Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for his intervention, and I will come to that point in a few moments. The key point is that the zoo contributes £24 million to the local economy, as well as making the income it needs to maintain its research and keeps threatened species safe. Community outreach projects are instrumental in the philosophy of the zoo. On my visit, I was very impressed by the new garden area, where volunteers with complex needs can spend the day gardening and visiting the animals for much-needed respite and wellbeing.

The zoo has also recently implemented a community access scheme to enable those on income support and other benefits to visit for as little as £3. In the recent February half-term, 50,000 visits were facilitated through that scheme. It is essential that everyone, regardless of where they live, has access to nature and outdoor space. I am therefore pleased that ZSL is committed to providing access to those who need the extra help so that no one is left out.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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The reputation of the wider zoo sector has come in for a bit of examination in recent decades, and it has been criticised, perhaps correctly, for enclosures that were too small, and concerns were raised that we were starting to look at animals as objects for entertainment, rather than considering the preservation of rare species. I would be grateful if my hon. Friend expanded a little on the steps that this zoo has taken to move away from the outdated approaches of zoological societies in the past and to lead the fight to retain really rare species for reintroduction in the wild.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clearly, the decision has been made to move the larger animals to Whipsnade zoo, which ZSL also runs, so that they have the space they need to roam in and feel more like they are in the wild, while still being protected. That means those facilities at London zoo are now redundant and—this is precisely the reason for the Bill—need to be replaced with modern facilities for other protected species, and so that visitors can see them in suitable accommodation. Those species obviously do not need to roam, but they will be given modern facilities. I encourage other zoos across the country, and indeed across the world, to consider the same thing.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
- Hansard - -

My hon. Friend is being very generous with his time. This brings me to the zoo’s built structures. The zoo has been in that location for well over 100 years —perhaps it is 200 years—and some of the structures that I saw when I visited as a child are of considerable architectural merit, and perhaps historic merit. What steps is the zoo taking to ensure that its structures are appropriate for modern usage and that its listed buildings, if there are any, are protected and that the architectural merit of the historical Victorian enclosures is recognised?

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. Clearly, many of these structures are protected, which is one reason why it is so expensive to bring them up to modern standards while retaining the original architecture. If it were a simple case of demolishing and putting in new facilities, there would be less cost. That is why a very large investment is required, which the zoo cannot raise from its own resources; it has to borrow the money, and as a result it needs a lease that is long enough for investors to know that the revenue will come in from visitors and other attractions and that they will recover their funds. This is why the Bill is so vital for safeguarding London zoo for the future.

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. That is what we hope to hear from the Minister later on. Clearly, we are in a position whereby we are making the offer, but we will have to see about that negotiation to ensure that there is suitable protection so that, were such terrible events to occur such that ZSL should no longer have the lease, it would be removed. However, it has operated very successfully on the site for many years, so I do not think that is likely.

Moving on, the educational offerings provide a critical supplement to classroom working for many children. In fact, many of us will have had the opportunity to visit the school as children. The workshops, which are specifically tailored to cater for all age groups and learning needs, educate children on such hugely important topics as wildlife conservation, climate change and the impact of pollution.

The zoo’s research has perhaps benefited animals the most, shaping the future of many previously endangered species. Many animals at risk of extinction have participated in the zoo’s breeding programme to ensure that they are saved for future generations. In 2021-22 alone, £17.4 million was spent on conservation science and field conservation programmes, with £38.5 million spent on conservation, animal care, breeding programmes and conservation translocations. I am pleased that, in the coming months, the zoo will be returning the previously endangered Guam kingfisher back into the wild, and only recently, over the Easter break, three endangered Asiatic lion cubs were born at the zoo to doting parents—seven-year-old mum Arya, and 14-year-old dad Bhanu.

The animals do not recognise working hours, annual leave or bank holidays; they need supervision and care 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to ensure that they are fed and cared for whenever needed. That emphasises the need for the dedicated and thorough programme that the zoo operates on. It is profoundly clear that the zoo is an integral part of society, and thus we must protect its heritage and position. I am pleased that we have made it to Third Reading, and I am confident that, hopefully on receiving Royal Assent, the future of the zoo will be much more stable, and a brighter, increasingly attractive opportunity for investment purposes.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
- Hansard - -

Looking at the wording of the Bill, there is a question mark over its drafting, and I would be grateful if my hon. Friend could explain it to me. We can see in clause 1 that the Bill is

“in relation to certain land in Regent’s Park”,

with the potential to substitute “150 years” for “60 years”. It is very specific; the potential powers are in relation to certain lands and leases relating to Regent’s Park in London. Yet clause 2(1) states:

“This Act extends to England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.”

Can my hon. Friend clarify that for me? What is the need for the extension to the jurisdictions of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland when the lease is particular to Regent’s Park in London?

