That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision for television broadcasting services in addition to those provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation, and to set up a special authority for that purpose, and to make certain other provision, it is expedient to authorise—
(a) the payment to the said authority out of moneys provided; by Parliament of sums not exceeding seven hundred and fifty thousand pounds in any one financial year; (b) the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any administrative expenses incurred by the Postmaster General for the purposes of the said Act; (c) the issue out of the Consolidated Fund of sums required to enable the Postmaster General to make advances to the said authority of not more than two million pounds in all; (d) the raising under the National Loans Act, 1939, of any money required for the purpose of providing any sums to be issued as aforesaid or for the replacement thereof; (e) the payment into the Exchequer of sums received by the Postmaster General from the said authority in respect of advances, and the issue of such sums out of the Consolidated Fund and the application of such sums, in so far as they represent principal, in redemption or repayment of debt, and, in so far as they represent interest, in payment of interest otherwise falling to be paid out of the permanent annual charge for the National Debt; (f) the payment into the Exchequer of the whole or any part of any excess of the revenues of the said authority for any financial year over the sums properly chargeable by the said authority to revenue account for that year, including in such sums sums credited to the reserve fund of the said authority.
Resolution agreed to
Considered in Committee.
[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
Clause 1—(The Independent Television Authority)
It might be for the convenience of the Committee if we took together the first two Amendments on the Order Paper, in page 1, line 5, and the Amendment in page 3, line 25, at the end to add a new subsection (12). They all deal with the same subject.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 5, at the beginning, to insert "On the appointed day."As you have said, Sir Charles, it probably would be convenient to take with this Amendment the Amendment to the same line in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey), which is to insert the date 1st September, 1956, and also the Amendment in my name and that of my hon. Friends in page 3, line 25, the purpose of which Amendment is to provide that the expression "the appointed day" means a day, not less than 12 months after the passing of the Bill, as the Postmaster-General may decide It also provides that any order made under the Clause should be in the form of a Statutory Instrument and such as it would be possible to pray against in the House of Commons. The purpose of this first Amendment is to make more practicable the administration of the Bill when it becomes an Act. That may be thought to be inconsistent with the general attitude of the Opposition to the Bill, but if Parliament is to pass a Bill I think that the House and the Committee ought to give consideration to the conditions which will come into existence, and to the practicability of the Bill becoming operative. There has been some discussion across the Floor, notably with the Assistant Postmaster-General, about the receipt of applications for programme companies to go into operation and as to the occasions upon which they will be able to operate. One of the terms which the Assistant Postmaster-General has used is the word "now." If I may say so, that answer was given with characteristic lack of thought on the part of the Assistant Postmaster-General. I cannot believe that he really meant now either in the sense of now, today, or now in the sense of operation on the passing of the Bill. I am sure that the Committee will recognise that there will be many complications in the operation of this Bill when it becomes an Act. First of all, there is the setting up of the Television Authority itself. I admit that, in relation to this Amendment, it is the Television Authority that is in question and not the programme companies, which are provided for under and in association with the Television Authority. Let us contemplate what has to be done under this Bill, the principle of which we strongly oppose and which we do not want to see passed. First, the Television Authority has to be set up—the so-called "Independent Television Authority" which in itself is a misnomer; but we will come to that later on. That Authority cannot reasonably function until the programme companies are in existence and are in a position to do their work, for the great bulk of the income both of the Independent Television Authority and of the companies will be dependent upon revenue from advertisements which it is proposed should be paid for. Therefore, it is the case that before the Independent Tele vision Authority and the programme companies can operate they must be assured of something like a substantial revenue from these commercial advertising sources. It follows that the date by which it becomes practicable to operate the Act of Parliament is, at the end of the day, dependent upon the coming into the coffers of the programme companies and, through them, of the Independent Television Authority of a share of the advertising revenue which it is proposed to obtain. Let us look at this matter from the point of view of the people who will pay for the television advertisements. They will not be in a hurry to pay for television advertisements until they can see that it is likely that they will obtain value for their money. That is to say, these businesses and undertakings, before they become committed by way of contracts to the expenditure of what obviously will be large sums of money for advertising purposes, will want to be sure that they will have value for the money that they spend. They will want to be sure that their sales are likely to increase to an extent that will warrant the expenditure, and that they can obtain prices from the consumers which will take care of the advertising expenditure. Indeed, in view of the vast expenditure that they must incur, it may be that they will have to increase prices to the consumers. At any rate, if they do not in crease prices, it will be the case that if there is a large increase in consumption the consumer, who might have expected a reduction in prices because of that great increase, will find that that reduction will not take place because advertising costs will be a debit against the costs of the concern. The programme company presumably will be a company which exists by virtue of subscribed capital; that is to say, the company will require shareholders' investments in order that it may go about its business. The shareholder will expect a return for his money. It is true that some companies are floated and the share holders do not get a return for their money immediately, but they expect to get it, if not immediately, at any rate within a short time. The programme company cannot in any way be sure of a reasonable return on its capital for a time after it has been floated. The flotation of a television programme company will be a very consider able speculative effort. It will be some thing like, although I do not say exactly like, the flotation of a daily newspaper. In modern conditions a daily newspaper is a very difficult thing to float. It re quires large capital expenditure and may well require some years of deficits and losses before it can pay its way. It may be that it will never pay its way, as was the case in relation to a recent venture of this kind where, unhappily from its point of view, the daily newspaper failed. I do not say that the work of these programme companies will be quite as big or as serious as that of a daily newspaper, but it is on the way to being so. It will be an enormous speculative investment and there will be great uncertainty whether it can pay its way. Of course, the advertising people do not care, because they will be out of it. All they have to do is to book their ad vertisements and draw commission. Consequently, when I see hon. Members opposite who are connected with advertising businesses, I do not wonder at all at the cheerful look on their faces. They do not have to worry so much. But the programme companies will have to worry, because if they do not get the advertising revenue they will have invested substantial sums of capital and the return will be very highly speculative. I presume that in due course the commercial Television Authority itself will not be able to live unless money comes in from the programme companies. It will be dependent on the revenue that it receives from the programme companies, just as the programme companies will be dependent on the revenue they receive from the advertising agencies and individual advertisers. I put this question to the Committee as a practical proposition: who can be in any way confident as to the date by which this Bill can operate, if and when it becomes an Act of Parliament? I put it to the Home Secretary and the Assist ant Postmaster-General that the drafting of this Bill is typical of the whole experiment, the whole venture. As a matter of fact, the whole venture has not been thought out. No adequate, constructive thought has been given to the framing of the Bill or to the policy behind the Bill. All that has happened is that about 20 hon. Members on the back benches opposite have thrust their will down the throats of the Government. The Government, being a weak-willed and weak-kneed Government, have given way. They have said, "Well, the boys want a Bill, so let us cough up and give them a Bill"; and they have come along with all these complications and uncertainties and all the difficulties which I have indicated to the Committee. Anyone would think that it was a Socialist resolution of the 1880s instead of a modern party Bill. These were the sorts of things I used to draft when I was young, but I would not draft them now. [Interruption.] I was not tying myself to the date of 1880. This Bill is pure, Tory, doctrinaire, dogmatic idealism—idealism from their point of view, but certainly not idealism from our point of view. Clause 1 begins, so innocently, so unrealistically, so much in the abstract, so utterly incompetently and thoughtlessly, with the words:
That is coughing it out of the vasty deep. It is just saying to the hon. Member for Sevenoaks (Mr. J. Rodgers)—who, I hope, is consulting his bishop about it, as I think he needs a little spiritual care about this—and saying to the limited number of people who have an enthusiastic interest in this matter—I hope that it is in order, as the words were carefully chosen—"Do not worry, boys, 'There shall be an Authority'." There is no thought about whether there will be an Authority, no thought as to whether it is a practical proposition, no thought whether it is possible on the passing of the Bill and the Royal Assent, but just, "There shall be an Authority." 3.45 p.m. That is where we start, and it is so childlike, so thoughtless and so characteristic of any Government when it goes in for legislation that it has not thought about. That is one of the things we did not do in the Labour Government; we thought about our legislation. We had a good argument for the legislative pro gramme and the future legislative pro gramme. It was very good. But this Government, surrendering and capitulating to a miserable little collection of back benchers who have squeezed them, have landed themselves in a situation in which they say, "There shall be an Authority," and they assume that there will be an Authority. The Leader of the House is sitting there, light-hearted, smiling and happy. I warn him that in about nine months' time, if the Bill is passed—it will not be passed if we can get our way—he will not be smiling any more, but will be in the soup. I hope that I shall be here to witness him being in the soup, because that will be a pleasant sight for me. This is a foolish Bill. I put it to the Committee that it is better to use the words, "On the appointed day." It is the custom in many Acts of Parliament to provide that the Minister shall appoint the appointed day. I do not say that all Acts of Parliament do that, and I am sure that the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) can find an exception to the rule; but it is quite common in Acts of Parliament, especially when one is not certain of what is to happen, to provide for an appointed day. The Amendment in page 3, line 25, provides that the appointed day shall be specified in an order by way of a Statutory Instrument; that is to say, an order laid before the House and capable of Challenge by the House. Why do we suggest that? We suggest it because we are apprehensive that when the Government want to operate the Act they will not be ready to operate it. The first argument is that it is silly to provide that, "There shall be an Authority" without any elasticity as to the date, and there ought to be elasticity. The second argument is that when the Government propose to implement the Act, that decision ought to be put before Parliament and Parliament ought to be capable of making a challenge as to whether, in the circumstances, it is practicable to operate the Act. We should want to know what advertising revenue the Government had in sight, what were the contracts, and to whom they had been let, in respect of the programme companies, and what were the financial prospects for the Television Authority. I submit to the Government that all these are really reasonable propositions and that, in the nature of a Bill of this sort, where the outcome is uncertain and where the outcome and administrative problems are speculative, it is not wise merely to say, "There shall be an Authority." Where one is certain that a Bill can operate when it becomes an Act, it is all right to say, "On the passing of the Act, or on a stated day, but we cannot be certain in relation to this Bill. It is highly speculative, both administratively and from the point of view of possible financial and commercial business. Therefore, I recommend this Amendment and the associated Amendments to the favourable consideration of Ministers and of the Committee."There shall be an authority, to be called the Independent Television Authority."
I have in my hand a copy of an Act of Parliament of which the right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) claims the parentage, though he was not a Member of the House when it was introduced. It is the London Passenger Transport Act, 1933, in which it is stated:
That would seem to me to be open to the same criticism as has been made by the right hon. Gentleman about this Bill. I do not mind the right hon. Gentle man joking about it; in fact I very much enjoyed it, because it is quite wrong to think that this Bill has been welcomed. The right hon. Gentleman accuses the Government of vacillating, but the bulk of this Bill has been invented to placate a whole lot of sloppy-minded people who do not wish to get on with the job. I could have produced a shorter and much more effective Bill than this Measure, which is a baby in swaddling clothes. What is the objection of the right hon. Gentleman? It is quite clear that he and his colleagues are saying that if this matter is started, it will be stopped if and when they return to office. They may have some ambitions about the next General Election, provided they can establish authority in their own party. But in the meantime it is perfectly obvious that if we get this matter started before the next General Election no party will be able to stop it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] That is what terrifies the monopolists. They do not want competitive television to be in operation before the next General Election, and the whole object of this Amendment is to cause delay, to put off the appointing of the Authority for 12 months in the hope that the necessary organisation will take so long that the first programme under the Authority will be delayed. I do not mind if it is a commercial Authority instead of an independent Authority. I hope the right hon. Gentle man succeeds with his Amendment in that connection. Of what would it be independent in any case? I think it would be better if it were a commercial Authority. I am in favour of commercial competition, but that is in passing. The whole object of the right hon. Gentle man is to delay what may well happen at the earliest possible moment when this Bill becomes an Act so that we may have some alternative to the present dreary drip—I do not know whether the expression "drip" is the right one to use about something which one looks at. I do not possess a television set and what I have seen on other people's sets has not interested me very much. But let us have some competition and the opportunity for the exercise of some imagination, which is one thing the right hon. Gentleman has denied to the British public. If this Measure goes through, the right hon. Gentleman is not bound to look in, except on occasions when one or other of his right hon. or hon. Friends may be performing, and he may wish to find out what they are up to next so that he may be able to impose the appropriate disciplinary action at the next party meeting. I hope that this Amendment will be decisively rejected, because its whole object is to delay the operation of commercial television."For the purposes of this Act there shall, as soon as may be … established a public authority. …"
The few remarks of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) were mostly irrelevant. Obviously he has not read the Amendments. It is entirely up to the Postmaster-General whether he creates an Independent Television Authority immediately this Act is passed. He can do so immediately after it receives the Royal Assent if he so wishes. The Amendments which we are discussing suggest that there shall be flexibility so that the Postmaster-General can decide whether to institute the Authority immediately, or whether to do so some time within the next 12 months. He is not bound to delay the creation of the Authority.The quotation of the hon. Member for Croydon, East from the London Passenger Transport Act was quite irrelevant. It is not analogous to the present Bill because the phrase there is, "as soon as may be"mdash;which provides flexibility. It was not necessary to create the London Passenger Transport Board until it was considered practicable to do so and until conditions were right.
I have read the Amendments and the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies) should read other parts of the Clause. Obviously the Authority will not start to function until the remuneration of the members of the Authority has been decided.
Again the hon. Gentle man is quite wrong, as he usually is. When boards were created under previous Acts, the names of the persons serving on the boards were sometimes given to the House, and they started their preliminary consultations before their remuneration was decided, and some weeks before it was announced in the House.It is quite a common practice for Acts of Parliament to provide for an appointed day or for a vesting date. It was so in the case of the National Coal Board and the British Transport Commission. When the National Coal Board was created, the relevant Act received the Royal Assent in July, 1946. The vesting date was 3rd January, 1947. The Transport Act of 1947 received the Royal Assent on 6th August of that year, and the vesting date was 1st January, 1948. That did not prevent the members of the boards from being chosen by the Minister and their names being announced in the House, and preliminary consultations and work being undertaken. I suggest that a similar procedure might take place regarding the creation of an Independent Television Authority. We are entitled to ask the Assistant Postmaster-General why there is all the hurry. Why must the rush forward so rapidly with the creation of this Authority immediately after the Bill becomes law? Is it of such great urgency for the economic condition of the country that we should have an independent Authority created immediately after the Royal Assent is given to this Bill? The Authority is not wanted. Commercial television is not wanted in this country at the present time. It is wanted only by a few hon. Members on the back benches opposite, and, in spite of what has been said by the hon. Member for Croydon, East, the Government have given in to pressure from their back benchers. One reason why there should be flexibility in the creation of this Authority is that there have been substantial changes in Government policy which have to be assimilated and prepared for. The present Bill differs considerably from the original White Paper, and the Bill which will eventually become an Act will differ substantially from the Measure now before us. That is not because hon. Members on this side of the Committee or hon. Members opposite have put down Amendments, but because the Assistant Postmaster-General has put down a number of Amendments modifying the Bill. If there are to be substantial changes in the Bill before it receives the Royal Assent, there should be an interval of time during which the proper preliminaries can take place and preparations made for the carrying out of the functions of the Authority. First, the Postmaster-General must select the personnel to serve on the Authority. It will not be easy to find the right people. They are to have certain qualifications, although admittedly there are Government Amendments on the Order Paper abolishing some of the qualifications. Those will be the subject of later discussions. But it will be difficult to find people with the right qualifications, and it is important that they should be found. It would be unfortunate if the Assistant Postmaster-General were forced hurriedly to choose these people and had not ample time to give consideration to the matter and to ascertain that they had the right qualifications and were not disqualified from serving. The Bill states that a large range of people would be disqualified from serving on the Authority, and we hope to strengthen it in that connection as it proceeds. 4.0 p.m. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, it will not be at all easy to set up the Authority. There will be a number of difficulties in the way of the rapid creation of a commercial television network. There is already a shortage of technicians and a shortage of equipment. The Assistant Postmaster-General will be responsible to the House for both the B.B.C. and the new Authority, and it will be his duty to see that there is a fair apportionment between the two bodies—the Corporation and the Authority—of what is available. If he rushes ahead, as he would have to do if he did not accept the Amendment, it may well be that the Authority will attract people from the B.B.C. and will obtain equipment which the B.B.C. should first obtain in order to complete its coverage throughout the country. The B.B.C. now has only an 80 per cent, coverage and will have only 84 per cent, when its present stations are completed. Those are valid reasons why the Assist ant Postmaster-General should give serious consideration to these Amendments. There is a further reason: there is provision under Clause 9 for loans of £2 million to be made to the Authority, but there is a proviso that only £1 million can be loaned during the first year of the Authority. If the Authority is created after the passing of the Act and planning has not previously taken place, several months will have to be spent in planning the establishment of the stations, acquiring the sites, planning the building of the transmitters and masts and obtaining the equipment. All this will take a considerable time, and by the time the Authority is ready to start its construction and to borrow money, several months will have elapsed and it will not be possible for the £1 million to be spent in the time which remains—the balance of the first year during which the money has to be spent. The hon. Gentleman is prejudicing the chances which the Authority has of using in the first year the money which he is willing to lend it and thereby prejudicing the prospects of obtaining that money. There is therefore a financial reason why he should consider a delay in bringing the Bill into operation. It will not be easy for the Authority to get going. Indeed, it is very much easier for an existing Corporation like the B.B.C., which already has a trained staff of technicians and all the necessary experience of a going concern, to go ahead with an extension of its present services at a great speed than for a new authority to get going. The Assistant Postmaster-General should bear that in mind. We are not tying his hands by the Amendment; all we are doing is to give him greater flexibility. Surely he would prefer to have that. When the Bill be comes law, surely he would prefer to give consideration to the matter with his colleagues and consult those who know about these questions so as to decide exactly when the Authority should start. The only condition will be that he must start within 12 months. Why cannot he take time to consider all the relevant factors after the Bill has received Royal Assent? He would lose nothing by accepting the Amendment; in fact he would gain. If he does not accept it, we are bound to suspect that the motives which inspire him to proceed with this indecent haste are those which we have attributed to him on so many occasions— pressure to get on with the job from a small group of hon. Members who sit behind him.
The Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves) and myself has been put down in order to call attention to the need for postponing the operation of the Bill. The Amendment is in page 1, line 5, at the beginning, to insert:
I do not wish to suggest that there is any difference of opinion between my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and myself, on the one hand, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewis-ham. South (Mr. H. Morrison) and others who are concerned with other Amend- ments. Hon. Members opposite will not be able to take comfort from my speech by discovering a new split in the ranks of the Opposition. The only difference between us is that those who support my Amendment take a more optimistic view of the flexibility and spirit of conciliation which might be expected from the Government in this matter. We put down the Amendment to help the Government. We know the very great difficulty they are in. In fact, they are under very great embarrassment be cause this is a Bill which nobody likes—not even those who have pressed hardest for it. It has met, I suppose, with the most uniform degree of opposition from all the most influential people in the land which any Bill presented to the House has ever met. Every education authority, a large number of church dignitaries, many noble Lords and the whole of the Press oppose it, and many friends of the Government wish they would drop the Bill altogether. We are providing them with an escape from the guerilla band behind them who have been urging them on all this time. I have no doubt that right hon. Gentle men opposite have wished time and again that someone would disarm those who are holding the pistols which are being pointed at their backs all the time on the Bill. Here is a chance for that disarming to be done. We are not asking for the Bill to be dropped, but merely that its operation should be postponed for a couple of years. A great deal needs to be done during those two years. I suppose the Government can claim that the principle of the Bill has received the support of the House and that the principle of commercial television was accepted on Second Reading. It is quite true that they got their vote for it, but they know very well that that was be cause they put on the Whips. If they had taken the advice of "The Times" and other sections of the Press, they would have allowed a free vote on Second Reading. All they can claim is that by putting on the Whips they managed to secure a majority on Second Reading, but the fact that they had the votes of Members of Parliament does not mean that they have the votes of the people. "The Times," this morning, reminds right hon. Gentlemen opposite that "beyond the Commons lies the country," and it must be a rather uncomfortable thought for hon. and right hon. Gentle men opposite. The fact that this issue may have to be presented to the people will give them many anxious thoughts indeed, and I would remind them that this issue never has been presented to the people. If the Amendment standing in the names of my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and myself was accepted, then they would have to put the issue to the test of the people and find out whether or not there is any sup port for their conception of a sponsored television Authority, because that is really what it is, in effect. There is another reason for accepting this Amendment, and it is that, once we accept the principle of a thing, it is very important to time its operation properly. The country is faced with a great scarcity of resources of all kinds, and timing, therefore, becomes a question of deciding upon the priorities in the use of those resources. In this field of television, there is a scarcity of transmitting equipment, a scarcity of studio space, a scarcity of trained technical staff, a scarcity of trained producing staff and a scarcity of financial resources, and, with all these scarcities, surely, the important thing is to see that the organisation which is starting to do this job is, first of all, given the opportunity of doing that job properly before someone else comes along and starts scrambling for these scarce resources. After all, the B.B.C. is only just be ginning its work of establishing a television service. It has still a great deal to do, and it will do that job a great deal better than this commercial Authority will ever do it. The B.B.C, first of all, has the acknowledged duty of providing coverage for all or practically all the people in these islands. That is a tremendous task, and one which is not yet completed. Are we then to deprive the B.B.C. of some of these scarce resources and thus prevent it from carrying out that important task? The B.B.C. also has the task of providing an alternative television service, which is desired by the people generally, including hon. Members on this side of the Committee. Thirdly, the B.B.C. has another very important task to perform if it carries out effectively the terms of its Charter and if it does what is required by thinking opinion in the country; namely, the task of establishing a schools television service. I should like to draw the attention of the Committee to the history of this question of a schools television service. It is now well over two years since we had the first pioneer experiments in school television, which took place on a closed circuit to six schools in the county of Middlesex. After that experiment took place, there was an investigation and a report by the School Broadcasting Council, and also by the Education Committee of Middlesex County Council, and both these bodies produced reports saying that the experiments had proved to them the educational value of a schools television service. [Interruption.] Are there some hon. Members who wish to interrupt?"On the first day of September, nineteen hundred and fifty-six."
