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Lords Chamber

Volume 387: debated on Thursday 1 December 1977

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House Of Lords

Thursday, 1st December, 1977

The House met at three of the clock ( Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Sheffield):

The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Metrication: Cost Of Adaptation

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to state what expenditure has been provided in seeking to adopt the metrication system.

My Lords, the only expenditure specifically provided is the cost of the Metrication Board. Since the Board's inception in 1969 the total expenditure, including an estimate for the current year, has been £6.5 million. It is not possible to estimate the total costs and benefits to the country as a whole.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that some members of the farming community have refused to adopt the metrication system and that in some parts of the country a process of intimidation is proceeding against many of them? Why should this occur? Further, if £6.5 million has been spent, apart from the expenditure involved in an ancillary and subsidiary fashion, would it not have been better, instead of having this confusion—metrication has not aroused great enthusiasm in the country and certainly not in the farming community—to have used the money in order, for example, to provide a reduction in the cost of married quarters for men in the Services?

My Lords, I am aware of the difficulty to which my noble friend referred in a part of the farming community, but I believe that this whole question should be seen in the perspective of the metrication programme as a whole, which is proceeding smoothly. In my view it is quite essential that we should go metric because, with one or two minor exceptions, the whole world is metric.

My Lords, it is the cost to us not to go metric, rather than the cost of going metric, that we should have in mind. Of course, £6.5 million could be spent in a variety of ways, but I believe that it is being very well spent in this particular case.

My Lords, when my noble friend refers to the whole world accepting metrication, is he aware that the whole world is now in the most crazy situation it has known for three centuries? Why should he indulge in a little boasting about metrication in the context of the situation in which we in this country find ourselves, apart from what is happening in many other parts of the world?

My Lords, I believe that the difficult world situation has wider causes than the use of the metric system. My noble friend knows that very well. I would remind him that we are not rushing into this question of metrication. Indeed, the first significant step was taken when the United Kingdom joined the Metric Convention in 1884—which I note was the significant year when my noble friend was born. This enables us to look forward to 1984 as an occasion when we can celebrate the hundredth birthday of my noble friend as well as the centenary of our joining the Metric Convention.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that I object to this innuendo concerning the manner in which I was born? According to all the records, I was born in a perfectly natural fashion, in strict accordance with the rules.

My Lords, metrication was made legitimate in 1884 and I am sure there is no question in relation to my noble friend.

My Lords, will the noble Lord not agree that, unpleasant as the process of metrication is, it is better to be "metrified" than "petrified"?

Life Sentence Prisoners And Marriage

3.6 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what conditions must be satisfied before a prisoner serving a life sentence is allowed to marry.

My Lords, except to legitimise a child, a life sentence prisoner would not be allowed to marry until after he has been given a provisional date for his release.

My Lords, will the noble Lord provide any justification for that very inhumane treatment of women who want to marry life sentence prisoners? Is he aware, as he must be, that, as far as I know, the last circular issued on this matter—which was not available in the Library up to a few minutes ago—informs us that, in the case of,

"a prisoner serving a life sentence: the application should be referred to P3 or P4 Division, who will consult CS Division".
That leaves a strong presumption that discretion will be exercised at the Home Office. Although I appreciate the noble Lord's interest in this matter, will he agree that it is his own arbitrary fiat and not the law of the Medes and Persians which prevents this discretion being given?

My Lords, I would not agree with my noble friend that the policy is in any way inhumane. Indeed, until this year the marriage of prisoners was allowed only in a situation where a child would be legitimised. Since then, the situation has been changed and now, broadly, the position is that all prisoners with 12 months to serve, excepting life sentence prisoners, are, in fact, given permission. That is a major change and I am slightly surprised that my noble friend regards the situation as I have described it as inhumane. I do not think it is. There is a difference between life sentence prisoners and others in that as far as those people are concerned there is no right of release at any specific time. I believe that that puts them in a different category. Once they have a date for release, we are certainly prepared to look at the question.

On the circular, I am certainly prepared to look at its terms because at the moment I do not think that in this particular respect it is altogether adequate.

My Lords, will the noble Lord repeat that last sentence because it was not clear to those of us sitting on these Benches?

Certainly, my Lords. I said that my noble friend had drawn the attention of my office to the fact that the current language of the circular does not altogether accurately describe the existing policy as regards life sentence prisoners—it might conceivably raise hopes where none would be justified. That being so, I shall look at the language of the circular as it relates to life sentence prisoners to ensure that it accurately describes the situation that I have put to the House this afternoon.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether there are any women prisoners serving life sentences? He mentioned male prisoners serving life sentences.

My Lords, I cannot answer that question without notice. I think that there are, indeed, women in this category. Without notice I cannot give the number, but the situation that I have described of course applies to both men and women.

My Lords, I find it a little difficult to follow my noble friend's statement, but am I right in saying that permission to marry is given to persons who have been given a provisional date for parole? Why then is not a similar permission given to persons serving life sentences who have been given provisional release dates? What is the reason for this discrimination?

My Lords, I did in fact say, I hope fairly clearly but I shall now repeat it, that where a provisional release date has been given, permission will already be granted.

Servicemen: Remuneration And Conditions

3.10 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will revert to the practice of giving Servicemen free rations and accommodation.

My Lords, the noble Lord is referring to the system in force before 1970 under which single Servicemen received part of their remuneration in the form of free rations and accommodation. This was superseded in 1970 by the current arrangements under which Service personnel, like the rest of the community, receive a full salary out of which they pay for food, accommodation and other expenses. There is no intention of reverting to the old system, which was found to have many disadvantages when it was reviewed by the National Board for Prices and Incomes in their 116th report in 1969.

My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask him whether he is aware that when the last pay increase came for Servicemen practically all of that—and in some cases more than that—was taken up by increases in the rent and ration allowances? Is he further aware that I can take him to parts of this country—I admit only to parts because it depends on the local situation—where quarters are empty because officers and other ranks have found it cheaper to get accommodation elsewhere? Finally, will he tell the House how many Servicemen are on supplementary benefits, especially among those serving in Northern Ireland whose families are left behind in Germany, and how many elsewhere are having to "moonlight" to make ends meet?

My Lords, the whole House is aware of the noble Lord's concern in these matters. I cannot give detailed answers on the last two points that he raised when he asked for precise figures on two particular issues. I am aware of the situation which arose last April when, I think in the Armed Services Review, Servicemen received "an Irishman's rise". But there were Round 2 guildelines relating to the rise in the value of free food and accommodation which, even under the old set-up, would have been offset against the pay supplement in 1969 and before then. We must take a slightly longer view of the situation beyond the present moment.

My Lords, quite apart from the merits of the original suggestion, will the noble Lord bear in mind the very general disquiet which is felt about the rate of remuneration and other rewards for Her Majesty's Forces who cannot after all, strike, and do, as a matter of fact, perform services when others are depriving the nation of theirs?

My Lords, I think my noble friends and I, and the whole House, are aware of this. Indeed, my noble friend Lord Shinwell has tabled an Amendment to Wednesday's Motion which in fact covers this point.

Licensing Compensation Fund

3.13 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government what progress has been made on deciding to whom the proceeds of the Licensing Compensation Fund shall he distributed.

My Lords, a further meeting between the Home Office and the Brewers' Society and licensed trade organisations took place in July, which I am pleased to say resulted in agreement in principle on a scheme for the distribution of 50 per cent. of the funds. This scheme will, however, need to be the subject of further consultations within Government and will then have to be discussed with other interested parties, including particularly the compensation authorities. These consultations need to be completed before the Government can decide what proposals to recommend to Parliament.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does he not agree, in view of the statement that the Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Security made the other day about the increased problem of alcoholism in this country, that the sooner more funds can be devoted to the Medical Council on Alcoholism and the National Council, particularly as they are moving under the same roof, the better? Will he do all he can to try to hasten these meetings that are to be held?

Yes, my Lords, my right honourable friend is well aware of the need to hasten progress in this matter. It is an important question and we shall certainly do the best we can to bring this matter to a satisfactory conclusion as soon as possible.

My Lords, will the noble Lord agree that the Medical Council on Alcoholism and the General Council deserve to receive a great deal of money as quickly as possible? I have been involved with one of them for a long time, and we are hard up.

My Lords, I am well aware of that consideration, among others. The situation is that legislation will have to be put before Parliament, and we want to get these consultations concluded as soon as possible, for just the reason that noble Lords have identified.

My Lords, these consultations have been taking place ever since the end of the last World War. By this time, should not some definite action be taken not only as regards the 50 per cent. but as regards the full amount which was set aside for charitable purposes? Surely licensed victuallers are perfectly entitled, in consequence of the manner in which it was placed, to complain about the—I do not know the exact word terrible delay that has taken place from the time the money actually became available?

My Lords, yes, I think there has undoubtedly been considerable delay in this matter. I can only repeat the point that I have just made to the noble Lord, Lord Amulree; that is, that we are pushing on with this matter as speedily as possible. It will require legislation. All I can say is that there is no chance of that legislation in the present Session of Parliament. That being so, we want to be in a position where we are able to legislate as soon as possible thereafter.

The Crown Agents

My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lady Llewelyn-Davies will repeat a Statement on the Crown Agents.

Atholl Investments (Aberdeen Development) Order Confirmation Bill

Read 3a , and passed.

Gun Barrel Proof Bill Hl

3.17 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The main purpose of the Gun Barrel Proof Bill is to amend the Gun Barrel Proof Act 1868 to enable the United Kingdom to accede to the Convention of the Permanent International Commission for the Proof of Small Arms, known for short as the CIP. As this is a technical matter, your Lordships may find it helpful if I explain briefly some of the background. Proofing is the process of testing a gun to ensure, so far as is practicable, it is safe in the hands of the user. The process involves firing through the barrel a considerably heavier charge than the gun is designed for in normal use, thereby setting up pressure and stress on the barrel. Such pressure should, and indeed is intended to, disclose any weaknesses.

Proof in the United Kingdom is the responsibility under Statute of two private companies. It dates back to 1637 when the Worshipful Company of Gun Makers of London was granted its Royal Charter. They are justifiably proud of the fact that theirs is the oldest proof house in the world. The Birmingham Proof House was established in 1813 by Private Act of Parliament. Since that date it has been an offence to sell or to offer for sale an unproofed firearm anywhere in the United Kingdom.

The present law on proof is contained in the Gun Barrel Proof Acts of 1868 and 1950 and in the various Rules of Proof, the most recent dating from 1955. The detailed operations of the two proof houses are governed by the provisions of the 1868 Act, which gave responsibilities for the standard of proof to the Secretary of State for War. These responsibilities were extended by the 1950 Act to cover fees for proof. Sections 129 to 137 of the 1868 Act require that imported small arms, regardless of whether they have been proved by the manufacturing country, should be re-proved in the United Kingdom prior to sale, unless there is a specific bilateral agreement between the United Kingdom and the other country. Such bilateral agreements exist at present with eight other countries. At this point I should make it clear that firearms manufactured or used by the Crown are proved by the Crown Proof Authority, which forms part of the Ministry of Defence. The provisions of the existing Act do not apply and it is not included in our proposal to join the CIP. Its activities will be entirely unaffected by the Bill.

Before explaining why we wish to join, I shall say a little about what the CIP is. It was established by Convention in 1969 and is based in Belgium. The text of the Convention was presented to Parliament by my right honourable friend the then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in March 1975, in Cmnd. 5942; and we then expressed the intention of joining. The rôle of the CIP is to establish a common standard among Member States for the proof of small arms for civil use, though Member States can, of course, set their own higher standards if they wish. If a country's methods of proof meet the CIP's standards, and if that country is accepted as a member of the Convention, then its proof marks will be recognised as acceptable by all other members, who will waive the requirements for re-proof when small arms are imported from that State. There are currently 11 members of the CIP. It is primarily a European body, with members from both Western and Eastern Europe. A number of other countries, for example Sweden and Finland, have shown an interest in joining. The unanimous agreement of existing members is required for the admission of new members. In recent years the CIP has become the principal international forum for the exchange of technical information on civil small arms, gun safety and, more recently, ammunition.

Both the United Kingdom proof houses and the United Kingdom gun trade generally support our intention to apply to join the CIP. The Commission, too, has made it clear that it would welcome our membership. Our guns and ammunition are of a high quality and our standards of proof are respected worldwide; they would easily meet CIP standards. The Commission has been generous in allowing the United Kingdom proof houses to participate unofficially in its proceedings and to have access to its technical information in the belief that a United Kingdom application to join was imminent. But we cannot expect this free unofficial help to continue forever.

The advantages of joining will be apparent from what I have already said. First, our exports to CIP members would be exempted from the requirement for re-proof. This can be expected to facilitate trade. Exports to CIP members in 1976 accounted for about one-quarter of the total volume of small arms exports and one-fifth of their total value. As more countries join, the volume and value of our exports is likely to grow. Secondly, CIP membership would give the United Kingdom proof houses access to CIP technical information. This would be of considerable benefit as our proof houses are relatively small establishments and do not have the resources to undertake the full range of research and development. Thirdly, we believe we have a contribution to make in improving CIP proof and safety standards; and it is appropriate to join the CIP now, just before it moves into new fields such as cartridge testing and setting standards for ammunition. One consequence of joining will be that the bilateral arrangements under the 1868 Act will cease; but all but one of the countries with whom we have such arrangements are already members of CIP and the remaining country's proof houses no longer function, so there is no disadvantage.

Turning to the Bill itself, it is a short measure consisting of seven clauses and four Schedules. The first clause amends the 1868 Act in order to enable the United Kingdom to accede to the Convention by substituting the new Sections 129, 130 and 131, which are set out in Schedule 1 to the Bill, for Sections 129 to 137 of the 1868 Act, and makes transitional arrangements, in Schedule 2, for the registers of foreign proof marks presently kept by the proof houses. The new sections set out in Schedule 1 provide for the recognition of CIP proof marks, require the two proof houses to keep a copy of the CIP's register, exempt barrels bearing Convention proof marks from the proof requirements of the 1868 Act and modify the offence-creating provisions of that Act, which I understand are mainly about forgery, so as to apply them to Convention proof marks. The transitional provisions contained in Schedule 2 relate to the register of foreign proof marks currently kept by the two proof houses in connection with the existing bilateral arrangements.

The second clause removes the geographical limitation in Section 89 of the 1868 Act, which presently restricts the siting of a branch proof house to within 10 miles of the City of London or Birmingham. This will enable the proof houses to set up branches wherever sufficient demand exists, perhaps temporarily at a manufacturer's or dealer's premises, where a particularly large batch of firearms needs proving. This would be quicker and safer and would result in taking large quantities of firearms off the roads.

The third clause provides for the metrication of the Rules of Proof in line with CIP practice as well as our general policy on metrication. The fourth clause extends the 1868 and 1950 Acts to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Although there are no plans to establish proof houses in either of these areas, this clause is a logical consequence of the removal of the 10-mile limit in Clause 2, and it removes certain ambiguities under the existing Acts. The remaining clauses, together with Schedules 3 and 4, provide for minor and consequential amendments and repeals, interpretation and so on.

This Bill will enable the United Kingdom to join the international forum concerned with commercial gun proofing. Our membership will simplify international proofing arrangements, facilitate trade and enable the United Kingdom industry to participate fully in this growing international body. It is a useful measure which I commend to your Lordships.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a .— ( Lord Winterbottom.)

3.27 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, for explaining what to me is a rather complicated Bill. All the objectives of the Bill which appear in the Long Title are indeed laudable and desirable, especially the wish of the Government to accede to the Convention of Brussels, which the noble Lord explained. Noble Lords will be looking forward to the maiden speech, in which I am sure he will make some expert comments, of the noble Lord, Lord Tryon. Speaking personally, I am not a member of the gun makers' trade nor am I classified under any of the professions set out in Schedule 1, the new Section 131(3), which refers to—

"… a gun maker or gun barrel maker, or a maker of or dealer in small arms or barrels, or in any parts for small arms or barrels".
I have no interest to declare in that line. However, I am a gun user and a frequent visitor to certain areas where shotguns are used. The Bill makes exemptions from our proof regulations for foreigners or visitors and for the guns of proof makers of a Convention type. It seems that the gun makers of Britain are very much in favour of the Bill and of the Convention's acceptance; indeed, I understand that the trade has been pressing for just such a Bill for a number of years. Thus, we are doubly glad that the Government have found time to present the Bill.

Lord Winterbottom explained the Bill admirably but there is one provision which I hope he will be able to analyse. He said that Schedule 3 contained some minor and consequential amendments—indeed, that is the title of the Schedule—but he will have noted the new paragraph which has to be inserted, which, according to the Bill, deals with the acquisition of land in Scotland. I am at a loss to comprehend that because it begins:
"For the purpose of acquiring land by agreement in Scotland …".
That is most interesting.

The new provision goes on to deal with the Land Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act and, additionally, the Railways Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act. But certainly from my experience in Scotland, land is not often acquired pace the Gun Barrel Proof Act 1868, nor indeed is the proof mark of the greatest relevance to rail travellers north of Carlisle or Berwick. Therefore, I wonder how the Act of 1868 applies to these two fairly minor Acts of fairly ancient date. The noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, speaks for the Government on defence matters, but I think that even he would agree that the 1868 Act is covering a matter which seems to be rather outside the immediate area of safe gun barrels; but perhaps he may be able to assist me on this point now or later.

None of us, especially those of us in this House, should forget the tremendous efforts made by British gun makers to improve our export earnings, nor indeed the reputation of our sporting guns all over the world. I was very concerned before I studied the Bill in detail, lest it might dilute the very high standards to which our gunmakers adhere. I thought that the Bill may at least allow other nations' gun makers to sell in the United Kingdom guns which could be of a lesser standard than is now permitted here. But happily my fears and worries have been totally removed on studying the Bill and by the assurances given by the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom.

I am also given to understand that the members of the two proof houses in Birmingham and in London are much in favour of the passage of the Bill. Certainly all of us await the speeches of other noble Lords, whose knowledge of this subject is far greater than mine and possibly that of the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom. I am sure that the whole House will be very grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, can enlighten me on the little legal point concerning Scotland. This is a desirable Bill. We wish it well, and we hope that it will have a speedy passage through your Lordships' House.

3.32 p.m.

My Lords, we also welcome this Bill introduced by the Government this afternoon, and I am particularly looking forward, as I know your Lordships are, to the maiden speech of my noble friend Lord Tryon. I was hoping that I would be speaking after him so that I could speak about him, rather than about shotgun proofing. I have one or two points about which I should like to ask the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom. I am concerned about when we finally become members of the CIP,which I believe to be a very good thing, and which at the moment involves 11 countries scattered throughout the world. Five of those countries, including us, are Members of the Common Market. I wonder whether future policy might be to try to include the other four countries which are not in the CIP: Ireland, Holland, Denmark and Luxembourg.

The Bill will enable us to share in any advance there is in proofing methods and technology. Should any noble Lord consider that we should not join the CIP, I feel that the other members of the CIP may then believe that we had a fear that our methods were outdated and that we did not want to lay our cards on the table. That would spell disaster for the English gun trade. We must bear in mind that, although for a number of years we have been invited to attend CIP conferences, up to now we have never had a chance to voice our opinions at any of those meetings. I very much welcome the Second Reading of the Bill.

3.34 p.m.

My Lords, I rise with great diffidence to address your Lordships for the first time. This is probably made rather more so by the build-up I have been given by the two previous speakers. I have been very lucky in my life to have had a very varied career in a number of different fields, but one in which I have virtually no experience whatever is that of public speaking, and your Lordships' normal tolerance to first-timers may be somewhat tested this afternoon. However, I hope that I shall have the opportunity of improving my speeches to your Lordships over a great many years to come.

