In the last fortnight I have spoken on behalf of the Government on two occasions inside Parliament: at an appearance on the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee and also in the House of Commons chamber during questions to my Department of government.
On Wednesday, 12th December I – alongside four other Government ministers including the Sports Minister and the Schools Minister – were questioned by the DCMS Select Committee. Select Committees are composed of backbench MPs from all political parties to scrutinise the Government’s policies, with the DCMS Select Committee focusing on policies relating to digital, culture, media and sport.
The focus of this particular session was the link between participating in cultural and sport activities and how they can improve health outcomes, educational attainment, and even help reduce crime.
During questioning I discussed how I believe that children’s participation in the arts can improve their educational outcomes – I brought up the example of Northampton School for Boys and their work in this regard. I also explained to the Committee how much cross-Government work goes into arts such as my work with the Department for Education and the Ministry of Justice in helping young people to better their education and to keep them from reoffending through increased participation in the arts.
The next day on Thursday, 13th December I was asked and answered questions from the despatch box about my work as a Government minister. The DCMS question session in the House of Commons is normally every five/six weeks and I have participated in every session since my appointment in January 2018. On this occasion I was questioned several times on the issue of libraries.
I again put on the record in the House my strong support for libraries as important community assets which serve residents more than just a place to borrow books. I spoke about local authorities’ legal requirement to provide a “comprehensive and efficient” library service and I cautioned local authorities against reductions in library services. I also commented on the situation in Northamptonshire, whilst I have had to legally recuse myself from involvement as the Minister, I am playing a role as the local MP and I spoke of my support for NCC’s latest library proposals which commits to extra funding for libraries and has an ambition to save all 32 Northamptonshire libraries. I have spoken personally to the NCC Chief Executive about this.
You can watch me answer questions about libraries using the following link: https://parliamentlive.tv/event/index/71c76d66-9531-42bf-8577-648da537fd09?in=09:43:42&out=09:49:45.
You can also watch my appearance in the DCMS Select Committee using the following link: https://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/627d5000-2de0-48a8-8393-5962c60f2bfa.