Baroness Christine Humphreys’ maiden speech

It is a tradition for LDV to bring its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. On 28 November, Baroness Humphreys made her maiden speech in the House of Lords during a debate on broadcast media and its role in the economy. Her words are reproduced below.

Baroness Humphreys (LD): My Lords, I thank my noble friend for initiating this debate and for allowing me the opportunity to make my first contribution to proceedings in your Lordships’ House, presenting me with the occasion to express, most sincerely, my thanks for the warmth of the welcome I have received from noble Lords on all sides of the House. I thank, in particular, my supporters, my noble friends Lord Roberts of Llandudno and Lady Randerson, for their friendship and guidance, and my mentor, my noble friend Lady Barker, for her unstinting patience. I also thank all members of staff, whose professionalism and attention to detail ensured that the day of my introduction was enjoyable and problem-free.

As someone who has always had the most appalling sense of direction, one of the greatest challenges that this place has posed for me is finding my way around its corridors. It will be no surprise, therefore, that my grateful thanks go to my noble friends, the doorkeepers, the police, the attendants and the security guards, who have all pointed me in the right direction with patience and humour on too many occasions.

It would be remiss of me to make my first speech in your Lordships’ House without reference to the area that I come from and the contribution that our small community in the rural part of Conwy county in north Wales has already made to these Benches. Many of your Lordships may recall Lord Thomas of Gwydir, who graced these Benches until his death in 2008. As a Member in the other place he became the first Conservative Secretary of State for Wales, and later made a significant contribution to the proceedings in your Lordships’ House.

Like Lord Thomas of Gwydir, my noble friend Lord Roberts of Llandudno is immensely proud of the roots that his family has in my home town of Llanrwst. The noble Lord, Lord Elis-Thomas, of Nant Conwy, who sits on your Lordships’ Cross Benches, was also born and brought up in that part of the Conwy Valley. Our small community is rightly proud of the sons it has sent to this Chamber, and I am privileged to tread, however lightly, in their footsteps.

As is customary in one’s maiden speech, my input into your Lordships’ debate on the contribution of the broadcast industries to the UK economy will be succinct, and I will restrict my comments to aspects of the broadcasting industries in Wales.

Noble Lords will have seen the report by Deloitte on the impact that spending by the BBC has on the economy. As is the case in other parts of the UK, this investment has a similar result in relation to gross added value in Wales. For every £157 spent by the BBC in Wales, there is a gross added value of £276.

During the past few years, the BBC has embarked on a strategy of moving out of London and investing in creating centres of excellence in other parts of the country. My noble friend has already referred to the investment made in Salford, but perhaps the investment by the BBC in Wales will be a little less well known. Programmes such as “Doctor Who”, “Merlin” and “Sherlock” and many others have been produced in Cardiff over a number of years but they are now produced in the BBC’s new drama facility in the recently built drama village at Roath Lock in the Porth Teigr, or Tiger Bay, area of Cardiff Bay. The drama studios there are the length of three football pitches, and more than 600 actors, camera operators and technicians are employed there—all, of course, contributing to the local economy.

In an innovative move, we have recently seen joint commissioning between BBC Wales, BBC Four and S4C of a new drama series, “Y Gwyll/Hinterland”, which has been filmed in both English and Welsh. It has just finished its first run on S4C in Welsh and will be seen on BBC Wales and BBC Four in English next year. The series has already been sold to Denmark.

I hope that noble Lords will allow me one more reference to rural Conwy as I seek to explain its relevance to this debate. Over 62% of the inhabitants of rural Conwy speak both English and Welsh. As well as the two languages giving us “two windows on the world”, they give us a number of choices: we choose which language we use for conversation, education and religion, and we choose which language we use to receive radio and television broadcasts.

Our main sources of Welsh language broadcasts are Radio Cymru and the Welsh television channel, S4C. About 100 members of staff are employed by the BBC in Bangor and Wrexham in north Wales and, through its role as a commissioner of programmes, S4C spends its £76 million of direct funding from the BBC through BBC Cymru and, most importantly, through independent producers. S4C, will, I believe, continue to be funded from the BBC licence fee, and I hope that the Minister will be able to confirm that.

I am sure that noble Lords will agree that S4C plays a vital role in broadcasting to Welsh-speaking communities. Along with all other aspects of broadcasting throughout the UK it contributes to cultural and creative activities, and provides educational, training and employment opportunities both in local communities and in a national context.

The BBC has undoubtedly been through a difficult period and it is right and proper that the questions it has faced have had to be answered. But I hope that that will not detract excessively from the positive impact that its work has on all of us in the UK, whichever language or languages we speak.

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