It is perhaps right of us—it is certainly right of me, as one of Her Majesty’s Law Officers—to remind the House why the Crown Prosecution Service was set up 30 years ago: to deliver justice for the public through the independent prosecution of crime across England and

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Wales. I was interested in the comments of the hon. Member for Angus (Mike Weir) about the question of independence, which is at the heart of how the criminal justice service in England and Wales operates. There are parallels between the work of employed prosecutors in Scotland and those employed by the CPS in England: while prosecutors remain in the employ of the service, conflicts should not and cannot arise, but where we have an independent referral service, such as the Bar of England and Wales, the independence and objectivity that it can bring to often difficult and sensitive cases is without parallel in the western world.

We should celebrate that, as well as the work of Crown prosecutors the length and breadth of England and Wales, and all the support staff who work so hard in offices and courts throughout the country. I speak with 20 years’ experience as a prosecutor who has worked closely with the CPS, particularly in Wales, dealing with a wide range of serious crime. I not only cherish that experience, I find it incredibly useful in my work as a Law Officer.

I am delighted to welcome not just to this debate but to this House new Members with similar experience of the criminal justice system. We have two in the room today—my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Alex Chalk) and the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras (Keir Starmer), to whose excellent speech I will return—but it would be wrong of me not to refer as well to the hon. Member for Torfaen (Nick Thomas-Symonds), who went down a more civil path in his career at the Bar but reminded us of his early days, an experience that I think several of us have shared.

The hon. Member for Neath (Christina Rees), of course, is also a qualified member of the Bar, which should be put on record. I am grateful to her for her contribution, albeit on an issue that is perhaps more within the purview of the Ministry of Justice. The delivery of justice is achieved by working with other agencies, and her contribution brought that into perspective. Although the CPS is a large cog in the system, it is but one part of that system; it must work with the police and court system to ensure that criminal cases are brought not only to court but to a conclusion.

The test that is applied is one that loads of us who are close to the service can probably recite in our sleep, but it is none the less important to remind ourselves of it. It is the two limb test. First, is there a realistic prospect of a conviction? Secondly, is it in the public interest to bring the prosecution? I hope that answers somewhat the criticism made by the hon. Member for Angus about the bringing of cases by the CPS that have not ended in a successful conviction and that have, in his words, brought into question the reputation of the service. With respect to him, if the CPS were to adopt a test involving risk of acquittal, no cases would ever be brought, because there will always be a risk of acquittal in taking a case to court. That should not deter Crown prosecutors from doing their job.

Mike Weir: I agree entirely. I was merely making the point that there have been some high-profile cases in which convictions were not secured, and perhaps some in which the evidence was shaky at best. That has reflected on the CPS in the public mind. It is not a criticism of the CPS; I understand that not all cases are successful, and not all cases should be.

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The Solicitor General: I am sorry to disagree with the hon. Gentleman, but therein lies the problem. If we as politicians and commentators start making such value judgments, we undermine confidence in the independence of the prosecutorial system. We must trust an impartial and objective application of the threshold test. Any questioning of that causes me and many others great concern about the integrity of our prosecutorial system.

Keir Starmer: Does the Solicitor General agree that, when a case is charged and the judge decides that there is a case to answer, that case is properly brought, even if there is an acquittal? It is important to our criminal justice system that we adhere to that. The mere fact that a case, high-profile or otherwise, does not end in a conviction is not a test of whether the charging decision was right or wrong. A better test is whether the judge left it to the jury. If that is so, it normally means that the case should have been brought.

The Solicitor General: I am grateful to the hon. and learned Gentleman. He presages the point that I was going to make about sufficiency, and about the checks and balances throughout the court process. Arguments can be made about the sufficiency of the evidence at the beginning of a case, at the end of the prosecution case, and, indeed, in some rare circumstances whereby judges withdraw cases from juries—it does not often happen—at the end of defence cases, but the power remains.

In making such criticisms, we are also in danger of calling into question the jury process and indeed the whole system, which is so integral to the rule of law in this country. I was asked—rhetorically, perhaps, but I will give an answer—what strategy this Government have. It is a criminal justice system that upholds the rule of law, enhances public confidence in the system and ensures that there is a consistent approach to bringing cases and sentencing, so that the public feel confident and are protected by due process within the system. That is nothing new—it has been with us for generations—but this Government believe in it as passionately as previous Governments, of whatever colour.

I want to deal with each contribution in turn, but particularly with the opening speech by the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead and her experience of giving evidence in a trial. It does not sound to me as though best practice was followed in her case. I am glad she has brought it to the attention of the House, because those with responsibility for the administration of justice, not only in the magistrates court in Bexley but elsewhere, will do well to remember that the housing of witnesses for the prosecution with either defendants or their families is wholly inappropriate and leads to all sorts of complications that I need not recite here.

[Nadine Dorries in the Chair]

The hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead asked specific questions about witness care officers. I accept that the numbers have been reduced in line with other staff reductions, but, importantly, those reductions have been accompanied by reforms to better target our limited resources to help witnesses who are intimidated or vulnerable, and those who are in greatest need. Even more is being done with regard to the change of culture to which my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham referred. For example, the Government are now improving access to information for victims through the new online

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and telephone-based victim information service that was launched in March. The increasing commissioning of victims’ services through local police and crime commissioners will create a more responsive service—a more localised service—that I do not believe will create a postcode lottery, but will emphasise best practice from which other areas can learn. Although I accept there have been reductions in expenditure, the change in culture that everybody in the system—counsel, solicitors, and lawyers in their role in explaining matters and reassuring and supporting witnesses and victims—has experienced continues to grow.

Alex Chalk: On precisely that point, if counsel apply the victims’ charter and explain the situation to witnesses and victims as they come to court, it can have an extraordinary impact on how they end up viewing the criminal justice system, and it does not cost a penny.

The Solicitor General: Very much so. A lot of us who pioneered such work in the ’90s now find that a lot of what we said and believed then is becoming standard practice, and that is absolutely right. We have heard reference to the victims’ right to review, and, as was made clear in an intervention on the hon. Member for Rochdale (Simon Danczuk), there is an ongoing process in relation to a particular case that means that it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it. However, I hear what the hon. Gentleman says, and I will come back to his point about historical child sexual exploitation in a moment.

Importantly, the new victims’ right to review scheme that was established last year gives victims a further opportunity to ask the Crown Prosecution Service, with the help of independent advice, to consider again the merits of particular decisions. So far, between June 2013 and the end of September last year, 263 decisions have been overturned by the new system. It is a small proportion of the number of Crown Prosecution decisions that are made, but it is an extra safety valve that goes a long way, as I said in relation to our strategy, to enhance public confidence in the criminal justice system.

I have referred en passant to the hon. Member for Rochdale, who talked with his usual power about child sexual exploitation. It is a national emergency. I entirely agree with him, and so do the Government. The way in which complainants were dealt with historically in towns such as Rotherham and the town that he represents was wrong. There was far too much emphasis on the reliability of the individual witness, who was often very young and vulnerable, rather than an overall view of the merits of the case. That is rightly acknowledged to have been an incorrect approach. The thrust of the work being carried out by the Crown Prosecution Service now very much reflects the fact that lessons have been learnt, and there are a number of marked successes when it comes to convictions in such cases. A number of so-called celebrities have rightly been brought to justice, and young victims in larger conspiracy-based cases involving many young and vulnerable complainants have now had their voices heard, as the hon. Gentleman says, and can now see that some justice has been brought in order to help them get on with lives that have been torn asunder by the abuse that they suffered.

The hon. Member for Torfaen rightly talked about pressure and efficiency and how decisions are to be made where there is a reduction in the number of

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lawyers. The way to measure that is by looking at some of the efficiency measurements that the CPS has conducted. The percentage of guilty pleas at first hearing is a good measurement, because that clearly demonstrates that there has been an excellent level of pre-trial and pre-plea preparation in terms of case management, which means that the evidence has been presented clearly and that those advising defendants can confidently tender advice in a proper way. The percentage of guilty pleas at first hearing has increased from 63.4% in 2010-11 to 70.6% in the last financial year. That is a significant increase.

Another vital piece of information relates to the percentage of magistrates court proceedings that are dropped at a third or even fourth or fifth hearing. That percentage has fallen from 44.2% to 34.1%. In the Crown court, cracked and ineffective trials owing to prosecution failure have fallen from 18.2% to 13.5%. That shows that those who are responsible for decision making and case preparation in the CPS are rising to the challenge and yielding significant results. I pay tribute to chief Crown prosecutors in regions such as the west midlands and the south-west for understanding the importance of the management of the huge volume of cases that come across the desks of prosecutors week in, week out, and for making sure that further improvements are made so that, from the CPS’s point of view, they are doing everything they can to ensure that the Courts Service is efficient.

It would be churlish of me not to put on the record my grateful thanks for the service of the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras as Director of Public Prosecutions. He came in at a time when the service already knew that it would face important financial challenges under his stewardship, and he managed them admirably. It is in no small part due to the leadership that he showed that the sorts of figures I have been able to bring to the debate today, and the improved efficiencies in the CPS have been achieved. We are grateful to him.

