HC Deb 31 July 1980 vol 989 cc1720-2
16. Mr. Jessel

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what recent representations he has received about BBC financing.

Mr. Whitelaw

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply which I gave to a question by the hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) on 28 July.

Mr. Jessel

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the recent argument about the financing of BBC orchestras has highlighted the BBC's basic role, which goes beyond merely the question of internal management? Does he accept that the BBC should concentrate its financial resources on its traditional role of enlarging the educational, cultural and spiritual horizons of the nation, and leave much else to commercial broadcasting?

Mr. Whitelaw

It is for the Governors of the BBC, within its charter, and the finances provided by this House through the licence fee, to decide what programmes should be followed. I note what my hon. Friend says, as I am sure will the Governors.

Dr. Summerskill

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that since the last licence fee increase inflation has risen to over 20 per cent., in the absence of an incomes or prices policy? In view of the serious difficulties that the BBC faces, what proposals do the Government have to help?

Mr. Whitelaw

I made the Government's position clear when I proposed the increase in the licence fee. I expect the BBC to live within its financial constraints, like many other organisations. That is what it is seeking to do and what it should do.

Mr. Watson

Has the Home Secretary completed his discussions with the ITCA companies regarding a change in the basis of the IBA levy?

Mr. Whitelaw

No, Sir.

Mr. Home Robertson

Is the Home Secretary aware that the so-called compromise, whereby the Scottish Symphony Orchestra is to be saved but the Scottish Radio Orchestra is to be scrapped, is unacceptable? Does he agree that the Government should ensure that the BBC has adequate funds to maintain a proper standard of service throughout the country?

Mr. Whitelaw

It is not for me to comment on a decision of the governors of the BBC, or those with whom they have had discussions. I believe that this House, through the licence fee, gave the BBC the necessary finances, and the governors must seek to live within that limit.