HC Deb 19 February 1973 vol 851 cc12-5
14. Dr. Stuttaford

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he is satisfied with the television reception in Norfolk.

13. Mr. McNamara

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he is satisfied with television reception in East Anglia and Humberside.

15. Mr. Ralph Howell

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications whether he is satisfied with television reception in North Norfolk.

16. Mr. John E. B. Hill

asked the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications if he is satisfied with the quality of television reception in East Anglia.

Sir J. Eden

Yes, Sir. I am told that reception in the area is generally good.

Dr. Stuttaford

Does my right hon. Friend agree that it is not much good receiving a programme if that programme means little to the people listening, that Yorkshire and Norfolk have distinctive local cultures and considerable local pride, and that the idea that some of Norfolk and parts of the Isle of Ely should receive television programmes from Leeds is so absurd that it could be conceived and maintained only by ignorant bureaucrats?

Sir J. Eden

Questions concerning the type and the content of programmes are not for me.

Mr. James Johnson

On the question of which people receive which television station, virtually between the Humber and the Thames, is the Minister aware of the stubborn, nay, cynical, attitude of the IBA towards these people who belong to a distinctive culture and have distinctive interests in sea fishing and the land? Is he aware that the IBA decision, based on money criteria, no longer holds good, because Yorkshire Television is now very well off?

Sir J. Eden

I am aware of the depth of feeling on this subject and I have read the text of the letter which appeared in The Times today, but the fact remains that Parliament has decided that decisions on contract areas should be taken by the IBA and not by the Government.

Mr. Hill

As one of the original founder member subscribers, may I declare a minority interest of a fraction of 1 per cent. in Anglia Television and ask the Minister whether he appreciates the importance to the future of independent television generally of having a large, mainly agrarian area stretching from the Humber to Suffolk which is big enough to produce programmes based on the countryside, cathedral cities and market towns, and not on conurbanised industry? Would not it be an environmental outrage to break this up?

Sir J. Eden

Again, that must be a matter for the IBA, in whose hands the ultimate responsibility for decision lies.

Mr. Crosland

The right hon. Gentleman keeps on saying that this must be a matter for the IBA, but surely it must be a matter for the Government to represent to the authority the wishes of large numbers of consumers. Even if the authority has to take the final decision, could not the right hon. Gentleman convey to it that right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House are profoundly anxious about this decision, and that in this they are representing the views of almost all their constituents in a large part of England?

Sir J. Eden

I am sure that the IBA will take note of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, just as I am certain that it will take into account the feelings which he and his co-signatories expressed in their letter to The Times today, in which they quite properly decided to continue to press Lord Aylestone and the IBA to reverse the decision. That is, as the letter rightly states, where the responsibility lies.

Mr. Jeffrey Archer

Will my right hon. Friend reconsider the point made by the right hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Crosland)? Is my right hon. Friend aware that the letter in The Times today was signed by every Member whose constituents receive Anglia Television and that they therefore represent the entire areas? Not one Member of the House is against us. Would my right hon. Friend consider personally asking Lord Aylestone to reconsider the whole situation?

Sir J. Eden

It is for Lord Aylestone to take into account the strength of the representations which individual Members have already made to him.

Mr. English

The object of the IBA dealing with these matters is to take certain subjects out of politics. Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not think that the area over which television is distributed by a particular organisation is a party political matter. The whole House objects to this decision, as in the old days Granada-land was objected to, and just as now in the Midlands my Nottingham constituents do not like their programmes from Birmingham. Why cannot the right hon. Gentleman make reasonable social representations on behalf of the whole country?

Sir J. Eden

I am not claiming that any party political matter is raised by the Questions put to me on this subject. I am sure that there is not. But the fact remains that it would be wholly wrong if Ministers of any Government were to attempt to intervene in the responsibilities of the IBA for determining what should be the appropriate contract areas. Considerable commercial interests are involved, and Parliament correctly decided that the Government should not be concerned directly in these matters.

Mr. Fell

Nevertheless, would it be possible for my right hon. Friend to re-examine this question in the light of the fact that what has been going on in the last five months has been a charade? My right hon. Friend knows perfectly well that Lord Aylestone is in no way able to consider this matter at all, for he tied his own hands many months ago on it and cannot even look at it in good faith, with many other people. Will my right hon. Friend therefore set up an inquiry into the matter?—because the only way in which he could get a change would be to sack Lord Aylestone. I am not arguing for that, any more than anyone else is, but the fact is that Lord Aylestone's hands are tied, and my right hon. Friend will have to have an inquiry in order to get any movement in this matter.

Sir J. Eden

It is a matter for the Chairman of the IBA to judge the extent to which he feels his hands are tied by previous decisions.