I was only wondering how the hon. Gentleman relates the argument he is putting forward about a schools television service to the Amendment on the Order Paper.
The hon. and gallant Gentleman cannot have followed very closely what I was saying. I hesitate to take up the time of the Committee, because, after all, we are all anxious to get on; it is a long and complicated Bill, there are a large number of Amendments, and, at best, the Bill will have a rather stormy passage. Therefore, I do not think it helps very much if hon. Members who have not been following the debate raise points by interruptions, but, for the sake of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I will briefly repeat the point I was making.It is, quite simply, that the B.B.C. has an obvious duty to provide a schools television service, and that, in order to do that, it will need to make use of studio space — [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] I see that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is no longer interested. The B.B.C. will have to use studio space, producing and technical staff and equipment and also financial resources to provide a schools television service. It will not be able to do so if it is to be faced with a challenge from commercial television for the next two years. I am not saying that only on my own authority, but on the authority of the British Broadcasting Corporation itself. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] If hon. Members will refer to the Press report of 3rd April this year, they will see that discussions took place between the B.B.C., the School Broadcasting Council and the Ministry of Education on the question of following up to the next stage in the establishment of schools television, and now, after two years have passed since the first and successful experiment—two years of long delay—when we have at last reached the point when a large number of local education authorities are extremely anxious to co-operate with the B.B.C. in establishing a school television service, we find that the B.B.C. is forced to say that it cannot contemplate establishing a schools television service in the near future because it will have to devote its scarce resources of studio space, staff, and so on, to meeting the challenge of commercial television. That is the issue which I am now putting forward, and I hope that we shall have a reply from the benches opposite, because this whole question has been evaded all through by the Minister of Education, the Assistant Postmaster-General and other Members of the Government who have been challenged about it. I challenge them to deny that if, in fact, they rush ahead with this commercial television proposal, it will destroy the possibility of making proper educational use of television in any foreseeable future, and that, the schools television service will be postponed to the Greek Kalends as a result of their surrender to purely money-grabbing interests. I know that there are right hon. Gentlemen opposite who think very highly of the educational work done by the B.B.C. In the Beveridge Committee's Report, the Minister of State, in his Minority Report, praised very highly the B.B.C.'s broadcasts to schools and went so far as to say that, while he favoured the setting up of a competitive service to the B.B.C., educational broadcasting should be left solely in the hands of the B.B.C.; in other words, even the Minister of State was not prepared to trust educational services to any organisation. He wanted it kept where it was safe—in the hands of the British Broadcasting Corporation. The view is generally held that in the educational field the B.B.C. does an excellent job and ought to extend its work as soon as possible into the television medium. It is felt, however, that if, within the next year or two, it has to face the challenge of commercial television it will not be able to do this work. I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment, and not force us to conclude that they have sacrificed the interests of the children to those commercial interests which, instead of providing the children with sustained educational pabulum will put before them in their own homes degrading and trashy stuff.
I am sure that we are very grateful to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) for the amusing speech with which he opened this debate. Nevertheless, all these Amendments seek to intro duce an element of delay which is very difficult to appreciate, so perhaps I had better explain what, in fact, they would do.The first Amendment would lay down that there should be an appointed day, not later than 12 months after the passing of the Act, when the Authority should come into being. The second would provide that the Order setting up the Authority should be subject to annulment, in pursuance of a Resolution of either House of Parliament. I think that the vital point of these Amendments comes in the second. If it were accepted it would mean that a Statutory Instrument would have to be laid before both Houses before the Authority could start work. That Instrument would be subject to annulment under, I think Section 5, of the Statutory Instruments Act, 1946. That would mean that, from the laying of the Order, Parliament would have 40 days in which to pray against it if it so wished. That 40 days would take no account of any time during which Parliament was dissolved or prorogued, or during which it was adjourned for more than four days. Assuming that the Bill is passed into law in June or July of this year, the existence of the Authority itself might well be held up until the end of the year, or even later. During that time the Authority could not enter into contracts either with the programme contractors or to purchase equipment. The Amendment, therefore, is a means of deferring for a further period the decision to get on with the job. The hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey) was more definite in what he wanted. He wanted to make it two years. I contend that the principle of having an appointed day is inappropriate to a Bill of this sort. In many Bills it has been necessary to fix an appointed day, but it has not been necessary to fix an appointed day for any Authority to come into being so much as to fix a date for taking over the assets. That, I think, is the essential difference between this and any other Bill. Even under the nationalisation Acts, such as the Trans port Act, 1947, there was no delay in appointing the Authority itself. Another instance when it may be useful to use the device of an appointed day is where a Bill is of such a character that an interval is required between the setting up of the Corporation and the date on which the Act comes into effective operation. That is not true here. An interval may also be required for other reasons. The common instance is where the Authority is brought into being but a delay is needed so that regulations can be made for dealing with specific things in the Bill. My point is that this Bill is not of that character at all. We are not taking over any assets. We are creating a new authority. I cannot see any reason why there should be any interval between the passing of the Bill and its coming into operation, or any interval before the Authority may be brought into existence. The suggested Amendment under which the House would have the opportunity to pray against the Bill is not only wholly unnecessary but most unusual. It would mean that we should need yet another debate before the Act came into operation. I should have thought that if ever there was a Bill which had been discussed ad nauseum it was this Television Bill. If I may say so, I think that the device of delay which the right hon. Gentleman suggests is inappropriate. I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Broxtowe for his solicitude for the future of our party, and also for the programme companies. I suggest that it is quite in appropriate for a Bill of this sort to have an appointed day, and I regret that I am unable to accept the Amendment.
I have listened very carefully to the Assistant Postmaster-General's explanation. I think that he will, on reflection, discover that the Amendments really help him. The first states that "On the appointed day" and, as a result of the second Amendment, the Clause would read:
I suggest that had the Government really known what they were going to do in this matter a date would have been included in the Bill. The fact is that they have been entirely undecided. Having yielded to the pressure of certain interests on the other side—to which I have referred on three other occasions—this Bill is brought forward. Why not have put in an appointed day? In my humble sub mission, the reason is that at first they decided, in principle, that there should be commercial television, but had not the slightest idea how it should be done. In other words, they did not know whether channels were available on which trans mission could take place were available. Despite many questions from my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) it was not until the second White Paper was issued that we had an assurance as to the wavelength on which the transmission was to take place. On Second Reading we learned that this was to be done on two channels now available on Band III. That means that many people are to be put to in convenience. Before these two channels can be made available many people have to be transferred from Band III to Band II. That will take time."… the first day of September, nineteen hundred and fifty-six."
Can the hon. Member tell me who it is proposed to transfer to Band II?
I understand that it is largely the ambulance services. Some one has to be removed so that the two channels shall be available—that is what we are told. Certainly, they have to be removed if there is to be complete coverage for Northern Ireland or for Scotland on commercial television—let there be no doubt about that. These are real reasons why there should be delay before the coming in of the Act, and I hope that the Government will give consideration to the problems I have mentioned.4.30 p.m. My hon. Friend the Member for Brox-towe (Mr. Warbey) raised the question of the B.B.C. second programme. Is the B.B.C. not to be allowed to go on with its plans for a second programme until the establishment of the Independent Tele vision Authority becomes an accomplished fact? The second programme of the B.B.C. is to be on Band IV, and if we are to believe the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) there will be some delay in bringing it into operation. My latest information is that the B.B.C. already has a transmitter which can operate on Band IV. Why should it not have the chance of establising a second programme? Surely it would be generally conceded by the Committee, in fairness, justice and equity, that the B.B.C. should have this chance. I am convinced that it is because of the difficulties experienced by the Government in their consultations with the technical officers of the Post Office, and, perhaps, of the B.B.C., that they have not stipulated the date upon which the I.T.A. should become active. I do not want to go into details about the difficulty of obtaining adequate finance, but the independent commercial organisation must be financed from the licences. Many things must be done to cover those sections of the programme which are not profitable to the programme companies. Knowing hon. Members opposite, I am convinced that they would have included an appointed day if they had thought it practicable to do so. We say that it is practicable to make 1st September, 1956, the appointed day, for the reasons we have given. It is largely because there has been a technical difficulty about the allocation of channels and the transfer of people from one band to another that no appointed day has been named. I hope that the Committee will feel that it can reasonably accept the Amendment, which is put forward in a most helpful spirit and which we consider to be practicable.
I want to refer to the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) about the possible use of wavebands. In his position as chairman of another vested interest group—the Mobile Radio Users —he is an expert in this matter, but whether people have to be moved to Band II or Band IV, the fact remains that a certain amount of disorganisation will result. This factor must be taken into account when the Bill has been passed and the Postmaster-General seeks to implement it, and I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will give a clearer explanation of this aspect of the matter.The hon. Gentleman seems to assume that once the Bill is passed there will be an Authority; indeed, the Bill says so, but in view of the extraordinary turns and changes in Government policy I am wondering whether, when the time comes, he will be able to find anybody who is willing to serve on the Authority. We would like to know that, and before the Bill comes into operation we would also like to hear what arrangements he will impose on the Authority. We should be told about some of the discussions which have taken place and the prospects of setting up programme contractors. We know that the Postmaster-General has had many conversations with potential programme contractors. Like the Government in other respects, he does not hesitate to anticipate laws which the Government hope Parliament will pass. In this case I suggest that he does nothing more to anticipate the decision of Parliament. Let the Bill be passed and then, when he knows what the law is, let him think about setting up the Authority, and give the House the opportunity to vote against the final proposals. This may save him some embarrassment. Other wise, if nobody is willing to serve on the Authority, he will find himself in the position of not being able to carry out the wishes of Parliament, and we want to save him that embarrassment.
That is a little wide of the Amendment which is before the Committee.
With respect, Sir Rhys, I think it is precisely on the Amendment, which deals with the question whether there should be an appointed day. That is the point to which I am addressing my remarks.On this matter Parliament has had to concern itself repeatedly with fresh sets of proposals. Even now we do not know whether the purposes for which the Authority is being set up will be those contained in this Bill, or whether other purposes will be attached to it in the course of the debates here and in another place. We do not even know whether the Bill will be passed into law in this Session. The Postmaster-General should wait until the Bill is passed before he assumes so gaily that he will be able to set up the Authority. I hope that the Government will reconsider the Amendment and accept the principle of an appointed day.
I should not have intervened in this debate but for the speech of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams). When he produced, out of the hat, so to speak, his somewhat anaemic rabbit, which he held up for the admiration of the Committee, I thought his performance was a little too slick, so I examined both the hat and the rabbit. No two Measures could be more completely different in this respect than the London Passenger Transport Act of 1933 and the Bill which is now before the Committee.The hon. Member for Croydon, East stopped reading his extract at the point which was most convenient to him. If only he had gone on a little longer, it would have become apparent that the whole London Passenger Transport Act depended upon a series of appointed days.
Not in relation to the appointment of the Board, because the appointing trustees were set up by the Act.
That is just the difference between this Bill and that Act, which provided not that the Board should spring from the mind of the Minister concerned but that there should be appointing trustees, who had to select the members of the Board. It was only after they had acted that the then Act could come into operation.
There is an appointing trustee under the Bill—the Post master-General.
Under the terms of the London Passenger Transport Act the appointing trustees had to satisfy the requirement that they would not bring any bias into their appointments, whereas nobody would suggest that the Postmaster-General, or the Assistant Postmaster-General, is devoid of bias in this matter. The provisions of the London Passenger Transport Act in this respect evoked some comments from the late right hon. David Lloyd George, to the effect that whatever the Measure was it was not Socialism, because, among other things, the arrangements for the appointment of the Board endeavoured to keep it out of politics, and, in the result, did so fairly success fully. On the assumption that it is at least as desirable that the Authority in this case should be as remote from party bias as was the London Passenger Trans port Board, I should have thought that it would have been right to adopt similar arrangements for the appointment of the Authority.As I understand it, the effect of the Clause as now worded will be that from the moment the Bill becomes law it will be possible for the Postmaster-General himself to make the appointments, and the only way in which his action can be challenged will be by moving a reduction of his salary on the Estimates, or by a specific Motion of censure on him and the Government for the way in which the power is exercised. His action will be an administrative act, and those will be the only ways in which it can be challenged. I really think it would be desirable to have some machinery by which the House and the country can be assured in this matter, for absence of bias in the people who are to be the governors of the new organisation is of the utmost importance. This is not a matter which would involve very long delay. There should be, when the Bill becomes an Act, arrangements by which the selection of the people who are to serve can be made in a short period by appointing trustees, similar to those provided for in the London Passenger Transport Act. I express my sincere thanks to the hon. Member for Croydon, East for calling my attention to those circumstances.
I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that I was present when that Measure was going through Parliament. I took part in consideration of it as a Conservative back bencher. The National Government led by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald accepted the proposal where by the appointments were made, which was a proposal distinct from that of the right hon. Gentleman's party, which was that the appointments should be made by the Minister. Good or bad, it was a different proposal from the original proposal favoured by the right hon. Gentle man the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison).
I support the Amendment on the Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey). It would be to the credit of the Committee if it were to accept the Amendment. It would ease the position of the Government very considerably. More and more people are beginning to realise the significance of this Bill, and they are reacting to it in a way which, were I responsible for it, would alarm me considerably. They are beginning to realise more and more now that this is a leap into the dark, and that they have had no opportunity, as an electorate, of expressing their views on the matter.This is a very complicated Measure, and by it we are frustrating one of the finest pieces of work for which this country has been responsible not only in sound radio transmission but in television. The Amendment would give the Government the opportunity of having second thoughts on the matter, and I want to put forward some reasons why they should be given that opportunity for second thoughts. The people of the country are proud of the work that the B.B.C. has been doing in the past few decades. The B.B.C. has been above party political warfare. It has been above the battle, and there has been no criticism of the B.B.C. on that score. It has sometimes been felt that the programmes could be improved, but the principle of this great national service has been accepted by the whole population. Whenever Commissions have investigated the B.B.C. those Com missions, on all occasions—
Order. The work of the B.B.C. does not come into question on this Amendment, which is about an appointed day.
Unless I am very much mistaken, that is the whole consideration behind the Amendment. My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe has already indicated that the B.B.C. is under a considerable disadvantage merely because the Bill has been brought forward, quite apart from the fact—
That may be true enough, but all that this Amendment proposes is to alter the Clause by providing for an appointed day.
I understand that we are considering the first two Amendments together, and my hon. Friend is making his case why the operation of the Bill should be delayed, which is the effect of the second Amendment.
If the right hon. Gentleman looks at the Amendments he will see that all they do is alter the date of operation of the Bill.
By an order.
Yes, but it is still only an alteration of the date.
The third Amendment that we are considering provides for the order to be laid before the House, and that would involve some delay.
Yes, but it is all to do with the coming into force of the Bill.
It would involve delay, and the delay would be one of the reasons for the Amendments.
That can be advanced as a reason, but I do not think we can go into the whole subject of the effect on the B.B.C.
We understood, Sir Rhys, that my Amendment and the other Amendment would be taken with the first Amendment, and the purpose is to delay the operation of the whole scheme for two years. Surely we are entitled to give the reasons why there should be that delay? One of the reasons is that the B.B.C. has very important work to complete, and that it should be given the opportunity of doing so for two years before it has to face the challenge of commercial television.
That may be true, but that is a very different thing from having a general debate on the work of the B.B.C., which is not in order on this Amendment.
I did not intend to spend the whole of my time in referring to the work that the B.B.C. has been under taking during the past years, but I do feel that it is exceedingly important for the people of the country to realise how damaging this Bill will be to the work which the B.B.C. has in hand.
That is what I have objected to. That would have been quite proper on the Second Reading of the Bill, but it is too wide a subject for debate on this Amendment.
Some of my hon. Friends have already indicated that there will be a scramble for equipment on account of this new competition which the B.B.C. will have to face. In the ordinary way the B.B.C. would have completed its programme. It has made all manner of arrangements to complete its programme to cover the country with a very high frequency service to provide television services where there is none as yet.The B.B.C. has also put forward a scheme to provide a second programme, and much of this will be severely handicapped because competition with the new Authority for equipment is bound to happen, probably at the expense of the B.B.C., and in many ways in co-operation with the B.B.C., because the Authority will not be able to operate without the co-operation of the B.B.C. So the B.B.C. is vitally concerned in this matter, and how on earth we can discuss television or broadcasting in any way without referring to the work of the B.B.C. passes my comprehension.
But we are not discussing that. We are discussing whether "On the appointed day" should be inserted in the Clause.
On a point of order, Sir Rhys. We are discussing three distinct Amendments, one of which stipulates 1st September, 1956. It is our contention, in advocating why there should be that date, that interference with the B.B.C. is involved in respect of the wavelengths which the Authority will be granted. I suggest it is in order to argue on these lines as one reason why the date should be 1956.
The hon. Gentleman is making a point very different from the speech of the hon. Member for Greenwich (Mr. Reeves).
I suppose, Sir Rhys, that when we speak our terminology is bound to differ. We may put our points of view in ways which may not appear to you to correspond, but I can assure you that what I am trying to say is exactly what my hon. Friend has just said. I do ask you to be lenient.
The hon. Member may be saying that, but; he is not doing so nearly as skilfully as his hon. Friend.
To begin with, Sir Rhys, I have not been a Minister, as my hon. Friend has been. I have not had to stand at the Dispatch Box. and I have not the accomplishments which my hon. Friend possesses, but I assure you that the idea which I am trying to put forward is the one which my hon. Friend expressed in a few words.My hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe indicated that he was concerned about the school television ser vice, the B.B.C.'s progress upon which has actually been suspended. That is a terrible thing to have happened, so it seems to me, in view of the fact that the new Authority is not likely, even in the wildest dreams of those who support the scheme, to put forward a plan for a school television service. The fact that the B.B.C. is to be hampered in this way is a very strong argument for the Amendment. There is not the slightest doubt that there will be a great scramble for equipment. All those who are in the industry, those on the fringes of the industry and those who have been associated with broadcasting and television, know that there is a great shortage of specialised equipment. Also, as the result of Government policy, the B.B.C. has been held back for four years. It has had its plans but it has not been possible, on account of the restrictions on capital expenditure, for it to get on with its schemes. Now on account of the lack of studio space, cameras and equipment generally, this school television scheme is to be can celled or scrapped. Some very interesting experiments were undertaken, a pilot scheme was arranged, and the results of it have been made known. There is not the slightest doubt that it would have been a great educational asset if the B.B.C.'s school television service had gone forward. I urge the Government to think again about this scheme, and first give an opportunity for the people of the country to be consulted. They have never had an opportunity of deciding whether there shall be commercial television here. Our people have always been proud of our progress in the field of television and radio, and they ought to have an opportunity of expressing their views. The Amendment would provide a delay of two years, during which the country could be consulted. I urge the Committee to support the Amendment.
We have already spent far too long up this rather silly Amendment. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is rather silly?"] Be patient, and I will tell the Committee. Because of that fact, I intend to be very brief, but the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson), a former Assistant Postmaster-General, and his hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), who sits beside him, arguing the necessity for delay, produced some technical arguments about which I ought to make one point. The hon. Member for Preston, South argued that if these Amendments were not carried, and if there was not provision for delay, there would not be time to examine the possible inconvenience to users of mobile radios. The hon. Member for Keighley referred to the same point.The suggestion was that the coming into operation immediately of the provisions of the Bill would inconvenience, for example, the ambulances. That point should be dealt with, as it is one of sub stance and importance. It is not the coming into operation of the Bill or its provisions that have inconvenienced the ambulances or will inconvenience the users of mobile radios. The fact is that the users of mobile radios and ambulances have been inconvenienced because of something quite different—because of the policy of the Post Office in putting them into Band III in the first place, for which the hon. Member for Keighley was himself responsible.
