§ [3RD ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Considered in Committee [Progress. 20th May].
§ [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Clause 3.—(GENERAL PROVISIONS AS TO PROGRAMMES AND PUBLICATIONS OF AUTHORITY.)
§ Sir Robert Grimston (Westbury)
I beg to move in page 5, line 1, to leave out "secure," and to insert "satisfy themselves."
§ Mr. Edward Shackleton (Preston, South)
On a point of order. May I ask, in view of the fact that the Guillotine is to fall again very shortly and the Opposition have voluntarily dropped quite a number of important Amendments, if back bench supporters of the Government will be very brief in speaking to theirs?
§ The Chairman
That is not a point of order. I understand that the debate on this Amendment will be brief and that it will be accepted.
§ Sir R. Grimston
This Amendment is in the nature of a drafting Amendment. We feel that the Authority is not a producer, that it is primarily a controlling Authority looking after the standards of production, and that as the I.T.A. is to be a body of standing we think that perhaps the insertion of these words would make their responsibility clear. I hope that the Amendment will be accepted by the Committee.
§ The Assistant Postmaster-General (Mr. David Gammans)
I am willing to accept this Amendment which, I think, is in accordance with a similar Amendment which I accepted last week. It makes it quite clear that the function of the Authority is not to secure, by positive intervention on its part, that programmes conform to certain standards, but to satisfy itself that all these standards are, in fact, being observed. I think that the addition of these words is an improvement.
§ Mr. Shackleton
We strongly suspect that this is another "give away" by the Government. We shall have the Guillotine falling very soon and no proper 619 opportunity to discuss this, but we may have to do so on the Report stage. It does appear that this is part of the process of whittling away the powers of the Authority in order to give more powers to the private contractors. We reserve our views on this matter.
§ Mr. J. E. S. Simon (Middlesbrough, West)
I cannot agree with the hon. Member for Preston, South (Mr. Shackleton) that this is a whittling away of the powers of the Authority. It still leaves the Authority exactly the same powers. On the other hand, it is an important point because what the Amendment does is to withdraw the determination of the way the Authority is fulfilling its duty from the scrutiny of the courts and leaves it purely a matter for the discretion of the Authority itself.
In my submission, that is an objectionable procedure. It is peculiarly objectionable, and always to be resisted, where the rights of the individual are concerned and where the rights of an individual may be invaded by public authority. That is not the case here and, therefore, I am not prepared to divide the Committee against this form of words, although I must say that whenever they appear they should be subject to the most careful scrutiny by the legislature
§ Amendment agreed to
§ Mrs. Eirene White (Flint, East)
I beg to move, in page 5, line 4, after the first "the," to insert "contents."
I think that it may be for the convenience of the Committee if we also discussed the Amendment in page 5, line 16, after "that," insert:in accordance with the Schedule (British proportion of films and other recorded matter) to this Act.and the accompanying Schedule; and also the Amendment in page 5, line 17, at end, insert:(f) that no film or other recorded matter which has been exhibited shown or broadcast at home or abroad otherwise than in the programmes shall be included in the programmes without the consent of the Authority.
§ The Chairman
I think we might also include the Amendment in page 5, line 16, leave out "proper," and insert "high."
§ Mrs. White
The three Amendments which are particularly my concern this 620 afternoon make a distinction between programmes which consist of recorded or film material and those which are what we might call live programmes.
The first Amendment asks that we should pay attention so far as all programmes are concerned, both live and recorded, not only to the tone and style of the programme as mentioned in the Bill, but also to the content thereof. It is quite possible to have a programme which may be devised in a content or style that is British but may, nevertheless, not be British, in that British artistes or workers have not been employed therein.
It works in the reverse way when British script writers are asked to write in American style, so that their film may subsequently be used in the United States. We think that this part of the Bill could be strengthened by including the word "contents" as well as "tone and style." That is all that we are positively asking for where live programmes are concerned.
The other Amendment with which I am dealing concerns not direct transmission but films or recorded programmes, or, as they are sometimes called, canned programmes. In other words, programmes which can be used on more than one occasion and in more than one place. We are especially anxious about television in this respect. I believe that hon. Members on the other side of the Committee are also anxious about it because we are very well aware that in television the United States of America, as with the cinematograph films of the past, have gone ahead and have already available, and are likely to have in perpetuity, because of their home market condition, a large number of films which can meet their cost of production in their own country of origin and then be bought for use in this country at a very low price. There is probably no greater possibility of the dumping of products than with films which have already met their costs of production at home and can then be used very cheaply.
I am told that the cost of producing a live film programme in this country, and used here for the first time, may be as much as £2,000 an hour. I am informed that films of one hour's duration can be bought from transatlantic sources for as little as £50. Once the cost of production has been met in its country of origin, everything afterwards is sheer gain and 621 there is no reason why the seller of the American film should worry himself unduly as long as he gets a reasonable return. Even if our own films cost a little less—they can be produced more cheaply than in America—the range of difference in cost between the two to the programme contractor is so large that there would be a constant temptation to use the cheaper medium.
Therefore, we have tried to devise a proper means of safeguarding British artistes—using the term in its widest sense, to include authors, script writers, song writers, as well as actors, singers, musicians, and so on—so that they do not find that there is no place for their efforts in recorded programmes on television. That is why in the new Schedule we suggest a means of ensuring that British material is preponderantly used.
The chief difference between we who support the Amendments and some hon. Members opposite is our belief that we will not be able to secure a high proportion of British material for recorded programmes unless safeguards are laid down. Certain Members opposite who have sympathy with our object believe that the position can be left as vague as it is in the Bill, or with the slight amendment of "proper proportion" being replaced by "high proportion." All past experience in dealing with cinematograph films shows the impossibility of ensuring a high proportion without a much clearer definition of what is intended; otherwise, there would be endless arguments and it would be impossible to administer this Bill in the sense in which hon. Members in all parts would wish it to be administered.
I have had experience for some years as a member of the Films Committee of the Board of Trade dealing with film quota legislation and administration. Luckily, in television the Postmaster-General will not have to concern himself with cinemas; they bring great complications to his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. That is completely outside the problem when we consider television.
We are concerned in the Amendments only with the films or the recorded material. We propose in the new Schedule that where this type of material is concerned, not less than 80 per cent. shall be British. Some people suggest that this is a high proportion and that 80 per cent. 622 is a startling figure, but I should like to make clear what we propose.
If, for the sake of simplicity, we regard a day of television broadcasting as comprising 10 hours, by our proposals two of the 10 hours can be devoted to foreign films—feature films, short films or recorded or canned programmes. There can then be as much live programme as one wants of any origin. This does not satisfy some of the actors' and musicians' organisations, and so on, but we wish to be reasonable. We appreciate the difficulties with live programmes and we do not propose that they should be statutorily limited, although the first Amendment asks that it should be the duty of the Authority to say that even live programmes should be predominantly British. We are not, however, proposing any fixed proportion of live programmes.
In the new Schedule we use the definition of "film" which is contained in the 1938 Act. This means that newsreels would not be included in the percentage, nor would transmissions of sporting events, which, in the 1938 Act, are regarded as being outside the quota proposals. In the result, there would be the foreign films, the live transmissions and the newsreels or their sports equivalents. It is only the rest that we say should be British. Our proposal is not unreasonable.
We wish to leave the matter as flexible as possible, because this is new ground for this country and one does not wish to stipulate in a Bill of this kind something which cannot be changed until there is an opportunity for further legislation. It is, therefore, made clear that the Postmaster-General may from time to time suggest other proportions. If the 80 per cent. appears to be excessive, or even insufficient, it will be open to the Postmaster-General from time to time, by order, to vary the proportion. This allows us to learn from experience and provides a great degree of flexibility.
We have made other suggestions in the Schedule. We are taking into account the very long cognate experience in dealing with cinematograph films. It is for this reason that we suggest that there should be not only a sensible proportion of British material but that it should be within the Authority's power to see that 623 that proportion is transmitted during certain periods of the year and also within certain periods of the daily programme.
That may seem puzzling, but experience of the cinematograph film has shown forcibly that without these provisions we should simply have in television what we had with films. When the quota for films was first introduced, the British quota films were shown early in the morning, often when the cleaners were still in the cinemas and no one else was present to see them. The main programme of the day was devoted entirely to foreign films. We do not wish this type of evasion to be possible with television.
Under the Cinematograph Films Act, the film quota has to be satisfied within periods of six months. We are not laying down a specific period, but we say that the Authority should have power to suggest that the quota provisions should be met within whatever period it regards as adequate.
Then we come to the difficulty of the definition of what is a British film or British recorded material. As far as films are concerned, we suggest that the simplest thing is to follow the definition set out in the Cinematograph Films Act, 1938, because the Board of Trade has considerable experience in the interpretation of that legislation. As regards other recorded material, the Postmaster-General is himself given power here to devise the appropriate definition. While it is suggested that, in general, he should follow the line of the provisions set out for films proper, he is left a considerable discretion in the matter to do what seems to be practicable.
I have one other point to make on the third Amendment with which we are dealing, that is to page 5, line 17, in which it is asked that films or other recorded matter which have been exhibited or shown or broadcast elsewhere should not be included without the consent of the Authority. Some people may think that this is an excessive request. The reason for it is that in the United States there has been a most unfortunate position where some very old and inferior British films have been used, I am sorry to say, which has brought the prestige of 624 our films to a very low ebb in that country, since the viewers are not told that the films they are being shown are 10, 15 or 20 years old.
So, again, we think that there should be provision to safeguard people from having this old material palmed off on them. In the cinematograph film quota there is a time limit beyond which a film does not count for quota purposes; something similar, though perhaps not in the way it is put in the Amendment, is desirable.
We recognise that if this is done for the new Authority there should be an obligation on the B.B.C. to observe similar provisions. We cannot provide for that in this Bill, but I suppose there would be little difficulty for the Postmaster-General in approaching the Governors of the B.B.C. and obtaining a gentleman's agreement, possibly a declaration from them, that they would observe similar conditions.
All of these provisions are necessary primarily because we are English-speaking. If we spoke French, Italian, German, or any other language the mere fact of language would in itself provide for most of the points with which I have been dealing. The fact, however, that the English language is used so extensively in the world and, in particular, in the countries across the Atlantic, means that we are placed in a position where, if we want to safeguard our own British culture, our British theatre, our British music, our British film industry, we are obliged to take steps to do so.
I would most emphatically say that past experience shows that this cannot be done by having in the Bill words such as "high" or "proper" and that for adequate administration it is essential to have definite proposals.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Hirst (Shipley)
I shall be brief, because I can assure the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) that in principle she is correct in assuming that my small Amendment to page 5, line 16, to leave out "proper," and insert "high" was designed in sympathy with her views, and particularly in order that we on this side of the Committee should have an opportunity to stress the importance of the argument which she has put to the Government in the hope that they will pass it on to the I.T.A. in due course. 625 Where I part company slightly with the hon. Lady is that I do not feel that in these early stages we should tie the hands of the I.T.A. too much. Undeniably, the Authority has a difficult job and, in the early months, it must stockpile programmes. However, because I sympathise with the purpose of the Amendment, I hope sincerely that the Postmaster-General and my hon. Friend will be sympathetic, and will see that the assurances we want will be put firmly to the I.T.A.
I agree with the hon. Lady that, as far as films are concerned, the simplest way of deciding what is of British content is provided by the existing arrangements in regard to films and the Board of Trade. Here, however, I would go further than the hon. Lady because, if anything is ultimately done in this connection, I would like to see the content more truly British since, as she will know only too well, there is an escape clause about the British film situation.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I find the last observations of the hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) interesting and I shall come back to them in a moment. I assume that the Government and hon. Gentlemen opposite accept the proposition that there ought to be a large—to use as neutral a word as I can find—proportion of films of British origin. The words of the Bill are "a proper proportion."
I have heard the Financial Secretary, on matters where one would have thought more exactitude was required, saying that the word "substantial" had some meaning, but being unable to say what he meant by it. If that can be said about "substantial," "large," and "preponderance," the word "proper" means nothing whatever. Therefore, I regard it as no more than a highly qualified concession to public opinion, a vague thing that would serve as no kind of instruction to the Authority and would give the Authority no power to enforce it.
In effect, we are seeking to substitute for the vague language of the Clause a definition of what the Authority ought to do. I do not suppose that my right hon. and hon. Friends would be deeply offended if the Assistant Postmaster-General said that he agreed with the need for something of this sort in prin- 626 ciple, but that he thought 80 per cent. too high. If he is prepared to say that now, the Schedule and this Amendment provide him with an opportunity of altering the 80 per cent. as soon as he chooses and as soon as he can get Parliament to agree with him. There is no magic in the choice of that percentage although I am fully prepared to defend it and, in doing so, I want to make one or two observations.
First, my impression is that the B.B.C. practice at present is to have at least this amount of preponderance of British material. Secondly, I should have thought that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White) pointed out, that was even more likely to be so in television in non-English speaking countries, where there is a substantial production of films and no doubt will be of other recorded matter. At any rate, our impression is that 80 per cent. is about right and we have not put that figure down at random. It seems to be about right and fair, but we are not here to quibble one way or another about matters of that kind. The best evidence of that is in the terms of the Amendment, which gives the Postmaster-General the right to alter the percentage.
The point which we are discussing is very simple. Are we to be content with putting into the Bill completely vague words like "proper proportion" or even "high proportion" which really mean nothing whatever, which are intended to have some sort of effect but which cannot possibly have an effect at all? Or are we to give the Authority some guidance upon which it must satisfy itself? I should like to see the Postmaster-General sitting down and satisfying himself that 80 per cent. of the mail was going to arrive some day. He could do that, but if he had to satisfy himself that a proper proportion would arrive he would not have the vaguest idea of what he had to satisfy himself about, nor would this Authority.
It seems madness and folly to put things of that kind in a Bill, especially when we are dealing with a new organisation, the proper way control of which can only be through the Authority. Surely we should say that we mean something when we put words in a Bill, and we should provide a standard that can be enforceable. 627 I come now to the expression "British origin." The hon. Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) bore out entirely the stories that I have heard, that the film trade are exceedingly ingenious in trying to get round the quota as applied to films. What would happen if the only quota that was applied to films was that there should be a proper proportion of British films? Does anybody suppose that the high and mighty ones from America or anywhere else would pay the slightest attention to it? What was said about films was exactly the point that I intended to make. We have seen in the film trade that it is necessary to have a fairly strict definition and an administrative machinery to enforce it, yet in the face of all that we have a Government bringing forward a Bill which refers to a proper proportion.
I understand that the requirement on which "British origin" now largely depends in the film industry is British labour. There are other provisions in the 1938 Act, but if one seeks a definition of a British company one sees at once how easy it would be to get round it. Why should we not give to people who are going to work for this new industry the same protection as is given to those who work for the film industry? Why do we refuse to one set of people that which Parliament after Parliament has given to others? The Government, through their officials, succeeded the other day in stopping Stravinsky for a time at London Airport. If they are so extraordinarily zealous about keeping out Russian composers, they might do something about artistes of other nationalities. They should give to other people the same protection as is given to those employed in the film industry.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am very glad to hear it, but I do not know what the effect will be if we put in the Bill the words "proper proportion."
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Proper proportion, substantial preponderance or high proportion, it makes no odds. We must not deny to those who will work in this industry substantially the same type of protection that has been given time after time to the film industry. We have the machinery on hand and it would be folly to set up new machinery. We have a standard which the Postmaster-General could easily apply to other recorded matter.
I say to the Government and to hon. Members opposite that either they must put into the Bill something which is merely a face-saving concession and is intended to mean nothing whatever, or they must accept precisely something on the lines of the Amendment, with the essentials of a definition of "British origin" and with, at first, a fixed percentage which would be variable from time to time, subject to the wishes of Parliament. I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will show some signs of redemption by accepting for a change one Opposition Amendment which really enables him to do what he has protested that he wishes to do.
§ Mr. Gammans
It might be an advantage if, at this stage, I indicated the views of the Government on the various points which have been put by the hon. Lady the Member for Flint, East (Mrs. White). I should like to accept her Amendment if for no other reason than that she moved it so reasonably and moderately, but I think the hon. Lady will agree, on reflection, that what she wants to do is unnecessarily restricted. I also think that it is unnecessary.
The Amendment which refers to the contents of the programme would mean that the contents and the subject matter would have to be predominantly British.
§ Mr. Gammans
Yes, but if the music and opera broadcast by the Authority had to be predominantly British we should be getting into a very narrow field of entertainment. Shakespeare's plays, of course, would qualify irrespective of their settings, but some of the finest plays that I have seen on British television have been plays by foreign authors, and in some cases played by foreign artistes.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Would Wagner qualify, in the words of the Bill, as predominantly British in tone and style?
§ Mr. Gammans
The hon. and learned Member has given me exactly my point, which is that the programme would have to be predominantly British in tone and style, but if we talk about the "contents" being predominantly British we are restricting the type of programme. I do not think that the Amendment is strictly necessary. We have laid a very direct injunction upon the Authority as to the type of programme that it can put out. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) suggested that it was not precise enough, but I believe that this is the only sort of thing that we can do at this stage, unless we are to get into a mess.
I now come to the second point of the hon. Lady's Amendment, which is that a quota should be laid down. I know that she is voicing the fears of a number of the theatrical unions. I have seen the memorandum which they have sent round about this. I think that they are quite right to try to defend the interests of their members, but I hope I shall succeed in convincing the hon. Lady, and, I hope, the unions, that this can be done in a different way, and that this proposal is not the best way to do it in the long-term interest of these people.
We have a double responsibility in this matter, and our difficulty is to try to reconcile its two facets. On the one hand, we have to give reasonable attention to the position of British artistes. We accept that, and there is no difference between either side of the Committee on that point. I assure the hon. Lady that we do not want a state of affairs where films which have earned their keep elsewhere can be dumped in this country to the detriment of the British entertainment industry.
Perhaps I can remove any misgivings which the hon. Lady may have if I say that large numbers of foreign films cannot be dumped unless the Authority fails to carry out the instructions specified in this Bill. If the Authority failed to do that, it would certainly not be seeing that a proper proportion of British films was presented and that the tone and style of the programmes were predominantly British.
630 Our other responsibility in this matter is towards the viewer. These programmes are primarily intended for the people who look at them, and we do not want to tie ourselves down with rigid rules, from whatever quarter they may come, by fixing a definite quota. There is always danger in trying to deal with a matter of this sort by means of a quota. Were we to accept the hon. Lady's Amendment, it would mean that only one foreign film could be shown for every four British films.
Whether the British cinema industry with its other commitments is capable, or even willing, to accept such an obligation, I have no means of knowing: but I believe that it would be quite easy for a programme contractor, if he were subject to such a quota, to get round it if he so wished. I will tell the Committee how. If, for example, he were told that there could only be one foreign film for four British films, and if he wanted to get round that, all he would have to do, so far as I can see—of course, I may be wrong—would be, instead of putting on the proper quota of British films, to record all programmes, in which case the percentage would be upset.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Is the hon. Gentleman saying that if they can get round a precise thing like this they will not more easily get round his more vague definitions?
§ Mr. Gammans
I do not accept that at all. To get round it in that way they would be put to additional expense in the recording of their programmes. Why should they do it? After all, they want to put on live programmes.
The other point mentioned by the hon. Lady was that if we applied a quota to the I.T.A. we should obviously have to apply it to the B.B.C. At present, there is no quota whatsoever imposed on the B.B.C. so far as films are concerned. There is no injunction in its Charter that the style and tone of the programmes are to be predominantly British. But the B.B.C. has put on a very high percentage of British films, and, so far as I know, there has never been any complaint about the percentage of British or non-British material which the B.B.C. has shown.
Why should we presume—and this, perhaps, is where both sides of the House differ so much—that a similar authority 631 to the B.B.C., and one set up with instructions far more definite than those ever given to the B.B.C., should behave in an irresponsible way? If we cannot agree on that, it is quite obvious that nothing I can say will convince the Opposition.
