Thursday, 16 July 2015


What does the future hold for the BBC? Culture Secretary John Whittingdale will set the ball rolling on this question today when he publishes the government's green paper, laying out the "root and branch reform" the BBC will need to make as part of its royal charter renewal.

Many have the Beeb's £145.50 annual TV licence fee, which provides most of its income, in their sights. Ministers are considering bringing in a Finnish-style means tested broadcasting levy to pay for the BBC, which will mean middle class families will have to pay more than poor households. Whittingdale will also have to consider the Perry report, which is expected to recommend decriminalising non-payment of the licence fee. Should the BBC ditch the licence fee entirely? Allister Heath argues it should be forced to compete for its audience, writing in today's Telegraph: "The BBC could have a great future in this brave new world, selling British programming all over the world, but for that it needs to embrace truly radical change." 

The government's BBC reform drive will not go unopposed, with a host of celebrities writing to the Telegraph yesterday to defend the corporation. In a warning to BBC-sceptics, former Tory minister Damian Green writes: "Britain benefits from a strong BBC, and we have the prospect of maintaining that in the years ahead." Auntie's supporters may hope Whittingdale's proposed reforms will be limited, taking comfort from his remarks - back when chair of the Commons Culture Committee in February - that "profound changes" to the licence fee should not be rushed, and that the "possibility of change" would only come in the "2020s". Tory backbenchers, by contrast, will hope for quicker progress. 


Hospital consultants will be have to work at weekends under a seven day NHS, the Health Secretary will say as he suggests that their refusal to do so is contributing to 6,000 deaths a year, Steven Swinford reports. Jeremy Hunt will tell the British Medical Association to "get real" as he announces plans to remove an "opt out" from doctors' contracts which means they do not have to work on a Saturday or Sunday. Laura Donnelly explains what deal is on offer for doctors. Follow what happens over today as Hunt goes to war with doctors on our liveblog.


The Greek parliament has approved a bill of tough reforms demanded by the country's creditors in return for a new bail-out, as protests in the country turned violent. Mehreen Khan has chronicled how this panned out on our liveblog. The debate saw tempers run high, with one lawmaker from the extreme right-wing Golden Dawn party lashing out at the Greek government over the new economic measures meant to secure a bailout for the cash-strapped country. Among those voted against the package of reforms was Alexis Tsipras's former minister, Yanis Varoufakis, who likened the measures to a "Treaty of Versailles" for Greece, Colin Freeman reports from Athens

"Yanis Varoufakis, the ex-finance minister, said all along that they wanted "ritual subjugation", and that is how it looks to great numbers of people across Europe," writes Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. Angela Merkel may be pilloried over her seeming lack of sympathy towards Greece, but as I point out, her voters have an even more hardline stance towards their Hellenic friends. 

Meanwhile, British taxpayers will not be left exposed for another Greek bailout, George Osborne hopes, under a compromise struck with Jean-Claude Juncker. The Chancellor is prepared to back the European Commission president's controversial plan to revive a mothballed bailout programme that draws in the entire EU, in exchange for guarantees that British liabilities will be underwritten to protect UK taxpayers, Matthew Holehouse reports


MPs will get a pay rise of up to 10 per cent despite furious protestations from David Cameron and other ministers, Parliament's expenses watchdog is set to announce. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has rubber stamped a plan to increase MPs pay from £67,000 to as much as £74,000 a year. Chris Hope has the details.


Russian-American cooperation on the Iran nuclear deal could pave the way for an agreement on Syria, Barack Obama has said, despite the current confrontation between Moscow and the West over Ukraine, Roland Oliphant reports from Moscow. Mr Obama praised Vladimir Putin for his role in the agreement and said there could now be an "opening" for further detente in the worst crisis in American-Russian relations since the Cold War.


Labour faces an open split over the government's planned cuts to benefits spending after one of its MPs - former shadow welfare minister Helen Goodman - tabled an amendment to the legislation to reject the bill, the BBC reports. This comes after acting leader Harriet Harman warned that if Labour "opposed everything" it would "succeed on nothing". Meanwhile, David Cameron admitted to his own MPs that he is deliberately trying to pass his most controversial policies while Labour is in disarray. Chris Hope has more


The SNP is more interested in "stunts and sound bites" than serious plans for increasing Holyrood's powers, the Scottish Secretary has said as he promised to make major improvements to legislation extending devolution. David Mundell confirmed to MPs that the Government will table substantive amendments to the Scotland Bill and would consider "serious" changes submitted by opposition parties, Simon Johnson reports


Jeremy Corbyn is ahead in the Labour leadership contest by more than 15 points, private polling by his rivals suggests, Michael Wilkinson reports. The left-wing MP, who was a last minute entry into the contest, now looks set for victory according to a poll which will come as bitter news for his rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall. Want to help lumber Labour with the bearded socialist voter-repellent as leader? Follow our simple five step guide on how to help him win.


