§ 2.6 p.m.
§ The MINISTER of STATE, HOME OFFICE (Lord Harris of Greenwich)
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.
§ Moved, that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Harris of Greenwich.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.617
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD ALPORT in the Chair.]
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 agreed to.
Lord WINSTANLEY moved Amendment No. 1:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
§ Section 4(2) and (5) of Act of 1973 not to
apply to proceedings in Parliament
§ ("3. Nothing in section 4(2) and (5) of the said Act of 1973 (of which subsection (2) provides for the exclusion from programmes broadcast by the said Authority of the opinions of the Authority and any programme contractor, and of certain persons connected with the Authority or such a contractor, about matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy and of which subsection (5) provides for the exclusion from such programmes of certain religious matter and of certain publicity for charitable or benevolent institutions) shall apply to a programme broadcast by the said Authority so far as the programme consists of proceedings in either House of Parliament.").
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move the first of the Amendments standing in my name on the Marshalled List. This Amendment, as your Lordships will see, deals with a simple point, and I am quite sure that it will not be necessary to detain the Committee very long on either this Amendment or, indeed, the other two Amendments standing in my name, because they deal with very simple and direct points. I have tabled them separately in order to allow the maximum degree of maneouvrability, both to the noble Lord, Lord Harris, and to myself and those who support me in these matters, so that the noble Lord may accept one of them, two of them, or three, or indeed none, and we, on the other hand, may decide to press one, two, three, or indeed none, as circumstances dictate.
§ Coming to the first of these Amendments, it consists of adding to the Bill a new clause in the words on the Marshalled List, and those words are in point of fact precisely the words of a clause which was formerly in this Bill when it went to Committee in another place. I have tabled it in the same words, which appear to be somewhat tortuous. Indeed, I have done that just in case the noble Lord should say that he agreed with the point but there was something defective in the wording; and it seemed to me that, since the 618 wording had been devised by those who advise the noble Lord, it was unlikely that they would come along and tell me that the wording was in fact defective. It is precisely the same wording as existed in the original Bill, when the Bill went to Committee in another place.
§ At that time that clause was removed from the Bill. I think it is only fair to say that it was not removed from the Bill as a result of a concerted action by one particular Party, as was perhaps partly suggested by the noble Lord at Second Reading. It was in fact removed because Members from all Parties felt, not that they did not agree with that particular clause, but that it did not go far enough. Amendments could not be put then because under the Rules of Order in another place they were not covered by the Long Title of the Bill as it then was, and the clause was removed in the hope that your Lordships, either in Committee or elsewhere, might be able to devise something more comprehensive. As a first gesture I seek merely to restore that clause to the Bill. It would be appropriate if I were to remind your Lordships that this deals with Section 4(2) of the Independent Broadcasting Act, which your Lordships will recollect requires the Independent Broadcasting Authority to secure the exclusion from its programmes of contributions on matters of political or industrial controversy or appertaining to public policy by any one of a whole list of prescribed persons. These are, in fact, members of the IBA, directors of the contracting radio or television companies and other members and indeed employees of either the Authority or the independent companies.
§ One consequence of this—and I think it is generally acknowledged—is that Section 4(2) of the original Broadcasting Act has a number of serious defects. I am aware that evidence was given on this point to the Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Annan, and recommendations were made for considerable changes in the original Act with regard to the operation of Section 4(2). I am aware that the Government intend in due course to produce a White Paper dealing with various matters arising from the Annan Committee and, no doubt, dealing with this particular point; and, of course, it will be some time before those matters emerge. However, there are certain 619 urgent matters with which we are already faced. With one of those urgent matters, this clause in the original Bill dealt effectively. The effect of Section 4(2) was that whenever certain noble Lords in this House or in this Committee or whenever certain Members of the other place, who happened to be either members of the Authority or otherwise prescribed persons on that list of persons whose contributions had to be excluded, were speaking in either House of Parliament that meant that the Independent Broadcasting Authority was immediately in breach of the Act if it allowed the broadcasting of the proceedings of whichever House of Parliament it was to continue. That was something which had to be sorted out in order to do away with a real difficulty.
§ This simple clause, in precisely the form in which it appeared in the original Bill, does exactly that. It states merely that the application of Section 4(2) of the Independent Broadcasting Act shall not apply to broadcasts of the proceedings of either House of Parliament. Unless we do that the Independent Broadcasting Authority is in an awful muddle whenever the proceedings of either House are being broadcast because there are many people who may be speaking at any time, and it is obvious that they will be speaking on matters of either political or industrial controversy or, at least, on matters appertaining to public policy. We have, therefore, a kind of nonsense which should not be allowed to continue. Here we have a simple restoration of a clause in the original Bill. With those words, I beg leave to move the Amendment.
