Football Governance Bill

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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I start by placing on record my congratulations on the success of my local club, Stockport County football club, in its elevation to league one. On top of that, it has topped the table in league two. I use this opportunity—shamelessly, one might argue—to encourage Members on both sides of the House to sign my early-day motion celebrating the success of Stockport County football club in recent months? This is the first EFL title that Stockport County has won since 1967, and it is an important occasion for me as the MP who represents the club in the House of Commons.

Before I go into the main points of my speech, I join other Members on both sides in thanking the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Dame Tracey Crouch) for the work she has done, as well as the members of the Select Committee and the Minister, who has returned to his place. I have done some work with him on grassroots cricket, and I know he takes time to engage with Opposition MPs and MPs from his own party. He has a long-standing record of working hard on this issue, so I wanted to place those words on the record.

Premier league teams need to pay a fair share of the revenue to ensure that all fans can continue to enjoy the sport of football. Clubs like Stockport County football club in my constituency make a valuable contribution to the lives of supporters and countless others in the local community. However, as many have highlighted, the game’s fractured governance model and the inequitable distribution of finances are increasingly putting that risk.

Stockport County football club, and many other clubs, are an important part of England and Britain’s sporting culture, and we must do a lot more to ensure that the model is sustainable. Currently, English football is nowhere near meeting its objective, with EFL clubs losing £471 million during the 2022-23 season. With the shortfall having to be met by club owners, those are serious numbers. Football has failed to take the collective action needed to protect clubs due to the number of vested interests in its governance model. That has been echoed by representatives across the House. The English Football League wants local clubs to prosper as beacons of community pride in towns and cities throughout the country. I know that many fans of all football teams, and other sporting teams, take a lot of pride in and cherish the history and culture of their local team. I am glad that the English Football League welcomes the Bill and this parliamentary scrutiny and discussion. This is a good opportunity to reform the football pyramid—a lot of MPs have made points about that, so I will not repeat them.

Labour has long supported football reform. Our last three manifestos committed to reviewing football governance, giving fans a greater say in the way their clubs are run, and calling for the Premier League to redistribute more of its television rights revenue to the wider game. Labour also supports the implementation of an independent regulator, and we urgently need to bring in new laws to prevent further clubs from going bust or being used as playthings for the wealthy. Sadly, since 1992 more than 60 clubs have gone into administration. Although the Bill is welcome, it is likely to be too little too late for several clubs that had to witness their structures collapse, with fans left disappointed and angry. The fan-led review was published in 2021. Why has it taken the Government so long finally to act? Labour welcomes the Bill, but several issues need to be addressed and I am critical of the time it has taken the Government to come forward.

None Portrait Several hon. Members rose—
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Three and Vodafone: Potential Merger

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Thursday 14th December 2023

(5 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber
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Liam Byrne Portrait Liam Byrne (Birmingham, Hodge Hill) (Lab)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered the potential merger of Three and Vodafone.

I am grateful to the Backbench Business Committee for making time for this debate on what will be one of the largest mergers we see in this country this year. The merger has profound implications for the security, the costs and the quality of that everyday essential in the lives of our constituents: their mobile phone.

The debate is not simply about a merger; it is on three significant questions about the way in which our economy is now run. First—this is at the heart of the debate and a big question—is our investment security regime fit for purpose in a world where the threats are continuing to multiply? Secondly, are we are prepared to see the good, honest force of competition continue to wither? Thirdly, in a country where business investment continues to disappoint, will the deal help or not?

The facts are pretty straightforward. Three, which is owned by CK Hutchison, and Vodafone have announced a deal to merge. It is a £15 billion deal, which will create the largest operator in the market—bigger than EE or O2. Crucially, it will reduce the number of mobile network operators from four to three, and the merged entity will be enormous. If the merger goes through, it will control half the UK’s mobile spectrum. The Competition and Markets Authority is looking at the competition dimensions, but we need to understand what the Government—either the Cabinet office or the Minister in his place—will do to ensure that the deal is brought in to the Investment Security Unit for the hardest possible review under the terms of the National Security and Investment Act 2021.

The case for the merger has been well rehearsed, and the Business and Trade Committee has taken evidence to try to unpack it. Three and Vodafone say that the deal will create a bigger firm that can compete much more effectively. They say that it will stimulate investment in the mobile network operator market and allow them to eliminate the overlap between their networks and use that money to build a mobile network with 25,000 masts, which will extend mobile coverage into the notspots that are so frustrating for many of our constituents. However, we need answers to some basic questions, and those start with national security, which must always be the principal consideration for us in the House when we look at such questions.

We cannot avoid the fact that the proposed deal will put 49% of the merged Three-Vodafone business into the hands of the CK group. That group is based in Hong Kong and, as such, falls under the ambit of the Hong Kong national security law. As the House knows, once upon a time, Hong Kong was considered meaningfully different from mainland China, but the introduction of the national security law has destroyed Hong Kong’s legal autonomy. It now provides Chinese authorities with the power to demand user data from companies under the threat of fines, asset seizures, or indeed imprisonment.

Furthermore, CK’s leaders are not unconnected to the Chinese state—far from it. Li Ka-shing, the founder of CK Hutchison, has in the past voiced his support for China’s draconian moves in Hong Kong. His son, Victor Li, is a member of the 14th national committee of the Chinese people’s political consultative conference of the People's Republic of China, and is a member of the Chief Executive’s council of advisers of the Hong Kong special administrative region. Mr Li is a supporter of John Lee, the chief executive of Hong Kong and the former police chief who led the efforts to crack down on the pro-democracy protest movement in 2019.

Those facts are completely central to the debate on whether the merger should go through. As the Intelligence and Security Committee has made clear in its brilliant report on China, the problem is China’s whole-of-state approach. In that report, it noted that

“Chinese state-owned and non-state-owned companies, as well as academic and cultural establishments and ordinary Chinese citizens, are liable to be (willingly or unwillingly) co-opted into espionage and interference operations overseas”.

That was its considered judgment.

That warning comes on top of those we have already had from Richard Moore, the chief of MI6, who declared in July that China aims to strike deals with other countries that allow it to capture data on citizens and national projects. He said that

“Chinese authorities are not hugely troubled by questions of personal privacy or individual data security.”

Furthermore, Dr Alexi Drew, in a brilliant report commissioned by Unite the union, found that risks of data transfer and data collection naturally, obviously and directly create risks of surveillance, blackmail and economic intelligence gathering.

Of course, in Three, the CK group already runs a mobile company, but the Three-Vodafone merger will give the CK group a 49% share in a combined company that will run some of the most sensitive mobile and data contracts in the country, including NHS 111, police departments, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice, and the monitoring system in the Cabinet Office. The merger will radically extend CK Hutchison’s access to UK telecoms data from 9.5 million users to more than 27 million users—an almost threefold increase in the number of users, and their data, to which the CK group will have access. These are not just worries that we should be debating in this House, but worries that have already prompted our allies to act. On 15 September last year, President Biden announced that the risk of access to Americans’ private data would be a factor in blocking investment deals.

On Tuesday, the National Security and Investment Sub-Committee of the Business and Trade Committee held its first ministerial meetings and hearings with the Minister of State, Cabinet Office, the hon. Member for Wealden (Ms Ghani). That was the first chance that we as a House have had to cross-examine a Minister on the UK investment screening process. In that cross-examination, I put it to the Minister that our investment security process is now out of date, and asked her whether there is a case for updating the investment security regime in the light of modern threats as we now understand them. She said, “Yes”, and also that

“the regime we have at the moment is pretty robust, but it started off a couple of years ago, and we need to be aware of how new technologies could be an issue that we need to incorporate into the process.”

She went on to say that

“I have a personal view; I do think that we should be further investigating the issues around data capability”

and concluded that

“My personal view is that the accumulation of data against citizens of the UK is something that we need to explore if it can be exploited.”

There we have it: the head of MI6 is warning about the risks of China exfiltrating data; our allies are putting up and updating investment security regimes to stop Chinese access to data; and out of an abundance of prudence, we are blocking companies such as Huawei and TikTok because we are worried about Chinese access to data, yet the Vodafone-Three merger would allow a group with strong links to the Chinese state unparalleled access to data that flows through contracts with the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice and the pan-Government protective monitoring service for the Cabinet Office—

Liam Byrne Portrait Liam Byrne
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Along with the police. To cap it all, we now have a Minister warning that our investment security regime is out of date with the threats as we now understand them.

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Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder (West Dorset) (Con)
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It is a pleasure to be called in this debate. How pleased I am to follow the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne). I offer my belated congratulations on his appointment to the Business and Trade Committee and endorse his comments on the security nature of the potential effects on this country. However, my remarks will be channelled more to understanding the potential effect of the merger on our constituents and consumers. I particularly thank Which? and others for providing insights to my contribution to this debate.

