HL Deb 05 June 1972 vol 331 cc21-80

3.30 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Report be now received.

Moved, That the Report be now received.—(Lord Denham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Clause 1 [Independent Television Authority to be renamed Independent Broadcasting Authority]:

LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY moved Amendment No. 1: Page 1, line 15, at end insert— ("(3) In addition to the members of the Authority provided for in the principal Act the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications may, if it appears to him to be necessary for the better working of this Act, appoint a second Deputy Chairman.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the efforts of noble Lords on the Labour Benches during the last stage of this Bill led me to revise my previously stated opinion that this Bill was so bad that it could not be amended. My opinion of the Bill as such has not altered, but I think it is up to all of us to try to make the Bill a little better. This first Amendment that I and my noble friend are putting forward deals with a minor and, it seems to me, an uncontroversial matter. Nevertheless, the Amendment has behind it a certain psychological importance which I am sure the Government will welcome, as indeed will all Members of your Lordships' House. Your Lordships will remember that it stems from an Amendment put forward at a previous stage by the Labour Front Bench, for enlarging the whole of the Authority. It was argued then—and I hold to this argument—that it is important to regard the adding of sound broadcasting as being a very special and major matter; it should not just be ingested into the Independent Television Authority as an extra chore which it is asked to take on.

One of the most interesting suggestions was that there might have to be two Deputy Chairmen and two sides of the Authority. I am not concerned to argue the necessity for that this afternoon. I do not know enough about the internal organisation of the Authority to know whether it would be a good thing or not, nor do I think anyone does, including the present members of the Independent Television Authority and including (if I may be so bold) the Government. But what I do think is that this is a possible way of running the Authority with two subdivisions, one dealing with television and one with broadcasting. If this is so, it is a pity to leave a situation in which there is only one Deputy Chairman of the Authority and where there can be no more than one Deputy Chairman. So this Amendment is designed to allow the Minister to appoint—if he thinks it desirable, and not unless—a second Deputy Chairman.

On the Committee stage of this Bill the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said that he had not thought about this possibility and that he would go away and think about it. I hope he has done so and that those who are speaking in his stead to-day will feel that this is a reasonable suggestion, because in fact it chimes in with the noble Viscount's remarks on Committee stage, when he said that to lay down in the Statute that there must be two Deputy Chairmen, with the inevitable problem of which one takes the chair if the Chairman is not present, and so on, could detract from the flexibility with which I would hope the Authority would be able to run its business.—[OFFICIAL REPORT; 9/5/72, col. 933.]

My Lords, I leave aside the remark about which Deputy Chairman should take the chair. If the Authority could not settle that, then it certainly could not settle any of the more major matters which will arise. Nor do I think it would be as divisive as the noble Viscount went on to say in the next column. It is possible that there are occasions when to split up an authority with different responsibilities for different sections may prove divisive, but if it is well run this does not happen; and again what I am trying to do is to ensure that it is possible that this should be done if it is necessary, but not otherwise. The noble Viscount remarked about the importance of flexibility with which, I hope, the Authority will be able to run its business. This is a serious suggestion that this may be one way of running the business. If your Lordships pass the Amendment, the Authority will have the flexibility it needs to make two divisions, if the Minister should so desire. If the Amendment is not passed there will not be that flexibility. Therefore I sincerely hope that the Government will stand by their word. I beg to move.


My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Denham, answers I should like to call his attention to the fact that the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, during the Committee stage of the Bill constantly mentioned the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone. It seems to me that the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, was asked to carry out to the satisfaction of the Members of your Lordships' House all that is vague in the Bill. This would be quite a task, even for the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone. In the references to Lord Aylestone, who is a respected Chairman of the I.T.A., your Lordships were not told that his term of office officially finishes this October and that he will not be around to carry out the undefined responsibilities expected of him. If the noble Lord, Lord Denham, is going to say to-day that Lord Aylestone's term of office will be extended, such a statement will be very much welcomed.


My Lords, I had not intended to speak on this Amendment and I do not know what the view of my colleagues on the Front Bench may be, but, speaking generally from the point of view of business management, I am against the possible introduction of a second Deputy Chairman. Most of my experience has been in the world of newspapers and it is notorious that the executives on a given newspaper are a loyal, harmonious and affectionate team; but that does not apply in the broadcasting and the television world. Every few months we get stories about intrigues that have been taking place against this executive or that executive. If we have a Chairman and a Deputy Chairman there can be little doubt that the Deputy Chairman's allegiance is owed directly to the Chairman, but if we have two Deputy Chairmen then there is the risk of two ganging up against one—the Chairman and one Deputy Chairman against the remaining Deputy Chairman. That would be an unhealthy state of affairs. In a regiment there are not two seconds-in-command: there is the colonel and the second-in-command, and I think the Army can teach us a great deal about the control of responsibility and management. In my opinion the introduction of a second Deputy Chairman would be unhealthy, and I shall certainly vote against it.


My Lords, if I may deal first with the remarks made by the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, I am afraid I am not briefed on the particular point as to when Lord Aylestone will leave the I.T.A. It is certainly not as early as October of this year, but I will pass on the noble Lord's comments to my right honourable friend. My Lords, in Committee my noble friend Lord Colville, undertook, as the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, said, to give consideration to an Amendment which would make it possible, if the Minister so determined at a later date, for a second Deputy Chairman to be appointed. This Amendment put down by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, gives an opportunity to do just this. The present position is that there has to be one Deputy Chairman but there is no power to appoint a second. The aim behind the Amendment, as the noble Lord has said, is to make it possible to appoint separate Deputy Chairmen, the two being charged to take a special interest in television and radio respectively.

Her Majesty's Government have given consideration to this point, as my noble friend promised, but after thinking it over very carefully they still feel it necessary to maintain their opposition to this proposal. There is an overwhelming disadvantage in appointing a Deputy Chairman with special responsibilities for radio. The danger would be that he might become a divisive force in the organisation. For example, the officials concerned with radio might try by-passing their Director-General who would not have the same partisan interest. It is important to preserve the concept of the Board as wholly and jointly responsible for the policies of the Authority, with responsibility to the public and to Parliament for local sound broadcasting just as for television. The particular function of the Deputy Chairman, apart from carrying the ordinary responsibilities of a member of the Board, is to assist the Chairman and to deputise for him in his absence. It is essential therefore that he should interest himself in the Authority as a whole and not just in one part of it. I very much welcome the speech on these lines by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. I hope your Lordships will see fit not to accept this Amendment.

3.43 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord surprises me. I accept that having two Deputy Chairmen could raise problems if there were a weak Chairman. My noble friend who speaks from the Liberal Benches had in mind the case where the Board might feel that, for the benefit of television and sound radio, for which they have responsibility, they should have a committee system. Clearly, if there were a committee system, it would be too much to expect the Chairman of the Board to act as Chairman of both committees. It may well be that the Board as a whole will feel that a committee system is the right method to adopt, because television, although it is well established, still requires very careful attention and surveillance and I think that this is one of the reasons why we have been able to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, and the Board on their conduct of commercial television. The Authority has kept a continuous watch and interest over the whole field of television.

Noble Lords who sit an the Front Bench opposite have said throughout our debates that commercial sound radio is completely new and that it will raise many problems which do not exist in television. If we are to have some 30 to 60 stations spread over the country, if the Board are to perform their task of surveillance and give equally to sound radio the care and attention which they have given to television, then either they may need to have an enlarged Board—as I suggested in Committee—or they may feel that they ought to specialise. If they were then to specialise, it would clearly mean a form of committee system, and in that event I should have thought that the idea of a Deputy Chairman sitting as chairman of each committee would have something to be said for it.

The Amendment does not require a second Deputy Chairman to be appointed; it does not require any change at all in the present structure. But the point is that unless this Amendment is acecpted, the Board will not be able to move to the sort of basis that I have suggested—to which they might well wish to move—because under the parent act they are precluded from having more than one Deputy Chairman. I have no doubt at all that as the Board assumes its new authority with very much enlarged responsibility, we ought to give as much flexibility as possible to the Minister and in particular to the Chairman of the Authority.

My Lords, if you do not accept this amendment, then you do not give either to the Minister or to the Board any form of flexibility at all. I see no reason at all why the Government cannot accept this, except for one reason: that they do not wish to accept any Amendments on this Bill and that they do not wish this Bill to go back to another place. It may well be that the pressure of business raises difficulty in the House of Commons. But that is not a justification for not agreeing to an Amendment that has considerable merit. It gives flexibility, which I believe the Authority is entitled to have, when it assumes this new responsibility over sound commercial radio. So I hope that the Minister will have another look at his brief to see whether the word "resist" has been underlined more than twice. If it has not been underlined more than twice, I should have thought he ought to accept this Amendment.


My Lords, I simply cannot understand the attitude of the Minister in saying to your Lordships that there is an overwhelming disadvantage to appointing a second Deputy Chairman, because that is not what the Amendment is about. It seems to have been misunderstood by the Minister just as much as by the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland. All we are saying in this Amendment is that we wish there to be power to appoint a second Deputy Chairman; not that the Independent Broadcasting Authority should be forced to do so against its better judgment or against the better judgment of the Minister who has to make the decision. As to the comparison which the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, made with the newspapers, of course in the Companies Act there is provision for a Memorandum and Articles which are couched in the widest possible terms and if the Board of Beaverbrook Newspapers—


Or the Daily Mirror—


or the Daily Mirror—wish to appoint deputy chairmen then they would certainly have power to do so under their existing Memorandum and Articles, and I cannot understand why, whenever we are discussing public authorities, we should try to confine them within powers which are so much less flexible than those we give to companies incorporated under the Companies Act. Indeed, I think we are doing so in this case in saying that never at any time, unless a fresh Bill is brought before Parliament, can a second Deputy Chairman be appointed. That is what the Minister has said to the House.

My noble friend has outlined some of the advantages of his proposal so far as the separate responsibilities of sound broadcasting and television are concerned, and I can see the force of that argument. But I do not think we should look at this Amendment simply in terms of those new responsibilities which are going to be assumed and say that automatically if this Amendment is adopted the position will have to be looked at in terms of sound broadcasting and television respectively. I can think of many other circumstances in which, from the commercial point of view, it would be convenient and desirable for there to be two separate Deputy Chairmen and I do not think that with the creation of a new Authority such as is contemplated under this Bill, we can say that never, for all time, can there be any argument for appointing a second Deputy Chairman. I hope, as the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd has said, that the Minister will look at the underlinings in his brief; because if this Amendment is not accepted then one must assume, as he said, that the Government have decided that they will not allow any Amendments to be accepted on this Bill at all.


My Lords, if I may have your Lordship; permission to speak again to reply to those various points, may I say that I am sorry that I have surprised the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd—I surprised him last time, but perhaps next time it will not come as so much of a surprise. But, my Lords, the noble Lord said that members of the Board might need two Deputy Chairmen. They might work in committees. That is absolutely true. They might want to work in committees and there is nothing to stop them doing it. There is nothing to stop a member of the Board from being a chairman of a sub-committee. The point of having a Deputy Chairman in this case, as in most others, is twofold: first, to assist the Chairman, and secondly, to deputise for him in his absence. It is not to give him some other separate role, such as might be thought if this Amendment were accepted.

