Debates between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 29th Jun 2021
Wed 23rd Jun 2021
Mon 21st Jun 2021
Dormant Assets Bill [HL]
Grand Committee

Committee stage & Committee stage
Mon 22nd Jun 2020
Thu 16th Jan 2020

Football Grounds: Safe Standing

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Wednesday 8th September 2021

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I hope I can address both of the noble Lord’s points. I am delighted to thank the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for his early work on this. The research by the Sports Grounds Safety Authority has demonstrated that introducing standing areas can not only reduce conflict but improve wheelchair access.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, over the summer, we sadly learned of the passing of Andrew Devine, who suffered life-changing injuries during the Hillsborough disaster. The coroner ruled that he should be considered the 97th fatality caused by the events of 15 April 1989. Since the horrors of that day, many improvements have been made at football grounds and these must be welcomed. While Labour supports exploring options for the safe reintroduction of standing, it remains an emotive issue for many. Can the Minister confirm that the department recognises the need to handle this topic sensitively and take time to consider fully the evidence gathered in pilots across various leagues before making a final decision?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord makes an extremely important point. Obviously, the context of all these discussions is the Hillsborough tragedy, which he rightly raises. The department is currently working with a wide range of supporter groups. Our absolute abiding principle is that we will never compromise safety and never return to the tragedies of old.

Covid-19: Broadband

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Monday 5th July 2021

(2 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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During the pandemic, schools have been able to request free mobile data uplifts for disadvantaged families, and those will remain in place until the end of this month. Over 1.5 million laptops and tablets have been delivered to schools, trusts, local authorities and further education providers, and the Government are investing over £400 million to support access to remote education and online social care services.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, if media reports are to be believed, the Government seem likely to extend their advice for people to work from home beyond 19 July. We agree that progress has been made in improving access to, and the affordability of, broadband in the recent past, but too many people still find their productivity compromised by variable speeds, temporary outages and other reliability issues. For the self-employed and freelancers, this acts as a serious inhibition to their business development. If home or hybrid working is to continue, what steps are the Government and regulators taking to ensure that services are up to scratch and to enable these businesses to grow? Can the Government back, and give a guarantee on, the further development of social tariffs?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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There are two sides to the coin that the noble Lord has mentioned: of course he is absolutely right that self-employed people need access to the best-quality broadband, but, equally, the ability to work from home opens business opportunities in parts of the country that might not otherwise have experienced them. I mentioned the increase in coverage from 18% of the country at the beginning of the pandemic to over 40% today—it will be 60% by year end.

Channel 4: Funding and Governance

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 1st July 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Viscount raises an important issue. There is a tension between ownership by the independents and the PSBs. We will be setting out more on this in the White Paper.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, one of the big fears about privatising Channel 4 is that the current statutory requirement for it to invest profits back into independent programming through commissioning —the very thing that makes it unique—will be dropped in order to make the channel sellable. What guarantees can the Minister give that the requirement to reinvest will be assured and that Channel 4’s innovative edginess will not be sacrificed? Will she also list the material restrictions that are allegedly holding Channel 4 back? Does she really believe in this policy?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I think the policy of consulting and getting an understanding of what would create a strong strategic future for a key public service broadcaster is entirely valid. The noble Lord is right that Channel 4 has been hugely successful in supporting our independent production sector. The Government are committed to seeing that continue, and we will take into account any impacts on that sector as we move forward.

Gambling Reform

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Tuesday 29th June 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord is right to raise these issues. As he knows, we are looking at this as part of the review of the Act. We have seen the conclusions from the NERA report on sports sponsorship, but we need to test them with sports bodies themselves.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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Reform is needed sooner rather than later, if we are to get to grips with gambling-related harms. Can the Minister tell us when the Government expect to publish the review findings and associated legislation, and also whether loot boxes, which are currently unregulated, will be drawn into a system of regulation?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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On the noble Lord’s second point, he will be aware that our call for evidence on loot boxes closed on 22 November. We had over 30,000 responses; we are reviewing that evidence and will set out our response in the coming months. I cannot give the noble Lord an idea of timing for legislation, but we will be publishing our response to the Gambling Act consultation later this year, and we also intend to publish a White Paper.

BBC: Freedom of Information Legislation

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 24th June 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I can only repeat what my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has said about this, which is that the review will focus on the governance and regulatory arrangements of the BBC. I know that my right honourable friend has gone further and said that there will be no knee-jerk reforms and the mid-charter review will be used to determine whether further reforms are needed.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am all in favour of transparency with regard to the BBC, but transparency surely has to be applied across the broadcasting sector as a whole—and to the Government. Can the Minister assure the House that there will be transparency in the decision-making process relating to Channel 4 as a public service broadcaster and any moves to privatise the channel? When will the Government publish the rationale behind any changes they wish to make to its status, given how successful it is in its current form?

