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My Lords, all over the world it would be impossible to think of a profile of Britain without the BBC at the centre of it. It has won loyalty, respect and affection across the whole international community. I can remember, sitting with my father in the war at the age of eight, listening at the end of the day’s broadcasting to the national anthems of every occupied country being played. That is the kind of involvement in the world that has made the BBC so successful, and it is the basis on which the excellence and quality of its journalism have been built—a dedication to truth and principle. If truth and principle become seen as an enemy by the Government, we are in dire straits.
I believe that the BBC belongs to the British people, and it is therefore right that the British people should feel a direct sense of responsibility for it and be directly involved in financing it. We meddle with the standing, respect and integrity of the BBC at our peril, because if that begins to happen then we shall begin to see the disintegration of the moral fabric of this country.