Bid to force BBC to publish all spending over £500 passes first Commons hurdle

Moves to force the BBC to publish all its spending over £500 have moved a step closer after passing their first Commons hurdle.

Conservative former Welsh secretary Alun Cairns has called for the BBC to be subjected to the same rules as Whitehall departments and local authorities and be forced to publish all invoices over £500.

Mr Cairns said this would be “a positive move to support the BBC” and “meet the public’s expectations of value for money”.

General Election 2019
General Election 2019

Introducing his BBC (Transparency) Bill, he told the Commons: “Since 2010, all Government departments and local authorities in England have been required to publish invoices in excess of £500.

“This key step helped change spending patterns and the culture of how public bodies work.

“The move towards transparency facilitated competition, encouraged new approaches to spending and attracted more organisations, particularly smaller organisations, to bid for contracts.

“Ultimately it helped drive better value for money and enhance diversity in the supply chain.”

Mr Cairns paid tribute to BBC director-general Tim Davie for “the changes he is making” to the corporation since being appointed.

He added: “We still need to revolutionise the BBC’s transparency culture.

“This Bill is intended to support Tim Davie to bring about change. To help the BBC regain the confidence of the public and to secure the very best value for money across all its activities.

“We’re approaching the BBC’s charter mid-term review, this would be the perfect time to see the changes that this (Bill) calls for and that the public calls for.”

BBC Director General
BBC Director General

Mr Cairns said earlier calls for the BBC to publish the salaries of its highest earners “would not have happened without demands for greater transparency from the public” and urged the BBC to also publish the salaries of its contractors.

He added: “Loopholes still exist but this Bill’s influence extends well beyond the corporation’s current approach.

“We cannot ignore that some of the BBC’s highest-profile shows and performers are contracted to BBC Studios.

“Expenditure data of BBC Studios is not shared in the same way yet it still operates with the benefit of the licence fee.

“While this is the case it is not like any other commercial organisation and its expenditure should be scrutinised equally.”

The Bill was introduced without a vote, with a second reading scheduled for January 15.

It has little chance of making further progress in its current form without Government backing.