HC Deb 15 November 1926 vol 199 cc1634-50

"5. We do hereby declare that the Corporation shall not seek any concession, right or privilege from or enter into any negotiations or arrangement with any Dominion or Foreign Government without having first obtained the consent in writing of our Postmaster-General."

They are not even to have a word to say to our own Colonies without Grandfather Postmaster-General coming in—without first asking him "by your leave." This is the Corporation to which they say the utmost possible liberty will be given On the question of finance, let the Committee look at Clause 18 (10) of the licence and they will see the position the Postmaster-General takes up. It says there: Any account of any sum payable by the Postmaster-General to the Corporation certified by the Comptroller and Accountant-General of the Post Office or the Deputy Controller and Accountant-General under the provisions of this Clause or under any other provisions of these presents shall be final and conclusive for all purposes.

That is complete autocracy on the part of the Post Office. The Corporation have not a word to say. The Postmaster-General says: "I say that so much is due to you and you will take it," that is, he says it, or says it through his Comptroller. It is not an independent Corporation at all. It is bound hand and foot to the Post Office. Further power is given to the Postmaster-General whereby he may, if he thinks fit, revoke the Charter. Clause 18 (ii) says that the Postmaster-General may, if he thinks fit, certify. … and by writing under our Great Seal absolutely revoke and make void this our Charter.

The Postmaster-General may at any time put the Corporation out of commission whenever they annoy him. Everywhere one will find that the Postmaster-General is in the saddle and between the House of Commons and this Corporation. Clause 15 of the Licence says: No person acting on the Corporation's behalf or by its permission shall divulge to any person (other than properly authorised officials of His Majesty's Government or a competent legal tribunal) or make any use whatever of any message coming to his knowledge and not intended for receipt by means of the stations or any of them.

That Clause could easily be interpreted to mean that you could not provide ordinary telephonic communication. In Clause 7 of the licence it says: The stations shall not, without the previous consent in writing of the Postmaster-General, be used by any person on the Corporation's behalf or by permission of the Corporation for the dispatch or receipt of messages other than messages for the time being authorised by this licence.

That could prevent ordinary telephonic communications passing between stations, or communication with foreign State-controlled stations. Talk about swaddling clothes! These are bonds. The Corporation are tied up. If the Committee look at Clause 16, sub-clause (3) of the Licence they will see a provision which says in effect that if this Corporation interferes with the working of any telegraph line or damages it the Engineer-in-Chief of the Post Office has simply to certify that in his opinion damage has been done by the broadcast, and the Corporation, out of their funds, will have to pay for putting matters right. They may put up a new telegraph line and charge the Corporation with the cost of it. That is far too arbitrary a power to give to any Government engineer or official. According to what the Postmaster-General has said you are going to invest this body with prestige and status, and emphasise their sense of responsibility. In another part of the agreement you provide that these precious gentlemen who are to be set up in this elevated position are in the delicate position of being liable to have their office suddenly terminated by notice in writing from the Postmaster-General. Surely that is not giving these gentlemen prestige, status or a sense of responsibility. Clause 20 provides that the licence may be revoked and the Charter may be revoked by the Postmaster-General, and it is even within the Postmaster-General's discretion as to what shall he broadcasted. Under the Emergency Powers the Postmaster-General may declare a state of emergency, and the right hon. Gentleman himself is to be the judge of the emergency, and yet we are told that the Government are pledged to accept the position that the new authority is going to be invested with the maximum of freedom which Parliament is prepared to concede.

We may be told that the Postmaster-General and the Post Office will act reasonably in these matters, but 1 do not know so much about that, because we have seen the disastrous effect of the telephone getting into the hands of the Post Office, and I do not think it is a wise thing to give the Postmaster-General any more control. I remember a case in the Law Courts in which a claim was made for damages for a serious accident. The defendant pleaded that it was not his fault, that there had been no negligence, and that the accident was due to an act of God. The defendant was asked. "What do you mean by that?" and he replied, I define an act of God as something which no reasonable human being would ever think of doing." In these proposals the Government officials have power to do things which no reasonable human being would ever think of doing.

Post 'Office administration in Argyll-shire is very unpopular and we have a very poor opinion of the Postmaster General there. Consequently we are not prepared to give him any further powers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) said the Electricity Bill had been condemned by supporters of the Government on account of its Socialistic character, but he claimed this Broadcasting proposal as a triumph for Socialism. There is a good deal of truth in that. This reminds me of the 20 years during which Palmerston kept the Conservative party out of office by pursuing a Tory policy, and the Tories said they were satisfied because they were getting the Tory policy carried out and the Whigs were also satisfied because they were in office, and all parties were very happy. This looks like a case of history repeating itself and probably if you have a Labour Government in office they will adopt a Tory policy.

