HC Deb 09 February 1972 vol 830 cc1308-10
2. Mr. Hicks

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications when he will announce plans for the construction of the necessary ultra high frequency relay stations that will have the effect of improving television reception in those parts of South and East Cornwall where the existing service is poor or difficult to obtain.

Mr. Chataway

The improvement of television reception is primarily a matter for the B.B.C. and I.T.A. They tell me that although their plans include several relay stations in Cornwall they are not yet in a position to estimate when these will come into service.

Mr. Hicks

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the urgency of the situation? Is he further aware that within South-East Cornwall there are certain pockets which have never really had satisfactory reception? Will he therefore use his influence to do whatever he can to remedy this situation as quickly as possible?

Mr. Chataway

I know that the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. are anxious to press on as fast as they can. Cornwall has already had two high-power U.H.F. television stations. They were among the first 19 opened, and altogether 50 are needed in the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend knows that there are real topographical difficulties for small pockets in Cornwall.

22. Mr. Scott-Hopkins

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications how many viewers are still unable to receive any 625 line transmissions; and whether he will devote extra expenditure to the elimination of areas where such conditions exist.

Mr. Chataway

The B.B.C. tells me that 5 million people in the United Kingdom live in places where reception of 625-line transmissions is not yet possible. On the second part of his Question, I have nothing to add to my reply to my hon. Friend on 17th November, 1971.—[Vol. 826, c. 402–3.]

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that these people have waited long enough, while paying the full licence fee, to receive these transmissions? Will he try, particularly at a time when the economy is being expanded, to persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer that it would be a worthy expenditure to give to these people the reception which the vast majority of people in Britain receive? Is he aware that at present those who are unable to receive these transmissions are being defrauded in the sense that they are paying the full licence fee but are getting only a half-rate service in return?

Mr. Chataway

The broadcasting authorities are pressing on with this programme as fast as they can. My hon. Friend will be aware that those who live in rural areas are being heavily subsidised by those who live in the towns. For example, in my hon. Friend's constituency it will require 11 stations to complete the transmission service, and each station will cover only an average of 6,000 people. It is inevitable, therefore, that this will be quite a long and expensive job.

Mr. David Steel

Will the rght hon. Gentleman accept that among these 5 million people are all my constituents, and that we are sick and tired of the Ministerial washing of hands of this matter, both by the right hon. Gentleman and by the Secretary of State for Scotland? Not only do these people not receive colour and B.B.C. programmes but incoming industry finds that when the executives and workpeople arrive their television sets cannot receive a single channel, because the modern sets do not receive 405-line transmissions. If the Government's regional policy means anything, it means creating proper public facilities in the regions to which they are trying to attract industry.

Mr. Chataway

I am as anxious as the hon. Gentleman and my hon. Friend to see 625-line reception extended as fast and as far as possible. But there is no evading the difficulties involved in covering the whole country.