§ 7.8 p.m.
§ LORD ABERDARE rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will reconsider their decision to await the Council of Europe's Convention on "pirate" broadcasting and will take urgent action in conjunction with other interested nations to prevent this abuse of international agreements. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to ask the Question standing in my name. May I say straight away that I have a very considerable admiration for the skill and enterprise of those who have engaged 1364 themselves in pirate broadcasting. I think we all have a great admiration for pirates, and certainly in our younger years have thrilled to the tales of their adventures on the high seas. But in those stories the pirates were always eventually brought to justice, and I think we admired equally the exploits of the Royal Navy in bringing them to book. It is the lack of firmness and swift action by the Government in this particular case of "piracy" that has led me to ask my Question. Unless some urgent action is taken, it seems to me that this country may shortly be ringed by an armada of ships, pumping out a continuous programme of "pop" music from dawn to dusk, despite the interests and rights of many other people.
May I briefly describe the history of pirate broadcasting? It dates back to August, 1958, when the first "pirate" broadcasting station, Radio Merkur was set up on board the shin "Cheeta", lying between Denmark and Sweden and broadcasting in Danish. In the next year, 1959, the Administrative Radio Conference met in Geneva and passed a Resolution that
the establishment and use of broadcasting stations (sound broadcasting and television stations) on board ships, aircraft or any other floating or airborne objects outside international territories is prohibited";
and the Conference went on to pass a Resolution that:
Administrations ask their Governments to study possible means direct or indirect to prevent or suspend such operations and where appropriate take the necessary action.
§ In spite of this, in the next three years, 1960 to 1962, four more "pirate" stations appeared: Radio Veronica, broadcasting in Dutch; Cheeta II, broadcasting first in Swedish and later in Danish; Radio Nord, broadcasting in Swedish, and "Lucky Star", broadcasting in Danish. The Scandinavian countries were the first to take action on the recommendations of the Administrative Radio Conference, and in 1962 laws were passed in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland against pirate broadcasting. These laws made it illegal to operate a radio station on the high seas, or in the air space above the high seas, which caused or was liable to cause, interference with broadcast reception in the Scandinavian countries. Furthermore, it was made an offence to be an accomplice in such illegal broadcasting—and an 1365 accomplice was defined in considerable detail, with which I need not trouble your Lordships at the present moment. In November of the same year a similar law was passed in Belgium. These laws had a considerable effect. In fact, all the "pirate" radio stations that I have mentioned have now been closed down, with the one exception of "Cheeta" which now broadcasts in Swedish.
§ As your Lordships are aware, this year has seen the first two English "pirate" broadcasting stations—Radio Caroline, which started operations in March, and Radio Atlanta, which started in May. There are many compelling reasons against allowing these "pirate" broadcasting stations to continue their operations, and I should like to remind your Lordships of some of them. In the first place, they constitute a threat to efficient broadcasting. Frequencies on the air are allocated by international agreement. The Copenhagen Agreement of 1948 allocates frequencies on the medium and long wavelengths in the European broadcasting area; and the Stockholm Agreement of 1961 regulates the European allocation of V.H F. frequencies.
§ With no regard for these international agreements, Radio Caroline is broadcasting on 197.5 metres and Radio Atlanta on 200.7 metres, neither of them wavelengths allocated to this country. The frequency used by Radio Caroline is close to frequencies in use in Czechoslovakia and Belgium, and the Belgium authorities have already made their protest about interference. Radio Atlanta is using frequencies close to a group of French stations, and the French R.T.F. has already made representations to the B.B.C. about interference. Radio Atlanta also interferes with reception of the B.B.C. Home Service on 202 metres on the South-East Coast; and worse may well come as, for various reasons, this type of interference grows more serious in the autumn and winter. It is therefore essential, if we are to honour international agreements into which we have entered in good faith, that we should take urgent steps to close down these "pirate" radio stations.
§ Secondly, both Radio Caroline and Radio Atlanta broadcast continuous music, mainly on gramophone records, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in breach of the Copyright Act, 1956, which gives record 1366 manufacturers the right to control the broadcasting of their products. This control is exercised by them through Phonographic Performance, Limited, and Phonographic Performance, Limited, allocates what is called "needle time", which determines the number of records that can be played in any one week. At present, the B.B.C. is allocated 28 hours of needle time a week, spread over the three networks in the domestic sound broadcasting services.
