Oral Answers to Questions

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Thursday 1st December 2022

(1 year, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michelle Donelan Portrait Michelle Donelan
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Not a single clause in this Bill is actually changing—in relation to children, it is being strengthened. In relation to illegal content, of course that content is still being taken down, as the hon. Member would know if she read the stuff that we have published. We are also introducing a triple shield of defence, which was lacking before, and we have made the promotion of self-harm and intimate image abuse an offence, while also protecting free speech and free choice. It is important that the Opposition remember that making a Bill stronger is not watering down.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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T2. Social mobility—getting people out of poverty—is more important than income inequality, and access to culture and heritage play a vital role in it. I welcome the funding for the next three years for four organisations in beautiful Hastings and Rye. Hastings Contemporary, Hastings Museum and Art Gallery, Project Art Works and Home Live Art will all receive a share of nearly £2.5 million between 2023 and 2026. Will my right hon. Friend join me in congratulating these organisations on the work that they do in bringing growth and creative opportunities to my constituents, and will she pay a visit to Hastings and Rye to enjoy the delights that it—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I think we have had this before. These are Topical Questions, and we need very short questions so that all the other Members can get in. Unfortunately we are struggling for time, and we cannot use other people’s time: it is not fair.

Oral Answers to Questions

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Thursday 7th July 2022

(1 year, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Robbie Moore Portrait Robbie Moore (Keighley) (Con)
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1. What steps her Department is taking to deliver full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband by 2025.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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4. What steps her Department is taking to deliver full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband by 2025.

Nadine Dorries Portrait The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Ms Nadine Dorries)
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In the past three years, national gigabit coverage has rocketed from 6% to 69%. Through Project Gigabit, we are investing £5 billion so that people in hard-to-reach areas can get ultra-reliable gigabit broadband speeds. We have already upgraded more than 600,000 premises and we have over half a billion pounds of contracts out for tender right now. Last week, I also announced £82 million in funding to connect up to 3,000 schools to lightning-fast gigabit broadband.

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Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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In 2011, Ofcom estimated that only 3% of homes and businesses in East Sussex had access to superfast broadband, putting the county in the fourth quintile nationally. Now the figure stands at 98%. We have also seen local villages such as Westfield and Three Oaks working really hard to take advantage of the Government’s national rural gigabit voucher scheme, supported by the East Sussex rural gigabit top-up scheme. Will my right hon. Friend join me in thanking East Sussex County Council and the parish councils for their hard work and urge other rural communities to take advantage of these schemes to improve their connectivity and boost local economic growth?

Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries
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I thank my hon. Friend for the work that she did on the Committee that considered the Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill—vital legislation to give all parts of the country great connectivity. I join her in thanking East Sussex County Council and parish councils across the country that have supported local communities to benefit from our £210 million gigabit broadband voucher scheme. She rightly highlights the incredible growth in superfast coverage across East Sussex, which has benefited from public subsidy through voucher funding and earlier superfast contracts.

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill (Third sitting)

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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I thank my hon. Friend for her intervention. I know that she has considerable expertise in this field. It is a difficult balance to strike, ensuring that we are protecting landowner rights while making sure we are giving telecoms operators the powers they need to make sure all of our constituents have the digital connectivity that they demand—and will increasingly need—going forward.

For the reasons I have set out and will be setting out in further detail, I do not think the amendments will have the desired effect. It was interesting to hear the oral evidence this week, because there was no consensus among the telecoms operators about what powers are required. We have to ensure that we do not give commercial advantage to one player or the other, as that would also trample over some landowner rights.

The changes made in the 2017 reforms permit upgrading and sharing to take place without a landowner’s specific consent only where any impacts on that individual will be limited. However, it was recognised that any use of those rights could have some impact—albeit a very limited one—on individual landowners. The new rights were not applied retrospectively and had no effect on landowners who had entered into agreements before the legislation was passed. The key difference is that agreements made after that date would be completed in the knowledge that the upgrading and sharing rights would apply. Since the 2017 reforms, however, the public need for robust and up-to-date digital services has continued to grow, and was thrown into sharp relief by the recent pandemic, when many of us were reliant on access to those services at unprecedented levels.

