Session 2010-11
Publications on the internet

To be published as HC 614-v

House of COMMONS



Welsh Affairs Committee


Tuesday 18 January 2011

Mr EdWARD Vaizey MP

Evidence heard in Public Questions 388 - 480



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Oral Evidence

Taken before the Welsh Affairs Committee

on Tuesday 18 January 2011

Members present:

David T.C. Davies (Chair)

Stuart Andrew

Guto Bebb

Alun Cairns

Geraint Davies

Jonathan Edwards

Mrs Siân C. James

Susan Elan Jones

Karen Lumley

Jessica Morden

Owen Smith

Mr Mark Williams


Examination of Witnesses

Witness: Mr Edward Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, gave evidence.

Chair: Good morning, Minister.

Mr Vaizey: Good morning, Mr Chairman.

Q388 Chair: We know each other reasonably well, but perhaps you could state your name for the record and then we will start the proceedings.

M r Vaizey: My name is Ed Vaizey MP. I am the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries.

Chair: Thank you very much, and it is nice to see you this morning. May I start with Siân James?

Q389 Mrs James: Bore da, Minister. When exactly did DCMS decide that "the S4C model is not maintainable in its present form" and that "the future of the channel lies in partnership with the BBC"?

Mr Vaizey: I couldn’t give you an exact date, Mrs James. These were part of ongoing discussions and thoughts about the future of S4C that began shortly after the general election.

As you know, we, in DCMS, were effectively faced with a root and branch review of everything we did in the light of the public spending pressures with which we had to deal. Obviously, S4C was part of that discussion. As you know, we negotiated with the Authority an inyear cut for the first year, and that led on to discussions within the Department about the future of S4C because we had taken a view that an indexlinked increase in its funding was not sustainable in the current financial climate-and, indeed, beyond. We wanted to discuss and debate different models.

In parallel, we were talking to the BBC and discussing the future of the BBC and, as you know, we negotiated a licence fee settlement with the BBC in time for the Spending Review. Those sorts of discussions merged into one, but it would be fair to say that the final decisions that a partnership between S4C and the BBC was the best way forward were taken in the runup to the Spending Review.

Q390 Mrs James: I am very interested to hear whether an impact assessment was undertaken on this proposal.

Mr Vaizey : We didn’t undertake an impact assessment. We didn’t feel that an impact assessment was necessary because, fundamentally, although we were reducing the funding for S4C, we weren’t imposing new regulations or particularly additional bureaucratic pressures.

Q391 Mrs James: S4C sent DCMS a document in early October in response to the Secretary of State’s request for 25% and 40% spending cuts. Their document proposed a root and branch review of its operations and S4C also commissioned a report on its corporate governance in August. Why didn’t the Government wait for the results of those reports on changes before implementing such a fundamental and widesweeping decision on S4C?

Mr Vaizey: Because the BBC option had risen to the top, as it were, and we were negotiating with the BBC on the future of the licence fee, we felt that it was important to combine those discussions. As I say, we wanted to conclude those negotiations in time for the announcement of the Spending Review. So, although we had been discussing a range of scenarios with S4C, we felt that this was the right solution and we wanted to take it forward.

Q392 Mrs James: No other alternatives were considered at this point. The decision had been made to take that option.

Mr Vaizey: The decision had been made to take that option.

Q393 Mrs James: Why did DCMS pressurise the BBC to agree to the new arrangements without any consultation or involvement of S4C in the process?

Mr Vaizey: There was a range of issues that we were discussing with the BBC as part of the licence fee settlement. I wouldn’t personally characterise it as pressurising the BBC, although I know that perhaps some people who have given evidence to you might have put it in that light.

There was a range of options on the table. The licence fee settlement, as you know, has given the BBC a remit for the BBC World Service, which it didn’t have before, as well as S4C. In return for that-although "in return" is probably the wrong phrase to use, but as part of that-they also have a licence fee settlement extending to 2017, giving them security of funding.

It was a package. I certainly have the impression, and had the impression at the time, that the BBC was broadly in agreement with that package, and I certainly feel that the Director General Mark Thompson and Michael Lyons are not the kind of people who can be pressurised into accepting something that they feel is unacceptable for the BBC. They jealously-and "jealously" is said in a complimentary way-guard the BBC’s independence.

Q394 Mrs James: I am having difficulty with this. You talked about the BBC being broadly in agreement, but S4C knew nothing about this until it was announced. It learnt of its partnership, basically, after the decision had been announced. Surely this is not an acceptable way to treat any organisation.

Mr Vaizey: What we have done with the licence fee settlement and for S4C is to provide S4C with certainty over its future. Its funding is secure, and on any measure for any broadcaster it is a generous settlement. There are massive opportunities for S4C to work in partnership with the BBC. When the Director General gave evidence to this Committee, he highlighted some of the opportunities that now exist in terms of training, working with a major global media organisation and accessing, for example, the expertise of BBC Worldwide in selling programmes abroad. S4C should be regarding its future partnership with the BBC as a significant opportunity to scale up.

Q395 Mrs James: That sounds very grand and very fine and is wonderful from your perspective, but it leaves a lot of people in Wales puzzled about that lack of consultation and respect. I, for one, am very sad to see that.

Mr Vaizey: I am sorry to hear that, Mrs James, and I absolutely understand your point of view. Coming after the election and given the situation with which we were faced, we wanted to take fairly quick and rapid discussions. I completely accept that, from some people’s perspective, that might not have been the ideal way of doing things, but, as I say, the outcome is going to provide a very bright future for S4C.

Q396 Chair: Thanks for that initial opening sally, but perhaps I could appeal to everyone now for slightly shorter questions and answers.

Mr Vaizey: I am sorry if I am going on too long, Mr Chairman.

Chair: Not at all. We appreciate a comprehensive beginning, but we wouldn’t want to keep you here for hours and hours, Minister. I want to get through the next 20 questions.

Mr Vaizey: I’ve got all the time in the world, as they say.

Q397 Jonathan Edwards: In response to a freedom of information request, the Department said that it had not had any legal advice in relation to your proposals. Considering that they are very radical proposals, is it unusual for there not to be any legal advice within the Department and does it not indicate that your proposals were rushed through?

Mr Vaizey: Personally, it didn’t occur to me that we did need legal advice. It seemed to me a fairly straightforward proposal, which is simply to switch the funding arrangements from a direct grant from the Department to, broadly speaking, a licencefee funding via the BBC. We will work out in detail in our discussions with S4C and the BBC the exact arrangements for the ongoing discussion and we will take legal advice on the best way to implement those recommendations.

