§ [12TH ALLOTTED DAY.]
§ Considered in Committee.
§ [Captain BOURNE in the Chair.]
§ REVENUE DEPARTMENTS ESTIMATES, 1936.
§ POST OFFICE.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £44,344,000, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Post Office, including Telegraphs and Telephones."—[NOTE.—£25,000,000 has been voted on account.]
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Major Tryon)
I understand that the Opposition have asked for this particular Vote of the Post Office in order that we should have a discussion on the Broadcasting question. I should like to thank them very much for giving us an early opportunity of stating the policy of the Government and our views in supporting it. The impending expiry, at the end of 1936, of the original Charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation, brings before the House the question of the provision to be made for the future of the Broadcasting service. Broadcasting in this country began in 1922, nearly 14 years ago, and was conducted until the end of 1926 by the British Broadcasting Company, an organisation formed by the principal British manufacturers of wireless apparatus. In 1925 the Crawford Committee considered what should be done at the end of 1926, when the Company's licence would expire; it recommendedthat the Broadcasting service should be conducted by a public corporation acting as Trustee for the national interest.The British Broadcasting Corporation was accordingly established by Royal Charter for 10 years from 1st January, 1927, and it began to operate on that date under licence from the Postmaster-General. It has, therefore, become necessary to consider what arrangements should be made on the expiry of the Royal Charter at the end of this year, 1936. My right hon. predecessor, who is 864 now the Minister of Health, appointed a committee rather more than a year ago, to examine the whole question and to advise on the future conditions of Broadcasting. The committee, it will be recollected, included members of all parties; its inquiry covered a period of about eight months; and it was presided over by a Chairman—Lord Ullswater—whom this House has reason to hold in the highest honour and respect. I received its report, which was duly presented to Parliament.
The Government have given careful consideration to the opinion of the committee, and also to the views of this House expressed in a recent Debate; and I have published in a White Paper a Memorandum dealing with the main issues involved. I should make it clear that for the sake of brevity and clarity the White Paper was put in the form of a statement of the Government's views and proposals in relation to the future. It is only fair to say that many of the recommendations dealt with have, in fact, been a part of past practice, and that many of the observations of the Ullswater Committee constituted an endorsement of the policies of the Corporation. In seeking the approval of the House for the Governments proposals, I will now follow the same sequence as in the White Paper, that is to say, I will take first the main recommendations which would require Government action. and then those which affect action to be taken by the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The first and dominant issue is the question of renewing the Charter. Having before them the possible alternatives that Broadcasting might be completely nationalised, with Government ownership and operation, or, at the other extreme, that it might be thrown open to private enterprise and commercial competition, the Ullswater Committee has unanimously recommended the continuance of the present system, and a renewal of the Charter for a further period of 10 years. This recommendation the Government accept, and having regard to what has happened in some other countries, where Broadcasting has become an instrument either of Government propaganda or of commercial advertisement, I believe that this Committee will agree that this is the right 865 and proper course. During the Corporation's first term of 10 years the number of receiving licences in this country has grown from 2,000,000 to more than 7,500,000. The Ullswater Committee hold that there is a widespread popular approval of the Broadcasting service, and they record their full concurrence in this approval—a concurrence which is endorsed by the Government. When criticism is offered—and I will refer to this again later—it is right that this commendation, given authoritatively and after full inquiry, should be borne in mind.
The Government accept the recommendation that the number of Governors should be increased to seven. The Government also agree that the salary of the Chairman should remain as at present, £3,000, and that of other Governors be fixed at £1,000. This involves an increase in the remuneration of the Governors, other than the Chairman and Vice-chairman, from £750 to £1,000 a year. I think the House will agree that this increase is no more than is called for by the public responsibilities imposed on the Governors. The Government attach great importance to the duties and responsibilities of the Chairman and other members of the Board of Governors. No one can have any doubt of the significance and influence of the Broadcasting service, which is under their control. The duties of the Chairman are such as to involve heavy work and responsibility, and his salary of £3,000 per annum has reference to this consideration.
It is in regard to Ministerial responsibility that the proposals of the Government first diverge from the recommendations of the Ullswater Committee. The Committee's recommendation isthat responsibility for the cultural side of Broadcasting should be transferred to a Cabinet Minister in the House of Commons, preferably a senior member of the Government, and free from heavy Departmental responsibilities.I need hardly say that I have offered no ojection to this proposal from a Department1 point of view on behalf of the Post Office. It is clearly a matter to be considered by the Government as a whole, and it raises an important constitutional question. The committee's recommendation has been supported in 866 some quarters and criticised in others, on the ground that it would involve an increase in the extent of control by the Government over the British Broadcasting Corporation. The committee did not, I think, suggest that an increase in the extent of Governmental control would be desirable, but in practice what would be the position of a Ministerfree from heavy Departmental responsibilities,who was specially appointed to be responsible
in respect of broad questions of policy and culture.Responsibility without real power is intolerable. The new Minister would find himself more and more obliged to exercise actual control, and independent management by the Corporation would soon be at an end. Such a tendency would be contrary to the policy which led to the establishment of the B.B.C. and to the practice which has had the approval of this House during the past nine years. Moreover, as technical control under the Wireless Telegraphy Act would in Any case remain with the Postmaster-General, the course recommended by the Committee would have the further practical disadvantage of a division of B.B.C. affairs between two Ministers. The Government, therefore, do not accept this recommendation, but propose the continuance as at present of the existing functions of the Postmaster-General. The Government do, however, accept the recommendation that the Estimate for Broadcasting should be presented separately from the Post Office Estimates. This procedure will give the House such opportunities as it may desire for discussing broad matters of policy.
The Government accept the recommendation that the annual Broadcast receiving licence fee should remain at 10s. They also accept the recommendation that the percentage of licence revenue to be allocated to the Post Office to cover its prospective costs should be fixed for periods of two years beginning on 1st January next year. These costs mainly arise from collecting the annual licence fees of some 7,500,000 listeners, of detecting delinquents and of assisting in the remedying of radio interference troubles which, unfortunately, are growing to a considerable extent. In regard 867 to finance, the Ullswater Committee recommended that the share of the licence revenue remaining, after Post Office costs have been covered, to be allocated to the B.B.C. month by month, for purposes other than television, should be not less than 75 per cent., and that the balance of the licence revenue should be regarded as potentially available for Broadcasting, so far as it may be required, any residue being assigned to the State.
The Government thought, and I have no doubt that this Committee will agree, that it was desirable to reduce the committee's somewhat general statement to more precise terms. They accept the view of the Ullswater Committee that there should be some increase in the initial assignment of revenue to the Corporation. They propose to fix this at 75 per cent. of the net licence revenue to cover all B.B.C. services, with the proviso that, if the Treasury should hereafter be satisfied that the income of the B.B.C. is insufficient to support their services, including television and Empire Broadcasting, it should be open to the Treasury to approve such increase as they may think appropriate in the circumstances in the proportion of receiving licence revenue payable to the B.B.C. The Government accept the recommendation that the share of receiving licence revenue to be paid to and retained by the Exchequer in respect of the year 1936 should be fixed at £1,050,000, exclusive of the Income Tax payable by the B.B.C. A Supplementary Estimate will be needed to implement this proposal and will be submitted to the House in due course.
The Government also agree that the Corporation should refrain, as in the past, from Broadcasting its own opinions by way of editorial comment upon current affairs. This restriction has been observed, and will in future be applied, in relation to the publications of the B.B.C. as well as the Broadcast Programmes. They further agree that direct advertisements should remain excluded from the Broadcast service. The committee suggested that power to admit "sponsored" programmes should be continued, but that any increase in its use should be limited to the initial stages of television Broadcasting. The Government, however, feel that the complete exclusion of advertisements is widely 868 approved and, consistently with these views, they propose that the power to admit "sponsored" programmes, which in fact has never been exercised by the Corporation, should be omitted from the new Charter.
The Government accept the following recommendations: That the responsible Departments should take all the steps which are within their power, with a view to prevent the Broadcasting from foreign stations of advertisement programmes intended for this country; that the Empire Broadcasting Service should be expressly authorised and developed; that television Broadcasting by the B.B.C. should be expressly authorised. The committee suggested that a further proportion of the net receiving licence revenue might well be used towards television Broadcasting. The Government propose that the financial arrangements for this service should fall within the scope of the general financial arrangements which I have already described, namely, the allocation to the B.B.C. of 75 per cent. of the net licence revenue.
I come now to the question of the Broadcast relay exchanges. This is a matter which occupied a good deal of the time of the House during the recent Debate, and on which widely differing views were expressed. The committee's recommendation is that the ownership and operation of Broadcast relay exchanges should be undertaken by the Post Office and the control of their programmes by the B.B.C. When the report of the Ullswater Committee reached my hands I took stock of what my Department would have to do if the Government accepted the recommendations. Among these recommendations was this: that the business of the relay exchanges, which exist in some parts of the country and are operated under licence from the Postmaster-General by private companies and firms, should be undertaken by the Post Office and the B.B.C. It was clear that such a change of this kind would require staffing and administrative arrangements on the part of the Post Office and that financial issues which it would take some time to settle would arise on the termination of the present licences.
The recommendations of the committee went further, however, and in an important paragraph, No. 133, they pointed out that there are various alternative 869 methods of relaying Broadcast programmes by wire, including the use of the telephone system for the purpose. They go on to say, in paragraph 135:Though the prospects of wire Broadcasting are promising, the lines of future development are not yet certain.These are questions which involve a considerable amount of research work, as well as many practical considerations, and it is clear, therefore, that an ample margin of time—which the experts put at from two to three years—is desirable. The Government accordingly propose to extend for three years the system of licensing relay exchanges, subject to the condition that every such licence will be liable to be terminated on 31st December, 1939, and to the continuance of the present provisions whereby the Postmaster-General may, on the termination of any relay exchange licence, require the licensee to sell to him such portion of the plant and apparatus as he may specify at a price:equal to the value thereof at the date of purchase as plant and apparatus in situ, exclusive of any allowance or compensation for loss of profit, compulsory sale, goodwill, the cost of raising capital or any other consideration.I have sought to make it abundantly clear to proprietors of relay exchanges and those responsible for arrangements entered into with them, such as local authorities, that they have no guarantee or assurance in any form that any licences will be continued beyond the end of the year 1939, and that there can be no question of compensation for any commitments beyond that date. In doing so I hope the House will agree that this course will remove the slightest grounds for the suggestions that have been made, that if the Government exercise their right to terminate the licences it would be in some way acting unfairly to the licensees. This right has always been expliciting stated in the licence and accepted by the licensees, but I am given to understand that some of them have proceeded with their plans on the assumption that a prolongation was probable.
The Government's explicit statement now should make it clear that any further capital investment which is unlikely to be recouped before the end of 1939, is made at risk. At the same time, though this is not the primary purpose of the 870 extension, it may be pointed out that it will give existing relay exchange proprietors a further three years in which to recoup their earlier expenditure, and from the somewhat remarkable trading figures which I have seen recently in connection with these operations I should imagine that this should provide ample time to secure the residual amortisation of past capital expenditure. In the meantime I am now embarking on extended technical research in my Department, supplementary to such work of this character which has already been done, with a view to determining the best lines along which to proceed in the future.
On the vexed question of the dissemination by relay exchanges of advertising programmes from abroad, I think it will be agreed that it is undesirable at this stage to proceed to actual prohibition, and that we should rely on relay exchange owners to keep such advertisement matter to a minimum. I propose, however, to insert in all licences a clause requiring that undertakings which provide a choice between two programmes must supply at least one B.B.C. programme during B.B.C. hours.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I do not wish to intervene unnecessarily, for I know that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is making a very careful statement, but I wish it to be made clear whether he means the position now before the end of the three years or whether he means that the whole question is to be left open to be decided at the end of the three years?
§ Major TRYON
We reserve absolute right and freedom to do whatever may be found best at the end of the three years. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has asked the question, because it enables me to clear up the matter. Finally, the Government have accepted the recommendation that the technical investigation of interference with Broadcast reception should be completed as soon as possible, and that if necessary further powers should be sought. Since the White Paper was published I have received the final report of the committee of the Institution of Electrical Engineers which has been investigating this problem. They have been investigating the question of interference and their report will be published in the course of a few days. On account of the difficulty of ensuring that corrective 871 measures will be universally applied to appliances imported from abroad as well as to those manufactured in this country, the committee have come to the conclusion that legislation is necessary to enable regulations to be drawn up and enforced.
It will clearly be some time before legislation can be considered and regulations can be made effective, and I would like to appeal to the public in general to continue the good will on which the Post Office has been enabled to build up its very successful work in suppressing interference with Broadcasting. We have over 40,000 complaints a year, and only in a small percentage of these cases do the owners of offending apparatus refuse to do anything. We hope that this good will may be continued, and thus enable one of the serious difficulties of reception of Broadcasting to be removed.
We come now to the recommendations of the Ullswater Committee which involve action not by the Government but by the B.B.C. In connection with that I have been in communication with the Broadcasting Corporation, because the Committee are entitled to know what the Corporation are doing about those portions of the report which affect them. The relationship between the Corporation and the Government is described in the report of the Ullswater Committee, and one of the Committee's recommendations is briefly stated in this form:
That minor issues, measures of domestic policy and matters of day-to-day management should be left to the free judgment of the Corporation.In regard to questions affecting action by the B.B.C. itself the Government is to a great extent in agreement with the Ullswater Committee; and I am glad to be able to state that a number of satisfactory assurances have been obtained from the Corporation on these matters. It should be observed that the degree of independence which has been deliberately accorded to the Broadcasting Corporation, and which will be accorded by the granting of a fresh Charter, puts the Corporation in a different position from that of a Government Department, and limits the extent to which the Minister responsible can enter into questions of the details of their administration in Parliamentary Debates. As hon. Members will realise, the Minister cannot 872 well intervene in individual staff cases without weakening the present indedendence of the Corporation, which it is desired on all hands to preserve. The House of Commons, therefore, is faced with something of a dilemma in discussing matters relating to the Corporation, since if personal attacks are made on members of the B.B.C. staff, or if individual cases are cited, the B.B.C. are at a grave disadvantage, as they are in no position to reply to them. I feel sure, therefore, that I shall have the sympathy of hon. Members in my hope that criticisms and observations in regard to the conduct of Broadcasting should be directed to general questions and broad issues of policy and should avoid as far as possible the raising of individual cases.
It would be only right for me to add that though, for the reasons I have explained, I have felt precluded from pursuing the various personal questions raised by Members in a recent Debate on Broadcasting, this does not mean that the Government necessarily accepts the contentions put forward. I have, indeed, received from the Governors, who are responsible for carrying on the Broadcasting service in the national interest, emphatic denials of a number of the statements made, and the Governors have assured me of the general contentment and loyalty of their staff. The most striking individual charge was in connection with the case of Mr. Lambert. I find that this case was sub judice at the time when it was raised during the recent Debate. It is still sub judice and it is impossible for me to enter into its merits at the moment.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On a point of explanation would the right hon. Gentleman say whether the question of the attitude of Mr. Lambert's employers towards him is sub judice? The charge that was made against his employers was that they tried to exercise undue pressure on him in a perfectly personal matter? That is the question that we want the right hon. Gentleman to answer.
§ Major TRYON
I can see the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman and I do not in the least complain that he has raised this question, but it is perfectly impossible for me to start a discussion of the case without great risk of saying something that will affect the 873 issue one way or the other, and I must therefore respectfully decline to discuss it. There were also some general assertions made that there was no recognised method of promotion in the Corporation, it being done at the selection of the Director-General, and that no person who belongs to a trade union ever gets a job as an electrician under the Corporation. I am assured that both these statements are untrue, the Director-General being concerned in the promotion of senior staff only and acting in conjunction with senior officers and in consultation with the Governors, while no discrimination is made against trade unionists in choosing applicants, and a number of electricians in the employment of the B.B.C. in fact belong to their appropriate trade unions.
I am glad to say that the B.B.C. agree with the recommendations of the Ullswater Committee that the present policy of decentralisation and of including a good proportion of regional programme material should be continued. The B.B.C. agree, in regard to Wales, that every effort should be made to overcome the technical difficulties and to complete as soon as practicable the constitution of Wales as a distinct Broadcasting Region. I am assured that this has been for a long time the policy of the B.B.C. and that they are carrying out active experiments directed to that end.
The Ullswater Committee recommend that positions to be filled should be advertised. The Government accept this recommendation. Already about 80 per cent. of vacancies are being advertised, and the percentage is increasing. The Ullswater Committee further proposed that appointments, except those of minor staff, should be made on the recommendation of selection boards, including one of the Civil Service Commissioners or their representative. The Government accept this recommendation and are in communication with the B.B.C. with regard to it. The arrangement is intended to give the B.B.C. the assistance of the machinery and wide experience of the Commission—a body which has been instrumental in establishing the high standards of public service of which this country has reason to be proud, and, as in the case of the Civil Service, it should form a valuable protection to the B.B.C. against any possible charges of favourit- 874 ism. In accepting this recommendation, however, I should make it clear that it is in no way intended to reflect upon the Corporation's past practice or to transform its character in some way or other into that of a Civil Service Department The assistance of the Civil Service Commissioners will in no way derogate from the final responsibility of the Governors, and I am glad to say that the Governors have expressed their willingness to confer with the Civil Service Commissioners on the whole subject.
The next point is that the B.B.C. will, if the employés now or in the future wish to set up arrangements for staff representation, provide all necessary facilities, and they are actively examining what is the best arrangement to carry this out. In many other matters the course recommended by the Ullswater Committee has actually been followed by the B.B.C., either recently or from earlier times. Thus their staff are required to refrain from any prominent public part in matters of controversy. The criticisms of the B.B.C. with reference to their alleged interference with the private lives of their employés are not borne out by the actual detailed record of dismissals and retirements from B.B.C. service. The B.B.C. inform me that in the space of two-and-a-half years there have been among their monthly-paid staff, 64 retirements, dismissals or resignations. Fifty-four of these have no relation whatever to private conduct; six were connected with financial irregularities, one was a case of intemperance, and the remaining three arose from divorce cases. I am assured that the B.B.C. have paid attention to an officer's private conduct only when it has affected the value of his work or when public as well as private issues have been involved. Their future policy will be the same. It is, as far as I can judge, similar to the general practice of the Civil Service, and the Government are not prepared to require the B.B.C. to adopt less stringent rules in this matter than are applied to persons in the employment of the Government.
The Government and the B.B.C. accept the principle recommended by the Ullswater Committee that there should be a full system of advisory committees. At the same time the Government recognise that there may be difficulties in the way of immediate uniformity, and they are 875 prepared to leave it to the B.B.C. to carry out the policy agreed upon. The advisory committee system has in fact been followed closely by the B.B.C. in London and the Regions since their earliest days, but I understand that the Corporation, while concurring in principle, feel that there would be real difficulty in establishing general advisory councils in the Regions. As I have said, the Government endorsed the principle that, "Minor issues, measures of domestic policy and matters of day-to-day management should left to the free judgment of the Corporation." The Ullswater Committee recommended that, "Major items of contemplated capital expenditure should be stated when the Broadcasting Estimates are presented to Parliament." In the opinion of the Government a fixed procedure for this purpose would entail the approval of disapproval by Parliament of the steps proposed, and would thus throw upon the Government a responsibility which has rightly been assigned to the Governors. But I am assured that the B.B.C. is always ready to provide information which can be given to Parliament on contemplated developments.
In their Annual Report and Account for 1935 the B.B.C. have adopted the Ullswater Committee's recommendation as to the statements of current expenditure to be included in these documents. Sunday programmes have, as mentioned by the Ullswater Committee, been very materially lightened. Moreover, I am informed that steps are being taken at the present time towards a rearrangement of the Sunday programmes, and that in the autumn there will be a better balance and a more attractive lay-out, and that more dramatic work and feature programmes will be included.
In conclusion, I would ask the Committee not to overlook the benefits which the country has enjoyed under the present administration of Broadcasting. We have, beyond question, achieved the purposes for which the present Charter was designed. Let those who criticise the B.B.C. look abroad and see what has happened under other systems and other managements. I hope they will then be the more ready to give credit where credit is due. And I hope that this Committee, by its approval of the Government's proposals, will endorse the considered judg- 876 ment of the Ullswater Committee, who said:We feel that a great debt of gratitude is owed to the wisdom which founded the British Broadcasting Corporation in its present form, and to the prudence and idealism which have characterised its operations."
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
The Postmaster-General has made a very comprehensive and complete statement, and Although its delivery lacked something in dramatic effect I realise that in the circumstances in which the statement was made it was necessary that every word should be carefully weighed. The Postmaster-General was correct in his final word when he pointed out that on no side of the Committee is there any desire to attack the broad constitution of the British Broadcasting Corporation or the principles upon which this extraordinary bold experiment in a new type of public corporation, never before attempted in any part of the world, was set up and carried through. I am not going to spend my time in dealing with the main structure of the Government's statement. That is accepted on all hands, but I wish to make, first, a number of observations about the statement and then, finally, on one or two parts of it to express the strong disagreement of my hon. Friends and myself.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded his statement by dealing with the question of the staff of the Corporation, a question which was raised in the last Debate. Hon. Members will remember that during that Debate many anxieties were expressed as to the actual conditions, not so much of the manual staff as of the higher administration and professional staff. I am not going to enter into personal cases, but I want to tell the Postmaster-General that since that Debate I have gone carefully into the anxieties expressed; I have tried to hear both sides of the question. The Postmaster-General will probably understand that it is easier for one who is not in an official position to make inquiries than it is for the Postmaster-General himself. I am going to ask him to accept my assurance that the general statements I propose to make—I cannot give names 877 for the very reasons which he himself has given—are based on the most careful and, as far as I am able, judicial examination of both sides of the question.
I think, on the whole, that the Postmaster-General is not justified in dismissing what was said in the last Debate because he has received assurances from the Corporation. My conclusion after these inquiries is that a great many of these apprehensions are well founded, and the simple reason is this. A system of personal paternity was well suited to the B.B.C. when it was a small fraternity of friends, but is no longer suitable to a mammoth Corporation with over 1,000 salaried employés distributed all over the country and carrying on their shoulders semi-official responsibilities. The institution has grown so very quickly that its whole nature has changed, and it now bears very many of the marks of what I would call despotism in decay. The value of Debates in this House is already evident, because the very fact that the Postmaster-General has said that the Corporation are now going to permit, indeed encourage, staff associations is absolutely contrary to the attitude which they took up on the last Debate in the House.
The Corporation has now accepted the general proposal that appointments should not be made on a purely personal basis, but should be regularised in the manner which the Postmaster-General has described. But it is not enough merely to regularise the appointment; more is needed in the conditions of office itself. To begin with—this statement is correct—a great many of the appointments are made on purely verbal contracts, with the result that when there is a dispute a short time afterwards as to what the contract was the officials are informed: "This is what you were told, and we cannot enter into your complaint any further." It is true that there are increments, but they are given or refused without any reason being assigned. That is contrary to the practice of the Civil Service and many commercial corporations. Indeed, the Civil Service takes exactly the opposite view, that you ought to assign reasons so that the man may improve and know where he has gone wrong. 878 Then the highest officials, who in the Civil Service would correspond with assistant principals or assistant secretaries, are on three months' notice, and some of them in times past have been given three months' notice without any reason assigned. I do not think that the Postmaster-General ought to dismiss these general conditions from his mind.
I understand the difficulties. The Corporation employs men and women of very different types. Obviously, you cannot have a Stainless Stephen on Civil Service conditions. I am sorry to notice that the Postmaster-General appears to be entirely ignorant of the gentleman to whom I am referring. He must humanise himself in the days to come and spend the hour from eight till nine on Saturday nights in a different manner from what he has spent it up till now. A large number of the staff, musical directors, programme directors, variety directors, and so on, are men of the impressario type, and you cannot put them on Civil Service conditions. Men of the creative type I would deal with in this way: I 'would give them high salaries. The whole genius of the B.B.C. bubbles up from these men. They should be given far higher salaries than the administrative men, because they will probably have a shorter tenure of office. Their ideas may tend to become exhausted in four or five years and, perhaps, for their own safety may want to hie to some other line of life. I would let them come on probation for a year, then give them a five years' contract, renew it from year to year and make their conditions suitable to the peculiar type of the creative artist.
The difficulties and a large part of the unhappiness of the institution—I can assure the Postmaster-General that the B.B.C. is not what I call a happy ship—arises from the conditions of the more purely administrative technical staff who can reasonably ask to be put on other terms. For instance, the B.B.C. employs a great number of engineers, who are men of exactly the same kind as Post Office engineers, and there is no reason why their conditions of employment should not be very much the same. The Corporation also employs a large financial staff and a large administrative staff, the type of men who do not want enormous salaries, but who do want security and to 879 be able to look forward to regular work in their department for the rest of their lives. I do not say that you should introduce the Civil Service system, but I do say that something like Civil Service principles should be observed, with regular promotion unless there is some reason against it, increments of salary and, above all, security of tenure. It is insecurity of tenure which leads to so much effort being wasted in wire-pulling and intrigue. The result is that it affects efficiency. You do not get efficiency from men who live in fear. These are the reasons why I say that the House has been right in asking for a statement. The Postmaster-General may be right when he says that the men are not our employés, but at the moment we are delegating our responsibilities to a Corporation—responsibilities which we could take on ourselves if we made this into a Government Department, as other countries have done. Therefore it is our duty to lay down that the general conditions of employment will be such as to create the same contentment as is found among our own Civil Service.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
It is not entirely contented, but I can assure the hon. Member that if he went among the higher staff of the Civil Service, the principals and assistant secretaries, he would not obtain anything like the evidence I have been able to obtain in the last three months in regard to the B.B.C. It is curious that the class of men for whom we are speaking to-day have incomes far larger than most hon. Members on these benches. I felt so strongly that this matter should not be pushed aside in the Committee, that I had contemplated asking that a commission of inquiry should be set up to investigate staff conditions of the Corporation. I am not going to do so, because I am impressed with the same doctrine that has impressed the Postmaster-General, that we must not, except as a last resort, interfere with the actual freedom of the Corporation, but in putting that forward I take the opportunity of laying down what I think should be the relationship between the Corporation and the Government and the House of Commons.
