§ 2.47 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Commitee.—(Earl De La Warr.)
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I believe that this is the right moment for me to put to the Postmaster General a question of which I have given him prior notice. It repeats the question which I asked on the Second Reading debate on this Bill—namely, whether the Independent Television Authority or the programme contractors will be liable to pay entertainments tax. I ask this because the reason continually given why the Treasury should deduct £2,000,000 from the revenue of the British Broadcasting Corporation is that the B.B.C., although an 657 entertainer, does not pay entertainments tax. I wish to ask whether the programme contractors or the I.T.A. will be liable to entertainments tax, as they undoubtedly will be—or it is intended that they should be—entertainers?
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (EARL DE LA WARR)
My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, for having given me notice of this question. I cannot help feeling, as I suggested the other day, that the question is based on a complete misapprehension of the nature of entertainments tax. Entertainments tax is a tax on payment for admission to watch or listen to amusements, exhibitions, games or sports. It is therefore paid by the audience or the viewer of a given entertainment. It is true that one could contend that it is payable directly by the proprietors of, say, cinemas or theatres; but they recover it from their clients, and it is therefore the clients who in fact pay. In the case of broadcasting, the listener or viewer can be regarded as paying something analogous as part of the licence fee. This applies at present not only to people who listen to or look at the B.B.C. programmes but also to people who never listen to anything but Radio Luxembourg. The licence is really a payment for the right to have a wireless set, which, as the noble Viscount knows., under the legislation by which we deal with this matter, constitutes a telegraph station.
As I said in the Second Reading debate, the B.B.C. is not called upon to surrender annually some of its revenue. Money from licence fees goes quite unconditionally to the Treasury. The Treasury pay, from that money, a grant to the B.B.C. I think the noble Viscount is aware of that position. Ever since 1927—that is, twenty-seven years ago—with the exception of a period of eight months during part of 1950 and 1951, some of the proceeds of the licence fees have always been retained by the Government. The B.B.C. has been allotted what was considered necessary for carrying on its services. If, therefore, the Treasury had not taken, as they did in this case, £2 million annually, the best thing to have done would have been to make a rather smaller increase in the licence fees than was made on June 1, 1954. There would certainly have been 658 no justification for giving the B.B.C. £2 million more than, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, it needs. The wording of the Government statement on the recent financial settlement was as follows:The Government have decided, having regard to Budgetary needs and the freedom of broadcasting from entertainments duty, that the licence revenue must not only cover Post Office costs for collecting fees and dealing with interference but also continue to make a contribution to the Exchequer.It is clear that in relation to entertainments duty the question is one of analogy. I close by saying that this £2 million is a tax, if anything, on viewers, on users of wireless stations, and not in any way a deduction from the B.B.C.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that answer. Towards the end of his remarks, he said that this arrangement with regard to £2 million was effected "having regard to" the entertainments duty—I think he used those words. In what way did this £2 million have regard to entertainments duty.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I thought I made it clear that in so far as entertainments duty can be used as an analogy it was used in that statement. It is a levy—a tax on the viewers, and listeners, whether they receive B.B.C. programmes, programmes from Radio Luxembourg or any of the many programmes that can be obtained from the Continent, or the programme which will be obtainable in future from the I.TA. This £2 million can in no way be described as a levy on the B.B.C.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
That may be a matter of opinion. I gather from the Postmaster General's statement that the £2 million is taken "having regard to" the entertainments duty. Those words must mean something or they must mean nothing. If they mean something, they mean that the figure has been fixed at £2 million because the B.B.C. does not pay entertainments duty. Yet the argument is continually raised in this controversy that the B.B.C. ought properly to pay such duty being an entertainer, while, on the other hand, the new Authority which is to compete with the B.B.C. is to be exempt altogether from entertainments duty.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
If I may be allowed to intervene, I should like to say that the noble Viscount is under a complete misapprehension. He is assuming that the B.B.C. is entitled as of right to the whole of the proceeds of the licence fees. That is not so at all. The licence fee is, if you like so to put it, a tax levied, on the authority of Parliament, not upon the B.B.C. but upon everyone who takes out a licence, just as the noble Viscount possibly takes out a licence if he keeps a dog. The B.B.C. then receives whatever the Treasury, after discussion with the B.B.C., considers is the right amount of money to go to the B.B.C. to enable it to conduct its enterprise. The B.B.C. has never paid any entertainments duty. Entertainments duty, if that is a right analogy to take, is levied upon the viewer. Do I make myself clear?
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I have done business with the noble Viscount for a very long time, sometimes as a colleague but generally as opponent. In neither capacity have I ever found that I was able to convince him. However, it does not follow from that that my statement is not correct. I say that, without any question, constitutionally and factually my statement is absolutely correct.
§ EARL JOWITT
My Lords, if I may, intervene, it is, of course, a fact that the Government are entitled to take what money they like and to dole out to the B.B.C. whatever they think proper. I quite agree that that is so. The fact is that the Government said, in deciding to deduct or to keep £2 million: "We do that because of the impact of entertainments duty." In a perfect world, if you could arrange for such a thing, I suppose that what would happen is that every viewer would pay a certain amount to the B.B.C. and a certain amount for entertainments duty. Instead of that, the whole thing is paid over to the Government and the Government justify the retention of £2 million because of entertainments tax. That, surely, is the point of the question which the noble Viscount asks. It is not quite met, I venture to think, by what the noble Viscount has said.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I think it is. If we are to follow out this rather academic and theoretical argument I would say this. The noble and learned Earl admits that no entertainments duty is levied on the B.B.C. Whatever is levied is levied on the viewer. Let us assume that the fallacy of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was correct, and that the money was paid by the B.B.C. Even though the B.B.C. got £60 million or so provided by licence revenue, this new Corporation would not get anything from that source. Therefore, even if it were true that the B.B.C. was paying entertainments duty there could be no conceivable case for putting entertainments duty on this new body.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly:
§ [The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]
§ Clause 1:
§ The Independent Television Authority
§ 1.—(1) There shall be an authority, to be called the Independent Television Authority (in this Act referred to as "the Authority") whose function shall be to provide, in accordance with the provisions of this Act, and for the period of ten years from the passing of this Act or such longer period as Parliament may hereafter determine, television broadcasting services, additional to those of the British Broadcasting Corporation and of high quality, both as to the transmission and as to the matter transmitted, for so much of the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as may from time to time be reasonably practicable.
§ (3) All the members of the Authority shall be appointed by the Postmaster-General from among persons appearing to him to be qualified for the office, and of the Members of the authority other than the Chairman and Deputy Chairman three shall be persons who appear to the Postmaster-General to be suited to make the interests of Scotland, the interests of Wales and Monmouthshire and the interests of Northern Ireland, respectively, their special care.
§ (7) Before appointing a person to be a member of the Authority, the Postmaster-General shall satisfy himself that that person will have no such financial or other interest (and, in particular, no such financial or other interest in any advertising agency or in any business concerned with the manufacture or sale of apparatus for wireless telegraphy or other telegraphic equipment or in any business consisting or intended to consist in whole or in part in entering into or carrying out contracts with the Authority for the provision of programmes or parts of programmes) as is 661 likely to affect prejudicially the discharge by him of his functions as member of the Authority, and the Postmaster-General shall also satisfy himself from time to time with respect to every member of the Authority that he has no such interest; and any person who is, or whom the Postmaster-General proposes to appoint to be, a member of the Authority shall, whenever requested by the Postmaster-General so to do, furnish to him such information as the Postmaster-General considers necessary for the performance by the Postmaster-General of his duties under this subsection.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "Independent Television Authority" and insert "Authority for Commercial Television." The noble and learned Earl said: This starts our pilgrimage. I hope that it will not be, a weary pilgrimage; it may be rather a long pilgrimage. May I say at once, at the outset, that, so far as we are concerned, we shall not attempt to indulge in any obstruction or anything of that sort. We do not do so in this House; we never have done so and I hope that we never shall. On the other hand, the noble Earl, for his part, will realise that a good many of us do feel strongly about this Bill. It is a Bill which was, rightly or wrongly, subjected to the guillotine procedure in the House of Commons. Therefore the noble Earl will not mind if we discuss it thoroughly—I think it is our duty. If we are going to perform our duty properly as a Second Chamber we must do that. I have heard it said by others who do not view this House with quite the admiration which no doubt it deserves, that this House is only sometimes effective as a Second Chamber. I have heard it said that when a Liberal or a Labour Government is in power this House is a most effective watch-dog, but that when a Tory Government is in power the watch-dog goes to sleep. I suggest to your Lordships to-day that on all sides of the House we can best show how untrue that statement is by letting it be seen that the watch-dog is not asleep.
§ I appeal to noble Lords on all sides to see that our Amendments are fairly considered, and I hope and believe that from the Postmaster General we shall have a fair measure of give and take. I think he would probably subscribe to the view that it is better to get 90 per cent. of what you want by consent than to get 100 per cent. of what you want by forcing it through. I sincerely hope that, where 662 we have Amendments which do not touch what the Government regard as a vital principle of the Bill, the noble Earl will meet us, so far as he possibly can, and give us some satisfaction. That, at any rate, is the spirit in which I am moving this Amendment. This Amendment (I promise your Lordships not to use the hackneyed phrase about "a rose by any other name") is concerned with the question of the name of the new Authority. I venture to think it is of some importance. I am not going to say that this new Television Authority is not going to be de facto independent. If I may use the analogy, de facto it may be, but de jure it will be nothing of the sort. We have only to remember that under the Bill every member of the Authority must be appointed by the Postmaster General and be removed by the Postmaster General. If noble Lords turn to Clause 7, they will see that the Postmaster General has very wide powers—indeed, not only the Postmaster General but any Minister of the Crown may tell the Authority to broadcast a particular piece of news; and the Postmaster General may tell them not to do so. I do not complain about that. I think it right that in a democratic society these great public corporations should be subject to the control of the Government of the day. Here is the whole essence of our Constitution. The Postmaster General takes responsibility and is subjected to criticism here and, if necessary, has to justify himself.
§ I am not complaining of any of these provisions; I want the noble Earl to understand that quite plainly. Indeed, I suppose (I have not troubled to check it up: the noble Earl can put me right if I am wrong) that the Charter of the B.B.C. contains equivalent provisions. In the last resort, the B.B.C. are also under the control of the Government of the day. That is a typical British way of doing things. When the Lord Chancellor appoints the sixty-two county court judges, every single judge is subject to dismissal by the Lord Chancellor, without any reason being assigned; and certainly that is true of magistrates. The Lord Chancellor could dismiss the whole lot, if he wanted to do so; but of course in practice he does not want to do so. No county court judge has ever been dismissed, in practice, and magistrates would be dismissed only in very special circumstances. The, system works, and the county court 663 judges and magistrates are completely independent. That is one of the benefits of our illogical Constitution—it works very well.
§ Taking that point of view, why, then, do I object so strongly to the word "independent." I object to it because it seems to me to make a contradistinction between the B.B.C. and this new Authority. Why should we call this an "Independent Authority?" That manifestly implies that the B.B.C. is not independent, and the B.B.C. are just as independent as the other Authority. We used to learn in our history books that Cornelia, the mother of the Gracchi, when some of her neighbours asked why she was wearing no jewels, called in two of her large family and, putting her hands on the heads of her two sons, said, "These are my jewels." If she had introduced the children in this way by saying of the younger, "This is my jewel" and of the elder, "This is my son." then I think the elder would have felt aggrieved, because obviously the mother would have been drawing a distinction between the two. If the Postmaster General, with his two children, is going to say of the younger, the newborn child, "This is the Independent Television Authority," and of the elder brother, "Well, that is the elder brother, the B.B.C.," he is drawing a distinction between the two. In fact, the Postmaster General means this Authority (if I am wrong, I invite correction when he makes his speech) to be just as independent, no more independent and no less independent, than the B.B.C. —at least, that is what I suppose. I suppose the Government do not contemplate interfering in the day-to-day administration of the Independent Television Authority. That being so, I cannot understand why they should go out of their way to say that which, strictly, is not very accurate—that this is the "independent authority."
