§ ENACTMENTS REPEALED
§ Amendment made: No. 65, in page 13, column 3 leave out lines 29 to 33.—[Mr. Chataway.]
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Chataway
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
Over many weeks we have given to this Bill fairly exhaustive consideration—
§ Mr. Chataway
—and I should like to thank those who have applied their minds to the issues involved. I suppose that it would probably be accepted by some of those who served on the Committee that, while the company was extremely congenial, it was perhaps not the most gripping Parliamentary occasion in which they had been involved, and it may be that during consideration of the Bill we have been forced to consider rather too many minor matters. If that is so, it is perhaps because there has been no real clash on principle since Second Reading.
I know that the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) is opposed to all commercial broadcasting. He does not like advertising on television or radio. But that has not been the position adopted by his hon. Friends, and we have come to understand that they favour commercial radio—not only commercial television but comercial radio. They have been anxious to make small Amendments here and there, but, broadly speaking, they have taken the view that they would not wish to be committed against commercial radio. Therefore, in the discussions which we have had it has not been a question of principle, or, indeed, of any fundamental change in what we have proposed, which we have been discussing, but rather Amendments of lesser interest. If, therefore, as I know was the case, the interest of some of my hon. Friends flagged after about the sixtieth hour of our discussions in Committee, that may have been because 1371 there was that lack of any large issue about which to argue.
None the less, it has been a source of satisfaction to many of us to see that the principle of competition in radio has come to be accepted. I think that people in all parts of the country will recognise that there is value in a diversity of sources. We have spent a large part of today discussing anxieties that there might be too great a concentration in certain hands of control of the new medium. That is a point of view which I can understand. I believe that by the provisions we have made in this Bill we have ensured that there will not be vested in any hands too large a control of any part of commercial radio.
We have ensured, for example, that no newspaper with a monopoly in an area should have control of the local radio station in that area. We have given to the Authority the power to take action if it believes that it could be against the public interest for a newspaper to have a holding in a station. We have inserted provisions which make it absolutely clear that the Authority has a duty to see that no group of any kind has too large a share of the total equity. In all these respects we have in the Bill sought to ensure that there will be a large number of people involved in the control of this new medium and that it will not be concentrated into a few hands.
I am bound to say that I think that criticism on this score would come oddly from anybody who still believes in monopoly in radio. If there were anybody—I believe there are one or two in this House—who still believes that the right arrangement for radio is to have it controlled by a monopoly, it would be strange indeed for him to be complaining because now, in breaking that monopoly, we were not spreading the ownership far enough.
During today's proceedings and on previous occasions we have discussed the likely programming of the companies. I believe that there is a substantial opportunity for those who will be moving into independent radio.
There is some evidence that in this country at the moment the listening fig- 1372 ures, by international standards, are not particularly high.
The British listener on average listens for about eight hours a week. In several other countries where there is competition the listening figures are a great deal higher. There is every reason to believe that, with competition and new ideas people will make greater use of their radios and that radio listening figures may increase. In several countries over the past decade there has been a steady swing back to radio and a steady increase in radio listening figures. There is evidence that the younger generation is less exclusively addicted to television. There are substantial opportunities for the new radio service.
We have returned again and again during our discussions to the number of stations which is desirable and the scope of each station. A diversity of views has been expresssed. The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) has made it clear that he would like national commercial radio. The hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Mr. Golding) by contrast has said that he would like many small stations, and that view is shared by my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) and to a great extent by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Proudfoot).
There is some element of confusion here, some of it no doubt deliberately generated. When hon. Members portray the provisions of the Bill and the plans of the Authority as being for regional rather than local radio they are ignoring the fact that the size of the stations is bound to vary. Stations which cater for a community are bound to cover areas of greatly varying size. Under the plans which I have described, the Authority will provide two stations in London which will cover the Great London area. At the other extreme the Authority will have the opportunity to provide stations for communities with populations as small as 100,000. There is thus a substantial spread. That is inevitable, unless one takes the view that large towns and conurbations should have a radio station capable not of transmitting to the whole town but to only part of it. In that way there could be a succession of very small stations, but they would not correspond 1373 to community interest. Hence, the diversity in size.
