Oral Answers to Questions

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Thursday 27th April 2023

(12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson (Kingston upon Hull North) (Lab)
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1. What discussions she has had with the BBC on its proposed cuts to local radio services.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
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The Department for Culture, Media and Sport regularly meets the BBC to discuss a range of issues. Ministers have met the BBC on several occasions since the announcement, where we have expressed the House’s shared concerns about the BBC’s plans to reduce parts of its local radio output. Ministers made clear that the BBC must continue to provide distinctive and genuinely local radio services, with content that represents and serves communities from all corners of the UK.

Diana Johnson Portrait Dame Diana Johnson
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Well, the BBC is not doing that, and I am furious that BBC Radio Humberside is essentially being trashed. Local radio content will end at 2 pm each day. There is no coverage at weekends. Local presenters, including Burnsy, have had to apply for their jobs, and only one was successful. The rest are facing gagging clauses and fear losing their redundancy pay if they speak out. This is basically the end of local public service radio, which is irreplaceable, and the BBC management will not listen. It is easier to get a meeting with the Prime Minister than the director-general. Can I ask Ministers to do what Burnsy would suggest, and get BBC managers to give their heads a wobble and sort this out?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I shall do my best to get some heads wobbling. I know that the right hon. Lady is a big supporter of Radio Humberside and her local BBC television service, “Look North”. I know this situation is difficult for the journalists affected. The BBC has told us that these are cost-neutral changes and that it is moving resource into digital and providing some additional resource in relation to original journalism, but this House has said many times and has effectively expressed its collective opinion that these cuts are regrettable, and it is something we will continue to discuss with the BBC.

Damian Green Portrait Damian Green (Ashford) (Con)
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The Minister is correct that this is in the end a decision for the BBC, but the House will be considering a media Bill in the coming months. Will the Bill do anything to protect the essential BBC local radio services that many people beyond this House—not just in this House—find to be an important part of the broadcasting landscape?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank my right hon. Friend for his contribution. We are not going to protect specific parts of the BBC by primary legislation, but we have a number of important measures on radio services that we feel strongly about including in that legislation, and that includes measures on smart speakers. We want to reduce the regulatory burden on and costs for radio stations, but we also want to strengthen the protections for local news and content. Hopefully that legislation will help with some of these issues.

Matt Western Portrait Matt Western (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
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At a time when accountability and scrutiny in public life are more important than ever, the role of the BBC and other media outlets is so important. My local newspaper, for example, will not run any political stories, and has not really done so for many weeks now. Will the Minister consider the role of local media and why local newspapers will not run political stories?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to highlight the importance of local news reporting to the health of our democracy, and I met news publishers recently to discuss how we might support a more thriving local newspaper ecosystem. There is a range of challenges in making those publications commercially successful, but as he says, if they do not have that local content, they are fundamentally undermining their own importance in the communities they serve.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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On his birthday, I call Andrew Selous.

Andrew Selous Portrait Andrew Selous (South West Bedfordshire) (Con)
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Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I agree with the sentiments expressed so far. We are very well served by BBC Three Counties Radio. If I could pick out one example, Roberto Perrone’s drivetime programme is in danger of being axed, as are many other good programmes. Will the Minister use the Department’s power to have another word with the BBC? Much as I am a big fan of the BBC, I do not think it has got this one right.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I wish my hon. Friend a very happy birthday, as I am sure does the whole House. He asks us to speak again to the BBC about this matter. This issue has been running since the autumn, and the appetite of the House to raise it in the Chamber has not waned. The BBC should take that as a mark of the strength of feeling in this House and a mark of how important we, as representatives of communities across the country, think BBC radio services are.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Do tell the BBC how wonderful Radio Lancashire is. I call the shadow Minister.

Stephanie Peacock Portrait Stephanie Peacock (Barnsley East) (Lab)
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The BBC’s cuts to local radio services will be a great loss to communities. I know the immense benefit that Radio Sheffield brings to my area. The BBC’s plans to redirect this resource into online local news may place the BBC in direct competition with existing local news sites. Can I press the Minister again on what she is doing to discuss the impact of these cuts with the BBC? What steps are being taken to support local journalism outlets and their employees?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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The hon. Lady raises an important point about the impact of the BBC, and the care that it needs to take in relation to the impact that it can have on commercial services. We do not want the support that the BBC gets from the licence fee to be seen as something that crowds out market competition. We will consider that in the mid-term review. I thank her for her comments

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the SNP spokesperson.

John Nicolson Portrait John Nicolson (Ochil and South Perthshire) (SNP)
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The local radio situation must cause stress for hard-working BBC staff across England, and they have my sympathy. The Minister will know about the deep disquiet among BBC staff across the countries of the UK about the fact that they have a chair in Richard Sharp whose tenure is hanging by a thread, and who is resisting calls to resign despite the clear improprieties around being given a job by a Prime Minister for whom he facilitated an £800,000 loan. What reassurances can she give to BBC staff and the general public that her party will not in the future give plum positions to people who have been involved in lavish donations, given the propriety issues that inevitably occur?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the appointment of Richard Sharp is the subject of an Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments report. We do not control the timetable for that, but it will hopefully shed some light on the appointment. I appreciate the hon. Gentleman raising concerns about the propriety of the appointment. We in DCMS believe that we ran that appointment to the letter and, as he will know as a member of the Select Committee, it was also endorsed by the Committee.

Louie French Portrait Mr Louie French (Old Bexley and Sidcup) (Con)
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2. What steps her Department is taking to encourage community participation in the celebration of the coronation of His Majesty King Charles III.

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Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) (Lab)
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5. What steps she is taking to support musicians from Ukraine and Europe to tour in the UK.

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
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My Department regularly engages with the Home Office on supporting international talent to come to the UK. The Government have provided direct support for Ukrainian musicians, including on priority visa applications for orchestras and performers. There are a number of ways to perform in the UK, including the creative worker route, which enables workers to come to the UK for up to 12 months. The UK/Ukraine season of culture and the upcoming Eurovision song contest demonstrate our ongoing support for Ukraine.

Rupa Huq Portrait Dr Huq
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We knew things were bad for UK creatives when, last year, an Andrew Lloyd Webber company chose to take a Chinese production of “The Phantom of the Opera” on European tour rather than a home-grown one, because it was cheaper and less hassle, but last week at Calais, the German punk band Trigger Cut spent three days wrangling over the permitted entry route, only to be told that they were not professional enough musicians. Since when was that kind of judgment part of a customs officer’s duties? Will the Government urgently negotiate friction-free touring? This situation is wrecking livelihoods, our cultural offer and our reputation abroad.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I appreciate that a number of cases recently have caused concern; I am happy to take those up with the Home Office, including the case of Trigger Cut. I know there was also an issue in relation to the Khmelnitsky Orchestra from Ukraine, which was unblocked with help from ambassadors. There are creative routes to come here, but if there are any frictions, my Department is eager and happy to resolve them.

Caroline Dinenage Portrait Dame Caroline Dinenage (Gosport) (Con)
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Touring musicians from overseas and our home-grown talent need venues in which to perform, yet many brilliant grassroots music venues up and down the country are really struggling. They are so important because they are effectively the research and development department of our music industry, which is our global superpower. The cultural recovery fund enabled many of those venues to survive, but how will we ensure that they are not destroyed by the cost of living crisis?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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My hon. Friend has tremendous passion and expertise in this area and I know that, like me, she recently met Mark Davyd from the Music Venue Trust, a grassroots music venue organisation. I discussed with him a range of issues facing the sector, including energy costs and ticketing, and various proposals that involve both Government and the private sector. We are exploring how we can help those critical grassroots music venues to survive because, as my hon. Friend recognises, they are vital to the development of talent in our wider music industry.

Pete Wishart Portrait Pete Wishart (Perth and North Perthshire) (SNP)
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Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster for touring musicians right across the UK and within the EU. The international language of song and music is being constrained by a barrage of bureaucracy and opportunities lost across continents for generations. Bands from the EU now say they will boycott the UK because of what they describe as degrading treatment at our borders, and most UK bands have given up trying to enter the EU at all. The all-party parliamentary group on music recommended appointing a touring tsar to fix the problems. Whatever has happened to that, and what is wrong with that suggestion?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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The hon. Gentleman is right to highlight how valuable and life-enhancing UK music is, including the folk rock that he produces, and I know Europe is eager to hear it. He paints a fairly bleak picture of touring, but we have been doing a whole range of work to unblock some of the issues that have been raised with us by touring groups. There is now a range of visa, transport and other arrangements, but it is in our interest to make sure that those music bands can reach their key audiences, and we continue to look at what other frictions there are so that we can try to unblock them.

Michael Fabricant Portrait Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con)
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A few days ago, a Marks & Spencer store held a minute’s silence for the people of Ukraine and to honour a Ukrainian employee. There is clearly a huge well of feeling in this country for the people of Ukraine and the suffering that they are currently enduring. Can the Minister arrange a tour for the Ukrainian band? Can we do a lot more to promote the Eurovision team?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank my hon. Friend for highlighting the work of the Marks & Spencer store in his constituency. We are doing a tremendous amount of cultural co-operation to support our Ukrainian friends. We are hosting Eurovision, and that includes £10 million-worth of support to provide a truly collaborative show. We are also providing 3,000 subsidised tickets for displaced Ukrainians in the UK. It will be a tremendous celebration, and it is being ably organised by my dear colleague, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my right hon. Friend the Member for Pudsey (Stuart Andrew).

