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Commons Chamber

Volume 527: debated on Wednesday 5 May 1954

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House Of Commons

Wednesday, 5th May, 1954

The House met at Half past Two o'Clock

Prayers

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Oral Answers To Questions

Royal Navy

Maltese Employees And Ratings

1.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on what grounds the Board of Admiralty base their decision to grant Maltese naval employees less holidays with pay than other British naval employees.

I assume the hon. and learned Member is referring to a decision announced in January, to increase by three days the paid annual leave of locally-entered industrial employees of the Service Departments in Malta. This increase was granted in pursuance of the policy of conforming with the current practice of other local good employers.

Does the Minister realise that discrimination of this kind is apt to have an adverse effect upon public opinion in Malta and elsewhere and is quite inconsistent with the great services rendered by that George Cross island in the war?

I am sure the people of Malta would not consider that there was any discrimination in this matter and would realise that the conditions of service for United Kingdom based service are related to entry in this country while conditions of service for those entered locally are related to local conditions.

2.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that Maltese naval ratings in the Royal Navy have been refused inclusion in the recent increases in the rates of naval pay; why this discrimination is made; and what other differences there are in status between Maltese and other ratings.

It was announced in March that the pay of Maltese locally-entered personnel was being reviewed, and it is hoped to make known the result of this review in the near future.

Will the Minister not agree that these amenities and privileges should be accorded to all ranks according to rank and that there should not be discrimination between the races involved? Will he give an undertaking to review the problems concerned with this and the previous Question?

I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that there is no question of discrimination or status. As I said in answer to his first Question, the recent pay increases to the Forces in general were for certain reasons, after an examination. As I have just announced, the Maltese pay is being reviewed. There is no question of status. The Maltese in the Royal Navy have done a tremendous job for many years, but it must be realised that they enter on different engagements.

Because they do not undertake the normal liability to serve all over the world.

Air Mail (Uk—Far East)

3.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the average time for air mail to reach naval personnel based in Japan.

Air mail takes six days, on the average, to reach Tokyo. The further period required to get it to naval personnel depends on whether they are serving ashore in Japan, or in ships which may be either at Japanese ports, or at sea.

Where ships are at sea, is the mail sent to them or is it held in the port until the ship returns? If it is sent to them, what is the average time taken?

The time taken to get mail to the ships at sea of course varies, but every opportunity is taken to send mail by ships going to the area where the other ships are at sea. Great trouble is taken about it. If the hon. Member has any case in mind, I should be glad if he would let me know. When I was out in Korean waters in August people seemed very pleased with the air mail arrangements.

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman consider a fortnight or three weeks an abnormal length of time for letters to take to reach a man?

Hm Yacht Britannia (Press Facilities)

6.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he will make a statement giving details of the result of consideration given to the proposal to enable the Press to inspect H.M.Y. Britannia, at some date subsequent to Her Majesty's return.

Yes, Sir. The Press have been informed that Her Majesty's Yacht "Britannia" will be open to accredited Press representatives at Battle Bridge Pier in the Pool of London between the hours of 10 a.m. and noon, and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday, 16th May.

Helicopters

7.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty on how many occasions Royal Naval helicopters have been used for transportation purposes to or from built-up areas near the centre of London; and what safety precautions are required to be observed.

On seven occasions since October, 1952. The aircraft observes the precautions laid down by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation for a civil helicopter and, when in flight, follows the line of the river to the maximum extent practicable.

Does the Minister feel that any unreasonable risks were taken when an helicopter landed in the region of Green Park and, if not, would he have a word with his right hon. Friend and, from the experience gained by single-engined helicopters of the Royal Navy, indicate to him that the fears about the unreliability of helicopters does not appear to be as great as he seems to think?

I do not think that helicopters are unreliable. I will certainly bear in mind the points which the hon. Gentleman has raised.

Shipbuilding (Orders)

4.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the total amount of orders, less the amount of cancellations of orders booked in earlier years, booked by British shipyards in the first quarter of 1954, and the corresponding figure for 1953.

After allowing for the cancellation of licences issued in earlier years, the tonnage of merchant ships licensed in the first quarter of 1954 was 5,878 gross tons; the corresponding figure for the first quarter of 1953 was 119,815 gross tons.

5.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the total amount of orders, less the amount of cancellations of orders booked in earlier years, booked by north-east shipyards in the first quarter of 1954 and the corresponding figure for 1953.

In the first quarter of 1954, cancellations of merchant ships licensed in previous years to be built on the North-East Coast exceeded the licences issued by 1,910 gross tons. In the first quarter of 1953, licences issued amounted to 40,470 gross tons and there were no cancellations.

Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that these figures reveal a position which warrants the closest attention by the Admiralty, and will he continue to do all that he can to see if he can improve the position as soon as possible?

Yes, I agree. The matter of course deserves the closest attention, and that is what we are giving it. I think that the hon. Gentleman will agree that, if we look at the over-all position, the order books are still very full, and in some places the orders would take three or four years to complete.

Would the hon. and gallant Gentleman not agree that there has been an increase in inquiries made of North-East shipyards since the Budget?

I am, of course, very glad to hear what my hon. Friend says, because it is a little too early perhaps to estimate what my right hon. Friend's concessions in the Budget will amount to.

Will the Admiralty be a little less complacent about this position? The figures are most disquieting, and even the recent information about this new inquiry is disquieting. Is it not time that the Government took the initiative in calling together both sides of the industry to discuss the situation as it now is?

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government are not in the least complacent about this. I ask him to compare the short period referred to in the last Question with the much longer period which it took to build up these large orders.

8.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty if he is aware that Holland and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have concluded a trade pact under which Holland will build cargo boats for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics; and if he will now give approval for British shipbuilders to tender for and accept orders from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for similar types of boats.

I am aware that under a recent Protocol to the 1948 Commercial and Payments Agreement between the Netherlands Government and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the Netherlands Government have undertaken to authorise the construction of certain cargo ships for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. As regards the second part of the Question, I would refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's reply to the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) on 24th March.

Would the Minister take this opportunity of making it perfectly clear what type of vessel British shipbuilders may now tender for and supply to Russia if their tenders prove successful?

I think that we have always made our position clear that any requests to build ships for Russia would be given every consideration. So far as I am aware, there have been no requests from British yards to build similar ships to those referred to by the hon. Member in the Question.

Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman make it quite clear that British shipbuilders can accept tenders from the Soviet Union for the building of cargo vessels similar to arrangements made between the Soviet Union and the Dutch Government?

As I have already said, all requests will be given every consideration.

While we are aware that all requests will receive the consideration from the Government that is expected of them, will he make it quite clear that if it is open to the Dutch Government—an ally with us in N.A.T.O. and closely associated with the United States—in all these matters—to undertake the building of ships for the Soviet Union, there is ho reason why British shipbuilders should not be allowed to do so?

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. As he knows, these matters, after what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister said on 25th February, are at the moment under consideration between the Western Powers.

Would my hon. and gallant Friend not agree that recently, although he states that requests have not been received, business men returning from Russia have been informed that no licences will be granted for ships over 2,000 tons, and these orders were fulfilled by shipbuilders on the Continent?

I am not aware of that information. As the House knows, a very large contract for trawlers amounting to about £6 million, has been secured by a firm in this country.

Would the Minister say if the position of this type of vessel is still under consideration by the Western Powers? How is it possible for the Dutch Government to tender for these vessels and accept orders when the same does not apply to Great Britain?

I think that the hon. Member has put a different interpretation on my words. Actually I said that if firms in this country desired to build these ships, their requests would be considered, but I also said that the whole question is under consideration.

Television Facilities, Aberdeen

9.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General when he expects that television will be visible in the city of Aberdeen.

As I informed the hon. and learned Member in my reply on 27th January, the B.B.C. expects to have working by the end of 1954 a temporary low-power station at Redmoss which will serve Aberdeen and a limited area around. It is too soon to give an actual date.

Does the hon. Gentleman realise that this is not good enough and that he is in honour bound to keep his long-standing and many promises to provide Aberdeen with television at an early date?

I think that what I have told the hon. and learned Gentleman today is not inconsistent with what I told him before. In any case, the work is being done by the B.B.C.

Service Personnel, Kenya And Korea (Postal Facilities)

12.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what differences exist in the scale of charges for sending letters, parcels and telegrams to our Armed Forces in Kenya and Korea, respectively.

