You can read more about John's thoughts on the threats to journalists and press freedom here and watch his response to the debate here.
On Monday 24 May, John was in the chamber in his role as minister at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to answer an Urgent Question submitted by the Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, Julian Knight, about the outcome of the independent inquiry conducted by Lord Dyson into Martin Bashir and his 1995 BBC interview with Princess Diana.
Due to the public interest in the investigation and the reaction to its outcome, there was much media coverage of John’s appearance in the Commons.
Find below some of the national coverage of John’s response.
BBC: BBC to review editorial policies and Martin Bashir hiring
The Times: BBC ‘badly tarnished’ by cover-up over Martin Bashir’s Diana interview
Daily Mail: The BBC's reputation has been 'tarnished' by Martin Bashir's Diana interview subterfuge, warns media minister as corporation announces review and top MP says journalist's actions had 'a whiff of criminality'
Evening Standard: BBC’s reputation badly tarnished by Panorama scandal, says culture minister
Guardian: MPs take advantage of the BBC talking about the BBC to talk about the BBC
Daily Telegraph: ‘I’ve ripped up my TV licence!’ How the Martin Bashir scandal united MPs in disgust
Financial Times: BBC to investigate broadcaster’s culture and editorial practices
I was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Duke of Edinburgh. Our country owes him a great debt: for the tremendous support which he gave to HM Queen, but also for his leadership in the many areas in which he achieved so much – for young people, for conservation, for science and engineering and for the military. I was privileged to meet him on a few occasions and was always impressed by his keen interest and his sharp humour which helped to put everyone he met at ease.
The Budget today is fantastic news for all those people and businesses who were worried how they would get through the next few months until they are able to get fully back to work. Many local firms in Maldon have been in contact with me over the last few weeks asking for an extension of support measures like the furlough scheme, help for the self-employed, restart grants, the business rates holiday and the reduced rate of VAT. The Chancellor has announced all of these as well as new measures like the Super Deduction to help business to invest for the future and the new Freeports at both Thames Gateway, and Felixstowe and Harwich. Thanks to the Government’s roadmap made possible by the vaccine programme, we can look forward to the removal of the current restrictions. Thanks to the Chancellor, we can now look forward not just to recovery but to the economy bouncing back even stronger.
For more information about the 2021 Budget and the announcement made by the Chancellor, please find a factsheet here: www.gov.uk/government/news/budget-2021-what-you-need-to-know
It is very welcome news that the number of Covid cases in Maldon continues to fall with 67 testing positive in the last 7 days, bringing the rate per 100,000 down to 147.9. With the R rate in the East of England now 0.7 to 0.9, this number should go on falling as long as we continue to follow the Government’s rules. The success in rolling out the vaccination programme will also help. By 31 January, in Maldon, 87.4 per cent of those aged over 80 had received their first vaccination and 14.6 per cent had received their second dose. Of those aged, 75 to 79, 87.3 per cent have had the first vaccination and 36.8 per cent of those aged 70 to 74. I am delighted to learn that the Mid and South Essex area is 18th nationally for the delivery of the programme. The UK is now second only to Israel across the world in rolling out its vaccination programme and we are on target to reach the target of all those aged over 50 being vaccinated by May.
Hospital admissions are also falling but the NHS still remains under considerable pressure with 571 Covid patients in our three main hospitals across Mid and South Essex. The time lag between infection and admission means that this pressure will remain for some time to come.
If we are to maintain this progress, it is essential that everyone continues to keep to the rules and stays home. For those who have to travel to work or for any other reason, I strongly advise them to take advantage of the test facilities which are available for anyone who does not have any symptoms. Tests can often be booked for the same day through the Essex County Council website. I had a test on Friday at the West Maldon Community Centre (pictured) and received the result – happily negative – within 30 minutes. Testing remains a vital weapon in the armoury, particularly if we are to stop the spread of new variants such as those from Brazil and South Africa. Getting tested will both give peace of mind and also help to ensure that the number of cases continues to fall.
It is almost exactly a year since the Government introduced the first Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations. No-one could have foreseen that we would still be under lockdown a year later. I realise how hard these last twelve months have been for everyone and we must remember all those who have tragically lost their lives. We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to the NHS staff, key workers and volunteers who continue to so much. We at last have reason to hope that an end is at last in sight. However, it is essential that we stick to the rules and do nothing that will put that at risk.
I fully understand that the announcement of a further national lockdown from today is another bitter blow for many who have already endured months of restrictions causing separation from family and friends, loss of income and cancellation of plans. In particular, I recognise that the return to remote learning for those in education will be very damaging and know that this was a decision that the Government was desperate to avoid. However, the speed with which the virus was spreading made these actions unavoidable.
The whole country faces a huge challenge in containing the spread until the vaccine is administered in sufficient numbers. In Essex, the situation is especially acute with some of the highest rates of infection in the country. In Maldon District, the positivity rate has risen sharply and the rate per 100,000 has risen to over 900, up by 20 per cent in the past week. In Chelmsford, the rate is higher still. This is putting huge pressure on our hospitals with 27,000 being treated across England, with 250 in Broomfield alone. The lag between infection and hospital admission means that this pressure is likely to increase over the next few weeks.
Essex has already been in first national and then local lockdowns since early November yet the figures have continued to rise. The major cause of this is the new variant of Covid which is far more easily spread and now is responsible for more than half of cases in the East of England. However, it has been made worse by the small minority who have flagrantly breached the rules. The fact that Essex Police had to issue £18,000 in fixed penalty notices on New Year’s Eve is truly shocking. The need to keep to the rules in order to protect the NHS and save lives has never been greater than it is today.
The NHS is now rolling out the vaccine as quickly as possible and already 1.3 million have received their first injection. Locally it is being administered at Basildon and Broomfield Hospitals as well as Danbury and Maldon. However, it may take some time before we can stop the spread and are able to relax restrictions. The Chancellor has today announced a further £4.6 billion package to support those businesses most affected and the furlough and self-employed income support schemes will run until the end of April. The BBC is providing programming to help children maintain their education while at home. The welfare and voluntary services are providing tremendous support to those who are vulnerable and forced to shield.
The next few months will be very hard for everybody and I would again like to thank all those in the NHS, key workers and volunteers who are working tirelessly to help our community through this. I am confident that given time and by keeping to the rules we will beat the virus and life can return to normal.
I know how distressing it was for people in Maldon and Chelmsford to hear that new Tier 4 restrictions were being imposed on London and the Home Counties from Sunday morning. In addition, the withdrawal of the five day relaxation for Christmas is another huge blow to families, many of whom have already been unable to see each other for several months.
No-one in Government wanted to have to take this decision, especially given the assurances by Ministers a few days earlier that the Christmas bubble measures could go ahead. However, the discovery in just the last few days that a new more transmissible variant of the virus is driving up the infection rate meant that further action had to be taken quickly to protect lives. The latest estimate of the infection rate in Maldon District is 365 per 100,000 with the number testing positive having risen by 140 per cent in the last 7 days. In Maldon itself, it is 461 per 100,000 with a similar rate across Chelmsford. The number being admitted to our local hospitals has also risen sharply so that they are now approaching critical levels. These are frightening figures and it is clear that the restrictions under Tier 3 are not enough to stop the virus spreading. I know how difficult it will be to cancel for many who had pinned their hopes on seeing their family over the Christmas break. However, it is vital that we do whatever is necessary to protect the vulnerable and to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
Across Europe, Governments have all had to take similar steps in the face of the pandemic. However, the development of the new vaccine offers real hope that an end to the current nightmare is in sight. Already those locally that are the highest priority are receiving it at Basildon and Colchester Hospitals, at the Danbury Medical Centre and now at the offices of Maldon District Council where a local vaccination centre has been established.
Over the next few months, everyone will in order of their priority receive an invitation to attend. In the meantime, I would like to thank all those who continue to work so hard to support our local community in the Health Service, as key workers or as volunteers. I wish you all a Happy Christmas and look forward to a better New Year.
John was recently interviewed by Amal Rajan at the Radio Academy Festival for the BBC Radio 4's The Media Show. In a wide-ranging interview, John was asked about his thoughts on the future of public broadcasting and the licence fee, the growing influence of podcasts and the role of big tech platforms in British media. Click here to listen to the show.
