BBC Royal Charter

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:20 pm on 9th December 2005.

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Photo of Lord Davies of Oldham Lord Davies of Oldham Deputy Chief Whip (House of Lords), HM Household, Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard of the Yeomen of the Guard (HM Household) (Deputy Chief Whip, House of Lords) 2:20 pm, 9th December 2005

My Lords, the noble Lord always criticises the progress on the freedom of information legislation, but he will know the enormous gains that are being reaped throughout the country by the extent to which we are able to implement it. From time to time, there are a few reservations when it comes to private interests. We have obligations to others who have certain rights, particularly if they are not British nationals over whom we have direct control. The noble Lord has to give us a little leeway and return to the generosity that we expect from him in such debates.

In her experienced way, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, raised in the most forthright terms the manner in which the Ofcom board could be strengthened and play its part in relation to the BBC. The noble Baroness always expresses that argument forcefully when contributing to debates on broadcasting. She will know how we struggled to reach the judgment that we did in the Communications Act 2003. Of course, we listened carefully, but our judgment is unchanged on that point. That does not alter the fact that there is bound to be constant public debate on that.

The noble Lord, Lord King, introduced the concept of independent validation of the licence fee level. As we indicated in the Green Paper, we are working with independent advisers to help us assess the BBC's proposals. I am aware that the challenge can be made that they are difficult issues and that government resources may not extend totally to an easy and necessarily independent evaluation. That is why we are bringing in outsiders to help us. That is important in justifying the licence fee, particularly when, in the digital switchover age, it is destined to go up by a considerable margin. That was always anticipated. No one who is serious about this has not known that the resources necessary for the BBC during the switchover will have to be substantially greater than might otherwise have been the case.