HC Deb 10 November 1980 vol 992 cc37-78

Lords amendment: No. 1, in page 2, line 14, after "shall" insert "subject to section A and".

Mr. Whitelaw

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

The House will be aware that in the Bill as it left this House provision was made for Welsh language programmes to be shown both on one of the IBA's channels and on one of the BBC's channels. This was what has become known as the two-channel solution for Welsh language television broadcasting.

I recognise at once that when this matter was debated in this House and when these amendments were debated here, there were Opposition Members who believed that the Government were wrong to persist in the two-channel solution and that we should adopt the single-channel solution. During the recess my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I received a deputation led by a very distinguished ex-Member of this House, Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos. This deputation invited us to consider allowing all Welsh language television programmes to be broadcast on the fourth channel. This has become known as the single-channel solution. They acknowledged that there might then be the possibility of subsequently reverting to the two-channel solution.

Whatever the merits of the two-channel solution, as a response to the substantial body of moderate opinion in Wales, and indeed, recognising what had been said to us in this House, as was entirely proper, my right hon. Friend and I concluded that we should accept the proposition that was put to us.

In the Bill as it left this House the IBA was responsible for the fourth channel service throughout the United Kingdom. A consequence of the change of policy is that a Welsh fourth channel authority should be established to be responsible for the fourth channel in Wales. These amendments therefore make it clear that so far as Wales is concerned the duties laid on the IBA in clause 2 are overridden by the subsequent provision that we are to discuss in new clause A, which would make the Welsh fourth channel authority responsible for the fourth channel in Wales. The responsibilities laid on the IBA under part II of the Bill are thus restricted to the provision of the fourth channel service in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The House will therefore recognise that the first amendments are essentially paving amendments—a series of amendments that give effect to the change of policy to which I have referred. It may therefore be convenient to the House if I deal with all the other amendments in detail, but, of course, in the same speech.

The first amendment is to clause 3, page 4, line 5. I have already explained that the series of amendments that we have received from the other place about Wales will have the effect of placing responsibility for the fourth channel in Wales on the new Welsh fourth channel authority. This amendment accordingly removes that responsibility from the IBA. The definition of the term "for reception in Wales" is now included in the general interpretation clause by virtue of the amendment to page 22, line 22, to which I shall subsequently refer.

New clause A is central to our change in policy. It provides for the operation of the fourth channel in Wales by the Welsh fourth channel authority. It relieves the IBA of the responsibilities that the Bill previously placed upon it regarding the fourth channel in Wales. I am certain that this is the only effective way of achieving a proper service. The programmes will come mainly from the BBC and the IBA's Welsh contractor, together with some from independent producers. It must, however, be clear where the ultimate responsibility lies. By virtue of this amendment the Welsh authority will have a clear responsibility for scheduling the whole of the programme service on the fourth channel in Wales.

New clause B, together with the schedule—Provisions as to the Welsh Fourth Channel Authority—sets up the Welsh authority. It will consist of a chairman and four members, to be appointed by the Secretary of State. In practice this will be by the Home Secretary after consultation with the Secretary of State for Wales. It will be possible by this membership to recognise the interests and responsibilities of the BBC and the IBA. I have it in mind, for example, to appoint the BBC governor for Wales and the IBA member for Wales to the new authority. I think that there may also be advantage in appointing somebody from the board of the IBA's fourth channel subsidiary. From the preliminary consultations I have had with the BBC and the IBA, I believe that the broadcasting authorities also see advantage in some cross-membership of this kind.

New clause C sets out the main functions of the Welsh fourth channel authority. I have stated clearly on a number of occasions that I expect between 20 and 22 hours a week of Welsh language programmes by the time the fourth channel in Wales comes on the air. Of these, I expect the BBC to provide 10 hours, the IBA's Welsh contractor at least seven hours, and the balance to come from either the IBA's Welsh contractor or from the independent producers. I know that both the BBC and the IBA want my expectations to be fulfilled. Although the programmes will come from these sources, this new clause makes it clear that their scheduling will be a matter for the Welsh authority. I know that both the BBC and the IBA are determined to make these new arrangements work, and I am sure that all the broadcasters working together will be able to provide the sort of service that we all desire. Some cross-membership of the sort to which I have referred will in my view facilitate the arrangements.

4 pm

The Bill does not insist that peak viewing time be devoted entirely to programmes in Welsh. The period between 6.30 pm and 10 pm, for which special provision is made in subsection (2), adds up in itself to 24 ½ hours a week. Quite apart from this, there are programmes in Welsh that ought to be shown at other times. Children's programmes, to which I know Welsh-speaking viewers attach a great importance, need to be shown during the day time. Some events, including sporting events, gain from being broadcast when they are taking place. Neither do I think that we should forget the needs of shift workers and others at home during the day. Thus, if some hours of Welsh language programming have to be deducted from the total available for these reasons, it is evident that we cannot guarantee that sufficient programmes will remain to fill peak viewing time. But it is the clear duty of the Welsh authority to ensure that, within these constraints, the bulk of what is seen between 6.30 pm and 10 pm on the fourth channel in Wales is in Welsh.

Subsection (3) provides that when the fourth channel in Wales is not showing Welsh language programmes it should normally show whatever is being shown on the fourth channel elsewhere in the United Kingdom at that time. This is the simplest and cheapest way of providing the English language programmes that will be necessary to make up a full service on the fourth channel in Wales. It also minimises the deprivation of those in Wales who wish to see programmes on the United Kingdom fourth channel. But I acknowledge that it may not always be practicable or desirable to stick to the contemporaneous showing of what is on the United Kingdom fourth channel service.

The two programme schedules may not always dovetail together, and some different arrangement may be needed to bridge the gap between the end of a Welsh programme and the convenient start of one in English or, of course, vice versa. Moreover, there may occasionally be programmes in English of special interest to people in Wales, whether repeated from the fourth channel service or from some other source, which merit a place on the Welsh fourth channel. Accordingly, the Welsh authority is not prevented from showing something other than the United Kingdom fourth channel service contemporaneously, even though it is normally expected to show that service.

Subsection (4) lays on the Welsh authority similar general duties to those placed on the IBA regarding its service.

New clause D provides for the sources of programmes in Wales, other than advertisements, to be broadcast on the fourth channel in Wales. I have already explained that the bulk of the programmes will be made by the BBC and the IBA's Welsh contractor, although it is my hope and expectation that some programmes will come from independent producers.

Sub-sections (1) and (2) place a duty on the BBC to supply a proportion of the programmes in Welsh, of at least as much as the BBC would itself broadcast in Wales had the new arrangements not been in being. These programmes will be provided free of charge to the Welsh authority.

I will take into account the cost of these programmes in assessing the level of the television licence fees in future, as my predecessors and I have done in the past. Indeed, when I announced the present level of fees last November I specifically mentioned that in setting those fees I had taken into account, among other things, the need to enable the BBC to prepare to increase its Welsh language television broadcasts by the autumn of 1982.

I should make it clear that the BBC's charter includes an obligatiion to provide for the distinctive culture, language, interests and tastes of people in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The corporation, in consequence, already provides programmes in the Welsh language. The cost of these programmes, like all other minority programmes, whether in respect of language or regional or national minority interests, has been taken into account by successive Governments in assessing the level of the television licence fees to enable the BBC to discharge its obligations to provide a comprehensive broadcasting system for the whole of the United Kingdom.

The corporation was already planning to increase the number of hours of the Welsh language television programming that it provides, and the cost of that increase should be no greater because the programmes are to be shown on the fourth channel. It is unlikely that there will be any significant additional cost to the BBC as a result of the special arrangements for the fourth channel in Wales.

Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)

If I have understood the right hon. Gentleman correctly he is suggesting that no additional cost will fall upon BBC Wales, because the Welsh language programmes it is presently producing will go over to the fourth channel. Surely there will be a yawning gap, because he expects BBC Wales to look after English-speaking Welshmen, too. That gap should be filled not by pap from America but from material locally and indigenously produced in Wales for English-speaking Welshmen. How will it be possible for that to be done if there is not to be an increase in costs?

Mr. Whitelaw

Nothing that is proposed in the new arrangements that we are making changes the BBC's initial position. The BBC will have the same responsibilities as under a two-channel solution. Those responsibilities remain under the one-channel solution.