The decision to place most of Essex in Tier 3 is a huge disappointment but sadly was unavoidable. All of us had hoped that when our Tier 2 status was due to be reviewed on 16th December, it would be possible to relax the restrictions. However, the figures that I saw at an emergency meeting on Sunday showed clearly that the existing measures already in place have failed to stop the spread of the virus. It was also obvious that action needed to be taken swiftly and that we could not wait for the review.
In almost every district of Essex, the numbers are rising rapidly. In Maldon, positive cases per 100,000 have gone from below 10 in September to over 180 now. In Basildon, cases have doubled in a week, putting it among the highest in the country. Already there is pressure on all our local hospitals and the lag between infection and the need for hospital admission means that this is bound to increase.
I am only too aware how distressing it is that once again pubs and restaurants must close and that meetings outside one’s own household cannot take place. However, similar, and in some cases tougher, restrictions have had to be put in place across the UK and in almost every other country in Europe. At the moment, it is still intended to relax the restrictions over the few days of Christmas to allow families to get together. However, it is essential that everyone abides by the rules and behaves sensibly, otherwise we may need to continue and even tighten restrictions in January.
I am in close touch with the Department of Health, the Essex Local Resilience Forum, Essex County Council and the District and City Councils, all of whom are working together in the efforts to beat the virus and to help us get through. The Government has already provided over £280 billion in support and is extending the furlough scheme until March and the self-employed scheme until April. Grants have also been given to businesses that have been forced to close. The Christmas holiday free school meals voucher scheme is now operating, helping nearly 35,000 children and young people in the county. Anyone finding it difficult to pay bills for essential items can also apply for help from the Essential Living Fund.
I know that this Christmas is going to be difficult for everyone and we will all miss our usual festive gatherings and celebrations. However, I am convinced that it is necessary to avoid even greater harm to lives and livelihoods. There is also real hope on the horizon in the form of the vaccine which has been developed in record time, in large part by British scientists. This is already being administered in care homes and at Basildon Hospital, as well as the Medical Centre in Danbury with more locations to follow. I encourage everyone to have this as soon as they receive an invitation to attend. That way we can look forward to being able to lift all restrictions sometime next year.
As part of his ministerial duties, John responded on behalf of the government to a recent adjournment debate in the House of Commons to mark the 60th birthday of the nation's favourite soap opera, Coronation Street. Click here to see the speech. Happy birthday, Corrie!
I have been contacted by a large number of constituents about the change in lockdown arrangements after 2 December. Many are understandably concerned about what the new tier system will mean for their business or if they will now be able to visit a loved one at a care home, whilst some remain sceptical about the need for any restrictions at all. I do of course understand the frustration that constituents will have and endeavour to answer all the concerns raised with me about the recent changes.
It is not the case that these arrangements have been put in to protect people who would have died anyway. Many people who become ill with Covid recover but are hospitalised, removing the bed for use for other ailments and accidents, and suffer long term consequences of the disease which are only just starting to be understood. 189 countries globally are directly addressing coronavirus through public education and restrictions on movement. In Europe, France, German, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Denmark and Ireland are all in some state of lockdown or restrictions at present – some more strict than our own. When compared globally, the UK’s response has been roughly average when assessed against the restrictions imposed in other countries, and our economic support packages have been amongst the more generous. You can read more about this here: https://ourworldindata.org/policy-responses-covid
I am at heart a libertarian and am greatly saddened at the need to curtail people’s freedoms. I am, however, persuaded that all the measures put in place to respond to this outbreak, are proportionate to the threat we face. It is important that they are only be used when strictly necessary, and will only be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation. I welcome measures in place to review this act on a six monthly basis to ensure that the measures remain appropriate. It is clear that the virus will be with us for some time, and it is vital that we are able to take necessary steps to save lives.
It is thanks to hard work of people across the country that we are able to move out of national lockdown, however COVID-19 has not yet been defeated, and as such I believe that targeted local restrictions will help to minimise those risks. Here in Maldon, cases rose from 9 per 100,000 to 85 per 100,000 over 8 weeks. If we had not taken measures to restrict movement there can be no doubt that these figures would be much worse and, regretfully, it remains the case that restrictions are necessary to prevent any acceleration of the infection rate.
If we start from rules strong enough to keep driving down transmission of the virus, we can relax later. In contrast, going in the other direction will test the patience of voters. Nor do we want to grind along with infection rates stable but not falling. We want infections coming down decisively, so we can loosen up. With the vaccine now on the way, people dying unnecessarily in the final months of the pandemic would be tragic.
It is vital that we act on the latest data available to ensure that the most appropriate actions are taken at the most appropriate time. I know my colleagues throughout the Government agree with this principle, and are working with researchers, scientific advisers, and data teams to ensure that they have access to information as quickly as possible. I also welcome that the Government is continuing to make data publicly available.
I understand that lockdowns and other restrictions have caused enormous stress and disruption to people’s lives. I also understand that lockdowns do cause other side effects and we must be mindful of these when considering policy options. I know that Ministers agree and are working hard to consider all possibilities before putting forward comprehensive measures where necessary.
Case rates are a useful metric for scientists as an indication of when it might be appropriate for an area to move to a level 'High' alert; however, there are other useful factors to consider, including how quickly cases are rising or falling, pressure on the NHS and projected capacity, local context, positivity in the general population, and exceptional circumstances such as a local but contained outbreak. If these indicators are not improving, an area may be moved up a tier and if the trajectory improves, the area may move to a lower tier.
I welcome that new rapid turnaround tests, which can help to identify and isolate people who do not have symptoms but are unintentionally spreading the virus, can also be used to identify people who do not have the virus. This means that, in due course, it should be possible to offer people who test negative the prospect of greater freedoms.
We have three vaccines that have been proven effective, with one approved and underway. The NHS is gearing up to ensure the vaccine can be distributed quickly and effectively with the most at risk at the top of the list. Mass testing capacity has been achieved, enabling us the chance to return to closer to normal even before the vaccines are fully rolled out. You can see the data for Essex here: https://www.essex.gov.uk/local-outbreak-control-plan?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=coronavirus%20update%2027%20November%202020&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_content=data&utm_term=
All local MPs want to be able to make the case to our colleagues in Government that Essex should be moved down to Tier 1. You can help us do that by continuing to follow the rules to suppress this virus.
The Coronavirus-19 Pandemic is the greatest threat to Public Health that we have seen in our lifetimes. The Prime Minister has rightly described it as a National Emergency and the measures that have been introduced to tackle it are unprecedented. However, the scientific advice, based on the experience in other countries, is that these are essential if we are too slow the virus spreading and consequently to save lives.
The number of cases of Covid-19 in Essex is once again rising rapidly. We are also seeing an increasing number admitted to hospital and sadly some deaths. The rate of increase is also accelerating, doubling every one to two weeks. While it is still predominantly young people who are affected, it is now spreading among all age groups.
I have spoken at length to Dr Mike Gogarty, Director of Public Health. Unless action is taken quickly to check the rise, there is a real risk that our hospitals could quickly be overwhelmed. Following discussions with the County Council and my fellow MPs in Essex, I reluctantly supported the request to the Government that Essex be moved to Tier 2 with “High level” restrictions. I realise that this will cause distress to many people who will find it very difficult to see their families and friends. It will also be a huge blow to a large number of businesses who are already struggling to recover from the first Lockdown. However, I accept that by acting quickly we stand a better chance of getting the disease back under control and avoiding a prolonged period of even harsher controls. By doing so we will also protect the NHS and save lives.
The task of the Government is both to do all we can to safeguard the health of the nation and to sustain the economy so that employees and businesses can pick up and start again when it is over. The Government’s advice including details of all the help available to people and businesses is available through the Government web-site: www.gov.uk which is updated frequently throughout the day.
The latest NHS Covid-19 advice: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
The latest Government Covid-19 advice and guidance: https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus
Essex Welfare Service
Telephone number: 0300 303 9988
Hours of Operation: Mon-Fri 8am-7pm and Sat-Sun 10am-2pm
It is fantastic that Maldon District Council has been awarded £40,000 from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage with a further £40,000 going to help restore St Mary’s Church, Mundon. We are very lucky to have wonderful heritage assets in the District and this money will help us get through the current challenges and emerge stronger.
As part of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund, support is being made available to heritage organisations across England, including £80,241 in Maldon.