880 Once or twice the Corporation, I think, has shown itself rather arrogant towards this House. I think it was arrogant of the Corporation, when the committee issued its report, to send out on the same day an attack on the report, an attack which had already been prepared on the basis of confidential information given to the Corporation before the committee's report appeared. Therefore, I consider it necessary to lay down what I think should be the relationship of the Corporation to the House and the Government. To begin with, the Corporation should understand that the Government and the House, in spite of this Charter, have very wide powers indeed over the policy of the Corporation if they wish to exercise them. The Postmaster-General can issue to the Corporation an instruction forbidding it to send out any item either in general or in particular, and any Government Department can issue to the Corporation an instruction compelling it to send out any item which the Government Department desires. Consequently, the Government really have almost full control over the Corporation if they wish to exercise their powers. So also has this House. After all, the Minister will be before the House every year with a special Estimate for the Corporation. This House can make or break Ministers, and, of course, through the Minister, we can have over the Corporation any influence we desire. Indeed, if it were ever argued out in the House as a question of Order, I am inclined to say that if the House has before it an Estimate dealing with every detail of the Corporation's expenditure, and if it is insisted upon, you, Sir, could not prevent hon. Members putting questions upon any subject which may be raised upon the Estimate.
§ Sir P. HANNON
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that hon. Members have attempted to put questions on the Paper with regard to the expenditure on the Corporation and that on every occasion they have failed to put those questions on the Paper?
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
The hon. Member does not quite understand my point. I am aware of the fact to which he refers, because I was Postmaster-General for the time and used to give advice to the Chairman. I am bound to say that when I was Postmaster-General I was very 881 relieved on several occasions that hon. Members did not follow the matter up. What I am saying is that I believe that if we argued the matter out and insisted on our full rights under the Rules of Order, it would be found that you cannot forbid the House the right to put questions upon subjects that have been raised on the Estimates. I do not think there is any doubt on that.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
I am not raising the point of Order now. I do not think I have made my argument clear. I am trying to point out that this House has very wide powers over the Corporation if it wishes to exercise them. In fact, both the Government and the House deliberately impose upon themselves a self-denying ordinance, but I do assert that that involves a certain attitude of mind on the part of the Corporation on the other side, and therefore I would lay down the general propositions that the Corporation ought to regard it as its duty very carefully to listen and to pay heed to Debates in this. House about the Corporation, and generally, unless there is very good reason against it, to attune itself in its policy to the general attitude of the House, as we would expect a Minister to do. I do not wish to raise a personal case, but I would say that there is a general impression that, because the case of Mr. Lambert was mentioned in this House, sooner or later we shall find that Mr. Lambert's engagement with the Corporation is at an end. That is the general impression on the side of the Corporation, and I therefore take this opportunity of saying that at any rate we shall watch very carefully what Mr. Lambert's ultimate fate is to be. That is all I wish to say with regard to the personal side.
As part of the general issue, and rather as a test of it, I come now to the reference made by the Postmaster-General to the Governors and the Chairman. His words upon that point were very important. He is aware that the term of office of practically all the Governors will expire in a very short time and the recommendation of the committee is that their term of office should be limited to five years. The Postmaster-General did not tell us the 882 opinion of the Government on that recommendation, but nevertheless that was the recommendation. Therefore, the Postmaster-General will very soon have to consider who the new Governors shall be. I spoke of the Chairman. If I may express my own view—and one Chairman had to be appointed during my period of office as Postmaster-General—I think it was a wise rule that was originally laid down that we should endeavour to find as Chairman a man of great public eminence whose name would add to the prestige of the Corporation. I would add that I think it would be a mistake to choose a man of great public eminence whose main work in life is coming to an end. We ought to select somebody who is really in the plenitude of his powers, and it ought not to be difficult to find such an officer, because, after all, he is being offered £3,000 a year for work which will not occupy the whole of his time.
When one comes to the other Governors of the Corporation, again I would urge the Postmaster-General to remember that at this period of the Corporation's career we do not want Governors of a negative type who rather easily accept the policy which is laid before them by the higher administrative officials. Perhaps in 10 or 20 years' time, when the Corporation has settled down to routine procedure, Governors of that sort will very suitably fill the position, but at this time the Corporation is passing through a very creative period in which difficult decisions have to be made and on which the Governors ought to make up their own minds. Therefore, I urge the Postmaster-General to seek rather men of a positive and forceful type, and particularly men of an age who will be able to deal with the chief officers of the Corporation, who are practically all between 40 and 50 years of age and in the full strength of their powers.
I would like now to deal with two questions rather of technique than of general policy. The Government have accepted the proposal that there shall be a great deal more regional autonomy, and in connection with that I wish to contribute an idea for the consideration of the Corporation. The idea behind the proposal regarding regional autonomy is that although the Corporation is a 883 monopoly, there ought to be within it keen competition. There is no reason why a monopoly should not be combined with competition, and therefore the regional programmes ought to be in competition with the national programme. At the present moment two-thirds of the regional programmes come from outside and not from the Region, and the Postmaster-General may be aware that as a result of that some countries have complained that we ought not to have wavelengths for these regional programmes, which they say are merely relaying stations for London. What ought to be aimed at—there may be difficulties, but they are not overwhelming—is that the regional stations should be in the hands of men of quite independent minds who, within the general standard set by the Corporation, should be in competition with the national programme, trying to attract listeners away from the national programme on to regional programmes, and the national programme trying to attract them back. Thus there could be introduced into this wonderful experiment which we have initiated a new technique in public corporations, a technique of competition, or rather emulation, within a large national monopoly.
I come now to that part of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech which dealt with the matter which, more than any other, has led to the Motion to-day. The decision of the Government with regard to relay stations, after the Debate in the Committee a few weeks ago, certainly came as a shock to me. What the Government have now done is to put off making any decision about these relay stations for three years, and I venture to say that there is no reason to assume that that decision will be made at the end of three years. Among other things, there will probably not be very long before an Election at that time, and I think that may be a very good reason for postponing a decision on such an issue. I shall attempt to convince the Committee that both on technical grounds and on grounds of public service the substantial reasons for making a decision are as clear to-day as ever they can be three years hence, and that those reasons are overwhelmingly in favour of accepting the Ullswater Committee's recommendation and letting the Post 884 Office and the Corporation between them deal with these services.
Let me first of all take the technical grounds. The Postmaster-General explained the present system, by which each relay station has its wires, which radiate from the room where it has its receiver, and then, from each of these main wires, a wire leads off to each of its subscribers, and the subscriber gets the programme by direct passage along the wire—the low-frequency method, called audio-frequency. Even if the present system holds the field and the dreams of high-frequency do not ever find themselves fulfilled, there are overwhelming reasons on technical grounds why the recommendation of the Ullswater Committee should be accepted. The Post Office already has six or seven thousand exchanges throughout the country, it is already dealing with a network of telephone and telegraph wires, it has its staff, its engineers, its linesmen, its technicians and inspectors dealing with this work, so that with comparatively little increase in overhead expenditure it could add this very small function to its existing duties and meanwhile carry it out with all the advantages of purchasing the wires, poles and installation equipment on a large scale. Therefore, on every ground of economy, rationalisation and large-scale production, the Post Office could, on the present methods, carry out this service with greater technical efficiency and more cheaply than the very expensive rates which the relay stations now demand. But I should have thought that 90 per cent. of the technical experts are absolutely certain that in a very short time this system of low-frequency programmes along a direct wire will give way to high-frequency programmes along carrier waves.
It is, to me, incomprehensible, but it is the fact that in addition to a message going along the main cable, say from here to Birmingham or from here to Manchester, there can be 30 messages going along with it in the air all round it, conveyed by carrier waves without interference with the original message. I do not understand it, but there it is, and I should say that almost all technical experts believe that, with a little development, this system of carrier waves and high frequency can be made to include Broadcast programmes. In fact it is done already. The Postmaster-General may have noticed that the Northern Ireland 885 programmes from London are already received by the high frequency system and, carrier waves on the submarine cables across the Irish Sea. That is a beginning,
If a great development takes place in that respect what will be the position of the two services? The Post Office has its network extending from John o' Groats to Land's End. Last week-end I saw an announcement in the newspaper that they had established a telephone exchange at Cape Wrath, and there are telephone exchanges in the Hebrides. But is it likely that under the present system of private companies a relay exchange would be set up at Cape Wrath or in the Hebrides? Are the relay companies going to erect expensive aerials entailing the employment of staff and apparatus and so forth, for a few crofters in the Hebrides? No, that is impossible under present technical conditions. But consider the resources of the Post Office. The Post Office has its cable reaching right into a little shop on one of the islands in the Hebrides. There is the telephone exchange and by means of high frequency waves on the carrier system, the Post Office could send its programme from London into that little shop for nothing and then, on the ordinary low frequency system, extend that programme from the shop to the few subscribers around. That is to say, the Post Office would save all the expense and trouble of an aerial, special staff, power, and apparatus. It could make this system reach all those areas of the country which will remain untouched under present conditions. That is why I say that, on technical grounds, the case for accepting the recommendation of the Ullswater Committee is overwhelming.
On grounds of public service it is vastly stronger. There is a great deal of money in this business, and part of it is being spent on us as Members of this House. I was very flattered by the amount of attention which I received in connection with the last Debate. I received telegrams from people who had never been able to afford to send telegrams before. Some of my colleagues, I understand, received telegrams from people who were on public assistance but who felt so strongly the claims of these relay exchanges that they adopted that method of communication. There is money in this, and I am bound to say I think that, 886 on the occasion of the last Debate, we were over-lobbied. If there is money in it then that means that the Postmaster-General, when he gives a licence, signs away thousands of pounds to private individuals. What right has he to do so when only on Friday we were told that there was to be a deficit on the Budget? Obviously, that money ought to be devoted to the community at large. Why is there money in this? Because these relay companies just skim the cream of the business. They set up in a populous town with three or four or five miles of wire, they are able to get some thousands of subscribers with very little expense and they make a profit. But they are not going to set up at Cape Wrath or in the Hebrides because there is no profit to be made there. It is the same story as that of the National Telephone Company. Where a profit is to be made they are very active; where no profit is to be made, nothing is done. As a matter of public service, the profit made in the profitable districts should be used to extend the system elsewhere so as to make it available, on equal terms, to all members of the community. On, public, as well as technical grounds the case is overwhelming.
Finally, I say that the Postmaster-General has made a profound mistake in postponing a decision. It may be that in the meantime severe political pressure will be brought to bear in connection with this matter. The financial interests involved will be active in the next three years and there is the possibility of a General Election in between, at which candidates will be questioned and asked to sign statements. I cannot believe that the Postmaster-General would seriously contend that under those conditions we shall be able to come to a scientific decision. Are we more likely to base our decision upon purely technical grounds in those circumstances than if we made a decision to-night? I still hope that the view of hon. Members will be that the Government ought not to be allowed to postpone this decision that they should be prevented from putting off a decision on this matter because of what is, after all, mere indecision, vacillation and weakness. We have already had the report of the committee; we have had a Debate in this House in which two-thirds of the time was devoted to this question; it is now ripe for decision and 887 never again are we as likely to be able to take an impartial and judicial decision as we are to-day.
I ought to point out to the Committee that on this occasion a great deal of latitude is being allowed in the discussion on the British Broadcasting Corporation. That is because the Charter or licence under which the Corporation operates has to be renewed towards the end of this year and what we are really discussing to-day is the question of the terms on which that renewal should be made. When the new Charter has been issued, the extent to which it may be possible to discuss questions of this sort again in Committee, will depend on the terms of the Charter. I state that, in order that this Debate shall not be taken as a precedent for future occasions.
§ 4.53 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I wish to thank the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Postmaster-General for the clearness and lucidity of his statement, and I was particularly glad to hear his concluding remarks, in which he paid a handsome and well-deserved tribute to the British Broadcasting Corporation and those who have been responsible for directing it since its inauguration. I was a little sorry to hear the tone of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) when he was discussing the higher control of the British Broadcasting Corporation. I have no doubt that a number of the decisions of the Corporation in past years must have been unacceptable to hon. Members opposite, but I assure them that there have been just as many, if not more decisions of the Corporation which have been highly distasteful to Members of the political pary to which I belong. Frequently, Conservatives have cause for complaint about certain features of the Broadcast programmes, but I take that merely as proof of the fact that it is impossible for anyone in charge at Broadcasting House to please all political parties at the same time. I am sure the Corporation use every effort to hold the balance fairly as between different political opinions in the country.
§ Mr. LEES-SMITH
The Noble Lord is now raising an issue which I did not 888 touch at all. I was not discussing the matter on political grounds, and I do not know what are the politics of those who are in control. I was arguing that men in high administrative positions should be given security of tenure, quite apart from their political opinions.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I was not directing my argument to that particular part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I was simply saying that in the case of a monopoly in the position of the British Broadcasting Corporation, the administration of which touches public life at so many points, there must necessarily be a number of matters on which he would disagree with the Corporation's decisions. Whether it is in regard to staff, or to procedure, or to the programmes, is not the point. I merely assure him that we on this side also have our grounds of criticism of the administration of the Corporation in regard to certain matters. But unless we are to throw the whole thing into the cockpit of party politics and make the administration of the Corporation a subject for discussion in detail on the Floor of this House, we must, as far as we can, leave those matters alone, and I understand that the right hon. Gentleman assents to that point of view. Therefore, I was sorry, as I say, to hear the tone which he adopted and particularly to hear him mention the name of an individual in the employment of the Corporation, and to hear some of the expressions which he used in that connection. I think that attitude in the House is not compatible with the standard which the right hon. Gentleman himself laid down for politicians to observe.
I wish, in a humble capacity, to pay my little tribute to the Corporation. Not only have they, on the whole, provided the country with the finest broadcasting service in the world, but they have also provided us with a clean service. When one reflects on the different standards of different broadcasting services and the kind of entertainment with which the public is regaled by the cinemas and indeed by the Press, then I think the standard set by the British Broadcasting Corporation is deserving of the gratitude of every one of us. However much I, as a Conservative, may be annoyed by the amount of what I consider to be 889 semi-Socialist or semi-Bolshevist broadcasts which take place, I always remember with gratitude that Sir John Reith and the Governors have kept the ether clean, and it is almost the only thing in this country that is clean.
I have risen this afternoon to join the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down in protesting against the decision which the Government have made in regard to the relay stations, although I do so from a rather different angle and for rather different reasons. It seems to me that my right hon. Friend is quite correct in saying that the Government have really arrived at this decision through indecision. It is not a decision; it is the postponement of the question for another three years. If that decision is to stand the people who are at present receiving the relay programmes and those who desire and expect to receive them will have very serious cause for complaint against my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General and the Government.
What will be the inevitable effect of the Government decision? It is that the whole of this service will be paralysed until the end of 1939. The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said it was the story of the National Telephone Company over again. I agree with him and I add this further reason, that one of the things that hampered the development of the National Telephone Company more than anything else was that sword of Damocles hanging over their heads which prevented capital expenditure being made, which if their tenure had been more secure the company would have been able to make. What relay company at the present moment is going to extend its plant or improve its plant under the terms which the Postmaster-General has announced?
I gathered from the Postmaster-General's speech—I may have been mistaken—that one of the reasons which led him to this decision to postpone a decision for three years was that it would give the relay companies an opportunity of recouping themselves for the heavy capital expenditure they have incurred. That is a perfectly fair point of view and I do not think that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the late Postmaster-General was fair in that respect. I think I am right in saying that he himself issued a great many licences to these 890 relay companies when he was Postmaster-General. Now he says to the House of Commons that there is money in it. Yes, but who showed us there is money in it? These relay companies have been pioneers. They have developed a new service. They discovered a new need; and although I agree with him that the State ought to take over this service I do not think the State ought to take it over on terms which, although they may be legally within the narrow wording of the licence when it was issued, are not terms which are fair and just to all parties concerned. I think the right hon. Gentleman himself will admit that when these licences were issued no one visualised the extent to which this service would grow. If we can agree upon that, then I would agree entirely that this business ought to be taken over by the State, because it seems that ultimately it must be taken over by the Post Office.
Surely it would be much better for the Postmaster-General to buy out all these relay stations straight away, to buy them out on arbitration terms, the full value of what they have put into the business, and then for the Post Office to continue to run the service as the Ullswater Committee recommend. The Postmaster-General says he is not ready with his technical research yet. But there is nothing to stop him going on with technical research during the next few years. He can continue to give the same service as is being given to-day, and when he has finished his research he will be able to improve upon it. If he does not do that he ought to give the companies a longer lease and fair compensation at the end of it, so that they can make a good job of the business. But if the plan which the Government have announced this afternoon is carried out it means that the whole of this service will be paralysed for three years, just as telephone development was paralysed in the days of the National Telephone Company.
Really, the speech of my right hon. and gallant Friend was an incentive to the relay companies to make as much money as they can out of their existing licences and out of their existing plant, to make hay while the sun shines and then to retire at the end of three years on compensation which in itself is inadequate but which combined with this "make-hay-while-the-sun-shines" profit 891 may result perhaps in rough justice being done. Surely that is not going to be for the benefit of the listeners in this country. You are going to have the whole thing held up; all development and all improvement is going to be held up for three years, no relay company will put a further penny of capital into their plant, no relay company will spend a farthing in improving the service, and the result will be a great deal of public dissatisfaction. I believe I am right in saying that already a quarter of a million homes enjoy this service. Probably relay programmes are listened to by well over 1,000,000 people. Then there is a fringe of those who want to come on to the relay service. Many hundreds of thousands of people want facilities of this kind. All that is going to be stopped by the Government decision.
I cannot help feeling that during the next three years a great deal of public dissatisfaction will fall on the unfortunate—but not I am afraid in this case innocent—head of the Postmaster-General, because he will have brought all this trouble upon himself. Therefore I beg him to reconsider the decision in this respect, to buy out these relay companies on fair terms, fixed by arbitration on the value they have put into the business which the State now sees reason to take over, and not to postpone a decision for three years and then take over the service on so-called tramway terms. So far as the relay companies are concerned I think there would not be much difference in the two forms of procedure, but so far as the public are concerned there would be an enormous difference. Therefore I hope very much that the Government will reconsider their attitude in regard to this part of the Ullswater Committee's Report, although I heartily support everything else that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has said.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. ERNEST EVANS
So far the Debate seems to have proceeded more or less on the lines that the existence of the British Broadcasting Corporation will continue for another 10 years and that the Corporation will continue as at present to conduct the Broadcasting services. I think we ought to enter a caveat against that. It is necessary to emphasise 892 that Parliament has a very great responsibility in this matter. The importance of this service is to be measured not only by the number of people who take out licences or by the number of people who listen to Broadcasting programmes, but must be measured by a large number of issues. Therefore, Parliament should assert itself and assert its control over a service which affects the lives of millions of people in this country and the influence of which is incalculable. We decided some years ago that the development of the service should not be left entirely to private interest, and I do not think many people would seek to reverse that decision at the present time. We also decided that the service should not be nationalised. The question whether that policy will acquire greater support in the future will depend very much on what happens in the course of the next few years.
We dodged the issue if 1 may use that expression, by adopting the ingenious experimental device of establishing a Corporation more or less independent, described as a trustee for the national interest, but it is the responsibility of Parliament to decide both as to the body of persons who should be the trustees and as to the powers which should be delegated to those trustees. I believe it is the general opinion of the House that the Corporation in the last 10 years has done its work satisfactorily in the main. For my part I am perfectly willing to assent that this system should be continued, but it should be on certain terms. The first term is that the Charter should be for a limited period, and in regard to that I am prepared myself to assent to the recommendation that it should be for 10 years.
But there is another limitation which I suggest must be imposed, and that limitation is that nothing that is entrusted to the British Broadcasting Corporation shall interfere with the ultimate authority and responsibility of Parliament for a service which as I say affects the individual lives of millions of citizens of the country and in that way affects the destiny of the nation. I do not advocate that the State should take power to interfere unduly with the work of the B.B.C. By control I mean something a little different from that. I do not advocate interference, because I think nothing could be worse than that those responsible for the day-to-day conduct of this 893 great service should be made liable to the sort of influence which might be exercised by the particular Government in authority at any particular time. I think I shall have the general assent of the House when I say that that influence might be of a very dangerous and sinister character. But that does not mean that Parliament should divest itself of all authority.
When I speak of control I do not confine myself to the limits of control within the terms of the Charter in the sense that the Government have power to ask the Corporation to incorporate certain items in its programme, or to delete certain things from the programme, or in the event of a national emergency to take over the whole thing. I have something rather different in mind. What I want to secure is that Parliament should have the right to ensure that this service is carried on entirely in the national interest and that all the operations of the Corporation, except matters of pure technical detail, can be raised in discussion in this House by us who are the representatives of the people. In the past there is no doubt our discussions have been considerably hampered. As I understand it the rule laid down was that, while the Postmaster-General would accept responsibility for what were called broad issues of policy, all minor issues of policy and the domestic policy of the Corporation and matters of day-to-day control would be left to the B.B.C.
I must confess that I am unable to appreciate where the line of demarcation comes between broad and minor issues of policy, and I am quite certain it is incapable of definition. Experience has shown that it would be very difficult of application. On many occasions I would have liked to have put down questions with regard to the operations of the B.B.C., and when other Members have tried to raise questions in the course of such discussions as are available to us, what have we found? If we raised a broad issue, we were told it was so broad that the Postmaster-General could not deal with it because it was a matter of Cabinet policy, or that it was so big that it could not be raised on the only opportunities open to us in the discussions on the Estimates and the Expiring Laws Continuance Bill. If we raised other matters we were told that they were so small that they should be 894 left to the discretion of the Corporation. In the case of a new service like this, which is increasing in extent and in influence from year to year, matters of minor policy may become matters of major policy in a short time.
What I am anxious to secure is that this House should have an opportunity of discussing these matters whenever it wants to do so. For that reason I regret that the Government have not seen fit to adopt the recommendation of the Ullswater Committee that there should be a Minister of whom we can ask questions and with whom we can discuss matters in which we are interested. This is a service which intimately affects the lives of millions of people, and I should have thought it would have been advisable for the Government to adopt this recommendation of the Ullswater Committee both from the point of view of the dignity and the influence of the service with which we are concerned, and from the point of view of practical policy. I am sure that if the Minister of Transport had been a Member of the Cabinet the roads of this country would to-day have been in a much better condition than they are. I always think that the Ministry of Transport ought to be held by a Member of the Cabinet. If that be true with regard to the Ministry of Transport, which is concerned with conveniences and amenities of life, it is a strong argument in favour of a Minister being responsible to this House for the service which we are discussing to-day, which not only concerns the conveniences and amenities of life, but influences the social, cultural, educational and religious life of millions of people.
Let me pass to the question of relay stations. My first experience of this relay service took place within the last six weeks. I happened to have the use of a house on the South Coast in which I could spend week-ends, and I found that this relay service was installed, and, as it was installed, I took it over. I say nothing about the programmes which were supplied, because individual tastes vary so much that it would not be fair to make my criticisms of them. Apart from the nature of the programmes, the nature of the reception astonished me. I plugged in and heard a noise; in fact, I heard a lot of noises, and I could not distinguish anything that was being said in a speech. 895 That was my first experience. I was told that this service was very valuable from the point of view of the poorer classes of the community. I was able to judge of that at the end of the first week when a man called and asked me for my payment for the week, which amounted to 2s. It is no good suggesting that this is a service which exists for the poorer sections of the community when they charge 2s. a week. In view of the fact that people have to pay for their licences in addition, in view of the sets one sees advertised in any shop window, and in view also of the aptitude of the younger generation to make sets of their own, it is absurd to suggest that a service for which 2s. a week is charged is one designed to provide the poor with something they could not otherwise obtain.
Then I was told that it provided a much wider scope of service. I found that that was not the case, and, as was pointed out just now, this service is not in existence where it might be any use. It is only in existence in densely populated areas. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) pointed out in the previous Debate that, unless there were several thousands of houses which could be served in a particular area, this service could not be undertaken by private enterprise because it would be commercially impossible. Another point is that it can be used very unfairly Suppose there is a series of lectures or speeches upon a particular controversial question. They are frequently arranged by the B.B.C. and several speakers explain various points of view on the question. It is open to the relay service to put on the speech of "A" supporting a particular proposition, but not to put on the reply of "B" or the comments of "C". That is a matter of serious public policy. Apart from my views upon this question, there is the recommendation of the Ullswater Commission, and I am frankly amazed at the attitude of the Government. As the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) has pointed out, they are simply dodging the issue, and dodging it to their own prejudice and to the prejudice of the national interest.