The hon. and learned Gentleman asked about strategy, and I have given him the answer that I think needs to be set out. He also talked about lines of sight and the risks being run with regard to the impact of reduced resources at a time when it is clear that case loads are increasing. I agree with him: case loads are increasing. We have more terrorism cases and an increase in child sexual exploitation cases. He is right to ask questions. I can reassure him that, as in his day, there continue to be regular meetings between the Director of Public Prosecutions and chief Crown prosecutors to ensure that the current director is fully aware of the impact of changes in case load and resources on individual CPS areas. Further to that, both the Attorney General and I regularly meet the CPS’s director and its chief executive, Peter Lewis, to discuss a range of measures that crucially include resources and its case load mix.

Karl Turner: In discussions the Solicitor General has had with the Director of Public Prosecutions, has she mentioned to him and the Attorney General that the CPS urgently needs £50 million now to prosecute historical sex cases properly? What representations has he made to the Chancellor about that?

The Solicitor General: I wanted to come on to finance and I can reassure the hon. Gentleman that the CPS continues actively to discuss its requirements and resourcing

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pressures with the Treasury. The idea that somehow there is a nonchalant, sit-back approach to that is wholly wrong.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman is reassured that not only are the pressures understood, but discussions continue at the highest levels of Government with regard to making sure—[Interruption.] I reassure him that when it comes to the prosecution of serious crime, whether terrorism or child sexual exploitation, the question of resources does not come into it. What does come into it is the threshold test that I referred to at the beginning of my speech.

The CPS continues to look at the impact of resource changes and it is working with colleagues in the Treasury as part of the ongoing spending review. It would not be appropriate for me to prejudge the outcome of that review. The debate is timely and I accept that Members are impatient, but that is where we are on the ongoing pressures and risks that the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras talked about.

Alex Chalk: On resources, is it not right that where there is a specific need, the Government will step in? There is no clearer example of that than when the Serious Fraud Office had to consider whether it had sufficient resources to go after so-called LIBOR fraudsters and money was found for detailed and complex investigations. When there is a need, resources are delivered.

The Solicitor General: I think my hon. Friend was talking about blockbuster funding and the SFO. It would be invidious of me to make direct comparisons, but that point is very well made indeed.

On finance, I hope to demolish the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East’s attractive but somewhat false—I will say colourful—characterisation of the Government’s approach to the CPS budget, which I think he described as a “hope for the best” approach. I am sorry to disappoint him, but that is neither accurate nor fair. As I said, under the stewardship of the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, preparations were made before the 2010 spending review for the CPS to start to reduce its costs by, for example, releasing resources from the back-office at HQ to the frontline; renegotiating important IT contracts to achieve significant savings; introducing a new IT equipment and workstation ratio strategy; and looking at the closure of uneconomic smaller offices.

That all began before the spending review, and those policies have been taken further since then. We have seen the consolidation of operations into regional hubs, the end of occupying unnecessary buildings and the number of CPS geographical areas reduced from 42 to 13 together with a reduction in management numbers. In fact, back-office functions have taken the greatest cut, with a 50% reduction in HQ staff; 20% savings from the renegotiation of the IT and communications contracts, and the estate reduced from 95 offices in 2010 to 40 this year. With respect to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull East, that is not “hope for the best” or “back of a cigarette packet” stuff, but a carefully calibrated and planned structural change largely authored and led by the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras. That process continues.

When it comes to the prosecution of offences, there is no question of negotiations with the Treasury somehow having an impact on individual decisions; the independence

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of the Crown Prosecution Service is a self-evident truth. To reinforce that, perhaps I should look at some overall results. The CPS’s conviction rate in the magistrates courts is now 83.5%, which has increased from 80.6% back in 2004-05. Similarly, in the Crown court, the conviction rate is now 79.4%, up from just over 75% 10 years ago.

Guilty plea rates continue to rise in both Crown and magistrates courts and I am struck in particular by the increase by both volume and proportion of convictions in cases involving violence against women and girls. The past year saw the highest ever volume and proportion of cases charged: 88,359 cases, which is a rise of nearly 12,000 compared with the previous financial year. We also saw more than 107,000 defendants prosecuted to completion in the past year in cases involving violence against women and girls—the highest ever number. The number of those convicted increased from 67,380 in the previous financial year to 78,773 in the past year.

Those figures are far more eloquent testimony to the success of the Crown Prosecution Service’s continuing work than anything else that I can summon up. I commend its work to the House and thank once again the hon. Member for Erith and Thamesmead for giving me the opportunity to address that.

Question put and agreed to.


That this House has considered the work of the Crown Prosecution Service.

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Local Government Finance (Tameside and Oldham)

4.7 pm

Angela Rayner (Ashton-under-Lyne) (Lab): I beg to move,

That this House has considered local government funding in Tameside and Oldham.

I want to use this opportunity to highlight the impact of the drastic and unfair cuts to local authority spending on local people and public services in my constituency. I also want to set out a better way.

Since 2010, the Government have cut cash funding to Tameside Council by just over 41%, forcing it to cut its budget by £104 million—more than half. The council has lost 1,700 jobs, almost half its workforce. A further £24 million in cuts is now set for 2015-16 and another £14 million for 2016-17. Together, that total of £142 million in cuts amounts to a real-terms equivalent of 53% of the total budget and more than twice Tameside’s council tax income.

Jonathan Reynolds (Stalybridge and Hyde) (Lab/Co-op): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate and on her tremendous contribution since being elected. As a former Tameside councillor, I could say much about our local government funding settlement, but the fundamental point I wish to register is that we want local authorities to continue to be the deliverers of core public services—I do, and I think there is consensus for that. However, the local government settlement system for areas such as ours is simply not sustainable.

I believe there should be an incentive system—a way of rewarding councils for house building, economic growth and so forth—but there must also be a floor to ensure that vital, core public services are met. In Tameside, we are very close to falling through that floor.

Angela Rayner: I thank my hon. Friend for illustrating what I am trying to portray. Some fantastic councils up and down the country are facing genuine difficulties.

Oldham Council, which is also within my constituency, has done even worse than Tameside Council. It has been forced to cut £200 million from its public services since 2010—the second-largest cut in Greater Manchester. Taken together, my two boroughs have already lost from their public services more than £300 million—that is, incidentally, the annual cost of running the royal household.

Across Greater Manchester, local councils are making almost £450 million of cuts, which comes after 15,000 jobs were lost from our town halls after the last round of budget reductions.

Andrew Gwynne (Denton and Reddish) (Lab): I, too, welcome my hon. Friend as the Member of Parliament for Ashton-under-Lyne. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Jonathan Reynolds), I served as a Tameside councillor before entering this place.

The situation is worse than the picture my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) is painting, because such reductions in council spending have an impact on wider public services. For example, the cut in adult social care budgets has had an enormous impact on the ability of the NHS in Greater Manchester to deliver quality health services.

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Angela Rayner: My hon. Friend is absolutely right that the impact will be felt across all the public services, which are struggling with their own cuts.

Local government is facing the biggest challenge in its history. Spending as a proportion of GDP is forecast to fall from 4% in 2010 to less than 2.5% in 2019, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this important debate. One of the consequences of the cuts she is experiencing, apart from the fact that they are disproportionately affecting areas such as Greater Manchester while more affluent areas are receiving increases, is the long-term effect on life expectancy, about which there is a solid evidence base.

Angela Rayner: My hon. Friend is absolutely right. After five years of austerity, it is becoming increasingly difficult for well-run councils such as Tameside and Oldham to protect the most vulnerable from the impact of Government policies.

Demand for core services, particularly in social care—formerly, I worked in home care—continues to rise steeply, while funds are being drastically cut. Who will pay the price for the mismatch between the demand for services and the resources available to fund them? Will it be the 5,000 adult care service users in Tameside who have a physical difficultly, a frailty or a sensory impairment? Will it be the 4,000 people who use reablement services to help them live at home, or the people the council supports by providing nursing or residential care? Will it be the 1,300 mental health adult social care users, the 556 adults receiving learning disability services or the 410 vulnerable looked-after children in Tameside? What about the 1 million telephone callers to the council every year? Should staff just ignore the ringing phone, stop cleaning the 715 km of highways and footpaths every month, stop emptying the 45,000 wheelie bins and forget the 140 tonnes of street sweeping and the 290 tonnes of litter per month?

The Local Government Association believes that by 2020 the money available to fund some basic but essential council services, which we all rely on, will have shrunk by 90% in real cash terms. More than 60% of council spending will be on adult and child social care. Local authorities up and down the country are facing difficult choices.

Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab): My local authority, Salford City Council, is in a similar situation: up to £4.7 million is going to be cut from adult services alone. Its Labour mayor has tried to limit the effect of such swingeing cuts by implementing the living wage and employment standards charter, supporting local people into work with free nursery care and raising £5 million from the proceeds of crime.

Nadine Dorries (in the Chair): Order. Ms Long Bailey, please do not make a speech if you are making an intervention.

Rebecca Long Bailey: Thank you for that guidance, Ms Dorries.

Does my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) agree that we need a fairer funding settlement for the whole of Greater Manchester, based on the real needs of localities?