Upgrading and sharing apparatus has a more important role to play than ever before. In the light of this and other market developments, we have revisited the position on upgrading and sharing where the rights introduced by the 2017 reforms do not apply. Introducing specific upgrading and sharing rights for such equipment can play an important role in improving coverage and capacity, and amendment 9 appears to agree with that conclusion. However, we need to ensure that the rights of individual landowners are adequately protected. As I said, agreements after the 2017 reforms will have been concluded in the knowledge that they will give rise to automatic rights for apparatus to be upgraded or shared. That is not true of apparatus that is not covered by an agreement concluded after the 2017 reforms. As such, it is only right that any automatic rights to upgrade and share those types of apparatus should be subject to different conditions.

The amendments suggest introducing specific conditions for retrospective upgrading and sharing rights where private landlords are concerned, and those conditions partly reflect those contained in the rights established by the 2017 reforms and those set out in the Bill. However, the conditions in the new rights that we are proposing have been carefully developed to work as a whole; they are intentionally more restrictive and give rise to more limited rights than those available for agreements reached before the 2017 reforms. Taken together, the conditions mean that the operator will have automatic rights only to carry out upgrading and sharing activity that will have no adverse impact on the land or that will put no burden on a relevant individual, but this will still allow activities, such as crucial upgrading work, to be undertaken in relation to historical copper cables installed underneath land.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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I wonder if the Minister could provide some clarity. Underneath the ground, there are ducts that operators can run cables through. We heard in this week’s evidence session about telegraph poles. Operators can go to the bottom of the telegraph pole, but will the Minister provide some welcome clarity on whether they can go up to the top and across? It is really important that they can use existing infrastructure and not have to pay to go around because they cannot use the overhead.

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
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We are looking at rights that will provide easier access to underground and over, but not on. These are very techy points. If my hon. Friend feels that that does not answer her question precisely enough, I would be happy to ask officials to get in touch with her.

The measures in the Bill as drafted ensure that apparatus installed under agreements concluded prior to 2017 can be upgraded and shared quickly and cost-effectively. At the same time, the specific conditions that we are introducing will ensure that the right balance is maintained between the interests of private individuals and the wider public benefit, which is a difficult balance to strike. We are concerned that the amendments would not maintain that balance. I hope that gives the hon. Member for Ogmore assurance that the provisions in the Bill regarding retrospective rights to upgrade and share represent a balanced approach, and I ask him to withdraw his amendment.

Clauses 59 and 60 are vital clauses that support and encourage greater upgrading and sharing of existing apparatus. The 2017 code reforms provided operators with limited automatic rights to upgrade and share their apparatus, subject to certain conditions. However, the 2017 changes did not introduce paragraph 17 upgrading and sharing rights for subsisting agreements, which are agreements completed before the 2017 reforms came into force. This means that a significant proportion of the UK’s existing networks cannot be upgraded or shared without specific permission, despite the fact that apparatus can be upgraded and shared in many situations with no adverse impacts on any individual or private land.

Clause 59 therefore inserts new paragraph 5A into schedule 2 to the Digital Economy Act 2017 in order to introduce rights for operators to upgrade and share apparatus installed under a subsisting agreement. These rights differ from those contained in paragraph 17. They are available in more limited circumstances and will be subject to stricter conditions and specific notice requirements. Taken together, the measures in the clause will ensure that apparatus installed under a subsisting agreement can be upgraded and shared quickly and cost-efficiently, and do so in a way that takes into account both the interests of individuals and the wider public benefit.

Clause 60 deals with the same issue of upgrading and sharing apparatus, but in this case in relation to apparatus installed before 29 December 2003 where there is neither a subsisting agreement nor an agreement concluded after the 2017 reforms. It is right that upgrading and sharing rights should be available for all apparatus installed before the 2017 reforms came into effect. Clause 60 therefore inserts proposed new paragraph 17A into the code, conferring rights to upgrade and share apparatus installed under land before 29 December 2003, where the operator who owns that apparatus is not a party to an agreement under part 2 of the code.

Product Security and Telecommunications Infrastructure Bill (Second sitting)

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan
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Q Will the Bill give you sufficient trust to purchase and acquire such a device and have it in your own home?

