HL Deb 09 July 1990 vol 521 cc77-104

House again in Committee on Schedule 1.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 11: Page 145, line 42, at beginning insert: (" The Commission shall establish an advisory committee for each region to give advice to them on matters relating to the services of licence holders in that region, including services on Channels 3, 4 and 5, local delivery services and domestic satellite services.").

The noble Baroness said: Amendment No. 11 refers to advisory committees but in a different context to that which we were discussing before dinner. The amendment would oblige the ITC to establish advisory committees in each region to cover all independent television. It is different in that it would not be a committee for a specific subject but an advisory committee in the region set up to give the ITC advice relevant to that region.

The 1981 Act currently specifies that national advisory committees be established in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Amendment No. 11 would require the ITC to establish 15 advisory committees for each region covered by a regional Channel 3 licence. The interpretation of the word "region" in the amendment does not necessarily link it to the number of Channel 3 regions and therefore leaves the ITC with some discretion as to the number of regions. The regional diversity of the UK makes it very important for each region to have its own advisory committee. The closer the link between the public as represented by the advisory committees and the Channel 3 licence holders in particular, the more accountable the service will be to the consumer.

It is probably even more important that there should be advisory committees for the ITC, although there were advisory committees for the IBA. We heard from the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, how successful and necessary they were. There are also separate advisory committees which have been working for a long time for the BBC. Last year the BBC completed an internal review of its advisory committees. One or two were wound up and others, including the committee for agriculture, had their remit extended to take in rural affairs. It was a thoroughgoing review of cost and effectiveness.

The advisory committees in the different regions would not only be cost-effective but would be of great assistance to the ITC, as has been mentioned on other amendments to the Bill, in keeping it in close communication with the viewers and listeners. I hope that the Government will look on the amendment with some pleasure and satisfaction and perhaps accept it as it stands. Although there is the proviso in the Bill that advisory committees may be established, there is nothing which sets out the regional nature of the committees. I consider that to be important. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I understand the concern behind these amendments. As the noble Baroness said, they cover a slightly different point from that discussed before dinner. However, the amendments are unnecessary.

The Bill already gives the commission a broad power to appoint advisory committees to advise it in relation to its statutory functions. I understand that the shadow ITC has decided that it will establish viewer consultative committees in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and, most importantly, as the noble Baroness recognises, the regions of England.

Amendment No. 12 would also have the effect of preventing the ITC from establishing advisory committees other than on a national or regional basis. That would be unfortunate since the ITC might well decide that it would benefit from advice on, for example, specific types of programme or advertisement.

I hope that the noble Baroness realises that the spirit in which she puts forward the amendment is accepted by the Government but that the statutory nature of the requirement is not.

Lord Willis

I am sorry to disagree with my noble friend Lady Birk, but on this issue I regret that I must depart from her path. My experience of advisory committees is that they are largely window-dressing. They give the illusion that there is some kind of local representation. They give the illusion that local people are being drawn in. A meeting is held every quarter and the committee members are given a nice dinner. Their advice is politely listened to, but, in fact, very little notice is taken of it.

I do not believe in that form of window-dressing. I am not against advisory committees. They make the people feel happy. But they have no power and no authority, and they do not really work.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

I feel torn between the noble Lord, Lord Willis, and the noble Baroness, Lady Birk. However, as my name is on the amendment, I am, of course, on the side of the noble Baroness.

I strongly disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Willis, about the importance of advisory committees. It is easy to poke fun at them. We have both the great and the good, locally and nationally, and they are easy targets. However, it is important with public operations, particularly broadcasting—as I believe the right reverend Prelate said in a different context before dinner—that there should be some outside input from concerned citizens on the quality that the broadcasting services provide.

In my experience at the IBA—I am sorry to go back to that—I certainly found that the national advisory committees, as they were called, performed a useful service in the circumstances of their time, and I am happy to hear that the ITC proposes on its own initiative to continue with them. When I was chairman I made a point of attending meetings as often as I could. I obtained a feeling and a reaction among concerned citizens about what was happening in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales that was of use.

We are concerned about the future. I want to make the point that in the new situation under the Broadcasting Bill the advisory committees will become even more important. We shall have a much more competitive market place in broadcasting generally. That will be particularly true about commercially-funded broadcasting. The Government have proposals for contractors holding more than one licence—the so-called pennyfarthing system—which we hope to resist. We, on these Benches, believe one should preserve the principle of one contractor, one licence. The Government's proposals are of a different character.

The noble Lord, Lord Sanderson, has a Scottish background. I say to him that, given the nature of modern broadcasting, one should not underestimate the pull of the metropolis—the pull of London—for professional broadcasters. In the more competitive commercial market place, that pull will be much stronger than it was in the rather genial days when I had the good fortune to be chairman of the IBA. That will be true in all sorts of ways. If the Government go ahead with the pennyfarthing proposition—I do not want to anticipate the debate on that matter—there is the possibility that any surplus capacity in Cardiff, Aberdeen or Ulster will suffer in favour of the studio capacity in the metropolitan area. I am sure that the Minister knows very well from representations made to him that independent producers from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are continually complaining that London is the main attraction.

I do not profess to believe that perpetuating the advisory committees and giving them a statutory guarantee will solve the problem. But it will be a useful countervailing force. Therefore, I hope the Government will feel that with the commitment, which I know is genuine, from the present IBA and the future ITC to wish to continue with the advisory committees they will accept the amendment. The position changes as the years go by. An Act of Parliament is an Act for perhaps a decade or more. It will be worth reinforcing the position with some statutory underpinning.

Lord Ardwick

Perhaps I may add a personal word. As a former newspaper editor of both provincial and national newspapers, I often envied the BBC its advisory committees. The ideas inside a newspaper office are taken from staff members who lead distorted lives—half of them on night work and separated from their roots. It was difficult to know what society was thinking. A great deal of the reason for the BBC being ahead of the national press in social matters—many such matters were regarded as unprintable—was that it had the backing and encouragement of the advisory committees.

Lord Crickhowell

I had not intended to take part in the debate. I am prompted by the intervention we have just heard. I declare an interest as director of a regional television company but also as a former Secretary of State for Wales who understands very well the pressure for regional advice and who lives in a world where we have committees looking at this and many other matters.

I also chair another public body, the National Rivers Authority, which makes very strong use of regional advisory committees. Nonetheless, I have a sense of caution. Here again we have a matter that is very much better left to the discretion of the new ITC controlling body. My experience in these matters is that there is a need for flexibility because the situation changes. This is a matter that should not be built into statute but left to the good sense of the body that can make a judgment as to where it is sensible to obtain advice.

We are dealing here with the companies that will have surmounted something which was described as more than a hurdle by my noble friend during discussion on an earlier amendment. I believe he described it as that final fence in the puissance which people will have to jump. They will have had to jump that final fence to establish themselves as companies with the ability to produce strong regional programmes and satisfy the commission about the nature of the resources and the facilities that they will have in the regions.