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Angela Rayner: My hon. Friend is right. I know her constituency well enough to realise that there is much more that unites us than divides us, not least on the issue of needing funds to provide basic services for our constituents.

Of course, not every local authority is facing the same agonising choices. Analysis by the all-party Local Government Association has shown that Labour local authorities have suffered average losses of £108 per person in spending power, while Tory councils have lost just £38 per head. Is that the Government’s one-nation Britain? Of the 50 worst-hit councils, 43 are Labour-run; of the 50 least-hit councils, 42 are Tory-run.

Even using the Government’s own carefully constructed figures on spending power, the unfairness is stark. Tameside has seen a 3.6% cut in spending power for 2015-16 alone—a cut of £74.77 for households in my constituency. Meanwhile, Oxfordshire’s spending power has risen by 1.3%, and Cheshire East’s has risen by 1.5%. Let us be clear: households in my constituency have lost almost £75 each, while households in Witney have gained almost £22 and those in the Chancellor’s Tatton constituency have become £25 richer. The number of food banks in Tameside has increased sixfold under a Prime Minister and a Chancellor who are busily feathering their own nests.

The Chancellor has announced a so-called stability Budget on 8 July, which will contain another £12 billion of cuts that will no doubt hit out-of-work benefits, disability allowances and personal social services. Inevitably, local government services will be hit once again.

The Independent Commission on Local Government Finances said today that councils are already at a cliff edge, which means that everyday services may not exist for much longer. People who depend on council services are already teetering on the edge of that cliff, and the Chancellor’s so-called stability Budget will push them over.

Tameside Council is forecasting that £4.5 million of cuts will be made to social care by the Chancellor’s stability Budget. Cuts to benefits would add another £4.5 million of extra pressure on council services. One cannot be taken without the other. Those cuts come on top of the £1 million cuts to public health services already announced in Tameside. The total in-year cut for Tameside will be up to another £10 million, and the situation in Oldham is exactly the same.

We are not alone. Sheffield Hallam University estimates that the Chancellor’s £12 billion of welfare cuts will take £5.2 billion a year out of the pockets of families in the north. Coincidentally, almost the same amount is lost in tax evasion every year. I look forward to the Tories pursuing multimillionaire tax avoiders with the same fervour as they are punishing poor working people, but I am not holding my breath.

I have no doubt that Tameside and Oldham Councils will continue the difficult work of managing the cuts and tackling the enormous challenges they face, but I fear that, for all their best intentions, many local people will inevitably suffer. There has to be a better way. I know that many Government Members genuinely believe in local democracy and local government, and will join me in congratulating Tameside, Oldham and many other local authorities for their work in stimulating private-sector

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investment, creating decent jobs, providing strong civic leadership, innovating services and being prepared to do things differently.

All that is at risk if local government services continue to be the whipping boy for austerity. That is why we need a new settlement for local government in our country. Devolution and more local decision making will undoubtedly play their part and I welcome the progress made, particularly in the development of the northern powerhouse. However, devolution is only part of the answer; in itself, it will not solve the funding crisis and cannot be used by central Government as an excuse to transfer responsibilities.

Rebecca Long Bailey: My hon. Friend shares my keen interest in the devo Manc proposal. In light of the facts she set out, there is concern—among northern MPs, in particular—that Ministers see it as a chance to palm off the blame rather than hand down the power. Does she agree that, whatever the final shape of local government in Manchester, resources much match responsibilities?

Angela Rayner: Once again, my hon. Friend hits the nail on the head. She anticipates my next point. If the northern powerhouse is to succeed, it cannot be used as a Trojan horse for more cuts. There must be a fairer settlement for local government: a settlement where reductions in spending do not fall on the most vulnerable in society and the places where they rely on a strong public sector; that puts public need first; that takes a place-based approach to finance, ending the madness whereby cuts to preventive local government services only fuel increasing demand for more expensive NHS treatment; and that helps to cut the appalling gap in outcomes between the most affluent and most deprived areas, ensuring that everyone has an equal chance to get on in life, regardless of where they started.

4.21 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Mr Marcus Jones): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. This is the first opportunity that I have had to welcome the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) to the House. I congratulate her on securing the debate and commend her on her speech about the situation in Tameside and Oldham. She and her colleagues are not necessarily enthusiastic about what is happening in her area as a result of the northern powerhouse talks, but I certainly take her comments today seriously.

The way local government is funded is extremely important and creates a great deal of debate. Thanks to the Government’s long-term economic plan, the deficit is falling, the economy is growing and employment is at a record high. The Government are putting public finances back on track. The past five years have seen huge changes in the way in which councils operate. Local government accounts for almost a quarter of total public expenditure. It was therefore inevitable that local government would have to play its part in reducing the deficit, but it has done so efficiently and effectively, delivering sensible savings while protecting front-line services. In fact, public satisfaction with local government services has increased or been maintained across the country over the past five years. That illustrates how

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successful councils have been. However, the job is not yet done, and the next five years will present further challenges. The Government still need to take difficult decisions about local government funding, to ensure that the public finances are on a sustainable path, and councils will need to continue to play their part.

Debbie Abrahams (Oldham East and Saddleworth) (Lab): Will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: I will in a moment, but I will make further progress first.

For Britain to be truly successful, every part of the country must thrive. With the 2015-16 settlement, the Government attempted to be fair to all of our great cities, counties, rural shires and coastal communities. The overall reduction in local authorities’ spending power in 2015-16 is 1.7%. When taking account of the funding provided to support local transformation, the overall reduction is lower still—1.5%. To answer one of questions from the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne, those authorities with the greatest demand for services continue to receive substantially more in funding. Only London and the north-east have higher spending power per household than the north-west.

Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab): Will the Minister give way on that point?

Mr Jones: I will give way in a moment.

Just to put that in context, in Oldham the spending power per household is £2,400 and in Tameside it is £2,070, against a national average of £2,086. Furthermore, we have ensured that no council will face a loss of more than 6.4% in their spending power in 2015-16, the lowest level since we started out on the road to recovery.

During the past five years there have been unavoidable changes to local authority funding from central Government. We have ensured that these changes have been applied fairly and sustainably.

Mr Meacher: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: I will give way in a moment.

Through our reforms to the local government finance system, we have established a basis for a more self-reliant local government, and a sector that is less dependent on Whitehall and is instead increasingly confident in using the tools and incentives that we have provided to grow local economies.

Andrew Gwynne: Will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: Yes, I will.

Andrew Gwynne: The Minister talks about a fair funding settlement, but does he not appreciate that, because of their make-up, local authorities have different needs from and demands on services? Tameside and Oldham, for example, are grant-dependent because the council tax base is low and their ability to raise additional finance is therefore limited.

Mr Jones: I understand what the hon. Gentleman says. That is why the north-west—particularly the Oldham area—has greater spending power than many other

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parts of the country. However, he undersells his area’s potential to raise revenue locally, through additional council tax and business rate retention. Councils have a greater stake in stimulating local growth. Authorities throughout the country are benefiting from greater powers in this sense, including—

Mr Meacher: For the third time, will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: I am going to make progress.

Councils benefiting from those powers include Newcastle, Sunderland and Northampton, which had the greatest growth in business rates retention in 2013-14, as a result of enterprise zones and new development deals. Authorities’ own estimates for 2015-16 show that 94% are expecting growth in their business rate income, above the level of assumed growth of £544 million in total. In response to the point made by the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Andrew Gwynne), I remind him that Oldham and Tameside forecast growth of £1.8 million and £2.4 million respectively, putting both councils in the top 100 authorities in England in terms of additional income.

Mr Meacher: On that point, I ask the Minister for a fourth time to give way.

Mr Jones: I will give way in a moment. I am just going to finish this point.

As those authorities are members of the Greater Manchester and Chester business rates pool, which benefits from a zero levy, they will avoid paying any levy on the additional income that they bring in.

Mr Meacher: Can we get to the real point of this debate, which is that Oldham in particular, which I and my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Angela Rayner) represent, is having to take a £200 million cut by 2017, as she said? In this current year, it is having its spending power cut by 4.3%, whereas Oxfordshire, which happens to contain the Prime Minister’s constituency, has an increase of 1.3%, and Cheshire East Council, which happens to contain the Chancellor’s constituency, is having a 1.5% increase. Does that not clearly indicate a flagrantly politically partisan distribution of resources between Tory areas, where the need is less, compared with Labour areas where it is far greater?

Mr Jones: I should say to Opposition Members that I will not take any further interventions after the right hon. Gentleman’s lengthy contribution. He needs to put this matter in the context of the authorities that he mentioned having far less spending power than those we are discussing in this debate.

The other way that the areas in question will no doubt benefit is through the new homes bonus. Councils benefit directly from the number of new homes built in their area and from bringing empty property back into use. We have provisionally allocated £1.2 billion of new homes bonus funding to local authorities in England for 2015-16. Of that, Oldham will receive £2.1 million and Tameside £3.5 million. Since the scheme began, local authorities have been rewarded with a total of £3.4 billion.

As well as growing their economies, the best authorities are transforming how they do business and demonstrating innovation, including in how they work with local partners.

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We are supporting them as they do so, helping them to achieve savings and, perhaps most important, improving outcomes for the people who use local services.