Q398 Owen Smith: I would like to follow up on that point. You have said a number of things this morning already, Minister, that I find quite extraordinary. First of all you say it was a pretty simple arrangement with which you were dealing. Earlier on you said you didn’t think there was any need for any sort of impact assessment.

Don’t you feel that this indicates a lack of understanding of the nature of S4C, in terms of what it is as a broadcaster within Wales? More importantly, it’s a body established by statute that employs very many people. It is an employer and a body on which many aspects of the Welsh broadcasting economy are built and it is established in statute. Therefore, don’t you feel that you should have conducted an impact assessment and looked at legal advice? Could you tell us once again why it was that you felt that neither of those things was necessary?

Mr Vaizey: Mr Smith, I hear what you say. I don’t particularly think that what I am saying is extraordinary. We are very conscious of S4C’s place in Wales and in Welsh culture, if I can put it that way. It was established by a Conservative Government. I have had very good and fruitful discussions, not only with members of this Committee but also with former Welsh Secretaries of State now in another place-members of both parties-and I absolutely understand the importance, the impact, and the way in which S4C is cherished in Wales.

As I say, and as I have said before when we have debated this in Parliament, what we have done is to provide S4C with a fantastic future and a fantastic opportunity. We have secured its ongoing funding, and, I think, very generous funding going forward. It is going to partner with a major global media company which is at the heart of British broadcasting culture. It is going to be able to access the whole range of different opportunities that partnering with the BBC give it.

In some of the evidence that this Committee has heard, concerns have been expressed at the direction that S4C was going in the past. I don’t think an impact assessment is needed. It doesn’t place undue burdens on S4C as it exists. I know that I am going on and I can tell the Chairman wants me to shut up, but I will simply say very quickly that the evidence that Mark Thompson gave to this Committee and to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee showed how passionate the BBC is to secure S4C’s operational, cultural and creative independence.

Q399 Owen Smith: You say you have secured their future. What, in truth, the Government have done, of course, is to cut 25% of their funding and provide them with two further years of guaranteed funding, and then we will see what it gets from the BBC. Their funding will be dependent on the largesse of the BBC in Wales.

But I’ll go back to another question that was put to you earlier and that you skated round. Do you not feel, given that you have negotiated, as you put it, with the S4C Authority the initial year cut, that it would have been appropriate, given the magnitude of the changes to its governance structure that you were going to impose, that you should have negotiated or at least discussed those changes with the Authority before you imposed them?

Mr Vaizey: The Authority is now talking with the BBC and with us about-

Owen Smith: After the fact.

Mr Vaizey: -future ongoing arrangements, so they are very much a partner in this process. We are going to be part of those discussions and I am very confident that there will be a very positive outcome from those discussions.

Q400 Owen Smith: Have you ever watched S4C?

Mr Vaizey: I haven’t watched S4C. I have watched Fireman Sam-a lot.

Q401 Chair: Thank you very much, Minister. By the way, what was the attitude of S4C in your dealings with them? Did you find members of S4C constructive in your dealings with them and at your meetings?

Mr Vaizey: I think that we have a very good relationship with S4C at the moment.

Q402 Chair: And you found that at previous meetings that you had with S4C? You didn’t find that anyone was in any way unconstructive?

Mr Vaizey: I am very easy-going, Mr Chairman.

Mrs James: Diplomatic.

Chair: Very well. Thank you very much.

Q403 Karen Lumley: Minister, do you accept that the DCMS has been disinterested in S4C over many years and that that has led to the chaos that is surrounding them now?

Mr Vaizey: I have only been in the DCMS since May 2010 so I couldn’t comment on how the DCMS was before I got there in terms of its relationship with S4C. I certainly have enjoyed building a relationship with S4C since the election. I think, as a matter of principle-public policy, if you like-that S4C will have a much more constructive relationship with the BBC going forward in terms of building itself up as a formidable broadcaster and media enabler in Wales than perhaps it had with the Department. To put it bluntly, and it is part of the reason behind our thinking, I don’t think a Government Department is necessarily the right home for a broadcaster of S4C’s stature.

Q404 Karen Lumley: Bearing in mind that we, as a Government, fund S4C at the moment, did you specifically address their shortcomings with them?

Mr Vaizey: We didn’t. The nature of the way we undertook a review of all the bodies with whom we have a relationship meant that, because we came to the conclusion that S4C would have a brighter future with the BBC, we felt that it was important to put in place that relationship. My officials in DCMS were enabling those negotiations between the BBC and S4C in order to tie down the arrangements. Then, as I say, if there are any shortcomings in S4C-and I’m not saying specifically that there are-those will be ironed out by its relationship with the BBC going forward.

Q405 Karen Lumley: How much responsibility do you take for their problems?

Mr Vaizey: I am not one to shirk my responsibilities, but I personally feel that if there are problems in S4C they are likely to have emerged over a number of years. As I say, I have only been in the Department since May.

Q406 Chair: Do you think that the combined board was a good idea?

Mr Vaizey: As I understand it, what happened was that S4C wanted to mimic the arrangements that were put in place by the last Administration in terms of separation of the BBC Trust and the BBC, which emerged from the last Administration’s relationship with the BBC, which was sometimes fraught. They tried that, but they realised that the Authority didn’t necessarily have the resources and clout that the BBC Trust has. So they reverted to an arrangement that was more akin to the old arrangements with the BBC, where the governors were part of the main BBC.

I don’t have any particularly strong views either way, but I think that the new arrangements going forward, which will combine oversight of S4C by the BBC Trust to ensure the value for money for the licence fee payer, and then a separate board to oversee the workings of the Authority, will probably be an effective oversight mechanism.

Q407 Susan Elan Jones: I am sure that my colleagues and I are delighted to hear that you enjoy Fireman Sam, but my question won’t be about that this morning.

In your written evidence, the DCMS made the point that there is no statutory provision for Government monitoring of S4C. However, section 339 of the Communications Act 2003 takes a rather different view-in fact, the opposite one. What it says is that "The Secretary of State may carry out a review of the performance by the Welsh Authority of their duty to secure that each of the following public service remits-(a) that for S4C; (b) that for S4C Digital….is fulfilled in relation to the services to which it applies." That is a bit of a difference, isn’t it, Minister?

Mr Vaizey: I think it is a difference of interpretation, Ms Elan Jones. Going back to Mrs Lumley’s question about the oversight by DCMS of S4C and whether or not there had been any failings on the part of the Department to oversee S4C, the impression I get is that S4C has complete operational independence from the Department. There is no provision for the Department to monitor the Authority or the channel on a daytoday basis.

