HC Deb 24 July 1970 vol 804 cc1100-15

3.10 p.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston-upon-Hull, North)

I am grateful for the opportunity to address the House on the problem of the Belmont television transmitter, Lincolnshire. This is something of a unique occasion for me, because I am voicing the united opinion of all Members from the Humberside area, Lincolnshire and North-West Norfolk. They belong to both parties and all complexions within the parties. The task rests rather heavily on my shoulders. As someone who is generally partisan, I find it somewhat strange to be placed in this position, but I am grateful for the opportunity.

I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications has received the apologies of many of my right hon. and hon. Friends and of his own right hon. and hon. Friends who cannot be here. He is aware from the letters which they have written to him and to the Chairman of the Independent Television Authority of the grave concern in the area about the Authority's decision, in the awarding of its contracts for 1973–74, to give the Belmont transmitter to the Yorkshire Television Company.

I should say at once that I am voicing not only the opinions of Members from the area but also of many representative organisations there. The Corporation of the City of Kingston upon Hull is very concerned about the decision, and the Hull Chamber of Commerce and Shipping has also written to the Authority on the matter. If we had had more time to discuss it, and if the decision had not come so much like a bolt from the blue, there would have been representations from many more organisations, which even now are writing and preparing evidence, and which are very distressed about the decision.

That decision is that, because of the new developments in colour television, the U.H.F. transmitter at Belmont shall go to Yorkshire. The transmitter has been used by Anglia in the past. The result of the decision, in viewing terms, is roughly that Yorkshire will add 5 per cent. to its viewing population but that Anglia will lose 25 per cent. That is a considerable blow to a company with a high place in the affections of Members in the area.

Those Members do not regard the debate as a way to attack Yorkshire Television or to boost Anglia. I want to maintain both so as to have choice for my constituents. But we are not comparing like with like. In the Yorkshire Television Company we have a first-rate company with a national and growing international reputation for the quality of its network productions. In Anglia we have a much smaller company. True, it has its network programmes, but it is more renowned in the areas it covers for the attention it pays to local interests and matters of local concern. Therefore, in advancing my plea to the right hon. Gentleman to approach the Chairman of the Independent Television Authority to ask him that it should reconsider its decision, I am not knocking one company as compared with another but trying to maintain choice for my constituents and to maintain what was one of the aims and objects of the establishment of regional television companies—a close and proper regional balance.

I wish to deal with the arguments advanced by the Independent Television Authority for its decision. I will deal, first, with the technical argument and then with the general social problems connected with that particular decision.

I understand that the decision of the Independent Television Authority is that only one area of choice shall be given, that only one mast at Belmont is available, and that, if it is used, there will be no choice; there will be only Yorkshire or Anglia. That is the first point I wish to challenge.

On the basis of those U.H.F. stations already operating, this does not seem to be the case. If Yorkshire is aiming mainly at the Yorkshire-Humberside region, I submit that Yorkshire Television could still cover these areas from Emley Moor. We have only a year to wait until the erection of its mast, after that great mast was regrettably destroyed in the bad weather, in order to have a sound conclusion to this argument one way or the other.

It is argued that the U.H.F. signal from Emley Moor will not cover that area. But when we see what has happened in other areas we find, for example, that from the Crystal Palace station, Saffron Walden in Essex gets a first-class colour signal, that being well outside the predicted area of coverage for London U.H.F. We find that Swaffham in Norfolk, outside the Midlands U.H.F. area, gets a first-class colour signal from Waltham in the Midlands. We find that Wells on the Norfolk coast, well outside the predicted Belmont U.H.F. area, gets a first-class colour signal on B.B.C.2 from Belmont.

The basis of my argument is that engineers have looked at the contours, drawn their lines, taken up their slide rules, and made a decision that this is what will happen. But I argue, from the basis of the experience that we already have, that they have underestimated what their transmitters will achieve.

I submit that the Emley Moor transmitter, by the end of next year, could reach into the Humberside area and would release Belmont, if it is mainly Humberside for which Yorkshire is looking, for Anglia, and my constituents would still have the choice of the two stations. It is not unreasonable to suggest that we wait a year, before contracts come into operation for three or four years, to see what is the result of Emley Moor. Then, when we have the decision, when we know the situation rather than the predictions, it is still not too late for the I.T.A. to go ahead with its idea of Belmont going to Yorkshire if it still feels that it is necessary. I shall submit arguments which suggest that, should the Emley Moor transmitter fail, it is not necessary and proper that Yorkshire should go in that way.

