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Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Surely it is not right to say that the advice provided by the governance and accountability department, which has been established by the chairman, is independent. These people are employed by the BBC; they owe their careers, pensions and so on to Mr Dyke and Mr Damazer and the rest of the top brass of the BBC. They are most unlikely to advise the governors that Mr Dyke and company have not fulfilled their public service remit when their futures are thus in doubt. I am suggesting independent assistants.

Baroness Blackstone: I do not agree with the line of the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. As a number of noble Lords have said, the governors of the BBC are experienced and independent people who can make up their own minds. They do not need on the face of the Bill a requirement that they should all be provided with a personal assistant. The noble Lord, Lord Ryder, has been quite quiet in the debate but I am sure that he would agree with what I have said.

The Government are willing to accept Amendment No. 145 in principle. I therefore hope that noble Lords will not press the remaining amendments in the group.

Viscount Astor: I agree with the Minister in regard to the amendment of my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch. I would have supported him if he had brought forward an amendment which required that we should all have a personal assistant, including the governors. Sadly he did not do so.

I am not entirely surprised that the Minister did not support my Amendments Nos. 153, 153A and 153B. They would take away more powers from the Secretary of State than from the governors, and I have never known a Secretary of State of any party who has wanted his powers removed or diminished in any way.

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It is important that the noble Baroness should take up the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell and the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, because licence renewal will be very complicated. After all, those of us who were involved in the previous debate will know that at that stage there were two BBC television channels and four radio channels. We now have eight core BBC television channels, 11 radio channels and a huge number of commercial services.

My noble friend Lord Brooke, who was involved in the negotiations over the previous BBC Charter and Agreement—indeed, I steered it through this House on his behalf—said that it will be rigorously examined. But the process is not satisfactory. I am sure that the Government will initiate a debate on the future of the BBC and the agreement and that the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, and other Members of the Committee will make impassioned speeches. The Government will then go away and produce a charter and agreement. We shall then have a debate to pass it but we will not be able to amend it in any way. In effect, we will be faced with a fait accompli. It would therefore be helpful if the Government could pre-empt that by explaining their thinking before Report stage.

The noble Baroness made a very constructive response to my noble friend on the Front Bench. For my part, I am grateful for that. I am also grateful for her response to my amendment, although I suspected that she would not agree with the amendments.

10.45 p.m.

Baroness Buscombe: I thank the Minister for her response to Amendment No. 145. As I made clear, this is all about future-proofing the Bill. We consider that that is tremendously important. I am not sure that all Members of the Committee who spoke after me appreciated that we did not intend to knock the BBC but rather to protect it and its interests when considering the outcome of the review of the Royal Charter. I am also grateful for the Minister's response on Amendment No. 148.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane: I was very attracted by the contributions made by the noble Lords, Lord Crickhowell and Lord Puttnam. I believe that many of us seek to avoid having two debates that are totally disassociated from each other—one on charter renewal and one setting up Ofcom. The element of future-proofing which the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, would provide would help in that regard.

If the Minister will say as much as she can at Report stage with regard to how the Government will proceed in this matter, many of us will be much happier. I, too, was very impressed by the impassioned pleas of the noble Lord, Lord Sheldon, although I am afraid that

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I disagreed with them totally. I shall gladly send him the Labour government's White Paper of 1978 which shows that the objectives of public service broadcasting are identical in the commercial and the BBC sector. But, in the meantime, I believe that it is time to withdraw the amendment. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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[Amendment No. 145 not moved.]

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: I beg to move that the House be resumed.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.

        House adjourned at thirteen minutes before eleven o'clock.

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