Peter Lilley: My father spent his whole life working for the BBC in an administrative capacity, so I have a natural filial affection for the institution, which is not mirrored in the views of all my Conservative colleagues.
I am delighted that my right hon. Friend has ensured that the BBC will continue to be robustly financed and will retain its integrity in order to build on its past strengths, but I hope that he will also strongly address its weaknesses through his measures to deal with its lack of impartiality and diversity. I hope that he will recall the words of a former Labour-appointed director general, who said that such was the homogeneity of view among those who were running the BBC—I think he described it as the “Guardianista” view—that it had failed to give proper representation to public concerns about Europe and immigration. I would add environmental policies to that.
I speak as one whom the BBC banned from broadcasting after I pointed out that a Met Office forecast 10 years ago had proved to be incorrect. This truth was so inconvenient that the BBC removed the podcast, issued an apology on its website for broadcasting my views and made it clear that I would not be interviewed again. I can look after myself, but will the Secretary of State ensure that, in encouraging diversity, the BBC encourages the inclusion of the views of the greatest oppressed minority in this country, the Conservatives?
John Bercow: The right hon. Gentleman is clearly saddened that his filial affection has not been reciprocated.
John Whittingdale: I am concerned to learn that the extremely persuasive and rational arguments that are always advanced by my right hon. Friend are not being aired on the BBC. That is a matter for the BBC, but I hope that it will reconsider. Under our new public purposes, we have rephrased them to make the expectations clearer. The first public purpose will now involve providing “impartial news and information to help people understand and engage with the world around them”.
This is the first time that impartiality—and, indeed, diversity—have been put up front at the top of the public purposes. Also, under our proposals, it will now be for an independent external regulator, in the form of Ofcom, to determine any complaints on those grounds; up till now, that has been done by the BBC.