Culture Secretary’s BBC licence fee reforms branded ‘unpatriotic’ by Labour MPs

MPs debated Nadine Dorries’ announcement that the BBC licence fee would be frozen at £159 for two years.

David Lynch
Monday 17 January 2022 19:28
BBC Broadcasting House in London (Ian West/PA)
BBC Broadcasting House in London (Ian West/PA)

The Culture Secretary has been accused of being unpatriotic over plans to reform how the BBC is funded.

Nadine Dorries also told an SNP MP he had treated God Save The Queen as a “dirty word” when he jibed about Government proposals that the BBC should play it at the end of each day.

As MPs debated Ms Dorries’ announcement that the BBC licence fee would be frozen at £159 for two years, Labour shadow minister Fleur Anderson said the BBC World Service was the “envy of the world” and served countries across the globe, stressing it should be protected from cuts.

She added: “Cutting funding to the BBC and the World Service is already leaving the path clear for Russian and Chinese influence in those countries.

“Does she agree with me that only an unpatriotic party would cut the real-terms funding of this national treasure?”

Culture Secretary Ms Dorries replied: “Unpatriotic?

“I don’t believe it was this side of the House that was laughing at the prospect of the national anthem being played on television.

“I think it was that side of the House that was doing that.

“I am not unpatriotic, I am very patriotic.”

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries (Steve Parsons/PA)

Labour MP Chris Bryant (Rhondda) accused Ms Dorries of crying “crocodile tears about the cost-of-living crisis”, after she suggested that the licence fee freeze would help families struggling with rising prices and bills.

He added: “What my real fear is, is the Secretary of State simply doesn’t understand how intrinsic to the nature of the BBC and its success around the world is the licence fee.

“She says the BBC gets lots of money, Sky gets five times as much money this year, and its revenues this year have increased by 18.9%.

“Yes, this is an unpatriotic move, dismantling one of our greatest British treasures.”

The Culture Secretary also accused SNP MP Patrick Grady (Glasgow North) of treating the British national anthem as a “dirty word”.

Mr Grady said: “She says she can’t tell the BBC what to do, but she also says she wants the BBC to play God Save The Queen more often.

“I wonder if she think today’s announcement makes that more or less likely?”

Mr Grady’s question came after Ms Dorries repeatedly told MPs she could not tell the BBC how to spend its budget, in light of their concerns about the national broadcaster’s future output.

He also described the BBC as the “glue that holds the union together”, and asked if reforming its funding model would make the UK “stronger or weaker”.

Ms Dorries replied: “I didn’t hear the second part of the question but what I will say is: what is wrong with playing God Save The Queen?

“He asked the question as if that was a dirty word.”

Earlier this month, Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell (Romford) said the BBC should return to playing God Save the Queen at the end of each day’s programming, a suggestion which was welcomed by Ms Dorries and her ministers in the Queen’s platinum jubilee year.

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