Sub-section (3) deals with the arrangements for the supply of Welsh language programmes by the IBA's Welsh programme contractor. In this case the programmes will be supplied to the Welsh authority on commercial terms. By this I mean that the contractor will have to negotiate with the Welsh authority payment for the programmes that he supplies. A subsequent new clause deals with the finances of the authority. Finally on this clause, subsection (4) provides that there is nothing to prevent the Welsh authority from obtaining programmes in Welsh from any other sources. This is, of course, primarily, directed towards the independent producers.

New clause E deals with advertising. It is, of course, right that advertising should be sold on the fourth channel in Wales as it is in the rest of the United Kingdom. This clause provides that the IBA's Welsh contractor will have the right to provide advertisements for transmitting on the fourth channel in Wales. It also makes the necessary provision for liaison between the Welsh authority and the IBA to enable these advertisements to be properly scheduled.

The clause provides, however, that no advertisements will be permitted during BBC programmes. They can, however, be transmitted before or after a BBC programme if the corporation consents. The BBC has told me that it will be willing to agree to such scheduling of advertisements. It is, however, concerned that there should be an interval, which may be brief, separating a BBC programme from an advertisement. It has indicated that such an interval might take the form of a presentation item about subsequent programming. I am confident that sensible arrangements will be made by the broadcasters to ensure that the advertising revenue on the fourth channel in Wales, which I acknowledge is likely to be limited, will not be unduly diminished by this provision.

Clause F, together with schedule B—Modifications of main Act etc. in relation to fourth channel in Wales—modifies a number of provisions in the IBA Acts of 1973 and 1978 in relation to the fourth channel in Wales. Effectively these ensure that the duties and responsibilities that lie with the IBA in relation to ITV and the fourth channel elsewhere in the United Kingdom will be applied to the Welsh authority in relation to programmes broadcast on the fourth channel in Wales. I am sure that the House will agree that the general framework under which our broadcasting authorities operate is satisfactory and that it is appropriate that it should apply also to the fourth channel in Wales.

As for new clause G, both the BBC and the IBA have a number of advisory bodies that provide them with very valuable advice and ensure that they are in close contact with public opinion, both generally and on specific matters, including, for example, education. It is right that the Welsh authority should have similar advice, but it may not be necessary for the authority to set up its own advisory bodies. This clause therefore empowers the authority to set up such bodies but also makes it clear that it may use the [...] existing bodies of the IBA and the BBC when those authorities consent.

New clause H provides that the IBA shall pay to the Welsh authority sums sufficient to cover its reasonable expenses. I have already indicated that the BBC will provide the Welsh authority with programmes free of charge. The expenses that remain to be covered are essentially those of Welsh language programmes from the IBA's Welsh contractor and from independent producers, of the English language programmes that will complete the service, and of the necessary administration.

Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarvon)

Before the Government changed their mind about the fourth channel it was said that the additional cost could be as much as £15 million. Will the right hon. Gentle-can give the House an assurance that the purpose of the provisions is to provide a sum of that magnitude?

Mr. Whitelaw

I have already spoken about the BBC and the licence fee. That has been accented. I shall now deal with how we expect the IBA and the television companies to play their part in financing Welsh programmes. I will say a little more about this in relation to the next new clause. It was the IBA's intention, had it retained responsibility for the fourth channel in Wales, to make allowance for the cost of Welsh language television programmes produced by its Welsh contractor when setting the rental that the contractor should pay. This reduced rental wou'd, of course, have been made up by enhanced rentals paid by the other ITV contractors. In this way there would have been a hidden subsidy by the ITV system as a whole for Welsh language programmes.

Responsibility for the fourth channel in Wales is now placed, by these amendments, on the Welsh fourth channel authority, and that authority will now buy programmes on a commercial basis from the IBA's Welsh contractor and, of course, from independent producers. It is therefore open to the IBA not to provide for any sort of hidden subsidy. I could require each of the ITV contractors to pay an appropriate amount, which in total will be the sum that the IBA pays over to the Welsh authority to meet its reasonable outgoings. That answers the hon. Gentleman's point.

The new clause also provides for the Welsh authority's accounts, and requires it to prepare an annual report and statement of account to be laid before both Houses of Parliament.

New Clause I enables the Secretary of State, in this case myself, to have regard to the increased cost of the fourth channel in Wales when setting the rates of the levy. I shall, after consultation with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, discuss details of the financing of the Welsh fourth channel with the IBA. I should, however, reiterate that this clause enables me to have regard to any increased costs that arise from the fourth channel in Wales when setting the rates of the levy.

New clause J refers to part III of the Bill as it left this House. The clause establishes a Broadcasting Complaints Commission. I am sure that the House will agree that it is right that programmes provided by the Welsh authority should be within the remit of the Broadcasting Complaints Commission. The new clause empowers the Secretary of State to make regulations to achieve this. It is preferable to do this by regulations, because the responsibilities are slightly complicated. I have already made it clear that the Welsh authority will be responsible for the scheduling of programmes on its service. It would therefore be right for it to be a party to any complaint that might arise from one of those programmes. But some of those programmes will be supplied by the BBC, and the corporation would also have the same responsibility. Similarly, some of the programmes in the English language shown an the fourth channel in Wales will be those shown on the fourth channel elsewhere in the United Kingdom under the authority of the IBA. In those cases the IBA would also have some responsibility. The regulations made under this clause would take account of these somewhat complex responsibilities.

4.15 pm

On new clause K, I indicated earlier that the representations made to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and myself acknowledged that pro- vision should be made for the possibility of subsequently reverting to the two-channel solution. The new clause makes the necessary provision. Before reaching any decision to revert, the Government would have to be satisfied that there was widespread demand for a change and that such a change would be in the interests of Wales as a whole, and of the Welsh language.

In reaching an assessment, the annual reports that the BBC and the IBA and the Welsh authority are required to make will be available. They will contain of reflect the views expressed by each authority's relevant advisory bodies. In addition, each authority is charged with ascertaining public opinion concerning the programmes broadcast and encouraging public comment, and the results of this will be made available. Any other expressions of public opinion will, naturally, also be taken into account. Even then a decision to change could be implemented only by an affirmative resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

There must be a fair period of trial, perhaps of the order of three years, before such consideration could be given to a change. This clause would enable any order, which, as I have said, would be subject to affirmative resolution, to reestablish the provisions in the Bill as it left this House, together with those further amendments that I undertook to make before deciding to revert to the single-channel solution. Those were to require the BBC and the IBA to consult about programme content, to ensure that there was a unified service of Welsh language programmes, albeit on two channels, and also to provide for the establishment of a Welsh language television committee.

I now turn to the Lords amendment to leave out clause 20. Clause 20, as it left this House, provided for consultation between the BBC and the IBA on the scheduling of their Welsh television programmes, and also provided for the appointment of an adviser for cases of difficulty. This clause has, of course, been overtaken by all the amendments that gave effect to the single-channel solution and is no longer necessary.

I now refer to amendments Nos. 26, 27 and 28, which affect clause 30. These amendments to the interpretation clause of the Bill are consequential on the more substantial amendments that I have already explained to the House.

When I referred to new clause B, I explained the need for the appointment of a Welsh fourth channel authority. New schedule A makes detailed provision about the membership and administration of the Welsh authority and is modelled closely on the provisions that applied to the IBA. As I have explained, new clause F provides for the modification of the IBA Acts of 1973 and 1978, in respect of the fourth channel in Wales. New schedule B sets out those modifications in detail. The two amendments to the long title are consequential on all these amendments in respect of the fourth channel in Wales.

I hope that this explanation of the detailed provisions that I propose for the fourth channel in Wales will have assisted the House. I have not gone over the arguments for either the single-channel or the two-channel solution. Different opinions can be held in good faith about what is proper or best for the Welsh language, or for broadcasting. Nevertheless, I believe that my decision—I know all the old arguments—to revert to the single-channel solution is right. Once I had taken it, I naturally believed it to be right. The IBA is already working towards the provision of the fourth channel service by the autumn of 1982. Wales has been given priority in its engineering plans. By then it hopes to achieve 90 per cent. coverage in Wales, as opposed to 80 per cent. coverage in other parts of the United Kingdom. Its present plans will continue to increase the coverage of the channel in Wales as well as elsewhere. I must, however, make it clear that problems will remain about reaching all communities in hilly areas, and that must apply to Wales as well as to other parts of the United Kingdom. Nevertheless. I hope that these new proposals, which were urged upon me and which I have now accepted on behalf of the Government, will provide a service that is generally accepted throughout Wales.

