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Whittingdale stays on as head of Culture Committee

By | Published on Friday 11 June 2010

Tory man John Whittingdale has been reinstalled as chairman of the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee in parliament. Select committees are responsible for holding government officials and departments to account on all issues relating to their area of remit, and often publish reports recommending changes to legislation or government operations, which the government can then choose to adopt or ignore.

Whittingdale’s Culture Select Committee were very critical of the impact of the 2003 Licensing Act on the grass roots live music community, and made a number of recommendations for how the law should be changed to make it easier to stage small gigs. The Labour government pretty much ignored said recommendations, though the Liberals backed the proposed reforms and some should now happen now the Tory/Lib coalition is in power.

As a Tory with a culture remit, Whittingdale was also crucial in ensuring the Digital Economy Act became law during the wash up ahead of this year’s General Election. Getting the DEA’s more controversial elements – including the three-strikes anti-piracy system – onto the statute book required Tory support for the Labour government’s proposals. Shortly before the DEA was passed by parliament, and with the deadline for getting it through getting very close, then Culture Minister Ben Bradshaw told a UK Music gathering “God and John Whittingdale permitting, we will get there”. They did.

For the first time select committee chairmen are being appointed by a private ballot of MPs, rather than via back room deals between the key party’s whips. That said, Whittingdale was unopposed in his bid to stay on as chair of the culture committee.