§ 4.14 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Edward Short)
I beg to move,That this House authorises an experiment in the public sound broadcasting of its proceedings, to be held in accordance with conditions approved by the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services).It will be convenient to discuss at the same time the motion relating to television broadcasting:That this House authorises an experiment in the public broadcasting of its proceedings by television, to be held in accordance with conditions approved by the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services).The two motions before the House fulfil an undertaking in the Gracious Speech of October last year to the effect that the Government would provide a further opportunity for the House to come to a decision on the broadcasting of our proceedings. There are two motions to be decided.
The first motion proposes an experiment in sound broadcasting of our proceedings and the second proposes an experiment in televising our proceedings. Both motions provide that the detailed arrangements for these experiments would be made by the Services Committee of the House in consultation with the broadcasting authorities. I emphasise that what is before the House today, therefore, is simply the question whether there should be experiments in television, sound or both.
If the House should decide in favour, there will be a subsequent opportunity, when the Services Committee has reported on the outcome of the experiment, for us to come to a view whether we are in favour of the permanent public broadcasting of our proceedings.
Perhaps I could indicate the kind of experiment which the broadcasting authorities have suggested in our discussions with them. We have made it clear that for the experimental period we shall look to the authorities to meet the cost both of making the record and of using it. They have agreed to do this for the limited period involved in the experiment. However, if the House were eventually to 49 decide in favour of some form of permanent broadcasting of our proceedings, clearly there would need to be further detailed discussions with the two authorities about how such permanent arrangements should be financed.
Perhaps I could explain the point of view of the broadcasting authorities about permanently financing the broadcasting of our proceedings. They take the view that the making of a visual equivalent of Hansard should in the long run be Parliament's affair. The cameras, videotape recorders and the staff required for a continuous record of our proceedings should, they say, be funded by Parliament and the use of this material, for a fee, and the editing and relaying of it in suitable programmes, should be for them.
I have assured the two authorities that their agreement to pay the cost of an experiment will not prejudice discussions on longer term arrangements. There are some minor costs, estimated at about £5,000, which will be met by the Department of the Environment.
I come next to the duration of a television experiment. The broadcasting authorities have in mind a period of about three weeks. For radio this period might be rather longer. They would be willing to consider varying the length of their experiments to fit in with the wishes of the House. They will, of course, listen to the debate today. But their agreement to finance the experiment has been on the basis of a three-week television experiment and a four-week radio experiment. I understand that any significantly longer period would place considerable pressures on staffing resources of the highly specialised standard required.
If the discussions between the broadcasting authorities and the Services Committee could be concluded quickly I understand that the experiments could take place before the Summer Recess this year. I recognise that this timing may not prove to be feasible, particularly for television. However, the broadcasting authorities would do their best to meet the wishes of the House in this matter.
As to coverage, I understand that the authorities have in mind broadly the same kind of coverage as that suggested when we last discussed the matter in 1972. For television this would mean that the BBC would put on nightly half-hour sum- 50 maries of the day's proceedings. In addition the BBC would use recorded extracts in news bulletins and perhaps cover one or two Questions Times and perhaps a major debate in the experimental period.
The IBA on the other hand proposes to show recorded visual extracts in its nightly national and regional news bulletins and perhaps also some live or recorded coverage of Question Time and particular debates. The television broadcasts by both authorities would be in colour.
For radio the arrangements can be much more flexible. I understand that the authorities have in mind mainly the use of recorded extracts in news bulletins and the "Today in Parliament" type of programme. The use of recorded extracts by local radio would be an important aspect.
One of the objectives of any experiment would be to try to gauge the extent of general public interest in such broadcasts and not merely that of more specialised audiences. I have accordingly asked the two authorities to bear in mind the need to have at least some of their coverage at main viewing times.
I turn briefly to the question of the physical arrangements for any experiment because I know this concerns a great many hon. Members.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
Before my right hon. Friend leaves the introductory part of his statement, may I ask him whether the two authorities have suggested that there might be someone who is a Member of the House, perhaps some representative of the Services Committee, who will be associated with the broadcasting and television authorities during the experimental period? Or do the authorities demand total and absolute editorial power and responsibility?
§ Mr. Short
Certainly the editing of the programmes is one of the most important aspects of the matter, and I shall say a word about that in a moment.
Sound broadcasting poses no major problem in the physical arrangements required, but television undoubtedly does. Hon. Members will have had opportunity to judge something of this matter for themselves from the demonstration in Committee Room No. 6—which, I may say, is continuing today until, I believe, eight o'clock this evening. They will 51 see there what the broadcasting authorities consider the necessary level of lighting and the quality of picture produced in our present standard of lighting in this Chamber.
But demonstrattions in a Committee room, however well arranged, cannot give an entirely accurate picture of what will happen in this Chamber. I understand that, although it may not be necessary to alter significantly the power of the lighting in the Chamber in order to ensure an adequate picture, it may be necessary in some places to alter its character. I am sure that the broadcasting authorities will do all they can to avoid any discomfort to hon. Members. I know that this is a factor which has deterred some Members in the past, including myself, from supporting an experiment, and it is clearly a matter which can be satisfactorily resolved only in the light of experience in an actual experiment. Nevertheless, I felt that a demonstration in a room upstairs would help hon. Members to assess this factor in making up their minds.
I have been assured by the broadcasting authorities on two counts: first, that if extra lighting is required it will come from outside the Chamber, from clerestory lights above us, so that there will he no heat problem; and second, that the levels of lighting required will not in any way he comparable with those used at the State opening of Parliament, which, I am sure, would be totally unacceptable to all hon. Members in every part of the House.
Finally, and perhaps most important of all, there is the extremely difficult question of editorial control. It is clearly essential that even in a short experiment the proceedings of the House should be seen in a fair and balanced way. Any summary of our proceedings poses considerable problems of fairness and editorial judgment. It would be only too easy to give a quite misleading picture of the activities of hon. Members in this place.
I think that it will be generally agreed that these problems of balanced reporting have on the whole been successfully overcome, in the context of reported speech, in the daily programme "Today in Parliament". Indeed, it is almost the only 52 BBC programme on current affairs which attracts little or no criticism. But television, of course, poses far more difficult problems of editorial balance.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
Will the right hon. Gentleman clarify one matter for me? If we vote for the motions, we are, I take it, saying that we shall allow edited broadcasts to go out. What about those of us who feel that there is a good case for certain highlights of Parliament's business to be televised in their entirety? Have we to vote against the motion tonight, or, if we vote in favour, will there still be opportunity for that to be considered?
§ Mr. Short
I have told the House of the sort of programmes which the broadcasting authorities are proposing to put out.
Television, as I say, poses much more difficult problems of editorial balance because the factors involved in producing a balanced visual report are far more complex and subjective. As the House knows, the broadcasting authorities are already under obligation to treat controversial political matters with proper balance, with accuracy and with impartiality. I have no doubt that they will do all in their power to fulfil their obligation, which, in the case of the IBA, is statutory and, in the case of the BBC, is agreed.
This also is one of the aspects of the television experiment which can be judged only by results. I am sure that the Services Committee will wish to be assured by the broadcasting authorities about the editing aspect of the experiment, and I imagine that the greater part of its discussions with the broadcasting authorities—apart from the question of physical arrangements in the House—will be concerned with the editorial side of it.
I do not wish to argue the issue for and against the broadcasting of our proceedings. The ground has been well covered in the past and will, no doubt, be covered again during the debate. I simply say that, in my view, we must weigh the undoubted interest in Parliament which the broadcasing of our proceedings would arouse and the effect that this would have on our democracy generally against the equally undoubted change in the character and atmosphere of the 53 House which would result. We must weigh one against the other.
As I see it, the issue is whether our democracy would be better served by our bringing the cameras and microphones into our Chamber or by keeping them out, and whether the public are adequately informed of our debates and Questions at present by the two broadcasting authorities and the Press. All will agree that the public have a right to be informed adequately, so the question is whether it is necessary to take this additional step to assure that right. That, I suggest, is the issue before us today.
I emphasise again that what we are discussing at this stage are proposals for an experiment.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
My right hon. Friend was kind enough to give Written Answers to some Questions from me, and I got the impression that he would give some of the details of finance in his speech to the House today. Could he give us the capital cost of installing the equipment here for televising our proceedings, and the annual recurring cost for sending the signal out? As I understand it—perhaps my right hon. Friend will confirm or deny these figures—the capital cost would be about £250,000, and there would be about £1 million annual recurring cost to get the signal out of this place for transmission.
§ Mr. Short
The capital cost of permanently televising our proceedings is a matter which the Services Committee must go into before it reports back to the House.
The decision today is not a Government matter. It is entirely a matter for the House, which the House will decide on a free vote. I hope that, with those few opening remarks, I have assisted right hon. and hon. Members by reminding them of some of the issues involved.
§ 4.27 p.m.
§ Mr Edward du Cann (Taunton)
As I have the good fortune to be called first after the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I wish to say at once that the whole House greatly appreciates the speech which he has just made. Whether one be for or against the motions, all of us recognise that his painstaking approach to this matter is very 54 much in the interests not only of individual Members and this House but of Parliament as a whole. We are, therefore, very grateful to him.
I think it right that there should be an experiment both on radio and on television. It should be understood clearly, however, that if we have these experiments they will certainly lead to continuing practice. Once we start the experiments, we shall have broadcasts on radio and television with us, and with us for ever. I happen to think that that is right and that it is inevitable.
It is an astonishment to me that we should have talked about this matter for as long, I believe, as 15 years since the late Aneurin Bevan first mentioned it in a speech. It is an astonishment to me that it is 10 years since the Select Committee reported in favour, and it is an astonishment to me that we should have needed to discuss the matter some seven times, I believe, in the past decade or so. In my view, this place is the weaker if it is not fully reported to our fellow citizens, and reported in ways which they can plainly see, understand and feel involved in.
Second, I wish to discuss a little how we should begin, and I shall take first a matter to which the right hon. Gentleman, somewhat to my surprise, did not refer, though I acknowledge that he made only a short speech. I have great pride in this place, as we all have. I believe in its capability and I believe in its competence, I believe that this Parliament of ours is still a model for all democracies in terms of manners and of performance. Yet like other hon. Members who love this place, I am one of its strong critics. I have to acknowledge, as I believe we all do, that the quality of our debates is lower than it might be, and there are occasions when even the great debates in this House seem utterly pointless. They are set pieces and are foregone conclusions. Even more exasperating to the back-bencher is, to put it no more rudely, the occasional indifference with which our original and brilliant ideas are treated by the Ministers who reply to the debates.
However, there are exceptions to that, as the Leader of the House indicated. One of the best debates I have listened to in my time here took place only three months ago on the Prevention of 55 Terrorism Bill, as it was. The more non-party debates we have the better.
Of all the remarks made to me by my constituents who come to the Public Gallery from time to time, the one I regret and resent the most is that nobody appears actually to be in the Chamber when debates are in progress. It is as though our constituents expect the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition to be locked in continual mortal combat. The reality is, as we explain to our constituents, that there are many other attractions in other parts of the building. There are meetings of the Parliamentary Labour Party which, as the world knows, produce the best knockabout show since Nervo and Knox. Not to be outdone, the Conservatives have the 1922 Committee. It is remarkable that in the Conservative Party at least there are no fewer than 27 party committees of various sorts rivalled only in number by all-party committees. Then there are the Select Committees and Standing Committees.
I suggest to the Services Committee that when it studies this matter it should bear in mind that it is not only in the Chamber that the most important work is done in Parliament. Even our Question Time is not the best way of Parliament controlling the executive. In these increasingly complex days, particularly on financial matters, that can be done only through Select Committees.
I hope that the Leader of the House and those responsible for deciding this matter will not ignore the possibility of televising some of the Select Committees from time to time. Consider putting Ministers in front of, let us say, subcommittees of the Expenditure Committee for two hours of continuous cross-examination, or putting the most senior of our distinguished civil servants before the Public Accounts Committee to be examined, for example, on the reports of that most distinguished servant of the house, the Comptroller and Auditor-General. Such broadcasting would be a far better way of showing Parliament truly and competently at work than could be demonstrated by much of the high jinks which goes on across the Floor of the House at Question time. This practice is followed in the United States, 56 and, while I do not wish us to ape or emulate everything that that legislature does, none the less it is a precedent which we would do well to bear in mind.
The sooner the Services Committee starts its work the better. Parliament needs broadcasting because democracy needs constant exposure. It is not enough for us to praise it and to speak our pride in it. It must be seen to work. The prestige of Parliament depends absolutely upon the confidence of the electorate. The electorate can have confidence only if it feels itself to be daily concerned with the work we are trying to do here.
There is the question of payment. I am a strong advocate of reductions in Government and local authority expenditure, never more needed than now. Nevertheless Parliament should pay, whatever the expense, for in the end we must realise, remember and preach that democracy is priceless.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
I agree with the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) that once we allow the broadcasting or televising of the proceedings of the House they will be here to stay. It will not be an experiment. Those who argue that we should go ahead on the basis of an experiment, see what happens and then stop it if we wish, are talking nonsense.
I disagree with the right hon. Gentleman when he said that the quality of the debates here is often so low. That is not a fair criticism. I have been a Member of the House longer than anyone else and I swear that steadily, year by year, the standard of the debates has risen. It is now much higher than it was 10 or 20 years ago. It has improved largely because hon. Members are drawn from a wider section of the community. Many more Members are drawn from the professional classes. To maintain that the standard of debate is low is a difficult case to advance in the context of this debate. If the standard is too low, why should we televise it? Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that by putting television cameras in the House we should raise the standard?
I was surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's proposal that we should also 57 televise the Committees. There would be confusion. Which Committees should be televised—all of the Committees all of the time? That is not a sensible suggestion. If I had the choice of televising some of the more important Committees or televising the Chamber I should prefer to televise the Committees, but I do not want either televised. In the United States some of the congressional committees are televised, but the Senate and the House of Representatives are not. The Americans were absolutely right to make that decision.
The decision of the House so far not to bring television into the Chamber is in the interests of our democracy. It is suggested that in former years there was far greater confidence in Parliament than exists today. One of the purposes of those who advocate televising our proceedings is to restore that confidence. In past years the standard of debate was much lower and it was subjected to constant criticism and attack by commentators, writers and newspapers. During the early part and middle of the century it was constantly said that the House of Commons was a farce. I remember as a youth—I was brought up in a political family—that it was common to talk about the House of Commons as a talking shop or a gasworks. It was ridiculed the whole time.
In spite of that healthy ridicule, the public had confidence in Parliament and in our parliamentary democracy. An enormous proportion of the electorate voted at the elections and if something went wrong while Parliament was in recess, there would be an immediate demand for the House to be recalled. There was strong confidence in Parliament in those days and it is as strong today as it ever was. The talk of a fall of confidence and lack of respect today is unfounded.
True, many important matters which affect the lives of theelectorate do not now come before Parliament. There are industrial disputes such as coal strikes and railway strikes, there is inflation, and other developments over which Parliament has no control. There may be a feeling that some important matters bypass Parliament. But if there is any lack of interest and confidence in Parliament, which I question, it is not because people are unaware of what is happening 58 here. There is no reason to believe that interest and confidence would be increased if we televised Parliament. Televising Parliament might well have the reverse effect.
Some people say, in favour of the argument for televising our proceedings, that we must move with the times. They say that if the character of our debates changed a bit, that might be a good thing. Some people believe that all change is desirable, but most of us do not. Change is not necessarily desirable. The case for it must be shown. We must be fully convinced that the televising of the House, with its strength and weaknesses, would increase confidence in our proceedings and not weaken it. I have heard no argument to convince me that it would.
§ Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that he is using precisely the arguments used for the exclusion of the Press in 1771?
§ Mr. Strauss
That is the most ridiculous of all arguments. No one questions for a moment that it is desirable in any democracy that there should be the maximum publicity. It is accepted that it should be possible for all constituents to find out and read what their elected Members of Parliament are saying, to have reports of our proceedings in Hansard and the Press. Nobody questions that. But what we are considering today is whether we want to add another form of publicity. Is it necessary or desirable? The principle of publicity is accepted.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)
Does not the right hon. Gentleman accept that in the Strangers' Gallery we have an expression of the principle that the public have a right to see and hear what goes on in this Chamber? Does he not agree that radio and television coverage is simply an extension of that principle, of that right to hear and see?
§ Mr. Strauss
I do not agree at all. People who are particularly interested in parliamentary affairs should have the right to come and see what is happening here. But whether it would be desirable to televise the proceedings of the House, and whether it would alter the character of parliamentary debate, which is the important issue, is an entirely different matter. 59 It cannot be said that the fact that people can come to the Strangers' Gallery makes a case for televising our proceedings, which would then be much altered, to the detriment of our democratic system.
I do not want to speak for longer than necessary, but I must mention another argument that is often used. It is said that there was opposition to televising party conferences, but that now that they have been televised nobody objects, and it is all right. Party conferences could not be more different from this deliberative assembly. They are public meetings where people go on to the platform to speak for five minutes. That is all that we are allowed at our party conference, unless we are sneaking officially from the platform. In five minutes speakers do not make a reasoned, argued case but probably make a dramatic, emotional appeal, a minute or two of which can easily be selected for television. It is good fun. It is significant that those parts of the speeches that are televised are always the most sensational, usually the peroration. People know that if they make such a speech it is likely to appear on television.
If we televise our proceedings, the cameras are bound to pick out, and the editors will select, those portions of the speeches which are dramatic, lively and sensational. Moreover, every hon. Member will know that he must make that sort of speech if it is to be televised and seen by his constituents. That is inevitable, and if it happens it will be damaging to Parliamentary debates.
Those who want the change seem to ignore the difference between a deliberative assembly, such as ours, and an arena for oratory, where people are trying to persuade an audience. Here if we are doing our job, we are not trying to persuade a large audience. We are trying to persuade each other in the intimacy of this Chamber, trying to persuade the Government to do something or other. It is an entirely different approach, and an entirely different type of speech is needed.
Our present type of approach and speech has made this Parliament distinctive and different from most Parliaments in other parts of the world. I believe that it is our 60 strength. If we change it to an arena for oratory and declamation, Parliament will lose gravely in its importance and esteem. It will certainly not gain.
I should like to read an extract from the leading article in today's issue of The Guardian. The article is much like the speech made by my old friend, Mr. Crossman, when he initiated a debate on this matter in the House some time ago. His speech was meant to be in favour of televising our proceedings, but he made such a well-balanced argument that many people thought that he was arguing the other way. He made such effective points against televising our proceedings that many hon. Members went into a different Lobby from that which he intended.
In many continental countries the proceedings are televised. The Guardian leader writer comments:There is, though, a difference. The House of Commons is more of a debating chamber than a declamatory one. Members are expected not so much to orate as to expound and to score points off each other—and, in an ideal non-party world, the side which had scored most points would win the division. Most other European Parliaments prefer oratory to debate, the resounding appeal to the quick answer, the set speech to question time. The Commons is mote akin to the Oxford Union than it is to the Roman Forum. A House like this is naturally more reluctant than other Parliaments to widen its audience boundlessly, even though in doing so it might both educate and entertain them.Notice the word "entertain".
I think that the leader writer's analysis is correct. If we do what he and other people want us to do, we are bound to move more towards a Parliament of declamation and oratory. The House will inevitably lose its present deliberative character. That would be regrettable.
Once we start on this, we cannot stop, It may well be popular in the sense that there will always be an audience which will want to listen or look at the television of the proceedings of this House. They may get good entertainment from it. Many hon. Members will support it, too. It will be a marvellous opportunity for them to get their speeches over to the country and to their constituencies. I can imagine the demand to speak and the disappointment when hon. Members are not called to speak on a matter affecting an industry in which 61 their constituents have a special interest, such as the coal industry if they represent a coal area. If they are not called, they may feel it is necessary to make some sort of demonstration to show their constituents that they are here and that they are busy, active and keen. One cannot blame them. That sort of thing is bound to happen if Parliament is televised, and it will be plainly damaging to Parliament.
It is no use saying that once we start the broadcasts we shall find out what public opinion says about them. Most people will be indifferent. Some will say "I enjoy them." Some Members may relish the opportunity of popularising themselves on the screen. But the decision whether such televising is good or bad for our democratic processes is not qualitative, quantitative or objective. We cannot quantify the effect and say that it will do more good than harm.
There may well be arguments about whether the lighting will be unpleasant, whether the cameras will get in the way, and all the rest of it, but those matters are unimportant compared with the basic problem we face. That will be whether the televising of proceedings in the Chamber will be good or bad for our democracy. Moreover, the effect will be a gradual one and may not be significant until a period of five years or so has elapsed. The effect on public esteem will be gradual, and it might then be too late to do anything about.
I suggest that, for all these reasons, it is dangerous to alter the character of this Chamber and of our debates in a system which has stood us well for many years. It is foolish to make such a fundamental change without any knowledge whether its results will be good or bad. If the results are bad, we shall not be able to alter them. I believe that the results will be bad.
I ask the House to hesitate and to say that the House of Commons, with all its inadequacies, is a fine instrument of our parliamentary democracy. It is esteemed and respected. We shall lose by making it into a place of entertainment where Members court instant popularity. That is not what Parliament is for, and I hope that the House will reject the proposal.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Mr. David Steel (Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles)
I do not mean it in any 62 perforative sense when I say that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) is one of the most traditionalist Members of the House. Some of the arguments which he adduced against televising the Chamber are arguments which are to be weighed in the balance, and in the case of television it is a balance of argument. But when the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the character of this House, he uses it in a rather exclusive sense. He has spoken of the character of this place within these four walls and he wants to retain its exclusive nature. The burden of the case on the other side is that we should use the most effective medium of communication that is available to the public today—namely, television. I shall vote for both motions on the Order Paper tabled by the right hon. Member the Leader of the House.
In the few moments at my disposal, I should like to direct my main argument to the motion on radio. It was interesting that the right hon. Member for Vauxhall did not refer at all to the radio experiment. I am sure he will concede that many of the objections which he sees in the televising of our proceedings do not apply to radio. Where they apply they apply to a much less degree, but in some respects they do not apply at all. There may be many hon. Members who will not be prepared to give their assent to television experiments but, nevertheless, may be prepared to give their assent to a radio experiment, and they will want to judge whether television should be allowed here.
My interest in radio stems from the fact that in 1968 I was Chairman of the Sub-Committee of the House of Commons Services Committee which conducted a closed circuit radio experiment. It was unfortunate that when we published our report and reported back to the main Select Committee, that Committee voted by a narrow majority against our report. The effect was that the report on broadcasting was never discussed at all in this House, Indeed, this is the first time since 1968 after that experiment was conducted that the House has had the opportunity to discuss the Committee's findings.
The radio experiment was useful. It lasted a month, the BBC had complete editorial control and produced internally 63 a series of programmes of the regional news bulletin kind, and coverage of Question Time and of a whole range of debates. They were made available to hon. Members to listen to in Committee rooms. However, the House never had a chance to pass judgment as to whether it thought that to be a good or bad experiment. The main House of Commons Services Committee at the time officially declared opposition to proceeding with sound broadcasting on financial grounds. However, the cost of sound broadcasting is minimal compared with the cost of television coverage.
It is fair to say that the then Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart), was a strong opponent of the broadcasting of proceedings. He saw the possibility of a sound radio experiment as the thin edge of the wedge for television. I believe the right hon. Member for Vauxhall concedes that it is possible for the House to proceed to sound broadcasting and to proceed no further. That is the one point at which one can stop. Therefore, I appeal to hon. Members who are hostile to the idea of television at least to give their assent to sound broadcasting.
In our report, which is still available in the Vote Office, we suggested that two Committee rooms should also be wired for sound. One was Grand Committee Room 14, since it was thought that the Scottish Grand Committee and the Welsh Grand Committee proceedings would be of interest to the broadcasting authorities in Scotland and Wales. We also suggested the wiring up of Committee Rooms 15 and 16 in which specialist or Select Committees sometimes sit, which might also be of interest for sound broadcasting.
