§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Debate resumed (according to Order) on the Motion moved yesterday by Viscount Hailsham, on behalf of the Earl of Halifax, to resolve, That this House, whilst recognising the desirability of an alternative Television Programme, regrets that it cannot approve of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government as outlined in the Memorandum on Television Policy (Cmd. 9005).
THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD SIMONDS)
My Lords, I rise to continue the debate which occupied your Lordships' House for so many hours yesterday. I must confess that at the end of that debate I felt a great deal of doubt whether I could contribute anything new to a subject matter which had been so long and so thoroughly discussed. Yet clearly it was necessary for me to speak, if only because some observations of mine on a previous occasion had received the honour of comment from some of your Lordships. Indeed, I hoped, or expected, from what was said in the opening speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and from what other noble Lords had said to me, that we were likely to have a debate upon what John Milton said, or would have said, and where he would have ranged himself to-day. However, I suppose that anybody who wanted to comment upon a speech I made a year ago would have thought fit to speak before me so that I could answer him; so I am sorry to say that we shall not, I think, have any discussion upon John Milton.
The most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury has asked me to apologise to your Lordships for his absence to-day. As he told me yesterday, he had in fact broken his holiday to be here, and he did not think it incumbent upon him (and I am sure your Lordships will all agree) that he should break it 668 for a further day in order to hear this debate. This gives me the opportunity of saying what I should have said in any case—how warmly I welcome the observations of the most reverend Primate. Though there was much in his proposals which I think does not command general acceptance, yet the tone he set by that speech was, I think, an invaluable one, for your Lordships will remember that almost his opening words were that this was a matter upon which Christian men, starting from common principles, could come to different conclusions. That, I must say, was welcome to me, for, like many others during these past months, I have felt from the tone of a section of the Press and of a great deal of correspondence which found its way into the Press that it was impossible to oppose the monopoly of the B.B.C. and urge competition, and in particular, commercial television, without beinġ a knave or a fool, or inspired by some commercial interest. I think many of your Lordships, like myself, have felt rather bitterly of the way in which this matter has been treated by the supporters of monopoly.
My Lords, I myself have debated long whether I should mention this matter to your Lordships after a long interval, but I think, though I would gladly drop it, I owe it to the House. Your Lordships will remember, that more than a year ago I made a speech upon this subject—I was, in fact, winding up for Her Majesty's Government—and I pronounced my views with a vigour and emphasis which represented the sincerity of my feelings in the matter. It was a speech made upon the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Reith, to whom I sent a message, which he received, to say that I might make a personal reference to him to-day. It was Lord Reith's Motion and therefore, in accordance with the practice of our House, the noble Lord had the right of reply. The noble Lord knew that he had that right, and he rose in his place and said he did not propose to reply, but that "time would show." What time showed was this: that within a few days, in an article in a Sunday newspaper, the noble Lord impugned my integrity, alleging substantially in these words that I said what I did not believe and had prostituted my high office.
That was a wounding and bitter personal attack. I took counsel with my 669 friends on both sides of the House. Many of them urged me to take steps at once. I decided not to do so. I have left it, and I should have been content to leave it too this day, though I can find words I will not use to describe the conduct of a noble Lord who does a thing like that, knowing full well the while that the man he traduces cannot enter into newspaper controversy with him. I should, as I say, have left it, but for this: that to-day, again, it falls to me to speak upon this subject. I do not believe that there is any man, any Member of this House, on either side, who would believe that do not say with sincerity what I think—except the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and I believe that he is one of those unfortunates who is incapable of believing that anyone who disagrees with him can possibly be sincere, much less right. There I leave it. It is to me a disagreeable subject, and I should not have mentioned it, except that I propose again to say, after many months of contemplation, very much what I said more than a year ago. I apologise for having detained your Lordships with this, but I thought it right to do so.
I come to the question before the House, and I venture to ask what is the matter that really divides us. Quite clearly, we cannot find a simple solution, as some supporters of the B.B.C. monopoly would say. We cannot find a simple solution in the suggestion that those on one side are righteous and those on the other side are unrighteous, or that one lot are wise and the other foolish. If proof were needed, here on my left sit the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who takes one view, and the noble Lord, Lord Layton, who, as he shortly will tell us, takes another. Both are wise, righteous and honourable men. And on the Episcopal Benches there are my Lord the Archbishop of Canterbury, who takes one view, and, as we have heard, certain right reverend Prelates who take a totally different view. They were not wicked or wise, foolish or righteous, overnight. And so I could go on. Even the noble Lord who I understand is to follow me did not become Aristeides—I think he is now the prototype of the monopolist—overnight. I think that in order to find out what divides us—and that is so important in order that we may understand ourselves and understand each other—it may be worth while to see how far we can go together.
§ LORD AMWELL
May I be allowed to suggest that the noble and learned Lord is making a splendid case for this subject not to be a Party question—a matter of Whips?
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
There is no need to apologise for the interruption. I spent thirty years of my life being interrupted.
To resume: how far can we go together? I think we are all agreed upon this: that television is a great new feature in the lives of the people. It has been said, and it may be true, that it is the greatest invention and the most important influence since the invention of printing. That may be true, but this, at least, is certain: that the multitude of our fellow citizens who enjoy, and will enjoy, this boon—if it be a boon—will ever increase, and it is no use trying to stop it. I say that because I feel that so many of the speeches which I have heard have to some extent been animated by a dislike of television itself. Indeed, I think the most reverend Primate himself would admit that at the bottom of his heart was a dislike of television and the fear that its increasing use, whatever it might be, was ill for the people. But we have to face the fact: it has come to stay. Now—and here, I think, is where we begin to diverge—here is something which the whole people is entitled to enjoy, a new source of entertainment, interest, amusement, it may be enlightenment and instruction. Is the citizen who is entitled to enjoy the wonderful invention of the printed book—and here is where we begin to diverge—is the citizen who is entitled to that great boon which science and industry have conferred upon him, to be limited in the choice of what he shall see to what one man or one body of men, the B.B.C., thinks fit to give him? Basically that is the question, and that is the way in which I approach it: from the point of view of the right of the individual, unless he is going to harm another, to enjoy those rights which nature, science and industry have found for him. It maybe, of course, that he cannot use it without hurting another. It may be that there 671 are cogent reasons why he should not enjoy their use. So be it, let us hear them.
But I start from this—and here I diverge absolutely from the monopolists. I say that the citizen is entitled to hear all and see all that those who produce, or can produce, programmes are willing to show him, unless there are cogent reasons to the contrary. I will not say that it is an inherent right, but it is just as much a right as that of the citizen to peruse the printed book as soon as the invention of printing was made. I am not going back to Milton, but in his day the obscurantists and authoritarians said that the people should not read printed books except those which they licensed. It is precisely that argument which is produced to-day, in a different medium and in a different way. Though the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury is not here to-day, I must remind him that it was the Lord Archbishop of that day, together with the Bishop of London, to whom the right of licence was committed under the Ordinance of 1637—and rigidly they exercised that right. The most reverend Primate is not here, so I will not say what I should have continued to say about the naturally authoritarian disposition of an Archbishop. That I conceive to be the right of the individual, on which we can all stand, and nothing has astonished me more in the course of this debate than the speech which we heard yesterday from the noble Viscount the Leader of the Liberal Party. It will be redeemed, I hope, to some extent by that which the noble Lord, Lord Layton, will make to-day.
That is the right of the individual—and you would deny it to him. Who is it to whom you deny that right, assuming that you know better than he does what is good for him? As is sometimes said, he is just John Citizen. He is the man who enjoys, as the nation has enjoyed for a long time, adult suffrage. The whole nation enjoys adult suffrage, and for centuries the whole nation has enjoyed Parliamentary democracy. For two generations the whole nation has enjoyed universal education. We claim and boast of our rights of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. We do not hesitate to tell our young men to go into National 672 Service. They do, and they must suffer for us, if necessary. We do not hesitate to submit our lives, our fortunes, our liberty, our honour, it may be, to the arbitrament of twelve jury men and women taken at hazard from our fellow citizens. Yet it is to these men you say, "You shall see only what the B.B.C. say you should see." To me that is an intolerable, an abhorrent position (to use the word which I believe the noble and learned Earl used) unless there is some cogent and overwhelming reason for monopoly. That is where I stand, and I say it with all the sincerity of which I am capable.
What is the reason which induces many of your Lordships, whose sincerity I do not question, to deny that right or to qualify it in such a way that it is denied in effect? For let me say this, if I may: this Motion is in terms which to me are very difficult to understand. It affirms the desirability of an alternative. It does not, as lawyers say, condescend to particulars. If this means only an alternative programme supplied by the B.B.C. itself, I think it is substantially meaningless. Of course, it is something that John Citizen can have a choice between two programmes instead of being bound to only one, but it does not carry the matter any further, so far as competition is concerned, for you really do not compete between your right hand and your left hand since both are moved by the same mind. If it means something else, and we have not been told what it means, perhaps the noble and learned Earl who follows me will tell the House what the meaning is. Then, of course, we must examine it. In the view of Her Majesty's Government, which is expounded in the White Paper, the only way to secure an effective alternative is by having what is called commercial television. If there is any other way in which competition can be granted effectively and an alternative given, I am sure we shall examine it; but until something is put forward, and until we can examine it, we stand upon the Government White Paper, subject always to what my noble Leader the Leader of the House may say.
If that is so, I ask noble Lords, "Why do you refuse to give the right of choice to the multitude of citizens?" I will try to tell your Lordships. The reasons are: fear and mistrust—fear that liberty might 673 develop into licence, mistrust of those who are producing programmes and of those who have the pleasure of listening. That, and that alone, can be what moves those who restrict the freedom of choice. I am not quite right there. I want to say this. I understand very well that there may be those in whom the trend and bias of their mind is such that automatically they prefer a monopoly. After all, it is the essence, the heart and the core, of the Socialist creed that there should be, in effect, vast monopolies. If you believe in the nationalisation or socialisation, whatever you like to call it, of all the means of production, distribution and exchange, then it is an easy, logical and consistent step to say that this wonderful new article of television shall be the production of the State or a State Corporation only. I do not know whether that is the way the minds of noble Lords work, but it is easy to see that it is almost inevitably the trend of their minds. The noble and learned Earl who is to follow me, who has been, through nearly a quarter of a century, from time to time a member of a Socialist Administration, and has with eloquence, firmness and sincerity piloted through your Lordships' House a number of socialisation measures, would, I think, have to admit that the trend of his mind is in favour of monopoly. However that may be, I speak to those to whom Socialism makes no appeal, but rather the reverse. To-day, as it seems to me, there can be only one reason why you object to this choice, so far as it is open to them, being given to your fellow citizens, and that is fear and mistrust.
I confess that, on the broadest view of philosophy, I see in this problem yet another aspect of the eternal question: how are you to reconcile liberty with authority, order with freedom? For that is really what it comes to, and it is at that point that we diverge. It has been said, metaphorically, that life is a highway. The question that continually arises is what restrictions and limitations shall be put upon those who would travel along the highway, or whether they should be prohibited altogether. When that question arises, it is not a case of those who take different views calling each other unrighteous or self-righteous, 674 or knaves or fools. We can disagree upon it. That is the point.
Are your Lordships justified in this Year of Grace in saying to your fellow citizens that they cannot be trusted; in saying to the producer that he cannot be trusted to produce a programme that will not debase his fellow citizens; or in saying to the public that they cannot be trusted to make a choice, for what they would choose would inevitably be bad? I cannot with sufficient emphasis tell your Lordships how much I dislike that attitude towards our fellow citizens. Who are you, my Lords, to say that you know what is good for you fellow citizens; and that the noble Lord, Lord Bennett of Edgbaston, whose speech we listened to with admiration yesterday, and who we hope will make many other contributions to debates in this House, or the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, are men who, if they determine to employ this medium of advertising as they employ others, are likely deliberately to do something which will corrupt and debase their fellow citizens? Of course, that is not so.
If he will forgive me for saying so, the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, does not stand in a different category from other large employers of labour. The noble Lord, Lord Moyne (perhaps I may be forgiven for being personal, because the noble Lord introduced the matter himself), is a captain of industry, and he told your Lordships that his firm did not propose, as at present advised, to employ this method of advertising. That, of course, is his own business.
§ LORD MOYNE
The noble and learned Lord will forgive me for interrupting. I did not mean to say we felt that we should tie our hands to not using the medium, but only that we hope it will not come into existence.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
However that may be, the one thing the noble Lord did not say was this. He did not disclaim the idea that, if he did employ that medium of advertising, he would then take any step whatever that would debase in any way his fellow citizens. He did not say so, and I will tell him why: it was because he thought it monstrous that anybody should suggest—and nobody would suggest—that his firm would do anything of the kind. I look upon it as a monstrous charge to make against the businessmen of this country, represented 675 as they are by many noble Lords in this House, that they would take advantage of this new method of advertising to debase their fellow countrymen. I will not grow warm about it, but I think it is a most shocking charge.
Bound up with this theory that somehow, if there is a choice, if there is commercial television based ultimately upon a revenue obtained from advertising, the public will be debased, is the extraordinary argument that, if it happens, somehow the B.B.C. itself will suffer. I have not heard that explicitly stated in this House, but I think it is an idea that has fired and permeated many of the speeches we have heard. I believe that to be the most foolish and fallacious argument that was ever put before an assembly. Let us consider the matter, accepting for the moment the principles as they have been stated: that the B.B.C. is good, commercial television is bad, Gresham's Law applies, the bad inevitably drives out the good, and therefore, the B.B.C. will suffer. That is the argument which has seriously been put forward. I say that it is a wicked libel to say that in the sphere of human conduct Gresham's Law applies; and when I say that, I feel that I have the authority of the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, whom I heard disclaim this foolish argument on the occasion of our last debate.
Let me say this about it to show how foolish it is. Does the bad inevitably drive out the good in literature, in art, or in music? What a foolish thing this is to say! Take literature for a moment. I suppose that, when one thinks of English literature, almost instinctively one's mind goes to Shakespeare and the Bible. I will leave out the Bible, and take Shakespeare. Does Shakespeare live? Has that immortal voice been stilled? Is that hand of glory withered? Shakespeare reigns. And why? Not because he has been proclaimed King by the Director-General, the Governors, the Advisory Council, the angels and archangels at the B.B.C., but because he is the chosen of the people, whom you, my Lords, so sadly and so strangely mistrust. I could go on through the whole range of art and literature, but, if I do not weary your Lordships, I will content myself with giving one more example to 676 exemplify the folly of this argument. Let me take music—and of bad music, heaven knows! there is plenty.
Does bad music drive out good?—this has nothing to do with the B.B.C., though they have made their contribution. I say that it does not and I will prove it. Come any day to a great concert hall, the Albert Hall, it may be, at Easter time, and what will you see? You will see tier after tier of earnest faces waiting. They have probably been waiting for long in the wind and the rain; and what are they waiting to hear? My Lords, they are not waiting to hear some melancholy crooner, mouthing an erotic melody; that they can hear on the B.B.C. They have come to listen to the noblest music, Bach's Passion Music, the noblest music ever woven by the mind of man. The bad does not drive out the good. Let the people choose.
I do not want to put my case too high. I have been fifty years at the Bar or on the Bench, and although I have not practised on the criminal side nobody can be that length of time in the law without knowing much of the weakness, the frailty and even the wickedness of humankind. And so it is that, as the noble Lord, Lord Merthyr, said, in reply, I think, to Lord Milverton, you cannot have absolute freedom. Of course you cannot have absolute freedom. You have freedom of its kind, freedom subject to the impositions and restraints which the subject matter demands. And so, though we speak, and rightly speak, of freedom of speech, yet that freedom is restricted by the laws of libel and the laws of sedition and blasphemy, and so on. Though we have freedom of the Press we have similar restraints. It may be that some of your Lordships think that the restraints are not always quite adequate. Indeed, the newspaper world themselves I think appreciate that fact by setting up a Press Council.
Whatever the freedom you postulate in a civilised society, it must be subject to the appropriate restraints, and as I see it the single question which your Lordships have to determine in this case is whether that freedom which I postulate for John Citizen, the viewer with a television set, should be restricted in what, if any, way. Now the view which Her Majesty's Government have taken of this is found in the White Paper. It may well be that the safeguards which are imposed, 677 the restrictions upon freedom, are greater than are necessary, as some noble Lords have said, but Her Majesty's Government thought it right to make every concession that they reasonably could to the objections of those who thought that safeguards were required. I hope that your Lordships are not so unjust and ungenerous as to hail as a victory a concession which we make to your feelings.