Will this merger be good or bad for all of our constituents? That is the question to ask. It is very clear from the briefings that Vodafone and Three have offered that their core aim is to advance the roll-out of 5G, or at least that is what they say. Some of us in this House have been in two debates already this week about connectivity and the issues that we face across the United Kingdom, particularly in rural areas. We are asking ourselves whether we should be allowing the rigorous commercial pursuit of 5G, when there are some people in the country who are lucky to have 3G, let alone 4G. Should we be enabling and allowing enormous businesses that will become still larger to have free licence to forget rural parts of the country, in my case rural West Dorset?

There is such as a thing as the universal service obligation. It is meant to protect those who are in the worst possible situation with respect to connectivity. That, I am afraid to say, does not appear to be working, and we should ask ourselves why. Increasingly, it is my opinion that we have a weak and ineffective regulator that is not protecting the rights of consumers and residents. I find it incredible, for example, that the Vodafone map says that certain parishes and villages are covered with a mobile signal, when in actual fact they are not, and Ofcom, the regulator, does nothing about it. Because the map says that, it often obviates the need to provide connectivity for those people.

I emphasise the point that this merger will give a third of the UK market to one firm. That is absolutely incredible in this day and age, when we are clearly moving in a technological direction where new developments and innovations are key. The use of mobile phones—Androids and so on—is increasing, and the fact that we are, in effect, entrusting a third of the nation’s connectivity to one firm is questionable.

We need to understand some of the experiences that this nation has had so far with companies such as Vodafone. It is relatively common knowledge that there is a big question about Vodafone’s contribution—or, should I say, lack thereof—to the Exchequer. It pays, as far as I can see, no corporation tax for being a multibillion-pound organisation. In fairness, it will say that it invests a lot of money in infrastructure in the country, and I am not disputing that point. However, we should ask ourselves whether it is right to enable a business to enlarge still further when, I assume, it will continue to operate on the same guidelines, under which it pays little, if any, corporation tax. We should not think that this is new. From my research, I found that this situation first arose in 2012. This has already been going on for 11 years, and it is important that the House takes these matters into consideration as part of this debate.

The scale of investment that we have seen so far, as far as I can see, is frankly a bit of a joke. The investment that I have been told is forthcoming in my constituency is something that I just don’t see. Indeed, Vodafone itself had to apologise for basically misleading me and for guaranteeing that we would fix various connectivity issues in certain parts of my constituency. It is a real concern to me that we are in this situation, particularly when I want to research this matter and it always refers to the currency in euros rather than in pounds. I invite hon. Members to look on the Vodafone website to research this and understand it. It really does give me cause for concern.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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I am listening to the hon. Gentleman’s contribution with great interest. He made a point earlier about misleading information. The House has been told that the primary function of this merger is to increase investment in infrastructure in the UK. Does he agree that the primary function of this merger is pure profit—it is basically corporate greed?

Chris Loder Portrait Chris Loder
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I thank the hon. Member for his kind intervention. He almost takes the words out of my mouth, as I go on to the next part of my speech.

The case that is being put, as I understand it from the brief received from both Vodafone and Three, is that the merger will support increasing amounts of investment. They go on to say further that the merger will generate £700 million of savings. When we start to unpack it, what we are actually dealing with here is massive job cuts. We expect to see up to 1,600 people lose their jobs in the United Kingdom alone. The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill mentioned that, but what he failed to include in his remarks is that a programme of 11,000 job cuts is already going on globally within Vodafone. While I am not the biggest advocate or supporter of Unite the union, I can well understand and agree with the point that the hon. Member for Stockport (Navendu Mishra) makes.

I will progress my remarks to talk about the effect on the consumer in respect of prices and mobile phone bills. It is right that we consider what has happened in the past few years in Australia, where Vodafone has undertaken a merger with TPG. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission report showed that Australian prices all rose and that investment fell. I understand that the rise in prices is contested by some operators, but I could not find it contested that investment fell—and not just by a little bit, but by 45%. That is a considerable amount, and it gives me cause for concern when looking at this situation. We have to ask ourselves: to what extent do we believe what we are being presented with? That gives me even greater concern when I consider the national security matters that the right hon. Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill raised.

My constituency of West Dorset has 400 square miles and 132 parishes, and we have ropey coverage, to say the least. I have had to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Will this merger help the 82,000 constituents who depend on mobile connectivity increasingly every day?” Some 97% of the businesses in West Dorset are small or micro-sized. They do not have enormous amounts of cash to put in substantial investment, so that question is important.

For me, given what I have seen so far, it comes down to a question of trust. That is why I have a slight problem with what is being presented to us. Vodafone’s coverage map for my constituency is wrong. I have contested it, and I have gone to the regulator about it. Vodafone says that most parts of rural West Dorset have a signal. I am sorry, but the places that it indicates do have signal do not. That shows how weak the regulator Ofcom is in dealing with this issue. It is allowing operators to get away scot-free under the guise of a universal service obligation that is not delivering what is necessary for those people. We find it not just once or twice, but time and time again.

I went to visit the small village of Stoke Abbott, which is on the outskirts of the beautiful town of Beaminster, earlier in the year. I was pleased—it was somewhat surprising, I thought—to have secured a number of commitments to improve that village’s appalling level of connectivity. Regrettably, Vodafone had to correct itself, because it had misled me. It would no longer continue those improvements, and it went on to say that it believed that the problems would be solved by improved 4G coverage. Well, I am afraid that those improvements have not happened to date. As I said, this comes down to trust. Vodafone did apologise for its somewhat disingenuous statements, but that shows what we are dealing with here, and it also exposes the weakness of the regulator in addressing these issues in a meaningful way.

Given my personal experience of the organisation and how it treats my constituents, why would we want to afford it the ability to become larger and more dominant in the market? In my opinion, it has such a bad record of customer service to local people. I do not know if anyone else here has the joy of being a Vodafone customer, as I do. Its customer service hotline is known as 191. If I ring that number, it is virtually impossible to speak to someone to get help. Many of my constituents have had the same experience. It is just incredible that, if they are fortunate enough to get through to someone who can help them, they are directed to what they call the director’s office, which is just a shambles. It takes months to resolve the slightest difficulty. The situation that I outlined earlier, whereby coverage is not as some say it is, is appalling.

One of my fine constituents from Maiden Newton got in touch with me only a few days ago to share her experience. In fairness to Vodafone, she is a customer of Three, which, by and large, provides its customers with a reasonable service. My constituent put it well in her email:

“How can we level up as a rural community when it’s hard to tune in to digital radio or make a phone call? As a small business owner I often have to do business on the move, but find I can’t access anything as the signal is too poor.”

She goes on to say that, clearly, something has happened in the last six months. The network provider had told her that work needed to be done on a mast in the area, but that still has not been sorted. These issues just go on and on.

I was grateful to Three and Vodafone for providing me with the briefing. I thought it was reasonably interesting, but I was looking for the word “customer” in there, and I could not see it once. If anybody else was able to find it, I will stand corrected, and I may need to get my eyes tested again. That indicates to me the real drive behind the merger. The briefing that we have been provided with, for which I am grateful, shows what this is about.

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Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, in particular my membership of Unite the union. I am grateful to Unite for providing a detailed briefing on the merger. It has been campaigning on the issue for a long time, because, as both Members—my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill (Liam Byrne) and the hon. Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder)—who have contributed so far mentioned, almost 1,600 jobs could be lost. I thank my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill for securing the debate. He has done a lot of work in the background, including as Chair of the Business and Trade Committee.

There are two key points I want to cover. First, the merger is bad news for customers. There are 650 constituencies represented in this House and I believe this merger impacts every single one. If the merger goes through it will mean higher costs for consumers. Currently more than 2.2 million households in the UK are struggling with the cost of mobile services, so it is not as if they are in a good position to start with. The merger will reduce competition and increase monopoly and pricing power for these operators.

I want to say a little about Greater Manchester, because that is the part of the world that I represent in the House. A Liverpool University study found in 2020 that as many as 1.2 million residents of Greater Manchester alone faced some form of digital exclusion, while the Office for National Statistics has found that 40% of Greater Manchester benefit claimants have very low digital engagement and 23% of residents are not using digital services because of lack of money. This merger will increase prices and dramatically worsen the situation.

The hon. Member for West Dorset talked about his patch. He represents a rural part of England, while my constituency is more urban, but there will be people in each and every constituency who are digitally excluded, in many cases because of a lack of financial resources. My right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Hodge Hill mentioned the research conducted by the former chief competition economist at the European Commission. According to that research, we can expect an average increase of about £300 in mobile phone bills. Reference has been made to Vodafone’s customer service. I am not a Three customer, so I do not know what its customer service is like, but we are looking at nearly 1,600 job losses. Given the cost of living crisis, not only is the merger terrible news for UK customers, but the livelihoods of the people who work in these businesses is on the line.