In November, the Government announced the 73 projects that were successful in bidding for the transformation challenge award. The projects will receive £90 million to improve services and ultimately will save the public sector more than £900 million. I would like to give several examples, particularly one in Manchester, but I do not have time to do so during this debate.

One critical area where the Government must work with councils to transform services is adult social care. I hear what the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne says about her experience and I am sure that the House will welcome that experience. The Government are clear that the NHS and social care services must work together and move away from operating in financial silos. They must secure the best possible value from the local funding available for health and care in order to improve people’s lives. The Government are committed to making that happen, but just putting more money into the system is not the answer, despite Opposition Members’ comments. We need radical reform of how health and social care are delivered. The better care fund provides a new approach to protect social care services, breaking new ground in driving integration between health and social care.

Despite the challenges that I have mentioned, most local authorities have coped well. Most authorities froze council tax in 2015-16, helping people with the cost of living. The Government once again provided additional funding equivalent to a 1% council tax increase to help them to do so. This was the fifth successive year of freeze funding provided by Government, bringing the total package to £5 billion. That has helped to reduce council tax by 11% in real terms since 2010, with the average band D household saving up to £1,059. That is in stark contrast to the 13 years of Labour government, when council tax bills doubled.

Peter Dowd (Bootle) (Lab): Will the Minister give way?

Mr Jones: I cannot, due to the length of the interventions that I took previously.

The financial constraints facing councils make it even more important that we deliver on our critical agenda of devolving power to local places and local people. That is one of the most exciting agendas in local government at the moment. Local government should no longer think of itself as a manager of central programmes, but should embrace its new power and responsibility.

The Government’s commitment has been demonstrated by the inclusion—the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne will have seen this—of the Cities and Local Government Devolution Bill, which has started its progress in the House of Lords. Alongside the Bill, we will be talking to councils about their ideas for devolution, so that we can agree deals that make devolution a reality. The Government want the process to be bottom up and recognise that the right approach will be different in every area. We want to devolve power to cities, rural areas and neighbourhoods. The Bill will bring about the most far-reaching decentralisation of power in living memory and in particular will create a northern powerhouse with Manchester and other northern cities. It will create

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a directly elected mayor responsible for co-ordinating significant powers and budgets across transport, back-to-work support and health and adult social care.

Last November, Greater Manchester and the Government agreed a devolution plan that saw powers over transport, planning and housing transferred from central Government control to the Greater Manchester combined authority. In February, building on that, 10 local authorities, including a number that Opposition Members represent, came together with 12 clinical commissioning groups and NHS providers in Greater Manchester, along with NHS England, and agreed that from April 2016 they would take joint control of the estimated £6 billion health and care budget in the region. That will enable Greater Manchester to be freer to respond to what local people want, using experience and expertise from across government and the NHS to help improve outcomes and change the way in which public money is spent.

There is little doubt that the next five years will bring further financial challenges but, with the spending review approaching, hon. Members will appreciate that I cannot say much more about our financial plans today. The Government wish to work constructively with local government on these issues, and we are ready to listen to the views of councils.

Question put and agreed to.

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BBC Investment (East and West Midlands)

4.36 pm

Nadine Dorries (in the Chair): I will not impose a time limit on speeches. I am sure that hon. Members can work out the times for themselves.

Mark Spencer (Sherwood) (Con): I beg to move,

That this House has considered BBC investment in the East and West Midlands.

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. The east and west midlands have a proud history of broadcasting. Looking back through time, the first regional TV station was established in Sutton Coldfield in 1949. We were also the first to have a regional radio station, which was established in Birmingham in 1922, and the first ever colour TV studio was established in Birmingham in 1969.

Ian Austin (Dudley North) (Lab): It is not only in broadcasting that Birmingham and the west midlands lead the way. The west midlands is, of course, the centre of Britain’s creative talents. William Shakespeare, Jerome K. Jerome and J. R. R. Tolkien were all from the west midlands. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is a disgrace that, although the west midlands contributes 25% of the licence fee, the BBC spends just 2% of its budget fostering creative talent in the region?

Mark Spencer: Absolutely. That is the crux of the debate.

Keith Vaz (Leicester East) (Lab): I will speak briefly on behalf of the east midlands. The hon. Gentleman missed out that the BBC Asian Network was created in Leicester and, under current proposals, will be moved from Leicester down to London, which is totally unacceptable.

Mark Spencer: I am grateful for that intervention. From the mood in the room, it is clear that we are proud of both the east midlands and the west midlands, and it is a shame that the BBC management in London do not recognise the importance of the broadcasting ability in the midlands. As the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) indicated, more than a quarter of all licence fee money is collected from the midlands, but investment in the region is as low as 2.05%, which is outrageous. The figure is a sixth of the amount spent in the north, 21% of the amount spent in the south and less than the broadcaster spends in London every 12 days.

Mr Andrew Mitchell (Sutton Coldfield) (Con): I have served as a Member of Parliament for the east midlands as well as for the west midlands, so I hope that I take a balanced approach to my hon. Friend’s excellent speech. Does he agree that it is astonishing that the BBC should neglect investment in Britain’s second city of Birmingham? The city is a centre for the creative arts, in addition to the point raised by the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin). The BBC is cutting off its nose to spite its face; it is missing out on the huge array of talent in the east midlands and particularly the west midlands.

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Mark Spencer: I am grateful for that intervention. Many of us will remember the great facility at Pebble Mill, which closed in 2004. Currently, the midlands has no network TV studios at all. The north has dozens. Once again, that demonstrates that the BBC does not invest in the midlands and does not take us seriously.

Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing this debate. Birmingham is the city not just of Chamberlain but of Pebble Mill. Does he agree that it is absolutely wrong that £9 out of every £10 raised from the Birmingham licence fee payer is not spent in the midlands? Will he also join me in congratulating The Birmingham Post and Birmingham Mail on their outstanding advocacy of a fair share for Birmingham and the midlands?

Mark Spencer: I absolutely join the hon. Gentleman in congratulating the Birmingham Post. Its campaign has been a long-running one. I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight), who since his election to this House has been very active in pursuing the issue.

Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South) (Lab): To come back to the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin), there is a lot of history in the west midlands, particularly in Coventry, where “The Italian Job” was made. Film producers can do it in the midlands, so why cannot the BBC, when it is disposing of its resources? The west midlands could be called the economic powerhouse of this country, but we would not know that from the BBC.

Mark Spencer: I totally agree with the hon. Gentleman. When we consider what the east and west midlands have to offer as backdrops for TV programme makers—the beautiful city of Lincoln, Sherwood Forest in my constituency—the great creative talents of Birmingham and Coventry, the spectacular restaurants of Leicestershire and the rolling hills of Derbyshire—[Interruption.] I am not familiar with what Stoke has to offer, but I am sure the hon. Gentleman will educate me.

Robert Flello (Stoke-on-Trent South) (Lab): Ms Dorries, I will not try your patience by giving a long list of the marvellous things in north Staffordshire and in Stoke-on-Trent in particular, but will make the very serious point that Birmingham and other large conurbations are hard done by, but the far-flung places in the west and east midlands, such as Stoke-on-Trent, are even more neglected.

Mark Spencer: I acknowledge that. I hope that this debate will help the BBC management to understand its poor decision-making processes.

It is worth making comparisons on a per-head basis. If spending per licence fee payer was the same in the north as in the south, £473 million would be spent in the midlands.

Ian Austin: The hon. Gentleman is making a really important point about expenditure on broadcasting, one that was brought home to me by my constituent Jean Vincent and her children, who all work in the creative industries and are having to travel further and further from Dudley to find work. She told me that it is estimated that, for every pound the BBC spends, £2 is

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generated in the wider economy. That makes BBC investment even more important and means that our creative industries in the midlands are losing out on hundreds of millions of pounds. Does he agree?

Mark Spencer: I wholly agree. If we pursue the hon. Gentleman’s argument that every pound that the BBC spends creates £2 in the local economy, the economy of the east and west midlands would benefit by £786 million—a substantial amount of investment.

Let us compare the midlands with other areas. In the midlands, the BBC spends £12.40 per head. In Wales, the figure is £122.24 per head; in Northern Ireland, it is £103.14 and in Scotland, £88.73. In the north of England, it is £80.24, and in London, it is a staggering £757.24. By any stretch of the imagination, that makes the midlands the poor relation when it comes to BBC investment.

Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Con): I commend my hon. Friend on securing the debate. Does he agree that one fundamental problem is that the BBC’s funding mechanism—the licence fee, which is backed by criminal sanctions for non-payment—means that midlands licence fee payers have little influence over the BBC’s spending strategy? However, if the BBC’s funding were moved to a voluntary subscription mechanism, that would give subscribers in the midlands a lot more power, and the BBC would not be able to ignore them in its spending strategy.

Mark Spencer: My hon. Friend has a long-standing record of being supportive of the BBC—of being a critical friend. The licence fee and a subscription service are a separate debate for another occasion.

One could argue that the midlands has always been the poor relation, but that is not true. Since 2009, spending in the midlands has fallen by 35.25%, to well below what is spent in London. In the same period, spending in London fell by 16.5%, but investment in the north rose by 217%, and every other region has seen increased investment, apart from the midlands.

