HC Deb 17 December 1952 vol 509 cc1378-80
26. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he is aware of the local feeling that Aberdeen should not be regarded as a fringe area and forced to rely upon makeshift arrangements for their television reception; and what arrangements are projected for the establishment of a permanent full-power transmitting station to serve this area.

29. Brigadier Clarke

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General to consider the installation of a repeater station on Portsdown Hill, Portsmouth, in order that people living in the Isle of Wight and the Portsmouth area may be able to enjoy television and view the Coronation.

30 and 31. Lady Tweedsmuir

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General (1) to authorise a reasonable increase in capital development for the promotion of television, in order that as many people as possible may view the Coronation; (2) whether he has any statement to make on the provision of television to Aberdeen and the north-east of Scotland for the Coronation.

Mr. Gammans

I cannot add to the general statement about television which I made on 8th December.

Mr. Hughes

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he himself stigmatised North-East Scotland as a "fringe area" for which he is making makeshift arrangements for television; is he running away from that, and does he realise that that kind of observation about such an important area is very offensive to the people there?

Mr. Gammans

The term "fringe area" is purely a technical term, and there is nothing in the least derogatory about it. There are many fringe areas in England, if that helps the hon. and learned Gentleman. The reason the Government have come to this decision is the one I gave the House the other day, which is that we must be assured of the proper use of all our capital resources at the present time.

Perhaps I might inform the House, who may not realise it, that since the end of the war we have spent on television sets alone a sum of money about twice as much as would be required to build the Severn Dam, almost as much as has been spent on the modernisation of the coalfields, and also enough to build 12 power stations. Whether we were right or not, I do not know, but we have spent the money. Surely this decision of the Government, disappointing as it may be, and unpopular as I know it to be, must be regarded as the right decision.

Lady Tweedsmuir

Is my hon. Friend not aware that his statement the other day and his statement today are quite contradictory, because he said the only difficulty was that the Government did not wish to allow further investment in the manufacture of television sets, and yet in the same breath he tells us that the manufacture of television sets has more than doubled recently? Will he, therefore, explain why he will not press forward with the extension of this service to Aberdeen and the North-East; and will he further say whether he is going to postpone the service indefinitely, or whether we may expect it definitely by 1954?

Mr. Gammans

I hope that it will not be necessary to restrict this service indefinitely, but I cannot go over again —and I hope the House will not ask me to—all the reasons which led the Government to come to this unpopular decision.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Mr. Follick.

Brigadier Clarke

On a point of order. My Question, No. 29, was answered at the same time as No. 26, and I did rise to ask a supplementary question.

Mr. Speaker

I am sorry, but I did not see the hon. and gallant Gentleman rise. I have now called Question 27.

34. Brigadier Clarke

asked the Assistant Postmaster-General if he will install a rediffusion station at Portsmouth to relay the televising of the Coronation naval review.

Mr. Gammans

Even if the naval review is televised I regret that the reasons which for the time being prevent the extension of television to new areas will also prevent the programme being relayed back to Portsmouth.

Brigadier Clarke

Would my hon. Friend answer three questions? First, does he appreciate that private enterprise is quite prepared to put up repeater stations, at no cost to the Government; secondly, does he appreciate that the trade has ample television receiving sets to accommodate everybody who wants one; and, thirdly, will he make the television broadcast from Portsmouth a two-way service so that people there can see the Coronation?

Mr. Gammans

On the last point, as I explained to the House last week, there are certain technical difficulties with regard to that matter. As to the first point, that is, I am afraid, governed by the decision which the Government have made with regard to the extension of television generally.

Mr. Anthony Greenwood

Will the Assistant Postmaster-General bear in mind that the hon. and gallant Gentleman's suggestion will be much the most effective way of letting the public know on this occasion whether the fleet is "lit up"?