It seems absolutely certain that these companies themselves will have strong regional representation. Their boards will contain people from the regions. It seems inconceivable that companies like my own will approach the bidding stage without ensuring that we have people who very much represent the interests of those whom we seek to serve in those regions.

I then begin to see the kind of difficulty that one is going to get into. The companies will examine their own performance in the regions. The directors and senior staff go round the regions and very often they are in the closest possible contact at every stage with local people and local events. They are trying to form a view. Then another committee on the outside seeks to second guess the way in which provision is made.

I am not sure that that will improve things. If there is a feeling in the ITC that it is losing touch with what is going on locally and wants some specific advice on particular aspects of regional affairs, it is much better that an appropriate committee should be set up, and, appertaining to the point that concerns them, to seek the best possible advice at the time and from the people most highly qualified to provide it.

I believe that a group of people will be appointed to one of the committees and they may be perfectly sensible appointments when first made. However, it is the way of these matters that the members will continue sitting for a very long time. They may cease to be in quite such close touch with events as they were when they were appointed. On this occasion I beg the Committee to go for flexibility and to back the good judgment and sense of the ITC in this matter. I ask the Committee not to impose a statutory set of rules. I do not think anything will be gained by so doing, and it will cause us a great deal of difficulty.

8.45 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

I find the noble Lord's argument rather difficult to follow. He started by saying that he thought that advisory committees might or might not be useful, but that their appointment should be left to the discretion of the ITC. He went on to say that he felt that the committees were positively un-useful. He said that they were like sleeping dogs lying about the place and out of touch with events. He advocated that when an issue arose people should be chosen who are experts in the subject and they should be appointed to give advice.

The point about advisory committees, whether they are specialist ones such as CRAC or the BBC musical advisory committee, is that they are in touch with the broadcasting scene. The people involved are not called in at the last moment to give advice to an organisation with which they have no continuing contact. Hence, I feel it is rather odd to reach the conclusion that the noble Lord reached or to accept the advice that he gave us; namely, that the ITC should not be encouraged or instructed to appoint advisory committees because such committees will see it as their duty to represent the consumer in the region in question. That is very important in regional broadcasting.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

There is very little that I can add to what I have already said. The practical fact of the matter is that the shadow ITC has decided that it will establish pure consultative committees in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions of England. There is a use for them despite the fact that some Members of the Committee believe that they do not serve any useful purpose. I agree with my noble friend that flexibility over the whole matter is better addressed by not having a statutory obligation. Hence, the Government take the view that they have presented to the Committee tonight.

Baroness Birk

It does not seem that we can get much further tonight. I am not convinced by the Minister's arguments about the committees. We have heard from other speakers of experience where there are advisory committees to the effect that they are extremely useful and helpful. There does not appear to be any reason why that provision should not be undertaken. They were in the 1981 Act and they were working at that time.

We have heard from the former chairman of the IBA as to how useful the advisory committees were. He put them into practice; he lived with them and got the benefit of their work. I know him too well to think that he would help to initiate an amendment unless he thought that it was worth doing. Perhaps we shall return to the subject at another stage when we may have a slightly larger Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk had given notice of her intention to move Amendment No. 12: Page 145, line 42, leave out ("may appoint, or arrange for the assistance of") and insert ("shall appoint regional or national (as appropriate)").

The noble Baroness said: I do not have very much hope in my heart for this amendment—

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

According to my grouping Amendments Nos. 11 and 12 are grouped together.

Baroness Birk

I have very little more to say. I wondered what the Minister was up to. He was answering Amendment No. 12 as well. Amendment No. 11 referred to the regional level. This amendment refers to the national or regional provision as being appropriate. The same arguments apply. I shall not move this amendment.

[Amendment No. 12 not moved.]

[Amendment No. 13 not moved.]

Schedule 1, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 2 [Regulation by Commission of provision of television services]:

Lord Morris moved Amendment No. 13A: Page 2, line 23, leave out ("ensure fair and") and insert ("maintain and promote").

The noble Lord said: It will be quite clear to the Committee that this is a modest drafting amendment, but I believe that it is very important. It has a substantive element to it. The wording, to ensure fair and effective competition", is reactive rather than proactive. For that reason I very much prefer the wording that I have had the effrontery to suggest; namely, to "maintain and promote". That is particularly important in these days of volatile change not only in the broadcasting environment but also because of the technological change concerning the delivery and receipt of these kinds of service. This amendment is also in the nature of a probing amendment. I am looking forward very much to my noble friend's justification for changing the form of words. I hope to find out why he prefers the wording that appears in the Bill. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

Before I answer, may I take it that my noble friend is not speaking also to Amendment No. 14A, which I thought was grouped with this?

Lord Morris

That is absolutely right. I am not. It is a different issue.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

Yes, it is. This amendment would place the ITC under a duty to maintain and promote effective competition. Clause 2(2) of the Bill places the ITC under a duty to exercise its functions so as to ensure that a wide range of services is available throughout the United Kingdom and that there is fair and effective competition in the provision of such services. That is a sensibly framed duty. It effectively requires the ITC to hold the ring in a regulatory sense between competing licensees. My noble friend's amendment would give the ITC a more active interventionist role in promoting competition. That would be inconsistent with our view that the ITC should be a light touch body. With that explanation, I hope that my noble friend will withdraw the amendment.

Lord Morris

I am most grateful for that explanation. My noble friend will be aware that I found this wording in Section 3 of the Telecommunications Act 1984. If he feels that those words are not acceptable perhaps he will support me in a Private Member's Bill to change the wording so far as concerns the Telecommunications Act. This is relevant because these matters are closely linked. As he himself admitted in his response to my amendment, a duty is laid on the ITC to hold the ring. I am worried that once the ring is designed there will be no incentive for the ITC and that it will be more concerned with maintaining the status quo than with reacting to changing events. That is why I moved the amendment.

I shall read carefully what my noble friend has said and consider the matter further. However, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

Lord Morris moved Amendment No. 14A: Page 2, line 24, at end insert: ("(iii) to enable persons providing services in the United Kingdom to compete effectively in the provision of such services outside the United Kingdom; and").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendment No. 19A. I have again lifted this amendment wholesale from the Telecommunications Act 1984. In this day and age no one is unaware of the fact that cables cross frontiers and satellites deliver legible signals across frontiers. Under the Telecommunications Act a duty is laid squarely on the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Director General of the Office of Telecommunications to enable persons providing services in the United Kingdom to compete effectively in the provision of such services outside the United Kingdom.