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): I am sure the hon. Gentleman and other east midlands MPs will join me in bidding farewell to John Hess, the BBC’s political editor in the east midlands; we wish him well. I mention that to raise a serious point. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the BBC should continue to invest in good political journalism that explains to our constituents what is going on in this place? We would not want any of that to be cut in future months.

Mark Spencer: I absolutely agree. Not only do we have John Hess, the esteemed broadcaster, on east midlands TV, but we have good journalists right across the midlands, and they hold politicians like us to account very efficiently. The amount spent in the midlands is very low, but the quality of programmes is often very high. To me, that is an argument for the BBC to invest more in that efficient model, which is delivering more bang for every buck.

Robert Flello: I draw the attention of Members and of anyone listening to the debate, or reading it afterwards, to “Marvellous”, the story of Nello, which is a perfect example of a fantastic production by the BBC. If only we could have more.

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Mark Spencer: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for drawing attention to that.

Every year, the BBC spends £89 million on its Broadcasting House headquarters in London—more than on the entire midlands region. As has been identified, none of the output for Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, Radio 5, BBC 2, BBC 3 or BBC 4 was made in the midlands last year, and no peak-time BBC programmes whatever were made there.

The midlands has no network TV studios, after the closure of Pebble Mill in 2004. As I said, there are dozens of studios in the north. BBC regional spending is up by 35%. Every region has seen an increase in spending over the last five years, except the midlands. It is an outrage that the midlands is pouring in more than a quarter of the licence fee money to get only a 2% return.

Karen Lumley (Redditch) (Con): I thank my hon. Friend for his brilliant speech. Has he found in his constituency, as I have in mine, that people support the BBC as an institution, but oppose the total unfairness we are seeing in the midlands?

Mark Spencer: Absolutely. I wholly agree. When the BBC gets programming right, my constituents certainly respect and love what it does. My argument is not with what the BBC is doing; it is that the BBC should be doing more and investing more in a model that is very good and very robust and deserves more investment and support from London.

I am conscious that many other colleagues want to speak, so I will draw my comments to a close. I recognise that the Minister’s power to influence what the BBC does with its budget is small, but he meets its representatives regularly, and I hope that he will use the influence he does have to draw their attention to investment in the midlands and to the fact that we are the poor relation compared with other regions. Other colleagues in the House will also continue to draw the attention of BBC managers to the issue. I hope that at some point the BBC will listen, so that we can make some progress and get real investment in the midlands.

4.50 pm

Julian Knight (Solihull) (Con): I pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) for securing the debate. He is a strong advocate for his constituency and for the midlands as a whole. I declare an interest: I worked for the BBC from 2002 until 2007. I was the BBC News personal finance and consumer affairs reporter, based—I hasten to add—in London.

The motion is about BBC investment in the east and west midlands, and the truth is that there is far too little of it. In 2014, for each £145.50 of licence fee raised in the west midlands, only £12.40 came back to the region; as has been pointed out, that compares with a staggering £757 in London. There is also what economists call a multiplier effect, whereby every pound spent multiplies through the economy and people employed. As a result, licence fee money has a massive and disproportionate impact in London and Manchester rather than in Birmingham, which is the heart of our country and the only part of it to have a trade surplus with the EU; it is a strong powerhouse that is under-represented by the BBC, a national broadcaster.

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Robert Flello: A mischievous thought has crept into my mind: if every licence fee payer in the midlands, east and west, were to pay only £12.40, the BBC might start to take notice.

Julian Knight: Obviously, I would never countenance mass civil disobedience over the matter, but something will certainly be shared on social media later. A lot of people are interested in the debate. I am following on my iPad the live blog by Trinity Mirror Midlands’s Birmingham Post online, which is looking into this. Perhaps that is something that will spread around.

Ian Austin: The hon. Gentleman is the MP for Solihull, so he knows, as I do, that the central problem facing the west midlands is our inability over decades to attract new jobs in new industries to replace the ones that we lost in traditional industries. Clearly, creative industries will generate hundreds of thousands of well paid jobs in the future. Does he agree that all of us—on both sides of the House and in the wider west midlands economy—should make it a priority to establish some sort of broadcasting hub in Birmingham and the west midlands to attract such jobs? We need to get our universities and the BBC working to attract jobs to the west midlands for the future.

Julian Knight: That is an interesting idea and I would hope that the BBC would play such a role; it would if it were doing its job properly. It is ridiculous that the Mailbox seems to be full of the HR department, rather than of people making programming for our enjoyment. If the BBC were to do its job properly and to be genuinely representative of the strength of the east and west midlands, we would be seeing greater programming and a real hub—the broadcast hub that we are talking about.

I am wondering how we got into the situation that we are in, with a bipolar organisation between London and Manchester—a carve-up, perhaps. The last time the charter came in, after the sad demise of Dr David Kelly, the Hutton report and all those things were going on, as well as the falling out between the Government and the BBC. The then director-general, Mark Thompson, decided to have what I call a “Jim Hacker” moment—as in the “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister” programmes. Suddenly the idea was to move lots of people from one part of the country to another and to call it regional diversity. The initiative was sold to the Government in good faith as extending regional programming and as the creation of a new hub in Manchester.

Looking at the output of the BBC these days, I question the purpose of moving thousands of staff to Salford from west London to produce the same programming in a different studio. The BBC has no regional character. When I was growing up in Chester and the west midlands—Biddulph, to be precise—we used to enjoy a lot of regionality in our programming; there were many more programmes and outside broadcasts specific to our region than there are today. Many of the studios established throughout the east and west midlands have now gone, and we are left with a skeleton staff in our region.

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): In that context, would the hon. Gentleman question the BBC’s figure that more than 50% of its output is produced outside London? All it has done is increase

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regional commuting, with people travelling from London to various hubs across the nation. It has not really changed anything.

Julian Knight: The hon. Lady is spot on. The BBC has created a bipolar organisation that transports people from London to Manchester. There is no real regional diversity to its broadcasting. I am horrified to learn of the BBC Asian Network’s being moved from Leicester to London, a prime example of that. I commend the campaign by Trinity Mirror and The Birmingham Post, and in particular the journalist Graeme Brown, who is highlighting an important matter that has brought many parties together.

We are in a bit of a dead zone for the national broadcaster in the west and east midlands. The BBC has perhaps seen regional diversity as something to be endured rather than embraced. If the BBC is to reconnect with the public at a time of mass digital communication, when we have many different ways of viewing and listening to content, it should consider drilling right down into the regions and offering something more regionally-based.

Andrew Bridgen: Whenever the BBC’s income stream is considered to be under threat, the first thing it says it will have to cut is regional radio in the east and west midlands, further reducing its already small presence there. Is my hon. Friend as horrified as I am at that? Should the Minister not tell the BBC at charter review that that would be completely unacceptable?

Julian Knight: My hon. Friend makes a good point. Regional broadcasting seems to be seen as an expense to be endured, rather than something that would deliver value for viewers and listeners, be valued and reconnect the BBC with the wider public once again.

Many Members here are of a certain age and can remember the time of mass broadcasting, with the shows of Morecambe and Wise getting 20 million viewers. These days, younger people, under the age of 25, will not understand the connection that many of us have with the BBC. If the BBC is going to survive in the long term, it needs to reconnect with the public. One key way of doing that is greater regional broadcasting and developing regional talent.

I appeal to BBC management to consider the case for the midlands, to redress the balance and genuinely to embrace regional diversity at the next charter renewal—not see it as some sort of sop that will buy it another seven years, which is what happened last time. We need not a bipolar organisation but one that takes its broadcasting out to individuals.

I am not that encouraged at what I have heard so far from the BBC. Its agenda for charter renewal seems to involve a crackdown on those not paying the licence fee for content on digital devices, retention of criminal sanctions against non-payers and a potential inflation of the licence fee. The BBC needs to understand that we are in the antechamber to the end of the licence fee and that we need to see a path out of it in the long term. The BBC can reconnect and offer better value for what it delivers by focusing on its core services. I argue strongly that its core service is regional broadcasting and delivering for the people of the east and west midlands.

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4.59 pm

Ms Gisela Stuart (Birmingham, Edgbaston) (Lab): I must declare a narrow interest: my moment of glory was on 7 May 1997, when Pat Archer was heard to say from Pebble Mill, which was in my constituency, that when Edgbaston was won, we would know we had a Labour Government. I was disappointed when the BBC moved out of Pebble Mill and I was no longer the MP for “The Archers”.

I am going to do something that may seem slightly counter-intuitive: I will partly defend the BBC, because we have to be careful what we wish for. If we want a public service broadcaster—most of the rest of the world would give their eye-teeth for the BBC and the World Service—we should realise that our desire for it has consequences. That does not mean that I agree with everything the BBC has done, but the Government do not get off scot-free. If we wish the BBC to be a public service broadcaster that can survive in the modern age, the funding structure and stream must be protected as well. What that means for the midlands is quite significant.

First, we must acknowledge that when he saw those empty offices in the Mailbox, Tony Hall was horrified. The BBC has tried to fill them, so far only with human resources staff, and it has moved its academy there. At least the BBC is moving that way. It has appointed a regional director.

