratulate the Government on the progress made in passing the 95% target for coverage of superfast broadband, but what message can my right hon. Friend give to the over 2,000 households in my constituency that are unable to receive 10 megabits per second, and particularly the over 10% of households in the village of Purleigh who cannot even receive 2 megabits per second? [903841]

     
     
  • The message I can give those households is that the cavalry is coming: this House has legislated so that everybody shall be able to get 10 megabits per second as an absolute minimum by 2020, and the Minister of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is driving the secondary legislation through necessary to make that happen.

  • I welcome the Secretary of State’s keeping the House informed, but of course he currently has no role. When the CMA presents the final report and he comes to address this matter, will he bear it in mind that, to date, no regulator that has carried out any objective assessment has found any reason to block the merger on the grounds of commitment to broadcasting standards, and also that the greatest disaster that could befall the plurality of the media in this country would be for Sky News, which is after all a loss-making enterprise, although extremely good, to be closed by its new owner?

     
     
  • Both those points are covered in the CMA report that was published today. If my right hon. Friend the former Secretary of State wishes to make to the CMA any further comments like those he just made, he has three weeks in which to do so, after which I will consider the final report in full.

  • Will my right hon. Friend pay tribute to the courage of those women who gave evidence against John Worboys, one of whom is well known to us on the Conservative Benches? Does he agree that it is essential that his victims have full confidence that their safety is a priority in the decisions of the Parole Board, which does not appear to have been the case this time?

     
     
  • I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to the victims who came forward, very bravely, and in some cases waived anonymity in order to encourage others to come forward. It is important that their safety be paramount. It is important that the system has the confidence not just of the general public but of victims, and this case demonstrates that there is a need for changes to ensure that that can happen.

  • I, too, congratulate my right hon. Friend on his appointment to what is one of the best jobs in government. I also wish his predecessor every success in what is one of the most challenging.

     

    Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not good enough for the BBC to say that its performance in this area is better than that in many other sectors? Does he share my view that it is because the BBC is funded by public money that we are entitled to expect it not just to adhere to the requirements of the law, but to set a higher standard that others can then follow?

     
     
  • It is not just because the BBC is a public organisation and the people who work there are public servants that it has a higher obligation than private organisations; it is also because the nature of the BBC is to reflect on to the nation—and indeed the world—the values that we hold dear, and it must live up to those values.

  • T7.  Is my right hon. Friend aware that estimates show that something like over 1 million people will be watching their festive TV and films using illegal streaming devices? Does she agree that this does huge damage to our creative industries, and will she look at what more can be done to tackle it? [903100]

     
     
  • My right hon. Friend again speaks with great knowledge and experience. He has very wise words for us—one very wise man in the Chamber at Christmas time is a start—and his points are well made. We want to ensure that content is protected and that those who provide and produce it are able to make the money that they should rightly make from it. We are working with the creative industries as part of the sector deal in the industrial strategy on how to protect content in the most effective way.

  • As my hon. Friend has said, there are 850 pages of these documents and so far the Chairman of the Select Committee is the only Member who has actually seen them. I understand that the documents have been sent to two Select Committees of Parliament and to the devolved Administrations. As a former Chairman of a Select Committee, I can say that leaks are not without precedent. I would not want the Government to make available any information that, if it became public, could undermine our negotiating position.

     
     
  • I thank my right hon. Friend for the point he makes, which is important, but of course we want to ensure that as much information as can be made available to the Select Committee is available within the constraints that I have discussed.

  • Does my right hon. Friend share my concern about the decline of local newspapers and the consequences for local democracy? Will she welcome the launch by the BBC of the local news partnership, which will support the employment of local democracy reporters? Does she agree that, perhaps now, Google and Facebook, which also profit from local journalism, could support that initiative?

     
     
  • My right hon. Friend deserves great credit for the work that he did on the BBC charter, which included this local news initiative now being carried out by the BBC. The idea that we might lose our local newspaper—the voice for local people—is of great concern to all Members of this House. I have regular discussions with the internet companies on precisely the point that he has raised.

  • I welcome the announcement of the consultation, particularly as there is now information about the effect of category B2 machines that did not exist when the Culture, Media and Sport Committee looked into the matter around five years ago. Will the Minister confirm that the Government’s position remains that any future decisions will be evidence-based?

     
     
  • I can confirm that to be the case. The call for evidence brought in many people’s views and made the need to take action very clear. The consultation sets out four options for the reduction in stakes, but the call for evidence makes it certain that the status quo will not be maintained.

 

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon  

Will my right hon. Friend join me in paying tribute to the workforce at Bradwell-on-Sea in my constituency? They are doing a magnificent job in decommissioning the power station there. Will he confirm that nothing in his statement will prevent that work from continuing? Will he also listen to their concerns about the effect on their pension entitlements of certain changes that have been made regarding the cap on exit payments?

