The Inaugural Supper of the North West Hampshire Supper Club took place at Roundwood, near Micheldever, and a capacity audience was addressed by the Chairman of BT, Sir Christopher Bland.
Introducing Sir Christopher, Sir George said he was one of those rare individuals who had succeded at the highest levels of both the public and the private sectors. "A year ago, Sir Christopher was Chairman of the BBC, one of the most challenging public sector jobs in the UK. He secured the future funding of the BBC by retaining the licence fee, introduced BBC online and digital radio. He is now Chairman of BT, one of the largest companies in the private sector. He has halved its debt and accelerated the roll-out of broadband."
Sir George said that Sir Christopher had been Chairman of the Hammersmith Hospital, which served Sir George's former constituents in Acton; and was a formidable opponent on the tennis court.
Speaking about the BBC and BT, Sir Christopher said that technology was having a major impact. "Technical quality of reception is far higher than it was; there is more choice of programmes; compression of data opens up possibilities of self-selection and of storing large numbers of programmes on one disc. It brings about interactivity, which would impact on politics and opened up new possibilities, for example for training"
Sir Christopher welcomed the concept of Offcom - a basically sensible idea of one single regulator of the media and telecommunication - and which reflected the reality of convergence, as computers, televisions and mobiles were increasingly able to share the same data.
BT was performing well, when compared to its opposite numbers overseas, but it faced a number of challenges, the most important of which was to get the best value from the network by enabling it to do more. "It used to be just for conversations - for talking. But that is all changing. Now the network is beginning to sing, and soon it will dance."
About Sir Christopher Bland
Sir Christopher joined BT as Chairman on 1 May 2001.
He was Chairman of the BBC Board of Governors from April 1, 1996 until September 30, 2001, and has extensive media experience, both of the industry and as a regulator. He was Deputy Chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority from 1972 to 1979 and Chairman of its Complaints Review Board during the same period. In 1982 he became a non-executive director of LWT [Holdings] plc and Chairman in 1983, a post which he held until 1994 when the company was acquired by Granada Group plc.
Born in Japan on May 29, 1938, he was educated at Sedbergh School, Yorkshire and Queen's College, Oxford where he gained a degree in modern history.
Sir Christopher became Chairman of printers and publishers Sir Joseph Causton and Sons from 1977 to 1985; he was Chairman of the Century Hutchinson Group from 1984 to 1989; a director of National Provident Institution from 1978 to 1988; and a director of Storehouse plc from 1988 to 1993. He was Chairman of NFC plc from December 1994 to May 2000, and was Chairman of Life Sciences International plc from 1987 to March 1997.
He has a keen interest in health issues. He was Chairman of the Hammersmith and Queen Charlotte's Hospitals Special Health Authority from 1982 to 1994 and of Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust from 1994 to February 1997. He was knighted for his work in the NHS in 1993. He was Chairman of the Private Finance Panel from 1995 to 1996 and a member of the Prime Minister's Advisory Panel on the Citizen's Charter.
Married in 1981, Sir Christopher has one son, two stepsons and two stepdaughters. He lists his interests as fishing and skiing. In 1960, he was a member of the Irish Olympic Fencing Team.