That is an extremely important duty. The Bill is designed to assist the United Kingdom in placing itself in the forefront of the provision of broadcasting services. There will in the future be a greater opportunity for developing a market for those services abroad, not least with developing countries. This is a lacuna in the Bill. That is why I have suggested the addition of the amendment. Amendment No. 19A is a technical consequential amendment arising from Amendment No. 14A. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I am afraid that I see some difficulty in how the ITC could in practice ensure that United Kingdom companies were able to invest elsewhere. If there were any regulatory barriers preventing United Kingdom companies from investing abroad it would be beyond the power of the ITC to remove them. We are precluded by our Treaty of Rome obligations from discriminating between United Kingdom companies and companies from elsewhere in the EC. Equally—this is important—United Kingdom companies should be allowed freedom to invest in Europe. We have indicated that we shall take up with the Commission any complaints United Kingdom companies might have about barriers to investing in Europe.

But moving beyond the European Community, the Bill precludes non-EC companies from controlling ITC licences with the exception of licences to provide non-domestic satellite services, licensable programme services and local delivery services. For those specific categories we consider that the interests of the viewer and the listener would best be served if the market were opened up to all potential investors. This should enable the industry to develop as far as possible without unnecessary restrictions on its sources of finance. I am sure that my noble friend realises what I am talking about. Without the investment interest of North America in the United Kingdom cable industry thus far, it would hardly have developed at all over the past couple of years.

We do not think it would be sensible to maintain the present restrictions on the control of the United Kingdom cable companies from outside the EC simply as a bargaining counter. The Government are as keen as my noble friend in seeing any regulatory constraints on investment abroad by United Kingdom companies removed, but we do not think that retaliatory action is the right way to achieve that objective. With that explanation I hope that my noble friend will understand the Government's position.

Lord Morris

I thank my noble friend for that explanation. There has been a misunderstanding as to the purport of the amendment. He suggested that the amendment attempted to ensure that persons providing services in the United Kingdom could compete effectively in the provision of such services outside the United Kingdom. The amendment seeks to "enable" them, which is a slight but important difference. I am concerned about the somewhat tacit role placed on the ITC with regard to the export of British broadcasting. No duty or function is mentioned in regard to this matter as there is with regard to telecommunications services in the 1984 Act. That is why I moved the amendment. I shall consider carefully what my noble friend so kindly said in his reaction to the amendment and think on it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord. Winstanley moved Amendment No. 15: Page 2, line 26, after ("services") insert ("both in any region and nationally").

The noble Lord said: This amendment relates to regional matters in which I have a great interest and about which I spoke at Second Reading. It seeks to amend Clause 2(2) (b) which deals with the functions of the commission: as respects the licensing of television programme services in the manner in which they consider is best calculated to ensure the provision of such services which (taken as a whole) are of high quality and offer a wide range of programmes calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests".

Essentially, this part of the Bill relates to diversity of programmes. That is a very important matter indeed. The amendment seeks to ensure that Britain is not taken as a whole when diversity of services is sought and that a proper balance is achieved in each constituency—I put the word in inverted commas—for which the service is licensed. Thus Border Television would be expected to supply as diverse a range of quality programmes as Thames Television. As it reads at present, the Bill could be interpreted as allowing the ITC to judge diversity in terms of the television system in its national entirety.

I made a point on Second Reading and I shall make it again on this occasion. When we talk about regional television programmes, we should not merely be thinking in terms of parochial programmes such as regional news and other such matters; we should allow a region to undertake a variety of programmes which by their very nature, as they are made in one particular region, will be different from a similar variety of programmes undertaken elsewhere. Therefore, the diversity is of a different kind.

I think that this occasion may be appropriate to mention another minor apprehension which I have with regard to this amendment and many others. Clause 2 of the Bill says: It shall be the function of the Commission to regulate, in accordance with this Part, the provision of the following services".

However, when we discussed the first amendment, the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, said that we no longer had a regulatory body. He said that the commission was a licensing authority and not a regulatory body. We have just spent a great deal of time discussing advisory bodies. But who are such bodies to advise? Presumably they will advise the licensing authority, whereas before they advised the Independent Broadcasting Authority, which was a regulatory body and which exercised a continual scrutiny over the programmes. Therefore, it could say to the programme makers, "Look, you're not doing this", and so on. But, as the noble Earl told us earlier, all that the commission can now do is to insist that the companies comply with the terms of the licence. I hope that the noble Lord will be able to explain the position when he replies.

I believe that this amendment, which provides for the insertion of the words, both in any region and nationally", would ensure that, in deciding on the diversity of programmes, the commission would look at each region and expect it to provide a wide variety of programmes and not expect a wide variety of programmes to come from the independent network nationally. I beg to move.

9 p.m.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I, too, have an interest in regional television. I do not apologise for that fact. I understand well the thoughts behind the amendment which is intended to underpin the quality and diversity in regional as well as national services. That is an aim which the Government fully share. If the noble Lord will turn to Clause 16 of the Bill he will find that it includes specific safeguards for regional television. It provides that Channel 3 services must give a sufficient amount of time to a suitable range of regional programmes, including news programmes—Clause 16(2) (c). It also requires that a suitable proportion of the regional programmes should be made in the region concerned—Clause 16(2) (d). Further, applicants for Channel 3 licences are required to state what regional facilities they would use—Clause 15(3) (d).

Taken together, those provisions constitute a formidable set of safeguards for the regional tradition in British television. I should point out to the noble Lord that nothing like them has appeared in legislation before, and although similar conditions were contained in the IBA contract they were not set out in the statute.

The noble Lord questioned whether the ITC was a licensing or a regulatory body. He called my noble friend Lord Ferrers in aid in what he said. I should point out to him that it is in terms both a licensing and a regulatory body. It licenses services and then regulates those services by policing the conditions attached to the licence. Of course, there are penalties which it can enforce under Clause 36.

Lord Ardwick

I should like to add another Mancunian voice—although, perhaps, I should say an old Mancunian voice as we went to the same school—to that of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. I should point out that I am speaking mainly to Amendment No. 28. In this amendment we seek to ensure that regional television is the real thing: that is, a television service provided for a region; a television service provided from a region; and a television service with programmes good enough to be shown on the national network with other regional programmes of high quality and universal interest.

Having regional services is not the most economical or profitable way of providing the country with a television service. However, it is simply the best way. It can give the regional viewers the news and information services that they need. It can also stimulate an excellence in the arts and in feature production which would otherwise lack the stimulus which inspires a region as well as providing good television.

Of course, the television company must have its base in the region; it must have some of its staff living there; and it must have a first class studio and equipment in the area. A regional service cannot properly be given if all the weight of authority and effort is based in London. In such a situation, the region is merely regarded as a branch office. I am also reminded of T.S.Eliot's theory on culture, that the richness of our central metropolitan culture is greatly increased by the richness of our peripheral cultures.

Lord Winstanley

I endorse the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in every way. I agree with him as, I suspect, does the Minister. I am reassured by what the Minister said as regards the provisions contained in another clause of the Bill. I have read that section and it does, in many ways, give effect to the sort of anxieties which I expressed.

