§ Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [8th March],
§ That this House supports the proposal that the public sound broadcasting of its proceedings should be arranged on a permanent basis.—[Mr. Edward Short.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.43 p.m.
§ Mr. Raphael Tuck (Watford)
I intend to speak for a very short time this afternoon.
I support the motion that we should broadcast the proceedings of this House. I do so for two reasons. The first is that many people have written to me expressing their great interest in the proceedings of this House and in listening to them over the radio. They have all said that they hope we shall continue to do that on a permanent basis.
The second and even greater reason is that, if our proceedings are broadcast, hon. Members will be forced to behave themselves.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I have always been opposed to our proceedings being broadcast, despite the favourable interest which the experiment showed among the general public, because I fear that this new element will fundamentally alter the character of this place. It will change this Chamber, with the cut and thrust and the intimacies of debate among colleagues known to each other, to a sort of public hustings with the whole of the United Kingdom as audience. It will also make the House of Commons part of the huge and growing news and entertainment industry, and I purposely and regretfully bracket the two together.
However, before developing these arguments further, I wish to deal with a new factor in the dissemination of news—namely, the threat of the closed shop in journalism to what is printed in the newspapers. If this threat becomes as bad as some people fear and if there is control of what a newspaper may print, particularly regarding the proceedings in this House—that is a real fear among all 1133 sections of the public—then indeed broadcasting of our deliberations will be the only way in which the general public will know what is going on here.
For the time being, and before we see the final form of this lamentable Bill, I am prepared—at least temporarily—to give the Government and even the National Union of Journalists the benefit of the doubt. Therefore, I turn away from that argument as from some horrible nightmare.
To return to my main argument, I believe that broadcasting would change the character of this place, subtly no doubt at first, but fundamentally after the course of time. The summaries, which would be made by editors who might or might not be known, would be bound inevitably to include the scenes, the rows, the dramatic events, and so on, such as we have seen in part this afternoon, whether those events were important or not. I fear that solid work would tend to go unnoticed, including presumably much of the important Committee work which goes on outside this Chamber.
I also fear that the value of our colleagues might be judged by how often they opened their mouths here instead of how much they actually influenced people and events. In this place we all judge each other not only by how fluent we are in the Chamber but by the kind of people we are, by our general character, and by our love of this country.
This Chamber is not the only place of importance in the Palace of Westminster. There are other areas, such as the Smoking Room, but heaven forbid that the talk there should be broadcast to the world!
We know that some of our colleagues have a weakness for publicity. I suppose that is a temptation, particularly for Back Benchers who do not get in the news unless they say something outrageous or appalling. I fear that broadcasting our proceedings will give rein to the more histrionic tendencies of some of our colleagues whom in other respects we dearly love. Speeches would be made not to the other side, or even to the Gallery, of which we are officially unaware, but to an unseen audience of 55 million people. No one can say that this would not be a sudden and violent change from 1134 the cut and thrust of debate, which, except for the short experiment, we have always had.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I am in general sympathy with the tenor of the hon. Member's argument but would he not think it possible that such exhibitionists would be on the receiving end when the general public saw the way in which they behaved here?
§ Mr. Stokes
That may be so. I only fear that we might be judged more as actors or film stars than as parliamentarians. In the end, it is not just what we say here that matters but what we do, particularly if Back Benchers are translated to the Front Bench, where doing is at least as important as talking.
I fear also that the parliamentary timetable would be under great pressure to conform to the deadlines of the editors and summarisers and the whole of the news industry, which is becoming a branch of show business. For instance, debates after ten o'clock would probably be even worse reported than they are now. Before we knew where we were we should be thinking of our audience ratings rather than our all-round performance, including our work outside the House. The House is already grossly overworked. It should sit less and pass fewer laws. We should spend more time listening to the views of our constituents.
There is already in this once great but now, regrettably, declining country far too much talking, news and comment about current affairs. As a nation we are almost feverish, always taking our own temperature. We are becoming almost unknown to our great predecessors whose faces look down upon us with pride but, I fear, also with some contempt after the great confidence that they used to have in our nation. If words could cure our ills, we should be well out of our problems, but in this place, as in this life, it is deeds, not words, that count.
To broadcast our proceedings would only add to the general babble. Let us have the courage to tell the media, those self-important judges of so many things, not to bring their impedimenta here. We should prove by our actions that we are more than a protracted "Any Questions" session.
§ 3.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Eddie Loyden (Liverpool, Garston)
I do not want to follow in detail the arguments of the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes). Although I have seen no statistics, the broadcasting experiment appeared to increase the interest shown by hon. Members at Questime Time. I am sure that the number of Questions tabled has increased and I accept that this may have led to a change in the character of the Chamber at Question Time.
I can understand the concern about the Chamber becoming a stage for performers and actors, but we have a similar situation already. The impact of Back Benchers on policy is limited and Question Time is an occasion when they can try to get assurances and indications of political direction from the Government.
Many hon. Members are influenced by the Press. The power of the Press here is far beyond what many people would accept. Many hon. Members can be influenced not by an issue itself but by the Press response to it. That is tragic, but it will continue in an assembly such as this. There is not much that one can do about those who raise subjects for personal publicity, thereby taking the place of more serious questions. In the final analysis, one has to decide what this place means to people outside.
There has been mixed comment about the technical side of the experiment and its value to the public. It seemed to me that the number of reactions accorded with the number of people with whom one discussed it. The only consistent view was that the experiment enabled people to understand our proceedings better.
We have been arguing for more open government, for the House and other institutions to be exposed, warts and all, to the public. That is probably the most important argument, beside which all others are nothing. Whatever technical difficulties there may be—no doubt the broadcasting authorities could make improvements—the experiment brought a better understanding of our proceedings. A perfectly cogent debate can sometimes be a gabble for the listener. This step is the correct one because it brings the public into our institutions. Handled properly, this informative, if not educational, process, with all its imperfections, 1136 should continue. As Members of this House we should do all we can to admit the public and to move towards a situation in which Parliament in some respects becomes closer to them.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Neil Macfarlane (Sutton and Cheam)
Much of what I wish to say has already been said by hon. Members. However, I hope that the Minister will clarify and develop certain points made in the recommendations of the Select Committee.
First, I am concerned that the experiment last summer was not long enough and not correctly simulated. On page viii of its Report, the Select Committee says:A small area 10' X 12' would meet the first requirement. In order to meet the second the broadcasting authorities have asked for a commentary box at least twice as large as the one used during the experiment.I understand that space for that commentary box can be found only beyond the Bar of the House. Already there are the beginnings of a slight squeeze between the facilities that obtained during the experiment and what is being recommended to the House. Perhaps the Minister will comment on this situation.
Many of us, although not against the principle of broadcasting the proceedings of the House, are concerned about the experiment and what might transpire once the media make their presence felt in this Chamber. I am concerned that over the next few years we shall start a series of protracted erosions.
The Report goes on to say thatthe IBA …have asked for only 400 sq. ft. but the BBCwould require 2,000 square feet. I do not pretend to know why the BBC requires more, but perhaps the Minister will tell us. The BBC will take up space in Bridge Street or in Norman Shaw South which hon. Members would require. I am a relatively new Member of this illustrious gathering, but I have always been told that we are short of space. We are now likely to be deprived of even more space over the next year or so.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office (Mr. William Price)
Would it not be a pity if this House came to the view that the only reason for not broadcasting the proceedings, assuming 1137 that we want to do so, was that we did not have the space to offer the authorities? Would that not be a sad situation?
§ Mr. Macfarlane
It probably would. However, it is not the most important priority which this House should consider. I cannot understand why the broadcasting authorities cannot seek accommodation elsewhere, outside this Chamber. I am concerned that we are already being taken over by the media.
I dismiss televising our proceedings because we have only to look around the Chamber to realise the impracticability of such a scheme.
The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) mentioned the amount of timing. He said, referring to the Report, that Government Ministers were allotted 42 per cent. of the time and Labour Back Benchers 17 per cent. By my reckoning that is better than 60 per cent. for the Labour movement. I cannot help but feel that in the fullness of time when the Labour Party is in Opposition it will be the first to bay if the Conservatives are allocated that amount of time compared with the 28 per cent. which we receive at present. That must be investigated.
Finally, I am concerned that we shall merely broadcast the debates in the Chamber and Question Time. We shall do ourselves a disservice if we do not come up with a firm scheme for taping or broadcasting the Committees. Both Select and Standing Committees are an integral part of the House of Commons. I see that the Chairman of the Broadcasting Sub-Committee is in his place. I appreciate the immense amount of work that the Committees do, but when I read the Report and the statements by Mr. Brewin and Mr. Dring I was concerned that we had not gone into this matter in sufficient detail. I hope that the Minister will refer to this. In view of the Select Committee's Report, I shall not support the motion before the House because I do not believe that we shall have an accurate reflection of the proceedings of Parliament. Select and Standing Committees play a vital part in our proceedings, far more important than some of the knockabout exchanges that take place between 2.30 and 3.30 most afternoons.
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Bob Cryer (Keighley)
I welcome this opportunity to pursue this debate and hope that the motion before the House will be accepted. However, I have one or two reservations which I want to make.
Those who finance this place should be able to take advantage of all the communication media available. I should like to see the proceedings televised. However, that is not in issue here, but it emphasises my view that modern electronic means of communication about what happens in Parliament should be used to communicate the information to those outside.
Paragraph 52 of the Memorandum submitted by the BBC to the the Sub-Committee says that, according to BBC research, people felt that they were being better informed about issues before Parliament. Hon. Members should not cavil at the fact that those who sent us here are receiving more information through important media. I hope that Parliament will approve this Report.
The dissemination of information outside will change Parliament for the better. It is not such a marvellous institution that it cannot be improved. No human institution is that good. Only last night there were four people on their feet simultaneously—they all had several years' experience—because they were not sure about the proper procedure. It is also worth bearing in mind that Parliament evolves continuously and than new procedures are continuously being developed. If they are being developed with the knowledge that they must be interpreted outside, surely that will make them clearer to us inside. It is not true that every one of the 635 Members of this House understands what goes on all the time. Some of us have a better understanding than others because we attend more diligently. Nevertheless, there are areas where proceedings can be clarified, and if sound broadcasting helps in this evolutionary process, so much the better.
Sound broadcasting will also improve attendance. No one could say that Mondays find the walls bulging with people. Sometimes the attendance is rather thin. However, on the first Monday of sound broadcasting there are many unfamiliar faces. People felt that they had better be here because the eagle eye of those 1139 outside was on them. In my opinion that is not a bad thing. If publicity and exposure of what is happening inside this House makes people more enthusiastic for regular attendance, so much the better.
I think that this would be an excellent step towards full-time paid membership of the House of Commons. I know that many people regard that suggestion as shocking and that they ought to be able to take a dozen or so directorships and a few parliamentary adviserships and to call in here when they feel that to be convenient. I do not take that view. I think that we are paid sufficiently to keep body and soul together to be here to carry out the job that people sent us to do. Therefore, one of the factors in sound broadcasting is that there should be a tendency for Members to come here more often. That is an excellent thing.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
Following that argument through, on that basis the hon. Gentleman presumably wants 635 Members to be here all day and every day, and including throughout Question Time. Is he not aware that the Chamber is capable of holding only about 450 Members?
§ Mr. Cryer
If 635 attended Question Time, that would make it much more difficult for Members. As a regular questioner, I would not be all that enthusiastic about that. However, in the practical nature of things, it would not be that number. Members would be on Committees, delegations and so on.
I am not criticising those who engage in proper parliamentary business. I do not embrace them in my remarks about directorships and parliamentary adviser-ships. There is a distinction between people doing parliamentary work, not necessarily in the Chamber, and people lining their pockets by going to board rooms in the City and picking up a few thousand pounds for giving advice or something.
If there were a regular attendance of about 600 Members we might have to consider having about 600 seats. I realise that this is pretty revolutionary stuff and that the notion that we should have a Chamber in which there were regularly more than 20 or 30 Members is rather heady. However, at least it would be a nice thing to talk about. It would be nice to discuss the problems of over- 1140 active participation in Parliament. If that is the result of sound broadcasting—though, alas. I fear it will not be—we can come to it. Certainly it is something that I would welcome.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman in regard to Committees because much Committee work goes on in this place. Some Committees are extraordinarily dull, such as the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, of which I am a member. Members perform their Committee duties not because a degree of glamour is attached to those duties but as a matter of public duty. Committees are sitting almost the whole time. On Tuesday mornings and Thursdays mornings the Standing Committees meet, and on controversial Bills they meet for many hours longer than that.