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles South) (Lab)
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Despite the Minister’s comments, the truth is that the Home Office failed to issue visas on time to five Ukrainian musicians from the Khmelnitsky orchestra, which was due to perform in the UK. That was despite promoting the concerts on a UK Government website as an example of British-Ukrainian relations. The difficulties have cost that orchestra tens of thousands of pounds. It is important to the war effort in Ukraine that such classical music ensembles can perform here, and this incident has done damage to the UK’s international cultural reputation. Can the Minister tell us what action she can take, working with the Home Office, to avoid such damaging incidents happening again with Ukrainian musicians. A number of orchestras are preparing to tour, and we do not want to leave them high and dry like the Khmelnitsky orchestra.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I do not think that anybody in this House should be in any doubt about the Government’s wide-ranging support for Ukraine and its people, across the cultural sphere, into defence, and through other huge forms of co-operation. Obviously, what happened with that orchestra is regrettable, but once the musicians had produced all the information that was required, their visas were fast-tracked and they were able to perform in the UK. If there are ongoing issues with the Home Office that we need to resolve, we shall engage carefully with our colleagues, but I think the hon. Lady’s characterisation of the situation is grossly unfair.

Barbara Keeley Portrait Barbara Keeley
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Besides making it hard for touring musicians to enter the UK, the funding cuts affecting classical music and opera are leading to Britain not being attractive to musicians for training or performing. Last Sunday, Sir Simon Rattle denounced the funding decisions of the BBC and Arts Council England, saying:

“When the two largest supporters of classical music in this country cut away at the flesh of our culture…it means that the direction of travel has become deeply alarming.”

All these problems, from visas to funding cuts, now pose a fundamental threat to the future role of our world-leading classical musicians. What future do Ministers see for classical music in this country?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank the hon. Lady for raising Sir Simon Rattle’s comments—obviously, he is a tremendously valued performer in this country. But again, she paints an absurdly bleak picture of classical music in this country. It is tremendously valued by this Government and by the people we represent. Obviously, there is an issue with the approach to the BBC Singers and BBC English orchestras, and we are very glad that the BBC has paused its decision on that matter. This Government have put forward a tax relief for the orchestras, which has been extended. Arts Council England is run by somebody who used to run Classic FM. It has given huge amounts of money to orchestras. We are now funding 23 orchestral organisations, up from 19 last year. We are putting forward a music education plan. We have a whole range of interventions to support classical music in this country, so I fundamentally disagree with the way the hon. Lady tries to characterise the Government’s tremendous support for orchestras.

Mary Kelly Foy Portrait Mary Kelly Foy (City of Durham) (Lab)
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7. What steps she is taking to support cultural and charitable organisations with increases in the cost of living.

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Andrew Lewer Portrait Andrew Lewer (Northampton South) (Con)
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T2. The Advertising Standards Authority, despite its misleading name, is a self-regulating body. Nevertheless, it has considerable powers within DCMS’s areas of responsibility. If those were used for social engineering rather than factual accuracy purposes, would that cause Ministers some concern?

Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
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I know how strongly my hon. Friend feels about freedom of speech and thought, and I have great admiration for the work that he does in this wider area. He is right that the ASA is a self-regulating body for the advertising industry, and he is also right that it is at its best when it focuses on its core purpose of making sure that consumers get legal, decent, honest and truthful adverts, rather than value judgments on social issues and pushing a certain world view.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I call the shadow Minister.

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Peter Aldous Portrait Peter Aldous  (Waveney)  (Con)
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T4.   Last Saturday, the National Piers Society launched its national touring exhibition of seaside pier posters at the Claremont pier in Lowestoft. There is a concern that the international promotion of tourism is too London-centric, and I would be grateful if the Minister could outline the work that is being done to promote the unique offer of coastal Britain to overseas visitors, as illustrated in those posters.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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My hon. Friend is very fortunate to represent one of our beautiful coastal communities, and he is right about the importance of promoting non-London destinations. There is a tremendous amount of fantastic things to visit out there beyond our capital. To give a couple of examples, we have a GREAT-funded campaign to see things differently, which includes the Pembrokeshire coast national park, Thorpe Bay beach and Brighton pier. Earlier this year, VisitBritain welcomed more than 120 international trade buyers in the travel industry for a series of educational visits across Britain that focused on coastal communities. I hope that they will take the wonderful things that they saw back to the buyers in their own countries.

Emma Lewell-Buck Portrait Mrs Emma Lewell-Buck (South Shields) (Lab)
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T3. First, I wish to thank you, Mr Speaker, for hosting last week’s reception celebrating the successful four decades of our Great North Run. Chuter Ede community centre in South Shields is facing closure, as are many other centres with sports facilities across the country. Does the Minister think it is the lack of Government help with their high energy bills, the Conservative cost of living crisis or the Conservative-led local authority cuts that are to blame?

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Alicia Kearns Portrait Alicia Kearns (Rutland and Melton) (Con)
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Will the Minister join me in congratulating the Rutland-to-Melton CiCLE Classic—the only international men’s single-day race cycling competition in the whole UK? It was best listened to on Rutland and Stamford Sound, Rutland’s only radio station, but we need three RSL licences to cover all our three towns. Will the Minister please meet me to discuss those urgent needs?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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Any day now I will be going on maternity leave, but I will be covered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Maldon (Sir John Whittingdale), who is an absolutely passionate supporter of the radio industry and who as a Back Bencher spoke to me about radio issues. I am sure that he will be happy to look into the licensing issue that my hon. Friend highlights.

Margaret Ferrier Portrait Margaret Ferrier (Rutherglen and Hamilton West) (Ind)
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The Rugby Football Union has announced groundbreaking policies on maternity, pregnant parent and adoption leave, which have been said to normalise motherhood in sport. Will the Minister encourage more sporting bodies to introduce similar inclusive policies?

Science, Innovation and Technology

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Thursday 27th April 2023

(12 months ago)

Ministerial Corrections
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Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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… May I take the Minister back to the subject of compliance costs? I understand that the projected simplification will result in a reduction in those costs, but does she acknowledge that a new regime, or changes to the current regime, will kick off an enormous retraining exercise for businesses, many of which have already been through that process recently and reached a settled state of understanding of how they should be managing data? Even a modest amount of tinkering instils a sense among British businesses, particularly small businesses, that they must put everyone back through the system, at enormous cost. Unless the Minister is very careful and very clear about the changes being made, she will create a whole new industry for the next two or three years, as every data controller in a small business—often doing this part time alongside their main job—has to be retrained.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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We have been very cognisant of that risk in developing our proposals. As I said in my opening remarks, we do not wish to upset the apple cart and create a compliance headache for businesses, which would be entirely contrary to the aims of the Bill. A small business that is currently compliant with the GDPR will continue to be compliant under the new regime. However, we want to give businesses flexibility in regard to how they deliver that compliance, so that, for instance, they do not have to employ a data protection officer.

[Official Report, 17 April 2023, Vol. 731, c. 70.]

Letter of correction from the Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure:

An error has been identified in the speech I gave on Second Reading of the Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill.

The correct statement should have been:

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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We have been very cognisant of that risk in developing our proposals. As I said in my opening remarks, we do not wish to upset the apple cart and create a compliance headache for businesses, which would be entirely contrary to the aims of the Bill. A small business that is currently compliant with the GDPR will continue to be compliant under the new regime, except for a small number of minor new requirements, such as having a process for handling data protection complaints. However, we want to give businesses flexibility in regard to how they deliver that compliance, so that, for instance, they do not have to employ a data protection officer.

Evaluation of the Culture Recovery Fund and Publication of Management Data

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Monday 24th April 2023

(12 months ago)

Written Statements
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Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
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I am repeating the following written ministerial statement made on 21 April 2023 in the other place by the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my noble Friend Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay:



Publication of the Culture Recovery Fund Evaluation and release of management data



The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has today published a report evaluating the impact and delivery of the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF). I will place a copy of the report in the Libraries of both Houses. The report can also be found online. DCMS has also today released aggregated management data from CRF applications and awards. I will place a copy of this release in the Libraries of both Houses. This information can also be found online. As Sir Damon Buffini, chairman of the Culture Recovery Board, says in his foreword to the evaluation, the Culture Recovery Fund has played a vital role in ensuring the long-term success of the sector, and this evaluation details how the fund has supported the sector.



The Culture Recovery Fund



The resilience, adaptability, and creativity of the cultural sectors undoubtedly helped get them through the pandemic. This was bolstered by the unwavering support provided by the Government through the Culture Recovery Fund. This was an unprecedented package of measures encompassing loans, grants, and support for capital works to provide full-spectrum support for organisations in these sectors, and one which we hope will never again be needed.



This evaluation report provides clear evidence that the CRF worked—supporting around 5,000 organisations and protecting thousands of jobs.



The report concludes that CRF met its overall objectives, was efficiently implemented and demonstrated value for money. It strengthened the financial health of organisations awarded funding, improved their resilience, and raised their future survival prospects to a degree that could not have been achieved by just relying on the broader package of Government support.



