Deb 06 November 1980 vol 414 cc1208-37

3.20 p.m.

Read 3a, with the amendments.

Clause 7 [Content of annual reports]:

Lord DONALDSON of KINGS-BRIDGE moved Amendment No. 1: Page 6, line 43, at end insert ("in particular to include some comment from the existing Educational Advisory Council of the IBA on the quality and quantity of the educational programmes broadcast on the Fourth Channel.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, when I moved this motion on Monday it was uncharacteristically brushed off by the noble Lord with little civility, on two patently inadequate grounds—first, that I had referred to a committee instead of a council and secondly that I was trying to push the claims of the Open University in an underhand way. "We ought to do that openly", the noble Lord said, implying quite clearly that I had not been doing it openly. This is a clear allegation of devious procedure and I hope the noble Lord will withdraw it.

As to the first point, the central source of the educational policy for the whole independent television system is the Educational Advisory Council, assisted by the Adult Education Committee and the Schools Committee. It seemed to me that it was perfectly obvious to the meanest intelligence that that was what I was referring to, and I apologise to the House for having used the word "committee" instead of "council". Members drawn from different parts of the education system are chosen for their critical commitment to educational broadcasting.

What I am trying to achieve is to have a professional view from educationists as to how the fourth channel is shaping up to its obligations under the very general terms of Clause 3. In this form of my amendment I am no longer asking for a report from people independent of the IBA, which I did originally and was refused. I am content to hear from the IBA's educational advisers. Nor am I, in this new version, insisting on the report of the Advisory Council being included in the IBA annual report. I am only asking for comments.

Since we spoke on Monday, this year's IBA report has been issued and the six long columns on education in Chapter 4 make interesting reading in the light of our discussions. They say: We mean to devote resources to establishing the new structure of educational broadcasting wider and deeper than what appears on the screen. The power of broadcasting resides not only in direct teaching but perhaps even more in its power to stir and arouse, to motivate and to stimulate". They go on to discuss some of their preschool programmes, and state: The parents concerned, however, had no particular perception of these series as educational". I think this bears out the difficulties of the situation.

I entirely support this kind of widening of education but, as my noble friend Lord Perry pointed out on Monday, there must be a proper proportion between narrow education in the academic sense and broad education in the sense of fascinating programmes which catch the imagination. I suppose it would not be foolish in this sense to say that "The Archers" is educational. It certainly catches the imagination and is about a reasonable picture of real life. But I think it is not what we mean when we say that we want a certain number of hours to be devoted to education. In the view of my noble friend the BBC is already going too far in this direction. It is a difficult subject and it is for this reason that I think it proper to ask for an expert assessment which Parliament can consider each year.

The method I have suggested is not onerous. The council referred to—that is, the Educational Advisory Council of the IBA—will have to report periodically, I assume, and sometimes, I presume, critically to the IBA council, and all we are asking is that the relevant extracts from these comments should be included in the IBA report. For example, if the council said, "We are very disappointed at the progress that the IBA has made" I think we ought to be told that, and I do not think we should have it sieved through the views of the people who are responsible. If the noble Lord is going to refuse this very modest request, I hope he will find better reasons than he was able to give us on Monday.

As to the Open University, my noble friend Lord Goodman hammered home the point on Monday that the IBA has never made any use of the Open University at all. Let me now hammer home the point, too, that I have never urged that it should. What I want, and what the Open University wants, is that the future educational programmes on the fourth channel, which this Bill is about, should be watched carefully to make sure that they do not slip in the way my noble friend suggests that current educational programmes on the BBC are slipping.

This is a serious and important point and I am unable to comprehend the Government's indifference to it. The BBC has a governing body which has allowed this to slip and in the same way the IBA might allow a decline, so the very modest check on standards which this amendment requires seems to be the minimum we need for the future of the fourth channel. I beg to move.


My Lords, I should like to add a word or two in support of this amendment. This Bill creates a fourth television channel in Britain. It will not only create a new service that will try to be different from the three existing services, but will also quite inevitably have profound effects on the other three channels. That is my first and major contention. I believe that the effects will be maximal on BBC 2. Competition for audience ratings has so far been mainly between BBC 1 and IBA 1; BBC 2 has been relatively free to cater for minority audiences. I suggest that, when the fourth channel starts, competition will be between BBC 1 plus BBC 2 on the one hand and IBA 1 plus IBA 2 on the other hand. This will be forced by economic reality, whatever high-minded ideals the authorities may hold. Thus the effects of this Bill will be much more wide-reaching than its influence just on the fourth channel.

Secondly, looking at the special needs of education, the Bill requires that the fourth channel authority shall devote a suitable proportion of time to programmes of an educational nature. What, my Lords, is "a suitable proportion of time"? May I suggest that it could well be zero time, provided that the other three channels cater properly for education, but may I also suggest that should the fourth channel, through enforcing competition for ratings, lead to a reduction of educa- tional broadcasting on the other three channels, the effect will be disastrous and an allocation of even quite a large amount of time on the fourth channel itself for education might be a wholly unsuitable proportion? We cannot know these things in advance. The effects of this Bill will remain mysterious until the fourth channel is in existence.

This amendment, as I said on Monday, imposes no constraint whatsoever on the freedom of the authorities of the fourth channel. All it asks for is a report annually by professional educationists of what the fourth channel is doing. I would, of course, prefer a report that said what all four channels are doing, but it would be wholly inappropriate in a Bill of this kind. What the amendment asks for would at least allow a debate that should take care of the overall situation for education on the basis of what the fourth channel is doing. I support the amendment.