The hon. Gentleman was quite right to emphasise the importance of Committees. Certainly if we were discussing television, for example, one of the caveats that I would enter would be that there would have to be some way of recognising the fact that these Committees existed and that Members were working in them. Indeed, paragraph 37 of the Report of the Services Committee concerned me a little. It says,The technical quality of the output from the committee rooms, however, was poor, due to acoustic problems and inadequate microphone coverage. It was not really satisfactory for broadcasting.I am sure that the Select Committee did not simply rest on that matter, because it was referred to later. However, in my view there ought to be broadcasting of important Committees as well.
I do not share the view put forward by the Shadow Leader of the House, the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), that American experience of television coverage, of itself, weakened American government. I thought that it enormously strengthened American government. Bearing in mind the results of the Americans' experience over Vietnam and the fact that coverage of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress exposed a great deal of what was going on and was able to inform the American public to a much greater degree, I think that that was a strengthening of government. If people get information from a Parliament, or whatever one calls it, and take up a particular 1141 attitude as a result of that information and bring pressure to bear on the legislature, that seems to be an entirely proper way of democratic working.
§ Dr. M. S. Miller (East Kilbride)
Is not my hon. Friend confusing two issues here? Is he not saying that it would be a very good thing to have broadcasting coverage of Select Committees—which in my view would be a very good thing— as opposed to broadcasting coverage of the Chamber in general, where an entirely different state of affairs would apply?
§ Mr. Cryer
No. I want coverage of both, and I am prepared to have continuous coverage of the Chamber, with the proceedings edited according to the wishes of the broadcasting staffs. I do not believe that they are part of a Machiavellian conspiracy, ready to present totally biased views so that an unfair position is represented. By and large, bias is when one oneself does not have one's nugget of information, one's question or one's speech incorporated. I am prepared to allow them to make that selection. Furthermore, I am prepared to allow them to make the selection of the Select Committees and Standing Committees which they feel to be the most important. Their judgment may not be mine, but I cannot impose a judgment on these people and would not seek to do so.
We already have a Press which I do not favour, and which is largely in the hands of people who are opposed to the Labour movement and the trade union movement, and which adopts an entirely scurrilous attitude on many occasions and which frequently is unfair and biased. I could give examples of this, but I shall not bore the House. However, we on the Labour Benches frequently face this problem. As yet, the Press is not covered by a charter. Both the BBC and the independent broadcasting organisations are covered by a statutory body. One of their commitments is to produce fair, balanced broadcasts. I should have thought that if there were any reservations or doubts about the broadcasting of these proceedings based on the experience already gleaned from the Press—and I admit that from the Labour side it is a very unhappy experience—the fact that these bodies have some statutory coverage should 1142 assuage those doubts. I should have thought that the experience of the experiment was such that one could be led to the conclusion that it was a very successful experiment and that there were no deliberate attempts at bias. One must leave judgment to others to some degree.
§ Mr. John Moore (Croydon, Central)
I take that point entirely, but is there not an essential difference in regard to the Press that there is the textual copy of Hansard as the ultimate comparison? This would not exist unless there was total broadcasting with the edited version as well. That is what we shall lack if we support the motion.
§ Mr. Cryer
One cannot edit out the words completely. There would be some of the spoken word. Obviously there are possibilities. We saw recently, for example, in a disgraceful programme by Lord Chalfont, the potential for bias about the Labour movement in Britain, and clearly there are these potentialities. However, at the same time, I am prepared, even with the background of Chalfont's programme—which, by and large, was not thought of very highly, except by avid readers of newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph—to leave some degree of judgment to the editors of the BBC and the independent broadcasting organisations. I cannot guarantee the results.
All that the House of Commons can do is to pass a resolution which says to these people "Here are some criteria which we are laying down. We hope that you will adhere to these criteria. If you do not, there is machinery for complaints, whereby those criteria can be enforced." That is all that we can do. If we can get the information outside through sound broadcasting within those criteria, at least I think that we should start on the attempt.
§ Mr. Victor Goodhew (St. Albans)
The hon. Gentleman says that he cannot guarantee the results. I can guarantee 1143 the results for him. There are some Members who will be thought to be very active in this place and some thought not to be active, accordingly to their good or bad fortune whether they are selected to speak. In the recent experiment we had three categories of Member in "Yesterday in Parliament". First, there were the Members of whom the BBC said "Mr. So-and-so said this, that and the other, and then went on to say"—and we then had a clip of the recording of his voice. There were the second-class chaps of whom the BBC said, "Mr. So-and-so said this, that and the other"—with no clip of the voice of the Member. Then there were the third-class citizens, of whom no mention was made even though they had spoken in the House. In Hansard we are all equal, but the moment someone edits, we are not.
§ Mr. Cryer
As a matter of interest, I looked through the indices of Hansard for previous years and examined the speeches of hon. Members for Keighley. I found their contributions not as pleasurable as those made by other hon. Members.
I was surprised to hear the hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew) say that he thought that all hon. Members should be equal. I do not see how we can expect to bring 635 hon. Members together and then expect them to make the same contributions or contributions of equal quality. The hon. Gentleman is saying that all hon. Members should be given equality of treatment so as to result in an equality of distribution. But any hon. Member who tables 50 oral Questions is likely over a period of time to figure more often in "Today in Parliament" than if he were to table no Questions at all. It is right that broadcasts should accurately reflect the fact that some hon. Members are more active than others.
§ Mr. William Price
For once I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer). During the experiment 350 hon. Members figured in the broadcasts—many more hon. Members than are ever reported under the present system in which BBC producers make their own choice. This means that the vast majority of us have never appeared in those programmes and never will.
§ Mr. Cryer
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, with whom I frequently agree. I understand that the BBC has become so alarmed at the lack of Conservative contributors to such programmes as "Week in Westminster" that they are worried about balance. This illustrates the point made by the Minister, and it means that those experimental broadcasts were fairer because there was a greater degree of balance because people figured in the broadcasts who would not normally do so.
§ Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)
Surely the fact that the BBC is short of Conservative contributors is the fault of the BBC. It is up to the BBC to invite us to appear on its programmes.
§ Mr. Cryer
That is not necessarily the case. It may be that Labour Members are more active. There are fewer company directors among Labour Members and, consequently, we do not attend as many board meetings as do Opposition Members, nor do we hold as many posts in an advisory or consultative capacity. We have only to look at the Register of Interests to appreciate that point.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
My hon. Friend makes a valid point. Because of activities indulged in by Opposition Members outside the House, it means that there are 100 fewer Opposition Members on which the BBC can draw for a programme such as "Week in Westminster". In other words, many Opposition Members are not often present in the House.
§ Mr. Cryer
Many of my hon. Friends are taking part in Committee work.
I hope that hon. Members will overcome their fears and will enable people outside the House—and they, after all, are the people who pay to send us to this place—to see what is going on in Parliament. If Parliament is the subject of criticism, we should be given the opportunity to remedy the situation by saying to our constituents "This is what is taking place and these are the matters which are being debated." We must get away from the exclusive, club-like atmosphere which this House engenders. The 1145 building already tends to intimidate visitors, and if we do not let people see what is going on here, they will tend to push us further away. We want a Parliament which is representative of the people outside, which takes account of their views, and which debates matters of relevance to them. However, if we take the view "We must not allow electronic machinery into Parliament because it has never been done", people, will say "You are too remote and isolated from the people."
§ Mr. Goodhew
The hon. Gentleman should not seek to suggest that in my anxieties about the way in which programmes are edited I am not in favour of happenings in the House being put before the people. It would suit me very well if there were to be a permanent programme so that people had the right to decide whether to listen to the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) or to me. But that is not what we are now being offered.
§ Mr. Cryer
We should give the Joint Committee, which no doubt will be set up following this debate, the opportunity to produce some kind of broadcasting unit in the House. We cannot guarantee complete and total accuracy unless we have such a system, and I would not object to it. However, as a start, let us give the opportunity to the BBC and to others to make recordings and also to broadcast live. We all remember in the experimental period that statements of great public importance went out live from the House and brought an immediacy to the situation.
I accept that it would be a good thing to have a separate wavelength for full-time broadcasts of proceedings in the House, with perhaps certain broadcasts directly from Committees. I should not object to that, but I should also like to give an opportunity for extracts to be made from our proceedings.
I am not too keen on setting up a Joint Committee of both Houses. I have strong reservations about the other House. I do not want to give the House of Lords too strong a sense of its own importance. No less a person than Lord Goodman has complained about non-elected bodies being in positions of power. I do not think the House of Commons should ignore Lord Goodman's axiom. I hope that in
1146 the not-too-distant future my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House will take a long cool look at the question of what to do about the House of Lords. It would surely be wrong now to involve the other place in a Joint Committee on this subject which would give it too great a sense of its own importance. Hopefully, it will shortly become redundant and will have no place on such a Committee in any event.
I am sorry that I have taken so long in my remarks, but I have had to deal with a number of interventions. I very much hope that the motion will be endorsed and that the House will give an opportunity to people outside to know more about what goes on inside this place.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Sir Paul Bryan (Howden)
I wish to declare my interest as a director of Granada Television and also of Greater Manchester Independent Radio Limited.
I think that I have taken part in every debate on this subject in the last 15 years. Indeed I was speaking from the Opposition Front Bench on the dramatic occasion in 1966 when the proposal for a television experiment was defeated by only one vote.
Today's debate is quite unlike any of its predecessors. For the first time our opinions and assertions can be based on something fairly solid—namely, the first and only experiment of the broadcasting of our proceedings to the public.
In earlier debates we aired our prejudices year after year. They did not seem to change very much. We squeezed what evidence we could out of closed circuit experiments of television in another place and out of the radio experiments in closed circuit here. Those broadcasts were unheard and unseen by the public or indeed by many hon. Members. At last today we can pass judgment on the real thing—or at least a taste of the real thing.
This was a genuine experiment in that its form can be reproduced exactly and continued as a permanent institution. Proof of its good reception by the public was shown by the fact that the audience for "Today in Parliament" increased by about 25 per cent., despite the programme being double in length. Right hon. and hon. Members will show tonight whether 1147 they are as satisfied as the public with the experiment when they come to vote.
Personally I think that as Members we have very little cause for complaint. I happened to be driving down the M1 motorway on the first day of the experiment and I heard the first two hours in toto. It sounded exactly as we are, for better or for worse, but it did seem longer than it does when we are sitting in the Chamber.
My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) and other hon. Members have complained that the Opposition have a shorter innings in such programmes than the Government and its supporters. During the experiment 60 per cent. of the time went to Government and 40 per cent. to the Opposition. While I deplore that situation while in Opposition, I do not blame the editor. For the first time we have statistically recorded the bald truth that the Government of the day, however bad they may be, are more newsworthy than the Opposition. If one analyses any period of television or any newspaper one will find the same proportions. That is what we have to live with, as the present Government will discover when they go into Opposition.
Back Benchers may find comfort in the liberal use of recordings of their speeches by the local radio stations. Ian Trethowan says in the BBC's Memorandum:The service to BBC local radio was unquestionably one of the most successful aspects of the experiment, and was appreciated by listeners in the local areas. 160 tailor-made reports—many containing several extracts of actuality—were distributed, and by the end of the month, every one of the 20 local stations had broadcast something from Parliament.IRN also gives a detailed log and diary showing the many Members who were reported in local programmes.
This is an area of parliamentary broadcasting which will develop over the coming years. I do not know whether the BBC will be allowed, or financially be able, to set up new local radio stations. That will depend on their finances. But, from my experience in independent local radio I think there is no doubt now that they will proliferate. Local stations can be viable, even when small, provided they are not overstaffed. It is interesting that smaller stations covering smallish towns have a higher listening percentage than 1148 those covering wider areas, because local feeling exists.
In earlier debates there has been speculation on exactly how Parliament would be reported over the air. In the BBC Memorandum Ian Trethowan says:I think that what we learned during the experiment is that the amount of material from the House that can be carried live is fairly limited. Question Time, for obvious reasons is very difficult, because Questions are not read. With regard to the actual debates, there are occasions when you want to carry the whole debate, but they are comparatively rare.It was also learned that limitations on the amount of material that can be broadcast live is not a great disadvantage. It means that you need skilful commentators such as David Holmes and Ed Boyle to explain the scene, and also skilful editors. With the present broadcasting organisations we shall have this service in the future. Today's Question Time was an occasion which would undoubtedly have been broadcast live and it would have been interesting to the public.
During the experiment the most striking live broadcast was the one covering the statement by the Foreign Secretary about Mr. Hills and the House's reaction to it. The broadcast was not confined to this country but was also broadcast to the people of Uganda.