The whole basis of the experiment was that a continuous tape was to be made which would be sent directly to Broadcasting House and that on major occasions the radio channel could take the proceedings live. Let us take the Budget as an example. We all know what happens at present. The Chancellor of the Exchequer makes his Budget Statement, which contains a number of proposals of wide interest. People tune 64 in to their radios and televisions and a series of commentators run about with pieces of paper and give second-hand accounts of what has been said in the House. At the same time gaggles of Members rush across Parliament Square to stand under umbrellas to give their comments to the television and broadcasting media outside the House. Would it not be far more satisfactory if the public could see and hear what was going on in the Chamber?
§ Mr. Peter Morrison (City of Chester)
Does the hon. Gentleman not agree that a good deal of the Budget Statement would not be fully understood without the services of commentators explaining exactly what the Chancellor meant in a given sentence?
§ Mr. Steel
I accept that comment but the news can be interpreted and related to the public in different ways. Radio 3 might be the appropriate medium for those who are interested in the details of finance and could listen direct to the Chancellor's words. On the other hand, Radio 4 could be used merely for substantial extracts and also for interpretation. We must allow the maximum flexibility.
This brings me to editorial control. I dissent from the amendment on the Order Paper tabled by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead). I do not believe that this House should set up a Committee to try to control how broadcasting is to be edited. This House should steer clear of things which it is not competent to do. Look at our catering—another area, where it is far better to leave things to the professionals! We have the ultimate sanction of withdrawing the right to receive broadcasts if it is thought fit. I believe that the proposal tabled by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House that the Services Committee should lay down the broad outlines under which the experiment is conducted is the right one.
I conclude by reminding the House that in 1641 we passed a resolution making it a breach of privilege to report our proceedings. In 1771 we were still sending printers and publishers of our proceedings to the Tower, including the then 65 Lord Mayor of London. In the debate in that year there was a minority in this House who averredThat the practice of letting the constituents know the parliamentary behaviour of their truest representatives was founded on the truest principles of the constitution.They lost on that occasion, and for many years the House went on denying the public proper access to reports of its proceedings. We would be foolish to do that yet again and to deny the public the use of the most immediate medium that is available to us.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Whitehead (Derby, North)
It is the practice in this House to declare an interest to one's opponents. I also wish to declare an indisposition to my Friends since I am still suffering from the after-effects of chicken pox, although I am told by my medical hon. Friends that I am no longer contagious. I am told that I am now a burnt-out case. I hope that I shall no longer infect the House.
In parliamentary terms I hope this debate is not a burnt-out case, but I feel that there is some slight lethargy about our proceedings today. We have been here so many times before. In the past few years we have debated this matter on three or four occasions and each time the motion has been narrowly defeated. Having lost my own Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Bill some months ago as a result of the more arcane proceedings of the House, which we may shortly be revealing to a wider public, I welcome the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Lord President in allowing Parliament in its own time to debate the matter once more.
I shall speak only on television. I believe that the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) has dealt adequately with radio. As he says, there has already been a radio experiment. I cannot believe that we would be so nervous today that we would not go as far as we went some seven years ago. The Select Committee at that time found that the radio experiment was adequate and satisfactory. I believe that if we approved the radio motion we would find that the experiment would be adequate.
66 It is right that the House should devote most of its time to the consideration of television. It is true that television is now the more powerful medium. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) the Father of the House, was right to direct the burden of his attack upon it. I hope to go through his attack point by point and answer it.
There seem to be three main reasons for the House to shy away from even an experiment. The first reason is the one that my right hon. Friend the Father of the House put forward—namely, that an experiment is bound to succeed. My right hon. Friend suggested that once an experiment has taken place nothing thereafter can stop it becoming the form and practice of the House. I remind him—
§ Mr. John Mendelson
If what my hon. Friend is saying is to be a foretaste of the deliberate inaccuracy that we shall get when the House is televised, my worst forebodings are confirmed. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) the Father of the House, did not say that it was bound to succeed. He repeated what was said by the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann)—namely, that once we agree to an experiment the process will continue and we shall not be able to stop it. My right hon. Friend said nothing about the quality of the success.
§ Mr. Whitehead
One of the virtues of having these matters permanently on the record is that where inaccuracies exist they will be permanently recorded. I had the impression that the Father of the House said that the experiment was bound to become the permanent practice of the House. I withdraw the word "success" in that context. It was my impression that my right hon. Friend believed that the experiment would become the due custom and practice of the House.
For reasons which I shall explain I do not believe there is any reason for believing that the experiment will necessarily become the custom and practice of the House or that it will necessarily be a success. I speak with some professional 67 knowledge of these matters. There are reasons for supposing that in some instances the television experiment might be a dismal failure.
The second and more usual argument advanced for not even going so far as an experiment in televising the House is that it will add to the power and arrogance of the television producers and to the broadcasting establishment, which is sometimes felt to challenge the power of Parliament. Thirdly, there is the argument that, whatever happens in the course of the experiment, the procedures which will be introduced will, in some curious and unexplained way, alter and change our proceedings, and diminish Parliament itself, while elevating the buffoon and devaluing the stateman.
I feel that all three arguments are based on mistaken ideas. There is no guarantee that we can get the television experiment right. I have some reservations about it. But how shall we know without carrying out the experiment, and perhaps doing so for a rather longer period than the three weeks which seemed to be supposed by the broadcasting authorities and my right hon. Friend the Lord President? I very much question whether we can learn all that we need to know in just three weeks. What time of year, for instance, would we use for the experiment? The parliamentary year varies. There is a time of year when Second Reading debates predominate and there is a time that is dominated by Report stages. We want as wide an experiment as possible.
If we start with the proposition that the cameras come here to Parliament, we must ensure that we have the right cameras at the right time and in the right place. I commend all hon. Members to pay a visit to the small exhibition in Committee Room 6.
§ Mr. Whitehead
I note that several hon. Members say "Hear, hear". I left Committee Room 6 only half an hour ago. I was informed that only four Members have been there today. My hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) and I have separate interests in this matter. We visited the exhibition on Thursday and we found it 68 an illuminating experience. I suggest to all hon. Members that they look at the three cameras in the exhibition and beat in mind the great difference between the experimental LDK/5 camera, which can operate with natural light or, for example, with the present light level in the Chamber, and the Marconi MK VIII camera, which will be used by the BBC and by the ITV to bring their own experiments into the Chamber in the next few months. The difference is considerable.
We must consider the matter not only in terms of what it will mean to our proceedings—there will be the smallest intrusion in terms of lighting works for example—but also in terms of the cost involved. I hope that we shall be able to discover as a result of the experiment the nature of the permanent realities.
My own preference is very much to say that if we are to have the experiment it should be expressed clearly today that we want it to be conducted with a light-intensive camera, such as the LDK/5 which is not yet in production, that can operate with 10 or 15 foot candle-power. That lighting is precisely what we have in the Chamber now. With cameras of that type slung below the Gallery, with operators only in the Gallery, with no technicians of any kind and with no intrusive wires on the Floor of the Chamber, the experiment would be a rather different proposition to anything which the 1966 Select Committee could have considered. It would be a very different proposition from what was realistically considered in the 1972 debate. That is the proposition before us today.
§ Mr. David Crouch (Canterbury)
On the technical point about the choice of cameras, I understand from the technicians in Committee Room 6 that the LDK/5 camera will not be available for 12 months. That is what I was given to understand last Thursday.
§ Mr. Whitehead
The hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) has led me to my next point. If we were to carry out the experiment with the light-intensive camera—I think we should do so as that would approximate to the reality of what we might want thereafter—it would be necessary to postpone the experiment until 1976. We could go ahead in the next few months with the radio 69 experiment. I believe we should and I believe we shall—
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)
My hon. Friend is proceeding as if the subject of television were an unmitigated blessing. Does he not accept that many people believe that television in itself is not such a wonderful thing as he seems to suggest?
§ Mr. Whitehead
Amazingly enough, some of those people are known to me. I shall deal with their views shortly. I was hoping to say that there were circumstances when even I, unequivocally committed as I am supposed to be to the notion of this experiment and thereafter to the permanent broadcasting of our proceedings, might have cause to think before allowing the installation of equipment within the Chamber which might of itself alter the nature of our proceedings.
That brings me to the question of what form the broadcasting experiment and subsequent broadcasting should take. As the hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles said, we must face the reality and the fears expressed by the Father of the House. It does nothing at all to dismiss them and to laugh them off as irrelevant to our proceedings.
There is a real fear among hon. Members on both sides of the House that the centre of debate has shifted to the televsion studios and away from this place, that news has shifted to "news values" that reflect the merit and reward system by which television producers progress, that there is a trade in stereotypes and an extra emphasis on confrontation that essentially diminishes the serious coverage of politics. Because this is the case, and because some hon. Members see their friends who are well connected in television terms, or particularly glib in their presentation of a specific case, always upon television when they are not, on what Aneurin Bevan used to call "the ipse dixit of Broadcasting House", but now on ITN as well, they automatically resent, and I think with some justice, what televsion has done in terms of the coverage of politics.
They feel that if television came here, this Chamber would become another outside broadcasting unit, just one more television studio to be used at the convenience of these same television execu- 70 tives, to be made a kind of extended extravaganza to be slotted into a particular programme whenever they wished. That, I know, is roughly the view of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone, who smiles in recognition of these arguments.
I believe that, in fact, the Chamber could avoid that very simply if it chose and if these fears were taken seriously—as they are by some of my hon. Friends—by following the course set out in the amendment which, in its wisdom, the Chair is not to call today. We could set up a parliamentary broadcasting unit analagous to the Hansard unit and responsible to a Committee of the House, not so that Parliament shall manage the news and not so that Parliament shall control the news or say what goes on and what is said and how it would be edited, but simply so that we shall be the people in the first few faltering steps of this great experiment in broadcasting our proceedings to see that the proper people are recruited and the proper procedures carried out when broadcasting goes on.
A Fabian group under the late Richard Crossman, of which I was a member, deliberated on this for some time three years ago. We reached the conclusion that, if there was to be a broadcasting experiment, a parliamentary broadcasting unit should be set up. We should take the whole experiment in easy stages and first there should be closed circuit pictures and video tape records, which is what most correctly would be described as a television Hansard, and, later, if the experiment proved successful, a subscription service to clubs, universities, newspapers and broadcasting units, such as the cable television companies, which will increasingly become part of the scene in this country. That would be live transmission of the proceedings in the Chamber as they were happening.
There should also be continuous transmission from time to time on both radio and television. That should happen within the period of the experiment, and let us hope that we have within the period of the experiment, if it takes place, a debate of sufficient importance and merit for one or other of the broadcasting organisations to devote a whole television channel to it, as well as sound radio, for-the evening of the debate.
71 Then there would have to be—and this is where we face the problem of editing head on—an edited "Today in Parliament" programme of some 30 to 50 minutes' duration. That would have to be very carefully compiled and edited, and it would be necessary initially for Parliament not to supervise the editing but to have some say in the selection of the men to do the editing. After that and if the experiment were adjudged by the House to be a success, there could be unrestricted access for all news and current affairs broadcasting.
That would end the rivalry between the ITV and the BBC that disfigures so much of the sports coverage and current affairs programmes. It would be improper to have two sets of rival cameras and two sets of jostling technicians and producers in the Chamber arguing over who got which shots and which pictures. There would have to be only one unit, and my proposed House Broadcasting Unit would be the best way.
We must also face the fact that to some degree our debates may be altered. This was the last and perhaps the most important point of my right hon. Friend the Father of the House. It is said that the whole nature of our debates would be altered. I do not think that they would be altered any more than the pressure of modern life will alter them anyway. We cannot possibly take the position, if we honestly question our procedures, that what we have is sacrosanct for all time and that our present timetable, absurd as many of us feel it to be, is sacrosanct for all time.
As it happens, our present timetable is greatly to the convenience of television, because television, too, is a nocturnal pursuit and works the kind of hours that we work. However, if we were to shift our timetable, television would have to follow. It would not be necessary to co-ordinate all our procedures with the nine o'clock or ten o'clock news.
§ Mr. Toby Jessel (Twickenham)
Does not the hon. Gentleman thinks that the timetable would put some emphasis on Question Time and that the system of Question Time would have to be altered in that all Questions would have to be read out, with the result that we should deal with even fewer Questions?
§ Mr. Whitehead
No, I do not. I think that Question Time is a somewhat overrated part of our proceedings, but if it were to be televised it would have to be done with the use of captions to describe the Members asking the Questions superimposed on the feed, but no more than that. We should not have Questions read out, or a commentator intervening, or anything of that kind.
§ Mr. Whitehead
The last argument that haunts the minds of all opponents to televising the House is the rôle of our well-known friend the parliamentary buffoon. It is said that the parliamentary buffoon is likely to hog our proceedings. Is he not with us already? Is he not indulgently treated here by a tame parliamentary Lobby that faithfully reports what he does, but does not always report as accurately as the ignorant observer in the Gallery the sort of impact that he actually makes? Are not some of these people already treated by the House as pets, very much too much so? May it—dare I suggest—be the case that if the proceedings of the House were televised, there would slowly become an effective pressure from this place upon those who so misbehave and misuse the Chamber already, so that they might mend their ways more adequately than would otherwise be the case?
Of course I make no comment on the disciplinary procedures of the Chair, which are exemplary, but might not the Chair be helped by public opinion if a wider public opinion outside could see some of the things that actually happen here? It is no good raging at television if television shows these things. That is like the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in the glass. We have to be prepared for some comments about the proceedings of this place that may not of themselves be particularly palatable to us.
We have the means to open up the most powerful form of mass communication known to man as a direct link between the Government and the governed. In these days, when the only alternative to cynicism about Parliament 73 seems to be a certain tawdry populism, let us rejoice that we can carry our proceedings to the nation that voted us here.
I have already said to the Father of the House, and I repeat this finally to him now, that there is a resemblance between what he has said and the arguments of Colonel Onslow and Mr. Wellbore Ellis—that appropriately named Member—and others attacking the Press in 1771. Colonel Onslow at that time—I do not know whether he was related to the hon. Member for Woking (Mrs. Onslow).
§ Mr. Whitehead
The hon. Gentleman will recollect that his distinguished ancestor, speaking of reporting debates, said:this practice had got to an infamous height; that members were represented to the world as saying what they did not say; and that their interests in their boroughs were often hurt by it; that it have never been done in former times; even in the most violent opposition to Sir Robert Walpole, no transactions or speeches were published, except during the intervals of parliament, and then only in a decent manner".Our transactions have to be seen as they take place. It serves the wider democracy if we do that. What do we have to be afraid of that the Bundestag has not, that the American Congress has not, that Australia has not?
§ Mr. Whitehead
My hon. Friend says from a sedentary position that Congress is not televised. But the committees of Congress are televised, and it is in its interlocutory procedures that Congress mostly resembles this Chamber. That is why Congress very wisely allows the televising of Congressional hearings.
§ Mr. Roderick MacFarquhar (Belper)
Does my hon. Friend accept that there is a fundamental distinction between the Press, and objections to the Press which he has stated, and television in that if an hon. Member is incorrectly reported in the Press and taken up on it by his constituents, he can send them a copy of Hansard which they can then read? However, if there is some distortion in a televised broadcast of what an hon. 74 Member said in the House, there will be no way in which he can make available to his constituents a full record which would put it into perspective.
§ Mr. Whitehead
I am not suggesting the abolition of Hansard. There will still be a full written record of our proceedings, and that record can be compared with the transcript and, indeed, the tape of the proceedings. As the tape of the proceedings is an accurate representation of what has gone on here, it can properly be called a television Hansard.
§ Mr. MacFarquhar
Then there is no difference between radio and television for broadcasting purposes.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)
Order. I must ask hon. Members not to interrupt the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) because he has already taken 21 minutes. If we all behave like that, nobody will be on television.
§ Mr. Whitehead
My hon. Friend must forgive me. I shall take the hint from the Chair. I hope that my hon. Friend will do the same, particularly as he has only just come back into the Chamber.
We have nothing to fear from this experiment. All the major legislatures to which we would look with any admiration and fellow feeling have already had the experiment. Most of them now have their proceedings broadcast in some form as a permanent part of their democracies. I think that we should do the same.
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
I start by declaring my interest in broadcasting as a director of Granada Television and of Greater Manchester Independent Radio, better known in the North as "Piccadilly Radio". I also express my particular and personal interest in the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House as a Member of the 1966 Select Committee and the then Shadow spokesman covering that subject.
For the last 10 years or so I have therefore taken part in this continuing debate on whether we should persist in forbidding the cameras to come into this Chamber and photograph us at our normal work on our own terms while at 75 the same time willingly going into studios to appear before them on terms laid down by the broadcasters.
I think that the Father of the House, who has left the Chamber—I am afraid battered by the arguments that have been against him—has been well answered by the hon. Members for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel). There was only one moment when I wondered on which side the hon. Member for Derby, North was. That was when he described the scene of jostling and competing producers.
I think that the House started correctly on this trail in setting up a Select Committee. In those days less was known about television, and certainly less was known about the effect of television on politics. Under an admirable chairman, Tom Driberg, a mass of evidence was taken. I believe to this day that the main recommendation of that Committee was right: that the House should make available to the broadcasting organisations and to others a feed of our proceedings produced by a special House of Commons broadcasting unit, analogous to Hansard, under the control of the House.
A second recommendation, rejected by the House by one vote, was that a closed circuit experiment should be conducted, after which a decision could be reached. In my view, that second recommendation was wrong. Anyone who saw the closed circuit television experiment in another place, with its dreary, long-drawn-out presentation of their Lordships debating "Sport", will understand why.
To win conviction, an experiment must, as far as possible, reproduce for a trial period the actual conditions under which the broadcasting of Parliament is to take place. By definition, television broadcasting means that the picture is broad cast; that is, widely shown and available for everybody to see, to evaluate and to comment upon.
Closed circuit television, again by definition, confines the picture, in this instance, to the few in Parliament who have the time to look at it.
Surely, as Parliament is a national institution, as we are elected by the nation, as people's television programmes, about which they mind very much, would 76 be affected, the nation has a right to be included in the experiment. Indeed, only by allowing them to see and comment upon it would the experiment be valid. I believe that the evident interest of the public in what they see during the experiment will finally decide the issue in the eyes of hon. Members. I believe, too, that it will excite far more interest than anybody imagines.
Any previous experience of broadcasting is almost irrelevant to the subject that we are studying. The televising of the Opening of Parliament portrayed Parliament in a uniquely untypical activity under uniquely unacceptably bright lights. The experience drawn from the televising of party conferences, the United Nations, the Watergate Congressional committees and foreign legislatures, all different in kind one with another, is not a useful comparison with the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House.
I agree with the hon. Member for Derby, North that this experiment must be very carefully prepared, though I do not go all the way with his plan. I should recommend an experiment which, if successful, developed stage by stage into an operation covering both Houses and some of the main Committees. We and the broadcasters and the nation would learn as we went along, but we, the Members of Parliament, would have the final say. I include radio and television when I speak about broadcasting all the way through my speech.
Stage one could be an experiment—the longer the better in my eyes—of a feed from a House of Commons controlled broadcast unit of the full proceedings in this Chamber alone to the BBC and ITV. They would use that feed as they wished—presumably in a "Today in Parliament" or "This Week in Parliament" type of programme—for illustrating the news and current affairs programmes and, to a much greater extent than many people anticipate, in regional programmes. The House of Commons broadcast unit for stage one would have to be a temporary ad hoc unit produced by the BBC and ITV. I am sure that this first part of the experiment would show that all the technical difficulties, about which hon. Members seem to be worried, have by now been overcome. Experience of stage one would be sufficient for both 77 Lords and Commons to decide in principle whether the proceedings of Parliament should be broadcast.
If so, stage two could be introduced. This could set up the House of Commons broadcasting unit on a permanent basis, extend the TV and radio feed to universities, news agencies and other interested bodies, and extend coverage to another place.
Stage three might proceed to the televising of some Committees and the beginnings of a TV library. In the long run, I regard the recording element to be as important as the day-to-day televising. This could run into big money involving, as it would, the storage of tapes and some sophisticated type of retrieval, presumably computerised.
In past debates right hon. Members as important and sensible as the present Speaker of the House of Commons have winced at the idea of anybody outside this House being allowed to edit a record of its proceedings. If this is really unacceptable to the House, we can say goodbye to the prospect of broadcasting Parliament at all.
Can anyone imagine the BBC or ITV accepting a ready-made programme to which they were allowed neither to add comments nor to make any cuts? What would the public say when they discovered that they were being allowed to see Parliament only as we, the Members, wanted them to see us? Indeed, what would they say today if we allowed Hansard to be published only if it had previously been edited by ourselves? In the words of Lord Hill, "I do not think this would redound to the credit of Parliament."
I believe that our experiments will lead to a broadcast output almost exactly parallel to Hansard, a broadcast Hansard from which organisations will apply for extracts just as a large range of organisations use extracts from Hansard now.
I think we should remember that this broadcast Hansard will already have been edited twice inside this building before it ever reaches the BBC. You, Mr. Speaker—or Mr. Deputy Speaker—are the first editor. You, and you alone, choose the Members who are to speak. We do not always agree with every choice you make, but we concede that, by and large, in 78 each debate you choose a selection of hon. Members, calculated to reflect the views of the House as a whole. It would be rather a healthy change to see on the screen somebody selected by this House and not by the broadcasting authorities and, what is more, in his own environment, his own place of work.
The second editing on these premises is by the director of the House of Commons broadcasting unit, as he selects from the five cameras the picture which is to appear on the screen. This is largely a technical operation, but it should put to rest the fears often expressed in past debates that cameras would search out those among us who were snoring or behaving in other vote-losing ways.
Once the video tape has left the building, it would, of course, be at the mercy of the broadcasting organisations; but is this really such a deadly risk? The BBC and the ITV, by the terms of the Charter and the Act, are required to be impartial. Complaints of partiality on about the same scale come from all the political parties, so I do not doubt that they succeed in being impartial. But do we not already put ourselves at far greater risk of partiality by appearing in studios and subjecting ourselves to the danger of loaded questions? I believe that the broadcasting of Parliament would be such a unique challenge to the broadcasting organisations that they would compete with each other as never before to produce a responsible programme.
In the debate of 1966 the late Richard Crossman, who led the debate in favour of the motion, warned the House that only about 2 per cent. of the material recorded would appear on the screens. I think that was misleading in two ways. First, even if it was 2 per cent. of all our proceedings, including Private Members' Bills, Ten-Minute Rule Bills, Adjournment debates, and so on, it would seem far more, because what would be covered would be subjects of real general interest.
In addition to the 2 per cent., there would, as has been said earlier today, have to be a lot of explanation and comment. We who are accustomed to our proceedings here do not realise how mysterious the House is to people outside. One has only to talk to our friends who watch from the Strangers' Gallery to learn how little they understand of our proceedings. There 79 would undoubtedly have to be a lot of explanation of what was happening.
There would be days on which a high proportion of our business would be of real interest, but this is something no one call tell. We may suggest the Budget debate, but this can often be as dull as ditchwater, and hopeless for televising. Other less promising business on the Order Paper can, to one's surprise, turn out to be quite scintillating. It is difficult to tell how it will turn out.
In his figure of 2 per cent. Mr. Crossman made no allowances for regional use of the broadcast Hansard, and this I am sure will multiply the percentage used to a great extent and be one of the chief features of broadcasting proceedings of the House.
Let me give an example of what I mean. Last Wednesday in this Chamber there was a debate on the Second Reading of the Coal Industry Bill. It received little coverage in the Press—although it was an important Bill—because it was of interest to so small a section of the public. I am convinced that had our proceedings been televised the debate would have received a showing regionally. The first clause of the Bill is about the sufferers from pneumoconiosis, of whom there are thousands, and most speakers on the Government benches dealt with that subject. The debate would undoubtedly have appeared on local screens in Wales, Scotland and Yorkshire.