Theresa May, the Home Secretary, has refused permission for water cannon to be used for the first time on the British mainland. The controversial equipment required authorisation from the Home Office before it could be deployed but Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, has already called for them - and bought three second-hand cannon from Germany at a cost of £218,000. Read more here.


Tim Farron, the favourite to win the Liberal Democrat leadership, wants to send all of the party's staff back to work for charities to learn how to campaign again, Chris Hope reports. Farron is tipped to beat Norman Lamb in the LibDem leadership contest on Thursday, and take over the running of the party and its eight MPs in the House of Commons. If you're wondering who exactly Farron is, Rosa Prince has written an insightful profile of the man who could be the next Lib Dem leader.


A lack of funding led to UK stamps being put on postal ballot papers for overseas voters ahead of the general election in May, the Electoral Commission disclosed in a report. A flood of complaints came in from Britons living around the world that they were unable to vote, despite being registered to do so, Elizabeth Roberts reports.


Magistrates' courts could meet in town halls or even hotel suites in a bid to save money, the Justice Secretary has said. Michael Gove confirmed there will be a new programme of court closures but the minister stressed he was keen to retain the way justice is dispensed at a local level, David Barrett reports.

This comes as criminal barristers are set to refuse to take on new cases in an unprecedented protest at the Government's cuts to legal aid. Barristers in England and Wales voted to back the "strike" in a poll by a majority of 55 per cent in favour and 45 per cent against. Read more here.


A mayor has refused to apologise for joking that all women in a town he represents have fat bottoms. Francis Purdue-Horan provoked outrage with a comment he made just before Queen tribute act Mercury was about to perform at a music festival in Bingham, Nottinghamshire. Here's the full story.


@GerriPeev: Bit of a risk for Home Sec to ban water cannons without knowing how the trade union reforms will play out


From The Telegraph

Allister Heath - Ditch the licence fee and force the BBC to compete for its audience

Norman Tebbit - Trade unions need putting back in their place

George Papaconstantinou - Alexis Tsipras gambled away Greece's future. Now he must make amends

From Politics Comment

Asa Bennett - Angela Merkel has been kinder to Greece than German voters would be

Tom Harris - Labour cannot afford to look like a party of protest

Douglas Carswell - The luvvies praising the BBC are like bankers praising their bonuses

From elsewhere

Nicky Morgan - We've made great strides on women's equality - but this is no time to pat each other on the back

Justin Welby - Faith must be strong enough to take offence

Stephen Bush  - Harriet Harman shows just how hard the next Labour leader's job will be


08:00 Defence Minister Michael Fallon is to give a speech at the Chief of the Air Staff's Air Power conference in London
08.30 Ed Vaizey speech on cyber security at Reform think-tank 
09.00 Jeremy Hunt outlines seven-day service plans in '25-year vision' NHS speech
09.30 MPs on Public Administration Committee take evidence on EU Referendum Bill amid 'purdah' debate from Lord Bew and Andrew Scallan
09.30 MPs on Energy Committee quiz Energy Sec Amber Rudd on govt priorities
11.30 Education Secretary Nicky Morgan and Ed Vaizey speaks at Creative Industries Federation event
David Cameron undertakes a regional tour

BBC green paper published
Lib Dems' new leader announced - new leader expected to speak at 19.00
17.30 Liam Fox MP speaks at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London on defence and security issues 
19.00 Bank of England Governor Mark Carney delivers lecture on Magna Carta
Peers debate English votes for English laws
Entrepreneurs Network publish study on MPs' awareness of small business policy


Sir George Young, former Tory MP - 73
Labour MP Frank Field - 72



9:30: Transport questions (topicals at 10:15)
10:30: Business statement
Presentation of Bill: Criminal Cases Review Commission (Supplementary Powers) Bill (Andy McDonald, Lab, Middlesbrough)

Main business
Debate on matters to be raised before the forthcoming adjournment
Adjournment debate: Role of insurance companies in child abuse inquiries (Ann Clywd, Lab, Cynon Valley)


13.30: Sentencing for cruelty to domestic pets (Mark Spencer, Con, Sherwood)
15.00: Police procurement of vehicles (Christian Matheson, Lab, Chester)


Lords Chamber
11:00: Oral questions

Main business
Motions relating to the House of Lords (Expulsion and Suspension) Act 2015
Motions to appoint committee members: Hybrid Instruments Committee and Joint Committee on Human Rights
Balloted debate on the "Responsibility to Protect" and the application of this international norm by the United Kingdom and the United Nations 
Question for short debate on whether the Government plan to consider alternatives to their proposals for English votes for English laws (1 hour)
Balloted debate on worldwide violations of Article 18 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the case for greater priority to be given by the United Kingdom and the international community to upholding freedom of religion and belief (Lord Alton of Liverpool, Crossbench) (2.5 hours)
National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2015: Motion to approve