§ I suggest the word "commercial." I do not mean the word "commercial" to carry any connotation of anything objectionable. By our commerce we live. There is no discredit in being described as a commercial authority—at least, I do not so intend it. Where should we be without our commerce? If "commercial" is thought to be in any way objectionable, I might suggest other names—Competitive Television Authority, or 664 Alternative Television Authority, or even Second Television Authority, or, if you like, New Television Authority. The noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, and I had the great privilege and honour or being educated at New College, Oxford. It was a new college then; it is not very new now. There is nothing derogatory in calling this Authority the New Television Authority. Here is a question on which the Postmaster General, without giving anything away that matters, might so easily meet us. In this context, the word "independent" seems to me to denote an invidious distinction between this Authority and the B.B.C. I know the noble Earl, Lord Winterton, is not here, but let me assure him that I have not been "lobbied" by the B.B.C., or approached by the B.B.C., directly or indirectly—in fact, so far as I know in this world, I have never had any communication with anybody on the B.B.C.
§ The point is that it seems to me to be wrong to call one of these two bodies independent. There obviously, and inevitably, the Government are drawing a distinction between that body and the B.B.C. This is a matter on which the noble Earl can easily give way. We are not interfering with what he is doing. He can accept this Amendment and have his competition. The noble Marquess the Leader of the House said, when he came to reply to the debate on Second Reading, that what divided the two sides was whether there should or should not be competition. Well, here is competition, and competition with bodies who accept advertisements and are financed by advertising. Why insist on this being called the Independent Authority, in contradistinction to the other which is not so called? I very much hope that the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, if he is not prepared here and now to meet me, will do something about this point. I cannot see why we should adopt the title which I think is rather wounding and suggests that the B.B.C. is not as independent as in fact it is. For my part, I believe that the fact that the B.B.C. is independent of the Government of the day has been of the greatest value to us. I believe that it is so, and I believe that it should be so; and it is not prejudiced by the fact that occasionally, in times of crisis and stress, the B.B.C. naturally act in accordance with the wishes of the Government. 665 I beg the noble Earl to give way to me in this matter. If he does not, I beg noble Lords in all parts of the House to consider that this is a reasonable request. It is a small matter, but my Amendment would avoid an epithet that is wounding to some extent to the B.B.C., which for a long time has rendered to this country useful and invaluable service. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 5, leave out ("Independent Television Authority") and insert ("Authority for Commercial Television")—(Earl Jowitt.)
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I do not feel it is possible for me to make an argument which would be more emphatic or deal with more essential points than those dealt with by my noble Leader, but perhaps I may mention one factor which was not mentioned by him. He quite rightly emphasised the fact that under the Bill this Authority will be called the "Independent Television Authority," whereas no such title is to be given to the B.B.C. However, he did not, perhaps, draw all the consequences from that proposition—as I think, the harmful consequences—that may arise. We in this country understand distinctions, when they affect our own institutions, more clearly than people overseas. I believe that most viewers here will appreciate that, in spite of the fact that the new television authority is called an "Independent Authority," and the B.B.C. is not called an "Independent Authority." nevertheless, the B.B.C. will retain that independence which has been associated with it ever since it was started, and that its television broadcasts and sound broadcasts will not in any sense be Government propaganda. But we cannot expect the same distinction and appreciation of what the change involves to be present in the minds of people overseas.
The Overseas Broadcasting Service of the B.B.C., as the noble Viscount, Lord Woolton, is aware (he and I were associated with the problem of overseas broadcasting towards the end of the war), and as the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, and indeed, everyone who has been connected with the B.B.C. appreciates, is one of its most essential functions. We broadcast not only to friendly countries, but to the Iron Curtain countries and the countries that border the 666 Iron Curtain and the West. It is particularly important that our point of view should be understood in those borderline countries, and possibly even in the countries on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Hitherto, the B.B.C. has been listened to all over the world because it has this reputation for complete impartiality and objectivity; people know that they are not listening to British Government propaganda. My fear is that if we set up an authority for broadcasting that is called "Independent"—and this will be reported all over the world—people will say that the B.B.C. must, in fact, be dependent, and is not, after all, an independent authority and the B.B.C. Overseas broadcasts will not have the same influence on the minds of people who listen to them as they have at the moment. I feel that that is an additional reason for being careful not to give to the new Authority this nomenclature which is likely to be so misleading in relation to the B.B.C.
I have no quarrel with the title which Her Majesty's Government have proposed for this Authority, and I believe it is greatly preferable to the alternative title suggested by noble Lords opposite. However, I feel that the title has been chosen without regard to the significance of the initials. We have B.E.A., representing British European Airways and also the British Electricity Authority. In this case we have two important bodies the Industrial Transport Association, with a large number of members, which has been in existence for many years, and the Institute of Travel Agents, each with the initials I.T.A. It is a ratter late stage now, but I think it is a pity that, when selecting the title for a new Authority, some research is not carried out to see that the initials do not clash with existing bodies.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I rise to support the argument of my noble and learned friend the Leader of the Opposition. The word "independent" is a negative word; it means that it is not dependent upon something. The positive question is: "What is it independent of?" That question, I think, needs answering. I hope that the Government will say what is their meaning of the word "independent" in this connection. Does it mean independent of the Government? Or, alternatively, does it mean 667 independent of the B.B.C.? I presume that it does not mean independent of the Government, because everyone has been declaring for twenty or thirty years past that the B.B.C. is independent of the Government. Therefore, it is no distinction to say that the new Authority is an Independent Television Authority, because so is the B.B.C. No one, I think, would dispute that. I believe that everybody will understand that an "Independent Authority" must mean independent of the B.B.C., and not controlled by it; competing with it, and on its own lines. I should like to ask Her Majesty's Government, in the first place, whether that is correct: that "Independent Television Authority" means an authority independent of the B.B.C., which is a long-established authority.
The Board of Governors of this new Authority is to have very much the same status as the Board of Governors of the B.B.C. The Board is to be appointed by the Government, and its powers are in some ways comparable to those of the B.B.C.—whether they are adequate or not, in the new circumstances, this is not the moment to argue. But the status of dependence or independence of the Government is very much the same in the two cases. Does anyone suppose for a moment that this new Authority is dependent upon the B.B.C.? Why should you in its very title declare its independence? Of what? Of the B.B.C. Therefore, it seems to me that this word "Independent" is entirely out of place. Its connotation does not correspond at all to the real distinction, the real distinction being that the B.B.C. is a body which is a public utility corporation, maintained by the contributions of the public, whereas the new body is part of a commercial system which is maintained by the commercial community. That is the real distinction. Consequently, it seems to be the right course, as proposed by the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, to have the word "Commercial" in the title.
That, I am sure, cannot be objected to by the Government, because in the White Paper which was presented to Parliament last November and which I have in my hand, the new system is referred to in paragraph 10 ascommercial broadcasting under the new system.668 And again, a second time, it says:… practical experience of the working of the new system of commercial television.That is the Government's own phrase, in their own White Paper. Therefore, they cannot take exception to it on the ground that it is derogatory or in some way slighting. Furthermore, in Australia, where there are two systems, the Government system and a commercial system, they have those names: there is the Government or official system, and the other system is universally called the commercial system. So we have a precedent there, in a similar set-up to this one; and therefore no one can say that this name is any slight upon the new organisation. My last point is this. That this is commercial is certain. The Commercial Advertisers' Association, a reputable body, presented the public with a pamphlet some months ago in which they estimated that the present expenditure in this country on advertising of all kinds is between £80 million and £90 million. I will not repeat their words, because I quoted them in the debate in November, but they said it was their considered opinion that the sum forthcoming for the new television system would be between £5 million and £10 million a year. If these licences are granted for ten years, between £50 million and £100 million will be used in revenue for these new systems. If that is so—and that is the advertisers' own estimate in a joint paper published by their joint organisations, who are reputable bodies—ought this not to be recognised to be what it will be: namely, a commercial system?
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
We have a great deal of business before us, and I wondered if I might make a suggestion to the Postmaster General? It is this. From various sides of the House speeches have been made indicating that, in the opinion of the speakers, "Independent" is not exactly the right word. I venture to think that the real difficulty will arise when we try to find an alternative word. It has been suggested, for example, I think by two speakers, that "Commercial" is the right word. Whatever it may have been in the past, I venture to think that "Commercial" is no longer the correct definition, because the funds are not going to arise solely from commercial advertising but from 669 a subvention, in the early years at least, from the Government. Therefore, I think "Commercial" is still not the right word. I wonder whether the Postmaster General will consider asking the noble and learned Earl to withdraw his Amendment for the moment, on the understanding that the two Front Benches should get together and try and find a better word.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
I think everybody agrees that a large body like this Committee is the worst possible unit to try to find the right word. With the two noble Earls applying their minds to it, they might possibly find a better word, although I do not disguise my belief that it is not going to be an easy job.
§ EARL JOWITT
I certainly want to help this Bill. I will withdraw my Amendment if the noble Earl tells me that he is in a position to bring an open mind to it and will consider it again. If he is not, then I would rather go on. If he tells me that he is perfectly prepared to discuss a second alternative—"Second." "New" or "Competitive" —then I will withdraw my Amendment.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Might I support the noble and learned Earl and hope that the Minister will see his way to reconsider this point? It may be that on reconsideration no better word can be found than the present word. It is easy to argue the demerits of certain words, but it is much harder to find the right one.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
I should like to support the Amendment for reasons different from those put forward by the noble Lords who preceded me. The reason for the present wording in the Bill is, I think, because it is euphemistic. There is a tendency nowadays in our national life to resort to euphemisms, and if this is carried to excess it can be very dangerous. If we have conscription we call it "National Service". If we have a capital levy we call it a "Special Contribution". We are by nature an honest race, and let us at least begin to try to call a spade a spade.
§ LORD MATHERS
I will follow the noble Lord who has just sat down, because I want to call a spade a spade 670 in this connection. The fundamental reason against the idea of calling this new body an Independent Authority is that it is not true. It is a label which is false, and the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson, demonstrated that by referring to the fact that there was a £750,000 subvention from the Treasury. That disqualifies this body from being called independent, and I hope that that is quite clear to the noble Earl who is responsible for the Bill.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I thank the noble Lords for the way in which they have put their case. I do not think the noble and learned Earl need have assured us that there will be no obstruction. There never is in this House and we have never had reason to complain of any such thing. May I say a general word on all these Amendments? The Committee will realise that the Government have already gone a long way in the drafting of the Bill to meet a good many of the objections, and quite a number of the Amendments before us go to the root of the matter. Here we have a point which admittedly does not go to the root of the matter. I have never written a book, but I have always been told by my friends who write books that the most difficult part of authorship is finding a name when you have done the job. The noble Lord spoke of me as being father of these two bodies. Those of us who have families know the difficulty of discovering a name for the child. I cannot help feeling, regarding the proposal of the noble and learned Earl, that the word "Commercial" would be a worse rather than a better name. It is not a fully accurate description of a system which, after all, is going to have a public subvention of £750,000 a year. It has a great number of controls in order to prevent it from being purely commercial. It has to have balanced programmes and high quality programmes and will deal with such broad matters as religion and politics.
I must confess that I had intended to ask your Lordships to resist this Amendment. It seems to me that "Independent Television Authority" is a good name. It may not be the best, but it is extremely difficult to find an alternative. We did consider "British" or "National," and we had to rule those out because it would have suggested authority 671 over the televising activities of the B.B.C. The words "Alternative" and "Competitive" are both subject to dating. The name proposed in the Bill undoubtedly sets out the new Authority as being independent of the B.B.C. The B.B.C. monopoly has lasted so long that the public might well be tempted to think that this was merely a child of the B.B.C. This name was intended to emphasise its separate and competitive existence. There is no doubt that this name does worry the B.B.C. very much. I do not think any of us can fail to be impressed by what many noble Lords have said about challenging, even to the smallest extent, the independence of the B.B.C. I should be sorry to say anything to indicate that I think it will be possible to find a better name. Many appeals have been made to me to enter into discussions with an open mind on this point, and I am certainly prepared to do so. I think the noble Earl said that in those circumstances he would withdraw his Amendment.
