§ The Chairman
May I say that a great number of hon. Members desire to speak in this Debate and it would considerably help the Chair, and also other hon. Members, if those who are fortunate enough to catch my eye would compress their remarks as much as possible? I think that would be a help to the Committee.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
Whatever views one may take about broadcasting policy, I think that it is agreed everywhere that it is a subject of first-class national importance, which ought to be discussed by this House. I think that would be true at any time; it is especially true today, when, as we know, the Charter of the B.B.C. is within a few months of coming to its close. Already the whole Press of the country and a large number of hon. Members of this House have shown a deep interest in this matter. I am not aware of any special efforts having been made to obtain support for the Motion put upon the Order Paper recently by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), but I observe that it has now 211 names attached to it. [That the question of the renewal, with or without amendment, of the Charter of the British Broadcasting Corporation be referred to a Joint Select Committee of both Houses.] We know that the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council is not 1064 particularly impressed by that type of demonstration, nevertheless it is an important fact that about one-third of the membership of this House has signified a desire for a full-dress inquiry into the working of the broadcasting system before the Charter ends. My hon. Friends and I share that view, and I want to say something to indicate the reasons why we support it.
I want first, however, to pay tribute, as I am sure we all do, to the B.B.C. itself, and particularly to its staff. Like many other hon. Members, I have had contact, in one way or another, with the B.B.C., almost since its inception. A very long time ago, I was put up for a job with the B.B.C., and I reached as far as the august presence of Lord Reith himself, but I failed to convince him that I would make a competent director of his Aberdeen Station. No doubt Lord Reith was right, and I am profoundly grateful that he decided as he did. Had I passed his stern test I should not be here today, pleading the cause of freedom, and that would have been a pity. For the staff of the B.B.C. itself, particularly its higher executives, I must profess the most profound admiration. Their standards of justice, fair play and loyalty to the service are, I think, beyond praise. When I think of their behaviour during the war, when their machine was disorganised, their office was bombed, their staff and materials cut in all directions, then I say, frankly, that I stand amazed at the brilliance of their achievements. Nor are we in this Committee or in the country at large alone in our appreciation of that wartime achievement. The voice of the B.B.C. mercifully rang out far beyond our shores during those years of struggle, and brought comfort and strength to millions of suffering men and women in all parts of Europe and beyond. For a long time, it was the only clear and clean voice on the air of Europe. We have the testimony of the French, the Belgians, the Dutch, the Poles and others that this voice alone saved their countries from degradation and despair. The story of "The B.B.C. at war" ought to be written by the finest historian in our land, because it is a story of great courage, endurance and loyalty probably unsurpassed in the whole field of world affairs.
I do not need to emphasise the unique influence which broadcasting exercises in 1065 the modern world, particularly in countries like ours with world-wide connections. Long before the war that influence had become apparent. During the war, it became, at times, of paramount importance, both for good and evil. In the years ahead, when technical improvement may well revolutionise the service, it may become the most powerful single instrument in the formation of public opinion. That is a solemn and sobering thought, and I say if there is one subject that Parliament ought to discuss, surely it is this one. For we are dealing here with an agency of the mind, which, potentially at least, can ennoble or utterly destroy the social life of mankind. Wisely developed, I believe that broadcasting can bring joy, culture, comfort—abiding comfort—to the homes of the people. Misused, it may throw man back into the abyss of ignorance, hatred and despair. It was doing so two years ago to millions of men not many miles from where we meet now. Do not let us forget that. On the contrary, let us study it and ponder its implications—while the memory of these events is still searing our minds.
The system on which broadcasting operates varies in almost every country in the world. In our country it is based on a Royal Charter granted through Parliament by the King. The essence of that Charter is that broadcasting is operated by a single monopoly within Great Britain, subject to certain specified, and a good many unspecified, controls by the central Government. I think that, in the early stages of the B.B.C., monopoly was inevitable and right; and up to the outbreak of war, it worked fairly well. Even then, however, 9 or 10 years ago, men were beginning to express doubts as to the wisdom of continuing a service which precluded all competition in any form of broadcasting, and tended, therefore, to invest the programmes of the B.B.C. with an increasing degree of dullness.
In the years before the war, and particularly during the war, another defect in the system displayed itself, namely, the dangerous potentialities inherent in a monopoly service ultimately at the disposal of the Government. The present Prime Minister was one of the first to note that when a member of the Ullswater Committee in 1935. He wrote a reservation to the report. He was referring to the Government's powers over the B.B.C. 1066 in a state of emergency, and this is what he said:There is a point where it is difficult to decide where the emergency is that of the State, or of the Government an represented by the political party in powerNo one is going to deny the seriousness of that estimate, least of all, I fancy, the Prime Minister today.
Now that the war is over that doubt and others have found renewed expression, an expression which is infinitely more vigorous. What were doubts and fears in 1939 are now actual realities, as a result of six years of war. I do not think I exaggerate when I say that men in all countries, and particularly in ours, are uneasy about the future of broadcasting. I should have thought that the Government, fortified and informed by its famous mandate—that Noah's Ark from which so many strange and wonderful things continue to emerge—would have sensed that uneasiness. Yet as recently as 19th February they were so oblivious of it that they declared their unwillingness to have any sort of inquiry before the present Charter was renewed. It is true that the Prime Minister did not say so, in so many words, but I think we all drew the deduction from his statement that the renewal of the Charter would be for the normal span of years, and that no investigation was to be considered during the whole of that long period.
The Committee will recall the immediate reaction of public opinion to that statement. Almost every newspaper, and particularly the newspapers of the Left, condemned the decision, and there began an insistent and increasing call for a full investigation at the earliest possible moment. True to form—their hand-to-mouth policy—the Government altered their policy under the pressure of public opinion, and produced the White Paper proposing an extension of the Charter for five years and not ten, and promising to consider a public inquiry before the end of that period. That was not a very substantial concession; it was certainly a retreat for the Government and a step in the right direction. I want to say at once to the Government that concession is really not enough. I ask—and I feel sure that in this matter I am speaking for the great mass of opinion outside this House—for a definite undertaking today that a Joint Select Committee of both Houses or some alternative but equally authorita- 1067 tive body shall be appointed without delay to inquire into the whole problem of broadcasting, and particularly the system under which it works.
With great respect, I think it is quite childish to argue, as the White Paper does, that because the last Charter was granted 1935 or 1936, there have been only a few years of peace in which to see it operate. That is merely quibbling with the subject. The Government must know as well as the rest of us that the essential feature of the present system, the monopoly, has remained practically unaltered since 1926. The Uliswater Committee in 1939 scarcely looked at the issue at all. Lord Elton, who was a member of it, told us that it examined every question except the fundamental question of the Government monopoly of broadcasting. Therefore, in fact, we have had over 20 years, 14 of them in peace, in which to study the monopoly system, and I should have thought that that was long enough even for this Government, certainly long enough for a committee of reasonable men, after inquiry, to reach conclusions.
I must say I am not any more impressed by the other excuse for delay mentioned in the White Paper, namely, the shortage of wavelengths. Like the shortage of houses there is an easy solution—make more of them. [Laughter.] I invite hon. Members opposite who are laughing to read what Mr. Eckersley says. He should know and today he says that it can be done. [HON. MEMBERS: "How?"] If the Government approached this problem as a military operation, as they say they are approaching the housing problem, I do not see why they should not provide within the next two or three years the squadrons of frequency modulation stations, the miles of relay cable and other apparatus which I gather are required to meet the demands of an exasperated people. I repeat, if the Government have any doubt about how to do it, let them consult Mr. Eckersley, who is very plain about the whole subject in "The Times" today.
Apart from that, surely it could not possibly be to the advantage of the B.B.C. that it should be given another span of life for five years, during the whole of which a sword of Damocles in the form of an inquiry would hang over its head. How could that be to the good? Is it to 1068 be imagined for one moment that that is the right way to encourage initiative and bring about a sense of security? Any one who has the least contact with the B.B.C. knows how susceptible it is to the movement of public opinion, I think it is excessively so. I have never known a public body so easily put in the jitters by pressure groups of one kind or the other. You may be sure if it continues under that pressure, and if it remains uncertain about its future for another five years, the advance which everybody desires will be inevitably held up, and as a consequence there will be a deterioration in the service, irritation on the part of the public and, what is most important of all, a loss of prestige to our nation.
It is quite true, as I expect some one will say, that the Coalition Government, looking at the future as it saw it, then, came to the conclusion that the Charter should be extended without inquiry. But that was a decision reached in the midst of a war when the end of that war was not in sight, when in any case Cabinet Ministers were concentrating their whole attention upon fighting a dreadful enemy. The situation today is surely entirely different. Our thoughts are no longer canalised in war. They have broken their wartime bonds; they are now moving freely over the whole broad realm of peace. The outstanding men and women who could undertake such an inquiry are now available. The mind of the public is turned in this direction. I see no good reason at all, not even a technical reason, for postponing inquiry by another day. If there is any doubt about that, I invite the Government to consult another expert on these matters. Mr. Arthur Mann, who also writes in the Press this morning.
I realise that in a matter of this kind an inquiry, to be adequate, may be a lengthy process. It must be adequate. I conceive the inquiry directed not only to conditions in this country, but searching out comparable conditions in other parts of the world, so that we may get a full picture of the situation. Such an inquiry may well take 18 months—I do not know—and might therefore require a temporary extension of the Charter. If that were necessary, I should be ready to agree to such an extension until, say, 1948. I was talking to a great authority on broadcasting, who suggested to me that the limit should be December, 1949, for the reason that, by 1069 that time, the agreement with the wired wireless companies will be due to expire: and wired wireless will play a tremendously powerful part in our broadcasting services in future. For my own part, I should have thought that if an inquiry were to be set afoot now it could be easily completed, its recommendations considered by the Government and Parliament, and the requisite steps taken to alter the Charter, by the end of 1948. I fancy that most experienced persons would probably share that view.
What sort of topics need examination? Probably the most important is that of the whole technical process of broadcasting. I have sought advice from those who understand these matters, and am assured that the possibilities of development are almost unlimited. I must say I am not very much attracted by the particular development mentioned by Lord Brabazon in another place—a gadget which, if you leave your wireless on all night, will produce on a slip of paper, a summary of the news at 7 o'clock in the morning. With the news as it is today—bread rationing, rising prices arid squabbles among Foreign Ministers—I much prefer a strong cup of tea brewed on an old-fashioned gas ring. But as to other great developments, there is no doubt at all. Nor is there any secrecy about them. As Mr. Eckersley has shown today, all that engineers, scientists and chemists need to forge ahead in all branches of broadcasting, including television, is sufficient capital funds and equipment. I think it will be an unpardonable act of folly on the part of the Government to delay an inquiry into these matters; it may be a delay for which we shall pay dearly in the years to come.
In the realm of programmes also I feel that there is a burning need for an inquiry. It is not enough to say, "The B.B.C. cannot pay, at present, adequate fees to attract first class artists, so we will double the licence fee to the public and let the B.B.C. get on with it." I understand that the decision to double the licence fee was taken by the Government without any public inquiry whatsoever as to its effect. It is exactly the way in which the Cabinet settled the future of the Ministry of Information, of overseas broadcasts and of the British Council. It was all done by the Cabinet behind the scenes, without 1070 one attempt being made to interest and secure public opinion in the matter. All these propaganda services are of the most profound importance to this country at present, and may well be of greater importance in days to come. Yet the Cabinet decides them entirely by itself. That is no doubt "the Morrison way" of doing things, but it is not the British way, not the democratic way of conducting these great affairs——
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
Can the hon. Gentleman say what past Cabinets have been in the habit of conducting surveys of public opinion before coming to decisions?
§ Mr. Stewart
In the past they have not had quite analogous topics to discuss, and in any case I am not so much concerned about the past as the future. If hon. Members opposite want to go into the past I am prepared to do so, but I should have thought that the so-called vigorous party behind the Government was out to consider the future. I say that these great organisms of propaganda, putting forward the British way of life to the world, are organisms in the creation of which the whole force of public opinion ought to have been engaged.
Especially is it true that we should have inquiry into the case of overseas broadcasts. During the war, British wireless propaganda, as we know, built up for this country amazing good will in all parts of Europe and the Middle East. It was a priceless asset, such as we have never before enjoyed. It was an asset which, in a tormented, disillusioned, world we should have striven with all our might to preserve. Instead of that, we appear largely to have thrown that great asset away. The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is here, and I know he will correct me if what I am about to say is wrong. On the false grounds of economy, based, as usual, on ill-informed Government decisions, overseas broadcast services have been carved, cut and rehashed so that neither system nor success now attaches to them. I am told that incredible things are happening. If I am wrong, I will gladly sit down and be corrected.
I am told, for instance, that instead of each foreign country having, as it did during the war, an expert division to itself in Broadcasting House, Europe has 1071 now been divided into geographical areas, which bear little or no relation to the political realities of the situation. Each area is handled by a reduced, and not always expert, staff. For instance, Yugoslavia, Albania, Greece, Bulgaria, Rumania and Russia are in one group, under a director who cannot speak Russian. and who cannot, therefore, hope to be able to understand the extremely difficult problems of the Russian people. I am told that Italy, Spain and Portugal are lumped together in another group. Italy is working her passage. Spain is still under the control of Franco. Yet both are run by the same little group of propagandists. Strangest of all, Germany and Austria are operated by one group. I know that Members opposite are as much concerned as I am about this, and hope that a satisfactory reply will be forthcoming from the Government. It is a prime part of the Government's foreign policy that Germany and Austria shall be regarded as separate units, to be approached in a different way and dealt with in a different manner. Yet our overseas broadcast system caters for both by the same division.
I am told, too, that the carefully prepared system of checks of our broadcasts which, during the war, gave them their reputation for accuracy and tact, has been largely swept away, and that nothing effective has been put in their place, either at the Foreign Office, the B.B.C. or the new Central Office of Information. I wonder whether the Government are aware of those shortcomings in this vital sphere of European goodwill creation. Can they seriously contend that an inquiry into these subjects is not urgent and necessary? It is no use saying that these things should be left to the Governors, Their status and functions are as much in need of an examination as anything else. It is common talk that the Governors never see any of the staff at Broadcasting House, except the Director-General and his deputy at their weekly meetings. The result is that they cannot possibly understand the work that the staff are doing. I am not criticising the Governors. I feel sure they would like to make those contacts; it is the system under which they labour that I condemn. Is this really the best kind of system? Does it give 1072 the best kind of results? I suggest that there ought to be a re-examination before the Charter is extended for am, lengthy period.
But it is into the nature of the monopoly itself, out of which all these other defects spring, that I think a penetrating inquiry is most strongly required today. According to the White Paper, the Government are satisfied that the present system of broadcasting is the one best suited to the circumstances of the United Kingdom. Undoubtedly, as Sir Frederick Ogilvie has said, from the point of view of the Government, it is an ideal system. No competition in programmes or engineering to offer troublesome comparisons; not too much news about what happens inside the machine; a polite authoritative rule giving the people what it thinks they ought to have; an arrangement whereby the B.B.C. do not trouble the Government too much, and take orders from them when necessary. It is a good system for the Government! But the question we have to ask ourselves is whether it is the ideal system for the people, our people, with their highly individualist and democratic character. The things of the body, such as food, clothes, fuel and light are controlled, and probably will be controlled for a lengthy period; and it is for that very reason that I plead that the things of the spirit shall enjoy the fullest freedom we can give them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council has one of the most astute minds in the country, but I confess I cannot follow his logic. There is all-round opposition, in which he takes a leading part, to the creation of monopolies in films, newspapers, and so on. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he was President of the Board of Trade, took very strong action, which I approved at the time, to prevent the film industry from getting into the hands of a single control. In regard to the Press, 100 hon. Members opposite have declared their objection to the extension of monopoly in the production and circulation of newspapers. I agree with that, too.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
Is the hon. Gentleman laying down the ethical principle that, although he agrees with a thing, merely because it is propounded by a party which he does not support, he will refuse to support it?
§ Mr. Stewart
I will invite the hon. Gentleman to sign a Motion that we will put down very soon. I put seriously to the right hon. Gentleman the following question: If it is right to curtail monopoly in films and the Press, surely it must be equally right in the sphere of broadcasting, which now, and certainly in the future, may become the most powerful influence in moulding public thought? I claim the support of the Government and its friends on the Back Benches in asking for a re-examination of the B.B.C. Charter. Let them consider the testimony of one of their own colleague who speaks with Ministerial.experience in this matter—the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle). What did he say about it the other day? He said:The B.B.C. is supreme, absolute, brooking no rival. It is the real Sir Oracle. When it opens its lips, no dog may bark. Right into the people's homes it goes, unchecked by competitors—a dream weapon for the totalitarian, and fatal to freedom of thought.The whole position of Britain in the radio field is at stake. Here is one of the great means of national and international communication, and hence, one of the great sources of power. Is anyone outside Downing Street satisfied that we enjoy that power today? The standard of a nation's broadcasting service affects not only the people within the borders of that nation. Its influence for good and ill goes far beyond into the world. If the standard is high and the service vigorous, the whole world knows it and notes it. If it is mediocre, limited, starved of real talent, the name and fame of the nation suffers. Surely, nobody seriously suggests that if, instead of one, we had two, three or four independent broadcasting corporations or organisations in this country, each vying with, competing with, challenging the others in engineering, technical production, and programmes, the standard of broadcasting in this country would not improve? The establishment of these separate organisations need not have anything whatever to do with commercial broadcasting.
There is no doubt where Welshmen and Scotsmen stand in this matter. In a re- 1074 cent Debate in the House, hon. Members of all parties, Welsh and Scottish, demanded the establishment in their respective countries of independent broadcasting corporations. No doubt Englishmen would desire the same thing.
I would like to say just a word about commercial broadcasting. I have never advocated commercial broadcasting, and I do not advocate it today, but I am bound to say that, after considering the arguments that can be put forward in support of it now, in 1946, I feel it is worthy of re-examination. I think we take a complete insular and inexcusable view of our responsibilities if we say that, merely because the Sykes Committee turned it down 20 years ago as a nasty piece of work, therefore commercial broadcasting ought to be turned down today. This country, in its international setting, is in a very difficult condition. We cannot afford to throw away an instrument of such potential power as this might give us in toe cultural field, in politics, art, science and trade. Can we afford to turn down so great a proposition? I ask that that alternative method shall be considered with others, by a committee of inquiry.
Now I must refer to the Lord President's very strange and sometimes conflicting statements about foreign stations. There are some things we could do now. I would not propose to rush into advertising at once, but one thing we could do at this moment would be to stop the right hon. Gentleman messing about with British reception of foreign stations. It is difficult to know what the right hon. Gentleman means. [Interruption.] I invite the right hon. Gentleman to tell us exactly what he means. The other day there was a series of questions in the House. The right hon. Member for Woodford did his best, by cross questioning, to elucidate the matter, but the House was completely baffled. The Lord President of the Council has an opportunity now to tell us exactly what he means. I recollect that on 25th June he was emphatic enough to say that the Government intended to do everything they could to prevent commercial broadcasting to this country from abroad. In another statement, he said that the Government did not regard it as desirable that we should be inflicted with these foreign broadcasts. What impertinence that is. What right has the Lord President of the Council to decide what 1075 is desirable in the realm of news and opinions for this free country?
Quite apart from his right to express opinions on these matters, surely it is the policy of the ostrich that he is following. I do not know if the right hon. Gentleman proposes to ask all foreign stations to play with him. Does he intend to ask America, for example, to stop commercial advertising, or Russia to change her policy? As we know, there was once a famous king who tried to stop the waves of the sea; he came to a rather messy end. The right hon. Gentleman should be careful in trying to stop the waves of the ether because that might lead to a much more drastic death. It simply cannot be done. This thing is moving at such a rate that no power can stop it, and I am very surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should have made that statement. Today, we must have from him a clear statement as to exactly what he intends to do and how he proposes to do it.
Let me try to summarise the views which I hold and which, I fancy, the whole Committee holds on this matter. Although we twit each other in this Chamber the truth is that we all recognise the immense importance of this service to the nation. I think myself that the Committee would be ready to approach the problem in a united spirit, and for my part I should desire nothing better. In the concluding words of the Report of the Ullswater Committee, I find what I consider to be the best summary of the matter:We are impressed by the influence of broadcasting on the mind and spirit of the nation, by the immense issues which are consequently involved, and by the necessity that broadcasting services should at all times be conducted in the best possible manner and to the best advantage of the people.I invite the Lord President to inform us in what manner His Majesty's Government propose to attain these high objectives.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Before the hon. Gentleman sits down may I ask him a question? He failed to answer the question put to him by the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Blackburn) and I put to him this very limited one: Can he cite a single precedent, even in the limited field of broadcasting, for the course which he has advocated here today?
§ Mr. Hughes
I understand that the hon. Gentleman is arguing in favour of a survey of public opinion before the B.B.C. Charter is renewed. Can he cite a single precedent for that?
§ Mr. Stewart
No, the hon. and learned Gentleman is under a misapprehension. I want a public inquiry; that is what I meant by a survey of public opinion.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
It has not perhaps been as great a pleasure to listen to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) this afternoon as it is, in my opinion, to listen to his periodical contributions to "The Week in Westminster" series through the British Broadcasting Corporation. He has pleased the House by a. speech which has been delivered in a reasonable spirit, although I think some of his arguments are misplaced, and we have listened to him with pleasure. If I may say so, I always hear his contribution to "The Week in Westminster" series with pleasure as I do to those of other hon. Members of this House whenever it is possible for me to listen to that very good feature of the B.B.C. I am bound to say that I could not quite follow the logic of some of the observations of the hon. Gentleman. He said that he thought that up to the outbreak of war the British broadcasting monopoly was right, but he went on to say that he had become increasingly doubtful about it. It worked very well and he was not complaining about it in principle up to the war, but he went on to say that the organisation was such that there was a tendency for it to be based rather on the doctrine of giving the people what is regarded as being good for them, and that the organisation was far too much under the thumb and the orders of the Government.
I do not think those things are true; certainly it is not true that the B.B.C. is under the thumb and orders of the Government, as I will explain in the course of my observations. In the course of his speech, having said one thing and later something else, as I have pointed out, the hon. Gentleman also said that the B.B.C. was very susceptible to public opinion—indeed he thought if 1077 was too susceptible. I think there is some truth in what he said, but it is hardly consistent with the argument that this terrible monopoly is ladling out to the people what is good for them, and is under the orders of His Majesty's Government at all times. I think that those two trends of argument were inconsistent.
I will come in due course to the statement of the Prime Minister on r9th February, but meanwhile I would only say that the hon. Gentleman is wrong when he says that at the time when the Prime Minister made this statement, there was an immediate outcry. I will come back to that shortly. The hon. Gentleman argued that we should make more wavelengths and thus solve our problem. If he is thinking of frequency modulation I will refer to that also during my observations, but there are certain complications that do not make it easy to produce straight away, or even in a short time, for the solution of our problems. I was surprised that he argued that a whole string of decisions of the Government, including the question of abolishing the Ministry of Information, should have been preceded by public inquiry. If every decision of the Government were to be preceded by a public inquiry, or a number of them, it would not be long before the Opposition were accusing us of being incapable of making up our own minds and complaining at the laying of some more of those annoying White Papers about which complaints are made from time to time. It seems to me that there are matters in which it is right that public inquiries—or at least inquiries—should take place, but in the ordinary course of government, Governments must reach their decisions and report them to Parliament, taking such chastisement or approval from Parliament as may be forthcoming. I think it would be inconsistent with decision and reasonable speed in government, if there were too many inquiries, and we should soon be criticised on the matter.
The subject with which we are dealing is a big one, and the Committee will expect me to make a fairly comprehensive statement of Government policy. In the course of my observations, which will thus necessarily cover a fair amount of ground, I will pick up and refer to other points raised by the hon. Gentleman in his interesting speech. I am sure he will forgive me if I do not pursue them imme- 1078 diately because I think that at any rate the great bulk of the points he raised will be dealt with in the course of my remarks.
The British Broadcasting Corporation is, as the hon. Gentleman has said, an exceptional and interesting institution. It is, I think, a most interesting example of the British national genius for finding workable solutions to the most intractable problems. At the same time, it is an outstanding achievement in socialisation—because it is a socialised institution for which the nation has to thank successive Conservative Governments,plussome mental stimulation from the Labour Party. Broadcasting, I agree, is at least as powerful a vehicle of ideas as the printing press. In broadcasting, however, the public's choice of listening matter is very narrowly limited by the number of wavelengths available. Clearly, therefore, the body which decides what goes into a broadcasting programme has an enormous power for good and evil over the minds of the nation, and that power must not fall into the wrong hands. I think that we are all agreed that this is the fundamental problem: To ensure that the microphone is controlled by some body in which the public can have confidence.