None in regard to letters and parcels, except that there is no air parcel service to our Forces in Korea. The only difference in respect of telegrams is that Forces Social (EFM) Telegrams cost 3s. 6d. to Kenya and 2s. 6d. to Korea.

Will the hon. Gentleman consider the desirability of having a uniform rate for telegrams to our Forces overseas?

There is a subsidy on these telegrams as well as a subsidy on letters and parcels, and the question of amending that subsidy would, of course, have to be referred to the Minister of Defence, to whom, I think, any subsequent questions on this matter should be addressed.

In view of the fact that telegrams might be more necessary now to those serving in Kenya, would it not be considerate to reduce the charge in that case?

There is a subsidy on these telegrams. If the right hon. Gentleman feels that there is a strong case for this, it is no good his asking me as the matter does not rest with me. I think that he should make his representation to the Minister of Defence.

13.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the average time taken for delivering a parcel to a member of the Armed Forces in Kenya.

About 32 days by surface mail, I am looking into the particular instances of delay notified by my hon. Friend and I will write to him when the inquiries are complete.

Telephone Services

Sunderland

15.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General how many people have been waiting for telephones to be installed in Sunderland for more than one, two or three years, respectively.

Twenty-nine applicants have been waiting between one and two years, 15 between two and three years, and 15 over three years.

South Wales

16.

asked the Assist ant Postmaster-General whether he is aware that the Garden City Bakeries, Llanwern Road, Ely, Cardiff, which employ over 200 people have been waiting for many years for the provision of an additional telephone line and, in view of the fact that the service of these bakeries to the public is handicapped, what action he proposes to take.

Yes, Sir. An additional line will be provided later in the year. I am sorry that it cannot be put in earlier, because of the many other pressing demands on our resources and the number of prior applicants who are ahead of this firm.

I have been pressing in this matter for a long time and the Minister now tells me that an additional line is available but cannot be put in until the autumn. Can he give the reason why it cannot be put in until then?

I am sorry if I have not made it clear: an additional line will be available.

17.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General the percentage of applicants who have been waiting three years or longer for telephone facilities in each of the areas London, Lancashire, Cardiff and South Wales, Bristol and South-West, and the South of England, respectively.

Up-to-date figures for all areas are not readily available, but the position just over six months ago was approximately as follows:

London20 per cent.
North West England20 per cent.
South Wales (including Cardiff)24 per cent.
South West England (including Bristol)20 per cent.
Southern England (excluding London)10 per cent.
It has been possible this year to make some increase in the funds available for Wales. The number of three-years-old applications in the country as a whole has been almost halved since the beginning of 1952. Further progress will be made as additional line plant is provided.

Is the Minister aware that the number who have been waiting over three years ought not to be considerable and that we cannot, therefore, judge his merits by the general statement? Is he further aware that the delay in Wales Is now getting a thorough nuisance? HOW much extra money is being made available for the Welsh region?

I hope the hon. Member will judge my merits by the fact that in the past two years we have very considerably decreased the waiting list.

In the figures which my hon. Friend has given, why should the proportion be substantially higher in South Wales than in any other region which he referred to?

The main reason is that so many of the outstanding applications in South Wales are for people who are a considerable distance from the nearest point to which they can be connected. We have this year, however, increased the allocation for Wales by 20 per cent., and this will go up by a further 30 per cent.

Is the Assistant Postmaster-General aware that quite a number of applicants in South Wales are very close to telephone centres? Will the increased allocation of money that the hon. Gentleman is giving this year at least bring South Wales in line with the rest of the country?

Our whole idea is that it should do so. One of our difficulties is whether with a given amount of money we should connect, say, five people who can be readily connected, or one who may have been waiting much longer and who lives a greater distance from a connection point.

West Drayton

20.

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General what is now the national average waiting time for applicants for telephones; what is the average time that applicants in the West Drayton area have been waiting; and when he expects to satisfy the applicants who have been waiting for over three years.

An average time for all applicants cannot be given and, even if it could, it would be meaningless. So much depends on whether exchange and line equipment are available, and these factors vary from place to place. Even in West Drayton an average would not mean very much. There are over 300 applicants waiting, 114 of whom have been waiting for three years. Some of these will be connected in the near future, but the bulk must, I fear, await the completion of new cable schemes which are planned.

Apart from his answer about Wales, the Assistant Postmaster-General has said that under the present Administration the waiting time has been considerably shortened. Is he aware that important industrial firms in the West Drayton area have been waiting up to five years for a line? When will the additional equipment be available?

Very often a place gets to the stage when not much more can be done without embarking on a major scheme. That is the kind of major scheme to which I have referred, and that has been planned and arranged for.

I support the hon. Member for Uxbridge (Mr. Beswick) in this. I have often to telephone that area, where there are many firms. The line is extremely bad and is often out of order. Any new scheme would be a godsend for these growing firms.

I hope we can do something for West Drayton in the near future, but I cannot give an exact date. If my hon. and gallant Friend finds that lines are out of order and will let us know, we will see what can be done to correct them.

Is it not by now clear to the Minister that he cannot expect to rectify the position regarding telephone installations until he gets the Chancellor of the Exchequer to make him a bigger allocation of money? Will he not press his right hon. Friend to do this?

Allocations to the Post Office for any purpose must be viewed in the general picture of the amount of money that we can afford to spend on everything else, including roads, for example.

Has the Minister thought of diverting the funds that will go into the commercial television service?

Royal Air Force (Used Lubricating Oils)

21.

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Air the purpose of his Department in asking tenderers for used lubricating oil to state whether it is the tenderer's intention to re-refine the used oil for which he is tendering.

Because, other things being equal, we give preference to re-refiners.

In view of the fact that much of this oil is not being used by my hon. Friend's Department, will he ascertain the ultimate destination of the oil and whether, from a national point of view, it should not be re-refined rather than wasted?

I told my hon. Friend last week that all the oil we had sold this year was to be re-refined.

Roads

Road Safety (Poster)

26.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he is aware that advice which he gave to motorists concerning the use of alcoholic beverages has, on the advice of a national advertisers' association, been forbidden from being displayed by poster; and if, in the interest of the further advertisement of plans and conduct to secure road safety, he will make representations to all parties concerned that it is essential that his advice should receive the widest publicity.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. Hugh Molson)

I am aware of the circumstances to which the hon. Member refers, but the advice in question has already received wide publicity. It will in any case be repeated when the new Highway Code is published.

On a point of order. While I appreciate the humour of the situation—[Hon. MEMBERS: "It is not humorous."]—is it in order and in accordance with the rules of the House to have posters displayed here?

I have previously ruled on this matter. It is desirable that hon. Members should not introduce into the Chamber any exhibit that they do not find necessary to their case. But I have not yet heard what the hon. Member has to say.

In view of the fact that the posters complained about were forbidden to be displayed in Birmingham, New Street, Station as a result of the intervention of the brewers, Messrs. Butler, Mitchell & Butler, will the Minister consider the necessity for his Department to submit to the British Poster Advertising Association, whom Messrs. Butler, Mitchell & Butler approached, that they should not interfere with the important job of bringing home the danger of alcohol on the roads, which this poster illustrates?

I am inclined to think that in raising this matter in the form of a Parliamentary Question the hon. Member has done as much as can be done to draw attention to this undoubted danger.

Is the Minister aware that there is considerable public feeling on the question of censorship by an advertising organisation? Is he also aware that there is deep concern about accidents caused through drink by motorists? Will the hon. Gentleman not regard it as his duty not to make appeals about road safety unless he is prepared to take action?

The hon. Member must draw a distinction between what my right hon. Friend is doing to draw attention to this undoubted danger and any question of interfering with the code of conduct of the advertising profession. My right hon. Friend has already drawn attention to the great danger of alcohol in causing road accidents. In a message issued last year, the Minister of Transport said:

"Remember that alcohol blurs your judgment and slows your reactions."
This advice will be repeated in the new Highway Code, which is already available to hon. Members, but it is an entirely different matter to suggest that my right hon. Friend should interfere with the advertising profession, which has a rule that while it is proper to advertise certain products it is improper to criticise others.

On a point of order. That statement made by the Minister is precisely the statement which was forbidden from being shown on New Street Station.

That is not a point of order for me. If the hon. Gentleman wishes to pursue it further, he ought to give notice to raise it in some other form.

Is the Minister aware that the distillers, brewers and the wine merchants are as anxious as anybody else that alcohol should never be a contributing factor to accidents?