I will not repeat many of the points that have already been made about national security, but we should be clear about the fact that Three is owned by the Hong Kong-based CK group. If the merger goes through, the new entity will have access to the data of 27 million UK nationals, as well as highly classified data under Vodafone’s existing contracts with, for instance, the national health service, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice, and several police forces. I have been campaigning on this issue for a long time, and was lucky enough to secure a Westminster Hall debate on it earlier in the year. In July, following my campaign to stop the merger, I wrote to the chief constable of my local force, Greater Manchester police, about its contract with Vodafone. I received a speedy response, and I am grateful to the chief constable, Mr Watson, and to the force.

The chief constable told me that under section 17 of the Local Government Act 1988, forces are not permitted to take non-commercial considerations into account when awarding contracts. The exclusions set out in subsection (5) are wide-ranging, and without intervention from the Secretary of State on specific issues, public bodies must adhere to the rules set out in the Act. I am quite concerned about the fact that my local police force has a contract with Vodafone, as have several other forces in England. The issue of the data transmitted through Vodafone from those police forces, as well as the NHS, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Justice and other public bodies is a very serious matter. I could go on and on about CK group’s close personal links with the Chinese state and the Beijing-supported Hong Kong Government, but I will not go through them again.

The Chair of the Intelligence and Security Committee, the right hon. Member for New Forest East (Sir Julian Lewis), made this point earlier, but I would like to reiterate that no parliamentary scrutiny of the security approval process is under way. The Government are thought to be assessing the merger under the National Security and Investment Act 2021, but have refused to inform Parliament about the process or how they will make their decision. I am told that the Prime Minister and senior Ministers have held closed-door meetings with CK group executives in the last 12 months. I think right hon. Gentleman used the word “sinister”, and I agree with him: I too think that there is something quite sinister going on. The Government are not being upfront.

While I am quoting what has been said by earlier speakers, let me quote the hon. Member for West Dorset, who observed that the regulator was weak. I agree with him entirely, but I also think that the Government are weak. The Government should get a grip on the situation, because it is terrible news not only for people in each and every constituency but for the nation.

This merger would result in Chinese state interference in the UK, and it would give the CK group access to sensitive national Government, local government and public body contracts. The merger is not worth the risk. My understanding is that there is no evidence that this merger would increase investment. We have already heard about grey spots and areas with no 5G, 4G, 3G or even simple mobile coverage at all, so we need to ensure that Parliament gives proper scrutiny.

This merger is bad news for British customers and bad news for Britain, but I fear the Government are, yet again, asleep at the wheel on another crucial issue.

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John Whittingdale Portrait Sir John Whittingdale
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I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me; I am not sure that I can even go so far as to say that. It is on the record that the Government believe that foreign ownership of major critical infrastructure raises security concerns, which is precisely why the process was put in place and the Investment Security Unit was set up. We believe that we now have the ability to determine whether there are serious national security concerns, and if it is determined that there are, powers are available to the Government to take action to protect our national security. I think the answer is yes, but I do not want to be drawn into particular countries or companies. If he will forgive me, I will leave it at that.

Several Members raised wider questions. My hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) is right that we need to look at the context in which the merger is possibly being considered. His test of whether it is good for his constituents is a perfectly valid one. As he observed, this is the third time we have debated connectivity in 24 hours. That is a measure of how important it is to people. It is the Government’s very firm view that the roll-out of 5G connectivity has huge potential for such things as public services, industry, transport and education. There will be enormous benefits to obtaining the widespread adoption of 5G—benefits that might amount to £159 billion by 2035.

That is why the Prime Minister’s commitment to the UK becoming a science and technology superpower will deliver benefits for everybody in this country. Connectivity, and the availability of mobile telephony, lies at the heart of that. We are already beginning to see benefits from 5G, but the Government are clear that we wish to move beyond the current basic, or non-stand-alone 5G, towards stand-alone 5G. Considerable investment is taking place: something like nearly £2 billion is being invested by the mobile operators in enhancing and improving their networks, and 5G is now available from at least one operator outside 85% of premises.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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I understand the Minister’s point about 85% 5G coverage, but what are the Government doing about the millions of people in poverty who cannot access 5G, 4G, 3G, or even simple broadband? Does he believe that the merger will mean lower prices for British consumers?

John Whittingdale Portrait Sir John Whittingdale
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I will come on to digital exclusion, which the hon. Member has rightly focused on as a major issue facing the country. Leaving aside whether the merger is a good idea, that is a challenge that we are determined to address.

We believe that very good progress is being made on coverage. As I think was expressed in both debates yesterday—certainly my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset has raised this several times—the figures that we are given on the success of extending coverage do not always match the experience of the people living in those locations. Coverage predictions are made as a result of computer programmes simulating the way mobile signals travel, and signals can be blocked by obstructions. For that reason, sometimes the figures are not as good, which concerns us. That is why we said in the wireless infrastructure strategy that Ofcom needs to improve the accuracy of its reporting on mobile coverage and network performance. We will pursue that actively with Ofcom.

Proposed Merger of Three UK and Vodafone

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Tuesday 19th September 2023

(8 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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I beg to move,

That this House has considered the proposed merger of Three UK and Vodafone.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Sir George, and I am grateful for having been granted the debate. I refer the House to my entry to the Register of Members’ Interests. I also welcome my hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Sir Chris Bryant) to his new role as shadow Minister.

In July, it was announced that Vodafone and Three UK had agreed to combine their businesses, in an effort, they claim, to create one of Europe’s leading 5G networks. Although I welcome the aspiration, such a deal will have terrible consequences, with higher prices for consumers, job losses alongside inflated corporate profits, and a threat to the UK’s national security. The newly combined company would have 27 million customers, which would make it the largest mobile network operator in the UK, surpassing O2 and EE. That makes today’s debate important, as both carriers already have customers in every one of the 650 seats represented here in the House of Commons.

The announcement of the merger came only months after Vodafone had already announced 11,000 job cuts worldwide, including here in the UK. When Vodafone UK’s chief executive was subsequently asked what impact the merger would have on future job losses, he stubbornly said,

“it’s very early…to talk about job losses”

and that “some roles” might be impacted. External studies suggest that “some” could be as many as 1,600 roles. When Vodafone and Three merged with TPG in Australia in 2020, they claimed that it would accelerate the benefits of substantial network investments made by both companies, when in reality investment levels across the sector are down by 45%.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar (Warley) (Lab)
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Is this not part of what we are seeing across the IT sector, which is what we previously saw in other industrial sectors, for example, in companies such as John Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company? Basically, these companies drive out competition and then set their own terms and the terms of those who work in the industry. Is this not of real concern not just to consumers, but to all those concerned with the creation of those monopolies?

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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I entirely agree with my right hon. Friend. This merger is bad news not just for UK customers, but for the people who work for both these businesses and, of course, it poses threats to national security as well.

Investment levels in the sector after the merger of Vodafone and Three in Australia went down by 45%. I ask the Minister: does the evidence therefore suggests that this will be a sensible merger here in the UK?

I want to place on the record my thanks to my union, Unite, for campaigning on this issue. It shares the concerns that so many of us have about jobs and national security, and it has consistently kept members aware of the implications since the merger was announced. According to Ofcom, 2.2 million households are struggling with the cost of mobile services. As a report by the House of Commons Library stated:

“Bills for some customers rose by over 11% in 2022. Communications consultancy Farrpoint has estimated that, based on inflation projections, bills will rise by a third over the next five years.”

Will the merger make bills cheaper for British customers? Research suggests not. The former chief competition economist at the European Commission has undertaken work showing that prices after a Three-Vodafone merger could be 50% higher. Based on average spending patterns, that means UK customers would pay up to £300 more per year on their mobile bills.

Only a few months ago, we heard that water companies were pushing for bills to rise by up to 40%. We know that electricity and gas payments almost doubled between May 2020 and June 2023, and the Bank of England chief economist recently warned that food inflation is unlikely to come down soon. Why will British customers who use Vodafone and Three have to find even more money for an unnecessary choice that has been foisted on them?

The merger is bad news not only for households’ financial security, but for the UK’s national security.

Iain Duncan Smith Portrait Sir Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green) (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for securing this debate. I apologise to all concerned, but I have a meeting in the Treasury very shortly that I will have to go to. However, I want to ask this question to ensure that it is raised with the Minister, who will no doubt be responding to this debate.

On the security issue—as the hon. Gentleman knows, I have been sanctioned by the Chinese Government, like others—I am concerned that there should be full and due diligence on such a merger, particularly given the Cheung Kong Group and the Li family being so knowingly involved with Chinese Government committees, their contacts in the Chinese Government and having to pass data over under the national security law. Will the hon. Gentleman ensure that the key question for the Minister is that the Government are able to assure everybody publicly that this will not take place unless these security issues are clarified and are not still security issues at the end of this process?