 

Greg Clark, The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy   

I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to the workforce. As he will be aware, good progress has been made in decommissioning the site in Bradwell, with the underground waste vaults containing intermediate level waste having been cleared and decontaminated. That is a reflection of the hard work. There is a separate set of discussions and consultations going on with regard to the pension arrangements, which is not related to today’s announcement.

 

 

 

John Whittingdale, Conservative, Maldon 

On the establishment of inquiries, my hon. Friend will be aware that the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is considering whether to reconvene the Leveson inquiry, which has already sat for 15 months, at a cost of more than £5 million, to examine events approaching 10 years ago. What advice would he give to the Secretary of State?

Bernard Jenkin Chair, Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee                

 As perhaps should have been done with the child sex abuse inquiry, I suggest that the Secretary of State comes to this House to ask for a Committee to be set up. Let us have an inquiry into the inquiry before we get stuck on the tramlines of legality and appointing people. She should look before she leaps and accept that Governments should not be able to establish inquiries to get themselves out of inconvenient difficulties. . The House is here to assist such scrutiny, and it should be here to provide oversight so that an inquiry is properly conducted in a timely fashion.

 

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 

Although it is clearly sensible to ask the regulator to examine this bid, does my right hon. Friend recognise that this transaction represents a £11.7 billion investment by an international company in a British broadcaster and is, as such, a fantastic vote of confidence in the UK’s remaining an international centre of broadcasting long after we leave the European Union?

Karen Bradley, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 

As the House knows, my right hon. Friend has significant experience in matters of culture, media and sport. He is right to say that the UK is global Britain, open for business to the whole world, and that it will remain so after we have left the European Union.

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s recognition of the importance to the creative industries of their ability to license on an exclusively territorial basis. Will she ensure that that message gets across to the UK permanent representation in Brussels so that it argues that case as strongly as possible while we remain in the EU?

Karen Bradley, The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 

I can say categorically yes. My right hon. Friend’s point is one reason why people were concerned about our membership of the EU and one of the things that led to the vote on 23 June last year.

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 

What recent assessment she (The Lord Chancellor) has made of the extent to which local media report on court proceedings.

 

Oliver Heald The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 

We are committed to upholding and strengthening the principle of open justice, in which local reporters play an important role.

 

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 

Does my right hon. and learned Friend share my concern that more than half of local newspaper editors have said that they think the courts are no longer being reported properly? Does he agree that justice needs not only to be done but to be seen to be done, and that the decline of local media represents a real threat to that principle? What more can be done to address this issue?

 

Oliver Heald The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 

Yes, I agree entirely with my right hon. Friend. This is an important area. We are committed to upholding open justice, and local reporting of court proceedings is a key part of that. Under our reforms, we will publish lists of forthcoming criminal cases and their outcomes. We will also allow access to virtual hearings via video screens in local courts, so that reporters can see those proceedings anywhere in the country. We hope that that will make a contribution to the important principle that my right hon. Friend highlights.

 

Ian Lucas Labour, Wrexham 

Does the Minister support the BBC’s proposals to work with local newspapers and local websites such as the excellent Wrexham.com to improve the coverage of court proceedings and local coverage generally?

 

Oliver Heald The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice 

In fact, my right hon. Friend Mr Whittingdale was the initiator of that scheme, which we do support.

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon  

I had not intended to take part in the debate, but I want to say a few words about Lords amendment 24. A lot of the debate so far seems to have been about whether section 40 should be implemented, but that does not actually have anything to do with Lords amendment 24, which is specifically about whether there should be a further inquiry into the behaviour and performance of the police in relation to their dealings with news organisations.

Leveson 2, as it is now colloquially known, has been put on hold until the conclusion of all the criminal cases, and the amendment rightly recognises that it would be wholly wrong to have any kind of inquiry that could jeopardise criminal prosecutions. However, most of those prosecutions have now been concluded and it is worth looking at the outcomes of those prosecutions when deciding whether there is a case for proceeding. Operation Elveden, which was the police investigation into corrupt payments from newspaper organisations, overwhelmingly resulted in the acquittal of the journalists who had been charged with those offences. I think only two journalists were convicted; the vast majority were acquitted. We need to bear that in mind, because the suggestion that there was a massive corrupt relationship has not proven to be the case.

Chris Bryant talks about the importance of weeding out police corruption and of having confidence in an institution of the state. I completely agree with him on that. I want to refer briefly to the case made by the relatives of Daniel Morgan when considering whether there should be a further inquiry. I have every sympathy with the family of Daniel Morgan, who was murdered, because there was considerable evidence of police corruption. I can entirely understand their wish to have his killers brought to justice. A Home Office panel is examining that case at the moment, and we await its conclusion. It may well be that further action needs to be taken to deal with police corruption, and I shall wait to see what the panel concludes. Let us bear in mind that the Leveson inquiry was an inquiry into the culture, ethics and conduct of the press. It was not an inquiry into police corruption.