Professor Carr: No, to be honest.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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Q Very briefly, Professor Carr, if the security threat as regards connected products were substantially to change over the next few years, will the Bill cover those changes, or will some flexibility need to be built into the Bill to address them?

Professor Carr: It is impossible to answer that. That is what makes this type of legislation difficult. We do not know how the threats will emerge or change. A couple of years ago we could not have imagined that ransomware would be the threat that it has become, but the fact that we cannot anticipate the future with certainty does not mean that we cannot act now. Nothing will be sufficient to fix the insecurity of the digital world that we live in. No Bill will change that, but small bits of legislation beginning to address these vulnerabilities is the right way to go. I do not think that anyone should be afraid of doing this. This is the beginning of the future. Governments will not stand by forever and watch the damage and destruction that can be done by digital devices. We have to start somewhere, and I think that this is it.

David Rogers: I am coming from a slightly different position, but obviously I would like to see all 13 requirements implemented. I think that it does provide future proofing, because this provides the foundation of future trust for everything. Everything that we have written in there provides future underpinnings. If we are allowing industry-based organisations such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute to maintain the specification for the future, that allows organisations to improve and add things. I think Dave mentioned biometrics, for example. They can go to ETSI and add to it, and let’s allow industry to develop that. Organisations such as NCSC and DCMS are also there to input into those standard bodies. I think it is a really strong start.

None Portrait The Chair
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Thank you. That brings us to a slightly premature end of this evidence session. I thank the witnesses, on behalf of the Committee, for their evidence.

Examination of Witnesses

Catherine Colloms, Simon Holden, Mark Bartlett and Juliette Wallace gave evidence.

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Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan
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Thanks. I think everyone understood there was going to be a reduction, but I cannot remember those sorts of figures ever being mentioned at the time of the 2017 Bill.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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Q This question is for Catherine Colloms and Simon Holden to start with. My constituency, Hastings and Rye, has urban and rural areas—we have small Rye—and pre-existing 2017 infrastructure. You have both explained the consequences of the cost if you cannot use existing duct and pole infrastructure. What activities, exactly, would be required to upgrade existing infrastructure, and what reassurance can you give landlords or people who own gardens containing a telegraph pole or that sort of thing?

Catherine Colloms: Effectively—let me take a multi-dwelling unit and then I will take a pole—we need to put a new fibre cable over some of these pieces of infrastructure. I actually have my kit behind me, which I can show you in a second. With an MDU, there is often fibre outside a premises; we will build to the curtilage. What we have inside an MDU is the existing cable—the existing hybrid fibre—that is going up inside the risers. You basically cannot see it. It then kind of pops on to a room. We would reinstall the new part of the full-fibre kit in the classic plant room downstairs, so that it is all with the maintenance bits. We then need a new small cable—this one is basically it; it is called InvisiLight—which we would run up through the risers. This is what you would see, or not see, running through corridors or along the wall. When you put this on a wall, you cannot find it because it is absolutely tiny. This cable has all the fibres running through it.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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The visual impact is going to be minimal.

Catherine Colloms: It is minimal. You often need a very small box that just sits on the top of someone’s door and you effectively put this cable inside someone’s flat to a new box. That is for an MDU.

For a pole network, it is similar in the sense that you need slightly more than this amount, because we will probably have some more cables in it. Over the existing pole infrastructure, you will have a new cable that basically has fibres in it. As you can see, this cable is absolutely tiny compared with copper, and it will serve hundreds of premises, as opposed to the copper, which needs to be a different size. You would effectively need a cable that is slightly larger than the one that I have here—because it would be protected—that runs across the existing infrastructure. You sometimes need some termination points, so there might be a few pieces of black plastic, which is effectively where you put various bits of the access network.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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On the telegraph pole.

Catherine Colloms: On the telegraph pole, but not every pole. It will be only on a few of the access poles, but we try to minimise the impact and keep it as small as we can.

Simon Holden: We are using exactly the same process and procedures, and the ducts and poles that are available, so my answer is the same.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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Q Why do you think the Bill does not cover infrastructure that was there before 2017?

