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Mr. Renton : With respect to the hon. Gentleman, I have said that I will not give way again. I have quite a bit more to say and very little time in which to say it.

We started from the basic premise that the thesis of some Opposition Members as we have heard today--and certainly that of John Mortimer--that quality can be sustained only through a restriction in choice is essentially wrong-- [Interruption.] I remember what the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook said when the White Paper was announced.

My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary has already gone through the many detailed quality hurdles in the White Paper. It was said earlier that thresholds had already turned into hurdles and that soon it would be fences. There is no harm in that. In the White Paper we see a reinforcement of quality in carefully chosen areas, not a running away from it.

We could add almost indefinitely to the requirements of the White Paper-- specific broadcasting for charities and social action, children's programmes, religious programmes and so on. Let me say to the right hon. Members for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris) and for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley), and to the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing), that that does not mean that we do not recognise the needs of particular groups in society and share the concerns expressed by them about provision for those with disabilities such as impairment of hearing. We shall consider carefully the comments of the Royal National Institute for the Blind and other societies representing such groups. We recognise, for example, the importance of teletext to those with hearing impairments, and we shall take full account of it as we work up paragraph 6.45 of the White Paper, which says :

"It will provide a regulatory structure designed to facilitate the development of new services."

Our proposals are essentially for an enabling framework that gives viewers and listeners a greater choice and a greater say, and gives broadcasters more freedom to respond to their wishes. New stations, be they radio or television, will add to listener choice. In community radio or local television they will be a dynamic and beneficial force, strengthening community ties and community values. Jeremiahs such as the hon. Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) and for Birmingham, Erdington (Mr. Corbett) say that more must mean worse. My answer is that television will continue to change, be it towards high definition television on wide screens in the home or towards local microwave television. We cannot predict the ways in which it will change, but the public will certainly continue to demand a wide range of programmes--varied, different and good. If a channel does not produce such programmes, it will lose its audience, go out of business and somebody else will come along to fill the gap.

The gloomy messages that we have heard today were heard in 1953 and 1954 during the debate on the Bill that introduced commercial television for the first time, but the last 35 years have shown the gloomy prophecies of 1953 to be wrong. I suspect that the coming years will show that the prophecies of the Jeremiahs of today are wrong, too. The British public have shown an increasing appetite to enlarge their sphere of interest by watching wildlife, travel and American football in addition to "EastEnders", "Bread" and "Neighbours". That may be because they switched on the set to watch one programme and stayed to

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watch another. The halo of a very popular programme benefits succeeding offerings, but it is worth remembering the words of the Peacock committee :

"Do not think of consumers as having only known and static wants. The competitive market is a discovery mechanism for finding out what the consumer might be enticed to accept and for trying out new and challenging ideas."

That is surely the right approach to the birth of the new channels and of the new opportunities in broadcasting that lie ahead of us. We shall listen very carefully to the observations that are made to us during the consultation period. We believe that we have got the mix about right in our White Paper. I remind the House of the words at a conference at London Weekend Television on 18 January of John Ranelagh, a member of the founding team that established Channel 4 and who worked with Channel 4 from 1981 to 1987. He said : "The quality programme makers of the United Kingdom inside and outside the institutions are better placed than anyone else to succeed. The only obstacles to the British broadcasting industry's success are the negative attitude and assumptions of too many of its senior people about the future. They undervalue the viewers they claim to serve, they undervalue themselves and they undervalue their companies."

The Government do not make that undervaluation. The Labour party apparently does.

I found that there were moments at the beginning of the speech of the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook when I was positively agreeing with him, but then it turned into the speech of what I can only call that most difficult of animals, an ambivalent dinosaur. He is unclear about whether more regulation is needed. In the early days he was all against change. There should be more soap, more quiz shows, more game shows. Now he is in a muddle. He does not want to have anything to do with the Broadcasting Standards Council, he does not want anyone to tell him what he is to see, yet he talked of the need for more regulation. He specifically called for high-cost, original drama. He is a dinosaur who has been fed on the briefs of the ITV companies and watered at their table. He harks back to the cosy monopoly of past entrenched interests when he, and not the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), was regularly interviewed. Those days are gone. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby has gone to Sky television. Doubtless he will be followed by many others who sit on the Opposition Front Bench.

Of course we shall listen carefully to what is said. More variety of channels means more variety of good programmes. Ownership should be spread over many companies and many people. At the heart of our philosophy is the clear message that people should be able to choose, for that is their right.

Question put, That the amendment be made :--

The House divided : Ayes 203, Noes 275.

Division No. 86] [10 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Allen (Paisley N)

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald

Archer, Rt Hon Peter

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashley, Rt Hon Jack

Ashton, Joe

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Margaret

Beggs, Roy

Beith, A. J.

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Bermingham, Gerald

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

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Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)

Buchan, Norman

Buckley, George J.

Caborn, Richard

Callaghan, Jim

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Canavan, Dennis

Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)

Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clay, Bob

Clelland, David

Clwyd, Mrs Ann

Cohen, Harry

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cousins, Jim

Cox, Tom

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Dalyell, Tam

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Doran, Frank

Douglas, Dick

Duffy, A. E. P.

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fatchett, Derek

Faulds, Andrew

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fisher, Mark

Flannery, Martin

Flynn, Paul

Foot, Rt Hon Michael

Forsythe, Clifford (Antrim S)

Foster, Derek

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galbraith, Sam

Galloway, George

Garrett, John (Norwich South)

George, Bruce

Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Golding, Mrs Llin

Gordon, Mildred

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Heffer, Eric S.

Henderson, Doug

Hinchliffe, David

Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)

Holland, Stuart

Home Robertson, John

Howells, Geraint

Hoyle, Doug

Hughes, John (Coventry NE)

Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)

Hughes, Roy (Newport E)

Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)

Hughes, Simon (Southwark)

Illsley, Eric

Janner, Greville

Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Mo n)

Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)

Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald

Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil

Lambie, David

Lamond, James

Leadbitter, Ted

Leighton, Ron

Lestor, Joan (Eccles)

Lewis, Terry

Litherland, Robert

Livingstone, Ken

Livsey, Richard

Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)

Lofthouse, Geoffrey

Loyden, Eddie

McAllion, John

McAvoy, Thomas

McCartney, Ian

Macdonald, Calum A.

McFall, John

McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)

McKelvey, William

McLeish, Henry

Maclennan, Robert

McNamara, Kevin

McTaggart, Bob

McWilliam, John

Madden, Max

Mahon, Mrs Alice

Marek, Dr John

Marshall, David (Shettleston)

Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)

Martlew, Eric

Maxton, John

Meacher, Michael

Meale, Alan

Michael, Alun

Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)

Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)

Mitchell, Austin (G't Grimsby)

Molyneaux, Rt Hon James

Moonie, Dr Lewis

Morgan, Rhodri

Morley, Elliott

Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)

Mullin, Chris

Murphy, Paul

Nellist, Dave

Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon

O'Brien, William

O'Neill, Martin

Orme, Rt Hon Stanley

Parry, Robert

Pendry, Tom

Pike, Peter L.

Powell, Ray (Ogmore)

Prescott, John

Quin, Ms Joyce

Radice, Giles

Randall, Stuart

Redmond, Martin

Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn

Reid, Dr John

Richardson, Jo

Roberts, Allan (Bootle)

Robinson, Geoffrey

Rooker, Jeff

Ross, William (Londonderry E)

Ruddock, Joan

Sedgemore, Brian

Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert

Shore, Rt Hon Peter

Short, Clare

Skinner, Dennis

Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)

Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)

Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)

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