For me, the bottom line is that if we do not start commissioning programmes from the midlands, nothing will flow from the midlands. We may become a production area, but for the west midlands to reflect its own culture and output, we have to commission programmes in the midlands and have commissioners there. We come across the issue on a daily basis. Turn on “Woman’s Hour”, and it will have vox pops from Manchester’s Oxford Road. The BBC is not asking people in the Bullring. The whole culture is just the wrong way.

What that means for us as MPs in the region is that we have to stress a number of things. If the BBC wants to survive in the future, we in Birmingham are the future: 40% of Birmingham’s population is under the age of 25, and 30% is under the age of 15. The ethnic diversity of the stable population in that region is enormous. It is not just the Asian Network, which started 40 years ago in the midlands, but the whole cultural production that is happening there. Frankly, if the BBC does not reflect the culture of that significant area—the chunk in the middle of England that is so easy to overlook, and it seems to be overlooked—then the BBC, as a public service broadcaster, will not fulfil its function for the whole of the country.

I say to colleagues that we have to keep up the pressure and say to the BBC, “Step by step, you are trying to move in the right direction, but you aren’t there yet.” I also say that we must be clear that if we do away with the licence fee, that will also have consequences. Let us just think for a moment. Those of us who think that the Union—the United Kingdom—is important should remember that the British Broadcasting Corporation is one of the very few British institutions that still embraces the entire British Isles and the nation.

Julian Knight: The hon. Lady said that the BBC “embraces” the nation. However, we noted during the referendum campaign that the Scottish National party

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was very angry with the BBC, and claimed bias in that respect. Given that the modern BBC does not embrace regional broadcasting, as we are discussing today, is it fulfilling that true national broadcaster remit?

Ms Stuart: That is a really important point at which we should pause. The SNP would like a national broadcaster; I would like a public sector broadcaster—and there is a very important distinction between the two, which we must not lose. The BBC must fulfil its duty to the regions—for example, in the political output in radio broadcasting, which it is neglecting.

What happens in the midlands is extremely important for northern Wales, because it looks to output from the midlands more than to that of the south of Wales. To be a proper public sector broadcaster, the BBC has to represent the regions and be more than just the national broadcaster: it also needs to commission programmes in the region.

The challenge for us is to be clear about the ask to the BBC; the challenge for the BBC is that unless it starts commissioning programmes in the whole of the midlands, they will not reflect us. That takes us back to the challenge for the Government in the charter review. A public sector broadcaster requires certain funding streams that will allow the BBC to fulfil that function.

5.5 pm

Steve McCabe (Birmingham, Selly Oak) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) on securing this important debate. His constituency and mine are at opposite ends of the midlands, but we have in common a sense of injustice about the poor return for our licence fee payers on the investment that they make.

What we need from the BBC is simple: a fairer share of the spend and a much firmer commitment that BBC production will be brought to our region. For far too many of my constituents and, I suspect, people across the midlands, the BBC means London, Cardiff, Salford, Bristol, Belfast and Glasgow—the big six—and indeed anywhere but our region. Various people have cited the figures; the simple fact remains that midlands licence fee payers contribute about £942 million to the BBC and get back about £80 million in investment, less than 9% of the total licence fee. I do not think that anyone would see that as fair.

Andrew Bridgen: Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the BBC spent £1 billion on the new Broadcasting House and wrote off £100 million on a failed digitisation project last year?

Steve McCabe: We can all criticise failures in spending, but the central point that I am making is about inequitable spending. However, I take the hon. Gentleman’s point.

A brief that the BBC sent me for this debate reminded me that the Mailbox is the home of the academy, the workplace and outreach. That is great, but what the brief did not contain was the number of new jobs and apprenticeships associated with those initiatives. I would like to know how that compares with the £180 million new studio and the 1,000 new jobs for MediaCity in Salford. I would also like to know why, as

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my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) pointed out, the bulk of production is technically still located in London.

I am told that the BBC is anxious to use Birmingham as an innovative test bed because we are the youngest city in Europe and we are truly multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, but I want to know where the substance is. Where are the new formats, technologies and jobs for the midlands? It is time we saw some of the hard data. I want to know that all those promises will come true and that there is plan to work with the Ormiston academy, the Rep theatre and Birmingham City University. I have heard plenty of talk; it is time we saw some action. We need to know that there is a real programme for mentoring and apprenticeships in the midlands, and we need to know that digital innovation is more than just a form of words.

Julian Knight: On apprenticeships, does the hon. Gentleman have any thoughts about pay differentials within the BBC? According to the latest reports, 91 BBC staff members currently earn more than the Prime Minister, while many people who do the programming, such as broadcast assistants, broadcast journalists and senior broadcast journalists, might take home a quarter of that. They are the ones putting in the work, while those who move people from place to place earn bumper salaries. What does he think about that?

Steve McCabe: It is a challenge for the director-general, and it is one of the things that he must tackle. It contributes to the sense of unfairness that many of us have about the organisation. Of course, like my hon. Friend, I welcome the news that human resources and training jobs will come to Birmingham, but it was only a couple of years ago that the BBC announced a nationwide search for new talent among disabled presenters and managed to exclude Birmingham from the process entirely. Where are the new jobs in the midlands for performers, directors and creative people?

I conclude by congratulating the hon. Member for Sherwood again on securing this debate. We need to hear that a more equitable share of the money will be included in any future discussions on charter renewal and the licence fee. We cannot contribute nearly £1 billion to the BBC pot and get back a paltry 9%.

Mark Spencer: When the east and west midlands are given an opportunity, we are really good—Notts TV, which works alongside Nottingham Trent University, has been a successful model—and it is such a shame that people in London do not recognise that and invest more in that talent.

Steve McCabe: I totally agree. There is a wealth of creative talent across the midlands. As someone said earlier, we keep hearing about the desire to help the regions to grow and rebalance their economies. One of the things we need to do is to recognise the creative potential in our region. I do not know how helpful it will be, but I have come to the conclusion that midlands licence fee payers will not tolerate the situation any longer. The game is up—they have had enough.

5.11 pm

Richard Burden (Birmingham, Northfield) (Lab): I congratulate the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) on securing this debate. The Minister will

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understand that feeling on this issue runs deep across both the east and west midlands. The feeling is cross-party, and it will not go away. It is vital that something happens on regional broadcasting in the Government’s negotiations on charter renewal; it must not be something that is simply written in the right words in the right documents. The Government have a role to play in pushing the BBC quite hard on that in the coming period.

Members have talked about the figures, which are stark. They have talked about the contribution that licence fee payers in the east and west midlands make to the BBC and what comes back to the region. Many of us feel that we have been around this track so many times before, particularly my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) and for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) and me. I have lost count of the meetings we have attended. I can just about count the directors-general and acting directors-general to whom we have put these points, and each of them has said that they agree. It might have been easier if one of them had said, “No, you are wrong. We think that the east and west midlands are a bit of a backwater and are not where the action is. We need to do what we are doing.” But every time they told us that they agreed with us and that things were going to change.

The situation was not entirely the BBC’s fault in the early phases. When Mark Thompson was director-general, a memorandum of understanding was agreed between the BBC and Birmingham City Council. At the time, the lack of ambition to put the memorandum of understanding into practice was equal on both sides. The words were all there but, when we asked afterwards what was being done to follow it up, not much was going on at all.

Ms Gisela Stuart: If I recall the moment correctly, it was obvious that neither the leader of the city council nor Mark Thompson had actually read the memorandum of understanding or could tell us what it contained.

Richard Burden: As somebody is meant to have said in this place, my hon. Friend may say that; I couldn’t possibly comment. [Laughter.] I will comment: she is right.

Mark Thompson was followed by a couple of other directors-general, and they both said that things were going to change. My hon. Friend is right about Tony Hall. In October 2013, a cross-party group of midlands MPs presented a petition that had been put together by the Campaign for Regional Broadcasting—I pay tribute to that group for keeping this issue in the public eye and putting up in lights the inequity in funding. In November 2013—this was significant—the BBC committed itself to a new vision for Birmingham and the midlands as a whole, with a pledge to invest £23.5 million; Birmingham is to become a new centre for digital excellence for skills, recruitment and talent, creating hundreds of jobs. That was a change—some action was taken and I like to believe that Tony Hall is serious about that.

However, I am worried that, since the announcement, everything has ground to a halt again. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak mentioned the briefing we received from the BBC. It basically says, “It’s okay, we’re doing it,” and runs through the kinds of things we have been told before—the kinds of programmes

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that were announced some time ago. At the end, the briefing simply says, “The BBC is committed to providing audiences with programmes and services to reflect the many communities across—”

Julian Knight: I have seen similar documentation. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that, with the BBC, it always seems to be a case of jam tomorrow for the midlands? We want our jam today, or at least in time for the next charter renewal.

Richard Burden: The hon. Gentleman is right. At the risk of mixing jam metaphors with glue, the ambition that Tony Hall says he has for the BBC in Birmingham—the kind of thing we are all talking about—needs some glue to stick it all together. It needs something behind it to make it happen. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston hit the nail on the head, and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak also made this point: that glue is commissioning—it is crucial. We all talk about the BBC network. Everyone I have spoken to—both in the BBC and beyond, in related creative industries—has said that networking is vital. People have to know one another. When people commission a programme, they think of who they will approach, the production companies they will use and where they will get the new talent. If the focus remains on London, we will not get change in Birmingham and the east and west midlands. The kind of change there has been in the north—the hon. Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) had this right—is not real change, as there is still that commuting south.