The DCMS made £1.57bn of support available through its Culture Recovery Fund to support heritage and the wider cultural sector during the Covid-19 pandemic. On Friday we are announcing some awards for revenue and capital funding. The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England have worked together to ensure that this significant investment from Government reaches the organisations most in need. This is the first tranche of funding for heritage, covering grants of up to £1 million, and is part of the £92 million Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage managed jointly by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Maldon District Council will receive £40,000
In addition, £34 million is being allocated from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, distributed by Historic England. This money will support nationally important heritage attractions to restart construction and maintenance on cherished heritage sites to preserve visitor attractions and protect livelihoods for some of the most vulnerable heritage specialists and contractors in the sector. Friends of Friendless Churches: St Marys, Mundon will receive £40,241
John Whittingdale represented the UK at the recent G20 summit on the digital economy to discuss harnessing digital technologies to realize opportunities of the 21st century for all.
In 2020, the G20 Digital Economy Task Force (DETF) brought together all G20 members as well as guest countries. Saudi Arabia also invited the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) as knowledge partners.
A summary of the topics discussed and agreed can be found here: https://g20.org/en/media/Documents/G20SS_Declaration_G20%20Digital%20Economy%20Ministers%20Meeting_EN.pdf
every country, journalists perform a vital function in highlighting injustice, exposing corruption and holding Governments to account.
A free media is one of the essential bulwarks of a free society. However, too often, journalists are subject to intimidation, violence, imprisonment and sometimes even murder.
One year ago, the UK Government hosted the first Global Conference on Media Freedom and called upon countries to do more to protect media freedom and journalists’ safety. Sadly, since then, the number of journalists imprisoned or killed has continued to rise. Even in the UK, we have seen worrying incidents of journalists being threatened or abused.
In May I joined the National Union of Journalists, the Society of Editors and others in condemning threats made against journalists working for three Belfast-based newspapers. Today I will co-chair, with the Minister for Safeguarding in the Home Office, Victoria Atkins, the first meeting of the new National Committee for the Safety of Journalists. It will bring together representatives from the police, prosecuting authorities, NGOs, the BBC and press organisations.
Our first priority will be to devise a National Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and set out what steps are currently being taken and can be taken in future so we can better protect journalists from violence or threats. Nobody should have to fear for their safety when doing their job. The Committee will invite journalists to share their experiences and I look forward to hearing from and working with them.
The importance of their role in society cannot be overstated. The Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of misinformation we have seen over the past few months has demonstrated the value of accurate information and trusted news sources in times of crisis. But the sad and shocking examples of journalists being targeted or attacked for simply doing their jobs, for example while reporting on protests, or the developing Covid-19 crisis, is completely unacceptable.
The UK is not without reproach, and while we don’t face the same challenges as some other countries, we must be proactive in creating a safer environment for journalists to work. This Committee has a domestic focus, but observers have been invited to attend meetings to provide insight into the safety challenges facing journalists operating overseas.
I am pleased that representatives of UNESCO and the International Federation of Journalists are also attending as well as Lord Ahmad, Minister of State in the Foreign Office. I hope that by demonstrating our commitment to the safety of journalists then others will follow.
John Whittingdale was appointed Minister of State for Media and Data in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
He said "I was delighted to accept the Prime Minister’s invitation to re-join the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as Minister of State responsible for Media and Data.
Having served as chairman of the Select Committee for ten years and then as Secretary of State, I have been involved in policy in this area for a large part of my career in politics and welcome the opportunity to take on a role in government once again."
John Whittingdale has pledged his support for this year’s Great British Spring Clean, run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy.
The campaign, which runs from March 20th to April 13th, will see up to 600,000 people taking action to clean up streets, parks and beaches across the country.
The Great British Spring Clean, run by environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, brings together individuals, community organisations, businesses and councils to show they love where they live and in 2019 more than half a million #LitterHeroes collected more than 900,000 bags of rubbish.
Keep Britain Tidy Chief Executive Allison Ogden-Newton OBE said: “The overwhelming response to last year’s Great British Spring Clean showed that there are many hundreds of thousands of people out there who love where they live and are prepared to take action to make it better for themselves, their families and their communities.
“Litter is an issue that affects every corner of the country and, regardless of politics, the Great British Spring Clean is a campaign everyone can get behind. It is fantastic to have the support of John Whittingdale to help us reach our target of getting 600,000 people out, taking action to clean up every corner of the country.”
This week John Whittingdale signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment, in doing so pledging [his/her] commitment to Holocaust Memorial Day and honouring those who were murdered during the Holocaust as well as paying tribute to the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people today.
This year we are marking 75 years since the liberation of the concentration camps of Europe and the end of the Second World War. At the end of the month, on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, people across the globe will remember.
In the lead up to and on Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides. The theme for this year’s commemorations is ‘Stand Together’.
After signing the Book of Commitment, John Whittingdale MP commented:
“Holocaust Memorial Day is an important opportunity for people from [Constituency Name] to reflect on the darkest times of European history. As the Holocaust moves from living history, to history, it becomes ever more important that we take the time to remember the six million Jewish victims and also pay tribute to the survivors.”
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said:
““As the Holocaust moves further into history, it falls on all of us to ensure that their stories and the stories of the 6 Jewish million men, women and children brutally murdered by the Nazis, are never forgotten. We all have a duty to remember the Holocaust and to stand up against antisemitism and hate, now more than ever.”
In the election post-mortems, the BBC and Channel Four are again under heavy fire from all the parties. Many at the Corporation will argue that the fact that no side is happy is evidence that they largely succeeded in maintaining the balance.
I have never believed that the BBC is biased in favour of a particular party, although I share the view that Andrew Marr’s constant interruptions in his interview with the Prime Minister and Andrew Neil’s complaint about his lack of one both overstepped the mark. The case against Channel Four is stronger. It is extraordinary that in October their own head of news in a public lecture could call the Prime Minister a known liar. Or that they could turn away a senior Cabinet minister from their own debate to put a block of ice in his place. Yet they still claim to be impartial.
However, the more serious issue for both the BBC and Channel Four was their failure to cover or even comprehend the strength of feeling across the North and Midlands over Brexit.
Despite the BBC having opened its Salford headquarters and Channel Four’s move to Leeds, both appear to have been oblivious to the views of the people around them. Instead, they continued to pack their programmes with those who argued that people who had voted for Britain to leave the EU in 2016 now regretted that decision. The astonishment and horror on their results programmes as that view was proved utterly wrong told its own story.
It is not for Government to try to instruct or even influence the broadcasters on matters of editorial content. The BBC must remain independent of Government on editorial matters and we should uphold the principle of media freedom at all times. However, it is also important that public service broadcasters are genuinely impartial which is why as secretary of state I made impartiality the first of the five public purposes in the BBC’s new Charter. I also made it subject to Ofcom, an external regulator, who can adjudicate on complaints of bias.
I hope that the BBC itself will now carry out a comprehensive examination of their own performance during the campaign. In particular, they need to take action to ensure that in future they properly reflect the views of every part of Britain instead of the dominance of the opinions of the metropolitan elite.
There also needs to be a more fundamental debate about the place of the BBC in our new broadcasting landscape. For years, people accepted the TV Licence as a reasonable cost in order to finance the BBC. At present, failure to pay it remains a criminal offence. Many argue that it is wrong that a small number of people have been sent to prison for failure to pay fines set by the Courts for not having a licence.
When this was independently examined just four years ago, it was found that to decriminalise failure to pay would lead to a significant increase in evasion which would cost the BBC a considerable amount. While it is right that we keep this under review, it may not be wise to risk depriving the BBC of income at a time when we are also urging them to maintain the full licence fee exemption for over-75s.
In the longer term, the argument for change becomes more powerful. At present, it is still the case that the vast majority of viewers and listeners use the BBC. However, in just the last few years, more and more are also choosg to pay subscriptions for additional TV content. The Sky satellite service has now been joined by streaming services from Netflix, Amazon and Apple with Disney Plus to launch in the UK soon. As consumers opt to pay subscriptions for these services, it will be harder to argue that they must still pay £150 a year on top for the TV Licence.