As to the safeguards, I need not go through the White Paper; your Lordships are familiar with it. You know that the actual programmes will be determined by the operating companies who will, in turn, have entered into a contract with the public Corporation which is to be set up. The terms of their contract may be subject to the review of those who think that they are not strict enough. This is a matter on which I suppose it is a little artificial to talk at present, because we have not yet reached the stage of setting up a public Corporation or of entering into negotiations with operating companies, but if there is any restriction which you think ought to be in the contract with the operating company, and if your thought has reason in it, that will be done. Suppose you thought that no film, no picture, should be exhibited in which the sound of a revolver was heard, or in which a cosh was seen, or a bathing belle—whatever you like: all these could be the subject of appropriate restrictions. And it will not be difficult—I speak here, if I may, as a lawyer—to impose such terms upon the contracting operating companies as to make it impossible for them, without grave peril to themselves, to break the regulations that are imposed.
Now, what greater safeguard can you ask than that? Remember that this public Corporation which is to be set up is itself a public Corporation whose directors will be nominated by the Postmaster General, or whoever it may be—at any rate, by a public authority. Why should it be supposed that they will be less vigilant of the rights of the public than those gentlemen who have for long discharged similar duties on the B.B.C.? The surprising thing is—or perhaps it is not surprising, but it is interesting—that the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, the most reverend Primate, and many others who have spoken have taken no objection to advertising per se. All that they have said is—Lord Beveridge used the words— 678 "Money speaks," and they were afraid that a baleful influence might be exercised by the advertisers on the operating companies, and through the operating companies upon the public Corporation, so that the standard would be debased. Why should it? Why should these gentlemen who will be nominees of the Government upon this new public Corporation yield one jot in integrity or standard to the gentlemen who occupy a similar position in the B.B.C.? If your Lordships think they will, I will only ask you to wait and see. Why should they? Once again this is a case where some of your Lordships—and I speak with no disrespect—arrogate to yourselves a higher standard of virtue than that which is to be ascribed to yet another section of the public—namely, those gentlemen who will be directors of this new Corporation. Frankly, I see no reason why you should.
There is one other thing that I want to say before I turn to one or two questions which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was good enough to ask me. Another argument, and one that has been commonly used, in favour of the view that commercial television would operate to degrade the public taste is an example drawn from America. I have recently been in America and there I learnt something of the B.B.C. But what I learnt much more vividly was this, the great danger and unwisdom of criticism of American procedure at a time when it is so terribly important to preserve good relations—the sort of attack that I have heard from time to time which suggests that the American nation is debauched by its system of television. That is not only the grossest possible libel, but a terribly unwise thing to say. If, indeed, it were necessary to run the risk of such statements, in order that great good might cone to us from it, we might have to run the risk. But surely everything is so different in America—the atmosphere which has been created; the conditions under which television has been developed; the lack of safeguards—notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, said. The whole background of American life is so different that I believe no useful comparison could be drawn at all, and I would beg your Lordships not to be frightened by that bugbear into a course which is illiberal and retrograde 679 and will, as I believe, be bitterly regretted, if it is followed, by those who love freedom.
The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Samuel, asked—
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
"Revered" shall I say. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, asked me one or two questions which I will try to answer, although it is not easy, because at present the whole basis of this is artificial. I agree so much with what the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, said: that at present we are really embarking on a discussion of principle—whether there should be commercial television. Although I quite see that the validity of a principle may sometimes depend upon the way in which it can work in practice, we are not yet in a position—since the White Paper has been such a short time before the House, and it would have been impossible to set about establishing a public Corporation, much less entering into any negotiations with operating companies—to pledge ourselves to any course at all. The noble Viscount asked me whether it was proposed that sound broadcasting should be also the subject of licence to fresh companies. The answer is, of course, this; and I hope that I shall not be bound to the words of my answer. What we seek to do is to end the monopoly in television. Incidentally, it may be that there will be some sound broadcasting with television and, of course, if there were some message of national importance which had to be sent out, I imagine that all the resources of all the stations might be used. But the purpose of this White Paper is to indicate that we propose to end the monopoly of the B.B.C.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
Yes, in television. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, also asked: Will more than one company be given a contract in the first instance? If so, how many companies? How many applications have been received? On what principle will the selection amongst them be made by a public Corporation? Before the White Paper was published there were no fewer than ninety-eight applicants for licences, and it may be assumed that some of them 680 will apply again as potential programme companies. How many it is quite impossible to say. They have not been approached, and I imagine that it would be a comparatively small number. As I have said, the object of the Government's scheme is to introduce competition, and the Corporation will be expected to give opportunities to a number of independent companies.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I hope the noble Viscount will not bind me, but I should certainly expect in different localities, yes.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
One good turn deserves another. The main point at issue is whether there will be another monopoly set up in private hands in every district where there is one of these television stations.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I think I can assure the noble Viscount that that will, so far as possible, be avoided, and I see no reason why it should not be avoided altogether. Even if physical conditions had the result that only one other company operated, at any rate that would be better than none.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
The noble Viscount is entitled to his opinion. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, did not exactly ask a question about it, but he made some observations upon the effect of television in some local area, and he made our hearts bleed for the small shopkeeper who, no doubt, will not be able to find the money for advertising on television. I think this is a matter on which anybody is entitled to his opinion. I do not think it will make any difference at all to the small shopkeeper who already finds himself, if I may use the word. "out-advertised" at every point. I think it is possible that the result of television may be to benefit the small shopkeeper by increasing the sale of those proprietary articles in which he largely deals and upon which he largely relies. But that is anybody's guess. Certainly it is not a matter which 681 I think should weigh unduly with your Lordships, for it is a purely hypothetical matter.
There is one further observation of the noble Viscount with which, as a matter of courtesy to him—though I have been far too long—I ought to deal. The noble Viscount made a great deal of play with the fact that the public Corporation would necessarily—or would according to our scheme—have advanced to it public money. That is quite true; but that is a common feature to-day. The trading estates have public money advanced to them, and, moreover, have public money advanced in what is something like a subsidy, for it is at such a low rate of interest. There is no suggestion whatever here that the public Corporation will rent its studio or station at anything but the commercial rate of interest. I think we may be sure of one thing, and that is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will here be a watchdog of the public purse, that no larger ruin than is absolutely necessary will be advanced, and that what is advanced will be advanced upon terms which are not unfavourable to the Treasury.
I have spoken, I fear, for far too long, and I would end with this one word. I respect, as we all must, the sincerity of those who fear that there will be degradation of the public mind by the influence of so-called commercial television. Will you not respect equally those who, from the bottom of their hearts, believe that in your fear and mistrust you do a grave injustice to our fellows? For my part, I hope that the Government scheme will go through, and that the fears which some of your Lordships hold will be found, as so many fears have been in the past, to be utterly groundless.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, we have just listened to a most interesting, most vigorous, speech of some length, which has devoted a great deal of time to discussions on liberty and trusting the people, and very little time to advertising. I think the noble and learned Lord chose wisely the allocation of his time. There can be no doubt whatever that we are discussing an extremely important issue. The noble and learned Lord said that he had understood the most reverend Primate to say that he was rather in 682 favour of trying to stop television. I understood nothing of the sort—nothing whatever. Let me make it plain that one of my qualifications for speaking is that I am a viewer and that I am a listener and I have had considerable experience of both.
I do not doubt myself that in television we have a force, a power, which, for good or ill, will exercise a profound influence over our people. Whether or not in the process of time television will cut out sound broadcasting in the way in which talking films have cut out silent films, I do not know. There will undoubtedly be vast technical improvements—for instance, a larger screen. I agree with the I noble Lord, Lord Brabazon of Tara, that we shall certainly have colour television; and in the next few years we shall all, if we live, see great changes and improvements made. I believe that here we have an instrument which will have a profound effect on the countryside and, indeed, may be a more effective means of stopping the drift from the countryside to the towns than anything else ever thought of. And it is obvious that it is going to have a profound effects upon the children of to-day who, after all, are the men and women of to-morrow. It is going to be in almost every home, and therefore we must be careful to see that we do not at this stage take a wrong step which will prevent this great invention having the effect which we all hope for.
That there is a deep division of opinion in the House and in the country is quite plain. As the Lord Chancellor has pointed out, the division is so deep that even the Liberal Party is divided. But that these opinions, on the one side or the other, are sincerely held, I do not doubt for a moment. After all, it is the essence of controversy to assume that your opponent is just as sincere and intelligent as you claim to be yourself. I must say that I wish the Lord Chancellor had consulted me about the noble Lord, Lord Reith. I would have tried to see him to tell him about this matter, because he is not the sort of man I should have thought to attribute things in that way. I have not any cuttings and I know that Lord Reith cannot be here to-day and therefore I cannot say any more about the matter. At any rate, I assume readily that the Lord Chancellor is just as sincere 683 in his views as I am sure he would concede that I am in mine.
This deep division of opinion goes right throughout this country, and I regret very much, if it is not impertinent for me to say so, that the Whips have been put on. I was very careful in sending our own Whip to say:We do not regard this as a Party issue, and your vote will be free.I feel sure that that was the right line. After all, what do we prove by a Division in this House? As things are, we all have the sense to know that the Government will beat us by a very large majority. It would have been larger, as I know, on this occasion, had it not been for the fact that some of their loyal supporters have gone away rather than find themselves in this difficulty. But we do not prove anything by a Division on this matter. If I may say so with great respect, I think there is a great opportunity for this House—I do not say anything about another place—to show its independence.
I remember, and many of your Lordships will remember, speeches of the noble Viscount, Lord Cecil of Chelwood, in which he deplored the modern tendency by which everybody was dragooned into this Lobby or that, and that Members no longer had the independence they used to have. I, having to reply, said that there was great force in what he said. What an opportunity it would have been here! After all, this issue is not fixed and finalised in the form of a Bill at the present time. We are having a general discussion of broad principles, and we should have gained much more by having an absolutely free discussion without any Whips on, rather than the other way. I consider that this House has lost a great opportunity of justifying its existence. In this House we can afford to do this sort of thing: I quite understand that it might not be possible in another place, but I have no authority to speak as regards that. I regret that we have missed this opportunity.
Having agreed, as we all do, on the importance of this issue, I shall try now to explain how I see it. I assume for these purposes that an alternative programme is financially possible. I have no reason to doubt it and, for my part, if it is indeed possible, I am heartily glad. I think it is of tremendous importance 684 to try to get an alternative programme. Our argument is not, as the Lord Chancellor, seemed to think, that the people are not to be trusted. I invite the attention of the noble and learned Lord for a moment on this matter. He is assuming, in saying that, that the people want to have their alternative programme provided for them by big business. I am very doubtful whether the people want that. He suggests that because we hesitate to give the people what they want we are not trusting the people—a perfect example of what the noble Lord would call petitio principii when he sits as a judge. We also test it on experience: we have had experience of the B.B.C. and of other systems operating in other countries, and we rely on these factors.
The noble and learned Lord asks the question, and is entitled to an answer, "What, then, would you do? Well, my Lords, I do not know whether those who oppose the advertising scheme are by any means united in their views. I would say personally that I would much rather have an alternative programme at the present time, for a trial period, provided by the B.B.C. To my mind, the essence of this alternative programme, which must be arranged in connection with the other programme, is that there may be a real alternative going on. There was an illustration of this in New York the other day, when there were five television programmes, each showing a baseball match at the same time. There are many people who do not care about baseball. I regret to say that here some people do not care about cricket. In my household, at any rate, I—and that settled the household—was devoted to the Test Matches; but I can quite understand that there are some households that cannot tolerate cricket. Therefore you must have something else—a dog show, perhaps, or a ladies' dress show. It is desirable that these programmes should concert with each other to a certain extent. I should prefer, therefore, for a trial period, to give the alternative programme to the B.B.C.
I believe that we can develop a system of internal competition. Indeed, when I think of my considerable experience of the way in which Government Departments work, all under the same Government, I am sure the Lord Chancellor will 685 find there is considerable competitior between two or three Departments. May I say that, if you did that, so far as I know, the cost would be £3 and not £6 (the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, it appears has just thought of a number and doubled it) assuming that the B.B.C. are allowed to have—and I devoutly hope they will—the 15 per cent. or 14 per cent. which is now deducted from them. That is the solution I would prefer, but if it be thought necessary to have separate public services, quite separate from the B.B.C., I would far rather have this than the advertising system. It would be a separate public service corporation, and it would involve an increase in the viewing fee. But I would far rather have that, and to get rid of this danger which confronts us, if I could settle on that I most certainly would. No one suggests, so far as I know, that there should be more than two Corporations, but if you will, let us have more than two Corporations.
I believe it to be a fallacy to talk about monopoly, and the doctrine of monopoly derived from the sale of goods, and apply that to a public service. Many illustrations have been given. I believe that I am right in saying—the noble Lord, Lord Brand, will correct me if I am wrong—that the Bank of England has a monopoly of issuing bank notes; I believe that the Mint has a monopoly of minting coins; I believe that the B.B.C. at the present time have a monopoly of broadcasting which it is not intended to take away from them. Local monopolies in the way of a public service spring to the mind. I happen to live in Westminster, and my dust and my rubbish are collected by the Westminster Corporation. I cannot get another dustman if I want to. Does the noble Lord suggest, on the ground of trusting the people, that there ought to be as many dustmen as there are dustbins? Water is supplied. All these public services should be supplied, and must be supplied, in that way, and no sensible person would doubt it. Those monopolies are surely not odious.
Though I make no attack on the Lord Chancellor about his reference to Milton—I like to hear Milton mentioned in this connection—if we are going to mention Milton, it is worth while considering what his thesis was. His thesis was this, was it not? All disputations, all controversies, all criticisms—and the books in which they are enshrined—have their value. The 686 very fact that they give rise to disputes is in itself valuable for, by taking part in these very controversies, we may arrive at truth. Then Milton says:We should not seek to protect Truth from attack. She should net practise a fugitive and cloistered virtue. She should not slink out of the race where the immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat. Let Truth and Falsehood grapple. Whoever knew Truth to be put to the worse in a free and open encounter? Her confuting is the best and surest suppressing.That was Milton's theme. So, when we think, as we sometimes do, that hooks which men write are unwise or inconvenient, or do not improve harmony, or injure comity, it is a useful discipline to remember Milton's views. Let everybody, then, write what books he likes, when he likes, about whatever matters, whether they concern him or concern others. Even though he be in error, let us remind ourselves that all errorsknown, read, and collated, are of main assistance towards the speedy ascertainment of what is truest.But what conceivable relevance has this admirable doctrine to the question we are now discussing? Does anybody in his senses suppose that everybody who feels like it should have his own broadcasting station, just as anyone may publish a book? Obviously not. The nature and the circumstances of the thing make it impossible, and even the Government, who are so anxious to "set the people free," and to trust them, are giving them only the choice of listening to either the B.B.C. or this new station. That is their great endeavour to end monopoly.
Now I want to tell the Lord Chancellor, so that he may understand quite plainly, why we distrust this scheme, why we think it will have a had tendency. The B.B.C. have their instructions—and the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, will correct me if I am wrong. I believe I am right in saying that every public broadcasting company in every country has substantially the same instructions, and they are to provide for education, information and entertainment—three very well known words—education, information and entertainment. When the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, asked, as he did ask: "Is television to be educational wholly, or is it to be entertainment?" the answer is: it is certainly not to be educational wholly or entertain- 687 ment wholly; it is to be a balanced programme in which all these three desiderata should be looked after.
I notice incidentally—and it cannot be an accident, since the phrase is so well known—that, when I turn to the White Paper, I see that it refers, in the second line of the last page, to "this medium of information and entertainment," but leaves out "education." Why? I hope that I am not being a prude or prejudiced, or a Puritan, when I say that education, properly administered, can be very entertaining and exceedingly interesting. Indeed, my own experience of television is that I have enjoyed most some of the educational films they have put on—nature studies and the like. We are now told that the basic principle in this White Paper is that there should be no sponsoring, and we are told in the White Paper that there is a vast difference between accepting advertisements and sponsoring. There may or there may not be a vast difference and the test—now I come down to the point; I am sorry to think that the Lord Chancellor has not yet apprehended it in our arguments—is this: does the advertiser influence the programme?
