As the BBC announces its new Verify Unit, Andrew Bridgen asks the Government who checks the fact checkers?
Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire) (Reclaim)
This week, we saw the BBC unveil its new “Verify” unit. If only we had had such a unit in 2021 to scrutinise the disinformation we were told about the covid-19 vaccines. [Interruption.] The House might recall that we were told that the experimental treatments “will stay in your arm, not pass around your body”—completely incorrect. We were told, “These vaccines will stop you contracting and transmitting the virus”—completely wrong. Safe and effective is not ageing well. All that disinformation was spread by the BBC itself, which is now holding itself as the arbiter of truth. [Interruption.] The question is, who checks the checkers, especially when they have such a chequered history on this subject? Can we have a statement on the discussions the Government have had with the BBC on the setting up of this new unit?
The Leader of the House of Commons (Penny Mordaunt)
We have all just had a very important moment. We should pause for a moment, because I think we may have just heard the first cuckoo of spring. The hon. Gentleman will forgive Members chuntering from a sedentary position when he asked his question.
The only way that Members of this House and the public can be assured of the facts and arrive at decisions themselves is by having freedom of speech to be able to say things, but also the freedom to learn things and to be uncertain about things. Part of that is ensuring that people can take information from a wide variety of sources. We have reliable and honest journalism of high standards, for which the BBC qualifies, as does the House of Commons Library. I say to all people listening to this debate that we value these things greatly. They are part of our democracy and they should provide certainty for Members in this place and the public. The hon. Gentleman might like to make use of some of those services.