§ 3. Mr. Darling
asked the Postmaster-General whether he will arrange that one of the additional members appointed by him to the Independent Television Authority, under the powers conferred on him by Section 1 (2) of the Television Act, shall look after the special interests of East Anglia.
§ Mr. Darling
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is considerable disquiet in many quarters about the manner in which the Independent Television Authority is choosing the companies to which these licences are granted? Is he 1332 aware that, in the case of East Anglia, it looks as though the Authority has formed a set pattern and that none of the applicants which do not conform to that pattern are allowed to become holders of these licences? Will he have discussions with the Authority so that we may find out what procedure the Authority is working upon in this matter, and whether it wants all the television programme companies to conform to a certain set pattern?
§ Mr. Thompson
The hon. Gentleman's Question relates to the appointment of an additional member to look after some special interests in East Anglia. On the question to which he has now directed the attention of the House, I must say that this is a matter which the Independent Television Authority must resolve for itself. It does set certain standards in regard to the competence, financial integrity and representative character of the people whom it appoints to contract. As far as I have been able to discover, it adheres to them very carefully.
§ Mr. Darling
On a point of order. A very serious question arises here, Mr. Speaker. I had to put the Question down in this form because, apparently, under the terms of the Act, we cannot ask questions about the manner in which the Independent Television Authority arranges its affairs. During the course of the passage of the Bill through the House, we were told that there would be Parliamentary approval of these matters, and I wonder if you, Sir, would look into the situation to see what our rights are in this matter.
The hon. Member asks me to look into the situation. I must say that, at the moment, I am not versed in it, but, as he has asked me to look into it, I will certainly do so.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
May I ask you, very respectfully, Mr. Speaker, whether you will look into this aspect of the matter? Under the Television Act, as my hon. Friend says, it is extremely difficult to table Questions on this issue; and, from a decision of the House recently on matters appertaining to Privilege, it is equally difficult to write letters to the Postmaster-General about the behaviour of the Independent Television Authority in granting these programme contracts. Hon. Members are concerned about it, as 1333 they believe that they are representing a general public concern in finding themselves completely paralysed from taking any action about it.
That is not my fault, but, in any case, if the hon. Member wants me to look into it, I will do so. At the moment, I am not at all up in the question.