HC Deb 21 May 1958 vol 588 cc1277-9
18 and 20. Mr. Lewis

asked the Postmaster-General (1) if he will give the names of the Members of Parliament who have, since 1945, appeared more than once on the British Broadcasting Corporation and Independent Television Authority television; and the number of times which these Members have appeared on the British Broadcasting Corporation and Independent Television Authority television;

(2) whether he will give the names of the Members of Parliament who have contributed to the British Broadcasting Corporation's television and Independent Television Authority's programmes, respectively, for each of the last twenty-four months for which figures are available.

Mr. Marples

I would not feel justified either in asking the B.B.C. and the I.T.A. to compile the information, or in burdening the House with it, in view of the fact that, as the House will have seen from my reply to the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) on 14th May, there were 187 occasions in two years, excluding party political broadcasts and news items, when Members appeared on B.B.C. Television, and 156 occasions in nine months when Members appeared in I.T.A. programmes. The matter concerns the detailed arrangements made by the B.B.C. and I.T.A., and these two organisations will, I am sure, be glad to answer any specific inquiry.

Mr. Lewis

Has the Postmaster-General not heard the remarks going round the House that in order to get on to the regular contributors' list one must join the Boothby Harriers Club, and if one is not a member of that club one cannot get on? Since this appears to be an example of a closed shop, should not the right hon. Gentleman—who has a reputation for trying to defeat closed shops—take action?

Mr. Marples

I do not think it is a closed shop, and I do not think that one has to be a harrier in order to get on the B.B.C. or I.T.A. list. One has really to have a certain amount of what they call broadcasting skill and ability—which I am sure the hon. Member possesses in large quantities.

Mr. John Hall

Will not my right hon. Friend do his best to ensure that at least the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) is given an opportunity to broadcast as often as possible both on sound and television, because it could only be of the greatest possible benefit to the Conservative Party?

Mr. C. R. Hobson

Arising from the right hon. Gentleman's reply, will he state the number of Members who make contributions which are confined to the "icebox"—for which they are paid—and state to which party they belong?

Mr. Marples

I do not understand the hon. Member's question. I do not know what he means by "icebox".

Mr. Hobson

I am referring to the talks which are kept in the "icebox" in case somebody does not turn up, which can then be broadcast.

Mr. Marples

I presume the hon. Member is referring to undelivered speeches. They are always better than those which are delivered.

Mr. Simmons

Would the right hon. Gentleman consider publishing a list of Members who have not appeared on television?

Mr. Marples

I am afraid not; it would be too lengthy.

19. Mr. Lewis

asked the Postmaster-General whether he will publish in HANSARD the names of the Members of Parliament who have, since 1945 until the latest convenient stated date, contributed to the series, "The Week in Westminster."

Mr. Marples

No, Sir. The Corporation has made this information available on request to Members who are interested, including the hon. Member for West Ham, North, and they tell me that they will continue to do so.

Mr. Lewis

It is because the hon. Member for West Ham, North has received information that he thought other hon. Members would be interested in the news contained therein. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that several of these regular contributors have contributed on two and in some cases three occasions to "The Week in Westminster," while many other hon. Members, who have been Members for twenty years, have not contributed once? Does not the Minister think it is wrong that a Member who has been here for only two years should broadcast two or three times while other hon. Members who attend regularly to their duties here and have been Members for twenty years have not yet been on "The Week in Westminster"?

Mr. Marples

I should not like to interfere with the B.B.C.'s discretion in this matter, because in my view they lean over backwards to preserve a balance and, as long as the numbers of each party are correct, it is not for me to interfere in the selection of Members who broadcast. I would remind the hon. Member that the B.B.C. selects them not merely because they are good or even brilliant politicians, but because of their broadcasting skill. I think that the B.B.C. is extremely fair and impartial in this matter.