§ 12. Mr. David Chidgey (Eastleigh)
What assessment he has made of the impact of the World Service's internet site on the target audience. 
§ The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Peter Hain)
We support the World Service's aspirations to be a major internet player and I am delighted that in December there were more than 20 million page impressions and audio listeners monthly. The BBC World Service is now the most listened-to audio news online in the world.
§ Mr. Chidgey
I am pleased to hear the Minister echo those sentiments. I am sure that he agrees that it is a tremendous success story for the BBC. Does he agree also that it is an opportunity for Britain to become the most successful and the best provider in the world of news services on the internet? Bearing in mind how BBC television lost out to CNN as a provider of world television news services, what plans does the hon. Gentleman have to ensure that the BBC on the internet will grasp the opportunities for Britain that are now presented to it?
§ Mr. Hain
The hon. Gentleman raises a very important point. I agree with him. We are working with BBC World Service to help and encourage it to spread its online provision, which is the most listened-to online information service in the world. As was noted earlier, it is spreading into other languages. The BBC deserves praise for taking the lead in its commitment to expand and to use the full potential of the internet. We also support BBC World's activities to provide increased television coverage across the world for the BBC. There are 7 million listeners to BBC World, which is available in 500,000 hotels and other places. We welcome that as well.
§ Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley)
Does the Minister agree that the BBC World Service is respected throughout the world as an independent and authoritative source of news, especially for people living under repressive regimes? The number of people accessing BBC online services increased by 218 per cent. last year, but my real interest is in the repressive regimes—[HON. MEMBERS: "Rephrase."] I shall press the rewind button, Madam Speaker. It is vital that the message gets through to people living under repressive regimes, and it is therefore absolutely necessary that parallel-portal services are made available throughout the world, so that people living under 181 repressive regimes can more easily access BBC online services. What talks has the Minister had with the BBC to ensure that the extra parallel-portal services are made available, so that the people who most need an independent source of news can get it?
§ Mr. Hain
I thought for a moment that the hon. Gentleman was making a bid for a Front-Bench job. However, I agree with the important point that he raises. We are in close touch with BBC management to encourage them to go down that route. It is very important that every opportunity is taken to expand the BBC's services in the fast-moving world of modern information technology. The BBC is the voice of freedom across the world. That is especially important for people living under the repressive regimes in which the hon. Gentleman is now taking a close interest.