§ As your Lordships are probably aware, the Government recently approved an extension of the B.B.C.'s hours, to enable them to broadcast more music programmes. The proposal was that the hours of the Third Network should be extended to allow time for more serious music, and that the Light Programme should be extended to run from 5.30 in the morning to 2 o'clock the following morning, with a greater output of light music. But the B.B.C. required more needle time if they were going to meet these proposals and, owing to the opposition of the Musicians' Union, this needle time has not been made available to them—it has not been granted by Phonographic Performance, Limited.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I hope my noble friend will forgive me for interrupting, but I am most interested in this subject. Does this allocation of record time for the B.B.C. include records made by themselves—that is to say, recorded performances?
§ LORD ABERDARE
No, it does not include the broadcasting of a recording of say, a dramatic performance, that performance being recorded by themselves. This refers to commercial records. So even though the B.B.C. want to extend their programmes of light music, they are unable to do so because they have so far been unable to obtain a greater allocation of needle time. The "pirate" radio stations are able to do so only because they are ignoring the provisions of the Copyright Act, 1956. Also, they ignore the rights of composers, publishers, authors, performers and others who may own copyrights in the records.
The B.B.C. have an agreement with the Performing Right Society who 1367 look after the interests of copyright owners. But this is not so in the case of the "pirate" radio stations. And the fact that they are outside the scope of the law means also that they are free to ignore any Act of Parliament, such as, for instance, the Representation of of the People Act, the Sale of Goods Act or the Merchandise Marks Act. They can ignore laws concerning obscenity, sedition and defamation, and they can break any agreement that may be made with regard to political broadcasting. I am not saying that any of these stations have so far breached any of these Acts; I am saying only that they are in fact free to do so as things stand at the present.
The operation of these "pirate" broadcasting stations has been seized upon by the advocates of commercial radio as an excuse to press their case. Although I personally am opposed to commercial radio, I do not think that the particular Question that I have put down should be extended to cover any arguments on that much wider matter of policy. I feel that this is a matter of policy which should be given much more thought and decided by Parliament as a whole. I would merely say that should it be agreed that commercial radio should be licensed in this country, it would, I am sure, be in such a form, as indeed is the case with commercial television, that commercial radio would have to meet all the provisions of the present legislation, the Copyright Act, 1956, and other relevant legislation, as well as pay proper copyright dues to the Performing Right Society; and, of course, any pirate broadcasting would still be immense and would still have to be dealt with. As I understand it, the Government agree that pirate broadcasting is wrong, but have decided to await the Council of Europe Convention which is not likely to be ratified till the end of the year and will then require further legislation in this country.
The purpose of my Question is to ask them to take more active steps to speed up this process. Rather than await these long-drawn-out negotiations, would it not be possible to call an immediate conference of all interested people and to agree to enact legislation on the lines 1368 of that which has already proved effective in Scandinavia? It is true, I know, that the difficulties which exist can be dealt with only by international action. But I hope that there can be some means of putting such action into effect more swiftly than is proposed through the Council of Europe. The Postmaster General in another place stated thatif there were any evidence that life at sea was being imperilled, the Government would not hesitate to review the position.I hope that they will review the position immediately, before there is any question of life at sea being imperilled, and take swift action.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the House is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for having raised this important matter to-day, although it is a pity that, owing to the arrangement of Government business, we should reach the matter at so late an hour; but that is the responsibility of the Government who may have had their own reasons for so doing. I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on bringing the facts he produced to the notice of the House and the ability with which he has presented them. He must have done a fair amount of research, and his speech has been an exceedingly valuable contribution to the matter which is now before the House.
He raised the important point that Sweden—and also, I gather, Belgium—have passed domestic legislation calculated to "clip the wings" of these gentry, even though they are functioning as he says. If that legislation is effective, that gives the lead to Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to do the same thing, because the longer this hanky-panky goes on the more difficult it is to deal with. I should have thought that a law could be passed prohibiting British citizens from doing things contrary to the public interest—things which, if they spread, might endanger ships at sea and aircraft. I think that aspect ought to be considered by the Government, though I still agree that the ultimate and best solution is an international convention and agreement whereby all the countries take steps to put a stop to it, which, presumably, 1369 will solve the problem of what happens on the high seas.