Baroness DAVID

My Lords, I am particularly interested in adult education, as I think a number of Questions I have put down in this House in the past would bear witness. I am also interested in the education of other groups, and I mentioned teenagers and school-leavers the other day, who I think are very important at the moment. What we are worried about is the gap between expressed intention and actual achievement in adult broadcasting on the part of the IBA TV and local radio companies. I think it is admitted that that gap exists, and we do not want that to happen with this new fourth channel. What we want is for the public to know, from the comment by professionals for which we are asking, whether the intention and the achievement are matching up. If they are not and we know about it, some pressure can be brought to bear. Here in this House probably we could put down Questions for oral and Written Answers. But if we do not have the comment available on the quality and the quantity we shall not have the information on which we can act.

The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, spoke of the existing Adult Education Committee of the IBA the other day and was surpised that I had not mentioned it when I spoke. But I should have thought that the Education Advisory Council was the body to ask for comment and report overall, and it was in a way a bit nit-picking and unworthy of the noble Lord to object on those grounds to what I had had to say. This is a very serious amendment and a very important one, and we feel very strongly about it. I should like to support my noble friend, and hope that the House will, too.


My Lords, I would like to support my noble friend opposite. I think there are some good educational programmes of various sorts on BBC and ITV, but—and it is a large "but" —there are many of us, I for one, who would like more programmes of really good educational content. As I say, there are some on BBC and ITV, but we could certainly do with some more. That is why at this time I will support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson. I hope this fourth channel will give us more educational content programmes from which we really can receive knowledge.


My Lords, when my noble friend Lord Donaldson sponsors a proposal related to education. I naturally, with my lack of knowledge of the subject, feel inclined to support him; and when a noble Lord from the Cross-Benches, speaking—and I say this without any condescension—with expert knowledge on the subject, enters the debate, I am fortified in the view I have just expressed. And what I have said refers also to what the noble Baroness, Lady David, has said.

What worries me is how we define education. Some time ago, when the Education Bill was passing through the House in all its stages, I ventured to ask that question, because all I heard from the experts, the intellectuals, the semi-intellectuals, the would-be intellectuals and the pretentious intellectuals, was reference to the machinery of education, the number of schools required, their character, their architectural features, the number of teachers, the school managers and superintendents. That is all I heard, but not a word about the content and substance of education.

When reference is made to education, I recall watching some time ago—I think it was on a Saturday afternoon, when I had nothing else to do—a scientist of repute addressing a vast number of children on what was presumably a scientific topic. Whether the children understood him I am unable to say, but I certainly did not. I will tell your Lordships why; because what he lacked—and this certainly relates to education—was a capacity to speak with some elocutional facility. He mumbled and mumbled and was hardly articulate. It seems to me that when this channel or that channel or a forthcoming channel enters into this sphere of education, at any rate those who are responsible for addressing an audience, whatever the size of that audience may be—it may run into many millions—ought to be articulate. That is one aspect of education.

What is the rest of it? I am on the horns of a dilemma, because I can imagine if some of my colleagues in another place were asked what kind of education should be presented on one of the channels, they would say Marxian economics, dialectical materialism, the theory of social value and all the jargon associated with what is called Marxism. I tried to understand it many years ago and I failed completely, and that is why I remained in the centre of politics, neither on the Right nor the Left. And if somebody else was asked, they would have said more football or more tennis; or would ask: Why do we not have more snooker? Or, are there not other sports which are of an educational value?—and so on.

When we enter into this sphere we find ourselves in some difficulty: at least, I do. Therefore, I venture to ask this question. Will someone tell me—perhaps my noble friend Lord Donaldson, although I do not think he has the right to speak again unless it be with the leave of the House; but I hope he will be allowed to speak again with the leave of the House—the answer to this question, and I want somebody with authority to answer the question: What do you mean by education? Dismiss the school managers, dismiss the architecture, dismiss the number of teachers and the rest of it. What is meant by the substance and content of education?

3.39 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, even though he may not have defined it, has argued, I think persuasively, in the speech he made, for an important place for educational programmes on the fourth channel, and other noble Lords have argued likewise. If I may say so, they do not need to convince the Government. The Government believe that the fourth channel should indeed have an important educational content, however it is defined, and that is the reason why Clause 3(1)(b) requires the inclusion of a suitable proportion of programmes of an educational nature. I hope the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, will not ask me what a suitable proportion is. That is why Clause 7(2)—we are on Clause 7 now—requires the IBA to make particular reference to such programmes in describing the programmes both on independent television and on the fourth channel and to give an account of the differences between them for the purposes of their annual report.

I should like to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, for dealing with a similar amendment at the Report stage of the Bill in a manner which was unacceptable to him and to other noble Lords. I apologise for any discourtesy I may have shown to the noble Lord. I hope he will not mind my going on now to say that I confess I remain unconvinced of the merits of this amendment. Quite simply, I genuinely do not see how the IBA could possibly discharge the duty—and it is a duty—under Clause 7(2)(a) without reflecting the views of the Educational Advisory Council. To say that the annual report must have some parts of it written by one, and one only, of the IBA's many advisory committees seems, to use a homely expression, a little bit like teaching your grandmother. The noble Lord, Lord Perry, has spoken once again of the undoubted claims of the Open University, in particular putting forward the claims for the Open University to have proper recognition on the medium which it needs; namely, on television. Obviously, the IBA will want to have the advisory council's views on this and will take account of them in weighing up the claims of this and of other areas of education for programming time.