The point of the note that my Department has put in front of you is to make it clear that the Department didn’t have oversight of S4C on a daytoday, regular basis. Of course, the Communications Act gives the Secretary of State a discretion-it is not a mandatory power-to carry out a review of the Authority and whether or not it is working in terms of overseeing S4C’s public service remit. But it doesn’t give the Secretary of State power to run S4C, if I can put it in colloquial terms. If there has been a misunderstanding in terms of the point we were trying to get across in the memorandum, I apologise.

Chair: Susan Elan Jones, do you want to come back on that?

Q408 Susan Elan Jones: Minister, I find your answer quite extraordinary because no one here would suggest that the Government Minister is running the daytoday management of S4C. For instance, DCMS previously commissioned a review in 2004. If that wasn’t a review, what was it?

Mr Vaizey: I am sorry if I am giving such extraordinary answers; I have never been in this position before. My understanding is that that was an independent review commissioned with the Authority and a university. It was not a review under the Communications Act because that Act only allows a formal review by the Secretary of State after five years of the passing of the Act, and I think that review took place in 2004. Again, it is a good example of how effectively respect was shown to S4C’s independence and the review was conducted "with" S4C as opposed to "to" S4C. I think I have given another extraordinary answer, Mr Chairman, judging by Ms Elan Jones’s reaction.

Chair: You are not the first one to give extraordinary answers in this inquiry, I can assure you.

Q409 Susan Elan Jones: So you were showing respect by not-

Mr Vaizey: The previous Administration was-Tessa Jowell.

Q410 Susan Elan Jones: But the previous Administration did carry out a review in 2004. You say you were showing respect by not carrying out a review, but no respect appears to have been shown by not even consulting with the statutory body, the Welsh Language Board. Don’t you find it extraordinary that your Administration is proposing cuts of 25% and yet there is not a word to a statutory body, the Welsh Language Board? I would have thought that that board might have a little more knowledge of this than just the plot of Fireman Sam. Can’t you explain to us why you didn’t consult that body?

Mr Vaizey: I don’t think there is a statutory requirement to consult the Welsh Language Board on the funding of S4C.

Q411 Susan Elan Jones: It’s respect, isn’t it?

Mr Vaizey: As I say, you either agree with us or you don’t-and I suspect, Ms Elan Jones, that you don’t-that we have to make public expenditure savings. In terms of showing respect, S4C showed the Department great respect by agreeing to an inyear cut, being open in their dealings with us and understanding the public pressures we are under.

As a Minister for Culture, I have had to make cuts to many of our national museums and performing arts organisations that are not cuts I particularly want to make, but there is a much wider agenda, which is to get the public finances in order. The fact that all bodies involved have shown great respect in working with the Department to achieve that for the benefit of the public finances is something we should applaud.

Q412 Alun Cairns : Minister, your submission states that "viewing figures for S4C are disappointingly low" and that value for money wasn’t delivered. Can you maybe expand a little bit on what you mean by that?

Mr Vaizey: I know that this Committee has had extensive discussions about how viewing figures are reached. I’ll stand to be corrected on this, Mr Cairns, but I think that there is general understanding that the BARB figures are the gold standard, as the Director General described them when he gave evidence to your Committee.

I know that the BARB figures are tailored to the fact that S4C is a Welsh language broadcaster, but, if you look at the weekly reach figures that we have put out in terms of a response to John Mann in Hansard, they fall from about 1.4 million in the year 2000 down to just over 500,000 in 2009. When the Authority and S4C gave evidence to you, they talked about an average viewing figure of about 30,000 in off-peak programming.

So there is concern that viewing figures have fallen and that is why I personally am very excited about the partnership between the BBC and S4C because there will be huge opportunities in terms of marketing and sharing of resources to promote S4C.

Q413 Alun Cairns : What do you consider to be a realistic target audience for S4C?

Mr Vaizey: I don’t think it would be for me to presume to set that. I know that in evidence you have received people have talked about 500,000 being a fantastic number for S4C to reach, a kind of peak level that they might reach, but there is concern that viewing figures appear to have dropped. I understand that we live in a digital age and Wales was the first nation to switch over to digital television, which we should all applaud in terms of the digital switchover programme put in place by the last Government, which has worked so effectively well, but most of us would take a commonsense view that we would like to see S4C’s audience figures increase significantly.

Q414 Jessica Morden: The DCMS submission says that the Government considers that the benefits to the Welsh language and culture expected from this level of funding are not being achieved. Can you explain what you mean by that?

Mr Vaizey: As Mr Smith pointed out, S4C is a cherished organisation and is seen by many in Wales, and indeed Welsh people living outside Wales, as a flagship organisation that promotes and sustains the Welsh language. The Department is concerned that with such low viewing figures it is not making the impact on the Welsh language and Welsh culture that perhaps it could have.

Q415 Jessica Morden: How have you measured that?

Mr Vaizey: One simply has to take a commonsense view that you would want to see an organisation like S4C, which has significant and generous funding, make a significant impact on Welsh language and Welsh broadcasting.

Q416 Jessica Morden: For instance, with the preschool programmes, Cyw, none of the preschoolers are measured in the viewing figures at all and yet one of the huge benefits of S4C, I would say, is the development of the language particularly amongst the young. It is a huge success but that’s not measured anywhere. How can you say that that is not valued?

Mr Vaizey: That is a very valid point, Ms Morden.

Q417 Jessica Morden: Going forward, how would you expect to measure its cultural benefits under the new arrangements you are setting up?

Mr Vaizey: That is another very valuable point, which I will make sure is raised in the negotiations between the BBC and S4C.

Q418 Jessica Morden: Given the reality of a 25% cut in funding, and obviously S4C will have to reduce its programming, what would you see it have to cut or keep?

Mr Vaizey: Those wouldn’t be decisions for me. It is very important to emphasise that we expect S4C to maintain operational and creative independence in terms of its scheduling and the programmes it commissions. So it will be a decision for S4C.

I personally don’t think that the cut will have a significant impact. S4C has a huge amount of reserves. [Interruption.] I see that, according to Ms Elan Jones, I have given another extraordinary answer. It has £27 million in reserves. It already receives extensive free programming from the BBC and I think there are opportunities to preserve the creative originality for which S4C is renowned, despite the fact that the funding regime has been constrained.

Q419 Jessica Morden: Do you think, as Minister responsible, that you should have watched it at some stage?

