Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay debates involving the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport during the 2019 Parliament

Regional Arts Facilities

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Wednesday 27th March 2024

(2 weeks, 2 days ago)

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Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to protect regional arts organisations and facilities funded by local authorities, particularly where those local authorities are facing financial difficulties.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, we recognise that local authorities face challenges. That is why we have announced an additional £600 million to bolster our existing support, alongside our £64 billion local government finance settlement. We have also made permanent the increases to cultural tax reliefs and provided support for energy bills over the past two years. DCMS continues to advocate for and help local decision-makers understand the full value of culture, including through our culture and heritage capital programme.

Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty (CB)
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My Lords, local government funding has been the foremost means of support for our arts and cultural services. How then will the Government address the significant underfunding which, over so many years, has deprived organisations across the country of the core investment essential to the day-to-day running of our museums, galleries, libraries, theatres and orchestras? Does the Minister accept that tax relief and the kind of capital investment the Arts Council announced this week, though welcome in themselves, are not the solution to a problem now driving our arts and cultural services to the point of collapse?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Earl is right to point to the importance of local government, which is a bigger funder of the arts than national government or the Arts Council. It is a really important partner. He points to the things that the Government have done through the cultural tax reliefs—making them permanent is an important part of the help, alongside the support we have given to organisations in the face of rising energy costs. But, as I said in my initial answer, my department advocates for the importance of cultural spending, not just because it is a good in itself but because it is a way for local authorities to deliver many of their other statutory obligations in education and in health and well-being. That is why we capture the data and measure it in a Green Book-compliant way, so that we can have the conversation with our colleagues at the Treasury and bring the successes that we saw in the Budget, but also so that we can make that case clearly to our colleagues in local government.

Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee Portrait Baroness Foster of Aghadrumsee (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, one of the most important cultural institutions in Northern Ireland is the Linen Hall library in Belfast. As a member, I would be delighted to host the Minister in the Linen Hall the next time he is in Belfast, so he can experience it for himself. It has been there since 1788 and it holds collections of national and international significance—yet it is significantly underfunded. Will the Minister think about the possibility of looking at all the UK cultural institutions that are critical to cultural well-being across the UK? I think it would be very useful to find out where the critical institutions are.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Many elements of culture are devolved, as the noble Baroness knows, but other elements, such as the benefits through the National Lottery, apply UK-wide. I would be delighted to make the case for those benefits of our United Kingdom for cultural organisations right across the UK.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, the Minister mentioned the fact that there is a cost—to things such as education and other bits of government—if you do not have these functioning properly. Can the Government give us some indication of the input needed from, for example, the Department for Education, to deliver an acceptable level of operation properly to the nation, and also the on-costs for things such as the night-time economy?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Many of these things are the responsibility of local authorities. That is right—they are accountable to local people for the way that they deliver them, but they have statutory obligations, including in children’s services and education. The Department for Education works closely with local authorities as they discharge that duty and the Government provide help—my department allocated £33 million only this week for library services and museums around the country, helping people with their education outside school settings.

Lord Wigley Portrait Lord Wigley (PC)
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My Lords, does the Minister accept that, when local authorities cut back and have an impact on the arts in their own area, it impacts not only on the audiences, performing companies and organisations there but also on the touring arts companies? I think particularly of the Welsh National Opera, which circulates considerably in England. In looking at this Question, will he take a strategic attitude and have regard to the knock-on effect that that can have?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I talked with the Welsh National Opera only last week about the importance and benefits of touring, as it does, between England and Wales. I am sure the noble Lord would share my despair that the Labour Government in Wales are cutting arts funding by 10% and considering reintroducing fees for museums. I hope that he sees the positive contrast with the increased budget that the Government provided to Arts Council England at the last funding round.

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Baroness Rawlings Portrait Baroness Rawlings (Con)
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Thank you. My Lords, despite financial difficulties, some national museums are prevented by law from deaccessioning. What is the Government’s policy towards regional museums?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As my noble friend rightly points out, some of the national museums are prevented in statute from deaccessioning items in their collections. Other museums are under the direction of their trustees, and about 18 months ago the Government, working with Arts Council England and the sector, provided some guidance so that the trustees of those collections were able to reflect on the importance considerations as they made those decisions.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister will know that, for the past 40 years—probably more—the arts sector in this country has been reliant principally on three sources of income: one is what it can earn for itself through trading, another is the public funding that comes from the Arts Council and local authorities, and the third is private giving. He will also know that all three of those funding streams are currently under enormous pressure. Therefore, while accepting and being grateful for the work that the Government have done recently, in view of the widespread challenges that all arts organisations are currently facing, does he think that it is enough?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Baroness is right. All three elements that she mentioned are important, and all three are facing challenges at the moment. That is why we were so pleased that the Chancellor agreed to make permanent the tax reliefs in the Budget, because that encourages the sort of risk-taking experiment, such as touring a new production, that can help be a part of the commercial income of our brilliant arts organisations. I am glad that the noble Baroness has agreed to join the advisory panel for Dame Mary Archer’s review of Arts Council England, which can look at this important landscape and, I hope, inform the review and the recommendations that it makes to government.

Earl of Kinnoull Portrait The Earl of Kinnoull (CB)
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My Lords, I declare my interest as set out in the register. Tomorrow sees the opening of the new Perth Museum, which is the new home for the Stone of Scone, or the Stone of Destiny. This has been made possible by £10 million of funding from the UK Government, and also substantial funding from the local council. This has been a brilliant model and will be transformational for Perth. Can the Minister tell us a bit more about whether the Government will make more of these types of transformational investments—capital investments—to allow regions that are relatively deprived to have vibrant arts and cultural organisations?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Earl is right to point to the importance of partnership working. The Government are very proud to have contributed towards the museum in Perth and the new home for the Stone of Scone—I hope that the opening tomorrow goes well. In the Budget, we also joined the Welsh Government and Flintshire county council in supporting Theatr Clwyd, which does important work not just in north Wales but in the north-west of England. I had the pleasure of visiting the theatre and seeing the renovation that has been done there. Through both the levelling up fund and the UK shared prosperity fund, the UK Government are playing their part in helping arts and culture in every part of the United Kingdom.

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I know the Minister supports Labour’s view of a positive approach to the arts and to culture. The UK originates blockbuster films; it is one of only three net exporters of music; we are the second-largest advertising supporter and the largest book exporter; and the cultural sector, as the Minister well knows, supports 2.5 million jobs and is worth £125 billion. Yet, in 2021, the Government said that arts subjects were not a strategic priority. Given that culture is one of our most dynamic and growing sectors, is this still official Government policy? If it is, will the Minister commit to reviewing and reversing this damaging and neglectful approach to our arts and cultural industries?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is absolutely right to point to the importance of arts and culture to our economy, as well as our society. It is one of the Chancellor’s five priority areas for the economy, and that was reflected in the Budget through the tax reliefs and through the direct investment that was made. He is also right to talk about the importance of cultural education, so that we can unleash the talents of everybody and make sure that future generations have the ability to join, enjoy and pursue a lifetime in arts and culture. That is why I am delighted that the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, is helping lead the advisory panel to inform our new cultural education plan, working jointly with DCMS and the Department for Education.

Human Rights: Sportswashing

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Thursday 21st March 2024

(3 weeks, 1 day ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I too have greatly enjoyed this excellent debate. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, for securing it and setting it out in the way that he did. It has taken in a great sweep of history: the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin and the 1980 Games in Moscow featured prominently, of course, but the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, took us back to Mount Olympus and even greater historical roots.

It was a debate where there was genuine disagreement on points of principle, set out eloquently in the opening speech by the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, and the powerful contributions from my noble friends Lord Moynihan and Lord Hayward, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, and I thank them for that. We have seen competing ideas playing out in this arena in a great reflection of the very best value of sporting events, and it was good to have that reflection. It is important to touch on the vital issue of human rights, which are of course of the utmost importance. We must ensure that the Government and our sporting bodies work together as one on this.

Beyond the game played on a pitch, field or track, sport is a way for people of all nations to display pride in their country and to show off the very best of their nation on the world stage. That is something that the nations of the UK do, just as countries around the world do. We are blessed with an abundance of sporting assets in this country, such as the Premier League, our rugby and cricket teams, and a large number of internationally renowned sports men and women, including our wonderful Olympic and Paralympic athletes who are due to compete on the global stage once again in Paris this summer, and I am sure noble Lords will want to join me in wishing them the best as they do so.

The UK has a proud record of hosting major sporting events. Since the London 2012 Olympics, which my noble friend Lord Moynihan, the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, and others were instrumental in, we have hosted some of the biggest sporting events in the world, included the Tour de France in 2014, the Rugby World Cup in 2015, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in 2022, the Rugby League World Cup in 2021 and the UEFA Women’s Euros in 2022. We are set to continue our stellar hosting reputation with the Women’s Rugby World Cup next year, not to mention the UK and Ireland securing the men’s UEFA European Championships 2028. Every year we host a number of the world’s biggest annual sporting events, including Wimbledon and the British Grand Prix at Silverstone—which I was delighted to see will remain the home of the British Grand Prix for at least another 10 years thanks to the signing of a 10-year deal to host it all the way through to 2034.

As noble Lords reflected in their contributions, major sporting events are not just for the fans and the people who love watching live sports; they have a much wider impact, one that is felt around this country and around the globe. They help to bring pride and touch the lives of many people in meaningful ways. They inspire people to get active and to push themselves. It is not just our teams, our leagues and our professional athletes that make their mark globally; major sporting events can be used as a way to catalyse investment in facilities to ensure that anyone who wants to take part in sport is able to do so. We have seen that with the Government’s direct investment of over £325 million in improving grass-roots facilities across the UK, as well as the Lionesses Futures Fund, which provides £30 million for 30 state-of-the-art facilities to increase access for women and girls, as well as to celebrate the successes of the Lionesses.

Major sporting events are an excellent way to demonstrate to the world the best that this country has to offer: our infrastructure, our expertise, our culture, and of course our people. Sport shows the very best of humanity and is important in bringing countries together, particularly in difficult circumstances or in times of conflict or uncertainty. It allows us to build bonds with other nations through friendly competition and by sharing a common human experience. The effects of such great sporting moments ripple beyond our athletes and those who are directly involved in putting on these events by allowing millions of people across the globe to share and learn about each other’s cultures and values.

We continue to engage on an international level and directly with other nations about the importance of those values, but we recognise that, crucially, sport is autonomous. Participation in international sporting events is a matter for relevant international sports federations and the national representatives to them. The UK’s sports bodies operate independently of government and, indeed, enshrine that political freedom in their rules and regulations. It is not for the Government to direct or mandate with whom our sports bodies must or must not engage.

On human rights, however, the UK believes that strong democratic institutions and accountable Governments who uphold human rights and the rule of law are key, fundamental building blocks for secure and prosperous societies. Protecting a stable and open international order that safeguards human rights is the cornerstone of UK foreign policy. Globally, our work on human rights is tailored and responsive to the context of individual countries, but, through sustained engagement, often in collaboration and partnership with others, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office works to exert influence over the long term to achieve impact.

In his opening speech, the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, asked me a number of questions, which I will address now. He asked, first, whether the Government have a working definition of “sportswashing”. The short answer is that we do not. The UK believes that strong, democratic institutions and accountable Governments who uphold human rights and the rule of law are fundamental building blocks for secure and prosperous societies, as I said, and has that tailored approach, responsive to each country’s context. We do not seek to define a disparate group of actors and their aims, and we do not consider the question of human rights to be a sports-specific issue, in the same way that it is not a culture-specific issue. We look at it, in and of itself, through many lenses, including sport.