Two important speeches were made during the debate, one by my hon. Friend the Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Alison) and one by myself. I do not expect the House to believe me when I say that those speeches were not mentioned in The Times; nevertheless they would certainly have been on the local screens. Our two constituencies share the Selby coalfield. That is what we were talking about and that, I assure hon. Members, is of vital interest to a large community. These are the debates that should find a place on the local screens.
Those words "find a place" lead to one of the two major snags which have to be faced by those who favour the broadcasting of Parliament. With the success of the Open University, with the tremendous demand for more access to broadcasting, and now possibly the advent 80 of televising Parliament, there will be a lack of space, especially on ITV, which has only one channel. Many of us could easily indicate what should be left out; but one man's aversion is always somebody else's favourite. So there would be that problem. I draw the attention of the Annan Committee to this dilemma and to the possibility of providing a fourth channel.
The second snag is cost. All this will be expensive. Eventually it will be millions rather than thousands, and the expense starts at a time when the Government are heavily overdrawn and the BBC and ITV are as badly placed financially as they have ever been. All I ask is that hon. Members keep a sense of proportion. If the House elects to go ahead with the televising of its proceedings it will make a historic decision. I hope it will not be thwarted for lack of a sum equal to, say, one-ten thousandth of the total expenditure of the Government in one year.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mendelson (Penistone)
As the debate proceeds I find it rather interesting and a trifle curious that hon. Members should refer to what was said against the proposition to televise the proceedings of the House in the past but pick out only those arguments which are easiest to knock down. They carefully leave out many of the other arguments that were adduced in the previous debate and do not deal with them.
I regret the absence at the moment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), who made a detailed and interesting case to which I shall have to refer in his absence.
I regret, also, the absence from the Chamber of the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), who made his speech and disappeared. I hope that this is not to become the custom if the House is televised. I hope that people will not pop up, be photographed and then leave the Chamber.
§ Mr. Jonathan Aitken (Thanet, East)
Does not the hon. Gentleman agree that the practice he is describing is likely to be halted if our proceedings are televised, because hon. Members will stay in their places?
§ Mr. Mendelson
No, quite the contrary. I think the practice will spread, 81 because Members will think that once they have been photographed they do not have to be here for the rest of the day.
I should like to deal with the points made by the right hon. Member for Taunton and my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North. The right hon. Member for Taunton emphasised the fact that the House was not fully reported. That was the first fallacy he introduced into the debate. He assumed that if the House were televised it would be fully reported. Nothing could be further from the truth. I follow that assumption with an argument which I adduced when the matter was debated under the Ten Minutes Rule, when the proposition was defeated by a majority of 26 votes.
We must oppose the motion to televise our proceedings because there will be a clash of media. The House of Commons is a workshop. Television is an instrument to report what has been staged. However, the television companies are saddled with the idea that they must rivet the viewers to their seats, otherwise the companies will go out of business. I make no special reference to commercial television companies since the argument applies equally to the BBC and other companies, however financed. Uppermost in the minds of the television companies must be the need to retain their audience. No one who has worked actively in television can deny that.
§ Mr. Tom Ellis (Wrexham)
A considerable proportion of the Welsh language programmes of the BBC and privately financed companies appeal to a limited audience. Nevertheless the companies still practise that kind of entertainment.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I do not want to enter into considerations of devolution or of what the Welsh do. I am no expert on that subject. I could not help the situation if I commented off the cuff. If my hon. Friend assures me that that is what happens, I accept what he says. However, I do not think that that argument should determine the outcome of the debate.
The television and sound broadcasting companies' need to retain their audience is decisive. To illustrate my argument, an hon. Friend made a long-distance broadcast with another hon. Member, during 82 which they were required to wear earphones. Since he was still in possession of his earphones, one hon. Member heard something which was not meant for his ears. The producer, who was a few hundred miles away, sent a message to the man on the spot: "Make them do it again because it was not dramatic enough." That is the approach required by the media.
Part of the statute of the BBC is that it must further the process of education. However, the Corporation does not have clean hands. A few years ago I had an experience with the BBC programme "Today", which reached several million listeners. Someone spoke for about five minutes on the day before the House adjourned for the Summer Recess. That person said "Parliament is now going off on a 10-weeks' holiday." At the end of the programme I telephoned the producer and said "It is wildly misleading to give the impression that people are taking 10 weeks' holiday, that no work will be done either in the constituencies or in the House of Commons. In your statute there is an obligation upon you to educate as well as to inform and entertain. Will you allow another Member of Parliament, or someone else who knows the situation, five minutes tomorrow, or on some other day, to give a view as to what happens." They argued with me for 20 minutes to the effect that they did not have the time, that it was inconvenient, and that it was not desirable. At the end of the argument they said 'We propose that when the next recess starts we shall invite you or another Member of Parliament to do the job." I said "Will you please make a note of what you have just proposed?" They agreed. The time for the next recess came round. Being meticulous, I telephoned the BBC. I said "You proposed to allow time for a balanced view of Parliament, which is one of our most important institutions." The young man said "I am sorry, I am not the person you spoke to before." I said "I asked for a record to be made of our conversation." He said "I am sorry; I can find no record." I said "Do you want to live up to your undertaking?" He said "We have no time." That was the end of the matter.
We are now debating whether to hand over the control of the reporting of the House of Commons to an outside body. 83 That important proposition has historic significance—not the number of cameras, nor the lighting, nor the fact that we have not done it before.
§ Mr. Whitehead
My hon. Friend's point from his personal experience related to hon. Members being used as pawns by television organisations outside the House. That behaviour will be impossible with the televised transmission of our proceedings, where Mr. Speaker edits the proceedings.
§ Mr. Mendelson
I knew that I would evoke that response when I gave the two examples. Having foreseen that reaction, I decided to quote those two personal experiences.
It is wrong to assume that handing over the reporting of our proceedings to an outside body will remove all danger. I submit that the danger will be increased, not diminished.
I now refer to the general proposition that the institutions responsible for reporting will have to report the work of Parliament. The proposition that the House of Commons is a workshop suggests a close parallel with a court of law. The official earlier name for the House was the High Court of Parliament. Although it would be immensely dramatic and instructive, no one proposes that we should introduce television cameras into the law courts. Much human interest would be involved in a nine-day murder trial. Nothing could be more interesting or more educational. Yet nobody proposes that the television companies should be allowed into the courts.
§ Mrs. Helene Hayman (Welwyn and Hatfield)
Does my hon. Friend agree that there is an immense difference between the amount of right and proper public interest in the formation of laws that affect the country, and the dramatic value to be gained from watching the passing of the laws, rather than the execution and the judgment of them in individual cases in courts of law?
§ Mr. Mendelson
No, I do not agree with that at all. The proposition is entirely fallacious. The real test of any law is its application, and there can be no more instructive application than in a court of law, as anyone who knows about the law 84 will immediately agree. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I saw several eminent lawyers nodding their heads. I will withdraw the word "anyone" and say instead that some hon. Members with active experience of the law agree with that proposition.
Why does no one propose that television cameras should be introduced into the courts? Because it might influence the proceedings, they say "We do not want an outside machine influencing what happens in a court." There is need for a great deal of change in the House—every generation of parliamentarians has taken that view—but I do not want that change imposed by a machine filming us at work. The change which is needed is that which arises from the experience of hon. Members and the work that they are doing.
I do not believe that the people to whom this would be handed are unbiased. I believe in giving examples. A topical example relates to a book by Professor Uwe Kitzinger called "Diplomacy and Persuasion", about Britain's entry into the Common Market. This learned gentleman did a great deal of research and explains in his book, for students and others, how this country entered the EEC. No one will accuse me of not being topical in the run-up to the referendum campaign.
Professor Kitzinger is in favour of our entry and has no complaint about the campaign. Those who wanted us to enter the EEC—the European Movement and others—set up an institution called the "Connaught Hotel breakfasts". In the year before the vote on entry people met regularly for breakfast at the Connaught Hotel. The European Movement's breakfasts consisted of a number of people, including friendly television producers. It was found that among their numbers were several who felt it their public duty to give a pro-entry point of view.
Professor Kitzinger explains in great detail how it was strategically decisive to ensure that the man who sub-edited the news and selected material for bulletins was a pro-entry broadcaster—
§ Mr. Mendelson
My hon. Friend seems to be getting a little uncomfortable, but he should let me proceed; I listened carefully to his speech.
Professor Kitzinger says openly that he found people willing to select items for broadcasting in accordance with their bias. I am not talking simply about a broadcaster being in favour of our entry. Professor Kitzinger says that those people were not so useful in that carefully managed campaign. What mattered was the selection of items.
So the proposition is that we hand over selection not to a group of academics straight off a desert island but to people with their own deliberate bias who will act accordingly. I do not see why we can hand it over to those people but not to a Committee of Members. Incidentally, I do not believe it would be suitable to select such a Committee. That would not remove the clash of media, which is my main reason for opposing this proposition.
The proposition underlying this debate, which has grown up over several years, is that nothing important can be done unless it is instantly televised. That is a most dangerous proposition, analogous with the other proposition which has grown up and which one does not have to be a member of Mrs. Whitehouse's organisation to deplore, that much of our private lives should now be shown on the screen. It is not fuddy-duddy or old-fashioned to deplore that development.
It is not good enough to attack the views of my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) simply because they are those of the Father of the House. It is not just because he is an old and established Member that he objects to this trend. Many far younger people outside take the same view. It is fallacious to think that everything should be instantly recorded.
I do not accept the view of the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan), who declared an interest in television and referred to the fourth channel, that the Coal Industry Bill debate, in which we both took part last week, would have been reported under such a selection system. I know what the principles of that selection would be. First, there would be the set Front Bench speeches, then the most dramatic items and then 86 those items which were rather odd. But the House of Commons as a workshop would never come over on television. The quiet arguments late in the evening among a number of hon. Members who had spent a lifetime in an industry or at a particular job, trying to persuade one another, would never be shown. It is wrong to say that we are debating a proposal to report Parliament as it is and as it works.
There is a wrong-headed proposition abroad that the House of Commons would be much better known and understood if it were televised. Linked with that is the equally fallacious proposition that Parliament's work would be better. That was the thread running through the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North.
§ Mr. Mendelson
There are other ways of achieving that end and they have nothing to do with television. A proposal is to come up for discussion soon in one of the Select Committees—if Front Benchers want to improve our work, I commend it to them—about the urgent need to provide each hon. Member with a research assistant, a secretary and facilities to study the industry with which he is familiar in other parts of the country. That is the kind of thing which would make the legislature more effective in controlling the executive.
The introduction of television cameras has nothing whatever to do with improving the work of Parliament. That is hidden behind the proposition of those who say "Even if Parliament changes under the influence of television, so what? The work of Parliament would not be affected by that. Other measures are needed." There is confusion in thought here—throwing the two together in order to add a convenient argument.
My final point is that the House, when it makes this decision tonight, must indeed know all the reasons behind this. One cannot make a broadcast anywhere now without later being asked by one director or another of a television company "Why cannot you change your mind? We want to do it and we think that it is for everyone's best" What is in their minds in this matter is that they will 87 be able to add to their general programme one more item. That is all that they are concerned about. If they were concerned with education, they would say "We make the proposition of showing everything that goes on in Parliament and let those who want to see it do so; let the universities put it on for a whole day, or the schools for a couple of hours." No one makes that proposal. They do not say—[Interruption.] No one makes this proposal now. I carry with me the hon. Member for Howden, who knows a great deal about this subject. They say "It would be far too costly." Does anyone propose that the whole proceedings should be shown all day?
§ Sir P. Bryan
A general feed from here, a broadcast Hansard, would be available. Universities would be able to take as much or as little as they liked.
§ Mr. Mendelson
What I am saying is something quite different. No one is proposing that on a public channel, for the general public, the whole proceedings of Parliament should be shown all the time.
§ Mr. Mendelson
What the television companies are interested in is being able to show what they consider to be most dramatic and most entertaining. The House of Commons, in spite of the impatience of one of my hon. Friends, has to consider the proposition of whether it wants to hand over the selection and editing of what is broadcast—highly political jobs—to an outside body composed of men and women with their own biases, whereby the workshop that is Parliament would never be reported and where the spreading of the knowledge of Parliament would not be seriously advanced.
It is on that proposition that we are invitee to vote tonight.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
It might be for the general convenience of the House if I were to intervene now. Perhaps I could convey the welcome news that from the Opposition side of the House there will be only one Front Bench speaker in the debate.
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), who is a very agreeable speaker, excelled himself on this occa- 88 ssion. He attributed to both Front Benches—which was very nice of him indeed—an intention to improve Parliament. I am bound to say that I have never discerned such intention in either Front Bench myself, but it is very nice of the hon. Gentleman to have seen it and recognised it publicly. He will be held to that.
When the right hon. Gentleman started his speech, he complained that my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), who I now see in his seat, and his hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) were not present. The hon. Gentleman seemed greatly to resent that his audience should have been so reduced. But nevertheless, he shied away from the enthralling prospect of a very much wider television or radio audience which doubtless would hang upon his words. I am bound to say that shyness is not one of the defects which I have ever noticed in the hon. Gentleman, but he seemed very shy about this proposal about exposing himself to a large audience.
§ Mr. Peyton
I am certainly prepared to accept any rephrasing for which the hon. Gentleman asks.
I wish to make it quite clear that tonight I am not expressing any view on behalf of the Shadow Cabinet. I merely wish to refer to some of the arguments that have been adduced today in some very interesting speeches and perhaps indicate my own view as well on a subject which is very controversial and exceedingly important.
I start by saying that I think we all appreciate very much the way in which the Leader of the House launched the debate and the great trouble to which he has gone to set up the experiments and keep the House informed as to the issues. My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton quite rightly expressed the view that the experiments would be decisive; that if we had the experiments, it would be very unlikely that we would ever turn back from them. For myself, I should like to add that I think that if we launch ourselves timidly into a radio experiment, we shall also be, within a very short time, involved in television as well. My right hon. Friend showed 89 himself to be an admiring critic of this House. He referred—I thought with more criticism than admiration—to some of the pointless partisan debates which we have in this Chamber—a remark which I completely endorse. He pointed out how little those debates do to exercise any control at all over the executive.
I remember many years ago making a speech from the back benches—I think on the Government side of the House—in which I described the House of Commons as having descended to the lowly status of the administration's Pekingese—permitted to snarl a bit and only now and again to have the odd bite, but never really seriously allowed to inconvenience the executive. That is one of the points, at least, that we must have in mind in deciding this issue as to whether the House of Commons could, perhaps, gather to itself a greater power and influence over an executive which sometimes—I am not making any remarks particularly about the present Government—become over-weaning, intolerant and a very bad listener indeed. I have been a member of two Governments and I am very conscious of the fact that, as the years go on, however much Governments may improve in some respects, their capability of listening diminishes at a terrifying pace.
My right hon. Friend gave a very permissible and quite understandable plug for that admirable institution the Public Accounts Committee, which he thought would, if televised, offer the most favourable view of Parliament from which constituents would be more likely to draw satisfaction than from any other view of our proceedings. I am bound to say that there is something in that view.
The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), as the Father of the House, speaks with more experience of our affairs than does any other Member. But when he says, as he did today, that the public have always ridiculed the House of Commons but that, nevertheless, it has always had and continues to have the confidence of the public, I wonder whether he is really right. This is a matter which ought to be very much in our minds. I personally do not share the right hon. Gentleman's confidence to any very full extent. I believe that the public do not realise in these rather dangerous days what a bulwark Parliament is for personal 90 liberty. I am not at all sure that, if we were to proceed with this experiment, we might not do something to awaken or reawaken that awareness.
The right hon. Gentleman gave voice to an idea new to me, namely, that the side which scored the most points in a debate would win Divisions. That has never happened while I have been here. [Interruption.] We do not live in an ideal world. The only points I ever see counted at the end of the day are the heads in the Division Lobby. Every head counts. The terribly dud points which have been made in a debate are no handicap and do not prevent successive Governments, most surprisingly, from winning the argument on a count of heads at the end of the day.
I thought that the hon. Members for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles (Mr. Steel) and for Derby, North went altogether too far. The hon. Member for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles actually advocated—he will correct me if I misunderstood him—the course of subjecting the public to the appalling ordeal of listening in full to the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer presenting the Budget.
I cannot remember how many Chancellors I have heard, but I cannot remember one Budget speech which I have enjoyed or been able to listen in its entirety. I therefore hope that the prospects of television and of broadcasting will not be altogether dimmed and shattered by any such appalling prospect as the hon. Gentleman held out.
The hon. Member for Derby, North—how dangerous are the advocates of these courses; they nearly always sink the project they wish to help—suggested that a debate in its entirety should be projected upon an unfortunate, unwarned, unresisting public.
§ Mr. Whitehead
I am prepared to add, as a corollary, not one in which the right hon. Gentleman took part.
§ Mr. Peyton
One always learns the same lesson whenever one gives way. Almost invariably the point which is raised is absolute puerile and silly. The hon. Gentleman just rammed that lesson home once again. I am much obliged to him. I should have been warned.
The hon. Gentleman referred—this is a point which worries some people—to the 91 arrogance of the broadcasting establishment. He never dealt with the point adequately. It is something which worries people greatly, not because they are particularly sensitive, as was the hon. Member for Penistone, about the fact that the British public were deprived on one occasion of the great privilege of hearing his explanation of the significance of a parliamentary recess.
I do not think that the anxiety felt here is a personal one. Every hon. Member of Parliament ought to be ready to run the risk of appearing from time to time to be idiotic and silly; and indeed we do. What is important is that the House of Commons should be treated with reverence and respect and should not be made just the plaything of those who are peddling an entertainment.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
Where in the entire text of my speech does the right hon. Gentleman discover, except in his own imagination, that I said anything about the impression an individual Member might give? I spent practically all my time emphasising that I was speaking of the House of Commons as a workshop. How does the right hon. Gentleman come to make this allegation, which is no better in quality than the intervention made by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead)?
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Gentleman commented at some length upon the unpleasing experience he had had at the hands of the BBC.
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Gentleman said he had had an unpleasing experience at the hands of the BBC to which he had made a generous offer to appear and to explain the significance of a parliamentary recess and remove an unjust slur which had been cast upon the House.
§ Mr. Peyton
I assure the hon. Gentleman through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that the memory of his speech is fresh in our minds. Nothing, however, would be more foolish of me than to tempt the hon. Gentleman into a repetition of it now.
92 The hon. Member for Derby, North, who I understand to be friendly to the proposals for this experiment, did more to create unease in my mind than he did to abate it. One must attribute it to the fact that he has, as he himself said, been suffering from chickenpox. I am glad that he has recovered at any rate to this extent.
My hon. Friend the Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) commented—I thought rightly—upon the willingness of right hon. and hon. Members to rush off to all manner of inconvenient places to have an opportunity of appearing on the television screen although they are reluctant and coy about being seen in what might be described as their natural habitat.
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Member for Penistone is an expert, in that his speeches made whilst he is on his feet are protracted affairs and continuous. His interruptions while seated are less continuous, it is true, but nevertheless can be relied upon to cover a much longer period of time without ever being constructive.
I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Howden was right in saying that if we agree to Parliament being televised and broadcast it is something which will awaken a great deal of widespread interest.
I believe that over many years we have made very heavy weather of the issue. We have had motions, debates, reports, questions and very coy and modest experiments, but we have not yet got anywhere near a decision. It is perhaps time that we made one. Nobody could accuse us of being unduly precipitate if tonight by any chance the House were to agree to a limited experiment.
Other countries have endured and even enjoyed the spectacle of having their legislatures televised or broadcast. Other Parliaments have come through the ordeal more or less unscathed. It could be that this one would manage it if we gave ourselves the chance.
For a long time I was opposed to the televising or broadcasting of our proceedings. As time has gone on, I have rather slowly but with some conviction now come to feel that we would be 93 wrong not to accept this modest experiment.
There are six points which the House will need to discuss and have in mind. How will it affect the House of Commons? What will be the effect upon individual Members? How will it affect the public? Can we make arrangements to see that it is fair? Are the media able to subject themselves to an adequate discipline? Will in the intrusion of cameras, lights and all the rest of it be tolerable?
Let me deal briefly with some of those issues. The question that we have to ask is whether television or broadcasting enhances or diminishes the public esteem in which the House of Commons is held. If we say "No" to this experiment, might not people conclude that so nervous an institution is lacking in the robustness which is needed in its task? I do not believe that it would radically change the character of so old and deep-rooted an institution as this. Some may even see lurking advantages. I am sure that we shall all have different views about this. Some of us will even dare to hope that it may have singularly beneficial effects upon some of our colleagues, though not necessarily upon ourselves, of course.
I have heard some hon. Members frequently expressing concern for the public, yet they have no hesitation in participating in party political broadcasts which are usually excruciatingly dull. I can say this with some confidence, as I have never yet taken part in one myself. I do not believe that we in this place would behave so differently either as an institution or as individuals. I do not believe that it would make a crucial difference to the speeches we make. Therefore, I cannot be swayed by that argument.
We have to ask ourselves a fairly galling question: would the public find us interesting? As I have indicated before, there is no reason why they need be subjected to the excruciating burden of some of our proceedings. But I believe that it would be wrong for us to continue to make it more difficult for the public to take an interest in our proceedings by interposing an unnecessary and what seems to me an increasingly unjustifiable barrier.
94 The question of fairness is a favourite one. I think it was Mr. Forman, the Chairman of Granada, who said that there are always some tender souls who will see bias in every electronic hiccough. But I do not think that the issue of fairness, between parties or between individual Members or between back benchers and Front Benchers, would be any more difficult if we allowed proceedings here to be televised or broadcast than they are now when these important matters have to be handled exclusively by the media, because in the new circumstances it would be the House of Commons which would be in charge.
I should like to make one comment upon the views of the media which I think can be and are so often misjudged by those who perhaps are the worst advertisements for the media. I should like to be fair and mention a discussion I had with Sir Charles Curran, who showed himself very understanding of the difficulties and nervousness of the House of Commons. He wrote me a letter from which I should like to make one brief quotation. He said:Broadcasting from Parliament would increase the impact of news from the floor of the House. An essential element would be a television 'Today in Parliament', using the pictures from the Chamber. We recognise, however, that much parliamentary work is done elsewhere, and our political staff would have more time to devote to reporting this in addition to the debates. We believe that with the centre of political broadcasting shifted to Westminster, 'studio politics' would play a smaller role. In fact, where Parliament is now represented on the air substantially by individual politicians, it would in future be present in its own right. Our position is that we stand ready to serve the wishes of the Commons.I think it is fair to say that that expression of intention leaves very little to be desired, and I welcome it.
The last point to which I wish to refer is the question of intrusion—the intrusion of the cameras and the lights, and the mere fact that the process is being carried on. These are, of course, important issues, but I do not believe they should frighten us off. On balance, I believe it would be wise and right for us to allow this experiment, because without it I believe that there would be an increasingly large gap between the public and ourselves.
I stress that these are the views of myself and not of my colleagues, but 95 nevertheless views which I hope the House will consider.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Raymond Fletcher (Ilkeston)
It is my intention to make a serious speech in so far as I find that possible. Having spent a recent week as a guest television critic of that well known journal the Listener, and having been expected by its editor to look at political programmes, I found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to stop watching those programmes one day after I started. Therefore, the remainder of my remarks were confined to entertainment programmes, school programmes, and those odd afternoon little things directed towards housewives which hon. Members of this House very rarely see.
That makes my first point for me in an oblique way. The traditional methods of transmitting politics to our constituents have broken down completely. Nobody except party agents watches party political broadcasts. Nobody except a tiny minority of the population pays any attention to those three-minute studio gladiatorial contests which take place in television studios on Clause 22(c) of the Public Conveniences (No. 2) Bill.