The CHAIRMAN (Mr. James Hope)

All this seems to be a little remote from the subject we are discussing.


The hon. Member for West Edinburgh made these statements and I am only answering them.


T gathered that the hon. and learned Member was assuming not only the role of a psychologist but also that of a prophet.


The argument seems to be that when the electors want a Tory Government they should vote Labour, and when they want a Socialist Government they should vote Conservative. No doubt the Electricity Bill will provide a good many jobs for some of the men who have been left over after the War, and probably this broadcasting scheme will provide employment for some very deserving people. Nevertheless I wish the Postmaster-General will take this proposal back and appoint a broadcasting association giving it some individuality and initiative instead of making it something which is simply a glove over his own hand all the time.


I rise in order to reinforce one point made by the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) in reference to the power taken by the Postmaster-General to veto the broadcasting of political matter which the Broadcasting Company hold to be innocuous and free from controversy. I have a case in mind about which I put a question to-day. The question I put was whether he is aware that the British Broadcasting Company had accepted the manuscript of a speech to be delivered from the Dundee studio on the 3rd instant, by Dr. Ernst Deissmann, of Berlin, and that the subject was the entrance of Germany to the League of Nations; and if he can state why instructions were sent on the 1st instant that the speech was not to be permitted. The reply I received was: The British Broadcasting Company submitted to the Post Office a draft a the proposed speech with an inquiry whether it could ho broadcast if certain statements which it contained were omitted. The speech was of a political and controversial character, and the Company were informed that it would be advisable that it should not be broadcast. I have a copy of that speech here, but I do not propose to take up the time of the House by reading it. I wish to say, however, that there is nothing. of a controversial character in it, and 'I defy the Postmaster-General to show me one paragraph in that speech which is controversial. It is all a matter of ancient history, and what happened three or four years ago prior to the Dawes Report. The last paragraph deals with the question of the League of Nations, and states that now that Germany has become a member of the League of Nations there will be a better chance of permanent peace in. Europe. I want to know what is the Postmaster-General's definition of controversy in politics. If a speech of this kind is to be ruled out under the newregime,then 1 agree with the hon. Member for Argyll-shire that it is no use paying broadcasting licences at all. Surely, there should be some limit to this kind of thing. I think we are entitled to ask some definition from the Government of what is controversial? Are we to have an arbitrary definition of this word, varying according to the changing moods of the Postmaster-General? Are questions which are in everybody's mind to be stigmatised as controversial matter and in this way forbidden in the studio. We are entitled to know before this Charter is passed whether the Government is prepared to revise this part dealing with the power of veto on the part of the Postmaster-General. If that power is to be retained, then at any rate it should be more strictly limited and defined, otherwise, I am afraid, that this House, in a moment of hurry, without proper consideration, will be handing over to one individual a power which I am perfectly certain this House, if it had time to consider the question carefully, would never hand over to any individual or to any Government.


I do not think the Government have any reason to complain of the reception that has been given to their proposals by hon. Gentlemen opposite and the Committee generally. As a matter of fact the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) did nothing but deliver one long panegyric on the Postmaster-General's proposals, and Ere ended by claiming them as a triumph for Socialism. At first I thought the right hon. Gentleman was joking, but when I heard other hon. Members repeat the accusation, I came to the conclusion that they were manufacturing a little material for future leaflets for the Labour party. You may call these proposals whatever name you like, but we are proposing no new thing because what we are doing is simply providing that a monopoly service should be subject to some measure of Government control. I think there is practically general agreement, except on the part of the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten), that you have got to have a monopoly in broadcasting, and that the British system is a great improvement on what obtains in America and certain other countries, where there has been a good deal of interference; and that there are positive advantages in monopoly that render it the best course to take. Once you are committed to a monopoly, you are necessarily committed to some form of Government control. We see that in every branch of our public life—from gas companies, for instance, to the Post Office itself—and what we are doing at the present moment is establishing something which is no more Socialistic than the Port of London Authority.


Why should it be a monopoly?