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

Clearly, we are looking at a lease and leasehold law. That is the reason for clarifying that particular issue in that particular way.

I would like to thank Matthew Gould, the chief executive officer for ZSL. Matthew and I have crossed paths on several occasions prior to his appointments to his previous positions as the Government’s first director general for digital and media at DCMS and as Britain’s ambassador to Israel. Therefore, it feels fitting to have come full circle and to have worked with him on this Bill over the past year. His devotion to the welfare and happiness of the zoo’s animals is steadfast, with a commitment to the research and development of species across the globe and to tackling the world’s challenges, including the current biodiversity crisis.

My next thanks go to Vicky Godwin, senior public affairs officer for the zoo. Vicky has been on hand throughout the progress of the Bill, facilitating the discussions between the Department, my office and ZSL. She has also come in to provide support every step of the way, watching the debates at the Bill’s various stages.

I am very grateful to my colleagues who helpfully sat on the Bill Committee and allowed the Bill to pass unanimously with no amendments. It was super to hear the support for London zoo from so many highly respected Members from both in and outside London. Some—such as a previous employee, my hon. Friend the Member for North Herefordshire (Sir Bill Wiggin), who was a keeper at London zoo in his distant past—had a more vested interest. My hon. Friend’s personal experiences that he shared in Committee were interesting, to put it mildly.

I also thank the Clerks in the Public Bill Office who bore with us through the process, informing my office on procedure and developments. I particularly thank them for their patience during the mad scramble to ensure that we had enough Members serving on the Committee ahead of the deadline. They often get overlooked in this place, but their work is crucial to ensuring the proceedings of the Chamber run smoothly, and we are all very grateful for all that they do.

The Minister and officials in her Department have supported the Bill throughout, for which I am exceptionally grateful. Their advice and assistance with drafting the Bill have been invaluable—indeed, they redrafted our original draft. It is great that the Government are supporting this worthy change in the lease, which benefits the zoo, the local area and obviously all the potential visitors. I have no doubt that should the Minister, or indeed any other colleague, wish to visit the zoo, they will be greeted with open arms and met with many friendly faces, both human and animal. I also thank my parliamentary assistant, Hattie Shoosmith. As always, when she drafts these speeches, she misses herself out of the thanks, but I put on record my thanks to her.

I will just remind colleagues about some of the endangered species and particular zoo animals that have been protected as a direct result of this Bill coming to fruition. The first is one of my favourite animals, Guy the gorilla. On Guy Fawkes day in 1947, a very small gorilla arrived at London zoo clutching a tin hot water bottle. At first, he would only respond to French, as he had spent the previous six months in the zoo in Paris. Guy became one of the zoo’s best-loved characters —I remember seeing him as a young boy. When sparrows entered his enclosure, he would scoop them up gently and peer at them before letting them go. Tragically, he died of a heart attack after having a tooth extracted in 1978, and his statue is much loved by London zoo’s visitors today.

The second is Goldie the eagle. I remember that in 1965, when I was in primary school, Goldie escaped. We became obsessed with Goldie for almost a fortnight; he appeared on TV and in the press, and was cheered wildly—even when mentioned in this place, in the House of Commons. Some 5,000 people caused traffic jams around Regent’s Park as he flew from tree to tree. After 11 days and 19 and a half hours, he was finally recaptured and brought back to the zoo.

The only quagga to ever have been photographed alive was at London zoo. There are officially five photos of a quagga, providing the only insight into what a living quagga looked like after the species became extinct in 1883. Thousands of quagga once grazed the plains of southern Africa; today, they provide a reminder of the importance of wildlife conservation.

Pipaluk, a male polar bear, was born at London zoo on 1 December 1967. He was the only male polar bear cub successfully reared at the zoo. The name Pipaluk, meaning “little one”, was chosen from a list of Inuit names. Pipaluk’s parents, who had arrived from Moscow zoo in 1960 as young cubs, were called Sam and Sally— they were named after the zoo’s bear keeper, Sam Morton, and his fiancée. Pipaluk left London zoo in 1985 when the Mappin terraces, which housed all the bears, were closed, and very sadly died at the age of 22 in a zoo in Poland.

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Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I will take your remark into account.

The reality is that among the well over 10,000 animals at the zoo are many endangered species that could not be preserved were the zoo to cease operating. If we do not extend the lease, the zoo will not continue. Endangered species there include the Annam leaf turtle, the Asiatic lion, the Lake Oku clawed frog, the mountain chicken, the northern white-cheeked gibbon, the Philippine crocodile, the ring-tailed lemur, the Sumatran tiger, of which there are only 400 left in the world, the Waldrapp ibis, various species of gorilla, all of which are endangered, the white-naped mangabey, the Chinese giant salamander, and finally pangolins.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
- Hansard - -

I very much hope that the Bill is passed and that by extending the lease we can secure the future of these endangered animals. Were that not to happen, though, what is plan B for the Zoological Society, for the maintenance of its programmes and, indeed, for the future of the animals its staff currently look after?

