Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Caton. I know that you would probably rather be in the body of the Chamber, since you, too, have many constituents affected by this very sad affair. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green (Mike Freer) on his success in securing the debate—a number of us entered the ballot, but he was the one lucky enough to be selected. We have an opportunity for the many Members who represent people who have suffered as a result of what has occurred to speak. As others have done, I would like to single out my hon. Friend the Member for South Basildon and East Thurrock (Stephen Metcalfe), who has led the campaign so well and ensured that it remains in the public eye. I must first apologise to my hon. Friends and other Members. I have to chair a Select Committee at 10.15 am, so I will be brief. I am grateful to be called early. I will not repeat the facts that were set out so ably by my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley and Golders Green and the hon. Member for Swansea West (Geraint Davies).

The saga is fairly clear, but it is always important to bear in mind the real distress caused to individuals. I shall mention two. Mr McDonald of Danbury in my constituency was employed by Ford for 33 years and then spent four years working for Visteon. He believed the assurances given to him about the pay, conditions and pension entitlements, which would mirror those that he had enjoyed during his time at Ford, and he therefore agreed for his pension to be transferred. Another of my constituents, Mr Sharpe of Heybridge, was employed by Ford for 27 years and by Visteon for three months. Both those individuals have seen their pension reduced by 50%. They believed that the Pension Protection Fund would offer some protection, which I hope the Minister will say a little about in his reply. The PPF suggested that it would guarantee that such people would receive 90% of their pensions, but that has proved not to be the case, as a result of how the rules work and the cap that has been applied.

Read more ...

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Havard, and to have the opportunity to discuss the Select Committee’s report on football governance. This was a substantial inquiry by the Committee. It is worth remembering why the Committee decided that this was an important issue that deserved examination. There were two reasons, the first of which was the clear commitment given by both the parties that now form the coalition Government. It was clear that action needed to be taken, particularly to assist and encourage supporters to have greater involvement in the ownership and running of football clubs. That commitment appears plainly in the coalition agreement, although it was perhaps slightly less clear on precisely how it should be delivered. The Committee thought that it might be in a position to help the Government by taking evidence, examining that question and making recommendations.

However, this was not just about supporter involvement, although that is a very important element. It rapidly became apparent to us that there was quite significant concern among hon. Members on both sides of the House about the general state of our national game. A debate in this Chamber was extremely well attended by hon. Members, many of whom spoke up about the difficulties facing their local football clubs. There was widespread concern that something was wrong with the game. Perhaps that was best summed up by my hon. Friend the Minister, who famously described football as the “worst-governed sport” in England. I have to say that in the course of the Committee’s inquiry, we did not find much evidence to contradict what he said. However, we also found much to admire and praise about English football. There is no question but that it arouses huge passions up and down the country.

As I said, this was a substantial inquiry. We received more than 100 submissions of evidence. We held eight oral evidence sessions, to hear from every component part of the game. The Committee went on a number of visits. We went to Manchester City football club to see the huge investment that has taken place under its new owners. They have taken the club from the bottom levels to the top levels of the premier league. We went to Arsenal to see the Emirates stadium and to meet the management there. We held oral evidence sessions at Wembley stadium and Burnley football club. We also went to Germany. Looking at Germany’s model of licensing football clubs was a particularly influential part of our inquiry. It made quite an impact on the Committee.

I will not go through the whole report in detail, because many hon. Members are present and want to contribute and I hope that most of them have already read the report and are familiar with our findings.

Read more ...

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Thank you, Mr Speaker, for this opportunity to debate the funding of the Olympics and Paralympics, although I hope that you will be generous in allowing us to examine the wider benefits that will flow from the funding of the Olympics.

It is now nearly seven years since the day on which it was declared that London would be the host city for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, and I suspect that almost everyone will remember where they were and their reaction when the news was announced. It was undoubtedly fantastic news for Britain, and it was rightly celebrated, but I think that quite a lot of us also thought, “Oh dear, what do we do next?” One of the things that the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which I chair, decided to do was to hold regular sessions to monitor and scrutinise the work being done to prepare for the greatest sporting event that this country has held. Over the past seven years we have held annual sessions with the chairmen and chief executives of the Olympic Delivery Authority and the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport—first the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood (Tessa Jowell) and now my right hon. Friend the Member for South West Surrey (Mr Hunt).

It is worth observing at this point that one of the striking things about the policy towards and preparation for the Olympics is that not only did London’s bid enjoy cross-party support from the start, but in all the time since it was announced as the host city, despite occasional, small differences across the Chamber, which were inevitable, in the main both parties have worked well together. Certainly, I believe that my party did what it could to support the right hon. Member for Dulwich and West Norwood when she was Secretary of State, and since then she has worked with us to ensure that the preparations go ahead smoothly and are not marred by partisanship or political point scoring. We have now—

I am reminded by a cough that that applies not just to the two main parties. I pay tribute to the support and work throughout the entire seven-year period of the right hon. Member for Bath (Mr Foster), who has been a stalwart on behalf of the Liberal Democrats.

Read more ...

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will the Deputy Prime Minister join me and my right hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr Burns) in congratulating the citizens of Chelmsford on their newly acquired status following Her Majesty’s announcement that Chelmsford is to be a city? Does he agree that it is entirely appropriate in Olympic year that Essex’s first city should be chosen when Essex is also looking forward to hosting the mountain biking competition during the Olympics?