I did not like the idea of advertising which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, put forward in his addendum to his Report, but let us be quite clear about this. That form of advertisement would not influence the programme. I dislike it. You may say it is on grounds of prejudice or æsthetic grounds that I dislike it, but it does not seem to me a vicious system like the present system. It is analogous to the Press, because the Press—at least the reputable Press—do not, and could not possibly, allow their policy to be influenced by their advertisers. But what is the position here? There is a paper from which Lord Samuel quoted yesterday, produced by the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers and the Institute of Incorporated Practitioners and Advertisers, and they put it very frankly and fairly, though their English is not very good. They say:The advertiser would be able to buy into the audience or audiences most likely to be interested in his product"—I ask your Lordships to note the words "buy into the audience or audiences." What does that mean? It means he will 688 not advertise unless he approves the programme. I would beg the noble Marquess the Leader of the House to note this, because he and Lord Samuel were at difference yesterday about it. The parallel with the Press would be this: that the advertiser would come to the Press and say, "First show me your leader, and then I will tell you whether I advertise or not. "That is the parallel; and as things are, of course, whether it is on the cinema screen or advertising in the Press, the advertiser does not have any control over the policy of the paper. Of course, he knows what paper he chooses; he knows the general tendency of that paper. But he has no sort of control over what is published in that paper. That is the whole difference.
§ EARL JOWITT
A noble Lord says "No." At any rate, we are now getting to the issue. I maintain that this analogy to the Press is wholly misleading. I say that in this case the advertiser does control what is going to be published he does control the programme. He goes to the programme company and says to them: "Let me see what you are going to put on. "He does not merely buy time, he buys time in connection with a particular programme, and if he does not like that programme he will not buy that time. That is the vital difference. Therefore the advertiser will have control over what is going to be put on the screen. You may say (and I am trying to be fair about this) that the advertiser has no direct control. Well, that depends. I should like to know more about these programme companies before I agree to that. How are you going to prevent the advertiser from getting control of the programme company? I know it is said that the advertisers' associations do not encourage this sort of thing, but you must think of what may happen. What is to prevent the advertiser not using his own name, but in order to get control of the programme company putting his own nominee on the board? How can you stop that? But whether or not the advertiser has a direct control, this much is quite certain—he has an indirect control. He is paying the piper and, my Lords, he is going to call the tune.
Would the noble and learned Earl pardon me if I ask him a question, because I want to understand his argument? Does he say that in the case of a newspaper the withdrawal of all its advertisements would never affect the control of the paper, while in the case of a programme company it will?
§ EARL JOWITT
Of course it will; it is bound to. The programme company have to live; broadcasting has to go on. Their only source of income is advertisements.
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY)
I should like the noble and learned Earl to make a categorical statement in this House that all newspapers can get on without advertisements.
§ EARL JOWITT
I do not say that for a moment. I should think it is very unlikely. What I do say is that no reputable newspaper is influenced in its policy by its advertisements.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
This is a most important point. I hope the noble and learned Earl will forgive my interrupting, but the point he is making is that newspapers are dependent on advertisements, that they would go broke unless they had advertisements, but that it does not make a ha'p'orth of difference to them in the policy they pursue. Exactly the same condition, he says, will exist with regard to the programme companies, but they will be influenced. There is no logical argument in that, if I may say so.
§ EARL JOWITT
The noble Marquess is good enough to assert that there is no logical argument. That is the argument that I am advancing, and perhaps he will allow me to advance it. What I am saying is that if the position were that the advertiser could go round to a newspaper, look through a leading article and say, "I like that leading article you can have an advertisement from me," and then to another paper and say. "This leading article I do not care about; it 690 does not represent my views; no advertisement," that would be direct control by the advertiser of the Press. That is what is going on under your system.
§ EARL JOWITT
Would the noble Marquess please allow me to develop this point, because I believe he has not followed it at all. The advertiser is going round to the programme company, not merely to state his advertisement: he is going to see in connection with what programme that advertisement is going to appear. That is the plan here.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
No, it is not. The station is not in operation. That is what the noble and learned Earl imagines is going to happen. It is not happening as the noble and learned Earl suggests to-day.
§ EARL JOWITT
If I may say so, that is a very silly interruption. Of course it is not happening to-day. This is what is going to happen. We all know that the plan is not in operation—everybody knows that; every child of two knows that. What we are discussing is what is going to happen when the station comes into operation. So far as I understand (I am reading this little excerpt from this document called Television, written by the experts who say they have had consultation with the Government) what is going to happen is:The advertiser would be able to buy into the audience or audiences most likely to be interested in his product.If he is offered a programme which he does not like and which he thinks has a small appeal, he will say, "No advertisement." But if it is a programme of wide popular appeal, then he will buy into it. That is the vital difference in this matter between this plan and the newspapers.
Now that being so, I believe that this would have the tendency to debase programmes, and I will tell you just why. "No man can serve two masters." If you have a company composed of high-minded men who have to provide education, information and entertainment, and at the same time have to please their advertisers in order to live, then they will be doing two wholly inconsistent things which will clash. Instead of having a single-minded desire to carry out their obligation to provide a balanced pro- 691 gramme, part education, part information and part entertainment, they will be checked at every turn by the advertisers. I make no attack on the advertisers at all; I am simply talking hard-boiled common sense. The advertisers are going to spend their shareholders' money, and they have no right to spend their shareholders' money unless those shareholders are going to get a fair return. They have therefore to see that their advertisements appear in connection with a programme with a wide appeal. I should have thought that that is plain common sense.
Your Lordships may like to know how this matter appeals to the trade union concerned, the Association of Cinematograph and Allied Technicians—why the laughter? Would the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, tell me why he laughs?
§ EARL JOWITT
Even the trade unions are entitled to have their views put before Parliament, and I propose, in spite of the laughter, to tell your Lordships what their wish is. After all, they are not a lot of old antiquated fossils who know nothing about it; they know a good deal about it. This is what they say:Despite the ingenious attempts of the Government to devise safeguards on the quality of product and to restrict the influence of advertisers on the contents of the programmes, we hold that these 'safeguards' are doomed to failure for the simple reason that the competitive channels will be solely dependent upon the revenue to be derived from the advertisers and it is common sense that the advertiser will only advertise if he is satisfied with the service he receives. If he dislikes the programme in which his advertisement will be set he will seek to change the nature of that programme, and as failure to do so would mean the closing down of the television channel the advertiser is bound to have a substantial degree of success.But even before these difficulties developed, if indeed they did, it would naturally be the policy of the television service to cater for such a programme as is most likely to appeal to advertisers. This means putting on programmes planned to obtain the largest audience and pride of place goes not to the enjoyability of a programme but to the universality of its appeal.I do not believe, from what I have seen of this circular, that this particular organisation is in any way wedded to the idea of the B.B.C. For instance, they say:Although we have no quarrel with the companies which have so far been established for 692 the purpose of making films to be shown on sponsored television (in regrettably marked contrast to our dealings with the B.B.C.).They also point out—and incidentally we might bear this in mind—that there is a vast mass of American television material which is waiting to be dumped on the British television network, and they request that the Government take steps to see, when they come to the Bill, as indeed they will come, that at least 80 per cent. of the stuff to be televised is British. That seems to me to be perfectly sound.
Now what is our case? We certainly want to do what the people want. We certainly in no sense claim to have any right to act as censors of the people. We cannot do it. The problem is this. We are to have an alternative television programme. It should, as I believe, for a trial period, be provided by the B.B.C. by internal competition. I know it will involve a larger licence fee; that I quite realise. If you prefer, let it be set up and organised by a separate public service corporation on the lines of the B.B.C., a corporation concerned to provide education, information and entertainment. But do not have it set up by people who on the one hand are trying to give education, information and entertainment, but on the other hand are placed in the cruel position of having to please their masters, big business in order to get a living to enable them to carry on at all. We say that that is an impossible situation in which to put these people. I do not believe for one moment that we shall see pornographic films or anything of that sort. What I think we shall have—or there is a very grave risk of having—is a general lowering of the whole standard. That is far more difficult to deal with than any serious lapse of taste or decent morals.
§ EARL JOWITT
I meant a general lowering of public taste—I said "standard," not "taste." That is what 693 I am afraid will happen. It is all very well to brush aside American experience. Let me mention an experience in Australia and New Zealand. Australia and New Zealand have not yet got television, but they have got ordinary sound broadcasting, and they have had a system under which there is competition of this kind between commercial advertising, on the one hand, and a sort of local B.B.C., on the other. While I have not sufficient experience of my own to come to a conclusion, I have talked to a large number of people from both those countries. In both cases they tell me they have not evolved at all a happy system. I will venture to say that if your Lordships inquire for yourselves from people out there you will find that the system has not worked out well.
The only places, so far as I know, where they have his commercial television are the United States and Canada. I do not want to elaborate the matter, but I must say that I read the other day a striking article by Mr. P. G. Wodehouse, who has given me many a happy hour. He says that he thinks itthe foulest, ghastliest, loathsomest nightm are ever Inflicted by science on a suffering human race, and the programmes, except for the Friday night fights, the most drivelling, half-witted productions ever seen outside Guest Night at Colney Hatch.That puts it adequately. And I am very sorry for the Americans who are just as good and decent people as we are, perhaps more so, though unfortunate in having had this system thrust upon them. Now it is there they cannot get rid of it. There are very large numbers of them who wish to goodness they had not had it thrust upon them. I beg the Government to think again about this matter. Is it too late, even now? They will, of course, win this Division, and they may have a bare majority in the country on this matter—though I very much doubt it. I suggest it would be something of the order of 51 per cent. dictating to the 49 per cent. It is a pity, a thousand pities, that this subject has to be thrown into the vortex of Party politics. Cannot the noble Marquess, even now, by the exercise of his great ingenuity and statesmanship, find some way out of this? For the stakes for which we play in this matter are of immense importance to this country.
694 I wish this matter could be considered in a calmer atmosphere. So far as I am concerned, I have taken no part whatever in any lobbying. I have heard these stories of "Elderly Peers"—I think that is what they are called and I am afraid I am in that category myself—whispering together in dark corners. There seems lo have been nothing like it since the days of Guy Fawkes. All I did was to take part in a meeting. We met to decide the question who was going to speak on this matter in the unfortunate absence of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax; and since we are drawn from all Parties we had to have an ad hoc meeting. I have been addressed by the National Television Council and by the Public Council of Television. I have been told, on the one hand, that everyone hates the scheme, and on the other hand that everyone thinks it the best scheme ever. Unfortunately, so far as I am concerned I have not said anything to anyone about it. Now I have expressed my views. I devoutly hope that even at this last hour your Lordships will save us from this misery of sponsored television or its next door neighbour, commercial television as outlined in this White Paper.
§ 3.39 p.m.
§ LORD LAYTON
My Lords, I was brought up in a Radical tradition. Therefore, it is not unusual for me to find myself in opposition to authority. But to find myself, as I do to-day, at variance with my revered Leader, not to mention other Members who sit on this Bench, is quite a new experience for me, and one which I hope will not be too often repeated. But we are here to speak accord-to our consciences, and I propose to do so. I must also disclose an interest, for one of the newspapers with which I am connected has applied for a licence, in response to the invitation which was issued by the Postmaster General a few months ago. The conditions are somewhat changed and, like other major newspapers in the country, we shall have to consider what attitude to adopt under the scheme in the White Paper or, still more likely, wait until the draft Bill is available and see what changes are made. However, we see that in every country in the world where there is commercial television the newspapers are, and must be, intimately associated with it, and clearly, it was sensible for the chief national newspapers to put in their claim 695 for licences. But from the financial point of view, this interest is rather an interest in reverse. We do not know to whom the licences are going, or whether the scheme will be profitable in operation. What we do know for certain is that if this White Paper scheme comes into existence, the newspapers will not get more advertising revenue, and they may get a good deal less. In spite of that, I propose to speak, as we must all, from the public interest, and not from a personal one.
I have always had a misgiving about the B.B.C. monopoly. Liberals dislike monopoly in all its forms. But the dangers from the monopolies we dislike in the economic field are as nothing compared to the dangers from a monopoly in matters of the mind. Frankly, it does not get us much further to compare monopolies of that type with the question of whether there should be one or two dustmen to collect the dust along the street. My interest in this question was just that of an ordinary observer until, about ten years ago, during the war, I came into contact with the problem of monopoly in broadcasting. It happened that I went with a Press Commission to Australia.
One of the chief contacts we made was with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney. Your Lordships have been reminded time and again that in Australia there is a double system, a Corporation, on the model of the B.B.C., and commercial television, on the model of the United States. There was also, at the time we were there, a Parliamentary Commission to whom the A.B.C. reported. To my surprise, this dual system was supported by the top executives of the A.B.C., who told us that while it was a hard fight to maintain cultural standards, the existence of commercial circuits was the major protection against strict Government control and interference by Parliament. It was the competition of commercial radio which made it possible for the A.B.C. not only to widen their selection and choice of artistes, a matter which was mentioned last night by the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, but also to take a much freer line in their political talks and in their engagement of political and other commentators than would otherwise have been the case. It 696 may be that some people in Australia do not think too highly of their system, but it was my first direct experience of the matter, and I have been watching it ever since.
It is said that the achievements of the B.B.C. are the answer to the charge that that Corporation is subject to the disadvantages normally associated with monopoly—bureaucracy, unwillingness to take risks and so on. The achievements of the B.B.C. have been fine indeed, and it is justified in taking the greatest pride in them. Certainly we are all extremely proud of the rôle which it played during the war. But the B.B.C. puts its case far too high when it claims that monopoly is essential for the maintenance of standards. I do not propose to follow that line of argument, because it has been eloquently developed by the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor. The Beveridge Report rejected that claim, but to my mind it is most effectively rejected by the experience of other countries which have commercial radio or television. The fact is that the variety of performance on radio and television in the United States is so great that in many respects the United States programmes fall below the British standard, but in many other respects they are unquestionably better, more lively and more vigorous than our own. I would also add that, in the case of television, all the information I have had a chance of weighing up shows that during the last two years in particular the development of television in the United States, technically and with regard to subject matter, has made immense strides forward.
I do not think that a really unbiased examination of the situation in the United States could possibly justify the general proposition that radio or television into which an element of private profit enters, or which is based on advertising, is necessarily one which is going downhill. Reference was made yesterday to the high level of music which is to be heard on the radio in the United States. My own experience is more closely connected with talks and political commentary, and I have no doubt at all that in the history of broadcasting the United States has led the way in the variety of topical comment on political issues and the freedom allowed to the commentator.
Yesterday the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, expressed the opinion that 697 he had suffered very little from constraints in the B.B.C. I do not find his views maintained by those who have experience of both systems. Almost unanimously those who have operated under both systems confirm the general conclusion I have reached. Those who think nothing but bad can come out of commercial radio would do well to reflect upon the fact that our major Dominions have adopted a composite system, although they have had before their eyes the object lesson of a public service corporation, on the one hand, and commercial radio, on the other. They have seen both systems and one after another they have adopted a combination of the two. Can it really be true that they are all out of step except this country? The Motion before us accepts the need for an alternative television programme, but it is not enough merely to give consumer choice. If there is to be true competition, the alternative must also be controlled and inspired by a different authority, if it is to avoid what Mr. Selwyn Lloyd calls a "uniform view of thought and culture." That is largely the answer, I believe, to the point which has just been stressed by the noble and learned Earl, the Leader of the Opposition.
This need of variety is particularly marked in the new industry of television, which has opened up such a vast new field in the means of communication of ideas between man and man. I do not claim to be a "fan" of either radio or television. I find it terrifying and most disagreeable to hear a radio going on all day. Although I have seen television from the earliest days—I had the opportunity of seeing the Derby on the television screen in 1938—I do not find it an attractive way of looking at things, and therefore I do not speak as a "fan." But no one with the slightest imagination can doubt that we are on the threshold of a tremendous revolution. One noble Lord yesterday spoke about the effect on the children. Everyone who is a parent or a grandparent knows that television will play an immense rôle in the lives of our children and grandchildren. But, for my part, I am equally impressed by the impact on the generation between the ages of twenty and fifty—that generation which is about to take charge in so many of our affairs. I have been astonished by the number of 698 persons in the journalistic profession of that range of age who have been fired by an interest in this new medium.
The uses of television are increasing every day. The Press cuttings show new uses in education, in industry, science, medicine and military operation. It will enable the fishing industry to follow the shoals of fish under the sea; it will assist police detection, and will enable loading operations outside a building to be followed and controlled by someone sitting inside the building in a protected, warm room. I have before me, among the cuttings I have been looking at, a report of a course arranged and carried out by television by one university in the United States. The authorities of the university report that they had 1,000 students taking this course in education. The report goes on to say that there were 10,000 people who bought the textbooks, and to some of the classes there was an audience of 50,000. When it is known that the public respond in that way to a television class, is it possible to avoid putting on the television screen matters which are of great educational importance? I do not mind what words are put into this White Paper; it is certain that commercial television in this country must put such things on to the screen. As I say, the journalistic profession realises that it is up against a new medium of communication, and a serious rival to the printed word in the conveyance of news, views and the interpretation of events; and, following the thought of the Lord Chancellor, I include in that music, art and so on. We of the Press must learn either to associate or, at all events, to live with this newcomer. Is it sensible that the whole of this new development, this enormous new sphere, should be under the control of a single group of people?