The hon. Member for Swindon said that when he was first acquainted with this system the amount of capital involved 896 was only a few thousand pounds and that to-day it was £1,500,000. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) said that from now on nobody would put in more capital. I wonder whether he is right. I think that a good many people will put in more money in the course of the next three years in the hope that they will find a Government at the end of that period as susceptible to influence as this Government has been. In the meantime, we can take it for a certainty that the influence which those responsible for this service will try to exercise upon the Members of the House will be incomparably greater than that which has been exercised, and at the end of three years it will be much more difficult for the Government to get rid of this service. My comments upon sponsored programmes are of a similar character. I do not see any justification for continuing the right to have sponsored programmes, even in television. It was not used very much in sound Broadcasting, and I see no reason for its use in television Broadcasts because the merits of the programmes would depend on the wealth of the sponsors. If sponsored programmes were carried on it would make it more difficult for the Government to deal with the matter in future.
May I pass to the recommendation of the committee with regard to the Regions? I want naturally to refer in particular to this question as it affects Wales. I am sorry that the Ullswater Committee did not accept the evidence which had been presented on behalf of Wales for the establishment of a special provision for Wales. I do want, however, to acknowledge—and I speak with some knowledge because 1 have had the privilege of serving on the advisory committee set up by the Council of the University of Wales to assist the B.B.C. in considering various matters affecting Wales—that they have met our demands in a large degree. The present system, however, is very unsatisfactory. It is unsatisfactory to us in Wales, and I am sure that it must be to the West of England with whom we are associated. I shudder to think sometimes how they put up with some of the programmes which are contributed to that Region by the Welsh side of it. I understand that it is possible that technical difficulties may shortly be overcome and that Wales will have a special provision. In the meantime, I 897 want to congratulate the B.B.C. on their choice of a regional director. It is an excellent choice, and I only hope that the B.B.C. will give him a chance. It is no good appointing a good director if he is not given a chance.
Hon. Members will, I am sure, appreciate that Wales is distinct nation with its own history, culture, ideals and aspirations. There is among the great maority of Welsh people a desire to promote and extend that culture, and many of us think that a necessary medium for the accomplishment of that purpose is the fostering of the Welsh language. It is very galling to us to find such a large proportion of the programmes which are available to the Welsh people contributed in the English language. One of the reasons why there is not a larger number of people taking out licences in the rural areas of Wales is that programmes are mainly in the English language, which they do not understand. We object to Welsh culture and the Welsh language being subjected to this insidious influence, for it is detrimental to the policy which we have in mind.
My right hon. and gallant Friend will find, if he makes inquiries, that one of the reasons why Broadcasting in schools is not more successful largely depends on that question of language. In many schools instruction in some subjects is given in the Welsh language. The difficulty, as well as the financial difficulty, to which the Ullswater Committee draws attention, is among the reasons why Broadcasting in schools is not more popular in Wales. I am willing that the Broadcasting Corporation should have more Governors, but it seems to me that the increase cannot be made without taking into consideration the representations that have been made over a long period that one of the Governors should be a representative of Welsh nationality.
§ Major BRAITHWAITE
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us the number of Welshmen who do not speak English?
§ Mr. EVANS
I cannot give the figure off-hand, but I can tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that in the area with which I am most familiar there is a large proportion of the population who either do not understand English or, if they do, prefer to conduct their lives in the 898 Welsh language. I think the post of Chairman of the Governors ought to be a full-time office. If the Board of Governors is to be nothing but a recording agency of decisions arrived at by the Director-General and his assistants we are wasting a lot of money which might have been put to a better purpose. I endorse what the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said in regard to the staff, recruitment, salaries and security. Those are matters of vital importance, and if the Corporation do not do as suggested, believe me, this House will insist that it shall be done, and properly too. On the question of interference with the private lives of members of the Corporation, I shall not go into any details of the case mentioned, but I do not know of any other service which would act in the same way as the Corporation acted in that case. If, as the result of any action which had been taken, that man had been shown to be a man who either on moral or other grounds was not fit to be a member of the Corporation, then the Corporation should dismiss him, but to take the action which the Corporation did before the matter had been decided is a travesty of justice and something which no Corporation of this sort ought to have the power to do.
With regard to the suggestions made about the choice of speakers, I have seen it suggested that one newspaper proprietor who had been a great critic of the Corporation for a long time was asked to broadcast and ceased to be a critic. I do not attach much importance to that. I have also seen it stated that nobody who was a critic of the Corporation would be invited to broadcast. I should not have attached much importance to that suggestion but for the speech made in the last Debate by the hon. and gallant Member for Wallasey (Lieut.-Colonel Moore-Brabazon). Members of this House know the hon. and gallant Member, and his speeches are usually very interesting. He said that he was a frequent speaker on the wireless until he made some—jocular, he said—criticisms of the B.B.C., and from that time he was never asked to speak again. I do not suppose he would have made that statement unless he had some reason for thinking it was true. As I have said, the hon. and gallant Member is an interesting speaker. 899 We in this House find him an interesting speaker, and after all, what we do not know about interesting speakers is not worth knowing. The capacity of all of us for making speeches may not be equal, but our capacity for listening to speeches cannot be equalled anywhere. The point is that the Corporation ought not to put itself into a position in which such things can be said about it.
Another subject concerning the recommendations of the Ullswater Committee is in regard to Empire Broadcasting. In some parts of the Empire programmes which are Broadcast from other countries, some not too friendly to us, get a much better reception, in the technical sense, than programmes from this country. I invite the attention of the Government to that point. I am not a technical expert and I cannot pretend to be even a very great wireless enthusiast, but I am sure that the Postmaster-General will accept it from me that the observations which I have made are not made in any sense with the intention of hampering or hindering the development of the British Broadcasting Corporation, but rather with the idea of increasing its efficiency in the future, and, still more, to ensure that this House should retain control over the service.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ Captain Sir IAN FRASER
As we have been told, this is an occasion when the policy of the Broadcasting organisation is to be laid down and settled by the Government under the guidance of Parliament, and it is therefore open to Members to speak upon wider aspects of the Corporation's past work and its future activities than is perhaps usual. I want, first, to say a word about politics in relation to Broadcasting, which is very important but which has not been touched upon in this Debate, nor was it dealt with in the Debate some few weeks ago. It is a happy thing, I feel, that this invention, capable of taking the spoken word into millions of homes, should have been developed just at a time when the vote has become universal and when all are taking, and ought to take, an active and interested part in political life. Until a short time ago, as the lives of nations run, only a limited class took part in government, and they read newspapers which then carried substantial records of 900 the politics of the day. But the last decade or two has seen the speeches which form opinion gradually cut down and cut down, while at the same time the number of persons who are to be informed upon these matters has gradually increased and increased. In place of reports which are fair and may be of guidance to voters we have headlines which are so brief as almost always to be inaccurate, and are almost invariably tendentious and therefore it is of supreme importance that Parliament should not ignore the vast power which is placed in its hands and in the hands of all who are concerned with the governance.
We should realise what an important instrument is placed in the hands of governors and of those who carry the responsibility of ruling and of guiding opinion. In recent weeks we have seen evidence of how two or three newspapers can create a condition in which many thoughtful and decent people are doubtful about so important a matter as, for example, the continuance in office of the Prime Minister. Statements which are not merely tendentious but, apparently, positively untrue, are given to the public by newspapers without any sense of responsibility. In these circumstances surely it is important that we should recognise that a great new instrument has been put into our hands whereby the question whether a man is or is not well, whether he is or is not strong, whether he can or cannot put a case, can be put to the people in their homes, where we cease to rely upon the whims and fancies of any particular group of newspaper proprietors. I am not suggesting that in this particular instance the Prime Minister should have made a speech to show the people how vigorous his voice is—not particularly that—but I am suggesting that we should as politicians study seriously the power which is placed in our hands fairly and properly to put before the people all points of view in political matters, so that they may be better able to help us to govern our country under the democratic system for its future good.
There is one other aspect of politics upon which I wish to touch which has already been mentioned by other speakers, and that is the extent to which this House should control or interfere with the day-to-day or week-to-week progress of this undertaking. I find myself somewhat in disagreement with the last 901 speaker, who asked that the right of this House to interfere at any point at any time should be emphasised. It is true that he went on to say that he hoped the right would not be exercised, and if that be so I do not feel he rendered much service by insisting upon it so strongly. When the general lines of policy have been laid down I feel it to be of supreme importance that there should not be constant interference or daily questions about the conduct of the service. We have undertaken a new experiment by placing a great service and a great responsibility upon an independent Board, but the last ten years have, I think, vindicated and justified the judgment of the Crawford Committee and of the Government at the time when the Corporation was set up, and I should not like to see any change in the attitude of trust which has, on the whole, been placed in the Governors and officers of the Corporation by successive Parliaments.
That brings me to the question of whether some other Minister than the Postmaster-General should be made responsible for answering for the Corporation in this House. I have thought a great deal about it, and I think I have heard both sides of the question. My own judgment, for what it is worth, is that the Government have come to a right decision. I should like to feel that the Postmaster-General—not particularly my right hon. Friend but the office—should by itself carry the right to—or at any rate it be the practice that it should have—a seat in the Cabinet. There is no Department of State which on the administrative side is so important, and there are, possibly, one or two Departments represented in the Cabinet which are not so important. The inclusion of the Postmaster-General would solve the only one difficulty I see, namely, that sometimes, it may be, the Cabinet is not so well informed about Broadcasting matters as it might be if there were a Member of the Cabinet charged with the duty to understand them. I shall say a word later on relays, on which I cannot help thinking the Cabinet has been badly informed. Perhaps that was because the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was not there to tell them face to face what he thought. However, it is not for me to guess what he thought and they thought.
902 I think it would have been an error to have changed the so-called cultural control of the B.B.C., taking it out of the hands of the Postmaster-General and putting it into the hands of another Minister. There is something in the fact that the Postmaster-General is, primarily, a technical and administrative person. His Department is concerned so much with technical business and so little with policy that it is perhaps advantageous that the British Broadcasting Corporation should be in his hands, because it emphasises the extent to which the responsibility of this House is one of technical and business administration rather than a cultural or an artistic one. If ever there was a body unfit to manage a cultural or artistic daily entertainment activity I should have said it was the Civil Service, and after them this House. It should be left to the Corporation to find suitable officers to do that work, without the interference of a Minister who could constantly be asked questions of matters of taste. Inasmuch as Post Office control tends to diminish suggestions of cultural control I am happy that the B.B.C. should be in the hands of the Post Office.
A word about the relations of the British Broadcasting Corporation with trade and about the policy of forbidding advertising. It is taken for granted that it is a good thing not to have private interests impressing themselves on one's ears by paying money for time on the air, there is no need to argue that question, but there is at any rate one direction in which an exception is made, and sometimes it is criticised. The journals which the Corporation produce are two in number. One is of wide appeal, containing the hourly programmes, and the other is a rather highbrow journal for those who listen mainly to talks. May I observe, in passing, how listeners have learned to listen to talks, since the days when we said in the newspapers that talks ought to be cut out of the programmes? I believe they have learned to appreciate the value of talks. The Corporation have made it a practice to mention these journals at the end of their news bulletin, which has helped the journals by promoting their circulation. There has been some criticism of that. I want, in one sentence, to justify it. These journals are essential parts of the system of Broadcasting, and are necessary 903 adjuncts to the full enjoyment of the programmes. It seems to me legitimate and proper that they should be brought to the notice of listeners, and that the matters in them should be briefly described. As long as those journals do not contain editorial comment and do not begin to trespass outside the field of reasonable and proper comment upon matters Broadcast—I am glad to see that the Government have limited their power to make editorial comment—this method of calling attention to them might well be continued.
There is one other sphere in which the power of the microphone to influence opinion towards the purchase of an article might be, and should be, used. Someone may say that exceptions may be regarded as the thin end of the wedge, but I think I can show that there is a principle in this connection, just as there is with regard to the journals. I refer to the radio trade. I have no connection whatever with the radio trade, and no interest in it beyond what a decent citizen ought to take in the capacity, the employment, the profits and the flourishing generally of any trade. I am not concerned with it in any way whatever, but it is a matter which might well and quite properly receive more attention from the Government. The British Broadcasting Corporation should be free to call the attention of listeners, frequently and in a suitable way, to technical developments that take place, to new inventions and to the desirability of scrapping obsolete sets and buying new ones; not with reference to any manufacturers, and with scrupulous fairness not to show bias. Half the success of broadcasting depends upon the set in the home, and it is only the other half that depends upon us, Broadcasting House and the artists. It is all one great system of transmission and reception, and unless both sides of it are working together and the most modern equipment is in the hands of the listener in his home, all the efforts of Broadcasting House are, if not negatived, at any rate prejudiced. Greater efforts at co-operation between the Corporation and the trade might very well be encouraged, and the Corporation might feel free to do what lies in its power to see that listeners are told what is the best and how desir- 904 able it is that they should keep their receiving equipment up-to-date.
May I say a word about the staff? The Postmaster-General said that some members of the Corporation's staff were already members of trade unions, or were, at the time when they were recruited. I do not know that that matters very much, except that it shows that nobody gets a job because he is or is not a member of a union at the time when he applies. With all the clamour that there is in some quarters for all persons to join trade unions—with much of which I am not disposed to disagree—in general trade and industry, I realise the immense -advantages which workers and industry have secured by the development of the unions. Their knowledge and their capacity to maintain good will over long periods of time have vindicated the statement that they are a great advantage to industry, apart from their being an advantage to the workers.
Here, in this public service, another element comes forward for consideration. It will be remembered that the House felt, and I think the country endorsed the feeling, that where persons were in positions of particular responsibility, such as in Government service and the service of local authorities, or in charge of central services, there was a special reason why there should not be the same close alliance between groups of staff and outside organisations, as would normally be the case. I think that principle applies here. Here is a service which, in an emergency, should be relied upon for complete and absolute loyalty and faithfulness to the Government of the day, no matter to what party that Government belongs, and no alliance with outside organisations which might prejudice that loyalty should be permitted. Hon. Members and right hon. Members on the Opposition benches may feel differently on this matter, but let them, in their quieter moments—I cannot expect them to do it on platforms—think of the situation in France where, just as a Government of their persuasion has come into power, every effort is made to force its hand before it has had time to think out what it can do. Let us all realise that the Government of the day, whatever their political persuasion may be, have the right to expect any persons who may 905 be called upon to serve them in emergencies to be free from the influence of outside bodies which may want to force the Government's hand in any way.
A little has been said about Empire programmes. I attach very great importance to them. They have been an unofficial matter hitherto. It is typical of England, which does so well and yet so apparently badly, that we should have waited 10 years before we even recognised that there was an Empire programme. It has been an unofficial, and probably almost improper act, on the part of the Corporation, to spend their money upon that service. Now this programme is to be recognised, placed upon a proper status and urged to go forward with good will and more money. God speed to it. Those who have been in the far places know how welcome is the word from home over the air. Much more attention might be paid to it than has been paid. Now that it has official encouragement, let it go ahead and give to the lonely British people the best possible programmes on short waves that they can have.
May I say one word about the negative virtues of our short wave programmes? So far as I know, we broadcast only in the English language. Every other nation that thinks it is a great Power Broadcasts on the short wave in the English language. The Russians Broadcast in the English language, the Germans do, and so do the Italians. You can hear them any night at certain hours, telling the world in English how we ought to manage our affairs or how wisely they manage theirs. I want to praise the Government, or rather the Governors of the British Broadcasting Corporation, for not using any other language but English. Let the foreigners use our language for what they think is propaganda, and let us believe and know that the only effect of the propaganda is to advertise the English language.
Now a word about finance. I am glad that the Government have given the Corporation a greater proportion of licence fees. It has been rather shocking, the amount of money which has been taken out of the licence fees before they got to the B.B.C. I believe that for the last 10 years the Corporation have not had half of it. Now they are to have three-quarters of the net sum. The Treasury will still get quite a lot. I hope that 906 the Postmaster-General will see to it that that part of the report which says that all the money, after the Post Office have taken out their expenses, should be potentially available, will be taken into account. This service is so important that its growing needs should be fully met.
In respect to relays, I deplore the judgment which the Government have come to, and I hope they may yet reconsider it. I feel that they are buying trouble for themselves—dreadful trouble, and, if I am not mistaken, the hullabaloo a month ago will have been as nothing by comparison with what there will be in three years' time. We shall be within sight of a General Election, when it is not so easy for any Government to do what is technically advisable. I ask the Government if they can reconsider this matter. Here is one instance where it may well be that the Cabinet might have been better advised, if there had been a Minister in the Cabinet who knew something about the matter and had been able to deal with it in the Cabinet. Perhaps a word about the merits of the subject might not be out of place, because it may still weigh with some Members of the Government. I do not know whether the Government have come to this decision on the merits of the matter or whether they have put it off because they do not want to come to a decision on the merits.
I cannot see that there is any argument against the Corporation controlling the programmes that are sent out to the listeners by the relay organisations. There may be arguments as to who should own and operate them, and I am coming to them, but I cannot see any argument against the Corporation completely and absolutely controlling what shall be relayed. We have set up a Corporation for the purpose of providing us with programmes. We prefer, as a people, that the persons appointed in a special way should be safeguarded from interference, specially chosen because of their high integrity and paid sufficient to make them think the work worth while; we take immense pains to set up a machine which will choose fairly, honestly, and beyond reproach what shall be Broadcast and then we permit private persons to interfere, certainly in a very small way, because they happen to own a vehicle that takes the message to some of the listeners. The Government might affirm the 907 principle that the Corporation should be responsible for the programmes that reach the listeners from this service. That is a much more important and much less controversial matter than the question of who should own the service. Let the Government decide at least that the Corporation should control the programmes.
As to who should own the service, I think I am the only surviving Member of this House who was on the Crawford Committee which, 11 years ago, decided to entrust Broadcasting to a public corporation. We met with certain criticisms from people who said that this was a question of public ownership, with which they did not agree on political grounds. The Broadcasting system has had to wear down certain prejudices, but there is now a recognition that this kind of service is one in which those who operate it should necessarily acquire a monopoly in the district. It has come to be recognised that the service is fairly and properly administered and that perhaps it is better administered as a public service than as a private enterprise. There is no reason why any Member of Parliament who believes that other forms of business, the great bulk of our business, should be left in the hands of private enterprise, should feel that this service is the thin end of the wedge, or is a dangerous business. It is nothing of the kind. Long ago the State took over the telephones, the lighting services to a large extent, and Broadcasting itself, and there is nothing inconsistent or in my view dangerous about applying Broadcasting control in Britain, seeing that this part of it which is now developing comes under the same kind of control as the organisation itself. I will not trouble for more than a sentence to deal with the question of equity. All those who put their money into these enterprises understood the limitations of the licence, or, if they did not, it is their own fault, because the conditions were widely published.
On the technical question, one aspect makes me surprised, and that is that the Post Office did not press the Government more strongly to allow them to take over this service. Let the Committee think of the advantages that would have accrued if this service were run along with the telephones. Some people say, "Oh, but these relays serve the poorest of the poor, who do not have telephones." That is 908 true; but a telephone goes somewhere near every street. There is hardly a district, even where the poor live, where there is not a telephone line within reach of the streets, or at any rate of a square, and, wherever the telephone lines go, it seems fairly certain technically that these programmes can go, two or three of them, say, at the same time, without interfering with the telephone and wherever the telephone system goes. Two advantages will follow from that. One is that it would be rather an attraction for the Post Office, as a seller of telephones, to be able to sell radio with the telephones, and, surely, that is a business arrangement of very great importance. It may result in a whole class of people who are not now using the telephone coming to use it, and every new user of the telephone is a potential gain to the Post Office financially, and to the whole telephone system, because it tends to universalise it. Why should not the poor have telephones, and radio with them? The Post Office is running a great risk of "missing the bus," and all because the Government will not make up their minds on this matter, but put it off for three years. I would ask Members of the Cabinet if they will reconsider that question and decide it right away.
There has been a good deal of talk in the newspapers with regard to this great Broadcasting service, but some of the newspapers, particularly, have been much more concerned with whether you may or may not be divorced if you are a member of Stainless Stephen's staff than with the much more important question of whether we ought or ought not to go on with this system for another 10 years. The matter has got a little out of proportion, as these matters often do. It seems to me that what is important is the decision to which the House is coming as to whether a system which has been tried out for 10 years is or is not worthy to be continued. There are some features about the system that are interesting, apart from the question of Broadcasting. This was, I think, the first occasion when in this country in a notable way this particular method of public control was devised, brought to the House of Commons, commended and started. It may be that it has already been a model for some other developments of the same kind; it may be a model for developments of this kind 909 in the public control of great enterprises or great services for the future.
It is one of those curious English growths which are often anomalous and illogical, but it worked. That is characteristic of so many of our institutions. Apparently nobody is particularly in control of it, and we all deplore the possibility that the House of Commons should have too much control of it. We reject a Minister whose job it is to control it, and have, instead, a kind of technical godfather who will not interfere too much. There are no shareholders to call the members of the governing board to book. Then what checks and powers of control are there? There is a very vigilant public opinion expressed through the newspapers, and that is of the greatest value. Almost every newspaper has an intelligent critic whose business it is to listen to these programmes. Whether it is really fair to the Broadcasts that persons should be compelled to listen to them in order to gain their daily bread, I do not know, but all critics, I suppose, are in that position. These gentlemen listen, and they criticise almost every day. The newspapers have a thousand ears and a thousand eyes, and I think that, by and large, the critics in their columns day by day and week by week do criticise fairly.
My earlier strictures about the newspapers may be confined to the occasions when they bring the B.B.C. news on to the front page. As soon as it is considered sufficiently important to give it on the front page, one can be certain that it relates to some trivial matter. But the day-to-day criticism of the professional critics is enlightened, and it ought to be, and I hope is, of the greatest assistance to the broadcasting authorities. It is a very good check. There has been some talk about advisory councils of listeners, but I do not know how such an advisory council of listeners could be set up without an election of listeners. We here are probably the only persons who listen who are elected. The listeners are, after all, the people. There might be, however, an advisory committee of special interests, to see that those special interests are properly dealt with—the Church, music and so on. Whether it would be possible to get an advisory committee in connection with industry I do not quite know. 910 But the critics as a whole are an advisory committee, and they do their work fairly well.
Then there is the good sense and the honour and culture and impartiality of the persons who are in charge, both the governors and the chief executives. We have a wonderful habit and method in this country, which I admire very much, of producing a body, a committee, a person or an office which can be impartial. Our Speakership in this House, and our Judges, are cases in point; and in connection with this Broadcasting enterprise, too, we have contrived to rely upon that habit of Englishmen, appointed to hold responsible offices where they must use unbiased judgment, to use it. I think that on the whole the B.B.C. has come remarkably well out of this test in the last 10 years. Its Broadcasts have been impartial, fair and wise. Some have said that it is not Socialistic enough; others, have said that it is not Tory enough; and naturally it can be criticised from many sides; but on the whole I believe that, in the view of the man in the street, it is a decent, fair and honest effort at the impartial presentation of news and the fair presentation of all views. We can ask no more; and, if something like that has been given us, it seems to me to be a sound reason for continuing the principle upon which such an organisation has operated.
Then I should like to say, apart from the queer methods of public control under which the B.B.C. has operated so successfully, a word about the actual progress that has been made. We have been told that the number of licences has increased three-fold, and that employment is now being given in the manufacturing industry to something like 100,000 persons. All that has grown up in the last 12 years, and in a letter from the trade, published in the "Times" the other day, it is pointed out that the trade itself realises that this enormous development depends primarily upon the way in which the B.B.C. is managed. I think we must say that foremost among those responsible for the B.B.C. must be the Director-General himself. He has been criticised a good deal, but he is a remarkable man. I once told him that, if he were not thought by some to be a bit of a villain, people would not think he was a human being. He has great 911 qualities, and much of the success of the service is due to him. I venture to think that the House can with fair certainty and good will send the B.B.C. forward on its voyage for another 10 years of successful travel, and that the country generally will endorse our action in doing so.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I take part in this discussion, first of all because I am what is called a broadcasting fan, and, secondly, because I am a Member of the House of Commons. I do not agree with all that has been said by the hon. and gallant Member for North St. Pancras (Sir I. Fraser) in eulogy of the B.B.C., but I would like to preface my remarks by saying that I believe that the programmes generally and the establishment of the B.B.C. organisation have been of tremendous advantage to people all over the country. They have brought into their homes amenities of life in regard to music, the drama and information generally that otherwise would not have come there. In criticising the administration, as I shall do, I want to say also that in my judgment the success is very largely due to Sir John Reith, but I think he has rather spoiled a very magnificent piece of work by what is called paternalism, and also by his—I do not quite know how to put it—assumption of authority and responsibility apart from either Parliament or anyone else. I myself, who hate dictatorships, and hate the very idea of the demigod sort of man that dictatorship involves, have always felt, when speaking to Sir John on the two or three occasions on which I have met him, that he would have made a very excellent Hitler in this country, because he seemed to have a great scorn for people like myself, though he never expressed it. You have a kind of psychological feeling, when you meet these wonderful people, that impresses their personality upon you.
I want briefly to join with those who regret the decision that has been taken with regard to the private companies which are trying to do some part of this business, and I am hopeful, seeing how many Members on his own side have asked that this question should be reconsidered, that the Postmaster-General will be able to persuade the Cabinet to alter their decision. I also want to say— 912 and I hope the Minister will forgive me for saying this—that I wish we had a Minister expressly for this purpose. I do not want a Lord President of the Council, either this one or any other; what I want is a new Ministry created to deal with this and kindred subjects. I wonder whether the House realises all that is involved in this undertaking of Broadcasting. It is going to be a much bigger thing in the future than it is now, and it is going to enter into every department of our life much more than it does now. It is going into the schools. It is going to play a part in education. It is going also, I hope, to play a part in the proper cultural development of the people. It is not good enough to leave it in the hands of a Minister who is full up with the details of a huge business Department. It has been said that, if we had a Cabinet Minister specially for this business, there would be two Ministers in charge. There is no reason at all why that should be so because, whatever there is in the Post Office in connection with Broadcasting, it surely would be possible that the Minister in charge of this whole business should have proper arrangements with the Post Office service.
