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BBC World Service

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 10:30 am on 20th January 2011.

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Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

We had a number of discussions on funding for the BBC both with the BBC and with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the context of licence fee discussions.

Photo of Jo Swinson Jo Swinson Liberal Democrat, East Dunbartonshire

For those living in countries where free speech is threatened or non-existent, the BBC World Service provides a vital and powerful source of unbiased information. I welcomed the Foreign Secretary's reassurance back in September that the Burma operation is unlikely to face closure, but will the Secretary of State reassure the House that he is working with his Cabinet colleagues and the BBC to ensure that in countries that face significant political upheaval, that voice of independent free speech will be upheld?

Photo of Jeremy Hunt Jeremy Hunt The Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

I wholeheartedly agree with my hon. Friend about the outstanding beacon for freedom that the BBC World Service represents, not least given the lifeline it offered to the people of Haiti and the 3.1 million people who are reported to use it in Iran. She is absolutely right. If it is any reassurance, closure of any language service must have the written consent of the Foreign Secretary. We are confident that the BBC World Service can sustain its current plans.