HC Deb 24 June 1980 vol 987 cc327-99

Amendments made: No. 10, in page 3, line 4, leave out 'in the Fourth Channel Service' and insert 'on the Fourth Channel'.

No. 14, in page 3, line 15, leave 'Service'.

No. 15, in page 3, line 18, leave 'Service'.—[Mr. Brittan.]

8.15 pm
Mr. Merlyn Rees

I beg to move amendment No. 16, in page 3, line 38, leave out subsection (3) and insert— 'Main section 4(1)(d) (requirement that programmes broadcast from any station or stations contain a suitable proportion of matter catering for the tastes and outlooks of persons served by the station or stations and, where another language as well as English is in common use among such persons, a suitable proportion of matter in that language) shall apply in the case of the Fourth Channel only to programmes of regional origin or those subsequently transmitted in a particular region or regions'. In an attempt to be helpful I am forgetting my own responsibilities, and the amendment will therefore have the great benefit of being dealt with without notes. It arises from discussion upstairs in Committee.

A great deal of discussion takes place from time to time about the problems of Wales that I support. There are also discussions about the problems of Northern Ireland. Many of my right hon. and hon. Friends believe that not enough concern is given to the English regions. The feeling, in the words of the amendment, is that the tastes and outlooks of persons served by the station or stations, and, where another language as well as English is in common use among such persons, a suitable proportion of matter in that language shall apply in the case of the Fourth Channel. If the amendment has been drawn correctly, the question of other ethnic groups, living in other parts of the country, will also arise. We are concerned about the development of the regional companies. The Annan report put forward the idea that the IBA should be called the Regional Authority and the word "region" given more formality. A great deal of excellent work has been done by some companies in terms of regional drama—I think especially of Yorkshire Television and I would also mention some excellent Granada productions. I have no doubt that other hon. Members could make a similar claim for other companies.

Many of the programmes are made in London. Many of the people who perform in them go to Euston, Paddington and Kings Cross to take fast trains to the regions, to stay in a hotel in the middle of town for two or three days while the programme is made. A major factor that the Opposition have in mind is not only that there should be more regional programmes but that the making of those programmes should tap more regional ability and outlook. I am, therefore, proposing that programme broadcasts should contain a suitable proportion of matter catering for the tastes and outlook served by the station.

We should like to know the Government's thinking on the matter. We do not know whether the amendment is correctly drafted. This is a technical matter. It should not be discussed simply in the Welsh context that we shall reach in a short time.

Mr. Gregor MacKenzie (Rutherglen)

I shall detain the House only briefly. I made some comments in Committee about the excellent work done in Scotland by the television companies in catering for minority language tastes. The Home Secretary and I share the distinction of being Scots. Both of us would be in some difficulty if we attempted to conduct a conversation in the language of our fellow countrymen in the North of Scotland. There are, nevertheless, in Scotland, a great many people who think not only that they should hear programmes in Scottish Gaelic but that an interest should be created and sustained in the language. I know that "An Comunn Gaidhealach", concerned with the preservation of Scottish Gaelic, wishes programme companies to pay attention to this matter.

Scottish television, like others, over the past few years, has put out a number of excellent programmes catering for these tastes. My purpose in supporting the amendment is to ensure that the new fourth channel should continue to put out programmes to cater for these groups. This is not the great issue that it is in Wales. It is, nevertheless, an issue. It is worthy of consideration. As I stated in Committee, I am not making a great issue of the matter, but I should like those concerned with the operation of the fourth channel to know that a number of hon. Members would like to see the language sustained.

Mr. Whitehead

I must apologise to my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) for not rising to move the amendment as I had agreed to do. I was in the business of shedding a few immortal words during the discussion on the previous amendment, during which the Minister was imperiously waved down by my right hon. Friend before he had had time to suggest why the drafting amendment was necessary. I have accepted that. I hope that the amendments mean nothing in terms of the spirit in which the previous amendment was universally welcomed in Committee.

The amendment that we are discussing derives essentially from the fourth sitting of the Standing Committee, when we queried the provision that main section 4(1)(d) should not apply because, as the Minister said, this was not a regional but a national service, and, therefore, the regional provisions that were the main standby and guarantee that small groups, particularly those speaking languages other than English, and other than Welsh or Gaelic, could receive a proportion of programmes in their own languages catering to their own tastes and outlook—did not apply.

The point that I was trying to make to the Minister in Committee was that within the existing legislation—the main output will continue to apply in the ITV service—they have the protection of statute. It is equally true that in regard to the other two services on the BBC, there is a provision that the BBC, on the whole, has upheld, to provide programmes, though not necessarily at peak times, for ethnic groupings. Admirable programmes in Urdu and occasionally other languages are available on the three services.

It seemed to us curious that in the one new service—one of the jewels in whose crown would be catering for minority services—this protection for minorities was to be specifically excluded. We argued that there should be provision for the special needs of those citizens whose first language was neither English or Welsh. Since that cannot be put in a regional context, because we are legislating for a national and not a regional service, we should say that this provision, as a national requirement, for languages other than English, should be added to the Bill.

If it is in the Bill, in the form of the words that we have suggested in the amendment, there will be a requirement on the board of the fourth channel company to see that some proportion of its programmes are made in the idiom of, and catering for, the tastes and outlook of the various minority groups to whom we have referred.

As the fourth channel service extends and develops, and regional opt-out programmes becomes possible within the service, it will be more necessary, in those regional opt-out programmes, to include a specific proportion of the more specialised programming that we have in mind. That is why we withdrew the amendment in Committee but told the Minister that we would have a shot at drafting another amendment, which took the requirements qualifying section 4(1)(d) of the principal Act and extended to them that protection for minority groups that we feel is necessary.

I look forward to the Minister's reply on these points. He knows that we withdrew the amendment in Committee.

Mr. Brittan

I do not think that I can assist the House better than by explaining in general terms the Government's thinking on the whole question of the regional application of the fourth channel. We have not thought it appropriate to include a provision along the lines of the amendment—as I indicated in Committee—because in the first instance the fourth channel is to be a national channel. I welcome the opportunity to make it clear that in saying that we are in no way seeking to prevent, delay or discourage the gradual development of regional variations and the showing of programmes of a regional origin on a national basis.

Both are developments to which we ought to look forward. There is no reason why the showing of programmes of a regional origin on a national basis should not happen from the outset. The development of regional variations is something that obviously can occur only as and when the service develops. For those reasons, I do not think that it is appropriate that a requirement of that kind should be imposed at the outset.

I recognise that the original amendment was withdrawn in Committee and that a fresh one has been proposed in its place—one that is a valiant effort to cover the same ground. However, the objections to it remain as stated in Committee. I am glad to have had the chance of making it quite clear that we are in no way seeeking to discourage the provision of programmes that cater for the tastes of particular regions, but we do not think it appropriate to give legislative force to that.

Mr. Whitehead

I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) in that I do not think that we would seek to divide the House. Having cited one paragraph to the Minister, I leave him with another one. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. MacKenzie) has just indicated, we have written in special provisions for one minority grouping—the Welsh. I would not for a moment suggest that we should not do so. Indeed, I do not think that those provisions go far enough. But having done it for the Welsh, it seems inconsistent to say that we cannot do it for any other group. I think that we may live to regret that fact, in view of the enormous diversity of different cultures that exist and that should remain in the United Kingdom.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment by leave withdrawn

Amendments made:

No. 17, in page 3, line 44, leave out 'in the Fourth Channel Service' and insert: 'on the Fourth Channel'.

No. 19, in page 4, line 3, leave out 'in both ITV and the Fourth Channel Service' and insert: 'on both ITV and the Fourth Channel'.

No. 20, in page 4, line 8, leave out 'in the Fourth Channel Service' and insert: 'on the Fourth Channel'.—[Mr. Newton.]

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Mr. Gwilym Roberts, to move amendment No. 21.

Mr. Gwilym Roberts


Mr. Merlyn Rees

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I wonder whether we can be clear on what it is that we are voting. As I understand it—I know that you will correct me if I am wrong—there is to be no vote on amendment No. 22, which is to be called for discussion only. Can that be confirmed? That would cause a problem, because, much as we would prefer to vote on amendment No. 21, we understand procedurally why the subject to be discussed is exactly the same as that contained in amendment No. 22. We should like a discussion on the argument between the two sides that has arisen from the change of policy of the Government after they were elected.

With respect to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts), amendment No. 21 is not a matter in which we want to get involved. However, because of the way in which the amendments have been grouped, that is the only amendment on which we can vote. I seek your help, Mr. Deputy Speaker, so that we can have a debate on the relevant question that divides the House.

Mr. Roberts

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If by not moving amendment No. 21 we have the opportunity of voting on amendment No. 22, that might further the wishes of the House.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I think that the wish of the House should be complied with on this occasion. Do I take it that the hon. Gentleman is not moving amendment No. 21?

Mr. Roberts

indicated assent.

Mr. Geraint Morgan (Denbigh)

I beg to move amendment No. 22, in page 4, line 9, leave out from 'Wales' to 'and' in line 10, and insert: 'contain all the Welsh language programmes transmitted in Wales;'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

With this we may discuss the following amendments: No. 30, in clause 4, in page 4, line 38, at end insert: '(2C) As regards the Fourth Channel service in Wales the Authority shall appoint a separate Board, linked to that of the subsidiary, whose duty will be to plan a separate programme schedule for Wales, appoint suitable Programme Executives and staff for Wales and generally conduct the Fourth Channel service as one distinctive in the special character and interests of Wales, and an appropriate subvention from the finance made available to the Fourth Channel subsidiary will be allocated for the cost of programmes specifically purchased for the Fourth Channel service in Wales'. No. 80, in clause 17, in page 14, line 31, after 'subsection (2)' insert: 'and in accordance with its responsibilities under section 4(2C) of this Act'. No. 108, in clause 20, in page 17, line 22, leave out subsections (2) and (3) and insert: '(2) The Secretary of State shall invite the BBC Broadcasting Council for Wales and the IBA Advisory Committee for Wales to nominate 6 persons each to serve on a Broadcasting Co-ordinating Council for Wales (Cyngor Cyd-drefnu Darlledu), and the Secretary of State shall further nominate 6 persons to serve on the Council from among independent producers working in Wales: the Council shall—

  1. (a) have a duty to co-ordinate the broadcasting of a service for Wales in the Welsh language, and it shall therefore be responsible for co-ordinating all decisions regarding the scheduling of programmes between all programme sources in Wales;
  2. (b) be able to decide in consultation with the broadcasting authorities upon which channel or channels Welsh language output shall be transmitted;
  3. (c) consult with the BBC and the IBA about the funding to be made available for Welsh language programme production, and shall advise the IBA on any compensatory payments that shall be made to a programme contractor in Wales for the screening of BBC originating programmes;
  4. (d) be empowered to advise on the transfer of funds for the commissioning and coordination of production facilities between the BBC and IBA and independent contractors operating in Wales; and
  5. (e) shall publish an annual report of its activities'.

Mr. Morgan

The amendment stands in my name and the names of the hon. Members for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), Cardigan (Mr. Howells) and Merioneth (Mr. Thomas). Its effect would be to implement the recommendations of a number of committees which have considered over a period of 20 years altogether—particularly during the last six—the best use to which the fourth channel could be put in Wales when it came into existence.

Incidentally, the amendment also reflects the views of such bodies as the Welsh Broadcasting Council and the University of Wales and, perhaps most im portant of all, what appeared until September of last year to be the accepted policy of all the political parties representing Welsh constituencies in this House. That is a matter to which I shall briefly return later if I have time.

I want first to trace the virtually unanimous recommendations of the committees which have examined this proposal, beginning with the one on broadcasting under the chairmanship of Sir Harry Pilkington, as he then was, which reported as long ago as 1960, at a time when the fourth channel as such had not been heard of. In those distant days, as some of us will remember, such Welsh language programmes as came on the air were for the most part broadcast at impossibly early or late hours, generally the latter. "Too little and too late" was an apt description of Welsh broadcasting at that time.

Although the Pilkington committee made no specific recommendation in this regard so far as I am aware, it clearly took serious note of the representations that were made to it two decades ago. It said: There must, we were told, be a Welsh programme which would portray the distinctive Welsh culture. The present programmes were described by the Council for Wales and Monmouthshire as alien to the Welsh, whether English or Welsh speaking". It went on: According to some, such was the influence of television that, unless in the very near future enough Welsh speaking programmes were put on in peak viewing hours, the cause of the Welsh language and Welsh culture would suffer irreparable harm". It is only fair to add that in the years which followed that report a substantial improvement was seen in the television service in Wales, due mainly to the establishment of the Broadcasting Council for Wales, the beginning of transmissions by BBC Wales from Wenvoe early in 1964 and the extension of commercial television. Even so, those arrangements, better though they were, did not really begin to satisfy the widely held desire in Wales for a television service that would give a special place to the Welsh language.

It was not until the early 1970s that the idea of setting aside the fourth television channel for this purpose—now a prospect on the horizon, albeit a distant one—was first mooted. That idea may be said to have crystallised in July 1973 when the then Lord Mayor of Cardiff arranged a conference of all the main organisations and institutions in Wales from which a unanimous call went forth to the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications—that short-lived Ministry was then in existence—to give special consideration to Wales when deciding upon the future of the fourth channel.

It might be said, perhaps, by way of criticism, that up to then the project had been considered only in a Welsh context and not in the context of the United Kingdom as a whole. But that position, if it existed at all, was remedied by the Crawford committee on television reception whose report was published in 1974.

It is not without significance that the original remit of the committee was merely to discuss the question of television reception in rural areas. Following public pressure the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications decided to extend the committee's terms of reference to allow it to make a special survey of the possibility of using the fourth channel in Wales for Welsh language programmes.

8.30 pm

The recommendation produced by the committee was decisive. Let it be emphasised that it had no axe to grind and could not be characterised as a committee having, either by reason of its composition or its function, any prejudice or bias in favour of the Welsh language. The committee's recommendation was that: whatever decision may be reached about the use of the Fourth channel in the rest of the United Kingdom, it should in Wales be allotted as soon as possible to a separate service in which Welsh-language programmes should be given priority. In our view, this should be achieved through the BBC and HTV moving their existing Welsh-language items to this service and co-operating closely at all levels, through suitable machinery, in expanding them. As a noteworthy tailpiece, which I emphasise, the committee added that The cost would represent an investment in domestic, cultural and social harmony in the United Kingdom. As if the Crawford recommendations were not enough they were powerfully reinforced by the Siberry report published in 1975 which, among other things, expressed itself as satisfied that the establishment of a Welsh language television service was viable. It went on to specify the probable costs of creating the service.