At this stage I must declare an interest, although I hope that your Lordships will see it more as a qualification for speaking on this somewhat obscure topic, than as anything more sinister. I am a non-executive director, and a small shareholder, in what I am advised to describe, in order to spare your Lordships a break for the commercial, as a leading firm of London gunmakers. I am also the non-executive chairman of a company which makes accessories for the gun trade, whose existence and prosperity are vitally tied to the prosperity of the United Kingdom gun trade both here and overseas.

The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, said some very kind things about the gunmaking industry, and I believe them to be true. I think that demonstrably the United Kingdom gun trade continues to lead the world, particularly at the high quality end, and as evidence of this I should say that the second-hand value of any top-class English-made gun commands a very large premium over any second-hand gun of any foreign make anywhere in the world. We have now reached a stage where a really good quality second-hand gun is probably worth about £5,000 anywhere in the world.

The noble Lord, Lord Lyell, also referred to exports, and if my experience is typical—and I believe it is—I should say that the United Kingdom gun trade plays a major part in the export activities of this country. A very high proportion of its present output is exported. I believe that the quality of United Kingdom guns is second to none in the world, and international proof standards today hold no fears whatever for the United Kingdom gun industry, or for anyone in it to whom I have spoken.

As a general point I would draw your Lordships' attention to the slightly strange feature of guns, as opposed to other consumer durables or products of any kind. I refer to their tremendous longevity, and in any legislation account must be taken of the fact that there are in use today guns made a hundred years ago, which are still working perfectly well. My own guns, I believe, were made in 1887, which I think was before the motorcar was even invented, or at least before it was working properly. On the analogy of the motorcar, I should say that the products of the leading London firms of gunmakers, and indeed some of the Birmingham firms in the past and today, are as well-known and respected throughout the world by those who shoot, as Rolls-Royce motorcars are among anyone who drives a motorcar.

I believe that the gun trade really welcomes the United Kingdom being able to accede to the 1969 Convention for the Reciprocal Recognition of Proof Marks. I had hoped to get away with saying CIP instead, but I saw the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, here earlier, and even as a beginner I know what would happen if I used merely the initials.

The noble Earl, Lord Kimberley, has referred already to the advance in technology which the United Kingdom will be able to share, and I think it is fair to say that the gun trade was beginning to be very worried that, if this Bill had not come forward in the near future, there could have been a withdrawal of reciprocal arrangements with other countries. This would have been an absolute disaster for the United Kingdom gun trade. Therefore, thanks are due to the Government for introducing the Bill earlier than many people had feared would be the case. I should like to add that when I went to the proof house a few days ago to refresh my knowledge of this somewhat obscure subject, I was very glad to hear that those at the Home Office who have been responsible for drafting the Bill had taken considerable trouble to visit the proof house to learn at first-hand what it was all about. That, I think, is very praiseworthy.

I would make two points on the content of the Bill. The first may be thought flippant, but I think it should be made nevertheless. Clause 3 refers to metrication and provides for detailed metrication of gun barrel bores and what-have-you. I should like some re-assurance—and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, could give this at the end of the debate—that this is not the beginning of any idea to apply metrication to the bores of shotguns, in particular. I think that in the case of rifles metrication is already well used and well established—I expect that my cousin, the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, will refer to this later; he knows more about rifles than I do—but to bring in any requirement for people to order 18·3 mm. ammunition, which is the same as the 12-bore, would, I think, cause nothing but unnecessary confusion. The present gauges of shotguns-12-bore, 16-bore, et cetera—have been well known throughout the world for many years and are well established in countries which have been metrified (if that is the right word) for a great many years. Such a proposal, I think, would lead to nothing but endless and possibly dangerous confusion.

Secondly—this may be a contentious point and completely out of order—I am not sure that we have the Title of this Bill right. I appreciate that it is a successor to a number of other Bills—now Gun Barrel Proof Acts—but it is, in a way, a misnomer, and we may be perpetuating a somewhat dangerous misunderstanding which I think exists in the minds of some of the public. When a gun is proofed, the entire structure that comes under pressure is tested, and this means the action in the case of a shotgun, the bolt in the case of a rifle, just as much as the barrel. I am told by the London Proof House that for every three barrels that fail proof there is probably one action that fails proof, and I fear that in some people's minds there may be a misapprehension that if the barrel of a gun is okay then that gun is safe. That is not so, and failure in the action of a gun—that is the bit that holds the cartridge in place while it is fired—is more likely to end in the death of the shooter, the firer, than is a failure in the barrel, where the most likely effect is the loss of the left hand. This is a point that perhaps your Lordships might like to consider in Committee. I thank your Lordships for your indulgence.

3.44 p.m.

My Lords, this is the first occasion on which it has fallen to my lot to congratulate a maiden speaker, and I am particularly pleased to have this opportunity today to congratulate my noble cousin Lord Tryon on his excellent maiden speech. Of course, this House has a great reputation for producing those who can speak with authority on practically any subject you like to mention, and my noble cousin has nobly upheld this tradition. His speech was most informative, brief, to the point and certainly authoritative. We have all greatly enjoyed listening to him, and I hope we shall have many opportunities in the future to hear his contributions to our discussions.

My Lords, like previous speakers, will be very brief. I, too, have an interest of a sort to declare, since I am a member of the Livery of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers, which is one of the two companies, the other being the Guardians of the Birmingham Proof House, mentioned in this Bill. I can confirm that this Bill is welcomed with open arms by the Gunmakers' Company and by the Guardians of the Birmingham Proof House. For several years they have been waiting rather anxiously for it to appear, but they are very pleased now that it has at last broken the surface in your Lordships' House, and they hope it will have a speedy and easy passage here and through the other place.

The accession of the United Kingdom to the CIP will be a valuable one for the gunmaking trade in the United Kingdom, because both our proof houses have such a great store of experience behind them—particularly the London Proof House, having operated for 340 yeas—that I am sure that the other countries will find that they have something to learn from our experience. I am sure, too, that we will also profit considerably from the exchange of information which will then become possible between all the participant countries.

It will also help greatly, I think, the promotion of trade in the export of rifles and shotguns of our own manufacture, which one could say quite reasonably is a field in which we lead the world because we have some wonderful craftsmen working in this trade. They produce weapons—shotguns, rifles—which are marvels of engineering, and marvels of workmanship in the way the parts are fitted together and in the finish and decoration of the arms. English-made weapons have a reputation which is worldwide; and, of course, the proof marks of the London and Birmingham Proof Houses, too, have a worldwide reputation and are accepted in many parts of the world as standards of really high quality. The CIP sets certain standards of proof among member countries, but let it be realised that those are of course minimum standards and, if it so wishes, any country is entirely free to use higher standards in its own proof houses.

My noble cousin Lord Tryon mentioned the question of shotgun gauges and the possible change-over to metric measurements. I am speaking entirely off-the-cuff on this, but I am not aware of any intention in any country to give the bore diameters of shotguns in metric units, because the old gauges—12-bore, 16-bore, 20-bore and so on—have been in use all over the world for a great many years and are fully understood, even in those countries which otherwise use the metric system. If you go to France or Germany and buy a box of 12-bore cartridges, you know exactly what you are going to get and they know exactly what you mean when you ask for them. So I do not think the noble Lord need worry on that score.

The question of chamber lengths, however, is another matter, and those of your Lordships who shoot will have noticed that on the box of shotgun cartridges the case length is given both in inches and in millimetres. That is obviously something which has come to stay, and from the point of view of safety it is very important to know that the cartridges you intend to use do not exceed the length of the chamber of your gun.

The noble Lord, Lord Tryon, also mentioned the question of the Title of the Bill. I see his point quite clearly because at one time, when the original Act was passed in 1868, breech loaders had only just begun to appear in the world and nearly all the weapons in use were muzzle loaders. Therefore, all that the proof was required to do was to test the strength of the barrel of the muzzle loader. Now we have breech loaders with various types of actions to support the base of the cartridge case; and the strength of the action is every bit as important as the strength of the barrel.

I should imagine that this Bill carries the Title that it does simply to tie it in with the earlier Act. I think that possibly this point might be borne in mind by the Government to make it clear, if they think necessary, that the process of proof does test the strength of the action as well as that of the barrel. That is all I have to say. Like other noble Lords, I commend the Bill to the House and wish it an easy passage.

My Lords, I believe that I heard the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, say something about ammunition. It is possible on the Continent now to purchase very high-velocity ammunition which could damage the proof of English guns if it were continuously used. Can the noble Lord make any comment on that?

3.53 p.m.

My Lords, I would add my congratulations also to the noble Lord, Lord Tryon, on a most well-informed and excellent speech. There is just one minor point to which I shall refer, the metrication of British gun proofs; but I will come to that later. The noble Lord has done his homework well and his knowledge is excellent. I would congratulate him wholeheartedly. This Bill is welcomed by the majority of people who are connected with firearms, particularly by gunsmiths and dealers; but, unfortunately, they do not find the Bill quite as clear as I am sure your Lordships found it when you glanced through it for the first time. For example, the Explanatory Memorandum reads:

"Nearly all of the principal nations who manufacture and export sporting weapons and other small arms are now signatories to the Convention …".
I think that we have forgotten the United States of America, who are not signatories to it. In fact, in America, the manufacturers are not bound to proof their weapons. The American system and others are protected by a penal dollar fine on any American manufacturer of small arms who puts on the market a weapon which explodes and does damage. We have also forgotten, I think, the Czechs, who are very large exporters of sporting weapons; the Japanese, who are rising; and the Russians.

Schedule 2 to the Bill provides for certain transitional provisions as to the exemption of certain foreign barrels from proof under the 1968 Act. I have carefully read Schedule 2 in conjunction with a leading gunsmith and neither of us finds it clear which foreign barrels are exempt from proofing. Perhaps the noble Lord could enlighten the House on that matter. Also in the Explanatory Memorandum it says:
"Clause 3 provides for metrication of the Rules of Proof".
But Clause 3 states:
"… may be expressed in imperial units or in metric units".
I am not quite sure whether in the future we are to express them in imperial units or in metric units.

Clause 4 extends the Gun Barrel Proof Acts 1868 and 1950 to Scotland and Northern Ireland. I hardly think that a member of Her Majesty's Forces stationed in Northern Ireland, or one of Her Majesty's subjects living there, will be very much interested in whether or not the gun which shoots them is proofed. On the other hand, I see the Government's point. We must do the best we can.

This leads me to remind your Lordships that there are basically three types of people who use firearms. First, the reasonable sportsman who is a knowledgeable person who has his gun in safe keeping. He keeps it clean and in repair and there are very few problems with him. The only difficulty lies in the fact that most accidents concerning arms involve a tremendous amount of work by the police Forces and the person who legitimately and properly uses and keeps firearms.

There is a second type of person whom I think I shall describe as "irresponsible" —and, in fact, a fool. I will here state the obvious to your Lordships: a gun barrel blows only once. The person who does not keep his guns property and does not have them proofed and allows them to pit and come off the face, finds it out too late.

My Lords, there is a third type of person who uses guns; that is, the criminal. I regret to tell your Lordships that mostly they have easy access to the guns of one sort or another that they require. Anybody can walk into a gunsmith's and buy ammunition for shotguns, particularly buckshot, which is deadly. The type of gun produced in America and in various other countries, the pump gun or automatic, also deadly, is as available as the single-barrel, the side-by-side or the over-and-under. While on the subject of American guns, our proof houses may not be quite up to the work which is necessary. I know that the firm of Winchester, in America, which probably everybody has heard of, ship their guns via West Germany into England for proofing in West Germany because they find it difficult for them to be proofed in this country.

There is one other matter on the question of finance. To the United Kingdom, as has been pointed out, the gun trade is worth a great deal of money; in fact, it is worth millions. From this automatically follows on (shall we say?) police action from Home Office rulings. In the 1950s, there was an amnesty granted to people who handed in firearms of various sorts. These were sold and were not destroyed. But, at the present moment, any gun handed in to the police under the present amnesty or under any amnesty which the police practically invariably grant to someone who finds a gun in the attic, goes under the steam hammer and is crushed. In many cases, the gun is worth nothing; but in other cases it may be worth a very great deal of money.

Your Lordships may remember that a year or two ago an officer in a famous cavalry regiment sawed off the barrels of a pair of Purdey's which, at a conservative estimate, were probably worth £10,000 and robbed a bank of £2,000 or £3,000. I knew him quite well; he was not a very sensible chap. I wonder what happened to that pair of Purdey's. Having robbed several banks, he is obviously not a person who should be allowed to keep a pair of shotguns. Although I have never seen them, the action of these guns is worth from between £5,000 and £10,000, probably about £8,000. Were they put under the steam hammer? Did we sell them? What did we do with them? What do we do with all the other guns that are handed in? I am told that they amount to millions a year.

As to the proofing of rifles, rifles very seldom blow. Occasionally the action of a rifle goes, and very occasionally the barrel goes. Normally the rifling in a barrel will wear out long before the actual action has gone or the barrel becomes unsafe. There are certain problems regarding shotguns, and we should look to the future there. The gun trade is now experimenting with fibre glass with fine inner linings of steel, and the proofing of those guns will be exceptionally difficult.

There is one other point. This Bill provides for the proofing of guns, but it does not safeguard the person who has an old gun with black powder proofing only, from using it. I have had paper-thin Damascus barrels. I have seen people using them. I say, "For goodness' sake do not use that! I will lend you one". The reply is, "It's all right. I only use it to shoot a few crows in the garden". But it will blow hint up just the same.

Regarding metrication, this is a slightly technical matter. It has been explained to me, and I hope I understand it enough to explain it to your Lordships. Before the days of proofing, when a shotgun was made, the gunsmith took a lead ball, a sphere, and he dropped down the end of the barrel the largest one that would go to the end and roll out. He then found out how many of these spheres there were to the pound. If it was 12, then the gun was 12 bore; if it was 14, it was a 14 bore; if it was 20, it was a 20 bore. We have not improved very much on it from that date. Today if you go to a gunmaker and buy a box of cartridges for a 12 bore you will find that you will be firing a lead charge which, if multiplied by 12, weighs a pound. We have not progressed very much further. It might be a good idea if this Bill were to take in a bit more.

Today when a gun is proofed it is stamped and the measurement of the bore is taken 9 in. from the breech. This is measured very accurately. In English marking it is in thousandths of an inch. It is measured normally between 728 and 739 thousandths of an inch. Between those two numbers it is always marked 729 thousandths of an inch. If the gun is marked 729 thousandths of an inch and is 729 thousandths of an inch, it will not be out of proof until the internal diameter of the bore measures 740 thousandths of an inch, by which time there will have been over 10 thousandths of an inch of wear and the weapon, towards the end of its life, is becoming slightly dangerous.

Many great gunmakers used to make their weapons somewhere around the 735 or 736 thousandths of an inch mark. There has to be only three or four thousandths of an inch of wear for the gun to be out of proof. It we are going to retain imperial measurement it would be a good idea to mark the internal diameter of the bore 9 in. from the breech at the actual figure at the time of proofing. It is then possible to give it 10 thousandths of an inch of wear before it wears out.

The continentals mark weapons in millimetres. There is a marking of about 18·3 m.m. There could still be something in the region of 10 thousandths of an inch wear before the gun comes out of proof. Also they do something else which is very useful: they weigh the barrel and stamp the weight on the barrel. That means that the gunmaker or purchaser of a new gun or a second-hand gun has only to weigh the barrel to find out how much metal has been worn away. At the moment, under the English proof marking system, the gunsmith cannot tell the amount of wear inside the barrel, because, between 728 and 739 thousandths of an inch, all are marked at 729 thousandths of art inch. I apologise for bringing forward this technical point but it is a fairly important one. It is a matter which I feel your Lordships might care to consider further.

The Crown Agents: Fay Report

4.8 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I will now repeat a Statement being made by my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development in another place about the Crown Agents. The Statement is as follows:

"I am today publishing the report of the Committee which I appointed in 1975, under the chairmanship of His Honour Judge Fay, to 'inquire into the circumstances which led to the Crown Agents requesting financial assistance from the Government'.

"These terms of reference involved the Committee in detailed examination of events which were complex and spread over a period of years. I am most grateful to Judge Fay and his two colleagues for the impressive way in which they carried out this heavy task. Their report is of the greatest value, and the Government and the Crown Agents accept the report as a fair and searching investigation into the facts.

"Simultaneously, I have published a Statement giving the Government's reactions to this report. Annexed to the Statement is the report of the earlier inquiry into the Crown Agents under the chairmanship of Sir Matthew Stevenson. This report is relevant to the events described in the Fay Report, and is quoted in that report. The Government has therefore decided, with the agreement of Sir Matthew Stevenson and his colleagues, that it is now right to publish the earlier report. I have, of course, consulted the right honourable Member for Bridlington and the Opposition on this matter.

"Honourable Members will no doubt be studying all these documents, and I do not want to go over the ground again now. But the House will expect me to mention the salient points.

"Firstly, the Fay Report shows that a serious state of affairs was allowed to develop over the years up to 1974. As a result, the Crown Agents incurred losses which are likely to prove to be over £200 million.

"As the Government Statement says, we accept the report's conclusion that there were serious shortcomings on the part of the Crown Agents, and that Departments and other outside agencies contributed to the failure to prevent losses.

"These losses have led the Government to emphasise on several occasions that they stand behind the Crown Agents. A Government grant of £85 million was made in December 1974, and we shall be ready to put proposals to Parliament as and when further assistance is necessary. As a result, the Crown Agents' overseas principals need not fear that any part of the funds which they entrusted to the Crown Agents will be lost.

"I must stress that the Crown Agents' traditional functions played no part in causing these heavy losses. Nor have they been harmed by those losses.

"The losses arose solely from 'an unwise decision to operate as financiers on own-account', to use the words in paragraph 422 of the Fay Report. That course of action has now been decisively reversed.

"The Government Statement summarises the corrective action which my predecessors and I have taken since 1974 in respect of defects in the relations between the Crown Agents and Departments which the report identifies as major factors in the disasters.

"There was uncertainty over the Crown Agents' status and relationship to the Government; these have been defined. The Government were receiving wholly inadequate information on the Crown Agents' affairs—new arrangements now ensure that we get full and regular reports. Whereas there was insufficient control or direction by Ministers, clear directives now exist, and I am consulted by the Crown Agents on all major policy decisions.

"I am therefore confident that nothing like the events described in the report could ever happen again. I lay great stress on this, because the Crown Agents' future in providing their valuable services to their principals depends on it.

"However, we cannot leave past events there. The question of responsibility for what went wrong needs more specific investigation than the Fay Committee were able to give it. My right honourable friend the Prime Minister is therefore setting up a Committee of Inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Carl Aarvold with the following terms of reference:
'In the light of the Report of the Fay Committee, to assess the nature and gravity of any neglect or breach of duty by individuals which may have occurred in the Crown Agents, the Ministry of Overseas Development, the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Exchequer and Audit Department'.
"That inquiry will mark the end of a sorry chapter in the Crown Agents' long and otherwise distinguished history. Looking to the future, I am confident that under their present Board the Crown Agents can maintain and develop their traditional services soundly and successfully, to the benefit of all their principals."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.12 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Baroness has repeated an important and, in many respects, a grave Statement. It consists really of four parts: the Statement which the noble Baroness has just made, the longer Statement to which she referred and which presumably is being put in the Library, the report of Sir Matthew Stevenson which is contained in the longer Statement, and the Fay Report which accompanies this Statement. I agree with the noble Baroness that it would be imprudent for us to comment in any detail until we have had the opportunity of reading the various reports.