I take an entirely different view from many Members. I want Parliamentary control. Education is a very detailed business which goes right down to the life of the nation. We debate it here and we debate the question of headmasters and their salaries. If one is removed, we have a debate to know why he is removed. Why should the B.B.C. be sacrosanct and the gentlemen in charge of it never be allowed to be questioned on the Floor of the House? It is nonsense. Here you have a big public Corporation which controls a large number of employés of various standards. I am told that, to show their appreciation of the Ullswater Report, the B.B.C. has just appointed a new official to a new post—something to do with music—and the gentleman they have appointed—I understand that the position was not advertised—is a colonel who has been serving in Egypt. That may be all right. I do not know. He may have got his training at Cairo or Alexandria or sitting under the Sphinx at night contemplating the music of the past. But in any case I do not understand why I am not to be permitted, if that is a fact, to raise the 913 question here, because it is public money and in the last resort, as my right hon. Friend said, Parliament can take away this Charter, or give it, and we, and not the Director-General of the B.B.C., are the supreme authority. We have not sunk so low that we are unable to call in question anything that this gentleman may do. Sir John Reith and his fellow-organisers, together with their advisory committees, have a tremendous patronage at their disposal for people outside their direct employment.
I should like to see on the Table of the House a return showing what is paid to the lecturers. I do not mean professional lecturers, but people like myself who was invited once—I have never been invited to do it again—to lecture to the unemployed. I was told that for a 20 minutes' address I could get an honorarium or a fee of 12 guineas. I think that is scandalous. I mentioned it to a group of friends and one of them immediately said, "You are a blackleg. They paid me 15." I do not claim any virtue for not taking the money, because I could not be paid for myself anyhow for speaking on the subject I was speaking on to the unemployed. If I write in a newspaper everyone knows that I am paid. I do not think the public realises the immense patronage that is in the hands of this organisation. The public ought to know and the House ought to know, and we ought to have a record of the payments in that way, because money has a great effect on your mind when you are tempted to criticise the people who may put it in your way. I do not think that is a good thing for the public life of the country that there should grow up an enormous system of patronage without the public knowing. I think people probably ought to be paid, but it ought to be known that, when they are speaking over the wireless, it is a little bit of professional work, and that there is a little money coming in in that way.
The B.B.C. can make artistes or break them. I think this great Corporation, which is spending all these millions of pounds a year, and which can employ a book critic to give a weekly review of books, broadcasting his opinion as to their value, puts into the hands of the B.B.C. a tremendous power of recommending or not recommending a particular book. I have heard books con- 914 demned and I have heard them praised. I cannot for the life of me think that that is quite good. Who are these gentlemen and ladies who criticise books? They are not much better than the average Member who sits in this House. It is creating a great hierarchy which can stop any unpopular book being read by never reviewing it or allowing it to be reviewed, or, if they do review it, damning it so that it will never be read. It is the same with music. I do not pose as one who understands music. A very distinguished person said to me once, "I am no artist, but I do know what I like," and that is my position with regard to music. Sometimes when I have had a big dose of Bach I wish he would bark somewhere else. I may be told that is a piece of Philistinism, but I cannot help it. I am not trained to that sort of thing, and I am a bit too old to start. I think it is of the utmost importance for these reasons that the House should take real control, and, as the Deputy-Chairman has said, it will depend upon the terms of the Charter whether we are able to discuss the doings of the B.B.C. after to-night, I very much hope the Charter will be so drawn that the House will be able to discuss the work of this organisation in all its details if it desires to do so.
Then I come to politics. I get really quite amused listening to my colleagues talking about politics as though politics were the very devil, and all of us who take part in it ought to be ashamed of ourselves, and as if you must not allow it across the ether too much. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said the complaints cancelled one another out—that there were complaints of too much Socialism and also of too much Conservatism. I think it is agreed in this report that a sort of eye-witness gentleman is to find a place up there, as if we have not enough of them. We are to have a new eye-witness who is to write a sort of summary of our proceedings on particular nights, and then broadcast his impressions. One night one of these eye-witness gentlemen broadcast statements about the Leader of the Opposition which I thought unworthy of any public servant. I want to challenge the right of the Government and the House to allow the B.B.C. to send men into this 915 place and to give their opinion as to whether what we have said is sheer rubbish, or whether the manner in which we said it was the right way, or whether we spoke too long, or good or bad English, or anything of that kind.
Men of my age will remember H. W. Lucy, who was Toby M.P. of Punch, Mr. Massingham and A. E. Fletcher. Everybody knew that Mr. Massingham wrote as a Radical and later as a Socialist Radical, that Mr. Fletcher wrote as a Liberal, and Mr. H. W. Lucy wrote as himself, and it was just his opinion. Everyone also knew that those articles were very tendentious. They took the facts, and you could not contradict anything they said, but the manner in which they said things often conveyed an entirely different impression. It is not right that the B.B.C. should send what they call an impartial observer. I shall never be impartial, and I think that nobody else will. Men's minds get made up on certain subjects, and all of a sudden they are sent to give opinions which often must be contrary to their own beliefs. I do not believe that anyone can really do that sort of thing, and I will tell the Committee why. No Government, as far as I can remember, has ever appointed a Communist, a well known Socialist or a fighting trade unionist to be an impartial chairman. We are only supposed to be able to be impartial, and I return the compliment—neither are you.
§ Sir P. HANNON
Surely, the right hon. Gentleman is labouring a point which does not arise in this Debate?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The hon. Gentleman has not read the report. Let him become a listener, and he will know. I have personally no complaint to make about them, because I do not care that much whether they praise me or blame me. It does not matter, for I am too old to care, but neither the B.B.C. nor any other authority in this country could send an impartial man into that gallery and tell him to give an impartial eye-witness account of the proceedings of this House. The experience that we have gained proves this.
916 I come to the point of political Broadcasting. The hon. Member who preceded me said that we did things in England differently from other people, and that somehow or other we get through with them nicely, and to the advantage of everybody. But I would point out to him that we on these benches are blessed with memories. We remember the General Strike, the events that led up to that strike and the most tendentious propaganda carried on before and during the strike. I maintain that the Government in a democratic country ought to allow the workmen when there is a great struggle like that about to take place or is taking place, to put their case to the public. Another instance was the Election of 1931. For the two years preceding that, during the whole of the time we sat on the benches opposite, there was carried on against us not a straightforward propaganda but a tendentious propaganda.
§ Sir I. FRASER
Surely the two years preceding that time were the two years when the friends of the right hon. Gentleman were governing this country.
§ Sir I. FRASER
Surely, they had every right and opportunity to see that the kind of impartiality which this House wished and which the Broadcasting Committee laid down was exercised.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That is a proper interruption, but I think that the Treasury and some of my colleagues at that time were not at all averse to the propaganda about the Gold Standard and the rubbishy stuff that was put across by professors, who have now all been proved to be wrong.
§ Sir I. FRASER
The Treasury was of one mind and the right hon. Gentleman of another, so that the Cabinet was divided. We could not help that. If they could have made up their minds, it would have been all right.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That does not affect my argument at all. The hon. Gentleman is rather too clever. The B.B.C. has no 917 right to allow that kind of tendentious propaganda. If the Government at that time were too weak to interfere, that did not justify the B.B.C. in having allowed that propaganda. It only showed where the bias of those who controlled the B.B.C. lay on those occasions. Would anyone else like to say something?
§ Viscount WOLMER
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman why he did not draw the attention of his right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General at that time to the matter?
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would only say this to the Noble Lord, that though he has not been in the Cabinet he has been in the Ministry, and he knows that one of the laws of the Cabinet and of the Ministry is that, if you do not hang together, you will hang singly. I am not going to be diverted either by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North St. Pancras or by the Noble Lord. I contend that the B.B.C. had no right to carry on that propaganda, which amounted to humbug and nonsense. The professors and experts, within a day or two of turning out the Labour Government, were all proved to be expertly wrong.
I should like to say a few words about private life. I have a job to live a private life anyhow, and I expect that most Members of Parliament have a similar experience. But I understand that one man in the B.B.C. was discovered to have obtained a divorce or to have been divorced and was dismissed. Then it was remembered that some other chap had been divorced, and he was dismissed. Perhaps I ought not to say this, but the Committee will not mind, I am sure. When we remember the record of some of our Members, we do not chuck them out. That is what I mean by Sir John Reith's paternalism in wanting a higher standard for his people than we set for this House. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North St. Pancras is all in favour of trade unions, but he is not quite sure whether trade unions are the right thing for the thousand or two thousand workers at the B.B.C. Municipal and Government servants are allowed to join trade unions of their own choice—not unions organised for them, but organised by themselves. We have evidence of that now in the 918 Civil Service. They are talking about a stay-in strike, without a Labour Government being in power as in France. What does that mean? They are organised—
§ Sir I. FRASER
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for interrupting again, but he has, without in any sense meaning to do so, misquoted what I said, and misinterpreted it. I did not say that I was in favour of trade unions but not for this Corporation. I said that a group of persons who have a particular public responsibility which might have to be exercised in time of emergency, whether they are in trade unions or not, should not have outside affiliations which might lead to a double loyalty in case of emergency. I think that that applies to this Corporation as to every public authority where there is an essential service which may be used in an emergency.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
That is another question altogether about which there may be differences of opinion in this Committee. I am asking for the full, free right of the men and women employed at the B.B.C. to have either sectional trade unions, that is, small group trade unions, or one big union for the whole of the service. That is what I am claiming. I am not claiming the right for them to do anything more than what the Civil Service workers do at the present moment. I want that organisation to be free from any direction from the top, and to be built from the bottom. The B.B.C. called meetings to prove that the workers did not want a trade union. We all know about employers doing that kind of thing. We have had experience of it. The B.B.C., after the last Debate, apparently sent round the country to make inquiries. We do not want inquiries made. We want the B.B.C. to know from this House that it is the will of Parliament that, if the people at the B.B.C. want to organise themselves into a trade union, they have absolute freedom to do so without any interference from anyone at the top. As to politics and taking part in politics, we want them to have the same right to express their views, to vote and to join a Labour, Tory or a Socialist organisation as anyone else. They cannot, I admit, in the higher ranks come out and make speeches and take part in propaganda, but the ordinary people, those who are not in responsible positions, ought to have that right. 919 Let me say a few words with reference to Mr. Lambert, whose name has been mentioned. I do not know anything about the libel case, because I have not studied it, but I would ask the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that very severe pressure has been brought to bear on this man to withdraw from the case, which has nothing whatever to do with his employment. He has been warned that it may go bad with him unless he does withdraw. The right hon. Gentleman—I am not questioning his bona fides in this matter—when an hon. Member for one of the Divisions of Hertfordshire asked him a question on the subject, said that he could not answer because the case was sub judice. He has apparently taken up that line in refusing to answer the solicitor's letter that was sent to him. This is a very serious matter for the man concerned and for the honour of Parliament. This House is supposed to protect the rights of the individual citizen. Every individual citizen has the right of access to the courts, and no employer has any right to bring any pressure on him to keep him away from seeking justice if he feels that he is entitled to seek it in the courts.
I should not be allowed to detail the whole of the circumstances connected with this case, but they are, in my judgment, very bad from the point of view of the reputation of the persons who have interfered with this man and tried to prevent him from doing what he is legally and morally entitled to do. I think the whole of the circumstances are very disgraceful. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) that this House ought to set up a small committee to investigate the charges that have been made in this case and in other connections.
§ The CHAIRMAN (Sir Dennis Herbert)
From what I can gather, the right hon. Gentleman is getting very near to discussing the merits of the case in question. I would ask him to bear in mind the fact that, as I understand it, the case is still sub judice.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I did not intend to enter into the merits of the case. If I had so intended I should have read the letter which was addressed to the right hon. Gentleman. I was saying that I 920 agree with the hon. Member for the University of Wales that the position of affairs in regard to men in the employment of the B.B.C., and especially in regard to this particular man, warrant this House setting up a very small committee to go to Broadcasting House and to hold a searching investigation on the subject. It is not for the good of the public service that the charges that are being made not only in regard to this case but others should go unchallenged and that the B.B.C. should be able to shelter itself in the manner it does by brushing complaints on one side and practically asking the House of Commons to believe that everything is quite right there.
I would say to my hon. Friend who has interrupted me once or twice, and to the Committee generally, that we shall never get the services at the B.B.C. properly carried through unless those who are carrying it out feel within themselves that justice has been done to them. If you have a discontented service you will never have a good service. It would be very interesting to get a return from the B.B.C. of the number of its chief men and its secondary men who have been dismissed, and the reasons for their dismissal. It is a great pity that the Government have not accepted the proposition of the Ullswater Committee to set up one Minister to deal with Broadcasting. It is also a great pity that we have had no statement as to the sort of directors that it is proposed to appoint. Up to now no one has dreamed of appointing a workman as a director, and yet working people are the bulk of the listeners. They subscribe the millions of money that carry on the B.B.C.
With regard to the type of person appointed as director, I had, and still have, a very great personal regard and appreciation for the late Lord Bridge-man. We fell out badly over politics, but we were friends outside this House and inside. But no one in this House at my age, which was about his age at the time he was appointed, would have consented to my being appointed a director. Hon. Members would have called in question first my age and next my politics. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly, you would. The late Lord Bridgeman was a good, honest Tory, one you could understand, not of the mixed mongrel 921 breed such as we have to-day. The way he was pitch-forked into that position was absurd. Now, we have Mr. R. C. Norman. He was a very old colleague of mine on the London County Council, one of the straightest Tories I have ever met, and one of the most reactionary-minded men I have ever met. If hon. Members ask me if I have confidence in him, I would say, of course not. They would not have confidence in us if the B.B.C. directors were Socialists, with perhaps a Communist thrown in as make-weight. The House would not stand that at all. If we cannot have one Minister wholly responsible, I hope the Postmaster-General will steel his heart against the blandishments of anybody, and that he will make a clean sweep of the little lot he has got there now. If he is to have seven directors. I hope that he will appoint seven under 50 years, and, if he can, I hope that he will appoint one half who are under 30.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Sir P. HANNON
I have very little fault to find with the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), but there is one point to which I should like to take exception. He spoke of the influence of Broadcasting during that terrible period in our recent economic and political life, the general strike. Looking back on the experience of that time I should say that the Broadcasting service was deserving of the warmest thanks of the people of this country for the work which it performed then. It is entirely unfair of the right hon. Gentleman to quote that occasion, as he quoted several other instances, as a defection on the part of the B.B.C. in relation to its administration, from the political point of view. I find myself in agreement with the right hon. Gentleman and with the hon. Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) on what I conceive to be the ill-advised action of the Government in refusing the recommendation of the Ullswater Committee that some form of control of Broadcasting should be vested in this House.
This great Corporation has become the greatest cultural instrument in the public life of the country, and I am bound to say that I regret that we should hand over practically unlimited control of the ramifications of this great piece of 922 machinery for a period of 10 years, except under very limited conditions. To make an arrangement under which the exercise of control will not be a function of this House is something for which His Majesty's Government, or whatever Government may be in office, will be sorry in the future. I pay my highest tribute to the great qualities of the Director-General of the British Broadcasting Corporation. I know hardly any man in the public life of this country who has finer qualities in the administration of this great service or of any great service of a comparable nature; but it is a very serious neglect on the part of the House of Commons to continue an arrangement under which this House has practically no voice in dealing with any form of grievance which may arise in the next 10 years in relation to the British Broadcasting Corporation. Nobody can tell the changes, political and economic, that may take place in three, four or five years, and it would be far better if we had the means, not necessarily by continually interfering with the activities of the British Broadcasting Corporation or its officers, of critically examining the efficiency of its administration and of saying whether or not this House is satisfied with the manner in which its duties are being discharged towards the public and the nation.
In the appointment of the advisory committees there should be, as far as possible, wide respect for what I would call the listener or the man in the street. One hon. Member has pointed out the difficulty of establishing any kind of liaison between the man in the street and the British Broadcasting Corporation, but surely it cannot be outside the limits of organisation for some contact to be kept with the bodies which have been set up since the B.B.C. received its Charter on the last occasion. We have two or three organisations composed of listeners, and I am glad to say that they have recently come together and co-ordinated their activities, not with the idea of attacking the British Broadcasting Corporation, but of co-operating with it as far as possible in the interests of listeners. I would emphasise the importance of paying more attention to the quality of these advisory committees. It is contemplated to reconstitute them, I understand, when the new Charter is given to the B.B.C., in order to bring them into contact with the general feeling of the public. When the 923 Crawford Committee reported in 1925 they said:The Commissioners should appoint, in consultation with appropriate societies and organisations, as many advisory committees as are necessary to ensure due consideration of all phases of Broadcasting.That recommendation was given temporary effect. An organisation of listeners was set up for a very short time, but for some reason which is not quite clear to me the committee went out of existence. The Ullswater Committee's advice is in the same direction. The importance of advisory committees is again stressed. They say:Our concern as to the composition of the advisory committees is derived from an interest which we regard as vital—the benefit of listeners.That is what I am now trying to emphasise for the consideration of the Postmaster-General. No matter what form the Charter may take there must be the fullest possible regard for the interests of the listener. The Ullswater Report goes on to say:We trust that this will be the end towards which the endeavours of all committees will be primarily and constantly directed. We are anxious to secure representation of the views of the general public as well as of experts in each category of Broadcast subject—the views, that is to say, not only of recognised leaders in their respective spheres and professions (this will apply particularly to the specialised committees) but also of listeners.Emphasis has been laid in both the Crawford and the Ullswater Reports on the importance of giving more consideration to this question. I agree with the speech of the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer). It was an admirable presentation of the majority view held in this country with regard to the work of the B.B.C. I endorse every word he said of that institution, but in saying that I would urge at the same time that there are ways of making its efficiency even more useful to the nation as a whole, and that that efficiency itself will be strengthened by coming under the review of this House from time to time either through a Minister appointed ad hoc or through the Postmaster-General.
I was interested in the references to Empire programmes, and one of the most encouraging features of the report is the indication that the Empire programmes are to be considered much more fully in 924 the future. I am particularly grateful to the Postmaster-General for the personal interest which he takes in this expanding feature of the Broadcast service. Nothing would give all of us, who have the highest appreciation of the work of the B.B.C., greater pleasure than to see the continuity in office for many years of the present Director-General, but there can be no guarantee of the period of time for which he will enjoy that office. Therefore, while we express gratitude to him for the way in which he has carried out his embarrassing duties, the new Charter should be so constructed as to enable this House, even if only on certain conditions, by some definite arrangement being made through the Chair that a question of vital importance to the working of the B.B.C. had to be considered, in some way to exercise some control. It is a profound national blunder to give unlimited and indiscriminate control to any Corporation whose activities from day to day intimately affect the cultural and social life of the people. On these grounds I urge the Postmaster-General. while congratulating him on his excellent speech this afternoon and the admirable work which he is doing at the Post Office, to give even now new consideration to this one aspect of this important report.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. CLEMENT DAVIES
With every word which has just been admirably uttered by the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) I am in entire agreement. I am sure that it must have struck the Postmaster-General forcibly this afternoon that, as far as know, every speech which has been made has been a speech which has recommended once again to him further consideration of the entire Report of the Ullswater Committee. I suppose that I, in common with other Members of that committee, can congratulate myself on this at any rate, that the major part of our recommendations has met with favour from the Government. It is not so, I quite realise, with most commissions and committees. One commission on which I had the honour of sitting last year and reporting, I have not heard a word about—either of the majority report and still less of my own minority report, and I do not suppose that I ever shall. We have recently been discussing tithe, and there was a commission which reported there, 925 and roughly about one-third of the commission's recommendations were adopted. So that on the whole we can congratulate ourselves on being as fortunate as we have been.
But I am surprised at the matters to which the Government have taken objection. There are four. The first recommendation to which they take objection is our suggestion that the responsibility in this House for answering for the whole of the B.B.C. on any really great occasion—and it is only on great occasions when it be necessary to answer here—should be in the hands of one of the senior members of the Cabinet. I do not think that we should have suggested for a moment that it should be taken from the Postmaster-General if we could have been quite sure that the Postmaster-General would be a member of the Cabinet, but we were fortunate in having as our chairman, even if others had not had Parliamentary knowledge, Lord Ullswater, who for so many years honourably occupied the Chair in this House. But we needed no reminder from him how rarely the Postmaster-General has been called into the councils of His Majesty's Cabinet, and we felt that this matter was so important that it was one which should be discussed in the Cabinet by somebody who really knew. It was no reflection on the Postmaster-General. We felt that he might be the one and only person who could answer for all the technical matters which might arise, matters of accounts, and they are many, all the day-to-day details would come before him. But there must arise every now and then some matter of great national importance. Some have been mentioned here this afternoon—the question of whether the B.B.C. has conducted itself properly on a great national occasion, when there was a general strike, or on the possible outbreak of a war, whether the B.B.C. has acted properly before a General Election. Those are matters which ought to be in the hands of one of the senior members of the Government. As the hon. Member for Moseley pointed out, it is difficult to get the public together and ask their views about this. It is impossible to imagine how listeners can get representative councils. You cannot do that and consult them as to whether or not things are going well with the B.B.C.
926 But there is one place where representatives can be heard and that is the Floor of this House. That is why we were so anxious—every one of us—to point out in this report the desirability of getting the B.B.C. discussed in this House every now and then. We do not want it discussed day by day. We ourselves point-blank refused to enter into the question of programmes. We thought that these matters were well beyond us. There were too many details; we might have been sitting there for ever and have done no good in the end, because it would have been only a matter of opinion—whether it was desirable to have more music or less, more speeches or fewer. That was not the kind of detail which we had in mind when we said that this was a matter for a senior member of the Cabinet. The proper way in which people can make representations is to us, and the proper place where we can make representations is here, and the Minister ought to be a member of the Cabinet and not somebody who is called in on certain occasions, however able, eminent or great he may be, to advise them as matters go on. We cannot have a better instance of what must have taken place in the way in which the Government have dealt with this matter. If they had had the assistance of the Postmaster-General himself in the Cabinet—I am not intending to be personal—in discussing this report, would they have written this as the reason for turning down the recommendation which we made? It will be found in this White Paper on page 7.The Committee have not suggested that an increase in the extent of Governmental control over the B.B.C. will be desirable.Of course we did not. Nobody suggested that. Nobody has suggested that further Government control should be exercised. In fact we were told in evidence that other countries, so far as they are not under the control of dictators and are still free to exercise their own opinion, desire to follow our example and set up such a Corporation as the B.B.C., in some way free from immediate criticism, free from the turmoil of having to consider profit-making, and at the same time not under the immediate domination of the Government of the day and acting as their mouthpiece. 927The Government consider, however, that if a Minister free from heavy departmental responsibilities were specially appointed to be responsible in respect of broad questions of policy and culture, he would find himself more and more obliged to exercise actual control.It does not follow. They go on to say:The Committee's recommendation is, therefore, felt to be inconsistent with the preservation of independent management by the Corporation.It is still more significant when you come to see how they have dealt with the relay exchanges. Would this decision have been arrived at if the man who is to be in control was also a member of the Cabinet? I have to put to myself seriously this question. We were appointed, and we heard evidence. We considered it with the greatest care. Nobody can accuse us of political bias. We were a mixed committee. There were two Socialists and two Liberals. We considered the evidence with the greatest care. It was also available to the Postmaster-General and to the Cabinet. What other evidence have the Cabinet heard that we did not hear? What has happened? Why should the Government reject the considered opinion of the Committee upon the evidence which was put before us? What has happened between the time of our Report and the issue of the White Paper? We are entitled to know what influence has been brought to bear. One hesitates to consider that vested interests at this time, or at any time, should stand in front of the public interest. They should not.
Every speech that has been made in the Debate has been in criticism of the Government's decision. If you are going to allow these relay systems to continue only for three years it is the negation of the establishment of the B.B.C. The B.B.C. have been specially chosen; they are specially governed, they have their own programmes, carefully chosen, and they are subject to public criticism. Questions may be asked about them in this House and elsewhere, but these relay systems can be devised by anyone who has sufficient capital to buy a room, put in a loud speaker and a few wires running to those houses which will take the programme. They can give any programme they wish. They began in that way and have induced a lot of public money to come in, but I told them quite definitely 928 that their licence was only for 12 months and that it might be taken away at any moment. Why give them this further extension of three years when it is against the whole idea of the B.B.C.? They are in control of their programmes. Nobody knows what may happen. It may be that a speech is delivered by a Member of the Opposition to be replied to by a Member of the Government, but the man who is in control of the little knob may like one and dislike the other, and allow one to be heard and refuse the other. It is said "Now that this threat is being held over our heads in the report, we will be good boys and give the B.B.C. programme as one of the alternatives," but it is left to them to choose the other.
