POINT OF ORDER – FOREIGN OFFICE & BBC MONITORING SERVICE – 15 December 2016
Dr Julian Lewis: On a point of order, Mr Deputy Speaker. As you know, both the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Defence Committee are concerned about the proposed closure of the BBC Monitoring service headquarters at Caversham Park and further reductions in the size of the service. Earlier this afternoon, I received informal information, not yet subsequently confirmed, that the scheme to go ahead with this may be signed between the Foreign Office and the BBC tomorrow. However, in written evidence given to the Defence Committee, the Foreign Office said:
“The new Monitoring Agreement is still in draft, pending signing and any recommendations from the Parliamentary Committees that are holding enquiries into the issue.”
At the beginning of this week, we told both the Foreign Office and the BBC that our report would be coming out at the beginning of next week. Do you agree, Mr Deputy Speaker, that in the light of the undertaking given to our Committee, it would be utterly unacceptable for this agreement to be signed tomorrow, given that the Foreign Office and the BBC know that our report is about to be published? Have you had any indication that a Foreign Office Minister will be coming to the House to make a statement?
[Mr Deputy Speaker (Mr Lindsay Hoyle): I have a couple of points to make. First, I do not think it is correct to circumvent the right hon. Gentleman’s Committee in the way that they have proceeded. On the other matter, I can say that I have absolutely not had any notification from the Foreign Office about a Minister coming here. We both know that it is on the record, and I am sure people are listening very carefully now. It is a very important matter, and if commitments are made, we know that they should be kept. But what I do know, Dr Julian Lewis, is that you will not shy away from ensuring that this is raised, and perhaps an urgent question before the recess could be a route to take.]