We are currently assessing the responses to our consultation on this proposal, and, as my hon. Friend will be aware, there are differing views in Scotland about the benefits in terms of jobs and production. We will take all these responses and views into consideration before proceeding further.
I thank my right hon. Friend for his reply. In conducting a further assessment of the responses to the consultation, will he accept that, although there is a very strong argument for the share of commissions from Scotland increasing from the current 2 per cent., any reclassification should be made only after consideration has been given to the effect on independent television producers in Scotland as well?
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend on that. On a recent visit to Glasgow, I had an opportunity to discuss these issues with representatives of STV, the BBC, which has an indirect interest in this, and smaller producers, and we certainly would not want to do anything that had a negative impact on any of them. Our common objective is to increase the amount of domestic production in Scotland and in the UK as a whole.
May I raise with the Secretary of State another matter of considerable import to Scottish television—and it would be remiss of me on St. David’s day not to mention that it is also of considerable interest to us in Wales—which is the prospects for the independently funded news consortiums? Is there any realistic chance that the contracts will be signed before the general election, and if they are not, will not the entire process simply be placed in abeyance until the outcome of the election is known?
I am grateful for your assent that that question is in order, Mr. Speaker. I cannot promise the hon. Gentleman that the contracts will be signed before the general election, but it is certainly our intention to announce the preferred bidders, both in Wales and Scotland and in the sole English pilot region of Tyne Tees and Border. Whether we manage to secure quality regional news in Wales, Scotland and the English regions in the future will depend on the outcome of the next general election, because the Labour party is committed to achieving that, while the Conservatives have absolutely no proposal whatever to do so.