Catherine Colloms: At the moment, the way that clauses 59 and 60 are drafted, they talk about “no adverse impact” as opposed to minimal adverse visual impact. The existing code under which we are currently operating talks about “minimal adverse impact”, which is why we have been able to put infrastructure in as we are doing today. That has not been transposed in the Bill. We are suggesting that if we could change the definition to “minimal adverse impact” as opposed to “no adverse impact”—with, for example, the MDU having something like this cable—that would allow us the ability to go in and upgrade with minimal adverse impact where we currently have the infrastructure.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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Q Thank you. I have one more question for you, if I may. In Hastings and Rye, with rural and urban areas, and levels of deprivation, we do not want digital exclusion. Are there any other changes to the Bill that will get full fibre out more quickly to those people who really need it?

Catherine Colloms: For me, it is the critical clauses 59 and 60. If we could extend the measure to multi-dwelling units, that solves your urban problem, but, critically, if we can extend it over the pole network, that is what will make the difference in rural areas. As I was explaining to the Minister, it is not necessarily that the target changes, because we will still try to do everything we can to meet the target, but the danger of not being able to upgrade existing infrastructure over poles is that you end up with pockets that are excluded as you upgrade. We are effectively trying to avoid getting all these pockets of digital divide in MDUs and cities, but also the little pockets as we are upgrading through rural areas at the same time.

Simon Holden: I would add one administrative point. The way that the Bill is drafted at the moment means that the main operator, which would typically be Openreach, has to notify the private landowner. The fact of the matter is that if we wanted to use it, we could equally notify the private landowner. What I do not want to do is either to burden Openreach with lots of my administration, or for that to become a bottleneck to the speed of my roll-out. We would propose that if it is the main operator or the new operator that has utilised that infrastructure, it could give the noticing. By the way, we are giving noticing to local authorities for works all over the place; we have a process for doing that. That would actually accelerate things from our perspective and not create an inadvertent administrative bottleneck from a process perspective. We can provide you wording on that.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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Q Thank you. I have one question for Mr Bartlett. We heard this morning from a colleague who is not here this afternoon that one possible reason for the increase in costs that perhaps Cellnex, for example, has met is that between the landowner and the operator, middlemen became involved. What are your thoughts on that?

Mark Bartlett: First of all, towercos have been around in the industry since the start. The BBC became National Grid became Crown wireless became Arqiva became Cellnex, and so on. This is not a 2017 phenomenon. Secondly, Cellnex itself has invested billions of pounds in the UK over the last couple of years and invests hundreds of millions of pounds a year, whether that is in connecting the Brighton main line or providing DAS, small cells, tower upgrades or new towers. To describe a huge enabler of connectivity across the UK as a middleman is, I think, a step too far. Fundamentally, we are an industry that is bringing connectivity to the whole of the UK; we are part of it, and we believe that these changes are needed to deliver it.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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Q The Bill will give the right to share and upgrade pre-2017 infrastructure. In relation to mobile coverage, to what extent will this dramatically improve the roll-out? The range of 5G, as I understand it, is very limited—is it 500 metres? Perhaps you could confirm that. Beyond that, it would be very helpful for us to understand to what extent telecoms providers are currently collaborating with one another to locate the best sites to situate new masts and to upgrade existing masts, to minimise the impact that communities will face. As we heard from various people this morning, many communities feel very powerless in this whole process, and it would be helpful to reassure them that they are being considered and there is a wider agenda that is being addressed by such companies.

Mark Bartlett: That is a good question. First of all, do we collaborate as an industry to use shared infrastructure? We are required to do so under planning laws. In fact, towercos’ reason for being is to create efficiencies and share infrastructure, to the benefit of the community. We are, through the planning process, not allowed to stick one tower next to another. Those sorts of things protect the community, but also make sure that we exploit the infrastructure that we have today to maximum effect.

Secondly, in terms of sharing upgrade rights, obviously we have existing towers. At the point at which we need to upgrade for 5G, often we need to put more equipment on those towers, so it is important that we are able to do that without having to negotiate higher costs under the old regime, and that we are able to do that very quickly. To Catherine’s point, where we do not get agreement to upgrade a tower, it simply means—the local community around that tower is much further than 500 metres; depending on which technology you use, it might be 500 metres, but I will not go into that, and one big tower serves many hundreds of people—that that tower does not get upgraded and the money is spent on a different tower in a different community.