The noble Lord asked particularly about Bahrain, a country with which the UK provides technical assistance for ongoing reform, supporting progress in a number of human rights areas, including alternative sentencing, juvenile justice laws and the development of oversight bodies. The progress that we have seen from that work was reflected in the recent decision to remove Bahrain as a human rights priority country by the Foreign Office. We believe that engagement and support for Bahraini-led reform has delivered, and will continue to deliver, more than disengaging would.

The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, understandably raised the case of Sayed Hashim, as did the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. The Foreign Office is aware of Sayed Hashim’s detention and we encourage the Government of Bahrain to meet all of their human rights commitments. We also encourage those with specific concerns to raise them directly with the appropriate Bahraini oversight body. I know that the noble Lord campaigns diligently on this and other cases in relation to Bahrain.

The noble Lord also asked about the new independent football regulator. I look forward to the debates we will have on that Bill when it comes to your Lordships’ House—it is a Bill of two Houses—but we have had a very useful anticipation of some of the issues that we will rightly look at when it is here for your Lordships’ scrutiny. On whether the new independent regulator would seek to prevent takeovers or look at questions of ownership on the basis of foreign policy or human rights concerns, or the roles of foreign Governments, the tests for the new regulator have been designed to reduce the risk of unsuitable custodians of teams, without deterring investment.

We do not believe that the new independent regulator should get involved in issues of foreign policy; that is rightly a matter for the Government, accountable to Parliament as they are. In fact, the new independent regulator will have a statutory duty to have regard to the Government’s foreign and trade policy objectives, so that it can follow the things that Parliament has scrutinised and the Government have set out.

We do not think it would be appropriate for a football regulator to make unilateral assessments of human rights concerns. If an owner or officer is sanctioned in accordance with the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations, which the Government brought forward and were approved in 2020, they would most likely be prohibited from being a club owner or director. The regulator’s primary focus is the financial sustainability of clubs and the industry, in the way that the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, alluded to. Clubs have many ownership types, including state ownership or owners who may be connected to foreign Governments—but I look forward to debating this more in our consideration of the Bill.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, asked about His Majesty’s ambassador to Bahrain and the grand prix there—a point that the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett, also followed up. The ambassador and his colleagues—and, indeed, colleagues at the Foreign Office here in London—regularly engage with Bahrain on human rights issues. That includes attending sporting events such as the grand prix; His Majesty’s ambassadors around the world attend a number of sporting events hosted in countries. The events are an opportunity for them to have conversations and raise issues, as they do.

We are proud that Formula 1 is headquartered in London, with its technical operations based in Kent. We are proud that seven of the 10 Formula 1 teams are based in the UK. Currently, over 6,000 people are employed directly through the sport in the UK, with over 4,500 suppliers. Formula 1 itself has made it clear that human rights are mentioned in the contracts it signs and that any adverse human rights issues arising from its events will not be tolerated—that includes media, freedom of speech and peaceful and lawful protest at events. But, whatever the sport, we are clear that we expect all our businesses to comply with all applicable laws to identify and prevent human rights risks and to behave in line with the guiding principles on business and human rights, including in their management of supply chains here and overseas.

Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle Portrait Baroness Bennett of Manor Castle (GP)
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Before we get away from the video, will the Minister defend the words that the UK ambassador said in it?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I have not seen the video, and I do not want to defend words I have not heard. I have set out how His Majesty’s ambassador and all Crown servants overseas follow the policies of His Majesty’s Government and are rightly held to account for what they say publicly—but my colleagues at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office are perhaps better placed to discuss that.

It is important that we continue to have direct conversations on human rights and other important matters. The UK continues to show global leadership in encouraging all states to uphold international rights obligations and to ensure that those who violate human rights are held to account. The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, mentioned the World Cup in Qatar, where I hope he saw that my right honourable friend Stuart Andrew—the Minister for Sport and the Minister for Equality—made the point directly by wearing the OneLove rainbow armband when he attended. By doing so, he showed that we do not shy away from these conversations and gestures. Following the tournament, we continue to engage with Qatar, which has moved forward on labour rights, as noted by noble Lords, including my noble friend Lord Moynihan, who pointed to the independent monitoring done by the International Labour Organization.

The benefits of inward investment are key in international sport. In the last decade, there has been an unprecedented level of interest and a flow of private capital investment into the sports sector globally, particularly from international institutional investors. Like others, I think my noble friend Lord Hayward did us a great service in this debate by touching on the importance of sponsors. The Government have consistently supported the UN guiding principles on business and human rights, which are widely regarded as the authoritative international framework to steer practical action by both Governments and businesses across the world in this important area.

The last decade has seen growth in a number of areas across sport, with significant levels of new and innovative investment, particularly in women’s sport. The Government have outlined the important role of inward investment in our sports sector through their recently published sports strategy, which works to encourage investment in our sport system in a sustainable manner. We will work across government departments and with external partners to highlight best practice and opportunities for inward investment in our domestic sport, including women’s sport.

In July, the Government hosted the inaugural investment in sport symposium, bringing people from the sector together with investors and other associated organisations to discuss the opportunities that are available. We have also launched a new women’s sport investment accelerator pilot scheme, which brings UK-based women’s sports rights holders who are seeking investment together with industry experts and investors. We believe there are further opportunities within the sector, in the form of viable investment propositions for the right investors who are committed to the long-term growth and health of the sport.

I am grateful to the noble Lord for what has been a timely debate and a chance to look ahead to the debates we will have on the independent football regulator, but also a powerful opportunity to remind us of the importance of how the Government engage with countries around the world through sport and in other ways, to the benefit of the UK, our sportsmen and sportswomen, and the millions of people across the country who enjoy sport in all its forms.

I was struck by what the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, said. There is a powerful lesson in the example of Lloyd George, whose comments about the impression he formed at the 1936 Olympic Games are difficult to hear, not just for the noble Lord and his colleagues on the Liberal Benches but for us all. But I am glad that, as we look back on those Olympics, it is the figure of Jesse Owens, with his impressive four gold medals, that looms larger in the historical imagination, underlining the importance of seizing the opportunity of sporting events to advance important conversations on matters of human rights and politics, which, as noble Lords have rightly said, are often intertwined.

News Broadcasting: Regulation

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Thursday 14th March 2024

(4 weeks, 1 day ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I too thank the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for securing today’s debate and join in the commendation paid to him on his role in the Communications Act 2003 and the important work that it ushered in for the regulation of our media and broadcasting landscape over the last two decades. This is an important issue that he has been involved in not just for those 20 years but before as well. I agree with him that the issues that he puts before your Lordships’ House today are as important today as they have ever been. They are timely, too, with our debates that are taking place on the Media Bill.

We are very proud of the UK’s world-renowned broadcasting sector, through which British-made programmes are enjoyed by audiences both at home and across the globe. The regulatory framework that underpins that landscape is also looked to internationally as the gold standard for proportionate, fair and independent regulation. It is that framework which means that UK audiences know that they will be appropriately protected from harm and that they are able to complain to the independent regulator, Ofcom, if they have concerns.

Quality broadcast news has a long and proud history in this country and is an essential element of our media landscape. It supports our global reputation as the home of outstanding news journalism. Our regulatory system for broadcasting, put in place by Parliament, supports this. It ensures that audiences can encounter a diverse array of voices and perspectives, just as we have had in this short debate, and that they have access to fair and balanced sources of news. That is particularly important when we consider the influence that broadcast news can have on those who watch it, and the huge reach of TV content across the UK.

Recent Ofcom research shows that broadcast television is the most used platform for news content, watched by 70% of all adults in the UK. UK audiences also consistently rate television news as more accurate and trustworthy compared to other sources of news such as social media. The significant place that broadcast news has in our television and news landscape is what makes its regulation, and indeed debates like this, so important.

The Government are strongly committed to a pluralistic media. It is essential that audiences are able to access news from a range of sources, not just broadcast news, to allow them to form opinions in a considered and nuanced way. There is an important balance to be struck here to ensure that the protections in place for audiences are strong and effective but that those do not have an undue impact on the UK’s free and independent media, on which we rightly pride ourselves.

I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett of Manor Castle, that it is important to arm those who consume our news with the critical thinking skills that they can get from learning subjects at school such as history, art and English literature. That is an issue that we discussed on the Online Safety Act and which we are looking at as we work on our cultural education plan. It is important to equip future generations to consume the news in a critical and thinking way.

It is in the context of a free and independent media that we consider Ofcom as the regulator of broadcast news content. Ofcom’s independence is an underlying principle of its function, and by law it carries out its duties independently of the Government. Ofcom is accountable to Parliament, with its duties and enforcement powers set out in statute, and we are confident that it has the resources it needs to carry out its important job.

As noble Lords are aware, Ofcom is required by legislation to draw up and enforce a Broadcasting Code for television and radio to ensure that audiences are adequately protected from harm. The code sets out rules so that these protections for audiences, including rules specifically to protect children, ensure that audiences are protected from harmful or offensive material and that broadcast news, in whatever form, is reported with due accuracy and impartiality. Ofcom regulates programmes as broadcast against the code. It is for Ofcom to determine whether there has been a breach of the code and whether to take any action.

The noble Lord, Lord McNally, and others raised the comments made earlier this month made by the head of Ofcom, Dame Melanie Dawes. Ofcom has been clear that its rules requiring due impartiality apply equally to all broadcasters. Under its code, Ofcom takes into account a range of factors when considering complaints, including the nature of the subject, the type of programme and channel, and the likely expectation of the audience regarding the content.

Importantly, in making any decision, Ofcom is required by legislation to strike a balance between ensuring an appropriate level of freedom of expression and adequate protections for audiences from harmful material. There are a number of sanctions available to Ofcom where a breach of the code has been found, as the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, said. This includes levelling a fine and, in extreme cases, amending or revoking a broadcaster’s licence to broadcast, as has been done.

The Government consider that the enforcement powers given to Ofcom are appropriate and sufficient to provide a deterrent to organisations from breaching the rules. There are numerous examples of Ofcom using these enforcement measures to ensure that Broadcasting Code rules are upheld. It is rightly for Ofcom to determine the timing of its investigations and what sanctions, if any, are appropriate. While I understand the concerns raised by noble Lords about the length of time this can take, I hope they would also agree that it is important that Ofcom follows the requirements in legislation to make careful and nuanced judgments, and to take the time to do that and hear representations from all parties concerned.

Ofcom also has a duty to keep the Broadcasting Code under continual review. This is to ensure that the code remains up to date and continues to reflect the current viewing and broadcasting landscape. In this way, the regulatory framework is designed so that Ofcom can ensure that its regulation of content can adapt to the shifts in technology and audience expectations that we see in broadcasting today.

I will also touch on the regulation of the providers of news broadcasting, rather than just the content that appears on these channels, as I have discussed so far. Ofcom has an ongoing duty to be satisfied that the person holding a broadcasting licence is fit and proper to hold it. If any evidence came to light and Ofcom ceased to be satisfied that a licensee was fit and proper, Ofcom would move to revoke that licence, as it has in the past.

I also recognise the vital work of the Communications and Digital Committee of your Lordships’ House, expertly chaired by my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston, and of which the noble Lord, Lord McNally, is a valued member. The committee is currently undertaking an inquiry into the future of news, which recognises the challenges faced by news providers in the current landscape, where we are seeing new technology, shifts in the ways that audiences access information, and concerns about trust and impartiality. This is a very important and complex topic, and one that is essential to consider if we are to face these challenges head on and work to maintain the delivery of trustworthy and well-respected news media in this country. My department has submitted written evidence to the committee on this subject, which I hope will be of use to it in the inquiry. We look forward to its report and the recommendations it may have.