I am by nature an optimist, but one of the things I have found depressing in recent years has been that while so many of the great inventions of the last fifty years have been made here in Britain—and we are proud of them—so many of them have been left to be developed anti established elsewhere. In my own industry, the Linotype machine was irvented here in London, but for decades the British Press paid fees to the American company which developed it and controlled the patent. It also occurs in the iron and steel industry (I had occasion 699 to mention that to your Lordships some time ago) and in other industries as well. Atomic energy, also, is a British concept which, in a major way, has been taken into the hands of the Americans for development. Are we going to allow this television concept, devised here, to be developed in the United States of America, and take the subsequent elaborations of it, whether in its technique or in its use, only after they have been developed and produced there? That is why some of us feel passionately that we should not allow this enormous new field that is opening up before us to be straitjacketed in Britain.
There are a number of other speakers, and I do not wish to take up too much time, but before I leave the question of monopoly I should like to make two other short comments. The first is that it is sometimes said that we can afford to have monopoly in the air because we have a free Press. I do not think that is a wise ground on which to base our policy, having regard to the future. I do not believe that the criticisms made a year or two ago about the monopolistic tendencies in the British Press have much foundation, but they could be there. The important thing is that we may be reaching a point where television will take over from the printed word a great deal of the distribution of news and views, and its interpretation generally. We must ensure freedom of the air from the start, and not experiment with another form of monopoly. May I add this, in passing—and it is a point on which I am afraid I am at variance with my noble Leader, in particular; it was also mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition. Why this talk of creating a new monopoly? The creation of a second so-called monopoly destroys monopoly. It creates competition, and it does so for both sides. If you have one channel under commercial control, with its subordinates in different towns, that can be called a monopoly; but it has the B.B.C. against it the whole time. It seems to me that that argument forgets the point that two monopolies are not twice as bad as one.
My second point is a brief reference to public opinion. The noble and learned Earl who has just spoken referred to this matter, and it has been very freely said 700 that public opinion is against tampering with the monopoly of the B.B.C. The Gallup Poll, of course, does not confirm that impression. It is true that immediately after the Coronation the attitude in favour of B.B.C. television rose to a high peak, and in the month of June this year those who were in favour of maintaining the monopoly of the B.B.C. in television were 60 per cent., with 36 per cent. for commercial television and 4 per cent. expressing no opinion. By October, the figures had undergone a very great change. The 60 per cent. had dropped to 40 per cent. in favour of the B.B.C. monopoly, while the percentage in favour of commercial television had risen to 48, with 6 per cent. not expressing an opinion. The interesting thing was not merely that the lines had crossed, but that, when analysed to show the vote of those in possession of television sets, the figures showed that 57 per cent. of those possessing television, as against 48 per cent. among the general public, wanted commercial television. I should explain that that poll, which was published the day after the publication of the White Paper, was in fact taken before the White Paper was published and before its contents were known. I am quite sure that if and when a new poll is taken after the reservations and control of the White Paper have been taken into account, it will certainly show a much higher figure in favour of commercial television.
I mention that point, not because I wish those figures to influence the minds of your Lordships, who are asked to discuss this on its merits and not merely to follow a Gallup Poll, but because it seems to me necessary to indicate that the suggestions to the contrary are not really founded on fact.
I turn briefly to the subject of finance and the problem of advertising. I find myself here quite unable to accept the presumption so freely made that to accept advertisements, or indeed to work for profit, must necessarily be degrading. Lord Beveridge referred yesterday to the Note which he and two of his colleagues appended to the Broadcasting Report in which they dissociated themselves from this attitude towards advertising, and that Note was again referred to by the noble and learned Earl who has just spoken. I hope that I am not misrepresenting the implications of that Note, but 701 I disagree with Lord Beveridge and those of your Lordships' House who have asserted that no lessons are to be drawn from the analogy with newspapers. I feel strongly that many analogies are to be drawn and many lessons learnt.
Let me state one or two propositions familiar to anyone concerned with the commercial side of newspapers. The national papers of London with the largest circulation tend, on the whole, to devote the smallest proportion of their space to advertisements. I think that that is probably a universal rule, though I would not say that it is invariable. But generally speaking it is true, and it is true of London. The Leader of the House yesterday was quite right when he intervened to point the converse: that the smallest newspapers have the highest percentage of advertisements and are most dependent upon advertising revenue; that their expenses—the cost of newsprint which they use, and so on—are small and the percentage of dependence on advertising rises very high. Are we to conclude, in that case, that there is this process of degradation going on in the local Press of the country, to which so many people look to ensure the freedom of the Press?
The opposite, too, is true: that the highest percentage of advertisements in the national Press is to be found in the highest grade newspapers, and they also command the highest rate per inch of space per thousand readers. The small newspapers with the high-grade circulation command a much higher rate per inch per thousand. The reason is not far to seek. The advertiser does not seek merely numbers in any medium. He seeks purchasing power, and therefore he goes for the medium which has the largest number of readers likely to purchase and with the means of purchasing. That is why the operator under sponsored broadcasting in the United States puts on a high-grade programme. He does so because he will tend to get a better class of listener, just as the newspaper's policy is related to the character of those who read. And while it is also true that numbers count, there is nothing wicked about it.
Then the noble and learned Earl who has just spoken said that the advertiser bases his advertisement on Programme 702 "A" and therefore Programme "A" will be inserted. That choice exists in newspapers, because the advertiser is perfectly free to decide. If he wants the front page and the newspaper says, "No, you have to go on the sports page," the advertiser will not put it in if it is the sort of thing that does not make an appeal to the sports reader.
§ EARL JOWITT
As to the position of the newspaper, the noble Lord has a great knowledge about these matters, and I have none; but does the noble Lord tell me that any reputable newspaper is influenced, in the policy it pursues, by its advertisers, and that it alters its leaders to suit the taste of the advertiser?
§ LORD LAYTON
No, certainly not. But I am giving the reasons for considering, as I do, that the policy of those who run commercial television enterprises will not be decided by going round to advertisers and saying, "What sort of policy would you like?" Their primary consideration will be in establishing a reputation for their circuits. They will try to establish the prestige of their circuits, so that the knob will be turned on to their telecasts, and the fact that they have succeeded on their judgment in creating a great organ will enable them to go to the advertiser and say, Look, these are the kind of people who are ringing me up." Of course the advertiser will say, "Well, you don't expect me to put on an advertisement for the Encyclopœdia Britannica on the Children's Hour." Of course there will be some give-and-take in that respect. But I most emphatically insist that there is an analogy between the Press and what will happen under commercial television, and that it does not lend colour to the view that there must necessarily be this degradation. There is, too, a difference between the system of sponsoring and a system of advertising. However, I have no time to develop that theme: I have already exceeded my time. For my part, I also do not think that there is any difference—as is so frequently asserted—between the operation of what I would call these laws, that is to say the search for purchasing power, whether the advertisements are a part of the revenue of the stations or the whole. It seems to me that there is another fallacy. It would take too long to go far into this question of the method of advertising.
703 I come to my last point. It is the issue which was raised in the speech of the most reverend Primate yesterday—in what seemed to me, if I may say so, the speech of a businessman looking at a business proposition with considerable shrewdness. I am convinced that this issue of 100 per cent, advertising revenue, or some other percentage of advertising revenue, is a passing phase. Rather I would put it in this way: I am quite certain that the 100 per cent. dependence upon advertising revenue is a passing phase. It is passing in the United States. I question whether advertising revenue in Britain would be sufficient to maintain more than the single network which it is hoped to attain at present, and on the scale which it is hoped to operate under the White Paper. But there will be much more television than that, particularly after we get to the era of ultra-high frequency. There will be an immense expansion, and I do not for one moment think that all the different agencies, whether they are alternative corporations or purely commercial organisations, will live 100 per cent. on advertising revenue. I question whether there is enough. I think it would be unsound economically, because advertising revenue in this country, much more than in the United States, is to a certain extent unstable; it is not a sound basis.
For the moment, the only alternative is to reconsider the licence fees which, in my judgment, can be increased. Television is the cheapest form of entertainment that there is, particularly where there are many in the family. The cost of the licence is at present about 1¼d. per day. That is a ludicrously low figure, measured in terms of what television provides, even at present. I believe the Americans are on the track of something which will give the answer to this question, and that is the system of "pay as you view." There are many methods of this system which are under trial and operation. There is the 1s. in the slot which unscrambles telecast "A." or telecast "B." for an hour. There are many other schemes of this kind which are being developed, and it is as certain as anything can be—I venture to make this prophecy—that it will surely be the case that some system of that kind will have to be devised. But, in the meantime, I believe that the most reverend 704 Primate made a most useful contribution in suggesting that Her Majesty's Government should not close their minds to the problem of finance of the B.B.C. system on the one hand, and the commercial system on the other.
If this Motion goes to a Division, I shall certainly cast my vote against it—not because I agree with every one of the details, but because I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Milverton, that we are discussing questions of principle. I approve the questions of principle, in the sense that the White Paper provides for a modification of the monopoly of the B.B.C. in matters of television which are so vitally important and which, in my judgment, imperatively demand competition, both in technique and in the field of programme-making and so forth. I support it because I do not share—indeed I think it is based upon false argument—the view that advertising necessarily degrades. I believe that advertising will perhaps permanently, but certainly for a long time to come, be one of the most important alternative sources of revenue, and I think the scheme is reasonably elastic. On those three principles, without reference to the detail, I should certainly vote against the Motion turning down this proposition. Nevertheless, I share the views of the most reverend Primate that this launching out into a new part of the sea, this new journey that we are about to make, should, so far as possible, be made by common consent. I would hope that the Leader of the House could say something which would enable the movers of this Motion to withdraw it, in order that the new policy may be one which will command the general assent of the country.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ LORD BRAND
My Lords, we have listened to a good many long speeches and. therefore, I propose not to detain your Lordships for many minutes, because there are some important speeches to come in the next hour and a half. I wish, therefore, to refer only to one or two points. First of all, I believe I can explain the accusation of lobbying. I have not taken part in any lobbying, but the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, saw me having tea with Sir Ian Jacob. Sir Ian Jacob had not come to have tea with me, but with Lord Cherwell. The noble Earl saw me talking to him afterwards, and I believe that was the origin of the opprobrious term of "lobbying."
705 I must say that I think the admirable speech of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack consisted largely of ninepins which he set up himself and then demolished with a great deal of oratory. He gave up Milton but retained "Set the people free." I do not think that the White Paper will set the people free. As the White Paper says, at present there can be only one network, and, if I understand anything about television or broadcasting—and it is very little—programme planning is a matter of exceeding difficulty, and on one network will require a great deal of co-operation and combination. Therefore, I should say that until further frequencies come into operation we may have one company, or at any rate only few companies, acting in close co-operation and probably financially connected. As we have heard so often, all the revenue for this is to come from advertisements.
I should like to make clear that I am a businessman, and I have no doubt whatever that businessmen are just as good as anybody else in the community. Nor have I anything against advertisements. As a businessman, however, I must express a strong hope that the total amount of advertising will never be equal to that which now faces the American public in that country. I do not think businessmen are more perfect than others. Everybody recognises that they must make profits and not losses unless they want later to have to rely on what is called National Assistance and go out of business. I am quite sure the programme company will make as much profit as it can. The first conclusion I draw, therefore, from all this is that the freedom of the individual, when this new Corporation gets into action, will be increased only by the fact that the viewer can see an alternative programme, and, secondly, that there will be one other body besides the B.B.C. to invite individuals to sing or debate or act before the public. The total addition to individual freedom and setting the people free is just that. But is there going to be any more freedom for minorities? In my opinion, none; indeed, so far as the B.B.C. is weakened, there will be less.
It is here that the White Paper is weak, and it is in connection with that subject that I want to say something about a 706 question that caused a little controversy between the noble Marquess the Leader of the House and the noble and learned Earl the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon. The Government take the view that, if sponsoring is prohibited, all is well. But that is not so. Sponsoring maybe bad, although sometimes it produces the best programmes. As your Lordships know, in the United States companies like the General Electric Company and General Motors—the biggest companies—put on sponsored programmes of a most admirable kind. They are very dignified: symphony concerts and so on; and that sort of sponsored programme would be the best kind of television that you could have.
But commercial buying of time is just as bad as sponsored television; there is no difference of principle. There is no difference between the two methods. The only important question in the end is, who pays for the programmes and what sort of tune he wants. Those who pay under commercial television must, almost universally, in my view (notwithstanding what the noble Lord, Lord Layton, has just said) except, perhaps, for certain classes of prestige advertising, require the largest possible audience. The bigger the audience the more they will pay for the advertising. The programme company's interests are therefore identical with the advertiser's interests. One gets bigger sales and the other more revenue. The largest possible audience in sound broadcasts and in television, too, means programmes of the easiest and simplest standards—with the same standards as those of the newspapers which appeal to the greatest majority. In the case of the newspapers, minorities are catered for because some papers exist for that purpose—The Times, the Manchester Guardian, the Telegraph and other papers of that kind, which, with a comparatively small circulation, appeal only to a minority of the population. It is because they appeal to a minority of the population that they get a much smaller circulation than some other papers.
Advertisers using newspapers choose those which suit their purpose best. They may choose, for instance, the News of the World, with 8,000,000 readers, or they may choose The Times or the Manchester Guardian according to the people they wish to reach. The great difference 707 between newspapers and television is that with the former the advertiser knows the circulation of each paper, and he knows the type of reader. He does not have to put pressure on the editor, because he knows the type of reader, and knows the character of the paper. He knows the class of people to whom he is appealing. In television, everything is different. How can the advertiser be sure of collecting, for instance, an audience on television like The Times readers? How can he be sure to collect a Manchester Guardian or Daily Telegraph audience, even with a highbrow, or what is called a highbrow, programme? As all American experience shows, he will aim for the largest possible audience which will be largely the audience appealed to by newspapers with the largest possible circulation. I am not criticising them for doing so. They have in America, I think a system of assessing the value of an advertisement in any particular programme. It is called the Hoover rating. A rating of 30 means that 30,000,000 people are likely to listen, and a rating of 5 would mean that 5,000,000 people are likely to listen.
Unlike newspaper readers, who have twenty-four hours in which to read the advertisements, the viewer of an advertisement on television has only three to six minutes, and he must see what he is wanted to see within that period. For this the advertiser pays dearly and he must be certain of an audience which is the largest possible and which is also intent upon seeing. If the advertisement comes at the end of an item in a programme it is vital to the advertiser to know what this item is and what the item coming on afterwards is going to be, so that he can get the viewers' attention at the particular moment between. Therefore, in the case of the newspapers the situation is entirely different from the television situation. It is perfectly true that newspapers could not live without advertisements. But that is totally different from a business in which the advertising is the whole revenue.
It is quite misleading to suppose that those who are supporting this Motion object to what is called "debasing" the public mind. The objection they have to the White Paper has nothing to do with what has been termed "debasement." 708 The objection is that programmes are wholly financed by advertisers' money and that, therefore, the promoters must aim at the largest possible audience—and that means the lowest standard. Moreover I dislike intensely the thought that in a few years a very large part of the population will live for hours a day in the atmosphere of salesmanship in their homes, forced on them willy-nilly. In commercial television the principal object is not education, or enlightenment, but selling goods. It still remains to me a complete mystery why the Government have taken the course they have. Many say that the mass of the people cannot be educated, or their taste be lifted, or their knowledge of affairs increased, or their capacity to act as good citizens improved. I do not take that view at all. We live in a period of universal democracy. If I did take that view I should despair of democracy itself. The fundamental difference in this debate is, I think, between those who wish to try and enlighten as well as entertain democracy and those who think that any such efforts are merely highbrow nonsense and that the people must be given what they want. I profoundly disagree with that view. For every reason, I support this Motion and still hope that at the eleventh hour the Government will see the light.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
My Lords, the remarkable debate of the last two days was started by the noble Viscount. Lord Hailsham, in a forceful speech full of Biblical quotation. I listened just now to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Brand, and I have also listened to the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and to the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I at once went to the Bible to try to find something to describe my feelings. I went to Job, where I found these words:Now Elihu had waited till Job had spoken, because they were elder than he.When Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, then his wrath was kindled.My wrath is not exactly kindled, but my hopes dwindled, as I listened to those successive speeches, that we were going to hear an effective defence for the continuance of the monopoly of mind that the B.B.C. at present exercise over the citizens of our country.
