Select Committee Report - Future of the BBC
Mr John Whittingdale (Maldon) (Con): I am pleased to have the opportunity to present to the House the Committee’s report “Future of the BBC”. Our major inquiry began well over a year ago, and I express my thanks to my colleagues on the Committee, our Clerks and our specialist adviser, Mr Ray Gallagher.
As is well known, the BBC charter expires at the end of 2016. The renewal process provides an opportunity to examine all aspects of the BBC—scale, scope, governance and funding. Since the previous charter renewal, huge changes have taken place to the way in which people watch television. At the time of that renewal, most households had access to only four channels, but since then we have had analogue switch-off, meaning that everyone has access to 40 or more digital channels. Many people also access catch-up television through the iPlayer or some of the new streaming services. The whole media landscape therefore looks very different from how it did 10 years before.
The Secretary of State has said that it will be for the next Government to consider the future of the BBC and charter renewal—I understand his reasons—but the Committee points out that at the time of the previous review, an independent panel led by Lord Burns conducted a long public consultation before reaching conclusions. We think that this matter is so important that a similar process should take place this time, and there is no reason why that could not be initiated as soon as possible. Either way, I hope that our report will set the agenda for the forthcoming debate.
John Whittingdale attended an event organised by the SportsAid charity to highlight the support that they give to promising young athletes with money raised from My Lotto 24. At the reception, John met Danica Brazier who lives in Bicknacre and plays water polo for the GB ladies junior under 17s water polo team. Her home swimming club is Chelmsford Swimming Club, although she also trains with Basildon, Crawley, London Otter and Mid Sussex Marlins. Last year, Danica received an award of £1000 from SportsAid and My Lotto 24.
In March she will take part in the qualifying competition for the 1st European Olympics being held in Baku, Azerbaijan in June. John said: “I am very much aware of the significant costs faced by young elite athletes and am very pleased that SportsAid is supporting them in this way. I warmly congratulate Danica on the success that she has already achieved and wish her every success in her future sporting career.”
Football at Purleigh Primary School
John Whittingdale joined pupils taking part in a Football Association Skills session at Purleigh Primary School. John saw year one students practice their football skills under the expert guidance of FA Skills coach, Lauren Phillips. FA Skills, which sees FA coaches running football sessions for 5 to 11 year olds, has been running since 2007 and in that time has delivered more than six million skills places to children across England. The scheme is funded by the FA and Sport England and employs 158 full-time coaches, including six in Essex. The programme is free to primary schools and has been delivered in more than 7,500 schools, supporting more than21,500 teachers.
John said: “The children had a fantastic time They clearly enjoyed the session but at the same time were learning new skills, building their self-confidence and developing team working. Lauren not only did a brilliant job encouraging the children, she also worked with their teacher so that she will be able to carry on the work in the future. I warmly congratulate the FA on the programme and am delighted that Purleigh Primary School has signed up to it”.
John Whittingdale Nominates Maldon Primary School for 2015 Flag Project
Next year, in 2015, Parliament will be celebrating two historic anniversaries that mark the beginning of democracy in the UK; the 800th year since the signing of the Magna Carta and the 750th anniversary of the de Montfort Parliament. To mark the de Montfort anniversary, where elected representatives from around the country came together for the first time, the 2015 Flag Project has invited each Member of Parliament to nominate a school in their constituency to design a flag to represent where they live. The project will culminate in a large scale celebratory event in March 2015 when it is hoped that 150 of the flags (representing each county in the UK) will fly in Parliament Square (pending permission from DCMS) and the surrounding area. The remaining 500 flags will be featured on a digital platform.
John Whittingdale said: “ I have always been impressed by the importance that Maldon Primary School attaches to its School Council and have been delighted regularly to attend an assembly in recent years to present the School Council badges to those who have been elected. The experience of electing representatives to a School Council provides an excellent introduction for pupils to the democratic process and to how elected representatives can influence decisions. I was very pleased to be able to nominate them and wish them every success in the Competition”.
