The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
Licence to hide?
Posted Thursday, 11 June 2009 at 13:21

I had always assumed it was the case that the BBC was exempt from the Freedom of Information Act. I had no idea why it should be given that it receives its income directly from the licence fee and taxation.

 

It wasn’t until I appeared on Radio 5 live and witnessed Victoria Derbyshire, I believe possibly disingenuously, attempt to mislead the public that I decided to look further into it.

 

I had mentioned during the interview that the BBC was exempt from the FOIA. At the end, when my mic had been switched off, Victoria hurriedly read out a statement which said something along the lines of the BBC not being exempt and that the ‘salaries of BBC executives’ were made available. She didn’t add ‘but not the salaries or expenses of presenters.’

 

An article in the Daily Mail this week revealed just how much of our money is being used to keep that information secret.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong, as an advocate of the free market, I have absolutely nothing against anyone realising their true capital value and maximising their earnings in whatever way they can. The benchmark being of course, that everyone in society has the same educational opportunities to realise their own talents and maximise their personal earning capabilities.

 

However, I digress.

 

My parliamentary questions have just been submitted to probe a little further into why the BBC has been able to keep so much information, regarding how public money is spent, so secret.

 

It’s not just the salaries of the top presenters which is an issue, it's the extras too. When they are eventually revealed, as they will be, along with records of expenses, it will be the job of the public to determined whether or not they think presenters are worth it in the same way the public has passed judgment on MPs. And so they should. It’s their money after all.

 

The story in the Daily Mail does have a ring of familiarity about it. Someone somewhere in an office in the BBC is desperately, via the use of expensive lawyers, attempting to keep the facts hidden from public view.

 

I would like to make a suggestion to that person. Take a look at what happened in the Commons to the Speaker and learn. There is no point fighting it.

 

If public money is to be spent then the days of the BBC gravy train, secret expense accounts, massive salaries, chauffer driven cars and luxury hotels are coming to a dramatic end. I also suspect it may make the MPs fiasco look a little like chicken feed.

 

Why am I so sure? Well yesterday I sat with a large group of MPs and I mentioned a documentary the BBC wanted to produce regarding the fall out of expense-gate and the impact it had on MPs, especially those who had been wrongly targeted.

 

It is quite obvious now, that of 650 MPs, around a dozen or so were seriously guilty of wrong doing. The rest were all whipped in, the facts conflated to make it look worse than it was and most were presented entirely out of context.

 

In some cases, such as mine and many others, the allegations were entirely wrong.

 

I have to say that speaking as someone who was badly hurt, made worse by the fact that it was wrongly so, even I was shocked at the anger and vitriol immediately expressed by my colleagues towards the BBC. The hypocrisy of its reporting and the position many of the presenters took in feeding inaccurate and imbalanced information to the public has touched a collective raw nerve amongst MPs of all parties whose families and children were badly affected.

 

My children were affected. One daughter so much so, that whilst I remain an MP she no longer wants to live in the UK. She is just a lovely, sensitive, very kind young lady who has taken to heart every snide and unkind remark which has been made to her. On Monday she bought her ticket to Australia and has broken my heart by deciding to live in another country. Stories range from children at university having their residence and belongings damaged, to verbal bullying.

 

MPs also feel strongly that those who did commit fraud have had their crimes minimised and downgraded by the fact that so much nonsense was thrown into the mix - the errors, fiction and mistakes made to appear far worse than they are as a result.

 

A staggering amount of young, good MPs from all parties are contemplating leaving, looking for other jobs. The result of expenses-gate will be the evolution of a professional, sterile Parliament, full of career 'yes' men and women politicians. It will be interesting to see when the day of reckoning arrives for the BBC how it will be affected.

 

The presenters at the BBC are entirely innocent.They are being paid the going rate for whatever they do. However, when those salaries and expenses are exposed to the public I am afraid that they may not take that view. I just hope and pray that their children and families are not affected in the same way ours were.

 

The BBC sang the Telegraphs tune. That tune was not always right. The BBC did not fact check.

 

I doubt it will ever be forgiven by the innocent MPs and the public, have yet to have their say.

 
 
 
Robert Eve said:
Responded: Thursday, 11 June 2009
Why on earth should everyone have the same educational opportunities? Sounds very socialist to me.
 