The power of the individual to affect the outcomes of the community is very high in the process that we have today, especially where the legislation does not work. To be frank, that is why the changes are required. It is not necessarily to overcome some battle with a land agent. We are simply attempting to create this connectivity solution across the UK as fast as we possibly can, and having the simplicity—while remaining fair to the landlord—of legislation that works and an operational process that works is going to enable that.

Is there anything else you want to add, Juliette? If I may, I will refer to Juliette on the technical—

Juliette Wallace: I do not think there is anything particular to add, other than to say that the shared rural network absolutely relies on the ability both to roll out new sites to new areas that are total notspots at the moment and to roll out sharing and upgrade capability on existing sites. If we do not get the changes in this Bill, we are going to be seriously reduced in our ability to effectively roll out, share and upgrade those existing sites. There are some sites where currently we have no mechanic to be able to renew those agreements. As Mark said, the power of the individual to frustrate the roll-out of new technology or increase technology to a geographical area is huge currently.

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Chris Elmore Portrait Chris Elmore
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Q I have a final question for Ms Concha on the online marketplaces, which do significant work in this area. In your view, how easy would it be to change the Bill to ensure that online marketplaces are part of it as well as manufacturers? The argument was made earlier that there most certainly is a responsibility on those who sell the product. Particularly if you are using, say, eBay, there is often limited interaction between the seller, the parent company and the person purchasing. Arguably, eBay as the organisation should take significant responsibility. I am keen to understand whether you think that is a relatively easy change for the Government to make to help close what you describe as a significant loophole in the Bill.

Rocio Concha: In terms of the Bill, an example could be to change or tighten the definition that you have of distributors. In terms of implementation, online marketplaces are the gateway between the consumers and the manufacturers of these products. They are the ones that have the power to make sure that these products comply with the law. Let me give you an example. We routinely do product tests to identify security vulnerabilities with these products. Often when we go to the online marketplaces, we get the answer that, because there is no regulation, they cannot take these products out.

We need the regulation to be clear that any smart product needs to comply with these baseline security requirements. Also, we need regulation to put responsibility on the online platforms to make sure that they are monitoring proactively which products are being sold on their platforms. That is key, and I feel that it is not optional. It is quite clear what is going to happen. There are bad actors out there, manufacturing products that are not going to comply with the baseline requirements. They know that there are not going to be the necessary checks in there by the online marketplaces, but the consumer does not know. It is impossible for the consumer to make an assessment of whether the product will be secure or not. Unless we put in regulation, you can see where all these bad actors are going to go.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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Q Good afternoon to you both. It is clear that in the Bill the onus is on the manufacturers to meet the product security and safety requirements. Clearly, consumers also need to be aware of security threats both within the context of domestic abuse and otherwise. Should the Government be giving guidance to consumers? I do not know what the current situation is, but is it the role of the Government to give guidance to consumers?

Rocio Concha: I personally think that yes, the Government should provide information to consumers so that they are aware of this. Organisations such as ours also play a role, and we play it. We continuously publish our findings on security vulnerabilities and the sorts of things that consumers can do to protect themselves. There is a need for more information for consumers in general so that they can be aware that when they put these products in their homes, unless they take certain steps and buy products that meet the regulations that we hope will soon be introduced, they are putting themselves at risk.

Jessica Eagleton: I would agree with what my fellow panellist has said. When we think about tech abuse, we see that awareness of it is quite low among the general public. In fact, in a survey we ran last year the results were that two thirds of women did not know where to go for information if they thought that a device in their home was compromised. There is a role there for that awareness piece. At Refuge, the approach we tend to take is to empower survivors to use technology safely and to take back control of their products and technology. We have developed a range of resources to do that, but we would welcome more work and more efforts on this more widely.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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Q Where would a woman go as a first point of call if she discovered that something in her house was monitoring or stalking her?

Jessica Eagleton: The national domestic abuse helpline is the gateway to a wide range of domestic abuse services across the country. If she phoned the national domestic abuse helpline, we would be able to help her there, and help her with safety planning and next steps. We have some resources on our website and have recently developed a home safety tool that talks you through various devices in the home and gives tips on how to secure them.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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Thank you. I have no further questions.