Finally, in 1977 the Annan report appeared and recommended that the Siberry proposal should be implemented as soon as the Government could find the necessary finance. It said, further, that the provision of a fourth channel in Wales should certainly precede its use in the rest of the United Kingdom. What was the political reaction to these recommendations, all of which were made during the period of office of the previous Administration? I can fairly say, in a sentence, that the reaction was entirely favourable from all quarters.

The Crawford report was accepted by the then Home Secretary, Mr. Roy Jenkins, who specifically declared that the then Government accepted all the Crawford report recommendations in principle and that a working party would be set up to examine the technical and financial problems. It is only right to add, however, that five years, two committees and one working party later no action has been taken in the matter even though the Siberry and Annan recommendations had received the approbation of the previous Government.

As far as the Conservative Party is concerned, not only did a commitment to establish a Welsh language fourth channel appear prominently in the Welsh manifesto but a solemn undertaking to that effect was embodied in the Gracious Speech.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am sure that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) does not seek to mislead anyone on that point. I shall come to the question of the Welsh manifesto. I take the matter personally as it was my decision, and I shall explain to the House why I took it. It is entirely my responsibility for stating such a commitment on behalf of the Government and that is why I intend to reply to the point. But my hon. and learned Friend cannot, and must not, say that that commitment in the manifesto was repeated in the Gracious Speech. If he looks at the words he will find that it was not.

Mr. Morgan

I did look at the words quite recently and I must say that that was my interpretation. Let me put it this way. I think that any reasonable person would have interpreted the words in that way. I think that I can fairly put it like that.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

As the Home Secretary has intervened at this point, perhaps I may remind the hon. and learned Gentleman that when his right hon. Friend was Shadow Home Secretary, he gave an interview to the Western Mail just prior to the general election, in which he said: The Conservatives have adopted the policy of concentrating Welsh on the fourth channel under the IBA's control because, despite obvious drawbacks, it seemed to produce the widest consensus. If the right hon. Gentleman could say that it was the widest consensus before the election, what has happened since the election to make it no longer the widest consensus?

Mr. Morgan

In view of all that has been said, I can only say that I was astonished, to put it mildly, that a promise made in such a gilt-edged form in May should have been so suddenly shattered by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary at Cambridge in September—and that, seemingly, following virtually no consultation with those most concerned.

I appreciate that circumstances can arise when the rescinding of even a solemn undertaking may be justified, but frankly I can see none in this case. The position was precisely the same in September as it was in May. The pros and cons of the case were quite unaltered.

I would not seek to argue for a moment that there are no cons. It has been frequently argued, for example, that it is for the benefit of Welsh language television that, for example, a programme such as "Heddiw" follows on a widely popular one such as "Nationwide". [Interruption.] It is argued, and there may be something in that argument.

I go further and say that I freely confess that up to a comparatively late stage in this long-lasting argument I was unconvinced of the merits of a Welsh fourth channel. But ultimately I was driven to the conclusion that this was the best and, indeed, the only way of saving the Welsh language at a time when it is fighting for its life in a way that it has never had to do before, at a time when the next two decades will be more fateful for it than any two previous centuries in its history.

I stress that it must not be overlooked, either, that the fourth channel solution, which so many in Wales support, the bringing about of which is the purpose of the amendment, has the outstanding merit of being equally fair to both the Welsh-speaking minority and the non-Welsh-speaking majority in the Principality. So far as the latter are concerned, it means that there will be no interference, or only minimal interference, with their favourite programmes. So far as the Welsh speakers are concerned, on the other hand, it would give the language a status and a scope for development which could never be achieved by sprinkling Welsh programmes here and there among English ones—an arrangement which, to my mind, can lead only to greater irritation and divisiveness—if that is the right word—between the Welsh and English speaking populations of Wales.

In effect, as I see it, the Home Secretary's alternative proposals really amount to trying to force not a quart, indeed, but a half gallon into a pint pot.

I am not supporting the amendment purely or even primarily because of the undertaking given by the Government and then, in my view, unjustifiably broken—even though I feel strongly that Governments should abide by their commitments. My main purpose is to achieve what is best for the Welsh language at this critical time, while at the same time creating no embarrassment or difficulty for the majority in Wales who do not speak the language. I regard this as something which should be entirely non-party and above party. It is imperative, of course, that the solution we now adopt should be the right one.

Just as I readily accept that there are cons as well as pros to the argument, so I recognise the fact that there are people in all political parties, even in Plaid Cymru—whose opinons on this subject I respect—who take a different view. I remain convinced, however, that the fourth channel solution is not only the best but the one that probably commends itself to the majority of the Welsh people.

On occasions such as this I like to think of the words of a great French statesman, Jules Favre, in 1871, when, after the crushing defeat of the French army by the Germans, the French nation was concerned with deciding upon its future form of Government. No one could say that it was not spoilt for choice, because it was able to choose from the Bonapartists, from two lines of kings, and a republic. M. Favre said this: I am a monarchist but I am going to support the Republic because I think it is a form of Government that will divide Frenchmen least. I think I can fairly say that the solution provided by this amendment is the one that would divide Welshmen least. It is for that reason in particular that I commend it to the House.

Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda)

Perhaps I should say a word of gratitude to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If the procedures of this House had not allowed a Division on amendment No. 22 it would have caused difficulties to us and great offence to a large number of people in Wales. Therefore, I am delighted that our procedures have allowed a Division to take place. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) for withdrawing his amendment and enabling the Division to take place.

The Home Secretary would be well advised in this matter to pay heed to the contribution made by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan), who speaks on this issue with the true voice of Wales. He outlined the lengthy discussions and reasons which led to the consensus view which prevailed throughout Wales, that Welsh language television should be on one channel only. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that this was an issue which should be non-party and above-party. That was the belief of us all. It is the action of the Government which has unfortunately made this matter a party issue.

The amendments are an attempt to deal more effectively than does the Bill with one important aspect of Welsh life—Welsh language and broadcasting.

The 1971 census showed that 21 per cent. of the people of Wales spoke Welsh. They naturally want to listen to, and watch, the programmes in that language at reasonable times. The census also showed that 79 per cent. of the people do not speak Welsh. They want programmes in the language that they understand, with the minimum of interference, though they are willing to give up some of their programmes to enable the Welsh language programmes to be produced. At present, Welsh language speakers feel that their rights have been ignored. They feel a sense of injustice in this matter. Hence the campaign to refuse to pay television licence fees. I must say quite clearly from this Box that the Opposition give no support to those who are conducting or taking part in that campaign any more than we would support any others.

I find it very strange that if one of my constituents does not pay the television licence fee he is soon dealt with very harshly indeed. Similarly, I understand the sense of injustice which led the past Member for Carmarthen, Mr. Gwynfor Evans, to propose that he will fast until death. I must say again from this Box that the Opposition have no political sympathy with Mr. Evans or with his views on this matter. I sincerely hope that his true friends will persuade him to abandon this foolish action. I say to him—if I may speak to Mr. Gwynfor Evans through this speech this evening—that I have always considered the best place in which to fight the Tories to be this Chamber. Certainly, I never believed that I would be troubled by them elsewhere.

English speakers resent the interruption, the constant switching that they have to do from one channel to the other, and the overlapping which inevitably takes place and which prevents them from seeing complete programmes of their own choice. In South and Mid-Wales, more and more people are turning their television aerials to other regions, thereby losing Welsh language programmes and the regional programmes in English about Wales and designed for Wales. As the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh indicated, the arguments have gone on for many years. The problem has been how to accommodate those views.

8.45 pm

There have been committees, reports and conferences. Out of those came a consensus that all Welsh language programmes should be broadcast on one television channel. The consensus was not easily arrived at. Any consensus in Wales is difficult to arrive at. Both sides had to give up something. It will be a great tragedy if that consensus is now to be broken. The introduction of the fourth channel gives us an opportunity to satisfy that consensus. Amendment No. 22 does seek to do that, and I shall recommend that my right hon. and hon. Friends support it in the Lobby tonight. Amendment No. 23, which has not been called, was an attempt to do the same. Amendment No. 21 was not moved, and I shall not waste time dealing with it.

The people of Wales were entitled to believe that the consensus would be implemented whichever party won the general election. We made it clear then, on Second Reading, in Committee, and in the debate on amendment No. 23, that the Welsh language programmes should be broadcast on one channel. That was our policy, and it remains our policy and our objective.

The Conservative Party similarly expressed that view, and so sold itself to the people of Wales in the general election. In its manifesto it said: We are anxious to see Welsh broadcasting starting on the fourth channel as quickly as possible. We believe that this could be done more cheaply, simply and at least as quickly if both the BBC and HTV Welsh programmes are transmitted on the fourth channel. That was a promise to the people of Wales and to all those who had laboured to bring about that consensus. It is a promise that should not be broken by the Government.

The Home Secretary has referred in the past to the words in the Queen's Speech and has said that the Speech made no such promise. Among other things, the Queen's Speech stated: they will give active support to the maintenance of the Welsh language and will seek an early start with Welsh broadcasting on the fourth television channel in Wales."—[Official Report, 15 May 1979; Vol. 967, cc. 49–50.] If the Home Secretary is now saying that when those words were included that was in his mind, he had a duty to Wales to spell out how he would make that early start. The people of Wales believe the Queen's Speech to mean the fulfilment of the Conservative election manifesto. The Home Secretary now uses—

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

Would it not be expected that, if within the Queen's Speech there was intended to be foreshadowed a major change of policy, as was clearly indicated by the Home Secretary when he spoke in Cambridge, that was the moment to announce it? Is it not a shabby action that the Home Secretary should now intervene and seek to spell out of those words a justification for a change which, if it was in his mind and if he had had courage and honour, should have been included in the Queen's Speech at that time?

Mr. Jones

I agree with everythig that my hon. Friend said. If it had been the intention of the Government, when the Queen's Speech was written and presented to the House, to break their promise and to break the consensus in the shabby and miserable way that they now propose, it was their moral duty to include that in the Queen's Speech. The Home Secretary is now using the same arguments as were quoted in the election manifesto for putting the television programmes on two channels.

In the manifesto, the arguments for putting television programmes in Wales on one channel were threefold: it could be done more cheaply, more simply and at least as quickly. When the Home Secretary has attempted to make a defence of those matters, he has used the same arguments for his present position as he used when he wrote those words, or whoever wrote them for him, in the manifesto.

The Home Secretary and the Cabinet are breaking the consensus. They are destroying the harmony which has existed. They are increasing the frustrations felt by English speakers in Wales and fuelling the flames of bitterness felt by Welsh speakers.

Newspaper reports suggest that the Secretary of State for Wales, in announcing his change of view, acknowledged the error of his ways for three reasons. The first reason was the likely public reaction. That reaction was known when the consensus was drawn up and when the manifesto was presented to the people of Wales.

The second reason was that it was a matter of finance. Yet the manifesto stated that it could be done more cheaply.

The third reason was the fear of isolating the Welsh language. That argument was thrashed out year in, year out, before the consensus was arrived at.

If the Secretary of State for Wales and the Home Secretary are concerned about public reaction, let me remind them of the letter addressed to the Home Secretary from people in religious, educational and other responsible positions in Wales drawing attention, first, to the fact that the consensus existed and, secondly, stating: Rarely has the Welsh nation as a whole demonstrated such a common mind… It was a most regrettable breach of solemn promises and an obvious way of fomenting bitterness… Government should show substantial concern for ensuring that in this matter the views of the vast majority of Welsh people… are not disregarded. I believe that the situation can, should, and will force the Government to think again on this important issue. Unless it is resolved satisfactorily, it will divide Wales for years to come.

Clause 4 was the subject of a lengthy discussion in Committee. The Minister said that the running of the fourth channel—the providing and the putting out of programmes—was better done, not by the IBA directly, but by a subsidiary.

Amendment No. 30 relates to the arrangements that can be made for running the fourth channel in Wales. It is not that we accept the Government's proposals. We profoundly disagree with the Government's proposals for dealing with television in Wales. But if we have to go down that road, it is necessary to have a separate board for Wales linked with a subsidiary board. There should be a separate board to deal with the planning of programmes, the appointment of staff and the running of a service in Wales, because Wales has a distinctive cultural difference from other parts of the United Kingdom.

At some time, we shall have to look at the possibility of a genuine all-Wales independent television network. It is difficult for me to understand how it is possible to finance an ITV station in the Grampian area and not one in Wales, but I shall not pursue that issue this evening. No one can deny that the people of Wales have a different cultural and linguistic background, and that there are problems associated with that language and culture that do not exist in other parts of the United Kingdom.

I am not arguing that Wales is better in that respect—although on most occasions I believe that it is—but it is different as a consequence of its history, language and culture. There is a need for a separate board to run the fourth channel. I do not believe that the subsidiary body, as spelt out in the Bill, can be expected to run the fourth channel and to appreciate and cater for the differences that exist in Wales. A separate board for Wales is essential if the needs of Wales are to be met. For that reason we shall seek a Division on amendment No. 30. Without amendments Nos. 30 and 80 the fourth channel could turn out to be a ragbag of miscellaneous programmes, unless it is given its own identity within Wales, with positive planning by a special Welsh board of the fourth channel subsidiary company of the IBA.

The Government have broken their promise. They have not justified the change. They have not justified their action to the people of Wales. In breaking their promise, the Government are encouraging friction between English speakers and Welsh speakers in Wales. The Government will be called to account for the contempt that they exhibit towards the people of Wales in this matter.

The Government should either accept amendment No. 22, or at least say that they are willing to look again at the matter. It is no good for the people of Wales to have a solution dictated to them principally by English Members of Parliament. There are differences that must be taken into account. But, if the Home Secretary is prepared to reconsider the matter, the Government can partially restore their self-respect and they will show a true appreciation of the problems regarding broadcasting in Wales and indicate that they are prepared to do something about them which will be acceptable to the people of Wales.