Does the Parliamentary Secretary realise that he is chairman of the Road Safety Committee, a job that many of us have held, and does he not think it would be within his powers to see the national advertisers' association to discuss this matter with them, as public opinion is overwhelmingly against those who drink and then drive? Should he not be pursuing that end?

I entirely agree that public opinion is much disturbed about the matter of accidents in which drink may be a contributory cause, but anything we can do properly to reduce accidents caused in this way we shall certainly do. I do not think, however, that it is my job to interfere or attempt to interfere with the rules of the advertising profession which have been applied in this case as they have been applied in every other case.

I beg to give notice that, on the first occasion that I can, I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment.

Accident, Auchterarder

27 and 28.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation (1) if his attention has been called to the road accident which took place near Auchterarder on 24th April when five people lost their lives; and if he will hold an inquiry;

(2) what was the width of the road at the spot where the accident took place near Auchterarder on 24th April resulting in the loss of five lives; if the roadway at this point had white or black coping stones; and if the roadway had reflector studs.

The width of the carriageway at the scene of the accident was 27 ft. and there were reflecting studs down the centre. There were no black and white coping stones but a well defined turf verge. Investigations so far made suggest that no useful purpose would be served by an inquiry. I do not however exclude the possibility of holding one later.

Does the Minister propose to find out exactly what the cause of the accident was?

We are carrying out an informal investigation at the present time, but the hon. Member asked for an inquiry, and if it is shown that there is any need for it after our investigations have been concluded, then it will be held.

Does not the Minister recognise that a well-defined turf verge is not as suitable as well-defined coping stones?

I entirely disagree. There may frequently be cases where it is possible for a vehicle in order to avoid an accident to go on to the grass verge, whereas it would not be possible if there were a coping stone.

Surely the purpose of a white coping stone is to aid the driver during night driving? Is the Parliamentary Secretary not aware that with a dark verge the driver is sometimes unaware whether he is or is not on the road?

Yes, but this accident was not due to the driver going over the side of the road. The driver himself says that he saw the car draw out of the approaching line of traffic and he then flashed his fog light as a warning but the car came on and struck his off-side. Obviously, in those circumstances, a coping stone would not have had any bearing on the accident.

Whiteinch Linthouse Tunnel

33.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he can now say if new shields will be required for the Whiteinch Linthouse Tunnel; and how many.

No, Sir. We are awaiting a reply from the Dartford Tunnel Committee as to the possibility of transferring one shield, and up-to-date itemised estimates from Glasgow Corporation.

How long is the Minister going to play about with this issue which is of such urgency to the city of Glasgow? It is six months since he promised that the Whiteinch Linthouse Tunnel would go ahead, and he knows perfectly well that the tunnel cannot be constructed without the shields. I am asking when are we going to get the shields. Has he not been in touch with Dartford for more than six months, and surely he has reached some conclusion by this?

I thought the hon. Gentleman was more familiar with this subject than he appears to be.

We asked the Glasgow Corporation for an itemised estimate of the cost, and we are still waiting for that.

In view of the vital necessity for completing the Dartford—Purfleet tunnel at the earliest possible moment, will the Minister give an undertaking that no shield will be withdrawn from Dart-ford that is needed for the tunnel?

It is because the shields are the property of the Dartford Tunnel Committee that my right hon. Friend has no power to take them away. What we are trying to ascertain is whether the Committee will surrender the shields voluntarily, having no use for them themselves.

Would it not be more appropriate if these shields were used at Shields and then we could get on with the Tyne Tunnel?

Tyne Tunnel

35.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will make a statement on the proposed Tyne Tunnel.

36.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he can now state what priority is to be afforded to the construction of the Tyne Tunnel.

37.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has now further considered the Tyne Tunnel project; and if he will make a statement.

40.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will give an assurance in accordance with his verbal undertaking that the Tyne Tunnel will have third place in the construction programme.

I fully recognise the importance of this project, and it is my present intention, subject to any unforeseen development, that the Tyne Tunnel should be the next tunnel to be approved in the road programme after the Dartford-Purfleet Tunnel.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his statement will be warmly welcomed in the North-East? Is he further aware that my colleagues and myself, who met him recently, are deeply grateful to him for confirming the undertaking which he then gave to us, and that, if it will aid him in getting this scheme through if we help him to get the money for his Department from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we will gladly give him all the help we can?

Can my right hon. Friend explain to me why the Tyne Tunnel has now become the third priority, instead of the second priority, which was the undertaking given by Lord Leathers under the Coalition Government? Does he appreciate, therefore, that the North-East Coast is not quite so pleased as the hon. Gentleman apposite seems to think?

I am always glad to have bouquets, from whichever side of the House they may come. In reply to the hon. Lady the Member for Tyne-mouth (Miss Ward), the reasons why authority has been given straight away for the Glasgow Tunnel have been repeatedly explained by me in the House of Commons. I hope the fact that the Tyne Tunnel now ranks as the next major project after the Dartford Tunnel, subject to what I have said, will bring some measure of comfort to the North-East?

Will the right hon. Gentleman understand that all the nice things which have just been said about him do not mean that we are satisfied with him?

In welcoming this improvement on the position as it was before we met the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman to indicate when this project is to be resumed?

In reply to the right hon. Gentleman, I would never anticipate what I shall find at the other end of any tunnel. On the second question, I am afraid that I cannot give any answer other than giving the tunnel a priority place in the programme.

Whilst appreciating what the right hon. Gentleman has said about the Tyne Tunnel, having regard to the fact that there are approach roads which will serve purposes other than this tunnel when it is constructed, will the Minister consider constructing the approach roads in advance of the tunnel itself?

I could not do that. However, the approach road which the hon. Gentleman may have in mind could certainly be carried out to completion long before the tunnel itself was completed.

Would the Minister tell us what is meant by "authority" and "approval"? Is he aware that he gave his approval and authority to the reconstruction of the Glasgow-Stirling Road, and that so far nothing has been done by his Ministry about it?

Authority means that the local authorities can proceed with the necessary preliminary work before work can start on the tunnel. In putting forward our programme of road construction, I have been at pains to limit it to those measures which we feel fairly confident we can carry from authority to fruition.

So that the employment standards of the North-East can be maintained, will my right hon. Friend press even further the cause of the Tyne Tunnel, and for the money for it, because there is great need that this tunnel should come to the North-East in the relatively near future?

I sympathise fully with the feeling of hon. Members on both sides of the House on the great importance of this project. It will be a great deal more expensive than the original estimate suggested, but its importance cannot be exaggerated.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that although there is already a railway bridge and a new road bridge over the Tyne, there is neither a road bridge nor even a tunnel over the Forth?

Sunderland By-Pass

38.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether, in view of the need for safer and more efficient industrial communications, he will make a statement on the construction of a Sunderland by-pass road.

The proposed Sunderland by-pass would involve about 8½ miles of new road at a cost of over £1 million, and I regret I cannot say when it will be possible to fit this scheme into the road programme.

Can my right hon. Friend make a statement about any future programme and any major development of a road scheme in the North-East?

Sunderland—Gateshead Road

39.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he will now give a date on which work of improvement on the Sunderland—Gateshead road will be started.

No major improvements on the Sunderland—Gateshead road are included in the programme for the current year, and the detailed programme for future years has not yet been settled.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are a number of railway lines crossing this road which prevent efficient communications, and that there is at least one place which, if used regularly, will break the springs of any lorry or car in about six months? Can something not be done for the Boldon railway crossing?

As I think my hon. Friend knows, the Trunk Road Order for the East and West Boldon By-pass has been made, but it would be a costly scheme and, in face of all the other demands on our money, I could not claim that this would have very high priority.

In order that the Minister may appreciate just how urgent this project is, will he some time make the journey from Gateshead to Sunderland, leaving Gateshead at 4.30 p.m.?

Trunk Roads, North-East Division

41.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what sum of money he now proposes to allocate to the northern region for road construction in the next three years, having regard to the representations he has received from the Northern Conservative Members against the discrimination against the region.

On trunk roads in the North-Eastern Division I have decided to commence work this year on schemes costing over £650,000. Schemes on classified roads are still being selected in consultation with local highway authorities. I have well in mind the representations to which my hon. Friend refers, but I cannot agree that there has been any unfair discrimination.

Can I ask my right hon. Friend whether he will come up to the North-East coast and allow me to drive him around?

I will gladly pay my hon. Friend a visit at any time, and when I gladly go up and see her some time, I shall find that in the Division there are 10 per cent, of our population but that 12 per cent, of the amount available for general distribution on major improvements is being spent there—12 per cent. spent in the area which has 10 per cent. of the population.

