HC Deb 09 May 1990 vol 172 cc317-9
Mr. Mellor

I beg to move amendment No. 277, in page 46, line 19, leave out from 'shall' to second 'the' in line 20 and insert 'before the beginning of each of those years ("the relevant year")— (a) estimate'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Paul Dean)

With this we shall discuss Government amendments Nos. 278 to 280 and 526.

Mr. Mellor

These amendments create the concept of an interim payment by S4C—I am sorry, I mean to S4C. There is an important difference, as I would expect a Welshman to notice. I was just checking that the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) was still with us.

The amendments create the concept of an interim payment to S4C by the Secretary of State based on an estimate of total television revenues, that estimate to be made by the ITC. It would be adjusted up or down in the light of the actual figure for the year in question, once that had been formally calculated. We thought about this matter, and we believe that it is the most practical way to do that. For example, it will not be clear by the beginning of 1993 what the revenues were for 1992. Indeed, it might be well into 1993 before the figure emerges. This mechanism is well tried in relation to the ITV levy administered by the IBA. Everyone thinks that it will be a good way to do this.

On amendment No. 526, we have been concerned to give S4C a reasonable degree of stability so that it can plan its future——

Mr. Steen

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Annunciator is only just showing my hon. and learned Friend's name, even though he has been on his feet for three or four minutes. I apologise to the House for disturbing the debate.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

We are galloping, and these matters are therefore difficult. I hope that the hon. Gentleman is not saying that I am going too fast.

Mr. Steen

Not at all.

Mr. Mellor

I am always pleased if, in life, I can pass as someone else. I am not terribly bothered if my name is not on the Annunciator.

We have been concerned to give S4C reasonable stability so that it can plan its future. Hence the provision in clause 56(5) that prevents changes to the percentage base on which S4C's income is assessed until the end of 1997. We accept that adverse circumstances could arise that would make an increase in the level of S4C's income essential so that it could meet its commitments. Amendment No. 526 enables the Secretary of State to make such a change by an order subject to the affirmative resolution procedure before the end of 1997. In other words, it is a way of giving S4C an uplift if it is needed. Obviously, we hope that it will not: it is a safety net.

Mr. Rowlands

This is a useful and significant amendment. We discussed this matter in Committee, when I and other hon. Members proposed a possible safety net For S4C. The Minister rightly pointed out that problems could arise because of the complicated potential increase in the costs of transmission. I hope that the amendment is 3esigned to ensure that, if transmission costs in the Principality are higher, the appropriate adjustment will be made.

There is also the matter of the total advertising revenue. When we initially sought a safety net, we made the point that the projections for advertising revenue suggested that there might be some problems.

I am hoping that the Minister will confirm with a nod that the amendment allows him to take into account possible transmission costs over and above those upon which the calculation has been based, but also that, if advertising revenues fall, in the quid pro quo S4C will not lose out overall.

11.15 pm
Mr. Fisher

I join my hon. Friend in thanking the Minister for the amendment. It is a constructive move and will be greatly appreciated in the Principality. Perhaps the Minister will join me in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands), who has had a substantial and constructive effect on the Bill on behalf of the people of Wales.

The Minister will note, too, that we have not been joined on Report by either of the Plaid Cymru Members. People in Wales may be surprised at their absence. It is good for the people of Wales that my hon. Friend the Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney has been protecting their interests throughout all stages of the Bill.

Mr. Mellor

I have already paid tribute to the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney (Mr. Rowlands) for his assiduity on this issue.

Only the transmission costs are covered in the amendment, but I will write to the hon. Gentleman and set put the thinking behind it.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments made: No. 278, in page 46, line 21, at end insert— (b) notify the Secretary of State of that estimated amount; and the Secretary of State shall at the beginning of the relevant year pay to the Welsh Authority, by way of an interim payment for that year, an amount representing 3.2 per cent. of that estimated amount. (2A) Once the Commission have finally determined the amount of the total television revenues for a particular year, they shall notify the Secretary of State of the amount so determined by them; and on receiving any such notification the Secretary of State shall, in respect of the year following that year—

  1. (a) pay to the Welsh Authority any amount payable by him by virtue of subsection (1), after taking into account the interim payment made for that year under subsection (2), or
  2. (b) notify the Welsh Authority of the amount of any overpayment made by him by means of any such interim payment.
(2B) The Welsh Authority shall, as soon as reasonably practicable after receiving any notification under subsection (2A)(b), pay to the Secretary of State the amount specified in the notification.'.

No. 279, in line 32, after 'to', insert 'estimate or'.

No. 280, in line 38, leave out 'subsection (1)' and insert 'each of subsections (1) and (2)'.

No. 526, in line 40, at end insert— 'unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that it is necessary to make the order having regard to the cost to the Authority of transmitting S4C.'.—[Mr. Mellor.]

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