§ EARL JOWITT
I am very glad to reciprocate. It is exactly the sort of give and take that I hoped we should have. I am sure that the noble Earl will come with an open mind and will meet the three of us to see whether we can evolve some title which is both accurate and less wounding. That being so, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 3.30 p.m.
THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, in subsection (1), to omit "and for the period of ten years from the passing of this Act," and to insert instead:
until the thirtieth day of June, nineteen hundred and sixty-two.
§ The noble Earl said: The purpose of this Amendment is to end the life of the new Television Authority set up by the Bill on the date when the B.B.C. Charter expires—that is to say, probably about two years earlier than it would end in accordance with the provision in this clause whereby its existence will be terminated ten years after this Bill has become an Act. If my Amendment were accepted, the life of the new Authority would be eight years, or about eight years, instead of ten years. I should like to explain to your Lordships why I think the shorter period has real advantages. I should, 672 perhaps, mention that this Amendment was moved and discussed in another place and rejected by the Government on that occasion, but I would excuse my putting it down again because I think I have a fresh line of argument and that other noble Lords regard this as an important matter. I hope the Government will find the new line of argument more convincing.
§ The first thing I should like to say is this. Everyone will agree that this system of commercial television to be set up by the Authority will be an experiment. It is the first time that this commercial system of broadcasting has been tried out in this country: it has been tried out elsewhere but never yet in this country. Again, I think there will be general agreement that no one can be positive that any experiment of this nature on this scale will be a success. Many people think that the standard of broadcasting in this country will be lowered. They may be right or they may be wrong. Others think that the standard that we have had from the B.B.C. will be maintained. Again, we do not know whether they will be right or wrong. Time alone can show which of these schools of thought is right. There is another important consideration which I should like to mention to your Lordships. There will, of course, be important technical changes affecting television in the fairly near future. I do not imagine that it will be long before we have colour television. The B.B.C. has already been talking about the possibility of introducing colour television. Again, as time passes more of these very high frequencies which are used for television broadcasting will be available for this purpose, a much larger number than are available at the present time. This will, if the opportunity is used, give a larger number of programmes and afford viewers a much wider range of choice.
§ Those two important considerations, technical progress in broadcasting and the advertising experiment in this Bill, will surely call for an early review of the whole of this new system of commercial television. Indeed, I think the Government would agree that a comprehensive review of the whole broadcasting field, which of course would include television as well as sound broadcasting, and commercial television as well as public service television, should 673 be undertaken before 1962, the date on which the Charter of the B.B.C. expires. I believe that the Home Secretary said (the noble Earl will refresh my memory if I am not correct) something to the effect that such a review was implied in the Government White Paper on television policy. We shall have another important Committee on Broadcasting, like the Ullswater Committee, like any of the important Committees we have had since the B.B.C. was set up after the First World War. We shall have another of these extremely important Committees to review broadcasting in this country. The outcome of the deliberations of this Committee will be a finding either that this commercial system is working satisfactorily or that it is not. If it is working well, of course, there will be no reason why it should not carry on for the full ten-year period provided in the Bill. But if it is working badly—and it may work badly: many of your Lordships have expressed the fear that it will work badly—and it is found that other important technical changes are required, as may well be the case, then the sooner the system proposed in the Bill can be altered, the better for the viewers and for television generally in this country.
§ This Amendment would make it possible to change at the end of eight years the system that will be set up under this Bill. I do not think that eight years is too short a period for judging the value of this experiment. I would remind your Lordships that sound broadcasting, if we can take it as a fair analogy, was not allowed anything like such a long run for its first period of life. The infancy of the B.B.C. was examined by two Committees within the first four years after it was set up; and it was not until it had proved its worth for four years that it was given a ten-year period, the period proposed for the I.T.A. under the Bill, for its Charter. I think that there is nothing to lose and that there is a good deal to gain by making the lifetime of the Authority two years shorter than the period provided in the Bill. We cannot lose anything because, if the system is working well, the life of the Authority can be continued without any fundamental change at all, for a further period of eight or ten years—or, indeed, for as long a period as Parliament may think 674 right and proper. But if it is not working well, then surely the desirable thing is that any defects that are shown should be put right at the earliest possible moment. For that reason, I beg to move this Amendment.
Page 1, line 8, leave out from ("Act") to ("or") in line 9 and insert the said new words. —(The Earl of Listowel.)
I wish to support this Amendment for the simple reason that television is one of the things which surely is in its infancy, and will be susceptible of a great deal of development before we can look upon it as in any way mature or perfect. Invention and scientific research is going not in a steady curve upwards but in a steadily increasing curve—that is to say, in geometrical progression. In matters like the atom bomb, the hydrogen bomb and other modern developments, including television, we should not bind ourselves down to a very limited time and, by so doing, exclude Parliament from looking into this matter for another ten years. There is in the Bill, as your Lordships will see, adequate scope for any longer period that Parliament may hereafter determine to be added to the period which we are now deciding. I suggest, with respect, that reducing the period from ten years to eight years would in no way damage what the noble Earl the Postmaster General has in mind and which can quite adequately be done in the shorter period.
§ LORD KENSWOOD
I wish to support this Amendment, although I feel rather unhappy about it. I view it as a compromise between what Her Majesty's Government are proposing and what I feel ought to be implemented. The new Authority will have a tremendous amount of experience, from all sorts of broadcasting bodies, upon which to draw. It will have the great advantage of profiting by the successes of these other authorities and of avoiding their mistakes. Then, surely, it follows that an eight-year period, and certainly a ten-year period, is far too long for us to be able to make up our minds whether this new Authority will do its work properly, whether or not it is going to be a success. There are many of us who believe that this new Authority will not be able to make a success of it in the terms that we 675 are envisaging. Therefore, if we allow them as much as five years I think it is stretching the period rather to excess. Nevertheless, I accept the eight years because I cannot get the five years. I very much hope that Her Majesty's Government will be able to curtail the period. There are great advantages in doing that. For one thing, it is proposed that the new Authority shall be subsidised, and fairly liberally subsidised, out of public funds. I object to that, and certainly I object to its receiving, after ten years, probably 7½ million out of public monies. We do not agree with the principles on which this Authority is going to work, and consequently the shorter the period in which it is receiving this subsidy from us who object to the Authority altogether, the better it will be. I hope that Her Majesty's Government will also come down by two years, as I and friends of mine have gone up three years beyond what we think is reasonable.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I think there is one point on which the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and I are fully agreed, and that is that at the end of the period of the operation of this Act it is important that we should have a comprehensive consideration of broadcasting policy.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I agree with what the noble Earl says, but may I ask whether he meant the comprehensive review to come before the termination of the lifetime of the Authority or after? I had understood that the intention was to examine the question before the Authority had expired.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I have had quite a problem in dealing with the present Television Authority, and to tell the truth I was not for the moment trying to settle the policy of my successor in eight or ten years' time. I think he will look after that point. I think we can say we are agreed that it is desirable that there should be a comprehensive review, and therefore the life of this Authority and the B.B.C. charter should end together. There are two ways of doing that. One is to extend the life of the charter of the B.B.C., as we did two or three years ago, or else curtail the life of what, for the moment, if the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt, will forgive me, I have got into the habit of calling 676 the I.T.A. My own view is that it would be very unfair to this experiment (it is an experiment), whether we like it or not, to cut it down a further two years. One of the things that was most strongly said to me by the B.B.C. when we were considering their charter was, "For Heaven's sake! do give us a reasonably long period in which to continue a peaceful existence." They showed me a very sad picture of how during the last few years they had hardly had any period during which they were not being investigated and dug up by some inquiring body. This is not only an experiment; it is a great experiment requiring a great deal of effort and a great deal of investment of very large sums, and I myself should feel that we certainly were not giving that experiment a fair chance unless we gave it a minimum of ten years. I hope the noble Earl will agree with me. He cannot expect two wickets down in the first over.
§ THE EARL OF HALIFAX
I wanted to ask only one question, for the sake of making my own mind clear. My noble friend says that he judges it to be desirable, in the interests of being able to form a comprehensive review, that the two charters, if that be the right term, should end together. That can be done in one of two ways, of which he deems one to be tolerable and the other undesirable. But am I not right in supposing that the B.B.C. charter ends eight years from now, which is the point of the noble Earl's Amendment? Therefore, are we to understand that if he rejects this Amendment he intends to advise the authorities to extend the B.B.C. charter by a period of two years, in order to make the two finish together?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
That is how it would undoubtedly have to be done. That is quite easy. As the noble Earl will remember, two or three years ago when we were dealing with this matter we did, in fact, extend the life of the charter for a year while we were discussing our new policy. That is how it would be done; and I repeat that I do not feel that it is for me at this present moment to say exactly how someone else who may then be holding my exalted office will have to deal with the matter.
§ LORD SILKIN
I find it difficult to understand why the noble Earl is so 677 dogmatic about ten years being required in which to find out whether this experiment is going to be successful or not. It may well be—and some of us think that it will be the case—that it will be known well before the end of ten years whether the experiment is to continue in its present form, whether it should be modified, or whether it should be abandoned. But the Government think it necessary to commit themselves for ten years. The extraordinary thing is that though they take power to extend the life of the Authority beyond the ten years there is no power in this clause to reduce the period. I should have been perfectly happy if they had taken an option either way; that is, to reduce the period if they thought it necessary or to increase it if they thought it necessary. But to say "ten years certain and such longer period as may be necessary" seems to me extraordinary drafting. The noble Earl is refusing to commit himself to what may happen in so many years time. Why is he so sure he needs ten years and not eight? Why cannot he say that in eight years' time it will be well known to everybody interested in television how this thing is working? Therefore I would ask him to reconsider this matter. There are obvious conveniences in limiting the period to the eight years. I hope he has not said the last word.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The noble Lord has addressed himself to only one side of this matter. There are two things. One is to see how the thing works—and of course you can see how a thing is working in less than ten years. But the whole object of the Bill is to make sure that we get the most efficient alternative service we can. There is one elementary thing that has to be said: a great deal of money will have to be invested in this scheme to make it a success. If you are going to make it a success, there is one thing above all others which you need, and that is reasonable security of tenure. It is for that reason as much as any other that we think ten years is reasonable. These things are a matter of opinion. I feel certain that you will be much more likely to get the best people to go in for this and do it on the scale on which all the viewers want to have it done and with the efficiency that is desired, if it is given ten years. I do not think that is unreasonable. It is perfectly 678 possible, as the Postmaster General said, to make the two terms concurrent by extending the charter of the B.B.C., as was done the other day. May I correct the noble Lord on one thing. He said that as this Bill is drafted it is possible for the Postmaster General to extend the period without legislation. That is not so. The words in the Bill are "if Parliament so determine," which means legislation is required.
§ LORD LAYTON
May I point out that security of tenure applies not only to capital or cash, but also to the personnel who must in fact be drawn into the new experiment?