Dormant Assets Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, for tabling Amendment 60, which touches on an issue raised by many on Second Reading. I thought I heard the Minister, who has been extremely courteous throughout these proceedings, mention the Government’s intention to treat funds from dormant assets as additional to what is distributed through the other distributing bodies fed from the National Lottery.

The inclusion and identification of new dormant asset proceeds is welcome. I acknowledge the earlier commitment that these funds will remain additional, rather than replacing other types of financial help; that is extremely important. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, has laid out the case well. There is consensus that we do not want funding of this nature to be replacement funding for mainstream government financing programmes.

If it is really the Government’s intention that this money should be used on top of other funding sources, I ask the basic, simple and fundamental question: where is the harm in the Government accepting this amendment? If they did, there would be a clear statement of policy intent, giving a clear direction on the face of the Bill. If the Minister says that the Government cannot do so, I shall be extraordinarily disappointed. However, I would be more than happy to work with colleagues across the House on this—and with the Government themselves, if they are not content to accept the amendment—to bring forward an alternative to the text in this amendment on Report. There probably is consensus that that would be the right thing to do.

Another important factor to bear in mind is that dormant asset funding will grow only as we find new dormant assets that can be used for charitable purposes. In no way should they be seen as an alternative source of funding, replacing government mainstream funding. For that reason, it would be right to put a commitment in the Bill, as a statement of principle, so I am more than happy to support the noble Baroness’s amendment.

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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My Lords, as we have heard, Amendment 60 in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady Kramer and Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, seeks to confirm the principle of additionality. As I noted at Second Reading and during Monday’s debate, and as the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, also noted, the principle of additionality is set out in Schedule 3 to the 2008 Act and will continue to be a core principle of the scheme. The Act describes additionality as

“the principle that dormant account money should be used to fund projects, or aspects of projects, for which funds would be unlikely to be made available by … a Government department”

or devolved Administration. The Bill does not alter the part of the 2008 Act in which the principle is defined, which affects all of the UK as opposed to just England.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, asked to whom the principle applies. It applies to the National Lottery Community Fund, as she rightly said, not the Secretary of State in DCMS. That is because the National Lottery Community Fund is the main distributor of the funding and the accounting officer for the dormant asset funds, so there is also a read-through to the spend organisations on additionality, which I think was implicit in her remarks.

I absolutely respect the noble Baronesses’ and other noble Lords’ wish to get real clarity on what we mean by this principle but I hope that noble Lords will, on reflection, agree that the current definition gives a useful degree of flexibility. At one end of the spectrum, there are social and environmental causes that are clearly for government to fund, but, as the Covid pandemic has shown, there are areas in the economy that most of us would never have expected to receive government funding that have now received it, for example the furlough scheme. So we have flexibility depending on pandemics and other economic circumstances on where government funds, and that is well captured in the definition as we have it.

I propose to provide a couple of example of how the additionality principle has worked to date. I do not intend to be comprehensive but to show how it has worked in practice because I think that concern that it could in some way be departed from was behind a number of your Lordships’ comments, and I hope to reassure them that that is absolutely not the case.

The most obvious example of the principle is that it allows the scheme to fund something that would normally be seen as outside the scope of government intervention. A good example of that was the creation of the world’s first social investment wholesaler, Big Society Capital, which used a combination of dormant assets and leveraged private co-investment to make it happen. As another example, the principle of additionality could enable dormant assets funding to test interventions and gather evidence that could then be used as a model for other funders. For example, Big Society Capital and its associated fund managers have worked for a long time on homelessness using innovative social investment.

Events Research Programme

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Wednesday 23rd June 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Answer on the events research programme, which shows the devastating impact that Covid restrictions are having on events programmes and the hospitality sector. Public health and personal security must remain as priorities, but this is not helped by the lack of transparency surrounding the publication of the ERP findings. Will the Minister commit to the full disclosure of the report and what it means for the road map? Will she also commit to tackling some of the current ridiculous inconsistencies applied to events that enable Wimbledon, race meetings and Euro 2020 matches to have spectators but prevent Brighton Consort choir even holding rehearsals?

Baroness Barran Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Barran) (Con)
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The Government have always said that we will publish the findings of the events research programme ahead of step 4 of the road map, and we are committed to that. I assure the noble Lord that the results will be published very soon. In relation to inconsistency, I think that we can all understand the difference between rigorously set up and implemented pilots to test the impact of larger crowds coming together and the wider lifting of lockdown, and how one will inform the other.

Dormant Assets Bill [HL]

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I thank the noble Lord for his additional questions. He talked about other ways of spending the funds. I was talking about other causes; I am not sure whether we are using different words for the same thing. In the consultation that we are proposing, we will invite the public to name the issues they care about on which these funds should be used—the aim being to have that in secondary rather than primary legislation to make it a bit more flexible—as opposed to using different types of spend organisations. I was referring to the causes on which that will be spent.