I was also interested in the Minister's precise definition of the functions of the commission which frankly seems to me to be somewhat different to that given to me earlier by his noble friend Lord Ferrers. However, I do not wish to cause any split or division between Members on the Benches opposite. I shall read both speeches with great care and compare them. It may be that at a later stage I shall have occasion to remind either Minister of what was said on a previous occasion. Having said that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

Lord Bonham-Carter moved Amendment No. 17: Page 2, line 28, leave out ("(taken as a whole)").

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 17 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 18. I hope that the Government will find it easy to accept this amendment. At first sight it looks a purely semantic affair, but it is rather more significant than that. It is concerned with the central aspect of the Bill, in which we are glad to say that the Government have moved significantly since the days of the White Paper. They now recognise that quality is important and cannot be left entirely to the market and to finance.

The amendment concerns quality. Clause 2(2) (b) as amended would read: It shall be the duty of the Commission … to discharge their functions under this Part as respects the licensing of television programme services in the manner which they consider is best calculated to ensure the provision of such services which (taken as a whole) are of high quality and offer a wide range of programmes calculated to appeal to a variety of tastes and interests taken as a whole".

This is significantly different in emphasis and meaning from the clause as it now stands. As I interpret the clause, the present wording would allow a company to put on a high quality programme or series late at night when few people were listening and to have much inferior programmes or series at peak times in order to attract large audiences.

I wish to make clear that when I talk about the quality of television I am not talking about the difference between up-market and down-market programmes. I am saying that all programmes put out should be of high quality. There could be high quality soap, high quality chat shows and high and low quality news. The amendment says that it is up to the ITC to ensure that, taken as a whole, what the programmes put out should be of high quality. I look forward to hearing what the Minister says. It seems to me that there should be no difficulty on his part in accepting the amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

Clause 2(2) (b) requires the commission to carry out its licensing function so as to ensure programme services which are of a high quality when taken as a whole, as the noble Lord said. The amendment would remove that important qualification. The general duty in respect of the range and quality of television programme services applies to services taken as a whole because it would not be reasonable, we believe, to expect all services to meet these criteria in their own right. We must be careful not to give the commission unrealistic objectives.

When there was only a handful of channels it was necessary and reasonable to place the regulators under a duty to ensure that they were all of a high standard. However, as the number of channels increases such a requirement would, we believe, no longer make sense. With more services available there is less need for a regulatory body to ensure that each and every one is of uniformly high quality. In the more sophisticated market that is now developing, poor quality channels will, we believe, be able to be allowed to go to the wall.

The Bill says that news must be shown at peak hours but that also means that the Bill leaves it to the licensees to decide these matters. It would not be practical for the ITC to control scheduling on many channels. I hope that the noble Lord realises that with the amount of work that will come in future years with television services we must be careful that we give the commission a job that it can do and not one that it attempts to do and then falls down on.

Baroness Birk

I support the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter. I put my name to the amendment. He explained it thoroughly and concisely. We wish the words "taken as a whole" to remain in the subsection. The disagreement seems to be over where the words should be.

It takes a few minutes of study to realise that to change the position of the phrase makes a great deal of difference. We are concerned that the words "taken as a whole" appear before the word "quality". What is likely to be the balance between high quality shows and other shows? How many cheap, imported and poorly made cartoons and soaps or badly made domestic quizzes will one South Bank Show cancel out? It is not a matter of costs or of television snobbery. A quiz show can be very well made but yet appeal to a mass audience. A soap does not lose its appeal because it is well acted, written and filmed.

We are talking about high quality. I do not agree with the Minister when he states that the amendment demands much more. I think that it states the same kind of thing but puts it in the right place. The current wording would allow a company to put on a high quality series late at night and have some kind of dross at peak times in order to attract a mass audience as cheaply as possible. The juxtaposition of the phrase "taken as a whole" prevents that situation.

The phrase should remain in the subsection because, although in principle everyone would seek diversity, taste and appeal, nevertheless, with the growth of multi-channel satellite stations, there will be exclusive services which extend the range of viewing opportunities; for example, sport or children's channels. The satellite company should be judged across the four or five channels that it is offering and each channel should not be expected to be internally diverse. That is the reverse of the argument stated by the Minister, because that situation is more flexible for the company. Therefore I support the amendments. They are minor amendments but they are very important in relation to the interpretation that is put on the phrase.

9.15 p.m.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

If the question is whether "taken as a whole" should remain where it is or whether it should be put at the end of the paragraph, I think that the Government have got it right. The provision of such services which taken as a whole". That point was made by my noble friend. If "taken as a whole" is put at the end, it is not the services which are taken as a whole but the taste and interest. They are different things. The phrase should remain where it is.

Baroness Birk

I think that there has been a misunderstanding. The noble Lord stated that he thought that it was proposed to move "taken as a whole" to the end of the sentence. However, it is not. Under the amendment the phrase should read: services which are of high quality and (taken as a whole)".

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The noble Baroness has corrected me. I agree that I put the phrase at the end, but my main point remains. "Taken as a whole" currently refers to the quality of the services. If it is moved from that position the meaning is not as clear. I think that the Government are right.

Baroness Birk

With respect, I think that the meaning is clearer. The noble Lord, Lord HarmarNicholls, is obviously intelligent and picks things up very quickly. With respect, this matter has confused him, so it must be in the wrong place.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

Are we not splitting hairs? First, we appoint a grandiose independent broadcasting commission, full of brains and experience—great big people to represent the nation—and then we treat them as though they were tiny tots. These are broadcasting instructions for tiny tots.

I should like to remind my noble friend Lady Birk that her partnership with the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, seems to have produced quite a crop of amendments. I should like to utter a plea. I appear to be the last on the agenda for tonight and I am bursting with anxiety and interest to know what the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, will say in regard to Amendment No. 21, which states: Page 3, line 21, at end insert (or (2) (aa) or (h)')". A most eloquent speech is bound to be made in support of Amendment No. 21 and I think that we should hurry on a bit to get to that point. I am sorry to be so serious about the matter but time is going on and we have a lot to do. Can we move on a bit instead of discussing whether "on the whole" means on the whole or not quite on the whole, or whatever we are being asked to decide? I am sorry to intervene and I beg your Lordships' pardon, but there you are. I cannot sit here and not say something.

Lord Bonham-Carter

Things have come to a pretty pass when the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, tells us to move on quickly. I would only say that I will move on as quickly as I can, but I think this amendment is more than semantics. It is very easy for the Minister to accept. We do not believe that any television company will always achieve high quality but we believe that they should always aim to do so.

The noble Lord, in answering my amendment, rather blew the Government's case, I think. He said, as I followed his argument, that a sophisticated market could put up with low quality and that it was quite acceptable. Is that really what he meant? Is it really the Government's policy that by regulation we should flood the market with low-quality programmes which our sophisticated public would find acceptable? If that is the case I find it very strange that the Government should have moved quite a long way from their original intention of letting all television be governed by purely market considerations.

