|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 33much better rebates than under the previous system. A total analysis of Merthyr shows a very good result. The total cost in Merthyr to a charge payer who does not receive any rebate at all will be £100 a year less than for people in England or Scotland.
Mr. Dafydd Wigley (Caernarfon) : The Secretary of State said that the total standard spending of £2.114 billion will be "well up" on the equivalent figure for this year. Can he tell us the percentage by which it will be up, and whether the amount was agreed with local authorities? Does he stick by the assurance which was widely broadcast in the Welsh press last month, that no one will face an increase greater than £25 a year?
Mr. Walker : On the hon. Gentleman's last point, I think that I will probably have to change the figure and say that nobody will pay more than £20. However, I cannot be certain about that. That will apply in all communities designated for the relief under the system that local authority associations in Wales agreed was the best system to apply. It will also apply to people who are not in such communities, but in all communities designated for the relief it is likely that people will finish up with a maximum increase of £20. I shall try to get the exact constituency figure. It is substantial.
Mr. Win Griffiths (Bridgend) : Does the Secretary of State agree that he seems to be brushing aside the assessment of every district council and county council in Wales of the amount that they really need? In my county of Mid Glamorgan the councils have worked out that their needs assessment is greater by about 3 per cent. than the amount to be provided by the Welsh Office. On that assessment alone, those councils will need £20 a head in poll tax more than the Welsh Office estimates. The council treasurer in the district of Ogwr, half of which I represent, has said that the figures so far provided do not take account of the fact that last year about £800,000 was taken from the reserves to maintain the services in the borough. The Welsh Office assumes that the borough can do that again this year, but it cannot.
The Welsh Office has not yet announced the new debt redemption rules, which will have an effect on the amount of poll tax that has to be levied. The Welsh Office seems to be assuming that everybody who registers for the poll tax will pay, but we know that in Scotland at least 10 per cent. did not. That has to be taken into account. Will the Secretary of State admit that, all in all, it is the Welsh Office that has got it wrong and not the local authorities in Wales?
Mr. Walker : Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will excuse me while I reply to the previous question asked by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley). The percentage increase is 9.4 per cent. Under the present arrangements, I do not think that there will be a substantial increase in the borough of the hon. Member for Bridgend (Mr. Griffiths). The hon. Gentleman claims that all local authorities suggest that their spending will be higher than the Government estimate. I have had the privilege of being a Member of the House for 30 years, under Governments of every complexion, and I have never known a rate support settlement under any Government being greeted by local authorities with the words, "The Government have given us exactly what we want and have agreed with our
Column 34estimates." But the worst period was under the last three years of the last Labour Government in which the hon. Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) was at the Welsh Office.
Mr. Alan W. Williams (Carmarthen) : Does the Minister realise that many poor people who do not qualify for rebates, although they work on low pay and live in poor quality housing, even with transitional relief will face increases of 25 or 30 per cent. in their bills? When that transitional relief goes in two years' time, hundreds of thousands of people in Wales will find their bills doubled. What does the Secretary of State have to say to those people?
Dr. Kim Howells (Pontypridd) : The Secretary of State is no doubt aware that the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs has identified a number of problems, endemic to the valley communities, that will require large expenditure. These include cleaning up the environment and identifying landfill sites full of methane. How will local authorities pay the huge amounts of money that will be needed to drain such sites without the kind of increases that have already been suggested?
Mr. Walker : On the general improvement in the environment in the valleys, the total expenditure going, for example, on derelict land clearance is on an all-time, historic scale and way above any level previously achieved, and it is a committed programme for the next three years.
Several Hon. Members rose --
Mr. Speaker : Order. I think that all the remaining hon. Members who wish to ask a question are Front-Bench spokesmen. I ask them to have consideration for the 40 hon. Members who wish to take part in the coming debate. I should appreciate it if they were brief.
Mr. Paul Flynn (Newport, West) : I thank the Secretary of State for Wales for the letter that he sent me today apologising for the wildly inaccurate and misleading figure that he gave me in an answer to an oral question that I asked a week ago today. Will he avoid further embarrassment for himself by revising the figure of the standard poll tax that he has given, with which every treasurer in Wales seems to disagree? Will he agree with these local authorities, which have a fine record of good value service, and say that the average ratepayer in Wales faces an increase of 20 per cent.? Or will he wait to send every poll tax payer in Wales a letter of apology because he has cruelly misled them today?