Throughout past years there has been a lot of discussion between Yorkshire and Tyne-Tees and between Yorkshire and Anglia. The Bilsdale transmitter was originally to go to Yorkshire. Now it is to go to Tyne-Tees. There are justifiable suspicions that this decision was made to bolster Tyne-Tees from financial difficulties into which it had got. This being so, it weakened Yorkshire. Yorkshire lost Bilsdale, so Yorkshire gets Belmont. Yorkshire has experienced a considerable number of difficulties, not least of which was the effect on the company of the loss of its mast in the Pennines in the bad weather to which I have already referred.

The overall effect was that Tyne-Tees got Bilsdale, Yorkshire got Belmont and Anglia got Suffolk. This was unfortunate because when the contracts were being issued the main reason why many decisions were reached in awarding them turned on the question of the quality and excellence of the programmes that were being put out. On every score, despite its size and the sparsity of the population it covered, Anglia came out tops on each occasion. There was no suggestion that Anglia should disappear. It was a good company, a good station, producing good programmes and an organisation with a keen interest in regional problems.

It would appear now, from the new decisions which are being made, that it is the excellent station which is being penalised to bolster up two other stations which, for a variety of reasons—I am not blaming the companies—were not, to the extent anticipated, achieving all the hopes for them in terms of their own capital, investment policies and so on, but which have also not reached a degree of excellence in their programmes, certainly on the local level for Yorkshire and Humberside, which we hoped would be achieved. This being so, we think that Anglia is being penalised.

It is as though Yorkshire had had a contest with Tyne-Tees and Anglia and, having not been able to win the day with either, had taken away Belmont which was the dowry for Anglia and had got away with something important for the present and for the future well being of the Anglia Company.

Apart from the technical arguments and the difficulties that have been mentioned by I.T.A., the main argument which they advance is—and I quote from a circular which Lord Aylstone sent to me when I first questioned the Minister about this: Though technical factors sometimes prevent it, it has from the beginning been the policy of the Authority to try to create television areas that correspond with regional sentiments and interests and with the economic planning regions. With the greatest respect to the noble Lord, I do not believe that that is true. The new Yorkshire region will be covering three, if not four, of the economic planning council regions. That will not, therefore, create the interest we want.

Next, it is a decision which is being made by the I.T.A. and which is preempting any decisions that might be taken by this House as a result of any recommendations which may be made by the Royal Commission on the Constitution, the Crowther Commission, in respect of what will be the regions and the regional interests of the country. We shall have established a network as a result of the decision of the I.T.A. which may or may not—in my view, in this case it will not—meet any of the recommendations of the Crowther Commission.

Further, this idea of regions as put forward by the Authority does not take into consideration the cultural, economic and industrial differences that exist between areas at present covered by Anglia and the Belmont transmitter, and by Yorkshire Television.

Yorkshire Television at present covers the whole of the industrial West Riding, the heavy industrialised South Yorkshire area. Here we find the old heavy traditional industries like the South Yorkshire coal field, iron and steel and the Pennine industries of the textiles. The Company does a good job for this area. However, Anglia has succeeded in uniting the interests of vast agricultural areas in those areas where there are ports which tend to look towards the East. For Hull, the east is red. But the interests are different, so that there is more in common between Grimsby and Lowestoft than there is between Grimsby and Sheffield, and more in common even between Hull and Grimsby, which is always a difficult thing to say, than there is between Hull and Leeds.

The great thing about Anglia Television is that it has been able to do a great deal in merging the interests of Humberside and making it look to itself as a single unit. It has done a great deal to give a sense of importance to the many scattered communities in this vastly populated part of England, to give them a sense of indentity, of belonging and of regional identification which has been very important for them and for the country. This is something which the Yorkshire Television Company, with the best will in the world—and I do not doubt its willingness—could not achieve. All the emphasis in the company would be upon the national networking programme with a concentration on Leeds, Huddersfield, Bradford and Sheffield and not on the more scattered parts of its area.