I am convinced that the need for a publicly-owned impartial public service broadcaster has not diminished and that the BBC’s services such as News and Current Affairs, Radio and the World Service will always need to be publicly funded. It is also impossible to make any of the licence fee-funded services voluntary by subscription while they are still broadcast free to air through digital terrestrial transmission.
However, the Government’s intention to make gigabit broadband universally available will in future allow all television to be delivered via the internet, with the bonus of freeing up the existing spectrum for other purposes. Once all TV is streamed it is then possible to introduce an element of subscription, since those who choose not to pay can have it switched off.
The BBC’s Charter runs until 2027 but there ise to be a mid-term review in just over a year’s time. The current licence fee settlement ends shortly after. Change is happening faster than anyone expected and both the BBC and Channel Four will need to adapt to this if they are to survive.
To do so, we need to start thinking now about their future role as well as how to pay for it.
John Whittingdale visited the NFU stand at the Conservative Party Conference and met NFU Deputy President and Essex Farmer, Guy Smith.
John said: “Agriculture is still a major contributor to our local economy and I have regular meetings with the Maldon and Dengie NFU. I was therefore delighted to see Guy at the Conference. We had a good discussion about the opportunities and challenges for Agriculture which come from Brexit as well as the NFU’s Plan to achieve net zero Greenhouse gas emissions across the whole of agriculture by 2040”.
John Whittingdale supported the Wear It Pink campaign organised by Breast Cancer Care and Breast Cancer Now charities in Parliament. Wear It Pink Day is Friday, 18th September.
“I have been contacted by a number of constituents asking me to support this excellent campaign. Sadly, in our area, an average of 346 women develop breast cancer each year with an average of 80 losing their life to the disease This is slightly above the national average. In the last three years, the screening uptake in Mid Essex was 75.15% which is slightly above the national average, but we need to increase this figure further.
Since 2002, Wear It Pink has raised over £33 million to fund research and support for those suffering from Breast Cancer and I am delighted that there are already 16 events planned to take place locally on Wear It Pink Day, 18th October. Last year, those living in Maldon raised £3,221.97 and I hope that we can surpass that figure this year.”
John is pictured with featuring patient advocate Kate, who is living with incurable secondary breast cancer, and Stella, who was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2014
The Organization for the Security and Co-operation in Europe has three 'general committees' on Political Affairs and Security; Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and the Environment; and Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions. John Whittingdale serves on the Political Affairs Committee.
Watch the video of his recent contribution to debate here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G8fJm41TzpA
Tigers, leopards, snow leopards, clouded leopards, lions and jaguars are being killed to meet demand for their parts and products, mostly from Chinese consumers.
This demand is being sustained and stimulated by government policies – particularly in China – which continues to allow legal trade in big cat products and the commercial breeding of tigers for trade. At a drop-in session hosted by the All-Party Parliamentary China Group and the Indo-British All-Party Parliamentary Group on 17 July, John Whittingdale joined calls from India and other countries to end trade in big cat products and phase out tiger farms.
Voices from around the world are essential in 2019 to bolster the efforts of those working to protect the world’s remaining big cats.
In January this year, 11 of the 13 countries which are home to wild tigers called for an end to all trade in tiger parts and the commercial breeding of tigers. India, which has more wild tigers and leopards than any other Asian country, has put forward proposals to a crucial inter-governmental meeting on wildlife trade due to meet in August (the CITES Conference of the Parties) to close markets for big cat products, tackle illegal trade and end the breeding of big cats for trade.
After our campaigners last spoke with MPs about the need to end big cat trade at an event in Parliament in April, 71 MPs and peers wrote to Environment Secretary Michael Gove to request strong UK support for India’s proposals.
The Chinese Government is preparing to host another major international meeting on biodiversity conservation in 2020 and wants to project an image as a global conservation leader. Now is an ideal time for the UK Government and MPs to join the calls from India and other tiger range countries in Asia and urge China to end the commercial breeding and trade of big cats.
A delegation of UK parliamentarians from both Houses led by the BGIPU Chair, Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, visited Paris on 26-27 June to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) with members of the French IPU Group. This visit recognised the significant role played by both parliaments in the founding of the IPU, which was created by British MP, Sir William Randal Cremer, and his French counterpart, Frederic Passy, on 30 June 1889. The delegations issued a joint declaration on their continuing commitment to the principles and values of the IPU.
The delegation met colleagues from both the French Senate and National Assembly for discussion on both the past and future of the IPU. The meeting paid tribute to their vision and ideals of the IPU's founders in seeking to create a more peaceful and prosperous world through interparliamentary dialogue. These discussions led to agreement of a common declaration by both national IPU Groups on the enduring nature of the core IPU objective of seeking a better world through inter-parliamentary dialogue and exchange. The declaration also reaffirmed the core IPU values of democracy, respect for the freedom of people and international arbitration as being as relevant to international affairs today as when they inspired the creation of the IPU 130 years ago. In addition to its commitment to human rights, democracy and peace, both delegations highlighted the importance of the IPU's work to advance gender equality, address climate change and ensure sustainable development for people all around the globe.
The IPU Secretary General, Mr Martin Chungong, subsequently joined both delegations for adoption of the declaration prior to a luncheon hosted by the President of the National Assembly formally marking the IPU's 130th anniversary and celebrating the role played by both France and Great Britain in its history. BGIPU’s 130th anniversary delegation was led by its Chair, Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP, and comprised Vice Chair, Baroness Hooper CMG, Treasurer Nic Dakin MP, Executive Committee member, Baroness d’Souza and past Chair (2013-15), Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP.
John Whittingdale MP supported a campaign to tackle discrimination against guide dog owners at an event in Parliament organised by the charity Guide Dogs. John is pictured with June and her dog Shannon, and Robert and his dog, Tud, from Chelmsford.
On Wednesday, 19 June, more than a hundred guide dog owners from across the country converged on Westminster Hall in Parliament to share their experiences of being turned away by businesses because of their dog. At the event, the MP for Maldonspoke to guide dog owners about the lasting impact of these refusals.
It is against the law to refuse access to a disabled person accompanied by an assistance dog except in the most exceptional circumstances. Despite this, a new Guide Dogs survey found that three out of four (76%) assistance dog owners had been turned away because of their dog.
Taxis and minicabs were the worst offenders – experienced by 73% of those reporting refusals in the last twelve months. Refusals at restaurants (54%), newsagents (42%) and high street shops (36%) were also common.
Guide Dogs are calling for all taxi and minicab drivers to be required to take disability equality training so they are aware of the rights of disabled passengers. Guide Dogs also supports changes to equality legislation to make action against businesses who refuse access easier.
John WhittingdaleMP said:
“It was disturbing to hear how common these incidents of discrimination are for assistance dog owners. No one should be turned away on their local high street because of their assistance dog.
“I support Guide Dogs’ Access All Areas campaign to tackle the ignorance that causes access refusals, and make sure businesses are held accountable when they occur.
Chris Theobald, Public Affairs Manager at Guide Dogs, said:
“The law is very clear that assistance dog owners have the same rights as anyone else to shop, take a taxi or visit their local restaurant.
"Despite this, our survey shows assistance dog owners face refusals on a regular basis. When you rely on their guide dog to get around, businesses that refuse to allow your dog in are effectively slamming the door in your face.
“Businesses have a responsibility to make sure all their staff welcome assistance dog owners. That’s why we are calling for disability equality training as standard in sectors where refusals are common. We also support an overhaul of equality legislation so that businesses that refuse access face the full consequences of the law.”
Notes to Editors
For more information about Guide Dogs and the Access All Areas campaign, please contact Chris Theobald, Public Affairs Manager, on 0118 983 8162 or
Guide Dogs provides life-changing services for the independence of people living with sight loss and their friends and family. Guide Dogs are working towards a future where every person with sight loss has the confidence and support to live their lives to the full. For more information, see
The Chair and Executive Committee of the BGIPU invited members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords to attend a diplomatic reception in Speaker’s House on 25 June 2019 to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). Members of the Diplomatic Corps and key stakeholders in UK Parliament were also invited along with a visiting delegation from the Italian Parliament (Italy was one of the nine original member countries of the IPU along with Great Britain and France who were its founders).
The Chair of the BGIPU, Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP welcomed guests with a tribute to the legacy of the IPU’s UK co-founder, Sir William Randall Cremer MP, and remarks on how the IPU’s work remained as relevant today as when it was first founded on 30 June 1889.