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
- Hansard - -

The right hon. Gentleman makes important points, and national security is vital. I pay tribute to him for his work on this issue, and to all the members of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China in the House of Commons and the House of Lords who are active in that campaign group.

John Spellar Portrait John Spellar
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

When there was the issue about Huawei installing its equipment, one of the arguments made was that this was the hardware, and that the telephone companies and indeed the National Security Agency would be able to keep track of the software, but these companies are now deeply involved in the software. Does that not make these systems even more vulnerable to possible influence by the Chinese authorities?

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
- Hansard - -

That is an important intervention. I accept the point that the hardware and the software are both quite open to interference, and I hope the Minister will be able to address these concerns from Members.

Following a merger, Three’s ultimate parent company, CK Group, will gain significant control over a business that will serve 40% of the UK’s population. Evidence suggests that there is extensive collaboration between the CK Group, the Li family that controls it and the Chinese state. It is well documented that the Li family has strongly backed pro-Beijing hardliner John Lee as the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and supported a draconian new security law that would suppress dissent. On top of this, top CK Group executives sit on Chinese Government committees and have access to the inner circle of the Chinese elite. Does the Minister feel comfortable with a hostile foreign actor potentially having access to millions of UK citizens’ data?

Last month, I wrote to Greater Manchester police, my local force, sharing my concerns about the impact that such a merger would have, and Greater Manchester police is just one of the many police forces that have contracts with Vodafone at present. I am aware that Unite the union is happy to provide a list of police forces that have contracts with Vodafone, so I urge Members across the House to contact their local force to seek assurances about security and privacy measures. I implore the Minister to meet Unite to discuss these concerns as a matter of priority.

I have grave concerns that China’s domestic and counter-intelligence laws and Hong Kong’s national security law may pave the way for China’s security services to obtain confidential data from companies such as CK Hutchison. While in theory UK law prohibits the collection or transfer of individual user data, in practice there have been numerous examples in the UK and elsewhere where data has been accessed and transferred to China. Can the Minister give his assurances that he will do all in his power to prevent this from happening?

Although Ministers may assure us that they will do all in their power, I remain worried that that is not enough to stop sensitive UK Government communications being exposed. It goes beyond the police, as Vodafone has contracts with the Ministry of Justice and the national health service, too. The recent report by the Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament found that the UK is of “significant interest” to China

“when it comes to espionage and interference”,

and notes that China uses

“all possible legitimate routes to acquire UK technology, Intellectual Property and data”,

but that such overt

“acquisition routes have been welcomed by HMG for economic reasons”.

Now would be a good time for the Government to acquit themselves of that allegation, and to put British consumers and our national security first.

In the past, the Prime Minister met the Intelligence and Security Committee yearly. I hope the Minister will give the House his assurance that the Prime Minister will reinstate those meetings. Now, faced with this significant merger and a litany of other national security threats, would be a good time to do so.

Unite the union has commissioned analysis from digital security expert Dr Alexi Drew, an academic and the director of tech security at consultancy Penumbra Analysis. Dr Drew found that the potential merger created substantial security risks, noting:

“Domestic laws and internal company policies will do little to hinder the exercise of nation-state intelligence gathering apparatus from leveraging any means of access to data that company mergers and acquisitions might enable. If a merger creates the technical or human means to collect valuable data, then the security services of any nation-state, Chinese or otherwise, are likely to make use of it.”

The Government have said that they will assess this risky merger through their investment security unit, so what stage has the ISU assessment reached, and will the acquisition be called in for a further national security assessment? Knowing what we know about the proposals, they seem wrong on so many levels. They are bad news for British customers, will result in significant job losses, and plainly pose a national security threat to the UK. Perhaps things would be very different if the Government actually had an industrial strategy for the UK and were not asleep at the wheel while our national infrastructure got sold off to hostile actors.

In the light of all this, I will be interested to hear the Minister’s contribution and whether he supports the merger. If he supports it, why? If he does not, what will he do to stop the merger?

George Howarth Portrait Sir George Howarth (in the Chair)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I remind Members that they should bob if they wish to be called in the debate.

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Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan (Glasgow North West) (SNP)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is an honour to serve under your chairmanship, Sir George. I thank the hon. Member for Stockport (Navendu Mishra) for securing this important debate. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) and a couple of other Members did, I would like to thank Unite the union for the incredibly helpful briefings that it produced for this debate. I also welcome the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Rhondda (Sir Chris Bryant), to his post.

We have been here before. It is only three years since we engaged in a whole pile of debates about Huawei and the threats posed to national security by the involvement of the Chinese state actor with our 5G network. Despite repeated warnings from allies and security experts, the Tories went ahead and awarded Huawei a huge contract to deliver the UK’s 5G network. Only after months of debates, questions and condemnation did they do a final U-turn to revoke the contract, but not before Huawei had begun its work. That meant that not only was a security risk introduced, but the removal of Huawei from the 5G system cost somewhere between £2 and £3.5 billion. The UK Government’s intransigence in the face of those warnings cost taxpayers a huge amount of money.

We should have learned the lesson. However, it now appears that we are getting ready to hand over control of key infrastructure to the CK Group—the parent company of Three. Following the merger, as the hon. Member for Stockport pointed out, the CK Group will become a person of significant control over a business that will serve 40% of the UK’s population. Unite the union has uncovered extensive collaboration between the CK Group, the Li family that controls it and the Chinese state. A number of CK Group executives sit on Chinese Government committees, with access to the inner circle of the Chinese political elite. That has to raise serious questions about privacy and security for UK consumers, which the CK Group has done nothing to address.

Under the Chinese Government’s state security laws, it would be possible for the personal data of all users of the new merged company to end up in the hands of the Chinese Government. That is bad enough, but Vodafone holds UK Government contracts for the NHS 111 helpline, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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And police forces.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

And police forces; I thank the hon. Member. Added to that, strategic national assets in the form of Vodafone subsea telecommunications cables between the UK and US would pass to the CK Group. It is quite simply madness.

Security is one thing, but there are other concerns, as a number of Members have pointed out. What would the merger, and any further monopoly of the telecoms market, mean for consumer costs, consumer choice and job security in the UK? The merger would result in nearly half of all UK consumers falling into the company’s market share. As the EU has previously warned when blocking similar mergers, that could harm consumers and give free range for price hikes.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
- Hansard - -

The hon. Member is making an excellent speech. Does she agree that the root cause of the problem—the core of the issue—is that the Government do not have an industrial strategy? The merger seems to be bad news for customers, bad news for national security and bad news for people who work for telecoms businesses. The bottom line is that if we had a good, forward-thinking industrial strategy that looked at growing good, well-paid jobs in this country and treating customers well, perhaps we would not be in this place.

Carol Monaghan Portrait Carol Monaghan
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Of course, we have to look at who the merger is good for. It is good for the shareholders, good for the corporation and good for those who seek to profit off the back of it, but it is not good for the ordinary consumer or, as the hon. Member says, national security.

Given the potential for price hikes, the merger should be thrown out straight away, especially given the cost of living crisis, as the hon. Member for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson) pointed out. We should not even be here having this debate. The hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mick Whitley) gave an indication of the potential magnitude of such a price hike; I think he mentioned a figure of up to £300 per year. That is astronomical for people who are struggling to make ends meet from week to week. This merger has been portrayed as something that will increase investment, and lead to a better consumer experience and lower prices, but we know what normally happens during a merger: investment falls, profits increase and the customer suffers. I cannot see this being any different.

The difficulty is in who is profiting. We have to look at the Government Benches. Two Tory MPs are on CK’s payroll; that is in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, so it has been declared. The UK Government must do full diligence, and protect customers from Chinese state surveillance, not override these security concerns.

We need assurances from the Minister that this merger does not compromise national security in any way, shape or form. The two profitable companies concerned, which hold the data of 27 million UK consumers, have critical Government contracts. Will the Government take a “consumer first” and “national security first” approach to any regulatory checks? What steps will the Minister take to ensure that large job losses do not result from any merger? This cannot be allowed to become a repeat of the Huawei scandal, in which ignorance and intransigence not only put consumers at risk but cost billions and led to an eventual U-turn. Security of the telecoms network and of users’ data must come first.

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Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant (Rhondda) (Lab)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Thank you, Sir George. I see we have three Knights Bachelor here today. I do not know what the collective noun is for Knights Bachelor; the obvious answer would be a round table. I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Navendu Mishra) on introducing this debate on an important issue that will affect not justó 27 million consumers, but the whole country. There is an important debate to be had. I was glad he paid tribute to Unite the union. It is not my trade union, but it has done a great deal of work in this field.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
- Hansard - -

You can join!

