HC Deb 12 June 1989 vol 154 cc607-60
Mr. Speaker

Before I call the Leader of the House to move his motion, I should like to say a word about the procedure to be followed. Until 10 o'clock there will be a general debate, during which all amendments may be referred to. At 10 o'clock I shall call, first, the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) formally to move amendment (c) relating to a dedicated unedited channel, and, secondly, the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) formally to move amendment (n) relating to proposed restrictions on the type of picture that may be shown. I shall then put the Question on the main Question.

Many hon. Members wish to participate in the debate. I appeal for short speeches so that as many hon. Members as possible may be called.

7.1 pm

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. John Wakeham)

I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House in its First Report (House of Commons Paper No. 141). In February 1988, the House voted in favour of the principle of an experiment in the televising of its proceedings. It set up a Select Committee, which I had the honour to chair, to consider the way in which the experiment should be conducted. The Committee's report, which is before the House today, is the product of a substantial measure of agreement within the Committee.

Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think it would be a great help for the House if we could know whether the Leader of the House, by leave of the House, will be speaking again at the end, because it could reduce the number of interruptions in his speech if it is known that he will be replying to the debate at the end.

Mr. Wakeham

If any hon. Member wishes me to answer any query, I shall be present and shall seek to intervene at the end of the debate, if that is for the convenience of the House.

There was a substantial measure of agreement within the Committee. That seemed so unlikely when we started work that the fact is well worth recording. It was an unusually large Committee—of 20 Members—combining not only different political views but very different views on televising the House, yet we were able to agree our report with only one dissenting voice—that of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet North (Mr. Gale), who wanted to approach the problem in a completely different way, which he will set out later if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. A wide range of views was expressed in the Committee about the rules of coverage, and I shall say something about that later.

The essence of our proposals is that the House should retain overall control, including control of the rules of coverage. The broadcasters will gain access to the signal at a fair price, and an independent company will be given a prestige contract to produce the pictures. The viewing public will be able to see the House at work, and the taxpayer will not have to pay for it.

The administrative arrangements may seem complex, but I will explain them as concisely as I can. The basic idea is a partnership between the House of Commons, the BBC and the IBA through a joint company, which we have called the House of Commons Broadcasting Unit. The unit will provide the equipment for the experiment and employ an independent operator to produce the signal. It will recover its running costs by selling the signal to the broadcasters at a fair price. The Select Committee will monitor the experiment, and it will be assisted by an Officer of the House, whom we have called the Supervisor of Broadcasting, part of whose job it will be to ensure that these arrangements work smoothly. There will also be a "customers' committee", representing all the consumers of the signal, which will act as an informal channel of communication.

Eight remote-controlled cameras will be mounted just under the Galleries and will be as unobtrusive as we can make them. We went into lighting with some care, as many hon. Members feel passionately about the subject. Clearly, we shall need extra lighting or our constituents will see very unflattering pictures of us, with heavy shadows and bags under our eyes, but we must avoid intolerable heat and glare. We concluded that the best solution for the experiment would be to install eight space lights, which simulate the effect of chandeliers, and which would be suspended from the ceiling of the Chamber. A number of members of the Committee have seen the proposed lights in operation and have found them acceptable. We also recommend that the strip lighting under the Galleries should be upgraded to provide some additional light on the Back Benches.

The House will expect me to speak in some detail about the rules of coverage since our proposals have been given a hostile reception. Those who have expressed their views most vociferously are the representatives of the media, who can hardly be said to be disinterested observers. I say that not in any pejorative sense but am merely underlining the fact that the interests and perspectives of the House and the media are different.

Let me outline briefly the rules of coverage which we propose, the considerations which led us to our conclusions and why I believe that most of the criticism of them is misguided. We thought it right to lay down at the outset a statement of objectives to guide the director on duty. This, in many ways, is the key to an understanding of the rules of coverage, so I will quote it in full: The director should seek, in close collaboration with the Supervisor of Broadcasting, to give a full, balanced, fair and accurate account of proceedings, with the aim of informing viewers about the work of the House. The words a full, balanced, fair and accurate account were carefully chosen to describe the type of coverage which the Select Committee believed to be desirable. It is, of course, precisely in the interpretation of this phrase that the differences of perspective have emerged between the broadcasters and the Committee. The broadcasters—for perfectly legitimate and understandable reasons—see it as their right and duty to film what happens in the Chamber in exactly the same way as they would an election meeting or party conference, with full journalistic licence to cut away from the speaker who has the floor and to paint an impressionistic picture by the use of a range of different camera shots and editorial techniques.

By contrast, the Select Committee felt—some Members perhaps more strongly than others—that the purpose of television coverage should be to provide something like an "electronic Hansard", designed to provide viewers with a factual and objective visual record of our proceedings—of speeches and statements made, of questions asked and answered and of decisions taken.

I turn now to the detailed rules of coverage which we recommend to support and implement the broad statement of objectives. I think that even the broadcasters accept, albeit reluctantly, some of the restrictions we recommend, such as the ban on the filming of the public Galleries. We also propose a number of specific guidelines for the director to observe, chief among which are the designation of a standard head and shoulders shot, limited use of wide-angle shots, a strict limitation on the use of reaction shots and a prohibition on the use of split-screen and panning shots.

Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)

That sounds a bit like state censorship to me. Is the Leader of the House telling us that we shall not be able to have a three-shot of the Social Democratic party? Is he saying that if the Leader of the SDP decides to cross the Floor and join the Tory party the camera will not be allowed to pan across and show him disappearing into the arms of the Prime Minister? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if these restrictions had been applied to the Spanish Parliament some time ago we would have finished up with a shot not of the fellow with the gun in his hand but of the Speaker with his hands up?

Mr. Wakeham

That is a pretty old joke. The hon. Gentleman will make his speech in his own way, but the activities to which he refers do not seem to me to be the proceedings of the House of Commons; at least I hope that they are not. This experiment is to televise the proceedings of the House of Commons.

I believe that these guidelines, taken together, flow logically from our broad approach to television coverage encapsulated in the statement of objectives to which I have already referred. It is only fair at this point to mention that some members of the Committee would have preferred tighter guidelines whereas the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and his hon. Friends argued for a more liberal regime. Nevertheless, I believe that what we have recommended in the report represents the closest thing to a consensus about the rules of coverage that it was possible to achieve among a group of 20 Members representing such a wide spectrum of views on the principle of televising.

I now turn to our recommendations for the treatment of incidents of disorder, which have been the subject of particular controversy. As we say in the report: Our overall approach to this matter is governed by our absolute conviction that deliberate misconduct designed to secure televised publicity ought not to achieve its aim". I do not think that I need to dwell on disorder in the Galleries, as it is generally agreed that the Galleries should not be televised at all. Disorder on the Floor of the House is an altogether more delicate question. None the less, starting from the proposition which I have just quoted, I believe that it was right to recommend that, in cases of disorder, the director should not focus on the Member or Members involved.

Of course, as we recognise in the report, there will inevitably be cases where the director will be unsure as to what response is required of him in a given situation. That is precisely why we urge Members to exercise some tolerance whilst any initial uncertainties over the interpretation of the guidelines are resolved". I am quite sure that, provided the director has attempted in good faith to apply the guidelines in conformity with the spirit of the statement of objectives, any misjudgments by him will be treated sympathetically by the Supervisor of Broadcasting and the Select Committe.

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

The right hon. Gentleman should not make too much of this issue, because that is not really what it is all about. If an incident were taking place on the Floor of the House, for example, if the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) had seized the Mace and was swinging it about his head, would the person doing the commentary say, "Although we cannot show you this, the right hon. Member for Henley is now swinging the Mace about and he has hit three Members"?

Mr. Wakeham

Overfamiliarity with the Mace by hon. Members on either side of the House would not be shown on television in the normal course of events. As for what the commentator says, I have no plans for any restrictions. The main point is that we do not believe that those who seek to engage in such activities should be seen on television if that is their objective.

The main aim of the relationship between the Supervisor of Broadcasting and the director is to ensure that any mistakes are not repeated. I should stress at this point that, as the report makes clear, we are dealing with an experiment, and the guidelines we have recommended are for the start of the experiment. They could be modified, subject to the Select Committee's approval, as the experiment evolves. If the broadcasters wish to make representations to the Committee, they are, of course, perfectly free to do so. Any such representations will be carefully considered.

Finally, on the rules of coverage, I should like to deal with one argument which sums up the opposition to our proposals—why will the television viewer not be able to see what a person sitting in the Gallery can see? My answer is that the television viewer is going to see only what the broadcasters choose to broadcast; and, even if we had a dedicated channel, the viewer would see only the shot that the director selects. A visitor in the Gallery can allow his gaze to wander over any part of the Chamber, however irrelevant to the proceedings, or even out of the window. The basic premise on which this argument is based is, therefore, clearly spurious.

Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr)

My point is referred to in the report. Assuming that all eight cameras will be under the Galleries, does this mean that any hon. Member who, for whatever reason—this has happened during my time in the House—chooses to speak, within order, from the Upper Galleries will never stand a chance of being shown on television to his or her constituents?

Mr. Wakeham

I remember Mr. Speaker making a statement some time ago when he said that he would not normally call someone from an Upper Gallery. If there is a problem, we can consider it during the experiment. As it is envisaged, it would not be possible for such a person to be shown on television.

I believe that the rules that we have proposed offer a sensible middle path between the position in the other place, where the less-heated debate makes it possible not to have any specific rules of coverage, and the very much more restrictive rules imposed in Canada, which we considered unnecessary. As such, they provide a scheme that reflects most Members' views of the purpose of television coverage.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

I am sorry to take up the right hon. Gentleman's time. Has he any idea of the costs of running the House of Commons Broadcasting Unit and the costs for the operators?

Mr. Wakeham

The cost to the Commons will be about £500,000, of which some £300,000 will be for the archives. The cost to the Commons of the broadcasting part will be relatively small. The other costs will be borne by the broadcasters. The figure is in the report, which I think shows that the cost of the experiment will be about £500,000 for each of them. That is the sort of amount that the broadcasters will contribute. It will depend on how they run and staff the operation.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington)

The Leader of the House will remember that paragraph 59 of the report refers to assistance for the deaf. Does he agree with me that every possible pressure should be put on those responsible during this experiment to have at least subtitling so that those who are denied access to so much of our television can share in this experiment?

Mr. Wakeham

There have been a number of representations on that subject by hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson). We are certainly doing what we can to provide that assistance. I entirely agree with that objective.

As I said, the rules provide a scheme that reflects most Members' views of the purpose of television coverage. In doing so, they cut across the desire of the broadcasters for a more liberal regime conducive to what they regard as good television, but the very phrase "good television" gives the game away as it accords a higher priority to entertainment than information. I cannot therefore recommend acceptance of the selected amendment relating to the rules of coverage. If it were agreed to, there would be no restrictions on the size of the shot that the director could use; he would have complete freedom to take the camera off the Member speaking to show anything else that was happening in the Chamber, whether it was relevant to the proceedings of the House or not; and he could pan along the Benches at any time to show which Members were present and which were not. These do not seem to me to be suitable guidelines to start the experiment with, and I ask the House to reject the amendment.

While the rules of coverage are a matter for us, the use of the signal in programmes is quite properly a matter for the broadcasters, provided they do not use it in light entertainment programmes, political satire or party political broadcasts.

Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I do not want to delay the Leader of the House in respect of amendment (b), but does he agree that some hon. Members think that the availability of the signal is a matter not just for the broadcasters, but for this nation and this House, although the Select Committee may not have thought so? Will the Leader of the House at least concede that there is that point of view?

Mr. Wakeham

I concede, of course, that the coverage and the way in which it is shown are matters for the House at the right and proper time, but the task with which the Select Committee was charged was to draw up the rules for an experiment in the televising of the proceedings of the House. It was not charged with considering the whole question of the way in which the proceedings should be dealt with. When I say that the rules of coverage are a matter for us, I am referring to the Select Committee and to our debate this evening, which is dealing with the report of the Select Committee. The other matters are important, but we shall come to them at another time.

Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South)

In reference to the last point, I agree that the House could not possibly dictate to the broadcasters on the precise use they make of the signal coming from the electronic Hansard during the experiment. But how this House votes after the experiment will be determined, to a large extent, by the use the television companies make of the programmes and the use they make of the signals, especially regionally. Although we cannot control the signal, the television companies cannot ignore the feelings in this House.

Mr. Wakeham

That is absolutely true of various aspects of the experiment, especially the area with which I am about to deal—the use the companies make of the proceedings of Committees. Although we cannot dictate which parts of Committee proceedings they broadcast, the Select Committee very much hopes that the broadcasters will make good and adequate use of the Committee proceedings, as well as of the House generally, so that the experiment can be evaluated properly by all of us. Our role is to provide a signal and some guidelines, not to interfere or to attempt to dictate the way in which the signal is used.

The coverage of Committees is an important matter and I underline the importance our report attached to the work of both the Select and Standing Committees. We reached the conclusion—

Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall)


Mr. Wakeham

No, I will not give way because I want to talk about Committees.

We reached the conclusion that Committee coverage could not be approached in the same way as coverage of the Chamber. The broadcasters are willing to finance complete coverage of proceedings in the Chamber from the end of Prayers to the Adjournment on every sitting day during the experiment, but they are not prepared to finance complete coverage of every meeting of every Committee during that period. As there is no public money available to subsidise Committee coverage, the only resources available are those that individual broadcasting organisations are willing to find to pay for coverage which they wish to use. The televising of Committees can, therefore, be organised only in response to demand from the broadcasters. That may be disagreeable—and I know that some members of the Select Committee would wish it otherwise—but it is a sad fact which we cannot ignore.

The report makes clear our hope that the importance that we attach to the coverage of Committees will be fully reflected in the broadcasters' programme plans, although realism lends us to warn the House not to raise its expectations too high, particularly as regards live coverage. What matters above all is that there should be enough coverage, of a representative nature, during the experiment to enable the House to decide eventually whether televising of Committees should become permanent. On that, the broadcasters have at least said that they will try their best.

If the House agrees to the motion we are debating, broadcasting will begin with the State Opening of the new Session. We recommend that the experiment should continue until the end of July next year, which is long enough to give television a fair trial. Shortly before the end of the experiment, the House will be invited to decide whether televising the proceedings should continue on a permanent basis.

Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop

Will the televising equipment be subject to the direction of the Chairman of the Select Committee, bearing in mind that it is essential that the Chairman can see all the members of the Committee and that the members of the Committee can see all the witnesses to whom questions are being put? If the cameras prevent that from happening, is it not essential that the Chairman of the Committee should have the power to give directions to remove cameras and lighting from their position, if they are preventing the Committee, in his judgment, from doing its job?

Mr. Wakeham

I cannot agree with my hon. Friend on that subject. As the House has approved this report and, therefore, the experiment in the televising of the proceedings of the House, it must be only in the most exceptional circumstances that the Chairman of a Select Committee would seek to put the cameras out. If the Committee went into secret session, the cameras would, of course, be put out. If there are any difficulties, we should remember that this is an experiment. The Select Committee would certainly look into any problem that arose to see whether we could find a satisfactory solution.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow)

I have a question about paragraph 87, which deals with the live coverage of Committees away from Westminster. Can we expect to see the televising of the Scottish Grand Committee sessions which are held in Edinburgh?

Mr. Wakeham

As I have said, the televising of Select Committees, Grand Committees and anything other than the proceedings of the House will be done on demand by the broadcasters who wish to do it. I understand that the broadcasters have said that the Scottish Grand Committee when it meets in Edinburgh is one of the Committees that they would very much like to broadcast. I anticipate, therefore, that that will happen and I hope very much that it will happen during the experiment. It is important that the House has the opportunity to see on television all the different aspects of our work, so that we have a better basis on which to make the final judgment, which is the most important judgment in a way, some time next year.

Dr. Godman

We might even see the Nationalists.

Mr. Wakeham

I do not want the hon. Gentleman to raise too many hopes in these matters.

Amendment (c) tabled by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) would prevent the experiment from going ahead unless a dedicated television channel were made available. I think that every hon. Member would agree that if the House is to be televised, the availability of a dedicated channel would be the best way of solving the difficult questions of editing, selection and balance which trouble many of us. But the House must recognise that providing a dedicated channel on a high-powered satellite which could transmit a signal into people's homes would significantly increase the cost of the experiment to the broadcasters. To impose that requirement on them might well result in the experiment not taking place at all. So while I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's objective, I do not think that we should allow the best to be the enemy of the good.

Mr. Joseph Ashton (Bassetlaw)

In that case, why did the Committee not recommend that the proceedings of the House should be shown on the internal monitors we have in our Committee Rooms? It recommended only that the proceedings should be shown in the Division lobbies. Surely it would be simple to broadcast the proceedings in every office of the building.

Mr. Wakeham

It is not technically possible to do that and it is certainly impossible to do it in time to conduct an experiment that will begin in the autumn. It is, of course, possible to do so in the long term, if that is what the House wants, but it raises big issues. Some hon. Members, who may be very much in favour of televising the House, would be passionately against closed circuit television in offices and around the House. It is a matter to which we shall, no doubt, return another day.

The House has decided, after prolonged consideration, that there should be an experiment in the broadcasting of its proceedings by television. The motion before the House will enable the experiment to take place. I invite the House to support the motion.

7.29 pm
Mr. Frank Dobson (Holborn and St. Pancras)

I strongly support the motion that we agree with the report of the Select Committee on Televising the Proceedings of the House. The arrangements suggested for the experimental televising of our proceedings are not exactly the ideal that I or my Labour colleagues on the Committee would have preferred, but I believe that the proposals are workable and that they meet the legitimate doubts and reservations that were expressed in the debate in February 1988 when the principle of televising was accepted by a majority of 54 votes.

It is only right that before dealing with the proposals in the report I should pay tribute to the work that has gone into its preparation. In particular, I congratulate our Clerks who have managed to boil down 15 months of Committee proceedings, hearings, technical demonstrations, an overseas visit and more than 250 written submissions into a 33-page report which is easy to read and understand. I am also grateful to our technical advisers and Officers of the House who contributed to assessing and demonstrating the practicalities of what was being proposed.

Curiously enough, I should also like to thank my fellow members of the Select Committee who put in so much effort and even made the sacrifice of a visit to Canada, during the recess. I pay tribute to the eight Conservative Members on the Committee who originally voted against televising the House but who accepted the February 1988 decision of the House and now support the recommendations for the experiment. I personally thank my hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott) whose practical experience as a producer of television current affairs programmes was of great help to me and to other Members.

Finally, and even more novel, I pay tribute to the Leader of the House, who, having voted against televising, nevertheless worked extremely hard, both in chairing our proceedings and in private, to put together practical proposals that would be acceptable to the House. The extent of his success was amply demonstrated last Thursday when the remarkable edifice that he had constructed was topped out by the Prime Minister's announcement of her support. Some of his Cabinet colleagues are green with envy and want to know how he got such a public statement of support, but, whatever the explanation, all this means that whatever fate may befall him in the threatened Government reshuffle, the Lord President will go into the history books as the Leader of the House who brought television cameras into the Chamber. I think that he will pleased with that.

This is an historic development because it will permit the people of this country to see as well as to hear their elected representatives at work. With the exception of a number of what might be described as wholly unreconstructed exclusionists, no one can object in principle to being shown on television if we concede the principle of being reported in Hansard, misreported in newspapers and heard on the radio.

However, a substantial number of hon. Members have legitimate practical doubts and reservations about the impact of the cameras on the workings of this place and about the trivialising capacity of television. Much of that doubt and uncertainty springs from a politician's distrust of the news media—distrust between the reporter and the would-be reported. There will always be tension between politicians and journalists and I believe that there should always be that tension between us. It is not the job of journalists to give us an easy time but we can and do expect them to be reasonably fair. In relation to what happens in the House and its Committees, we also expect them to be reasonably representative and not unfairly selective. They must try to maintain a reasonable balance between the parties, between the Front and Back Benches and between Members from different parts of the country. As the report makes clear, to assist them in that task it is intended that the House will monitor their output.

The Select Committee's report is designed to secure our legitimate concerns without trying in turn to deprive the television broadcasters of the rights that they must have in a democracy, because a Parliament has no more right than a Government to tell broadcasters what to do.

The first proposition in the report is to protect the interests and integrity of the House by putting the whole operation of the cameras under the control of a House of Commons Broadcasting Unit, a Supervisor of Broadcasting employed by the House, and a Select Committee. That means that the broadcasters will not control the signal that is made available to them, but for the period of the experiment the broadcasters will foot most of the bill and provide the equipment. For any permament televising arrangement, the Select Committee believes that the House should establish a broadcasting unit as a Department of the House—as an electronic Hansard—making the signal available to those who want to use it and maintaining an archive to which anyone should have access.

We have looked into the technical requirements for the introduction of remote control cameras in the House and are satisfied that the necessary improvements in lighting can be achieved without unacceptable levels of glare or heat.

Although other members of the Select Committee are satisfied that the arrangements for the remote control of the cameras will work, I still have some residual doubts about the speed of response of the cameras, especially at Question Time, and about whether they will pick up Members quickly enough. However, that is something that will become clear during the experiment.

Many hon. Members have been rightly concerned to ensure that there is television coverage of Select Committees and Standing Committees, including the Scottish Grand Committee. We have looked carefully into that and propose various experimental arrangements that we believe will prove acceptable and from which a great deal should be learnt before the experiment comes to an end. Of course, we cannot force the broadcasters to show the proceedings of Select or Standing Committees, but in our meetings with them we have emphasised our wish for such coverage. In any case, evidence from the United States suggests that Select Committee proceedings at least are likely to prove attractive to the broadcasters. They have done so there and there is no reason why they should not here.

We have also placed great emphasis on the need for coverage by the broadcasters of matters raised, whether in the Chamber, Select Committees or Standing Committees, which are of particular interest to viewers in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the English regions. That is likely to be of particular importance to Back Benchers. The Select Committee pressed the broadcasters hard to ensure that they would be able to cope technically with the additional traffic that would result from more regional coverage. Assurances were given by the broadcasters and we look to them to honour those assurances. We have emphasised to the broadcasters that their regional coverage during the experimental period will be a major determining factor for many hon. Members when the House considers whether to have the cameras in permanently.

Although the House will have direct control over the signal that is made available for both broadcasting and recording, we will not have similar control over what use the broadcasters will make of that signal. We can restrict the use of that signal—

Mr. Bidwell

I intervene now for the reason that I sought to intervene during the speech of the Leader of the House. Many of us who have been doubtful about televising over the years and who are shifting our view about it and will be greatly governed by this debate when deciding which way to vote are concerned not so much about the cameras being switched on but the conditions under which the cameras will be switched off. As I understand it, what is strange about the report is the role of the Chair—of you, Mr. Speaker—and the traditions that we have given you and that you have exercised fairly—mostly—over the years and the extent to which, if the House were—

Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

Switch him off, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Bidwell

I am concerned about what you, Mr. Speaker, would do, but you are much too friendly for me to admonish you in any way. I am concerned about control of the cameras when the House is suspended, as it has been, mostly as a result of exercises that have already been referred to, such as the throwing of tear gas bombs that burnt a hole in the carpet. I am concerned that there seems to be no reference in the report to the role of the Chair in decision-making about when the cameras should be switched on and switched off. That point completely puzzles me.

Mr. Dobson

The report deals with that point, stating that it would be best if you, Mr. Speaker, did not have the facility to turn off the cameras because there would be great shouts, cries and rows about those occasions on which you chose to do so and, probably even more importantly, about those occasions when you did not. We should not like that responsibility to fall upon the Chair in such circumstances.

The one thing that we can do with the signal is to restrict its use, and we should restrict it in some ways. For example, as the Leader of the House has already said, the Select Committee proposed that the signal should not be used in advertisements, party political broadcasts or comedy programmes or any combination of the three, but we cannot insist that broadcasters use material which they, in their editorial judgment, do not want to use. The House can reasonably expect that broadcasters will make more use of actuality from these proceedings than they do of the still photograph with voice-over, which is what they are reduced to at present.

A number of hon. Members on both sides of the House are concerned that broadcasters may be happy, or at least willing, to obey the new rules during the experimental period and then, should the House decide to have cameras permanently, they would go wild and ignore the rules. We ought to have a standing Select Committee to ensure that the rules are kept both during the experimental period and afterwards, should the House decide to keep the cameras in permanently.

Mr. Spearing

The House may know that I was a member of the first Select Committee which dealt with sound broadcasting. We developed a very satisfactory code of practice. Does my hon. Friend agree that, at least to start with, it might be a good thing for decisions to be on a sessional basis if the television cameras became a permanent feature—for very good procedural reasons?

Mr. Dobson

I am not sure whether a sessional basis would be the right one, but we would need to make the continuing broadcasting of the House conditional upon the rules being kept.

That brings me to the present rules on broadcasting. I am a fan of the "Today in Parliament" programme and an avowed enemy of "Yesterday in Parliament". Therefore, I welcome the undertakings given by the BBC as outlined in paragraph 56 of our report, and the hope expressed there that these will be adopted by the other broadcasters. I hope that the BBC will apply them throughout its organisation.

Hon. Members will note, however, that while ITV through Channel 4 is proposing a daily afternoon programme including live coverage, the BBC is proposing such coverage only on Tuesdays and Thursdays at present. I hope that before the experiment begins the BBC will discover that we also meet on other days of the week. It seems to have enough people here on other days of the week.

Many hon. Members would like a dedicated channel which would provide live continuous coverage of all the proceedings of the House, and I am one such Member. The Select Committee looked into this, but our investigations have shown that there is no prospect of achieving such a dedicated channel by the beginning of the experiment. Our report suggests that the rapid developments in this field should be monitored and that the idea of a dedicated channel should be pursued and promoted.

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I shall read to the House letters from British Aerospace which make it clear that that company is in a position to offer two options for transmission on a dedicated channel from October this year. If the Committee did not receive similar correspondence, it can only be said that it did not ask for it. If it had, it would have received the answers that I received in correspondence and telephone conversations.

Mr. Dobson

If my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) had read the report of the evidence, he would know that we attempted to have dealings with British Aerospace, in seeking some immediate solution to the problem of a satellite channel, but it could not deliver in time.

Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

Ex-Nimrod equipment.

Mr. Dobson

I dispute any suggestion that British Aerospace proposed to use abandoned ex-Nimrod equipment.

There is no real prospect of one of the limited number of terrestrial channels being dedicated to the continuous coverage of the House. The only practical solution is a satellite channel. If the House decides to allow the cameras in permanently, we should be prepared to finance a dedicated satellite channel as part of our commitment to parliamentary democracy.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough and Horncastle)

Those of us who did not serve on the Select Committee are grateful to the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House for the efforts that they made in this difficult matter. Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that if, in spite of his good efforts, the House rejected the Committee's proposals, it would not necessarily result in a more liberal regime? The Select Committee would have to go back and report again, which might allow a dedicated channel to emerge. Is that a possibility?

Mr. Dobson

That is certainly possible, although I am embarrassed by the fact that, having fallen behind most other Western democracies by not allowing the electors to see the elected at work, we have now also fallen behind the Soviet Union. I think that it might be best if we got on with it.

Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

Will the hon. Gentleman concede that the Western democracies to which he referred all have dedicated channels?

Mr. Dobson

They have all sorts of different methods of reception and, to my knowledge, not all of them have dedicated channels. The other major significant feature is that the market for satellite and cable television is very different in Canada and the United States, and at a very different stage in its development.

If we consider arrangements for the permanent televising of the House, we should accept that, if necessary, it should be paid for entirely from public funds if that would produce the best arrangements. It would surely be better to have public investment in promoting parliamentary democracy than to accept a second best that someone else was willing to finance.

One aspect of the report has already attracted considerable criticism, partly from the broadcasters but also from others. I refer to the proposed guidelines governing what may or may not be shown by the cameras. My hon. Friends and I argued that the guidelines were too restrictive and, despite the best efforts of the leader writer for The Guardian, Labour Members voted for a more relaxed approach. We accept that what happens in the Galleries should not be shown because that would lay the House open to a demo a day. It is surely right, however, that we should permit any deliberate action by an hon. Member or hon. Members on the Floor of the House that can be reported in newspapers to be shown on television. If someone behaves in a disorderly, silly or boorish manner, why should that fact be kept from the people who elected him? Evidence from abroad suggests that the voters do not like to see such behaviour and may take their vengeance at a later stage.

We should also prefer broadcasters to be permitted to show the reaction of other hon. Members to what an hon. Member is saying. That is preferable to the proposed rules in the report.

Mr. Cryer

I am interested to know why in the list of highly restrictive rules there is a rule to say that an hon. Member's papers must not be shown. Surely it would benefit the public to know if an hon. Member was reading a brief provided by a lobby organisation. That would allow the public to see not just the remote control of the cameras of the television closed shop but the remote control of hon. Members.

Mr. Dobson

There is some merit in that suggestion, but I can envisage circumstances in which an hon. Member from whatever political party might be referring to papers with a note saying, "Don't raise this unless the other lot raise it first", or words to that effect. It might be better if the information were not available.

Mr. John Redwood (Wokingham)

Has the hon. Gentleman cleared this part of his speech with the Leader of the Opposition who was not keen for the public to hear the whole of his interview the other day?

Mr. Dobson

If hon. Members had not been attending this debate, they could have listened to the Leader of the Opposition on "Wogan" this evening—fully, extensively, truly and accurately reported. There is a slight difference. In future, hon. Members will know that everything they say here may be carried unless they behave in a disorderly manner, in which case it will not be carried.

Despite my reservations, I commend the whole report to the House. I shall be voting for it. I believe strongly that it deals satisfactorily with the practical objections to televising the House. What we say in the House is already reported through other news media and we should now permit its direct coverage on television. We must remember that most of what we do in this place needs to be reported if it is to have much impact. Those who report us are as much a part and parcel of the democratic process as those of us who serve in the House. We must ensure that they play their part in our democracy in a responsible way.

It could be argued that those who insisted, despite all sorts of pains and penalties, on reporting the old, undemocratic House of Commons made a greater contribution to the development of democracy than did those on whom they reported. Until then, those in power had claimed not only that ruling the country was a matter for the privileged few, but that it was only of interest to the privileged few. The journalists and the pamphleteers breached that wall of privilege.

Until the advent of modern technology we, the elected representatives, could not address directly from this House those whom we represent. Instead, we have had to rely on journalists to act as go-betweens, and on many an occasion they have been rather inadequate go-betweens. As that great democratic Socialist Aneurin Bevan pointed out when he called for the televising of the House so long ago that I was still at school, through the medium of television hon. Members can have a direct relationship with those who elect them. Neither they nor we would have to rely on the fallible intermediaries of the press. That argument still holds good.

Broadcasters must understand that the argument that television permits a direct relationship between the elected and those who elected them requires that they keep their editorialising to a minimum. That is why the continuous coverage of a dedicated channel has such appeal. Most of us accept that the news and current affairs programmes must edit what we say, but the broadcasters must behave responsibly and, in particular, keep their commentary to a minimum.

Mr. Rooker

My hon. Friend makes an important point about broadcasters on current affairs programmes keeping their comments to a minimum. The premier political programme put out by Central Television—the former employers of our hon. Friend the Member for The Wrekin (Mr. Grocott)—previewed this debate last Thursday. Jon Lander introduced this place not only as "the palace of varieties" but described the twice weekly shoot-out at the OK corral with Ma Thatcher and the boys. That is a description of this place from a premier television station in its main political programme of the week. If that is the style and content of what Central Television is planning, all the forebodings of my hon. Friends, including those of my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), will come to fruition. I hope that that does not come to pass.

Mr. Dobson

I certainly understand my hon. Friend's reaction to such a description. Hon. Members will no doubt keep a note of that sort of occurrence, to say the least, during the experiment. It may be that the actual portrayal of what happens in this place will slightly undermine the cowboy description.

Dr. Godman

From the answer given to my earlier question to the Leader of the House, can I assume that all hon. Members who served on the Committee are in favour of televising the whole of the proceedings of, for example, the Scottish Grand Committee when it meets in Edinburgh? Those meetings last for two and a half hours.

Mr. Dobson

If the Scottish television companies want to show the whole of a Scottish Grand Committee sitting in Edinburgh, they can do so. It would be fatuous to suggest that we could force upon them an obligation to do so especially if, for example, the British Open were being held at St. Andrew's. I cannot imagine that it would add to the popularity of Scottish Members if their contributions were shown rather than the last few holes of the Open.

Mr. Nicholas Bennett (Pembroke)

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that we will have to consider the way in which the television companies portray the whole of the work of Parliament, not just the exciting bits? It is interesting that the only two occasions on which the proceedings of the House have been broadcast live since I entered Parliament in 1987 have been when the House has been discussing issues in which the press are interested—the televising of Parliament and the Official Secrets Act. From the number of press in the Gallery tonight, it is clear that they have turned up because we are discussing a matter of interest to them. Many hon. Members want television to give an accurate portrayal of all the work of the House, not just the matters in which the press are interested.

Mr. Dobson

Quite unusually, I have considerable sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's desires. However, in a democracy we cannot insist that the broadcasters, the journalists or anyone else show what they do not think should be shown other than if it were on a dedicated channel, which most people favour as soon as it is technically possible. We must continue to bring pressure upon the broadcasters to ensure that they provide something approaching what might be described as a representative sample of what is happening in this place.

Mr. Tony Banks

My hon. Friend is making a point that has support on both sides of the House. A dedicated channel would avoid all those problems and must be the most desired option. The report says that while the experiment is being monitored consideration will be given to the introduction of a dedicated channel. Will my hon. Friend give a firm commitment that the next Labour Government will provide for such a channel out of funds voted by Parliament and not look around for a commercial deal with some broadcasting undertaking?

Mr. Dobson

Having taken part in the Committee's deliberations, I am reasonably convinced that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee want a dedicated channel as soon as that is technically possible. Even so, it must be remembered that even if we had the power to force the provision of a dedicated channel, we would never have the power to force people to watch it. They would have the choice, and that is what we want to provide. They would probably still get the bulk of the coverage of what happens here from the news and news magazine programmes on other television channels. Nevertheless, a dedicated channel would provide the protection of ensuring that everything was shown.

Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley)

I apologise to my hon. Friend for interrupting his peroration. Is he aware that researchers at Aston university have set up a £60,000 study into the experiment of televising Parliament, during which they will assess the behaviour, the language, the appearance and the intelligence in debate of hon. Members? Of course, Labour Members have nothing to fear from such an assessment, but has my hon. Friend considered that as the study will be carried out by a professor who specialises in television violence it may be incomplete unless a continuous feed of Parliament's activities is seen on television?

Mr. Dobson

As I have made clear, I am in favour of a dedicated channel providing full coverage as soon as that is possible. Some hon. Members would do well to fear their electors rather than a few professors from Aston university assessing their performance.

The many interventions during my speech have made it clear that there is considerable concern about the editorialising and the smart-Alicking of commentators—especially, if I may say this, of the BBC. I for one do not mind being portrayed, in Cromwell's phrase, "warts and all", but I do object to some clever dick from the BBC adding jokeshop warts to the ones that I already possess. Hon. Members will be looking carefully to ensure that what the broadcasters do during the experiment sticks very closely to the undertakings that they have given in their evidence and to the rules that we have laid down. If they do that and enter into the spirit of the experiment, as hon. Members are doing, it should work.

If what I have said by quoting various people, including Aneurin Bevan, has not entirely converted some of the doubtful Conservative Members, I put to them two soundly Tory mottos— the Churchill family motto of "Trust the People", and, if that is not good enough, they can stick with the Duke of Wellington and "Publish and be damned".

8 pm

Mr. John Biffen (Shropshire, North)

The Register of Members' Interests does not disclose that I have written a book. As the book is about the House of Commons, and as its prospective sales must relate, I hope, to the growing public interest that will be engendered by television, and as this evening holds out the daunting prospect that it could be remaindered even before it is published, I thought that I should place that fact on record—at least my publisher would wish me to place that fact on record.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House on giving us the chance to take a decision that will nudge further forward our experience of televising the House. It is a modest decision and it clearly has all the hallmarks of compromise. It is the classic in that sense. Also, the arch compromiser, the spectre and the moral inspirer must have been Lord Reith.

I can think of nothing more designed to dehydrate this place than the proposals in the report. I say that with no spirit of hostility but with a great sense of gratification. It is important for the House to come to a decision which clearly embraces a wide range of opinion of those who support and oppose the experiment. My right hon. Friend deserves our thanks for the skill with which he has put together a point of view that I hope will command majority support.

I am quite certain that, in the long run, the central decision cannot hold. Paragraph 26 of the report refers to a head-and-shoulders shot. That is a shampoo approach to public affairs. It destroys the true character of the House of Commons. It is and always has been theatre. As long as it tries to represent the wide range of opinions that are argued outside in the saloon bar and are put in a rather different form in this place, it will retain its vitality. It must accept that the challenge of television is that it will do that with cameras. For televising to be made acceptable, we require a degree of self-restraint on the part of hon. Members and the televisers. Such self-restraint would be more difficult to secure on the part of hon. Members than of televisers. I have no doubt that it could be secured.

If Parliament wishes to retain its vitality and to secure a link and an affection with the British public, when there are plenty of other institutions seeking to rival it, it knows that it must come to terms with the most powerful element of the media. This evening we take one small step forward, but forward it is, and I hope that my right hon. Friend gets a resounding majority.

8.3 pm

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

I am happy to take part in this debate, and I join with the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) in commending the Select Committee for the way in which it carried out its work and for its workmanlike and positive report. The experimentation arrangements have been clearly and succinctly set out. On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I support the conclusions set out in the report.

My right hon. and hon. Friends and I are certainly prepared positively to consider the amendments. The amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) provides that the service should be set up in a certain way. It is of prime importance to minority parties that full on-line broadcasting should take place from day one. But I would not wish to delay the holding of an experiment on that basis. In an intervention, the hon. Gentleman said that he has an explanation for getting round the problem. I look forward with interest to hearing it.

The objectives are fairly set out in the report. They are to achieve a full, balanced, fair and accurate report of the proceedings of the House of Commons—an unvarnished, warts-and-all account. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I will test the experiment on that basis, but we have our own perspective. We were elected under an electoral system that does not leave the composition of the House of Commons in proportion to the balance of votes cast in the election. No hon. Member needs any reminding that, in the last general election, our alliance parties, as they then were, secured about 22 per cent. of the vote and we ended up with just over 20 Members.

That puts us in a difficult and peculiar position. We are trying to reflect the views of about 7 million people who voted for us. The opportunities that are given to us in Parliament do not enable us to do that. That is no reflection on the way in which the Chair conducts the business of the House; I do not make that point at all. We are in a difficult position because we must try to give a decent account of ourselves to the people who voted for us. If there are only two dozen or so of us in terms of parliamentary strength, it makes our position peculiarly difficult in terms of what we must do in facing up to broadcasting requirements.

I do not think that it is possible to discharge a responsibility to the people who voted for us in a full balanced, fair and accurate way if we are not properly treated in the allocation of broadcasting time. We do not get anything like 20 per cent. of the parliamentary opportunities under the existing conventions of the House, and that is a problem for us. We are prejudiced in the share that we get as of right in participating in the proceedings of the House.

The Procedure Committee says that it is not right to make any changes in procedure in advance of the experiment being tested. There is a certain logic in that argument but if the Procedure Committee is not prepared to admit any changes to try to make sure that the balance of minority parties, and my party in particular, are not addressed, it leaves us in a difficult position. The Procedure Committee said that it will closely monitor the experiment to see whether modifications are desirable. I lay down that marker for the future consideration of the results of the experiment.

From their evidence to the Select Committee, and from correspondence that we have had with them, we know that the broadcasters are saying that, that their coverage will be based on the number of parliamentary seats and nothing more. They regard it as no more than their duty to do that. If that is true, again, we as a substantial national but minority parliamentary party will have difficulty in trying to accommodate that approach. If we simply accept indefinitely the situation as set out by the Select Committee, the Procedure Committee and in the evidence given by the broadcasters, we cannot possibly give full value to the 7 million people who voted for us at the last election. I do not believe that, with edited highlights, there is any reason why balanced programmes cannot be produced. That is the message that I want to send out from my party to the broadcasting authorities this evening.

The principle of votes cast as a basis for allocating broadcasting time has been used in similar political contexts—certainly it has been considered in the rules for party political broadcasts. Votes have an influence and should be brought to bear when considering the allocating of broadcasting opportunities in the House. If during live coverage it is not possible to put the view of the Social and Liberal Democrats because the procedures of the House discriminate against the calling of hon. Members from that party, we believe that broadcasters should have a duty to explain why that is so. I do not believe that the Select Committee report goes far enough in making that point clear.

One of the clearest results of the experiment will be an overwhelming cry from the public for a need to change the proceedings in the Chamber. Once they have seen an unvarnished, warts-and-all account of what goes on, how matters are conducted, how time is used and what procedures and Standing Orders are employed, there will, rightly, be an outcry for a massive programme of reform of the procedures, which I would support.

In the experiment, the broadcasters must take account of the fact that they have a duty to make the proceedings intelligible in terms of such matters as hours and Standing Orders. If the Leader of the House is to reply to the debate, will he clarify the simple and interesting question that has been put to me? Supposing attempts are made to produce television programmes to demonstrate the outmoded and archaic methods that we use in the House, will there be any inhibition on the television company using edited film extracts from the proceedings to make that point? I hope that there will not he. However, some of the restrictions contained in the conclusions and recommendations of the Select Committee report put that matter in doubt. I hope that the Leader of the House will make it clear that there will be no such restriction on the way in which the rules and procedures are looked at by television companies.

Althought I have not time to develop the point here, I believe that the introducton of television cameras will precipitate the argument that the procedures of the House are ripe for change and that the way in which we conduct business here is simply not suitable to sustain the best system of government and the most efficient process of democratic participation for a modern democracy in a country such as ours. A clear need for change in that direction has been shown.

The hon. Member for Greenock and Port Glasgow (Dr. Godman) has on a couple of occasions made the point that the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh should be televised. I understand, because the report makes it clear, broadcasting of Committees will have to be demand-led. In terms of the Scottish dimension, I believe that it is essential that the Scottish Grand Committee should be televised. I fear that, looked at from a Scottish perspective, many people in Scotland, if they study the television reports of the proceedings in Parliament, will think that Scotland does not receive its fair share of debating time in the House, which some of us have been saying for a long time. I need only to cite the example of the inability of Scottish hon. Members to get at the heart of what is going on in the Scottish Office, because they are restricted to only one Scottish Question Time every four to six weeks.

It is not just a Scottish problem; it is a wider regional difficulty. I note that the Select Committee report indicates that the members of the Select Committee were aware of some of the problems of getting the live broadcasts transmitted in time for programmes produced in the regions not to be prejudiced by the demands being made simultaneously over two to three busy hours of the day by the national, London and south-east broadcasting organisations.

I hope that urgent consideration will be given to the ability of smaller and regional companies to make a proper contribution and play a proper part in the televising of the proceedings of the House. To that end, is it possible for the Select Committee which is monitoring the results of the experiment—I do not know whether that is the most appropriate body to do it—to keep and publish a log over a 12-month period of what excerpts are used, in what direction and by which company in which programmes? We could then have a complete picture of what use has been made of the film that is presented by the broadcasting units. It is important that we satisfy ourselves that regional broadcasting authorities get a fair crack of the whip.

I have always supported cameras coming into the House, as most of those on the Opposition Benches have done. I believe, however, that the danger is that the broadcasters will glamorise the House as consisting of two rival teams locked in mindless opposition, as we see so often in this place, and the reasoned, middle way will always be edited out. When people watch coverage of the Commons, they expect to see a balanced debate reflecting the views of the parties for which they voted and not just a two-party Punch and Judy show.

8.16 pm
Mr. Roger Gale (Thanet, North)

I address the House as the only member of the Select Committee who voted againsto my right hon. Friend's report. It will be widely assumed that I did so because I am opposed to televising the proceedings of the House. Following the vote in February 1988, I accepted entirely the will of the House and 1, and those who thought as I do, did our best to ensure that, if the House were to be televised, it would he done in the most effective and efficient manner possible.

I commend the report of my right hon. Friend and I congratulate him on the compromise that he has achieved. In the month that it took the Committee to debate and to prepare the report, largely stimulated by our interest, there have been considerable technological advances. The cameras have been improved and miniaturised, much greater effort than was given before has now been given to the change in lighting in the Chamber, and, as a television producer and director, I am satisfied that very many of the technical arguments that I raised when we first debated the issue have, as a result of our interest, been solved.

So why did I vote against my right hon. Friend's report? I believe that the House is about to miss a great opportunity. I moved amendments in Committee to suggest to the House that, if we are to go down this road, we should go entirely down it. I said that it is possible, as is done in the Canadian Parliament, which has been cited long and often in these debates, to provide every lion. Member with the "Oasis" information system. That is a desk-top monitor that could give every hon. Member not only television broadcasts from the House, but all other news services, the data services from the Library, the information services that would allow us to print out the pages from the Vote Office that we need on a day-to-day basis, which in itself would save I suspect several rain forests a year, and it would enable us to have a Division bell override. In Committee, Members on both sides of the House chose to reject the public expenditure that would be necessary to provide that system.

However, there is a further stage, and it is that concern to which I believe the House should only address itself tonight. If we are to carry out the televising of the House and the broadcasting by television of the House, it should be available in its entirety to the electorate.

In the 1988 debate virtually every speaker in favour of televising the House addressed himself to the enhancement of democracy. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and the shadow Leader of the House said that the proposal will bring the House of Commons to the people. What the House of Commons is being offered tonight and what the public are being offered is quite simply a confidence trick. It is a conspiracy designed to prevent the public from seeing the House of Commons at work. I suppose that I should take some satisfaction from the knowledge that those of us who were originally opposed to televising the House have won the argument if the motion goes through unamended tonight.

It is possible to convey the proceedings of the House unedited to the public and it is possible to do so immediately. Earlier my right hon. Friend suggested that the costs would be such as to dissuade broadcasters from embarking upon the exercise. The Opposition spokesman suggested to the House that he would really like to have a dedicated channel, but that that might delay the experiment and that it was not technically possible. Tonight the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell Savours) will seek to move an amendment to introduce a dedicated channel to the experiment. It is technically possible to do so, never mind in October, but now, and it is affordable.

Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)


Mr. Gale

I would prefer not to give way to the hon. Gentleman, because, since he is a member of the Select Committee, I am sure that he will seek to catch Mr. Speaker's eye.

The cost of a satellite transponder would be somewhere between £2.5 million and £3.5 million for a year.

Mr. David Shaw (Dover)

That is peanuts.

Mr. Gale

My hon. Friend says that that is peanuts and in news media terms it is. On an agency basis—the sort of system by which the newspapers, radio and television buy the Reuters service or the Press Association service—it is peanuts. The maximum cost of £3.5 million a year would be shared not only by the BBC, but every independent company in this country and among cable news network, C-Span, CBS, CBC, Australian Broadcasting and other organisations around the world whom we are told would want that service. Shared among all those organisations the cost, as my hon. Friend suggests, would be peanuts.

Mr. Tony Banks

How do we get it in Newham?

Mr. Gale

I believe that cable news network would want to carry the service on a pan-European basis—

Mr. Banks

I said Newham, not Europe.

Mr. Gale

The hon. Gentleman will forgive me as, for one fleeting moment, I thought that Newham was part of Europe.

The money could be spent on astra transponders that are available now. We would then have not only the unedited televised proceedings of the Chamber but, for the same money, we could have up to 10 sound channels with still pictures with wiped-in inserts of the person speaking. That would enable us to carry, albeit in limited form, not only the live proceedings of the Chamber from, as the Americans say, "gavel to gavel" but the entire live proceedings of up to 10 Committees simultaneously.

The satellite service would satisfy the fears of those, such as our Scottish friends, who are genuinely concerned that their service will be elbowed out of the way. They are worried that when it comes to the crunch, when the deadline comes and it is five minutes to six and there is a major story breaking in the House of Commons, they will not get the line coverage. The satellite feed, however, would provide every regional station with the sort of service that they need. It would provide those that have the Amstrad dish for £150—those who want the full satellite service from the House of Commons—with that coverage.

It is technically possible now and it is affordable. British Aerospace told the Committee—the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) got this completely round the wrong way and he should acknowledge that—that it could do the job in a specified time, that it had the technology for the uplink and that it could do so to an astra transponder immediately and probably to its own transponder in three years' time.

There is one additional asset that I believe some hon. Members will find interesting. With the satellite system it is possible to carry instant subtitles for the deaf. That can be done by the kind of machine that the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) uses day to day in the House. The satellite system would use a slightly upgraded version of that machine. Therefore, every deaf person in this country could have an instant transcription of our proceedings and that transcription could be instantly printed on a data basis as an immediate electronic Hansard that any person in the country with the dish could call up.

Tonight we have an opportunity to do one of two things: we can genuinely enhance democracy in a way that all those who sought to persuade the House back in February 1988 claim that they want to do or we can offer the country and the media a con trick—the edited highlights and lowlights designed, as I have said publicly, to tart up the "Nine o'clock News" and the "News at Ten", but not much else. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support the amendment that will be moved by the hon. Member for Workington and I hope that it will be carried. If it is not, I hope that the House will reject the report and that it will tell the Committee to take it back and get it right.

8.27 pm
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North)

I regret the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) and particularly his reference to con tricks, as I believe that the proceedings of the Committee during the past year or so have been in a different spirit.

I pay tribute to the Leader of the House for the fair and open manner in which he presided over the workings of the Committee from start to finish. I approached the Committee as a novice in such matters as I had never sat on a Committee where the effort was on attaining consensus rather than emphasising division. I did not know how that could be achieved and I was interested to see how the Committee would work. Every Committee member, with the exception of the hon. Member for Thanet, North, would agree that the Committee worked well and constructively and that the report that was published, while not suiting anyone absolutely, was certainly the honest product of honest endeavour. For that we owe much to the Leader of the House. We also owe him much for the way in which he presented that report tonight.

The central aim of those of us on the Committee who supported the experiment was to attain a consensus that would be acceptable to the House. We were not particularly interested in making gestures or in standing out for points of view that would be patently unacceptable to all the House. We believed that the exercise was far too important for such an approach. For that reason my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and myself were a little disappointed to find ourselves vilified in, of all places, an editorial of The Guardian. That editorial told us that we should hang our heads in shame for putting our names to the report. I do not know whether I greatly care for the reputation of my hon. Friend, but I thought that that was a dreadful way for The Guardian to treat its former Scottish football correspondent.

Those of us who worked in that spirit were prepared to accept a compromise. Of course, we knew that it would be easy for us to posture and come back to the House with a terribly liberal and radical report on how the experiment should be conducted. It would have been easy to divide the Committee. Frankly, I would have hung my head in shame if we had tried to play party politics with this and, in the process, lost the experiment. I hope that the fact that we were prepared to accept a consensus and bury our differences means that we have produced a report that will be acceptable to the House.

All the Opposition Members and the great majority of Conservatives on the Committee approached the report with an open mind. There was a school of thought that the proceedings should have been cut short and that the BBC and ITN should have walked in, said what they were going to do and we would get on with it. However, after hearing the evidence of the BBC and ITN, it was not a point of view which I could share. Those of us who instinctively favour service broadcasting were persuaded that their evidence was not good enough and that we should explore other avenues; we began to do that.

I think that everyone on the Committee would agree that technically, editorially and in every other way the Committee's work developed and improved, and new ideas were opened up as a result of what we heard from some of the independent companies which came to speak to us. On the other hand, some of them were total chancers and we were able to separate the sheep from the goats without too much difficulty.

On the Conservative side of the Committee there was, for some time, a heavy lobby on behalf of a large, independent private company. It was to the credit of Conservative Members that they did not simply lie down in front of the blandishments of the heavy lobby from that source. There was a spirit of compromise and consensus on both sides of the Committee—[Interruption.] I shall not name it until after the vote. Both sides of the Committee were prepared to give ground which they could have been expected to hold.

We visited Canada, and I think that everyone who went would agree that it probably would have been better if we had done that at the start, rather than halfway through our deliberations. As a result of that visit virtually everyone agreed that we should aim for a unit of the House as it exists in both the federal Parliament and also the provincial Parliament which we visited in Toronto.

Most of us who visited Canada also preferred the more liberal regime applied in Toronto as opposed to the rigid one in Ottawa. The suggestions in our report lie somewhere between the two points. I agree with my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House that we would have preferred a more liberal regime in terms of rules of coverage, but we realised, once again, that if we were going to get the proposals through we would have to give some ground.

I say to those such as the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), the former Leader of the House, and others who criticised the report because it suggested showing merely head and shoulders that it is not that rigid. It contains the potential for a little experimentation. I believe that as the experiment continues common sense will prevail because the report does not contain the total rigidity which some of the more hysterical leader writers have suggested. Apart from anything else, it is impossible to film nothing more than someone's head and shoulders because there is always something to the left, right, behind or below which will also come out.

Therefore, although we would prefer a more liberal regime, the one proposed is certainly acceptable to me for the purposes of the experiment and, I believe, it will develop according to simple common sense.

I was particularly interested to represent the Scottish dimension and that of the English regions and Wales, to ensure a balance of coverage. The Leader of the House will remember, I certainly well remember, the noise and clamour made from hon. Members on the Nationalist Bench because they were not given membership of the Select Committee. In future, the Nationalist Bench could perhaps be leased out to the public because it is certainly not used by the people who should be sitting on it. I can only assume that the reason for the total absence of the Scottish National party Members tonight is that they are rehearsing for after November, because they will also then be totally absent. I assume that there are no Scottish Tories present because they are rehearsing for after the next general election.

We were concerned to look after the Scottish dimension technically and editorially. For the purposes of the experiment, I would much prefer that the signal was transmitted by satellite so that regional stations around the country could pick up the clean feed and use it for regional and national purposes in Scotland and Wales, where programmes will clearly have a different emphasis from those of the south of England. In the report, we urge the broadcasting companies to do that. We urge them to send the signal around the country by satellite and I hope that our suggestion will be acted upon within the duration of the experiment. We did not, however, feel that we could instruct them to do that or that it should be written into the report, but the message is very clear.

I shall take up the point made by the hon. Member for Thanet, North—and doubtless it will be taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours)—about the absolute necessity for a dedicated channel. There is nothing in the report to prevent the existence of a dedicated channel if a company wants to take the signal and show it around the country. The amendment before us is a wrecking amendment because the idea that the experiment should collapse because a few thousand people scattered around the country cannot receive the signal on their little dishes is farcical. The idea that it would be a con trick if 100 per cent. of the people watched the House of Commons under the terms of this report but a great advance for democracy if 99 per cent. watched under the terms of the report and 1 per cent. under the terms outlined by the hon. Member for Thanet, North is ludicrous.

This is a wrecking amendment. I am in favour of a dedicated channel, which will come, but it is totally irrelevent to this report and its spirit to insist that a dedicated channel should be included in it. Let us put it to the test: if any station or satellite company wants to include a dedicated channel, it can do so. Quite frankly, if the suggestion of the hon. Member for Thanet, North that there should be 10 dedicated channels, one of the Chamber and nine of Committees, on offer, even The Sun would have difficulty giving away 100,000 dishes so that people could watch them.

Mr. Gale

The hon. Gentleman clearly misunderstood what I said. One satellite transponder will provide enough capacity to cover this Chamber and up to 10 Committees.

Mr. Wilson

I take the hon. Gentleman's point and doubtless my hon. Friend the Member for Workington will elaborate on it.

I support the report in its entirety and will do so in the vote tonight. This is not the end, but the beginning, of a major democratic advance in this country—there is no doubt about that. I can understand why Conservative Members might vote against it, but I cannot for the life of me understand why any Opposition Members would vote against a report which allows the electors to see what is said and done in their name. I cannot understand how anyone who pays lip service to democracy can, in the last stages of the 20th century, deny the electorate the right to see what is said and done in their name. That is the bottom line of the report.

I am not interested in the party advantages that will come out of the experiment because no one can forecast them, and that is not the way in which this matter should be measured. It should be measured as a democratic advance and anyone who fears that is in trouble with his own beliefs and principles.

The proposals in the report, when acted upon, will expose fools, reward wisdom and rubbish morons. They might change the behaviour of the House, but nothing I have seen since I came here suggests that behaviour in the House of Commons is so perfect that it does not need a little bit of change. Let us have in all that is suggested in the report by the time of the Queen's Speech. I am sure that once the cameras are in, they will stay in. Tonight, we are witnessing an important democratic advance with which I am proud to be associated and I congratulate the Leader of the House on the way in which he has led it.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. May I again appeal for short contributions of five or six minutes from each hon. Member? That would enable me to call everyone who wants to speak.

8.39 pm
Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst)

I wholeheartedly support televising the proceedings of the House for the reason given by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). The House of Commons is the heart of our parliamentary democracy. It may be a system that we sometimes take for granted, but perhaps events elsewhere in the world in the past two or three weeks will make us value it more.

If the Chamber is the heart of our parliamentary democracy, it is surely important that people should see what goes on in it. There is clearly a demand that they should. We all know how many requests we receive for people to get tickets to sit in the Strangers' Gallery. Every day a queue of people waits outside to come in. With television, all our constituents will have a chance to follow our proceedings.

I favour televising our proceedings, but they should stay as they are now. We should not change our procedures to accommodate television cameras. In that respect, I agree with the report of the Procedure Committee, on which I served. The House will recall that we agreed in principle to an experiment in February 1988 and the Select Committee was set up the following month. It has not produced its recommendations precipitately and there has been some criticism of the time it has taken. The Select Committee has gone into it in great detail and is to be congratulated on its thoroughness.

I have noted with interest the arguments in favour of a dedicated channel, which would be unedited, but I have no great enthusiasm for it—although I am not against the idea. Surely only a very small audience will want to watch continuous televising of the House. Most people will see what goes on here on news programmes and in programmes about Parliament. There is also the danger, with a dedicated channel, that word will get around that there is a sort of peak viewing time during which Members will jostle for position to make speeches, and that would certainly alter the character of our debates.

Of course, editing always takes place. We are bound to be worried about it, but the press and radio have always done it. We have often read reports in the newspapers which refer to every speech in a debate except the one that we made ourselves. We have often listened to "Today in Parliament" and heard about many speeches, after which the announcer informs us that three other Members also spoke, one of whom happens to be yours truly. Nevertheless, we have to live with editing.

I want to emphasise a point that others have already made about paragraph 59 and to express the hope that help will be given with televising for the deaf, who constitute a large minority of the population. There are in this country almost 4 million people who are hard of hearing and 50,000 who are born profoundly deaf. In recent years great advances have been made in the use of subtitles and sign language on television. Of course there will be difficulties about incorporting them into a television service, but they are not insuperable. I regret that the report merely expresses the hope that every effort will be made to meet the needs of the deaf. I want a stronger commitment. This is a wonderful opportunity to widen the world for deaf people and it should not be missed.

I also support the references to the televising of Standing and Select Committees. No doubt the two 15-minute Prime Minister's questions sessions will be fully televised each week, but they are not representative of Parliament. I should have liked some of my constituents to see the work of the Standing Committee on the Children Bill in recent weeks. In that Committee, on which I served, they would have seen Members of all parties working hard and well together to produce legislation on an important and sensitive area. It was Parliament at its best, and it is to be hoped that that is the sort of proceeding that the television cameras will cover—although I regret that, for most of the Committee's proceedings, not a soul was to be seen in the press seats.

As for the rules of coverage, paragraph 5 states: We would welcome a degree of flexibility in the experiment. In paragraph 37 a statement of objectives is given, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has referred: The director should seek … to give a full, balanced, fair and accurate account of proceedings". Has the Committee got it right to ensure that that will be done? Do its proposals incorporate the degree of flexibility to which it refers? We do not formally recognise that we have a public Gallery or that there is anyone in it; but we know that, except in the small hours, we are not alone. Surely the aim should be to allow the television viewer to see what a person who is physically present would usually see. As my right hon. Friend said, that would not be exactly possible because the person in the Gallery can look around the Chamber, whereas the viewer will see only what the camera shows—but that is the whole point: we are discussing where the camera should be looking.

Because this is a public forum, we must recognise that there will be a temptation for people to demonstrate occasionally because they will get publicity by so doing. Television cameras will create an even greater temptation. The Committee rightly proposes restrictions, but it is also important that our constituents should be able to see what is going on here and, as far as possible, get the feel of the place and absorb the atmosphere in which debates take place.

In addition to what are described as restrictions in paragraph 38 there are specific guidelines in paragraph 39. Perhaps there is a subtle difference between them, but the directors would clearly be well advised to comply with the so-called guidelines.

Let us consider for a moment what the effect on this debate would be if it were being televised. According to the standard format, my head and shoulders would be shown as I was speaking—and nothing else. I do not profess to be the most photogenic Member of the House—

Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

Oh yes you are.

Mr. Sims

It is kind of my hon. Friend, of all people, to say so. However, even if I were, 10 minutes of head and shoulders of any one person would not provide the most riveting viewing and would not be the best way of assessing that person's contribution.

What about body language? In the course of making a speech most of us use our hands, as I am unselfconsciously doing from time to time. I sometimes wonder whether some of our colleagues, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes), could be rendered mute by having their hands tied behind their backs. It is important that viewers should see whether Members are using notes and to what extent they are receiving the attention of the House. Are they addressing a packed House, hanging on their every word, or are just the Member and Mr. Speaker present? Anyone in the Gallery can see that, but the television viewer, under these restrictions, will not.

What about the effect of a Member's remarks? Even as I have been speaking some of my hon. Friends have been indicating assent, or otherwise, to my remarks, and that is all part of the debate. But under these restrictions the viewer will not be able to see that. I suggest that just as it is possible to allow a director complete freedom and the television cameras enough rope with which to hang themselves—so the experiment would fail—it is also possible to be so restrictive that the experiment will be judged to have failed. I am not sure that the Committee has got the balance entirely right between complete freedom and undue restriction. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has said that in Committee there were differences of view on that point. Therefore, it is right that the House should be given the opportunity to decide for itself on this point.

I hope that the House will support the report, but I invite it to omit the guidelines which confine shots to the head and shoulders of the Member who is speaking and preclude panning shots along the Benches.

8.51 pm
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

Over 12 months ago, I and other hon. Members were invited by Granada Television to the mock Commons studio in Manchester to debate the televising of Parliament. During those proceedings, I spoke against edited excerpts and in favour of a dedicated channel. I returned to my constituency after the programme had been transmitted and was confronted by people who said that I was opposed to the televising of Parliament. In so far as my comments had been edited, that served to confirm my reservation about the whole question of the editing of parliamentary proceedings. That is why I support a dedicated channel.

I want what Nye Bevan described in his last great speech in 1959, the re-establishment of intelligent communication between the House of Commons and the electorate as a whole. I might add that I do not want to see trivia. I have tabled three amendments, the first of which would block all transmissions from the Chamber apart from those on a dedicated channel. That amendment was not selected. My second amendment would permit edited excerpts to run concurrently with a dedicated channel over an experimental period. The dedicated channel was considered by the Committee and supported. The Committee report says: We believe that continuous coverage of the House's proceedings on a dedicated channel is a highly desirable objective in the public interest. The fact that we have not felt able to make any specific recommendations on the subject in this Report has nothing to do with the merits of the idea itself, which we strongly support; it stems from practical considerations related to the timing and nature of the experiment. British Aerospace and British Satellite Broadcasting gave evidence to the Committee. However, the Committee rejected their case and the proposals that they put forward for a dedicated channel. The problem, especially in the case of the submission by British Aerospace, was that it was based on funding the scheme from terrestrial broadcasting income and the use by the consumer of a dish costing more than £500 and a dish for professional purposes that costs £5,000.

British Aerospace was never asked a most important question. It was never asked whether it could transmit on a dedicated channel proceedings of the House to be received on a £150 to £200 Amstrad dish which is currently sold by Comet and Dixon's and a host of other retailers across the United Kingdom for receiving Sky television. The price of that dish is likely to fall and its use could bypass completely the terrestrial broadcasters because programmes could be transmitted straight from Westminster and received in people's homes on a cheap dish.

Mr. Dobson

Does my hon. Friend accept that even if his proposition went through the current viewing figures for Sky television are such that there are probably more people in the Strangers' Gallery watching this debate than would see it if his proposition were accepted?

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I can assure my hon. Friend that more people watch Sky television than are in the Gallery for the debate, and that dishes are being sold. My amendment would provide the kind of support that is needed.

As I say, the question that I have mentioned was never put to British Aerospace. I contacted the company today and it said: British Aerospace Telecommunications confirms that it could provide satellite and uplink facilities for the televising of Parliament using the ECS … low power satellite (needing a 1.2–1.5 m receiving dish) for about £1 million pa. Based on a usage of 32 week year, 37.5 hour week"— that is equivalent to our proceedings in their entirety apart from debates that take place after 10 pm— which is equivalent to £833 per hour. Signals could be received on dishes costing about £500 for this service. I am not putting forward that proposition. The letter continues: If smaller receiving dishes like those used for ASTRA are the requirement then we could, in principle and subject to availability, equally well operate to that satellite from our earthstation here at Stevenage. However, the satellite transponder charges for that space segment"— which is four times the power of the transponder that I referred to— are much greater and the BAe Telecommunications inclusive price for the same number of hours would be about £4m pa. This is equivalent to £3,330 per hour. It is understood that receivers from ASTRA are expected to cost less than £200 and many predict that within 12 months the price could fall to about £100. Some people would argue that my proposition would delay implementation of the report. I went back to British Aerospace for another letter which I received today. It says: BAe Telecommunications confirms that it has reserved capacity on the European Communications Satellite for at least the following three years and therefore could guarantee coverage of Parliamentary proceedings from the October date which you identified in our telephone conversation. I would also comment that the figures contained in our earlier letter from David Gregory"— I understand that Mr. Gregory is here for the debate— referring to prices and availability for the use of the Astra Satellite"— that is the Sky television £150 dish— were based on telephone conversations of today's date. I then asked for a further qualification and this also arrived today. It says: Further to Mr. Gregory's letter to you, I can confirm that BAeTeI has both the necessary ground transmission equipment and the capacity reserved on Eutelsat satellites for the next three years and as such can certainly transmit parliamentary proceedings from October this year. We can also confirm from a telephone conversation today that adequate capacity is also available on the Astra satellite for a similar period. I read that into the record to show that British Aerospace can provide the facility from October this year if Parliament seeks to resolve the matter in that way.

Mr. Dobson

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I am sorry, but I will not. I have already given way to my hon. Friend once, and it is now nearly 9 o'clock. I have an obligation to others who want to speak after me.

The examination of British Aerospace's option was based on the reaction of the broadcasters, who were fearful of the expenditure implications. They never considered direct broadcasting on cheap dishes running concurrently with the Committee's principal proposals. In other words, they did not consider direct broadcasting dishes. They relied on discussion about terrestrial broadcasting being part of the process.

I shall deal now with the cost. We have two options —£1 million for a £500 dish or £4 million for £150 reduced-in-price Amstrad dishes, plus £200,000 for a sending earthstation near Westminster. There are four options for funding that. First, there is public subscription, which some hon. Members will reject. Secondly, there is the possibility of advertising, which other hon. Members will reject. Thirdly, we have specialist consumers, a number of whom were identified by British Aerospace in a memorandum to the Committee, which said: there is a market throughout the UK for information on the deliberations of Government in the form of continuous sound, television and text by businesses, local press, educational establishments and private citizens. The second group of users is important as a way of monitoring publicly the editorial decisions of the first. We can also offer a service of electronic Hansard, and most town halls would want transmission and would pay for it. The public library system could equally subscribe, and I am also told that it is possible that the satellite companies, during this experimental period, might offer a concessionary tariff, if only with a view to getting the business long term.

Mr. Cryer

Will my hon. Friend give way?

Mr. Campbell-Savours

I am sorry, but it is 9 o'clock and I have given way once. Other people wish to speak in the debate.

At the end of the experimental period, we could either throw out the lot—something that some want to do—or we could thrown out either the dedicated channel or what I call edited excerpt television. If we were to throw out the second, should we proceed in the way that I suggest, the effect would be to increase the number of satellite dish sales. I am not saying that that is necessarily a matter that Parliament should take into account, but it would be a factor.

The fourth and final route that we may go down into the future is that of fibre optics. Along with others, British Telecom is advocating the principle of a fibre-optic network throughout the United Kingdom, on telephone lines. The cables will be capable of transmitting a television picture. In the longer term, those who do not take this service on a dish could take it on a fibre-optic cable.

9.2 pm

Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West)

I entirely agree with what the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) said, and I shall refer to that later. However, first I endorse what the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) said about the work of the Committee, which was one of the most pleasant and happy Select Committees on which I have served. The work was rather harder and took rather longer than I had anticipated. I pay tribute, as he did, to the remarkable leadership of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and to the amiability and good humour of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), the shadow Leader of the House, who also contributed to the work of the Committee. We were a diverse group, politically and in our views, and our discussions were vigorous but never rancorous.