Mr Vaizey: I have appeared on S4C, so I think I have gone beyond merely watching the channel.

Q420 Jessica Morden: What did you appear on?

Mr Vaizey: I think I am now very embedded in the channel.

Chair: Thank you very much for that. Are there any further questions?

Mrs James: Did you speak Welsh?

Chair: I failed to spot Jonathan Edwards earlier on.

Q421 Jonathan Edwards: I would like to come back on the figures for the realistic audience, and I am not sure whether you got your figures mixed up when you said that a realistic audience would be 500,000. There are only 500,000 Welsh speakers, so that would be 100% saturation.

Mr Vaizey: No. What I was saying was that in the evidence I had read from the Select Committee-and I apologise if I have misinterpreted it-I thought I had read a passage where it would be unprecedented but extraordinary if they reached 500,000 viewers. That was given as a kind of ceiling.

Q422 Jonathan Edwards: It would be 100%.

Mr Vaizey: A gold medal.

Q423 Chair: Although we’d look forward to it perhaps under the new partnership.

Mr Vaizey: But of course in a digital age people can watch S4C all over the world, and again what is very exciting is that the BBC has already announced that it is going into partnership with S4C in terms of HD programming and also S4C potentially appearing on the iPlayer as well.

Q424 Mr Williams: Turning to the Public Bodies Bill, I might not like it but I can understand that you use that as a mechanism for breaking the automatic link between funding and the retail prices index. But why, technically, does that Bill also give Ministers the power to abolish S4C? There is a huge amount of sensitivity about this among certain groups in Wales that that power resides there?

Mr Vaizey: Thank you, Mr Williams, for asking that question. I would like to use this opportunity of appearing in front of this Committee to reassure you and anyone who is watching this that there are absolutely no plans to abolish S4C. As far as I understand it, there is a technical reason why S4C appears in Schedule 7. Any organisation that appears in any of the other schedules has to be listed in Schedule 7, and S4C is listed in Schedules 3 and 4, which allow a modification of the constitutional arrangements and the funding arrangements of S4C. That is why it is listed in Schedule 7. That is my understanding and if I have inadvertently got it wrong I will write to the Committee to clarify that. But it is not in Schedule 7 because there is a secret plan to abolish S4C. That is absolutely not the case.

Q425 Mr Williams: The Culture, Media and Sport Committee noted the inclusion of Channel 4 in the same schedule and, by implication, thought there was good reason to remove it. I think there are going to be amendments-heaven knows when they are going to deal with them-in the other place at some point. If it is a technical matter, would it not be simpler just to remove S4C from that to reassure the anxiety there is in Wales? Wouldn’t it just make sense to remove it from that altogether?

Mr Vaizey: I don’t think we can remove it from Schedule 7, given that it appears in Schedules 3 and 4. The reason why Channel 4 appears in Schedule 7-and I hope I am not, again, inadvertently going to get this wrong-is to provide the flexibility, in the future, to potentially change arrangements for Channel 4, although there are, I would like to stress, no plans to do so. The Public Bodies Bill, as I understand it, is designed to give the Government flexibility in terms of changing its arrangements with arm’s-length bodies, if I can use that term, and that is why those organisations appear in the Bill.

Q426 Mr Williams: Do the Communications and Broadcasting Acts also need amending in light of their provisions on S4C? If changes are needed, what are they likely to be and when and how are the Government likely to make them?

Mr Vaizey: An honest answer to that question, Mr Williams, is that I don’t know. We will look at the arrangements between the BBC and S4C once they have been established, which is something we hope to do by the spring, and then we will look very carefully at whether there need to be any amendments to any existing Acts.

Q427 Alun Cairns : Mr Vaizey, the licence fee settlement gives the BBC two years’ guaranteed funding more than S4C. Why is that? Would it not have been sensible to have tied them both together?

Mr Vaizey: The arrangements with S4C are effectively to take it to the end of the Spending Review period. Our relationship with S4C goes to the end of the Spending Review period, and it is natural that you would then want to reach a settlement in terms of the Department’s overall budget that would take you to the end of the Spending Review period. Jeremy Hunt said in his letter to the BBC Trust that we would want to see a review carried out of S4C towards the end of the Spending Review period with a view to taking forward future arrangements and funding for the channel.

There is certainly, again, no hidden agenda for the BBC to walk away from its commitment to fund S4C beyond 2015; it will continue to be funded beyond 2015. But, given that we were working to a Spending Review period, we could only put in place a fixed spending settlement for S4C up to that period. The licence review is different; it works to a different time scale. If you are going to tie up a licence fee review with the BBC, you have to go to the end of the licence fee period, which is 2017.

Q428 Alun Cairns : Minister, I accept the logical difference between the two, but do you not accept that this creates uncertainty for the longer-term future of S4C and would you not recognise that there needs to be an early announcement on a funding formula or the basis of an agreement for the longer-term future?

Mr Vaizey: Again, Mr Cairns, I shall use the opportunity in this Committee to say that, as far as I am concerned, S4C will continue to be funded through the licence fee by the BBC beyond 2015.

Q429 Alun Cairns : My final question relates to the current practices of S4C. We have an acting chairman and an acting chief executive, and I understand from within S4C that they are taking some significant decisions that will impact on the longer-term commitments of agreements and negotiations within S4C. Bearing in mind that you have two senior people in a temporary capacity, do you think that they are in the right place to do that and would you urge them to stop, bearing in mind that they have negotiations with the BBC coming forward?

Mr Vaizey: That would be a matter for the acting chairman and acting chief executive. Again, it is very important to get the point across that, whatever final arrangements are put in place between the BBC and S4C, there will be operational and creative independence for S4C. The channel is perfectly entitled to make decisions within the funding it receives about how it goes forward.

It is a matter for the acting chairman and acting chief executive whether they feel it is appropriate for them to be making decisions now in the light of the fact that there is likely to be a new chairman in March and, shortly after that, a new chief executive. That is something they may wish to reflect on, but I think it is also important to get across the point that S4C is an independent organisation and will continue to be an independent organisation, funded by the BBC and in partnership with the BBC, and therefore will be entitled to make decisions without being second-guessed by the BBC.

Q430 Alun Cairns: Within the spirit of the relationship between S4C and DCMS and S4C and the BBC, do you not think that it is invidious for significant internal structural decisions to take place, bearing in mind that the fantastic new opportunities of that relationship with the BBC could well bring significant savings internally to benefit the programmes in the independent sector and the viewers that it is seeking to serve?