We therefore need a commitment by the BBC to match its ambitions for the network with real networking. It should be looking out for the new and existing talent in our regions and particularly in the east and west midlands. If that can be done, it can pull behind it the apprenticeships and the training that can make such things fly.

Under the current director-general I, too, have noticed a change from what has gone before. I hope that when he reads the transcript of the debate he will understand that we are trying to be friends. To remain friends, however, action has to follow words. If we are to be the centre for broadcasting and for digital broadcasting in the future—in many ways digital broadcasting is the future—he has to do more than he is currently doing. That means a vision beyond the HR-related and training jobs that are being brought to the midlands at the moment. Crucially, we need a focus on commissioning, production and getting in place the networks that can make the east and west midlands vital parts of the BBC’s ambition for the future.

5.19 pm

Edward Argar (Charnwood) (Con): It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) on securing this important debate and on drawing attention to the appallingly inequitable funding allocated by the BBC to our region. I will endeavour to be brief, not least because my hon. Friend set out the issue so well with his usual clarity. I must say that, on being elected to the House—I am making my first contribution in this Chamber today—I never expected to find myself as fully in agreement with the hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) as I am.

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The proud tradition of broadcasting in the east midlands highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood and the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) extends to Leicestershire, too. For example, BBC Radio Leicester does a first-class job of serving the people of Leicester and Leicestershire. That organisations such as BBC Radio Leicester continue to be trusted and listened to in such numbers by my constituents is in large part down to the talent and hard work of the journalists and broadcasters, and not down to their receiving fair levels of BBC investment, which, as we have heard, certainly does not reflect the licence fee paid by our region.

Andrew Bridgen: I would like to make sure that the Chamber is fully aware of the size of the BBC. If we include BBC Worldwide in the BBC revenue stream, it gets about £5 billion a year. That is comparable with the United Nations and twice the annual budget of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Edward Argar: My hon. Friend makes an extremely important point with force and clarity, as always. My constituents have no choice about paying their licence fee. On this occasion, I will not labour my view that non-payment should be decriminalised, but the least they should be able to expect is a fair deal and a fair share from what they pay. I hope that as we look towards charter renewal, issues such as the BBC spending bias against the midlands will feature in that debate. I fully endorse the points that the hon. Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth) made about local political journalism in the east midlands and its importance to our democracy and to all of us being held to account by local journalists producing local content.

Some 25% contributed and 2% received is disgracefully unfair as an equation, however we look at it. That cannot be allowed to go on. It is time for the BBC to escape its apparent London-centric investment bias and once again fully seize on the talent and energy of the midlands by investing and producing more in our region. I hope that the Minister will ensure that the BBC receives the strength of hon. Members’ views clearly, particularly in respect of how much we and our constituents value truly local content. The point was well made by my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight) that the BBC needs to approach charter renewal recognising that it must continue to change and to listen to those who listen to it and who have no choice but to pay the licence fee, and not simply ask us for more money.

5.22 pm

Susan Elan Jones (Clwyd South) (Lab): It is a great pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I thank the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) for securing what has been a passionate and committed debate. I was fascinated as he went through the history and heritage of TV and radio broadcasting in the east and west midlands. I thank all hon. Members who have made speeches and interventions. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart), for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) and for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden). I thank the hon. Members for Solihull (Julian Knight) and for Charnwood (Edward Argar). I also thank my

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hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) for his perceptive and incisive interventions in this important debate.

I pay tribute to the long-time campaigners. The campaign has been truly cross-party and has the support of the new Chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee. I also pay tribute to the campaigning of The Birmingham Post andthe Birmingham Mail, which has been so important in placing the issue on the national agenda.

We are here to discuss BBC investment in the midlands. The main investment the BBC makes is in BBC Birmingham. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston is right: those of us who live in the borders of north-east Wales have seen a lot of it—sometimes by choice, sometimes through transmitter problems; we do not always get BBC Wales, which is a subject for another day. There is no question but that BBC Birmingham has a proud history, having produced “Pebble Mill at One” and “Boys from the Black Stuff”. Across the midlands, the BBC produces “Midlands Today”, “East Midlands Today”, “Look East” and online content, and there are 14 local radio stations. BBC Birmingham makes great shows, such as “Doctors”, and it is the home of the BBC Asian Network, which was mentioned earlier.

BBC Birmingham also produces the great, popular radio drama, “The Archers”—I confess that I always thought it was based somewhere in the west country, not in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston. “The Archers” is more than 65 years old, but its listeners are of all ages and live around the world. Since FM radio waves travel through space, we can confidently say it reaches as far as Pluto. It has even been suggested that the theme tune of “The Archers” should be the English national anthem. It does not quite compare to “Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau”, but it is pretty good, and the programme is an extraordinary international production.

There are clearly very serious concerns about this issue. For instance, a quarter of licence fee payers live in the west and east midlands, but the area receives 2% of BBC spending. Last year, that meant the BBC received £942 million, and the midlands got £80 million back. The BBC is investing only £12.40 per capita in the midlands. Such figures have real consequences for infrastructure, and therefore for programming.

The BBC has little to no commissioning or production facilities in the midlands, and no primetime BBC 1 programmes are made there. In fact, the BBC does not make anything on BBC 2, BBC 3 or BBC 4 in the midlands, nor on Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 or Radio 5. A small chunk of investment means a small chunk of infrastructure, which means a small chunk of programming.

At least three main problems have been raised in this debate. The first is the simple matter of fairness, which has been mentioned by many hon. Members. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston previously referred to it as a mismatch, and she is absolutely right. One estimate is that the midlands pays out 12 times what it gets back.

The second problem relates to the infrastructure of creativity. The BBC is the central part of the United Kingdom’s creative and cultural ecosystem, and at a national level it plays a key role in training and fostering talent, encouraging investment and exports, and raising standards across the market. The £3.5 billion we pay for

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it is our single biggest investment in the arts. At a regional level, it helps to ground creative clusters, which can be seen most clearly in its move to Salford. The MediaCityUK cluster of creative firms and workers is grounded by the BBC. The investment it makes in the midlands—particularly in training and digital—helps to ground the area’s growing creative scene. More investment would mean a better and more flourishing creative ecosystem.

The third problem relates to what we see on our screens and hear on our radios. The hon. Member for Solihull spoke about diversity and regional content. This issue is about not only wanting more spending, but reflecting our country back to itself. It is important that we have stories from every part of the country. In every nook and cranny of the United Kingdom there is a unique viewpoint and a voice that we need to hear in our national conversation.

The Labour party is clear that we believe in a BBC for everyone, which is why we support the existence of the licence fee. The fundamental principle is that everyone pays in and everyone gets something out. People need to feel they are getting something out and that the BBC is worth it. I accept that not everyone agrees with that, but that is where the Labour party stands.

Andrew Bridgen: Will the hon. Lady clarify the Labour party’s position? Is it in favour of or against the continued criminalisation of non-payment of the TV licence?

Susan Elan Jones: There are major issues to be looked at, and we believe that that needs to happen in this debate on the BBC charter. It is not a little opt-out alone; the debate is much too important for that.

The BBC has recognised that there is a disparity. When Tony Hall become director-general in 2013, he visited the Mailbox and announced additional investment. In particular, the focus on training and digital was a sign of investment in the future of the BBC, as my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Northfield said earlier. However, the issue has not gone away; the question is what we do now.

On 19 March, the Prime Minister was asked about BBC investment in Birmingham and the midlands. He said that

“the charter renewal is a good time to have that conversation”

and that

“these are the questions we will be able to ask in the charter renewal process which starts after the election.”

We agree with the Prime Minister on that. We are past the election and should be getting on with charter renewal, which is the right time to have that conversation. Charter renewal is our opportunity, every decade, to ask ourselves, “What do we want the BBC to do?” We re-examine the BBC’s purposes, governance, funding and investment in the round.

The Culture Secretary’s Select Committee report, “Future of the BBC”, laid out a road map for how the process would work. It basically means copying the successful model that Tessa Jowell, Labour’s Culture Secretary, took us through 10 years ago. That was a vibrant, open, consultative, national conversation about the BBC’s future. It is time to do that again. Labour wants an open and transparent national debate to start as soon as possible. We want all the excellent campaigners

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to be able to make their case in an open, transparent process, so the Government need to get on with it. The last charter renewal process was three years long. In a week’s time, it will be half that—a year and a half—until the charter runs out. Today, there are only 557 days to go. It is worrying that the Government seem inactive, saying, “We’ll make an announcement in due course.”

Julian Knight: Will the hon. Lady give way?

Susan Elan Jones: I do not think that there is time, unfortunately. I would love to, though.

