Director-General of the BBC

– in the House of Commons at 11:12 am on 30th January 1987.

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Photo of Gerald Kaufman Gerald Kaufman Shadow Secretary of State (Home Office) 11:12 am, 30th January 1987

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. You will recall that yesterday afternoon my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Mr. Soley) asked about what was then described as the resignation of the Director-General of the BBC'. This morning's press and last night's television strongly suggest that the Director-General did not resign but was dismissed. The fact that he relinquished his duties immediately gives weight to that suggestion. That creates a very different position for the House.

With your assistance, Mr. Speaker, can we obtain a statement on this matter today from the Home Secretary in the light of his duties in relation to the appointment of the chairman of the BBC'? There is serious anxiety that the departure of Mr. Alasdair Milne may have had something to do with the intolerable and unacceptable pressures placed on the BBC by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. The fact that the Prime Minister denied that it had anything to do with her naturally leads to suspicion that it was something to do with her.

This is a matter of grave public importance, affecting the major voice of communication in Britain, whose independence and integrity and whose protection from insidious Government pressure are of concern to the overwhelming majority of the population. That being so, Mr. Speaker, will you assist us in obtaining a statement from the Home Secretary as a matter of urgency?

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

That is not a point of order. One thing that I can say is that it is not a matter for me. I am not responsible for any statements that may be made. Nevertheless, the point has been made and the Leader of the House is present. I am sure that he will have noted it.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , North East Cambridgeshire

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. This is a private Members' day and it is unfair to take up time with points of order. I shall take the points of order if they are legitimate, but I must say that this matter has nothing to do with me.

Photo of Mr Clement Freud Mr Clement Freud , North East Cambridgeshire

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Would it be in order for a Minister from the Home Office to attend the House later today to answer questions on a subject that is exceedingly important for the whole House? The independence of the BBC must be a high priority of all parliamentarians.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

It would be possible, but, again, it is not a matter for me.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you will probably have read, in your capacity as the Chair of this place, there is just the hint that some hon. Members will take part in a filibuster to try to block the second item on the agenda—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. These points of order are taking up Back Benchers' time. That is what I am concerned about.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher , Stoke-on-Trent Central

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner Member, Labour Party National Executive Committee

I have not finished yet. Sit down. My hon. Friend has got a bit of a job, but he had better be careful.

If such a filibuster is to take place, Mr. Speaker, you should look closely at the suggestion that it would make more sense to get a Minister to come here and occupy that time. One Minister who could come here is the one responsible for broadcasting. If you cannot find him, Mr. Speaker, you could find the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. My hon. Friends could then ask why Alasdair Milne has been bullied out of his job at the BBC. That would make more sense to the people outside—

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. This is a private Members' day. If a statement was to be made, it would be made at 2.30.

Photo of Mark Fisher Mark Fisher , Stoke-on-Trent Central

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. As the Leader of the House is present, would it be possible for him to explain the Government's position on the departure of the Director-General of the BBC? This matter goes to the root of your protection of parliamentary privilege and parliamentary expression in our democracy. It would be appropriate for the Leader of the House to say how the Government will explain the events of the past 24 hours and by whom the Director-General is to be replaced.

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

That is not a matter for me at all.