I think that issues of additionality are likely to come up quite frequently, particularly on Wednesday, when we debate some of the other amendments. Perhaps we can take that issue in the round then, if the noble Lord is agreeable.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, said it all, in the sense that this has been an extremely wide-ranging debate covering many topics, even though, as I said at the outset, we are fishing in the same pool here looking for a form of review. I thank the Minister for her very full, detailed and thorough response. I will have to read it carefully before deciding what to do about this subject area on Report.

I also thank her for the opportunity she has afforded us through her response of meeting and considering what other ways there may be to look at the impact of the dormant assets review and how we can best formulate it. I think she was inviting us to subscribe to an amendment that covers that point, but I am not sure yet. I look forward to having that discussion with her.

It is perhaps worth reflecting on comments that colleagues made. The noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, knows that I agree with her that there is not much point bringing forward amendments that lead to pointless reports unless those reports have an action at the end of them. That is why my amendment in particular calls for a review with the purpose of leading to something. That is why it is important that we have an early review. The noble Baroness, Lady Bowles, asked for a review now. “Now” may be in two years’ time after the Bill has passed—that would be about right—and periodic reviews thereafter.

The good thing about this legislation is that flexibility is brought into it. Although at the moment it is limited to financial products, in her response the Minister did not seem to rule out entirely that it might be extended to cover non-financial products. I liked the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, looking at things such as Oyster cards, gambling winnings and utility accounts. At Second Reading I raised that assets from criminal activity might be brought into the scheme. That is perhaps going a bit far at this stage, but we are all looking at ways in which we can expand dormant assets so that they can be used for a broader social purpose.

The noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, was right to ask whether the powers are sufficient at the moment. I want to be confident that is right. As the Minister acknowledged, the Oversight Trust is very much in its early phase of development, though clearly it has done some important and valuable work so far.

The Minister said that transparency could be guaranteed through a number of routes: the RFL, Select Committees and post-legislative scrutiny. That is true—there is no doubt that those routes are available—but one of the reasons I am keen to see a review process built into the legislation is that we need to have that review in one place so that we can look across the piece in a more coherent and cohesive way, decide whether the dormant assets are having impact, determine whether there are other financial and non-financial assets that could be brought within its scope and see that there is a degree of transparency about the way in which the legislation is operating. That is why I am keen to see a review process.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, made a good point about the need to look at the derivation and application of funds: where from and why? That is really part of the thinking behind my amendment and, I think, other amendments in this group.

We have had a very good discussion on this. It is an important part of the legislation. I welcome the Minister’s offer of some discussions and restate my intent to bring back an amendment that captures the best of the other amendments and brings them to bear on how we move forward in reviewing how this legislation works. I am grateful to everybody for their interest and support on this. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is always nice to be able to agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes. We have crossed swords many times, but I very much share one thing in common with her, and that is a desire to have an absolutely laser focus on getting value for money. So I am very supportive of her amendment; it certainly goes to the right place. The noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, touched on the importance of that in drawing our attention to remuneration levels within Reclaim Fund Ltd.

We need to be assured that we are getting value for money. Getting the Comptroller and Auditor-General involved in looking at the Reclaim Fund Ltd is a valuable use of the time of that body, because we need to better understand how funds are being used and be reassured that the best possible value for money is being secured. After all, this is a very significant funding mechanism and we need to ensure that, as part of it, the Reclaim Fund Ltd operates to the best and highest of standards. My noble friend Lord Davies is right that we need to focus on issues such as efficiency and effectiveness of spend, so I am very supportive of the amendment moved by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes.

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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My Lords, Amendment 50 seeks to provide a power for the Comptroller and Auditor-General, the C&AG, to examine the Reclaim Fund Ltd for its economy, efficiency and effectiveness in using its resources to carry out its functions—also known as a value-for-money assessment—and to lay the result of the examination before Parliament.

I will first address the question on RFL’s auditors that my noble friend Lady Noakes asked at Second Reading. As set out in the Government’s framework agreement with RFL, which has been published in the Libraries of both Houses, the C&AG will audit the company’s accounts. This will be possible because of the explicit agreement made between RFL and the Treasury for such an arrangement. I hope that my noble friend will feel that that is sufficiently clear.

I know that my noble friend was also anxious to confirm that both the value-for-money assessment and the audit would be carried out by the same body, so, to continue in that vein, the C&AG may also carry out value-for-money assessments of the Reclaim Fund Ltd in the way proposed in subsection (1) in my noble friend’s amendment. The C&AG can carry out value-for-money assessments of public bodies under the National Audit Act 1983. The Act enables the C&AG to carry out value-for-money assessments of a body if there is an agreement between the body and a Minister of the Crown that requires the body’s accounts to be examined and certified by the C&AG and that enables value-for-money assessments to take place. This is set out in Section 6(3)(d) and 6(5) of the National Audit Act. An agreement has been made between the Treasury and RFL that meets these conditions of the Act, and this arrangement is outlined in the RFL/Treasury framework agreement.

Value-for-money assessments can be undertaken under Section 6 of the National Audit Act in relation to many public bodies, including UK Asset Resolution, the British Business Bank and S4C, the Welsh language broadcaster, to name but a few. In future, the Comptroller and Auditor-General will be able to undertake value-for-money assessments in relation to RFL.