Mr. Whitelaw

It may be helpful to the House if I try to make some general comments now, and then, at the end of the debate, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State will reply to the various other speeches that have been made.

First, I wish to dispose of several points. After consideration of the way in which the fourth channel operating under the IBA would function, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I, having considered in detail what we believed would be best for all the people of Wales under a plan based on an IBA rather than an open broadcasting authority, decided that it would be right to change our minds.

9 pm

I have been in politics long enough to have seen Governments of all parties change their minds for the better—when the change that they have decided to make has proved in time to be right. I have never been able to believe in an absolute rigid adherence to a manifesto if another course is seen to be better. If in the long run it is wiser to change one's mind it is better to do so.

I admit freely that before the Queen's Speech was written I had some doubts, when I began to consider the possibility of a scheme for the IBA, whether it was right to do it all on the fourth channel. The Queen's Speech does not say that all will be done on the fourth channel. My critics must admit that.

Mr. Alec Jones

What did the Home Secretary mean by the words in the Queen's Speech? Was he still having second thoughts at that time, or had he firmly decided on a sell-out for the people of Wales?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have admitted freely that I was having second thoughts. What we promised in the Queen's Speech is exactly what we intend to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] I wish to get this matter out of the way. I am happy to be criticised, but I am telling the House, honestly, as I am entitled to, that I said that we would make an early start on Welsh broadcasting on the fourth channel. The Queen's Speech did not say that it would be done exclusively on the fourth channel. [HON. MEMBERS: "Disgrace"] It did not say that. However, if it will help the House I shall accept criticism for that, too. It is fair for me to make the point. If the House does not accept it, let it forget it. Let us proceed on that basis. However, I still maintain that we are fulfilling the Queen's Speech. I am entitled to maintain that.

Mr. Abse

Is it not clear that without in any way indicating that he had some doubts, by using words of that kind in the Queen's Speech, given what had already been said in the manifesto, the right hon. Gentleman was misleading the House? How could anybody imagine that there were other doubts when there had been a firm commitment? It does not become the Home Secretary, as a man of honour, to suggest to the House that he was being anything like frank in the words used in the Queen's Speech.

Mr. Whitelaw

I was. However, the House does not accept what I say. If hon. Members will not accept the plain fact it is no use my arguing about it.

I turn to some other matters that I wish to get out of the way. No one will argue that the proposal in any way undermines our clear commitment to the Welsh language. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has already taken many measures that show that he is determined to give the fullest support to the Welsh language. No one will deny that.

It is only fair that I should make that clear. I am glad to note that Opposition Members accept that that is so. Actions frequently speak louder than words. My right hon. Friend has taken the actions that show his determination to uphold the Welsh language. He is entitled to claim that, and I am entitled to claim it for him.

There is no doubt that the Government are strongly committed to the survival and development of the Welsh language. We have made that perfectly clear. Although Opposition Members may disagree with me on other subjects, I am glad to note that we are at one on this subject. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If Opposition Members are not at one with me they cannot have any regard for what my right hon. Friend has done.

Mr. William Hamilton

He should be making this speech.

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not think so. Clearly I am responsible for a broadcasting Bill. If I did not make this speech the hon. Gentleman would say that I had no honour and that I had no guts. I am not prepared to accept that criticism. If I had not made this speech I would have lacked those qualities. The hon. Gentleman knows that he would have made such accusations.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

We fully appreciate the point that the right hon. Gentleman has made. No doubt we would have criticised him if he had not taken part in the debate. However, we do not understand why the Minister of State, Home Office should wind up the debate.

Mr. Whitelaw

I am sorry; there seems to be a misunderstanding. The Under-Secretary of State for Wales will wind up the debate.

Mr. Williams

Why not the Secretary of State for Wales?

Mr. Whitelaw

I said earlier that the Under-Secretary of State for Wales would wind up the debate. My hon. and learned Friend the Minister is not an Under-Secretary of State and, therefore. I could not have meant him

We may be asked why we put forward this proposal and why we decided that it was in the interests of all viewers in Wales. There may be differences of opinion about the methods, but we propose to make a considerable increase in the amount of Welsh language broadcasting. We propose 20 hours. That is as much as the previous Labour Government suggested in their Open Broadcasting Authority proposals. It may be more than 20 hours. There can be no argument about the amount of time that is being given to Welsh language broadcasting on television. I am glad to note that Opposition Members accept that.

There are two ways of ensuring that the Welsh language has the best possible treatment on television. First, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) was right to say that Annan and others recommended that if there was to be an Open Broadcasting Authority such as our predecessors favoured the way would be clear for a Welsh language service on the fourth channel in Wales. The right hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) and others have made much of the cost. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I have consistently made it clear that in the long run our proposals for Welsh language broadcasting will be cheaper than the proposals of the Labour Party would have been, because of the nature of the Bill and the position of the IBA.

We settled for our proposals because we believed that our proposals for the IBA represented the best option for the Welsh speaking and non-Welsh speaking inhabitants of Wales. We felt that it would give them a wide choice of worthwhile programmes.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)

The Home Secretary said that it was his intention to maintain at least 20 hours of Welsh language programmes. If the number of hours are constant between the two proposals, and the actual hours of broadcasting are the overwhelming cost of any service provided in the Welsh language, how much difference does the structure make in cost terms?

Mr. Whitelaw

The Open Broadcasting Authority was to be financed wholly by the taxpayer, whereas our proposals for the IBA will mean that the service will be financed considerably by advertising revenue. That is the difference. The OBA would have been a total cost on the taxpayer. I believe that our system must be cheaper for the taxpayer in the long run.

I turn to the question of the timing of the programmes, which is extremely important. Even with 20 hours, if these hours were tucked away at inconvenient times it would not meet the proposals that we have in mind. For this reason we have included in the Bill provisions designed to ensure that clashes between the two programmes are avoided and that the proper proportion of Welsh language programmes are shown at peak times.

My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh said that there were pros and cons. There will be those who say that perhaps the two-channel solution will work, but a single channel would be much better. If one removes the emotion from this subject, one can see that there are arguments both ways. We certainly saw the argument for the single channel, otherwise we would not have to put it in our manifesto. Looking at the overall situation, we believe that the solution that we have put forward is better. I see the argument that was put forward by the right hon. Member for Rhondda about the IBA taking BBC programmes under contract. It is equally clear that that would mean complex institutional arrangements, which would make the service as a whole difficult to organise. That is the view taken by those who must run these channels. That may not be the whole answer, but it is important.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Is the Home Secretary now saying that BBC Wales has indicated to him that it will be too complicated for it to put programmes on channel 4?

Mr. Whitelaw

No. certainly not. I am perfectly entitled to have discussions with a wide variety of people about a very complex institutional arrangement, which is what it would be. I doubt whether it would work. I also believe that it is simpler and easier for each authority to retain responsibility over its own programmes on its own channel. There is a considerable argument for having both of them committed to that.

A single channel would require substantial Government finance. There cannot be any doubt about that. Therefore, one must consider the best method of providing the Welsh language broadcasting service at sensible cost for the community and in the interests of all the people in Wales. That is what we have done, and I still believe that that is the best solution.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I, have consistently said that our proposal offers the fastest, simplest and most economic way of providing an increase in Welsh language television broadcasting of a high standard, in a way that will serve the interests of all viewers in Wales and the Welsh language in particular.

9.15 pm
Mr. Ioan Evans

The Home Secretary had one view before the election and another after. He says that the Secretary of State for Wales had been with him all along. Was there an agreement with the Secretary of State for Wales immediately afer the election that the fourth channel in Wales, which was supported by everyone, should be abondoned?

Mr. Whitelaw

The decision that I announced in my Cambridge speech was a Government decision, with which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I were associated.

Mr. Barry Jones (Flint, East)

The right hon. Gentleman is giving the impression that after the election he changed his mind, and perhaps twisted the arm of the Secretary of State for Wales to make him agree.

Mr. Whitelaw

It is the reverse of the truth to suggest that I twisted my right hon. Friend's arm. I have no power to do that. It was a Government decision. It is a Government Bill.

The proposals have been overtaken by a considerable amount of argument and emotion. I am the first to understand the latter. The Government have put forward the proposals in the Bill on the basis of providing the same amount of television time—and we hope more, as time goes on—that would have been provided under any other scheme. We believe that the proposals will be fair to Welsh language broadcasting and serve all the people in Wales to the best advantage. Let us give the proposals a chance, and see who is right. We believe that we are right. We have demonstrated our commitment to the Welsh language.

We should, however, review progress. I propose to request the BBC to ask the National Broadcasting Council and the IBA to ask the National Advisory Committee, which clause 22 makes statutory, to report each year on the television programmes in Welsh broadcast by the BBC and IBA, respectively, and how they serve the interests of people residing in Wales. When I receive those reports I undertake to lay them before the House. If they prove the Government wrong, we shall be prepared to make changes, as necessary. I cannot be fairer than that. We believe that our proposals will provide the best service, but others disagree. We shall not be stiff-necked if the reports prove us wrong.

I cannot advise the House to accept the amendments. I appreciate that many hon. Members will wish to register their votes against us, and I welcome what the right hon. Member for Rhondda said about various protests.

The Government will be prepared to change if there is evidence to show that it is right to do so. That surely gives to those who are anxious the chance to say that there is a way to continue to press the Government. That is the democratic way. Against the background of what the Government believe to be best, I have made a substantial concession. I wish to continue with the Bill as it stands, but I am prepared to receive reports and to consider them fairly with all the hon. Members concerned.

Mr. Geraint Howells (Cardigan)

Last year, before and after the election, all the political parties were committed to a Welsh language service on one channel. I am honoured to have been able to put my name to the amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan). The Home Secretary has tried to compromise, but he has failed to convince me—and I do not think that he will convince the people of Wales—that his proposals are acceptable.

We admire the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh because he has stuck to his principles over the past 12 months. However, it is no wonder that the electorate of Wales is getting disillusioned with politicians if they can be seen to go back on their promises as easily as have the Government over the fourth channel in Wales.

The Government have chosen to ignore the wishes of the people of Wales, who have clearly indicated that they would prefer, for a number of reasons, to have Welsh language programmes on one television channel. To Welsh men and women the survival of the language is a matter of great importance. The setting up of a Welsh language service on one channel is seen by many experts as well as by many enthusiasts, as an essential part of a plan to save the language.

During the past few years, those of us who are Welsh-speaking have been proud of Radio Cymru, which has its programmes in Welsh. I have not heard a single Welshman or Welsh Conservative Member criticising those programmes which are entirely in Welsh and are broadcast in the morning. The station has been a wonderful asset to those in Wales who speak and live the language.

However, the Government have chosen yet again to turn their back on the wishes of the people of Wales. It has been made clear to me that even if Ministers in the Welsh Office were brave enough to put forward the views of their fellow Welsh men on this point or any other, they would be ignored by the Cabinet, which seems determined to treat Wales as a second-class nation.

Whether our language lives or dies is of little importance to the Government. The total arrogance and stupidity of that attitude is beyond belief. They are creating animosity and bad feeling where none should have been.

Once again, Mr. Weatherill, the Government, with unbelievable arrogance—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)

Order. The hon. Gentleman should not name me. This is a Report stage.

Mr. Howells

I am sorry, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was getting carried away, as the Welsh do sometimes.

With unbelievable arrogance, the Government have not only broken their own well-documented promises but have flown in the face of conclusions drawn in numerous official reports on the subject as well as public opinion in Wales. I have spoken before on the insensitivity of this Administration in dealing with Welsh affairs. This is yet another example of the callous attitude that puts commercial considerations before cultural excellence and that only counts success in cash terms. I will not bore the House with what was stated in the Queen's Speech. It has been quoted before, as has the Conservative manifesto.

In a Welsh affairs debate on 23 May 1979, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Wales said: Television and, to a lesser extent, perhaps, radio broadcasting have a major influence in the every day life of the people of Wales. Our clear intention is to press ahead with plans for Welsh language broadcasting on the fourth channel. There is certainly every present reason to suppose that this could be achieved as quickly as the previous Administration would have been able to put their cumbersome plans into effect, and there is absolutely no reason to believe that our intentions would result in less broadcasting in Welsh. It is our aim that on an agreed basis both broadcasting authorities should produce Welsh language programmes on the new channel. I recognise that in that situation there would have to be some means of co-ordinating the programme input of the BBC and the IBA's programme contractor in Wales".—[Official Report, 23 May 1979; Vol. 967, c. 1144.] I am convinced that the Secretary of State for Wales was in favour of the fourth channel being allocated to the people of Wales but was persuaded by members of the Cabinet to change his views. I had the privilege last year to chair a national conference in Aberystwyth attended by members of local authorities throughout Wales and a number of eminent people. I was asked to write to the Secretary of State for Wales to urge him and the Government to reconsider their decision not to establish a Welsh service on the fourth channel. It is a great pity that the answer received from the Secretary of State for Wales was not satisfactory.

If the Government will not accept the amendment, it means that the Welsh language will not have its rightful place in the broadcasting system. This will lower the morale of all who love and care for the language. I urge the Government to accept the amendment.

Mr. Tom Hooson (Brecon and Radnor)

The heat in the Chamber has gone up considerably in the last one and a half hours. Anyone reflecting on the content of the debate might find it astonishing that so much anger should be created on an issue where the number of hours of Welsh television planned under the Welsh proposals is not one second less than was ever intended under any previous proposals. The basis of the financing of those programmes is far sounder than could have been achieved by the establishment of an Open Broadcasting Authority. If one looks at the case for dividing Welsh language television transmission between two channels, one can argue that not only will there be not one second less Welsh on television but that it will reach a wider audience. The greater the number of channels on which programmes are broadcast, the greater is the reach of the language. That is a point to which I shall return.

It is high time that we introduced some element of fact into the discussion. I shall endeavour to do that in a calm manner—

Mr. Ioan Evans

The hon. Gentleman was not in the House prior to the election. He did not hear the speeches made by his colleagues, now on the Government Front Bench. He is missing the whole point of this argument. The consensus was that the Welsh language should be put on the one channel. The Minister said that the non-Welsh-speaking majority of viewers and the Welsh-speaking minority both want Welsh language programmes placed on a separate channel. That is the Government's commitment, and the hon. Gentleman should address himself to that point, which is what the debate is all about.

