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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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): What assistance his Department (the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) is giving to Ukraine.
The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr Mark Francois): The UK remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. We welcome the ceasefire agreement reached between Ukraine and Russia in Minsk on 5 September and the subsequent agreement on 19 September setting out the modalities for its implementation. The ceasefire agreement is broadly holding, although there have been a number of breaches on both sides. The MOD will continue to build on its long-standing relationship with the Ukrainian MOD. We have increased our defence engagement, providing additional support on crisis management, anti-corruption measures, defence reform and strategic communications.
Mr Whittingdale: As my right hon. Friend is aware, Ukrainian forces recently engaged not just with Russian-backed separatists, but with regular Russian army troops and their armour, which invaded their country and inflicted upon them heavy losses. Will he see what more can be done to rebuild Ukraine’s defence capability?
Mr Francois: We are clear that there cannot be a simply military solution to this conflict. We have provided military support and additional non-lethal support in line with Ukrainian priorities. Specifically, the Government have already provided non-lethal support to the Ukrainian security forces, including personal protective equipment, and last week the Government announced their intention to deliver more than £800,000-worth of further kit, including body armour, medical kits and winter supplies. Also at the NATO summit the UK committed to leading a new C4—command, control, communications and computers—trust fund. We have pledged over £500,000 to the C4 logistics and standardisation trust fund as well. With contributions from other nations, those trust funds and wider NATO activity will play a significant role in supporting the Ukrainian armed forces.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon)(Con) I am pleased to have the opportunity to present to the House the Committee’s report “Future of the BBC”. Our major inquiry began well over a year ago, and I express my thanks to my colleagues on the Committee, our Clerks and our specialist adviser, Mr Ray Gallagher.
As is well known, the BBC charter expires at the end of 2016. The renewal process provides an opportunity to examine all aspects of the BBC—scale, scope, governance and funding. Since the previous charter renewal, huge changes have taken place to the way in which people watch television. At the time of that renewal, most households had access to only four channels, but since then we have had analogue switch-off, meaning that everyone has access to 40 or more digital channels. Many people also access catch-up television through the iPlayer or some of the new streaming services. The whole media landscape therefore looks very different from how it did 10 years before.
The Secretary of State has said that it will be for the next Government to consider the future of the BBC and charter renewal—I understand his reasons—but the Committee points out that at the time of the previous review, an independent panel led by Lord Burns conducted a long public consultation before reaching conclusions. We think that this matter is so important that a similar process should take place this time, and there is no reason why that could not be initiated as soon as possible. Either way, I hope that our report will set the agenda for the forthcoming debate.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that the appalling incident in Ukraine is the consequence of a war that has been raging for many months and that had already led to the loss of hundreds of lives? As well as now imposing the toughest possible sanctions on President Putin and Russia, if it is shown that they continue to support the separatists, will he consider what additional support he can give to President Poroshenko to restore the authority of the Ukrainian Administration throughout the whole of the country?
The Prime Minister: I agree with my hon. Friend. The most important thing we can do with regard to Ukraine is to help its economy recover and to make sure it has the assistance to restructure and be a successful, prosperous democracy. That is the best thing we can do. The association agreement signed between the EU and Ukraine is very important in that regard.
John Whittingdale attended an event organised by the SportsAid charity to highlight the support that they give to promising young athletes with money raised from My Lotto 24. At the reception, John met Danica Brazier who lives in Bicknacre and plays water polo for the GB ladies junior under 17s water polo team. Her home swimming club is Chelmsford Swimming Club, although she also trains with Basildon, Crawley, London Otter and Mid Sussex Marlins. Last year, Danica received an award of £1000 from SportsAid and My Lotto 24.
In March she will take part in the qualifying competition for the 1st European Olympics being held in Baku, Azerbaijan in June. John said: “I am very much aware of the significant costs faced by young elite athletes and am very pleased that SportsAid is supporting them in this way. I warmly congratulate Danica on the success that she has already achieved and wish her every success in her future sporting career.”