Most of those who are regularly invited by their friends, the television producers, to appear regularly on television are rapidly becoming the most colossal bores to be seen on the television screen, apart from some of those imported televisual detectives. Consequently, the usual and accepted methods of transmitting what is happening in this Chamber, in the world of politics, to the people outside have broken down. There is a necessity at least to try something new, not because it is new but because what is now being used is obviously not serving the function.
My second point concerns the observations of my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), whose experience and wisdom must not be discounted. Generally speaking, I accept his rather traditionalist view of what this House is and what it is all about. Where I dissent from him is in his analysis of the social context in which this debate is taking place. It may be absolutely true that there is as much respect for the House of Commons among the population in 1975 as there was, say, in 1913 96 or 1923 or 1933. That may well be true. But there is a different kind of interest, and it is marked by a lack of balance which is seeping through all democracies.
There is certainly a heightened set of expectations about politicians and the political apparatus, but there is also a lower comprehension of what that apparatus and those politicians can actually deliver. Every right hon. and hon. Member who has ever received a deputation at this House knows quite well to what I am referring. Members of those deputations—some elegantly, some rather angrily and most that I meet extremely offensively—imagine that we have the power to overturn court decisions and that we can release people from prison just like that. They imagine that we can instruct the Prime Minister to go and jump in the river and that he will immediately do so. They believe that we have tremendous powers, that we can right wrongs and tear up legislation, and that we can do this on our own.
One of the reasons for widening public interest in Parliament and public awareness of Parliament is not to demonstrate what splendid actors we could have been if Cecil B. de Mille had noticed us in our younger days but to demonstrate the limitations of Parliament and how difficult it is to put any kind of reform through this House. I am not criticising the House, because the difficulty of putting changes through is one of the bastions of our freedom, both inside and outside the House.
When I speak of the public outside I do not delude myself that there are 22 million people all agog to listen to the hon. Member for Ilkeston performing. I doubt very much whether there are 23 people in Ilkeston who would be interested in me because, like sensible Derbyshire people, they have other things to do with their time. I do not assume that there is a vast audience of between 22 million and 23 million waiting to hang on every word that is spoken here.
The political nation consists of about 10 per cent. of the total population. If this experiment results in the introduction of cameras into the House and if, during the course of the next two Parliaments, we can expand that political nation to 11 per cent. of the population, we shall have 97 achieved the equivalent of a tremendous revolution. Consequently, I shall not indulge in the camp phrase that we have to open ourselves up because there is a vast audience outside interested in what we are doing. Those outside who are interested in what we are doing should see us doing it in the workshop instead of in the contrived conditions of a television studio, bearing in mind all the difficulties that can arise and which were freely discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), who escapes being my Member of Parliament by only a matter of yards.
Reference has been made to experience in other countries. I should like to feed in some experience which is admittedly secondhand but which is none the less valuable. Incidentally, those of us who attend the Council of Europe and Western European Union are quite accustomed to cameras. They do not disturb us in the slightest. To anticipate the snarls from my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), I should say that I am aware that the construction of those chambers is vastly different from this one.
I wish to refer to one of the most remarkably successful experiments in the history of Europe, namely, the creation and the activation of Parliamentary democracy in West Germany. This is one of the great success stories of our time, something that those of us who saw Germany in 1945 as a heap of rubble could not possibly have foreseen.
It is undoubtedly true that the television camera has played its rôle in the revival and the buttressing of democracy in Germany. As my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Derby, North well knows, it was the television camera alone which killed off the neo-Nazi movement, led by Adolf von Thadden, which we were so worried about a few years ago. Not one word of commentary was needed in those programmes. It needed only a programme about the thugs who were active in controlling the audiences to kill that movement and to kill that pseudo-Feuhrer for ever.
The proceedings of the Bundestag are broadcast and are used by producers to feed into the kind of programmes we have on our television screens like Panorama and World in Action. I am well acquainted with the Bundestag, and 98 there is no case where the freedom to use the camera to illustrate political programmes has been abused. On the contrary, most observers will testify that it has considerably helped the growth of German democracy as a system in the minds of German people.
§ Mr. Whitehead
My hon. Friend can go further and say that there is no Western European Parliament from which cameras have been withdrawn once they have been allowed.
§ Mr. Fletcher
That is correct. It underlines the point I make.
It was suggested that some of the great set-piece debates might be broadcast in their entirety. The Budget speech was referred to. There are other great occasions in Parliament apart from the Budget debate. Again I refer to German experience. When the vote of no confidence was first tabled against Bundeskanzler Willie Brandt and when it appeared that that Government was about to fall, the whole of Germany was brought into those proceedings, which were broadcast on the radio and carried on the television networks. I was there when this happened and I was privileged to experience a whole nation participating, in a strange sense, in the decision. This is not new to us in Great Britain. It is in our bloodstream. To experience that in Germany, in view of that country's tragic history, is no possible indictment of the use of television cameras inside a parliamentary assembly.
It has been suggested that if cameras are brought into this Chamber the parliamentary buffoon will dominate the proceedings and public consciousness. This is not true and it has not been shown to be true in German experience. Those hon. Members who tend to dominate the political programmes which are illustrated by recordings from Bundestag proceedings are not the flowery orators, the comic performers or the buffoons. They are those members of the Bundestag who know what they are talking about. However badly they may deliver their speeches and however inadequate they may be as orators, if they know what they are talking about, and if what they talk about finds an echo in the experience of their audience, they become the stars of that programme.
99 As a traditionalist, and with some reluctance, I intend to support the motions because I firmly believe, contrary to the views of my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone, that by bringing the cameras in we will remove control from the television producers. I put it rather better in what I wrote, and although it is an unfortunate practice I shall quote what I said in the Listener of 13th February:What is now slowly sinking in"—this is based on my own sort of Gallup poll system—is that admitting the cameras into Parliament is actually the best of all possible ways of clipping the power of broadcasting executives to make stars of their old college chums. For the most compelling figures on television, whether the subject be cooking or the situation in Columbia, are those who know what they are talking about. Their delivery may be inelegant, their faces a lighting man's despair and their views enough to drive a director away from drink. But they command attention.I forecast in the same article that when the cameras arrived here, instead of having the all-star cast of "Panorama" and "World in Action" and those who have done the circuits interminably, we should find emerging a new kind of broadcasting star. I am sorry to say that in my article I used the term "polit-broadcasting star". I mean people who have never been invited to appear on television at all, the sort of people who know perhaps one subject but know it damned well but who have to demonstrate their knowledge in detail in Committee rather than on the Floor of the House.
Incidentally, it is central to my argument that it is no use bringing the cameras in here unless they go into Committee Rooms as well.
I think of those hon. Members who know an industry, as so many of my hon. Friends with trade unions connections do—I mention them because I know them best of all—Members who are not regarded as star turns either in this Chamber or among the ranks of television producers, Members who are never invited out to lunch by producers and who almost never appear on programmes. It is these hon. Members, speaking from experience and talking of what they know, who will become the new tele- 100 vision stars of the future, in so far as that term can be used.
The proposed experiments are fraught with difficulty. In my view, the time has now arrived for us to take a little courage in our hands and embark upon them.
§ 6.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Ronald Bell (Beaconsfield)
I think that the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher) is mistaken in believing that a new kind of television star will arise from the proposed change, but, in any case, I hope that the House will consider this matter upon some rather broader and better principle than that of animosity against those of its Members who appear frequently on television, on the one hand, or the argument advanced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann), on the other, that, after so many debates and attempts the change is inevitable and we had better get on with it.
The proposal which we are discussing is serious, and fraught with consequences for our proceedings, and we ought to take it very seriously, though not altogether dogmatically, for I see the force of the arguments in favour of the motions just as I see the force of those against them, and none of us can be entirely certain. The Leader of the House got it right, I think, when he said that we had to balance a greater degree of communication with the public against the change which would undoubtedly occur in the character of our own proceedings. If one is to weigh that balance properly, one must ask oneself what is the change which would occur in the character of our proceedings.
The first thing to be affected, I believe, would be what I call the intimacy of our proceedings. When this Chamber was destroyed during the last war and there was discussion as to how it should be replaced, and by what sort of Chamber, the overwhelming feeling then—rightly, most of us think—was that its replacement should be this small Chamber, of the same size as before, with room for about half of its Members, in order that our debates should be of the intimate and conversational character traditional in the House. In other legislatures—they have been referred to already by the hon. 101 Member for Ilkeston and others—on the whole speaking is of a declamatory kind, and only in the Parliaments of the Anglo-Saxon peoples has the Westminster tradition of informal and conversational debate prevailed. We must take that into account when we make comparisons.
The other noticeable effect, I believe, would be a difference, in our proceedings and on television, in the estimation of time. Anyone who knows that medium—I suppose that we all do in some degree—realises that one minute is a long time on television, and a pause or silence of even five seconds seems almost like a technical defect. This is where I see another consequence. An argument or line of thought may take ten minutes to deploy and be impossible to summarise in less. The Member advancing it is, let us say, a competent speaker and needs 10 minutes to establish the proportions of the components of his argument. All such things must inevitably be excluded from an edited television programme of Parliament.
The pace of our proceedings in this Chamber is slow and deliberate as becomes a deliberative assembly. It is not the fast and rather febrile tempo of a medium of entertainment. We have our Question Time, and we have the gladiatorial exchanges at 3.30, but they are not characteristic of the main business of the House. That also should be taken into account.
Comparisons have been made between comments today and comments made in the past about the reporting of the House in the Press or in the Official Report. We should have clear in our minds that what we are talking about here is a question of degree. At one end of the scale there is the completely secret debate and, I suppose, the secret vote. If one is thinking of control over the executive, the maximum control over the executive is obtained by an assembly whose proceedings are secret and the votes of whose members are secret. Any Government would be very worried if it had to operate in such as assembly.
I remember, and some others present may remember, an occasion when Mr. George Wigg, now Lord Wigg, spied strangers early in a debate. The Chair put the Question at once, as was his duty, "That strangers do withdraw". Mr. 102 Wigg shouted "Aye", the rest of the House was so stunned that no one shouted "No", and strangers were ordered to withdraw. That applied not merely to the public gallery but to the Press and to Hansard, and the consequence was that not a word spoken during, the rest of that day could have any purpose other than influencing the business of the House. The business passed swiftly. There were no speeches made for the local Press. The only purpose of uttering a word was to influence one's fellow Members in the conduct of the business. That is one extreme.
The other extreme is the maximum of immediate and direct public exposure. As far as I have seen it, there is an inverse relation in this place between the degree of control over the executive and the degree of publicity. The greatest control over legislation or the executive is exerted in a Select Committee where what a member says is not reported in Hansard, where, on the whole, the Press is not present, and where the 15 members of the Committee act as 15 individuals and vote sometimes one way and sometimes another. It is sometimes a very useful expedient to send a Bill to a Select Committee because the work done on it there is totally different from what is done in a Standing Committee. The Standing Committee, with its comparative insulation from publicity, is also much bolder in modifying legislation.
Then we all know that to some extent the House is a parade of political attitudes. The speech which is made for party or local reasons has already cut down very seriously the area of true debate, though not yet to the point of destroying it.
I venture to suggest, therefore, that the question we must ask is whether this further and very great extension of publicity, the consciousness that one's words may be listened to, one's speech heard and oneself seen, by millions of people, will not reduce very much further the area of significant debate, in the sense of a persuading debate, that goes on. I believe it is likely to have that effect.
I am not worried about the parliamentary buffoon or even the deliberate sensation seeker. I am more concerned about the general tenor of the debate 103 where hon. Members might think it preferable to make set speeches rather than off-the-cuff speeches. After all, when an hon. Member makes a speech it is not a balanced representation of his opinion on the subject. It is a speech inside a debate. It takes account of what has been said already and it takes account of the mood of the House, of the temperature of the discussion. So it should. That is what we are here for. Yet it could be misleading and unfair if at 9 o'clock in an edited version of proceedings in Parliament a paragraph were taken out of an hon. Member's speech and perhaps represented as his balanced general view on the subject. I am not so much concerned about damage or injustice to the hon. Member as the effect on the proceedings of Parliament of the consciousness that this might happen.
There are, perhaps, lesser things to be accounted. The language of debate is more elevated and more literary than that which is usual on television programmes. I would like to think that it would remain so and that the language in which our speeches are delivered would be at a standard no lower than that in the past. I wonder whether that would survive exposure on media which are basically, and must be basically, media of entertainment. I wonder whether there would not be a very strong influence upon hon. Members always to speak in terms which will be instantly apprehended by a mass audience. It would be very sad if that were so.
To sum up my attitude, it is that, basically, this House is here to do a job of work and so are its committees. Television and broadcasting exist primarily to entertain the public. They seek also to inform and educate the public, but there is an iron discipline on all their programmes whatever their purpose. It is that they must hold the attention of most of their viewers all the time and to do that they must be very fast, they must be piquant and they must be light. I do not want to see the proceedings of Parliament fall into that category.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I am grateful to the hon. and learned Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) for making a shorter speech. The first four speeches of the debate averaged 11 minutes and the next five averaged 21 minutes. I 104 hope that we may get back to the earlier average.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. J. M. Craigen (Glasgow, Maryhill)
Most of the speeches so far have concentrated on the televising of Parliament, and I do not think they have changed my view that it would be a mistake to televise our proceedings. My views on the broadcasting proposal are, however, a little more flexible.
When I first became a Member of Parliament I probably thought that it was desirable to televise Parliament. Having spent 12 months as a Member, and having reflected a little more seriously about the power of the media in our society in recent years, I am now firmly opposed to the proposal. This complete change of mind has arisen because while Parliament is accountable to the electorate the greatest estate in the realm—the media—seems to be accountable to no one. Parliament has some negative control over the media. We control the Independent Broadcasting Authority on such things as commercial advertising rates and we have some control over the BBC on matters like the licence fee.
My right hon. Friend the Lord President asked us to consider whether we would better serve democracy by televising our proceedings. If Parliament is reported less now than it once was I believe the reason is that it is no longer on the same wavelength as the problems which confront the average citizen. If Parliament is ceasing to be the centre of attention it is possibly because Government Departments, the corridors of power, have become much more important places. However, I do not class myself with the traditionalists or with those who seek a certain exclusiveness for the House. There is a great and urgent need for reform of our parliamentary procedures and for making Parliament a more meaningful place.
By televising Parliament we run the risk of being dictated to by the cathode ray tube. One criticism of back benchers is that they are nothing more than Lobby fodder. By televising the proceedings we might become nothing more than camera fodder, and that is not a particularly attractive situation. Spectators from the public gallery have sometimes remarked to me that this House is the best shown 105 in town. However, after having been put through a television interpretation it might well be reduced to a second-rate Palladium.
We should concentrate a little more on the second question that my right hon. Friend the Lord President posed to us, namely, would Parliament be more effective in its work if it were to televise its proceedings? The media have gained an increasing power to shape events in this country. We are becoming perilously near having the media actually create history, putting words into people's mouths and more or less forcing situations to arise. That is a very dangerous position for any society to get into. Parliament ought to be getting down to the serious problems confronting our society in terms of industry, economics and social affairs. The debate has been more about the power and influence of the media than the question of whether we should televise the proceedings in the Chamber.
One of the serious implications of the power of the media is that it has robbed the people of their ability to respond. I remember a striking incident when I was on holiday in the Isle of Man at the time of the Summerland fire. I happened to be on the beach when the fire broke out. I remember hearing some people next to me say "Let's go into the hotel to see if it is on the television". That highlights the fact that some people must see a thing on television before they think they are seeing the real thing.
I am all for open government, but televising Parliament, other than, perhaps, the more formal events such as the Queen's Speech or the Budget speech, would make it more difficult to get considered government, to have sensible debates. I do not feel that the same ogstacles lie in the way of broadcasting the proceedings of the House, but I would definitely be opposed to the intrusion of the cameras into the proceedings with all the inherent dangers that that would impose not only on Parliament but on democracy.
§ 7.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith (East Grinstead)
I understand why the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen) expressed a certain hesitancy about televising the House. Many hon. Members on both sides of the House 106 have expressed similar hesitancy, not only today but over many years. I have been as guilty as anyone of adopting a somewhat ambivalent approach to the idea of broadcasting the proceedings of Parliament.
I should declare an interest in this matter. I am a member of the General Advisory Council of the Independent Broadcasting Authority. I once voted for an experiment, and I once abstained, when the motion was debated in 1966 and was lost by one vote. My having experience of both worlds may account for my comparative lack of enthusiasm for either side of the argument. If the proponents of televising our proceedings have appeared to exaggerate the value of television to this House, the defenders of the status quo on the previous occasion, as today, have seemed to be too pessimistic about its effects. Be that as it may, as time has gone by I have become convinced that the House should be courageous tonight and take the plunge. I shall give my reasons later.
First, I should like to deal very briefly with some of the fears that have been expressed, especially about televising the House, which I recognise cause genuine anxiety to some hon. Members. We all know—this is at the back of our fear—that television does something more than merely record events. It can shape them as well. I do not know whether it will encourage some hon. Members to play to the gallery. Certainly over the years we have evolved to a remarkable degree an unself-conscious attitude to both the Strangers' Gallery and the Press Gallery But if the temptation to play to the cameras, to become "actors", becomes too much for us, we should not be powerless. Mr. Speaker will decide who appears on some of the programmes.
If that is not enough, I assume that if we object to the complete transmission of our programmes, because we feel that it is being abused by those hon. Members who wish to abuse it, we shall devise in our wisdom a fair and liberal editing board. I do not agree with the Father of the House, the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), who said that those responsible for broadcasting an edited version would emphasise the sensational. I do not agree either with the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. 107 Mendelson), whose words were echoed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) that basically the people who would have a say in what was broadcast would be people whose minds and hearts were deeply rooted in a purely theatrical, dramatic tradition, interested only in putting on a show. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Penistone that television must rivet people to their seats or be out of business. If that has been its objective over the past few years, it has made a pretty poor fist at it with some programmes. That is to mistake the nature of television.
As anyone who has worked in television knows, there is no such thing as a television audience. There is an audience for light entertainment, an audience for the arts and an audience for light, fast-moving current affairs programmes which inject a degree of superficiality into the way in which they deal with matters. There is also a considerable market, if that is the right word, for heavy, sometimes ponderous, serious current affairs programmes which deal with matters in a thoroughly responsible manner.
Over the years we have developed men and women of tremendous sensitivity and skill who know about our political constitution and who have as much respect for this place as we do. With that fund of knowledge and that expertise behind us, it should be possible for us to lay the ground rules to ensure that the House is not abused should it agree to the experiment.
There are those who are concerned that broadcasting, especially television, will discount the qualities which we look for in parliamentarians and put a premium on the technical ability of some hon. Members with prior experience to come across on television. But will it really do so? The skills and talents required of a television interviewer-reporter include an ability to link film and other visual aids with the spoken word and to talk naturally and directly to a camera. They include the skill and ability, which we sometimes portray here, to listen to what someone else is saying, but to do so while being concerned with the clock and with getting off one subject and on to another, and to do it all calmly and in a relaxed, confident and competent 108 manner while being prepared for the whole programme to come grinding to a halt. That has been partly my experience.
Speaking here demands few of the skills I have described. But even if it did, not many hon. Members would know, if our programmes were edited, whether our remarks would be transmitted anyway. I believe that we should find, as parliamentarians have found in other legislatures which have allowed broadcasting facilities over many years, not to mention our party conferences, that these presentational fears are ill founded. I suspect that we shall continue to be influenced primarily by the shape of the Chamber and by its debating traditions.
The fear mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield, raised by the prospect of broadcasting our proceedings which has always struck me as being the most worrying, is the one which is most difficult to define—that is, the effect it will have on the intimacy of this place. The fear is that in some curious way the cameras will rob this House of its informality and intimacy and that the more human aspects of the House which have given it its colour and personality will disappear. The fear is not that if this happens it will encourage more theatrical behaviour but that it will induce a dull uniformity.
One of the nicest things about the House of Commons is that when we speak we often speak to one another, with the nation acting as a kind of eavesdropper. The methods of behaviour we have adopted, rough and idiosyncratic though they may be at times, are the ways and means we have evolved of rubbing along together. We know that what is seen and heard in the Strangers' Gallery is not always quite what it seems and that the Press, which knows about these things in its interpretation of our proceedings, acts as a valuable filter. Television could destroy all that. Lacking the filter of the Press we might, for fear of being misunderstood by the mass unseen audience, abandon our unique informality.
On the other hand, it is only fair to recall that there are those outside who have worked in the medium of television and who, if given the responsibility to help to transmit our proceedings so that they are introduced into news bulletins and current affairs programmes, could also 109 display—indeed, have already displayed—sensitivity about the manner in which we conduct our affairs. But we shall not know the answer to this question unless they are given the responsibility.
So much for the fears. There is always a price to pay, and some hon. Members think that that price is too high. Why change? The main reason for change stems from the simple fact that television has altered the focal point of the nation's interest. Parliament, according to its critics, has become more remote in recent years and is less relevant. Whether our influence in reality has waned, our prestige certainly has. Our debates are now inadequately covered by the Press. I make no complaint, because the Press recognises that times have changed too and that while the public increasingly depend upon television for their news, comment and insight into the world in which they live, our form of communication with the public remains substantially the same. This surely cannot be right.
I remember that when I was first in broadcasting we were subject to the 14-day rule. Until 1955 the BBC, by agreement with the political parties, had refrained from anticipating parliamentary statements or discussions of matters during the fortnight before they were due to be debated in Parliament. I quote from the Pilkington Report on Broadcasting in 1960 which referred to the practice of not anticipating parliamentary statements or discussions:In 1955 the BBC proposed to abandon this practice. The Postmaster General then required both the BBC and the ITA to adhere to it. Later, the direction was suspended: initially, for a six-months' experimental period; and then indefinitely, on the understanding that neither the BBC nor independent television would so act as to derogate from the primacy of Parliament as a forum for debating the affairs of the nation.That has now gone by the board.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
Does not my hon. Friend think that perhaps because that rule went the primacy of Parliament also was derogated from? Does he not think that a greater exposure of figures in public life has produced a greater disrespect rather than the reverse? Does not familiarity breed contempt?
§ Mr. Johnson Smith
I do not think familiarity breeds contempt, but the issues discussed on television are bound to open 110 up another area of consultation and public debate. If my hon. Friend's argument is that we should narrow the area of debate in geographical terms, then the Press would be out tomorrow because it conducts debates of its own and takes attitudes in its editorial columns which are often contrary to what goes on in this Chamber. Before television came on the scene, newspapers would write editorials and conduct debates. It seems to me that many of the arguments against televising or broadcasting our proceedings point away from our democracy and away from the trend of a more educated democracy which demands a knowledge of what is happening.
I believe that broadcasting could help to redress the balance and could achieve two objectives. It could focus public attention on the way in which we conduct the nation's business. Those who believe, as I do, that we can conduct it with greater efficiency will need public support for reform. We shall not get research secretaries, to take up the argument put by the hon. Member for Penistone, or obtain many of the features which we associate with the modern conduct of parliamentary business unless we have a public who are more aware and who have a greater knowledge of how Parliament works.
Secondly, broadcasting could focus attention on the valuable work that is done here—work of which the public are largely unaware. If we accept, as many hon. Members do, that there is a growing demand among the electorate to be consulted and to know what is being done in their name, a Parliament which insulates itself has only itself to blame if it does not recognise that television can play a constructive and serious rôle in bridging the gap between Parliament and the electorate. Those of us who have watched the activities of the American television companies and who saw what happened in the inquiries into the Watergate affair must accept that in the United States television made a massive contribution to the American public's understanding not only of the scandal but of the institutions of the United States.