§ Mr. Mitchison
No doubt when the hon. Gentleman put this Clause into the Bill, and certainly when he saw this Amendment, he ascertained what percentage of British films and other recorded matter applied to and was put into practice by the B.B.C. Can he tell us what that percentage is? Secondly, the hon. Gentleman has not explained why he ever inserted in the Bill paragraph (e) which states:that a proper proportion of the films and other recorded matter included in the programmes is of British origin.Nor has he given any indication of what he means by "a proper proportion."
§ Mr. Gammans
I will deal first with the second point, as to why we put it in. We wanted to make it perfectly clear that it was the intention of the Government that the programmes put out should be predominantly British in style. But we wanted to make that point equally clear in regard to films. The hon. and learned Gentleman might argue that we need not have put it in at all, that as we had left it out in the case of the B.B.C. we might equally have left it out here. If the hon. and learned Gentleman wishes to move an Amendment to delete the whole thing, I shall be very happy to consider it.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I should, first, like to find out what it means, because at present I do not know. I am still entirely at a loss to understand why, though the hon. Gentleman recognises this obligation, he is not prepared either to define or enforce it.
§ Mr. Gammans
When my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary was asked on Second Reading what was meant by "a proper porportion," his answer was perfectly clear. He said:'A proper proportion' is what the Authority think is a proper proportion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th March, 1954; Vol. 525, c. 1445.]I think that is as far as it is proper to go at this stage.
632 The hon. and learned Gentleman's second question was what percentage of films sent out by the B.B.C. was British and what percentage was foreign. I do not know the answer to that. I do know, however, that there is a very interesting series going on at the moment about Amos and Andy, and also one about winter sports in Switzerland. I do not know how that would work out if they were subject to a quota, and I do not think that it comes into this question anyway.
I hope that the hon. Lady will feel that it is unnecessary to press her Amendment, although I know that the Opposition are as interested as we are in seeing that what goes out over the air is the best possible. We are all interested in getting not only the best type of programme, but also the best balanced programme.
The hon. Lady raised the question of the Cinematograph Films Act. That Act was designed for cinemas, and here we are dealing with an entirely new medium of which there is as yet very little experience in this or any other country. As the hon. Lady rightly said, even in the cinema world this matter of a quota has given rise to difficulties. I understand that some artistes are dissatisfied about the way it works. The hon. Lady has asked us to transfer legislation that was intended for one medium—and about which, I hope, by this time we know something—to another medium about which we know very little indeed.
It may well be—I do not rule this out at all—that something may have to be done about fixing a quota. Some sort of quota may be desirable for the television industry. All I am saying is that I think it is one of those matters in which experience will have to guide us. We should have to consult the B.B.C., who would have to be brought into any negotiations of this sort. But if there were such legislation it would have to be part of the legislation affecting the cinema.
4.30 p.m. There are one or two minor matters in the Amendment. I see no criterion in it for a limit on costs of production. That appears in the Cinematograph Acts.
§ Mr. Gammans
I accept that. In any case, this is only a minor point. Another is that we should be bringing in a system of dual control. The Postmaster-General as well as the President of the Board of Trade would be concerned. That would mean duplication, or else people would go to the one rather than the other—whoever they thought the easier person to deal with.
§ Mr. Mitchison
That would be completely impossible under the Amendment. There would be no question of the trade's going to the Minister concerned who looked the nicest.
§ Mr. Gammans
The hon. and learned Gentleman, as a lawyer, may be right, but as I read the Amendment one of the minor objections to it seems to me to be that it would set up two different standards.
I know that the film producers and technicians want to protect their interests, but I would ask them, in their own long-term interests, not to adopt too restrictive an attitude and not to try to turn the television industry into a sort of closed shop for British-produced films. If they were to adopt that attitude one thing would certainly follow. We should have to expect retaliation. There would be retaliation from countries proposing to set up their own television stations. There would also be the risk that our own people would be denied the chance to see foreign films of very great value.
§ Mr. Gammans
The Amendment talks about 80 per cent., though I admit it can be altered, but I do not think that a quota should be applicable here. I would make a special plea to the unions concerned not to adopt too restrictive an attitude. I believe that we are on the verge of tremendous developments in television. Stations will be set up all over the world, in many places where the number of local artistes is very strictly limited. In such places, if there is not enough local material, they will have to exist on canned programmes—or not transmit at all.
I believe that we are seeing the beginning of a tremendous market. It has to 634 be supplied by somebody, either ourselves or the Americans. We want to be the suppliers. We have so much ability and talent in this country that we could be, if we do not adopt a restrictionist attitude at home to try to protect British films because they are British films, which is what the Amendment seeks to do.
There may be fears about loss of the home market, but that possibility is not as great as the opportunities for selling British films abroad. We certainly cannot expect other countries to take our films if we do not take theirs and do not allow some measure of freedom to our television producers here. I see no reason why this country should not become the Hollywood of the television world. There are immense potentialities, but those who support the Amendment are approaching them with far too restrictionist an attitude.
§ Mrs. White
Can the hon. Gentleman say why it is that this country has not become the Hollywood of the cinematograph film world?
§ Mr. Gammans
I should be out of order if I pursued the question. The hon. Lady probably knows better than I do, however, that there are many complex reasons, among which, incidentally, are two world wars. However, with television we are starting a new medium, and I do not want to see our country losing its chances by being bound by restrictions and quotas that I think are quite unnecessary, and that may do a great deal of harm.
The Government have gone into this matter very deeply. We considered a quota even before the hon. Lady suggested it. We want the programmes to be predominantly British in origin. We do not want the country to be flooded with foreign films, but we do not want by a quota to run the greater risk of harming our own producers' interests throughout the world. The best thing to do is to lay a general charge on the Authority to see, first of all, that the tone and style are predominantly British and, secondly, that a proper proportion of the films is of British origin.
My hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Hirst) would like to substitute for the words "proper proportion" the words "high proportion." I hope that the proportion will be high. He assured 635 me that it had been high on the B.B.C. I do not see any reason why it should not be high on the I.T.A., and I hope it will become higher as time goes on.
I must stress again that we are delegating our powers to a responsible body, and if we are not to take those powers away from it or circumscribe it from the beginning, we ought to be prepared to trust it as we trusted the B.B.C. to do its job properly.
I come to the last point made by the hon. Lady. She wants the programme contractors not to show films that have already been shown unless the Authority gives consent. If that prohibition were to apply we should have to apply it to the B.B.C., too.
§ Mr. Mitchison
How can we possibly do that? The suggestion is that the programme contractors should get the consent of the Authority. The B.B.C. is not in that position. It has no authority to get the consent of.
§ Mr. Gammans
Any restrictions we applied to this body we should have to apply to the B.B.C. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because they are two similar, parallel bodies doing the same job. It would be quite unreasonable to apply restrictions to one body and not to the other. Let us consider what this proposal would mean. It would mean that some of the old films that have been enormously popular, films of Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy, could not be put on unless the Authority gave permission. That is not the way one should run a business of this sort. The Authority would have to maintain a much larger staff, merely to answer all the applications for permission to show such films.
I think that the unions concerned, who, I know, want this provision put in, are adopting far too timid an attitude that does not seem to be worthy of the postwar world in which we live and certainly is not worthy of the opportunities I see open before them. Although I appreciate all the hon. Lady said and the sincerity and the moderation with which she proposed these Amendments, I regret that I cannot accept any of them.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
When we consider that we are working under a Guillotine I must say that the Govern- 636 ment have certainly taken a very large part of the time that is available. However, this is a very difficult point and that may be the reason for the amount of time taken by the Government. I think that upon this series of Amendments depends the character of the programmes which we shall get from the I.T.A. They are extremely important for the style, content and tone of these programmes.
The Assistant Postmaster-General has put up quite a number of Aunt Sallies which he has knocked down. He said, first of all, that we must not restrict the I.T.A. But, after all, Clause 3 is completely restrictive. It lays upon the Authority responsibilities in very general terms, and I suppose that if the I.T.A. wanted some guidance on the meaning of these generalisations there is nobody whom it could consult. The hon. Gentleman has expressed high hopes that the programmes will be predominently British. I have never known an hon. Gentleman having such high hopes and, at the same time, refusing to avail himself of the opportunity of putting them into effect.
Let me deal with some of the points that have been raised. I entirely agree that we are in a new field. It may well be that we shall have more tele-recordings than films, and we must examine this field now. The programmes can be direct transmissions, they can be tele-recordings of old acts, and they can be films in the orthodox sense of the term. Our greatest fear is that in commercial television in this country the old used tele-recordings and old films made for television in the United States may be dumped here. The hon. Gentleman said that he did not want to see that happen. Then why not put something in the Bill to stop it? Surely that is the answer.
There is the other point whether or not these commercial programmes should all be canned programmes or live programmes, or what proportion of either should be included. This is a matter of parity to which the hon. Gentleman has not addressed himself at all. It would have been useful to know whether or not, in the interests of the artistes of this country, the hon. Gentleman was prepared to say that a certain proportion of the programmes should be live rather than recorded or canned programmes. That point has not been considered. 637 The hon. Gentleman went on to say that he did not want commercial television in this country to be Americanised, and so on, and he also said that we did not want a closed shop and referred to this great market which was to be opened to us. Are the Government going to repeal the film quota Act? Are they going to abolish the rule that every artiste who comes into this country must obtain a permit from the Minister of Labour? We have laid down a good many restrictions in order to preserve the right of British artistes to a livelihood. That is the Government's practice, and it is operated by the Ministry of Labour. It was done with Stravinsky. What is wrong with doing that in television? That is the sort of thing to which the hon. Gentleman has not paid sufficient attention.
We do not say there ought to be a closed shop, but we say that it should not be a flooded shop; it should not be a completely open shop, because that would leave the door open for those interests about which we have suspicion, which have been behind this campaign in this country and which are American subsidiaries. We are afraid that if they get the programme contract we shall have American canned programmes. We do not want to leave that door open, and the hon. Gentleman said that he did not want to leave it open. If he does not want that possibility, let us make suitable provision in the Bill. Let us have the safeguard.
If the hon. Gentleman thinks that there will not be enough production from our immature television film industry, then he should alter the quota, but at least he should give our industry a chance. He should give it some proportion of the possible market in which to develop its experience, and unless he does that we shall not have programmes which are predominantly British in character. We shall have programmes which are predominantly American in character.
The hon. Gentleman talked about the future markets outside this country. I am afraid that the British television film industry will never be able to exploit external markets until it has got on its feet at home. There must be a basic home market, and one would have thought that the hon. Gentleman would have provided a basic home market. But 638 he has not done so. This matter is left in general terms for the I.T.A. to decide. Why not say to this immature industry, "So much of the market is guaranteed for you. You cannot be under-sold, you cannot be pushed out of it. You cannot be squeezed out of it by interlocking financial arrangements."
If the industry were given that assurance, the industry might develop very differently from the way in which the general cinema film industry has developed. That is our general case. We do not want to exclude operas. That is far from our minds; we want as many operas as we can have. In fact, I hope that we shall have many more operas than we have soap operas.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
If any proportion were fixed—let us say 60 per cent., for example—would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that in some cases that proportion might be too much? For example, 20 per cent. of recorded classical music might be rather high in this country, while in another field 90 per cent. might be too high. Would the right hon. Gentleman concede that?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I do not see that that interjection is quite related to the argument. But let me say that I would have no objection at all, if the Government were prepared to do it, to the provision of some basic home market, and they could make it as elastic as they like, so long as we can preserve a special field for the development of this immature side of our activities, and provide at the same time an adequate amount of protection for British artistes and entertainers.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Yes, I am talking about live broadcasts on the one hand, and that applies equally to canned broadcasts—to telerecordings and films which are used for television.
The hon. Gentleman said that we must not place these obligations upon the I.T.A. unless they are placed also on the B.B.C. If that were the case, there would be no occasion for this Bill. This Bill is supposed to represent, on balance, the general feeling. An hon. Gentleman opposite said a few moments ago that it is a concession to public apprehension which represents compromise.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
I would not say that about the very distinguished people in both Houses who have apprehensions about this new development. I would not say that they are ill-informed, especially in view of what they have seen in other countries. It is the Government who have come to the conclusion that responsibilities and obligations should be placed on the Independent Television Authority. The Independent Television Authority is entitled to know what obligation is being placed upon it. What is the size of it? All these generalities can mean nothing or can mean everything, dependent upon the type of person that the hon. Gentleman may get upon the I.T.A.
All this is left much too loosely, and in the interests of preserving or obtaining in commercial television programmes of a predominantly British style, the hon. Gentleman ought either to accept the Amendment or, on behalf of the Government, say that they will put such safeguards in the Bill as will provide, as is laid down in the Clause, that tone, style and programmes are predominantly British.
§ Mr. Charles Ian Orr-Ewing (Hendon, North)
I do not think there is very great difference of opinion between the two sides of the Committee. Most of us have a natural anxiety that there might be too high a proportion of films coming in, but I cannot agree with the Opposition that it is necessary at this stage to fix a quota. I very much welcome the remark of my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General that we would keep it in mind that a quota might be necessary as the new service develops. At this stage, to fix a quota would be wrong.
I say that because during the 18 years in which we have had television in this country, the film industry has been thoroughly obstructive so far as television is concerned. I am not sure, therefore, that this is the right moment during their restrictive practice period to say, "All right. You may have a quota and an assured percentage in the future."
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Would the hon. Member agree to an Amendment giving the Postmaster-General power to fix a quota at his discretion but not stipulating what the quota should be?
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
The right hon. Gentleman mentions one of the many ways in which this matter could be dealt with, but I think that at this stage it would be wrong to fix a quota at all.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
That is a matter which could well be considered later in the Bill, but I certainly could not at the moment lend support to it. I will explain why.
Our film industry has not allowed either its feature films or one foot of its newsreels since the war to appear on the B.B.C. television service. The industry might adopt exactly the same attitude towards the new Authority. If there is a hard and fast quota, it means that no films whatever will be available to viewers on the new programme. That would be disastrous.
I only hope that the film industry takes to heart my hon. Friend's words, because as television develops in our Dominions there is a golden opportunity for this country to provide the recorded material which is so badly needed. It is unthinkable that some of our Dominion cities, great as they are, cannot possibly produce live programmes for even three hours every day in every week in every year. They will, therefore, either look to this country to provide the film material or, if they cannot get it from us, they may have to go to the United States.
I therefore urge that notice be taken of my hon. Friend's words and that the film industry, which is not immature—it is old established and could easily adapt its ways to meet the needs of the television service—will meet those needs.
§ Mr. M. Follick (Loughborough)
Would the hon. Member agree that it is not only films from this country that are wanted on television but that there should be a great interchange of films from all the different parts of the Commonwealth, interchanging between this country and Australia, Canada, the West Indies, and so on.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
I am delighted to agree completely with the hon. Member. Of course, we can have an interchange, and I think it would be to the great benefit of British artistic employment and British programmes throughout all parts of the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing
They would be British films, and come, presumably, within the definition of "British content."
Anything that can be done to increase the output, not only of this country but of other countries, to serve television needs both here and in the Dominions is obviously to the good. But after a period when the film industry has been very restrictive, I think it would be wrong to give it a guarantee that it will have a quota which is hard and fast. Let us feel our way in this matter, and if there is need for a quota I am sure that my hon. Friend or the Government of the day will introduce one.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
There will be widespread disappointment at the reluctance of the Assistant Postmaster-General to give the Committee any assurances in respect of the nature, tone, style, content, etc., of the programmes to be produced under the provisions of the Bill. The Assistant Postmaster-General said that he wanted to do what he could to protect the British film industry and British artistes. I wish he could have said a little more about the intentions of the Government about live entertainment and live broadcasts.
Had he made an announcement on this, it might have helped us to reconcile ourselves to his refusal to do anything in respect of films and recorded programmes. Such organisations as the Variety Artistes Federation and the Concert Parties' Association have a legitimate grievance. They feel grave doubts about the facilities or opportunities that will be available to them under the Bill as it is drafted.
The Assistant Postmaster-General could have said a little more about the provision that is to be made for live entertainment. There are undoubtedly justifiable fears that the bulk of the programmes will be canned or recorded. At least a little guaranteed niche should
§ have been provided or assured for British artistes in the new set-up. The timetable prevents any elaboration of the argument, but I hope that before we finish with the Clause we shall hear from the Government something a little more definite regarding British artistes, who are quite willing and ready to provide the live entertainment.
§ They are anxious to know how they will fare under the new arrangements that the Government contemplate. It is very odd that the Government ask us to have complete confidence in the wisdom of the Independent Television Authority, and yet at the same time they try to compromise by asking the Committee to agree to these somewhat vague restrictions which they feel must be imposed upon the future activities of this new and as yet untried body.
§ Sir Robert Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)
I have been hearing a lot of tall talk from both sides of the Committee about "Britain becoming the Hollywood of television," "freedom from quotas," and everything else. I know something about quotas. I have heard everybody saying that we are going to get to the top of the world.
I ask the Deputy-Leader of the Opposition, who has just arrived, whether he will now join with some of us and get the existing quotas on Members of Parliament—British Members of Parliament—in live broadcasting renewed, reviewed and, if possible, removed. We have about the sharpest quota on earth imposed without our will and behind our backs. All this tall talk from both sides of the Committee is humbug.
§ It being Five o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Orders, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, "That 'contents' be there inserted."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 190; Noes, 217.643
|Division No. 122.]||AYES||[5.0 p.m|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Bacon, Miss Alice||Beswick, F.|
|Albu, A. H.||Baird, J.||Bing, G. H. C.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Balfour, A.||Blackburn, F.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Blenkinsop, A.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J||Blyton, W. R.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Bowles, F. G.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Benson, G.||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hoy, J. H.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Burke, W. A.||Janner, B.||Ross, William|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Shackleton, E. A. A|
|Champion, A. J||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Short, E. W.|
|Chapman, W. D||Jenkins, R. H. (Stechford)||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Clunie, J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Collick, P. H.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Keenan, W.||Slater, Mrs H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Kenyon, C.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Daines, P.||King, Dr. H. M.||Snow, J. W.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lawson, G. M.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lewis, Arthur||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Deer, G.||MacColl, J. E||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Dodds, N. N.||McLeavy, F.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E|
|Edelman, M.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Manuel, A. C.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mason, Roy||Timmons, J.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mayhew, C. P.||Tomney, F.|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Messer, Sir F.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mitchison, G. R.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Follick, M.||Moody, A. S.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Foot, M. M.||Morgan, Dr. H. B. W||Viant, S. P.|
|Forman, J. C.||Morley, R.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Moyle, A.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mulley, F. W.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Nally, W.||West, D. G.|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Oldfield, W. H||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Grey, C. F.||Oliver, G. H||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Orbach, M.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon James (Llanelly)||Oswald, T.||Wigg, George|
|Hale, Leslie||Paget, R. T.||Willey, F. T.|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Williams, Rt. Hon.Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Pannell, Charles||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Hannan, W.||Pargiter, G. A.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Hargreaves, A.||Parker, J.||Willis, E. G.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Parkin, B. T.||Winterbottom, Ian (Nottingham, C.)|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Pearson, A||Winterbottom, Richard (Brightside)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Porter, G.||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Price, J. T (Westhoughton)||Yates, V. F.|
|Holman, P.||Proctor, W. T.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K|
|Holmes, Horace||Pryde, D. J.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Pursey, Cmdr H||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mr. Wilkins and Mr. John Taylor.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P G T||Digby, S. Wingfield|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Bullard, D. G.||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Donner, Sir P. W.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Burden, F. F. A.||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A (Saffron Walden)||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M||Carr, Robert||Duthie, W. S.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Cary, Sir Robert||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Channon, H.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Finlay, Graeme|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Fisher, Nigel|
|Birch, Nigel||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F|
|Bishop, F. P.||Colegate, W. A.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Black, C. W.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Foster, John|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell|
|Bowen, E. R.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Gammans, L. D|
|Braine, B. R.||Crouch, R. F.||Glover, D.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Godber, J. B.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Gough, C. F. H.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H||Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Graham, Sir Fergus|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Deedes, W. F||Grimond, J.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maclean, Fitzroy||Scott, R. Donald|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H.||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Shepherd, William|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Smithers, Sir Waldron (Orpington)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Spens,Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Heath, Edward||Maude, Angus||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Maudling, R.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mellor, Sir John||Stewart, Henderson (Fife E.)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Molson, A. H. E.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Storey, S.|
|Horobin, I. M.||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Howard, Hon. Grevilie (St. Ives)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Summers, G. S.|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Neave, Airey||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Hulbert, Wing Cdr. N. J.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Teeling, W.|
|Hylton-Foster, H. B. H||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croyden, W.)|
|Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Tilney, John|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Kaberry, D.||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Page, R. G.||Turton, R. H.|
|Kerr, H. W.||Perkins, Sir Robert||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Pickthorn, K. W. M||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K|
|Lambton, Viscount||Pilkington, Capt. R A||Vosper, D. F.|
|Langford-Holt, J. A.||Pitman, I. J.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Powell, J. Enoch||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Lindsay, Martin||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Linstead, Sir H. N.||Raikes, Sir Victor||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Ramsden, J. E.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Redmayne, M.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Longden, Gilbert||Remnant, Hon. P.||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Low, A. R. W.||Renton, D. L. M.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Ridsdale, J. E.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|McAdden, S. J.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Wills, G.|
|Macdonald, Sir Peter||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Russell, R. S.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|McKibbin, A J.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Drewe and Mr. Legh.|
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put forthwith the Question on an Amendment, moved by a Member of the Government, of which notice had been given, to that part of the Clause to be concluded at Five o'Clock.
