BUSINESS QUESTION – IMPARTIALITY OF THE BBC – 18 January 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: In case I am not fortunate enough to catch your eye during the next statement, Mr Speaker, may I ask for a full debate on the implications of the speech made by the head of BBC News last year, in which he spoke of replacing due impartiality in broadcasting with radical impartiality? That would result in the views of people associated with the Taliban and the British National Party being given much more airtime. That is a serious implication, and it requires a full debate because it sets aside the tradition that public service broadcasting should not be neutral as between the arsonist and the fire brigade.

[The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jack Straw): The business of the House for next week is as follows: I can save the hon. Gentleman the job of intervening on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, because she has just given me the answer, and I am grateful to her for that. The new charter has been published, and that charter is a matter for the BBC Trust, which is responsible to licence fee payers. Of course, the head of BBC News is not by any means the most senior executive of the BBC, and all the executives are responsible to the trust. My right hon. Friend and I, and the whole House, are clear about the need for the BBC to have appropriate and due impartiality, rather than the kind of impartiality that the hon. Gentleman mentioned.]