Mr Vaizey: Mr Cairns, I suspect that the acting chairman and acting chief executive will have heard your words and they will perhaps reflect on whether or not it is appropriate to take longterm decisions, given that a new chairman and chief executive will be appointed in March and that the new arrangements will be in place in the spring.

The point I want to get across, because it is a very important point for me to get across as the Minister, is that S4C will remain operationally and creatively independent, and therefore the executive, as it were, is entitled to make decisions.

Q431 Guto Bebb: Minister, I would like to follow up on some of the questions that Alun Cairns has just been asking. I accept entirely the point you make in relation to the fact that the issue of S4C being in Schedule 7 is a technicality, and I also accept entirely your assurances that S4C will be funded post 2015.

But I have to put to you the situation of the independent television production companies in Wales. The commitment in the agreement for the funding to be spent with the independent sector is most welcome, and certainly the opportunity for economic development across Wales as a result is appreciated clearly. But, if you were developing a business plan as one of those businesses, I think there would be a degree of nervousness that there was no written confirmation of the financial security of S4C post 2015. Can we press you on the issue of whether there can be some written arrangement or written confirmation of that position between the Department and the BBC?

Mr Vaizey: I am happy to reflect on that, Mr Bebb. Again, the approach that we are taking and I am taking as a Minister, is that this is a partnership between the BBC and S4C and I don’t want to dictate the details of their arrangements to them-although, as I say, we are brokering those discussions-or how they engage with their stakeholders. But the BBC Trust, and indeed the BBC and S4C, will have heard what you have had to say and I think that they would want to take steps to reassure the independent production community in Wales that S4C will continue to be funded by the BBC and will continue to have a very bright future in Wales and beyond.

Q432 Owen Smith: Can I push you a bit further on that because you have obviously offered a guarantee that funding for S4C will continue until the end of the Comprehensive Spending Review period but no guarantees thereafter that they will be at the same levels of funding?

Guto raised an issue of there being a potential written guarantee, but will you commit that your Department will continue to monitor the quantum of funding being received by S4C under the new arrangements and look at how that meshes with the volume of money that is being provided by the BBC in Wales for English language programmes about Wales too, because there are concerns about the impact on both areas?

Mr Vaizey: The best way I can answer that question, Mr Smith, is to say that in a few years’ time we will be involved in negotiations with the BBC about its Charter. I can confidently say, I would imagine, that the arrangements that the BBC has with S4C will form part of those discussions and negotiations. It is certainly my perspective and my strong view that S4C must continue. It must remain independent and well funded. In regard to the BBC and the negotiation in terms of the licence fee settlement, that was very much our point of view, and I intend that to continue.

Q433 Geraint Davies: Mr Vaizey, do you think that your unilateral announcement of an arranged marriage between the BBC and S4C without the bride’s consent bodes for a happy marriage?

Mr Vaizey: Yes.

Q434 Geraint Davies: When asked, "Have you seen S4C?", you said, "No, but I have seen Fireman Sam". Do you think that sort of flippant response bodes well for you as a broker of discussions between S4C and the BBC, which will inevitably be fraught given that you have this arranged marriage?

Mr Vaizey: The only thing that has undermined our negotiations has been the slightly partisan and political view taken by certain Members of Parliament and other people involved in Welsh politics. Most people who don’t want to seek political advantage from what has happened take a step back and realise that S4C has a huge future with the BBC.

The BBC, of course, has been broadcasting Welsh language programmes for far longer than S4C has been in existence and I think they are excited and thrilled at the prospect. I also think that the evidence this Select Committee has heard shows it was quite clear that there were concerns about S4C. We should applaud the fact that the coalition has taken steps to secure S4C’s future and we should condemn those who seek to gain political advantage from it.

Q435 Geraint Davies: Would you accept, though, without making it political-this is a serious business-that, in relative size, S4C is of course a minnow versus a whale, as in the case of the BBC? On the issue specifically of funding independence, do you accept that a manager within that organisation will have his or her eyes towards a BBC career and therefore there will be a tendency not to be robust in defending the operational and editorial independence of S4C if the funding isn’t independent but is part of the broader BBC?

Mr Vaizey: I will make a number of points there. Going back to my alleged flippant comments, first of all, I think Fireman Sam is a fantastic programme.

Q436 Geraint Davies: It is not in Welsh.

Mr Vaizey: It was created by an independent production company in Wales and it has been sold around the world.

Q437 Geraint Davies: It’s in English, though.

Mr Vaizey: I don’t speak Welsh. That’s a fact of life and I apologise for it. But it is a fact of life that I do not speak Welsh. I don’t speak French either.

Q438 Geraint Davies: You could still watch S4C, though, couldn’t you?

Mr Vaizey: But I also think, unwittingly, Mr Davies, you have made my point for me, because if it irks you that an English Minister is, in your word, "flippant" about S4C and clearly doesn’t understand S4C, then why on earth is it your agenda to have me in charge of S4C? I find that completely bizarre. Surely it is much better for S4C to have a relationship with a major global broadcaster.

The second point I would like to pick up, which is a compliment to you, Mr Davies, other members of this Committee, other Welsh MPs and Members of the Assembly, is that, if you think S4C is a minnow compared with the BBC, I would take a look around you at the kind of people who support S4C and bat for S4C. If S4C gets into trouble with the BBC, I think S4C will be able to call on a huge amount of support in Wales and beyond to fight its corner.

Q439 Geraint Davies: In the light of what you just said, do you think that the Welsh Assembly Government should have some scrutiny role, because, after all, some of them speak Welsh? I am not talking about the operational or funding role here, but just a scrutiny role on behalf of viewers from the local populations on S4C.

Mr Vaizey: I think the Welsh Assembly Government should take an interest in what S4C is doing and, if there are concerns, as have been expressed in front of this Committee, about the direction of S4C, then I would urge you and your colleagues to work with your Welsh Assembly Government colleagues and say to them that you think that they should take a closer interest in what S4C is up to.

Q440 Geraint Davies: But are you happy to embrace them in discussions about S4C from a scrutiny point of view?

Mr Vaizey: We certainly are, and I have spoken to the Deputy First Minister on a number of occasions about S4C.

Chair: Thank you very much. Are there any further questions, Mr Davies? Good. We don’t want any insults to Fireman Sam, which I watch with my children regularly; thank you.

Q441 Jonathan Edwards: We have already touched on the operational and editorial independence of the channel, but what exactly does that mean to you?

