Debates between John Whittingdale and Lindsay Hoyle during the 2019 Parliament

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Whittingdale and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 18th March 2021

(7 months, 1 week ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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I am not quite sure that the two are linked.

John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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I am aware that my hon. Friend is a huge fan of Consett AFC, and of course he and his fellow fans are very excited about this historic match, which is due to take place in Wembley. We are working to try to get spectators back into stadiums as soon as possible. I fully understand his disappointment that it does not look as if it will be possible in time for the match, but I have no doubt that he and thousands of others will be cheering on his team from their sofas.

BBC

Debate between John Whittingdale and Lindsay Hoyle
Tuesday 21st July 2020

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
John Whittingdale Portrait The Minister for Media and Data (Mr John Whittingdale)
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7 Jul 2020, 10:30 a.m.

First, I congratulate the hon. Member for St Albans (Daisy Cooper) on obtaining this urgent question and demonstrating that persistence pays off.

The BBC has for decades played a vital role in this country’s cultural and civic life, and that has never been more true than during the last few months. During an unprecedented global crisis, it has helped to counter disinformation and share factual information about the coronavirus pandemic, while reinforcing important public health messaging. It has been a constant source of entertainment. It has helped to fundraise for charities through “The Big Night In”, which the Government match funded pound for pound, and it has helped countless families across the UK to educate their children from home through services such as BBC Bitesize.

The BBC has also been a source of comfort to many during this pandemic, and none more so, perhaps, than those elderly citizens who have been forced to shield and stay at home and who are sadly most at risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation as they do so. That is why we welcomed the BBC’s initial decision at the beginning of the lockdown to continue to grant the licence fee concession to the over-75s, and it is why we were deeply disappointed when the BBC board announced earlier this month that it would be ending that concession from 1 August. As a result, four out of five of those previously eligible for a free TV licence will now need to pay. That is a decision for the BBC, but the Government regret the approach that it has taken.

In the 2015 funding settlement—a settlement that was widely considered to be a generous one and which the director-general said was a strong deal for the BBC—we agreed with the BBC that responsibility for the over-75s concession would transfer to it in June 2020. The BBC agreed to have both the policy decision and the funding responsibility. That reform was subject to public discussion and debated extensively during the passage of the Digital Economy Act 2017. During those discussions and the passage of that legislation, Parliament agreed that the future of the over-75 concession and how and when it would be implemented was entirely a matter for the BBC.

The Government’s view is that the BBC should be doing more, given the generous settlement that it received. During the 2015 settlement, we gave the BBC a number of things in return for taking on this responsibility. We closed the iPlayer loophole. We committed to increasing the licence fee in line with inflation, and we reduced a number of other BBC spending commitments. To help with financial planning, we agreed to provide phased transitional funding over two years to gradually introduce the cost to the BBC.

It is now essential that the BBC, having taken the decision to end the concession, gets the implementation of the change right and is not heavy-handed in its approach. While lockdown may be easing, older people across the country still face many challenges and still rely on their TV as much as they did a few weeks ago. The BBC can and should therefore do more to support older people, and it should look urgently at how it can use its substantial licence fee income to support older people and deliver for UK audiences of all ages.

As the national broadcaster, the BBC has a duty to represent all of the nation—both its youngest and oldest citizens, no matter where they live—and I am aware that many people have expressed concerns about cuts to regional programming as well as the BBC’s recent announcement of staffing reductions. Let me be clear that both operational and editorial decisions are a matter for the BBC. It is an independent body and the Government rightly have no say over the day-to-day decisions that it makes on programming, staffing or the administration of the licence fee, but as I have said, including during a recent Adjournment debate, the Government believe that the BBC must represent all of Britain. We set clear targets for news and current affairs and the need to represent all parts of the UK and the charter as part of the BBC’s mission and public purposes. It is for the BBC to meet these and Ofcom to hold it to account on doing so. That means engaging and reporting on local issues across our diverse communities, not just reflecting the views of the metropolitan bubbles of London and Manchester.

While the BBC remains operationally and editorially independent from the Government, we will continue to push it on these issues so that we can ensure that the BBC remains closer to the communities that it serves.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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21 Jul 2020, 12:04 a.m.

I just say to the Minister that that should have been three minutes, and he has taken five.

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John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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As my hon. Friend knows well, the number of people going to prison has fallen to a tiny number, but it is still debatable whether that should happen at all. I hope the BBC will be very flexible in its implementation of its new policy and will take account of the needs of pensioners when it comes to enforcement. On the future of public service broadcasting and the licence fee, I absolutely can give him the assurance he seeks.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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In order to allow the safe exit of hon. Members participating in this item of business and the safe arrival of those participating in the next, I am suspending the House for three minutes.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Whittingdale and Lindsay Hoyle
Thursday 4th June 2020

(1 year, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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The hon. Lady is absolutely right that online fraud is an increasing problem and there needs to be much more co-ordinated action to tackle it. However, a great deal has been done. A persistent stream of coronavirus frauds has been reported to Action Fraud—2,057 have been reported in the past few months, making up around 3% of all fraud reports. The National Cyber Security Centre has launched a major campaign called Cyber Aware to provide practical advice to the public, and has also launched a groundbreaking suspicious-email-reporting service, which allows members of the public to forward any suspicious emails to Cyber Aware to be analysed, and if they are found to be fraudulent, the harmful sites will be taken down—

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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Order. I have the greatest respect for the Minister, but he cannot take all this time reading the full- length answers. I am sure his officials can shorten the briefing papers.

Oral Answers to Questions

Debate between John Whittingdale and Lindsay Hoyle
Monday 27th April 2020

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Commons Chamber

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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
John Whittingdale Portrait Mr Whittingdale
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I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I very much agree with him that community radio play an essential part in the media landscape, and I am very conscious of the pressures that many community radio stations are currently under. We are looking at ways in which we can support them, perhaps through the use of a community radio fund. That is something that I hope we can say more about very shortly. I am determined to give whatever help is possible to support community radio as well as commercial radio.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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We now come to the statement on the economy. I will call the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make a statement for up to 10 minutes. We will run this for one hour.