Mr. Alec Jones (Rhondda)

The Home Secretary has given us his explanation of the Government's about-turn and I do not dissent from his description of it as complex. The right hon. Gentleman assured us that his decision was the right one, but I put it to him that it would still have been the right one if he had made it some months ago.

Many of us have heard a number of calls from Wales for U-turns in a whole range of Government policies and we have always received the reply "The lady's not for turning." On the provision of the fourth channel in Wales, we have the unique position of not one U-turn, but two. The first U-turn was the Conservatives' election promise, which was broken. There has now been another U-turn and the Government have come back to the original proposal—the single channel. That was the second U-turn and it is all the better for that. I welcome the change and I look forward to many more.

The Home Secretary will appreciate that the single channel proposal was favoured by the Labour Party. We expressed it in our election manifesto and confirmed it on Second Reading and on Report during the passage of the Bill and in the Welsh Grand Committee. At that stage the Government would not listen and I noted with interest that the Home Secretary said that it was right and proper for him to take into account the views expressed by hon. Members in the House. When we discussed the matter on 24 June, 15 Welsh Members either spoke or intervened in such a way as to make their views clear. Of those, two were in favour of the Government's proposals—one from the Labour Benches and one from the Conservative side. Eleven Members, representing all four political parties, were against the proposal and two hon. Members could have been classified as doubtful.

The hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Best) said that he did not feel deeply on the question whether it should be a one or two channel solution. He could fairly be described as one who was sitting on the fence. At about 10.10 pm on 24 June the hon. Member for Flint, West (Sir A. Meyer) advised the Government to ponder carefully. That was wise advice, but the hon. Gentleman pondered so carefully that within less than two hours he had jumped back into bed with his colleagues and voted for the foolish Government proposition. The only Conservative Member who came out of the debate with honour was the hon. and learned Member for Denbigh (Mr. Morgan).

In addition to the representations made by hon. Members in that debate, a whole range of representations were made to the Secretary of State for Wales and the Home Secretary from a number of outside organisations and people. They culminated in the deputation led by my noble Friend Lord Cledwyn, the Archbishop of Wales and Sir Goronwy Daniel. I am grateful to them, but I can hardly believe that any one of those three distinguished gentlemen was able to add greatly to what had already been said on the matter. I am not disparaging those gentlemen; I am merely indicating the deafness that seemed to afflict the Government at that time.

Dr. Roger Thomas (Carmarthen)

We must not forget that one of the three men who visited the Home Secretary stated afterwards that he had been in favour of the two-channel solution and changed his mind because he was afraid of what would occur in Wales if there were only one channel.

Mr. Jones

I read some of the reports and I hope that the Government did not change their mind for that sort of reason. Nothing would do more damage to democratic government than that proving to be the case. I am grateful to the three gentleman who saw the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales if they played any part in bringing about the change of mind. After all, that was the objective of most of us.

However, the Government's late action still causes me some concern. It was originally hoped that we could establish the fourth channel in Wales before it was established in other parts of the country. We had a strong claim, because we are the only part of the country with the problem—if it can be so described—of two languages. If the fourth channel had been established in Wales earlier, it would have been much easier to persuade and encourage Welsh listeners and viewers to turn their aerials back from watching the English channels. The delays may have jeopardised the about-turn having the effect that we desire.

Mr. Whitelaw

There will be none of the delays to which the right hon. Gentleman refers. Everything depends on the passing of the Bill, and we shall have the fourth channel in Wales as soon as the Bill gets through.

Mr. Jones

I assure the Home Secretary that I shall do nothing to prevent the passage of this part of the Bill, though I cannot commit my right hon. Friends on the remaining portions.

Mr. Abse

Is not my right hon. Friend saying that, contrary to the proposals of the Labour Government, this Government are not bringing in the fourth channel for Wales before the fourth channel for the rest of the country? The consequence is that whereas the original intention was that people should turn their aerials to HTV Wales and BBC Wales for English programmes about Wales, the lure now will be to continue to have aerials turned towards the English fourth channel. By the delay, the Government may have sabotaged the possibility of programmes from BBC Wales and HTV Wales being watched by the people of Wales.

Mr. Jones

My hon. Friend has spelt out in detail the point that I was beginning to make. Since he has done so with far greater eloquence than I could manage, I shall leave the matter there. It was a tragedy that the Government virtually ignored the overwhelming views of Welsh Members. That did not do a great deal to enhance parliamentary democracy.

I shall not go through all the amendments, but I wish to ask some questions about new clause B, which provides for the Welsh fourth channel authority, with a chairman and four members, appointed, as the Home Secretary confirmed, by him in consultation with the Secretary of State for Wales. Is there any reason why the appointments could not be made by the Secretary of State for Wales, in consultation with the Home Secretary if necessary? It is important to ensure that those who serve on the authority are fully in touch with Wales, and it is a reasonable proposition that the Secretary of State for Wales would be more in tune than the Home Secretary with such people.

I have become so bemused by all the subsections and amendments that I am in some difficulty. Is there to be an annual report from the Welsh fourth channel authority? That would be important, because then the views of the authority could be taken into account in deciding the long-term future for fourth channel broadcasting in Wales.

What is the significance of amendment No. 5, which deals with the status of the Welsh fourth channel authority? It provides that the authority is not to be considered as a Crown body and I wonder whether that will inhibit it.

4.30 pm

As for new clause C—the Home Secretary emphasised that most programmes betwee 6.30 and 10 pm will have to be mainly in Welsh. That must mean that at least two hours per day, or 14 hours a week out of a possible 20 or 22, must be in Welsh between those hours. That leaves six hours before 6.30 or after 10 pm. The Home Secretary described the possible difficulties for daytime children's broadcasting and the broadcasting of sporting events. Perhaps insufficient flexibility has been retained since broadcasting on Saturdays, Sundays and school holidays in the Welsh language will be needed outside those hours if we are to meet genuine needs. How can I be satisfied that sufficient flexibility is provided for? New clause D relates to finance. Many Welshman are interested in finance, particularly those in Cardiganshire, but cost was always considered a factor in these decisions and many of us thought that it might have been the factor which caused the Government to change their minds after they published their manifesto.

I understand from the Home Secretary's speech that the BBC will provide the fourth channel programmes free of charge, that the IBA will pay the remainder of the authority's reasonable expenses, with some topping from independent producers, and that the IBA will raise the money from ITV contractors. I think that the right hon. Gentleman also confirmed that he would be able to take account of the cost of the fourth channel in Wales in deciding the rates of levy.

It was announced in another place that discussions were taking place between the Home Secretary and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Is further information available on those discussions? It seems to us on this side—not just to my party—that the costings have not been suffi- ciently spelt out. Many people want to know whether a realistic estimate of the cost is available, how much of it will come from which quarters, and what effect this arrangement is expected to have on the levy.

I hope that new clause K is the provision which will allow the reversion by order to the second channel proposal. I believe that the Home Secretary said that that would be possible after perhaps three years.

It is reasonable to expect some teething troubles in setting up the fourth channel network in both England and Wales, irrespective of the language issue. I therefore wonder whether three years is a fair or reasonable period, since Wales will have additional difficulties.

I recognise that a decision to revert would be made subject to the affirmative resolution—

Mr. Whitelaw

In both Houses.

Mr. Jones

I thank the right hon. Gentleman. Such a decision would be a matter of major concern in the House and in Wales. I should have thought that a reversion would need more than the affirmative resolution procedure and that there should be provision for a full debate. I hope that the reversion "permit" will never be used, and that we can carry on as we start and make a tremendous success of this development. Whether it succeeds or not will depend greatly on all those involved, so it is incumbent on those of us who have called for this solution and those who will be working in it to make the single channel work and to make it efficient, in everyone's interests.

I shall not recommend my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote against the amendments. It is clear that most hon. Members welcome the Government's second chance of mind and that most people in Wales, so far as one can measure them, support this proposal. I do not pretend that I have counted them. There may be different results in different areas, but I believe that more people favour the proposals in the amendments than were ever likely to have supported the proposals which came before the House earlier this year.