I cannot understand how the Government have arrived at their decision on this point, or how they can suggest for a moment that this is a help to the poor man. As I have said before it is pure humbug. These people are called upon to pay 2s. a week, that is £5 4s. a year, and with the 10s. licence it means £5 14s. All that they have at the end is a loudspeaker, which may be taken away if they cannot pay the other 2s. And this is supposed to be done in the interests of the poor man. In addition, this relay system will only work in a congested area; it is no use anywhere else. We heard the evidence on both sides. We heard the best case the relay stations could possibly put forward from four or five of their representatives, who told us all that they were doing, what profits they were making, and how they were helping people. We heard all that and came to the conclusion that it was a system which should be stopped immediately and handed over to public control. Why have the Government come to a different conclusion. I beg the Postmaster-General to get his colleagues in the Government to reconsider this matter. We all wish him God speed in the great office he has undertaken. We are starting this ship once again on a 10 years voyage. We all wish the B.B.C. God speed. I should like in conclusion to pay a tribute to the Director-General. I have made criticisms at various times in regard to the staff, and I think that these matters will be put right. The Director-General has had an extremely difficult task, which he has performed amazingly well. He deserves the thanks of every member of the British public.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. MARKLEW
It has been suggested during the Debate that if Parliamentary discussions are to be Broadcast by the B.B.C., facilities should be provided in this House for an eye-witness with special qualifications. I do not know whether there is an eye-witness in the Committee this afternoon on behalf of the B.B.C., but if there is I hope that when he makes his report to the Governors he will convey to them not only the criticisms that have been made but the spirit of the Debate as well. The tone and temper of the Debates so far has been rather remarkable, notwithstanding the fact that it is fairly obvious that hon. Members in all parts of the House have given expression to views and convictions which they feel very intently. To keep one's temper when matters of deep conviction are concerned and to discuss matters calmly when one's feelings are intense is a tribute to hon. Members, and I hope that when the eyewitness reports to the Governors he will pay a tribute to hon. Members, whom the B.B.C. have been inclined in the past to treat with contempt; something like the kind of contempt which the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) apparently experienced when he came into contact with the great Sir John Reith himself.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I would not like it to be thought that I imagined Sir John Reith was treating even myself with contempt. I only felt that I was in the presence of somebody much greater than myself.
§ Mr. MARKLEW
I was going on to explain that while my right hon. Friend noticed the almost unconscious assumption of superiority on the part of the Director-General of the B.B.C. he acquitted him of any desire to be consciously offensive. But after my right hon. Friend had drawn attention to the Director-General's almost unconscious assumption of powers amounting almost to dictatorship, he still contrived to bring into his criticism one aspect of the B.B.C, administration, the admission that the assumption of dictatorship was mixed up with a benevolence which made it much easier to bear, and therefore I hope that the tone and temper of this Debate will be duly submitted to the Governors of the B.B.C. I am 930 stressing this point perhaps unduly because I want it to be definitely understood that Members of the House appreciate the vast importance of the work that has been entrusted to the Governors of the B.B.C., and that such criticisms as we have to offer are designed to see that the work is carried on for the good of the general community.
We are keenly anxious—at least I am—that we should not with respect to this great invention make a similar mistake to that which we have made with regard to other contrivances of the human intellect. The human intellect has performed almost miracles in the invention of contrivances intended originally for the service of mankind but which, unfortunately, have been prostituted to such purposes that they have become our masters when they were intended to be our servants. I am thinking of machinery and money, both inventions intended to facilitate the production and distribution of wealth, but both to-day, through lack of supervision, control and direction, turned into masters of human destinies and serving to bring misery and wretchedness into our lives instead of bringing that happiness which they were originally contrived to bring. So it may be, unless we are exceedingly careful as to the lines on which we permit the development of the British Broadcasting Corporation, with that great institution which is capable of exercising so tremendous an influence particularly upon our mental and emotional lives.
It is the cultural aspect of the Corporation's activities which concerns me very largely, and it is only on that aspect that I wish to address a few remarks to hon. Members. With much that has been said in the way of criticism on other matters, I am entirely in agreement, and I have been delighted to find that that criticism is practically unanimous, whether coming from the Government or the Opposition side of the House. By prefacing what little criticism I have to offer with a quotation from the report of the Ullswater Committee, I think my criticism will be more fairly understood. On page 28 of the report, under the heading "Controversy," the committee states:If Broadcasting is to present a reflection of its time, it must include matters which are in dispute. If it is to hold public 931 interest, it must express living thought. If it is to educate public opinion, it must look upon the questions of the hour from many angles.With that I agree. My point in quoting it will be observed later. In paragraph 91, page 29, after referring to the question of the reporting and Broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings, and dealing with the difficulties of the task and the special qualifications required by whoever may be appointed to carry out that task, the committee says:If the experiment is to be pursued, the reporter should be given all necessary Parliamentary facilities, especially as regards admission and note-taking,In the next paragraph there is the following statement:…in the allotment of time, according to current Parliamentary practice, the preponderating position of the main political parties, should allow adequate expression to minority views, however unpopular.The point I wish to emphasise is the demand that minority views should have an opportunity for expression. That was stated, in general terms, in the first paragraph I quoted from page 28. My point in that connection is one which deals not so much with Broadcasts on political matters, but Broadcasts on other matters which, in my judgment—and I hope in the judgment of other hon. Members—are of equal importance in the interests of the happiness and welfare of the general community. I am referring to religious matters. I think there is fairly general knowledge of a well-grounded complaint that in the matter of opportunities being provided for the Broadcasting of particular religious views, and more especially by means of Broadcasts of particular denominational services, due attention has not been given to the rights of those minorities very largely because they happen to hold views which are somewhat unpopular.
I have in my hand at the moment complaints in the form of correspondence which has recently taken place between one of the special advisory committees of the British Broadcasting Corporation, and also the general advisory committee itself, which deals expressly with this point, and I make no apology for bringing to the notice of hon. Members what I believe to be a very genuine grievance 932 on the part of the denomination concerned. That denomination is one which perhaps does not meet with the approval, so far as beliefs and doctrines are concerned, of the majority of hon. Members. That I may regret, but at the same time I can understand it. I am alluding to a very large and particularly intelligent body of opinion in this country known by the name of Spiritualists. Here let me say, for the benefit of those who may perhaps feel inclined to ask themselves what kind of people these are, that I have for the last 40 years been proud to describe myself as one, and am proud still to have the opportunity of making public acknowledgment that I owe everything I have, everything I am and all the hopes that I entertain so far as the future is concerned to Spiritualism. I make that confession without apology, only asking those who may not share in the experience I have been fortunate—I nearly said blessed—in being in a position to have for myself, that they should at least hesitate before condemning Spiritualism and consider whether it is wise to make their own inexperience the measure of the experience of others.
The Spiritualists think they have a complaint, and recently they entered into correspondence with the B.B.C. with a view to ascertaining whether provision could not be made for an occasional Broadcast of their services. I would say that they are recognised by the law of the land as a competent religious body. Their churches are licensed for the solemnisation of marriages, and their pastors are recognised as being competent to countersign applications for passports. Apart from that, they have now been before the public for the best part of four score years with a very definitely stated body of teaching which they have, at times under very adverse circumstances, put before the public, and which has practically won its way until to-day I venture to suggest that there is in this country a body of culture, of scientific and deeply religious opinion sharing the views of these people called Spiritualists which cannot be ignored by any individual interested in the cultural training of his own times and the religion of his contemporary people. The Spiritualists have been refused an opportunity for the Broadcasting of their 933 opinion, and the only reason given for that refusal is that after examination of their hymn books and the principles upon which they base their conduct, it has not been found that those principles are such as conform with what is called—I use the phrase of the religious advisory committee itself—the broad stream of Christian tradition. What is that broad stream of Christian tradition? Is anyone prepared this afternoon to describe it? Is any hon. Member prepared to tell me just how broad or how narrow that stream is? Is anybody prepared to deny me when I make the suggestion that the broad stream of Christian tradition has innumerable tributaries, some of them disregarded, some of them despised, but that if it were not for those innumerable tributaries contributing their share to the making of the broad stream of Christian tradition, there would be no broad stream?
I do not want to enter into any religious controversy; I want merely to say that whether these personal religious views enter into the broad stream of Christian tradition or not is a matter of opinion, but a matter of opinion which can scarcely be decided with impartiality as long as the members of the religious advisory committee are themselves, by virtue of their adherence to certain tributaries of that broad stream, naturally strongly biased in favour of that stream. I take it that the Ullswater Committee, in drafting their report, had some of these people in mind, as well as the differences of opinion upon political matters, when they suggested that the advisory committees should not be composed of people all having one type of mind or one kind of view, but should comprise people of different views, so that fair and unbiased decisions would be given on controversial matters and the views of the minorities be secured. I do not wish to criticise the B.B.C. so far as political Broadcasts are concerned, although criticism from this side of the Committee would perhaps tend to suggest that in political Broadcasts, we of the party with which I am associated do not get quite our fair share of representation, and that those on the Government side get more than their fair share. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"] I am not asserting that it is so. I am perfectly willing to concede the point and say that all is fair and right in 934 view of the proportion between the parties. I will say that for the sake of my argument.
My argument is directed to establish the point that minorities are recognised, opposing parties are recognised and each is given its fair share. No matter how fundamental their differences, no matter how diametrically opposed their aims, no matter how widely divergent the methods they employ for obtaining their ideals and their objectives, in politics no discrimination is shown such as is shown in matters of religion. Why should that discrimination be shown in matters of religion which is not shown in matters of politics? Just as it may be taken for granted that no individual can claim to be infallible in matters of politics, I decline to believe in the infallibility of an individual or a collection of individuals in matters of religion. I believe that in matters of religion the minority is entitled, so long as it entertains its views with sincerity, to have equal opportunity with others for the dissemination of those views, no matter how unpopular they may be. We have no more right—less, if any—to repress a man in the effort to give expression to his religious convictions than we have the right to repress him when he desires to give expression to his political convictions. The only thing we succeed in doing if we indulge in that repression is not merely to deny the present generation, but to deny posterity the opportunity of acquiring a truth of which it might otherwise have possessed itself to the advantage of the human race.
I am pleading on behalf of these people called Spiritualists, and in doing so I repeat that I am proud to identify myself with them. They exist in hundreds of thousands in this country, and if they are not in the main stream of Christian tradition, they can at any rate be said to be associated with the great ideals of the Christian faith. The Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, the Communion of the Saints, the ministry of the Angels, heaven and hell for people who deserve them and the personal responsibility of every individual are some of their principles, but the B.B.C., through its advisory committee, looks with an eye of condemnation on principles such as those, and says they are not in the main stream of Christian tradition. If that be so, I am proud to think that I 935 am among the backwaters of some tributary which provides for the existence of the main stream of Christian tradition.
I think the House will have grasped what my point is. It is that once you have granted equal opportunity for minorities and majorities to express their views on any matters, particularly controversial matters, there is nothing to be gained, once that right has been granted in other spheres, such as politics, by refusing it in the sphere of religion. Man is a religious animal—very much more so than a political animal—and his religious nature, his emotional nature is quite as much entitled to consideration in these matters as that other side of his nature which associates itself with political forms and institutions and ideas. Knowing as I do, the vast importance in counsel and direction of the B.B.C. service, and more especially because I have lived all my life for, fought all my days for and in my youth have been sent to gaol for, the free expression of opinion, I claim for these people, at the hands of the Corporation, the right with others to give expression to their views on equal terms, and I hope that hon. Members will support me in that demand.
§ 7.47 p.m.
Miss LLOYD GEORGE
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member in the very sincere plea he has made for the representations of minority views in Broadcasting. Many tributes have been paid to the British Broadcasting Corporation this afternoon and many criticisms have been made, but I think there is very general agreement that the Corporation provides this country with a very fine service, on the whole, and that, in spite of many defects which some of us recognise, it provides us with a better service than any other country can boast of. The hon. and gallant Member for North St. Pancras (Sir I. Fraser) congratulated the Corporation on the fact that it confined its programmes to the English language—the English language as pronounced and spoken by the B.B.C. But I would like to point out that it is not the only language which is spoken in these islands. I was very interested in the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for the University of Wales (Mr. E. Evans) and in his plea for consideration of the very special circumstances of Wales.
936 I regret that the Government have not adopted the proposal which has often been made, that one of the directors of the B.B.C. should be a Welshman. I cannot believe that it would not be possible to find a man of sufficient distinction in my country, not only to represent that country, but also to be a director of the B.B.C. I am very glad, however, that at long last there is some prospect of this very difficult problem of Wales reaching some sort of satisfactory solution and of a special Welsh station being established. It is a vital matter to us because we have a language of our own and we have to listen to programmes in what is, after all, to us, a foreign language, although we are sufficiently bi-lingual to be able to understand it.
I pass to a matter which has been raised to-day, I think for the first time in these Debates, by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury). That is the question of political Broadcasts. The Ullswater Committee Report laid great emphasis on this matter. It stated that, as Parliamentary institutions were said to be on their trial, Broadcasting in their judgment was
an instrument of great potential value in keeping Parliament before the minds of the people.It seems to me that this country, like all other democratic countries, must depend more and more on Broadcasting to bring political issues before the people. In Canadian and American elections Broadcasting has been very extensively used. In this country during Election time facilities are given to the leaders of political parties to state their views before the microphone. But after that there is a sort of close season. It is true that there are talks of a certain kind, very academic and for the roost part, one might say, very safely removed from political realities. We have interesting talks on the British Constitution and subjects of that kind. But it seems to me fantastic to imagine that we can, before the Election, in a fortnight, inform an electorate of over 25,000,000, on tremendous issues affecting domestic, foreign and international politics. I do not believe it can be done and I only wish that the leaders of this democratic country realised the value of this tremendous instrument for the information 937 of the electorate in the same degree as the dictators of the world realise it.
It is true that advantage is taken of this system in Moscow. I am not sure whether Russia has yet attained the status of a democratic country, but I understand that it shortly will. Democratic countries like Holland and Belgium certainly do take advantage of Broadcasting. In America the system is differently run; it is run on a competitive basis. You pay for time and the more money you have the more time you have—a thoroughly democratic principle. In Holland the political parties are given so much time every week and may use it in any way they like. Their statements are not edited in any way, and it may be a comfort to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to realise that Holland, the least revolutionary country in Europe, probably gives more time to the expression of all views, on its Broadcasting system, than any other country. But it is true to say that we, for practical purposes, confine our real political talks in this country to the fortnight before a General Election, and then we expect 25,000,000 people to give decisions on complicated matters, some of them, as we know, without attending any public meetings, and some of them without reading very many newspapers. I do not know whether that is an advantage or disadvantage, but how do we expect them to use their vote with so little propaganda?
Every party complains that it finds it difficult to get at the electors, in these days of enormous electorates. They say that people do not attend political meetings. That is true and it is the experience of every party. But I believe that a man who is not prepared, after a long day's work, to go to a political meeting, who is not inclined to go out of his way to risk the possibility of two or three hours' discomfort in an intolerable atmosphere, may be prepared to sit, I will not say by his fireside but by his refrigerator possibly, to listen in comfort to political speeches. If he does riot want to hear the political talk he can switch on to something else, whereas he might not feel disposed to walk out of a political meeting in the middle of a speech.
There is another point. None of us knows in what circumstances an Election may take place. An Election may take place in the middle of a crisis. It has 938 happened before. The electorate may be asked to give a verdict on issues of immense importance, involving possibly a change in the economic system of the country, and all this in an atmosphere of panic, without having been given sufficient opportunity for real study of the problems in the calm atmosphere of pre-Election times. A case involving a few thousand pounds is very carefully investigated in court and counsel on one side and the other put the different aspects of the case very thoroughly, before the jury is asked to adjudicate. But here a case is being put on the one hand for the Government which is defending itself and its record, for possibly the preceding five years and, on the other hand, the Opposition are putting their case against the Government. Both are submitting to the people programmes for the Government and administration of the country for the ensuing five years. Is there anyone who could adequately put those issues in one talk of 20 minutes? It seems to me that the man of the great vagueness has the most undoubted advantages. Perhaps that is the reason why the Government have had two successive triumphs in the last two Elections. But of course they cannot always be sure of the future. The official Opposition may even outdo them in that respect. That is not entirely out of the question, and the Government might well be handicapped next time, because I do not think that vagueness is the special gift of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I do not believe that there should be opportunities only for national Broadcasts. There should also be opportunities for regional statements, so that speeches by leaders of parties, candidates and others in the various Regions might be given, for example, in London, Cardiff, Bristol, Newcastle, Aberdeen and other centres, always providing that the basis of distribution is fair and equitable. Again, if in any particular area a listener did not want to hear the political statement he could switch off. He is not obliged to listen. Then there is the question raised by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley as to the House of Commons. The report of the Ullswater Committee lays great emphasis on that point. They point out that the amount of Parliamentary news in the Press is small and is, on the whole, diminishing, and for that reason they say: 939We think it all the more necessary. that Broadcasting should look towards Parliament as the focal point of political talk.They recommend that attention be directed to Parliament as the national centre of political interest. What is being done by the Government to implement that recommendation? There is not a word in the B.B.C. report about it. We are told it is not practicable to bring the microphone to the House of Commons. Then I suggest that we ought to bring the House of Commons, so to speak, or Members of the House, to the microphone. If the general public cannot listen to debates in this House, then debates on important issues should be staged by the B.B.C. It seems to me that in this respect a very good precedent has been set which might be more extensively followed. That is the precedent of the Budget. After the Budget statement, the Chancellor of the Exchequer goes to the microphone and explains its provisions to the listening public. On subsequent occasions leaders of the Opposition parties are allowed to make their comments. It does seem to me that that principle might well be extended so that whenever there is a Bill of major importance or a question of great importance before this House the Minister in charge would have an opportunity of explaining its provisions, and he might be followed on another day by Opposition speakers.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley pointed out that on several occasions an observer has been sent to the House of Commons for debates, and we are told in the Ullswater Committee's report that although that experiment seemed an excellent one to members of the committee, if it is pursued the observers certainly should be given Parliamentary facilities. I understand that at the moment if a reporter does come, and on the occasions when he has come, to the House, although he is expected to give an account which must not deviate one hair's breadth from the actual spoken word, he is not allowed to take a note, and very often he is put in a place where he can hear only with difficulty. I suggest that if it is agreed that an observer should be sent here on occasions, he should be given proper facilities. I understand that it has been the practice of the B.B.C. recently to 940 have an observer in Geneva. It does seem to me that if it is possible to have an observer in Geneva, where an injudicious remark might possible prejudice international relations, it might be possible to have an observer in this House without any very great danger. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition in the reservations he made at the end of the report said he did not himself agree with the idea of having a reporter in this House, and that he did not think you could have in the same person a man who could give a vivid impression of the Debate and could also free his mind from political bias.
I agree with that point to a certain extent, but I would like to point out that for six years now the B.B.C. has been running a series of talks called "The Week in Westminster." In that series Members from all the parties in this House, in proportion to the size of the parties, gave an account, one each week, of the debates in this House. The right hon. Gentleman himself made notable contributions to that series, and I think anyone who listened to his talks would agree that he managed to give a vivid impression without any political bias. But I think the most remarkable thing about all these talks was the fact that during all those six years there were practically no complaints as to the partiality of the speakers. For four years I myself Broadcast in that series. The right hon. Gentleman said that he was far too controversial ever to take part in that sort of thing.
§ Mr. TINKER
May I ask the hon. Member if when she broadcast she was allowed to do so without supervision?
Miss LLOYD GEORGE
As far as my own personal experience goes Broadcasts are always supervised, and if there is anything about which the authorities feel a little doubt or which they think might be interpreted as being controversial, they take it out. I think that probably I have had as good a controversial upbringing as the right hon. Gentleman. I had only two complaints. One was from a vicar who accused me of making a grammatical error, and the other was from a member of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who thought I was expressing dangerous views on the humane slaughter of animals. I think that fairly represents 941 the postbag of the B.B.C. I believe that hon. Members of this House are as likely as anyone to give an unprejudiced and unbiased account of the debates in this House. After all, their names will be given, and also the parties to which they belong, and if as is quite possible some slight bias may appear in the course of their talks, then everyone will be able to make allowance for it, and no doubt if they went too far they would be lambasted by their colleagues when they returned to the House.
It is quite obvious that you cannot make the Houses of Parliament or politics interesting if you are going to suppress controversy. It is quite impossible. After all, controversy is the very life and soul of the whole business. I cannot imagine what the House of Commons would be like without it. But of course it is true that the B.B.C. at the moment is frankly scared of controversy. One ring on the telephone from a Government Department or a few postcards from irritated and none too constant listeners—because it is not the hundred per cent. listeners, I understand, who pass most of the criticism—is all that is necessary for the B.B.C. to get into a sort of neurotic fluster. It seems to me that the principle "The Editor does not necessarily agree" should be introduced into the B.B.C. as far as certain talks are concerned. It is not the fact that talks are controversial which is objectionable, but the fact that all sides of the controversy are not always allowed to come to the microphone.
The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) said that no one would expect the B.B.C. to please all political parties at once, but I think we do expect the B.B.C. to please all political parties at various times and in turns. The Noble Lord made certain criticisms and said that he and members of his party were not always satisfied, and felt that they did not always get a completely square deal. May I say that that feeling is not entirely confined to his party and that there are feelings among hon. Members who sit on this side of the House that sometimes Ministers who are purporting to give pronouncements of policy are doing in fact some very good propaganda work. Sometimes a little propaganda in very small doses and very judiciously given is 942 insidiously introduced even into the news.
But the B.B.C. has set itself an extraordinarily high standard. The words above the door of Broadcasting House "Whatsoever things are true" constitute a motto up to which the B.B.C. aspires to live. The danger is that those words may be interpreted as meaning whatsoever things appear to be true to the B.B.C., to a Government Department, or sometimes to one political organisation or the other. If controversial talks could be given more liberally there could be no objection, so long as every point of view is represented. When democracy is being challenged, as it is all over Europe, and when its efficiency compared with autocracies has by no means been established, it is vital that the people of this country should be well informed as to the issues that have to be decided, and my last word will be to urge the Postmaster-General and the Government to reconsider the decision that they have made— or perhaps I should say not made—about political Broadcasts.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. LIDDALL
The Committee has listened to some very interesting speeches in this Debate, not the least interesting being the one just made by the hon. Lady opposite. We have heard speeches for and against most things connected with the British Broadcasting Corporation, but on the subject of the relay exchanges what has been said appears to be so one-sided that I would like to address the Committee mainly in regard to the recommendations of the Ullswater Committee in so far as they relate to the future of Broadcast relay exchanges. I also want to submit to the Postmaster-General a proposal that the Broadcasting of sports bulletins should not take place, at any rate, on Saturday evenings until 8 or 8.30. As one who on 29th April spoke against the recommendation that the Post Office should take over the ownership and operation of Broadcast relay exchanges I must confess to a feeling of satisfaction when I read the White Paper that the Government propose to extend the system of licensing for three years. The feeling of satisfaction, alas, was momentary, for on reading the whole of the, paragraph I found that the Government proposed to extend the existing system for three. years without either accepting or rejecting even in 943 principle the recommendations of the Ullswater Committee. It is true that the Government warn proprietors of relay exchanges thatThey have no guarantee or assurance in any form that any licences will be continued beyond the end of the year 1939.and thatIn the meantime the Government propose that the Post Office should undertake technical research and practical experimental work in distributing Broadcast programmes by wire.But the Government cannot, surely, contend that they are giving this new and important industry a fair deal. The founder of any industry providing a public need, especially when that industry is working successfully without Government subsidy, is worthy of better treatment than to be told in effect to spend more money with less security. I think it was the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) who pointed out that it was not a Government Department or the B.B.C. that first thought of relay exchanges. It was private enterprise, and had the relay exchanges been a failure the total loss would have had to be borne by the proprietors and shareholders. Happily, they have not been a failure, and to-day 340 of these exchanges are receiving Broadcast programmes and transmitting them to subscribers over a wire network erected at their own expense, thereby ensuring the subscribers in thickly populated industrial areas good reception of programmes at all times at a limited cost. The Government and the B.B.C. benefit to the extent of £125,000 annually from relay subscribers' licences. People who by their own initiative and enterprise have built up a business which brings in so much revenue to the State and employs, directly and indirectly, so many people, should be helped rather than hindered. It is true that the existing companies are working under licences granted on terms which include provision for their termination at the end of 1936, but I venture to suggest that no one, until the publication of the Ullswater Report, contemplated that a National Government would, for one moment, consider interfering with the continued progress of a successful private enterprise.
On behalf of the Relay Services Association of Great Britain I appeal to the Postmaster-General, and through him to 944 the National Government, to give further consideration to the matter between now and the end of the year, and, at the end of that time, to extend the period of licence sufficiently long to enable the proprietors of these relay services not only to plan ahead and to build up this new industry on a sound basis, but to provide for their own depreciation. I can understand Members of the official Opposition wanting to nationalise an industry of this description, but the word "expropriation" should never be found in the vocabulary of a National Government. If, indeed, we have reached such a stage in the history of a country which rightly boasts of its freedom and security with what little sense of justice and fairplay we have left let us give the victim sufficient time to provide for the amortisation of his capital out of the profits of his enterprise. Whatever may be the ultimate decision of the Government in regard to this report and its recommendations, I beg the Postmaster-General to receive a deputation in the near future from the Relay Services Association of Great Britain, which is the most important body of relay people in the country and the organisation representing the industry. These people are anxious to meet the Postmaster-General in order to discuss with him, not solely the question of extending the period of licence, but the meaning of certain provisions laid down in all new licences and extensions to existing licences. They also wish to discuss the question of the choice of two programmes.