§ Lord REDESDALE
We are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, for putting his case so clearly on this Amendment. From these Benches I should just like to say that we support him, although I accept that the noble Lord the Minister will want to consider the matter further at a later stage and might want to expand it. Therefore, I should only like to go so far as saying that we support the concept of this Amendment as it appears to be a very logical and straightforward way of rationalising the Bill.
§ 2.15 p.m.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has afforded 620 us in this Amendment the opportunity to consider the clause which, as I pointed out during our debate in Second Reading, was rejected in Committee in another place. I do not want to go over the ground again as to why that happened. The noble Lord may recall that the point I made about why that clause was rejected and by whom it was rejected, was made following a speech made by the Opposition Front Bench on that occasion. Nevertheless, I welcome what the noble Lord has just said.
The clause, which would have implemented a recommendation of the Joint Committee on Sound Broadcasting in their Second Report, was rejected in another place not, I think, because of any basic opposition to the relaxation it proposed to Section 4(2) of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973 in relation to Parliamentary broadcasting, but because a number of honourable members wished to prod the Government into making a more substantial Amendment to Section 4(2). I must make it clear, as I did on Second Reading, that the Government would find it impossible to deal within the compass of this Bill, with the whole question of the future of Section 4(2). This provision raises issues which go to the heart of our concept of public service broadcasting, and we wish to deal with them in our forthcoming White Paper. It will be appropriate to deal with that in that way because it raises substantial questions of public policy. I do not think, for the reasons which I have indicated, that it would be right to deal with it in this Bill because we come in this and other Amendments to rather narrower matters. I shall deal with those when the noble Lord proposes his Amendments.
We have all along regarded the clause, which the noble Lord is seeking to reinstate in the Bill, as a matter pre-eminently for Parliament. It was for this reason that we did not think it appropriate to seek to move on Report in another place or today an Amendment to reverse the decision taken in Committee in another place. That said, we did, of course, consider that the clause to exclude Section 4(2) and (5) of the 1973 Act in relation to Parliamentary broadcasting was a sensible measure. If it is the committee's wish that this clause should be reinstated in the Bill, it ought properly 621 to come before, and not after, the clause dealing with the short title and extent of the Bill. I should be pleased therefore to move an Amendment on Report, if the Committee so wishes, which puts the clause back in what I think is the more appropriate place in the Bill. Given this undertaking, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, will withdraw his Amendment and I will so what I have suggested on Report.
I am most grateful to the noble Lord for what he has said, and to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for his support. What the noble Lord has just said shows that one can never count on anything going entirely smoothly. Having set down the Amendment in precisely the words which the Government used before, I thought everything would be plain sailing. But I now find that I have not put it in the right place. I fully accept that. On the assurance given by the noble Lord, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 2.18 p.m.
Lord WINSTANLEY moved Amendment No. 2:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
§ Section 4(2) and (5) of Act of 1973 not to apply to proceedings of District or County Councils
§ "4. Nothing in section 4(2) and (5) of the said Act of 1973 (of which subsection (2) provides for the exclusion from programmes broadcast by the said Authority of the opinions of the Authority and any programme contractor, and of certain persons connected with the Authority or such a contractor, about matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy and of which subsection (5) provides for the exclusion from such programmes of certain religious matter and of certain publicity for charitable or benevolent institutions) shall apply to broadcasts of the proceedings of District or County Councils.".
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment consists of a new clause to he added to the Bill at an appropriate place. It deals with an extremely simple point. If it is proper and appropriate to say that Section 4(2) of the Independent Broadcasting Act shall not apply to broadcasts of the proceedings of either House of Parliament, it is surely logical that we should also say that nor should Section 4(2) of the Independent Broadcasting Act apply to broadcasts of 622 the proceedings of local authorities. Precisely the same point and the same difficulty have arisen.