The main issue that has dominated the debate has been the implementation of section 40, which is not covered by this amendment. I share the views that have been extremely well expressed by my hon. Friends the Members for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) and for Torbay (Kevin Foster). However, the Secretary of State has set up a consultation. It concluded today, but it will take some considerable time before the results are made public. I believe that there has been a very substantial response to the consultation, so I do not expect the Government to be in a position to announce any conclusions about the implementation of section 40 or about whether there should be a further inquiry until that work has been done. I suspect that it will take several weeks, if not months. It seems entirely premature to table an amendment requiring the Government to commit now to a further inquiry when we have not even begun to assess the results of the consultation. For that reason, I strongly oppose Lords amendment 24.

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 

It is a pleasure to follow Yvette Cooper. I did not agree with everything that she said, but the one thing with which I most certainly did agree was her congratulations to my hon. Friend Dr Johnson who made an excellent first speech in this House. It is probably the case that she will never speak in a more important debate in this House no matter that she has, I am sure, a long career ahead of her here.

My first political act was to take part in the referendum campaign in 1975. I put leaflets through doors calling on people to vote yes in that referendum. I did so because I believed in free trade, and because I believed the assurances that were written on those leaflets that the decision taken would not affect the sovereignty of the UK Parliament.

I was working for Margaret Thatcher when she first delivered the Bruges speech, which highlighted the fact that that assurance was being steadily eroded and that the European Community was heading in the wrong direction. As a result, when I entered this House I opposed the Maastricht treaty, the Amsterdam treaty, the Nice treaty and indeed the Lisbon treaty as it was becoming steadily clearer that, although there may or may not have been economic benefits from our membership, this was a political project that was heading in the one direction of ever closer union.

It was a project on which the British people had not been consulted and which they did not support. I had hoped that the Prime Minister, David Cameron, would negotiate an arrangement that allowed us to opt out from the elements that we did not want. He tried valiantly, but what he came back with was insufficient, which left us with no alternative but to leave and then to seek new arrangements allowing us to co-operate in those areas where there was a benefit. The result of the referendum was clear. In my constituency, it was nearly two to one, and people did understand what they were voting for. It does not matter that a majority of younger people may have voted to remain, that a majority of those with degrees may have voted to remain, or even that some parts of the UK may have voted to remain. This was a nationwide referendum of the British people, and the British people spoke. I agree with the Prime Minister that we have no alternative but to leave the single market, as it is essential that we have control over our borders once more and that we are no longer subject to European Union law.

Charles Walker, Conservative, Broxbourne

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 

I really am sorry, but I do not have time.

We have to leave the customs union if the condition of remaining in it is that we are unable to negotiate our own trade agreements. There are precedents, although I would not necessarily want to follow them completely. The new arrangements, for instance, between the European Union and Canada, and between the European Union and Ukraine, offer no application of European law in those countries and no free movement, but do give them access to the internal market and allow them to negotiate their own trade agreements. Ultimately, the European Union is flexible and an arrangement is perfectly possible.

The negotiations will be complicated. I am concerned, for instance, that we must have recognition of the adequacy of our data protection, so that data can continue to flow across borders. I would like us still to be recognised under the country of origin principle. However, it is vital for European businesses still to have access to our markets, so they will be putting pressure on their Governments to reach a sensible deal. The one thing I have found most astonishing is that when Britain voted to leave the European Union, the reaction of other member states has been more to seek to punish Britain than to ask the question why. The European Union is a flawed—

John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons

Order. I call Geoffrey Robinson.

 

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 


Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that, contrary to the assertion of Edward Miliband in The Guardian, Sky’s share of the television news market is actually 5%, not 20%? Although there may well be a case for asking the regulator to look at this bid, does she recognise that it represents a £12 billion investment into a British company, and is a vote of confidence that Britain will remain a centre of international broadcasting after it leaves the European Union?


Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 


My right hon. Friend has significant interest in this area, having been an exceptionally good predecessor for me, but will, I know, understand the position I am in and that I cannot comment

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 


As my right hon. Friend knows, more than 10,000 Ukrainian servicemen have been killed since the beginning of the Russian-backed conflict, and progress on Minsk appears to have stalled. Does she agree that, as signatories to the Budapest memorandum, we have a special responsibility? Will she look into what further pressure we can put on Russia, and also what additional assistance we can give the people of Ukraine?


Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 


We do consider what more we can do. My right hon. Friend the Defence Secretary announced recently that we would undertake an extension of the training of Ukrainian forces, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary is looking into whether there are other ways in which we can ensure that the Minsk agreement is implemented in full. However, I think it important for us also to work through the European Union, and to put the pressure of the EU behind the process.