Therefore, in my view broadcasting our proceedings can do the same for us by widening and deepening the people's knowledge of their Parliament and of 111 the problems we face. For these reasons I hope that the House will overcome caution and hesitancy tonight and approve the two Government motions.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Colin Jackson (Brighouse and Spenborough)
I hope that the House will follow the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher) and make up its mind once and for all on this question. It is 11 years since the hon. Member for Ilford, North, then Mr. Iremonger, introduced a motion on this subject.
Reference has been made to the 1966 debate on experimental television which we lost by one vote. On that occasion because of fog an hon. Member who was to have flown to Scotland went by train and that motion was lost. It is in such ways that these matters are sometimes decided.
We have been told that if we agree to this experimental period it will be a once-and-for-all decision. One might equally say that if we vote against the motion it will be thrown out once and for all. Surely a period of 20 years is a long period for the House to make up its mind, and if hon. Members get nervous about the matter they have the choice to go backwards rather than forwards.
I believe that we should go ahead with this experiment. This House is 900 years old and surely it can try out a new experiment. It will last for only a relatively short period. We can look at the experiment to see how it turns out. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), who is a television expert, said that the television experiment may turn out to be a failure. If that happens, let us be done with it—but let us not have this wavering backwards and forwards year in and year out. I feel that a period of three weeks for experimentation is too short. I can recall previous debates on this subject when we discussed looking at ourselves on closed circuit television before launching ourselves on the public. As far as I can gather, in the experimentation period there would be not only closed circuit television but a period of Questions and at 10.30 at night there would be a summary of events. I repeat that a period of three weeks is too short to enable hon. Members to come to a 112 final conclusion for or against televising the House.
I shall try to follow Mr. Speaker's injunction to be brief. It is said that if we allow television into the House it will dominate performances here and that it is television which will inform the world outside about how we behave and conduct ourselves. I think it was once said in the 1966 debate that for most hon. Members the Floor of the House comes at the top of the Speaker's wig and that anyone who tried to play to the Gallery would look an extraordinarily stupid person.
In terms of getting the correct impression of what is going on in the House, it would be wise for us to contrast the Press reports and the television reports. All of us will have read about "Uproar in the House"or"Riot on the back benches". If we could check that sort of thing with a television summary of the proceedings we could judge the truth of such descriptions. Most hon. Members will agree that the Lobby correspondents of BBC 1 and 2 and ITV have behaved in a responsible fashion. To imagine that they would go off in some kind of David Frost antic would be ludicrous. If they did so they would be out on their necks.
If we read comments about world affairs such as floods, riots or demonstrations and such events are covered on television we have a double check. Far from becoming mesmerised by television and far from creating inadequacy, we should zero in on greater adequacy if we had television reporting as well as newspaper reporting.
Reference has been made to television outside the United Kingdom. We have heard about television in Germany and of that dramatic moment when Willy Brandt's political career was in balance. I have watched a number of political reports on television of the United States Congress. Joseph McCarthy was killed off on the television by Ed Murrow and Senator Flanders, from Vermont, an old conservative. McCarthy on television bored the country to death. On the other hand, in the television reporting of Watergate we were able to get a measurement of the people concerned in the event. We were able to get an impression not only of the people who were giving evidence but of those who were accused and of those who were conducting the evidence.
113 Our Committee proceedings could be an impressive version of how this place behaves. Such television would clear away like the plague some of our sillier demonstrators. I was told when I came here that I should try to specialise and speak only on the subjects that I had studied. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston that they are the people who would be picked up by the television cameras. The cameras would not focus on the Members who are jack-of-all-trades and perhaps masters of none.
We have moved around the world in considering the use of vision in reporting our activities. The United Nations Security Council debates are extremely informative—they are not always encouraging—on how the world's councils are conducted. I am confident that the House would be capable of a similar achievement.
One aspect of the televising of the proceedings of the House that has not yet been fully developed is its possible part in our social history. On television we see our industrial behaviour, our party political behaviour outside the House and our schools, but this place, which is supposed to be one of our most valuable institutions for the preservation of democracy, is shrouded and kept away from the view of the public. Every day we are missing history that could be stored away in film cans and put away for future reporting—for example, "The Rise and Fall of Margaret Thatcher" or "The End of Harold Wilson". We are missing that sort of view and performance.
All I am saying is that we should make up our minds and try. We would then know whether it was worth while. If it was not, those who are now against it would be justified and those who now believe that it is worth a chance would have been able to conduct the experiment. It is my view that we should vote for the motions before us.
§ 7.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
The hon. Member for Brighouse and Spenborough (Mr. Jackson) seems to be illustrating the dilemma which has been overhanging the whole of the debate. He suggests that we should take a great experiment and that three weeks is not sufficient in which to conduct it. In almost the same breath he goes on to speak 114 about various countries where such experiments have continued for some time and which have gone on quite happily. I imagine—
§ Mr. Colin Jackson
Perhaps that is not a correct interpretation. I was saying that in Germany, for example, it is plain that the experiment has been a success and that televising has taken over.
§ Mr. Irvine
That is precisely what I was about to say. The hon. Gentleman gave examples of countries in which like experiments have been a success and where the system is working. He said that he would be in the Lobby tonight to vote that we should have an experiment here. I shall go into the opposite Lobby for nearly the same reasoning as that which the hon. Gentleman has adopted.
I shall give the House three examples of countries in which I have had some experience over the past 15 or more years. That has not been continuous experience but experience which I have gained from visiting the countries concerned from time to time and from watching the way in which their experiments have been working.
Before I describe my examples I must say to the House that I believe that the problem which we should be posing is not whether we should have an experiment but what the price will be for the House if we have one and we find that it works. I was hoping, when the Lord President put forward his propositions, that he might give us some indication of what he thought would happen if the experiment were a success and what adjustments we would have to make to our procedure to meet with the requirements of either medium.
The first example to which I draw the attention of the House is Denmark. The chamber in Denmark has been wired for television and sound for many years. It began its experiments in the early 1930s. At the end of the day the people in Denmark have found the televising of the activities of its chamber deadly dull. It is not regarded as offering anything which is of any benefit at all. It is only on rare occasions that pieces of television film are used. It is only on two or three occasions a year that the facilities for radio broadcasting are used in Denmark. That is a country which has been 115 operating a sound system for 30 years or more. It has been operating one or both of the mediums which it is suggested we should consider. The first thing that we may find is that all the benefits which some hon. Members have been asking us to believe would flow from a successful experiment may not turn out to be matters that we require.
New Zealand is my second example. In 1936 the New Zealand authorities decided that they would have radio in their House. New Zealand has a House of only 80 members. The exact parallel is, perhaps, not easy to draw with a House of approximately 630 Members. New Zealand has had continuous broadcasting—that may or may not be what is being proposed here, but that is what these authorities decided that they wanted—for the past 30 years or so. What has been the effect of that? First, the New Zealand question time, as we know Question Time here, is no longer possible. In New Zealand a member has to get up and say who he is and where he comes from and then read out his question. The New Zealand system provides only half an hour for questions. I need not remind the House of the influence that that would have on our procedure.
The second thing that happened in New Zealand was that it was found that the peak listening period occurred at about 7 o'clock in the evening. Instead of having a Minister making his speech at the beginning of the debate and another Minister winding up at the end, the Ministers' speeches are crammed into the 7 o'clock period. The result is that there is no beginning to the debate and no end either. The statements which are made here at 3.30 in the afternoon tend to be made at 7 o'clock in New Zealand because Ministers regard that as the most important moment to reach the nation.
Another feature of the situation in New Zealand is that reception is better in the afternoon than in the evening, so the people in Auckland or Dunedin are able to get a better reception in the afternoon than after 7 o'clock. For this reason the more important speeches are made between 3 o'clock and 7 o'clock and the less important after 7 o'clock. Those are significant considerations, and if such 116 things happen to us, we should have to make certain adjustments to our procedure.
My last example is Australia, where there is a House more comparable with ours, with more members than New Zealand's and with questions at the begining, but the Australians have exactly the same difficulty with their questions as do the New Zealanders. The member has to identify himself and read out his question so that those at the other end of the radio know what is going on. There debates have precisely the features of the New Zealand debates—there is no beginning and the main speeches are made at 7 o'clock, after which everyone goes to dinner or to the bar till the division at 10 o'clock.
If we have this experiment we shall have to think very carefully about the results for our procedure and whether we shall be left with precisely the same House as before. It may be found, as in Australia and New Zealand, that Members frequently make speeches not to the House or with relevance to the debate but to their constituents over the heads of those here listening.
One of the interesting features in both Australia and New Zealand is that there is no demand in either country for the televising of proceedings. As a result of their knowledge of what happens with broadcasting, they have decided that introducing television cameras might create great difficulties. If you were in charge of a television camera televising these proceedings at this moment, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I am not sure how much inspiration you would find from putting the camera up and down the nearly empty benches on either side of the House.
I shall vote against both experiments, because till we have thought a good deal more about what might happen to our procedure and about how broadcasting might affect the House I think that it would be better not to have the experiments.
§ 7.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham West)
I am surprised by the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Godman Irvine). Now that he has the prettier of the two major party leaders, he wants her to appear on 117 television only in the presence of Robin Day. That is the precise difference between us. What the advocates of broadcasting are seeking—and I can claim to have been one as long as I have been in the House—is the reality of this place coming over in some degree. No reality is perfect, neither broadcasting nor anything else, but there is substantially more reality in broadcasting than in the cold words of summaries written by a journalist, however expert he may be.
Right hon. and hon. Members may be cross-examined on television not by their opposite number, probably also expert in the subject, but by someone who is supposed to be able to cross-question not only them but many other people expert in many other subjects, even though, as has been said by the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith), he is expert only in television interviewing. They are cross-examined, not immediately they have made a statement but later, when they have had time for second thoughts, and then in a studio. The immediacy has gone and the scene is artificial even more artificial than the House at its highest and most formal moments.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend and apologise to him. The congratulations and the apology contain a point. Some 10 years ago, I started off this subject in the old Publications and Debates Committee. The late Lord King-Hall, when a Member of this House, had carefully constructed that Committee's terms of reference so that it could consider broadcasting. I inherited his farsighted thought.
We produced a report, and one of our observations was that we should like always to ensure that this Palace in its public operative sense—the House and all its Committees—was reflected in broadcasting. I still agree with that.
I realise that the motions would put a great deal of responsibility on my right hon. Friend and the whole of his Services Committee, but that is the only practicable way of dealing with the matter. However, I hope that it is plain to my right hon. Friend that if either of the motions is carried, what we mean is still the sort of suggestion that was made in that report.
I was unable to be present to hear my right hon. Friend—and this is my apology 118 to him—because I was chairing, while the hon. Member for Barkston Ash (Mr. Allison), now on the Opposition Front Bench, was sitting in the body of a Select Committee that was interviewing in public Treasury witnesses on the subject of the Public Expenditure White Paper, a subject of some importance to the country as a whole. We were surrounded by both academics and journalists, because of the nature of the subject.
It would be wrong if all Committees—such as that one—were totally wiped out by not being broadcast. I do not want to see massive continuous broadcasting of the sort that the hon. Member for Rye rightly criticised. At one meeting of our former Select Committee the presiding officer of a legislature—I do not want to name him, because that would be a breach of confidence—gave us evidence on how not to do it. He was in favour of broadcasting, but not in the way that his legislature had adopted.
The hon. Member for Rye rightly said that continuous broadcasting was ridiculous. It is ridiculous to everybody. It would change our procedure and it would be an imposition on the public. What is wanted is to lift the ban on broadcasting so that the House may appear as a House, not as individual Members but as the collective body that we all know it to be.
What I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on is his splitting of the two issues of radio and television. We have had a closed circuit experiment in radio broadcasting and we could go almost immediately to a public experiment in radio broadcasting. There is no need, as some, I believe, wish, to delay that until we get the Chamber ready for a television experiment. If the House so willed, we could go to radio broadcasting permanently in the sense of lifting the ban on it almost immediately.
There is a good reason for doing it that way. I shall vote for both motions tonight, but I am in favour of dealing with radio first. Technical problems are involved, and the hon. Member for East Grinstead, with his knowledge of broadcasting, rightly mentioned some of them. Some of these problems—not all—could be dealt with by trying radio 119 first: one does not start to swim at the deep end of the bath; one usually starts in the shallow end.
I come finally to a simple but important matter. Some hon. Members have mentioned editing. The first person to edit debates in the House or in its Committee, as you, Mr. Speaker, are well aware, is the person who sits in the Chair. Today, for example, we can all see hon. Members being called from each side of the House so that the Government side and Opposition side are represented, and in addition, I am sure, in his wisdom Mr. Speaker has been carefully selecting hon. Members according to whether they are for or against broadcasting, or even whether, like my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Mary-hill (Mr. Craigen), they are for radio and against television. So the first editor of our debates is Mr. Speaker.
If we broadcast portions of our debates so well balanced in relation to speeches by Front Benchers and back benchers representing various points of view that in summary form they represent the selection that has been made by the procedures of the House, we shall have a far more representative impact on the public than allowing others to select who is merely to be interviewed. That is the difference. It will also be far more intimate.
When we had the closed circuit radio broadcast experiment there was one thing, and one thing only, which was substantially different from the "Today in Parliament" programme. Every voice was represented from old Etonians to miners, from the North of Scotland to the South of England, Wales and Ulster. They were all there. When somebody reads our words over the air they are read by standard voices for the purely technical reason that the BBC could not have so many voices there. Consequently, our words are read in the uniform, less representative, accent of the whole of the United Kingdom. I should like to direct broadcasting so that the people will realise that this House is more representative of the United Kingdom as a whole than even they may now think it is.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. John Page (Harrow, West)
In my unaccustomed rôle as a parliamentary 120 hermaphrodite, voting for radio but against television, I find myself—I wonder whether on other occasions hon. Members have found themselves in the same position—persuaded against the speeches made by those who take a particular view. I find my withers unwrung by the starry-eyed speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith). The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) held me for some time, but his overweening self-righteousness put me off trying to follow him in the end. I was impressed by the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher) who is always brilliant, and by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Maryhill (Mr. Craigen), equally brilliant, because his thesis is exactly the same as mine.
I want to put three questions. First, would the work of Parliament be more effectively carried out if we had radio or television? Secondly, would the standing of Parliament be improved? Thirdly, would communication between Parliament and the people be improved?
I do not see any reason why our procedures need be changed. I thought that the discussion of what happens in New Zealand and Australia was most fascinating, but it has never been decided that there is likely to be a full-time direct single-channel broadcast. Therefore, I see no reason why there should be a change in our procedures.
I turn now to the business of editing the clips, the little excerpts, which would be included in the radio or television pieces. I cannot believe that, however unbiased the editor may be, he would not have to show some kind of "demo" here. I believe that television has turned us into a demo society. Our constituents would expect us to create a tremendous row over the Government's disgraceful treatment of the self-employed and to stand up, shout, jeer and wave our Order Papers when the moment came in the same way as, I regret, the far more disgraceful performance of hon. Gentlemen opposite at the conclusion of our proceedings on the Industrial Relations Bill when an attempt was made to move the Mace. That is why I said my hon. Friend the Member for East Grinstead was starry-eyed. I believe that demos will be used as illustrative clips and that they 121 will derogate even more the esteem of this House in public opinion.
I think that many of the speeches that we make are long and dull. If the funny bits are put in they might be of advantage to those who have to listen to the debates. But we must accept that the whole atmosphere of this House would be changed if the cameras were allowed in. It would cease to be a private debating Chamber. As my Member of Parliament, my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) said, sometimes an hon. Member will get up and make a single point in a debate and that might be taken as crystallising his whole attitude on a major subject. This is a debating Chamber, but with "the box" it will become the hustings.
Would the standing of Parliament be improved? I believe that a little more mystique is valuable to Parliament. [Laughter.] I do. I have always felt that the dance of the seven veils was more attractive than the full frontal confrontation. It was a subject of the greatest depression to me in my first year after becoming a Member of this honourable House to find that Cabinet Ministers, Privy Counsellors and even junior Ministers were just ordinary people. I thought that they were brilliant geniuses who, by their greater intellectural ability, were able to chart a better course for this country. I now know that they are extremely gifted, hard-working blokes who spend more time on their homework than those of us who remain indefinitely on the back benches. It is hard work and homework that gets promotion in this place. The 5 per cent. of genius is not always a necessary ingredient in the recipe.
When it comes to noisy exchanges, we shall find that people get as depressed with the House of Commons as it would become as they are with the gladiatorial pre-election television broadcasts when a Minister says that someone is a liar and somebody else says that he is a fool. I think that that must be very depressing for the ordinary voter. When these debating expressions are used—not that they would be used with you in the Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker—we take them with a dose of parliamentary salt. However, many people outside this place do not have the same ability to judge such ex- 122 pressions because they do not know the personalities so well.
Will communication between Parliament and the country as a whole be improved? I think that the answer must be "Yes". There are attractions in hearing the spoken word. I was rather annoyed with the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) because he rather spiked my guns. An hon. Friend of mine, in coming into this House, said "If you listen to 'Yesterday in Parliament' and 'What the Papers Say', you are better informed than 75 per cent. of your colleagues." "Yesterday in Parliament" runs for a quarter of an hour from 8.45 a.m. until 9 o'clock when some of us, who go to our businesses, have been at our desks for an hour or two while others—possibly hon. Gentlemen opposite—are still shaving or lying in bed. The editor of that programme told me that if it included excerpts—clips—instead of running for a quarter of an hour it would have to go on for half an hour. I wonder whether many of the people who now listen to that programme would turn it on if it were to last half an hour. The attraction of the voices and genuine exposition might be lost—
§ Mr. Page
I shall not give way. I interrupted the hon. Gentleman once, but it would be unfair to allow anybody to interrupt me. I am trying to find my peroration, which will not take very long.
It is significant that Australia and New Zealand have had radio broadcasting for about 40 years but have not bothered to put in "the box", or, if they have, nobody bothers to turn it on. It is a sensible and reasonable first step to find out whether radio is acceptable, attractive and important to people's lives. If it is after three or four years, let us experiment with "the box", but not tonight.
§ 7.50 p.m.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
I hope that the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith) will not leave the Chamber because I am about to say something nice about him. I am sure that even he, with his great experience in television, would find difficulty in producing upon the screens of the nation an attractive sight of these 123 almost empty benches at this moment. I am sure it was right for my right hon. Friend to arrange this debate, because although the subject has often been debated before it is fair that a new Parliament should look at the matter again.
But I become concerned about our standards of value and the importance we attach to different subjects when I realise that at half-past ten or just before we shall begin to talk about a most important question affecting a large proportion of the people of this country. We are to consider important matters of housing and we are to debate amendments from the House of Lords. I do not know what good we think we are doing to relations between Parliament and the public when we have this rather narcistic talk about whether we should inflict ourselves on the eyeballs of the nation and leave important questions on the housing of our people to be debated as a postscript at 10.30 p.m.
That is perhaps a rather harsh comment, but I find myself wondering whether anybody, except perhaps other Members of Parliament and people in the media business, really cares what Members look like. We are talking not about some magic or some new process of democracy but about whether it is important that the images of a collection of men and women of diverse heights, of varied widths and of varied presentability, photogeneity and articulation should be shown against the backcloth of a fake elderly building.
The idea that this process has anything to do with democracy or with political education and involvement is completely meretricious. It presupposes, in a doctrine of total unwisdom, that because one sees one knows. There is no connection between seeing and understanding. In fact, the propaganda of the communicators is in danger of reducing us all to a state of moronic watching as the only form of literacy, a process which has gone so far in many American newspapers that there is little besides the strip cartoons to afflict the vision and one is expected to look only at pictures and not read the scarce print.
I suggest that in this atmosphere the inward eye, which is the only real vision, shrivels. I often think of what 124 Rupert Brooke wrote in one of his sonnets of his vision of Heaven where we wouldsee, no longer blinded by our eyes.That is a profound statement to bear in mind in this age of the eyeball.
What is there to see in Parliament? If anybody really cared about the looks of the place, or the looks or non-looks of some of us, there would have been some demand for photography, but as far as I know no Press photographer has clamoured to sit in the Gallery, to sit aloft endlessly in the hope that someone will throw a book, pull somebody else's hair or snatch the Mace. We have survived without still pictures. Why cannot we survive without moving pictures?
We could, if we reduce this place to a pictorial performance, give our constituents all sorts of false ideas. The camera will not tell viewers that the hon. Member with a rather shifty look has bad eyes but is a good chap in Committee. The camera might catch a pale-looking washed-out hon. Lady who does not look much good, not because she is asleep but because she has been up all night in a Standing Committee. It is not possible to have a label saying "I have been up all night". Some people shut their eyes to concentrate, and they are not asleep even for a moment.
Our constituents will be misled, as many would be tonight, over the absence of their own Member of Parliament. He may be absent for the very good reason that he has been in Committee or in the Central Lobby. On the other hand a constituent might notice that his Member of Parliament is always present in the Chamber and think what an assiduous chap he was. The truth might be that he is such a bore that nobody will talk to him and nobody ever puts him on a Committee. I suggest that if we televise our proceedings we may get a false picture across to viewers.
There have been references to television experiments in Germany. My main recollection of the German experiment is of a German MP's wife saying "Whenever my husband's face comes on the television when they are doing Parliament, he is always picking his nose, but he rarely picks his nose. There must be a camera man who does not like him and is zooming in on him at unflattering moments". 125 It makes the whole situation frivolous and unworthy of political argument and debate.
I remember the late Aneurin Bevan discussing this question in 1959. He was considering the possibility in the context of running a channel devoted solely to Parliament. He said:There ought to be a special channel that they can turn on and listen to us at any time. I am not arguing that we should have only special debates televised, but that there should be a special channel for the House of Commons itself … there is no reason why the other place also should not be televised."—[Official Report, 3rd November 1959; Vol. 612, c. 867.]Fortunately, that is not what we are discussing tonight. I understand we are discussing the possibility of an edited, shortened programme, and I am worried about the practicalities of this. It seems to me that in this age of what ought to be economic stringency there will be thousands of feet of film taken day in and day out from which pieces will be snipped. On what basis? Who is to do the snipping, and to whom will the person who I shall call the editor be responsible? Is he to be in the position where Members feel that they have been underexposed or overexposed can put down a motion of protest? How can this job be done, and at what time can it be done?
In Australia and New Zealand the whole programme of Parliament had to be altered. Are we to have our main speeches early in the day so that the film can be prepared before everybody has gone to bed or shall we wait until the next day, in which case all the talk of immediacy is lost? Are we to do what has happened in Sweden and concentrate mainly on the big set pieces, the big occasions? I think that would be a failure, because the essence of Parliament is not the big speech. I cannot imagine anything less photogenic than the Chancellor of the Exchequer standing for three hours at the Dispatch Box solemnly and solidly reading his Budget speech. It is not the State Opening that is important. The real essence of Parliament is in our working Committees, and our sometimes ill-attended late-night debates. Sometimes an Adjournment debate is very important, but it takes place in an empty House. Those occasions form the lifeblood of our Parliament.
126 If we allow ourselves to be talked into a position in which what looks best counts most, we shall fail Parliament and democracy. I insist that those in favour of television are saying that what looks best must be best, because television is a visual art. Nobody switches on his television set to listen to the words. Television means looking at the picture. People who wish to see pictures must make pictures. That is the danger we face.
If we discuss this experiment in terms of covering other activities such as Select Committees, which Select Committees and which Standing Committees do we mean? Who is to make these decisions? How are we to make intelligible by means of snippets the long and often seemingly tedious work that Members of Parliament must do in Committee? It will distort Parliament, however unintended by the organisers of the experiment, just as when a film of a book is made, the book is altered. A film is never as good as the book—it is all pictures and no writing.
