BUSINESS QUESTION – THE TALIBAN AND THE BBC – 26 October 2006

Dr Julian Lewis: May we have a statement from a Defence Minister about the BBC's decision, at a time when our servicemen are fighting in Afghanistan the most intensive campaign since the Korean war, to broadcast unalloyed Taliban propaganda, and about the likely effect that that will have on the morale of the families of the servicemen and women who are deployed in Afghanistan when they consider that the people being interviewed and given a platform have views that are well known, yet observe no normal, recognised laws or customs of war?

[The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr Jack Straw): The whole House shares the hon. Gentleman's support and admiration for our troops in Afghanistan and other theatres. However, I happened, by chance, to see the report on the BBC to which he referred. I though that the report was good and informative, and it was important to see the nature of those people. The difference is that in Taliban-controlled territory, anyone who steps out of line is killed, but we are a democracy, and we are fighting for democracy in Afghanistan. Although I am happy to pass on the hon. Gentleman's concerns to the director-general of the BBC, I do so in the context that the strengths of the BBC include its independence of journalism and the fact that it is not influenced directly, especially by Ministers and hon. Members.]