Matthew Hancock: I certainly want to make sure that this issue is properly and rightly aired. In ensuring proper reporting, which is the question that the hon. Lady was asking, we must make sure that the BBC is objective about itself. That is a difficult thing to pull off, but it is very important that the BBC does it.
Matthew Hancock: My hon. Friend is absolutely—
Matthew Hancock: My right hon. Friend is absolutely right that this is a question about fair pay at all levels, and not just at the top.
Matthew Hancock: We will not allow unequal pay to pervade the BBC or any other organisation. We have brought in rules and strengthened them across the economy and especially at the BBC. We are proud of the transparency that we have brought, and we will get to the bottom of the matter.
Matthew Hancock: My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on. Without that decision and without the support to bring down the threshold to £150,000, there would still be silence on this issue, and now there is not, which is good.
Matthew Hancock: Getting to the bottom of this problem in the BBC is not just important for the BBC itself and for all the brilliant women who work in the BBC and who are not paid as much as their male counterparts doing the same job. It is symbolic across the whole country and shows that we believe in the equality of opportunity and in people being paid fairly. Gender should not define how much an individual...
Matthew Hancock: My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on.
Matthew Hancock: The hon. Gentleman makes a very interesting suggestion. It is not true that this issue has been aired for decades. This information has been in the public domain only since last July, because of the actions that we took to insist on transparency, so while the broader issue may have been discussed, we have not had the details to hand in the public debate. That is very important, because it is...
Matthew Hancock: I certainly hope that the BBC can act before 2020. Lord Hall has, indeed, said that he wants to act before then, and I will be taking this matter up with him. On your point, Mr Speaker, of course I welcome the urgent question and I am grateful to you for granting it.
Matthew Hancock: I am sure that the BBC will have heard the strength of feeling in this House that the hon. Lady has just articulated.
Matthew Hancock: My hon. Friend brings up reasonable comparisons. I compared the pay of foreign ambassadors with that of BBC editors. All these jobs are in public service, and when one is in the service of the public, restraint is necessary.
Matthew Hancock: As I said before, it is a question of judgment. I think the EHRC made the right judgment in announcing this morning that it is going to investigate the matter.
Matthew Hancock: Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. Sometimes the Committee work of this House is overlooked, but my hon. Friend gives a good example of a measure that was properly scrutinised in Committee, put into the Digital Economy Bill and made law, thanks to the work in Committee of Members on both sides of the House, including my hon. Friend, to whom I pay tribute.
Matthew Hancock: I welcome calls for pay restraint in public bodies from all quarters, including from the hon. Gentleman.
Matthew Hancock: Yes. I pay tribute to my hon. Friend, who has worked hard on this issue during her time in the House. I also pay tribute to Carrie Gracie for her bravery and her actions.
Matthew Hancock: It is, of course, for the commission to tell Lord Hall that. We have to be careful to ensure that the relationship between the Government and the BBC is proper, because the BBC is a public broadcaster, not a state broadcaster. The action that the Chair of the Select Committee on Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has announced—calling Lord Hall and potentially others to give...
Matthew Hancock: I think that there is plenty of coverage of the story. No doubt the House has aired the issue and will air it again, should we so choose. The Select Committee has done a good job and I look forward to its further work. I know that my hon. Friend, who is a member of the Committee, will do that work extremely well.
Matthew Hancock: I strongly agree with my hon. Friend. It matters because this is not just a case of putting women’s pay up; it is a matter of pay equality, of which pay restraint is an incredibly important part.
Matthew Hancock: It is incredibly important that the BBC recognises the level and strength of feeling in this House among people who have long championed the BBC, people who have long disagreed with the BBC, people who have been employed by the BBC and people who have never been employed by the BBC, that the BBC must get to the bottom of this, root and branch.
Matthew Hancock: I am a very strong believer in equal pay and tackling discrimination, because I believe in the equality of opportunity—wherever someone comes from and whatever their gender, sexual orientation or race. Those are the values that will guide me in this role.