Looking forward



DCMS and its Ministers regularly meet organisations and individuals in the cultural sectors, and appreciate how important it is not just that they survived the pandemic, but that they are able to meet the challenges of the future. The evidence detailed in this report demonstrates that the CRF has made its recipients better able to face those challenges head on. As set out in recent Budget, and backed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the creative industries are one of this Government’s five strategically important high growth sectors, and I am pleased that the Culture Recovery Fund has played such an important part in setting up the sector for its next chapter, as well as ensuring that it is still there to enrich our lives in so many other ways for decades to come.

[HCWS733]

Digital Infrastructure

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Tuesday 18th April 2023

(1 year ago)

Written Statements
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Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure (Julia Lopez)
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The Prime Minister has set out his five priorities for this Government: halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists and stopping the boats. These can only be delivered with world-class digital infrastructure that will support growth and help transform delivery of public services. We are currently connecting the UK at breakneck speed. From rural villages to major cities, no area will be left behind. This underpins my Department’s mission to put the UK at the forefront of global scientific and technological advancement, with future telecoms one of the five critical technologies in our new science and technology framework.

In the last five years, impressive progress has been made in the deployment of the very best fixed and wireless networks across the whole of the UK. This includes:

Project Gigabit, through which we are investing £5 billion in gigabit broadband networks, with an ambition to get gigabit broadband to at least 85% of premises by 2025, and over 99% by 2030;

Our £1 billion Shared Rural Network programme, through which we are supporting rural communities, will ensure that 95% of the UK’s landmass has 4G coverage by 2025. This currently stands at 92%;

Substantial progress with 5G. Last year, we met our ambition five years ahead of schedule for the majority of the population to have access to a 5G signal by 2027 through the deployment of basic, non-standalone 5G using existing 4G networks to deliver increased network capacity; and

The steps we have taken to strengthen the security of our networks and diversify supply chains through the Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021 and the 5G supply chain diversification strategy.

This connectivity has already brought benefits for UK households and businesses, boosting growth, productivity and opportunity for all. We are on the brink of a new technological revolution. We need to make sure that everyone in the country, no matter where they live, gets the chance to benefit from all the opportunities of the modern world.

We have now set out a new package of measures to drive the deployment and adoption of digital networks and to invest in the next generation of connectivity.

Wireless Infrastructure Strategy

The wireless infrastructure strategy reaffirms our commitment to extending 4G coverage to 95% of the population, and sets out the improvements we want to see in the accuracy of Ofcom’s coverage reporting, so that any gaps in coverage are identified. We also set a new goal to blanket the country with the fastest and most reliable wireless coverage available—with an ambition for all populated areas to be covered by “standalone” 5G by 2030. Standalone 5G will offer significantly superior performance to current 5G networks, which are built on a 4G core, with up to 10 times faster reaction speeds—latency—and three times faster download speeds.

To support this, we are taking steps to create an environment to encourage commercial investment in advanced wireless networks by mobile network operators and other providers of wireless connectivity by reducing deployment costs, increasing revenues, and ensuring that regulation is not a barrier to innovation.

At the local level, we are taking steps to support local areas to attract commercial investment in 5G networks and encourage the adoption of 5G-enabled technology—everything from agri-tech that improves yields for farmers to next-generation healthcare equipment. This includes a new £40 million fund to drive take-up of innovative 5G-enabled services for businesses and the public sector, and an ambition that our new hospitals should be 5G or equivalent wireless-enabled.

This will unlock new technologies that will change our lives and the way businesses operate, at a time when the connectivity we depend on is significantly evolving and is woven further into the lives of us all—from driverless vehicles, drones and robots on the factory floor, to making our cities smarter, cleaner and less congested.

Our 6G strategy details how we will work to shape this next generation of telecoms to ensure that it helps to address some of the biggest challenges of our time, and delivers for people and businesses right across the UK.

Future telecoms

However, this is not a Government that are purely focused on the here and now. We are taking direct action that will improve the lives of the next generation of Britons, ensuring that we are not just following other nations, but leading the way in the telecoms technologies that will shape the lives of our children and grandchildren.

That is why we have also set a new long-term national mission to ensure that the UK is at the leading edge of future telecoms research and development, with up to £100 million of funding initially committed to shape and drive future telecoms research and influence global 6G standards setting.

The UK will work closely with allies to deliver this mission, ensuring that we are influential in shaping the global landscape, embedding our values into future telecoms technology and protecting our security interests.

Spectrum statement

As spectrum has become more critical to UK strategic priorities, from communications and broadcasting to space and defence, my Department has also published a spectrum statement to ensure that we have the right policy framework in place to maximise the overall value of spectrum to the UK while supporting wider policy objectives.

This sets out a new strategic vision and principles for spectrum policy, with a focus on innovation in the use and management of spectrum to create greater opportunities for growth and societal benefits through increased access to spectrum.

It also outlines the arrangements in place to support effective cross-Government working and engagement with Ofcom on spectrum matters, including international representation and our work towards a new framework for public sector spectrum use.

Support for the most remote premises

The Government are committed to delivering gigabit-capable connectivity to 85% of the UK by 2025, and nationwide by 2030. However, for a small number of premises this is unlikely to be possible due to their remote nature, often in areas where the geography makes delivery challenging.

However, this Government are committed to ensuring that everyone, regardless of where they live, is part of the journey toward a fully connected UK. There is a huge amount of potential and talent in rural areas that can be unlocked by connecting communities to telecoms and broadband services.

In order to help facilitate this, my Department has announced an £8 million fund to provide an initial wave of capital grants for new low earth orbit satellite connectivity to the most remote 35,000 premises where we know that suppliers will be unable to provide either gigabit-capable or terrestrial fixed wireless connectivity.

Further details on the value of the grants, on which premises will be able to apply for the scheme and on how they can apply will be released in due course. For those very hard-to-reach premises where we believe that fixed wireless access connectivity will be possible, we will bring forward additional policy measures later this year on how we expect to see these premises benefiting from fixed wireless access networks.

Street works

On the path to achieving these stretching targets, we continue to explore ways to make commercial roll-out easier. That is why we are working with local authorities and the telecoms industry to further trial the use of flexible street works permits in a number of counties. If successful, flexi-permits could help the roll-out of broadband, especially in rural areas.

Alongside these trials, we have launched the pioneering national underground asset register, which will help improve planning and safety of street works—reducing cost, time and disruption.

Overall, this represents £150 million in new funding for telecoms innovation and research and development and to support our most remote communities to access high-speed broadband. These measures will underpin the delivery of key Government objectives, including the delivery of the digital strategy, supporting our levelling-up ambitions, and ensuring that the UK is at the forefront of science, technology and innovation. They will also enable the UK to remain one of the best places in the world to live and do business.

I will deposit copies of the wireless infrastructure strategy and the spectrum statement in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS720]

Points of Order

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Monday 17th April 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for his point of order. I fully appreciate why he wants to raise the matter, which is so crucial to his constituency, but I have to say that although it is always considered good practice and good manners for Government Departments to inform local Members of Parliament about major initiatives that affect their constituents, there is no parliamentary rule that requires Ministers to inform the local Member of Parliament before such an announcement is made.

The hon. Gentleman asks how he might pursue the matter. He has a range of available remedies; I am quite sure that the Table Office will be able to advise him on how he might bring the matter forward. I am sure that he will also be asking for a meeting with the Minister, and I hope that his points will be passed to the appropriate Minister by a Member on the Treasury Bench.

Eleanor Laing Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker
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I got a nod there. Thank you very much.

Data Protection and Digital Information (No. 2) Bill

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister for Data and Digital Infrastructure (Julia Lopez)
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I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Data is already the fuel driving the digital age: it powers the everyday apps that we use, public services are being improved by its better use and businesses rely on it to trade, produce goods and deliver services for their customers. But how we choose to use data going forward will become even more important: it will determine whether we can grow an innovative economy with well-paid, high-skill jobs, it will shape our ability to compete globally in developing the technologies of the future and it will increasingly say something about the nature of our democratic society. The great challenge for democracies, as I see it, will be how to use data to empower rather than control citizens, enhancing their privacy and sense of agency without letting authoritarian states—which, in contrast, use data as a tool to monitor and harvest information from citizens—dominate technological advancement and get a competitive advantage over our companies.

The UK cannot step aside from the debate by simply rubber-stamping whatever iteration of the GDPR comes out of Brussels. We have in our hands a critical opportunity to take a new path and, in doing so, to lead the global conversation about how we can best use data as a force for good—a conversation in which using data more effectively and maintaining high data protection standards are seen not as contradictory but as mutually reinforcing objectives, because trust in this more effective system will build the confidence to share information. We start today not by kicking off a revolution, turning over the apple cart and causing a compliance headache for UK firms, but by beginning an evolution away from an inflexible one-size-fits-all regime and towards one that is risk-based and focused on innovation, flexibility and the needs of our citizens, scientists, public services and companies.

Businesses need data to make better decisions and to reach the right consumers. Researchers need data to discover new treatments. Hospitals need it to deliver more personalised patient care. Our police and security services need data to keep our people safe. Right now, our rules are too vague, too complex and too confusing always to understand. The GDPR is a good standard, but it is not the gold standard. People are struggling to utilise data to innovate, because they are tied up in burdensome activities that are not fundamentally useful in enhancing privacy.