 
Bri said:
Responded: Thursday, 11 June 2009
Whilst the BBC is publicly funded I agree that how they spend the license fee should be open to examination. But we must keep in mind that they do not make our laws. No, it's MPs who do that and it sickens me that they moralise at us while all the time being immoral themselves. The dodgy ones claim it was 'the system wot dun it', well I disagree. The system for claiming expenses and allowances was set up by MPs and laid down in the Green Book. The wording in places allows for unscrupulous MPs to push the boundries of legitimate claims but the bit that is quite clear is the part that says all claims must be wholly and exclusively to help them in the job as an MP. So the system is perfectly good enough if the Hounourable members actually behaved in an honourable way. No need to go to the expense of changing the system, change the dodgy claimers instead. And I want to see those fraudsters you mentioned, Nadine, prosecuted. I'm sure the innocent and decent MPs would agree with that.
 
 
Peter - Toronto said:
Responded: Thursday, 11 June 2009
Nadine. I give you a perspective from 3000 miles away. Listening to the BBC (mostly, but not exclusively FiveLive), I can your understand your position on this. Away from Westminster village, the feeding frenzy that was stoked by the BBC on the Telegraph’s reports was breathtaking. While there were some notable exceptions amongst the serious journalists, many – particularly those hosting phone-ins – lost all balance and objectivity throughout this. Most particularly, all sight was lost that where your job required a second home, additional costs were inevitable; Most people don’t need a second home for their job so it is not a decision or set of costs they have to face. This was never pointed out by the BBC presenters. This is not to excuse those abusing the system, but distortion of what was reasonable was allowed/actively encouraged. I hope I am not naïve, but I consider that most MPs and their families are decent people and it is a tragedy that distortion and sloppy journalism has so adversely impacted decent and uninvolved MPs and their families, as you and your daughter appear to have been. I hope the Conservative Party in government will undertake a thorough review of the BBC: its funding; what is kept secret; its apparent lack of political neutrality; its standards. I think, in time, many will look back and feel ashamed for their part in the damage they have caused to innocent people.
 
 
Mick Anderson said:
Responded: Thursday, 11 June 2009
Having the same educational opportunities is not the same as everyone having the same education. It means that everyone should be able to benefit from an education that is best suited to them. Thus, someone better suited with manual skills might have opportunity to take up an apprenticeship, while someone with academic skills might go to university. Equally, someone not suited to higher education might learn more from leaving formal education earlier and having the opportunity to learn from working in the real world. But (apart from this not being an ideal world) that's a bit of an aside. Perhaps the protestations of MPs would have been taken more seriously if they (and the Speaker) had not expended so much energy trying to keep their financial affairs so secret. It was difficult for the BBC to check information that Parliament had hidden, with the Telegraph having to use what some considered to be illicit an illicit copy of the data. Yes, I can understand the argument for the BBC publishing their own accounts. But as they are a bit of an anachronism in an otherwise commercial media world, perhaps this is just another reason why funding them by a tax should be re-evaluated. I'm sure that there is a range from completely innocent to criminally guilty within MPs expenses. Certainly it appears (from the TV media) that the longer-standing MPs have been less able to see things through the eyes of the Public. My own MP has claimed entirely within Parliamentary rules, but some of the things that he claimed for himself as our representitive have now been seen to be disingenuous. It's not just about money, although that's easy to identify with. It's also about honesty and hypocrisy. Guilt by association is never nice. But that's how the Public are treated by the Tax Office and the Police - we're all guilty until proven innocent. However unpleasant it is (and I certainly don't condone either violence, vandalism, or the abuse of MPs children), I'm afraid that it's had not to feel that it's about time MPs had to suffer from the same world that they inflict on us by their legislation.
 
 
Sim-O said:
Responded: Thursday, 11 June 2009
Why shouldn't everyone have the same opportunities?
 
 
TC said:
Responded: Thursday, 11 June 2009
Where does your suggestion stop? The BBC, all national and local governement staff, NHS, MOD, quangos, etc. One area I would like my MP to challenge is the significant mileage expenses voted for by the newly created Central Bedfordshire Council members of 58.7p/mile. Whereas the HMRC allows all other emplyees to only claim up to 40p/mile - even the MPs Green Book only allows up to 40p/mile. Th eindependent advice sought and given to CBC recommended 40p/mile the members voted for a higher figure. http://www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/modgov/Published/StdDataDocs/2/1/6/4/SD00004612/$PartKSchemeofMembersAllwoances.doc.pdf
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 11 June 2009
I am ashamed at some of the comments I posted on this blog at the height of the telegraph campaign. I am also ashamed of how I allowed myself to be manipulated. I hope you will accept my apology.
 