Pedestrian Crossings

42.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many urban authorities have not yet installed zebra crossings; and what action he takes in such cases.

About 300. As regards the latter part of the Question, it is our policy to leave the initiative to the responsible local authorities. We are following the policy of the right hon. Member for East Ham, South (Mr. Barnes) in persuading local authorities to reduce the number of pedestrian crossings to one-third of the previous number.

Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that Dundee has no zebra crossings and no flashing beacons and has only had one fatal road accident in four months, which is a much better record than that of other towns which are littered with these dubious aids to road safety? Has not the time come for this zebra crossing policy to be reconsidered as over 50 per cent. of all pedestrian accidents last year occurred on these so-called safety crossings which the Minister has asked local authorities to set up?

I understand that someone in the Ministry of Transport has also read the "Sunday Express" last Sunday and I am consequently informed that we are preparing casualty figures for selected local authority areas which have no zebra crossings and selected areas in which crossings have been provided, in accordance with the suggestion of that Sunday newspaper.

43.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what representations he has received from the local authority concerned regarding the danger to pedestrians who have to cross the Bath Road between London Airport and the Colnbrook By-pass; and what steps he proposes to take to alleviate the present position.

The local authority originally asked for two pedestrian crossings, but we did not consider these would be suitable on this particular stretch of road. We arranged for the erection of traffic lights, which were installed in November, 1953.

Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that this is a very special case of one of the busiest arterial roads in the country which exceptional numbers of people have to cross? Is not the real answer a dual carriage-way? Will the hon. Gentleman look into that question?

Since we put up these lights there has been no further representation from the local authority, but in view of what the hon. Member has just said, I will gladly look into the matter.

Can I assure the hon. Gentleman that there have been further representations to the regional office?

Bus Accident, Hyde Park Corner

45.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has considered the letter from the hon. Member for West Ham, North, concerning the case of Mr. Sam Cook, Mark Street, Stratford, E.15, the driver of the motor-bus that was recently involved in an accident at Hyde Park Corner; and whether he will make a statement in connection with this matter.

Yes, Sir. On 28th April, I replied to a supplementary question regarding the accident at Hyde Park Corner on 17th December, 1953, when an omnibus turning into Knightsbridge mounted the kerb and knocked down some people standing in a queue. The implication of the supplementary question was that the accident was due to the dangerous character of Hyde Park Corner. I replied that the accident was not due to the corner, which it is not at present proposed to alter, but was due to the driver's negligence. I find that evidence was given at the inquest that the steering gear of the bus locked just before the incident and the verdict was one of accidental death. In these circumstances, I wish unreservedly to withdraw the statement I made regarding the driver's negligence and to express my regret for an unprepared statement which I am afraid must have caused pain to the driver.

May I thank the Minister most sincerely for that statement and say that I fully understand how, in the heat of the moment in replying to a supplementary question without being briefed, any Minister is liable to make a slip? We can all accept that. But may I say in addition that the driver has received, very fortunately and thankfully, a letter from the Commissioner of Police stating that he was in no way responsible for this unfortunate accident? On behalf of the driver, and I am sure of his trade union, I should like to thank the Minister sincerely for making that statement.

As the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's answer was given in reply to a supplementary question of mine, may I add to what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) that I much appreciate that the hon. Gentleman has made a frank statement about this matter? I am sure that the whole House will appreciate the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's frankness.

Transport

Headlamps (Dazzle)

29.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation the total number of accidents in Britain during 1951, 1952 and 1953 which were attributed to dazzle by headlamps.

In 1953, 1,593 accidents or 0·9 per cent. of all accidents involving personal injury were regarded by the police as being primarily caused by dazzle from vehicle lights. The corresponding figures for 1952 were 1,272, 0·7 per cent., and for 1951, 1,602, 0·9 per cent.

But surely the Parliamentary Secretary would agree that the question of percentages is rather misleading, as one describes the percentage of accidents which has taken place after dark and the other a percentage of all accidents? Is the Parliamentary Secretary taking any steps to carry out any research in this matter with a view to avoiding dazzle and bringing an amber light of some other description?

Yes, Sir. There was a Press release from the Road Research Laboratory covering a report which it issued which went at length into the research undertaken in regard to dazzle. As I have informed the House previously, some international tests will take place later this year in the United States of America. We intend to await the outcome of these tests before altering the present regulations.

Rear Lamps (Wattage)

34.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation if he will make regulations to establish what capacity of electric lamp bulb should be used in rear lights of vehicles to give the brightness now considered necessary, assuming that the bulb is behind non-magnifying red glass.

My right hon. Friend has announced his intention to make Regulations requiring rear lamps to be fitted, as an interim measure, with bulbs of not less than six watts. For rear lamps fitted after some future date still to be decided, we consider it preferable to lay down the required minimum luminous intensity, for Which we have already recommended a specification to manufacturers.

Public Relations Staff

46.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation how many full-time staff in his Department are engaged on public relations work in connection with surface transport.

Is it because the Minister's record is so bad in this that, in addition to this large number, he has had to import a private advertising agent to whitewash himself?

No, Sir. It actually represents a reduction in the size of that branch since we took over from the Socialist Government.

Can the Minister tell us what these six people are doing? Are they employed in explaining the failure to sell off the lorries under the 1953 Act?

They are doing even more useful work than they did when they were appointed by the last Government.

Is this honorary officer a permanent appointment? Is it the Minister's appointment to look after the Minister's public relations or has it something to do with the Ministry?

I was very glad to avail myself of the services of a gentleman who gave distinguished service in the Ministry of Transport during the war.

That does not answer the question. Is this the Minister's personal appointment to safeguard his own public relations or has it to do with the Ministry's public relations? If the latter, why does the Minister depart from the normal, ordinary method of having full-time public relations officers?

It may be difficult for the hon. Member to understand, but a great deal of voluntary and unpaid work is still at the service of Governments of either complexion.

Road Haulage Disposal Board (Reports)

48.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when he expects to receive the second six-monthly report of the Road Haulage Disposal Board.

Civil Aviation

Customs Facilities

31.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take in those cases where the Air Transport Advisory Council have granted licences to private operators to operate air services between this country and the Continent, and he has approved of the decision, but where the operators find that, in consequence of the refusal of the customs authorities to grant facilities for Customs clearance, the additional burden imposed upon them makes the operation of the proposed service uneconomic.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation
(Mr. John Profumo)

Before such services are approved, companies are told where they will have to clear Customs and are asked whether they are prepared to operate on these terms. Services are approved only when companies accept these arrangements.

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the Air Transport Advisory Council granted this licence for five years, and that that was subsequently approved by the Minister? Having regard to the fact that the initiative in determining the pattern of this country's air services has passed to the Treasury, will the hon. Gentleman suggest to his right hon. Friend that the Air Transport Advisory Council ought to be abandoned and he ought to resign?

No, Sir, I could not possibly accept either of those suggestions. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to correct what I know is a misapprehension. The sequence of events is as follows. If the Air Transport Advisory Council submit to the Minister a service which is accepted by the Minister, provisional agreement is then made in a letter which lays down perfectly clearly what the conditions are, and only if the company accepts them does the Minister finally approve. In the case of the company which the hon. Gentleman has in mind, it was told that it would have to clear the Customs at Newcastle, and it was on those terms that the company finally agreed,

Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that the licence was granted for a period of five years and that in the year which has passed Customs facilities were available at Greatham; and that apparently without very much consultation with anyone the Treasury authorities decided to withdraw the Customs, imposing an additional burden on this private charter company compared with last year?

No, Sir. The agreement which was approved was conditional on the company accepting the fact that it would have to clear the Customs at Newcastle, and it was on those conditions that it accepted in the first place.

32.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation what action he proposes to take in those cases where local authorities have, with the active encouragement of his Department, spent large sums of money on the development of airports but now find themselves, in consequence of the refusal of the Customs authorities to grant Customs facilities, with airports that cannot become economically self-supporting, and threaten to cut their losses by closing them down.

The question of granting Customs facilities at any aerodrome is always, and always must be, judged on the merits of each case, and is bound to be related to the volume of traffic using, and expected to use, the aerodrome.

Would the hon. Gentleman not agree that for several years since 1938 his Ministry has encouraged the local authority at West Hartlepool as strongly as possible to develop this airport at Greatham; that it has spent over £50,000; and that now as a result of the action of the Customs officials it is not likely in any circumstances to be an economic proposition?

