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Summary

  1. MPs met at 9:30am for Culture, Media and Sport questions.
  2. MPs, including the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, paid tribute to the Queen on her 90th birthday.
  3. Peers met at 11am, the main business of the day was committee stage on the Northern Ireland Bill.

Live Reporting

By Kate Whannel, Patrick Cowling and Alex Partridge

All times stated are UK

Get involved

House adjourns

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Best sums up the debate with a few words and the motion is passed without opposition. 

With the end of the debate the day's business in the House comes to a close and the chamber adjourns.

That's all from us today - have a good evening!

Licence fee 'should remain government led'

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Baroness Neville-Rolfe
BBC

Culture, Media and Sport Minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe responds to the debate for the government and says she agrees with peers that "independence is central to the BBC's future" and says "this administration takes editorial independence extremely seriously".

Baroness Neville-Rolfe says "we do not agree with the committee's suggestion that the licence fee should be set by an independent regulator", as she argues that the licence fee is "essentially a tax and should therefore be government led".

The minister assures the House that "today's debate adds richly to deliberations by the government in coming months".

'Critical friends' of the BBC

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour frontbench spokesperson Lord Tunnicliffe is responding to the debate, and begins by saying that the opposition "do not claim the BBC is perfect - we are critical friends".

"But what we will do is fight hard against a politically motivated attack against the BBC" he says.

Speaking about research that some young people, those with disabilities and those within the BAME community said that the BBC did not represent them, Lord Tunnicliffe says "this is of concern and should be addressed with vigour" by the BBC.

Lord Tunnicliffe also says "the BBC is the cornerstone of the creative industries in this country and the creative industries are the powerhouse of our future prosperity". 

"Only a madman would take an axe to the tallest tree in the forest and not expect to do serious harm to the rest of the forest".

Lord Tunnicliffe
BBC

Updating the licence fee

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour's Lord Maxton says that the committee report missed a major opportunity to insist that "the BBC ought to be established by Act of Parliament not by Royal Charter".

Lord Maxton makes the point that the licence fee in its current form is not sustainable. He says that the fact that he currently has two mobile devices on him at the moment on which he can watch television, yet is still covered by the same licence fee cost of someone with one television or one radio - "makes a nonsense of the idea of a licence fee". 

The Labour peer also says that the BBC's substantial archive should be made available to everyone.

If not the BBC - who else?

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Crossbench peer Lord Berkeley of Knighton says that the NHS and the BBC are the "envy of the world".

He says the BBC must continue to "disseminate the riches" of British culture "in areas where there is a dearth of cultural provision".

Lord Berkeley poses the question - "if the BBC were curtailed still further is there another broadcaster that would or could commission new work from writers and composers, and relay from around the world artistIc experiences that are the right of the many and not just the privileged few?" 

Children's content on the BBC

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Benjamin focuses most of her remarks on the issue of funding for children's services at the BBC.

Baroness Benjamin says "at the moment there is virtually only one buyer in the market place for UK made children's content - the BBC".  

She says that investment in original UK children's content has "fallen sharply in the last 10 years", claiming that "spend has fallen by 95% since 2003". Baroness Benjamin says "it might not be long until there is little of our excellent children's production sector left".

"If this decline is allowed to continue the UK will no longer be the world leader in children's content as it has been for many years," she says. 

Baroness Benjamin
bbc

Guilty of a metropolitan bias?

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury
BBC

Conservative peer Lord Sherbourne of Didsbury joins other peers in the debate in offering praise as well as some points of constructive criticism.

"The BBC has sometimes been slow to reflect public opinion on controversial subjects" - which he says is partly the blame of a metropolitan bias in news reporting.

Lord Sherbourne asks "how often have we heard the presenter of the Today programme say 'it's raining over Broadcasting House what's it doing in the rest of the country?'" - earning a few chuckles from his colleagues.

He goes on to say that visiting Media City in Salford Quays "was very encouraging" as the move had been a "great success" for both the BBC and the region.

On the wider issues of government involvement in the broadcaster, Lord Sherbourne says it is "important that the BBC remains independent and is seen to be independent".

Today in Parliament: essential listening

Radio 4's Today in Parliament editor tweets

D-G 'should be editor-in-chief'

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Concerning the proposed new unitary board for governing the BBC, Labour's Lord Macdonald of Tradeston says that political appointees to this board could "exert influence in many sensitive areas", including decision-making and programming.

To counter this possibility, Lord Macdonald says the Director-General should be editor-in-chief of all programme output.

The Labour peer also highlights the way that the BBC is "lagging behind" in targets for representing BME (Black or minority ethnic) people when compared to Sky and Channel 4. 