However, as I have tried to indicate, I really am a bit surprised at seeing this amendment on the Order Paper. I think one thing is abundantly clear. If, as I may just ask my noble friend Lord Milverton to do, we look at the actual wording of the Bill, we see that the new fourth channel is going to be pointed very firmly indeed in the direction of an educational content for its programmes. Clause 3(1)(b) requires a suitable proportion of programmes to be educational and Clause 7(2)(a) requires the IBA's annual report to deal with its educational programmes on both channels and to explain how much there has been on one channel and how much there has been on another. In carrying out these duties, as it is statutorily bound to do, the Independent Broadcasting Authority cannot avoid reflecting the views of the advisory committee that it is statutorily bound to appoint. It is on those grounds that I genuinely believe that this amendment is not necessary.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I wonder whether he would deal with this question, which presents itself forcibly to my mind. Supposing the IBA were in flat disagreement with their educational advisory body; would there not be at any rate some case for revealing the grounds of disagreement so that they might be discussed in wider circles, perhaps in your Lordships' House?


My Lords, of course, it is for the House to decide as to whether the annual report of the IBA and, indeed, the annual report of the BBC are debated in your Lordships' House; similarly for Members in another place. There is nothing to stop the Members of your Lordships' House doing their best to dissect the annual report and to find out exactly what lies not only in its words but behind its words. For some reason which is totally unexplained in this amendment, a duty would be placed upon this particular advisory committee to write part of the annual report, but apparently none of the other advisory committees has got a similar duty.

But so far as I know those advisory committees are not muzzled. There is nothing said as to why a member of an advisory committee should not reveal that they have been saying one thing in advice to the IBA and that they are very sorry that maybe their advice has not been taken. As I flicked through the pages of the IBA's annual reports I happened to notice that one of your Lordships is a member of one of the IBA advisory committees. So these things are not going to be a deep, dark secret. The difficulty about this amendment is that it requires, literally, the pen to be held by the Educational Advisory Council and for part of the annual report actually to be written by that advisory council. It is not showing very much trust in the IBA to make that requirement.


My Lords, unfortunately I have the right of reply, so I shall have to say something to my noble friend before we finish. I do not think the noble Lord has read this amendment; he was looking at the last one. The terms of the amendment are to include some comment. This does not involve a pen. There is only one advisory council to the IBA which is concerned with education. There are some committees, and presumably it subsumes them, if that is the right word; so I do not think the argument about other advisory councils has anything to do with it. The point of my amendment and of our feelings on this side of the House is extremely well illustrated by my noble friend's difficulty in knowing what it is all about. I will now define education in my terms. An educational statement is something which either does, or is intended to, leave the hearer knowing more after than before the statement was made. This seems to me what education really means nowadays, and it is too wide to leave in a Bill like this without some check.

We have been very loyal to the Government, because in another place a lot of my colleagues tried to specify what education meant, to tie down Clause 3. My view was that one could not get Mr. Dell and Mr. Isaacs to do a good job if one tried to do it for them; therefore I want it to be as wide as possible. Having said it has got to be as wide as possible, I want it to have some check outside the people who are paid to do it. The man who is, or will be, paid to do it is my noble friend Lord Thomson, who is going to be the new head of the IBA; and, respect him as I do as a man of total integrity and knowing far more about education than what my noble friend might call a pretentious intellectual like myself, I still think it is absolutely wrong to give him a duty of this very vague kind and leave him to decide whether or not the arrangements he makes are working well.

I do not think we can take it any further. The point that my noble friend from the Open University made is very important; it is that if this does become too general in the form of education and also uses up some of the educational hours which already exist, which of course it will, then one will get less of a formal type of education and more of the Archers type, which is not what everybody means. I do not think it is worth discussing it

further. I should like to end by saying that of course I accept the noble Lord's very handsome apology. We have had many little rubs and this is only another, and I bear no ill-will. I should like the House to express its opinion on this amendment because I think it is an extraordinarily important point. Therefore, I should like to have a vote.

3.50 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 1) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 91; Not-Contents, 109.

Airedale, L. Hale, L. Peart, L.
Amherst, E. Hall, V. Perry of Walton, L.
Amulree, L. Halsbury, E. Phillips, B.
Ardwick, L. Hampton, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Ashby, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Porritt, L.
Banks, L. Henderson, L. Reilly, L.
Bernstein, L. Hill of Luton, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Beswick, L. Hooson, L. Robbins, L.
Birk, B. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Roberthall, L.
Bolton, L. Howie of Troon, L. Rochester, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Jacques, L. Rugby, L.
Brockway, L. Janner, L. Sainsbury, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Jeger, B. Saint Brides, L.
Byers, L. Kaldor, L. St. Davids, V.
Collison, L. Kilbracken, L. Segal, L.
Crook, L. Kilmarnock, L. Shinwell, L.
Cudlipp, L. Kirkhill, L. Somers, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Leatherland, L. Stamp, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Listowel, E. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Fulton, L. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Stone, L.
Gaitskell, B. Meston, L. Strabolgi, L.
Galpern, L. Miles, L. Strauss, L.
Gardiner, L. Milverton, L. Underhill, L.
Garner, L. Mishcon, L. Wall, L.
Gladwyn, L. Monson, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Gordon-Walker, L. Morris of Grasmere, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Gosford, E. Noel-Baker, L. Wigoder, L.
Granville of Eye, L. Paget of Northampton, L. Winchester, Bp.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Pargiter, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Grey, E.
Adeane, L. Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Elibank, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Cottesloe, L. Elliot of Harwood, B.
Alport, L. Craigmyle, L. Elton, L.
Ampthill, L. Crathorne, L. Energlyn, L.
Avon, E. Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Exeter, M.
Bellwin, L. Dacre of Glanton, L. Falkland, V.
Belstead, L. Davidson, V. Fortescue, E.
Berkeley, B. De La Warr, E. Gainford, L.
Bessborough, E. Denham, L. [Teller.] Geoffrey-Lloyd, L.
Cairns, E. Derwent, L. Gisborough, L.
Cathcart, E. Donegall, M. Glendevon, L.
Chelwood, L. Drumalbyn, L. Gowrie, E.
Chesham, L. Dundee, E. Greenway, L.
Clancarty, E. Ebbisham, L. Gridley, L.
Cockfield, L. Eccles, V. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.)
Colyton, L. Effingham, E.
Hankey, L. Mancroft, L. St. Germans, E.
Hanworth, V. Margadale, L. Saint Oswald, L.
Hayter, L. Marley, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Henley, L. Marshall of Leeds, L. Sempill, Ly.
Home of the Hirsel, L. Mills, V. Soames, L. (L. President.)
Hylton-Foster, B. Monk Bretton, L. Spens, L.
Ilchester, E. Mountevans, L. Strathcarron, L.
Inglewood, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Strathclyde, L.
Kemsley, V. Moyne, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Keyes, L. Netherthorpe, L. Sudeley, L.
Kinloss, Ly. Newall, L. Swinfen, L.
Kinnaird, L. Northchurch, B. Trefgarne, L.
Linlithgow, M. Nugent of Guildford, L. Trenchard, V.
Liverpool, E. Nunburnholme, L. Trumpington, B.
Long, V. Onslow, E. Ullswater, V.
Loudoun, C. Orr-Ewing, L. Vernon, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L. Penrhyn, L. Vickers, B.
Luke, L. Redmayne, L. Vivian, L.
McAlpine of Moffat, L. Renton, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Macleod of Borve, B. Rochdale, V. Wise, L.
Malmesbury, E. St. Aldwyn, E.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