With regard to the Broadcasting of sports bulletins, the National Federation of Retail Newsagents, which represent 85 per cent. of the retail trade, and the National Union of Street Newsvendors, the only organisation representing the street news sellers, have both unanimously passed, at their conferences this year and last year, resolutions asking that sports result should not be Broadcast before 8 or 8.30 at night. The resolutions asked that this should apply every night of the week, but I suggest that a compromise might possibly be effected. Careful calculations have been made, and it has been found that the sale of evening newspapers with sports results, especially Saturday football results, have been seriously impaired in consequence of the results being given in the sports bulletin at 6 o'clock. Because, I suppose, he does not wish to 945 encourage gambling, Sir John Reith refuses to Broadcast the starting prices of racehorses, but by the early Broadcasting of football results he unconsciously plays into the hands of the millions of football pool fans who thereby get to know what they want without paying for it. There is probably no more deserving section of the community than the small retail newsagents and the hard working street sellers, who are having their earnings seriously reduced by the ease with which these sports results are obtained on the wireless on Saturday evenings. The request for the withholding of the sports results until a later hour, especially on Saturdays, is not being made by the retail distributors only. I understand that it is made also by the great news agencies, the Press Association, the Central News and the Exchange Telegraph Company, as well as by the newspaper publishers. I submit that such a request is not unreasonable, and I trust that the Postmaster-General will give it his serious consideration between now and the end of the year.
§ 8.24 p.m.
§ Mr. MORGAN
I want to refer to a question which has not yet been dealt with, namely, the question of the educational activities of the B.B.C. Before I pass to that, let me say at once that I rather regret the Government's acceptance of the Ullswater Committee's recommendation in paragraph 35. We do not want to see the dead hand of Government control on this service, but I see that this paragraph recommends in regard to appointment of B.B.C. staff.that the positions to be filled should be advertised, and that appointments (except those of minor staff) should be made on the recommendation of a Selection Board comprising officials of the B.B.C., together with one of the Civil Service Commissioners or their representative and possibly an independent additional member.I cannot see what is the necessity for that. But what I wish to deal with is school Broadcasting. The Ullswater report says on page 31:An extensive programme of weekly Broadcasts for schools is provided. These Broadcasts are intended to supplement, not to take the place of, the work of teacher and pupil, and to provide a mental stimulus beyond ordinary resources of the schools. We are satisfied as to their value, and look forward to the time when every school will have wireless receiving apparatus as part of its normal equipment.946 I do not know how many Members have taken the trouble to look at the programmes devised for school Broadcasts, but I have here the latest list issued, and I am amazed at the versatility and the interesting character and the educational value of the series. The point that does force itself upon my mind is, that although the direction of the programme is entrusted to two main councils, nobody seems to be directly responsible for the nature of the programme. I would say, in passing, that an hon. Member complained about the lack of provision for the Welsh people. In this pamphlet there are four or five pages which are utterly foreign to me but which seem to make excellent provision for Welsh schools. The report goes on to recommend that the councils should be given independent statuswith power to determine the school educational programmes to be Broadcast and the ancillary leaflets and pamphlets to be issued.The question of these programmes is governed by the consideration of expense, and the report says that the B.B.C. ought to find the money out of the sums allotted to it. An hon. Member who spoke earlier has carefully analysed how the 10s. paid as licence fee is allotted. As far as I can see, after 10 per cent. has been taken by the Post Office something like 2s. 3d. goes to the Treasury. Then there are expenses in connection with television and Empire broadcasts. However excellent the Empire broadcasts may be, and I am delighted to see them, they cost money, and the cost comes out of the pocket of the man at home. I cannot see that Empire listeners pay anything towards it. A certain amount of money is also devoted to television, though the television man, or "fan," has no more to pay than the ordinary listener. Therefore, it comes to this, as an hon. Member opposite said, that the B.B.C. gets 5s. out of each licence fee on which to carry out its programmes. I frankly say it cannot be done at the money. What happens is that we have only half the schools getting the benefit of this new feature. It says in the report that half the schools do not receive the school Broadcasts because of technical or financial reasons. Some of the secondary schools in Wales are under the same handicap. That is a serious reflection. If school Broadcasts are a useful adjunct to our educational system it is 947 time that the educational powers-that-be, either the central authority, the Board of Education, or the local authorities, should settle once and for all whether they are a necessity or a luxury. I am one of those who believe that school Broadcasts will have to receive more and more recognition, and I think the time has come when either the Postmaster-General or the President of the Board of Education should give us some lead in this matter.
I do not know what it would cost to provide every school in the country with a wireless receiving set, but I am told it could be done for something like £400,000. That does not seem a formidable sum out of £8,000,000. The fact remains that at present only half the local education authorities are doing anything towards providing these facilities. The position is all the more deplorable because while at one time we catered only for children from nine to 14 years of age, we now cater for the children from five to 18. As I have said, nobody seems to have a clear and satisfactory policy. The report says:It is for the educational authorities, local and central, rather than for us, to decide upon the degree of importance to be attached to the matter and the extent of the effort to he made.I should like to make an appeal, which I hope will get to the ears of my hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education, for a more satisfactory arrangement than we have at present. Someone spoke of the great uses to which Broadcasting may yet be put. I do not believe that we have yet touched the fringe of the great work which can be done through wireless. Broadcasting to our Empire is a very useful thing, but I look forward to the time—and I think it is in the minds of a body of people who have either formed or are forming themselves into a body which rejoices in the name of the British Council—when we shall use the wireless not only to talk to the countries within our own Empire but to all other countries throughout the world, so that we can bring before them some of those ideas for which we stand. Let them learn something of our culture, our ideals in art and literature and things of that nature. It would show foreign people our genuine desire for progress, show them our real desires apart from our political desires, and I think 948 it would bring about a better understanding among the peoples of the world. I look forward to the time when that use will be made of the wireless.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. VIANT
Before I reach the general subject which has been discussed this afternoon, I would offer an apology to the Committee for raising two subjects of importance connected with the domestic policy of the Post Office. Since I last had an opportunity of speaking in this Chamber on the work of the Post Office, great changes have taken place. The recommendations of the Bridgeman Committee have been put into operation, and have resulted in considerable alterations in the administrations of the Post Office. This is the only opportunity available to me to raise the two subjects to which I have referred. The first subject relates to a question which I put to the Postmaster-General on Monday last, concerning the enormous amount of overtime being worked at Telephone House. North Belfast. This overtime has been proceeding for a considerable time. I received a reply informing me that the Postmaster-General was satisfied, as the result of his investigation, that this practice was about to cease, and stating that it was due in the main to the unprecedented storms in the early part of this year. He hoped also that they would soon overcome the arrears accumulated owing to the passing from the ordinary telephone system to the automatic system.
I put a further question the following Thursday, as to the length of time the practice had been in operation, the number of men affected by it and the cost incurred. To my surprise, I was informed that that information was not available. Many other hon. Members on this side of the Committee were surprised that the Postmaster-General had not had the data which would give him such satisfaction as to be able to inform me that this practice would now cease. It was not difficult for him to obtain the information by wire, but up to now I have not received it. We are entitled to better consideration when replies are being given from that side of the House.
The Prime Minister made an appeal last year to private employers to endeavour to restrict overtime, but the 949 practice in Northern Belfast has become systematic. One would expect the Post Office to give a lead to the country in this regard, but the Department is giving a lead in the reverse direction. In 1930 and 1931, when I was sitting on that side of the House, we unfortunately had to reduce the staff, owing to the slowing down of business throughout the country, but a large number of the men who were then displaced should by this time have been re-employed. That will not be possible if overtime is permitted to continue. Furthermore, the Post Office must be aware that overtime, under any consideration is uneconomic. I shall be pleased to learn that the Postmaster-General has had the whole of the facts before him and has made up his mind that overtime is to stop. Unemployment exists not only in this country but in Ireland, and to a considerable degree in Belfast. It will be argued that it is not possible to go out on the streets and bring in Tom, Dick and Harry, but a large number of the men who have been displaced could again be employed, and their skill could be used to the advantage of the Department.
I was pleased to learn of the results of the adoption of the recommendations of the Bridgeman Committee, which were none other than the programme that had been prepared by Postmasters-General who were in office during the days of the Labour Government. It is astonishing that the predecessor of the present Postmaster-General was fortunate enough to come into office at the time when that programme was put into operation. It has undoubtedly worked to the advantage of the Post Office and of the community at large. A pleasing feature to which I would draw the attention of the Committee is that while hitherto the Department had been the milch cow of the Exchequer, that tendency was somewhat modified as the result of the adoption of the proposals of the Bridgeman Committee. We were led to believe that, as a result of those recommendations, reasonable sums would become available for the development of the Department and the improvement of the conditions of the staff. I would appeal this evening to the Postmaster-General to give consideration to the position of a large number of the staff who are grossly underpaid. 950 As an instance, there is the case of the cleaners of the telephone kiosks. Their wages amount in London to £2 2s. 9d. per week. [An HON. MEMBER: "On the average!"] It is not the average. That is their weekly wage, out of which they have to pay fares, insurance and meals. I made a representation to the Department that these men, who start out in the early hours of the morning to da their eight hours work and travel throughout various areas in the London district, should be given a small allowance for their mid-day meal. It was turned down by the Department. I considered that that was unjust, but I was. informed that the Treasury would not give the allowance. Then, I said, I must see the Treasury. I was informed that I should be creating a precedent by so, doing, but I said that I had come there for that purpose. After considerable dealings with the Treasury, I got those men an allowance of 1s. per day. I now learn that men who are working in close proximity to Cornwall House and Waterloo Station do not receive that 1s., because they are informed that they can go into Cornwall House and get their mid-day meal, though they may be working at the time in Leicester Square or Piccadilly.
I want to make an appeal to the Postmaster-General to exercise more energy and zeal in this regard. I am persuaded that there is not a Member of the House who is satisfied with the wages that are received to-day by the lower-paid workers in the Post Office, and the time has arrived when the Postmaster-General would be justified in asking the committee that fixes these wages to reconsider the position. If the extra allowance accruing to the Department as a result of the recommendations of the Bridgeman Committee is used in that way, it will stand to the credit of the Department and will be to the advantage of the community as a whole. I hope that my appeal will not have fallen on deaf ears.
To pass to the subject of the B.B.C., the extraordinary thing to me is that in the Postmaster-General's memorandum certain subjects are not dealt with at all. Whether that is by design, or whether they are considered to be of little or no importance, I do not know, but I think the whole of the recommendations of the 951 Ullswater report are of considerable importance. With regard to the question, to which reference was made by the hon. Member who preceded me, of Broadcasting to schools, a recommendation was made in the report whereby the B.B.C., in conjunction with the Post Office, might render a great service to the schools in devising cheap sets that could be put at the disposal of the education authorities. Many schools, I know, have had sets presented to them by kindly disposed people living in the locality, but others are without them, and I know of nothing of greater educational advantage to the boys and girls in our schools to-day than a good receiving set whereby they may be enabled to enjoy the syllabus provided by the education department of the B.B.C. It is an extraordinarily interesting syllabus. Personally, if I happen to be at home when the school talks are given, I often avail myself of the opportunity of listening in. They are most interesting and highly educational. 1 notice, however, that in the Postmaster-General's memorandum it is not proposed to adopt the recommendations of the Ullswater report with respect to the appointment of a Cabinet Minister for the purpose of answering questions on the cultural aspects of the B.B.C. Speaking for myself, I am not particularly in love with that recommendation; I think there would probably be trouble if there were two Ministers in the House dealing with one Department; and I ask myself, what was at the back of the minds of the Ullswater Committee when they made that recommendation? Was it as a result of the experience of the past that they made the recommendation; or was it due to the fact that they considered the Post Office to be of minor importance?
Speaking personally, I consider the Post Office to be one of the finest business department in the State. I would go further and say, as one who has had experience of private business in various industrial concerns, that the Post Office will hold its own with any of them. But I rather fear that the committee responsible for that report were aware of the fact that Governments in turn are too prone to under-rate the importance of the Post Office as a State Department. The Post Office as a department is worthy of being in the charge of first-class brains, 952 and, if a man with a first-class brain is appointed to be in charge of the Post Office, that man should be responsible for and capable of dealing with questions affecting the B.B.C. if two Ministers are responsible for the Department, undoubtedly there will be a certain amount of overlapping. I observe, and it is rather an important point, the recommendation of the committee that the general accounts and balance sheet, as it were, and the estimates of the B.B.C., should be submitted to the House of Commons in fuller detail. I welcome that, but I notice that the exclusion of capital expenditure is suggested. I see no reason for that suggestion, but I welcome the innovation for the reason that, if these accounts are submitted in fuller detail, as the Post Office accounts are submitted, Members will be in order in raising points and questions on the routine work of the B.B.C. which they are not permitted to raise in present circumstances, and the innovation would, I think, be welcomed by Members of the House.
Political Broadcasting has been fairly exhaustively dealt with, but the subject of the relay system, which the Government is prepared to continue, has received very little support from Members on either side. If my memory serves me right, it has been supported by two Members opposite. There is every reason why we should ask the Postmaster-General to persuade the Government to reconsider the subject. I am specially interested in it because in 1931, when we were experiencing considerable difficulty with the development of the telephone department, I had consultations with the then engineer-in-chief and we were discussing ways and means of devising a relay system by superimposing Broadcasting over the telephone system. I had thought of the idea by way of reinforcing our appeal for the development of the telephone system. It had appeared to me, with the knowledge that I possessed, that if we could have superimposed Broadcasting on the telephone system, with a slight additional charge—the charge per week for a telephone was then 2s. 6d.—and a loud speaker by the side of the telephone, we could have made an appeal which would have increased the demand for the telephone system by 50 to 75 per cent. I was informed that there was no technical difficulty, and it is no 953 secret that the whole thing was being proceeded with, but we went out of office before the scheme could fructify. None the less, as far as I am aware, there does not appear to have been very much done by the Department since those days.
The Post Office research department has some of the finest engineers and experts in the country. All that is required is a Postmaster-General who will initiate the policy and the scheme could be pushed forward in a much shorter period than three years. Instead of pursuing the policy of giving further licences for three years, the Postmaster-General, after the support that he has had in the House, should pursue the task of consulting with his engineers and learning exactly what can be done here and now. Who would not have in his home the telephone and the wireless broadcast, at perhaps a nominal charge for the two of 3s. or 3s. 6d. a week? It could have been done in 1930 and it can be done far more readily to-day. I ask that further consideration shall be given to it and that ere long we shall have the cessation of these relay systems, and that the Department will take to itself what rightly is the duty of the Post Office.
Now I pass to the subject of trade union organisation. In reading this report I rather fear that the B.B.C. has in view something like what they call a house union for the employés of Broadcasting House. I hope nothing of that character will be entertained. Various types of mechanics are employed at Broadcasting House, and there is a huge clerical staff, and there are already unions catering for those types of workers. We do not want, and we shall not accept without resentment and opposition, any attempt to drive the workers into a union of their own. We do not want a type of trade unionism which is not robust. The more robust it is the less likelihood there is of wrong being perpetrated, such as has been spoken of to-day. A good, virile, robust trade union at all times improves and increases the dignity of your employés and, just as the Post Office has encouraged the various unions for the employés of the Post Office, so I want the Postmaster-General to watch jealously the interests of the employés of Broadcasting House and the other agencies throughout the country.
954 Had there been a good trade union in operation at Broadcasting House, nothing akin to what has been spoken of to-day could possibly have happened. Trade unions have always been not a hindrance to the Postmaster-General but a source of co-operation in every regard, making his work more easy, and letting him know that he always has the confidence of his employés, and that, when he seeks to bring about an innovation of any character, consultation with the representatives of the union is the best and easiest way out.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ Mr. WAKEFIELD
As one who has been connected with the relay industry, and, to a certain extent, responsible for the development of wireless relay stations, I must apologise for my personal share in being the means of causing this House and the Postmaster-General a certain amount of trouble. But when I think of the hundreds and, indeed, thousands of people who, during the last few years, have been put into employment by the wireless exchanges and of the revenue which has accrued to the B.B.C. and to the Post Office, and also of the facilities given to the public at large, I am amazed and astonished at the attacks which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) made upon wireless exchanges. I should like to take this opportunity of saying that my companies have worked in close co-operation with the Post Office for many years, and to pay a tribute to the efficiency of the Post Office, to their courtesy and very willing co-operation which they have always shown to us, and which, I hope, we have shown to them. The hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant) made a reference to discussions he had some five years ago about superimposing a Broadcast reception over the telephone wires. Only 4 per cent. of the subscribers to wireless relay services are on the telephone, and it is clear that, if the Government are to rely upon telephone subscribers, even though the numbers may be increased as a result of wireless relay, they will not get very far in this direction.
I would remind the hon. Member for West Willesden that there have been a considerable number of experiments in the operation of Broadcast reception over 955 telephone wires on the Continent and elsewhere, and within the last few years, although these systems have been working with a certain degree of success, it is the audio-frequency systems which have gone ahead and have been found to be the most successful. A certain reference was made by the right hon. Member for Keighley to the subject of high frequency in connection with audio-frequency. Since the recommendations were made, and the report was issued by the Ullswater Committee, I have heard that there have been very extensive experiments in America which, in the last few weeks, have resulted in disappointment. It is clear from the experiments which have been made that there is still a great deal of further work to be done before any method can be devised likely to supplant the present one. It is obvious that in this age of scientific development no one can foretell what may happen in the future. Surely, private enterprise is well capable of initiating and developing, if need be, new means and new devices for Broadcast reception along the wires. The right hon. Gentleman said that on technical and public grounds it was clear that a decision could just as well be made to-day as a few years hence. I say that there is no reason why three years ago, if need be, a decision should not have been made, because the matter is one of broad principle, and not one just of technical or commercial expediency. He went on to say that the Post Office was the best organisation, with its vast telephone network, its large-scale operation and the magnitude of its undertaking, to carry out wire Broadcasting. Why has not the Post Office done it before now? Ten years ago the whole subject of wire Broadcasting was put before the Post Office and before the B.B.C. by the then chief engineer, and it was turned down as being impracticable, a foolish dream. But it was left to private enterprise to show that it could be accomplished and that Broadcast programmes could be sent along the wire. There is proof, if proof were needed, that it is private enterprise and not the State which is best able to initiate and develop any new enterprise.
The right hon. Gentleman said that on public grounds alone this enterprise should be taken over by the State, because there was a lot of money in the business. Is there not a lot of money in 956 Morris motors, Woolworths', Marks and Spencers and Boots the Chemists? It is not a reason for the business to be taken over because there is a lot of money in it. Have there not been examples in many parts of the world of enterprising businesses being taken over by the State, which in turn has made a loss and these businesses have been given back to private enterprise again? In the evidence given before the Ullswater Committee the question was asked how much profit had been made. An investigation was made which showed that on some £800,000 of capital put into all kinds and types of wireless exchanges the net return on the capital invested was 4 per cent. Therefore, I do not think that the argument which the right hon. Gentleman has put forward holds good. He said that the relay exchanges skim the cream of this business and that they only operate where there is a good profit to be made. That is not the case. Relay exchanges have been operated in quite small villages and hamlets; in fact, wherever the local authority has given permission. He also said that if the wireless exchanges remained in the hands of private enterprise they would not operate in isolated places where there was no chance of a profit being made. Does he mean to suggest that the State should operate them there at a loss, and that the taxpayer should make up the difference?
§ Mr. WAKEFIELD
The hon. Gentleman quite rightly says that, but I suggest that if in the profitable places there is only a small profit to be made, there will not be the necessary margin of profit left over to make good the loss in those scattered districts.
I now come to the criticism of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomeryshire, who was a Member of the Ullswater Committee. After I had listened to him it became clear to me why it was that the Ullswater Committee made the recommendations that they did. It was clear that they had completely misunderstood the different functions as between 957 initiating a programme, that is to say, transmission, and the reception side of the industry. Before I deal with that at greater length, I should like to touch upon one or two points which the hon. and learned Member made He left the impression in my mind that here was a business that was fleecing the public and performing no service at all; in fact, he suggested that after paying 2s. a week, with a 10s. licence on top, £5 14s. a year, they got nothing for it. Members of the public have freedom of choice. If they do not want to be connected to the relay service, they can purchase a wireless set. If it is desired to make a comparison between this service and a wireless set, it will be found that it is very difficult to get a good wireless set under 2s. 6d. a week hired out, and that the cost will run into the neighbourhood of 3s. or 4s. a week when depreciation, obsolescence and everything is taken into account.
When you go to the cinema you do not buy the cinema. You pay for the seat and are given entertainment. I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman would suggest that there is no need to run an omnibus service or that an omnibus service is fleecing the public because a person pays 6d. a day, or perhaps 2s. a week, or £5 14s. a year to ride in an omnibus, when he could have a bicycle by paying 2s. a week, with possession of the bicycle at the end of that time. Surely, the analogy is the same. That is a wrong impression of this service. The hon. and learned Member said that all you had to do was to put a loud speaker in a room, get a few bits of wire, and all was well. That is not the case. It is a highly technical matter, and the business needs many thousands of pounds to establish it in any town, if the service is to be adequately and properly carried out. The hon. and learned Member further said that if the relay exchanges were left in the hands of private enterprise it would be the very negation of the B.B.C. idea. He said that it hits against the whole idea of the B.B.C. I can find no evidence of that either in the report of the Ullswater Committee or the report of the Crawford Committee in 1925. The Crawford Committee said:A public Corporation should be set up to act as the trustee for the national interests in broadcasting.958 In the Ullswater Report the reasons given for transferring the ownership of the relay exchanges to the Post Office were in these terms:We recommend that the ownership and operation of relay exchanges should be undertaken by the Post Office, and the control of relayed programmes by the B.B.C. The considerations on which we base these conclusions are in brief those which have led to the establishment of the postal, telegraph and telephone services, and indeed the broadcasting service itself, as unified national undertakings under public ownership and control.That suggests that the reception which the public obtains by wireless exchanges is a monopoly. It is not a monopoly. It is merely an alternative method of reception. There is one method of transmission for the initiation of programmes, which is in the hands of the B.B.C. and rightly so. No one would suggest that the B.B.C., with all its faults, has not done very great work. We are all very proud of what it has done, but there is no suggestion that the reception side of the industry, or any part of it, should be taken over by the State. That is where the Ullswater Committee has gone wrong. They are likening the wireless relay service to the telephone service. There is no alternative to the telegraph or the telephone service, which is in the hands of the State. You can send a telegram, a letter, or a telephone message, and all these three methods of communication are in the hands of the State.
That is where I think the Ullswater Committee have gone wrong. They have based their conclusions on false premises. They have thought of the wireless relay exchanges in the terms of a monopoly and as being the only means of reception. They are not. The wireless relay exchanges have to compete in the sending of their service in obtaining customers for their service with those who sell and those who hire out wireless sets. If the recommendations of the Ullswater Committee are adopted by the Government, three years hence, it will mean that the Government will be in competition with private enterprise on the reception side of the industry. It will mean that a Government inspector, with a peaked cap, will have to go down the street urging people to come on to the Government service, selling the Government service as against private enterprise on the selling side. I suggest that that will be 959 an intolerable position. Either the whole of the reception side of Broadcasting must be taken over and operated by the State, or it must be left entirely in the hands of private enterprise. The Minority Report, signed by the right hon. gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery says:When a public service is established, it is, we think, necessary that the public interest should predominate throughout the Whole range. If private enterprise is allowed a loophole, a proportion of the advantage of the system will be lost to the community. The weak spot of Broadcasting is in the provision of receiving sets by private industry.Surely it is an entirely new conception of Broadcasting that the reception side of the industry as a whole should be undertaken by the State and not left in the hands of private enterprise. I hope that I have made it quite clear that it is an impossible position, an intolerable position, for the State to be in, to have to compete with private enterprise on the reception side of the industry. It is perhaps for that reason that the Government have not at once adopted the recommendations of the Ullswater Committee, and and that it is desired to investigate the whole position.
If the wireless relay exchanges are taken over by the Government and wireless sets are still supplied by private enterprise, I can see that difficulties will be started. With regard to paragraph 134 and the Government's remarks upon it, this statement is made:That the responsible Departments should take all the steps that are within their power with a view to prevent the Broadcasting from foreign stations of advertisements in this country.What is the object of that? It is surely that sponsored programmes from abroad are getting round the intentions of making transmission in this country a monopoly. The difficulty that has arisen from the transmission side will, I think, be found in a far greater degree if the Government take over part of the reception side of the industry, without the other side. In connection with the sponsored programmes from abroad, I suggest that if the Government directed their attention not so much to making representations to foreign countries and getting ourselves more into disfavour from abroad than we are now, but to 960 getting the B.B.C. to improve their own programmes, so that there is no need for listeners in this country to search abroad for foreign programmes, it would be all to the good.
No one wants, as the Postmaster-General said, to listen to talk about syrup of figs, from abroad, but there is an entertainment value in these programmes. I suggest that representation should be made to the B.B.C. to start their transmission at an earlier hour. Many of the sponsored programmes are from 8 to 10 o'clock in the morning, when there is a very large listening public, and when the B.B.C. is silent. It is surprising, but it is true, that what happens is that the woman of the house sees her children off to school and her husband off to work and then starts her housework before she goes out to do her shopping. During these two hours she likes to switch on the wireless set or receiving set and to enjoy the entertainment from abroad. There is no B.B.C. programme then available, although the 10s. licence has been paid. If there was some attention paid to that matter there would be no need to bother about sponsored programmes from abroad. That is by way of being a small diversion. I hope I have made it clear that this flirting with Government control on the reception side of the industry is outside our conception of Broadcasting service.
