HL Deb 01 June 1965 vol 266 cc1023-5

2.47 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in view of the unhealthy condition of the B.B.C. finances, the showing of the recent encounter between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston was justified, and what was the total cost of the B.B.C. coverage.]


My Lords, I am sure my noble friend is aware that the broadcasting authorities are independent in matters of programme content and in the day-to-day conduct of their affairs. The Government do not intervene. My right honourable friend does not know how much the programme cost.


My Lords, does the noble Lord mean that he has to refuse to give the amount, or is it that I have not given time for the Department to calculate this very large amount which has been wasted? Could I ask him this further question, on the matter of principle: is his Department in a position to ask the British Broadcasting Corporation, in a quite friendly manner, why they failed to ignore the warning implicit in the refusal of many States in the United States to stage this sordid exhibition within their borders?


My Lords, with regard to the second part of the question, we are in the realm of opinion and I do not wish to comment. With regard to the first part of the question, the position is that my right honourable friend does not know the cost of the programme, as was stated categorically in my Answer.


My Lords, would my noble friend not say that, whilst recognising my noble friend's antipathy to these matters, he would not interfere with the running of the B.B.C.? Will he not say that he will not encourage the B.B.C. to make this nation into a nation of "Cissies"?


My Lords, I share the noble Lord's approval of boxing, but at the same time I am well aware of the sincerity of the convictions of my noble friend Lady Summerskill.


My Lords, would my noble friend not agree that a much stronger reason for the B.B.C. not showing this bout was the unhealthy condition of Sonny Liston?


I am not aware of the condition of either of the combatants.


My Lords, in support of the noble Baroness, may I ask whether the noble Lord can tell me the financial result of the recent visit of the B.B.C. Symphony Orchestra to America?—which visit, I understand, has resulted in a very substantial financial loss which has to come out of the pockets of the licence holders of this country. Would he not think that, instead of propagating Russian and other foreign modern music in America, the money might be better spent on the provision of better programmes for licence holders in this country?


With respect to the noble Lord, he has been long enough in this House to know that that question cannot possibly arise out of the one on the Order Paper.


My Lords, would the noble Lord say whether these matters would be taken into account in considering whether or not the licence fee should be increased?


That may be a question to be taken into account.