Nothing that I have heard or seen since then has relieved the anxieties that I had when I voted in February 1988 against televising the House. I still retain anxieties about several points. The prime one, and the reason why I served on the Committee, concerns the rights of Back Benchers, which I wish to ensure are not further eroded. Every time we have had a so-called improvement in communications, or even in procedure, in Parliament, it has served to enhance the status and power of the Front Bench, no matter which party is in power. By definition, it has tended to diminish the influence of Back-Bench Members. There is a danger that television will accentuate this.

I put that point to a former Speaker and the present Speaker of the Canadian Parliament and they confirmed that such an outcome was a danger and had, to some extent, happened in the Canadian Parliament. Although the procedure there is different, Governments of all parties should be restrained, so far as possible, from hogging the Floor. The Select Committee on Procedure, which is well chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), should apply its mind to the problem, as no doubt it will in the near future.

I stress the importance of media people attending to regional coverage, which will he the only way that Back Benchers will be able to circumvent the domination of Front-Bench spokesmen. That is tremendously important if Back Benchers are not to disappear into the background in the presence of the grandees of the Front Benches.

My second concern is the quality of debate. We all know that apart from cross-party debates such as this or debates about sex, which are always very exciting, debate has been moving inexorably away from the Chamber. I fear that television will accelerate that movement. We shall, as I saw in the Canadian Parliament, cease to address each other and, increasingly, speak to the public outside, rather like party political broadcasts or horrible things like that. That was the experience in Canada, and unless we are careful the Chamber could ultimately become little more than show business, in which case we may as well hand over the presentation of Parliament straight away to actors and comedians and get on with the real discussion elsewhere. However, that is not why Parliament was formed and developed for many centuries.

Some hon. Members have expressed their concern about misbehaviour, but I feel that that worry has been exaggerated. Parliaments come and go, but exhibitionists will always be with us. Nevertheless, we shall have to watch that carefully. I do not believe that hon. Members will become much worse, but it is an illusion to suppose that suddenly their behaviour will be much better. In the sporting world, it was always said, "When the television cameras are looking on no one will be able to misbehave." The same argument has been advanced for Parliament. In truth, far from having curbed misconduct in sport, television has accentuated it. All the tomfoolery of running on to the pitch seems to be a feature of our modern sporting fields now that the cameras are on them.

I entirely understand the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), whom I greatly respect. If everyone were as gentlemanly as my hon. Friend, there would be no need for any rules or laws, but they are not, either in this place or in the reporting and journalism world. My answer to my hon. Friend is that, yes, we hope to be able to liberalise and have wider coverage than we have suggested in the report, but I always believe that it is far better to start tough and then see whether one can relax. It usually proves impossible to do it the other way round. It does not matter whether one is captaining a team or commanding a regiment, one should start tough and relax later.

Mr. Bruce Grocott (The Wrekin)

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that in Canada the rules that started tough have remained so for more than a decade?

Sir Anthony Grant

The hon. Gentleman is right about the federal Parliament, but that does not apply in the provincial Parliaments. I was not particularly impressed by that, but I hope that we can learn from Canada's experience and that in due course we will move more in the direction of the Toronto legislature than the federal Parliament in Ottawa.

I support the Committee's report in broad principle. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, it is a package. Predictably, it has been criticised by television people, who have a vested interest, and we must sustain their displeasure with fortitude. They are mostly intelligent and responsible people, and I pay tribute to them for the dedicated and interesting way in which they gave evidence to the Committee.

There was a time when it was said that Parliament was dominated by lawyers, but that no longer applies. Nowadays it tends to be dominated by journalists and media folk, and it is equally undesirable. It is essential, and the wish of an overwhelming number of Members, to keep control of the experiment ourselves and to ensure that the cameras show a broader view of Parliament than just the Chamber and the pantomime of Prime Minister's questions twice a week, which is so beloved of the BBC.

I agree with the hon. Member for Workington in his proposals for a dedicated channel, a gavel-to-gavel electronic Hansard or whatever it is. I should have liked such a system for radio. Many hon. Members who fear, as I do, the dangers of misleading or mischievous editing or selection in the hands of unaccountable people should support the amendment if, as the hon. Gentleman persuades me, it is a practical proposition.

The hon. Member for Workington need not worry about being ragged by his hon. Friends about fewer people in the Strangers' Gallery watching the proceedings. Not many people read Hansard, but it is available to them. That is the key point. I shall support the amendment. If it is lost, I shall support the report as a workmanlike and reasonable compromise in all the circumstances. I hope that we will not lose sight of the idea of a dedicated channel, which is the way forward.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

Order. I again appeal for five-minute speeches, which will enable me to call every hon. Member who wishes to speak.

9.10 pm
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)

The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) may like to categorise me as a journalist and media person, but in this matter I speak as a Member of the House of Commons who is concerned about the importance of this institution and this Chamber. It seems to me, as a Member of the House who is concerned with its interests, that the House is in danger of becoming an irrelevant, unimportant backwater unless we communicate on television with the people who now rely on television for news and information on current affairs.

Our role is not to control the Executive—we can do that only if it is afraid that we can throw it out. That function has passed from here to the people. Our role is not even to influence each other. In this Chamber we are developing and testing the arguments and putting to the people the cases for and against what the Government are doing as the raw materials on which, at the end of four or five years, they will decide whether to keep or throw the Government out. Our essential job is public education—putting the arguments before the people. We are, therefore, irrelevant and the job is incompetently done unless we reach the people through that medium. That is the essential argument for televising Parliament.

That has always been the case, and it is the case now. It is not so much that the people want Parliament televised, although 60 per cent. do, and it is not so much that they have a right to it, although they do. It is that we cannot do our job without televising Parliament.

In that light, I am not entirely happy with the Committee's report. It took far too long for the report to be produced—18 months was far too long. The report is too cautious because it is too deferential to our egos, susceptibilities and tendernesses and it attaches too little importance to the public's wishes. It is irrelevant, however, to go into that now, because the report has been agreed. Its recommendations will be developed in the light of experience. Indeed, because of the technical problems of covering the most difficult studio in the world and because of the quick interchange of debate, the recommendations will probably have to change anyway.

In any case, if the report had recommended that the speech of every Member should be prefaced by a herald from the royal chorus of trumpeters in the Gallery, that little cherubim and seraphim should be superimposed on the picture round every Member's head and that sound and applause should be dubbed in, I would have accepted that, too, because it is so important to get across the principle that the proceedings of this institution should be covered by the television cameras. If it gets the cameras in, I would accept it. That is the basis on which I accept the report.

The opposition to the report and to televising is based only on fear—fear of ourselves, of the medium and of the public outside. It is interesting that opponents of televising have moved their ground. They no longer oppose it in principle but are now trying to use other arguments, saying that we should have televising only if there is a dedicated channel and that it should be done liberally. Opposition to the principle is now concealed by other motives.

On amendment (c), I must say that I am an enthusiatic and strong supporter of a dedicated television channel, covering Parliament full time. That is essential. Indeed, I would go further and say that it is essential in this country to have a channel such as C-SPAN in the United States, which carries public affairs generally, so that the political nation can talk to the political nation. Such a channel would cover not only Parliament—because we are no longer the only forum for discussion—but the parties, the speeches, the press conferences, the pressure groups and the university seminars. I should like to see all that on television and it could be covered via satellite and via cable.

However, it is wrong to make a dedicated channel a sine qua non, which my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) has done, in effect. It is wrong to say that we will not have the report unless we have full-time, dedicated coverage. Such coverage will come. Getting Parliament on television will strengthen the case for it. People will want to put political issues in context and there is a demand for full-time coverage, which will be voiced only when Parliament is shown on the other terrestrial channels. Yet it is wrong to make a dedicated channel a condition of the coverage.

The report is too cautious and too late. We are 10 years behind most advanced countries, five years behind the other place, which has benefited enormously from coverage on television, and one year behind any reasonable timetable in this place. However, with all its problems, with all its reservations and with all its cautiousness, the report enshrines the vital principle of bringing to the people, through the medium on which they rely for their news and information about current affairs, what is being done by their representatives in their name and on the issues that affect their lives. That is the principle which we must espouse.

As hon. Member for Great Grimsby, where people cannot drop in and out of the Chamber, even with the difficulties that obtain for people here, I believe that we need to bring Parliament to everyone throughout the country. This is an historic opportunity and an historic moment for the House. Let us seize that opportunity.

9.16 pm
Sir John Stokes (Halesowen and Stourbridge)

I have spoken more on this subject than on any other subject I can remember. I am not a member of the communications industry, but just an ordinary Englishman. We must be careful not to think that we all spend all day every day looking at that awful box. It is very harmful to the nation, its manners and its morals. The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) said that the televising of our proceedings would change our procedures. That means, I suppose, that Question Time would become everyone else's high tea time. I do not want that to happen. I want our procedures to remain as they are. I want the House to remain what it is because I love this place. It has a special character which is quite unlike that of all the other places that have been televised, which are so terribly boring that nobody watches them. This place is special and precious and we must safeguard it.

I have always felt that, in general, the coming of the television industry has been thoroughly harmful rather than beneficial to the nation. When television covers current affairs, it tends to distort, to trivialise and to sensationalise. That is why I oppose the coming of television to this House and why I find it hard to accept the report, good as it no doubt is and hard as the Committee worked. The main danger is that television is a branch of the showbiz industry and it is not suited to the quite different business that we conduct here. That is why we must have every possible safeguard built into the experiment.

I noted that the clever Mr. Bernard Levin wrote a particularly stupid article in The Times in which he implied that by controlling the broadcasting we were trying to make ourselves look like plaster saints. We are not. We are trying to stop the television editors and producers making us look like a non-stop variety show.

We must never forget that the public have no interest in whether the House is televised. In my 19 years here, representing about 80,000 of the best people in England, not one has ever written to me saying, "You must televise your proceedings." All the demand for televising that has been talked about is absolute rubbish. Our constituents want to be able to send good men here, men whom they can trust. They will be all right then. Let us remember that in the greatest days of this country, not only was there no television but there was no reporting, and never has this country been better governed.

However, now we are told that we can learn some lessons from the televising of the proceedings in the other place, which I still so greatly admire, despite the new life peers. Television in the other place, originally much heralded, was initially broadcast daily, first at a reasonable hour, then at a late hour. Now the proceedings are broadcast only weekly. Then it will be monthly and eventually it will vanish altogether. Let us remember also that their Lordships have no constituents and that they are not subjected to the lobbying to which we are subjected.

We are in danger of making ourselves self-important and ridiculous. Hon. Members may think that the debate will be the talk of the pubs. Well, go to the pub tomorrow— not you, Mr. Speaker—and you will not hear the subject mentioned. It is of interest only to people in the media, not to most ordinary people, who are much more interested in cricket scores and good things like that. We must have a sense of proportion. Surely the Labour party, which purports to represent the ordinary man, should hold such views just as much as the Tory party. I am surprised that it does not.

I fear that the televising of our proceedings would utterly ruin the character of this great and famous Chamber, the most famous debating chamber in the world. I very much hope that this nonsense is thrown out.

9.21 pm
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I have some sympathy with some of the fears expressed by the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes), but the House has taken a decision and unless people disagree with that decision—their moral right to do so is questionable—we shall have an experiment. Therefore, it should be as good as we can make it.

I agree with the hon. Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge, and the many other hon. Members who feel concern about this, that the perception of our constituents about the job of a Member of Parliament is that we come into the Chamber, sit in serried ranks and speak or not speak as the case may be. We all know that the job of Parliament and of parliamentarians is about much more than either being in here or in Committee, but we cannot get that across to our constituents. Sound radio tended to reinforce that wrong perception. Many people are concerned that that perception will be still more heightened by the way in which edited excerpts and highlights, emphasising the Front Benches, will be used during television news programmes and I believe that that is probably what will happen. The danger of that is comparable to hearing a Beethoven symphony played on the timpani and the trumpet. We must do something in the experiment to counteract that.

