DCMS – BBC FUNDING & BBC MONITORING SERVICE – 18 October 2016

Dr Julian Lewis: I entirely endorse what the right hon. Gentleman [David Lammy] has said. Does he agree that the BBC did a very good job during the referendum campaign in holding a fair balance of both sides of the argument? Irrespective of the fact that he is on one side and I am on the other, does he share my slight concern that the BBC has not held that balance quite so well since the referendum came and went?

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Dr Lewis: One of the more worrying raids, or trades, involving the BBC taking on funding in return for having the licence fee involved the decision that it should no longer receive direct Government funding for that prized open-source intelligence asset, BBC Monitoring at Caversham. May I appeal, through my right hon. Friend, to the Secretary of State in her absence that no decision is taken to implement the current recommendation to close Caversham Park and radically reduce the funding for BBC Monitoring until the Foreign Affairs and Defence Committees have taken the opportunity to visit Caversham Park, which we have been invited to do by the Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, my hon. Friend the Member for Reading East (Rob Wilson)? This is a matter of the greatest concern. The reduction in funding was entirely to be anticipated, but it should not have occurred.

[Mr Edward Vaizey: I have just been indulgent to my right hon. Friend because quite a few of my constituents work at Caversham and have been in touch with me to express their concerns. I thank him for his very welcome intervention and I echo his call. I hope that the Minister will pass on to his colleagues in the Foreign Office the need to note the sagacious views of my right hon. Friend and his colleagues on the Select Committee on the future of monitoring at Caversham and how it should be funded and analysed.​ ...]

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[Mr Vaizey: ... Returning to the other raids on the BBC, the digital infrastructure raid was perhaps appropriate. We then took the underspend and spent it on broadband. If the Minister is clever enough, as I know he is, not to proceed with the competitive content fund, we could put more of that money into broadband. I know that he has made incredibly rapid progress on the roll-out of broadband since he took up his present ministerial position, and I know that he will want to reach the new target of 100% by the end of next year. I thought I would just throw that in, because everyone said I was so useless at the job –

Hon. Members: “Aah!”

Mr Vaizey: Thank you. This is turning into a pantomime, Madam Deputy Speaker – ]

Dr Lewis: Oh no it isn’t!