Viscount WOLMER

If the right hon. Gentleman wishes to claim that as a triumph for Socialism, he is fully entitled to do so. The hon. Member for Devon-port (Mr. Hore-Belisha) asks why it should be a monopoly. He will find, if he goes into it, that, in those countries where competition has been tried, the congestion in the ether has been found to be such that the programme of all listeners is interfered with—in other words, we have not yet arrived at a condition of affairs where the listeners can select their programmes with sufficient accuracy to enable that degree of competition to exist. That is the reason for the monopoly.

Bound up with the question of monopoly is also the question of controversy, of which we have heard such a great deal to-night. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westmorland (Major Stanley) seemed to think that even the educational side of the broadcasting service was going to suffer by the ban on controversy. I should like to give him a most positive assurance in that respect. I am quite certain that the Governors of the Corporation, who include among their number a very distinguished educationalist—the headmaster of the most ancient and greatest of all our public schools—will not interpret the prohibition against controversy in any such narrow sense at all. They are not going to conside questions of King Charles's head or the Wars of the Roses as matters of con troversy. But I should like to make this point clear to the Committee. The Post master-General proposes to instruct tin Corporation not to permit the broad casting of any matter of political religious or industrial controversy, and the Governors of the Corporation are going to be the judges of whether a matter is controversial or not. It is no the intention of my right hon. Friend to act as censor of the Governors of tin Corporation, if he can possibly help it They may, of course, come to him for rulings or advice if they find it impossible to come to a decision on a particular point, but it is the desire of the Postmaster-General that the Corporation itself should interpret his instructions and decide whether a matter comes within those instructions or not.

The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) raised just now a case about which he had a question down this after noon. That is only an instance of how extraordinarily difficult it is to decide whether a matter is controversial, and therefore permissable, or not. I read the dissertation to which the hon. Member alluded, and I agree with him that then is nothing in it to which he could take exception, but I think there are passages in it to which a great many would take exception. If you are to prohibit controversy, you must prohibit controversy all round, and in an impartial and fair way and the only way in which that can be done is to prohibit any speech which is likely to offend or to be regarded as controversial by any reasonable section o the public. I cannot give the hon. Member a clearer definition than that.


May I ask the Noble Lord if he can indicate to me any paragraph in this speech which is more that a word of praise to the Allies now that Germany is a member of the League, and if he can conceive of anyone holding that to be a controversial matter?

Viscount WOLMER

It would not be it order for me to discuss the whole of that speech with the hon. Gentleman now but there is the reference to Germany and the raising of old questions, which would in my opinion cause offence to some people. I am not arguing now whether it is right or whether it is wrong, but it is an instance of the very great difficulty if deciding whether these matters are con- troversial or not. As the Postmaster- General explained earlier this afternoon, so long as controversy is to be regarded Is matter which should not form part of the normal subject of broadcast pro-grammes, it is quite clear that that must be carried out impartially all round.

Several hon. Members have put in a general plea this afternoon for a greater allowance of controversy being put in the programmes. My right hon. Friend promised very carefully to consider their representations, and to consider all representations that he might receive, either in the House of Commons or from other quarters, on that question. The Government have not a closed mind on the matter at all, but they have felt that, at the outset, at any rate, of the Corporation's life, the present standard in regard to controversy should for the present be maintained. Then certain hon. Members, among them my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Captain Fraser), who made such an interesting and able speech earlier in the evening, expressed the fear that the Corporation's funds would not be adequate to give or to maintain that high standard of programmes which they have been giving to the public during the last two years. I think I can give a very good answer to that by simply reading out one or two figures for the consideration of the Committee. I will ask the Committee to compare the resources that the Corporation will have in giving their programmes with the resources that were at the disposal of the Company during the last two years. During the year ending March, 1925. the British Broad- casting Company had a revenue of C489,000 from licences, and of some £35,000 from tariffs, or something like 2525,000 of revenue. In addition to that. there was the revenue from the "Radio Times" and other periodicals, but that will continue under the Corporation, and, therefore, we need not include it in the comparison. In the year ending March, 1926, the Company had about the same revenue. They had £500,000 from licences and £34,000 from tariffs, making £534,000. Next year, the year ending in March, 1928, the Corporation will have this: They will, in the first place, inherit the entire assets of the Company, which have been entirely provided for out of income, and are now worth, according to the estimate of Lord Gainford, something in the neighbourhood of £350,000. Then they will be able to borrow up to £500,000, and they will enjoy a revenue, according to the calculation of the Post Office, of some £800,000. Surely, it will be clear to the Committee that the Corporation will be very much better off than the Company, and if, at the end of two years, the Corporation is not satisfied that it is getting enough revenue to give adequate programmes to the public, it has the power to make representations, which the Postmaster-General is bound to consider.