That is a very fair point, and it is perfectly true that I share a certain amount of personal responsibility for that decision. Let me hasten to assure the hon. and gallant Member, however, that at that time it was not contemplated that there would be a second programme of the B.B.C. on that particular wave length.The second point I wish to make is that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will refer to the Stockholm Convention, which dealt with the allocation of wave lengths, he will see that there is a specific protocol which gives the British Post Office the power to allocate these wave lengths to the mobile services, and it was something which the mobile services readily accepted, and were only too pleased to do so. By going into Band III, we were able to make available channels for defence purposes, about which I do not propose to say anything. The allegation which the hon. and gallant Member has made has been made across the Floor several times, and I am happy to repeat the assurance given to my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), in reply to a supplementary question, that the Post Office has a perfectly legal right to have mobile radios on Band III.
It is true that the Post Office has a perfectly legal right to have users in Band III, but that entirely depends upon how we interpret the inter national Conventions which they have signed.
On a point of order. Are we discussing the appointed day for putting an ambulance in Band III. or what are we discussing?
The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right. The hon. and gallant Member is going too far away from the Amendment.
I do not think that you were in the Chair at the time, Sir Rhys, when the hon. Member for Keighley advanced as a reason for having an appointed day the fact that, if there were not that provision, certain users of radio would be inconvenienced. I am addressing my argument to rebutting that contention and pointing out that the inconvenience would not arise as a result of the Bill but as a result of the hon. Member's own policy.
As long as the hon. and gallant Member confines his argument to that it is in order, but as I understood him he had gone far afield and was discussing the bands themselves.
I was discussing the point that it is not the coming into operation of the Bill which is likely to inconvenience the ambulance authorities. It is, in fact, the policy of the Post Office, and that policy was to put them into Band III in the first place when the Atlantic City Convention of 1947 specifically stated—
Order. The hon. and gallant Member is back to the Convention.
I think I have now made the point. I wanted to have it on the record.
The Atlantic City Convention did not deal with short waves.
I am not sure whether I can reply to that intervention.
I pointed out that the hon. and gallant Member cannot continue to discuss Band III.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General will stick to the point and reject the Amendment. Let us get the Authority started at the earliest possible moment; let the prospective programme contractors know where they stand; and let us get the new television which the people want on the air as soon as possible.
We know that the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) does not like the Bill. He has made it clear over and over again that he is antagonistic to it, but it is a bit much that he should filibuster like this while we are doing our best to help the Government get the Bill through. If this is an example of what we are to have through the stilly watches of the night, with the vested interests that do not like the Bill holding it up like this, I think that we shall have a rather thin time over the next few months.I shall not follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I shall not filibuster, but I shall put some relevant points to the Assistant Postmaster-General for his consideration. The Assistant Postmaster-General has deplored the Amendment on the ground that it would delay the introduction of the Authority. He says, in effect, that this is a very bad thing indeed. I ask him to reconsider that statement. The Committee must face the fact that the compelling motive behind the Bill is the most competent and the best organised pressure group that this country possesses, and that is the advertising profession. Indeed, the Bill is before the Commit tee today because of the efforts of that pressure group. Otherwise, we should not have heard about it at all. I happen to know from experience, and there are hon. Gentlemen opposite who have shared that experience, how extremely skilful the pressure group is. The Assistant Postmaster-General and the Government will be faced with the problem of finding competent, disinterested people. I think that the Assistant Postmaster-General admits that they have to be disinterested by the very terms of the Bill. Indeed, some of the Amendments on the Paper in the names of my hon. Friends go even further in strengthening the determination of the Assistant Postmaster-General that the members of the Authority should be disinterested people. If they are disinterested they will be innocent. They will be innocent of the advertising business and of the publicity business. They will be drawn into the position of members of the Authority for other reasons. This is where the pressure group will go to work. If the pressure group finds that the Authority is being set up as it were against the clock—that is to say, that the Government were imbued with the belief that our economic life would fall in ruins around our feet unless we had commercial television almost immediately—then, of course, the pressure group will be able to go to people who were confused, worried and anxious about the future, unarmed with experience that some of us have had, and it would be able to exercise the maximum possible influence upon them. The pres sure group cannot really conduct the compaign successfully over a long-term period. That cannot be done; it can only be done over a short term. There fore, let us have a short-term period. What is to prevent the Government deciding to nominate the members of the Authority, to appoint them subject to Parliamentary approval, to see that they go to work, to pay them and to let them have a year or two to learn the business? After all, this is a most important business. It will be the most important propaganda weapon that the country possesses—or one of the most important. There is no reason why the people who are in charge should not understand it because they have not got the experience. They should not be subject to the pres sure group technique, and they should have time to understand what the thing is all about. In that way we should defeat the machinations of some of these gentlemen who have been going round the country talking as though they are on the inside of the track. One of these gentlemen has been going around saying that he has got the monopoly for a certain part of the country. He has been making speeches to that effect. [Hon. MEMBERS: "Who is he?"] His name will probably be divulged as the Committee proceeds with its work. He may be able to go to the Authority and to say, "Long before you came on the scene I was in touch with the thing." The Assistant Postmaster-General must protect the Authority from that. We must not have the Authority starting off in such sinister circumstances. For that reason—because if this wretched Bill is to go on the Statute Book it might as well be operated as decently as it possibly can be—let the Government have time to find the right people. Let them have time to bed those people down in tine job. Let them clear up some of the highly suspicious characters that are now lurking on the fringes of this business. Let them set up an Authority that will have the respect not only of the House of Commons, which is important, but of the public in whose interest this Bill must be produced, not, of course, in the interest of the advertisers.
I rise with some diffidence because I do not want to carry on the debate for too long. We are anxious to make some progress, but we must have a more satisfactory answer to the case which has been advanced from this side of the Committee. I must say that I thought that the Assistant Postmaster-General treated the matter very lightly. He did not attempt to deal with the argument which has been advanced. I hope that during the Committee stage he will try to deal with the points put forward so that the maximum amount of light can be thrown on this matter.The Home Secretary is sitting there, and I understand that he has a special responsibility in this matter. His responsibility, as I had when I was Post master-General and responsible for television policy, is to see that things are going right; but I must say that on this Amendment we have not been treated fairly. The Assistant Postmaster-General showed a reluctance to tell Parliament what is to be done. One of his arguments is that there is no need to have an appointed day, and that there is nothing to tell. I should have thought that there was a very great deal to tell. We ought to be fully informed of what is to be done under this Bill before it comes into operation. As the Home Secretary knows, this matter has been frequently discussed. There have been eight or nine debates about television, and the matter has changed its form every time we have had a debate. Each of the White Papers has differed, and even now this Bill differs from the White Papers. I do not know what contacts have been made between the Assistant Postmaster-General and other people, but I see some very strange Amendments on this Bill. We really ought to know what deals, if any, have been made behind the scenes. The operation of the provisions of this Bill require, more than in any other Bill, the insertion of an appointed day and an Order to be brought before the House before it operates. The Home Secretary knows that many things have to be settled. He knows, first of all, that the authority of the Postmaster-General has to be exercised before this Authority can be appointed and can operate. He has to decide for how many hours a day there shall be television by this Authority. He has to decide which wavelengths it shall have. We have been told in which band it is, but we have not been told precisely on which wavelength it will operate, or on how many wavelengths it will operate. I do not know why we have not been told. The Postmaster-General has a responsibility, under the Bill, to decide what are the natural breaks for the insertion of advertisements. He has the authority and responsibility for deciding how much the members of this Authority should be paid. He must also decide what allowances can be given to certain members of the Authority when they are about the Authority's business. The Home Secretary is a very good House of Commons man, if I may say so without appearing presumptuous. Surely he will agree that these are matters that ought to be discussed on the basis of an Order of this House rather than on a Motion of censure or upon the question of raising the salary of the Postmaster-General or of the Assistant Postmaster-General. There is a whole range of matters about which we ought to have proper information before this Authority commences to work. In addition to that, the purpose of an appointed day and of an Order of this sort is to give the Minister an opportunity of telling the House whom he is to appoint. While it is not in the Order itself, we are generally given an indication whom it is intended to appoint. By the terms of this Bill, the Postmaster-General is prohibited from appointing so many people, that we should want to look at whoever he does appoint with a great deal of attention. These are matters that ought to be before the House, and the purpose of an appointed day and of an Order is to get a full disclosure to the House of what it is proposed to do under this Bill. 5.15 p.m. We might be told that apparently the Postmaster-General is now in discussion with programme companies and, as we know, he is not supposed to have any contact with programme companies. They are supposed to be completely in dependent of him and responsible to the Authority. All these things are happening and have been hidden from the House, I think that as these matters loom very large in the public mind, and as this instrument is capable of doing very great damage to the public mind as well as very great good, we ought to take the utmost care to examine everything that is being done. In those circumstances, the Home Secretary ought to give us an assurance about these matters. He ought to give us a much more substantial reason why this Amendment is not to be accepted. If he feels that he is not obliged to do that, I for one will be very sorry, and we shall have to divide without having heard the Government's case. That is the position. I should much prefer that the right hon. and learned Gentleman should make a statement so that we can consider the matter. If he does not do that, we must notify him beforehand that we must have a Division so that the country may know exactly where we stand.
May I ask the Home Secretary whether he is going to make any response to the request of my right hon. Friend? We had a rather short and, I thought, rather thin reply from the Assistant Postmaster-General. We have not so far debated this Amendment at undue length. We are trying to be reasonable about it. But I think that it would be a matter of courtesy to the Committee, and indeed to my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards), that the Home Secretary should make a considered statement, especially in the light of the other speeches which have been made sub sequent to the remarks of the Assistant Postmaster-General.
As the Committee knows, I am always willing to respond to a request put in that way. I hope that the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) will not take it amiss that I did not rise at once. I thought that he was defining the differences between us rather than seeking further information. I am very glad to attempt to deal with some of the points that have been made.It is right that one should bear in mind the general run of the arguments that have been advanced, because, as is not unknown in the somewhat carefree atmosphere that gets into speeches in Committee, some deviationism on the line of argument does take place. I will, therefore, try to follow the general line as I see it, and I hope that no one will take it amiss if I do not cover it all. The right hon. Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), who moved the Amendment, dealt with it from the point of view of, I think, three general approaches. First of all, he said that the Authority cannot reasonably function until the programme companies are in being, and I join issue with him on that point. I think it is essential that the Authority must do a great deal of preliminary work both on the technical side and on the side of choice of programme companies, and the lines on which con tracts are to be drawn, and so on. There fore, I should say that it is essential from the Authority's point of view that it should come into being very quickly. The right hon. Gentleman's second point showed a concern for a body of people whom I did not think up to this stage in our discussions to have torn his heart-strings very badly. Whenever I have listened to the right hon. Gentle man—and I have listened with great care and enjoyment to every speech that he has made on this subject—it always seemed that when the word "advertiser" touched his vocal cords it was more in a spirit of antipathy than sympathy that he mentioned them. Today he made a most sympathetic approach to the position of advertisers, and he said that they would not be assured of value for their money unless there were a delay in the appointment of the Authority. I do not think that the sorrows of the advertisers which wrung the right hon. Gentleman's heart were really relevant to the existence of the Authority, except from the point of view that if the advertisers desire to advertise—this has generally been said from the benches opposite—the sooner the Authority is in existence the sooner they will be able to operate. The third body of persons who excited the sympathetic apprehension of the right hon. Gentleman were the investors in the programme companies. Again, I am glad to see the width and warmth of his sympathy in that regard. He said that they might be in a difficulty in understanding what was to happen. The way to put them out of that difficulty is to appoint the Authority early and let them know that the programme companies have at any rate got something to which they can go. That was the line of the right hon. Gentleman's argument, and I do not think that there was a great deal of substance in it. The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Ernest Davies), who is well known to us as an authority on public corporations, and whose book on that subject I am sure a great many of us have read with enjoyment and pleasure, was con fusing two aspects of the matter, the appointment of the Authority and the vesting date. He and I took part in long discussions on at least one nationalisation Bill which he will remember, although it is now seven years ago. I would remind him that the system was to appoint the Board but to delay the vesting date in order to go through the necessary preliminary machinery. That is the real answer to the matter. A great deal of the objection, with the greatest deference to the Chair and to the hon. Members concerned, closely approximated to a Second Reading approach. I am not casting any aspersions.
Then why say it?
The hon. Gentle man need not get so worried. The real objection which hon. Members have stated has been to the existence of commercial television at all. They have said that they hate it coming into being, and, therefore, if it can be delayed a couple of years, so much the better. That argument is closely akin to the argument which has already taken place earlier.The right hon. Member for Caerphilly put forward the argument that the Committee had not got information as to matters which come within the purview of my noble Friend the Postmaster-General himself. As a general principle, if administrative acts are placed upon a Minister, Parliament has about half a dozen solid opportunities of questioning the administrative acts. It is a perfectly usual thing to leave it to the liveliness and concern of hon. Members to keep Ministers on the straight and narrow path. The right hon. Gentleman's other argument referred to the general advisability of the appointed day procedure. In the utmost friendliness, I ask him to consider that carefully. After all, sometimes it looks as if one party is in for a long tenure of office; sometimes it looks as if it will be another party. We have both seen parties with apparently relatively long tenures of office in prospect, and we have seen changes come. Let hon. Members make all the party points they want —I am the last person to complain about that—but let us try always to bear in mind what we really want from the point of view of the working of the House and its legislation. If hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite were really to consider it, not in relation to a Bill which they do not like, but as objectively as any of us party politicians can consider a point, the regular process of putting in an appointed day for the first step—not for later steps, as the hon. Member for Enfield, East mentioned—would have the effect only of slowing up the legislative force of what we do. As I have heard the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) so often say when he was the Leader of the House, the difficulty is not the speed of action of our machinery but that, in many cases, it is slow in modern times. We have had a very good discussion on this matter and hon. Members have advanced many points on it. I have tried to show why we have been unable to meet their views. However, as we have had a discussion which has been full and good-tempered, I hope that the Committee will now come to a decision and that we shall be able to proceed to the interesting point which is to be discussed next.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not said anything about the school television service. Has he any remarks to make about that?
I feel that that is a Second Reading point. The question is whether one wants competitive television if there is any danger that it will affect the school service. That is a matter on which opinions can differ. It is not really very relevant to the narrow question of the delay which the Amendment would entail.
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give us his opinion?
I will give my opinion frankly. I think that it is so important to get competitive television that I should put it first. That is my opinion, but, as I have said, it is a point on which we can have differing opinions. As to the general point, I do not think that one should pursue it at this stage. I hope that I have now met the request of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South.
I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for responding to the appeal which I and my right hon. Friend the Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) addressed to him. He has made a considered reply. However, I am afraid that he has not convinced us that our Amendments are wrong, although we are obliged to him for his courtesy. In the circumstances, I must advise my hon. Friends to divide on the Amendment.
Before we divide, may I mention that there has been no reply to an important matter which has been raised by several of my hon. Friends? I have not taken part in the debate, but as a result of listening to it I have been made more uneasy than I was before. Accusations have been made against the Assistant Postmaster-General that he has been meeting representatives of vested interests who have been bringing pressure to bear with regard to what should take place in this House. I think that before we have a Division, the
Division No. 81.]
|Acland, Sir Richard||Callaghan, L. J.||Fienburgh, W.|
|Adams, Richard||Carmichael, J.||Finch, H. J.|
|Albu, A. H.||Champion, A. J.||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Chapman, W. D.||Follick, M.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Chetwynd, G. R.||Forman, J. C.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Clunie, J.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Collick, P. H.||Gaitskell Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Cove, W. G.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Baird, J.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Glanville, James|
|Balfour, A.||Crosland, C. A. R.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.|
|Bartley, P.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Daines, P.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H||Grey, C. F.|
|Benson, G.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)|
|Beswick, F.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Blackburn, F.||Deer, G.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Blenkinsop, A,||Delargy, H. J.||Hannan, W.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Dodds, N. N.||Hardy, E. A.|
|Boardman H.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Hargreaves, A.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Edelman, M||Hastings, S.|
|Brockway A. F.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Henderson, Rt. Hon A. (Rowley Regis)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Hewitson, Capt. M|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Hobson, C. R|
|Butler. Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Fernyhough, E.||Holman, P.|
Assistant Postmaster-General should reply to those accusations.
I do not want to detain the Committee, but it seems to me that the Home Secretary was at last driven to say something on the school television service which was very much against his will. He tried rather to avoid it by suggesting that it was a Second Reading point. This is strictly a Committee point. What we are saying is that the Committee should postpone the operation of the Bill for two years, so as to give the B.B.C. a chance to do the work which it ought to do.I think that the Home Secretary said quite clearly—and if we are misrepresenting him at all, I think that we ought to give him the opportunity of saying more about it—that in his view and in the view of the Government it was more important to get commercial television going to provide an opportunity for advertising and for the exploitation of a new medium, than to provide an educational service by television for the schools. If that is so, I think that he should have an opportunity of saying more about that.
Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 246: Noes, 270.
|Holmes, Horace||Morris, Peroy (Swansea, W.)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Moyle, A,||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Mulley, F. W.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Murray, J. D.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Oldfield, W. H.||Strauss Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Oliver, G. H.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Orbach, M.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Oswald, T.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Janner, B.||Padley, W. E.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Paget, R. T.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Pannell, Charles||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Parker, J.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Jones, David (Hartlepools)||Parkin, B. T.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Pearson, A.||Thornton, E.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Timmons, J.|
|Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Popplewell, E.||Tomney, F.|
|Keenan, W.||Porter, G.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Usborne, H. C.|
|Lawson, G. M.||Proctor, W. T.||Vlant, S. P.|
|Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Pryde, D. J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Lewis, Arthur||Rankin, John||Weitzman, D.|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Reeves, J.||Wells, Peroy (Faversham)|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Logan, D. G.||Reid, William (Camlachie)||West, D. G.|
|MacColl, J. E.||Rhodes, H.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|McGhee, H. G.||Richards, R.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Mclnnes, J.||Robens, Bt. Hon. A||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|McKay, John (Wallsend)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|McLeavy, F.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wigg, George|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Willey, F. T.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Ross, William||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Royle, C.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Mallalieu J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Short, E. W.||Willis, E. G.|
|Mason, Roy||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Mellish, R. J.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Messer, Sir F.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Woodburn, R. Hon. A.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Skeffington, A. M.||Yates, V. F.|
|Monslow, W.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Moody, A. S.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Morley, R.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Wallace.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Browne, Jack (Govan)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Buohan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Drayson, G. B.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bullard, D. G.||Drewe, Sir C.|
|Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bullus, wing Commander E. E.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Burden, F. F. A.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Duthie, W. S.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Campbell, Sir David||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Carr, Robert||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Channon, H.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Erroll, F. J.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Fell, A.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.||Fisher, Nigel|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Cole, Norman||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Colegata, W. A.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Ford, Mrs. Patricia|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Cooper-Key, F. M.||Fort, R.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Foster, John|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Bennett, William (Woodside)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)|
|Bavins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Crouch, R. F.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Boothby Sir R. J. G.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Gammans, L. D.|
|Bossom Sir A. C.||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Garner-Evans, E. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A||Davidson, Viscountess||George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Deedes, W. F.||Glover, D.|
|Braine, B. R.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Godber, J. B.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. MoA.||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Donner, Sir P. W.||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Doughty, C. J. A||Gower, H. R.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Grimond, J.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Russell, R. S.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D|
|Harden, J. R. E.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Schofield, Lt.-Col, W.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Scott, R. Donald|
|Harvey, Air Cdr. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E||Shepherd, William|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Heath, Edward||Marples, A. E.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)||Snadden, K. McN.|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Maude, Angus||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Speir, R. M.|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Mellor, Sir John||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Molson, A. H. E.||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hollis, M. C.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Stevens, G. P.|
|Holt, A. F.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hope, Lord John||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Neave, Airey||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nicholls, Harmar||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Horobin, I. M.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Summers, G. S.|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Sutoliffe, Sir Harold|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Noble Comdr. A. H. P.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nutting, Anthony||Teeling, W.|
|Hurd, A. R.||Oakshott, H. D.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Odey, G. W.||Thomas, P. J, M. (Conway)|
|Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S,||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Thorneycroft. Rt. Hn. Peter (Mon mouth)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Osborne, C,||Tilney, John|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Page, R. G.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Perkins, Sir Robert||Turton, R. H.|
|Kaberry, D.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Pitman, I. J.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A, H.||Powell, J. Enoch||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Lindsay, Martin||Profumo, J. D.|
|Linstead Sir H. N.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Llewellyn D. T.||Ramsden, J. E.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Rayner, Brig. R.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Redmayne, M.||Wellwood, W.|
|Lookwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Rees-Davies, W. R||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Longdon, Gilbert||Remnant, Hon. P.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Renton, D. L. M.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Ridsdale, J. E.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Wills, Gerald|
|McCallum, Major D.||Robertson, Sir David||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|McKibbin, A. J.||Roper, Sir Harold||Mr. Vospor and Mr. Allan.|
I beg to move, in page 1, line 5, to leave out "Independent," and to insert "Commercial."I hope that this Amendment will appeal to the Home Secretary, because it is upon a fairly important point. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government carefully to consider our arguments. The Amendment is not being moved out of mere malice to commercial television, or to programme producers and others, but because it contains a point of real substance concerning the accuracy of the name that we give to this I.T.A. I notice that the Title says that the Bill seeks to
There is no word there suggesting independence. It might be rather more accurate if this new service were called the "Additional Television Authority," or, if one wishes to keep the letters "I.T.A.", the "Irrelevant Television Authority." [An HON. MEMBER: "What about ' Impossible '?"] One of my right hon. Friends suggests 'that it might be called the "Impossible Television Authority," and that might prove to be the most accurate description of all. It is completely wrong to use the word "independent" in this connection, be cause if there is one thing that the proposed Authority will not be, it is independent. I doubt whether any authority which has been set up in this country is more completely at the mercy of the Government of the day than this proposed Authority will be if the powers in the Bill are exercised. Under Clause 6, the Postmaster-General will have complete power to order what shall be broadcast. He will be able to order that certain things shall be broadcast and to prohibit the broadcasting of other things. The attitude of many hon. Gentlemen opposite below the Gangway shows clearly that they also agree that the word "independent" is inaccurate as a description of this Authority. Part of the line taken by the Government to sell this thoroughly unsatisfactory scheme is to use smooth words which they hope will calm people and make them happy. They shy away from the word "commercial" as though it were indecent. I strongly agree with the remarks of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who said that he would support the Amendment. If the Government do not accept the Amendment I hope that the hon. Member will join us in the Division Lobby. I hope the Government will accept it. The word "commercial" is accurate, and it is not dishonourable. Why should the Government object to it? The Government have commercial interests. Do they think the country are likely to be frightened if this is called a "commercial" broadcasting system? That is what it is. There is enormous virtue in having an accurate description of the proposed Authority. It might be argued, in reply, that the Independent Television Authority is not in itself commercial, but is merely incharge of commercial programmes; but we know that it is not independent; nor are the proposed programme companies likely to be truly independent in the sense in which that word is normally used. 5.45 p.m. I have another and a rather stronger reason why the Government ought to change the name "Independent." One of the great strengths of this country in foreign affairs has undoubtedly been the reputation that the British Broadcasting Corporation has achieved for accuracy and objectivity in its broadcasts. The Drogheda Report makes that clear. We therefore have the strongest reason to avoid anything likely to endanger that reputation for impartiality. The moment we set up what is to be called the "Independent Television Authority" we suggest that the B.B.C. is not independent but is purely a Government propaganda machine. We know quite well that the so-called "Independent" or "Impossible" Television Authority will provide a service similar to that of the B.B.C., although I doubt whether it will do it as well as the B.B.C. It will not be more independent in its presentation than the B.B.C. has been. I would, however, like to call the attention of the Home Secretary to words which appear in the Drogheda Report, because they convey the real substance of the argument against the use of the word "independent." The Report says:" make provision for television broadcasting services in addition to those provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation."