§ Sir P. Bryan
That is a long way to go.
I recommend the House to heed the advice of my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), who suggested that the broadcasting of the House should be developed slowly, step by step, and that we should not rush into recording Committees and Select Committees for some time to come. Having studied the Report, I suggest that the volume of parliamentary programmes broadcast in the experiment reached the limit of what the public will take. Even then it seemed to represent a small proportion of the doing of this Chamber. Once we include another place, which we are bound to do, this Chamber—which I consider to be the heart of Parliament—will be even less heard. If we keep on spreading the net to Committees of all sorts, the broadcasting of this Chamber will be reduced, perhaps to derisory amount.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
Does my hon. Friend have an iota of concern that if we merely confine broadcasting to this Chamber we shall not accurately reflect Parliament? To do that we must include Committees.
§ Sir P. Bryan
We should perhaps do that, but slowly. If we try to cover the whole of the other place and many of our Committees, people will ask "What is happening in the House of Commons?" Perhaps people may in time become increasingly keen on the programmes and willing to hear more. We could cover wider fields.
§ Mr. Crawford
Why do we have to take into consideration the other place at all? It is not all that important is it?
§ Sir P. Bryan
That is not a decision which is in my hands. I take the proposals as a package.
The hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), who is not in the Chamber to contribute his usual knowledgeable speech, was less clear than usual in describing the rôle that he allotted to a parliamentary broadcasting unit. Neither he nor paragraph 4 of the Report of the Committee stated the exact rôle such a unit would play. If it is to be merely responsible for the technical operation, the preservation of the archives and so on, well and good. But if the unit were to have any say in choosing, for example, which Standing Committee was to be recorded and which we wanted the public to hear, we should be treading on dangerous ground.
One of the virtues of the so-called animal noises heard over the air by the public during the experiment was that they clearly showed that there was nothing phoney about the broadcasts, and that hon. Members had certainly not been in a position to prevent the public from hearing them as they are.
§ Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford, North)
I must make it clear that it is, and was, the intention of the Sub-Committee that Committees of the House should be broadcast. We devoted some space to that in our Report. We also discussed means by which the broadcasting authorities could indicate those Committees that they wished to broadcast. The matter would not be within the jurisdiction of the parliamentary broadcasting unit.
§ Sir P. Bryan
I am relieved to hear that because this quality of authenticity has acquired a new value in an age when Governments and politicians go to such lengths and to such expense to doctor news of their activities. All Government handouts now are suspect for this reason.
In debates 10 years ago on broadcasting the proceedings of the House fears were often expressed, as they have been expressed once or twice this afternoon, that television or sound broadcasting could alter the nature of this place. I believe that this apprehension seems less justified today, and in the debate we have had over these two days we have shown a good deal less concern about it.
Those of us who have been here for some years are not proud that we ourselves have failed to reform Parliament to face the modern age. I would like to quote an extract from an article, which appeared in February 1974, by Richard Crossman, a man devoted to the reform of this House:For some years some of us tried to reform the Commons from inside and had some success in such things as specialist Committees. But what we were really trying to do was to restore the power of the Commons as a critic and check on an executive whose arrogance does not conceal its incompetence. There we failed, and our successors will fail like us until the public can see for themselves how Parliament has been shorn of all control of it and the legislative time-table, how it rarely decides anything and how the only parts of this loquacious old fraud which Whitehall now fears are the Public Accounts Committee, the Expenditure Committee and one or two of the new specialist Committees. Parliament needs televising because this will help to pull it out of its privileged twilight existence and expose it to the light of day.Little has happened since Richard Crossman wrote those words which would have made him change that view.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ Mr. J. W. Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
I actually put in my first election address in February 1974 that I was in favour of broadcasting the proceedings of this House. Somehow it got lost in the October election address, due to other things; but certainly on a question of principle which we are asked to support again today, I fully support the broadcasting and televising of our proceedings and I make no bones about it. I see radio and sound broadcasting of the House as the thin end of the wedge for the future televising of the House; and 1151 I make no bones about it. I desire that. I believe that it would be desirable.
In paragraph 1 of the Report it is pointed out that there is a contrast between the "unique character" of this place and the requirements of the people. That sums the situation up as far as I am concerned. The people must be put before the unique character of this House any day of the week. As my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) has said, this is a cosy place with a clubby atmosphere. I dare say when one has been here for a few years longer, age starts closing in on one and one becomes less amenable towards bringing about change.
I still look upon this place as a factory to which I come to work every day. To me, it is nothing more nor less. My constituents would certainly be shocked, which is a polite way of putting it, if they saw how we have to work. I am not speaking of the actual work but of the surroundings and the things they would not understand and would want made clear. This would be a good thing because we should then have to answer question on how Parliament works and how and why we are legislating on their behalf.
It has been argued that we should not be misled by the experiment. I must declare an interest, as a member of the Ed Boyle-David Holmes fan club, because I want them to broadcast again in the future, for they did a very good job. But we should not be led astray into believing that it will always be like the experiment. That was for a four-week period and a unique one, because of the situation with the Referendum and the Common Market. That period was slightly different from any other four-week period since I have been a Member of this place.
Certainly hon. Members with many outside interests may be a little put out, although they may be able to get in for Question Time—and probably they will flood the Order Paper with Questions. That is what happens. We have only to look at the number of Oral Questions on the average Order Paper. They may number 40, 50 or 60 in any one day. Looking back to those weeks when we had the experiment, we see that the number topped 100 fairly regularly. It 1152 was obvious that hon. Members wanted to broadcast, to let their constituents know that they were here.
I hope, therefore, that broadcasting on a permanent basis would bring about some changes, possibly an extended Question Time, perhaps a change back to the older system under which the hon. Member asking a Question was allowed more than one supplementary question, because, by and large, Question Time is a farce. As a check on the Executive it is non-existent. If the older system were bronght back, that would make broadcasting easier and more understandable and might go some way towards reinforcing the check or control over the Executive which this place long ago lost.
The hon. Member for Howden (Sir P. Bryan) fairly made the point that the Government of the day will get the advantage, and long may that be so. He made the point that in the Press the ratio was about 60 to 40 per cent. in favour of the Government, but the difference here is that the Government do not like the Press. If the 60 per cent. refers to the present Government, at the moment that is not the same thing as saying that Ministers have a 60 per cent. advantage in putting across the Government's view. That is a different point altogether.
There was one member of the Government who came across differently and did not sound on radio at all as he is painted in the Press. This was said to me by people outside who had no particular interest in mentioning it. A "bogy man" image had been painted of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) during his tenure of office at the Department of Industry. Without doubt during those four weeks he was able to put across to the public at large outside that he was not the "bogy man" that he had been painted by the Press. My constituents remarked on that. To this extent, therefore, the misrepresentations of the Press can be countered. While the Government may get 60 per cent. of the Press in terms of column inches, that is not the same as getting 60 per cent. of the broadcast time.
§ Sir P. Bryan
The hon. Gentleman has quoted me as saying that it gave the Government an advantage. I said only that it just gave the Government more time.
§ Mr. Rooker
One assumes that for "time" one can read "advantage". I certainly think that it is an advantage, and we need not beat about the bush. Exposure is an advantage. It may well be that at certain times we could do without exposure, but by and large, the greater the exposure the greater the advantage.
The other place has been mentioned. I am unhappy about its proceedings being broadcast. They should be broadcast only when there exists a situation of conflict between this place and that place, whichever party may be in power, where the other place is seeking to delay what the Government may feel is important legislation. It should then be possible to make a decision in this place that when that particular legislation goes to another place, the proceedings are broadcast. In that way we shall be able to show the public the image of that other place, in all its rawness, because its only power is to delay, and it is very difficult to explain that to constituents. They say, "We elected you. You are the Government. Why is that other place a problem?" I would, therefore, make the exception that in those circumstances the proceedings in the other place should be broadcast.
§ Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)
On a point of detail, is not the hon. Gentleman's description of another place too limited? Much good legislation is initiated there.
§ Mr. Rooker
That is true. Tomorrow morning in a Committee upstairs, where the proceedings would not be broadcast, I shall be piloting through the remaining stages in this House of a Private Member's Bill, a Bill of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, to reform licensing matters, following a judgment of the Law Lords last year. That is a good example, but probably it is not one which would be worthy of broadcasting, because so much goes on in this House. There are eight or nine Standing Committees sitting at the moment and clearly it would be impossible, and probably not very desirable, for them all to be broadcast every day. The impression would be given in short programmes that many different things were happening at the same time and the public would find it difficult to understand how hon. Members could devote the necessary time to understand 1154 the background and detail of all these matters. We must be very careful in our selection of Committees to be broadcast.
I agree that there is much worthwhile legislation which starts in the House of Lords, but it could also emanate from an elected second Chamber—which I would favour—or from a second Chamber of Life Peers. It does not have to come from a Chamber that membership of which depends, to a large extent, on whose bed one was born in.
§ Mr. Rooker
I do not think unions are in a position to appoint Peers of the Realm. Perhaps, in order to find out, we shall have to await the next volume of the memoirs of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, which will probably not be far away following today's announcement.
I voted for both television and sound broadcasting, but the House decided on a radio experiment only. I did not, therefore, expect to see a still photograph of an hon. Member with a broadcast of his words on the television news.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
If the hon. Member had read the proceedings of the Select Committee, on which I served, he would have found that we recommended that the procedure to which he has referred should be allowed. Any amazement on his part was due simply to incompetence in not reading the relevant documents.
§ Mr. Rooker
I read the Report. We were in an experimental period and, as the House had voted for sound broadcasting only, what I saw on television appeared to be a misuse of the material. I changed my mind subsequently and I now think that television should be able to make use of broadcasts in this way. I disapproved when I first saw it on television because I had been in the Chamber at the time and did not think the broadcast gave a very good impression of what had happened.
§ Mr. Freud
Before the voices of hon. Members were used in news programmes, their words were spoken by somebody else over a still picture of the hon. Member. Surely the hon. Gentleman does not think it was better to have the words of an hon. Member from a Northern 1155 constituency spoken as if he were a BBC announcer.
§ Mr. Rooker
I did not expect the event to which I referred to occur. On reflection, I approve of it.
However, I strongly disapprove of the use to which a broadcast was put as mentioned in paragraph 6 of the Report of the Select Committee. This was a total misuse of an extract. It was not in a news or current affairs programme but in a form of light entertainment. The Committee received a handsome apology, and we must hope that it does not happen again. But when the opportunity is presented, I shall seek to support the full televising of our proceedings.
We must pay careful attention to the Attorney-General's memorandum on matters of Privilege. Since I have been in the House, I have dared to raise a matter of Privilege only once. The result was a suggestion that we should ban the journalists involved from the House, which I was not happy about, imprison them, which we had not done for several years, or fine them, which we do not have the power to do. Hon. Members must be careful before raising questions of Privilege or of making use of the freedom to say what they wish without fear of subsequent legal action. This Privilege is not used very often.
Hon. Members may speak under the umbrella of absolute Privilege and can tear into people outside. Raising a matter in the House is often the only way of making it known. If spoken outside, the words might be subject to the laws of libel and defamation, but it would be a travesty if those transmitting a broadcasting signal could be held guilty of defamation. Anyone can purchase copies of Hansard at Her Majesty's Stationery Office and the people who sell it would not be guilty of defamation.
Those in charge of the broadcasting signal should not be barred or held back in the items they choose to broadcast from the House. It is important to take on board the Attorney-General's memorandum, which may require changes in the law of defamation to protect those who will transmit our proceedings to the nation.
§ 4.57 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Grant (Harrow, Central)
During the experimental broadcasts, not 1156 a single word of wisdom fell from my lips upon the unsuspecting ears of the public and it is interesting that I did not receive a single complaint from constituents that I had not been heard. To some extent, I come to the problem with a fresh mind.
Unlike the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) and some of his hon. Friends below the Gangway opposite, I do not want to change for the sake of change. I like the traditions of this House. The last thing I want is for us to put more seats in the Chamber or to start mucking about with the building. The traditions of the House are immensely valuable and should be preserved. We cast them away at our peril.
I have consistently voted for experimental broadcasting of our proceedings. Because I love Parliament's traditions and believe in its importance, I think that it must be the premier forum for discussion and debate in this country if we are to remain a free society. The alternative is undesirable and positively dangerous. But if Parliament turns its back on modern means of communication, now or in the future, we shall slide further into the backwater of public affairs and lose even more relevance to the world outside in our discussions of public affairs.