Captain FRASER

Can my Noble Friend give the revenue for the present year?

Viscount WOLMER

The present year is split between the two authorities, and that is why I omitted it for purposes of comparison. In the present year the Company will receive from the Government £620,000 in licence revenue, out of which, of course, they have to liquidate themselves at a cost of some £70,000.

Captain FRASER

That is for nine months?

Viscount WOLMER

That is for nine months. The Corporation will receive £183,000. Roughly speaking, therefore, deducting the liquidation expenses during these 12 months, the Company and the Corporation together will be receiving something in the neighbourhood of £730,000. The Corporation will be much better off than the Company" because it will have its borrowing powers besides. My hon. and gallant Friend seems to regard it as improper that capital expenditure should be made out of borrowing when there is an adequate revenue; but I venture to suggest to him that in practically every walk of life, whether it be a public company or whether it be a Government Department like the Post Office and the telephones, great capital expenditure is properly made out of borrowed money, which is paid off gradually as the revenue from that capital expenditure accrues.

The hon. Member for North Camber well (Mr. Ammon) asked one or two questions, to which I will reply as shortly as possible. He asked what opportunity the House of Commons would get of discussing the policy of the Corporation. As he knows, and as every other hon. Member knows, this money which we are undertaking to pay to the Corporation out of the licence revenue can only be paid to the Corporation as a result of a Vote of the House of Commons. It is money that has come into the Exchequer, and will have to be paid out, and it can only be paid out by a Vote of the House. Therefore, the House will get that opportunity. It will also, of course, get the opportunity that presents itself, on the Vote for the Postmaster-General's salary, of discussing any action that he may have taken in regard to the Corporation. I cannot hold out much prospect of any increased control on the part of the House of Commons by means of questions. The Postmaster-General, as he himself explained this afternoon, desires to give the Corporation as free a hand as possible, and to leave as much as possible to the decision and authority of the Governors of the Corporation. He will not, therefore, be anxious to answer questions on details of policy, although, no doubt, there are greater questions which may have to be raised on the Floor of the House at Question Time.

8.0 P.m.

The hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten) raised a whole bevy or bouquet of mares'-nests about the licence being issued to the Corporation. The licence, of course, was drawn up by lawyers and any legally-drawn document is a very alarming one to read, although I do not suppose it would alarm a lawyer, and the hon. Member is a lawyer himself. It is like reading a Crown lease; by the time you come to sign it you realise there is no sort of power left to yourself; every-thing resides in the Crown. It is perfectly true that all these very severe powers are vested in the Postmaster- General, but they are precisely the same powers that he has held and maintained ever since broadcasting started in this country. They are lifteden blocout of the licence of 1923, under which the old Broadcasting Company worked. If there has been no abuse since that time, I do not think the hon. and learned Member need be afraid that there will be un-reasonable use of those powers in the future. I should like to pay a warm tribute to the British Broadcasting Company and to the extraordinary machine they have built up and the wonderful work they have done during the short four years they have been at work. That would not have been possible if it had not been for the personality of the general manager, Mr. Reith, a man to whom this country owes more than it realises. 1 am perfectly certain that anyone who has had to do with the British Broadcasting Company must realise not only the great amount which it has accomplished during the four years of its existence, but also the almost unlimited possibilities of expansion and development in the years that are to come.

Colonel DAY

I must first of all allude to the remark made by the Noble Lord, and I do not know very much about a bevy of mares'-nests, nor of bouquets. As he referred to the hon. and learned Member for Argyll (Mr. Macquisten), he is more of an expert on the bevy than I am. I appreciate the difficulties that the British Broadcasting Company have worked under during the past four years. Perhaps the new Corporation will work under greater difficulties. We have seen a certain amount of expert knowledge in the control of the British Broadcasting Company, but in the new body one would rather think that it has been a case of putting square pegs into round holes. Not one of the Governors has the slightest idea or knowledge of what they have to provide, that is to say, the entertainment of the public. When one considers that perhaps 99 per cent. of the people who instal wireless outfits in their houses are people who instal those sets for the purpose of being entertained, one can hardly realise that the Governors are people who have no knowledge at all of that industry. I asked in the House last week, and the Noble Lord answered me, whether the qualification for a person to be a Governor of the new Corporation was an absolute lack of knowledge of the entertainment industry, and he said, "No," but it appears to me that this lack of knowledge is one of the qualifications. When one considers that you are entertaining perhaps four or five million people in this country every day, people who hold the licences, and others who listen-in at the same time, one would think one wanted some knowledge among the Governors of the particular entertainment they are to provide. It is all very well to listen to a lecture on mediaeval architecture, the British Broadcasting Company could get a lecturer with perhaps 20 or 30 letters of commendation; but how many of the listeners when the broadcasting entertainment start, switch their machines off?

