HC Deb 18 February 1960 vol 617 cc1421-3
45 and 46. Mr. Ellis Smith

asked the Prime Minister (1) if he has yet completed his consideration of the proposal to appoint a Select Committee to consider the televising of parts of the proceedings of the House of Commons; and if he will now make a statement;

(2) if he will consider arranging for experiments to be made by the taking of a film at Question Time, so that it can be used by the television service at their peak period.

The Prime Minister

I hope to make a statement shortly.

Mr. Ellis Smith

Is the Prime Minister aware that it has been noted amongst the people generally that he himself appears on television whenever an opportunity a rises, and that during the visit of the American President, Mr. Eisenhower, he capitalised the opportunity to the maximum extent? While not speaking critically of the Prime Minister, may I ask whether he is aware that the people in the country believe that the time has arrived when what is good for the Prime Minister is equally good for their representatives in the House of Commons?

The Prime Minister

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is not speaking critically of me. I shudder to think what he would say if he were.

Sir T. Moore

I very much hope that my right hon. Friend will bear in mind that many of us in this House are not as photogenic as he is.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Prime Minister aware that there is a growing custom now to televise religious services? Will he consider having discussions now about whether Prayers in the House of Commons should be televised in order to attract the Government Front Bench?

The Prime Minister

It might also attract today's absent questioners.

Sir P. Agnew

If we are to have our proceedings televised, which many hon. Members would deprecate, would my right hon. Friend, in that eventuality, arrange that it is done on an occasion when a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite are not shouting at him all the time?

The Prime Minister

This is a subject that we have discussed, and I think that while I was away certain further inquiries were made and discussions held. I should have thought, and I think the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would agree with me, that this was a House of Commons matter, and that what we have to try to do is to get the general view of the House as to what is desirable. At the same time, in order to help, I think that a certain number of technical inquiries have been made as to what would be possible before it is decided what it would be wise to do.

Mr. Gaitskell

I agree with the Prime Minister. I think that this is essentially a House of Commons matter. I was about to ask whether he would give an assurance that no irrevocable Government decision would be taken until the House as a whole, on the basis of a free vote, had had an opportunity to express its views.

The Prime Minister

I would certainly consider that. I am sure that it is for the House to decide. We try to collect views as far as possible, and I think there is quite good machinery for doing that; but any final decision obviously ought to be one that the House takes with its full responsibility as the House of Commons.

Mr. Ellis Smith

May we also have an undertaking from both sides that when this issue is considered by the House of Commons there will be a free vote? Also, because of past experience, will the Prime Minister give an undertaking that proposals for a Select Committee will not be used as a delaying device?

The Prime Minister

I find it very difficult to give an undertaking on behalf of both sides of the House.