Whether we like it or not, the public will continue to get information from television and radio. They will not start reading Hansard or buying The Times or the Daily Telegraph. In increasing numbers, they will use the most modern forms of communication. If we turn our backs on broadcasting, those people will rely not upon the debates and discussions among the people they elect and influence but upon the pundits in the BBC and the IBA, or worse, that horrible phrase "radio and television personalities". I exclude present company. The hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) combines both those attributes. He is a personality and a Member of Parliament. It would be undesirable for the reputation and effect of the House if the public increasingly were to hear the no doubt wise and learned pundits and personalities who are not elected and not responsible to the electorate.
§ Mr. Grant
I hope that we are all personalities, but perhaps not to such a great extent as is the hon. Gentleman. My main concern is that academics or employees of the media who are in no way responsible to the public should assume an ever-increasing importance in the means of communication, instead of the public being able to listen to the debates in the House.
§ Mr. F. A. Burden (Gillingham)
Does not my hon. Friend agree that there are desirable and undesirable personalities in this place as there are everywhere else? Might it not be desirable for television and radio to help to sort out the desirable from the undesirable?
§ Mr. Grant
I agree with my hon. Friend that one effect of broadcasting would be to separate the sheep from the goats. I have expressed my belief in the traditions and customs of the House, but we should not delude ourselves that the mystique in which we sometimes wrap our affairs carries quite the same degree of reverence in the minds of the public as it perhaps did in the past. The traditions of the House do not now mean so much to the public as they did of yore. That is another reason why we should meet the public on present-day terms and let them see and hear what goes on in this place.
I am not quite so enthusiastic as is my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) about the experiment, or so satisfied with it. It left a great deal to be desired. Like him, I listened to it mainly on my car radio. I am not convinced that it gave a true picture. Too much attention was paid to Question Time and the more stupid aspects of it. I do not regard Question Time as such an intelligent procedure as do some people. I hope that if there are further broadcasts they will be concerned with a broader range of affairs and not be obsessed with Question Time.
I agree with my right hon. Friend that we should proceed cautiously in bringing the broadcasting media into our Committees. There may be merit in broadcasting the proceedings of Select Committees but, having sat on a great number of Standing Committees, both as a Minister and as a Back Bencher, my experience is that on many occasions the proceedings approach the farcical. Before we rush 1158 into demonstrating that our Standing Committees are marvellous examples of political discussion we might reform the means by which we take Bills through the House.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
Does not my hon. Friend agree that some of his fears might be eliminated if Committee proceedings were broadcast?
§ Mr. Grant
I am not sure that I agree. I would rather that we ourselves reformed the procedures. I am not averse to taking broadcasting into Committees, but we should do so gradually and carefully.
Until recently, I had some responsibility for parliamentary candidates. My experience is that they are concerned to communicate with the public and their fellow-Members. They are more concerned to participate, less enamoured of the glory of being able to put "MP" after their names, and less impressed in the House of Commons being the best club in the world. Among them I found a lack of understanding of why we were not prepared to use the most modern techniques available cautiously and responsibly. If we turn our backs upon broadcasting we shall deter some of the most responsible, sincere and capable people in the community from coming forward to participate in what should be the most important assembly in the land.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)
It must be remembered that the experiment in broadcasting was, of course, an experiment. Speaking as a sometime member of the Broadcasting Sub-Committee, I am aware that there were aspects which could have been better and which I am sure will be better. The experiment was valuable, and I support its continuation.
In speaking of the value of experimentation I should mention the amazing survival ability shown by two grown men who were incarcerated in a crowded box in which they perspired out of all proportion to human decency and still managed to do a very good job. It was the hard work and tolerance of those gentlemen which made the broadcast possible and enabled us to appreciate it as much as we did.
The hon. Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) said that we receive the 1159 reverence we deserve. In the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House we receive the reverence we deserve by live performance. We all know that Hansard, excellent volume that it is, is perfectly capable of being changed, albeit within the directives of Hansard that it must be made more comprehensible. It is right that the public at large should be allowed to hear exactly what people say, punctuational warts and all. Our speeches tend to read much more impressively than they sound.
My grandmother had a prayer, which I commend to the House, "God preserve my excuse". That sounded better in Viennese. We all know the popular excuse. When people say "What a lot of rubbish", we say "They got it wrong". By eliminating this often repeated and tedious excuse of parliamentarians that they are misquoted, broadcasting gives Members of Parliament a great incentive to say what they mean. On the same basis, the broadcasting of the House separated the people who shouted "Yah-boo" from a sedentary position from strength from those who did so from weakness. In fact, when the proceedings of the House were being broadcast, a large number of hon. Members suddenly began to behave very differently from the way in which they had behaved previously. Perhaps that is all for the good.
The hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) said that he was in favour also of televising the House. I think it has to be realised that a certain amount of editing can be done, very properly, with the spoken word. It may be done for greater clarity. It has never seemed important to me to speak for a long time if one can speak sensibly and to the point; therefore I do not think that any hon. Member should complain if his voice is heard for 20 seconds, as opposed to somebody else who is heard for a long time. The great danger of television is that, being visual, it would be very hard to know whether we should have a television picture of the man speaking, of the people listening, of those not listening, of those asleep, or of those talking among themselves.
The strength of sound broadcasting is that it picks up solely the voice of the 1160 person speaking, albeit with an intervention every now and again. The onus of selection is not put as heavily on the independent parties who are instrumental in engineering the broadcasting of the House.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
The hon. Member will, I hope, acknowledge that when a somebody, such as himself, is speaking in the House, and a Member such as myself seeks to get up and intervene, that Member such as myself, not being a celebrity, would nevertheless probably get into the radio broadcast, thus distorting the debate.
§ Mr. Freud
I was expecting almost anything but that in the hon. Member's intervention. Certainly hon. Members tried, ever more frequently, to get in on the Prime Minister's Questions when the proceedings of the House were being broadcast. The hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) obviously has a point here. I think it would wear off within the first two or three weeks of sound broadcasting, either by the hon. Member's resignation from this House, or as a result of people being bored by trying to get on to television in this way.
I felt that the sound broadcasting experiment was a valuable and very good one. I am delighted that a large number of Members so far seem to be in favour of making it a permanent one. I think that the House and the people of this country would be the better for it.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Bruce Grocott (Lichfield and Tamworth)
It is a little daunting to stand up with the almost certain conviction that at the end of the day one will be voting on the losing side. But I do so in order to expose what seem to me to be one or two fallacies which continually creep into our consideration of the merits of sound broadcasting and of television coverage of the proceedings in this Chamber.
I voted for the experiment. I intend to vote against the motion tonight, basically because it seems to me that many of the assumptions behind the arguments of those who are in favour of the motion are false and based on fallacious premises.
1161 The first fallacy which strikes me is that somehow or other we have to be in favour of sound broadcasting, or television broadcasting, because that must be an extension of democracy. I have never quite understood that argument. The argument seems to be that the more people can feel themselves to be present at the point at which decisions are made, the greater is the extension of the democratic process.
All experience seems to me to suggest—I am not trying to make a value judgment or to say that it is necessarily a good thing that this seems to be the case—that if the glare of publicity is brought into a particular decision-making situation, we inevitably move the decision-making situation somewhere else, creating theatre at the point at which the decision was thought to be made.
There is absolutely no objection in principle to televising Cabinet meetings, but if they were televised, the Cabinet meetings would be theatre, and the real meetings and decisions would take place somewhere else. That seems to me to be the evidence from all sorts of experiments and examinations of this sort.
§ Mr. Anthony Grant
The proceedings of this House have always been open to the public, who can either come here or read the reports in the Press, whereas the proceedings of the Cabinet have always—until recently at least—been totally confidential.
§ Mr. Grocott
The extent to which the proceedings of the Cabinet are confidential is a moot point. I accept that what we are arguing now is in essence an extension of coverage that already exists. I take that point, but it seems to me to be a very significant extension, and almost certainly to have profound effects in terms of the kind of place this is, the sort of decision taken here, and the way this place operates.
The second fallacy, which I feel is associated with the arguments of those who believe that the proceedings of the House should be televised, is that somehow or another it will lead to more informed public debate of the major political issues that we discuss in this House—that it will lead to a more informed public in terms both of the methods of the House and of the sort of issue we have to discuss.
1162 That is not my judgment. This is partly because of the response I have had from constituents to the broadcasting of our proceedings. I do not know to what extent it squares with the views of other hon. Members, but these reactions have been almost entirely in terms of the theatre of the place. The reaction has not been to say, for example, "I was convinced by the argument I heard", or "That seemed to be a substantial case". The reactions were almost always related to the duels between the Front Benches being impressive or entertaining, or the shouts from the Back Benches. It was basically seen as a form of theatre, and I heard no comments to indicate that the result had been to produce a more enlightened public audience, or that because of the experiment there was in the country a substantial debate going on about the real issues of politics.
I also have the feeling that the only effect of any permanent broadcasting from this House would be partly to make us feel that we are even more important than some of us tend to think already, and also to expand the already serious over-dramatisation of what goes on here. This is a problem that we ought to recognise.
It is brought home to me daily when I pursue my normal habit in the evening of telephoning my wife some 150 miles from here and talking about the events of the day. Day after day my wife, relying on the coverage she gets from television, radio and the rest, has a completely different view from mine of what appears to have happened here during the day. Time and time again she will say "My word, you have had a day today", or "My word, what a crisis", or she will refer to some dramatic intervention, to which my reaction is "What dramatic intervention? What took place? "
I do not want the proceedings of this House to be further over-dramatised. Over-dramatisation is one of the dangers we have already. It is not conducive to good government or to the serious consideration of issues.
Suppose we were to apply the same assumptions to any other workshop, factory or office in Britain. Suppose we were to tell the people concerned that day in and day out the media would be concentrated on them and on what they 1163 do. Suppose we were to say, "The media will interview you during the course of the day. It will ask you for your opinions on various other people who work in the same place. It will ask you to comment on the progress of the firm. There will be interviews as you leave work each evening, and you will be televised." Would that be conducive to a sensible operation of the place, or to a sensible decision-making process? There is not much evidence that that would be the case. I am extremely concerned that the decision to broadcast will not lead to any sensible discussion of the important issues that it is our duty to discuss.
§ Mr. Rathbone
Is it not a fallacy to draw a comparison between a factory which is manufacturing various products and a parliamentary debating chamber which depends entirely for its power on the support it has amongst the people who have elected it?
§ Mr. Grocott
I do not pretend that there is an exact parallel but in essence it is a situation in which a group of people are working towards an objective. For that to be continually and critically under the microscope is in no sense conducive to good decision-making and the good operation of the system.
For some reason it is assumed that the televising, and certainly the radio coverage, of the Chamber will enhance Parliament. That means nothing unless it will enhance the Back Benchers—the people who comprise 530 of the 635 Members of this House. The experience of the experiment, and my judgment of what could happen if broadcasting became permanent, is that it would do no such thing. It would enhance the Executive, and of that there is little doubt. It is inevitable that the media would concentrate on covering the Front Bench dialogues and the ministerial statements. I do not want to be part of a system which will inevitably enhance the Executive. That is the view which I commend to all those who are seriously concerned about the views, aspirations and arguments that Back Benchers put forward.
Most of the arguments in favour of broadcasting seem to be based on fallacious assumptions. I am conscious that 1164 it is almost certain that those who think as I do will lose when we vote tonight. I am also conscious of the danger of being accused of being a reactionary in opposing the natural progress of events. By way of mitigation, if I need to put forward any, I point out that I might take a different view if I could be convinced that the coverage by radio would be full time, permanent and on a special station so that people could switch on and off just as they may come into the Public Gallery, take their chance and leave when they wish to do so. That is a different matter which I should be prepared to consider. However, that is not what we are considering tonight. Therefore, I shall vote against the motion.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. John MacGregor (Norfolk, South)
I do not want to till over the ground which has already been well trod. So I wish to make only two points. The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott) made a good speech and many hon. Members share some of his reservations. I am, in principle, subject to reservations I shall make, in favour of broadcasting but I share the hon. Gentleman's reservations about the concentration on the theatre, the over-dramatisation and perhaps in many cases the trivialisation of the House. One of my great worries is that unless we broadcast a fair spread of what goes on in the House and get away from the concentration on Question Time, that will be precisely the effect that broadcasts will have on the public.
Like the hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth, I frequently get reactions from my constituents and from others whom I meet in my daily business inside and outside the House which concentrate almost entirely on Question Time and especially on the Prime Minister's Question period. We all know that often there are many more important matters being discussed in the House.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Birmingham, Perry Barr (Mr. Rooker) has left the Chamber because he made the interesting revelation that he looked upon this place as a factory. I believe that perhaps one of our present problems is that there are far too many Members who take that view. I echo the worries 1165 of my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes) about too much legislation. But those who look upon this place as a factory will be tempted to feel that we are judged solely by the amount of legislation we pour out. It becomes a matter of quantity rather than quality. I agree with my hon. Friend that we are, at present, suffering from over-government and over-legislation. If that is the attitude of some Labour Members who are constantly pressing their Government to do more, one can understand why we have these present difficulties.