Amendment made: In page 5, line 17, at end, insert:
(f) that the programmes broadcast from any station or stations contain a suitable proportion of matter calculated to appeal specially to the tastes and outlook of persons served by the station or stations.— [Mr. Gammans. ]
§ Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)
I beg to move, in page 5, line 24, at the end, to insert:and (h)that on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day certain hours shall be devoted to religious services that is to say, one hour between nine o'clock a.m. and one o'clock p.m. and one hour betwen five o'clock p.m. and ten o'clock p.m.646 I do not know whether this is the first Amendment which the Lord Privy Seal and my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) referred to during questions on business today, but I am sure, whether the conversations have taken place or not, that neither the Home Secretary nor the Government would want to use their political majority in order to defeat this Amendment.
So far, we have had Amendments which have been complicated, in regard to Government quotas, film quotas, and so on, but this is a plain, simple, straightforward Amendment which I am certain is easily understood by every hon. Member of the Committee. Other Amendments which we have considered have sought to deal with news, sport, languages and political speeches. This one is confined to the question of religious services, and a case in support of it may well be made 647 by the service rendered in this connection by both the sound and television programmes of the B.B.C. There is no doubt that these services have brought comfort and hope and inspiration to many thousands of people who otherwise would not have been able to take part in them.
One is reminded of the physically-handicapped, the thousands of old people and of the sick who are unable to take part in acts of corporate worship in the churches to which they belong. I have no doubt that not only the message they receive but the very fact that they are able to take part in the choral services or listen to the great church choirs has brought them comfort and inspiration.
At one time we thought that this practice might be fraught with the greatest difficulty, but that has not proved the case. A recent development in these television services has been the televising of the service of Holy Communion. Various religious organisations have taken part in these services. As one who has looked in, I can say that one may feel inspired by the way in which they were handled. It may be that there have been one or two complaints, but they must be few indeed. I do not wish to spend long over this Amendment which is simple, straightforward and easily understood, and because it will do a tremendous good to thousands of our fellow citizens I am certain that the Government cannot reject it.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
One of the duties laid on the Independent Television Authority is to ensure a proper balance of programmes, and that is something which we seek to have on Sundays, on Christmas Day and on Good Friday.
§ Mr. Arthur Colegate (Burton)
Has Easter Day, which is the principal festival of the Church, been deliberately left out of the Amendment?
§ Mr. Ross
I think the point is that Easter Day, although it is a movable date, is on a Sunday, and not on a weekday. I fell into the same error myself and it is quite understandable.
It may be suggested that we should leave this matter to the Authority, with the Advisory Council which it is proposed to set up. But I think that the Committee has no right to pass on such a responsibility to any other authority without 648 making its wishes in this matter as clear as possible. The House of Commons has an ultimate responsibility, and the Government will have a continuing responsibility, because we are to provide this Authority with £750,000 a year, apart from a capital of £2 million. So, we have no right to pass our responsibility for the proper treatment of Sunday programmes to anyone else.
We ask in the Amendment that one hour be devoted to this service between nine o'clock and one o'clock and one hour between five o'clock and ten o'clock on what is traditionally known in my country as the Lord's Day. Presuming that there are 13 hours of television broadcasting, we are asking that two hours be devoted to religious services. Surely that is not asking too much. I think that it is very important from the point of view of those who would like to be at church, or attending an act of worship, but who cannot be present. It is equally important for those who might just tune in by accident and receive the message we wish them to hear.
This is a tolerant Amendment. We do not lay down which services shall be televised or which denominations are to participate. We wish merely to preserve at least two hours on Sunday for religious services to be broadcast by this new and powerful medium. When we consider Christmas, and the commercial pressure to which the real spiritual significance of Christmas is subjected, it is only right that on Christmas Day we should have two hours devoted to the festival of the Nativity. It is particularly important for children, who are wakened up in the morning and receive presents, that through television they may get the true Christian message and meaning of Christmas. Therefore this Amendment should commend itself to the Committee.
As a Scotsman I regret that we overlooked one thing. We should have included Hogmanay as well, because the last hour of that occasion, which is seemingly always considered as a night of revels, is in Scotland more and more devoted to watch-night services—
§ Mr. John Mackie (Galloway)
There has always been a short watch-night service broadcast by the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Ross
I am very glad that the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Mackie) has 649 referred to that point. We appreciate what has been done by the B.B.C. in that regard and we wish that to be carried forward into this alternative television programme. We do not want just revels and rowdyism during the last hour of the year, or a programme televised from Hammersmith Palais. Rather let us have something like a service from the Tron Kirk in Edinburgh, or some other watch-night service from England, which would be appreciated by millions of our people.
The Assistant Postmaster-General may suggest that the B.B.C. is not tied down in this manner, but there is a distinct difference between the two cases. First, television is in its early days and there is a limit to the amount of television programme time, but we are here dealing with something which will last for at least 10 years, and we are looking ahead. Secondly, we cannot properly compare television by the B.B.C. with that by the new set-up, because in the case of the new set-up, time is money.
If that is true during the week, it is even more true on a Sunday. We have only to think of the Continental programmes broadcast from Luxembourg to appreciate that; to them Sunday is a very important day. Since time is money, and television time is even more expensive, there will be considerable pressure, on Sunday, for the programmes not to include even two hours of religious broadcasts.
Let us consider what the hon. Member for Galloway said about the B.B.C.'s programmes at certain times of the year. No one can deny that the handling of Sunday broadcast services by the B.B.C. leaves very little to be desired. It is very well done, particularly in Children's Hour. All parents will appreciate how well the B.B.C. handles religious themes.
I am sure we shall have the same spirit in the B.B.C.'s television services, but we have to accept responsibility here and leave nothing to chance. We want to ensure that there is a reasonable devotion of time to religious services and religious worship, which mean so much to this country and to the traditional idea of Sunday. I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will accept what is a tolerant, positive and reasonable Amendment.
§ Captain Orr
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) has supported the Amendment in a very reasonable tone. If I may say so with all humility, he sounded rather less like the wrath of God than usual. I have considerable sympathy with him, because in the television of the future I should like to see a great expansion of religious broadcasting as well as an expansion of the type of religious broadcasting.
I should like to see more and more religious points of view expressed. In deference to the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), I should like to see the Unitarians given a fair crack of the whip, in due course—although I should not, of course, dare to enter into a theological argument with the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes).
I find one or two objections to the Amendment. First, it seeks to impose a specific direction upon the new Authority which does not exist in the case of the B.B.C. In one case we have a body of public men and we are to demand that they shall produce religious programmes between certain hours; whereas in the other case we have another body of public men, appointed practically in the same way, upon whom no such direction is imposed.
The hon. Member argued that there was a difference between the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. because time would be money to the I.T.A. He argued that Sunday would be a valuable day for advertising purposes, but he should bear in mind that under the Bill the Authority will have absolute power, in making contracts with the programme contractors, to say to the contractors, "You must broadcast religious services as we direct."
§ Mr. Ross
I thought I dealt with that point. I do not think we should leave this matter to the I.T.A. We should accept responsibility in this House. Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman note these words:Equally must it be permissible for people who believe that Sunday observance is a matter of public morality to ask that it shall be imposed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1950; Vol. 481, c. 616.]Those words were said by the hon. and gallant Member himself on another occasion.
§ Captain Orr
I am always delighted when the seed falls on good ground and bears fruit abundantly.
What I would say in this respect is that the Authority is a public body and it has to judge the amount of religious broadcasting which takes place. It has absolute power in the matter, and it is advised by a religious advisory committee which we understand will be the same in personnel as the B.B.C. religious advisory committeee. The B.B.C. has done very well in religious broadcasting, following the advice of its advisory committee. If in this case it is to be practically the same committee, why not trust the Independent Television Authority to do the same thing? I cannot see why we should write into the Bill anything as definite as this Amendment seeks. If we do, why not include St. Andrew's Day? Why not St. Patrick's Day, too?
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock spoke of 13 hours' broadcasting a day. Certainly if we have 13 hours' television on a Sunday, two hours for religious broadcasting is not unreasonable, but suppose that at the beginning we have only one hour a day—during the first few weeks, for instance. It will be a little difficult to insist upon two hours of religious broadcasting. These are some of the difficulties which I see, and the reasons why I cannot support the Amendment, although I am very much in sympathy with the idea behind it.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)
I have not time to follow the many hares started by the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr). I do not think anybody knows exactly where he is at any given moment on this issue, but I should have thought, judging from the beginning of his speech, that he would have found some place for religious broadcasting in the directions given to this Authority, so as to ensure that the moral and religious interests of the country are safeguarded.
We have already agreed, in paragraph (c), that the programmes shouldmaintain a proper balance in their subject matter.As the hon. and gallant Member comes from the North of Ireland, I should have thought he would agree with me—I come from North Wales—that a proper balance 652 in this country, in an essentially Christian country, would contain at least some religious element.
§ Mr. Williams
If the hon. and gallant Gentleman finds no difficulty in agreeing with paragraph (c) why does he find any difficulty in agreeing with paragraph (h), which in my opinion brings about that balance which he apparently and sensibly desires, just as I desire it?
As I have only two minutes, I had better leave the subject of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. I want to ensure that there is a voice in this debate speaking on behalf of the Welsh religious services, and I say that for two reasons. In the first place, I am satisfied that it will do people in England, Scotland and other parts of the British Isles all the good in the world to hear Welsh preaching—in Welsh.
They might not understand it, but I feel sure that they would overcome that handicap by the emotion which would be generated within them when they heard the marvellous preachers whom we have in Wales. In any case, if they do not understand it, I feel quite sure that they will understand the meaning of the singing in Welsh, and, if it was only to ensure hearing congregational music from Wales, it would be well worth while for the Committee to accept this Amendment.
When it was proposed to introduce religious services into the programmes of the B.B.C., I was one of those who doubted the propriety of doing it. I was not too sure whether it was the thing to do, and what we should have broadcast as a result of that decision. I am perfectly satisfied now that nothing but good has accrued from the religious services broadcast by the B.B.C. in the various languages, including Welsh.
I am also satisfied on a second point. There are a large number of people today who do not attach themselves regularly to church life in its orthodox form, but who look forward to the services as they are broadcast in the B.B.C. transmissions. In an age which has become highly scientific and possibily materialistic, I do not think it is too much to ask that at least two hours on Sundays should be given to provide us with the opportunity 653 of thinking about things which are possibly on a higher plane and which may be of guidance and assistance to us in dealing with our more materialistic affairs.
I therefore feel that we ought to agree to this Amendment, and that, if religious services were a success with the B.B.C. on the radio, it will be an even greater success when introduced on television. I see no reason at all why, if we tell this Authority that it must do all these things mentioned in paragraphs (a) to (g) in order to bring it up to the standard which we think is required of it, we should not add the new paragraph (h). We should be doing wrong to leave outside the scope of these directions those matters which are concerned with the higher plane, and I therefore hope that the House will agree to the Amendment.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I should like to say to the hon. Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) that, if we are to have these enjoyable broadcasts in Welsh, he will no doubt have to suffer a counter-attack of Gaelic. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] It seems to me that the Authority should be asked to ensure that some time on Sundays should be devoted to religious services, and I think the reasons for that are apparent on the face of the Amendment and in the speech of the hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) who moved it.
I want to deal only with one or two objections which may be taken. While the hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) was speaking, some one interrupted to ask if the Rationalists would be allowed time on television. Personally, I very much hope that there will be a field of free discussion, and I hope that the Rationalists will have their opportunity, though not on Sunday, Christmas Day or Good Friday. They can have all the other days in the week if necessary. It would be offensive to many people if they were put on a programme on Sunday, Christmas Day or Good Friday. If the Amendment is accepted, the services themselves will be open to all denominations.
It has been argued that there is no duty of this sort laid upon the B.B.C., but I reject that argument, because here we are making a new experiment. We are 654 not setting up a copy of the B.B.C. We want to try something which is possibly different, which is experimental, and, therefore, that is not a valid argument. It will also be suggested that it is not necessary to give these directions to the Authority, because it will in any case have regard to the nature of Sunday, Christmas Day and Good Friday and act accordingly. If we were to leave the Authority freedom in all its activities I would accept that argument. But we are not doing that. We are tying it very strictly in some ways.
In Clause 6, the Postmaster-General is given the power to give directions to it to broadcast anything he likes. We have been discussing other directions to do with this, that or the other duty laid on the Authority. If we are going to have these directions and duties specified in the Measure I think it is most reasonable to lay upon the Authority this duty—that some period of time should be devoted to the broadcasting of religious services, though not necessarily as much as two hours every Sunday.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
It is very proper that my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) should ask that this issue should be decided by a free vote. When the Assistant Postmaster-General replies to this discussion, I hope he will indicate to his hon. Friends behind him that there will be such a free vote, because, on both sides of the Committee, there are sincere, deeply religious Members of Parliament.
My only objection to this Amendment would be that it lays down that there shall be two hours of formal religious services. I have watched the television programmes and have listened to the B.B.C., and I think the most impressive programmes of a religious character have been the informal religious broadcasts, particularly those directed to children. On the television screen, the depiction of the work in the missionary field is particularly impressive, and the wording of this Amendment gives scope for an extension of this kind of religious work. I would emphasise the informal sort of religious work, rather than the formal services, as laid down in the Amendment, but I cannot see any possible reason why services should not be provided for, and why there should be any objection to them.
§ Mr. Gammans
May I deal first with the point made by the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who, I think, said that he was assuming that there will be 13 hours of television a day? I should like to disagree with the hon. Gentleman, and to say that I do not think it is in the mind of the Government that there should be anything like 13 hours of television a day. That would conflict with the standards of moderation which we are laying down in this Bill.
The hon. Member for Leith (Mr. Hoy) spoke feelingly of the vital part which religious broadcasts play in the spiritual life of this country, and he referred to the services which had brought comfort and hope to many millions of people throughout the year. All of us would agree about the delicacy and skill with which the B.B.C. has put forward these broadcasts. Today is Ascension Day, and some of us very much enjoyed the service of Holy Communion broadcast at nine o'clock this morning by the B.B.C.
In what he was saying, I think the hon. Gentleman was tending to mix up, or not to keep a proper distinction between, sound broadcasting, which forms the overwhelming part of the B.B.C. services, and what is done by television. I think it may surprise the House to know to what a small extent in this field the television service has proved itself to be suitable. Taking the two years from January, 1951, to December, 1952, there were only 32 occasions on which a service was televised, or, roughly, one Sunday in three. What this Amendment asks for is two television services every Sunday.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is it not the case that in the evening there is the equivalent of a short service, at any rate, every Sunday?
§ Mr. Gammans
I assume that the right hon. Gentleman means Evensong, which lasts only a comparatively few minutes. I do not want to quarrel about this, but I do want to make the point that I do not think that we have yet found what is the rightful place of television in religious services. We may yet find it, but I would suggest that, if an organisation with the immense experience of the B.B.C. has only found it possible to broadcast religious services on one Sunday in three, 656 we should be starting unreasonably in asking this organisation to put on two services every Sunday.
§ Mr. Gammans
There is nothing to stop it from experimenting. The hon. Gentleman wants to compel them to experiment. All sorts of considerations come into this matter, and one is expense. We have yet to discover the place of television in religious services.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
From where does the hon. Gentleman get that advice? If he saw the televised services from Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff, he might think them ideal.
§ Mr. Gammans
I can only go by the experience of the only organisation that has ever done these things, the B.B.C. If the B.B.C. had discovered the answer to the problem we should have had far more services than one every three weeks.
There is another point of view which has not been mentioned, that of the Churches themselves. We do not yet know to what extent two televised services on Sunday would be acceptable to the Churches. There is good evidence of misgiving on the part of many leaders of the Church. They think that if people can sit at home and look at the television service they will not go to Church. I have no doubt whatever that if we were to insist in the Bill that the new Authority, come what may had to put on two services every Sunday, we should have very strong opposition from the Churches.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Is the hon. Gentleman seriously saying that the Churches would be opposed to it?
§ Mr. Gammans
I should not be at all surprised. I have no authority whatever to say that the Churches would be in favour of it, and I think it likely that they might be against it.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
What difficulty did the B.B.C. have in getting the Churches to agree to the broadcasting that takes place every Sunday now, and more often than not two or three times on a Sunday? What objection was there from the Churches?
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans
The hon. Gentleman is mixing up sound broadcasting and television. The B.B.C. is guided in religious matters by its Religious Advisory Committee, exactly the same kind of committee that we shall ask to act in the case of the I.T.A. is a question to be answered by that committee. It should say what types of service should be televised, and advise on the frequency of the services.
The only other point I would briefly mention concerns money. We do not know yet what these services will cost. We have given assurances that church services will not be mixed up with advertising, so in all probability they will have to be paid for by the Authority. We are giving the Authority £750,000 a year. To impose upon it the obligation of putting on two services on Sunday, whether or not the Religious Advisory Committee wanted it and advised it, is far beyond what we should do at this stage.
§ Mr. Grimond
If the Amendment were altered so that the time was left out and the Amendment asked, for example, for one service of not more than half an hour to be broadcast, would the hon Gentleman accept it?
§ Mr. Gammans
No. I do not think I should be prepared to accept anything. We shall ask the advice of the Churches themselves in the matter, which must in the finality be primarily one for them. For these sincere reasons I must resist the Amendment.
§ Mr. Simon
I see the force of the argument which my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General has put forward. Could he not, for the next stage of the Bill, put in a Clause to direct the attention of the Authority to this problem and attach a duty to the Authority of including a reasonable proportion of time on Sunday to religious broadcasting?
§ Mr. Gammans
We have dealt with that point in a far more effective way by setting up the Religious Advisory Committee. They are the very people who will consider not only the number of services but the frequency, and will advise the Authority what to do.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
The Assistant Postmaster-General used an 658 argument which very much influenced me. He said that religious broadcasting would cost a lot of money and there was only a limited amount of money to go round. Therefore it was going to be difficult and embarrassing to provide religious services.