Section 9 of the National Audit Act 1983 enables the Comptroller and Auditor- General to report to the House of Commons the result of any value-for-money assessment carried out under Section 6 of the Act. So, the provisions in the Act, which as I have already explained are applicable to RFL, also make provision for the Comptroller and Auditor- General to bring the results of the value-for-money assessments to the attention of the House of Commons.

My noble friend picked up on the location of RFL’s offices in St James’s. My understanding is that this is the registered address of the company secretary and that RFL is actually based in Crewe. I hope my noble friend sees that as a more cost-effective, dare I say levelling-up, option.

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, this useful set of amendments will help us to tease out the relationship between Reclaim Fund Ltd, Parliament, the Treasury, and the Government. My probing amendment is in a slightly different direction from those of the noble Baronesses, Lady Bowles and Lady Noakes, but they sit comfortably next to each other.

I want to understand what the oversight mechanism is and what will be available to Parliament in the event of Reclaim Fund Ltd requiring money from the Treasury. We have heard that this will never happen, which I am sure is quite right—with the reserve level set at 40% it is extremely unlikely—but I too believe in prudence in the management of funds, and I would like to understand what oversight Parliament will be given. We need a position where we can discuss and debate how it is working. Will that be through some kind of annual report to Parliament? Would oversight by Parliament be triggered in the circumstances of a particular use of funds? Can we perhaps see a situation where there is an annual debate about Reclaim Fund Ltd and how the money has been distributed so that we could test whether the 40% reserve is right?

Parliament needs to be in a stronger position here. These amendments take us in that general direction, particularly the clever one tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Noakes, which would put the Treasury in the hot seat and ensure that we have a level of accountability enabling a regular look at how Reclaim Fund Ltd operates. I am looking forward to the Minister giving us not only some assurance but a guarantee that we will be able to see how the mechanism is working through a regular oversight session.

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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My Lords, before I turn to the detail of the amendments, I will respond to the question from the noble Baroness, Lady Kramer, about how Reclaim Fund Ltd invests its assets. The reserves are a mix between cash held at the Bank of England and an externally managed bond portfolio managed by Goldman Sachs asset management. All the assets are held to maturity. The portfolio is not actively traded to save on management fees and the portfolio follows environmental, social and governance principles. I hope that this comforts her or otherwise regarding the fund’s approach.

I turn now to the amendments. Amendments 51, 52 and 53 relate to Clause 27 of the Bill. These amendments seek to understand the oversight that Parliament will have over any loan that the Treasury provides to RFL, and intend to allow RFL to take into account the loan when considering its reserving policy. I will address the amendments together.

In recognition of RFL’s establishment as a Treasury non-departmental public body, the Bill introduces a new provision to provide that, in the event that an authorised reclaim fund is, or looks likely to be, unable to meet its reclaim liabilities, the Treasury would provide a loan to cover these liabilities.

On Amendment 52, from the noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, the Government agree that Parliament should have oversight of the Treasury loan. Parliament will already be sighted in respect of the loans made from the Treasury by virtue of this being recorded in its annual reports and accounts, which are laid before Parliament on a yearly basis. The terms and conditions of the loan will be set in line with usual Treasury practice, as set out in Managing Public Money. It would not be usual practice to provide the full terms of the loan, which may contain commercially sensitive information. Further transparency to Parliament is provided in the reclaim fund’s annual report and accounts, which, as we discussed earlier, are audited by the Comptroller and Auditor-General.

Amendments 51 and 53, tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Bowles of Berkhamsted, and my noble friend Lady Noakes respectively, seek to understand the impact on RFL of a potential Treasury loan when setting its reserving policy. I will respond, first, by summarising the particular features that govern RFL’s reserving policy, and then turn to the implications on these of the Treasury loan. While the Government agree that as many dormant funds as possible should be channelled to good causes, we also fully recognise that the decision on how much money should be retained to meet reclaims should sit with RFL and not the Government. The RFL board is responsible for overseeing the process for changing the level of reserves, and RFL has confirmed that this is regularly revisited by the board.

I met recently with RFL. Following that meeting, I am satisfied that it follows diligent processes with respect to its reserving policy, which is based on an analysis of the relevant risk factors, actuarial modelling using both internal and independent actuarial advice, and Financial Conduct Authority guidance. This ensures that RFL can achieve its primary objective of meeting reclaims from owners at any time in the future. The fundamental principle that underpins RFL’s current approach to its reserving rates and investing policy is that it is required to meet reclaims in perpetuity. As your Lordships well understand, that makes it very different from, say, an insurance company. Therefore, it has to plan both for any normal trends in the reclaim experience and for any future stress scenarios that may occur, and model those accordingly.

