HC Deb 29 November 1972 vol 847 cc392-4
2. Mr. William Hamilton

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what salary he intends to offer to the new Chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation when he or she is appointed.

18. Mr. Stratton Mills

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications when he expects to announce the appointment of a new Chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

24. Mr. Ashton

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications when he expects to announce the name of the new Chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation.

26. Mr. Arthur Lewis

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he will now announce the name of the new Chairman of the British Broadcasting Corporation and give an assurance that in accordance with the Government's policy on the incomes freeze the salary paid will not be more than the present incumbent's £6,000 per annum.

Sir J. Eden

The new chairman will be announced as soon as the choice has been made. I confirm that the standstill on incomes will apply in this case.

Mr. Hamilton

Will the Minister give us some idea about the degree of urgency which he attaches to this problem? Is he aware that it is getting extremely near to the point where Lord Hill will be saying "Enough is enough"? Will he give an assurance that he is seriously considering the possibility of making this job a full-time rather than part-time appointment? Is there any reason why it should not be publicly advertised, rather than be subject to the patronage of the right hon. Gentleman or, worse still, of the Prime Minister?

Sir J. Eden

We are not hanging about on this. The terms of the new appointment, when it is made, will be made clear.

Mr. Stratton Mills

Is this not a matter of great urgency, since Lord Hill is retiring on 31st December and hon. Members have been asking questions about the appointment of a successor for the past eight months? Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the importance of having a new mould of chairman—one who will see his role as being, in particular, to look after the public interest?

Sir J. Eden

I agree that there is not a great deal of time left before the present chairman's retirement comes into effect. The nature of the job to be carried out by the new chairman will be evident at the time the appointment is announced.

Mr. Arthur Lewis

I am pleased to hear that the salary is to be kept at the frozen level. Why has it taken so long to fill this appointment? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that I could make 101 wonderful nominations, including that of my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. William Hamilton)? Why go on like this when there are plenty of people around?

Sir J. Eden

I am sorry that I did not have the hon. Gentleman's helpful suggestion a little earlier.

Sir R. Cary

Is it not sometimes customary for a vice-chairman to take over the responsibilities of a retiring chairman, particularly if the vice-chairman is a most competent and agreeable person?

Sir J. Eden

As a general observation I am sure that that is quite right.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is it not the case that in the event that there is some further delay over the appointment of a new chairman there is no cause for concern or alarm? Does the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, as has been suggested, the vice-chairman could take over temporarily? Might this not give the director-general the chance of asserting his authority instead of being overpowered by an active chairman?

Sir J. Eden

I do not think that this affects the position of the Director-General at all. This question is concerned with the new chairman.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Is the Minister aware that my hon. Friends and I feel that it is not good enough to have delayed this appointment for so long? Is he aware that we believe it is neither fair to the person who will be appointed nor to the BBC, since the new chairman will have have only a short time to work with the old chairman, until the end of December? Is the hon. Gentleman further aware that we believe he ought to have made the appointment some time ago, and that we are sure that there are plenty of competent people able to do the job?

Sir J. Eden

I have no doubt about the last point. On the whole I agree about the importance of this question.