Kevin Brennan Portrait Kevin Brennan
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Q On the Which? side, Ms Concha, one of our earlier witnesses said that they thought it would be a good idea if the Bill were amended to establish in law a minimum time limit for which this type of device is supported. Is that something that Which? would support?

Rocio Concha: Yes, we would support that. If it is not possible to include it in the Bill, we would ask that the Bill allows for it to be included in secondary legislation in the future. We would be very supportive of introducing minimum supporting periods for products.

Oral Answers to Questions

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Thursday 16th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries
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At this stage in my appointment, I am afraid I cannot give the hon. Gentleman an exact figure for the take-up, but I will write to him.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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7. What steps her Department is taking to support the recovery of the tourism industry.

Nigel Huddleston Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Nigel Huddleston)
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The Government have already provided more than £35 billion for the tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors in the form of grants, loans and tax breaks throughout the pandemic. When I last spoke to the House about this, the figure was £25 billion, so there has been a considerable increase since then. As our tourism recovery plan makes clear, we will continue to support the sector’s return to pre-pandemic levels and beyond, hopefully well ahead of independent forecasts. For example, the £10 million national lottery days out campaign, to be launched next month, will stimulate demand for more off-season day trips to tourist sites across the UK this autumn and winter.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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Tourism and hospitality has often been viewed as a Cinderella industry, but we know, particularly after covid-19, how vital it is not only to local economies such as mine in Hastings and Rye—of which it represents more than 30%—but to the UK economy, and also what a wide range of opportunities it offers globally. What steps is my hon. Friend taking to encourage people, particularly the young, to choose this industry as a fantastic career path?

Nigel Huddleston Portrait Nigel Huddleston
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising this topic. I know that she is passionate about the sector, having visited her fantastic constituency on a beautiful sunny day in June this year.

We recognise the importance of recovering from the pandemic with a more resilient tourism industry that will offer exciting, good-quality, well-paid jobs to young people as well as long-term careers for everyone, throughout the country. We work closely with the Tourism Industry Council to ensure that the sector is signposted to key Government initiatives such as the £2.5 billion national skills fund and the UK-wide kickstart scheme.

Oral Answers to Questions

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Thursday 20th May 2021

(3 years ago)

Commons Chamber
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Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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The hon. Lady is conflating two issues about competition law and the Premier League. The Sports Minister has set out the Government’s position in a written ministerial statement. This is about securing football finances during a period of crisis, and it is essential that we do that. Clearly we will all have an open mind as we get the response, but the reason for considering this is that we want to ensure that money keeps going into the game.

On the point about change, of course that is precisely why I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford, who I know the hon. Lady has worked closely with in the past, and I think we can trust her to come up with serious recommendations to address precisely the issues that the hon. Lady raises. I do not want to pre-empt the outcome of that review, but I can give an assurance that I will deliver on the outcome of the review as much as we possibly can. I am not pre-empting it, but we will find legislative time for doing so.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to improve digital infrastructure and connectivity in rural areas.

Imran Ahmad Khan Portrait Imran Ahmad Khan (Wakefield) (Con)
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What steps he is taking to improve digital infrastructure and connectivity in rural areas.

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Matt Warman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Matt Warman)
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The Government are making huge progress on our ambition to deliver gigabit broadband across the whole country. Only last week, Openreach increased its planned investment target and it has set itself a target of 25 million premises to connect in the next five years. Some 40% of UK premises can already access gigabit broadband, and we expect that to rise to 60% by the end of this year. That is on top of the shared rural network commitment that will see mobile coverage increase across the whole country.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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A number of rural areas have been recategorised as urban for the purpose of broadband community vouchers. While the majority of premises will retain their eligibility under the new voucher conditions, premises in an area where Ofcom believes a gigabit-capable network is likely to be built commercially—including Ofcom area 2—will not be eligible for a voucher. Does my hon. Friend agree that that lack of certainty risks villages such as Three Oaks in my beautiful Hastings and Rye constituency ending up being missed out? What steps can he take to ensure that this cannot happen?