The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, suggested that I was asking your Lordships to reject this Amendment purely for one reason, because we did not want any Amendments to this Bill. This is not so. There are very good reasons why one should not accept this Amendment. If it were accepted the implication would be that it had merit, and in the view of Her Majesty's Government this Amendment does not have merit. We cannot simply accept an Amendment on the argument that it would do no harm. There must be some real reason for it. The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, complained about the comparison that the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, drew with newspapers. Perhaps I can give him a comparison that will suit him better. As the noble Lord knows, the B.B.C. also run television and sound radio. They also have a Chairman, but they do not have two Vice-Chairmen. There is no more reason why the I.B.A. should have two than that the B.B.C. should have two, and the B.B.C. get on very well without two.


My Lords, perhaps I may answer the various points made by the Minister. He spoke about how the committee system could be worked without a Deputy Chairman. Of course it could; and there are ways of getting round this. But the point we are making is that the inclusion of radio is not so much an addition as the setting up of a completely new body, which of course means two different responsibilities; and if the Minister should so decide, and the Authority should so recommend to the Minister, it should be able to give equal importance to both sections. The fact that this has not been done with the B.B.C. seems to me no argument for saying that it should not be considered with the I.B.A. Nor is it even to say that if the I.B.A. decided it wanted to have two sections this should necessarily apply to the B.B.C. as well. We are looking at this proposal almost entirely upon its merits. If the noble Lord is saying that the Amendment has no merit as an

Amendment, what he is in fact saying is that the Government have already made up their mind about how this Authority is going to be run, and are not allowing any flexibility to the Authority when it takes power and has to make its own decisions, and possibly decides that this would be the right thing.

The only point of any merit I found in the Minister's reply was when he spoke about the dual responsibility of the Director-General. Again I think this is a fairly unreal point, just as I think Lord Leatherland's point was unreal. We do not expect the Independent Broadcasting Authority to behave in some of the ways that the boards of some of our newspapers behave; there are better ways of running things than that. But it so happens in fact—unless I am wrong, and I am open to correction—that neither the principal Act nor the Bill we are considering mentions the Director-General at all; indeed, there is quite a possibility that there could be two Director-Generals. I am not saying that this would necessarily be a good thing, but the flexibility is there; one could have two divisions with two chief officials responsible to the Board. That, I think, probably disposes of the major part of the Minister's case.

Since it appears to me that the Government, in spite of their denials, are being very unreasonable about a purely permissive Amendment, which does not in fact enforce on them or the Authority the obligation to do anything at all but merely produces a little more flexibility, I am afraid that I must ask the House to divide.

3.55 p.m.

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

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 51; Not-Contents, 85.

Airedale, L. Brockway, L. Hale, L.
Amherst, E. Buckinghamshire, E. Henderson, L.
Amulree, L. Burntwood, L. Henley, L.
Archibald, L. Carnock, L. Jessel, L.
Arwyn, L. Champion, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs.
Avebury, L. [Teller.] Diamond, L. McLeavy, L.
Balogh, L. Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Moyle, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller.] Evans of Hungershall, L. Nunburnholme, L.
Faringdon, L. Phillips, Bs.
Bernstein, L. Fiske, L. Platt, L.
Beswick, L. Gardiner, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Birk, Bs. Garnsworthy, L. Royle, L.
Rusholme, L. Shinwell, L. Wade, L.
Ruthven of Freeland, Ly. Stocks, Bs. Wells-Pestell, L.
Samuel, V. Stow Hill, L. White, Bs.
Segal, L. Summerskill, Bs. Wootton of Abinger, Bs.
Shackleton, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Shepherd, L.
Aberdare, L. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Macpherson of Drumochter, L.
Ailwyn, L. Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Mancroft, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Ferrers, E. [Teller.] Milverton, L.
Alport, L. Fletcher, L. Molson, L.
Auckland, L. Fortescue, E. Monck, V.
Balfour, E. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Goschen, V. Morrison, L.
Belstead, L. Greenway, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Berkeley, Bs. Grenfell, L.
Bessborough, E. Grimston of Westbury, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Bethell, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Oakshott, L.
Blackford, L. Poltimore, L.
Bledisloe, V. Hanworth, V. Rankeillour, L.
Bolton, L. Harvey of Prestbury, L. Rathcavan, L.
Chorley, L. Hawke, L. Reay, L.
Clwyd, L. Hood, V. Reigate, L.
Colgrain, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Sandford, L.
Cottesloe, L. Hurcomb, L. Sempill, Ly.
Courtown, E. Hylton-Foster, Bs. Shannon, E.
Cowley, E. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Somers, L.
Craigavon, V. Kemsley, V. Strathclyde, L.
Crathorne, L. Kilmany, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Daventry, V. Latymer, L. Templemore, L.
de Clifford, L. Lauderdale, E. Trefgarne, L.
Denham, L. Leicester, E. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
Derwent, L. Limerick, E. Vernon, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Loudoun, C. Vivian, L.
Effingham, E. Lyell, L. Wrottesley, L.
Elles, Bs. MacAndrew, L. Young, Bs.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

Clause 3 [Local Advisory committees for local sound broadcasts]:

4.2 p.m.

LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY moved Amendment No. 2: Page 3, line 4, leave out ("either").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is concerned to support two propositions which were put forward very strongly by this side in previous stages of the Bill, and which were given some support from the other side. Indeed, the Government maintained that they were in favour of both propositions. The first proposition is that the local advisory committees are extremely important bodies and should be given as much force as is compatible with the efficient running of a station by the contracting party. The second proposition is that we are all in favour of this being local radio and not regional radio. The purpose of this Amendment is to make it impossible for a member of a local advisory committee to sit on a committee for another locality. If this is to be truly local radio, it seems to me almost obvious that that should be so. It is important that the people who serve on such a committee should be truly local people, with truly local interests and a knowledge of the situation in the place for which they are responsible. I can quite see that there will be a tendency to have on these committees people who are fairly safe establishment characters, and if in a region there are enough people of sufficient standing they may be asked to serve on more than one committee. That is the kind of practice that we should resist. It is in order to underline the local character of the advisory committee, and to make certain that the Authority looks around for those people who will most truly represent the people in a particular area, that this Amendment should be passed. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, at first sight this Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, seemed to Her Majesty's Government to have quite a lot to commend it. But, unfortunately, there are three reasons why Her Majesty's Government feel that they cannot accept it. The first reason is the general argument—and the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, will himself appreciate this—that the new service is still very much in the hypothetical stage, and that the Authority ought to be free to devise the best advisory structure in the light of experience. I think the noble Lord will accept that argument, in view of what he said about the importance of leaving as much freedom as possible when he was speaking to the last Amendment.


My Lords, I am surprised that the Government accept it.


My Lords, the second reason is that it may be useful in the big conurbations to have some liaison on the advisory side between stations in adjoining cities, and this Amendment would of course preclude that. The third reason is that in London, where there will be two stations covering one locality, it would seem sensible to Her Majesty's Government to have only one advisory committee. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, will accept those reasons and will not press his Amendment.

4.8 p.m.


My Lords, I really do not think that the Government's general argument ties up with the speeches on the last Amendment or with their action in the Lobby, but I see that the argument about flexibility is a fairly important one. I still think that the balance comes down on the side of this Amendment, but in the circumstances and particularly in view of the argument about London, it is not an Amendment which I am prepared to take to a Vote. Therefore, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY: moved Amendment No. 4: Page 3, line 5, at end insert ("No members of a committee appointed under this section and section 9 of this Act shall be appointed for a term of longer than three years and no member shall be appointed for more than two consecutive terms.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is another Amendment which is designed to ensure that the members of these committees are really representative of the local areas which they are meant to serve. I think all of your Lordships well know the dangers of having too much continuity on committees of this kind, particularly outside London. I believe that in any body of whatever kind—except, possibly, your Lordships' House—there should be an arrangement for the circulation of members and for the definite ending of a term of office. Whenever I have had anything to do with the constitution of bodies, I have always sought to insert such a proposition. This Amendment would make certain that no member of an advisory committee would serve for more than six years at a time. That would do away with the kind of situation where there are local worthies who think that they have a prescriptive right, because they have sat on a committee for six years, to continue sitting on it until the cows come home, and who are so powerful in terms of local influence that no one wants to get rid of them. I think that not only should they be forced to be appointed for only three years, so that there is a definite, natural break—quite pertinent in the circumstances—at which they could be asked to retire, but also that there should be a definite prohibition on their sitting on the committee for more than six years.

I know that one of the arguments that the Government are going to put up is that in any case the operation of this Bill will come to an end within six years, but I still think it is important that this provision should be written into the Bill as it stands, because the Bill itself may well become the pattern of any future broadcasting Bill. It may be quoted as an authority and a precedent, and undoubtedly will be. It is no bad idea to get this written in now, even if the second half of this particular Amendment does not in fact specifically apply. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, this, again, seems a very reasonable Amendment but, again, I am afraid I am going to ask your Lordships not to accept it. I must point out that if I continually ask your Lordships not to accept Amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, it is not because I do not want any Amendments at all but because I do not agree with the particular Amendments. The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said that I was going to use the argument that there was not much point in writing this Amendment into the Bill because the Bill will expire before the end of six years anyway. I am not going to use that argument. I quite see the noble Lord's point that if this were an acceptable Amendment it would be a good idea to write the principle into the Bill. But, again for reasons of flexibility, which again the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, will appreciate, I ask your Lordships not to accept it.

One can see the point of wishing to ensure that councils shall not become stale, with the same members serving again and again. But local circumstances will differ, and so will the quality of local talent. There may be occasions when the I.B.A. may be very glad not to be forced to dismiss a particularly valuable member of an advisory council, as they would have to do were this Amendment passed. Moreover, there is no need to constrain the I.B.A. in this way. It will be in their interest to have the most useful advisory councils they can, and they will have every interest in seeing that these councils are satisfactorily complemented. In view of this, I hope the noble Lord will withdraw this Amendment, too.


My Lords, the House will now recognise that when the noble Lord, Lord Denham, says that an Amendment is a reasonable Amendment it is the kiss of death. I really am surprised at the noble Lord. So far as your Lordships' House is concerned, we know that we have had difficulty in relation to our own Committees. We have had the position for many years that a number of notable and distinguished Members of this House who have seen serving on Committees have remained there, and that this has meant that no new, young, virile blood could be appointed to those Committees. We know the difficulties of getting rid of those distinguished noble Lords from our Committees; and, as I myself admitted as a Chief Whip who had a responsibility in this matter, I had not the courage to go to such a distinguished Member and say, "I think it is about time you left that Committee in order that we can bring someone more junior and perhaps now more representative of the general view of the House". In fact the House has accepted this view, and I believe that in the case of the Offices Committee and a number of others we have now adopted a rule that Members should sit on those Committees for only a certain period of time, after which they will leave. In that way, everyone is now relieved of the embarrassment of going to a noble Lord and asking him to leave. I suspect that in the case of local authorities and of committees of this sort there will be the same problem. How do you ask a distinguished, long-serving member to leave—unless, of course, he has committed some misdemeanour, which is unlikely?