9.30 pm
Mr. Hooson

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman is missing the point of this debate. Is is exactly the point that I shall develop right now. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) traced the history of the numerous committees and working parties which had considered this subject. I do not intend to cover the same ground. However, I should like to summarise pages 413 and 414 of the Annan report, where the crucial developments were cogently set out. The seeds of confusion which have led to this rather bad-tempered debate can be found very clearly in the report of the Crawford committee, which came out in 1974. Here I quote briefly from Annan's summary of the Crawford committee: They recommmended that the fourth UHF television channel in Wales should be allocated to a separate service, in which Welsh language programmes should be given priority,"— never exclusivity— and that this service should be introduced as soon as possible, without waiting for a decision on the use of the fourth channel in the rest of the United Kingdom. That was the point at which the seeds of confusion were sown, because for the five years that followed the thoughts about Wales by every party in this House were exclusively within blinkers, without considering the inter-relationship which exists between Wales and England. That is fundamental to a rational understanding of this problem.

The Siberry working party picked up the subject and reported. It proposed that programming should be shared by the BBC and HTV on one channel, and Once the channel had opened, the existing services should cease to include programmes in Welsh". They did not believe that they should be able to finance the capital expenditure without a subsidy. Early in 1976, the then Government had to postpone the implementation of those plans owing to the economic circumstances at that time. Fortunately, that got that Government off the hook for the rest of their life, because they were able to await the outcome of the Annan committee. That is the classic way of evading a financial commitment—by appointing a committee.

Finally, we come to the Annan recommendations themselves. They are not quite as clear-cut as we might gather from some of the speeches that we have heard in this debate. I extract the key sentences: We recommend that the proposals of the Siberry Working Party should be implemented sa soon as the Government can find the necessary finance. We put this second in priority only to the extension of the UHF television and VHF radio coverage. The transmission of programmes in Welsh provided by the BBC and HTV would continue to have priority in the scheduling, but the service could include the Open University programmes". Annan becomes rather vague here. There was certainly no talk of any exclusive channel for the Welsh language. I also draw particular attention to these sentences, which get far too little attention.

Meanwhile, a committee, composed of representatives of BBC Wales, the IBA and HTV, should co-ordinate programmes on the channel in Wales. The Siberry Working Party envisaged that there would be no programmes in Welsh on the other television services; but we "— this is, Annan— would regret it if all Welsh language programmes were banished to the fourth channel and we think it would be worse for the Welsh language and the heritage of Wales. That is contained in Annan, yet we hear very little of that quotation.

Mr. Wigley

Does not the hon. Gentleman accept that the logic behind those words is that the Welsh language should not be banished from BBC1 and HTV? However, the Government's proposal does exactly that, and we get the worst of both worlds out of it.

Mr. Hooson

If we are talking about the worst of all worlds, there is nothing to compare with creating the ghetto of a single channel, whereas clearly we are here talking about two channels. May I put six disagreeable and factual points to the opponents of this measure.

Mr. Whitehead

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Hooson

I do not want to take up too much time. I wish to put these factual points. The first is—

Mr. Whitehead

We can rehearse these arguments from Standing Committee, but the hon. Gentleman knows that what Annan warned against in the passage that he has just quoted was the attempt at dumping all Welsh programming on to one channel for all time. It was not intended to stand in the way of the legitimate desire of the Welsh-speaking people to have a channel that would be predominantly Welsh.

Mr. Hooson

The point of fundamental importance is the number of hours of Welsh television which are available during a week. If we can make those hours available in such a way that programmes reach a larger rather than a smaller audience that is worth even more. Let me sum up what I regard as six good factual points that have received too little attention in this debate.

First, the Welsh language at present gets 13 hours transmission time a week on television. This proposal will increase that to a minimum of 20 hours. A range of 20 hours to 22 hours has been mentioned. That is not a second less than in any other plan that has been discussed.

I was delighted to hear from my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary about what I believe will be a considerable improvement in the machinery of co-ordination between the two channels which I think can mean a considerable improvement on our regional thinking. That improvement ensures that there will be no conflict about Welsh programmes appearing on two channels at the same time. It will also be possible to make sure that the two channels mesh in to the maximum effect. That is good news from my right hon. Friend.

Secondly, I wonder why Opposition Members are so worried about switching. English television viewers are constantly switching among three channels. There is nothing unspeakable about switching. We spend our days switching things on and off and we switch to even more channels on radio. There is really nothing to get excited about in switching channels.

Thirdly, we should recognise that we are already doing rather well for the Welsh language in British television. We started with very little in 1953. Even in 1963 we were averaging four hours a week. There is no minority language in Western Europe which exceeds the time that is presently devoted to Welsh. That is the base upon which we are improving. The nearest one comes to that is the use of Germain in the South Tyrol.

Fourthly, no committee or working party has ever recommended a 100 per cent. Welsh channel and yet—

Mr. D. E. Thomas

On the point about minority languages, will the hon. Gentleman tell the House whether he is referring to minority languages which have no other linguistic base outside one territory, or is he talking about cross-border minority languages which are spoken over the border in another major territory?

Mr. Hooson

If we were to refer to cross-border languages we would have to say that the case of Dutch, which is virtually the same language as Flemish, would have to be cited. But, in relation to a minority language within a nation my statement is accurate. There are only two languages which get a substantial amount of television time. They are German in the South Tyrol and the Welsh language in this country. Both receive between 13 and 14 hours a week. No other minority language gets more than three hours a week. In the case of Belgium I regard Flemish and French as not being minority languages—there is very much a balance there. In any case, we are not dealing with the problems of Belgium and this is a peripheral point of my own.

No commission at any point recommended the 100 per cent. devotion of a channel to the Welsh language. The OBA proposal allowed for 50 hours of national transmission. Quite clearly 20 hours in Welsh would have comprised 40 per cent. of its channel time. I cannot believe that 1.000 people would refuse to pay their licence fees in Wales unless there was the feeling that Wales was being deprived of something like a 100 per cent. Welsh language channel. Nobody has ever proposed that. That is exactly what I mean when I say that there has been more emotion than fact surrounding this issue.

Fifthly, there has been talk—we heard it today from the right hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones)—of the existence of a consensus that has been broken by the Conservative Party. That consensus is a myth.

Mr. Alec Jones


Mr. Edward Rowlands (Merthyr Tydfil)

Not even the Government Front Bench would argue that.

Mr. Hooson

Perhaps I may draw on the record of, first, the IBA evidence to the Annan committee, in which it said: While the shedding of responsibility for Welsh programmes might be financially advantageous to independent television, the Authority believes that, together with its programme contractor for Wales, it had a commitment to all Welsh viewers that it should not avoid. In its view, a separate Welsh channel would not provide the best solution and it does not believe that it would be in the best interests of the Welsh language itself to be cut off from the mainstream of broadcasting in this way with consequent limitations both on audience size and on production resources. I have already referred to Annan's statement that it would be a matter of regret if all the language were banished to the fourth channel.

Finally, I draw out a further very important piece of evidence, which is that the Home Office working party report of 1978—in the preparation of which the IBA, HTV and the BBC were involved—indicated a set of options which would be followed in the event that the future use of the fourth channel would be by an IBA service. This is most important, because one must remember that there had been no decision about the national context when these Welsh plans were being suggested. The working party report said: in the interests of all Viewers in Wales, the BBC and HTV Wales should accommodate the Welsh language elements of their own output on their own services. So in fact, in the contingency which proved to be the event, the administration of the channel by the IBA, the actual recommendation of the IBA was that the two channels should be run by the two different organisations and that the language should be split between them. So there is a considerable and rational basis for the Government's arriving at this policy.

Mr. Alan Williams

Will the hon. Gentleman give way on this point?

Mr. Hooson

I have given way a great deal, and I am conscious that I am taking up time.

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman has said that he does not agree that there was a consensus, although most of us feel that there was a consensus among all parties. There was a debate on the White Paper of 1978, which said: The Government considers that once the service begins, Welsh language television broadcasting should be concentrated on the fourth channel. If there was no consensus, why was it that the then Conservative Opposition did not divide against that White Paper?

Mr. Hooson

It is very easy for us to be wise after the event. The truth is that there was not a single party in this House that looked forward with sufficient vision—I am sorry that we Conservatives did not do so—to what would happen when we arrived at the situation in which there was to be a national programme on the fourth channel. I think that this is an area in which the Opposition are still unable to look ahead. When there is a fourth channel nationally, what do they think the 80 per cent. of the people of Wales who speak English and who do not speak Welsh will have to say if they are deprived of a very substantial amount of the programming of that channel? Further, what do Opposition Members expect to hear also from the 20 per cent. who are Welsh speakers? They will miss a good deal of programming in that context.

I promised to make about six factual points. I come to my final point. I am convinced that it is much wiser to put the Welsh language in a context in which those who do not know it well have the chance to become familiar with it as frequently as possible. That is why I abhor the idea of a ghetto.

There are people who are distinguished advocates, and protectors of the Welsh language, who have taken this view. There is a very considerable body of opinion in Wales on the matter. I venture to suspect that it comprises the majority of the Welsh speaking people of Wales—I cannot prove that, but I venture to make that guess—who believe that it is better for the health of the Welsh language that it should be available on more than one television channel.

One of the wisest men who had concern for the Welsh language in this century was the late Jac L. Williams. He was always worried about the ghetto. At the Plaid Cymru annual conference, the distinguished actor Meredith Edwards urged his own party that it was wise to go for a multi-channel. Y Faner, a highly distinguished Welsh weekly, takes that view. The Western Mail endorsed the soundness of this policy in its leading article on 30 October. The Government's plans are an improvement on previous plans, although I regret that there was lack of foresight in drawing them up. However, when there are better ideas, they should be brought forward, rather than the Government remaining stuck in the mud with the old ideas.

9.45 pm
Mr. Barry Jones

My remarks will be brief. The Opposition understood that the fourth channel was mooted because the Welsh language was greatly at risk. Unless the language receives inspired and urgent aid it will die by the end of the century, or a little after that. It would be folly if our State allowed one of Europe's oldest languages to die. If the language falters further, the cultural way of life that now exists in Wales will be severely undermined.

In my constituency there was disappointment and resentment when it became clear that the Conservatives were to abandon their support for the fourth channel. I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) when he summarised his position. He said that on this difficult matter we should aim to be fair to the Welsh-speaking minority and the monoglot English-speaking majority. We should try to save the Welsh language, help it to survive, and aim always to place as few obstacles in its way as possible, in a complicated and sophisticated world.

This is what the Government should do. They are attempting seriously to consider the broadcasting issue. None of us should try to isolate that issue from the broader and more varied problems that face the Welsh nation at this difficult period in its history. From my own knowledge of North Wales, I am thinking particularly of the chronic and rising unemployment and the serious and difficult council house building problems.

In the part of North Wales which I know, there is a rising tide of dissatisfaction with what the Government are doing in their broader policies, especially their economic policies. If the Government are not prepared to listen carefully to the state of opinion throughout Wales we may have even more difficulties in the decade ahead.

Notwithstanding what appears to the Opposition as an about-turn, which conceivably could be deeply injurious to the prospects of the Welsh language, I believe that the Home Secretary, as a matter of statesmanship, should be considering the wider issues. With the benefit of hindsight, if he has to proceed as he suggests tonight, he may regret that in the years ahead. Even at this very late stage, he must think again.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)

I congratulate my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) on having moved this amendment and the eloquence with which he spoke to it. However, I am not convinced by his arguments. Still less am I persuaded by the uncharacteristically intemperate speech by the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells).

The Government were wrong to give the pledge which they gave in their manifesto. The solution which they have now put forward is rational and practical, as my hon. Friend for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson) so lucidly explained. The more I listen to this debate the more convinced I am of the rightness, the practicality and the rationality of the Government solution. I am not a bit impressed by arguments about the sanctity of manifestos. God forbid that we should ever get ourselves into a position where a Government have to stick to their manifesto, whatever subsequently transpires.

Still less am I impressed by opinion polls that purport to show that a majority in Wales want all Welsh language programmes concentrated on a single channel. We all know that many of that majority want that so that they can keep their switches permanently disconnected. Still less am I impressed by the antics of arsonist militants, or by those who refuse to pay their television licences. I am still less impressed by the "White Knight" of Welsh politics, Mr. Gwynfor Evans, and his rather absurd heroics.

In the present position it does not help to invoke the sacred name of democracy. If democracy means giving effect to the will of the majority, there was no better democrat than Adolf Hitler. A more important ingredient in democracy is reconciling the views of the majority with the strongly held views of the minority.

At this stage, I must confess to being in doubt. A policy, however rational, however practical and however sensible is not a reasonable policy if it gives unreasonable offence to reasonable men. A substantial number of reasonable men have, quite mistakenly, taken the idea of the all-Welsh fourth channel as a sacred cow before which they bow down and worship.

I am not urging my right hon. and hon. Friends to change their policies. I am asking them to ponder carefully what has been said in the debate. I know the reasonableness of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I resent some of the accusations made against him earlier in the debate. I know what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales has done for the Welsh language—far exceeded anything that was done by his predecessors. I have complete and total confidence in his judgment in this matter. I shall go no further tonight than to urge both my right hon. Friends to consider carefully everything that has been said in the debate from both sides of the House.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) and his plea to the Government to reconsider their view. My first point is that the matter might not require any legislative action by the Government. I have before me two texts from the Official Report. On 18 February the Under-Secretary of State for Wales said: The concentration of programmes on the fourth channel envisaged by the hon. Member for Merioneth is not specifically excluded, though it is somewhat unlikely"—[Official Report, 18 February 1980; Vol. 979, c. 108.] In Committee, the official representative of the Welsh Language Society, the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) asked: Is any collaboration on the fourth channel between BBC and ITA now ruled out, or will it still be possible? The Minister replied: There is nothing in the Bill to prevent that"—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 25 March 1980; c. 254.] The position is that there is no need for the Home Secretary, after he has consulted in the way that he has now told us he intends, to come back to the House to make any legislative provision for changes in the Bill to accommodate the proposal in the amendment so clearly and lucidly moved by the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan).