This was followed by remarks from the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, on the value of the IPU’s work and his engagement with the BGIPU over the years as a member and, later, in his capacity as Honorary President of the Group as Speaker.
The Leader of the Opposition, Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP, closed the formal remarks with a recollection of his very active engagement in the BGIPU Executive Committee in previous years when he had attended IPU Assemblies and led bilateral delegations, highlighting the importance of inter-parliamentary dialogue and cooperation in the uncertain times we face across the globe.
Globally, threats to journalists are the highest they have been in ten years and according to Freedom House, a mere 13% of the global population have access to a free press. As highlighted in a recent House of Lords Library Briefing, UNESCO says every day serves as a reminder that "in dozens of countries around the world, publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered".
The UK Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP launched in late 2018 the FCO’s international campaign to promote media freedom and has announced that on 10 and 11 July, he will co-host with his Canadian counterpart, Chrystia Freeland PC MP, the world’s first Global Conference on Media Freedom. The FCO’s campaign provides an opportunity to evaluate domestic and international developments, and bring some vision to how to defend media freedom and end impunity for those who commit crimes against journalists.
Complementary to FCO efforts, the UK Parliament will host an International Parliamentary Seminar on Media Freedom and the Protection of Journalists under the auspices of the British Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (BGIPU). The Chair of the British Group of the IPU, Rt Hon John Whittingdale MP, has invited members of parliament from across the world to take part in this event at the Palace of Westminster in London from Monday 9th September to Wednesday 11th September 2019.
The purpose of the International Parliamentary Seminar on Media Freedom is to bring together parliamentarians from a wide array of countries to collaborate with other key stakeholders and explore the parliamentary dimension of media protection. It will allow for follow-up to the key outcomes from the FCO conference in July and provide an opportunity to discuss parliament-driven solutions to issues affecting journalists and the media industry.
This day, 28 years ago, I sat with Margaret Thatcher in 10 Downing Street as her Political Secretary, three days after Michael Heseltine had announced that he was challenging her for the Leadership of the Conservative Party. At that time, any MP could mount a challenge with just the support of a proposer and seconder. Today, a vote of confidence can only be triggered if 15 per cent of Conservative MPs - 48 - tell the Chairman of the 1922 Committee in writing that one should be held.
Having seen the bitterness that a contest can cause, I thought long and hard before deciding that I should write to ask for a Vote of Confidence in our present Prime Minister. I only did so when it became clear to me beyond doubt that there was no chance of her delivering the kind of Brexit that I wanted to see and that my constituents voted for. I campaigned in the Referendum in favour of Brexit and I am still convinced that Britain has a bright future as an independent sovereign nation outside the European Union. I was reassured that the Prime Minister would deliver this having fought an election on a manifesto that made clear that we would be taking back control and would no longer be part of the EU, the Single Market and the Customs Union. This was confirmed by her speeches at Lancaster House and in Florence. I was therefore horrified when the Chequers proposals were published to find that the Government was reneging on those assurances and that we would still be bound by European Rules under the so-called common rulebook without any ability to influence them or to refuse. This was not the arrangement that we had been promised nor that the Exiting the EU Secretary, David Davis, had been negotiating - leading both him and Boris Johnson to resign.
As Vice Chairman of the Exiting the European Union Select Committee, I have met Michel Barnier several times. At our last meeting, he set out his proposals for the future arrangement between the EU and the UK. This was a Free Trade Agreement which goes far beyond the EU's deal with Canada and is based on the closest co-operation with separate provisions covering police and judicial cooperation, and foreign, security and defence policy. It represents exactly the kind of arrangement which I and others campaigned for, giving us back control of our laws, borders and money, while maintaining a close economic and political relationship with the EU. The only issue to be resolved is the arrangements at the Northern Ireland Border to ensure that goods can be moved across with as little impediment as possible. With trusted trader agreements and technology, I am still confident that can be done.
In the weeks following the Chequers proposals being published, I and many others made clear that we could not support them and pleaded with the Government to return to their original plans. However, the Draft Agreement which has now been put forward, represents an even worse outcome. As part of the so-called backstop, the UK will remain part of the Customs Union with no defined end point and with any change being subject to the agreement of the European Union. Despite all the assurances that Northern Ireland could not be treated differently, EU Rules will be applied even more strongly there causing our allies in Parliament, the Democratic Unionist Party, to make clear that they will not support the proposals.
It is obvious to me that this draft agreement does not deliver Brexit and is not a good deal. It also faces overwhelming Opposition from MPs of all Parties and all viewpoints. It stands virtually no chance of being agreed by Parliament.
I believe that it is still possible to achieve a good deal that will deliver the mandate given to us by the British people. If necessary, we can leave on 29th March but continue to meet all the obligations of membership to give us time to reach a new deal. This is an undertaking that we have already given for the so-called implementation period. It will also give us more time to prepare for no deal if it proves impossible to reach agreement. The Prime Minister was right to say repeatedly that no deal is better than a bad deal.
I had hoped that the Prime Minister would reach the same conclusion given the clear unworkability of the present plan. However, it is abundantly clear that she will not change her position despite the resignation of a second Brexit Secretary along with other colleagues. For this reason, I sadly concluded that if she refused to change then the only alternative was to seek a change of Leader in order to get an agreement which will deliver the benefits which leaving the European Union can deliver.
John Whittingdale, Member of Parliament for Maldon, met members of Essex Wildlife Trust at the reception given by The Wildlife Trusts in Parliament. The reception was given to celebrate the contribution of young people to the work of the Trust and to support the campaign for an ambitious Environment Bill to ensure nature’s recovery.
John Whittingdale said: “I strongly support the work of the Essex Wildlife Trust and we are very fortunate that in the Maldon constituency the Trust has a Visitor Centre at Hanningfield Reservoir as well as 6 nature reserves at Chigborough Lakes, Maldon Wick Meadow, Blue House Farm, Bradwell Shell Bank and Danbury. I share their wish to see a new Environment Bill which will further strengthen protection of our natural environment and wildlife and look forward to working with the Trust to achieve this”.
John Whittingdale is pictured Essex Wildlife Trust Chairman, Stewart Goshawk, Chief Executive, Andrew Impey and Emily McParland, Communications Officer.
I was delighted to lead the first delegation from the British Group IPU to Belarus from 27th May to 1st June.
Also on our delegation were Wayne David MP (Labour), Daniel Kawczynski MP (Conservative), Kerry McCarthy MP (Labour), Mark Menzies MP (Conservative) and Steve Pound MP (Labour). None of us had been to Belarus before with the exception of Daniel Kawczynski who had visited from Poland as a child.
The visit was brilliantly organised by Anja Richter of the IPU staff with the excellent help of HE Sergei Alehnik, the Belarus Ambassador in London, and HE Fionna Gibb and her team at the British Embassy in Minsk. We are grateful to them all.
Belarus was a long way from our expectations. Minsk is an attractive city with little of the brutal Soviet architecture typical of many former cities of the USSR. We were lucky that the weather was very warm and, when the programme allowed, we were able to visit a number of the bars and restaurants along the river and enjoy the atmosphere. From our meetings, it was also plain that, while Belarus remains very much in the Russian orbit, there is a desire to be seen to be an independent nation which does not just follow the instructions of its large neighbour.
Our programme was busy and varied and throughout we were accompanied by members of the Parliamentary Working Group on co-operation with the UK. The Chairman of the Group, Dr Oleg Rummo, is an appointed member of the Council of the Republic and also a renowned transplant surgeon. This provided one of our more unusual stops as he was insistent that our programme should also include a visit to his clinic where we were able to watch in theatre as his team carried out a liver transplant.
Politically, Belarus remains essentially a one-party authoritarian regime under its President, Alexander Lukashenko, who has held office ever since the position was created in 1994. In the political part of our programme, we were welcomed by the former Prime Minster and current Chairman of the Council of the Republic, Mr Mikhail Myasnikovich, who also arranged for us to attend a session of the Council. This brought home to us the difference between our own plural Parliamentary democracy and the position in Belarus where the overwhelming majority of members are appointed and the several votes which we saw were carried unanimously.