709 Before I say a word upon that question of monopoly, I should like to say something about this question of an appeal for a free vote in your Lordships' House, an appeal by various noble Lords, including the Leader of the Opposition, Lord Jowitt, to take this question out of the arena of Party politics. My question would be: who put it into the arena of Party politics? The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said that he had sent out no Whip. He said: "We gain nothing in your Lordships' House by a Division." If that is so, I sincerely hope that the movers of this Motion will not press it to a Division, because it seems to me impossible for the Government not to put on the Whips. In the gracious Speech from the Throne, the following was contained:My Ministers will lay before you their proposals for…television development.Mr. Attlee, on behalf of the Labour Party, has expressed absolute opposition to any such proposals as the Government are now putting forward. It seems to me ludicrous to expect any Government with any self-respect and with any degree of authority to be willing to put to a free vote in either House of Parliament a subject of major importance in the gracious Speech from the Throne upon which the Opposition have said that they will vote to resist on every possible occasion.
It is quite true that the Government have said—and I think we who support the Government are glad that they have said it—that they will consider everything that is said in this debate. But, as I understand it, we are going to vote, if this matter is pressed to a Division, upon the broad question of policy, and Her Majesty's Government have expressed a willingness, not to reconsider that policy but to reconsider the methods of implementing that policy. There is a deep and fundamental difference on that. It also seems to me that there is a great inconsistency in the minds of those who advocate a free vote. As the Lord Chancellor so forcibly said, they deny to the electors of this country what they themselves are asking for in this House. We have, as the Lord Chancellor reminded us, a highly educated democracy, and if Lord Hailsham's dictum is right, that broadcasting is part of democracy, then give democracy the chance to judge for 710 themselves; because if the commercial programme does not appeal, then the project will "flop" and fail.
Why not give them, again to quote the noble Viscount's excellent expression, "the freedom of the knob"? Let them choose. It seems to me that the denial of this right to the electors is virtually an insult by those who support this Motion to the intelligence of the electorate. I see that the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, is not at the moment in his place, but there are present certain noble Lords who are leaders of the Opposition. I should like to ask this and, if it is not answered to-night, I think we are entitled, and I think the nation is entitled, to an answer at some time. Do the Opposition, the Labour Party, pledge themselves, if and when they are returned to power, to close down commercial television, even if it is running successfully, even if it is popular in the country? Do they propose to nationalise it, or to close it down? I think the electors of the country are entitled to an answer to that simple and direct question.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS BOROUGH
I think many people would also like an answer to this question: have the Government a mandate for the step you are proposing
LORD BALFOUR. OF INCHRYE
That does not answer the question. I am asking noble Lords opposite a perfectly simple question. We who support the Government consider that we have a mandate for doing this—and, thank goodness! I support a Government who are willing to govern, and do not consider themselves a delegate of a certain section of the electorate, but representative of all the citizens of the country.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
That is all very well, but why was it not in the Election Programme, if this was intended? It was well known that this issue would arise. Would it not have been more honest to tell the people what they were voting for?
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
No. The noble Viscount is no child in politics. He may have a young head on middle-aged shoulders, but he is no child in politics. He knows quite well that the major work of a Government for each Session is put in the gracious Speech 711 from the Throne, and it is the gracious Speech which governs the particular work for the next few months.
To revert for a moment to the great issue of monopoly, it was dealt with by various noble Lords including the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, objects to the word "monopoly." As the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, reminded us yesterday, it was the noble Lord, Lord Reith, who said that it was the brute force of monopoly—"monopoly,"mind you—which enabled the B.B.C. to become what it did. I must leave the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, and the noble Lord, Lord Reith, to decide amongst themselves whether or not there is in fact a monopoly. What I think this monopoly means is this: that the B.B.C. planners have monopoly rights in the presentation of sound and television to 10 million pairs of ears and 2½ million pairs of eyes, and that monopoly would still exist if Lord Jowitt's proposal for an alternative secondary programme under the B.B.C. were adopted. No listener has ever heard in this country any single programme that has been unplanned by the B.B.C. Every programme must include what thy; B.B.C. planners consider should be included, and it must leave out that which the B.B.C. planners think would be bad for the listeners to hear.
I know full well that the B.B.C. has no views of its own, but I submit to the House that the selection of particular views, or the suppression of other views and features distasteful to those who select them, can be as powerful an instrument as an expression of one's own views. One of the best examples is the keeping of Mr. (as he then was) Churchill off the air before the war. That was done by a select number of planners. This conception of culture by committee is a doubtful concept, which will undoubtedly be broken down by a range of programmes arranged from other sources, under the proposals of the Government. The noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, said, "You must not create one public corporation to compete with another." That was suggested by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt. In fact, of course, the Government art not doing that, because the operation will be by the programme companies, and so will widen 712 the circle of selectors as to what the listeners of this country shall be allowed to hear.
I believe this widening of the circle is required, because this debate has gone forward on the assumption that all in the B.B.C. is wise, good and pure. Certainly I think the B.B.C. has done a grand job of work. I have no wish to attack the B.B.C. But do not let us be smug about it, and say it is really only concentrating—to use the words of the National Television Council of which my noble friend, Lord Waverley, is President—the spiritual and intellectual values which it has striven nobly to maintain.I certainly hope that commercial television will raise, rather than lower, the B.B.C. standards. The House is entitled to ask me to substantiate that statement. I wonder whether any of your Lordships noticed a television programme recently in which a charming young actress sang a song calledLove for Sale, finishing up with her going up the stairs to a room, followed by two men. And I wonder whether some of your Lordships saw the serial the other day called, A Place of Execution. There was a national outcry at the final scene, which was filmed in the Chamber of Horrors, when the noose was put round the neck of the heroine of the serial and she narrowly escaped the fate of death.
My noble friend Lord Hailsham, when he was speaking of intellectual and ethical standards, paid tribute to what happens on the children's television. He said that "Andy Pandy" was a family friend of the Hailshams; and it is of my family as well. But we are rather more liberal: we also go for "Muffin the Mule" and "Mr. Turnip." But there are certain features of the children's programmes which I submit should never be shown. The other day I turned on to a performance featuring Billy Bunter, and the first thing I saw was that somebody was shot in the stomach—not a very pretty sight for one's children.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
There is also a concentration upon gangsterism. The children's Teleclub concentrates on what is known as jive, dancing and all the superficialities of life. The worst example which I must submit 713 to your Lordships is something which occurred in the Third Programme—a piece of pornography which I believe ought not to have been printed, and certainly ought not to have been radioed. It was on Monday, April 13 last. I will not weary or disgust your Lordships with too much of these passages from True Confession; but when we think of the powerful peroration of Lord Samuel, in which he painted the picture of the Latin motto in Broadcasting House, signifying purity and the moral integrity of the B.B.C., I do not see how the noble Viscount or the most reverend Primate could possibly agree with the last verse of this particularly offensive document that was so recently broadcast. I must read six lines to your Lordships. They are:Good God, let me recollectYour many mercies, tall and short,The blousy blondes, the often necked,And those whom I should not have thoughtGiven wisely to me; nor let forgetMy grateful memory the oddConsolers, too frequently brunette,Who charged me for your mercies, God.That is the least offensive part of this particular document. I give your Lordships those examples just to try and debunk some part of the assumption that everything is so perfect in the B.B.C., and that the standards of commercialism will be so much lower.
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, I thought very selflessly, deplored the prospect that the artistes may require higher fees, and that therefore the cost of production may go up. One of the great advantages of the Government proposals is that artistes will not be confined to one particular employer, whether that employer has one or two programmes, but there will be a greater range of opportunity, and I believe the public will benefit. Quite recently, a great musician from the Continent was willing to give a recital in London, and his agent quoted the lowest fee that that artiste could possibly accept. The B.B.C. refused to pay that fee. They did it on the ground that if they paid that fee then the fees of every other artiste in this country, and I suppose the comedians, would be raised. It seems to me that an artiste should not be depressed by a monopoly, but should be given greater opportunities by breaking the monopoly in the granting of new chances.
714 The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, said something about the dislike of the trade unions of the Government proposals. He quoted one particular union. Let me, if I may, quote Mr. Sandison, the General Secretary of Equity, at the annual Trades Union Congress. He said this:Fees for acting in the B.B.C. television shows are so low that no actor can make a living in that medium, although he satisfies the needs of many millions of viewers.We shall soon have Her Majesty's Government enjoying the support of a wide circle of professional artistes, because, far from regretting this decision, they will see greater opportunities. The Government scheme offers an alternative programme to listeners, at no extra cost and at an earlier date than any other proposals which we have heard mooted. I could not follow the noble and learned Earl's economics as to how the B.B.C. could produce a second programme, on, I think, a £3 licence fee. In fact, the B.B.C.'s accounts for 1952–53 show that £3.4 million was spent on television and this year the figure is something over £4 million—that is, on a single programme of limited hours, and with no regional studios. At present, there are 2½ million listeners with £2 licences, which, less the Government deduction, means that £1 goes to television and £1 to sound. Therefore, to-day sound is subsidising television, The B.B.C. has already asked for an increased fee, and I believe the alternative put forward in this Resolution would mean an increase, not of £2 to £3, but to something between £5 and £10. I think the listening public should realise the dangers of the highly increased cost which they face.
Lord Hailsham's final "curtain," in a very dramatic passage, was to the effect that we are handing over broadcasting to commerce. That is as inaccurate as it is exaggerated. We are not handing over broadcasting to commerce. The B.B.C. sound monopoly will continue; tae B.B.C. television will continue untouched. He said that commercial television of this sort has never been tried. I do not think there is any disadvantage in trying something in this country that has never been tried before. We have done it before. We have succeeded in our own peculiar way, and succeeded pretty well. I could not understand one matter in the noble Viscount's speech, when he said that an 715 advertisement put on after the last "Amen" would repel people. He said later on that the success of this scheme was likely to be a danger to the Budget, because of it inflationary effect, I do not know which particular leg he wishes to stand on, but he cannot stand on both at the same time.
My Lords, my final word to-day is to the Postmaster General. This scheme is going forward. I hope that it will pass into legislation, and that the Postmaster General will appoint to the various positions of responsibility in the scheme those who have faith in commercial television, just as those good Directors of the B.B.C. have faith in the B.B.C. I hope that he will appoint people who believe in the integrity of commercial life, who believe that commercial television as well as the B.B.C., has a mission. We are in the age of the aeroplane and the atom bomb, and the views of the most reverend Primate that television should be held back, that it is something almost regrettable, are out of date and outmoded. We have to move with the times—I do not mean the daily newspaper The Times, I mean the times in which we live. And the Government are doing that. I think the Government are courageous to have brought forward these proposals, and I hope that this Motion will be defeated in the Division Lobbies.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ LORD AMMON
My Lords, the noble Lord who has just sat down opened his speech with a statement and a question. His statement was to the effect that the Government had a mandate to bring in commercial television. That is not true. The matter was not put before the electors at the General Election. There was simply a reference to it in the Queen's Speech, and that does not mean that the Government have a mandate. The noble Lord asked who was responsible for bringing this subject into the sphere of Party politics. The answer to that is, the Government. One of the most remarkable things about the agitation which worked up in this connection was the spontaneity with which religious and educational organisations, first of all, protested most strongly against the White Paper proposals and described the possible dangers which they saw inherent in them. The next thing we heard was that 716 a two-line Whip had gone out. It was not a three-line Whip which would have given the impression that a matter bringing into question confidence in the Government was under consideration. A two-line Whip was sent out in order that support should be rallied for the Government's case. I should like to say that I am greatly delighted to see so many long-absent brethren as I have seen during these best two days. Some noble Lords who are now present I have never seen before. Others I have not seen for years. I am sure that they have come with perfectly open minds, to listen impartially to the debate in order that they may decide on the merits of the case. That being so we need surely have no doubt as to what the result will be when we go into the Division Lobbies.
I should like to make it clear that, so far as I know, there was no hole and corner lobbying in this House. That noble Lords should have talked over this matter at the luncheon table or at the tea table was quite natural, for it was being talked of outside long before it assumed very much importance here. And supposing they did so discuss it, what is wrong with that? What is there wrong in noble Lords discussing together subjects upon which they will be called upon to give their opinion in this Chamber and to record their vote? Surely, that ought to be accounted to them for righteousness rather than anything else. I suggest that in this there is an indication that a certain amount of cheap opposition has been worked up on this subject.
I wish now to refer to the reply of the Postmaster General—I am sorry he is not here, but that is not my fault—to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who opened this debate. I am bound to say, and I hope that I shall not be misunderstood, that the noble Earl rather reduced the matter to the lowest common denominator. That, also, to a large extent was the effect of the speech made by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack. "Let the people have what they want" is the cry. What do they want? Who is going to decide what they want? A short time ago, we heard a most memorable and moving speech from the Liberal Benches by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. It was a speech that stirred the country and it called attention to some deplorable de- 717 generacy that is going on in our midst. Within the last few days, attention has been called to certain publications whose circulations are said to have soared very largely in consequence of the pornographic subjects with which they have dealt and the amount of sex and crime which they have featured. That sort of thing is what some of the people want.
I venture to suggest, in spite of all that may have been said by way of debunking certain matters connected with the B.B.C., that there never was a more inopportune time to interfere with or alter an organisation which, over a number of years, has done much to raise the cultural and educational level of the people of this country. The B.B.C. has certainly brought home to masses of the population a substantial measure of culture and education. And it has brought them into touch with religious organisations, and so forth, which otherwise would not have been brought in touch with them. The B.B.C. has done that, and in all the speeches that have been made during these two days nobody has dared to do other than pay tribute to the great work this organisation has done over these years. Surely, while one admits there are faults, and indeed there must be faults and things that are capable of amendment, nevertheless this is not the time to wish to take steps which may well lead to a lowering of standards. Rather is it the time to do what is possible to give the Corporation the opportunity of doing greater good.
I think it was the noble and learned Lord who sits en the Woolsack who wished to know exactly what we wanted. May I quote a resolution passed by the National Television Council, for it sets out what we want. This is the text of the resolution:Television is so vital a medium that it should only be entrusted to those who are concerned in putting on good programmes without regard to their significance as a lure for the sale of advertised goods.There is nothing to be ashamed of in that. No aspersions are being cast on tradesmen and business people generally who seek by any legitimate means in their power to bring their goods to the notice of the public. In repeating what is set out in the resolution, one does not necessarily say that the tradesmen and business folk are wicked people. What is implied, probably, is that it is our duty 718 to curb certain matters that may be injurious and may be misused. It is our duty to do this in the interests both of the public and of our children. That is what the aim is.
It has hitherto been the main business of the B.B.C.—do not know whether it has departed from it now—to bring a measure of culture and entertainment to the masses of the people. They have done that in a truly magnificent way over the years. None of us will ever forget the manner in which the Coronation and the celebrations which followed were dealt with by the B.B.C. I venture to say that their work could not have been bettered by any organisation. To bring the element of material gain into it I feel bound to say is something wrong. As yet no one, neither the Postmaster General nor the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, has told us why the Government are bringing in this proposed change. All we have had from the Postmaster General has been a simple repetition of what appears in the White Paper, and from the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack we have had some interesting illustrations of the game of setting up skittles and knocking them down again. But we got no further lead, and no further enlightenment as to what the object is.
The present high standard of television is something which we want to improve upon. Surely it is well that men who have no motive whatever for seeking to make profit or further private interest, but are simply charged with the desire to serve the best they can in order to raise the general level of culture and education in this country, should be untrammelled in their work. Certainly it may be well to have opportunities for alternative programmes, but that is not to say that the guiding principle should be to "give the people what they want," but rather to seek to educate them and guide them in the same manner that the B.B.C. has done for so long. This House, equally with another place, has a responsibility to see that it is kept in the hands of those who have no interests other than the common good. There is no necessity to charge us with being malicious or wicked when we say it is only natural that if advertisers are called on to pay for television programmes, they want to make the best possible bargain.
719 Over a long political life I have never known a problem more essentially a non-Party problem. It concerns the taste, education and well-being of the people, without regard to their economic position. It gives an opportunity for the best of us to come together in concord and counsel to improve the system which has in the past already proved itself to be to the benefit of the people. The B.B.C. have been in existence for more than thirty years. With research and hard work they have built a machine that has been of great advantage to the people, as I think we all admit. It seems to me curious that when all this work has been done and a prosperous and desirable organisation has been created, capable of further extension, suddenly commercial interests have wakened up to the good of the people. They have been a long while coming in. They did not come in during the early stages to promote this organisation and build it up, but now they seek to obtain a hold on it. This House, more than any other Assembly, has the opportunity of considering this question objectively. But the call has gone out to bring up Members who normally never attend your Lordships' House, but who have come simply on the instruction that they have to go through a certain Lobby. This question is too serious for that sort of thing. Even at this late hour, I beg the noble Marquess who is to reply to give the House some hope that we may find ways and means of arriving at a better method of solving this difficulty.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD ROCHESTER
My Lords, mine is a difficult rôle this afternoon, because I am speaking for others besides myself, and I am very conscious of the limitation of time. Nevertheless, I desire to indicate in the fewest possible terms what I believe to be the anxiety of Free Churchmen in this matter. Having been Vice-President of the Methodist Church as well as a Free Church Vice-President of the British Council of Churches, I am not altogether unconvers ant with the trend of opinion in the Free Churches. Perhaps, therefore, I may voice what I believe to be not only the keen interest, but, indeed, the anxious concern of vast numbers of Free Churchmen about the content of the prospective plans of Her Majesty's Government, as set out in the White Paper.