So this Amendment provides a flexibility in the operation of these committees in the sense that we shall always have a regular turnover of members, providing new faces and new views to meet and match the changing tastes and requirements within a locality. I believe that this Amendment, if it were accepted, would certainly make the position of the Board much easier in its appointments to these important committees, and it would clearly show the locality that these committees were not going to be the preserve of some group of people but would be continually changing and new interests would be seen on them. I do not believe that there is any other way of ensuring this flow of new thought, new tastes, on to committees of this sort unless there is an arbitrary break, as is suggested in the Amendment. Let us face it: if there is some distinguished, well-serving member who, after six years of service, wishes to serve again, he need only take a break. It does not even say how long the break is. It will perhaps be to the next appointment, so there will be a gap of, it may be, one year.




Not necessarily, because a person could be appointed as a consequence of the death of a member of the committee. There is no question of stating how long a person should be off such a committee. But by accepting this Amendment there is a clear break; the task of the Authority is made infinitely easier; and for the person who is asked to leave it is made infinitely more acceptable, because he or she will be leaving not as a consequence of age or particular taste but because of a statutory requirement that he or she can serve on that committee only for two periods of three years. I hope that the noble Lord will press this Amendment, because I think it is of considerable importance in relation to these committees.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will reconsider what he has said. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that he was astonished. I am rather shocked. This Bill, according to the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, has been introduced because of a pledge. The Government have at different times given pledges about bringing in new blood, new people, into new areas of life in this country. This is an opportunity for them to practise what they have been preaching. No man or woman would expect to occupy a guaranteed position on a committee of this kind for more than six years. I think that would be long enough anyhow. I urge the Government to reconsider their decision.


My Lords, may I have the leave of your Lordships to speak once more very briefly? The noble Lords, Lord Shepherd and Lord Bernstein, have eloquently pleaded for this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, asked for flexibility, but flexibility is just what he will not get with this Amendment. It is quite open to the I.B.A., without this Amendment, to set a limit to the length of time people will serve on their first appointment. In fact, they are quite likely to do so. They have done so with the Television Advisory Committee. Where the noble Lord is not allowing flexibility is on this one point: if there are useful members who are doing a perfectly good job, then, if the Amendment is accepted, the Authority will have to get rid of them. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, says that in the case of the Committees of this House we have had to bring in new blood by stating a term of office. But there are a number of exceptions to that rule in the case of the Committees of this House, so that there will still be the continuity, there will still be the useful old Members. This we shall not be able to have on these other committees if this Amendment is accepted.


I think the only exceptions were those made because of a recognition that there are certain Members of this House who sit on the Front Benches as Leaders of their Parties who needed to be part of those Committees. Outside of that, it was nothing to do with the question of service or contribution.


The committees will have the advantage. I believe that it is not only the Party Leaders who are concerned but also the Chief Whips; and, of course, the Lord Chairman of Committees. The whole time the committees will have the advantage of a continuity which otherwise will be denied. The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said that in the case of the local radio advisory committees, it may be only for a year, that somebody may die or retire and you can re-appoint the good man. He quoted the example of this House; but a much more apposite example is that of the advisory committees that the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. have at present. None of them has this rule pushed upon them that there must be a gap at the end of a certain length of service; and the present system works perfectly well. Neither Lord Shepherd nor Lord Beaumont have produced good reasons why this should be done in this case and Her Majesty's Government do not see, unless a good case can be made for it (and they do not think that a good case can be made for it) that the Bill should be amended in that way.


With permission, may I ask one question of the noble Lord? Is it not the purpose of these committees to ensure that the people to whom these services are being directed should be able to put their point of view; and that changing tastes need a different and changing structure of the committees? This is quite different, if I may say so, from the case of the advisory committees on television.


The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, knows very well that in communities you often have certain members who are willing to serve in this way; members who are good and extremely valuable and who are worth while retaining.


There is a perfectly good reason for this and it is a perfectly good reason that the Minister knows about. Anyone who has been involved in politics—in local government politics, in political Party politics, and even in the politics of this House—knows that there is a very good reason indeed; that there are indeed people who are willing to serve—and to serve and to serve and to serve! It takes nothing short of a stick of dynamite to get rid of them. If you go along to them and tell them that they have been working very hard and ask if it is not time that they had a rest, the answer is usually, "No, I am only 86 and I am good for another 20 years yet" This can be so in local government areas, and the smaller the area the more it is so.

The corollary, that you cannot find able people who do not belong to that particular class, is not true. I believe that in any area where such a committee is

likely to be set up there will be found people who can take on these jobs; and it will be to the advantage of the advisory committees and to the Authority themselves that there should be a regular turnover of new blood. To hear the noble Lord talking of continuity, one would think we were speaking about a single two-year term. We are talking about six years—and six years in the life of a local radio station is a long time. Therefore I do not accept what the Minister has said and, supported by the approbation of Lord Shepherd, I feel bound to ask your Lordships to record your vote on this matter.

4.25 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 4) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents 53; Not-Contents, 79.

Airedale, L. Douglass of Cleveland, L. Royle, L.
Amherst, E. Faringdon, L. Rusholme, L.
Archibald, L. Fiske, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Arwyn, L. Gardiner, L. Samuel, V.
Avebury, L. [Teller.] Garnsworthy, L. Segal, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. [Teller.] Hale, L. Shackleton, L.
Hanworth, V. Shepherd, L.
Bernstein, L. Henley, L. Shinwell. L.
Beswick, L. Jessel, L. Somers, L.
Birk, Bs. Leatherland, L. Stocks, Bs.
Blyton, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. Stow Hill, L.
Boothby, L. McLeavy, L. Summerskill, Bs.
Brockway, L. Maelor, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Buckinghamshire, E. Meston, L. Wade, L.
Carnock, L. Moyle, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Champion, L. Nunburnholme, L. White, Bs.
Diamond, L. Phillips, Bs. Wootton of Abinger, Bs.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Ritchie-Calder, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Aberdare, L. Derwent, L. Kilmany, L.
Ailwyn, L. Drumalbyn, L. Latymer, L.
Albemarle, E. Elles, Bs. Lauderdale, E.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Leicester, E.
Alport, L. Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Limerick, E.
Auckland. L. Ferrers, E. [Teller.] Loudoun, C.
Balfour, E. Fortescue, E. Lyell, L.
Barnby, L. Fraser of Lonsdale, L. Macpherson of Drumochter, L
Belhaven of Stenton, L. Goschen, V. Mancroft, L.
Belstead, L. Gowrie, E. Mersey, V.
Berkeley, Bs. Greenway, L. Milverton, L.
Blackford, L. Grenfell, L. Monck, V.
Bledisloe, V. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Bolton, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Colgrain, L. Grimston of Westbury, L.
Cottesloe, L. Harvey of Prestbury, L. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Courtown, E. Hawke, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Cowley, E. Hood, V. Oakshott, L.
Craigavon, V. Howard of Glossop, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Crathorne, L. Hylton-Foster, Bs. Poltimore, L.
Daventry, V. Ilford, L. Rankeillour, L.
de Clifford, L. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Reay, L.
Denham, L. Kemsley, V. Reigate, L.
Sandford, L. Stratheden and Campbell, L. Vernon, L.
Sempill, Ly. Templemore, L. Vivian, L.
Shannon, E. Trefgarne, L. Wrottesley, L.
Strathclyde, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs. Young, Bs.

Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

4.32 p.m.

LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY moved Amendment No. 5: Page 3, line 6, leave out ("Subject to the next following subsection").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is designed to leave in the hands of the Independent Broadcasting Authority the right to make absolutely certain that the local advisory committees fulfil the purpose which the Bill intends them to fulfil. As your Lordships know, a certain number of members of each advisory committee is to be nominated by the local authority and if the number of eligible persons so nominated is insufficient the Authority shall appoint at least one-third of the members of each local committee from among persons so nominated. My noble friend Lord Avebury, who is more experienced in these matters, will be talking in a few minutes about what happens in a great many local authority areas where the local authority has power to nominate people to committees of this kind which carry a certain amount of prestige and indeed power. We do not think it right that the Authority should have to balance the people appointed by the local authorities with nominees of its own who have to be balanced in composition, because this means that if the local authority does not so balance its nominees in composition the Authority itself has no power to rectify the situation by producing a different balance, by selecting people quite definitely in order to represent other interests than are represented by those appointed by the local authority.

During the Committee stage proceedings (I cannot remember exactly when) the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, challenged us to find a suitable Amendment which would deal with this matter. I think that I have managed to deal with it by two rather simple Amendments which mean that appointment by the Authority is consequent on appointment by the local authority. I apologise to your Lordships for the rather muddling nomenclature but this is not a very easy part of the Bill with which to deal and it was not very easy to find the right kind of Amendment. But I hope that I have sufficiently explained the purpose of the exercise. It is quite possible, not to say probable in some places, that even where a local authority nominates people of all political Parties it will nominate people to whom the political Parties represented on the Authority particularly wish to do well—aldermen, councillors, wives and husbands of councillors. As we all know very well, this is extremely common. It is almost a rule in respect of the appointment of governors and managers of schools and in the case of many other committees. It may be that in spite of the provisions of this Bill a local authority will nominate a great many such people who are on the fringe of local government. That is not the object of the Bill, or what any of us would want to see.

Yesterday, my Lords, I went to preach at a civic service for a local authority. It was an extremely interesting, even a rather moving, occasion. It was done with the full panoply of the local authority which is very proud of itself and represents a genuine and real community. The band was out; the W.V.S. members were in their uniforms, as were the Girl Guides, the Brownies, the police and everyone else who could think of a uniform to wear. There were the councillors and aldermen and the extremely charming Liberal Mayor—a lady. It was quite a procession and I, who always leap out at the sound of any kind of band, stopped before I went into the church to see the procession come by. In the portion of the street leading to the church there was not one person watching. One could only assume, however sad this may be, that the trappings of local authority does not make any impact on the local community, and that local communities feel that they are out of touch with their councils. This is a much greater problem than is touched on in the Amendment, but I hope that no one will say, as the noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, said (I am sorry that the noble Lord is not now in the Chamber) that local councils are a microcosm of the community. Take any local council in the whole of England and examine it, and if you find that it is a microcosm of the community I will eat my hat—or I would if I had one. Therefore, my Lords, it is extremely important that considerable scope be given to the Authority to make certain that if local authorities do not nominate the right kind of people it can balance this by nominating younger people—people from ethnic minorities possibly; people who reflect different interests. This is a very simple Amendment and I do not see that it harms the Bill in any way. It will, I think, make a lot of difference in a number of places where local radio is set up. I beg to move.


My Lords, it is true that in the last resort it will be the Authority, and thence the listening public, who will be the loser if an advisory committee is poorly manned. However, the Amendment is contrary to the intention of the Government which is to enable local authorities to decide who is to occupy one-third of the places on the local advisory committees—only one-third, my Lords. Subsection (4) ensures that no one with an incompatible interest may have a seat on a committee—even if nominated by the local authority—by excluding people with a financial interest in advertising. If we were to accept this Amendment and the following one, the I.B.A. would be able to say of any local authority nominee that his range of interests were inappropriate, and so would be able to refuse to appoint him. That would defeat the purpose of giving local authorities a hand in nominating the advisory committees and would be letting local authorities down. The I.B.A. has two-thirds to play with if it considers that there is not a proper balance in the list nominated by a local authority. But it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government that the local authority should have a modest say in formulating these committees. The noble Lord's Amendment would defeat this object, and I hope therefore that he will not press it.