§ For example, the Leader of the Conservative Party in the Manchester City Council is Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw. Very frequently the proceedings of the council have been broadcast live by independent radio. BBC radio can do as they wish: Section 4(2) does not apply to them; it applies merely to independent programmes. The proceedings of that city council have been broadcast live and that means that if Dame Kathleen happened to be speaking then immediately once again the Independent Broadcasting Authority would be in breach of the law. There has been a case in which the Lord Mayor of a city was in fact a proscribed person because he was a director of a broadcasting company and it would have meant that whenever his city council was sitting, if the Lord Mayor had presumed to intervene in the proceedings for a moment, once again the Independent Broadcasting Authority would have been in breach of the law. It seems to me that this is a very simple matter and I would ask the Government to address their minds to it. It is something which surely could be done very simply, without prejudice to what is done in the future.
§ With regard to Section 4(2) as a whole, if it is appropriate that we should say that Section 4(2) shall not apply to broadcasts of proceedings of Parliament, then it seems to me that it is sensible and logical to say that it shall not apply to broadcasts of the proceedings of local authorities. I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
This Amendment raises the question of whether we should exclude Sections 4(2) and 4(5) of the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act 1973 in relation not only to the broadcasting of Parliamentary proceedings but also to the broadcasting of local government proceedings. If I may make this point—it is a fairly self-evident one —of course any existing member of a local authority, and any person who stands for election to a local authority, knows when he stands for election that any broadcasting of his remarks or of any speech he may make is in fact excluded, and has been excluded since the passage of the Independent Broadcasting Authority 623 Act. It does not therefore come as a tremendous surprise if any statement he might make in a broadcast of proceedings of a local authority meeting were to be excluded.
Certainly I understand the anxiety of the noble Lord and I appreciate that there are a number of proceedings, including the proceedings of the Greater London Council, which have been broadcast by independent radio stations. But I am afraid that there are two problems over this particular Amendment. One is that in fact the objective which the noble Lord seeks would not be secured by this Amendment, because it deals only with district and county councils. There are a large number of other local authority organisations which would be excluded from his Amendment. There are parish councils and the Greater London Council, which, as I am advised, would not be covered by this; and of course there are the London Borough Councils. In Scotland there are Regional and Island Areas as well as district councils, and there are in addition community councils. In the case of Wales, there are also Welsh community councils, but they are not exactly the same as community councils in Scotland.
I would say to the noble Lord that I will gladly look at this matter between now and the Report stage. I think we would have to consult the local authority associations about this because it affects them very substantially. Subject to that, I could not at the moment give an absolute firm and cast-iron commitment; but I will undertake to consult the local authority associations between now and the next stage of the Bill.
§ Lord WIGG
My Lords, may I be allowed to detain your Lordships for some 30 seconds. What worries me about this Bill is that the Amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, is moving sound eminently reasonable and, at first sight, one would automatically support them. What I should like the Minister to address his mind to is one simple point. I shall put it very simply and then sit down, leaving it to him at a later stage to refer to it again. Could this be a back-door method of widening the privilege of the broadcasting authorities in their broadcasting of proceedings in 624 this House or the proceedings of local authorities or associated bodies? It seems to me that these areas—if Amendments such as this were not enacted—would be subject to what action an individual may take to seek redress through the courts. In this matter I do not have the Independent Broadcasting Authority in mind, but I do have very much in mind the BBC. I am extremely worried about the growth of the influence of the BBC, which seems to imagine that its powers are derived from Heaven when it comes to conflict with the rights of individuals. I am an opponent of the extension of the privileges of the BBC, even if it is done by what I regard as the apparently innocuous and commendable Amendments which the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has brought to your Lordships' attention.
§ Lord REDESDALE
As I understand it—and I am sure that the noble Lord will clarify this point—this Amendment does not affect the BBC in any way. There is a precedent involved. It is not a question of the BBC's rights being increased in any way. It is merely a question of being logical. If the BBC can do it, then the IBA can do it as well. I should have thought that that was logical, and that it was not too hard to make the wording cover all the various councils that exist. It is a fairly rational amendment to bring the IBA into line with the BBC.
§ Lord WIGG
I entirely agree that it is absolutely rational, and it has my support. I am not so confused as to imagine that this, in itself, affects the BBC. But what I am interested in in politics is not what people do openly; in other words, I am a disciple of Napoleon, and I am always worried about what comes in on the flank, such as the little gentle zephyr today which is quoted as a precedent tomorrow. As I said, this has my support and it is utterly reasonable, but it appears to me to extend the privileges of a broadcasting authority.