A recently published report on compliance found that 81% of European publishers were unknowingly in breach of the GDPR, despite doing what they thought the law required of them. A YouGov poll from this year found that one in five marketing professionals in the UK report knowing absolutely nothing about the GDPR, despite being bound by it. It is not just businesses: the people whose privacy our laws are supposed to protect do not understand it either. Instead, they click away the thicket of cookie pop-ups just so they can see their screen.

The Bill will maintain the high standards of data protection that British people rightly expect, but it will also help the people who are most affected by data regulation, because we have co-designed it with those people to ensure that our regulation reflects the way in which real people live their lives and run their businesses.

Christine Jardine Portrait Christine Jardine (Edinburgh West) (LD)
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Does the Minister agree that the retention and enhancement of public trust in data is a major issue, that sharing data is a major issue for the public, and that the Government must do more—perhaps she can tell us whether they intend to do more—to educate the public about how and where our data is used, and what powers individuals have to find out this information?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank the hon. Lady for her helpful intervention. She is right: as I said earlier, trust in the system is fundamental to whether citizens have the confidence to share their data and whether we can therefore make use of that data. She made a good point about educating people, and I hope that this debate will mark the start of an important public conversation about how people use data. One of the challenges we face is a complex framework which means that people do not even know how to talk about data, and I think that some of the simplifications we wish to introduce will help us to understand one of the fundamental principles to which we want our new regime to adhere.

Julian Lewis Portrait Sir Julian Lewis (New Forest East) (Con)
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My hon. Friend gave a long list of people who found the rules we had inherited from outside the UK challenging. She might add to that list Members of Parliament themselves. I am sure I am not alone in having been exasperated by being complained about to the Information Commissioner, in this case by a constituent who had written to me complaining about a local parish council. When I shared his letter with the parish council so that it could show how bogus his long-running complaint had been, he proceeded to file a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office because I had shared his phone number—which he had not marked as private—with the parish council, with which he had been in correspondence for several years. The Information Commissioner’s Office took that seriously. This sort of nonsense shows how over-restrictive regulations can be abused by people who are out to stir up trouble unjustifiably.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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Let me gently say that if my right hon. Friend’s constituent was going to pick on one Member of Parliament with whom to raise this point, the Member of Parliament who does not, I understand, use emails would be one of the worst candidates. However, I entirely understand Members’ frustration about the current rules. We are looking into what we can do in relation to democratic engagement, because, as my right hon. Friend says, this is one of the areas in which there is not enough clarity about what can and cannot be done.

We want to reduce burdens on businesses, and above all for the small businesses that account for more than 99% of UK firms. I am pleased that the Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade, my hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Kevin Hollinrake), is present to back up those proposals. Businesses that do not have the time, the money or the staff to spend precious hours doing unnecessary form-filling are currently being forced to follow some of the same rules as a billion-dollar technology company. We are therefore cutting the amount of pointless paperwork, ensuring that organisations only have to comply with rules on record-keeping and risk assessment when their processing activities are high-risk. We are getting rid of excessively demanding requirements to appoint data protection officers, giving small businesses much more flexibility when it comes to how they manage data protection risks without procuring external resources.

Those changes will not just make the process simpler, clearer and easier for businesses, they will make it cheaper too. We are expecting micro and small businesses to save nearly £90 million in compliance costs every year: that is £90 million more for higher investment, faster growth and better jobs. According to figures published in 2021, data-driven trade already generates 85% of our services exports. Our new international transfers regime clarifies how we can build data bridges to support the close, free and safe exchange of data with other trusted allies.

John Penrose Portrait John Penrose (Weston-super-Mare) (Con)
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I am delighted to hear the Secretary of State talk about reducing regulatory burdens without compromising the standards that we are none the less delivering—that is the central distinction, and greatly to be welcomed for its benefits for the entrepreneurialism and fleetness of foot of British industry. Does she agree, however, that while the part of the Bill that deals with open data, or smart data, goes further than that and creates fresh opportunities for, in particular, the small challenger businesses of the kind she has described to take on the big incumbents that own the data lakes in many sectors, those possibilities will be greatly reduced if we take our time and move too slowly? Could it not potentially take 18 months to two years for us to start opening up those other sectors of our economy?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I am delighted, in turn, to hear my hon. Friend call me the Secretary of State—I am grateful for the promotion, even if it is not a reality. I know how passionate he feels about open data, which is a subject we have discussed before. As I said earlier, I am pleased that the Under-Secretary of State for Business and Trade is present, because this morning he announced that a new council will be driving forward this work. As my hon. Friend knows, this is not necessarily about legislation being in place—I think the Bill gives him what he wants—but about that sense of momentum, and about onboarding new sectors into this regime and not being slow in doing so. As he says, a great deal of economic benefit can be gained from this, and we do not want it to be delayed any further.

Kit Malthouse Portrait Kit Malthouse (North West Hampshire) (Con)
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Let me first draw attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. Let me also apologise for missing the Minister’s opening remarks—I was taken by surprise by the shortness of the preceding statement and had to rush to the Chamber.

May I take the Minister back to the subject of compliance costs? I understand that the projected simplification will result in a reduction in those costs, but does she acknowledge that a new regime, or changes to the current regime, will kick off an enormous retraining exercise for businesses, many of which have already been through that process recently and reached a settled state of understanding of how they should be managing data? Even a modest amount of tinkering instils a sense among British businesses, particularly small businesses, that they must put everyone back through the system, at enormous cost. Unless the Minister is very careful and very clear about the changes being made, she will create a whole new industry for the next two or three years, as every data controller in a small business—often doing this part time alongside their main job—has to be retrained.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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We have been very cognisant of that risk in developing our proposals. As I said in my opening remarks, we do not wish to upset the apple cart and create a compliance headache for businesses, which would be entirely contrary to the aims of the Bill. A small business that is currently compliant with the GDPR will continue to be compliant under the new regime. However, we want to give businesses flexibility in regard to how they deliver that compliance, so that, for instance, they do not have to employ a data protection officer.

Ben Lake Portrait Ben Lake (Ceredigion) (PC)
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I am grateful to the Minister for being so generous with her time. May I ask whether the Government intend to maintain data adequacy with the EU? I only ask because I have been contacted by some business owners who are concerned about the possible loss of EU data adequacy and the cost that might be levied on them as a result.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank the hon. Gentleman for pressing me on that important point. I know that many businesses are seeking to maintain adequacy. If we want a business-friendly regime, we do not want to create regulatory disruption for businesses, particularly those that trade with Europe and want to ensure that there is a free flow of data. I can reassure him that we have been in constant contact with the European Commission about our proposals. We want to make sure that there are no surprises. We are currently adequate, and we believe that we will maintain adequacy following the enactment of the Bill.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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I was concerned to hear from the British Medical Association that if the EU were to conclude that data protection legislation in the UK was inadequate, that would present a significant problem for organisations conducting medical research in the UK. Given that so many amazing medical researchers across the UK currently work in collaboration with EU counterparts, can the Minister assure the House that the Bill will not represent an inadequacy in comparison with EU legislation as it stands?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I hope that my previous reply reassured the hon. Lady that we intend to maintain adequacy, and we do not consider that the Bill will present a risk in that regard. What we are trying to do, particularly in respect of medical research, is make it easier for scientists to innovate and conduct that research without constantly having to return for consent when it is apparent that consent has already been granted for particular medical data processing activities. We think that will help us to maintain our world-leading position as a scientific research powerhouse.

Alongside new data bridges, the Secretary of State will be able to recognise new transfer mechanisms for businesses to protect international transfers. Businesses will still be able to transfer data across borders with the compliance mechanisms that they already use, avoiding needless checks and costs. We are also delighted to be co-hosting, in partnership with the United States, the next workshop of the global cross-border privacy rules forum in London this week. The CBPR system is one of the few existing operational mechanisms that, by design, aims to facilitate data flows on a global scale.

World-class research requires world-class data, but right now many scientists are reluctant to get the data they need to get on with their research, for the simple reason that they do not know how research is defined. They can also be stopped in their tracks if they try to broaden their research or follow a new and potentially interesting avenue. When that happens, they can be required to go back and seek permission all over again, even though they have already gained that permission earlier to use personal data. We do not think that makes sense. The pandemic showed that we cannot risk delaying discoveries that could save lives. Nothing should be holding us back from curing cancer, tackling disease or producing new drugs and treatments. This Bill will simplify the legal requirements around research so that scientists can work to their strengths with legal clarity on what they can and cannot do.

The Bill will also ensure that people benefit from the results of research by unlocking the potential of transformative technologies. Taking artificial intelligence as an example, we have recently published our White Paper: “AI regulation: a pro-innovation approach”. In the meantime, the Bill will ensure that organisations know when they can use responsible automated decision making and that people know when they can request human intervention where those decisions impact their lives, whether that means getting a fair price for the insurance they receive after an accident or a fair chance of getting the job they have always wanted.

I spoke earlier about the currency of trust and how, by maintaining it through high data protection standards, we are likely to see more data sharing, not less. Fundamental to that trust will be confidence in the robustness of the regulator. We already have a world-leading independent regulator in the Information Commissioner’s Office, but the ICO needs to adapt to reflect the greater role that data now plays in our lives alongside its strategic importance to our economic competitiveness. The ICO was set up in the 1980s for a completely different world, and the pace, volume and power of the data we use today has changed dramatically since then.