Mr. Walker : I sent the hon. Gentleman a letter that clearly stated the nature of the figures, and gave him two figures instead of the one that I had presented. I then sent a copy of that letter to the Library. To suggest, as the hon. Gentleman has done, that there was something terrible about that when the letter confirmed that the average wages in Wales and in his constituency in real terms were much higher than when the Government took over from the last Labour Government, is wrong.
I should hate the public to get a false impression from what the hon. Gentleman has said. The people of Newport will be paying less under the community charge then they were under the rating system, and I shall see that all the
Column 35electors of his constituency are circulated with these figures, so that they can compare them with those in the scare campaigns that the hon. Gentleman has conducted on the community charge.
Mr. Donald Anderson (Swansea, East) : The Secretary of State will know that teachers' pay is well over half the education budget, and that the Secretary of State for Education and Science has already announced that teachers' pay will be increased by 7.5 per cent. from 1 April next year. That figure is likely to be increased by the interim advisory committee. Therefore, how does the Secretary of State expect Welsh local authorities to manage with what is a GDP inflator of about 5 per cent. when this year, they have to make special provision for local management? How can they ensure that local management will get off on a good footing with this great burden?
Dr. John Marek (Wrexham) : In view of the Secretary of State's answer to the hon. Member for Clywd, North-West (Sir A. Meyer), and of the fact that he will inflict it on the people in Wales from next April, would he give the House two or three sentences of full, wholesome and unstinting praise of the poll tax?
Mr. Walker : Certainly. The people of Wales should be grateful for and pleased with any tax that produces the result that the people of Wales, on average, pay £100 per person less than the people of Scotland and England, and under which 85 per cent. of local government expenditure is met by the business community and Government.
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) : Will the Secretary of State tell the local authorities of Wales how they are supposed to make up next year for the shortfall announced over the weekend by the EC of £20 million a year, if not £25 million, in European regional development fund receipts over the next few years?
Column 36Will he explain why it is that the people of Wales are asked to choose between believing the right hon. Gentleman, who says that the 7 per cent. or 7.1 per cent. increase is okay, and non- political city treasurers like John Markham in Cardiff, who says that 11 per cent. is necessary and that the right hon. Gentleman's settlement is causing great anger in the city hall?
Mr. Walker : If there is one city in the United Kingdom that should be pleased about going over to the community charge, it is Cardiff, where it is likely to result in a 22 per cent. cut in domestic contribution. That is the largest reduction in Wales and no safety provison-- [Interruption.] I look forward to making sure that the people of Cardiff recognise how lucky they have been.
Mr. Alun Michael (Cardiff, South and Penarth) : Will not the Secretary of State accept that many of his figures are misleading? Will he not accept also that his statement makes nonsense of consultation, and that it has been condemned by hon. Members on both sides of the House? He has stuck precisely to both the total standard spending level and the aggregate external financing level with which he started the process. The right hon. Gentleman has not listened to councillors and treasurers throughout Wales, who have explained that this level of settlement is inadequate. Will he listen to the House and accept that a standstill in local authority spending will require a level of standard poll tax of more like £210 than his £173, and that only after belt tightening? The right hon. Gentleman is the person who is introducing poll tax in Wales, and the people of Wales know that he is the person who will be responsible for the heavy level of poll tax that will be contained in the demands that fall through their letter boxes.
Mr. Walker : The manner in which the Labour party is trying to urge local authorities in Wales to go in for extravagant expenditure-- [Interruption.] The Labour party says that an increase of 9.4 per cent. in total standard spending is inadequate and unreasonable and that much more should be given--that is from a party which cut rate support grant in real terms year after year when the Labour Government were in office--when the fact is that we have made a perfectly reasonable and sensible assessment. There is no reason why the community charge in Wales should not be the figure which I have given, of £173 on average.
Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It is widely expected that the ombudsman's report on the Barlow Clowes scandal will be available to hon. Members tomorrow. As you will know, the report is especially important to me as the first Member of this place to ask the ombudsman to undertake an investigation. In a letter that I have received from Sir Anthony Barrowclough, he tells me of his intention to
"arrange for all 650 Members to be notified, on the day the report issues, that a copy of the report will be available for him (or her) to collect from 3.30 pm that day (from the Vote Office)." The letter also states :
"I understand from the Department of Trade and Industry that the Government will be publishing its response to the report at the same time."