I should like to know whether the Government want to bring reception as well as transmission under Government control. Do we want listeners in this country to be placed in the same position as listeners in Russia, Germany, Japan and Italy, where reception is controlled by the Government? Surely that is the negation of all our principles of liberty and freedom, and we should safeguard ourselves against this dictatorship and control of listening. The present proposals are a deliberate compromise to cloak the fact that the Government are unable to decide on the principle whether reception should be Government-owned and operated, or privately owned and operated. Is this far-reaching and important decision of principle to be decided on the narrow basis of whether it is technically or commercially expedient for the State to operate that part 961 of reception controlled by relays at present?
Why should it be necessary to wait two or three years to decide on that principle? Even the transmission side is not run by the State. It is run by a public Corporation, and it is going a step beyond that to transfer the reception side to the State. Surely this important matter of policy and principle is not to be decided as a result of investigation whether it is technically feasible or commercially expedient to use a telephone wire or the electric mains. It is a matter of principle, not a matter of whether it can or cannot be done over a wire. If these experiments are satisfactory, are the Government going to take over the reception side of the industry? If not, what is the point of carrying them out?
In the meantime, the relay industry is in a very difficult position. It is rather like the position in connection with Unemployment Assistance Regulations, where a complete standstill has taken place. Under the "standstill" the unemployed did get the best of both worlds, but under these proposals everybody loses. The unemployed lose because in the last few months, and even days, several hundred people have been put out of employment because of the uncertainty of the position, whereas if a 10 years licence were granted, hundreds if not thousands would be put into work. The Post Office loses, the B.B.C. loses, and the public loses the facilities that would be given them by this service. During the last few weeks we have been debating a Bill in connection with the Special Areas Reconstruction Agreement, devising ways and means to give employment in the Special Areas, and here we are discussing proposals which, if put into effect, will do the reverse.
If a 10 years agreement were granted, or the Post Office were to take over the whole reception side, it would be possible to put hundreds of people into employment in the Special Areas. I know of one town where interference is very bad, and where a relay service is wanted. Under the present proposals and the insecurity of tenure afforded that service cannot be started. If a long-term agreement were given at least 100 local people would be put into employment, the public would be given the service they want and some 962 £50,000 of capital expenditure would be incurred. If the Post Office are to take over at the end of three years, the people who would put up that £50,000 would be lucky if they got £25,000 back. When the Air Navigation Bill was recently passing through this House, the Government asked for power to spend up to £1,500,000 on a 15 years' agreement, and this was the reason advanced by the Solicitor-General:I submit that a period of 15 years is on the narrow side rather than on the generous side. If we take an analogy which is comparable, in some respects, from electricity and gas undertakings, we see that they get a tenure of 40 years in many of the Acts, in order to give them some security for undertaking the vast capital expenditure which is necessary to enable them to give all the services that they have to give."—[OFFICIAL 19th May, 1936; col. 1102, Vol. 312.]If it is a good thing for the House to give a new industry like air a 15 years' term, surely it is equitable to give 10 years, the same length of life as the B.B.C. Charter, to this other new industry. I suggest that the Government should reconsider the whole position, and either decide to take over the whole reception side of the industry or, if they are not prepared to do that, give a 10-year licence to the wireless relay exchanges so that they can develop on a proper business-like basis. If the Government are not prepared to do that, would they be prepared to give a 10-year licence in the Special Areas, so that some development and employment can be given there?
We are faced with an important matter of principle. It is the question of the taking over a part of, and that will eventually mean the whole, of the reception side of the industry. That broad matter of principle should be decided, not on whether it is audio-frequency or high-frequency, but on the question: Are the Government going to adopt the policy of handing over the reception side of the wireless industry to the State? If the Government start controlling the reception side of the industry, thereby removing from the listener his freedom of choice, it is a substantial advance on that slippery descent which can have no other end but the curtailment of freedom of speech and the liberty of the Press. I urge Members in all parts of the Committee to think twice, and thrice, before 963 they support a change of so great a nature in the policy of Broadcasting reception in this country.
§ 9.34 p.m.
§ The ASSISTANT POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Sir Walter Womersley)
I want to relieve hon. Members at once if they think I am winding up this Debate. I am not doing so. I want to answer two points put by the hon. Member for West Willesden (Mr. Viant). The Leader of the Opposition is to speak later, and my right hon. Friend the Postmaster-General will conclude the Debate. The hon. Member for West Willesden referred to the time when he was Assistant Postmaster-General, and the efforts made by himself and the Postmaster-General of that time to develop the business of the Post Office. I want to pay my tribute to them. I have had the privilege of looking through the records of that period and I know the difficult time they had to face. Instead of being able to put more workers on the postal staff, it was a question of reducing the staff because of the slump, but I pay a tribute in all sincerity that they did their job very well and laid the foundation of the good work which has been going on ever since.
When my hon. Friend says that the late Postmaster-General, who is now Minister of Health, was fortunate in coming into office just after the Bridgeman Committee had reported, I must cross swords with him. I think the country was fortunate that my right hon. Friend came into office after that report was presented, because he is a man with a drive and a business brain, and he certainly did implement the recommendations of the committee and added many other improvements making for the advancement of the postal service, which to-day stands high in the estimation of the people of the country and higher still in the estimation of people outside the country who envy us our postal service. I put this to my hon. Friend that my right hon. Friend the present Postmaster-General and, with all meekness, myself, are determined to carry on the high standards set by the late Postmaster-General. We hope to see an improvement in the service and better conditions for those employed.
My hon. Friend referred to the question of overtime and dealt particularly with 964 Telephone House in Northern Belfast. He also referred to the fact that we should re-employ those men who, unfortunately, had to be suspended during the time of the slump. I was a little concerned about this matter and have had reports supplied to me. I find that with only a few exceptions all the men who were discharged through shortage of work during the slump period have been either re-engaged or offered employment. Of course, many additional youths have been brought into training for the skilled workmen's class and, as a matter of fact, since the Bridgeman Committee reported and the late Minister of Health undertook the work of reorganisation and advancement we have been able to find employment for 15,000 extra people in the postal service. That is not a bad achievement. It is true that during the period when we made this great advance, owing to the response of the public to the better terms offered, particularly in regard to the telephone service, we had to have men working overtime to a far greater extent than the Postmaster-General or I myself cared. I can assure my hon. Friends that the Postmaster-General and myself have been actually working overtime in trying to grapple with the question of overtime.
I agree with the hon. Member that it is far better to employ more people and not have so much overtime, but it takes time to adjust these matters. Take the case of the telephone exchange in Northern Belfast. I regret that I had not the figures the other day, but I have received them now. During 1934 the overtime worked was 13,469 hours—a great deal. In 1935 the overtime was 19,070 hours, and in 1936 to the end of June it was 8,123 hours. The Committee will realise that we are getting it down a little. The cost was £1,718, £2,250 and £970 respectively. We increased the number of clerks from 96 at the beginning of 1934 to 117 at the end of June, 1936. We have gone forward with a policy of employing more clerks as soon as we can get them trained. During June the overtime was halved, to 821 hours for 117 officers, an average of less than two hours per officer per week, and orders have been sent from headquarters that overtime shall be further reduced. It is anticipated that by the end of the holiday season no more extra duty will be necessary. It is not the desire of the Postmaster- 965 General or myself to continue excessive overtime. We prefer to increase the staff, and give some unemployed men a fair chance of finding a job.
My hon. Friend mentioned another matter which he and I have discussed privately; the cleaners of the kiosks. It is a disagreeable job, not one which many of us would like to undertake, but I was rather surprised at the amount my hon. Friend quoted as wages. I am not going to question his figures, but the figure I have received is much larger, and it may be a question of a maximum and a minimum. But I will make inquiries into this matter to-morrow morning. If my hon. Friend's figures are right I should be ashamed to pay such wages.
§ Sir W. WOMERSLEY
My information was different to that of my hon. Friend. I think it must be a question of a maximum and a minimum. Perhaps my hon. Friend quoted the minimum, and I have been given the maximum. But whatever the rate of wages paid, it is a rate agreed upon between the Union of Postal Workers and the Department. These wages are not settled by the Department without consultation. I am not going to defend the amount if it is that stated by my hon. Friend, but the fact is that the amount was fixed by agreement between the Union of Postal Workers and the Department.
§ Sir W. WOMERSLEY
I have not said that the Union regarded the rates as adequate; they would not be doing their duty by the men in their Union if they did so. At the same time my hon. Friend will agree that it was a rate fixed by agreement; otherwise we should have had a little trouble about the matter. My hon. Friend also referred to the 1s. allowance per day allowed to these cleaners for meals when they are away from their headquarters; when the distance is over one mile from headquarters and when they are not less than five hours absent. They do not get this allowance on Saturdays. He mentioned the fact that it was through his own intervention that this little privilege was 966 obtained for them, and he questioned the wisdom of in any way depriving them of this 1s. allowance. I have gone very carefully into this matter, because if these men are being deprived of that small amount of allowance merely for some very paltry reason, it is time there was an alteration. But I have found among the papers a letter written by my hon. Friend himself at the time this arrangement was made setting out the terms under which the allowance should be given. I am sure my hon. Friend will agree with me that I cannot go beyond any agreement made by my predecessors unless I negotiate a fresh agreement. It is very definitely stated that this allowance shall be paid only if the man is working at a distance of over one mile from headquarters and is absent for not less than five hours. We are carrying out exactly the terms of the arrangement made by the hon. Member himself.
§ Sir W. WOMERSLEY
I promise my hon. Friend that the matter will be reconsidered, but I wanted to remind him that we are not doing anything which differs from the arrangement he made. We are not trying to deprive the men of the allowance. Those were the two points raised by my hon. Friend, and no other hon. Member raised any points except as regards the British Broadcasting Corporation, and as I explained earlier, my right hon. and gallant Friend will reply to the general debate on the British Broadcasting Corporation. I would like, in conclusion, to say that I am glad to have had this opportunity of paying my tribute to those who have occupied the offices of Postmaster-General and Assistant Postmaster-General during the last few years. I am proud to belong to that service. I think it is indeed the finest service of its kind in the world, and I hope it will continue as such.
§ 9.48 p.m.
§ Mr. E. J. WILLIAMS
I am sure my hon. Friend is obliged to the Assistant Postmaster-General for the replies he has received to his questions. There are one or two points I would like to raise concerning the British Broadcasting Corporation. I trust the Postmaster-General will not be impressed too much 967 with the special pleading made by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield). I have had occasion to say before in this House that I think it requires a great deal of brazenness on the part of hon. Members to plead for vested interests. The reply to the hon. Member for Swindon was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies). The Ullswater Committee, after having heard the evidence of four persons representing the relay system of this country, reported unanimously that there was no justification for the continuance of that system, and I am hoping that the Cabinet, if it has really decided this matter as a matter of policy, has not been impressed by the lobbying which has taken place during the last few months. I have come to the conclusion that nothing but lobbying could have caused them to reject the unanimous recommendation contained in the report. After having listened to the Debate, I am pleased that, with the exception of two hon. Members, no one is prepared to support the continuance of this relay system, which really sets at defiance the main purpose of the B.B.C. For experts and specialists to be engaged by the B.B.C. in order to give this country what it requires, and then to find that it is possible for certain individuals to set up a system in contradistinction, and to supply the poor people—simply because they are poor, apparently they have to be exploited—with some alternative programme to that which the B.B.C. has arranged, is something which ought never to be defended by hon. Members. I hope that after having heard the Debate this evening, the Postmaster-General will see that that portion of the report is accepted.
Most of the speeches have led to the conclusion that it is essential to accept the recommendation of the Ullswater Committee that someone should be selected to answer questions and to present the case for the B.B.C. in the House when it is necessary to do so. The developments which have taken place of late years, particularly educationally, and the interlapping that takes place between the educational side of the B.B.C. and the questions that hon. Members receive from their constituents in this regard, make it necessary that a Minister responsible to the Cabinet 968 should be appointed to deal with this matter. It is very difficult for me to understand why the Cabinet could not agree to such a recommendation. The B.B.C. is equally in importance to any other Department that comes under the Crown. It can either make or mar public opinion. It is a vehicle that can cause ill or well-being to the inhabitants of this country. To think that such a Department should remain detached from the House of Commons in a sort of dictatorial manner is something which hon. Members ought really not to countenance. I am hoping that we shall not be put in the position that, having submitted questions to the Table, we shall find that no one is responsible on behalf of the B.B.C. in this House for answering such questions. I hope the Postmaster-General will impress upon his colleagues the necessity of accepting that recommendation.
There is one other matter with which I would like to deal, and that is the question of staff. Perhaps the most indefensible thing that one finds growing up in these days is that employers of labour—it is true that they represent a minority—decide to impress upon their employés the form of organisation to which they shall be attached. I have had some experience of that in South Wales during the last few years, and it is still going on. We have had experience of it in the banking system. where the official accredited trade union is not recognised, and where there are staff organisations which ventilate the opinions of the directors and are really a mere sham. I hope the House will see that the staff engaged by the B.B.C. will be able to belong to the trade union of their choice. If there are 12 grades of employés working in the B.B.C., and if each of those grades desires to ally itself with a trade union outside which caters for its particular craft, it ought to be permitted to do so. If it is desired to set up an organisation which would embrace most of the employés on the manual side, that ought to be permitted, and the same applies on the technical side.
The type of organisation must not be one dictated by what we call brass-hats, that is, from the top. There is nothing more reprehensible than to find people who have security endeavouring to dictate to those who have not conditions of 969 security. That is what one finds very prevalent in these days. One finds it in the banking fraternity, and apparently it is to be found in this case, and I hope the House will not tolerate it any longer. It is difficult for me to understand the type of man who obtains security, who reaches eminence and who somehow desires to impose his will upon other people in such a way that those people can be dismissed on the spur of the moment if they cause some sort of affront by allying themselves to a trade union. I am sure the House of Commons would not tolerate such a system if Members had the opportunity, from time to time, of ventilating those grievances and that could only be properly done, if there were a Minister in the House responsible for the Department who could be called to account in Committee of Supply. To-day we have the opportunity of discussing these questions, because the Charter of the Corporation is due for renewal, but we ought to have opportunities in the ordinary course of criticising where necessary the administration of the Department.
I hope that the Postmaster-General has been impressed by the pleas which have been made from all sides of the Committee that the rights of minorities should be respected. The phrase "rights of minorities" was used so much during the Debates on the India Constitution that it must be ringing in the ears of hon. Members. We had a particular instance given to-day by my hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Marklew) of a religious minority comprising a large number of people in this country who have had no opportunity of expressing their views by Broadcasting. The rights of all minorities, whether they are religious, social, or philosophic bodies should be observed. As I say, I hope that the Postmaster-General, having heard so many cogent speeches on the subject to-day, will realise the necessity of terminating the relay system as quickly as possible. I would say that it ought to be terminated at once. There is no necessity for its continuance, because all the evidence has been heard and the report of the committee having been presented ought to be accepted. As regards the appointment of a Minister, I think there can be no two opinions about that. The views which have been expressed on educational grounds and the criticisms which have been offered on other ground 970 lead to the conclusion that it is essential to have a Minister responsible for this service to the House of Commons. I trust that the Postmaster-General will also realise the necessity of granting to all those in the B.B.C. service the right to choose the union to which they shall belong.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. DENMAN
This will be regarded, I think, as the most remarkable Debate on the Post Office Estimates to which anyone associated with that Department has ever listened. The Postmaster-General is the one and only example of the old-fashioned State Socialism, and normally, when his Estimates are produced he is the target of a great variety of criticisms from all points of view. To-day, however, he has been giving his paternal blessing with the almost unanimous approval of the Committee, to a body which is far removed from the old-fashioned State Socialism which is, indeed perhaps the most perfect example of what we may call the neo-Socialism. I believe that the British Broadcasting Corporation represents a great advance in the technique of public service. It has set a great example and its achievement encourages us to believe that the precedent will be followed hereafter in other cases. I regret, in one sense, that this Debate has dealt so little with Post Office affairs, because there are many points of importance in the Estimates on which we would have liked to hear the Postmaster-General. I notice, for example, that we have in these Estimates, the first accounts of the new regional system. The Post Office has undertaken, as far as one can gather from the accounts, a system of devolution in Scotland and in the North-Eastern area of England, and as the headquarters of the North-Eastern area are in Leeds, various Members of the Committee are particularly interested in its development. That is a point, however, which cannot be dealt with this evening owing to the limitation of time, and because the main interest of the Committee is centred so largely in the question of Broadcasting.
So much has been said on that subject, that I desire only to emphasise two points. The first deals with the relay system. I confess I am in wholehearted agreement with the views expressed by the Opposition, and, indeed, by almost every Member of the Com- 971 mittee who has spoken, that the proposal of the Government in this respect is regrettable. From whatever point of view one looks at it, it appears to be mistaken. One understands the merits of a system of private enterprise and the benefit of free development, but I do not think that in this particular case that method is at all appropriate. The device adopted by the Government seems to be the worst possible from the point of view of private enterprise, and it is equally bad from the point of view of public service. Who is going to develop an effective service on the terms that his plant is to be taken over in three years' time, on the value of the plant in situ—and then only such of the plant as the Minister may choose to take? That appears to be an impossible condition for private enterprise. From the point of view of public service, what necessity is there for postponing the determination recommended by the Ullswater Committee? Even the minority report only recommended an extension of two years and that not on the ground of efficiency, but on the ground of national economy. Lord Selsdon's argument was that it would be a mistake to buy out a decadent and decaying system and to pay money for something which in a couple of years would be valueless. I believe that to be a shortsighted argument, and that it would be worth while to pay the money which would be required, under the terms of the licence, to bring this system to an end. I desire on behalf of the group for whom I am speaking to add my expression of regret at the fact that the Government have adopted this line.
My final point in relation to the B.B.C. is this: Is it not possible to utilise this service for the improvement of international relations? To-day we have this novel, indeed unique method, of putting points of view before people all over the world. Could it not be used as a great instrument for the promotion of international understanding by having talks from one nation to another in the language of the receiving station? We have had, from time to time, extremely interesting broadcasts from the United States which have been most illuminating and have made us sympathise with the difficulties of the people of that country and enabled us to look at their problems from their angle. Would it not be possible 972 to have similar broadcasts from Berlin, Paris, Rome and other capitals with advantage, especially if you could secure reciprocity? One recognises that at the moment the full ideal is unattainable, but there are some countries with which it ought to be possible to arrange interchanges of ideas enabling one nation to appreciate the atmosphere in another nation. If such interchange could be started between those countries which are now prepared to agree to it, it might gradually be extended to all countries. I can imagine no more effective method of creating a spirit of understanding between different countries.
§ 10.5 p.m.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
We have had to-day a very interesting Debate on a matter of first-class importance, and I think it is noteworthy that throughout there has been an entire absence of controversy on strictly party lines. The Committee as a whole has accepted the broad principle that Broadcasting is a matter which cannot be left in the hands of private enterprise, that it is a matter of public interest for public control. So we have had no display of party controversy, and the only serious matter of controversy has been between public and private enterprise. I think it is worth noticing that, as in the previous Debates, so in this Debate those who have spoken for private interests have not spoken on a point of principle, and they have been supported by no one except those who were strictly concerned in that interest.
I hope, therefore, the Postmaster-General has not come to this Debate with a closed mind. I hope he is going to attend to the opinion of this House, because in a matter of this kind, where there is no question of party controversy, a Minister should be impressed with the unanimity of the House on certain points. I should like to express my regret that the Government have not had the courage to make a clear decision on the question of relay Broadcasting. I regret, too, that they have really shirked some of the main issues that are raised by the whole question of Broadcasting and the position of the B.B.C. I was a member of the Ullswater Committee. We had to consider a number of matters of detail and a number of matters of first-class national importance. I had rather hoped that our report would have received 973 more adequate consideration. We had a White Paper supplemented by the Minister's speech which really dealt in a very jejune manner with a number of separate points. Those separate points are set out, and then we get an affirmative or a negative decision.
Certain of the biggest points are left out altogether. I wish that we had had something more from the Government on the problem of control. The hon. Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) said this was an experiment in Socialism. Well, it is still very much in the experimental stage, and the Ullswater Committee considered very carefully this question of control. One of the recommendations they made was that there should be a Minister of Cabinet rank in this House who could answer on matters of broad policy. That is one matter which the Government have emphatically turned down. I think it ought to be realised just what were the reasons that actuated the Ullswater Committee. The Postmaster-General, who has very big Departmental concerns, is brought in contact with the B.B.C. from certain technical sides. That necessarily influences his attitude towards the B.B.C. Similarly, when one suggests that any other Departmental Minister should be given control over the B.B.C., one is met by the difficulty of the Departmental point of view.
Imagine what would be the position if the Foreign Secretary had control. He would be considering all the time the effect of Broadcasting on his particular Department. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, again, always regards the B.B.C. as the promising calf of that good milch cow the Post Office. Therefore, the Committee wanted someone divorced from any Department specially concerned with Broadcasting. They wanted someone who would take a very broad view of the subject; I do not think the Ullswater Committee in the least wanted every detail of Broadcasting programmes thrashed out on the Floor of this House. What they wanted was adequate discussion of policy. The principle is that the B.B.C. is carried on without interference by the Government and that where there is interference it should be a matter of high policy concerning this House.
There is quite a small recommendation, but one of very great importance, that I 974 think the Government have overlooked entirely. That is that when the B.B.C. is ordered to make a statement by a Government Department, the general public should be informed that it has been so ordered, and I think the public have a right to know. They ought to know whether it is the B.B.C. or whether it is only "his Master's Voice"—I do not mean the gramophone, but the Government. The influence of the Government over the B.B.C. should be an open one, and not a hole-and-corner one. There is a tendency for a certain influence over the B.B.C. emanating from various Government offices not in the form of direct orders, but by a kind of suggestion. That may be right and it may be necessary, but it should not be done through the Civil Service. It should be done through a Minister of the Crown who would be responsible to this House.
As matters stand now, the Postmaster-General is not wholly responsible, though there is influence brought to bear. Therefore we thought it would be wise to have a Minister here, preferably a Minister without Departmental duties, a Minister who would have time to think over the problems, because they are continually changing problems and growing problems, when dealing with matters concerning the B.B.C. that vitally affect the whole future of the country. With regard to Parliamentary control we did not want control over details but over policy. We want a Debate of this kind every year, and we want a Cabinet Minister in charge, because a Cabinet Minister can speak with authority and take responsibility. Although some Postmasters-General are in the Cabinet some are not, and it is not fair to put a policy on to a Minister who, as a matter of fact, is not responsible for policy. Then there comes control by the general public. The general public, of course, can bring a certain influence to bear through writing letters or making objections of one kind or another, but, to my mind, the people who represent the general publ are the Governors of the B.B.C.
I do not think it is always realised what should be the functions of the Governors of the B.B.C. I do not think they should be ornamental directors keeping a check on the directors. I do not think they should be people who look in once or twice a month or even once or twice a week. We have sug- 975 gested in our report that they should be paid pretty good salaries, and we certainly intended that they should do some work for their salaries. To my mind, the Governors should be people who are in touch with all sections of the community. For that reason we think that the background of the minds of more of the Governors should be in touch with the majority of listeners. If you look at the people who are Governors of the B.B.C. you will see at once that some of them are very little likely to be brought into contact with the ordinary listener. If they are to meet the ordinary listener they will have to depart very widely from their ordinary lives. They ought to go more out into the provinces, into the Regions, to know what the regional people are thinking, to know what people are thinking in Manchester, or in Liverpool, or in Newcastle, or in any of the big provincial cities, and should not think only what London thinks, for that is not what the whole country thinks.
The Governors should be drawn from people who have different social backgrounds, and that is very important if they are to use their critical faculties in controlling the Director. If they are all from one social stratum, it may be that they have an unconscious bias. Then, I think, they ought to be younger on the whole than they have been. They have to keep in touch with the younger generation. They are dealing with a very new instrument, and there is a kind of subtle control throughout the B.B.C. which represents what the B.B.C. thinks is nice. Occasionally, there is a tendency for what they think is nice to be perhaps a little too Victorian. It may get as far as Edwardian, but I do not think it has got as far as Edward VIII. They are people whose minds were formed at an earlier epoch. More of the Governors should be under 50. I would like some under 40, and I think you should have some under 30. You ought to have people who will keep the younger generation entertained.
Again, I would say that it is most essential to have people there of strong character, wide vision and considerable vigour, because they have to keep control over a machine, and they have to keep control over the man at the head of 976 the machine, and the director of the B.B.C. is a very remarkable main. Sir John Reith has done immense service for the B.B.C. He is a man of very great strength. He has put up a splendid resistance to vested interests of all kinds which have tried to creep into the service. He has set high standards, but I think that he has some defects of his qualities. I expressed them in a note in the report. I think that he tends to be dictatorial and a little impatient of criticism. Like many men of his great ability, he rather likes to be surrounded by "yes" men. I think that he tends to rule a little by fear, and this inevitably kills creative work. The danger of an organisation like the B.B.C. is that it may sink into a level of respectable and gentle dullness, and get too much the imprint of one personality. It is essential that there should be in the B.B.C. a number of creative minds at work with a constant new impetus from changing circumstances and new needs of the times.
That brings one to the position of the staff. I also put in a dissenting note on the subject of the staff, because I felt, and I have had it amply confirmed since, that there was not enough freedom for the staff. I notice it has been suggested that they should be something like civil servants. The hon. and gallant Member for North St. Pancras (Sir I. Fraser) suggested that they were something like civil servants and that they should be restricted like civil servants; but it is not fair to give people the duty of civil servants if you do not also give them the privileges, and the staff do lack the privileges. They have not security of tenure. I do not suggest you can apply exactly the Civil Service conditions to the B.B.C. employés; but I am sure that at the present moment it is not a happy staff. It is not a staff that is doing its best, because the members of it do not feel free to develop their personalities and express themselves. They are held down by a very strong personality.