The first matter I wish to discuss concerns the Committees. I make no apology for returning to this matter because clearly there is a division of views. Comments have been made on both sides by the House. I firmly share the view that if we do broadcast again we should move towards the broadcasting of Committees as quickly as possible and get over the acoustic and other technical difficulties. I take that view partly for the reasons to which I have already referred concerning the over-dramatising of certain events in the Chamber.
Some of the most valuable work done in the House takes place in the Select and Standing Committees. I feel that some of the most worthwhile activity that I have been able to achieve in my two years as a Member of Parliament has been done in those Committees. Perhaps I may take just one example. The General Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Expenditure has been considering the Public Expenditure White Paper. Much of the work of that Committee had a great bearing on our debate in the Chamber last week. If that Committee had not had a fair amount of publicity beforehand, which fortunately it did, its work would have gone almost entirely unrecognised. I believe that it is very often in the Select Committees that Ministers and senior officials can be put on the spot and the serious probing work can be done. There is no question in my mind that often what takes place in the Committees is more useful than what happens at Question Time, which, as hon. Members have said, is sometimes concerned only with publicity-seeking, frequently for constituency reasons, which often does not require a great deal of thought and which 1166 can border on the farcical. Any Minister worth his salt can evade real discussion of the Question. Unless we include some of the Select Committees in this scheme, once again we shall be risking the pandering to the trivial.
I am bound to apply the same comments to the Standing Committees. I appreciate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, Central (Mr. Grant) that sometimes, especially late at night, some of the work done and some of the debates which take place in Standing Committees are not of the highest order. However, that is by no means true of them all. I recall that much of the work dealing with the Finance Bill on the capital transfer tax, which in many ways had enormous and revolutionary consequences, was done in Standing Committee.
We must also remember that we are not proposing that there should be constant broadcasting of Standing and Select Committees. The broadcasting would be selective. I can speak only of the Committees of which I have been a member, but I am sure my comments are true of many of the other Committees. As I understand the Report, the Committees would have the option of saying whether they should be broadcast or not. What is more, the broadcasting authorities would have an editing function. Therefore, the Committees which would be chosen would be those which were really worth while from a wider public point of view.
In order to get across much of this work, which unhappily does not receive as much Press coverage as it should, we must insist that we move as quickly as possible towards the broadcasting of the Standing Committees.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
I hope that my hon. Friend will think carefully before advocating that broadcasting should be introduced into the Standing Committees. I believe—and I ventured to express this view in a speech I made the other day—that the Standing Committees are perhaps the worst feature in the whole of the legislative chain, and to impose upon the public a diet containing quite so much roughage as Standing Committees and the Reports of Standing Committees contain would be absolutely intolerable and 1167 would jeopardise the reputation of Parliament for all time.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I know that my right hon. Friend takes that view because I heard him express it in his speech to which he referred. I am bound to say that I take a different view. I have read much of the evidence given to the Select Committee on Nationalised Industries, of which I am not a member. However, I found much of that evidence most helpful. Indeed, this is true of many of the Select Committees. I know that my right hon. Friend referred to the Standing Committees, but I believe that the Select Committees often contain much valuable information and that that is also true of certain Standing Committees. I know that often when one is trying to prolong a debate a lot of triviality takes place. But equally, when it is known that a particular Standing Committee is being broadcast, many serious points will be made and will come across seriously.
The second point I wish to make has not, so far, received sufficient attention in the debate. I am in favour of the principle of broadcasting. However, I have great reservations about doing it at this time for the following reason which may not sound critical but which in my judgment is most important. Last week we had a two-day debate on public expenditure. I do not wish to go over that ground again, but many of us in the House, and certainly many people outside, are conscious of the need now for heavy restraint on all public expenditure, not least because the projections in the White Paper are clearly based on the wrong growth assumptions, assumptions which will never materialise. As a result much desirable public expenditure will not take place. There is therefore an obligation on us all in this House, in anything we are considering, to ask what extra burden it will add to public expenditure, whether it is a high priority, and how desirable it is that that programme should go through while some other programme is abandoned or restrained.
I accept that the costs of the broadcasting proposal are small—about £310,000 for the capital costs and £275,000 for the operating costs. However, in year 1 that amounts to more than £500,000, and we should therefore look seriously at the public expenditure 1168 implication to see whether we are not being self-indulgent. It is terribly easy to say that something is desirable and that therefore we must have it. Perhaps, too, we are not giving the lead we should be giving on restraint in this area, a lead which we did not have last week.
The Minister's reply to this point will condition how I vote. I accept that the BBC is entitled to allocate priorities, but I should like the guarantee that the BBC itself will ensure cuts elsewhere if we vote for this additional expenditure tonight. I should like to be certain that Parliament will not be voting some additional Department of the Environment expenditure because the IBA has said that it would prefer it to happen that way.
I am sceptical not only about the cost estimates but also about any vague assurances we get that this proposal will not increase a subsidy from the public purse. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to assure us quite firmly in this case that there will be no additional burden on public expenditure and that cuts will be made elsewhere to take account of this extra service. It is easy to say that these are small sums, but that has always been the case for any additional expenditure we may vote, and we must say "Stop" at some point.
It is easy also to say that communications to the electorate are important. However, we are not talking about the non-dissemination of information from Parliament. Dissemination is already taking place in a wide variety of ways, especially through radio and television, so we are talking only about whether an extra dimension should be added. With so many other areas of desirable public expenditure being postponed, unless we can be assured that this proposal will not add to public expenditure we ought to say that whenever we can implement it we should do so, but not now.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie Spriggs (St. Helens)
I want to pursue the line taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott). The public should be made aware that there are different departments in the parliamentary system, that there is the House of Commons where the general debates take place, and that there is also the Establishment, of which the public are not 1169 aware. The Establishment contains the people with real power, the decision-makers. They expect the Back Benchers to act year in and year out as Lobby fodder while often Back Benchers sincerely believe that their contribution will help to mould the thinking of the Government. That, of course, is completely untrue.
I have spent hundreds of hours in this Chamber listening to speeches over the years, but I have never found a Back Bencher who has managed to change the direction of Government decisions—except, that is, for a short while ago when nine of my colleagues went into the Lobby with the Opposition in support of the amendment on the earnings rule. It is only at times such as that that Back Benchers can make their power felt. If they are not prepared to do that, they will never change the direction of Government policy.
For some years I served on the Public Petitions Committee. We wanted to discover what happened to the millions of signatures appended to messages sent to this honourable House making pleas on behalf of one cause or another, all of them highly important in the eyes and opinions of the people who organised the petitions. I asked at a meeting of the Committee what happened to the signatures when they had been dealt with. We were told that they would be put in one of the spare storage rooms beneath the clock, probably for about six months or a little longer, and would then be destroyed.
The Committee then decided to ask for the power to send for persons and papers, to visit the places and examine the cause of the complaints contained in the petitions. The Establishment refused to give us the power which would make public petitions worth while. The powers in authority then decided to abolish the Committee rather than make it truly effective.
Today a public petition is presented ceremoniously by the Member of Parliament concerned, and he probably hears no more about it. The public expect a Minister from the relevant Department to deal with the petition, but our Committee found that that was not happening.
I should like to see public attention focused, through television or sound, on the departmental meetings with deputa- 1170 tions that come to see Ministers about unemployment, about the avoidance of redundancy, about the development of industry, about education and about social services generally. We had a meeting with the Department of Industry a few weeks ago, and if someone had given us the authority then to speak to the nation as a deputation, offering a similar facility to the departmental side, that would have taught the people far more about parliamentary affairs than listening to a House half-full of Back Benchers. These are the things which matter.
The public should understand why a Member of Parliament does not have the power which they think he has. We should make it clear that we make a contribution only by supporting the Government in the Division Lobby as members of the Government side, or by opposing the Government as members of the Opposition. It is important that that is appreciated by students and by those who have never had the opportunity of learning where the seat of real power lies. Very few people realise that helpful publications are available. Many officers and past officers of the House have written good publications about the House and our parliamentary proceedings.
Literally thousands of school children visit the House when it is sitting, and especially from England and Wales. They come with the object of learning something about the parliamentary system. In fact, it is a matter that now counts as an A-level subject. Many thousands of students have chosen to take the British parliamentary system as one of their A-levels. I know that the last thing many Members want is for their young constituents to return home to write a thesis on what they saw during their morning tour of the Houses of Parliament.
Half of our young visitors, if they are lucky, get into the Strangers Gallery and listen to Question Time. Most of them have to leave between 4 o'clock and 6 o'clock to return home. That is why I say that it is necessary, if we are to have a sound or television system, to broadcast the Committees that really count. Such broadcasting would be especially relevant to members of the public who want to know more. If they want to know how a Cabinet operates, the information is not available to them as they are secret sessions.
§ Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)
I agree that it would be entirely desirable to have the broadcasting of the House, but the question to which I hope the hon. Gentleman will address himself is whether we can afford it. I should love to have a holiday in the South of France but I cannot afford it. I hope that the House will consider the cost that is involved.
§ Mr. Spriggs
We cannot afford to tell half-truths or half-facts. If we are to broadcast the proceedings of the parliamentary system, we must broadcast the whole of it and let the nation see how the system operates, how the Establishment decides upon its priorities and its economic policy. For obvious reasons I do not go so far as to say that we should broadcast the proceedings of defence Committees, but we should broadcast the proceedings of Committees dealing, for example, with social services and our economic problems.
At present, many people do not understand why there is so much unemployment. They consider that it is completely unnecessary in many instances. For exemple, Todd Steel Ltd. made a profit last month but last weekend the gates were closed. It had a full order book. However, the City spivs had stepped in and demanded the repayment of a loan. That is the sort of matter that is discussed in Committee with the Department of Industry, but the men and women in my constituency do not understand how a firm with a full order book, which has refused about £750,00 worth of orders in the past few weeks, can close down.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Oscar Murton)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is going rather wide of the subject under discussion.
§ Mr. Spriggs
I am always grateful for your guidance, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If we mean what we say about the broadcasting of the House, we should broadcast the proceedings in Committee where decisions are taken. I have in mind the decisions that are taken by Ministers and Departments in private, meetings at which confidential excuses and reasons are given for not taking action upon various matters. That is where broadcasting should start. In fact, the Chamber provides 1172 the least of the vital information that should be made known to the country.
I believe that it is necessary to establish a sub-editing committee. The motion refers to the setting up of a permanent system of broadcasting but it does not deal with the editing of debates. Unless we amend the motion immediately a permanent system comes into operation we shall have the broadcasting authority using its own discretion to edit our debates. Those who take part regularly in debates will perhaps be recorded and broadcast time and time again, but there will be many Members who will never be broadcast because their submissions will not suit the authorities or the Establishment.
If we approve the motion as it stands, the BBC or IBA, whoever broadcasts our debates, will not go ahead and broadcast any and every debate willy-nilly. They will consult the Establishment and the usual channels which get together to decide the business this week or next week. They will have a finger in the pie, and they will decide who is to be broadcast on a certain day.
§ 5.49 p.m.
§ Mr. Tim Renton (Mid-Sussex)
The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Grocott) told the House in an interesting speech that when he rings his wife at the end of the day her general comment to him, based on the television news flashes that she has heard throughout the day, is "My goodness, you have had a dramatic day, haven't you?" My wife says that, too, but tends to add, "Did you achieve anything?" That is a very much more difficult question for Government or Opposition Back Benchers to answer.
I believe that we could answer that question in part by the full and continuous broadcasting of our proceedings. However, I propose to vote against the motion. I appreciate that that sounds a contrary remark. It might invite the comment from the Chancellor that I am out of my tiny Chinese mind.
But I am concerned that the Select Committee, in submitting its Report, has left too open the question of the method by which our proceedings should be broadcast. That is covered by the first 1173 sentence of the second paragraph in the Report, which says:It was not within Your Committee's order of reference to consider how this—the sound broadcasting—should be done.I accept that it was not in the Committee's terms of reference, but I very much regret it. What I fear is that if we continue with broadcasting on the same basis as we had it in the summer months of last year, we shall on a permanent basis hand over to editors, however well-intentioned they may be—and clearly those who handled our proceedings last summer did an excellent job—a very substantial power of editing and cutting which will slowly grow in a way which this House could come greatly to regret.
