Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

What steps he is taking to support political development in Ukraine; and if he will make a statement. 

Photo of Christopher PincherChristopher Pincher Minister of State

The United Kingdom is a strong supporter of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and President Zelensky’s commitment to reform and fighting corruption. We have provided financial support to the tune of £38 million this year, across multiple areas, and we lead robust sanctions on Russia for its attacks on Ukraine’s sovereignty. We look forward to welcoming President Zelensky to the UK as soon as a date can be found.

Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

Will my right hon. Friend welcome President Zelensky’s decision to extend the visa-free regime for UK citizens for another year? Does my right hon. Friend share his ambition for Britain and Ukraine to conclude a new framework agreement as soon as possible, including possible liberalisation of the visa regime for Ukrainian citizens?

Photo of Christopher PincherChristopher Pincher Minister of State

My right hon. Friend is a doughty champion of Ukraine’s determination to look westward and be a modern European country. We will certainly welcome, as soon as we can, the ratification of such an arrangement, and I congratulate the President on his announcement on visa-free access for UK nationals. That will certainly help trade with the UK, which we want to ensure is successful, but we also need to protect our own borders. The Home Secretary is responsible for border control, but we keep our border policy under constant review, and visas to and from Ukraine is something I discuss with her regularly.

Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

Does my hon. Friend not accept the view of the surveillance camera commissioner, who has said that the guidelines are insufficient at present and there is no transparency? Do the Government plan to update the guidelines to take account of developments in technology?

Photo of Kit MalthouseKit Malthouse The Minister of State, Home Department

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for his question, which points to the heart of the matter. As he knows, there is a facial recognition and biometrics board, which is soon to have a new chair. As part of that renewal of leadership, we will review the board’s terms of reference and its mission, especially in the light of technological developments. What emanates from that, and whether it is a change in the terms of the code, we will have to wait and see, but as I said at the start, I am very aware of the duty we have in this House to strike the right balance between security and liberty.

Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

What recent estimate he has made of the proportion of court proceedings covered by court reporters. 

Photo of Chris PhilpChris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

We at the Ministry of Justice do not track or hold data on the number of reporters who report on court proceedings, but I am sad to say that anecdotal evidence suggests that in line with the general decline in local reporting, the reporting of local courts will have declined as well. When my right hon. Friend was Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, he was instrumental in making sure, at the BBC’s charter renewal, that the local democracy reporting scheme provided £8 million a year to get local reporters into the courts. I congratulate him on that step and hope that there is more we can do along those lines in future.

Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

I thank my hon. Friend, and I thank the Minister of State, Ministry of Justice, my hon. and learned Friend Lucy Frazer, for the work that she has done in this area. Does he share my view of how important it is that court proceedings are properly reported by trained journalists so that justice can be seen to be done? Will he continue to work with the Society of Editors, the News Media Association and others to see what further measures can be taken to achieve that?

Photo of Chris PhilpChris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I strongly concur and can certainly give my right hon. Friend the commitment he asks for. Certainly from the perspective of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service, staff are given training to facilitate access by journalists, and the Ministry is currently giving very active and relatively imminent consideration to ways of making sure that court decisions and proceedings are brought more directly to the public.

Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon  5:03 pm, 13th January 2020 

I am most grateful to be called so early in this debate, Madam Deputy Speaker, and to follow Emily Thornberry, who raised some important issues. I wish her success in the campaign she is about to embark on, and I hope her candidacy lasts a little longer than that of Barry Gardiner, who has just left the Chamber.

It is good to see so many hon. Members in the Chamber for this debate, particularly new Members, a number of whom intend to make their maiden speech during the course of it. They bring expertise and knowledge that I have no doubt will be immensely valuable in our deliberations, and I look forward to hearing their contributions.

