Top Murdoch aide calls for abolition of Lords

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ONE OF Rupert Murdoch's most senior aides in Britain will wade into the political arena today, dismissing the House of Lords as "the world's most luxurious nursing home".

Tony Ball, the new chief executive of BSkyB, plans to call for the abolition of the Upper House and to warn that other public sector institutions in Britain are hampering economic development. It is unlikely he would make such comments without the approval of his proprietor.

Speaking at an International Broadcasting Convention conference in Amsterdam, Mr Ball will back Tony Blair's recent complaint that much of the UK public sector is constrained by inertia. He will say: "It is also slightly alarming that this government still rewards people in Britain by putting them into a large building to wear red robes and dead animals' fur to snooze away the afternoon in the world's most luxurious nursing home, otherwise known as the House of Lords.

"There are some exceptional talents in the House of Lords, but it seems a curious way to inspire people to be ingenious innovators and wealth creators."

Mr Ball, the first English chief executive of BSkyB, will say that while the private sector has been completely transformed, much of the public sector has not changed in 50 years.

"The danger is that these outdated institutions and modes of thought in the public sector are hampering the future transformation of the private sector... To compete, Britain needs to become a meritocracy, enabled by information at the speed of light and real-time decision making by well- informed citizens."

Mr Ball will also attack senior media figures for their "loathing for technology, and their ignorance of it... It is bizarre to see that in Britain so many positions of influence are filled by people who are untouched by the advances of the last century, socially or technologically. It is like business leaders boasting of being innumerate - a fundamental barrier to success."

Mr Murdoch caused controversy last week when he criticised the Dalai Lama and condoned the Chinese occupation of Tibet. The tycoon said in an interview in Vanity Fair that the Buddhist leader was "a very political old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes".

Mr Murdoch, who hopes to expand his business interests in China, was criticised by human rights organisations.