John Whittingdale, Conservative, Maldon


It is a pleasure to welcome the Digital Economy Bill, not least because it still has my name on the front of it. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Wantage (Mr Vaizey) and I can claim a degree of joint paternity on this particular measure.

 

The Bill is something of a Christmas tree and contains a number of different measures within it. Let me speak first about the two major provisions, which both relate to connectivity. The reform of the electronic communications code has been something that communications providers have been urging for a considerable time. Indeed, it was part of the deal struck with mobile phone providers by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Sajid Javid) in return for their guarantee of extending coverage. It was attempted to be introduced in the Enterprise Bill in the last Parliament. It has been around for a long time.

I found out from my own constituency about 18 months ago that Vodafone had a problem with one of its transmitters, which led to a large number of my constituents losing the service. That was impossible to put right for something like eight weeks as a result of Vodafone being unable to access the transmitter.

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John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 


I welcome my right hon. Friend’s intention to continue to listen very carefully on these matters. Will she confirm that in considering how best to proceed, she will take account of the significant deterioration in the economic health of traditional media, which has taken place even since Leveson and is still leading to the closure of titles at both national and local level? Will she bear in mind that the real media giants of today, such as Facebook and Google, are outside the scope of legislation and regulation altogether?


Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 


My right hon. Friend, who was my predecessor in this role, sets out important arguments, which we need to consider. He rightly says that we need to make sure that this regulation affects the whole of the press, not just the print media that are on our high streets and that are produced locally, but those global players on the internet.

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 


Does my right hon. Friend agree that if the UK is to remain competitive and our citizens are to enjoy the benefits of the digital revolution, it is essential that we should be at the forefront of the deployment of both ultra-fast broadband and 5G mobile connectivity? May I therefore welcome the announcement, which we are led to believe may be made shortly, of a £1 billion investment to achieve this?


Theresa May The Prime Minister, Leader of the Conservative Party 


My right hon. Friend will, of course, be waiting in anticipation for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor’s autumn statement, but he is absolutely right that, as we look at improving productivity in this country and as we look to the economy of the future, the provision of superfast broadband and those new technological opportunities for people is absolutely a crucial part of that, and that is something that this Government recognise and will act on.


John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon  


I am delighted to welcome the Bill’s Second Reading. As has been pointed out, this is a Bill we have welcomed in the past; indeed, I chaired the Select Committee that considered the draft Bill in 2008, when we subjected it to pre-legislative scrutiny. At the time, we very much welcomed the Government’s intention to introduce it. We pointed out that then it was 55 years since the adoption of The Hague convention and that 118 countries had already signed the convention. Another eight years have passed since then, and I am proud that the Bill should finally go on to the statute book under a Conservative Government in their second Session in office.

When we took evidence, it was pointed out to us that there had been some examples of damage to heritage assets during the course of the Iraq war, particularly some in the city of Babel, that may have been caused by coalition forces. Although that was obviously not deliberate, it highlighted the importance of stressing the need to protect cultural assets.

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John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon


I welcome the publication of both the draft charter and now the agreement. This is the culmination of a process that started a year ago with the publication of the consultation paper on the future of the BBC. As both Front-Bench spokespeople have mentioned, that produced a very wide-ranging and voluminous response, ranging from the 192,000 people who responded by email or letter to a number of luminaries of the creative industries who wrote to defend the BBC against the threat that they saw, but that I believe, as my hon. Friend Nigel Huddleston pointed out, never really existed.

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John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 


Will my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State confirm that the draft charter is not, as some have said, either a damp squib or the brainchild of Rupert Murdoch? Does she agree that the charter makes significant changes—including the new governance structure, the new requirements for diversity, distinctiveness and impartiality, the opening up of the schedule to 100% competition, and full access to the National Audit Office—and that those changes will ensure that the BBC continues to be the best broadcaster in the world?

Karen Bradley The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 

I have a suitably pithy response, Mr Speaker: yes, I agree with my right hon. Friend, to whom we owe a great debt for where we are with the charter today.

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon


I do think that more needs to be done. The counter to the statistic that the hon. Gentleman has just quoted is the number of pages being taken down. The BPI alone is notifying half a million infringing pages and they are promptly removed, but this is a Hydra—as soon as one comes down, another three go up.

The need to achieve greater agreement between the search companies and the rights owners remains as great as ever. Therefore, the idea that the Government should spur them on to get that agreement by saying that, unless it can be obtained, the Government may have to impose the code of practice, is now something that we need at least to consider. I do not necessarily say that I support the new clause of the hon. Member for Cardiff West, but I have considerable sympathy with it because we still have a long way to go to solve the problem, and at the moment progress is almost impossible to detect.

