Welsh MP puts pressure on BBC over spending on parties

Only a dozen 12-minute rule bills have become law in the last 25 years. Alun Cairns's latest attempt to change the law is unlikely to add to their number.

But that isn't the point. The Vale of Glamorgan MP is trying to persuade the BBC to reveal the cost of after-show parties for hit programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing.

Mr Cairns said viewers needed answers when public bodies were being forced to cut their costs. The issue, he said, had been raised by one of his constituents, who wanted to know how much of licence-fee payers' money is being spent on those after-show parties. He also queried the BBC's spending on advertising.

The Tory MP, who recently failed in an attempt to gain election to the culture select committee, told MPs: "It's not that these activities are necessarily wrong, but the public has a right to know how much they cost."

Mr Cairns's BBC (Audit Arrangements and Publication of Invoices) Bill would force the BBC to publish all invoices worth more than £500 and allow the National Audit Office to examine its accounts.

He hoped the BBC would voluntarily disclose its accounts without legislation. (Introduced under the 10-minute rule, it stands little chance of becoming law without government support.)

The BBC has refused to disclose salaries and expenses of on-air "talent", a phrase not to Mr Cairns's liking.

"This has become a catch-all-title...in an effort to block publication of more newsworthy data," he claimed.

Mr Cairns said he'd been in protracted correspondence with previous BBC bosses trying to persuade them to be more open and transparent.

In the interests of transparency, I should probably declare an interest, although my invitations to those after-show parties appear to have been lost in the post.