Burnham on Crouch Post Office Refurbishment
John Whittingdale cut the ribbon to mark the opening of the new-look Burnham on Crouch Post Office, which has been fully refurbished with Post Office services now available from four modern counters. The Post Office at 22 Station Road, Burnham, now has three main counters - two open plan and one screened, open Monday to Saturday 9am – 5.30pm. There is also a combi-counter, where customers can access selected Post Office products and services alongside retail transactions. This is open Monday and Thursday: 9am to 8pm; Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 9am – 6pm; Saturday: 9am – 5:30pm. There is improved layout of the store which makes it easier for customers with disabilities and people with pushchairs to get around the pharmacy and Post Office. Opening hours have also been extended - 11 hours a week more than previously offered, including Saturday afternoon and later closing every day.
Ani Patel, who has been a postmaster for more than five years, said: “The branch is now better laid out and more spacious for customers to have more room to get around the whole store. It is
a lot more customer friendly. It is modern and clean and easier to have conversations with the open plan counters. The consultation room allows private conversations – just like a bank.”
Gary Herbert, Post Office Senior Stakeholder Manager, said: “We understand how important having a Post Office is to residents in Burnham on Crouch. I am confident this new modern Post Office will meet the needs of the local community and secure services for the future. This modernisation is part of a major investment programme, the largest in the history of the Post Office. It marks a commitment to no more branch closure programmes.”
Under the current Parliament the Government has committed £1.34bn for the Post Office network to make sure there is no programme of Post Office closures and to update branches; in November the Government announced a further £640m investment in the Post Office network, from 2015 to 2018. Nationwide the investment programme will see up to 8,000 branches modernised with additional investment in over 3,000 community and outreach branches.
John is pictured with Ani Patel, Postmaster, and with customers and staff.
Burnham on Crouch Primary School Visit
John Whittingdale visited Burnham on Crouch Primary School to help relaunch the school with its brand new identity. The School has a new logo and uniform and John also performed the official opening ceremony of the School's new reception area.
Beer Champion Award
John, who champions Britain’s beer industry, has been honoured with a unique award in Parliament.
He was presented with a certificate and souvenir pump clip by the British Beer & Pub Association and SIBA, the Society of Independent Brewers. The special award is a joint initiative from the BBPA and SIBA, who wanted to recognise the role of MPs who supported Britain’s national drink during the 2010-2015 Parliament. It recognises acts of advocacy in Parliament, in votes, supportive motions, and debates.
In particular, the award highlights John Whittingdale’s support in securing historic consecutive cuts in beer duty in the 2013 and 2014 Budgets, helping to safeguard jobs and investment, and keeping beer affordable for consumers.
Brigid Simmonds, Chief Executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “MPs of all parties made a huge difference in achieving the historic duty cuts in 2013 and 2014, and deserve our thanks and recognition. We are delighted to honour their contribution to this achievement.
Mike Benner, Managing Director of SIBA, comments: “We are enormously grateful to the MPs whose support for British beer over recent years has created a far more optimistic outlook for our industry. As a result of the consecutive beer duty cuts, our members feel more confident about the future of British brewing and are investing in their business and creating local employment, with an estimated 1,600 new jobs in SIBA breweries last year. “With at least one independent brewery now operating in almost every parliamentary constituency, the Beer Champions announced today will I’m sure be invited to celebrate their success in their home town, with a pint of great, locally brewed beer.”
NSPCC Share Aware campaign
John Whittingdale attended the NSPCC’s Parliamentary Reception on Online Safety to support the charity’s new ‘Share Aware’ campaign which aims to get families talking about socialising safely online. The NSPCC has created a new online guide to help inform parents about the risks of different social networking sites used by children. This comes after an NSPCC survey revealed that three quarters of parents surveyed found sexual, violent, or other inappropriate content on Sickipedia, Omegle, Deviant Art, and F my Life within half an hour of logging into the sites.
An NSPCC panel of more than 500 parents from Mumsnet reviewed 48 social networking sites and said all those aimed at adults and teenagers were too easy for children under 13 to sign-up to. On more than 40 per cent of the sites, the panel struggled to locate privacy, reporting and safety information. Those aimed at younger children, like Club Penguin, Moshi Monsters, Popjam and Bearville, fared better and parents did not find any unsuitable content on them. The NSPCC also asked just under 2,000 children and young people which social networking sites they used. Talking to strangers or sexual content were the main concerns mentioned by children. But they also thought the minimum age limit for signing up to many sites should be higher, despite saying they’d used the sites when they were underage.John is pictured with Felix and Hassan who took part in the survey.