The Bill does not lay down more than that there shall be Welsh on channel 4. It does not lay down that it shall all be there and that it shall not be on another channel. It does not lay down the location of the programming. It lays down a legislative obligation that matter in Welsh shall be placed on channel 4.

The Government, in deciding not to concentrate, have taken an executive, funding decision, not a legislative decision. It is important to make clear to the people of Wales that there is no binding commitment on the statute book that broadcasting in Wales shall be organised in one way or another.

Mr. Abse

Would it not be wiser that, rather than the hon. Gentleman stating this categorically he should request the Government Front Bench to reaffirm that it is possible to make changes without legislative change? Does he not think that, instead of affirming it himself, he should make certain that the Under-Secretary of State gives an undertaking to the House that that is the position?

Mr. Thomas

I am sure that the Under-Secretary heard the hon. Gentleman's remarks. I was quoting responses given earlier and seeking confirmation that it was still the position.

I should like to respond to some of the remarks made by Conservative Members and to make some specific proposals relating to amendment No. 108 which tackle the point made by the Home Secretary that the proposals that we advocate of concentrating Welsh language programmes on channel 4 are insuperably complicated and impossible to administer and fund on a clear basis within the framework of IBA channel 4.

I speak with a past financial interest, having worked part-time freelance for both broadcasting organisations in Wales, and I hope perhaps one day to set myself up as an independent producer. As I see it, and according to the discussions that have taken place between the broadcasting organisations, it is possible organisationally and technically in funding terms to concentrate Welsh language programmes on the fourth channel within the present system.

The evidence quoted by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson) from both the Siberry and the Trevelyan Littler working parties has been overtaken by further discussion within BBC Wales and on an informal level between the IBA advisory committee in Wales, BBC Wales and IBA Central. I believe that it is possible to devise a framework in which the proposal to concentrate Welsh language programmes on one channel can be accommodated. We have not had a clear statement from the Home Secretary on the rationale of his change of policy. There has been talk of rationality by Conservative Members. Whenever I hear the word "rationality", I ask: whose rationality? Are we looking at this from the point of view of the rationality of British television or of Welsh television?

My argument with the Government is that they have taken the simplistic view that, having established a United Kingdom framework, it has to be imposed on Wales in a similar form. But the whole rationale of the OBA proposal, which I supported at the time—however, thanks to the policies of the Labour Government on public expenditure that is no longer feasible—was that a specific system for Wales of a popular service, through the medium of Welsh, could be plugged into a United Kingdom framework to provide for independent minority programming, education programmes, and so on. It was the intention to have a Welsh language service, not an attempt to impose—

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Ordered, That, at this day's sitting, the Broadcasting Bill may be proceeded with, though opposed, until any hour.—[Mr. Cope.]

Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

Mr. Thomas

There was no attempt to enforce a uniform United Kingdom-wide pattern on Wales. I believe the same to be true here. The Government regard themselves as a Government committed to diversity within the market system. It should be possible for them to accept the argument for cultural diversity as one that will allow Wales to carry out projects slightly differently from the way in which they are carried out in the rest of the United Kingdom. The only argument of substance that has been advanced for the Government's present policy of non-concentration is that there would be a loss of United Kingdom channel 4 programming for English speakers in Wales. That has to be balanced against deprivation of channel 4 IBA programmes to Welsh-speaking people in Wales. That has always been a pro and con debate. We have reached this position on the basis of having seen all the arguments through. The people who have seen this argument through are the broadcasters in Wales who have been messed about by successive Governments, and prevented from creatively developing their talents to serve the Welsh people. The morale of broadcasters in Wales has been severely damaged by successive Governments.

I pay tribute to the right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) former Home Secretary in the Labour Administration, for enabling the BBC, through a licence fee settlement, to increase children's programmes. That has now been followed up by the independent contractors. That is the only creative initiative that has been allowed to develop in Welsh language television because of the political structure of broadcasting under successive Governments.

The people who know what is happening and who understand the position are the broadcasters, the broadcasting administrators and the audience of the broadcasting service in Wales, and the point of amendment No. 108 is that they are the people who should make the decisions. A long tradition of United Kingdom broadcasting has been broken in this Bill. It is the Reithian compromise that was arrived at when the BBC was first established. Hon. Members on the radical Left have their own views about the Reithian compromise and why it was arrived at. We may take the view that the autonomy of broadcasting, even at the end of Liberalism and Labourism, was a myth, but it has always been the view of successive Governments that they should not intervene in scheduling, programming or funding. That is organised by three quasi-autonomous bodies—the BBC, through its charter, the IBA, through legislation in this House, and the contractors to the IBA, through franchises. In the Bill, in the case of broadcasting in Wales, that approach is being severely undermined. There is to be a formal decision by the Government that all programmes in Welsh shall be split between two separate channels.

I support amendment No. 22 but I prefer the option, upon which we cannot vote until later, in amendment No. 108. That transfers the decision on the scheduling and location of programmes from the House back to the broadcasting organisations in Wales so that they can take a decision. The Home Secretary's concession goes part of the way to meeting the case that we advance in amendment No. 108, but it is deficient in one respect. The Home Secretary is taking what he describes as a personal decision, for which he takes personal responsibility. He is saying to the administrators and the democratic representatives on the advisory bodies in Wales "Review my decision after I have taken it and then come back to me and perhaps that decision can be reversed." That is the wrong way to go about it. It is contrary to the quasi-autonomy of broadcasting in the United Kingdom.

The Home Secretary should say that our suggestion is a possible solution. He should say that as the Bill makes progress, and as the debate heightens in Wales and there is deep division on the issue, the matter should be decided in Wales by working parties, people involved in the day-to-day administration of broadcasting, representative bodies, and the BBC advisory committee. Such bodies should make the decision. The purpose of amendment No. 108 is to bring them together in a co-ordinating committee—Cyngor Cyd-drefnu Darlledu.

It is significant that both bids for the franchise of the independent contractor in Wales contain a clear reference to the need to co-ordinate the production and planning of programmes by BBC Wales, the independent contractor and the personnel of the IBA subsidiary board. The need to co-ordinate has been accepted by broadcasting opinion in Wales.

This is not an argument that has suddenly reached a conclusion. The people dealing with the matter have worked it through at great length for 10 years. Before the Home Secretary arrived at his desk, Welsh broadcasters had worked through the issue. They should be able to carry out specific decisions to enable us to have a service that benefits both communities.

I apologise for going on at length, but I was not a member of the Committee and the issues must be raised now. The Home Secretary did not say how and in what way his proposals are cheaper than the alternative proposal of concentrating programmes on channel 4. Only a couple of thousand pounds here or there in a week of television is involved. I am not talking about the OBA proposal, which involves public expenditure.

I am talking about present funding arrangements. The fourth channel will be paid by advertising. It is said that in the short term—although I believe that it will be in the medium or long term—it will be paid for to some extent by the negative levy. The funding from programme contractors will be recycled to fund the fourth channel. That is a negative form of public expenditure.

It is clear that Welsh language programmes will be paid for by advertising revenue that is derived from the whole IBA network. In effect, that advertising revenue will be a "subsidy". Some advertising will be placed in spots or in blocks around Welsh language programmes. Because of the size of the audience, the advertising potential of Welsh language programmes will be minimal. The amount of advertising revenue generated by such programmes is limited. The major funding base will therefore be a cross-subsidisation of the whole IBA system into Welsh language programmes.

The other area of funding involves the BBC's extension of output, which will be funded by the licence fee. That will be a major item in the next licence fee settlement. It represents a form of public expenditure, because the money is derived from the public. As I have not yet paid for a licence for the current year, I declare a financial interest. Why will the concentration of programmes on the fourth channel be more expensive than the present solution? The only loss of revenue to commercial contractors or to television in general would arise from the possible displacement of advertising revenue if a block of BBC Welsh language programmes were to be screened on the fourth channel.

Obviously, I cannot speak for BBC Wales. Other people are appointed and qualified to do so. The BBC has made public statements, and the Broadcasting Council has also said that the BBC is still willing to co-operate in placing Welsh language programmes on the fourth channel. However, that is a matter for detailed negotiation between the BBC and the IBA.

I have discussed one possibility informally with senior people in BBC Wales. It might be possible to place a block of Welsh language programmes on the fourth channel on alternate days. It would be difficult to slot in BBC programmes on an individual basis, interspersed with advertising. However, it would be possible to consider three-hour blocks of BBC programmes. Displaced adversing might then form a block that could be screened either before or after those programmes.

The programmes could be varied on a weekly basis. It might be possible to screen them on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday afternoons one week, and on the other days in the following week. I do not say that that suggestion is novel or brilliant, but that is one way in which the BBC could screen programmes on that channel.

There would be revenue implications for the commercial contractor who was selling the advertising, but those implications would be minimal. The amount of advertising derived from Welsh language programmes would be limited. In any case, displaced advertising could be blocked elsewhere. The problem that arises is the rescheduling on that channel and the loss for that channel of channel 4 United Kingdom output. That must be balanced against the benefit of having a concentrated service.

10.15 pm

The debate so far has tended to be about Welsh language programmes. The point has been made that the number of programmes will be the same, however they are organised. That is a rather simplistic view. Television is not so much about programmes as about programme flow. When one produces a service one gets a comprehensive flow. The problem with splitting the channels is that the flow of the service is interrupted. The balance of the service and its comprehensive nature are also interrupted.

Mr. Hooson

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his concept of flow on television channels. Does he agree that a greater number of Welsh people will therefore see a number of Welsh programmes when the flow is on two channels rather than on one?

Mr. Thomas

Yes, but, conversely, a greater proportion of people will decide not to have their aerials tuned towards that flow because from their point of view their own linguistic flow is interrupted by interspersing Welsh language programmes with English ones. That is the whole argument—that on Deeside, in Newport and in Swansea people will beam their aerials outside Wales so that they can get an uninterrupted flow. We have had this argument before.

It is still possible, in the context of the present IBA system, to have the channel 4 solution. It is not difficult or administratively complex. All it needs is for the co-ordinating machinery that has been working so hard—the people who have been talking these things through in working parties for years, and the people who have the expertise, knowledge and sensitivity of the needs of Wales to see this matter through—to come to terms with each other and particularly with the new input from independent producers. These programme makers can come together to provide a com prehensive service that will meet the needs of Wales.

I urge the Home Secretary not to destroy that possibility tonight. He has already made a concession. In my view, it is a concession that goes about things the wrong way. The right hon. Gentleman is saying "I must make a decision, and then you can review it." Instead, he should be saying that the decision is best made in Wales by those who will run the broadcasting system and by the viewers of Wales themselves.

Mr. Ifor Davies (Gower)

I welcome the opportunity to intervene in this debate. I am glad to support the amendment moved by the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan). I believe that the amendment concerns the very survival of the Welsh language.

The hon. and learned Member said that the question was what was best for the language. It is to that question that I address my remarks. This is the very point of the amendment. In his opening remarks the Home Secretary acknowledged that he had changed his mind. I hope that by the end of the debate he will be prepared to change it again.

Broadcasting, and particularly television, is a live issue in Wales. It is more passionately debated there than perhaps elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Few issues have been debated more deeply and at such length by the broadcasting authorities, and the long list was given to us by the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh—the committees, commissions and working parties.

The situation is complex, and can too easily be oversimplified. I agree with the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) that an unreasonable offence has been caused to reasonable people. The real issue is that the Welsh language is fighting for survival. I concede that there is no guarantee that a fourth channel will save it. However, rightly or wrongly, a strong body of Welsh opinion from all walks of life and of all shades of political view, sincerely believes that the fourth channel would be a powerful aid to safeguard and encourage the use of the Welsh language, because of the great influence of television. It would give the language greater status and recognition. The Government once believed that. They have not given us satisfactory reasons why they have changed their minds.

The issue is vital, because Welsh is a living language and an integral part of the make-up of a national community. It is the cornerstone of our national identity. The salvation of the language rests on the Welsh people, who must speak the language and increase educational facilities. However, the fact that the language is spoken only by a minority of the people of Wales should not hide the fact that the great majority of non-Welsh speaking Welshmen are equally concerned with its survival. That is proved beyond doubt by the enthusiastic support given by non-Welsh speaking people to our annual festival, the National Eisteddfod. The amendment does not envisage that the entire fourth channel should be taken up by Welsh language programmes. I cannot, therefore, accept the argument that non-Welsh speakers would not benefit from the fourth channel. In any case, there are many other channels serving non-Welsh speaking people.

Fears have been expressed that the proposal will place the language in a ghetto. The risk is worth taking to avoid the opposition of non-Welsh-speaking Welshmen, who need to be persuaded and not compelled, as they are now, to listen to Welsh programmes on various channels.

I urge the Government, even at this late stage, to reconsider the situation in the interests of the language and to take note of the degree of unanimity among the Welsh people. I am convinced that great volume of opinion cannot be mistaken. The issue deserves respect and reconsideration by the Government.

Mr. Rowlands

I plead with the Government to reconsider their position. It is rare for something of a political consensus to be achieved in Wales, as the House will recognise. It will be a grave decision to go against that consensus for only marginal reasons. It is sad that the Home Secretary is not here to hear our plea, although he has been in the Chamber for most of the debate.

I should like to make a personal appeal to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales. Certain aspects of life are intangible. They cannot be quan tified. If such things are messed about or blundered into by decisions that do not respond to the political feel of the community, the consequences can be grave. That has been the message from hon. Members on both sides. It was touched on by the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) when he said that many reasonable men have come to a decision, even though he believes it to be mistaken.

I live in and represent a constituency where the language is a minority language. I have successfully brought up young children to be bilingual, but it was difficult to do so. As I recognised in my constituency, it is sad and tragic that the language is not only enriching but potentially divisive.

We have seen that division occur in the three most sensitive areas that touch Welsh people, as they touch any other community—education, broadcasting and jobs. There is a tremendous sympathy for the attempts to save the Welsh language, and it extends far beyond those who speak it or aspire to do so, but there is also a great sense of alienation created among many who do not speak it and will never come to grips with learning the language if they sense that it is being thrust down their throats or that others are gaining special advantage by being bilingual. They will resent the language and tend to reject it.

Those twin emotions of sympathy and alienation are a delicate and sensitive part of the politics of dealing with the Welsh language in a community such as Merthyr Tydvil. I have sensed it in the argument about bilingual schools, education, school bussing, and so on. Sympathy and alienation rise quickly to the surface.