I cannot accept those implications. No undue encouragement has been given by my Department since the war for money to be spent by this or any other local authority on aerodromes. The chief encouragement in this case rendered by the Government has been the granting of Customs facilities on an experimental basis for a trial period, the conditions of which were made clear to the local authority concerned.

Pacific Services

44.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation whether he has now any statement to make about an extension of British Overseas Airways Corporation services westward from New York and/or Montreal.

Under the existing Air Services agreement between the United Kingdom and United States of America, B.O.A.C. have traffic rights from New York through San Francisco to the Far East. It is for the Corporation to decide when they will take advantage of this. I have recently approved a recommendation of the Air Transport Advisory Council that B.O.A.C. should extend their Montreal service to Chicago. Subject to the issue of a permit by the United States Civil Aeronautics Board, this service will start on 18th May. A service to the Far East via Montreal and other points in Canada requires the agreement of the Canadian Government with whom I had discussions last month in Ottawa. A number of proposals then discussed are now being considered by our two Governments.

Whilst thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that reply, may I ask whether he can also say what progress is being made with linking up the Australian services at San Francisco with the B.O.A.C. services from the east?

The Qantas services from Australia and New Zealand to San Francisco via Hawaii is now operating. The proposed B.O.A.C. service through Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo does not at the moment extend beyond Tokyo, It is not proposed to extend it until we are in the position to take advantage of rights either existing or which we hope to obtain across the North Atlantic.

Railway Reorganisation Scheme

47.

asked the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation when the White Paper on the Railway Reorganisation Scheme will be available to hon. Members.

I received the scheme from the British Transport Comsion on 15th April and, in accordance with the provisions of Section 17 (1) of the Transport Act, 1953, I am consulting the interests specially concerned. When I have done this, I must consider, after consultation with the British Transport Commission, whether any modification of the scheme is desirable. I shall then present a White Paper to the House.

I am sure that the Minister will give an assurance that he is consulting the trade unions concerned as well as other interested parties, but is the position that when the White Paper is presented to Parliament there will be a debate and in the light of the debate a scheme will be amended, if desired, and then a Statutory Instrument presented? Can the right hon. Gentleman give us any idea how long he expects these consultations to take?

As I have said on other occasions, the answer to both questions is "Yes." The trade unions, of course, will be consulted. The purpose of preparing a White Paper is to secure a debate in Parliament before I formally present the scheme. I do not know how long all this will take. We are pressing on as fast as we can and I should like to thank the Commission for the care and speed with which they have handed their proposals to me.

South-East Asia (Defence)

50.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he will state the 10 countries who have agreed to discuss the possibility of collective defence in South-East Asia.

I am not aware that 10 countries have agreed to discuss the possibility of securing a collective defence in South-East Asia. Following Mr. Dulles' visits to London and Paris, a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, France and the United States, announced their willingness to examine this possibility. Other countries which have signified their willingness to examine it are Siam, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

Does the reply of the Minister mean that India, Pakistan and Ceylon are to take part in these discussions? If not, is it because they have not been invited?

No discussions have been arranged at all. What I referred to in my answer was announcements by certain countries that they are willing to examine the proposals. No arrangements have been made for discussions. As was said before, the Commonwealth Asian countries are being kept closely informed of the course of events.

In view of the Minister's answer to me on the same subject recently, may I ask if he is now in a position to state whether the report of "The Times" correspondent on Thursday last from Canberra as to a statement by Sir Philip McBride that 10 countries, including Australia and New Zealand, have agreed to these talks, is correct or incorrect?

Under those circumstances, will the Minister tell the House whether Australia informed Her Majesty's Government of the names of the countries on their undertaking to go into talks before they were started?

I have told the House the actual facts of the situation. I am not responsible for what Ministers in other Governments may say.

Mine Accident, Cleveland

asked the Minister of Fuel and Power if he will make a statement on the explosion at Kilton Ironstone Mine, near Broughton, Cleveland, on Monday.

Yes, Sir. I deeply regret that an explosion occurred at this mine on 3rd May in which one man was killed and another injured. I am sure the House will wish to express sympathy to the relatives. After the explosion 15 men engaged on rescue operations were overcome by gas and were taken to hospital, but I am glad to say that all have now recovered. The cause of the explosion and of the subsequent accident are under investigation.

While thanking the Minister for his expression of sympathy, which will be appreciated in my constituency, may I ask if he is aware that this was the second serious occurrence of this character in the Cleveland ironstone mines in the last few months? Is he satisfied that adequate precautions are taken to prevent explosions and that proper attention is being paid to the danger of gas?

After the explosion last year the mine went over from naked lights to safety lamps. Now, of course, it has become a statutory requirement; but they went over voluntarily. I cannot express, and it would not be right for me to express, any opinion about the cause of the accident until the investigations have been completed, but I should say that I think the direction in which we need progress in these matters is not in further regulations but in the proper carrying out of the safety lamp regulations.

Business Of The House

Motion made, and Question put,

"That the Proceedings on the Television Bill be exempted at this day's Sitting, from the

Division No. 84.]

AYES

[3.32 p.m.

Aitken, W. T.Gough, C. F. H.Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)
Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)Gower, H. R.Nield, Basil (Chester)
Alport, C. J. M.Graham, Sir FergusNugent, G. R. H.
Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)Oakshott, H. D.
Amory, Rt. Hon. Heathcoat (Tiverton)Hall, John (Wycombe)Odey, G. W.
Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)Harden, J. R. E.O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)
Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.Hare, Hon. J. H.Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.
Baldwin, A. E.Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)Orr, Capt. L. P. S.
Barlow, Sir JohnHarris, Reader (Heston)Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)
Beach, Maj. HicksHarrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)
Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfield)Osborne, C.
Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)Page, R. G.
Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)Hay, JohnPerkins, Sir Robert
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)Heald, Rt. Hon. A. H.Peto, Brig. C. H. M.
Bennett, William (Woodside)Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelPeyton, J. W. W.
Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)Heath, EdwardPickthorn, K. W. M.
Birch, NigelHenderson, John (Cathcart)Pilkington, Capt. R. A.
Bishop, F. P.Higgs, J. M. C.Pitman, I. J.
Black, C. W.Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)Pitt, Miss E. M.
Bossom, Sir A. C.Hinchingbrooke, ViscountPowell, J. Enoch
Bowen, E. R.Hirst, GeoffreyPrice, Henry (Lewisham, W.)
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.Holland-Martin, C. J.Profumo, J. D.
Boyle, Sir EdwardHolt, A. F.Raikes, Sir Victor
Braine, B. R.Hope, Lord JohnRamsden, J. E.
Braithwaite, Sir GurneyHorobin, I. M.Rayner, Brig. R.
Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)Redmayne, M.
Brooman-White, R. C.Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)Remnant, Hon. P.
Browne, Jack (Govan)Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)Renton, D. L. M.
Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.Ridsdale, J. E.
Bullard, D. G.Hurd, A. R.Roberts, Peter (Heeley)
Bullus, Wing Commander E E.Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Burden, F. F. A.Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Butcher, Sir HerbertIremonger, T. L.Roper, Sir Harold
Campbell, Sir DavidJenkins, Robert (Dulwich)Russell, R. S.
Carr, RobertJohnson, Eric (Blackley)Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.
Channon, HJohnson, Howard (Kemptown)Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas
Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)Jones, A. (Hall Green)Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.
Clyde, Rt. Hon. J. L.Kaberry, D.Scott, R. Donald
Cole, NormanKerby, Capt. H. B.Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.
Colegate, W. A.Kerr, H. W.Smithers, Peter (Winchester)
Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. AlbertLambert, Hon. G.Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)
Cooper-Key, F. M.Langford-Holt, J. A.Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)
Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)Leather, E. H. C.Snadden, W. McN.
Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.Soames, Capt. C.
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)Speir, R. M.
Crouch, R. F.Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)
Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)Lindsay, MartinStanley Capt Hon Richard
Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)Linstead, Sir H. N.Stevens, G. P.
Davidson, ViscountessLlewellyn, D. T.Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)
Deedes, W. F.Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)
Dodds-Parker, A. D.Longden, GilbertStoddart-Scott, Col. M.
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)Strauss Henry (Norwich, S.)
Doughty, C. J. A.Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)
Drayson, G. B.Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughSummers, G. S.
Drewe, Sir C.McAdden, S. J.Sutcliffe, Sir Harold
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. Sir T. (Richmond)McCallum, Major D.Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.Macdonald, Sir PeterTaylor, William (Bradford, N.)
Duthie, W. S.McKibbin, A. J.Teeling, W.
Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir D. MMackie, J. H. (Galloway)Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)
Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth. West)Maclay, Rt. Hon. JohnThomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. EMaclean, FitzroyThompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Erroll, F. J.Macleod, Rt. Hon. lain (Enfield, W.)Thompson Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)
Fisher, NigelMacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)Thorneycroft, Rt. Hn. Peter (Monmouth)
Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. FMacmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)Thornton Kemsley, Col. C. N.
Ford, Mrs. PatriciaMaitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)Tilney John
Fort, R.Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)Touche, Sir Gordon
Foster, JohnManningham-Buller, Sir R. E.Turner, H. F. L.
Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)Marples, A. E.Turton, R. H.
Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David MaxwellMaude, AngusTweedsmuir, Lady
Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)Maydon, Lt. -Comdr. S. L. C.Vane, W. M. F.
Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)Medlicott, Brig. F.Vaughan-Morgan, J. K
Gammans, L. D.Mellor, Sir JohnVosper, D. F.
Garner-Evans, E. H.Molson, A. H. E.Wade, D. W.
George, Rt. Hon. Maj. G. LloydNabarro, G. D. N.Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)
Glover, D.Neave, AireyWalker-Smith, D. C.
Godber, J. B.Nicholls, HarmarWall, P. H. B.
Gomme-Duncan, Col. ANicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)