The Authority has the opportunity to provide up to 60 radio stations. It remains to be seen how small a community the Authority can reach and survive. Here there are conflicting views, and this can only be tested in practice. There are those who believe that a station catering for a population of 400,000 will have the greatest difficulty in surviving. By contrast there are those like my hon. Friend the Member for Brighouse and Spenborough who believe that very small communities with a population of 100,000 could sustain four or five radio stations. The extent to which the system spreads will depend upon its acceptability. It will have to win listeners and show that it is providing a service to which people want to listen.
What are the prospects beyond the 60 stations? Clearly it will not be for ever necessary to duplicate on medium frequencies and on v.h.f. At that moment there will be the opportunity for twice as many stations. We can look beyond the next few years to the opportunity of providing in terms of the B.B.C. and I.B.A. a greater number of local stations if it transpires to be a service of growing popularity.
There are those who believe that we shall see in Europe, as has happened in North America, some movement away from the provision of national services to local services. It is true that radio is extremely well equipped to meet many of the local demands. It is a flexible and quick medium of communication and is relatively cheap. Therefore, there is a good case for believing that radio can make a substantial contribution to the local community.
There has also been continuing discussion about the kind of programmes which hon. Gentlemen would like to see transmitted on these stations. The hon. and learned Member for Barons Court at one time seemed to be arguing that Parliament should lay down in detail exactly what kind of records were to be played. When the Bill was first announced he threw up his hands in horror and said that they would all be pop stations. He forgot that the dominant influence at the 1374 moment in radio is Radio 1. Some 45 per cent. of listeners tune in to Radio 1 which concentrates almost exclusively on pop records interlaced with talk from disc jockeys. A further 35 per cent. listen to Radio 2, which concentrates largely on sweet music.
Popular music is bound to play a substantial part in radio of this kind. It is surely no function of either the hon. and learned Gentleman or the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) to lay down that it should not do so. There is an opportunity for this new service to harness popular programming of this kind to a social purpose. In the North American continent are a large number of local stations which have a wide appeal and involve their listeners in the community. This is what radio can do. I hope that these stations, popular in their appeal and carrying popular music, will also carry a great deal of local information and will be able to involve large numbers of people to a greater extent in their local affairs.
I should like to refer to the provision of an alternative news service. We have discussed—I will not go over this ground again—the exact form in which that news service is to be provided. It will be widely accepted that there are tremendous advantages in broadcasting in having more than one sort of news and current affairs. Few people would wish to restore the monopoly in television. The fact that we are now providing an alternative source in radio will be welcome to the people who work in radio. It makes a great deal of difference to have more than one employer, however much or little one may think of that employer. But to have more than one source of news and current affairs in a medium such as this is a considerable gain.
I am glad that the arguments of principle about commercial radio appear to be finished. I fear that according to what now seems to be the established practice, the Opposition, after some hon. Members opposite declaring that they are in favour and some that they are against, will all vote against it. None the less, the measure of consent that the Bill has achieved is a source of satisfaction. I believe that it will be a considerable stimulus to radio services in this country.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard
I am happy to take up one point made by the right hon. Gentleman and that is to join him in paying tribute to those hon. Members on both sides who sat through the Committee stage. It was a unique Committee for a number of reasons. The first was that it was a very small Committee. The Government had eleven Members and we had nine.
Secondly, I did some calculations and discovered that on a Bill which originally had eight Clauses, we commenced the Committee stage on 25th November, 1971, and finished it on 7th March, 1972. We had 34 sittings. Taking an average of two and a half hours per sitting, we spent 84 hours discussing the Bill. I worked that out at approximately 670,320 words, which is about two-thirds the length of" War and Peace"—
§ Mr. Richard
Yes, we failed. Tolstoy beat us. But it must be admitted that he was not considering quite such a petty Measure as this Bill.
The other unique feature of the Bill was that throughout the whole of the 34 sittings, the 84 hours and the, 670,320 words, the only members of the Committee supporting the Bill were the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend the Member for Eastleigh (Mr. David Price), who was his junior Minister. Contributions from hon. Members opposite were rare, save only for two honourable exceptions—
§ Mr. Richard
Two mainly and the third occasionally. The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Proudfoot) and the hon. Member for Hendon, North (Mr. Gorst) know what this Bill is about. They know why they do not like it and why they oppose it. Throughout the whole Committee stage, the only supporter that the right hon. Gentleman had for the Bill was his junior Minister. There must have been occasions when the Minister felt something of the way that I felt on one occasion when I was canvassing in my constituency. I knocked on a door. A sweet old lady answered it and I said, "Good morning, madam. My name is Ivor Richard. I am the Labour candidate for 1376 this constituency. Can I rely upon your vote on polling day?" She smiled sweetly and replied, "Vote? Oh, I never vote. It only encourages them".
