Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Thursday, 19 May 2011 17:15 UK

Reverse BBC World Service cuts, MPs urge

The government has been urged by MPs to reverse its decision to cut funding to the BBC World Service.

Opening a backbench-led Commons debate on 19 May 2011 Tory Richard Ottaway, who chairs the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, described the World Service as "a key component of British soft power", labelling the 16% budget cut "a mistake".

Foreign Office Minister David Lidington pledged to review the decision, but stopped short of saying the department would reverse the cut.

The World Service has always been funded by the Foreign Office, but from 2014 it will be paid for out of the BBC's licence fee.

Mr Ottaway told the Commons that in the intervening four years, funding was being cut by 16% in real terms, which was "disproportionate" with the 10% cut in the Foreign Office budget.

Earlier in the debate former Labour defence secretary Bob Ainsworth, who sits on the committee, warned "others are investing in this area and at the time of the Arab Spring we are seeing al Jazeera becoming increasingly powerful in terms of the influence it brings".

Lib Dem Martin Horwood told MPs: "It is refreshing to see placards on the streets of Muslim countries not calling for 'Death to Britain', but saying ' Thank you BBC' - and they are talking about the BBC World Service."

Tory Jeremy Lefroy added: "At a time when our political and economic future is bound up with the developing world, where much of the World Service is broadcast, its importance is growing."

Mr Ottaway's motion, which said the value of the World Service "far outweighs its relatively small cost" and invited the government to reconsider its decision, was passed without a vote.


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