Mr Vaizey: It means that, basically, the funding will come via the licence fee. The BBC Trust will have an overview in the sense of guarding the interests of the licence fee payer in terms of value for money, and it will have a minority presence on the board of S4C, not a majority presence. Therefore, S4C will be entitled to follow its own editorial, operational and creative decisions in terms of who it hires, who it fires, what programmes it commissions, how it schedules them and so on and so forth.

Q442 Jonathan Edwards: From what I understand from what the BBC said last week, they said it would be challenging to marry the principle that the BBC controls how the licence fee is spent-obviously they are the guardian of the licence fee-and genuine independence for S4C. How do you marry those conflicting comments?

Mr Vaizey: I don’t know whether the word "challenge" was some kind of euphemism for "It will be a complicated discussion", but I don’t think one should shy away from that. As I say, the BBC Trust has to ensure that licence fee payers’ money is spent sensibly-that is, not wasted and not wasted on frivolity-so it will have an overview of how that money is spent, but I don’t see why that should compromise the creative independence of S4C.

Q443 Jonathan Edwards: The crux of all this, of course, is the funding. We know that the BBC are consulting internally about 20% efficiency gains up to 2017. Therefore, wouldn’t it be a more meaningful independence for S4C if funding was earmarked directly from the licence fee to the S4C Authority and not via the BBC?

Mr Vaizey: I think that would breach a fundamental principle and would, in effect, be top-slicing. I agree with the chairman of the BBC Trust in that I don’t support top-slicing.

Q444 Alun Cairns : Minister, can I come back to the operational and editorial independence? I put this question to the Director General of the BBC last week and I would like your response to it. At the moment, the Secretary of State doesn’t have the right to veto the broadcast of a programme, although he has the right to maybe publicly censure S4C should they broadcast a programme against his or her will. I asked whether the BBC should have that right to veto the broadcast of a programme or whether S4C should, in their new form, be given the absolute right to broadcast it if they think it is the right thing to do. Mark Thompson had not thought about it very much, but his instinct was that S4C should be able to broadcast it even if that was against the wishes of the BBC. Do you stand and support that?

Mr Vaizey: Yes.

Chair: Thank you very much for that answer. We appreciate those ones.

Q445 Geraint Davies: Just a very quick one about the economies of scale of S4C and the BBC. Would you accept that programmes produced in Welsh don’t have a very large audience outside Wales because, like you, many people outside Wales can’t speak Welsh and, therefore, when the accountants are comparing their commercial leverage-one programme versus another-this will inadvertently discriminate against Welsh productions and this is a fear about not having independent funding for S4C?

Mr Vaizey: No.

Q446 Geraint Davies: You don’t accept that. You think that people abroad will buy Welsh programmes that they will view and they can’t understand them, even though you don’t?

Mr Vaizey: That wasn’t your question. Your question was that because Welsh programming is more expensive, that would put S4C at a disadvantage.

Q447 Geraint Davies: There isn’t a market for Welsh programmes outside Wales.

Mr Vaizey: There’s a market for formats created by independent Welsh production companies and I think it’s the job of this Committee and other Welsh colleagues to champion the Welsh independent television sector and point out that their formats could be sold around the world.

Q448 Geraint Davies: In English.

Mr Vaizey: Strictly Come Dancing isn’t broadcast in English in the 70 or 80 jurisdictions in which the BBC has successfully sold the format.

Q449 Chair: Thank you very much. If I may, I will allow myself another one and hopefully not steal somebody else’s questions, as I did before. If we devolve broadcasting to Wales, which is one suggestion, do you see any way of doing that whilst maintaining money which has come from English licence fee payers towards Welsh broadcasting? Or would you accept my personal view that, if we did devolve broadcasting to Wales, S4C and the other Welsh language and Welsh outlets would have to fund themselves from the licence fees paid for in Wales, which would lead to a cut in funding?

Mr Vaizey: It is not a question I have turned to. [Interruption.] I don’t quite know what your adviser whispered to you there, Mr Davies, but it obviously had an effect on you. Broadcasting is not a devolved matter and it is not the intention of this Government to devolve broadcasting to the nations; so it is not a discussion I have had. I do think it is an important point of principle that broadcasting is a national matter and that all British licence fee payers and taxpayers contribute not just to the national broadcasters but to those in the nations and regions as well.

Q450 Chair: Thank you very much indeed for that, Minister. I shall apologise to Mr Bebb afterwards.

Mr Vaizey: It was meant to be Mr Bebb’s question, was it, Mr Davies?

Karen Lumley: He’s taken all of them.

Q451 Guto Bebb: You have stated again that you don’t believe that S4C or broadcasting should be devolved. Would your view be different if the National Assembly were willing to part-fund S4C? Secondly, have there been any discussions between the Department and the Assembly in relation to potentially cofunding the channel?

Mr Vaizey: There haven’t been discussions about cofunding. I know that the Scottish Government contributes to BBC Alba and I have asked my officials whether there would be anything in principle that would stop the Welsh Assembly Government from making a contribution to S4C. I gather there wouldn’t be any problem with them giving a grant to S4C, if that is what they saw fit to do, but, as I say, constitutionally and legally, broadcasting should remain a national responsibility.

Q452 Guto Bebb: On that point, and these specific points that broadcasting should be a national responsibility, there are some individuals who claim that taking part of the licence fee to provide specific funding for Welsh language programmes is unfair on nonWelsh-speaking licence fee payers in England, Scotland and so forth. As a Department, how would you respond to that criticism?

Mr Vaizey: There are all sorts of things that the taxpayer funds that don’t necessarily benefit every taxpayer in the country, and we do it because we are the United Kingdom. We recognise that we all have a responsibility to each other and we are therefore happy-and I am happy as an English nonWelsh-speaking licence fee payer-that some of our licence fee will go to S4C. In fact, I am delighted.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed. Thank you for those comprehensive followups to that initial question.

Q453 Stuart Andrew: I am another victim of the Chairman’s questionstealing. In these difficult financial times, Minister, there is rightly a need for us to ensure value for money across the board. During this inquiry, it did come to light that S4C has been using some of its public funding to provide private healthcare for its staff. Were you in your Department aware of this and do you think that that is an appropriate use of public funds?

Mr Vaizey: I was not personally aware of that, and obviously it is for the Authority and the channel to decide the appropriate terms and conditions for its staff.

Q454 Chair: Minister, if I may press you, is it standard practice for publicly funded broadcasting companies to hand out BUPA to its employees using taxpayers’ money?

Mr Vaizey: I am not aware whether it is or is not. I can certainly find out for the benefit of this Committee whether it is standard practice, or I could ask the BBC and Channel 4 whether or not they provide private healthcare for their employees.