As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary knows, I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Vote Leave campaign. I welcome the emphasis placed by the Queen’s Speech on delivering Brexit, which people voted for more than three years ago. I support Brexit not just because I believe in the economic opportunities, but because I believe there is a real role that this country can play in international affairs. We are not little Englanders; we want to look beyond the shores of the European Union. Indeed, many of our greatest opportunities now lie in countries beyond Europe. It is likely within the next 10 years that the five biggest economies in the world will be America, China, Brazil, India and Indonesia. None of them have trade agreements with the European Union, but I hope we will have trade agreements with them as soon as possible within the next decade.

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Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

My right hon. Friend raises an important point. There is an essential democratic process that needs to be conducted before a general election, which is the selection of candidates. I suspect quite a large number of constituencies have not yet selected candidates. Members of local associations need these extra few days to have time to go through that process, and to avoid having candidates imposed from the centre.

Photo of Desmond SwayneDesmond Swayne Conservative, New Forest West

We have had two Divisions in recent weeks on whether there should be an election, so I would have thought that those associations ought properly to have attended to the question of getting on with selecting candidates. I am sorry to hear that they have not, but there is not much that we can do about that. Certainly, the additional days would be of some assistance.

Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

Will my right hon. Friend work closely with Ministers from the other countries that lost citizens on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752? Will he perhaps attend the joint investigation group meeting in London on Thursday, which will be attended by the Ukrainian Foreign Minister? Does he agree it is essential that Iran not only allows full investigation of what happened but organises the repatriation of the bodies and pays full compensation to the families of those who were lost?

Photo of Dominic RaabDominic Raab The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course we will be fully plugged in and, indeed, a driving force in the international effort to make sure we get the right answers in terms of the investigation. This point is even stronger now that the Government of Iran have accepted at least a measure of responsibility, but it is crucial that the investigation is fully independent and has an international component so that people can feel confidence in the outcome and the answers. We will work with all our international partners on all the issues he raises, and I certainly want to see justice for the incredible number of people who are still mourning and grieving this terrible loss.

Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

May I congratulate my right hon. Friend on persuading the mobile operators to do what they resisted and told us was completely impossible for them to do? When she comes to address the final 5%—the notspots—will she ensure that lessons are learned from the previous attempt, which was the mobile infrastructure project? Unfortunately, that was able to deliver only a fraction of the number of miles promised, given the numerous obstacles that it ran into.

Photo of Nicky MorganNicky Morgan The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I thank my right hon. Friend. As a former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, he will understand the significant challenges that there have been to bring everyone together to work on this. He is right to point out that there will always be a final 5%, but there are other proposals such as the roll-out of broadband, all of which have to be taken in the round. We are talking about 4G today, but there are also the 5G proposals and broadband. We know that this is a challenge and that it is in the most rural areas that connectivity is most important.

John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon

I strongly welcome my right hon. Friend’s continued championing of the cause of media freedom, on which Iran’s record is one of the worst in the world. In particular, will he continue to press Iran to cease the persecution of families of members of the BBC Persian service, who have faced arbitrary arrest, asset freezes, passport confiscation and surveillance?


Dominic Raab The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

I thank my right hon. Friend. This week at the UN General Assembly, the UK will be hosting an event on media freedom and a separate event in relation to Iran’s human rights record, so I can give reassurance that in both those key areas we are championing, not only on a bilateral basis but on a multilateral basis, all those issues that he is concerned about.

Photo of John WhittingdaleJohn Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon  4:08 pm, 22nd October 2019 

It is a pleasure to follow Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats. I give her and her party credit for consistency. No one has ever been in any doubt about where they stand on Europe. Unfortunately, that is not the case for the Labour party, whose leader, as my right hon. Friend Mr Duncan Smith has already pointed out, supported leaving the EU for a long time, fought an election on the wish to respect the result of the referendum and said consistently that a second referendum was out of the question.

Members will be aware that Kevin Brennan was forced to abandon his 60th birthday party as a result of the House sitting on a Saturday. The House may not be aware that he and I were born on precisely the same day and that, as a result of the programme motion, I have now postponed my own 60th birthday party. However—unlike, I suspect, the hon. Gentleman—I regard that as a small price to pay, and one that I am very willing to pay, if the result is that we get Brexit done.

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