Later, the Report refers to"The British Broadcasting Corporation emerged after the war with a unique reputation for the quality and objectivity of its programmes."
and, finally, says:"the great reputation which the British Broad casting Corporation earned during the war,"
The Home Secretary and the Government should look very closely at the effect of establishing a new Authority with the title "Independent." Have the Government consulted the Foreign Office and those other Departments concerned with presenting the British case abroad and asked their opinion? I hope he will give consideration not only to an accurate and honest title to the Authority, which, after all, is something the Government should try to achieve but, also, if they give it a propaganda title they should not give it a title which is likely to do harm to this country."The conclusion is that the popularity of the British Broadcasting Corporation External Service depends, above all, on its high reputation for objective and honest news reporting."
I hope hon. Gentlemen will not take it amiss if I rise now, because the point which has been raised by the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) is not a Second Reading point. It is not one that approaches the difference that divides us on the main issue. It is, as he said, a narrow but important point and, there fore, I think it would be convenient to consider the arguments either way at an early stage.The hon. Gentleman said, first, that the title "Independent Television Authority" was inaccurate and, secondly, it was an undesirable one. I am sorry he referred to Clause 6, because I am sure he would not wish to make a bad point. It is one that has been made by the propagandist association whose name for the moment escapes me, but which is associated with the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew). Obviously, hon. Gentle men opposite know the one to which I am referring. I want the hon. Gentleman to consider this seriously, because I know he would not want to give a bad reason for it. He said that under Clause 6 the Post master-General had the right to ask the Authority to publish matters and to abstain from publishing. But that is something which exists in regard to the B.B.C., and, as I pointed out on Second Reading, its purpose is twofold. It has to publish police messages and things of that sort which are of necessity to any Government. The prohibition is issued at times of national crises and emergency to prevent a discussion of matters that may be in a very delicate position at the time. There has never been any suggestion that that would be used as a means of programme control.
I cannot give way now. This is a very important point, and it is important that it should be realised that this is part of the Government machinery which every Government requires and is not an attempt at control. The second point made by the hon. Member for Preston, South was whether "independent" is accurate be cause of the financial assistance that is to be given to this Corporation. I think that is very important, particularly in view of the fact that the equipment for the Authority is being provided from public funds and also because of the provision of finance. It is suggested that because of those things the body will not be independent and will not be free of Government control. Therefore, it is essential that it should be made clear that although there is Government finance the Corporation is not to be Government controlled in the sense that the Government will have power to determine how it does its work. It will be independent and free.
What the right hon. and learned Gentleman has just said is a very strange doctrine. A sum of £750,000 a year is to be given as a grant in addition to which all the capital investment of the Authority is to be provided by the Government. Are the Government not going to control that which they finance?
That is exactly the point—the Government are not going to insist that because the Authority gets that money it should act under the control and supervision of the Post master-General except in relation to the points that are laid down by the Act. That ought to be made very clear. The whole purpose of this Bill is to select an Authority that can be trusted to do the job itself. That shows the importance of emphasising its independence by the title which we select.I agree with the hon. Member for Preston, South in one of his statements, that there is nothing derogatory in the word "commercial." It is a word of which we as a country ought to be extremely proud, because so much of our position depends on it but the reason why I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment is that we think "Independent Television Authority" is a better title than "Commercial Television Authority." We are all agreed that since it was founded the British Broadcasting Corporation has been independent. Its independence is a matter of pride and admiration to us all. But the B.B.C. has 30 years' tradition behind it. Everyone inside and outside this country knows of its independence. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, they do.
If the hon. Gentleman will restrain his patience he will hear occasionally the particular reason for things before he interrupts from a sitting position.
I have not interrupted.
The hon. Gentleman conducts a conversation from a sitting position which is contrary to the usual method of debating to which we are accustomed in this Committee. He can sit as long as he likes so long as he sits, and if he will wait a moment or two it might save him making these interruptions which must be fatiguing in that position.
It is more fatiguing to rise.
The point I am making is that the B.B.C. is independent, is known to be independent and has a 30 years' tradition of independence. As I endeavoured to indicate in another connection, it is also important to emphasise that the new Authority will be independent and that no other body will control its functions.
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that the B.B.C. is known to be independent, is he referring to the foreign aspect of the B.B.C.'s work, because I would remind him that that is very important? Do the people in Germany, Italy, Japan and in other countries think of it as being independent?
Yes, I think it is. I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman suggests the contrary.
It is often doubted.
I am surprised at that. I know Europe fairly well and I have been in practically every country in Europe since the war. I have never heard it mentioned that the B.B.C. was not independent. I am sorry that my experience has been so different—
I have broadcast on the overseas programmes.
The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to his view. We can only form our views on our own experience. My reading of the Drogheda Report, quoted by the mover of the Amendment, gave me the impression that the very experienced members of that Committee also thought that the B.B.C. was known abroad as an independent body. That was the impression I had from the passage quoted.The point I am making is that the B.B.C. has a unique reputation for independence and I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman has raised this point, because its independence is as well known as its objectivity throughout Europe. Certainly, among all the people I have met in Europe since the war that has been the impression given to me, and I am surprised that the suggestion should come from the other side of the Committee that the B.B.C. has anywhere in Europe a reputation for anything but independence. However, the right hon. Gentleman may develop that point. The reason why we are anxious that this title should be maintained is that we want to see the new body known as being independent, so that in that way it starts with the position which the B.B.C. has so well acquired over its 30 years.
Does the right hon. and learned Gentleman realise that he is using an argument now that the word "independent" should be used in the same way that the Russians use the word "democratic"?
The hon. Gentle man is beyond me on that point and the fault is mine if I do not appreciate the profundity of his argument. The Bill makes this Authority genuinely independent. It prevents it being controlled. My second argument is that it is a good thing that it should be known to everyone that the Authority is in this position.The hon. Gentleman quoted the Drogheda Report on that point, which emphasises the importance of the B.B.C. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that I am not going as far as the Drogheda Report which offers a compliment with one hand and suggests the removal of certain services with the other. I am saying that the B.B.C. should continue in all its power, but that the new Authority should be in the position of having its independence established to the world. The other aspect of independence is that the Authority is distinct from the programme companies, being in a special position. It is the instrument by which we want to see a proper safeguard constituted, and it is important, when some thing is made a safeguard in that way, that it should be quite clear that we want it to be independent, to work under the guidance of the members of the Authority, and not to be in any way the instrument of Government. Therefore, although I sympathise with what is in the mind of the hon. Gentleman, for those reasons we cannot accept the Amendment.
And, of course, a skunk by any name still smells as nasty and we do not alter its nature or its smell by calling it an in dependent racoon. Therefore, I prefer to call it a skunk. This object that we are about to create is apparently to be called the Independent Television Authority. The hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams), who is a master of highly intermittent logic, asked just now what it is independent of? I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman is not here—he is also a master of highly intermittent attendance, but I will come to that again in a minute. I say to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary that, at first sight at any rate, it does not strike me as a notable instance of independence. One would think that television would be a good thing to which to hitch oneself. Yet "The Times"—and "The Times" is not given to wild ideas—had a leader this morning wondering whether it might not be broadcasting also. So we cannot be too certain about television. Then there is Authority. The one thing it certainly is not is an Authority. That, too, I will come to in a minute. I am forced to think that we are back on the old description of the Board of Trade: there never was a board and there is not any trade. Following that notable instance, we are to call this object the Independent Television Authority. The right hon. and learned Gentleman proceeded to demonstrate to us that it really was independent. Well, independent of everybody? We can hardly say that, but let us see. It is to be independent of the Government. The Government are to have nothing whatever to do with it. The fact that the Assistant Postmaster-General has already had conversations with heaven knows how many programme contractors illustrates the absolute in dependence which the Authority will assume. More than that, some of my right hon. and hon. Friends always thought that the power of hiring and firing, as it is commonly called, had something to do with the independence of the man on the job and that he must regard as his master, at any rate for the moment, the person who had the power of hiring and firing him. Now who hires and fires the members of the Authority? The Postmaster-General. He appoints them. He, in consultation with the Treasury, decides what to pay them, and he appears to have in the appropriate part of the Bill an absolute discretion to force them into resignation whenever he thinks fit. That, of course, shows how independent are the members of the Authority. But there is a bit more to it than that. I wonder how they can be independent of the programme contractors. Here are these people who, as has been pointed out, are running a business, the funds for which appear to come from two sources. One is the Government, the other is the programme contractors. That shows, of course, how independently the Authority is financed. It must be independent of both its paymasters. There we are, that is all right from the financial point of view. Next we come to what the Authority is to do. After all, the Bill contains quite a number of provisions as to what is to be done with regard to these programmes. Broadly speaking, the programmes will consist of two things: first, material which is not sufficiently con trolled in my opinion but which is fairly controlled by the terms of this Bill; and, secondly, advertisements. In the long run, if one goes back through a smoke screen or two, the advertisement providers will pay for the whole of this shooting match. To suggest that this Independent Television Authority will be independent of the advertising interests in this country is a feat of exact formal logic of which I find myself quite incapable. Whatever one says about it, the plain fact is that the one thing that this body is not is independent. It depends on the Government partly, on programme con tractors partly and on advertising in terests and, of course, quite properly, partly on the terms of this Bill. One asks oneself, "Why do they want to call it 'The Independent'?" They might just as well have called it "The Blue." I am not sure that it would not have been rather more appropriate to call it "The True Blue." Why choose "The Independent"? From time to time there is a certain perverse nicety about the Home Secretary which may have led him to take part in choosing and defending this particularly inappropriate word. The right hon. and learned Gentleman really appears to have looked for the most unsuitable word and then to have taken pleasure in defending this most absurd title. His has been a most agreeable performance in that way and when one listens to him one feels that he must be right. Occasionally, and I was disappointed that he did not do it this time, he brings us all to a higher plane, but my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) put him off by making irreverent interruptions. I think he just took a professional pleasure in defending the most impossible name for this creation. I leave out the "television" part of the title and merely say that this is a plain commercial stunt. Why not call it a commercial stunt? Lest the Government think that I am being too nasty about it too soon, I should like to tell the Committee a little story. Hon. Members will remember that a short time ago there was a very important match between Bishop Auckland and Crook. Hon. Members should do what I did, go through Crook. There they will find an inn which has a very simple title. It is simply called "The Commercial, Crook." It is an example of borrowing the word "commercial," which can be used so innocently when applied in Crook and which could be used truthfully here. It would put the right label to this thing we are starting to create. I leave the word "Television" alone for the moment. We must have a little peg in the middle on which to try to hang the rest. I come to the word "Authority." It is quite true that the Amendment does not deal with "Authority" and I must confess that there was a certain element of idleness in that, because if one alters that word here one has to alter it about 1,000 times in the Bill. Printers may be overworked with a Bill of this sort. Really, "Authority" is just as bad. This is certainly not an Authority worth talking about and all that it will depend upon for the enforcement of its very turgidly expressed duties is the contracts of programme promoters, who can break them once and twice with impunity. I hope the Home Secretary will rise to a higher sphere and call a skunk a skunk and his Authority "Commercial" and not "Independent.""What's in a name? … a rose, By any other name would smell as sweet."
I do not propose even to try to follow the series of witticisms which we have heard from the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) and which, on the whole were well received. Further more, as they had so little to do with the Amendment which we are discussing it might possibly take up the time of the Committee unduly. But I think that it would be appropriate, in connection with this Amendment, to recall the two pamphlets to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary has referred and which we all received when this subject was first broached. One pamphlet read "Britain Unites Against …" and so on.
I will come to that in a minute.The other was called "Britain Unites to Demand …" and so on. The subject on which Britain was so strangely united is comparatively immaterial to my argument, but I should like to recall the further phraseology of these titles. Those who were against called it "Commercial Television." Those who were in favour called it "Competitive Television." I think that it will be clear to everyone in this Committee that the purpose of using the word "Commercial" was to create prejudice and bias in the mind of the reader (before further arguments were even considered. In my opinion, this Amendment seeks to do exactly the same thing and for the same purpose and, therefore, I trust that my right hon. and learned Friend will adhere to his decision to resist it. Although probably it would be out of order to discuss it I would have preferred to come straight out in the open and call the Authority the "Competitive Television Authority," because that is exactly what we mean. The introduction of this Measure is apparently regarded by hon. Members opposite as an attack on the B.B.C. I have had the utmost admiration for the B.B.C. for the last 30 years, since the days of that ramshackle affair on Savoy Hill. I have watched its progress under the inspired leadership of Lord Reith. Let us be agreed on that. No one owes more than the British people to Lord Reith for creating this instrument and I think that Sir William Haley has also done a great deal in later years—
I do not think that we can discuss these personalities on this Amendment.
The impression conveyed by the other side of the Commit tee was that we on this side are hostile to the B.B.C., and I had to take the opportunity of paying tribute not only to the B.B.C. but to those who created it.It is quite right that the B.B.C. should not be used as a medium of advertising. The B.B.C. appeals to a mass audience. These new programmes are supposed to appeal to a more selective audience according to income groups, tastes, up bringing, and so on, and, therefore, if the programme buyer does not find the selected programme suitable to popularise his goods he will transfer to another programme, just as, in the case of news papers, people who advertise in them select either a good paper or one with a wide popular appeal; they do not, for example, select the "Daily Worker." One assumes that this process will go on under the new system. It was, on the whole, wise of the Government to choose a word that was not strictly commercial in its implications. But advertising or commerce is the very lifeblood of the nation of shopkeepers that we are. Therefore, why should we not have competition and call it competitive? However, as the bigger in this case includes the less, in view of the Government's decision to use the word "Independent," I think they have included within that general term the implication, at all events, of competition as well. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will persist in trying to maintain what is in the Bill. I am not altogether a lover of the Bill. I should have preferred the scheme as was originally out lined in the White Paper. Having com promised to the very limit of even his good natured ability, I trust that my right hon. and learned Friend will not com- promise any more but will stick by what is in the Bill and give us a medium which will help the industrious among our people, and which we so badly need.
I should like to take up one or two points made by the Home Secretary, which I thought were thinner than he usually uses in support of his arguments. One of his arguments —and here he was quite correct—was the fact that the Government's power to give directions to the I.T.A. is exactly the same as that which the Government have of giving directions to the B.B.C. But that does not support his argument. It means that the B.B.C. is as independent as the I.T.A., whereas if "independent" is used in the Bill it implies that this new Authority is independent in some way that other television authorities in the country are not independent. One cannot get away from that; it implies that com parable bodies are less independent.I assure the right hon. and learned Gentleman that this does have an effect on the power of our overseas broadcasts. Our overseas services have an immense reputation. I am particularly proud of them, because from time to time I speak on them and I know that they have a great reputation and important audiences. One of the things they always have to contend with, however, is the feeling in the minds of many listeners that, in its overseas broadcasting, the B.B.C. is an instrument of Government policy. There are enemies of the B.B.C. in the world broadcasting other programmes and trying to counter what the B.B.C. is doing. They are all the time trying to spread in the minds of listeners in Europe and other parts of the world just the point that the B.B.C. is not independent. By implying in this Bill that the B.B.C. is in some way less independent than this other body, the Government will be aiding the enemies of the B.B.C. who are trying to spread that idea abroad. This is an important point. Maybe we could compromise on some word like "competitive" or something else, but this is a matter of substance which the Government really should consider and perhaps come back to the House with a proposal on Report stage. Another argument which the Home Secretary used, and which struck me as odd, was that because the Government are financing this body, it is therefore important to stress its independence. Surely the Government finance all sorts of public bodies without thinking it necessary to call them independent. Does the Home Secretary intend to introduce new Bills adding "independent" to the names of all public bodies to which the Government give money in case anyone should think they are not independent? The right hon. and learned Gentleman is tacking "Independent" on to this body because he has a bad conscience. He has not had a bad conscience, nor has any previous Government about any other of these public bodies. He is not calling this body "Independent" because otherwise people would realise that it is dependent on the Government. The reason is to conceal the fact that its programmes will be dependent on advertising revenue. That is the real reason for using the word "Independent." The right hon. and learned Gentleman devoted his speech mainly to defending the word because it would guard against the idea that there was control by the Government. His real purpose, and the purpose of those who drafted the Bill, is to conceal the fact that almost all the programmes produced by the I.T.A. system will be dependent on advertising revenue. Why are the Government so coy all of a sudden? In the beginning they were much more honest. The Postmaster-General used these words in another place in May, 1952:
That is what he said when introducing this proposal, as contained in the first White Paper. He was not shy or coy about using the word "commercial"; he gloried in it. What has happened? Why have the Government suddenly become coy in this matter? When the Postmaster-General was yearning to call it "commercial," he said that he wanted to have such words; he did not wish to conceal the intentions of the Government behind this smokescreen of words. The Government have found that their proposal is very much more unpopular in the country and on its own side of the House than they expected, and they are trying to use calm, smooth and mis- leading words. My main argument, however, rests upon the importance of our overseas broadcasts in this matter, and I ask the Home Secretary to consider that point very carefully indeed."sponsored or commercial broadcasting … I am neither shy nor coy about … those words."