Geraint Davies: They have already confirmed that they do, Chair. We know it is standard practice.

Q455 Chair: As the Minister of a Government committed to reducing waste, do you think that it is appropriate that our money is being used to give senior management in public organisations BUPA healthcare?

Mrs James: The BBC does it.

Geraint Davies: The BBC does it, Chair, and you know that.

Chair: I am asking the Minister.

Mr Vaizey: This is quite a raucous Committee. This is the third Select Committee that I have appeared in front of.

Chair: What do you think, Minister, if I may ask you that? Do you think they should?

Mr Vaizey: If I can dodge the question, what I would say is that I think it is an important point of principle that Ministers respect the independence of the broadcasters, because obviously it is a cherished principle that even publicly funded broadcasters remain independent of politics and politicians.

One of the things we have tried to do, and what we want to do and we are working with the BBC Trust to do, is to make the BBC more transparent because licence fee payers are entitled to know how the organisation they fund spends its money. Also, it is important to understand in relation to commercial competitors, such as The Guardian, which often complains to me about the dominance of the BBC, that they know what they are up against in terms of how the BBC is spending its money in financing the website, which causes The Guardian so much difficulty. This Committee, which has very great influence in this matter, might want to impress on S4C the need for complete transparency in terms of how it spends the money that comes to it currently from the Department and will come to it from the licence fee.

Q456 Jessica Morden: DCMS have put out the advert for the new Chair. What qualities are you looking for in the new Chair?

Mr Vaizey: We are looking for the new Chair to be a very strong leader for the channel, to go out and engage with stakeholders and highlight the success and importance of the channel, to bring the channel together after what has been a very difficult time for it in terms of its chief executive leaving and some of the criticism that it has faced, and also to manage a strong relationship with the BBC.

Q457 Jessica Morden: Who is going to be on the interview panel? How will it be made up?

Mr Vaizey: We are going to have a senior DCMS official, an official from the Welsh Assembly Government, an independent assessor who comes from a panel of independent assessors, and a senior former broadcaster based in Wales.

Chair: Thank you very much indeed. I am not sure whether Guto Bebb wants to come back, but while he thinks about that, Owen Smith would like to come in and then Jonathan Edwards.

Q458 Owen Smith: Minister, you said a minute ago that you are a very relaxed person, and I think you have demonstrated that today with the smooth way you have been ducking and weaving the questions.

Mr Vaizey: You are my role model, Mr Smith.

Q459 Owen Smith: Thank you very much. It is good to know that I am leading by example. Don’t you accept that there is some degree of culpability that you and the Department have for the undoubted crisis that there has been in S4C recently because of the way in which, without any discussion, the cuts to its budget were handed down and because of the way in which the radical proposals for the changes in its governance were also handed down from on high by the Government? Don’t you accept that you have some responsibility for this?

Mr Vaizey: No.

Q460 Owen Smith: None whatsoever?

Mr Vaizey: Obviously, people who don’t agree with the decisions we have taken will say it was taken in the wrong way and that we are guilty of that, and people who do agree with our decision will do what I think is the right thing, which is to get on with it and establish a bright future for S4C. In the wider picture of things, it would look very odd if S4C’s funding had been guaranteed and was continuing to increase in the light of all the other pressures on the public finances.

Q461 Owen Smith: You mentioned also that your Department have been responsible-and we can all see that-for cutting budgets for other bodies in the arts and in cultural fields across the UK. Is it not the norm, when making those sorts of cuts, that you at least engage in advance of them with those bodies and maybe talk to the chairman or the chief executive of the body-give them an inkling of the sort of cuts, and, if you are going to make big changes, talk to them? I find it extraordinary that you think it is normal not to engage with them at all.

Mr Vaizey: We engaged with them in terms of the midyear cut and it was obviously clear that there were going to be further reductions going forward, but we couldn’t engage with them on the exact nature of the reductions, just as we couldn’t engage with any of our arm’s-length bodies on the exact nature of the reductions because we didn’t know what they would be until we had achieved a settlement from the Treasury. You make my point very well, which is that I don’t think S4C has been singled out.

I could be digging a hole for myself here, but we have an overall settlement. We had to negotiate that with the Treasury and we had a broad idea of where we could make savings and the kind of level of reductions we would have to impose. But the idea that S4C was oblivious to the fact that we would have to reduce the funding, I think, is fanciful. Given that it has £27 million in reserves, and it is going to have £70 million, £80 million or £90 million going forward, I think it is in a very, very good and strong financial position.

Q462 Chair: Thank you. The allotted hour draws near, but there are a number of people who want to get in with what I hope will be very short questions. As you started by telling us you had all the time in the world, perhaps you will allow us a few more minutes.

Mr Vaizey: Of course.

Chair: Very quick questions and answers then, please.

Q463 Jonathan Edwards: Quickly, on the appointment of the Chair and the new successor Authority, is there a direct timetable for that? You mentioned March. Do you expect those key posts to be filled by March and the new Authority to be set up?

Mr Vaizey: Yes. The interviews are taking place at the beginning of March. I think the applications close on 11 February and then there will be interviews on 3 March. So I would expect an appointment relatively shortly after that.

Q464 Jonathan Edwards: Just quickly, in terms of that appointment, what discussions have there been with the Welsh Government on this? I understand there has been one direct conversation at ministerial level.

Mr Vaizey: In terms of who we should appoint or in terms of the process?

Q465 Jonathan Edwards: The process. You’d think they’d have a vested interest in it, although it is not devolved.

Mr Vaizey: Yes, they have an official on the interview board.

Q466 Alun Cairns : Minister, can I pursue the earlier line of questioning from Mr Smith? For those who are opposed to funding from the BBC, what was the alternative, bearing in mind the state of public funds? What sort of cut would S4C have potentially faced if there wasn’t any funding from the BBC going towards S4C?

Mr Vaizey: It would have faced a similar cut. The overall settlement for the funding has been agreed with the BBC but was agreed within the parameters of what we were looking at in terms of reducing public expenditure across the board. It would have faced a similar reduction.

Q467 Geraint Davies: On funding arrangements, if I may, the arrangement is that funding will go through the BBC from 201314, and in 201415 the BBC will pay £76 million. What is to stop the BBC from reducing funding from, say, £76 million to £50 million in the following year? Am I not right to say that they have a complete capability to just slash S4C after we have let them off the reins?

Mr Vaizey: It would be very unlikely that the BBC would want to do that, but I think members of the Committee would support the BBC Trust in wanting to ensure value for money for the licence fee payers.

