HC Deb 12 March 1941 vol 369 cc1271-2
25. Mr. Vernon Bartlett

asked the Minister of Information whether, in order to assure that the British Broadcasting Corporation should benefit from the advice of a thoroughly representative Board of Governors, he will consider reinstating the five Governors who were dismissed on the outbreak of the war?

29. Mr. Lindsay

asked the Minister of Information how many full-time Governors are now attached to the British Broadcasting Corporation; and whether, in view of the importance of preserving its representative character even in war-time, he will revert to the practice advised by its charter and re-appoint two or three additional men and women of wide public experience to strengthen the present composition of the governing body?

Mr. Cooper

There are at present two Governors of the B.B.C. The appointment has never been a full-time one. The reasons for reducing the number on the outbreak of war were stated by the late Prime Minister on 22nd September, 1939, and re-affirmed by the Lord Privy Seal on 28th May, 1940. There appears to be no reason for a departure from this policy.

Mr. Bartlett

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that this "rump" Board of Governors does, in fact, wield considerable influence upon the policy of the B.B.C, and could he not see either that the Board of Governors is abolished altogether or so reorganised that it does represent public opinion?

Mr. Cooper

I am quite prepared to consider the possibility of reorganising or increasing the Board of Governors. The reasons given by the Lord Privy Seal in May last were, I think, the same as those given by the late Prime Minister, primarily that in order to expedite the despatch of business it was thought better to have a small rather than a large number on the Board; and the hon. Member will recollect that members of the Board of Governors of their own volition resigned; but, as I have said, I am prepared to consider the question.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Is it not a fact that the reasons given.previously have now ceased to hold good, while there are the strongest reasons of public policy why the Board of Governors should be more fully representative?

Mr. Lindsay

Is it not true that one of the main reasons for reducing the numbers was the difficulty of the Board meeting, but meetings are now being held all over the country, and is it not important to fortify the Board of Governors, in view of the many important decisions which will have to be made in the coming year?

Mr. Cooper

I have already informed my hon. Friend that I am looking into this matter.

Sir I. Albery

Will my right hon. Friend also bear in mind that advisory committees on which this House was represented have also ceased to function?

Colonel Arthur Evans

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that foreign countries find great difficulty in differentiating between the responsibility of the B.B.C. and the responsibility of the Government, and will he reconsider his decision not to take over responsibility himself?

Mr. Cooper

I think the hon. and gallant Member is aware that the Government have recently appointed two official advisers to the B.B.C, one for home and one for foreign affairs, which will, no doubt, increase the control exercised by the Government. The Government's policy has been to maintain the independence of the B.B.C, and I think that decision has general approval.