First, there was Parliament, and now it is local authorities. That worries me, because, before we know where we are, this extension will add more powers to the BBC, which does not obtain its powers from Parliament; it obtains them from God. Therefore it is above criticism from such mortals as myself. That is why I 625 watch very closely, and I shall continue to watch, proposals of this kind. I should have thought I would have carried noble Lords opposite with me on increasing the power of statutory authorities in relation to the individual. I am a disciple of Josiah Wedgewood and say "Forever freedom", but the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, which is what brings me here this afternoon.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
I am delighted to welcome my noble friend Lord Wigg here this afternoon. If I may deal, first, with the question of the BBC and then go on to one or two other matters which have arisen, the BBC is required by ministerial prescription, under Clause 13(4) of its Licence and Agreement —because as my noble friend will be aware, there is no comparable legislation so far as the BBC is concerned; it is dealt with by the Licence and Agreement—To refrain at all times from sending any broadcast matter in the following classes".Then the subsection (a) follows:matter expressing the opinion of the Corporation on current affairs or on matters of public policy".That is the position so far as the BBC is concerned.
Certainly, this could be interpreted, in certain circumstances, as requiring the BBC not to broadcast a Parliamentary speech by a Member of another place, or by a Member of this House, referring to the Corporation's opinions on any of these matters. The intention is to remove Parliamentary broadcasting by the BBC from the scope of this prescription, just as Clause 2 of the Bill removes Parliamentary broadcasting by the IBA from the scope of Section 4(2) of the 1973 Act. This can be done by appropriate formal correspondence, as and when Parliament approves the amendment of Section 4(2). It is a fairly narrow point. It does not, in my view, give an enormous increase of powers, so far as the BBC is concerned. I do not think there is any weight in that point.
So far as Section 4(2) is concerned, the position is that it prevents the Independent Broadcasting Authority from broadcasting the views of, among others, the directors of an independent television company, or an independent radio company, on 626matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy".The question which is raised in this Amendment is, what happens if the director of an independent radio company or independent television company is also a member of a local authority whose debate is then broadcast, be it the Greater London Council, or the Greater Manchester Council, and so on?
When Parliament decided upon the Independent Broadcasting Authority Act, it introduced a blanket prohibition, and that is the existing situation. So far as the Bill is concerned, we are relieving Members of either place from this proscription. We are saying that in the case of a Member of another place or a Member of this House—this is the matter which we discussed on the first Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley —this particular problem would be removed and that the Independent Broadcasting Authority would be entitled to broadcast a speech made in either House by the Director of a television company or of an independent radio company. As I have indicated, that would be the effect of the first Amendment. The effect of this Amendment is to relieve a member of a local authority in exactly the same way.
What I have said to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, is that I think that there must be a pause for reflection. On a matter of this kind, it is clearly important to consult the local authority associations. It seems to me to be quite inappropriate to pass an Amendment of this character—affecting, as it would, existing members of local authorities—without giving to local authority associations an opportunity to make their comments upon it. Subject to that, we shall, as I have indicated, look at the matter, I hope at Report stage although it might conceivably be at Third Reading. However, I have given that undertaking and I hope that it will satisfy both my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley.
§ 2.32 p.m.
I am most grateful to those noble Lords who have advised the Committee on this little point. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, for his support and to the noble Lord, Lord Wigg, for his qualified support, if I may so call it, although I 627 congratulate him upon his vigilance and caution with regard to the extension of the powers of any non-elected body in any field whatsoever. However, I assure him that I have no such Machiavellian intention. My intention is merely to sort out what seems to me to be a minor administrative muddle whereby at the moment the Independent Broadcasting Authority is entirely free to broadcast the proceedings of a local authority, save it if happens that one of the people speaking turns out to be one of the proscribed people. Then they are in a muddle and in breach of the law. Therefore, I assure the noble Lord that it is a simple point.
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for assuring the Committee that he will address his mind to the point and for accepting that it is one of some consequence and possibly could be of some urgency both to the Independent Broadcasting Authority and to some of the local authorities and members of local authorities who are caught up by this provision. On the understanding that the noble Lord will look further into the matter and come back to it at Report or at some other stage of the Bill, and while reserving my own right to raise the issue again at a later stage if the product of the noble Lords thoughts have not been entirely satisfactory, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Lord WIGG
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, does not have my qualified support. He has my unqualified support. I am not questioning either his motive or the efficacy of the methods he has employed. I am not even saying that I want the Minister to have a formal inquiry into the matter. Let me explain what I do mean. I am suspicious of Liberal zephyrs. I do not say that because the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, sits on the Liberal Benches, although that does not relieve me of my suspicions. In fact, I am suspicious of those whose bleeding hearts run away with their bloody heads. It is that which worries me.