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
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It is of course welcome news that a commercial roll-out will reach more of the country than ever, but my hon. Friend raises an important point. This Government will make sure that no part of the country is left behind on that roll-out, which is why there is flexibility in the voucher scheme that she describes and why Project Gigabit is there to scoop up all the remaining premises. I am happy to discuss the villages that she mentions in person as well.

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Catherine West Portrait Catherine West (Hornsey and Wood Green) (Lab)
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What steps the Crown Prosecution Service is taking with partner agencies in the criminal justice system to reduce the backlog of cases resulting from the covid-19 outbreak.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of the Crown Prosecution Service’s contribution to the criminal justice system’s covid-19 recovery.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General (Michael Ellis)
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I am pleased that inspections in both June 2020 and March 2021 found that the CPS responded well to the challenges caused by covid-19. Those inspections were by Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service inspectorate. The CPS has made a significant contribution to supporting the criminal justice system during an exceptionally difficult time, working closely with partners. I am proud of prosecutors and staff who have continued to deliver their essential services, both virtually and in person where necessary, throughout the pandemic.

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Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General
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As the hon. Lady may know, a rape review is due to be published soon. Together with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service introduced an interim charging protocol in April 2020 to prioritise the most important cases, to which she is referring, through the criminal justice system. Those are high-harm cases, including rape and domestic abuse. I am proud of the CPS’s response. I am sure she recognises that the exigencies of the pandemic have affected backlogs to a significant extent in many areas of public and private life, but a huge amount is being done to ameliorate that backlog. Particular priority is being given to the sorts of cases to which she is referring.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart
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What learning will the CPS take forward from its pandemic response to increase resilience in the future?

Michael Ellis Portrait The Attorney General
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One of the things that we will be looking at is the cloud video platform. The CPSI report published recently recognised the flexibility and adaptability of the CPS in responding to the pandemic. The cloud video platform was enabling around 20,000 virtual hearings a week, and post pandemic I am sure we will be looking at that among many other things.

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Monday 8th March 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con) [V]
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At this moment, nearly a year on since the first lockdown was brought about, I am reminded of the words of Lord Tennyson:

“Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.”

Over the last year, we have all grown tired of the slow passing of time as the covid pandemic has brought to a halt our lives as we once knew them. The daily confirmation of lives lost and loved ones around the country in mourning—the pandemic really has taken a toll on us all. But now is the time, as this Budget has sought to do, to strive for a better future: seeking to improve the life chances for all and finding solutions to turbocharge our economy, and not yielding to the cynicism and pessimism of some.

This is a good Budget and the Chancellor has got the balance right between supporting our economy and jobs right now as we continue through this pandemic, and laying out the necessary and proportionate measures to pay for that support in the future. Global Britain in a post-covid-19 world can be a beacon around the globe, a shining example of how to transform an economy into a high-skilled, high-waged green economy, offering opportunities for many and levelling up our left-behind communities. This Budget sets us on course for that.

First, as vice-chair of the all-party group on hospitality and tourism, I welcome the extensions of the VAT cut and the business rates holiday. Those measures have really helped the hospitality sector through the pandemic. It is welcome that they will be in place as they fully open this summer. I would have liked to see them extended for a further full year to really give our hospitality and tourism sectors a turbo-boost to their recovery, so I hope my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will review that when the schemes are due to come to an end.

Secondly, I welcome the levelling-up fund and the inclusion of both Hastings and Rother local authorities in priority group 1. This fund will really help areas that have been left behind for too long to get the vital investment in local projects that matter to local people. I welcome the funding support that both the local authorities I represent will get in putting their bids together. I look forward to working with them on that, along with my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman).

Finally, I cannot conclude without raising the case for a High Speed 1 rail extension from Ashford International through to Hastings, Bexhill and Eastbourne. I know I have been banging on about it for a long time and it has been talked about for nearly 10 years, but we really need it to come through and get that train through there.

We may have grown tired and weakened by the pandemic in recent months, but now is the time to strive, to seek, to find and not to yield as we move our economy into a post-covid world, as this Budget does.

Tourism: Covid-19

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Thursday 10th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker. I would like to endorse the comments made today about coaches on behalf of the coach companies in Hastings and Rye—Empress Coaches, Rambler Coaches and Nova Bussing. Tourism is very important to Hastings and Rye, but we are now seeing an increase in benefit claims, with over 14,000 individuals on universal credit as from July 2020. I would like to thank the jobcentre staff, who have been heroic in their efforts to support local people.