When we look at the quantity of the people the British Broadcasting Company have covered we find 40,000,000 of people covered over a radius of 96,000 square miles compared with the American Radio Corporations, which are controlled by experts on the technical sides, nearly 110,000,000 people over a radius of 3,000,000 square miles. America has approximately 600 stations to compare with Britain's 21. There cannot be any doubt; that the high efficiency that America has attained is because their corporations are controlled by experts, both in the technical knowledge and the amusement side of broadcasting. One of the great weaknesses that I have noticed is that one is compelled sometimes to listen to what is called revue or drama. It is absolutely impossible to broadcast a revue without the surroundings. You have as the artists, many of them, those that have previously been on the fringe of the business. There are star performers of the British Broadcasting Company at the present time who have an absolute lack of personality. In addition to that, you miss all the scenery and other stage surroundings. One is compelled to listen to that sometimes for the best part of an hour at a time.

We have seen a lot of controversy in the newspapers about the remuneration of the artists. Until the British Broadcasting Company consider engaging talent at proper salaries they will only be served more or less by the same inferior class of artists one has been compelled to listen to. We have had some very fine artists broadcast, but only very occasionally have they been properly paid for their services. The principal argument of the British Broadcasting Company is that if the artists take a small fee which often only just covers expenses they will have got a good advertisement out of it. Big star artists in receipt of a salary of three to four hundred pounds a week do not need very much advertisement. When you want to engage artists of that kind—and the public are entitled to them—it is time that you were in a position to offer them some sort of remuneration that is worthy of their hire. The British Broadcasting Company, up to the present time, has been controlled more or less in their organisation by ex-military and naval officers. I have nothing to say against that, but I do think that one should see in a large firm, serving the public in this country in the way of entertainments, that they should also have people with certain expert knowledge. Take the Sunday programme. As far as the crystal-set listeners are concerned, some of the programmes are absolutely tragic, boring to the extreme. That is where the discrimination comes in, because a person with a four or five-valve set if he does not want to listen to an entertainment here can get one of the Parisian or Continental stations. The Postmaster- General said he thought 10s. was sufficient for a licence. I think that four or five-valve sets it is sufficient, but I think a big reduction should be made to those crystal-set owners who have not the facilities for getting Continental stations. They should be given an advantage. Here is a case of the poor people paying as much as the rich. You do not find that in other spheres. A man with a 40 horse-power car has to pay his 40 horse-power tax, but with an 8 horsepower car he pays the 8 horse-power tax—like the Noble Lord with his 7 horse-power Austin. Again, with regard to licence fees, I think they should be moderated in such a way as to give the crystal-set owners an opportunity of having their licences at a very much reduced rate.

I was very pleased to hear the comments of the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) as regards the socialisation of this industry. Personally, I think the Government have gone a long way on the right road, and I hope they will go a little further later on, and socialise some of the other industries. One hon. Member said he hoped to see broadcasting in Wales given out in the Welsh tongue. I cannot say I agree with him. We should have to give out broadcasting in Scotland in Gaelic. As far as Southwark is concerned, they have a language of their own. One suggestion I would like to make is this. We very often hear some very interesting lectures on the wireless, but they are killed more or less by the very bad enunciation from the voice of the gentleman who lectures. I suggest that it may be a matter for the consideration of the Postmaster-General that those lectures should be written out and sent over the wireless by one of the announcers whom one can understand at the other end. We know that broadcasting work at present is more or less a blind alley occupation. Perhaps the Postmaster-General will consider that these men who have served many years in the Broadcasting Corporation should have some means of progressing. Their remuneration is very small at present, and I do not know whether we shall have an opportunity later on of discussing it.