The solution which this country has decided upon is the solution known as the public corporation, in this case the British Broadcasting Corporation, which itself was the child of two committees of inquiry, both set up by Conservative Governments. They were the Sykes Committee of 1923 and the Crawford Committee of 1925. Both those Committees strongly recommended that the control of broadcasting should be vested in the State. Let us see how this solution, which we British have adopted, works. In the first place, the fact that the B.B.C. is a public corporation, charged, in the words of the original Charter, with the duty of acting as the trustee for the nation—which is the duty of the Governors of the B.B.C.—prevents broadcasting falling into the hands of private or sectional interests who might use it for their own private ends. So far, so good; but the elimination of private or commercial interests would not of itself guarantee impartial control of broadcasting because, party government being what it is, there is the strongest possible incentive not only to the party in power but to its rivals, to use every possible means of expression to bring its views before the public.
1079 So, we have evolved a system which guards the Government in power from a temptation which they might find irresistible, if the B.B.C. was under direct Government control. Nominally, the Government's powers of dictation over the Corporation are, as the hon. Gentleman has said—although I think he made it rather over-realistic—absolute. That is as it should be up to this point, because the Corporation must in some way be ultimately responsible to Parliament for its actions. Parliament is the best check on the improper use of the B.B.C., either by the Government or by the Governors of the B.B.C. themselves. In practice, there is a clear understanding that the Government will not use their powers as long as the Corporation does not misconduct itself. That doctrine was frequently, and with great vigour, asserted from this Box by the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), who was at that time Minister of Information. In practice, the Governors are guarded against being unduly influenced either by private interests or by the party in power, or by any other party, to allow the microphone to be used for particular or sectional interests. Finally, just to make sure that the Governors do not abuse their own trust, the Corporation is specifically prohibited from expressing its own opinions on the air. It is important to remember that the prohibition that the B.B.C. is not allowed to have opinions, or to express them on the air, distinguishes it very much in character from the newspaper Press.
§ Mr. Morrison
I have noticed an increasing display of political opinions in the "Financial Times"—which is perfectly justifiable. But it would be wrong that the B.B.C. itself should have a political policy, or should promulgate its own opinions, if it has any. The Committee will see, therefore, what an important function the Governors of the B.B.C. have to discharge and to perform. It is important that they should not underestimate their authority over the Director-General and the staff of the Corporation, who are wholly responsible to them for their actions. I have heard the theory advanced that the set-up of the B.B.C. provides that the Director 1080 General runs the undertaking and that the Governors act as a kind of consultative body. I have never been a Governor of the B.B.C. so I cannot speak from inside knowledge. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who said it?"] I have heard it frequently, but it is wrong doctrine. The Governors are the B.B.C. They are responsible for its working, and the Director-General and his staff are subject to their orders and directions, which the Governors are free to pass. If there has been a misunderstanding in the minds of some people about it, I hope that that statement will put it right. just as the B.B.C. is independent of the Government in its day to day affairs, so also are the Government independent of the B.B.C. Ministers are free to comment critically on the B.B.C., if they think criticism warranted, and they reserve the right to do so. Just as the B.B.C. need not walk in fear and trembling of the Government, neither should they submit to pressure from the Opposition or from famous personalities or interests; so the Government have the right to fair play from the Governors of the B.B.C. and so have the Government's critics.
I want here to pay a brief tribute to the achievements of the Corporation and of the company which preceded it. The country was, indeed, fortunate, in my view, that for more than 16 years British broadcasting had the benefit of the quality and the wisdom, even if they were at times accompanied by the alleged prejudices, of Lord Reith. I am sure that the Committee will agree with me when I say that it is to him more than to any other man that we owe the enviable reputation which British broadcasting has built up throughout the world. That tribute is due to Lord Reith. I have not time today to do proper justice to the outstanding part which the B.B.C., and those who worked with it on the Government side, played in winning the war. Some men now sitting in this House played a very competent and able part in this respect. Both in their technical achievements and in the skill which they used, as well as for the powerful weapon which they created, the nation owes them a great and lasting debt of gratitude. I want to join with the hon. Member who opened the Debate in the tribute which he so generously and rightly paid.
The hon. Member referred to a Motion on the Order Paper demanding the 1081 appointment of a Joint Select Committee to inquire into the B.B.C This Motion is in the names of a formidable number of leading Members of the party opposite and others. The names to the Motion are quite a formidable coalition in themselves. Rightly, the hon. Gentleman expects me to deal with the request which has not only been made in this House but which has been commented on by newspapers of varying political opinions. I must confess that the appearance of this Motion on the Order Paper was a matter of some surprise to the Government, because many of those subscribing to it were Members of the Coalition and "Caretaker" Governments, and must have known at that time that the future of the B.B.C. was being carefully examined by Ministers. Everybody knew that the Corporation's Charter would come up for renewal at the end of this year and it would have been quite easy to ascertain that on the last occasion on which such an investigation was made into the B.B.C. a period of 14 months elapsed between the appointment of the Committee, in April, 1935, and the announcement of the Government's decision in June, 1936. One would have thought that if hon. Gentlemen opposite were so concerned on holding an inquiry before the Charter was renewed, they would have taken the necessary steps to make their views known before now.
This really is a sad case of too little and too late. Why was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) so slothful as the responsible Minister in the Coalition Government in not seeing to this inquiry which he and his friends now want all of a hurry and at this very late stage?
§ Mr. Bracken
As the right hon. Gentleman makes that assertion, let me tell him that were it not for the interference of the General Election I imagine that a committee of inquiry would now be sitting on the B.B.C. It certainly was clearly the intention of the "Caretaker" Government and, I think, of its predecessor to grant an inquiry into the B.B.C. In fact, let me tell the Lord President-that we expected as a matter of course to 1082 have a committee of inquiry set up in the same way as the Ullswater Committee was set up.
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman is in danger of trouble and I am in danger of trouble if I dare to follow him, for if we are not careful we shall both reveal Cabinet secrets and we cannot do that without authority. However, I challenge entirely his assertion that either of those Governments had decided in principle that there should be an outside inquiry, and if the matter is to be pursued and the necessary authority given, I could indeed reveal the facts and tell a very good story on the matter. I merely tell a very convincing one. I merely confine myself to the publicly known fact that the right hon. Gentleman was Minister of Information in the Coalition Government and that there was another Minister in the "Caretaker" Government, and the fact is that neither of these Governments, who had the matter under consideration for a long time—that is not a secret either, because it was revealed in this House—ever came to a conclusion about it or did anything about it. Yet, we are now expected all of a sudden to appoint a committee of inquiry when there is obviously riot sufficient time between now and 31st December.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
I spoke on that point, but I was not in the Coalition Government and not in the least responsible for it. A decision was taken then in the midst of war. Now we are in the midst of peace. The conditions are now entirely different.
§ Mr. Morrison
That will not do either. I tell the hon. Gentleman that this was—. indeed the Parliamentary records show it—under consideration a long time before the Coalition Government went out of office. If it is said they could not appoint a committee, the Coalition Government appointed no end of committees, and another little committee would not have done them any harm. Here is a right hon. Member who is responsible for an inquiry not taking place—unless he wishes to put the blame on the colleague who succeeded him at the Ministry of Information during the short period of the "Caretaker" Government, which, being a fair-minded person, I do not feel too much inclined to do. There were, it is true, one or two attempts—notably by 1083 the hon. Member for Eye (Mr. Granville)—to get such an inquiry set on foot during the Coalition Government, but those efforts met with no welcome from the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the Opposition, whose name heads this notice of Motion now before the House. On most occasions the answer to questions of this sort was that the Government were considering the future of the B.B.C., but on 4th May, 1943, when asked by the hon. Member for Eye whether he would consider setting up a Royal Commission or a Select Committee to consider the future position of the B.B.C., the status of the Governors and how best the rights of democracy could be safeguarded, the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, then Prime Minister, was brief and to the point. The answer was:
§ '' No, Sir.''— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May. 1943, Vol. 389; col. 32.]
§ Mr. Morrison
An hon. Member says it usually was, but the matter was under consideration and that was the answer. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—I could give some more answers of his; he was not even anxious for a Debate on the subject—now that he is out of office to switch clean round and head this Motion on the Paper. History knocks him clean out of the ring, and he ought to take his name off the Motion but I do not suppose for a moment that he will.
When the present Government assumed office, we got down without delay, and with that expedition for which we are famous, to considering this question among others connected with the B.B.C.'s future, and as early as 19th February last the Prime Minister informed the House that the Government had decided that on this occasion no independent inquiry should be held Surely that was the proper time for the matter to be pressed by those who disagree with the Government's decision. Yet the Prime Minister's announcement caused hardly a murmur of complaint, either in Parliament or in the Press. It was not until quite a time afterwards that this Motion was put down, and I am therefore at a loss to understand why at this late stage there should he this sudden outburst of enthusiasm for the appointment of a Joint Select Committee.
1084 Nevertheless, I must make it absolutely clear in all quarters of the House that the Government do not object in principle to subjecting the B.B.C. from time to time to a searching inquiry by an independent body. All great channels for the dissemination of information to the public would, the Government believe, benefit from having their state of health examined by an independent inquiry from time to time, and we do not exclude the Press from that consideration. In the interests of the health and the very freedom of the Press which is vital to our constitutional liberties, we do not exclude the Press in principle from that consideration, for it itself, as it has every right to do, has vigorously demanded an inquiry into the B.B.C., and the National Union of Journalists—who certainly believe in the freedom of the Press, as I do—have demanded in the interest of the freedom of the Press a somewhat similar inquiry into various matters connected with modern monopolistic or chain or group newspaper organisations in this country. I may add incidentally—I am making no pronouncement on the point about a Government decision; I am only saying it is worth consideration—that the Governors of the B.B.C.——
§ Mr. Bracken
Could the right hon. Gentleman explain himself? He has just declared that he thinks it is a thoroughly healthy thing to have an inquiry into the state of health of the Press. Speaking as the Lord President of the Council, he cannot be expressing a personal opinion. That was a declaration of Government policy, was it not?
§ Mr. Morrison
As far as I have gone it is an expression of Government policy, but no Government decision.
Mr. Piekthorn (Cambridge University)
On a point of Order. Does this mean that on this Vote it would be competent for the Committee to discuss whether it would or would not be a good thing to have an inquiry into the Press?
§ The Chairman
Certainly not in detail. I understand the right hon. Gentleman was merely mentioning the subject in passing.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter (Wood Green)
We are listening with most unusual fascination to what the right hon. Gentleman has said about this decision which he has 1085 taken, because it is a decision. He has now given full support to the hon. Members opposite who are asking for an inquiry into the Press. Is this a personal decision, or does it represent the Cabinet?
§ Mr. Morrison
What I have said is just that we think there is a case for the view that many hon. Gentlemen have expressed, and a case which should be considered. That is as far as I go. There is no decision to institute an inquiry. What I have said represents the view not of myself alone; I have the authority of His Majesty's Government for saying what I have said.
§ Mr. Morrison
Yes, certainly, all the lot of them. The Press, as it has every right to do, has itself vigorously demanded an inquiry into the B.B.C. I may add incidentally that the Governors of the B.B.C. are themselves very conscious of the benefits they would derive from such an inquiry. Unless anything unforeseen happens during the next few Years——
§ Mr. Morrison
Unless anything unforeseen happens, Cambridge University permitting, during the next few years, I think that the Committee can take it that an investigation either by a specially appointed committee like the Ullswater Committee, or by some other independent body, will in fact take place as soon as the international wavelength position is clearer, and we have some better idea of where the new technical developments are leading us. Certainly, I should like to see such an inquiry instituted well before the Charter comes up for renewal again in 1952 or the end of 1951—it depends on whether you go to December 3ist or January 1st, but it is five years after the end of this year.
The reasons which have led the Government to the view that the right course is to renew the Charter for five years only are set out in the White Paper. At this point I would refer to only one of them, the bearing which the forthcoming international negotiations regarding the allocation of wavelengths must have upon the future of broadcasting in our country.
1086 Whatever advances may be made in such new techniques as frequency modulation, it is inevitable that for several years to come the home listener must be served mainly, if not entirely, by long and medium wavelengths, and the use of these wavelengths must be determined by international agreement if chaos is not to rule in the air.
There are two distinct agreements or consultations which will have to take place and which will have to be negotiated. There must he a World Telecommunications Conference which is to settle the use of the radio spectrum as a whole for all purposes, not only for broadcasting but for ships and civil aviation and what not. We hope that twat will take place before the end of next year. When it has done so, there must be a further conference for Europe to divide up the broadcast wavelengths for broadcasting purposes. Until that second meeting is held which unfortunately cannot very well take place earlier than 1948—we shall not know which long and medium wavelengths will be ours for broadcasting. I submit to the Committee that it really is impossible for any committee of inquiry intelligently to examine the problem until we know where we are about wavelengths.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
If we are going to this international conference, how are we to approach things unless we have our own plans made perfectly clear? Is it not the case that if we go with our plans made perfectly clear, as would be the case after an inquiry, we would be in a stronger position to argue than if we go before our plans are made?
§ Mr. Morrison
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government know what they want, and that the House and the country know what they want.
§ Mr. Morrison
Of course. It is perfectly natural that everybody associated with this business in this country wants to get all the wavelengths we can. So that point is quite simple. The problem is that of getting them by the consent of the nations with whom we must confer 1087 if chaos is not to rule in the air. It is this wavelength position which, to a great extent, dominates British broadcasting today, and to expect us to come to conclusions, or to expect the committee of inquiry to come to conclusions before we know where we are about that, is unreasonable, I think. Therefore, I say to the Committee that, unforeseen events excluded, there will be an inquiry as soon as these things can be cleared up and the inquiry can be intelligently proceeded with. I do not want to wait until the five years are nearly expired; it can come as soon as we like, subject to these practical considerations.
Broadly speaking, the proposal as regards the amendments to the Charter is, that for the time being the B.B.C's. constitutional status should revert to its prewar position. I think there will be only two amendments to the Charter and Licence Agreement to which I need draw attention, but they are of some importance. One is with regard to overseas broadcasting, which gives effect to the very important decision that broadcasting to overseas listeners in foreign countries should now become a regular part of the B.B.C's. duties. The White Paper contains a summary of the history of British broadcasting for overseas listeners and I will not repeat it here, but I feel that all parties will think it right that the voice of Britain on the air in the Continent of Europe should not be missing, and that the valuable work which we did in the war, to which the B.B.C. and the Ministry of Information made valuable contributions, ought not to be brought to an end. Therefore, it is proposed that it should continue.
Perhaps the Committee will expect me to explain the very British way in which we hope to reconcile the needs of foreign policy with the independence of the B.B.C. in the administration of the foreign services, and I hope that I can make it clear because it is of importance. Clearly, it would be unthinkable for Broadcasting House to be broadcasting to Europe, at the taxpayer's expense, doctrines hopelessely at variance with the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government; but for reasons which I hope will commend themselves to the Committee, it appeared to the Government to be equally undesirable that the Foreign Office should themselves become responsible for the 1088 foreign services. In the first place, the conduct of a broadcasting service requires a different sort of experience and imagination from the conduct of diplomacy. I am not saying that in any cynical or critical way, but it is obviously so. Secondly, broadcasting is a fulltime job. Thirdly, and most important of all, we believe that the foreign services will better retain the respect of listeners abroad and of the public at home if, like the Home Services, they are removed as far as possible from the danger of being used to push the interests of political parties instead of the nation as a whole.
So, in these circumstances, we have come to an arrangement with the B.B.C. The Corporation will accept the guidance of the Foreign Office on the nature and scope of its foreign language services, and there will be a very close liaison between the two of them, so that each side may at all times know clearly what is in the other's mind and draw freely upon the information which the other possesses. But once the general character and scope of a service has been laid down, the B.B.C. will have complete discretion as to the content of the programmes themselves. This compromise may result in some regrettable incidents if there is a temporary failure of contact between the Foreign Office and the Corporation but, unless such incidents are to be much more numerous than we have reason to expect, they will, I think, be a small price to pay for letting the responsibility for broadcasting programmes lie with those best qualified to exercise it.
The other change in the Charter of an important character that we propose to insert is a requirement, with which I think the Committee will generally agree, as to consultation with the staff. That requirement will be as near as may be on the lines of the requirement contained in the Coal Industry Nationalisation Bill and the Civil Aviation Bill. I do not want the Committee to think that this requirement is being imposed by force upon a tyrannical Board of Governors in order to assert the rights of the oppressed, but the Government want to see the creation, within any large organisation—and this is a large and complicated organisation—whether public or private, of machinery that will assure to the humblest employee not only the settlement of his wages and service conditions by equal negotiation, with pro- 1089 vision for arbitration in the event of disagreement, but also the feeling, which is important, that he will be given a picture of his part in the present and prospective affairs of the undertaking, and that his views about the efficiency of the organisation will be considered by the management with the respect that they deserve. Only so in our view will the employee be able to make his full contribution to the successful conduct of the organisation. Only so can the management draw in full on the wide experience of the staff of all grades in their daily work.
The shaping of programme policy must, of course, be the responsibility of the Board of Governors, who are answerable to the nation for its suitability and impartiality. We, therefore, apart from these and one or two other modifications, propose to keep the constitutional status of the B.B.C. substantially as it is. We believe that the organisation is still right. But other people will take another view. There will be critics of the B.B.C., and there ought to be. I can only say, "Let the critics be heard and let notice be taken of them."
I want to mention commercial broadcasting, to which reference has already been made. Let us look at the possible alternatives to this present State monopoly, the public service, which some people profess to find so distasteful. Private enterprise in the field of broadcasting fairly inevitably, perhaps not quite certainly, means commercial broadcasting There are powerful, and not always disinterested, voices pressing the claims of commercial broadcasting in this country today and pointing to the United States system, or to the system which in some British Dominions permits commercial broadcasting services alongside those run by the State, as the models that we should adopt. It is not for us to criticise the internal broadcasting systems of other countries, but I must confess that nothing I have heard or read has convinced me that the American listener gets such consistently good entertainment as we do in this country—[An HON. MEMBER:" Much better.]— I am talking of it as a whole, and that is a personal opinion. I quite agree that others will have other opinions. Personally, I find it repugnant to hear, as I have heard, a programme of beautifully sung children's hymns punctuated by an oily voice urging me to buy somebody's pills. I cannot believe 1090 that it is good for the listener to hear from his wireless set what an American journalist has described asone long parade of headaches, coughs, aching insides, stained teeth, ' unpleasant full feeling and gastric hyperacidityuntil, like Mark Twain, I think it was—but some people tell me it was Jerome K. Jerome—after reading a medical dictionary, he believes he has all the ills that man is heir to, with the solitary exception of housemaid's knee. But I am quite prepared to admit freely that these are matters for individual judgment and opinion What is not open to dispute is that, owing to our limited resources of wavelengths, the number of commercial programmes which could be made available to listeners in this country would be very limited indeed, and the power of the owners of the transmitting stations correspondingly great. I have a feeling that to mix up commercial advertising with this business introduces into it an element of unhealthiness which would not be for the good understanding and goodness of British broadcasting, or, in the end, for its quality either.
I know that it is argued that commercial broadcasting would benefit our wireless because it would increase the money available for research and paying high fees to artistes. I have even seen it argued that commercial broadcasting is necessary in order to enable British film stars to supplement their presumably inadequate salaries on the radio and so keep them away from Hollywood. I have not the slightest sympathy with such arguments. The B.B.C. has never been short of money, and is not short of money at the moment, and any Government that did not ensure that within reason it had ample funds at its disposal for research and development would be stupidly sacrificing one of our major assets. As for artistes' fees, I believe them to be adequate to secure for the Corporation the services of anyone who is not suffering from megalomania. We should be on our guard against interests who want to see the B.B.C. unduly milked.
For all these reasons, therefore, the Government have decided to maintain in the new Charter the existing prohibition against commercial broadcasting. I may say with regard to Radio Luxembourg, which is, of course, the station I had in mind, I never said anything about jamming——
§ Mr. Morrison
There will be time to discuss this. We will do our best not to have commercial broadcasting directed at this country. It is not in accordance with British broadcasting policy. There is another reason. The Committee may like to know that for some months past we have been endeavouring to secure the use of the Radio Luxembourg transmitter for our broadcasts to Germany and Austria, and the French Government are interested in its use for similar purposes. Discussions have already taken place between the British, French and Luxembourg Governments regarding the possibility of securing the use of this transmitter except for such time as the Luxembourg Government may require it for their own broadcasts.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxterrose——
§ Mr. Morrison
May I just finish? The Luxumbourg Government have invited us to discuss the matter further with them.
§ Mr. Morrison
One at a time. I do not think I had better make a venture across the Irish Sea without full and proper consideration. I feel sure the hon. Gentleman will understand.
It has been suggested that there might be a separate State Corporation as is the case in Australia, New Zealand and, I think, in the Dominion of Canada.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, this is a very important issue. It is not just a matter of one station directing its advertising to this country. The issue I have raised is that it looks as if the Government were intending as part of their policy to say that we shall allow certain foreign stations to reach this country, but others we shall not. I contested that right. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us what is the intention of the Government on that all important matter?
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Member has got it wrong. I never said, and obviously cannot say, that the Government have either the power or intention to prevent all commercial broadcasting reaching this country. Someone has even mentioned 1092 the United States of America in this connection. I have done nothing of the kind. Quite frankly, we do not like this effort of a concern to set up a business in Luxembourg for the purpose of directing broadcasting at this country, when the policy of our country is otherwise. This does not mean that we are going to jam it, or that anyone is going to be penalised who listens to it. They can listen to what they like, but the Government are entitled to a view as to what is desirable in this matter. Quite frankly, this particular type of sheer naked exploitation, not of the highest order, is one which we do not like. We feel that if we can discourage it, we should discourage it.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
I listened to the right hon. Gentleman's statement the other day on this matter. It may be my stupidity, but what it conveyed to me was that the Government had a definite view of the desirability of broadcasts from particular stations abroad reaching here, and it was in the mind of the Government to do something about it. If I have misunderstood that, I fear the misconception is shared by a great many other hon. Members.
§ Mr. Morrison
It was a joint misconception on the part of the hon. Gentleman and the Leader of the Opposition, and there may have been others. Having read them again, I do not think that the words I used justify that interpretation. The view I have stated today is the view of His Majesty's Government. There is this more important consideration which has arisen, which is, that it would be a good use of this station if we could get it for Anglo-French broadcasts to Germany and Austria.
A second alternative has been the idea of the State running both our system and the commercial system side by side. That really does ignore the wavelength difficulty, and we are in a difficulty about wavelengths, as I will explain to the Committee. That does not mean that this unwillingness to split up the concern, which we feel would have unwise effects upon its effectiveness, that the Government do not recognise the value of competition and emulation. That is always a thing we encourage, and is certainly a very desirable thing, even among Members of Parliament. It is indeed for this very reason that we welcome the B.B.C.'s intention to press on with its policy of 1093 regional devolution. We agree entirely with the policy of a large, generous and growing measure of regional devolution, and particularly the utilisation of the talent, and, if I may say so, the accents of the people of these islands, the variations in which. I think is one of the charms of our national life. Therefore, we want to encourage regional devolution.
We have now agreed with the B.B.C., and they have accepted, that there should be a separate Advisory Committee for Scotland, which will advise the B.B.C. on the Scottish programmes and conduct arguments at will. There will be a separate Advisory Committee for Wales which will similarly have the same right, and there will be advisory Committees for the three English regions. Their business will be to help the Corporation to bring to the microphone everything that is best in their area.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
With regard to this Advisory Committee for Scotland, have the Government considered the fact that Scotland has five areas for broadcasting, and must not he contused with the areas on this side of the Border? Has my right hon. Friend also taken into consideration the fact that there is an entirely different psychology North of the Border? The people want to develop their own culture as it has been developed over hundreds of years. They do not want someone, who with the best intentions in the world, obviously does not understand the difference. We do not want to be directed from London by an Advisory Committee. On a matter like this, I think my right hon. Friend might tell us something better than this announcement about these mere Advisory Committees.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman agree when I say that the Scottish people do not want a Committee? They want to control their own regions.
§ Mr. Morrison
Of all quarters for that to come from! I am really amazed that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) did not try to persuade me that Scotland would get far better service if it took Radio Moscow instead of the B.B.C. But off he goes on his nationalist horse again. Our view is that to divide 1094 the B.B.C. physically into a number [...] national undertakings would be to damage it. If the regions, and in the case of Scotland, Scotland, and in the case of Wales, Wales, have a high degree of regional autonomy, and are encouraged to improve, as I hope they will succeed in doing, their amateur talent in Scotland, Wales and the English regions, and if there is an Advisory Council of Scotsmen in Scotland and Welshmen in Wales-to advise the B.B.C., we think that that is going a long way to ensure the adequate representation of Scottish and Welsh views. It is either that or the breaking up of the undertaking into its constituent elements, which I cannot think would he to the good of Scotland, Wales or England.