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

No, I am in the GMB, if we are doing announcements. It was also good to hear from my hon. Friends the Members for Liverpool, Riverside (Kim Johnson), and for Birkenhead (Mick Whitley). The latter made an interesting point about Teddy Roosevelt, who largely got elected on the back of resurrecting the old Sherman Anti-Trust Act, to break up the powerful railroad conglomerates in the United States of America. I have always thought that anti-trust legislation could be used to protect consumers; it is vital part of our artillery in Government.

It is always good to hear from the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). It amazes me what he knows about; he knows about everything. He is a one-man Opposition, entirely on his own. He made a really important point about rural access to telephony. My constituency in the Rhondda is semi-rural. It feels quite congested, with lots of people living closely on top of each other, largely in terraced housing in the valleys, but everybody lives within a mile of a farm or a field, normally with sheep or cows in it. Some of our mobile telephone connection rates are shocking. Ofcom’s declared figures for all mobile operators show 100% connection. It certainly does not feel like that when I am walking up or down Hannah Street; it is impossible to ring anybody. I am painfully aware of the issues he raised. Today, mobile phone connection can be the difference between life and death. For many poorer families, it is their only means of telecommunication. It is how they apply for a job or register for a bank account. It is how most people run so many parts of their lives. That makes this an important debate.

In essence, there are two, slightly separate questions. The first is: what is good for consumers, the industry and the market? That is a matter primarily for the Competition and Markets Authority, although I shall mention a few things that I hope it will bear in mind when it comes to make its decision. Then there is the separate matter of the security of the UK’s mobile infrastructure from potentially hostile actors. That is a matter for the UK Government through the investment security unit in the Cabinet Office.

I turn to the competition issues first. As others have said, it will always be a matter of concern when two operators merge, taking the number from four to three, and especially so when that creates an operator with 27 million customers; it would be the largest in the field. That intrinsically implies that there will be less competition in the market, and that consumers might face higher charges. Indeed, Which? has made the obvious point:

“Reducing the number of network providers from four to three risks reducing the choices available to consumers, raising prices and lowering the quality of services available.”

To make a point in line with that made by my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Riverside, prices really do matter to every family in our constituencies these days. I note that this year, tariff rates rose in EE’s case by 14.4%, in O2’s by 17.3%, in Vodafone and Three’s by 14.4%, and in BT Mobile’s by 14.4%. That is an awful lot of instances of 14.4%. That does not feel like a very competitive market to me.

Prices for lower-use mobile customers are even worse and much more worrying. Ofcom found a 13% year-on-year real-terms increase in the price of pay-monthly, SIM-only mobile services in 2022. The Labour party and I worry that those increases have contributed to inflation and the cost of living crisis. Yet a smartphone is no longer a luxury; many children do their homework on smartphones, and people fill in job applications on them, or run their companies from them. Both Three and Vodafone have increased prices above inflation recently, which might be an indication of their plans for the future. However, the price rises happened while the companies remain separate. I therefore urge the CMA to carefully consider the likely effect on both companies’ 27 million existing customers.

Vodafone and Three argue completely the opposite of what has been said in this debate, and I will deal with that. They claim that since the other two mobile network operators are much larger, the merger might, counterintuitively, help competition by introducing a genuine third mobile network operator of similar size. They also argue that the concern about competition in the mobile phone market is exaggerated, as the separate mobile virtual network operators market, made up of end providers such as Tesco Mobile, which do not own infrastructure but buy access from the mobile network operators, is very competitive, and has low barriers to entry. Again, Vodafone and Three claim that having a third player in addition to EE and O2, which can offer mobile virtual network operator carriage, is good for competition. They also argue that they need to merge in order to invest sufficiently in 5G, and have the stated aim of making £11 billion in investment over a decade.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
- Hansard - -

The information my hon. Friend is sharing is important. On the point that Vodafone and Three make about the merger creating a new outlet for virtual carriers—I think they are called MVNOs—Vodafone already supplies a number of MVNOs, including Asda Mobile, VOXI, which I think is its own brand, Lebara and several others. That does not make any sense at all. Surely consolidating the number of suppliers in the market will result in even higher price rises than the 14.4% he quoted.

Chris Bryant Portrait Sir Chris Bryant
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am not sure whether my hon. Friend has been reading my notes, but that was one of the points I was going to make. Those are issues that the CMA will have to look at very closely with an eye to making sure that consumers are protected.

As has already been pointed out, the idea of an £11 billion investment in 5G would be great if it were a bankable commitment, because I want to see the roll-out of high-quality 5G services across the whole country. As I have already said, that is essential if we are to have levelling up across the country, including in places such as the Rhondda.

Several hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Glasgow North West (Carol Monaghan), pointed out that mergers in other markets have not always led to increased investment; if anything, there has been a tendency in the other direction. I hope that the CMA will look at that. It is worth bearing in mind that the EU’s competition directorate blocked CK Hutchison’s plan to acquire O2 from Telefónica in 2016. The CMA may well want to look at the reasoning behind that decision, as some of the issues may still pertain today.

In any case, competition is not just about having three players competing for business. In practice, many consumers have little or no choice of operator because of local coverage issues. If the main player has only two other companies looking over its shoulder, it may too readily come to pricing decisions that extract maximum income for the company rather than provide enhanced value for the consumer. Again, I hope that the CMA will consider all those matters carefully.

There is one other market-related issue that I hope the CMA will consider: the trained workforce. Vodafone states that the merger is expected to result in

“£700 million of annual cost and capex synergies by the fifth…year post-completion”.

I want to know what that means for jobs. The market has regularly complained about shortages in its workforce. It is difficult to see how the merged company could make those significant savings without significant job losses, but until now it has been rather coy about that. Understandably, staff at the two companies and their union, Unite, are concerned about job losses, and we stand four-square behind those concerns. It would be an own goal for the UK telecoms industry to lose significant numbers of workers from its skilled workforce at this time. Far from helping to develop infrastructure in the UK, that could hinder it.

Let me turn to security issues. The merger will require the approval of the investment security unit, which was moved from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to the Cabinet Office. In effect, that means that, in relation to security issues, approval will be a decision for the Prime Minister. I do not want to exaggerate the security issues, but it is worth bearing in mind that the new company would have to handle extremely sensitive material regarding 27 million customers, as well as contracts for the NHS, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Defence, as has already been said.

Those contracts are currently with Vodafone, not with Three. In the case of the Ministry of Defence, for instance, Vodafone was recently awarded a contract to provide video conferencing and recording services to UK military courts in cases relating to sexual offences. That is an important matter that we should consider carefully. Does it make sense to give such a role to a company, CK Hutchison Holdings—the owner of Three—that is a Hong Kong-based and Cayman Islands-registered conglomerate that was formed only in 2015?

My questions for the Minister are as follows. What assessment have the Government made of the relationship between CK Hutchison and the Chinese state? If the merger were to go ahead, how would the Government seek to guarantee the security of national and personal data? Would they, for instance, consider carving out Government contracts from the deal? Under the provisions of the Telecommunications (Security) Act 2021 and the Government’s designated vendor direction, all telecoms operators are meant to strip Huawei from 5G by the end of 2027. What progress has been made on that, and what in particular has been done at Three and Vodafone? What impact do the Government feel that the Chinese security law in relation to Hong Kong has on Three and CK Hutchison Holdings?

On the security issues, can the Minister tell us what stage the decision is at? Will any Government decision, and the reasoning behind it, be published? Will Parliament be engaged in the process in any way? The Minister will know that the Intelligence and Security Committee has expressed its concerns about the process. The Committee said:

“The fact that the Government does not want there to be any meaningful scrutiny of sensitive investment deals…is of serious concern.”

It went on:

“Effective Parliamentary oversight is not some kind of ‘optional extra’ – it is a vital safeguard in any functioning Parliamentary democracy”.

That is particularly important for us to consider given that the Chinese state has sanctioned several Members of Parliament, including, incidentally, the Security Minister.

Given the recent stories about the Chinese state’s attempts to infiltrate Westminster and serious concerns regarding Chinese involvement in other parts of our national infrastructure, how will the Government ensure that the merger, if it goes ahead, does not undermine national and personal security? How will the Government ensure that all ministerial meetings with CK Hutchison Holdings and its subsidiaries are published in full and in good time, in case there is any inappropriate lobbying?

I want to say one final thing, because we are partly talking about China. Next week will see the 1,000th day of the incarceration of Jimmy Lai, who is a British national. The House will not be sitting, but I think all Members would want to put on the record that we believe he has been incorrectly and inappropriately held in custody. We would like to see him free.

