HC Deb 30 July 1963 vol 682 cc354-5

Lords Amendment: In page 16, line 19, at end insert: (2) In section 3(1) of the principal Act, paragraph (g) and the proviso (which, with certain exceptions, require matter designed to serve the interests of any political party to be excluded from the programmes broadcast by the Authority) shall cease to have effect.

Mr. Bevins

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

Perhaps it would be convenient, Mr. Speaker, to discuss with this Amendment the Amendments in page23, line 18, column 3, after "(1)" insert ",in paragraph" and line 21, column 3, after "person'" insert "and the whole of paragraph (g) and the proviso", both of which are consequential to this Amendment.

Mr. Speaker

We can by all means discuss them, if the House so wishes.

Mr. Bevins

I must take a moment or two of the time of the House on this Amendment which is designed to put the I.T.A. on a more satisfactory basis in respect of political broadcasting. The Amendment may appear to be a little complicated, but, in fact, is is quite simple.

As the 1954 Act stands, the Authority has the option of taking or of not taking the annual series of party political broadcasts. In practice, the Authority always takes these broadcasts, and it has given me an assurance that it will always do so. It has been generally agreed by all three political parties in this House and by the B.B.C. and the Authority that the B.B.C's label in the proviso to Section 3(1,g) of the 1954 Act ought to be removed, and that, I think, is right. That is the reference to the "British Broadcasting Corporation party political broadcasts", which is no longer in present circumstances quite appropriate, and it is proposed that that should come out.

Secondly, the effect of Clause 16,before this Amendment is perhaps added to it, is to allow the Authority to secure impartiality, as the B.B.C. is already allowed to do, over the series of programmes rather than in one individual programme. This also, I am happy to say, has been agreed by all three parties in this House. But it remains true that if we were to retain Section 3(1,g) in the 1954 Act, with its two provisos, it might inhibit the effect of Clause 16 and we are proposing the deletion of Section 3(1,g) in the 1954 Act. I think that that is right.

What remains is Section 3(1,f) in the 1954 Act, which requires impartiality in matters of political or industrial controversy or matters relating to public Clause 16 that impartiality can be secured over a series of programmes. I hope that the House has followed this rather devious argument, but I am quite sure that it is right.

Mr. Willey

Whether or not the House has followed the argument of the right hon. Gentleman, I hasten to emphasise that the three parties have agreed that this is a desirable Amendment. I think that this is a matter in which the parties should act only unanimously, and I am delighted that in this case they are unanimous.

Question put and agreed to.