From time to time, it must have struck the Minister that whenever he got to his feet to say something about the Bill, even if it was meant to be helpful, all that it did was to encourage hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who found themselves in opposition. I think that the high spot was reached this evening when, after a concession from the Minister, one of my hon. Friends spoke for 27 minutes in opposition to it.
The Minister also said that there was a certain degree of confusion about the Bill. I agree with him entirely. The longer that we spent on it and the more that we went into it, the greater the confusion grew. It was noteworthy that throughout the whole Committee stage little was done to dispel the confusion. Even this evening we attempted to discuss the relationship between the newspaper provisions in new Clauses 1 and 2 and the London news station, and it was impossible to dispel the confusion which arose in the mind of anyone considering the matter.
The Bill emerged from the whole affair somewhat battered. It is a different affair now from those proud days so many months ago when the Minister stood at the Dispatch Box and, flushed with his new-found patronage, produced the White Paper and told us how it would reinvigorate local communities, how the local butcher would be able to rush off to his local radio station and say that his sausages were 3pa pound cheaper. That would go out hot over the air and as a result all the housewives in this small, mythical town, served by this mythical radio station, would rush to the mythical supermarket and pay a cheaper price for the local sausages, no doubt produced carefully by hand by the local butcher in his own local butchery—
§ Mr. Richard
As my hon. Friend says, from locally bred pigs.
Gone are the days when there was talk about reinvigorating local communities. We are left, not with local commercial radio, but with half-baked, semi-illegitimate local regional radio.
§ Mr. Richard
The Minister says "Nonsense". but the first five stations will be, two in London, one in Manchester, one in Birmingham and one in Glasgow, and the time that it will take to get down to local radio in the picturesque mythical town which Lord Eccles, the Paymaster-General, had very much in mind months ago when the White Paper was brought in will be longer than the tenure not only of the Minister in his present position, but even in his new-found position, and his successor in both of them.
§ Mr. Chataway
I wonder whether, even at this late hour, the hon. and learned Gentleman would clarify his position. He is in favour of local commercial radio, but he objects to what we are providing because it is not local enough. Does he, in these large towns, want to see small stations which do not cover the whole town so that they will be, not regional, but local? What exactly is the hon. and learned Gentleman's objection to these five stations which he calls regional, which cover these large towns?
§ Mr. Richard
I am concerned, as I have been ever since I entered politics, at the honesty of the Conservative Party's claim. Unlike some hon. Gentlemen opposite, I read the Conservative Party's Manifesto at election times. The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough said that he never read the manifesto, nor did he think that anybody else did. He said that he had it available in the office should anybody ask for it, but nobody ever did at any election that he fought.
§ Mr. Proudfoot
The hon. and learned Gentleman does me an injustice. I said that party manifestoes were well upholstered and that I read them all.
§ Mr. Richard
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman and I read everything that is put out officially at election time. When one looks at what the Conservative Party said in its manifesto about commercial radio and compare it with what the right hon. Gentleman claimed for it in those early, far-off halcyon days when he first came in flushed with the enthusiasm of his new-found office about reinvigorating local communities, all of which would have their pet radio stations; when one looks at the claim and compares it with the reality, one realises that 1378 if ever there were a false prospectus, which has been proven false by what has emerged during the last 18 months, that was it. We do not, under the Bill, have local commercial radio. Let us be clear about what we are being offered. We are being offered regional commercial radio, and not local commercial radio.
It has become clear as the weeks have ground on that all the initial fears which the Opposition expressed during the White Paper debate and on Second Reading were justified. May I make three points which are as valid now as they were when they were first made? During the debate on the White Paper we said that the Bill was merely a legislative framework giving a massive discretion to the I.T.A., to be renamed the I.B.A. I said that then, and I asked the Minister whether he would be prepared to give us some details about the way in which he and the Authority saw the operation of commercial radio, how it was going to work, and so on. The ideas about commercial radio which the hon. Members for Brighouse and Spenborough, and Hendon, North have are totally different from Ministers' ideas. I thought that those were sensible and rational questions to ask, and many people asked them at the time. Having asked them. I had hoped for answers, but we have gone on asking and hoping, and even today, on Third Reading, we do not know how this Measure is to be operated.