The noble Lord was eminently right when he drew attention to the fact that, by this means, the Copyright Act and the protective steps taken on behalf of composers by the Performing Right Society can be sidestepped, and these people can with impunity use recorded music without paying any fees under the Copyright Act or in accordance with the fairly well agreed regulations of the Performing Right Society. I think that is a bad thing.
This "pirate" business has received some support from people who are interested in the development of commerical radio—the same kind of vested interest and Parliamentary pressure lobby that acted in respect of commercial television. The noble Lord has mentioned the point about the possible consequences of commercial radio and the possible motives, and, inevitably, the debate must widen out beyond the strict limits of pirate broadcasting. Why are these people—the people who have set up some respectable sounding organisation in favour of the extension and development of broadcasting and meeting the people's wishes, and so on, with all this stuff—making sympathetic noises about the "pirates"? They want to hang on to the "pirates" in order to make a case for commercial radio. That was their motive, and I think I am right in saying, with regret, that some Conservative Members of Parliament supported them in this respect.
Unfortunately, we have a very weak Postmaster General. I would not say that all Ministers are weak, because it would not be true, but that one certainly is and he has little weight in the Cabinet when he goes there. Therefore, the Government ought to deal with this pirate broadcasting as soon as possible, and I should think they will get, I will not say universal, but overwhelming Parliamentary and public support for the limited amount of legislation which could be brought in on the Swedish and Belgian model. I hope that the Minister in his reply will be able to say that that will be done.
What is the motive of the pressure lobby on this commercial business in, at any rate in part, supporting the "pirate" 1370 radio on the high seas—one of the most anarchistic developments and experiments in our history? Their motive is this: if the "pirates" on the high seas are not interfered with, then they can make a case for commercial sound radio. Make no mistake, if we got commercial sound radio the commercial sound radio lobby would soon in their own interests put an end to the pirate broadcasting. Having got commercial sound radio, they will then want local commercial sound radio, and from that to another I.T.V. channel. Therefore, one cannot separate this pirate broadcasting from the other considerations which have interested this not very nice lobby which has occurred in connection with British politics. I do not like them, and I do not think they bring credit on our country and its Parliamentary institutions. So I feel that this discussion will have to be wide.
It is said—and I think it is a libel on the British people—that if the people want "pop" radio all the time, then let them have it. I am not one of those who say that "pop" music should not be played on television or sound radio; nor am I against these young chaps with long hair, who seem to cause the most exciting emotions among the girls—and I am not jealous, I am beyond the age of jealousy; it does not come into my age category. If people want "pop" radio, then let them have some of it. I do not particularly want it myself, although some of the music has its attractions. But why should we have "pop" radio pushed down our throats, or rather into our ears, during the whole 24 hours of the day, as if we want nothing else? There has even been criticism of the B.B.C. sound broadcasting on the ground that they do not put on "pop" music all day.
The Minister who is going to reply tried the other day to make me out as a miserable person; of course, he approaches the matter with a bias in favour of the commercial lobby; we all know that. The Minister says that I am miserable, that I am a killjoy, or words to that effect. My Lords, any noble Lord who knows me knows that I am not a killjoy. I enjoy life, I can laugh with anybody, even at the Government—which is not exclusive to me—and therefore that statement is not true. I like people to be happy, and I have spent a lot of my life in helping them to be happy. But anybody 1371 who says—and this is the implication—that the general run of the British people, particularly in East Anglia, has not got a soul above "pop" radio and "pop" music at any hour of the day or the night, is wickedly slandering the British people. They are not that sort of people. They like some of it, and some of them like more than others like; but it is an absolute slander on the British people to say that they want nothing but "pop" music. One of the greatest achievements of the British Broadcasting Corporation was in the war years—and they did a little immediately before—in putting on first-class concerts of music which enormously improved the British taste for good music over that period of time. Now people come along and say that the British want nothing but "pop". Anybody would think they were a "pop" electorate; that all they want is to listen to "pop" music, to sing it, to kick around with dancing and so on. That is not true, and it is unfair to them.