That is precisely the reason why it is necessary to have a provision like the Amendment, in order to be certain that reasonable regard will be paid by the Authority to religious requirements, not only on Sundays but particularly on Good Fridays. It is important on Good Friday, because of the secularisation of that day, that the Independent Authority should provide religious services. There is all the difference in the world between the B.B.C. and the Independent Authority. The B.B.C. has no contact with industry. It is non-profit making and has to provide a public service at the highest standard. The Independent Authority will feel a conflict of interests between its duty to the public and to the advertisers. It is precisely because of that conflict that it is necessary to provide in the Bill for religious services. I am certain about it.
The attitude of the Assistant Postmaster-General to this question will cause a great deal of disappointment to many people who feel strongly about this matter. It is only necessary to remember the efforts which have been made by the B.B.C. to bring to the public some of the finest and most beautiful services in the great Anglican churches to realise the danger that that kind of thing will be squeezed out of television by financial considerations. I am most disappointed that the Assistant Postmaster-General has treated the matter in the cavalier way he has done.
§ Mr. Colegate
There is a point which has not been mentioned yet, apart from being lightly touched upon by the Assistant Postmaster-General. What effect will religious broadcasts by television have on the attendances at church from the financial point of view? Churches depend very largely upon the collections made at the services. We know that good political speeches are broadcast, and that as a result it is not so easy to get as well attended a political meeting as before either television or sound broadcasting took place. 659 The Assistant Postmaster-General is quite right when he says that before any steps are taken in that direction a committee representing the Churches should be carefully consulted. The Churches' interests here are somewhat in danger or may possibly be endangered, so we should consult representatives of the Church organisations.
§ Mr. Hoy
My hon. Friends and myself regard the Assistant Postmaster-General's reply as extremely disappointing. We do not accept many of the arguments which have come from the other side of the Committee but there is a later Amendment on which we may discuss more fully the whole question of a Sunday service. While we do not propose to withdraw the Amendment, we do not intend to take up more of the time of the Committee by dividing on it.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Sir R. Grimston
I beg to move, in page 5, line 27, to leave out from the second "of," to "a," in line 28.
As this Amendment and that in line 28 go together, I take it that we can discuss them together.
§ Sir R. Grimston
The object of these Amendments is to make it possible for the new Authority to produce a series of political broadcasts different from that produced by the B.B.C. As the Bill is now drawn the I.T.A. can only repeat the B.B.C. political broadcasts.
Let me say at once that we have no intention of upsetting the balance arranged with the B.B.C. by the political parties, but seek to authorise the Independent Television Authority to put on a series with different speakers. That is what it amounts to. If people do not want to hear one hon. or right hon. Gentleman on the B.B.C., they can have another provided by the I.T.A.
There is the additional point that more hon. Members on both sides of the House will be given more opportunities to appear on television. Speaking purely as a politician, I should have thought that that was a good thing. The present balance is agreed between the political parties, but if we can broaden the basis of political broadcasts I think that we should do so.
§ Mr. Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
On one point I can agree with the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston), and that is that as politicians we all have a vested interest in political broadcasts. Speaking on the previous Amendment, the hon. Member for Burton (Mr. Colegate) referred to the difficulty all except star speakers have in getting well-filled meetings these days. There are so many other attractions that it is difficult to get the big crowds which, if we are to believe our fathers and grandfathers, were a political feature in their day. I speak here only for myself. There may, of course, be many hon. Members who can pack the Royal Festival Hall. The parties must meet this situation by getting at the people through the new medium. I am in favour of more political television broadcasting. Much as I hate much of its works, I should like to see this new corporation available to political parties to get their message across.
This Amendment, of course, is an absolutely hopeless way of doing it. It does not help or guide us in the difficulties which will arise. One has only to see the arrangements made with the B.B.C. to realise how intensely delicate this matter is. From time to time there are conferences between the parties and the B.B.C. when all these matters of timing and the number of broadcasts are settled by agreement. That is a feature of British party political broadcasting, which, I suppose, goes right back to the time when such broadcasting began. At the time of a General Election there is a formula which is based on the number of candidates each party has in the field, and if one alters these arrangements one gets into terribly deep waters.
§ Sir R. Grimston
It is not the intention to alter those arrangements. Though the Amendment is possibly not absolutely correctly drawn, there is no intention to alter the balance in the arrangements.
§ Mr. Benn
I am prepared to give credit for good intention, but the Amendment opens wide the door to chaos in the field of party political broadcasting. There is nothing in the Amendment to suggest that the I.T.A. must make the arrangements. As it stands, any programme contractor could run his own series of party political broadcasts. It is 661 in effect, extending paragraph (g), and it would be open to any programme contractor to run his own series.
§ Sir R. Grimston
May I draw attention to paragraph (f)? That covers the point about due impartiality.
§ Mr. Benn
This shows how guilty the hon. Member for Westbury is. All I said was that a programme contractor could run a series. I was not suggesting that he would be partial, but only that he could run a balanced series. The hon. Member's intervention does not deny my point that a contractor could run a series on his own.
§ Mr. Benn
I will come to that in a moment.
We come here to the most unpopular aspect of political party broadcasting. Up to now the arranging has been done generally through the Party Whips' offices. It might be all right if Gilbert Harding wanted to put the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) into the "What's my line?" programme and have the listeners guess what he did for a living. But if there is to be a political broadcast by the Conservative Party it is up to their Chief Whip to appoint someone to present the party view.
It would be a very brave thing were a programme contractor, however impartial, to be allowed to pick the speakers, because the feature of party political broadcasting is that the man speaks for the party. In that case, of course, it must be left to the party. It would be perhaps a great embarrassment if the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) were the only hon. Member picked to represent the Conservative Party and speak for them in a political broadcast. It would be very advantageous to us to feel that, unknown to many of his own colleagues, he voiced the real inspiration and philosophy of his own party.
Then there is the question of payment. If the programme contractor is allowed to put on a series of party political broadcasts, there is nothing to stop him charging for them. It is suggested that M.P.s are going to get a lot of money out of commercial television. The fact is that 662 in America politicians pay enormous sums to be allowed to take part in political broadcasts, and they do not get a penny out of it. Adlai Stevenson went on a network in America and had to pay 75,000 dollars. That was paid out by the sponsors.
Are we to introduce a system by which parties buy their time, which it is left open for them to do by this Amendment? Are we to allow some programme contractor, with perhaps the most muddled ideas about political organisations, to pick his speakers from each side of the House and let him decide who is to speak for the party? Are we to have the Liberal Party put on at the peak listening hour while the Conservatives are tucked away into a period when the urban housewives are making the beds? All these things have to be decided by inter-party agreement. While I believe for myself that we should get party political broadcasts on television wherever we can, I think that it would be most unwise in general to accept this Amendment.
Supposing that the Opposition decided that they would not participate in a party political series. I am not threatening, but both parties must agree to this to fulfil the requirements of paragraph (f) that there must be impartiality, and therefore we must get party agreement. If this Amendment were accepted and there were no proper safeguards, it might be that one party or the other would find that it was unable to co-operate, and the whole object of this Amendment would fall to the ground. I hope that before the Assistant Postmaster-General offers to accept this Amendment he will discuss it with my right hon. Friends, because we cannot have an impartial political series operating unless both sides are willing to co-operate.
§ Mr. Walter Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and I had a short discussion on this matter by telephone earlier in the day. I am sure that he will not expect me to go into it as it was a private conversation, but he will remember that when we mentioned the possible intervention of the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers) we agreed that there were other hon. Members on his own side who could be equally embarrassing as representatives of party opinion. 663 We carry the hon. Gentleman with us to the extent that it would be a good thing if there were more opportunities for politics to be explained on the air to people who are interested, and it is an interesting thought that perhaps in this way we might get an expansion of the rather narrow area of selection which is open at the present time.
It is true, I think, that if practising political people are to be asked to go on the air, the political organisations will inevitably have a certain amount of authority over them. When the hon. Gentleman is speaking, as I have often heard him speak in "Any Questions," or delighting us in some of the other broadcasts in which he takes part, the very fact that he is not only a very well known member of his own party but bears a famous name means that the views of his party are to some extent represented in the minds of the ordinary man listening by what he says.
But that is not always the case. The Home Secretary would be aghast if he were held responsible for everything which the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) said as being authorised by the Central Office and carrying the full cache of the party. For all that, my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire was complaining at an earlier stage of our deliberations about the rigid quota imposed on him by the Central Office.
The interesting point is whether there should be a broadening of the rather narrow approach which exists at the B.B.C. at present. I think that it is a rather narrow approach. The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East spoke of the difficulty of filling great halls. I have just come from a great hall which was filled, and very successfully so, by a leading Member of my own party. It is also true to say that party political broadcasts as such do not attract the audiences they did. They are more "give and take" and discussion programmes. In B.B.C. broadcasting we are seeing the change going on and these things will demand a flexible attitude of the parties towards them.
§ Mr. Benn
Concerning the controversial broadcast, we are all agreed in a sense that this is in the field already; 664 but these are party political broadcasts in which the man who is picked is picked to represent his party. Do I understand that the right hon. Gentleman proposes that he should be allowed to speak for his party if he has not been picked by his party, because that is the key to the whole thing.
§ Mr. Elliot
Not quite. I am saying that the party political broadcast will not in the future take the same form as in the past, because I think that it has been to some extent superseded by newer techniques, to put it no higher than that, particularly in unscripted broadcasts where we all have to go a little beyond the strict limitations of our party, and we cannot be held responsible for every single word and sentence that is uttered.
That brings me back to the point that this is a matter in which I think the Authority will be the appropriate judge. The whole complicated business of political broadcasts is again under the aegis of the B.B.C., and it would be hopeless for the House of Commons to attempt to try to lay down rules which should govern party political broadcasts in a statute. They can be very properly laid down and they have been laid down partly by the Authority—in that case the B.B.C.—partly by the central offices concerned and partly by the developing practice in which the individual always breaks through more or less the rigid rules of the organisations.
For all that, I do not think that we can go further just now. That is where I come back again and again in our discussions here, that in this new and developing programme we cannot do better than set up a reasonable central authority and trust it to allow the development of these new techniques. I trust that the hon. Gentleman will be able to support this even further than he has been able to do yet.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison (Lewisham, South)
I cannot help saying that the more I listened to the hon. Member who moved the Amendment and to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot), the more I was mystified as to what they meant. I cannot believe that the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove has any sense of grievance about his own appearances on the B.B.C. He does very well—he does 665 very well in other directions. He is frequently on the air, so there is no boycott of him.
I did not understand the interjection of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) earlier on, because he is a frequent and popular appearer on television and on one thing and another. I do not know why they should get agitated, if they want a better chance for other people. We all speak personally; we cannot help it. If a formula could be invented whereby some hon. Members appeared less often and others who wanted to be on more often could do so, it would have a natural appeal to the general body of hon. Members. However, that does not settle it. Hon. Members opposite have not addressed their observations to the actual terms of the Amendment—
§ Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)
Does not my right hon. Friend think it highly improper at this stage to introduce into the argument considerations of how much hon. Members are going to get? It seems to me wholly deplorable that there should be that sort of approach to political broadcasts, bringing in the question of how much the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir R. Boothby) or the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove (Mr. Elliot) get. They get it through special circumstances. In my judgment, no one ought to get anything.
§ Mr. Morrison
I know that that is the point of view of my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), and I gather that he has put down an Amendment on that subject. The argument was started by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire and the right hon. Member for Kelvingrove, and I have only followed it up. I quite agree that all of us who do any broadcasting for fees ought to declare our interests. I do so.
§ Mr. Morrison
I do not know about that. I think there is something to be said for the labourer receiving his reward. The point as to whether those of us who were opposed to commercial television ought to appear on commercial television is one for moral consideration in due course.
Let us see what the Amendment does. It would leave paragraph (g) as it is:
subject as hereinafter provided in this subsection, that no matter designed to serve the interests of any political party is included in the programmes…
Then there comes the proviso as it is proposed to be amended:
Provided that nothing in paragraph (g) of this subsection shall prevent (i) the inclusion in the programmes of relays"—
§ Mr. Morrison
Is "relays" out? I read it another way. I thought it ought to be out because otherwise it would not make sense. It is:… the inclusion in the programmes of a series of party political broadcasts.…These are party political broadcasts. They are not the occasional appearances which hon. Members make in "In the News" or "Press Conference" and other programmes on television or in doing talks or interviews on sound broadcasting. They are party political broadcasts where the individual is announced as "Mr. So-and-so, speaking for the so-and-so party."
There are two points upon this. First, on this class of broadcast it would clearly be wrong if the party organisation had no voice in the matter at all when the individual was speaking on its behalf. The Parliamentary party leaders meet the B.B.C. from time to time and we have most careful discussions about it. Otherwise, there is bound to be a grievance on the part of the political parties. I admit that there also may be a grievance on the part of individual party members who think that they ought to be selected for the party from time to time but are not. However, they can have their row with the party, and I dare say that they sometimes do. Nevertheless, it works smoothly as a whole.
It is clearly wrong to contemplate, as is contemplated by the Amendment that the responsibility for selecting party political broadcasters should rest upon the Authority which is at the head of a highly commercial organisation. That is the other danger.
This is a highly commercial organisation the greater part of whose revenue will depend upon commercial advertising. It may well be interested in choosing people who are less dangerous to the capitalist 667 system of society and to the commercial interests represented by the organisation. It would, therefore, be even more dangerous than in the case of the British Broadcasting Corporation to give the Authority a freedom which nobody is proposing to give the B.B.C. I do not know whether the brewers would have an influence on the Authority. They might be big advertisers. I do not know what the chances would be of my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, North (Mr. J. Hudson) appearing on those programmes.
It is right that the political parties should be reasonably protected, but parliament has also to be protected. If an outside organisation, especially if it is of a commercial character, can have complete freedom to build up or not build up Parliamentarians and politicians, it is a dangerous power to give it. It may well affect the authority of Parliament, and that is why the B.B.C. has not been allowed complete freedom in these matters. If the B.B.C. is not allowed complete freedom, it is all the more necessary that this body should not be allowed complete freedom.
The case against the Amendment is overwhelming. I can only express the hope that the Government will advise the Committee not to accept it. Those who have put it down have not considered it carefully enough, and I hope that they will be inclined to withdraw it.
§ Mr. Mitchison
On a point of order. I should like your Ruling about the Amendment we are discussing, Mr. MacPherson. I understood my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) to take the view of it that I do, that it leaves in the context.
… the inclusion in the programmes of relays …of a series…but that appears to be denied by hon. Members opposite who support the Amendment. It would be as well to find out what the Question before the Committee is.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Malcolm MacPherson)
The Amendment would appear to leave in:…the inclusion in the programmes of relays…of a series …as the hon. and learned Member suggests.
§ Mr. Gammans
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison) has built up a great bogy about what might happen if we were to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Gammans
I observe that the brewers have been brought back into the matter. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will be relieved to hear that I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment, although I must confess that the idea has many attractions. It is attractive for the reason put forward, that it would perhaps introduce a different type of political broadcasting, one with an element of variety, and—I suppose that all of us have a certain vested interest in this—that it would increase the opportunities for us to appear in front of the television cameras.
I hope I shall be able to convince my hon. Friend the Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) why we cannot accept the Amendment. He said, quite rightly, that there is no idea of upsetting the balance. In other words, if the Amendment were accepted, there would be no danger of one political party "nobbling" a station; balance has to be maintained. He sees no difficulty on that score.
What he really wants is a separate series of properly balanced broadcasts arranged by the Authority. I will give him the reason why I cannot accept that. I must remind the Committee that at first we wondered whether party political broadcasts might have to be cut out altogether. In fact, at one time in our discussions the idea was that they should be. We realised that this was a thorny problem and we thought that, as in the case of religion, it might be better to leave them alone.
However, in the end we thought that we might accept them, and that if we did so it must be the whole of a series of B.B.C. broadcasts, not a part. My hon. Friend may say that it is illogical to close those doors. It may be illogical, but this is a matter which after many years has been agreed by means of a committee of the principal parties in this House, who have to discuss and agree on the form that these broadcasts shall take, and how many of them there shall be. If we reopen this, we have to reopen it on that 669 basis, and I think it undesirable that we should do so.
There is another, and I hope conclusive, reason why we must resist this Amendment. When my right hon. and learned Friend introduced the Second Reading of this Bill he indicated that this was the way that party political broadcasts would be arranged. We are not prepared to depart from that, and therefore for those reasons I regret that I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Shackleton
I hope the hon. Gentleman will not be deterred by any promises that have been given to the House, because he has broken a few of them already.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Mr. MacPherson, I mentioned in the course of my speech that there are occasions when fees are paid to broadcasters. In order that there shall be no public misunderstanding, I should say that in respect of controversial political broadcasts there is no fee paid whatever.
§ Mr. F. Blackburn (Stalybridge and Hyde)
I am glad that the Assistant Postmaster-General has said that he will resist this Amendment, because I have the feeling that neither the hon. Gentleman nor the people who have put down this Amendment have read the words of the Bill. The mover of it said it was giving a monopoly to the B.B.C., but the Bill says:Provided that nothing in paragraph (g) of this subsection shall prevent—(i) the inclusion in the programmes of relays of the whole (but not some only) of a series of the British Broadcasting Corporation's party political broadcasts.It does not say that there shall be a monopoly and my concern in this matter is that I do not think that there are sufficient safeguards about party political broadcasts which may still be put on by the Authority or by the programme companies. The Bill does not say that the Authority shall be restricted to the party political broadcasts of the B.B.C., it says that nothing shall prevent the whole or a series being put on. There is a danger arising from this that other party political broadcasts may be put on in accordance with paragraph (a) with subsequent difficulties. I would ask the Assistant Postmaster-General to deal with that aspect of the problem.
§ Mr. Grimond
After the explanation of the Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Lewisham, South (Mr. H. Morrison), I feel inclined to say a word in support of it. If the intention is to allow the Authority to put on a series of party political broadcasts different from the B.B.C., there is a great deal to be said for that, though I appreciate that it would have to be subject to careful safeguards. I also appreciate that, if agreement could not be reached about adequate safeguards, the Independent Authority might have to drop the proposal.
However, the proposal in itself seems an intrinsically reasonable and good one, because we are all agreed that one of the advantages of the Independent Authority is that it will allow more discussion and more representation of political and other controversial views.
It has been suggested that the situation as regards these party political broadcasts is entirely satisfactory. I do not know how satisfactory it is to the public, because I am one of those who think that these broadcasts are losing popularity and that it is the discussion programmes which attract the big listening public today.
As far as the Liberal Party are concerned, I have no complaint. I think we are fairly generously treated. There is, however, a question there as to whether it is right for all time to weight these programmes according to representation in this House. This is not the time to go into that question. But it does seem to me anomalous, at a time when the Conservative and Labour parties are roughly equal in numbers, that if one gets a few more seats than the other, the allocation is altered. I do not believe the present method of allocating time between the three main parties can be justified.
But there are several parties in this country who are not represented at all in these programmes. There are the Scottish and Welsh Nationalists—[An HON. MEMBER: "And the Communists."] Personally, I would have the Communists on as well, though there are those who argue that the Communists are not a political party but a revolutionary conspiracy.
§ Mr. Grimond
Certainly I would. I have great faith in the old argument that if we allow free discussion in a reasonable democracy, which is reasonably educated, people like the Mosleyites will not get a following.
§ Mr. Mitchison
What is to be sent out is not a party political broadcast but a relay. The Bill does not say what party and in what country. I thought it was a device to get in McCarthy while there is time.
§ Mr. C. I. Orr-Ewing
The hon. and learned Gentleman is wrong. The Bill says "of relays," meaning relays of a programme by the Authority's transmitters.
§ Mr. Grimond
May I intervene? I agree with the hon. and learned Member. I was considerably confused about the meaning of this Amendment. I think relays are cut out. I do not think we can have Mr. McCarthy. He really is not a political party, and it is official party broadcasts we are discussing.
