10. Michael Fabricant (Lichfield) (Con): Whether he plans to meet FIFA representatives to discuss arrangements for the World cup; and if he will make a statement. [900104]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): I have no plans to meet FIFA officials at this stage. However, I did meet the chairman and the chief executive of the English Football Association yesterday, and I intend to keep in close touch with them on this matter and, indeed, on other matters relating to football in this country.

Michael Fabricant: My right hon. Friend might like first to thank the Americans for finally exposing the corruption in FIFA that we have all suspected has been endemic for the past 10 or 20 years. Will he speak to his colleague the Foreign Secretary to see whether there can be a re-analysis with Qatar as to whether the World cup should be held there? Precisely what should our relationship with FIFA be, because Blatter’s departure is not necessarily going to mean that corruption has ended?

Mr Whittingdale: I agree with my hon. Friend. In order to achieve the reforms that all of us believe are vitally necessary in FIFA, the first requirement was a change in leadership. We have now obtained that, but that is the beginning of the process and certainly not the end of it. It is for the football associations of the home nations to work with other football associations that are equally determined to see change, in order to ensure that the new leadership is properly committed to achieving those changes.

In response to my hon. Friend’s second question, on Qatar, that is a separate matter. The Swiss authorities are continuing to investigate the bidding process that resulted in the decision to give the 2018 games to Russia and the 2022 games to Qatar, and we await the outcome of those investigations.

Clive Efford (Eltham) (Lab): I welcome the Secretary of State and the sports Minister, the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), to their new posts.The investigation into FIFA will go on, but the fight for its heart and soul will start now that Sepp Blatter has announced he is standing down. I wonder about these people at the top of FIFA and whether they have ever actually been to a football match for which they bought their own tickets, whether they have followed a football team week in, week out, or whether they have pulled on a football shirt and played in a match. We really need to get rid of these people at the top of the game.

Is the Secretary of State satisfied that Government agencies that are investigating the possibilities of corruption involving UK financial institutions have all the resources they need and that they are doing all they can to root out any criminal activity that may have taken place? Will he say exactly what he can do to ensure that we root out corruption in FIFA?

Mr Whittingdale: In the first instance, that is obviously a matter for the Serious Fraud Office and other investigatory bodies in this country, but I have spoken to the Attorney General about it. We will of course ensure that all the resources necessary to carry out a thorough investigation are available to those bodies and we will work closely with the Swiss and American authorities, which are leading on this matter.

On the reforms necessary in FIFA, we are absolutely committed to working through the FA and other football associations to ensure that the new leadership of FIFA is utterly committed to carrying out the sweeping reforms that are so obviously necessary.

2. Alex Chalk (Cheltenham) (Con): What steps his Department is taking to improve broadband coverage in Gloucestershire. [900096]

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): The Government have committed nearly £27 million to the roll-out of superfast broadband in Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. This should take superfast broadband coverage to an additional 130,000 homes and businesses across the two counties, providing almost 93% coverage by the end of 2017. Small and medium-sized enterprises in Gloucester and Cheltenham are now eligible for a grant of up to £3,000 to improve their broadband connectivity under the broadband connection voucher scheme.

Alex Chalk: I thank the Secretary of State for his answer. None the less, a significant number of homes and businesses in Cheltenham fall between two stools, being, apparently, not sufficiently rural for Fastershire to see fit to step in but too rural for commercial providers to consider it viable to extend broadband provision. Will he meet me to discuss how we can help those stuck in limbo and cut this Gordian knot?

Mr Whittingdale: First, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election to this House and commend him on his efforts on behalf of his constituents in order that they should obtain superfast broadband. He will be aware that 96% of Cheltenham will already have access to it by the end of 2017, which is above the national target, and many small and medium-sized enterprises can also benefit from the broadband connection voucher I mentioned. We are examining ways of extending the reach beyond that 96%, but I would of course be happy to meet him and some of his constituents to discuss what more we might do to help.

Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con) rose—

Mr Speaker: Order. I note the ingenuity of the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer), but Nottinghamshire is a little distance away from Gloucestershire and Herefordshire.

Mr Laurence Robertson (Tewkesbury) (Con): May I support the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and remind the Secretary of State that many rural villages, certainly in my constituency, still do not have sufficiently strong broadband connections? That hampers people who are running small businesses from home, as well as children who are trying to use the internet to learn. What can he do to speed up the provision in those small villages?

Mr Whittingdale: I understand my hon. Friend’s concern for his constituents, particularly those in more rural areas. As he may be aware, under phase 1 of the broadband scheme we expect to reach 87.1% of premises across the whole of Herefordshire and Gloucestershire by December 2016, and under phase 2 we hope to extend that to 92.8%. Those in the more remote areas may still prove to be outside, and we will be looking at alternative means by which we can reach them with superfast broadband, but, again, I am happy to talk him further about this.

Superfast Broadband

3. Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) (Con): What progress his Department is making on the roll-out of superfast broadband. [900097]

4 Jun 2015 : Column 733

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): More than 2.5 million additional homes and businesses now have access to superfast broadband as a result of the Government’s intervention. We continue to add 40,000 more homes and businesses every week.

Heidi Allen: I feel that I am about to gatecrash a party, but we have exactly the same situation in South Cambridgeshire. Connecting Cambridgeshire is doing a fantastic job of rolling out broadband across much of the constituency, but our roads are at gridlock—a happy consequence of our economic success—and it is vital that we keep people working in local hubs and from home. I, too, am interested in what other technologies we might explore to reach those people who are missing, so please may I come along too?

Mr Whittingdale: I congratulate my hon. Friend on her election and she is a very welcome party guest. The Government are investing more than £8 million in Connecting Cambridgeshire, which will increase coverage in her constituency to 94% by 2017. As she pointed out, there will be some areas that are much harder to reach and it might not be possible to do so by the traditional methods, so we are running pilot projects to explore other ways in which we can bring coverage up to reach even the furthest parts of her and other hon. Members’ constituencies. I would be happy to talk to her further.

20. [900114] Nigel Mills (Amber Valley) (Con): Further to that answer, what more can we do to support alternative ways of delivering broadband, such as that offered by W3Z in my constituency, which can provide high-speed broadband to the most rural homes and can get it to them far quicker than fibre broadband will?

Mr Whittingdale: My hon. Friend is completely right that although fibre will, we hope, supply superfast broadband to the overwhelming majority of premises in the country there will be some for which it is not practical. That is why we are piloting alternatives through our three pilot projects testing fixed wireless technologies in rural areas in North Yorkshire, North Lincolnshire and Monmouthshire. These are being run by Airwave, Quickline and AB Internet. We will consider the results to assess the best way of extending the programme still further into the most difficult areas.

18. [900112] Matt Warman (Boston and Skegness) (Con): One of the issues that remain for the people who will not get superfast broadband via fibre is that it is very hard to find out from BT or local councils that they will definitely not get it. Our programme has made remarkable progress, but would the Secretary of State like to see BT and local councils providing much greater clarity to communities so that they can explore other technologies such as microwave, wi-fi or satellite?

Mr Whittingdale: Again, I congratulate my hon. Friend on his election. I know that in his capacity as a former technology editor he brings a particular expertise to our debates on this subject. He is absolutely right that there will be some cases where, for the time being, it will not be possible to extend superfast broadband. I hope that we will eventually be able to do so, but in the meantime I entirely agree with him that it is important that people should be aware of that position. We are introducing a seven-digit postcode checker, which is now on the gov.uk website, so that people can be made aware of that position.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be making his Budget statement on Wednesday, but following news reports on Sunday, I would like to take the opportunity now to confirm details of the agreement that we have reached with the BBC. Under the agreement, the BBC will take on the cost of providing free television licences for those households with over-75s, and that will be phased in from 2018-19, with the BBC taking on the full costs from 2020-21. Having inherited a challenging fiscal position, the Government are pleased that the BBC has agreed to play its part in contributing to reductions in spending, like much of the rest of the public sector, while at the same time further reducing its overall reliance on taxpayers.