§ LORD WILMOT OF SELMESTON
I should have thought it was reasonable on a matter of this kind, to expect the Government to try to meet those who, like my noble friend, are really trying to put forward some compromise. Eight years is a reasonable tenure, and in a developing matter of this character, which is only in its infancy, it is a long period. Whatever the Government put in this Bill, the chances are that before the expiration of ten years something important will have to be done. It is important that the two charters should coincide. It is surprising that the Government have not done something at this time to make that happen. I urge the noble Earl who is in charge of this Bill to reconsider this question. Eight years is reasonable tenure. A considerable body of opinion would be met if this request were acceded to. I suggest that it is impossible at this time to have the slightest conception of what will be the state of affairs in television eight years from now, and it is unreasonable for the Government to dig their toes in on this matter when there is so much which is bound to be entirely speculative.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I hope the Government will stand firm on this matter. We have already heard in a most convincing manner the argument for ten years' security of tenure, as regards both finance and personnel. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, complained that there was no provision in this Bill for the Authority to be terminated in a lesser period. Provided that the Administration of my noble friends continues, the body will live out its ten years and have the security of tenure that we consider necessary. The fears of my noble friend 679 Lord Silkin are surely founded on the assumption that his Party is not likely to return to power within ten years, because if it does, then I assume they will implement the promise which was made in this House—a somewhat modified expression of what I may call the threats made in another place that this Independent Television Authority will be abolished. The severe review which was promised in this House will be allowed to take place, and the Government of the day will then express its view according to the majority Party which the country has elected. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is doing a disservice to his own Party in saying what he has said.
§ EARL JOWITT
We have had this point put to us before. It seems that the noble Lord opposite has got it on the brain that there were threats of some sort. There is no threat. But every sensible Government profits by experience, and in four, five or six years' time the Government then in power would be absolutely foolish if they did not look at this matter in the light of the experience obtained in the meantime. This new venture may be the howling success that the noble Lord opposite anticipates. If it were, no one would have the courage to touch it, or would be very foolish to do so. If, on the other hand, it proves to be a dismal failure, then I should imagine that noble Lords opposite or noble Lords on this side would take prompt steps to put it right. To make this sort of statement about what is going to happen in the future, when none of us knows what this experiment (for experiment it is) is going to show is, with great respect, a little foolish.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
Then the noble and learned Earl does not support his noble friend Lord Silkin in complaining that there is no provision for termination before ten years.
§ EARL JOWITT
I support what I have just said, and if that supports Lord Silkin, then so much the better. I am sure the noble Lord supports me in what I have just said.
§ EARL JOWITT
Very well. It seems to me that the Postmaster General has 680 clearly given the game away by saying that these two charters should end at the same time. I entirely agree with him. It is obviously desirable that they should both end at the same time in order that he may survey the whole field. Under the Bill as drafted, that is possible if we insert the words that we want. The words "or such longer period as Parliament may determine," the noble Earl, after taking advice, has told us mean that an Act of Parliament will be required. The Government can always do these things. The desideratum being that both charters should end at the same time, as he rightly said, there are two ways of doing it—either you can extend the charter of the B.B.C. or you can diminish this charter to eight years. The noble Earl does not propose to extend the charter of the B.B.C. He does not know what is going to happen. He is in no position to promise us that. All he has said is that these two charters must end at the same time. I ask the Committee to insert the same date as applies to the B.B.C., and if, in the light of subsequent experience, Parliament determines for a longer period, then Parliament can pass another Act of Parliament extending the period in regard to the Independent Authority and the B.B.C. at the same time Parliament can do anything.
In the meantime, I cannot see what is the sense in our deliberately legislating now for a terminus which is different in relation to the two authorities, when the noble Earl himself says that he wants the terminus to be the same. With regard to what was said by the noble Lord who spoke from the Liberal Benches, I really cannot think that eight years is so inadequate a time. Surely eight years is a perfectly adequate time for the new Authority to get into its stride and to get its servants and all that sort of thing. In view of the answer of the Postmaster General, I very much hope that my noble friend will take this Amendment to a Division.
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
One interesting and useful thing has emerged from this discussion—namely, that the noble Earl opposite and the Government agree that the B.B.C. and the new Authority should end their lives at the same time. I think that is very important. I hope that whatever Government 681 may be in power, there will be that same underlying agreement about the lifetime of the new Authority and of the B.B.C. Obviously, there are two ways of bringing this about. As the noble Earl opposite suggested, one is to extend the B.B.C. charter by two years. On that matter there has been argument, which carried some weight, to the effect that ten years would give the Authority more security of tenure. That was an argument put by several noble Lords, and is deserving of careful consideration. From the point of view of security, I myself do not think that there is likely to be very much difference between eight and ten years, although there is obviously some advantage in the longer period. May I suggest, however, that there are even more weighty arguments on the other side? It is a question of the balance of advantage, and I think the Committee will consider that the balance of advantage lies in shortening the life of this new Authority by two years. That is the other way of making the two lifetimes coincide.
There are two important reasons for this. The first is that the new Authority is an experiment. The B.B.C. was given only four years at its commencement. It was not until after it had functioned for four years that it received a Charter for ten years. What is proposed is that this experiment should go on for eight years. The second reason is this. In the near future, within the next four or five years, important technical changes will occur in television. The noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, has said that a review will be required of the whole structure of sound and visual broadcasting, but in regard to the date of this review. I wonder whether he was in entire accord with his right honourable friend the Home Secretary. I took the trouble to note down some words which he said in another place. He said thata comprehensive review of the whole broadcasting field "—those were his words—would be undertaken before 1962,"—that is to say, before the end of the B.B.C. Charter, within eight years. That seems to me to be a fairly definite suggestion that, if his Party had authority, such review would be made and an appropriate Committee appointed.
682 If a Committee of the same calibre as the Beveridge Committee or the Ullswater Committee is set up to review the whole of broadcasting, B.B.C. and commercial, before 1962, then surely any recommendations that the Committee makes should be capable of being carried out at the earliest possible moment. I would emphasise the important technical changes in television, which may require important modifications in B.B.C. sound programmes, as well as television programmes, and the technical equipment of the commercial companies. I think it is important—it has always happened in times past—that these systems of broadcasting should be adjusted, if necessary, as soon as possible after a Committee of this calibre has reported; and therefore, both from the point of view of the B.B.C. and that of the Authority, I think the shorter period desirable. If we are wrong, as my noble and learned friend pointed out, Parliament can always legislate to extend the period. I am afraid that I must persevere with the Amendment which stands in my name.
§ LORD BRAND
I should like to ask the noble Earl the Postmaster General one question. Although I am no constitutional lawyer, there are great constitutional lawyers in this Assembly, and I was always taught that the British Parliament could do every thing but one, to make a man a woman or a woman a man. Is it not possible, if all Parties agree, for Parliament to pass an Act to extend the life of the B.B.C. Charter by two years? Personally, I think eight years would be better than ten, but is it impossible to take such a step?
§ EARL DE LA WARR
No, I think in fact it is easier. Had the noble Lord been in the House a few minutes earlier, he would have heard that that was what we did two years ago when considering this policy. I forget whether we extended it by six months or twelve months. We did it simply by laying a supplementary Charter and that can be perfectly well done. I think that noble Lords have heard all the arguments on this point. I was unimpressed by the argument about technical developments, because, had the noble Lord thought there was strong need for that, he would, at the time of our giving a ten years' licence to the B.B.C. Charter, have asked us to reduce the period because of possible technical developments. 683 The real point was that made by noble Lords, Lord Balfour of Inchrye and Lord Layton. One of the most important points is to get first-class reputable companies into the scheme, and we shall not do that if we do not give them a reasonable period of security during which they can work out their plans. We do not want "get-rich-quick" people coming into this scheme. We must give them a fair minimum—and I stress the word "minimum" —of ten years.
§ THE EARL OF HALIFAX
My noble friend leaves me in a position of some difficulty. I am not excited about the eight-years' period, but it is of immense importance to ensure that the two terms finish together, and my noble friend has said that there is no difficulty whatever in ensuring that at the present moment. It is just as possible for him to make a draft, or whatever it is, and lay it on the Table now as it was when he extended the B.B.C. Charter. I still hope that he will be willing to do that, but, if he is not, although I am impressed by the arguments about security of tenure, I shall feel bound to support the noble Earl opposite if this Amendment goes to a Division. I cannot conceive why my noble friend will not make it more possible for those who are interested only in the terms finishing together to avoid having to do that.
§ extending now the licence of the B.B.C. Charter is completely new. I have not thought about it at all. As I said, it would be perfectly possible to do it when the time came. I trust that noble Lords will not regard me as being completely tied if I say that I cannot at the moment see any great objection to extending the B.B.C. Charter, either now or in the near future, by two years. The noble Earl will be fair to me and will not hold me too strongly to that because, as he knows, with his experience in these matters, they need a good deal more consideration than appears at first sight.
§ EARL JOWITT
The kinder thing, and the most helpful, would be for the noble Earl to accept this Amendment, making sure that the term is the same for both; and if he wants an Act of Parliament to extend both he can do what is necessary.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
There must be some give and take. I have already given one Amendment and have promised to consider an important point arising out of this one, and I certainly should not agree to the course the noble and learned Earl suggests.
§ On Question, Whether the Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 33; Not-Contents, 56.685
|Cork and Orrery, E.||Liverpool, L. Bp.||Merthyr, L.|
|Haddington, E.||Milne, L.|
|Jowitt, E.||Ammon, L.||Ogmore, L.|
|Listowel, E.||Boyd-Orr, L.||Piercy, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Burden, L.||Rea, L.|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Sempill, L.|
|Addison, V.||Harvey of Tasburgh, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Henderson, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Elibank, V.||Inman, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Samuel, V.||Kenswood, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Macdonald of Gwaenysgor, L.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Bristol, L. Bp.||Mathers, L. [Teller.]||Wise, L.|
|Simonds, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Birkenhead, E. [Teller.]||Winterton, E.|
|Salisbury, M. (L. President.)||Buckinghamshire, E.|
|De La Warr, E.||Buckmaster, V.|
|Northumberland, D.||Glasgow, E.||Furness, V.|
|Halifax, E.||Goschen, V.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Home, E.||Hudson, V.|
|Reading, M.||Lonsdale, E.||Leathers, V.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]||Monsell, V.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Selborne, E.||Swinton, V.|
|Bessborough, E.||Selkirk, E.||Templewood, V.|
|Aberdare, L||Ennisdale, L.||Leconfield, L.|
|Baden-Powell, L.||Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Lyle of Westbourne, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Foley, L.||Mancroft, L.|
|Brassey of Apethorpe, L.||Freyberg, L.||Monk Bretton, L.|
|Carrington, L.||Grantchester, L.||Rochdale, L.|
|Courtauld-Thomson, L.||Hampton, L.||Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.|
|De L'Isle and Dudley, L.||Hawke, L.|
|Derwent, L.||Hore-Belisha, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Dormer, L.||Howard of Glossop, L.||Waleran, L.|
|Dovercourt, L.||Layton, L.||Winster, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "or such longer period as Parliament may hereafter determine." The noble Earl said: The Amendment which I rise to move is No. 3 on the Marshalled List. After what has been said on the last Amendment, I find it more than difficult to understand what was the object of putting these words into the Bill. We have already heard that any extension beyond the ten years stated must be by legislation, not by Order; so Parliament will determine in either case whether the life of the new Authority is to be extended. That being so, I cannot see any reason why these words: "or such longer period as Parliament may hereafter determine," were ever put into the Bill. We have heard the arguments, which have been put forward very clearly by my noble friends, that this is an experimental scheme. It is a revolutionary change in the practice to which the people of this country have become accustomed over the last thirty years. We do not know, and I am sure Her Majesty's Government do not know, whether the public will like this scheme. Why, therefore, hold out in the Bill a hope that the life of this new Authority may be extended indefinitely beyond ten years?
§ We all appreciate the point that people who are asked to invest their money want a reasonable security. They want to be able to look forward to a reasonable length of time in which they can enjoy the profits from their investments. But, surely, if this is nothing but a sort of unsubstantial groundbait, put out to attract investors, it is rather dangerous for the Government to offer this hope of a longer period than ten years. It has been said already that Parliament can at any time alter this scheme. In fact, nobody has shown better than the Party opposite how 686 easy it is for Parliament to reverse the whole trend of policy of the Government and pass amending legislation which, in its operation in industrial and commercial fields, must cause great hardship to the persons involved So I still suggest that these words should be omitted from the Bill. The Postmaster General has already said that he cannot possibly say what legislation will become necessary in eight or ten years' time. Why, then, hold out this unsubstantial hope that Parliament will want to extend the period of the life of this Authority, rather than curtail it? The noble Earl has claimed credit for what he called "giving" us the first Amendment. I do not altogether accept that interpretation of what he did, hut all the same I think we can ask the Government to explain why they put these words in, what they mean, and the reason why they should not be deleted.
