HC Deb 19 March 1958 vol 584 cc1248-50
21 and 22. Dame Irene Ward

asked the Postmaster-General (1) how the United Kingdom delegates at the International Conference at Copenhagen in 1948 voted on the decision not to reallocate the wavelength for the North-East Coast; and what was the voting;

(2) who were the United Kingdom delegates to the International Conference on Wavelengths in Copenhagen in 1948; on what grounds they agreed to the non-return of the wavelength for the North-East Coast; and to whom it was allocated.

Mr. K. Thompson

The purpose of the Copenhagen Conference was to agree on the allocation of the long and medium wavelengths in Europe in the light of post-war needs. Post Office officials with British Broadcasting Corporation advisers put forward the claims of the United Kingdom to fourteen medium wavelengths and one long wavelength, but only thirteen medium wavelengths and one long wavelength were allocated. The sharing of a medium wavelength between North-East England and Northern Ireland, which had been in force since 29th July, 1945, had therefore to continue.

Dame Irene Ward

Will not my hon. Friend agree that between 1948 and 1950, when we became aware that it was our wavelength on the North-East Coast which had been filched from us, no Members of the party opposite, which was then the Government, raised the question of this unfortunate decision? Can he answer that question?

Mr. Speaker

The Minister is not responsible for the conduct of the Opposition.

Mr. Grey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that at least one hon. Member objected to my right hon. Friend in 1948 about sharing a wavelength?

Dame Irene Ward

What date?

Mr. Grey

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that he has not been fair to us about the acceptance of a shared wavelength for the North-East, because it was to be a temporary measure and the arrangement should now end?

Mr. Thompson

I can find no evidence whatever that it was ever given out that the sharing arrangement was to be temporary. All the records show that it was to be brought to an end when another wavelength became available. There is no other wavelength, and so long as that condition persists it is difficult to see what anybody can do.

Commander Donaldson

After this short but interesting debate about the North-East Coast, is my hon. Friend aware that the same conditions to some extent apply to South-East Scotland? Although we are a patient people, we are inclined to become a little impatient when nothing has been done to improve the reception on the borders of Scotland? Will he examine that matter at the same time as he is looking at the problem in North-East England?

Mr. Thompson

The question of maintaining high standards of broadcasting reception both in sound and television programmes is a matter which is constantly before both the B.B.C. and the Independent Television Authority. I think they do reasonably well in the circumstances.

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Is it not a fact that, as a result of the Copenhagen Conference, Great Britain received more wavelengths than any other country in Europe——

Dame Irene Ward

But not one for the North-East Coast.

Mr. Hobson

—and does not the hon. Gentleman think that if there were a further conference we might come out of it much worse off?

Mr. Thompson

We certainly did very well at the Copenhagen Conference and, as the hon. Gentleman says, there is a real danger that we might lose some of our advantages if the whole matter were shuffled and redealt.

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