3.58 p.m.

Lord PONSONBY of SHULBREDE moved Amendment No. 2: Page 7, line 21, at end insert— ("(e) a description of the arrangements made by the Authority for carrying out the powers given it by section 12(1B) of the main Act and a description of the methods used by the Authority to utilise such opinions, comments and suggestions by members of the public as it may receive in entering into contracts, or, as the case may be, extending contracts, with any programme contractor.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, on Report I indicated to noble Lords that I intended to return to this amendment on Third Reading if my other amendments on public consultation failed. Unfortunately we made no progress on those amendments. During the course of this Bill, the Government have failed to meet requests for a Code of Conduct for public meetings, for such meetings to be obligatory and for members of the public to be able to question prospective contractors. This amendment relates to the inclusion in the annual report of a description of the arrangements made by the authority for public consultation: … and a description of the methods used by the Authority to utilise such opinions, comments and suggestions by members of the public as it may receive in entering into contracts, or, as the case may be, extending contracts, with any programme contractor".

[...]e of the great unfinished matters of [...] Bill must be the degree [...] involvement in the decision- making processes of the Independent Broadcasting Authority. During the passage of this Bill the Government have accepted part of this argument that broadcasting contractors are not entitled to assume that they own their franchises for all time, but that their franchises must be terminated and exposed to public competition. The Government have accepted that part of that process of competition involves public opinion expressed, in the main, at meetings held by the authority for this purpose. Although the Government have accepted the need for public consultation, as I have said, they have refused to say anything about how this should be done, and we have had reluctantly to agree with that.

This amendment simply asks the authority to indicate in its annual report how it has used the comments and suggestions so gathered. This needs doing for two main reasons. First, the present reports of the authority are wholly deficient in this respect. Secondly, as I indicated at earlier stages of the Bill, criticism of the way in which the IBA conducts its public meetings is widespread, and it is by no means clear exactly what opinion of the public mind the authority can gather from such meetings. We lay an obligation upon the authority to consult the public, so we should be able to read in the authority's report how it went about achieving this and precisely what conclusions it drew.

Since we last discussed this Bill and since this amendment was tabled, the IBA Report for 1979–80 has come to hand, and it contains three references to public consultation. For example, on page 44 we read: These meetings have provided another useful means of seeking local reactions to programming and of the generating of fresh ideas". We are not told in the report what these fresh ideas were.

I should like to make one further observation, because on reading the noble Lord's reply to me on Report, it occurs to me that he may well not understand the precise nature of the present IBA meetings, in that he spent some time comparing the 1BA's process of public consultation with that carried out by the education authorities under the 1944 Act. I hope that the Minister will forgive me for suggesting that this was a rather misleading comparison, but let me explain why.

I have been provided with a note about the process of public consultation which took place in a local authority area. This was in Liverpool in 1978. There the education committee met in public, discussed and then published a plan; a series of three separate meetings were held in each school to be affected, which involved the governors, the staff, the parents and the public. At the public meeting parents could cross-examine the committee members about the plan. A modified plan was prepared, published and placed before the whole council, which itself, of course, meets in public. The plan was passed. Then a statutory notice of the plan was published which gave members of the public a statutory right of objection. Objections were made to the Minister whose department also met with and spoke to the objectors.

That was a very comprehensive policy of public involvement and participation, and was very like the sort of schemes of public participation followed under the Education Act 1944 in other parts of the country. However, it cannot be compared with the circumstances of the public consultation being followed by the IBA. I think the Minister will realise that comparison as between consultation under the Education Act 1944 and by the IBA is, in fact, a very different matter indeed.

In some ways this is a small amendment; it is not a question of principle. This clause relating to the annual report requires a number of different matters to be included in the annual report and asks the IBA to show how it has discharged its various duties during the course of the previous years. The Bill now before us places additional duties on the IBA, and it would seem only right that these matters should also be reported on fully in the annual report. I beg to move.


My Lords, when the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, moved this amendment at the Report stage of the Bill, in the reply I gave I sought to indicate how much information the Independent Broadcasting Authority already gives about this aspect of its activities. It is true that in my reply I referred particularly to what the authority had said it was going to do in order to consult public opinion in the present round of ITV contract applications, rather than to any description of what it had done. My intention was simply to indicate that this area of its activities was one which the Independent Broadcasting Authority regarded as proper and necessary for it to comment on in its annual report.