The second new clause tabled by the hon. Member for Cardiff West that I wanted to refer to, which I have even greater sympathy with, is new clause 30. My right hon. Friend the Minister is a champion of the creative industries because he knows, as I do, that our economy benefits enormously from the strength of the UK creative industries. Their success rests upon IP rights. They have to be confident that their investment, their creation and their skills will receive proper reward from consumers who pay for that content. It is not just the film, television and music industries and the sports companies; it is also our broadcasters, who are spending billions of pounds in some cases to acquire rights. They are entitled to expect that the people who access them do so legitimately and pay for that, and do not do so through illegal streams from offshore.

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John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 


Does my right hon. Friend accept that in the event of a bid there is a strong case for asking the regulators to provide advice about any concerns on competition or plurality grounds? Does he agree that this bid would essentially be an investment decision rather than an acquisition, as 21st Century Fox already has effective control of Sky? Does he also agree that since the last bid, which was approved by Ofcom subject to certain remedies, there has been a considerable increase in competition in the pay TV market?


Matthew Hancock Minister of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Policy) 


The decision has to be taken in the context of the world as we find it. The situation, as we find it, in terms of ownership is that 21st Century Fox owns 39% of Sky, and the notification to the stock exchange on Friday was about the proposal to buy the other 61%. Those issues will be taken into account when the decision is made.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale)

I thank the hon. Member for Garston and Halewood (Maria Eagle) for giving the House the opportunity to debate the White Paper on the future of the BBC, even if I am less than happy with the terms of her motion. The motion talks about the “threat” to the

“editorial and financial independence of the BBC”—

two principles that will be explicitly strengthened, rather than weakened, under the proposals in the White Paper. However, that is typical of the entire debate around the charter renewal process, which has been characterised by the Government’s critics tilting at windmills, perhaps in tribute to Cervantes, the 400th anniversary of whose death we are commemorating, alongside that of Shakespeare.

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09 June 2016

Gavin Newlands (Paisley and Renfrewshire North) (SNP)

f he will take steps to ensure that football supporters from all nations of the UK have non-paying access to watch their national team play on TV. [905302]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale)

The Ofcom code on listed events ensures that key sporting events are made available for free-to-air channels. Our sport strategy, published last year, made it clear that the Government do not propose to review that list.

Gavin Newlands

Like every other football fan on these islands, Scottish fans are looking forward to Euro 2016. We have our wallcharts at the ready and will be watching keenly. During qualification, however, we were unable to watch significant matches, including those against the world champions, Germany, on free-to-air channels. This month, we will be able to watch matches such as Romania versus Albania and Iceland versus Austria. How can those fixtures be regarded as of national interest when those of our national teams are not?

Scottish football fans will have the choice of the three home nations that have qualified in the championships to support, and I am sorry that on this occasion Scotland did not make it through. However, the question of which matches are shown by which broadcaster is essentially one for the sporting authorities. The limited list applies only to a very restricted number of sporting events, but beyond that it is for each sporting body to decide how best to strike the balance between maximising revenue for their sport and reaching as large an audience as possible.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab)

I am sure that the whole House will want to wish the teams of England, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland all the best in the European championships. Football shows us that we have more in common with our European neighbours than divides us, as I am sure the Secretary of State will agree. That was demonstrated by the singing of the Marseillaise at Wembley in defiant response to the attacks in Paris. In that spirit, will he join me in urging fans to enjoy the tournament peacefully, whether they are travelling to France or watching in the company of their friends at home or in public places, and to assist the police and security services in trying to ensure that we have a safe and secure tournament?

Mr Whittingdale

I completely agree with the hon. Gentleman and I am grateful to him for putting the case as he has done and giving me the opportunity to endorse everything that he says. We look forward to the matches in the championships to come and we wish all the home nations success. I have a second interest in that I drew England in the departmental sweepstake and will be supporting England in their match against Russia, which, sadly, was drawn by the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), so she will have torn loyalties. We hope nevertheless that that match and every other match pass peaceably and to the maximum enjoyment of those participating and watching.

 

Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement as to the implications for the Football Association and the home nations of the indictment preferred against certain FIFA officials by the Department of Justice in the United States and the criminal proceedings opened by the Attorney General of Switzerland.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): The arrests that took place in Zurich yesterday, along with the statements released by both the US Department of Justice and the Swiss Attorney General, were shocking in both scale and scope. However, they were also far from surprising. Anyone who has spent time looking at FIFA, as the Culture, Media and Sport Committee did during the previous Parliament, will know that this is merely the latest sorry episode to suggest that FIFA is a deeply flawed and corrupt organisation.