§ Mr. Grimond
I think there is an argument in saying what a political party is. I accept the reasoning that, if we attempt to define it logically, we are up against appalling difficulties. But there are certain groups of people in this country in whom I have no political interest, such as the Welsh and Scottish Nationalists and the Communists, who clearly would be included under any definition of a political party. If we accept that then they should be entitled to give an occasional party political broadcast.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that they should be entitled to broadcast according to the amount of time they can afford to buy? Otherwise how can they be selected under this system?
§ Mr. Grimond
No. The Independent Authority must keep the balance, but it should give them some time on the air.
§ Captain Orr
I agree that perhaps the Amendment as it is drawn does not do what we would like it to do. But there was nothing sinister behind it. All that we had in mind was that the Bill, as drafted, means that no party political broadcasts of any kind can be put on unless they are those of the B.B.C.
§ Captain Orr
Yes, in paragraph (g):that no matter designed to serve the interests of any political party is included in the programmes: Provided that nothing ‖ shall prevent—(i) the inclusion in the programmes of relays — of a series of the British Broadcasting Corporation's party political broadcasts.6.30 p.m. As the Bill is drafted, nothing can be included in the way of party political broadcasts coming under the aegis of the Authority except broadcasts relayed from the B.B.C. I am not convinced by arguments that it would be impossible, for instance, for the three political parties to get together and say, "We want to put the 'First XI' party political broadcasts on the B.B.C. and we should like to have a 'Second XI' and put them in a programme sent out by the Authority." I do not see why the parties could not come to precisely the same kind of agreement as they have now about impartiality and the length of time of broadcasts. As the Bill stands, they will be completely prohibited from doing all this in connection with the Authority for the next 10 years.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Would advertisements be associated with these broadcasts, and would the hon. and gallant Gentleman agree that these broadcasts would have to be done either by the programme companies or by the I.T.A itself?
§ Captain Orr
I cannot see that advertisements could possibly be associated with party broadcasts, but no doubt that would be a matter on which the parties could agree among themselves. On the second point, I have no doubt that if it were agreed between the Authority and 673 the political parties that there should be a party political television programme the I.T.A. could say to a programme contractor, "You must give facilities to this or that party on such and such a day." I do not see that that is an insuperable difficulty. If the B.B.C. came to an end within 10 years after the passing of this Bill, no party political broadcast could be sent out by the Authority as the Bill is now drafted.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General will look at this point again between now and the Report stage. As it stands, the provision seems to be unduly restrictive. I cannot see why there should be any party disagreement or why we could not devise a means of having party political broadcasts on the I.T.A. system without necessarily having to have relays from the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Wigg
I wonder what the giants of the past who struggled for political freedom in this House and in the country must think (if they are listening to our debates from beyond the veil. Surely they must say that they are hearing the death-knell of democracy. The Assistant Postmaster-General handles the questions of politics and religion in this business as if they were so many pounds of fish and chips to be bought and sold in order to make a profit.
We are not discussing the merits of whether the Communist, Liberal or Conservative Parties shall do this or that. What we are deciding for ourselves and our children is the spiritual quality which shall go to make up our thinking and feeling in grappling with the problems which face us today and in the days that are to come.
§ Mr. Wigg
I am coming to that. The way in which the Bill has been presented and the functioning of the Guillotine have prevented us from having an adequate discussion of the principles underlying our actions in the Bill, and in some matters from even discussing the principles at all. The hon. and gallant Member for Down, South (Captain Orr) talks about far-reaching proposals in connection with the Bill as if he were dispensing so many pounds of acid drops. He has not the dimmest comprehension of the issues that are involved. We are engaged 674 in setting up a body to influence the minds of our people, but whose only concern at the end of the day is whether the right figures are on the right side of the balance sheet. That is the test that commercial television will apply. When the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks us to trust him, what sort of fools does he think we are? I would not trust him an inch, nor would I trust the forces that are behind him.
I am very concerned indeed and have been concerned for a very long time with the handling of political questions by the B.B.C., but I am more worried by this new body. It will have vast sums of money in the bank and even greater sums available if a profit can be made. It will be able to mould and control the opinion not only of a large part of the electorate but also of Members of Parliament, and there will be little control of its activities once the Bill is passed.
I should like to have a declaration from my own Front Bench that these commercial television programmes are evil things, conceived by evil men for evil purposes, that no Socialist will touch them with a barge-pole. I hope that no member of the Labour Party will take a penny profit as a result of doing a political strip-tease when it suits hon. Members opposite to give him an engagement. [An HON. MEMBER: "On commercial television."] We should recognise the fact that in the United States at least they know what their values are and have not so much smug hypocrisy as we have. They say over there that politicians ought not to be paid for going on the air. Indeed they ought to pay for the opportunity to broadcast.
We should recognise that if people are given time on the B.B.C. or on commercial television they are being given a considerable advantage. Particularly in view of decisions that have been taken this week, I hope that the day is not far distant when there will be an all-party declaration that no Member of Parliament shall receive a single penny piece from broadcasting, either on commercial television or on the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I want to take a line different from that of anyone else who has spoken so far. I do not go quite as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg), but I very nearly go there. I believe that during 675 the past 20 or 30 years the radio has been the strongest support of dictatorship of any of the inventions of man. Hitler and Mussolini ordered the whole of their populations on to the streets to hear what they were to think.
I object to political broadcasting altogether. I believe that it has already gone a long way to destroy the vitality of British democracy. It has destroyed the heckler because, after all, the heckler likes a big audience just as much as the speaker from the platform, and the heckler was an essential part of the British way of life in politics. That great orator the Earl of Rosebery alluding to a General Election said that during it the skill of the electorate would lay bare all the secrets in the politicians' hearts.
Those of us who are old enough to recollect political meetings of the past, in village schools as well as in town halls, know the way in which question time was a far livelier episode than it is now in most meetings. Democracy as we understand it in this country is not listening to lectures, even when one has the power to turn the knob and switch the orator off. Democracy is a co-operative effort between the electorate and the candidate. It may be very comfortable to sit in one's armchair and listen to a great orator or, if one happens to be a candidate in a borough constituency, to go back to one's hotel after doing one's worst and switch on the radio and listen to how the matter is put over by those who understand the job. One can also listen, of course, to the comments of those who are sharing the coffee with one in the lounge.
I put it seriously to the Committee that in this matter we have to be very careful how far we go, and multiplying political broadcasts is not to my mind doing a real service to democracy on the British pattern. I want to see something done that will restore the active participation of the electorate in the formulation of public opinion when elections take place. I am quite certain that in the old days the elector played a far more important part in shaping policy than he does under the present system.
I have no complaint against the B.B.C. They mainly employ me to deliver obituary notices, and they never pay me for them. One has to be a bit careful when 676 one is making them. They also used to allow me as Home Secretary to do what the present holder of that office does, to implore people to look at the electoral register in order to make sure that their names are on it. Judging from what one hears after an election, there are few less successful broadcasts than those.
I once had a surprise. I was invited after a debate on the Metropolitan Police to speak for eight minutes about the Metropolitan Police on the European Service. I went, and I did as well as I could. I have not yet heard any complaints from the police, but, probably, they were not listening to the European Service. To my amazement, the day after I spoke, I received a form of contract offering me £5 for the broadcast. I felt rather like Pooh-Bah who, when he received a bribe, said:An insult, and, I think, a light one.I would not say that it was an insult, but it was a surprise to me, I am bound to say, that a politician who was asked to give a talk of that kind should be regarded as having made himself eligible for payment. But as it was apparently the rate for the job, I determined that I would take it that time, but that if ever I was again invited I would inquire beforehand how much the job was worth.
I suggest to the Committee that in all this mass talk and mass propaganda we have to beware how far we are doing injury when we hope that we are giving instruction. After all, it is not instruction that one wants to give, but an education to the electorate, and the soundest education is that in which the pupil actively participates, and he has a job to do that when listening to the radio or watching the television.
§ Sir R. Grimston
In view of the operation of the Guillotine, and it being the desire of the party opposite, I think I should offer to withdraw my Amendment. I am perfectly prepared to do so in view of the fact that we have had a very good discussion on it, and that my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General has said what he has on the subject. Therefore, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I recognise that we are working under extremely difficult conditions, that there is a very strict Guillotine, and that we have not the opportunity of properly discussing either this or any other point under the Bill. I hope, therefore, to try to limit the length of time I speak, having regard to that extremely unfortunate circumstance. In excuse, I may say that this is the only occasion on which I have spoken in the course of these discussions, and the only occasion on which I propose to speak.
I was disappointed to hear the hon. Member for Westbury (Sir R. Grimston) offer to withdraw his Amendment, because I am in favour of it. I think it is an extremely good Amendment. I say, against the background that I do not like the Bill at all, that if there were any way of preventing it from reaching the Statute Book, I would advise everyone to take that way. I think that the whole thing is sinister and not very respectable, and I am sorry that the Bill was ever introduced.
However, we are now discussing the Measure in Committee on the basis that, unfortunately, it will some day reach the Statute Book. We are discussing, therefore, whether we can in any way limit the evil or improve its operation. We are not discussing at this stage—I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley (Mr. Wigg) will not think me unkind if I do not seem to agree with what I thought was a very good speech from him—whether people ought to be paid for political broadcasts. I think there is a great deal to be said about that, but it has nothing to do with this Amendment.
§ Mr. Silverman
I am sure that my hon. Friend had the most proper motives for doing the most improper thing. He always has. But it remains true that so far as the Amendment which we are now considering is concerned it has nothing to do with payment. We can agree to my hon. Friend's Amendment and still agree to this Amendment, and no doubt that 678 would be a satisfactory thing from his point of view.
As I understand the position as the Bill is drawn, it is this. There are two ways in which political opinion may be influenced by broadcasting or by television. One is what one might call the official way, the official party broadcast in which, as is quite right, the time is apportioned equitably according to the numerical strength of the parties, and each party has the right to nominate its own spokesman.
But that is not the whole story. The B.B.C. can and does use political personalities for a wide variety of other purposes—public discussions of all sorts and kinds. They are not the party political broadcasts, and, ostensibly at any rate—I do not know what happens behind the scenes—the parties have nothing whatever to do with the selection of those personalities. That may be a bad thing. Some people think it is.
If it is a bad thing, then it ought not happen at all. But it does happen, and when the Independent Television Authority is operating there is nothing in the Clause, as drawn, which will prevent it, if it wishes, from developing the second, or, one may call it, the unofficial kind of political propaganda. It can select arbitrarily, and without any right of interference from any party or person, any political personality whom it can induce, with or without payment, to take part in any kind of programme. Who is going to say that political opinion in this country may not be very greatly influenced by discussions of that kind?
The television programme "In the News" has already gained in the public mind a kind of quasi-official authority, although, ostensibly, the parties have nothing at all to do with it. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent the Independent Television Authority from putting on a rival "In the News" programme, and putting on it any political personality it likes.
What does the Amendment propose? It does not propose to interfere with that at all. All that it proposes to do is to have side by side with it, as the B.B.C. has side by side with it, the officially-controlled official political party broadcasts. What is wrong with that? I find it very difficult to understand. If it is a bad thing to have it, as my right hon. 679 Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) thinks—and there is a lot to be said for his point of view—then we should not have it at all. But it cannot be a good thing, or a right thing, or a reasonable thing, to have official party political broadcasts of that kind on the B.B.C. and relayed, provided all of them are relayed, by the Independent Television Authority, but only those, and to do that in the name of competition.
Here is a Bill introduced by the Government because they do not like monopoly, but they are all in favour of preserving monopoly in the only place where monopoly ought not to be, namely in official party political broadcasts. This is the one sector of the whole field in which the Government wish to retain a monopoly, apparently with the support of my right hon. Friend, and I confess that I do not understand it.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not think it would at all. It would not be the party monopoly that was broken, but there would be some chance of lessening a personal monopoly. If we provide two series of broadcasts instead of one, we might, if we were a reasonable party, such as ours is, find that we had the opportunity to use the services of more people. If there are only four or five opportunities during the year, one's choice is inevitably severely restricted, and one has a perfectly good justification or pretext, as the case may be, for ringing the changes on the same group of personalities because there is only a small number of occasions at one's disposal.
If any party was foolish enough not to avail itself of all the talent available, it would pay the penalty in its hold on the public attention and in its influence on the development of political thought. A sensible party, if it had more opportunities, would use new angles of approach and new kinds of idiom and all that kind of thing, and I am quite certain that that would be done.
But if we are having this Independent Television Authority at all, and if we are leaving to it the far more dangerous and 680 more insidious unofficial political propaganda on the informal occasions, I cannot see why it should be prevented from doubling or trebling or quadrupling, if it is willing to give so much time, the official party broadcasts, of which ex hypothesi the official parties would remain in control all the time. I am utterly at a loss to understand why the Amendment is being opposed, why it is rejected by the Government and why even its putative father wishes to kill it before it is born.
§ The Temporary Chairman
The hon. Member cannot withdraw the Amendment. He has already asked leave to withdraw, and the Committee has not given him permission.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Wigg
Mr. MacPherson, do I understand that the Chair has not selected the Amendment standing in my name, in page 5, line 45, at the end to insert:(3) It shall be the duty of the Authority to secure that, save in the case of the relays mentioned in paragraph (i) of the proviso to subsection (1) of this section. no remuneration shall be paid for the services of any member of the Commons House of Parliament in connection with any programme broadcast by the Authority including any programme provided by a programme contractor.
§ The Temporary Chairman
It is not for the hon. Member either to ask the reason why the Amendment has not been selected or to suggest a possible reason with a view to finding out which is the actual reason.
§ Mr. Wigg
I defer to your Ruling, Mr. MacPherson, but perhaps I may add that so far I have contented myself with putting the Amendment on the Order Paper 681 in my own name. What I propose to do is to renew my efforts on the Report stage, and I trust that many of my hon. Friends will give me support to ensure that the Amendment is called on Report.
§ Mr. William Warbey (Broxtowe)
I beg to move, in page 6, line 3, after "of," to insert:and conform generally to the recommendations of.I should like to thank my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) for the assistance which he has given to this side of the Committee in enabling us to expedite the business and to try to concentrate on some of those matters which we regard as of some importance.
I do not know, Mr. MacPherson, whether you would regard it as in order to take in conjunction with this Amendment the Amendment to page 6, line 9, at the end, add:and an educational committee representative of parents, teachers and other persons with experience of and special interest in the welfare and education of young persons and children to advise the programme contractors and the Authority on any matter intended for young persons or children included in the said programmes or publications and on the suitability or unsuitability for young persons and children of any other matter included or submitted for inclusion in the said programmes or publications.
§ The Temporary Chairman
If it is the desire of the Committee to take these Amendments together we could do so, but I think they are quite different from each other.
§ Mr. Shackleton
On a point of order, Mr. MacPherson. We naturally agree with your Ruling that they are different Amendments, but it would make the debate on this Amendment much more relevant if it were possible to refer to that subsequent Amendment, because if this Amendment were carried it would tie up with the later Amendment. I think what my hon. Friend would like to do is to refer to it.
§ Mr. Warbey
I thank you for your Ruling, Mr. MacPherson, because I should like to refer to this other Amendment and call the attention of the Assistant Postmaster-General to the fact 682 that during a previous discussion in Committee on the question of educational programmes run under the I.T.A., he stated that the I.T.A. would have the power to set up advisory committees, including an advisory committee on education and children's programmes.
Therefore, I am going to work on the assumption that, in fact, the hon. Gentleman will accept this later Amendment providing for the specific appointment of an educational committee. Whether or not it is accepted by the Government, or whether indeed it is passed by the Committee as a whole, nevertheless the purpose of subsection (3) is to enable the Independent Television Authority to establish advisory committees for such special fields as it may regard as important. There is a specific reference to an advisory committee on religious matters, and, in our view, there should be specific provision for the appointment of an advisory committee on educational matters and children's programmes as well.
The purpose of my Amendment is to ensure that when these advisory committees have been set up the I.T.A. shall follow their advice. That is all we are suggesting. I should have thought this so modest and so reasonable a proposal that the Assistant Postmaster-General would have had no difficulty in accepting it. To save the time of the Committee, since we have other important matters we should like to discuss, I am willing to give way to the hon. Gentleman now so that he can indicate whether he will accept the Amendment, if it is his intention so to do. A nod from the hon. Gentleman would have assisted the Committee. He gives no sign at all.
§ Mr. Warbey
Since no sign is forthcoming from the hon. Gentleman, I must proceed on the assumption that we are not going to have much assistance from him. Indeed, the Committee gets very little assistance from the Assistant Postmaster-General. Whoever else he may be supposed to assist, it is certainly not this Committee. Whereas the hon. Gentleman has brought forward a Bill in which the Government have written all kinds of restrictions and controls upon 683 the I.T.A. and the programme contractors, when we on this side of the Committee propose to strengthen those restrictions and controls, when we propose to make them firm and decisive, the hon. Gentleman says, "Ah, but you do not trust the I.T.A. You are suspicious all the time. Why not leave it alone?" The fact is that we do not trust it. We do not trust a body which is to be set up for commercial purposes and for commercial intentions.
§ Mr. Warbey
The purpose of this complicated structure to be set up is to ensure that there shall be an additional advertising medium provided through television. That is the essential purpose, and the I.T.A. is supposed to be the body controlling the whole thing. The purpose of the Amendment is simply to ensure that the I.T.A. shall do its job, and shall have certain specific powers and duties, and shall not be in so vague and indefinite a form as the hon. Gentleman would like to leave it.
The Assistant Postmaster-General is content with the vaguest kind of wording. When we were discussing another Amendment he indicated that he would be quite happy if this Clause were dropped altogether. He said he would be prepared to consider an Amendment for its deletion, which shows how little importance he attaches to it. He would like to see the whole of it go. We on the contrary should like to see it not only retained but more effective. We should like to see the I.T.A. provided with effective powers and sanctions.
We have noted the experience of other countries. We have noted that if one relies on voluntary agreements one does not get very far, and that there are all kinds of dangerous departures from what are regarded as the requirements of good taste, high standards, a decent scale of values. In the United States, for example, the National Association of Radio and 684 Television Broadcasters in 1952 adopted a television code as a guide to broadcasters. This code states that:Television, all who participate in it are jointly accountable to the American public for respect for the special needs of children"—one of these advisory committees should be concerned with the special needs of children—for community responsibility, for the advancement of education and culture, for the acceptability of the programme materials chosen"—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
As I understand the Amendment, it is concerned with religious broadcasting—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The Amendment is to provide that the advice tendered by the religious advisory committee to the authority should be observed, and that the Authority should act in accordance with it.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I think any advisory committee. The religious advisory committee is mentioned as a possible one. The subsection says:The Authority … shall, in particular, appoint …that Committee, but other committees may be appointed. The purpose of the Amendment is to make the advice that may be given by such advisory committees as may be set up, which might include one for education, binding on the Authority. The advisory committee for religion is given as one example, as one to which the Government are already committed. The subsection talks in general terms about advisory committees.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Even so, it is still the object of the Amendment that the advice tendered by the advisory committee shall be accepted.
§ Mr. Simon
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Smethwick (Mr. Gordon Walker) is not correct. The Amendment is literally limited to the religious advisory committee. It seeks to say thatThe Authority … shall, in particular, appoint, or arrange for the assistance of, and conform generally to the recommendations of a religious advisory committee. …
§ Mr. Warbey
Your predecessor in the Chair, Sir Rhys, indicated that it would 685 be in order to refer to a subsequent Amendment that provides for the establishment of an educational committee.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I am not departing from that Ruling. It may be referred to. However, as I understood the argument of the hon. Gentleman, he was doing more than that, and also arguing about what was happening in the United States.
§ Mr. Blackburn
May we take it that there will be a separate debate on that subsequent Amendment proposed to page 6, line 9?
