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

I am grateful for that spot-on intervention, which leads to my final point, about one of the things that we will now be focused on. The Prime Minister tomorrow will announce further moves, I hope, to enable us to get our economy back on track and functioning. One of the important ways to facilitate that is through the test and trace system, which is starting to be up and running, and that is being dealt with not just by the NHS nationally. There is also an important local component, in that locally based, locally employed and locally accountable directors of public health will be responsible by the end of this month for putting together a local outbreak plan to deal with the inevitable local outbreaks—I say inevitable because we have already seen outbreaks in our country and others, whether in specific localities or specific businesses. That will be absolutely critical in getting the country functioning again while keeping people safe, and those outbreak plans will be locally developed, by locally accountable officials and councils.

That aspect is important, but when the inevitable outbreaks of coronavirus happen, it will also be really important to have quality journalism to report on what has happened in a non-sensationalist, factual way, so that local people know what is going on, what the facts are, what is being done to keep them safe and what they need to do to keep themselves and their communities safe. If we were to get rid of that local reporting and accountability, the country and our communities would be the poorer for it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton and Honiton should be thanked for his wisdom in securing this debate, but also for brilliantly planning it to occur on a day when he would have a little more time than is often available in an Adjournment debate, thereby ensuring what I think will be quite a full debate. I hope the powers that be in the BBC watch BBC Parliament, which is another very valuable service delivered by the BBC, listen to the clear cross-party message—that should sound an alarm with them—from both main political parties and some of the smaller parties, and think very carefully about whether, come September, they should bring back BBC regional coverage and protect it in the months and years to come.