My Lords, I think the noble Lord's answer is not a very satisfactory one, because what the Authority has to do under the terms of this clause is to balance its own appointees, whereas the local authorities do not have any such duty laid upon them. So that if you get a local authority which, let us say, is controlled by the Tory Party nominating the whole of its one-third members from the ranks of that Party, then the Independent Broadcasting Authority cannot redress the balance with the other two-thirds by overweighting that two-thirds with members of the Labour, Liberal, Communist, or Nationalist Parties.

To make sure that there is a proper balance of representation of local interest is what I had hoped was the point of having these local committees: that one did represent all the interests in the area, and that minorities were included. As we all know, and as my noble friend has said, when you get appointments made by local authorities they tend to select from a small establishment band of people—the aldermen, the ex-councillors, the wives of aldermen and councillors; a steady army of people who serve on a number of different committees (and we already discussed this on the previous Amendment) so that they cannot possibly give adequate time and attention to them all.

When I mentioned during our discussion of this matter in Committee the flagrant bias in appointments made to the boards of school governors, the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross (I am sorry to have to attack him when he is not here), said that he did not even realise that local authorities made these appointments by Statute. He said he did not think that there were many cases where local authorities made appointments to committees of this kind by Statute. He took my word for it that that was the case with school governors. If the noble Lord will condescend to look at what has happened in the case of the appointment to boards of school governors, he will see the point that we are trying to make. For example, the London Borough of Bromley go through the charade of writing round to other bodies, such as the Liberal and Labour Parties, asking whether they would like to nominate persons to serve on the boards; but however much care and trouble one takes, and however suitable the people whose names one puts forward, it is a remarkable coincidence that only people from the Tory Party ever get appointed.

The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland (I am sorry not to see him in his place, because he took part in our debate on this matter on the previous occasion) thinks that local authorities are simply wonderful, and says that these things do not go on in the councils with which he has been concerned in his experience in local government. I can only say that the noble Lord must have served on a particularly enlightened local authority not to have had any experience of this problem, because we can see it arising all over the place. I really do not think that, if one-third of these people are appointed by local authorities, you are being realistic if you imagine that they will treat the matter differently from what we have experienced with school governors and aldermen. Why are we taking aldermen away from local authorities under another Bill that will shortly be coming to this House? It is because over the years we have found that the system of aldermanic appointments has been flagrantly abused, and that in many cases where there is a bare majority of one Party or the other on a council, the aldermanic appointments are used to rig the control of the authority. That, of course, is a much more serious matter, because it means that the handling of local government is under the control of a Party which is not the democratically elected Party of the people in the area. But I think this could also be serious if you had a majority of people who were completely out of tune—and I am not saying that this would particularly happen in a Tory area; it could be in an area with a Liberal majority. So let us generalise and say that in either case there is the probability that these appointments will be made in certain areas entirely, or almost entirely, from the ranks of the Party which holds control.

There is the second point made by my noble friend: that even if you get the correct political balance, you will still find that these people are drawn from the ranks of the establishment; you will not get ethnic majorities represented, and you will not get the word of dissent heard in these bodies. I think it is important, if we are to get off on the right foot, that there should be a proper cross-section of the community represented on these bodies. If the noble Lord continues to say that he will not have this Amendment, then I am afraid he is damaging the chances of the success of this Bill.

4.46 p.m.


. My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Denham, surprises me: because he did not criticise the Amendment and he did not say that it would not achieve what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, had in mind. So we can take it that the Amendment would achieve the purpose which the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, put before the House. I support this Amendment, because one sees to-day, unfortunately, local authorities nominating basically from the majority Party. Whether an authority is Labour. Conservative or Liberal, if it monopolises nominations for its own Party then clearly it cannot meet what is required in subsection (2): that appointees should represent: the range of tastes and interests of persons residing in the area … Subsection (3) states that the authority shall appoint at least one third of the members of each local committee from among persons so nominated by the local authority. So if you have, say, a local authority with a Conservative majority, but with the Conservatives in a minority in terms of total votes cast (or it may be the Labour Party), nominating the entire one-third, then clearly the interests mentioned in subsection (2) cannot be met. It is true that the situation can he balanced by the other two-thirds. But I should have thought it was of equal importance that, if there is to be this balance and recognition of "taste and interest", it should also apply to the elected members who may be nominated.

It seems to me that there is another difficulty. This may not happen quite so much in the regions, but there is a case in London where one can see a complete transformation of a local authority from Conservative to Labour in a place where in fact previously there had been no Labour members. There is an election, and suddenly the authority has only Labour members. This has happened in my particular borough of London. These members, as I understand the Bill, will have been appointed for three years. There may have been a local authority election, in which case there may have been a change. So the situation may arise where one-third of the members are Conservative when the local authority is in fact Labour. How can you reconcile such a situation as reflecting, as provided in subsection (2), the tastes and interests of persons within the locality?

I think this is an important Amendment. I cannot say that Lord Denham's reply in any way satisfies the basic concern that has been expressed on this side of the House and that I genuinely think can be found on the Back Benches opposite. I myself believe—and I have heard it debated on many occasions—that the local interests are not always represented. This Amendment, as I see it. would make it possible for the two-thirds of the committee appointed by the Authority to be a broad selection and this principle should equally apply to the elected members of a local authority who have been nominated by that authority.


My Lords, I should understand the arguments of the Opposition much better if I did not think they were assuming that this would be a public service. This is to be a paid service and it has to make money. I cannot imagine a more unlikely situation for it to make money than one in which a local authority nominates its one-third of the advisory committee from the "establishment" figures of the local political Party. The last thing in the world that the young people, including the housewives of this country, want is to hear politics on these local radio stations. They want things like music and news; they want to hear what is being sold cheaply in the shops, and so on. This is not a political thing at all. I personally believe that an advisory committee whose members are appointed by local authorities in this particular way will not be of very much use. But it will be a sort of sheet anchor for the central Authority to know that it can get advice regarding a third of the people on the committee, and I am sure that after a little time they will realise it is no use appointing elderly aldermen, or similar people, just because they happen to be local Conservatives or local Labour people. They have to appoint people who represent the ratepayers and the people who will listen to these stations. I am sure they will do that.

4.53 p.m.


My Lords, I wish the noble Lord were right, but I am afraid that he is under a misapprehension as to what the local committees are going to do. I only wish they were to have the kind of powers he thinks they will have. I am afraid that under the terms of this Bill the local committees will really have no effect at all; and certainly not on the moneymaking side. This, after all, is not their function: they are there to advise on the general content and on local matters. I do not think they will make any difference one way or the other to the money-making ability of the station.

However, I see a possible area which is open to doubt, and one which, with the help of the Minister, we might perhaps explore. It is this. I should not be entirely happy if I felt that the local authority were going to appoint its one-third on a "take it or leave it" basis and the Broadcasting Authority could then balance the composition out of its remaining two-thirds. I should not regard this as ideal, but I should be prepared to see it happen; it would not be too bad. But subsection (2) says: Subject to the next following subsection"— and the next following subsection is about the local authority's appointments— each such committee (in this section referred to as a 'local committee')—

  1. (a) shall be so constituted, and
  2. (b) shall consist of persons selected by reference to such qualifications, as in the opinion of the Authority would be appropriate for reflecting …"
and so on. It still seems to me that this means that the Broadcasting Authority must pay no attention to the make-up of the one-third—none whatsoever—because it must in fact appoint its people without regard to whether or not there is an imbalance.

If this is so, I think it is extremely bad, because in certain areas where there might be a monolithic appointment of one-third it would be very difficult if one could not balance it. For instance, a council with a Conservative majority might appoint all Conservatives as a third of the members. It could happen. although we hope it will not. I am arguing an extreme case—although perhaps not such an extreme case. If my argument is right, then the Broadcasting Authority would still have to see that in the remaining two-thirds there was probably a majority of Tories, because that would be a Tory area and the majority of councillors would be Tories. Therefore they would have only a very few people to help to balance the situation. If I am wrong in this, and the noble Lord can say that I am wrong, or if there is any doubt in his mind, so that he would go hack and look at this matter and then, if I am right, try to find some way of putting things right, I shall be reasonably happy. I think we must find some way in which the Broadcasting Authority can correct any imbalance which may arise through the appointments of the local authority. I believe that my Amendment supplies that and thereby improves the Bill; but if there is any way round this I hope the House will give leave to the noble Lord to speak again on this matter.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should just like to say that the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, has really surprised me this time. According to the noble Lord's philosophy, a democratically elected local authority is not to be trusted to nominate a third of the members of these advisory bodies without the supervision of an appointed I.B.A. That may be the noble Lord's opinion, but I must say that he has surprised me.


It happens.


My Lords, in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, the local authority should have a say in the make-up of these bodies to the very modest extent of one-third, leaving the I.B.A. to appoint the remaining two-thirds. With regard to what the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said—and I believe the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, also touched on this point—I am advised that the I.B.A. could, as a matter of law, take into account the one-third nominated by the local authority when appointing the other two-thirds. That is my advice. If I subsequently prove to be wrong on this point I will inform the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, before the next stage of the Bill. In view of that assurance, I would hope that he might see fit to withdraw the Amendment.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question? I hope he will accept that some local authorities do abuse their position by filling up all such posts with their own Party appointees and in not providing an opportunity for the Opposition. But supposing there was a case of this kind, is it really possible that the Authority would look at an area and say: "At the last local authority election the Conservatives (shall we say?) had 51 per cent. of the votes and the Labour Party 49 per cent., and therefore we should seek to balance within our two-thirds a sufficient number of Labour local authority people in order to balance the Conservative members"? Is it really conceivable that the Authority would do that?—because unless it did so this would certainly limit the chances of any other interests being represented on the committee.


My Lords, I hope that these people will not be appointed on a political basis but on the grounds that they represent local opinion, taking into account the kind of material that will be going out on these local radios. One wants to get the best possible advisory committees. Her Majesty's Government feel that the I.B.A.—who, after all, may be some way away, based in London—do not know the local areas and must take local advice as to who are the right people to have on these committees. They may consult other local bodies before selecting their own two-thirds, but it seems very reasonable that the local authority itself should have a say in electing a certain number. If there was seen to be a gross bias in the members of the advisory committee appointed by the local authority—it is after all only an advisory committee—this would no doubt be taken into account by the I.B.A. when considering the advice of the committee.


My Lords. while I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, I suppose that in this case a small crumb is better than no bread. I am grateful for the assurance of the noble Lord as to what the legal position is. To some of us who have read the Bill with considerable care it does not appear that this is what it says. Therefore, as well as looking at it and checking on the legal advice I hope that the noble Lord will also consider clarifying the Bill at the next stage. But on the understanding that that is the legal position, and that the noble Lord will write to me if he finds it not to be so, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 8 [Special provisions as to newspaper shareholdings in relation to local sound broadcasts]:

5.1 p.m.