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I have not mentioned the immense zoological research done at the zoo by world-famous scientists. For example, Darwin performed research at London zoo; he might not have come up with the theory of evolution without the zoo. Currently, thousands of scientists at the zoo do brilliant work and conduct wonderful research. I recommend that any colleague interested in zoological research visits the zoo and sees some of the work being done there, and I urge them to recognise that were the zoo not to have visitor attractions that bring in revenue, it would cease to exist. If we do not extend the lease, the zoo will continue to run down, it will not have the investment that it requires, and it will be unable to continue its excellent work. Unless we pass the Bill and it becomes law, the zoo will not be able to raise the money that it needs to do all that wonderful work and preserve endangered species across the world, which will unfortunately become extinct. That is the harsh reality, and that is why the Bill is so important.

Let me end by reminding Members of the vital contribution that London zoo and the Zoological Society of London have made to our world over the last 200 years. As I have said, Charles Darwin conducted many of his studies at London zoo, and without it we would not have the theory of evolution.

Another notable character connected with the zoo is Winnie the Pooh. Lieutenant Harry Colebourn was a member of the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps during the great war, and while travelling across Canada to join his regiment and serve in the war, he bought a female black bear cub in White River, Ontario from a hunter who had killed her mother. Colebourn named the bear Winnie after his then home town, the city of Winnipeg, and when his regiment was sent by train to England in 1914, Winnie accompanied him. She became a pet, and an unofficial mascot to the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade during its time on Salisbury plain. Colebourn was not, however, permitted to take her with him when the brigade was deployed to the battlefields of France. He left her in the keeping of London zoo on 9 December 1914, hoping to return after the war to reclaim her.

Colebourn served heroically during the war, rising to the rank of captain. Although he visited his beloved Winnie when he was on leave from France, he ultimately decided that the zoo was the best place for her to live, and in 1919 he donated her permanently in gratitude for her care. Among the children of London who continued to be smitten by Winnie in the coming years was a young boy called Christopher Robin, who repeatedly begged his father, the author A. A. Milne, to take him to the zoo. He would feed Winnie spoonfuls of condensed milk in between big, furry hugs—and from that came the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh. As we know, the late Queen was a great fan of Winnie-the-Pooh as well.

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Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
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I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. We started with a provision to extend the lease from its current form to 100 years. The investors who were approached by ZSL to consider whether that would allow them to do what is required said, “No, this is not enough. It would take a minimum of 150 years.” So it is fair to say that, in the negotiations between the Department, ZSL and me, we have come to a compromise of an extension to the lease of 150 years. Were the Department and the Crown Estate so minded, we could look at a 999-year lease extension, but that is what the Bill’s sponsors requested and what I am pleased to propose. I hope the House will go along with that proposal and that it can be put into law and come to fruition after the other place has had a look at it. If there is then another suggestion that we go for a much longer lease, that can be the subject of yet another Bill in the new Parliament and we could take that forward, if required. At the moment, it is not required, but as we know 999 years is effectively a freehold.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
- Hansard - -

If any one of us are homeowners, we will know that periodic renovations are required to refresh a commercial offering or our own homes. It gives me some cause for concern that the Bill is based on the premise of a single renovation of the offer at Regent’s Park. My hon. Friend suggests that the full 150-year extension is required to secure the current round of investment. Is it not rather shortsighted to bring forward a Bill that solves only today’s problem and is blind to the entirely foreseeable problems that will come in 25, 40 or perhaps 50 years?

Bob Blackman Portrait Bob Blackman
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank my hon. Friend for that intervention. How long a lease extension will be granted for is obviously a matter for debate. The decision on how much funding is required is a matter for the operators who are considering what they want to do and why they want to do it. Clearly, matters may change in the future, but that is what is required to do the work that is required over a lengthy period. I believe that they have made the right assessment. Things can change, in which case that would lead, I think, to another negotiation and another consideration of what else is required. However, a 150-year lease extension allows substantial investment to be made over a number of years, so as matters change, the investment can be called down, utilised and built upon.

I will end my remarks there. I thank everybody for listening and for their interventions. I look forward to hearing colleagues, including the shadow Minister and my hon. Friend the Minister.