As regards the award of independent television contracts, the future tense had, of necessity, to be used in what was said in last year's report because the process was then in the future. But I have no doubt at all that, having told us all that it was going to do, the IBA will tell us what it has done once it has done it. Indeed, as the noble Lord knows, we now have the annual report of the authority for 1979–80 and, as he said, pages 7 and 8 and page 44 of the report (which relates to local radio) deal to some extent with these matters.

In his speech the noble Lord complained that there is no code of conduct as to how public meetings shall be held, provided that they are held, to discover what public opinion wishes to say as regards a particular contract. The noble Lord also complained that there is no absolute obligation to hold a public meeting. I should like to remind the House that up until now there has been no specific statutory duty at all on the Independent Broadcasting Authority to ascertain public opinion in relation to the award of programme contracts. This we have put right in the Bill. Clause 33 now imposes just such a duty, and it is a duty, not a power. I find it inconceivable that the IBA, having given details of something which it was doing, which was not in terms a duty on it in the past, will now fail to do so when that activity has been made a duty as, subject to the final stages of this Bill, it will now be under the Bill.

Having said that, I suspect that the noble Lord opposite will want to say to me that, despite the IBA's evident good intentions, none the less we ought to give the authority a nudge in the right direction by putting into the statute the requirements which are set out in this amendment. If I may be allowed to say so, I doubt whether it would be wholly practicable for the IBA to describe all the ways in which it tries to ascertain public opinion and to encourage the making of comments and suggestions.

I shall not run through the different methods which the IBA employs in addition to public meetings, because I mentioned them last time when I quoted from its previous report on this subject. Another difficulty that I foresee with the amendment is that I think it would be very difficult for the IBA to say exactly how it utilises the opinions, comments and suggestions that it receives, other than by saying that it considers, evaluates and weighs them against other relevant considerations.

I should like to make one final point, which is not just a technical point but which goes to the heart of whether or not this amendment is necessary. The amendment for some reason refers to the powers of the IBA under Section 12(1B) of the 1973 Act. But, as a matter of fact, that section imposes duties. We have already agreed to require the IBA, as duties, to ascertain public opinion and to take people's opinions into account before entering into any contract with a programme contractor. It is because this duty rests upon the IBA that I really do not think that it is necessary to add the wording of this amendment to the Bill.


My Lords, on the point raised by the noble Lord the Minister about how the authority could utilise suggestions except by considering them, they could surely utilise a suggestion by saying, "So and so was suggested, and in consequence we altered our procedure in this respect."


My Lords, at Third Reading stage it is difficult to withdraw an amendment to reword a particular part of the amendment to take account of a specific word which the noble Lord mentioned in his reply. I refer to whether the word "powers" or "duties" should appear in line 2 of the amendment. Therefore, while accepting that the amendment might be defectively worded, it is not, in a sense, open to me not to seek the opinion of the House as a whole at this stage because of some technically poor drafting in the amendment. That would have to be corrected elsewhere if, in fact, the amendment as a whole found favour with the House.

I thank my noble friend Lady Wootton of Abinger for her support with regard to the word "utilise". What I seek to achieve in the amendment is that the IBA shall show their reaction to the comments and opinions, and to establish that it is not good enough just to say that they have noted what had been said. There is a great problem here, and this comes out in the latest annual report. They say in their latest annual report, I think on page 7, that in fact opinions expressed confirmed the views of the staff of the IBA. In other words, they were using a section of public opinion to bolster the views of the staff. That was a convenient way of showing some reaction to some of the opinions expressed. Having said that, and having heard what the noble Lord has said, I feel that he has still not made out a sufficiently good case for not including this in the annual report. Therefore, I shall divided the House on this matter.

4.14 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 2) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 63; Not-Contents, 119.

Ardwick, L. Hall, V. Peart, L.
Bernstein, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Perry of Walton, L.
Beswick, L. Henderson, L. Phillips, B.
Birk, B. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Blease, L. Howie of Troon, L. Porritt, L.
Boston of Faversham, L. Jacques, L. Reilly, L.
Brockway, L. Jeger, B. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Kaldor, L. Robbins, L.
Collison, L. Kilbracken, L. Sainsbury, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Kirkhill, L. Shinwell, L.
David, B. [Teller.] Leatherland, L. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Listowel, E. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. Stone, L.
Gaitskell, B. Lloyd of Hampstead, L. Strabolgi, L.
Galpern, L. Melchett, L. Strauss, L.
Gardiner, L. Milverton, L. Underhill, L.
Gordon-Walker, L. Mishcon, L. Wall, L.
Gore-Booth, L. Morris of Grasmere, L. Wallace of Coslany, L. [Teller.]
Gosford, E. Noel-Baker, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Greenwood of Rossendale, L. Paget of Northampton, L. Winchester, Bp.
Hale, L. Pargiter, L. Wootton of Abinger, B.
Adeane, L. Gainford, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Garner, L. Moyne, L.
Alport, L. Geoffrey-Lloyd, L. Netherthorpe, L.
Ampthill, L. Gisborough, L. Newall, L.
Avon, E. Glendevon, L. Norfolk, D.
Bellwin, L. Gowrie, E. Northchurch, B.
Belstead, L. Granville of Eye, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Berkeley, B. Grey, E. Nunburnholme, L.
Bessborough, E. Gridley, L. O'Neill of the Maine, L.
Bolton, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Onslow, E.
Caccia, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Cairns, E. Halsbury, E. Penrhyn, L.
Caithness, E. Hampton, L. Redmayne, L.
Cathcart, E. Hankey, L. Renton, L.
Chesham, L. Hanworth, V. Rochdale, V.
Clancarty, E. Hayter, L. Rugby, L.
Cockfield, L. Henley, L. St. Aldwyn, E.
Colyton, L. Hill of Luton, L. St. Davids, V.
Cottesloe, L. Home of the Hirsel, L. St. Germans, E.
Craigmyle, L. Hornsby-Smith, B. Saint Oswald, L.
Crathorne, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Ilchester, E. Simon, V.
Dacre of Glanton, L. Kemsley, V. Soames, L. (L. President.)
Davidson, V. Keyes, L. Spens, L.
De La Warr, E. Kilmarnock, L. Stamp, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Kinnaird, L. Strathcarron, L.
Derwent, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Strathclyde, L.
Donegall, M. Liverpool, E. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Long, V. Sudeley, L.
Dundee, E. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Swinfen, L.
Ebbisham, L. Luke, L. Teviot, L.
Eccles, V. Lyell, L. Trefgarne, L.
Effingham, E. McAlpine of Moffat, L. Trenchard, V.
Elibank, L. Malmesbury, E. Trumpington, B.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Mancroft, L. Ullswater, V.
Elton, L. Marley, L. Vernon, L.
Exeter, M. Marshall of Leeds, L. Vickers, B.
Falkland, V. Mills, V. Vivian, L.
Forbes, L. Monk Bretton, L. Willoughby de Broke, L.
Fortescue, E. Mountevans, L. Wise L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