720 With your Lordships' indulgence, I propose to read a resolution that has been passed by the Methodist Conference. It is as follows:The Conference deeply regrets the proposal of Her Majesty's Government to permit commercial television. It considers that the experiment of placing sound broadcasting under the direction of a public corporation has been so fully justified that only the most powerful arguments could warrant permission of commercial exploitation of television which is an even more influential medium of public opinion. The safeguards so far tentatively proposed seem to us to be inadequate.The Conference agrees that some element of competition is desirable, but urges that such competition could best be achieved by so developing the television facilities of the British Broadcasting Corporation that an alternative programme could be made available.The Conference further believes that this is a matter of broad public interest which Parliament should be permitted to decide by a non-Party vote.I must be quite frank with your Lordships. That resolution was passed before the issue of this last White Paper, but I submit that there is little or nothing in the White Paper to remove our apprehensions and misgivings.
Brought down to bare facts, the overriding purpose of commercial television is not to entertain or instruct the public but to sell the products of advertisers. While the initial investment is to be provided by the Treasury or, in other words, by the taxpayer, the whole of the enormous expenditure required to run the service will be met from advertising revenue. As the noble and learned Earl the Leader of the Opposition remarked this afternoon, there is an old proverb that says,He who pays the piper in the end will call the tune.My fear is that this is the thin edge of the wedge of sponsoring. We do not want the intrusion into an alternative television programme of such advertisements as my noble friend, Lord Mathers, referred to in his speech last night, advertisements such as disfigure our hoardings with such palpable and scientific untruths as "Beer is best" and "Somebody's stout is good for you."
§ LORD ROCHESTER
No, my Lords, it is no laughing matter. I am a father and a grandfather, and I say that we do not wish such blatant and palpable lies by the drink trade to be introduced into our homes.
§ LORD MOYNE
My Lords, I am sure the noble Lord will give way. I am with the noble Lord on the issue of the Motion before the House, although not on what he has just said. I am an ally of his; the remark I made was that he was an uncomfortable ally, in view of what he has said. He has accused my firm of telling lies and I cannot accept that statement.
§ LORD MOYNE
I also could quote scientific facts. I think we must not develop this point because this is a very important debate. I can only say that I do not accept what the noble Lord said, and I leave it to your Lordships.
§ LORD ROCHESTER
I am quite content to leave it to your Lordships. I think noble Lords have full knowledge of the immensity of the damage that is done by such advertisements. They would do far better to add to the advertisement and make it, as the noble Lard, Lord Mathers, said last night: "Beer is best left alone." We do not want such advertisements by the drink trade to be introduced into our homes between musical items, for the children of our country to see. The Old Book is true:Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh.I feel that the responsibility resting upon your Lordships' House this afternoon is such that it would be difficult to exaggerate. It is something like forty-eight years since I entered the House of Commons as a young man under thirty, and I say, quite frankly, that I have never felt a greater burden of responsibility than in speaking this afternoon against the proposals contained in this White Paper.
§ 5.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT WAVERLEY
My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will all recognise the sincerity of the expressions that have just fallen from my noble friend who has preceded me. I confess that at 722 one stage of his speech I was reminded of the words with which the most reverend Primate opened his speech yesterday, when he said that he could not hope to add to the hilarity of the proceedings. I am in that position to-day, but I hope, nevertheless, that I shall not weary your Lordships by any tedious repetition of arguments already presented to this House with more eloquence and greater force than I could command. However, I entered the lists against sponsored television at a very early stage in the present controversy, and I am glad to be able to make my voice heard in opposition to the attenuated and, as I think, camouflaged version of sponsored television presented by the Government to-day.
I say at the outset, to prevent misunderstanding, that I myself fully recognise the value of competition—and by that. I mean genuine competition—and I am also a convinced believer in the virtues of private enterprise. Therefore, that is not in issue at all, so far as I am concerned. As regards competition, I was glad to hear the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, say this at the beginning of his speech yesterday (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184 (No. 10). col. 526):…there are many points which are still open for discussion, but there is one point on which the Government is quite firm, and that is that there should be competition in the providing of an alternative television programme.That was a most encouraging statement, so far as those noble Lords who think as I do are concerned. It is, I think, fair to recognise that the Government have, in fact, made a genuine effort in this White Paper to meet objections to the plan which was outlined in the first instance. There are to be no programmes by advertisers; no advertisements are to be interpolated in a programme interrupted for the purpose—though, as a matter of fact. I do not think that advertisers stand to lose anything at all by that provision. The cost of the new stations is to be met out of public funds. While such an arrangement has been criticised, and is no doubt open to criticism from one point of view, it has the advantage that it avoids the creation of vested interests in a form that would make it difficult for any Government to retreat.
Those noble Lords who are convinced, as I am, that the plan in its present form, if it ever came into operation, would have to be abandoned or, at any rate, radically 723 changed, may recognise a distinct advantage in the provision to which I have just referred. But what in the end is the result of all this? Have we now submitted for our consideration a plan defended by its authors by spirited arguments extolling its merits? Nothing of the kind. We have instead insistence, and I think a laboured insistence, upon the alleged effectiveness of the safeguards against abuse that have been provided. That seems to me to be a rather extraordinary situation which may be worth examining in some detail. There is to be no sponsoring, it is said. The evils of sponsoring are frankly recognised and, indeed, loudly proclaimed in the White Paper itself. But what will the lessees of stations under this new plan be, if not, in fact, collective sponsors? For, as providers of finance, and ex hypothesi essential finance—and that is a point which I stress—advertisers will have the whip hand.
I embark on this part of my speech with some trepidation, in view of the rough handling which the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, received at the hands of noble Lords on the Government Front Bench. However, I will go forward. I say that advertisers under this plan will be entitled to know where their advertisements are to be inserted, and they will undoubtedly hold back if not satisfied on that point. They will want their advertisements—and this is a point I wish particularly to stress—to be linked closely in point of time with items likely to attract maximum audiences, and likely, also, to put the audiences in a receptive mood for the particular products which are being advertised. And who can blame them? Who can say that such an attitude is in any way unreasonable? But how, I ask, will this in practice differ from sponsoring? In the end, in my submission, the programmes will be determined by people influenced not by a single-minded desire to give a good public service, but influenced by a different motive: not some ulterior motive, as has been suggested rather unfairly, but an open and avowed motive to sell their goods.
There has been a great deal of talk in the course of this debate about standards. What is the nature of the items in television programmes which are likely to find favour with advertisers? Can anyone who approaches this subject with 724 complete honesty of mind and with sound common sense doubt that sensation, with perhaps just a spice of vulgarity, will attract the maximum of listening coverage—if that is a proper technical expression? We are told that the Corporation will be charged to ensure the maintenance of proper standards. How are they to do that? If it were a question of keeping out obscenity, pornography, whatever it might be, something gross and offensive, they could, of course, do it; and do it effectively. But surely nothing of that sort is ever likely to arise. Surely, despite some of the things that have been said, we have not so ill an opinion of commercial morality or of the standards of advertisers as to believe that any problem of that kind would in practice arise or call for the exercise or the application of any kind of safeguard. Nevertheless, I say respectfully, but with complete conviction, that the effect of introducing this plan will be a progressive lowering of standards. That will be the tendency, and any of your Lordships who has studied evolutionary processes knows how, when a particular tendency operates by slow degrees—Lord Boyd-Orr is listening attentively, I notice—in the course of time very great changes come about.
I cannot understand the point of view of those who say that in this matter there is an analogy, and a true analogy, between the Press and television. Someone in the course of the debate characterised a statement in the sense of the one I have just made as an ipse dixit by (I think the words were) elderly superior persons. I think those were the words of the noble Earl the Postmaster General. I do not want to leave this as an ipse dixit of anyone, and therefore, if I am not detaining your Lordships too long. I should just like to pursue the argument a short distance, despite what other noble Lords have already said. It seems to me quite clear that, in the case of newspapers, advertisers are guided by the general character of the newspaper and its clientele, and not by the quality of particular leading articles or the manner of presentation of the news. But in television—this is a point I have already mentioned, but I stress it again—the advertisement will be linked, and inevitably linked directly, with the individual item 725 in the programme. That, to my mind, makes all the difference and is a complete justification for what I have said, and what other noble Lords have said, who have told the House that in their opinion there is no true analogy between the Press and television.
Neither the Corporation nor its lessees will, in my judgment, be able to exercise effective control. I can perhaps claim to have had some little experience of administration, and I would regard the task of exercising control in the fashion contemplated by the White Paper as administratively quite impossible. I conclude, from the closing words of paragraph 6 of the White Paper that that is also the view which the advertisers themselves take. Now I must make it clear that in what I have just been saying I have in mind the position as defined in the White Paper under which those bodies or authorities responsible for the presentation of programmes will be in a position of absolute dependence on advertising revenue—will have no other source of revenue whatsoever. That again, in my view, is a feature of the plan of the utmost significance, because in dealings with advertisers the Corporation or its subordinates will be in a hopeless position of inferiority if those with whom it teals know from the very outset how hopeless and how helpless will be the position of the authority.
In what I have said about the tendency to a progressive lowering of standards, I have said nothing whatever, and have tried to say nothing whatever, in disparagement of the standards of our British community as a whole, or of any particular section of traders or advertisers. I should have liked to reassure my noble friend Lord Bennett on that point. I myself find no difficulty in agreeing with the poet thatA little folly now and thenIs relished by the wisest men.Some noble Lords might prefer that in the original version from Horace, who wrote. "Dulce est desipere in loco." The significant words there are "in loco"—not all the time and everywhere, but "in loco"My contention is that such programmes, while perfectly acceptable in themselves, are not the sort of thing that ought to be thrust into the homes of the people, day in and day out, for the benefit or otherwise of young and old alike.
726 I do not agree entirely with those who regard the position of the B.B.C. as a mischievous kind of monopoly, but I respect the judgment of those who take that view, and I would say—and here I speak for myself alone—by all means have competitive programmes if you like, but not substantially dependent on advertisements. I should not object to allowing some advertisements, experimentally or tentatively, though I think if that were done for the one Corporation the B.B.C. ought also to come into line. I would just note, in passing, that there is apparently no question of introducing advertisements into sound broadcasting. I cannot help asking why that should be the case, if the Government think such an arrangement is a good thing in principle. Still less do I agree with those—and there are some advocates of a change in this category—who argue from the position that B.B.C. television is intolerably bad, or even that the B.B.C. is subject to a variety of insidious influences.
I have no intention of following the bad example, as I think, of the noble Earl the Postmaster General, who yesterday quoted to us the details of an overheard conversation, actual or imaginary, between people who had not seen television, who had not read the White Paper, but who nevertheless had strong views on this subject; but I have had it put to me that public men, whose views are entitled to be received with respect, have been influenced in their opinion on this particular subject by the kind of considerations to which I have just referred. I would say only this in that regard: that if there is justification for such aspersions on the B.B.C., the B.B.C. is our creation, for which we as a community ought to accept responsibility; and in such circumstances we ought not meekly and weakly to say to them, as the White Paper says, "Go on as you are; we are going to show you, and the people, how much better this new set-up we have just thought of can be."
I have not much time, and I would end on a somewhat different note. In television we have a novel instrument, as has been said already (I think the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack made some such reference), of vast potentialities, potentialities which in my view are 727 as yet only dimly appreciated. No one, I believe, can at present form a true estimate of the ultimate impact of television upon our economic, social and cultural life. I think we have been fortunate in having had television so far under close control for, under present arrangements, there is complete ultimate control. Members of the governing body and others connected with the British Broadcasting Corporation are, in the last resort, people who hold their positions subject to the pleasure of the Government of the day. Is it, I ask, not the part of wisdom in these circumstances to wait before making the surrender which is involved in the Government's plan?
I am convinced, as I have said, that there will be a lowering of standards. Many will disagree—I think they are wrong. There will certainly be extended hours of viewing, and a disturbing question was put to me the other day, which was this: "What if it were proposed to put on a short "spicy" item at the time of the eleven o'clock break, when it could be shown in industrial canteens all over the country?" What a wonderful opportunity that would be for the advertisers of certain classes of goods! Would consent to such an arrangement be refused? I very much doubt it. Our economic future is by no means assured. The purpose of advertisers is to sell their goods, and in this case to sell them at home, and to promote domestic consumption mainly, I should think, of non-essentials. It may prove fatally easy to persuade the crowd to follow the band that makes the biggest noise until, it may be, they meet a fate akin to that which befell the Gadarene swine. I am profoundly apprehensive. I think there is at least some danger that more and more entertainment in present circumstances may mean less and less productive effort. That is essentially a matter for the consideration of the responsible Government of the day. I leave it there.
We have had a long and an interesting debate. From my point of view, the debate has presented some encouraging features, and even at this late hour I would join with other noble Lords, with the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and others, who have expressed the hope that the noble Marquess who is about to speak, who is held in such esteem and 728 affection in all parts of the House, may persuade his colleagues to think again. I have been encouraged in making this request by the concluding words of the noble Earl, the Postmaster General. I would only say, in conclusion, that I will give my vote at the end of our Sitting, to-day to signify just this: that while accepting the principle of competition, while agreeing, however reluctantly, if it should be so decided, to the establishment of another public corporation, I hope the Government will look again at the finance and other features of their scheme with a view to getting rid of this, as I think, most undesirable feature of dependence upon advertisements.
§ 5.35 p.m.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, although the case for the Government's present scheme on television which was incorporated in the recent White Paper has been put, I am sure the House will agree, extremely cogently already, both by my noble friend the Postmaster General and in the profound and striking speech which was made by the Lord Chancellor at the beginning of business to-day, I feel that this is an occasion when I, who have the privilege of leading your Lordships' House, ought not to remain entirely silent. I must, to the best of my ability, try and give some guidance to the House. I propose to do this as briefly as I can, avoiding those points of elaborate detail, most of which I think have already been dealt with by others.
First of all, I should like to join with those who have expressed their regret at the absence of the noble Earl, Lord Halifax. We all regret both his absence and the reason for it. The noble Earl has the affection and respect of us all, and the debate, I am sure, has been poorer for the fact that he has not been able to take part. Next, I should like—though this is no reflection on anybody who has taken part in this particular debate in this House—to register a strong protest against attempts which have been made in certain quarters, though not in this House, to stoke up moral indignation and raise a kind of Holy War against the Government's proposals. There are many, I know, who may not be specially wedded to these proposals for their own sake, who have been profoundly shocked, as indeed I have, by the kind of atmosphere that has been created on what 729 is, in fact, to a great extent, a matter as much of taste as of morals.
I had a letter two or three days ago in which the writer, referring to this extremely moderate scheme of the Government—and whether noble Lords like it or not, it cannot be regarded as a very violent measure—used the following startling words:How can the best things that we know—love, humility, self sacrifice and the help of others, for instance—be fostered in a system controlled in practice, if not entirely, by the forces of blind profit and brutal competition?That is the kind of hysteria which I am afraid, whether they have meant to do it or not, the National Television Council have whipped up by their propaganda. I wonder whether they are very proud of it. Indeed, in support of their arguments, they have gone so far—though I do not say they intended to do so—as to create what can only be regarded as a new moral principle which has been brought into being for this special purpose. There is nothing very novel about that. Those of us who have spent our lives in politics are familiar with this type of ad hoc principle, and nothing does more to bedevil public life.
I do not say that those who subscribe to these principles do not believe in them. On the contrary, I think they would go to the stake for them. But the principles have, in fact, no real moral basis, and when the smoke and heat of controversy has died down, this is seen to be so. A good example, I think, was the question of tariffs which divided this country at the beginning of the century. One Party practically got themselves into the state of mind when they thought that all tariffs were morally right. That is the Party to which I now personally belong. There was another Party which got themselves into the state of mind of thinking that all tariffs were morally wrong, whereas, in fact, I think it is now generally agreed that tariffs are a mere administrative device which are sometimes right and sometimes wrong, and that no moral issue is raised at all. Since the war we have been in some danger of falling into the same error over controls. And now, it seems, we have a new moral principle, which is that advertising is entirely respectable and, indeed, commendable in every sphere except on the air; and that there, however completely it may be 730 safeguarded, it is morally pernicious in the highest degree.