The Deputy Prime Minister: I am not sure whether my hon. Friend the Member for Colchester (Sir Bob Russell) would entirely share that sentiment—we are all aware of the Colchester-Chelmsford rivalry. However, I can confirm the announcement today of the results of the civic honours competition in honour of Her Majesty the Queen’s diamond jubilee, namely that Chelmsford, Perth and St Asaph have been awarded the right to call themselves cities, while Armagh will from now on have a lord mayor. Although I know there will be disappointment in other communities that entered the contest, this is another announcement that will really lift the spirits of the nation in this, the year of the Queen’s diamond jubilee.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend first confirm that, whatever his advisers may have said, the only advice that he took was from Ofcom, and that he followed it? Secondly, does he agree that usually in circumstances such as these the first thing the Opposition do is call for a judicial inquiry, and given that that is precisely what we have, is it not sensible to wait until it completes its work and not jump to conclusions?

Mr Hunt: My hon. Friend is exactly right, and given that the Leader of the Opposition has previously said that he thinks it is right that the Leveson inquiry should take its course—that the most important thing is that it gets to the bottom of what happened, of what Labour did, of what the Conservatives did, and we reach a judgment about that—it is curious that he is now trying to pre-empt its conclusions.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): My hon. Friend referred to the Treasury’s own estimate that the measure may lead to a 30% reduction in demand. If that figure is correct, the measure will have a devastating effect on the parks in my constituency. However, I do not know whether my hon. Friend’s experience is the same as mine, but all my park owners are saying that they regard the 30% reduction as a gross underestimate. Osea leisure park, just one of those park owners, has told me that it believes that there could be a 60% reduction in demand for new homes.

Mr Stuart: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Of course, many parks have made major investments, some of them—I hate to say it, as one hates to talk about vulnerable businesses—are highly geared, and if there is a chilling impact and eddies of demand, notwithstanding a little additional demand before 1 October, we could subsequently see more than a 30% reduction, which could result in the closure of manufacturers and park businesses that have invested for the longer term in this excellent British tourism industry.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does my right hon. Friend accept that there is an urgent need to restore public confidence in the process that led to decisions in this matter and that to achieve that an inquiry needs to be held, in the open, in which witnesses give evidence in public, subject to cross-examination and under oath? Will he confirm that if at the end of that process there remain questions to be answered, he will refer the matter to the ministerial adviser—or it might be appropriate that it be looked into by a Select Committee of this House?

The Prime Minister: I can absolutely give my hon. Friend that assurance. I agree with him. Having seen some of the Leveson inquiry on television, I know that it is immensely powerful that people are questioned under oath, that all the documentation is carefully gone through and that questions on that documentation are properly followed up. As I say, that is far more robust than anything the independent adviser or the civil service could provide. As my hon. Friend says, I am not waiting for Leveson to complete his investigations. If at any stage information comes out that shows that anyone has breached the ministerial code, of course I will act. That is the right approach and I think people should respect the integrity of the fact-finding mission in which Leveson is engaged. It does not remove from me the necessity to police the ministerial code; that is my job and I will fulfil it properly.

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House notes the conclusions set out in chapter 8 of the Eleventh Report from the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, Session 2010-12, on News International and Phone-hacking, HC 903-I and orders that the matter be referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges.

Let me begin, Mr Speaker, by thanking you for granting precedence to this motion, which I move on behalf of all the members of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. I am aware that the motion is unusual, if not almost unprecedented in modern times, but as the Committee set out in the conclusions to our report, we believe that the integrity and effectiveness of Select Committees relies on the evidence that we are given being given truthfully and completely. We therefore regard the finding of the Committee that we were misled by specific individuals as an extremely serious matter, and we think it only right that it should be brought to the attention of the whole House of Commons and referred to the Committee on Standards and Privileges. I apologise for throwing this hot potato into the lap of the right hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr Barron), but I think that it is important that his Committee consider this matter, first, to establish whether my Committee was indeed misled in the evidence that it was given; and secondly, to deal with the perhaps rather more difficult question of what Parliament should do in response.

Read more ...

Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): Does the Secretary of State accept that copyright is the legal expression of intellectual property rights, and is not a regulation? Is he aware of the widespread concern among the creative industries about clause 56, which will allow copyright to be amended by statutory instrument without full parliamentary debate? Will he assure the House that the Government will not change copyright in that way without proper parliamentary scrutiny?

Vince Cable: Yes, I can give assurances on that. We will deal with this subject later, but I totally accept the hon. Gentleman’s crucial point: intellectual property rights are a key part of a market economy. They are not “regulation” in the pejorative sense in which we normally refer to it—absolutely not; but we have to strike a balance between access to information and copyright protection. We think we are striking the right balance, and we are proceeding to implement the Hargreaves report, which has many of those ideas at its heart. On a personal level, I introduced the private Member’s Bill that strengthened criminal penalties for copyright theft, so I have a long-standing interest in upholding that legislation.

Let me deal with the first issue I mentioned—the green investment bank. The transition to a low-carbon economy is a very big challenge. Some analysis suggests that there will be demand for more than £200 billion of investment in the next decade to develop the innovative technologies and products that will underpin it. The challenge is all the greater, given the novelty of these markets and the long-term nature of returns on green infrastructure investment, which may deter private sector investors. There is a market failure here that the green investment bank will address. The bank will break new ground in the financing of projects, while demonstrating to the market that such investments can deliver commercial returns.