 
Fergus Pickering said:
Responded: Friday, 12 June 2009
I have occasionally worked for the Beeb. It is well known that they pay peanuts to non-staff but the exenses, taxis, lunches and the like are a great wheeze.
 
 
Democrat said:
Responded: Friday, 12 June 2009
The belief that politicians run this country is surprisingly widespread. Nevertheless, it is wrong. The ruling emotional authority is the media. What happened over MPs' expenses has illustrated something specific about our new rulers - not just that they are irresponsible, but that they, along with everyone else, have not yet realised the extent of media power and the finality of its victory over politicians. Democracy has reached its limits and lies, propaganda, populism, spin, manipulation and prurience is all we can now expect from those who consider themselves appointed to interpret the world to us. This domination of media over politics is far stronger here than in,say, the USA, where it is big business that dominates politics while the media fawns over the powerful. The root cause of the arrogance in British media is not the power of individuals like Rupert Murdoch but the social power of the BBC. It is no accident that the BBC Board of Governors is now called the BBC Trust. Everyone with any sense in BBC world (I mean the bizarre world they collectively inhabit, not one of their branded products!) is a trustafarian. Why make anything or do anything productive when you can get paid Other People's Money for your opinions? I do not advocate any kind of reform for the BBC. Last week, Britain's Prime Minister actually grovelled (interview with Evan Davis on Today) to his masters by offering their institution some say in how he reforms the House of Commons. He accepts that it is the BBC that deigns to interpret the people to our representatives as well as them to us. Quite simply, I suggest that the licence fee be abolished. Many other industries - including the non trust-funded sectors of the press and TV - have had to find new ways to earn a living. The BBC as a broadcaster and news gatherer will find a way to continue. But its collective mindset - which it assumes to be "the people's" - will shatter. That is why it must be done suddenly and irrevocably.
 
 
Mark said:
Responded: Friday, 12 June 2009
As someone who lives in Bedfordshire it was not until your name was mentioned in connection with the expenses scandal that I looked you up. I have to admit that I have become impressed by you and have begun to follow you blog. I am however dismayed at your comments regarding your poor colleagues and how they now want to leave! The behaviours of SOME MPs has damaged public perception of parliament to such an extent that the BMP has been handed real political power in this country for the first time. This is unforgivable and ALL MPs should hang their heads in shame. I am genuinely sorry for what happened to you but collective responsibility would dictate that you are all responsible and equally guilty.
 
 
Democrat said:
Responded: Friday, 12 June 2009
Can we have some paragraphs, please?
 
 
Normandee said:
Responded: Friday, 12 June 2009
The presenters are not all innocent, most of them are willing partners in a high pressure propaganda machine, paid for by us. You only have to look at their behaviour in the years between John Majors 92 election win and the 97 debacle of the conservative party. This was further evidenced by the coverage of Bush's re election. As for the expenses scam, look at the difference in coverage for the disappearance of Madeline Mcann in sunny Portugal, and Sharon Mathews in cold wet Dewsbury. No, a thorough investigation of the presentation and manning levels of the BBC is long overdue.
 
 
Jean Baker said:
Responded: Friday, 12 June 2009
Facts and figures on Openeurope show MEP's expenses cost British taxpayers five times the figure of our MP's. The BBC takes licence payers money on the basis of impartial, unbiased presentation. The aggressive attitude by certain presenters against 'non Laborites' is increasingly blatant. The crux of the whole expenses issue starts and ends with how the Fees Office operates and, in particular, why expenses sensationalized in the media (demeaning certain MPs) have neither been mentioned, nor held accountable for authorizing allegedly 'improper expenses'. Why is the BBC not focussing on and investigating the way in which the Fees Office operates ? Why is the crux ignored by the media ?
 
 
muggins said:
Responded: Friday, 12 June 2009
We can get rid of our MPs and we can change our Government. But we cannot get rid of, nor change, the bbc! WHY??? Does not the bbc exemplify the corruption of unaccountable power? I look forward to David slaying this goliath.
 
 
Motorhead said:
Responded: Friday, 12 June 2009
I read todays blog and comments with some slight disbelief, having read the previous blog (since removed) where Mr DC supposedly was not best pleased with your defence of MP in the expences expose. AmI correct in assuming that peace has been made, and all now well between you and your leader
 
 
 
Contact Nadine
Nadine Dorries MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
via e-mail at: nadine.dorries.mp@parliament.uk
or Telephone on 020 7219 5928

 
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