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating the Red Arrows on their 50th display season this year? Will he give an assurance that the future of the Red Arrows is secure under a future Conservative Government? The shadow Secretary of State was unable to give such an assurance for a future Labour Government.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Owen. I too congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Dover (Charlie Elphicke) on obtaining this debate, and add my congratulations to the Minister on his appointment.
Every speaker so far has talked about the value of community hospitals. I do not want to repeat what has been said, but I utterly endorse the tributes that have been paid to the dedicated staff who work in those hospitals, the intimate care that they are able to provide to patients—sometimes lacking in very large, more general hospitals—the proximity they have to communities and the fact that patients can be visited by relatives and friends much more easily. All those factors are real strengths that contribute to faster recovery times.
I am afraid that, like every Member, I will talk about my own experience of my local community hospital in Maldon, St Peter’s community hospital, which is greatly loved. Like many, it offers out-patient treatments, has rehabilitation beds and offers therapies. It also has a maternity unit. In my early days as a Member of Parliament I marched down Whitehall with the local protest group in defence of that unit when it was suggested that it might close. I am pleased to say that it did not and is still there; although I cannot personally say that I have contributed to its work, my hon. Friend the Member for Witham (Priti Patel), who I am sure would be here had she not become a Minister, had her first child in the Maldon hospital maternity unit.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I commend my right hon. Friend on his efforts to extend mobile coverage, but is he aware that many of my constituents have been without any mobile coverage for nearly three weeks due to Vodafone having to remove a mast from premises that the landlord required it to vacate? Will he consider looking at the electronic communications code to see whether it can be strengthened to give the same sorts of rights that already exist for other utilities, such as water and electricity?
The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Sajid Javid): I was not aware of that particular issue in my hon. Friend’s constituency, but now he has raised it I will certainly look into it and see whether we can help. The electronic communications code is a very important issue and I am looking into it right now, because I agree that it was set up for a different age and there need to be significant changes.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): The hon. Lady is absolutely right that the majority of English Heritage properties are what are known as unroofed and operate mainly on a maintenance basis. If English Heritage is to become self-sustaining in terms of revenue, it will need to concentrate on the 130 properties that are currently charged for. To become self-sustaining within the period will be a huge task, and it is not at all clear what will happen if it fails to do so.
Jenny Chapman: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, because that is precisely the reason for this debate. In principle, there is no objection to the proposal, but there is deep concern about how realistic it is. All Governments have a track record of rushing into reforms with the best of intentions, but it would be a disgrace if this were allowed to fail. We need to know how the Government plan to act should that happen.
Moving on from the sites to those going to see them, the National Trust has pointed out that the targets for membership and visitor numbers, on which the new model relies, are what it would call ambitious. The predicted growth in membership is 86% over the next 10 years. Even in its most successful decade, the National Trust grew its membership by only 20%, and the trust is five-star outstanding in terms of its membership organisation. If it questions the nature of the membership target, I would listen very carefully. The model is also reliant on visitor numbers going up by a predicted third. I hope that that is the case—we want this to work—and that we see English Heritage attract more and more of our constituents to enjoy its sites, but it is quite a leap, and many of us are worried about what would happen if we fail to make that leap in membership, visitor numbers and revenue.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I join my right hon. Friend in paying tribute to Tony Benn, whose ancestral seat of Stansgate is in my constituency? He was held in high regard by my constituents, even though they may not have agreed with his views. Is my right hon. Friend aware that today’s figures show that unemployment in Maldon has fallen by 27% since the last election, and does he agree that that is further proof that the Chancellor was absolutely right to ignore his critics on the Opposition Benches and stick to his guns?
The Prime Minister: I thank my hon. Friend for what he has said. As I said, there is good news in the unemployment figures about getting women and young people into work and about falls in long-term unemployment, but there has also been the largest annual fall in the claimant count—the number of people claiming unemployment benefit—since February 1998. Getting people back to work and giving them the chance of a job, dignity and security in their lives is really important. That is what our economic plan is all about.