Page 1, line 9, leave out from ("Act") to ("television ") in line l0.—(The Earl of Lucan.)
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I should be interested to hear front the noble Earl why, having said that these words mean nothing, he is so anxious for us to take them out. The reason why they are put in is to indicate the Government's present view, and Parliament's present view, that if this policy is successful it should be extended. On the other hand, I have to admit that beyond that implication, they do not take any further. If in ten years' time Parliament wishes to extend the period of the scheme, it will have to enact new legislation—the noble Earl is right in saying that. I do not feel that I should make a great issue of the retention of these words. I cannot say that I am encouraged in my policy with regard to the first two Amendments of trying to make concessions to the Opposition; it was not remarkably successful last time. But I do not want to be difficult, or to hang on to words that mean nothing; and if noble Lords want to press this 687 matter upon me, I am prepared to accept the deletion of these words. That would then bring this provision in line with a similar provision for the B.B.C. But I warn the noble Earl that in accepting this Amendment I am giving nothing, because they claim nothing, and I should not accept this if it meant taking anything at all away from the security of the programme contractors.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
We are very grateful to the noble Earl for what he has said. What we are trying to do is to improve the Bill, and we shall be grateful for all improvements, if only in a small way. I agree that these words as they stand do not mean anything and that if the lifetime of the Authority is to be extended, it will have to be extended, by legislation later. Clearly, it is desirable, from the point of view of drafting, to remove any unnecessary words from the Bill. I am grateful to the noble Earl for being good enough to accept my noble friend's Amendment.
§ LORD LAYTON
I agree that the position of Parliament is exactly the same whether the words are in or out. They simply say that Parliament can continue this experiment at the end of ten years. Therefore, actually there is no difference. I would only say, however, that having taken them out, it is important that we should not assume that the Government or Parliament have in any sense weakened their position on the second method of broadcasting. It is not a question that on second thoughts they might wish to close down the scheme at the end of ten years.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
I share the views of the noble Lord, Lord Layton, and I am sorry that the Postmaster General has accepted the Amendment, largely because of the grounds on which it was moved. The noble Earl opposite said it was possible that the public would tire of this new system and would wish to discard it at the end of ten years; and he based his whole case for the removal of these words on that possibility. I believe, and hope, that exactly the opposite will be the case: that after ten years of this the public will want it to be extended. In so far as the removal of these words tends to create the assumption that this is a purely temporary thing, which more probably than not will come 688 to an end at the end of ten years' time, I think it is a great pity that the Postmaster General has accepted the Amendment—
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
I should like to give the two noble Lords who have last spoken a firm assurance that, so far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, should their successors be of the same kind, we should have every expectation, every hope and every intention, of inviting Parliament to give statutory continuation of what we hope and believe will be a very great success.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I am very grateful to the noble Lords and to my noble friend who has just spoken for saying what they did. It should remain abundantly clear that this Government, if they are in office again, certainly intend to continue this experiment; but they will continue it with real legislation.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
I do not think there is any disagreement with noble Lords opposite. If in ten years' time the experiment is a roaring success, and there is great public demand for it, obviously Parliament would prolong its life. I express my gratitude to the noble Earl for accepting my Amendment.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL moved, in subsection (1), after "Islands" to insert: ",not being less than nine-tenths of the area thereof,". The noble Earl said: This Amendment, which is of some importance, deals with the coverage of the new Independent Television Authority. Its object is to secure that the Authority aim, so far as possible, at a 'national coverage for their alternative programme. We should like the alternative programme to be available for as much of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as possible. I hope it is the intention of the Government to aim at a national coverage, because that is the aim of the B.B.C. in its television programme. I hope the noble Earl will see nothing objectionable in my Amendment or, at any rate, something like it. If the Government intend to allow the coverage of this alternative programme to be decided by the requirements of commercial companies, as I think would happen under the Bill as it 689 stands, there does not seem to be any likelihood of the sort of national coverage which the B.B.C. has secured with its television programme.
§ After all, the programme companies will naturally and legitimately be concerned with the size of their audience; that will be their main aim. They will not want to pay the cost of transmission to the sparsely populated countryside when they can get the big audiences in the towns and in the neighbourhood of the towns. Consequently, when the new frequencies become available they will be used for more programmes in the urban areas, and the coverage of the commercial programmes—which may amount to four or five as time goes on: in London, Birmingham, or wherever it may be—will be limited to the large towns, their suburbs and the neighbouring countryside within reach of the transmissions from the stations in these towns.
§ Without harping—I use the word "harping," because I feel that some noble Lords would accuse me of harping —on what has happened elsewhere, I think it is relevant to remind your Lordships that in the United States, in spite of a much larger number of frequencies compared to this country, only about 60 per cent. of the population of the country can turn on a television programme, because their television service, being a commercial service, is concentrated in the large towns. For the reasons which I have indicated, I am afraid that the same thing will happen here, unless the Government—and only the Government can do it—set out from the start to prevent this limited coverage. I hope that the Postmaster General will exercise the power that he could exercise, with the authority of Parliament, to see that this commercial service develops very much on the same lines, from the point of view of coverage, as the B.B.C. As we all know, the B.B.C. television service now reaches about 90 per cent. of the population, and when its chain of television stations is complete it will reach about 95 per cent. of the population.
§ The choice before the Government, as I see it, is this. The availability of this alternative programme will be decided either by considerations of social advantage, which I submit are the right considerations, or by business considera- 690 tions, which are right in their place, but not, I think, from the point of view of providing the public with what they require. There can be no doubt—I am sure that many of your Lordships who live in the country will appreciate this keenly—that isolated families in the depth of the country are in greater need of a television service than families living in the towns. It is the remote parts of England, Scotland, Wales and, of course, Northern Ireland, which I fear are not likely to be covered by commercial companies if left to their own devices, and if the Independent Authority do not go out deliberately, under the instruction of the Government, to provide stations which will cover these remote areas. The argument is stronger, I believe, because it seems likely that the second television programme of the B.B.C. will not be launched for quite a long time. So that the only hope for an alternative programme in the near future to the present B.B.C. programme is for the Postmaster General, with the authority of Parliament, to say firmly that the new television service is to cover an area at least as large as the area now covered by the B.B.C. As the noble Earl will know, the terms of my Amendment are such as to lay down an area approximately the size of the area at present covered by the B.B.C.
§ I should like to ask the noble Earl two questions which arise out of this Amendment. I do not expect him to answer these questions immediately, but perhaps on Report he will be good enough to give me a reply. I should like to ask, first, whether the Government would be willing (of course, if they are willing, then the Bill will have to be modified accordingly) to instruct the Authority to provide medium and low-power stations after they have finished providing the high-power stations required for densely populated areas. The noble Earl, the Postmaster General, has said that a start will be made with three high-powered stations in the large populated areas. I should like to know what the future intention is. Is it possible for the noble Earl to say how the network will be developed? Secondly, will they refuse to sanction a second commercial programme in the towns until there has been an adequate coverage of the countryside? Clearly, there may have to be 691 a choice, from the point of view of technical apparatus, and the point of view of finance, between the Authority providing facilities for another programme in the towns and providing facilities for the first commercial programme in the countryside. I beg to move.
Page 1, line 14, after ("Islands") insert the said words.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ LORD BALFOUR OF INCHRYE
I was rather amazed to see this Amendment down, and before the noble Earl moved it I did not know whether it was put down as a sort of amusing Amendment or as a serious one. He is suggesting that the Authority should undertake in the comparatively near future something which the B.B.C. has been unable to do after televising for twelve or thirteen years—namely, to cover approximately nine-tenths of the country. I was wondering whether it was a change of heart, or inconsistency, that led the noble Earl to deliver the speech he did. He said that he wanted as large a number as possible to view the programmes of the Authority. But the noble Earl, and various other noble Lords, told us on Second Reading of the great dangers that existed of debasing the public taste, and of the social harm that will be done by allowing the general public to view these programmes. It seems to me to be inconsistent to take that view on Second Reading, and then to come and ask that nine-tenths of the population should see the programmes at the earliest possible date. We have heard objections from various noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Kenswood, referred to 7½ million of public money in ten years; and we have heard objections to the capital expenditure of £2 million, and the revenue of £750,000. But objections to that expenditure of public money are really inconsistent if, at the same time, an extension of programmes is asked for which would need the expenditure of all that money, and more, in the near future. The noble Earl must make up his mind whether he takes his Second Reading point of view, or the view he takes today. In any event, I hope that the Government will reject this Amendment.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
As my noble friend has said, this Amendment would place a totally unfair 692 demand on the new Television Authority to produce a nine-tenths coverage, which is something the B.B.C. has been unable to do, in similar circumstances. After twelve or thirteen years, it still has not a nine-tenths coverage of the country. I should like to add two other points. If the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, opposite really does want the commercial television to cover as much of the country as quickly as possible, I do not think he need have any fear that it will not do so, because with advertising the one important thing is for the stations to reach the widest possible public. With newspapers, the wider their coverage, the better the advertisers they get; and surely it will be the same with commercial television, because it will be better for their own revenues. I think that goes without saying. With regard to the analogy with the United States, where the noble Earl mentioned that only 60 or 65 per cent. of the country is covered by commercial television, he obviously knows the United States, and knows that the city centres are much more widely separated than they are in this country. There are vast stretches of land with thinly populated areas, which it would be quite impossible for television even to attempt to cover. The two countries are quite dissimilar in this way, and I do not think you can compare them in any way so far as television coverage is concerned. I hope the noble Earl the Postmaster General will resist this Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF LUCAN
I think I can help noble Lords opposite in understanding the motives of my noble friend in moving this Amendment. I draw attention, first of all, to the fact that the Amendment proposes the words "nine-tenths of the area," and not "nine-tenths of the population." There is a vital difference in that. It is precisely as the noble Lord, Lord Fairfax of Cameron, said, that the motive behind advertising is to reach the largest number of potential customers as possible. Nine-tenths of the population could easily be reached by omitting the whole of the countryside and the scattered farms. The object of this Amendment is to ensure that the new Authority have the duty to consider the rural population as well as the urban population. The fact that there are good grounds for asking for and insisting on this can be found in a document which 693 came out two years ago called The First Report of the Television Advisory Committee, 1952. In the back of that document there is an appendix and a map which shows the requests sent in by prospective users of the service for transmitter sites in different parts of the country. Apparently a questionnaire was sent out and a number replied. In the replies, some eighty-three transmitters were asked for, and of those sixty were in the seven main centres of population, and only twenty in the remainder of the country. If your Lordships are not already convinced that there is a danger that a commercial service will concentrate on the main centres of population who have plenty of entertainment at their doors, and omit the scattered rural population, you should, I submit, find that Report convincing evidence.
§ LORD OGMORE
I think my noble friend Lord Listowel made a perfectly reasonable and powerful case in support of his Amendment. I should like to confirm what he said and reinforce it so far as Wales is concerned, because, under this Bill, so far as I can see, Wales is once more going to have a raw deal. There was a time in the history of Wales, between 1940 and 1951, when she was treated in a proper manner by the United Kingdom Parliament and Government. Those days have gone, and we are back now to a stage in the history of Wales —a dismal history so far as the unfair treatment of a small, gallant population is concerned—where she is neglected by the Government and the majority peoples of the United Kingdom.
What is going to happen under this Bill? In the first place, more than half the population of Wales lives in one county—Glamorgan, with a population of over 1 million. It would be perfectly easy for this Authority and for the advertisers to produce one or two stations in the county of Glamorgan and to cover over half the population of Wales. But what happens to the rest? The rest of the population of Wales is living in rural areas, where the average density of the population is the same as that of England in the reign of Elizabeth I. I recently made a tour right around Wales and through the middle, and I was amazed at the number of television sets—not, of course, in the farmhouses, because we 694 went out of office too soon. We were not able to put electricity into the farmhouses and so the farmhouses cannot have television. But wherever there is a small group of houses, and wherever there is any chance of a public supply of electricity, there you will find a forest of television aerials; and that part of the population in those villages, hamlets and little towns enjoy the programmes of the B.B.C.
One of the great problems of our time, whether it is in rural England, in Scotland or in Wales, rural de-population —the fact that it is getting more and more difficult to keep people on the land because of the, amenities which the towns offer. Now we had hoped, and had every reason to believe, that television was going to remedy this state of affairs, and that it was going to be possible to keep people on the land because they would he able to watch through the evening hours, particularly in the winter, exactly the same programmes as their fellow citizens in Balham or Tooting. They will have little opportunity of doing so in the future. If I had any doubt as to the result of the Amendment, that doubt has been completely dissipated by the speech of the noble Lord who sits on the second Bench behind the Front Bench opposite—Lord Fairfax of Cameron, who cane out quite clearly with the whole case. He said that it is quite unfair to expect the Authority to set up these stations. He said that of course they cannot set them up because it would be much too expensive to do so.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
I said "immediately," because the Amendment does not deny that they would have to do it immediately. That is the way I read the Amendment. I should like to remind the noble Lord that I said they would have every inducement to extend their coverage as quickly as they could.
§ LORD OGMORE
The noble Lord is assuming that the day after the Bill comes into effect we are expecting the Authority to cover the whole kingdom. That is not so. They have the reasonable period in which they are licensed under the Bill. No one in his senses would expect—I am sure the noble Lord does not expect—that, under this Amendment we assume that the Authority must next day mushroom into a forest of stations and cover the whole country. It 695 does mean, of course, within the period for which they are licensed.
§ LORD OGMORE
Within a reasonable period after the licence is granted, and within the ten-year period.
§ LORD OGMORE
If it is not, then I am sure my noble friend would make it clearer by moving another Amendment at a later stage. As long as the noble Earl accepts that, within a reasonable period after the coming into being of this Authority they should cover 90 per cent. of the whole land area of the country, then we would accept any Amendment he may propose to bring about that desirable state of affairs. I was a little interrupted in the particular case I was making. The speech of the noble Lord frightened me on this point, because he is usually a reasonable man, and if he feels that it is proper for the authority to cater only for the densely packed town, urban and industrial areas, then others, who have not got his reasonable qualities of mind, will press the point.
LORD FAIRFAX OF CAMERON
I know the noble Lord will not want to misrepresent me, but I did not say that at all. I said you could not possibly compare the coverage in America and in this country, because the cities are so much farther apart over there. I should like to repeat that I said that commercial stations will have every inducement to cover as large a part of the population as they possibly can, and as soon as they can, from the point of view of their own revenues.
§ LORD OGMORE
I should rather doubt that. I think the two points the noble Lord has just made are entirely contradictory. If the Authority desire and the advertisers desire to have wide coverage of rural areas with a remunerative result, why are the rural areas in America not covered? You cannot have it both ways. The answer is that rural areas in America are not covered because it does not pay to cover them, and that is what might well happen in this country. Wales, Scotland, parts of 696 England—Westmorland, Cumberland and so on—will not have the service which the people are entitled to expect. They will not get the service the town population will expect. I do not want to labour the point. There is just one other matter with which I should like to deal. Public money is involved here. Large sums of money are going to be paid to this Authority, and as taxpayers the rural population are just as entitled to have any benefit—doubtful benefit though it may be, which is being provided for the town population.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, twitted us with the fact that on Second Reading we did not like this Bill and now we are trying to improve it. But this is the policy of Parliament. The House has decided on the policy and we are now trying to improve the Bill as it comes before the House. It would not be in accordance with precedent to put down merely wrecking Amendments. That would be merely making fun and a mockery of what the House has already decided on Second Reading. Therefore we are quite entitled to say that, this being the case, such advantages as there may be or will be should be available to the rural population of these islands equally with the densely populated industrial areas.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
The noble Lord who has just spoken, if he will forgive me saying so, if one takes his words literally, has muddled up two entirely different things. He made, if I might say so without offence, a specious plea on behalf of Wales. It is not the first time I have heard him make one. If your Lordships will remember exactly what he said, you will see how muddled he was. In the first place he said that over half the population of Wales was settled in Glamorgan; therefore, presumably, they would be able to receive television in the ordinary course of development. He then went on to describe the lamentable situation which prevailed over the rest of Wales and he said that there were large areas which he had seen during his motor tour where there was no electricity. He went on to say that wherever electricity was to be found in the villages there was a forest of television masts. That means that already there is a substantial portion of Wales covered by television. So I 697 think we are entitled to assume from what he said that practically the whole of Wales, where there is electricity, is covered. What he ought to do, if he wants to make a case for this Amendment would be to say that rural Wales ought to be electrified in order that they may get television. But so long as substantial portions are not electrified obviously they cannot have television, even if there were theoretical coverage. I do not think he made a case for this particular Amendment, though he might have made a case for an Amendment of an electricity Bill.
§ LORD OGMORE
May I say just one word to clear the reasonable anxiety in the noble Viscount's mind? He does not understand what I was saying at all. I was referring to farmhouses in Wales. There are a great many farmhouses which are still without electricity, but many villages and hamlets have it. But even under this Bill, even though they have it, even though we press the Government to provide electricity, there will not be transmitting stations to give them an alternative programme.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
That is not what the noble Lord said in his speech. He said that he had seen a lot of small villages that had been electrified and that there was a forest of television masts. There would not be a forest unless they thought they could already receive television.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I think this last discussion is really about the merits or demerits of the service provided by the B.B.C. If the noble Lord's heart is really bleeding for what is happening in Wales, it is certainly not the fault of the new Authority. I must confess that, like the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Inchrye, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw this Amendment; and when the noble Earl, Lord Lucan, got up and drew our attention to the fact that the Amendment referred to nine-tenths of the area, then, frankly, I could not believe my ears. Lopping off the Hebrides and other areas with practically no population leaves 90 per cent. of the area, and this means virtually 100 per cent. coverage of population. In fact the B.B.C. has not reached hat figure, though it has been televising for twelve or thirteen years. When the 698 noble Lord's Government were in office the coverage was 63 per cent. It has now been raised to 80 per cent. I think that in the course of twelve months it might in effect be well over 90 per cent., but the B.B.C. has not reached it yet after twelve to thirteen years, and it is hypocrisy to have an Amendment like this.
I think the noble Earl was here during the Second Reading debate. Therefore I am not sure what excuse he has for making so much of his point, because I made it clear to your Lordships' House that I was deeply appreciative of this point. I showed that we had gone some way towards meeting it by informing your Lordships that we did not intend to encourage the putting up of stations which would deal only with the confines of a city. We were considering a very much larger transmitter station, involving a coverage of something like forty miles' radius, which the noble Lord will appreciate is sometimes larger than the B.B.C. coverage. One talks of mileages with the greatest diffidence. One station that was reckoned to give a fifty-miles coverage might stop in one area at thirty, and in others there might be a freak reception at 100 miles; but noble Lords will agree that the sort of station I mentioned on Second Reading gives the noble Earl, Lord Listowd, no justification whatever for implying that we intend to permit only the small stations which cover, for commercial purposes, centres of the large cities.
I went further on. Second Reading and said that we certainly did not intend to stop at three stations. I said there was nothing to prevent us, within the limits of the £2 million that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has allowed us, considering, in the very near future, putting up at least two new stations. If I were talking indiscreetly, I hope that I should be able to say the number was higher. We all know that it is difficult to make these estimates, particularly in these days of rising costs. But I can say, although now I speak even more definitely than I did on the Second Reading, that there is no question but that within the very near future we shall be able to see the erection of similar stations, both in Scotland and (the noble Lord, Lard Ogmore, will be delighted to hear) in Wales, and we shall be able to submit those people of Wales 699 to these corrupting influences from which hitherto the noble Lord has been so anxious to save them. I regret very much that I cannot accept this, if I may say so, extraordinary Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, will not press this Amendment to a Division, because I am afraid that I should not be able to support him. With the spirit of impartiality and sweet reasonableness which is native to these Benches, I am bound to say that, in my opinion, this Amendment will not do. I should have thought it was equally objectionable both to those who voted for the Second Reading of the Bill and to those who voted against the Second Reading of the Bill. It would be objectionable to those who voted for the Bill because it would be imposing, by Act of Parliament, upon this new enterprise of commercial television an obviously impossible task. It would not be possible to extend the coverage from the beginning over nine-tenths of the whole population, and if we put this provision into the Bill, it would be necessary for the I.T.A. to devote probably the whole of their £750,000 a year, and the £2 million capital of public money, to extending the service prematurely to the unremunerative districts. The Amendment is objectionable to those, I think, who voted against the Second Reading of the Bill because our case was that commercial television is not a good thing in itself; we would much rather see all the money which is to be devoted to television spent in enabling the B.B.C., in whom we have trust and confidence, to provide a competitive and second programme. Now, the noble Earl says, in effect, that this is an abomination but that it will be all right if it is extended over nine-tenths of the country. That rather reminds me of the old apple-woman who said that she lost on every apple she sold and it was only the number that enabled her to make her living.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
The noble Viscount's delightful speech will, at any rate, have convinced your Lordships that we are still observing the first principle which we enunciated at the beginning of our Second Reading debate, that we are judging these matters independently for 700 ourselves, and quite apart from Party considerations. I must say that I was a little startled to be called a hypocrite by the noble Earl opposite, because I think it is a most unusual accusation to make against those with whom we disagree.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I am horrified if I called the noble Earl anything that he did not like. I cannot remember what it was, but I am perfectly willing to withdraw it.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am sure that the noble Earl was merely nettled by what he thought was the idiocy of my Amendment.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I am serious about this Amendment. It may be bad in itself, but I should like to say two things. The first is that the object of the Amendment was mainly to obtain information from the Government as to how they envisaged this ten-year pattern of television developing in the country. I was very glad to find, from what the noble Earl said, that, after these stations have been established in towns, the intention is to provide other stations to serve Scotland and Wales and the less densely populated areas of the country. I was glad to hear that. I do not think, although I have studied the proceedings in another place carefully, that that has been said by a Minister up to now.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
I apologise if I did not study the Second Reading speech of the noble Earl sufficiently carefully. I think it is important that we should have this guarantee, even if it is a repeated guarantee, that this new service will not be confined to the towns, because, if we are to have an alternative television programme of this kind—and I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that we would much prefer a public service alternative programme—if we are to have a commercial alternative 701 programme, then we should like as many people as possible to be able to enjoy it.
The other purpose of my Amendment was to find out whether the broad pattern of television under the Authority is going to be similar to the broad pattern of television, from the point of view of coverage, under the B.B.C. Some people point to the fact that the B.B.C. has been developing television for the last twelve or thirteen years. Of course, that is true; but do not forget that television was suspended during the war. I remember that distinctly, because it was my responsibility, as Minister in charge of the Post Office at the time, to officiate at the opening of the new television programme after the war at Alexandra Palace. So in fact the B.B.C. has not had much more than ten years of effective television. The Government are giving a ten-years' life to this new Television Authority. I do not think it is in the least unfair to say that the sort of pattern which the B.B.C. has achieved, from the point of view of coverage—the noble Earl admitted that it would be 90 per cent. of the population in the very near future—is the sort of pattern on which the development of the new Authority should be modelled. I never intended to press this Amendment, which as I say, was mainly intended to elicit information from the Government. I should not have pressed it in any event, but my intention is reinforced by the request of the noble Viscount who leads the Liberal Party. I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.8 p.m.