However, it is in broadcasting that those emotions rise fastest to the surface. That is why so many hon. Members have spoken so passionately about the issue. When a person goes home from work, perhaps late at night, turns on his television set and is trapped by a Welsh language programme that he does not understand, and sees what the alternative would be if there were an option, he feels a sense of resentment and, as many hon. Members will testify, he will telephone or write to his local Member of Parliament.

It was because of the combination of sympathy and the way in which the language can alienate and divide our society that a political consensus emerged. There was no point in the hon. Member for Brecon and. Radnor (Mr. Hooson) reading out chunks of the Annan report. The Conservative Party went through all the arguments—the ghetto argument and the rest—as did the Labour Party. Every major party concluded, after agonising over the arguments and discussing the issues, that the best way to defuse a difficult situation, in which emotions were strong, was to put the language on one channel. That political conclusion was arrived at separately by the Conservative Party, the Labour Party, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Party. Many individuals in each party disputed the decision, but all the parties came to the same conclusion.

A political consensus emerged on a sensitive and emotional issue which was as capable of dividing as enhancing the sense of community and the willingness of the majority to promote the language, even though they did not speak it. Here lay the answer. In broadcasting—a most sensitive area—we could have removed the potential for conflict, alienation and divisions over the language through the argreement and consensus on policy that emerged from all the major parties.

The point made by hon. Members on both sides of the House is that the Government have blundered badly in alienating and destroying the consensus achieved by each of the political parties. That destruction has reopened a major area of conflict and division on language. I feel passionately and angrily about that, because many of us represent constituencies which now have only a small minority of Welsh speakers. Having had to work hard to achieve a delicate balance, we now see the issue being thrust back into an area of alienation and anger that could stretch beyond the normal confines of political debate.

10.30 pm

As my right hon. Friend the Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) said, none of us support the nonsense of hunger fasting. We do not support any of the extra-parliamentary and extra-legal actions of Cymdeithasy Iath, or for that matter, the actions of the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) and the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley), who announced a few minutes ago—and the Home Secretary blandly sat there and took not the slightest notice—that they were breaking the law by not paying their licence fees. [HON. MEMBERS. "Shame."] I think that that is a shame, and I oppose it most bitterly.

I think as I do because of all the decent, honourable people who do not break the law and who have tried to advance their arguments through the normal political processes. The hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) shared my view and put it eloquently in opening the debate. Those good people had come to the conclusion that we had reached a solution through consensus. That solution has now been destroyed by the Government.

We plead with the Government to rethink their decision and review the issue.

Mr. Keith Best (Anglesey)

; I am grateful for being called, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am mindful that you and hon. Members think that I have been guilty of a grave discourtesy to the House for not having sat through the lion's share of the debate. I think it right that I should explain why I was not here.

Unfortunately, as I hope all hon. Members will understand, the demands on the time of an hon. Member in this place are now so great that we must frequently try to be in several places at one time. I do not labour the issue on this occasion, but I was serving on the Finance Bill Standing Committee today and unfortunately, as this debate reached the Floor of the House. I was moving an amendment in that Committee. I therefore crave the indulgence of all hon. Members. I ask for that indulgence on the basis that I do not intend to delay the House for long. [HON. MEMBERS. "Hear, hear."] In view of the murmurings from Opposition Members I hope that I shall receive equally suitable and significant encouragement from them as a result of what I say.

The vexed question of the fourth channel goes to the heart of the emotions of the people of Wales. I think that I am entitled to say that as an Englishman who can, perhaps, look at the issue in a different way from other people. The concept of the fourth channel goes to the issue of the survival of the Welsh language, what is being done to ensure its survival, and whether it will in fact survive.

I noted with sadness the pessimistic views of the hon. Member for Flint, East (Mr. Jones). I do not share those views. I think that the prospects for the language are optimistic, not pessimistic. But it also goes to the heart of the people of Wales because it is, I believe, an expression of national identity. I do not think that it is particularly helpful tonight to talk about certain extramural pressures. They were advanced adequately a moment ago by the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Rowlands). Certainly it is sad that one person who has held a considerable degree of respect in Wales as a senior politician should have taken a course of action that can only be calculated, from a rational point of view, to have made a change of view by the Government impossible. No Government, it must be realised, could possibly succumb to that sort of pressure.

I hope that those who advise that venerable gentleman will convey that message to him, if he does not know it already. His action, if he continues it in the way in which he has threatened so to do, will effectively close the door on anything. He will be doing a grave disservice rather than a service to the people of Wales by the nature of his action. It would assuredly open the floodgates to all sorts of other pressures of a similar nature, and no Government could bend with that sort of precedent behind them.

Mr. Abse

Perhaps I may remind the hon. Gentleman—I say this not, I hope, in a patronising way—that I have lived through a period in which Governments have been changed as a result of men fasting. Those of us who remember India and the determination of Gandhi do not necessarily dismiss action of this kind as nonsense. The hon. Gentleman may be speaking a little too precipitately. The issue is serious. Although I do not condone what is happening, it should not be imagined that it is unimportant as a symptom of what is happening in Wales.

Mr. Best

If the hon. Member had been listening to what I said he would have realised that in no measure did I say that it was an important factor. The fact that I mentioned it at the beginning of my speech should have been a clear indication to the hon. Member of the importance with which I feel that this House should view such an action—not least because it is fundamentally contrary to the whole concept of parliamentary democracy. I am sure that that is something on which the hon. Member and I are ad idem. I am sure that he would agree with me that no Government could possibly succumb exclusively to the sort of threat that has been manifested recently by that sort of action.

In passing, I should like to say that it profits us little in this House to try to make cheap party political points on the question of the language and the fourth channel. Certainly I am satisfied that what my right hon. Friend has been doing in Wales for the language is unprecedented in its measure of support. Hon. Members on both sides of the House know exactly what I am talking about. One realises that there is the extra £1½million, and that for the first time in an Education Act one has specific provision for extra costs involved in bilingual teaching—never achieved before. There is also the matter that is very close to my heart—a project such as Nant Gwrtheyrn, where people will be able to go, in a holiday atmosphere, and learn the language.

These things will do far more for the survival of the language than any polemics that may be expressed here and any fighting over whether all Welsh language programmes go out on one channel or on two.

Also, I think that it profits us nothing to try to make points on the basis of manifesto politics. I do not wish to be accused of any digression, but with our present electoral system it is extremely difficult for any political party that forms the Government to claim much credence on the basis of the manifesto. Certainly I do not subscribe to the manifesto mandate. I suspect that Opposition Members are only too cognisant of recent history and the sort of damage that the idea of manifesto politics can bring to a political party.

One always has to view a situation within the current circumstances. Of course, that must mean that people change their minds and that Governments change their minds. I regard that as a source of strength, not weakness. I hope that hon. Members will accept that.

I represent a constituency in which a substantial number of people speak Welsh. I adopted a disinterested attitude in this debate, although initially I fully supported the Government line. The Opposition, who may be less charittable than those to whom I referred, may say that I have adopted the painful posture of sitting on the fence. That is one way of describing it. However, I do not feel deeply, one way or the other, about the idea of the Welsh language programmes being on one channel or on two. I have the utmost respect for those who do, such as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) and others who are signatories to the amendment.

I urge upon the House the point that this amendment closes the door. It gives no latitude whatsoever for any further development. That may have been a matter within the cognisance of the hon. Member who moved the amendment, or it may not. I urge hon. Members to consider the provisions of the Bill unamended. The door is left open. Clause 3(5)(a) says: it shall be the duty of the Authority to ensure that the programmes broadcast in the Fourth Channel Service for reception in Wales contain a suitable proportion of matter in Welsh without any specification of what "a suitable proportion" might be. That is indeed encouraging to myself. It leaves the door open for an extension of Welsh language programmes in the contemplation of the Bill as it stands.

Although I was not in the Chamber to hear him, I know of the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. I welcome them. They have made a significant advance in lending succour to those who do not want to see the door slammed shut on the whole question of the fourth channel but who want to see a flexible response, in the light of prevailing circumstances at the time, and, perhaps most important of all, in the light of the prevailing opinion of the people of Wales.

We must consider the question on these two criteria: first, what do the people of Wales want, and, secondly, what will be best for the Welsh language? I shall not go into great detail about the second of those points. Ultimately, that must be a matter of faith. The arguments are probably equally balanced, whether two channels or one put out Welsh language programmes.

As to what the people of Wales want, hon. Members may know that I have invited a lot of response on this question. I received petitions containing nearly 1,000 names. My right hon. Friend knows that, because they were sent on to him. I have also received nearly 100 letters, all of them advocating that all Welsh language programmes should be on the fourth channel. Although they certainly represent a great strength of feeling, do they represent the wishes of the majority of the people of Wales? If they do not, how does one gauge it? It is very difficult to ascertain that.

Certainly, from my discussions with people in Wales, I find that if they want all the Welsh language programmes on one channel they do so for one of two reasons. There are those who adopt the ghetto argument and who want all Welsh programmes on one channel, so that they need never turn it on. One does not know whether those people would actually resent having access to a fourth channel denied them whereas if they lived in another part of the United Kingdom they would have access to the four channels. The other, more important question is: why should all the Welsh language programmes be on one channel? In a large measure, those who advocate that want a comprehensive Welsh television service. That is something with which I have great sympathy, and that is why I shall support the Government tonight.

10.45 pm

What my right hon. Friend said tonight—it is a different view from that expressed previously—opens the way to a continuing review of the promulgation of Welsh language programmes on television. It opens the way to a comprehensive Welsh service that will encompass not only Welsh language programmes but programmes in English about Wales. I am convinced that that is what concerns the majority of people in Wales. That is what will satisfy the fears about the Welsh language and the fears about the concept of national identity. That is what I shall look forward to in the years to come.

Dr. Roger Thomas (Carmarthen)

When the Home Secretary spoke at Cambridge I thought that in his speech—which I regard as famous but which many people in Wales regard as infamous, he at least gave the people of Wales another opportunity to reconsider the issue of putting all Welsh programmes on one channel. One result of his announcement was the ending of the expectation of a single Welsh channel attempting to compete with—and inevitably lose—wellknown, occasionally well-made, and popular English language programmes on two major channels and one minority channel.

I have to admit that that one-sided and unfair battle by and for Welsh-speaking viewers has been at the root of my apprehensions and misgivings over the years. On that point, no one can accuse me of being inconsistent. Welsh would become a ghetto language. In the end, all the sincere efforts of the Welsh language zealots for the fourth channel would be found to have been utterly and totally counter-productive. Over the years the matter has been discussed—sometimes rationally, but often irrationally—within Welsh-speaking communities. Among those anxious to avoid the establishment of conditions that would isolate and insulate the Welsh language was a Welsh nationalist, scholar, patriot, and a person as dedicated to the cause of Wales and its language as anyone who has had the privilege of representing Wales at Westminster. I am referring to the late Professor Jac Williams of Aberystwyth, who firmly believed and brilliantly argued that the confining of Welsh to one channel would serve only to weaken and then to help the language towards its ultimate demise.

Opening the debate on Second Reading, the Home Secretary promised to ensure that the Government honoured their pledge to increase reasonably soon the number of hours of Welsh broadcasts, to add further to the development of independent television, and to utilise one of the two channels already run by the BBC to transmit increased output in the Welsh language. When the fourth channel is fully operational, there will be 12 hours in place of the present seven. In addition, the BBC will transmit an approximately equal output, giving about 20 to 22 hours, which is approximately the total number of hours for which the fourth channel champions have been working, and which they have latterly been demanding, by all manner and means.

The Government have decided to confine half of the Welsh language channel output to the fourth channel, with the BBC complementing that on its minority channel coverage. I believe unhesitatingly that the true aim and leading principle when deciding the arrangements for transmitting the Welsh programmes is that as many as possible of the 600,000 who understand and can follow our indigenous language have the opportunity to watch such programmes regularly and in as uncompetitive a manner as possible. It must be admitted that because of a limited budget Welsh programmes lack in resource and genuine interest.

It is sad that far too many fluent Welsh speakers, who are articulate, probably well-meaning and over-academic, have long forgotten that the majority of the 600,000 who do not have their linguistic prowess or unfettered dedication to the language are denied the optimum opportunity of enjoying Welsh on the square screen in their homes.

We must protect and project our language, which, despite hundreds of new learners, is being spoken less and less by fewer people. The presentation of Welsh language programmes must be simple and comprehensible. With our present limited hours and means that is not being done, by any stretch of the imagination.

The Welsh Language Society speaks of creative and responsible television. The Crawford report spoke in different terms. It talked of ensuring that Welsh language programmes were cohesive and attractive to maximise the audience and to serve a social as well as a cultural aim. The Siberry report has been quoted often. It said that Welsh language programmes must be comparable to English programmes in mix. The true meaning of that is that Welsh programmes must not be too ambitious, lest the ordinary viewer loses interest and turns to other channels for entertainment. Too many Welsh speakers will do that, too easily. That will be the test. As a result, an increasingly small minority of Welsh speakers will remain faithful to the Welsh language programmes—and they will be the academics. That is certain to happen if Welsh is isolated on a single channel.

We must ensure that the fourth channel does not develop into a retreat or haven for Welsh intellectuals—a select minority—so that hundreds of thousands of ordinary Welsh speakers have the impression that programmes are outside their accomplishments.

Mr. Abse

I was beginning to wonder why I had not been called.

The argument that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) so fluently presented is one which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil (Mr. Rowlands) said, has been heard in every political party in Wales at some time in the past four to six years.

When I began to argue the case for the necessity—if we are to heal the differences between the Welsh and English-speaking Welshmen—of having Welsh programmes decanted to a separate programme, arguments such as that expressed by the hon. Member for Caernarvon were made vigorously. I am aware that because I argued in favour of that, great anguish was caused inside Plaid Cymru, because it was assumed that there must be a catch in it.

It became clear that in all the parties there was a majority who believed in the solution set out in the Conservative manifesto. People reached that conclusion because they saw it was a way of preventing the estrangement that existed in Wales. In my constituency, where, unhappily, so few people speak Welsh, the fact that Welsh programmes are sandwiched between English-speaking programmes gives rise to an irrational antagonism that must cause distress to anyone who realises that one of the oldest languages in Europe is in danger of decline.