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
The subsection refers to "advisory committees" in the plural. It says:The Authority may appoint … advisory committees to give advice to the Authority … on such matters as the Authority may specify.…It then mentions a specific one, the religious one, but there could be others.
§ Squadron Leader Cooper
Is it not a fact that while the subsection generally provides for advisory committees that may be set up it in any event provides that there shall be one committee, the religious advisory committee?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It is true that advisory committees are mentioned in the plural, but the Amendment deals with the religious advisory committee, and is limited to that.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I most humbly and respectfully agree with what you have just said, Sir Rhys, but, of course, if at the end of the subsection subsequently another committee were added this similar question would arise with regard to that committee. That was why we were anxious to refer to the educational committee's appointment, because if it were tacked on, as it were, to the end of the subsection this Amendment would refer to it, too. While the subsection does not in terms say more than that the religious committee should give advice to the Authority, it is obvious that, if the Authority were bound in particular to conform generally to the advice of 686 one of the committees, there would be some good reason for supposing that it should also similarly conform to the advice of any other committee that might be established.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think the position is as the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) pointed out and that would come on the later Amendment.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I understood that reference could be made to the other Amendment, but that is very different from developing an argument upon it.
§ Mr. Warbey
I shall endeavour, to the best of my ability, to conform to your Ruling, Sir Rhys. I was seeking to show why it was important that the Independent Television Authority should be specifically required to conform generally to the advice given by a committee whether it was a committee on religious broadcasting or any other.
It would perhaps be in order for me to illustrate the necessity for writing such an express provision into the Bill by pointing out that in other countries, although advisory bodies have been set up to draw up codes, give advice and so on, that advice has in fact very often been disregarded. That has certainly been the case in the United States.
I was quoting from the television code drawn up in the United States and indicating the fairly high standards which were set in regard to matter which might be broadcast, not only in programmes for children, but in programmes generally. I then wished to go on to point out that, despite the high standards set up in this code, those standards have very often been totally disregarded in practice. I wish to quote from the report of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters in the United States which reports thatthe number of acts and threats of violence in all television programmes (except sports, news, weather and public events) rose from 2,970 in the 1952 week to 3,539 in the 1953 week.In other words, despite the adoption of this code in 1952, in the following year there was an increase in the number of threats and crimes of violence portrayed 687 on television. The report goes on to say:In children's programmes, the violence rose from 1,278 to 1,412, or about 10 per cent.It is quite clear from that example that codes and standards can be completely disregarded if one allows them to remain on a purely voluntary basis. It is equally clear that an advisory committee which can merely give advice—which can talk and make suggestions—but whose advice can be disregarded, is no safeguard whatsoever for the public of this country.
We are not at all satisfied that the safeguards in this Bill generally are sufficient to protect the public and, in particular, to protect children from the dangerous influences to which they may be subjected. Television goes right into the home; we cannot keep it out and cannot keep children from looking at it. Therefore, it is essential that we should write into this Bill, at every stage, the maximum and most specific safeguards that can be had. It is for that purpose that we move this Amendment.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon
I hope that my hon. Friend will resist this Amendment, although I understand and sympathise very much with the motives which have prompted it. The Advisory Committee is a very interesting constitutional expedient to deal with one of the problems we face in the modern State—the placing of very great powers into the hands of Ministers or public bodies.
The Advisory Committee whereby, in the exercise of his functions, a Minister can draw on the generality of informed opinion is very valuable, but what would be quite fatal would be to turn an advisory committee into an executive committee. That is really the effect of this Amendment. As soon as we indicate that the Authority mustconform generally to the recommendationsit ceases to be an advisory committee and the responsibility devolves on the committee itself.
We had the same problem during the war with the advisory committee which advised the Home Secretary on the use of his powers under Defence Regulation 18B. It was a very powerful committee composed of gentlemtn two of whom are 688 now judges of the Court of Appeal; others are eminent public servants of various sorts. In 5 per cent. of the cases dealt with by the Home Secretary under 18B, every one of which involved the liberty of the subject—in other words involved the citizen being imprisoned without trial—the Home Secretary failed to follow the advice of his advisory committee and this House supported him in that action at that time.
Whether he was right or wrong in particular cases—we believe he was wrong in some cases—what would have been absolutely fatal would have been to create what is called an advisory committee and in effect give it the main responsibility. An advisory committee is there to give advice. To say that the Authority must "conform generally to the recommendations" the Advisory Committee makes would make the committee cease to be an advisory committee.
I do not know whether we are to discuss the proposed Amendment, in page 6, line 9, separately, Sir Rhys?
§ Mr. Gammans
Perhaps it would be as well if I now gave the views of the Government on this Amendment. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Warbey), who moved the Amendment, felt that I did not give him any assistance because I did not nod. I had thought the best way of dealing with matters of this sort is not to acknowledge each other across the Committee but occasionally to make a speech in order to explain our viewpoints.
By this Amendment the hon. Member would like to make it obligatory on the part of the Authority to accept the advice of the Advisory Committee. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) said, if we did that it would not be an advisory committee; it would be an executive committee. We should be giving the 689 committee quasi, if not actual, executive powers. I have never heard of any so called advisory committee having such terms of reference as that the body it advises has to accept its advice.
§ Mr. Gammans
I will come to the question of religion in a moment. This argument will revolve round religious broadcasting but I thought it best, first, to deal with the general point of whether, if we have advisory committees, we should make it obligatory that their advice shall always be followed.
§ Mr. Warbey
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman has read the Amendment correctly. It says to "conform generally." That is not making it obligatory to follow its advice on every single occasion.
§ Mr. Gammans
Well, it is getting somewhere pretty near it. I am not a lawyer but my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West is, and I think the point that he made is correct. If we make it obligatory on the part of the Authority or any organisation to follow the advice of an advisory committee then we have pretty well turned that advisory committee into an executive committee.
It would mean that, in fact, we should be devolving power on two bodies. One would be the Authority itself and the other would be the Advisory Committee to which we propose to give these executive powers. I cannot imagine any person of standing being prepared to become a member of the Independent Television Authority if it were hedged about and had to accept the advice of an advisory committee. He would say, "Obviously you do not trust me or this body which you have set up, and therefore you will not expect me to serve upon it."
I come now to the religious point, about which the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) was quite correct. The Religious Advisory Committee is the only committee which we are setting up in the Bill. The other day we had a discussion on this matter, and I think it was the general feeling of hon. Members that on matters of religion we should be 690 quite sure that some step should be taken so that the advice of so eminent a body as the Religious Advisory Committee could not lightly be disregarded. I do not think we dissent from that.
In fact my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary gave a pledge then that before proceeding further with this Clause we should have discussions privately with the Opposition to see if we could agree on a form of words which might be put down on Report stage. I hope that these discussions will take place, and as our aim in this matter—at any rate on the religious side—is identical, I do not anticipate that we shall find any difficulty in coming to an agreed conclusion.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am bound to say that I regard the reply of the Assistant Postmaster-General—I am not speaking of him personally of course—as shifty and unsatisfactory. I call it shifty because he seemed to me to give to this Amendment a meaning which it could not possibly have; I think it extremely doubtful if any reasonable person could suppose that it did have. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) pointed out that an advisory committee might have its advice taken in 95 per cent. of the cases, and I should not think that anyone could deny that in such a case the person being advised was conforming generally to the recommendations of that committee.
This committee is to be concerned with giving advice on religious matters, and in the nature of the case it will not advise on what should be done as regards a particular person. It will probably be general advice as regards programmes. It may take the form of an objection to certain things which have been put in, or which it is proposed to put in, the programme.
What the Assistant Postmaster-General is saying is, "We recommended the appointment of a Religious Advisory Committee; see, it is in the Bill. We have already said that we are prepared to do more than merely say that it shall give advice. We are prepared to say that some attention shall be given to that advice when it is given." Then, when all he is asked to do is to say that the Authority will conform generally to its recommendations—which seems to 691 me to be exactly the same thing—he explains that it is a dangerous matter, that it is regarded by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West as a dangerous constitutional innovation.
With respect to the hon. and learned Member may I say that I have never heard such rubbish. If an Advisory Committee is appointed why should there not be a provision in the Bill that the Authority—I am not talking about a Minister of the Crown—should conform generally to its recommendations on such matters as religious advice? Where is the constitutional innovation? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman give me a parallel, first for this Authority, and secondly, for the Religious Advisory Committee which is to give advice and then for no attention paid to the Advisory Committee.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I find no difficulty whatever in answering that question. A Minister is responsible for his conduct to this House. That is the whole difference. With regard to the Board of Trade, I believe that it has not met in recent years, but its President, who exercises its functions in practice, is a Minister, and is equally responsible to this House.
That leads me very conveniently to what I was proposing to say next. I say frankly that we regard this Authority as a toothless, aimless, purposeless and hopeless object. We do not know who are to compose the Authority. Originally this Authority was to have some sort of qualifications under the Bill, but they have disappeared. We do not know what are its duties because they are so vaguely expressed in the Bill. It seems to have none whatever, except to make contracts with the programme contractors and, having made them, is to be unable to 692 enforce them, such are the provisions of the Bill.
Then we are told that this Authority and the programme contractors—and I attach some importance to this—are to be advised by these advisory committees. And when, as regards one Advisory Committee—the only one in the Bill—we seek to say, having been so advised, "Please, is this curious Authority to pay any attention whatever, to conform generally, particularly or in any other way to the advice given to it?" we are told by the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West that this is a dangerous constitutional innovation; and by the Assistant Postmaster-General that, though he said something of the sort the other day, this, at any rate, is not exactly what he meant.
I see no reason whatever why the Government, after what was said the other day, should not accept the Amendment. I can attribute a refusal to do so either to the natural obstinacy of those concerned, who decline to accept a good suggestion when it is offered, or to a continued and persistent wish to make this Authority completely toothless, formless and useless.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
The answer of the Assistant Postmaster-General was most unsatisfactory and appeared to me to be an attempt to whittle down the solemn assurance given by the Home Secretary last week that there should be a discussion with the Opposition about what the right hon. and learned Gentleman recognised was a matter of interest to the whole Committee—and indeed to the country—that there should be adequate safeguards about the religious services to be televised by this Independent Television Authority.
It is quite wrong for the Assistant Postmaster-General to construe this Amendment as constituting the Religious Advisory Committee as an executive body. It is nothing of the kind. It imposes no absolute obligation on the Authority. It merely strengthens its position. The Assistant Postmaster-General knows perfectly well that he will have no difficulty whatever in recruiting members to the Authority, even if this Amendment is included in the Bill. In fact, I believe that he has already approached people, and I believe that he already knows who will be the members 693 of the Authority. To pretend to this Committee that this Amendment will make it more difficult to appoint them is quite misleading.
I am sure that members of the Authority would welcome a provision in this Bill which would ensure that the status of this Religious Advisory Committee was such that on the general outline of what religious services were to be broadcast and how much time was to be given, its advice would be something with which they were expected to conform. I hope that nothing that the Assistant Postmaster-General has said about this Amendment will be interpreted as whittling down in any way the assurance given by the Home Secretary last week—to which we attach great importance—that there would be discussions on the whole subject with the Opposition between now and Report stage.
§ Mr. Gammans
Perhaps I can satisfy the hon. Gentleman on that point. Of course there will be no whittling down of the assurances given last week by my right hon. and learned Friend. They will, of course, be carried out. The real point was the exact powers to be given to the Religious Advisory Committee, which we always regarded as coming within the ambit of the talks which we hope to have with the Opposition.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Gordon Walker
I cannot see how the general undertaking given by the Home Secretary can be carried out unless the spirit behind the Amendment is accepted, and that is what the Assistant Postmaster-General will not do. With his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon), he has resorted to rather legalistic arguments to resist it. We do not insist upon the exact form of words in our Amendment. We want to make sure that people who are charged with giving advice in the important matter of religion, and, by implication in education and so on, really shall get their way in these matters, and that the public shall know that that is so.
It seemed to me that what the Assistant Postmaster-General told us just now was wholly at variance with what he said to us earlier. Earlier he put his whole faith in the Religious Advisory Committee and said that we need not worry because its advice would be taken. He said that the Authority would be only too happy to 694 give responsibility to the Religious Advisory Committee in so difficult a matter as religion. However, apparently that responsibility is now to be discarded. The Assistant Postmaster-General cannot have it both ways, and he must make up his mind what he wants. We cannot have one argument on one Amendment and another argument on another Amendment.
The hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West asked the question which we have heard over and over again: why should we distinguish between the Authority and the B.B.C.? There are two answers to that question. The first is that we are seeking to make the advice of the Religious Advisory Committee binding not only on the Authority but also on the programme contractors. There is a great deal of difference between a programme contractor and the Board of Trade, and here we are dealing with programme contractors and going into the religious broadcasting field, and we want the advice of the Religious Advisory Committee made binding upon the programme contractors.
We do not accept that the B.B.C. is in the same position as the Authority. The position is wholly different. The Government themselves admit that; otherwise they would not insert in the Bill the extraordinary restriction about "giveaway" programmes which it does not put on the B.B.C. No one has put that restriction on the B.B.C. because the B.B.C. and the Authority are different bodies.
The Authority will be under tremendous pressure to make money, and it will have to deal with the programme contractors, who will also be under tremendous pressure to make money. We realise that at the beginning they will behave themselves quite well, but two or three years later they will say that they cannot carry on if the restrictions are continued. They will point out that public money is involved and that public money will be lost if the restrictions are not removed.
We are not really satisfied if the commitments do not appear in the Bill. We cannot accept the arguments put forward by the Assistant Postmaster-General in which he says that he agrees with us and hopes that what we want will come about. He is unleashing into the field of 695 broadcasting pressures for profit-making which do not exist under the B.B.C., and that creates a wholly new position. That is why we want certain provisions in the Bill.
Owing to the monstrosity of the Guillotine, we cannot afford time to divide on the Amendment, although we feel very strongly about it. Our failure to divide is caused solely by the fact that the Government have not given us enough time to discuss all the matters in the Bill, and because we are anxious to deal with a later Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
It might be convenient also to discuss the next Amendment in line 4 to leave out "main streams of religious thought," and insert:various religious, ethical and humanistic bodies with membership.
§ Mr. Simon
Many people feel very strongly that the form of words at present in the Bill is little short of blasphemous. The bodies of people whom we have in mind are not properly described by… the main streams of religious thought …After all, what are… the main streams of religious thought in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands …"?What is "the main stream of religious thought in the Isle of Man"? It suggests a lot of people sitting around in a Butlin's camp discussing ethical or religious problems. That is not at all what we want in the Religious Advisory Committee.
I do not suggest that the form of words which I suggest is perfect, but I ask my hon. Friend to look again at the drafting to see whether the existing words can be improved. To say:… a religious advisory committee representative of religious belief in the United Kingdom …says what we mean. We have in mind religious belief rather than religious thought; it is religious belief that we want represented.
696 It may be argued that this will necessitate every minor sect being represented. I do not believe it does. "Representative" does not mean that every minor differentiation of opinion or belief should have its representation; "representative" means what it normally does. The Religious Advisory Committee should fairly reflect religious belief in this country. I ask my hon. Friend to look at the wording again because a great many people object to hearing about "religious thought" rather than "religious belief."
An argument might be used that this form of words might prevent the Authority from using the B.B.C.'s Religious Advisory Committee. I do not believe that it would for a moment. The B.B.C.'s Religious Advisory Committee is representative of religious belief in this country. I notice that the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. G. Darling) is shaking his head. I well understand the purpose of his Amendment, and I do not dissent from it so far as it refers to ethical and humanistic bodies. He desires that various sections of thought on ethical, philosophical and religious problems should be represented. I am on a rather narrower point, which is not at variance with his. I ask that the wording should be looked at and that there should be reference to what we desire to see represented, not… the main streams of religious thought…—whatever that may mean—but religious belief in this country.
§ Mr. George Darling (Sheffield, Hillsborough)
It is rather a pity that, owing to the Guillotine, we have not more time to deal with this very important matter. The hon. and learned Gentleman for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) has dealt with many of the points I should like to make, although there is a slight divergence between us. Reference has to be made to the B.B.C. Religious Advisory Committee, because, as we have been told by the Assistant Postmaster-General and others, that is the advisory body which will come in here.
It is an advisory body which is certainly not representative of the bodies we indicate in our Amendment. In fact, it is because of the attitude of the B.B.C. Religious Advisory Committee that we have chosen this form of words in our Amendment. Over the past few years, 697 there has been a series of complaints against the B.B.C. and its Advisory Committee for leaving out the religious minorities in this country, which ought to have their place in the broadcasting of religious services and in the discussions on religious thought and so on.
I do not want to go over the whole field, but those who have taken an interest in this matter will know that a deputation went to the B.B.C. in 1947 led by Lord Russell. On that occasion, the B.B.C. said that it was their highest duty, in this as in other fields, to search for truth. The Governors recognised this in a declaration by the B.B.C. that this would involve the broadcasting of conflicting views, and the declaration went on to say that the Governors were of the opinion that affirmations of widely differing beliefs or even of unbelief could be made constructively. One expected from that declaration by the B.B.C. Governors that something would be done along the lines of the Amendment which I am now submitting to the Committee, but, in fact, nothing has been done.
The religious minorities are still being left out, and I would ask the Assistant Postmaster-General to look at this matter again, but certainly to take out of the Bill the words:the main streams of religious thought.Those words indicate that it will be limited, and that only the big battalions, so to speak, will not only have representation on the Advisory Committee but will also be heard when religious views and beliefs are being broadcast and discussed. I am sure that that is not the intention of the Government, and, therefore, if they will take out these words about which we are complaining, and put in something more satisfying to the liberal views which we all share in this Committee, I think we shall be satisfied.
§ Mr. Gammans
I hope I can explain quite shortly why the Government cannot accept these Amendments. I gather that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon), who moved the first Amendment, wants to substitute the words "religious beliefs" for the wordsthe main streams of religious thought.He went as far to say that the Bill as it stands is blasphemous. It is a matter of wording, and there could be a differ- 698 ence of opinion about it, but I should like to tell my hon. and learned Friend why we chose these particular words. It is because we want to use the B.B.C. Religious Advisory Committee. I think that Committee has given general satisfaction—[An HON. MEMBER: "No."] It may not have done as far as the hon. Gentleman is concerned, but, taking the country as a whole, once people knew that the religious advisory body in this matter was to be the same as that for the B.B.C., they felt much happier about the whole business.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
Will the advice of the religious body be offered in relation to the I.T.A. in the same way as in relation to the B.B.C.?
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans
That is one of the matters which we can discuss with the Opposition and, if they attach importance to it, we will give it the same consideration. If they want a committee to deal with religious broadcasting, it is up to them to appoint one, but we are bound to take the Bill as it now reads. and I must remind the Committee that at one time it was proposed that there should be no religious broadcasts at all. What deterred us then was not because we believed in secular broadcasts but because we thought that these difficulties might be insuperable, and I know how difficult it is to got agreement on religious subjects of any sort. We said: "We had better wash it out; we are sorry, but we simply cannot have this kind of broadcasting." Therefore, we got round the difficulty, and I think the House generally believes that we did the right thing.
This Committee does represent the main stream of religious thought, and this is the whole point about it. It represents the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Roman Catholic Church and the Free Churches associated with the Free Church Federal Council. If I were to accept either one of these Amendments, it would certainly mean that we could not use the B.B.C. Religious Advisory Committee. It might well be desirable to do so—I am not arguing about that question. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman thinks it would be, and perhaps my hon. and learned Friend thinks so, but certainly, if we accepted either Amendment, we could not accept the advice of that committee, because it would not be a 699 committee representing simply religious belief.
§ Mr. Gammans
I cannot answer for the B.B.C. They set up their own committees, and they have absolute jurisdiction as to what they set up. What I know is that, in the opinion of the vast majority, that committee has done a thoroughly good job and has solved a very difficult question. It is true, perhaps, that has not given satisfaction to some of the smaller but very sincere sects; I think that is true, and I am not denying it.