There is the argument for local radio, an argument in which the British Broadcasting Corporation itself is involved. I do not think it is necessary. I believe that local newspapers do the work with local news. I do not want them to be imperilled. But the big point that I am involved in at the end of the day, my Lords, is that the country, and particularly the Government, are in danger of going television and radio mad. As a matter of fact, we have all the television we need—and perhaps a bit more. Do your Lordships know that there must be a thousand new plays—perhaps more—required every year for television, and there are not a thousand good new plays a year to be found? I look at them to my sorrow, sometimes. I am one of those obstinate, "stick it at all costs" chaps who starts looking at a play and cannot leave it until it is finished. When it is finished I say to myself, "You idiot! Why did you want to stick that out? Why didn't you turn it off at the beginning?" But, of course, I did not know at the beginning what sort of play it was going to be.
The truth is that money is being squandered on producing third-class plays, fifth-class plays, which never ought to see the light of day, because 1372 the authorities, between them, have to find about a thousand plays a year. The other point is that all this sort of thing means the use of valuable material, material which the nation could use in better ways—through private enterprise, if you like, or otherwise: I am not arguing that point. But the material could be better used. It is using up a lot of specialist labour, including electronic labour, which is not exactly common, as my noble friend Lord Hobson knows; and that is wasteful. I beg of the Government to take a more rational view of how much television and how much radio we want.
So, my Lords, as I said at the beginning, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, on having asked the Question. In the form in which the [...]atter is raised we cannot have a Division. In any event, at this time of night I do not know that it would do anybody any good if we did have one. But I am glad that he has raised this matter, and I hope that, if there is not a reasonably satisfactory reply from the Government, there will be an opportunity of raising it at some future time in a more decisive and clear-cut form.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ LORD HOBSON
My Lords I want to say at the outset that I agree entirely with what my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth has said. He and I were very closely associated in another place when the Television Act was going through. We were, also, of course—and I think that this is not without its importance—deeply conscious of the fact that your Lordships' House, when the White Paper was first presented, did not accept commercial television, and it was only at a later stage, when the Bill came to this place, that there was a final agreement. There is power to stop this pirate broadcasting—of that there can be no doubt or equivocation whatever. There is absolutely no necessity at all to wait for the Council of Europe; and in the last analysis the Council of Europe itself has no power. The Council of Europe is only an instrument of intention and, when it has passed its resolution, it requires the approval of the Council of Ministers before any action can be taken. That should be perfectly understood.
1373 What I got up to ask is: Why has action not been taken under the Stockholm Convention? Action has been taken by some countries. It has been taken by Belgium; it has been taken by some of the Scandinavian countries. Surely, it is not too much to ask that the British Government should do likewise. Why are they acquiescing in this breaking of the law, as has been pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, not only with regard to commercial broadcasting but also with regard to copyright? It shows a great weakness. As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, it shows the far from tenuous association of the present Postmaster General with the commercial lobby. Therefore, action should be taken. As regards these ships with these "pirate" radio transmitters which are operating outside territorial limits, why is no action taken to "jam" their broadcasts? What is wrong in doing that? We were able to do it during the war. Certain British broadcasts are already "jammed" by other nations.
The next point I want to come to is the question of this tower for which the noble Lord searched, to quote the rather humorous description by the noble Lord, Lord Newton, when this matter was raised in Question in your Lordships' House. Why is action not taken? What I want to ask is: Is that tower within British territorial waters, or not? It is a long time since I went round that part of the Thames Estuary, but I am rather inclined to think that it is within British territorial waters. Here I speak subject to correction, and I may be wrong. But if it is within British territorial waters, why is action not taken immediately? What do we find? We find that this gentleman invades this anti-aircraft tower, which is disused but apparently in good condition. He takes all his gear down there, complete with his disc jockeys. He gets there, and no attempt whatsoever is made to clear him out. Why not?