I wish the new authority well in a difficult task—one made more difficult by the Government's U-turn. The Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales have been on a difficult journey on their road to Damascus, but they chose the route themselves and if any stones are thrown they have only themselves to blame for any discomforts and embarrassments that they encounter along the way.

We welcome the Government's change of heart, which is in the best interests of the Welsh language and of those who watch and listen to programmes in Welsh or English. We hope that this will be but the first of many U-turns.

Mr. Delwyn Williams (Montgomery)

It may come as a surprise to some of my colleagues, but I shall support the Lords amendments. I share the view that, following the double U-turn, everybody in Wales should try to make it work. I will deal with the history only so as to comment briefly on how this turn-around came about.

It seemed to me, as a democratically elected representative of the Government, that they paid too much attention to the so-called "three wise men" who came from the West and bore not gold, frankincense and myrrh but tidings of civil unrest. Unfortunately, they were not English-speaking Welshmen—they were all Welsh-speaking Welshmen—they were not representative, and they were not democratically elected. I was saddened, as a recently elected Member, that more notice was taken of them than of hon. Members of this House.

But that is water under the bridge. Many of us thought that the Government were seen to give in to blackmail by the Welsh nationalists. We still believe that, but we accept things as they are.

My main criticism of the turn-around is based solely on economic arguments. It is estimated that in five years the single channel option will cost £138 million, for an audience at peak times estimated at 75,000. That cannot make economic sense.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Merioneth)

Is the hon. Gentleman quoting figures produced by HTV?

Mr. Williams

They are the IBA's figures, which, I think, are to be relied upon. I shall continue to quote the IBA throughout the debate, if necessary.

Bearing in mind the current state of Wales, with rising unemployment and with the rate support grant being cut, we in Powys would like just £1 million of that £138 million to be donated towards all the people of Wales and not just to a select minority. It is this which has made many of us oppose the Bill from time to time.

Let us consider what is likely to happen. We Conservatives have been trying to reduce the number of quangos. The Bill sets up seven more mini-quangos. I should like an assurance that these so-called representative and advisory bodies will be staffed proportionately. Will they be staffed by all Welsh-speaking people? I hope that the powers-that-be will make sure that English-speaking Welshmen are represented properly on these advisory bodies.

I should also like an assurance that Teletext, which is provided for in the Bill, will not be an all-Welsh Teletext. Who will benefit from that, I wonder, and what will be the cost of that innovation?

Are the Government aware that many English-speaking Welshmen will be very angry in the future when, having put Wales on one channel so that they can forget about the Welsh language, they suddenly find that they cannot receive those popular English programmes put out on ITV2 in the rest of the United Kingdom. There will be a tremendous backlash, and I hope that the Government will be prepared to receive it as and when it happens.

Are the Government aware that in the past 12 years HTV has had 50,000 advertisements, only 20 of which have been in the Welsh language?

The Welsh language must be the paramount consideration of the Welsh people. I adhere to the view that the Welsh language will be the main sufferer if we confine it to the ghetto of one channel. That is also the view of the IBA, which feels frankly that the Welsh language will suffer. One has only to consider the experience of sound radio. In South Wales, where Radio Cymru is broadcast on an all-Welsh basis, the listening figure is only 1 per cent. I cannot feel that the Welsh language will prosper in such conditions. It would be far better if, after three years of this experience, both Houses of Parliament reversed this procedure.

My view on clause 10 is, I think, shared by the majority of Welsh people, although it is dangerous to say that because we all think that we speak for the majority. However, judging from my postbag in the past few months I feel that I do. I express the hope that when the silent majority make their views known the Government will respond to the majority view with as much alacrity as they did recently to the views of the militant minority.

Mr. D. E. Thomas

I am pleased to be called immediately after the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Williams). I am also pleased to know that he now supports the Government's policy. I hope that he will be prepared to support it in the Division Lobby at the end of this debate should such an eventuality arise. His change of heart about the fourth channel issue will, I hope, be followed by changes of heart on other issues that affect our respective constituencies.

The hon. Gentleman quoted a number of figures that were of interest to the House. After an intervention, he indicated the source of one of them. However, he did not tell us the source of the other, and that was the figure that he gave for the number of listeners that Radio Cymru had in the South, of only 1 per cent. I do not know where the 1 per cent. is supposed to be located, but the hon. Gentleman did not give the basis of the figure. As far as I am aware, BBC Wales publishes no audience research figures. I have had arguments about this with the BBC because, in my view, it should publish those figures. Such figures have to be on the basis of a formula of listeners, of course, and, as a result, audience research figures for the whole of the United Kingdom are often suspect. When we talk of audience research on the basis of 1 per cent. of the United Kingdom—the half million Welsh speakers—that is problematic in statistical terms. I am certain that, on reflection, the hon. Member for Montgomery will wish to intervene later and withdraw that figure.

This debate sees the policy of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg, the Welsh Language Society, and Plaid Cymru being legislated upon at last, in that there will now be a Welsh fourth channel authority. In this case, the Government have gone much further than their predecessors were prepared to do. In their OBA policy the previous Government did not envisage a separate—if I may use the word—authority for Wales for Welsh language programmes. They envisaged a subsidiary committee of the Open Broadcasting Authority. Now there is to be a full authority with all that that word entails in a statute. We on the Plaid Cymru Bench welcome it warmly.

4.45 pm

I do not wish to dwell on the events that led to the change of policy. It is a fact that if the Home Secretary had accepted the invitation given him last year by my hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) and me to come to Aberystwyth just after he made his Cambridge speech, he would have realised, at that first national broadcasting conference, what was the extent of feeling in Wales. Had he been able to make the trip to Aberystwyth he might have been able to produce these changes earlier.

The fact that the changes are produced now gives broadcasters in Wales and the audience of Welsh broadcasters an opportunity to get on with the job of communicating with each other, which is, after all, the purpose of broadcasting.

I welcome this debate because it is the end of the debate in this House. Now we can get on with the job of providing an adequate service in the Welsh language. We also have the opportunity now, as the Chairman of the Select Committee on Welsh affairs, the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), will want to say, of providing a parallel service in the English language for the majority culture in Wales. Wales has two national cultures and two national languages, one of which is English. Therefore, it is essential that through the medium of English there should be a parallel development of the kind of service that we see developing through the medium of Welsh.

Mr. Delwyn Williams

indicated assent.

Mr. Thomas

I am glad to see that I take the hon. Member for Montgomery with me on that, at least.

I want to ask a series of specific questions about the various clauses before us. First, I should like to have confirmed what was made clear in another place by Lord Belstead, namely, that the Welsh fourth channel authority will have responsibility for all programmes appearing on that channel in Wales. I should like it confirmed, in other words, that its responsibility in terms of scheduling will be not only for the Welsh language material but for all other programmes shown on that channel.

That matter is crucial to the next one, which is about scheduling and rescheduling. This is dealt with in clause 5(3). The Home Secretary said that it would normally be the case that when Welsh language programmes were not being transmitted the programme broadcast would normally be the same as the programme or one of the programmes broadcast on the fourth channel in that period for reception otherwise than in Wales.

I do not suggest that the Government should reconsider the clause, but I think that through the medium of rescheduling we can get over many of the difficulties referred to by the hon. Member for Montgomery about people being deprived of the channel 4 United Kingdom programmes. All we need is the permanent operation of one video tape recording machine in Cardiff, which will be able to take the output of the United Kingdom channel 4 undertaking and reslot it into the fourth channel in Wales if it is not possible to carry the programme when it appears originally on channel 4 covering the United Kingdom. This happens already in relation to BBC1 and BBC Wales and between HTV, the present independent contractor, and network programmes. The question of alternative scheduling within Wales of United Kingdom programmes going out at other times on United Kingdom channels as a whole is not a real difficulty. I hope that there will be flexibility in the implementation of the new clause so that the rescheduling can be the full responsibility of the authority set up under the Bill.

My next point concerns the emphasis that seems to be emerging in present discussions on the role of the BBC and of the independent contractor. It seems that the role of other programme sources, namely, independent producers, is being gradually pushed out. The formulation of the words that apply to independent producers is in the negative. The new clause states: Nothing in this section shall be taken to preclude the Welsh Authority from obtaining television programmes in Welsh from the BBC and the TV programme contractor. It is essential that the whole attitude of the authority, at least in its operation if not in the wording of the legislation, should be more positive towards independent producers. I express my concern about what the Home Secretary says of the membership of the Welsh fourth channel authority. According to my understanding, the Home Secretary intends lo promote—if that is the right word—the BBC's national governor in Wales, Mr. Alwyn Roberts, to membership of the Welsh fourth channel authority. I do not begrude Alwyn Roberts that honour. The right hon. Gentleman is also going to promote the IBA member for Wales, Professor Emeritus Hugh Maurice Jones, to membership of the Welsh fourth channel authority. Nothing was said about the other places.

There are to be four members plus a chairman. The Home Secretary indicated that one of the places might go to a member of the IBA fourth channel board. That means, according to my calculations, a majority for the IBA on the committee. At least, it is a potential majority when it is not known who is likely to be the chairman. I should like the Minister to indicate who will represent the great Welsh public and who will be the representative, if any, of independent producers.

It seems to me that there is a danger that the Welsh fourth channel authority will end up perpetuating the duopoly in Welsh broadcasting rather than allowing greater public participation and independent participation in the control of the working of the authority. I put it to the Home Secretary, and also to the Secretary of State for Wales when advising him on membership of the authority, that there should be not more than one representative of the BBC and not more than one representative of the IBA. I do not see the need for the fourth channel board to be represented. If the fourth channel board is represented as well as the IBA, the commercial contractor for Wales will want to be represented by the front door, as he has been represented by the back door during our debate on this issue. If the independent contractor and major contractor wish to be represented, independent producers will wish to be represented. Who then represents the voice of the consumer, the listeners and viewers and the broadcasting unions? The membership on the authority should have the right balance from the start.

I turn now to the balance of programmes. The Home Secretary, in his initial remarks, has been reticent about the role of independents. He mentions a 10-hour output from the BBC and a 7-hour output from the independent contractor. The rest, he said, would come from the IBA contractor or independents. That gives the possibility of a further five hours from the IBA contractor himself. I shall wish to say more about that contractor and his role in Wales.

It is essential that the Home Secretary and the authority, before it is set up, should realise the tremendous potential that exists in Wales for independent producers. The nature of broadcasting in Wales has been that of an export industry. A number of personal friends of mine can be found at Shepherds Bush and with other companies in London. They have come out of Wales to work in television in the United Kingdom, in the United States, and even, occasionally, in the Third World.

Wales has exported people because of a lack of opportunity to develop talent and resources within the duopoly system. The setting up of this authority should be seen as an opportunity for the independent producers, for the small consortia of independent producers, for community video, and for small-scale programme makers to take advantage of the funding available to produce programmes that will come from alternative sources and from alternative places. Why should broadcasting in Wales be Cardiff-dominated?

I am sure that I take the hon. Member for Montgommery with me in what I say. Why cannot we have production centres developing outside Cardiff? HTV, now that it is bidding for renewal of the franchise, has dramatically opened a centre at Mold, although I am advised by regular viewers that the centre has not yet provided a balanced output in the HTV flow of programmes. Mold is a small centre, but there must be room for other production centres in Wales, taking advantage of the cultural developments in specific areas.

I think immediately of Blaenau Ffestiniog, with its small community video output. At the moment, it does not have broadcasting standard equipment. The setting up of the authority should be seen as an opportunity to develop a nationwide network of community television in Wales operating in the same way as the regional opt-outs of Radio Cymru, which has given broad coverage in North and West Wales. Therefore, I stress the potential of independent producers and the role that they can and must, play and also the strength that they can give to the system. Independent producers have already indicated to the IBA that they could provide immediately three and a half hours a week of the 12 hours of programmes that would be required from the independent side for the fourth channel.

An important question that arises concerns the financial position of independent producers. If there is to be an adequate flow of programmes ready for the time when the channel comes on the air in 1982, there is a need to ensure that independent producers are able to invest in new equipment. That is difficult with current high interest rates, artificially maintained by the Government. There should be a means of advancing to reputable independent producers, on the basis of work they have already done, sums from the IBA to enable them to develop their technical facility and also to provide a stockpile of programmes that will be ready for the time when the channel comes on the air.

5 pm

Linked with that is the question of training. In the long debate about the fourth channel in Wales one thing about which I think we have generally agreed on both sides is the need for improved training in order to improve the standards of Welsh language television. We have often complained about the standard of programmes, and about the continuous talking head programmes in which too many of us have taken part. I see that the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Dr. Thomas) agrees with me. We have often criticised the standard of the programmes and said that the reason for the low standard is lack of funding.

That is only part of the reason. Reasons are lack of adequate training; lack of development of a school for film and video within Wales; lack of development of a Welsh film industry, which has concerned many of us in the House over the years; lack of development of video skills within Wales, and the fact that so many of those skills have been exported from Wales. Therefore, the training facility is essential.

It was a matter of deep concern to me to see the independent contractor in Wales withdrawing funding for training from an academic department with which I had some small involvement last year. In the build-up to channel 4 it is essential that training be given priority, both internally within the BBC and for those who will take part in the programmes produced by independents.

I come finally and appropriately to the question of funding. I am glad that the Home Secretary is now adopting the funding system first proposed at the national broadcasting conference in Aberystwyth in September last year. It is that the funding for the BBC proportion should be borne by the licence fee, as it is already, and that the second part should be borne by the levy. It is absolutely right that the present two funding mechanisms for the duopoly, the two forms of broadcasting in the United Kingdom, should be applied equally to fund Welsh language programmes. Incidentally, all of us are gladly paying the licence fee these days. I say that in view of a certain event that takes place in a certain part of my constituency tomorrow.

The whole of the licence fee levied on all licence fee payers throughout the United Kingdom will then pay for the minority service in the Welsh language. That is right. A minority speaking a minority language—whether it is Welsh, an Asian language, or whatever—has a right to expect the majority culture, through its funding resources, to be prepared to support it.

On the other side, we talk about the profits of the ITV system and the levy that accrues to the Government. That form of funding also should find its way to support minority programmes. In that sense the Govenment are at last coming to a clear way to fund channel 4.

However, two matters concern me—here I refer to clause H—as to exactly how financial provision will be made. We are told that the IBA will pay the Welsh authority. Presumably the two bodies have been negotiating and will come to an agreed figure. We are told that if they do not agree the Secretary of State may determine such sum or sums as appropriate for that purpose. The "Secretary of State" is presumably the Home Secretary. Whence will the sums come? Is it right that they will come from IBA funding? If so, is not that a rather circular way of dealing with the issue?

In fixing the overall levy, the Treasury will no doubt bear in mind the additional cost of Welsh language programmes. Then the levy from the IBA system as a whole, accruing to the Treasury, will be recycled to the IBA in order to pay for channel 4 United Kingdom as a whole. A component of that will be the cost of Welsh language programmes. I presume that the IBA will discuss with the Welsh fourth channel authority the amount of funding that it will need, and therefore at a further stage the Secretary of State will intervene again to ensure that the passage of those funds is adequate.

I hope that my understanding of that recycling is correct. I see that the Minister of State dissents, so I look forward to his correction of my interpretation of how the funding will operate. I turn to the role of the contractor in Wales. I have often been attacked both in the press in Wales and on their own channel by the directors of HTV. At the end of our contribution to the long debate in Wales about the fourth channel, I take this opportunity to reply to the views put forward by that contractor. HTV has always been opposed to the creation of a Welsh broadcasting authority. The contractor told us in a booklet sent to so-called opinion leaders in Wales on the eve of our conference in Aberystwyth that a Welsh broadcasting authority was completely unworkable. It said: To begin with, what would it be responsible for? Could it have any meaningful authority over half of one channel in the event of all Welsh language programmes being on the fourth channel? Could it have any meaningful authority over the Welsh language output of two broadcasting organisations when it would have no authority over the English language activities of those same organisations? Or is it suggested that the BBC and the independent television company should become entirely English language organisations? How could HTV, for instance, be held responsible to a Welsh Broadcasting Authority as well as to the IBA? Similarly, how would such an authority interpose itself between BBC Wales and the BBC's central management? And to whom would such a Welsh Broadcasting Authority be responsible—to the IBA and the BBC governors or to Parliament? And if to Parliament, would it be through the Home Office or the Welsh Office? How would this affect the necessary independence of broadcasters in Wales? Would it not, in all probability, increase the pressures rather than diminish them? And what of finance—the ultimate determining factor of the volume of output, the quality of output and of our independence? All these are questions which would need to be examined with care and answered in detail before anybody could be sure that any benefits would flow from such a development. A totally separate Welsh language television service could be funded only by direct Government subsidy, thus offending the long established and justifiably cherished principle that the Government must not be seen to pay. I have quoted at length from the document because it is important that at this stage of the debate all those arguments should be finally refuted. The stand taken by the commercial contractor in Wales should be exposed. Throughout the debates, HTV has been prepared, in a partisan and cavalier fashion, to use its public relations machinery to try to change Welsh public opinion. Indeed, much of the explanation for the Government's initial U-turn lies at the door of HTV and its directors. Had they not tried to exert undue influence on the incoming Conservative Government when the Government were coming to their decision, we should not be wasting House of Commons time tonight. The influence of HTV in trying to undermine the consensus that existed in Welsh public opinion was insidious.

Through the medium of the House I ask the IBA—and ask advisedly—whether such a company is capable of operating within the new terms of the fourth channel in Wales. Indeed, can it obtain a new television franchise in Wales?

The company's activities are not at an end. In the Western Mail on 15 October we read the figures so carefully quoted by the hon. Member for Montgomery of a cost of £138 million for channel 4 and a run-up cost of £27 million for the Welsh channel. I should like the Minister to take the opportunity to refute the figures.

Dr. Roger Thomas

I am sure that the hon. Member would like better equipment and facilities in Cardiff, but they must be paid for. It is high time that he dropped his vendetta against HTV.

Mr. Thomas

HTV should have built new studios in Cardiff years ago. When I worked in those studios for a short time before I came to the House the accommodation was inadequate, and it still is.

Dr. Thomas

I am sure that the hon. Member is fully conversant with the facilities available at Mold, which will soon be available in Carmarthen if HTV is given a franchise again.

Mr. Thomas

The hon. Gentleman seems to be defending HTV firmly. The facilities at Mold are coming on stream in the year when the franchise is up. The facilities in Carmarthen amount only to a film cutting room. The performance of the company, in the context of the public debate on the issue, has been totally reprehensible. It is time that the company stopped spreading misinformation in the Western Mail.

Mr. Abse

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) has made some severe strictures about HTV. I make no comment about them. After all, if a little less extravagantly, I have made similar comments in the past. Since HTV is to give evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and since the hon. Gentleman feels so strongly about these matters, does his party intend to become absorbed in the parliamentary process and submit evidence to the Select Committee so that it can be tested? Is that not a fair question?

Mr. Thomas

I do not wish to stray too far from the amendments. However, as the hon. Member has raised the issue I shall reply. The decision not to submit evidence to the Select Committee was taken by the national executive of my party. Of course, I abide by the decision of the national executive. Evidence was submitted by the national broadcasting conference in Welsh. We were told that evidence was not admissible in that form. Furthermore, we were told that it would not be possible to give evidence in Welsh. I certainly intended to appear before the Committee and to give evidence on behalf of the national broadcasting conference.

We must allow Welsh broadcasters and Welsh viewers to get on with the job of communicating. In that context the most imaginative and hopeful sign is the formation of an association to represent broadcasters. It does not represent BBC or HTV management. It is an attempt by the broadcasters—the people who make the programmes—to ensure that the channel works. For too long, because of the length of our debates and the U-turns that have taken place, we have prevented Welsh broadcasters from doing their work. I hope that the debate is at an end, that the channel will be set up, and that broadcasters in Wales will justify the confidence that many of us in the House have in them.

5.15 pm
Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

I rise to say just a few words in this moment of maternity for the fourth channel and to add an English voice to that of my right hon. Friend the matron from Penrith and The Border (Mr. Whitelaw). I look forward to another English voice from his nursemaid the Minister of State, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Cleveland and Whitby (Mr. Brittan). It is a shame that in this maternity ward so few people are taking an interest apart from hon. Members who are interested specifically in Wales. As is their right, hon. Members from Welsh constituencies express their opinion about what should be done in England. It is right, therefore, that English, indeed Sussex, Members should be allowed to express an opinion about how things should be done in Wales.

I have not been able to detect whether there is a requirement on the Welsh television authority to contain in its reports all the details which are contained in other similar reports made annually to the House. It would be reassuring to know that the same menu of items must be contained within the Welsh television authority report as is required for the rest of the country. I hope that the Welsh television authority will have a duty to report on the handling of advertising in Wales in the same way as advertising is handled and reported in the rest of the United Kingdom.

I turn to a more important question which harks back to an issue raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Williams). I refer to the terrific cost of Welsh television broadcasting. Whether the cost is £138 million over the next five years based on 1979 prices as forecast, or whether it is above or below that, it will certainly amount to about that sum. That cost will have to be met substantially by levies on television companies operating in the rest of the United Kingdom. It will have the effect either of eroding the sums available to those television companies for programmes or will add to the cost to British industry of advertising and charges will have to be increased to take into account that levy. Either way, the rest of the United Kingdom will have to chip in a considerable amount so that Wales can have its own programmes. I hope that Ministers in the Home Office will keep a careful watch on how the price for that broadcasting may escalate in future.

The cost is more dramatic because of the projected listening and viewing which the Welsh programming is likely to attract. That is against the background of a 3 per cent. listening figure for Radio Cymru. That statistic came in evidence from the BBC to the Welsh Affairs Committee on listening in Cardiff. It has a scientific base, but refers to a limited area. If an audience of far greater size is not attracted to Welsh television programmes I hope that when consideration is given to how the broadcasting is working in three years we shall cast a beady eye on its continuation.

I turn to the question of independent producers. I have always doubted whether there is a huge body of untapped production potential in the United Kingdom which would have been given an airing under an OBA or will be given an airing under the plans for the new fourth channel. It is impossible to quantify, but I doubt whether that huge pool exists. If any doubt is cast on the pool of untapped talent in Britain, a serious question must hang over the size of the pool in Wales.

I wonder whether any thought has been give to where the producers for Welsh language programmes will be found to maintain the standards for Welsh broadcasting that we expect throughout the remainder of Britain. There is the question of training people for the new Welsh television authority. Will only Welsh speakers be included in the training programmes, or will the company mount a language training course to provide a sufficient potential of students for television programming? There are a number of questions—some substantial, such as funding, and some about detail—that we can apply only when the television authority is in operation.

It is a good step by the Government to give this proposal a try. It is interesting to note that the Opposition Benches welcome the action taken in another place, which they are always so ready to promise to do away with. Be that as it may, it is good action by the Government to accept the plan for Wales. But let us look upon it as a test, and not as the last word on the matter. When the time comes to reconsider the matter three years from the start of broadcasting, I hope that we shall reconsider the decision taken now in the light of experience. If it is necessary to go into reverse, let us do so with equanimity, with good sense, and with no sense of remorse.

Mr. Wigley

I suspect that this may not be the last debate on this issue. However, as the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Williams) intimated in his speech, I hope that in the intervening period between now and the time for a review of how the fourth channel works under this formula everyone will direct his efforts to ensuring that the formula is a success. The last thing that we want is constant bickering in the intervening period. If, finally, matters do not work out as we hope, there will be room to reconsider, as there is on any other matter.

In the meantime, we should devote our efforts to ensuring that there is the development not only of a Welsh language service that is worthy both of the language and of Wales, but of a television service in Wales in the English language that is worthy of the non-Welsh speaking people of Wales. The argument that was dominant in commending the solution as acceptable was that by that means there would be an opportunity to serve both the Welsh—and the English-speaking communities. Now that much thought has been given on how to serve the Welsh-speaking community, there is room for a continuing discussion and argument about how to maximise the potential of the new service for the benefit of the English-speaking people, too.

After all the discussion and arguments that have hurled themselves around Wales and elsewhere during the past few months I welcome the Government's action tonight. I am sure that the majority in Wales will welcome it also. I am sure that my party leader, Mr. Gwynfor Evans, also welcomes this. The alternative for him was rather stark.