§ Sir I. FRASER
I do not remember saying that I hoped the staff would be treated as civil servants. That is contrary to any sentiment I have. I think that, perhaps, routine jobs may be filled in co-operation with the Civil Service Commissioners, but those jobs which are 977 artistic in their nature and which require special talents should be filled with freedom and discretion, and those who hold them should be allowed the utmost discretion in carrying out their jobs.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I think the hon. and gallant Member has not quite got the point to which I was alluding. He said that persons who occupied responsible positions must be limited in their activities because of the responsibility of their positions and he instanced civil servants, municipal servants, and others. If you intend to limit people like that you must also give them the rights of people in that position. The point I was making was that employés of the B.B.C. have the duties but not the rights.
The next point is the controversy over political Broadcasting. I think it is rather remarkable that while the 1311swater Report devoted 10 fairly considerable paragraphs to this subject, it finds no mention in the Government White Paper, and yet, after all, it is a very vital matter. What. we want is freedom of controversy and equality for expressions of opinion on politics and other matters of controversy. I am not going to reopen the past, but we have had some very serious experiences of the utilisation of a very powerful instrument in the interests of one side. The Government have been silent on this matter, either from contrition for the past or, possibly, with a view to amendment in the future. I think it is most essential that political Broadcasting should be fully utilised, but properly controlled.
Here I say a word regarding the question of the reporter in the gallery, to which the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) alluded. Despite the fact that I know she has given some admirable talks on Parliament, and that I have given some less admirable ones myself, I do not believe that any reporter coming to this House and listening to a Debate which will be a more or less exciting Debate if it is worth talking of, and then putting it across the wireless, can avoid taking a side, can avoid having bias. That has certainly been our experience. The hon. Member pointed out that "The Week at Westminster" ran for six years, but that was always served cold, after some days. It was hard to heat it up. You got it on Thursday, dealing with Monday's 978 and Tuesday's Debates. Again, it was given by four different people, of different views, and so the chance was that what you lost on one swing you made up on a roundabout. Here we are to have one single person going straight away to give an impression, and I think that would be a most dangerous thing. I do not believe you can get that kind of survey.
The next point, which I will deal with briefly, because it has already been dealt with so fully, is the question of the relay services. The argument on public grounds and on grounds of principle has gone all one way. I have some sympathy with the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Wakefield) in that he will get the worst of both worlds. I should have thought that everybody would have known, from the history of public utilities in the past, how bad it was for a service to be left in a state of indecision for years as to whether it was to be taken over or not. What will happen during these three years? The service will go on; either it will go on with a skeleton organisation which will just keep it alive to get some compensation, or the directors of it will chance their arm and go all out to develop it, using a good deal of their profits in a steady propaganda to get a further lease of life. All that the Government will be faced with at the end of the three years' delay will be the same controversy in the House, and a far greater range of vested interests against them.
I would call attention to one danger which, I think, has not been referred to. You have these intermediaries springing up between the B.B.C. and the listener. It is all very well to say that you give people a chance, but, as a matter of fact, once this thing is established you will find a number of people who are practically tied to the service. They will accept what is given to them. The service is controlled by companies, but the control of a company may change at any time, with nothing to stop an enterprising foreign Power from putting a lot of money into these relay organisations.
§ Mr. WAKEFIELD
Might I inform the right hon. Gentleman that, under the conditions of the licence, there are many strict provisions to prevent anything like that taking place. Probably the right hon. Gentleman was not aware of that. Also it is possible, and could quite easily 979 be done, for the B.B.C. to have complete control of the programmes, quite apart from the operation of the industry.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am glad to have the hon. Member's assurance, but the methods of control in modern industry, by holding companies and in one way or another, make it quite possible for this to be done. Anybody who knows the extraordinary amount of propaganda that is being done by foreign Powers and the various directions in which that obvious propaganda appears, will not put it beyond the ingenuity of some foreign dictator, perhaps to get a hold of this or that company, whereby it will be done, and you may have a solid amount of foreign propaganda served up in an attractive programme, going altogether outside our control. That is only one point, but it is an additional point to the dangers inherent in the system.
The hon. Member for Swindon said, "Why do you not take over the making of wireless sets, and be logical?" There, of course, he lines up with me, with Lord Elton and with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies). We take the line, which is quite a sound line, that where you have a great Government service like this, it is dangerous if you allow, at any point in the chain, the private interest to slip in. Then of course, the hon. Member says that because one interest has slipped in there is room for another. I cannot accompany him thus far in his argument.
A point which is not mentioned in the report is the control of the manufacture of sets. We have had a certain amount of evidence, and I think it very unsatisfactory. There is no doubt that, for certain parts of sets, there are rings; valves, for one thing. I believe the sets are too high in cost. I do not suppose the Government would go the whole way and take over the manufacture of wireless sets, but a great deal could be done by producing a certain standard set. I believe it would be possible to deal with the question, to which one hon. Member referred, of supplying the schools with sets, without paying such a heavy toll to the private manufacturer. As I understand it, the Post Office have the power, and I should like to see them taking a hand in stopping what I am told is the profiteering that goes on. 980 My time is at an end, and I will only, in conclusion, ask the Postmaster-General to have plenty of courage in this matter. He has to stand up to his colleagues, no doubt. I would ask him to go to his colleagues on this question of the relay service, to say to them that, after the Debates in the House, he has found that, irrespective of party, except for a negligible minority representing certain interests, the House is solidly behind what he knows from his own experience and from the Ullswater Report to be the right thing to do in this matter, and to ask the Government to take their courage in both hands and come to a decision.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Major TRYON
I do not think I ever remember a Debate in which, although party questions have touched this issue at almost every point, there has been so little party feeling or party discussion. I think the Leader of the Opposition will agree with me in that. The Debate has had a pretty wide range. It has been possible, within the Rules of Order, to refer, I have noticed, to such various subjects as the General Strike, the Gold Standard, and the Indian Constitution. But, if I may turn to the B.B.C., I should like to say that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Keighley (Mr. Lees-Smith) made a most valuable contribution in what he said about the staff of the B.B.C. He did not for a moment suggest that some standard rule should be applied to them all. He pointed out the great differences in pay and in conditions of service, which he suggested were quite natural as between the entertainers whom he described, I think quite appropriately, as impresarios, and others who were concerned with finance, clerical work or engineering. He pointed out, very rightly, how immensely different are the conditions of work of the staff of the B.B.C. He made, however, this point, that, now that we can expect that the Charter will be renewed for 10 years, there may be—I am not committing the Government to any action in the matter—an opportunity to review the conditions of the staff and see whether something cannot be done in the directions which the right hon. Gentleman suggested, in order to give conditions for the staff, possibly under a 10-years' Charter, which might not have been possible when there was only a year or two to run. 981 I also noticed that the right hon. Gentleman referred—I only mention these points to show that I have made a note of what he said—to complaints about verbal contracts, increase in the pay of the staff without reasons being given, or the withholding of increases without reasons being given; and he referred generally to their very different conditions. I do not think the Committee would wish me, if we are going to give to the Governors independence in the control of this important organisation, to come to a decision on these matters today, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that I have made a note of them, and that, just as the other points made in the earlier Debate have been most helpful both to the Government and to the B.B.C., so the many points which have been made by hon. Members throughout this Debate will be looked into and considered, and will in many cases, I am sure, be of great value and help.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Sir I. Fraser) made an extraordinarily interesting and able speech. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) made a speech which we all enjoyed, and I am delighted to find that, at all events on the subject of music, I am in agreement with him. My hon. Friend the Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) also made a point with which we shall all agree, the enormous importance of the Empire Broadcast service. We shall all welcome the use of this wonderful new power to bring us nearer together within the Empire. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. Morgan) made an interesting and valuable speech, naturally alluding to education and making a contribution of importance. The hon. Member for Montgomeryshire (Mr. C. Davies) made a speech full of enthusiasm and knowledge through having taken an active part in the work of the Ullswater Committee. While greatly valuing all that he said, I do not think that, because a committee has made a recommendation, the Government or the House is naturally bound to accept it. In connection with that I agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that the B.B.C. must also realise that this great moment of the renewal of the Charter is one when it is for the Government and the House of Commons to take thought of what is going to be done in the next ten years. The hon. 982 Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) made a point of very great value, the possibility of bringing about good will between the nations as the result of Broadcasting throughout the world.
I return to some of the main issues. I will take them in the same order as that in which they occur in the White Paper. The first and main issue is the renewal of the Charter. I think it is the case that as a whole the House is definitely in favour of renewing the Charter on very much the same terms as in the past. The House has paid a well merited tribute to those who have carried on the work of the B.B.C., and I should like to associate myself with the praise that has been given to it for the work it has done. Granted that there is to be renewal of the Charter, that brings us to the problem of a special Minister for Broadcasting. I can assure the House once more that the Post Office is making no objection on this point. It is not possible that there can be a Minister responsible to the House for the conduct of this business unless he has control of it and, if he has control, the Charter will have to be drawn up on new terms.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I think the right hon. Gentleman has missed the point. The point is that the every-day work is run by the Governors, but there must be, and is, a right of interference in certain points inherent in the Government. The question is whether that should be in the Postmaster-General or in another Minister.
§ Major TRYON
I do not think that really can be assumed to come from the wording of the report. I know the right hon. Gentleman's point—he put it quite fairly, but the report advises somebody free from departmental interests, and it also states that he should be responsible for the cultural side. If he were to be responsible for the cultural side, he must have control over it.
Now I come to the problem of the relays. I explained to the Committee very briefly what happened. We went into this matter at the Post Office to see what we should have to do, and no doubt it is partly a matter of the exceedingly difficult subject of electricity, wavelengths and so on. In this connection the Committee may be a little amused to hear what I heard from a Member of the 983 opposite party, who said that one day he overheard two men talking in an hotel, and that, except for a conjunction and an occasional verb, he did not understand a single word of their fluent and eager conversation, as they were electrical engineers. That shows how difficult the subject is, as the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, but I claim that what he said supports the action of the Government in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman very truly said that there were other systems and possibilities in connection with the telephones, and great developments in connection with another system of frequencies. That is what is pointed out in the report. Surely, before the Government are asked to take over a system which may prove to be a wrong system and to take over a relay system which may be upon a wrong basis, before the Government are asked to undertake this very big task of doing wired Broadcasting over the country, we ought to go thoroughly into the electrical question before we decide what we are to do.
I have heard and listened to the speeches. There has been a great deal of criticism of the relay companies, but the position is that we are inquiring into the electrical possibilities of this subject, and we have a perfectly free hand as a Government to suggest what course we may think best to the House at the end of our investigations. Therefore, the matter is open, but it is being inquired into from the electrical and technical point of view. Talking of relays, I should like to make the point that when one or two hon. Members speak of them as representing the great cause of the freedom of listeners that, at any rate, is not the position. The freedom of the listeners is best served by the supply of individual sets, by which each person can choose for himself that to which he shall listen. Therefore, I cannot agree that the argument in favour of freedom is so much in favour of relays as in favour of sets. I think that that is what the Committee must have had in mind—not any question of Socialism or otherwise—when they suggested that sets ought to be cheaper. I believe that if sets were cheaper, more people would be able to exercise their own choice and listen to that which they want to listen to, and not perhaps be limited to a couple 984 of alternative programmes carried out by relay companies.
My right hon. Friend the Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) spoke of the financial position of the relay companies, and said that they ought to have the same terms of arbitration as were granted to the National Telephone Company when that company was taken over. As a matter of fact the National Telephone Company was taken over on almost identically the same terms as we propose to apply to relay companies, if we took them over, so that that point, I think, falls to the ground.
I come to the point, made by the Leader of the Opposition about the statement by the B.B.C. that certain items are at the request of the Department or of the Government. That was a recommendation that the B.B.C. should be able to say that they were broadcasting something by the order of the Government, and in that case I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and so do the Government, that the B.B.C. should be free to state that a particular Broadcast was made by the order of the Government. On the question of broadcast advertisements coming to this country from abroad, I have already spoken against it on a previous occasion, and I was glad to notice then, as I was glad to notice again in this Debate, that the feelings of hon. Members are definitely against advertising on the wireless. If advertising is not allowed on the wireless within the country, I cannot conceive why wireless advertisements should be allowed to come from foreign stations, if we can stop it.
I am not making this in the least as a party point against the party opposite, but here is an example of the dangers that exist when powerful foreign stations are in a position to Broadcast in, this country not only advertisements but propaganda of foreign Governments, and politics. The following is amusing from that point of view. The Brightside Divisional Labour party is dissatisfied with the facilities they get from the B.B.C., and they recommend:That steps should be taken to hire one or two foreign wireless stations, possibly a French station now that there is a Socialist Government in France, with a view to our policy being consistently conveyed to a 985 much larger number of electors than is possible under the existing arrangements.I am not putting that as a point against hon. Members opposite, but it suggests that there is a good deal of danger in foreign stations engaging in propaganda in this country, and I hope that hon. Members will support the Government in doing all they can to protect listeners in this country not only from advertisements from foreign stations but from foreign stations Broadcasting propaganda.
§ Mr. STOREY
Is it to be made a condition of the relay licence that the relay station shall not be allowed to relay programmes containing advertisements?
§ Major TRYON
I expressed certain hopes in my first speech, which was very carefully prepared, because I was not only expressing the view of the Government on highly technical matters but in some respects communications sent to me by the B.B.C. in regard to their action. Therefore, I had to be careful. We could not accept that proposal, because listeners on private sets are able to listen to these foreign stations, and to stop the relay stations from relaying what private sets are able to get from abroad, would not be right. Now I come to the very interesting subject of politics and the B.B.C. I am not sure that I am altogether in agreement with what the Leader of the Opposition said in regard to reports of the proceedings in this House. One of the difficulties that we who work in this House experience, to whatever party we belong, is that very often newspapers do not report our Debates, if some matter of great local excitement has occurred at the moment. Therefore I think it is a good thing—I am only expressing my own view—that the public should realise every night that the House of Commons is sitting and working.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I am not in the least nervous about reports in the news, but only on the question of having one of those vivid reporters.
§ Major TRYON
There is another matter on which I think we are all agreed, and that is the wonderful power of Broadcasting in connection with politics. I believe that all parties will agree that that is good. What happens at a General Election? The recognised leaders of the different parties put to the community the whole of the main 986 issues. The difficulty at an election is that all sorts of little side issues claim the attention of the electors, but at a General Election main issues are put to the country, and it is wonderful that at this time in our history, when the franchise has been extended and we have 30,000,000 of electors, this new invention of Broadcasting makes it possible for those who lead parties and who are trying to guide public opinion, to speak to the electors in an intensely personal way. The Committee might be amused if I contrasted the position of the leader of a party able to speak to perhaps 20,000,000 in one night with an adventure of my own when I went to speak at a place in Norfolk—I will not give the name. After a long, cold journey I found myself in a long cold hall, almost empty, and the chairman, you know what chairmen are—not chairmen in this House, Captain Bourne—said there would have been a larger audience if only they had had a better known speaker.
I will not go into the controversial question of the allocation of time between the different parties at an election. I am prepared to dispute emphatically that it has been at the decision of the Government what tune should be given to the different parties. Speaking as a Conservative, I feel that I am in a position where I could if I liked get up a much better grievance than the Leader of the Opposition. In 1931 there were only two Conservative Broadcasts. In 1935, out of 12 Broadcasts, only three were by Conservative leaders.
§ Major TRYON
In 1935, when the position of the parties was—Government 513, Opposition 102, the allocations for the Election Broadcasts were—to the National Government 5, of which 3 were by Conservative leaders; to the Official Opposition 4; and to the Liberal Opposition 3; so that the Opposition had seven Broadcasts to the Government's five. I do not know whether there is much connection between Broadcasting and results, because the Liberal Opposition had three Broadcasts and got 21 seats. I cannot accept the view that there has been any unfairness, and that is the point I wanted to make. There is 987 something much more controversial than politics at the B.B.C., and that is music. There is nothing about which it is so difficult to get people to agree. Everybody wants something different.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
Is the right hon. Gentleman going to deal with the question of the B.B.C. and trade unions?
§ Major TRYON
I have already made a full statement at the beginning of the Debate, showing that the B.B.C. are prepared to help the staff—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
The point is, are they prepared to allow the staff to form their own trade union without the supervision or assistance of the B.B.C.?
§ Major TRYON
Hon. Members must be familiar with what happens in the Post Office and other Government Departments. If you look abroad and see what is happening in other countries, and in connection with other forms of Broadcasting, this country has reason to be proud of the service we have set up. In some countries the whole system is dominated by money and advertising. In some, Broadcasting is simply used as an instrument of government to control
|Division No. 272.]||AYES.||[10.58 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir F. Dyke||Day, H.||Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)|
|Acland, R. T. D. (Barnstaple)||Dunn, E. (Rother Valley)||Johnston, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Ede, J. C.||Jones, A. C. (Shipley)|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, S.)||Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough E.)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)|
|Adamson, W. M.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)||Kelly, W. T.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'Isbr.)||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)||Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.|
|Ammon, C. G.||Fletcher, Lt.-Comdr. R. T. H.||Kirby, B. V.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Foot, D. M.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Frankel, D.||Lawson. J. J.|
|Banfield, J. W.||Gardner, B. W.||Lee, F.|
|Barnes, A. J.||Garro Jones, G. M.||Leslie, J. R.|
|Barr, J.||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)||Logan, D. G.|
|Batey, J.||Graham, D. M. (Hamilton)||Lunn, W.|
|Bellenger, F.||Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Macdonald, G. (Ince)|
|Benson, G.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||McGhee, H. G.|
|Broad, F. A.||Grenfell, D. R.||MacLaren, A.|
|Bromfield, W.||Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Maclean, N.|
|Brooke, W.||Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||MacNeill, Weir, L.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (S. Ayrshire)||Griffiths, J. (Llanelly)||Marklew, E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Groves, T. E.||Messer, F.|
|Cape, T.||Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Milner, Major J.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hall, J. H. (Whitechapel)||Morrison, Rt. Hn. H. (Ha'kn'y, S.)|
|Cocks, F. S.||Hardle, G. D.||Muff, G.|
|Compton, J.||Harris, Sir P. A.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Owen, Major G.|
|Daggar, G.||Henderson, T. (Tradeston)||Paling, W.|
|Dalton, H.||Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Parker, J.|
|Davies, D. L. (Pontypridd)||Holland, A.||Parkinson, J. A.|
|Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Hopkin, D.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Jenkins, A. (Pontypool)||Potts, J.|
§ public opinion and the news. Here, by the agreement of all parties—I thank the Leader of the Opposition for having served on the Committee; he is a busy man but spent weeks and months on the committee—we have a system under which our Broadcasts are free from the dangers which beset other countries, a system which hon. Members I hope will support.
§ The power of Broadcasting is enormous. One curious feature of it—it comes out in political Broadcasts—is the way in which the personality of the individual is conveyed to the listener. There is something far more personal about listening to a Broadcast than in reading the report of a speech. This desirable system has come to the help of those who are trying to govern the country, and I am in favour of keeping Broadcasting as it is at present. It is a good service, and I hope that whatever opinions we may have on other matters hon. Members will join in thanking those who have carried on this extraordinary difficult service, created it almost from nothing until at this moment it is a service of which this country has every reason to be proud.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £44,343,900, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 123; Noes, 216.
|Pritt, D. N.||Silverman, S. S.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Quibell, D. J. K.||Simpson, F. B.||Watson, W. McL.|
|Richards, R. (Wrexham)||Smith, Ben (Rotherhithe)||Welsh, J. C.|
|Riley, B.||Smith, E. (Stoke)||Williams, E. J. (Ogmore)|
|Ritson, J.||Smith, Rt. Hon. H. B. Lees- (K'ly)||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Wilson, C. H. (Attercliffe)|
|Rowson, G.||Sorensen, R. W.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Salter, Dr. A.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Sexton, T. M.||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Shinwell, E.||Thurtle, E.|
|Short, A.||Tinker, J. J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Silkin, L.||Viant, S. P.||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. Charleton.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lt.-Col. G. J.||Ellis, Sir G.||Mills, Sir F. (Leyton, E.)|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Emery, J. F.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Comdr. P. G.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||Mitcheson, Sir G. G.|
|Albery, Sir I. J.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Moreing, A. C.|
|Apsley, Lord||Erskine Hill, A. G.||Morgan, R. H.|
|Aske, Sir R. W.||Evans, Capt. A. (Cardiff, S.)||Morris, J. P. (Salford, N.)|
|Assheton, R.||Everard, W. L.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H.|
|Astor, Major Hon. J. J. (Dover)||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Morrison, G. A. (Scottish Univ's.)|
|Barclay-Harvey, Sir C. M.||Fraser, Capt. Sir I.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A J.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Furness, S. N.||Munro, P.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Neven-Spence, Maj. B. H. H.|
|Belt, Sir A. L.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Goldie, N. B.||O'Neill, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Birchall, Sir J. D.||Gridley, Sir A. B.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Grimston, R. V.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Blair, Sir R.||Gunston, Capt. D. W.||Patrick, C. M.|
|Blindell, Sir J.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. D, H.||Peake, O.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hamilton, Sir G. C.||Percy, Rt. Hon. Lord E.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Hanbury, Sir C.||Petherick, M.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Hannah, I. C.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Bracken, B.||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Plugge, L. F.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Haslam, H. C. (Horncastle)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Briscoe, Capt. R. G.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel A. P.||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Herbert, A. P. (Oxford U.)||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Brown, Rt.-Hon. E. (Leith)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. J. W. (Ripon)||Ramsbotham, H.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Hoare, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Ramsden, Sir E.|
|Bull, B. B.||Holdsworth, H.||Rankin, R.|
|Burghley, Lord||Holmes, J. S.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Butler, R. A.||Hope. Captain Hon. A. O. J.||Reed, A. C. (Exeter)|
|Caine, G. R. Ha[...].||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Reid, Sir D. D. (Down)|
|Campbell, Sir E. T.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hack., N.)||Remer, J. R.|
|Cartland, J. R. H.||Hudson, R. S. (Southport)||Rickards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Hulbert, N. J.||Robinson, J. R. (Blackpool)|
|Cary, R. A.||Hume, Sir G. H.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgb't'n)||Hunter, T.||Ross, Major Sir R. D. (L'derry)|
|Channon, H.||James, Wing-Commander A. W.||Ross Taylor, W. (Woodbridge)|
|Colfox, Major W. P.||Jarvis, Sir J. J.||Russell, A. West (Tynemouth)|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Joel, D. J. B.||Russell, S. H. M. (Darwen)|
|Cook, T. R. A. M. (Norfolk, N.)||Jones, H. Haydn (Merioneth)||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Cooke, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Jones, L. (Swansea, W.)||Samuel, M. R. A. (Putney)|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh,W.)||Keeling, E. H.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Courthope, Col. Sir G. L.||Kerr, Colonel C. I. (Montrose)||Sanderson, Sir F. B.|
|Craddock, Sir R. H.||Kerr, J. Graham (Scottish Univs.)||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir P.|
|Craven-Ellis, W.||Kimball, L.||Scott, Lord William|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Lamb, Sir J. Q.||Selley, H. R.|
|Crooke, J. S.||Latham, Sir P.||Shaw, Major P. S. (Wavertree)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. F. C.||Law, R. K. (Hull, S.W.)||Shaw, Captain W. T. (Forfar)|
|Cross, R. H.||Leckie, J. A.||Shepperson, Sir E. W.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Shute, Colonel Sir J. J.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Levy, T.||Smiles, Lieut.-Colonel Sir W. D.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Liddall, W. S.||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)|
|Davies, Major Sir G. F. (Yeovil)||Llewellin, Lieut.-Col. J. J.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Davison, Sir W. H.||Lloyd, G. W.||Somerveil, Sir D. B. (Crewe)|
|Dawson, Sir P.||Loftus, P. C.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|De Chair, S. S.||Lovat-Fraser, J. A.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, E.)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lyons, A. M.||Southby, Comdr. A. R. J.|
|Dorman Smith, Major R. H.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G.||Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.|
|Dower, Copt. A. V. G.||M'Connell, Sir J.||Spens, W. P.|
|Drewe, C.||McCorquodale, M. S.||Storey, S.|
|Duckworth, G. A. V. (Salop)||Macdonald, Capt. P. (Isle of Wight)||Strauss, E. A. (Southwark, N.)|
|Dugdale, Major T. L.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.||Strauss, H. G. (Norwich)|
|Duggan, H. J.||McKie, J. H.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Macnamara, Capt. J. R. J.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Makins, Brig.-Gen. E.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Sir M. F.|
|Eales, J. F.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.||Tasker, Sir R. I.|
|Eastwood, J. F.||Mason, Lt.-Col. Hon. G. K. M.||Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., S.)|
|Eckersley, P. T.||Maxwell, S. A.||Titchfield, Marquess of|
|Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mayhew, Lt.-Col. J.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Mellor, Sir J. S. P. (Tamworth)||Tufnell, Lieut.-Com. R. L.|
|Turton, R. H.||Wedderburn, H. J. S.|
|Wakefield, W. W.||Williams, H. G. (Croydon, S.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Warrender, Sir V.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitchin)||Sir George Penny and Lieut-|
|Waterhouse, Captain C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.||Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward.|
|Wayland, Sir W. A.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.