What would have been the action if a lot of "Teddy boys" or "Mods" and "Rockers" had done likewise; or, shall we say, university students? Why was there this special consideration for this gentleman? One just cannot understand the reason for it. Further, he actually had the cheek, when he ran short of water, to ask for a helicopter to come over; and the R.A.F. said "Yes, we will do it, if you are in dire straits." The whole 1374 thing is becoming an utter absurdity, and action must be taken by the Government to put an end to it. People just do not want it.
Why is it allowed to go on? It is allowed to go on precisely for the reasons that have been very adequately described by my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth. It is part of the powerful commercial lobby which now wants commercial radio. That is the real reason why no action is taken. I cannot believe—and I speak from a pretty close association with the Post Office over a good few years—that their legal department could not find a way of stopping it. And, as I have said, action must be taken. What about the Government's responsibility to friendly Powers? What about Belgium? There is definite interference with the Belgian radio. Presumably there have been complaints, and yet we are still not prepared to take any action. As I say, the whole thing is becoming an absolute farce.
During the passing of the Television Act, of course, we had experience of the methods of operation of this commercial radio lobby. They were certainly contrary to accepted British Parliamentary standards. I do not want, at this late stage, to give quotations from the book which was written, but the only fair comparison is with the commercial lobbies which one associates with the House of Representatives and the Senate. It was American log-rolling of the worst type—let there be no doubt about that; and if any noble Lord cares to look up and read the speeches which were made in your Lordships' House during the passing of that Bill and during the discussion on the White Paper by the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, he will see precisely what I mean.
I say, in conclusion—there is no point in labouring this matter at this late hour—that I hope that the import of this Unstarred Question by the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, to whom we are very grateful for raising this matter, will receive the most serious consideration of Her Majesty's Government, and that we shall have this deliberate flouting of the law stopped. Before I sit down, may I say that I have an engagement, and that if I am not here when the noble Lord, Lord Newton, comes to reply he will understand that it is entirely due to the 1375 lateness of the hour and not to any discourtesy.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER OF STATE FOR EDUCATION AND SCIENCE (LORD NEWTON)
I am going to reply now, so I hope that may help the noble Lord, Lord Hobson. As your Lordships know, in recent weeks a great deal has been said and written about "pirate" broadcasting ships and the commercial purposes they serve, but the fundamental nature of the problem presented by them is their irresponsible use of radio frequencies. Your Lordships will appreciate what a shambles there would be if anybody and everybody who wished to operate a wireless transmitter did so and seized whatever frequency he thought best for his purpose. The results would be so chaotic that nobody would be sure of making effective use of any radio frequency at all, whether for broadcasting or other communication services, for navigation, or even for the control of space vehicles. To the extent that radio waves know no frontiers, this problem is an international one, and this was recognised early. For some decades now regulation of the use of the radio frequency spectrum has been co-ordinated internationally by the International Telecommunication Union.
Before replying specifically to the terms of my noble friend's Question, I should like, if the House will bear with me, briefly to review the activities of this international organisation over the last few years in the particular field with which your Lordships are concerned this evening. To begin with, as my noble friend said, in 1959 the I.T.U. convened one of its periodic major radio conferences. Nearly all the countries of the world are members of the Union, and about 800 delegates came together in Geneva to review and revise the Radio Regulations which are annexed to the International Telecommunication Convention. This was a very big undertaking, and it took them between four and five months. One of these regulations expressly prohibits the establishment and use of broadcasting stations on board ships outside national territories, because it is contrary to the orderly use of the radio frequency 1376 spectrum. But, realising that the operation of such stations takes place outside the jurisdiction of member countries, the Conference, in a recommendation which was associated with the Radio Regulations, urged telecommunication administrations to ask their Governments to study possible means, direct or indirect, of preventing or suspending such operations, and, where appropriate, of taking the necessary action. These revised Regulations came into force in May, 1961, and, since then, countries have been actively considering how best they could give effect to the recommendation I have mentioned.