--- Later in debate ---
Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
- Hansard - -

This merger will impact all 650 constituencies that are represented in the House of Commons, so it is right that we discuss it. I hope that the Government will keep Members informed of any developments. I note that my good friend the shadow Minister is a member of the GMB union, and I know that he is a scholar of parliamentary history and procedure, but I invite him to join Unite—it is possible to be a member of two trade unions.

I am grateful to the Minister for his contribution, but he did not say much about prices for British customers. We are in the middle of a cost of living crisis and people are facing a hard time—I think the figure from Ofcom is that 2.2 million households are already in a very difficult position—so I hope the Government will pay attention to the cost of the merger for consumers.

I also did not hear much from the Minister about job losses—well, actually we did, but 1,600 jobs in the UK and 11,000 across the world could go because of this merger. I and other Members will be most concerned by job losses in the UK. This goes back to the points I made about the country’s lack of an industrial strategy and weak governance.

I encourage the Minister and his team to meet Unite to discuss the merger, because Unite is the trade union for workers in this sector and the Government should have engagement with it. I appreciate his comments about the CMA and about the workings of the investment security unit, but meeting the legitimate trade union for the sector should be encouraged, so I encourage him to meet Unite.

I am pleased that there were contributions to the debate from Conservative, Democratic Unionist party, SNP and Labour MPs. I am not quite sure what “Marxist” analysis the Minister was expecting, but I am sorry to disappoint him.

I will end on that note. I hope that Members on both sides of the House will continue to press the Government on this merger.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved,

That this House has considered the proposed merger of Three UK and Vodafone.

Historical Discrimination in Boxing

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Wednesday 8th June 2022

(1 year, 11 months ago)

Westminster Hall
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Gerald Jones Portrait Gerald Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. It is important that all forms of discrimination, particularly in sport, are not allowed to go unchallenged. I wish him well with his campaign.

The colour bar rule was in place between 1911 and 1948. It stated that fighters had to have two white parents to compete for professional titles. Due simply to the fact that his parents were of different ethnic backgrounds, Cuthbert Taylor would never have the professional recognition and success that his remarkable talent deserved. That was all because of a rule that left a stain on the history of one of our country’s most popular and traditional sports—one that has otherwise been known for bringing together people from many different backgrounds and communities.

The colour bar rule serves as an uncomfortable reminder of a very different time. Although we cannot go back and give Cuthbert Taylor the professional titles and success that his career deserved, we can ensure that he has true and just recognition for his talent and abilities, and that his name is not forgotten in boxing history merely because of the colour of his skin.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this debate. I want to mention Len Johnson, the famous Manchester boxer, who held a British Empire middleweight title. He was known for his exceptional boxing skills, and he also campaigned for racial equality and against the shameful colour bar, which applied in some pubs in Manchester. Will my hon. Friend and the Minister join me in recognising Len Johnson’s contribution to British boxing sports, and his campaign for racial equality and dignity for everyone?

Gerald Jones Portrait Gerald Jones
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is important that we recognise how bad the colour bar rule was, even though it was many years ago. Even at that time, it should not have caused discrimination to people in sport and across our communities. I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend.

It is a sad fact, but there is no doubt that had Cuthbert Taylor had two white parents, instead of one, he would have gone on to challenge for British and world boxing titles, and he may well have been successful. His is by no means an isolated case in British boxing, as we have heard, let alone in other sports. Many black or mixed-race British fighters in that period were held back by the racism of the colour bar rule.

Cuthbert Taylor’s family still live in Merthyr Tydfil, and for many years they have been campaigning for an apology from the British Boxing Board of Control for the injustices of the colour bar rule. After previous debates, some have argued that such apologies are merely gimmicks—pointless, empty gestures—but I could not disagree more. Winston Churchill is often quoted as saying, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Shamefully, however, the British Boxing Board of Control has refused to engage on this issue with the family, with me as the local MP, and with the Minister. After debates and questions in this House, countless stories in the press and personal correspondence from families of the victims of the colour bar rule and MPs, I had hoped that the British Boxing Board of Control would do the right thing and offer a long-overdue apology. Its intransigence only compounds the historical wrong of the colour bar rule and its effect on the families of its victims.

British boxing today is a wholly different sport. It is inclusive, and a showcase for a diverse, modern Britain. However, as long as the boxing authority refuses to acknowledge the sins of the past, this stain will remain, not just for the families but for Britain as a whole. I hope the Minister will join me in calling on the British Boxing Board of Control to engage with Cuthbert Taylor’s family and me, and right this historical wrong.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nigel Huddleston)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I thank the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Gerald Jones) for securing a debate on this subject again. I also thank those who participated in it. We last discussed historical discrimination in boxing in October 2020, but I warmly welcome the opportunity to revisit the topic today for the reasons the hon. Gentleman outlined.

I fully appreciate the frustration the hon. Gentleman feels in his ongoing campaign for an apology for the discrimination faced by Cuthbert Taylor and other boxers, including Len Johnson—mentioned by the hon. Member for Stockport (Navendu Mishra)—Dick Turpin and others, all of whom were denied the opportunity to fight for a British title between 1911 and 1948 simply because of their race. I applaud the efforts of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney to commemorate Cuthbert with a plaque, which was unveiled in October 2021.

I should say at the beginning, in response to the hon. Gentleman’s request that I write again to the BBBofC for an apology, that I will be happy to do so. I am somewhat disappointed, as he is, that he has not received the response that he would have liked, so I will put in that request again. This is a very important topic.

I recognise, of course, that some of the institutions and bodies with responsibility for boxing are now different from the entities that existed at that time. However, sport needs to look back on its history, and those entities—whatever they are—need to acknowledge past events and take some responsibility for them, although we recognise that the people in charge now are not the people who were in charge then, and that the world is different. We think differently and things have moved on, but stories like Cuthbert’s should not be forgotten. They are part of our social history, and as we noted before and has been highlighted again today, the history of boxing contains fascinating tales of triumph and defeat. It also tells us much about social trends, norms and prejudices of the past. Sport is an integral part of our national life, and we should not be surprised that it often reflects the values of the time—values that are not necessarily shared today.

By modern standards, the prohibition that was in place in the early part of the last century was blatantly racist. We must not brush uncomfortable truths about past discrimination under the carpet; we owe it to those who suffered to understand what they went through, in order to learn from the past and make sure that future generations do not have to go through the same painful experiences. I want sport to be welcoming to everyone and a reflection of our diverse society.

Today, boxing is one of our most diverse sports, and some of our highest-profile sporting stars are boxers from ethnically diverse backgrounds. Boxing has made great progress across other aspects of diversity, too, with its great reach into deprived communities, inclusive boxing hubs for people with a range of health conditions, and the nurturing of female boxing talent. Women’s boxing, in particular, has gone from strength to strength since Nicola Adams won the first female Olympic boxing gold in London in 2012. The recent fight between Katie Taylor and Amanda Serrano at Madison Square Garden in front of a 20,000-strong fan base has been lauded as the greatest women’s boxing fight in history. That incredible encounter lived up to all the hype and showed sport at its best.

For a long time, though, women were barred from boxing competitions. It was not until 1997—so very recently—that the British Amateur Boxing Association sanctioned its first boxing competition for women, and the BBBofC sanctioned the first domestic professional fight the following year. As we know, women’s boxing only fully entered the Olympic games in 2012, so change can be slow to happen, but women’s boxing appears to be on a clear upward trajectory, and long may that continue. We want to help the sport nurture the next superstars of the future and give everyone the opportunity to take part, no matter their background. That is why we continue to support our elite boxers through UK Sport funding. We also support community boxing clubs across the country through Sport England funding and the National Lottery Community Fund.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
- Hansard - -

I welcome the Minister’s comments regarding inclusion, particularly in boxing. He and I discussed the ongoing racism scandal in cricket when I tabled an urgent question a few months ago, and I thought the Government were reasonable on the matter, but did not go far enough. Will the Minister comment on current issues, such as the lack of progress for men and women of colour in cricket, and the long-standing issues with governance in that sport? I take his points about football, and I welcome them.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his ongoing interest in this matter. I will come on to some of those points in a moment—it relates to some other sports and I do not want to test the Chair’s patience by diverging too far from the topic of the debate—but the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Entities, particularly those that receive Government funding or public money in some way, shape or form, such as through Sport England, have an obligation and a duty—a requirement, in fact—to make sure that they are truly open to all, not discriminating and making efforts to be inclusive. If they are not, they will not and should not get public money. Of course, many other sports are private entities and self-organising bodies, but we still expect them to put in place parameters and governance structures through their governing bodies to do the same things—to be inclusive and open to all.

We have seen some very unfortunate, high-profile incidents in certain sports recently that have let everybody down. They should not taint everybody involved in those sports. We all know that sport is a great unifier and can bring people together in a way that very few other things can. Some of the incidents are extremely worrying, but they should not taint everybody, because a lot of people work day in, day out in all sports across the country to be inclusive. Those people have been somewhat disappointed by incidents they have seen happen in their own sports, because they are working day in, day out to do the exact opposite of what they are seeing in the newspapers and on television.

