§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the hon. Member for Harborough (Mr. Fan), may I remind him that, although this is a Ten-Minute Bill, he is not bound to take 10 minutes?
§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
I beg to move,That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision with respect to televising the proceedings of the House of Commons.There has been general dissatisfaction with sound broadcasting at Question Time and many people in the country find it generally incomprehensible. Some of us feel that matters cannot be left in the present unhappy position.
My Bill would place the control of the transmission of television pictures in the hands of a vetting committee composed of hon. Members—Front Benchers and Back Benchers—in equal numbers. Probably a 20-minute programme would be available for transmission each day, mainly recorded, with live extracts from especially important debates.
The vetting committee's work would be done eventually by a person whom I would call a dogsbody. When mutual trust had been established, the vetting committee would be formal only. Only five or six cameras would be needed in the Chamber, all remote-controlled. Cabling would he unobtrusive and the lighting no more than the standard we laid down some years ago in the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act.
When I was in Canada 18 months ago I discussed with Mr. John Diefenbaker the struggle he had had to gain admittance for the cameras to the House of Commons in Ottawa. Members will recall that this is now an accomplished and successful fact. Mr. Diefenbaker, too, had to struggle with the fears of some Members of Parliament who felt that TV would be a "spy in the sky". He did nothing to quell those fears when he went on television one evening and said:We, the Conservatives, are fighting for the right of you, the public, to come into the Chamber with us to see who is in his place and who is not.246 That is no intention of mine. I firmly believe that we have a responsibility in this House to show the public, especially the young public, that in the House of Commons we have a viable, effective and democratic debating chamber which, despite all its age, custom, history and tradition—or perhaps because of those qualities—works as effectively today in the twentieth century as at any time in its history.
About two years ago I was in Strasbourg when there was a debate on a motion of no confidence in the French Government. I was fascinated to see large extracts of that debate televised live, with some telling shots of Deputies cheering and jeering. I could not help feeling at the time—they had some first-class speakers on the television screen—that the whole subject was of great value to young people who wanted to see how democracy worked with the best arguments deployed for and against a specific issue.
The list of countries which allow the televising of parliamentary proceedings is large. No Parliament, having accepted the televising of its proceedings, has permanently withdrawn facilities later. In West Germany television has been accepted since 1953, whilst the most recent television of, of proceedings took place last year in the House of Commons in Ottawa where, to quote the London Evening Standard of 15th March this year:Parliament is the hit show.It went on to say:The new show televised coverage of the Canadian Parliament is holding its own nicely and is showing signs of becoming a long running hit.It went on to say that this has sparked off interest in the USA in the televising of Congress.
Briefly, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Holland, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and France already have live television coverage of their proceedings.
One final comment about the United States. In all but five of the state assemblies live televising is permitted. Recently, the United States House of Representatives approved by 324 to 44 votes to have its sessions televised, placing the mechanics in the hands of its Speaker.
247 There is not one Member in this Chamber who is not proud of this House and the manner in which we conduct our affairs. Let us today take a big step forward and let the cameras in to show the country why we have that pride so that people can share it with us.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. I should inform the House that two hon. Members have indicated to me that they wish to oppose the measure, the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) and the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Mr. Stokes), whom I am about to call because he informed me on Friday last. Mr. John Stokes.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)
I wish to oppose the Bill. Judging from the amount of noise, I believe that I shall have the support of the majority of the House. I have been a Member of this House for eight years. I feel that broadcasting, which we experienced recently, has been a bad departure from our previous behaviour and that it is a bad omen for television.
Prime Minister's Questions, as we saw this afternoon, have deteriorated. The length of questions and of supplementaries seems to get longer all the time, as Mr. Speaker frequently points out. Of course, the noise, the scenes, the rows and the exchanges tend to be emphasised, even by sound broadcasting, whereas much of the good work that we do remains unreported. All that would be much worse with television. Above all, it would ruin the character and the intimacy of the House.
I have other reasons for opposing the Bill. Over the centuries we have prayed that we might be "godly and quietly governed"—the words of the Prayer Book. I fear that with television we shall have a daily cacophony—a non-stop variety show which never seems to cease.
The cameras, more than sound broadcasting, are bound to emphasise the trivial. For instance, if a lady Member is speaking, there is bound to be as much emphasis on her dress as on the content of her speech.
248 Every idiosyncracy of hon. Members will be seized upon. If an hon. Member should be asleep—and sleep is sometimes the best thing when some of our colleagues are speaking—the cameras will not fail to want to have a close-up. What was once the most eminent debating assembly in the world will degenerate into something like the old English sports of cock-fighting and bear-baiting.
Constituents will peer into their screens and scan them to see whether their Members are present, not realising, of course, that attendance in this Chamber is only one of the many duties of Members of Parliament.
Many more of our colleagues will want to speak. There are always more speakers now than there is time for, as we have heard today. If a Member is lucky enough to be called, others will crowd behind him so that their visages are seen.
The temptation for the glib phrase and the striking headline will be much greater than it is now. As for our colleagues' physical gestures before the cameras, the imagination boggles. I fear that too many would try to look and speak as if they were Laurence Olivier.
It is sad that this proposal has nothing whatever to do with the good governance of this kingdom, but is purely an extension of the all-prevailing Moloch of television. Television now intrudes almost everywhere, except possibly into the bedroom and the bathroom, and no doubt it would like to go there, too. Why should it come here?
Finally, to end on a serious note, we have seen decline in this country over the last 30 years—
§ Mr. Stokes
We have seen decline in this country's greatness, prosperity, patriotism, manners and morals. I believe that bringing television into this House would be one step further down the slope to the utter triviality and vulgarity of the whole of our public life.
§ Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Motions for leave to bring in Bills and Nomination of Select Committees at Commencement of Public Business):—249
§ The House divided: Ayes 161, Noes181.
|Division No. 242]||AYES||4.08 p.m.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Grant, Anthony (Harrow C)||Radice, Giles|
|Allaun, Frank||Grant, John (Islington C)||Raison, Timothy|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Grimond, Rt Hon J.||Rathbone, Tim|
|Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East)||Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)||Reid, George|
|Atkinson, Norman (H'gey Tott'ham)||Hampson, Dr Keith||Rhodes James, R.|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Hannam, John||Richardson, Miss Jo|
|Baker, Kenneth||Haselhurst, Alan||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Hayman, Mrs Helene||Rifkind, Malcolm|
|Bates, Alf||Heffer, Eric S.||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)|
|Beith, A. J.||Hodgson, Robin||Robertson, George (Hamilton)|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood||Hooley, Frank||Robinson, Geoffrey|
|Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)||Horam, John||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Hordern, Peter||Rooker, J. W.|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Howells, Geraint (Cardigan)||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)|
|Body, Richard||Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln)||Sainsbury, Tim|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||James, David||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Bottomley, Peter||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Scott, Nicholas|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Sedgemore, Brian|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)|
|Buchan, Norman||Kerr, Russell||Sims, Roger|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Skinner, Dennis|
|Canavan, Dennis||Kinnock, Neil||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Knox, David||Stallard, A. W.|
|Cartwright, John||Lambie, David||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Lamont, Norman||Stott, Roger|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Clemitson, Ivor||Litterick, Tom||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Corbett, Robin||Loyden, Eddie||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Craig, Rt Hon W. (Belfast E)||Luard, Evan||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Craigen, Jim (Maryhill)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Crouch, David||McCrindle, Robert||Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)|
|Cryer, Bob||McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Tiley, John|
|Davidson, Arthur||Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Tinn, James|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Madden, Max||Torney, Tom|
|Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Marshall, Dr. Edmund (Goole)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Dempsey, James||Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)|
|Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Mates, Michael||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|Eadie, Alex||Maynard, Miss Joan||Watkins, David|
|Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Watkinson, John|