LORD AVEBURY moved Amendment No. 7: Page 11, line 13, at end insert— ("Provided that in the case of any contract under which the whole, or a substantial proportion, of the programmes consist of news or news comment, 'a substantial proportion' shall be taken to mean not less than one per cent. of the population.")

>The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment arises from a discussion that we had at the Committee stage on an Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, which is of great importance. Discussion at the time showed that not all of your Lordships were happy about the situation with regard to the local broadcasting of news and the prescriptive right that newspapers have if they fulfil certain conditions of becoming investors in local radio stations which will disseminate the news. The solution to this, which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, put into his Amendment, was to abolish the prescriptive right of those newspapers to come in as shareholders. The discussion turned mainly on the situation that we shall find ourselves in with regard to London where a substantial proportion of the population served by the area will be in the readership of the Evening News and the Evening Standard. Those two newspapers would, if they so wished, be able to take up a holding in the London news station without being a part of a consortium that put in a bid in competition with other would-be contractors.

My noble friend Lord Arran thought that this was an extremely good situation. He liked the idea that the Evening News in particular would be able to have some holding in the proposed London news station. But if one is to avoid any risk that the news could be slanted in any way by reason of a holding by a newspaper in a station, another solution would be to widen the circle of the newspapers which could take part. This is the object of my Amendment. I have said in my Amendment: 'a substantial proportion' shall be taken to mean not less than one per cent. of the population". The result would be that other newspapers, apart from the Evening News and the Evening Standard, would be able to exercise the right to take up holdings in the London news station.

I mentioned one or two possible contenders in my remarks on the Committee stage. It seemed to me and to other noble Lords at that time that the Evening News and the Evening Standard were not local newspapers at all but regional newspapers. I remarked that many people who lived far outside Greater London, in places like Seven-oaks, Ashford and Canterbury, bought one of the two London evening newspapers to read in the train on the way home. So it would be true to say that from their readership these newspapers are of a regional character, whereas newspapers such as the South London Press, which I mentioned in a previous discussion, are local newspapers circulating within their local areas and having an appeal to a readership which is roughly comparable in size with that of a London borough—say, 200,000 or 250,000. I thought that if one allowed these newspapers to participate in the local news station in London, this would very much widen the number of those investing in that station. That would ensure that no particular newspaper had an undue influence on the conduct of that station's affairs.

I hope that that solution will commend itself to the noble Lord. It is a way out of the problem that was outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd. I have no reason to assume that any of the other newspaper groups in Greater London will wish to participate; but I think that the figure of one per cent. of the population is a reasonable number to put in, and that it would enable firms to bid, if they wanted to do so, on an equal footing with the Evening Standard and the Evening News.


My Lords, I do not think that I can accept this Amendment. I do not believe that the situation is quite as simple as the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, made out, but I may be misunderstanding him. If subsection (3) is amended in this way it will not give the smaller newspapers a right to participate; it will still be necessary for proof to be made under subsection (4) that a materially adverse effect is likely to be made on them by the local radio station. The only difference is that if a newspaper gains its right or opportunity under subsection (3) that it will be for the Authority to prove that that newspaper was not adversely affected, whereas if it gains it under subsection (4) it will be for the newspaper to prove that it was adversely affected. The Amendment of the noble Lord may possibly bring 11 or 12 London newspapers into the area envisaged for this news station and it would put on the Authority the onus of proving to themselves that every one of these newspapers was not going to be adversely affected. Her Majesty's Government think it very much better for the Authority to have the onus of proof in the smaller number of cases; and the smaller newspapers, who are the borderline cases anyway (and it is by no means certain, even with the Amendment of the noble Lord, that they will get any different treatment) will have to make their own case.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

5.9 p.m.

LORD BERNSTEIN moved Amendment No. 8:

After Clause 8, insert the following new clause:

Provision as to programme contractor's share-holding in local newspaper

" . Where under the provisions of section 8 above the Authority has made arrangements for enabling the proprietor of a newspaper to acquire a shareholding in a programme contractor the Authority shall satisfy themselves that arrangements have also been made for enabling the programme contractor to acquire a shareholding in such a newspaper; and where appropriate provisions of section 8 above shall apply to this section."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Amendment standing in my name. But before I do that I should like to have the indulgence of your Lordships' House to make a personal statement. First, I should like to apologise to your Lordships that, owing to illness, I was absent during the Committee stage of the Bill. I was present at the Second Reading when the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, presented the Bill. He declared that he had had a defunct interest in Independent Television which he had now disposed of.

Other noble Lords have also declared their interests. I should like to declare that I have a far from defunct financial interest in Independent Television. Also, to save your Lordships' time at some later date—and maybe irresponsible comment—I should report that when in 1961 I was asked to present my views on sound broadcasting to the Committee on Broadcasting, known as the Pilkington Committee, I made a number of observations relating to the B.B.C. radio services, for which I have, as for their television services, the greatest respect. I said that I thought sound broadcasting in this country should be run by non-profit making organisations which if they wished should take advertising. I also said, and I quote: I believe that no company or corporation should be allowed to have a financial interest in both sound and television. If, however, commercial radio is permitted and if other television contractors arc allowed to apply then we reserve the right to enter the field. I said that in 1961. Now, 11 years later I declare my possible interest in sound broadcasting. The only acceptable reason, to me, for an alternative to the B.B.C. in sound broadcasting, is that it would give the opportunity of alternative employment to people who cannot get a job with the B.B.C. or who cannot get their talent, whether it be vocal or writing, accepted by the B.B.C. for broadcasting. But to provide an alternative source of broadcasting for this purpose does not necessarily mean, as was pointed out during Second Reading, that the alternative service should be provided by profit-making companies. There is a strong body of opinion, both here and in the other place, which supports this view.

With the overwhelming vote for the Government which your Lordships' House generally manages to get—though not, as some of your Lordships may remember, on the Second Reading—I accept that this Bill will go through. However, 1976 is not far away, and the time of discussion in the run up to that critical year in British broadcasting is already well begun. So that the point I am making is not an academic one.

Now for the Amendment. I hope to avoid, in moving this Amendment, repeating anything that has been said previously on Second Reading or at the Committee stage. I move this Amendment because I believe in the equity of what is being proposed. The reason given for allowing newspapers to have a statutory right is that advertising on local radio stations—I repeat "local"—could affect their revenue and profit. Everybody, I think, is agreed that it would be very sad if newspapers in this country were not financially viable and politically free. Some cynics might ask why, if everybody thinks that, is this Sound Broadcasting Bill being introduced. We know that it is being introduced to fulfil an Election pledge. I presume not a pledge to the owners of newspapers.

It is difficult to take some statements about newspapers that were made in your Lordships' House too seriously. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, that there is expected to be little profit from sound broadcasting. I think he also said that newspapers—his newspapers—would be financially affected and, therefore, his editors would apply for participation in stations where they published. It suggests to me that somebody wants, for a change, "the worst of two worlds". Let us take the case of a local or national newspaper which asks for and secures a 20 per cent. participation in a radio station, granted by the I.B.A. because it is thought that sound radio is likely to have—and I quote from the Bill—a materially adverse effect on the financial position of the newspaper involved. Then consider, say, that by a freak of our economy the newspaper, having got a share in a radio station, finds its newspaper profits increasing—without benefits of dividends from the radio station—and that the radio station is also profitable. I think nobody will care much about that situation.

Let us, however, consider another situation—that the radio station loses money, while the newspaper which demanded a share shows increased profits from newspaper operations. Would it not be right for the shareholders in the radio station to have a participation in that newspaper? Would it not be equitable? It seems to me that if radio stations were granted an option in their participating newspaper it would not be unfair to the radio station, the newspaper, or to the public. This arrangement would, of course, be subject to the I.B.A. who would have to approve such transactions.

In the other place at the Committee stage there were divided views on the pre-emptory rights of newspapers to participate, but when the Bill went back to the other place the Whips were put on and the newspapers were given their rights, statutory rights, to participate. So be it. But in return for that statutory right, surely the radio stations should have some reciprocal rights. I hope that the Government will feel that it is not only an equitable Amendment but also one worth making. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will make this exception to his refusal of every Amendment so far moved to-day. I beg to move.


My Lords, in spite of the plea by the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, I am afraid that I am not going to advise your Lordships to accept this Amendment. This is contrary to the whole thinking behind Clause 8. The purpose of allowing newspapers to acquire shareholdings in local radio companies is to recognise that the development of this new medium may have some effect on the advertising revenue of local newspapers. The Government consider that some fears expressed by local newspapers are exaggerated and it is not intended, nor will Clause 8 have the effect, of featherbedding local newspapers, nor will it give them an automatic right to compensation. There are the important qualifications contained in the Bill, especially Clause 9(1) which is the public interest clause.

Clause 8 gives the newspaper the opportunity of sharing in the risks and sharing in the fruits—if there be any—of these new ventures. The other way round the story is quite different. Radio companies will be new' ventures and nobody who does not fancy the pre-existing competition will be under any obligation to take on a radio contract. People who wish to become radio contractors will know what is in the legislation and will go into the business with their eyes open. There is no reason why newspapers should let them join in their businesses, and so, my Lords, I cannot recommend adoption of this new clause.


My Lords, I think the Minister will accept that this is a very good example of how you cannot legislate for one part of an industry. We know all too well that transport became a very complicated affair immediately one legislated to deal with different parts at different times and hived off one as opposed to another. Here we are talking about the communications industry—that was the phrase given to it, I believe, by the Minister in the other place. There is no doubt that the fortunes of the newspapers and the local broadcasting stations are closely intertwined, and I think the phrase used by the noble Lord, "the material effect on the newspapers involved" is a very real one. They have been invited to share the risks and the profits. There is no guarantee that it works the other way round. There is no more certainty in one media than in another. I should have thought that this is perfectly reasonable. There is no compulsion; you are simply giving the opportunity which should be a link in an industry that is made up of many forms of communication, not merely the one.


My Lords, I know that the Library is filled with people ready to vote. I therefore beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

5.20 p.m.

LORD BERNSTEIN moved Amendment No. 9:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause:

Applications for programme contracts to be considered in public

" . Any application for a programme contract for the provision of local sound broadcasts shall be considered in public by the Authority."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, if I were sure that the Library was empty I should have more heart in moving this Amendment. I move the Amendment because I believe that the public and the people who work in communications—television, radio or newspapers—have a right to know what applicants have applied for a licence and what they propose to do when they get it. They can be questioned by the I.B.A.—not by lawyers or politicians—in public as to their bona fides, their qualifications for carrying out their promises, and to ensure that the promises are in the best interests of radio and not only of profit. In Committee stage here and in the other place it has been said that this is not possible. I beg to suggest that it is possible. The arguments put forward in Committee by my noble friend Lord Avebury were good. It is true that they were shouted down, but I think he had a good case. There may be areas where it would be advisable for the I.B.A. to ask some questions in private. I accept that. It might be embarrassing to announce in public proposed staff changes from one company to another, or from the B.B.C. to a private company. In other words, the details of an applicant's finances, and to some extent details of the personnel who would operate the station and who might' be still employed by others, would be discussed only in private. The basic application should be in public; the probe in depth could be done privately.

I do not wish to comment on the arguments against public hearings put forward in Committee by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross. For what it is worth, my experience suggests that the noble Viscount is wrong in the basis for his argument. In Canada, public hearings for applicants for a new station or for a change of ownership or control of a station have worked successfully, as I know from my own experiences. Public hearings in this country could in fact, as has been proved in Canada, simplify the work of the I.B.A., although it would not, and must not, take away from them the final responsibility for decisions. Neither would it mean that they would have to give their reasons for a decision. It may not be called "open justice", but it is I think in the mood of the day, because completely closed hearings, however well planned, are just not "on" with most people in this day and age. Public hearings would have the effect of letting the public know that, within the wisdom of the I.B.A., justice was being done.

Another benefit has been mentioned by Mr. Phillip Whitehead in the other place. It is that public hearings would stop wildly inflated claims being made by applicants, even if those claims were made in all sincerity. He added that if a potentially lucrative public asset may be given to one group and not to another the least that can be done is to make sure that the submissions on which the I.B.A. decisions are based should be made public by having the hearings in public. It has been said that public hearings would make more work for the I.B.A. Well, we know that the I.B.A. is not to be allowed a Deputy Chairman, but I think it will have to give time to this problem.

Who is given the right to broadcast, what the I.B.A. promise to broadcast, in competition with the B.B.C., is also important. If the I.B.A. has not the time to do its investigations properly, then perhaps another authority, or a separate part of the Authority, should be set up to deal with applications. The television company in which I am involved has had its licence twice renewed, and I think that all those working in my company would have liked the opportunity to have their case for a renewal given at a public hearing. I am not suggesting that the past I.T.A. hearings were hole-in-the-corner—far from it. But only the members of the Authority were present, and we would have wished that the serious questions put to us and the serious discussions that followed could have been heard in public, and perhaps reported. I hope that the Government will accept this Amendment which I am sure will be welcomed by all those who work in the media of radio or television. I beg to move.

5.24 p.m.


My Lords, I do not necessarily have the confidence that the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, has in the number of Peers who are waiting in the Library. All I would say to him is that we seem to have possibly one or two more on this side of the House who are listening to the debate than there are on the noble Lord's side. So perhaps I can be confident in that. On the face of it, this Amendment has attractions. Everybody wants the best qualified people to be appointed to be contractors. It can be said that the Authority has nothing to hide, so why should it not deliberate in public? After all, the United States' Federal Communications Commission has public hearings into the granting of licences there. But there is in fact no real parallel between the United States picture and that in the United Kingdom. The F.C.C. is mainly a dispenser for the Government of licences to use frequencies and is only secondarily concerned with the quality of broadcasting. So far as that goes, concern is mainly negative: to prevent undesirable programmes from being broadcast, not to promote high quality broadcasting.

The proposal in the Amendment would not in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government achieve the results intended. The Authority would not award contracts simply on the basis of written applications. It will have to make up its own mind about the credibility of proposals put to it and, perhaps even more important, about the ability and intention of the would-be contractors to carry out those promises. The Authority would be embarrassed if it had to ventilate in public its own opinions about the personalities of those seeking a contract. I do not think that the noble Lord's Amendment—we have given it very serious consideration—would help, and I hope that he will feel able to withdraw it.


My Lords, it is always a pleasure to listen to the Party in favour of open government; it really is! These are the same old arguments which are always produced about doing anything in front of the people. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, has just been accusing noble Lords on this side of the House, of both Parties, of their distrust of the British public in terms of what a local authority may do. I do not think that any harm could come from the open hearing of applications of this kind, and a very great deal of good could come from it. We all know that one is not always able to justify a final decision on just words that have been said in a particular interview. But if these hearings are open to the public, then the public also will be able to make up their minds about other factors.

There are some disadvantages. No doubt it would cause some embarrassment for people. But we are not here to save people from embarrassment; we are here, surely, to try to make certain that when this local commercial broadcasting takes place, as I fear that it will, the very best people obtain the contracts; that they are seen to be the best people, and that publicly they are to be held to be accountable for what they have said they will do. I cannot think of any better way of ensuring this than by accepting the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein.


My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend on this Amendment. The Minister replied on a rather different point. He mentioned the United States in connection with a rather different matter. My noble friend made the point—quite a valid point—that in Canada this does happen; and I believe that if the noble Lord checks he will find that it happens in other countries, too. This is one of the things on which we pride ourselves in this country. I have so frequently said to people that there is a channel of appeal, for everything in this country—or almost everything; there are very few exceptions—in the way of hearings is held in public. The fact that the public do not always attend is not the point.

The noble Lord the Minister suggested that it would be embarrassing for the I.B.A. to have to make its deliberations known in public. But surely he will agree, if he takes the analogy of the magistrates' court, that their proceedings are held very much in public and everything is listened to. The deliberations of the bench, however, take place in a private room, and the findings are then brought back to and made known in the court. Surely something of this kind could happen in this case. We are not going to ask the I.B.A. actually to think aloud in front of the public, but the fact that we are going to have to listen to the broadcasts—and, indeed, will not be able to avoid listening, as I understand it—means that this is something which is going to influence the public. When they twiddle the dial they will have to listen to these stations because they will not receive anything else. So it seems to me vitally important that the public should have some assurance that the people who put forward these claims are going to live up to them, and that it should be possible to ensure that they do.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, would not the noble Baroness agree, as my noble friend has said, that some embarrassment could indeed be caused? It is quite clear, I should have thought, that confidential information of a financial nature, perhaps from banks and so on, ought to be made available to those who must decide; and quite a lot of that kind of confidential information, important as it is, is not such that it can really be made public. It might nevertheless be very necessary in the making of a correct decision. It could well be that on the face of evidence or information in public it might appear that "A" should receive a contract, but in the light of perhaps financial or other information which is of a confidential nature it might be "B" who, if full information were available, should be given the contract. Therefore it seems to me that we are more likely to get the best people if information, financial or otherwise, which can only be given in confidence is not and cannot be disclosed to the public. Therefore, as my noble friend has said, I think it would be somewhat embarrassing if the hearing were to be in public.


My Lords, if I may have your Lordships' permission to speak again, the important thing to bear in mind in regard to this point is that the I.B.A. should be enabled to choose the best company available to provide the best programme for the purpose. I very much doubt whether a public discussion would achieve this end. I think the I.B.A. deliberating in private is far more likely to succeed. It is possible that if the discussions are in public the public Will then know exactly what the programme company has contracted to do; but this is surely taken care of in Clause 10, which I think we shall be discussing with the next Amendment. It is not with watchdog motives—seeing that the company that is chosen is doing its job properly—but with the object of getting the best possible company to provide the best possible programme, that the Government feel it would be wrong to accept this Amendment.


My Lords, the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, was that the I.B.A. would deliberate in public, but if Hansard has reported me correctly your Lordships will see to-morrow that I never said any such thing. I suggested that submissions should be made in public and the decisions should be made in private. The noble Lord then referred to the F.C.C. in America. Legislation in America has been referred to before. The last time was during the passage of the Industrial Relations Bill, when some noble Lords on the other side of the House did not agree with what we said would happen. I am not suggesting that we should follow the American pattern in this any more than in industrial relations. I suggested we should consider what is happening in Canada.

I did not suggest that there should be public discussion but that the submissions should be in public. If the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will be good enough

to read the minutes of the Committee on Nationalised Industry, and in particular those of the sub-committee dealing with television, he will find that there has been a great deal of discussion, even with the Minister himself just a few days ago on this point of public hearings. This question also arose on the Committee stage of the Bill in another place. If there is some difficulty in regard to my Amendment may I suggest that the Government should reconsider their decision. If they do not agree I shall ask your Lordships to divide on this Amendment.

5.35 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 9) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 43; Not-Contents, 69.

Archibald, L. Douglass of Cleveland, L. Royle, L.
Arwyn, L. Faringdon, L. Rusholme, L.
Avebury, L. Gardiner, L. Samuel, V.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Garnsworthy, L. Segal, L.
Bernstein, L. [Teller.] Granville of Eye, L. Shepherd, L.
Beswick, L. Hale, L. Shinwell, L.
Blyton, L. Henderson, L. Southwark, Bp.
Brockway, L. Leatherland, L. Stocks, Bs.
Buckinghamshire, E. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. Stow Hill, L.
Carnock, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L
Champion, L. McLeavy, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Chorley, L. Ogmore, L. White, Bs.
Diamond, L. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.] Winterbottom, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Platt, L. Wynne-Jones, L.
Douglas of Barloch, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Aberdare, L. Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Monckton of Brenchley, V.
Ailwyn, L. Ferrers, E. [Teller] Mowbray and Stourton, L.
Albemarle, E. Fortescue, E. Napier and Ettrick, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Gainford, L. Oakshott, L.
Auckland, L. Garner, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Balfour, E. Gowrie, E. Poltimore, L.
Beauchamp, E. Greenway, L. Rankeillour, L.
Belhaven and Stenton, L. Grenfell, L. Reay, L.
Belstead, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Reigate, L.
Berkeley, Bs. Rhyl, L.
Bledisloe, V. Hawke, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Bolton, L. Hood, V. Sandford, L.
Bridgeman, V. Howard of Glossop, L. Sempill, Ly.
Carrington, L. Hylton-Foster, Bs. Stratheden and Campbell, L.
Courtown, E. Kemsley, V. Templemore, L.
Craigavon, V. Kilmany, L. Trefgarne, L.
Daventry, V, Kinnoull, E. Tweedsmuir, L.
Davidson, V. Latymer, L. Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs.
de Clifford, L. Lauderdale, L. Vernon, L.
Denham, L. Leicester, E. Vivian, L.
Derwent, L. Limerick, E. Wakefield of Kendal, L.
Drumalbyn, L. Lyell, L. Young, Bs. [Teller.]
Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Milverton, L.
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.

5.42 p.m.

LORD BEAUMONT OF WHITLEY moved Amendment No. 10: Page 13, line 37, at end insert— ("(3) The Authority shall include all the information referred to in subsection (1) above in their report of the year in which local sound broadcasts provided by the contractor under the contract in question have begun to be transmitted by the Authority.")

The noble Lord said: My Lords, with the permission of the House and the permission of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips—which I have already got—we might perhaps consider Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 together. The arguments on these two Amendments were gone into in quite considerable detail in the previous stage of the Bill and I do not propose myself to detain your Lordships for long.

It is common ground between all sides of the House that the material parts of the application, the information to which this applies, should be made public in that it should be available to anyone who wishes to go and get it. We are not entirely clear as to whether the person who gets the information can publish it. If he can—and the noble Viscount, Lord Colville, talked rather darkly of copyright problems—that is a step forward. We would welcome information about this because it might mean that the local newspaper would feel that it ought to publish these matters. But since we are drafting the Bill in such a way that the local newspaper has an interest in the local station, it is perhaps as well that we should not entirely leave it to the local Press, and therefore we are seeking to lay an obligation on the Authority actually to publish this information, information which we are all agreed should be available.

My Lords, in my Amendment I have sought to make it as easy as possible for the Government—for which I am sure that they will thank me.


As usual.


As usual. The Independent Broadcasting Authority must, under the Bill, publish an annual report. I would merely ask that for the report appearing immediately after the station has started broadcasting—and that is common ground between us—subsection (2), I think it is, still stays in, and that the Authority should as a matter of course publish, probably as an appendix to its report, this information for all the stations to which it has granted licences in that particular year or for which it has established contracts in that particular year.