I know there is a good deal of interest about the West of England region. I am sorry to be so long, but the Committee wants these points to be dealt with, and as I have gone along I have had a certain number of interventions, of which I am not complaining. I ought to digress to express the Government's deep regret that it has been found necessary to merge the. West of England region with the Midland region into a new Southern region. I know that it will be poor comfort to people in the West Country to be told that we had no alternative but to merge, if the interests of the general body of listeners. throughout the country were not to suffer, and that for technical reasons any other merger of regions would have adversely affected many more listeners. The B.B.C. is very much alive to the need to improve the lot of listeners in the West Country, and is determined that the new programme should contain features, new and old, of special interest to West of England listeners. I have myself often listened to the West of England programme, and I quite understand the feeling of the West of England for it, but Birmingham is not going to dominate the West of England. We had Birmingham dominating British politics for too long.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is trying to tempt me by reminding me of Sir Oswald: Mosley, who started in his political party, not mine. The Advisory Committee will be drawn from the present Midland region and West of England region. I am sure that the men and women of Western. 1095 England will raise their voices to see that the West of England has proper attention, as I am sure the people of Birmingham will.
§ Sir Patrick Hannon (Birmingham, Moseley)
Does that mean the removal of the present broadcasting station in Birmingham?
§ Mr. Morrison
No, there is no need for that. It is a matter of adapting the programme so that the West of England will be adequately catered for.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
We were told the other day at Question time that there would be one director from the existing Bristol organisation of the West region who would be attached to Birmingham. If there is only to be one, it does not seem that the West will be fairly represented in the drawing up of programmes.
§ Mr. Morrison
It is the case that the existing regional director at Bristol, or someone like him, will be associated with it, so that the West of England point of view and experience may be right inside and at the top of the new regional organisation.
§ Mr. Morrison
He will not be a joint director. He will be a high up in the region. Joint directors are like Joint Parliamentary Secretaries and Joint Permanent Secretaries; if it is convenient to get one, it works better.
I have dealt in principle with the point shout monopoly. I do not think in this case that a public monopoly is a bad thing. It is a basic service. After all, there are other monopolies that have been established. Gas, electricity and water are local monopolies but they are monopolies. There is a telephone monopoly, which was instituted by a Conservative Government at the beginning of this century. I believe that in some cities there are actual newspaper monopolies in local publications. It is not necessarily either right or wrong and we think that in this case it is right.
We think that, broadly speaking, the B.B.C. has done its job with a fair degree of public acceptability, and in itself is self-critical and finds out to the best 1096 of its ability what its listeners are thinking. Some other people tried to find out, but the organisation which was set up rather tailed. It did not get more than 15 members. I think the B.B.C. really tries to find out public criticism and to meet public criticism. We can all criticise—certainly I can as well as other hon. Members.. Sometimes the B.B.C. is subjected to the very serious criticism that, in its alleged complacence, it is not progressive enough in the technical field and that because of this we are falling behind other nations in radio development. The two main issues in this field are television and frequency modulation.
As is well known in regard to television, the B.B.C. was first in the field, and before the war the Alexandra Palace service was unique in the world. I would like to pay a warm tribute to the great pioneering work of the late Mr. John Baird, which contributed materially to our success, On 1st September, 1939, however, we had to close down at Alexandra Palace for security reasons and the staff were scattered very widely. The Americans, in the meantime, picked up and have rather overtaken us, but in this friendly rivalry we are convinced and confident that now we have started again in earnest, we can give a good account of ourselves. The Post Office have a Television Advisory Committee. They are available to the Postmaster General and give him good advice. Television at Alexandra Palace has reopened. We are expecting to extend to Birmingham next, and, later on, to other provincial centres. The problem is one of man power and shortage, and there is another difficulty in the non-cooperation of some of the amusement folk of one sort and another as to willingness to let the B.B.C. televise. I hope that period of non-cooperation will soon pass, because I do not think television will hurt them, and it is for the good of the public that they should be able to see and enjoy these things.
With regard to frequency modulation, the story of this development is not dissimilar from that of television. Here again the potentialities of the new invention were quickly recognised by British radio engineers, and research work made excellent progress until it was interrupted by the war. As long ago as 1942, the Post Office first applied frequency modulation to radio communication, and today 1097 they make fairly extensive use of it for this purpose. But in its extension o broadcasting, the effect of the war has been to leave us far behind the United States and all that can be said at the moment is that the B.B.C. since V.E. Day has been making very determined efforts to recover lost ground its engineers are, for instance, transmitting every evening experimental frequency modulation broadcasts in the London area. These experiments, we think, should lead within a year or so to detailed plans for the establishment of frequency modulation stations in different parts of the country which may go far to solve the admittedly regrettable problem of the listeners who today, owing to the limitations of medium and lone wave broadcasting, are unable to receive satisfactorily the programme which the B.B.C. has designed for them. These difficulties are particularly strong at night in certain districts and there may be a shifting as the weeks go by. I would like, however, to emphasise that if frequency modulation is to make really rapid progress in this country, our radio manufacturers must keep pace with the development of this new technique, by producing, in good time, sets that can receive frequency modulation broadcasts.
I fear I have left myself no time to speak at length about the B.B.C.'s financial arrangements, but my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General hopes to be able to deal with any financial points raised in the course of the Debate, and no doubt with other points as well. I would, however, say here that the Government are examining carefully the recommendations made in the recent report of the Select Committee on Estimates, and are considering the extent to which they are consistent with the maintenance of the principle that financial control of the B.B.C. must not be taken to the point at which it can only be 'exercised by interference with the independence which the Corporation derives from its Charter
Finally, may I say just one word in tribute to those unknown men, the engineers of the Post Office and of the B.B.C., who have done such magnificent work in the field and brought great credit upon our country? They deserve our thanks and our praise, as also do the staff of the B.B.C. and the Post Office generally who deal with these matters. I trust that having explained to the Committee why 1098 the Government do not think that an immediate inquiry is wise or practicable, and having given the assurances that I have given, the Committee will regard the statement which I have made as broadly acceptable in all the circumstances.
§ 5.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Brendan Bracken (Bournemouth)
The most interesting passage in the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman was his irrelevant announcement that the Government intend to set up an inquiry into the state of the Press——
§ Mr. Morrison
The right hon. Gentleman should not cause me to repeat myself. He knows that I did not say than
§ Mr. Bracken
The right hon. Gentleman can read HANSARD tomorrow. I aver that the right hon. Gentleman quite unneccessarily brought up this topic of the Press. He said the Government accepted the desire of his hon. Friends that there should be an inquiry into the state of the Press. I believe that the state of the Press thoroughly well known. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I believe also that the right hon. Gentleman has no respect whatsoever for the freedom of the Press, or for the freedom of any one who ventures to criticise the Government or his august self. Freedom of- the Press, let me remind the Lord President, is a right of the public and not a right of the Press, and the public will have something to say about the Lord President's threats to the Press today.
§ Mr. Bracken
It is very difficult when the Lord President drags in this topic without any notice. Surely, I am entitled to say to him that the freedom of the Press is more precious than the wounded vanity of a would-be dictator, smarting under legitimate Press criticism.
§ Mr. Blackburn
On a point of Order. May I ask whether it is in Order to call the right hon. Gentleman a "would-be dictator"?
§ The Chairman
We must not be too thin skinned. I do not think either of the right hon. Gentlemen takes the expression very seriously.
§ Mr. Bracken
This curious announcement was made about the Press today but I intend to make no further reference to the matter. I am now going to deal with the interesting speech of the Lord President. Obviously it was very carefully prepared for him by these various Departments. He made a number of announcements regarding policy which are of some importance. So far as I could discover, it apparently is the intention of the Government to purchase the Luxembourg radio station. To my mind, such a policy is singularly foolish. Broadcasting to Great Britain will not be prevented by buying a few stations on the Continent. Let me begin by refuting the suggestion, made in characteristically elegant language by the Lord President, that the object of the Motion put down by 200 hon. Members was to push the B.B.C. about. The setting-up of a committee of inquiry is not a pushing-about process. If it were, the present Prime Minister, presumably, would not have joined the Ullswater Committee, which inquired into the working and policy of the B.B.C. before the present Charter was renewed. We ask the Prime Minister to give us an opportunity such as he and his colleagues willingly accepted in 1935. Surely, that is a reasonable request? The Lord President will not deny that the scope and problems of the B.B.C. have not diminished since 1935. Since then, the B.B.C. has become a very potent publicity instrument. It is probably the greatest in the world. Surely, therefore, it is in the public interest, and for the sake of the B.B.C., that an inquiry into the administration and problems of the B.B.C. should automatically follow every renewal of the Charter?
Incidentally, such an inquiry would give the B.B.C.a rare opportunity of explaining its workings and its doings. Broadcasting policy has received very little attention from Governments and Parliaments. It is odd to consider the small amount of time devoted by this House during the last 20 years to discussions on general broadcasting policy. We have given up little or no time to a sub- 1100 ject of immense importance to the country, and, indeed. beyond the country, and I feel that, in future, much greater time must be given to national broadcasting policy, because, after all, broadcasting is in its childhood. It is an immense giant, though very young; it was not reared. It just grew up, and was quite casually cast into monopoly. In the Lord President's speech today, the right hon. Gentleman mentioned that a Conservative Government had created this monopoly. It is perfectly true, but the fact of the matter is that, at that time, nobody had any idea of the potentialities of the B.B.C. It was looked upon as a toy, and it was, therefore, treated with scant care, and was cast, as I have said, into monopoly.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is the right hon. Gentleman not rather misleading the Committee? The Conservative Government had a very good idea of the possibilities of the B.B.C., but had no idea that there was going to be a Labour Government.
§ Mr. Bracken
Nobody has ever claimed prophecy as one of the gifts of the Conservative Party, and, if I might remind my hon. Comrade, he had no idea, either, that there was to be a Labour Government, and I dare say that he relishes the present Labour Government just about as much as we do. Twenty-five years ago, few people in this country anticipated that the B.B.C. would become a part of every home, and of almost every school, a great influence in Empire and foreign affairs and, perhaps, the most trusted newsgiver in the world. [HoN. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very glad to listen to this applause, because go per cent. of B.B.C. news comes from Press agencies. It is right that we should review the doings of this most powerful institution before renewing the Charter, and I ask hon. Gentlemen who sit on the other side of the Committee, if they do not consider it to be a reasonable thing, before handing over or renewing such great powers, that a Select Committee, or, if the Government prefer it, a Royal Commission, should look into the policy of the B.B.C., its administration, and, perhaps, the problems of the B.B.C. I should have thought that the party opposite would have welcomed that suggestion, just as the Prime Minister welcomed the invitation to sit on the Ullswater Committee, 1101 which was the body which recommended renewal of the present B.B.C. Charter.
I had some little experience of the B.B.C., as the Lord President said, and that enables me to say that we could talk for days about broadcasting in general and the B.B.C. in particular. The White Paper ignores many issues of high consequence to broadcasting, and I have only a limited time and therefore must deal in a very sketchy way with some of these issues today. The most lively, of course, as was pointed out by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) is whether the B.B.C. is to continue to monopolise broadcasting in Britain. The B.B.C.'s critics, who are, of course, much more vocal than its friends, claim that broadcasting would greatly improve if the monopoly were abolished. I cannot list even one-tenth of the criticisms one hears of the B.B.C. It is said to be both timid and arrogant, out of touch with the robust feelings of John Bull, given to endless verbosity, intolerably complacent, more devoted to humourless and exasperating exhortation than was even the late Dr. Arnold of Rugby. Another set of critics maintains that it is the most boring of entertainers, and many people connected with the stage declare that it is the stingiest of payers. These are but a few of the bouquets thrown at the B.B.C. Its critics assert that the only way to improve broadcasting, therefore, is to abolish the monopoly and replace it by sponsored radio along American lines. There is an alternative proposal which is to set up three competing broadcasting systems, which do not, of course, take advertising, and finance them by pooling the total sums received from licences and dividing them into four parts—one for each of the three competing radio systems, and the fourth given to the one which is voted the most popular.
§ Mr. Bracken
Yes, three separate corporations. That is the proposal, as I understand it, and the one which is voted the most popular will receive a very handsome financial reward.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
I do not think the last part is an accurate description of that interesting proposal, which appeared in a paper with which, I think, the right hon. Gentleman himself 1102 has connections. The proposal was that any listener should be entitled to allocate one-fourth of his fee to whichever corporation he wanted.
§ Mr. Bracken
That does not really differ from what I have said. Later, I hope to have a few moments to go into that particular suggestion, because, as the hon. Gentleman says, it is a very interesting one. First, I would like to follow the Lord President in dealing with sponsored radio, and I hope the Committee will bear with me for a few moments if I say something about it. During 4½years of harrowing life in Bloomsbury, I was given opportunities of comparing the output of sponsored radio with that of the B.B.C. Let me begin by saying that American broadcasting is often unfairly, not to say maliciously, criticised. Despite what the Lord President said, American entertainment is infinitely superior to that provided by the B.B.C. Many American educational and other broadcasting features are truly brilliant, and the large American radio companies, in general, can say that their programmes are much more lively and fresh in presentation than a good many of those put over by the B.B.C. The American sponsored radio system is certainly far more courageous in dealing with controversial issues. It is also much less rigidly controlled and, therefore, can make all sorts of rewarding experiments. The last point is important, and I am sorry that the Lord President did not say much about it today. Freedom to experiment is vital.
Broadcasting, after all, is in its childhood, and needs plenty of free play for new ideas and techniques. It is a great pity that the Americans are enabled, by the comparative freedom that most of their companies enjoy, to get ahead of the B.B.C. in so many respects. But let us always remember that the revenues of American radio companies are certainly six times that of the B.B.C., and that they have a very much wider reservoir of talent to draw from because the population of the United States is three times that of Britain.
§ Mr. Bracken
I do not think the Americans will ever be found to be in great difficulty in solving the problem as the hon. Gentleman suggests. I was just about to turn to some of the defects of sponsored radio, so, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman would oblige me by listening for a moment or two.
My slight knowledge of broadcasting in the United States would hardly justify me in making didactic criticisms of sponsored radio, but, if the Committee wish to obtain the best of all information about some of the defects of that system, they should read the most recent report of the Federal Communications Committee, the United States Government instrument for dealing with broadcasting matters. It has been reprinted by the National Association of Broadcasters, the representative body of the industry who, presumably, concur in most of its recommendations and strictures. There are some astonishing passages in this report. The Lord President read us a slight extract of the type of broadcasting which is frequently permitted over many important networks in the United States, but here are a few extracts from the Federal Communications Committee's report:In addition to the general relaxation of advertising standards, there is abundant evidence that even the present National Association of Broadcasters' standards are being flouted by some stations and networks. Frequent examples of commercial advertising in excess of N.A.B. standards were noted on all four networks and all six stations in Washington, D.C. The result of the study suggests that on networks and stations alike, the N.A.B. standards are as honoured in the breach as in the observance.Consider this sardonic extract to show the exploitation of patriotic appeal by advertising in the patent medicine business. A headache curer, if it fulfils the advertiser's claims, sells its wares in these words:All of us have a big job on our hands if we want to keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave. An all-out effort needs hard work and lots of it. Production must move forward fast. Get one of the 10 or 25 cent. packages of B.C. today.And here is the solemn Federal Communications Committee's comment on what it calls "physiological commercial advertisements":Appeals to the listener to take an internal bath, inquiry of the listener whether he has the common ailment known as the American stomach,' discussions of body odours, sluggish bile, etcetera, are a distinguishing characteristic of American broadcasting.1104 Finally, let me read an extract, which is of some importance, showing the distribution of the large sums received by the American radio companies:According to data compiled by the Publishers Information Bureau more money is spent in network advertising of drug and toilet goods than for any other products—27.9 per cent. of all network gross billings is for such products. Drug and cosmetic advertising is said to have trebled between 1939 and 1944. The increasing identification of radio as a purveyor of patent medicines and proprietary remedies raises serious problems which warrant careful consideration by the broadcasting industry.
§ Mr. Bracken
If the hon. Member wishes to criticise what is in the newspapers published by his own party, he ought to do it in private and not in public. It is unseemly. As I was saying, I have quoted enough from this official report to bring the Committee into general agreement that we should not accept sponsored radio without a thorough inquiry into its working.
I want to say a word about the proposal to divide the revenue from licences into four parts and to encourage three British corporations to compete for the fourth part. I must point out to the Committee that the rising costs of production are going to provide many financial headaches for the Governors of the B.B.C. I do not think that sufficient care has been taken in estimating the heavy costs of television. At the present moment, the revenues of the B.B.C. are barely adequate, if television is included, to cover its cost. The probable result of the proposal to set up three competing stations or systems not taking advertising will result in three financially embarrassed broadcasting systems. I hardly think that that would be an acceptable substitute for the B.B.C. Let us suppose that the B.B.C. continues to reign alone. What improvements are desirable?
Regarding regions, the Lord President gave us an account today of the B.B.C. Governors' plans to improve regional organisation. I rather think that the Lord President took some credit for the Government for that decision. But I very much hope that he will not abide by that suggestion, because whatever credit or blame there is in relation to B.B.C. matters must always be given to the Governors. If a decision was made by the 1105 Governors to give more home rule to the regions, this Committee should congratulate the B.B.C. Governors on that decision.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman is getting. The Government are entitled to make suggestions to the B.B.C. The suggestion about the advisory councils, I am pretty sure, came from the Government itself, and, I agree, was willingly accepted by the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Bracken
I think the Lord President's interruption was totally unnecessary. I was pointing out that any decision about more borne rule in the regions can only he taken by the Governors of the B.B.C. and that His Majesty's Government are not entitled to any credit for that decision. Furthermore, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) has said, B.B.C. regional organisations have existed for many years, and I myself am not greatly impressed by the advisory councils which the B.B.C. are setting up in Scotland and Wales. Advisory councils, generally speaking, do nothing. They are just a decoration. They are a sop given by the B.B.C. to the local feelings of the Welsh, the Scots and the people who live in the North of England. But I do feel that there is justification for the restiveness of people in Scotland, Wales, and in the North of England. People who think that they are the best and most numerous of the population, have a right to claim that their interests are not entirely provided for or, at least, were not provided for by the B.B.C. in wartime.
§ Mr. Bracken
I knew that it was quite impossible for the B.B.C. Governors thoroughly to develop regional organisation during the war. That would be regarded as one of the first blessings of peace, and I was very glad to hear from the Lord President today that a real drive will he put behind the regional organisation of the B.B.C. There is also great room for devolution and experiment in the B.B.C. One of the best ways of 1106 improving the Corporation is for the Governors to rid themselves of many inhibitions. They are too much afraid of Parliamentary criticism. I remember that from tine to time, when hon. Mermbers of this House put clown Questions about the B.B.C., some of the Governors were greatly perturbed. But they need riot have bothered I hold the view that the Governors of the B.B.C. should not be afraid of criticism from any quarter. They feared that if they put up with it from Parliament, they would have to put up with it from many pressure groups in the country. The B.B.C. is much too apprehensive of pressure groups, or, indeed, of all organised bodies. After all, what is the main purpose which the B.B.C. serves at home? It is to provide a very lively forum where we can have the freest of arguments from all sorts and conditions of persons in the community who hold strong views.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Gentleman interrupts again I know that he is a passionate defender of religion, and would wish to have the B.B.C. given the same facilities for religion as are given by the Moscow radio, but I will not be drawn by his religious enthusiasm. I was saying that the B.B.C. should welcome the widest freedom of discussion, always following the golden rule of giving a fair opportunity to arguers on both sides. I am bound to say that until recently, the Governors have taken the comfortable attitude of avoiding controversy, and, as controversy is one of the essentials of democracy, I hope that the Governors of the B.B.C. will not take too much notice of the people who write and complain about various broadcasts. There are in this country a number of persons who, perhaps, do not want to use the B.B.C. themselves, or, perhaps, whom nobody would invite to broadcast, but who are determined not to allow anybody else to broadcast from the B.B.C. When the Lord President said today that he hoped the Governors of the B.B.C. would be as fair to the Government as they were to the Opposition, I take it that that is really an encouragement to them to give us a little more political controversy on the radio. I am not saying that it should be overdone It is possible to bore the public very quickly by having too much political controversy on the radio, but I think it 1107 is absurd that politicians who have a case to argue, or that eminent public figures like the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President or my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, cannot receive an invitation to broadcast. The Governors of the B.B.C. have a perfect right to invite anyone they like to broadcast, and the fact that he is connected with politics should not be a bar. After all, spending a great deal of time in this House should not be regarded as great a stigma as, say, spending 10 years in Broadmoor or Dartmoor.
There is, of course, no doubt that a great deal of internal reorganisation of the B.B.C. is desirable. I was rather surprised that the Lord President today did not make some comment on the Report of the Select Committee on B.B.C. expenditure, because had he done so, I expect he would have done as I now intend to do, namely, to say that I consider that some of the sentiments expressed in that Report were wholly harmful to the freedom of broadcasting in this country. I do not believe that the Governors of the B.B.C. should have to come to this House and explain their expenditure in great detail to a Committee upstairs. Parliament, having approved the appointment of a Board of Governors, should give those Governors a reasonable measure of liberty, and I very much hope that the B.B.C. will not be subjected to too much grilling in this House on the ground of their expenditure.
There is another point about the B.B.C. to which I particularly want to refer. There was a mysterious passage in the Lord President's speech when he said that there was a common belief that the Director-General was too powerful a subject in the B.B.C., and that the Board of Governors only met to endorse his decisions. But what was curious was later when the Lord President went out of his way to pay a glowing tribute to Lord Reith. It was said of the Director-General of the B.B.C. some years ago, that he was a very dominant character, but I know of no reason why the Lord President should say that any Director-General of the B.B.C. in recent times has exceeded his functions. Certainly that would not be true of the present Director-General of the B.B.C., Sir William Haley, who is a man of great wisdom and tolerance, and 1108 full of courage, and who, I think, is the best possible choice for one of the highest offices in this country.
I hope, now that the war is over and they have got some time on their hands, that the Governors of the B.B.C. will go in for an extensive scheme of what the Lord President calls devolution. It is very necessary in Broadcasting House, and there are some curious anomalies there. For instance, I should have thought that all entertainment in the B.B.C. should be handed over to an expert. It is not a job for an earnest official or a painstaking administrator. It is a job for a young Cochrane, if one can be found. I certainly do not accept the Lord President's suggestion today, that the artists and writers or the staff of the B.B.C. are well paid. I am quite surprised that the Lord President could take such a view. I must say, the folly of the White Paper in suggesting that the B.B.C. staff should be paid on what they call "Civil Service principles" strikes me as being perfectly absurd. The less Civil Service atmosphere we have about the B.B.C., the better for the B.B.C., and the country.
§ Mr. Bracken
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman does not. I do not think the Lord President sufficiently understands that organisers of entertainment are the best-paid people in the United States, and they are not badly rewarded in this comparatively poverty-stricken island. Certainly the Press, which was so roundly abused by the Lord President—[HoN. MEMBERS: "No."]—The Press the Lord President proposes to inquire into, if hon. Members like that better, certainly pay their staffs far better than the B.B.C. I say this to the Lord President: Civil Service standards of pay will get the B.B.C. nowhere. If the B.B.C. want to get good artists they must be prepared to pay for them.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Member asks "Where is the money coming from?" That is a point of some importance, because I do not believe even the present revenues of the B.B.C. are really adequate for the work it has to do. That 1109 will be one of the jobs of the Joint Select Committee, if the Government will condescend to appoint one, to discover whether the B.B.C. should have any alternative sources of revenue. For instance, many people suggest that in television the B.B.C. might undertake advertising. I express no opinion on that subject, but it is worthy of consideration.
§ Mr. Scollan
Would the right hon. Gentleman tell us how it comes about that in Scotland, we had 1,900 hours of broadcasting and paid £500,000 for it? Where did the money go to? Mr. Bracken: I suppose the population of Scotland now is about 5,000,000?
§ Mr. Bracken
If the hon. Gentleman makes a calculation, he will find that the unfortunate British have been paying for a goodly part of the radio entertainment given to the Scots.