BBC management numbers 'far too high'

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester of Herne Hill joins other peers in praising the BBC, but also has some criticisms of the organisation.

"Reforms are needed - the number of managers remain far too high" Lord Lester says, going on to warn that "the BBC must not become an ivory tour broadcasting to an intellectual elite".

He says that without some reforms the BBC will remain "overblown and top heavy", but he goes on to say "these are matters for the board to address and not the government". 

Lord Lester of Herne Hill
BBC

Debate on the BBC continues

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour's Baroness Bakewell tells the House about an occasion in 1970 when she came to the House of Lords to interview Lord Reith for the BBC.

She says that at that time he was "very disapproving of television, he deplored the fact they broadcast jazz, which he regarded as the music of the devil".

Lord Bragg, who mentions his interest as a BBC Radio 4 presenter, draws attention to the "constant" feeling that the BBC is in crisis, and calls it a "national treasure and a national dartboard".

What is the BBC Charter?

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

The BBC's New Broadcasting House HQ
BBC
The BBC's New Broadcasting House HQ

The BBC Charter is the constitutional basis for the BBC. According to the BBC Trust, the charter "sets out the public purposes of the BBC, guarantees its independence, and outlines the duties of the Trust and the Executive Board".

The current charter expires on 31 December 2016.

Each review of the charter can make significant changes to the way the BBC is structured and governed. The last charter created the BBC Trust as the broadcaster's governing body in charge of regulation and the "strategic direction" of the organisation and the BBC Executive Board, responsible for day-to-day management.

Last month, an independent review of the governance of the BBC by Sir David Clementi recommended replacing the Trust and the Executive Board with a single board, and passing responsibility for regulation to Ofcom.

Government must 'strengthen' BBC

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Puttnam, Labour peer and film producer, says he hopes the government's coming white paper will commit to strengthening the BBC, rather than undermining it.

Lord Puttnam says that "in a world running short on trust, the BBC remains a significantly more credible organisation than any who for political or commercial reasons seek to undermine it".

Lords' debate on the BBC

Lib Dem peer tweets

The boss is listening...

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Fowler, with Lord Hall sat behind him
BBC

As Conservative Lord Fowler makes his speech, Lord Hall of Birkenhead can be seen on the backbenches, listening to the debate.

Lord Hall is the Director General of the BBC and sits as a crossbench peer, but he will not be speaking this afternoon.

Lord Fowler tells the House that he's "passionately in favour of an independent BBC free from government interference". He says he fears a BBC board made up of "government placemen of one sort or another".

Public 'strongly in favour of BBC'

BBC Charter Review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Best begins his contribution by saying that as a committee "we put our faith in a BBC that respects and appreciates its founding principles and we reject calls for radical or fundamental change in the underlying purpose of the BBC or its scale and scope".

He says that calls to cut and commercialise the BBC "were coming from the Westminster village - not from the world outside".

"Broadly we discovered that the public at large were strongly in favour of their BBC and would be greatly opposed to radical change," he tells peers.

Lord Best says the committee supports additional government funding for the World Service, saying "we endorse the crucial role the BBC plays in the UK's cultural influence and soft power on the world stage".

On the BBC's scale and scope, Lord Best says "we heard no convincing case for a significant reduction in the scale or scope of the BBC nor did we accept the argument that the BBC should be restricted to remedying gaps that the commercial market does not provide".

Lord Best
BBC

BBC charter review debate

House of Lords

Parliament

The amendment is withdrawn and that bring to a close committee stage consideration of the Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Bill.

We now move on a debate on the report of the Lords Communications Committee on the BBC charter review.

The committee's chair, crossbench peer Lord Best, is introducing the debate.

Enforcing a pledge of office

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Murphy of Torfaen
BBC

Lord Trimble says that he knows that the legislation needs to pass quickly so understands if the government will not address this issue now, but warns that "if the Assembly fails to take action then the government will have to consider what it does".

Lord Murphy of Torfaen again rises to say he supports the issue raised in the amendment.

"If you have a pledge of office - there is not much point of having one if you can't enforce it," he says, and argues that it is "a point of public confidence".

Lord Murphy does also say "we know the bill needs to go through quickly" and asks the government to bear in mind the need to address this issue.

Minister Lord Dunlop says the government will seek to ensure that the issues raised are addressed in the Northern Ireland Assembly, and asks for the amendment to be withdrawn.

'The undertaking' of MLAs

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

The Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Bill contains provisions to introduce an undertaking for members of the legislative assembly of Northern Ireland.