Second, we were intially unhappy about newspaper participation. After the last two days, let alone what happened in Committee, I am very unhappy about these Clauses. Our fears are as justified now as they were then.
Third, we are still not convinced that these proposals are the best possible use of the wavelengths which may become available. Fourth, we are still worried about the dichotomy between the need to maintain standards, which the I.B.A. will have to do, and the inevitable commercial pressures to maximise audiences which will be pressures to bring standards down.
It is therefore quite impossible for the Opposition to vote for the Third Reading of the Bill. There are serious deficiencies in it. We have serious doubts not only about the details of the Bill but about its timing and its wisdom. We would have much preferred this whole 1379 matter to be left over until the inquiry had considered and reported. For these reasons, I shall be advising my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the Third Reading.
This is perhaps a unique occasion. If the incoming Minister will forgive me for using the phrase, it is unique in that both the Minister in charge of the Bill and the Opposition spokesman are what are known in American as "lame ducks". There is a gap between the elected President coming in and the previous President leaving the White House. That slight hiatus is known as the lame-duck period. It may be wholly appropriate that this Bill should be dealt with by two lame ducks—the Minister and myself.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Gorst
For one who has spent well over a decade pressing for the introduction of commercial local radio, this is more than the end of "War and Peace". However, I hope that, when it is eventually published, it will not be full of quite as much verbiage as the hon. and learned Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) has said was expended on it during our discussions.
I want to tell the Minister how much his courtesy, patience and tolerance to those of us who have not at all stages seen eye to eye with him has been appreciated. It is only fair, since so much has been said by some of us on this side which is not entirely favourable to the Bill, for one to rehearse at least some of the main virtues which must be remembered if we are to be fair to the whole project.
First, the Bill will increase the amount of choice available to listeners. Second, it will give an influence over the medium of radio to the provinces. Unfortunately, of course, it gives that influence in mammoth dollops to regional stations—by my definition, anyhow—whereas many of us would have preferred it to be in small driblets to very local stations. However, the third and perhaps equally important quality of the Bill is that it breaks the B.B.C.'s monopoly, about fifty years late. These are wholly advantageous results of the Bill.
I would not go so far as to say that there are not other ways of doing this job, 1380 but I hope that it will be possible in due course to regard this as a tentative first exploratory step with the stations which are set up, which will be followed rapidly, during the review which will undoubtedly be taking place before 1976, by some of the improvements which it may still be possible to include.
On the other hand, while it is bound to increase listening—I agree with my right hon. Friend in this—there are still important defects in it. I have already said that it is regional rather than local. Despite what my right hon. Friend said about competition between local stations and B.B.C. stations, there will not be competition, except in London, between the commercial stations. This is more important that competition with the B.B.C, because, in the view of many hon. Members on this side of the House, it is important for commercial undertakings to be in competition with one another, but for the B.B.C. to complement and augment what commercial undertakings do not and perhaps cannot of their very nature do.
Despite the assurances which have been written into the Bill, still far too much Press and other media of communication influence will creep into the service when it is set up.
It is unfortunate that the Bill gives to the I.T.A., in the form of the I.B.A., the rôle of looking after radio broadcasting in this country. It would have been preferable to start with a separate organisation so that the two media could have developed at their own rate in their own ways and without the influence of another medium which basically is more different—I am talking about television—than the Press is different from radio.
To sum up, I believe that the Bill does the right thing, but in absolutely the wrong way. It gives far too much responsibility to the I.B.A. to make decisions. In its first and tentative stages I believe that it will be tantamount to a nationalised service with sub-contractors. This may well please hon. Gentlemen opposite. It may also explain the tepid enthusiasm which some of them have been prepared to accept, even though they will vote against, the Bill. Nevertheless, I believe that we have made a start on which I hope we shall build and shall improve in due course. To that extent I welcome the Bill.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I did not have the privilege of serving on the Committee, which helps to explain why the proceedings went through in the comparatively short time of 84 hours. The Minister made some provocative remarks in his speech, suggesting that my hon. Friends had readily accepted in Committee the principle of commercial television. I was glad for the robust statement of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Barons Court (Mr. Richard) which went far to discredit what the Minister said.