Later in our programme, we did meet representatives of the opposition political parties including the only two Opposition MPs. They were realistic in telling us that the President would likely win any election conducted fairly but with considerably less than the 84 per cent of the vote which was recorded for him in 2015. His main opponent, Tatsiana Karatkevich of Tell the Truth, told us that she believed that the reality was that she had got about 20 per cent of the vote rather than the 4 per cent officially declared. Another candidate in the Assembly elections said that he won in the only ward visited by himself and the British Ambassador on polling day but lost in every other.
At another meeting in the Embassy, we met representatives of NGOs who perhaps provide a more effective opposition. Those speaking for the press in Belarus told us that the media was overwhelmingly state-controlled and that independent outlets practiced a lot of self-censorship. The LGBT organisations had seen some progress in obtaining official recognition but a recent setback had been the strong condemnation by the Interior Ministry of the British Embassy who had flown the rainbow flag on the International Day against Homophobia. In addition, further lack of progress on human rights was revealed by the discovery that two executions had very recently been carried out despite efforts to persuade the authorities to abandon the death penalty.
Our discussions with Members of the Government emphasised their continuing closeness to Russia but also a wish to move a little away and to improve relations with the West. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vladimir Makei, told us that Belarus wanted to build closer relations with western countries and pointed to a number of areas where the country's foreign policy had diverged from that of Russia. Unlike the Chairman of the Assembly, he told us that the proposed Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was not in the interests of Belarus. However, he also recognised that any loosening of ties with Russia could only take place gradually.
The Deputy Minister of Economy, Dmitry Krutoy, was keen to promote greater trade between the UK and Belarus. The UK is already an important market for Belarusian products and our hosts were determined to show us examples of Belarus' manufacturing and IT capabilities. We visited the Belkommunmash factory which makes electric buses and Belaz, manufacturers of dump trucks and mining equipment where we were given a ride on the biggest dump truck in the world.
Belarus's strength in IT was also clear in our visit to Adani, maker of X-ray detection machines, and in our visit to the Hi Tech Park, the home of Viber and of World of Tanks. Finally we enjoyed amazing hospitality from our hosts. As well as succession of banquets, we saw a performance of the Nutcracker at the National Theatre of Opera and Ballet and visited the historic Nesvizh City Hall and Nesvizh Castle, which is a world heritage site. It was clear that there is considerable potential for tourism growth in the future.
The over-riding impression that I was left with is that Belarus is a country that has been somewhat overlooked by the UK both politically and economically. It has made less political progress than many other former Soviet states but there are signs of gradual improvement and little evidence of widespread discontent. The potential to increase trade between our countries is considerable. Our Belarus hosts were keen that our visit should be the beginning of a relationship that will grow stronger and I agree that it is in both of our interests that it should do so.
John Whittingdale MP visited a street scene set up in Parliament by the charity Guide Dogs to learn more about the challenges that people with sight loss face when walking the streets. At the event, the MP for Maldon dodged a pavement parked car, stumbled across a variety of street clutter, and visited a “shared space” area lacking safety features such as kerbs and pedestrian crossings. He also heard from guide dog owners how dealing with these obstacles can leave them scared and reluctant to go out.
According to a Guide Dogs survey, 97% of blind and partially sighted people have encountered obstacles on the pavement. The most common obstacles were cars parked on the pavement: 9 out of 10 have had problems with pavement parking. Pavement parked cars force pedestrians into the road to face oncoming traffic. This is particularly dangerous for people with vision impairments, parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and other disabled people. In separate research by YouGov for Guide Dogs, two out of three drivers (65%) admitted having parked on the pavement and nearly half (46%) were confused by the law on pavement parking.
Guide Dogs is campaigning for a law to make pavement parking an offence, except on streets where local authorities agree that it is safe for pedestrians. This is already the case in London, but elsewhere across the country, councils struggle to tackle unsafe pavement parking.
John is pictured with Emma and her guide dog Ivy, and Simon with his guide dog Lemar in front of a life size pavement parked car.
“I have had a number of constituents raise with me the dangers for visually-impaired and vulnerable people which result from inconsiderate parking on pavements and other obstacles. I was interested to be able to hear about this directly at the Guide Dogs event in Westminster – including from Simon whose brother lives in Maldon. I have raised this matter with Maldon District Council in the past and would certainly support strengthening the law in this area””
Among the comments that John has received from constituents supporting the Guide Dogs campaign are:
'Blind people and dogs matter' Kath, Burnham On Couch
'it severely endangers elderly, very young and blind pedestrians.' Robert, Chelmsford
'It can be obstructive and dangerous by forcing people to walk on the roads instead of the pavements ' Karen, Southminster
'Access to paths is most important for pedestrians sighted or vi/Blind ' Sara, Maldon
'it’s unnecessary, dangerous for guide dogs and pedestrians and we need to restrict cars in built up areas not encourage them' John & Susan, Ingatestone
'Down some roads here we have to walk in the middle of the road because cars are parked on both pavements and then the bins are blocking the rest of the footpaths and get sworn at on a regular basis. So why is the law been attractive in London for 40 years and not every else. In London it's illegal to park on pavements except in areas the local council chooses to allow it, for example so that ambulances can safely travel down a narrow road. The opposite is true in the rest of Great Britain, where it's legal unless a council puts something in place for particular roads.' David, Burnham-On-Crouch, Essex
James White, Senior Campaigns Manager at Guide Dogs, commented:
“Too often, our streets can be cluttered with dangerous obstacles for blind and partially sighted people.
The worst offenders are cars parked on the pavement. If you have a vision impairment, pavement parked cars aren’t just a nuisance, they can force you to step out into the road and put you in real danger.
Outside London, the law on pavement parking is unclear and difficult to enforce. We want pavement parking to be the exception so pedestrians can rely on their path being clear. When drivers themselves don’t know the rules, that is a strong sign the law needs to change.
Back in 2015, the Government committed to look into every option to tackle this serious problem. We hope that they will now follow up with a new law on pavement parking.”
Tomorrow, the House of Commons will debate the Data Protection Bill. This is a vital piece of legislation which is essential to ensuring that our laws are up to date and that we will be able to continue to exchange data with Europe once we leave the European Union. During its passage through the House of Lords, however, the Bill was hijacked to include provisions which would be deeply damaging to the freedom of our press.
The first Lords amendment would require the Government to set up a new inquiry into news publishers. There is indeed a case for an examination of the impact that the new internet giants like Facebook and Google are having on traditional print media. Neither employ a single journalist yet they are sucking revenue away from newspapers and are threatening the survival of many.
This is a real threat to our democracy as it may lead to many local councils and courts going unreported. I therefore very much welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement last month of a review into the sustainability of our national and local press to see how government might help.
What the press does not need, however, is another Leveson Inquiry into events which took place more than 10 years ago. The revelations of phone hacking by the News of the World and other newspapers were shocking. The Select Committee that I chaired at the time played a part in exposing those practices which led to criminal prosecutions and the setting up of the Leveson Inquiry.
That inquiry sat for 15 months and cost more than £5 million. As a result, an entirely new body – the Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) – was set up to adjudicate complaints against the press and to investigate abuse.
It is independent and has powers to impose real sanctions including front page corrections and fines. It now regulates 95 per cent of national newspapers by circulation and largely complies with Leveson’s recommendations.
There is no need to rake over once again the events of a decade ago at great cost, particularly when the media landscape has changed so dramatically. A further Leveson inquiry would not even cover the increasingly powerful news providers which are online and almost entirely unregulated.
An even more damaging amendment introduced by the Lords would force news publishers who are not members of a regulator approved by the Government’s recognition body to pay the costs of data protection actions even if the claim is unjustified and dismissed by the courts.
This clause mimics Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, which proposed the same penalties in libel and privacy actions. No national or major local newspaper has been willing to join such a regulator and so almost every publisher would be at risk. It would have a massive and chilling effect on investigative journalism and would make investigations such as those into the Paradise Papers or the Oxfam scandal impossible to publish.
These provisions are draconian, unnecessary and very possibly in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. They have been condemned by organisations campaigning for civil liberties like Index on Censorship and English PEN. The Government was therefore absolutely right to announce last week that it does not intend to proceed with a second Leveson Inquiry and that it will repeal Section 40.
However, this announcement was attacked by the Labour Party, which is also making threats to take further measures to control the press. Recent revelations about Jeremy Corbyn’s past links with a Czech communist intelligence officer and the £500,000 funding of Tom Watson’s office by Max Mosley are clearly in the public interest. Neither are in breach of any press code.