However, one or two things clearly come to mind and one of them is very important: that is, over the years the Crown Agents have performed a remarkable service for Governments overseas, who are their principals, as well as for the British Government. They still, in changed circumstances, perform a remarkable role, and it is to be much regretted that an incident such as this, long and complicated though it may be, should have cast an adverse shadow on such a reputable organisation. The Statement which the noble Baroness has just made, f was glad to see, emphasised again the fact that the Government are prepared to stand behind the Crown Agents to the extent that they will protect the interests of the principals and also protect their confidence. In that respect, they are entirely correct and I would welcome their decision.

However, it is important to keep a correct balance in the affairs of the Crown Agents. It would be wrong if public attention were to be focused on the had points at the expense of the good ones. The fact is that even now they deal with over 100 Governments and manage some £1·75 thousand million. That is a colossal amount of money by any standards. The distinction should be drawn between the growth of the Crown Agents' traditional services, to which the noble Baroness quite rightly referred, as opposed to what is called "the realisation account", where the problems over secondary banking and investment came. The traditional services have indeed improved under the able chairmanship of Mr. John Cuckney, particularly over the last three years.

Having said that, I wonder whether I might ask the noble Baroness questions referring to three particular points. The Statement says that the Crown Agents have made losses in excess of £200 million. Of course, the Government made available in 1974 £85 million. Has that all been used up? Do the Government intend to produce more money and, if so, how will it be produced, by loans or by grants? Clearly, the Crown Agents must be subjected to proper accountability and I wonder whether the noble Baroness can say whether it is the Government's intention to incorporate the Crown Agents and make them, like other statutory authorities, subject to financial disciplines and also responsible to a Minister? If I so, will that be done by means of a Bill or by other means? Perhaps we can be told how it will be done.

The third point is the fact that there is to be another inquiry. I thought the words were impressive, when we were told the terms of reference:
"… to assess the nature and gravity of any neglect or breach of duty by individuals which may have occurred in the Crown Agents, the Ministry of Overseas Development, the Treasury, the Bank of England and the Exchequer and Audit Department".
It appears that the inquiry might be almost like another Crichel Down inquiry. I would not wish to embarrass the noble Baroness and if she does not wish to answer these questions now I can understand. Having said that, may I further ask whether she would not agree that people who are to be interviewed or called to give evidence must have full and proper rights when called as witnesses and that they should be properly represented? I wonder whether such an inquiry will be of a judicial nature or, if not, what form it will take. When inquiries like this occur, a lot of mud inevitably gets flung around and some inevitably sticks unjustly. I hope that the Government will see that all is done to ensure that such an inquiry is as fair, as just and as penetrating as possible.

This problem goes back a long way and I wonder whether in this inquiry there is likely to be any cut-off point in time. Some people involved in the considerations have inevitably retired and some have probably died; so it is very important to ensure that, as it were, the dead are not slandered because they have no possibiility of refuting any arguments which may be put up against them. Much hurt and harm can easily be done against the names and indeed the honour of people who have given a great deal to their organisations and they are unable to stand up and testify against evidence which is given. That can give rise to great harm and hurt to the individuals' relations who are still living. I hope that the Government will take steps to ensure that the rectitude and the memory of those who were involved and who may not now be here will not be unjustly damaged.

4.20 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Baroness for presenting us with this Statement. I sympathise with her in having to express regret so publicly for these huge losses of over £200 million. I do not want to comment on these at this moment, because, clearly, we shall have to have a debate about the Fay Report and its implications. But what I should like to ask the noble Baroness is about the inordinate delay in our getting these papers. They have just arrived today, 1st December. The Committee was appointed in 1975 and the Stevenson Report was completed on, I think, 24th March 1972. I have just had a moment merely to glance at the papers, but it is because there has been this inordinate delay in presenting the facts and figures that this situation arose in the first place. So I should like to ask the noble Baroness why we have had to wait so long to hear this bad news.

As I said, I do not want to dwell on the figures at this stage, but there are points in the noble Baroness's Statement with which I must disagree, and with which I believe my noble friends on these Benches also disagree. The noble Baroness said that:
"The losses arose solely from an unwise decision to operate as financiers on own-account'."
I do not accept that at all. I feel that there were very major factors at work internally in the audit department, in the accounting procedures and in the presentation of operating figures, which do not in any way justify the statement that it was merely bad investment or poor business judgment.

The noble Baroness went on to say that the Government Statement summarises the corrective action, but it seems to admit a very important change in procedure of the Crown Agents' accounts which took place in 1975. If she looks at the 1975 accounts, she will see that they were separated into a realisation account, the account with all the bad news, so to speak, and an operating account. Then there is a very interesting statement:
"The object of preparing the accompanying accounts has been to show substantially the same amount of information as if' the body were corporate and subject to the requirements of the Companies Act."
What I want to ask is: what on earth were they using before that? If the Auditor-General was quite happy to prepare accounts which bore no relation to the requirements of the Companies Act, then I think we are beginning to see where the trouble started to arise with the Crown Agents. They were not proper books or accounts in any way like those kept by a normal company in law.

This, at least, is a major step forward and I should like to emphasise what has already been said in answer to the noble Baroness: this distinction should be clearly made between the Operating Account and the fine work that the Crown Agents are doing today, and will continue to do, and the problems that occur on the Realisation Account. If the noble Baroness can reassure us on these Benches that this distinction has been made clear in these accounts, it will be most helpful. I am afraid I cannot share the confidence of the noble Baroness that nothing like this will ever happen again, certainly until she is able to clarify my mind and the minds of my colleagues about proper accounting procedures—

My Lords, I do not wish to intervene too much and stop Members, but I hope the noble Lord will appreciate that this is only a Statement and is not a debate, though one can ask suitable questions.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, may I make one final point concerning the announcement that the noble Baroness's right honourable friend the Prime Minister intends to set up a Committee of Inquiry to look into this matter? I should merely like to say that I wonder whether this could be reconsidered: first, for the reasons already given this afternoon, and, secondly, because I do not see any value in kicking over old leaves in the hope that they may fall back on to the tree. I do not see that any value can be gained by producing yet another report in perhaps another two years' time.

My Lords, I shall do my best to answer the barrage of questions which I have received from both noble Lords. But may I start by thanking the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, very warmly indeed for what he said about the work of the Crown Agents? They do the most splendid work, and have done for more than 140 years. I am most grateful to him for what he said, because it is very important to this country, as well as to the Principals who use the Crown Agents. So that for that I am most grateful. If I may deal with his last point first, I can assure him completely that on the Committee of Inquiry, which we feel to be necessary because there has been so much said, so many innuendoes and, indeed, so much revealed, there will be no slander of the dead, and people who cannot answer back will not be dishonoured. I can give the noble Earl that assurance. I am quite sure that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister would not set up such an inquiry.

I believe that the noble Earl's first question was about the £85 million grant and the answer is, No, that is still there. Small amounts have been taken out temporarily, but it is there because there is no problem of liquidity, as the deposits are continuing to come in. As he himself said, the traditional business goes on even better than it did before the appointment of the new Board. So the noble Earl can be quite clear about that. We may have to come and ask for more money, and of course we must come to Parliament for that. Thtat is the way in which it will be done—properly. Yes, we propose to have an incorporation, and that will be done in the form of a Bill as soon as we can. I cannot, of course, promise it for this Session, but we shall do it as soon as we can, because, in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw, we believe that that is the proper way to run the Crown Agents. I am also confident in what my right honourable friend has said that it will not happen again, precisely because we propose to incorporate the Crown Agents. The methods of accountability, of responsibility to Parliament and dealings with Ministers—all those things will be settled once and for all, and I am confident that it will not occur again. As a matter of fact, I am confident that it will not occur now, before incorporation, because of the excellence of the new Board which has been set up and the instructions which my right honourable friend has given to them.

I will try to cover all the points, and hope not to take too long. It is, of course, for the Committee to determine how it will carry out its investigation, but I am quite sure that any person coming before it will be entitled to bring along whatever legal advice, in the shape of a representative or of written evidence, he or she wants. It is, of course, for the Committee to decide how it will operate. It will be held in private, but the results will be published. I can assure the House of that, too. The noble Lord asked whether there would be a debate. If I put my other hat on, I am quite sure that the noble Earl, Lord St. Aldwyn, will be coming along and asking me whether we can have a debate, and of course we should like one.

The noble Lord asked about the delay. I have no conscience about the delay. As soon as the Government discovered in 1974 a lot of the truth of what had been going on, we set up the full, proper Board under Mr. John Cuckney. We did that very quickly indeed and a few months later, when we saw what was happening, we set up the Fay Committee. Two and a half years is not a long time for a committee such as the Fay Committee to take. Ordinary company inquiries often take that long, and sometimes even longer. That was not a long time. There was practically no delay on publication, because we felt that Parliament had taken such an interest in this matter that it must be published when Parliament was in Session Furthermore, we felt that it should be published in such a way that it protected from privilege and that Parliament could look at it and debate it in full. So we do not feel that there was a delay in the setting up of the report, in the reporting of the report or in the publication of the report. We have no bad conscience at all about that.

I hope that I have not missed out anything. There is one other point which I must make to the noble Lord, Lord Tanlaw. He said that he did not accept the Fay Report's view that the losses were solely on own-account. But what I quoted was from the Fay Report and I can give him one more quotation from page 2:
"… what went wrong was a part only of the Crown Agents' financial activities".
The troubles affected only their own-account operations. I think that that answers him.

My Lords, I wonder whether I may ask the noble Baroness one question, although first I should like to say that Sir Carl Aarvold is very acceptable to everybody in this House and is known to most of us. The noble Baroness very rightly said that anybody who may be adversely affected by this new inquiry would be allowed to bring legal representation. Of course, legal representation costs a great deal of money. Where tribunals of a different kind are set up, it is very often the case that the Government are prepared to meet the whole or part of the costs of representation. If the noble Baroness is not prepared to answer that question now, I wonder whether she would consider the possibility of assisting those who may be adversely affected if they feel it necessary in their own interests to obtain legal representation, which can cost hundreds or even thousands of pounds?

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble and learned Lord for raising that point. I am not optimistic about the Government providing money for that kind of assistance, but I will go into the matter and let the noble and learned Lord know.

My Lords, although this is not the place to denigrate the Crown Agents, I should like to ask my noble friend whether we shall have the opportunity ultimately of a constructive discussion on the basis of this report. Secondly, as somebody who a few years ago put down Questions and then withdrew them when I heard about what had been happening, may I ask my noble friend whether or not she is aware that there seems to be error on the accountancy side of both the Bank of England and the Treasury in not noticing the secrecy and the manifestation of ingrown bureaucracy in the Crown Agents in the distant past? I have never seen a report before in a Blue Book. It states: "The office had lost its sense of direction in the spiritual sense." Although it may be unfashionable to use the phrase "the spiritual sense", nevertheless there is quite a lot of it in the world today and we could replace that spiritual sense in this debate when the opportunity occurs.

My Lords, I have already told the House that we shall hope to have a debate at some point. Perhaps I may add to the very apt quotation that my noble friend has just given. Judge Fay also used the words "folly and euphoria", which sometimes apply in this House, too.

Gun Barrel Proof Bill Hl

Second Reading debate resumed.

4.32 p.m.

My Lords, it now becomes my pleasant duty to reply to the short debate that we have had on the Gun Barrel Proof Bill. First, may I thank the House in general for the very positive welcome and support they have given to this small but very useful measure? It is because the Government recognise its use that they have found time for it now in your Lordships' House. In particular, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Tryon, for his support in what I thought was an outstanding maiden speech. It was clear, audible and based on a knowledge of the subject. I know that all noble Lords hope to hear him speak again soon on the same or other subjects. Also, it will be appropriate if I answer his questions first before I turn to the others.

The noble Lord's first question related to the Clause 3 metrication, the degree to which it is to be limited to shotguns, and its effect if metrication ultimately overrules the Imperial system of measurement. The noble Lord's noble cousin answered that question: that, on cartridges, we at present get both Imperial and metric measurements. Presumably that system will continue until such time as metrication is to us what Imperial measurements were to us when we were younger.

The very interesting description by the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, of how the use of the words "gauge" and "bore" came about was helpful to us in understanding the problem. I had never before heard this explanation. As the noble Lord, Lord Swansea, pointed out, "gauge" is common throughout Europe. Therefore, the change to metrication should not cause confusion or danger. The clause enables both systems to be used. When the noble Lord mentioned the Title, I believe he was correct in saying that it might mislead people who did not know the whole background to the Bill. If we had had more time I might have suggested to the noble Lord that he should amend the Title at the Committee stage of the Bill, but time is short and we want the Bill. Anybody who knows what the Bill is about will not be misled, because the Long Title of the 1868 Act, and the 1950 Act which amended it, said that its purpose was
"for better ensuring the due proof of gun-barrels and for other purposes".
I should like to make it clear that the proofing tests not only the barrel but the mechanism of the gun as a whole.

May I now turn to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Lyell? I must admit that he caught me out with some legal knowledge which had nothing, so far as I could make out, to do with the proofing of guns. Am I right in thinking that the noble Lord was referring to paragraph 2 of Schedule 3?

Paragraph 2 states:

"After section 6 of the Act of 1868 there shall be inserted the following section— … For the purpose of acquiring land by agreement in Scotland …"
and the two relevant Acts are then mentioned. It is a matter of convenience. Obviously we do not want a Gun Barrel Proof Bill (Scotland) to go through your Lordships' House. We have extended the power of the proof houses to set up subsidiaries in Scotland. Therefore, it is right that we should give them the power to acquire land if they require it, should it be found that Scotland needs a woof house of its own. That is the reason for that paragraph. I hope that I have satisfied the noble Lord.

My Lords, the noble Lord has been kind enough to attempt to satisfy me and he may have fired one barrel of his newly-proofed shotgun at me. The proof houses may need to acquire land to set up another proof office, but I should be most interested to know what the Railway Clauses Consolidation (Scotland) Act has to do with this matter. Whether there is a ban on establishing proof houses on railway property as opposed to on other land in Scotland, I do not know. Certainly we could do with the presence of the noble and learned Lord, Lord McCluskey, to deal with that point, but perhaps we may ask that question another day. The noble Lord has partially satisfied me on one half of my question but not on the railways Act.

My Lords, I shall bear the point in mind and will hope to satisfy the noble Lord with both barrels at the Committee stage of the Bill. I should also very much like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Nunburnholme, for his extremely interesting and erudite speech. Obviously, the various improvements of measurement and the recording of measurement which he enunciated are highly desirable, though I am not quite certain that this kind of thing can be written into a Bill. However, since the British gun industry is entering into full union with the CIP, there will obviously be an exchange of technical information and, presumably, harmonisation whereby the best experience of all the members will be applied to all the weapons which they proof in common. I cannot say whether that will happen. If, however, the noble Lord applies pressure through the sporting gun channels, I imagine that in due course this type of improved recording of the strength of barrels, the bore of barrels and their weight may become standard practice here as, apparently, it is elsewhere. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his informed opinion. Perhaps the fact that we are now entering into a new phase of the work of the CIP, namely the study of ammunition and the explosives within ammunition, will satisfy the noble Lord, Lord Braye, regarding his suggestion that high velocity charged ammunition presumably implies a different kind of explosive charge. Presumably, this will come under the general supervision of the CIP under the new arrangement.

I am grateful for the interest taken in this Bill. I am glad that it has received a general welcome on Second Reading. When we come to the Committee stage before the House rises I hope to be able to clear up any unanswered points. I beg to move.

On Question, Bill read 2a , and committed to a Committee of the whole House.

Coypus (Keeping) Order 1977

4.41 p.m.

rose to move, That the Coypus (Keeping) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved. The noble Lord said: I should also like, if I may with your Lordships' permission, to speak to the Mink (Keeping) Order 1977 which follows in the Order Paper under my name which was laid before the House on the 3rd November, and move this formally at the end of the discussion.

My Lords, the orders before your Lordships' House tonight are made under the Destructive Imported Animals Act 1932, a measure originally enacted to cope with the musk rat but which provided powers for the agricultural Ministers to use against any species of non-indigenous mammal with destructive habits. These orders renew for a further five years powers expiring on 31st December this year to prohibit the keeping of mink and coypu in Great Britain except under a licence granted by the relevant agricultural Department. These powers were first taken in 1962 and were renewed in 1967 and 1972. The orders also apply to mink and coypus certain provisions of the Destructive Imported Animals Act apart from the requirement to obtain a keeping licence. For example, occupiers of land must give notice of mink and coypu known to be at large and departmental officials may enter and inspect land and may destroy mink or coypu found thereon.

Furthermore, it is an offence under the orders to turn loose any mink or coypu or wilfully to allow it to escape. The objective of the licensing requirement is to prevent escape into the wild from premises where these animals are kept. Experience has shown that their presence in the wild can be highly destructive. This experience has come as a result of earlier escapes from fur farms which led to the establishment of feral populations. For mink, despite strenuous and expensive efforts against them some years ago, the species is now present in most parts of Great Britain, particularly along rivers. As noble Lords are aware, they are voracious predators particularly of poultry and fish. With feral mink the Government's reluctant conclusion has been that there is no prospect of eradication and that the best help they can give to occupiers and others concerned lies, first, by providing specialist advice on control techniques; secondly, by loaning traps free of charge, and, thirdly, by continuing, with the approval of Parliament, to exercise the powers to regulate mink-keeping premises and thus prevent any avoidable increase in feral population through further escapes.

For coypu the situation is markedly different in that the species is currently at large only in the eastern part of England and largely within specific areas. This species can damage drainage systems by tunnelling under embankment walls and also crops like sugar beet and cereals. Over the years, sustained efforts have been made to contain the area within which the coypu survives and progressively to reduce the population. Latterly, and thanks to special scientific studies, we have been able to direct the trapping campaign so as to deploy the limited resources to maximum advantage.

I am sure that noble Lords will be interested to have details of the number of licences at present in force for the keeping of mink and coypu. Escapes leading to the establishment of the wild population originally took place when both animals were farmed for fur. Mink continues to be a fur production animal and of the 84 licensed premises in Great Britain, 80 are commercial fur farms as distinct from research or similar establishments. On the other hand, coypus are not now kept in this country for fur production. There are only 19 coypu licences, all of which are for keeping the species in research establishments, zoos and the like. As noble Lords are aware fur from the coypu, called nutria, is not now apparently acceptable to the market.

The agricultural Department insists on special security precautions, notably to ensure that adequate fencing is installed and maintained and these are enforced by regular inspection. This monitoring is in addition to the animal welfare inspection of commercial fur farms undertaken by the state veterinary service. I commend these orders to the House as a means of continuing policies which successive Administrations have pursued and which, with our build-up of experience of the damage which can be caused by feral populations, need to be maintained if we are not to compound our difficulties by permitting further escapes. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Coypus (Keeping) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved.—( Lord Strabolgi.)

4.48 p.m.

My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, for explaining to us these two short orders with which Peers on all sides of the House will agree. I should like to ask him two questions to which he may or may not have the answer. He mentioned that there were inspections to see that when licences were given these animals, which are destructive, are kept within their limits. I was glad to hear that there are regular inspections. What experience has the Government of animals escaping, either from mink or coypus farms? My second question is: What is the penalty for an escape? I do not mean one single incident but rather the case of continual reports from local keepers or farmers. Is there any information on that subject?

The coypu is a most destructive animal. I heard from a relative in Yorkshire only a week ago on the subject we will be dealing with next week. An otter at a certain place has been destroyed by a coypu. We cannot do better than encourage the Government to continue as the noble Lord has indicated. One other thing springs to my mind. On small islands—and I am thinking of some in the northern part of this kingdom—bird sanctuaries have been established for some time. I believe that permission has been given for mink farms in the Orkneys. Is this a wise thing? I hope the regulations about fencing will be very strictly enforced and that the Government are watching very carefully any extensions in areas like that where an escaped mink could do endless damage. However, I should like to thank the noble Lord and recommend these measures to the House.

