Oral Answers to Questions

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Thursday 11th January 2024

(4 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Damian Green Portrait Damian Green (Ashford) (Con)
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11. If she will take steps to require arenas, stadiums and major festivals to charge a ticket levy to help fund grassroots live music.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
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I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir John Whittingdale) for supporting my maternity leave. The chance to raise a tiny child is fleeting and precious, and his superb stewardship of my portfolio granted me that gift. One of my big worries on standing for election and then becoming a Minister was that it might prove incompatible with starting and now expanding my family. I simply say to other women who want to get involved in public life, “Do not be afraid. There is a lot of talk of barriers, but service and motherhood are compatible privileges.” As my right hon. Friend the Member for Norwich North (Chloe Smith) said so encouragingly to me, you can do it.

Grassroots live music venues are the talent pipeline of our music industry. We are supporting them with funds and rate relief. We have no plans for a Government-mandated ticket levy, but we encourage industry discussion.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine
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I welcome the Minister back to her place. In Edinburgh, we benefit from a plethora of small venues that depend on the Edinburgh Festival to survive. We also have big events every year. At the moment all the excitement, even in my household, is about Taylor Swift coming to the city in June, but we recognise that small venues—the Music Venue Trust says 10% currently struggle to survive and depend on grants from it—do not get any benefit from big gigs. Will the Government consider a levy to support smaller venues, because without them we will never have the Elton Johns, the Queens and the Taylor Swifts who use them to learn their craft, develop and benefit our economy and culture.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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The hon. Lady is absolutely right that grassroots venues are the talent incubators of the music industry. She will be aware that the Chancellor gave a substantial amount of money at last year’s Budget—up to £7 million for a new hub for the Edinburgh Fringe because of that talent pipeline—for the Edinburgh Fringe and the Edinburgh Festival. We are doing what we can with various different pots of money, but we also think there is room for the industry to find a solution on ticket levies. We think it is probably best for the industry to do that, rather than mandate it as a Government.

Damian Green Portrait Damian Green
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I welcome my hon. Friend back to her place. In 2023, across the country, not just in Edinburgh, live music boomed, with some 22 million people attending gigs, yet 76 small venues closed—more than one a week. I draw the Minister’s attention to an analogy with another hugely successful leisure industry, football, where a small amount of the enormous riches gained by the Premier League is allowed to trickle down to the grassroots so that the future of the sport is preserved. Just as with football, we have hugely profitable large arenas where the superstars of today perform and create huge revenues. A levy on the tickets from those sorts of shows—[Interruption.] I am sorry, Mr Speaker; I am very passionate about this—would help small venues to produce the superstars of tomorrow, so will the Minister take a positive attitude towards a levy?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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My right hon. Friend has made his point well, if not briefly. We agree about the importance of grassroots music, which is why we have given another £5 million to the supporting grassroots music fund, but we are also in close touch with the Music Venue Trust, which has a great initiative called “Own Our Venues”. Arts Council England is helping with the purchase of some of the freeholds of these venues. We support that as well, but we think there is more scope for the industry to lead a solution, and we are backing talks between different parts of the industry.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Let us hear from the industry. I call Pete Wishart.

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)
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The music industry is just about the most unequal sector in the whole of society. Those at the bottom—the vast majority—earn an absolute pittance, while those at the very top have unimaginable earnings. Surely we should be doing everything possible to try to change that. It is the sensible option: they do it in France, and the Scottish National party Government are considering doing it in Scotland. Will the Minister support that effort and initiative in Scotland, and if it shows that it can help redistribute some of this money, will she follow that example?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for telling us what the Scottish National party is doing. I had understood that it was cutting a substantial amount from the arts budget. We have been supporting, for instance, the Edinburgh grassroots hub. I think there is a great deal of appetite in this place for a solution; I also think that the best option is for those in the industry to get together, and we are backing discussions of that kind. Indeed, before I went on leave I talked to Mark Davyd of the Music Venue Trust about the issue.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con)
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I, too, warmly welcome the Minister back to her place. She mentioned the £5 million for the supporting grassroots music fund, and that is greatly welcomed, but let us be clear: festivals, rehearsal spaces and independent promoters are also eligible for the fund. That is a lot of mouths to feed. They are all important parts of the ecosystem, and they all need funds. In real terms, this is a tiny amount of money for grassroots music venues. Is my hon. Friend pushing the Treasury to expand that funding to ensure that it can go further?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank the hon. Lady for drawing on her expertise in this regard, and for the work that the Select Committee is doing. I am going to provide that dreadful answer: ahead of the Budget, we will be discussing all these matters with the Treasury.