The point is that, if we want to use the services of this committee, we must use these words, or otherwise we shall have to set up an entirely new committee. If we have an entirely new committee, representing all interests which the hon. Gentleman opposite mentioned, we have no guarantee that they would agree. In fact, I should think it would be extremely difficult to get any agreement among them, and so we might have to fall back on something which I would regard as most undesirable—namely, that there should be no religious broadcasts at all. Quite frankly, if the hon. Gentleman wishes me to tell him why we used that phrase, it is because we want to use the B.B.C. Advisory Committee, which does represent the main streams of religious thought.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. Blackburn
I beg to move, in page 6, line 9, at the end, to add:and an educational committee representative of parents, teachers and other persons with 700 experience of and special interest in the welfare and education of young persons and children to advise the programme contractors and the Authority on any matter intended for young persons or children included in the said programmes or publications and on the suitability or unsuitability for young persons and children of any other matter included or submitted for inclusion in the said programmes or publications.This Amendment provides that among the advisory committees which may be set up under Clause 3 (3), one shall be a committee to advise on educational matters. It is a tragedy that the operation of the Guillotine will prevent us discussing this very important matter for long, and I must try to be brief in order to give the Assistant Postmaster-General time to reply. I am very hopeful about the result of submitting this Amendment, because there must obviously come a time in the life even of an Assistant Postmaster-General when he will have to say "Yes" instead of the continual "No."
Everyone will agree that it is vitally important, particularly in the early days of educational broadcasting and in television broadcasts for schools and children, that we should be particularly careful about the type of programme which is put over. Most people regard themselves as educational experts, but it is certainly not true. Unfortunately many of them do not realise that. It is important that we should collect together people who are recognised as experts in education, and who can give the necessary advice because they understand the problems of the school and of young people, and the dangers which may arise from unrestricted television broadcasting.
We seek to set up an educational committee representative of parents, teachers and other persons with experience of and special interest in education. I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will not say, "You do not trust the programme contractors or the Authority." It is not that at all. We feel that when special committees are being set up it is vitally important that there should be one concerned with education and with programmes for the young people. Since time is so short I shall not delay the Committee any longer. The case is so apparent that it does not need a great deal of emphasis. The Guillotine is to fall at eight o'clock, so if anybody else is to be able to say a word on this Amendment I shall have to sit down
§ Mr. Ralph Morley (Southampton, Itchen)
I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will accept the Amendment. I cannot see a reason why it should not be accepted. All it asks is that an advisory committee should be set up to advise on programmes and films that are to be shown to children. The Assistant Postmaster-General will agree that we should be careful what films are shown to children. The films should be amusing and instructive, and at the same time contain no element of horror or sadism. They should tell a story—children are always fond of listening to a story—they should be artistic, so that the good taste of the children may be cultivated, and they should ensure that virtue is always triumphant and that vice is defeated.
There are people who have much special experience of children and who know the nature of the films that should be shown to them. They have experience of children in the schools, as parents and as authors and storytellers. Somebody like Miss Enid Blyton would be a very good member of such a committee. Miss Blyton's stories may not have a very high literary value, but, as I know from personal experience, they are very much appreciated by children. She knows exactly what children's tastes are. There can be nothing against the Amendment. I hope that the Assistant Postmaster-General will say that it is a sensible and useful suggestion and that he is very glad to accept it.
§ Mr. Gammans
Hon. Gentlemen opposite said they hoped I was not going to say "No." I am not going to say "No" but "May be." [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] There are two questions raised in the Amendment. The first is whether we should make it obligatory on the Independent Television Authority to set up such a committee. There is so such committee today in connection with the B.B.C. There is a Schools Broadcasting Committee, but no committee specifically responsible for children's programmes.
§ Mr. Blackburn
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that there are not the same dangers with the B.B.C.? We must remember what happens in the commercial television broadcasts in other countries.
§ Mr. Gammans
There may be a risk, but in those countries there is no Authority, and that is why this Authority is to be set up here.
If the Authority feels the need for such an advisory committee I have no doubt that it will set it up. We do not yet know what type of programme this Authority will favour. We have always thought of programmes for young children in terms of the B.B.C. "Children's Hour," but the I.T.A. may put on an entirely different type of programme, although equally suitable. I have no doubt that the Authority, in carrying out the duties laid upon it by the House of Commons, will have no difficulty in setting up such a committee, if it feels the need to do so.
The second reason why I could not possibly accept the Amendment, is that under the Amendment the Authority would have to submit to the advisory committee all programmes broadcast at any time, to see if they were suitable for a young person to look at. I imagine that that means that the programmes would have to be pre-recorded, which would make the work of the Authority and of the programme contractors impossible. I do not want to give the impression that I am in any way unsympathetic to the idea which hon. Gentlemen opposite have in mind, but they are asking me to do something which cannot be done at this stage.
I do not know whether I can convince hon. Members that it is desirable not to press the Amendment, but I can give the assurance that that is the way the mind of the Government is working in this matter. I am afraid that I cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Warbey
The attitude of the Assistant Postmaster-General towards the Amendment is astonishing. To take a minor point, he has not even read it properly. The Amendment does not propose that the advisory committee on education should consider every type of matter broadcast but only matter intended for young persons or children. Therefore, I should have thought there was no reason for not accepting the need for an advisory committee in this extremely important field.
Once again, we have been told to leave the matter to the Independent Television Authority—we should trust the Authority. So far as we know it is unlikely that 703 there will be any person on this Authority with educational qualifications. This body will be concerned with commercial television and will see that it is run on a business basis. It will not be concerned with education or taste, and so on. Therefore, we have no assurance that the Authority will take the necessary steps.
If the Government regard religion as so important as to deserve specific mention in the Clause, then education must be equally treated, or the Government do not regard education and the care of the interests of young people as of any importance whatever. We have unfortunately already had some indication of the Government's lack of a proper sense of values in these matters.
At an earlier stage, the question arose of the importance of allowing the B.B.C.
§ an opportunity to introduce a schools television service before the commercial Authority got going. The Home Secretary told us that in his view commercial television should have priority over a schools television service. He thought that was the right order of priority. When we have a Government who consider that commercial interests should be set before those of children it is not surprising that we are not prepared to trust either them or the Authority.
§ It being Eight o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Orders, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 177; Noes, 195.705
|Division No. 123.]||AYES||[8.0 p.m|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Fernyhough, E.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A|
|Adams, Richard||Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||Mason, Roy|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Follick, M.||Messer, Sir F.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Foot, M. M.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Forman, J. C.||Moody, A. S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Morley, R.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Freeman, John (Watford)||Moyle, A.|
|Baird ,J.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N||Mulley, F. W.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Gibson, C. W.||Nally, W|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||O'Brien, T.|
|Benson, G.||Grey, C. F.||Oldfield, W. H|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Grimond, J.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Hale, Leslie||Orbach, M.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Oswald, T.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hall, John T. (Gateshead, W.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hamilton, W. W.||Pannell, Charles|
|Bowen, E. R.||Hannan, W.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hargreaves, A.||Parker, J.|
|Brookway, A. F.||Hastings, S.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Hayman, F. H.||Pearson, A|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Rowley Regis)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Herbison, Miss M.||Proctor, W. T.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hobson, C. R.||Pryde, D. J.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Holman, P.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Champion, A. J.||Houghton, Douglas||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hoy, J. H.||Reid, William (Camlachie)|
|Clunie, J.||Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Collick, P. H.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Ross, William|
|Cove, W. G.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Janner, B.||Short, E. W.|
|Crosland, C. A. R.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|crossman, R. H. S.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Daines, P.||Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Keenan, W.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgfield)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kenyon, C.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Deer, G.||King, Dr. H. M.||Snow, J. W.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lawson, G. M.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John (W. Bromwich)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Ede, Rt. Han. J. C.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Edelman, M.||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||MacColl, J. E.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||McLeavy, F.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Manuel, A. C||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)||Wells, William (Walsall)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Timmons, J.||Wheeldon, W. E.||Willis, E. G.|
|Turner-Samuels, M.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Wigg, George||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Usborne, H. C.||Wilkins, W. A.||Yates, V. F.|
|Viant, S. P.||Willey, F. T.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Wallace, H. W.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Warbey, W. N.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)||Mr. Holmes and Mr. J. T. Price|
|Aitken, W. T.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Perkins, Sir Robert|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Heath, Edward||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A|
|Arbuthnot, John||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hirst, Geoffrey||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Barber, Anthony||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Horobin, I. M.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Redmayne, M.|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Remnant, Hon. P|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hyde, Lt.-Col. H. M.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Black, C. W.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Iremonger, T. L.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S)|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J A||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Russell, R. S.|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Johnson, Howard (Kempton)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Braine, B. R.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Kaberry, D.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Kerr, H. W.||Shepherd, William|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Lambton, Viscount||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Smyth, Brig J. G. (Norwood)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Leather, E. H. C.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Speir, R. M.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Lindsay, Martin||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Sir Winston||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Longden, Gilbert||Storey, S.|
|Colegate, W. A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Summers, G. S.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||McAdden, S. J.||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||McKibbin, A. J.||Teeling, W.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Maclean, Fitzroy||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA||MacLeod, John (Ross and Cromarty)||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Donner, Sir P. W.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Tilney, John|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Drewe, Sir C.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Turner, H. F. L|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Turton, R. H.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Marples, A. E.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Maude, Angus||Vosper, D. F.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Medlicott, Brig. F||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F||Mellor, Sir John||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Molson, A. H. E.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Moore, Sir Thomas||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Gammans, L. D||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Glover, D.||Neave, Airey||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Godber, J. B.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wills, G.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim:Co. Antrim, N.)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Page, R. G||Major Conant and Mr. Robert Allan.|
§ The CHAIRMAN then proceeded to put forthwith the Question on an Amendment, moved by a Member of the Gov- 706 ernment, of which notice had been given, to that part of the Clause to be concluded at Eight o'Clock.707
Amendment made: In page 6, line 9, at end, add:
(4) Nothing shall be included in any programme broadcast by the Authority, whether in an advertisement or not, which offers any prize of significant value, whether competed for or not, or any gift of significant value, being a prize or gift which is available only to persons receiving that programme, or in relation to which any advantage is given to such persons.— [Mr. Gammans. ]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Percy Shurmer (Birmingham, Sparkbrook)
On a point of information, Sir Rhys, and for the guidance of the Committee. Is it right that Fred J. Muggs, of Cincinatti, U.S.A., being an interested party in this Bill, should be within the precincts of this Palace while the Bill is passing through?
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
We now see the disadvantage of applying the Guillotine to what is perhaps the essence of the Bill. We have looked at Clause 3 line by line, and now perhaps we can look at its general effect.
First the Clause is a collection of undefined responsibilities which have been placed upon the Independent Television Authority. A completely new Authority is being set up. It is being told in very general terms what it has to do, but whenever we get down to concrete matters there is no specific guidance at all from this Committee. We get such phrases as "so far as possible," "predominantly British," "tone and style," "good taste," "proper balance," "a high general standard" and "proper proportion." Each of these can mean different things to different persons. As this obligation has been placed on the I.T.A., it is the I.T.A. which has to satisfy itself about these things. Whether it has to satisfy itself in such a way as also to satisfy this House, one does not know.
I should like to ask the Home Secretary a question. If there is a difference of opinion between the view of this House and the view of the I.T.A. who is to decide, because under this Clause the I.T.A. has complete responsibility in this matter. So long as the I.T.A. is satisfied, everybody else has to be satisfied. It seems to me that it is the 708 Assistant Postmaster-General who should be satisfied, because he, not the I.T.A., is answerable to the House. How are we to effect proper Parliamentary control if the responsibility is placed in the way in which it is placed in the Bill?
Then we had a discussion on party political broadcasts. I thought that the major part of that discussion was really related to the paragraph dealing with the inclusion in these programmes of properly balanced discussions or debates, where persons taking part express opinions and put forward opinions of a political character. The general discussion ranged round that matter. With regard to party political broadcasts, I suppose that they are properly balanced because those who participate in them are, in general, selected by the parties concerned and speak officially on behalf of their parties.
What disturbs me in relation to discussions or debates generally is the question of opinions and the political character of arguments. That was one of the matters to which we could not give detailed attention in the time that was allotted to us. Subsection (2) deals with the Authority having no opinion of its own, and in general follows the line adopted by the B.B.C. Having regard to the commercial interests and the purpose of this Independent Television Authority, it seems to me that it will be difficult to disassociate a special opinion from those people who have special interests.
On the next point we had three very good short speeches but there was not time in which to cover the important matter of the advisory committees, especially in relation to television for children. There was also the point which I raised with the Assistant Postmaster-General. If there are to be advisory committees, and in the case of religion the B.B.C. Religious Advisory Committee is apparently to function as the Advisory Committee to the I.T.A., are the reports, advice and recommendations of the B.B.C. Religious Advisory Committee in relation to the advice which it gives to the I.T.A. to be available to Members of this House?
At present the report of the Advisory Committee is contained in the annual report of the B.B.C. Will the report of the committee in relation to the I.T.A. be included in the Postmaster-General's 709 annual report on the working of the I.T.A.? Equally, as we are told that there are to be other advisory committees, will the reports of their work be placed before the House and in that way give the House the possibility of exercising some control over the advice that is given to the I.T.A. and to the programme companies?
Our discussions have covered a pretty wide field. I should like to ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman if he will look at that part of the Clause which says:…persons providing the programmes as respects matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy, …It says "persons providing programmes." Are they the programme contractors, or is it the I.T.A.? Who are the persons who are to provide these political controversial items? Are the responsibilities which are placed on the I.T.A. equally placed upon the persons who are to provide these programmes?
I should have thought that the Minister of Labour would have been represented here in relation to this matter. Here we are providing, under commercial television, for the discussion of important industrial issues and public relations. Supposing, when this body is set up, that we have an unofficial railway strike, which I hope we shall not. Will there be a televised debate upon it? Who is to arrange it? Is the Minister of Labour to be consulted beforehand? The same sort of consideration applies in relation to a political crisis. We ought to know very much more about the proposed policy in relation to these matters.
Then we had a discussion—and I hope that we shall have a more sympathetic reply from the right hon. and learned Gentleman than we did from his hon. Friend—about the places of religious services. Some of my hon. Friends on this side of the Committee were dissatisfied with the reply which they had on this matter. If regard is to be paid to the outlook of the people who are to have this commercial television placed before them, things ought not to be done which will offend their susceptibilities and outlook. I hope that we shall have a very much more realistic reply from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I am sure he will know what I have in mind. 710 Merioneth, Montgomery, mid-Wales and North Wales have their traditions and their cultures which should not be offended.
There is also the question of safeguards and the British content of the programmes. I am afraid that what we have heard so far will not give much comfort to British artistes and to those people in the entertainment, educational and artistic worlds or give them the assurance that they are to have the protection which they ought to have. They have to rely upon another quota—the quota imposed by the Minister of Labour. What astonished me was that, whereas the Ministry of Labour can debar artistes from coming into this country to do the job which British artistes can do, the Assistant Postmaster-General was no prepared to apply the same sort of safeguard to British telefilms.
We must in some way prevent commercial television in this country from becoming a junior partner in the canned commercial programmes of America. We have been given no assurance at all as to what proportion of the programmes can be canned and what proportion will be "live." I do not know whether the Home Secretary follows my point; there is "live" entertainment—direct transmission with artistes in the studios—and there is the canned programme, either the film or the telefilm. I hope we shall hear something about those proportions.
Those are some of the points which worry us—points which have been discussed quite inadequately because of the Guillotine. I hope the Home Secretary will be able to tell us in what form the safeguards are to apply, and will be able to tell us much more precisely what those safeguards are. Can be reduce generalities to concrete terms? Can he reduce the hopes of the Assistant Postmaster-General to Clauses in the Bill so that we may know what safeguards there are and so that we shall be able to apply political pressure if they are not operated.
I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to disperse some of our apprehensions. We regard this as a very bad Bill, but we want to obtain the best results from it, and it seems to us that Clause 3 is designed for the purpose of allowing people to put across the 711 worst type of programme. We trust they will not do so, but we are satisfied that, as the Clause is drafted, we can have reproduced in this country all the worst features of American television.
§ Mr. Simon
I rise to ask my right hon. and learned Friend if he would indicate whether he does not think that certain of the phrases and the subsections of the Clause should be reconsidered. I hope that I show due deference in that respect in addressing a very great lawyer on matters of drafting.
The Clause lays down a legal duty on the Independent Television Authority, and presumably we mean that duty to be carried out. If that is so, what we lay down must be specific and understandable. It may be a question of standards, and we may trust the Authority to impose its own standards, but at any rate let us ensure that the standard which we lay down is reasonable and that what we are proposing is also reasonable in its requirements.
First of all we say that it shall be the duty of the Authority to satisfy itself that "so far as possible" certain things shall take place. That is a far higher standard than the law ordinarily imposes, and I do not know whether it means something more than merely a reasonable duty, which is what the law ordinarily requires. If it imposes only a reasonable duty, why not say so? There is a danger that when we go on to say that as far as possible they must seethat the tone and style of the programmes are predominantly Britishwe may require them to perform duties far more than can reasonably be required of any public body.
That brings me to the first subsection, which saysthat the tone and style of the programmesare to bepredominantly British.I suggest that in certain important respects that is completely meaningless. Take, for example, opera. I expect that hon. Members listen to opera, and I imagine that one of their favourite composers is Mozart and that one of their favourite operas is "The Marriage of Figaro." We have a Central Austrian composer composing an opera to an Italian librettist based on a French play 712 about a Spanish noble household. Is it possible to imagine anything more deplorably un-British? Hon. Members will hear it only if it is prefaced with a liberal dollop of Benjamin Britten and succeeded by a liberal dollop of Gilbert and Sullivan. Otherwise, if the words mean anything, "the tone and style of the programmes" will not be predominantly British.
The same applies to his other operas—one about a Turkish harem, another about Italians dressing up as Albanians, another about Oriental freemasonry and, finally, one, "Don Giovanni," whose domestic felicities have very little in common with British home life. If these words mean anything at all, those operas would have to be classified by the I.T.A.—performing their duty to ensure that as far as possiblethe tone and style of the programmes are predominantly British"—as regrettably un-British, and they would have to be more than counter-balanced by items which are predominantly British in tone and style.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
The hon. and learned Gentleman will agree that the Independent Television Authority can make the foreign composers honorary Britons.
§ Mr. Simon
The hon. Member reminds me of the German professor who claimed that the only composer who was known to the British people was a gentleman whom they called, "My countryman, Mr. Handel." Of course, there, too, it would be sad to think—I speak, I hope with due reverence—that our Easter programmes could be deprived of the Handel oratorios—for, after all, both in tone and style, they are quite un-British.
§ Mr. Warbey
There are many who would not admit that. Handel was a German. Did he not accept British nationality?
§ Mr. Simon
That really applies to all the musical requirements. It is the same with many other things. If these words mean anything, they will mean that if we have any foreign drama—Greek drama or modern French drama, of which we have had notable examples on the British London stage since the war—it will have to be counterbalanced by items that are considered to be deplorably—I mean predominantly—British.
Since Shakespeare is time-honoured by now, I am sure that he would be considered to be predominantly British, but in his own time his themes were by no means taken only from these islands. Indeed, most of them were taken from abroad. I suppose that if he were writing today it would be claimed, quite rightly, that all his works except the histories and one or two of the tragedies were caught by Clause 3 (1, a) of the Television Bill.
So I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to have another look at this. We all know that the intention is to ensure that the programmes are not taken over, in effect, by foreign entrepreneurs or impressarios. I should have thought that would have been much better done by a form of amendment to subsection (1, e) on the lines of ensuring that a certain proportion, a high proportion, a proper proportion, or a stipulated proportion of the performers, impressarios or entrepreneurs were British in nationality.