Examples of such stress scenarios include developments in artificial intelligence that help to reunite more customers with their lost assets and, as we discussed in an earlier amendment, future changes in government data access, which could affect participant’s tracing efforts. Any stress scenario could result in a sudden increase in reclaims, and a combination of these scenarios would, of course, have a significant impact on RFL’s reserves. This is reflected in RFL’s regulatory permission and activities under which it is authorised to operate, with the purpose of ensuring that RFL has adequate financial resources to meet its ongoing reclaim obligations without placing it into undue financial distress or business failure.

While I recognise your Lordships’ interest in the current level of reclaim rates compared with money reserved, RFL has informed me that the cumulative reclaim rate is increasing and looks set to increase further in future years. RFL has reviewed and will continue to review its reserving policy regularly, using both internal and independent actuarial advice and modelling, to ensure that it is appropriately prudent and will continue to release as much money as responsibly possible to good causes across the UK, while retaining sufficient funds to meet reclaims. RFL’s remit is expanding to include previously unheld asset classes. I therefore understand why RFL has chosen not to amend its reserving policy at this time, although that decision remains solely with the company.

European Football Championships: Travel

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Monday 21st June 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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We are looking at all the elements that my noble friend mentioned, and our goal is that UEFA is able to meet the terms of its contractual agreements and that we are able to host a very successful and safe games.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, many thousands of fans have tickets for the games at Wembley. Business supply chains and workers have been preparing for them for a long time. Perhaps UEFA should remember that it was the passion of fans in this country in particular that saw off the threat of the European Super League. To repay the favour by removing games would be a pretty disgraceful betrayal. Many traders will use this as a first opportunity to open up. What considerations are the Government giving to supporting traders should these games end up being relocated? Furthermore, what thoughts have the Government had about the balance between fans and organiser sponsor interests, in the light of the threat of moving the final somewhere else? Can we have an update on this work as an aspect of the fan-led review?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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As the noble Lord knows, the fan-led review is separate from today’s topic of discussion. With regard to support for traders, the Government’s generous cross-economy package continues through to September, as he is also aware.

Digital Identification Protocol

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 20th May 2021

(2 years, 9 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Baroness will know that issues around anonymity on social media are extremely complex. She rightly raises instances where anonymity is abused, but we also know that some people use anonymity and pseudonyms for their own protection. I will take her remarks back to the department.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Holmes of Richmond, on pursuing this issue so doggedly, and I challenge the Minister’s assertion that the Government are moving at pace on this. But it is crucial that our economy and public services move with the times. Bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force acknowledge the existence of risks if digital ID is not properly implemented. So how do the Government intend to strike the right balance between risk and reward in this important area?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord raises an important question. It will be through the transparency that I mentioned earlier, with the publication of the trust framework alpha and a second iteration, a beta version, which will be tested before going live.

Music Festivals: Covid-19-related Cancellations

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Tuesday 27th April 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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We are not squirming and we are not hesitating. We are progressing as fast as we can, but the noble Lord would be the first to criticise the Government if we opened too early and the public health crisis re-emerged.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister is of course right that we should be continually guided by data, but slippage in the Government’s Covid road map will have a significant effect and impact this summer on staging music and other cultural festivals as well as large-scale sporting events, such as July’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone. I remind the Minister that the Chancellor said that when it came to economic support he would do whatever it takes, so why are the Government dragging their feet on matters such as insurance, leaving promoters and fans alike in limbo and unable to plan ahead?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I can only repeat that the Government are not dragging their feet. We have research pilots running in April and May that include an outdoor music festival in Sefton, and these will feed into decisions on step 4 of the road map in June. The evidence that we are gathering is aligned with the dates for the road map, but we cannot anticipate what that evidence will show.

Creative Industries: Covid-19

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Monday 26th April 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I agree with the noble Viscount that freelancers are a critical part of our creative industries and that we should explore many ways of ensuring their success in future. That is why we recently extended the pan-economy self-employment income support scheme with individuals now able to qualify for grants based on their 2019-29 tax return, meaning that more than 600,000 self-employed individuals will be newly eligible for the scheme.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I draw attention to my interests in the register, which include my membership of two trusts involved in cultural activities. In many of our most deprived communities, the cultural industries have taken a severe hit. Given that they are closely aligned with the hospitality sector, what plans do the Government have to develop a national plan to help the hard-pressed cultural sector recover as we emerge from lockdown? Can the Minister say some more about the support the Government are likely to give to freelancers, who have been frozen out of many of the schemes supporting workers in the cultural sector?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I just commented on the expansion of the scheme, which we think will include many new freelancers who are self-employed. The Government share the noble Lord’s concerns about support for our deprived communities and see cultural assets as critical in their revival. That is why more than two-thirds of the Culture Recovery Fund has been spent outside London and why we have a major series of funds, including the levelling-up fund, the community renewal fund and, in future, the shared prosperity fund, all of which have a creative industries strand within them.

