At a meeting on 29 September the chairmen of the BBC and the IBA made it clear to my right hon. Friend that the broadcasting authorities share the public concern on this issue and are taking further action to tighten up the enforcement of programme standards. This includes, a more selective approach to material produced abroad and improved arrangements for checking and reviewing programmes.
Will my hon. Friend state from the Dispatch Box the absolutely unequivocal truth about the connection between what people see on television and how they behave, because that is now clearly established? Is my hon. Friend aware that many of the violent television programmes are of foreign, and in particular United States, origin? Will he bring that fact to the attention of the IBA and the BBC?
Personally, I have a good deal of sympathy with my hon. Friend's point. It was for that reason that my right hon. Friend recently announced the setting up of the Broadcasting Standards Council. It will not be a regulatory body, but it could conduct research into precisely that point — the connection between violence shown on the television screen and violence in the real world outside.
When my hon. Friend met the broadcasting authorities, was he able to suggest to them that if the proceedings of this House were to be televised, those who are charged with the duty of curbing violence on television would face an even more impossible task than that which they so manifestly fail to carry out already?
I admire my hon. Friend's ingenuity. He is an expert on broadcasting, and doubtless he will make that point in any future debate on televising the proceedings of the House.
I suspect that the House will want to take this matter more seriously than does the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale). Does the Minister agree that it would be quite proper to request the BBC to change its decision to start showing the three-part series "The Marksman", which was withdrawn immediately after the violence at Hungerford? The pain and distress that would be caused by that film, which I understand concerns a character who goes round blowing people apart in order to get what he considers to be vengeance, would hit immediately those families in Hungerford and elsewhere who have been involved in shooting incidents.
I understand very clearly what the hon. Gentleman is saying. He will appreciate that it is not the job of Ministers to second-guess the decisions of the broadcasting authorities with regard to the interpretation of their statutory obligations regarding programming, but I have no doubt that the broadcasting authorities will bear very carefully in mind the points that the hon. Gentleman has just made.