I accept the motives behind the Amendment. I am quite sure that the Minister will look at the matter and that the answer from his point of view will be absolutely all right. What I am concerned about is 628 that this Liberal approach should not subsequently be exploited by Big Brother. That is what I am saying. The Minister ought to bear in mind what Big Brother can get up to, and has got up to, and its power at the moment—which I do not regard as wholly beneficent. It was for that reason that I raised my point.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 2.35 p.m.
Lord WINSTANLEY moved Amendment No. 3:
After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:
§ Section 4(2) and (5) of Act of 1973 not to
apply to broadcasts made in connection with a
§ ("5. Nothing in section 4(2) and (5) of the said Act of 1973 (of which subsection (2) provides for the exclusion from programmes broadcast by the said Authority of the opinions of the Authority and any programme contractor, and of certain persons connected with the Authority or such a contractor, about matters of political or industrial controversy or relating to current public policy and of which subsection (5) provides for the exclusion from such programmes of certain religious matter and of certain publicity for charitable or benevolent institutions) shall apply to broadcasts made by or on behalf of candidates in connection with a Parliamentary election.")
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment also consists of a new clause to be added to the Bill in the words appearing on the Marshalled List. This deals with a similar but marginally different point, although to my mind perhaps an even more urgent one. As I said earlier, we have received an assurance that the Government will be looking further at the recommendations of the Committee under the noble Lord, Lord Annan; will be producing a White Paper, and may well be producing legislation which will deal comprehensively with Section 4(2) of the Independent Broadcasting Act. But before that time comes to pass it seems likely that we shall have a General Election. I cannot say exactly when although I could perhaps hazard a guess, but I think it will be before we receive the White Paper and certainly before we see the legislation.
§ When that General Election takes place there will immediately be a very serious difficulty with which the Independent Broadcasting Authority will have to contend. Indeed it is a difficulty with which the Authority has already had to 629 contend and about which, if I may say so, it has perhaps already made certain errors. The situation is that there is no doubt at all that many of the candidates in the next Parliamentary Election, in all Parties—and I have in mind five Parties—will in fact be proscribed people under this Section. They will be either members of the Authority or employees or directors of contracting companies. That means that if in the course of the General Election their words are to be broadcast on Independent Television or Independent radio—and I imagine that they will again be expressing views on matters appertaining to public policy—the Independent Broadcasting Authority will be in breach of the Act.
§ That occurred recently in the by-election at Grimsby when the Labour candidate—now the Labour Member—for that seat, Mr. Austin Mitchell, was in fact an unpaid director of Pennine Radio. The fact remains that he is a proscribed person. Either the Independent Broadcasting Authority did not notice, or it chose not to notice, and it did in fact broadcast his speeches in that by-election. But had it implemented the Act rigidly and said, "No, he cannot appear and we cannot broadcast his words" then in order to comply with the provisions of the Representation of the Peoples Act they would also have had to ensure that none of the other candidates could have broadcast either. That would have meant that that election could not have been covered at all on either Independent Television or Independent radio although it could of course have been covered—as indeed it was—very fully by BBC Radio and BBC Television.
§ That type of situation which was then marginal in one by-election will be reproduced over and over again in the coming General Election. The Authority will immediately be in difficulty with regard to the fulfilment of its various responsibilities, under the Independent Broadcasting Act and under the Representation of the Peoples Act, unless we say, as I propose in my new clause, that this section shall not apply to broadcasts made by or on behalf of candidates in a Parliamentary Election. I add the words "or on behalf of candidates" because there are other people in the political Parties of influence who may perhaps be running the Parties' 630 Press conferences or may be chairing meetings and who are also proscribed persons but whose contribution during the election campaign will be fully and adequately covered by the BBC, while under the terms of Section 4(2) it could not be covered at all on Independent Television or Independent radio. I beg to move.
§ Lord HARRIS of GREENWICH
I fear that I must approach this Amendment with rather more caution than either of the other two, and at the moment I am not persuaded that an Amendment on the lines proposed would in fact be an improvement to the Bill. I will begin by defining the area of agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. If it is argued, as indeed it is argued by him, that Section 4(2) is inherently unsatisfactory, as he has pointed out this is a matter which has been dealt with in evidence to the Committee presided over by the noble Lord, Lord Annan. But, of course, it raises some very substantial questions. After all, it was the clear intention of Parliament that there should be certain rules applying to people who are directors of independent television or radio companies.