4.50 p.m.

My Lords, I also would like to thank the noble Lord for moving that these orders be approved. There are one or two questions I would ask him, if I may. He did not make it clear to me who in fact licenses these mink and coypu farms. I would be most grateful if he could tell me whether, when they are licensed, there is a standard size of cage which is laid down for the keeping of these animals. I should also be most grateful to have an answer to this question. Is there a requirement under these orders that somebody should be notified if a mink escapes, or does the owner of the mink farm merely look on it as a piece of bad luck if he has lost a mink? The noble Lord said that when people know there are mink on their land they are required to notify the Ministry. I assume it is the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It appears that they have reached the state where they have abandoned all hope of controlling this animal; it is spreading at a tremendous rate and it is doing tremendous damage. Could not a little more effort be made, perhaps, to assist owners of properties where these animals are known to be, to eradicate them?

There is another alarming aspect, particularly to the British Veterinary Association. Are any guidelines laid down for the humane destruction of these animals? They are very difficult animals to handle. Not long ago photographs appeared in one Sunday paper. Although rather ancient, they did give an indication that perhaps things were not all that they should be. Finally, before this order appears again, in however many years it is, would it not be simpler to add the mink, at least, to the Schedule of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976?

My Lords, before the Minister replies, perhaps it might help if I can say to noble Lords that I did on one occasion question the way the mink were treated. In fact, before I purchased some mink I asked whether they had met a cruel death. I said, "Did you hit them on the head?" The furrier said, "No; it would spoil the skins". I said, "Well, you have given me the right answer for the wrong reason". But he assured me that they had a painless death, that they were in fact gassed. He added, "They have all they want to eat and an unlimited sex life—and what more could anybody desire?" As he himself was responsible for a mink farm I was not quite sure whether he was prejudiced, but T did at least get the assurance of the painless death of these animals, which I feel sure the Minister will be able to confirm.

4.53 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful to the two noble Lords opposite and to my noble friend for the welcome they have given to this order. We are very glad to be continuing the excellent work of the previous Government. In fact I think these orders probably stem from the 1932 Act, which was probably a product of the National Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, asked me a number of questions. First, he asked about the number of escapes. We must put this into perspective. There are no coypu farms at present at all, except for one or two for zoological purposes. The mink farms have decreased considerably; in 1962 there were 600 and now, in 1977, there are only 80. The records of the numbers of escapes are not kept centrally, but the numbers are understood to be insignificant. The mink are always recaptured with the help of Ministry staff. Of course, in connection with the coypu this is a very different matter. Since this semi-aquatic rodent, which originated in Latin America, was introduced in the early 1930s there have been an estimated 200,000 at large. But these have been reduced, I am glad to say, through the intensified methods of control, to about 4,000 only, which are now mainly in East Anglia.

The noble Lord also asked me about penalties. The penalties for allowing mink to escape, and so on, are contained in the 1932 Act under Section 6. For keeping a mink or coypu without a licence the penalty is £20, or, if the offence is committed in respect of more than four animals, £5 for each animal. Acting in contravention of or failure to comply with any term of a licence or any regulation made under the Act is £10, and a further penalty of £2 for every day on which the offence continues after conviction. That is the kind of pattern. Failure to report is £5.

I must admit that these penalties did concern me rather when I began to study this matter before introducing these orders. They have not been revised since they were first laid down in the Destructive Animals Act 1932. I admit that they are very much in need of revision, if only to take account of inflation since that time. I am seeing that steps are taken to remedy this as soon as a suitable opportunity arises. But we have found from experience that the licence conditions are complied with without the need to resort to prosecutions.

The noble Lord, Lord Mowbray, also asked me a question about the Scottish Islands. There are two farms already on the Shetland Islands but I gather that no problems have been reported. The applicant on Westray is said to have agreed to make security arrangements which go beyond the regulations—double fencing, concrete bases, and sinking of protective mesh further into the ground. With regard to Orkney, of course, this is a difficult matter. There is a proposal for establishing a mink farm on Westray and this has caused considerable concern, rightly, to the Nature Conservancy Council, because of the large and very important seabird breeding colonies off the island.

Following approaches by the NCC, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has suggested to the local planning authority a way in which the issues involved could be publicly debated. The local planning authority have replied is to the Secretary of State's letter, and this at present being considered. Without prejudicing the issue in any way, I think I can say that the Secretary of State is considering making a revocation order as a means of ensuring public debate.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford,—I am glad that he took part in this debate, as he usually does in debates devoted to animals and flora and fauna—asked me a number of questions. The licensing authority for mink and coypu is the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for England and Wales, and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland. The manner of keeping mink and coypu and precautions against their escape are prescribed in the regulations which flow from the 1932 Act. These are kept up to date by ministerial order and they are called the Mink Keeping Regulations.

The noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, also asked me about methods of killing. That matter was referred to by my noble friend Lady Phillips whom I am also glad took part in the debate. I am happy to be able to say that the methods are painless. The methods of painless killing include gassing, injection, electric shocks and dislocation of the neck after stunning. The Fur Breeders Association has been examining methods of humane killing and proposes in due course to issue recommendations. Of course, I need hardly remind the noble Lord, Lord de Clifford, that the Animals Act 1911 makes illegal the causing of undue suffering, pain or distress to animals, including mink on fur farms. Moreover, I can also say as regards the welfare of mink, that animals farmed commercially for fur come within the scope of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1968 under which it is also an offence to cause unnecessary pain or distress.

The noble Lord also asked about procedures for reporting escapes from licensed premises. Under the terms of a licence to keep mink or coypu, licence holders are required to notify the agricultural department concerned of any escape from their premises. When they are reported at large or an escape is known to have taken place in the area, efforts are made to restore the animals to their owner. If there is no reason to suppose that they have escaped from local premises, arrangements are made for their destruction in the most humane manner.

As regards mink and coypus in the wild, Ministry policy is that the responsibility for destroying mink and coypus in the wild rests with the occupier of the land where they are found, who is considered to be in the best position to undertake this responsibility. The keeping orders require occupiers to report the presence of any mink or coypu known to be on their land and which are not, of course, being kept under licence, to the agricultural department concerned which will give advice and lend traps for their control. I hope that I have answered all the questions that have been put to me.

My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, sits down I apologise to him for talking to my noble friend, but I was not aware that he was taking the two orders together. I merely wish to reinforce what he obviously did—namely, to express the anxiety in Scotland about the proposed mink farm at Westray. The conditions there are so difficult in terms of the countryside that feral mink would be almost impossible to recapture or control. The BBC produced a very interesting programme on it in "Wild Life" yesterday.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. I saw the programme to which he refers. As I have said in my speech, this is now at Secretary of State level.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Mink (Keeping) Order 1977

5.3 p.m.

My Lords, I beg to move the second Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Mink (Keeping) Order 1977, laid before the House on 3rd November, be approved.—( Lord Strabolgi.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Employment Protection (Variation Of Limits) Order 1977

5.5 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft Employment Protection (Variation of Limits) Order 1977, laid before the House on 14th November, be approved. The noble Lord said:

My Lords, I beg to move that this Order be approved. The order is submitted for your approval in accordance with Section 86 of the Employment Protection Act 1975. That section requires the Secretary of State for Employment to carry out each year, beginning with 1977, a review of the limits to certain payments made under the Employment Protection and Redundancy Payments Acts. The limits relate to guarantee payments to workers on short-time and temporary lay-off, and to the weekly earnings limit laid down for the purpose of calculating redundancy payments, unfair dismissal awards and certain debts in relation to the insolvency provisions of the Employment Protection Act.

Three factors are to be taken into account in the review

"the general level of earnings obtaining in Great Britain at the time of the review; the national economic situation as a whole; and such other matters as he thinks relevant".

If the Secretary of State, in the light of his review, considers that any of the limits should be changed he must prepare and lay before each House the draft of an order giving effect to his decision which is subject to the Affirmative Resolution procedure. If he considers that any of the limits should not be varied he must lay before each House a report stating his reasons.

The 1977 review has now been completed. My right honourable friend in another place has decided that all but two of the limits covered by the section ought to be changed and those decisions are set out in the order now before your Lordships and in the report laid at the same time. If the order is approved both in this House and in another place, the changes to the limits will come into effect on 1st February 1978. That is the earliest date on which any change to the guarantee pay limits could take effect, and it will allow time for industry to be alerted to the new limits.

I turn now to the first set of limits covered by Section 86. They concern the guarantee payments provision of the Employment Protection Act 1975 (Sections 22 to 28) under which an employee put on short-time or temporary lay-off is entitled to a guarantee payment for a complete day without work. These payments are subject to three limits on the amount and duration of guarantee payments, all of which must be covered by the annual review. One limit is concerned with the monetary amount and two with duration. The last two are in terms of, first a specified number of days in what is known as a " relevant period " for which an employer must make guarantee payments, and, secondly, the length (and therefore the starting dates) of the relevant periods themselves. At present the monetary limit is £6, the specified number of days is the number of days per week, not exceeding five, worked by an employee under his contract of employment, and the relevant periods are the quarters commencing 1st February, 1st May, 1st August and 1st November. In other words, employees are at present entitled to guarantee payments of up to £6 per day for a maximum of five workless days per quarter.

In reviewing these limits, the first of the three factors which must be taken into account is the general level of earnings obtaining in Great Britain at the time of the review. It is the year-on-year increase in the general level of earnings which is, of course, most relevant in the context of an annual review of the guarantee pay limits. The most up-to-date and comprehensive indicator available at the time of the review related to the year-on-year figure for the whole economy at August 1977, which was published in the October issue of the Department of Employment Gazette, as 7·2 per cent.

The second factor to be taken into account is the national economic situation as a whole. The Government continue to give priority to the attack on inflation and unemployment. Additional costs to employers which might have to be passed on in higher prices must therefore be kept as low as possible. Moreover, the more an employer has to pay out in guarantee pay the greater the risk that he might consider redundancies as an alternative. Both these considerations militate against any increase to the guarantee pay limits which increase the cost of statutory guarantee pay by more than the rate at which earnings are increasing.

But there is a further consideration to set against these. In relation to the third factor—that is, whether other relevant matters should be taken into account—my right honourable friend has had regard to the fact that some workers are now less well off with statutory guarantee pay for the first live workless days per quarter than they were when they could claim unemployment benefit for those days. This is due mainly to the fact that guarantee pay is subject to tax whereas unemployment benefit is not. The rules for claiming unemployment benefit however are complex. They were designed primarily for the needs of the wholly unemployed and provide inter alia that unemployment benefit is not normally paid for the first three workless days of a spell of short-time or lay-off. Because of this the Department of Employment estimates that only a very small percentage of all the workers on short-time are, in fact, affected by this problem. On its own it would not justify a high across-the-board increase in the monetary limit to guarantee pay. But it does indicate that priority should be

given to increasing the monetary limit rather than the limits on duration.

These three factors have led my right honourable friend to decide to increase the monetary limit to guarantee pay, and to increase it by slightly more than would be indicated by the general level of earnings alone. Noble Lords are therefore being asked to approve an increase of 60p on the £6 limit. So far as the other two guarantee pay limits are concerned, there are separate reasons for not changing them, which are set out in the report laid before your Lordships. It would be premature to change the limits after only nine months' experience of statutory guarantee pay, as they need to be considered in the light of the voluntary arrangements made in industry.

Having dealt with the case for an increase to the guarantee pay limits, I shall now move on to the second and third set of limits referred to in Section 86. These are the weekly earnings limits as applied to the insolvency and unfair dismissal provisions of the Employment Protection Act and to the calculation of a payment under the Redundancy Payments Act. I think it will make it easier to understand if I start with the limit under the Redundancy Payments Act, as it was from this Act that the figure of £80 was adopted in 1975 for the insolvency and unfair dismissal provisions of the Employment Protection Act.

When the earnings limit was first set at £40 in 1965 it was intended to allow the total pay (excluding overtime) for the bulk of the working population to be taken into account in calculating their redundancy payment, while at the same time excluding the higher pay of top managers and executives. This exclusion protected the fund against disproportionate claims in respect of the highest paid earners who frequently enjoy the protection of private redundancy arrangements.

In August 1974, the limit was increased to £80 and restored very broadly the earnings coverage of the scheme to its original level. After taking into account the fact that earnings have risen substantially since August 1974, and the national economic situation as a whole—that is the need to keep additional costs to a minimum both for employers and to the Redundancy Fund—we have reached the conclusion that an increase from £80 to £100 would be reasonable.

I think it would help if I attempted to explain very briefly the way in which a redundancy payment is calculated. A scale provides for each year of service to be worth either half a week, one week or one and a half weeks' pay according to age. At present earnings in excess of £80 must be disregarded. As the maximum service which may be taken into account is 20 years, the maximum current redundancy payment is £2,400—that is, 30 weeks at £80—the entitlement, for example, of a man aged 62 with not less than 20 years' service and earning at least £80 a week excluding overtime. The increase in the limit to £100 will, therefore, increase the maximum payment to £3,000.

As the earnings limit stands at present, it cuts across the top end of the earnings of many workers, including the higher paid manual workers—who in general are skilled workers. It is estimated that over 25 per cent. of full-time men are earning over £80 a week and the limit we are proposing will give full earnings coverage (excluding overtime) to approximately 87 per cent. of all men (97 per cent. manuals and 71 per cent. non-manuals.) Nor have the ladies been forgotten. The fact is that women tend to earn less on average than men. Therefore, this means that the percentage of women's total earnings covered by a £100 limit will be higher than that for men.

I think it important for us all to be clear about what this change will mean in terms of hard cash. The average redundancy payment is currently of the order of £650. We estimate that it would increase by approximately 5 per cent. Employers will be able to recover 41 per cent. of the additional cost from the Redundancy Fund. The additional cost to the fund is estimated at approximately £4 million for the next financial year, and this can be met without any increase in the amount which employers are required to pay in order to finance the fund.

The additional cost to those employers who are required to make redundancy payments to employees earning more than £80, will be relatively small on average. On the other hand, it will bring a useful improvement in benefit for the higher paid redundant worker. I am sure that none of us here today would regard it as fair to exlcude part of the earnings of at least 25 per cent. of the working population simply because they happen to be earning more than £80aweek. Indeed, for those employers who have introduced more generous schemes than that provided by the Redundancy Payments Act, under which the whole of the additional cost is borne directly by the employer, the increase in the limit could well bring some financial benefit. In such cases where the statutory benefit can be offset against the private scheme, the larger amount of rebate from the Redundancy Fund which will now be payable in respect of those employees who were earning more than £80 a week, will actually result in a decrease in cost to the employer.

As I mentioned earlier, the earnings limit also applies to the unfair dismissal provisions. Section 75(4) of the Employment Protection Act provides that an £80 limit shall apply in the calculation of the basic award of compensation for unfair dismissal. Because this award is intended to reflect the amount of redundancy payment which would have been received by an employee if he had been fairly dismissed on redundancy instead of being unfairly dismissed, it follows that this limit should remain in line with the redundancy payments earnings limit.

It is also the case that the amount which a tribunal may award where the employer has refused to comply with an order for reinstatement or re-engagement is subject to an £80 weekly earnings limit under Section 72(8) and has, therefore, to be reviewed also. There are no substantial reasons for allowing this limit to get out of line with the limit for redundancy payments. If it is right, as we think it is, to maintain the link between the Redundancy Payments Act and the basic award of compensation for unfair dismissal, it is sensible to keep the limits in step throughout the unfair dismissal provisions and to adopt £100 a week also for the purposes of Section 72(8). The additional cost to public funds of an increase in the limit as it applies to unfair dismissals will be very small. It will be picked up by the Redundancy Fund under the insolvency provisions only where the employer is insolvent and therefore unable to pay.

Finally, I would mention the figure of £80 referred to in Section 64(5), which applies under the insolvency provisions of the Employment Protection Act 1975 to claims for arrears of pay, pay in lieu of notice and holiday pay. Given the close link between redundancy and insolvency it was natural to adopt the same weekly earnings limit in 1975. It makes equally good sense today to keep this in step with both redundancy payments and the unfair dismissal provisions, and here also we are proposing an increase to £100. It is estimated that the additional cost to the Redundancy Fund for the financial year 1978/79 of an increase in the insolvency provisions limit to £100 is approximately half a million pounds.

If I may sum up very briefly. The effect of the present order is to increase from £6 to £6·60 the monetary limit for guarantee pay, and from £80 to £100 the weekly earnings limit used for the calculation of a redundancy payment and for the purposes of the unfair dismissal and insolvency provisions of the Employment Protection Act 1975. These increases are submitted for noble Lords' approval, take full account of the statutory criteria laid down in Section 86, and will, I hope, commend themselves to your Lordships as being a reasonable outcome of the first statutory review of limits under that section. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft Employment Protection (Variation of Limits) Order 1977, laid before the House on 14th November, be approved.—( Lord Wallace of Coslany.)

5.20 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, has given us a brief and welcome hiatus between the problems of semi-aquatic rodents and those of broadcasting. The noble Lord's statement was very detailed. Indeed, I should really have liked to have had a copy of his statement in order to give it perhaps the detailed consideration it merits. It seems to me that in general what this order provides us with is an instance of indexation; of indexing the financial provisions of a particular piece of Government benefit to around 10 per cent. Does this indicate that the Government are beginning to look favourably in general on indexation as a method of fighting inflation? If so, will the noble Lord indicate what other dispositions of public money may be indexed?

I think that the noble Lord mentioned in his statement that the Chancellor is raising guaranteed payments above the general levels of price rises. But surely, unless I have mistaken him, this is not the case since these provisions are roughly, if my calculations are right, within the 10 per cent. general limit whereas actual price inflation is running at around 14½ per cent. The noble Lord mentioned top salaries and said that earnings have risen substantially since 1974. That is, of course, true of the higher working wages over £80 a week, if you like, but certainly not true of top salaries. We had in your Lordships' House yesterday my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter's Question on the salaries of heads of nationalised industries who, if I remember, were not even getting 10 per cent. as of yet.

I would ask the noble Lord not in respect of this order but in respect of its renewal at a later stage to ask the Chancellor to look at this in respect of redundancy payments again in the spring Budget, because at the present rate we shall have to look at it rather more than once a year. I understand that the noble Lord mentioned the Redundancy Payments Fund and said that 41 per cent., I think, was recoverable by employers. But is it not the case that employers have to contribute to the funding monies as well, and is this altogether fair?

If he could, I should like the noble Lord also to give us a notion of the overall estimated cost of the present order. I would this afternoon of course prefer to be debating how we could fight unemployment rather than how we are coming to learn to live with its effects. One of the disquieting features of our contemporary life is that we seem to be adjusting to inflation as well as trying to fight it, and learning to adjust to high levels of unemployment as well as trying to fight them.

Since in my view we shall not see unemployment below 1 million for a decade or so, and since the achievement of single-figure inflation, even if it does occur, will no doubt be hailed by the present Government as a triumph, I suppose that there is not much else that we can do other than adjust. Too many chances for a short and severe programme for fighting inflation have been lost, and too many soft options have been taken. We, on this side, do not oppose this order, except to say that its very necessity is an admission of how relatively badly we, as a nation, are doing in combating inflation and in combating the high levels of unemployment which inflation engenders.

5.25 p.m.

My Lords, we on these Benches would also like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Coslany, for the clear way in which he has sought to introduce this order. I think I now understand a little better the reasons for it having to do, as the noble Earl also seems to think, with the general concept of indexation. We had a lot to say in criticism of the Redundancy Rebates Act when it was before your Lordships earlier this summer. Of course we have noted with particular interest the increase in the limit on the amount of a week's pay for the purpose of calculating redundancy payment from £80 to £100. I shall not weary your Lordships by rehearsing the arguments that we adduced at the time for criticising the Redundancy Rebates Act except to say that one was that we felt it was not a reasonable use of the Redundancy Fund that it should effectively be used to reduce, as was the case, the public sector borrowing requirement.