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Ben Everitt Portrait Ben Everitt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

That is a fantastic intervention. The short answer is no, so there is a huge opportunity for me to investigate whether schools in Milton Keynes North have taken the chance to visit ZSL London zoo. The educational benefits would be superb. On my hon. Friend’s point about connectivity and getting to the zoo from his constituency and mine, I can only assume that he has not tried Avanti trains recently. On occasion, I am not sure that the journey from Darlington would be much slower than the journey from Milton Keynes.

London zoo is one of the many attractions—educational, leisure or otherwise—in London, but it can be proud of its position as the 10th most popular tourist attraction in London. The zoo is about more than just education and tourism. A core function of its output is conservation, and it has global reach. It has conservation activities in over 70 countries worldwide. We have seen the reintroduction of many species. All that work is born out of the premises that we seek to support through this lease extension.

On species reintroduction, I think in particular of the reintroduction of the partula snail. On conservation breeding programmes, I think obviously of the northern bald ibis, a species that has not been mentioned yet, and the fen raft spider. The conservation breeding programme occurred partly due to the reintroduction of the partula snail. The work done with conservationists in other countries has meant a huge increase in support for wider reintroduction programmes, such as for griffon vultures, hihi birds and amur tigers.

We have already heard about Goldie the eagle and the story behind Winnie the Pooh, Jumbo the elephant—it was news to me that he added the word “jumbo” to our vocabulary—and Guy the gorilla. I was amused to hear that Guy the gorilla only understood French, and that there is now a statue—

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
- Hansard - -

rose

Ben Everitt Portrait Ben Everitt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I will give way on foreign gorillas.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
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It is obviously a matter of deep concern for the House that Guy the gorilla spoke only French. I meant to intervene on my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East (Bob Blackman) to ask whether Guy, at the end of his life, was bilingual.

Ben Everitt Portrait Ben Everitt
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We will never know, but perhaps a clue can be found in whether the statue of Guy the gorilla is wearing a beret.

This change to section 7 of the Crown Estate Act 1961—this small tweak to the lease length—will allow London zoo to operate in a much more future-proofed way. It has ambitions to create the world’s first campus for nature. It wants to reimagine the zoo as a series of natural landscapes and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East mentioned, it wants to make the zoo truly accessible for all. That goes to the heart of what we are doing: we want to share the benefits with everybody for generations.

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Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My understanding, which I have gained during the course of this debate, is that the 150-year lease is specific to the Crown Estate. I imagine that is for all sorts of historical reasons, but I am happy to go into those by writing to my hon. Friend.

The Government view the extension of the maximum lease term grantable to be a relatively uncontroversial change that will positively impact the organisation, allowing it to build its resilience, develop strategic philanthropic relationships, and increase the scope of potential commercial partnerships that will ensure its continued growth. It is also important to note that establishing the mechanism for a longer lease term will bring the Zoological Society of London into line with similar organisations that hold leases on Crown Estate land, including the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. The maximum allowable lease for the Royal Botanic Gardens in respect of land in Kew gardens was extended from 31 years to 150 years following the introduction of a Bill in 2019.

Granting a maximum lease term of 150 years to the Zoological Society of London will significantly and positively impact the organisation’s aims. For example, the society is at the forefront of efforts to reverse biodiversity loss, which is one of the biggest challenges of our time. A longer lease will allow for the creation of the world’s first campus for nature, a trans-disciplinary centre of research and innovation dedicated to the protection of biodiversity and strengthening nature. It will also help to reimagine the zoo’s landscape, providing ecosystem-driven spaces designed with an understanding of how each animal now thrives, and providing the assurance that our most at-risk species will be cared for and protected well into the future.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
- Hansard - -

We talk a lot in this House and in Committees—I sit on the Environmental Audit Committee—about the challenges of biodiversity net loss across the world, as well as in this nation. About 70% of biodiversity has been lost since I was born in 1970, but a lot of that is driven by climate change. Would the Minister be able to expand a little on the zoo’s plans to deal with climate change in its educational programmes, while also dealing with it in its programmes to protect the long-term future of those species?

Julia Lopez Portrait Julia Lopez
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My understanding is that part of the zoo’s offer in relation to this lease extension is that it will deepen its partnerships and relationships with some of the nearby institutions, including local universities and other scientific institutions. I imagine that that shared learning will help to advance our understanding of climate change and its impact on biodiversity. I should also note that this Government, through the Environment Act 2021, brought in the concept of biodiversity net gain, with the impact of construction on wildlife offset by commitments from developers to enhance our local environments.

The Zoological Society of London’s future aims are befitting of an organisation of its high calibre. The society will extend and contribute to London’s knowledge quarter, which I have just referred to: an established landscape of world-leading science and research institutions that spans from Camden Town to Holborn and Covent Garden. The Zoological Society of London has always worked closely with its neighbours—other world-class institutions including University College London and the Royal Veterinary College. The society wishes to deepen those connections to form a network of learning, knowledge sharing, and scientific exploration and practice. We are confident that the society has the ambition, expertise, place and drive to realise the opportunities ahead and bring this amazing, special campus to life.

