Harriet Harman letter to Sajid Javid:
I am writing to you regarding the appointment of Baroness Noakes, who you appointed as Deputy Chair of Ofcom on 1st June 2014 to serve a four year term on the Ofcom board. Your duty as the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport is to protect the integrity of the regulator of the broadcast media and not to compromise this with a party political appointment.
On page two of the Ofcom 2013/14 annual report, it clearly states that Ofcom works:
“independently, free from political influence”.
It is of upmost importance that Ofcom is, and is seen to be, scrupulously impartial. This is underpinned by Ofcom policy which specifies:
“It is essential that Ofcom should establish and maintain a reputation for impartiality, integrity and high professional standards”.
“It is not appropriate for a Non-Executive Board Member to act as a party spokesman in the House of Lords”.
Baroness Noakes continues to take the Conservative whip in the House of Lords. Since 2010, acting as a spokesperson for the Conservative Party, she has sat on seven committees in the House of Lords. On the face of it this is not in compliance with Ofcom policy.
To ensure impartiality, both Ed Richards and James Purnell when appointed to senior positions in the Ofcom and the BBC resigned from the Labour Party. To comply with this, Lord Triesman, Baroness Young, Lord Smith and Lord Williams have all resigned the whip as Labour Peers in the House of Lords and sat as cross-benchers when they have been appointed to senior positions in public bodies, including the Football Association and the Environment Agency.
But it is not as though she has just failed to resign the whip. There are also clear breaches to be found on Baroness Noakes’ twitter account (she tweets as @1SVN). Her Twitter biography describes her as a “Conservative peer, non-executive director and chartered accountant”. Her tweets attack Ed Miliband and the Labour Party, and examples can be found below:
- January 23rd 2015 – “Get a grip! #TVdebate May7 is about who we want as our PM Cameron v Miliband that’s the real debate” (retweeted Anna Soubry MP);
- January 21st 2015 – “Further fall in UK unemployment. #LongTermPlan still delivering. Must not let Labour back to destroy progress”;
- January 11th 2015 – “Be afraid. Be very afraid if @ed_miliband and #Labour get back into power” (NB this tweet included a photo produced by the Conservative Party including a picture of Ed Miliband and the slogan “Don’t risk it with Labour”);
- January 6th 2015 – “Labour at war over Mansion Tax bribe for Scots. Says it all”.
- January 5th 2015 – “Any wonder they crashed our economy? Document put out by @edballsmp repeatedly confuses millions for billions” (NB this tweet includes a photo of Ed Milliband and Ed Balls sitting next to one another in the Commons chamber);
- December 14th 2014 – “We can never state too often the basic fact that every Labour government in UK history has left the country in financial ruins” (retweeted Sebastian Lowe);
- December 5th 2014 – “OMG: Lord Mandelson: Britain could still join the Euro via @Telegraph ttp://fw.to/uFT8dgm Another good reason to keep Labour out”.
She cannot be upholding the impartiality of the broadcasting regulator whilst tweeting pro-Conservative, anti-Labour material about TV debates.
Ofcom is the regulator for our broadcast media. It is important that at all times the regulator maintains the highest level of political impartiality, but this is even more important with the election rapidly approaching.
I would also ask that you note that Baroness Noakes has shareholdings in Verizon Communications Corp, a global communications and technology company. Dame Patricia Hodgson, the former Deputy Chair of Ofcom, was paid £70,000 for the role.
Given the number of breaches of Ofcom policy and the clear bias that Baroness Noakes has shown at a personal and professional level, I would ask that you reconsider Baroness Noakes’ position as Deputy Chair of Ofcom as a matter of urgency. I ask that you write to me about this matter immediately.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP
Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport