HC Deb 26 February 1964 vol 690 cc430-1
30. Mr. Dempsey

asked the Postmaster-General if he will have discussions with the television industry with a view to facilitating the introduction of colour television and the timing of this development; and how much warning he intends to give to the industry.

Mr. Bevins

The industry is represented on my Television Advisory Committee, and plays a full part in formulating the advice the Committee gives me on colour television, There is, therefore, no need to start special discussions, and no risk that the industry would be taken unaware by developments.

Mr. Dempsey

Is the Minister aware that there is a growing uneasiness in the industry, because B.B.C. officials have announced that they are ready to proceed with colour television if they receive the go-ahead from the Minister? Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that unless the introduction of colour television is properly timed and the industry is prepared, we could be easily faced with economic consequences which would create unemployment in the industry? Will he take steps to avoid such a regrettable consequence?

Mr. Bevins

What we have tried so far is to secure agreement with other countries about the type of television that should be adopted, certainly over the greater part of the continent of Europe. We have been trying to secure that agreement because without it, that is to say if countries have different systems, the exchange of programmes in colour becomes more difficult. As the hon. Member probably knows, a meeting of an international body to discuss the subject ended only yesterday and unfortunately ended without agreement on which of three systems should be used.

Mr. Mason

Is the Minister aware that that was foreseen anyway and that, now that the talks have broken down, we hope that we shall not procrastinate for another 12 months in trying to get agreement? Is the right hon. Gentleman now prepared to authorise the B.B.C. to go ahead and operate the N.T.S.C. system, which it desires to do, so that we may have colour television right away? To what extent would it affect the television industry and impair eventual compatibility with Europe if we went ahead now with the N.T.S.C. system and if Europe decided later on to go ahead with SECAM or P.A.L.?

Mr. Bevins

In reply to the hon. Gentleman's last point, I think that it would impair British television quite appreciably if we were to go ahead right away with the American system and if, say, the French and the Germans adopted a different system for the rest of Europe. However, I entirely agree that the time has passed when we should delay further consideration and decision with a view to securing agreement, which does not seem possible. What I am waiting for now is the advice of my Advisory Committee following the conference. I shall have it within a week or two, and, once I have it, I should like to take a very quick decision.

Mr. McInnes

Can the right hon. Gentleman give the House an indication of the date when he hopes to reach agreement with the industry?

Mr. Bevins

It is not quite as simple as that. It is not a question of agreement with the industry. The radio industry is fully informed of what is going on, because it is represented on the Committee.