Yet instead of addressing the issue, Corbyn responded by attacking the press and saying that change is coming. Such threats expose the real agenda of those who will be supporting the Lords amendments tomorrow – to muzzle the press and to subject it to Government controls. They must not succeed.
John Whittingdale signed a pledge to #PassOnPlastic with Sky Ocean Rescue – a commitment to reduce single-use plastic consumption.
Launched in January 2017, Sky Ocean Rescue aims to shine a spotlight on the issues of ocean health, particularly single-use plastic, and inspire people to make small changes. The #PassOnPlastic pledge was also signed by 113 MPs, all making a public commitment to reduce their consumption of single-use plastics.
John Whittingdale has recognised the vital role that Maldon arable and dairy farmers are contributing to the local and national economy, after attending an event in Westminster this week.
Farming in East Anglia region contributes £1.25 billion to the local economy and provides 41,167 jobs – this is on top of the safe, affordable food farmers produce and British countryside they maintain.
The beer and cheese tasting event at The House of Commons was held by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Beer and the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) to highlight the importance of two of our great national products – beer and cheese.
The UK produces over 700 cheeses – more than in France. The total value of cheese sold in the UK in 2016 was £2.75 billion with cheese consumed in 95% of households. Meanwhile, 10,000 different beers are produced using British malting barley and hops with the beer and pub industries generating £13 billion in tax revenue every year.
John Whittingdale MP said: “Beer and cheese represent two of the biggest, and most iconic, British food groups and it was fantastic to meet some of those Essex farmers who produce these great products.
“There are many worthy reasons to support British arable and dairy farmers: they are responsible for securing our fantastic British food supply, looking after our world-renowned countryside and sustaining a dynamic local rural economy.
“It is critical that as politicians we continue to back British farming and create the right regulatory environment post-Brexit to ensure arable and dairy farmers continue to provide the safe and affordable food that the public trusts.”
John Whittingdale, Chairman of the Ukraine All Party Parliamentary Group, led a debate in Parliament on the Situation in Ukraine. During the debate, John Whittingdale described his recent visit to Kiev and to the Government-controlled areas close to the conflict zone in East Ukraine. John called on the Government to provide more financial assistance to help alleviate the humanitarian crisis facing 2.3 million people in East Ukraine and to increase diplomatic pressure on Russia to abide by the Minsk II agreement and to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
John is pictured with Parliamentary colleagues from the UK and Ukraine:
Bob Seely MP, Yuri Levchenko MP, Svitlana Zalishchuk MP, Natalya Katser- Buchkovska MP, Jonathan Djanogly MP, Alex Ryabchyn MP.
John is also pictured visiting the Avdiivka Coke Plant in East Ukraine
John Whittingdale raised with the Secretary of State for Health his concern about the difficulty faced in recruiting GPs to work in primary care local. This has led to both Blackwater Medical Centre and Longfield Medical Centre in Maldon closing their doors to new patients.
John Whittingdale welclomed the Government’s funding of an additional 1,500 medical training places each year and called for some of those to go to Anglia Ruskin School of Medicine in Chelmsford.
I have received various correspondence from constituents wanting to know more about the Brexit process. With this in mind, I have decided to enclose the following links which I hope explains more about our negotiations to leave the European Union:
The EU referendum was the biggest vote in the democratic history of our country and it delivered a clear result – a majority of over well a million in favour of Britain leaving the EU. Since taking office the Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been admirably clear, too, that Brexit has to mean Brexit. Almost everybody in the House of Commons accepts that the people’s decision is final. So what are we waiting for?
Triggering Article 50 within the next few weeks, not months, would mean we can take back control of borders, laws, and economy sooner rather than later Within the same time frame, Britain should start negotiations for access to the single market — and strike our own trade deals with countries outside the EU. It is already apparent that a lot of the dire consequences of a vote to leave that were put forward by the Remain campaign as part of Project Fear have proved unfounded.
Britain’s economic strength remains unaffected; consumer confidence is high and key indicators have not plunged in the way we were told would happen. Nevertheless, what does risk causing damage for as long as it continues is uncertainty? The doom and destruction promised by Project Fear should a Leave vote prevail has already been proven unfounded – let’s not let it continue to influence, and instead leave now. Businesses facing decisions about expansion and growth and investors wanting to put money into this country need to have a better idea of what the arrangements are going to be with Europe and the rest of the world once Britain leaves the EU. It will take time to agree but the sooner we start, the sooner uncertainty will be removed.
Triggering Article 50 is the beginning of the process, not the end. It is the starting gun and firing it will signal that serious negotiations are under way. There is bound to be a lengthy period to carry out those negotiations but as long as we delay their start there will be some people who will suggest there can be a fudge, second thoughts or further obstacles placed in the way. As the Prime Minister has made clear that is not the case and that we are going to leave, the sooner we fire the gun the better.
The Prime Minister has been clear that Brexit means Brexit, and I don’t believe anyone has put forward a case for why it cannot happen now as our aims are clear and it’s worth beginning long negotiations as soon as possible. Nobody has given any good reason for delay. We want to maintain access to the single market and to trade freely with Europe just as they will still want to trade freely with us. However, this will be subject to negotiation and we must set three key conditions. First, we have got to regain control of our borders and our immigration policy. We can choose who should have the right to enter and to work here. But I would like to see any such policy applied equally to everybody and on the basis of who will make a contribution to our society — not according to whether or not they happen to be a national of a EU member state. And we must be able to set a control on overall numbers and deliver on our promise to reduce the net figure to tens of thousands. We must deliver on our promises to reduce migration and negotiate beneficial access to the single market as soon as possible – it’s what the public expect.
Second, as long as we delay we continue to give huge sums to the EU every month as our membership fee — money which could be better spent in this country. As soon as we can conclude these negotiations, we will have the dividend of that money to spend on our priorities. Third, we need to free companies that do not trade with the EU as quickly as possible from having to comply with European regulations.. It is a simple measure to amend our own law so that all existing EU regulations continue to apply. Once that is done, we can then go through them, department by department, to decide which are sensible and we want to keep, and which we want to get rid of — those that simply add cost without delivering any benefit, and there will be quite a lot of those. This does not require negotiation. Once we are no longer members of the EU, it will be a matter solely for the British Government to decide.
Our laws and government spending can now be in British hands where they belong and we will be able to create new legislation that works for us. Of course, Europe will still be a major trading partner. But the greatest opportunities lie in our relationships with the fastest growing economies outside of the EU. At the moment we are held back from developing trade and investment deals with those countries because, while we are in the EU, they have to be agreed across all 28 countries. That is why it has proved impossible so far for Europe to make deals with China, India or the USA.
The public will be invited to the Thiepval Memorial in France on 1 July 2016 to mark the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the Culture Secretary John Whittingdale announced today.
The joint Anglo-French commemoration of the Battle of the Somme is expected to attract great public interest, so tickets will be made available for the event. The 8,000 tickets will be allocated in pairs, free of charge, through a public online ballot. The ballot will be open to residents of the UK, France and Ireland on 28 September 2015. More details can be found on the Somme 2016 Ballot website at www.Somme2016.org The Somme was one of the bloodiest battles of the First World War, resulting in over one million casualties. A commemorative event is held at the Thiepval Memorial every year, but the centenary event in 2016 will be on a larger scale, with some 10,000 people attending.
John wrote an article for the Times setting out the reasons why he supported the Vote Leave Campaign.
The test of the article is as follows:
I have huge respect and admiration for the Prime Minister. Under his leadership, we have turned around an economy that, in 2010, was on its knees. I have no doubt that the great reforms that this government has introduced, from the introduction of universal credit to the expansion of academies, will be seen to have transformed the prospects of our country.
I was also immensely honoured to be asked by the Prime Minister to join his Cabinet after the election to do a job that I had always wanted to do. However, at the time that he did so, I also told him that I had already stated publicly that I could not support continued membership of the European Union under the existing terms of our membership and that I felt that there had to be a wholly new relationship.
As a schoolboy, I campaigned in the last referendum for Britain to stay in what was then called the Common Market. I did so because I have always believed in the benefits of free trade. However, I was also reassured by the clear promise that the sovereignty of our Parliament would be unaffected. The then Government’s leaflet delivered through every door stated clearly that “No important new policy can be decided in Brussels or anywhere else without the consent of a British Minister answerable to a British Government and British Parliament”.