The revelations have shown how important it is for sports bodies to uphold the highest standards of governance, transparency and accountability. That is what we ask and expect of all our domestic sports bodies in the UK. International bodies should be no different. That is particularly true for an organisation such as FIFA, an organisation that should be the guardian of the world’s most popular sport, not one whose members seek to profit personally from the passion of the game’s fans.

I welcome the investigations now under way into the allegations of bribery and corruption, and I fully support the Football Association’s position that significant and wide-ranging reforms are urgently needed at the very top of FIFA, including a change of leadership. I also welcome the statement from UEFA, which has called for a postponement of the election, and the statement from Visa this morning. It is important that other sponsors reflect on their links to FIFA and consider following Visa’s lead. The Minister for sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), will be writing to her European counterparts later today to set out our concerns and seek their support for change.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the insight team of The Sunday Times, without whose investigations many of these allegations may never have come to light. Football is the world’s game, and it is our national game. It is a fundamental part of British life and culture. Yet these revelations have dragged the game’s reputation into the mud. The time has clearly come for a change, and we will offer whatever support is necessary to the Football Association to see that change realised.

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10. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Whether he plans to meet FIFA representatives to discuss arrangements for the World cup; and if he will make a statement. [900104]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): I have no plans to meet FIFA officials at this stage. However, I did meet the chairman and the chief executive of the English Football Association yesterday, and I intend to keep in close touch with them on this matter and, indeed, on other matters relating to football in this country.

Michael Fabricant: My right hon. Friend might like first to thank the Americans for finally exposing the corruption in FIFA that we have all suspected has been endemic for the past 10 or 20 years. Will he speak to his colleague the Foreign Secretary to see whether there can be a re-analysis with Qatar as to whether the World cup should be held there? Precisely what should our relationship with FIFA be, because Blatter’s departure is not necessarily going to mean that corruption has ended?

Mr Whittingdale: I agree with my hon. Friend. In order to achieve the reforms that all of us believe are vitally necessary in FIFA, the first requirement was a change in leadership. We have now obtained that, but that is the beginning of the process and certainly not the end of it. It is for the football associations of the home nations to work with other football associations that are equally determined to see change, in order to ensure that the new leadership is properly committed to achieving those changes.

In response to my hon. Friend’s second question, on Qatar, that is a separate matter. The Swiss authorities are continuing to investigate the bidding process that resulted in the decision to give the 2018 games to Russia and the 2022 games to Qatar, and we await the outcome of those investigations.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I welcome the Secretary of State and the sports Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), to their new posts.The investigation into FIFA will go on, but the fight for its heart and soul will start now that Sepp Blatter has announced he is standing down. I wonder about these people at the top of FIFA and whether they have ever actually been to a football match for which they bought their own tickets, whether they have followed a football team week in, week out, or whether they have pulled on a football shirt and played in a match. We really need to get rid of these people at the top of the game.

Is the Secretary of State satisfied that Government agencies that are investigating the possibilities of corruption involving UK financial institutions have all the resources they need and that they are doing all they can to root out any criminal activity that may have taken place? Will he say exactly what he can do to ensure that we root out corruption in FIFA?

Mr Whittingdale: In the first instance, that is obviously a matter for the Serious Fraud Office and other investigatory bodies in this country, but I have spoken to the Attorney General about it. We will of course ensure that all the resources necessary to carry out a thorough investigation are available to those bodies and we will work closely with the Swiss and American authorities, which are leading on this matter.

On the reforms necessary in FIFA, we are absolutely committed to working through the FA and other football associations to ensure that the new leadership of FIFA is utterly committed to carrying out the sweeping reforms that are so obviously necessary.

2. Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con): What steps his Department is taking to improve broadband coverage in Gloucestershire. [900096]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): The Government have committed nearly £27 million to the roll-out of superfast broadband in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. This should take superfast broadband coverage to an additional 130,000 homes and businesses across the two counties, providing almost 93% coverage by the end of 2017. Small and medium-sized enterprises in Gloucester and Cheltenham are now eligible for a grant of up to £3,000 to improve their broadband connectivity under the broadband connection voucher scheme.

Alex Chalk: I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. None the less, a significant number of homes and businesses in Cheltenham fall between two stools, being, apparently, not sufficiently rural for Fastershire to see fit to step in but too rural for commercial providers to consider it viable to extend broadband provision. Will he meet me to discuss how we can help those stuck in limbo and cut this Gordian knot?

Mr Whittingdale: First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election to this House and commend him on his efforts on behalf of his constituents in order that they should obtain superfast broadband. He will be aware that 96% of Cheltenham will already have access to it by the end of 2017, which is above the national target, and many small and medium-sized enterprises can also benefit from the broadband connection voucher I mentioned. We are examining ways of extending the reach beyond that 96%, but I would of course be happy to meet him and some of his constituents to discuss what more we might do to help.

Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con) rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. I note the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer), but Nottinghamshire is a little distance away from Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): May I support the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and remind the Secretary of State that many rural villages, certainly in my constituency, still do not have sufficiently strong broadband connections? That hampers people who are running small businesses from home, as well as children who are trying to use the internet to learn. What can he do to speed up the provision in those small villages?

Mr Whittingdale: I understand my hon. Friend’s concern for his constituents, particularly those in more rural areas. As he may be aware, under phase 1 of the broadband scheme we expect to reach 87.1% of premises across the whole of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire by December 2016, and under phase 2 we hope to extend that to 92.8%. Those in the more remote areas may still prove to be outside, and we will be looking at alternative means by which we can reach them with superfast broadband, but, again, I am happy to talk him further about this.

Superfast Broadband

3. Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): What progress his Department is making on the roll-out of superfast broadband. [900097]

4 Jun 2015 : Column 733

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): More than 2.5 million additional homes and businesses now have access to superfast broadband as a result of the Government’s intervention. We continue to add 40,000 more homes and businesses every week.

Heidi Allen: I feel that I am about to gatecrash a party, but we have exactly the same situation in South Cambridgeshire. Connecting Cambridgeshire is doing a fantastic job of rolling out broadband across much of the constituency, but our roads are at gridlock—a happy consequence of our economic success—and it is vital that we keep people working in local hubs and from home. I, too, am interested in what other technologies we might explore to reach those people who are missing, so please may I come along too?

Mr Whittingdale: I congratulate my hon. Friend on her election and she is a very welcome party guest. The Government are investing more than £8 million in Connecting Cambridgeshire, which will increase coverage in her constituency to 94% by 2017. As she pointed out, there will be some areas that are much harder to reach and it might not be possible to do so by the traditional methods, so we are running pilot projects to explore other ways in which we can bring coverage up to reach even the furthest parts of her and other hon. Members’ constituencies. I would be happy to talk to her further.

20. [900114] Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con): Further to that answer, what more can we do to support alternative ways of delivering broadband, such as that offered by W3Z in my constituency, which can provide high-speed broadband to the most rural homes and can get it to them far quicker than fibre broadband will?

Mr Whittingdale: My hon. Friend is completely right that although fibre will, we hope, supply superfast broadband to the overwhelming majority of premises in the country there will be some for which it is not practical. That is why we are piloting alternatives through our three pilot projects testing fixed wireless technologies in rural areas in North Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire and Monmouthshire. These are being run by Airwave, Quickline and AB Internet. We will consider the results to assess the best way of extending the programme still further into the most difficult areas.

18. [900112] Matt Warman (Boston and Skegness) (Con): One of the issues that remain for the people who will not get superfast broadband via fibre is that it is very hard to find out from BT or local councils that they will definitely not get it. Our programme has made remarkable progress, but would the Secretary of State like to see BT and local councils providing much greater clarity to communities so that they can explore other technologies such as microwave, wi-fi or satellite?

Mr Whittingdale: Again, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election. I know that in his capacity as a former technology editor he brings a particular expertise to our debates on this subject. He is absolutely right that there will be some cases where, for the time being, it will not be possible to extend superfast broadband. I hope that we will eventually be able to do so, but in the meantime I entirely agree with him that it is important that people should be aware of that position. We are introducing a seven-digit postcode checker, which is now on the gov.uk website, so that people can be made aware of that position.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making his Budget statement on Wednesday, but following news reports on Sunday, I would like to take the opportunity now to confirm details of the agreement that we have reached with the BBC. Under the agreement, the BBC will take on the cost of providing free television licences for those households with over-75s, and that will be phased in from 2018-19, with the BBC taking on the full costs from 2020-21. Having inherited a challenging fiscal position, the Government are pleased that the BBC has agreed to play its part in contributing to reductions in spending, like much of the rest of the public sector, while at the same time further reducing its overall reliance on taxpayers.

As part of these new arrangements, the Government will ensure that the BBC can adapt to a changing media landscape. The Government will therefore bring forward legislation in the next year to modernise the licence fee to cover public service broadcast catch-up TV. In addition, the Government will reduce the broadband ring fence to £80 million in 2017-18, to £20 million in 2018-19, to £10 million in 2019-20 and to zero in 2020-21. The Government will consider carefully the case for decriminalisation in the light of the Perry report and the need for the BBC to be funded appropriately. No decision will be taken in advance of charter renewal.

The Government anticipate that the licence fee will rise in line with the consumer prices index over the next charter review period, subject to the conclusions of the charter review on the purposes and scope of the BBC, and the BBC demonstrating that it is undertaking efficiency savings at least equivalent to those in other parts of the public sector. The commitment made in the Conservative manifesto that all households with an over-75-year-old will be eligible for a free TV licence will be honoured throughout the Parliament. As requested by the BBC, it will take responsibility for this policy from thereon.