If the Secretary of State is to make a statement in response to the ombudsman's report simultaneously with its publication, will that not put hon. Members in difficulty? We shall presumably have to choose between obtaining the report from the Vote Office and listening to the Government's response in the Chamber. Nor will there be any opportunity even to try to influence the Government's response. Indeed, we shall not have seen the report, which has been known to Ministers for some weeks, before the Government give their response. Is there any help or guidance that you can give to the House on this important matter, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker : First, I am not aware officially that a statement is to be made tomorrow. I understand, however, the difficulty which has been mentioned. I have no doubt that the Leader of the House, who is on the Government Front Bench, will have taken note of what the right hon. Gentleman has said. There may be--
There may be other opportunities during the week--perhaps during the Consolidated Fund debate or during the Christmas Adjournment debates--to deal with this matter.
Mr. Michael : Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Having received a letter similar to that referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Morris), I wrote immediately to the ombudsman and asked for sufficient copies of his letter for all my constituents who have been worrying over many months in a similar way to the constituents of my right hon. Friend. I asked the ombudsman to ensure and guarantee straight away that there would be sufficient copies so that each of my constituents could have one.
All those who have contacted me over the weekend have stressed that they want to see exactly what the ombudsman has said. They want their own copies of the report. As it appears that we cannot question individual Ministers because of the independence of the ombudsman, is there some way in which you, Mr. Speaker, on our behalf, can draw to the attention of the ombudsman the importance of Members of Parliament, who seek to serve their constituents, being provided with sufficient copies to give to indivdual constituents?
Mr. Speaker : I understand that the report will be laid tomorrow, and it will then be available in the Vote Office. I am not certain that it is within my responsibilities to ensure that every constituent who has been affected should receive a copy, but no doubt sufficient copies will be available for hon. Members to pass on.
Mr. Tam Dalyell (Linlithgow) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a matter of which I have given you prior notice, through the Clerk Assistant, about the Property Services Agency and Crown Suppliers Bill. The matter is urgent because the Bill begins its Committee stage tomorrow, and I well understand that a motion needs to be moved if the Bill is to be committed to a Special Standing Committee, at which there can be hearings, before we begin our discussions in Standing Committee.
This matter involves £10,000 million for the PSA and £3,000 million for the Crown Suppliers. That amounts to billions of pounds, so the matter cannot be peripheral. It is highly desirable that the Government make arrangements, as they can do very easily, to withdraw the Bill from Standing Committee and instead have two or three hearings under the Special Standing Committee procedure. The new head of the PSA should be heard, and so should the trade unions--
Mr. Speaker : Order. We have a very busy day ahead and I think that I can deal with the hon. Gentleman's point. The relevant motion was not moved last week when it could have been moved. Any hon. Member could have moved the motion, but that did not happen. There is nothing that I can do about it now.
Mr. Dalyell : May I explain why it was not moved? At that time, it was not clear that the Government would not answer parliamentary questions. They said the trade union evidence was tendentious, but when asked what was tendentious about it, they replied in general, and would not be specific. There needs to be a proper inquiry of two or three sessions before we discuss the Bill in Standing Committee.
Mr. Speaker : The hon. Gentleman may well be right but, unhappily, the opportunity has been missed. Perhaps on future occasions what the hon. Gentleman has said about motions on the Order Paper relating to the Special Standing Committee procedure should be borne in mind. I understand that the hon. Gentleman is to serve on the Committee, so he can raise these matters when it meets.
Ms. Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I wish to raise a matter about which I have given you notice. It appears that today the Government have made a major and detailed statement on the future of the Export Credits Guarantee Department, via a written answer to a parliamentary question. They have done so despite the fact that the Select Committee on Trade and Industry asked the Minister to make a statement to the House, and despite the fact that the matter is of great interest to many hon. Members. The written answer appears to have been originally designed as an oral statement because it ends with the words, with which we are all familiar, "I commend them"--the changes--"to the House". The privatisation of a large part of the ECGD and the weakening of our export promotion drive when Britain has a projected £20 billion trade deficit is obviously a matter of great concern to hon. Members. I wish to protest most
Column 39strongly about the statement being made in the form of a written answer rather than as an oral statement that could be properly questioned and debated.