LORD OGMORE moved to add to subsection (3)—
In making such appointment as aforesaid it shall be the duty of the Postmaster-General to maintain so far as reasonably practicable a proper balance of political opinion on the Authority.
§ The noble Lord said: As your Lordships will see, the object of this Amendment is to provide in the Bill for a proper balance of political opinion on the Authority. Noble Lords on this side feel that that is most important, first of all, because the political life of this nation will be tremendously affected by the Bill. We all know that television is probably the greatest influence on the mass of the population that has ever been invented. 702 It enables all sorts of influences to become apparent, and there are many influences which are not apparent but which are potent. It seems to us that the danger—at all events, one danger—is that the political aspect of any matter that comes up will not be recognised as having any political effect. That is one danger. We feel that if there were on this Authority, a certain number of people who had political experience, they would be able to spot these political issues, hidden, it might be, at first sight, much more easily than people who had very little political experience indeed.
§ Secondly, I am one of those who think that politics is an honourable occupation. I have no patience with those who deride politics or politicians. My own experience is that the standards in political life are at least as high as those in any other sphere, and often much higher. There is far more unpaid, unremunerative work done by politicians outside the limelight of this House and another place than one is likely to find in any other sphere, where you can rarely get anything done for nothing. I have also no patience with those who profess themselves as being above politics, as if it were a sort of grimy game and they were above it. Politics is an integral part of the pattern of our national life, and the various main political views, we think, should be represented on the Authority.
§ Furthermore, there is one curious feature in our political life and it is this: that Conservatives tend to believe that Conservatives on an authority, or body, or board, are non-political; it is only the Socialists who are political. We saw that when we were in office and when for the first time we began to put a few Socialists in important positions on boards, and so on. We were then told they were "jobs for the boys"; but the other "boys," the "boys" who had always been there, were highly political; but as they were Conservatives they were considered to be nonpolitical. This is a most peculiar feature in our national life which is always coming up. I do not want to weary your Lordships, because we want to get on with this Amendment and others, but I could give you a score of illustrations, some very near, some not so near, which would prove my point. The point is that you will gel people with political views on 703 the Authority anyway, but if you do not ensure that the various political Parties —Liberals, Conservatives, and Labour—are represented, what you will get is what are called non-political views (which are Conservative views) almost alone represented. We believe this Amendment would avoid the packing of the Authority with the predominantly Conservative point of view, or predominantly any other point of view for that matter; but it is more likely to be, as far as I can see—I must be quite frank—a predominantly Conservative point of view. Let us be quite frank with one another; there will always be a predominantly Conservative point of view on this Authority unless steps are taken to ensure that other points of view are equally represented. I beg to move the Amendment.
Page 2, line 16, at end insert the said words. —(Lord Ogmore.)
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
My Lords, I find it a little difficult to reconcile the tribute the noble Lord paid to the high sense of duty of politicians with this Amendment. I venture to say that when I read it first I thought it was frankly insulting. I confirm what the noble Lord said: it was my lot in another place, while his Party was in power, more than once to have to make accusations of precisely what he said—of jobs being given "to the boys." But those accusations were repudiated with contumely by his Leaders, who said that such an idea never entered their heads. Now he proceeds to say that another Party might possibly feel they ought to create "jobs for the boys." I repudiate that with the same contumely. Really it does not matter who are the people appointed to the Authority so long as they carry out their duties, and one of the duties specified in Clause 3 (1) (g), is to ensure that due impartiality is preserved on the part of persons providing the programmes as respects matters of political or industrial constroversy or relating to current policy. That is the real object of this new Authority—to see that impartiality is preserved.
I honestly do not think it is necessary or right to put in a clause of this kind. I should hesitate to suggest to your Lordships that it was perhaps a certain amount of feeling of past guilt on behalf 704 of a previous Government that induced the noble Lord to put down an Amendment of this kind. I am bound to say, with respect, that I was more astonished, too, when the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, put his name to it; and I cannot conceive that he, either as a Minister or a leading civil servant, would be other than very angry indeed if he had seen a clause of this nature appearing in a Bill regarding a body for which he was responsible for appointing the members. I am bound to say I was filled with astonishment that he should have put his name to it. I did not think the noble Viscount, Lord Waverley, would find himself in such bad company. I hope your Lordships will repudiate the idea that the Government, in appointing members to a high authority like this, have anything else in view than the real, personal qualities of the people concerned.
§ VISCOUNT WAVERLEY
I had not intended to speak on this Amendment, but my noble friend is obviously so miserable that I should like to take the earliest opportunity of reassuring him. In my view, the question that arises here is not, as might be supposed, merely the question of ensuring impartiality: it is a question of commanding public confidence. I would remind my noble friend that those of us who have, from time to time, had to consider the constitution of public bodies of some importance, have frequently had to do our best to ensure a fair balance. Even such a relatively unimportant body as the Advisory Committee of the B.B.C. is constituted, I believe, in that way. This is a very much more important body. Whatever we may think about the prospects of this new Authority which is being set up, I think we should all agree that it is of great importance that it should be so constituted from the outset as to command public confidence. That, in my view, is the purpose, and the perfectly legitimate purpose, of this Amendment, and I have no sense of shame at all in being associated with the other noble Lords who have put their names to it.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
Surely the way to command public confidence is to appoint persons who understand the job, and I cannot see what relevance politics, or the political opinions of the members, 705 has to that aspect of the matter. The clause directs the Postmaster General to appoint as members of the Authority persons appearing to him to be qualified for the office. Surely, if we are to fulfil the requirement which the noble Viscount seeks we must take great pains to disregard entirely the political opinions of those members and go to those quarters whence we can rely on expert opinion being forthcoming. Surely that is the only consideration. The noble Lord who moved this Amendment praised politics and told us what an honourable craft it was that he has decided to pursue. Surely that is not in dispute at all. What we require here is to make this Authority a success, and that we can easily do by going to those who will understand the job. What the Postmaster General should ensure is that he does not deliberately use his power of appointment to select politicians for this job.
§ 5.19 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The case has been put and answered so adequately that there is really very little for me to say. The Government's view is entirely with the last speaker and with my noble friend Lord Hudson. Nobody wishes to say rude things about politicians; and if we were appointing a political body, a sort of Ministry of all the talents, than it would he very relevant to see, not perhaps that we had an absolute balance of Parties in the thing, but that we got the best politicians we could and that they commanded political support. That is the last thing in the world we are proposing to do here. In fact, I would say that the Postmaster General would be doing a very wrong thing if, in making his appointments, he inquired into people's politics. I hope that he will know nothing whatever about their politics. I do not know who is going to be on this board. You may have a trade unionist on the board; but the last reason why he should be appointed would be that he was a member of the Labour Party. He should be appointed to the board because he is a good man for the job. Quite frankly, the parallel taken by my noble friend Lord Waverley seems to me to be quite irrelevant.
Noble Lords, including the noble and learned Earl opposite, have said that the title of this body should be changed to "Commercial." I do not know what kind 706 of name we shall find; we are going to do our best. But there is a great deal that is commercial about this scheme. People have got to make commercial ventures. I ask my noble friend Lord Waverley this question: When collecting men for some of the great commercial undertakings with which he is so honourably connected, does he inquire into their politics? I should have thought the last thing in the world he was interested in was the politics of his colleagues. When he appoints the board, or when he invites the person he wants as chairman of the board, he wants to know that the men appointed are the best men for the job. I quite agree with regard to what was said about inspiring confidence; but, with great respect, not confidence in politicians, nor in a political entity, which this should not be. I hope that this Bill can be taken out of Party politics. I hope and believe that when the Bill is through, when the right Authority is appointed and the right kind of people become programme contractors, all question of politics will disappear, and that people will just look at it from the point of view of whether the scheme is successful and whether it is a Well-balanced undertaking.
After all, who are the people whose confidence is needed? The one person to whom I never hear any reference made is the unfortunate viewer, who is going to buy his set at a considerable cost and who wants to have this service. I think the people whose confidence we want— and certainly this venture will fail if we do not get it—are the viewers, the people who are going to pay for this service. They are not going to have their confidence created or maintained by being told that the directors or members, or whatever they are called, of this Television Authority are nicely balanced and highly regarded politicians. The way to get their confidence is to appoint the people who know about the job. Quite frankly, there is a fundamental difference of opinion as to what this body is and how it ought to be created, and I could not possibly accept this Amendment. If noble Lords feel strongly about it then they must divide.
§ EARL JOWITT
I should like to speak on this Amendment. I had thought that the reply was going to be that it was quite obvious that, in making his appointment, the Postmaster General would take this course; and I had thought, that 707 being so, that I should advise that we should not press this Amendment to a Division. I thought we should be told: Trust the Postmaster General. I say at once that I do trust the Postmaster General. Notwithstanding what has been said, I have not the least doubt but that the Postmaster General will follow some such lines as these, because that is the only way in which he can get public confidence. If I may say so, with great respect to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, you do not want merely the confidence of the viewers, you want also the confidence of the public—public money is going to be spent on this.
I am going to give your Lordships an analogy—the extraordinary experience I had during the six and a half years when I was Lord Chancellor. Part of my duties was to appoint magistrates. The system whereby magistrates are appointed is that there exists in every county an advisory committee, presided over by the Lord Lieutenant, which submits names to the Lord Chancellor. Quite deliberately, in appointing advisory committees—and I used always to have the full assent of the Lords Lieutenant, who helped me up to the hilt in this matter—I saw to it that there were some Conservatives, some Liberals, some Labour men, and some who had no political attachment at all. The extraordinary thing is that, by doing that, it is the best way in which to eliminate politics. The rival view used to be that you appointed your advisory committee without any regard to this question at all. This question was most carefully considered by the Commission presided over by the late Lord du Parcq, who expressed as his opinion that the view which I have taken was the right one: that by setting up a committee on those lines there was a much better chance of eliminating politics. The very last thing wanted in the administration of justice is politics, and that is avoided by having representatives of all Parties on the committee, or board.
That does not mean to say that I should like to see the Postmaster General appoint to this board politicians of violent views—I should not at all. He will, of course, appoint men with the appropriate business experience and the like. But, just as he may appoint some men whose bent is rather towards the Right, so I hope that, having done that, he will quite 708 deliberately appoint some men, equally good business men, whose bent is rather towards the Left. In that way only in this country will it be possible to gain public confidence by eliminating politics. Those who know how these things work will know that this principle works very well—the English are most unaccountable people. I do assure the Committee that, if it is desired to gain public confidence and to keep politics right out of this scheme, this is the best way to do it. On the face of it, there is a body which is, broadly speaking, composed of all shades of opinion; it may include people whose tendency is definitely towards the Right, and also people whose tendency is definitely towards the Left. Of course, you leave out politicians of violent opinion.
So far as this Amendment is concerned I would ask this. If the Postmaster General can tell us that he is going to try to do this very thing, in order that he may construct a board which has public confidence, then I should believe him, and I should not press this to a Division. But if I am told, as I am at the present moment, that the Postmaster General is not going to look into this at all, and is to appoint his board without troubling to find out any of their political views at all, then I can tell him that he will have a very bad board—it will be suspect from the word "go," and it will not work. I beg the Postmaster General to see that he gets a properly balanced board. I often agree with the words of wisdom spoken by the noble Viscount, Lord Hudson. I thought he was speaking on these lines. I thought he was saying, "Well, it is so obvious that this is what he will do that you need not put it into the Bill." In the old days I learned from the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, the desirability of putting things into the Bill. It seems to me quite obvious that this is what the Postmaster General should do. I believe he will do it, because I have great confidence in him. That being so, I think it much better that it should be put into the Bill. I ask the Committee to support us in this Amendment. It is not that we want politics brought into this matter—that is the last thing we want. But we do want this body to have public confidence behind it, and we shall not get public confidence in this body if it is thought, rightly or wrongly, that all the 709 people who are appointed to it have one political persuasion, be it to the Left or to the Right. What is wanted is "a mixed bag," and I hope that we shall get it.