It would be absurd to pretend that whether two programmes or one are broadcast in Welsh, the Welsh language will be saved. That is the hope, not the certainty. It is clear, however, that a consensus was reached. No one can dispute it. It is valueless to pretend otherwise. It was reached painfully, after literally years of debate. A remarkable unanimity was eventually reached, and therefore the betrayal of Wales has taken place as a result of the insouciant suggestions that were thrown out from Cambridge, of all places. What extraordinary insensitivity to make a declara tion there on a matter about which the Welsh feel so passionately. I am not an anti-Cambridge man, but the issue was dealt with in such a perfunctory manner that Wales was affronted that it should have been dealt with so suddenly and unexpectedly, without any consultation.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

I am pleased to hear the assurance of my hon. Friend that he is not anti-Cambridge. Not only was the speech made at Cambridge by the Home Secretary; the Welsh Office had no response to it whatever on that day.

Mr. Abse

The astonishment was felt not only in Wales; it was probably felt in the Welsh Office, too. My right hon. and learned Friend is right to underline that. Wales picked up the message and believed, rightly or wrongly, that there would be an imposed solution, in which Welsh interests or Welsh feelings would not be taken into account, and it believed that something brutal and highly provocative had taken place.

I say to the Home Secretary, who has courteously been present throughout almost all the debate, that some hon. Members fought hard to ensure that we retained a unitary State. We believed that there would be grave dangers within the constitution if changes on devolution came about. We fought because we told the people of Wales that Westminster was a place in which the voice of Wales could be effectively heard. We fought because we believed that here in Westminster there was sensitivity, understanding and insight about Wales, and that Welsh Members were able to speak to their English colleagues and were able to tease out of them the sympathy that was required in order that Welsh problems should have proper attention.

Is it surprising, after a fierce debate in which some Welsh Members exposed themselves severely, politically, in order to maintain that view that we feel bitter that a justification should suddenly be provided for the cynicism that was expressed continually during those years of campaign over devolution—a cynicism about this place? Manifesto pledges may not be sacred. They sometimes have to yield to circumstances. But when it was believed that there was unanimity, and when a pledge was given, the breach of that pledge for what appears to be marginally persuasive reasons breeds in Wales a cynicism about Westminster.

11 pm

We are concerned about the law and respect for the law in Wales. For the first time, formerly reasonable men are suddenly taking unlawful action. Gwynfor Evans's intentions are not to be disregarded. I do not share the view that they are nonsense. I believe that they are a symptom of the lack of belief and confidence that Westminster can provide an answer. When people turn to extra-parliamentary demonstrations it means that they feel that Parliament has failed. Nothing makes them feel that more than if they see politicians whom they normally regard with respect and concern appearing to be so cynical that within a matter of months they can tear up pledges that had a deep meaning throughout Wales. Of course we are getting people who refuse to pay their licences.

Some of us took a stand as soon as places were being burnt down in protest. We tried to reaffirm the rule of law. The Home Secretary has a personal responsibility. There are those of us who stand up for the unitary State and try to teach respect for the rule of law. There are those of us who say that within the constitution as it stands there is a proper place in which they can shape and alter opinion in Westminster. The Home Secretary has a particular responsibility to see that we are not left out.

When the fast begins and the disorder spreads the Home Secretary will regret very much not taking preventive action. I listened with care to his statement that he is ready to take advice and have an annual report. Before we conclude tonight we need from the Under-Secretary clear confirmation that it will still be possible, within the existing law, for the Welsh programme to go out on one channel if there are second thoughts. As English-speaking Welshmen, my constituents are weary of the existing position. They are prepared to give up some of the alleged benefits of the fourth channel in order to have their programmes as they want them and in order to help to make a contribution to the saving of the Welsh language. The Home Secretary is making a blunder. It does not become him. Whatever view we may have of him, and whatever we may think of his policies, he has a reputation as a man of honour. He is besmirching that reputation, he is estranging Wales, and he is doing a grave disservice to the rule of law in this country.

Mr. Alan Williams

I hope that in winding up the debate the Under-Secretary will answer the question put by the hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas), whether the Home Secretary's proposal this evening requires legislation. If it does require legislation, I hope that he will indicate whether it will be included in the proceedings on this Bill.

The reason why we are so embittered in this debate tonight is that the single channel for the Welsh language has been favoured by the Crawford committee, the Annan committee, the universities of Wales, the University court, the Churches, the Labour Party in Wales, the Liberal Party in Wales, Plaid Cymru, and, until 4 May last year, the Tory Party in Wales.

HTV sent us a document in which it was admitted that the output of Welsh language programmes would double, but it pointed out that not all programmes would be on one channel. Later, the document stated: Programmes not only create audiences, they also inherit them from preceding programmes … Many people show a loyalty to one channel more than another. These habits are known to broadcasters everywhere. HTV is saying that there may be double the number of programmes, but people will watch only half of them.

Mr. Hanson

Does not the right hon. Gentleman understand that he is supporting my argument? He is demonstrating that more people will be exposed to Welsh language programmes if there are two channels.

Mr. Williams

The hon. Gentleman does not understand the way in which aerials have been turned in Wales. As a result of the assesssment on splitting the language, we believe in a single integrated programme. We believe that that is better for the language, that it is more likely to lead to a balanced programme, and that it will avoid duplication.

It is appalling that there has been so little plausible explanation of the Government's proposal. In February, the Secretary of State for Wales said: I changed my mind, and I make no apology for that."—[Official Report, 4 February 1980; Vol. 977, c. 51.] Not only has he not made an apology tonight; he has not even offered an explanation. I am shocked that a Secretary of State for Wales should have to hide behind the greater weight of the Home Secretary. I am even more appalled that he should have to sit on the Front Bench while the Under-Secretary of State winds up the debate. He shares equal Cabinet responsibility for the decisions under discussion. It is astonishing that he should put up his big brother to fight for him and put his little sister out to cry for him.

Throughout the election campaign and until 3 May the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of a single channel. However, the position had changed by the time of the Queen's Speech. The Home Secretary earlier said that he had never believed in rigid adherence to a manifesto. Once we saw the Bill, none of us thought that he believed in that. Adherence to non-adherence is one thing, but 12 days must be a record. There was only 12 days between winning the election and reneging on that commitment. Those of us who have been in government know that it was not 12 days. The Queen's Speech was almost certainly written within five days of coming into office. No doubt it was then circulated round the Department. A manifesto may not be sacrosanct, but if it is valid only for five days it is not even relevant. What happened in those five or six days?

Mr. Whitelaw

I made clear my position. Of course, the Queen's Speech did not rule out the manifesto commitment. It made plain that both options were open.

Mr. Williams

The right hon. Gentleman wants it all ways. Earlier he protested that the Queen's Speech made his proposals clear, but he now claims that it did nothing of the sort.—[Interruption.]

Good heavens, the Secretary of State for Wales has got a voice. He has to sit down to use it, because he is not taking part in the debate. He is trying to shout from a sedentary position, because he is not man enough to stand here and defend his policies. As long ago as 1972 Lord Harlech explained the arguments against the single channel. Where was the Secretary of State during the seven years between 1972 and 1979? Did he not have discussions with anyone when he was in opposition? What arguments did he hear in those five days that he had not heard before? We have heard nothing new from the Home Secretary, and nothing that convinces us.

On an earlier occasion the Secretary of State said that it had become clear to him that the consensus would disappear. By what process? How did the vision arrive, and what form did it take?

Various of my hon. Friends have said that while often disagreeing with the Home Secretary we have always regarded him as an honourable man. It has been embarrassing to watch him wriggling tonight. He knows that what he is doing is wrong. Does he believe in his heart that it is honourable not only to refuse to do that for which his Government had a clear mandate but actually to do the opposite? There is also the nauseating spectacle of Tories who won marginal, Welsh-speaking seats on the same manifesto and are now queuing up to speak against it. Do they not realise that that calculated, cynical betrayal not only offends moderate-minded people but feeds the bitterness of the most irresponsible forces in Wales?

The Home Secretary has tried to bring forward what he sees as a compromise. I assure him that the formula that he has put forward guarantees that the argument will be prolonged year after year. He has ensured that there will be campaigns against this new channel when it is set up.

For reasons that he has never explained, the Secretary of State has said that he believes that the consensus will not last. Let him put it to the test. In Wales we have a well-established method. When there are issues affecting the Welsh way of life, we put them to the people. We do that with regard to licensing laws and entertainment on the Welsh Sunday.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Nicholas Edwards)

And devolution.

Mr. Williams

Yes, we lost, but we put the issue of devolution to the Welsh people. We let the people of Wales make up their own minds. The right hon. Gentleman should not sneer about that. If he is happy with the results of that referendum, as no doubt he is, he should let the people of Wales choose again. Let him be man enough at least to do that.

Mr. Best

Why is the right hon. Gentleman distressed that the argument may continue beyond tonight? I charitably assume that what he is saying is sensible. The purport of what he is saying is that the people of Wales should be constantly consulted and that changes should come about in the light of prevailing circumstances. Is he so utterly inflexible that he wants a decision to be taken once and for all, and never changed?

Mr. Williams

I have been accused of many things. Inflexibility is rarely one of them. I have offered a formula that gives a chance to end the argument. Let the majority of the people of Wales speak. Let us all agree tonight that we shall accept their decision. The Labour Party will stand by it. The Liberal spokesman agrees, and I believe that Plaid Cymru agrees. All we need is for the Conservative Party to agree. The Home Secretary has changed his mind once. Tonight he has half changed it again. I dismiss what he has done tonight as a last-minute, desperate gimmick to buy time. If he wants to experiment, let him experiment on the basis of his party's solemn pledge to the people of Wales. That is the honourable action. If he is still in doubt, let the people of Wales do the deciding for him.

Mr. Wigley

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I presume that I may address the House on the amendment after the Minister has spoken.

The Under-Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

I am sorry that the hon. Member for Cannock (Mr. Roberts) did not move amendment No. 21 Had he done so, we should have been discussing an all-Wales channel, transmitting an all-Welsh programme for about 50 hours a week. That would have come as a salutary shock to at least one broadcasting official who is still alive in Wales and who told me 20 years ago that he doubted whether Wales could sustain more than one hour a week of Welsh language television. In other words, we have done very well in Wales for television. That is due in no small part to the keenness of debates in the House. There is no doubt that this debate has proved extremely keen.

11.15 pm

The Government believe that their present plans to broadcast Welsh language programmes on two channels rather than one offer the better solution for the Welsh speaker and the non-Welsh speaker. If all the Welsh programmes were to be concentrated on the fourth channel, the non-Welsh speaker would be deprived of a substantial part of the new service. Half the programmes would be displaced and it would be very difficult to reschedule all of them. We have not heard much of that deprivation—

Mr. D. E. Thomas


Mr. Roberts

I have a great deal to say. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will allow me to proceed. We have heard nothing about that deprivation because it has not yet occurred, but I urge the House to take cognisance of it.

My personal concern, since I am directly responsible to my right hon. Friend in Welsh language matters, is with the Welsh-speaking viewer. My right hon. Friend, in his recent speech at Llanwrst, outlined what has come to be recognised as the strongly positive if not aggressive policy on behalf of the language. Those who are concerned with the usual channels know that we on the Government Benches are pressing for an early debate in the Welsh Grand Committee on this policy statement.

The exposure of the language on two channels rather than its concentration on one—its exposure to the non-Welsh speaker as well as to the devoted Welsh speaker—as suggested by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas), accords well with that policy. So, too, does the production of programmes by the BBC and the IBA, involving two different news and programme sources and direct responsibility, on the part of the two broadcasting organisations, for the transmission of their Welsh language productions. Welsh has parity with English under the Government's arrangements.

Much has been made by our critics of our change of mind on this issue—much more than is warranted. We have not reneged on the Queen's Speech. The relevant section stated: My Ministers will propose the repeal of the Wales Act 1978. They will give active support to the maintenance of the Welsh language and will seek an early start with Welsh broadcasting on the fourth television channel in Wales."—[Official Report, 15 May 1979; Vol. 967, cc. 49–50.] We have repealed the Wales Act. We shall be spending three times more next year than we did last year on the maintenance of the language. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has ensured that the six transmitters required in Wales for broadcasting the fourth channel programme have been given top priority. Those transmitters will transmit Welsh language programmes.

Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East)


Mr. Roberts

No doubt I shall be referred to the manifesto. We did say that we were anxious to see Welsh broadcasting started on the fourth channel as quickly as possible. Speed was of the essence at the time because of the interminable delay and procrastination by the previous Labour Government.

I should like to read to the right hon. and learned Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) one of his own press notices. This stated: It is splendid news that the Government is now able to carry out its commitment to finance a Welsh language service on the fourth channel. It was disappointing to all of us who were deeply concerned with the future of the language that we were not able, due to economic circumstances, to do so before …The target date for the service is autumn, 1982. The date of that pronouncement was July 1978. There was interminable procrastination and delay.

The right hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) quoted from our manifesto. At the end of the sentence that he quoted, we said: We do not favour the setting up of the OBA. That was our sincere belief at that time, when the fourth channel was empty and waiting to be used. After the election, plans for the start of ITV 2 developed quickly and the problem of deprivation of the non-Welsh speaking viewer raised its head almost immediately. Our Welsh language policy devolped too, and there was a need to fulfil our pledge to give active support to the maintenance of the Welsh language.

We have admitted that there was change. The right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Rees) was fairly generous in Committee when the change was referred to. We concluded, in the new circumstances, that our first priority was to increase the hours of Welsh language broadcasting. After all, that was the basic and most, important commitment. We concluded that the best way to do that was to ensure that the BBC and the IBA increased their hours along the lines outlined in the speech of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary in Cambridge on 14 September last year.

Mr. John Morris

The hon. Gentleman quoted from my press statement, but does he believe that his quotation helps his case? Does it not show the careful preparation that the previous Government started? Is not the reality of the situation that the hon. Gentleman and his party have ratted on an election promise and that he knew nothing of it until the Home Secretary made that speech in Cambridge?

Mr. Roberts

I was simply confirming the remarks that we, have heard throughout the debate about the interminable delay on the part of the previous Government. The right hon. and learned Gentleman is well aware of that.

I turn to an important point. The concentration of Welsh language programmes on one channel remains an option for the future. There is nothing in the Bill to prevent it. I have acknowledged that, as has my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Home Office. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) and his friends ought to think about the fact that once that option is exercised, and all Welsh programmes are concentrated on the fourth channel, it is unlikely that the Welsh language will make a comeback on other channels at any time.

I commend the words of my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State, Home Office, in Committee: If I were an enthusiastic protagonist for the Welsh language I should be anxious for Welsh language programmes not to be confined to a channel of their own but for them to be on channels in which both Welsh and English can be heard … Admittedly T say that as an outsider. but I care and I have tried to understand the arguments and follow what has been said by those who speak in good faith. I believe that the interest of the Welsh language is best served by what we propose."—[Official Report, Standing Committee E, 25 March 1980; c. 244.]

Mr. D. E. Thomas

Taking the logic of that argument, does the hon. Gentleman not accept the argument advanced by the then Professor Jac L. Williams, that Welsh ought to be featured on channel 1 of the IBA and channel 1 of the BBC network?

Mr. Roberts

There is scope for discussion of the extent to which that is so. The crux of this debate is whether the Welsh programme should be on one channel, or two channels, as the Government propose. The burden of my remarks is that once we have consigned all the Welsh language programmes to one channel there is no going back—or so I would have thought.

I turn to the amendments. Amendment No. 22 attempts to ensure that all Welsh language programmes produced by the BBC or by the IBA as Welsh contractor are shown on the fourth channel in Wales. We do not accept the contention that it is essential to the well-being of the Welsh language that all television programmes in Welsh should be shown on the fourth channel in Wales. We do not believe that our proposals will have a detrimental effect on the language. On the contrary, we are convinced that the arrangements set out in clause 20 offer ample scope for the authority and the BBC to consult in a way that will ensure that the interests of all viewers, Welsh-speaking and non-Welsh-speaking, are protected in terms of timing and scheduling of Welsh language programmes.

The proposals of the previous Government envisaged the establishment of a Welsh language television council, which would consist of representatives of BBC Wales, the Welsh Independent Television contractor, the IBA and the OBA, and would be chaired by the OBA representative. Although we reject the OBA in principle, the proposals of the right hon. Member for Leeds, South at least recognised the difficulties inherent in placing programmes produced by one broadcasting organisation on a service being supervised by another.

Amendment No. 30 refers to the separate board. The IBA has a clear duty to ensure that the fourth channel in Wales contains a suitable proportion of programmes in Welsh. In addition, section 4 of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973 requires it to ensure: that the programmes broadcast from any station or stations contain a suitable proportion of matter calculated to appeal specially to the tastes and outlook of persons served by the station or stations". The removal of the Welsh language requirements from this section in no way invalidates the other requirement. The authority is, therefore, required to ensure that the needs of Welsh-speaking viewers are met, as well as the wider needs of the people of Wales for programmes catering for their special tastes and outlook. I do not think that it is desirable to go further than this in legislation. The authority is aware of what is required of it, and it is for it, along with its fourth channel subsidiary and the Welsh ITV contractor, to ensure that the needs of all viewers in Wales are met. In addition, clause 20 requires the authority to consult the BBC on the scheduling of Welsh language programmes to ensure that the best interests of the people of Wales are served.

Amendment No. 80 was not spoken to, and I shall simply say that the clause to which it refers relates solely to the independent local radio contractors and it would, therefore, be inappropriate to apply these provisions to the fourth channel service in Wales. I trust that this will at least give some indication of the way in which a full reply to the amendment would run.

11.30 pm

Amendment No. 108 is a somewhat lengthy amendment and was spoken to by the hon. Member for Merioneth. I am not convinced that the problems of scheduling Welsh language programmes can be solved in the way proposed by the amendment. The BBC and the authority have a clear duty to provide programmes in the Welsh language, and this Bill lays upon them the additional duty to consult one another with a view to ensuring that the best interests of the Welsh people are served.

They already consult informally on the scheduling of Welsh language programmes and, by and large, this seems to have worked out reasonably well. Of course, the problems will increase with the increase in the number of programmes in Welsh. We intend that much of the output should be shown at peak hours, but the advent of the fourth channel will greatly increase the authority's room to manoeuvre. In addition, the Government intend that an independent adviser should be appointed to act as honest broker should the BBC and the authority be unable to resolve matters in their consultations.

The whole tenor of the Bill, not only in regard to broadcasting in Welsh, is to give the broadcasters as much flexibility as possible within broad guidelines. I should be surprised if a council of about 18 persons, comprising three interest groups, were to be particularly flexible, but the council's function would not, I understand, be confined to Welsh language scheduling.

The Government hope that at least 20 hours of Welsh language programmes will be available per week by the autumn of 1982, when we hope that the fourth channel service will start. This amounts to more than three hours a day. The IBA intends to transmit 12 hours a week of programmes in Welsh once the fourth channel is on the air, compared with the seven hours that are now broadcast. The BBC also intends to increase its present eight hours a week of Welsh language programmes to 10 hours a week. That constitutes a total of 20 to 22 hours a week which is no less than was envisaged in the last Government's White Paper.

I am sure that most hon. Members will agree that programme quality is as important as quantity, and that expansion of the order that I have mentioned will place a great strain on the resources of the BBC in Wales and on the IBA's Welsh contractor. Any further expansion at this time could probably be achieved only at the expense of quality. This is not to say that the broadcasters should not increase their Welsh language output when circumstances permit, and that will be easier with two channels than with one.

I urge the House to follow the advice of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, respect his undertakings for the future, allow the Bill to proceed and reject the amendments.

Mr. Wigley

Perhaps I may sum up for those who support the amendments. I thank the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan) for opening the debate in the way that he did. I think that the Home Secretary and the Government Front Bench generally will have seen from the debate how important it was that it should have taken place before he made his announcement in Cambridge. He has seen and heard tonight the depth of feeling in all parties on both sides of the argument. It cuts across party lines. But there is strong consensus on this issue in most parts of Wales which should not be ignored.

I declare an interest, as did my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas), in that in a few weeks I shall be appearing in court through my refusal to pay a television licence fee because of this issue. This is the first time that I have done such a thing. I did not imagine that I should ever be in the position of doing so.

For the past 10 years there has been a campaign in Wales on this issue. We who have carried on the fight for the Welsh language through constitutional means have said that the battle could be won through the House of Commons. There was all-party consensus before the last election and commitments in the Conservative Party manifesto. We thought that what we were seeking would happen. How do I now square up to those people When we say that we put all our faith in the process of democracy and that process is spurned—no matter whether it is in a matter of days or weeks—it puts us in a position in which there appears to be no alternative.

Twenty years ago a similar thing happened with radio broadcasting in Wales and my father in law appeared in the courts. It was then said that a Welsh language radio channel was not possible. We now have it on VHF and it is working satisfactorily.

The argument in favour of the fourth channel solution does not come only from those who speak Welsh; it comes from the non-Welsh speaking areas of Wales, as we heard in the debate. I know the language situation in the constituency of the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Rowlands). I know the tensions there between those who speak Welsh and those who do not speak Welsh. I know of the love-fear. relationship with the language. I used to live there before entering Parliament.

The great merit of the one-channel solution was that on the one hand it presented a service for the Welsh language and on the other it gave an opportunity for the 80 per cent. of people in Wales who are non-Welsh-speaking to have a service as well, through the English language, and not to have to continue beaming their sets towards masts in England for programmes from Granada, HTV, West, and the rest.

That was the reason for consensus. It was an answer that solved the problems of both the English-speaking people in Wales who wanted programmes from Wales about Wales in the English language, and the Welsh speakers who wanted a proper service, not a few odd half hours at half past ten at night. They would have received a peak hour service through the Welsh language.

We have heard from the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas) of the arguments that were advanced—they were also mentioned by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Hooson)—by the late Jac L. Williams who argued that there should be Welsh programmes at peak viewing times on the BBC and channel one of ITV. We do not have that option tonight. That door has been closed. The option that we have is whether we shall be put in one or two ghettos. The one ghetto, in the view of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor, has at least the chance to develop as an integrated service. The other means a split between channels with the same problems for the non-Welsh speakers. They will be tuning in to the West and North-West of England while the Welsh speakers will get no service.

In other words, we are losing out on a historic opportunity to get a creative solution to the problem. It was clear, listening to the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) and the hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best), that they are uneasy about the way things have gone. The hon. Member for Anglesey mentioned that he had received 100 letters and every single one went against the Government's change of policy.

The House must take notice of this issue and I am glad, therefore, that in response to a question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth the Government have indicated that it is still possible, even if the Bill goes through in its present form, to have the one-channel solution for the Welsh language. An executive, not a legislative, decision needs to be taken.

We have heard tonight of a compromise or concession, but that does not go anywhere near meeting the problem. If we are to institute the pattern desired by the Government with the Welsh language programmes split between two channels, what will happen is that on channel 4 people will get used to receiving their programmes from London. It will become harder and harder to cut across that pattern as the years go by.

If it is going to be done it should be done now. I appeal to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales to show even greater grace than they believed they were showing when they thanked their election commitment, by changing again. That is the overwhelming desire of the majority of people in Wales.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 113, Noes 166.

Division No. 368] AYES [11.39 pm
Abse, Leo Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Eastham, Ken
Anderson, Donald Cowans, Harry English, Michael
Ashton, Joe Cryer, Bob Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Cunliffe, Lawrence Faulds, Andrew
Beith, A. J. Cunningham, George (Islington S) Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Cunningham, Dr John (Whitehaven) Foster, Derek
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Dalyell, Tam Freud, Clement
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Davidson, Arthur George, Bruce
Bray, Dr Jeremy Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Ginsburg, David
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Davies, Ifor (Gower) Grant, George (Morpeth)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford) Hamilton, James (Bothwell)
Campbell-Savours, Dale Deakins, Eric Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)
Canavan, Dennis Dempsey, James Hardy, Peter
Clark, Dr David (South Shields) Dixon, Donald Harrison, Rt Hon Walter
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Dormand, Jack Haynes, Frank
Coleman, Donald Douglas, Dick Home Robertson, John
Homewood, William McWilliam, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Hooley, Frank Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Stewart, Rt Hon Donald (W Isles)
Horam, John Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby) Stott, Roger
Howells, Geraint Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Morgan, Geraint Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Hughes, Roy (Newport) Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Janner, Hon Greville Newens, Stanley Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
John, Brynmor O'Neill, Martin Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda) Palmer, Arthur Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Penhaligon, David Welsh, Michael
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Lamond, James Prescott, John Whitehead, Phillip
Leadbitter, Ted Radice, Giles Wigley, Dafydd
Leighton, Ronald Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South) Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Roberts, Ernest (Hackney North) Wilson, William (Coventry SE)
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight) Winnick, David
Lofthouse, Geoffrey Rowlands, Ted Woolmer, Kenneth
McCartney, Hugh Sheerman, Barry Wrigglesworth, Ian
McDonald, Dr Oonagh Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich) Young, David (Bolton East)
McGuire, Michael (Ince) Snape, Peter
McKay, Allen (Penistone) Soley, Clive TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Spearing, Nigel Mr. George Morton and
McNamara, Kevin Spriggs, Leslie Mr. James Tinn.
Alexander, Richard Gummer, John Selwyn Parris, Matthew
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Patten, Christopher (Bath)
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Hannam, John Patten, John (Oxford)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Percival, Sir Ian
Bendall, Vivian Hawkins, Paul Pollock, Alexander
Best, Keith Hawksley, Warren Price, David (Eastleigh)
Bevan, David Gilroy Heddle, John Proctor, K. Harvey
Biffen, Rt Hon John Henderson, Barry Raison, Timothy
Biggs-Davison, John Hicks, Robert Rees, Peter (Dover and Deal)
Blackburn, John Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Renton, Tim
Blaker, Peter Hill, James Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Hooson, Tom Ridsdale, Julian
Braine, Sir Bernard Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Bright, Graham Hurd, Hon Douglas Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Brinton, Tim Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Brittan, Leon Kershaw, Anthony St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Kimball, Marcus Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Bruce-Gardyne, John Kitson, Sir Timothy Shelton, William (Streatham)
Bryan, Sir Paul Knox, David Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Bulmer, Esmond Lawson, Nigel Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge-Br'hills)
Cadbury, Jocelyn Le Marchant, Spencer Sims, Roger
Carlisle, John (Luton West) Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Speller, Tony
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Lester, Jim (Beeston) Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Carlisle, Rt Hon Mark (Runcorn) Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Stainton, Keith
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Lyell, Nicholas Stanbrook, Ivor
Channon, Paul MacGregor, John Steen, Anthony
Clark, Sir William (Croydon South) MacKay, John (Argyll) Stevens, Martin
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Madel, David Stradling Thomas, J.
Colvin, Michael Major, John Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Cope, John Marlow, Tony Tebbit, Norman
Cranborne, Viscount Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Temple-Morris, Peter
Critchley, Julian Mates, Michael Thompson, Donald
Crouch, David Mather, Carol Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)
Dean, Paul (North Somerset) Maude, Rt Hon Angus Townend, John (Bridlington)
Dorrell, Stephen Mawhinney, Dr Brian Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Dover, Denshore Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Waddington, David
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Mellor, David Wakeham, John
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Meyer, Sir Anthony Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Durant, Tony Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch) Waller, Gary
Dykes, Hugh Mills, Iain (Meriden) Ward, John
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Warren, Kenneth
Eyre, Reginald Moate, Roger Watson, John
Faith, Mrs Sheila Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Wells, John (Maidstone)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Wheeler, John
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Mudd, David Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Fry, Peter Murphy, Christopher Whitney, Raymond
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Myles, David Wickenden, Keith
Garel-Jones, Tristan Neale, Gerrard Wilkinson, John
Goodhew, Victor Needham, Richard Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Gorst, John Nelson, Anthony Wolfson, Mark
Gow, Ian Newton, Tony
Gray, Hamish Normanton, Tom TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Osborn, John Lord James Douglas-Hamilton and
Grist, Ian Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Mr. Peter Brooke.
Grylls, Michael Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: No. 24, in page 4, line 12, leave out 'Service'.

No. 25, in page 4, line 16, leave out 'in' and insert 'on'.

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