As I say, the desirability of this information being available is not at issue. All we are talking about is how it shall be produced so that the public shall most easily be able to get at it. Although I would prefer the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, I would suggest that if the Government will not meet his point they might at least meet mine because it involves no other special publication but merely an extra section for an annual report that is going to be produced anyway. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, I understand that your Lordships wish to discuss with this Amendment the next one on the Marshalled List.


My Lords, if the noble Baroness is going to discuss her Amendment with this one, would it not be better for her to speak before I do?


My Lords, I have been trying to save time and therefore did not rise to move Amendment No. 11. I am quite willing to respond to the noble Lord's suggestion that we discuss these two together but I was merely trying to save the time of the House and to hear the response of the noble Lord, Lord Denham, who has been so extraordinarily eloquent in his rejection of previous Amendments. I thought that this might be an occasion when he would change the rule. I do not intend to speak now, but I will listen with the greatest of care and if I feel I need to respond shall do so.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord will find himself so convinced with what I have to say that he will not need to respond. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, for explaining his Amendment and I will give the Government's attitude to Lord Shepherd's Amendment at the same time as to that of the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley. As the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, said, under the Bill as drafted anyone can obtain this information from the Authority on request. There does not seem to the Government to be much reason for making the information available to anyone who is not sufficiently interested to ask the Authority for it. However, the Authority is always at liberty to publish it in its annual report and the Minister can direct them to, if it should seem to him to be necessary. But, my Lords, we do not feel that this requirement should be written into the Bill.

The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, referred to what my noble friend Lord Colville said about the possibility that a newspaper might be precluded from publishing information it had obtained about a contractor's proposals in his application for a contract because the copyright might be vested in the contractor and the newspaper might not be allowed to publish the information. I have looked into this point and I am advised that if the newspaper publishes the words of the application for purposes of criticism or review, the newspaper would have a good defence for an action of breach of copyright under Section 6 of the Copyright Act 1956 which deals with general exceptions from copyright protection. That is the best advice that Her Majesty's Government can get.


I wonder whether I may ask a question for clarification here? I am not particularly well versed in copyright law, but am I not right in saying that that section applies only to extracts and that if you actually copied out the whole application it would not apply? Is that so or not?


I cannot answer the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, straight away, but I hope I may be able to before long. The general objections to this particular Amendment (and I am dealing first with Lord Beaumont's Amendment) are really twofold. First, there is the question of sheer scale. The contracts are quite lengthy documents. If the Authority entered into 20 contracts a year the Annual Report would have to be greatly enlarged. Yet in the nature of things most of the terms of the contract would be common to all contractors, and to the disinterested utterly dull. For this reason the Amendment would mean a waste of public money. The Amendment also seeks to import a new and unnecessary element of rigidity into what should be a matter of discretion and judgment; that is, what is best to include in the Annual Report to enlighten readers on those matters of the greatest interest and concern to them. The Minister's power to direct what shall be in the Annual Report is, in our opinion enough for the protection in this case.

If I may now go on to the Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd and the noble Baroness, Lady Phillips, Clause 10, as the noble Lord knows, was introduced during the passage of the Bill through another place in response to a widely voiced feeling that there ought to be some way in which the public could judge whether a programme contractor was matching his performance to the promises on the basis of which he had been awarded the contract. It was hoped that the new clause might make a programme contractor more careful about what he put in his prospectus to the Authority if he knew that one day the prospectus might be made public. In addition, it seemed probable that the I.B.A. might find its authority strengthened if in certain circumstances it could look to public support for any action that it might deem it necessary to take against a programme contractor. The Amendment now proposed would not, so far as one can see, add anything to these objectives. The Authority's new duty, if the Amendment were passed, would be to publish some part only of the contract, which subsection (1) already requires the Authority to make available in toto to anyone who asks for it.

There is one other point. The actual detailed requirements that might be decided between the Authority and the contracting company probably would not figure in the contract at all. Almost certainly the stipulations in the contract would be the general stipulations that appear both in the parent Act and in this Bill. The information that can be demanded under Clause 10(1)(c) is not information from the contract but information that was provided by the contractor when applying for the contract. So far as this is concerned, I think that the particular wording of the noble Lord's Amendment probably would not achieve the purpose he had in mind. It could probably be amended, if it were acceptable, to cover the same sort of information as visualised in Clause 10(1)(c). But Her Majesty's Government feel that this is unnecessary, and also that there are other objections in addition to the ones I have already mentioned.

First of all, the act of publication in the locality might pose some difficulties if the local newspaper declined to publish. At least one provincial newspaper refuses to publish anything about its local B.B.C. station. Secondly, it is difficult to believe that many members of the public would bother to retain the information for the day when the broadcasts started. As the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will realise, the information that can be obtained under Clause 10(1)(c) can be obtained only after the broadcasts are on the air. Under the noble Lord's Amendment the information would have to be made public straight away. Thirdly, there would need to be precautions taken (how this would be done I do not know; it would be very difficult indeed) against premature disclosure of this information, which might help possibly the B.B.C. or possibly even a local newspaper to get in first on some new idea which the local commercial station had in mind. For these reasons I hope that neither the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, nor the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, will press his Amendment.

5.56 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened with great care to what the noble Lord has said. I must say that I thought the contract would include such details as to what one might call the character of the service that is to be provided. I should have thought the contract would include requirements as to the period that is permissible for advertising, because there, in the end, the general charges and the profitability of the company are involved. I should have thought that many other aspects of the character of the programme would be in the contract. As I see Clause 10, the copy of the contract and the statement of the number of applicants can be made available before the service goes into operation. It is only subsection (1)(c), which is the copy of the contractor's application, that has to be withheld from the general public until the station is actually broadcasting. Therefore, I drafted my Amendment No. 11 so that the general public within the locality would have a knowledge as to the sort of service to be provided before the service came into operation and would be able to compare performance with the contract.

In some ways I am more inclined to favour Lord Beaumont's Amendment, No. 10, in that it is much easier to include this material in the report of the Authority. But I doubt whether the report of the Authority is going to be widely circulated in any of the localities. Therefore, the Amendment would not meet the view that was strongly held in Committee, that the public within the locality should be informed, since these are services the Government say are being provided for the benefit of a locality. This material is unlikely to be available. So I must say that, in the end, I prefer my own Amendment, because it is directed towards the people that I think most of us had in mind when we discussed this in Committee.

The only thing I would say before making up my mind about dividing on Amendment 11 is that much depends on what the noble Lord has been able to find out in the meantime on the supplementary question that was put by the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont. If I may say so, it seemed to me strange that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, was resting one of his defences upon a description of the Copyright Act, and when the obvious question was put, "Did it apply whether the contract was shown in part or in whole?", he was unable to reply. But if he could give an affirmative answer, that if the contract in whole was published in a newspaper that newspaper would not be liable to be sued, then I should myself be willing to rest upon the newspaper's publishing that material without fear of being sued. If the noble Lord cannot give that assurance, then I think I ought to proceed with Amendment No. 11, because that would mean that if the newspaper were to produce this material with the permission of the Authority there could be no question of anyone's being sued for any purpose. I rest now in the hands of the noble Lord, Lord Denham. I am prepared to continue talking while he reads the message he has got, but if he is ready to give a reply I will sit down, and I am certain the House will be very willing to listen to him. I hope he does not ask me to go on talking.


My Lords, may I say something on the copyright question before the noble Lord, Lord Denham, replies? There can be no copyright problem if you ask people who submit applications to give their right to publish. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, said that a newspaper might refuse to publish; but why not publish on radio? Newspapers are not the only media available. There will be the new radio stations and the I.B.A. can publish what they like. As regards the cost of the report, may I point out that in this Bill we are talking about spending not pence but millions of pounds. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, will give us the name of the newspaper which refused to publish the B.B.C.'s programmes, so that we can be sure that the I.B.A. do not allow it to participate in the radio.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to reply to the points made. May I first say to the noble Lord, Lord Bernstein, that I do not think it would be proper for me to give from this Despatch Box the information for which he has asked.


My Lords, why not? The noble Lord has sought to rest his case on this allegation, and I think he ought to substantiate or withdraw it.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, may think that. I shall certainly be only too pleased to give him the information privately, but I do not think it would be right to give it here.


The noble Lord should not use it.


My Lords, can the noble Lord give that information to the I.B.A.?


My Lords, I shall consider that suggestion later. I am advised that certain aspects mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, which he assumed would be in the contract, would probably not be in the contract. I do not know what form of contract the I.B.A. will use, but the forms of contract used by the television companies about which I have been able to find out have not included the detailed information which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, wants to be made available. It has been the practice for many matters—for example, hours and content—to be subject to day-to-day negotiation between the I.T.A. and the contracting company. The I.B.A. have the right to be told in advance what the contracting company will broadcast.


My Lords, the noble Lord said in his last speech that one of the objections to my noble friend's Amendment is the enormous volume of detailed information in these contracts, which would make them unsuitable for publication in the annual report. Now he is saying that none of the details is in the contracts.


My Lords, there is detailed information and detailed information. I was referring in my last speech only to the detailed information which the noble Lord wants. There is a great deal of detail in a contract, but it would not do either the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, or the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, any good, for the purpose they have in mind, if all of these vast contracts with their small print, which have no relevance to the question under discussion, had to be included in the annual report.

I can now tell the noble Lord, Lord Beaumont of Whitley, a little more. My advice is that, bearing in mind the size and nature of a contract, it is not likely that any newspaper would wish to publish the whole contract of a programme contractor. I am advised that if it did so it is doubtful whether the defence of fair dealing would be held to apply. However, bearing in mind that the contract would be available to any member of the public in any event, and that no damage could be held to accrue to the copyright holder by reason of such publication, it is difficult to know either why proceedings should be taken by a copyright holder in respect of such publication, or what remedy, if any, could be awarded to the copyright holder. In practice, the publication of those parts of a contract which a newspaper considered had news value would not be a breach of copyright. That is the best advice that I have at the moment.


My Lords, we are not getting very far. Under the guise of sweet reasonableness the Government have this evening rejected a number of Amendments which have all been constructive and reasonable, and I, for one, think that that is a very great pity. But I see that there are slight drawbacks both to my Amendment, in that it is not aimed at the people we want it to be aimed at, and to the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, in that there is some important information which would be published under my Amendment but which would not be published under his. I do not know what the noble Lord intends to do about his Amendment but, in view of the small crumb of comfort which we have had from the detailed interpretation of the Copyright Act, and the fact that we have been reassured that papers will be able to publish the important parts of a contract if they so wish—and I, for one, sincerely hope that they will so wish—I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 13 [Short title, citation, interpretation, extent and commencement]:

6.7 p.m.

BARONESS PHILLIPS moved Amendment No. 12: Page 15, line 8, leave out from ("operation") to end of line 10, and insert ("on 30th July 1976.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Shepherd made it clear on Second Reading that we on this side of the House dislike this Bill for various reasons, and I now propose to apply the test which the Minister has himself applied to Amendments. He has several times asked: Has this Amendment any merit? I now ask him: Has this Bill any merit? My own answer would be, No. Perhaps we, can see whether the Government have been able to answer some of the questions asked during the Committee stage and again to-day.