With renewed thanks to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for the opportunity to discuss the debates today and recognising that we will continue many of them in our deliberation on the Media Bill, I thank him for bringing forward this Question for Short Debate.

TV Licence Non-payment: Women

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Tuesday 5th March 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

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Baroness Hoey Portrait Baroness Hoey
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the number of women who have been prosecuted for non-payment of the television licence in the past two years.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, the BBC is responsible for the collection and enforcement of the licence fee and it has undertaken a review of the disparity between the sexes in prosecutions for TV licence evasion. His Majesty’s Government remain concerned about the fairness of the criminal sanction for TV licence evasion and its disproportionate impact on women. That is why the issue will be considered in the BBC funding model review.

Baroness Hoey Portrait Baroness Hoey (Non-Afl)
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I thank the Minister for that. He will realise that about 1,000 people a week are prosecuted for non-payment of their licence—of whom 70% are women. Recently, the use of the single justice procedure with one magistrate has meant that the mitigating circumstances are often not heard. The magistrate may even be sitting at home. The elderly, the disabled and the poorest are most likely to be prosecuted. Capita gets £456 million from the BBC for the use of its investigators, most of whom are on a bonus pay scheme, dependent on how many prosecutions they get. Does the Minister not agree that it is time to decriminalise the non-payment of the BBC licence fee, as the Government promised on many occasions before the last general election?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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It is important to emphasise that licence fee evasion is not an imprisonable offence the maximum sanction is a fine of up to £1,000. But the noble Baroness is right to point to the disproportionate impact it has on women. As I said, the Government remain concerned that a criminal sanction for licence evasion is increasingly disproportionate and unfair in our modern public service broadcasting system, which is why we will look at the matter as part of the future funding review.

Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge Portrait Baroness Owen of Alderley Edge (Con)
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My Lords, some 90% of 18 to 24 year-olds stream their content instead of watching TV channels. What does the Minister see as the future of the BBC licence fee to a generation growing up with subscription-based services?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My noble friend is right. The uptake of TV licences has fallen by around 1.7 million from its peak of nearly 56 million in 2017. As people consume media in different ways, the model looks increasingly obsolescent. That is why, as part of the future funding model, we want to ensure that we are giving the BBC and our public service broadcasters the funding they need to continue to produce programmes that are much admired for an audience which consumes television in different ways.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that the BBC is taking steps to try to lessen the effect of this through its newly proposed scheme of spreading out payments? Will the Government assist the BBC in collecting its revenue, so that it can carry on producing the programmes that most of us are still watching?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes. I commend the work that the BBC has done: it commissioned a gender disparity review, with which I believe the noble Baroness, Lady Young of Hornsey, from your Lordships’ House, helped assist. We welcome the 10-point plan that the BBC has set out, flowing from that review, but we will look more broadly at the issue of criminal sanctions as part of future funding.

Viscount Colville of Culross Portrait Viscount Colville of Culross (CB)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as a former BBC TV producer. The BBC has previously said that decriminalising licence fee evasion and switching to a civil system would cost it more than £1 billion over five years. Does the Minister agree that this would lead to huge cuts in programming and a big hit to an already struggling creative economy?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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No. We want to look carefully at the issue of how we make sure that the BBC continues to get the funding that it needs to produce the wonderful programming that is much admired. But, in light of the trend that I have outlined, in which fewer people are buying a licence fee in the first place, of course we will make sure that we speak to the corporation as part of that review—but we are doing so with its best interests in mind.

Lord Sikka Portrait Lord Sikka (Lab)
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My Lords, it is not just the withdrawal of free TV licences for the over-75s that hurts women the most; numerous other government policies are anti-women. For example, real wage cuts in the public sector hurt women the most, as most of the workforce is female. Other examples include the gender pay and pension gaps, the two-child benefit cap, real cuts in benefits and lower state pensions for women. Can the Minister explain why the Government do not assess the gender gap of all their policies?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The Government are committed to making sure that everybody—men and women—can reach their full potential and play their full part in our society and economy. We bring forward policies to try to make sure that everybody can do that. In this instance, I am glad that the BBC has looked at the gender disparity, recognising the impact of licence fee sanctions on women—and the Government have set out their thinking on that, too.

Lord Moore of Etchingham Portrait Lord Moore of Etchingham (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, when I was fined for refusing to pay the television licence fee by Hastings magistrates’ court, I observed that all the other people being charged were single mothers and wondered why that would be. Does the Minister think that it could be to do with the very fact that they are vulnerable? That is to say, they are in the same place—they cannot escape from the place where they live—and can be easily caught; therefore, they are what officials call “low-hanging fruit”.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is right: women make up around 75% of people prosecuted for TV licence evasion. As the overall number of prosecutions has fallen, the number of women and vulnerable people affected has also fallen. But, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State outlined, we are very concerned about the appropriateness of a criminal sanction in these matters, and we will look at this as part of the BBC’s future funding review.

Lord Jackson of Peterborough Portrait Lord Jackson of Peterborough (Con)
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My Lords, with the collapse in the funding model underpinning local newspapers and the closure of so many local newspapers, does my noble friend agree with me that it is vital that the BBC continues to invest in the local democracy service, particularly local radio stations, to hold to account local decision-makers throughout the country?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes, the BBC does very important work through the Local Democracy Reporting Service. Local radio stations provide hugely important information and news to their local communities, as I set out in our Second Reading debate on the Media Bill, where I know we will talk about these important matters further.

Lord Watts Portrait Lord Watts (Lab)
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My Lords, is it not the case that at present we are seeing an increase in the amount of propaganda that comes from areas such as GB News? Can the Minister assure us that the BBC will be left with the revenue needed to counteract that, and the problems of social media as well?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Ofcom, not the Government, regulates the provision of news, whatever channel people receive it on. The BBC receives some £3.8 billion in licence fee income; that income allows it to provide its important and impartial news, both at home and around the world.

Lord Birt Portrait Lord Birt (CB)
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My Lords, this is indeed a troubling and concerning matter. Does the Minister think there is a case for moving the licence fee to a monthly payment, paid by standing order, in line with other broadcast subscriptions? At the moment, that would mean a payment of £13 per month.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The Simple Payment Plan does help people pay the television licence fee at present. As I say, we are looking at all the ways in which the BBC might receive its funding in the future, taking into account the declining number of people paying for a licence, but looking at all options to make sure that it has the revenue it needs to continue doing the work for which it is much admired.

Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb Portrait Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb (GP)
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My Lords, the Government have known for some time about this injustice of the prosecution of a majority of women rather than men. Why are they not doing something about it faster, and when will the BBC review actually report?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The Government consulted on decriminalisation of TV licence evasion in 2020, and we published our response in 2021. The appropriate time to make this decision is as part of the BBC funding model review, when we can look at the way we can get the sustainable funding for the corporation that everyone wants to see.

Baroness Fox of Buckley Portrait Baroness Fox of Buckley (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, the urgency with which people are suggesting this is looked at is not helped by the fact that we are going through a very serious financial time and it is likely that there will be more, not fewer, people in this difficult situation. First, can the Minister take note of what the original Question said—that there is a danger of this being abused by private companies that are incentivised to prosecute women in this situation? Secondly, we are spending a lot of time doing the Victims and Prisoners Bill—well, some of us are—and it seems so wrong to criminalise people who are vulnerable and victims. This has got nothing to do with BBC bashing; it has everything to do with recognising that women are being discriminated against unfairly for something which, given the scale of the problems facing society, the Government should really just deal with now.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I hope I can reassure the noble Baroness that the number of women being prosecuted is falling. In the year ending June 2022, 35,000 women were prosecuted; in the year ending June 2023, 29,000 were. So the number is coming down, but the disparity between the sexes is indeed stark, with women still making up around three-quarters of people prosecuted. That is why we are glad the BBC has looked at this and has set out actions, and why we are looking at it as part of our future consideration of how the BBC should be funded.

Charities: National Minimum Wage

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 29th February 2024

(1 month, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to support charities which might struggle to pay salaries following the planned rise in the national minimum wage in April 2024, particularly those which provide support for adults with serious learning disabilities, and their families and carers.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, charities are vital to the delivery of social care services and to the support of families and carers across the country. His Majesty’s Government have made available an additional £8.6 billion in this financial year and next to support local authorities on adult social care and discharge. In addition, DCMS has awarded £76 million to charities and community organisations delivering front-line services, with a further £25 million to follow.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester Portrait Lord Faulkner of Worcester (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that Answer. I declare an interest as patron of the Myriad Centre, a small and very successful charity providing adults with profound and multiple learning difficulties, and their carers and families, with support and a programme of activities in Herefordshire, Worcestershire and the West Midlands. It is heavily reliant on local authority support. It does not oppose the increase in the national minimum wage, of course, but if the minimum wage is increased by 9.8% and the contribution from Worcestershire is going to rise by only around 6%, there is going to be a shortfall that will widen year on year. This is one example. Will the Minister look at the problems of charities in that sort of situation—I have had correspondence from Mencap, which makes the same point—and see whether these gaps can be filled in some way?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord rightly points to the 9.8% increase to the national living wage, a record cash increase of £1.02 an hour from 1 April, which will give a pay rise to around 3 million workers. He is also right to talk about the implications for organisations such as charities. As I mentioned in my first Answer, the Government have made available up to £8.6 billion to support local authorities with adult social care and discharge in the next financial year. That includes £500 million announced last month to support local authorities with the cost of social care. In addition, the accelerating reform fund for adult social care will invest £42.6 million for local projects focused on transforming the care sector. We are providing support to those who are providing important care to vulnerable people in our community.

Lord Young of Cookham Portrait Lord Young of Cookham (Con)
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My Lords, many early years providers are charities and voluntary organisations, including preschools and nurseries. Three-quarters of their costs are salaries, and many of their employees are on the national minimum wage. Since 2017 the national minimum wage has gone up by more than 50% but the funding rate from local authorities has gone up by 21%, undermining the viability of those organisations at the very time when entitlement to free childcare is going up. Will my noble friend the Minister make representations to the relevant department to see that the funding rates are increased, so that those organisations can continue to provide a quality service?

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I will pass on my noble friend’s representations; he is right. The impact assessment for the increase in the national living wage shows that the cost to charities and voluntary organisations is around £200 million over the next six years. That is the evidence we have, which we will share with relevant partners to make sure that they can carry on their work. As I have pointed to, DCMS provides substantial support for charities and all the wonderful work they do in so many ways across our country, including through our energy-efficiency scheme of more than £25 million to help them with the rising costs there.

Lord Addington Portrait Lord Addington (LD)
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that we are very lucky that a lot of charities take on a lot of the heavy lifting that you could reasonably expect the state to do? They provide care for vulnerable groups. If the Government will not support charities directly, do they have a plan for if they fail?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord is right to point to the important contribution of civil society and charitable organisations—the Government recognise that. We saw that very clearly during the coronavirus pandemic, when we pledged £750 million to ensure that voluntary and civil society organisations could continue their vital work supporting the community during the pandemic. As I have pointed to, we see that in the face of the rising cost of living now.