May I broach a subject which has occupied a certain amount of this debate already. Newspapers are as dependent for their very existence as any television company could be on revenue derived from advertising. I do not agree with what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, last night. The point is that it does not matter whether they are 100 per cent. dependent or 50 per cent. dependent; they die without it. They are all in the same category. Yet I have not heard any suggestion made so far throughout this debate that any newspaper has altered or debased its character as a result of the pressure of advertisers. The noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, tried to draw a differentiation between the position of a newspaper and the position of the companies which are to produce the programmes. I thought, if I may say so with great respect, that the line of argument which he advocated was highly ingenious but completely false. He will correct me, I know, if I am inaccurate, but he said that there was an analogy with the Press. The analogy which he tried to draw was that in the case of the newspaper, the advertiser would go to the newspaper and say, "First show me your leader"—by which I hope he meant, "your leading article"—"and I will tell you whether I will advertise or not."
Now my Lords, I do not want to dogmatise on this subject—it is one with which I am not very familiar—but, in my view, the advertiser would not do that. The advertiser in any newspaper does not concern himself with the leading article. What he does want to know (and this is just what the radio advertiser will want to know) is what the circulation is—and even more, as the noble Lord, Lord Layton, has said, what is the standing of the paper in which he proposes to advertise. If the circulation is adequate and the standard high, he will not bother about the character of the programme or anything else so long as he gets his public. That I believe is the same in the case both of the newspaper and the television programme.
If there is a good audience for a programme, advertisers will readily advertise in that programme. And I would add this. Personally I would not for a moment 731 admit, what has been assumed by many speakers this afternoon and yesterday, that the standard of taste of British audiences to-day is as low as they seem to think. On the contrary, I have talked to many people who are concerned in these matters and my view is that the standard of British audiences of all sections and classes of the community is high and steadily rising. That is a fact well known to those who have given attention to this matter. Moreover, I cannot but think that the argument advanced by the noble and learned Earl, that they are more susceptible to a low level of appeal, is a somewhat strange one coming from the Leader of a Party one of whose main claims is that it represents that particular section of the community, the common man. Frankly, my view is exactly the opposite to that of the noble and learned Earl: I am convinced that if a programme company wanted to produce a programme such as to debase the listeners, or do anything of a degrading character, it would soon lose its chances and have to mend its ways. I cannot help saying that if noble Lords such as Lord Jowitt and even Lord Brand and Lord Waverley, were to come out of their ivory towers and go out into the world, they would find that neither the businessmen nor the advertisers nor the audiences of England are as bad as they seem to consider them. What good, then, is it for noble Lords to tell us with regard to television that it is only if a programme vulgarises and degrades that it will be selected by advertisers?
§ EARL JOWITT
I have said no such thing. I agree entirely with the noble Marquess about the standard of our audiences—and I attribute that to the work of the B.B.C.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
But the point which neither the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, nor the noble Lord, Lord Brand, mentioned, was that the B.B.C. is going to go on. There is no question of doing away with the B.B.C. My Lords, I believe that an attempt to sublimate this question into a great moral issue, based on the utter fallibility of the British people, will not commend the cause of those who use such arguments to the British public; and I am very glad that the most reverend Primate did not 732 lend his great name to any such suggestion.
Now I turn to the Government scheme as outlined in the White Paper. Here I should like in what I say to take a somewhat different line from that taken by most of those who have spoken up to the present. With the exception of the most reverend Primate, previous speakers, broadly speaking, have been protagonists of one of the two main schools of thought of this controversy—which seems to engender so much heat. There are those who feel passionately that the maintenance of control by the B.B.C. over television is a denial of elementary human rights, and others who feel as strongly on the other side that commercial television will lead to the immediate degradation of the whole population. Personally, I cannot hold either of these violently expressed views. If the proposal had been to employ the same system as that which operates in the United States, I confess that I should myself have had a strong inclination—on grounds rather of taste than of morals—to share the views expressed by some of the supporters of the Motion, though I think it would have been rash to assume that the results would have been the same here as in the United States. The conditions are, of course, very different. The present Government proposal is entirely different. Everyone knows—though this is never mentioned by the supporters of the Motion and their sympathisers—that in the United States there is nothing equivalent to the B.B.C., a public corporation well established, with high standards, which will continue to operate on its existing lines. It does not exist in the United States. That seems to me in itself a fundamental difference.
Moreover, from inquiries I have been able to make it seems that in the United States there is no practical public control at all of television. The whole television system is run entirely by private broadcasting companies who provide facilities for private advertisers. Here, on the other hand, under the scheme now put forward—these facts have been ignored in the debate—the body which provides facilities will be a Corporation with a board of directors just as eminent as those of the B.B.C. The State will provide the money for the Corporation and will appoint these directors. 733 Moreover, the bodies who provide the programmes will not be the advertisers, as in the United States; they will be independent companies. Lord Waverley said just now that the programmes would be linked to advertising. That will not be so. The Corporation will be there, to see that the proper standard is kept. We may disagree about that, but that is the full intention of the scheme, and the board of the Corporation will be chosen with necessary eminence to secure that result.
There must be many of us who will not share what I may call the hopeful cynicism of Lord Simon of Wythenshawe, but who remain convinced, after these two days' debate, that the companies which provide the programmes will be, under the Government plan, subject to a powerful check against any abuse of their functions, a check which does not exist in the United States or in the case of the Press or books in this country, so far as I know.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
I did say yesterday that there is in the United States a public corporation known as the Federal Communications Commission with identical powers and identical duties to those of the proposed Corporation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
But I understood the noble Lord to say that he did not think machinery could be built up which could guard against the abuse of the functions. If he does not take that view, that will be welcome to us all.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
The fact remains that, unless the companies do maintain that standard which the Corporation approves, the Corporation which grants the licence will be legally in a position to withdraw it, and this will be provided for in the contract which is given. Could anything be more different than the system which prevails to-day in the United States? Indeed, so far as I can see, there are only two likenesses between them. The first is that both contain the element of competition. That is true. But are we to be told by noble Lords on 734 this side of the House or on the Liberal Benches that that in itself is wrong? I shall be very surprised if I am told that. The second likeness is that in both programmes, here and in the United States, advertisements will appear. But, as I have already explained to the House, they will appear under entirely different conditions. Surely, therefore, any suggestion, however sincerely it is put forward, that there is a true analogy between the Government scheme and the American practice is entirely false; indeed, to my mind it would be much more accurate to describe this proposal as "competitive television" than as "commercial television."
I realise that that fact will not alter the views of noble Lords on Benches opposite who are thoroughgoing Socialists—and I do not mean that on a Party basis but in their philosophy. We all know that people who hold sincerely the views that they hold do not like competition. They do not like competition, whether it is between private corporations or public corporations. What they like is State-owned monopoly. That is the essence of theoretical Socialism. Nor, clearly, would they be particularly attracted to any form of advertising in the cause of privately owned concerns. That would be entirely contrary to their creed. I could not help feeling, as I listened to the opening speech of this debate, that noble Lords opposite must have derived considerable encouragement from what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, who, if I may say so, made the best exposition of anyone in this debate of the views which are normally associated with noble Lords opposite.
The noble Viscount is a renowned, and justly renowned, advocate, and finding that support for this Motion gave him the opportunity to expound that thesis, he did it, I think, with great gusto and bonhomie. He said how splendid it was that television had up to now been out of politics, since both Parties have accepted State monopoly. That is a very easy way of netting unanimity, if we all agreed about it. Then he talked with contempt of the principle of competition which had somehow crept in, and he talked almost with adulation about what he called the "principle of public service"—a phrase which, I may say, in passing, is capable of a very wide inter- 735 pretation indeed. I should have thought it could have been made, like those words which were used by Humpty Dumpty, to apply to almost anything that one desired. He deplored the undermining of this "principle of public service" by any interference with the overriding principle of monopoly. In fact, he gave us undiluted a line of thought which, I am sorry to say, many of us must have found rather antipathetic to our deepest beliefs. He gave undoubtedly—and I think we should congratulate him on it—a great forensic performance, very fine, full of fire and brilliance; but as a condemnation of the Government scheme I do not think it "cut much ice."
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Nor, I appreciate, is the Government scheme, if it is unacceptable to noble Lords opposite, likely to be any more palatable to noble Lords like the noble Lord, Lord Reith, who I am sorry is not here to-day, or the noble Lord, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe. Those noble Lords have something like a pride of parentage in the B.B.C. and naturally dislike any interference with it or any competition with it, just as the present editor of The Times appears also to do. But there is a wider body of opinion, inside and outside Parliament, represented by men like the noble Viscount Lord Waverley, the most reverend Primate, the noble Lord, Lord Brand, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and many others whom this House respects very highly. What moves them in the views which they have expressed? It is clearly important that we should try to discover this, yet, after listening to the two days' debate, I must confess that I am still uncertain as to the explanation. They are men who we know believe passionately in the merits of competition in any walk of life. Indeed, I have heard powerful speeches from nearly all of them on this very subject previously. Why do they reject it so decisively in this case alone? I have given a good deal of thought to this, for the very simple reason that they are none of them men from whom anyone would lightly wish to differ in opinion.
No doubt the reasons for their attitude are many and various. In the case of noble Lords like the noble Lord, Lord 736 Brand, and I think the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, one, at any rate, of the reasons which most affects them—at least, I gather so, from listening to their speeches—is their own personal experience of sponsored television in the United States. Clearly, anyone who listened to the noble Lord, Lord Brand, to-day would recognise that. That has profoundly affected them. They have mentioned it in their speeches in this House, either in this debate or in earlier debates. I would not question a word they say on this particular subject of television in the United States. I have never seen it and I am certainly not in a position to controvert them; nor do I wish to do so. It is surely not logical or reasonable to condemn, sans phrase, one scheme of competitive television in one country because one has disliked an entirely different scheme in another country where conditions are not similar. No one wants here exactly the type of television which is to be found to-day in the United States. It may suit them very well, but clearly it does not suit us. But I submit that there is no conceivable possibility that you would get that type of television under the present Government proposal, any more that you would get Senator McCarthy or the Un-American Committee (or whatever it may be) in this country. I am not criticising the people of the United States—we all have the highest admiration for them—but they manage their affairs in a different way from the way we do here.
There is, I am told, a fear in some quarters that, in the event of the Corporation getting into deep water, pressure may be brought on the Government to allow it to embark on sponsoring on the American model and that the Government may give way to that pressure. I understand that there are noble Lords in this House who have expressed that fear. To reassure any noble Lords who may feel like that, I will make this categorical statement: the Government have pledged their word against sponsoring, and nothing will change their mind on the subject. I hope that is unequivocal enough for noble Lords. In view of what I have just said, I am sure the House will agree that nothing that has been said in this debate has done anything to strengthen what may be described as the American argument.
737 Then there is what might be described as the "grandmotherly" argument which I think does affect certain noble Lords. The most reverend Primate, who in other ways yesterday delivered such a helpful and constructive speech, did at one point, it seemed to me, fall into this error, If I understood him aright, he said, in effect, that his main objection to the Government plan was that it might mean more television. In his view, television was bad for people, and he was therefore, broadly speaking—I do not say hostile, but not enthusiastic about a scheme of this kind. My Lords, that is of course an argument against television altogether. It may well be that in our view television is not good for some people. We may feel that television is good for no people at all. But does that justify us in this House preventing others from having what they want? I must confess that I find this a rather authoritarian doctrine for this free country.
The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, I thought, went even further. Having quoted from the White Paper a proposition with which I think no one will disagree, that "television has great and increasing power in influencing men's minds," he went on to say (OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 184 (No. 10), col. 589):From that observation the Government draw the conclusion that television should not be a monopoly. reach a quite different conclusion…that television is too precious to be entrusted to wrong hands…I could not help feeling, as I listened to the noble Lord's remark, that that one remark epitomised the whole reason for the decline in recent years of the Liberal Party. In earlier times, the Liberal Party was considered the champion of freedom and free institutions, and the noble Lord's remark hardly fitted in with that conception.
Now I should like to come to the last of what I might call the psychological reasons, which are, I believe, above all, responsible for the opposition which undoubtedly exists, not only in this House but in sections of the public outside, against any alteration of the existing system of television in this country. I would suggest to your Lordships to-day—and I do it quite seriously—that this last reason, which I believe to be a very powerful one, derives from that natural conservatism which is characteristic of this country and which was described a good many years 738 ago in a book on Conservatism by my noble relative, Lord Quickswood. He said that conservatism dislikes what is new just because it is new, and likes what it is accustomed to just because it is accustomed to it, and because it feels safer that way. Lord Hailsham's speech, I thought, was chock-a-block with that spirit. He said that the best programmes were those controlled by the B.B.C. He said that if it proved necessary to have advertisements, they ought to be under the control of the B.B.C.—Iam paraphrasing his words, and he can put me right if he likes.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
He said that the Government had most shockingly rejected the B.B.C. because they thought it was desirable to have competition, and he indicated that in his view any departure from the B.B.C. was a revolutionary and dangerous change. In one of Mr. Belloc's Cautionary Tales, he urged the heroAnd always keep a hold of nurse,For fear of getting something worse.That advice was a classic example of natural conservatism.
In the book to which I have referred, the noble Lord, Lord Quickswood, mentioned that natural conservatism had two features, to which I should like to direct your Lordships' special attention this afternoon, because I believe they are relevant to our discussion. The first is that it is confined to no one Party: it is found in the Parties of the Left just as much as in the Parties of the Right; and secondly, it is found far more acutely among the old than among the young. That has, I think, a special relevance to the problems we are discussing this afternoon, for there is no doubt that there is an age division in this country—the old, or the more elderly, are predominantly against any change in the existing system, whereas the young are predominantly in favour of it. That is visible, I think, even in our debate over the last two days.
Those who opposed the Government—scheme were, on the whole, more elderly than those who have supported it. I will not say, as I understood the noble and learned Earl said to-day, that we are "antiquated fossils" who know nothing whatever about it. I think that a little 739 unkind and a little unfair. But undoubtedly we are elderly. I do not say there are not exceptions. There is, for instance, the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, to whom I have just referred. But the noble Viscount has done so much work for the B.B.C. that, just as I suggested of the noble Lord, Lord Reith, that he had a parental affection for the B.B.C., so the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham, may well have a filial affection for that great institution.
I am sorry to say that I am myself over the age of sixty years, and I certainly come into what I think is now called the higher age bracket. I am very sensible of that. I confess that I am also very sensible of the force of the arguments about sticking to what one is used to, and letting well alone, and so on. But I have been bound to ask myself most sincerely—and I put the same question to other noble Lords of my age and upwards: Is it right that we sexagenarians, septuagenarians and octogenarians should seek to impose the dead hand of age(I say this quite seriously, and I believe there is substance in my argument) on a modification of the existing system of television which is favoured, if the Gallup Poll in the News Chronicle is correct, by the majority of viewers—I think the noble Lord, Lord Layton, said 57 per cent. of the viewers at present, and I strongly suspect by a similar proportion of the younger generation in this country?
It may be, of course, that many regular viewers will not want, and may even not like, the new programmes. There may be enthusiastic fans of the B.B.C. programmes like the noble Viscount, Lord Hailsham and his children, who do not want anything else. But let him remember what too many noble Lords forgot yesterday and to-day, that, if they do not want these new programmes, they need not have them. Under the Government scheme, the B.B.C. television programmes will continue just as they do to-day, and those who do not want the second programme can watch the B.B.C. as often as they like, just as they have always done. Curiously enough, that is a fact which has been almost ignored by the opponents of the White Paper in this debate. In that case, I repeat: Is it really legitimate for us in this House to use our legislative 740 power to frustrate those who do want to make use of facilities provided by the Government proposals, and which most of us probably never use? My Lords, I personally cannot feel that it is legitimate.
Immense trouble has been taken, both by my noble friend the Postmaster General and by the Government as a whole, to eliminate possible dangers from this new extension of television. Sponsoring, in the sense of the advertiser providing his own programme, is altogether absent, and most far-reaching powers of control have been retained by the Government in such cases. My Lords, are we justified in such circumstances (and I do not mind repeating this once more) in returning to proposals of this kind a bleak and uncompromising negative?