When I listened to the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore), I thought we were having a little free enterprise— private enterprise—on the other side of the Committee, and that the hon. Member intended to move an Amendment of his own to change the name from "Independent" to "competitive." But as his speech progressed, he managed, by some mysterious process, to link "independent" and "competitive" together, although we did not exactly understand how. But it is obvious that the hon. Member for Ayr, who is the only Member on the opposite side of the Committee who has spoken on this matter, does not like the word "independent" either.I do not think I have ever listened to a speech by the Home Secretary that has been more unsatisfactory or less convincing than the speech which he made on this Amendment, because he certainly did not convince anyone that there was anything independent about this proposed new Authority which is to be set up. I come from a part of the country where we have the reputation for calling a spade a spade; at times, in fact, we give it a rather blunter definition. To call the proposed new Authority an independent authority is the perfect example of a euphemism, by which an unpleasant or offensive thing is designated by an in direct and milder term. Certainly this Television Authority is to us on this side of the Committee an unpleasant and offensive thing, and it is also offensive to a number of hon. Members opposite because it is not independent enough. When I looked up the word "Independent" in the dictionary I found three different definitions. I suppose that if I had looked at other dictionaries I could have found others. One definition was "Not dependent or relying on others." Surely this new Authority is dependent, both for finance and for the programmes, upon others. It is dependent on the Government for finance and on the programme companies for programmes, and, I suppose, upon the B.B.C. Therefore, surely we cannot say that it is independent. 6.30 p.m. The second definition was, "Affording a comfortable livelihood." No doubt it will afford a comfortable livelihood for some people, but I doubt whether that was the definition which the Government had in mind when they decided to designate this Authority as independent. The third definition was, "Belonging to the Independents." I am certain that none of the religious organisations would care to be associated in any way with this Authority, and certainly not with its name. The most important point is that a second authority is being set up to per form functions similar to those carried out by another authority. If it is decided to set up a second authority, the name given to it should indicate the difference between the two authorities. If the second authority be termed independent, then surely that implies that the first authority is not independent. No matter how much the Home Secretary wavers about the point, I do not think he can get away from that aspect of the matter. Whether or not he thinks that people abroad all recognise that the B.B.C. is independent does not matter at all. Stressing that this Authority is an independent authority puts emphasis upon the fact that the other authority is not independent. I think the Home Secretary has made a serious mistake by resisting this Amendment. I hope that he will have second thoughts about it. I am surprised that the Conservative Party is ashamed and hesitant about using the word "commercial." If they are not satisfied with that word they can find some other word, but we certainly can not say that this is in any way an independent television authority. I hope that the Home Secretary will think again about the matter.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) is not in the Chamber. His has been the only speech from the Government back benches, and I suppose we can take it that the concentrated wisdom of the party opposite— apart from the Front Bench speakers— is contained in his words. The hon. Mem ber raised an interesting point. He said that he would like to call this body a competitive television authority. I think it as well if at this stage we get clear in our minds what these words mean.The hon. Member for Ayr did not want competitive television. Hon. Members opposite do not want it, and we on this side of the Committee do not want it in those terms. We wish to see alternative programmes provided. The word "alter native" means different. We wish to see different programmes provided. We do not wish to see both television services— that of the B.B.C. and whatever the new one may be—going to the Cup Final and putting out a programme so that viewers may see who can do it best. We want one service at the Cup Final and one somewhere else. That is not competition in the accepted sense, and we should make clear what we mean by that term. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not continue to use the word "competitive" in the sense in which they have been using it. I wish to refer to the statement laboured by the Home Secretary, that out of his great experience of travelling on the Continent he had never met anyone who thought the B.B.C. was not an independent broadcasting corporation. This is an example of the appalling ignorance—if I may say so—with which the Government have approached this whole business. I spent eight years in the B.B.C. news department and many of them in the overseas news department. One of the greatest problems then—and it is still one of the greatest problems confronting the B.B.C. overseas news service—is how to persuade listeners in other countries that the B.B.C. is not run by the Government. Every junior sub-editor has drilled into him that he must so write his reports of Government business, of what goes on in the House of Commons and reports about Government statements, and so on, that no listener abroad can possibly believe that it is being put out by a State-governed broadcasting authority. But, in spite of all the work being done so care fully in this regard, it is frequently found that when the B.B.C. is quoted in over seas newspapers, or by broadcasting organisations overseas, it is referred to in terms which indicate that the B.B.C. is considered to be a British Government broadcasting service. I agree with my right hon. and hon. Friend that to call another television authority an independent authority will tend to prove to people overseas that the B.B.C. is not independent. It will prove to them what they have believed for a long time, that the B.B.C. is a Government service and that it is not independent. I am greatly shocked that the Home Secretary should have made the statement which he did, though no doubt he made it in good faith. He said he had not met anyone abroad who believed that the B.B.C. was a Government service. Had he got in touch with the B.B.C. he would have found, as I have said, that any junior sub-editor in the overseas news department could have told him that the B.B.C. is constantly up against this problem. The Government might have consulted the B.B.C. not only on this matter, but on other matters. We might then have had a proper understanding of television, and what this Bill means. I do not mean by that to accept the B.B.C. point of view or to put it over, but to gain an understanding of the technical problems of which some of us have had experience. This is a serious matter for the B.B.C. If the Government take the step they are now proposing to take of calling this other authority an independent authority, it will make the work of the B.B.C. over seas a hundred times more difficult than it is now.
This is really a storm in a teacup. I do not think that people abroad will be concerned about the name of this new organi sation any more than we in this country are concerned about the names of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporations. Names can have little significance to people overseas. What they will judge will be the quality of the programmes.
I was very disappointed with the reply of the Home Secretary. I thought he was not on strong ground in his objection to the use of Clause 6 by my hon. Friend the Member for Preston. South (Mr. Shackleton). As he will see when all the Amendments are printed, there will be an attempt to bring Clause 6 in line with the present limitations on the B.B.C. As Clause 6 is drafted at present, it gives to the Government many more powers than they have over the B.B.C. I should have thought that my hon. Friend was justified in saying that, as the Clause stands at present, it gives to the Government many more powers than they possess over the B.B.C.It was not with that minor aspect— which the right hon. and learned Gentle man tried to make into a major aspect— of his reply with which I was concerned, but with the general avoidance of the real principle of naming the Authority. We had—I am encouraged by it—on the Money Resolution some very heavy admissions by the Assistant Postmaster-General about the extent to which the Authority would have any independence at all. Following an estimate which I had made earlier in the debate, the hon. Gentleman said in column 1748 of the OFFICIAL REPORT on 29th March, 1954, that the £750,000 which the Government were going to give annually to the I.T.A. was based on a calculation that there would be one hour's television per day free of the influence of advertisers. I dispute what has been said by some of my hon. Friends who have, to some extent, tried to say that the body is Government-financed. There is certainly a measure of Government money in it, but, on the admission of the Assistant Postmaster-General, there will be only about £2,000 per day free of advertising revenue for the Authority, giving at the most one hour per day of television free from advertising. On that assumption, we are told that this is to be an independent Authority. It is certainly not independent of the advertisers. Two further limitations upon the Authority's independence have become clear in recent debates. In the speech to which I referred just now, the Assistant Postmaster-General said that it is not envisaged that the Authority will use any of the £2,000 per day to maintain studios or to provide its own outside broadcasting organisation. All that will be done—this is a limitation resulting from pres sure by back benchers—by commissioning programmes from other people. To that extent it will not even have the independence of being able to put on programmes of its own choosing and with its own facilities in the way that the Bill originally envisaged.
Surely the hon. Member voted against the Authority's having any money at all. How can he now suggest that it should put on more programmes and have its own studios and outside broadcasting organisation?
said in that debate that the £750,000 was a flea-bite, and that if we were to have commercial television, I wanted it fully responsible for its programmes and able to be judged by the programmes which it would put on with out public subsidy. That was why I voted against the provision of that amount. The independence of the I.T.A. is limited, firstly, in that it will not main tain studios and so on, and, secondly, in that, according to a subsequent Amendment, it has only to arrange for parts of programmes and will not itself put them on.To come to the question of the extent of dependence upon commercial advertising, my case is that, far from avoiding the word "commercial," we ought to call a spade a spade in these circumstances because of the kind of people on whom the service will have to depend. I am fortified in this view by some admissions made by the Assistant Postmaster-General on the Financial Resolution. Perhaps I can now develop a number of the points which I put to him on that occasion, and I hope that I shall tempt him into replying to them again. 6.45 p.m. First of all, the £2,000 which the Assistant Postmaster-General says should provide one hour of television free from commercial advertising will probably not be sufficient at all. The £2,000 is the cost to the B.B.C. at the moment of putting on a television programme. By the time we have added in the profits which the programme companies will want to make—my guess is that they will be so scared by the business and find it so insecure that they will demand a high rate of profit—I estimate that the cost of a programme-hour of the network once it reaches something like the national coverage which the B.B.C. has at the moment will be not £2,000 but more like £3,000. The raising of £3,000 per hour from commercial interests is something which we cannot countenance being called "independent." It will be a substantial sum to be raised from very big advertisers. We have been told by Government spokesmen throughout the debates on the Bill that advertising should be limited to about five minutes per hour. We thus have the situation, which has been admitted, that about £600 per minute will have to be raised from advertisers in order to keep the show going. That is what we are told is "independence." Who will be able to afford about £600 a minute? They will be the big commercial interests, the interests after which we want the scheme named so that people will really know what they are paying for. I said on the Money Resolution that concerns will want to advertise six or seven times a month, and my guess is that the I.T.A. will want guarantees of two or three good minutes every time, minutes taken by separate advertisers, in order to be sure of a steady substantial income. We shall thus need concerns which want to advertise six or seven times a month at about £600 per minutes; in orders words, concerns which can afford to spend £4,000 to £5,000 per month on television advertising. That is what the show will depend on. The concerns will have to put down the amount of money which I have suggested in order to obtain any really big impact on televiewers. This is what we are told to call "independent." We have a very good indication of how many people will be able to advertise on television if we look at the concentrated nature of advertising at the present time. We have reached a situation where the people who can, on my estimates, afford £5,000 per month are those who in any case spend £100,000 to £200,000 per year on general Press advertising. By an analysis of statistics which are publicly available, we are, luckily, in a position to know who those people are and how many of them there are. We know the names of the concerns and the types of the products on whom the show will depend. If I give these estimates and names to the Home Secretary, I hope he will reconsider the matter and realise that this body cannot be called anything other than a commercial television authority for the simple reason that it is dependent on such blatant and, to some extent, irresponsible private interests for its revenue. First of all, we get not more than about 100 firms who can now afford to spend on Press advertising more than £100,000 a year. Therefore, there are only about 100 firms in the market for this size of advertising expenditure, and, if we come to the really big firms, which, after all, will dominate this show day after day, through a minute a day or two or three minutes a week or something like that, the people who will be able to afford something in the nature of £60,000 a year, which is the estimate I make, number only about 26 today. There are only about 26 firms who are in the advertising market in a big way. Of course, these firms are headed, as we would all expect, first of all, by the petrol companies. There was a question about them in this Chamber only this afternoon. The advertising by Shell, Esso, Regent and B.P., added together, comes to something like £1½ million on Press advertising alone; at any rate, that is the figure for last year. They are followed by the detergent kings whom I have mentioned before—£433,000 spent by Tide, £417,000 by Persil. Then, there follow all the variations on that original theme—all the same products with a different name, and all advertised at a prodigious rate—over £300,000 a year, or at least over £200,000 a year, each. I do not want to make a general attack on advertising. What I want to say is that if we have to depend, as we know we have in this case, on people like these for the revenue for our new commercial network, then let us give it the name which really suits the people involved in it and on whom we shall have to depend. We can go on to deal with rest of the list—Mars Confectionery, Nestle Pro ducts, Cadbury's, Batchelors' Foods, Quaker Oats cereals and so on. We are going to have this sort of stuff drummed into us minute by minute, hour by hour, probably for weeks and months, simply because these are the big names in advertising today, and because they will be the only people able to afford substantial time on this new meduim. Why do I object to them? I object to them on the ground that they are not in their advertising performing a socially useful service. None of this advertising is socially useful in the sense in which I now want to define it. If an advertiser puts forward a new product with real differentiation and with a real contribution to our standard of living and our chance of getting an improved product into our homes or into our personal use, then that is useful. Secondly, it is useful when there is real competition between advertisers, and that competition tends to bring down the price of the product. Thirdly, it is useful if it is bringing forward something really new into the market for the first time and enabling it to make its way and displace other products more established. The real point about each one of these advertisers is that none of them are doing that. In the words of a pre-war re port of the National Institute for Econo mic and Social Research, they are not really doing that kind of socially useful advertising, and I should like to quote from Dr. Mark Abrams, in summarising the results of that inquiry.
I do not think that has anything to do with the name of the Authority. The hon. Gentleman is going rather too far.
If I may just quote what Dr. Abrams said, I think it will be relevant to this debate. He said:
In no sense is it really socially desirable, and what we object to about the whole of this Bill, and particularly the name of the Authority, is that it is really concealing this fact from the general public. These are the people on whom we shall have to depend, because they are the big people conducting this wasteful advertising just to keep their share of the brand conscious market. I personally think it is about time that we gave the new Authority the name that they will instinctively give to it, because it will be a commercial show, dependent, as the newspapers are today on the big half-page advertisers, on the petrol kings, the soap kings, the detergents and the confectioners. In no case are these the people to control our new medium, and there is no reason for calling it an independent Authority, but every reason for calling it what the public will very soon find it to be."Heavy and concentrated advertising expenditure is found in commodity groups where there is sustained and intense competition between three or four 'leaders' to hold and expand their share of brand conscious markets."
I find it very hard to understand the Home Secretary's rejection of the Amendment; indeed, I was very disappointed by the view expressed in his reply to the speeches in support of it. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been at great pains to draw a distinction between the very real differences of view that exist between his side of the Committee and this side on the principle of public service or commercial television, but, at the same time, he emphasised the common views that have been held particularly in relation to the B.B.C.I do not see how there can be any doubt whatever that the name of this new body, if it is to be the Independent Television Authority, is bound to damage the wonderful overseas services which the B.B.C. have put out. If we needed any further evidence, it came from the speech of my hon. Friend who worked for many years in the B.B.C.'s overseas service. The gravest charge that can be made against the proposed title for the new body is that it will cause damage and confusion amongst many millions of over seas listeners to the B.B.C. services—
I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, but there seems to be a non sequitur here. The hon. Gentleman says that many listeners to the B.B.C. overseas ser vices will be affected. Does he mean viewers? If he means listeners, then I must tell him that none of those listeners will hear or see anything of the Independent Television Authority. It is restricted to television, and it is also restricted to television transmitters in this country, so that it will not travel overseas and overseas listeners will not hear anything of it.
I do not think that is the point we are making. It will become known throughout the world that a new broadcasting and television corporation has been set up with the title of Independent Television Authority, and that this Authority will be operating in competition with the B.B.C. television ser vices; therefore, the overseas listener to the B.B.C. who has this information will immediately conclude that the B.B.C. is not an independent corporation but a Government corporation.
Does the hon. Gentleman think that the existence of the Independent Labour Party makes people think that the Labour Party is peculiarly dependent?
I think, Sir Charles, I had better resist the temptation to follow the hon. and learned Gentleman into such a very interesting side lane.The real gravamen of our charge is in relation to the damage which the new service will do to the B.B.C. in respect of its overseas services, but I think also in the domestic scene the proposed title, to put it at its best, is misleading, and, indeed, even deceitful. We might well debate this again on Thursday when discussing the Merchandise Marks Act. I cannot understand how a Government which puts into operation the Merchandise Marks Act should act in relation to this Bill on exactly the opposite principle. Here we have a fine example of misleading labelling. 7.0 p.m. I know, of course, that, in regard to the kind of labels which make something respectable which is not wholly respectable, the party opposite has a great deal of experience behind it. In our political his tory which had a long period of a so-called "national" Government. That was a fine title to conceal the fact that we were being governed by the Conservative Party. In local government we have several high-sounding titles to conceal Conservative Party activities. In one local government election in which I took part five Independent candidates were proposed. Each sent us an election address stressing how independent he was. The only trouble was that each address contained the same language and the same printer's and election agent's names. Her Majesty's Government are using this same rather shabby practice in relation to this Bill. They have an uneasy conscience. They know that this proposal has aroused great concern throughout the country and that opposition to it far transcends party lines. They therefore want to disguise what they are actually doing. The use of the word "independent" in relation to this Television Authority is ludicrous. Whatever word one might have chosen, "independent" is surely in many ways the least applicable. The body is neither independent of the Government, on the one side, nor of the business interests behind it, on the other. As my hon. Friend the Member for Northfield (Mr. Chapman) has pointed out, by Clause 6 Government supervision of the Authority will actually in some ways be greater than that in relation to the B.B.C. Earlier in the debate we had the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) talking about the present Bill mollycoddling the new Television Authority. We can therefore have no doubt at all that it is not as independent of the Government as is the B.B.C. My hon. Friend gave some very interesting financial figures, but I thought him unduly modest in his estimates. An estimate was given in the "World's Press News" by Mr. John MacMillan, director of Feature Programmes Ltd. He judged that a 30-minute play in which there would be three minutes of advertising time would cost certainly not less than £2,500. In terms of purely advertising time, that works out at £44,000 per hour. As my hon. Friend has said, one can realise how much that will limit the kind of advertiser who will be backing the new Authority. In fact, the Authority will be even less independent of the financial forces behind it. It will be in the pockets of big business—and of the kind of big business which is the least socially useful. When discussing the Government proposals for commercial television, the "Manchester Guardian" pointed out:
"Suppose a programme company goes along to an advertiser and says it is going to produce an opera. The advertiser is not interested but says he will buy time for a variety show. If the programme company then decides that operas are a drug on the market, and the thing to do is endless variety shows, has the advertiser control of the programme?
In other words, the new Authority will be anything but independent of the advertisers. We sometimes talk rather glibly about our free Press. The fact is that the national Press has become such a big business that it is no longer free for any one except millionaires. It is calculated to need about £2 million to launch a new national newspaper. That seriously limits the freedom of the Press. In the same way the use of the word "Independent" as the adjective to give to the new Authority is sheer humbug and hypocrisy, designed to hide from the public the true nature of the proposition put forward by Her Majesty's Government.This is no different from sponsoring as it is usually understood."
I had not intended to intervene in this debate as we have no television at all as yet in Cornwall. So I can say that I have approached this Bill with a certain degree of independence. It seems to me that hon. Members opposite are so obsessed with ideas of nationalisation that they assume that the words "dependence" and "independence" can refer only to Corporations as between themselves and the Government. Surely that is not the ordinary or natural meaning of either word.When considering an Amendment to a Clause, it is surely no bad thing to see what the Clause and the title say. According to the title, this is a Bill to:
Clause 1 (1) says:"Make provision for television broadcasting services in addition to those provided by the British Broadcasting Corporation. …"
It also says that the Authority shall be called the Independent Television Authority. Clearly that must mean that the Authority is to be independent of, and something quite separate and different from, the British Broadcasting Corporation. All this argument about whether the Authority is dependent on advertisers or on the Government has really nothing to do with the Clause at all. For the Authority proposed to be set up by this Clause, "independent" is quite clearly an appropriate term. Incidentally, if as suggested we substituted the word "commercial" there would be an immediate confusion with the Columbia Broadcasting Corporation in America. These authorities are inevitably known by their initials and there would be confusion if we had another "C.""There shall be an Authority … whose function shall be to provide … television broadcasting services, additional to those of the British Broadcasting Corporation …"
To refresh my memory and to give the Committee the benefit of Webster's definition of "Independent," I went to the positive sense of the word, which is "dependent." Webster's definition is that which depends on something else for support or for what is needed. The definition given of "independent" is "not dependent." Therefore, as the pro visions in the Bill make definite arrangements for Government subsidy of this so-called independent Authority how, in the name of the English language, can such an Authority be called independent? As a Welshman, I rise in defence of the proper use of the English language, and against its misuse by a Scottish Home Secretary and a Scottish Minister for Welsh Affairs. If I were bold enough I should address him in Welsh, but I do not want to put him to that trial at this stage.In this Bill, as in most others, there is a Clause which contains certain interpretations. To remove any doubt as to the intended meaning of the term "independent" an interpretation should be included in that Clause. I am not sure how the Government would manage to convey its appropriate meaning, because I have been unable to find any meaning which is consistent with the generally accepted definition. The apparent meaning of the term as incorporated in the Bill is the direct opposite to the dictionary definition. I want to put a few questions to the Minister, to which he ought to reply for the sake of the English language; for the sake of his own record, and certainly for the sake of the general public and any member of the legal profession who might be called upon to deal with legal disputes arising out of the operation of the Bill after it becomes an Act. I ask the Minister to define the Gov ernment's interpretation of the word "independent" within the scope of the Bill, and then take steps to incorporate it in Clause 16, along with the other interpretations. That would remove any doubt that might still remain in the minds of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and it might result in a certain clearing up of the muddy waters of indefiniteness in the minds of the Government.