It is only right that we give the regulator the tools it needs to keep pace and to keep our personal data safe while ensuring that, as an organisation, it remains accountable, flexible and fit for the modern world. The Bill will modernise the structure and objectives of the ICO. Under this legislation, protecting our personal data will remain the ICO’s primary focus, but it will also be asked to focus on how it can empower businesses and organisations to drive growth and innovation across the UK, and support public trust and confidence in the use of personal data.

The Bill is also important for consumers, helping them to share less data while getting more product. It will support smart data schemes that empower consumers and small businesses to make better use of their own data, building on the extraordinary success of open banking tools offered by innovative businesses, which help consumers and businesses to manage their finances and spending, track their carbon footprint and access credit.

Jim Shannon Portrait Jim Shannon (Strangford) (DUP)
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The Minister always delivers a very solid message and we all appreciate that. In relation to the high data protection standards that she is outlining, there is also a balance to be achieved when it comes to ensuring that there are no unnecessary barriers for individuals and businesses. Can she assure the House that that will be exactly what happens?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I am always happy to take an intervention from the hon. Member. I want to assure him that we are building high data protection standards that are built on the fundamental principles of the GDPR, and we are trying to get the right balance between high data protection standards that will protect the consumer and giving businesses the flexibility they need. I will continue this conversation with him as the Bill passes through the House.

Mike Amesbury Portrait Mike Amesbury (Weaver Vale) (Lab)
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I thank the Minster for being so generous with her time. With regard to the independent commissioner, the regulator, who will set the terms of reference? Will it be genuinely independent? It seems to me that a lot of power will fall on the shoulders of the Secretary of State, whoever that might be in the not-too-distant future.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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The Secretary of State will have greater powers when it comes to some of the statutory codes that the ICO adheres to, but those powers will be brought to this House for its consent. The whole idea is to make the ICO much more democratically accountable. I know that concern about the independence of the regulator has been raised as we have been working up these proposals, but I wish to assure the House that we do not believe those concerns to be justified or legitimate. The Bill actually has the strong support of the current Information Commissioner, John Edwards.

The Bill will also put in place the foundations for data intermediaries, which are organisations that can help us to benefit from our data. In effect, we will be able to share less sensitive data about ourselves with businesses while securing greater benefits. As I say, one of the examples of this is open banking. Another way in which the Bill will help people to take back control of their data is by making it easier and more secure for people to prove things about themselves once, electronically, without having to dig out stacks of physical documents such as passports, bills, statements and birth certificates and then having to provide lots of copies of those documents to different organisations. Digital verification services already exist, but we want consumers to be able to identify trustworthy providers by creating a set of standards around them.

The Bill is designed not just to boost businesses, support scientists and deliver consumer benefits; it also contains measures to keep people healthy and safe. It will improve the way in which the NHS and adult social care organise data to deliver crucial health services. It will let the police get on with their jobs by allowing them to spend more time on the beat rather than on pointless paperwork. We believe that this will save up to 1.5 million hours of police time each year—

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I know that my hon. Friend has been passionate on this point, and we are looking actively into her proposals.

We are also updating the outdated system of registering births and deaths based on paper processes from the 19th century.

Data has become absolutely critical for keeping us healthy, for keeping us safe and for growing an economy with innovative businesses, providing jobs for generations to come. Britain is at its best when its businesses and scientists are at theirs. Right now, our rules risk holding them back, but this Bill will change that because it was co-designed with those businesses and scientists and with the help of consumer groups. Simpler, easier, clearer regulation gives the people using data to improve our lives the certainty they need to get on with their jobs. It maintains high standards for protecting people’s privacy while seeking to maintain our adequacy with the EU. Overall, this legislation will make data more useful for more people and more usable by businesses, and it will enable greater innovation by scientists. I commend the Bill to the House.

Consultation on a Registration Scheme for Short-term Lets in England

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Monday 17th April 2023

(1 year ago)

Written Statements
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Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
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The Government have published a consultation on a registration scheme for short-term lets in England, accompanied by the findings of a call for evidence held in 2022 on the development of a registration scheme.

The short-term let sector has grown significantly over the last 10 to 15 years, with the emergence of the sharing economy and the growth of digital platforms at the heart of this change. Short-term lets are now a significant part of the UK’s visitor economy. They provide increased choice and flexibility for tourists and business travellers, and also those attending major sporting and cultural events.

The Government recognise that this has brought a range of benefits, such as increased choice for consumers, and increased income for individual homeowners and to local economies through increased visitor spend.

The Government want to ensure the country reaps these benefits and supports the visitor economy, while also protecting local communities and ensuring the availability of affordable housing to rent or buy.

The Government have heard the concerns of local people in tourist hotspots that they are priced out of homes to rent or to buy and need housing that is more affordable so they can continue to work and live in the place they call home. The proposed planning changes would support sustainable communities, supporting local people and businesses and local services.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committed to consult on a registration scheme for tourist accommodation in “The Tourism Recovery Plan”, published in June 2021. However, given the lack of available data on short-term lets in England, it was decided to first carry out a call for evidence to gather more information on the growth of the market and its impact, in order to inform the development of options for a public consultation.

The call for evidence received almost 4,000 responses. Analysis of these responses showed that there is a need for a more consistent source of data on the number and location of short-term lets in England; and that while short-term lets create many benefits for a range of people and stakeholders, they also pose challenges for communities, particularly those located in tourism hotspots. The findings also indicated that there is broad support from across the sector for a registration scheme of short-term lets in England.

Therefore, in December 2022, the Government committed to introduce a registration scheme in England via an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill which is currently going through Parliament. This included holding a public consultation which would explore the options for how such a scheme would operate, which we have now published. Alongside the registration scheme, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has also published a separate consultation on the introduction of a planning use class for short-term lets and potential associated permitted development rights. We are also seeking views on whether it would be helpful to expressly provide a degree of flexibility for dwelling houses to be let out for 30, 60, or 90 nights in a calendar year before planning permission could be required. These changes will give local areas greater control where short-term lets are an issue and support sustainable communities. We have worked across government to ensure that the proposals are complementary and proportionate.

The Government are consulting on three possible approaches for a registration scheme, as well as a range of more detailed questions on the design of the scheme:

An opt-in scheme for local authorities, with the framework set nationally: this option is a targeted approach, recognising that any negative housing and community effects of short-term lets are felt more in some localities than others;

an opt-in scheme for local authorities with the framework set nationally, and a review point to determine whether to expand the scheme to mandatory: as above, but with the flexibility to expand the scheme to cover all of England if there is a case to do so following an evaluation; and

a mandatory national scheme, administered by one of: the English Tourist Board (VisitEngland), local authorities, or another competent authority: this option recognises the need for a level playing field in the guest accommodation sector across England.

The registration scheme is intended to improve consistency in the application of health and safety regulations, helping to boost our international reputation and attract more international visitors by giving visible assurance that we have a high-quality and safe guest accommodation offer. It will also provide valuable data which will give local authorities information about which premises are being let out in their area, and help them to manage the housing market impact of high numbers of short-term lets, where this is an issue. This could help local authorities to apply and enforce the changes.

Subject to the outcome of the consultation, the planning changes would be introduced through secondary legislation later in the year and would apply in England only. Both of these measures are focused on short-term lets, and therefore the planning changes and the register would not impact on hotels, hostels or B&Bs.

The Government’s ambition has been, and will continue to be, to ensure that we reap the benefits of short-term and holiday lets sustainably, while also protecting the long-term interests of local communities and holidaymakers in England. The publication of the consultation on a registration scheme and the analysis of the call for evidence shows our commitment to this ambition, and our progress towards developing an effective and proportionate response to the sector’s concerns.

I will place a copy of the call for evidence report and the consultation document in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS719]

Classical Music: Funding and Support

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Wednesday 29th March 2023

(1 year ago)

Commons Chamber
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Valerie Vaz Portrait Valerie Vaz (Walsall South) (Lab)
- Parliament Live - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) for securing this debate and for allowing me to speak. I knew that the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) would be here, and I wish him a belated happy birthday for last Saturday. I, too, want to acknowledge the role that my hon. Friend the Member for Worsley and Eccles South (Barbara Keeley) has played in securing widespread support for the BBC Singers. The fight is not over; she will continue, and we will support her.

I add my voice to everything that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate, has said, although, hon. Members will be pleased to hear, not in song—I will stick to words. This is an extremely important topic. I start with classical music’s large body of work. I was taught the piano by my mother Merlyn when I was quite young. My first piece was Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier”, prelude No. 1. I still empty the room when I practise it. My daughter Liberty plays the violin and piano. She did an extended project for her A-level, entitled “Does exposure to music make you more intelligent?” She came down saying yes, it does, but if we have active participation.

I appreciate that the Minister is going to give birth fairly soon. She does not need to buy “Baby Mozart”, but I encourage her to listen to relax. It is important for children to hear music in the womb it, and later on. The brain waves change when people listen to music. The same can be said of classical Indian music—Ravi Shankar with the sitar, which takes years to learn how to play, has exactly the same effect.