The noble Lord went on to say that it was asking too much of the ITC that it should control scheduling. We are not asking it to control every item of scheduling: we are asking that it should lay down guidelines as to the nature of the scheduling the companies should follow. That is precisely what the Government are asking all these regulatory bodies, such as the notorious Broadcasting Standards Council, to do. Guidelines are not beyond the capacity of bodies set up by the present Government in the television world; so I hope we are not asking too much of the noble Lord in inviting him to think about this. When we come back at a later stage I hope he will give us a more positive response.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I agree with the noble Lord that this is not a question of semantics. It is an extremely important amendment. It is very important that whatever we decide in this particular clause should be made to work. However, I have to stick to my feeling, with which my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls agrees, that, taken as a whole, this is the correct place to describe the working of the ITC and how it should operate.

The noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said he thought that we were being obtuse in not accepting his position for those words. It is a fundamental point. The Bill will not say that all services here are to be of high quality. But there will be market pressures for high quality, just as the market encourages the production of high quality books, newspapers or whatever. We have to be careful that we do not give duties to the ITC which could be very difficult to carry through but which the noble Lord obviously believes could be carried through very easily. On this matter we differ. I shall look very carefully at what the noble Lord has said, but I cannot give any guarantee that the Government will reconsider the position of the phrase.

Lord Bonham-Carter

At the risk of annoying the noble Lord, Lord Houghton of Sowerby, may I say that I am grateful to the Minister for what he has said. I shall read his reply carefully. I am astonished that he apparently thinks the market produces high-quality newspapers. There is some evidence in some parts of the newspaper world that this is hardly the case. However, in view of what he has said, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 18, 19 and 19A not moved.]

Clause 2 agreed to.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs moved Amendment No. 20: After Clause 2, insert the following new clause:

("Broadcasting Training Fund

  1. .—(1) The Secretary of State shall determine amounts to be levied on qualifying programmes, to be paid to the Commission, appropriate for the purposes of this section.
  2. (2) Any amount received by the Commission under subsection (1) above shall be credited by them to a fund established by them under this section, to be known as the Broadcasting Training Fund.
  3. (3) The fund shall be under the management of a Committee appointed by the Commission for the purposes of this section and shall be applied by the Committee in the making of grants to finance the training of persons engaged in the preparation or making of television programmes and to connected purposes.
  4. (4) When making any grant out of the fund pursuant to subsection (3) the Committee may impose such conditions as they think fit.
  5. (5) The persons appointed to be members of the Committee shall be such as the Commission may determine, but the Commission shall, when making any such appointments ensure that a majority of the members are persons with a knowledge of training in broadcasting including representatives of the broadcasting unions.
  6. (6) The terms of the appointment of the members of the Committee shall be such as the Commission may determine; and in the case of any members of the Committee who are neither members nor employees of the Commission, the Commission may—
    1. (a) pay to them such remuneration and allowances, and
    2. (b) pay or make provision for paying to or in respect of them such sums by way of allowances, pensions or gratuities, as the Commission may determine.
  7. (7) Any expenses incurred by the Commission either under subsection (6) or for salaries of Commission employees whose services have been furnished to the Committee, shall be defrayed out of the fund.
  8. (8) As soon as possible after the end of each financial year, the Committee shall prepare a general report of their proceedings for that year and transmit it to the Commission.
  9. (9) In this section "Commission" means the Independent Television Commission and "qualifying programmes" means programmes of such description as the Secretary of State may by order specify for the purpose.").

The noble Baroness said: The purpose of the amendment is to establish a broadcasting training fund financed by a levy on the industry and managed by an industry-wide co-ordinating committee. There is little doubt that the industry may well face a serious and worsening skills shortage unless the supply and co-ordination of training is improved immediately. A report by the Institute of Manpower Studies which was published earlier this year found that the industry was not making adequate provision for quality training in the freelance and independent sector.

Traditionally, quality training has been provided in quantity by the broadcasters in areas of permanent employment. However, most freelancers now enter the industry directly as freelancers or have worked for independent companies. The demand for freelancers is expected to increase by as much as 30 per cent. by 1992 while the broadcasters are currently shedding a quarter of their staff. The growth in the freelance and independent sector, which already constitutes half of the industry, will further increase the demand for access to affordable, high quality training.

The Government have conceded in Clause 15(3) (c) that an obligation should be placed on applicants for Channel 3 and Channel 5 licences to indicate their, proposals for training or retraining persons employed or to be employed", by them. The Government have since gone further and tabled Amendment No. 112 requiring Channel 3 and Channel 5 licensees to make provision for the training and retraining of freelancers engaged in independent production.

The ITV companies then took a very important initiative and announced on 3rd July that they intend to use royalties from educational programmes to start a training fund for freelance workers. That may have been a result of the amendment tabled by the Government. In any event, it is a welcome move. Both that initiative and the Government's amendment are to be commended.

However, those proposals do not guarantee industry co-operation on funding and managing training; nor do they oblige independent companies themselves to pay to train their own in-house or freelance staff. There is little doubt that only an industry-wide training fund will achieve those key objectives.

The Government have so far rejected arguments in favour of placing a general training requirement on the independent production sector because that would make it directly accountable to the ITC. The new cable and satellite services need to operate under a light-touch regulatory system. However, not only is it unfair to the broadcasters to be expected to meet the training requirements of the whole industry but it is clear that they will no longer do so in the increasingly competitive environment of deregulation. I believe that the independent sector should not be allowed to escape its responsibility to train, particularly as it has benefited enormously from the statutory backing for the 25 per cent. independent production quota.

Most industry organisations representing the independent sector are in favour of some form of obligation to train being placed upon this fragmented sector; for example, the IPPA, the producers' association and Channel 4. The Welsh independent producers' association has gone even further and decided to levy 1 per cent. of its members' production budgets. Unfortunately, independents in the rest of the United Kingdom will not come up with a similar commitment voluntarily.

It is probable that without statutory backing for a levy system the independent sector will continue to draw from the existing pool of labour until it runs completely dry. The only practical mechanism for delivering funding for training for the freelance and independent sector is a central, cross-industry training fund financed by a levy on independent production budgets of broadcasters and independents alike. The fund would be held and collected by the ITC but it would be managed by the industry. The management committee should include representatives of all sectors and subsectors of the industry together with trade union representation.

I end by saying that I think that there can be no disagreement with the fact that as new technologies emerge there is an enormous necessity for our broadcasting industry to have a very highly trained workforce, both in order to maintain its high standards and also to face the competitive years ahead.

We believe that the amendment is the only way to ensure that situation. We very much hope that the amendment will find favour with the Minister. I beg to move.