Several questions need to be answered. One that comes immediately to mind is the starting date. We do not need to remind ourselves that economic uncertainties could affect the beginning of the fourth television service in Britain. If a hiccup holds back the service in Britain, will the Government give an assurance that they will do their utmost to get the service under the Welsh broadcasting authority started in Wales even before the channel starts in Britain as a whole? I am not asking that simply to get something for Wales that is not available elsewhere. As other hon. Members have said, practical benefits are involved. Those who are not tuning in to studios in Bristol, Birmingham or Manchester to receive the service will find that there is a service in Wales, and they will tune their aerials to Wales to gain that advantage. There is that benefit, even if it is only for three or four months. Obviously, there will be greater benefits if it is a longer time.

There is the question of financial provision. That argument reminds me of the arguments in the devolution camp last year. On the one hand there is the aggregate cost over a number of years, and on the other hand the figures are made to look as reasonable as possible. A figure of £15 million for additional cost was mentioned by the Secretary of State when he led us to believe that the service would not be available in this form. Presumably, the Government will expect that additional cost to be financed by the various means that have been described in the debate. It may appear to be an enormous sum of money. However, I put it to the hon. Member for Montgomery that it is a somewhat bizarre idea that the IBA levies should be siphoned off to help the rate support grant in Powys. He knows as well as I know that that alternative, and other alternatives, can easily be developed to give a counter argument. The spending of money of that magnitude on a Welsh language service for 500,000 people in Wales is not an unreasonable bargain when compared with the money spent on the television service for Service men stationed in Germany, which runs to many millions of pounds. I am not detracting from the needs of those overseas, or from the need to broadcast radio programmes overseas by the BBC, the cost of which also runs to many millions of pounds and which are received in many countries and in many languages. It is not unreasonable to ask that the 500,000 in Wales should have one service, out of the four services that will be available in Wales, broadcast in the Welsh language.

Figures for listenership have been mentioned. The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) mentioned 3 per cent. I should not be surprised if the number of people in Cardiff who listen to Radio Cymru is 3 per cent. The number of Welsh speakers in Cardiff totals only 5 per cent. of its population. In my constituency of Caernarvon 87 per cent. of the population are Welsh-speaking. That was the figure at the last census, but it may have fallen a little since then. In that area the Radio Cymru service is listened to most of all. It is a popular service, which has taken over from the old BBC Welsh Home Service. It is more popular than Radio Wales, which comes through the English language—

Mr. Rathbone

I must correct the figure that I gave in my speech. It should have been 1 per cent. for Cardiff and 3 per cent. for Wales as a whole.

Mr. Wigley

I believe the figure of 1 per cent. for Cardiff. However, from my experience, I am not willing to believe the figure of 3 per cent. for Wales as a whole. That question revolves around the sampling points. If they are predominantly in the larger towns or conurbations the percentage would be low. If a proper balance is taken over the whole of Wales the percentage would be higher. It is certainly very much higher in the county of Gwynedd and, I suspect, in Dyfed. Those are imponderables, and there will be room to look at the techniques of sampling audience sizes and to monitor such matters.

The proportion of people listening to a service is not necessarily the only criterion. On that basis, what would we have done with Radio 3 over the years? There can be justification for the service in terms of what it is putting out if it is reaching acceptable standards and achieving pre-set goals, even though a "clapometer" does not ring a bell every time a programme is broadcast.

I ask for an assurance from the Minister about the ability of the Welsh broadcasting authority to buy material from overseas. I understand from the wording in the Bill that there is nothing to preclude it from doing that. Having bought material from the independents or some other source, I assume that there is nothing to prevent the authority from selling the material overseas. I raise that point because the Welsh language is in a similar position to many other minority languages around the world. There is scope for an interplay of programmes of general interest in some of the languages—for example, some children's programmes, such as the excellent puppet shows that have come from Czechoslovakia in the past. There is room for such traffic to become two-way if we generate more of our programmes in Wales. I would be grateful for a response on that point.

5.30 pm

Another question which arises—my hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) referred to it a moment ago--is the attitude of the present contractors in Wales. I do not want to prolong a bashing campaign against HTV. but, given the attitude that it has adopted towards this solution, there is the question whether it will change that attitude sufficiently quickly to be a constructive partner in this new partnership. The attitude shown by its managing director, Mr. Ron Wordley, in letters in The Times and in statements that have appeared in the Western Mail, leave me in great doubt as to whether he will play a constructive part in this development.

Another point relates to the re scheduling of programmes. Clearly, people in Wales will not get certain English language programmes from England on the fourth channel at peak viewing times. However, there may be some programmes that they would like to receive at other times if it is possible. Will it be possible not only for the Welsh broadcasting authority to reschedule channel 4 programmes from England at other times—I believe that that is the intention—but for the IBA to reschedule a programme which appeared on ITV2 in England on the HTV1 in Wales? By doing so that will provide a better opportunity for ensuring that people who want to watch programmes that go out on the fourth channel at other times in England can do so.

I support the plea that has been made for the possibility of studio facilities to be developed not only in Cardiff but elsewhere. In my own area of Gwynedd there is a tremendous pool of talent which can be tapped. Whether those studios are in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Caernarvon, or Bangor, there is no doubt that there is room for enhancing studio facilities in the area, which is 87 per cent. Welsh-speaking. After all, that is the area where, on a statistical basis, the talent will most likely be found.

The Welsh people have many weaknesses as well as one or two strengths. If we have any ability at all it is an ability in verbal communication, be it in terms of trade union leaders, barristers, teachers, preachers or people in television or radio broadcasting. I suspect that a pool of untapped talent can be developed. If the fourth channel helps to uncork it, and allows it to develop, it will be to the benefit not only of Wales but of others. The advent of the fourth channel service in Wales opens a new chapter and presents a tremendous challenge and opportunity. It is up to people in Wales to take advantage of that opportunity and to build something that will be of benefit not only to Wales and the Welsh language but to people who live many miles away.

Sir Raymond Gower (Barry)

I join in the general welcome that has been given to the amendments. That welcome even embraces my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Williams), who has often taken a robust attitude on these matters.

The history of these matters should not be invoked to too great an extent today. However, it reveals that my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary and his colleagues, whatever their faults, have sought earnestly to arrive at the best possible solution in this difficult area. I do not regard the fact that they have changed their minds as necessarily a sign of weakness. Indeed, in some ways I regard it as a sign of strength, because I have taken a different view from them all along. I was not happy about the original inclusion of this proposal in our manifesto. I did not think that it would necessarily be to the benefit of the Welsh language to have all this concentrated in one channel. Therefore, I took a rather different view from some of my colleagues.

When we were returned to office and looked at this matter more closely, I felt that on the whole we had to honour our promise, and once again I was in a minority. I am glad that I am now able to say "Yes" to what has been done. I have been fortified not by the extravagant statements of some but by the fairly widespread and respectable opinion which seems to want this sort of solution in relation to Welsh broadcasting. That opinion includes many people in Wales whose views I respect.

Mr. Keith Best (Anglesey)

I hope that my hon. Friend will acknowledge that he was not in a minority of one which was swayed by these arguments.

Mr. Alec Jones

The silent majority.

Mr. Best

The right hon. Gentleman says "silent majority". He ought to know, as I am sure my hon. Friend will acknowledge, that although silent majorities do not always speak on the Floor of this Chamber they can often have a more significant impact behind the scenes.

Sir R. Gower

The figures quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery appear to me to exaggerate the cost. On the other hand, I think that the hon. Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley) underestimated the cost. An expensive change is being made. I do not think that we need underestimate that. We should make it known, because that is related to the extent of the challenge which is faced.

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas), who has left the Chamber for a moment, intimated that this debate may well be the end of the story. I do not agree. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone), I think that it is the beginning of a difficult story. This is an unknown area, which is quite different from anything that has been done before. This is a new kind of authority. It will be the first authority which has ever tried to join together the rather disparate work of the BBC and the contractors. It will be a difficult relationship.

The Welsh authority and those who supply the programmes face an enormous task. They will have to produce programmes of sufficient quality to attract an adequate or reasonable viewing audience. That will be a great task. I apprehend that the new fourth channel in the rest of the United Kingdom will be an exciting one. I think that it will produce programmes that are different from those that the rest of the United Kingdom has enjoyed. It will include programmes which I very much want to see. In many cases, it will supply quality performances for minority audiences. It may well include operatic and symphonic music and dramatic performances of a high calibre and I am sure that numerous people in Wales, despite their attachment to the Welsh language, will want to see that kind of programme.

