Parliamentary Debates (Broadcast Discussions)

Oral Answers to Questions — Post Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd November 1955.

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Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West 12:00 am, 2nd November 1955

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will withdraw his directive which provides that the British Broadcasting Corporation shall not, on any issue, arrange discussions or ex parte statements which are to be broadcast during a period of a fortnight before the issue is debated in either House; and whether he will withdraw a similar directive to the Independent Television Authority.

Dr. Hill:

I would refer the hon. Gentleman to the answer given on 25th October by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) and to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond).

Photo of Mr Donald Wade Mr Donald Wade , Huddersfield West

Does the Minister appreciate that this ban is not the outcome of any democratic decision by Parliament, and, in view of that fact, as well as of the fact that the attempt to enforce it has become somewhat of a farce, will the right hon. Gentleman withdraw the ban, at any rate until Members of this House have had an opportunity of expressing an opinion on it?

Dr. Hill:

While I am aware of the hon. Gentleman's views, I have nothing to add to the answers given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.

Photo of Mr Lawrence Orr Mr Lawrence Orr , South Down

Could my right hon. Friend explain how the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. are expected to know the business for next week when we ourselves in this House are not likely to know for another 40 minutes?

Dr. Hill:

No doubt my hon. and gallant Friend heard the replies of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister on that subject yesterday.

Photo of Mr Desmond Donnelly Mr Desmond Donnelly , Pembrokeshire

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the significant thing about this ban is that it is not just a self-denying ordinance of Members of Parliament, but affects all people regardless of whether or not they have anything to do with this House? Is the right hon. Gentleman now prepared to say whether this was the original intention?

Dr. Hill:

The 14-day rule in its present form continues an arrangement which has been working since 1948 in the respect in which the hon. Gentleman makes his point as in other respects.

Photo of Mr Geoffrey Hirst Mr Geoffrey Hirst , Shipley

Will my right hon. Friend at any rate convey to his right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that the House quite honestly is not satisfied with the statement which he made yesterday? The position has changed, it must be reviewed, and it is overdue for revision.

Dr. Hill:

I have no doubt that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister will note what my hon. Friend has said.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

asked the Postmaster-General (1) what alterations in instructions were given to the British Broadcasting Corporation in relation to the 14-day ban in order to enable the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden and others to broadcast about the Budget;

(2) if his attention has been drawn to the difference between the interpretations put upon his ban on political broadcasting by the British Broadcasting Corporation and Independent Television Authority; and what steps be proposes to take.

Photo of Mr Julian Snow Mr Julian Snow , Lichfield and Tamworth

asked the Postmaster-General what protests he has made to the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Authority regarding infringements of the 14-day rule in connection with televised broadcasts of 4-man panels which occurred between 28th and 30th October on the subject of the Budget, the general debate on which was not concluded until 31st October.

Dr. Hill:

As soon as the general debate on the Budget ended at about 4 p.m. on 28th October, it was in my view in order for the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. to broadcast discussions about it. Both organisations were aware of this, but the B.B.C. decided not to have the matter discussed. No new instructions have been issued to the Corporation since 27th July, when I issued the direction on the 14-day rule. In the B.B.C.'s view, and my own, this rule does not affect the usual Budget talk by the Chancellor and the reply by the Opposition, or any authorised series of party political broadcasts.

Photo of Mr Jo Grimond Mr Jo Grimond , Orkney and Shetland

Is the Postmaster-General aware that there was the most incredible muddle over this matter? Is he aware that neither authority knew what the position was, and that there was a censure debate—which the Chancellor surely should have noticed—on Monday? In my view, he has missed a most admirable opportunity of confining his right hon. Friend and his predecessor to the Tower of London.

Dr. Hill:

There has been no lack of clarity, except, perhaps, in the minds of some newspapers and some hon. Members. It was made perfectly plain to both the Corporation and the Authority, in response to their requests, that it was not regarded as a breach of the rule to have these Budget discussions over last weekend. I have no right or desire to instruct the Corporation to include this or that item in their programmes. I am reporting to the House what was the exact position in relation to the rule.

Photo of Mr Francis Bowles Mr Francis Bowles , Nuneaton

Under what authority does the Postmaster-General issue this rule?

Dr. Hill:

The 14-day rule, issued on 27th July last, was issued under Section 15 (4) of the Licence.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Thompson Mr Kenneth Thompson , Liverpool, Walton

Can my right hon. Friend say if it would now be in order for the B.B.C. to arrange a debate upon the clarity of its understanding of the 14-day rule?

Photo of Mr Samuel Silverman Mr Samuel Silverman , Nelson and Colne

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain what are the considerations which prevent the rule limiting discussion on the radio and television from applying also to the newspapers?

Dr. Hill:

The rule which is made under Section 15 (4) of the Licence relates to broadcasting, and to broadcasting only.