Inside Europe it was felt that the most effective way of proceeding was to consider the problem on a regional basis. The Conference of European Postal and Telecommunications Administrations examined it and, although that body could not of itself find a solution, it felt that what was needed was concerted action to deal with "pirates". So in 1962, the Council of Europe took the matter on to its agenda in order to see whether a European Convention could be worked out. Such a Convention has been under consideration since then, and, as I told your Lordships on June 2, it is now in an advanced stage of preparation. My Lords, I hope that this brief recital of the background will suffice to convince your Lordships that the solution of this problem of "pirate" broadcasting ships is not simple. It has exercised the minds of many international experts for several years. I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, that it is quite clear that the International Telecommunication Convention gives of itself to its signatories no power to suppress or prevent piracy: it can act only through its own individual members.
The Wireless Telegraphy Act, 1949, enables the Postmaster General to regulate the use of radio within territorial limits and on British-registered ships elsewhere. It does not extend to foreign-registered or unregistered ships on the high seas, and it could not be amended so as to purport to extend to them without raising serious issues affecting the concept of freedom of the seas—and that is a concept which Her Majesty's Government are anxious to preserve. It would be possible for the Government—assuming the necessary Parliamentary time, of 1377 course—to legislate unilaterally, without waiting for the completion of the European Convention, but it would still remain possible for the "pirates" to operate off our shores by obtaining their supplies, and so on, from other countries.
Moreover, if British firms could not advertise through the stations, much of the "pirates'" present source of revenue would, of course, be cut off, but this would probably cause them to resort to advertising foreign-made goods for sale in Britain, thus putting British producers at a disadvantage. In other words, foreign "pirates", if I may so describe them, would not be caught by our legislative net it we legislated unilaterally. Therefore there is an obvious need for European countries to act together, and on a uniform basis. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, recognised that very clearly in a supplementary question which he put to me on June 2, and he recognised it again this evening in his speech.
The member countries of the International Telecommunication Union recognise that they must take further action, and, so far as "pirate" ships in European waters are concerned, our neighbours—that is to say, our European neighbours—feel that the most satisfactory way of proceeding is to have a Convention on the basis of which countries can bring in national legislation on more or less uniform lines. A representative of the International Telecommunication Union has been present at the discussions in Strasbourg, and in agreement with him the draft Convention as it at present stands would permit member countries of the International Telecommunication Union which are outside the Council of Europe to accede to it. The field of application of the provisions of the Convention would therefore be likely to be extended to cover other regions than Europe.
My noble friend has suggested that Her Majesty's Government should reconsider their decision to await the conclusion of this Convention and should take some other, perhaps speedier, action in conjunction with other interested nations. Well, with all respect to my noble friend, I cannot help but wonder exactly what more urgent concerted action should be taken. Collaboration with other interested nations has produced the current preparation of a Convention. If we and 1378 one or two neighbouring countries were to agree to take more forceful measures (which was another suggestion of his) we should find that we were abusing other international agreements relating to the law of the sea and running counter to the traditional British concept of the freedom of the seas. There are very great legal difficulties involved in an operation of this kind.
I do not wish to underrate the potential danger to which the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, and I both drew attention on June 2 when I repeated to your Lordships the Statement of my right honourable friend. On that occasion the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, referred to the fact that human life might be endangered by the operations of these pirates and I agree with him that a certain risk is involved. The Government also realise only too clearly that the "pirate" stations which are already in existence are causing interference to the reception of authorised broadcasting services in Belgium, France and Czechoslovakia. However, we feel that at present there is nothing to be gained—
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, can the noble Lord say that, when the B.B.C. or I.T.V. show a notice apologising for interference from, say, Continental sources, this probably means that pirate broadcasting is interfering with it?
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, I am sorry but I am afraid I have not the faintest idea. I just do not know.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, if I can find out I will do so and will let the noble Lord know.
What I was trying to say was that the Government feel that there is at present nothing to be gained by setting the Council of Europe Agreement on one side and suddenly attempting to interest our neighbours in the consideration of some new but unspecified course of action. We have been engaged in active study of this problem with our friends in the Council of Europe for more than two years, and if some quicker or more effective solution had been found to be 1379 jointly acceptable then I have little doubt that it would have been adopted already. I understand that our experts have played a prominent part in the shaping of the current Convention. I hope that noble Lords will consider this question objectively and will agree with me that it will not be right to turn away from this promising line of international co-operation just because suddenly, for the first time, we are ourselves being subjected to radio piracy.