§ Mr. Bracken
It is, of course, a terrible error to arouse the tribal antipathies of the Scots. Let me turn for one moment to another improvement which is, I hope, likely to be non-controversial. One of the best possible methods of improving the B.B.C. would be for the Prime Minister always to search for the best Governors. They have immense responsibilities in the governance of the B.B.C., and it is a post which offers the widest field of public service. Of course, one of the prime qualifications of a Governor of the B.B.C. is that he should be a resolute resister of governmental and other pressures. Prime Ministers do not always like that craggy quality; neither, indeed, does the Lord President of the Council, whose connection with the B.B.C. is doubtless of very great advantage to that institution, providing always he remembers he is presiding over the Council and not over the B.B.C.
I have talked a bit too much—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]—and I intend to go on for quite a while. I have talked too much about the need of improvement in the B.B.C. I will now say a few words about its virtues. In the old days the Ministry of Information had very close and unorthodox relations with the B.B.C. In fact, our affairs were very much mixed 1110 up indeed. Therefore, I am, I suppose, one of the few people who have seen most of the normally impenetrable B.B.C., and from that inner knowledge I make bold to generalise about the men and women who have served B.B.C. during the war, and who serve it today. They are best described by a lapidary sentence written by an "8th century ecclesiastic, Lord Crewe, Bishop of Durham. He described his wife in the following perfect sentence:She was a constant lover of the best.Neither the B.B.C. nor the bishopess may have fulfilled that proud claim, bit I aver that the B.B.C. has tried hard to do so: Its efforts at times may have been woefully inadequate; it may be that its standards have been pitched far too high. But who can say, in this age of the "debunking" of so many things that are true and of good report, that the B.B.C. is not right? Idealism is a much better guide than a cynical materialism. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.''] How delightful it is to get that applause from a party which recently perpetrated the worst piece of political jobbery in history, over the repeal of the Trade Disputes Acts. As I do not want to get too involved in controversy, I had better return to the, rather placid topic of the merits of the B.B.C.
The B.B.C. has a lot to learn, but it has clone great things, and has deserved well of the public. It has plenty of vocal critics; it has also got troops of taciturn friends. In my poor judgment, it has faithfully fulfilled a great public trust. Many hon. Members in this House and in the country will vigorously dispute this statement. Surely it ought to be put to the test of a thorough review of all that has been done and left undone in the great opportunities of broadcasting. In the course of the last 20 minutes I have been dealing, in a most inadequate way, with matters which should be relegated to a Joint Select Committee. If I may respectfully say so, the Lord President did so too. He has been making various statements about the B.B.C. which are interesting in themselves, but which cannot allay the great anxiety there is in the country about certain aspects of broadcasting policy. Therefore, I cannot understand why the Government will not agree to the setting up, either of a Joint Select Committee or of a Royal Commission. The issues involved in a blank 1111 renewal of the Charter are harmful, both to the public and to the B.B.C. I say that because I speak as a friend to the B.B.C. It is thoroughly harmful to the B.B.C. that an inquiry is not granted, and will not always be granted in the future when the Charter is renewed. As I said before, there ought to be an automatic inquiry before renewal of the Charter. The Lord President tells us it would he very injurious to hold an inquiry now, but he is perfectly prepared to hold one in two or three years' time. I should have thought that it would be far more upsetting to the staff of the B.B.C. to be looking over their shoulders for so long a period. The time for an inquiry is now. Let us follow the precedent of the Ullswater Committee by holding an inquiry before the Charter is renewed. The Charter can be temporarily continued; I do not suppose there is any legal difficulty; if there is, the Lord President could consult with the Attorney-General and I dare say we could get a swift reply. There ought to be no difficulty in carrying on the Charter for another year or two years, and that would give the Committee time to consider the case for and against the continuance of the Charter. This House would then be in possession of an adequate report to guide it in shaping broadcasting policy.
I beg the Government, in the interests of the public and of the B.B.C. to grant the inquiry sought by so many hon. Members of this House. This is not a party matter. Our broadcasting standards and performances are of the highest consequence to all our people. It may be that, quite by accident, we have fixed upon the best system of broadcasting. Or, are we perpetuating a monopoly which will cramp the great potentialities of broadcasting? This question can only be settled by setting up the strongest possible committee of inquiry the Government can appoint. Such a committee could hear the case of those who hold that the monopoly should end and the case, which may also be put forward very strongly, of the many who believe that it would be a great advantage to Britain if the Charter were renewed. I know that the Home Secretary—[HON. MEMBERS: "The Home Secretary?"]—I am sorry, I mean the Lord President of the 1112 Council; I keep on referring to him as the Home Secretary because at his intemperate language today, which made me remember the days when was the master of 18B. I make an appeal to the Lord President: Why is it not possible to assent to the wish of so many people in this House and in the country? It is not a criticism of the B.B.C. to set up this inquiry now. On the contrary, I believe the B.B.C. will come out of the inquiry with flying colours, and I feel that the only reason why the Government are resisting the suggestion put forward by my hon. Friends and by other Members of this House is sheer obstinacy, and a desire to refuse a perfectly sensible proposition put forward by the Opposition.
I do hope that the Lord President will reconsider this decision. He can do it quite easily, because apparently he decides many things without consultation with 10, Downing Street, and if he would only enable the Assistant-Postmaster General to rise this evening to tell us that this Joint Select Committee will be appointed, we should be deeply grateful to the Leader of the House, not only for his intermittent,presence today, but also for showing some slight contact with democracy.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker (Smethwick)
I was very happy to hear the Lord President of the Council say that in principle the Government were in favour of an inquiry into the B.B.C. and that it should he relatively quick. I want to press upon the Government the need for the earliest possible inquiry that can be organised. I think there are considerable dangers in delaying the inquiry for any longer interval than is absolutely essential. I agree with the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) that this implies no hostility to the Corporation. The Corporation is exposed to a great deal of unthinking criticism, and a considerable amount of interested criticism in certain sections of the Press, but I think it has contributed very highly to our public life by the objective standard of its news. In the development of the talk as a radio form it has produced something which is unique and peculiar to this country; here it has achieved a much higher standard than has been achieved anywhere else. I was very glad to hear the tributes paid to the achievements of the B.B.C. in over- 1113 seas broadcasting during the war. I myself think they are much better now than the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) said. He did not make sufficient allowance for the necessity in peace time to cut down our expenditure on overseas broadcasts.
Although the reasons why I urge the Government to make the earliest possible inquiry do not spring from hostility, although I have a very high regard for the B.B.C., there have been in recent times one or two examples of a falling away from its proper standards. I am not referring to political jokes, because it is very important that there should be political jokes, and it is quite natural that the party in power should be the main butt of the political jokes of comedians. I do not think anyone minds a good crack at a Minister, except possibly the Minister himself, and even for him it is good publicity. But it seems to me that there have been recent cases in which the B.B.C. has allowed itself to fall below the standards of good taste and even of patriotism. A recent example was a song, broadcast I think on 25th April, which had as its theme "I want to be a refugee from Britain"—that theme occurred three times in 12 lines. I would like to read to the Committee the last four lines of this song. which seems to me to fall well below the standard of patriotism that one should demand of the Corporation. It will make hon. Members on the opposite side laugh, no doubt, because they may possibly agree with it, but it is totally unpatriotic:I want to be a refugee from Britain,The lovely place where I'm no longer free,For if they can carry on without Winston Churchill,They will blooming well have to manage without me.There are eight other lines——
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Can my hon. Friend say whether the author of that song was the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers)?
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
Although it sounds funny read out here, it really seems to me to be unworthy of a great and responsible Corporation, to which have been committed a very high trust and very great powers.
§ Mr. Beverley Baxter
If the hon. Member really takes that kind of thing 1114 so seriously, should he not also argue that we should suppress the Gilbert and Sullivan song, "A Policeman's Lot is not a Happy One"?
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
That is very different from suggesting that we should leave this country, which is what is suggested by that song. I know that this sort of thing is sometimes said by holt. Members on the other side, and it seems just as unpatriotic when it is said by them as when it is said over the air, and I think it is quite unworthy of a great Corporation.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The hon. Member is implying and imputing all sorts of things about the broadcasting of different types of songs; does he think that the song "Don't Go Down the Mine Daddy" is an excuse for having no coal?
§ Mr. Gordon-Walker
This could go on interminably, but to complete my point, I repeat that it seems to me to be unpatriotic and below the standards which should be set by the B.B.C.
The reason why I think there should be as early an inquiry as possible is that quite unforeseen developments have occurred since the Ullswater days, and it is essential that the problems connected with those developments should be settled by considerations of public policy and not by the day to day administrative practice of the B.B.C., which must and should be shrouded from the public view. We shall find, unless we have this inquiry very quickly, that very considerable and important matters will be settled in that way instead of by considerations of public policy.
There is, for example, this new development of overseas broadcasting, which has been mentioned by the Lord President and other speakers. Looking at the White Paper, and even listening to the Lord President, and discovering what I can about this myself, I do not think the Government have properly thought out this problem of the relationship of the State to this new field of broadcasting. New Departments are becoming interested. in broadcasting because of the overseas. programmes—the Foreign Office, the Dominions Office, the Colonial Office and, I hope, the Board of Trade; but, as far. as I can find out, these new Departments are not getting a sufficient say in such complicated problems as the allocation of 1115 frequencies and wavelengths. The Departments already ensconced in the field, like the Post Office and the Service Departments have too much power to secure their ends in these matters. The Government are not giving sufficient consideration to political problems, as against purely technical ones.
A matter which, I think, is of the greatest importance is the development of wire broadcasting. It seems to me a most potent and dangerous social instrument It seems to me that the power of those who control wire broadcasting is even greater than that of those who originate programmes in studios, because those who control the wire broadcasting can dictate what the listeners shall not listen to, whether it is broadcast from at home or abroad. I think that there is a strong argument for banning this thing altogether —it is perhaps too powerful an instrument even to be in public hands. But at the very least it should be in public, and not in private, hands. It seems far too great a power in private hands. We should settle this problem as soon as possible because the power of these organisations will grow, and there will be increasing complications, and difficulties of compensation, to face when we take them over, the longer we allow this problem to run.
I should like to say how glad I was to hear what the Lord President had to say about labour relationships in the B.B.C., now and in the future. I have a particular interest in this, because I was employed by the B.B.C., and I am chairman of the National Union of Journalists branch in the B.B.C. Although the Lord President said it had not been a tyrannical Corporation, and although that is quite true, none the less, this addition to the Charter will make a considerable change. The Corporation has been one of the few bodies in the country which actually could and did dictate to its employees through what organisations they should be represented. This new change, incorporating something closely similar to the corresponding Clause in the Civil Aviation Bill, will make a very great and important change, which, I think, hon. Members on this side of the Committee will very warmly welcome.
My final point concerns the form and date of the inquiry, granted that there should be the earliest possible inquiry. As to the form it seems to me that the 1116 last thing we want is a Joint Select Committee. There is no virtue in a Member of Parliament that makes him suitable for settling these sorts of things. Hon. Members should be available for such a Committee, but to limit the Committee to hon. Members of the House and to Members of another place would be irrelevant to such a task as that which this committee of inquiry would have. As to the date, I think that, if the Government had shown in this respect what it has shown in practically everything else, the expedition for which this Government is famous, as the Lord President said, then the inquiry could have been held and have been finished, or nearly finished, by now. I think that should be said frankly; but, none the less, we have, unlike the right hon. Member for Bournemouth to face things as they are now; and because we could have had this 12 months ago, it does not follow we should have it today. There are powerful arguments against renewing the Charter. The uncertainty of the staff, particularly in the Overseas Service, would be serious; and already serious consequences have been caused by uncertainty there.
There are two factors controlling this question of the earliest possible date. One, which has been mentioned, is the international convention on frequencies, and so forth which, I think, we should be able to get finished in about 18 months. The other is the date of 31st December, 1949, when the present licences for wire broadcasting come to an end. It seems to me that this inquiry should be finished before that date. Therefore. it seems to me that, if we take these two factors into account, we should choose a date about the middle of 1948 for the setting up of a commission, or some sort of inquiry, which would sit, perhaps, for eight or 12 months, and could report in 1949, in good time before the wire wireless licences expire. I hope that we shall get a firm indication from the Government that it is their intention hold this inquiry at the earliest possible moment, and that they intend to hold it in two years' time, rather than three.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George (Anglesey)
I am sure the Committee is grateful to the hon. Member for East Fife. (Mr. Stewart) for this opportunity to discuss this most important matter. Like the hon. Member 1117 for Smetnwick (Mr. Gordon-Walker) I hope that the Government will revise the decision they have made, and institute an inquiry, at a very early date, into the B.B.C. I should like to say, as other hon. Members have said, that this can in no sense be regarded as criticism of the B.B.C. Many tributes have been paid to the Corporation in this Debate this afternoon, and I think all of them have been richly deserved, because of the remarkable work which the Corporation did during the war and is doing at the present time. But may I say that, in spite of the rare and refreshing speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken), I still believe that the best case for the prosecution has been made by the defence, and the strongest case for an early inquiry was made by the Government in the White Paper and by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech today. The Lord President of the Council made it perfectly clear this afternoon that he is not against what he called a searching inquiry into the constitution of the B.B.C. He is in favour of it. Therefore, the only difference between him and those who put their names to the Motion already referred to is the factor of time—what is the most appropriate time for the inquiry to take place?
What are the arguments which have been used against an early inquiry? We are told, first, that since the Ullswater Report, the B.B.C. had only been working for two years under normal conditions and that it is far too early to come to any conclusion on how these recommendations have worked. It seems to me that the Government are arguing as though there had been a standstill in broadcasting technique during the war, whereas, in fact, as everybody knows, there has been a revolution. As a result of the experience of the war, a whole crop of new problems has arisen which we have to face and settle. The right hon. Gentleman raised this afternoon many technical questions. There is really no reason to assume that technical developments, which are going on all the time, will be in a more final state in five years than they are now. They have been progressing and they are progressing all the time.
I should like to say a word about some of the problems that seem to me to have arisen since the Ullswater Report. There is the overseas service, which was in its 1118 infancy before the war. There are the possibilities of the use to be made of Radar in peacetime, and there are countless other developments which have taken place here, in America, and in other countries. It does not seem to me that we can go back to 1939. How many times have we heard hon. Gentlemen opposite say that we cannot go back to 1939, as though nothing has happened? We cannot surely, base the whole policy of the B.B.C. on the findings of a report drawn up not in 1939 but 10 years ago. The Lord President of the Council spoke this afternoon of the relationship of the Government to the B.B.C. During the war, of course, it was inevitable that that relationship should be very close. There was the censorship and the control over foreign broadcasts; it was inevitable. There was also the fact that the wireless was used for Government announcements, statements of Ministers, and for what were called "pep" talks. I sometimes wonder why they were so called. No one had any serious objection to such things at that time.
The Lord President said today that the B.B.C. is to be independent of the Government, but how independent is it to be? I am not at all clear about that after his speech this afternoon. What is the position going to be now? Are the privileges extended to Ministers during the war to continue? Are we still to have Government announcements and statements, and possibly "pep" talks, or are we to go back to the prewar practice? Then the position was that the Corporation were obliged to broadcast any announcements or other matters which a Government Department might require. I would stress "obliged to broadcast." Does that ruling cover the broadcast made by the Lord President of the Council the other day? Under what heading would the right hon. Gentleman say that broadcast was made? I listened to it, and it is difficult to define. It does not come within the narrow, limited category permissible before the war of police notices or announcements of outbreaks of animal diseases. I think we are entitled to know whether unilateral broadcasts of that kind are to be allowed. There is all the difference between Ministers broadcasting in time of war, when there is a Government supported by all parties, and Ministers using the microphone to put across Government policy in time of peace—I do not 1119 mind what the Government is. I am sure that if hon. Members opposite were sitting on this side of the Committee they would agree with me on that. It is really not fair to say "Let us leave it to the discretion of the B.B.C." It is not fair to the B.B.C. Some ruling must be given, and it ought to be given now, because it is not a thing which we can leave undecided for another five years.
There is another power which the Government of the day exercised in prewar days over the B.B.C., and that is the power of veto, about which we have not heard a word today. The Postmaster-General may require the Corporation to refrain from broadcasting any matter, either particular or general. The White Paper tells us that this power has never been formally used. I do not know what the significance of the word "formally" is. Perhaps the Assistant Postmaster-General will tell us when he replies. But the mere fact that there is a veto—what the White Paper calls, the ultimate sanction—is enough; it is the big stick, and although it has never been formally used, it is there, and it has all the effects of a deterrent. It has a definite unnerving effect on the B.B.C. There is no doubt that under the system as it is the Government are adequately safeguarded. The only question which is still open, and is wide open, is whether the public are adequately safeguarded from undue Government interference, that is a thing about which I am not at all clear. In fact I am less clear about it since I heard the speech of the Lord President of the Council today.
We all agree that it is vitally important that the broadcast service in this country, with all its immense power—which sometimes I think has not yet been fully realised—to influence public opinion, should, like the Press, be as free as possible. It is more important than ever today, when the State is assuming an ever greater measure of control over our affairs and our lives. Broadcasting was used in totalitarian countries, and it was used most effectively to prevent facts, to distort values and to bolster up a most pernicious system. Do not let us forget that. What we want to ensure in this country is that the B.B.C. should become an effective instrument of democracy. But I do not believe it will ever become an effective instrument of democracy while con- 1120 troversy on the air is confined to academic debates and arguments about abstract theories. We should have hard-hitting discussions on issues when they are red hot. What does it matter if they embarrass the Government, or if they embarrass the Opposition? That is quite beside the point. Take this very moment, when the public is interested in bread rationing. Let them have the facts, and let them have all the points of view, and then the public can make up their own mind. Because the Government of the day is the Aunt Sally, they ought to have the right of reply. It is perfectly sound, reasonable and rational. It is the way to treat controversy in a democratic State, and not as we have done so often in the past by blanketing all awkward issues.
There are two views on this matter el political controversy in the B.B.C. Either it is treated as something which if it is impartially done is incredibly dull —which it is—or which if it is not impartially done, is not quite nice, and ought to be under strict control. In our overseas programmes there is an entirely different attitude. Anyone who has broadcast in the Overseas Service during the war will know that to be perfectly true. I do not know what is going to happen under this new system which the Lord President of the Council has told us about today, but in the old days, subject to strategic questions and matters of security, you were perfectly free to say on the air what you liked to Europe and America. But the moment you get on the Home Service it is entirely different. The whole attitude is inhibited, panicky and jittery. From personal experience covering a number of years, I would say that it is not the fault of the staff, or even of the executives of the B.B.C., who I believe want to be enterprising and yet have a great sense of responsibility. it is the fault, quite definitely, of the system; that is a thing which wants looking into, and ought to be looked info now without any delay.
There is only one other thing further which I should like to say about the services of the B.B.C., and that concerns the question of the Overseas Service. Is there really no need for inquiry there? The Lord President has told us today of the new arrangement, the Government propose to make. My hon. Friend the 1121 Member for East Fife spoke of the good will which has been created in countries abroad as a result of that Overseas Service. He asked whether we are going to lose that good will, and whether we could afford to lose it. The Lord President said "Certainly not." He told us that that voice is not going to be lost, but what I want to know, after hearing the Lord President, is what voice the outside world is going to hear. Is it the voice of the Foreign Office? He said that we cannot have an Overseas Service which is at variance with the policy of the Foreign Office, and that the Corporation will accept guidance by the Foreign Office. That is the new agreement which has been come to, and it has been come to without any inquiry. This is the new agreement come to between the Government and the Corporation. Hon. Members opposite may say that it is all right. It does not worry us. Perhaps it does not.
§ Mr, Blackburn
I am sure that the hon. Lady would wish to be quite fair. The Lord President not only said what the hon. Lady has quoted, but added that overseas broadcasts should not be the mouthpiece of the Foreign Office; that they should be somewhere between being a mouthpiece of the Foreign Office on the one hand, and allowing political opinions to be broadcast from this country, on the other.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George
I agree that the right hon. Gentleman made that qualification, but the fact remains that the Overseas Service is not to broadcast stuff which is at variance with the policy of the Foreign Office. That is quite clear from what the right hon. Gentleman has said.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
As this is so important, would the right hon. Gentleman himself say whether that is what he meant? I listened very carefully, arid I share the view of the hon. Lady.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George
It was my impression that the right hon. Gentleman made it perfectly clear that they were to "be guided"—those were the two words he used—by the Foreign Office, and not be at variance with the policy of the 1122 Foreign Office. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are now in power, and they may be there for some time, but they are not going to be there for ever. There will come the day when the policy which will be broadcast over the Overseas Service will be at variance with the policy in which they believe. I ask them to cast their mind back to the years before 1939, and to ask themselves what they would have thought if the Overseas Service of this country, at that time, had been broadcasting a policy which was in agreement with the Government in power at that time. I am not complaining about it particularly in the case of this Government but I think that it is a highly dangerous precedent to be established, and I hope that we shall have some explanation on that later when the Assistant Postmaster-General replies.
I want to say a word or two about commercial broadcasting. The Government have dismissed that almost in a sentence. They have told us that we shall get all the variety we need, by developing the regional stations. They say that in that way we shall get competition. I hope that we shall. 1 hope that complete autonomy will be given to the regions to develop their own individual characteristics. That, of course, brings me to the question of Wales. There is, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, a widespread demand in the Principality, supported by between 50 and 60 local authorities and public bodies, for a separate Welsh Broadcasting Corporation. An inquiry has been asked for by the Welsh Parliamentary Party, which represents all parties in this House, and I believe that this is a demand which should be investigated by the right hon. Gentleman. There is a similar demand from Scotland. These issues, as far as I know——
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Perhaps the House would like me to repeat my exact words about foreign broadcasts. I said:Clearly it would be unthinkable for Broadcasting House to be broadcasting to Europe, at the taxpayers' expense, doctrines hopelessly at variance with the foreign policy of His Majesty's Government. But, for reasons which I hope will commend themselves to the House, it appeared to the Government to be equally undesirable that the Foreign Office should themselves become responsible for the foreign service.It is fair to say that the particular presentation will be a matter for the B.B.C., 1123 and a good deal of selectivity will be accorded them, but they will be expected to keep in touch with the Foreign Office, so that there is no "hopeless variation" with the foreign policy going out from the B.B.C. But that, in itself, does not prevent controversial discussions about foreign policy on the overseas service. I am told that there has been more controversial matter going overseas than there has been at home.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd-George
That may have been perfectly true as to what happened in the past, but what we are anxious about now is the future. Naturally the B.B.C. should be responsible for the presentation but are we to have commentaries that are hopelessly at variance with the policy of the Foreign Office? I still hope that we shall watch this matter very carefully because I think that it is most unsatisfactory.
To return to the question of Wales and Scotland, these two matters have never really, so far as I know, been the subject of inquiry. I do not think the matter was discussed by the Ullswater Committee or any other. Have we to wait for five years to have our case met? This is a matter which is vitally important to Wales. It involves not only her language but her culture as well. I will not say that the Lord President of the Council is "a little Londoner." All the same, I think that he is. I have great respect for the partiality which he has for the Cockney way of life—we have in all parts of the Committee. I have been told recently that there is a good deal of the Celt in the Cockney, and perhaps that explains why they are such attractive people. The right hon. Gentleman would not tolerate any attempt to interfere with the Cockney way of life, and I "want him to understand that the people of Wales will not tolerate any attempt to interfere—and this may be a very serious threat—with the Welsh way of life. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman who is to reply will give us an undertaking that whenever an inquiry is set up the question of a Welsh Corporation shall be on the agenda
I believe that all the considerations that have been put forward in the Debate today are of very real importance and that they should have weighed far more heavily than they did in the scales when the Government decided against an inquiry. I 1124 hope that the Government will reconsider their decision to renew the charter for five years. The Lord President has said that he cannot keep the B.B.C. in suspense for one year, but the Government has already kept them in suspense for six months, and they now propose to keep them in suspense for another five years. It is impossible for the B.B.C. to make any long-term plan while matters of very great principle remain undecided. I hope that the Government may, therefore, agree to appoint an inquiry and to extend the charter for two years if they do not like to do so for one year. There is nothing sacrosanct about the period of one, two or five years. I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will meet the 200 Members who have signed the Motion now on the Order Paper. I believe that this is the appropriate time for an inquiry. The B.B.C. has an immense influence and power, and we should lay down the lines now on which they are to proceed in the future.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Sir Ian Fraser (Lonsdale)
I find myself compelled to say that if unfortunately the Motion on the Paper should go to a Division I should vote against it. I propose to give my reasons as briefly as I can as well as make one or two general comments upon the B.B.C. I should not only vote against that Motion, but against the Motion which will be brought into the House in two or three years to initiate an inquiry by Royal Commission or other wise into the B.B.C. and the Press, when, perhaps, I may be found to be consistent in my attitude. May I examine some of the reasons given for an inquiry? It has been said by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart), who opened the Debate, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) that the B.B.C. was subject to pressure groups. I have had the honour of sitting on the Board of the B.B.C. for the last ten years with a slight intermission at the beginning of the war when the Board was done away with. I can assure the Committee from personal experience—and this I know would he the unanimous opinion of all my colleagues on the two Boards on which I sat—that time and time again we have either ignored or we have stood up against the hundred and one different kinds of pressure brought to bear upon us. We stood up against the Government—and it is 1125 supremely important to the Members of this Committee who cherish the freedom and independence of broadcasting to encourage the Governors and give them powers to enable them if need be to stand up against Governments.
The hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George) made a really good case for the inquiry. She suggested that we should have red hot controversy on the B.B.C., even debates now about bread rationing. I have consulted with the present chairman of the B.B.C. on this point, though I do not speak for him or any of his colleagues. However, he is aware of what I am going to say. There was an occasion during the latter part of the war when the right hon. Member for Bournemouth as Minister of Information came to the B.B.C. and supported a plea from one of the Ministers of the Government, whose name I will not mention, that he should be allowed to broadcast about a Measure which he was just bringing before Parliament.
§ Sir I. Fraser
I am not saying who it was and there is no party point in it. The Minister was bringing a big Measure before Parliament, and he wanted to broadcast about it. The Minister of Information of that day supported him, but the Board of the B.B.C. stood up against the direction, pressure or request and refused to have it. This matter was coming up for debate in Parliament, and I do not believe that the B.B.C. should prejudice matters of State in Parliament by presenting strong controversies about them before they come to Parliament. I do not say that there should be no controversy; indeed, I think there should he plenty of it on current affairs, but not about affairs to be debated in this House. This declaration that the Board yields to pressure groups is unfair to the B.B.C. and the Governors.
It has been said by the hon. Member for East Fife that the foreign services were cut off and that there was no check on what went out. If that is so it is the responsibility of the Government, not of the B.B.C. But that is not so, because these services have not been cut off. They have been reduced because it is not necessary now to pour out intensive propaganda all over the world as it was during war time. Broadcasting still remains the most powerful and, in my judgment, the 1126 most effective instrument for world wide diffusion of a nation's way of life that any country possesses, and the Governors and their staff should get full credit for that—not the right hon. Gentleman, as was so properly pointed out—because it was they who conducted the service throughout the war years.
On the question of policy, the hon. Member for Anglesey is fearful that the Foreign Office view is going to be behind overseas broadcasts. Surely that is undeniable and that is right. Fortunately, in this land there has in foreign affairs most generally been a very wide measure of agreement between the parties. We may now look back and think how clever some of us were because we thought differently five or ten years ago about this or that, but it is really true that the whole country had maggots in its head nine or ten years ago, but there was great unanimity about the foreign policy in those days, from which some Members like to run away now. Foreign broadcasts should be made in the closest possible liaison with the Foreign Office which has so much information and so much guidance to give. I do not want to start any controversy here except to make this one observation about the speech of the right hon. Member for Bournemouth. He says we ought to have more controversy, as if it were the B.B.C. which was holding back. I can assure him that that is not so and with the exception of controversy at a time when a matter is coming up for debate in Parliament, there is no witholding save the view of the broadcaster as to the amount of that particular kind of programme that the listener will accept.
§ Mr. Bracken
I am sorry for interrupting the hon. Gentleman, but I really do think that he is not doing any great service to the B.B.C. by ignoring certain facts. For instance, before the war, when the then right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) implored the Governors of the B.B.C. to give him an opportunity to state to the country the desperate dangers it was entering upon by the squalid policy of appeasement, the B.B.C. refused to give him an opportunity to speak.
§ Sir I. Fraser
That is unfortunately true, and since the matter has come out it is quite right that it should be ventilated. May I say that at that time the elder statesmen, of whom Lloyd George was 1127 one, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) another and Sir Austen Chamberlain a third, all joined together in representing that there was too much subservience on the part of the B.B.C. to the Whips' Rooms in relation to party broadcasts. The B.B.C. was engaging in frank and fearless controversy, and it was putting on first one party and then the other, but it came to take advice from the Whips' Room as to who it should put on. The right hon. Member for Woodford, being unhappily not a white-headed boy of the Whips at that time, was frowned upon. It was very wrong that the Governors of that time—I was one of them—should have taken that view, but things looked so differently afterwards.
Which are the elder statesmen whom we would welcome now who do not belong to one party? Are there any Secretaries of State who are now out of office? I think men who have held the office of Secretary of State may have something to contribute to the country as long as they are not senile and are in possession of full vigour which enables them to broadcast. Will such a person come forward and give his views? It should be borne in mind that we cannot apply this doctrine backwards to the right hon. Member for Woodford without applying it forward in the future. Two Sundays ago the Lord President of the Council broadcast. I think that was a good piece of controversial broadcasting. It was not a national statement on national affairs. Not at all; it was an advertisement for himself and the Labour Party——
§ Mr. H. Morrison
As a matter of fact, I recall that there were two Conservative newspapers which "pulled my leg" because I paid compliments to private enterprise. That was supplemented by a Conservative Member of the House who, obviously, had better remain nameless lest he should also get into trouble. I said to him, "I was not controversial, was I?" and he replied, "Not at all. It was excellent. I enjoyed every word of it."
§ Sir I. Fraser
It could not have been as fair as that, or it would have been too dull to listen to. It contained most apt, timely, and, in my judgment, in view of what I have said about matters which are 1128 sub judice, improper pleading for the Government's rationing of bread Judged by my standards, it would have been far better had there been an answer to it. Why was there no answer to it? That is a question I can no longer answer because I am no longer a Governor of the B.B.C. Perhaps the present Governors have made it known that the Opposition and the Liberals may answer. I would like to hear the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey "having a go"——
§ Sir I. Fraser
Perhaps the Opposition parties have been asleep. Perhaps they have not been after this opportunity. I do not know. Let us know what the answers to these two questions are. It is quite clear to me that there could be no harm in the Lord President's speech, even though it was at 9.15 on a Sunday night, provided the Opposition parties had an equal chance.
What I fear about this inquiry is that the motive for it arises from various thoughts which have not been carefully considered. There is the sort of feeling among Members in the House—and its intensity varies according to which side Members happen to sit on, and not according to which party they belong—that the B.B.C. must be against it. During the war, the Labour Party complained that the B.B.C. was periodically capitalistic and all the rest of it, and the Tory Party complained that it was "red." Believe me, the B.B.C. is editorially minded. The best men are found for the job, men of integrity and high honour, as well as of great ability. They get their news from the tapes; they get their views from persons whom they pick with the sole object of having those views presented not merely from both sides, but from three or four sides of the picture. They do not set out to propagand any gospel of the Right or the Left.
It has been said—and although some of my hon. Friends on this side may not like this remark, I do not mean it in any offensive sense—that the Tories feel, and do not think. Of course, it is not true. A great many of them think, but there is something in it when a great body of opinion in the country does feel certain things. For the last 20 years the Leftish view has been under-represented in our 1129 Press. Three, four or five newspapers give the other point of view to one Leftish point of view, yet the Leftish view has grown until, today, it is undoubtedly widely felt. It is a great shock to a person who has always read the Daily Mail "suddenly to hear an organisation like the B.B.C., something which he thinks is august, British, and much to be admired, put out a statement which he would have read in the "Daily Herald" if he knew that it existed, but did not know existed. Indeed, it did not exist 20 years ago. Remember that. It is only in the last 20 years that the "Daily Herald" has had more than a twopenny ha'penny circulation. When the Press of the Left is so under-represented it comes as a great shock to this right minded person to hear the kind of stuff that we on these benches have heard for 20 years, until we are sick and tired of it, coming out of the loudspeaker which he has paid for, and cherishes so highly. That being so, he says that the B.B.C. must be Left. He thinks that there is a machine there, a deadly thing at work deliberately trying to propagand people in a certain direction. It is not true. What the B.B.C. does is to represent the views of people as if you were to roll all the newspapers into one, so that you get a bit of this and that and, on the whole, a fair picture. At least, that is my view.
It is said that this inquiry is for the purpose of pleasing the B.B.C. I do not believe it for a moment. Not that they would shirk it, but I am fully convinced that that is quite untrue. It would be most disturbing to them to have it now, because it is not the right time for it. I will not go over the arguments again, but I concur in the case made by the Government for not having the inquiry now. I go further. We are entering upon a time when more and more of our services—unhappily, in all cases save this one, and similar inevitable monopolies; and I believe this is an inevitable monopoly—are to he controlled by public corporations. There is coal and transport. I do not defend the measures being applied to these trading and operating services, but if they are to work it will be a mistake to have one inquiry after another. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth says that it should he the absolute rule that there should be an inquiry every time the Charter is renewed, and, I suppose, an 1130 inquiry every 10 years about every service that has been nationalised.
§ Sir I. Fraser
We may have an inquiry about the London Passenger Transport Board every 10 years and, no doubt, about the Port of London Authority. Before we know where we are we shall have made as many jobs in inquiries, and secretaries to look after them, as we have made in the various services themselves. There should be an inquiry into an important and powerful organisation like this, or any powerful cause or controversy, when a special case has been made out. It should not become a regular feature of our life to disturb a well-run and deserving concern at intervals. I am sorry that the Conservative Party, with its allies, the National Liberals, should be pressing this matter. During the war, the Governors of the B.B.C. were subject to a special undertaking which they gave to the Minister of Information, when they were appointed, that they would take his directives in all matters relating to the prosecution of the war. That was necessary, and there was a good understanding between the Governors and various Ministers. I do not think it was abused on either side. But it is not necessary now, and I want to ask specifically whether any undertaking has been asked from the present Governors of the B.B.C. I hope that the Minister who is to reply will be able to say that no undertaking was asked for and none was given. It is very important that that should he made public.
I want now to say a few words about the reporting of political affairs by the B.B.C. I think that the "Week in Westminster" programme has won its way, and that most hon. Members and a great many other people feel that it is an admirable programme. In my time as a Governor, we were often urged to allow journalists instead of Members of Parliament to do the "Week in Westminster". It may well be that a few professional journalists would do it better than a great many amateurs, but the view which we took, and one which, I hope, will commend itself to the House, was that, quite apart from the merits of a great many of the Parliamentary speakers of all parties as broadcasters, there was the fact that they were themselves Members of Parliament, that they sat here, that they spoke 1131 of the House and from the House, as it were, and that this added personality to the speeches and gave people not only a comment upon Parliament week by week, but some idea of the personalities who sat in Parliament. I hope very much that the B.B.C.will continue to use Members of Parliament as reporters rather than to turn the programme over to professionals. How are those Members of Parliament chosen? I have often been asked that question. They are chosen, not by reference to the Whips Office, but in just the same way as a newspaper chooses the person whom it thinks will write an article best. There is a rota which gives a place to the parties in accordance with their numbers in the House, including the minority parties—even the hon. Member for—[An HON. MEMBER: "East Fife."] —no, the more colourful one, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who made a very good speech.
With regard to television, it is being paid for now out of the £10 million which will be raised from the 10 million licence fees. Television as well as sound is being, paid for out of that sum, and relief is being given to the B.B.C. by its not having to pay any more for the Overseas Service. I do not think there will be enough money for television in a few years' time, and particularly will that be the case if we have inflation creeping on and putting up prices. I would, however, like to congratulate the Government upon raising the fee from 10s. to £1. To do that required a little political courage; the Government had it, and they were quite right to raise the fee. That, and that alone, can give the B.B.C. anything like enough revenue to be independent of a Parliamentary Vote. I consider this to be very important indeed.
A comparison is often made between British and American broadcasting. In my considered judgment, based upon some experience of listening in both countries, some of the high spots of the American programmes are brighter and better than some of ours, but there is no question that, over the hours of the day and night, for sustained good quality of broadcasting, there is nothing as good as our service. One most compare the broad over-all service that is given rather than pick out some high spot here and there. On the question of wavelengths, 1132 I hope the Government will be really tough in the battle for wavelengths. Certainly, we want two more wavelengths so as to enable the Western region to be separated again. It is not right that the Government, in their desire to conduct propaganda and to show overseas the British way of life—that is a Government service—should do so by taking away a wavelength from the Home listeners. The Government must be tough in this matter. While we did not enter the war for any gain, while we do not wish to accept any reparations, I do not see why we should not have one of the German wavelengths.
It is not true, as the right hon. Member for Bournemouth said, that this service slipped into being a monopoly almost by mistake because of the report of some committee 25 years ago. It was 20 years ago, as a matter of fact, and at that time there were a very large number of listeners. A commission of inquiry was set up by the House, evidence was taken over five or six months, and it was a deliberate choice of the Crawford Committee. I had the honour to sit on that Committee, on which there were three Members of the House, one from each party. That Committee deliberately chose to recommend the setting up this new type of public corporation. The men who set it up, the men who controlled it, the men who engineered it, and Parliament, which has supported and sustained it in many Debates and by much thought—all of us—which means this country—may well be proud, not only of the service which has been rendered, but of this new type of public corporation which has been found capable of expressing our will, our thoughts, our ideals and our aims in this new medium so effectively and so well. Even those of us who are controversial politicians may be raised, by some event beyond our control, to sit on the Judges' bench or in the Chair, and when that happens we are able to cast off party affiliations, to which we have been proud to be tied in the past, and to become quasi-judicial people. So can the Governors of the B.B.C. do it. If we give them, as the House gives them, all our trust, and if worthy men and women are appointed, I am sure the B.B.C. will not run into the danger of becoming a totalitarian service. I end by giving my sincere thanks and praise to all members of the B.B.C. with whom 1133 I have worked during these past 10 years, and I do not qualify my remark as regards any one of them.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Haydn Davies (St. Pancras, South-West)
I had intended, if I was lucky enough to be called in this Debate, to confine my remarks entirely to broadcasting, and not to mention any other form of entertainment or news; but almost all hon. Members who have spoken so far have been kind enough to make references to the subject-matter of a Motion on newspapers standing in my name and the names of about 100 other hon. Members on this side of the Committee——
§ [That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient that steps should be taken to investigate the ownership and control of the Press; the extent of monopolistic tendencies in the ownership of chains or groups of newspapers, and the influence of financial and advertising interests on the presentation and suppression of news.
§ —and therefore, the two points have become linked together. I may say at once that it was a matter of extreme gratification to hear the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) give his views on the freedom of the Press. It was both enlightening and refreshing. It really will be front-page news in certain newspapers tomorrow morning that the mantle of John Milton has floated from North Paddington to Bournemouth.
§ Mr. Davies
I would remind the right hon. Member, when he is giving these views on the freedom of the Press, that we believe that the freedom of the Press is freedom to publish the truth——
§ Mr. Davies
—and I hope that, having had the right hon. Gentleman's endorsement of that remark, he will convey it to the appropriate quarters, because we on this side of the Committee believe that his relations with foreign Powers continue to be friendly. In these words, if the right hon. Gentleman is speaking for those who control the newspapers, I at any rate can speak for those who write for them. The freedom of the Press is tied up with the freedom of the air, and therefore, this Debate on broadcasting is of fundamental importance 1134 to the whole question of expression, entertainment, news and information. I am bound to ask from this side of the Committee why there should be this sudden demand for an inquiry into the B.B.C. only. If we were told that there should be an inquiry into a monopoly, I could understand it, but from all the arguments we have heard from the other side, it appears that this is to be an inquiry into the B.B.C. because it is a State monopoly. If a monopoly is bad, it does not matter whether it is State or private; there should be inquiry into all monopolies.
§ Mr. Bracken
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman because I know that he is navigating very difficult waters, and I do not want to add to his troubles, but he must remember that the B.B.C. is created by Parliament, whereas the other institutions to which he is referring owe nothing to this Parliament. I think he should make that sharp difference, much as I sympathise with him in his navigation.
§ Mr. Davies
I am most grateful for that instructive and illuminating account of the development of State and private enterprise and, after all, who should know more about the development of the B.B.C. than the right hon. Gentleman? He was present at its birth.
§ Mr. Davies
Those associated with the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench were certainly there and were responsible for it. Surely if it is fair to say that the B.B.C. is wrong because it is a State monopoly, and that there should be an inquiry into it, then we arc entitled to say that there should also be an inquiry into private monopolies.
§ Mr. Davies
On the contrary. We have had a ballot and have amalgamates. with the Institute of Journalists.
§ Mr. Davies
With one exception only; we accepted those members of that organisation who were working journalists 1135 and not newspaper proprietors. But this is not the moment to discuss the closed shop, although I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for giving me, on behalf of the National Union of Journalists, an opportunity of saying how much we believe in it. In fact, the right hon. Gentleman is helping me all the way along.
§ Mr. J. Langford-Holt (Shrewsbury)
On a point of Order, Major Milner. Would it be out of Order to discuss broadcasting at this stage?
§ The Chairman
Yes, I should be glad if the hon. Member and indeed all hon. Members would confine themselves to broadcasting alone.
§ Mr. Davies
But for the able assistance of the right hon. Member for Bournemouth I would have been discussing broadcasting at least five minutes ago. I suspect that the real reason behind this demand for an inquiry for the B.B.C. only—and no one on these benches would deny the need for such an inquiry—is the fact that we now have a Labour Government and not a Tory Government in power. It is a curious thing that a few months after the Tory Party had spent its whole energy in attempting to destroy the trade unions and in bringing out the "British Gazette," in a moment of recuperation and possibly to salve their consciences, They nationalised a private company, and made it a public corporation, namely, the B.B.C. They have been perfectly satisfied with it ever since. If there should be an inquiry at this moment, the person to blame is the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth. The Lord President of the Council has said that the Ullswater inquiry took 14 months; what he omitted to say, or what he possibly did not want to tell the Committee, was that the Ullswater Committee was set up 20 months before the Charter was due to expire. If the right hon. Gentleman will count back 20 months, he will find that it takes him to the time when he was responsible for what we in Fleet Street called "The Mystery of Misinformation." Therefore, if he is so determined to have this inquiry into the B.B.C., even on the analogy of the Ullswater Committee the deadline was May, 1945, but he did nothing at all about it and it is too late now to 1136 expect this Government to have an inquiry and alter the dates of the Charter of the B.B.C. in elastic fashion, because of his inefficiency and failure to deal with the matter at the appropriate moment.
We may go even further and say that when we do have an inquiry it is going to be a real one. This leads me to one point which I must raise—again on the question of the National Union of Journalists, but this time dealing only with the B.B.C. and therefore, I submit, in Order. On page 9 of the White Paper there is a statement on the Corporation's staff joint consultative machinery, and I must tell the Lord President that it is not good enough.
§ Mr. Bracken
The hon. Gentleman will have to go outside the House if he wants to tell the Lord President.
§ Mr. Davies
The misinformation obviously persists. The statement runs as follows:The Government consider that, in staff matters, the Corporation should retain the general independence which it now possesses, and Government control should be restricted to laying down broad limits of policy within which it should work;Later the statement continues:The Government consider, moreover, that there should be adequate machinery between the Board of Governors and the staff for the settlement by negotiation of terms and conditions of employment…The position inside the B.B.C. at the moment is that they will recognise the National Union of Journalists or any other trade union, but will not recognise branches of those unions within the B.B.C. itself. Thus there is the crazy position that if a member of the staff of the B.B.C. employed in a news department wishes to make a complaint, he has to go to the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, who in turn has to write to the Director-General. So we have this clumsy machinery whereas everyone engaged in industry knows that the simple way of settling disputes is through the man on the spot, the branch secretary, the foreman and so on. If we are to have this new Clause inserted in the Charter I ask the Government to make certain that while the British Broadcasting Corporation recognise trade unions it is not good enough that representations should be made only to the head offices 1137 of those unions but that the members of the staff belonging to the unions should be recognised as an entity working inside the Corporation. I am certain that by means of drafting that provision could easily be made, and it would satisfy not only the N.U.J. but every other trade union in this country.
I have made the points I wished to bring forward and once again I express my gratitude to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth. I repeat what I said at the beginning, namely, that if we are to tamper with freedom of expression of any kind it must be universal and must not apply only to one instrument owned by the State and not to those owned by private enterprise.
§ 7.39 p.m.
§ Mr. W. J. Brown (Rugby)
It seems to me that it is possible to look at this problem of the British Broadcasting Corporation Charter, and at the question whether or not we ought to extend it, from two points of view—that of principle and that of the experience of practice. I should like to say something about the principles involved in this question of the B.B.C. and something about my own experience of its practice. I shall then draw the conclusion that the arguments which have been advanced this afternoon should be supported, and that there should be an inquiry into the B.B.C.
First, I hold the view that, in any kind of monopoly, there is danger. Second, I always have held the view that, of all forms of monopoly, a monopoly in the instruments which mould public opinion is the most dangerous. Third, that the wider the area of economic life that is controlled by the Government, the more dangerous becomes any monopoly in the means of moulding the public opinion of the nation. In other words, a monopoly of broadcasting is worse in Soviet Russia than a monopoly of broadcasting in capitalist America. The closer the hold of the Government on the life of the community the more important it is that there should be channels through which the community can express itself freely and critically. I hope that I shall carry with me on that point most hon. Members on the Government Benches. The fourth point of principle is that the cure for monopoly may not be the creation of a super-monopoly, but the destruction of monopoly.
1138 What is the situation today? The Government ask us to extend the charter of a monopoly in perhaps the most vital means of influencing the public opinion of the country. They ask us to do it at a time when the area of State control over the life of the nation is being steadily extended from week to week and from month to month. They ask us to do it without any kind of preliminary inquiry whatever. On the issues of principle, I pronounce the position of the Government on this matter wrong, and the position of those who ask for a preliminary inquiry right.
I turn from the questions of principle. I would say to the hon. Member for South-West St. Pancras (Mr. Haydn Davies), who so skilfully represents the N.U.J.—National Union of Journalists—which stands for a principle which I so much detest, the principle of the '' closed shop "—that, if he will forgive me for saying so the Government are not going to get away from this B.B.C, issue by pointing a finger somewhere else.
§ Mr. Haydn Davies
I hate to interrupt the hon. Member, but I must point out that the question of an inquiry into the Press is the subject of a separate Motion on the Order Paper, and has no reference to this Debate.
§ Mr. Brown
Anybody who listened to the speech made by the hon. Member would have wondered whether anything else hut the subject of that Motion about the Press was in Order in this Debate. If he referred to broadcasting in his speech I am confident he did it entirely accidentally. The point is simple. The issue is whether we ought or ought not to extend the Charter of the B.B.C. without an inquiry. Hon. Members will give their answers. My answer is "No." But we should give that answer without any reference whatever to any other kind of monopoly, if it exists. I hope to see the Government break up all sorts of monopolies. There are many to which I can direct their attention. It may be that there is reason for an inquiry into the public Press. I certainly think there is such a case for inquiry into the totalitarianism of the Press of the "Left," which is an exceedingly formidable thing. We are reaching a stage where a free man can write freely only in the capitalist Press.
§ Mr. Brown
There are some papers of the Left in which you can write only if you are a member of the party. They are applying the principle of the "closed shop"—but, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, I will leave that point. We ought not to be deflected from the harsh merits or demerits of the issue of whether we should extend the Charter or not, by criticism directed against the Press or anything else. I hold that the present B.B.C. Charter does not work well in certain respects, and I am not, therefore, willing to extend that Charter, if I have anything to do with it, without a preliminary inquiry into these and other matters.
My first criticism is that the B.B.C., if it is not under the control of the Government, which of course it is, is very much under the control of the Whips' Office of this House. I say that from my own experience of the B.B.C. and I will try to prove what I have said. Before I went to America in 1941 I was practically the blue-eyed boy of the B.B.C. I did a great deal of broadcasting for them. I never had the slightest difficulty with my scripts. Whatever I wrote they were anxious to have—and, if I may say so, they "knew their onions." I had no difficulty at all. [An HON. MEMBER: "You always write to order."] I should have thought that that was the last thing which any hon. Member on the Government side ought to say of me. [HON. MEMBERS: Withdraw."] We should not be diverted by that rather malicious and silly interruption. I would like to be allowed to get on.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
It would be as well if hon. Members were to address the Chair.