I know that my hon. Friends would have remained faithful to the principle and policy of the party to which we belong.—[Interruption.]—If it were true that my view on this subject was more radical than the Front Bench, it would not be the first occasion on which this has happened. They know, as I know, that our party has never opposed competition in broadcasting. They know, as I know, that our party has always preferred the principle of public service in broadcasting to the principle of commercialism. Any suggestion to the contrary which may have appeared in Committee is wrong. It may be that the long and frequent sessions slightly blunted the sensibility of my hon. Friends, but it did not deter them from these very important points.—[Hon. Members: "Withdraw."] I willingly withdraw. I know that my hon. Friends fought vigorously from start to finish in Committee.
I want the Minister to compare his attitude to this Bill with his positive and constructive attitude to an alternative television channel which he licensed in my constituency. That is the way to handle local broadcasting. One of the absolute conditions on which the Minister licensed Greenwich Cablevision, an alternative channel in my constituency, was that there should be no commercial advertising of any kind on the channel.
The right hon. Gentleman insisted on that condition because he knows that one cannot have local broadcasting without maximising one's commercial advertising revenue. As soon as the broadcaster is motivated to maximise his advertising revenue, he is motivated to maximise his audience for every programme, which means that he must have programmes which appeal to everybody at once; young and old, male and female, 1382 people in Manchester, London and Penzance.
That is the secret of maximising advertising revenue. The principle is not to have a specific programme for specific interests in specific places. The formula is clear. One must have a programme that appeals to nobody on a particular basis, of a particular interest, in a particular place, at a particular intellectual level. One must have a programme which appeals to everybody at once, and each of the stations to be established under the Bill will be motivated to cast aside the local and specific in favour of the general pop programme.
The Minister suggested that the Labour Party was committed in this matter. I do not think it is. The young people of Britain are increasingly turning against the influence of television in the media. This is plain to anyone who studies the opinions of young people today. They know that the "something for nothing" philosophy belongs to an age that is passing. They know that one does not get something for nothing by allowing a television programme to be interrupted by advertising. They know that the cost of that advertising is met, at least in part, by the consumer of the advertised product.
The climate of opinion is changing in all these matters. There was a time when the nation thought that outdoor advertising was great and progressive. There was also a time when the jet aircraft was considered progressive. Today people say, "Outside advertisements interrupt my view of the countryside", and they claim that to be a form of environmental pollution. They say, "The jet aircraft interrupts my conversation", and that, too, they consider to be a form of environmental pollution. Tomorrow they will say, "Advertisements that interrupt my broadcast are a form of cultural, pollution".
In the 'twenties and 'thirties hon. Members and others we repressing for outdoor advertisements. Before the Minister came to this place he did a great deal to avoid environmental pollution in the material sense—
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that a Third Reading debate is somewhat narrower than a Second Reading debate.
§ Mr. Mayhew
In drawing attention to the content of the Bill. I have found it impossible to avoid mentioning the obvious harm the Measure will do to radio.
There are better ways of doing what the Bill seeks to do, and the Minister knows this because he has just licensed a good alternative way of doing it in my constituency—an alternative channel, competition, without advertising—and the same could be done for radio.
I have never understood why we cannot have a broadcasting finance council in the way that we have the Arts Council and the University Grants Committee. This would allow freedom to radio and at the same time enable funds by general taxation to go into broadcasting. Why should we not look at the financing of broadcasting with a fresh mind and also at the licence? In my view, the most regressive form of taxation is the television licence.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. In a Third Reading debate one is not entitled to look at anything with a fresh mind. One must look at the Bill.
§ Mr. Mayhew
I agree entirely, Mr. Speaker, and I shall immediately bring myself within the rules of order. I was provoked. Those hon. Members present when the Minister made his opening statement will know that he was extremely provocative in a very wide sense. I have made my views on the Bill clear: namely, that it was a squalid Bill before it went to Committee and it is a squalid Bill now.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Proudfoot
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) into his argument, but I would point out one thing. The cable television in his constituency will be paid for by the people who receive it by a weekly rent, instead of by advertising, and the hon. Member should have said that.
