HC Deb 29 November 1972 vol 847 cc395-7
4. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether, having regard to the fact that the ownership of commercial television and radio and local and national newspapers is falling into a few hands and to the recommendations of the Prices and Incomes Board in this respect, he will give an assurance that any forthcoming survey of the future of broadcasting will have terms of reference covering the whole field of communications.

Sir J. Eden

I prefer not to anticipate the terms of reference of any such survey.

Mr. Jenkins

Will the Minister bear in mind that the Prices and Incomes Board's Report, Cmnd. 3435 of 1967, made a specific recommendation that it was high time that the communications of this country were considered as a whole? In making that recommendation it was thinking not only of radio and television but of the national Press. Would it not be appropriate that the communications media should, for the first time, be considered as a whole in their relationship to each other, particularly as those relationships are now getting very close?

Sir J. Eden

That is an extremely interesting suggestion, but the hon. Gentleman will recognise that it would take us very much wider than had been contemplated hitherto in the context of a survey.

13. Mr. Whitehead

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he will now announce his decision concerning the appointment of a committee of inquiry into the future of broadcasting after 1976.

19. Mr. Russell Kerr

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications what representations he has now received to implement the recommendation in the Report of the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, which investigated the Independent Broadcasting Authority, that there should be an urgent inquiry into the future of broadcasting.

Sir J. Eden

I have nothing to add to the reply I gave on 8th November to the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and others.—[Vol. 845, c. 977–8.]

Mr. Whitehead

Is the Minister aware that that is an amazingly unsatisfactory answer? Will he give the House one reason for this continuing delay, over and above his own inability to make up his mind and what appears to be the inadequacy of his staff to brief him on the strength of public feeling on this issue?

Sir J. Eden

As the hon. Gentleman will know, the Select Committee has recently issued its report. This is an extremely important report, which merits careful study. Although I am very much alive to the wishes of the House that a considered reply should not be unnecessarily delayed, I must take account of the important recommendations in that report.

Mr. Robert Cooke

My right hon. Friend will be considering the question of the personnel of any committee of inquiry, but he will realise that the question of its terms of reference is equally if not more important. I am sure that he has this very much in mind.

Sir J. Eden

Yes. My hon. Friend will recollect that earlier this afternoon there was a Question on the terms of reference.

Mr. Gregor Mackenzie

Does the Minister recollect that at last Post Office Question Time I asked him specifically, in relation to the inquiry, whether the charter for the BBC and the renewal of contracts for the companies operating under the IBA would come up for renewal in 1976 and would not be delayed. The Minister was not able to answer me then. Perhaps he will answer me today.

Sir J. Eden

They come to an end in the normal course of events in 1976, and clearly something will have to be done by that time.

Mr. Kerr

Can the Minister indicate whether we are to get an answer on this tremendously important matter before Christmas?

Sir J. Eden

I agree that this matter is extremely important, and I well understand the interests of all hon. Members and their wish to have specific and clear-cut answers to these questions. I will do my best to ensure that this is done as quickly as possible.

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