HC Deb 26 January 1978 vol 942 cc1748-81

10.30 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed,

That there shall be a Select Committee to give directions and perform other duties in accordance with the provisions of the Resolution of the House of 26th July 1977 in relation to Sound Broadcasting:

That the Committee do consist of Six Members:

That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records; to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; and to report from time to time:

That Two be the Quorum of the Committee:

That the Committee have power to report from time to time the Minutes of Evidence taken before them and any Memoranda submitted to them:

That the Committee have power to appoint persons with expert knowledge either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity relating to the matters referred to them:

That the Committee have power to join with any Select Committee on Sound Broadcasting that may be appointed by the Lords:

That this Order be a Standing Order of the House.—[Mr. William Price.]

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Is it correct that you have not selected my amendment?

Mr. Speaker

I should have informed the House that I have not selected the amendments.

Mr. English

Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Your non-selection creates a peculiar situation. I direct your attention to what the Lord President of the Council said last week. I asked him: After the guillotine motion on Thursday there is the question of broadcasting the proceedings of this House. When will the Government's motion on that subject be laid, so that we may all consider it, and will it include what every Committee of this House, bar one, has recommended, and what at least one broadcasting authority recommends—namely, a House of Commons controlled broadcasting unit? The Leader of the House fairly replied: My hon. Friend has his own views on that matter. Some of my hon. Friends and others agree with him, and there are some hon. Members who take a different view. The matter, however, is one for the House to decide, as it will do next week."—[Official Report, 19th January 1978; Vol. 942, c, 665.] My right hon. Friend gave me an assurance that the House would have the opportunity to consider the serious question of how broadcasting is to be controlled.

It is simple or those who oppose broadcasting altogether to vote against this motion. But one Select Committee has recommended that there should be broadcasting with a House of Commons unit, and the most recent Select Committee recommended that there should be broadcasting without a House of Commons unit. I have always wanted to see a House of Commons unit, but there is no opportunity for me to discuss it. I am in a quandary.

Mr. Speaker

I heard what the Lord President said. He has a lot of authority, but he does not select amendments: That is my responsibility. I made my selection after careful thought. Indeed, at the request of the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) earlier today, I went back to consider the matter further. But my decision must stand and I have not selected the amendment.

Mr. English

Further to the point of Order, Mr. Speaker. May I ask the representative of the Lord President whether he will withdraw the motion and table it in a new form so that the assurances made by his superior can be implemented? Not having the opportunity to decide the question of a House of Commons broadcasting unit, even if we sit until after midnight, is not carrying out the assurances of the Lord President.

Mr. Speaker

We shall not sit until after midnight on this matter but until 11.30 or one and a half hours after the debates started—that will be midnight.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

Further to the point of Order, Mr. Speaker. As one who is concerned not about the establishment of a broadcasting unit in the House but about establishing broadcasting proceedings in the way in which the House wishes it, I endorse the sentiments and desire expressed by the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English). We should postpone consideration of the broadcasting of the House until it is possible to consider whether there should be a broadcasting unit.

Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) must try to make his point in the debate. The debate has begun and time is limited. I suggest that we proceed.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker

No one may challenge my selection of amendments.

Mr. Freud

Further to the point of order, Mr. Speaker. Will you advise hon. Members how they should vote, if they are able to vote, if they believe that broadcasting should take place but that a unit of the House should be established? It seems that there is no alternative but to record a negative vote for a positive motion, and that is surely not in the best interests of the House.

Mr. Speaker

It seems to me that the hon. Gentleman is getting very near to challenging my selection. I have not selected the amendment.

Mr. English


Mr. Speaker

Order. I am not taking further points of order on my selection of amendments.

Mr. English

I am in no way challenging your ruling Mr. Speaker. I am asking, through you, whether, in order to carry out the Lord President's assurance, my hon. Friend the Minister will take away this motion tonight and retable it in a form which carries out that assurance.

Mr. Speaker

We shall find that out only when the Minister speaks.

10.37 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office (Mr. William Price)

We are not this evening discussing the principle of broadcasting of our proceedings—we have been over that course many times and the House has taken its decision. But I think that it is right to explain the present position. Work on the temporary accommodation in Bridge Street is nearing completion, the premises will be available to the broadcasters on 24th February and regular transmission will begin immediately after Easter. This has been a long drawn-out matter. The experiment took place in distant days and I think that most Members will welcome the fact that a decision of the House is finally being implemented.

It could be argued, strictly speaking, that it was not necessary for the Lord President to table this motion. Broadcasting could have started without it and could presumably still go ahead if it is defeated tonight. I recognise that there is a problem here for my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), and I accept what the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) said—that the only alternative is to vote against what we are suggesting, if that is the view that is held.

Mr. English

My hon. Friend said that the Leader of the House did not need to bring this motion here tonight. But he might recall that we were in the same boat last time. We had a broadcasting motion to which I tabled an amendment about the broadcasting unit, but it was not selected. The Leader of the House, I accept, had nothing to do with that. However, on the previous occasion, because the amendment was not selected, those of us in favour of broadcasting voted for the motion, but then voted against the Select Committee motion to illustrate that we were not happy with the arrangements.

The view of the House was put over as far as it could be within the straitjacket of procedure. The same thing is likely to happen again tonight. I asked my hon. Friend the Minister—I know that he is in a difficulty since the Lord President is not here—to enable the assurance of the Lord President to be implemented. Because of your selection of amendments, Mr. Speaker, that opportunity is being denied us for a second time. May we have an assurance that, if we vote for the motion tonight, there will be an opportunity to consider that matter? If not, will my hon. Friend withdraw the motion and represent it in a form that will enable that assurance to be fulfilled?

Mr. Price

I do not intend to withdraw the motion. I understand that some hon. Members will vote against the motion when they may wish broadcasting to begin as soon as possible. I am no more responsible for the selection of amendments or the feelings of the Select Committee than is my right hon. Friend the Lord President.

Mr. Freud

The Parliamentary Secretary said that there was no compulsion to bring this motion before the House. If the motion is defeated, will he feel that he still has a right to start broadcasting the proceedings of the House after Easter?

Mr. Price

Yes. Looking at the resolutions that have been passed by the House in the past, there could be no other conclusion. Whether we begin broadcasting is another matter. I should need to discuss that matter with the Lord President, and clearly we should take account of the view of the House. Strictly speaking, in accordance with resolutions already passed by the House, it was not essential that we table this motion. I think that my hon. Friend agrees with me.

Mr. English

I do. But there is a difference between technicalities and the gentlemanly courtesies of the House which dictate that, although we cannot force him to do so, the Lord President having given an assurance during business questions, my hon. Friend, as his junior Minister, should endeavour to see that that assurance is carried out. I do not think that any hon. Member would dispute that.

I am not blaming the Lord President for the way in which this matter has come unstuck, because I recognise how it has come unstuck. Nevertheless, the Lord President gave the House an assurance that we should have a separate vote on the question of the broadcasting unit.

I should like, through you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, to ask whether there is any way of deferring these proceedings in order to get the Lord President back to deal with this matter. Obviously, my hon. Friend is in a difficult situation, because he cannot say that he will withdraw the motion or that he will arrange for a debate to take place next week on the broadcasting unit. We all understand that. However, we shall be placed in an awkward situation unless the Lord President is brought here to explain his assurance.

Mr. Price

My hon. Friend will have an opportunity to vote, and I have no doubt that he will take that opportunity. If he does not like what we are proposing, he will vote against it. I fully understand and recognise that.

Mr. Rathbone

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. You are the person who is charged with defending the rights of Back Benchers. The Minister has explicitly stated that, if we want to vote in favour of broadcasting, it is impossible for us to do so on the motion before the House. That is because the motion takes no cognisance of the assurance that the Leader of the House gave to hon. Members. Furthermore, it does not take account of the lack of a vote on a substantive motion in July last year. Is it not a complete dereliction of duty on the part of the Government not to consult hon. Members on how they want to handle a matter that is both private and special to the House—namely, the broadcasting of its proceedings?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. The House is well aware that the actions of Ministers are not the responsibility of the Chair. I must ask the Minister to continue with his speech.

Mr. English

Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

It was not a point of order. If the Minister is allowed to continue with his speech, it may be that the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) will catch my eye in due course.

Mr. English

I am grateful to you, Mr. Speaker. However, I think that it is relevant to point out that the Lord President was warned by me that this matter would be raised.

Mr. Price

The effect simply would be that the unanimously agreed recommendation of the Joint Select Committee—that there should be parliamentary oversight—would not be put into effect. That may not be absolutely crucial, but I believe it to be desirable.

The discussion is about what form of oversight there should be. The Joint Select Committee believes that it can be done by a small group of Members from both Houses acting as a link with the broadcasters as well as considering complaints and any technical problems that might arise.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Price

It would appear that many hon. Members wish to speak in the debate, and we have only an hour and a half.

Mr. Skinner

I, too, am worried about the appointment of a Select Committee. Some of us are in favour of broadcasting. We were faced with having to take a decision on the last occasion, which we did not want to do. But the most perplexing question is why it is necessary for a Select Committee to be set up—and on the recommendation of a Lord President who does not like them. I am told that he is not in favour of Select Committees. I am not very happy about the way that they are constructed at present, either, but that is not to say that I am against them per se. The way in which they establish a cosy relationship is such that I can just imagine the sort of people who will be on the Select Committee. Some old-established Back Benchers—

Mr. Deputy Speaker

If the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) desires to make a speech, he can endeavour to catch my eye later.

Mr. Price

Ideally, some of us would have liked to see the former Joint Select Committee perform this task. It operated quite effectively and without criticism from either House. But I am sure that it will be possible to find hon. Members from both Houses who will fulfil the role which they are given by this House and the other place.

Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)

Would such a Select Committee be able to employ its own staff?

Mr. Price

I shall be coming to that, and it is one of the main objections to a parliamentary unit. Before that, however, let me deploy the arguments which the Select Committee and I believe to be relevant.

The Committee considered at length the possibility of a broadcasting unit, but it came down against it. The main reason for that, though not the only one, was that we did not want to appear to be involved in any form of editorial control. That, too, is the view of the broadcasting authorities, perhaps not surprisingly, and I suspect that it would be shared by the majority of right hon. and hon. Members. But that does not mean that the broadcasting authorities are unaccountable. The very opposite is the case. The Committee will be in existence, although I hope that it will not meet that often—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] It will meet as the need arises and, if there are a multitude of complaints, it will meet at regular intervals. But I hope that that will not happen.

Mr. Philip Whitehead (Derby, North)

Is it not abundantly clear that such a Select Committee would be more likely to meddle in matters of content and would be ignorant of matters of form, which has always been the classic argument for a broadcasting unit?

Mr. Price

That is a good reason for not setting it up, I accept. But I do not see that as a serious possibility. I shall deal with that at the end of my remarks, and I hope that I shall be able to satisfy my hon. Friend.

We talk about permanent broadcasting, but nothing is that permanent. The House is its own master in this matter as in others, and it could stop broadcasting as easily as it approves it. That seems to be a matter of some importance in this discussion.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

I want to put two matters to the hon. Gentleman. He said that in his opinion the House would be quite entitled to institute broadcasting and go ahead with the process without necessarily passing this motion at all. How does he sustain that argument? The motion which the House passed on 26th July authorised the BBC and the IBA to provide and operate singly or jointly sound signal origination equipment and so forth subject to the directions of the House or a committee empowered to give such directions". Does that not mean that this House—and it is a House of Commons matter—cannot proceed unless and until a Select Committee or some form of Committee is set up? It does not say that it must be a Select Committee. I should like to know how the hon. Gentleman justifies what he said.

Secondly, it came out in the earlier debate that this is not a Government matter: it is a House of Commons matter. From what has been said already, I should have thought that there was enough anxiety evident in the Chamber for the Leader of the House to be here to listen to the debate. If the House is unhappy about this pre-eminently House of Commons matter, surely, if there is any doubt about it, it is within the power of the Leader of the House that it should be considered in another way.

There are two important issues. The first is a particular matter of something said by the hon. Gentleman; the other is the general unease expressed in the House, which seems to require the presence of the Leader of the House, or, if that is not possible, consideration by the Government of the situation that has been reached. If the House as such is not happy about the basis upon which this motion is being moved, as it is a pre-eminently House of Commons matter, hon. Members are entitled to require the Government to pause for further consideration.

Mr. Price

The right hon. Gentleman has interpreted it in one way and I in another. But I think that it is right that I should give the assurance that if we lose tonight, I think that it would be wrong to go ahead with broadcasting anyway. Let us be clear: at no stage did I say to the House that, whatever the result tonight, we were going ahead. The House would surely be surprised if I were to say that, regardless of the decision it takes tonight, we are going ahead. I should be asking for a rough road if I took that line.

Mr. Pym

What the hon. Gentleman has done by that interjection is to escalate this motion, which is about setting up a Select Committee, as it were to look after the House of Commons interest in broadcasting, into a vote on principle. What he is saying is that if he wins the vote tonight, he will go ahead whatever happens, while, if he loses, we shall not have broadcasting at all. That surely cannot be right. No one looking at the Order Paper this morning thought that tonight we should be asked to decide in principle whether we were to broadcast, yet that is the effect of what the hon. Gentleman has said.

Mr. Price

I thought that I began by arguing that we were not on the issue of principle tonight. What I am saying is that if the motion is passed, the House has given us authority to go ahead with broadcasting. What I am also saying is that, in view of what has been said—and feelings are running high—if we lose the motion, clearly there will have to be further discussions before we decide on what line we would go ahead. But that does not alter the principle, which is that the House has decided on broadcasting.

Mr. English

My hon. Friend has just given an assurance. Why should we necessarily believe assurances give from the Lord President's office when the last assurance was that we should have the opportunity to decide whether we wanted a parliamentary broadcasting unit? Is my hon. Friend now saying that anyone who does not want broadcasting should vote against the setting up of the Select Committee, and that anyone who wants broadcasting but with a parliamentary broadcasting unit should vote against the Select Committee because that is the only way we shall have the opportunity to consider the desire to have broadcasting with a parliamentary unit?

Mr. Price

I have conceded that there is the greatest difficulty. I understand that there will be hon. Members voting tonight, as they did on a previous occasion, for something that they do not necessarily wholly want. I accept that, and I have to put it to them—

Mr. Pym


Mr. Price

No. We have been going now for 25 minutes and a number of hon. Members want to speak. I am entitled to continue with what I have to say in justification—

Mr. Pym


Mr. Price

Very well.

Mr. Pym

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I think that he must be aware that the House is totally unhappy about the position which has arisen. I am bound to say that the Leader of the House should be here—I see that the right hon. Gentleman has just come in and I am glad that he is now present. I am sorry that he has not been here for the previous 25 minutes. He would have learned that, regardless of whether the individual is in favour of broadcasting in principle, the House is extremely unhappy with what has happened so far.

It appears to me from what has been said so far—and the hon. Gentleman has been doing his best—that it would be wise in the circumstances not to proceed with the motion and to take another opportunity. I say that without regard to the pros and cons of whether broadcasting is or is not a good thing. I think that the House of Commons—and it is pre-eminently a House of Commons matter—ought on that basis to take another opportunity of returning to the subject.

Mr. English

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. May I, in the presense of the Lord President, briefly repeat what I said earlier? I drew the attention of the House to the assurance given by the Lord President that we should have an opportunity tonight to discuss the question of a parliamentary unit. The amendment that would have allowed it was not selected, and I do not blame the Lord President for that, but as a result we are in exactly the same difficulty that we were in on the previous occasion. Many of us are in favour of broadcasting and desire to see a parliamentary unit. The only way in which we can express that view is to vote against the motion tonight, joining forces, as it were, with those who are against broadcasting, but we do not wish to do that.

Since the Lord President has given an assurance that there will be an opportunity to consider the parliamentary unit, will he express to the House how he proposes to implement that assurance, since, partly through no fault of his own, it has not turned out to be the case that the assurance he gave is being carried out tonight as he promised?

Mr. Price

I feel that the House might be better able to judge the matter if I were allowed to deploy my arguments, and that is what I should like to do. As I understand the position, my hon. Friends want greater guarantees about the rights of this House than a Joint Select Committee would be able to provide. They would expect to do it through a broadcasting unit. I have never been able to understand just what that would achieve. What would it do, apart from originating the sound signal? The sound signal is something that the BBC regards as a natural function of its independence. The BBC has made it clear right from the beginning that it considers broadcasters are technically best qualified for that particular job. It is true that in evidence the BBC has said that if Parliament decided that it should originate the signal, it would accept that. It would not have any choice, other than to refuse to broadcast at all, and that obviously is not a serious possibility.

It could be argued that the BBC was responsible during the experimental period and that it worked well and without complaint, so why, therefore, the need for change at this stage? I share the view of the BBC that a useful relationship could be established with the Joint Select Committee which would not impinge on the broadcaster's independence but which would protect the interests of Parliament, and that is what we are aiming to achieve.

Mr. Whitehead


Mr. Price

I will not give way to my hon. Friend. I have given way enough already.

There are technical problems associated with the parliamentary broadcasting unit. It would lead to duplication of staff and substantial additional costs would fall upon us. As I understand it, Parliament would have to purchase and instal the electronic equipment that would be necessary to originate a clean feed signal from the Tannoy signal.

Mr. Freud

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. As the Chair has ruled that the amendment may not be moved, is it in order for the Minister now to speak to the amendment?

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Such arguments as the Minister puts in moving his motion are his alone.

Mr. Freud

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. The Minister is attacking an amendment which the proposer has not been allowed to move.

Mr. English

Further to the point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I notice that there is a conspicuous silence on the part of the Lord President, who could shorten the debate immensely by simply saying that in some way he will find a short period of time in which we can discuss the parliamentary unit. He has already promised the House last Thursday that he would do this.

Mr. Price

I was endeavouring to explain the situation and to draw attention to the reasons why the Joint Select Committee took a decision in favour of its own ideas rather than the alternatives. That is all I wish to do.

As I was attempting to explain, Parliament would have to purchase and instal the necessary electronic equipment to originate a clean feed signal from the Tannoy sound re-inforcement system and then distribute it to the broadcasters. That would cost about £20,000. But if additional facilities are provided to include signals from the commentary boxes, the cost is more likely to be £80,000. Staff would be required to operate the equipment, and the operating costs would be at least £30,000 a year.

I have a detailed description from the broadcasting authorities of what all this would mean, but time is moving on. I assure the House that it would be a fairly complicated matter and in all probability it would further delay the broadcasting of proceedings of this House. That surely would be wrong, bearing in mind resolutions of this House, the amount of public money that we have spent on broadcasting facilities already, as well as that spent by the BBC and IBA.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

Is the Minister saying that the production of the signal from the House will be the exclusive preserve of the BBC and that the IBA will not have a look-in at all?

Mr. Price

That just is not true. The two organisations have worked closely with the Joint Committee and are in full agreement with all the tentative arrangements arrived at.

I ask the House to approve a Committee to give directions and perform other duties. I believe that it will have all the powers that it will need while ensuring that the public knows perfectly well that it is receiving independent broadcasting of our proceedings.

This is a matter of some importance. But I give my hon. Friends this assurance. If it is found that this system is not working—[An HON. MEMBER: "It will be too late."] It will not be too late to stop broadcasting proceedings. Nothing is too late. If it is found that this system is not working, we shall be prepared to discuss the matter with those who object to it and, if necessary, consider the question again.

For the moment, at least, I recommend the proposal put by the Joint Select Committee and contained in this motion. It protects Parliament and it ensures the rights and the independence of the broadcasting authorities. I am certain that people are looking forward to broadcasting—indeed, they find it hard to believe that the matter has been so long delayed. I hope there will be no further delay.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have listened carefully to everything that the Minister has said. What he has done is address his argument almost entirely to rebutting the amendment, although there has been no selection of that amendment and, frankly, to narrow the debate so that it is now to be channelled almost entirely on an amendment that has not been selected.

Is it in order, therefore, in the speeches that will follow to turn the debate exclusively into a debate on that amendment? The fact is that we are not discussing the principle of this matter—we have accepted that there shall be broadcasting—but we are discussing instead the question of what type of parliamentary unit or Select Committee shall be the outcome of this debate.

I am 100 per cent. in favour of the broadcasting of our proceedings. In order to conclude this debate satisfactorily, all we want is some assurance from the Lord President that there will be an opportunity for this matter to be properly considered.

The hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) has asked that this motion be withdrawn. If it is not to be withdrawn, surely the Lord President is in a position to deal with it so that we do not engage in a debate which turns on an amendment which Mr. Speaker has not selected. This is a general debate on the subject.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Giles Shaw (Pudsey)

The Minister's speech has left us with a deep sense of dissatisfaction. We are dissatisfied on three grounds. The first is that it is clear from the form and text of the motion that it does not carry out the belief that was widely canvassed by the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English), and recorded in the Official Report—that there would be discussion of a parliamentary unit prior to the final decision being made on the system of broadcasting.

The second cause for dissatisfaction is that there seems to be in the Minister's mind the idea that the principle of broad casting is still open for discussion.

Mr. William Price


Mr. Shaw

Yes, with respect, the Minister made it clear that, if there is to be any disagreement with the system proposed, those who disagreed would have to vote against it. There was not up for discussion any alternative system. If that is the case, a negative vote expressed tonight must be interpreted as a vote by those who disagree with the sound broadcasting of our proceedings. The Minister laid great stress on the fact that he believed that the House would take a quick decision on the matter because the concept of broadcasting had been around for a considerable period. It is not right that he should suggest that we are not being offered an opportunity the negative of which is to delay further progress on broadcasting our proceedings.

Mr. Ioan Evans (Aberdare)

We have a motion before us and there is an amendment to it which has not been selected. If the motion goes ahead and the Select Committee is appointed, can representations be made to that Committee to deal with the matter raised in the amendment? Could that Committee report to the House that it would be possible for the subject of a broadcasting unit to be raised at a later stage?

Mr. Shaw

Interpretation of the amendment is not a matter for me. It is a question of what is to be debated in this House. Since it is clear that the Chair has not accepted any amendment, we cannot assume that any discussions in a Select Committee will take place. We are guided solely by the Minister's motion.

The third reason why I express concern is that there has been discussion over a considerable time as to the style and type of broadcasting our proceedings. I recall many pleasant sittings of the Services Committee when this matter was debated, but always running through those discussions was the deepest awareness that it might be possible for the House of Commons to be unable to influence not the editorial content of what was produced but the manner in which the broadcasting of proceedings was conducted.

If I may give an example, will the proceedings before Committees form part of the broadcasting output? That aspect was virtually removed in the initial stages because, for one reason or another, the broadcasting authorities felt that it was unwise to involve themselves in the capital equipment required to record those proceedings, and there were major difficulties in the number of rooms to be used in Committee proceedings. One recognises the difficulties, but the fact remains that the broadcasting output of this House was to omit the proceedings of some of the processes of the House that take place outside this Chamber. I believe that that would be a distortion of the proceedings of the House.

It is that kind of feature that suggests to me that if the House of Commons were to control its own unit, it would be responsible for the total image of the House presented through the broadcasting media. The image of this House is a unique property of this House. I do not believe that the House would willingly arrogate control of the public image of this place to a broadcasting authority or to several such authorities. Editorial content is important, as are programme mix and balance, but the image portrayed is far too precious to be arrogated to a broadcasting authority.

I do not consider that a Select Committee as proposed of both Houses can be in quite the same position as a professional unit responsible to the two Houses. Such a Committee may not intervene too frequently, but it could have an intervention and regulatory purpose.

That fact remains that the way in which the motion has been put suggests that the Government are seeking to take the quickest way out of the problem, with the minimum amount of discussion of alternative systems, and are suggesting to the House that we must take it or leave it. In those circumstances, the House would be unwise to accept the recommendation.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Is it not a fact that what the Minister has told us suggests that the Government do not want the broadcasting of our proceedings and that they are encouraging hon. Members, whether for or against broadcasting, to go into the "No" Lobby, thereby giving the Government an excuse for not broadcasting our proceedings? Will my hon. Friend evaluate that proposition?

Mr. Shaw

With the evidence that we have had in the past 24 hours of the Government's capacity to handle or mishandle its business, even my hon. Friend's interpretation is a possibility, but I do not really believe that it is in the Minister's mind.

11.11 p.m.

Mr. John Roper (Farnworth)

A number of hon. Members are placed in difficult circumstances. We have long been in favour of the sound broadcasting of our proceedings starting as soon as possible and we do not wish to gain a reputation for being opposed to that, but we are anxious that the broadcasting should be done properly.

I wish to concentrate particularly on investigating what is and is not within the power of the Committee. We might thus be able to find some way of sorting out the dilemma that seems to have been facing us for the past 42 minutes.

The Committee is to have power to appoint persons with expert knowledge. Many of us have wanted to see the Committee given the power to appoint persons with expert knowledge to perform certain of the functions of an independent broadcasting unit. Unfortunately, it appears from the wording of the motion that there is to be a restriction imposed upon such persons and that they may supply only information which is not readily available—perhaps the Minister can tell us what sort of information that may be—or elucidate matters of complexity relating to the matters referred to them. I suspect that this is a formula which is general to the specialist advisers appointed to our Committees, but it seems totally inappropriate in this case.

As we have seen in previous debates, it would be useful if the powers given in relation to the Open University and, perhaps, some other areas were extended to the Committee so that it could appoint people with expertise in these subjects who would be able to perform one of the functions in administering the output. I do not know whether that would require the expensive capital equipment to which the Minister referred, but I suspect that we should be able to charge the broadcasting services for that output and recoup the cost of any such equipment.

In drafting the motion did the Government just take the formula that normally applies when specialist advisers are appointed, or have they deliberately worded it in this way so that it will be impossible for the Committee to appoint people to perform functions as distinct from giving advice? I fear that the Government's view is that these persons should be restricted to the traditional role of specialist advisers. If that is so and if it is not possible for the Minister to assure us that we could consider a subsequent motion to modify that order so that the Committee would be able to appoint persons to carry out such functions, many of us who support the sound broadcasting of our proceedings will be obliged to vote against the motion.

11.15 p.m.

Mr. Tim Rathbone (Lewes)

As the Minister has said that a vote against the motion will be a vote against broadcasting, and as a vote for the motion will be a vote against the interests of the House, it is a dilemma for every hon. Member as to how to vote, whether he or she is in favour of broadcasting or against it.

The sad fact is that this discussion could have occurred months ago. We had a vote on this point on 26th July last year, because those against broadcasting did not enter the Lobbies, the vote was not declared. It is exactly for that reason that we are discussing the question now, with no additional intellectual in-put or thought by the Government for the wishes of the House.

Whichever way the vote goes tonight, it will be no expression of what the body of the House really wants with regard to broadcasting. Whichever way we vote will go against one or other desire of those who go into the "Aye" or the "No" Lobby.

For this reason I should like to move the adjournment of the debate until the Government can put down a motion so that we may discuss this question in the way the House wishes to discuss it. I beg to move, That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I am unable to accept the motion.

Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)

Some 12 years ago I sat on a Committee then called the Publications and Report of Debates Committee, which discovered that its terms of reference enabled it to consider the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House. Its terms of reference allowed it to do so because the late Stephen King Hall, later Lord King-Hall, had so constructed them. I want to pay tribute to his memory in that respect.

We subsequently examined the question of broadcasting in immense detail and came up with the proposal that the House should go into broadcasting, but with a parliamentary unit providing the "feed". The analogy we used was that of Hansard. Nobody says that a newspaper editor is precluded from summarising or omitting our remarks because there exists a verbatim text. The analogy is not exact, because broadcasting is not the same as printing, but let us not say that the broadcasting authorities are totally in favour of the BBC producing the "feed". In an issue of Independent Broadcasting before Christmas—I think the November issue—it was specifically stated that the IBA was in favour of the parliamentary unit.

I believe that that is understandable. In the end, the IBA accepted its being done by the BBC, because the Committee was pressing this at the bequest of my hon. Friend the Minister, but originally the IBA had proposed, just as the first Select Committee had proposed, that there should be a parliamentary unit.

Mr. William Price

My hon. Friend is putting the case fairly, but was not the IBA's argument based upon the fact that it did not have the money to do it itself, rather than upon principle?

Mr. English

I am coming to the point about money. It is certainly relevant. However, at present I suggest that there is something else that is relevant.

One point that has not been mentioned—I do not stress it—is that one would imagine that a parliamentary unit, rather like the staff of Hansard, would not be particularly prone to industrial disputes. If there is an industrial dispute on any broadcasting channel, the broadcast will not be heard on it. Under the present proposal, if there is an industrial dispute in the BBC, as there was at the time of the opening of Parliament, independent radio will not be allowed to broadcast because of a dispute that is none of its doing. That is only a minor point. I do not stress it greatly, but it is one extra reason since the first Select Committee for a broadcasting unit.

The real difficulty that we face is that the first Select Committee was not a hand-picked and packed body but a large body chaired by Tom Driberg before he became a Peer. Careful thought was given to the matter and one reason for the House originating the feed is the question of copyright.

In the previous debate the Lord President and the Minister of State said "Ah, but we may have to consider copyright again". The fact is that they have not done so. There is no Bill to take away the copyright of the BBC and to return it to the House of Commons. That is a matter of some importance, because it involves money. This is where we come back to the question of money.

The Chairman of this Select Committee my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford), indicated fairly that at the time that his Select Committee sat there was great pressure from the Treasury to cut public expenditure. We all remember the occasion. There was great reluctance to have the House of Commons, or the Exchequer, paying for the capital and current costs of a House of Commons broadcasting unit. I think that we can understand that sort of climate, but that is not the present climate. This year there is a climate in which it is suggested that we give away money in the sense of reducing taxes, a laudable policy. If we wish, we can afford to set up a broadcasting unit more readily than when it was first considered.

As the Select Committee always pointed out, the income would then accrue back to us. The copyright would be ours. Although we would permit others to use it in any way they chose and we would not interfere with their editorial free- dom, with the exception of satire, there is no particular reason for us providing Parliament, at considerable cost, for the purpose of giving the broadcasting authorities, or companies, an extra source of revenue. If the copyright is vested in them, that is exactly what will occur.

The last but most important point of all as regards a broadcasting unit is the precedent that we are setting. There is a division of opinion among hon. Members on whether the House should be televised. However, even the most bitter opponent of televising the House would not deny the assumption that some future House of Commons—perhaps in the next Parliament or the one after that—might by a majority decide to have television. If it did so decide, it is entirely possible that it would look back to the precedent of radio broadcasting and ask itself "How was that done? Let us do it the same way."

Next, we come to the question of who controls the cameras. There would be six or perhaps eight cameras, but only one would be going out on the feed at any one time. Who is to choose what is shown? Is it to be the picture of the right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym), who, thoughtful in appearance, is seen to be writing his notes, or is it to be the picture of another hon. Member chatting in the background and appearing inattentive? That is a matter of some importance. I am not stressing it now, because we are discussing radio broadcasting.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

The hon. Gentleman's amendment has not been selected, and we bow to the Chair in that respect, but will he give the House an indication of which way he views the Government's proposition, bearing in mind that there is no chance of having a House of Commons broadcasting unit?

Mr. English

I do not think that there is no chance. I shall come to that point. It is the way in which I propose to end my remarks.

The situation is utterly clear. There are still a few hon. Members who do not wish to have radio broadcasting, but it is absolutely clear that the majority do. It is equally clear, in my opinion, that there are many people composing part of that majority—enough, I think, to join with the opponents of broadcasting to swing the vote—who wish to see it done only under the conditions of having a House of Commons broadcasting unit.

The Leader of the House gave an assurance that we should have the opportunity to consider this. Because the amendment was selected neither on the last occasion nor this, we have not had that opportunity. But the Leader of the House has given an assurance. I realise that he was not personally responsible for the non-selection of the amendment. However, if he will assure us that we shall have an opportunity to vote on the question of the unit, I am sure that that will speed our proceedings tonight. If he does not offer some opportunity, however brief, for a few words and a vote, he will be in a very difficult situation, because the motion itself is not final, as you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, will be aware.

Six people have still to be appointed: not necessarily the same six. The Leader of the House will not get that through easily if he deliberately blocks the discussion that we all want and on which we want to vote.

Will the Leader of the House please let us discuss the question of a parliamentary unit? If he does not, passionate supporter of broadcasting as I am, I am afraid that I shall be forced to go into the "No" Lobby tonight, and I shall advise everyone who thinks likewise in such circumstances to do the same. That is not because I do not want to see broadcasting introduced as soon as possible. I do want that, but I want to see it done in the way that was first recommended to the House.

11.27 p.m.

Mr. Clement Freud (Isle of Ely)

I have intervened in the debate, especially on the subject of the amendment that was not selected. I should like now to draw the attention of the House to the function of the broadcasting Committee.

I noticed that in his preamble the Minister said that he hoped that this would be the same Committee as had sat previously.

Mr. William Price

I said that originally there was some thought of that. Certainly it had worked so well that we hoped that it might have been possible. But time has gone on. That has lapsed. It is not now the intention.

Mr. Freud

I am grateful for that elucidation.

I should like to draw the attention of the House to the needs of this Committee. As the amendment has not been selected, it seems that if we are to have the broadcasting of the House controlled by a Committee, it should be made clear what the function of that Committee is, I think that it seems to all of us that we in the House of Commons must reserve the right of censorship and of control over whatever comes out of the broadcasting of the House.

I remind the Minister that the previous Committee was part of the Services Committee of the House of Commons and, whereas it was an admirable body, on which at one time I served, the criteria for selecting members of the Services Committee rested with the party Whips. The Members who were selected to serve on that Committee were selected for their suitability to serve on the then Sub-Committees of the Services Committee, which dealt with catering, the Library and accommodation. I urge the Minister to remember when he selects his new Committee that the people who will be most jealous of House of Commons censorship of broadcasting will be representatives of minority parties, who will want to ensure that their representatives get a fair crack of the whip when it comes to minutes of broadcasting.

It would be exceedingly stupid if we had more than one Select Committee on this subject. Therefore, the House of Lords should also be represented. I believe that six members is an impossibly small number if the Lords, the minority parties, the Government and the Opposition are all to be represented and are all to have a say in what will and what will not go out from this broadcasting unit.

I hope that, on the basis of what I have said, due thought will be given to the identity and quality of the members of the Committee rather than simply the fact that they happen to be on the Services Committee or are eligible by virtue of age or eminence.

11.30 p.m.

Mr. Phillip Whitehead (Derby, North)

The fact that there are already more parties in the House than the number of members proposed for the Committee illustrates some of the difficulties which the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Mr. Freud) has been discussing. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary spoke with all the misplaced serenity of somebody who believes that the vote will be carried riot by those listening to the argument but by those who will be summoned by the Division bells.

Mr. William Price

I should have thought that this week of all weeks was a bad one in which to take that view.

Mr. Whitehead

My hon. Friend should have learnt from experience—and perhaps he still will. We have not yet had the Division.

I want to put to my hon. Friend what I think is the essence of the debate. We are not discussing whether we should have broadcasting. We are discussing how we should have it. The two sides joined in combat tonight are not, on the one hand, those in favour of broadcasting and, on the other hand, an assortment of reactionaries—the quill pen and sealing wax brigade—who want everything to go back to the archaisms of the eighteenth century.

However, there is a clear division, expressed by those who tabled the amendments which have not been called, between those who believe that we can leave broadcasters to get on with it and have a loose ex post facto control exercised through this ramshackle Select Committee and those who believe that ab initio professionals should be involved in the service of the House, because those of us who believe that believe as a first principle that broadcasting should serve Parliament, not that Parliament should serve broadcasting.

To achieve that, even in the circumstances of the limited sound broadcasting that we have now but much more so in the television broadcasting that many of us believe will occur in the next Parliament or the one after, we shall need greater control over the style and form of the output—not over the content or the censoring of words—than is envisaged in the notion of this Select Committee. That is why we should consider perhaps other precedents and the way in which the matter has been dealt with in other places before we deal with it in the way proposed.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that it will cost money. Of coure it will. It may cost £80,000, give or take what we get for the charges for the output. My hon. Friend also said that the broadcasters, who have a vested interest in this matter, are not keen on amateurish meddling; they would rather that their own professionals dealt with it. But nobody in favour of the amendments which have not been called is in favour of putting amateurs in charge of production of the output. We are not suggesting that tea ladies or badge messengers should be drafted in to do this job. We should recruit a small group of professional broadcasters whose loyalty is to the House and who are in a position analogous to that of Officers of the House. They should be responsible to us. In those circumstances we should not need a special Select Committee. They would be responsible to the Services Committee.

There is a clear parallel for that situation. The House of Commons in Canada has recently introduced radio and television broadcasting. It has set up a broadcasting unit which is responsible to the Services Committee of the Canadian House of Commons. When the members of the Committee came to this country recently they told us of their experience of the first few months of broadcasting, and they said something which was very heartening—namely, that most Canadian Members of Parliament accepted broadcasting, even those who had been suspicious about it in the past. They told us that a number of Members had made minor grumbles about who had been on and what the picture looked like, but, most important, they said that they were immersed in the question of the professional output and that they had professional staff who worked for them to put the output together and get it out. They knew something about it.

The great danger in the Select Committee in the form proposed is that it will meddle in the matters which are least important and could be most malicious and it will not have sufficient technical knowledge to consider matters of form and technical content and ingredients—[Interruption.]

The motion states in archaic language that persons will be appointed to elucidate matter of complexity Are these persons different in kind from the small number of professional staff who might be recruited to form a nucleus of a broadcasting unit? If they are, why? Is it that the Government or the Officers of the House have decided that we cannot take a few people on to the parliamentary Vote so that the job can be done properly? We are not talking about the first few months but of years and decades after that when the output and input of parliamentary broadcasting will be far more complex and in more forms than is now envisaged.

The Minister says that the Select Committee could stop broadcasting but that is foolish. We do not want to stop it or censor it. All we want to do is to have measured control which allows the broadcasters to use their integrity but leaves responsibility to the House of Commons.

I end as I began. If the Lord President were still here, but he has unfortunately gone away again—

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Before the hon. Member sits down, may I put a question to him? I know something of his extensive professional broadcasting experience. I think that he knows something about my fairly extensive broadcasting experience. Does he not think that it might be worth while for us both to say that in our professional opinion we regard a broadcasting unit at the service of the House as absolutely essential?

Mr. Whitehead

I welcome the opportunity to put that on record. I have been a professional broadcaster for many years. But here knowledge is a major disqualification to speaking. For many years I have been responsible for outside broadcasts from party conferences and so on. I know the problems of selection and of the pressures from news editors. During the debate on the Address in 1959, when talking of the possibility of televising Parliament, Aneurin Bevan said that people were chosen to appear on television at the ipse dixit of the broadcasters. That would be so unless there were the parliamentary control of a broadcasting unit.

It will be easier to stop it if it appears wrong if we have a unit. It will be easier to stop it then than to impose control after broadcasting has begun.

11.39 p.m.

Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)

Although it is of a non-pecuniary nature, I declare an interest as a member of the General Advisory Council of the BBC.

I find the debate a sad and sorry occasion. I came here hoping that we were seeing the last move in a long drawn-out saga. It seems a long time ago since we had the experiment in broadcasting—which I believe was successful. It seems a long time since we debated the principle of broadcasting. Yet we heard the Minister saying that, whether the motion is passed or not, it matters not a damn. At another stage he said that it would be wrong to go ahead if the motion failed.

Mr. William Price

Where did the hon. and learned Gentleman get the phrase "It does not matter a damn?" He did not get it from me. He is attributing it to me. Will he accept my assurance that I said no such thing?

Mr. Carlisle

If the Minister thought that I was attributing that phrase to him, I assure him that that is not what I intended. I said that that was the impression he gave, but the words were mine, not his. The Minister said at one stage that, whether or not this motion was passed, broadcasting would start after Easter. I made it clear that he did not use the words in question, and I am not suggesting that he did. I said that the impression he gave was that it did not matter a damn. Later he said that it would be wrong to go ahead if the motion was not carried.

It would be a great tragedy if the motion were not carried if the effect of that would be that the Minister felt that it would be wrong to go ahead. The only danger of this motion not being carried arises from the fact that the Government have got themselves into an interminable and regular muddle as a result of which we may not get the broadcasting we want.

Frankly, I do not believe that there is a case for a broadcasting unit. In the end it is a question of whether we trust the BBC. I believe that there is a great deal of unjust criticism of the BBC. The Conservatives tend to say that it has a totally Left-wing bias. I suspect that a lot of Labour Members feel that it is unfair to their side. I believe that the programmes "Yesterday in Parliament" and "Today in Parliament" cannot be criticised for political bias. During the period of the experiment there was no fair criticism of political bias. Those who are likely to carry out this operation within the brodcasting authorities can be trusted, subject to the general control that the House commands in being able to criticise the BBC for providing a politically biased programme.

I therefore see no case for a broadcasting unit, and I wonder whether there is a case for a Select Committee. I am concerned that, as a result of the mess that the Government seem to have got themselves into, we might lose the opportunity to get on with broadcasting the proceedings of this House, which I believe has been the wish of this House for a long time. The principle has been supported for a long time and has been welcomed by the public during the experimental period.

I hope that the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr English) will not carry his threat to a Division and vote against the motion because he feels that he has been done out of the debate he wanted.

11.43 p.m.

Mr. Ben Ford (Bradford, North)

Like the hon. and learned Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) I should like to make clear that, after our examination of the results of the broadcasting experiment, and in view of the undertaking given by the broadcasting authorities, the implied slurs upon the probity of those authorities in issuing the signal should be rebutted.

The first paragraph of memorandum 7 in the second report of the Joint Committee says: In broadcasting from the Houses of Parliament, the BBC and the IBA would seek to give a true and accurate account of the proceedings. Both organisations would hope, in their total coverage of Parliamentary proceedings, to widen and deepen public understanding of Parliament and its role in our democracy. Those are worthy objectives, and the experiment bore out that the broadcasting authorities intended and were capable of carrying out those objectives. If hon. Members care to look at the reports of the Committee which considered the experiment, they will see that there was only one semblance of a complaint over the whole month of broadcasting. That does not seem to indicate a great volume of dissatisfaction with what took place at that time.

Questions have been asked about the purpose of a Select Committee. As has been pointed out by the Parliamentary Secretary, it will act as a two-way communication between the broadcasters and the House in the manner that the Broadcasting Sub-Committee of the Services Committee acted during the experiment.

There were continuing tasks for the Committee to carry out. For example, my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) blithely talked about copyright being vested in the House of Commons. We took evidence from the Solicitor-General, we had memoranda from the Home Office, the Department of Trade and so on about copyright. It is an extremely complex matter, as lawyer Members know.

The question is in whom the copyright should reside. That is no easy matter Should it be the Controller of the Stationery Office, the Clerks, the Speaker? One way to get on with the business of broadcasting and perhaps to relegate the matter to the Select Committee for further consideration is to pass the motion.

The Committee, in its recommendations, refers to establishing a trust to take up copyright on the clean feed archival tape of the House. That matter was referred to the Select Committee for further consideration.

These difficult and complex matters cannot easily be settled. If we do not pass the motion, the House will be placed in difficulty and may postpone the desirable object of beginning broadcasting very soon.

11.46 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Rees-Davies (Thanet, West)

I am in favour of passing the motion, if possible, because I am in favour of sound broadcasting of our proceedings, and I certainly want it to start at Easter, as projected.

The Parliamentary Secretary and the Lord President of the Council have only themselves to blame for the inept manner in which they have conducted the debate. They had abundant opportunity in recent times to have the matter considered and for us to recognise that there was a real issue for them to decide—namely, whether there should be a broadcasting unit and, if not, to ensure that there was adequate and proper protection.

I have an open mind on whether there should be a broadcasting unit or a Select Committee. I have carefully considered the provisions regarding the Select Committee. They are wholly inadequate. In fact, they go into too much detail.

I entirely subscribe to the view partially expressed by the hon. Member for Farnworth (Mr. Roper) in drawing attention to the paragraph of the motion dealing with powers. That is an extremely nebulous and narrow part of the rules to be laid down. The motion provides: That the Committee have power to appoint persons with expert knowledge —I agree with that so far as it goes, but they are then severely limited— either to supply information which is not readily available —that is nebulous and virtually meaningless— or to elucidate matters of complexity relating to the matters referred to them". That is a complete nonsense. If the members of that Committee are unable to elucidate matters of complexity relating to broadcasting, they should not be on the Committee. However, I am sure that, with the fairly extensive knowledge and experience of those who will be members of the Committee, they will be able to elucidate most of the matters referred to them.

A small, expert staff is required for two purposes: first, to advise the Committee on matters relating to broadcasting and, secondly, to provide the necessary information—that is, normal monitoring. Naturally the members of the Committee will be dependent on reports whether there has been fair and balanced broadcasting generally—not the editorial content—of the manner in which the House conducts its business.

For example, the broadcasters may decide to confine their attention almost entirely to Question Time, not to the substance of debates in this Chamber. They may decide not to report Adjournment debates. They may always go to bed early and never deal with the summing-up speeches in debates. They may exclude entirely all matters taking place either in Select Committees or Standing Committees. They may decide that all matters in Committee on Finance Bills on the Floor of the House are not of any great interest. In those ways, what I call the balance and nature of the work of the House will not be adequately and properly expressed. I am not saying that they will. I am saying that they may. It seems to me that we shall need the monitoring to inform the members of the Select Committee so that they can recognise that there is not a balance since they will not have heard all the broadcasts—we are dealing not just with the morning "Today" programme but with others—and, furthermore, they will need those with expert knowledge to explain the difficulties of the editors and the question of balance of control.

Mr. William Price

These are important matters, but they will have to be kept under continuing review. But is there an organisation and are there people with more experience than those in the BBC who produce programmes such as "Today in Parliament", and does the hon. and learned Gentleman believe that they have not over many years kept a proper balance in their programmes?

Mr. Rees-Davies

"Today in Parliament" is an admirable programme. But it is also well known that there are a number of people in the BBC who, over recent years, have been fighting against the incursion and intrusion of people with extreme Left-wing views trying to spoil the balance of what certain broadcasters have been determined to maintain. I shall not name names, naturally. But what is true today might not be true tomorrow. We are dealing with a situation which may change completely over the years ahead. Let us suppose that the balance changed. This House would have to be protected against the change which might occur if someone with an extreme minority view was able to control the channels of communication.

Mr. Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield)

In this House there are many hon. Members who perform regularly in Question Time, and there are others who appear very infrequently but who play a major part in Committee or Select Committee work. Will it be fair to those hon. Members who play a major part in the consideration of legislation upstairs in Standing Committees and in the work of Select Committees if the people in charge in the BBC choose to direct the majority of any programme about this place towards the activity in the Chamber rather than towards the activities in Select Committees or Standing Committees?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I take my hon. Friend's point, as one who rarely, if ever, puts a Question in the House but who tries to participate in the other work of this place. But that is only part of the balance.

The real problem is that any Select Committee that is to do a good job meeting only occasionally will require to have a staff. That staff will have to monitor and advise, and that is not within the terms of the motion. Experts merely appointed on an occasional basis are not enough. I smell the hand of the Treasury here, seeking, to limit the powers of the Select Committee. If the objective of ensuring a fair balance and upholding the principles of democracy and giving a fair reflection of the workings of this House is to be met, the motion is neither clear enough nor strong enough to achieve it.

Mr. Ford

Does not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it would be entirely within the province of the Select Committee when it was appointed to make reports and recommendations to the House, including, if it thought it necessary, a recommendation that staff should be appointed?

Mr. Rees-Davies

That would go a long way. It is my inclination to vote for the motion and if I were a member of the Select Committee I should want to see an adequate and proper staff, and there would be a hell of a row until we got it.

Mr. William Price

Would it help if I gave the assurance that, if we were to set up the Select Committee and if it decided that it wanted that staff, or went further and decided that it wanted a parliamentary unit—it is conceivable that it might, and it is conceivable that it might not—that is a matter that we should have to consider very carefully?

Mr. Rees-Davies

I am going to sit down very quickly and give my right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) a chance to take that up.

11.56 p.m.

Mr. Francis Pym (Cambridgeshire)

There has been a great deal of criticism in the debate about the Government's handling of this matter. I. wish to make no criticism of the Government's putting down the motion, because many hon. Members, whatever their views, have wanted to make progress with reaching a decision. I wish to put the best conceivable construction on the Government's intentions, but this has been an extraordinarily unsatisfactory debate.

The debate started with the proposition that an undertaking given by the Leader of the House to some of his hon. Friends had not been, in their view, properly fulfilled. An undertaking not fulfilled starts us off on a wrong basis, and until the last few speeches we have not really got down to the meat of the matter—the construction of a Select Committee and what it is going to do.

Before the chopper falls, I want to point out that the business motion to allow one-and-a-half hours for the debate does not in any sense require us to come to a conclusion. Earlier I said that in the circumstances which had arisen by 11 o'clock, it would be right to withdraw the motion. That did not happen, and rightly, I think, because hon. Members have been able to make their contributions about the whole problem. The Leader of the House was right to air the matter. But problems have arisen and he cannot expect the House to come to a conclusion, since, until recently, some of the real meat of the proposition had not been discussed. I think that many hon. Members felt that the amendment would be in order, but it was not. That was a correct ruling on your part, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it put the House into difficulty.

We had the debate beginning with the Parliamentary Secretary saying more or less that, whatever happened, after Easter broadcasting would begin. That is the impression he gave. I think that that was maladroit. Handling the situation in that way clearly caused upset to everyone in the House whether he believed in broadcasting or not. It is not a satisfactory way to proceed.

The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. Evans) suggested that the Select Committee could come forward with recommendations as to whether there should be a parliamentary broadcasting unit, but that could not be within its province. That is a matter for the House to decide. This is the issue that many hon. Members below the Gangway wanted debated. I therefore suggest to the Leader of the House, without going further into the merits of the case, that the right course in all the circumstances, having had one-and-a-half hours of debate, would be to conclude the debate on another night.

11.59 p.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

I am very much concerned, and always have been, with the broadcasting of the proceedings—

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the motion, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed this day.