With the amount of time that we have spent in Committee and on Third Reading of the Sound Broadcasting Bill, I feel almost that we ought to sing Auld Lang Syne. I remember meeting for the first time my right hon. Friend who piloted the Bill through the Committee at our party conference at Llandudno 1384 just after he had beaten Vladimir Kuts in a three-mile race which was televised. If my right hon. Friend had had to look over his shoulder in that race as much as he had to in Committee he would never have won. It has taught me one thing aboutlong-distance runners. My right hon. Friend has determination. It is a pity that he has, because otherwise he could have been defeated on some matters in Committee. His very determination will take him a long way in politics.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on the way he has got the Bill through. It is not exactly the Bill I wanted to see but, as a believer in competition and commercial radio, I feel that this is a start of commercial radio in this country. It should have started 50 years ago; it is a ridiculous nonsense to start it now. But it is the beginning. It will be a much happier medium than B.B.C. Radio. It will be lighter, happier and more personal than the B.B.C. has ever been. Local it must be, eventually. It will probably set off with a regional flavour, but local news and flavour will be what make it successful.
I hope that my right hon. Friend and his successor will lean on the I.B.A., if that is possible, to make sure that this local radio is 24 hours-a-day radio right from the start. Not everyone has a 9 to 5 job or goes to bed at 10 p.m. and rises at 8 a.m. I hope that the Government will be able to speed up the remaining 55 stations, certainly before the next General Election. These stations will be so popular that they can never be stopped. The party opposite fought like tigers in Committee to stop the principle of this matter growing, to stop commercial radio. But, once achieved, it will be so popular and give such good service to its communities that it will never be stopped.
Lastly, I am delighted that the Government have broken the B.B.C. monopoly. I look forward to what the format will be in 1976. I want to chop up the B.B.C. like a child chops up a worm and let the bits of the B.B.C. reel off in different directions. I want more diversity of management and style than the B.B.C. provides. I look forward very much to the new age of broadcasting media in this country.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Jenkins
The time which we spent in Committee on the Bill has been undone to some extent during the time that we have been in the Chamber. In my view, the original Bill was better than that which will travel to the other place. I only hope that in another place the Bill will be brought back to the condition in which it was when we finished with it in the Committee.
I am sorry that the Minister has insisted on putting back in the Bill the link between newspapers and local radio stations. This is a retrogressive step and one on which the Conservative Party as a whole will look back as something which should not have been done.
I understand that a book is being written about this experience by a Member of another place who spent a great deal of time watching our proceedings in Standing Committee. I wonder how we shall be treated in the book and whether the Bill will be more historic than we think, whether indeed it may not bring about a questioning of the processes of democracy in this place.
The Government brought forward the Bill but they did not know what to do about it. The Bill received only lukewarm support and was, indeed, opposed in some detail from the Government side. It would be wrong to say that we on this side knew precisely what we wanted to do instead of what the Government were proposing. We knew that the Government were wrong, and we tried to put them right but the Minister refused to be educated.
I hope to see the Minister or his successor about one or two matters between now and the time the Bill goes to another place. I hope that as a result of those personal contacts and the reiteration of points which I mentioned on Report we shall be able to make some improvements to the Bill and to make it of some use.
When the right hon. Gentleman talked about social purpose a sort of blankness descended on the other side. Hon. Members opposite obviously asked themselves, "What social purpose?" I believe that the creation of an alternative service of some sort is a good idea. I believe that the creation of another news service is a good plan, but it would have been rather better if the news service had been less centralised and more diversified.
1386 The Bill cannot commend itself to this side of the House. It is not the sort of alternative that we want. It will not contribute anything much in the way of employment. I doubt whether it will contribute anything at all to the cultural life of the country or to the enjoyment of listeners. For this reason, I shall enthusiastically walk through the Lobby against its Third Reading.
§ 9.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Whitehead
The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Proudfoot) was right to cast our minds back to the halcyon days of the 1950s when the Minister was setting out on his career. The hon. Gentleman mentioned a famous race in which the Minister took part. The hon. Gentleman could equally have mentioned the beginnings of I.T.N. After all, it was I.T.N. which put the chat in Chataway in the first place and which made him a well-known interviewer.
The problem we have seen, as the Minister has completed his stint on the Bill and has taken himself right through the period of commercial television and has introduced commercial radio, is that he has been wholly isolated. In Committee no one spoke up for him; his solitude was painful to behold. In Committee those of the Minister's hon. Friends who had not purchased earplugs or who were not doing their football pools on the back rows attacked him from time to time. It was, indeed, a case of "The loneliness of the long-distance runner".
Tonight, for the first time the Minister found a friend. The hon. Member for Nottingham, South (Mr. Fowler), perhaps for reasons of charity, perhaps for reasons of ignorance, said that there were things in the Bill with which he agreed and that there were things which the Minister had said which could be supported. This is a consummation devoutly to be wished from the Minister's point of view. After four and a half months he has found a friend and a supporter.