It is typical of the Government that when they get themselves into an indefensible position they call for a Scotsman to get them out. Since the Secretary of State for Scotland was not available, I suppose they did the next best thing and called for the Home Secretary. My hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. I. O. Thomas) deplored the use of the English language on this occasion, but I deplore the fact that cold, Scottish logic seems to have deserted the Home Secretary. He went to great pains to deny that this term was any reflection upon the B.B.C., but we cannot consider any title which is given to the new Authority without contemplating the purpose for which it is being set up.Clause 1 states that the Authority shall provide
The very fact that in Clause 1, which calls the new Authority into being, the B.B.C. is mentioned and the name "Independent Television Authority" is given to the new body, by implication defines the B.B.C. as dependent. The arguments of my hon. Friends on that point have been quite justified. The Government had to find a name for the Authority, and they had to face the obvious fact that nobody likes commercial broadcasting. They must have said, "There has been an uproar in the country, so we shall not call it the Commercial Television Authority; we want to prove that it is independent of the advertisers. Let us call it the 'Independent Television Authority' ". I congratulate the Government on one matter. When one is setting up a new authority one wants to find a familiar set of initials, and I am glad that the Home Secretary and the Government have resisted the strong temptation to call this organisation the "Independent Television Management Authority." 7.15 p.m. But "independent" is the one epithet that is surely inappropriate in this case. The Home Secretary tried to brush off references to Clause 6, but he just could not do so, because the Authority has to be subject to direction from the Post master-General for its broadcasting of certain events; it has to be subject to direction which will prevent it from broadcasting certain other events; it is subject to direction as to the time and duration of its broadcasts, and in its transmissions, it is required to use certain processes, installations and stations, besides being subject to direction as to the siting of those stations. It is certainly not independent of the Government. They have gone out of their way to grant it £750,000 a year. My hon. Friend the Member for North-field (Mr. Chapman) has proved quite successfully that £750,000 a year is not sufficient to make the Authority independent of advertisers or programme contractors. The Authority will be dependent upon the Government for its creation, for its composition, for certain of its finances and for the way in which it carries out its duties—for which the Post master-General has a continuing responsibility—and upon the programme contractors for the other and main part of its finances. Surely the Home Secretary will resurrect his interest and logic and accept the Amendment, or admit that the Authority, whatever else it may be, is not independent. Let him be honest and accept what the whole nation will call it, the Commercial Television Authority."television broadcasting services, additional to those of the British Broadcasting Corporation. …"
The Committee is engaged in the rather arduous and odious exercise of attempting to find a name for an unborn child. In view of the rather sordid genesis of the affair, I should have thought that that was especially dangerous. What we might get is an abortion, or, at the very best, a still-birth. I should like to make two alternative suggestions. We might call it the Impotent Television Authority, in view of the fact that it will be at the mercy of two masters—the Post master-General and the advertisers—or the Inadequate Television Authority, because it will not give the people any thing like the full alternative service, covering all parts of the country, which they desire.There is a simple point of syntax in the Amendment, which I do not think the Home Secretary has grasped. In the original version the adjective "Independent "qualifies the noun" Authority." We propose to qualify not the noun "Authority," but the word "Television." Why qualify the word "Authority"? There is no need to do so. It can be left just as "the Authority." What we do need to qualify is the kind of service which will be provided. It will be a television service, but what kind of television service? Surely the adjective will depend upon the primary function of the service. The primary function of this television service is surely to enable some people to make money. I do not think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will quarrel with that definition. I think that that is its primary function. It is the only reason why it is to provide this form of alternative television. It is the only reason why hon. Members opposite have pressed for this kind of service and organisation. It is so that advertising agents and certain large-scale advertisers can make money out of a television service. It may be a perfectly legitimate occupation, but I should have thought that the correct description of such an exercise was "commercial." What now we norm ally mean by the word "commercial" is activity of which the primary purpose is to make money, rather than to provide a service in the public interest. Since that, on the words of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, is the essential function of the service to be provided by this Authority, let us try to choose the correct name for it.
I think we had the right to expect a few more contributions from the other side of the Committee on the subject of this Amendment. There are on the other side people who, in the interests of truth, would approve the description of the Authority as the "Commercial Television Authority." The last word to use, the word we should avoid, is the word "independent." I think the Home Secretary would agree that no nation, no organisation, no individual today, in our modern civilisation, can be truly independent.The Home Secretary in his speech was putting a case in which, I think, he did not sincerely believe. Suppose he said, "I appreciate the Amendment, but we have chosen the term 'independent,' and so I can see that the people will not be deceived by it, I hope that the description will be left just as it is." I could appreciate that argument. He, however, is a legal luminary, who is advised by equally legal luminaries, and I should have thought that in the interests of accuracy they would, if they had decided not to use the word "commercial," at any rate have sought to avoid the use of the word "independent." It is rather appropriate that we should be discussing this Amendment on this day, because it so happens that in Scot land at the moment we are, and in the next week or two throughout Britain we shall be, having local elections, and there will be candidates all over the British Isles posing as Independent candidates. I would define an Independent candidate as a Tory who has not the decency, the guts, who has not the regard for truth, to call himself what he is—a Tory. The Conservative Party, whenever it finds that its label is a disadavantage to it, hides behind the label "Independent." That is exactly what it is doing in this Bill. The most important point the Home Secretary must answer is the one made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) about the probable effects of this misnomer on overseas opinion. We all appreciate the tremendous stakes involved in the cold war. The B.B.C. is a powerful weapon in our defence in that cold war. Any thing which is likely to weaken that weapon or to detract from the influence of the B.B.C. ought to be examined very carefully, and I would ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to think seriously again about this matter and, if he is not prepared to accept the word "commercial," to think of some other term, and, above all, to avoid the inference that somehow the B.B.C. is entirely dependent on Governmental control.
We are coming now towards the end of the debate on this Amendment. Nothing I have heard during the debate has convinced me that the Amendment should not be pressed. I thought my hon. Friend the Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton), as the right hon. and learned Gentleman himself suggested, moved the Amendment in a very responsible way and attacked the problem in a very sober fashion. We had a long reply from the Home Secretary. The further he went the more I thought his arguments supported the case that had been put from this side of the Committee. That was the impression he made on my mind. He was followed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who made one of the most delightful speeches that was, I think, enjoyed on both sides of the Committee.My hon. and right hon. Friends have put forward very substantial reasons why the Television Authority should have a suitable description. I am afraid that the last shot the Government have had in finding a description for this Authority contrasts very unfavourably with the truthfulness of either the Postmaster-General or the Lord Chancellor, or of the right hon. and learned Gentleman him self. It was not until the Bill was published that we saw the title "Independent Television Authority." In previous debates on the subject of the service to be provided it was referred to as sponsored television. That description was dropped, and it became competitive television. Then it became commercial television. Now it has become independent television. Any one but the last of those descriptions would have been more accurate than the last and the present one. The most unsuitable title of all is that of "independent." If the Authority is supposed to be independent, in what respect is it independent? The right hon. and learned Gentleman has admitted that financially it is dependent. It is not independent financially. It gets £750,000 a year of its running costs from the Government. Its capital expenditure also it gets from the Government. Do I understand that it is now the contention of the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if the Government subsidise this concern, the concern thereby becomes more independent? I should have thought that from the financial point of view the right hon. and learned Gentleman was on hopeless ground in arguing that this was an "Independent" Television Authority. 7.30 p.m. Can it be argued that it will be in dependent in its operations? The Bill provides for all sorts of restrictive conditions for the functioning of this Authority. The Bill provides for how the Authority shall do its job. It provides when it shall do its job; it provides what it may televise. In this sense, operationally, it is to be as dependent, if not more dependent, on the Postmaster-General than is the B.B.C., because in the B.B.C. we have built up a tradition of independence. This has no tradition behind it; this is a new thing. The balance of the programmes is to be decided upon, not by the Authority, but by the Postmaster-General. No programme with a political objective or a religious objective is to be allowed. This Authority, in its operations, is not and cannot be described as independent. In what sense is this Authority to be independent? Independent of what? It will not be independent of the Government financing it, nor of the Postmaster-General's control. Worse still, it will not be independent of the big advertisers who will in the last analysis determine what is to be broadcast because we will only have the programmes for which they will pay. I should have thought this was the last sort of title to give to this Authority. I wonder why it was done? I could understand the objection to calling it "the sponsored television authority" in case that aroused too much public apprehension. I could understand why it is not called a "competitive television authority" because it is the only one and will be competing with no one. The first idea was that we would have television authorities scattered all over the country each competing with another. One has only to read the speech of the Lord Chancellor in another place to realise that. We were told there was to be maximum competition, but now there is none. In transmission there is to be no competition at all, hence the Government dropped the title of competition and it now becomes "independent" to hide the fact that it is not competitive and so that people will not gain the impression that it might be sponsored. In the argument he brought forward the right hon. and learned Gentleman dealt with the independence, the known independence, of the B.B.C. He paid a very high tribute to that characteristic of the B.B.C., both abroad and in this country. Here was an independent body, accepted as independent on the word of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. If there is erected side by side with that body a body known as the "Independent Television Authority," does it not by inference give an Impression, or cast doubt in people's minds as to the independent character of the B.B.C.? I should have thought that an obvious conclusion. The point has been made that people on the Continent would not be affected by this. I was astonished at the intervention of the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) as I thought he was the skilled adviser of the right hon. and learned Gentleman and would know that European link-ups will probably be one of the most important features in publicity in this country and they should should enterprise in this respect. But to the degree that they show enterprise on the Continent, to that degree do we get the mix up between the B.B.C. and this Independent Tele vision Authority. Having listened to all that has been said, I am rather surprised that the Government have not accepted this Amendment. It is a reasonable Amendment which would remove apprehension and doubt, and it is a correct description of this proposed Authority. It will be a commercial authority; the work it will be doing is commercial work. The hon. Member for Ayr (Sir T. Moore) spoke of advertising as being the lifeblood of this nation of shopkeepers. The Authority will have a commercial job and not an educational job. What it will be concerned about is the pushing forward of commercial interests and not the delights or requirements of the viewer. I should have thought that on every argument put forward on each side of the Committee the conclusion must be forced that this title, "Independent Television Authority," is a wrong one and that the Amendment ought to be accepted. Having heard the views which have been put forward in good humour, and as everyone has approached the problem realistically—I do not think there has been any waste of words about the matter [Laughter.]—I should have thought not. After all, the speech of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was the longest, and he was the second speaker. I am not complaining about that; I think it is right that it should be so. I doubt whether it can be said that there has been any unnecessary delay in examining what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said was a narrow but very important point. My hon. Friends have approached the problem sensibly, and I wonder whether he has anything further to say about the matter? Has what has been put forward in the debate had any influence on his mind? We must come to some understanding in this Committee. If what has been said on this side of the Committee is not to be considered, we may as well be told now. If this is to be a successful Committee, doing a useful job, what is said from this side ought to have some consideration. But, if we are to be dismissed willy-nilly and the Government are to use their majority and rush into the Lobby, let us know straight away and we shall know what tactics to adopt. We want to use this opportunity sensibly and to improve the Bill, although we are against it. We want to provide in the Bill adequate safeguards in the interest of the nation and to do our job responsibly. I wonder if the Home Secretary has anything to say in reply to the debate?
I do not think that the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) or any hon. Member in the Committee can complain about impatience, seeing that we have spent two hours on this point—
It is a very important point.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends will not draw any general conclusion on the attitude of Her Majesty's Government from the opinions which I express be cause, as I said, I tried to approach this matter frankly and I gave the House my opinions. If I remain of the same opinion, I am sorry but I am bound to say so. I am sure that the Committee will do me the credit of agreeing that I have listened carefully to every speech made in the debate.There is one point of great importance. Let us have no doubt that we all agree on the independent position of the B.B.C. The independence and objectivity of the B.B.C. is so import ant that I should not like any suggestion to go out from our controversy today that reflects on it. I was rather surprised that there were doubts, which were obviously honestly expressed, about that being recognised in Europe. I certainly pay attention to what was said,
Division No. 82.]
|Aitken, W. T.||Asshcton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Astor, Hon. J. J.||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)|
|Amery, Julian (Preson, N.)||Baldwin, A. E.||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)|
|Amory, Rt. Han. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Banks, Col. C.||Bennett, William (Woodside)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Barlow, Sir John||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)|
|Arbulhnot, John||Beach, Maj. Hicks||Bishop, F. P.|
but I was surprised when the right hon. Gentleman expressed those doubts.
Of course, I will consider that point, but at the moment it is important that we should have in mind that this television will not be seen abroad. It will be in no sense in competition with the B.B.C.'s sound services, although I myself believe that the B.B.C.'s sound services have such a reputation for independence that it would not matter even if it were. But it will not be.
From our point of view it is important to indicate that the new Authority will be independent of the B.B.C. I have tried to show—and I will not repeat what I said earlier—why, in my view, it will be independent of the Government. I do not accept the suggestion which some hon. Members opposite made that anyone with whom one is in financial relations enters into a position of dependence on one, or that one becomes dependent on him. One has to look at the whole picture.
I want the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey) to bear in mind that the difference between us is that he said that our intention in doing this was to allow people to make money.
The primary intention.
We do not agree. That is not our intention. Our primary intention is to do two things: first, to give the people an alternative programme, and secondly, to see that that alternative programme is given by a body which is independent of the existing monopoly. That is our primary purpose. That is why we attach importance to independence.Do not let there be any misapprehension. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to think that we have doubts. We have no doubts. A General Election in which one of the important matters would be whose finger is to be on the knob, is something of which we have no fear at all.
Question put, "That' Independent' stand part of the Clause."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 248; Noes, 234.
|Black, C. W.||Hollis, M. C.||Pilkington, Capt. R A.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Hope, Lord John||Pitman, I. J.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J A||Hopkinson, Rt. Hon. Henry||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Braine B. R.||Hormby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Horobin, I. M.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Profumo, J. D.|
|Bro[ill]-., Jaok (Govan)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Buchar -Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Bullard, D. G.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Rees-Davies, W. R|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hurd, A. R.||Renton, D. L. M|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Carr, Robert||Iremonger, T. L.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Channon, H.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Cole, Norman||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Russell, R. S.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Kaberry, D.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne).||Kerr, H. W.||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Lambert, Hon G.||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Lartgford-Holt, J. A.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Crouch, R. F.||Leather, E. H. C.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Shepherd, William|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip-— Northwood)||Lindsay, Martin||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Llewellyn, D. T.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Spearman, A. C.M|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Speir, R. M.|
|Donner, Sir P. W.||Low, A. R. W.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Drewe, Sir C.||McAdden, S. J.||Stevens, G. P.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)||McCallum, Major D.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. M.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Summers, G. S.|
|Fell, A.||Macleod, Rt. Hon: Iain (Enfield, W.)||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Finlay, Graeme||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Teeling, W.|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Ford, Mrs. Patricia||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Fort, R.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Foster, John||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Marples, A. E.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)|
|Fraser, Sir Ian (Morecambe & Lonsdale)||Marshall, Douglas (Bodmin)|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Maude, Angus||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N.|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Tilney, John|
|Gammans, L. D.||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Mellor, Sir John||Turton, R. H.|
|George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. Lloyd||Molson, A. H. E||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Glover, D.||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Vane, W M. F.|
|Godber, J. B.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Gough, C. F. H||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Gower, H. R.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Neave, Airey||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Nicholls, Harmar||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Wall, P. H. B.|
|Harden, J. R. E||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Nutting, Anthony||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Oakshott, H. D.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Wellwood, W.|
|Heath, Edward||Ormsby-Gore, Hon, W. D.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Higgs, J. M. C.||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Wills, G.|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Page, R. G.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Perkins, Sir Robert||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Peto, Brig. C. H. M.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J||Peyton, J. W. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Redmayne and Mr. Legh|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Barnes, Rt. Hon. A J.|
|Adams, Richard||Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Bartley, P.|
|Albu, A. H.||Awbery, S. S.||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Bacon, Miss Alloe||Bence, C. R.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Balfour, A.||Benn, Hon. Wedgwood|
|Benson, G.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Beswick, F.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Rankin, John|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Reeves, J.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hynd, H. (Accrington).||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rhodes, H.|
|Boardman, H.||Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Richards, R.|
|Bottomliey, Rt. Hon. A. G||Janner, B.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Bowen, E. R,||Jeger, George (Goole)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Brown, Rt Hon. George (Belper)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Inee)||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Ross, William|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Royle, C.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir Hartley|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Keenan, W.||Short, E. W.|
|Champion, A. J.||Kenyon, C.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||King, Dr. H. M.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Clurrie, J.||Kinley, J.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Collick, P. H.||Lawson, G. M.||Staler, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Cove, W. G||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Craddook, George (Bradford, S.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lewis, Arthur||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Daines, P.||Lindgren, G. S.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Logon, D. G.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||MacColl, J. E.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Morrigomery||McGhee, H. G.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||McGovern, J.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Mclnnes, J.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Deer, G.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Dodds, N. N.||McLeavy, F.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwioh)||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Edelman, M.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Manuel, A. C.||Thornton, E.|
|Evani, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Marquaml, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Timmons, J.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mason, Roy||Tomney, F.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Mellish, R. J.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Finch H. J||Messer, Sir F.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mikardo, Ian||Usborne, H. C.|
|Follick, M.||Mitchison, G. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Forman, J. C.||Monslow, W.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Moody, A. S.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Morley, R.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Gibson, C. W.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mort, D. L.||West, D. G.|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Moyle, A.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hen. D. R.||Mulley, F. W.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Grey, C. F.||Murray, J. D.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Whirteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Oldfield, W. H.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Grimond, J.||Oliver, G. H.||Wilkins. W. A.|
|Hall, Rl. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Orbach, M.||Willey, F. T.|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Oswald, T.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Padley, W. E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Abertillery)|
|Hannan, W.||Paget, R. T.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Hardy, E. A||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Hargreaves, A.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Williams, W. R (Droylsden)|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)||Parker, J.||WiIIiams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hastings, S.||Parkin, B. T.||Willis, E. G.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pearson, A.||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Popplewell, E.||Yates, V. F.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Porter, G.||Younger, Rt. Hon K.|
|Holman, P.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Holt, A. F.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Houghton, Douglas||Proctor, W. T.||Mr. Bowden and Mr. Holmes.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Hubbard, T. F.|
I beg to move, in page 1, line 7, after "provide," to insert "now."
I think it might be convenient to the Committee to discuss this Amend ment with the Amendments in page 1, line 8, after the first "of," insert:
In line 8, after "and," insert "to maintain." In line 15, at the end, insert:"and within one year from the passing of."
For the purposes of this subsection the expression "now" means "within one year from the passing of this Act."
The object of these Amendments is to deal with the time when the Authority must provide its services. The Assistant Postmaster-General, by virtue of his office, is an expert on time. He is constantly engaged in securing the timeliest delivery and the timeliest collection of our correspondence, and I have noticed that he does it with great regularity. We are suggesting that it would be a good thing to have in this Bill a provision as to when the Authority is to do its job—that is to say, to do its job of providing the services.The Authority has to maintain its services for 10 years from the passing of the Bill, and, therefore, if there is no time limit, it can spend half the 10 years adding bit by bit to what it is providing, and some of what is provided will only be of any use for an extraordinarily short time. We suggest that the time to pro vide them is now. We use the word "now" not only in the ordinary sense, that they should begin at once, but in the sense understood by our expert on time, the Assistant Postmaster-General. When this matter was under discussion in connection with the cost of various services and the programmes which might be provided by the Authority now or by the B.B.C. now, the Assistant Postmaster-General gave us what we may regard as the Post Office reading of "now" for present purposes. He said that it means when the commercial people are in a position to do this, and he estimated that that would be within a year of the passing of this Bill. Therefore, we duly adopted in the last of the Amendments which you have mentioned, Sir Gordon, the Post Office's or the Assistant Postmaster-Generals definition of "now," and we have provided that the work should be done within a year. The other Amendments merely put forward that proposition in another form, in case, on reflection, the Assistant Post master-General may feel that his definition of "now" was only to be applied in that particular instance and could not be regarded as permanent. There might, indeed, be difficulties in the collection and delivery of letters now. I find myself tripping up over this word; one uses it so often, and there it is used in a different sense. Be that as it may, it surely is reason able that there should be a time limit not only to make the Authority begin its job at once—and upon that I feel certain that all hon. Members would be entirely in agreement—but also to let the Authority get on with the job and set a limit to the process of putting up one station or another. That is the more necessary be cause at the end of the Clause as it runs, the services are to be provided in a very vague form
That, of course, is subject to amendment, and we shall come to that matter later. In the Bill in its present form, at any rate, what appears to be contemplated is an Authority which will begin its work at no particular time and which may go on from time to time, and yet which has all the time a limiting period of 10 months, subject only to the quite unnecessary provision that Parliament in this as in other cases may extend the time. That is the present position on the matter, and it seems to me to be the purest common sense and the most ordinary sound practice that there should be a limit of the sort."for so much of the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as may from time to time be reasonably practicable."