Other parts of the wholeness of our parliamentary life must be taken into account. Sometimes hon. Members dictate letters or interview constituents. Even when someone is having a row with a Whip or talking to someone in the corridor, such things cannot become part of the programme on the small screen. However, they are all part of parliamentary life. Just as we cannot separate all the ingredients in a splendid pudding, we cannot fix the eye of the camera on one or two separate aspects of parliamentary life. Parliament is a corporate affair. I do not think that its complexity can possibly be conveyed in a few yards of nightly film. The danger is that a false illusion might be given of participation and of revelation. That would be a superficial trivialisation of Parliament. I hope that the House will reject the proposal.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. George Reid (Clackmannan and and East Stirlingshire)
I should like to answer the points made by the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) in a moment. First, I admit to an interest in this matter. I was a television producer for a number of years. 127 I was responsible for covering party conferences in Scotland and England for many years, and in the mid-60s I was secretary to various ITV working parties which reported to the House of Commons on broadcasting its proceedings. On that occasion—in 1966—the motion was lost by one vote. Supposedly one Scots Member returned from the airport finding that his flight was cancelled. I trust that this motion will meet with a happier fate.
The broad guidelines to this debate have been establshed for almost 20 years. In 1959 Aneurin Bevan, with his usual vision and percipience, called for the very new medium of television to be used to re-establish the connection between the public at large and the House in particular. Hon. Members will recall that he said:It is a humiliating state of affairs in which Members are picked out to take part in broadcasting on the ipse dixit of the bureaucracy of Broadcasting House.Many hon. Members today will find that that situation still obtains—in Scotland as well as south of the border. The centre of debate has moved from this House into the television studio. Often the television producers use the situation to produce a pure gladiatorial conflict where the flow of debate in the House is not necessarily reflected.
There are two good and basic reasons for televising the proceedings of the House. The first is that it is extremely foolish for a powerful institution such as this to deny itself access to the most powerful medium of communication known in our time. Secondly, it is undemocratic to deny the public at large the best possible chance to see the House in action.
There have been many changes since the mid-1960s, not least in the hardware of television. I suspect that many hon. Members still think that the cameras to be installed in the House will be of 1960s vintage, the House being floodlit almost to football stadium proportions and large microphones being used. That is no longer true because the technology over the past three or four years has been that of miniaturisation. Like the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), I prefer to delay the televising of this House until new equipment comes on the market within six or seven 128 months' time and until the new light-sensitive cameras are available to work at 10 foot or 15 foot candle power. Those cameras would be installed under the Galleries, with operators hidden from the view of the Chamber, with small microphones being used. That would be a sensible course of action. There is no reason why the radio broadcasting of this House should not go forward now.
It is an essential pre-condition of broadcasting in the House that a parliamentary broadcasting unit be established. I would be most unhappy about the control of broadcasting falling into the hands either of the BBC or of the IBA. We need a Parliamentary Committee to overlook this area. The staff must be paid from a parliamentary fund. The staff must be similar to the Hansard reporters. Hon. Members should not be mistaken that this will not be an expensive process. Taking into account capital equipment, we shall need 10 video tape colour machines costing £100,000 each. We shall need a large staff. The average television director is paid from £6,000 to £7,000 a year these days.
Taking those factors into consideration and the massive volume of video tape required, we are speaking of expenditure of from £3 million to £4 million annually. I think it is worth the cost.
§ Mrs. Jeger
Would not the constituents of the hon. Gentleman perhaps prefer that money to be spent on housing?
§ Mr. Reid
My constituents in Scotland will welcome the opportunity of seeing how often the subject of housing in Scotland is debated in this House. They would welcome the opportunity for these matters to be seen on television in the Scottish Assembly. I appreciate that this is an individual point of view. However, I think that the £3 million or £4 million annually will be well spent. But I do not want hon. Members to deceive themselves as to the total cost of the operation.
Another reason why I favour a parliamentary broadcasting unit is the essential one of editing and the basic process of cutting tapes. If this were a party conference and I were employed by the BBC or ITV, or were seconded to a unit, I would be tempted to dress up the debate now. This is a rather empty House. Television is not just reportage. It is 129 theatre to some extent. I should be tempted to look at two hon. Members, then cut away, and take the last interjection. As 10 o'clock approached I should be inclined to pan up from the table to the clock. That would be essential as 10 o'clock approached. There would be certain basic rules, such as that Members who were asleep would not be included in the picture. Then I would cut away to hon. Members entering the Chamber.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office (Mr. William Price)
Is the hon. Gentleman arguing in favour of editorial control?
§ Mr. Reid
There must be a degree of editorial control, otherwise Parliament could be brought into disrespect. We are speaking in terms of a programme lasting half an hour. There will have to be bridging shots. It this debate were to be televised we should have to allot five minutes of television time to the Leader of the House. I might show two or three of the interjections from the hon. Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher). These would all be matters of value judgment. Ground rules would have to be established by Members of Parliament.
As a new Member, I did not understand the necessity and value of procedure until I had been at Westminster for six months. I believe that Sir Kenneth Pickthorne said procedure is all the constitution that Britain has.
Returning to the Minister's point, unless there is careful control, many procedural points which have great political value could be misconstrued.
Closed circuit television would be a good idea. It is sad to go around this place and see monitors with nothing on them but a caption. I see no reason why people who wait for several hours in St. Stephen's Hall should not have a closed circuit feed to look at. This also would be useful for Members in their private rooms.
I would also support the idea of a "television Hansard". For the first time, we would have the chance of a real record for posterity stored on one-inch tape. This would be an opportunity for future historians. But we should then need a continuous feed, and that presents dangers. In three or four years, with the increase in use of coaxial cable, with 130 whole cities wired for television, a continuous feed could be sent out to newspapers, clubs, and one or two interested bodies. In future, with 30 or 40 channels on coaxial cable, there could be a continuous feed, but not in our present financial stringency.
What we should aim for is an edited "Today in Parliament" lasting 30 minutes and run by television professionals responsible to a Committee of this House. We should be very chary of extracting bits and pieces for use in programmes like "News at Ten" or regional news programmes, because editorial judgment there at times can go awry.
Four consequences would follow broadcasting the House. First, if we are to have at 11 p.m. or 9 p.m. a televised "Today in Parliament" with pictures of Members and Ministers in the Chamber, clearly the Press would have to have facilities for photographs for their first editions by about 10.30 p.m. Those photographs could be taken from the video tape, but we may find that photographers have to be introduced into the House as a consequence.
Second, we could never go back on a television experiment because the House would then be seen to be denying people what they assume to be a basic freedom.
Third, television should increasingly have the same Lobby facilities as the Press. I see no reason why there should not be an extension of television studios in the House for the quick Lobby interview which is currently done by the Press.
Last, Scotland is shortly to have its own assembly. We shall have certain new forms of government and a different Committee structure. There, too, there should be broadcasting from the start. In both that assembly and this House broadcasting could well lead to the two Chambers becoming once again a focus of national debate.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Mr. John Ovenden (Gravesend)
I shall try to obey Mr. Speaker's injunction to be brief. I fully support both motions.
No new arguments which were not put forward in previous debates have been put forward tonight against televising Parliament. The real issue that we must consider is not whether it is to our convenience, whether we can afford to allow 131 this process if it would disrupt our lives or upset our traditions, or whether, as my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) suggested, it would portray such an image of Parliament as we would not like portrayed. We should be far more concerned with portraying an honest picture of Parliament even if it might at times be embarrassing.
One hon. Member has implied that some of the language used here and some of the scenes which take place would be misunderstood in the country. If those things are to be misunderstood, the best thing is to ensure that they do not happen, that the House conducts itself in a more businesslike way. We should consider whether democracy and our democratic traditions will be improved and strengthened by the advent of television and whether it will increase the understanding and the influence of Parliament. On any reasoned assessment, the answer must be that it will.
It has been said that people would misunderstand if benches were empty or individual Members were not present, but those misunderstandings would arise because they had not seen enough of the workings of Parliament. There would have to be a period, during which Parliament would be televised, for people fully to appreciate what happens here. That is no excuse for keeping the cameras out.
It is strange that some hon. Members should regard television as an intruder. I have even heard it said that these discussions are private, as though they were of no concern to people outside. People have a right to see what happens here. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilkeston (Mr. Fletcher) said that only about 10 per cent. of people are politically interested. That is a low figure, but even accepting it, we owe a duty to that section. I am sure that if politics and political discussion were covered more fully in the media that 10 per cent. would soon increase. That low proportion reflects a lack of interest only by the media in our proceedings.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) implied that anyone who wished to see what happened in Parliament could come to the public gallery. That remark could only have 132 been made by a London Member. It is impossible for many people from other areas to come here purely on the chance of getting a ticket. On average, it would take a constituent of mine 2,000 years to be assured of a ticket on the present allocation system, because we get fewer each than 40 tickets which guarantee a place in the gallery. So in an average adult lifetime someone has a one in 40 or 50 chance of getting into the public gallery. That chance is much higher if he lives in or near London.
The lack of television coverage has led to a decline in Parliament's influence. So often party leaders make important statements on policy outside rather than here, because they have the television cameras present and can address a wider audience. We have to live with that. We cannot seek to reverse that trend merely by saying that it is the duty of politicians to make their major statements here. We have to give them the chance to make their statements here, yet still to address that wider audience.
I believe that television will be good for Parliament not because it will allow us to keep our traditions completely unchanged but because it will be a catalyst for change. Our discussions often become stilted, with no real exchange of views. That sort of debate could not take place on television; it would force us to change the way in which we discuss our business. This Chamber often seems out of touch with events outside. My hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South said that it was very strange that we should spend the best part of the day discussing an issue like this and leaving an important topic like housing till late at night. I agree, and that is something that the public should also be aware of. They would be more aware of it if our deliberations were televised and they could see for themselves that we had spent the whole day discussing an issue like this and leaving housing till later.
Those of us who want changes and progress in this institution, who want it to evolve towards a more businesslike and efficient procedure, will welcome television because it will assist us to that objective.
Finally, I want to comment on the case made about television distorting. To 133 listen to hon. Members who have spoken during the debate one would believe that only television is capable of distortion and that every other part of the media is completely free of any such charge, but if one were to take to their logical conclusions the arguments used by some of my hon. Friends and some hon. Members of the Opposition one would definitely ban the Press from this Chamber.
Everyone is aware of instances of distortion which have occurred in the Press but which could not take place on television. It would be quite impossible for a television commentator to persuade his audience that a spokesman in the House had made a scintillating case for a particular issue when in fact his case had been abysmal. It would be impossible to get away with that sort of argument when the viewer could see the spokesman on the screen. Yet how often does that sort of distortion take place in the columns of newspapers? There is no better medium than television for exposing the insincerity, pomposity, or, perhaps, at times, even the humbug which some hon. Members exhibit. In any event, the television channels have a far superior record of impartiality than any newspaper in the country. The guarantees that we have within the charters of the television broadcasting companies are much better guarantees for us of impartiality than we could get from any newspaper.
We have nothing to fear whatever from television coming into the Chamber. It will be a stimulus to us. It will be a catalyst for change, and it will increase the importance and influence of this institution in the country as a whole.
§ 8.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison (City of Chester)
The hon. Member for Gravesend (Mr. Ovenden) raised the question whether we have anything to fear from television. I agree that we have nothing to fear at all. The question is whether the introduction of television into the Chamber will increase the confidence which the general public have in this House. I am sure that however right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House vote on this issue, they will base their decision on the confidence factor.
The hon. Member for Glasgow, Mary-hill (Mr. Craigen), who like myself is a relative newcomer to the House, is an 134 advocate of open government. He said—and I agree—that his instinct before coming to this place was that it would be a good idea to introduce radio and, indeed, television. But however we may feel on that issue, the Lord President has suggested having a three-week experiment. That period is far too short. There is no chance with a three-week experiment that a proper judgment can be made as to whether television or radio has benefited the House. Apart from anything else, in three weeks there will be no chance at all for the public to get bored. We must take that aspect carefully into account.
However, whether or not that period is too short, right hon. and hon. Members in all parts of the House seem to agree that what is termed an experiment is very likely indeed to become something permanent, because there will he some weight of opinion behind it. Despite being an advocate of open government, therefore, I should like to make one or two observations on the issue of, basically, television.
First, I wonder whether there is any public demand for this. I have received no letters from constituents asking me to vote either way. One would imagine that if there were great public demand to see us all working in the Chamber, one would have had at least one or two letters about it; but not so.
When I arrived as a new Member just a year ago, a most experienced right hon. Gentleman said to me something which has stuck in my mind. He pointed out that it was the easiest thing in the world to pass legislation in this place—provided that one was in government—but he said that it was the most difficult thing to change attitudes. It seems to me that it could be much more difficult to change an attitude were we to go on the air. I say that simply because I think there is a chance, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Beaconsfield (Mr. Bell) argued—and quite a strong chance—that we would lose that air of informality, without which we would tend to take up more entrenched positions and, therefore, attitudes would be less likely to change.
Some hon. Members argue that we have lost that air of informality because we already have the Strangers' Gallery. 135 But having 300 or 400 people watching us in our debates is quite different from having perhaps 10 million or 15 million people looking at us on television.
The best corollary of this is the presidential Press conference in the United States, which used to be held on an informal basis in the President's own office in the White House. Certainly all the journalists apparently agreed that it was far better and far more educational and informative for them when done on that informal basis than when it is done, as it is now, in front of television cameras and so on, where the President must inevitably be much more careful about exactly what he says since he is totally and utterly on the record.
Then there is the problem which has been discussed at great length, that of editorial control. Who is to exercise it? Some hon. Members have suggested that we should do it ourselves. That seems to be utterly unrealistic. As far as I am concerned, there would not be enough time in the day for any hon. Member to become part of the editorial panel. If that is so, we shall therefore have to have outsiders to do it, and one thus hands over control to the producers and directors of the BBC, ITA and so on.
I should have thought that in all parts of the House there were complaints enough about editorial policy at present. I hear that the Prime Minister has some complaints. If there are complaints about the Press, I dread to think what complaints could arise about the editing of the televising of the House and this Chamber.
We have one other alternative, and that is to have one channel which could broadcast continuously. Personally I cannot imagine anything more boring. I should imagine that it would be turned off by 95 per cent. or more of the public.
There is a quite conclusive argument that one of the reasons why our fellow countrymen are cynical towards politicians is that we appear too much on the media anyway. If our proceedings in the Chamber are televised, inevitably the number of hours of politicians appearing on television is bound to increase.
Another important argument is that we should not introduce television into the 136 Chamber because to do so would give the impression that this Chamber was Parliament when, in fact, it is only part of Parliament. My right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) referred to exactly that matter. He talked about Select Committees, Standing Committees, party committees and so on. He suggested that these things also needed to be televised to give the whole picture. That is absolutely correct, and I go along with him on that if one is to give the right picture of what happens in Parliament. To be realistic, however, it does not seem possible to televise Select Committees, Standing Committees and party committees as well as the Chamber—unless one is to have nothing but Parliament on television, despite the fact that we may not have a special channel for it.
The special conditions aside, however, the fact remains that hon. Members in all parts of the House have many other duties. They have their constituency mail to attend to. Depending on which constituency they represent, that can be very arduous task. For me it is not particularly arduous because my constituents do not like writing to me very much. In some cases it is very arduous. Hon. Members have outside engagements which enable them to keep in touch with what is happening in the real world as opposed to what is happening here. Hon. Members must meet delegations and so on. These are all exceptionally important parts of the duties of a Member of Parliament. A wrong impression would be given by reporting simply the proceedings in the Chamber.
There is one final reason why I am against televising our proceedings. I do not know much about Labour Party associations, but we on this side are chosen for a variety of different reasons to fight in the constituencies we now represent. We are not chosen because we would look good on the television were we to be elected. We are chosen because our constituency associations take the view that they will get on well with us and perhaps our views coincide with theirs. Nothing to do with television enters their minds.
I have a vision of some poor chap appearing before a Conservative selection committee. Perhaps he is a small fat man who wears glasses and does not look 137 too prepossessing. He would make a good Member, but the members of the selection committee have to bear in mind the question of his appearing on television. Conservative associations would inevitably begin to think in terms of television personalities for their candidates and eventually for their Members.
Finally, when they are elected Members of Parliament become public servants. When we are in the Chamber we are debating and legislating, not speaking to the public. If we televise the House, I suspect that we shall always be speaking to the public and that the debates will be like one non-stop General Election campaign lasting not for three weeks but for the length of the Parliament.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Max Madden (Sowerby)
We have heard that the question of the admission of the Press to Parliament was a very long and bitter one. The question of the admission of television to Parliament has not been as long or bitter, but it has been very controversial. I hope that we end that controversy tonight by agreeing to the motions.
I do not agree with the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Morrison); I think that Members of Parliament are public servants. The public have a right to know of our activities through all the media—the Press, radio and television. To deny radio and television the right to record our proceedings is to deny the public and our constituents their full right to know what is happening here.
We have heard of the widespread recognition that there is of the power and influence of television, and to a lesser extent of radio. In recent years television has done an enormous amount to bring momentous political issues into the homes and minds of people throughout the world. We have heard stressed the great importance of televising the Watergate inquiry. Television brought to the American people and to American politicians the full obscenity of the war in Vietnam far more vividly than any newspaper report could have done.
The hon. Member for the City of Chester admitted that not many of his constituents write to him. Many of my constituents write to me. Following the television reports from Bangladesh I received many letters from my constitu- 138 ents, because television brought home dramatically to many people the whole horrors of famine in Bangladesh. Likewise, television coverage of Parliament would do much to present Parliament's affairs in an interesting way to the people.
It has been said that people can read the newspapers. Indeed they can, but the presentation of our affairs in the newspapers is in many cases unsatisfactory. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Gravesend (Mr. Ovenden) that if the logic of many speeches were to be followed through the Press representatives who report our affairs would be excluded, because they have the power to select what is reported in their newspapers, to distort what is said and to intersperse straight reporting with opinion. If we defeat the motions tonight, it will be wrong logically for us to continue to have the Press present.
Television would allow the public to know more about our extraordinary procedures. One of my most interesting experiences as a new Member has been to talk to my constituents about our procedures. Many people are astonished about the hurdles and obstacles in the way of progress in Parliament. I believe that television would demonstrate that difficulty far more accurately and dramatically than any other medium could possibly do. It would help us to explain to our constituents the problems which confront us in our day-to-day work. It would demonstrate the weakness of Members of Parliament in trying to influence the Government and the executive.
I should like to comment particularly on the speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), who feared that selection would be in the hands of people outside this House if we were to agree to the motions. He overlooked the fact that the power of selection is already in the hands of the media. Members of Parliament who rarely come here tend to be interviewed a great deal on television. There are television stars whom one rarely sees in this place, yet their words and commentaries are taken by the viewers as representing fully the views of Members of Parliament in general. If we were to have television recording what happens here, many of those Members who are now television 139 stars would have to make their contributions in the debates. That, of course, may be an argument against televising our debates, but one or two of those Members might be damaged financially because they would lose the fees which they currently enjoy. I believe that this is an important aspect which should not be disregarded.
Television, by recording what happens here, would present the debates as they occurred, and to that extent the power of the media to select people and issues would be reduced. Far from giving power to people outside this House, as my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone argued, it would decrease the power of television executives and producers to determine what people saw on their television sets in their homes as current participation in political debate. The Press can now do that job. The Press can select what is reported. Should the Press, therefore, be kicked out of Parliament? In logic, if we reject these motions the Press should be ejected from this House.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) argued forcibly that the presence of television would alter the character of our debates. Many of my hon. Friends and I fail to see why this should happen. My right hon. Friend argued that television could sensationalise and trivialise. Again, the Press can do this. I do not see why there is greater suspicion that television will indulge in these practices more than the Press does. The medium would lose what power it has to do this if the motion were accepted. If we can transfer political argument and debate from the television studios to the Floor of the House, people outside as well as inside will benefit.
We have heard that 21 Parliaments have agreed to the televising of their affairs. There is a diverse list of countries, as different as Albania and Australia, and Japan and Sweden. Tonight in this historic debate there is an opportunity for the British Parliament to catch up with some of those other Parliaments and allow the entry of the television camera. We should not fear that entry but should welcome it. I am certain that it will be welcomed by the vast majority of the British public, including our constituents.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Maurice Macmillan (Farnham)
First, I must apologise to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and to the House for having been absent for a period during the debate. I had an unavoidable prior engagement.
We take a long time to get things done in this country. We started decimalising our coinage when the first florin was minted in 1870 but it has taken us about 100 years to complete the process. It appears to be taking an equally long time to complete the process of allowing the British people the fullest possible access to our debates. That is what we are talking about. I prefer to put it that way rather than to talk about televising and broadcasting the proceedings of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Anthony Fell (Yarmouth)
Decimalisation of the coinage was a disaster. Let us hope that this will be better, if it is approved.
§ Mr. Macmillan
I am not sure that many people would agree with my hon. Friend that decimal coinage was either disastrous, or that it is relevant to this debate—unless he is thinking of installing coin boxes for television sets about the House of Commons.
I accept that there are strong arguments for privacy in our debates. It was said in the past that we should not allow strangers to listen to our debates, that we should exclude the Press and that we should not have the Hansard record of our proceedings. All these arguments were thrashed out over the years and the objections to the Press and to Hansard were as valid as the objections to broadcasting and televising our pro-proceedings now are.
It is said that these proposals would alter the nature of our debates. Of course they will—I think for the good. They have done so already in many cases. They have removed the most important debates from this Chamber to Lime Grove and to other studios of the BBC and ITV. They have removed Mr. Speaker or Mr. Deputy Speaker from the Chair for a radio interview. Those are the debates which inform the people, not the ones that take place in this Chamber.
The strongest possible reason for starting this experiment to broadcast and 141 televise the proceedings in this Chamber is so that the public at large—those who elect us—can see what we get up to.
The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) referred to some unfortunate remarks which he or a friend of his overheard about a radio discussion between two politicians. Apparently the producer of the programme, in his arrogance, as the hon. Member said, felt that their performance was not good enough or dramatic enough, and told them to do it again. Although it may be possible for that sort of thing to happen to individual Members taking part in discussions in television studios, unless the Chair is singularly lax it would be impossible for that to happen here.
The hon. Member for Penistone referred to the clash of media and gave the impression that we would become part of the entertainment industry. The danger of making politics part of the entertainment industry is far greater in debates that take place outside this Chamber than it is with debates which take place here.
§ Mr. John Mendelson
The right hon. Gentleman has misquoted me. I said that the House is a workshop and that the quiet debates among people who spend a lifetime in industry here, sometimes in the evenings, will never be reported. If the right hon. Gentleman is not dramatic enough nobody will tell him to do it again but he will never be seen at all on television.
§ Mr. Macmillan
That does not seem any different from the present position. The hon. Member for Penistone referred to the power of the media. We cannot complain that this experiment may lead to an invasion of privacy. Nor is it likely in practice to lead to people playing to the gallery, altering their style or tone to prevent the reporting, through sound or sight, of the work of the quiet workshop.
I remember an occasion when some constituents of mine went into the Strangers' Gallery, and what impressed them most was not the drama but the quiet work which they saw going on. In fact, they came here rather hostile to Parliament and to politicians, but, after watching a rather thinly attended House conducting a somewhat boring debate, they left the Gallery with a changed view because they had seen nothing dramatic but had watched Parliament at work.
142 If there were any question of bias in the way television or radio reported our proceedings, there would be the Press to act as a check. The hon. Member for Penistone referred to an occasion when, as he put it, television producers had been subjected to pressure at private breakfasts in the Connaught Hotel. That could not have happened if the Press had been there. The same would apply here. Whatever editing is done by the television people will be selecting part of a process the whole of which has been seen by others.
Discussions in a studio which are edited before being put on tape are not known because they take place before no one but a small studio audience. Our discussions here, on the other hand, will be edited and reported in the full knowledge that the Press also is doing its reporting and editing, and the two accounts will act as a check one upon the other.