As part of these new arrangements, the Government will ensure that the BBC can adapt to a changing media landscape. The Government will therefore bring forward legislation in the next year to modernise the licence fee to cover public service broadcast catch-up TV. In addition, the Government will reduce the broadband ring fence to £80 million in 2017-18, to £20 million in 2018-19, to £10 million in 2019-20 and to zero in 2020-21. The Government will consider carefully the case for decriminalisation in the light of the Perry report and the need for the BBC to be funded appropriately. No decision will be taken in advance of charter renewal.

The Government anticipate that the licence fee will rise in line with the consumer prices index over the next charter review period, subject to the conclusions of the charter review on the purposes and scope of the BBC, and the BBC demonstrating that it is undertaking efficiency savings at least equivalent to those in other parts of the public sector. The commitment made in the Conservative manifesto that all households with an over-75-year-old will be eligible for a free TV licence will be honoured throughout the Parliament. As requested by the BBC, it will take responsibility for this policy from thereon.

Charter review will provide an opportunity to consider wider issues relating to the purposes and scope of the BBC. We look forward to using it to engage on the full range of issues with the public, industry and the House. I will be making an announcement about the process for the review in due course.

 

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Stephen Phillips (Sleaford and North Hykeham) (Con) (Urgent Question): To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will make a statement as to the implications for the Football Association and the home nations of the indictment preferred against certain FIFA officials by the Department of Justice in the United States and the criminal proceedings opened by the Attorney General of Switzerland.

The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Mr John Whittingdale): The arrests that took place in Zurich yesterday, along with the statements released by both the US Department of Justice and the Swiss Attorney General, were shocking in both scale and scope. However, they were also far from surprising. Anyone who has spent time looking at FIFA, as the Culture, Media and Sport Committee did during the previous Parliament, will know that this is merely the latest sorry episode to suggest that FIFA is a deeply flawed and corrupt organisation.

The revelations have shown how important it is for sports bodies to uphold the highest standards of governance, transparency and accountability. That is what we ask and expect of all our domestic sports bodies in the UK. International bodies should be no different. That is particularly true for an organisation such as FIFA, an organisation that should be the guardian of the world’s most popular sport, not one whose members seek to profit personally from the passion of the game’s fans.

I welcome the investigations now under way into the allegations of bribery and corruption, and I fully support the Football Association’s position that significant and wide-ranging reforms are urgently needed at the very top of FIFA, including a change of leadership. I also welcome the statement from UEFA, which has called for a postponement of the election, and the statement from Visa this morning. It is important that other sponsors reflect on their links to FIFA and consider following Visa’s lead. The Minister for sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Tracey Crouch), will be writing to her European counterparts later today to set out our concerns and seek their support for change.

Finally, I would like to pay tribute to the insight team of The Sunday Times, without whose investigations many of these allegations may never have come to light. Football is the world’s game, and it is our national game. It is a fundamental part of British life and culture. Yet these revelations have dragged the game’s reputation into the mud. The time has clearly come for a change, and we will offer whatever support is necessary to the Football Association to see that change realised.

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Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while the immediate priority must be to try to stop the bloodshed in eastern Ukraine, if Ukraine is to have a future and avoid complete financial collapse it will require an international bail-out on a scale that is not yet under discussion, as well as very urgent political and economic reform to deal with the endemic corruption at every level throughout the country?

Mr Hammond: I am grateful to my hon. Friend and I thank him for the important work his all-party group on Ukraine does to maintain Anglo-Ukrainian relations. He is right that Ukraine is going to need massive international support, but it cannot be delivered unconditionally. We cannot pour the money of our taxpayers and our international financial institutions into the sink of corruption that is, frankly, the Ukrainian economy at the moment. Ukraine has to make progress on sorting out the endemic corruption if we are to be able to support it towards a better economic future.