The argument that investment must be made now is suspect. In many ways there is already investment in masts. But the organisation could afford to wait the year which I have suggested to see what happens. If we are to have noncompetitive contracts in 1973–74, which we know we are, and in 1976 a reexamination by a small committee of three rather than by Lord Annan of the future of the various broadcasting media, we shall allow the Independent Television Authority to lay down strict lines which it will be very hard and difficult to unscramble in 1976. The small committee of three wise men which the Minister is considering appointing, in place of the body which was to be headed by Lord Annan, will have its decision pre-empted which could have a bad effect on the area.

There is a strong feeling that the decision of the Independent Television Authority was taken in a high-handed and arrogant manner and that the Authority had made no attempt to evaluate the consumer interest or to discover from representative organisations like trade councils, town corporations, chambers of commerce and similar organisations what they thought about the way in which the television contracts should be apportioned. This is extremely bad. Perhaps because of the lack of experience and because it has statutory power the Authority thought that it had to reach a decision. But even if an organisation has statutory power it should take people into consultation. We would not have had the outcry which we have had from hon. Members about this decision if there had been consultation along the lines to which I have referred.

I come to the idea which a group of hon. Members, led by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland), put to the Minister when he kindly agreed to see us earlier this week.

It is important that we should have an independent assessment. It should be done under the auspices of the Independent Television Authority, with terms of reference agreed by the two companies concerned. We should have a proper sounding of the attitude of all the people in the area, not one based on Hull or Ely, but taking in the whole of the area, if the technical argument is as sound as is alleged, so that the people feel that they are involved. They should have a say in what is happening.

I should like to summarise my case by saying that my constituents could still have a choice—we could have both stations—and I still think that this could be proved one way or the other by the end of next year. If that is true, the argument of Belmont for Yorkshire goes. If it is not so, while we are waiting to discover that, let us take a proper sounding of opinion in the area, so that when the Independent Television Authority announces its decision, it is made with at least the knowledge, and let us hope the consent, of all the people represented here. This is an important issue for all of us and I hope that when he has heard the rest of the debate, the right hon. Gentleman will be able to impress upon the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone that this is a decision which he might positively reconsider.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Miss Harvie Anderson)

Without casting any reflection on the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara), may I point out for the convenience of the House that this debate must finish at four o'clock.

3.31 p.m.

Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)

The whole House is grateful to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for having raised this subject, and I am glad that my right hon. Friend is present to reply to the debate. I propose to concentrate my remarks on my constituency as other hon. Members wish to speak.

At present, the service from Belmont goes right down into the northern half of my constituency to a point around the town of March in the middle of the constituency, running out in a slightly southwest direction towards Peterborough and passing Peterborough, which is outside my constituency. It then takes in my other political neighbour, my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Brocklebank-Fowler).

I have been assured by Anglia Television that the Yorkshire Television transmissions from Belmont through these new changes proposed by I.T.A. would penetrate as far as the Wash and into West Norfolk, thereby supplying material from Leeds into an area in which Anglia has been operating for the past dozen years.

I warmly endorse all that the hon. Member said about Anglia Television, which has rendered to East Anglia services in certain categories, documentaries in particular, which have made Anglia of national importance. Its films of naturalistic life, particularly those directed by Mr. Aubrey Buxton, have made its programme well known throughout the network. Anglia has a high reputation in my constituency. I want to make sure that switching Belmont from Yorkshire to provide services from Yorkshire will not result in any deterioration in the programmes which Anglia is able to provide to my constituents. That is my major concern.

What I find most disturbing is that although the I.T.A. fully recognises that it is under an obligation until 1974 to allow Anglia to go on using Belmont, according to Anglia itself it is being put under considerable pressure to forgo that right. I think it is an abomination that pressure of this kind should be applied before a contract is due to expire.

What I want from my right hon. Friend today is the assurance that he will at least consult the I.T.A. to ensure that Anglia's rights are fully maintained and that no unfair pressure is put upon Anglia to abandon Belmont in advance of the date at which the contract would normally expire, and to ensure that, whatever happens, the technical aspects of this are fully examined from the point of view of Anglia Television, and that they are fully considered, bearing in mind that this is not purely a selfish exercise but a matter of our constituents getting the service they deserve.