Mr Whittingdale: On a point of order, Mr Speaker. You may recall that in November last year, I raised a point of order to express my concern that Dato Makudi had been given leave to take to the Court of Appeal his action for defamation that related to remarks made by Lord Triesman to the Football Association, in which he merely referred to statements that he had made to the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport about possible corruption in FIFA. Those remarks were, of course, made under privilege.
At that time, I expressed my concern that the action represented a significant threat to the privilege conferred on Members and, indeed, on witnesses who appear before Select Committees of this House, and that it could have the severe effects of preventing us from exposing truth and giving witnesses the impression that they do not enjoy the protection of parliamentary privilege. You were sufficiently concerned, Mr Speaker, to make a submission to the Court of Appeal.
As you may be aware, Mr Speaker, the Court of Appeal has reached a judgment in which it is clearly stated that Lord Triesman’s remarks were covered by article 9 of the Bill of Rights. I believe that that is a significant re-establishment of the rights of this House. I wonder whether you would like to make a statement in the light of that.
Mr Speaker: I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. As he rightly says, I shared his grave concern, not principally on behalf of Lord Triesman, but on behalf of the House, that a threat to parliamentary privilege and, therefore, to Parliament was entailed. I did, as I indicated to the hon. Gentleman was my intention, cause representations to be made to the Court of Appeal. It was, of course, a matter for the court and I am absolutely delighted that it found in favour of Lord Triesman. That was a victory not just for Lord Triesman, but for the precious principle of parliamentary privilege and for Parliament itself. It was a very important day, and the hon. Gentleman is right to celebrate it and to give me the opportunity, on behalf of the House, to do the same.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): My right hon. Friend said that the Bill’s provisions were being introduced on the advice of those who were most affected by the regulations, but he will be aware of the concern that has been expressed by a wide range of media and broadcasting organisations about the effect of clause 47 in removing important journalistic protections. Is there anything he can say to reassure them that it will not have the effect they fear?
Mr Letwin: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, the Chairman of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, for raising that issue, which is indeed important. It was a late entrant, in the sense that it was no part of the intention of clause 47 to have the effect that some of the media organisations are worried about. Those organisations have been worried that the clause would obviate the need for both parties to be in court when a court orders what is called a production order, which typically requires, for example, a bank to produce the accounts of a person accused of a particular malfeasance, where those accounts are relevant to the trial.
In the case that the media are concerned about, a production order would be used to ask a media organisation to produce some piece of information it holds. Those media organisations were worried that they would no longer have the guarantee of their day in court to contest such a production order, because the effect of clause 47 would be to replace the need for the existence of primary legislation governing inter partes rules with the criminal procedure rules committee. The media were afraid that the criminal procedure rules committee might in some way weaken the inter partes rules. I have good news for my hon. Friend and his Committee, and indeed for the media organisations—which, incidentally, I have offered to meet later in the week or next week. As it was no part of the intention of clause 47 to do that, we are now looking for ways specifically to exempt journalism and all such media items from the clause. If I may, I would like to discuss with him and his Committee the precise drafting of that change, so that we can be sure that the media organisations themselves and the Select Committee are content with the changes we make.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that soft power is all the more important in increasing understanding between ourselves and countries with which we may have differences of view? She has just referred to the forthcoming UK-Russia year of culture. May I invite her and the shadow Secretary of State to join me at the launch of that event in this place on 24 February, in advance of her attending the winter Olympics in Sochi?
I agree with my hon. Friend that there is a huge opportunity to utilise the role of culture in developing our relations with a whole host of nations. I was pleased to sign a cultural agreement with my counterpart on my recent visit to China, and in the past 12 months we have also signed a cultural agreement with South Korea. He is right that the UK-Russia year of culture will be an enormously important opportunity.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Thank you, Mr Benton, for this opportunity to debate the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport report, “Supporting the Creative Economy”. It was the result of a major inquiry, in which we took a great deal of evidence and came up with a wide range of conclusions. There has been a lot of interest in some of our proposals across the industry and the House. I thank Elizabeth Flood, the Committee’s principal Clerk, and all the staff for their hard work on this inquiry and others.