Since that time, that key principle has been steadily eroded. The introduction of Qualified Majority voting allowing member states to be overruled has been extended into more and more areas under successive Treaty changes. Time and again, we are told that we must implement directives from Brussels that are against our national interest and that we opposed. At the same time, we are told that we cannot make changes to our own legislation because to do so will be in breach of European law.
I hoped that it would be possible for us to negotiate a new relationship with the EU whereby we cooperate on those areas where we choose to do so but we can also choose not to do so. This has proved impossible. The outcome of the Prime Minsiter’s negotiations does represent an improvement on the existing position. However, it falls a long way short of the new arrangement that I would like to see. In particular, it still means that our courts and Parliament have to comply with decisions taken in Brussels and that we have no ability to control our own borders. It is therefore clear to me that the only way we can regain control over these areas is by negotiating new agreements with Europe from outside the EU.
In the coming weeks, there will be much debate about what life would be like outside the European Union. Already some are drawing comparisons with the arrangements for Norway, Canada or Switzerland. However, we are like none of those countries. We are the fifth biggest economy in the world, one of 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council, a leading member of NATO and one of the G7. Outside the EU, we will continue to exert influence around the world and will be free to negotiate trade deals not just with the EU but also with countries like the US, China and India. We currently have a trade deficit with the rest of the EU of about £60 billion and so it is very much in their interests that we quickly conclude a new free trade arrangement. However, we will no longer be required to impose regulations on business which add up to a cost of over £33 billion. Nor will we have to go on sending over £350 million to Brussels each week and can instead spend that money on our own priorities.
For these reasons, I shall be supporting the Vote Leave campaign. However, I am pleased that thanks to this Conservative Government, it is the British people who will be able to decide.
As Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, John Whittingdale made a statement to the House of Commons on the future of the BBC under Charter Renewal:
The Government are today laying before Parliament and depositing in the Libraries of both Houses a White Paper on the BBC charter review. The royal charter is the constitutional basis for the BBC. It is the framework for how the BBC is governed and guarantees its independence. The current royal charter will expire at the end of 2016; today we lay out our plans for the next one.
The White Paper represents the culmination of 10 months’ work. I thank everyone who contributed to the Green Paper consultation process, not least 190,000 members of the public. I am also very grateful to Sir David Clementi and his team for their independent review of the governance and regulation of the BBC, to the Committees in both Houses that made recommendations and to all the stakeholders, BBC representatives and others who helped inform our deliberations.
John, who champions Britain’s beer industry, has been honoured with a unique award in Parliament.
He was presented with a certificate and souvenir pump clip by the British Beer & Pub Association and SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers. The special award is a joint initiative from the BBPA and SIBA, who wanted to recognise the role of MPs who supported Britain’s national drink during the 2010-2015 Parliament. It recognises acts of advocacy in Parliament, in votes, supportive motions, and debates.
John Whittingdale attended the NSPCC’s Parliamentary Reception on Online Safety to support the charity’s new ‘Share Aware’ campaign which aims to get families talking about socialising safely online.
The NSPCC has created a new online guide to help inform parents about the risks of different social networking sites used by children. This comes after an NSPCC survey revealed that three quarters of parents surveyed found sexual, violent, or other inappropriate content on Sickipedia, Omegle, Deviant Art, and F my Life within half an hour of logging into the sites.
Global Friends of Ukraine held its official launch at the House of Commons in London on 23 October. It was attended by over 100 distinguished guests, including British MPs and Lords, Government officials, professionals, investors, leading experts, musicians and writers.
The reception was hosted by John Whittingdale MP, Director of the British Ukrainian Society and Chairman of the British-Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group, who also became Patron of Global Friends of Ukraine. Addressing the audience he said: “We will continue to give all support to the people of Ukraine and their rights to determine their own future.”
On 28 October, a panel discussion was held at the House of Commons focused on prospects for Ukraine following the 26 October parliamentary elections in the country.
Chaired by John Whittingdale MP, Director of the British Ukrainian Society and Chairman of the British-Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group, the panel discussion was jointly organised by the Ukraine Crisis Media Centre and the Russia Studies Centre at The Henry Jackson Society.
“Evropeiska Pravda” met with John Whittingdale at a panel discussion focusing on Ukraine which took place this Tuesday at the House of Commons. Being Chairman of the British-Ukraine All-Party Parliamentary Group, Mr Whittingdale co-organised that panel discussion. He was very open and honest in this interview taken just before the start of the event.
While some of Mr Whittingdale’s comments might not be received well by many readers in Ukraine, his views apparently reflect the general mood among pro-Ukrainian politicians in the EU, and particularly in London. For instance, he stated Ukrainians should not expect liberalisation of the visa regime with the UK in the foreseeable future.
We also discussed the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. While Mr Whittingdale admitted that Russian army invaded Ukraine and called the pro-Russian militants ‘terrorists’, he also noted that ‘Kyiv should not expect significant military support from the West.’
On 1 October 2014, Lord Risby and John Whittingdale took part in the ‘Ukraine and Europe: Peace and Development’ roundtable organised in Vienna by the German-Ukraine Forum.
They joined more than 150 other influential politicians and experts from Germany, Austria, Ukraine, the UK and France in discussing the ways of resolving the current crisis in Ukraine. Chairman of the British Ukrainian Society, Lord Risby, moderated a panel discussion which also included the BUS Director John Whittingdale as a panel speaker.
Lord Risby noted that, despite many difficulties which lie ahead for Ukraine in the next few weeks, the upcoming elections will be a watershed in the life of the country. “With a new Parliament, the European track, and the other things that will flow from it, I hope and believe this will be a new beginning.”
With the continuing military conflict in the East of Ukraine, Mr Whittingdale began with expressing his admiration for the courage of the people of Ukraine and his complete support against absolutely unacceptable aggression.
John Whittingdale MP attended the SET for Britain event in the House of Commons to meet Dr Zoe Barker, one of the finalists who lives in Maldon. SET for Britain is the major scientific competition and exhibition in Parliament to highlight the work of Britain’s Early-Stage Researchers in Science, Engineering, Technology and Mathematical Sciences.
John Whittingdale’s support for pubs has been recognised as he received a new “Beer Champion” award in Parliament. The special award is a joint initiative from the British Beer & Pub Association, the Campaign for Real Ale, and the Society of Independent Brewers and recognises John’s role in supporting the brewing industry and pubs, and his successful campaigning for an end to the Beer Duty Escalator and a cut in Beer Duty which was announced by the Chancellor in last year’s Budget.
John Whittingdale said: “Pubs play a vital role in local communities and need support. In the Maldon constituency, we have 90 Pubs and four breweries, directly providing over 1,000 jobs. After successive tax increases totalling 42 per cent over 4 years, I am delighted that the Chancellor listened to our concerns and cut the duty on Beer. This will provide a real boost to local pubs and I am proud to be recognised as a Parliamentary Beer Champion”
John is pictured receiving his certificate with Keith Bott of the Society of Independent Brewers, Brigid Simmonds of the British Beer and Pub Association and Colin Valentine of the Campaign for Real Ale.
Marking Holocaust Memorial Day this week, John Whittingdale signed the Holocaust Educational Trust’s Book of Commitment in the House of Commons, honouring those who died during the Holocaust as well as honouring the extraordinary Holocaust survivors who work tirelessly to educate young people about what they endured.
Monday 27th January will mark the 69th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau, the site of the largest mass murder in history.
In the weeks leading up to and after Holocaust Memorial Day, thousands of commemorative events will be arranged by schools, faith groups and community organisations across the country, remembering all the victims of the Holocaust and subsequent genocides.
John Whittingdale said: “Holocaust Memorial Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and death camp Auschwitz-Birkenau – and is an important opportunity to remember the victims and survivors of the Holocaust. I encourage all constituents to mark the day and to join members of my community in the fight against prejudice and intolerance.”
Karen Pollock MBE, Chief Executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said: “We are proud that John Whittingdale is supporting Holocaust Memorial Day. It is vitally important that we both continue to remember and learn from the appalling events of the Holocaust – as well as ensuring that we continue to challenge antisemitism and all forms of bigotry.”