I do not know whether it is an altogether fair question to put to the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, and I am sorry to say that I have not given notice of it to him, so I shall quite understand if he cannot answer it, but it would certainly be helpful to us to know, since at the time of the passage of the Redundancy Rebates Act there had been a substantial increase in the Redundancy Fund, how the balance in that Fund now stands, or how it will stand after effect has been given to this order.

As I understand it anyway, an effect of the order will be to increase the amount of contribution to be made by the Government to increased redundancy payments to be made by employers. In those circumstances, the strictures which we made at the time of the passage of the Redundancy Rebates Act do not, as we see it, apply. We are therefore content that this order be approved.

My Lords, there is one question which I should like to ask the noble Lord, and which I am afraid will display a great deal of ignorance on my part. He referred once or twice to insolvency. Can he refresh my memory in a sentence or two as to what happens in the event of 100 per cent. redundancy due to the employer either going into voluntary liquidation or going bankrupt?

5.28 p.m.

My Lords, in reply to the noble Viscount who has just spoken, this was a short, quick question. On the spur of the moment I cannot give him an adequate answer. I shall endeavour to have it in hand before the debate is finished. If we are not successful, I shall give it to him in the House's usual fashion.

The noble Earl, Lord Gowrie, referred to indexation. I should like to clear up this position. The answer on indexation is that it is not indexation. The Minister has to have regard under Section 86 to, among other things, the general level of earnings. There is no general intention to use the index link. He referred to my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer taking note of certain things. That note will be passed to my right honourable friend, but of course the noble Earl will not expect me to stand at this Box and try to answer for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That is the last thing on earth that I should like to do at the present time.

So far as price inflation is concerned, to which the noble Earl referred, there is no attempt to keep in line with this because the Act expressly requires the review to bring increases of guaranteed pay in line with the general level of earnings. Guaranteed pay is in fact a form of pay and because it is expressed as an absolute sum there must be a device to raise it with pay.

As I expected, the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, referred to the previous debate on the rebate order. I cannot at the moment give him the effect of these new provisions on the fund but I can tell him that, as at 25th November 1977, the fund's total was £24 million. As for the vexed question—and I appreciate it is a vexed question—of the 41 per cent. rebate, as I promised when the ' order was before the House, it will be reviewed. It has of course been operating for only three months. I can guarantee that there will be a review, but, as the noble Lord will expect, I cannot guarantee the result of that review.

Since speaking I have been given the figures of the total cost. The overall cost will be approximately £4·5 million on redundancy, and so on, and £3 million on statutory guaranteed payments at current levels of short time; on average, about £7 million overall. On the question of the rebate, it is true that employers provide the money for the fund, which, as I say, is in surplus to the tune of £24 million now, but to abolish the employers' contribution would be wholly against the basic concept of the scheme and there is no prospect of a change. The only possible prospect of any change is a review in due course and a possible upgrading to 50 per cent. or something of that order, but I am not making a forecast and to do so would be too dangerous at this stage. I hope I have covered most of the points that have been raised and, if I have not covered that of the 100 per cent. redundancy, I will have the matter looked into and send the noble Lord concerned an adequate answer.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Television And Radio

5.32 p.m.

rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will set up a commission of inquiry to investigate and report on the beneficial effects of television and radio. My Lords, I wish at the outset to thank noble Lords who have put their names down to speak in this short debate and particularly to welcome to the list of speakers the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, and the noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, who will be making their maiden speeches, which I am sure the House will listen to with enormous interest.

I have an interest to declare. I am a director of a commercial radio company and I also happen to be a television writer. Recently I have not been writing so many television series but have been concentrating on books. However, I have thought recently that I might try to get back into television and perhaps even star your Lordships' House. While I have been sitting waiting for this debate to begin I have been pondering on a few possible titles, such as Longford of the Lords, Harris of the Home Office, Peart of the Peers or, perhaps most sensational of all, Lady Llewelyn-Davies, Gentleman-at-Arms.

I have tabled this Question to try to redress the balance a little, because what upsets me as a professional working in television—I know it upsets many splendid professionals working in TV—is the fact that, whenever it is mentioned, it seems that the only word used in connection with it is "violence" and that when an inquiry is set up its only brief seems to be to study the relationship between television and the increasing violence in our society.

I wonder whether noble Lords could even guess at the number of research studies that have been undertaken into this theme—20, 30, 40 or even 50? If one includes the cinema, there have been no fewer than 360 studies in the last 45 years into the relationship between the screen and violence, all of them attempting to answer the question whether violence seen on the screen leads directly to violent actions by the viewer. Any wonder that the professionals in television sometimes think that the more positive aspects of their contributions to society are being overlooked?

I am not protesting that there is no problem. Nor am I saying there should not be inquiries. I am not even suggesting that everything is sweetness and light from the point of view of television. But I hope to show that there is a great deal of sweetness and light and that it appears to be overlooked. However, it is certain—this is the purpose of my Question—that there has not been one study directed to the proposition that perhaps there maybe a shade of a shadow of a chance that all the television we see may have increased the sum of human happiness, may have made many people more aware of themselves, may have increased the potential of a great number of people and made them happier. I have not heard of one report of this description, although there were aspects of the Annan Report which touched on the subject.

One other point on this aspect, because I think violence has had its innings. A Home Office research study which carried out an analysis of the 360 other studies I have mentioned on the subject found they all led up the same road and to the same conclusion. That was that the possibility that violent actions seen on the screen will initiate violent action by the viewer is remote and, apart from very young children, is limited to a few unusual individuals. That was a summary of 360 separate studies into this subject.

As I said, I am not suggesting that television and radio have clean hands and that there should be no check on standards, but having said that, I have this proposition to put to the House: if it is said that television can affect the viewer in undesirable ways, may not the converse also be true? Is it not possible that it may also influence others towards positive good? And if there is no truth in that proposition, all I can say is that the many religious advisers who work for the media must be wasting their time because presumably they prepare their programmes in the very hope that they may influence people towards their idea of good.

I believe it goes a little further than that and that the people who focus only on the more sensational aspects of television—those who see only the dustbins and not the whole view—are doing a positive disservice, for to blame television for the increase in violence in our society and for the supposed decline in standards is far too easy because that diverts us from the task of tackling the evils of our society. We need to attack the real source of our problem and not build a scapegoat in the shape of a cathode ray tube or a transistor radio. Do I have to point out seriously to all the critics that the springs of violence flow from different sources, sources which have little or nothing to do with the television screen?

Television is not responsible for the decay of our inner cities, nor creates either the mentality or the property developers that have savaged our community. Television did not create the conditions which have led to the formation of such bodies as the National Front or the Provisional IRA. Television cannot be blamed for the existence of racial and religious prejudice. Television did not create 1½ million unemployed and inflation. Television did not create the sense of frustration and boredom which affects so many among the deprived majority of our young people and which drives a small minority of that majority to the extremes of hooliganism, vandalism and gang warfare. Television may reflect these things, but it did not create them and it should not be blamed for them.

We can solve these and other problems only by social action and by creating the social will to do so; by rebuilding the moral muscle of our people, and in this task television and radio should not be seen as the villain but as the ally and partner because it not only can play a vital and leading role; it is in fact doing so. It is doing an enormous amount to combat the kind of evils I have mentioned. I have collected evidence from all the television companies, not only in my lifetime but in the last week or so in preparation for this debate; and the mass of evidence has bowled even me over.

I will mention just one issue to your Lordships—that of unemployment. There is hardly a television or a local radio station which has not done magnificent work in this area. I can give your Lordships only a few examples in the time available. Capital Radio runs a programme called " Job Spot", which has helped thousands of youngsters in their search for employment. It has an enormous audience. Young people ring in, and they can go into the foyer of the Capital Radio studios. Thousands of them have been fixed up with work.

Westward Television has an even more impressive scheme, called "Just the Job", which is linked with the National Extension College at Cambridge. One thousand eight hundred people responded to Westward Television's programme. Fifty counsellors were appointed to advise the people who applied. Job hunting kits were issued to explain to young people, and to others, how to dress, how to apply for a job, how to speak up at an interview, and so forth. The result in terms of success exceeded even Westward Television's hopes.

Anglia Television staged a remarkable initiative with a programme called "Enterprise". There was the problem of Corby New Town, which is basically a steel town with massive unemployment and very little chance of further development. In association with the Corby Development Corporation, Anglia Television ran a competition to find small businessmen in the entire region who would go to Corby and open up small businesses to give employment. Hundreds of entries were received. It was an astounding depth of response. The matter was discussed in depth on television, and the prizewinner was given a free factory by Corby Development Corporation. Dozens of other small businesses are going into Corby as a result of that marvellous initiative. That same company, following a discussion on television, took four small businessmen abroad to test their export potential, and those four businessmen returned absolutely elated because they had captured a quarter of a million pounds-worth of export orders. That is the kind of thing that television is doing, and which it can do much more of, if we focus a little more on its positive advantages. When I say television I am using shorthand for television and radio.

In particular, regional television and local radio have a splendid record in the field of social help, and they have achieved a marvellous sense of identification with their communities. I have already mentioned Capital Radio. It has a scheme called " Help Line", which is open 24 hours a day, manned by six people. People ring up in the middle of the night saying that they are going to commit suicide, and they are held on the 'phone long enough to get the police around to them, or to talk them out of it. People come on the line with dozens and dozens of different social problems, and the girls taking the calls give them all the help and advice they need and direct them towards the various organisations.

BBC Radio Medway has given the freedom of the air to dozens of local associations, ranging from the social services to the chamber of commerce. It runs a regular Citizens' Advice Bureau of the Air, and a special Lost Pets Service. Radio Nottingham looked for, and found, illegal child minders. Radio Cleveland brought in, in one half hour, 150 volunteers to fight a moorland fire. Radio Cumbria found ewes for 400 orphaned lambs last spring.

The list goes on and on. It is real community service which is provided by television and radio. Only lack of time prevents me from extending what is an enormously impressive list. But I must mention one further initiative. This is the volunteer centre sponsored by the Home Office, which has a direct link with such programmes as " Reports Action", on Granada and " Respond", on Ulster Television. This is the first community action series to go out in Northern Ireland.

The BBC is also running series which focus on social issues, such as mentally handicapped children, and there is that marvellous series "Moving On", on the subject of illiteracy. I believe that this programme has recruited a quarter of a million former illiterates and put them in the way of learning how to read and write. These are marvellous programmes which stimulate people to voluntary action, and positively help the less fortunate. Thousands of people have come forward and been recruited into the voluntary organisations as a result of these programmes.

I should like to give your Lordships just one other statistic on another subject—crime. I refer here to a report from the Metropolitan Police. In 1975, 339 cases of actual crime were shown on television in "Police 5". In 152 cases (slightly under half), viewers came forward with evidence which was of positive value to the police—and that was according to the police. In 117 cases (about one-third) the police say that arrests came as a direct result of the help of the television viewers.

That is just a sample of the direct social action that can be stimulated by television and radio. But there is, of course, a deeper effect. On one level, the sheer entertainment and relaxation provided by television and radio is something which we all need, but which particularly benefits the lonely and the old, giving them a window on the world. I remember, in particular, what television meant to my mother in her last years. It brought her enormous comfort and pleasure, which she would have been denied 20 or 30 years previously. I am sure that we all know of thousands and thousands of people in similar circumstances who get sheer pleasure out of television. I am sure that all your Lordships, like myself, have moods in which you return home after a very hard day and do not want to do anything serious. You just want to lie back in an armchair and, in a way, let the television wash over you, and entertain you. In that respect, it is marvellous.

Television is a theatre, a concert hall, an art gallery, a music hall, a lecture room, a cinema, a sports stadium, a newspaper, a popular magazine. The effect that this fantastic medium has had on widening horizons can hardly be measured, but it must be of enormous significance. I should like to quote the Annan Report on this matter. It says:

"Arts programmes are not unique in evoking something more than the normal response when we sit down to look or listen to television or radio. Nature programmes, such as those made by the BBC's National Natural History Unit at Bristol, can enrich people's conception of life: as can BBC Television's 'The World about Us' and Granada's Disappearing World '. So, indeed, can programmes of men's lives and their work in the countryside, such as John Betjeman exploring East Anglian churches—and railways. Our response to life can be deepened by all sorts of programmes, such as the BBC television film 'Marek', which told the story of an unsuccessful hole-in-the-heart operation on a young boy; by some religious programmes … or programmes which give our knowledge of the world a new dimension, such as … Dr. Jacob Bronowski's ' Ascent of Man '…".

The Annan Report speaks also about the growth of natural history, and how this has enormously extended people's horizons and given them an opportunity to think about subjects which perhaps would not have come their way in any other way.

Let me talk for a moment about television and radio as a theatre. I mention particularly the BBC, but everything I say in this area applies equally to ITV. The BBC, for example, broadcasts about 500 hours of drama each year, including serious serials and single plays. About 140 hours of music programmes are also televised, including concerts, and some are broadcast simultaneously with BBC Radio 3. That is an enormous output.

Let me give your Lordships one example involving Scottish Television, which has done much to support Scottish Opera. Not only has it been responsible for establishing the Scottish Opera Company but it has now set it up in its own opera house. Southern Television has done much to support Glyndebourne, and indeed it has brought Glyndebourne before millions of people, instead of it remaining an entertainment only for the élite. It

was estimated that it would have taken 1,088 completely crowded nights at Covent Garden to have reached the same audience as Southern Television did with one transmission from Glyndebourne of the Marriage of Figaro. AT V's "Edward VII" showed us something of the history of our country, and many other serials have explained our background and our past in a way in which other media sometimes cannot.

I am nipping through this because I realise that it is getting late. I could go on and on with some of the facts and figures that I have here. But I shall skip a little and turn briefly to children's programmes, because here, I think, lies the strongest criticism about television—that it makes children, or some children, violent. In fact, there is ample evidence to show that it also plays a very positive role with children. One characteristic of all the programmes that are being made by both channels for children today is that they set out to encourage individual thought and action on the part of the audience. About half the items in "Blue Peter" or "Jackanory" are actually suggested by the children themselves, who write in about 4,000 letters a week. When they are invited to join in helping others less fortunate than themselves, the response is overwhelming; and competitions to design a train of the future, to compose limericks, to make models or to design new clothes bring a large response. One competition for a " Keep Britain Tidy " poster drew 150,000 entries. It is not only entertainment for children, either. There is a great deal, as your Lordships know, in terms of education in programmes like "Search", where children are encouraged to investigate such subjects as old age, space exploration, the environment, adventure training and so forth.

In another area, all television and radio companies have a tremendous record of patronage of the arts. Here, the figures are quite staggering. The BBC has 11 permanent orchestras which employ 553 musicians; that is to say, it employs something like 30 per cent. of the full-time professional orchestral players in this country. This is a commitment greater than is required for the needs of broadcasting, but for various reasons the BBC do it, and all honour to them. There are no permanent light orchestras in this country other than those maintained by the BBC, so if the BBC did not exist there would be no equivalent to the Concert Orchestras, the Radio Orchestra, the Northern Radio Orchestra, the Midland Radio Orchestra and so on. In this way and through its support of the Proms, and so on, it has made an enormous contribution to our musical life.

As your Lordships can see, I am flipping through my notes because I realise that I am taking rather a lot of time, but I think I have said enough to show that there is a really positive side to the work done by television and radio. I think that what I have said shows that there is a need for a balanced inquiry into its work; not a one-legged, one-eyed inquiry which focuses on only one aspect, such as the relationship between television and radio and violence. I am proud to have worked in television for 30 years, and I am proud to have had this opportunity to speak for my fellow professionals on this matter, who, I can assure your Lordships, feel very strongly. I hope that the Government will consent to inquire into this matter, but, even if they do not, I hope that the record that I have read out will at least inspire them to do something which is urgently necessary; that is, seriously to consider giving the BBC an increased licence fee, and giving it for a longer period of years, so that they can plan ahead and one of our greatest institutions can continue to carry on with the splendid work that it is doing.

5.53 p.m.

My Lords, to follow the noble Lord, Lord Willis, is a frightening prospect. In fact, he encompassed so much in what I thought would be a brief but what turned out to be a prolonged and very vivid flash of his blue lamp that I think we have all been blinded by what he has had to say. It was so encompassing that, with regret. I could see that I was going to have to strike out some of the statistics which I thought were particularly effective, so my speech will be even more brief than it would otherwise have been. I think that perhaps that is rather a good thing, because we have a number of speakers tonight; and I, too, should like to say how much I am looking forward to hearing our two maiden speakers.

We must all thank the noble Lord for giving us this opportunity to debate the benefits of broadcasting. In fact, it gives us the opportunity to emphasise those very real benefits. I am not sure, I am afraid, that I can agree that we should have a commission of inquiry. I think we should take every opportunity to discuss these benefits, and I think we should go on taking every opportunity so that we can emphasise them to Her Majesty's Government and to all those people who, I am afraid, get me very annoyed—the " knockers". They " knock " anything they can get their hands on. In this connection I was glad to hear the noble Lord raise the question of violence, which I want to come on to a little later, because to some extent that is a bandwagon.

My Lords, my job takes me through Europe and to the United States of America, and I have seen the extremes of television. On the one hand, you have the absolute, utter, dreary drabness of the heavy-handed propaganda in Communist bloc countries, where there is no mixture. There may occasionally be the good thing that comes on but, overall, they are fed a diet. On the other hand, in the United States you have the extraordinary situation that, because it is so big, so much of it is so had. Furthermore, despite the fact that it is so big, you have to watch these bad programmes with a terrible picture as well, which ends up almost giving you a headache. So if I say that from my own experience we have the best broadcasting in the world, I think there are other noble Lords who would agree with me. I do not think I am being chauvinistic; I think this is a fairly reasonable assumption to make. It has certainly been said to me by friends in other countries, both in Europe and in America.

My Lords, I believe that we have the best, despite all the "knockers", for a number of reasons. We have the best because we have a mixture. A mixture does not mean that everybody is happy with everything. After the debate we had the other day, 1 suppose it could be said that if we had a fourth channel more people would be happy for more of the time, but I rather doubt it. I think we get a very good service; and although, perhaps, I do not like football as much as I like, say, motor-racing—and I certainly would not be watching that much football—I know that the majority of people do. This goes for cultural programmes. Some people want to watch them and some do not; but when it comes to cultural programmes overall, the mixture is there and a number of people benefit from it.

As I understand it, my Lords, the objectives of broadcasting as a whole are to entertain and to educate, and to give a general service. I think this is being done very adequately. The noble Lord referred to his mother and to when she was ill. I can refer to what a tremendous service it does for the lonely, as well as the sick. To old people it means everything in the world to have their television set. It is a companion, and I believe it is a companion which speaks to them, often in their own language; although sometimes, unfortunately, they are not quite aware of what it is and certainly do not agree with it. But that is one of the facts that we have to live with, especially with age.

I mentioned the shrill voices of criticism, and I am afraid that these were heard even among the members of the Annan Committee. I remember the noble Lord, Lord Willis, mentioning this when we had our debate the other day. I do not like that heavy-handed, Cromwellian attitude of some critics who say that you have got to give the people what they need as opposed to what they think they need. I think that you give them what they want, at the same time helping them, educating them and giving them benefits. I think that at the moment this is the case, and the longer and louder we say that the more important it is. I also take exception to the attitude, which has been mentioned, that television or radio, or what-have-you, is too important to leave to the experts. This is a high-handed, arrogant attitude; and if we did not have such jolly good experts as we do, we would not have the good broadcasting service that we have today. So I would hope that other noble Lords will dispose of that particular line of argument.