As conservation zoos, both London zoo and its sister site at Whipsnade care for more extinct-in-the-wild species than any other zoo in the UK. London zoo is part of vital breeding programmes for more than 100 endangered species, from the Socorro dove to the Sumatran tiger. Limiting the maximum grantable lease term to 60 years would curtail the magnitude of the zoo’s impact. As we have heard today, London zoo’s animals have inspired a lifelong love of animals in its visitors for over two centuries. Some notable names include Winnie, an American black bear deposited at the zoo in 1914 at the start of the first world war. As my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow East has set out, she was visited by A. A. Milne and his son Christopher, and to this day lives on in the stories of Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin. As we have heard, there is also Guy the gorilla, spoken of lyrically by my hon. Friend.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jerome Mayhew Excerpts
Thursday 26th May 2022

(1 year, 12 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Suella Braverman Portrait The Attorney General
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Of course, any allegation of domestic abuse or sexual assault on victims is horrendous. On no account does anyone in this Government condone that behaviour. I was very pleased with the result at court of our application for an injunction, because there are national security interests, and it is vital that those are balanced in any matter.

The Government are taking huge steps to support victims of domestic abuse. We passed a landmark piece of legislation, the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, which brought in key measures, key duties and investment to support those who are victims of this heinous crime. I hope the Labour party will get behind that ongoing work.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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4. What assessment she has made of the Serious Fraud Office’s ability to tackle serious economic crime in 2022-23.

James Sunderland Portrait James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)
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6. What assessment she has made of the Serious Fraud Office’s ability to tackle serious economic crime in 2022-23.

Alex Chalk Portrait The Solicitor General (Alex Chalk)
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In the past five years, the Serious Fraud Office has secured reparations for criminal behaviour from organisations it has investigated totalling over £1.3 billion. That sum is over and above the cost of running the SFO itself. In addition to recent convictions leading to fines and confiscation orders totalling more than £100 million, just this week Glencore Energy has indicated that it intends to plead guilty to seven bribery counts brought by the SFO in relation to its oil operations in Africa.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
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Serious fraud is too often conducted by the powerful and the rich, which makes it hard to investigate, difficult and complex. That is equally the reason why we must focus on this area above all to demonstrate equality before the law. Will my hon. and learned Friend say how many fraud trials the SFO will conduct this year, and the estimated value of those fraud cases? Does he have a plan to increase that number?

Alex Chalk Portrait The Solicitor General
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. We cannot have a situation where, just because the fraud is complex, it is beyond the reach of the law. That is why I am pleased that this year the SFO is taking forward seven prosecutions involving 20 defendants on a total of 80 counts, comprising alleged fraud valued at over £500 million. The alleged frauds include investment fraud, fraudulent trading and money laundering.

BBC Funding

Jerome Mayhew Excerpts
Monday 17th January 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries
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S4C’s settlement will consolidate S4C’s current £74.5 million licence funding with its current £6.8 million annual DCMS grant income. On the real-terms cut to the overall BBC that the hon. Gentleman has talked about, that is a fact because we have frozen the licence fee for two years, but S4C’s funding, which has not increased for five years, will now increase. The BBC’s funding has always increased every year; it will now freeze for the next two years. S4C’s funding has been frozen for the past five years, and it will now increase.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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We have to accept that the media landscape, and importantly its use, has changed beyond recognition over the past few years, so I agree with Lord Grade, the former chair of the BBC, that a universal regressive tax to pay for a BBC that is no longer universally used is no longer defensible. Does my right hon. Friend agree that the BBC, now and in future, has a vital role to play in creating a version of our common truth at home and abroad?

Nadine Dorries Portrait Ms Dorries
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That vital role of the BBC moving forward is one of the issues that we have to ensure we protect, along with the British content that we make, as I have said. The fact is that the BBC is a global beacon around the world and people in other countries depend upon it, as hon. Members have mentioned. Maintaining the BBC is something we have to protect, but how it is to be funded is the question. That is what the discussion will be about.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jerome Mayhew Excerpts
Thursday 1st July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
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I would be delighted to meet my hon. Friend to discuss this. It is important to be clear that those 2017 reforms were intended to cut the amount paid by operators and put them on a similar footing to other utilities, and that supports the roll-out of connectivity that we all want to see. However, it is important that the negotiations that take place are fair commercial ones and that landowners ultimately receive a fair price. The reason we are consulting as we speak is to make sure that the system works effectively and that those fair prices are delivered.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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What steps his Department is taking to improve digital infrastructure and connectivity in rural areas.