Earl of Clancarty Portrait The Earl of Clancarty (CB)
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My Lords, can the Minister say whether he has had representations from museums and galleries about this? If so, what steps will the Government take to support them in the light of this change?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes, I have discussed the same issue with museums and arts organisations. The rise in the national living wage has implications for employers of all sorts. Through our increased grant in aid, Arts Council England is supporting a record number of organisations in more parts of the country than ever before. I continue to discuss these issues with organisations of all sorts.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am very pleased that the Government recognise the contribution that civil society organisations, including social enterprises, make in delivering essential public services and that they stepped up magnificently during Covid. The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill currently before your Lordships’ House contains provisions on subscription contracts that charities fear will undermine gift aid provisions. Given that the Bill’s Report stage is fast approaching, what assessment have the Government made of the potential loss of income for charities if they remain subject to the new subscription rules? I accept that the Minister may not have that answer now, but it is an important question.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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It is indeed; I have been discussing it with my noble friend Lord Offord of Garvel and Kevin Hollinrake, the Minister in another place. We have had some useful meetings and representations from a number of charities and arts organisations with which DCMS deals. My noble friend Lord Mendoza has been pressing the issue from the Back Benches. I am glad that conversations are continuing as the Bill heads to Report.

Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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My Lords, independent schools are not among the very smallest charities in our country but they are pretty small, with 75% of them having fewer than 500 pupils and 25% having fewer than 150. The issue that this Question raises will affect them. Will not the Labour Party’s proposal to slap 20% VAT on their fees do them grave harm, forcing many of those small charities educating children and families in their local communities to close? I declare my interest as president of the Independent Schools Association, which represents 650 schools, most of which are small, local charities.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My noble friend speaks with great authority as the president of the Independent Schools Association, as he mentioned. He is right to point to the valuable work that independent schools do, not just for those they educate but for the community more widely, and to dangers of the policies advanced by the party opposite.

Lord Davies of Brixton Portrait Lord Davies of Brixton (Lab)
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My Lords, I am sure we all agree that workers in the charitable sector should receive decent pensions, but many charities are currently struggling with their pension provision, both financially and structurally. Will the Minister ask his officials to engage with representatives of the Pensions Regulator and the DWP to try to provide a practical way forward for charities that have this problem?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes. My right honourable friend Stuart Andrew, the Charities Minister, regularly meets charities. I will ensure that the noble Lord’s point is passed on, so that he can have those discussions.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab)
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My Lords, in the course of this short debate the Minister has produced a large number of statistics involving sums of money that are eye-wateringly large if you look at them on their own, but it is very difficult to understand how those figures relate to the actual need in the sectors to which they are being applied. If I can take him back to the question from his noble friend—the noble Lord, Lord Young—the gap between the need of the early years providers and what is available to fund them is very considerable, and it is not being improved by what is happening in local authorities. Can he tell the House how that gap is to be addressed?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Baroness is right that these are eye-watering figures. As people live longer and the pressures on local authorities to deliver social care grow, we can see the implications for their budgets and spending. Those are part of the conversations that the Government have with local authorities all the time. As I said, just last month another £500 million was announced to support local authorities with the cost of social care, which we know is rising. Overall, local authorities’ core spending power is set to increase by 7.5% this year. We continue to have discussions to make sure that there is money available to local authorities to deliver that statutory responsibility and to continue to support the wonderful arts organisations, charities and others for which they do not a statutory responsibility but which can be part of delivering their statutory obligations by looking after people in so many ways.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend the Minister recognise that the problems facing charities because of the rise in the minimum wage also affect hundreds of thousands of small businesses up and down the country? Furthermore, by increasing the minimum wage, surely there is a saving to the Government on benefits, such as housing benefit. Can that saving not be deployed in the interests of those charitable bodies addressed by this Question?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The Government follow the recommendations of the independent Low Pay Commission. The evidence to date shows that the national living wage has given a pay rise to millions of people and reduced inequalities, without significantly harming employment prospects or having other adverse impacts. There are implications for businesses and charities—the Low Pay Commission’s impact assessments provide that evidence—but we are proud that, through the increase that comes in on 1 April, we will be giving a pay rise to around 3 million workers in this country.

Media Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Wednesday 28th February 2024

(1 month, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the Bill be committed to a Committee of the Whole House, and that it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House that they consider the Bill in the following order: Clauses 1 to 17, Schedule 1, Clauses 18 to 27, Schedule 2, Clause 28, Schedule 3, Clauses 29 to 36, Schedule 4, Clause 37, Schedules 5 to 7, Clauses 38 to 40, Schedule 8, Clauses 41 to 48, Schedule 9, Clause 49, Schedules 10 and 11, Clauses 50 and 51, Schedule 12, Clauses 52 to 56, Title.

Motion agreed.

Media Bill

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Moved by
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
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That the Bill be now read a second time.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, it is a great pleasure to move the Second Reading of this Bill. I do so at a time when the UK’s media landscape faces enormous technological change, but in the face of which I am proud to say it is thriving. British-made programmes are watched and enjoyed by audiences at home and across the globe. Our public service broadcasters not only produce fantastic shows which keep audiences glued to their screens but inform and educate them, and project British values and the best of British creativity around the world.

Similarly, our radio environment is exceptionally rich and diverse—there is a radio station for everyone. UK radio stations provide an incredible service, again not just entertaining their listeners but disseminating local news and information throughout the country. That is something that we want to value and protect.

We should also celebrate the thousands of excellent and exciting job opportunities that the sector creates across the United Kingdom, and the billions of pounds that it adds to the economy. This is a pro-growth Bill. It will not only enable people to continue to watch and listen to the content that they love but help to grow our world-leading creative industries and maintain their status as world leaders.

It has been more than 20 years since the last major piece of broadcasting legislation reached the statute book. The world has changed significantly since then, as have the ways in which we consume media. The growth of the streaming giants, smart televisions and online radio has completely changed consumers’ demand and expectations. Our world-renowned media industry has embraced the challenge, adapting rapidly not just to survive but to thrive.

His Majesty’s Government have heard the passionate support for the Bill from the industry and from Members of both Houses of Parliament. I am delighted that it is now before your Lordships’ House, and I look forward to working with noble Lords from across the House to ensure that it delivers for our brilliant media sector and for viewers and listeners.

The Government are grateful to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in another place for its thorough examination of the Bill during pre-legislative scrutiny last year. We were pleased to accept the majority of the recommendations set out in the committee’s two reports; there is no doubt that those have improved the Bill before us. I also thank the Communications and Digital Committee of your Lordships’ House—under the expert chairmanship of my noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston and, before her, of my noble friend Lord Gilbert of Panteg—for the work that it has carried out on the many areas relating to the Bill. Its reports on public service broadcasting and on the future of journalism and, most recently, its inquiry into the future of news have helped to shape the Bill and the Government’s wider work in this area.

The Bill has also benefited from extensive engagement with industry and with Members of both Houses. We have heard from public service broadcasters, commercial broadcasters, the radio and news media, radio and television selection services, on-demand streaming platforms and Ofcom throughout the drafting of the Bill, in its pre-legislative scrutiny and during its passage through another place. Together, that has helped to produce a Bill that incorporates their views and addresses their challenges, and one which we hope will work for everyone. We are very grateful for the time and effort that everyone has gone to while working with us on the Bill.

I thank Ofcom for the work that it has undertaken to get the Bill to this stage. Its research in this area and its close work in supporting the drafting of the Bill have been invaluable. It has already made clear its plans for implementation in the materials that it published earlier this week. The Government look forward to continuing to work with Ofcom on the remaining stages of the Bill and on the implementation of its provisions.

I turn to what the legislation does. The Bill supports our public service broadcasters to ensure that they are able to provide high-quality content to United Kingdom audiences for years to come. As it stands, our public service broadcasters are governed by laws written more than two decades ago. Part 1 of the Bill seeks to modernise the framework for public service television. This will ensure that our public service broadcasters are encouraged to focus on what makes them distinctive, while having the flexibility to serve audiences across the UK with high-quality programmes on a wider range of services.

Many noble Lords, like countless people beyond your Lordships’ House, are passionate sports fans. We want to make sure that fans are able to continue to watch the biggest sporting events that this country has to offer. That is why we are modernising the listed events regime to protect viewers’ access to the major sporting events that define our nation. We are extending the protections that the regime offers for live listed events coverage in line with where audiences choose to watch it. TV-like services providing live content to audiences in the UK via the internet will now need to comply with our rules. We are also making qualification a public service broadcaster benefit, recognising the role that these broadcasters play in delivering national sporting moments, and providing certainty in the future.

Part 2 of the Bill deals with prominence. We know that audiences value public service content. We want to make sure that it is always available and easily accessible for them. As is the case in linear broadcasting, the Bill ensures that public service content is made available and easy to find on modern platforms such as smart televisions, set-top boxes and streaming sticks. Not only will that improve the audience experience but it is a vital reform for the sustainability of our public service broadcasters.

Part 3 contains measures specifically designed to support the sustainability of Channel 4. The Government are clear in our intent to support Channel 4 in continuing to make ground-breaking, unique and distinctively British content for years to come. Some of the means to do that can be found in the Bill, such as the measures to strengthen the broadcaster’s governance arrangements and allowing it to make more of its own programmes. Others can be found in the memorandum of understanding undertaken between the Government and Channel 4 when the Bill was introduced in another place on 8 November last year.

The Government have also worked closely with Sianel Pedwar Cymru—S4C—to make sure that it has the tools it needs to continue to provide Welsh language content. I am pleased to say that the Bill will implement in statute recommendations from Euryn Ogwen Williams’s 2018 independent review into the future of the broadcaster. This includes allowing S4C to broaden its reach and offer its contents on new platforms across the United Kingdom and beyond, and updating its public service remit to include digital and online services. S4C will be able more easily to adapt to market change, maximising the benefits to its audiences, and to continue to deliver high-quality content.

The ways in which we watch television have changed a great deal in recent decades. Watching several episodes of “Coronation Street” back to back was once possible only during an omnibus on Sunday afternoons; now people can do it with a few clicks on ITVX, any day of the week and any time they choose. The growth of video on demand services has been extraordinary, but we know that audiences would like to see these services held to the same standards that are required of normal television services. That is why we are introducing a new video on demand code, drafted by Ofcom, by which the streaming giants will be required to abide. Noble Lords will, I know, be pleased to hear that this code will better protect children and uphold the standards that we see on our linear services. In addition, Ofcom will have a new duty to review and ensure that all on-demand services’ audience protection measures are effective and fit for purpose. We are also making sure that streamers provide greater access to their programmes by increasing the amount of subtitled, audio-described and signed content available on their services.

Turning to the radio industry, I am sure that noble Lords will welcome the provisions for radio in Part 5 of the Bill. These seek to boost the growth of our fantastic radio industry by reducing regulatory burdens and costs on commercial radio stations, and supporting investment by broadcasters in content and the long-term sustainability of the sector, while also strengthening protections for the provision of local news and information. As with television, we have seen a shift in how people enjoy the radio. While traditional broadcast methods remain popular, recent years have seen rapid growth in listening via devices such as smart speakers, too. The Government want to encourage innovation in the growth of new technology, but we also recognise the need for protections for radio and the huge public value that it provides, as noble Lords have often raised in our exchanges in this House. Again, we are grateful to the radio industry and to technology companies for their engagement on these measures.

Finally, in Part 7, and fulfilling a manifesto commitment, the Bill will remove a threat to the freedom of the press by repealing Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. That section has not been commenced; if it were, it could force publishers to pay the legal costs of people who sue them, even if they win. Members of your Lordships’ House, along with Members of another place, have taken a strong interest in the practices and culture of our free press over recent years. There now exists a strengthened, independent self-regulatory system for the press. But, as the manifesto on which the Government were elected makes clear, we will make sure that the heavy-handed measures of Section 40 are not able to stifle the independence or threaten the sustainability of the British press.

