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House of Commons Hansard
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18 July 2017
Volume 627

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. The BBC is our public sector broadcaster and is paid for by all of us through the licence fee. It will announce tomorrow the details of presenters’ salaries over the threshold of £150,000. The campaign to get that transparency has gone on for around 10 years, and some of us have been heavily involved in it. The BBC initially avoided the matter and then dragged its feet before eventually agreeing to publish the information, which the general public, as its paymasters, have a right to see. However, the BBC is publishing said information the day before parliamentary scrutiny ends for the summer recess—tomorrow. Have you been informed by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport of her intention to come to the House to outline the unacceptable nature of the timing of the announcement?

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I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, both for his point of order and for his characteristic courtesy in giving me notice of his intention to raise it. The short answer on the last, key point in his remarks is that, no, I have received no indication from any Minister of an intention to make a statement. I understand the hon. Gentleman’s concern and appreciate that it may be shared by many Members. That said, it is not a point of order for the Chair. The decisions made on the timing of announcements or disclosures by the BBC do not fall within the aegis of the Speaker. It is also fair to say that, strictly speaking, those judgments do not to any significant extent fall within the responsibility of Ministers. Ministers can have views on such matters, which is perfectly proper, but they are not matters for ministerial decision.

The hon. Gentleman has succeeded in putting his concern on the record, and I feel sure that it will have been heard not only by the occupants of the Treasury Bench but by the broadcasters themselves. He is an assiduous denizen of this House, and I feel sure that he will be in his place tomorrow and, indeed, in all likelihood on Thursday. I dare say that he will want to get back to Northern Ireland at some point, but I am sure he will be in his place on Thursday and springing from it with a view to giving the House the benefit of his views in the summer Adjournment debate. That might be a suitable opportunity for him to expatiate further on this important matter.

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On a point of order, Mr Speaker. I seek your guidance and advice. As you are aware, it is regular and customary for the Government to give a written response to Select Committee reports within two months of publication. The Foreign Affairs Committee published reports in March, in the previous Parliament, on Russia and Turkey. Given the topicality of the anniversary of the attempted coup in Turkey, I was hoping to read a Government response to the report on Turkey. I know we have had a general election and that the period of two months was not continuous, but the period between March and Parliament resuming is more than two months. I would therefore be grateful if you advised me on what I can do to ensure that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office provides the long-overdue responses to those Select Committee reports.

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I am very sorry to disappoint the hon. Gentleman, whose interest in and knowledge of such matters are well known and respected throughout the House, but the short answer is that the best way to guarantee a timely—or at least less untimely—response to the Select Committee reports will be to reconstitute the Foreign Affairs Committee as soon as possible. He is absolutely right that there has been a long delay. Ministers can take the view that they are responding to a report from a Committee and that the Foreign Affairs Committee currently does not exist and needs to be reconstituted.

I think the hon. Gentleman might have been present when I volunteered some thoughts with some asperity on the merit of getting on with the reconstitution of Select Committees. Although the Chairs have been elected, I am saddened that members have not been elected across the House—it is a pity if some have not got round to doing that. Frankly, however, there is not much that I can do other than say that I am always looking out for the hon. Gentleman. If he bobs up and down with a view to raising the matter, I will try to accommodate him. [Interruption.] It is always a delight to hear the views of the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann), to which I have been accustomed for the past 30 years. It is always better when they are offered from him on his feet, rather than from his seat, but I heard him chuntering from a sedentary position.