We know how important music is for children. When I first came here in 2010, I asked the then Education Secretary to make sure that there is a piano in every school, because I grew up surrounded by music. José Abreu suggested that children can benefit from it and formed El Sistema, which has transformed children’s lives in Venezuela. It has now been rolled out throughout the world.

We are lucky to have very good radio here. Classic FM is a must to listen to, and public broadcasting is important, as my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, Southgate, mentioned, as did the hon. Member for Woking (Mr Lord) in his intervention. We have BBC Radio 3—I do not know whether other hon. Members listen to “Building a Library”, but it is a fantastic programme. The Proms is the biggest music festival in the world—way before Glastonbury. It is so important that international artists come here from around the world. What our public broadcasters do is so important.

I stumbled upon a documentary about the amazing genius that is Daniel Barenboim on BBC Four last week. The BBC had captured him at 25, conducting a masterclass. It was amazing. Even if someone did not know anything about music, they could see how he explained to the two pianists how they could change and make their music sound better. Added to that, he formed the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra with Edward Said. That is how amazing he is. They brought together young people from Israel, Palestine, Egypt and all across the middle east to play together. Daniel Barenboim said that when they play music, they are all equal—they are just playing Beethoven. It is so important that that continues. I missed the Prom where Martha Argerich and Daniel Barenboim played the piano together, but it was captured at the end of the documentary. I suggest that everyone tries to listen to it.

Music is inspirational. We can see our achievement as human beings, because a few notes can show what creative people we are. It can start with classical music and move to other forms of music such as jazz and modern music. It forms the basis of every aspect of our life. We need to protect that, because music moves us—it moves our emotions and it speaks to our soul. I hope that the Minister will protect it.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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Order. I call Jonathan Lord to make a brief contribution.

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Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
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Madam Deputy Speaker, I apologise for anticipating my cue when one was not given.

I thank the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Bambos Charalambous) for securing this debate on what is obviously a popular topic, and for highlighting some of the fantastic work that orchestras, choirs and opera companies are doing to bring classical music to people across the country. I too have been contacted by constituents about this issue. The hon. Gentleman is right to touch on the quality of our musicians as a selling point of our very successful film and television industry. The creative industries form part of my portfolio, and he is right to point out the contribution of film scores.

The hon. Gentleman covered a lot of ground, so I will try to cover the topics he included in his speech. As he said, classical music in Britain continues to be a source of national pride and inspires not just the people of our country but the entire world. As other hon. Members have pointed out, it feeds our souls. He rightly talked about the classical ecosystem. From the smaller but rapidly developing new orchestras, such as the Multi-Story Orchestra, to the long-established giants such as the London Symphony Orchestra or the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the orchestras of this country have a rich history of excellence and innovation. That has a profound impact on the world of classical music.

The classical music sector creates jobs, supports local businesses and generates revenue for the local and national economy. It attracts tourists from across the world who come to see performances by renowned orchestras and musicians. More importantly than any of that, classical music, whether performed by orchestras, choirs, quartets or soloists, whether professional or amateur, has the ability to fascinate, inspire and enthral us. That is why it is an art form that this Government support consistently, gladly and proudly.

I welcome the birthing tips from the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz). Classic FM got a lot of us through lockdown; I shall be thinking of it and perhaps playing it when the moment comes, hopefully not too imminently. We published the draft Media Bill today, which includes provisions on radio that a number of hon. Members are calling for. I hope the Bill will support the growth and future of our radio sector, including Classic FM, and that it will continue to be a means through which people can access classical music.

I want to address up front some concerns that have been raised about recent announcements by the BBC in relation to its symphony, concert and philharmonic orchestras. As hon. Members have noted, the BBC is an operationally and editorially independent organisation, and the Government have no role in its strategy for classical music, so any decisions on the matter are for it to take independently. However, of course I recognise how valuable the BBC orchestras and singers are to many individuals and communities across the UK. Having encouraged in this House a response—

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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Joy Morrissey.)
Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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The choreography of tonight’s debate is intriguing, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is new to me, so I apologise if I am not playing my part very successfully.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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It is always a surprise when the motion lapses at 7 o’clock. I assure the Minister that many Ministers are caught out slightly.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- Hansard - -

I appreciate that reassurance, Madam Deputy Speaker. It is all good exercise for me as I try to maintain my mobility over the coming weeks.

I was about to say that I encouraged, on the Floor of the House, staff members to engage vigorously in the consultation that the BBC was running on the recent announcement. I was very glad that the BBC said last week that it will now undertake further work, in discussion with the Musicians’ Union, on the future of the BBC Singers. I also welcome the update that the BBC is engaging with the Musicians’ Union and other unions on its proposals on its English orchestras.

We agree, however, that the BBC should focus on prioritising value for licence fee payers. We welcome the intent to pursue greater distinctiveness while increasing the regional and educational impact of the BBC’s performing groups. As my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr Lord) pointed out in relation to the licence fee, the BBC is required to deliver the remit set out in its charter, which includes a mission to serve

“all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”.

We think that the BBC should be prioritising using its £3.8 billion annual licence fee income to deliver that remit, which includes culturally distinctive content.

The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate laments the £3.8 billion that the BBC gets. We think that it is a substantial sum. Given the cost of living challenges that our constituents face, we did not feel it right to increase the licence fee by more. There is also a balance to be struck in maintaining consent for the licence fee. We think there was a risk that if the licence fee had been increased substantially, it would have reduced the public support for the organisation.

I highlight again the fact that today we published the draft Media Bill, which is about underpinning our public service broadcasters in an increasingly competitive media environment. We hope that in doing so we will in turn underpin the future of British creativity. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept and welcome those proposals, which are substantial.

Beyond the recent discussion of the BBC’s strategy for classical music, I want to recognise the wider support that the Government give to the arts. As has been highlighted, it is primarily delivered by an arm’s length body, Arts Council England. The policy area is within the remit of the arts and heritage Minister, Lord Parkinson, on whose behalf I speak today; I know that he has engaged extensively with hon. Members’ concerns, and I shall raise with him the suggestions from my hon. Friend the Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) about the potential Arts Council review and about transparency.

To read some of the public narrative around the Arts Council, one would think that funding or support for classical music had ceased altogether, so I would like to put some context around some of the concerns that have been raised. In November last year, ACE announced the outcome of its major investment programme, which is known as the national portfolio. It is the largest national portfolio so far: 990 organisations are receiving funding, compared with 814 between 2018 and 2022, and 663 between 2015 and 2018.

Overall, the investment programme is good news for orchestras and for classical music. Investment remains high in classical music and particularly in orchestral music organisations: 23 orchestral music organisations are being funded—an increase from 19 in the last round—at approximately £21 million per annum, which is £2 million more than in the previous year.

Those statistics do not include some of the largest and best-funded organisations, including the Southbank Centre, which are not specifically focused on classical music but which play an important role in its success. Organisations including the Multi-Story Orchestra, Orchestras for All, Paraorchestra, the People’s Orchestra and Pegasus Opera are joining the national portfolio for the first time. We think that that will help to bring down barriers to classical music and celebrate the power that it can have in people’s lives, which several hon. Members have referred to this evening. We think that the new portfolio has particular strengths in supporting young people in classical music. It has new funding for Awards for Young Musicians and the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain. There is also an increase in funding for the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and the National Youth Orchestra.

The Arts Council has been thinking about how to build a fairer, more diverse classical music sector, and has commissioned a study entitled “Creating a More Inclusive Classical Music” to help it to understand the workforce, examine talent pathways, and think about how we might improve inclusion. A great deal of work has been done, not least through the broadening of the national portfolio, but the Arts Council will produce an update on its plans in the coming months. Its support for classical music goes well beyond orchestras. Some recent Arts Council support through lottery money includes backing for the Schubert 200 project, which will see Die Schöne Müllerin, Winterreise and Schwanengesang—I apologise for my pronunciation; I am relying on GCSE German—performed in new arrangements using period instruments and animated with puppetry, and £50,000 for one of our leading professional chamber choirs, The Sixteen, to support its summer pilgrimage.

Concern has been expressed across the sector about the work of English National Opera and the outcome of the new portfolio. The Arts Council and ENO are working closely to reach an agreement on ENO’s future funding and business model. As I mentioned earlier, Lord Parkinson has met representatives of ENO and Members of Parliament to discuss this issue, the context being that the Arts Council made all its decisions independently of Government.

Mike Kane Portrait Mike Kane (Wythenshawe and Sale East) (Lab)
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Let me say as a Mancunian that English National Opera would be more than welcome in Manchester, either to reside or to visit, but as a former director of the Hallé, I want to assure the people of this country that the classical ecosystem in our great city is well served. Will the Minister join me in welcoming Debbie Francis, OBE, as the new chair of the Hallé Concerts Society? She is the first woman to do that job in its 165-year history.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I do indeed welcome Debbie Francis to her position, and congratulate her on her success as the first female in the role.

Questions have been raised about the overall strategic direction from the Secretary of State. The view was taken that London has a huge number of incredibly important cultural organisations, but that the value to be obtained from them should be spread more fairly across the country. As a London Member, I am always anxious to ensure that levelling up does not necessarily mean removing a resource from London, which is a city of 8 million people consisting of a huge range of communities with different needs and different levels of wealth. I do not believe that this should be a zero-sum game. However, a range of organisations in the rest of the country do not have such a strong voice in this place, and I think it important that communities throughout the country are benefiting from this funding, some of them for the first time. We should accept that that will make a huge and enriching contribution to people’s lives.