provisions of Standard Order No. 1 (Sittings of the House)."—[ Mr. Crookshank.]

The House divided: Ayes, 242; Noes, 233.

Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)Wood, Hon. R.
Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.Williams, Paul (Sutherland, S.)
Watkinson, H. A.Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)Wills, GeraldMr. Studholme and Major Conant.
Wellwood, W.Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)

NOES

Acland, Sir RichardHargreaves, A.Parkin, B. T.
Adams, RichardHarrison, J. (Nottingham, E.)Pearson, A.
Albu, A. H.Hastings, S.Plummer, Sir Leslie
Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)Hayman, F. H.Popplewell, E.
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)Porter, G.
Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)
Attlee, Rt. Hon. C RHerbison, Miss M.Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)
Awbery, S. SHewitson, Capt. M.Proctor, W. T.
Baird, J.Hobson, C. R.Pryde, D. J.
Balfour, A.Holman, P.Pursey, Cmdr. H
Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. JHolmes, HoraceRankin, John
Bartley, P.Hoy, J. H.Reeves, J.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. JHubbard, T. F.Reid, Thomas (Swindon)
Bence, C. R.Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)Reid, William (Camlachie)
Benn, Hon. WedgwoodHughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)Rhodes, H.
Benson, G.Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Richards, R.
Beswick, F.Hynd, H. (Accrington)Robens, Rt. Hon. A.
Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bing, G. H. C.Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Blackburn, F.Janner, B.Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Blenkinsop, A.Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.Ross, William
Blyton, W. R.Jeger, George (Goole)Royle, C.
Boardman, HJeger, Mrs. LenaShacklelon, E. A. A.
Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. GJenkins, R. H. (Stechford)Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Bowles, F. G.Johnson, James (Rugby)Short, E. W.
Brockway, A. F.Jones, David (Hartlepool)Shurmer, P. L. E.
Brook, Dryden (Halifax)Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)Silverman, Julius (Erdington)
Broughton, Dr. A. D D.Jones, Jack (Rotherham)Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)
Brown, Thomas (Ince)Keenan, W.Skeffington, A. M.
Burton, Miss F. E.Kenyon, C.Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)Key, Rt. Hon. C. WSlater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)
Callaghan, L. J.King, Dr. H. M.Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Carmichael, J.Kinley, J.Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)
Champion, A. J.Lawson, G. M.Sparks, J. A
Chapman, W. DLee, Frederick (Newton)Steele, T.
Chetwynd, G. RLever, Harold (Cheetham)Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)
Clunie, J.Lewis, ArthurStokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.
Collick, P. H.Lindgren, G. S.Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)
Corbet, Mrs. FredaLipton, Lt.-Col. M.Stross, Dr. Barnett
Cove, W. G.Logan, D. G.Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)MacColl, J. E.Sylvester, G. O.
Crossman, R. H. SMcGhee, H. GTaylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Cullen, Mrs. AMcGovern, J.Taylor, John (West Lothian)
Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.McInnes, J.Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)
Darling, George (Hillsborough)McKay, John (Wallsend)Thomas, lorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)McLeavy, F.Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)
Davies, Harold (Leek)MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)Thornton, E. (Farnworth)
Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Timmons, J.
Deer, G.Mainwaring, W. H.Tomney, F.
Dodds, N. N.Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Turner-Samuels, M.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)Mann, Mrs. JeanUngoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.Manuel, A. C.Usborne, H. C.
Edelman, M.Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. AViant, S. P
Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)Mason, RoyWallace, H. W.
Edwards, W J. (Stepnery)Mellish, R. J.Warbey, W. N.
Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Messer, Sir F.Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)
Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)Mitchison, G. R.West, D. G.
Fernyhough, EMoody, A. S.Wheeldon, W. E.
Finch, H. J.Morgan, Dr. H. B. WWhite, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)
Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)Morley, R.White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)
Follick, M.Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.
Forman, J. C.Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)Wilkins, W. A.
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)Mort, D. L.Willey, F. T.
Freeman, Peter (Newport)Moyle, A.Williams, David (Neath)
Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H T. NMulley, F. W.Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)
Gibson, C. W.Murray, J. D.Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)
Glanville, JamesNally, W.Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)
Gooch, E. G.Neal, Harold (Bolsover)Willis, E. G.
Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)Oldfield, W. H.Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)
Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.Oliver, G. H.Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)
Grey, C. F.Orbach, M.Woodburn, R. Hon. A.
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Oswald, T.Wyatt, W. L.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)Yates, V. F.
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)
Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)Palmer, A. M. F.TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hamilton, W. W.Pannell, CharlesMr. Bowden and Mr. Rogers
Hannan, WPargiter, G. A.

Orders Of The Day

Television Bill

Considered in Committee [ Progress, 4th May.]

[Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]

Clause 1—(The Independent Television Authority)

3.43 p.m.

I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, after "and," to insert, "to maintain."

I think that this Amendment might be discussed together with the Amendment in line 12, after "of" to insert "no less" and the Amendment in line 13, after "transmitted" to insert, "and in every other respect."

Yes, Sir Charles, I think they do go together.

The purpose of these Amendments is quite clear. It is that the Television Authority shall be responsible that the quality of the programmes and the quality of their transmission shall be comparable with that of the B.B.C. The Government are quite right in this respect in taking the standards of the B.B.C. as a yardstick of measurement of the quality both of the programmes operated by the programme companies under the control of the Authority and their transmission. But the words in the Bill "high quality" certainly need definition. What is so lacking in this Clause, and indeed throughout the Bill, is a definition of specific points of instruction both to the I.T.A. and the programme companies.

I do not know whether we are to have the Assistant Postmaster-General with us on the argument that we are advancing. It is inherent in this Clause that what is necessary is that there shall be some regulation controlling the standard of quality of the programmes. I think that, in fact, we are not to have the Assistant Postmaster-General with us. I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman has made it quite clear that he is not even in favour of the Clause as it appears in the Bill.

My reason for saying that is that when talking to a body of advertisers the hon. Gentleman used these words, as reported in the "World's Press News" of 30th April:
"Even if there were no regulations as to the type of advertising that might 'be used on television he personally would be happy to rely on the advertising profession to control programmes."
That is to say, he is now convinced that the standard of quality of the programmes to be televised is safe in the hands of the advertisers who are to pay for and organise their showing and that he would rather leave it in the hands of those people than have properly regulated control.

That is not the view of the Government, and it is not the view of the Opposition. On this occasion it is clear that the Assistant Postmaster-General isolates himself from his own Government, because he holds a different view. I presume, therefore, that I shall be in order in directing my remarks to the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Home Secretary who, presumably, does agree with practically all the Clauses in the Bill. The Assistant Postmaster-General made it clear that he was talking personally and not on behalf of the Government on the occasion to which I have referred. I do not wish to do the hon. Gentleman any injustice. The report says he was speaking personally and I am prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I wish to put this point to the Committee. Unless standards equally as high as those of the B.B.C. are laid down by this Committee, or by Parliament, it is absolutely certain that, either deliberately or accidentally, the I.T.A. programmes will be markedly worse than those we have experienced in television controlled by the B.B.C. and that great confusion will arise. Let me put an example which is not so hypothetical as it may sound. The B.B.C. has employed some really capable doctors over a number of years, including the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food—[HON. MEMBERS: "Capable?"]—I mean capable in medicine. They have given some salutary advice to the people of this country. The present "Radio Doctor" —I do not know who he is—is constantly giving very good advice to the people of this country.

