Lords Amendment: In page 12, line 19, leave out from beginning to "and" in line 26 and insert:
For the purposes of this Act and the principal Act—
§ The Assistant-Postmaster General (Mr. Ray Mawby)
I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.
Perhaps it would be convenient also to discuss the next two Amendments, in line 27, leave out "is not to" and insert "shall not" and in line 30, at end insert:and any reference in this Act or the principal Act to an advertising agency shall be construed accordingly.The purpose of the Amendments is to provide a more satisfactory definition of an advertising agent. We were not entirely satisfied with the definition in the Bill, but it was difficult to find a satisfactory definition which would not catch one type or another of quite legitimate activity. We think that the definition we now propose will be satisfactory in that it will give the I.T.A. an adequate statement of intention on which to base its decision whether or not the programme company is disqualified as a result of any indirect connection with advertising.
§ Mr. W. R. Williams
I think that we can say straight away, without wasting the time of the House, that we on this side approve the general terms of the Amendments. As the Assistant Postmaster-General has said, we have been concerned about finding what we would regard as a substantial definition to cover the points we had in mind and to ensure that the people whom we hoped would act in this capacity were of the right type and that we would be able to define that by statute. Unfortunately, neither the Postmaster-General nor we were able to find a satisfactory definition.
I would say to my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Ladywood (Mr. V. Yates) that although I generally share his views about another place I think that since we injected a good number of Members with experience of this side of the Committee into the other place they have been working assiduously, particularly on this Bill, Everything they have done has improved what we had 352 done here. We are grateful to them. In the other place, with more leisure, they have been able to get down to definitions and they seem to have succeeded where we did not succeed earlier.
We are perfectly satisfied with paragraphs (a) and (b), but I have a sneaking doubt about paragraph (c). I do not know whether that doubt is shared by my right hon. and hon. Friends. It may be that I am prejudiced. Throughout the proceedings on the Bill I have been dead against newspapers having shareholdings in television. I have argued that it is not in the public interest that the two most important media of communication should be amalgamating in this form.
I am little worried about paragraph (c), which says thata person who is the proprietor of a newspaper shall not be regarded as carrying on business as an advertising agent by reason only that he makes arrangements on behalf of advertisers whereby advertisements appearing in the newspaper are also to appear in one or more other newspapers,It appears to me that in a degree we are treating newspapers rather exceptionally compared with the people with whom we are concerned in paragraphs (a) and (b). There is a lingering doubt in my mind whether this amalgamation should take place and whether if it does there should be any exceptional treatment for the Press. With these observations I think that I can say on behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends that on the whole we think that the new wording is an improved definition on the wording in the Bill as it left the House.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards (Caerphilly)
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams), but I am a little alarmed at the proposed paragraph (c). I should like a little more explanation. The paragraph says:a person who is the proprietor of a newspaper shall not be regarded as carrying on business as an advertising agent by reason only that he makes arrangements on behalf of advertisers whereby advertisements appearing in the newspaper are also to appear in one or more other newspapers,Does that refer to one or other news papers owned by himself in the same group, or to any newspapers owned by any group? Does it mean that if the 353 newspaper proprietor advertises on his own public hoardings—which are unconnected with the newspaper concerned—he is thereby an advertising agent and is, therefore, excluded from becoming a contractor? In short, I want to know whether the newspaper proprietor who engages in advertising outside of his newspaper activities is debarred from becoming a programme contractor.
It seems to me that the formulation is not clear, and I should like some explanation, because, like my hon. Friend, I believe that the more we can keep newspaper proprietors out of this field the greater the variety of opinion that will be available and the less control there will be over the creation of opinion.
§ Mr. Mawby
By the leave of the House, we readily admit that this is and has been a problem to find a suitable form of words. It is important that we should have a form of words which does not automatically exclude a man whom we would not want disqualified.
With regard to the newspaper company which might pass on advertisements, we are thinking in terms of the small local newspaper which passes on a number of items to other newspapers, such as births, marriages and deaths announcements. We believe that it would be wrong to put into the Bill a provision which would debar from becoming a programme contractor a man who was carrying on a purely legitimate business, purely because he owned a small local newspaper and had some arrangement with other newspapers which was completely unrelated to television. We would not want him automatically to become disfranchised from becoming a programme contractor if all the other necessary conditions were fulfilled. I hope the right hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Ness Edwards)will appreciate that we have tried to meet this problem, and that this is the type of person to whom we refer.
§ Mr. Ness Edwards
The hon. Gentleman has not dealt with the other arm of the argument. If that is permitted, does it mean that advertising in media other than newspapers debars him from becoming a programme contractor?
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Subsequent Lords Amendments agreed to.