My Lords, the criticism of the service that comes over masks many of the achievements, and, to put it into perspective—I will not bore your Lordships with instances because the noble Lord, Lord Willis, covered these matters quite adequately—from my point of view one of the areas is the general awareness that, even though you may be living in the remotest part of the country, you are up to the minute on the news of what is happening in the Middle East. People who live in tiny villages, where the news used to take ages to reach them, are now as up to date as we are in Westminster. Also, it has increased the overall area of literacy, I believe; and it has done a tremendous service with current affairs programmes. Everybody now has the opportunity of being up to date.

On the cultural side, the noble Lord quoted some figures on musicians. I should like to highlight the incredible thing which the BBC have done with the "Promenade Concerts" which have done so very much for us here and which are listened to throughout the world. On the television side, I think that one ought to put the situation in perspective. As the noble Lord has said, one showing can outnumber so many performances. It has been shown that the Royal Shakespeare Company's Antony and Cleopatra performance on 28th July 1974 was seen by 1·7 million people as against all the performances throughout the period which would have reached only 0·8 million people. One showing can do so much. The same applies to the Merchant of Venice. It was seen by 2·7 million people compared with the combined figures for 1976–77 of only 0·83 million people. It does so much at one go. There is a high content of these cultural programmes which are put over in such a way that people do not switch off to something else; they actually watch.

I will not bore your Lordships with other figures but they are all here. You can see how much it has done for ordinary people to appreciate opera, ballet and everything they would not have had the opportunity to see; for it is an effort to come up to London and, perhaps, to Covent Garden, even if you can afford the price of the tickets which is astronomical. Broadcasting brings it within the reach of everybody.

Finally, I want to come on to one aspect about which all the "knockers" jumped on the bandwagon. It is the subject of violence. Probably violence can do harm. I am not saying that there is not a need for research, but I believe that people can read too much into a report—that of William Belsen—when only the conclusions were put out. I should say that I have been involved in research and I certainly should be too nervous to draw conclusions before I saw all the figures. It is, surely, a bit premature that everybody should scream about this before the full report is out. The full report will not be published until 1978. Let us keep it in perspective and see at the end of the day what it is and how the methodology runs. Not everybody agrees that the methodology is right.

Probably what I am about to say now will push Lord Willis's eyebrows into his hairline. I believe there is a need for further research. But I should like to say that I am not advocating 361-onwards of studies into violence; but I think that, rather than having a commission of inquiry, Her Majesty's Government should instigate, or assist in the instigation of, further research programmes which evaluate the overall effects of television—and I mean definitive studies; not small ones, not ones with questionable methodology, but studies which everybody concerned with research agrees would provide overall the sort of figures on which conclusions can be drawn. It may not come up the first time; it may require more refining before we get to a research which can give a true picture, but I believe that we ought to do this. The need is to get people's attitudes and the in-depth reasons for those attitudes and what are all the effects. It is not to be done just as research, which so often gives merely a surface reason. It is the in-depth reasons that we must all know about. It is in those areas, I believe, that we can start to take decisions about the future.

I hope that when the White Paper comes out as a result of the Annan Report we do not go rushing off to talk about commissions on broadcasting and all the rest. We have a good service. When you have a good thing you do not tinker with it. It is like a television set. The more you tinker with it, the more it will go wrong. We have something which is good. Let us just be careful about improving it instead of kicking it. Let us try to get some fine tuning so that it gets even better. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, when he replies, will give us some views as to whether Her Majesty's Government may take some action in terms of instigating some in-depth definitive research. I believe, with due respect to the noble Lord, that this will be of much more use than a commission of inquiry.

6.6 p.m.

My Lords, I, too, will endeavour to be brief. This is a subject on which everybody is an expert. Even people who never watch any television are expert about it. People who say they have not got it, do not like it, will go on telling you for hours about programmes that they do not like. It is that kind of subject, on which each and everybody could say a great deal, and would like to. But we have to discipline ourselves a little. At the start, like the noble Lord, Lord Willis, I declare an interest. I have spent much of my life professionally engaged in broadcasting; in one way or another and, as some noble Lords know, for eight years I have written and presented a regular, almost daily, programme—an information service, a kind of Citizens' Advice Bureau of the air, for Granada Television in the Granada area. In addition, like the noble Lord, Lord Willis, I am a director of an independent broadcasting company and I therefore declare an interest.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for giving us the opportunity to look at this subject, but I am quite sure that he will not mind if I say to him at once that I am not going far with him in asking for any new commissions of inquiry. We have had enough commissions. It also seems to me that we do not need a commission of inquiry in order to demonstrate what surely is self-evident. It goes without saying that broadcasting, radio or television, over the years has given an enormous number of people a great deal of pleasure. To return to the words of the noble Lord's Unstarred Question, it refers to "the beneficial effects of television and radio". Let me assert at once, lest there are too many puritans present here, that I personally regard pleasure as beneficial. I do not think that many noble Lords here will suggest that television and radio have not given a great deal of pleasure to a great many people—and if they have done that, they have done something beneficial indeed.

I will try to be brief, and I will therefore restrict my words to two particular areas. I should like to talk about two areas in which broadcasting has been particularly helpful, and to underline what it has done in those two areas from my own personal experience and involvement. First of all, I want to say a word about what television and radio have done for the elderly. As a general practitioner, I have visited old people in their homes. I have done so for many years and I can say without fear of contradiction that the lives of many of these old people living alone have been utterly transformed by television. The days when all the lights were put out at nine o'clock and nothing else happened have gone. Many of these old people sit—they may not be learning much; I am not very bothered about that—and enjoy themselves watching television programmes until the last flicker of light disappears from the television screen; and then they go off to bed.

These are people who now feel involved in life again, in a way in which they were not. I know that they could read, that many went out and joined societies, did this or that, but there is no doubt that broadcasting, and, in particular, television, has changed in the most dramatic way the lives of many elderly people. The proof of that is to see the extent to which these people are utterly bereaved if and when there is a strike or an industrial dispute or something else deprives them of their television for so much as a day or two. Let us remember this is something which broadcasting has done for the elderly in our society—a valuable service to which we all should pay tribute.

I want to talk about television and radio as an important and crucial source of information in a country in which life is becoming ever more complex and confusing. This also concerns the elderly. When I talk about elderly people it is a fact that the complicated and elaborate network of machinery designed to give assistance to people in difficulties is something which the people who are in most need find the greatest difficulty in penetrating. It has been my experience, looking at the Welfare State over many years, that the people who get absolutely everything to which they could be conceivably entitled are very rarely the people who are in the greatest need. The people who are in the greatest need are those who have the greatest difficulty in finding out what is available to help them, where they can get it, and how to go about it.

We know that Ministers in the Department of Health and Social Security are worried about the take-up of benefits. One Minister in the Department said recently that in his area they had £300 million worth of benefits which were waiting to be claimed by the people for whom they were intended. It is not charity; very often this is money which they themselves have provided in the past through taxation and in other ways. It is not going out to them because they do not know about it. Nothing can remedy that kind of situation more than radio and television, particularly if done properly in an intimate and direct way to the people concerned so that they can be among those who understand what is going on and find out what to do about it.

I do not wish to criticise the Civil Service or the enormous range of leaflets which the Department of Health and Social Security put out, but they are not the most readable documents that one can find, nor are they easily understood by the people for whom they are intended. Perhaps that cannot be helped because the documents have to be correct. Television and radio can put these things over to people in an immediate and understandable way which can totally change the lack of take-up about which Ministers are complaining.

If I may underline my own experience, when I was involved in a series of television programmes explaining the role of the rent tribunal office—what the rent officer could do, who did what, and so on, and how to go to the rent tribunal officer with certain problems—on the day following one programme the rent tribunal office in Manchester had more callers than they had had in their whole history of 3½ years of existence. As they stated later, every single one of those people had a problem which he or she could have brought forward before. They had not done so because they did not know about the tribunals. There were leaflets but they had not seen them. There were organisations and bodies like the Citizens' Advice Bureaux to help them. But nothing can help people in those difficulties more than broadcasting. It is immensely encouraging to me to see the extent to which broadcasting stations up and down the country are beginning to turn their attention to social involvement of that kind and to being a genuine information service in the truest sense.

The noble Lord, Lord Willis, has given many examples about this. I could give many more, both in television and radio companies. I am glad that he paid tribute to commercial radio companies because they have undertaken a social service in a very significant way. There are facts and figures to back this up and to show that they are getting home to an enormous number of people information which would otherwise pass them by. I underline those two elements of the benefits of broadcasting: the striking, dramatic benefits to the elderly in transforming their lives, widening their horizons, bringing them back into a kind of involvement with life which in the past without broadcasting they lost; secondly, a potent and important source of information.

I hope that in future discussions we will not preoccupy ourselves utterly with television to the exclusion of radio. Radio has a continuing role which must be fostered carefully. It has one significant and outstanding advantage over television. Television has the difficulty that it has to compete for the attention of the viewer with the viewer's ordinary home surroundings, with children's homework or with the jobs which ought to be done, the washing up, or whatever it is. Therefore it has constantly to make an immediate impact in order to get hold of a person's attention. This limits the way in which we can do certain things.

The noble Lord, Lord Willis, referred to drama. Many great plays have started with a slow, explanatory first act. They have later built up towards a climax in the final act. As the noble Lord knows well, you cannot do that on television. If you have a slow, explanatory first act, the viewers will switch to the other channel. Television, because it requires immediacy, has certain limitations. In addition, it does not have the kind of audience participation that radio broadcasting has. To listen to radio one has to visualise and take part. We should do all we can do to encourage radio and make the radio companies and BBC sound radio understand that they are not just the poor relations which gradually will be allowed to die off because they have been superseded. This is wrong. They have not been superseded. Radio broadcasting brings an element of audience participation which television broadcasting does not always bring. I hope that whatever we do for the BBC about licence fees or for the independent companies, independent radio or local radio, we remember that radio has a real place. It must be cherished, fostered and preserved. It must not be regarded as a somehow inferior and superseded communication which has been replaced by something better.

I have spoken for longer than I intended, but I hope the House will agree with me wholeheartedly that broadcasting in all its forms has brought about immense benefits. We must continue to allow it to do so. So far as violence is concerned, do as I do—switch off. Whether it does harm or good, I do not like it and therefore I do not watch it. If everybody else took the same attitude, we should have much less of it.

6.18 p.m.

My Lords, the generous way in which your Lordships welcome maiden speeches has given me the courage to rise to my feet today. I can only hope that the ordeal is worse for me than it will be for your Lordships. Since I took my seat in your Lordships' House, I have been moved by the kind things that noble Lords on both sides of the House have had to say to me about my father; and the thought of attempting to follow in his footsteps is a daunting prospect. I will not take up much time this evening for two reasons: one is that I have agreed with everything that has been said so far; secondly, one of your Lordships recently explained that if a maiden speaker spoke for too long he ceased to be a maiden while still in the act of making his speech. I want to avoid that fate, whatever it may be.

Turning to the debate, I must first declare an interest as I am a director of a local commercial radio company in the North-East. I anticipated that there would be much talk of television today and I shall talk purely about local radio. I have been a firm believer in local radio ever since I spent some time in America, where there are an extraordinary number of radio stations covering an enormous variety of tastes and topics, and offering the listener an amazingly wide choice. I was delighted when local radio became a reality in this country and I quickly became involved in it.

The 19 independent commercial radio stations are proving extremely popular in this country, as your Lordships know. All I can say is that one hopes that the 18 million people who cannot yet receive local radio will be able to do so before too long. I hope that the question of extending the independent local radio stations will not be a difficult decision for the Government to take, as independent local radio is a real instance of public service without public expense. There are already 13½ million adults listening to local radio for an average of 12·4 hours a week or, to put it another way, adults in ILR areas spend more than 167 million hours a week listening.

I should like just to pinpoint some of the benefits which have resulted from local radio stations. We have heard some examples already, and I have chosen rather similar examples which emphasise the point. Radio is a marvellous companion: perhaps it has an advantage over television in that it goes with you in your car or when you do the housework; it has been of immense benefit to the old or to people with weak vision, to the ill, to the young. Indeed, virtually everyone uses and enjoys radio. It is a wonderfully intimate medium, with a sort of one-to-one relationship.

There are very practical examples of how local radio has acted not only as a companion and friend but as a life-saver. That has been touched on already, and perhaps I can give your Lordships a detailed example. In Newcastle, Metro Radio has been providing a service of help to listeners with personal problems. One day, a young woman telephoned the station to say that because she felt she could not face life as a single parent, with responsibility for a child only a few months old, she had decided to end her life. She asked Metro to look after the child—quite an interesting fact in itself. The director of the programme kept the young woman talking and managed to get her telephone number. The station immediately contacted the woman's doctor, who was then able to save her life, following an overdose of sleeping pills.

Local radio has given a real sense of community, especially in such an area as mine in the North-East, which has been torn apart by successive local government reorganisations. Local appeals have been most successful. For example, in Manchester, Piccadilly Radio's Easter Appeal for disadvantaged children living in Greater Manchester brought in 8,000 toys. A programme designed to help Stockport District Council to fight vandalism resulted in 600 teenagers giving their support to the campaign.

From the outset, every ILR station has gone out of its way to involve itself deeply in the community. Just to give your Lordships some examples from my area, Radio Tees has supported and sponsored concerts and has helped the Durham Area Health Authority over campaigns on smoking, diet and food care, which led the Authority to review its policies on those matters. When there was a case of polio in Middlesbrough and a major vaccination campaign was required, Radio Tees invited listeners to obtain full details of vaccination centres and times, by phoning the station's phone-in number. Over a period of 48 hours, a Post Office recorder logged a total of 14,000 calls. An interesting combination of advertising and public service took place when ICI bought advertising in our area. That was to promote industrial safety, and they said it had resulted in a marked drop in the number of industrial accidents in ICI factories.

Turning to Swansea, Swansea Sound has established such a good relationship with steel workers in South Wales that during a steel industry dispute on at least one occasion the unions refused to start a news conference until the presence of the Swansea Sound man had been established. In Edinburgh, Radio Forth has actively helped the Employment Services Agency in running a job week particularly to help the disabled and school-leavers. Employers spoke about their requirements and job seekers talked about their hopes and needs. Afterwards, the Secretary of State for Scotland said that Radio Forth was entitled to blow its own trumpet over the success of the project, and the managers of job centres in Edinburgh were extremely pleased with the results.

Another unique facility of radio which has also been touched on is the fact that it can react instantaneously to any event. At Radio Tees, I am told that over 95 per cent. of the output is live 18 hours a day, seven days a week. This gives amazing flexibility. It is clearly very helpful for people to know about up-to-date traffic conditions and about the local news which may affect them and, indeed, also to know about special offers in the local shops which are advertised on local radio.

I could cite many other examples of the way in which local radio benefits each community but, for the reasons mentioned earlier, I shall not trespass further on your Lordships' time. I should like to end simply by saying that I hope it will not be long before there are more local radio stations in operation to serve those parts of the community which are not lucky enough to have them yet.

6.26 p.m.

My Lords, I am not usually lucky in raffles or ballots, but today I consider myself especially fortunate in that I have been drawn on the list in a position which enables me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, on his maiden speech. Like many others in this House, I served with his distinguished father in another place for many years where, as the noble Lord will know, his father was liked and respected by everyone on both sides of the House. I am very pleased to follow the noble Lord also because he has covered a theme in which I am especially interested. I had some responsibility in choosing the lucky 19 out of 64 applicants—it is probably true to say that the remaining 45 were very disappointed. However, if I may say so, he omitted just one thing: may I put it in for him. I hope that when the 20th is announced it will be Cardiff, which is in fact the only capital city without an independent local radio station. I am sure that the House has been delighted to hear what the noble Lord had to say and would like to hear him again as often as he wishes to address us.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Willis for initiating this debate, but I would hardly think it necessary to draw attention to the benefits of television and radio which, as all the speakers have proved so far, are generally accepted and understood. Nevertheless, in view of the oft-repeated comments which seem to attribute many of the world's troubles and ills to this section of the media, I think it is necessary on occasions to say something in defence of television and radio. The Acts and the Charter governing television require the broadcasting authorities to entertain, to educate and to inform. It is sometimes a little difficult to draw a line between them as to where one begins and the other ends, because some programmes encompass the whole thing.

In the area of entertainment, there is surely something for everyone: sport, drama, light entertainment, comedy and so on. I know from my own experiences that viewers often complain about too much sport, and I read in the paper today that, there is a possibility of television coverage from Australia of what I call "Packer's Pets". All I hope is that it does not coincide with some football; otherwise we shall have some more trouble. I hope that it will be fitted in at some other point. In addition to sport, of course, critics frequently complain about the drama and about the comedy. The allegation made with regard to sport is that it is biased. It is said that the drama is too permissive and, as the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has mentioned, that there is violence running through the whole thing.

The Acts require that the broadcasting authorities should have in mind programmes which "are not offensive to public feeling." That really is a formidable requirement, for one asks oneself: what is public feeling, or what is public taste? I know what I as an individual believe is public taste, but I am quite sure that in any gathering there will be as many interpretations of good taste as there are individuals trying to define it. However, I must make the point that one can choose the theatre which one goes to, and the play which one sees. One can also choose the book which one reads. But television programmes are in the home without very much choice, other than the three programmes and the on/off switch. I have frequently been told that one can use the on/off switch but I should think that nothing is calculated to cause more disharmony in any home than the use of the on/off switch, especially when some other members of the family want to look at a certain programme.

The requirement to determine public taste, and what is or is not offensive to public feeling, is extremely difficult. Do we really want to return to the morality and the sociological conditions of a century or more ago? I know that some will certainly say, "Yes". Perhaps those days were very moral on the surface, but there were appalling conditions underneath—gin shops, abject poverty and every kind of depravity, such as child prostitution and the like. Those were the good old days of 100 or more years ago. They were certainly not more moral, in the true sense of "morality", than are the present days.

How frequently do we hear in this Chamber—in fact, I think I heard it last week—that television is a considerable contributory factor to the current wave of violence in Northern Ireland? Unfortunately, many people sincerely believe this to be the case; but there is very little proof that television or radio is a contributory factor to violence at all. Research has been mentioned and I know that the Independent Broadcasting Authority, as it now is, has spent over the years more than £350,000 on such research, most of it academic research in one university or another. But one asks oneself: What other research is there that can assure objectivity and lack of bias? In, I think, the University of Leicester there is a department which has done a considerable amount of work in this direction, but the end result of all the research mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Willis, is at best inconclusive.

I remember reading one report—I have forgotten which, and I have read most of them—which said that it is clear that television affects a child who is subnormal. I do not think it needed a great deal of expense and research to come to that conclusion, because if the poor child starts off subnormal he is likely to be much more affected than the average child. What worries me is that if, without any definite knowledge and simply by voicing personal opinions, one attributes to the young people of today violent and permissive behaviour, then, unfortunately, many people will believe that to be true. I hope that no one in this House would classify the majority of young people today in that field of permissiveness or violence.

In the same field, one should also ask oneself: Is not all drama offensive to someone? Is not King Lear, and other parts of Shakespeare's work, offensive to many people? Is not all news coverage objectionable to someone? Are not documentary and information programmes offensive to someone? Of course they are; but one has to strike a balance and, with the best will in the world, whether it be through academic study or some kind of gallup poll, psychologists and sociologists cannot come up with any definitive answer to the question: What is the effect of television and radio on young people?