Matt Warman Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (Matt Warman)
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The Government are focused intently on improving digital infrastructure and connectivity in rural areas, both through the £5 billion Project Gigabit programme and the £1 billion shared rural network. That will deliver huge increases in connectivity across the whole country, while Project Gigabit provides fibre to at least 85% of the country.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
- Hansard - -

I very much welcome Tuesday’s announcement on the shared rural network and the news that 98% of my constituency will receive some form of coverage. However, those who visit Great Snoring and many other villages in my constituency will find that they have to go outside to get a signal, if they get one at all. Will the Minister confirm to me that in order to claim this coverage people have to have a signal sufficiently strong to penetrate a normal building, so they can have a conversation inside and not only in the garden?

Matt Warman Portrait Matt Warman
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The target of the 4G shared rural network is based on outside coverage, but of course the effect of that outside coverage is a huge halo that brings signals indoors: into, as my hon. Friend puts it, normal homes and beyond. I think we will see a really significant improvement in indoor coverage, alongside an improvement on 45,000 km of roads and in 1.2 million businesses and homes across the country.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jerome Mayhew Excerpts
Thursday 10th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Philip Hollobone Portrait Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering) (Con)
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What plans the CPS has to deliver improvements to services in (a) Northamptonshire and (b) England from the additional funding announced in the Spending Review 2020.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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What the CPS plans to deliver with the additional funding announced in the spending review 2020.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General (Michael Ellis)
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The Government are investing across the justice system, with a further £23 million for the CPS, on top of £85 million invested over the past two years. That investment will enable the CPS to respond effectively to the increase in caseload that we expect; we are recruiting 20,000 new police officers. That will strengthen our response to things like rape and serious sexual offences.

Investing in the CPS demonstrates this Government’s commitment to securing justice for victims of crime. I am pleased to say that funding will support the recruitment of new roles across England and Wales, including in CPS East Midlands, which covers Northamptonshire—both my county and my hon. Friend’s county.

Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General
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I am grateful to my hon. Friend for mentioning Northampton Crown court, at which I appeared for many years, both prosecuting and defending. Sentencing is a matter for the courts. The CPS prosecutors will assist the courts when it comes to sentencing to ensure that all relevant factors are brought to the court’s attention when considering a sentence.

Courts do have to have regard to guidance that the Sentencing Council publishes on sentencing principles, including during the covid pandemic. That includes advice that each case must be considered on its own facts. The court has an obligation—my hon. Friend is right to raise this—to protect the public and victims of crime, and sentencing by our judiciary is actually very robust. It is right, though, that judges hear mitigating features as well as aggravating features. They do that, and they sentence accordingly.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
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The Government should be commended for bringing down the number of outstanding Crown court cases, prior to covid, to a 10-year low, but of course the social distancing requirements of covid have changed the situation. Is the Crown court system now keeping up with the current inflow of cases? If not, how are the Government going to get a handle on the backlog?

Michael Ellis Portrait The Solicitor General
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question, which is well made. We have unlocked vital capacity by opening 16 so-called Nightingale courts to provide 29 extra courtrooms, 10 of which are being used for non-custodial types of cases and jury trials. We are continuing to open more Nightingale courts. We are spending £110 million on a range of emergency measures to help courts to tackle the impact of covid-19. We have recruited 1,600 additional staff, who are using the cloud video platform, and that continues to increase: virtual hearings are taking place more than ever. That has now been rolled out to over 150 magistrates courts and about 70 Crown courts. A lot of work is being done to increase capacity, but my hon. Friend is very right to raise this.

Oral Answers to Questions

Jerome Mayhew Excerpts
Thursday 24th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Suella Braverman Portrait The Attorney General
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The legal basis for the Government’s proposals was set out in the statements of 10 and 17 September. Those made it clear that it is entirely proper, entirely constitutional and lawful in domestic law to enact legislation that may operate in breach of international law or treaty obligations. It is a pretty basic principle of law, and if the hon. Gentleman is having trouble understanding, I would be very happy to sit down and explain it to him.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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What steps she is taking to improve disclosure practices throughout the criminal justice system.

Suella Braverman Portrait The Attorney General (Suella Braverman)
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I am committed to improving the disclosure process in criminal proceedings and upholding public trust in the criminal justice system. Following a public consultation during which I hosted several online engagement sessions with defence practitioners, prosecutors and professionals from the victims sector, I will shortly be publishing my revised guidelines on disclosure. Those will address the need for a culture change and provide up-to-date and clear guidance on how all parties in the criminal justice system can improve disclosure performance.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew
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It is a hackneyed cliché that justice delayed is justice denied—denied for the victim, for witnesses and for the accused, many of whom may be innocent. Can my right hon. and learned Friend assure me that the leadership and the departmental focus is in place to ensure that disclosure—particularly electronic disclosure—is undertaken in full and in a timely manner? Is this being measured? If so, are the targets currently being met?