Stephen Metcalfe Portrait Stephen Metcalfe (South Basildon and East Thurrock) (Con)
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2. Whether her Department has made an assessment of the potential impact of tax relief on the growth of the creative industries.

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Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist (Blaydon) (Lab)
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4. What steps her Department is taking to support local journalism.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
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We recognise that local media face serious challenges to their sustainability. Our digital markets legislation will help to rebalance the relationship between publishers and platforms, and the Government have been exploring the role of the BBC in local news through the mid-term charter review. We continue to consider all possible options in the interest of promoting and sustaining local newspapers, because we think they are vital pillars of the community and of a thriving democracy.

Liz Twist Portrait Liz Twist
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Low pay and job insecurity are rife in local journalism. There have recently been big redundancies at my local paper, the Evening Chronicle, which has lost a third of its news reporters and half its sports reporters over a two-year period, meaning that my constituents get less local news, less coverage of emergency incidents and less coverage of their beloved sports teams. What further steps will the Minister take to address the issue of retaining careers in local journalism?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising these issues. I know that sustaining a good, financially beneficial career is a concern for many people working in journalism. Before I went on leave, I met Reach and other local newspaper groups to talk about some of the challenges they face. The Government are doing what we can through our ad spend, and we have looked at various things over the years, including zero rating of VAT, rates relief and so on, to try to help the sustainability of the local newspaper model. Ultimately, sustainability is at the heart of the challenge of giving local journalists places to have good careers. We are encouraging the BBC’s local democracy reporting service, which gives journalists opportunities beyond local newspapers.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
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I welcome the Minister back to her place. The Government are one of the biggest advertisers in the UK yet, when it comes to placing adverts and campaigns, local papers such as the Barnsley Chronicle can be overlooked in favour of buying ad space online. Many people in this country do not have digital access or still rely on print media as their primary source of news and information, and our local papers are struggling. What steps is the Minister taking to ensure that the Government’s policy on placing adverts supports the interests of both our press and the public?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank the hon. Lady for highlighting this issue, which the Cabinet Office leads on. The DCMS has been in talks with the Cabinet Office about that spend. As I say, I have spoken to groups such as Reach about this previously. I was in the Cabinet Office during the pandemic, when some large adverts were used and some of the issues faced were about regularity; the Government spent a large amount of money with local newspapers because of that audience reach, because of older readership and so on. So the Government do a lot in this area, but I appreciate that there is always more we can look to do and I understand the point she is making about online advertising.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster (Torbay) (Con)
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5. What recent discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on developing new sports facilities in Devon and Cornwall.

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Steve Tuckwell Portrait Steve Tuckwell (Uxbridge and South Ruislip) (Con)
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7. What steps her Department is taking to support local communities and special interest groups in protecting heritage assets.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
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DCMS welcomes applications through Historic England for local heritage assets to be considered for designation. We are also committed to supporting communities to care for their local heritage assets, including through Historic England’s repair grants for heritage at risk and the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s grants for heritage.

Steve Tuckwell Portrait Steve Tuckwell
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With both RAF Northolt and the Battle of Britain Bunker in the heart of my constituency, the people of Uxbridge and South Ruislip share incredibly deep ties with the second world war, especially in the context of the Royal Air Force. As the 84th anniversary of the battle of Britain approaches, would my hon. Friend meet me and other local groups dedicated to preserving the important fabric of both of these valuable heritage sites, to ensure all is done for them to continue to stand as testaments to the bravery of the few who preserved our freedoms?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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My constituency shares deep ties with my hon. Friend’s, as RAF Hornchurch is in my constituency. Some RAF fighters based there joined in the battle of Britain, protecting London and our nation at a time of deep terror. We have a fantastic local museum at RAF Hornchurch, if I may just give it a plug, that is run by volunteers and is an absolute treasure trove; I recommend it. I understand that my hon. Friend has met with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, who is responsible for arts and heritage, but I understand that we will also have an opportunity to debate the subject in greater detail next week, and I look forward to that.

Chi Onwurah Portrait Chi Onwurah (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) (Lab)
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Hadrian’s Wall runs through the heart of Newcastle’s west end, but it is little celebrated or signposted, and the Hadrian’s Wall national trail does not actually follow the wall’s path through my constituency. What help can the Minister offer to local communities keen to celebrate this history, which is literally in their backyard?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I was not aware of this outrageous oversight on paths and signage, so I will raise it with Lord Parkinson at the next opportunity.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the Father of the House.

Peter Bottomley Portrait Sir Peter Bottomley (Worthing West) (Con)
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Will the Minister help the heritage of Victoria Tower Gardens and the voluntary organisations London Parks & Gardens Trust and the Thorney Island Society by getting the UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation to unredact the minutes of December 2018, so that I can quote them when I appear at the hybrid Bill Committee on Wednesday?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I confess I am not sure about the issue my hon. Friend refers to, so I will do some investigation and we will see what the Department can do to facilitate his request.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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I thank the Minister for her positive answers; it is good to see her back in her place.

We have some incredible heritage in Strangford, which goes back long before Ards and North Down Borough Council was brought together. The council has some ideas for promoting first and second world war heritage at the Somme Museum at Conlig. Have any discussions taken place with Ards and North Down Borough Council to ensure that our heritage is retained for everyone, culturally, historically and visually?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I have just been informed that my ministerial colleague had a very positive visit to the hon. Gentleman’s constituency—I am sure he always offers a good time in Northern Ireland. I will ask if there have been any discussions with his local authority on that basis.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) (SNP)
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8. What steps she is taking to support UK musicians seeking to tour in Europe.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
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I am still feeling slightly embarrassed by my answer to the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon)!

We have engaged with EU member states to clarify guidance and, where possible, improve arrangements when for EU touring. The vast majority of EU member states—23 of the 27—offer visa and permit-free routes to touring. We are always looking at what more we can do, including through the music export growth scheme, which is being tripled to £3.2 million over the next two years.

Patrick Grady Portrait Patrick Grady
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Glasgow North is home to many talented musicians, some of whom play in Scotland’s world-class orchestras, but the Association of British Orchestras has warned that the removal of tax credits for performances in the European economic area is a direct result of Brexit and could make touring in Europe unviable for orchestras. What is the Minister’s message to my constituents, whose ability to tour in Europe is being sacrificed on the altar of Brexit fundamentalism?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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Unlike the SNP, we actually listen to what people say in referenda, so I am afraid we will not be rejoining the EU and therefore we cannot have special tax privileges on that basis. DCMS is aware of the concerns of touring orchestras. We are facilitating discussions with His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs so the orchestras know precisely where they stand on some of the issues they have raised.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
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9. What steps her Department is taking to support the growth of the film and television industry.

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Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler (Aylesbury) (Con)
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10. Whether she has had recent discussions with the BBC Board on the impartiality of the BBC’s current affairs coverage.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Media, Tourism and Creative Industries (Julia Lopez)
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The BBC has a duty to deliver its impartial and accurate news and current affairs coverage under its royal charter. It is editorially independent, which means that editorial policies are a matter for the BBC, but both the Secretary of State and I regularly meet the BBC’s leadership team. We have discussed the important issue of impartiality on multiple occasions. It is also a key focus of the Government’s mid-term review of the BBC’s governance and regulation.

Rob Butler Portrait Rob Butler
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As a former BBC journalist myself, I completely believe in its editorial independence from the Government, but, just as strongly, I consider it essential that the BBC, across all its programming and from all presenters, should be absolutely and unequivocally impartial. Given the concerns that we have heard about the current coverage of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the reporting of the resignation of the president of Harvard and examples of where Ofcom has found significant editorial failings, does my hon. Friend agree that the BBC needs to work consistently, constantly and visibly to enforce that requirement on impartiality?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question. He is absolutely right: trust is the BBC’s currency. That is especially important in relation to its international coverage, particularly during conflicts, so it must use its words with care. With regard to the events in Israel and Gaza, the Government have been clear that the BBC should reflect on its coverage and learn lessons for the future, but, of course, we again emphasise impartiality and the highest editorial standards. That is a strategic priority of the BBC’s leadership, and we are talking to them about this in relation to the mid-term review and licensing renewal.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

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Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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That question was a long way from the impartiality of the BBC. We must ensure that we stick to the subject of the question. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman that topicals would have been a much better place for his question. Minister, can you pick out the part that you need to?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I simply wish to pay tribute to every journalist who puts their life on the line to bring truth to the public’s attention. They play an incredibly important role. We are proud of what the BBC journalists do in particular. They have also done some awesome things in Ukraine. As a Government, we just want to say that we support their work and pay tribute to them.

Andrew Jones Portrait Andrew Jones (Harrogate and Knaresborough) (Con)
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12. What progress she has made on increasing women and girls’ access to sport.