Football: European Super League

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Tuesday 20th April 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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My noble friend raises an interesting point. We have been clear that the football authorities are best placed to push back on these proposals in the first instance—they have our backing—but that nothing is off the table if they fail to do so.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I thought Gary Neville spoke for millions of us football fans at the weekend when he condemned the Super League proposals. Can the Minister set out the sort of legal measures the Government are prepared to deploy in order to protect the competition laws that govern the current fair access system on which the football pyramid has long been built? When will the Secretary of State set out the terms for the fan-led review announced yesterday, when will it start and how will it seek to draw on the fan anger rightly directed at this football-destroying proposition?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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With regard to the fan-led review, we will be releasing the full terms of reference imminently. In relation to the noble Lord’s question about what the Government can practically do to prevent this, we are looking at everything from governance reform, as I mentioned, to competition law and all the mechanisms which allow football to take place. We have been in close contact with colleagues from BEIS and the Competition and Markets Authority, who are examining whether this would contravene competition law.

Gambling: Early Mortality

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Tuesday 20th April 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I am not aware of specific plans such as those the noble Lord suggests, but I can reassure the House that co-operation between departments on this important matter is strong and effective.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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Does the Minister agree with the comment of the Lancet Public Health last January, that:

“Gambling disorders often remain undiagnosed and untreated”,


and its call for a scientific inquiry into this

“urgent, neglected, understudied, and worsening public health predicament”?

If not, how would she describe it? Are the Government, as part of their review of gambling, considering the practicalities of a statutory duty of care for gambling companies, similar to the one we expect to be in the online safety Bill?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord raises an interesting point. It is significant, in relation to disorders such as gambling problems remaining hidden, that the Gambling Commission has recently appointed a panel of individuals with lived experience to advise it formally on player safety. We hope this means that currently hidden issues will become more visible, and we will be able to address them.

Social Media: Offensive Material

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Tuesday 23rd March 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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My noble friend is quite right and the framework will aim to protect all users, particularly children and vulnerable users. As for hitting the pocket, she may be aware that the maximum fine that can be levied in future will be 10% of global turnover.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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Footballers, women sports commentators and public figures generally receive daily racist, homophobic, misogynist vile abuse and personal threats inciting hatred and physical attacks. The Minister has promised that the Government will act against this in the online harms legislation. Players and commentators alike have acted against abuse but they need support. When will the Government bring forward their Bill; are they waiting for the Law Commission; what will its scope be in tackling abuse; will its codes be voluntary or statutory; what powers will Ofcom have to act; and will the Bill contain measures removing the anonymity of abusers, difficult though that may be, who post abusive material?

Office of Communications: Chair

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 18th March 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The Government have been very clear about the value of the BBC, particularly in the pandemic, during which it has served to educate, inspire, inform and act as a crucial and reliable source of news.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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Several noble Lords have already referred to Ofcom’s expanding remit and the additional responsibilities to be introduced through the online safety Bill and the challenges they will bring. What conversations has the Minister had through her department with Ofcom’s new chief executive about the body’s current and future resourcing? Can she assure us that the various changes envisaged in the forthcoming legislation will be accompanied by commensurate increases in staffing budgets, training opportunities and, vitally, political support?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord raises a very important point. Work is already starting within Ofcom to recruit the appropriate skills and experience that will be needed to deliver on the online safety regime, including the recent recruitment of a head of emerging technologies from Google.

Music and Performing Arts Students: Visas and Work Permits

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 11th March 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Baroness asks a very specific question. As I mentioned, our rules around visiting this country for creative professionals, which would include teachers, are more generous than in the vast majority of EU member states. If there is further to add on that, I will write to the noble Baroness.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, before this year, music and performing arts students participated in study or cultural exchanges under Erasmus. This allowed them to develop the skills and build the networks that bring success in the creative industries sector. Published details of the Government’s Turing replacement scheme suggest no tuition fee support and significantly lower cost of living grants. Does the Minister believe that this meets the test of rewarding raw talent rather than financial background, and will she agree to talk to her DfE counterparts and discuss the double whammy these proposals represent as a barrier to UK cultural engagement in Europe?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I am more than happy to talk to my DfE counterparts. I do not think we accept the suggestion that the noble Lord makes. The Turing scheme is going to be open to about 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools to allow them to go on placements and exchanges overseas, starting this September. He is right that we will also seek to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds. I am sure he agrees with me that that is also an important priority.

Video-sharing Platforms: BBFC Ratings

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 4th March 2021

(2 years, 12 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I assure the noble Viscount that they will be set out in the legislation. Ofcom will have wide-ranging powers to tackle both illegal and harmful content. I am happy to write to him with more detail.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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In December, the Minister spoke of the voluntary nature of the BBFC scheme, which she reminded us of earlier for video-on-demand services. One of the strengths of the BBFC’s ratings is that they are well understood by parents and children alike. The same cannot be said for the inconsistent approaches adopted by platforms offering user-generated content. How do the Government plan to balance the undeniable need for change, to which noble Lords have referred, with their wish to minimise regulation, which is clearly not working at the moment?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord will be aware that the adoption of BBFC ratings, particularly by Netflix, is a relatively recent development, so we have not yet made an assessment of its impact on both accessibility of content and other streaming services. As I said to my noble friend Lord Grade, we are keeping this under review.

