Local Press

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:49 am on 20th January 2009.

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Photo of Alan Reid Alan Reid Shadow Minister (Northern Ireland), Shadow Minister (Scotland) 11:49 am, 20th January 2009

I congratulate Dr. Kumar on securing this debate. He was right to say that newspapers are the lifeblood of our local communities. They have an important role, because they provide a source of local news and advertising that is not replicated anywhere else, and include such things as court reports, reports of council meetings, and the achievements of local people, schools and groups. Also, as all hon. Members will know, they are an important medium by which to get our message across to our constituents, and also by which our constituents hold us to account.

Local newspapers are also important when it comes to holding Governments to account. I can speak from both sides of the fence, because as well as being in Opposition here and in the Scottish Parliament now, for eight years my party was in power in the Scottish Parliament, when local newspapers held us to account. It can be uncomfortable, but there is an important role for local newspapers in our democracy.

Local letters pages are an important source of local debate. As other hon. Members have said, importantly, local newspapers run campaigns on behalf of their local communities. They are often champions of local communities on a range of issues, which the internet and video media would never replicate. Local newspapers are embracing new technology, and nearly all have web pages these days, but running campaigns and providing information cannot be replicated by the internet.

Newspapers are socially inclusive. The price is still relatively low, and they are placed in local libraries, so people who perhaps do not have access computers can go to their local newspapers and read the paper for nothing.