3.35 p.m.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer (Louth)

I join my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) in thanking the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for bringing forward this important subject. Indeed, I should also like to add my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) who has taken a great interest in this matter. I know that he is sorry not to be here today. Also I would thank my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. John E. B. Hill), who himself has been attempting to badger Lord Aylestone.

It must be most unusual that almost all hon. Members representing the country from Hull right down to Ely should be so totally together on one subject and so totally convinced of their case. I hope that is one message which will get through to my right hon. Friend, that this is a combined effort, a combined effort for 1 million people.

Mr. Richard Body (Holland with Boston)

Is my hon. Friend aware that there is not one Member of Parliament who does not share his view? Is he aware of that?

Mr. Archer

I was not aware of it. I am absolutely delighted to hear it—that there is not even one Member who is not with us. I hope it will get clearly through to my right hon. Friend when he discusses this with the I.T.A.

I was delighted that the opening speech in this debate should have come from an hon. Member from Yorkshire, because if there was to have been any division it would have been that we might have felt that Yorkshire people were not the people to join with Lincolnshire people, because there has been ill-feeling, as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North knows, on both sides of the Humber for many years on many other subjects; but on this subject we have been totally together. It is most unusual to find Yorkshire men feeling themselves not so much a part of Yorkshire as claiming to be part of us in Lincolnshire—

Mr. McNamara

Not quite.

Mr. Archer

—and only too delighted to help.

Some people are stuck with power stations, others with mines, some with factories. I am stuck with a 400 ft. television mast. Therefore it is a particular pleasure to me, as this is placed firmly in the middle of my constituency, to take part in this debate today.

I would add three points to the speech made by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North. I am particularly worried about the announcement of the time—1974. I see no reason for Anglia Television doing anything but having to run down its service till that date. I think it most important that we get this dealt with quickly. Why should it keep large units in my area in Louth, why should it keep units in the area of my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely, when it knows that the truth is that in time it will not need those units or those people as their work will be covered by Yorkshire? It has caused distress that the date has been announced just like that and we have had the privilege of finding out about it first by only 24 hours before anybody else, and no sooner.

As to the comments which the hon. Member made about a survey, I hope my right hon. Friend will find it possible to arrange, or allow us to arrange, an independent opinion poll. I realise that opinion polls cannot always be totally reliable, but I feel that an opinion poll should be held, and the vital thing is that it should be held in the area stretching from the Isle of Ely right the way through to Hull.

We have heard that there has been an opinion poll. This was conducted in Hull and on Humberside, along the banks of the Port of Immingham which is in my constituency, and is largely populated by Yorkshire people living on one side or the other of the Humber. That does not represent a survey of whether or not my constituency wants a television service. That survey covered 120,000 people whereas it should have covered 1 million people. It came out in favour of Yorkshire Television and appeared to be as wrong as the opinion polls were before the General Election. If a survey were to be held in my constituency and in the constituencies of my hon. Friend the Member for Holland with Boston (Mr. Body) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Isle of Ely, 90 per cent., if not more, would be shown to prefer Anglia television if they had only one choice.

We in Lincolnshire are losing our identity. We are losing our railway; our roads are breaking up and not being replaced; our schools are going and our social services are second only to the bad parts of Scotland and Wales. We are a little tired of being on the scrap heap. This will be yet another example of Lincolnshire people having to take what they are given. Lincolnshire people, who have no affinity with Yorkshire people, will have to watch television programmes which are of no interest to them.

I implore the Minister to do everything in his power to influence the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, to tell him that we are all combined as one force on this and that if he expects to go to his meetings with any section of the public on his side he will be greatly disappointed.

3.42 p.m.

Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)

I wish to join my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) and my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) in thanking the hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for raising this subject today. My only reason for intervening is that I think the more hon. Members who are able to be here today and to speak on this issue the better, and the more possibility there is—and I do not rate it higher than that—that Lord Aylestone will listen to what has been said and take note of it.