[Amendment No. 3 not moved.]

Clause 19 [Making and entertainment of complaints]:

4.22 p.m.

Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 4: Page 13, line 32, at end insert— ("( ) that the complaint relates to the broadcasting of the relevant programme on an occasion more than five years after the death of the person affected; or").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will, with permission, speak at the same time to Amendment No. 5. On Report, on an amendment to delete Clause 19(3) which stood in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi—the effect of which would have been to bar any complaint to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission about the treatment of people who had died—I proposed a possible compromise between the extremes of deleting the subsection and leaving it as drafted. It was that Clause 19 should be amended to impose a time limit on posthumous complaints and I suggested that five years could be said to be about right. I gained the impression on that occasion that such a compromise would be acceptable to your Lordships, and these amendments provide for that accordingly.

The amendments alter the clause so as to provide that the commission will be able to consider posthumous complaints only in cases where the relevant programme has been broadcast within five years of the death of the person affected. Any time limit is bound to be arbitrary—that I freely admit—but five years will, I hope, be accepted as a reasonable compromise. I beg to move.


My Lords, we must be grateful to the Government for meeting us some of the way. The amendment will give satisfaction to historians and those who work on television programmes. We are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, for going into the matter and tabling the amendment.


I too am grateful to the Minister, my Lords. This amendment at least sets some time limit, instead of the words previously in the clause of great uncertainty, and will therefore place a time limit on complaints of this kind, and for that I am grateful. I should naturally have been happier if the noble Lord had felt able to limit the extraordinary variety of people who may want to complain on behalf of a dead man, even though the dead man may have said when he was alive that he did not care two hoots about the programme, did not propose to take any action about it at all and thought on balance that it had probably done him good rather than harm. In spite of that, an enormous number of people will, for five years, be able to complain, including undoubtedly overseas embassies; but I suppose we shall have to see what happens. I do not shut my eyes to the fact that it may be that the programming companies, in saying, "It looks as though this will put paid to any more of the prestige programmes which have gained us such a high reputation abroad have exaggerated the position. That is of course quite possible, but events will tell. Meanwhile, I am grateful to the Minister for going as far as he felt he could.


My Lords, I am sure it must be absolutely right that the House appreciates the compromise that has been effected, and I wish to share in the expressions of gratitude. I rise only because the Minister referred to both Amendments Nos. 4 and 5, one being consequential on the other. I am merely making a plea to him—it may be that it is too late—in relation to the wording of Amendment No. 5. The English and sense of it leave much to be desired. It reads: Where, in the case of a complaint, the relevant programme was broadcast within five years after the death of the person affected, subsection (5) shall apply as if at the end there were added"— and then the words one deems to add at the end of subsection (5): within five years after the death of the person affected". If one turns to subsection (5) on page 14 and endeavours to add those words at the end, it requires a great deal of intelligent analysis to find what the clause means, and frankly I believe that the words which are to be inserted should come after the word "occasion" So that your Lordships will not think the point is trivial, I will read what the amended clause will sound like: The Commission may refuse to entertain a complaint if it appears to them not to have been made within a reasonable time after the last occasion on which the relevant programme was broadcast by a broadcasting body within five years after the death of the person affected". It is very unclear if one adds those words at the end rather than adding them after the word "occasion". Whether it is too late for such an amendment to be made I know not, but I draw the attention of the House to the fact that the wording seems awfully clumsy at the moment.


My Lords, off the cuff I am not entirely certain whether transposing the words which Amendment No. 5 seeks to insert into the position where they would fall immediately after the word "occasion" in line 7 would not alter the sense. I am not confident on my feet to say whether or not that is so, but I have a feeling that they could alter the sense. On the other hand, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who is a distinguished lawyer and takes great trouble about the way we try to word our legislation, may be right. I do not think it is possible to change the position in which these words would be injected into the Bill. If, when we come to that amendment—which of course will not be put until Amendment No. 4 has been put—your Lordships would not object, I hope it will be agreed that none the less the sense will be secured consequentially on Amendment No. 4 by inserting those words in the place at present intended. I thank noble Lords who have spoken on the amendment. It is a compromise—Amendment No. 4, taken with Amendment No. 5—but it is, I believe, a solution to a difficult problem, and I am most grateful to noble Lords for recognising that.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord BELSTEAD moved Amendment No. 5: Page 14, line 8, at end insert— ("( ) Where, in the case of a complaint, the relevant programme was broadcast within five years after the death of the person affected, subsection (5) shall apply as if at the end there were added "within five years after the death of the person affected."").


My Lords, may I say in connection with this matter that if what my noble friend Lord Mishcon says turns out to be correct, I think that the Government would have a chance to put it right when the Bill goes before another place.


In that case, my Lords, I of course give an assurance to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, that we shall look at this point very carefully indeed. If we are persuaded by his argument that the amendment should be altered in the way that he suggested, we shall of course do our best to meet his point.


My Lords, I am only trying to be helpful, and I am most grateful for what the noble Minister has said.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Belstead.)


My Lords, at the end of our rather long discussions I should like to say one or two things. First, by trying to tighten up the Bill one has inevitably given the impression that some of us here are critical of the IBA. In fact, I think that this is a false impression. If one is trying to insert safeguards for the future, it is inevitable that one can sound rather offensive towards the body in regard to which one is proposing the safeguards. I hope that we shall not be misunderstood on this.

My second point is that during Second Reading many of us raised a very important question which has nothing to do with the Bill; namely, that the future of broadcasting, with which this Bill is concerned, depends not only on the Bill, but also on a change of attitude towards the question of the amount of money given to the BBC. It cannot be said too often, nor too loudly that if the BBC is allowed to wither away slightly, the whole of broadcasting will go wrong, whatever this Bill does. I think that there is general agreement in the House on that point, but I thought it worth making.

Thirdly, I must say how glad I was that the noble Lord, Lord Nugent of Guildford, did not press his, to me very dangerous amendment, which in my opinion would have amounted to something very much like censorship on the programme makers. Fourthly, I am disappointed that we are unable to do anything about the international aspect, and I shall be surprised if my noble friend does not have a word to say on this. Lastly, my Lords, I am extremely grateful for the modest compromise and concession which the noble Lord gave us in the last two amendments. If I may say so, it is the only concession that we have received in our discussions, which have been going on since last July—but still, better than nothing.


My Lords, I rise to sound a strong note of warning about the starting date for the fourth channel, which is provisionally planned for early 1982. At present public demand for a new channel scarcely exists. I would say that in fact relatively few members of the viewing public are yet aware of it. So we can wait. Indeed, at this time of national economic stringency we certainly ought to pause before going over this particular brink; for it is a new call on the nation's resources, quite possibly at the very worst moment.

It is usually thought that a new addition to the advertising media will automatically generate extra advertising revenue, but from experience I assure your Lordships that that is no golden rule. In business it is a common-place that in a recession a company tends to choose advertising as one of its first cuts, because it is relatively painless so to do. That may not be sensible, but it is what happens. If there is to be enough revenue to sustain, by advertising two channels instead of one, we need a buoyant economy. I wonder whether we can count on that in 1982, or even 1983—


Not with this Government!


To launch the fourth channel during an advertising recession would, in my opinion, be asking for serious trouble. It would seriously damage the longer-term chances of that channel. It could even affect the whole structure of independent television, and not least the quality of the programmes on channels both old and new. We must remember that there is no apparent instrument for controlling the ceiling of expenditure by the fourth channel should advertising revenue fail to emerge in sufficient quantity. Among the casualties would be the levy, which would put an added burden on the public sector borrowing requirement of as much as £100 million a year. One hundred million pounds may not sound like much in terms of the whole borrowing requirement, but I know how it sounds to me: it sounds like a jolly expensive luxury when times are hard.

So for those reasons it is very important for the Government to be able to delay the start of the fourth channel should that in their view seem necessary. But how would that be done, my Lords? Engineering work is already well under way. The board is already appointed; so is the chief executive, and so are many of his senior executives. The authority itself is "raring to go". This wagon, once it starts to roll, would be very hard indeed to stop, or even to check.

Nobody doubts that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary means to delay the start if he deems that right. But for how much longer will he be able to do so? When do we reach the point of no return? For how long can the Home Secretary withhold his final go-ahead? These are the things that we need to know. I should welcome some very definite assurances from my noble friend Lord Belstead about this matter, because I sincerely believe that it could be crucial to the continued success of television broadcasting in the foreseeable future.

4.40 p.m.


My Lords, I do not intend again to go through the arguments that we have had in two very lively debates in Committee and on Report on amendments to the Bill, but it would seem inappropriate if a word were not said, very briefly, before the Bill becomes law, on the attitude that has been taken by so many organisations, in particular religious and charitable organisations, on the absence from the Bill of that international dimension for which we have been pressing.

I fully understand the reservations that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Alexander of Potterhill, to whose know-ledge and experience in education I pay tribute. I fully understand, too, that when he spoke at the Report stage he was sympathetic to the cause but was pleading for a form of education which was divorced from the considerations of this Bill. I do not agree with him. I do not agree that there is any longer any such thing as national education. I do not believe that the word "national" can be linked with education if education is to have its true meaning; and on this issue I would simply say that no doubt he and I differ, but so far as concerns the objective of bringing before people, young and old, the different points of view on central world issues, we would agree but our methods would differ.

I also appreciate the points that were made by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, and the noble Lord, Lord Willis; but here I would differ much more than I did with Lord Alexander of Potterhill—and I would differ for this reason. I understand that professional broadcasters, like professional journalists and, indeed, like professional artists and professionals of many different crafts, consider themselves to be outside what in the broadest sense one might call the political field. They consider that broadcasting has a unity, an existence, of its own, and that it should be conducted by those who have become professionally trained within it and kept separate from the major considerations that we debate in this House.