Mr. Speaker : The hon. Lady gave me notice of that matter. The terms of the written answer are not a matter for me. I do not know whether the final sentence that she mentioned should have been there. I fully understand the wish to the House to have numerous statements, but we have to consider the pressure on our time for debates. Today, no fewer than 40 right hon. and hon. Members seek to participate, and if we have numerous points of order, some will, I fear be disappointed.
Mr. Rhodri Morgan (Cardiff, West) rose--
Mr. Morgan : Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. The non- statement to the House involves 770 jobs in Cardiff. I seek your guidance, as a somewhat unusual device was used. At 12.15 pm today, an officer in the private office of the Secretary of State for the Department of Trade and Industry attempted to buy off the demand for a statement by asking hon. Members representing south Wales with an interest in the 770 jobs at the ECGD insurance services group in Cardiff to attend a meeting at his department at 4.30 this afternoon. That is a revolutionary way of conducting government, as I had always understood that this House was the Parliament of the British people.
Mr. Michael : The trouble is that it is disgraceful to have decisions thrown at us in this way. I do not like taking up the time of the House any more than my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. Morgan). If the Government were not trying to scrap jobs, ignore hon. Members on both sides of the House, ignore the firms which want the ECGD to continue in existence, and ignore the chamber of commerce and all the advice, we would not have to waste the House's time with points of order. I hope that the Government's attention can be drawn to that.
Order for Second Reading read.
Mr. Speaker : Before I call the Secretary of State, I repeat that there is great pressure to participate in the debate. I therefore propose to put a 10-minute limit on speeches between 6 and 8 o' clock. I hope that those hon. Members who are called before that, and certainly those afterwards, will bear the limit in mind as it will enable the Chair to call more of the hon. Members who wish to participate in this important debate.
Mr. Norman Buchan (Paisley, South) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As one who hopes to be called outside that period, may I ask whether it would not be better and fairer for all, since a large number of hon. Members wish to speak, if the limit on speeches was from 6 to 9 o'clock?
The Bill owes a great deal to the excellent report on the future of broadcasting that the Select Committee on Home Affairs published in June last year. The report recognised that British broadcasting has a rich tradition with great achievements to its credit, and so does the Bill.
One thing that the Bill does not do is mark the demise of public service broadcasting. The programming remits of BBC1, BBC2, Radios 1 to 4 and BBC local radio will not be touched in any way by the Bill. Channel 4 in addition to its public service obligations, will continue to be required, as now, to be innovative and distinctive, and to cater for tastes and interests not adequately met by Channel 3. Channel 4 will become responsible for the sale of its own advertising time, but financial underpinning will be there if necessary. The Welsh fourth channel will also continue with its successful programme remit. Three of the four terrestrial channels will thus have the same programming obligations as now. Channel 3, however, will also be expected to continue to produce good programmes, as will Channel 5. When our proposals are outlined, I do not believe for a moment that anyone will be able to argue, other than tongue in cheek, that we are creating a "philistines' charter" or "yob television".
The Bill provides a sensible regulatory framework for a new age in broadcasting in which technological change has brought vastly increased choice. It points no accusing finger at the conscientious way in which the Independent Broadcasting Authority and the Cable Authority have done their jobs under the Broadcasting Act 1981 and the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984, but those measures are simply out of date.
Since the publication of the White Paper, we have taken account of a wide range of views. On important issues--ranging from the quality tests and the licence allocation
Column 41procedure to the night hours and the ownership rules--we have made substantial changes, but the basic principles on which the Bill is constructed remain.
First, we want viewers and listeners to enjoy the increased choice that is now possible. Therefore the Bill authorises Channel 5, three new national radio services, local multi-channel franchises able to use microwave as well as, or instead of, cable, and many new local and community radio stations. We do not know precisely how fast broadcasting will expand, but expansion there will certainly be--and the legislation must cater for it.