We are debating a great success story. There is no question but that in this country we are very good at creative industries. Since the report was published, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport has published the latest figures, which show that the creative industries are worth £71.5 billion to the UK economy and generate around 1.68 million jobs. They are a substantial part of our economic activity and are growing steadily. We are achieving ever greater success.
Those bare figures conceal remarkable achievements. In almost every sector of the creative industries that we have examined, there have been fantastic successes. The British film industry continued to produce some great films, and we have some of the greatest talent in the world, but we have also been remarkably successful in attracting highly mobile international investment to the UK to make films.
Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): I welcome the Committee’s report. Did the hon. Gentleman look at the arts and the financial contribution that they make to this country? He mentioned the film industry, but could he say something about the broader remit of the arts?
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I welcome the debate as an opportunity to bring some light to the subject, rather than the large amount of smoke that has obscured it so far, but that might be a statement of hope, rather than experience.
It is important to bring some perspective to the debate. Gambling is a legitimate activity that brings considerable pleasure to millions of people in this country, that generates a lot of economic activity and that provides employment and tax revenue for the Government. Betting shops are not a blight on the high street; they are regulated and controlled environments that provide employment and, in some cases, a social benefit.
Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): The hon. Gentleman says that gambling raises revenue for the Government, but in actual fact the Government receive about £3 billion a year in revenue and the profit on fixed odds betting terminals is about £1.5 billion. It costs the state £3.6 billion to deal with problem gamblers, so does not that suggest that this is bad economics?
Mr Whittingdale: I shall come on to problem gambling, but it is a myth to suggest that that is entirely a result of FOBTs. There is a difficulty due to problem gambling, and a small number of people suffer from addiction—of course they need some protection. It has always been a principle that the harder forms of gambling are permitted in more controlled environments. To that extent, it was something of an anomaly that the previous Government allowed B2 machines on the high street while there were restrictions on those machines in adult gaming centres and casinos. It was ironic, too, that the previous Government wanted to introduce category A gaming machines, for which there were no limits on stakes or prizes, in super-casinos. Perhaps those anomalies should have been addressed. That was why, when the Culture, Media and Sport Committee looked at the problem, we recommended allowing up to 20 B2 machines in casinos and some B2 machines in adult gaming centres.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon): I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe) not just on securing the debate from the Backbench Business Committee but on how he has led the campaign, which has been supported on both sides of the House, as demonstrated this afternoon. It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies), who has also been tireless in pursuing the matter. It is notable that four parties are represented in the House this afternoon. Sometimes MPs put aside their party differences and come together when it is plain that there has been an injustice that needs to be put right. That is certainly the case with the issue we are debating this afternoon.
There is a danger in such a debate that one simply repeats the points that have been made. We have already heard some powerful speeches from both sides of the House, such as that from my constituency neighbour, my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns), who represents many of the Essex Visteon pensioners, as I do. As has been pointed out, it is particularly sad that it is necessary to have this debate a second time—I participated in the debate in Westminster Hall—because we all still have great respect and admiration for the Ford Motor Company. It has a proud history in this country and a strong reputation across the world, yet this is a terrible stain on that reputation.
It is perhaps because Ford has previously been seen as such a strong company that it was understandable that its employees, who had given many years of service, should believe the assurances they were given when they told that they were being transferred to the Visteon company and that their pensions could be transferred to a new Visteon pension fund. I will not repeat the quotations given by many hon. Members about how they were told that there would be no detriment and that their pensions were guaranteed under the same terms and conditions. Of course they believed that, yet today they find that the position is very different.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon): Will the Secretary of State join me in welcoming the £1.5 million grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund to save Stow Maries aerodrome in my constituency, which is the last remaining, intact first world war airfield? Does she agree that Stow Maries, from which pilots flew to defend us against zeppelin attacks, would be a fitting place to start the commemorations that her Department is planning?
