HC Deb 16 June 1977 vol 933 cc532-4
2. Mr. Hugh Jenkins

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what is his policy regarding the recommendations of the Annan Committee.

The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. Merlyn Rees)

As I said during the debate on the Annan Report on 23rd May, I shall consider in the light of the comments that are made on the Committee's recommendations what proposals to put to Parliament for the future structure of broadcasting.

Mr. Jenkins

In what form does my right hon. Friend propose to make these recommendations to the House? Is he proposing to make them in the form of a statement or a White Paper, or will he bring forward a Bill? Will he say what his proposal is, so that we may have some idea of what to look forward to?

Mr. Rees

I have not yet decided, but at this stage my mind is directed towards a White Paper before legislation.

Mr. Rathbone

Does the Secretary of State remember that he committed himself to giving sufficient time to debate whatever form of recommendation is brought before the House? Will he give us a reassurance now that when the White Paper is brought forward there will be sufficient time to study it before the debate?

Mr. Rees

I cannot give a commitment in a precise form, although it sounds a sensible idea that when we have the White Paper we should hear what the House has to say on what is essentially a matter for the House as a whole.

Mr. Alexander W. Lyon

What representations have been made by the BBC about a further increase in the licence fee? Will my right hon. Friend seriously consider whether this is an appropriate way of funding the BBC in future? Will he look at the alternative ways, of advertising or using the Independent Television levy?

Mr. Rees

That matter is being discussed as part of the future. With regard to the present, there is no doubt that the BBC suffers from inflation, and the effects of inflation, the same as anyone else does.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether the Government now propose to take action on the Annan recommendation for the allocation of the fourth network in Wales before the rest of the United Kingdom? In the meantime, will he say whether he proposes to implement any medium-term plans for the extension of Welsh language broadcasting and English language programming from Cardiff.

Mr. Rees

In the debate on 23rd May I reaffirmed the commitment to the project for a fourth channel in Wales. On 8th June officials from my Department and the Welsh Office began discussions with the broadcasting authorities on how progress might be made on the project when the funds are available so that an immediate start can be made.

Sir Anthony Royle

May I draw the Secretary of State's attention to another aspect of Lord Annan's activities, namely, his letter in The Times today regarding the question of a fourth man involved with the Burgess case back in 1956? Does the Secretary of State agree that he should look into this matter and make a statement to the House—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not think that that comes under the heading of the activities of the Annan Committee.

Sir A. Royle

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The name of Lord Annan is mentioned in the Question—

Mr. Speaker

Order. It is quite clear that we are dealing here with the recommendations of the Annan Committee.