HL Deb 14 May 1970 vol 310 cc726-8

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, with the permission of the House I should like to repeat a Statement that has been made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications. The Statement is as follows:

"As the House will recall, I said in the debate on December 3 last year that I was considering an Inquiry into the long-term future of broadcasting after 1976, when the present mandates of the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. expire. There are important technical developments taking place in the field of broadcasting and of communications generally which may have fundamental implications for broadcasting in the later 70s and it is necessary that these, as well as the existing broadcasting arrangements, should be examined before Parliament and the Government have to take decisions about the arrangements that should apply from 1976. The Government have, therefore, decided to set up an independent Committee of Inquiry to carry out a wide-ranging review of the future of sound and television broadcasting.

"The terms of reference are:

'To consider the future, after 31st July, 1976, of the broadcasting services in the United Kingdom, of the dissemination by wire of broadcast and other programmes and of television for public showing: to consider the implications for present or any recommended' additional services of new techniques, for example for recording visual programmes for reproduction: and to propose what constitutional, organisational and financial arrangements and what conditions should apply to the conduct of all these services.'

"I have invited Lord Annan to be Chairman of the Committee, and I am glad to inform the House that he has consented. I shall announce the names of the other members of the Committee as soon as possible."


My Lords, I must thank the noble Baroness for repeating that Statement. May I ask her why, when no decisions are required, and indeed could not be put into effect before 1976, it is necessary to set up this Committee in May, 1970, just before an Election?


My Lords, the noble Lord may remember that during the last debate on this matter in this House the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, said that the five years of the Pilkington Committee were not enough. The Government took very seriously all the discussions which took place about the broadcasting services and decided that plenty of time should be allowed for the Committee to deliberate.


My Lords, a good many people thought that five years of Pilkington was too much, I seem to remember. I think it is quite wrong to set up a Committee of this kind and choose its membership before an Election. I must tell the noble Baroness that we in the Conservative Party want to make it quite clear that we reserve our full freedom on this matter to do what we feel is right, regardless of the setting up of this Committee.


My Lords, that is noted on this side of the House, and in just the same way the Government are entirely free to set up a Committee, which it is their duty to do.


My Lords, I also should like to thank the noble Baroness for repeating this Statement. I share the point of view of the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that this is not a very appropriate time to choose to set up this Committee, but I look forward to hearing who the other members of the Committee will be. I think the noble Lord, Lord Annan, is very suitable to be the Chairman.


My Lords, not all the Members who share the Benches of the noble Lord, Lord Amulree, will agree with his remarks about timing because in the last debate in this House an Inquiry of this kind was called for very soon.


My Lords, is not the premature setting up of this Committee the clearest indication that we have so far had that the Government, in their hearts, expect to lose the next Election?


My Lords, the noble Lord must consult his own oracle. We do not consider this a premature inquiry in any sense.