We have been told that this Bill is concerned with local broadcasting, but we have seen very clearly that the costs of operating radio stations such as those to be set up under this Bill are such that the broadcasting cannot be local in character; it must be regional. The noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, said that this exercise is being shaded towards regional broadcasting rather than towards local broadcasting. The Minister has not denied that. Indeed, he has referred this evening to the conurbations, and we all know that conurbations are regions and not localities.


My Lords, when I referred to conurbations I talked of the possibility of there being two closely adjoining local radio stations; not one enormous station covering a whole conurbation.


My Lords, so far as I recall what was said—and I shall check it by Hansard in the morning—the noble Lord was at the time talking about London. I always think of London as a conurbation, though it may of course be a locality.


My Lords, to set the record straight, may I say that this matter arose when we were discussing whether there should be one local committee or two? What I said was that it was quite possible that in a conurbation you might want two local radio stations which were not very far apart to have the same advisory committee advising them both, with members taken from each area.


My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point, but I still adhere to what I said originally. Nothing I have heard throughout the whole discussion on this Bill convinces me that we shall get local broadcasting stations. I return to that aspect of the matter. My Lords, we have heard about the question of an alternative choice. I was discussing this with an Australian yesterday and I said, "Do you have more than one local radio station in some of your cities?" He said, "Good heavens, yes! In Brisbane we have ten stations. Each one of them churns out 'pop' music by the hour, interspersed with syndicated news from a central agency ". What kind of alternative choice is that? Perhaps the Minister will say that that is not what we are going to get; but indeed we are not to know what we are going to get because we are not even to have the opportunity to hear the contractors asking for their contracts.

Then, on the question of demand, so far there has been no evidence produced by the Government that there is a demand for local commercial broadcasting. I well recall, during a discussion on the pirate radio Bill, when the noble Lord the Minister was on this side of the House, that Lord Sorensen was foolish enough to ask, "What demand is there for pirate radio stations?" When, on the following day, he found his room practically filled with letters he knew there was in fact a demand. Throughout the passage of this Bill we have asked. "What demand is there?" I have not received one letter. I should be interested to know how many the Government have received on this matter. I do not believe that there is a demand.

My Lords, we come to the real reason for this Bill; that is, that during the Election the Party now in government made a firm promise that they would introduce commercial broadcasting stations. I think it was my noble friend Lord Sainsbury who used this lovely phrase of the Government, that with their "perverted sense of priorities" they are trying to push this measure through when there are other much more urgent things which need attention. We all know that the B.B.C. Charter and the I.T.A. Act come to an end in 1976, and there must be a major review of both media before new plans are put into effect. If this Amendment were accepted—and I hope it will commend itself to the noble Lord the Minister—it would let the Government "off the hook". The pledge would be honoured, and there would be time to think and plan—to plan the outline of one of our major communication industries, which affects us all. So what I am asking the noble Lord the Minister is this. Let honour be satisfied so far as the Government arc concerned, and let common sense be served so far as the community is concerned. My Lords, I beg to move.


My Lords, as your Lordships will have gathered this is a completely wrecking Amendment, and the only way in which I could really reply is to make a new Second Reading speech, with which I do not intend to weary your Lordships. The best criticism the noble Baroness could bring in support of this Amendment was that by passing this Bill we would be fulfilling an Election pledge. I personally do not in the very least regard that as a criticism. Then the noble Baroness said that she would let the Conservative Party "off the hook", because by accepting this Amendment and making the Bill an absolute nonsense, and putting a nonsense on to the Statute Book, we should be honouring our Election pledge. If that is the noble Baroness's view and the view of the Party opposite as to how one should honour one's Election pledges, I hope the country at large will take note of it. I hope your Lordships will also refuse this wrecking Amendment.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Denham, no longer surprises me, but I do take exception to his criticism that this is a wrecking Amendment. It is nothing of the sort. With the Amendment it is possible for this Bill to become operative—true, for a very short time, but it will give the country and all those who are interested an opportunity to consider whether there is a real, genuine need for commercial sound radio or whether the resources, which are limited, particularly as regards wave-lengths, could not be devoted to much more constructive purposes, whether under the B.B.C. or under some other authority. I made it clear on Second Reading that we on this side of the House do not believe in restricting the opportunities of the people of this country in regard to listening to any form of radio; and, if I may say so to my noble friend, if the people wish to listen to "pop" music—and I must admit that from time to time I listen to "pop" music—so be it. But I think the country is entitled, as there will need to be before 1976, to a full review of all sound radio and television, and for these matters to be considered before new legislation is produced.

My Lords, it seems to me that the Government are proceeding at this pace in order to preclude the Commission, when it is set up, as I presume it must be set up, from looking at this matter in a proper perspective. What will the Commission be seeing? They will be seeing that Parliament has recently passed an Act to permit local commercial sound radio; but they will have no time to see whether these services are in fact effective, whether in fact they reach the high standards that the noble Lord, Lord Denham, believes they will reach, because to the best of my knowledge these broadcasting stations are unlikely to come into service until late 1973, or possibly 1974. Certainly it will be even later than that before the country as a whole will be able to have a taste of what local sound radio is about. So, my Lords, the Commission will not have an opportunity to take a subjective view of the general performance of, and the sort of reception that the general public give to, this new service. As I said on Second Reading, it seems to me that the Government are acting to preclude the Commission from taking a clear view as to the importance of sound radio, whether it be commercial or otherwise.

Is it not a fact, too, that the Government, in their haste to get this Bill through, have not really made up their mind whether it is to be regional radio or whether it is to be local radio? Other than the announcement of the first five stations, which all represent big conurbations, there is no indication to those who are particularly concerned that these stations should be local that they will in fact, in the main, be local. So the Government themselves, in their haste, have no really clear view as to what sort of structure of service is likely to be forthcoming. Certainly the noble Lord, Lord Denham, apart from expressions of belief and faith, has not, apart from the five conurbations, been able to put forward any firm view as to what sort of size of area or locality the other stations will be directed. I agree with my noble friend Lady Phillips, and also my noble friend Lord Sainsbury: I think that the Government base their haste on fulfilling an Election pledge. To whom the Election pledge was given I do not know, but none of us will deny that there have been interested commercial financial organisations which are very keen indeed that sound commercial radio should be set up—and, my Lords, for one purpose and one purpose only. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, cannot deny that its purpose in being set up is not for the provision of a service to the community, but as a means of making profit. The noble Lord, Lord Denham, made it quite clear in Committee, in the discussion on one of our last Amendments, that these specially-privileged organisations, having got a contract by which profit can be made so long as they provided a proper service, should be able to believe that they can retain that right, that privilege, for an indefinite period and that their position will in no way be jeopardised by other organisations or other companies coming in to seek to provide a service and even to participate in the "jam". This is the general view of the Government.

I can quite understand the noble Lord reacting in the rather brittle way that he did over the matter of Election pledges, for it is true that this was in the Conservative Manifesto; but the case my noble friends made was on the question of priorities. Have we not to-day a situation of roaring inflation in land prices and house prices?—prices which the Government pledged to hold so that the general public, the ordinary young people, should have the opportunity of buying their own houses. As the noble Lord, Lord Denham, knows, that land and those houses are now out of the reach of most young people, certainly of young people who have to earn a living. That is one Election pledge on which, if it had been fulfilled, we on this side would applaud the noble Lord, Lord Denham. Was not the cost of living to be cut "at a stroke"? But the cost of living has risen; and I now understand from the newspapers and radio that Mr. Prior has said to the farmers that if they are greedy and prices go up they will price themselves out of the market. It is not much comfort for the electorate to know that beef which has been a staple dish, a Sunday joint, is now being priced beyond the reach of the vast majority of people in this country. The noble Lord may eat it on Sunday, but the vast majority of the people of this country, the working-class people, cannot afford beef at the week-end.

The Government, represented by the noble Lord, Lord Denham, and his colleagues on those Benches, were elected on this one point. So when we talk about priorities it seems to me that we know the Government for what they are. These pledges are of no consequence at all. They will be "fudged" one way or another close to the Election. The Election pledge that really matters so far as the noble Lord, Lord Denham, is concerned, is a pledge which apparently must have been given to some interested parties that they should be able to make a profit out of a rare and short-supply national asset.

I believe that the country is entitled to a breathing space in this matter. I believe that the country is entitled to see its general services reviewed by an impartial Committee and that this will have to be done before the new legislation is produced to Parliament in 1976. I did not vote on the Second Reading. If I had done so then I must say to my Liberal friends that I fear that I should have had the deep horror (the memory of which would have kept me awake at nights for the rest of my life) of voting with noble Lords opposite. I am a great constitutionalist. I do not think it is for this House to reject a Bill which has been passed in another place. But this Amendment

would at least give the House of Commons an opportunity of looking again at this Bill. If the House of Commons then were to agree (as in their wisdom I believe they would) we should ensure that when local commercial sound radio were set up it would be as a consequence of a full review by an impartial body; that Parliament should have made a judgment as a consequence of that review. If we are then to have commercial sound radio I am certain we are likely to get a better choice than what will be produced as a result of this Bill.

6.25 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 12) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 59.

Arwyn, L. Gardiner, L. Royle, L.
Avebury, L. Garnsworthy, L. [Teller.] Rusholme, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Granville of Eye, L. Shepherd, L.
Bernstein, L. Hale, L. Shinwell, L.
Beswick, L. Henderson, L. Stocks, Bs.
Blyton, L. Henley, L. Stow Hill, L.
Carnock, L. Leatherland, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Champion, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, Bs. Wells-Pestell, L.
Crook, L. Ogmore, L. White, Bs.
Diamond, L. Peddie, L. Winterbottom, L.
Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L. Phillips, Bs. [Teller.] Wynne-Jones, L.
Faringdon, L. Platt, L.
Aberdare, L. Elliot of Harwood, Bs. Oakshott, L.
Ailwyn, L. Emmet of Amberley, Bs. Orr-Ewing, L.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Ferrers, L. Poltimore, L.
Balfour, E. Fortescue, E. Rankeillour, L.
Beauchamp, E. Gainford, L. Reay, L.
Beaumont, L. Gowrie, E. Reigate, L.
Belstead, L. Greenway, L. Rhyl, L.
Berkeley, Bs. Grimston of Westbury, L. Ruthven of Freeland, Ly.
Bledisloe, V. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Sandford, L.
Bolton, L. Sempill, Ly.
Bridgeman, V. Hawke, L. Southwark, Bp.
Brougham and Vaux, L. Hood, V. Terrington, L.
Camoys, L. Howard of Glossop, L. Trefgarne, L.
Cowley, E. Hylton-Foster, Bs. Tweedsmuir, L.
Craigavon, V. Jellicoe, E. (L. Privy Seal.) Tweedsmuir of Belhelvie, Bs
Daventry, V. Kemsley, V. Vernon, L.
Davidson, V. Lauderdale, E. Vivian, L.
de Clifford, L. Lyell, L. Wakefield of Kendal, I.
Denham, L. Monckton of Brenchley, V. Young, Bs. [Teller.]
Drumalbyn, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. [Teller.]
Elles, Bs.
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.