We should not underestimate the incidents that have happened—unfortunately, particularly in cricket. We are keeping a close eye on it, as is the whole House. We have had multiple debates and will continue to do so, because we expect and need further change. I absolutely agree with the hon. Member for Stockport. I will continue with my speech, because his point is very much the theme of my next few pages.

Sport does not need to rest on its laurels. We must take steps to ensure that discrimination and inequality are identified and addressed. Like many sports, boxing continues to look at what more it can do to promote inclusion and diversity. England Boxing published the results of its equality, diversity and race review in January this year. The report made a number of recommendations around training, leadership and culture, all of which England Boxing is implementing. I am pleased to see the sport engage with the issues in that way.

We know that it is not only boxing that is facing these challenges. In June 2021, Sport England, UK Sport and the other home nations’ sports councils published the results of a detailed, independent review into tackling racism and racial inequality in sport. The review brought together data and gathered lived experiences of racial inequalities and racism in the sector. The findings make clear that racism and racial inequalities still exist within sport in the UK—it is sad that I have to say that. These are long-standing issues that have resulted in ethnically diverse communities being consistently disadvantaged.

The sports councils agreed on a set of overarching commitments that they will work on together, relating to people, representation, investment, systems and insights. Updates on progress are being provided every six months, and I am keen to ensure this momentum is sustained over the long term. In addition, last year, Sport England and UK Sport published an updated version of the code for sports governance that sets the standards all sporting organisations must meet in return for public funding. As I said, if they are not performing in that way, they should not receive public funding.

The code has proved successful in setting clear expectations around good governance and diversity since its launch in 2017. However, four years on, I called on the two sports councils to review the code with a particular focus on equality and diversity, and that is what they have delivered. The updated code places an increased focus on diversity in decision making and on ensuring that sports organisations reflect the community they serve.

The code now requires sports organisations to produce individual diversity and inclusion action plans. These have to be agreed by Sport England and/or UK Sport, published and updated annually. This process, combined with support provided by the sports councils along the way, will help sports set clear ambitions for improving diversity and inclusion throughout their organisations, and not just at the senior board level.

The Government feel strongly about diversity of representation and thought, and I hope the changes in the code will help the sport sector become even stronger in that respect. Diversity and inclusion are essential to sport. We want people to enjoy taking part in their chosen activity, and we want to attract and retain talented athletes. That cannot happen if people do not feel welcome or respected.

It should go without saying that there is no place for racism, sexism, homophobia or any other kind of discrimination in sport, and we continue to work with our sports councils, sport governing bodies and others to ensure everyone feels welcomed and can enjoy sport. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney has raised many important points today, and I thank him for his ongoing interest and passion for this subject. History cannot be changed. For Cuthbert Taylor, and many others like him, nothing can bring back the chance to fight for a British title. We must acknowledge the past and learn for the future. I have made the BBBofC aware of this debate, and I will also write another letter.

The hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) raised a point about the situation we have with the Commonwealth Games and gymnastics—I am aware of the situation. The sports team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Commonwealth Games Federation are in discussions with the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique to make it aware of the sensitivities and concerns that the hon. Gentleman has raised. We are engaged in constructive dialogue, and I continue to appeal to FIG to change its decision because, as the hon. Gentleman said, it is inconsistent with existing agreements. I hope FIG will understand that.

Online Safety Bill (Third sitting)

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Committee stage & Committee Debate - 3rd sitting
Thursday 26th May 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

Public Bill Committees
Read Full debate Online Safety Act 2023 View all Online Safety Act 2023 Debates Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts Amendment Paper: Public Bill Committee Amendments as at 26 May 2022 - (26 May 2022)
None Portrait The Chair
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Thank you. We have time for a question from Navendu Mishra before we bring the Minister in.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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Q Mr Stone, do you think that the Bill gives sufficient protection to groups who suffer disproportionate abuse online because of protected characteristics? Do you think that those protections should be clarified in the Bill?

Danny Stone: If we are talking about the “legal but harmful” provisions, I would reflect what the witnesses from the Carnegie Trust—who are brilliant—were saying earlier. There is a principle that has been established in the Bill to list priority illegal harms, and there is no reason why priority harms against adults should not be listed. Racism and misogyny are not going anywhere. The Joint Committee suggested leaning into existing legislation, and I think that is a good principle. The Equality Act established protected characteristics, so I think that is a start—it is a good guide. I think there could be further reference to the Equality Act in the Bill, including in relation to anonymity and other areas.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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Q So it could be clarified?

Danny Stone: Yes.

None Portrait The Chair
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Would any other witness like to contribute? No.

Racism in Cricket

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Tuesday 9th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Urgent Questions are proposed each morning by backbench MPs, and up to two may be selected each day by the Speaker. Chosen Urgent Questions are announced 30 minutes before Parliament sits each day.

Each Urgent Question requires a Government Minister to give a response on the debate topic.

This information is provided by Parallel Parliament and does not comprise part of the offical record

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
- Hansard - -

(Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport if she will make a statement on reports regarding racism in cricket.

Chris Philp Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Chris Philp)
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am appearing here this afternoon in place of the Minister for Sport—the Under-Secretary of State, my hon. Friend the Member for Mid Worcestershire (Nigel Huddleston)—who is in Geneva having meetings with football officials.

I will start by being very clear about something on which I know the whole House will agree: there is no place for racism in sport. Indeed, there is no place for racism anywhere in society. It must be confronted, it must be eradicated and it should never be written off as just “banter”.

The Government are extremely concerned by the reports of racism at Yorkshire county cricket club. Quite simply, the situation faced by Azeem Rafiq was unacceptable. It should never have been allowed to happen in the first place, and it should have been dealt with properly during the initial investigation. We have made it clear to the England and Wales Cricket Board that this requires a full, transparent investigation, both of the incidents involving Azeem Rafiq and of the wider cultural issues at Yorkshire county cricket club. The ECB is now investigating the matter fully. It took action against the Yorkshire club on Friday, stripping it of the right to host international matches, and has suspended a player.

There have been a number of resignations from the Yorkshire board—quite rightly—including that of its chairman. Lord Patel of Bradford has taken over as chairman, and has set out the approach that he will be taking to tackle the issue at Yorkshire. Crucially, he has started by apologising to Azeem Rafiq, but we know that that will not undo the pain that Azeem feels. More action is needed, and we have called on Lord Patel and the ECB to investigate fully, to eradicate racism where it exists, and to tackle the culture that can support it. In addition, the ECB is now undertaking a regulatory process. It must take strong action where it is necessary, and that action must be transparent and swift, for the benefit of cricket.

The ECB has also launched the independent commission for equity in cricket to look at wider issues that go beyond Yorkshire. It is chaired by Cindy Butts, a highly respected anti-racism campaigner. She is a board member of the Kick It Out campaign in football and is also, as you know, Mr Speaker, a lay member of your Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority. I have great confidence in her independence and her phenomenal track record in this area. This terrible case—the awful case of the abuse that Azeem Rafiq should never have suffered, but did suffer—shows how much more needs to be done to stamp out racism in the game, and I urge anyone who has experienced discrimination in cricket to approach Cindy Butts’s commission and report what they have experienced. I understand that the Equality and Human Rights Commission has requested information about this incident. That is quite right, and I encourage the EHRC in its work.

Sport should be for everyone, and it should not take cases such as this to bring that to life. The Government applaud Azeem Rafiq’s courage in speaking out, and encourage anyone who has been similarly affected to do the same. This must be a watershed moment for cricket. The Government will closely scrutinise the actions taken by the ECB—the Minister for Sport met the board last week to discuss this topic—and by Yorkshire county cricket club in response to these damning allegations. The investigations to which I have referred must be thorough, transparent and public. That is necessary to restore the public’s faith in cricket in Yorkshire and beyond. Parliament is watching, the Government are watching and the country is watching. We expect real action, and the Government stand ready to step in and act if those involved do not put their own house in order.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question.

The leaked racism report from Yorkshire county cricket club has exposed the extent to which serious allegations of discrimination have been mishandled, covered up and sadly, it seems, entirely ignored over a long period. Players and former board members of the club have since come forward expressing their regret, but it is too little, too late. The question of how to address this should not be solely concerned with what to do next; rather, we should ask how the club arrived at such a low point. Why were players not properly investigated, why were no processes in place to address these allegations, and why did it take the leaking of the report to kick the club into action?

Members on both sides of the House have spoken publicly about how appalled they are, so I hope that the Minister will tell us today what concrete action the Government intend to take to tackle racism in sport. I know that my good and hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North West (Alex Sobel) wrote to Mr Mark Arthur, but unfortunately he has not received a response to his letter. The news over the past week has focused on cricket because of this report, but we know that it is not in cricket alone that racism and discrimination fester. The Government’s intervention on this particular issue must be a model for the way in which other sports address racism.