Australia: News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 25th February 2021

(3 years ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The Government believe that social media companies must be held to account for the consistent and transparent enforcement of their terms and conditions for those using their sites. That includes online safety, to which the noble Baroness referred, but also protecting people’s freedom of speech. We are establishing a regime through the online safety Bill and the digital markets unit that will do this transparently.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, events in Australia highlight the right and importance of Governments acting to ensure that online platforms recognise the value of reliable news content. Would the Minister outline for the House the principles that will inform the Government’s approach to regulatory legislation as set out in the upcoming online safety Bill, and spell out what measures are being considered to outlaw online disinformation campaigns—fake news—and how this will be balanced with the need to protect free speech exemptions for journalists and writers?

Covid-19: Performing Arts Freelance Workers

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Wednesday 10th February 2021

(3 years ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The Government are making every effort to co-ordinate with the sector and hear from it directly about the impacts. I shall give my noble friend two examples: we have established steering groups for both indoor venues and outdoor events and festivals, and are working closely with a number of sector bodies across music and the arts. If there are particular groups that he thinks we should be listening to more, I invite him to get in touch.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am beginning to wish I had brought some freelancers along to sing “Happy Birthday”, rather than ask a question. However, given that the spring Budget is fast approaching, will DCMS Ministers now lobby the Chancellor to admit the mistakes of the past and accept and correct the injustice of excluding so many of our hard-working freelancers in the cultural industries from the Government’s Covid-19 support schemes? I also urge them to take advantage of the fact that we are entering the new tax year.

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I cannot accept the noble Lord’s criticism of the Government’s action, which has been speedy, generous, broad and effective. Of course we keep it under review, but it is unparalleled in its generosity.

Grassroots Sporting Fixtures and Facilities

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Monday 11th January 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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As the noble Baroness knows, my colleagues within the department are constantly in conversation with other parts of the sport and leisure sector. We announced a £100 million support package for local authority leisure centres and continue to work on plans in that area.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, competitive sport below the elite level faces continued disruption due to the current lockdown, so given the evidence that other noble Lords have referred to—that earlier lockdowns led to a falling off of participation in sports—what plans have the Government got to develop a national sports recovery plan? Will the Minister commit to ensuring early consultation with all the relevant sports organisations in developing a recovery plan, so that we can get our nation playing again? Will the Government look at financial support, further to the winter survival package which was announced prior to Christmas, covering sports affected by the ban on spectators?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I can only agree with the noble Lord about the importance of keeping our nation active and those involved in sport having a chance to continue to do so. That is why we have kept those restricted options open, as I referred to already, on public land, which has not been the case in some other areas. Obviously, there are initiatives such as Join the Movement from Sport England. I reassure the noble Lord that we are in constant consultation with the key governing bodies about the future of sport and the funding required.

Covid-19: Football League

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Tuesday 10th November 2020

(3 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord is not alone in having grandchildren who enjoy sport, and children’s sport is vital. That is one reason we have ensured that it can carry on in school even during the current lockdown.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, is the Minister now able to explain to the House what the Government have done to ensure that those 20 or so EFL clubs facing financial collapse can continue to trade and play for fans, which is important, in the future? What hope can she gives to fans wanting to return to watching lower-league games, and can she commit to ensuring that clubs in the rest of the football pyramid can function viably across the rest of the season in these rather depressing times? Will she give us a timetable for the fan-led review that the Government say they are fully committed to? If she cannot do so, when will she?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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On the support needed across the English Football League, as I have said a couple of times, we have been very clear that those with the broadest shoulders within the football family and at the top of the pyramid need to bear that cost. We have been reassured by the Premier League that it has no intention of letting any club go bust because of the pandemic. Work continues on returning fans to stadia, including with the Sports Technology and Innovation Group, looking at every possible means to return fans as quickly as possible.

English Football: Project Big Picture

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Wednesday 14th October 2020

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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The noble Lord asks a very good question. As I am sure he knows, the structure of the Premier League requires a two-thirds majority for any decision. We have been clear about the importance of the fan-led review of the governance and structural issues that football faces, and we have provided reassurance recently to the national league that support from the Government will be forthcoming.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it has long been clear that there is a problem with the financing and governance of English football, which Covid has exacerbated and the absence of fans has really highlighted. When will the Government bring forward their much-promised fan-led review, so that we can meaningfully address the structural challenges ahead? What plans do the Government have to ensure that there is a fair distribution of funding throughout the entire football pyramid—otherwise clubs such as Macclesfield will go bust, and the guarantees that the league has given that other clubs will not go bust will count for very little?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I am not sure whether the noble Lord heard my right honourable friend the Secretary of State before the Select Committee this morning, but he was clear about the priority that he places on the fan-led review. We are clear that there is a short-term financial issue facing the football family, which the Premier League and the English Football League need to get together to sort out. Longer term, the fan-led review will be a crucial part of addressing some of the other structural issues to which the noble Lord referred.