This Government have given vital support to tourism and tourism-related businesses throughout coronavirus, and so many of my constituents are enormously grateful for that, but ongoing support is desperately needed. For example, Hastings normally has a buoyant English language school culture, with thousands of students coming every year to stay with families. As well as language tuition, trips are organised to our amazing tourist attractions, and local businesses such as the ABC Student Tours will struggle. I fear these businesses will not survive, which will have a long-term impact on our local economy.

Rosie Winterton Portrait Madam Deputy Speaker (Dame Rosie Winterton)
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I call the SNP spokesperson, Drew Hendry.

Oral Answers to Questions

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Thursday 9th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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That is exactly why our manifesto contained the ambitious target of rolling out full fibre to the premises by 2025. We are making rapid progress, with numbers roughly doubling in the past year, and my hon. Friend the Minister for Digital Infrastructure and I are working tirelessly to drive us towards that target.

Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart  (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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Beautiful Hastings and Rye has an amazing cultural and arts sector that has unfortunately largely missed out on the remarkable economic packages provided by this Government. Bearing in mind the success of F. D. Roosevelt’s public works of art project, what measures is my right hon. Friend considering to put rocket boosters under our performing arts sector and live music venues to enhance their contribution towards turbo charging our economy?

Oliver Dowden Portrait Oliver Dowden
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My hon. Friend is right to highlight the central role of the arts in our creative industries, which help to make us a powerhouse. That is why we are working to ensure their reopening as rapidly as possible, and announcements on that will come shortly. It is also why I welcomed the Chancellor’s tremendous announcement yesterday; those VAT cuts will apply to almost all the sectors that my hon. Friend highlights.

Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Sally-Ann Hart Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Sally-Ann Hart Portrait Sally-Ann Hart (Hastings and Rye) (Con)
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Exceptional public health decisions required to squash this virus have needed exceptional economic interventions. That is what the Government have provided through the vast economic package of support given to businesses and individuals. One email I received yesterday from a constituent, who owns Rock a Nore Kitchen, said: “As small business owners, my husband and I have both been helped by the Government. You have really looked after us and we will not forget it. The grants and furlough scheme have enabled us to keep our businesses, keep our staff, generate money into the economy and keep the high streets alive. We will recover and it is down to you all.”

Beautiful Hastings and Rye is particularly dependent on the tourism and hospitality sectors, so I was delighted to hear the Prime Minister earlier this week announce the reopening of those sectors from 4 July. This is a much needed boost to our local economy, which we desperately need. However, we also have an amazing cultural and arts sector, which has, unfortunately, largely missed out on the remarkable economic packages provided by the Government, which have helped to support over 11,000 jobs and over 5,000 self-employed people in my constituency. Now we must look to the future and see what more we can do to continue levelling up our country and turbo-charging our local economies as we recover from the health crisis.

The Government provided economic support to businesses and individuals at a critical time. Now we all have a role to play in getting out and supporting our local businesses by finding our collective confidence to do so. Together we have gripped control of this virus and together we can come out of this pandemic stronger—team UK! In encouraging visitors to our tourist attractions, shops and hospitality venues, local authorities also have a role to play in marketing our areas and banging the drum to encourage domestic tourism. With greater footfall will come more support and an energetic boost to our local businesses.

Looking to the future, we need to put rocket boosters under our creative and performing arts sector, which is the bedrock of much of the soul of Hastings and Rye, through supporting venues in my constituency from St Mary in the Castle and Hastings Contemporary to pubs such as the Crown in Hastings old town, the Piper in St Leonards and the Standard Inn in Rye—I could keep going. There are so many people who are dependent on this industry getting off the ground again. I am asking the Government to put forward a clear plan for the strategy to drive up domestic tourism, so that we can support our hospitality and cultural sectors and allow constituencies such as Hastings and Rye to bounce back after this period of lockdown. Furthermore, it would be fantastic to get reassurances from the Government that our cultural, tourism and hospitality businesses in particular will have additional measures of support to get them through the equivalent of three winters.