Think what will happen when advertisers produce a programme—designed, as I shall prove later, not to entertain but to sell goods—devoted to selling something containing, say, chlorophyll. It may be stated in the course of that programme, "You should pay money for this article because it contains chlorophyll, and chlorophyll is good for you." The B.B.C. doctor may say, "Do not take any notice of this nonsense. Chlorophyll is only a colouring. It has no real value." The American Medical Association has denounced the claims of the makers and advertisers of chlorophyll as being so much "eyewash," if I may use that term —[HON. MEMBERS: "Mouthwash."]—so that the B.B.C. doctor on television or on "steam" radio denounces it; but the programme companies put on a doctor in their programme to say, "You must have chlorophyll otherwise your teeth will fall out or you will have a sore throat."

Of course, in conditions like that, straightaway the quality of commercial television programmes is lowered, apart altogether from the fact that the poor sufferer from a sore throat or bad teeth is deluded and the country is confused as to which is the best medical advice— the disinterested advice of the B.B.C. doctor or the interested advice of the doctor, who of course may be a pseudo-doctor, who is employed solely for the purpose of boosting a certain product.

The B.B.C. doctors in their programmes are insistent on saying, "Do not, for goodness sake, if you are not feeling well, swallow a lot of patent medicines; do not treat yourself; do not constantly take pills." Their general advice if one is not well is to stay in bed and to send for a doctor; but the gentleman for whose benefit this Bill is produced do not want that. They want to say, "If you do not feel well, swallow gallons of patent medicine, stuff yourself with pills and do not send for a doctor."

Unless we ensure that the advertising programmes are of the same high quality as the B.B.C. programmes, we shall in fact get a deliberate lowering of standards of quality on the programmes. We shall get this confusion between the two programmes, one from the B.B.C. saying to the people, "In your own interest do not," and the other saying to the people, "In our interests as advertisers do." How in those circumstances can we produce an enlightened and informed public?

In addition, we are getting into a position where I think that the Assistant Postmaster-General, or at least the advertising interests who are pressing the Bill, will some time come forward and say, "The B.B.C. is damaging our interests by giving information of this sort and therefore some control should be put on what the B.B.C. say." I hope that the Committee will not think that that is an exaggerated point of view. I hope that hon. Members opposite who think that it is exaggerated will allow me to remind them of what took place in this country before the war when a gentleman who was once an honoured Member of the House of Commons, Sir Charles Higham, was responsible for the "Eat More Bread" campaign. It was not worth the while of some newspapers to write articles saying that bread was fattening because if they did say so Sir Charles Higham threatened that the advertising would be taken out of the papers.

The pressure that the advertiser has at times exerted successfully on some newspapers is an indication of the frame of mind of the advertiser when he starts to consider what will be said on other services about matters in which he is interested. In fact, unless we have this definition of a high quality programme, it will be impossible for a programme company to produce a decent, intelligent, sustaining programme.

For the benefit of the Committee, I will explain that a sustaining programme is one which will be paid for by the programme companies, which will contain no advertising but will be designed to attract the interest of a potential advertiser who will ultimately either buy the programme or buy time in the programme. Some of the best programmes produced in the United States started as sustaining programmes. Such a programme must be challenging and different from the ordinary run of programmes.

That is a good thing; but it is not a good thing if a man wants to produce a sustaining programme of high quality which contains facts designed to advise mothers on how to look after their children. The programme might say to mothers that it is not a good thing that they should give their child a purgative a day. It would be a very bad thing if influences could be used to get a programme like that either taken off the air or altered in some way or another.

As it stands, this Bill will produce a sort of Gresham's law of bad entertainment driving out the good. The reason is the considerable number of programmes which it is proposed should be broadcast. I do not know whether I am right in quoting what Mr. Norman Collins has to say.

He is a gentleman who seems to have the inside of the Postmaster-General's office and who is able to go to potential advertisers and to give to people who might be interested a great deal of information which I have not yet heard being given to the House of Commons. Speaking to the free-lance section of the Institute of Journalists, and reported again in that bible of Fleet Street, the "World's Press News" of 26th March, Mr. Collins says:

"Commercial television will run for five hours a day."
We knew that. Then he says:
"There will have to be 70 half-hour programmes a week."
I do not know how he is privileged to know that there are to be 70 half-hour programmes a week. Nobody else knew that the programme day was to be chopped up into half-hour intervals, but presumably Mr. Collins, who has already been making it clear that he expects to have a monopoly in London, or who at least has been giving the impression that he has been promised a monopoly in London, now says that there are to be 70 half-hour programmes a week.

I checked the "Radio Times" for this week and found that there are 58 programmes, not counting the sound programme that comes on last thing at night containing the news. Therefore, the B.B.C. with all its staff, its resources and experience is only able to put on 58 programmes in the course of a week against the 70 that Mr. Collins announces that it is Government policy that there should be. If the number of programmes is to be increased to that extent, what will happen is that—unless there is a definite understanding that the quality shall be not inferior to the B.B.C.—we shall produce programmes which are far inferior to those produced by the B.B.C. That is bound to happen, because the pressure will be tremendous.

Those of us who have watched television and studied it know that there is no other instrument in the world that is such a devourer of the arts and of the planners. I do not think that there will be enough programmes of a high quality to maintain 70 half-hour programmes a week. Something has to go. Some of the advertising men who are now in this country from the United States and who have been imported by the advertising agents to teach them the television business, because the British advertising agents do not know that business and many of them do not even want to know it—they are quite content to go on serving their clients faithfully in the media they understand and are not eager that there should be commercial television—are with some of the biggest and highly concentrated groups.

They are coming from the United States and saying to clients over here, "Forget any question of entertainment so far as commercial television programmes are concerned. We made a great mistake in the United States when we argued that programmes should contain entertainment. That is not the purpose of the programme. The purpose of the programme is to shift the goods, to sell the advertisers' goods. If you think that the purpose is simply to produce entertainment or education or programmes designed to illuminate the dark corners of the world, you are making a great mistake. The test of a programme is, 'Does it sell the goods?'" These advertising men are supported by that great and wonderful man, Mr. Bernard Braden, whose voice I am sure will carry the respect of this House. Mr. Braden—

4.0 p.m.

That is a point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] The answer is that my hon. Friend does not have to. I am gratified to see that there are enough hon. Members in the Chamber to sustain me in the belief that I had better go on with my speech. Mr. Bernard Braden said:

"The entertainers' responsibility will be to realise that each viewer is a potential buying unit, and unless enough viewers (a) watch him and (b) buy advertised products, he will be given short shrift indeed. Unless programmes are presented and performed with that primary fact in mind, entertainers will be unwise to start counting that extra money before it is safely in the pockets."
He was talking from the point of view of the comedian. That is Mr. Bernard Braden's view, and I presume that it is for similar reasons that Mr. Danny Kaye, also an expert in this art, refuses to go on commercial television.

We are entitled to consider what is going on in the United States today, where there is no yardstick of measurement of quality except that of the ability of one programme to be so designed to sell goods that it is more successful than another. "Time," which is a prominent American weekly news magazine, makes it clear that there is a constant degeneration in the quality of the programmes. The United States programmes are mainly devoted to quiz programmes of one sort or another, and "Time" complains that as quiz after quiz begins to flop, another and even sillier quiz is started. It is a pity that in this country we are subjected to as many quiz programmes as we get at the moment, but I suggest that under the Bill the door will be opened for the buying of quiz programmes from the United States which the Americans no longer want. These are to be imposed upon us.

Further, as the quiz programmes fail in their purpose, as they fail to sell the advertised goods, as they cease to make it (possible for the goods to be shifted, the emphasis in the United States is to get away from the quiz and to concentrate on the "strike-it-rich "programmes—the sort of programme which induces what advertising men call "audience participation," in the hope of being able to win large prizes either in money or household goods or motor cars. These programmes are now being declared illegal in the United States.