Professional and Amateur Sport: Government Support

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 1st October 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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I am grateful to the House for its forbearance. We recognise that the DCMS and the Treasury have taken steps to support sports clubs but, as my noble friend Lord Tunnicliffe observed on Monday, sector-specific intervention tends to come at the 11th hour rather than when it would have the greatest benefit. We welcome news of support for the national league, but why did we have to lose Macclesfield Town to provoke ministerial action?

The Government’s first preference is for governing bodies and clubs to do what they can within their own resources. Does the Minister accept, however, that the financial returns submitted to the department are likely to show that reserves are running perilously low or have been depleted?

While we hope there will be solidarity initiatives within sport and that this will help to keep clubs afloat, they are not sufficient. Can the Minister provide an assurance that the Government will act more swiftly and decisively, and in a manner that recognises that sports clubs not only operate as businesses in their communities but are a vital community asset?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I think maybe the noble Lord asked more than one question, but I will try to answer as best I can. On his last point about acting swiftly and decisively, I reassure him that the Secretary of State and the Minister for Sport were on the phone to the national governing bodies of the main spectator sports immediately after the Prime Minister’s announcement that made it clear that spectators could not return on 1 October.

With regard to the financial returns, we are looking forward and are working through those, though obviously their scale and scope will vary. We are very clear about our role in helping clubs. In relation to the noble Lord’s first question, the twists and turns of the virus are difficult to predict, and we have reacted extremely promptly to the current situation.

Seaside Resorts

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Monday 22nd June 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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The noble Baroness is right, and that is why the Government are trying to tackle this problem from different perspectives. We were already aiming to work in just those communities ahead of Covid, whether through our ambitious transport and infrastructure plans, our levelling-up plans, our tourism sector deal or the wider work within that deal that will focus on improving job opportunities in those communities.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Lords Select Committee on the future of seaside towns, which I had the privilege of chairing, recommended government intervention on transport, education, skills training, digital inclusion, housing and the creation of new town deals. Will the Government now consider expanding the scope of the town deals to cover more left-behind seaside communities, and will they seek to use an expanded programme as part of the national recovery plan, given that Covid has, as we have heard, hit these communities hardest?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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The Government are certainly looking at how we can maximise the impact of the tourism sector deal. I am not clear at the moment whether that will be through expanding the number of tourism action zones or making sure that some of the skills and other training that will be offered through the deal are spread more broadly across the country. However, this is definitely something that we are focusing on.

Premier League: Project Restart

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Tuesday 19th May 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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All the details on the impacts if either an athlete or a member of staff at a club were to fall ill with Covid are being worked out. A clear framework is being set up, with each club having a member of staff who is the responsible Covid-19 officer and a Covid-19 medical officer who will lead on any suspected or confirmed cases and make sure there is medical oversight for returning to work.

On funding for the wider leagues and clubs, the Government have been very clear that we expect any finances secured through the resumption of the professional game to benefit the wider football family.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, like the Minister, we all want to see the Premier League season complete, but not to the detriment of players, support staff and those involved at all levels of the game. Can the Minister comment further on that? Can she explain precisely what measures the Government intend to take to secure the financial security of not just the Premier League and Championship but the other leagues and, importantly, the women’s game through the WSL?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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I will start with the last point first. I know that in all the work my ministerial colleagues, including the Secretary of State, have done, there has been a real focus on making sure that we do not lose momentum in the women’s game. That is very much front of mind.

On the development of the guidance, there are three levels. The step 1 guidance sets out the risk assessment mitigation plan; step 2 and step 3 guidance will be produced regarding close-contact training and games potentially being played behind closed doors. Through medical advice from government and Public Health England, we are supporting the football authorities as they take these decisions.

On funding, I have already mentioned that we see this as part of a wider football family and welcome the moves the Premier League has already made to advance money to the English Football League.

Football: Racism

Debate between Lord Bassam of Brighton and Baroness Barran
Thursday 16th January 2020

(4 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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I will comment on my noble friend’s final remark first. I can only agree with him. Each of us individually has to take responsibility for the language we use and put ourselves in the shoes of those who might find it offensive in any way. Work continues in relation to homophobia, in football specifically, and we very much welcome the Rainbow Laces campaign which the FA led last year.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, it is now 20 years since the Football (Disorder) Act was enacted to tackle racist thugs. Does the Minister agree that, given the shocking 123% rise in racist incidents since 2016, now might be the time to consider increasing penalties and strengthening powers to tackle this appalling problem in our football grounds?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran
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The noble Lord is very patient. He raised this point only 19 years ago, but we are now further on. The question of the efficacy of the legislation can be divided into two parts: whether the legislation is fit for purpose and is being implemented properly, and if it is not fit for purpose whether we need to amend it. My honourable friend the Minister for Sport is seeking a meeting with the Home Secretary to discuss this.