HC Deb 20 October 1971 vol 823 cc723-4
38. Mr. Dalyell

asked the Lord President of the Council when he expects to set out proposals for the broadcasting of parliamentary debates.

Mr. Whitelaw

I have previously indicated to the House that I agree that there should be an opportunity at the appropriate time for this important issue to be debated again, but I do not anticipate a debate in the immediate future.

Mr. Dalyell

As none of us will know how long this or any other Parliament lasts, could the Lord President say at what stage of a Parliament new Members are sufficiently mature to make a decision on this?

Mr. Whitelaw

This is a very important and serious question. I accept it in that sense. I notice that whenever this subject is raised and I make a hopeful comment about an early decision there are nasty noises all around me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] When I say that the matter might be delayed a little longer there is a great deal of applause around me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If that is the case we should consider the matter in the context of the various noises made.

Mr. Lane

In view of what my right hon. Friend has done for the standing of Parliament by his part in the Government's decision to allow a free vote at least on this side next week, will lie look sympathetically in the new Session at the likelihood that the standing and understanding of Parliament among the public might be further improved by the properly supervised and edited televising of our procedures?

Mr. Whitelaw

I must make it clear that questions of free votes or otherwise are now, fortunately—in this Parliament as compared with the last—nothing to do with me. The other question is a matter of opinion and I am quite prepared to have it debated.

Mr. Hugh Jenkins

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if he were to decide to delay, or advise his right hon. Friend to delay, the whole question of entry into the Common Market he would get even more sympathetic noises from all over the country?

Mr. Whitelaw

I do not think that that point arises on anything to do with broadcasting.