The appetite for a much wider choice of local radio stations is clear. When the IBA recently offered a further 23 local radio contracts, the scheme attracted no fewer than 540 letters of intent, with little indication that all that the promoters wanted was pop and more pop. Under the future arrangements, new stations will cater for a wide range of tastes, from jazz to classical music. They will reflect the interests of neighbourhoods, of ethnic minority groups, and of other communities of interest--and there will be three new national independent radio channels.
Secondly, the Bill fully recognises that aspects such as programme quality and diversity, regional links, healthy and widespread ownership of broadcasting companies and proper geographical coverage cannot simply be left to take care of themselves. It therefore provides sharply focused statutory safeguards for all of them. It also incorporates a wider and more flexible set of enforcement sanctions, including financial penalties and performance bonds. Thirdly, the Bill acknowledges that television and radio are powerful media with potential--if abused--to offend, exploit and cause harm. It therefore contains safeguards for programme standards on taste, decency, accuracy and balance--and extends them to all United Kingdom based broadcasters. It removes the broadcasters' exemptions from the law of obscenity and incitement to racial hatred, and it establishes a key role for the Broadcasting Standards Council in overseeing standards of taste and decency. It also implements the Council of Europe convention and the EC directive. Those instruments contain enforcement mechanisms that the United Kingdom can activate against broadcasts originating in other European countries where programmes are pornographic or glamorise violence. The Bill also provides draconian sanctions against those who support unacceptable foreign satellite services receivable here.
Many points will arise in the debate, but there are three key matters with which I ought to deal now. They are competitive tender, ownership and quality.
Our proposal that Channel 3, Channel 5 and certain other licences should be allocated by competitive tender has two main objectives. First, we want to establish a fairer and more objective system for awarding franchises than the present one, which has few defenders, but at the same time to ensure high standards and diversity. Secondly, we have a clear duty, which some campaigners gloss over far too quickly, to ensure that the taxpayer gets a proper return for the use of the valuable and scarce national resources constitued by broadcasting rights and, in particular, the use of the frequency spectrum.
Mr. Waddington : I mean that if the state is to allot to certain persons a valuable legal right, the state is entitled to claim in exchange a return for the taxpayer. One is not talking about the right of individuals but about claiming for the taxpayer a return on the valuable rights allotted by Government.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : Would not the taxpayer derive more benefit from the auctioning off of those national resources if the money raised were invested in programme production and training? That would represent better value for the taxpayer than the Treasury amassing more and more money that it cannot spend for fear of inflation.
Mr. Waddington : I do not accept that argument for one moment. A person entering into the bidding process will have very much in mind what he can afford to pay. He will therefore pay the proper price for the valuable right that he is given. That will be fair both to him and to the taxpayer.
If we are to enjoy high standards and diversity, there must be ownership rules. The Bill includes in schedule 2 much clearer and more extensive ownership rules than anything that we have now. There is no chance whatsoever of British broadcasting falling into the hands of a bunch of tycoons or a cluster of conglomerates. To prevent that, the Bill provides the means for implementing the limits on ownership which were clearly set out by my right hon. Friend, now the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in his announcement of 19 May.
Non-EC ownership will largely be prohibited. National newspapers will not be permitted to hold more than a 20 per cent. stake in a direct broadcasting satellite channel, Channel 3, Channel 5 or national radio licensee. Satellite channels targeted at the United Kingdom, whether based here or abroad, will be subject to a similar 20 per cent. restriction on interests in those other licensees.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : Is the Home Secretary aware that a newspaper proprietor, for example, who already owns three or four newspapers but only one football club--that is the kind of society in which we live, where the Government are more concerned about football clubs than about the media--will be able to exercise formidable power and control with 20 per cent. share ownership? That is particularly true when one considers that the Prime Minister has only a 5 per cent. interest in the Cabinet, as one of 20 members, but she still runs it.
Mr. Waddington : I assure the hon. Gentleman that in deciding on those restrictions the Government addressed their mind carefully to the need to ensure that national newspapers would not be subject to the degree of influence and control that he fears.
Mr. Roy Hattersley (Birmingham, Sparkbrook) : The Home Secretary stated categorically that all satellite broadcasters, whether based in this country or abroad, would be subject to the 20 per cent. newspaper ownership rule, but he knows very well that no such provision appears in the Bill. The Minister of State, the hon. and learned Member for Putney (Mr. Mellor), stated at his press conference that Sky Television would not be subject to such a restriction because it had already invested so much money in the United Kingdom. The Minister of State appears to rule out Sky from that criterion, but may we be clear whether or not it is subject to the 20 per cent. national newspaper ownership rule?