This Amendment is in the form of a challenge to the Assistant Postmaster-General, because one cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman, speaking on such an occasion as this, would make a specific promise without having very good authority for doing so. We are anxious that, once the Bill becomes law, it should be put into operation. The whole Committee shares that desire—a desire to make the Bill work. That is always our duty in Committee. It is therefore incumbent upon the Assistant Postmaster-General and part of his duty to tell us precisely how it could be implemented now.We have considerable doubts about it, but before I come to the doubts I want to point to one advantage which would follow if our Amendments were accepted. The Assistant Postmaster-General continues to receive Questions from hon. Members who have had complaints from local authorities about their ambulance services and the wavelengths which will be available to them. To accept the Amendments would be to remove these doubts and to allow the necessary steps to be taken for those wave-lengths to be changed. It would remove uncertainty. Is the hon. Gentleman sure that the two channels on which these broadcasts are to take place are available? It seems to me essential that the hon. Member should accept the Amendments. It may be that there are doubts whether the Bill can be implemented now. For instance, there will be a delay in obtaining the necessary transmission apparatus. The manufacturers must be awaiting the passing of the Bill before beginning to make the apparatus. We shall also need the gadgets required to alter television sets. Can the hon. Gentleman say whether it will be possible to have television simultaneously in London and in Birmingham? These are all very important points. The hon. Member must know the answers, otherwise he would not have said that it could be done now. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has performed a public duty in tabling these Amendments in order to remove these doubts, and it is with great interest and a certain trepidation that we await the Assistant Postmaster-General's comments on the Amendments, which are designed, in the true tradition of the House when it is in Committee, to make the Bill work.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) said, the purpose of the Amendments is to make it quite clear that the Government and Parliament, and all the other people interested in this business, have not spent the last two years arguing about this subject for nothing.The discussions have been going on for a long time, and it is about time that we had a second television programme. We all want it; there is no difference between us on that issue. We all believe that viewers should have a choice of at least two different programmes throughout the viewing period every day. We should be much happier if all viewers had more than two programmes from which to choose, and we hope the day will quickly come when they have that choice. We want diversity and the widest possible range of good programmes, and my hon. Friends and I believe that the technical difficulties can be surmounted and that our resources will allow us to start a second choice under a public service system with no further delay. If it were not for the advent of the commercial interests which have created all the controversy which is holding up planning and development, we should now have a workable plan before us and would know the development steps which were to be taken to provide a second service. Instead of having a plan and knowing where we are, instead of having the steps carefully set out before us so that we know what developments are to take place, we have complete chaos, and the whole business is beginning to smell. The Government cannot come out into the open and tell us who is negotiating for programme contracts. All kinds of shadowy characters are going into the back door of the Post Office to talk things over with the Postmaster-General, taking part in what are apparently secret talks. We know nothing about them and we can only suspect the worst. How different it would be, how much more honest, clean and straightforward, if all these matters were being arranged in public by a public corporation in order to provide a public service. But right hon. and hon. Members opposite were brought up in this hole-and-corner atmosphere, which is how they conduct their business affairs, and as long as they are in office I suppose our public interest will be tainted by all this private and anti-social jiggery-pokery. We there fore say in the Amendments that there must be a time limit on this business; it must come to an end. If I may change my metaphor, we must insist that the private horse trading which is going on shall come into the open. We therefore seek to put into the Bill this requirement that within a year we must know what is going on and we must have a proper television service provided by the Authority, if the Bill is passed and the Authority is set up; or at least there must be a substantial coverage throughout the country by a second television programme. We think the time limit which we have chosen is reasonable. After all, hon. Members in the House and in Committee, the Government, all the technical experts and all the questionable commercial interests which the Government have brought in, have been discussing this second programme for about three years, and it is time we finished the talking and started the programme. I understand the Government's difficulties in having any sort of time limit placed upon the Authority and its work. We know that the Government are more concerned with making these business deals than with providing a public service, but we on this side of the Committee are concerned about the viewers; theirs is our only concern. We therefore say in these Amendments that the horse trading which is going on should come to an end and that we should see the horses paraded in public with the price tags on them. On behalf of the viewers, we are interested to see that a second programme is provided within a year of the passing of the Act. Hon. Members opposite may argue that if this group of Amendments were carried the effect would be to restrict the area of the Authority's power to what it can start within a year. I do not object to that as a secondary purpose of the Amendments, but they have another purpose, probably more important. The first purpose is to get the Authority started. It is time that it started on its job of producing television programmes, and it should waste no more time in fixing up. deals with questionable commercial interests. From that, the second purpose naturally follows: it is to speed up the Authority so that it extends its service. If the Authority is not compelled to act with speed, we fear that the second programme, which we all want and which we hope the Authority will provide when it is set up—although there is no certainty about that—will be restricted for some time to only two or three big centres of population. We think that such a restriction would be grossly unfair. It would mean as a result, both of wasting time in all these negotiations that have been going on and in bringing in this complicated Bill, which no one wants, and in the seeking to avoid on the part of the programme companies and their associates the less heavily populated areas in which the advertising interests are not greatly interested, that more than half of our television viewers would not get a second programme for a very long time. We want to avoid that. Even though the taking of television to places outside the two or three main centres of population may be an unprofitable business for the Government's friends, we must insist that all the citizens of this country shall be treated fairly and equitably. We know that is an alien doctrine so far as the Government are concerned. The Government take the view that the television second programme should be radiated only to those people who live closely enough together to constitute a profitable market for the Government's friends. We say, therefore, that the Authority ought to be judged upon its plans and achievements of the first year, but it cannot be because of the restrictive influence of the advertisers who do not want to go into the sparsely-populated areas. If it cannot provide nation-wide coverage in the first year or produce plans for it, we shall want to see set up some other authority which can take whatever measures are suitable to make sure that there shall be a full coverage for the second television programme. I think that these Amendments which will achieve all these good results ought to be accepted.
The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) has suggested that there must be a smell somewhere. Certainly, those of us who have sat on these benches for some four or five hours are dubious about the turn which the debate has taken. The whole of the first part of the afternoon was taken up with Amendments which sought to delay the introduction of the second programme and this last series of Amendments is now seeking to speed the arrival of the second programme so it would seem that with the same people speaking on both Amendments they cannot be completely sincere.
I have never seen so many fish come out of the weeds so quickly.
I am much obliged to the hon. Member for giving way. Does he not realise that once the Authority is constituted we expect it to start its job and get on with it? The question is when it should be constituted.
On this point of speed we are all anxious that it should get on with the job. But surely we could hold up a yardstick to measure the speed. I have been checking the historical facts and I find that the B.B.C. was instructed to go ahead with its television service, with all the organisation which the B.B.C. had behind it after 15 years of existence, in 1935. It took 18 months before there was one station on the air and at the outbreak of war, in 1939, there was still only one station on the air.
That is most unfair. The hon. Gentleman has the technical know ledge to know that at that period television was in its infancy.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to complete my argument. It may have been necessary to proceed slowly before the war but after the war the Sutton Coldfield station did not come into existence until December, 1949, which was four years, the Holme Moss Station did not come into existence until 1951, which was six years and the first Scottish station at Kirk o'Shotts until 1952, which was seven years. It is distinctly fishy that when a new Authority is to be set up hon. Members opposite expect it to spread the second television programme throughout the country within a year in view of the record in spreading the first programme.I would make this second point. We shall achieve greater speed—and this is a very important point—if we make use of the existing B.B.C. transmitter mast for this second service. There is no reason why this new corporation, the I.T.A., and the B.B.C. should not share capital re sources and make use of the same steel and the same sites.
I am glad that hon. Members on both sides agree with this point.I should also like to point out that it is much more difficult to provide national coverage on Band III. It is a technical fact and we cannot change the character of the waves. That being so, I hope that my hon. Friend will ensure that if we do open up an alternative service on this plan transmitters will be used which are as high a power as possible so that the reception for the public is as nearly com parable with the reception which they get on Band I. Unless these transmitters are of high-power reception will be indifferent. We all desire to see an alter native programme for the viewers of this country and we want to see it provided efficiently and well.
The hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing) has put a point which I think is worth following, and that is the possibility of the I.T.A. using the B.B.C. masts. I hope that he is not suggesting that the I.T.A. should be given something by the B.B.C. I am quite sure that he will agree that if the masts are used, a proper contribution should come from the I.T.A. towards the cost of upkeep and, indeed, the capital cost.
The hon. Member agrees. We can now put down an Amendment to that effect for discussion later, so no doubt we shall have the support of the hon. Member.I think this shows that we have made very considerable progress tonight and I hope that that progress will be continued. I am, however, puzzled by two things. One is that the hon. Member for Hendon, North should have attacked the Assistant Postmaster-General so bitterly by suggesting that it is quite unconscionable to expect that this scheme could be put into operation in one year, and the second is that the Assistant Postmaster-General has not risen to support this Amendment. One of the problems about not having enough newsprint, and the question of the importation of newsprint, is that debates in this House cannot be reported fully, and it has escaped the notice of the readers of the newspapers that the Assistant Postmaster-General has been consistent on one thing since December, 1943. When I say that for as long as five months there has been some consistency on the part of the Assistant Postmaster-General about the Bill, my hon. Friends will recognise that, to use an American expression, I am saying a mouthful. The Bill's progress has been marked by hesitancies, confusions and changes, but the Assistant Postmaster-General has been clear on the point ever since he made it on 14th December, 1953, that he wanted a second programme straight away. He altered it slightly on 25th March, this year, when he said that he wanted a second programme now. That reminded me of the slogan that we used to see chalked on the pavements during the war, "Second front now." The hon. Gentleman wants a second programme now. The Assistant Postmaster-General spoke on this point at ten o'clock on 25th March and maybe was not adequately reported, but at 8.20 tonight I can give the newspapers an opportunity to remind their readers of what he said then. He argued that if we were to have a proper service, a second programme could come about only through commercial television. He said that we could have a second programme now through the B.B.C., by putting up the licence fee to £5—or was it £6, or £7? The point is that there would be a considerable increase in the licence fee. Alternatively, the B.B.C. would give a second programme some years ahead, about 1957, while keeping the licence fee where it is. Thirdly, we could have an alternative commercial programme now. The hon. Gentleman was as specific as he could possibly be. I do not want to misquote him, so I will give the reference. He said:
It really is too bad for the hon. Member for Hendon, North to say now that that cannot be done. Why did he not rebuke the Assistant Postmaster-General at the time? The hon. Gentleman has technical knowledge, but so has the Assistant Postmaster-General. [An HON. MEMBER: "I doubt it."] No. I am coming to the defence of the Assistant Postmaster-General now. By no stretch of imagination could he be described as ignorant or innocent."… when the commercial people are in a position to do it … and that, I estimate, to be within a year of the passing of this Bill."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1954; Vol. 525 c. 1554.]
The hon. Gentleman misrepresents me as saying that it could not be done. I said I could not under stand how hon. Gentlemen opposite could now press for speed when, earlier in the afternoon, they were arguing for no I.T.A. at all.
That is not the point to which I am addressing myself, which is about the ignorance or innocence of the Assistant Postmaster-General. I acquit the Minister of those things. He is an experienced man and he is sup ported by a capable and expert Department. He must be armed with the know ledge that has been given to him by the advisers in his office that within a year of the passing of the Bill, at no cost except a mere £10 million, we could have a second programme, and could have it now.Suppose we accept that. Nobody can argue that we are attempting to introduce an element of delay. The Government, by putting the Whips on today, decided that there should be no delay. The Authority is to be set up, and the job is to go ahead. The hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) said that the Bill was designed against sloppy people who did not want to get on with the job. All right. We want to get on with the job. We want to urge the Assistant Postmaster-General to implement the undertaking he gave to this House on 25th March, 1954, that the second programme could come within a year. If it does not come within a year, what happens? First of all, the public will have been deluded. They have been told that the two other choices open—increase of licence fee to £5, or postponement of second programme until 1957—were not worthy of consideration, because the second programme could come now, that is within a year. I am sure that the Assistant Postmaster-General's Department does not want to delude the people, but wants to get on with the job. It would be a betrayal of the B.B.C., which is trying to make its plans now on the basis that the requirements of the I.T.A. will be met within a year. Suppose this matter slops over into two years or three years, because of shortage of material, technicians and buildings. The B.B.C. will never know where it is, simply because the proposed Authority has not been told by the Assistant Post master-General to get on with the job in the way he indicated to us it would be told. The Assistant Postmaster-General argues for commercial television because he believes that it is in the interests of the economic life of the country. If that is so, the matter brooks no delay. It is one on which we should all work over time to get it through, not in a year but in six months. We do not want to ask the Assistant Postmaster-General to do the impossible, but we must presume that he knows how the equipment, technicians, buildings, etc., are to be correlated and the programme companies started. He must be aware of all this. Private conferences have taken place, and I do not want to quote some of the speeches of the gentlemen outside this House who were present at those conferences. We know that advertisers, would-be applicants for work, have been told exactly what the terms are going to be. I wish we in this Committee had as much information. This Authority must get on with the job. I would, therefore, paraphrase a remark which was once made to me in Canada and say to the Assistant Post master-General if he is not going to play the piano will he please get off the stool?
I intervene for a moment to say how entertained I was by the reminiscences of "Start the second front now." I am not sure that the Home Secretary of that splendid war time Administration must have welcomed those signs "Second front now." Many of us thought, and perhaps the then Home Secretary himself thought, they were not inspired by sincerity, but whether they were due to sincerity or not, they were foolish. We all know how foolish it was to say, "We must have a second front now" without investigating the whole position, and also the corollary is that if we cannot have a second front now there is a good reason why we should not have it later. It may be that we agreed that we should pursue this venture as fast as possible, and if we cannot do it now there is no reason why it should not be done later.
I am following the hon. and learned Gentleman's point with great interest, and he is putting it with logic. If that is so, why did he not support our Amendment about 1956?
The reason was that I did not think it was an important Amendment. The important Amendments to this Bill, as no doubt hon. Members are well aware, stand unashamedly in my name.This Amendment does not ensure that there will be coverage for the whole country, and that the whole scheme should not be judged by the first year. Hon. Gentlemen opposite will not have failed to notice that all that is required to be done by this Clause is to cover as much of the United Kingdom as may, from time to time, be reasonable and practicable. The Authority may there fore within one year say that it was, in fact, only practicable to put up one station. It was suggested by one hon. Member that this whole scheme would be working in one year, but this Amendment does not ensure that any greater area will be covered. I appreciate that hon. Members opposite are in a difficult position.
May I ask the hon. and learned Gentleman—
No, the hon. and learned Gentleman cannot ask me. I must teach hon. Members opposite the lesson I learned here from a most experienced Member of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), who said that interruptions were to explain something which was doubtful but not to carry on a sort of cross argument interrupting arguments.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has not heard the argument.
If the hon. and learned Gentleman did not understand what I said, I am prepared to repeat it.What I am saying is that this Amendment does not, in fact, secure that within one year, as has been suggested, there would be coverage. This Amendment merely says that something must be done within one year.
I do not understand that argument.
I do not expect the hon. and learned Gentleman does. He will excuse me if I remind him of the saying, "I can find an argument but I cannot find due appreciation of it." I was suggesting that hon. Members opposite were in this difficulty, that they themselves—and I do not blame them at all—regard the whole of this scheme as a hole-and-corner busi- ness and anti-social jiggery-pokery. That is an original phrase extracted no doubt from the vivid imagination of the hon. Member who used it. This original phrase handicaps any hon. Member opposite in deciding on the wisdom of this Clause, because if one is against this Bill it would be very difficult to address honest and reasonable arguments as to when this scheme should be put into operation. The Committee no doubt will judge how far hon. Members opposite surmounted that difficulty.
The hon. and learned Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell) said it was very foolish to put down Amendments suggesting that the I.T.A. programmes would come into operation in one year. If it is foolish, then he is condemning the foolishness of his hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General and also the Postmaster-General. No doubt he has a lot of destructive Amendments down to the Bill, and that may have been his intention.My hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson) said rightly that the real purpose of this Amendment is to challenge the Assistant Postmaster-General, to give him an opportunity to face up to some of the things he said to us and to the public which we regard as extremely misleading, not to say dishonest. For example, it will enable him either to repeat his statement that it would involve the B.B.C. in a £5 licence fee to do what the I.T.A. is to do, or to admit that it was a dishonest statement to make. This arises out of the Amendment, because the basis of the idea that it would cost the B.B.C. a £5 licence fee is that it would have to provide a second television programme in one year. Therefore, as the hon. Gentleman was comparing the B.B.C. with the I.T.A., the I.T.A. would also be able to do it in one year. The Postmaster-General, however, when pressed strongly in the other place on 2nd March, 1954, gave the assumptions which had underlain the statement that it would cost a £5 licence fee for the B.B.C. to do as well as the I.T.A. within one year. It must have been embarrassing for the Assistant Postmaster-General when those assumptions were given in public, because they showed that his earlier statement was really a cheating statement and that it was designed to mislead.
Order, order. I do not think that "designed to mislead" is in order.
I am sorry, Sir Rhys. Naturally I entirely withdraw the words, which came out without thinking. I will say that the assumptions disclosed by the Postmaster-General showed that the remarks of his hon. Friend had been extremely hazardous, because the Postmaster-General showed that the assumption underlying the statement of his hon. Friend was that the B.B.C. would produce a five-hour a day second television programme, and that it would start in the summer of 1955; in other words, at the same time as our Amendment would make the programme of the I.T.A. start. Of course, the assumption naturally was that the I.T.A. could do the same, because the Assistant Post master-General said that it would cost a £5 licence fee for the B.B.C. to do the same as the I.T.A.; in other words, he was assuming that the I.T.A. could pro duce a five-hour a day second programme start in the summer of 1955.Does the Assistant Postmaster-General still maintain that this is what the I.T.A. can and will do? Does he, therefore, stand by his statement because, unless he says that the I.T.A. can give a five hour a day programme starting in the summer of 1955, he cannot maintain any longer that it would cost the B.B.C. a £5 licence fee to do the same. If, indeed, he thinks it is possible for the I.T.A. to do this, then he can accept the Amendment, because it merely says that it shall do what he says it can and will do. On the other hand, if he refuses the Amendment on the grounds that it is putting an impossible burden on the I.T.A., he must withdraw his allegation that it will cost the B.B.C. a £5 licence fee to do the same as the I.T.A. He has those two alternatives, and it is for him to decide which he chooses.
I shall deal first with the technical point raised by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Hobson), who asked me if two channels were available and what were their frequencies. The answer is that there are two channels available. I gave the frequencies to the House in answer to a Question a few months ago. Speaking from memory, they are 186 to 191 and 191 to 196 megacycles, though I would not like to be bound by that statement.I was rather surprised that this Amendment was moved, because it is the exact opposite of the Amendment which was moved first this afternoon. On the earlier one we were chided for attempting to go too fast; now we are being exhorted to go faster. We were also told, for example, that this I.T.A. programme might affect the B.B.C. in the provision of its further stations. I would tell the Committee that the B.B.C. has already ordered transmit ting equipment, which is being manufactured, for the whole of its remaining programme, whereas the I.T.A. has not come into operation at all. Nor has it gone into the market in any shape or form. The point was made that the possible setting up of the I.T.A. and the fact that it would order equipment might impede the progress of the B.B.C. The answer is that it will not.
Before the hon. Gentle man gets into the ether will he enlighten me on this point? I thought that we were discussing on the previous Amendment when the Authority should be constituted. Are we not now discussing whether the Authority should get on with the job within the time limit allowed to it or whether there should be no time limit at all?
We were previously chided for attempting to go too fast. We are now exhorted to get on with the job and I was asked whether or not I stuck to the expression of opinion which I gave some time ago when I said that I thought that the new Authority would be on the air within one year of its being constituted. I still stick to that opinion.I think that it will be on the air, but I am not willing that the Authority should be tied down by Act of Parliament to be on the air within that time. It would be most foolish of me to accept that. There are so many uncertain factors in the whole of this scheme that I should be foolish to bind the Authority to get on the air within a year when something might come along to prevent their achieving that. We must realise what must be done. Arrangements will have to be made with the programme contractors and it may be that masts will have to be erected though, as I said before, technically there is much to be said for the Authority and the B.B.C. sharing some masts purely on business terms. Outside broadcasting equipment has to be purchased by the programme contractors, and so on, and it may be that sites for masts and transmitting equipment will have to be bought. In those circum stances for me to accept a mandatory obligation for them to get on the air within the time which I think they can get on the air would be foolish in the extreme and contrary to all sensible legislation. It is our desire and intention—and I think that this will reassure the hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) —to get on with the job. I hope that the Authority will get on with the job very quickly and that there will be no delay of any sort. All that we are now arguing about is whether we should make that mandatory upon the Authority in an Act of Parliament and I must resist an Amendment to that effect.
The hon. Gentleman used the term "on the air." I under stood that the kernel of the controversy was the provision of an alternative programme generally. That is something different from being on the air. The Authority could be on the air with one station or one transmitter but that would not be providing an alternative programme, which might involve three or four transmitters at least. The hon. Gentleman should apply his mind to this problem again.
In the first instance, we did not envisage more than three stations being in operation and I assumed, on the best information at my disposal, that that would happen within a year of the Authority being set up and the Bill becoming an Act of Parliament.
I am sorry to chase the hon. Gentleman on this matter. I do not like to interfere unduly, but when he speaks of three transmitters, does that mean transmitting one programme or three secondary programmes? Is there competition between the transmitters?
I think we are on a point which has nothing to do with the Amendment and which we shall have plenty of opportunity to discuss later. I am trying to keep within the rules of order, but I shall be delighted to give the right hon. Gentleman what I hope is a satisfactory answer when the time comes.There is one other point about the Amendment which has not been mentioned by right hon. and hon. Members opposite. As I understand, this Amendment would do something more than hold the Authority down to a rigid time-table. It would specify that what it did not do in the first year it could not do at all. I do not know whether that was meant or not—[An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] It was meant; I am very glad to have that admission.
Would not "by product" be the phrase?
This is an Amendment which the Government could not possibly accept, because it cuts right across the whole plan of development we have announced in respect of this television Authority. I would be the first to admit that we are going into a new field and we should proceed with a certain degree of caution, as we have always said we would, and there should be no attempt to spread over the whole country at one go. If we attempted to do that we should certainly require far more money than is proposed. The intention has always been that the Authority should spread from its own resources as the demand arose and as it had authority to do so. There fore, I could not possibly accept this Amendment which puts the hampering provision on the Authority that what it did not do in the first year it could not do at all.