Robert Neill Portrait Sir Robert Neill
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Let me add my congratulations to the Minister on what will happen in the coming weeks. I hope she will accept that there is a particular issue in relation to London, which professionals will clarify for anyone who talks to them. Most choristers in opera companies or orchestral players, for instance, will not rely entirely on their work for the opera company or orchestra concerned for their income; they top it up because they are able to do outside freelance work, such as session work, and also teaching work, sometimes at the colleges in London. There is an ecosystem that supports them and enables them to do their mainstream classical work, which is not the best paid. If they are taken out of the area where that ecosystem is, and where those alternative or additional employment opportunities are, it becomes much harder for them to survive. That is why plucking them out of London, or Manchester for that matter, does not work in practice in the way in which it may seem to work in theory.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I was going to make the same point about the importance of the ecosystem. However, these things can become self-fulfilling, and if we never attempt to spread the benefits of the arts beyond the capital city, they are always going to happen. This is about trying to achieve a balance. As London MPs, it is incumbent on us not to be over the top about the level of funding that has gone outside the capital. The capital still receives by far the lion’s share of arts funding and we are grateful for the richness it gives our capital, but we should bear in mind that a lot of communities have no arts funding at all and it is important they should have access.

Bambos Charalambous Portrait Bambos Charalambous
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The hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Sir Robert Neill) and I made the point that many of these orchestras and opera companies tour, providing access to classical music in areas that would never otherwise have that access. By cutting or getting rid of some of these organisations, the Government are cutting back on the ability of people in other parts of the country to access the amazing classical work that they provide. It is not just about where the organisations are located; it is also about what they provide by touring.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I accept what the hon. Gentleman says about the importance of touring. I would also say that a lot of creators and musicians would like to have opportunities beyond London. London is not a cheap place to live, and they might welcome the idea that they might not have to concentrate their entire career in the capital, where housing is expensive and there are other challenges in relation to the cost of transport and so on. As the hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East (Mike Kane) said in that context, Manchester is not all that far away. It is important not to forget that a lot of people want opportunity to be spread across the country rather than concentrated in a single place—notwithstanding the fact that I am also a London MP and I totally understand the importance of our capital thriving, as it should.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) highlighted the importance of early music education. That is something that Lord Parkinson and I are working on with the Department for Education. Classical music ensembles play a crucial role in cultural education and the development of young musicians. The inclusion of so many organisations that run music education programmes in the Arts Council portfolio speaks to the importance of providing a strong foundation in music from a young age.

We have a refreshed national plan for music education. It launched last June and it aims to provide music opportunities for all children and young people, regardless of background, circumstances, need or geography. As part of the commitments we have made alongside that plan, £25 million of new funding has been made available so that we can purchase hundreds of thousands of musical instruments and equipment for young people, including adaptive instruments for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities so that they, too, can share the joy that music can provide. The refreshed plan also renews its commitment to the music hubs programme, which is delivered by the Arts Council and provides £79 million every year until 2025.

Alongside these programmes, the Department co-funds the national youth music organisation programme with the Arts Council. All 15 national youth music organisations will receive Arts Council funding for the next three years, and earlier this week I was pleased to hear that the Department for Education had recognised this outstanding work and agreed to commit a further £1.5 million over the next three years as well. That is fantastic news because this programme will lead the way in developing young musicians and music makers.

Jonathan Lord Portrait Mr Lord
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With the indulgence of the House, I would like to make a point about young musicians. Towards the end of last year I went to the final of the Woking young musician of the year competition. The standard was extraordinarily high, and it is a competition that does not cost the council or the taxpayer any money. It gives mentoring and advice to all the young musicians who put themselves forward for the competition. The big final had an extraordinarily high standard of musicianship. It has provided finalists and also a winner of the BBC musician of the year competition. I would encourage colleagues to encourage that sort of support locally.

One other thing I would like to mention is that last year I attended the 100th concert of the Breinton concert series, in which a local family open their house to fantastic young and up-and-coming musicians of enormous talent. They have classical concerts and little bits of operetta, and as they are blessed with good grounds, in the summer people come and hear these amazing, normally young, musicians. Again, it is entirely self-funding. I would like to congratulate the organisers of the Breinton concerts, and it would be lovely to see that happen elsewhere in the south-east and in the country at large.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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My hon. Friend does a wonderful job of highlighting all the wonderful activity in his constituency, including Woking young musician of the year. He highlights the joy of music and its huge impact on communities.

The hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate raised the issue of tax reliefs. He will be aware that, in the spring statement, the Chancellor extended the higher rates of theatre tax relief, orchestra tax relief, and museums and galleries exhibition tax relief for a further two years. This will help to offset some of the ongoing economic pressures and boost investment in our cultural sectors, which we have been supporting substantially through some very difficult times, not least through covid and the energy challenges. This will ensure that they can continue to showcase the very best of British talent, not only in our recognised concert halls and theatres but in the many museums and other arts venues across the nation. The changes made in the Budget are estimated to be worth some £350 million, which is as strong a signal as we can send of the Government’s faith and support for our cultural sector.

A wide range of other topics have been raised, including grassroots music venues. Today I met Mark Davyd, who represents grassroots music venues, to discuss support for such venues. We are looking at a range of measures that we might be able to take to support him. He was particularly grateful for some of the things the Government did through the pandemic and beyond. We are also working closely with the Intellectual Property Office, and with the industry itself, on some of the streaming questions.

Exports have been raised, and we are considering the expansion of the music export growth scheme. We are also doing lots of work on touring, which was also raised in this debate. Discussions will continue on improving the touring offer, but we have already made quite substantial progress.

The hon. Member for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross (Jamie Stone) talks about the importance of soft power and our relationship with Ukraine. It may have escaped his attention, but we will shortly host the Eurovision song contest on Ukraine’s behalf. We also have a huge package of cultural partnerships with Ukraine, so we are already doing a lot in that space.

Of course, our flagship levelling-up fund is also supporting access to culture and the performing arts across the UK. The second round of funding was announced in January 2022, and it made 31 culture and heritage awards to projects across the country, to the tune of some £546 million. Chamber ensembles, soloists, orchestras and many more will now be able to perform in state-of-the-art spaces across our country, all because of that fund. This includes a new state-of-the-art site at Embassy Gardens in Nine Elms, which opened late last year and includes the first public concert hall to open in London in more than 13 years. We should recognise the huge investment we are making in our capital.

Our cultural development fund has just launched, and the right hon. Member for Walsall South (Valerie Vaz) will be pleased to learn that Walsall Council will receive £3.7 million in that round to refurbish a currently unused grade II-listed building in the centre of the St Matthew’s quarter, and to deliver a three-year cultural activity plan that we hope will enliven and invigorate Walsall town centre.

I hope Members will feel reassured by the support we give to classical music, which takes many forms. By investing in music education, supporting classical music organisations and promoting the industry, we are ensuring that classical music continues to thrive in this country. It remains an important contributor to our economy and to our cultural and social wellbeing. We hope that, now and for many years to come, people can continue to experience its many wonders.

Question put and agreed to.

Heritage Assets: London

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Thursday 23rd March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
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I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster (Nickie Aiken) for securing a wonderful debate and for superbly highlighting London’s great and rich heritage, its wonderful villages and, of course, the importance of protecting historic assets for the benefit of present and future generations.

Like her, I absolutely adore London’s history. It is a pleasure to see her passion for her constituency again, after her contribution to last week’s debate on the lease of London zoo. I responded to that debate, and am responding to this one, on behalf of Lord Parkinson, who covers the arts and heritage portfolio for the Department. These are all fascinating diversions from my portfolio on data and digital infrastructure, and I am glad to say I have now taken on the tourism brief for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. With the creation of the new Department, tourism will play an increasingly important role within the work of DCMS.

As my hon. Friend said, our heritage is an essential part of our cultural landscape, our economy and our country. It is both globally renowned and world leading, playing a vital role in communities across the UK, making our places great to live in, work in and visit. She has a significant number of impressive heritage sites in her constituency, including the beautiful Westminster Abbey and the building in which we stand today. Her constituency contains more than 3,900 listed buildings, scheduled monuments and registered parks and gardens combined.

It is a fun coincidence, as my hon. Friend said, that the debate takes place during English Tourism Week. I hope she will agree that the UK’s tourism offer is truly world class. I had the pleasure of visiting the Goring Hotel, in her constituency; the staff were complimentary about her efforts to champion the hotel sector and they are doing fantastic work supporting young people into hospitality jobs. As she highlighted, the sector has been tremendously resilient after some difficult years. As it is English Tourism Week, I pay tribute to everybody in that sector who has done such incredibly demanding work throughout the last three years.

Our tourism landscape is iconic, from historic buildings and incredible scenery to culturally vibrant cities and world-leading hospitality, and that is not just here in Westminster. I loved the earlier plug for Strangford by the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). I hope he will not mind if I encourage hon. Members to sample the delights of my own constituency of Hornchurch and Upminster, including the vibrant Queen’s theatre. I note what my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster said about levelling up, but I am pleased to say that the Queen’s theatre was a beneficiary of levelling up within London, with a great grant from the Arts Council of England. We also have a wonderful green space in Dagnam Park, the Manor, as well as Thames Chase forest and heritage assets such as Upminster Tithe Barn and its windmill.