My Lords, there is need of some competition in television. I think that is now universally recognised, or at least very widely recognised. Indeed, the Motion which asks the House to reject the Government scheme refers, I think, to the desirability of an alternative programme. I had hoped, when I read that Motion, that we were to be given a new and carefully thought out scheme, representing the united view of that body of opinion which stands behind the Motion. I could not, indeed, quite understand why those who had promoted the Motion had not long ago exposed their proposals to the Government. They presumably thought them better than the scheme of the Government which their Motion condemns. Why did they not get in touch with us and expound their proposals? Why did they not in this way enable their proposals to be considered objectively before this debate? Why, I wondered, have they kept their proposals, so to speak, up their sleeves and sprung them upon us at the last moment? It was difficult for most of us to resist the conclusion that they were anxious to place the Government in a position of the greatest embarrassment they could. That I find rather shocking, because it is entirely out of harmony with the spirit which normally activates this House.
After two days of debate, however, I understand the position far better. There is an explanation—one far more favourable to noble Lords who are members of the group behind this Motion than 741 I had feared. The honest truth is that they could not put forward concrete proposals, because, though it is true they are at one in opposing the proposals of the Government, they are at one in nothing else. There are those who prefer in their heart of hearts, and almost said so, a straight monopoly. There are those who want two Corporations, both financed by higher licence fees. There are those who want two Corporations both financed by a combination of licence fees and advertisement. The people who want a monopoly for the B.B.C. are no more ready to accept the plan of those who want two Corporations financed by higher licence fees than to agree to the Government plan. And the people who want two Corporations both financed by higher licence fees are quite unwilling to accept a public Corporation financed by advertisement. And both these last two categories are entirely against retention of a single monopoly by the B.B.C. There is no uniformity anywhere.
In these circumstances, what I am sure was no doubt well-intended has turned out, I suggest, to be a purely wrecking Motion, with no constructive thought behind it at all, a mere babel of mutually destructive opinions. The only proposals which have received any wide measure of support in this debate are the Government proposals of the White Paper. If the House votes against them it will vote in favour of nothing. Attempts were made yesterday to castigate us for what was called "putting on the Whip" in this debate. The Whip, as your Lordships know, in this House, at any rate, is not an order. It is an indication of the way the Government would like their supporters to vote. Now, if a number of noble Lords put down, as they have done in this case, a Motion asking in categorical terms that the House should reject the Government's considered policy, is it really suggested that the Government should not give such an indication to their supporters? I could not help thinking that the attitude of the Opposition on this subject reminded me of the famous French saying:Cet animal est très méchant: quand on l'attaque, il se défend.Moreover, it was not we alone who sent out such an indication. There was one also sent out by the supporters of 742 the Motion. I gather that the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, never got one. He has my sympathy, for I was in the same boat; I did not get one either. Nearly everyone else got one. Fortunately I managed to obtain a copy. Here it is, and with the leave of the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, who is President of the National Television Council, I should like to read it out—that is, unless he has any objection. There is nothing particularly confidential about it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
It reads as follows:My Lords, I have been asked by Lord Halifax, who is a Vice-President of tie National Television Council, to draw your attention to the Motion standing in his name which will be debated next Wednesday, 25th November, 1953, and the following day. The Motion reads"—there follow the words of the Motion, and then comes this passage—Lord Halifax has asked me to state that he hopes you will find it possible to attend this debate and support his Motion if a Division is called.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I certainly received that letter. It was not a Whip. What I said was that there was no organisation of Peers in this House who sent out a Whip, or endeavoured to organise a vote on this occasion.
§ THE MARQUESS or SALISBURY
I gather that it is not a Whip; it is just a friendly communication. The curious thing is that the words of it are almost identical with the friendly communication which I sent out to my supporters. And I would point out, in answer to the question which was very properly asked just now by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, and in case any suggestions are made later that their communication was sent out only as the result of ours, that both communications have the same date on them. How, in such circumstances, can noble Lords claim that they have not tried to whip up their supporters and that the vote would be entirely free? Of course, they did their utmost to rope in everyone they could, and I do not blame 743 them. But surely it is a little disingenuous, in such circumstances, to complain of the Government's not allowing a free vote.
§ LORD MATHERS
In view of the fact that the noble Marquess has read out one communication, would it not be in keeping with completeness to read out the other one?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
I shall be delighted to do so. I have it here. This is how it reads:Your Lordship's attendance throughout both days of this important debate, so far as possible, is earnestly requested, but your Lordship is asked most particularly to be in your place not later than 4 p.m. on Thursday, 26th November, to support the Government in the Division which is to be taken between 4.30 and 6 p.m.Your Lordships will notice that that is an earnest request and no more; it is almost identical with the other letter.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Does the noble Marquess seriously ask the House and the country to accept Lord Halifax's letter to be the equivalent of a Party Whip from the official Whip of the Conservative Party? Can he read any similar Whip from either the Labour Party or the Liberal Party?
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
Frankly, I do not see much difference. No one in my place could accept a direct challenge to the policy of the Government without putting on the Whip.
I have come practically to the end of what I have to say. It would be an impertinence on my part to try to advise supporters of the Motion as to what they should do. I should like, in conclusion, to make the position of the Government quite clear. We have never spoiled for a fight on this question. We have always said that, within the broad basic principles of our scheme, we were ready to consider any suggestions that might be made. I believe that this debate has been useful in that respect, and I thought, in particular, that the speech of the most reverend Primate the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday and the very moderate words spoken by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, to-day, contained the germ of ideas which are certainly worthy of further study. In the meantime, our scheme, which is based on competition and a revenue from advertising—which I gather is not in itself 744 turned down by Lord Waverley—holds the field. Our opponents have been unable in the course of two days of long debate to produce any alternative on which they are mutually agreed. In these circumstances, if they force us to a Division, regretfully but without hesitation we shall go into the Lobby against them. It is for them to decide.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I am sure that at this hour the House will forgive me if I say but a few sentences on behalf of those who have put the Motion down. First, let me say this to the noble Marquess who has just spoken, and I say it knowing that he did not perhaps intend the full implication of what he said. When members of my profession speak in public life, they do not speak as advocates and do not put on a forensic performance. We speak in public life what we sincerely believe. At the beginning of to-day's debate the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor made what, if he will forgive me for saying. I thought was a somewhat savage attack on the absent Lord Reith.
THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, the noble Viscount will forgive me, but he did not hear what I said. I said that I had sent a message to the noble Lord, Lord Reith, which he had received.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
I heard it and I was about to say it. The nature of Lord Reith's offence is not exactly known to me. I must confess, but my own recollection of the matter at this distance of time was that the complaint was that Lord Reith had said of the noble and learned Lord that he was speaking to a brief instead of what he really believed. A mere Back Bencher is just as entitled, when he has a great profession to which he is proud to belong and another profession of public life to which he also belongs, to resent it very bit as much as the Lord Chancellor of the day when it is suggested that what he has said in public has been a forensic performance and he has spoken as an advocate.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, I make the most sincere apology to the noble Viscount if he thinks I meant that. I do not think it is inherent in my words. When I say that a man exercises his advocacy, then I do not 745 mean that he does not believe what he says; that is a very cynical view of the law which I do not accept at all. The noble Viscount said that I said something else about a forensic performance. What I mean by forensic performance is a magnificent speech which is intended to convert perhaps a jury. That does not mean that the man who makes a speech of that kind does not believe it. I did not suggest for a moment that the noble Viscount did not believe it. I thought his remarks were unusual exiting from our Benches, but that is only his own private idiosyncracy.
§ VISCOUNT HAILSHAM
My Lords, I accept what the noble Marquess has said, and I said in advance that the noble Marquess did not intend it. I lave known him too long and respect him too much to suppose that he intended any disrespect in what he said. An advocate is someone paid to put forward what is someone else's view. I do not speak as an advocate; I speak as a member of your Lordships' House, and what I said was that I was just as entitled to be as jealous of my honour as the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor himself, and I entirely consider that I was justified in saying so.
This has been a great debate. I hope I may be allowed to say that it has been a memorable debate. Again, I hope I am not going too far when I say it is a debate which will be recalled for many years as one of the most important occasions in either House of Parliament. Feelings are deep about this question and sincerely held on both sides, and I believe that it has done a very great deal of good that your Lordships' House has discussed this matter so fully. For my part, I must say that my overriding disappointment has been that I utterly failed, not to persuade the Government of the accuracy of my remarks, but even to persuade them to understand the case which I was putting. I do not wish to appear more righteous than the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who sits in the place that has been occupied by two Saints—Saint Swithin and Saint Thomas More—two gentlemen with whose policies I do not agree. Still, there he is. We do not want to force people to see what they do not want to see. Our case was that the mechanism adopted by the Government was designed to give them what they did not want. That case may be 746 mistaken, but it certainly does one no good at all to misunderstand and misrepresent it. I must say this both to the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, and to the Postmaster General. As everybody knows, there has been a library of literature lavished on us by the two television associations with almost identical names. These are not Whips. It really is absurd for the Government to claim justification for making this, in the face of the public, a Party issue, by relying solely on communications received through the medium of outside bodies. That is a totally new departure in Parliamentary procedure and one which I should have thought was a dangerous departure from practice.
The noble Marquess recited from one of the Cautionary Tales for children. I think he had forgotten the context in which those words were uttered. A very foolish young person, forgetting the advice of his elders, put his arm into the den of an angry lion, and by the time the keeper had tried to restrain the animal the lion had reached his head and then, alas! the lad was dead! That is just what I am afraid will happen to the Government if they go on with what seems to me to be an entirely unconservative scheme. May I say respectfully to the noble Marquess, who seemed to find my opinions odd in a Conservative, that all I am doing is to say that successive Conservative Governments since 1919 have been right in the policy which they have pursued on the advice of successive Committees which they have set up. I am not suddenly converted to some alien philosophy. I sat at the feet of Gamaliel. I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews in this matter. There is scarcely a public controversy during the last twenty-five years in which in my humble way I have not taken and received blows on behalf of the Conservative Party, and it does not do for the noble Marquess the Leader of the House to lecture one of the Back Benchers who does not happen to agree with him when, as a matter of fact, one of the fundamental doctrines of the Conservative Party is that if we find a system which is working well we do not interfere with it simply on doctrinal grounds. It seems to me that it is that fundamental principle which has been overlooked by the Government in relation to this case.
I do not want to detain your Lordships for many minutes more. I agree with the noble Marquess the Leader of the 747 House that one of the striking features of this debate was the contributions made yesterday by the most reverend Primate and this afternoon by the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley. Will they not take those contributions to heart? It is true that personally I wish to see the Beveridge Report accepted, for the reasons contained in that Report, but my disagreement with other proposals which do not involve dependence on advertisements for their revenue is of a totally different order from my disagreement with the White Paper. I believe I am speaking for the entirety of noble Lords who support this Motion when I say that if the Government would only scrap the White Paper and accept what the most reverend Primate said or what Lord Waverley suggested, this matter would not be pressed to a Division.
But, as the noble Marquess has said, the White Paper now holds the field with the Government insisting on a Party Division. Well, we must record our opinion about it; we are not going to run away
§ from that. It is a great pity. The Government have not in the country a very wide balance of advantage, even if they have that. They are now antagonising the Free Churches, as the noble Lord, Lord Rochester, told us; there are many members of the Church of England who will agree with the most reverend Primate; there are the Vice-Chancellors of all the universities, and the whole educational system; and there are other bodies of organised opinion, also, who are against them. Well, go into your Lobby with your Party majority, and with a Party majority in this House you will win, less some of your most sincere and devoted supporters who have given their whole public lives to the service of your Party. Go into that Lobby alone, with practically no one else but your committed supporters to support you, and see what happens in the end.
§ On Question: Whether the Resolution shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided:—
§ Contents, 87; Not-Contents. 157.749
|Wellington, D.||Amwell, L.||Lawson, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Amherst, E.||Belstead, L.||Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.|
|Baldwin of Bewdley, E.||Beveridge, L.||Mathers, L.|
|Huntingdon, E.||Bingham, L. (E. Lucan.)||Mendip, L, (V. Clifden.)|
|Iddesleigh, E.||Boyd-Orr, L.||Merthyr, L. [Teller.]|
|Jowitt, E.||Boyle, L. (E. Cork and Orrery.)||Milner of Leeds, L.|
|Russell, E.||Brand, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Burden, L.||Moran, L.|
|Addison, V.||Campion, L.||Mottistone, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Carnock, L.||Moyne, L.|
|Cunningham of Hyndhope, V.||Cawley, L.||Noel-Buxton, L. [Teller.]|
|Elibank, V.||Chatfield, L.||Ogmore, L,|
|Falmouth, V.||Citrine, L.||Pakenham, L.|
|Hailsham, V.||Clwyd, L.||Pethick-Lawrence, L.|
|Hall, V.||Darwen, L.||Quibell, L.|
|Hyndley, V.||Douglas of Kirtleside, L.||Rea, L.|
|Knutsford, V.||Elgin, L. (E. Elgin and Kincardine.)||Rochester, L.|
|Ruffside, V.||Rusholme, L.|
|Samuel, V.||Haden-Guest, L.||Schuster, L.|
|Simon, V.||Hankey, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Waverley, V.||Hare L. (E. Listowel.)||Silkin, L.|
|Hayter, L.||Simon of Wythenshawe, L.|
|Bristol, L. Bp.||Hemingford, L.||Stamp, L.|
|Coventry, L. Bp.||Henderson, L.||Swathling, L.|
|Rochester, L. Bp.||Hungarton, L.||Williams, L.|
|Sheffield, L. Bp.||Inman, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Kenswood, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Kershaw, L.||Wrenbury, L.|
|Ammon, L.||Kirkwood, L.||Wright, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Latham, L.|
|Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Portland, D.||Cholmondeley, M.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. President.)||Milford Haven, M.|
|Bristol, M.||Reading, M.|
|Northumberland, D.||Camden, M.||Willingdon, M.|
|Albemarle, E.||Airedale, L,||Hillingdon, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.||Hindlip, L.|
|Bathurst, E.||Annaly, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Audley, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Baden-Powell, L.|
|Birkenhead, E.||Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Jeffreys, L.|
|Brooke and Warwick, E.||Barnby, L||Keyes, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Belper, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|De La Warr, E.||Bennett of Edgbaston, L||Kinnaird, L.|
|Dudley, E.||Blackford, L.||Layton, L.|
|Dundonald, E.||Brabazon of Tara, L.||Leathers, L.|
|Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Braintree, L.||Leconfield, L.|
|Howe, E.||Brassey of Apethorpe, L.||Lloyd, L.|
|Lindsay, E.||Braye, L||Luke, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Brocket, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Lonsdale, E.||Broughshane, L.||Melchett, L.|
|Malmesbury, E.||Cadman, L.||Milne, L.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Carrington, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Perth, E.||Cherwell, L.||Monck, L. (V. Monck.)|
|Radnor, E.||Chesham, L.||Monkswell, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Cornwallis, L.||Monson, L.|
|Spencer, E.||Courtauld-Thomson, L.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Vane, E. (M. Londonderry.)||Croft, L.||O'Hagan, L.|
|Ypres, E.||Cromwell, L.||Ormonde, L. (M. Ormonde.)|
|Cullen of Ashbourne, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Allenby, V.||Cunliffe, L.||Pender, L.|
|Astor, V.||De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Polwarth, L.|
|Bearsted, V.||Denham, L.||Remnant, L.|
|Buckmaster, V.||Denman, L.||Rennell, L.|
|Camrose, V.||Dorchester, L.||Ritchie of Dundee, L.|
|Cowdray, V.||Dormer, L.||Rockley, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Douglas, L. (E. Home.)||Salter, L.|
|FitzAlan of Derwent, V.||Ebbisham, L.||Saltoun, L.|
|Furness, V.||Ellenborough, L.||Sandford, L.|
|Goschen, V.||Ennisdale, L.||Savile, L.|
|Hambleden, V.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Sherwood, L.|
|Hudson, V.||Fisherwick, L. (M. Donegall.)||Somers, L.|
|Knollys, V.||Foley, L.||Strathcarron, L.|
|Leverhulme, V.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|Long, V.||Freyberg, L.||Teynham, L.|
|Margesson, V.||Gage, L. (V. Gage.)||Thurlow, L.|
|Portal of Hungerford, V.||Gifford, L.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Ridley, V.||Glenconner, L.||Trevethin, L.|
|Trenchard, V.||Gretton, L.||Tumour, L (E. Winterton.)|
|Weir, V.||Hacking, L.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Wimborne, V.||Hampton, L.||Vansittart, L.|
|Woolton, V.||Hardinge of Penshurst, L.||Vivian, L.|
|Harris, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Aberdare, L.||Hatherton, L.||Webb-Johnson, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Hawke, L.||Wolverton, L.|
On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Resolution disagreed to accordingly.