Maria Miller: My hon. Friend is right to point out that there are not that many structures remaining for us to look at as part of our commemorations around the first world war centenary. I am sure that that airfield could play an important role in bringing this to life for new generations.
Mr Whittingdale: I am most grateful to you for making an exception in this case, Mr Speaker. As you are aware, Lord Triesman gave evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee as part of our inquiry into the 2018 world cup bid. During his evidence, under parliamentary privilege, Lord Triesman made specific accusations of corruption against four named members of FIFA’s executive committee. In the subsequent review conducted by the Football Association, Lord Triesman was careful to say in answer to questions from James Dingemans QC, who was conducting the review, that he invited him to rely on the evidence that he had given to the Select Committee, and that he did not wish to add to it. In January 2013, one of those accused, Mr Makudi, brought an action for defamation against Lord Triesman, which was struck out. However, in June this year the Court of Appeal granted leave to Mr Makudi to appeal.
This matter goes to the heart of the privilege afforded to Members of Parliament and to witnesses who give evidence to Parliament. If witnesses to Select Committees cannot be confident that their evidence is covered by absolute privilege, and that if they do not repeat the allegations outside Parliament they are fully protected against legal action, that will severely damage the ability of Select Committees to obtain the information that they require. I should therefore be grateful, Mr Speaker, if you would consider what action you, or Parliament, can take to defend the principle of parliamentary privilege, which is a fundamental right enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
I have followed these matters very closely, and the possible implications give me cause for grave concern. As the hon. Gentleman knows, the matter is awaiting determination by the Court of Appeal, so I will not of course comment on the substance of the case; but I will say to the hon. Gentleman, and to the House, that I consider these matters to be of such importance for the House and for its Members, and to the protection of free speech in our proceedings, that written submissions have been made to the court on my behalf by Speaker’s Counsel. I shall of course be following developments closely, as, I know, will the hon. Gentleman. I am extremely grateful to him.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I begin by reminding the House of my entry in the register showing that I paid a visit to Gibraltar in September, at the invitation of the Gibraltar Betting and Gaming Association, to discuss the provisions of the Bill?
Paul Farrelly: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on that point?
Mr Whittingdale: I am not sure that there is anything on that point, but I am happy to give way.
Paul Farrelly: Following the hon. Gentleman’s discussions over the summer with the Gibraltar-based companies, can he tell the House whether they are still minded to launch a last-minute legal action in Europe against these provisions? When he was there, did he discourage them from doing so?
Mr Whittingdale: The hon. Gentleman will have to ask the Gibraltar gaming authorities whether they intend to launch legal action. They have certainly expressed concern as to whether the Bill’s provisions are legal, and it is obviously up to them whether they take legal action. I made it clear to the authorities and the gaming associations that I supported the Bill, and that therefore I would certainly discourage them from doing so. They did raise some concerns, which I shall discuss in the course of my remarks.
I wish to make it clear that my Select Committee supports the Bill’s general provisions, as do I. The Committee has spent some time examining gambling. We carried out post-legislative scrutiny in 2011-12 of the entire Gambling Act 2005. Although we examined online gaming, which is obviously the most rapidly increasing form of gambling, inevitably the main focus on the 2005 Act related to casinos, the previous Government’s abortive attempt to introduce regional casinos—super-casinos—in the UK and the provisions relating to fixed odds betting terminals in betting shops. I do not propose to explore the latter issue at great length today, although it remains one of some controversy.
Hon. Members may recall that when that Gambling Bill became an Act, the then Secretary of State declared that one of its purposes was to make the UK the world centre for online gaming and that that would be of great benefit to the UK economy. Unfortunately, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer holed the then Secretary of State amidships by setting the tax rate at a level that led to almost every operator moving offshore. There is a single exception, which I am sure the hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Paul Farrelly), my friend from the Select Committee, will mention: bet365 remains the last operator headquartered in the UK. Almost all the others have moved to offshore jurisdictions such as Gibraltar, Alderney and some European Union member states.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I very much welcome this opportunity to debate the arts and creative industries. Although I of course support the amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, in the spirit of consensus that the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport always tries to achieve, I have to say that I can find nothing in the motion tabled by the Leader of the Opposition that I disagree with.
