HC Deb 22 February 1979 vol 963 cc611-2
16. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he last met the director-general of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority.

Mr. Merlyn Rees

As I said in reply earlier today to a question from my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), I last met the governors and the director-general of the BBC on 8 February. I last met the chairman of the IBA yesterday.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

When the Home Secretary met the two organisations, did he draw to their attention the article in The Daily Telegraph on 22 January by the former Minister of State, Home Office in which he claimed that there was a serious imbalance in the reporting of matters relating to the police and law breakers, with a bias against the police? If he did draw their attention to their article, what reply did they give?

Mr. Rees

I did not draw this to the attention of the director-general and the chairman. There is strong feeling in the police about this matter. I think that we can let it rest that the police have let their views be known. I am quite prepared to leave it like that.

Mr. Madden

Does not the Home Secretary think it extraordinary that the BBC, an organisation that is so touchy about the dangers of interference in its affairs, should have proposals to reduce radically its current affairs coverage, and that these can reach a very advanced stage without the governors even being consulted?

Mr. Rees

I really do not know at what stage the governors were consulted, I know that there is a bit of a rumpus taking place about it now, and there are not many countries in the world where that could happen. I am glad that it is happening.

Mr. Forman

When the Home Secretary last met the director-general of the BBC did he make it clear that many of us in this House are opposed to the financing of the BBC on the basis of a block grant, as suggested by the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner)? Does the Home Secretary realise that it is much more difficult to take this position if the BBC itself is departing from its original Reithian purpose in many programmes and becoming little less than a benefit match for Michael Parkinson?

Mr. Rees

Bearing in mind the constituency that I represent, I never attack Yorkshiremen in public. I leave that part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question alone. The House will have time to discuss a block grant and other methods of finance.