9.30 p.m.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

This is obviously a very important amendment. We on this side want to see a satisfactory level of training within commercial television. But we believe that essentially this must be the responsibility of the programme-making companies, whether they be ITC licensees or independent producers. If they see a need to create an industry-wide training body, funded by a levy, there is nothing to prevent them setting one up. But we do not believe that either the Government or the ITC should impose such a structure.

I believe that the broadcasting training fund proposal is fraught with practical difficulties. The money would be compulsorily removed from companies, which would then be obliged to apply to get some of it back in the form of training grants. The system would be highly bureaucratic and a recipe for friction between the ITC and licensees and between the licensees themselves. It is not clear how funding would be managed or how independent producers would fit into the system, since the ITC would have no direct powers in relation to them, nor how duplication of effort with the BBC would be avoided.

I take up the points made by the noble Baroness and acknowledge that she welcomes the moves that the Government have made, particularly in relation to Clause 15(3) (c), which sets out that an applicant for a Channel 3 or Channel 5 licence must include in his application his proposals for training or retraining persons employed or to be employed by him. Also, the noble Baroness welcomed our Amendment No. 112, which has still to be debated and which requires the applicant also to supply his proposals for encouraging the training or retraining of persons employed or to be employed.

I should like to take the matter a little further than that. Clause 15(3) (b) requires an applicant to set out his proposals for providing a service which would comply with the programme requirements set out in Clause 16(2) or (3). It is intended that those promises should be incorporated as a licence condition. That is achieved in Clause 18(1). However, since that clause is to be deleted as part of the revision of the requirements associated with performance bonds, a separate clause is to be added after Clause 30—Amendment No. 177—which will effectively enable the ITC to write as licence conditions the programme promises made by the applicant, together with any undertakings that he gives in relation to training and use of regional facilities.

I hope that the noble Baroness will see that we are trying to get at the root of the problem of training by a different route to that which she took. I hope that she understands that we intend to try to achieve that end and will make use of the licence conditions to do so.

Lord Bonham-Carter

I am grateful for what the Minister said in relation to the changes that we are to see in the Bill. I want only to draw attention to the fact that the amendment that we introduced is a reflection of the generally unbelievably poor performance of this country in training and retraining. If one compares this country with our continental competitors, we come bottom of the league by a mile. I happen to serve with the noble Baroness, Lady David, on a committee which is examining training in the European context. The picture that we have seen is extremely depressing. This country faces a crisis in this matter, as I think the noble Baroness will agree.

I suspect that the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, and I should be perfectly ready to accept changes in the wording of our amendment. We want to ensure that it is not left solely to the BBC, as it has been in the past, to undertake training and that this obligation to train is spread throughout the industry. Unless industry in this country takes on this obligation generally we shall find ourselves in the future in an extremely weak competitive position in relation to our neighbours on the Continent and elsewhere.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

The record ought not to give the impression that we do not produce well trained and experienced technicians in this field. I accept my noble friend's point. As an interest, I am chairman of Radio Luxembourg (London) Ltd. I have been on the board for 28 years and have been chairman for the past eight or nine years. We take it as part of our duty to train people in techniques and general presentation. I know that disc jockeys and other such people are not top-of-the-pops in this Chamber, but some who have earned great renown and are international figures were willingly trained by Radio Luxembourg. That goes on every day.

I agree with my noble friend that if it had been possible to obtain help with funding the cost of the training that we have given as a matter of course we would have been after such funding like a shot. There would have been paperwork; we would have had to justify it. At the end of the day I doubt whether it would have produced any more trained personnel than we actually did because we are interested in maintaining quality.

I do not know the committee on which the noble Baroness and the noble Lord sat where they were so disillusioned with the contribution that our country was making. But that is certainly not my experience.

Baroness David

We sit on sub-committee C of the European Communities Committee which deals with social affairs and looks into vocational training. I am delighted that Radio Luxembourg does so well and has skilled technicians. I hope that when the report is published the noble Lord will read it very carefully, together with all the evidence. The evidence is certainly that we are very badly off for skilled people. The employers, government and indeed individuals need to contribute towards such training. There is no doubt that we are doing extremely badly as a nation. Every encouragement should be given for more training.

Baroness Seear

Just to confirm that aspect, I have in my handbag some figures recently quoted of the percentage of the industrial workforce which has had skilled vocational training. The figures are, for France, 80 per cent., for Italy, 79 per cent., for West Germany, 67 per cent., for Spain, 56 per cent. and for the UK 36 per cent. Need anything more be said?

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

I only make this point. The people we have trained would not appear in any statistics. The training was there. The noble Baroness quoted figures. I am saying that whether it is visible or invisible, the training goes on.

The noble Lord at the Dispatch Box knows of the vast amount of training in the newspaper industry, quite apart from formalised schemes conducted as a result of grants. The general contribution does not fit in with the rather dismal picture that the noble Baroness and the noble Lord have painted. That is the only reason that I intervened.

Lord Ardwick

There is excellent training in this country, but not enough of it.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

That is fair enough.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

I too was very happy that the Minister responded in the way he did. He showed his obvious concern about the issue. He also pointed out the various changes that the Government have made or are making to try to strengthen the training base. However, there can be no doubt, as the noble Lord, Lord Bonham-Carter, said, that everything that we can do to redress the lack of training in this country is to be welcomed.

The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, asked where we had become disillusioned. I watched television one evening and saw a programme about the Channel Tunnel. I should hate to think that the training of our broadcasting staff might fall to the level that this programme stated was the case with our industrial workforce. I agree that it is a rather different area. Nevertheless, we do not want the French to take over our broadcasting system, which is what I understood to be the case in respect of the Channel Tunnel.

During the 1970s good training schemes were introduced by Granada and Thames Television, but they have been discontinued. We are worried about the enormous increase in the number of freelance workers and the decrease in the number of permanent staff. The freelancers are now training themselves because there are insufficient training places. They must pay for their own training and undertake it during their working hours. That is of great concern.

Training goes hand in hand with equal opportunities. There is no doubt that women and ethnic minorities need training so that they can expect to be drawn into the industry and kept at a certain level. I am grateful to the Minister but I shall consider introducing another amendment relating to training. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 3 [Licences under Part I]:

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 21: Page 3, line 21, at end insert ("or (2) (aa) or (b)").

The noble Lord said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 34 to 38 and 240 to 244. They are not designed to achieve a moratorium on takeovers, about which the Government have a separate amendment that we shall debate on another occasion. Clauses 5(3) and 83(3) make provision for the ITC to revoke a licence after it has been granted. As they stand, these clauses could not be invoked if a relevant change occurred after the licence had been awarded but before it had been granted. These amendments provide the appropriate enabling power.

"Relevant change" is defined in the amendments as a change in the ownership or control of a prospective or existing licensee which would have led the regulatory body not to award a licence if the change had occurred before the licence was awarded. Where such revocation of a licence takes place, the subsequent award of the licence is operated as if the person who has had his licence revoked had not applied for it in the first place. In other words, the licence would pass to the runner-up in the original selection process provided that he was prepared to take the licence on. If he was not, it would be offered to the third placed applicant, and so on.

