HC Deb 23 April 1975 vol 890 cc1699-702 'Every advertising medium which accepts an advertisement promoting the views of either persons who wish electors to vote "Yes" or "No" in the referendum shall, if so requested

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time: —

The Committee divided: Ayes 8, Noes 152.

Division No. 188.] AYES [2.37 a.m.
Emery, Peter Havers, Sir Michael
Goodhart, Philip Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Mr. Michael Roberts and
Grist, Ian Weatherill, Bernard Mr. John Stradling Thomas.
Archer, Peter Golding, John Ogden, Eric
Armstrong, Ernest Grant, John (Islington C) Ovenden, John
Ashton, Joe Grocott, Bruce Palmer, Arthur
Atkinson, Norman Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Park, George
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Hardy, Peter Parry, Robert
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Harper, Joseph Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Bates, Alf Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Price, William (Rugby)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Hart, Rt Hon Judith Radice, Giles
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Richardson, Miss Jo
Bishop, E. S. Halton, Frank Robertson, John (Paisley)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Roderick, Caerwyn
Booth, Albert Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hughes, Mark (Durham) Rooker, J. W.
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Rowlands, Ted
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hunter, Adam Sedgemore, Brian
Buchan, Norman Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Janner, Greville Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Campbell, Ian Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Canavan, Dennis John, Brynmor Silverman, Julius
Cant, R. B. Johnson, James (Hull West) Skinner, Dennis
Carter-Jones, Lewis Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Small, William
Cartwright, John Jones, Barry (East Flint) Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Judd, Frank Spriggs, Leslie
Clemilson, Ivor Kerr, Russell Stallard, A. W.
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Lamble, David Stoddart, David
Corbett, Robin Lamborn, Harry Stott, Roger
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Lamond, James Strang, Gavin
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Litterlck, Tom Swain, Thomas
Crawshaw, Richard Loyden, Eddie Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Cronin John McElhone, Frank Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Cryer, Bob MacFarquhar, Roderick Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Davidson, Arthur Mackenzie, Gregor Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Maclennan Robert Tinn, James
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) McNamara, Kevin Tomlinson, John
Deakins, Eric Madden, Max Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Magee, Bryan Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Mahon, Simon Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Dempsey, James Marks, Kenneth Ward, Michael
Dormand, J. D. Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Wellbeloved, James
Dunn, James A. Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) While, Frank R. (Bury)
Dunnett, Jack Meacher, Michael White, James (Pollok)
Edge, Geoff Mellish, Rt Hon Robert Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
English, Michael Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Ennals, David Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, ltchen) Wise, Mrs Audrey
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Woodall, Alec
Evans, John (Newton) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Young, David (Bolton E)
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mulley, RI Hon Frederick
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
George, Bruce Noble, Mike Mr. Laurie Pavitt and
Gilbert, Dr John Oakes, Gordon Mr. John Ellis.

by either Britain in Europe or the National Referendum Campaign, publish free of charge an advertisement of equal value promoting the opposite view to the original advertisement.—[Mr. English.]

Brought up, and read the First time

Mr. English

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

This is a very simple clause. The original suggestion that there should be limitations on advertising came from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, and I am very pleased to support the case which he put forward. Those limitations were dropped in the White Paper, but in return in the White Paper there was the suggestion that adequate expenditure should be allowed to both sides in order to enable both sides to have an advertising campaign.

The object of the change was to ensure that there was a great interest in the election and a high poll. In fact, as we know from the Bill and from the previous discussions, the amount of money provided is hardly one-tenth of what is required for an adequate advertising campaign. My hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) suggested a very simple means. It was suggested in the debate on the White Paper and on Second Reading that it was technically difficult to limit advertising expenditure. There is, in fact, no technical difficulty in limiting advertising expenditure, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow pointed out at a Labour Party meeting. This proposed new clause merely embodies his suggestion, and it is extremely simple.

If any advertising medium—a newspaper, for example—accepts from one side an advertising advertisement, which in the case of a full-page advertisement can cost £6,000 or more, it must, if requested by the other side, publish an advertisement for that side free of charge.

The object is to ensure that, whatever inequalities of money there may be, there will at least be equality in advertising and fairness in advertising throughout the referendum campaign.

Mr. William Price

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) has shown his usual ingenuity. His proposal is fascinating. But he will not be surprised to hear that I must ask the Committee to oppose it.

On the face of it there may be some validity in the argument that it would ensure equal treatment, but it would create far more problems than it tries to solve. It would produce an interesting situation. One side could presumably sit back happily and spend nothing on advertising, safe in the knowledge that it would get the full benefit of the other side's expenditure. I can see problems arising in some quarters over that.

I am also certain that there would be a strong reaction from Fleet Street. Most newspapers are in financial difficulties, and one cannot imagine them willingly giving up page after page for unpaid advertising. They might seek to make a double charge for the initial advertisement to recover the cost of the free reply. I suspect that we should end up with little or no advertising.

The Government considered the possibility of banning advertising altogether or imposing strict limitations. Therefore, the clause is perhaps not as outrageous as some people might think. But we came to the view that it was neither possible nor desirable, for several reasons.

Any ban, or the requirement of the clause, could take effect only from Royal Assent to the Bill. It would be wholly ineffective in relation to advertising placed before that date. Secondly, we had to consider whether it was just and equitable to lay down this sort of regulation. Had we the right to tell organisations what they must or must not do? We took the view, I believe rightly, that we had not. Thirdly, we are anxious to do nothing which would produce a low poll. The effect of the clause would be to dry up advertising, diminish interest in the country and leave us with an indecisive result on the Market. I do not think that many hon. Members would want that.

Question put and negatived.

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