The undertaking reads as follows:

—to support the rule of law unequivocally in word and deed and to support all efforts to uphold it; 

—to work collectively with the other members of the Assembly to achieve a society free of paramilitarism; 

—to challenge all paramilitary activity and associated criminality; 

—to call for, and to work together with the other members of the Assembly to achieve, the disbandment of all paramilitary organisations and their structures; 

—to challenge paramilitary attempts to control communities; 

—to support those who are determined to make the transition away from paramilitarism; 

—to accept no authority, direction or control on my political activities other than my democratic mandate alongside my own personal and party judgment.

Sanctions for breaches of 'the undertaking'

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Empey responds to the debate on his amendments saying that the current proposals "do not distinguish between perpetrators and victims - in fact it makes them equal".

"We cannot run away from this issue forever," the UUP peer says and indicated that his party will continue to push for this issue at every stage - but agrees to withdraw the amendment for now.

Debate now turns to his amendment 4, which would introduce sanctions for Northern Ireland Assembly members who breach the assembly members' "undertaking" as defined in the bill.

No agreement on victims definition in NI

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour's Lord Murphy of Torfaen responds to the debate for the opposition and echoes the remarks of Lord Eames in saying that although he is equally sympathetic of the issue raised by the amendment, he thinks that unilateral action in the House of Lords on this issue could endanger the whole agreement process.

Lord Murphy says that "without agreement on this issue in Northern Ireland" the issue should be resolved at a later date.

Minister Lord Dunlop says the definition of a victim in Northern Ireland is an issue of "considerable contention", calling it a "difficult and complex issue".

He also echoes others in saying that the issue is an area of disagreement between the Northern Ireland parties that has yet to be resolved.

Is this the right time?

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Eames
BBC

Lord Eames says that this amendment "gets to the heart of the legacy issues that have haunted us for so many years".

Despite indicating sympathy for the issue raised, Lord Eames asks whether "this is the right time, the right place, and the right legislation" for it to be brought forward.

This bill, he says, represents the end of months of negotiations between disagreeing parties in Northern Ireland, and says the terms as we have them before us are "the result of that negotiation and discussion".

He therefore urges caution in pursuing this issue in the legislation.

Defining 'victims and survivors' in the bill

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

UUP peer Lord Empey is now moving his amendment 3 to the bill which seeks to specify that provisions in the bill relating to "victims and survivors" should not extend to: 

Someone who is or has been physically or psychologically injured as a result of or in consequence of their undertaking a criminal act in a conflict-related incident; or someone who was in whole or in part responsible for an unlawful conflict-related incident if that person took part in all or any of the planning or execution of that unlawful act."

Lord Empey
BBC

'The meaning is clear'

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Dunlop says that it has been government practice since 2006 to refer to "Ireland" in international agreements and in UK legislation, so the language in this bill is "in line with current drafting practice".

The minister says that the term "Republic of Ireland" is still used in some legislation - normally for the sake of clarity, but argues that the government is of the opinion that this bill does not require such a distinction to be made as "the meaning is clear".

After these comments, Lord Lexden withdraws his amendment.

Order Order!

House of Commons

Parliament

And that concludes a short day's business in the Commons.

MPs return on Monday for debate of the Immigration Bill and education funding in London.

House of Commons clock
HOC

'A finite and precious resource'

Adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

Minister Rory Stewart or "Roderick James Nugent Stewart" as John Bercow announces him, responds to the debate.

Aside from the economic benefits of the fishing industry, Rory Stewart celebrates the fantastic nutrition fish provide and the pleasure of visiting sea ports.

He says he has no wish to pontificate on a subject "about which I don't know a great deal" (he is standing in for the Fisheries Minister) but suggests Peter Aldous sit down with officials to balance economic benefits with the protection of "this finite and precious resource".

Rory Stewart
HOC

Does this debate help?

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord McAvoy
BBC

After a number of peers have debated in minute detail the history of the constitutional etymology of the name of the Irish state, Labour's Lord McAvoy once again responds to the debate for the Labour frontbench.

Lord McAvoy asks "does this debate help the situation in Northern Ireland, does it contribute to cross community spirit, does it ally suspicions or does it increase suspicions?"

Stick with us

Parliamentary reporters tweet

Getting the name right

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Lord Alderdice withdraws his amendment and debate now moves on to Conservative peer Lord Lexden's self-stated "probing amendment", which seeks to address the issue of the Republic of Ireland being so called in the bill, instead of as just "Ireland" - as it currently is in the bill.

Lord Lexden says that an Act of Parliament in 1949 that recognised the name of the country as the Republic of Ireland, brought "an admirably clear state of affairs" into existence.

"Northern Ireland was clearly part of the UK, the rest of Ireland was equally plainly a separate state on the same divided island," Lord Lexden says.

Why depart from that clear position? he asks.

Lord Lexden
BBC

Frontbench responses

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Labour's Lord McAvoy responds to the debate and agrees with the amendment tabled by Lord Alderdice, saying that it is important that the Independence Reporting Commission is able to report "as and when required".

Government minister Lord Dunlop says that an annual reporting cycle was judged "most appropriate" to properly measure progress against the goal of tackling paramilitarism and offer "a meaningful commentary" on that progress.

Despite widespread support for the amendments in the debate, Lord Dunlop asks peers to withdraw them.

Adjournment debate

House of Commons

Parliament

The motion passes, and Parliament agrees to present a "humble address" to the Queen to celebrate her 90th birthday.

Business moves on to the adjournment debate, led by Conservative Peter Aldous, on Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Article 17 commits to transparency in the allocation of fishing quotas, but critics of it say the quota is biased towards large scale fishing fleets.

Peter Aldous is calling for the system to be reformed as a "matter of urgency".

A fishing trawler
BBC

What is the IRC?

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

The amendments currently being debated relate to the work of the Independent Reporting Commission in the bill, but what does it do?

The new Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) is charged with holding the UK government, Executive and Irish government to account on ridding society of all forms of paramilitary activity and groups.

It was a part of the Fresh Start Agreement and came in the wake of leading Northern Ireland police figures saying that the IRA still existed and was active in Northern Ireland.

'Constant, calming presence'

Humble Address

House of Commons

Parliament

Deputy Leader of the House Therese Coffey calls it a "privilege and honour" to conclude the tributes.

She says she wants to reflect on the "service to our nation" the Queen has provided, from before she even took the throne. 

She calls the Queen a "constant, calming presence, full of good counsel" and "timeless, but keeping up with the times".

Therese Coffey
BBC

Queen has 'put up with an awful lot'

Humble Address

House of Commons

Parliament

Chris Bryant
BBC

Shadow Leader of the House Chris Bryant says the Queen has "touched many lives". 

Of her life he says "the truth is she's had to put up with an awful lot" and "an awful lot of politicians". There have been, he says, 116 prime ministers "in all her realms" during her time as Queen..

He notes the changes in the UK since she came to the throne in 1952, and the difference in attitudes to the role of women, education for the disabled and same sex relationships.

Days short of Shakespeare's birthday, he quotes from King Lear:

The oldest hath borne most. We that are young shall never see so much, nor live so long.

Former NI first minister speaks

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Former First Minister of Northern Ireland Lord Trimble rises to speak to the bill, saying that Lord Alderdice's desire to introduce more regular reports from the Independent Reporting Commission can be brought about by "a simple little amendment" that carries out the exact terms of the Stormont House Agreement.

Lord Trimble speaks at some length about the resurgence of dissident republicans in Northern Ireland and on the reaction of Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to it.

He quotes Mr McGuinness as saying "the excuse of 1916 and the 1960s does not stand now". 

"This is really quite significant," Lord Trimble argues, saying that Martin McGuinness was effectively "taking away one limb" of the dissident republican argument that current paramilitaries are only doing what rebels in 1916 and guerrillas in the 1960s and 1970s were doing.

He says that Martin McGuinness should go "one step further" and say that he and his colleagues stopped the armed struggle because "it did not work and it was wrong".

Lord Trimble
BBC

Special occasion

Lib Dem MP tweets

More tributes...

Humble Address

House of Commons

Parliament

The DUP's Ian Paisley says it's a "huge and humbling treat" to join in sending birthday wishes to the Queen. He says he hopes to see the Queen confronted by the "constitutional hurdle of sending herself a birthday card when she reaches a century".

The SNP's Angus MacNeil says he remembers speaking in Parliament wishing the Queen a happy 80th birthday 10 years ago, and hopes to do so again in 2026. He then confounds the Hansard stenographers by wishing her happy birthday in the Scots Gaelic language.

Conservative Michael Ellis says the Queen is someone everyone should look up to as "an exemplar of public service". 

Hostage taking

Humble Address

Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick recounts the time he was held "hostage" at Buckingham Palace

Keeping track of changes on the ground

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Former Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Lord Eames, agrees with the need for regular reports, saying that he knows from his experience working with former paramilitaries that "things can move very fast in the world of the paramilitary".

Lord Eames argues that regular and frequent updates by the commission are necessary to both keep track of changes on the ground and in keeping civil society informed of these changes.

The need for regular reports

Northern Ireland Bill

House of Lords

Parliament

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Alderdice is moving his amendment 1 to the bill, which seeks to introduce a requirement for the new Independent Reporting Commission for dealing with paramilitary activity to report two times a year.

Lord Alderdice says that from experience working in the Independent Monitoring Commission, six monthly reports prompted a number of representations and questions which he says gave "greater strength to the reports".

Lord Alderdice
BBC