§ Mr. Brown
Before I went to America, I published an article in the "Sunday Pictorial" calling for candidates to fight by-elections. That was during the war. When I came back from America, I fought a by-election at Rugby and won it. From that day onwards I had nothing but trouble from the B.B.C. It bothered me a great deal. Finally I went to see them. This is what transpired—and when I am told that the B.B.C. is not susceptible to pressure groups and the rest of it, I denounce those statements as nonsense. This is what I was told by the the B.B.C.: They said, "The circumstance that a man is a bad broad- 1140 caster enables us to keep him oft, provided he does not hold office. The circumstance that he is a good broadcaster does not of itself enable us to put him on, because other things have to be taken into account. For example, if there are too many Members of the Labour Party broadcasting there is a row from the Tory machine. If there are too many Tories broadcasting there is a protest from the Labour machine. If, however, an Independent broadcasts, even if he does it superlatively well, there is a chorus of protests from both parties! "After that experience it is no good asking me to believe that the B.B.C. operates in an atmosphere of impartial detachment from party ties and loyalties.
§ Mr. Blackburn
Surely the hon. Member remembers that Independent Members of this House have had a disproportionately large share of broadcasting. The hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Bartlett) is almost the sole adviser on foreign policy to the B.B.C. The hon. Member for——
§ Mr. Brown
I take the point. As the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) said in this House during the war, the hon. Member for Bridgwater is much less a Member of Parliament than he is a journalist and a broadcaster. His journalistic and broadcasting reputation was established long before he came to this House, and he has continued to carry on with that journalistic and broadcasting work. That case does not answer what I have just said. That is my first criticism—that improper pressure is wrongfully applied to the B.B.C. from the party organisations of this country.
My second point is that there is no room in the B.B.C for heresy, and the intellectual life of the nation depends on there being a reasonable freedom for heresy. It is timely that I should say this, because as we progress towards totalitarianism the position of the heretic will get more and more difficult, as we have seen in the history of Russia, until finally the expression of heresy, as in the case of Trotsky, may bring a pickaxe down across one's head. It is vital to the intellectual life of the community that there should be fertilising, stimulating heresy given freedom of expression through the instruments of public opinion in this country. If hon. Members do not believe me. I beg them to read Shaw, the 1141 prophet of heresy, on the necessity of sustaining freedom for heresy. In "Saint Joan" he states the classic case for tolerating the heretic and not trying to suppress him and burn him at the stake. That is my second charge—that the set-up of the B.B.C. is such that there is no room for heresy. When I broadcast in America—I did a good deal when I was there—[Interruption.] Again I take the point, but surely the best experience on which to argue is one's own personal experience.
§ Mr. Brown
I cherish the privilege of pride, and I do not ask the permission of the hon. Member to express it. He is a member of the medical profession, but I suspect that he is an indifferent psychologist. One of the by-products of the system of commercial broadcasting is that heresy does come out over the air. In America, if one cannot sell one's stuff to one wireless corporation, one can sell it to another. But in exactly the same way as the growth of the chain newspaper makes independent journalism more and more difficult in Britain, so the creation of monopoly in wireless makes independent broadcasting more and more difficult. There is vastly more freedom over the American radio than there is over the British radio at the present time. The toleration of heresy, which I demand as a social necessity, is not consistent with a State monopoly in broadcasting.
Next, I argue that the character of the period which we are entering lends even greater importance to this matter than it possessed a few years ago. It will not be denied by hon. Members opposite that it is their intention to bring under public control a wider and wider area of the economic life of Britain. If their programme does not mean that, it does not mean anything at all, and that is. in fact, the broad programme of the Government. I hold that there are certain limits which ought not to be transcended in that regard. When more people are employed by the State than are not employed by the State, from that point freedom begins to disappear completely. I regard that as axiomatic. There can be no freedom in a totalitarian State, whether it is nominally Fascist or nominally Communist. [Interruption.] The trouble is that my heresy is so stimulating that when I speak 1142 private fights break out all over the place. If that is the broad character of the period which we are entering, I beg hon. Members opposite to take firm hold of a few fundamental elementary freedoms. The first of these elementary freedoms is the right to free speech, whether on a platform or over the air.
I agree with what the hon. Member who has just spoken said about staff conditions at the B.B.C. There should be free trade unionism in the B.B.C. just as we ought to have free trade unionism in the police force. I hope hon. Members opposite will remember this. I have been urging the Government for months past to restore freedom there. There ought to be freedom of organisation, freedom of association, freedom of arbitration, with an obligation on the B.B.C. to accept the results of the arbitration when it is through. All these things together constitute a case to justify our saying that we are not prepared to continue this Charter for another five years, and that we will extend it for one year, two years or such time as may be necessary to have this inquiry. But we intend to have this inquiry to consider the social problems which are involved, as well as the technical and other problems. After that, we should take our decision as to what the longterm future of broadcasting in Britain is to be. Meantime, I support the Motion that there should be a committee of inquiry.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. Brown) in the modest contribution with which he has enlivened, if not enriched, this Debate. I am sorry after encomiums have been lavished on the B.B.C. to introduce a jaundiced note. I must at once confess in fairness that I am one of those who regard the knob on the wireless with which you can turn the broadcast off, as by far the most valuable portion of the set. Although I appreciate to the full and sympathised with a great deal of what has been said by the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) as to the importance of this very great instrument and its great potential value in the joy which it can bring into the lives of those who may otherwise live a rather restricted existence, I am bound to say that I am by no means satisfied with the programmes given. The late Mr. John Tilley, in a monologue entitled "The 1143 Company Promoter," used to introduce a balance sheet in respect of which the auditors said," This balance sheet is correct in every detail with the exception of the figures." I would say of the B.B.C. that this institution is admirable in every way with the exception of the programme. I know that there are good items occasionally. Every now and then I fail to get the programme turned off because the majority of my family are against me. Then I hear elaborate jokes about a gentleman named Shadwell who suffers, as I and many other highly distinguished Members of the House do, from a lack of hair on top, or I hear a lady caterwauling at great length about "stormy weather."
I sympathise with those hon. Members who said that there is something in the nature of a censorship, something in the nature of a timidity and a complete lack of approach to the broad controversial issues of life on which people ought to have guidance and information. I believe it is still there The hon. Member for East Fife made an appeal that the British way of life should be put. I do not want to introduce lines which, however beautiful, are very much hackneyed, but if one considers for a moment the very well known lines:All our past acclaims our future Shakespeare's voice and Nelson's hand Milton's trust…Before one goes any further, one begins to wonder just what would happen with the B.B.C. Because, you know, if those people were all contemporaries today, Shakespeare—the author of "Venus and Adonis," the man who was suspected of carrying on with Anne Hathaway, and was not above poaching rabbits—I am perfectly serious—would be given five minutes on Saturday night on "Holding Horses in Eastcheap." Nelson, who had an unhappy experience with Lady Hamilton—or, I believe, a very happy one—could not be considered until at least he had been given his peerage. Milton, of course, could not be considered at all; he was a Radical and he was political; it would be quite impossible to bring him on unless he were brought in, we will say, for five minutes under strict guard in the Brains Trust, but next week he would probably be dropped for the hon. Member for South Edinburgh (Sir W. Darling). The author of those famous lines, of course—Algernon Charles 1144 Swinburne—had a most unfortunate attachment for a circus rider and, it is said, of a non-Platonic nature. Of course, that would completely eliminate him from the possibility of participating in a programme at all. That should not be so. I say seriously that the great men and the great minds of this generation never get on the wireless at all. I apologise to the hon. Member for Rugby—he says that he has been on the air.
If it be said that it is a question of finance, I want to deal with finance because these figures have not been tackled. In the Charter of 1936 the then Postmaster-General—I think it was Major Tryon—said that the income had been settled at £2,800,000, 75 per cent. of the revenue of the then licences. Since then, that 75 per cent. has been put up to 90 per cent., and the number of subscribers has, of course, very greatly increased. Today, 90 per cent. of the income is likely to produce something like £9 million. We are not doubling the amount we are contributing, we are multiplying it by more than three, and when cars come back on the road with radio sets, and £2 is charged for a combined television and wireless licence, there will be a still bigger revenue. The result is that there will be an income of something like £25,000 a day, and we are entitled to ask what we get from it. In my respectful submission we do not get nearly as much as we should.
I want to say one brief word on the controversial subject of religious broadcasting. The Committee will remember that when the late Lord Chancellor Thurlow received a deputation on the Test Act, it was in a typical manner. He said that he regretted very much the attitude of the deputation. I cannot give the Committee the robust language of the late Lord Chancellor, but what he said, roughly, was this: "I do not agree with you. I am for the Established Church. Not that I have any special regard for the Established Church, except that it is Established, and if you get your religion Established, I would be for that too." With respect, that is an attitude of mind, and I say quite seriously that minority religions with comparatively small numbers of adherents do not get a right of hearing over the B.B.C., and I say that they should. I do not know whether one can have a financial interest in religion, 1145 but I happen to be the solicitor to the National Spiritualist Union. I am not a spiritualist and I have never been to a seance in my life, but I act as their legal adviser. They tell me that they have been trying for years—and whatever the views of individual Members, they have many adherents in the House and a very large and increasing number of adherents throughout the country—to have the right to represent their views intelligently over the B.B.C. and they have never yet been accorded that right once, except as part of a purely controversial——
§ Mr. Hale
I agree. Really the B.B.C. would be stronger if all points of view were put. I am prepared to accept the reasons given by the Lord President for postponing an inquiry until after the wavelength conference, and I shall support the Government in a Division on this, but I want to reinforce the demand for as early and full an inquiry as is reasonably practical, and I hope it will not be long delayed. I hope also that it will cover the entire range of matters. It should cover the question of copyright. For example, we make certain exceptions even now. Our great libraries have a right to "issue copies" of certain books that we publish. It may be quite impracticable that any such suggestion should apply to the B.B.C., but at least there should be consideration as to whether the copyright was operating adversely upon them, and whether there might be any special variation in that way. There should be a comprehensive and a full inquiry, directed into seeing that this great national instrument can remain free, as it must remain free, to put forward the British way of life to the British people and to our Colonies and to the Dominions and throughout the world.
§ 8.7 p.m.
Mr. Piekthorn (Cambridge University)
I have done my best to listen to all this Debate and I think I have followed almost all the arguments. I hope that the Committee will find me fair when I suggest that there really have been three arguments, and I think only three, against the suggestion that there ought to be an inquiry before the renewal of the Charter; or if not before the renewal of 1146 the Charter, at the earliest practicable moment. I think there have been two minor arguments and one major argument. The two minor arguments have been these: first, that there is not time now; secondly, that the Opposition ought to have asked for it sooner and louder. I hope that the Committee will not think either of those two arguments very weighty. If there is not time now, the Government might have thought of it sooner; if there is not time now, then it is possible to renew the Charter for one year or two years in order to make time. Really, I do not think that that argument ought to have been pressed as much as it has been, and I hope that the Committee will not be impressed by it.
Nor, I hope, will the Committee be very much impressed by the argument that there ought to have been earlier and louder shouting from this side for an inquiry, because I think most of the people who made the accusation, except the Lord President, are mostly people who were not in the last Parliament. The fact is that all through the last Parliament almost, certainly through the second part of it, there were almost continual suggestions that one of the first things that ought to be done in the postwar reconstruction period was that there should be a full inquiry into broadcasting in this country. It was asked for over and over again by some hon. Gentlemen who sit on that side of the Committee, whose names I could give, but I have forgotten their constituencies in some cases. It was asked for over and over again—if it is not egotism on my part to say so—by myself and my closer political friends, and we have asked for it now and then since this Parliament was elected. If we have not asked as effectively or as loudly, if we have not run off with the Mace as often as we might have done, then I do not really think that is a very serious argument for saying that there ought not to be an inquiry.
Those are the two minor arguments, and I hope we shall not pay too much attention to them. Now I come to the major argument. The Lord President of the Council seemed to me to have one argument and one only. The rest consisted very largely of what are called "tributes" and to some extent—apparently after some reminder from me—of the usual speech that is obligatory in this Committee—without which a Debate would now be inadequate, the speech about the size of the Govern- 1147 ment's majority, and the width of its Mandate. Incidentally, about the tributes, I often wonder whether we might not perhaps have one day per Session—I think it had better be exempted business so that we could go on as long as we liked—in which we could each pay tributes to all the rest of us, and to everybody else. That would save a great deal of time on other Debates. At least one of the right hon. Gentleman's tributes today seemed to me to be extremely misplaced. One of the drawbacks to this tribute-paying habit is that it is not in Order to answer them. It would often be ungracious to the person to whom the tribute was paid, and it would generally be out of Order.
The right hon. Gentleman's only main argument as far as I could follow him was that there are not enough wavelengths and that therefore we cannot have anything much different from what we have now. We have to stick to it and like it. That really was the whole of the argument. I am not either a scientist or a technician, but I have moved amongst such people all my life and have heard what they have said on this and other subjects. My impression is the opposite to that of the right hon. Gentleman. I rather gathered that the hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon-Walker) took the same view. I think there are now technical means available by which it would be possible to give a far greater variety of programmes than is given. I do not set up my opinion against that of the Lord President, but I say that it is possible and reasonable to take that view. I do not think the Charter should be renewed without having an inquiry as to which of the two opinions is right, because on the answer to that question depend all the other questions.
The importance of this matter is much greater than ever before. Newspapers are smaller than they have ever been, more people listen to the wireless, and there are fewer words in the newspapers, and fewer books to be bought. Books go out of print quicker than they used to, and foreign books can hardly be bought. We are threatened by the Lord President—he watered it down at one time—that the Government are going to stop us listening to foreign broadcasts, if not by jamming, by some other way. All our cultural connections with foreigners are much weaker now than they ever were before.
1148 It is a paradoxical and rather frightening moment in history in which every one talks as if we had become, I will not say international, but supra-national, with every one communicating with each other, and understanding each other, at the very moment when it is far more difficult than ever to communicate with foreigners, difficult to visit them or bring them here or to buy their books and pictures. You can buy moving pictures and pay sterling for them, but to buy a picture in Paris one has to go to all sorts of trouble and difficulties. The result of that is that international intellectual contacts are more and more canalised and narrowed in the hands of public and semi-public institutions more or less well intentioned but all tending to narrowness, like the British Council, and that thing with the horrible collection of initials —U.N.E.S.C.O.—which sounds like a patent tinned milk. The Government are stopping us from spending sterling, and they are spending our money to find out what foreigners think, and write, and paint, and are doing it less efficiently than we should do it, because most of us might be wrong most of the time but at least some of us would be right at any one time. These well intentioned Government agencies are never right in such intellectual matters for long. However well you set them up, they have an essential and unavoidable principle of degeneracy inside them which rots and poisons and festers. For that reason it is more important than ever that radio communications should be properly used, fully used, fairly used, and therefore the earlier the inquiry which is now clearly overdue can be, the better.
I was extremely astonished by the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser), who told us we have had- many Debates on broadcasting. We have been told in parts of the Debate that many inquiries have been held into broadcasting, and at another point we were told that there were no precedents for inquiry. There have been very few Debates on wireless broadcasting. I have not looked up the records but I could make a bet with anyone that they cannot think of more than one or two. The one I can think of was killed by the abdication crisis and by a ridiculous law suit whose name I have forgotten affecting someone called Lambert, I think. Apart from that one, there have been practically no Debates on broadcasting in the last three Parliaments. That 1149 makes it all the more necessary that there should be inquiry, and inquiry soon.
If one looks at the Reports, one finds that there has really been almost no general inquiry into broadcasting. People speak now of the Ullswater Report as Holy Writ but at the time it was damned and blasted into heaps, especially by the B.B.C. Governors, before we had a chance of looking at it. Whatever else might be said about the Ullswater Report, when this White Paper talks about its being thorough and broad-based, it was not thorough and not broad-based. It said itself that it left out the wavelength question and broadcasting by foreign states. It left out the biggest question of all, it assumed that there must be one broadcasting system, and only one; and never raised the question of whether there might be more than one. I suggest to the Committee that any two radio systems in this country would be better than any one. I say this in spite of the fact that someone will probably tear it from its context and use it against me—two had systems might be better than one good system, because there is some chance when you have two that in time you might get one excellent system, whereas with one tolerable system it is practically certain that that is the best system you will ever get. The idea of two or more systems is an idea which an honest and intelligent man may hold and for which there is much to be said. Into that suggestion there has never been a full inquiry and it seems to me quite nonsensical to pretend that it is now too late, and even more nonsensical to pretend that it is now too soon. Any argument whether we ought to ask for a Select Committee or a Royal Commission—which I would be inclined to prefer—or whether we should shout louder, and whether from a Front Bench or a back bench—all these arguments seem irrelevant.
If there are to be, and I think there ought to be, more than one radio system in this country—and I believe there will not long be freedom otherwise—is there really a terrific objection to what is called "sponsoring"? I do not think there is. It is certainly not true that earlier inquiries always reported against it as strongly as is always assumed. What they reported was that there would not be any harm in occasional concerts and what not preceded or succeeded by the bare 1150 statement" This is on the air by tae generosity 'of the Pickthorn Toothbrush Company," or whatever it might be. It has been recommended that the B.B.C. should experiment with this sort of thing but it has not been done. I believe the objection comes partly from the superstition that it has always been reported against, and partly from the extreme snobbishness and old-fashionedness so characteristic of hon. Members opposite. They really cannot believe that anything to do with business and trade is really befitting a gentleman, or, if they prefer the term, a comrade. Those prejudices seem to be the main argument against some kind of sponsoring I have not the time to prove the proposition I am putting. [Interruption.] If hon. Members opposite provoke me I am perfectly capable of going on till 10. I think the proposition could be proved, but all I am asking is that the Committee should accept that the proposition is an arguable one, that there should be some kind of sponsoring system. If so, we are long overdue for a full inquiry into that.
There is only ore thing I wish to say —I hesitate to say it rather because much the same point was put—and I generally try not to be too repetitive—by the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown). I would ask hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider it carefully. I am not trying to make a party point when I say that I do not want to see a Socialist community in this country. I do not want to see public corporations, as they are called, which seem to have all the disadvantages of Socialist control, combined with complete irresponsibility by the people who really do the stuff. All this distinction, for example, between the general policy of the B.B.C. and its day-to-day work seems to me to be completely false, because it allows the people who do the stuff to get away without any real responsibility. The general policy of the B.B.C. is the day-to-day work of the people who choose the stuff, and the two are not distinguishable. Incidentally, the war has not been such an interruption to the B.B.C. as is generally pretended. It interrupted their news and talk sides, but that is not all of them by any means. All the educational side, which is not mentioned in the White Paper—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is."] I think not, or it is a very bare mention, if it is mentioned at all, that side and all the enter- 1151 tainment side have gone on during the war, and have not been interrupted.
The point which I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider is this: They almost all, I think, believe themselves to be the evangelists of a new political dispensation which shall combine liberty with governmental control of all economic processes. I believe that most of them honestly believe themselves to be the evangelists of such a gospel. I think it is nonsense, in the strict sense, but I think they believe it. If so, I beg them to consider this: They have never faced, in any public Debate I have heard of, the difficulty that if you have a single authority controlling the production and distribution of all material goods, how on earth are you to have any freedom in the production and distribution of immaterial goods—ideas and sentiments? It is not an easy problem to answer, but if they do not answer it, they will not last long. There will be a human reaction against Socialism which will kick Socialism to smithereens. There certainly will, unless somehow they face that problem. I do beg them to consider whether, where there is a great human activity for diffusing ideas and sentiments like the radio, where there is such a thing in Government control, as this is admittedly wholly in Government control, it is not absolutely necessary, in the interests of what they themselves believe to be the truth, that such an instrument should be periodically reviewed in the most searching possible way, and improved in every possible way that can be shown at all likely to be a real improvement.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Collins (Taunton)
I do not wish to follow the Senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) in his fascinating remarks on Socialism, although his views are as strange as the idea he put forward that two bad eggs might possibly be as good as one good one. I want to deal with one particular aspect of broadcasting policy which has been put forward, that concerned with regional broadcasting. The Lord President of the Council told us that it is the intention of the Government to encourage regional devolution, and in the White Paper, in Paragraph 15, I see that the Government have the object of developing 1152 "a number of vigorous regional bodies, each with a staff drawn largely from the region which it serves and each with a distinctive programme policy in keeping with the character of the region and the needs and wishes of its people."
I am sure that most Members will be in wholehearted agreement with that policy. It is a pretty fair description of the present West Regional programme, which, by the way, is still improving, and is greatly enjoyed by millions of people in the South-West. But we learn from the White Paper, and the Lord President has repeated it, very regretfully, that this programme is to be amalgamated with the Midland Regional.
I suggest that that action is in flat contradiction to the Government's policy, and, further, it is a gross injustice to West Country listeners and to the enthusiastic regional staffs. I do not believe it can be the policy of the B.B.C., because quite recently an undertaking was given by the Director-General to restore regional services as soon as possible. We are told that it is inevitable because of the shortage of wavelengths We are told we can have only eight medium wavelengths out of the 10 which this country possesses, because it is necessary to earmark the other two—267 metres and 307 metres—for the European Service. We are all agreed that it is important to maintain the European Service in order to convey the British point of view to people in Europe, and I am sure that we would be willing, if there was no other way, that these wavelengths should be used. But I wish to submit the view that they will not achieve the purpose for which they are to be used, and they will be entirely wasted.
The White Paper tells us that the range of these medium wavelengths is up to Ion miles for good reception, but in the "B.B.C. Year Book", I read:A broadcasting station using one of the medium wavelengths, cannot in any circumstances give a reliable service beyond a range of 60–80 miles, whatever the power of transmitter may be Beyond this range there are likely to be severe variations in the strength of the received signal and distortion of its quality.When we examine countries to which this European Service on the medium wavelength is addressed, we learn that France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark and Holland are regarded as one group, and Norway, Sweden, Hungary, Portugal, Spain, Holland and Greece are to be another. My hon. Friend the Assistant 1153 Postmaster-General was good enough to say he would send me some maps of these regions, which I am afraid he has not had time to do. I prepared a sketch map myself, and I find that not a single one of these countries comes within a 100 miles radius. The first group of countries is anything from 200 to 500 miles distant, and the second group anything from 500 to 1,000 miles. I am well aware that the range now given is the ground range, and that at night, with the use of the sky wave, there is a considerable increase in the range of these broadcasting stations, but it is spasmodic, it is unreliable.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
Is not my hon. Friend aware that throughout the war medium waves have been consistently used to Europe, and all our best results in the European Service were achieved by people receiving on medium wave as far away as Czechoslovakia?
§ Mr. Collins
My information is that there is not good reception on medium waves in these European countries. At the same time, I understand there is a simultaneous short-wave service broadcasting these identical programmes to these European countries. I suggest that one of these two could be used to continue the Western Regional service. I want to deal with the position of the West Country listeners after this proposed amalgamation. In theory they will get three programmes—the Light Programme at 1,500 metres, the so-called Regional Programme from Birmingham, and the new programme, which, at first at least, will be broadcast only in the evening. My hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General has stated that the Light Programme is mainly satisfactory in the South-West. I can assure him that is not the case. Over a very considerable area in the South-West reception of the Light Programme is either very poor or non-existent. I have had lots of letters covering a widely scattered area in the South-West from people who assure me of this. West of Taunton it is bad. I had a letter this morning from Bridgwater to say that it is non-existent, and I understand the position is the same in Exeter, Devon and Cornwall. If one looks at a map with a line drawn showing the area of the Light Programme, one will see that it——
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The hon. Gentleman must not think only in terms of West of Taunton. There is a part of England East of Taunton where the same difficulty is experienced in picking up the programme.
§ Mr. Collins
I agree. That is made perfectly clear in the White Paper. I do not think there is any reason why I should not put the case for the West Country. There is not a regional programme in the Eastern part of England at the moment but there is in the South-West.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am afraid the hon. Gentleman has quite mistaken my meaning. He and I represent Somerset Divisions. All I am saying is that there is a considerable part of Somerset which is to the North of Taunton. He should not think only of West of Taunton. There are other parts. He is being parochial in this matter.
§ Mr. Collins
I think the hon. Gentleman mistakes my meaning. When I speak of West of Taunton, I mean that reception is inferior West of Taunton. I thought I made the point clear. I mentioned Bridgwater and I am aware that in various parts of Somerset reception is very bad. I did not intend to be parochial. It is more or less admitted in the White Paper that the third programme will be practically non-existent in Cornwall and Devon and in most of Somerset except for small areas around Plymouth and Redruth. With regard to the regional programmes there is bound to be a big area of mutual interference where reception will be very bad. Also, according to my calculations, there will be an almost completely dead area in parts of Cornwall and Devon where there will be no reliable reception from any one of these three programmes. The Assistant Postmaster-General has supplied us with some figures. He tells us that 0.7 of the population situated in the South-West will get no programme at all. That involves roughly 400,000 people. He also says that some 300,000 will get only the Welsh programme. Some 40 per cent. of that programme is in the Welsh language and whilst I have no objection to that, it is not much use to people who cannot understand the language. I think that is sufficient to indicate how very bad the position of West Country listeners will be after the 1155 amalgamation. It seems a strange thing that after victory we should have to suffer a defeat and deprivation of this kind.