I am mindful that my noble friend Lord Forsyth of Drumlean has tabled a regret amendment to the Second Reading. I will listen to his reasons for doing so when he rises shortly. Let me pre-empt his comments, if I may, by assuring him that the Government take this issue seriously.

Under the Enterprise Act 2002, the Secretary of State has powers to intervene in media mergers on certain public interest grounds, including where there are concerns about media freedom and freedom of expression. The Government also already have tough powers, including through the National Security and Investment Act 2021, to address foreign interference and to scrutinise—and, if necessary, intervene in— acquisitions on grounds of national security. The Bill before us has only one clause pertaining to the press: the repeal of Section 40, which I have just mentioned. It is concerned with the removal of burdensome obligations on news media outlets and not press ownership, which is beyond the scope of the Bill. As my noble friend will be aware, there are ongoing discussions and amendments to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill on this issue.

I am grateful to noble Lords for their involvement in and support for the Bill as it has made its way to your Lordships’ House. I look forward to the debates ahead and the scrutiny that we will give it, and I beg to move.

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful for the widespread support that has been expressed for the Bill from across your Lordships’ House, and the recognition of the important difference that it will make for our much-valued broadcasters and media organisations. I reassure noble Lords that I do indeed get it, and I share the warm appreciation that they have expressed for our public service broadcasters.

In fact, my very first paid employment, at the tender age of 14, was playing the part of a French ghost named Guillaume, in a children’s television programme which was broadcast on ITV on Halloween in 1997. As well as getting to film that in a château outside Dijon, I was paid £400, a princely sum for a 14 year- old, which I used to buy a television set of my own, for my room. That was the TV set on which, two years later, I watched the seminal Channel 4 drama “Queer as Folk”, the 25th anniversary of which we mark this year, and its ground-breaking importance is still keenly appreciated by so many people.

I share the strong sentiments that noble Lords have expressed about the importance of public service broadcasters, the programmes they produce and the fulfilling jobs they support and sustain. I am grateful to noble Lords for their enthusiasm for the Bill and look forward to working with them in the many areas in which they have set out their interests.

A number of noble Lords, including the noble Baronesses, Lady Kidron and Lady Foster, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Leeds, the noble Lord, Lord Hall of Birkenhead, focused on the changes to remit and the question of genres. I reassure noble Lords that the Government recognise the importance of a diverse media sector in the UK, where audiences can select from a wide range of programmes, according to their own tastes and interests, and indeed to have those tastes and interests expanded. Our public service broadcasters have an important and distinctive role to play in helping to achieve that. To ensure that the regulatory framework supports these outcomes, the Bill replaces the 14 overlapping purposes and objectives to which public service broadcasters must contribute with a new, modernised remit. It is intended to provide a much clearer sense of our public service broadcasters’ distinctive role in the sector.

At the same time, it has always been our intention that the revised public service broadcasting framework, including the new remit, should retain the requirement on our public service broadcasters to produce a wide range of programmes. The Government have listened to the views expressed by the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in another place; in particular, the committee’s concerns that the remit is not clear enough on this point. As a result, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, noted, we have added an explicit requirement that our public service broadcasters should, together, continue to make a range of genres available.

Ofcom will continue to collect and publish data on the prevalence of different genres; we have retained the current requirement under Section 358 of the Communications Act, which, among other things, requires Ofcom to report annually on the availability of principal genres on television and radio services. At present, Ofcom fulfils this duty in its annual communications and markets report, which last year reported on 15 key genres including religion and belief, arts and classical music, and educational content. We expect this reporting to be retained.

Moreover, should Ofcom identify a problem with the spread of genres, including in relation to religious programming—which a number of noble Lords mentioned —then the Bill allows for the remit to be updated, and indeed for the creation of additional quotas for underserved content areas. I am happy to reassure the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, that the House does indeed have my ear on this, and I hope that she and others will recognise from the changes that we have already made to the Bill in this area that it also has the ears of my ministerial colleagues.

I agree that the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, made a powerful speech about the importance of children’s television, and I strongly agree on the importance of ensuring that our children continue to have access to the public service content, indeed as does my colleague Julia Lopez, the Minister in another place. She spoke passionately there about the profound and positive impact that high-quality, original British programming can have. As the noble Baroness noted, children now have access to an endless library of global content at their fingertips. While there is some great programming out there for them to access, a lot of it can be generic and lack substance. That is why the Bill includes specific measures to ensure that original British children’s programming, which reflects the world around children here in the UK, remains front and centre of the public service remit.

A number of noble Lords rightly focused on the provisions and the benefits in the Bill for Scotland and the Scottish broadcasting sector and creative economy. The Government are clear about the incredibly valuable contribution that the Gaelic media service MG Alba makes across Scotland and the rest of the UK. Its partnership with the BBC is particularly significant for Gaelic language broadcasting. I assure noble Lords, including the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle, the noble Lord, Lord Stevenson of Balmacara, the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, and my noble friends Lord Dunlop and Lady Fraser of Craigmaddie, that the ongoing provision of Gaelic broadcasting and the future of MG Alba will be key considerations as we take forward the BBC funding review and the forthcoming charter review concluding in 2027. The right time to consider these issues is during the review of the royal charter, given the closeness of the link between the BBC and MG Alba. We will provide further details in due course on our timeline for that important review. The Government certainly—

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara Portrait Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab)
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I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. He is making a very important point, and we respect the way it has been expressed, but is it not also the case that the negotiations between the Government and the BBC are limited to those two participants, and therefore the role for Parliament is not clear? Could he perhaps explain what contribution we could make as Parliament?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Through debates such as the one we have had today, and through Questions, which I am always happy to answer from this Dispatch Box on behalf of His Majesty’s Government to set out our thinking. As I say, once we have set out more details on the timetable for that review, I am happy to provide updates to the House on the Government’s thinking as we take those discussions forward.

I and the Government certainly agree with noble Lords on the importance of Gaelic language broadcasting. The Bill will help to ensure that audiences are able to access content in languages other than English, as well as content which is so culturally important to people across the UK, for decades to come, by including it in the new public service remit for television for the first time.

Not wanting the noble Lord, Lord Wigley, to feel outgunned—and I point to my noble friend Lord Harlech on the Government Front Bench for this Bill—I also highlight that the Media Bill will implement legislative reforms following the independent review of S4C, which took place in 2018, to reform S4C’s remit, governance structures, commercial powers and audit arrangements. It also provides for changes to the statutory content arrangements set out between the BBC and S4C, to add greater flexibility. These changes will help to deliver the Government’s manifesto commitments to support Welsh institutions such as S4C and to support the Welsh Government’s ambition for a million people in Wales to be able to speak Welsh by 2050.

A number of noble Lords focused on the issue of “significant” or “appropriate” prominence, which was extensively debated in another place. One point that has been lost in the debate so far is that the test under the existing linear prominence regime is already one of appropriateness and not significance. The overwhelming evidence that we have received is that that test has worked well, so I suggest that the question is not why “appropriate” is better than “significant” but why the Bill should move away from terminology that is widely understood and has delivered for audiences.

The Government agree on the importance of ensuring that public service content is prominent and easily accessible on major TV platforms. As is already the case in the linear sphere, public service broadcasters’ applications, and the content they provide, should be among the most prominent on the platform, whether that is on the home page, in search results or through the recommendations, such as those that currently confound the noble Baroness, Lady Thornton.

In addition to that core aim of securing prominence for public service broadcasters’ services and content online, the regime must also be operable and proportionate to allow for innovation and consumer choice. For example, it must account for the differing requirements of audiences in different parts of the UK. While it remains important that designated STV services receive prominence in Scotland and designated S4C services are prominent in Wales, it would not, for instance, be appropriate to require those services to be given the same degree of prominence outside Scotland and Wales.

As the Government set out in our response to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee’s final report on the Bill, we have looked carefully at whether requiring “significant” prominence would be preferable to requiring “appropriate” prominence, and we concluded that the descriptor “significant” would not be sufficiently flexible or operable. For instance, it would not address the question of regional prominence that I have just outlined. As any visitors to their local department store can attest, there is now a huge range of potential user interfaces and routes to content available from modern televisions. As a result, there can be no one-size-fits-all approach to delivering prominence, and we believe that “appropriate” prominence—as determined by Ofcom in its code of practice, and with flexibility built in—is fundamentally the right choice.

The noble Lord, Lord Bassam of Brighton, asked whether we would the keep the list of regulated television selection services under review, and I am very happy to say that we will indeed do so.

The noble Lord also asked about how the Government intend to measure the sustainability of Channel 4. As part of the reform package agreed with Channel 4 last year, both it and the Government agreed to updates to the financial reporting information that Channel 4 provides to my department and UK Government Investments, the Government’s corporate finance specialists, on a quarterly basis. While there is no perfect way to measure an organisation’s sustainability, that information will help to support our work in considering how best to enable Channel 4 to remain at the centre of British broadcasting for many years to come.

Although I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, that there is more to life than sport, I am also grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Grey-Thompson, my noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond, the noble Lord, Lord Addington, and others for underlining its importance to very many viewers across the country. I assure the noble Baroness that there is no intention to weaken the public service broadcasters’ hand in negotiations; rather, we will ensure that partnerships between them and commercial broadcasters can function effectively to deliver the best outcomes for audiences and rights holders. Ofcom will have the ability to bring forward regulations, including on adequacy. We recognise that it is vital that broadcasters maintain complete editorial control of live broadcasts when they enter into partnerships, so that they have the freedom to make decisions about what events to screen for the British public.

My noble friend Lord Holmes touched on digital rights for listed events. Legislating to include digital rights is a very complex issue; not only is it technical in nature but a balance needs to be struck between securing the right access for audiences and the commercial freedoms that allow rights holders to reinvest in sport at all levels. The Government believe that it would be more appropriate to evaluate that issue through the digital rights review before considering any potential legislation that would enact any particular conclusion. I hope that he and other noble Lords will be reassured that the issue remains under careful consideration; I am sure that we will debate it in Committee.

Baroness Thornton Portrait Baroness Thornton (Lab)
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Why do we need to wait for that review? It seems that we know enough about this and what the problems are, so why not deal with it now? We cannot wait for another 10 years, or however long it takes.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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We have set up the review because there are important questions to consider, and it is worth considering them properly. As I say, there is a complexity here in striking the right balance. The review is looking into that and more, and from it may flow some suggestions for necessary changes in the law. It is right that we complete the review and look at that picture in the round. As I say, I am sure we will touch on this in Committee, and there are emerging areas which noble Lords will want to press, but we think it is right to complete the review, which is a logical consequence of setting it up.

The Government are also keen to ensure that sporting events are made available for the public as widely as possible. That is why we have the listed events regime. We acknowledge the interest that fans have in watching our sporting teams compete. It is important, again, that that regime continues to strike the right balance between accessibility and the ability of sporting organisations to generate revenues, so that they can invest in sports at all levels. We believe that the current list of events works well to deliver the right outcome and that it strikes an appropriate balance, so we have no plans to review the list at this time.

My noble friend Lord Bethell spoke about the importance of age ratings for television content, and we are in complete agreement on the need to protect children and other vulnerable audiences from harmful and inappropriate video-on-demand content to which they might be exposed. As people move to a digital world, so must our regulation change. That is why, for the first time, we are bringing mainstream TV-like on-demand services in scope of the new video-on-demand code. That will be drafted and enforced by Ofcom, which has a long track record of regulating broadcast television to ensure that it is age appropriate, and protects those who may be more deeply affected by what they see or hear. In addition to creating this new code, the Bill gives Ofcom new powers through its audience protection review duty, so that it can provide guidance and report on and deal with any providers it considers are not providing adequate protections.

