BBC Funding

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 25th January 2022

(2 years, 5 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text Read Debate Ministerial Extracts
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, this is not part of any political discussion, other than the politics of ensuring, in the short term, that people are assisted with the rising cost of living and, in the long term, ensuring that the BBC has a sustainable model to continue to produce the excellent output that it does, both at home and around the world. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State paid tribute to it in her Statement and we all continue to do so. It is because we want to see it thrive that we want to make sure that it has the best sustainable model for the long term.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, is the Minister aware of just how much the BBC licence fee payer gets for his or her relatively low outlay on the licence fee? Let me just list the services: 10 TV services; 10 national radio services; 40 local radio stations; BBC iPlayer; BBC education programmes; the World Service; the BBC website and much more. Why are the Government jeopardising the quality of these many, varied services by their mean-spirited decision to freeze the licence fee for two years, thereby leading to a real-terms cut in BBC revenue? The explanation given in the Statement and implied by what the Minister said earlier—that the Government want to put more money into hard-pressed households’ pockets—just does not make sense, given the trivial amount entailed per household. If that is really what the Government want to do, I am sure the Minister will agree that abandoning their increase in national insurance payments, which really would make a difference, would be a better approach.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I do not think a settlement of more than £23 billion can be called mean-spirited. The noble Baroness is right to point to the wide range of things that the BBC does, but it is right, as we decide what the cost to the licence fee payer should be, that we look at those services in the context of the changing landscape and the other ways that people are consuming their news content and their entertainment provision and make sure that the BBC continues to be funded in a way that maintains its excellence and is fair to the people who pay for it.

Violence in Israel and Palestine

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 13th May 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK unequivocally condemns the firing of rockets into Israel. We strongly condemn these acts of terrorism from Hamas and other terrorist groups, which must permanently end their incitement of and rocket fire against Israel. We are working, as I say, with our partners in the region. We have engaged Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations to support their efforts to mediate and are stressing that we want to see both sides step back from this and the situation de-escalated.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, as the Minister says, the first objective must be to de-escalate and stop the terrible violence on both sides. But in working to achieve this, no one should lose sight of the underlying problems that have led to it. Will the Government reconsider their position on a referral to the International Criminal Court? What discussions are the Government having with the US about putting concerted pressure on the Israeli Government to: stop ethnic cleansing in east Jerusalem, in which Palestinians are being forced out of the houses they own; stop the creeping, de facto annexation of the West Bank via further illegal settlements; and, more generally, respect the human rights of Palestinians, both within Israel and the Occupied Territories? These include their right to worship in the al-Aqsa mosque without it being stormed by right-wing thugs and the Israeli police.

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the UK is a strong supporter of the International Criminal Court. We are committed to strengthening the court so it can best serve international justice. We oppose the investigation related to the Occupied Palestinian Territories on the grounds that the court does not have jurisdiction in the OPTs. The UK is a friend of Israel, but our concerns about evictions of Palestinians from their homes are long-standing and well known. They are unacceptable and contrary to the cause of peace.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Wednesday 28th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I am sure that the prayers of many people are with those of the right reverend Prelate about Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her situation. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has made clear that this is a totally inhumane and wholly unjustified decision. We are in contact with a range of international partners who share our deep concerns about the ongoing detention of British dual nationals, religious groups and others, but it remains in Iran’s gift to do the right thing and allow them to come home and be reunited with their families.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, over five years the Government have not secured the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. This can be described only as a diplomatic failure, leading to yet another jail sentence by a cruel and inhumane Iranian judicial system. Can the House be given a clear and complete explanation of why the Government have not found a way of paying off the UK’s debt for undelivered military equipment to Iran, which could well secure the release of this innocent victim?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, it is unhelpful to connect wider bilateral issues with the arbitrary detention of people in Iran. It remains in Iran’s gift to do the right thing and return them home. The whole of Her Majesty’s Government, from the Prime Minister down, have been engaged on this. The Prime Minister has raised this directly with President Rouhani, most recently on 10 March, and the Foreign Secretary last did so with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Zarif, on 3 April. The action we have taken so far, such as granting diplomatic status to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, has helped in previous stages, but we continue to do all we can to try to secure her return home to the United Kingdom.