As a believer in free markets, I am not normally a supporter of public subsidy. However, I am convinced of the benefits of public subsidy in the case of the arts—not just the economic benefits, which the Secretary of State quite rightly spelt out in her speech. The arts are hugely important to people’s quality of life in this country, as the right hon. and learned Member for Camberwell and Peckham (Ms Harman) said, and many other benefits flow from that in education, health, community cohesion and so much more.
Under the previous Government, the arts enjoyed years of plenty; under this Government, we are facing lean years for the arts. That is absolutely inevitable. This Government have the higher priority of trying to clear up the enormous mountain of borrowing and debt that we inherited, and it would be wrong to exclude the arts from having to play a part in that. However, when we on the Select Committee looked at funding of the arts immediately after the election, we said that it would result in some difficult decisions and that some institutions would probably close as a result. I am delighted to hear from the Secretary of State that she has done well in her debate with colleagues in the Treasury for this year’s spending settlement, but I understand from what I have read and what she has said that we can anticipate still further reductions. That means that more institutions will probably have to close, which will be a tragedy.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is excellent news that visitor numbers and visitor spend rose last year to record levels, but my right hon. Friend will also be aware that the UK still slipped by one place, from seventh to eighth, in the list of top 10 destinations. Can she say what is being done to attract more visitors to the UK, particularly from China, many of whom are still being deterred by the cost and difficulty of obtaining visas?
Maria Miller: My hon. Friend is absolutely right to say that we always need to be actively marketing Britain abroad. That is where our GREAT campaign, with £37 million already invested, comes into its own. It is a campaign that this country can be proud of. As for visas, we have made significant improvements to the situation that we inherited. We have now seen an increase of, I believe, around 30% in visas from that country.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Is the Home Secretary aware of the growing concern regarding the actions of the police in some instances and the inactions of the police in others? Can she comment on the reports at the weekend that the police have uncovered widespread use of private investigators to hack telephones not just by journalists, but by lawyers’ firms and other corporations? Can she say why it appears that the police thought it right to tell Lord Justice Leveson about that, but not pursue any action against those who committed criminal offences?
Mrs May: My hon. Friend will be well aware that decisions on whether the police investigate individuals and alleged offences are an operational matter for the police, and that it is for the police, with the Crown Prosecution Service, to decide whether those investigations lead to charges and prosecution. However, I recognise the degree of concern that he raises. Phone hacking by some aspects of the press has caused disquiet in this House for some time. Suggestions that it could have been more widespread are, of course, equally worrying.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I agree with what my hon. Friend says about ambulance delays, but does she agree that this is a particularly severe problem in more rural areas, such as the Dengie peninsula, which I represent, where one survey of a patient group of a medical practice, the William Fisher medical centre, showed that patients had to wait for more than 40 minutes, and in some cases more than a hour, before the ambulance arrived?
Priti Patel (Witham) (Con): My hon. Friend is right. Many hon. Members have experienced horrific delays, particularly across our rural constituencies. I know of delays in excess of two hours. That is unacceptable. Lives are put at risk.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): May I first join Members on both sides in congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (James Wharton) on a magnificent speech introducing his Bill?
My first act of political campaigning was to take part in the 1979 referendum campaign. I was not old enough to vote, I hasten to add. However, I did go around putting leaflets through doors. I did so, first, because as a Conservative I strongly believed in the free trade opportunities that the European Economic Community represented. I thought it would be good for our economy and for business. I was also in favour because of the statements in the leaflets I was putting through the doors, such as “The case for staying in the EEC”, which said that we would gain, not lose, effective sovereignty over our destiny, and that in the last resort we would be able to veto any proposal put forward in Brussels if we considered it to be against our vital national interests.
