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Britain in the World

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:03 pm on 13th January 2020.

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Photo of John Whittingdale John Whittingdale Conservative, Maldon 5:03 pm, 13th January 2020

I agree with my right hon. Friend. There are many people in this country who feel close ties with Australia, despite the geographical distance that separates us. I hope the Government, as I believe they will, will give any help to Australia that is requested.

Soft power allows us to exert a far greater influence in the world than our size would perhaps suggest. The UK is perhaps the most effective country in the world in deploying soft power. We have huge assets, perhaps the greatest of which is the English language, which is the second language of almost every country in the world. We take advantage of that, and students from all across the world want to come to study in British schools and British universities.

We use the British Council to promote UK culture around the world, and I encourage my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State to continue giving full support to the British Council in its excellent work. The other organisation with which I have had some involvement over recent years is the BBC, and I am an absolute supporter of the BBC World Service. The World Service is now approaching its target of reaching 500 million people every week. It is by far the most respected media organisation internationally, and its reports are not regarded as propaganda or fake news. People across the world rely on the BBC World Service.