University Students: Compensation for Lost Teaching and Rent

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Monday 19th April 2021

(3 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, university staff have worked brilliantly to minimise the disruption to students throughout the pandemic. Employment and staffing are of course decisions for universities, as autonomous organisations, but, like other businesses, they can avail themselves of the support which Her Majesty’s Treasury has made available to businesses during the pandemic.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, I condemn the Government’s last-minute decision to deny half a million students the opportunity to get back to their universities and resume face-to-face instruction. In my view, it shows a scandalous lack of judgment about the needs of these students, who have missed out on not just normal learning but the social experience of university. Since large numbers of students have returned anyway, the argument about the formation of new universities in the Answer is utterly unconvincing, especially in the context of data on the very low levels of hospitalisation for Covid. Will the Government compensate these depressed and disappointed students by funding the universities to extend the summer term into July?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I must disagree with the noble Baroness. The Office for National Statistics estimates that 23% of students are yet to return to their term-time accommodation, which leaves up to half a million students yet to travel. Throughout the pandemic, the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies has warned of the risk posed by mass movements; that is what underpins our cautious approach.

Uighur Forced Labour: Xinjiang

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 17th December 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

In March this year, the Government published their own modern slavery statement, which assesses the risk of modern slavery across the £50 billion or thereabouts of their annual expenditure. That statement set out the Government’s efforts to eradicate modern slavery from their supply chains, including direct engagement with around 400 suppliers and delivering training to more than 250 government commercial stuff. In addition, as I said to my noble friend Lady Sanderson, the Home Office has announced plans to strengthen the Modern Slavery Act. That will include extending reporting requirements to all public bodies with a budget of £36 million or more.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, have the senior Chinese government officials responsible for human rights abuses being identified? Are Magnitsky sanctions going to be applied to them? If not, why not?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

As I say, my Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has consistently raised that there should be independent fact-checking through the UN Human Rights Commission or some such body to go in and establish the facts. That is something that we want to see happening quickly. On sanctions and designations, we keep all evidence and potential listings under close review.

Students’ Return to Universities

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Thursday 1st October 2020

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

We expect the majority of universities to be open with a blend of face-to-face and online teaching. As the noble Baroness said, that is important for the provision of education and the mental health and well-being of students, because university is rightly a sociable environment. We recognise that many students and staff will face additional mental health challenges. The guidance we have provided to the sector covers the need for universities to provide additional mental health and well-being support. We are doing what we can, for instance, with the money we have made available for hardship funds for those the current circumstances are causing extra stress.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, the Statement says that Ministers will work with universities to ensure that all students can return home for Christmas. Will the Minister tell the House what steps the Government are taking to work with universities to ensure that students’ mental health and capacity to learn are not compromised by draconian lockdowns of halls of residence? Has the Department for Education been in touch with the Office for Students to prevent this happening again?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Blackstone, for the opportunity to reiterate what my right honourable friend says: we are working with universities to ensure that all students are supported to return home safely and can spend Christmas with their loved ones if they choose to. We will be providing guidance after consultation with the sector to say how that can be done safely at the end of term. Regarding the Office for Students, the noble Baroness may have seen that Sir Michael Barber, its chair, has written today in the Daily Telegraph about the work the OfS is doing to support students. Its student panel is meeting today to discuss how students see the situation, which will inform the response. That is in addition to the HE task force the Government have set up so that we can talk to the sector more generally.

UCAS End of Cycle Report 2019

Debate between Baroness Blackstone and Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay
Tuesday 8th September 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right that, when it comes to higher education, the seeds of equal opportunity are sown much earlier. It has been the Government’s mission over the past decade, under successive Prime Ministers and Education Secretaries, to break the correlation between parental wealth and pupil achievement by raising standards for all pupils. That is what our reforms are doing, with the knowledge-rich national curriculum and more children in good or outstanding schools. Part of the reforms has also been about giving more power to school leaders and to parents, who, as my noble friend says, have a crucial role to play, such as in the opening of more than 500 new free schools.

Baroness Blackstone Portrait Baroness Blackstone (Ind Lab)
- Hansard - -

My Lords, while it is true that the gap in HE entry rates between the most advantaged and the most disadvantaged has narrowed, nevertheless the UCAS report for 2019 shows that the entry rate for students from the most disadvantaged areas is 21%, whereas it is 47% for the most advantaged students. Moreover, the gap is much higher in universities with higher entry tariffs. What do the Government propose to do about this, given their recently stated commitment to levelling up?

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Portrait Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay (Con)
- Hansard - - - Excerpts

My Lords, the noble Baroness is absolutely right to point out some of the distinctions between the attainment gap at different levels of pupils’ education. I am pleased to say that, on this year’s numbers, disadvantaged 18 year- olds are entering higher education at record rates; 23% of 18 year-olds in England have been granted access to higher education this year. That shows the progress that we have made but also the work that still must be done.