Therefore, I submit that it is at this moment that the House should decide on sound broadcasting, but on a full-time, continuous basis, and that it is only on this basis that we should agree to it.
I agree very much with the remarks made last week by my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore). In fact, it was my reading of his comments next morning which finally decided me not to vote for the motion, as I had done on a previous occasion, but to vote against it. I fear that the editing that we had in the summer months of last year and that we shall continue to have in the future puts power in the hands of those to whom I referred just now and also gives an unrepresentative view of our proceedings.
We heard last week, and we have heard again today, about the way that the knock and tumble and the music hall aspects of our proceedings got too much attention. In my own constituency, I was interested to find a clear division of opinion about it. The younger voters supported what they had heard. They thought that it showed that we had spirits inside us. Whether they were physical or alcoholic spirits was not important. Older voters, on the other hand, were quite horrified. They felt that this was not at all what they had expected of the House, that far too much of our time was spent on knock-about stuff, and that they were as a whole bitterly disappointed.
I make the suggestion that the broadcasting should be on a continuous basis 1174 in no way because I feel, as a very junior Back Bencher, that I did not get my fair share of the limited time available last summer. From what my constituents told me afterwards, it was clear that I did—and probably more so. But the reason for this was that I was lucky, on a number of the Tuesdays and Thursdays which were broadcast, in coming within the first three Questions or so in the ballot for Questions for the Prime Minister. For that reason, my constituents often heard me asking questions of the Prime Minister. It was simply that I had succeeded in the printers' ballot. They might well have thought what an energetic fellow their Member of Parliament was. I am delighted that they should feel that. But it is by its very nature unfair.
It is not right that the hearing of a Back Bencher on radio should depend on whether he sticks a piece of chewing gum on the back of his Question so that that is the one which the printer picks up. It is obvious from the laughter that some hon. Members have not heard about that custom. I was told about it on my second day in this House.
It would be much better in the limited time available to a Back Bencher that, when a constituent says to his Member "I have not heard you speak on the radio for some time", or "I would like to hear you speak", the Member was able to say "I shall be speaking on the Second Reading of "—to take an example—"the Education Bill next week. I have a good chance of catching Mr. Speaker's eye because I have not spoken for some weeks. Therefore, if you tune in, you will definitely hear me." That would be a very much fairer and better basis.
It is said that there would be no interest at all in a general broadcasting of our run-of-the-mill proceedings. I doubt this very much. I quote just one example. It was the Third Reading debate on the Industry Bill, which was broadcast in full. I believe that it lasted for about three and a half hours. I compare it to the perfect Chinese meal. It had "starters", it had "closers", and in between it had a number of well-prepared but small dishes each of which was presented by a Member who had probably served on the Standing Committee on the Industry Bill, who knew 1175 a lot about the business, and who therefore spoke in a very informed way. The broadcasting of that debate was a very good vignette of our proceedings.
A few weeks later, I was up in the Potteries. Out of the blue, someone told me that he had been pruning his roses that afternoon, had taken his radio into the garden with him, and had listened enraptured throughout to the broadcast proceedings of the Third Reading of the Industry Bill.
We should not be too bashful about ourselves. I believe that there would be more general interest in a total broadcast of our proceedings than some of us think. We have the Australian experiment with which to compare ourselves. There, as hon. Members will know, all the proceedings are broadcast and, of course, anyone bored by it can turn off at any time. But there it is, on the radio. Anyone can choose to listen to it if he wishes. For anyone who is alone or far away from the centre of government, it is clearly a matter of great interest to be able to listen in full to a matter which interests him.
§ Mr. Peter Bottomley (Woolwich, West)
Will my hon. Friend explain in a little more depth how voting against the motion will make it more likely to get non-stop broadcasting of our debates?
§ Mr. Renton
I do not know whether my hon. Friend was here earlier, but my point was that if we hand over control of the way that broadcasting is to be established to a Joint Committee, it will effectively move out of our hands. I should like to see it decided in this House first that broadcasting is to be on a continuous, full-time basis, and not hand it over to a Joint Committee.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. MacGregor) that full-time broadcasting should include Standing Committee and Select Committee proceedings as well. This again would show the public at large what our work load is and of what it consists. My right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has said on a number of occasions that Standing Committee proceedings 1176 are often a farce, and I agree. They need to be changed. But we are all very much involved in them. We spend a great deal of time serving on Standing Committees, and it is right that the public should know this. The fact that they are being broadcast will force us to change our Standing Committee procedures, which we all want to do.
§ Mr. William Price
Would not it make more sense to support this motion tonight and to let it go to a Joint Committee? Then the Committee will make its recommendations, which will have to come back here for approval. If the hon. Gentleman does not like what the Joint Committee decides, that will be the time to vote against it.
§ Mr. Renton
In view of the fact that the Minister is supporting the motion, I must expect a remark of that kind from him. However, I feel that this is a matter of principle. I am against the editing of our proceedings and, therefore, I cannot support the motion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South said that he feared that the cost would be very high. My hon. Friend is well known for his concern about public expenditure, which I support. He, too, doubts whether he can support the motion. I should like to put the contrary view. If there is no need for editing, if what we are to have coming forward on one channel is a sound Hansard of our proceedings from which television or the newspapers can pick and choose what they want, the cost should not be so great because there will be no need for editors or cutters; professionals will not be involved. Metaphorically speaking, a tap will be turned on at 10.30 in the morning, champagne will pour forth—in the case of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Cryer) flat beer—and listeners throughout the country will be able to drink when they will. I do not think that the cost involved should be all that great. Therefore, I regret that unless we are assured of sound broadcasting on a permanent and continuous basis, I cannot support the motion.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)
I do not propose to follow the hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. 1177 Renton) on some of the points that he made as other hon. Members wish to speak. Indeed, I hope to help to reduce the average time of speeches in this debate.
I start perhaps cynically with the opinion that the attention of most people outside this Chamber is at this moment directed to other matters than whether Parliament's proceedings should be broadcast. Yet we are deciding on a matter which will fundamentally change the House of Commons as I have known it for the past 10 years. Therefore, we should take that step very carefully.
I have no objection in principle—there could be no objection in principle—to the broadcasting of our proceedings. The principle was established hundreds of years ago when it was decided that the sayings of Members of the House of Commons were to be reported. The form in which that reporting has taken place has varied from generation to generation, but the principle of reporting the proceedings of Parliament has been with us for about 600 years. Therefore, we are not establishing the principle but changing the practice.
In the debate last week some of my hon. Friends suggested that broadcasting the proceedings in Parliament would be a good way of controlling the Executive. It might be a way, but it would be low down on my list of priorities on how to control the Executive.
Two matters concern me. One is the idea that, because there has been an experiment which some people thought was valid and useful, this should be the basis for the permanent broadcasting of our proceedings. I would prefer an extended experiment for 12 months.
The comments concerning the trial broadcasts made to me by members of my family and constituents were that broadcasting in the first week was viewed with great interest, in the second week this had calmed a little, in the third week there was criticism and in the fourth week there was almost complete boredom. No one from Merseyside has either lobbied or written to me to the effect "We feel deprived and neglected. Because this interesting and exciting experiment is no longer with us, we can no longer tune in to your radio channel." None of my constituents seems to be 1178 unaware of what I have or have not been doing for the reason that the broadcasting of our proceedings no longer takes place.
People are concerned about the cost, and we should be concerned, too. My experience in this place is that if a Minister says that something will cost £200,000, in a short time it will cost £2 million. That applies to both Conservative and Labour Governments. I do not suggest that if we decide to forgo the experiment we should have a ballot and one lucky Member should be able to get enough money out of the Exchequer for a nursery, a swimming pool, or something else for the public good. We cannot say that there are better ways of spending this money. However, when the Government are asking the country to agree to limiting public expenditure, I suggest that the broadcasting of our proceedings and the cost ought to have a very low priority indeed. There are too many unknown factors. We are giving a blank cheque. That is a horrible cliché, and I try to avoid clichés.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary suggested that, whatever doubts we may have, we should agree on the principle and send the matter upstairs to a Committee to sort out the details. If we do that, we are committed. Whoever sorts out the details will be told that the House has decided that it wants permanent broadcasting of its proceedings. Therefore, what we decide tonight will commit us for a long time ahead. It will be too long, too uncertain, and at too great a cost at this time. For that reason, I propose to oppose the motion. We can look at the matter again in perhaps 12 months. My opposition is based not on principle but on practice.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) made a delightful speech. I am sure that we were all interested to discover how to get Questions to the top of the list. I must try it some time.
My hon. Friend said that the proper reporting of Parliament should be like a Chinese meal. Certainly he was one of the tender bamboo shoots or jumping beans in the middle. I hope that the 1179 Minister and I are not the dried-up crust of bread at the bottom.
§ Mr. Cooke
I shall try to be fairly brief. In somewhat more relaxed circumstances I might take half an hour. I understand that we might possibly run to half-past six, if that helps people who wish to catch trains.
The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) proved my point. The hon. Gentleman walked out of the Chamber as soon as he had finished his speech, having made certain remarks about other hon. Members, which I shall not repeat. That is how some Members will seek to treat Parliament should we have our proceedings broadcast. The dangers of sound broadcasting are not as great as with television, where that sort of thing could have an extraordinary distorting effect. The hon. Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) said that some students in his constituency came to study Parliament for their A-levels. Some hon. Members hardly reach O-level standard when it comes to behaviour in this House.
The Select Committee said that the experiment was by and large technically successful and that sound broadcasting could be continued on a permanent basis. It is for the House to decide on the basis of what the Select Committee tentatively suggested in the Report and to take account of some valid evidence which was collected.
I believe that other matters should be gone into. That is why it is suggested that a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament should look into further details and, as the Parliamentary Secretary conceded, should report back to this House and to the other place for a final decision on how to proceed.
I recognise that the decision we are about to take—there will no doubt be a vote—is of considerable importance. However, there is one domestic matter which I cannot leave aside. The House is given to taking decisions and allowing other people to work out the consequences of them. If we decide to go ahead, we must find somewhere to house the broadcasters.
We heard a heartbreaking story about the conditions under which broadcasters had to work during the experiment. I 1180 agree that they were squalid. However, we can improve those conditions straight away. But we should not displace the few Members who are situated fairly near to this Chamber in conditions not of luxury but of some convenience. It would be intolerable if a great number of broadcasters descended upon the crowded Palace of Westminster and displaced hon. Members who are trying to get on with their work. If we are to broadcast our proceedings, we must have a unit near the Chamber, but a great deal of the back-up can be situated not near the Chamber but within reach.
I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will not mind my saying to him, as I have said to the Lord President more than once, that the Government must exercise their mind regarding the Bridge Street site. That site is earmarked for Parliament. Let there be no mistake about that at all. The Government were right to say that the Spence-Webster building should not be proceeded with on the ground of cost. But there are many other reasons why it would be unwise to proceed with that building. However, the site remains and there are many useful buildings on it which could serve Parliament. We got hold of Norman Shaw, North only through persistent pressure by Back Benchers. There is considerable pressure for the use of Norman Shaw, South and some other buildings.
It is breaking no confidences to say that if we are to have broadcasting, the broadcasters would welcome some of the buildings on the Bridge Street site. But a decision has to be made if we are not to have an untidy caravan shanty town too near the Chamber, blocking up the courtyards and unsatisfactory to all.
As for costs, I am reminded that several things in this building have cost a good deal of money recently. The capital cost of the broadcasting unit is bound up with where it goes. If we can use the existing buildings on Bridge Street the cost will be so much reduced. The capital works will have to be provided by the House because the broadcasters will be to some extent our tenants, invited here to do a job, and we should provide the home for them.
On the other hand, it is not unreasonable that the broadcasters should pay a 1181 substantial part of the running costs. It is largely the broadcasters who, over the years, have applied the pressures for the broadcasting of Parliament. Parliament is now facing up to the problem but it is the broadcasters who have brought us to this position. It is difficult to analyse the situation from the available evidence but when the Joint Committee considers who should pay the running costs, I believe that the broadcasters will have to bear a considerable proportion.
If we go ahead, shall we get a complete picture of Parliament? You, Mr. Speaker, are the guardian of Parliament, and you will want to see that as complete a picture as possible is given. Taken as a whole, the newspapers give a fair impression of Parliament. Newspapers which take Parliament seriously give wide coverage to the work of Select and Standing Committees and specialist journals give even wider coverage. The popular Press, of course, tends to go for the popular events, such as Question Time.
With broadcasting, we shall not have the wide diversity that we have with the Press. There are the BBC, the Independent Radio News, independent radio stations and the BBC local stations, but there is not the fierce competition that one gets with newspapers.
