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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 6:45 pm on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Baroness Rawlings Baroness Rawlings Lords Spokesperson (Department for Culture, Media and Sport), Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip) 6:45 pm, 2nd February 2012

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, for putting down his amendment as it gives me the opportunity to clarify Her Majesty's Government's view on this delicate point.

Clause 20 will make certain that the Secretary of State has to seek the agreement of Scottish Government Ministers in the process of appointing the BBC Trust member for Scotland. Currently, the Scottish Government are involved in the appointment process on an informal basis. The clause will formalise the involvement of Scottish Ministers in the appointment process and gives them the legislative basis to undertake their responsibilities in relation to the appointment process.

Under the terms of the BBC charter, the Trust member for Scotland must be qualified by virtue of his knowledge of the culture, characteristics and affairs of the people in Scotland and his close touch with the opinion of that nation. Therefore, we feel it is preferable that Scottish Ministers should have a significant role in agreeing the appointment. In answer to the noble Lord, it is highly unlikely that the situation would arise in which they would fundamentally disagree over the appointment of a candidate. If Scottish Ministers do not give their agreement to the proposed DCMS appointment of the BBC Trust member for Scotland, they would need to provide justification for that. Both sets of Ministers have the same interest in not wanting to leave the seat empty. The opportunity is primary for a member of a UK body-that is, the BBC Trust. Furthermore, broadcasting remains a reserved matter, something that the Calman report was very clear should remain the case, and we are following that principle. On this basis, the UK Government believe it is important to retain the ultimate responsibility for the appointment.

This amendment would place a duty on the Secretary of State only to consult Scottish Ministers in appointing the BBC Trust member for Scotland, rather than seeking their agreement to the appointment. It is our view that this does not give the Scottish Government sufficient involvement in the appointment process. Securing the agreement of the Scottish Government is the appropriate way of involving them in the appointment process for the BBC Trust member for Scotland. The existing provision gives the Scottish Government an important and appropriate power and the UK Government do not wish to weaken this. I hope that this satisfies the noble Lord, Lord Sewel, and I urge him to withdraw his amendment.