One of the interesting discussions one always has about funding is what the right level of funding is. It seems to me that if it is at a certain level then everything is right with the world, and if it is any lower everything is a complete disaster. We need to look at the outputs. We need to look at whether S4C is still continuing to provide fantastic Welsh programming for Welsh people living in Wales and beyond. I think that is what the BBC will want to secure.

Q468 Geraint Davies: Don’t you think there is a case that after 201415 there should at least be some sort of floor beneath which the BBC couldn’t cut, for the reassurance of production people, for Welsh culture, the whole thing? I appreciate we should be outcome-driven and I agree with that, but shouldn’t there be some sort of floor? Certain people I am speaking to in S4C are saying there are no guarantees; the BBC could say, "We’ll cut this. We’ll just put the money into websites." Isn’t there a way that you can get some sort of reassurance about funding levels, be it at a very low level even after 201415?

Mr Vaizey: I think you have taken a pessimistic view of the BBC’s attitude to S4C and the evidence that the Select Committee heard from Mark Thompson should reassure both this Committee and the people of Wales that the BBC is very committed to the future of S4C.

Q469 Geraint Davies: So where are the disagreements?

Chair: Order, order.

Mr Vaizey: I think the Chairman is coming in now.

Chair: We’ve got to get through a few more.

Q470 Mrs James: I want to revisit a few questions. Who has been advising you during this period, Minister? I am quite concerned, not hugely concerned but quite concerned, about some of your responses-for example, about the 500,000 viewers. There are 500,000 Welsh speakers in Wales; so that is your potential pool of viewers. Also, it is an awardwinning channel.

Mr Vaizey: I know. It has won BAFTAs.

Q471 Mrs James: Not only that. It’s been up for Oscars, etcetera, so it is a firstclass organisation. Have you had specifically Welsh advice?

Mr Vaizey: Mrs James, with great respect, I don’t want you to get hung up on my "500,000 viewers" answer because, as I say, I have read-as you can see from the highlighter pen-

Q472 Mrs James: I believe you.

Mr Vaizey: -every word of evidence that has been put here, and if I misinterpreted something that I read and gave an answer that was inadvertently seen to give the impression that I was being badly advised, that mistake, as authors often say-

Q473 Mrs James: I am asking about specific Welsh advice, a Welshbased person giving you a Welsh overview of things.

Mr Vaizey: I speak to lots of Welsh people.

Q474 Mrs James: There is no specific adviser.

Mr Vaizey: I have had informal discussions, for example, with former Labour Secretaries of State now in the other place, as well as Lord Crickhowell and others, who have given me the benefit of their wisdom and advice. Your colleagues on this Select Committee, particularly Mr Bebb, Mr Cairns and others, have talked to me at length about S4C. I don’t have a formal Welsh adviser. I should also say that Welsh Ministers have taken a close interest and talked to me informally about it.

Mrs James: It’s the subtle nuances I was more interested in.

Chair: Thank you very much, Minister.

Q475 Guto Bebb: Again, it is revisiting the same issue, I am afraid, but your intentions as a Department towards S4C are quite clear and, in my view, quite positive.

Another concern I have, in addition to the fact that there is no certainty post 2015, although I do accept the argument that there is good will on all sides, is that, as part of the agreement with the BBC, there is a commitment for the money to be made available for the independent television sector in Wales. A slight concern is the use of the independent sector by the BBC currently, and in due course the question I would ask is whether that commitment to the independent sector is going to be ongoing. Is it going to be part of the discussions between DCMS and the BBC? The fact that the BBC is investing so much in their capacity in Cardiff is a slight concern to some of the independent sector in the long run.

Mr Vaizey: The answer is yes, Mr Bebb; they are committed.

Q476 Chair: Minister, is there any deadline to the partnership arrangement that has to be sorted out with the BBC? Is there a time by which if it is not sorted out then this is all going to fall apart?

Mr Vaizey: There is no formal deadline. Obviously, the arrangements have to be in place for the new funding arrangements which begin in April 2013. So we have, broadly speaking, two and a half years to negotiate, but I should say that we hope to conclude in this half of the year.

Q477 Chair: We have heard evidence from some, which I would summarise by saying that people have suggested that there is rather a lot of output of not very high quality and that has been one of the problems. The Secretary talked about dubbing and it seems to have caused a bit of controversy. Have you looked at encouraging S4C to buy in films from nonEnglishspeaking countries-some very good films are produced in places like Germany and France-and putting in Welsh subtitles? I personally don’t see that as being such a bad idea. It is standard practice in many European countries, including Germany and France.

Mr Vaizey: I know that you had an extensive discussion on this subject when you took evidence. I would expect the Committee’s report to reflect your views.

Q478 Susan Elan Jones: Minister, I know I can rely on you not to give an extraordinary answer to this one. In your conversations with various people, did you have a conversation with Nick Bourne, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives? I believe he was very firm in his view that there should be an independent review into S4C, and I believe that was shared by the other three party leaders. Do you agree with him or not?

Mr Vaizey: I have not discussed it personally with Mr Bourne, and I have seen the letter that the four party leaders wrote to the Prime Minister. I don’t think there should be an independent review. As I say, we are committed to a review as the spending period comes to an end.

Q479 Geraint Davies: Presumably, you are involved now in the tripartite discussions. What are the areas of disagreement and difficulty over approach and substance?

Mr Vaizey: I am not personally involved in them. It is officials and officials from the Trust at the BBC and the Welsh from the S4C and the Welsh Authority.

Q480 Geraint Davies: Finally, on the Chair’s question, do you think a sort of Welsh version of Strictly Come Dancing with Bruce Forsyth dubbed into Welsh would be popular in Wales? I think it would be highly amusing.

Mr Vaizey: You are talking yourself into a job, Mr Davies, as creative controller of S4C.

Chair: Not so fast, Minister. Jeremy Hunt is very good at the lambada and I can do a bit of salsa, so we might all put in for that.

Thank you very much for your comprehensive answers. We have a discussion amongst Committee members about another matter in a few minutes, so I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask for the room to be cleared. Thank you for giving such comprehensive evidence and I also thank all those members of the public who turned up.

Mr Vaizey: Chairman, may I say thank you, how much I have enjoyed appearing in front of this Committee and how important the Committee’s report will be? Rest in no doubt that your thoughts and conclusions will be taken very seriously by DCMS and I hope also by all other stakeholders who have an interest.

Chair: We look forward to that. Thank you very much indeed.