The other day, "The Times" had an interesting illustration of what is happening in Canada, where the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has decided to keep a watchful eye on prize-giving schemes. "The Times" says:
"Recently one station ran a contest for a large money prize in which the correct answer was "the career of Clarence Decatur Howe," which caused the Minister of Trade and Commerce to be inundated for weeks… with telephone calls."
This almost drove Mr. Howe mad. We do not want to see programmes here devoted to the life of David Maxwell Fyfe or Richard Austen Butler. I do not think we want to see them subjected to the same sort of programme as that in connection with Mr. Howe. But if this is a successful form of selling goods, although it will be a great inconvenience to the Home Secretary, the Assistant Postmaster-General and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, it will be adopted unless we insist that the quality of these programmes shall be not less than that of the B.B.C. We are entitled to demand that.

If sponsored radio, commercial radio—Radio Luxembourg, Athlone or any other station—had ever thrown up any programme which was worth listening to and which made any serious contribution to the art of radio, one would say, "These people have learned and will go on producing good programmes from now on." But what do we get on commercial "steam" radio? There has never been a good play, there is nothing but disc jockeys turning out the same agonising American music every time, there are no documentaries, there is no original work of any kind; because the advertiser does not believe that that is the sort of work which sells his goods. He believes that if he puts on an audible wallpaper and breaks it every now and again with an interpolation to buy somebody's goods, that is the way to sell. He does not care anything at all about entertainment value: he is concerned with shifting the goods.

Would the hon. Gentleman admit two things—first, that many of the most successful programmes on B.B.C. television originated as American commercial programes; and, secondly, that "Itma," one of the most successful B.B.C. programmes ever, started on Radio Luxembourg?

I was not aware of that and I am deeply obliged for the information from the hon. Member, whose interest in these matters is so considerable. It is true that the great Tommy Handley took "Itma" to the B.B.C. and never took it away again. It was exclusive to the B.B.C.; he stayed there. The reason was that Tommy Handley preferred working for the B.B.C. to working for commercial interests. No commercial interest was able to get him away from the B.B.C.

The hon. Member must not pervert the facts. The reason he could not get away was that Radio Luxembourg had closed down owing to the war.

And reminiscences. One other reason was that the B.B.C. paid Tommy Handley £400 a week. Tommy Handley once said to me, "While I get £400 a week, why should I be at the dictation of a laxative?"

Apart from that example, the commercial stations have not produced outstanding works. We have had some quiz programmes on British television which have come from the United States—and they are the throw-outs from the United States. What will happen is that there will be a steadily declining audience interest in many of the quiz programmes. Only one of them is an outstanding success today— "What's my Line?"; and in another year that will go to the ash-can, as others have gone before it, because this medium is a tremendous devourer of programmes, artists and writers.

I have dealt so far with the importance of keeping the programmes up to the very high quality of the B.B.C. [Interruption.] What is equally important is the standard of transmission. I gather that some hon. Members opposite do not think the quality of the B.B.C. programmes is very high. They will have an opportunity, alas, if the Bill is passed, of comparing the "drip" which they will get from their advertising friends on that side of the Committee with the efforts of the B.B.C., and we are content to let the public judge. Indeed, if hon. Members opposite hold this point of view, I cannot understand why they accepted the dictation of the Whips on such a matter as this. Had they wanted freedom on this question, I should have thought that they would have seen that they got it.

We were told yesterday that the delivery of transmission equipment is something like two years. The temptation of the programme companies, who are now being told to get ahead as fast as they can, is to get transmission equipment from wherever they can. That means that they will go to the second-hand market, for what matters is getting the programme started. Every single man interested in the programme companies wants to get in before his rival and to establish himself.

We therefore have the danger that inferior transmission equipment will be used in place of good transmission equipment—in place of the best transmission equipment, which at the moment is available to the B.B.C. It is, therefore, all the more necessary to see that we do not have the fuzzy kind of pictures which the Americans are producing. They, too, were in a hurry. We must ensure that only the best is provided, both in quality of programme and in quality of transmission, for the people of this country. These two Amendments have an important bearing on the future and I therefore recommend them to the Committee.

The Committee has listened to a very significant speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer), and I hope that, in spite of the interruptions to which he was subjected, the Committee will take those views very seriously, because I myself have had very considerable experience in a field in which my hon. Friend has operated for many years, and the conclusions at which I have arrived coincide entirely with his.

My hon. Friend made a very serious statement as to the possibilities facing us if we pass this Bill, and I think it is exceedingly important that these Amendments, which are designed to protect standards, should have the very careful consideration and sympathy of the Committee. The public have a right both to standards in television and safeguards for those standards, and that is the object of the Amendments. We ought to protect the public, because already there are various mass media which are influencing public opinion, public taste and public views, and which tend to lower public taste. Already these mass media are debasing tastes in this country.

We have American comics which are flooding the market and which our youngsters are reading, and at the moment we have no means of protecting those youngsters from this depraving influence. American films, many of which are very good and attain a high degree of technical efficiency, include a proportion which are influencing our language, altering our spelling, changing our syntax, and, indeed, changing our way of life in all manner of respects. Again, such films are shown to children and they have all manner of social effects.

There is no doubt that the television programme which our people are now viewing is well devised, and that a great endeavour is made to provide the people with the varied programme which meets their many tastes. There is also no purpose other than to provide entertainment behind the activities of the B.B.C. It is this standard which has already been established which we think needs to be defended, and we say that this standard which has been built up over the years should be defended, and that the work of the B.B.C. should not be challenged in the way in which there is every possibility of its being challenged if this Bill goes through in its present form.

4.15 p.m.

I had an opportunity during the last few hours of running through the B.B.C. television programme for one week, and I find that, among many other things, it provides a children's programme every afternoon and educational programmes on Monday evenings, and that there is at the moment an important series being presented on the subject of world religions. These are the standards which we ought to defend. There are also political broadcasts, a science review, a feature dealing with the filming of wild animals in Africa, and another concerned with the Severn Wild Fowl Trust, which is a purely educational television broadcast.

I ask hon. Members whether they really anticipate that, when the programme companies get into operation, they will exercise the same kind of care for the interests of the people of this country? Of course, they will not.

While appreciating all that the hon. Member has said, may I ask him why he speaks as if the work of the B.B.C. is about to come to an end?

Of course it will go on, but there is a danger inherent in the whole situation, and it is about that danger that I want to speak.

What we are trying to do is to examine the methods which will be employed in the devising of programmes financed by the advertisers. Hitherto, all broadcast programmes, both radio and television, have been designed to meet the wishes of the listeners, not for the purpose of selling goods and not for the purpose of meeting the needs of advertisers. The listener or the viewer has been the sole concern of the Corporation which has been established to undertake this type of work, and, in order that the view of the listener shall be thoroughly understood and appreciated, a large proportion of B.B.C. funds has been allocated to what is called listener and viewer research. Throughout the history of the B.B.C., a constant effort has been made to ascertain people's tastes and the kind of programme they prefer, so that the focus of all this work has been the interests of the listener and the viewer.

In the United States, where they have commercial sponsoring and advertising programmes, the Federal Communications Commission insists that there shall be a certain amount of "sustaining time," but the Commission has complained time and time again that the regulation about "sustaining time" is ignored by the companies, and that they reduce it to an absolute minimum so as to meet the requirements of the advertisers. Whether the programme companies in this country will be prepared to provide a worthwhile "sustaining time" is in my view a very doubtful proposition. Already we know that it will cost a very large sum of money to institute this new service, and that the advertisers will have to pay large sums of money for the time which they use. The advertisers will have to be very wealthy, and, in my view, there is hardly likely to be very much "sustaining time" on the new service, once it is instituted.

The demand will be for mass audiences. That has always been the case in countries where broadcasting services are financed by advertisers, who tend all the time to play to the gallery. Gradually, the selective viewer and listener are ignored. People with taste are by-passed. We shall find in this country that the slow but socially desirable task of raising standards will be reversed, by a form of competition which will affect the B.B.C., which will have to look to its standards. The tendency will be for this kind of competition to degrade generally the taste of the people and to interfere with the taste of those who now use the services of the B.B.C. The whole level of standards is in very serious jeopardy.

The time may come when the B.B.C. will have to decide between television broadcasts on world religion and Vic Oliver. Not that I am complaining about Vic Oliver; he gives magnificent programmes, but there is a fine distinction between the two. It may not be desirable to give broadcasts on world religion simply because the number of viewers participating would not justify the transmission.

I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman noticed a paragraph in a newspaper a week or two ago saying that the Director of Religious Broadcasts in the B.B.C. had gone over to America to study how they do it on the commercial system there.