McCarthy & Stone’s Construction in Maldon
John Whittingdale MP, formally marked the commencement of construction at McCarthy & Stone’s forthcoming Retirement Living development on Whitehorse Lane, Maldon. Mr Whittingdale joined the site manager, Andy Chinery, in an official ground breaking ceremony to commemorate the first steps in the construction of the development, which will be designed specifically to help those aged over 60 make the most of later life.
Mr Whittingdale commented: “I was delighted to be able to help break the ground for this new McCarthy & Stone development. There is a real need for more retirement housing of this kind which allows older people to continue to live independently but also have to have security and companionship. With an increasingly older population living longer, with growing care needs, it is great to see a development like this close to the centre of the town and I have no doubt that it will prove very popular.”
Andy Chinery added: “We feel extremely honoured to have been able to welcome Mr Whittingdale to our Maldon site, and were delighted by his positive response to our approach to delivering lifestyles tailored to meet the needs of the over 60s.”
Offering the independence of retaining home ownership while living in an environment specifically designed for those reaching their later years, McCarthy & Stone’s Retirement Living developments make a popular choice for downsizers who want more time in which to embrace the possibilities of later life.
The development is a short walk from an array of shops and services and benefits from good bus routes to such towns as Colchester and Clacton. The development is a stone’s throw from popular Longfield Park and Recreation Ground where you can enjoy a picturesque walk in the peace and quiet of countryside scenery.
Facilities at the development will include a homeowners lounge for socialising, as well as a dedicated House Manager, which will ensure the smooth running of the development, and there is also a security entrance system plus 24-hour emergency call points that provide peace of mind for both homeowners and their families. All properties will be low maintenance and energy efficient. Construction is now underway with apartments available to purchase off-plan in mid 2015.
For more information about this, and other McCarthy & Stone developments in the region, call 0800 201 4739, or log on to www.mccarthyandstone.co.uk.
John Whittingdale visited Desch Plantpak, the market leading manufacturer in the UK of packaging and growing systems for the horticulture market, which is based in Burnham Road in Mundon. Founded by Michael Hindmarch in 1968, the firm has since been acquired by Dutch owners and this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.
John toured the plant and cut the ribbon to unveil the new facilities. These include a high speed thermoforming line and four fully robotised injection moulding centres to produce flowerpots, capable of being run on a “lights out” basis. This represents an investment of over £2 million in the business securing its future.
John said “I warmly congratulate Desch Plantpak in Mundon on its 50th anniversary and am delighted to formally open its new manufacturing facility. This consists of state of the art technology which will ensure that the company remains the market leader. It is great news for all the staff at Mundon and is another example of a world-beating company based in Maldon.”
John is pictured with Chris Clarke, Managing Director, and Jim Binch of Lincoln Management Inc, planting a tree to mark the 50th anniversary and cutting the ribbon to open the new facilities.
Maldon Primary School Council
John Whittingdale presented Badges to the elected members of the School Council at Maldon Primary School in Wantz Chase. John attends each year to meet the new School Councillors and also to talk to the assembly about his work as MP for Maldon.
John is pictured with the School Council Members.
Visit to Essex Air Ambulance
John Whittingdale visited the Essex Air Ambulance Airbase in Earls Colne. The Essex Air Ambulance is a charity which provides a free life-saving Helicopter Emergency Medical Service across the county. It costs in the region of £440,000 per month to run and relies entirely on fund-raising, voluntary subscription and donation. John discussed the work of the Service with Chief Executive, Jane Gurney, and Clinical Manager, Laurie Phillipson, and was given a tour of the airbase. John said: “The Essex Air Ambulance provides an invaluable service and each year saves many lives. It is particularly important in the more remote rural areas of the County, like the Dengie Peninsula, where ambulance response times can be poor and it can then take 40 minutes or more for an ambulance to get a patient to hospital. “
Jane Gurney (CEO) and Laurie Phillipson (Clinical Manager).