I wish to speak only about finance. From the figures that have been given, it appears that Yorkshire will gain a small amount on finance and Anglia will lose an enormous amount. Although I have nothing against Yorkshire Television, never having watched it, it is accepted that if there is one television company whose programmes are ahead of those of all the other television companies in the United Kingdom that company is Anglia. Some of its programmes have made a mark throughout the length and breadth of the nation.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

The important thing is that Anglia is far ahead of any other local stations. On national issues it has rivals but on local issues it is unrivalled.

Mr. Fell

Certainly, but this does not apply only to local issues. Such programmes as "Survival" have affected everybody. On local issues and on political programmes Anglia is far ahead of any other small television station, and of the big ones, too.

I do not know what powers my right hon. Friend has, but I am certain that he has powers of persuasion, if not of direction. I hope he will use them to try to prevent this spirit of the age, in terms of the take-over bid by Yorkshire Television of the smaller station of Anglia. I hope that he will use his influence to hold this up until the situation can be looked at in more detail than has been done so far.

3.45 p.m.

The Minister of Posts and Telecommunications (Mr. Christopher Chataway)

I know that the House will want to join me in thanking the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North (Mr. McNamara) for raising this matter, for the manner in which he has done so, and the persuasive argument that he has put before the House.

There have been two features to the debate. The first is the remarkable degree of unanimity that appears to exist among hon. Members representing this area. I have had the benefit of the advice of many hon. Members who have written to me but who cannot be here today, and also of discussions with the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland) and a number of his colleagues. It is clear that there is deep feeling throughout the area on this matter.

The second remarkable feature of this short debate is the demonstration of esteem that it has shown for a regional television company. There is much criticism of broadcasting authorities these days, and of individual television companies, and I would not wish lightly to dismiss any of that criticism, but it is worth remembering that a number of these companies have built up a substantial loyalty in the areas that they serve. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North introduced the debate in a non-partisan spirit, and I have no wish to say anything that would depart from that spirit, but perhaps I can say that I look forward to the day when there will be local commercial radio stations as well which will arouse the same degree of loyalty and affection in all parts of the House.

Mr. McNamara

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that we already have, in embryo, our own local B.B.C. Humberside Radio Station, and we are just waiting for him to say "Yes", to go ahead, so that we can create the same kind of loyalty for that local radio station.

Mr. Chataway

I shall bear in mind the point made by the hon. Member. I am glad to know that he is prepared to accept the merits of broadcasting stations irrespective of whether they are public or private.

Many hon. Members asked me to take up a position in this matter. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), my hon. Friend the Member for Louth (Mr. Jeffrey Archer) and others have asked me to try to persuade the Chairman of the I.T.A. I have also been asked what my powers are in this matter. I am bound to make it clear that this decision is wholly and solely one for the Authority. It is important that the Authority's sole powers in this matter should be understood. It is the Authority's duty, under the Television Act, 1964, to provide television services through the agency of programme companies acting under contract to it. The terms and conditions of the contracts, including a prescription of the station or stations radiating programmes provided by the company to which the contract refers are for the Authority to determine, subject to the various requirements of the Act.

The contracts are not the business of the Minister, and the Minister does not intervene. It is not only a question of the Government's having set up the Authority and allowing the Authority to get on with the job; it is good management practice. It is bad for the Government to appoint somebody else to carry out a certain function and then to interfere with day-to-day management. One of my predecessors—the right hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central (Mr. Edward Short)—when Postmaster-General, said. "You back them or sack them. You do not muck them about." I think that that is a statement of impeccable constitutional propriety. But it is not only that. In this case it is important that no Minister or politician should have a direct influence over the way that contracts are distributed. Despite their strong feeling on this matter, I think that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen would, on reflection, agree that it would be an unfortunate constitutional precedent if I were to take up a position on the matter.

Mr. Fell

Though everything that my right hon. Friend has said is acceptable to everybody, at the same time this is so public a service and this seems to be so obvious an anomaly that is creeping up on us that if it is known that the Minister's ire might be occasioned by something that Lord Aylestone is going to do, this might be enough to warn him that he had better look into the matter more carefully before doing so.

Mr. Chataway

It is probably right that I should seek to contain my feelings either of delight or of anger on such issues.