All that those of us who wish to see both these experiments started are seeking to do is to create what I call an electronic extension of the Strangers' Gallery. It is important to remember that that is what we are seeking and to bear in mind that television as a medium can do two quite separate things. It can bring the speaker into the home of the viewer, which is what the normal radio interview does, what party political broadcasts are designed to do, and what most studio performances are intended to do. But the other thing that television can do is to move the viewer to the scene where events are taking place, as happens with outside broadcasts, for example, of a tennis match, a cricket match, a football match or whatever it may be.
I think it important that television should transport the viewer to the Strangers' Gallery rather than seek to transport us to the viewer's front room. It is the latter, if television were allowed to do that, which, I believe, would give an opportunity to individual Members to exploit it and would tend to distort the argument. It should not be forgotten that the television screen can distort argument by putting a frame, as it were, round the person who is arguing so that, if there is argument and counter-argument, the emphasis tends to rest on the person last seen in the frame. That does 143 not happen with radio, and it does not happen in live proceedings. It is important that it should not happen through the televising of the House of Commons.
I should like to see a radio programme broadcasting our proceedings live, constantly transmitted on its own frequency, reporting everything that happens in this Chamber. I should like to see a unit set up to take television from the Chamber live, all the time, not broadcast but sent by line to the Press, the television companies and whoever wished to take it. I hope that it would go to our great cities and be shown in town halls or county halls or in any suitable place so that those many of our constituents who will never have the opportunity to come to this place will at least be able to go there—whether in groups, in school parties or as individuals—and see through television in their own town the House of Commons at work. As for the rest, once the tape is made, I should leave the use of it, the editing of it and the handling of it to the television companies themselves.
I hope that the House will agree tonight to start these two experiments because in so doing we shall be making a major contribution to the understanding by people throughout the United Kingdom of what parliamentary democracy is really all about.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)
I was sorry that a few moments ago my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn and Hatfield (Mrs. Hayman) left the Chamber, because she had been sitting here without shoes on, occasionally putting her feet up on the bench in front and showing her ankles. I draw hon. Members' attention to that because it would have been a marvellous shot and any television producer who did not focus on those ankles for a second or two would not have been worthy of his job.
We have to remember that we are putting the House into the hands of people whose job it is to entertain. It is not unusual for newer Members to favour televising our proceedings. Very often those who favour such a move represent marginal constituencies. I do not say this in any patronising or disrespectful way, because an hon. Member with a marginal seat is anxious to get 144 himself across, to project his image and get the maximum possible coverage. That is understandable; we have all done it at some time.
I remember when Bernadette Devlin ran across the Chamber and clawed the hair of the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling). What a marvellous action shot that would be for a "match-of-the-day" beginning to "Today in Parliament". It is no good saying that we would have the chance to edit and control such things, because we would not. Every minute of the day something is happening in this Chamber which would make a good picture. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was holding us a card earlier today trying to catch the attention of the Serjeant at Arms. His eye was drawn to the lady in the public gallery who seemed to have a telescope trained upon us. These are the things upon which a television camera cannot help but focus.
Any hon. Member who wants publicity merely has to put down a Question on abortion or the football pools or to raise on the Adjournment a debate about an elderly widow who cannot get her new glasses under the National Health Service and he gets the headlines. That is the entertainment side of the business. My hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Price), who I see is to reply to the debate from the Government Front Bench, told me when I had been in the House for two or three weeks that he was leading the procession at a village fête on the Saturday and that he was going to ride a penny-farthing bicycle. I asked him "Why are you going to do that?" He said "Because I have a majority of 421, and I could not borrow an elephant".
§ Mr. William Price
There was an unfortunate sequel to that incident. I turned up, and so did the penny-farthing bike, and then we discovered that I was not big enough to get on it.
§ Mr. Ashton
I can see my hon. Friend's point.
Once television starts to take an interest in anything, it kills it off. It has killed off interest in football. The gates fell year by year because people could watch the game on television. Television has killed off the cinema, and churches have 145 even had to alter the times of their services because people want to get home for the big film on Sunday night. Look at "Stars on Sunday". That is what television has done for the Church. People sit at home and watch the bishop and the actress and Shirley Bassey, and things like that. The same thing will happen to this House once it goes on television. It will not happen in the first six months, of course. In that period everything will be circumspect and everything will be reported, but in time the House of Commons will be found to be boring and and deadly dull—and, let us face it, it is.
For 90 per cent. of the time proceedings in the Chamber are so boring, complicated and dull that even Members of Parliament do not come in. They do not need to. It is all in Hansard next day. By reading Hansard, we can all read in 20 minutes what happened in eight hours. People in the Strangers' Gallery are bored stiff. This is a job in which one has to spend years acquiring detailed knowledge of the procedures and years becoming familiar with what Mr. Speaker will permit and what he rules out of order. The whole process takes a great deal of understanding.
After six months or a year, when the novelty has worn off and the viewing figures have become negligible, television producers will have an irresistible temptation to show the trivial, something that has not been shown before. They will say "It needs livening up. We will show this angle." Already on the radio there is a programme called "The Worst Show on the Wireless". If we televise the House, the title will have to be changed.
Let us take one serious matter which was debated in the Chamber last week, the Industry Bill, a major piece of legislation which has caused tremendous controversy throughout the country, with headlines in the newspapers every day, rows with the CBI, which went to Downing Street, and continual argument over the past two years or more. Yet there were fewer hon. Members in the Chamber than there are now, and understandably so. Those who were present were the ones who wanted to speak. There were others who wanted to speak but could not take part in the debate. They had been to Mr. Speaker, who had said "I am sorry, there is no chance, even though 146 it is a two-day debate." They left because they had other things to do. They could read about the debate in the newspapers and in Hansard, and they were not prepared to stay here and listen to other people's speeches.
What sort of impression does that give to people outside, to the party workers who slogged in marginal seats, knocking on doors and collecting bobs and tanners? What sort of impression does it give to people who fought the matter through conference and gave their ideas?
§ Mr. Ashton
In effect, yes. I am saying that it will be damaging to Parliament and to politics. The people who strove so hard to get the party into power and see the Industry Bill go through Parliament would be bitterly disillusioned to see a debate with half a dozen people present. We might say that we would all listen to it, if it were televised. But what about the other things we are supposed to do?
I counted up in my diary just now that I had 13 engagements in this building last week. Every one of them was important and necessary. I met trade unionists about redundancies at Ebbw Vale and other trade unionists about whether we should build the HS146. I went to a marvellous meeting of the steel group, a question-and-answer session with Monty Finniston, boss of the British Steel Corporation, which was well worth televising.
In the Chamber at the same time there was a debate on pneumoconiosis, affecting many of my constituents, many poor old miners who are coughing their lungs up after 40 years in the industry. Under the Bill which was being debated they were to be given some money. They would have been justified in asking "Where the hell's Joe Ashton? Why isn't he there when this is so important to us?". But there was not to be a vote against the Bill, and I thought that it was more important to my constituents that I should hear Monty Finniston concerning the closure of Ebbw Vale.
§ Mr. Madden
I assume that my hon. Friend reports regularly to his constituents. If he does not, perhaps he would 147 agree that hon. Members should report regularly and in great detail on what they are doing. As a result of that process, it would become clear to my hon. Friend's constituents that he has to make judgments about the importance of various engagements. Is not that part of the parliamentary rôle?
§ Mr. Ashton
I report to my constituents and my party quite often, but with 100,000 constituents scattered over 300 square miles, 72 villages, and eight newspapers, what guarantee have I that they will read what I say in the newspapers instead of watching television? I am prepared to put in a time sheet. I used to do that at the end of the week when I was on the shop floor. My employers made me do it, and I should be delighted to do the same again.
But how do we get across the true position to the viewer who switches on the programme once every three months, because he has nothing else to do, or out of curiosity, and who sees empty benches and thinks that a lot of hon. Members are playing golf or going to the cinema? We have seen that sort of thing on the occasions when Parliament has been televised.
I remember what happened when the State Opening of Parliament was televised. My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) was down below sitting in his place and I was sitting up here in mine. But what happened? The cameras panned down to show my hon. Friend but they did not show me. On the Saturday when I got back to my constituency, I was told "We saw the hon. Member for Bolsover, but we did not see you. Where were you in the Chamber?" That is the sort of thing one will have answer for.
The criterion of good television will not be the speeches. It will be the question-and-answer sessions. That is why some hon. Members are invited to appear on television more than others. Some hon. Members can say what they want to say in 10 words and make their point; others need 10 minutes. Television is not the medium for a 10-minute speech. It wants table-tennis type entertainment—the quick rapport, with two contestants in the arena. That does not happen in this Chamber. There is a fair amount of it at Question Time, but if we go on 148 television Members will have to stand up and read their Questions. They will have to mouth wordsTo ask the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he will make an investigationinto this, that or the other. There are only about 16 Oral Questions reached each day at present. If we have to read out our Questions, only eight will be answered. Furthermore, let us not forget all the extra number of Questions that would be tabled. There would be a trebling of the number of Questions for Question Time, because it will be the only part of Parliament worth televising.
These are the problems we shall face. If we are honest with ourselves we must admit that at present the proceedings of the House are boring. But what television wants is entertainment. The two do not go together.
There is one other major factor that we should not forget. Some of us have difficulty in explaining to our constituents why Parliament does not debate certain subjects. Many hon. Members want to debate the Shrewsbury pickets, but we never get the opportunity to do so. We raise the topic at PLP meetings and everywhere else, but it does not get debated. A lot of constituents ask their Members "Why did you not debate that matter on Wednesday instead of debating the White Fish Bill" or whatever it might be, although, of course, that subject might be of great importance to some hon. Members.
This is the problem we shall never defeat. We shall never convince people outside the House why we are not debating urgent issues of the day instead of other matters which perhaps Conservative Members are interested in. People assume that what appears in the newspapers today will be debated in Parliament the following afternoon. In time, like all other forms of entertainment—football, theatre, politics, the cinema or even religion—we shall become gradually narrowed into that square little box.
Let me make clear that I am not against sound broadcasting. Indeed, I shall vote for the motion on sound broadcasting. People will then be able to listen carefully to what has gone on and will not gaze at their televisions wondering why so-and-so is showing his braces and 149 why somebody else appears to be nodding off. In that way, by listening to broadcasts people form their own pictures. I believe that if our proceedings were televised, within a year we should have more trivia and less and less interest in Parliament.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Cranley Onslow (Woking)
I at least agree with the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) that the House should be given the opportunity to debate the so-called "Shrewsbury two", because there is certainly another side to the argument which he and his hon. Friends like to put forward.
I used to agree with the hon. Gentleman in his objection to the idea of television cameras being brought into this Chamber but this evening I shall be voting for the motion to bring in television—even though the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and some others in this debate have not done our common cause very much good. They have frightened the House to some extent with the dreary details involved in televising our performance. Damn the details! There is a much more important issue at stake.
The hon. Member for Derby, North—goodness knows why—instanced a long dead relative of mine, Colonel Onslow, who opposed bringing the Press into the Gallery. The colonel got burned in effigy for his pains—and serve him right. I have no wish to follow in his footsteps, although it is not the fear of doing so which makes me take the view I do.
I take the view that only by televising our proceedings can we save parliamentary democracy. Of course it will bring changes. Some might be let in willingly, and others less willingly. The hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) might be just as willing as he has always shown himself to be to expose his political nakedness fully and frontally across the Chamber. That pin-striped progressive, the hon. Member for Birmingham, Hands-worth (Mr. Lee), who is so obsessed with abolishing the House of Lords, might, feel he would make his points more forcibly by adopting some more trendy gear. I do not suppose the hon. Member for Salford, East (Mr. Allaun) would be deterred by the media from continuing his 150 amiable gnawing at the roots of our society. But if he does so, I prefer that he should be seen.
When it comes to the Secretary of State for Industry, I do not suppose for one moment that the presence in this Chamber of the television cameras would stop him from his ambition of steadily taking over more and more of this country's industry. Indeed he might hope to be given a TV programme of his own. No doubt he would choose for its title the catchword by which he is becoming know, and dreaded throughout British industry—"Thanks for your Company". But at least we as a House would have an opportunity to change our ways. By so doing we would have the chance to achieve a greater effect.
Earlier my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) praised the Committee system which the House has recently evolved. Just after he said that this Parliament was a model for others, he went on to praise these Committees and to suggest that we should emulate the American system. With great respect, I believe that the Committees which were set up as the brainchild of Dick Crossman are a great snare and delusion to the House.
We have only to look at the long list of Members who serve on those Committees to realise how much the system must have detracted from the impact of the Chamber. Too many Members are preoccupied elsewhere in mini-parliaments of their own, and some may never come into the Chamber except when they are making their way back from the Division Lobby. The Committees are busy churning out reports which we in the House seldom, if ever, have time to debate—and when one of their reports is debated it seems that the only people who turn up to speak are those same Members who sat on the original Committee. It all reminds me of the White Russian community in Paris after the First World War, who made an uneasy living by taking in one another's washing. That is the fate which the House is in danger of having to face.
It is painfully true that debate in this Chamber has become a virtual formality. It is sometimes even argued that it would be much to our convenience, as well as saving a great deal of time, if we could 151 vote first and have the speeches afterwards for the benefit of any Members whose minds were not already made up. That would certainly enable the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Radice) to get home to his wife rather earlier, which would no doubt be a good thing for us all.
If we are to go that far in admitting the futility that threatens to overwhelm this House, surely we must do something to try to save it. I would bring in the television cameras and let them show us warts and all. I do not mind if the cameras focus on someone picking his nose. I am not particularly obsessed with anyone's ankles. I do not care whether those Front Bench feet on the table are in well-shod shoes. I do not see that the purpose of the television cameras would be to try and show us as being clever or good-looking. I think that the public have the right to see us as we are, and to see what we do.
If this place serves any purpose at all, it exists to defend the people against their Government. That is our essential purpose. The Government could go on without this place, but the people's rights will never be protected unless this place has some power and some purpose. We are not here to be actors or entertainers. We are sent here as defenders of the interests of the people, and to assert their will. I think that we should now make up our minds to do so in front of the critical gaze of their television cameras.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mrs. Millie Miller (Ilford, North)
I think that my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who said that newly-elected Members are more likely to support the idea of television, may well be right in the sense that many of us who have come in recently from outside take a different view and perhaps a less cynical view of the proceedings than he has taken. I feel that many Members have done their colleagues and the proceedings of the House far less than justice in this debate. The Father of the House, my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), strongly opposed the idea of bringing the television cameras into the Chamber. He gave a number of plausible reasons for taking that line.
152 But what hon. Members who have been here for many years tend to overlook is that, while they have been mulling over this subject, people outside the House have been deliberately disaffected with the system of Parliament itself, and there is much to be said for introducing the public to what actually happens here. I agree that we are not always on our best behaviour, but perhaps the coming of television might even improve our behaviour.
What it will not do is destroy the semblance of privacy. Hon. Members have talked about our privacy, but what exists in the Chamber is a semblance of privacy as we attempt to talk to each other or tell each other our views. It is important to refute the idea that the right of the people to hear and see our proceedings should be confined to the tiny handful able at any one time to get into the Gallery.
I speak with a certain small experience of allowing television cameras into a debating chamber, although a much smaller chamber. It was during the historic period a couple of years ago when the Conservative Housing Finance Act was being forced through the House. The local authority of which I was leader allowed cameras into the council chamber to televise our debates on the subject. This was unprecedented in local government and caused a great deal of heartsearching and debate among councillors, as this debate has among hon. Members this evening.
Exposing the local authority to the cameras revealed to the public as never before the deep sincerity of those taking part in that debate and the fact that they had thought about what they were saying, which does not always appear from the edited accounts in the Press of the proceedings of the House. Comments from all over the country applauded the opportunity to show councillors deeply involved in the current topic and giving it their earnest consideration before making up their minds.
We have moments in the House—and I have been privileged to witness them in the past few months—when Parliament reaches the peaks of oratory and idealism. We have other moments when it sinks to the depths. But in that it reflects the whole of human life. So every 153 opportunity should be given to show people just what happens in the House.
For example, I wish that it were possible for television cameras to be here not just at 10 o'clock, when we are debating the first subject, or at 11.30, when we are debating the second, but in the early hours of the morning, when a stalwart band of regular devotees of the problems of the EEC are in the Chamber night after night desperately trying to sort out the complexities of EEC legislation. The public would benefit from the opportunity of seeing that and knowing what hon. Members are up against when they try to expose these matters, because they are reported nowhere else.
This is a great opportunity. We have the chance to show the people the best we can offer. It may be imperfect, it may be that changes in our procedure could make it better, but let us show it, as has just been said, warts and all, and go back to our constituencies and let the people tell us whether they think it is a worthwhile experiment.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)
I shall be brief, because I know that several of my hon. Friends still wish to speak, in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) who has sat through every speech and has a lot to contribute to the debate.
I find myself somewhere between the remarks made by the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mrs. Miller) and the hon. Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), with whom I have done battle on television many times. Although we have run through the gamut of all the arguments in the debate, I think that it would be a great mistake if we rushed too much.
I deplore the attitude of anybody wishing to go back to those days when strangers who had found their way into the House were held in custody by the Serjeant at Arms—I refer to the reign of James I—until they had sworn at the Bar not to disclose what they had heard within the Chamber.
I certainly associate myself with most of the remarks made in those great debates in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when the admission of the Press was discussed with great fervour. It was 154 interesting to note, when looking up this matter, that in 1681 the only person to resist that proposal was Mr. Secretary Jenkins, who resisted on the ground that it was an appeal to the people unsuited to the gravity of the House. It will be interesting to see in which Lobby the Secretary with the same name votes tonight.
I take the view that it would be precipitate to give entry to the television cameras in the terms of the motion. I should not be opposed to allowing the television cameras into the Chamber for certain great occasions, for certain set pieces, as they have been called, or to having Prime Minister's Questions televised in their entirety twice weekly. However, I am extremely reluctant, not because of any distrust that I feel towards the media or those who control it, to allow an edited programme of parliamentary highlights. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), with whom perhaps I have little else in common, put the arguments extremely persuasively when he argued for caution against admitting television cameras in the terms of the motion.
Those of us who do not have a doctrinal objection to television in the Chamber are in a quandary which was highlighted by the interjection that I tried to make in the speech by the Leader of the House this afternoon. We have to vote either for or against something that is to be an edited broadcast. We cannot vote for what I and perhaps the hon. Member for Penistone might accept in certain circumstances: for example, a major debate on the Common Market—not the Budget Speech, which God forbid—in its entirety or the major speeches from both Front Bences. That would be fair enough.
I think that possibly the most sensible course for us to adopt is to vote for the first motion and against the second. There is a great deal to be said for the old motto, festina lente, and tonight for giving approval to the broadcasting by sound radio of our deliberations whether by continuous transmission or edited broadcasts. I should be prepared to countentance an experiment on those lines. But that will be for the Select Committee and those who have power over these matters to work out when the vote has been taken.
155 I sincerely hope that we will approve the first motion but not the second. We have debated this matter over many years. For us to rush into both at once would be a great mistake. Let us admit the microphones, which are not obtrusive,
§ Mr. Whitehead
The hon. Gentleman is misinformed. We are not rushing into the two at once. There has been an experiment with radio, and it is nine years since the Select Committee reported on televising our proceedings. We are not rushing into anything.
§ Mr. Cormack
I submit that we are if we approve both motions tonight, because the British public have not had the opportunity either to see a television or to hear a radio broadcast of our proceedings. What I am suggesting is that, following tonight's debate, we should have the microphones. The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), who is a most persuasive advocate, put the most damning argument of all against television cameras when he talked about the technical difficulties. I think that for the moment these are too considerable, and I suggest that we have the radio broadcasts. Within a year we shall have had plenty of opportunity to monitor the experiment and decide how it works. By then the cameras to which the hon. Member for Derby, North referred will be in production, and it may be appropriate, if we approve of the radio experiment, to allow in the television cameras. That is the way in which we should approach the matter. There has been a common thread running through all the speeches, and it has been in the best traditions of cross-party debate. We all have foremost in our minds a love of this place and a consideration of its procedures. We wish to see this place safeguarded. We wish it to be properly appreciated and regarded by our constituents throughout the country, and I urge caution. Let us make an experiment. Let us have the broadcasts, and let us wait upon the result of those broadcasts before we allow in the television cameras.
§ 9.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
Ever since I came to this House about 12 months ago—and even before then—I have been in favour of allowing television cameras 156 into the Chamber. It has not been an easy process to maintain that position. One can appreciate the view of those who have been drawn into life here and are frightened of any changes. It must not be thought that because I take the view that I do I have maintained it in an uninformed and unquestioning way. During the 12 months that I have been a Member I have raised a number of questions about whether it would be wise to allow the television cameras to come in, but I have nevertheless maintained a fairly consistent position throughout.
When I was an ordinary member of the public I recognised as a common attitude the disenchantment which many people have for Members of Parliament. If any hon. Members think that they command universal respect, I must tell them that they would have been disenchanted if they had attended some of the meetings at which I have been present. Far too frequently people feel that we are isolated and remote from the mass of everyday life. When they find, for example, that Members of Parliament are able to be isolated from the media and at the same time pluck lush political pickings from the various board rooms, they say it is simply a gentlemen's club, that it has nothing to do with the mainspring of political life and that it is merely a comfortable comatose existence. We shall not change that opinion by keeping out the television cameras and protesting loudly when, on the odd ceremonial occasion, they are brought in for a ceremony which is amongst the most meaningless of any that one finds in the House.
The most meaningful discussions take place when we are exchanging ideas and when there is a clash of opinion. Sometimes there is not a clash, and sometimes the debates are boring, but life is like that. It is sometimes dull and sometimes boring. But there are occasions, when the House is discussing matters of great moment, when our proceedings are followed avidly by virtually the whole of the nation and when we ought to be informing people outside as fully as we can of what we are doing. During those moments—alas, all too infrequent—matters of great conflict arise.
After the Birmingham bombing we passed the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. Our proceedings 157 were followed by nearly the whole nation. People were deeply concerned about what we were going to do, yet we slipped a Bill through while most Members were dozing on the settees and couches in the House. [Interruption.] I said most Members, and that is accurate, because not more than 300 Members were present in the Chamber during the night. We passed a Bill which eroded the Habeas Corpus Act 1679, a basic pillar of British freedom. That measure was passed virtually without a murmur. I know that there were special circumstances. However, we want the people outside to understand and appreciate those special circumstances and considerations which persuaded the House to take that decision. The televising of our proceedings will raise the standard of understanding and appreciation.
I do not think that there is any impetus for change in this place. It will come from outside, since great impetus for change always comes from outside. People were worried about the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1974 and about the erosion of civil liberties. Many people said "What will you do about the people who explode bombs?" Many Members of Parliament said "We shall pass the Act". Many factors produce change. If there is to be an impetus for change for the benefit of democratic procedures, our proceedings must be televised.
It would be enlightening to see how many decisions are made by the Government without parliamentary debate. I should like more decisions to be taken inside the Chamber, away from the office tower blocks and the influence of the permanent Civil Service. I do not think that there is an understanding of the way in which the Government are isolated from the majority party, let alone Parliament. That situation will continue until we raise the level of understanding of what happens in Parliament. We shall not raise that level of understanding until we use modern methods of communication.
The question of Committees causes concern. Many hon. Members spend a great deal of time beavering away in Committees. Members of Parliament cannot always be in the Chamber. They must judge which is more important. I 158 see no reason why the Committees cannot be televised, since Select Committees and Standing Committees do important work.
The televising of the proceedings of committees in the United States of America has helped to expose the position of the American Government vis-à-vis the war in Vietnam. The Senate committee hearings revealed the breadth and depth of United States Government involvement in a way in which the newspapers failed to do. It led to a revulsion and a movement by the American people to quit Vietnam. The proceedings which led to the exposure of Watergate were immeasurably helped by exposure on television. Similarly, we shall not experience the impetus for change until we provide the people with information.
§ Mr. Peter Morrison
The hon. Gentleman has spoken about Watergate and the Press exposure of the situation. However, Senate and Congress proceedings are not televised.