Charter review will provide an opportunity to consider wider issues relating to the purposes and scope of the BBC. We look forward to using it to engage on the full range of issues with the public, industry and the House. I will be making an announcement about the process for the review in due course.

 

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Further to the reply that my hon. Friend the Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy gave a moment ago, can he confirm that the Government’s position remains as set out in the response to the consultation on the review of EU copyright law—that any changes should be based on hard evidence? Perhaps I might ask him a second time to be a little clearer—just so that we can be absolutely certain that everyone is aware—that the Government support the right of territorial licensing, as the Prime Minister’s special adviser set out to the creative industries yesterday.

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): Yes, that is the case. I should make it absolutely clear that the non-paper that we have submitted to the European Commission represents a vision for the digital single market. It is our firm belief that consumers should be able to access content in a fair and reasonable way wherever they are, but we do support the right of industries with internet protocol to sell territorial licensing.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the immediate priority must be to try to stop the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, if Ukraine is to have a future and avoid complete financial collapse it will require an international bail-out on a scale that is not yet under discussion, as well as very urgent political and economic reform to deal with the endemic corruption at every level throughout the country?

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I thank him for the important work his all-party group on Ukraine does to maintain Anglo-Ukrainian relations. He is right that Ukraine is going to need massive international support, but it cannot be delivered unconditionally. We cannot pour the money of our taxpayers and our international financial institutions into the sink of corruption that is, frankly, the Ukrainian economy at the moment. Ukraine has to make progress on sorting out the endemic corruption if we are to be able to support it towards a better economic future.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept not only that we are facing the threat of a further Russian military invasion of Ukraine but that we are in the middle of an information war?  Will he consider what more can be done to counter the entirely false depiction of events in Ukraine that is being put out by the Russian media, both inside and outside Russia?

The Prime Minister: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. A number of leaders in the Baltic states have said how damaging it is that so much of their television consists of Russian-backed news channels pumping out a completely distorted picture of what is happening. It is vital that we play our part in putting forward correct and accurate information, and I have raised this issue with President Obama.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered Ukraine and UK relations with Russia.

May I start by thanking the Backbench Business Committee for agreeing to hold this debate this afternoon? I also thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for Europe, who changed his diary so that he could respond to the debate.

Some might think that events in Ukraine have calmed down and that there is no longer the same conflict raging as a few weeks ago, as there is not nearly as much coverage of it in our own media. It has been superseded by events in the middle east and the threat from Ebola in west Africa, but the truth is that the situation in Ukraine is no better. It dominated a large part of the recent discussion at the G20, and the war, which has now been raging for several months, has led to more and more people being killed every day. Therefore, it is absolutely right that this House should debate the events in Ukraine and their consequences for our own relations with Russia.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): What the Government’s policy is on the creation of the digital single market; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): In homage to the elaborate nomenclature of the Minister for Skills and Equalities, which you have revealed this morning, Mr Speaker, let me quote our greatest romantic poet:

“Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm.”

I can tell you, Mr Speaker, that our non-paper on the digital single market, which contains an enthusiastic vision for a digital single market, has gone down an absolute storm in Europe, partly because it is online, with interactive graphics.

Mr Whittingdale: I welcome the progress we are making on creating a digital single market—and indeed the interactive graphics. Is the Minister aware that the business models of some of our most successful industries, particularly those in the audiovisual sector and sports rights, depend on territorial licensing. Will he confirm that the Government’s policy is to continue to support their right to do that?

Mr Vaizey: Let me say that

“common sense in an uncommon degree is what the world calls wisdom.”

That is Coleridge as well, but nobody understood. My hon. Friend has displayed immense common sense in pointing out that it is important that we stand up for the intellectual property rights of our very successful creative industries. It has to be said as well that we should be mindful of what the consumer now wants, which is to access content in a fair and reasonable way wherever they are based. So we need to work with industry and the consumer to achieve a happy result.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Is my right hon. Friend aware that last week Prime Minister Yatsenyuk told me that he regarded Britain, alongside America, as Ukraine’s strongest allies, and his statement this afternoon confirms that? Is my right hon. Friend aware that we have a special responsibility as a signatory of the Budapest memorandum to help Ukraine? Specifically, will he consider the requests made by the Ukrainian Government for defensive weapons such as counter-battery radar, electronic jamming equipment and anti-tank weaponry?

Michael Fallon: My hon. Friend is probably as knowledgeable as anybody about the affairs of Ukraine, as he chairs the all-party group. It is very clear to us that the Ukrainian armed forces are in desperate need of further equipment and they have supplied lists of equipment they would like. We are focusing, as I have said, on the non-lethal equipment we can supply and are considering the additional requests.

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