It is undeniable that heritage sites are vital to our tourism industry and a tangible way to showcase our rich history. Of course, we want these sites to be around in the future for our children and grandchildren to learn from and be inspired by.

Andy Slaughter Portrait Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It seems the theatre in the Minister’s constituency was drawn out of the Arts Council lottery and won a prize. I am pleased to say that the theatres in my constituency also did not have their grants cut, but the loss of the London Coliseum and the English National Opera is a grave blow to London, and indeed to the whole country. Will the Government use their best endeavours to ensure that very misguided decision by the Arts Council is reconsidered?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I understand that hon. Members have made their feelings clearly known about ACE’s decision on the ENO. I know that a number of meetings have taken place, and I believe that some transitional funding is there, but I believe that this will continue to be a subject of ongoing discussion between the two organisations. I know that Lord Parkinson has been engaging with the issue.

We want to make sure we are protecting our historic buildings, statues and memorials. Local planning authorities are required to

“have regard to the desirability of preserving features of special architectural or historic interest”

in any building. Buildings, statues and memorials of more modest interest can also be locally listed by local planning authorities. We want to make sure that developers and local authorities take into account the integrity and preservation of heritage sites and the local area. When considering applications for planning permission, local authorities are required to take into account national policy. That includes a clear framework on proposals that are liable to result in substantial harm to, or loss of, a grade I or grade II listed building.

In some cases, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, who retains the power to take over planning applications rather than letting the local authority take over, can take the final decision. That is done only in exceptional circumstances, but my hon. Friend the Member for Cities of London and Westminster will have seen a number of such cases in her constituency over the years.

I enjoyed my hon. Friend’s reference to the Gasketeers campaign. As she set out, there is often a tension between development and heritage. That is brought into sharp relief by examples in her constituency, including the planned redevelopment of the City of London and of Liverpool Street station. As she articulately set out, there are also proposals to replace gas-powered lamps in Westminster with modern LED lighting. Just before this debate, I was at a tourism reception in this House at which a lady thrust into my hand a little card telling me that Beverley in the East Riding also has some of the oldest gas streetlamps still in situ. I give a shout-out to them—it seems that Westminster has a level of competition when it comes to heritage.

There are tensions between conserving the significance of historic buildings and modernising them to be fit for purpose for future generations. It is therefore vital that Historic England, which is our expert heritage adviser, and planning authorities work constructively with development teams to facilitate creative solutions to resolve some of those tensions.

I would like to name-check Tim Bryars, a key member of the Gasketeers campaign. I first came across Tim, who is a map and book seller in Cecil Court, during a campaign to save that gloriously unique street in Westminster; he then went on to sell me a beautiful silk pocket map of London in the 1800s, which I very much treasure. I commend him for his enthusiasm and for all the work of the Gasketeers’ campaign. [Interruption.] Ah—hello, Tim.

I understand that, after concerted campaigning, pressure and support from my hon. Friend, the council has seen the light, or the gaslight, and has paused what it was doing. Heritage England has now offered to identify a way forward and is encouraging listing applications, which it will be prioritising. I understand that a site visit is being undertaken. It will also be engaging on the redevelopment plans for Liverpool Street station in my hon. Friend’s constituency; it will look especially at the station, but also at the Great Eastern Hotel. Having sat on the planning committee for the neighbouring borough of Tower Hamlets, I fully understand some of the tensions.

We have managed to save some parts of London’s historic fabric from rather ugly and unpleasant development over the years. I am thinking of the campaigns on the Fruit and Wool Exchange. My hon. Friend also cited campaigns relating to Smithfield; I think back with some concern to some of the original proposals for Smithfield, which were not sympathetic. I genuinely believe that preserving that historic fabric can really enhance, and no doubt increase the value of, some developments. If a sensitive approach is taken, the protection of heritage and a developer’s ability to make a profit should not need to be an either/or.

As my hon. Friend will be aware, it is a criminal offence to demolish a listed building or to carry out works of alteration or extension that affect its character without the permission of the local council. A recent example in which a local authority played a critical role was the reopening of the Tavern Inn, a London grade II listed pub, six years after its illegal demolition: the owners were ordered to rebuild it brick for brick following a planning enforcement ruling. It is hoped that such cases will prevent developers from demolishing other sites without the relevant permissions.

My hon. Friend will also be aware of Historic England’s Heritage at Risk programme, which gives our Department a strategic, overarching view of the overall state of England’s historic sites. It identifies the sites that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development. Historic England updates the Heritage at Risk register every year, and the end result is a dynamic picture of the sites most at risk and most in need of safeguarding for the future. As my hon. Friend said, there are 16 at-risk sites in her constituency, and Historic England is actively engaged with owners and local authorities to find solutions and ensure that repairs are made. I know that she will be watching those 16 sites like a hawk.

The protection of London’s great heritage also extends to supporting the capital’s vibrant theatre scene and cultural offerings. Recent Government funding has ensured that access to arts and culture is not limited to the bright lights of the west end, but can be experienced by everyone. Investment in theatres across the country has increased through the latest Arts Council England investment programme, in terms of both the number of organisations supported and the volume of funding, which is now more than £110 million each year for nearly 200 organisations. There were also some positive announcements in the Budget about the extension of tax reliefs. That is on top of the unprecedented £1.5 billion culture recovery fund, through which more than £270 million was given to support nearly 700 theatre organisations across England during the pandemic.

It goes without saying that the protection of heritage and cultural assets for the benefit of future generations requires people to work in those places, and for children to learn about and understand their heritage. We recognise the importance of cultural education for the future of our world-leading arts and culture sectors in the UK, and we think that all children should be entitled to take advantage of those enriching cultural opportunities. We consider them to be an essential part of a broad and balanced education, supporting children’s health, wellbeing and wider development. This is something about which I am particularly passionate, and I am working closely with Lord Parkinson in my Department and with the Department for Education to publish a cultural education plan later this year. The aim of the plan is to highlight the importance of high-quality cultural education in schools around the country, promoting its social value. As Minister for the creative industries, I also see it as critical to building our pipeline of talent into those industries, which suffer from skill shortages—as does the tourism industry.

We are committed to ensuring that our historic environment is properly protected, promoted and conserved for the benefit of present and future generations, but also because it is that heritage that draws visitors from every corner of the world. Whether through the statutory functions that protect our most special historic buildings and ancient monuments or through the public bodies that it funds, such as Historic England, my Department seeks to protect and promote understanding of and access to our glorious historic environment.

Let me once again thank my hon. Friend for bringing the House’s attention to this issue and for, as ever, being a truly passionate advocate for London’s heritage.

Question put and agreed to.

Tourism Recovery Plan Update Report

Julia Lopez Excerpts
Tuesday 21st March 2023

(1 year, 1 month ago)

Written Statements
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Julia Lopez Portrait The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Julia Lopez)
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I am pleased to publish today an update report on progress made against the objectives set out in the Government’s tourism recovery plan.

Tourism is a significant economic, cultural and social asset to the UK. The sector is a powerful engine for economic growth and job creation in every part of the UK. Pre-pandemic, it directly employed 1.7 million people, supported 230,000 small and medium-sized enterprises, and contributed £74 billion in gross value added—4% of the UK’s total. As an industry with long-term growth prospects (forecast at 3% a year globally to 2030), international reach and a presence in every constituency, tourism has a major role to play in the Government’s wider Union, levelling-up and global Britain agendas.

The tourism recovery plan was published in 2021 in recognition of the significant impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the UK’s visitor economy. The plan set out a framework for joint Government and sector development. In the short to medium term, it set out the ambition to recover pre-pandemic levels of domestic and international visitor volume and spending. In the medium to long term, the remaining objectives focused on supporting the growth of a productive, innovative, resilient, sustainable and accessible visitor economy that benefits every nation and region of the UK.

We are now three years on from the beginning of the covid-19 pandemic, the first national lockdown and the start of Government support for businesses affected by closures and social distancing measures.

This update report sets out the progress made against the plan’s six objectives, highlights ongoing work and sets out the future actions that the Government will take to continue supporting the sector as it not only recovers from the covid-19 pandemic but faces the economic challenges that have arisen since publication of the plan in 2021.

The report sets out the mixed picture of recovery in the sector. In total, over £37 billion in support through grants, tax relief and loans was provided to the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors to help them survive through the long periods of uncertainty and adversity. The sector is, however, still facing economic challenges. Domestic tourism is recovering well, but international tourism is lagging behind the targets set in the plan. Behind this mixed picture of recovery, there is huge long-term potential for economic growth, which is why the Government re-commit in this report to support the sector through the framework of the tourism recovery plan—to help it grow, thrive and, in turn, boost the UK economy. More broadly, the Prime Minister has promised to halve inflation this year and grow the economy, both of which will support the sector.

Overall, the report indicates that good progress has been made against the objectives of the tourism recovery plan. It acknowledges that there is further to go to support the full recovery of the visitor economy in the short term and to work with industry to deliver on the medium to long-term ambition to build a more resilient, innovative, sustainable and inclusive sector that benefits every corner of the UK.

A copy of the update report on the tourism recovery plan will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

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