HC Deb 10 November 1997 vol 300 cc566-7
8. Mr. Vaz

What proposals he has to increase the number of radio licences. [13434]

Mr. Chris Smith

The Radio Authority has statutory responsibility for the advertising, award and regulation of all independent radio licences acting within the terms of the Broadcasting Acts 1990 and 1996. Since its creation, the authority has almost doubled the number of independent radio licences issued. The authority has a continuing forward programme for the advertisement and award of new licences.

Mr. Vaz

Will the Secretary of State join me in congratulating the Radio Authority on the way in which it has handled its difficult task of awarding licences? Does he agree that, once the frequencies become available, they must be publicised as widely as possible to allow as many community groups as possible the opportunity to bid, rather than just leaving it to the big guns who know when the information will be published?

Mr. Smith

I agree with my hon. Friend on both counts. The authority takes steps to advertise in local newspapers, to contact local authorities and to write to all hon. Members in the area affected by a forthcoming franchise. I hope that the authority will see what more it can do, but it is mindful of its responsibilities.

Mr. Yeo

In view of Labour's commitment to open government, does the Secretary of State agree that it would be helpful to all concerned if any future applicant for a radio licence were required to state in public at the time of the application whether he was a financial donor of the Labour party?

Mr. Smith

I am not sure that I would make any such requirement specific to any political party.