Harriet Harman

Member of Parliament for Camberwell and Peckham. Mother of the House of Commons.

Asking an urgent question about the BBC - 12/11/12

Today I asked Maria Miller, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, an Urgent Question in the House of Commons about the BBC:  

if she will make a statement on the resignation of the BBC Director General, George Entwistle and the situation at the BBC. 

After her reply, I said the following: 

Mr Speaker.  

Does the Secretary of State agree that first and foremost we need to have in our minds the people who suffered the horror of sexual abuse as children?

It takes great courage to come forward and this is something we must encourage and support them to do. 

Does she also agree that it was disgraceful that Newsnight falsely accused an individual of sexual abuse of children - a damning accusation which could only have caused him and his family untold distress? 

Because the Director General is editor in chief and the buck stops with him, it was right for him to resign.  

George Entwistle is a decent man for whom this, no doubt, has been a personal tragedy.

We’ve heard what she said about the payoff. But surely she must agree that the BBC Trust cannot justify a pay-off of double the amount laid down in his contract? 

Does she therefore take the same view that I do that George Entwistle should reflect on this and only take that to which he is entitled under his contract?  

Turning to what happens next she is right that what is needed is a period of stability so the Trust can oversee the BBC sorting itself out? 

But, will she agree that in the heat of this crisis there are dangers we must avoid? 

We should not trespass on the BBC’s independence. Just as we do not want to see politicians meddling with what newspapers write, neither should that happen with the BBC. Will she agree that the next victim of this crisis must not be the independence of the BBC? 

Will she also agree that while it is imperative that the BBC re-instate professional standards, it is important that the pendulum does not swing so far the other way that the BBC becomes cowed and retreats into risk avoidance? 

The BBC is a loved and trusted institution but it has enemies waiting to pounce. Will she assure this House that as Secretary of State she will she stand up against the commercial competitors and political opponents who are lining up to attack and wound the BBC at this moment of crisis? 

The BBC has made grave mistakes and must sort them out. But everyone, including us politicians, must keep cool heads and let that happen so the BBC can restore trust – that’s what the public want and that’s what the country needs.

Urgent question on BBC - 12/11/12

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