HC Deb 11 July 1985 vol 82 cc514-5W
Mr. Walden

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether he is able to enlarge on the observations he made last October in reply to the Foreign Affairs Committee report on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Overseas Development Administration Supply Estimates 1984–85 concerning the transfer of his Department's broadcasting responsibilities to the British Broadcasting Corporation, Cmnd. 9367.

Mr. Renton

After consultation with the BBC it has been decided that a full transfer is not feasible at this stage. In the meantime, we plan to rationalise the present arrangements as far as possible.

We have agreed with the BBC board of governors arrangements whereby the BBC will provide management and technical support for the transmitting and relay station at Orfordness from April 1986. The relay station at Crowborough will be closed down in accordance with existing plans.

There will be no change in our international agreements and the status of the British east Mediterranean relay station (BEMRS) in Cyprus and the British eastern relay station (BERS) in Oman will remain unchanged. The BBC will provide technical staff support where required by the FCO. Locally engaged staff at both these stations will continue to be employed under the same terms and conditions as before.

Existing members of the FCO broadcasting group will be considered for transfer to other posts in the FCO, or to other Departments in the Civil Service or to the BBC if that is their wish. The BBC has confirmed that it will give sympathetic consideration to applications from any members of the broadcasting group who may wish to transfer to the BBC. Any member of the staff who cannot be found alternative employment will be eligible for premature retirement in accordance with the Civil Service model redundancy agreement.

By reducing the present element of duplication in management, planning and engineering, the rationalisation programme is expected, on the basis of discounted cash flow calculations over 25 years at 1985 prices, to produce average annual savings of the order of £300,000 per annum with no reduction either in the current operational capability of external services broadcasting or in the improved audibility programme.

It is considered that there would be advantage in consolidating the capital provisions for the BBC external services, which are currently divided between class II, vote 1 (Overseas Representation) and class II, vote 3 (BBC External Services). Accordingly, Parliament will be invited to vote the money required in 1986–87 on a single Supply Estimate which would be that covering the grant-in-aid of the BBC external services.

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