BBC Regional Politics Coverage

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 6:24 pm on 22nd June 2020.

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Photo of Mark Harper Mark Harper Conservative, Forest of Dean 6:24 pm, 22nd June 2020

My hon. Friend makes a good point. That is absolutely accurate, and the questions from the local journalists are often far more difficult for the Minister to answer because they are focused on the issue at hand. They do not have any of the Westminster aspect to them; they are straightforward questions. Those journalists are doing what journalists should always do, which is to ask us the questions that the listener or viewer at home wants them to ask. The journalist should be putting the question that the person at home, looking at the screen or listening to the radio, has in their head to the people making the decisions. If they are doing that, they are absolutely doing their job properly.

My final point is about some of the subjects covered, which I think the hon. Member for Chesterfield also touched on, as did my hon. Friend for Tiverton and Honiton. I will pick two examples. The first, which was a little while ago—well, it seems like a long time ago, but it wasn’t really—is flooding, which impacted different parts of the country in different ways and was something that sadly we experienced ourselves in my county of Gloucestershire. That is one set of circumstances when local reporting is at its best—when journalists get out into communities and report on the aspects of the issue that really matter to individuals.

I also agree with what the hon. Gentleman said about the coronavirus outbreak, two aspects of which are worth noting. The first is that the huge amount of very locally focused responses in our communities—through local resilience forums, county councils, district councils, volunteers, and town and parish councils—has been covered in local media outlets, including the BBC, in a way that it simply would not have been, and has not been, in national broadcasting.