I want to express my solidarity with Mr Azeem Rafiq—who has shown great bravery in the face of this injustice—and with all who have been discriminated against in cricket and other sports. Sport should be for everyone. No one should be excluded or belittled because of their race, gender, sexual orientation or disability, and I hope that today will be a landmark in the addressing of these serious issues.

In the light of the leaked racism report—which I hope will be published in full this week—1 hope that the Equality and Human Rights Commission will investigate Yorkshire county cricket club and publish a full set of recommendations for how it will tackle racism in future. We must not forget that it was only when there were financial repercussions and corporate pressure that Yorkshire actually acted; that is simply unacceptable. We also know that, although nearly a third of all cricket players at grassroots level in the UK are from ethnic minority backgrounds, the figure drops to only 4% among cricketers with professional contracts. That too is shocking. I hope that today the Government will set out how they intend to work with the England and Wales Cricket Board to ensure there is independent scrutiny of the sport, so that incidents such as this never happen again and the sport is diversified at all levels.

Chris Philp Portrait Chris Philp
- View Speech - Hansard - - - Excerpts

I shall try to respond briefly to those further questions from the hon. Gentleman.

I entirely agree that the conduct of Yorkshire county cricket club in trying to brush this matter under the carpet and ignore it was completely unacceptable, and it is right that the chairman and others have resigned. The club’s conduct has no justification whatsoever: it is disgraceful, and we condemn it unreservedly. The point about the transparency of these inquiries is important: they need to take place in public, they need to be open, and the country and Parliament need to be able to scrutinise them fully.

I also agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the need for wider action in cricket. Clause 10 of the ECB’s own county partnership agreement requires it to increase ethnic minority representation, and we need to hold it to account to deliver that. As for the question of independent oversight of what Yorkshire and the ECB are doing, the Equality and Human Rights Commission is obviously independent, and is now rightly asking questions. The Government fully support that process, and, like Members of this House, will be following and scrutinising it extremely carefully.

Oral Answers to Questions

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Thursday 1st July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi Portrait Mr Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi (Slough) (Lab)
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What plans the Government have to privatise Channel 4.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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What plans the Government have to privatise Channel 4.

John Whittingdale Portrait The Minister for Media and Data (Mr John Whittingdale)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As part of our ongoing strategic review of the UK’s system of public service broadcasting, the Government are consulting this summer on the future of Channel 4, including its ownership model and remit, and we intend to engage a broad range of stakeholders to inform any decisions taken.

--- Later in debate ---
John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I share the hon. Gentleman’s view that Channel 4, which was, of course, the creation of a Conservative Government, has done an excellent job and it is our intention to sustain it into the future. That is why we believe that now is the right time to look at its future ownership, because it is coming under increasing pressure due to the changes taking place in the way in which television is consumed. While I may not always agree with “Channel 4 News”, I do believe it does a good job. I very strongly support plurality of news providers and would expect that Channel 4 will continue to feature a news service as part of its future offering, and that would remain part of its remit.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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John McVay, the chief executive of the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, has described Channel 4 as

“a catalyst for generations of entrepreneurs”,

which

“plays a critical role in the UK’s broadcasting ecology”,

having

“invested in hundreds of independent production companies over the nearly 40 years of its existence, enabling and improving access, skills, international activity and diversity.”

Would the Minister agree with me that selling off this precious public asset to an overseas competitor with no remit for commissioning innovative British content would be a body blow to the UK’s creative economy?

John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I agree that selling off Channel 4 with no remit would be a mistake and that is certainly not our intention. John McVay, who is somebody I know well and have a great deal of respect for, is right that Channel 4 has done an excellent job in investing in independent production, but it is up against competition from big streaming services that can make 10 times the kind of investment that Channel 4 is capable of. That is why we think it is the right time to look at its ownership in order that, potentially, it can have access to much greater capital, which it will need in order to have a thriving future.

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Monday 8th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab) [V]
- Hansard - -

On International Women’s Day, I would like to start by paying tribute to the achievements of women throughout history and put it on record that I stand in solidarity with all those who continue to champion equality. In my own constituency, I am proud that so many members of my community have put on events to mark the day and celebrate the role that women have played in our history, in particular Heaton Norris community centre for its work in creating an International Women’s Week activity workbook. I was delighted to receive a copy last week and I would like to say a special thanks to Nadia Ali and the youth group at the centre for all their hard work.

The 1% pay rise for NHS workers is shameful. It is insulting for more than 1 million staff who have put themselves in harm’s way on the frontline of the covid pandemic over the past 12 months to keep our population safe. We owe them a debt of gratitude and should be rewarding them for their efforts, not insulting them with a measly pay rise for staff who are already underpaid and overworked.

Statutory sick pay also remains shamefully low with a Unison North West survey revealing that 80% of care workers will continue to receive £95 per week statutory sick pay if they are ill or following the Government’s advice to self-isolate or shield themselves or loved ones. The right thing to do is give them full pay.

Furthermore, this should have been a Budget about investing in services given the record low borrowing costs for the Government and the chronic underfunding of the NHS over the past decade, which so cruelly exposed our country to this pandemic and resulted in the highest covid death toll in Europe. We need capital funding for urgently needed upgrades to my local hospital, Stepping Hill, which I raised with the Health Secretary directly in January, as well as additional funding in areas such as cancer services right across Greater Manchester. Furthermore, specific funding for areas such as dementia are incredibly important to my constituents. Indeed, according to the Alzheimer’s Society there are almost 4,500 people aged over 65 with dementia living in the local authority of Stockport. Despite that, services to tackle this degenerative condition remain significantly underfunded.

The Budget also fails yet again to go far enough for the 3 million people who are self-employed and have been excluded from financial help during the pandemic. ExcludedUK branded the Chancellor’s announcement “too little too late.”

There was also almost nothing in this Budget for maintained nursery schools such as Hollywood Park, Lark Hill and Freshfield in my constituency. This in an unsustainable position for these schools, with the National Education Union warning that many will struggle to survive year on year without a long-term funding settlement.

It is also high time that the national minimum wage be lifted to £10 per hour to reduce the level of in-work poverty. May I therefore ask the Minister when the Government will present their long overdue employment Bill to the House?

Recently, the House has been informed about civil service jobs moving to the north. I welcome that, but so much more needs to be done to level up this area of the country. My constituency has excellent transport links, the availability of high-quality workspaces and a thriving community; I therefore strongly encourage the Government to move their Departments to Stockport and other parts of the north-west.

Online Harms Consultation

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Tuesday 15th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As ever, my hon. Friend is absolutely correct. This marks a watershed and introduces that new age of accountability. For too long, tech firms have considered that because of the novelty of their technology, they are not subject to the same norms as others—broadcasters and so on. This starts to redress that balance.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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This is a global problem that requires a global response. Will the Secretary of State confirm what co-operation protocols are in place to block offending platforms across multiple countries?

Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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First, on blocking offending platforms, we will reserve that power in this legislation; it is a power that will be available to Ofcom. Of course, we engage on exactly those points through various international forums, and we continue to work together.

Oral Answers to Questions

Navendu Mishra Excerpts
Thursday 5th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I appreciate that my hon. Friend is a great advocate for tourism, particularly in her constituency. I am fully aware of how tough the new measures will be for the tourism sector, with businesses having already faced many months of reduced trade. There are significant packages of financial support in place, as the furlough scheme and self-employed support have been extended for the period of lockdown. Many businesses in the hospitality and tourism sector will also receive grants worth up to £3,000 per month under the local restrictions support grant scheme. An additional £1.1 billion is being given to local authorities to help businesses more broadly, such as those severely impacted by restrictions but not actually forced to close.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra (Stockport) (Lab)
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What steps he is taking to tackle loneliness in winter 2020-21.

Matt Warman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Matt Warman)
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As winter approaches, loneliness will be a concern for many people. That is why the Government, as part of our £750-million charity funding package, have put £18 million into charities that tackle loneliness and provide much-needed support, including through online social groups, virtual buddying, telephone helplines and other activities. That is on top of £44 million going towards mental health as part of the same package.

Navendu Mishra Portrait Navendu Mishra
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As we enter the latest lockdown, many people will be isolated in their homes. Age UK estimates that 2 million over-75s live alone. Research by the Library has revealed that more than 3,000 households in my constituency may lose access to their free TV licence. What impact assessment has the Minister made of removing funding for the free over-75s TV licence?

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

The hon. Gentleman is right to raise the issue of the over-75s TV licence. The Government remain deeply disappointed with the BBC’s decision to restrict the over-75s licence fee concession. We recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s.