Column 43Mr. Waddington : Satellite broadcasters other than direct broadcasting satellite channels will not be able to have an investment greater than 20 per cent. in other channels. I refer to satellite broadcasters other than DBS broadcasters. I thought that that was the matter of concern to the right hon. Gentleman. Non-DBS broadcasters will not be able to make an investment of more than 20 per cent. in another broadcasting channel.
Mr. Waddington : My understanding is-- [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley) asked for a reply. If he does not like the reply that he gets he can pursue the matter later. If he wants the matter amplified, my hon. and learned Friend the Minister of State will amplify it in his reply later today.
I have told the right hon. Gentleman what I understand to be the position-- that concentration of ownership will be kept in check, and that no one will be allowed to own even the proposed maximum of two regional Channel 3 lincences if both are large or if they are contiguous. That provision can be waived only when one or two contiguous franchises become clearly unviable, and only then when separate regional programming for each of the two areas will be maintained.
Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle) : At a recent meeting with local authorities and an all-party delegation from the Border Television area, the Home Secretary gave an assurance that they would not be allowed two franchises which are parallel and which have common boundaries. That assurance is not in the Bill. Will the Minister clarify that today?
Mr. Waddington : I can give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. I have made it absolutely plain that it will be possible to own two franchises, but not if they are both large, or if they are contiguous.
Mr. Buchan : The Minister has talked about ownership percentages. Did he notice that the Minister of State, in his statement, defended the Government's position on the rules on cross-media ownership, but said that it would not apply to Rupert Murdoch's Sky Television, because that venture was already running and had cost Mr. Murdoch "vast amounts of money"? If that is the case, how will the Government cope with over-monopolisation of the media?
Mr. Waddington : I am beginning to understand why the right hon. Gentleman for Sparkbrook is so upset. We are talking about two different things. It is perfectly correct that there is a limit of 20 per cent. on ownership in DBS and that there is no limit of 20 per cent. in non-DBS satellite channels. That is right, because DBS channels represent the allotment of valuable rights, given to the Government by international agreement. There is enormous potential for a large number of non-DBS satellite channels, but only five DBS channels have been allowed as a result of international agreement. I now understand what the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook was talking about. I was talking about something entirely different. I pointed out that satellite broadcasters other than DBS broadcasters cannot have more than the 20 per cent. investment in DBS or any other
Column 44broadcast channels. Now that we have that absolutely plain-- [Interruption.] It was the right hon. Gentlemanwho--
Mr. Hattersley : As I know that the Home Secretary likes to speak in plain language--there is none plainer--I will ask him the simplest question. Is he saying that Sky Television and Mr. Murdoch are alone in not having any reservations or limitations placed on what newspapers they own?
Mr. Waddington : That is absolutely untrue. The Bill will apply to all satellite broadcasters other than DBS. I have explained the present situation in words of one syllable. Even if the right hon. Gentleman cannot understand it, I am sure that everyone else can. The order-making power in schedule 2 will also be used to ensure that no one person is allowed to gain control of the six largest local radio stations. Even though there could be 200 to 300 independent stations by the end of the 1990s, control of the six largest would still give a person too much dominance--almost a network by the back door--so there will be supplementary limits.
Mr. Gerald Howarth (Cannock and Burntwood) : Given the moral decline in Britain, and the considerably greater church attendance in the United States, does my right hon. and learned Friend agree that there could be a case for allowing the Church to own channels so that religious broadcasting is not left entirely in the hands of a small clique?
Mr. Waddington : We have reached a sensible middle way, because Church organisations will be able to own radio channels. I doubt whether the majority of people wish us to go back on a system which has operated since the introduction of independent television and allow those organisations to own independent television channels.
Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw) : Will the Home Secretary confirm that in the past 12 or 13 years there has been an agreement that certain national events--the cup final, the Derby and Wimbledon--should not be exclusive to one channel and would be available for widespread broadcasting? Will he give an assurance that the Bill would not allow those national events, to be bought exclusively by, for instance, Sky Television, which could charge for them?