|Evans, loan (Aberdare)||Meyer, Sir Anthony||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Mitchell, Austin (Grimsby)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Fairgrieve Russell||Molloy, William||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Farr, John||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Whitehead, Phillip|
|Flannery, Martin||Nelson, Anthony||Whitney, Raymond|
|Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N)||Newton, Tony||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||O'Halloran, Michael||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Fookes, Miss Janet||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Foot, Rt Hon Michael||Palmer, Arthur||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)||Park, George||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)||Parker, John||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Freud, Clement||Penhaligon, David|
|George, Bruce||Peyton, Rt Hon John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Golding, John||Price, William (Rugby)||Miss Betty Boothroyd and|
|Gould, Bryan||Prior, Rt Hon James||Mr. David Hunt.|
|Adley, Robert||Cockcroft, John||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)|
|Alison, Michael||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)||Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen)|
|Anderson, Donald||Cohen, Stanley||Evans, John (Newton)|
|Ashton, Joe||Coleman, Donald||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Conlan, Bernard||Eyre, Reginald|
|Awdry, Daniel||Cook, Robin F. (Edin C)||Fairbairn, Nicholas|
|Banks, Robert||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Fell, Anthony|
|Bell, Ronald||Cormack, Patrick||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Costain, A. P.||Ford, Ben|
|Biffen, John||Cowans, Harry||Forrester, John|
|Bishop, Rt Hon Edward||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Dalyell, Tam||Fry, Peter|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Bradley, Tom||Dell, Rt Hon Edmund||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Buck, Antony||Dewar, Donald||Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife)|
|Budgen, Nick||Doig, Peter||Goodhart, Philip|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Dormand, J. D.||Goodhew, Victor|
|Burden, F. A.||Duffy, A. E. P.||Gourlay, Harry|
|Campbell, Ian||Durant, Tony||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)|
|Cant, R. B.||Dykes, Hugh||Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry)|
|Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Elliott, Sir William||Graham, Ted|
|Clark, William (Croydon S)||English, Michael||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Gray, Hamish||Mather, Carol||Silvester, Fred|
|Grist, Ian||Maude, Angus||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Grocott, Bruce||Mawby, Ray||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Hamilton, Archibald (Epsom & Ewell)||Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Snape, Peter|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Mills, Peter||Spearing, Nigel|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Speed, Keith|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Molyneaux, James||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss||Monro, Hector||Stanley, John|
|Hastings, Stephen||Montgomery, Fergus||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Hawkins, Paul||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Henderson, Douglas||Morgan-Giles, Rear Admiral||Stoddart, David|
|Holland, Philip||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Mudd, David||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Neave, Airey||Tapsell, Peter|
|Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)||Neubert, Michael||Taylor, Teddy(Cathcart)|
|Hurd, Douglas||Oakes, Gordon||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Ogden, Eric||Thompson, George|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill)||Orbach, Maurice||Tierney, Sydney|
|Irving, Charles (Cheltenham)||Page, John (Harrow West)||Trotter, Neville|
|Janner, Greville||Page, Richard (Workington)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Jessel, Toby||Pavitt, Laurie||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|John, Brynmor||Pendry, Tom||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Perry, Ernest||Viggers, Peter|
|Jones, Arthur (Daventry)||Phipps, Dr Colin||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|Judd, Frank||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Ward, Michael|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Watt, Hamish|
|Kimball, Marcus||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Wells, John|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||White, James (Pollok)|
|Lamborn, Harry||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Whitlock, William|
|Lamond, James||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Roderick, Caerwyn||Woodall, Alec|
|McCartney, Hugh||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Woof, Robert|
|McCusker, H.||Ross, William (Londonderry)||Younger, Hon George|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Royle, Sir Anthony|
|MacGregor, John||Sever, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.|
|MacKay, Andrew (Stechford)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Mr. John Stokes and|
|McNair-Wilson. M. (Newbury)||Shelton, William (Streatham)||Mr. Michael Brother to.|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Silverman, Julius|
§ Question accordingly negatived.