Friday, 17 June 2011

MP calls for Parly debate on plight of local press

Enfield North Conservative MP Nick de Bois has called on Parliament to hold a debate on the ownership of the local press and the pressures facing newspapers trying to cover public bodies.

DeBois asked in the House on Thursday: "May we have a debate on the ownership and effectiveness of local and regional newspapers—including mine, The Enfield Advertiser and the Enfield Independent—since many editors throughout the country feel they are unable to scrutinise local public bodies? While it is not our role to run newspapers, I believe that, given the pressures on the industry, we should debate the implications of this serious matter."

In reply, Sir George Young said: "I would welcome a debate in Westminster Hall, or initiated by the Backbench Business Committee, on the health of local newspapers, in which we all have an interest. My hon. Friend’s question did not make it clear why they were impeded from reporting on certain matters, but if he writes to me, I will see what I can do, in conjunction with my right hon. Friend the Culture Secretary."

The Enfield titles are owned by Sir Ray Tindle's North London and Herts newspaper group which is facing fresh strike action from NUJ members who claim low staff levels are harming the quality of their papers and threatening their future.

The MP's website says: "With a large number of local newspaper editors expressing their concern that they are unable to regularly scrutinise local public bodies such as Councils and Courts (not to mention Members of Parliament!) Nick felt it right that parliament should have the time to explore the problem and its impact on localities."

He comments: "It is not the Government's role to run local newspapers, but local and regional newspapers do have an incredibly valuable role to play in supporting local democratic accountability and I would like Parliament to have the chance to highlight this and see if and how government may be able to help."

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