I feel sure that Members of the Committee will not want ITC or Radio Authority licensees to slip through the ownership net and will support the amendments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 22 to 24 not moved.]

Clause 3, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 4 [General licence conditions]:

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 25: Page 4, line 6, leave out ("during the period for which it is in force,") and insert ("at such times thereafter as may be determined by or under the licence,").

The noble Lord said: I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 26, 31 and 32 and 236 to 239. The first two amendments, which were suggested by the IBA, give the ITC more flexibility in charging licence fees. As the Bill is drafted, the ITC may charge a fee on the grant of the licence or during the period for which it is in force, or both. What it cannot do, however, is to charge a fee on a regular basis from the date on which the licence is granted. The amendments will provide that flexibility. This will be helpful to the ITC since there could be quite a long period—perhaps over a year—between the grant of a Channel 3 or Channel 5 licence and its coming into force.

Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 are purely drafting amendments. The four amendments to Clause 82 are Radio Authority equivalents. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendment No. 26: Page 4, line 8, leave out ("determined by or under the licence") and insert ("so determined").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Ardwick moved Amendment No. 27: Page 4. line 13, at end insert: ("( ) conditions enabling the Commission to supervise and enforce technical standards in connection with the provision of the licensed service;").

The noble Lord said: I intend to move this amendment formally. It gives the ITC a role in enforcing technical standards of television. I understand that the Minister said in Committee in another place that the Government intend to introduce that provision in due course. I hope that the course is run, the day is here and that the Minister is able to give me an assurance that the amendment is acceptable.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

I am unaware of that last statement. However, I shall try to explain the Government's view on this matter. The amendment would enable the ITC to impose licence conditions regulating technical standards for television programme services. There are strong commercial pressures for broadcasters to achieve high technical standards. Viewers in this country are used to a high picture quality. Any television service which cuts corners on technical standards would, therefore, risk losing viewers.

Nonetheless, we believe that it is sensible to give to the ITC power to impose conditions about picture quality, coverage and reliability on the licences for the main services—Channels 3, 4 and 5. Clause 61 provides for that. In addition, it places an analogous duty on the Welsh authority in relation to S4C. However, we do not believe that it is necessary to give the ITC similar powers in relation to all other television services. With the BBC and Channels 3, 4 and 5 acting as a benchmark, there will be strong commercial pressure on the other services to maintain technical standards. Picture quality of cable television is not directly regulated at present but, as the noble Lord may know, the picture quality can be very high.

I hope with that explanation and the fact that Clause 61 provides what the noble Lord seeks, he will ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Baroness Birk

Are the Government intending to bring in an amendment in a different clause? I do not believe that the position to which the Minister referred has yet brought forth any new amendment from the Government.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

As I understand it—and I shall need to look closely at this matter—the Government undertaking to which the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, referred related to Clause 61.

Lord Ardwick

I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

Lord Houghton of Sowerby moved Amendment No. 29: Page 4, line 15, at end insert: ("(e) conditions which require the licence-holder to comply with directions given by the Commission, and also with rules made by the Charity Commissioners, for the making of broadcast appeals for public support by money, goods or services for charitable objects.").

The noble Lord said: Having moaned about the time, I must be rather brief on this matter. However, it is important and not merely a verbal change. Successive Home Secretaries have received representations and views from me for a long time on this subject. For some period now there has been in existence an all-party group to advise the Home Secretary on the desirable changes in charity law.

Since the publication of the consultative document on the proposed changes in charity law, we have prepared notes on all matters, had them printed and, when the time comes—next year I hope—there will be a charity Bill which will be comprehensive. At that time, much of the work which we have done will bear fruit.

I would not have asked specially for legislation to deal with the matter in the meantime, but long ago I said that if the Broadcasting Bill did come along it would be a suitable time to raise the matter as well as dealing with it in charity law changes next year. What began as low expectations in television appeals for charitable purposes grew to mammoth proportions. There are now three television appeals for money from the public—the BBC "Children in Need", "Telethon" and "Comic Relief". Between them they raise around £50 million per year.

When the origins of the appeals were investigated, the administrative provisions, the accountability for the money and ensuring that everything was in order, one was initially given little assurance. It was very much an improvisation when the money began to roll in, and there was no suitable machinery for coping with it. I do not want to raise doubts regarding the way the appeals have been made or conducted; I merely say that they have not been business like and could not have satisfied the Comptroller and Auditor General. Self-regulation entered into the picture some time ago. The Charity Commissioners lent their assistance to the administrative side of the appeals to satisfy themselves that the public interest was fully safeguarded.

Two questions arise concerning the appeals. First, I do not know what authority a broadcasting corporation has for entering the field of large scale fund-raising for charity. Secondly, I do not believe that it was ever contemplated when television began that there would be a time during the year when broadcasting authorities would set aside a large slice of their normal programme time for money-raising efforts on the screen to secure large scale donations to charity. That is what now happens.

At the beginning of this year we were told that every fortnight there would be a trailer for "Telethon", the great day of collection being in the month of May. So it was. Emotional pictures were shown of hardship and deprivation; calls for assistance piled up. Then the great day came. And £24 million was raised. I need scarcely say that there was a lot of contrivance about the raising of so great a sum. All sorts of devices were adopted—quite honourable and worthy—in order to build the collection up to the climax which one saw. The question is: who receives the money? How is it distributed? How is it decided who receives what? Those are matters which must be looked at.

I do not complain that there are serious grounds for doubt, although there were at one time. We have taken evidence from all these people. The all-party group has gone into these matters very carefully and the people concerned have been very frank with us. I do not make any hostile comments about the appeals. I merely say that for their own good and for public satisfaction they should be brought within a certain framework of control.

Why control by the Independent Television Commission? It is because matters of policy are involved. When three television programmes raise £50 million and aim at raising another £50 million as time goes on they will be the largest charitable patrons in the land. They will be able to influence the Government's social policy. It depends what they select for their attention as to whether the statutory benefits are any longer needed or what may be needed to supplement them. We cannot know where we are going when three bodies can distribute nearly £100 million.

Another matter of policy is that the commission should be able to say to licence holders what it thinks about their efforts in this field, especially as their authority is so hazy. Who set them about it? Who put them in the position of being box-rattlers around the land for charitable purposes of their own choosing? They choose their own local trustees and appoint their own people and trust them to look after the business side of the matter. The commission should be able to exercise some influence over general policy.

Another item of general policy is that although these vast sums are being collected for charity they exclude animals. Why do they exclude animals? By what right do they decide that nothing shall go to animal charities? "Oh", they say, "they have plenty of money already". There you are, an ex-parte judgment by the people with the box in their hands, who say they will not give it to animals because they already have enough money. That is ridiculous. We must have policy, public considerations, social considerations and governmental attitudes all syphoned into the policy judgment of the ITC. That is why I say that in this regard the licence holders should comply with the directions given by the commission.

