Tories rebel over World Service cuts

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The Independent Online
CONSERVATIVE back-benchers are threatening a revolt over Government cuts in funding for the BBC World Service, writes Paul Routledge.

The Chancellor, Kenneth Clarke, plans to cut capital spending by the 24-hour radio service by 20 per cent next year and by more in succeeding years.

Bush House managers believe this could force the closure of some bureaux, and diminish the authority of the service, which broadcasts to 133 million people in 41 languages every day.

Peter Temple-Morris MP, a leading opponent of the cuts, is meeting other Tory back-benchers on Tuesday to open a campaign to change the Government's mind.

"There is a long history of parliamentary concern among all parties about the World Service," he said yesterday. "There is very strong feeling about the proposed cuts in the Budget for a service that delivers better value for money for Britain than virtually any other.

"We will be considering how best to save the day for the World Service. If we can find an acceptable mechanism to block it or change it, a number of us would be only too prepared to do so."

Alarm at the cutback has also been voiced by at least five other Conservative back-benchers: Peter Bottomley, Spencer Batiste, Jim Lester, David Harris and Jerry Hayes. They could overturn the Government's single-figure majority if they forced a Commons vote on the issue.

Labour's foreign affairs spokeswoman, Joyce Quinn, has already protested about the cuts,and an all-party Early Day Motion will be launched soon.

The cuts were hidden in the small print of Mr Clarke's "prudent" Budget last month.

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