In his isolation and solitude the Minister was able to do no more—this is true of the Third Reading also—than deride the Opposition for their lack of policy and to say that either we supported the sustaining of the monopoly of the B.B.C. or we did not know whether we wanted local or national radio. What he must 1387 take note of, if this Government survive long enough to let his wretched Bill become law, is what we on this side will do to commercial radio when our time comes. There are other alternatives. There could have been other alternatives. By all means, break up the monopoly—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Question again proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Whitehead
There are many alternatives. The hour is too late to go into them. We could have competing public service systems. We could have some experimental licensing, as my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Mayhew) said, as in Cablevision. We could have a system of negative rental for at least some of the companies, so that some of those who go into commercial radio would be genuinely serving the public instead of merely serving their shareholders, the cartels which manage them, and the advertising managers who will inevitably call the tune.
All that has been abandoned. The Minister has taken as his motto, in considering our Amendments, that one should have moderation in all things, and especially in moderation. He has been extremely moderate in his response to our Amendments.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is as successful in his new position in the Government in resuscitating the regions as he has been in breathing life into the Press barons. But there is no doubt that the Bill will not provide genuine
§ alternative independent sources of news, genuinely independent and competing with one another. In fact, the Bill will give to some of the more jaded local newspaper combines a chance to extend their tentacles over the regional radio which is to be introduced.
§ As we said right at the beginning, on Second Reading, the Bill has been hogtied throughout by the fact that the Minister could have either local radio or commercial radio, but he could not have both. We have as a result this dog's breakfast of regional radio, which, because it will be large enough, since it will go to areas like Manchester and Glasgow, may be commercially profitable.
§ All that the Minister could say at the end of his peroration on Third Reading was that not sufficient time was spent listening to radio in this country. Of course, one could enlarge the number of listening hours almost infinitely. In that wasteland, the United States, where three networks have been described as Tweedledum, Tweedledee and Tweedle-twaddle, by the system and the service which they provide, the hours that people spend listening to aural wallpaper are expanding still to this day.
§ If that is the Minister's target, if that is what he wants to do by his Bill, he will achieve it. But what about expanding horizons? What about expanding men's minds? The Bill will not do that. All it will do is provide a little more money for some people who have money already. My hope is that my right hon. Friends will see their way, when ourparty comes back to power, to tackle this wretched system and to improve it genuinely in the public interest.
§ Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
§ The House divided: Ayes 162, Noes 138.1391
|Division No. 120.]||AYES||[10.3 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Bray, Ronald||Cooke, Robert|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Corfield, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Costain, A. P.|
|Astor, John||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Crouch, David|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Crowder, F. P.|
|Bell, Ronald||Burden, F. A.||Dean, Paul|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Carlisle, Mark||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Chapman, Sydney||Dixon, Piers|
|Biffen, John||Chataway, Rt. Hn. Christopher||Dodds-Parker, Douglas|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S.W.)||Clark, William (Surrey, E.)||Eden, Sir John|
|Boscawen, Robert||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Clegg, Walter||Fenner, Mrs. Peggy|
|Bowden, Andrew||Cockeram, Eric||Fidler, Michael|
|Fisher, Nigel (Surbiton)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Kinsey, J. R.||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Kitson, Timothy||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Rest, Peter|
|Fowler, Norman||Knox, David||Russell Sir Ronald|
|Fox, Marcus||Lane, David||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Fry, Peter||Le Merchant, Spencer||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh Whitby)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Longden, Gilbert||Shelton, William (Clapham)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Luce, R. N.||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Goodhart, Philip||MacArthur, Ian||Soref, Harold|
|Goodhew, Victor||McCrindle, R. A.||Speed, Keith|
|Gorst, John||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Spence, John|
|Grant, Anthony (Harrow, C.)||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Stainton, Keith|
|Gray, Hamish||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Green, Alan||Mather, Carol||Stewart-Smith, Geoffrey (Belper)|
|Grieve, Percy||Mawby, Ray||Stodart, Anthony (Edinburgh, W.)|
|Grylls, Michael||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Gummer, Selwyn||Mitchell, Lt.-Col. C. (Aberdeenshire, W)||Stokes, John|