§ Mr. Cryer
I do not agree. Of course the proceedings of the Senate are not televised, but the proceedings of the committee which received evidence during the Watergate hearings were televised. That helped to spread the growth of understanding of the enormity of the Watergate affair.
The American Press, which in some respects has a more creditable record than the British Press, was initially responsible for exposing Watergate. However, televising the proceedings helped to expose the involvement of the American Government in the dreadful Vietnam war.
Once the televising of proceedings in the Chamber has started, the system can be extended into Committee work. The presence of television cameras might help to persuade a number of Members of Parliament to attend more regularly. The attendance—or non-attendance—of some Members of Parliament is nothing less than a disgrace. If hon. Members have to come here because they fear that their constituents will want to see them, what is wrong with that? Factory workers cannot take two or three days off to go to a board meeting or attend the courts. They must work at their job or they are sacked. If television influences Members to come here, the public will think that that is a good thing and I entirely agree.
159 Editing is a crucial matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), who was now left the Chamber, trivialised the debate. Of course, some journalists specialise in making trivia sound important, but many others have a great concern for political matters. A number of great newspapers provide information of a consistently high standard. Surely we expect television journalists to show a responsible attitude. We must trust them to some degree.
We should go forward with this experiment. I hope that it will be the impetus for change and that by adopting it Parliament will increase its powers and remain the centre for democratic progress in this country.
§ 9.31 p.m.
§ Rear-Admiral Morgan-Giles (Winchester)
This is the best sort of debate because we do not all come here to fire on fixed lines. Some hon. Members may even have come here to listen rather than to speak. Some of us have done a good deal of listening today.
I am impressed by the sweep of arguments for bringing in television cameras, although I disagreed with many of the examples given by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). However, there is a risk these days, when television does so much opinion-forming, that Parliament is thought of as out of date. We are sometimes accused of being like an old rusty locomotive shunted motionless on to a siding while the express trains of opinion-forming rush up and down the main line in the shape of programmes like "Panorama". That programme probably influenced many millions tonight, and I am not sure that our debates do influence many people.
Nevertheless, while paying credit to those arguments, I would say that there is a much stronger argument against bringing in the cameras which has not been raised yet. If democracy means anything—that is an "if" that we cannot debate now—it means that the man in the pub has a commonsense argument which, thank God, is not fixed on party lines. If one goes into a public bar and asks the man holding a pint what he thinks about anything, one will get a direct and forthright reply, but not on party lines.
160 We in this Chamber polarise views on the problems of the nation to get a decision by means of a vote. It will be a bad day for Britain if we feed out discussion on those problems polarised on party lines. It will create divisiveness, which is the last thing the nation needs. So I say firmly "No" to television, except for occasional events, rather like an outside broadcast of the Boat Race.
Finally, it may be quite illogical for me to say so, but I do not hold the same objections to ordinary steam radio, because "Today in Parliament" is a good programme and a sufficient programme. There is much more flexibility about radio, which can cover the whole work of Parliament, the Committees, the House of Lords, and so on, and that would not suffer from the same objections as television.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)
I have listened to the greater part of the debate. I have a particular interest in it because I was employed in broadcasting for a considerable number of years. However, having listened to the debate, I must say that I have not heard anyone deny the fundamental principle to which I referred in an earlier intervention during the speech of the Father of the House—the principle being that already in the Strangers' Gallery there is embodied the right of the public to see and hear what goes on in this Chamber.
What we are proposing in these two motions is simply an extension of that principle—the right of the public to see and hear what is going on here. That principle has not been denied at all during the debate. I challenge any hon. Member, even at this late hour, to deny that right on the part of the public.
§ Mr. Strauss
I can answer that in a sentence. The public has a right to go to the law courts and listen to proceedings there, to hear a murder trial, and SO on. But it does not follow that it is a good thing to televise the trials held in the courts and give them to the whole of the public on the television screen.
§ Mr. Roberts
The right hon. Gentleman still has not, therefore, denied the right to the public. As I say, what we are proposing is simply an extension of that right.
161 From listening to the debate, it seems that the House is afraid of basically two things. It is afraid of the effect of radio and television equipment upon the proceedings of the House and, indeed, on the performance of hon. Members. It is also afraid that hon. Members themselves—their words and actions—will become puppets in the hands of those who edit the programmes to be transmitted.
What all this amounts to is this. What we are afraid of is domination by the media. It is my view that we should resist this threat of domination, and the way to do that, surely, is for the House to take every possible precaution against becoming dominated by the media.
I personally do not see a threat in these two motions, which are, after all, only to enable experiments to be carried out in the House. Those who have said that if these experiments are allowed this will mean that we grant the right to broadcast in perpetuity are surely wrong, because we have had a radio experiment previously and that was discontinued, or at least, nothing came of it.
§ Mr. David Steel
That radio experiment was never broadcast. That is the difference. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will support a radio experiment broadcast tonight.
§ Mr. Roberts
But it was an experiment on closed circuit and, nevertheless, just an experiment—as is the one we are proposing tonight.
Personally, I should like to see not only these experiments which are now proposed but also the televising of the proceedings of the House on a fourth channel. I believe very strongly that when a Prime Minister or a leading Government spokesman opens a debate in this Chamber and sees fit to talk for half an hour, and when the Leader of the Opposition or a leading Opposition spokesman sees fit to reply for a further half an hour, the people of this country are entitled to see and hear those two speeches and a balanced report of the rest of the debate.
We greatly underestimate the amount of interest that there is in politics. We may be sure that if we do not satisfy the existing interest in politics by supplying material for television there are others 162 outside the House who will meet that demand.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office (Mr. William Price)
It was a pleasure to give up part of my time to the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts), because he knows as much about the televising of proceedings of all sorts as anyone in the House. His was one of a number of interesting contributions.
This has been a debate which has followed closely the pattern of previous discussions, which indicates that many of the views expressed in the past, including the objections, are still strongly held by some hon. Members. I do not think it has been any worse a debate for that.
As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, the Government take a neutral view. They believe that this is a matter which can be resolved only by a free vote; and I doubt whether anyone would argue with that.
Perhaps I should mention my own position. I have not voted in previous Divisions on this issue. I can claim, therefore, not to be a hard-liner on either side. There are clearly powerful arguments sincerely held for and against either television or radio broadcasting; and we have heard many of them today.
I believe from having listened to most of the debate that there are five crucial areas for discussion, and I suspect that if we were satisfied on all counts that the answer was "Yes" the House would probably vote in favour of at least an experiment. However, I for one recognise that it is not as simple as that.
First, would the broadcasting of our proceedings lead to the more open government which successive administrations have promised, and, secondly, would it create for Parliament and Members a greater understanding of our work and our problems from which we hope would follow an improvement in public attitudes? I believe that the answer to the first question is "Yes", but I declare an interest. I am by trade a newspaper man and my case quite simply is that the less people know and see the more suspicious and distrustful they are likely to become.
163 The second question is impossible to answer with any certainty. There are those who argue that the answer would be "Yes" if we had some form of editorial control over the programmes to be transmitted. We have heard that argument today, too. I believe that to be both difficult and dangerous, and I agree with the hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) that it would almost certainly be unacceptable either to the BBC or to the ITV and, whether we like it or not, that is the situation that we are in.
We have to face the fact that rows in this Chamber make good television, that bad behaviour will not be suppressed to save us embarrassment. Anyone who imagines that the assault by Miss Devlin upon the right hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Maudling) would not have appeared on television is being quite unrealistic. It would have been shown time and time again and we should have had to accept the consequences. The whole world knew about it and many other incidents, anyway. Our friends in the Press Gallery would ensure that.
The question we have to ask is whether television would be even more damaging than the written word, and, if so, whether we are prepared as a House to pay that price.
What some of us believe to be a far more serious fear is the reaction of our constituents to the paucity of Members during important debates. This aspect has been touched on by one speaker after another. Can we explain to their satisfaction the wide open spaces on the Front Benches as well as in the rest of the Chamber? Can we be reasonably certain that coverage would be fair, balanced and objective?
I am impressed by the argument that we really have no right to make any allegation of bias until we have tried broadcasting and produced valid causes for complaint. Hon. Members quoted "Today in Parliament" as an example of objectivity, and the BBC is proud of the fact that it produced very few complaints. I have heard it suggested that the reason it produced few complaints is that there are no listeners to the programme. I do not know whether that is so or not, but whenever I have heard the programme I have been impressed with its balance, and I find 164 it difficult to believe that what is possible to achieve on radio is not equally possible on television as well.
Thirdly, would not the British public through the radio and television obtain a more balanced and objective view of Parliament, of politicians and of the political parties if they did not have to rely on the Press Gallery for their information? Would they be better informed as a result? I believe the answer is "Yes". At the moment we have a mixture of fanciful and often fictional sketch writing in some newspapers and an almost total lack of interest in our proceedings in others. There were four journalists present in the debate on the NUJ and Industrial Relations Bill, a matter which, according to their editors, constituted the most serious attack ever mounted upon Fleet Street.
Fourthly, was Robin Day correct when he wrote many years ago:By permitting the entry of television, Parliament would ensure that this competent magnifier of reputations is not monopolised by quiz panellists, announcers, commentators, university dons and politicians who have failed to be elected"?He wrote as one of the latter category.
There are those who believe that the television companies have a small circle of instant pundits, experts on any and every subject, and that if you belong to that magical group you get more invitations than you can manage. If you do not, you can give up any hope at all of "Mid-Week", "Nationwide", News at Ten or even James Young Esquire.
Would television and radio give greater opportunities to all of us in this House? Would it be possible for those who are not the darlings of the BBC and ITV producers, but no less capable for all that, to get a look in occasionally, or are we to have our politics by the men of the media?
Finally, what would be the degree of inconvenience to which Members would be subjected, and how would the nature of the Chamber be affected? This is a matter which rightly affects us all. The technical advice available to me suggests that it is not likely that replacement of the existing microphones will be necessary in a short-term experiment, although one additional central microphone may be required. A sound mixing booth and a small presenter's booth with a view of 165 the Chamber may also be necessary, possibly under the Gallery. Alternatively, the presenter might be accommodated in an adjoining room, using monitors as with the State Opening of Parliament. ITV will require a hut about 20 ft. by 15 ft. to house its control gear, but this can be erected in the Commons Court. Preliminary views are that five cameras would be adequate for an experiment. Siting could be discussed with the Services Committee. First thoughts are that two could be bolted to the underside of the Gallery, in the corners behind Mr. Speaker, and remotely controlled. A one-man camera could be situated by the visitors' seat under the Gallery and two in the Gallery.
In view of the development of more sensitive cameras, there is not likely to be an appreciable increase in lighting in the Chamber above the existing level. It will, however, be necessary to make some small modifications to the character of the lighting under the Gallery. These are serious questions to which there are no ready answers. There are other matters which clearly cannot be decided tonight. But they must be stated and, if there is to be an experiment, considered by the Services Committee at a later date.
One matter is of some importance. So far the decision on broadcasting has, rightly, rested with Members of Parliament. What would happen if we approved broadcasting and the authorities produced the sort of viewing figures which might persuade them not to wish to continue? None of us, I suspect, imagines that we will put "Coronation Street" or "Crossroads" out of the top ten.
§ Mr. Price
Or "Dad's Army". Some hon. Members go further and wonder whether there is any demand at all. I have not had a single letter on this subject since I came to this House nine years ago.
What is to be the position of newspapers in relation to television? I must tell the House that the Press Association feels strongly that it should be allowed to take still photographs. It will not be content to obtain them from television screens. Neither, I suspect, would individual newspapers. This will create a real problem.
§ Mr. English
Would my hon. Friend agree that there would be no objection if their cameras were more silent than they have been on previous occasions?
§ Mr. Price
With the equipment that is available today, I would think that the cameras would be completely silent. May I ask the House this. Shall we be prepared to allow many debates to be televised live? Is there really a demand for a two-hour, largely technical Budget debate? Would my wife, for one, prefer the Chancellor of the Exchequer to Ena Sharples? [An HON. MEMBER: "I hope so."] She can speak for herself. Should we permit "News at Ten" to switch live to this Chamber for the result of critical Divisions at around 10.15 p.m.? It is difficult to imagine more dramatic television than that. I hope that the House will agree to any request that is made, as I am sure it will.
Let me turn to the points raised by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), particularly about the need to reawaken interest in Parliament and its vital rôle within our democracy. I agree with him about that. If he is saying that there is a wide credibility gap between the electors and their representatives, I am sure that his case is a powerful one. If he and I are right, it might be argued that almost anything is worth trying. The right hon. Gentleman was critical of any suggestion that we should inflict continuous parliamentary proceedings upon the British people. I am sure he is correct about that. It is bad enough on occasions for ourselves. It would be quite impossible for our constituents, and no one as far as I know regards that as a serious proposition.
§ Mr. John Biggs-Davison (Epping Forest)
In connection with the credibility gap, as the Minister calls it, may I ask whether he has studied the Granada Television research which showed that the vast majority of constituents, without regard to party, had a great deal of confidence in their Members of Parliament?
§ Mr. Price
Yes, I think that is true. Seeing them might help in that process. What was worrying was their attitude 167 not to individual Members but to this institution as a whole. I may be wrong, but that was what I understood the right hon. Gentleman to be saying.
I have tried to bring together what I see as some of the major issues. Neither my right hon. Friend nor I claim to have ready answers to any or all of them. We have our own views, but we seeek to inflict them upon no one. For my part, I believe that some of the fears expressed may be found to be justified, and if I had to vote tonight for broadcasting for the next 25 years I might well abstain, as I have done in the past.
To my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), whose amendment was not selected and who wants a parliamentary broadcasting unit, I can only say that it is our view that that would hardly be appropriate for a three-week experiment, but if he is talking about the mechanics of the operation this is a matter which could be looked at if broadcasting became permanent.
§ Mr. Whitehead
Will my hon. Friend undertake to look again at the duration of the experiment if the motion is passed? Many of us feel that three weeks is simply not long enough to do more than prove the technical feasibility of the experiment, not how much it would affect our proceedings in the House.
§ Mr. Price
The difficulty is that this is all that the authorities have agreed to do. There is considerable expense involved, and it means tying up extremely experienced staff. There are problems in that context.
Several hon. Members have argued that once we have the cameras in the Chamber we shall never get them out. The case was argued powerfully by two right hon. Gentlemen, the right hon. Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), one in favour of broadcasting and the other against. But where is the evidence? What is known is that in no country in which broadcasting has been introduced into Parliament—there are now 21 such countries—has it subsequently been withdrawn. That might or might not happen here. But no one will convince me that a Parliament which 168 takes the view that it can remove Britain from the Common Market could not get rid of five cameras if it chose to do so.
It could be argued that the best way to deal with this matter would be for both sides to put their case to the test. If the House votes for an experiment that is what it will be doing, and when the time comes to do so it will be better equipped to make the right long-term decision.
§ 9.59 p.m.
§ Mr. James Wellbeloved (Erith and Crayford)
In the few moments remaining, I wish to say how disappointed I am that neither the Lord President nor my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary gave any indication of cost, and this at a time when the Government are appealing for reductions in public expenditure and the BBC is pleading poverty and threatening the public with the removal of many desirable programmes.
I am appalled that the Government and the BBC together are putting forward a proposition which can result only in substantial expenditure, if the figures I have are accurate, as I believe them to be. I understand that the capital expenditure to install the equipment will be about £250,000, and the annual running cost, if the experiment were to be carried over into a long-term system for televising the House, would be over £1 million. In my view, that is a scandalous proposition at this time.
My hon. Friend said—this was his fourth point—that at present few Members have an opportunity to appear on all the wonderful programmes which go out because they are not in the orbit—
§ Mr. Walter Harrison (Treasurer of Her Majesty's Household)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to.
§ Question put accordingly.
§ The House proceeded to a Division—
§ Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
(seated and covered): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Since this motion involves expenditure by the House of Commons, has Her Majesty conveyed her consent to the passage of the motion?
§ The Housing having divided: Ayes 354, Noes 182.173
|Division No. 101.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Adley, Robert||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Deakins, Eric||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen, N)|
|Allaun, Frank||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Hunt, John|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Hurd Douglas|
|Anderson, Donald||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartlord)|
|Archer, Peter||Dempsey, James||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Ashley, Jack||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)|
|Ashton, Joe||Dormand, J. D.||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)|
|Awdry, Daniel||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Johnson, James (Hull West)|
|Baker, Kenneth||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)|
|Banks, Robert||Durant, Tony||Jones, Alec (Rhondda)|
|Barnett, Guy (Greenwich)||Dykes, Hugh||Jopling, Michael|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel||Eadle, Alex||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Bates, Alf||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Bean, R. E.||Edge, Geoff||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Beith, A. J.||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE)||Kinnock, Neil|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Lambie, David|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Lamont, Norman|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Emery, Peter||Lane, David|
|Bishop, E. S.||English, Michael||Latham, Arthur (Paddington)|
|Blaker, Peter||Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)||Latham, Michael (Melton)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Evans John (Newton)||Lawson, Nigel|
|Body, Richard||Eyre, Reginold||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Booth, Albert||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Farr, John||Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)|
|Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur||Fitt, Gerard (Belfast W)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Flannery, Martin||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Brittan, Leon||Fletcher Alex (Edinburgh N)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Lloyd, Ian|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Luard, Evan|
|Buchan, Norman||Fookes, Miss Janet||Luce, Richard|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)|
|Buck, Antony||Ford, Ben||Mabon, Dr J. Dickson|
|Budgen, Nick||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||McCrindle, Robert|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||McElhone, Frank|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Fox, Marcus||MacFarquhar, Roderick|
|Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green)||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||MacGregor, John|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Freeson, Reginald||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Freud Clement||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Canavan, Dennis||Gardiner, George (Reigate)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Carlisle, Mark||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Carr, Rt Hon Robert||George, Bruce||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)|
|Carter, Ray||Golding, John||Madden, Max|
|Cartwright, John||Goodhart, Philip||Magee, Bryan|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Gorst, John||Marks, Kenneth|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Gould, Bryan||Marquand, David|
|Churchill, W. S.||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)||Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Graham, Ted||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Clegg, Walter||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Mates, Michael|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Griffiths, Eldon||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Coleman, Donald||Grocott, Bruce||Meacher, Michael|
|Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen||Grylis, Michael||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Hamling, William||Mikardo, Ian|
|Corbett, Robin||Hampton Dr Keith||Millan, Bruce|
|Cormack, Patrick||Hannam, John||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Corrie, John||Hardy, Peter||Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)|
|Costain, A. P.||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Mills, Peter|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hatton, Frank||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Havers, Sir Michael||Molloy, William|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hayhoe, Barney||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Critchley, Julian||Hayman Mrs Helene||Moore, John (Croydon C)|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Healey, Rt Hon Denis||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Crouch, David||Heffer, Eric S.||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral|
|Cryer, Bob||Heseltine, Michael||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hicks, Robert||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Hooley, Frank||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Howell David (Guildford)||Moyle, Roland|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Huckfield, Les||Neave, Airey|
|Nelson, Anthony||Rose, Paul B.||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Newens, Stanley||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Newton, Tony||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilm'nock)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Noble, Mike||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Nott, John||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|O'Halloran, Michael||Rowlands, Ted||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Onslow, Cranley||Sainsbury, Tim||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Ovenden, John||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Tierney, Sydney|
|Owen, Dr David||Sandelson, Neville||Tomlinson, John|
|Page, John (Harrow West)||Scott, Nicholas||Torney, Tom|
|Palmer, Arthur||Sedgemore, Brian||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|Pardoe, John||Selby, Harry||Trotter, Neville|
|Park, George||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Parker, John||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.|
|Parry, Robert||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Shelton, William (Streatham)||Viggers, Peter|
|Pendry, Tom||Shepherd, Colin||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Penhaligon, David||Shersby, Michael||Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Prentice, Rt Hon Reg||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Prescott, John||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Price C. (Lewisham W)||Silvester, Fred||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Sims, Roger||Ward, Michael|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Skinner, Dennis||Watkinson, John|
|Radice, Giles||Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)||Watt, Hamish|
|Raison, Timothy||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Reid, George||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Weetch, Ken|
|Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Snape, Peter||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Speed, Keith||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Spence, John||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)||Wilson, Rt Hon H. (Huyton)|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Sproat, Iain||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Stallard, A. W.||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey||Stanley, John||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Steel, David (Roxbursh)||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Fteen, Anthony (Wavertree)||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Rodgers, George (Chorley)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Stott, Roger||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rooker, J. W.||Strang, Gavin||Mr. Tim Rathbone and|
|Roper, John||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)||Mr. Phillip Whitehead.|
|Abse, Leo||Edelman, Maurice||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Elliott, Sir William||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Janner, Greville|
|Bell, Ronald||Fairgrieve, Russell||Jeger, Mrs Lena|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay)||Faulds, Andrew||Jessel, Toby|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Fell, Anthony||John, Brynmor|
|Benyon, W.||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Johnson, Walter (Derby S)|
|Biffen, John||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Jones, Barry (East Flint)|
|Boardman, H.||Forrester, John||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Fry, Peter||Judd, Frank|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Kaberry Sir Donald|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Gilbert, Dr John||Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Kelley, Richard|
|Bradley, Tom||Ginsburg, David||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Brotherton, Michael||Glyn Dr Alan||Kimball, Marcus|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Goodhew, Victor||Kitson, Sir Timothy|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Goodlad, Alastair||Lamborn, Harry|
|Buchanan, Richard||Gourlay, Harry||Lamond, James|
|Burden, F. A.||Grant, George (Morpeth)||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Campbell, Ian||Gray, Hamish||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Cant, R. B.||Grieve, Percy||Leadbitter, Ted|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Grist, Ian||Lyon, Alexander (York)|
|Channon, Paul||Hall, Sir John||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||McCartney, Hugh|
|Cockcroft, John||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Macfarlane, Neil|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||Harper, Joseph||McGuire, Michael (Ince)|
|Cohen, Stanley||Harrison, Col Sir Harwood (Eye)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)|
|Conlan, Bernard||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mahon, Simon|
|Cordle, John H.||Hart, Rt Hon Judith||Marten, Neil|
|Cronin, John||Hastings, Stephen||Mather, Carol|
|Crowder, F. P.||Higgins, Terence L.||Maude, Angus|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Holland, Philip||Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Horam, John||Mawby, Ray|
|Deiargy, Hugh||Hordern, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Doig, Peter||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)||Mendelson, John|
|Drayson, Burnaby||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Dunn, James A.||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)|
|Junnett, Jack||Hunter, Adam||Moate, Roger|
|Molyneaux, James||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Thompson, George|
|Monro, Hector||Royle, Sir Anthony||Tinn, James|
|Moonman, Eric||Ryman, John||Tomney, Frank|
|Morgan, Geraint||Scott-Hopkins, James||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Silverman, Julius||Wakeham, John|
|Mudd, David||Sinclair, Sir George||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Neubert, Michael||Skeet, T. H. H.||Wall, Patrick|
|Normanton, Tom||Small, William||Warren, Kenneth|
|Ogden, Eric||Spearing, Nigel||Weitzman, David|
|O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian||Spriggs, Leslie||Wellbeloved, James|
|Orbach, Maurice||Stainton, Keith||Wells, John|
|Osborn, John||Stanbrook, Ivor||White, James (Pollok)|
|Padley, Walter||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Whitlock, William|
|Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Stoddart, David||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Pavitt, Laurie||Stradling Thomas, J.||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Percival, Ian||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley||Woodall, Alec|
|Pink, R. Bonner||Swain, Thomas||Woof, Robert|
|Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Tapsell, Peter||Younger, Hon George|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)||Tebbit, Norman||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)||Mr. John Stokes and|
|Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)||Dr. Colin Phipps.|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.
That this House authorises an experiment in the public sound broadcasting of its proceedings, to be held in accordance with conditions approved by the Select Committee on House of Commons (Services).