I think non-Welsh members of the Public Bodies Bill Committee were beginning to look slightly bemused this afternoon. We Welsh MPs on the Committee took over as we considered the future funding and governance of S4C. Began with one of the Government side (Mark Williams) decided to vote with the opposition, and ended when a protester in the public seats began shouting when the vote was announced, and was carted off by officials to spend some time in the nearest thing we have to a cell. I hope she wasn't kept there long, because all she was guilty of was livening things up a bit.
Its a complex issue, and I'd spent a fair bit of time thinking it through and rationalising my position. Still have lots of concerns but in my opinion it would have been very damaging in the longer run to S4C if it had been removed from the Public Bodies Bill. How can it be sustainable that when the Police, the Armed Forces, education, social security etc. are all taking big funding hits that S4C should be exempt (and guarenteed an annual inflation increase). And I just do not accept that its sustainable that any public body receiving taxpayers money should not be accountable to MP (or AMs if broadcasting were to be devolved). Discussion on this issue is not over yet, and there will be ongoing discussion over the funding of S4C - which I happen to think is as it should be. There remain concerns though. The 'governance' deal between S4C and BBC and the Dep't of Culture, Media, and Sport has not been signed off yet. This is key to the 'independence' of S4C.
Have to admit that when I was asked to serve on the Public Bodies Bill Committee, I thought twice about it. Knew I'd be criticised because of my view that public bodies that spend public money should be accountable. I've always thought that, even when I was a 'Quango king' myself - a view reinforced when I watched the embarrassing chaotic goings-on at S4C over the last year or so. Decided I would because (rather arrogantly perhaps) I thought I could present the case as well as any other Coalition MP. Sure enough I'm getting some stick. Blog comments are calling me a 'bradwr' (Welsh for traitor) though only by anonymous persons - and told by some that they will never vote for me again (again anonymous). Painful and inevitable. This debate is going to run. If nothing else it forces Wales into the conscienceless of the UK Parliament.