The remuneration of artists is one of the most important things that could be considered by the Governors and the Postmaster-General. One cannot realise, when some very big combination is approached, that they should be asked to broadcast for the sum of perhaps £5 for four or five people. The sum offered is really niggardly, and it may be advantageous for the Postmaster-General to make a recommendation to the Governors that they should offer more remunerative terms. The Postmaster-General mentioned the matter of broad- casting in this House. I am sure the technical advisers, before anything of that kind is decided, will take into consideration the fact that the House would have to instal microphones all round before any decent effect could be got without echoes going right through. I sincerely hope the Postmaster-General will see that before entertainments are sent out to the public you have on your Advisory Committee certain people who are connected with the show business and understand what the public want. Fortunes are lost in the West End because shows are run, controlled and worked by inexperienced people who do not understand them, and I hope the Government will not allow the broadcasting Corporation to rush headlong into the same mistakes that are made by inexperienced people.


The Noble Lord entirely omitted to reply to the question put to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith (Sir W. Bull) on the question of patent rights and compensation, which is a very important point. What rights has the Post Office acquired to use any patent whatever in connection with this broadcasting which has been taken over? As far as I know, the Broadcasting Company neither owns patents, nor has it licences for the use of patents which it can assign or pass over to the Post Office. That raises a very serious question, and it reflects also on the figures we have in the Supplementary Estimate. Of course the Post Office, as a Government Department, can use patents subject to the compensation determined upon by the Treasury. That means an expense, which no doubt has been taken into account, and I raise the question now because it is an important matter. In view of the rapid development which has taken place, the) whole of this wireless development is surrounded by a zareba of patents held in many hands, and it may well be that there is a good deal of trouble ahead unless this matter has really been gone into carefully, and the Post Office is satisfied that it has the right of user without having to enter into negotiations and agreements with third parties who do not come within the agreements which are now before us. 1 raise the question because I think it is very important that the point should he cleared up at this time.


I was not fortunate enough to hear the Postmaster-General's speech—through no fault of my own but because I was performing a public duty elsewhere. It seems to me this Royal Charter and the Licence violate practically every pledge that was given by the Postmaster-General to Parliament on 14th July. My hon. Friend the Member for Argyll-shire (Mr. Macquisten) has gone into those points somewhat thoroughly, and it is not necessary for me to go into them again, but they are not met or answered in the least by the Noble Lord describing it as any sort of mare's nest. I want to raise a point which I do not think has been raised tonight, and that is the position of the newspapers if and when this scheme is put into operation. The draft of the Charter contains these words. They have been given power to compile and prepare, print, publish, issue, circulate, and distribute, whether gratis or otherwise, such papers, magazines, periodicals, books, circulars, and other literary matter as may seem conducive to any of the objects of the Corporation. When the Government have established these newspapers and periodicals of their own, presumably they will refuse to publish their broadcasting programme in any paper but their own, thus attempting to bring pressure upon the two or three million people who listen-in to these programmes to buy their paper. But it goes further. Paragraph (e) authorises them to collect, acquire news of and information relating to current events in any part of the world, and in any manner that may be thought fit and to establish and subscribe to news agencies. If they can establish their own agencies, and collect news from any part of the world, and in this way supersede the present news agencies, and practically supersede, I take it, newspapers, I think it ought to be made quite 'clear to the newspapers that it is going to be done. I do not think they have realised yet what is in store for them. I may have misread these paragraphs, but that is how it strikes me. Then I suppose they can go a step further and broadcast advertisements. I was in the House when the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Harney) said that was ridiculous, and that there were so many advertisements that it would take hours to broad-cast a. tenth of them. But it is not quite so ridiculous. I will undertake that you can in five minutes broadcast a very valuable advertisement, say for one of the big stores which is going to have a sale. You can state exactly what bargains the populace are going to find there, and you can advertise just as effectively as in a newspaper. But I do not think it is the business of a Government to engage in advertising and do all those things that are now commonly done by the ordinary newspaper. This thing, it seems to me, has been flung at us with very little time for consideration. We have had two or three days given us to digest this somewhat complicated scheme which has been outlined to-day. I do not think it is sufficient. I regret that the Government should have rushed this thing in the way they have, and should have refused to give a free vote of the House. There is nothing whatever political about broadcasting. Why then, not give a free vote of the House on a matter like this? No. The matter has to be rushed through, and the Government Whips, I suppose, will be put on, and we are to be told how we are to vote. It is very regrettable, because broadcasting is a most important subject. We hardly know the beginning of it yet. No doubt it will be a still bigger thing in the future, and it is very regrettable that the thing should be tied up for 10 years, with this inadequate chance of our digesting the scheme and our not being allowed to have a free vote upon it. I do regret the attitude which the Government have taken on this matter.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolution to be reported To-morrow.

Committee to sit again To-morrow.