Taken together, these changes mean that the on-demand streamers will no longer be marking their own homework; that, rightly, will be for Ofcom to assess and do. The British Board of Film Classification, which my noble friend mentioned, does a fine job and the Government encourage all services to consider using it when reaching decisions. However, it is not the only source of effective child protection. Many streamers, including our public service broadcasters, for example, have very effective child protection measures in place and do not use BBFC age ratings. We do not want inadvertently to discourage services from investing in, developing and using the most effective child protection technology that is available and becomes available, which includes but is not limited to age ratings. The Government’s overriding goal here is to ensure that effective protection is in place as the outcome, rather than specifying from the top down how that should be done.

The measures in the Bill will ensure that all streamers are given the incentive to place child protection at the heart of their product development, rather than just relying on the regulator to tell them what the bare minimum is they can get away with. For example, protections such as parental controls and warnings, in addition to age ratings, can be more effective than any individual age-rating system. However, we are listening to what my noble friend and others are saying and have been listening to the debate in another place as well, and we look forward to continuing to debate these issues as the Bill progresses.

My noble friend Lord Black of Brentwood raised concerns about the risk of complaints tourism arising as a result of Ofcom’s regulation of video-on-demand services. As with existing broadcasting regulation, how these rules are implemented would be for Ofcom to set out. However, to be clear, Ofcom will be regulating only on-demand providers’ UK libraries. In addition, following feedback from providers during pre-legislative scrutiny, we have already considered the issue of complaints tourism. The Bill now ensures that Ofcom will be able to consider the length of time that content has been available when considering complaints, which will reduce mischievous accusations. However, this is not new territory. Ofcom has a long history as an international regulator, and we have full confidence that it has the expertise and powers to deal appropriately with complaints of this nature.

More broadly, noble Lords rightly asked about the additional responsibilities Ofcom has taken on in recent years. As they know from our exchanges on the Online Safety Act, the Government are invested in Ofcom, which has taken on many more staff to cover its additional responsibilities. We are confident that it has the capability and resources it needs. Like others, I am very grateful that the noble Lord, Lord Grade of Yarmouth, attended our debate on the Bill today. Ofcom will continue to be accountable to Parliament. The Bill extends its powers in areas it has much experience in regulating. My department has worked closely with Ofcom throughout the drafting process. As I said in my opening speech, we are very grateful for the contribution it has made.

I am grateful to some—not all—noble Lords for expressing support for the repeal of Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act. Views differ on this across your Lordships’ House but, as I said, this is a government manifesto commitment. We worry that commencing Section 40 would risk creating a chilling effect on freedom of speech, undermining high quality journalism and causing serious damage to local newspapers. The Government consulted on repeal in 2016. A huge majority of respondents, some 79%, including press freedom organisations such as Reporters Without Borders, backed repealing Section 40, many arguing that it could have stopped publishers undertaking valuable investigative journalism or publishing stories critical of individuals, for fear of being taken to court and having to pay for both sides. However, I look forward to the further debates that I am sure we will have.

The noble Lord, Lord Stevenson, asked about the Press Regulation Panel. As he knows, that was established through a royal charter on the self-regulation of the press in 2013, which is separate from the Crime and Courts Act 2013. The repeal of Section 40 will not affect the Press Regulation Panel. Any press regulator can apply to be recognised by the panel. The panel will continue to recognise, review and report on Impress. It can also recognise other press regulators, should they choose to apply.

My noble friend Lord Astor asked how we can prevent strategic lawsuits against public participation if we repeal Section 40. If enacted, Section 40 would protect only news publishers which are members of an approved regulator. SLAPPs typically target individuals instead of their employers and can target people other than journalists, including consumers, tenants or victims of sexual assault. Many SLAPPs never reach court as their intention is to silence people before the case is pursued. As I hope my noble friend knows, the Government are taking broad action against SLAPPs to create a changed culture and raise awareness of them, alongside legislative change. The task force on SLAPPs that we established published its workplan in December, outlining action from government as well as from media and legal organisations to tackle SLAPPs. The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act, which received Royal Assent in October, includes measures to tackle economic crime-related SLAPPs, which we believe represent up to 70% of all these lawsuits. The Government are also supporting a Private Member’s Bill introduced in another place by Wayne David MP, Second Reading of which was last Friday. It has cross-party support, and we will update the measures in the 2023 Act to cover a broader scope, blocking SLAPPs across all types of litigation.

I am conscious that I am reaching the end of my time, so I will turn finally to the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. The noble Lord, Lord Bassam, asked whether a meeting with the Secretary of State might be possible. As he will appreciate, at the moment she is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity in relation to this matter, so she is very restricted in what she can say. A meeting would not therefore be helpful. However, I and other Ministers have kept your Lordships’ House and the other place updated as much as we are able to while that legal process unfurls. I pointed in—

Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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Does the Minister have a sense of the timetable for this review to be completed?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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If I may, I will point the noble Lord to the answers we have given which set out some of the timelines; there are different timelines under the different Acts and the work that Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority do. I will set them out, rather than try to give them off the top of my head, but I have answered questions from this Dispatch Box before and will continue to do that and through Written Questions where possible.

I pointed my noble friend Lord Forsyth to the Enterprise Act and the National Security and Investment Act, which cover the actions available to the Secretary of State, including where she has concerns about media freedom and freedom of expression. As my noble friend indicated, his lively discussions with the Public Bill Office and his resorting to this regret amendment reflect that this is not a matter for this Bill, but, as the contribution from our noble friend Lady Stowell of Beeston showed, she has had more success with tabling an amendment to the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill. I would certainly encourage them both to continue their conversations with my noble friends Lord Camrose and Lord Offord of Garvel.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
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I am grateful for what my noble friend has just said, but am I to take it from what he said to the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, that the DCMS is not going to engage in this matter at all? Am I to direct my questions to the noble Lords who are responsible for the DMCC Bill?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As it falls to my noble friends Lord Camrose and Lord Offord to take that Bill through, it will be more fruitful to have the discussions with them—they will be having them on behalf of the whole Government. But, as my noble friend will appreciate, because my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has a quasi-judicial role, she is limited in what she can say, and so it limits what we can say. I am very happy to continue to answer questions on the process while my noble friends continue their discussions with my noble friends who are answering for the Government on the Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill. I look forward to the discussions with my noble friend Lord Forsyth, who I hope will not press his regret amendment this evening. With that, I beg to move.

S4C

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 8th February 2024

(2 months ago)

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Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport
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To ask His Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the report by Capital Law into the working environment and atmosphere at S4C, the Welsh language broadcaster, and what discussions they have had with that broadcaster in response.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, His Majesty’s Government are committed to supporting S4C, which plays a vital role in the UK’s broadcasting sector. The recent events at the channel raise serious concerns; significant work is required to rebuild trust at S4C and to bring a fresh start. The Secretary of State has therefore written to S4C encouraging its current leadership swiftly to agree a programme of work to address the issues it has faced.

Baroness Wilcox of Newport Portrait Baroness Wilcox of Newport (Lab)
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My Lords, we all want to see Sianel Pedwar Cymru succeed and to continue to make its vital contribution to Welsh culture and a vibrant creative economy, but recent events have raised serious concerns about governance, leadership and culture. Can the Minister be a bit more detailed about when the recruitment process for a new chair will begin? Can he tell noble Lords what conversations his department has had with Sianel Pedwar Cymru to ensure that the organisation stays on track while, inevitably, it has an interim chair and interim joint CEO for at least a short period?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The Secretary of State and the whole department are treating this issue with the utmost seriousness. The department has been in regular contact with S4C and will remain so. An interim appointment of a chairman will be announced in due course, following consultation with the board; that is consistent with the board’s standing orders. We will move swiftly to launch the process to appoint a new chairman of the channel. That will be a fair and open process run in accordance with the Governance Code on Public Appointments.

Lord Storey Portrait Lord Storey (LD)
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My Lords, the Capital Law report makes quite concerning reading. Were anti-bullying and harassment policies in place, and if so, why were they not acted on? My worry is this: with the leadership of an important organisation such as S4C, to whom do the rest of the staff make their complaints? If they feel that the leadership are not acting properly, where do they go to raise their concerns? Is there a whistleblowing policy that could have been used, for example?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Serious concerns have been raised, including in the report from Capital Law, which the noble Lord mentions. It is clear that a significant amount of work is now required to rebuild trust in and at the channel. All members of the board of S4C are required to comply with the code of conduct for board members of public bodies, as well as the seven Nolan principles of public life. We are very clear about that expectation, and on the need for the channel to act under its new leadership on the concerns which have been raised.

Baroness Humphreys Portrait Baroness Humphreys (LD)
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My Lords, the Secretary of State for Wales has explained that he has to take an arms-length approach to HR issues at S4C, as we appointed the board. If the relationship between the chair, CEO and senior management becomes toxic again in the future, who would actually have the power to intervene?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Like all public service broadcasters, S4C is independent of the Government, but as its sponsor department, DCMS regularly engages with the channel on a range of issues, including governance, as it has done since these allegations were first made. It is right that the board has said that it intends to address the concerns which have been raised, and we expect it to do so as a matter of priority.

Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist Portrait Baroness Bloomfield of Hinton Waldrist (Con)
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My Lords, this may seem quite a niche subject for some Members of your Lordships’ House, but on behalf of those of us in the Welsh diaspora who use S4C as a Welsh learning instrument—dwi dal yn dysgu Cymraeg: I am still learning Welsh—I urge my noble friend to make every effort to expedite putting S4C back on to a good footing. I also take this opportunity to ask my noble friend to join me in congratulating the noble Baroness, Lady Wilcox, on her appointment this week as one of the four commissioners for the South Wales Fire and Rescue Service. She has a big job to do, and we wish her well in doing it.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I certainly join my noble friend in extending our congratulations to the noble Baroness. I also agree with her on the hugely important contribution that Sianel Pedwar Cymru makes to the lives and well-being of Welsh speakers and learners. We remain committed to helping it adapt to the changing media landscape. There are important provisions in the Media Bill—which will have its Second Reading in your Lordships’ House later this month—which will update its public service remit and remove the current geographical broadcasting restrictions on the channel, allowing it to broaden its reach and offer its content on a range of new platforms across the UK and beyond.

Lord Lexden Portrait Lord Lexden (Con)
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My Lords, will the decision to ratify the 2003 UNESCO convention on intangible cultural heritage help strengthen the traditions that mean so much to Welsh speakers?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Yes. The convention is currently before Parliament and, subject to the approval of your Lordships and Members in another place, I look forward to going to UNESCO to sign and ratify it. It will help us champion living heritage across these isles, including traditions beloved of Welsh speakers such as eisteddfodau, Mari Lwyd, male voice choirs and much more. It is very exciting to think about the living heritage we can compile in an inventory in order to share these traditions with future generations.

Lord Storey Portrait Lord Storey (LD)
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My Lords, would it not help if Welsh-speaking Members could ask questions in Welsh in this Chamber?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I am afraid I would not be able to provide much of an answer, other than to say “diolch yn fawr”.

Lord Sahota Portrait Lord Sahota (Lab)
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My Lords, the Welsh language received a grant of some £250,000 from the Welsh Government. There are only half a million Welsh language speakers in the UK, so how come other languages such as Polish, Punjabi, Bengali and Gujarati never receive any grant at all, even though they have a much larger number of speakers?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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My Lords, speaking in minority languages is an important contribution from our broadcasters across the UK. The Government support the Welsh Government’s ambition to reach the target of 1 million people in Wales being able to speak Welsh by 2050, and S4C clearly plays an important part in that. On the broader question of other languages, I look forward to the debates we will be having on the Media Bill about the support our public service broadcasters can give.