Mr. Wigley

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman accepts that if the fourth channel screens an international operatic performance from, say, Milan—which will be a minority interest—there is no reason in the world why it cannot be introduced in Welsh on the Welsh channel, even though the singing is in Italian, German or some other language.

Sir R. Gower

The hon. Gentleman is asking for a lot. Not only does he want a fourth channel; he wants the other channels altered to suit local Welsh consumption. I do not think that that will always be possible. Those who watch Welsh programmes will necessarily be missing a good deal of the unusually interesting material that will be shown on the fourth channel in the rest of the United Kingdom. That is why I take the view that the quality of Welsh programmes must be such that they will command the continued attention and viewing of their public. That is why I submit that this is not the end of the story, as the hon. Member for Merioneth suggested. It is the beginning of a very difficult task for the Welsh authority, and for those who will supply the material. Nevertheless, it is a challenging task and I am sure that we wish the new authority, and the other bodies concerned, well. We should not underestimate the enormity of the task that confronts them. They can succeed, but it will not be easy. I thank Ministers for the long and earnest consideration that they have obviously given to this matter, and for making changes that will involve considerable extra expenditure. I hope that it will produce something worth while, which will be justified in the event.

Mr. Alan Williams (Swansea, West)

I shall be brief by the standards of the House, and exceptionally brief by my standards. I am glad that the Government have eventually returned to the full consensus of all the Welsh parties that had been achieved prior to and sustained during the last election.

During that period we have seen not so much a U-turn as a pirouette. The Home Secretary, that Nureyev of Queen Anne's Gate, in his true-blue leotard, has been performing this complicated and mind-boggling operation. In the meantime the Secretary of State for Wales, the major culprit in the bizarre episode that we have experienced, has to stand in the corner of the Cabinet Room every Thursday, wearing his political dunce's cap.

But it is regrettable, or it should be regrettable to the House, that the lesson that has emerged from this exercise is that the Government have been ready to listen to non-constitutional representations while they have turned a deaf ear to reasoned arguments of elected Members. It is tragic that the Government's duplicity in this matter has spread a militancy that we had quenched at the time of the devolution referendum. If that militancy revives there is no doubt as to where the responsibility will lie. It is unfortunate that in order to achieve the fulfilment of a clear and unequivocal electoral pledge we have had to face political risks over the last 12 to 18 months.

I am a little surprised—I do not say that with any disrespect to the Minister of State, whose abilities we all recognise—at the fact that a Welsh Minister will not reply to this debate. I find that even more strange since, as we heard from the hon. Member for Montgomery (Mr. Williams), the Government's only successful job-creating exercise in their first 18 months of office has been to set up the seven quangos that accompany this legislation. However, quangos or no quangos, ambivalence or not, at the end of the day the Government have got it approximately right, and therefore we wish the channel well. There are many problems, but I genuinely believe that there is sufficient good will in all political quarters in Wales for the new channel to succeed.

5.45 pm
The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Leon Brittan)

I shall try to deal with as many as possible of the points that have been raised.

The Government are gratified to know that their policy in this regard, as detailed by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary at the beginning of the debate, has received such a warm reception from all hon. Members—a reception that was generous and gracious, descending only to a touch of acidity in the final remarks of the right hon. Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams). I suppose it was too much to expect that that note could have been avoided on a matter such as this.

The right hon. Member for Rhondda (Mr. Jones) asked about the possibility of delay occurring. Nothing that the Government have done, and nothing that has occurred during these deliberations can make any difference to the timing of the operation, because the Bill will reach its concluding stages in the House of Commons at the same time, whatever policy it includes in its final form.

The right hon. Gentleman went on to ask why the Home Secretary, rather than the Secretary of State for Wales, will be responsible for the appointment of the members of the Welsh authority. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary made clear, the appointments will be made in consultation with the Secretary of State for Wales. As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has responsibility for broadcasting, that is clearly the appropriate way in which to act.

The right hon. Member for Rhondda further asked whether there would be an annual report of the Welsh authority. That is provided for after clause 7 in new clause H(3), which will deal with the various matters covered by the report generally, and prescribed by the main Act. Advertising remains in the hands of the IBA. It is not a responsibility of the authority, and therefore it will not be covered by that report.

I was asked about the provision after clause 7 in new clause B(3) which declares that: the Welsh Authority are not to be treated for the purposes of the enactments and rules of law relating to the privileges of the Crown as a body exercising functions on behalf of the Crown. The purpose of that is to make clear beyond question that the Welsh authority, like the IBA, will not be an agent of the Crown, but will perform functions on its own behalf.

I was asked about the discussions—to which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary referred—that are taking place with my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer relating to the levy. It is difficult to give any details because no such discussions can fruitfully take place until there is a Welsh ITV contractor and sensible discussions have taken place with all the interested parties. The IBA will announce the new contractors on 28 December. Judging from some of the debate that has taken place this afternoon, one might have thought that the allotment of the franchise would be made by a vote on the Floor of the House. Rightly or wrongly, statutory arrangements do not provide for that, and I hope that the House will therefore understand that it would be inappropriate for me to be drawn into a long-running vendetta about the present arrangements regarding the conduct of the Welsh contractors.

I was also asked about the affirmative resolution procedure and the period of time after which a reconsideration of the matter would take place. My right hon. Friend indicated that about three years would be an appropriate time in which to see how matters were going. My hon. Friend the Member for Barry (Sir R. Gower) indicated what a difficult task the new authority would face, and it is right that it should be given a reasonable period to see how it gets on with that task. But something of the order of three years is what the Government have in mind at the moment.

The right hon. Member for Rhondda thought that an ordinary affirmative resolution procedure was not sufficient and that there ought, if necessary, to be a full debate in this House. The answer is that the affirmative resolution procedure does not dictate the length of the debate. That is a matter reflecting the strength of feeling and the crowded nature of the parliamentary programme at the particular time. So I do not think that we need doubt that if a debate of that kind takes place, an appropriate period of time will be allotted to it.

My hon. Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Williams) raised several matters. I appreciate his anxieties but welcome his support. I think that that is a view that my right hon. Friend would share to the full.

The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. Thomas) asked several questions. He asked whether the authority would have responsibility for the whole of the fourth channel in Wales and not just the Welsh language parts. The answer to that is "Yes".

The question of re-scheduling was raised by the hon. Member and by his hon. Friend the Member for Caernarvon (Mr. Wigley). The position is that technically there can be costs involved in re-scheduling, such as the making of tapes, and there may also be rights costs on a second showing. The provision in the new clause C(3), that the authority should normally show the contemporaneous United Kingdom fourth channel service, takes account of the fact that there are those costs. That provision is the cheapest one that could be made and leads to the least degree of deprivation, but other types of scheduling are not ruled out by anything in the Lords amendments that we are debating.

A question was asked about the role of independent producers. There must be uncertainty as to the extent of the availibility of those producers and what they will be able to offer to the fourth channel. But, as my right hon. Friend indicated, there will certainly be room for them, and I greatly hope that they will make a constructive contribution to the fourth channel in Wales, as to the fourth channel elsewhere in the country.

Questions were asked about the funding of the Welsh authority and the provision whereby the Secretary of State acts as the arbiter. Here, if I may say so, the position was not properly understood. I think that the hon. Gentleman who raised the matter got the circular process slightly wrong in his description. What is envisaged is that one starts by assessing the cost that will be incurred in running the authority and providing the programmes for it, and the IBA and the authority will enter into discussions in that respect. If there is agreement, all well and good. If not, my right hon. Friend has to act as an arbiter. It is when that figure has been fixed—that is to say, the cost of providing the fourth channel in Wales—that the question of any consideration with regard to the levy comes into play.

The question of the role of the independent producers was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone), who had doubts as to the size of the untapped talent of independent producers who would be available in practice. The extent of that pool is something that remains to be proved both in Wales and in the rest of the United Kingdom. My hon. Friend has given a salutary note of warning. All that one can do is to ensure that every scope is given to them, and that will be done both in the United Kingdom as a whole and in Wales in general.

Those were the main points raised in the debate. I hope that in the light of the answers that I have been able to give the House will find it possible to agree to the amendments that the Lords have passed.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 11 agreed to.

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