HC Deb 15 November 1979 vol 973 cc1492-3
15. Mr. Beith

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether, in view of the fact that many people in rural areas still cannot receive 625-line television transmissions, he will defer the ending of 405-line transmissions until full national coverage has been achieved.

Mr. Brittan

There has not yet been a decision on the timetable for the closure of the 405-line VHF television services. The programme for extending the 625-line UHF services to all communities with permanent populations of 500 or more is now well advanced, and is continuing.

The closure of the 405-line service will be phased over several years, and the aim will be to ensure that, so far as is possible, no 405-line transmitter is closed until the UHF coverage programme in the area is substantially complete.

Mr. Beith

Will that extend to those who live in communities of less than 500 people? Does the Minister recognise that there are many remote farms and scattered communities with no access to entertainment facilities, and very little to educational facilities, for whom the limited service now available on 405 lines is all they have? Does he realise that that must be maintained until an alternative can be provided?

Mr. Brittan

I very much recognise the problem that the hon. Gentleman has raised. I, like the hon. Gentleman, represent a constituency which contains many such people. I think that it is important to take the interests of those concerned into account when working out this programme, and I assure the hon Gentleman that what he has said will be taken fully into account when such a statement is made.

Mr. Cockeram

Does the Minister agree that this is not a problem that is limited to Scotland and Wales, but that there are substantial acreages of England where the population cannot receive 625-line transmission? The BBC has been quite oblivious to the needs of these communities. Will my hon. and learned Friend ensure that their interests are safeguarded?

Mr. Brittan

I accept that there are considerable tracts of territory in England which face this problem. As I said, I represent some constituents who are in exactly that situation. We are very mindful of the concerns and interests of such people.