Lord Griffiths of Burry Port Portrait Lord Griffiths of Burry Port (Lab)
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Given that Welsh is indigenous to one of the peoples of this country and has been since time began—indeed, probably before time began—would it not be sensible to take an investment in the ambition of the Welsh Government to boost the number of Welsh speakers, which is already considerable, as a template from which the other people referred to can make their own appeal: a kind of sounding board through which other dreams may be dreamed and hopes may be nourished?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The noble Lord speaks with the poeticism and lyricism of the Welsh language, even in the English tongue. He is right about the lessons that S4C can provide to other broadcasters on promoting minority languages and the indigenous languages of this isle. As I say, there are provisions in the Media Bill which I look forward to debating, so we can make sure that those lessons are learned.

Arts

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Thursday 1st February 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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My Lords, I happily join in with the tributes that have been paid to the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, not just for securing this debate in the way he introduced it, but for a life and career devoted to championing the arts and their transformative power. The noble Lord’s contribution to the arts in this country is, indeed, unparalleled. His work on “The South Bank Show” has left an indelible mark on our cultural landscape, and he has inspired legions of people, through more than one thousand episodes of “In Our Time”, about topics they did not even know that they did not know about. The noble Lord is a living embodiment of the power of the arts, in the way that he sets out in the terms of his Motion today, but also directly on people’s lives. They are what have borne him, as the BBC profile of him on his 75th birthday put it, from Wigton to Westminster and how glad we are that they have. The great turnout that we had today is another recognition of that.

Another noble Lord who I know would have joined us, had she not lost her voice, is my noble friend Lady Sanderson of Welton. However, her voice is certainly heard loud and clear through the independent review of libraries that was published last month, which I commissioned from her, and which I hope the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley of Knighton, the noble Baroness, Lady Rebuck, and others who rightly mentioned the importance of literacy and reading have had the chance to see. It will inform the Government’s strategy for libraries for the next five years.

It is important to start by reflecting on art for art’s sake. When I go to the theatre, to the opera or to a gallery, I rarely take my seat thinking of the social benefits accruing to me by being there, or of the economic impact of the drink I buy at the bar or the magnet that I buy in the gift shop. I am thinking about what I have seen and witnessed, and how I have been challenged, moved and changed by the experience. The noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, rightly extolled the power of “Mr Bates vs The Post Office”, a TV drama that has moved and motivated us in a way that so many column inches and debates in Parliament have not. Although the economic and social impact of the arts is vital, the reason that I am proud of the way this Government support the arts and culture is because they are an essential part of what makes life worth living. Governments should be confident in helping people experience that. It is also why, for me and the Secretary of State, excellence in the arts is so vital. We believe that the unique and life-enriching quality of the arts are at their most potent when they combine creativity, talent, skill and rigour to create truly excellent cultural experiences. Undoubtedly, excellence comes in many forms and can look different in different places but, whatever the context, we should never be ashamed of aiming high. To that end, I agree with what noble Lords have said about the English National Opera and the Welsh National Opera and the excellent work that they do on and off-stage.

I will not go all the way that the noble Lord, Lord Murphy of Torfaen, advocates and tell the Arts Council, in either England or Wales, precisely which organisations they ought to fund. When I became Arts Minister, it was impressed on me, very clearly, how important the arm’s-length principle is, and I agree with the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter about its importance: Ministers should not decide who gets what, no matter how deserving. That unenviable job is done by the Arts Council, which does the micro while the Government do the macro. I have acknowledged before that the instruction that we gave the Arts Council before the last funding round, to ensure that its funding was more equitably spread around the country, made its job harder and presented it with some invidious choices. However, I am proud that it has resulted in a record number of organisations being funded in more parts of the country than ever before, including, as the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, rightly mentioned, in rural parts of England. I visited Pentabus theatre company just outside Ludlow, which does brilliant work in telling the stories of rural England to audiences around the country.

Our forthcoming review of the Arts Council allows us to ask some important structural questions about how it makes its decisions and sets its strategy, how it measures them and the timeframes by which government asks it to do it. I hope that noble Lords from all corners of the House help us to inform that review.

Notwithstanding the inherent cultural value of the arts, their economic and social impact cannot be ignored. At a time when decision-makers are looking at budgets in all sorts of contexts, be they philanthropic givers, corporate sponsors or colleagues in the devolved Governments and local authorities, they would all do well to be mindful of the benefits that have been set out so clearly today. I spoke to a number of local authority leaders about this matter only yesterday and I pay tribute to groups, including the Campaign for the Arts, which keep them and us on our toes.

As the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, did in his opening, I turn to the economic role of the arts. It is not by chance that economic growth is one of the key things identified by the Government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision, published last summer. As we set out in that document, over the past decade, the creative industries’ output has grown more than 1.5 times as quickly as the economy overall and its workforce has grown at almost five times the UK rate. The first goal set out in that vision is for the creative industries to add an extra £50 billion in gross value added by 2030. The second goal addresses one of the key enablers of that growth—its workforce. The vision makes it clear that we want to ensure that our creative workforce embodies the dynamism and talent of the whole UK, while addressing skills gaps and shortages. The arts are a vital part of that mission.

In 2022, the arts sector contributed £9.5 billion in output to our economy; that was a sharp rise from £7.4 billion the year before. We also saw increases in the workforce of the arts sector, which has grown at over 3.5 times the rate of the UK as a whole over the last decade. However, there are important skills gaps and shortages that we must address to optimise its productivity, including in technical roles across our creative and cultural venues. In part, that is because of the great demand for prop makers, set designers and technical professionals of all sorts in our booming film and television sectors, but these people are vital to our live performing arts. The Department for Education skills bootcamp funding, both nationally and locally, is one part of our work to address this; another is our work to ensure that parents, teachers and guardians have access to helpful and up-to-date careers guidance to inspire people to pursue these enriching careers.

During the pandemic, as my noble friend Lord Vaizey of Didcot set out, the culture recovery fund of more than £1.5 billion supported thousands of organisations and venues across the land, helping to preserve the environment in which so many creative professionals work. The evaluation of that unprecedented fund estimated that organisations supported by it worked with more than 200,000 employees and freelancers. The impact on growth goes further: creativity might not be unique to arts and culture, but it is certainly where it is most prized and cherished. Creativity is at the heart of innovation across our economy, as the noble Lord, Lord Kinnock, rightly said in his contribution. Skills and attitudes to innovation, which are incubated in the arts, can spill over happily into the rest of our economy, so we should applaud the arts and creative industries not only for their own output but for how they make us more creative, productive and globally competitive in so many other industries. As the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, said, they are not the cherry; they are the cake.

As many noble Lords pointed out, the impact of the arts goes far beyond their pure economic value. That is why the third goal of the Creative Industries Sector Vision is to maximise the positive impact of the creative industries on individuals, communities, the environment and the UK’s global standing. We start from a good foundation: people engage with the arts in the UK on a very wide scale. According to the DCMS’s participation survey, more than four in five adults engaged with the arts in the previous year—a powerful demonstration of how the arts remain an integral part of our national life. It is clear that this engagement has a positive effect on people’s lives, improving their health, education and well-being.

A key social impact of the arts is its positive impact on our health and well-being, including its use as a non-medical intervention through the growing work on social prescribing. A recent study involving more than 1,100 people aged 40 and above by the University of Exeter found that playing a musical instrument or joining a choir is linked to better memory and cognitive skills in older age, particularly for those suffering with dementia.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a reception for Paintings in Hospitals, hosted by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London here in your Lordships’ House, in the Cholmondeley Room. The noble Lord, Lord Browne of Madingley, was there, and spoke proudly today of his role as a patron. I am glad that the noble Baroness, Lady Bakewell, recognised his great generosity, not just financially but through the time and expertise that he brings to so many organisations in the arts in this country. Paintings in Hospitals does wonderful work, loaning artwork to, and running art projects and workshops in, health and social care organisations across the country. Likewise, Arts Council England, in partnership with the National Academy for Social Prescribing and others, set up the thriving communities fund, which has supported many initiatives to increase social connectedness and provided a great boon to many during the pandemic.

Many more arts organisations across the country are doing fantastic work in this field. The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, talked about the transformative impact of the arts on my home city, Newcastle. I had the pleasure of admiring the Laing Art Gallery’s work in 10 Downing Street earlier this week, as it is this year’s museum in residence at No. 10. It delivers a hugely powerful service to the community on Tyneside through its Meet @ the Laing project. The sessions that it runs offer an opportunity for people to socialise, overcome loneliness, and boost their well-being every month by exploring a different aspect of the art in the gallery over a cup of tea. On the other side of the Tyne, I visited Northbourne care home in Gateshead during Arts in Care Homes week, in September. Over a delicious cup of coffee in its pop-up coffee shop, I saw how arts and creativity were helping the residents and their families, both physically and mentally. Last year, we saw the launch of the national creative health associates programme, supported by the Arts Council and the National Centre for Creative Health—and I am glad that its chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Howarth of Newport, took part in our debate today.

Many noble Lords spoke of the powerful impact that the arts can have on children and young people. That is why it is so important that we ensure that children and young people have access to high-quality cultural education and creativity, inside and outside school. I am one of the 93%, and very proudly, educated in the state sector, which is why I want to ensure that everybody has access to the opportunities which are so often illustrated in the posters and adverts for private schools.

The Government’s refreshed national plan for music education, The Power of Music to Change Lives, informed by a panel chaired by my noble friend Lady Fleet, aims to level up music opportunities for all children and young people. As part of the commitments that we made alongside that plan, £25 million of new funding is being made available to purchase hundreds of thousands of musical instruments and equipment for young people, including adaptive instruments for pupils with special educational needs or disabilities. The refreshed plan also renews our commitment to the music hubs programme, delivered by the Arts Council, providing £79 million a year.

Looking ahead, we intend to increase the opportunities for all children and young people in culture more broadly, including, as the noble Baroness, Lady Garden of Frognal, rightly highlighted, in heritage crafts and skills. In the coming weeks, the cultural education plan, being shaped as we speak by a panel chaired by the noble Baroness, Lady Bull, will set out a blueprint for the way in which government and its partners can work together to improve cultural education across the country for all children and young people. The plan is intended to highlight the importance of high-quality cultural education and promote its social value, support career progression pathways, address skills gaps, and tackle disparities in opportunity. I have attended a number of the panel’s discussions so far, and I am grateful for the work that it is doing to encourage us to be ambitious for the lives of young people.

An arts education fosters creativity, critical thinking and emotional intelligence. It cultivates a space where young minds learn to express themselves, develop a sense of self and appreciate diverse perspectives. Moreover, arts education nurtures the skills essential for a dynamic workforce, producing minds capable of critical thinking and adaptability. These are things that no country should take lightly, and certainly should not take for granted, which is why cultural education is such a priority for the Secretary of State and for me.

While an arts education plays an important role in developing individuals, we know that it has a wider impact on society. For example, the Arts and Place Shaping: Evidence Review, commissioned by Arts Council England and published in 2022, points to a body of evidence that demonstrates how arts and culture-led regeneration and investment can help to promote social cohesion and civic pride. Alongside this study, other research, including the McKinsey study mentioned by many noble Lords today, has testified that cultural participation can contribute to social relationships, community cohesion, and making communities feel safer and stronger. Its impact depends not only on the individual efforts of artists and arts organisations but on the whole ecosystem: creators, educators, distributors and promoters, suppliers, funders and audiences.