In fact, plays are edited and amended. It is strange, but it is a fact which I admit, that if I saw a play in 1967—at that time I was chairman of one of the broadcasting authorities—and felt that something should come out, we took it out. But I am fairly sure that if I saw the same play today I would not hold the same view about it. Have I changed? Probably I have, and I think that most of us have. Therefore, I would emphasise that the broadcasting authorities, the programme directors, the writers and the producers are not evil people with way-out views, endeavouring to corrupt our own young folk. They are all genuinely trying to do a reasonable job, which I believe they succeed in doing. Standards have changed over the years, many would say for the worse; others, equally vociferously, would say for the better. I am sure that in this field every man and every woman is an island.

Still on the question of violence, may I respectfully suggest that if there are noble Lords—and I believe that there are some—who feel that television and radio is a contributory factor, they should read some of the nursery rhymes from their childhood days, Hans Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, or attend a pantomime at Christmas time, when the principal boy puts the question to the children in the audience: "What shall we do with the bad man?" She will be told in no uncertain way: "Cut off his head", "Boil him in oil", and so on. Of course this has gone on through the ages. It is not something which started with television and radio.

May I quote from a speech by a former Home Secretary, who said:
"I have lately obtained the opinion of a number of chief constables, who declare with almost complete unanimity that the recent great increase in juvenile delinquency is, to a considerable extent, due to the demoralising cinematograph films, and there has been evidence with respect to films of other objectionable types which leads to the conclusion that the present censorship arrangements are really not quite adequate".
The former Home Secretary was Mr. Herbert Samuel, in the year 1916. We have not discovered anything when we attribute some of the ills to television and radio. If we care to go back, were not the first cheap newspapers, when they became available to everyone who could afford them, equally blamed for everything that was happening in those days; and so, too, with comic papers and so on? One could go on, but perhaps I should get back to the subject of the beneficial effects of television and radio, having taken what I hope is defensive action.

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend whether he is arguing that television simply does not have any effect on the morals of the country? I am not asking whether it has a good or a bad effect. He obviously thinks that it has a good one, but is he saying that it does not have any effect?

My Lords, I am certainly not saying that it does not have any effect. What I am saying is that the general view that television programmes make a contribution to violence, permissiveness and so on, is not true. It has an effect; it is bound to do so. Otherwise, why would people advertise on television? But it does not have what is generally thought to be an ill effect.

On the subject of beneficial television, I have said a word or two about entertainment and I would now draw the attention of the House to documentary programmes and investigational journalism. That is something else which is occasionally criticised as being quite wrong. Some of the documentaries are acclaimed throughout the world as excellent. They have already been mentioned by the noble Lord opposite, but one could mention a good many others—for example, the wild life series "Survival", or David Attenborough's "Journeys", or Wynford Vaughan Thomas's "Castles of Wales". One could go on and on. These documentaries are excellent. Occasionally, however, one encounters the criticism that the programmes in the field of investigational journalism, as they are generally called, are biased and lack balance. In the first place, usually they are excellently produced. I am convinced that they have uncovered many sociological and industrial ills, but they certainly do not please everyone, especially those who are being investigated. Nevertheless, I agree that this type of programme must be most carefully researched and balanced before transmission. In the last resort, there are always the laws of libel to handle the position.

In the realm of news coverage, one buys the newspaper that contains the views which generally coincide with one's own—or, in these days, the pictures one wishes to see. However, one recognises that, in the main, a newspaper has a political slant of one kind or another. On the other hand, television and radio coverage is required to be fair and unbiased, and generally it is. One hears very few criticisms about news coverage on television.

My Lords, I have spoken for too long. However, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the beneficial effects of radio and television are there for millions of our population to see and to hear. There are some people and organisations which do not accept that there are any such benefits. One knows, regretfully, that there are many people—I hope not too many—who have not moved very far away from the burning of books era of some 20 years ago. I am thankful to my noble friend for introducing this debate. However, like the noble Lord who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench, while I feel that additional research is necessary I implore my noble friend not to proceed in the direction of another commission of inquiry, because the television and radio industry has suffered enough.

6.43 p.m.

My Lords, may I beg the indulgence of the House on the first occasion that I rise to address it. I do so with considerable diffidence because over the past few months it has been obvious that everybody here knows far more than I do about every subject. The same is true tonight. I agree with everything that has been said so far, particularly regarding the educational programmes on television and radio. I must admit, however, that I have understood this Unstarred Question to have a much wider meaning, for it contains the words:

"report on the beneficial effects of television and radio".
If we did not have radio and television today, I believe that Heathrow Airport would come to a grinding halt. Without television and radio, the communications which are necessary to keep large aircraft flying around the world would stop; so to a very large extent would trade. Television can be used as a teaching aid in our universities, hospitals and technical colleges, particularly in situations where the machinery for scientific experiments and carrying out medical operations allows only a limited number of people to see what is happening. The use of television means that very many more students can see what is happening at the time, and when it is combined with videotape the same operation or experiment can be shown to other students at other times. In medicine, where rare, difficult and particularly dangerous operations take place, I should have thought that this was of considerable advantage.

In addition, television systems can be used by the Metropolitan Police for monitoring the road traffic throughout London and for preventing the jams which used to occur in years gone by. These systems have also been used very effectively in Northern Ireland for bomb disposal and have saved a large number of lives. This is because the officers, who so bravely deal with these bombs, can have a good look at them in a number of cases without approaching them. Without television, far more men would be killed.

Apart from dealing with dangerous explosives situations, underwater cameras can be used on the seabed when underwater engineering is taking place, in order to make life easier for engineers and divers. In conjunction with radio, engineering experts on the surface, who are not trained to work underwater, can guide divers about what to do, thus making then job very much more safe and satisfactory. With that slight digression from the broadcasting aspects of radio and television, I should like to thank noble Lords for listening to me.

6.47 p.m.

My Lords, the pleasure falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord who has just spoken, particularly since he has drawn our attention—and I suspect he will be the only noble Lord to do so—to the far wider implications of broadcasting and telecommunications. I congratulate the noble Lord for bringing to our notice the wider use of the marvellous medium of broadcasting. His knowledge came through even during so short but so brilliant a speech. I hope that the House will have the pleasure of hearing him on many occasions.

May I also offer my congratulations to the other noble Lord who made his maiden speech today. He mentioned that radio is an intimate medium and referred to the car. My son-in-law, who is a doctor, once said to me that when he turns on the radio in his car other people get music but he gets his mother-in-law. I told him that he was lucky!

May I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for giving us the opportunity to speak on his Unstarred Question. It was introduced, as usual, in wonderful style. I was only sorry that he cut out a great deal of his speech, because I am quite sure that we should have been happy to hear all of it. I was very glad to hear that a number of ewes appear to be listening to broadcasts and are adopting orphaned lambs. It is heartening to know that our dumb friends also enjoy broadcasting. The prospect of several sheep wearing earphones is delightful. I am delighted to be able to endorse all that the noble Lord, Lord Willis, has said.

All methods of communication suffer constantly from "knocking". Newspapers are very rarely mentioned in this House, except when people wish to criticise them. At present I am involved in a campaign to try to prevent theft, and it has brought me into even closer contact with local radio and television centres. One cannot fail to work closely with them without one's admiration increasing. So far as I can see, there is no attempt to cut the message we wish to put over. Indeed, they urge you by questions and further interrogation to expand on any particular points. Working as I have been with both independent companies and the BBC I find they are very open-minded, if you have any other suggestions to make, particularly on documentary journalism, and one can only have for them the highest praise for the responsible way in which they try to carry out their difficult task.

However, as several noble Lords have said, it is impossible to please everyone. My own mother looks at television or listens to radio all day long and sometimes complains that she can find nothing new. As I pointed out to her, it is unlikely that anybody could constantly devise something new for 24 hours of every day. As the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said, radio and television have opened doors to those who are housebound and to those unable to communicate in other ways, and if it were for that alone we should be eternally grateful. I am glad I live in this century, particularly as a middle-aged woman—and I intend to remain middle-aged until I die; it is much more convenient.

I should like particularly in this debate to emphasise local radio, whether independent or controlled by the BBC. They have a particular role which I would ally to the local paper. Local papers and local communication media generally always promote great loyalty and people listen and look much more carefully to the things which are of immediate concern to them than to matters considered to be of general interest. I wonder why our politicians think that, if you go canvassing, people will talk about devolution or direct elections in Europe. I find that most people will talk to you about their children, their homes, their jobs and what is happening in their area. People who send messages through the radio and television are often much more in tune with what ordinary people want than some of the people who should know. I find that the national networks do not evoke the same response as local radio. As the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said, if you have a phone-in on local radio you get a complete follow-up, whereas if you have it on the national network you may or you may not get a reaction.

Regarding religious broadcasts, I remember once taking part in a religious phone-in programme very late at night when you wonder if people are looking. I was somewhat amazed on the following morning to discover the number of people who seemed to have been avidly watching the screen and listening to the message I was putting over. This rather cheered me because I thought that some kind of a Christian revival was taking place, until my brother informed me that he had seen me. When I said, "I had no idea you looked at religious broadcasts" he replied that he did not but it came at the end of an international soccer match. So it seemed to me that juxtaposition of programmes was something that might be looked at.

I have a very small point on which I should like to ask the help of the Minister. I have not given him notice but this seemed to me a good opportunity to introduce it. When I went to a local broadcasting station recently, I received rather more attention than one normally gets. The red carpet was out; drinks were provided and I was received with great ceremony. In the course of conversation it became obvious why this was so. This particular broadcasting station thought I was a member of the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Having assured them that they had the wrong Baroness, I decided that perhaps I could help them after all. They brought to my notice a point which, though small, affects a number of broadcasting stations, namely, the working of the independent Broadcasting Authority Act in relation to the fact that broadcasting must not be used by one side or another in an industrial dispute. Of course we would not question this; this is quite proper, but companies, while being entitled to send a return to work message where a strike is ended, and obviously there is no industrial dispute, are not able to send out a message while an industrial dispute is in progress.

For example, a very large car concern, which shall be nameless, recently wanted an announcement to go out covering a works meeting to endorse the terms agreed by the management and shop stewards. The station had to refuse this because of the Act. This situation can be duplicated on many occasions, and I would suggest that this is a very narrow interpretation of the section of the Code which reads:
"No advertising may have any relation to any industrial dispute".
I am sure we would not question it, but equally we all want to see our means of communication used by the greatest number for the greatest good, and we all want to see that strikes are brought to a successful conclusion at the earliest possible moment. In my view, communication must be made as available as possible and used in its widest sense, and I would hope that the Minister would use his very wide powers. By merely changing the wording of a Schedule he can, by regulation, make it possible for this to be done.

While repeating again that we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, for introducing this Question, I would add that if a commission could be set up which would not cost money I am sure that many people would cheerfully give their services. For a change, let us have a little glamour attached to the "goodies" rather than to the "baddies".

6.57 p.m.

My Lords, I shall try to be brief at this hour. I was partly stimulated to make my last contribution to your Lordships' House following a programme on London Weekend Television in which the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, took part. Whether any benefit was derived from my contribution is another matter. May I also add my congratulations to the two noble Lords on their excellent and accomplished maiden speeches. They have obviously done a lot of research on the subject. May I advise them to keep the literature which they may have acquired because I am sure that in 20 years' time, if we are all still here, we will be having similar debates on broadcasting. If they want to follow any example in addressing your Lordships' House they can do no better than listen to the noble Lord, Lord Willis, who today, as always, was a pleasure to listen to as well as being very persuasive. The catalogue of programmes which he and many other noble Lords have mentioned made me wish—contrary to usual wisdom—that there were not the various restrictions on repeats. It is certainly worth reminding ourselves of the high standards against which we judge broadcasting, and in particular the BBC. It is worth repeating the opening sentence of the Annan Report's chapters on the BBC:

"The BBC is arguably the single most important cultural organisation in the nation".
When we are told of the extent to which children watch television, the formative cultural influence on them which it provides is incalculable.

I want to talk mainly about the Katz Report, but first I should like briefly to mention violence, which hardly features in that report. As Lord Willis and others have shown, the argument about violence is a very difficult one. As has been said, research has not come up with any definitive answers and we are forced to rely largely on intuitive reactions, which must differ even on some of our most central beliefs. It is not just in broadcasting. After many centuries we still do not really know what is the effect of witnessing the violence in King Lear for example, nor can we really assess the large effects of watching Tom and Jerry, or of the delightful but extraordinary goings-on of Kermit the Frog. I know there may be plenty of queries on all this but very much less agreement. It seems to me that there are large areas where we shall always be relying on intuitive judgments and where controversy would seem to be inevitable. That is not a defeatist point; I am merely suggesting that we should be modestly realistic in what is attempted in research.

I should now like to turn more directly to the Question on the Order Paper and talk about the problems of investigating the beneficial effects of broadcasting. Can I say that I have had some training in social psychology and that one of the first and most salutary lessons one learns is the sheer difficulty in establishing significant causal connections in even the most simple experiments. Thus I am not too optimistic that any of the more general benefits (or disadvantages) of broadcasting can in principle be quantified precisely. As I have said, it is difficult enough to agree on the effects of an isolated factor like violence alone.

The Katz Report, which was published by the BBC at the beginning of this year (to give it its full title it is called Social Research on Broadcasting: Proposals for Further Development), seemed to me to be an excellent and honest initial step in a direction which at this stage one can only hope will be fruitful. The aim of the BBC in proposing a broadcasting research trust, with the support and encouragement of the IBA, is to carry out some of the projects suggested in the Katz Report. Establishing the credibility of the trust, and both general and academic acceptance of its results, will be a difficult task. The BBC intend a certain distancing from themselves, to ensure the trust an independent research policy. I hope they err on the side of too much independence, and that independence is firmly declared and seen to exist right from the start.

To that end, and also to increase its financial strength, I understand that attempts are being made to international-lise the trust; if that is successful, the enterprise will be less susceptible to passing fashion and economies. Having said all that about how I hope it is launched ultimately the trust will be judged by the results it produces, and rightly so. I hope it will be successful, but I think one of the most difficult tasks will be the formulating of the right questions. My experience in social psychology—although I know that that is only one aspect of media sociology—makes me sceptical whether some of the most interesting questions about broadcasting are susceptible to the sort of answers we would like. Academic talk of more sophisticated methodologies and sharpening of analytical tools can only take one so far.

Finally, one step that is particularly urgent, following the establishment of the trust, is for all broadcasting authorities to agree on the Annan recommendation about a single combined method of basic audience measurement. The organisations' research creditiblity is regularly damaged when, for example, it seems that both BBC and ITV claim over 50 or 60 per cent. loyalty from the same audience over Christmas, or similar logically impossible conflicts over sporting events. I think the noble Lord, Lord Annan, recommended that this bit of common sense should be implemented at once, and I hope that "at once" in broadcasting will be quicker than it is in politics.

7.5 p.m.

My Lords, it is a great pleasure to be able at once to refer to the two maiden speeches which we have heard; their lucidity and their knowledge-able background to the subject of this debate seem to me to be the most remarkable evidence at this juncture of the value of the hereditary system. I hope we shall hear both speakers again; I am sure we shall, and we shall listen to them with the care with which we have listened to them today.

Everybody has thanked the noble Lord, Lord Willis, as I do, for introducing this debate, though what in fact he meant by his Question defeated me. It was not until he unfolded his speech—and as Lady Phillips said it was a pity he had to leave out some parts—that I saw he was using this very useful procedure we have in this House, the Unstarred Question, to introduce a matter of real importance at fairly short notice, in a way which enables it to be approached from many angles.

I am inclined to agree with my noble friend Lord Redesdale. I cannot really see at this moment the object of a Commission, certainly until we have had a White Paper based on the Annan Report; indeed, Lord Willis said, "Even if we do not have that, let us give the whole thing a lot of thought". I am going to go further than that. I came with no prepared speech because, as I said, I could not understand what he was getting at, but now I know and it is thrilling. The "box" seems to me to be taking the place of the "auld fireside". It seems to be the focal centre of so many households today. It is so absolutely wonderful. I suppose I am quite the oldest Member of your Lordships' House taking part in this debate. I remember my father, who died when I was 14, with his zest for living, his zest for information and for knowledge. I find myself in my old age, over and over again, when I see some magnificent programme—particularly a travelogue or an explanation of some engineering problem or the like—saying to myself, "By Jove, if my father could only have seen this he would not have believed it". I remember buying my first radio in India in the middle 'twenties. When I first went out to India in 1920 we still had to rely for our news and the like on the mail once a week, or the telegraph. The air-mail did not begin until about the same time as the wireless. Now we take so much of this extraordinary development for granted that we seem to overlook the sheer wonder of the thing. This has been very well brought out by the noble Lord who introduced the Question.

I am smiling because if there is ever bickering between myself and my wife it is because I say, "My dear, you have missed the weather". Nobody has mentioned the weather; I do not think Lord Willis did. It is a wonderful service for a gardener, sportsman, fisherman, traveller, motorist. It is one of the most remarkable things that occur. However, let us leave it at that; I do not want to take long.

I have a specific plan. I am not going to refer to violence or to permissiveness. I think there is too much violence. I think the violence sometimes is sadistic and need not be. On the other hand, sometimes it is not really true to life, in that there is not the awful mess and horror of the real thing. So I will leave that and turn to the radio, to which the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, referred. It is a wonderful thing, as Lord Winstanley said. I confess to your Lordships that one of my favourite programmes is "Scottish Country Dancing" at 6.15 on Saturdays. I set aside the following three-quarters of an hour for cleaning my boots and my leatherwork and the like, while I picture myself dancing in my kilt.

I am not altogether sure that we do not want a Commission. The noble Earl, Lord Longford, will remember that I have for years been on about the question of reporting Parliament to the people. I go on and on about it to such an extent that I sometimes think that I must be barmy. However, if, as I have said, the box is the focal centre of the home and if, as I believe, Parliament and its proceedings are very important to everybody, am I quite barmy if I say that, taking all the benefits which radio and television provide—remembering that their function is to inform as well as to entertain—they also have a social function in connection with Parliamentary Government and Parliamentary democracy, the way in which we live and the way in which we build our Parliamentary work? In my view it is necessary for someone to consider this aspect.

If any Commission is to be produced at all, perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, will consider—although I do not suppose it is a possibility—whether some wiser heads than mine could be put together to see whether I am barmy, or whether there is a deep-seated problem with all this entertainment, information and everything else flowing from these wonderful machines. Ought there not to be a provision in every franchise to every broadcaster—I do not include the local people because the local radios do very well as regards keeping people informed about local municipal and political affairs—to deal with this matter?

On the broader issues, I believe that Clause 13(2) of the Licence and Agreement, which lays down the obligation as regards BBC radio for independent journalists to report the proceedings of both Houses day by day, should apply to every franchise: BBC television, BBC radio and the IBA. I say that because, if it is not an obligation upon commercial radio, then how can it recover the money? Every minute means money. In order, when Parliament is sitting, to provide "X" minutes per day on this service, it means so much advertising time lost. That is a factor which requires to be looked into.

This has been a fascinating debate and I look forward to hearing the other speeches which are to be made. If anything has come out of this debate, I seriously believe that the authorities and people generally should consider whether, if we do not provide for information about Parliament on this universal medium, we can blame people if they sneer at politics. Of course, noble Lords can say: "They only have to look at us to realise that we are hopeless". However, it does not really work out like that. I believe that something of this nature would be wise and prudent. Not to have it might find us very much the losers in the years to come when we realise that, thanks to all this wonder, the day may come when people will hardly be able to read or write.

7.14 p.m.

My Lords, I should like to join with other Members of the House in congratulating the two noble Lords who have made their maiden speeches today. I agreed with every word that the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, said about local radio. We need far more of it and I very much hope that my noble friend who will answer for the Government will give some indication that we shall get some more. The noble Lord, Lord Swinfen, brought a great and wide knowledge to the debate for which we thank him.

