Culture, Media and Sport Questions

At the despatch box in the House of Commons

Hugh Robertson answers questions from back bench MPs on topics including promoting tourism on our canals, the Department's review on B2 gaming machines, the timing of the FA Cup final and soccer violence.


Inland Waterways: Tourism

Gavin Williamson (South Staffordshire) (Con): What steps she is taking to promote tourism on inland waterways. [151742]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): The Government, through VisitEngland, promote tourism on inland waterways in a number of ways. Inland waterways have benefited from Government funding through the £25 million rural growth fund and a £1 billion contribution to the Canal & River Trust.

Gavin Williamson: South Staffordshire has some of the finest canals in England, with the Staffordshire and Worcestershire canal and the Shropshire Union canal. What more can my right hon. Friend do to encourage not only more domestic tourists, but more international tourists to discover the delights of our canals, which would bring much-needed business not just to rural communities, but to our towns and cities?

Hugh Robertson: I have a very simple and, I hope, positive answer for my hon. Friend. VisitBritain will actively market all of Britain’s canals and waterways on its public-facing website. I hope that that will achieve the effect that he desires.

Andy Sawford (Corby) (Lab/Co-op): The Nene runs through my constituency, providing great leisure facilities for tourists and locals. However, when I visit places such as Barnwell country park these days, it concerns me to see such a reduction in resources, particularly from the local authorities. For example, the rangers are gone and the hides that had been maintained have been taken away. Will the Department for Culture, Media and Sport make representations to the Department for Communities and Local Government on its budgets, given that they will be cut under the Chancellor’s recent Budget?

Hugh Robertson: Clearly, my Department wants to do everything it can to encourage tourism and the development of tourism facilities. Decisions made by local authorities in that regard are, of course, a matter for them, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that for those assets that lie within my control, everything will be done to promote the inland waterways of this country.

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Gaming Machines

Simon Wright (Norwich South) (LD): What progress her Department has made on its review of B2 gaming machines and other aspects of gaming machine stake and prize limits. [151750]

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): The consultation period for the triennial review of gaming machine stakes and prize limits closed on Tuesday 9 April, at which point my Department had received over 9,000 responses. Officials are currently in the process of analysing them.

Simon Wright: My constituent David Armstrong became addicted to B2 machines, losing more than £100,000 over four years. Real people are suffering real hardship from these machines. Although the Government are seeking more evidence of the link, that will take time, so may I urge the Minister to take a precautionary approach in the meantime and limit the maximum stake to £2?

Hugh Robertson: It goes without saying that I am extremely sad to hear about the case my hon. Friend raises. I very much hope that he was able to respond as part of the review and that his response is one of those being analysed by my officials. If that review produces the sort of evidence that he has cited, I absolutely give him the assurance both that we are very aware of the problem and that we will not hesitate to act on the basis of that evidence.

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Topical Questions

Mr John Leech (Manchester, Withington) (LD): The decision to hold the FA cup final at 5.15 pm to allow more football fans to watch the game after their teams have played earlier in the day means that City and Wigan fans will struggle to get back by train. Does the Minister agree that the solution for the future is to reinstate the FA cup final as the showpiece game on the last day of the season, the week after the last round of the league games?

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Hugh Robertson): Everyone across the House will have been appalled by the scenes that we saw at Wembley last Saturday afternoon and early evening. Both the FA and the police are looking very carefully into what happened and the causes behind it. Clearly, kick-off times is one element of that. It would be wrong of anyone here to prejudge that investigation, not least because I am almost sure there will be a criminal element to it, but if any action needs to be taken, the hon. Gentleman has my assurance that that will take place.

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Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab): This week we have seen the re-emergence of soccer violence in the UK. As a result, hooligans will be banned, if convicted, from league grounds. They are now congregating in non-league grounds, where the banning orders do not apply. Will the Government look at extending banning orders to non-league grounds?

Hugh Robertson: I say again that no one in any part of the House would do anything other than condemn the scenes that we saw both on Saturday and again on Sunday. Incidentally, I do not think this marks a return to the bad old days of the 1970s and 1980s. Huge progress has been made but clearly there is an issue there and it is one that we need to address. We are awaiting the results of the investigations from the police and the football authorities. As I said in answer to an earlier question, if action needs to be taken, this Government will take it.

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