A year and a half is not long for an important debate. In recognition of that, the Culture Secretary’s report even floated the option of extending the existing charter for a year. We think that this time the Government should hand their homework in on time. They should not leave it all to the last minute and then bash something out late at night behind closed doors—exactly what they did in 2010. They certainly should not ask for an extension because the dog ate their draft charter. They need to start the charter renewal process as soon as possible to ensure an open debate. Then we can get on with debating the real issues, such as how to ensure a diversity of viewpoints and voices. Labour will be arguing for a BBC that does something for everyone. Everyone pays into it and everyone should get something out of it. The Conservatives have flirted with a different view, some of which we have heard today—if not wholesale privatisation, then drastically reducing the range and breadth of the BBC’s output. If that is the debate, very well. Let us get on with it.

5.32 pm

The Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy (Mr Edward Vaizey): It is a pleasure to appear under your chairmanship, Ms Dorries. I often say that when I appear before a new Chairman, but in this case I mean it. I have obviously been an enormous fan of yours since we came into the House together, and I want to celebrate you as one of Britain’s foremost authors. I am referring to the famous Four Streets trilogy: “The Four Streets”, “Hide Her Name” and “The Ballymara Road”, which was published this month. What we see before us is a multi-thousand-selling British author. It perhaps says something about the tone of arts coverage in this country that the Chairman we see before us is not as celebrated as some other authors who sell far fewer books. Thank you, Ms Dorries, for allowing me to indulge myself in this way. When I tried to praise Louise Bagshawe, when she was an MP, Mr Speaker slapped me down, but thankfully we have a more enlightened Chairman for this debate.

I praise my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Mark Spencer) for calling this important debate. It has been much more lively than I expected. Before talking about his remarks and those of other hon. Members, I pay special tribute to the brilliant journalist Graeme Brown, of The Birmingham Post and the Birmingham Mail, who has brought this campaign to great prominence. He has worked with many hon. Members who are in the House this afternoon to get the campaign to critical mass.

I cannot improve on the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood in terms of the statistics that he talked about—the hundreds of millions of pounds

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spent on the licence fee by people living in the midlands and the return on investment that they get from the BBC. A more important point, because one can always play around with statistics, is that it is clear, from what he said, that investment has increased in all regions except the midlands. It has fallen in the midlands and in London, but that is not really relevant because London has huge funding already.

I also pay tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Solihull (Julian Knight). He was that rare species—a Conservative in the BBC. For that, he is to be treasured. Part of me wishes that he was still in the BBC, flying the flag for the Conservative party. One would have thought that he had been working not for the BBC but in the House for the past 25 years, such was the assured point that he made—that there is a north-south link, as it were, at the BBC, missing out the midlands.

Of course, this was not a one-sided debate. We had valuable contributions from the Opposition and the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) in particular. I join with her in defending the BBC; we are its critical friends, but we want to see it thrive because it is both a fantastic asset to viewers and listeners in this country and one of our most important—if not the most important—global calling cards.

The hon. Lady made points about why the BBC should have a greater presence in the midlands as well as represent youth and diversity to a greater extent. Diversity in particular is a passion of mine and we urgently need far more diversity in our media. The BBC could lead the way and, as she pointed out, with such diverse and young communities in the constituencies represented by Members in the Chamber, the BBC should be working at that.

The hon. Member for Birmingham, Selly Oak (Steve McCabe) made forceful points about the need for the BBC to invest in the midlands, as did the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Richard Burden). It was not his debut, but it was good to see my hon. Friend the Member for Charnwood (Edward Argar)—he is also my old personal friend—make such an impassioned speech. He has only just arrived in the House, but to say that he has found his feet would be the understatement of the century.

Hon. Members here represent some fantastic cultural institutions in the midlands. I want to tell the hon. Member for Dudley North (Ian Austin) how much I have enjoyed my visits to Dudley zoo, which has two of the finest tigers that I, or indeed my children, have met. The right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz) has the Curve. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South (Robert Flello) has been instrumental in trying to save the collection at the Wedgwood museum, and hopefully the potteries are now thriving even more. Of course, in Birmingham we have the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the symphony hall, the largest library in Europe and the Birmingham museum and art gallery. All hon. Members made valuable contributions that emphasized the thriving nature of culture in the midlands, but there was also an element of nostalgia for Pebble Mill studios that points us in our future direction.

The right hon. Member for Leicester East, the Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee, made a specific point about the BBC Asian Network. The minute he brought

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that up, I looked into it, and my understanding is that one programme from the BBC Asian Network is moving to London, but the network will remain split between Leicester and London.

Robert Flello: I thank the Minister for his kind words about Wedgwood and the other magnificent potteries in Stoke-on-Trent and north Staffordshire. He mentioned Pebble Mill and much has been said about the Mailbox, but Members who have been called down to the Mailbox in recent years to take part in the “Sunday Politics” show will have seen a dramatic reduction in its facilities. Indeed, the programme is now pre-recorded on a Friday to make savings, though there is no saving in terms of battling Birmingham’s traffic on a Friday compared with a Sunday. The dumbing down, if I can use that phrase, that we have seen at the Mailbox is quite shocking.

Mr Vaizey: The hon. Gentleman is not mincing his words.

I must mention contributions from my right hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Mr Mitchell), the hon. Members for Birmingham, Erdington (Jack Dromey) and for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham), and my hon. Friends the Members for Redditch (Karen Lumley) and for North West Leicestershire (Andrew Bridgen), who has been so helpful to the BBC in the past 12 months. They, and all the other Members I have mentioned, have all made incredibly valuable points and pointed to their constituents’ concerns.

We can play fast and loose in politics, but I would not dream, for example, of taking the comments from the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent South out of context by saying that the Labour party was advocating a licence fee of £12.50, because that is not what he meant. He was simply trying to compare the contribution of people living in the midlands with what they receive back.

Robert Flello rose—

Mr Vaizey: I will not take the hon. Gentleman’s intervention yet; I will make a bit of progress and then see if I have time for more interventions.

However, I will make a point that I think plays to the concerns that have been set out in Westminster Hall this afternoon. First, the BBC has a strong regional presence in many other parts of the country. If people go to Glasgow, they will see a fantastic BBC presence; in Belfast, of course; in Cardiff, where the BBC now films “Dr Who”; we know about the move to Salford and we can say whether or not that is a good or bad thing, but it has happened, although I hear the point about the BBC making a real move rather than simply a commuting move; in London; and of course in Bristol, which is the centre of the BBC’s wildlife programming.

Has Birmingham missed out? The BBC would say that it is doing what it can. For example, it points to the fact that it is making the Mailbox, which was referred to earlier by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston as the base for the BBC academy, the diversity unit and internal communications. The BBC is also increasing jobs there; I understand that investment will go up from £80 million this year to £89 million next year, and up to £125 million the year after. There is also a training remit, with the establishment of the drama village in

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Selly Oak and the digital innovation unit, too. Of course, there is drama itself, such as the highly successful “Peaky Blinders”, and the BBC has just finished filming Lenny Henry’s semi-autobiographical drama, “Danny and the Human Zoo”, which may indeed take place in my much-loved Dudley zoo.

However, the point that I think is being made here today is about much more than those things. Obviously, we should welcome what the BBC is doing to invest in Birmingham and the east and west midlands, but what I think hon. Members are calling for is much greater cultural representation, if I can put it in those terms.

Ms Gisela Stuart: I have just one example. There is a brilliant radio broadcasting series that follows world war one, day by day, in 15-minute slots. It is great, and recorded in Birmingham, but not a single storyline involves the midlands. That is the point—production on its own is not sufficient. We need commissioning that recognises the input of the midlands.

Mr Vaizey: That is exactly the point. To a certain extent, where the BBC makes its programmes matters, because it effectively acts as an anchor for a creative cluster. Nobody would argue that “Dr Who” reflects Welsh culture, but people could certainly argue that it supports the Welsh creative industries, just as the BBC’s investment in S4C does. However, one would perhaps argue that the transmission of some programmes from different cities helps to reflect the wider cultural aspects of the United Kingdom.

Andrew Bridgen: When my hon. Friend the Minister speaks to the BBC about its lack of footprint in the midlands, I ask him not to accept the fact that it has had its licence fee frozen for five years, because that has not diminished the income stream—

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Nadine Dorries (in the Chair): Order. The Minister has one minute left.

Mr Vaizey: Good point.

Basically, I am but a junior Minister and I think that hon. Members in Westminster Hall today can reflect on the fact that they have the support of the Prime Minister. He has already been quoted, but I will quote him again; quoting the Prime Minister never does one any harm. He said that

“the charter renewal is a good time to have that conversation and make sure the West Midlands gets a fair bang for its buck.”

Andrew Bridgen: And the east midlands.

Mr Vaizey: And the east midlands, but the quote is about the west midlands; the Prime Minister meant to say the west and the east midlands. And the Mayor of London, my hon. Friend the Member for Uxbridge and South Ruislip (Boris Johnson), has spoken, and of course the Chairman of the Culture, Media and Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford and South Herefordshire (Jesse Norman), describes himself as a midlands MP representing Hereford. So there is strong support for this idea.

Before the recess, we will set out what we will do in terms of the charter review, so I hear what the hon. Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston says about getting on with it, and I can guarantee to hon. Members in Westminster Hall today that they have made such a strong case that it will be reflected in what we set out.

5.44 pm

Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No.10(14)).