The Charity Commissioners come into the situation in regard to administration. We should have, especially under the new regime, Charity Commissioners with teeth, who can go into these appeals and decide what their requirements are, either in law or in oversight of administrative practices. That is where the Charity Commissioners must come in. Incidentally, we might have to bring in other public corporations sooner or later. I do not know what authority the Post Office had last year to invent a charity stamp and charge the public one penny more for it, hoping to raise £1 million. It raised only half of that amount and the Post Office has still to tell me where that money has gone. It is ridiculous for the Post Office to say that a decision to put one penny on Christmas postage stamps for charity purposes was made in the ordinary course of commercial policy. That is absolute rubbish. The Post Office set out to be a beneficial organisation. It wanted to gather public sympathy. It thought it would overcome the public objections to late deliveries. The Post Office took the attitude, "We are in the charity business. Look what good fellows we are!". They wanted us to forgive them for delivering the morning mail at 11 o'clock. They wanted us to believe that they were doing their best.

I hope that I will receive a sufficiently favourable answer to avoid keeping the Committee until midnight. The Government have had enough notice. The all-party committee came to the conclusion that self-regulation was all right for the time being, and self-regulation it is. Not until the ITC comes in will the oversight come into operation, and not until the charity law is altered will the other part come into operation. However, to anticipate the two is prudent in the circumstances. It is a big responsibility.

I will not entertain the Committee any longer with what goes on to raise £50 million for charity every time the television appeals are made. I can tell the Committee that it is a fascinating story. Why have all these people from the commercial sector in "Telethon" and "Comic Relief"? Does the Committee know that "Comic Relief" is a private company organised and run specifically to deliver money to charity? What about that? That is a new feature. When we tackled "Comic Relief" about some of the incidental effects of what it was doing, one of its representatives brashly said: "We have a good product and we are going to sell it".

That. is a very nice approach to charitable fund raising. It probably brings in the money. They know what to do. There are a few homeless people a hundred yards from my home. They were to be photographed and put on the screen. Someone is needed just to nudge an organisation now and again and say "You are a public corporation asking the public for money. You are getting millions of pounds and you are being trusted. You are held in high regard. Do not spoil it, but let us see what you are doing and how you are doing it in order to assure the public that everything is above board". In addition, account should be taken of what people think on the management side of the ITC and also on the government side of the role of public institutions that go into fund raising in a very big way.

10 p.m.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

The noble Lord, Lord Houghton, may not be aware that Clause 7(1) (b) already requires the ITC to draw up a code giving guidance on the rules to be observed when making appeals for donations in programmes. Perhaps I may read part of the clause to him: The Commission shall draw up, and from time to time review, a code giving guidance … (b) as to the rules to be observed with respect to the inclusion in such programmes of appeals for donations and … the Corn fission shall do all that they can to secure that the provisions of the code are observed in the provision of licensed services". Adherence to the code proposed in Clause 7 will certainly be required in the licence conditions. We would expect the ITC to take account of the Charity Commissioners rules in drawing up the code. With that explanation I hope that the noble Lord will understand that the ITC will take its responsibilities in this area. very seriously.

Lord Houghton of Sowerby

I shall let the matter rest there for the moment. We are getting on. What has been put on the record should be taken note of in the various quarters concerned. In the circumstances I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth moved Amendment No. 30: Page 4 line 15, at end insert: ("( )) In the case of a licence to provide a regional Channel 3 service, the Commission shall include such conditions as it considers necessary to secure that the service provided under the proposals submitted by the licence holder under section 15(3) (b), (c) and (d) conforms to the detail of those proposals.").

The noble Lord said: This is a simple and straightforward amendment though we regard it as a very important one. We are seeking to require the ITC to include programme promises in the licence conditions. The Bill contains extensive sanctions for the regulatory bodies against franchised bidders who fail to adhere to their licence conditions.

Therefore, it seems to us that it is vital that the programme promises made by the bidders for a licence at the application stage are written into the licence so that the licensees can be forced to adhere to them. From my own experience of the present. Broadcasting Act, if this kind of provision can be written into the new Act and made to stick, it will greatly assist the viewers and listeners in ensuring that those who acquire what we hope will be lucrative and profitable contracts will fulfil the programme promises that they make.

The noble Lord, Lord Willis, at an earlier stage in the debate this evening pointed out some of the historic occasions when those who have enjoyed commercial television contracts on the basis of differing promises have found them extremely difficult to fulfil. I myself have had some experience of that. As I said on an earlier occasion, I am a critic of this Bill. I feel that the power of the ITC will be considerably more effective than the power of the IBA has been in the past provided that the programme promises themselves are thoroughly spelt out and included in the licence conditions. I beg to move.

Lord Ardwick

I rise briefly to support the amendment. If one wants to make sure that a company keeps its promises, one has to put its promises into the licence conditions. The amendment makes it a duty of the ITC to do exactly that. The quality threshold has been strengthened in the Bill, yet in adverse circumstances—if one has been in Fleet Street trying to follow a noble path one knows how those circumstances can occur—the quality could slip. The strain on the promises a company made on some glad morning when it put in its application could be considerable in days when the revenue goes down, when competition for advertisements becomes desperate and a perverse public is not renewing its subscriptions. That is why it is essential for the ITC to have an effective monitoring system and sanctions that can be enforced. The ITC can insist on detailed applications and has the power to fine and revoke licences. That means that it must monitor. Monitoring should be explicit in the Bill.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

There is a good deal of merit in the amendment from the point of view of the people putting in their bids. If they knew that this was there and that it would be checked up on, they would be less likely to make flippant suggestions in order to look attractive at the time. I hope that some words can be introduced into the Bill at an early stage to issue that warning.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden

We certainly envisage that the ITC will operate the licence procedure in relation to Channel 3 as set out in this amendment. The applicant's programme proposals are the basis on which he is awarded the licence. They must be incorporated into the licence conditions. Indeed the only way the licensee will be under a contractual requirement to meet his programme promises will be if they form part of the licence conditions. For that reason we have put down a government amendment, Amendment No. 177, which relates to Channel 3 and to Channel 5 and which will fully achieve the purpose of this amendment. I hope that when noble Lords study what I have said they will understand the Government's position, which is entirely in line with their wishes.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

I am most indebted to the noble Lord for that response. I had not reached Amendment No. 177 on the Marshalled List. In the light of the Minister's assurance, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Lord Sanderson of Bowden moved Amendments Nos. 31 and 32: Page 4, line 32, leave out ("The") and insert ("A"). Page 4, line 34, leave out ("that tariff, and every revision of it,") and insert ("every such tariff").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 4, as amended, agreed to.

Viscount Ullswater

I beg to move that the House do now resume.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House resumed.