Now I pass to paragraph (b), that nothing is included in the programmes which is against good taste. Whose taste? That again is an impossible standard to lay down. So is decency. There was a famous music hall artiste, R. J. Knowles, who met William Archer shortly after his retirement and asked why he had retired. He said that the halls now contained much objectionable matter, in his turns there was no objectionable matter. Suggestive, yes; objectionable, no. Again it was his taste, and how is the Television Authority to lay down standards of good taste? Decency? Well decency is already taken care of by the existing criminal law. So is incitement to crime, so is incitement to disorder. As for offensiveness to public feeling, I suggest that those words are far too wide. Public feeling is frequently offended, and strongly offended, by matter which would be quite properly televised by the Authority.
714 There is one other form of words which I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to consider, since we do not want to include in this statute matter which is unnecessary. Line 30 commences:the inclusion in the programmes of properly balanced discussions or debates"—What does my right hon. and learned Friend consider is added by the words:where the persons taking part express opinions and put forward arguments of a political character"?As this is a proviso to paragraph (g) I should have thought those words were unnecessary and, if they are, we should not have unnecessary words in an Act of Parliament. Therefore, if there is an opportunity to consider the phrasing of this Clause, I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to do so.
§ Mr. Shackleton
I am sure that the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) has taken the right attitude to this Bill, and to this Clause. It is a silly Bill and this is the silliest Clause in it. We could go on indefinitely with examples of the entertaining kind given by the hon. and learned Gentleman as to what its provisions could mean. In fact, it is a laughable Clause, and it is high time that the House and the country, and even the Home Secretary himself, started to laugh at this Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman was very restrained, but, as a learned lawyer—I understand a very good lawyer—
§ Mr. Shackleton
I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman could suggest a suitable form of words to describe what I mean and could have gone on, as could many others, pointing to the absurdities in the wording. The Government are up against a difficulty here. Once they conceded that they would introduce a Measure of this kind they began to find out some of the difficulties. They then had to decide whether they should give a definite series of provisions or whether they should have an enabling Bill with a number of pious aspirations.
The wording of the Clause is not even very pious in places. In Clause 3 (1, c), for instance, it states:that the programmes maintain a proper balance in their subject-matter and a high general standard of quality;715 Does that mean that a high general standard is averaged out and there can be an occasional lapse of taste as long as there is that high general standard? The Home Secretary could not possibly justify that wording. It is on a par with the absurdities to which the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West has referred.
We have had very little satisfaction from the Government on some of the Amendments which we have moved to help them in their difficulties. The Home Secretary tends to regard us in the classic way as Greeks in this capacity. I am sure that something can be done to make the Bill more workable. I am sure that hon. Members opposite below the Gangway who share our views that this is a silly Bill and this is a silly Clause would also have their particular nostrum. We have no chance to reject the Clause at this stage, but I hope that by the Report stage the Home Secretary will have considered some of the suggestions which have been put forward, even those which the Assistant Postmaster-General has rejected.
Sometimes the Assistant Postmaster-General has given reasons for his rejection which showed quite clearly that he did not understand the Amendments. I ask the Home Secretary to turn his mind again to those Amendments and to read the report of the debate and consider whether in moving them we were not on points of substance which would improve the Bill. The Government are defending all their actions by saying, "Trust the Authority." It seems to me that they are doing their utmost, as we shall show at a later stage, to see that the Authority is deprived of power to do the very things which are provided for in however vague and ineffectual language in this Clause.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe)
I am very anxious to meet the wishes of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. I hope that I shall meet those wishes if I suggest that I limit my reply to 10 minutes in order to allow as many hon. Members as possible to take part in the debate. I hope, therefore, that when I reply hon. Members will not think that I am discourteous.
§ Mr. C. R. Hobson (Keighley)
I am sure that we are obliged to the Home Secretary. Quite frankly, as a layman I 716 am not at all concerned about the nebulous wording of Clause 3. I leave that to the hon. and learned Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) and the Home Secretary to sort out for themselves. I suggest, however, that if the Clause had within it a definition of the relationship of the Postmaster-General to the Independent Television Advisory Committee and the responsibilities of that Committee all our doubts and fears would be allayed.
In the last analysis, the Postmaster-General has complete control over the programmes of the B.B.C. If the Home Secretary would say that the Postmaster-General has responsibilities towards the Independent Television Advisory Committee and that that Committee has responsibilities towards the Postmaster-General, many of our fears would be allayed. It would be possible on certain occasions to question the Assistant Postmaster-General and to raise matters relating to the programmes on the Motion for the Adjournment if a provision of the kind that applies to the B.B.C. were inserted in a charter between the I.T.A. and the Postmaster-General. I hope that that will be done.
No one on either side of the Committee would argue that the Postmaster-General of a Socialist or Conservative administration has sought to interfere with the programmes of the B.B.C., and equally the B.B.C. has found that it was obliged to keep within the terms of its Charter. I think it would act as a guide to the I.T.A. if there were any tendency to depart from fairness in the presentation of political broadcasts and the news. I think that some form of words ought to be found between now and the Report stage making the I.T.A. responsible to the Postmaster-General in precisely the same way that the B.B.C. is responsible to him.
My second point is one of detail. There has been a great argument about religious broadcasts. I understand that the advice of the B.B.C. Advisory Committees has been sought in connection with the Amendments on the Paper, but I am not too enamoured of religious advisory committees. I speak as a member of the Unitarian faith. No religious body has had greater struggles than we have to get the B.B.C. and the religious advisory bodies to allow preachers of our denomination to broadcast. In point of 717 fact, the religious advisory committees have been more objectionable than has the B.B.C. It was not until such time as the Unitarians visited the B.B.C. that Unitarian preachers were at last allowed to broadcast. Those are the sort of things that want looking at.
In order to relate my second point to my first, perhaps I may say something which has been raised before when we have been discussing the report and accounts of the B.B.C. It is the question of unfairness in regard to B.B.C. religious broadcasts. We were able to bring that fact to the notice of Parliament, and there is not the slightest doubt that when the Unitarians decided to send a deputation to the B.B.C., despite the bias of the Religious Advisory Council, the debates which had taken place in this House, particularly those on the Motion for the Adjournment, resulted in the B.B.C. doing what we considered the right thing, though very dilatorily. I will recapitulate by saying that there ought to be something in this Clause giving the Postmaster-General the same sort of control over the I.T.A. that he has over the B.B.C.
§ Mr. Ross
There is no doubt that this is a very imposing Clause. It contains provisions regarding the whole question of the laying down and the supervision of the programmes to be put out by the I.T.A. These provisions are supposed to contain all the necessary safeguards and to allay the fears which have been sincerely held and widely expressed throughout the country. They are very imposing provisions, rather like the right hon. and learned Member opposite, but, if they really mean what they say, then the I.T.A. will not be able to televise a thing.
If words have any meaning, then legally all the provisions are such that I cannot see how the I.T.A. will be able to televise a single programme unless, of course, it is prefaced with the words, "In association with Maurice Winnick," so that it suddenly becomes British. Such a procedure offends against good taste and offends public opinion.
Regarding Sunday television, we must remember that there are many people who do not want Sunday broadcasting of any kind. It offends their feelings. Does that mean that despite that the I.T.A. will be able to televise its programmes? I am pretty sure that there 718 is a legal let-out here somewhere, and it starts at the very beginning of the Clause. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that these words were too tight. They are actually there for the purpose of destroying every safeguard set out in every subsection.
We have had all this elaborate business about having an Advisory Committee which can be consulted and which can advise on religious services, but I would point out that, first, a decision has to be taken on whether there are to be any religious services at all. We have been told that there is to be consultation. The Assistant Postmaster-General gave all the reasons calculated to create in my mind doubts that there will be any religious services at all on any Sunday. He told us about the cost, the limited time available and how difficult it was, and I am certain that no one can be sure that there will be any religious services at all on Sundays. We have this elaborate and imposing facade of respectability, but it is completely fatuous.
§ Mr. Philip Bell (Bolton, East)
I hope I may be excused for intervening as I know that time is short, but I did attack this Clause on the Second Reading. In fact, I put down an Amendment, which unhappily was not called, in which I sought to reconstruct the Clause a bit. I might also add that I have been, so far as possible, fairly sedulous in my attendance here.
This Clause has been under considerable attack for some days. I cannot say that it has resisted like a fortress. It has resisted like a jelly, because there is nothing to get hold of. Every time hon. Members have endeavoured to attack this Clause they have been out-manoeuvred and outwitted by a very simple answer of my hon. Friend the Assistant Postmaster-General. He says, "First of all, you must appreciate that the Independent Television Authority is a very respectable and responsible body. Next, you must trust it because you cannot lay down rules."
It is true that the members of the Authority are to have a good knowledge of industry, trade, finance, administration and education, but apparently they have not necessarily to have any moral character. It seems to me very difficult to believe, even in these wild days, that any 719 Postmaster-General would entirely ignore the moral background of an appointee. But it seems to be thought that that is possible, for, amongst other things, I cannot see how any responsible man could stand up to being given this responsible position and then being given Clause 3 (1, b) to take home and read. He might say, "If you think I am the sort of man who 'offends against good taste or decency,' the last place where I should be is this Authority."
Ignoring all the criminal law, in which my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary is an expert, we already have a nice lot of statutes which cover this matter. There are the Indecent Advertisements Act, 1889, and the Obscene Publications Act, 1857. Then there is indictable misdemeanour; there are one or two clever catches in the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861, which would catch anybody who encouraged or incited to crime. Any such person, I suggest, who was appointed to the Authority might have to go somewhere else for some time.
Those considerations make me beg my hon. Friend to take this Clause back. Although we may disagree about legislation, we all have a duty to try to make it comprehensible and sensible and not funny. Some powers in this Clause, as has been pointed out, are a form of debased humour. To appoint a man to a responsible position and tell him that he must not commit an indictable misdemeanour is going a bit too far. If we have to have a code it should be a code that is not on the face of it insulting, but is directed to what is really wanted, and which gives the trustees some discretion, and does not bind them hand and foot.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Sir David Maxwell Fyfe)
The speech of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bolton, East (Mr. Philip Bell) reminds me of the great contribution of Lord Eldon to the code of equity of this country. My hon. and learned Friend is a distinguished lawyer. Lord Eldon reduced the code of equity which was to give wide, beneficent help to the legal process, to a series of standard rules. As the right hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede) will remember, one of the most famous passages in Bagehot is one which proves 720 quite conclusively that Lord Eldon could never have existed at all. I have a feeling that the spirit of the noble earl has flourished again in the speech of my hon. and learned Friend.
I should like to deal with his point because my hon. and learned Friend was emphasising one that the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards) made, that the Clause is drawn in too general terms. I disagree. I hope that the Committee will not mind if I remember that I also was once a lawyer and if I remind the Committee that the common law of England, under which we have existed in tolerable security and comfort for hundreds of years, is based on one conception: the reasonable man, and what it is reasonable to do. That is, broadly, the conception we have here.
I know that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West (Mr. Simon) is worried about putting in the words "as far as possible," but I do not think that if he were sitting in a judicial capacity he would have much difficulty in interposing the word "reasonably" between "as" and "possible." I know that people are worried about this point, and I am trying to meet it. I put it to the Committee that it is a truism, which, like all truisms, happens to be true, that although no one can say how many grains there are in a heap, equally it is quite possible to know a heap when one sees it.
I ask hon. Gentlemen to apply some common sense—and especially the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross), who is the apotheosis of pessimism in these debates—and to apply that reasoning to what has been set out in subsection (1). I say that if we approach it in that spirit "predominantly British" does not present the difficulties which have been elaborated by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Middlesbrough, West.
I should like to take up his point on opera. I could not help thinking, as he was speaking, of the discussion that took place about the opera "Otello." The Italian conductor said he was going to conduct "Otello" and somebody, an Englishman, said "Shakespeare," and the Italian conductor exclaimed, "Ah, the librettist." But seriously, as we all know, there is an accepted corpus of opera 721 which we all go to see when we can, on the few occasions available nowadays. I am sure that if one was applying the term to opera one would not look at the scene of the opera or the source of the story. In that case one would ask that where opera is shown predominantly British opera companies should be given their chance.
That is the way in which one may answer by applying common sense—if I can use the word with no sense of offence—tests to the difficulties put forward by my hon. and learned Friend. When one comes to his ultimate point and considers Shakespeare, ought one to ask oneself, before deciding whether Shakespeare is predominantly British, whether the source of a particular play was Boccaccio or Holinshed?
I want to answer one or two of the points made by the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards). I do not think there is much between us on the question of party political broadcasts, and I will leave that question. The other point about which he was worried concerned political programmes other than party political broadcasts and whether the duty was laid on the Authority to see that there are properly balanced discussions or debates. I put it to the right hon. Member that, with the advances we have made so far in our critical assessment of such programmes, someone who selected personalities who were completely out of balance in order to get a better presentation of one side would not only be greeted with a chorus of criticism, but would find that his programme was extremely unpopular and extremely unlikely to carry out his object.
I should like to consider very carefully the point the right hon. Member made about religious broadcasts. It is not a point on which I can give a decision, but I should like to consider it because I was very interested when he put it forward. I sincerely hope that we shall have religious services televised. I want to assure the Committee that the difference between us there is whether the matter ought to be left to the Authority plus the Advisory Committee, or whether the Authority ought to be enjoined by this House to accept the advice given. We 722 prefer the former, but there is no doubt that it is something we want to see, subject to the Advisory Committee assuring us that it is the desire of the Churches as a whole.
§ Mr. Hobson
It has been proved beyond a peradventure that the Religious Advisory Committee has been very biased against the Unitarian community.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
I thought that the hon. Member said that when representations were made there had been a reconsideration of the matter, but I am sure that that is a point to keep in mind. The hon. Member has been at the Post Office and he knows that that should be drawn to its attention. I am sure that after what has passed in this Committee, it will be.
I have deliberately shortened my reply in order to meet the wishes of the Committee, and I would say to right hon. and hon. Members opposite with whose points I have not dealt that I have listened to them carefully and that I shall read the debate carefully and give full consideration to those points before the next stage.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Lipton
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say a word about an adequate proportion of live entertainment, as that matter is completely omitted from the Clause as it stands? Will he give consideration to that?
§ Mr. Roderic Bowen (Cardigan)
Will any consideration be given to broadcasting by the I.T.A. in the Welsh language?
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
An Amendment, which was not discussed but was brought into the Bill earlier this afternoon, does that.
§ It being Nine o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN proceeded, pursuant to Orders, to put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.
§ Question put, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 189: Noes, 170.723
|Division No. 124.]||AYES||[9.0 p.m.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Heath, Edward||Pitman, I. J.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Higgs, J. M. C.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Hill, Dr. Charles (Luton)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Hirst, Geoffrey||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L|
|Beach, Maj. Hicks||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Bennett, F. M. (Reading, N.)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gosport)||Horobin, I. M.||Redmayne, M.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Black, C. W.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Boothby, Sir R. J. G.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'rgh, W.)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Hylton-Foster, H. B. H.||Roberts, Peter (Heeley)|
|Bowen, E. R.||Iremonger, T. L.||Robinson, Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Russell, R. S.|
|Braine, B. R.||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Savory, Prof. Sir Douglas|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Braithwaite, Sir Gurney||Kaberry, D.||Scott, R. Donald|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Brooke, Henry (Hampstead)||Kerr, H. W.||Shepherd, William|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Lambton, Viscount||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Bullard, D. G.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Leather, E. H. C.||Snadden, W. McN.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Speir, R. M.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Lindsay, Martin||Spens, Rt. Hon. Sir P. (Kensington, S.)|
|Clarke, Col. Ralph (East Grinstead)||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmouth, W.)||Longden, Gilbert||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Colegate, W. A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Storey, S.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||McAdden, S. J.||Summers, G. S.|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Sutcliffe, Sir Harold|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||McKibbin, A. J.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Teeling, W.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Maclean, Fitzroy||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Darling, Sir William (Edinburgh, S.)||Macleod, Rt. Hon. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Maitland, Comdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Thompson Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, W.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Maitland, Patrick (Lanark)||Thornton-Kemsley, Col. C. N|
|Donner, Sir P. W.||Manningham-Buller, Sir R. E.||Tilney, John|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord Malcolm||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Touche, Sir Gordon|
|Drewe, Sir C.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Marples, A. E.||Turton, R. H.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Maude, Angus||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Maudling, R.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Medlicott, Brig. F.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mellor, Sir John||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Molson, A. H. E.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. Marylebone)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Moore, Sir Thomas||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir David Maxwell||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E||Wall, Major Patrick|
|Galbraith, Rt. Hon. T. D. (Pollok)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Neave, Airey||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Waterhouse, Capt. Rt. Hon. C.|
|Glover, D.||Nicolson, Nigel (Bournemouth, E.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London & Westminster)|
|Godber, J. B.||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Williams, Sir Herbert (Croydon, E.)|
|Grimond, J.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St Albans)||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D||Wills, G.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian (Weston-super-Mare)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Page, R. G.|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Perkins, Sir Robert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Mr. Studholme and Mr. Legh.|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Blenkinsop, A.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda|
|Adams, Richard||Blyton, W. R.||Cove, W. G.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)|
|Anderson, Frank (Whitehaven)||Brookway, A. F.||Crosland, C. A. R.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Brook, Dryden (Halifax)||Crossman, R. H. S.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D||Daines, P.|
|Baird, J.||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Burke, W. A.||Darling, George (Hillsborough)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, S.)||Davies, Harold (Leek)|
|Benn, Hon. Wedgwood||Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)|
|Benson, G.||Champion, A. J.||Deer, G.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Chapman, W. D||Dodds, N. N.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Clunie, J.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C|
|Blackburn, F.||Collick, P. H||Edelman, M.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Julius (Erdington)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lawson, G. M.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Stater, Mrs. H. (Stoke-on-Trent)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Slater, J. (Durham, Sedgefield)|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacColl, J. E.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Fletcher, Eric (Islington, E.)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Smith, Norman (Nottingham, S.)|
|Foot, M. M.||McLeavy, F.||Snow, J. W.|
|Forman, J. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Manuel, A. C.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Freeman, John (Watford)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mason, Roy||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mayhew, C. P.||Stross, Dr. Barnett|
|Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Messer, Sir F.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Greenwood, Anthony (Rossendale)||Mitchison, G. R.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Grey, C. F.||Moody, A. S.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Hale, Leslie||Morley, R.||Taylor, Rt. Hon. Robert (Morpeth)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Moyle, A.||Thomas, Ivor Owen (Wrekin)|
|Hall, John T. (Gateshead. W.)||Mulley, F. W.||Tomney, F.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Nally, W.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Hannan, W.||O'Brien, T.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hargreaves, A.||Oldfield, W. H.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Hastings, S.||Oliver, G. H.||Viant, S. P.|
|Hayman, F. H.||Orbach, M.||Wallace, H. W.|
|Healey, Denis (Leeds, S.E.)||Oswald, T.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Paget, R. T.||Weitzman, D.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Pannell, Charles||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Holman, P.||Pargiter, G. A.||Wells, William (Walsall)|
|Holmes, Horace||Parker, J.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Houghton, Douglas||Parkin, B. T.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hoy, J. H.||Plummer, Sir Leslie||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hudson, James (Ealing, N.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Willey, F. T.|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Proctor, W. T.||Williams, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Don V'll'y)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Pryde, D. J.||Williams, W. R. (Droylsden)|
|Janner, B.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Reid, Thomas (Swindon)||Willis, E. G.|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|Jones, David (Hartlepool)||Ross, William||Yates, V. F.|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Royle, C.|
|Keenan, W.||Shackleton, E. A. A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Kenyon, C.||Short, E. W.||Mr. Pearson and|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Mr. Arthur Allen.|