Suella Braverman Portrait The Attorney General
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I thank my hon. Friend for raising this important point. There has been an unprecedented focus over the last few years on ensuring that investigators and prosecutors are properly equipped to deal with large volumes of electronic evidence. The proliferation in technology and digital devices has put pressure on the disclosure process and notably increased the resources required. That does present a challenge for our investigators and prosecutors. There is not a silver bullet that will solve it, but I can assure my hon. Friend that this issue is not being left to languish. The Crown Prosecution Service, in particular, is investing in tools and working closely with its policing colleagues to meet these challenges.

Tourism: Covid-19

Jerome Mayhew Excerpts
Thursday 10th September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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I refer the House to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests, as a former director of a tourism business that has benefited significantly from the Government’s covid interventions. That said, which tourism business has not? As the former managing director of that tourism business, I operated in England, Scotland and Wales—in many of the constituencies represented in the House today—so I know at first hand the existential difficulties that leisure and tourism businesses have gone through during 2020.

Being closed down by the Government in March, at the very lowest ebb of their seasonal cash flow, had countless thousands of domestic tourism businesses, including my own former business, facing the certainty of liquidation in a matter of weeks. Time really mattered. Every Member of the House will recall the desperate pleas for assistance from fundamentally strong businesses at the very edge of a cash flow crisis, but no one at that time could have foreseen how magnificently the Government were going to respond, and how quickly.

The list of Government interventions is literally too long to fit into a short speech, but we all know that they have provided a truly remarkable lifeline to hundreds of thousands of businesses and protected many millions of jobs. Let me mention one intervention in particular: the temporary reduction in VAT to 5% for hospitality and leisure. That one intervention was transformational for the sector’s recovery once lockdown was relaxed on 4 July, allowing vital cash flow to remain in businesses. It also demonstrates just how distorting high taxes are on the economy, as a 10% reduction has had such an impact, reminding us all that lower taxation directly stimulates economic growth.

The Government’s support measures were designed to protect businesses and employment from the initial economic shock of a V-shaped recession, allowing them to adapt in order to survive and then thrive in the new economic climate. The Government cannot do more than this. I recognise that if a business no longer makes commercial sense in the medium term, they cannot pretend that it does. We cannot pay wages indefinitely for jobs that no longer exist in the real world, but that is not the case for many indoor tourism businesses including coaches, which have been referred to in the debate, English language schools and urban businesses. Can this not be recognised?

What we can do when jobs have gone—and what the Government are doing—is to shift economic assistance towards new employment and training, including in tourism. The kickstart project does exactly that. I have visited a business in my constituency that is already looking to take on 50 kickstarters. This will be a fantastic project that will work really well for the domestic tourism businesses.

Covid-19: Support for UK Industries

Jerome Mayhew Excerpts
Thursday 25th June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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I make specific reference to my register of interests; I am associated with a business that has received a CBIL.

Faced with a profound crisis, the Government responded magnificently with a suite of measures of emergency loan schemes to support businesses badly affected by covid-19, in particular CBIL and the bounce back loan scheme. Put together at great speed, the schemes shovelled money from lending banks into viable businesses to support their cash flow in the short term, with capital sums repayable over five or six years—a vital support to large sectors of our economy and one that we will look back on with awe.

As we come out the other side of the initial crisis, the requirement to repay those debts in just five to six years will, in its turn, damage our ability to grow the economy. Just when we need businesses to be investing in growth and creating employment, they will have to focus on repaying their covid debt, in addition to any other pre-crisis leverage repayment plans. Just when we want banks to lend money to support employment-enhancing growth, they will have swollen covid-19 balance sheets and so be less likely to lend more. That is the opposite of what we need to happen.

There is a simple-ish solution: if we take the covid loan books of the banks and place the loans in a special purpose vehicle, turning them into covid loan-backed securities with varying maturities of up to 30 years, we could transform our economic recovery at a stroke and reduce capital repayments by a factor of six. We would free up whole swathes of the economy from zombie status, releasing funds for investment in growth. It would reduce business failures and increase the market for investment debt as effective business debt ratios are reduced.

At the same time, it would increase the banks’ lending appetite, since their current covid loan books would have been sold to institutional investors, so reflating their balance sheets. It would create the long-term, very low-risk, fixed income investment sought after by pension funds, particularly if the coupon were tax-free. The risk, after all, would be made up of businesses that were confident that they could repay sums over five or six years now doing so over 30 years, with individual risk further softened by their amalgamation.

