Michael the Minister - on Libraries, Tourism and the Historic Environment

Recently I again took questions from my parliamentary colleagues from the despatch box in the House of Commons during one of the regular Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) question sessions. These sessions are an important part of our parliamentary democracy in holding the Government to account on the actions that they are taking.

With the Environment Bill currently making its way through Parliament I was asked about the historic environment (parts of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places such as physical buildings and remains of human activity). I was clear that the historic environment is important to the Government and I have made high level representations to the Environment Secretary to ensure the preservation of historic sites. On the issue of the environment more generally I am pleased that recent figures show that the amount of carbon pollution per person in the UK is now the lowest it has been since 1858. This is great news, and I am pleased to say the UK is leading the world, first in the G20 in this area. There is, of course, nevertheless more that we can and will do.

I also took the opportunity to deliver good news on public libraries: figures have shown that the nearly 3,000 public libraries in England received 195 million visits in 2017-18 which is more than all the visits to premier league football games, to cinemas and to English Heritage sites combined.

It is clear that the demand for libraries is still very strong and we must continue to protect these vital community assets. My Department has invested £2.6 million to install and upgrade free Wi-Fi in public libraries meaning over 99% of public libraries now provide internet access to their communities. Locally, I am pleased with new plans to protect libraries in Northamptonshire and I am delighted to say that I will personally be opening the new Daventry Library soon.

It is also worth noting the strength of ‘brand Britain’ which is driving tourism to this country. In the Commons I spoke of how the UK was recently ranked No 3 in the World in the Anholt nation brands index – which ranks countries on their global perception – and London was ranked No 1 in TripAdvisor’s “Best Destination” list. The strength of brand Britain is now more important than ever and I am proud to represent the UK in this regard, promoting this country at home and abroad.

You can watch the questions asked of me and my answers in the Commons here:

Historic environmenthttps://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/df81f997-1c62-4aeb-92d0-e0063c3d972c?in=09:39:25&out=09:42:03.

Public librarieshttps://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/df81f997-1c62-4aeb-92d0-e0063c3d972c?in=09:45:47&out=09:49:09.

Internet in libraries = https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/df81f997-1c62-4aeb-92d0-e0063c3d972c?in=09:54:17&out=09:57:25.