My noble friend Lord Aberdare referred to the copyright issues, if I may so describe them, involved in this "piracy" question. Well, I understand that proceedings are being taken on behalf of the makers of the records in respect of these broadcasts, and I think therefore I should not say anything more about that aspect. Again, my noble friend Lord Aberdare just touched on the question of the future, if there is to be any, of commercial radio. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said a great deal about it and the noble Lord, Lord Hobson, said a little about it. I do not propose to add anything to what I said about this when I repeated my right honourable friend's Statement on June 2; and, if I did I think I should be out of order and I should not be adhering to the customs of your Lordships' House; and I think in my position I should not get out of order.
However, I should like to say that I took the strongest exception to the criticism of the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, of my right honourable friend the Postmaster-General. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, said that he was a weak Postmaster-General; and this I consider to be a personal criticism, a personal attack.
§ LORD NEWTON
Why did the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, make that attack on my right honourable friend? The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, made that attack because he is as prejudiced against commercial radio as—
§ LORD NEWTON
—as he is prejudiced against commercial television. It is not good enough, in my view, because he disagrees with the views of my right honourable friend, that he should therefore attack my right honourable friend's capacity as a Minister. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, also went out of his way, quite needlessly, to say that I approached this problem with a bias towards commercial radio. The noble Lord has not the faintest reason whatever to say that about me. I have never been concerned with any radio or television lobby and, if he wishes to know, I dislike all lobbies just as much as he does. I should like the noble Lord, if he criticises me in future, to make certain of the evidence on which he does it.
The noble Lord, Lord Hobson, asked why we did not jam these "pirates". Jamming would, no doubt, be effective in cutting off a large proportion of the "pirates' "audience; it would be costly and it would take some months to arrange; it would also probably cause the "pirates" to keep changing their frequencies in order to overcome the jamming; and it would also upset the control of the "pirates'" transmitters and so cause them to endanger the safety services and intervene even more seriously with authorised broadcast services abroad. It could be done, but it does seem to me that the advantages would outweigh the disadvantages. As I have said, the whole essence of this problem is the irresponsible use of broadcasting frequencies. Jamming stations would be really adding to that situation of unco-ordinated and unregulated use of frequencies.
My Lords, I would like to end by saying—I recognise and understand the interest which my noble friend and other noble Lords who have spoken have shown in this problem—though I do not think they have all shown interest necessarily for the same reason. But I must reiterate that Her Majesty's Government are still of the opinion that concerted action on the lines of the Council of Europe Convention is the best way of dealing with it. On the basis of present information we confidently hope that the Convention will be signed before the end 1381 of the year and the policy of the Government remains as outlined in the Statement which I made to your Lordships on June 2.
§ LORD WAKEFIELD OF KENDAL
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, could he tell us what is the legal position about the Fort used for this pirate broadcasting? Since it is constructed on the bed of the sea and above water, surely there must be some sovereignty over that Fort for some country. If that is the case, then that Fort would be within the territorial waters; and if that is the case then surely, without waiting for any Convention—while we fully appreciate all the points my noble friend has made—it should be possible for the Government to take immediate action to stop this nuisance, even if they cannot deal with the other stations on the High Seas. Surely, if this Fort is in territorial waters—it must be under the sovereignty either of this or of some other country—it would be possible quite quickly, as a matter of urgency, to shut down this pirate broadcasting station.
§ LORD NEWTON
My Lords, it is not quite so simple as that. I do not think that, as a layman, I would venture without notice to answer my noble friend's question about whether a "land" structure in the sea is automatically inside territorial waters, because it is standing on an erection that goes down to the bed of the sea and is not floating on top of the water. As regards the Sutch station, about which I think my noble friend is really concerned, I informed the House on June 2 that consideration is being given to prosecuting for broadcasting in territorial waters, but it is a fairly complicated legal question.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, surely the Government have considered whether this fort that has been mentioned by the noble Lord is or is not 1382 in territorial waters. Does that not seem an obvious thing to have done?
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the noble Lord did not want me to stand up and interrupt him, and I did not hear what he said. Perhaps he would be good enough to repeat it.