My Lords, I do not accept that we can any longer afford that view of broadcasting. Broadcasting can no longer be considered to be mainly an entertainment. The effect of broadcasting can no longer he accepted as a recreation, because broadcasting has become essentially a part of the public educational system. My difference, then, from people like the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, and the noble Lord, Lord Willis, is that I believe we have a responsibility here to give much more direction to the professional broadcasters than they would themselves accept as professionals. This issue has been well debated, and we have been assured in this House, as the assurance was given in another place, that those who are in charge of the fourth channel will have listened very carefully to what have been (I think it is fair to say) among the most lively debates during the course of this Bill. But, my Lords, we still come back to consider to what extent we can afford to neglect the contribution of broadcasting, and in this case, particularly, of televising on the fourth channel, to the major events in human history that are now occurring and are going to occur in the last 20 years of this century.

Two nights ago there was a first-class programme on BBC 2. It was presented by two young men, Jack Pizzey and Nick Ross; it was included in the "Man Alive" series; and it dealt with the subject of hunger. This answers the accusations that have been made in some parts of this House in relation to the arguments that I have put forward. It answers them in this way. In this programme you had, first, the human reality of hunger—what it means to be hungry, what effect it has upon the mind, upon the emotions and upon the physical reactions. You then had some assessment of the degree of hunger in the world. But, lastly, my Lords—and this is what I want to concentrate on—at the end of the programme you had a number of experts on development, economists of varying points of view, who did not agree and who argued about the facts that had been presented. That is education; that is good television; that is attractive television; and that is relevant to the issues on which the future of the human race now depends. What we have been trying to say to the Government is that in this Bill there should be a lead given to include that kind of attitude to education in what now exists in the phrase "programmes of an educational nature".

I believe that in the years to come we shall increasingly recognise the vital necessity, the absolute necessity, of increasing this kind of educational programme, and that the fourth channel will be, can be and indeed must be a guiding light in opening the eyes of our people to the realities of the world in which we live. There is one comforting factor that has arisen from this debate, and it is that on both sides in the Division at the Report stage there was at least one Member from every side of this House, including the Government Benches. That, I believe, is an earnest of the future. As I said at the Report stage, I do not believe that this is a party political issue; this is a human issue. I thank those who lent me support in this matter, and I ask the Government to put all their weight, their force and their persuasion behind the sentiments that have been expressed from all sides of this House on the importance of the fourth channel to the real human problems of our time, and to help bring that fourth channel into the field of international education.

4.50 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to express my gratitude to your Lordships for the work that has been done on this Bill which has made it a more generally acceptable measure on leaving this House than I think it was when it arrived. The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, referred to only one concession being made. I do not think that my mathematics arrives at quite the same total as the noble Lord's; for we have, first, incorporated in the Bill new arrangements for the operation of the fourth channel in Wales. That resulted, importantly, as the noble Lord is saying, from—


My Lords, I must say that that was so long ago; but it was a very important concession for which we are grateful.


My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord; but it resulted originally from a deputation which came to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Wales which was led by a Member of your Lordships' House, Lord Cledwyn. Secondly, by refining the provisions dealing with the award of programme contracts in Clause 33, I think we balanced the need for regular public scrutiny of performance against that of the contractor to enjoy a reasonable period of operation. The third change that has been made followed some discussion, and I am grateful for advice from the noble Lord, Lord Donaldson of Kingsbridge, and from other noble Lords in the area of the complaints commission. We have just agreed to limit complaints about the treatment of a person who has died to cases where the relevant programme was broadcast within five years of the person's death. One other amendment was made to the Bill when earlier we removed the exclusion of complaints made on behalf of persons who had, but no longer have, a remedy through the courts.

The noble Lord, Lord Donaldson, in his few remarks made the point that it might seem as though the House had been unduly critical of the IBA and, indeed, of the broadcasting authorities. I think that perhaps what the noble Lord had in mind particularly, and which I should like to echo, is that we have commented in our debates on the great influence which radio and television have on people's views and attitudes today, and on the weighty responsibility which that imposes upon those who broadcast. But many noble Lords have also referred during the debates, and particularly the ones on Report, in appreciative terms to the quality of the broadcasting that we have in this country; and that is something that I should like to endorse.

There have been also a number of matters which we have discussed over the past few weeks and on which I have had to say—and I am afraid that I have become increasingly predictable in saying it—" This is an admirable idea but the Government do not think that we should write it on the face of the Bill." May I say that I have no doubt at all that the broadcasting authorities, who are responsible bodies, will take very seriously what has been said during debates in your Lordships' House, and I am thinking of the discussions about the content of the fourth channel, about the response of both authorities to complaints on such matters as good taste and decency, about the holding of public meetings and the need for the Broadcasting Complaints Commission to contain a proper representation of broadcasting experience, a matter on which I have given an undertaking to the noble Lord, Lord Hooson.

I should like to end by replying to some remarks of my noble friend Lord De La Warr about the start of the fourth channel. I recognise the force of the cautionary note which my noble friend struck in his short speech. Obviously, the wider economic considerations cannot be ignored, but do not let us forget that both Houses of Parliament have now indicated by their attitude to this Bill that they wish to see the start of a fourth television channel and a fourth channel of the kind envisaged by Part II of the Bill, and that this is something which has taken so long to bring forward. Do not let us forget also that there are many candidates for the contracts who are wishing to see whether they can serve the public in this particular way. The IBA's plans are to achieve the level of coverage which we and they think would be necessary to get the channel off to a start by the autumn of 1982. I am not saying to my noble friend that it is categoric that that is the moment when the fourth channel will start; but that remains our hope and our intention. May I finally reiterate that I am grateful for your Lordships' work and indulgence to the Government in the way that this Bill has been taken through and, if I may say so, I am convinced that the work on this Bill has been amply worth while.

On Question, Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.