The view was that it was important—and I can say this only as an assumption: this legislation was put forward by the Party opposite when in office— to ensure that a director of an independent television, or independent radio, company did not misuse his power by ensuring that he had some very agreeable relations with the management of that company, and that by reason of his directorship one found that there was a very remarkable number of broadcasts emanating from the same individual, using his position as a director of that company to ensure that he got a great deal of attention, be it on television or radio. That was clearly the intention of Parliament. Undoubtedly, a number of significant problems have arisen as a result. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, is quite right. There was the case of Mr. Kerry Packer, who I believe has a relationship with Trident Television, and who a few months ago was a figure of some controversy. Cases of that kind do undoubtedly raise quite significant problems, both to the Independent Broadcasting Authority and indeed to the general public interest.
631 I think that matters as wide and significant as this will have to be dealt with in substantive legislation. The question really is whether we try to do it in this Bill. I would say to the noble Lord that I do slightly hesitate about his use of the phrase, "this is an urgent point". It has been urgent as long as this legislation has been on the Statute Book. It was, as I have indicated, the clear intention of Parliament that this should be on the Statute Book. The noble Lord deals with the position of a person who is a candidate for Parliament. But what about the person who is a candidate for a local authority? Independent radio stations do cover local authority elections in exactly the same way as Parliamentary elections. That is one point which, of course, would not be covered by the terms of the noble Lord's Amendment.
Then we come to the person who is not a candidate but is speaking on behalf of a candidate. That is much wider than the point of the Grimsby by-election, if I may say so, much wider. When, after all, does an election begin? Does it begin when the election is announced. What happens if a person says, "I am speaking on behalf of somebody or other who is now the prospective candidate for this particular constituency", someone who had been adopted six months after a General Election for what will manifestly be a five-year Parliament?
For these reasons, I believe that this particular matter would be far more appropriately dealt with in the legislation which will undoubtedly follow the publication of the Government's White Paper on Annan. I recognise that there is a definite sense of unease as far as Independent television and independent radio are concerned about the particular way in which the present legislative framework bites upon them. That is absolutely true. I have had the matter drawn very forcibly to my attention by a very large number of people; I am well aware of the anxieties which have been expressed and there is undoubtedly some justification for some of these anxieties. But this matter can be more appropriately dealt with in substantive legislation. I do not believe that the Amendment we have before us would improve the Bill. It raises some very substantial questions which go a great 632 deal wider than simply a particular Parliamentary by-election, or even a particular General Election. I do not think it is appropriate to deal with this particular complex difficult matter in this particular fashion. For that reason I am afraid at the moment we are not persuaded that this Amendment would improve the Bill.
§ Lord REDESDALE
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, made his case very clearly and we are all extremely grateful to the Minister for explaining the problems that exist. Although we on these Benches sympathise with the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, in his concept of trying to rationalise the situation and can see that there are a number of problems which require greater definition, I think we must accept the point that this legislation has been around for some time and just because the Bill is now coming forward it does not really have to be dealt with at this time, and perhaps it might be appropriate to look at the matter when the whole of the situation has to be gone into in greater detail at a later date. Therefore, I have a great deal of sympathy for what has been said and I can see an enormous number of difficulties, but although I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, I do not think that he would expect us to go through the Lobby with him.
I, too, am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Harris of Greenwich, for what he has said on this particular matter. I must say at once that I am entirely at one with him in saying that it would be more appropriate for this and other matters relating to Section 4(2) to be dealt with in the legislation which follows the White Paper arising from the report of the committee under the noble Lord, Lord Annan. However, at the same time, the Minister will agree with me that that legislation will not appear before the forthcoming General Election. My anxiety was to see, if possible, that something was done to mitigate the difficulties which will be encountered by the Independent Broadcasting Authority, candidates, political Parties and political agents when that election comes to pass.
However, I accept that this is a complex matter and that is it not quite as specific and narrow as the other matters with which we have already dealt. Nevertheless 633 I am encouraged by the realisation that the noble Lord, Lord Harris, accepts that there is a very real problem which will certainly have to be tackled sooner or later. I shall consider very carefully what the noble Lord has said—I shall have an opportunity to read and consider it further—and I shall discuss what he has said with noble Lords in all parts of your Lordships' House who takes the same view as I do and feel that something should be done. Having had those consultations and considerations I shall then decide at a later stage whether or not to try to proceed further. With those assurances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House resumed: Bill reported without Amendment.