We know the value of these regional services, particularly in the South-West, which reflect the day-to-day life of the people and administer to their special needs in providing a platform for the free discussion of regional problems. I could develop that theme, but I would only remind hon. Members that, for 15 years, the South-West has fought to secure its own programme, and that it only succeeded just before the war in 1939. It lapsed, and was restored, and now we are again faced with this enforced merger with Birmingham. We believe that it is bound to mean a severe reduction in regional broadcasting affecting the South-West. At present, we have something like 14 or 15 hours a week, and we feel that this merger is bound to mean that local affairs and local news, which have been treated with so much interest, will be reduced. In particular, it will affect a matter which was brought to my notice today by the N.F.U.—the agricultural and horticultural broadcasts, which will also be reduced. It is idle to pretend that the interests of an industrial area like Birmingham are the same as those of a rural area like the South-West, and I beg my hon. Friend to consider my suggestions, and, in reply to my argument, to say that he will look at this matter again and will, if there is not a possibility of taking one of these wavelengths, look at the suggestion already made of trying to use one of the ex-enemy wavelengths not at present being used, which could surely be arranged in some way, rather than bring the present service to an end.
There is one other suggestion which I want to make. West Regional is at present broadcast on 540 metres, and it is intended to use that for the new programme, which will only be started, at least in the beginning, in the evening. Why could not West Regional continue to use that wavelength in the day until it is wanted in the evening, and then let Midland Regional have the other wave length as at present? If that cannot be done, why could they not keep their own present wavelengths and keep their separate identity in the same way that the North of England and Northern Ireland 1156 concerned about is that the regional character of broadcasting should be maintained. If the South-West is amalgamated with Birmingham, it will be lost or severely restricted, and I urge my hon. Friend to look at this matter again to see if he cannot help us in this way to keep our part of "Merrie England" as merry as it has been in the past.
§ 8.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Maude (Exeter)
I want to follow up what the hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. Collins) has said. I hope to be able to see him come arm-in-arm with me into the Lobby this evening, because, obviously, he spoke with a great sense of conviction and with a feeling that the White Paper is a contradiction of the Government's policy. I am not quite so certain myself that it is. I would like to impress upon the Committee the fact that the reason for giving up our West Regional programme is set out in No. 13 of the conclusions in the White Paper, which says:(13) In support of British prestige and influence abroad, many foreign language services must be continued, and for this purpose two of the available medium wavelengths must be set aside for European Service:The arguments can be simply analysed in this way. First, what is it that we are going to give up? We believe that we are going to give up quite a lot. I am thinking particularly of those persons who slaved away in the B.B.C. in the West of England and worked like blacks to try to make the programmes better and better, and I think one may fairly claim that they have done extremely well. I am not one of those persons who feel that the B.B.C. is in a fearfully bad state because it has not been allowed to be heretical. I believe that the programmes in the West have been of a really high quality of which any person would be appreciative. I do not mean the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) because I am quite certain that, whatever programme he switched on, whether from Nebraska, Spain, or anywhere else, he would want to turn it off. There are a lot of people like him, and no one blames them. Incidentally, if the hon. Member for Taunton could give the hon. Member for Oldham the name of the place in Cornwall where the B.B.C. cannot be heard, I am sure that the hon. Member for Oldham would immediately go there to live.
1157 When one considers what is going to happen, there is every reason for hon. Members to be angry. The Midland Region is probably known to many listeners in the Committee. The western region is known to western Members and myself. The cultural unit which is going to be set up in the B.B.C. is the most fantastic thing. The region is to extend from Land's End to Norwich, and from Exeter to the Potteries. It is impossible to make a cultural unit of that. We do not want to go on giving programmes which will be greeted with jeers—of "Uncle Torn Cobley and All"—any more than the Midland Region wants to do something which people will laugh at. We have a local culture of our own. In 1927 we were amalgamated with Wales, and it worked very badly. The Welsh did not like it, and we did not like it. We believed we were both in the right. We have a sort of culture—I do not hesitate to use that word—which we believe is useful. It is now proposed to take away from us the benefit of people very like civil servants of high grade, and all we get as a sort of sop, is to be told that the staffs will be recruited from the regions.
Many of us in the West Country are extremely angry about it. I am certain that hon. Members from that part of the country will agree that the personnel of the West Country, not the technicians, but the ordinary Plymouthian, Devonian and Cornishman, having provided something useful and delightful, of which we are going to lose half. In order to see what we are going to get in exchange, one has to look at paragraph 59 of the White Paper where it states what the character of the Overseas Service is to be. The only word for that is a perfectly modern, up to date slang one—it is nothing more or less than "waffle". Paragraph 59 says:The Government consider that the Overseas Services of the Corporation should continue to be conducted in the most effective manner possible, consistent with economy in money, manpower and wavelengths: and that every endeavour should he made to secure the acceptance by Overseas broadcasting authorities of as many of the Corporation's programmes as possible for rediffusion over their national networks. Such programme, reaching the Overseas listener with as high a standard of audibility as his own programmes, can do much to promote an understanding of British life and customs.It is nonsense. Those of us, on both sides of the Committee, who have lived 1158 abroad and who have listened, as I did for a year, to the Overseas Service coming from England know that it did not compete with the American programme. it is true that audibility was not good, but I liked the English programme best because it made me feel at home. The Americans, however, did not like the English programme better than their own, which was a great nuisance.
I do not believe that the B.B.C., that is to say, the Government, intend that the programmes are to be produced in such a way as to be acceptable. I am very much in favour of an inquiry. I want to reinforce my argument with a final point. If there is one thing which we want foreigners to do, it is to understand the achievements of Great Britain, not merely the cultural achievements, such as a play or a speech, but the material achievements. I do not mind whether they are produced by State workshops or private enterprise; I have nothing like that in my mind at all.
What I want is to see British goods advertised abroad. While I was in America I would have given anything to have heard some British advertising. It would have made a lot of Americans "mad as hops" as they say, but, nevertheless, it would have done them good. It was impossible during the war, but I would very much like it to be done now. I cannot conceive anything more ludicrous than what we shall see in the next 12 months, namely, people with sets which will enable them to listen in to American programmes and hear commercial advertising. The Government will be quite incapable of preventing these people from doing so. The Government say in the White Paper that they are going to try to prevent advertising coming into this country, and yet they are not doing a single thing to sell British goods abroad by way of advertising.
We are faced with the same sort of obstinacy which was shown in this House years ago, when I used to try to do the Parliamentary broadcasts, and our predecessors would not allow a representative of the B.B.C. in the galleries. One had to sneak in. One was not allowed to take a note, so one had to break off a small piece of pencil, and, when no one was looking, scribble under one's arm in an attempt to take a note. That went on for years. This is exactly the 1159 same sort of short-sightedness, and after 10 years there are certain to be some of us who will say, "I remember that not very interesting Debate on broadcasting, when I wish we had done something to advertise British goods."
§ 8.47 P.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I would like to begin by withdrawing a few words which I uttered on the last occasion when we had a B.B.C. Debate, by way of apology to the Scottish Director of the British Broadcasting Corporation. My words could have been interpreted to mean that he showed a certain amount of political favouritism, or choice, with reference to Parliamentary speakers. I did not intend that my words should have conveyed that meaning. What I wished to convey was that the cover of Scottish Parliamentary reporting was inadequate and did not do justice to all Members on both sides of the House, and I was not referring to the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) simply because he was a Conservative. The fact remains that the references by the B.B.C. created an unfortunate over balance with regard to reporting an individual Member of the Committee. But I would certainly not wish it to be thought that there was conscious bias by the Scottish B.B.C. officials.
I think the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) today managed to marshal his supporters rather better than his arguments. He did not make a detailed and solid case for an inquiry, which we rather expected from the sweeping demands that he made. I shall not attempt to set myself up as a technical expert on broadcasting. It would not do for me as a layman from the Highlands to step in and do a highland fling where hesitant angels might want to make a modest detour.
I want to say a few words about two points: first the Scottish set-up, and second, the Gaelic service. The points which I would like to marshal in favour of a good deal of increase in Scottish autonomy are well set out by the Saltire Society in Scotland. First, they suggest—and we Scottish Labour Members on this side agree with them—that the administration of Scottish broadcasting by a Scottish board of governors should be a statutory part of any future organisation for broad 1160 casting; second that the governors should be resident in Scotland and should be appointed by the Secretary of State for Scotland in consultation with Scottish "cultural interests." I personally would rather widen the term" cultural interests," but I shall not quarrel with that at the moment. They suggest, thirdly, that the governors should have power to initiate—and this is important—and control broadcasting policy in Scotland and to appoint staff: fourth, that one member of the Scottish board should have the right to sit on the English or British board, and that a member of the English or British board should have the right to sit on the Scottish body.
These points do summarise what many Scottish hon. Members on this side of the House feel, namely, that a good deal more autonomy and control over the Scottish services should be vested in a body in Scotland. We feel that at the moment Scotland is not expressing herself, and not doing justice to that Scottish talent which lies somewhere between the extremes of burlesque on the one hand and a sort of highbrow caviare programme on the other.
§ Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South)
It is the difference between ordinary caviare and highbrow caviare.
§ Mr. MacMillan
We cannot extinguish a fire in Scotland with a fire engine in Whitehall. No more can we stir up or rekindle the old Scottish spirit of enterprise in the cultural and spiritual field by means of an advisory committee ruled over from London, and very often overruled from London as well. The hon. Member for East Fife quoted an article in "Picture Post" of 13th July, written by Professor Ogilvie. I have great respect for Professor Ogilvie, and not least for his attempt to teach me the elements of economics once upon a time in Edinburgh. If one not so very many years removed from his classroom could be allowed to dissent, I would say some of his arguments, while characteristically attractive in presentation, did not carry the weight that one would expect from a man of his great experience and ability. However, there was one thing he said with which we on this side of the House, as Scottish Members, must find ourselves in agreement. I will quote his words: 1161There is no more important objective for broadcasting in future than to ensure that the regions are given proper scope and status on the air. They and not London are the stuff of which these islands are made. They and not London should be masters in their own home. The power and responsibility for regional broadcasting, the last word as well as the first, must lie wholly with the regional centres. This principle of regional sovereignty over regional programmes is vital for the three or four Englands, not forgetting the neglected South-East, just as much as Scotland, or Wales, or Northern Ireland.We are very much in tune with the spirit of what Professor Ogilvie says there. We would like to see in Scotland responsibility for what goes on on the air in Scotland and from Scotland. There should be a body with full authority and responsibility, with power to initiate services and programmes. The existence of a body of that kind would not interfere with or narrow down the services in the United Kingdom as a whole. On the contrary, it would give a wider choice to English listeners as well as a wider choice to Scottish listeners. It would give to the talent in Scotland, which at present is very much restricted, a wider scope and outlet.
Scotland is not only anxious to acquire new rights and new services for herself. She is anxious to give new services to the rest of the country, as well as to Scotland; and to the rest of the world. I think, with all modesty, we might say that in Scotland there is, in proportion, as much talent acceptable to the rest of the world, for listeners overseas, as there is in any English regional network. I see no reason in the world why we should not be given an opportunity of developing it to the utmost. I would suggest, quite modestly, that many good things have come out of Scotland, and we must be given an opportunity of developing these qualities; so that other nations, as well as Scotland herself, can benefit from them. It is true that through ancient civilisation of the Western Isles we filtered and refined the doctrines of the Columbian Missions. For that matter, we exported from the Island of Lewis down to where the only island is the Isle of Dogs, the right hon. Gentleman himself, the Lord President of the Council. What better blessing could we have conferred upon Whitehall than the right hon. Gentleman? Scotland has contributed many of her virtues and her sons. We appeal that Scotland should be allowed to assume the right to decide these matters which 1162 are capable of characteristic Scottish expression within her own limits. We ask nothing onside those rights.
We ask for an adequate measure of control over the development of Scotland's characteristics and indigenous talents. We have contributed to broadcasting no less than three Governors, We have contributed Professor Ogilvie, one of my own Clan, Lord MacMillan, who stayed for a few days anyway, and Lord Reith. Not only that, but in the field of television we have contributed to the world, through. Baird, perhaps the greatest talent in the pioneering of television known to this. country. We make this claim in all modesty—that Scotland be allowed to develop what she has to give, not only to herself, but to the rest of the country and to the world.
One word in conclusion on a slightly different topic—I almost said, in a different language; because it relates to my language. I ask the Gaelic division of broadcasting in Scotland to try and gel away from the kind of slapstick burlesque kind of humour by which is misrepresented to the world the very real humour of the Highland people in their own language. Translated it is worse still. It really is not up to scratch; I do not know what they have to draw upon, but I feel that there is a wealth of latent talent upon which they are making no attempt at all to draw. I am very tired of this sort of burlesque tomfoolery, and I think there is underlying it a curious sense of inferiority; because some people feel that the moment they begin to speak Gaelic they belong to some segregated caste.
If we are to develop Scottish Gaelic broadcasting as it ought to be developed, the Scottish Education Department ought to pay more attention to the encouragement and active guidance of children capable of taking advantage of courses of Gaelic composition; perhaps having corn-petitions, with prizes for children and adults in Gaelic broadcasting material. A lot could be done by dramatising personalities and incidents of Highland anti Island history and Scottish history in general. I want the Assistant Postmaster-General to take hold of the fact that there is on this question a good deal of Scottish feeling which is not just a desire for Scotland to come out top dog, but is a desire that Scotland should be allowed to express herself in her own way and under her own genuine auspices, and 1163 thereby to make a bigger contribution to broadcasting in Great Britain and in the world.
§ 8.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Davies (Enfield)
In the very few minutes allotted to me I should like to refer to two points. First, I am not altogether satisfied that the relationship of the B.B.C.'s overseas services to the Foreign Office, which the Lord President of the Council described this afternoon, will work out satisfactorily. I am not at all sure that there is not being imposed upon the B.B.C. a responsibility which it will find itself unable to carry, inasmuch as whether we like it or not the overseas broadcasts of the B.B.C. are bound to be interpreted abroad as the official voice of this country. Since that is the case, it is important that what goes out from the B.B.C. here shall represent the foreign policy of this country. It would, therefore, seem that the responsibility for such broadcasts must in the last resort rest on the Foreign Office and not on the B.B.C. I urge, therefore, upon the Lord President that, when the Charter is finally drawn up, the way in which this question is dealt with in the White Paper shall be reconsidered, and definite responsibility fixed on the Foreign Office for overseas broadcasts. In this connection I would also suggest that the present arrangement whereby Ministers are answerable in this House for matters of general policy, and not for matters of the day to day operation of the B.B.C., on home and foreign affairs, is not working out satisfactorily.
From the early days of the B.B.C., the Postmaster-General has rightly said he would answer here for matters of general policy, and not for matters of day to clay operation. But in my opinion this has been interpreted by Ministers who have answered for the B.B.C. in the House, in such a way as to enable them to evade their responsibility for the B.B.C., and to consider practically everything as matters of day-to-day operations, and not matters of general policy. In that connection I would refer hon. Members to the answer the Prime Minister gave to an hon. Member as recently as r4th March, who raised the question of controversial broadcasts by the B.B.C. The Prime Minister stated:The extent to which controversial matters and minority opinions should be given a place 1164 in the B.B.C.'s programme is a matter whir' in the past has been left, with the approval of this House, to the discretion of the Governors. I see no reason to depart from this policy."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th March, 1946; Vol. 420, C. 1279.]I should have thought that the extent to which there should be controversial broadcasting was a matter of general policy, and not a matter of day-to-day operation. If such a matter, as the extent to which there should be controversy on the B.B.C., is interpreted as a matter of day-to-day affairs, beyond the control of the House, then I should say that the control of the House over the B.B.C. is inadequate. The extent to which Questions can be accepted at the Table regarding the B.B.C. is a measure of the responsibility which Ministers are willing to accept. As the Charter is now being redrawn, I would suggest that the time has come when there should be a clear definition of what Ministerial responsibility for the B.B.C. is, so that hon. Members may be 'n a position to put down Questions which they know will be dealt with by the responsible Minister, if they do come within the interpretation as provided in the Charter.
I would deal with one other point, and that is the question of finance, which has not been touched upon to any extent in this Debate. The licence fee, as we all know, is, unfortunately, being raised to 20s. In the first year of the receipt of that 20s., it is quite clear that there will be a balance over, which the Treasury will take. What I urge on the Ministers responsible and on the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, that in the past the B.B.C. has contributed very large sums to the national Exchequer. During the first Charter, the first 10 years, more than half of the wireless licence fees actually went into the national revenue, and even in the year before the war only 7s. 6d. of the 10s. of each licence fee subscribed by the listening public went to the B.B.C. in order to provide broadcasting services. The balance went to the Post Office and the Treasury. I should like the Lord President to give an undertaking to this Committee, that, in future, every penny of the licence fees raised from the listeners, with the exception of the deduction made by the Post Office for the cost of collection, and so on, shall go to the B.B.C. for the purposes of home broadcasting services. If, in any one year, that total sum is not used, the B.B.C. should 1165 have power to put the balance to reserve, so that it can draw upon that for development and expansion, if it so wishes. We are going to need increasingly large sums for the carrying on of the B.B.C. services. Unless the B.B.C. is assured of what its income is to be it will not be in a position to plan ahead, and to work out planned development; but if it knows it is to receive the total receipts from the licence fees, then it will be in a position to plan ahead.
Finally, I would say that I agree with the Lord President, in the reasons which he gave, in refusing an inquiry at the present time. The refusal of an inquiry now, does not mean that certain changes and reforms, such as those which have been mentioned during the Debate, are not required in the B.B.C. during these next five years. Among these reforms are financial reforms, the question of Ministerial responsibility, the segregation of responsibility for foreign overseas services, and question of staff and full consideration to trade union representation which was raised earlier in the Debate. We have five years during which the Charter is being extended, and if the B.B.C. succeeds in carrying through a large measure of reform during those five years, it can justify the continuation of a public monopoly, but if it fails, then will come the time for change.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Fletcher (Bury)
The greater part of the Debate has been devoted to the aspect of the B.B.C. as a means of disseminating political views or propaganda. Very little time has been devoted to another aspect, which is that of its artistic and cultural effect. The B,.B.C. is one of the greatest means of invisible export this country has. Day after day, people all over the world are listening to the music and non-political broadcasts put out by the B.B.C. It is extremely important that for a few minutes we should consider that aspect, and the means not only of preserving the admittedly high standard it has achieved, but of making quite certain that in any change which may take place it is, if possible, increased in its artistic value throughout the world. I should not like to criticise the B.B.C. unduly, but it is rather significant that such a high proportion of its artistic and musical broadcasts are made from records. Surely there are in this country enough deep wells of 1166 live talent from which we can draw. No one can say that the B.B.C. cannot afford and will not be able in the future to afford to use the best possible artists in this country. I do not wish it to be thought that this applies only to highbrow music. Whether it is music hall, slapstick, light music, or classical music, it is vitally important that the great reputation which the B.B.C. has established throughout the world should be maintained.
Sometimes, I think, there have been very considerable lapses, and there is room for great improvement, but I sincerely hope that we shall not descend in any sort of change which may be made in the Charter to what is called in America "soap opera." Let this instrument in its semi-Government or non-Government position take advantage of its very great revenue and its freedom from a Minister of good taste, or a Minister of bad taste, to maintain outside the controversial arena of political broadcasts the highest possible standard. There can be no better way of encouraging artists of every sort, than to have the B.B.C. as an open shop with no sort of prejudice of any sort, where talent will have an opportunity to be known not only in this country but throughout the world. I sincerely hope that if and when some form of inquiry is instituted, one member at least of the inquiring body will be appointed not for any political reasons but simply to watch very carefully on behalf of the artistic and cultural side. I think all will agree that it should be watched very carefully, to see that the artistic and musical side is in no way sacrificed in the desire to use broadcasts for political purposes. This is an entirely non-party question, and I sincerely hope that there will be a considerable backing for the view which I have put forward very briefly; that we shall receive from the Minister some assurance that the artistic side will receive full support; that every endeavour will be made to improve it; and that there will be no parsimony in relation to the artists.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Wing-Commander Shackleton (Preston)
There is one point which I want to emphasise, because I feel that it has not been brought out strongly enough in the course of the Debate. That is the question of frequencies. I know that frequencies have been mentioned. The hon. 1167 Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) dismissed them, as did other hon. Members, as if they were irrelevant to the problem.
§ Wing-Commander Shackleton
It was suggested that it would be impossible to overcome the difficulty. The hon. Member mentioned the words "frequency modulation." I do not know if he knows anything about that, but it is not the solution to the problem today. In a few years' time, anything may be possible. We may be able to develop a very much wider field of broadcasting in this country. I hope that it will be possible to have local broadcasting of a regional nature, which will satisfy even the most extreme nationalists in this House. I would say that the request for an inquiry today is unnecessary.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
The hon. and gallant Member looked at me pointedly as he made his remark about "extreme nationalists." If he referred to me or my speech, he was talking complete nonsense.
§ Wing-Commander Shackleton
Any suggestion that there should be an inquiry today shows that the people who are asking for it have not investigated the problem. The facts, at the present moment, are known to us. It is quite clear that we have to continue with our present system over a period of years, and we must allow the B.B.C. to have a chance to develop their plans, and, above all, to bring to the situation a clarity which is not existing today. We do not know the potentialities of frequency modulation, or of any of the other developments. It is not fitting that hon. Members opposite, who are continuously urging the Government to make the position clear and let it be known how industries stand, so that they can plan, should now suggest that we should throw broadcasting into a state of uncertainty. In five years' time we shall be in a much better position. The frequency position will have been cleared up, and we shall be able to consider these new developments. In the meantime, it is more businesslike and efficient to say to the B.B.C.: "Continue. You have not had a fair chance. The war intervened. You have had only about three 1168 years of the period laid down by the Ullswater Committee, and in five years' time from now we shall consider what will be the future of broadcasting in this country."
§ 9.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Butcher (Holland with Boston)
I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.
I do this because I believe that the reply of the Lord President of the Council showed a complete unawareness of the extreme depth of feeling that there is on this matter in many parts of the House and throughout the country. The war has brought a complete change in the relationship of the B.B.C. with the Government, with the country, and with its performers. The position will never be restored to what it was before the war. It is almost as if, before the war, we had a large and lovable dog. For certain reasons this dog had been taught to fight and love, and, in so doing, it became conscious of its own strength. That is like the position of the B.B.C. at the present time. It has secured a consciousness of its strength and of the part which it played in the winning of the war. It is right that this strength and this new position of authority which it has acquired in the national life should be impartially examined.
I was very much at one with the Lord President of the Council, as I heard him dealing, if I may say so, rather hesitantly, with the technicalities of frequency modulation, because I feel exactly the same. I will only say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Preston (Wing-Commander Shackleton) who preceded me, and who also referred to this matter with far more knowledge than I can command, that his views should be contrasted with those of the expert Mr. Eckersley who has contributed on this matter to "The Times today. In effect, the experts are at variance—Mr. Eckersley on the one hand, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Preston on the other. For these reasons there should be an inquiry into the technical position.
Television is one of the matters which has come along during these war years and has developed enormously. Those of us who have television sets know that reception today is much better than it was before the war. We know that it is 1169 closely allied with radar. It is worth examining whether broadcasting is not now in exactly the same position as the cinema was when the talking film was invented. For how much longer are the people of this country prepared to accept sound broadcasts, without visual accompaniment? Under a monopoly the position could go on as it is for quite a long time, but that is the sort of thing that should be and must be examined. Are we diverting too much of the income received from licences to television? Soon there will be approximately 10,000,000 people paying wireless licences. According to the White Paper, about £7½ million is to be spent on sound broadcasting. What is the position? The position is, that large numbers of poor people living in rural areas with just the ordinary small sets, are being required to contribute substantial sums to subsidise the programmes of those who are fortunate enough to have television sets, for without this expenditure on television there certainly would not have been the increase recently in the licence fee.
I was glad to hear the Lord President of the Council say that he was not opposed in principle to the idea of an inquiry. As the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George) pointed out, after all was said and done, the Lord President, in effect, said that at the present time there was a shortage of wavelengths and these could not be secured except by international agreement. The chances of international agreement were not good for various reasons, and, therefore, until a happier future had been achieved it was quite idle to expect a re-allocation of wavelengths. That, too, is I believe against the technical experts.