To that end, and in line with the challenge rightly posed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St Albans, we are delivering a number of programmes to help communities across the country to extend and improve their arts and cultural offerings. The £4.8 billion levelling up fund, for example, invests in local infrastructure projects that improve life for people across the UK, focusing on regeneration and transport, and supporting cultural, creative and heritage assets. The second round of the fund, announced last January, included over £500 million of support, awarded to 31 culture and heritage-led projects.

The noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, was right to talk about the infrastructure of live music venues. My colleagues and I have been pleased to meet with the Music Venue Trust. I hope that the noble Lord has seen that £5 million was given, alongside the creative industries sector vision, to support grass-roots music.

Since its launch in 2019, over three rounds of funding so far, the cultural development fund has supported a number of other culture-led regeneration projects. The successful recipients of the third round, totalling over £32 million, were announced last March. Recipients were spread across the country, from Yorkshire to Devon, fuelling projects that will make a real difference to local people. Just yesterday, I launched the fourth round of the cultural development fund, with another £15.2 million available to support transformative projects across England. I warmly encourage people to apply.

My noble friend Lord Holmes of Richmond spoke proudly of his role during London 2012 in fusing sports and art, and he spoke passionately about making sure they are open to people, whatever their needs and background. I am grateful to him for doing so. My department and the Arts Council are committed to ensuring the accessibility of our culture and heritage across the UK for everybody, whatever their background or needs. The Arts Council has done excellent work in recent years to widen access. As part of its national portfolio, it supports a range of organisations striving to improve access, from Attitude is Everything, which seeks to connect people with disabilities with music and live events, to VocalEyes, which works with arts organisations across the UK to remove barriers to access and inclusion for blind and partially sighted people. More broadly, in its new portfolio, the Arts Council is supporting an increased number of organisations—32 of them—led by people with disabilities. The Government’s museum estate and development fund supports physical adaptations to buildings to make them more accessible to everybody.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Grantchester, for recording my first visit to Liverpool. I am ashamed that it took me 40 years to make it, but I was delighted that when I went the Beatles were at No. 1. It was a delight to see him at National Museums Liverpool. I know he supports that DCMS arm’s-length body wholeheartedly. My officials continue to talk to the team there about their exciting plans, which I was delighted to see for myself, with our colleagues from the Department for Levelling Up and from the Treasury.

I am very happy to meet the noble Baroness, Lady Smith of Basildon, and the campaigners she mentioned who are working to ensure that everybody can play their full part in the arts and creative industries, and to do so safely.

We heard a great number of thoughtful views from noble Lords. I do not think that we are in any disagreement about the inherent power, economic value or social impact of arts and culture in the UK. Happily, this has been, for the most part, a non-partisan speech, as exemplified by the pantheon of cross-party heroes listed by the noble Baroness, Lady Bonham-Carter, in her winding-up speech.

I must take slight exception to what the noble Viscount, Lord Chandos, said. We have had a number of exchanges before about the increased grant in aid provided by the Government to Arts Council England. I hope noble Lords know that I would never seek to insult their intelligence, and I certainly would not get away with doing so. I have acknowledged that the increase of more than £43 million that we provided to the Arts Council in the most recent spending review is hampered by the rise in inflation. That is why the Government are working to bring inflation down and why we have halved it. It stands in stark contrast to the cut in arts funding proposed by the Labour Government in Wales, of nearly £3 million and more than 10%. I hope the noble Viscount will take exception to that.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall (Lab)
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My Lords, I can tell that the Minister is coming to a close, and there are a couple of minutes left. I would very much appreciate it—and I am sure that his noble friend Lady Hooper also would—if he would, in passing at least, address the question of theatre tax relief. It is a very serious matter for the arts sector, and I hope he will address it.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I certainly will; I have it next on my list to do. I talked about it with orchestral leaders and the Association of British Orchestras in Bristol last week; we speak about it regularly with museums and theatres as well. But my noble friend is right to talk about the importance of the way that it is encouraging innovation, risk-taking, and new writing, productions and tours. We are very glad to have secured the extension we did at the last Budget. We continue to feed all the evidence of shows such as “Black Sabbath—The Ballet”, which, like my noble friend, I had the pleasure of seeing, to our colleagues at the Treasury to show the impact that that is making—the new productions, the new jobs, and the new enjoyment it brings—and to measure that in a Green Book-compliant way, so that we can make the strongest case for those tax reliefs and their impact.

I hope noble Lords will see that those extensions secured at the last Budget, the funding through the levelling up fund, the cultural development fund, and the work we are doing through the cultural educational plan and the national plan for music education are parts of the way that the Government, like all noble Lords who have spoken in today’s debate, agree wholeheartedly with the sentiments the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, put forward in his Motion. We are very grateful to him for giving us the important opportunity to have today’s valuable debate, and I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in it.

Telegraph Media Group: Proposed Sale to RedBird IMI

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Excerpts
Wednesday 31st January 2024

(2 months, 1 week ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Bassam of Brighton Portrait Lord Bassam of Brighton (Lab)
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My Lords, I find myself in the somewhat novel position of fiercely defending the interests of the Telegraph newspaper group and the Spectator in the interests of press freedom.

There was a fairly remarkable debate in the Commons yesterday because, on a Question about transparency and protecting democracy, the Minister’s answer was mainly that she could not answer any questions. I must gently say that this questioning is not designed to trip Ministers up; these are serious concerns, put forward thoughtfully by Members of all parties right across the House. I therefore hope the Minister will be able to answer two of those questions today. First, can the Minister point to any existing examples of a nation state with “differing media values”—as the chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee delicately put it yesterday—acquiring a major newspaper of another country? Secondly, and in the light of the proposed sale, do His Majesty’s Government have any plans to review existing rules on media ownership, and if not, does the Minister think they should?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay) (Con)
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I am grateful to the noble Lord for his questions and welcome him to the ranks of Telegraph and Spectator readers—I hope he will enjoy what he sees in their pages. He will understand that the Secretary of State is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity following the provisions laid out in the Enterprise Act 2002. She is considering whether mergers raise media public interest concerns. She has issued public interest intervention notices, reflecting the concerns that she continues to have that there may be public interest considerations in this case: the

“accurate presentation of news; and … free expression of opinion”

as set out in Section 58 of the Enterprise Act, which are relevant to this planned acquisition. I hope the noble Lord will understand that, as she is acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, it is essential that she does not take into account, and that there be no perception that she has taken or is taking into account, any political or presentational considerations. I therefore find myself in the same position as my honourable friend Julia Lopez in another place yesterday in being limited in what I can say while that quasi-judicial process unfurls.

Baroness Stowell of Beeston Portrait Baroness Stowell of Beeston (Con)
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My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, alluded to, the strength of feeling against this deal in the House of Commons yesterday was widespread and from all quarters of that place, and I would be surprised if there was much support in this House for the deal going ahead. Notwithstanding what my noble friend said about the Secretary of State acting in a quasi-judicial capacity in considering this matter, could he none the less give us an indication of how soon the Secretary of State can reach her decision? It seems to most people that the reasons for objecting to this deal are fundamental and points of principle, not necessarily points of technicality, and it should not require a great deal of time for her to reach her decision.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The public interest intervention notices which the Secretary of State issued trigger the requirement for the Competition and Markets Authority to report to her on jurisdictional and competition matters and for Ofcom to report to her on the specified media public interest considerations. She has asked them to submit their reports by 9 am on 11 March 2024.

Lord Storey Portrait Lord Storey (LD)
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My Lords, my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones tabled an amendment on Monday on the issue of media plurality. The Minister’s reply was that:

“The Government are currently reviewing the recommendations on changes to the media public interest test in Ofcom’s 2021 statement”.—[Official Report, 29/1/24; col. GC 291.]


That is over two years ago. Following on from the previous contribution, when does the Minister now expect to respond, and can he not expedite this? Of course, cynics say that he will now be able to do this because it is the Daily Telegraph; if it was the Guardian or the Independent, we would be waiting much longer.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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As the noble Lord said, the Government are currently reviewing the recommendations on changes to the media public interest test that were set out in Ofcom’s 2021 statement on media plurality to ensure that we fully understand the implications of such changes, including on the industry, whatever the title. I am confident that this work will be completed soon, which will allow the Government to respond in due course.

Lord Moore of Etchingham Portrait Lord Moore of Etchingham (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I declare an interest as an employee of the Daily Telegraph. May I ask the Minister a couple of points that I do not think depend on the quasi-judicial process? First, can he confirm that, when this was an auction organised by Lloyds Bank, before it took its current form, the Government stipulated that there should be no more than a 25% maximum owned by a Middle Eastern power? Can he also tell us whether, in the investigations going on, there is any investigation of this issue from a national security point of view?

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Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I will be careful in what I say to the noble Lord because of the quasi-judicial role which the Secretary of State is following as she awaits the views of the Competition and Markets Authority and Ofcom, as I set out, but she issued a new public interest intervention notice on 26 January, following RedBird IMI making changes to the corporate structure of the potential acquiring entities of the Telegraph Media Group. That created a new limited partnership which would hold all shares in RB Investco, the proposed purchaser of the Telegraph Media Group. Having considered representations, the Secretary of State came to the conclusion that this corporate restructure created a new relevant merger situation and that, therefore, a new public intervention notice should be issued. The one she issued previously on 30 November in relation to the anticipated acquisition remains in force; that is because it covers a different relevant merger situation. Ofcom and the CMA will report on both to her by the deadline that I set out.

Lord Bellingham Portrait Lord Bellingham (Con)
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My Lords, is the Minister aware that Stephen Welch, who is the independent director at the Telegraph and Spectator tasked with steering the sale through, has recently been named as a defendant in a case against the FTSE company ICG in the Dublin High Court? ICG and other defendants, including Stephen Welch, have been accused, inter alia, of intimidation, conspiracy and misrepresentation. Does the Minister agree that he should stand down from the Telegraph while he clears his name in this other case?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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The Secretary of State is making her decision in a quasi-judicial capacity under the stipulations of the provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002.

Baroness Falkner of Margravine Portrait Baroness Falkner of Margravine (CB)
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My Lords, I will not ask the Minister to respond about the Secretary of State’s role, but the Minister will be aware that assurances have been reported in the papers that RedBird IMI would provide an independent advisory board to ensure journalistic independence. Can he tell us his assessment of the word “independent” going alongside “advisory”? Will he contemplate what the impact of that board will be, given that Meta’s advisory board has done nothing to improve Meta’s standing?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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I hope the noble Baroness will forgive me, but I think it is important that I and other Ministers do not opine on anything while the Secretary of State is making her decision in the capacity she is making it in. As I say, it is important that there should be no perception that she is taking into account any political or presentational considerations. She is, of course, considering all of the relevant information as set out under the Enterprise Act.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean Portrait Lord Forsyth of Drumlean (Con)
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My Lords, I declare an interest, as many years ago I had to make decisions as a Secretary of State in a quasi-judicial capacity and I understand the difficulties the Minister has. But, for goodness’ sake, it is an absolute no-brainer that you do not wish a national newspaper to be owned, however indirectly, by what is proposed. Why should it take so long for Ofcom and everyone else to come to the obvious conclusion and put us all out of our misery?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
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Ofcom and the Competition and Markets Authority have functions set out under the Enterprise Act. They are carrying out those functions at the moment. The Secretary of State looks forward to receiving their reports by the deadline that she has set out. She will then take into account what they recommend to her.