There was also the leaflet paid for by the taxpayer that went through every single door in the country which stated:
“No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British government and British Parliament.”
Since that time, we have seen those assurances undermined time and again.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept the first principle set out in Lord Justice Leveson’s report that any solution must be perceived as credible and effective by the press and the public? Does she agree that it would be infinitely preferable to achieve a system of press regulation that delivers the objectives of Lord Justice Leveson’s report, but which also commands the support of as many of the newspapers as possible, rather than a system which commands the support of none of them?
Maria Miller: My hon. Friend goes to the heart of the matter when he reminds the House of Lord Leveson’s statement that whatever we take forward, to be effective it must also be credible, and we must take the press and the public with us. It is vital that we do that. Nobody would thank us for putting in place a system that was ineffective, did not work and did not attempt to make sure that self-regulation of the press in this country is effective.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will the Secretary of State confirm that it is the Government’s ambition that this should be the first of a series of investments in new nuclear generation? What are the Government doing to attract other potential investors who may be persuaded to look at designated sites, such as Bradwell-on-Sea in my constituency, which is already a model of successful decommissioning?
Mr Davey: Yes, we envisage a series of new nuclear power stations being built. I and other members of the Government have, on various trips, engaged in commercial diplomacy, meeting potential investors and nuclear companies in other countries, and there is huge interest in the nuclear market. When German companies RWE and E.ON put the Horizon consortium on the market everyone said, “This is a disaster. It shows that nuclear policy isn’t working.” Far from it. We had huge interest from around the world. Hitachi ended up paying nearly £700 million for the privilege of having the consortium, even before it had got its reactor design through the generic design assessment. That is the level of interest and the vote of confidence in our policy.
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Vale of Glamorgan (Alun Cairns) on his success in obtaining this debate, which comes at a time when some serious questions need to be addressed. I do not want to detain the House for too long, because the Culture, Media and Sport Committee will take evidence tomorrow morning from the chairman of the BBC Trust and the director-general, so we will cover a lot of the issues in detail. We have also announced that we intend to hold a full inquiry into the future of the BBC, and that is likely to commence in the new year. That will provide an opportunity to examine these matters and I do not want to prejudge the inquiry. It is, however, worth spending a little time on the subject, because there have been some very difficult issues raised, and some very clear failures by, the BBC over the past year.
It is important not just to focus on criticisms, but to recognise that the BBC remains one of the finest broadcasters in the world and that, at its best, it is unequalled. That is not to say that one should just point at the successes. It is important that we look at the failures and see how they can be prevented from happening again.
Mr Nigel Evans: There was once a time when people said that only the BBC could do the arts and that it could not be done commercially. Does my hon. Friend agree that Sky Arts is now doing a tremendous job in providing arts to the masses, and that Classic FM on the radio provides classical music to a group of people who perhaps would never previously have listened to Radio 3? The onus is therefore on the BBC to keep raising the game. It does not have to chase the ratings, but it needs to ensure that it keeps providing high-quality programmes.
Mr Whittingdale: I am not in the least surprised to find that I agree completely with my hon. Friend, who was an excellent member of the Committee for a time. I will come on to this issue, but he is absolutely right that there has been a change in terms of the amount and diversity of content available. The advent of Classic FM, which is hugely successful, means that Radio 3 should no longer need to occupy the same space, but concentrate, as it does most of the time, on a little more challenging and difficult classical music than the more commercial Classic FM output. That applies equally in other areas.
Mr Whittingdale: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills which goods exported to North Korea were covered by UK Export Finance leading to North Korea's sovereign debt to UK Export Finance; when such exports took place; and whether the goods were supplied to the Government of North Korea or to private companies.
Michael Fallon: The debt has been outstanding since 1975 and relates to a contract dated 27 July 1972 for the supply of equipment and services for a petrochemical complex to the Korea Equipment Import Corporation.