Finally, it would create a whole new sector in finance in which the City could excel. I cannot think of a single policy that could do so much to re-establish our growth businesses so quickly, and all without significant recourse to the taxpayer. Does that sound too good to be true? Well, like any complex financial product, there are risks that will need to be explored both by the Treasury and by the Bank of England, but my earnest hope is that this proposal will be given the serious and immediate consideration it deserves.

BBC Regional Politics Coverage

Jerome Mayhew Excerpts
Monday 22nd June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Toby Perkins (Chesterfield) (Lab)
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I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Tiverton and Honiton (Neil Parish) for securing this debate. The level of interest that there has been shows the desire across the country to protect this incredibly important institution. He was encouraged by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent North (Jonathan Gullis) to lead the campaign by setting up a Zoom call for us all to contribute to, but it seems to me that he has created a sort of face-to-face Zoom call that might be familiar to some of us who were here before the coronavirus era. It is a way for us all to get into the same room and discuss this, and that is great.

Taking up the challenge set by the hon. Member for Cleethorpes (Martin Vickers), I think it is incredibly important to recognise the contribution that the BBC makes in my area, not just with “Sunday Politics”, but also with radio stations such Radio Sheffield and Radio Derby and, of course, to recognise the broader role of local media such as the Derbyshire Times and Peak FM, which ensure that, as local Members of Parliament, we are held to account and that we can communicate with our local communities and be on the receiving end of some wise and frank advice from our local constituents about the issues.

It is incredibly important for our democracy that we are not just 650 people here to serve our parties, but we are people here to serve our local communities, to hear about local issues, to be asked about those local issues and to respond to those local points. That is the role that “Sunday Politics” plays, and there is no way that a politics programme for England would be able to do that. The idea that the issues that my constituents care about in Chesterfield and the local issues in the north-east or in Cornwall are all the same is just nonsense. The local holding to account that “Sunday Politics” does is incredibly important.

Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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Does the hon. Gentleman agree that now is a particularly bad time for the BBC to be considering this move? We heard in the previous contribution about devolution to metropolitan mayors, and the like, which needs extra examination. Our response to covid has, in large part, been led by our county councils and second-tier councils, as well as by local resilience forums. Those bodies are increasingly powerful, and increasingly relevant to our constituents and the population of the regions. Now, more than ever, the BBC should be focusing on that issue, and not withdrawing from it.

Toby Perkins Portrait Mr Perkins
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I could not agree more. Coronavirus has brought into sharp focus the need for a local response, given the extent to which local areas are experiencing a global pandemic in different ways. In London, coronavirus hit hard up front, and there were then regional variations as it went on, and differences in local responses. Local clinical commissioning groups responded differently regarding testing and the availability of personal protective equipment, and the public must be able to learn about such issues locally, and to scrutinise and question their politicians about that response. Ministers have stood at the Dispatch Box and been asked to respond on a national basis, but politicians must also be held to account for what is happening in our local areas with testing, PPE, care homes, and all those sorts of things.

--- Later in debate ---
Jerome Mayhew Portrait Jerome Mayhew (Broadland) (Con)
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There have been many good contributions this evening in which hon. Members have raised all the broad issues relating to the decision the BBC has to make. I will not follow those; instead, I will focus on a single specific issue, which is the nature of political discourse and the contribution that local and regional BBC coverage makes to supporting good-quality political discourse. That is a very important issue for our time.

Perhaps it is because of the rise of social media, but there is an amplification of anger, which we all experience in our political lives and in the political life of the nation. Anger and confrontation, the virtue-signalling “gotcha” moment, the classification of the opponent as the “other”, the near-dehumanisation of political opponents —all these things are corrosive of our national political life. In my view, the BBC’s national political output is running very close to following that negative development.

One has only to look at “Newsnight” to start thinking of it as the telecast equivalent of the “gotcha” tweet, with constant interruptions and the imposition of the journalist’s viewpoint over that of the politician, regardless of their party or political viewpoint, who is being asked to express their view and is then prevented physically from doing so. Compare that with “Sunday Politics” and the regional coverage of the BBC, where we see time being given to politicians to make their political point and then to be challenged on it—not shouted at or interrupted, but respectfully challenged in a hard-hitting manner in a discourse that is polite, where the nuances can be seen, rather than the black versus white that the “Newsnight” type of environment encourages. It is discursive, not abusive, and it can focus on local issues which, as I mentioned in an intervention, are becoming more, not less, important as time goes on. As we devolve power to the regions, as we get more elected metropolitan mayors, as the impact of the actions of our county and second-tier councils is more apparent in the lives and the quality of life of our constituents, so we should focus more, not less, on local issues.

I regard the national political focus of the BBC as being more equivalent to PMQs, and “The Politics Show” and the time that is given to it as being more equivalent to the quality of this debate. I leave it to the House to decide which is the most edifying.