We should have to be certain, before we allowed microphones here, that we would get a fair picture of Parliament across to the listeners. I am not in the pocket of my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) who said that he hoped that Standing Committees would not be broadcast. They must be broadcast. It may even improve the standard of performance in Standing Committees. It is vital that Select Committees are broadcast.
I may be prejudiced, but I appreciate the work of the Public Accounts Committee and the Expenditure Committee. I spent a year of my life on the Select Committee on the Wealth Tax, much of it in public, with very little result in the Press or on radio and television. Some of those deliberations, especially the cross-examinations, would have been of immense value to the public. The complete destruction before the Select Committee of the Marxist case by the Minister for the Arts would have been of great interest to the public. 1182 A proper, balanced, full picture is what we want. We are not concerned with television today—
§ Mr. Cooke
—but, as my hon. Friend says, the broadcasters are determined to get the cameras in.
Hon. Members may also reflect whether we are opening a Pandora's Box and letting out evils which we shall not be able to control, or whether the situation will be like that which happened when Odysseus went to sleep, rather like the head of the Establishment—not you, Mr. Speaker—leaving wicked Back Benchers to tamper with the box of contrary winds when he was not looking. In the case of Odysseus, when they escaped, it took him 10 years to get home.
If we vote for sound broadcasting, the broadcasters will be determined to leave no stone unturned until they get the cameras in. There is one consolation—that this may be somewhat delayed by the fact that two television studios are coming into operation in Norman Shaw, North, which will mean that the camera-hungry Members will not have to go so far to be interviewed by their local television stations or the BBC.
Many hon. Members are worried about the use to which sound material emanating from the House will be put. Legal advice is that no copyright rests with the House in this matter, so if we are to lay down rules for controlling the use of this material—we laid down rules before, which were ignored—we should have to legislate to alter the Copyright Acts.
The Select Committee dealt with what I would call the Granada incident. That is why the Select Committee's Report took a long time to appear. Granada produced a series called "The Nearly Man". It apologised for the fact that in one episode a small piece of the sound material recorded in this Chamber, with the voice of the Prime Minister, was heard on the radio on the film set. That was a technical infringement for which it apologised unreservedly——
§ Mr. Cooke
For the sake of verisimilitude, it did not go for Mike Yarwood. On this day when that Mike Yarwood character has announced his withdrawal, 1183 not from Parliament, but from the high office that he holds, I shall not go into the matter any further. It wanted the real thing. I prefer the real thing in that case to Mike Yarwood, although there are certain figures on my side of the House whom I think Mike Yarwood does better than they do.
Although Granada apologised, it felt that it was justified in using that excerpt in what it called a programme with a serious social content. I leave hon. Members to make their own judgment whether "The Nearly Man" was a series with a serious social content. I am a director of an independent television company. I am all for freedom of expression and the best possible plays being produced, but if I had produced that series, I would not have tried to make out before a Select Committee that it had a serious social content. It was the same old story of some man or woman in public life getting his private affairs into a mess and that having some bearing on his conduct in this House.
The serious point is that those who produced the series thought that it was all right to use the sound signal for that programme. When we lay down guidelines, we shall have to bear in mind that many people in the media will want to use the sound signal—or the television one, if they get it—for purposes quite different from those that we intend.
When the Report of the Select Committee was published, ITN got in touch with the House and announced that it intended to use sound material in a programme about the Select Committee's Report. Hon. Members may believe that that is a perfectly harmless thing to do. Perhaps it was. However, ITN made it quite clear that it intended to do it despite the rules that were laid down. It said that the experiment was an experiment and that that was the end of the affair. It took quite a lot to persuade ITN that it would be ill-advised to do so.
Unless the BBC should at this moment be preening itself, it also technically infringed the rules because in its review of last year there was the tiniest piece of sound commentary. It was all quite harmless, but those incidents pinpoint the fact that it is easy to break whatever rules are laid down, and some of the breakages were quite serious.
1184 How can we control this? I suppose that a Joint Committee will have to examine the matter carefully. Heaven forbid that the House should censor what comes out of it ! However, it is a different matter from the Press, where there is much wider competition. I suppose that in the ultimate the House of Commons or Parliament can decide to switch the broadcast off. I see that the Minister nods. If sound broadcasting turns out to be a failure—I hope it will be successful—I hope that we shall have the courage to switch it off. My hon. Friends are murmuring behind me because they do not think that we shall have that courage. There is always a first time.
The pressures on us to try this on a permanent basis and to get it right are considerable. On the whole I am against giving into pressures but on this occasion I happen to agree with them. We should proceed. I hope that it will not be necessary to turn the broadcast off but, on the other hand, there is little enough of the solid work and worth of Parliament which now reaches the outside world. Perhaps through sound broadcasting more of it will do so.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office (Mr. William Price)
This, quitely rightly, is a matter for the House. As the Lord President said in opening the debate, the Government hold no collective view. However, it would be true to say that the majority individual view is in line with that expressed during this debate, that we have had a successful experiment and that we should now take the experiment one stage further.
If the House decides to go ahead with permanent broadcasting—and I understand that the other place has today decided to do so without a vote—we hope that it will be possible to establish a Joint Committee with the minimum of delay. The timetable that we envisage is a report by the Summer Recess at the very latest, so that the necessary work can be carried out in time for a resumption of broadcasting in the autumn. To expect it any earlier would be unrealistic.
Many right hon. and hon. Members have in the past expressed genuine concern about various features of the broadcasting of our proceedings and some of that concern has been repeated, quite properly and fairly, during this debate. It 1185 is right that those feelings should be considered, not only in the light of the experiment but in the realisation that broadcasting could be with us for a long time to come.
For what it is worth my view is that the experiment helped to dispel at least some of the fears. I believe that the broadcasting was objective. It involved more than 350 Members. It did not produce the theatrics that some of us expected, and it led, I understand, to very few complaints to the broadcasting authorities.
There was evidence of considerable public interest. The viewing figures were well up on normal.
§ Mr. Price
In a sense. They were listening figures.
Audiences for reports of the House are relatively small. The main audience is at 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. The extracts that were used were quite considerable. Therefore, there is an element of viewing as well as listening. It is significant that both the BBC and the Independent Authority want to come back on a permanent basis.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) raised four matters of importance to which I should like to refer briefly—first, what he described as "zoological noises". I was much intrigued by the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) that the way to stop the noises and for people to understand what goes on is to allow hon. Members to clap one another's performance. That was put forward last Tuesday night as a serious proposition. It might create difficulties if the Opposition insist on giving the Leader of the Opposition a standing ovation lasting seven minutes or eight minutes. We should need to come to an understanding on that. However, radio did not invent those noises. They exist, and there is no point in trying to deny it.
If we tried any form of censorship I believe that we should take away some of the unique character of this Chamber. There is, nevertheless, some evidence that 1186 background noise was amplified, and I have asked the broadcasting authorities to give the matter some attention. They believe that they can improve the situation. I am told that much of the trouble is the placing of the two microphones in front of the Dispatch Boxes. It is far too technical for me, but I understand that if they were moved considerably nearer to Front Bench spokesmen it would help.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil raised the question of balance, as did many other hon. Members. I accept the argument that broadcasting produced a bias and is almost certain to continue to produce one, in favour of the Government of the day. They have the benefit of ministerial statements as well as their own Back Benchers. That assumes that all ministerial statements and speeches help the Government and that all Back Benchers wish to be helpful. I should have thought that both assumptions were rather dangerous at present. However, there is no use trying to hide the fact that the Government had an advantage. The figures prove it beyond all reasonable argument. I must say that I have no ready answer to that. However, what is necessary is that, with the broadcasting authorities, we should keep a close watch on this matter and endeavour to achieve the best possible balance, even allowing for the difficulties.
The hon. Member for Sutton and Cheam (Mr. Macfarlane) raised the question of accommodation. I agree wholly with the remarks of the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke). This matter is entirely for the House, and no one in his right senses would attempt to tell hon. Members what to do with the limited space at their disposal.
There is no problem over the processing of the signal. It requires a very small room, and I understand that it could be provided. It is more than likely that the broadcasting authorities would accept Bridge Street for their main operation, if we were able to offer it. The major difficulty appears to be the commentary box, and anyone who saw it during the experiments will appreciate the fact that it could not be used indefinitely. The Department of the Environment has suggested situating the commentary box away from the Chamber. It believes that remote-controlled cameras 1187 would enable commentators to fulfil their function at a distance.
§ Mr. Macfarlane
Will the Minister indicate, as Bridge Street will not be available, what could be provided in the interim period?
§ Mr. Price
I am not at all sure that there will be an interim period. I hope that Bridge Street may become available. However, I cannot give any assurance to the House about that at present. If it does not become available we shall have to look elsewhere. I shall deal shortly with possible estimates.
According to the advice that I have been given, the proposal that the commentary box could be situated elsewhere and that the commentary could be done by remote control simply is not possible. The cameras are not available. If we adopted that proposal the disruption would be similar to the inevitable disruption that would occur if television cameras were brought here. That is not a starter.
The broadcasters, rightly, want if possible to be in the Chamber and at Floor level. We have looked at all possibilities, but in the end we have to decide whether we are prepared to give up one row under the Gallery. If anyone is in any doubt, it is the one beyond the Bar on the Opposition side of the House. That decision only hon. Members can take.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
The Minister has pointed to the wrong corner of the Chamber. He should have pointed to the one on the Government side of the House. The back row below the Gangway in front of the Tannoy window is used only by Government Members to sleep during late night sittings and could well be handed over to the broadcasters. It would be lavish accommodation for them and they would be pleased with it.
§ Mr. Price
I do not know when they sleep or when they do not. I am inclined to sleep at other times of the day also. We shall look at that possibility.
The south-west corner is a possibility. There is a thick wall there, and it might be possible to take that back rather than forward.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil wanted an assurance that if the Joint 1188 Committee draws up guidelines the matter would come back for final approval. As I made clear a few minutes ago, that would be the case.
In the meantime we shall incur no expenditure. What we shall do—and I think that this is right—is to draw up an estimate of possible costs for submission to the Committee, based on what the House might or might not approve. We have been in some difficulty in this matter in trying to produce any sort of estimates. First, we have no idea what the Joint Committee will recommend. Secondly, we have no idea what accommodation the House is prepared to make available. We are doing our best to provide accurate estimates, so that the Joint Committee may consider the figures.
§ Mr. David Mitchell
Will the hon. Gentleman guide the House a little more on the matter of expense? If we support him in the motion are we committed to an expenditure which is, as he said, uncertain, or shall we be able, at a later date, to refuse what is offered to us because we cannot afford it?
§ Mr. Price
That is a fair question. Clearly, the House could not decide on that because I cannot offer any costings. I do not have any. It would have been difficult for me to have come to the House and to have said "I have decided that we shall take that and that, and that the cost is £250,000". I might have had trouble on my hands. We are not in a position to explain exactly the cost. We shall do our best to give estimates to the Joint Committee. The Joint Committee will make recommendations, which will come back to the House. It will be at that stage, as I understand it, that we must decide whether or not we are prepared to take on that expenditure. That seems to me to be a fairly straightforward situation.
§ Mr. Peyton
I am grateful for what the Minister has just said. It is, then, quite clear that what we are hoping for is conditional upon a later report, which we shall then, later, have a chance of considering.
§ Mr. Price
That is certainly my understanding of the situation, and that we are tonight really doing no more than approving permanent broadcasting in 1189 principle and asking the Joint Committee to tell us how it ought to be done.
I see one difficulty arising. If the House came to the view that we ought to have permanent broadcasting and then threw out the Joint Committee's report on how we should have it, we should have there a difficulty on which I should need to take advice before telling the House in which direction to proceed. However, I do not see that happening. I hope that it will be possible for the Joint Committee to tell us in a sensible way what cost the House should be prepared to accept.
§ Mr. Goodhew
Is it not rather unreasonable to be asking the House to support this evening a proposition which saysThat this House supports the proposal that the public sound broadcasting of its proceedings should be arranged on a permanent basisbecause to do so would be committing the House wholeheartedly to whatever the Committee cares to decide?
§ Mr. Price
I can only repeat my assurance. I took the advice of the Lord President before coming into the Chamber to make sure that I had got it right, and he had it right. That is that anything that the Joint Committee recommends has to come back here for approval. I cannot put it any straighter than that. If hon. Members take the view that the motion is wrongly worded, they should not blame me. I did not draw it up. I am only giving hon. Members the assurances that they have been seeking—and I have no intention of resigning over the matter.
Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford), spoke in favour of a parliamentary broadcasting unit. It has been clear to me that there is widespread support for that proposal. I would only ask the House to consider three points. First, I ask the House to consider that we should be involved in additional public expenditure by the creation of another group of civil servants, and that possibly highly technical matters of this sort are best left to the experts.
Secondly, and far more important in my view, it will be assumed, perhaps quite wrongly, that we should be attempting some sort of editorial control. I thought that the hon. Member for Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire (Mr. Reid) came 1190 very close to that. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Helens (Mr. Spriggs) made absolutely no bones about it. He wants a Committee editing, vetting, and submitting our material to the broadcasting authorities. I happen to hold the view, as a newspaper man—and I admit my interest—that broadcasting is best left to the broadcasters.
§ Mr. Price
Certainly including editing.
Others will argue that this is purely an administrative matter, that it will ease any copyright and Privilege problems, and that it will help to ensure that the broadcasting authorities continue to treat our proceedings fairly and objectively. Those are powerful arguments to which the Joint Committee will obviously give careful consideration.
At this stage, I should like to make one point. Whilst we are talking this evening about "permanent broadcasting"—this question arose only a few moments ago—I take the view that very few things in this House are that permanent—including Prime Ministers—and that, if we felt that the broadcasting authorities were not playing the game by us or were misbehaving in a manner that was reprehensible, then we could remove them. I do not see that happening. I have no reason to believe that it will. However, it must be regarded, by them as well as by us, as a powerful weapon which will remain with us.
The hon. Member for Mid-Sussex (Mr. Renton) raised a point that I find attractive. I agree with him that the experiment was a good deal fairer to Back Benchers than Portland Place producers, who rarely look beyond the Oxford Union for their contributors. Some 350 hon. Members were used.
The hon. Member for Croydon, Central (Mr. Moore) made a fascinating speech. He asked the question, which was raised also by a number of other hon. Members last week, why do we give advance copies of Government documents to the Press two days in advance? While this matter is somewhat outside the scope of the debate, a number of people have raised it and I should like to deal with it. It is, of course, a practice of long standing and one that has been accepted by Parliament and pursued by successive Governments. It applies not only to 1191 Government White Papers but to some of Parliament's own documents. The reason is well known. The hon. Gentleman told us the reason. The Government of the day want the maximum coverage, and the Press, for its part, claims that 48 hours is the minimum period of time if it is to get it right. I suspect that some could not manage it in 48 days. Nevertheless, we have to make the attempt.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke
Why should not hon. Members have them 48 hours in advance so that they can get it right?
§ Mr. Price
I was hoping that someone might ask that question. I am coming to that matter.
I recognise that the system is far from perfect and I know only too well that many hon. Members object to the fact that people outside the House get documents long before they do, and that can create real problems. We all suffer from it, but I know, too, that the system can be abused, and I can cite two recent examples.
We have reason to believe that copies of the devolution White Paper got into the hands of certain hon. Members via the Press long before they should have done. We recently had the New Statesman publishing the White Paper on public expenditure in defiance of a clearly stated embargo. It has the curious idea that all will be well as long as it apologises. One of the problems is that neither the Lobby nor the National Union of Journalists, nor the Guild of Editors, has the ability or willingness to exercise any real discipline over its members.
The Prime Minister has indicated in answer to a Question from the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) that this is a matter which needs to be considered in the near future. What we have to do is attempt to keep a balance between the rights of what we would like to regard as a responsible Press whilst at the same time ensuring that Members of this House are not placed at a disadvantage or given second-class treatment.
§ Mr. MacGregor
I am grateful to the Minister. He will know from having listened to all of the debate that many hon. Members, while supporting the principle, have considerable reservations about the details and would, therefore, wish to base their vote on the details. Is he saying that in supporting the motion we are simply supporting the setting up of the Joint Committee and not the principle of permanent sound broadcasting?
§ Mr. Price
No. Perhaps I may tell the hon. Gentleman what I think I am voting for—and I have some reservations of my own. I think that I am voting tonight in principle for permanent broadcasting; that I am not committing myself or anyone else to the expenditure of one penny; that I want the matter to go to the Joint Committee; and that if I do not like what comes back from the Joint Committee, I shall vote against it.
§ Mr. Michael Brotherton (Louth)
Will the Minister explain when "permanent" is not permanent. He says that he will vote for the motion because he wants permanent broadcasting but on the other hand he says that if he does not like it he will not want it to be permanent.
§ Mr. Price
I am voting for the principle of permanent broadcasting. I want to see the details. It may or may not be the case that broadcasting should be continuous. I want to know the costings.
It has been suggested that the way to ease expenditure would be to have continuous broadcasting. I find that a strange argument. It would involve the creation of a completely separate channel, and the cost would be astronomical. I should like to see evidence that there is an audience available for such broadcasts.
If the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Brotherton) is asking for my definition of the word "permanent" I should be in some difficulty in answering him. I tried to explain that I did believe that it was permanent in the sense that the hon. Gentleman and I normally would accept the word. In other words, if we do not like the result in three or four years' time we should have the courage to re-examine the matter. What I am saying is that the matter is not "permanent" in the sense of "for ever and ever, Amen". We are looking at the 1193 possibility of bringing in broadcasting on a basis to be devised by a Joint Committee. When the matter returns to the House we shall examine it. That seems to be fair and understandable.
This matter has been argued for many years and the time has come for the House to make a decision. Some of us believe that a vote for broadcasting would
§ strengthen the links with the public, would improve the standing of Parliament in the country, and would counter any allegation that we are operating with an unhealthy degree of secrecy.
§ Question put:——
§ The House divided: Ayes 299, Noes 124.1195
|Division No. 88.]||AYES||[6.41 p.m.|
|Allaun, Frank||Deakins, Eric||James, David|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Jay, Rt Hon Douglas|
|Anderson, Donald||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Dempsey, James||Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford)|
|Arnold, Tom||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Jessel, Toby|
|Ashley, Jack||Dormand, J. D.||Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)|
|Ashton, Joe||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Jopling, Michael|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith|
|Atkinson, Norman||Eadie, Alex||Kaufman, Gerald|
|Awdry, Daniel||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Kerr, Russell|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Edge, Geoff||Kilroy-Silk, Robert|
|Baker, Kenneth||Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke)||King, Evelyn (South Dorset)|
|Bates, Alf||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||King, Tom (Bridgwater)|
|Bean, R. E.||English, Michael||Kinnock, Nell|
|Beith, A. J.||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lambie, David|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)||Lamont, Norman|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Eyre, Reginald||Lane, David|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Fairgrieve, Russell||Lawrence, Ivan|
|Biffen, John||Flannery, Martin||Le Marchant, Spencer|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lester, Jim (Beeston)|
|Blaker, Peter||Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Ford, Ben||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Forman, Nigel||Litterick, Tom|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Lloyd, Ian|
|Bottomley, Peter||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Loyden, Eddie|
|Bradley, Tom||Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Luard, Evan|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)||Luce, Richard|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Freeson, Reginald||McCrindle, Robert|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Freud, Clement||McElhone, Frank|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Gardiner, George (Relgate)||MacGregor, John|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)||Mackenzie, Gregor|
|Buchan, Norman||Garrett, John (Norwich S)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Buchanan, Richard||George, Bruce||Maclennan, Robert|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham)||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)|
|Buck, Antony||Ginsburg, David||McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)|
|Budgen, Nick||Goodhart, Philip||McNamara, Kevin|
|Burden, F. A.||Gould, Bryan||Madden, Max|
|Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE)||Graham, Ted||Marks, Kenneth|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Marquand, David|
|Canavan, Dennis||Grant, John (Islington C)||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Carter, Ray||Grylis, Michael||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hampson, Dr Keith||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin|
|Cartwright, John||Hannam, John||Mayhew, Patrick|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Maynard, Miss Joan|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Havers, Sir Michael||Meacher, Michael|
|Churchill, W. S.||Hawkins, Paul||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Hayhoe, Barney||Mendelson, John|
|Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Clegg, Walter||Heseltine, Michael||Mikardo, Ian|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Hicks, Robert||Milian, Bruce|
|Coleman, Donald||Hooley, Frank||Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)|
|Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Hooson, Emlyn||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Horam, John||Miller, Mrs Millie (llford N)|
|Cope, John||Hordern, Peter||Mills, Peter|
|Corbett, Robin||Howell, Rt Hon Denis||Miscampbell, Norman|
|Corrie, John||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)|
|Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)||Molloy, William|
|Crawford, Douglas||Huckfield, Les||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)|
|Critchley, Julian||Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Crosland, Rt Hon Anthony||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Hunt, David (Wirral)||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)|
|Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiten)||Hunt, John||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King|
|Davidson, Arthur||Hurd, Douglas||Neave, Airey|
|Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Nelson, Anthony|
|Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)||Newens, Stanley|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Newton, Tony|
|Normanton, Tom||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Trotter, Neville|
|Onslow, Cranley||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Rowlands, Ted||Tugendhat, Christopher|
|Ovenden, John||St. John-Stevas, Norman||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Sandelson, Neville||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Scott, Nicholas||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|Pardoe, John||Sedgemore, Brian||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Park, George||Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)||Ward, Michael|
|Parry, Robert||Shelton, William (Streatham)||Warren, Kenneth|
|Pattie, Geoffrey||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Watkins, David|
|Penhaligon, David||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)||Watkinson, John|
|Peyton, Rt Hon John||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Sillars, James||Weetch, Ken|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Silvester, Fred||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Prior, Rt Hon James||Sims, Roger||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Pym, Rt Hon Francis||Skinner, Dennis||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Radice, Giles||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Raison, Timothy||Spence, John||Wigley, Dafydd|
|Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Sproat, lain||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Reid, George||Stanley, John||Williams, Alan (Swansea W)|
|Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Steel, David (Roxburgh)||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Richardson, Miss Jo||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Stewart, Donald (Western Isles)||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Ridsdale, Julian||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Rifkind, Malcolm||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Stott, Roger||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Strang, Gavin||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Rodgers Geroge (Chorley)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)||Mr. Ioan Evans and|
|Rooker, J. W.||Thornas, Ron (Bristol NW)||Mr. Tim Rathbone.|
|Roper, John||Thome, Stan (Preston South)|
|Alison, Michael||Grocott, Bruce||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Hall, Sir John||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)|
|Banks, Robert||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Bell, Ronald||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Roderick, Caerwyn|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harper, Joseph||Rose, Paul B.|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Ross, William (Londonderry)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Hastings, Stephen||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|Bradford, Rev Robert||Henderson, Douglas||Shaw, Arnold (liford South)|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Higgins, Terence L.||Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)|
|Brotherton, Michael||Holland, Philip||Shepherd, Colin|
|Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)||Hunter, Adam||Silverman, Julius|
|Cant, R. B.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Janner, Greville||Snape, Peter|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||Jeger, Mrs Lena||Spearing, Nigel|
|Cocks, Michael (Bristol S)||John, Brynmor||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Cohen, Stanley||Johnson, James (Hull West)||Stainton, Keith|
|Conlan, Bernard||Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Stallard, A. W.|
|Cormack, Patrick||Judd, Frank||Stoddart, David|
|Costain, A. P.||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Stokes, John|
|Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill)||Kershaw, Anthony||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Davies, Denzil (Llanelli)||Lamborn, Harry||Tapsell, Peter|
|Delargy, Hugh||Lyon, Alexander (York)||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Drayson, Burnaby||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)|
|Dunn, James A.||McCartney, Hugh||Thompson, George|
|Durant, Tony||Macfarlane, Neil||Tinn, James|
|Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||MacFarquhar, Roderick||Urwln, T. W.|
|Fell, Anthony||McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Wakeham, John|
|Finsberg, Geoffrey||Marten, Neil||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Fisher, Sir Nigel||Mather, Carol||Wall, Patrick|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Molyneaux, James||Watt, Hamish|
|Forrester, John||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Wellbeloved, James|
|Fox, Marcus||Morgan, Geraint||Whitlock, William|
|Fry, Peter||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Williams, Sir Thomas|
|Galbraith, Hon T. G. D.||Neubert, Michael||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Page, John (Harrow West)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Gilbert, Dr John||Parkinson, Cecil||Woof, Robert|
|Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)||Peart, Rt Hon Fred||Younger, Hon George|
|Glyn, Dr Alan||Pendry, Tom|
|Goodhew, Victor||Percival, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gourlay, Harry||Phipps, Dr Colin||Mr. Eric Ogden and|
|Grant, George (Morpeth)||Pink, R. Bonner||Mr. Tim Renton.|
|Grist, Ian||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch|
§ Question accordingly agreed to.,
That this House supports the proposal that the public sound broadcasting of its proceedings should be arranged on a permanent basis.