|Gurden, Harold||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Stuttaford, Dr. Tom|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Moate, Roger||Sutcliffe, John|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Money, Ernle||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Hannam, John (Exeter)||Monks, Mrs. Connie||Taylor, Robert (Croydon, N.W.)|
|Hawkins, Paul||Monro, Hector||Tebbit, Norman|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||More, Jasper||Temple, John M.|
|Hicks, Robert||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)|
|Hill, John E. B. (Norfolk, S.)||Murton, Oscar||Tilney, John|
|Holland, Philip||Neave, Airey||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Holt, Miss Mary||Normanton, Tom||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hornby, Richard||Oppenheim, Mrs. Sally||Waddington, David|
|Howe, Hn. Sir Geoffrey (Reigate)||Owen, Idris (Stockport, N.)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Howell, Ralph (Norfolk, N.)||Parkinson, Cecil||Warren, Kenneth|
|Hunt, John||Percival, Ian||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Prior, Rt. Hn. J. M. L.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|James, David||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pym, Rt. Hn. Francis||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Jessel, Toby||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Wylie, Rt. Hn. N. R.|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Redmond, Robert||Younger, Hn. George|
|Kellett-Bowtan, Mrs. Elaine||Reed, Laurance (Bolton, E.)|
|Kimball, Marcus||Rees, Peter (Dover)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Mr. Michael Jobling and|
|Mr. John Stradling-Thomas.|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Foot, Michael||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Atkinson, Norman||Gilbert, Dr. John||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ginsburg, David (Dewsbury)||Marks, Kenneth|
|Bennett, James (Glasgow, Bridgeton)||Gourlay, Harry||Marsden, F.|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Grant, John D. (Islington, E.)||Marshall, Dr. Edmund|
|Bishop, E. S.||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Hamling, William||Meacher, Michael|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Hannan, William (G'gow, Maryhill)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Booth, Albert||Hardy, Peter||Mendelson, John|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||Harper, Joseph||Millan, Bruce|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Glasgow, Provan)||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Milne, Edward|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hattersley, Roy||Mitchell, R. C. (S'hampton, Itchen)|
|Campbell, I. (Dunbartonshire, W.)||Heffer, Eric S.||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis (Eccles)||Horam, John||Morris, Rt. Hn. John (Aberavon)|
|Clark, David (Colne Valley)||Huckfield, Leslie||Moyle, Roland|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol, S.)||Hunter, Adam||Murray, Ronald King|
|Concannon, J. D.||Janner, Greville||O'Halloran, Michael|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Cox, Thomas (Wandsworth, C.)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Orbach, Maurice|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jonas, Dan (Burnley)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Cunningham, Dr. J. A. (Whitehaven)||Jones,Rt.Hn.Sir Elwyn(W.Ham,S.)||Padley, Walter|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kaufman, Gerald||Pendry, Tom|
|Davis, Terry (Bromsgrove)||Kelley, Richard||Pentland, Norman|
|de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir Geoffrey||Kerr, Russell||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Dempsey, James||Lambie, David||Prescott, John|
|Doig, Peter||Lamond, James||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Dormand, J. D.||Latham, Arthur||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Douglas, Dick (Stirlingshire, E.)||Lawson, George||Probert, Arthur|
|Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Reed, D. (Sedgefield)|
|Dunn, James A.||Loughlin, Charles||Rees, Merlyn (Leeds, S.)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McElhone, Frank||Richard, Ivor|
|Ewing, Harry||McGuire, Michael||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mackenzie, Gregor||Roper, John|
|Fernyhough, Rt. Hn. E.||Mackie, John||Ross, Rt. Hn. William (Kilmarnock)|
|Fisher,Mrs. Doris(B'ham,Ladywood)||Maclennan, Robert||Sandelson, Neville|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-under-Lyne)|
|Short, Rt. Hn. Edward(N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. (Dundee, E.)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Tinn, James||Whitlock, William|
|Sillars, James||Torney, Tom||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Skinner, Dennis||Tuck, Raphael||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Small, William||Wainwright, Edwin||Wool, Robert|
|Smith, John (Lanarkshire, N.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Spearing, Nigel||Wallace, George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Spriggs, Leslie||Watkins, David||Mr. John Golding and|
|Stallard, A. W.||Weitzman, David||Mr. James Hamilton|
|Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael (Fulham)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Stoddart, David (Swindon)||White, James (Glasgow, Pollok)|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time and passed.1393
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Humphrey Atkins.]