Digital Economy Bill - Committee (4th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:00 pm on 8th February 2017.

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Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport 5:00 pm, 8th February 2017

I certainly do not intend to make threats and I am hardly in a position to do so. I called it a tax because it is so classified by the Office for National Statistics. It is regarded officially as a tax.

The funding agreement announced last July included a number of measures which will increase the BBC’s income—for example, the closure of the iPlayer loophole and the increase of the licence fee with inflation. In combination with the transfer of funding for the over-75s concession, this means that the BBC will have a flat cash settlement to 2021-22, not a 20% cut. Indeed, the director-general said in July last year:

“The government’s decision here to put the cost of the over-75s on us has been more than matched by the deal coming back for the BBC”.

The amendments in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Lester, would endanger the effectiveness with which the BBC can be governed, and weaken the incentives for the corporation to strive for excellence and efficiency, as well as public support for the BBC’s funding.

As noble Lords know, both Houses had many opportunities to shape the future of the BBC throughout the charter review, and the Government appreciate that valuable input. But we remain of the view that the royal charter in its current form has served the BBC extremely well over many decades. The BBC agrees. The BBC’s director-general, Tony Hall—the noble Lord, Lord Hall—has welcomed the new charter, saying that,

“we have the right outcome for the BBC and its role as a creative power for Britain. It lays the foundation for more great programmes and journalism”.

With that, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw his amendment.