It may be asked whether there is any point in having a debate if the Minister is not in a position to take action. I think that it would be recognised that the House is performing an extremely useful function in expressing its opinion on such matters. It is from debates of this kind that the I.T.A. or, for that matter, the B.B.C., can be made aware of the strong feelings of hon. Members representing areas that those organisations serve. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, and his fellow members of the I.T.A. will take most careful note of all that has been said in the debate.

Although it is no part of my purpose to defend or to criticise the Authority's intention, I think that it might be useful if I brought the main facts and considerations to the attention of the House.

As a number of hon. Members have explained, the I.T.A. service is transmitted on VHF with 405-line definition in monochrome to serve Lincolnshire, the Humberside area of Yorkshire, including Hull, and a bit of the Norfolk coast east of the Wash from the Authority's station at Belmont, which has been transmitting Anglia programmes since it was opened at the beginning of 1966.

The Humberside area lies within the primary service area of this station, but most of Yorkshire is served from the station at Emley Moor transmitting Yorkshire Television. Therefore, the Humberside area does not lie within the primary, but is covered by the secondary service area of this station. The service areas overlap on Humberside. In the general area in which both programmes can be received, I understand that they attract roughly equal audiences, though I am told by the I.T.A. that in Hull viewers watch Yorkshire programmes notably more than those of Anglia.

The Belmont station is one of three high-power VHF stations from which the I.T.A. transmits Anglia programmes. Yorkshire Television transmits on three VHF stations: one high-power at Emley, and two low-power at Scarborough and Sheffield. The population coverage of the two companies is roughly similar; six million for Yorkshire and five and a half million for Anglia.

With the advent of the duplicate version of the I.T.A. service transmitted on UHF and with 625-line definition and colour, the pattern of transmission areas will change. UHF transmissions from Belmont will, like the VHF service, cover Lincolnshire, the Humberside area of Yorkshire, including Hull, and a bit of the Norfolk coast east of the Wash. But while most of Yorkshire is covered by the Emley Moor UHF station and its satellite stations, most of the East Riding is not. So that Humberside, including Hull, will not be reached from Emley Moor.

The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, North suggested that it may be that the Emley Moor UHF transmission will reach further than has so far been estimated. All I can say is that it is not apparently the anticipated expectation that Emley Moor will bring Yorkshire Television on UHF to Humberside. But if it did, irrespective of the decisions that are taken now, it would be possible for the I.T.A. to reconsider. I am sure that the I.T.A. will take note of that point, because obviously it is one of importance. The difficulties which arise stem in large measure from the expectation that the UHF signal from Emley Moor will not reach Humberside The hon. Gentlemen have given us a variety of reasons for believing that the I.T.A. decision is wrong in this matter. In reaching it, the I.T.A. has to weigh a number of different considerations. The House will probably recognise that it is not an easy decision that it has to reach. There are perhaps three sets of considerations which have to be in the mind of the Authority. There is the question of the commercial viability of the companies. It has been suggested by one or two hon. Members that the basic reason for the decision which has been taken is a desire to ensure that two of these three companies remain viable. I understand that the I.T.A. does not argue this and does not contend that it is the commercial factors which have been uppermost in its mind. But the House will appreciate that, in general, in taking decisions about the distribution of franchises the I.T.A. has to consider the commercial factors.

Secondly, there are the technical factors, and these are difficult. There are no easy answers in this direction. The pattern of UHF transmission areas has to be fitted together very carefully.

Thirdly, there is what one might call the cultural and social identity of the area served. Unfortunately, whether grouped or single, transmission areas do not neatly coincide with areas in which there is a sense of identity of tastes and interests. It is really on the last point that there has been most criticism. It has been suggested that the survey carried out by the I.T.A. has been lacking. On that, I do not think that I can give an opinion, though when my hon. Friend the Member for Louth suggests that surveys are bound to be wrong and then calls for another survey, perhaps he is not being as consistent as he might be.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Speaker

Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that his right hon. Friend must sit down at 4 o'clock. Interventions take up precious time.

Mr. Chataway

This clearly is an issue on which there is considerable feeling in the area. I hope that the House will appreciate the reasons which I have advanced for not taking up a position in this dispute. I am confident that the Chairman of the Authority and the I.T.A. itself, who have a difficult set of decisions to take with the bringing in of UHF, none the less will look carefully at the arguments which have been deployed this afternoon.