We took the year, of course, from the hon. Gentleman. He appreciates that there is a time limit of 10 years and it is only during those 10 years in which the stations will be set up. Does he suggest that the Authority will be starting facilities during the whole 10 years, so that those facilities can be used only for a month or two?
That is making a whole lot of presuppositions we ought not to make here. It is presupposing that if the new Authority were transmitting a satisfactory programme anyone would dare or want to stop it. The idea is that during the 10 years there should be gradual extensions. I hope I have replied to the various points which hon. Members have made, but, for the reasons I have given, I regret that we cannot accept the Amendment.
The story of this argument arose in this way, if I remember rightly, and I do not think the Assistant Postmaster-General comes out of this series of discussions at all well. In fact, I think he comes out very badly and his reputation has suffered as a result of the statements which have been made. The argument he was making was that if the B.B.C. was to complete its second television programme arrangements it would have to impose a licence fee of £5.
£6 and £7 were also mentioned.
Yes, £6 and £7 were also mentioned. The purpose of the argument was that we had better not let the B.B.C. do this, otherwise the licence fee would go up. But when he was pinned down he had to admit that it was on the assumption that the second programme would be, so to speak, almost immediate —a second different programme, and five-hour timing.Then the hon. Gentleman went on to discuss the commercial people, and drew a favourable picture of what they could do, because they would have the advertising revenue, plus the little grants-in-aid which the Government proposed to give them. He then said that they could do it now. The word "now" was used. He having used that word, it was used against him. and he then argued that when he said "now" he meant in 12 months. Now it appears that he does not mean a full second programme. He means only three stations in popular centres. This is what Lord Ashfield used to call, in omnibus language—and what Ernest Bevin used to call, when pirate buses competed against the London General buses—"creaming the traffic." That is what the Government are doing. They are creaming the television traffic for the commercial people and the private profit makers. To give the Assistant Postmaster-General a chance to live up to the rather sweeping statement which he had made before, namely, that the commercial people could do it now, without an in crease in the licence fee, except this £1 increase—and there is apparently a B.B.C. interest in that as well—and he having interpreted the word "now" to mean "within 12 months," we have put down an Amendment to say "now" and to define it as "12 months." That is to say, we have adopted the very language used by the Assistant Postmaster-General, language which he used after a lot of wriggling and evasion, for which he ought to be thoroughly ashamed. Why he stands at that Box I do not know. I should have thought he would have been so covered in shame that he would transfer himself to the back benches where he naturally belongs—if he belongs there. We put down these Amendments, and out of consideration for the dilemma in which the Assistant Postmaster-General finds himself, we even obliged him further by defining "now" as "within 12 months," which seems curious, but we have followed the words of a Minister of the Crown. Nevertheless, this Under-Minister has the assurance—I understand it is all right to use that word. In the first Session of Parliament in which I served there was a Conservative Member sitting on this side of the House who said, "Speaking for the railway companies, which I represent in this House." I subsequently referred to the hon. Gentleman having had the impudence to say such a thing, and Mr. Speaker Whitley jumped up and said, "Order. That is language which should not be used in this House." I can never understand what one can say in this House and what one cannot say. I have heard much worse words than that used in this House about hon. Members, but I understand that I can say that the hon. Gentleman has the assurance to say the things that he has said. Hon. Members and the Assistant Postmaster-General will know what I mean. The hon. Gentleman has said these things and we embodied in the language of an Amendment to the Bill the very things which the Assistant Postmaster-General, speaking at that Box on behalf of Her Majesty's Government, has said will happen. Then he resists them, and on what ground? On the ground that the promise he has made may not be well based—which is a confession of sin. In those circumstances, we feel that the Assistant Postmaster-General is not altogether playing the game with this Committee. We think that, after further discussion—and whether we shall obtain more information from it I do not know —the proper thing would be for the Assistant Postmaster-General to apologise for the various misleading things that he has said. If he fairly and cleanly apologises and says that he did rather mislead the House earlier I will under take to advise my hon. Friends not to go to a Division on the Amendment.
The Assistant Post master-General has advanced a line of argument which started on 14th December, 1953, when he not only introduced the red herring of a £5 licence fee but said:
The hon. Gentleman has not stuck to the figure of £6 or £7 since, but what he said was misleading even if it was not designed to mislead. The hon. Gentleman said that there would be three alternatives which he tried to persuade us would be mutually consistent alternatives from which we could choose. He said that we could have the Independent Television Authority to do the job now; secondly, we could have the B.B.C. to do it now, in which case we should have to have a licence fee up to £7; and, thirdly, that we could wait until 1957. One of the interesting things about his 1957 thought was that one got the impression that even then it would involve an increase in the licence fee, and that we could avoid the increase, if, instead, we handed the job to the I.T.A. The alternatives are in no circumstance the mutually consistent and equal ones that he made out. Let us take what he meant about I.T.A. doing the job now. He said:"The second abjection is that it would mean a very big increase in the fee, possibly up to £6 or £7 a year."
The direct conclusion to be drawn from that is that he envisaged the £5 licence fee as something to do with the whole of the 10-year programme, and he was saying that in contrast to that, the 10-year programme could be carried out by the I.T.A. within its first year of existence. There is no other conclusion to be drawn from the debate of 14th December—out of which my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) says that the Assistant Postmaster-General did not come with any glory—than that he was saying that the I.T.A. could do in the first year—or now—the programme which the B.B.C. envisaged taking 10 years to complete after 1957. It is not good enough for the hon. Gentleman to avoid that point. When it comes to the alternative of leaving the matter until 1957, the Assistant Postmaster-General has failed to point out, or has deliberately failed to point out, that by then the natural growth in the number of licence fees will cover the cost of doing it. In the coming years we shall not need a licence fee of £5, £6, or £7 for the simple reason that the growth in the number of licence fees— the numbers are rising by the million now—will take care of the increase in cost, and the B.B.C.'s figure of £3 in relation to the second programme really stands. The third thing which he deliberately concealed—and I do not blame him, because it did not help his argument—"The B.B.C. programme includes a figure of £3, with the envisaged programme of development lasting 10 years. I say that if the second programme is provided now by the B.B.C. it will entail a licence fee of £5."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th December, 1953; Vol. 522 c. 50.]
I do not think it is in order for the hon. Gentleman to use the word "deliberately."
I am only saying that the reason why he deliberately concealed it was that it did not help his argument. He need not bring out all the facts if he did not want to do so. I am not imputing dishonesty to the hon. Gentleman, but only charging him with selecting his best arguments. I hope that is in order, and that I can say that the hon. Gentleman was being very selective.He did something very clever. He said that, if the B.B.C. did all that now, it would cost all this money, but he did not until much later—until 25th March—say that the B.B.C. is doing another job which it could give up if it wished and give us a second programme instead. What he said on 25th March was this:
We may therefore take it that, if the B.B.C. gave that up, they could provide a second programme now without any in crease in fees. Surely if it gave up extending the hours of broadcasting and improving the quality of the programme, if it gave up trying to complete national cover age, it would not need any more licence fees in order to start a second programme. The hon. Gentleman failed to point out that the B.B.C. is getting on with the job, and that it could in fact, do what he is wanting without putting up the licence fees if we took away from it some of these jobs. I think the hon. Gentleman has been far too agile today. If we re-read what he said on 14th December, implying that the I.T.A. could do the B.B.C.'s 10-year job in one year, and if we then take into account what the hon. Gentleman did not point out to us until 25th March, I think we may say that he has—I will not say deliberately—inadvertently misled us in trying to choose the kind of argument which would best suit his case. I am sorry that he did not make a clean breast of it. He would have had all our sympathy if he had said that he had tried to pick his arguments to help his own case, but he has really gone further now and has stuck to his guns, and, as a result, I do not think his words do him any credit at all."At the moment, the B.B.C. is concentrat ing—and I think quite rightly—on, first of all, providing a first programme for the whole country, next on increasing the number of hours of broadcasting, and. thirdly, on improving the quality of its first programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1554.]
I want to help the Assistant Postmaster-General, and I would give him a chance to vindicate himself against the serious Parliamentary accusations which have been made against him. I must confess that these accusations have in no way been answered, and I am rather doubtful whether the suggestion of my right hon. Friend that we should not divide is, in fact, the right one. Not being a Whip, I feel free to express my opinions, and I shall reserve my own attitude until I have considered more closely what the Assistant Postmaster-General intends to do to try to restore his own reputation.The arguments which have been set forward have not been answered. The Amendment was designed to enable the Assistant Postmaster-General to confirm and to put in statute form an undertaking which he appeared to have given to the House. We gave him great latitude, and that is why we worded our Amendment with extraordinary definition. This is the second Amendment which is concerned with the meaning of the English language, and it is sad to realise what the Government are doing, in this Bill, to the English language. What I am suggesting to the hon. Gentleman is that he should contrive to set before the Committee in any form he likes, by laying papers or issuing a statement, what are the exact plans of those gentlemen with whom he has been having conversations and lunches, how soon they expect to be able to provide what he has committed himself to provide, and what other facilities they hope to provide, how long it will take the Independent Television Authority to negotiate with the B.B.C. about the use of the transmitting masts, and so on. At the same time, he should cause the views of the B.B.C. to be published. It is extraordinary that we have never yet had an opportunity of considering the Postmaster-General's statements—including that even more elaborate and unintelligible one made in another place —and those made by the Assistant Postmaster-General which were clear in the sense that it is quite obvious that the commercial system is in no position to give any definite date when it can provide the second programme. I suggest that the only fair thing is that we should have an opportunity to judge. The Home Secretary, whose fairness we recognise, should give the B.B.C. an opportunity to make its claims as to how quickly it could provide this. When we have these views we might at least arrive at a new definition of the word "now," in accordance with what it meant in our language in the past. Amendment negatived.
It may be for the convenience of the Committee to take with the next Amendment the further Amendment in line 8 and the two Amendments in line 9.
I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, to leave out from "Act," to "or," in line 9, and to insert:
Listening to the debate on the last Amendment I wondered whether we had not come to the trouble in the Bill. My thought was that whatever the cause per haps the advice given to the Postmaster-General by the Assistant Postmaster-General is unreliable. It may be that the whole Bill is based on the fact that the Postmaster-General had matters put be fore him, in ignorance or otherwise, by his hon. Friend. However, we have moved from the first part of the discussion, which is when the operation of this new Authority should begin to the duration of its life before it comes back to Parliament. I do not know which of the Ministers is to deal with this group of Amendments, but I hope they will find themselves able to accept at least one, if not all, of them. I wonder whether the Home Secretary would indicate whether the first Amend ment—dealing with the date 30th June, 1962—is to be accepted. If so, I would be quite willing to concentrate on the other Amendments."until the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and sixty-two."
If I can help the hon. Gentleman, it is not our intention to recommend acceptance.
I am very grateful to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for saying that. It certainly was not my in tention to burden the Committee with a long argument on what seemed to be to me an obvious point.This Amendment simply provides that instead of the new Authority going on for 10 years it should continue until 30th June, 1962. Let me explain at once what this Amendment is not. Although it shortens the period of the operation of the new Authority it is not put in because of that. There are other Amendments with which I may perhaps deal very briefly in a moment which quite openly say that we think that 10 years is too long. But this Amendment's only object is to see that the Independent Television Authority ends when the B.B.C. Charter ends. I should like to deploy the argument for that, and as the Home Secretary was kind enough to intervene a moment ago perhaps I might start by quoting a few of the words he used on 25th March, when speaking on the whole subject of this Bill. He said:
I would commend those words to the Home Secretary again, now. The object of the Amendment, now that the Second Reading stage is over, is to look upon the setting up of the Authority as an experiment and to see whether it cannot be made to end eight years hence, with the ending of the B.B.C. Charter, instead of 10 years hence. This is the most obvious Amendment which could have been put down. In eight years many things will have happened in television generally and in our experience of the Authority. I am not an expert on television, but I understand that colour television will be a practical proposition and that the first colour schemes will be it. operation long before 1962. New developments, coming out of laboratories both here and in the United States, may make coaxial cables and the transmission of more programmes un necessary, and we see the advent of the "creepy-peepy "—the television version of the "walkie-talkie." In eight years the whole pattern of television development may have altered, and we may find that it would be very advisable to look at the whole range of television broad casting both from the B.B.C. and the new Authority. It is not only because of technical changes that I recommend the Amendment to the Committee. It is also because, as the Home Secretary said, that in the constitution of this new Authority we are making an experiment. One has only to look at the subjects covered by the Bill to realise that they are bound to be experimental. One reason why there are so many proposed Amendments is that the Government are legislating for a situation about which they know nothing, because there has never before been any form of commercial television broadcasting in this country. It is impossible to know whether British advertisers will lower the standards, or will have to be watched, or will turn out to be perfectly responsible. We do not know whether programme contractors will operate well with the Authority. I have my own suspicions about these points, and that is why I shall support some of the later Amendments. This is an experiment, and it would be ludicrous to extend it for two years after the expiry of the B.B.C.'s charter instead of reviewing it at the same time. I want to draw the attention of the Committee to the history of the early days of the B.B.C. This is an example of how something which has turned out to be a great success was started far more cautiously than the Government intend to start the new Authority. First, it was almost an accident that amateurs began to pick up broadcast programmes. The British Broadcasting Company, which was, in a sense, commercial, was then set up, but for a period of only two years. After a year the Sykes Committee was appointed to examine the question, and it made a recommendation which led to a two years' extension of the B.B.C.'s charter of incorporation. It was not until the system had been in operation for four years, and a second Committee—the Crawford Committee—had considered the question, that the Charter was extended for 10 years. The B.B.C. was investigated by two committees and an extension of only two years was granted before the 10 years' extension was agreed to. In those circum stances, it is very unwise to provide for the new Authority to operate for 10 years without any examination. It may be, of course, that a new Government coming into power will feel that there ought to be an examination after two or three years, even though these provisions had still another eight years to run, but it would be much better to provide the machinery for a change now in the original enactment because, from the Government's own point of view, they would have a better case to make to the Committee and the country in saying that they had gone into this matter carefully. 9.15 p.m. My main submission is that if this Bill is allowed to operate for 10 years, then, at the end of 1961 or at the beginning of 1962, when the B.B.C. Charter is coming to an end, the Television Authority will have another two years to go, and it will be impossible to have a review of all television. The terms of reference of the Beveridge Committee were drawn in the widest possible way:"I want to make this appeal to those who are considering the Bill. I think that every social observer will have noted that the usual pattern of development in our country is that new activities have started privately and then minimum standards have been imposed by Parliament as experience grew and people knew where the requirements existed. In this Bill we are trying to impose standards before the activities have come into operation. It is not an easy task and, whatever the views of my colleagues, I ask them to bear that in mind."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1458.]
The B.B.C. is, of course, the only effective broadcasting institution at present, but the terms of reference of the Beveridge Committee were deliberately made very wide, and I think this Committee would feel it was being let down if a new inquiry in about 1960 were not able to consider the Television Authority and the B.B.C. The Home Secretary has been very fair and frank with the Commit tee, and I believe that he must realise that this is a most constructive and sensible Amendment. Admittedly, it shortens the operation of the commercial Television Authority, but it does not shorten it by any appreciable extent, and I think the right hon. and learned Gentle man would admit that there would have to be another survey of the whole field before Parliament could be asked to authorise the extension of the commercial system. I leave this question now, hoping that the right hon. and learned Gentleman may be able to give us a more satisfactory answer on it, and come to the other Amendments. I shall deal with them only briefly because my right hon. and hon. Friends who have their names to them have arguments that they will want to make on them for themselves. Aside from the case I have just made there is also a case for saying that even eight years is too long, and that five years would be a better period because of the technical changes that will come in the five years and because of the experience which we shall have to gain from the operation of this new Authority. One presumes that if the Beveridge Committee examined the question of monopoly when it was considering the B.B.C. the next committee to be set up to consider broadcasting in this country will also be charged with the responsibility of considering whether this competitive Television Authority has really done a good job or not. It is not inconceivable that the next committee of inquiry may recommend some quite different arrangements for television services. The whole question of financial control will have to be considered, and whether the money is coming in in the right pro portions from the Goverinment and the advertisers. The whole question of over seas television may have to be considered, and the television links between Britain and other countries; the way in which the Authority has handled its controversial television, and the way in which it has handled what educational and children's programmes it has broadcast. I leave the matter like that. I believe that there is a strong case for saying that 10 years is too long anyway, and that the term ought to be five, but if the Government are absolutely resolute in trying to maintain the operation of the Authority for the longer period, then I hope that the Home Secretary will, in fairness, and out of consideration for tidiness and good order, consider our proposal that the present run of the service of the new Authority should end at the same time as the current B.B.C. Charter."To consider the constitution, control, finance and other general aspects of the sound and television broadcasting services of the United Kingdom."
I beg to move. "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again."I move this Motion because I think the Committee is not being well served by the Ministers on the Treasury Bench. I have had reason to make fairly sharp comment, as have some of my hon. and right hon. Friends, about the conduct of the Assistant Postmaster-General. That is becoming a little boring, because it is becoming so well known. But I did not think I should have to make a protest about the Home Secretary, who is usually considerate and courteous to the House. I have, however, a serious complaint about his conduct. My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) moved an Amendment and asked, as he was entitled to ask, whether the Government proposed to accept it. He had not argued the case and the arguments which he would deploy were unknown to the Home Secretary. Nevertheless, the Home Secretary at once rose and said he would not accept the Amendment. He did not say, "Subject to the hon. Gentleman's arguments and to the debate, we are not disposed to accept the Amendment." He said, flatly, "We are not going to accept the Amendment."
The last thing I want is to be discourteous to the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and the Committee, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman will consider the matter from that point of view. I thought the hon. Member wanted to know whether at that stage I was pre pared to accept the Amendment so that he would know whether or not to deploy his argument. That was the question which I answered. I cannot remember my exact words, but that was what I in-tented to convey, and I hope the hon. Member accepted my answer in that sense. If he did not, and I misled him, I am very sorry. I thought the hon. Member wanted to know whether he should continue and deploy further argument. I am in the hands of the Committee, and I apologise at once if I have given a wrong impression, but I certainly intended to let the hon. Member know whether he should deploy his argument. If there was any misapprehension, I am sorry.
I see the point which the Home Secretary is making. My hon. Friend put a question to him. My com plaint is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not answer, "I will listen with care to the debate, including the arguments employed by the hon. Member, but, subject to the debate, our pre sent intention is not to accept the Amendment." He made a categorical statement that the Government were not prepared to accept the Amendment—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I listened very carefully, and this is within the recollection of my hon. Friends.
The right hon. Gentleman is under a misapprehension. I am sure he is not seeking to mislead the House. My right hon. and learned Friend said that at that stage he did not intend to recommend the acceptance of the Amendment.
One thing I like about back bench Members on the Conservative side is that, whenever they have a Minister in trouble, they do their best to pull him out of it. I recommend this course of action in all quarters of the Commit tee. But with great respect, the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. K. Thompson) is wrong. This is within the recollection of the Committee. The Home Secretary said categorically that he did not pro pose to accept the Amendment.
I said that I was not prepared to recommend the Committee to accept it. I am sorry if there is a misunderstanding, but I thought the hon. Member was asking me whether at that time I intended to accept the Amendment.
If the language were, "I will not recommend the Committee to accept the Amendment," that means the same as I said earlier. I know how the right hon. and learned Gentleman's brief is marked; it is marked, "This Amendment should be resisted," in the customary language. He followed it out. It may be that in his heart of hearts he intended to resist the Amendment, but I think the forms of respect to the House and the Committee of the whole House should be followed.On all occasions it is the duty of the Minister to act in the early part of the debate, when he is asked questions of this kind, on the assumption that he will listen to the arguments. He should weigh them up and consider them, because at that point the Minister does not know what the arguments are going to be. I still feel it necessary that I should have said what I have said and to move the Motion that I have moved. I gather that, since my recollection of what has happened is disputed by hon. Members opposite, it will be possibly the case that one or two of my hon. Friends may wish to call their own memory to mind and say what they think happened. I do not want to keep this debate going for an undue length of time, and, indeed. I was instrumental in bringing the first debate to an end before it need have come to an end, because we do not want to waste time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] No. No one can say that we have wasted time. Hon. Members opposite are really very foolish, because if they talk like that it is almost an incitement to us to do the very thing which they charge us with doing. As an ex-Minister, who has had experience in handling a large amount of legislation, I know that back benchers can sometimes be almost as much a nuisance to Ministers on the Front Bench as the Ministers can be to themselves. They should not do it. Therefore, I move this Motion to report Progress in order that we shall have a considered statement on this matter, because I think that it is right that, whether it be a Standing Committee or a Committee of the whole House, Amendments should not be condemned out of hand by a Minister before the arguments have been put.
Under the Standing Order, I cannot accept the right hon. Gentleman's Motion.
May I ask how it conflicts with the Standing Order?