It gives me great pleasure to support my noble friend Lord Willis in the line of argument which he has presented to the House this afternoon. In the field of professional writing my noble friend is a statesman of the first rank and his voice is listened to with great respect by everybody who appreciates honesty, directness and experience. I speak on behalf of all the professionals who deeply appreciate what he is doing for us. Our country is unduly restrictive in its attitude to the arts and to entertainment. I want to support my noble friend Lord Willis in his efforts on their behalf.

I should like to say in parenthesis that it is a very great disappointment that the Government have not yet seen fit to accept the Public Lending Right Bill of my noble friend Lord Willis—a measure of justice for writers associated with my noble friend Lord Willis and above all the admirable Mrs. Brophy and Miss Duffy. The members of the trade union of which my noble friend is the president are gravely disappointed by the Government's attitude to this matter.

I turn now to the matter immediately under discussion, but which is closely related to my previous point, because it concerns the incomes of the professionals who are engaged in the field of entertainment and the arts. I am referring to the beneficial effects of their work. We must remember that in discussing this matter we are discussing the standard of life and work of the thousands of people engaged in this industry: writers, actors, journalists, producers, administrators and technicians. Moreover, our policy as a nation in the provision of radio and television has been deeply restrictive and, in being so deeply restrictive, it has seriously restricted the employment possibilities and the earnings of the professionals in this area. When writers realise that they will not get public lending rights either, I think that they are justified in becoming a little bitter.

The attitude to entertainment seems to me to be a paradox. Radio and television are a major growth industry in which it is widely said we lead the world. It is, for one thing, a very large export industry, as the advertisements of the noble Lord, Lord Grade, have recently reminded us. Our economy is not yet in such good shape that we can afford to handicap a growth industry unnecessarily. How do we handicap this industry? We do it by limiting the hours of transmission. Why do we limit the hours of transmission? In my view, it is because as a nation we take an excessively authoritarian attitude to what listeners should hear and what viewers should see. This is usually called a concern for high standards. Of course, we are all concerned with high standards. We are all keen on good things.

I do not necessarily share all the self-congratulatory views that have found so much expression in the debate. How does the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, possibly prove the proposition that our radio and television are the best in the world? Does he speak Swedish, Swizza Deutsch or Dutch? He may speak all those languages, but I think it unlikely. However, we shall take the will for the deed. We shall assume that ours is a fairly good service if not necessarily the best in the world. I am prepared to defend the proposition so often argued that our standards are high, but I am inclined to wonder whether we have not become excessively defensive for fear of lowering the standards, and thus have restricted ourselves to an ever-dwindling cycle of transmission which unnecessarily restricts this industry, which is, after all, only 50 years old.

Lowering standards is another way of giving people what they want. I spend a great deal of time at the Covent Garden Opera House, as does the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who is chairman of the important committee which has recently reported. I do not see why, however, because I like going to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, I should stop others from going to the Palladium. My submission is that the beneficial consequences of radio and television, even when they are lowering standards, far outweigh the disadvantages. The beneficial consequences may be very briefly listed, and I shall list them briefly because ether noble Lords have listed them at some length and with great force, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley.

The first, of course, is simply sheer enjoyment. People like watching and listening to entertainment, sport, panel games, classical music, the news and current affairs. There are few, if any, reasons why they should not have their wishes respected to have as much as they want of these benefits. There have been attempts to show that standards in all these fields of enjoyment have risen. I should have thought that the evidence is strong that standards have, indeed, risen during the past 50 years. However, I would submit that for purposes of the argument it is not necessary to show that they have risen. On ordinary utilitarian principles it is sufficient to show that people are enjoying themselves, as the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, pointed out. I see no adequate reason to question their judgment, provided, of course, that there are not superior principles at stake—for example, the avoidance of pornography and unnecessary violence.

My Lords, the noble Lord seems to be involving himself in a series of contradictions. At one moment he said that he did not mind if the standards were lowered. Presumably he meant moral and aesthetic standards. At another moment he said that he would not want pornography, violence or such-like. Perhaps he would clarify the position.

My Lords, I should be delighted to clarify it. My position is perfectly simple. Aesthetic standards and broad moral standards are matters of individual judgment and I do not particularly mind what those standards are. I know what my own standards are and I am concerned about them. It seems to me that there are certain absolute moral standards in the areas of pornography and violence to which the whole nation must adhere. However, I respectfully submit to the noble Earl that those standards are fairly limited and that we should be extremely careful before we become too authoritarian in laying down what our fellow citizens should or should not enjoy. As Bernard Shaw once pointed out, different people have different tastes.

That brings me to my major and final point. In striving to raise standards, the period and scope of transmissions of broadcasts have been limited to a quite extraordinary extent in this country compared to the situation existing in other countries. Of course, this limitation has its origins in the financial difficulties of the BBC, to which my noble friend Lord Willis most eloquently drew attention. The BBC has an enormous range of television and radio networks—almost all of them now being curtailed through shortage of finance. I share my noble friend's very strong hope that this shortage of finance will shortly be remedied in the proper fashion.

However, in order to preserve the BBC's position, the hours of transmission by other authorities have been limited. Much as I admire and am grateful to the BBC, I wonder whether this restriction on the other authorities is wise or, in fact, is in the public interest, which I have loosely defined on ordinary utilitarian principles as the enjoyment of the great majority of our fellow citizens.

In the first place, the restriction on hours limits the enjoyment of people. Why should elderly people have to go to bed at 11.30 just because the television broadcast closes down? Why should it not go on later? Why should London be the only major capital in the English-speaking world without an all-night classical music station? Why cannot we have all-night movies?— as they do in the major cities of the United States. The limitation on people's choice seems to me to be indefensible.

The argument which is presented for this limitation in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, is one to which my noble friend Lord Harris of Greenwich referred in the debate on the Annan Report. He said that the expansion of television and radio, even if it is done by commercial stations, entails public expenditure and that therefore, in the present economic circumstances, it is deleterious. That argument is mistaken. I happen to know—because I started this particular hare in a speech that I gave to the Royal Television Society in September 1975 at Cambridge—that it rests on a false assumption, of which I have only recently thought; namely, of a constant real national income, which I am sure the Chancellor of the Exchequer would agree is a defeatist and unacceptable proposition. Therefore, that argument is false and falls.

The restriction on hours of transmission also limits quite unnecessarily the earnings of professionals in the broadcasting professions. Further—and this is very important—the limitations on freedom of expression are potentially and actually extremely dangerous. With our limited range of hours and networks and the fact that virtually all serious radio is in the hands of the BBC, a handful of bureaucrats in the BBC and the major network companies in fact have far too great power to limit who shall broadcast on what. I say no more than that. I think it is very dangerous in a society where constitutional democracy is under threat. I am convinced that the positive contribution of radio and television to our culture has been and is enormous, and I plead with my noble friend on the Front Bench to open up the air-waves, to increase the licence fee and to set commercial radio and television free from their limitation on hours and the number of their stations.

7.26 p.m.

My Lords, let me begin, as did my noble friend Lord Vaizey, by expressing my own congratulations and, indeed, the congratulations of the entire House to the noble Lords, Lord Swinfen and Lord Crathorne, who today made their maiden speeches in this debate. We regarded those speeches as being of outstanding merit and we very much look forward to having the opportunity of hearing the noble Lords address us again. It is with particular pleasure that I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, who is the son of a most distinguished father and who also, if I may say so, raised a number of issues to which I should like to refer at the outset.

One was the position of local radio. I shall return to that in a moment. But certainly since I have had at the Home Office the responsibility for broadcasting policy, it has struck me when visiting local radio stations—both independent and BBC stations—what a tremendous amount of enthusiasm there is by journalists and those working at those stations. My background is in the Press, and I have been struck by the fact that there is this degree of enthusiasm and that there is nothing of the slightly jaded atmosphere one is bound to admit one sometimes finds in newspaper offices. It is a testimony not only to the type of people who now work there, but also to the quality of the product which is produced in many local radio stations in this country.

Having said that by way of introduction, I certainly join with other noble Lords in thanking my noble friend Lord Willis for having tabled this Question today and given us the opportunity of rehearsing perhaps the debates which we shall have when the Government produce their White Paper on the Annan Report. I hope that that will be done in the early part of next year, but until then I am afraid that I am unable to deal with some of the detailed questions raised today.

I shall take just one example. The noble Lord, Lord Crathorne, asked a question about the possible expansion of the number of local radio stations. Obviously that is very much bound up in the whole question of what the Government's response should be to the report of the committee headed by the noble Lord, Lord Annan. That being so, clearly I am not in a position to answer his question today. However, I certainly think that it was useful to have this opportunity to consider the undoubtedly invaluable role that is played in our society by the public broadcasting services of both radio and television.

In the debate which we had in this House in May on the Annan Report we concentrated principally on the overall policy relating to broadcasting and its institutions. Today we have been invited by my noble friend, and indeed by other noble Lords who have contributed in the debate, to focus our attention on the positive contribution which broadcasting can make. I am bound to say that I think broadcasting has come out of it pretty well. Indeed, I find it fairly remarkable that it has come out quite as well as it has. It was said by my noble friend Lord Willis that it was necessary to have this debate in order to redress the balance. A number of other noble Lords said that on occasion all one heard were the "knockers". Sometimes I suppose that that may appear to be true. It is, I think, a risk that if anybody finds something disagreeable in our society he will find an opportunity to complain about the quality of radio or television broadcasting. Therefore, as a result of that, when we experience such disagreeable manifestations, it is possible that on some occasions, indeed on many occasions, television in particular is found to be a convenient scapegoat.

I must say, again as a former journalist, that I find it remarkable that in a debate lasting well over two hours there has been virtually no significant criticism made of broadcasting, be it of radio or television. I find it hard to believe that, if we had had a debate of two hours on the state of the British Press, there would have been quite such unrelieved praise being heaped upon the working journalists of this country. I say that in no sense of bitterness, as I hope the House would recognise. But I find it nevertheless interesting that this should be so, and that in fact although it was regarded as desirable to have a Royal Commission on the Press soon after the end of the last war, the situation at the moment is that no comparable organisation exists so far as television or radio are concerned in this country; although it is right to say that this particular issue was dealt with in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Annan, who recommended that some such arrangements should be made for both television and radio. That recommendation, with the others, is now being studied by the Government.

It is clear that television in particular is an especially powerful medium. No fewer than 96 per cent. of the population of this country have a television set in their homes. There are at the moment somewhere around 18,100,000 current licences for monochrome and colour reception in a population of somewhere around 54 million people. Given the power of television it is absolutely right, in my view—and I have said this on a number of previous occasions—that the Government should in no way become involved in the content of programmes or in the very difficult question of what constitutes good or bad taste. These are clearly matters for the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority, who have a clear statutory responsibility in this matter. I must say quite clearly to the House, and particularly to some of those who have raised questions of this character in the past, that it seems to me highly undesirable for Governments to become involved in day-to-day questions of this sort so far as broadcasting is concerned. It may sometimes appear to be tempting, but in my view it is very undesirable indeed.

The situation which I have described is of course the framework within which the broadcasters carry on their work. It is a framework that in my view affords ample opportunity to the programme makers to render a valuable service to the whole community. Certainly the Annan Committee made a judgment on the quality of that service, and I think that, by and large, the judgment was favourable. I noted that the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, referred again to "knockers". On this occasion, it was apparently a group of "knockers" some of whom were on the Annan Committee. Although undoubtedly there were criticisms—and we can make our own decision as to whether we consider those particular criticisms to have been justified or not—by and large, the industry, both BBC and commercial, emerged from the inquiry with very considerable credit.

I suspect that having raised the debate, as he has done today, my noble friend hardly expects me to announce that the Government are going to announce a new inquiry into broadcasting—all the more so as on this particular occasion he has already decided on the conclusions of such an inquiry, and I think that the inquiry itself might perhaps be slightly superfluous. However, on an occasion like this, and following the speech which he made, I would certainly join with him in testifying to the beneficial effects of both radio and television.

In his speech in the Annan debate in May my noble friend Lord Willis said many complimentary things, as he did indeed today, about both. On that occasion he referred to some of the compliments which were being paid in the Annan Report itself. He referred to the importance of the BBC as a cultural organisation. Undoubtedly that is absolutely true. Certainly we all know of the valuable work which is done by broadcasting in keeping the public informed about current affairs; the useful role, as I have indicated, that local radio fulfils in binding together communities and promoting community spirit and, in summary, the good record of our broadcasting system as a whole which, as the Committee headed by Lord Annan said:
"… needs really no defence … and is the envy of others throughout the world".
In all these points my noble friend endorsed the views of the Annan Committee, and I am happy to join with him on that.

Of course there were aspects of the Annan Report where it was considered that some improvements might be made. In their responses to the invitation of my right honourable friend the Home Secretary to comment on the report, the broadcasting organisations have indicated their willingness to consider the Committee's criticisms and their proposals. For example—and this has been touched on by a number of those who have spoken in the debate today—in the light of the two recent research reports, one by the Home Office and the other by Dr. Belson about the effects of screen and television violence, the BBC and the IBA are now reconsidering their programme arrangements and the codes of practice that apply to programmes in this particular category. Certainly we all look forward with interest to learning their conclusions in due course, as this is a subject that very many people now regard as being of fundamental importance to our society. It is not just a debate which is taking place in this country. As I know from the visit which I have just paid to the United States, where I had the opportunity of talking about this matter both to the FCC and to some of the programme makers, there is just as meaningful a debate taking place in the United States on this question of violence on television.

It is one of the paradoxes of broadcasting that although it is a large part of all our lives, no one really knows what its effects on us are; be they benign or malign. We just do not know for certain whether the simulation of violence on the screen leads, in the case of the susceptible viewer, and particularly some young people, to violent acts. This is a very difficult matter indeed on which to make judgments. But I consider—and I must make this absolutely clear in the light of some observations which have been made in this debate—that the onus is on the broadcasters. Until it can be established that programmes involving a high degree of violence do no harm, in my view they should err on the side of caution. I suspect that it would be the overwhelming view of most people, certainly outside the industry, and a great many inside it, that that should be so.

It also follows from what I have just said that the broadcasters should use all the available techniques that research offers to try to assess the effects of their own service. I should like to say just two things about that. First, I was very glad to learn of the progress that is being made by the BBC with discussions on some form of trust to initiate research. The noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, and my noble friend Lord Aylestone both dealt with this particular question. I think it is the case that research into the effects of broadcasting is now being developed in many countries—here, the United States, and many other countries. It seems to me extremely sensible, that being so, that the broadcasters should pool their knowledge and their experience in this particular area.

Secondly—this point was touched on by the noble Viscount, Lord Craigavon—I hope the broadcasters in this country can get together to agree some common method of audience measurement. To discover what people are watching and listening to may seem a very simple matter but, as the noble Viscount rightly said, there have been substantial areas of disagreement over this. I think it is basic to wider and more fundamental research that we should get this right. As the noble Viscount pointed out, the Annan Committee drew attention to the desirability of the broadcasters themselves devising a single method rather than having two entirely separate exercises, one for the BBC and the other for ITV. This matter is now being discussed and we all hope for, and indeed I think we all have a right to expect, a successful outcome to those discussions.

A number of other questions have been raised and I come to a particular point raised by my noble friend Lady Phillips relating to advertisements which might appear during the course of an industrial dispute. I will gladly look into the point she raised because, as far as I am aware, it has not been raised with me before. I must tell her that one of the difficulties is that Schedule 2 to the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973 lays down the requirements on the Authority in these terms:
"No advertisement shall be permitted which is inserted by or on behalf of any body the objects whereof are wholly or mainly of a religious or political nature and no advertisement shall be permitted which is directed towards any religious or political end "—
and then come the words which are significant—
"or has any relation to any industrial dispute".
That is of course the language of the Act. The question my noble friend raised was what would be a reasonable interpretation of the Act. All I can say is that I will gladly go into that point to try to establish what the situation is on that matter.

My noble friend Lord Vaizey, in a typically boisterous and vigorous speech, raised a point of considerable importance, namely the hours of broadcasting. He asked why the hours of television should be limited in the way they are. The answer is that they are not, not as far as the Government are concerned. There is undoubtedly a power in this matter, and that is Section 21 of the 1973 Act from which I quoted. However, in 1972 the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications announced that he would no longer exercise those powers and, as a result of that—notwithstanding the fact that the language of the Act is one year later than that—no longer do the broadcasting authorities have to notify the Government of the precise times during the day when their services will be broadcast. I think the only time in recent years when this residual power was used was in 1974 during the economic crisis and industrial problems at the beginning of that year when we were in a three-day week situation, when our predecessors took the decision to limit television hours. Apart from that, there is no limitation so so far as the Government are concerned. I suspect that the principal reason for such limitation of hours as there is is the simple question of cost.

My noble friend Lord Willis asked an important question about the Government's position on the EEC licence fee. My noble friend will be aware that yesterday the BBC announced that they would like to have a substantial increase in the licence fee some time next year. The situation is that the BBC have not yet approached us about an increase in their fees—no doubt they will do so—and it is only right that I should add that I do not think it would have been at all reasonable for the BBC to have approached us, given the fact that there was an increase in the licence fee announced by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on 29th July of this year. He then made it absolutely clear that the increase which he was announcing on that occasion must last for at least one year. That remains the position of the Government, though of course if the BBC wish to approach us on this matter some time next year we shall be perfectly prepared to listen to what they have to say.

I will, after what has arguably already been an overlong speech, sum up. I would repeat that we are glad to have had this opportunity—I speak for myself and, I am sure, for all who have participated in the debate—to pay tribute to the valuable work which broadcasters undoubtedly play in our society. When I was recently in the United States I was struck by the very high esteem with which programmes from this country were regarded. These programmes, from both the BBC and Independent Television, are finding their way on to the networks and public broadcasting stations in the United States. Both the BBC and Independent Television have offices in the United States selling British programmes and in 1976 the total volume of overseas sales for the BBC and IBA was over £18 million, and despite the undoubted fact that a substantial amount of foreign material is shown on British television, we still have a quite significant surplus on our balance of payments as far as television is concerned, which is a quite remarkable tribute to both the BBC and Independent Television.

In the light of what my noble friend Lord Vaizey said, I shall avoid the temptation to say we have the best television in the world. My Swedish is extremely poor, my German is non-existent and I am a little rusty even in my Norwegian, so I would certainly not make that claim. Nevertheless, choosing rather more neutral language, I would say that our programmes stand comparison with those made anywhere else in the world. That is not to say that we should be pleased with everything that is produced. To be blunt, that would be an absurdly complacent view. Inevitably, there will be cases from time to time where it is believed that there have been lapses in taste and sometimes in sensitivity, but it is for the broadcasting authorities, not the Government, to deal with those. A few such alleged lapses have been mentioned this afternoon and we have had them more than touched on in the Press in recent months. Nevertheless, we recognise how essential is the function that the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority perform at relatively modest cost to the community.

There are many general benefits available to all listeners and viewers, a point mentioned by many noble Lords in the debate. Apart from the dissemination of news and information, the encouragement of the arts and the promotion of education in all its forms, there are, as the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said, the special and particular benefits conferred on the aged, the infirm and the lonely, for whom life without the broadcasting services would indeed be a miserable existence. In the Government's view, no formal inquiry is needed to ensure that proper recognition is given to the valuable work done by our broadcasters. Nevertheless, this short debate has at least enabled some of the more positive achievements of the industry to secure wider recognition.

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I should like to point out that I was looking forward to hearing the Government's view on my point about the broadcasting of information about Parliament.

My Lords, despite what has been, as I have already indicated, an overlong speech, it has been impossible to deal with every point raised, but certainly what the noble Lord refers to is an important matter, and I will ensure that it is taken into account during our discussion of the Annan Report.