I am considering the representations which the B.B.C. has made to me about its financial prospects. I have not yet reached any conclusions but will make a statement as soon as practicable.
Does not the B.B.C. attribute part of this deficit to the fact that licence evasion is still rampant, despite the very welcome measures that the Minister himself has taken? What further steps does he mean to take in this direction? If they do not meet the problem, will he consider smypathetically a B.B.C. request for increasing the licence fee?
I will certainly consider representations which have been made to me by the B.B.C. The hon. Gentleman, who takes a great interest in these matters, will know that it has been possible over the last two years to halve the number of licence evaders; and by a number of measures I am determined to reduce that number further.
If the BBC. has substantial deficits, is it not important that steps should be taken to deal with them early rather than late? We on this side would view with a great deal of concern a situation in which the deficits were allowed to continue and the fact of those deficits was used, as most hon. Members opposite seem to be using it, as an argument in favour of commercial broadcasting and against public service broadcasting?