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
The noble and learned Lord, the late Lord Chancellor, spoke with knowledge of the appointments that he made. All I can say is that I have been in politics for some thirty years in another place, and his action did not solve the problem that was always before the Member of Parliament, that of trying to get so many Labour and so many Liberal representatives. No constituent of mine (and I sat for more than one constituency) ever believed that there was a proper balance in these appointments. It is one of the sorest points I know of in ordinary provincial public life, and certainly one of the biggest nuisances any ordinary Member of Parliament has to contend with. I only hope that the noble Earl, the Postmaster-General is not going to accept the noble Earl's invitation to say he will appoint members of the board in this way.
§ EARL JOWITT
May I ask the noble Viscount whether, in his time at the Ministry of Agriculture, or at other Ministries (he has appointed many Committees and Commissions), he has ever in his life appointed a Committee without seeing that a thoroughly proper balance was achieved with people to the Right and, correspondingly, people to the Left?
§ VISCOUNT HUDSON
Speaking off hand, I should say that never in my ministerial career have I done that. I have appointed people representing certain sections. I have appointed trade unionists, but I never rang up the Secretary of the Trades Union Congress and asked whether anyone put forward was Liberal, Labour or Conservative. I should not have dreamed of doing such a thing. The same would apply, I presume, here. One of the people appointed on this body will be a trade unionist, as the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, said. I should regard him as being appointed to represent the trade union section as a whole, and I should try to find a person accepted by the trades union section. I should not ask whether he was a follower of Mr. Bevin, Mr. Attlee, Mr. Morrison or Mr. Gaitskell. I think it would be entirely wrong to do so. I should ask for him to be the best 710 man for the job whom the trades union movement could suggest. If I agreed with them regarding his personal qualifications, I should appoint that man, to whatever section of the movement he belonged. It seems to me thoroughly wrong to suggest that this body should be staffed by politicians. I do not believe that is the way to get the support of the public. This body should be above politics. I would only say to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, it is not the viewer who is going to pay, it is the advertiser.
§ LORD MATHERS
I am glad that my noble and learned Leader, Lord Jowitt, has made his statement in this House to-day, because to me there is a certain naivety about the Tory mind which thinks that to be a Tory is not to be political. I do not seek to enlarge this discussion, but will simply recount to this House the actual experience of a friend of mine who was appointed and broke into a Tory preserve, a small local governing body. He was welcomed into that body—if it can be called a welcome—by one of the old members who said, "Now none of your politics here, we are all good Tories."
§ EARL DE LA WARR
I am not going to repeat arguments that have already been put to your Lordships. The noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, exactly expressed my feelings. I believe that it would be an appalling day for British public life when your Lordships' House considered it necessary to put a clause of this character into a Bill. It would be a tragedy.
§ On Question, Amendment negatived
§ 5.34 p.m.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH moved, in subsection (7), after "programmes)" where the word occurs a second time, to insert:
or in any business, corporate body, partnership or organisation advertising or advertised in any programme broadcast by the Authority.
§ The noble Viscount said: I beg to move the Amendment which stands in the name of my noble friend, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. I am speaking to this Amendment only because, unfortunately, the noble Lord is unable to be here owing to the rather serious illness of his wife, and I hope very much she will soon be better.711
§ The Amendment seeks to carry out what is, I think, the general intention of subsection (7). The general purpose of this subsection is wholly admirable. It seeks to gain public confidence by making sure that people with certain interests are not appointed to these posts. On an actual reading of the clause, as a whole, it seems to me that after being quite general in character—in line 41 it states that the person concerned should have "no such financial or other interest "— there is a following parenthesis of considerable length in which those interests are all specifically defined. It is, therefore, likely to be assumed in law, or at any challenge before a legal tribunal, that the kind of interest mentioned in the Amendment is not, in fact, covered by the word "other" in line 41. I think it very important that the intention of the noble Earl, the Postmaster General, should be carried out here without any deviation whatever, and therefore he should pursue one of two courses: either rely entirely upon the words "no such financial or other interest" in line 41 and then not include the long parenthesis; or add to the parenthesis the particular classes included in the Amendment which I am now moving. I hope that the noble Earl will see the point of the Amendment. I am not making a long speech about it but it is of importance, and I hope he will take one course or the other. I beg to move.
Page 3, line 1, after ("programmes)") insert the said words.—(Viscount Alexander of Hillsborough.)
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
This certainly raises no question of politics; it is a matter of practical convenience. It is, of course, important that you should not have on this body a man who is influenced, and it is for those reasons that, in the appointments, three categories of exclusion are named. You cannot appoint a man who is in an advertising agency, or a man who is in a business concerned with manufacturing or selling wireless or other telegraphic equipment; nor can you appoint a man in business as a programme contractor. But if we took these words it would mean an absolute prohibition over a very much wider field. When commercial television has been running for a number of years a large number 712 of firms will, of course, have advertised in it. By putting this prohibition in, a director of, say, Lloyds Bank, if Lloyds Bank advertised, could not be a member of this Authority. My noble friend Lord Brand is engaged in many admirable occupations (though he is discarding one or two of them now) in his private life. Suppose an insurance company of which he was chairman was concerned in an advertisement, then Lord Brand (who, when he has become unbiased in this matter, would be a very good member of the board) would be disqualified.
So you would go on. By the time you had had four or five years of advertising, nearly every firm in this country which advertises in the newspapers would have advertised on television. It would mean that anybody who was in any way connected with any of those many firms—the most reputable firms in the country, people with the most businesslike knowledge—would be disqualified. I am sure I have only to say that to show that this Amendment is really carrying the thing too far. I think we have safeguarded the position adequately by the three prohibitions which are inserted. I appreciate that the noble Viscount is moving this Amendment on behalf of a noble Lord who is not here, but I think that, on considering that point, he will feel able to exercise his discretion, and not press the Amendment.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
I think the noble Viscount, in seeking to reject this Amendment, himself went rather too far. In the first place, we are seeking to prevent people who may have a real interest from being members of the Authority, and we include advertising agents. Now advertising agents are agents for someone. They have principals, and it seems very odd that you should exclude advertising agents and yet not exclude the principals. The noble Viscount was quite right in what he said, referring to the case of a person on the Authority who may be a member of a concern which occasionally advertises. No one wants to hit at such people. No one wants to prevent a person who may be, for example, a director of Lloyds Bank or of some insurance company from becoming a member. Lloyds Bank or an insurance company may have occasional advertisements on television. I submit that as the Bill 713 stands those people may still be members. If the noble Viscount will look at the top of page 3 he will see there these qualifying words:as is likely to affect prejudicially the discharge by him of his functions as member of the Authority,It is inconceivable that a director of an insurance company or a director of a bank which might occasionally advertise would be affected prejudicially in the discharge of his functions as a member of the Authority by virtue of such occasional advertising. But what would the noble Viscount say with regard to people who habitually and regularly advertise and who may well be most important customers of the Authority? What would he say as to a certain large group of brewing undertakings or tobacco undertakings or people in some similar category? It is a remarkable thing that the agents who act for them may not be members of the Authority but persons who may be regular advertisers can become members of the Authority. All that is sought by this Amendment is to make sure that we exclude not all the people who advertise but only people who are likely to be affected prejudicially in the discharge of their functions. I should have thought that if the exact words of the Amendment were not considered appropriate something could he put into this clause to ensure that people who were regular advertisers should not be members of the Authority.
§ THE EARL OF HALIFAX
I do not profess to be a Parliamentary draftsman or a lawyer, and I understand, I think, the motives which noble Lords opposite have in mind. But I honestly should not have thought that this Amendment was necessary. What cart you have wider than these words:that person wilt have no such financial or other interest"—I leave out the words which follow in brackets—as is likely to affect prejudicially the discharge by him of his functions as member of the Authority,"—I cannot see that anything more is wanted, and, quite apart from the arguments which have been advanced. I am well content with those words as they stand.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ EARL JOWITT
If 1 may say so, I rather agree with the point of view of the noble Earl who has just spoken. He said that he was leaving out the words in brackets, and if the words in brackets to which he has referred were left out of the Bill I should be perfectly happy. The legal effect of putting the proposed words in would be to alter the construction. As it stands, the subsection cannot be construed as if the words in brackets were not there. It has been pointed out that the Legislature has been at pains to specify this, that and the other. Therefore, you have these special categories expressio unius est exclusio alterius. We do not want to divide on this Amendment, and I would make this suggestion to the noble Viscount. If he will look at this point again and consider leaving out the words in brackets, that will be one way out of the difficulty. Although I have never been a businessman myself, I have a great knowledge of businessmen. For many years f practised in a particular branch of the Bar where I had to advise businessmen about their problems, and I have the highest regard for businessmen. But no responsible businessman, director of a company or whatever he might be, would put himself in the position of being a member of this Authority at the same time as the company of which he was a director was habitually advertising in this medium. This does not make sense to me; I do not believe that any businessman would accept it as a proposition, and I would ask the noble Viscount to consider the suggestion which has been made by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax. I would suggest that he either puts in these words, or some words like them, or leases out the words in brackets so as to embody the general proposition, upon which I think we are all agreed. If the noble Viscount will tell us that he will look at these words again I shall certainly advise my noble friend not to press this Amendment to a Division.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
The words have already been very carefully looked at. I do not give any sort of undertaking, but we can have a look at them again. As at present advised, I think they are right. If we were to cut them cut, I am not sure 715 that it might not be making it easier for people who have these interests to come in. I said, when replying originally, that there were these three categories whom we wanted to keep out. I think that I should probably be weakening the Bill by doing what my noble friend has suggested, but I will certainly look at the matter again. On the analogy of what the noble and learned Earl, Lord Jowitt said, if we were to put in the words on the Marshalled List, that would raise the presumption that anyone who had ever advertised at all was a person who, as the subsection puts it, was likely to be affected prejudicially in the discharge of his functions. None of us wants that. I think the words as they stand are probably right and give the balance which we all want. However, I am prepared to look at the wording, and if we find that there ought to be any verbal alteration, that the drafting ought to be altered in some detail, then I will put down an Amendment at the next stage of the Bill. If there is nothing down in this connection at the Report stage that will mean that we are satisfied that we have already the best words for what I think we all want to do.
§ EARL JOWITT
I thought that perhaps we might talk the matter over between now and the Report stage.
§ LORD HORE-BELISHA
Surely what has escaped the attention of the noble and learned Earl who leads the Opposition is that there is a perfectly clear principle established in this clause. It is to exclude from nomination to the board anyone who has a continuing interest which might have a prejudicial effect, a person who would make a continuing contract with the Authority. That is the principle that is established. All these categories specifically mentioned in parenthesis are those of persons who might be continuously in relation with the Authority, whereas advertisers whom it is sought to exclude by the Amendment have a purely casual relationship. They act through an advertising agent, not directly with the programme contractor, and, in accordance with the tariff, take up a certain amount of space or time. Such persons are in a different category from the per-ions excluded. It seems to me that the 716 clause is founded on a good principle. I do not want to prevent the noble Viscount from looking at it again but it seems to me that we should leave the clause as it is and that the principle which it seeks to establish is sound.
§ LORD LAYTON
I think it is impossible to get an enumeration of the classes of people to be left out, and to get an incomplete enumeration weakens the force of the phraseto affect prejudicially the discharge by him of his functions.Therefore I hope that the Government will see their way to eliminate the words in the brackets.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
As to what the noble Lord, Lord Hore-Belisha said, so far as I can see there is no indication in the language of this clause about any continuing principle. I think that if the Government were to take the attitude he takes it would very much weaken the position we desire to see. The best thing is to have a second look at this matter between now and the Report stage. On that understanding, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 2: