Re: Snubbed Tories
Date: 20 January 2003

Sir - Sir Jeremy Isaacs (report, Jan 17) refers to impartiality on
matters of public policy under the BBC charter and the pledge of the
director general, Greg Dyke, on this issue. Impartiality goes to the
heart of whether the public, which pays the licence fee, is properly
informed, as it is entitled to be. Given the vast influence the BBC has
on public opinion, it also affects the question of whether the
Opposition is seen to be effective.

I give a graphic example, arising out of the recent interview on the
influential Today programme with the Lord Chancellor about the
controversial and vital issue of the unsatisfactory guidelines issued by
the Lord Chief Justice on the sentencing of burglars, which the Lord
Chancellor endorsed. I shadow the Lord Chancellor in the House of
Commons and shadow the Attorney General.

The Lord Chancellor's interview was the top news item that morning at
6am. I telephoned the Today programme at about 6.45am and asked for a
right of reply. I was told I would be given a live interview at 8.45am,
for which I prepared, but had no call. I rang back at 8.55am and was
told that the schedule had left no time for my interview.

I complained to the most senior BBC official with responsibility for
such matters. I said I wanted a right of reply. I had a call from the
Today programme and was put on live the next morning, following a second
interview with the Lord Chancellor. I was asked questions only about the
House of Lords reform.

The public was deprived of a full response on the guidelines and the
Conservative Party was condemned for lack of effective opposition on the
issue in the national press. In a number of opinion polls, 98 per cent
of people disagreed with the Lord Chancellor.

This is a blatant example of how the BBC fails its legal obligations
under its charter and endorses what Sir Jeremy Isaacs has written.

William Cash MP, Shadow Attorney General, House of Commons, London SW1