I want, if I may, to return for a moment to the question of television. I am wondering whether there should not be an inquiry about this great invention. Not long ago an artist who had arranged to appear before a television screen was prevented by her contract with a theatrical entrepreneur from filling her engagement. This Corporation, if it believes in television, must fight for it. It must not submit tamely to the boycott of any private interest. But has it enough money to try it? There must be an examination to see that the expensive development of television programmes is not hampered, hindered, or checked in 1170 any way by the shortage of money. We ought to have, in this country, three first-class alternative programmes. The hon. Member for Bury (Mr. W. Fletcher) regretted that so much of the musical entertainment of the B.B.C. came from records. That is about all the B.B.C. can afford at present. Can the B.B.C. provide better programmes on its present income? I do not think it can. I do not share the views of the Lord President that the remuneration of artistes has been satisfactory. I do not think it has been sufficiently generous. Many established figures in the entertainment world show no eagerness to accept a B.B.C. engagement at the present low fees. The attraction of such an engagement is the publicity it brings. Rather than accept the present fee they would much more happily appear without charge for charity.
There is another point I would like to make on this question of finance. Is too large a share of the income of the B.B.C. being expended on the administrative side, and not enough on the programme side? There is a widespread feeling that in this admirable organisation many people have managed to find jobs of a routine nature which do not contribute either to the efficiency of the organisation or to the entertainment of its patrons. The White Paper, in paragraph 26, foreshadows joint consultative machinery with the staff. I am glad to see that, because I believe that the B.B.C., should he a model employer. It will, however, be making a great mistake if the people concerned with the imagining, developing and preparing of programmes regard themselves as having safe and pensionable jobs. The artistes, producers, and people in charge of programmes must be well paid; their reward must be equivalent to that in other branches of public entertainment. But, equally, they must live in a world where talent is rapidly recognised, where popularity and fame may come overnight, but where a slump sometimes quickly follows a boom. The public taste in entertainment is fickle, and the ability of a producer varies from time to time.
There is something else I do not understand about the B.B.C. In America, it it is the continued and deliberate policy of broadcasting corporations to build up radio personalities. The policy of the B.B.C. seems to be exactly the reverse.
1171 If a broadcaster on foreign, diplomatic, or social affairs seems to be creating a large and popular following, the B.B.C. arrange—I am sure with the highest motives, perhaps because they fear to give undue prominence to one political view—for him not to appear at the microphone so frequently. One has only to think of the case of a former Member of the House, Mr. Harold Nicolson, or Mr. Priestley. The most serious aspect of the relationship between the B.B.C. and the broadcaster is the complete monopoly which the Corporation holds. I believe the B.B.C. tries to exercise its monopoly impartially and judicially, but nevertheless, if a would-be performer fails to obtain an engagement, there is not another broadcasting corporation using the British air which can offer him work. On the other hand, the fact that there is no alternative employer requires the B.B.C., out of decency, to behave as a good employer and to put old and faithful servants more frequently in front of the microphone than their talents justify.
The greatest change in the relationship of the B.B.C. with other interests is the change in its relationship with the Government, which was referred to by the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey. I was a little disturbed to hear the Lord President of the Council say that the Government make suggestions to the B.B.C. It is very difficult for any body, however august it may be, to resist suggestions made by the Government. The people. regard it as their patriotic duty to assist the Government; and indeed, the Chancellor, in another connection, has paid a tribute to the assistance he has received from the City of London. I do not believe it makes for the independence of the B.B.C. if the Lord President of the Council gets ideas and passes them along to the B.B.C.—" Say, boys, what do you think of this?—I think my ideas are pretty good."
It is in connection with the Overseas Service that the announcement has been made that the Corporation will accept guidance from the Government in the overseas broadcasts. I believe that in itself is a sufficient cause for an inquiry. People overseas are entitled to know what is the exact relationship between the B.B.C. and the Government. The duties to be discharged are, apparently, to be entirely different now from what they 1172 were at an earlier time. How this is to be arranged, I do not know. The hon. Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon-Walker), who made a most attractive speech, thought that to have a song broadcast, "I would like to be a refugee from England," was dangerous and wrong. It may be. I think it would be equally wrong to introduce the Lord President's speech with a roll of drums and "Sieg Heil." It is dangerous at this time, when the relationship of the Government and the B.B.C. appears to be closer, as far as one can gather from the White Paper and from what we have heard, to reduce the status of the Governors by the very practical manner of reducing their salaries.
§ Mr. Butcher
The Lord President suggests that they will still be doing quite well. It will be within the recollection of the Committee that hon. Members found it quite difficult to discharge their duties properly on £100 a year.
§ Mr. Butcher
I believe that Governors of the B.B.C. should have as much a full-time job as Members of Parliament, and that is the sort of thing we need an inquiry to examine. The most important relationship is that between the B.B.C. and the listener, the broadcaster and the listener. I feel that we are entitled to ask the Government what they mean by the last three lines of paragraph 47 of the White Paper:The Government, moveover, intend to take all steps within their power, and to use their influence with the authorities concerned, to prevent the direction of commercial broadcasts to this country from abroad.The Government spokesman in another place referred to the dangers of commercial broadcasts, gave an assurance that the Government were aware of what he called "this unpleasant problem," and promised rather officiously that the Government would protect home listeners from such broadcasts. What exactly is meant by those vague threats? We know that the Lord President has now "come out of it"; he is no longer going to interfere with what we lisetn to, but only with what we read. An inquiry should be directed into this.
1173 Is it desirable in the light of all that has happened and the way in which broadcasting has been used as a monopoly service for the shaping of opinion, that it should be a monopoly in this country? The Socialist Party should have a little more confidence in the experience of other Socialist Governments. The Australian Government, for example, has managed very successfuly to conduct one Government programme and one sponsored programme, and something of this nature would, I believe, offer diversity and destroy the evils of monopoly. All these are matters which I believe should he the subject of an inquiry. The inquiry can be as easily and satisfactorily held in the near future as in five years' time. Indeed, it is fair to the B.B.C. that they should have this inquiry at the earliest possible moment I believe that an extension of the Charter for two or three years at the most would be adequate, and that the time in between might be well and profitably used in establishing an inquiry.
§ The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. Burke)
As is always the case in Debates about the B.B.C., whether inside this House or outside, a good deal of the time has been spent on particular likes and dislikes with regard to programme items. In the main, this Debate has been concerned with a number of specific objections, but there have been, in addition, one or two minor points with which, perhaps, I might deal before going on to the bigger issues with regard to sponsored broadcasts, commercialised broadcasts, the monopoly of the B.B.C., and the big point about an inquiry. The hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Hale) told the Committee of the many things he would like to hear broadcast by the B.B.C. and I am sure that many of us have a good deal of sympathy with him. We all have particular little things that we should like to hear put over. One of the things that I am particularly glad about is that when I have to answer questions with regard to the B.B.C. I do not have to try to justify Tommy Handley or Tessie O'Shea. At all events I think that is the kind of thing which, by general agreement, we think should be left to the Corporation. We have to get a body of men—[An HON. MEMBER: "And women."]—yes, and women, as Governors who are broadminded, of wide judgment, unprejudiced and impartial, I would say that they should also be men of action, 1174 people who are well-travelled, scientific but versed in the classics and so on. We should get all-round experts and leave the matter to them. [An HON. MEMBER: "All for £600 a year? "] The £600 a year is not given to them as salary for a year s work. The Governors meet only once a fortnight and the payment is regarded as sufficient for the appointment. There is no comparison between the payment of Members of Parliament and the payment of the Governors of the B.B.C.
I am dealing with the minor points which were raised. An hon. Member asked a question about the revenues received by the B.B.C., wanted to know how much of it would be allocated to them and whether, if in the course of a year a certain amount was over, that amount would be allowed to stand and put aside by the B.B.C.? That cannot be done because it would be quite wrong, financially, that money given to the B.B.C. should be allowed to be kept and put on one side to be spent at some future time. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not?."] Because it would destroy the very basis upon which the Estimates and the control of this House over finance are based. A Select Committee has been complaining that there is not sufficient external control. As the Lord President of the Council has said, the Government will go into that matter very carefully, The method of control now is that the B.B.C. makes its estimate and that the Government see that that estimate is met. That is a sound and proper way. As a matter of fact, it is very doubtful whether there will be any money left over in the course of the next few years, because the expenses of the B.B.C. are hound to go up as its programmes improve.
Now I come to another question that was raised. I am glad that the right hon. Member for Bournemouth (Mr. Bracken) has relieved me of the necessity of dealing with American broadcasts. It is true that some broadcasts of a very high character are in American programmes but I think it is true—and the hon. Member for Lonsdale (Sir I. Fraser) agrees with this statement—that, taking them by and large, the level of British programmes is equal to the level of American programmes. It is suggested that an inquiry is necessary in order to see whether or not the B.B.C. should continue as the 1175 single broadcasting authority in the country. Every inquiry that has been made into that question in the past, whether it was the Sykes Committee, the Crawford Committee or the Ullswater Committee——
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I hope the hon. Gentleman will forgive me for interrupting, but he will surely remember, as was shown by the testimony given in another place the other day, that the Ullswater Committee did not face that question, or only slightly.
§ Mr. Burke
Whether they faced it slightly or not, they said that their recommendations were directed towards the further strengthening of the position which the B.B.C. had attained, that the absence of criticism showed how widely accepted the service was, and that the constitution of the B.B.C. had been taken as a model in other countries. That is the Ullswater Committee. All the committees have either recommended or endorsed the recommendations of previous committees that there should be a single broadcasting authority in this country, and that is the position at the present time.
Sponsored programmes would mean that some rearrangement of the wavelengths that we have at our disposal would he necessary. Whether or not we agree with the conception of a single broadcasting authority, we shall have to face up to the position that to introduce any other broadcasting organisation into the country would mean giving up one or more of the wavelengths we possess at present. Hon. Members will have heard today how one region is complaining that a wavelength has been taken from it. It wants that wavelength restored. If we were to depart from the single authority, we would have to destroy the balance in our B.B.C. programmes which we are trying to set up. The B.B.C. has set itself, as far as it can, with the wavelengths at its disposal, to give a variety of essential programmes—a light programme and a serious programme, and then a programme for each of the six regions. To take one of the wavelengths away would mean that one of the regions would have to go, or else a single programme would have to be put in its place in the national programme for the whole of the country, and that in itself would destroy the balanced conception which the 1176 B.B.C. has of meeting the wishes of the community.
Let me turn to the question of the inquiry which has been asked for. If we had an inquiry at the present time, the Charter could not be extended from the beginning of next year. If an inquiry had been desired, it ought to have been asked for some considerable time ago. [HON. MEMBERS: Why? "]When the Prime Minister made his statement and said that it was the considered opinion of the Government that an inquiry was not necessary, there was no demand for an inquiry. [HON. MEMBERS: Yes, there was."] No, there was no demand for an inquiry, but in any case if any inquiry were to be instituted now, it would be 12 or 18 months before the result of that inquiry could be put before the Government. It is only a question of time. The Government have no objection in principle to an inquiry. The Lord President said that this afternoon. "An investigation will take place" is what he said. [HON. MEMBERS: "When? "] The White Paper itself says, if hon. Gentlemen have read it, that the Government have no objection in principle to an inquiry.
§ Mr. Burke
The question, then, is one of time. That is why the Government at present are not disposed to grant an inquiry. If you had an inquiry now, you would be inquiring into a position with regard to wavelengths which is quite unknown. We are now working on a system of wavelengths which goes back to 1933. We ought to have had a new agreement in 1939, but that could not take place because the war broke out. The right hon. Gentleman knows the facts. Because we could not have an inquiry then, we are working on a system of wavelengths which dates back to 1933. After the war ceased, we prepared to have an International Telecommunications Conference in which the wavelengths of the whole world would be redistributed. That is the only way in which you can prevent chaos. We are now working on an old distribution, and it may be that after the next International Telecommunications Conference there will be a change in the allocation of wavelengths to this country. When the world wavelengths are allocated, there will have to be a European Conference to deal with the wavelength's of Europe alone 1177 Hon. Members have spoken about Australia and the number of programmes and different organisations there. They are in an entirely different position. We, in this country, as part of Europe, have to take a certain number of wavelengths and use them in conjunction with 40 other European countries. In Australia they have the whole of those wavelengths for their own use. In America there are only eight competing countries in the whole of North America for a whole range of wavelengths, and the difficulty we are in is the difficulty of allocating to ourselves the number of wavelengths in order to give us the best balance of programmes. If we were to have an inquiry—[Interruption]—if hon. Members will listen, I will try to make my point.
§ Mr. Burke
If we were to have an inquiry now, we would be inquiring into a situation which might be completely changed after both those Conferences of which I have spoken. Therefore, it is essential first of all, apart from any other considerations, that we wait for both those Conferences to take place, and those two Conferences cannot take place—although we are taking steps at the moment to get them before 1948.
§ Mr. Burke
Hon. Members have said. "If you cannot have the inquiry now, have it in two or three years." There you are. You cannot begin the inquiry for two years, that is, until 1948, at the very earliest. How far short are you, then, of going the full gamut which the Government have fixed of five years? When we fixed this we said, "Give the Corporation a chance to develop itself for a reasonable period, and in that time you can have the fullest investigation, knowing something more about the world allocation of wavelengths." Let me put another reason why we cannot have an inquiry at the moment. There has been a good deal of talk about technical improvements that have taken place during the war——
§ Mr. Burke
—and the need to inquire into the future because of those technical improvements. A good deal has been 1178 said about frequency modulation. America has gone ahead with frequency modulation, not because she knows more about it than we do, but because during the war she was able to use her industrial capacity to make sets. The difficulty with us is not our lack of knowledge about these things, but the fact that the industrial capacity is not there. The Government suggest that if we wait until our industrial capacity has caught up with our theoretical knowledge then, under better conditions, we can inquire how far those theories, developed during the war, are applicable. Those are two very good and sound reasons why we should wait. There is no obstinacy about it, but good and solid reasons why an inquiry at a later stage would be a good deal more beneficial.
I wish to say a word or two about regions. This all hinges on the question of wavelengths, and is a technical problem. Do not think that America has escaped all her problems. The Post Office has had frequency modulation between the Isle of Man and this country, and between this country and the Channel Islands, for a considerable time. Frequency modulation has been held out as the solution of the problem of regions; it is not. We could not put a new frequency modulated transmitter into, say, Cornwall or Scotland, where they are needed, because the people have not the sets to receive them. Until the industrial capacity can make the sets for them we cannot make the fullest use of frequency modulated transmitters. That does not mean to say that the engineers of the B.B.C. and the Post Office are not going ahead in solving this problem and in trying to give a bigger coverage to the country. However, the coverage is greater than ever. More than 90 per cent. of the population are to be covered by three programmes, and that is greater than ever before. The 10 per cent. is the very hard and difficult percentage to be brought in. It is the people in rural areas, people in the mountains and outlying places, who are hard to get at. It is easy to creep up from 80 per cent. [...] 90 per cent., but B.B.C. and Post Office engineers are now facing the difficult problem of reaching the remaining 10 percent. Frequency modulation in a few years' time might get us out of a lot of difficulty. It is easy to talk glibly about it now, but this is not the time.
1179 Television is doing well in London. We want it in Birmingham next—[Interruption.]—we want it in Birmingham or in any other centre. But there again there is a problem. We have to wait until we can get the cable laid, and it is a question of industrial capacity. When the cable is laid, transmission cannot begin from Birmingham or anywhere else until there is the site and a building. These are practical problems which, if we are given time to settle down to them, we can inquire into in about two years time. The Government are not opposed in principle to an inquiry. But at present they intend that the Corporation should have a fair chance, for a reasonable period, under peacetime conditions, to apply the technical discoveries of wartime, to carry through the necessary organisation in its programmes, and put us back again at least on a peacetime footing. If, later, an investigation is desirable, it can be held with much more information at our disposal, and in a much better way.
But at present—this is the view of the Government—there will be no change in cardinal features of the Corporation, because we believe that that is in keeping with the trend of public opinion. There will continue to be one broadcasting authority in this country; that broadcasting authority will continue to be noncommercial, but it will remain constitutionally independent. We believe that this organisation should not be the plaything of any party, or even the instrument of any Government. We believe it is too great and too powerful to be left for the use of commercial interests. We say "Let it go ahead, improve and
§ develop." It cannot suit everybody all the time, but we believe that it does suit most of the people of this country. It is giving Ahem, for less than two-thirds of a penny per week per family, three alternative programmes It is giving them these programmes from morning until midnight. It is giving them news without views, and education without propaganda.
§ Several Hon. Membersrose——
§ Mr. E. P. Smith (Ashford)
On a point of Order. May I put one question to the hon. Gentleman? Is he aware that three of the great cultural trade unions of this country, representing authors, actors, players and broadcasters, regard the B.B.C. at the present moment as an employer of sweated labour? Will he do something to revise the minimum terms upon which people are called upon to give their services?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The reply which has been given by the Assistant Postmaster-General condemns any possibility Whatever of being able to put across the case for the export of British goods into foreign markets, and advertisement of the fact of what British industry is doing.
§ Question put, "That a sum not exceeding £3,749,900 be granted for the said service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 137; Noes, 271.1183
|Division No. 255.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat||Cole, T. L.||Fraser, Maj. H. C. P. (Stone)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Gage, Lt.-Col. C.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Galbraith Cmdr. T D.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Glossop, C. W H.|
|Baxter, A. B.||Crowder, Capt. J. F. E.||Glyn, Sir R.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Cuthbert, W. N||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A. G.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Davidson, Viscountess||Grimston, R. V.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col D. C. (Wells)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Gunter, Capt. R. J|
|Bower, N.||Digby, Maj. S. W.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moselev)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hare, Lieut. Col. Hn. J. H (W'db'ge)|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Drayson, G. B.||Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Drewe, C.||Head, Brig. A. H.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G T.||Dugdale. Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.|
|Bullock, Capt. M||Duthie, W. S.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Eccles, D M.||Hogg, Hon. Q.|
|Byers, Lt.-Col. F.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)|
|Carson, E.||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.||Hope, Lord J.|
|Challen, C.||Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Horabin, T L.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Howard, Hon A|
|Hurd, A||Neven-Spence, Sir B||Stewart, J Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Hutchison, Lt.-Cdr. Clark (Edin'gh, W.)||Nicholson, G.||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Jeffreys, General Sir G||Nutting, Anthony||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Jennings, R.||Orr-Ewing, I. L.||Studholme, H G|
|Keeling, E. H.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Pickthorn, K.||Taylor C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Langford-Holt, J.||Poole, O. B. S. (Oswestry)||Teeling, William|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Raikes, H V.||Touche, G. C.|
|Lipson, D. L.||Ramsay, Maj. S||Turton, R. H.|
|Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Rayner, Brig. R.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Lucas, Major Sir J.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)||Wakefield, Sir W W|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S C. (Hillhead)||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Macdonald, Capt. Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Renton, D.||Ward, Hon. G. R.|
|Mackeson, Lt.-Col. H. R.||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Wall, Sir G. S Harvie|
|Maclay, Hon. J. S||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|MacLeod, Capt. J.||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Robinson, Wing-Comdr. Roland||White, J. B (Canterbury)|
|Manningham-Buller, R E.||Ropner, Col. L.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Marlowe, A A. H.||Scott, Lord W.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Marples, A. E.||Smiles Lt.-Col. Sir W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Marsden, Capt. A.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl.|
|Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Smithers, Sir W.||Young, Sir A. S L. (Partick)|
|Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Snadden, W. M.|
|Maude, J. C.||Spearman, A. C. M||TELLERS FOR THE AYES|
|Medlicolt, F||Spence, H. R.||Mr. Butcher and Mr. Beechmar|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Dodds, N. N.||Hynd, H. (Hackney, C.)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Irving, W. J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Dumpleton, C. W.||Janner, B.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Durbin, E. F. M.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Dye, S.||Jeger. Dr S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Ede, Rt. Hon J. C||John, W.|
|Attlee, Rt Hon. C. R||Edelman, M.||Jones, D. T (Hartlepools)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Edwards, John (Blackburn)||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Jones, Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Bacon, Mist A.||Edwards, W J. (Whitechapel)||Keenan. W.|
|Baird, Capt. J.||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Kenyon, C|
|Balfour, A.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||King, E. M.|
|Bars tow, P. G.||Fairhurst, F.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E.|
|Barton, C.||Farthing, W. J.||Kinley, J.|
|Battley, J. R.||Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Kirby. B V.|
|Bechervaise, A. E||Follick, M.||Kirkwood, D|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Foot, M. M.||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J|
|Berry, H.||Forman, J. C||Leonard, W.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Foster, W (Wigan)||Leslie, J R.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Levy, B. W.|
|Binns, J.||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Lewis, J. (Bolton)|
|Bottomley, A. G||Freeman, Maj. J. (Watford)||Lewis, T (Southampton)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'p'l, Exch'ge)||Gaitskell, H. T. N||Logan, D. G|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Gallacher, W||McAdam, W|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S||McEntee, V. La T|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Gibson, C. W||McGhee, H. G.|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T.||Gilzean, A.||Mack, J. D.|
|Buchanan, G.||Gooch, E. G||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Burden, T. W.||Goodrich, H. E||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N W.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Gordon-Walker, P. C.||McKinlay, A. S|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Maclean, N. (Govan)|
|Callaghan, James||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||McLeavy F.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Grenfell, D. R.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Champion, A. J.||Grierson, E.||McNeil, H,|
|Cluse, W. S.||Griffiths, D (Rother Valley)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Cobb, F. A,||Griffiths, Capt. W D. (Moss Side)||Mainwaring, W. H.|
|Coldrick, W.||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Collick, P,||Guy, W. H||Mann, Mrs. J.|
|Colman, Miss C. M.||Halo, Leslie||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Hall, W. G. (Colne Valley)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Corbet, Mrs. F. K. (Camb'well, N.W.)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Marquand, H. A.|
|Corlett, Dr. J.||Hardy, E, A.||Marshall, F. (Brightside)|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Harrison, J.||Martin, J. H|
|Crawley, A.||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Mathers, G.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Haworth, J.||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Daggar, G.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Medland, H M.|
|Daines, P.||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Messer, F.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Harbison. Miss M.||Mlddleton, Mrs. L.|
|Davits, Harold (Leek)||Holman, P.||Mikardo, Ian|
|Davies, Haydn (St. Pancras, S.W)||Holmes, H. E (Hemsworth)||Millington, Wing-Comdr. E. R.|
|Davies, S. O (Merthyr)||Hoy, J.||Mitohison, Maj. G. R.|
|Deer, G.||Hudson, J, H. (Ealing, W)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Delargy, Captain H. J||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Morley, R.|
|Diamond, J.||Hughes, Lt. H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)|
|Dobbie. W.||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, E.)||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Mort, D. L.||Robens, A.||Turner-Samuels, M,|
|Moyle, A.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Nally, W||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Usborne, Henry|
|Naylor, T. E.||Rogers, G. H. R.||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Sargood, R.||Walkden, E.|
|Nisholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Scollan, T||Walker, G. H|
|Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)||Scott-Elliot, W.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)||Shackleton, Wing-Cdr. E. A. A||Wallace, H. W. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Sharp, Lt.-Col. G. M.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Oldneld, W. H.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Orbach, M.||Shawcross, Sir H. (St. Helens)||Watson, W. M.|
|Paget, R. T.||Shurmer, P.||Weitzman, D.|
|Paling, Rt. Han. Wilfred (Wentworth)||Skefington, A. M.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Skinnard, F. W.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Smith, Capt. C. (Colchester)||Wilkes, Maj. L.|
|Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Smith, T. (Normanton)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Pearson, A.||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Peart, Capt. T. F.||Sorensen, R. W,||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Perrins, W.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F.||Williams, W. R. (Heston)|
|Platts-Mills, J. F F.||Stamford, W.||Williamson, T.|
|Popplewell, E.||Stewart, Capt. Michael (Fulham, E.)||Willis, E.|
|Porter, E. (Warrington)||Stokes, R. R.||Wilmot, Rt. Hen. J.|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Strauss, G. R. (Lambeth, N.)||Wilson, J. H.|
|Pritt, D. N.||Swingler, S.||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Woodburn, A.|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Woods, G. S.|
|Randall, H. E.||Taylor, Dr. s. (Barnet)||Wyatt, Maj. W|
|Ranger, J.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)||Yates, V. F.|
|Rankin, J.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Rees-Williams, D. R.||Thorneycroft, H. (Clayton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Tiffany, S.||Mr. Collindridge and|
|Rhodes, H.||Titterington, M. F.||Mr. Simmons|
|Richards, R.||Tolley, L.|
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ It being after Ten o'Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding,The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.
Sir Waldron Smitbers (Orpington)
On a point of Order. I may be mistaken, but it seems to me that the Chairman did not put the Question for the total sum.