Some people have said that "Today in Parliament" is a good programme and it is perhaps the best of the BBC's efforts. However, I wrote to the editors of the programme many years ago when I first became a Member of the House and asked why they did not mention the Adjournment debates, saying, "Surely people are interested in knowing that this cottage hospital or that bypass has been discussed." I said that the debate need not be mentioned in detail but that the fact that an hon. Member had raised a matter should be referred to. The editors said, "No, it will be of concern to only a small number of people. That is not news."

What we do here may not he newsworthy but it is important. If, as my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) has said, this is the biggest television studio in the world, it will be used by the media as a new source of raw material. This place is much more important than that. It should not be seen simply as a new source of visual news material. This place is the centre of the democratic operations of our nation and democracy today is on the march. We know that a great deal of what we do here today was developed in the 1680s and 1690s and that many things happened across the Channel and in North America in the 1780s and the 1790s.

We see events from all around the world on television. We see and hear about what is happening to the democratic process in Poland, Moscow and in Tiananmen square. Poland and perhaps even South Africa may be branching out towards democracy. We are not talking about just another show or more raw material For the broadcasters. We are talking about something that should be put in its worldwide context. We are the guardians of a procedure that I believe to be unique.

On Friday 9 June The Independent carried a translation of what one young man had written on the hoardings in Tiananmen square: So we appeal to the Chinese: Get rid of the tradition of pure ideology-making, of sloganising, of objectifying. These are empty democracy. They must start the process of actual operation, of practical procedures, of turning a democracy movement centred on the enlightenment of thought into that of an actual operation. They must start with the details. The procedures of the House are practical examples of democracy in action. Our democracy may not be perfect, but at least it is in operation and, to some extent, we are pioneers. Anything that could possibly damage our proceedings must be viewed with concern.

My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby is right that, unless the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) is accepted, it will be the producers and editors who press the button and choose what the public see. It will be the executives who choose the producers, the directors of television firms who choose the executives and those who own the firms who choose the directors.

I believe that the condition of having a dedicated channel, if that is possible, as I understand it, is an important one. It would allow people who wanted to see part of an Adjournment debate to do so. A debate could be relayed to a town hall, for example. It would allow people to see their Parliament. Tonight, we are in a position to decide that all the people should be able to see all the time all that is said and done in their name in their Parliament. That would be a very important democratic safeguard.

I hope that my hon. Friend's amendment will be accepted, because there can hardly be a case against it. But even if it is not, I hope that the Committee will proceed along similar lines. Unless it does, the perception of this place and the way in which it works—the democratic methods that we have developed—may be placed in jeopardy. I urge the House to support my hon. Friend's amendment and the proceedings of the House as we know them and to make them open to the whole public all the time.

9.28 pm
Mrs. Edwina Currie (Derbyshire, South)

I support the report and I shall vote for the motion in the name of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House. I am delighted to note that, although so many hon. Members are busy with European elections and by-elections and even though it is Monday, we have quite a good turnout. I hope that we shall make progress tonight. I think that we shall be making history tonight and we shall remember that with pleasure in the years to come.

Let me offer a word of praise for the Committee's efforts. The press coverage of the Committee's report was not good preparation for this debate. Many of the leader writers in national newspapers hooted with laughter and cast derision on what it said. As the Opposition Front Bench spokesman ruefully admitted, the press mainly poked fun at the Opposition, and called them denizens of London's clubland queruling lest some unauthorised person should blow his nose in the billiards room. That strikes me as a pretty fair description of one or two Opposition Members.

The Committee's report, however, was not like the representations of it in the press. Some of it could only have been written by a Committee. I read with amusement paragraph 21 which says: In addition to our proposals for House representation on the board of House of Commons Broadcasting Unit Ltd., we recommend the appointment of an Officer of the House to act as the Supervisor of Broadcasting. The Supervisor should report to a monitoring Select Committee. That could only have been written by a Committee; what busy bees they are going to be. That sort of tone is a bit of a pity and it demonstrates some of the compromises that the Committee had to reach.

I take the point made by my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House that this is an experiment. We should go along with it and make our decision when it is over. I do not accept the proposals put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale). I listened carefully to his description of the technical possibilities, but he was beginning to put me off. He suggested that we might have access to 10 Select Committees simultaneously. That does not attract me, as I have had considerable difficulties with one Select Committee. I hope that my hon. Friend will understand if I demur a little at the way that he put his point.

In general, I am impressed. It is clear that a great deal of work has gone into the report. I listened to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) said about the proposal to restrict the view to head and shoulders, which was also mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims). I think it a little unfortunate to dub that as merely shampoo politics. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) has left the Chamber—probably for a television interview—because if such shampoo politics were to encourage him to have a haircut, that might be an advantage. What is the problem? Why do right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House feel so concerned? I look at the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and bear in mind that on television we all look about a stone heavier, as he well knows. I wonder whether he is worried that constituents might be a little concerned about ample girths or that on some occasions hon. Members are not dressed as sartorially as they might want. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Wirral, West (Mr. Hunt)—who served on the Committee—and other right hon. and hon. Members, especially on the Conservative Benches, should be perfectly satisfied with the notion that they might be photographed from the neck down as well as from the neck up. I note that the real concern of the Committee is that it does not want close-ups, which I do not understand, but it is an experiment and we should proceed with it.

I have listened carefully to the debate and I am glad to have this opportunity to participate in it. I gained a slight impression from the Committee's report and from many Opposition Members that the House produces something —a debate, procedure or an activity—and that someone wants to interfere with it and take it from us. Paragraph 11(i) refers to consumers being the broadcasting companies whereas paragraph 37 refers to viewers. On the other hand, my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House implied that the broadcasters are the producers and that the House, in purchasing a sort of electronic Hansard, will be the customer. Both those approaches are fundamentally flawed because they show no awareness of the fact that the consumers are the viewers, and that the viewers are the voters. They put us here and they are puzzled why we keep them out. They do not understand what we are debating tonight—53 years after the first television broadcast in Britain; they cannot understand why we are so afeared of it.

That point was put extremely well by Robert Harris in a recent article in The Sunday Times. He said: What kind of timid and enfeebled nation have we become that we cannot be allowed to see our own legislature at work in all its noise and colour, its inefficiencies and longueurs?.… who exactly is protecting whom. Nobody seriously believes that it is the electorate which has to be shielded from the unsavoury sight of the Commons"— even the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras in full spate.

Quite the reverse. It is the Commons which has decided that it wants protection from the prying eyes of the public. Thus is democracy … stood on its head. All it leads to is the impression outside this place that we have something to hide—not that broadcasters or viewers cannot be trusted, but that we flinch at public reaction. That is nonsense.

Mr. Richard Tracey (Surbiton)


Mrs. Currie

I have been asked to be brief, and I shall honour that.

I shall vote for my right hon. Friend's motion because I recognise the work that has been done and because the report makes sensible suggestions. Most of all, I will vote for the report because it will get the cameras in here, and it is about time. The people will then judge, and whichever way they judge, I will be content.

9.34 pm
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West)

If for no other reason, I compliment the hon. Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie) on her choice of colours this evening; they will look very good on television. The thought of her coming at the public on 10 different channels makes even the strongest hon. Member baulk.

I owe the Leader of the House an apology. I am prepared to give him that apology this evening. The advent of the report has taken away my favourite business question. I thought that the right hon. Gentleman was dragging his feet. I thought that the report was rather like the holy grail—everyone had heard of it, but no one knew where it was. At least the report is here, but I am disappointed that it is timid. There is not the scope that I would have expected the Select Committee to come up with. I do not like the commercialism in it—the idea of setting up a limited company. I know that that might be paying lip service to the economic philosophy of the present Government, and of the Prime Minister in particular, but I do not think that it suits the House of Commons. It could even be the thin end of the sponsorship wedge. Before long, we will end up as the John Player Parliament, with Mr. Speaker's wig being sponsored by Vidal Sassoon and the hon. Member for Littleborough and Saddleworth (Mr. Dickens) being sponsored by Harrods' food hall. I do not think that we want that.

I will support the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), although I suspect his motives. I know how he feels about broadcasting and the televising of Parliament. A dedicated channel is wanted. It will answer all our doubts and fears. It would mean that there would be no intermediary and no filter. I do not consider that we have been well served by the Press Gallery. I would like to see the director being able to aim the cameras towards the Press Gallery so that members of the public could see just how few members of the press are here, yet they manage to write so much, and so much that is incorrect, about what we say.

I do not know why The Sun bothers to have someone in the Parliamentary Lobby. For the life of me, if The Sun can have someone in the Parliamentary Lobby, so should the Exchange and Mart, Penthouse and, quite frankly, Beano and Dandy as well. I do not want people of that sort interposing between what goes on here and the public. That is why a dedicated channel is absolutely crucial. We should not be looking around for someone to pay for it. We should do it in the interests of democracy. We should say that democracy is beyond price in the market place and that, therefore, Parliament is prepared to put up the necessary funds.

In conclusion, I ask the Leader of the House one question. If the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Workington is passed, will the right hon. Gentleman advise the House to support the amended substantive motion? Quite frankly, if I thought that, by supporting my hon. Friend's amendment, we were likely to lose even that which we have, clearly I will opt for the smaller and look later for the larger, extended, dedicated channel which I know would find support on both sides of the House.

9.38 pm
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)

When my right hon. Friend used the phrase "the important thing is", referring to Committees, I hoped that he was going to say, "The important thing is that the experiment being conducted should not interfere with the work of the Select Committee." I have forgotten what it was that he said was important, but it was not the most important thing of the lot. Quite a number of hon. Members have said that the epicentre of effective action has moved out of the Chamber. That is certainly so. It is the Select Commit tees which, by being able to focus sustained questioning on witnesses, are able to get information in a way that the one question only on the Floor of the House at Question Time never can.

If questioning is to be focused and sustained in Select Committee, it is absolutely essential that every member of the Committee has a full view of the witnesses who are being examined and that the lighting is not such as to impede the Committee in its work. We could very easily achieve a situation where we look like the Toton Macoute in Haiti, where more and more Members are wearing dark glasses. Although those who recommended televising Parliament before the crucial vote never stopped assuring us that the cameras today needed no additional lighting to what we already have, having got the vote, they then assure us that there is no truth in that whatever and that greatly increased levels of lighting are needed. That, I think, was a bit of sleight of hand that the House did not deserve.

I am particularly concerned about the effect of these proposals on Select Committees, even more than the effect on the Chamber. The important thing is that the advent of television will put the public in the position that they would have been if they could have been in the Gallery or in a Select Committee meeting—it should not alter what they are seeing. That is the criterion by which we should judge the success or failure of this experiment.

The lighting must be controlled. The cameras in Select Committee must not interfere with the process of examining witnesses. If they do, the Chairman of the Select Committee must have power to order them to cease doing whatever they are doing that is breaking the focus and the sustained effect of the questioning.

I shall support the amendment of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), because I think it is a very valuable thing indeed that, just as nobody censors what those in the Gallery see and nobody censors what is seen in public sittings of Select Committees, the programme going out continuously will not be chopped about to the convenience of somebody other than the viewers.

9.41 pm
Mr. Bob Cryer (Bradford, South)

I shall be brief because I know that a couple of other hon. Members want to speak. Although I welcome the report and I voted for the advent of televising the House, I must say that the experiment is far too closely controlled. It is as though the Committee was very much afraid of the media rather than it being composed of people who have grown increasingly used to working with them.

The reality is that the Chamber has been withering. The attendance tonight is not too bad, but for the majority of the time a dozen hon. Members is about the maximum present. Indeed, in spite of big occasions such as the Budget, the biggest attendance that I can recall since 1987 has not been for a debate on an external crisis, on events in other countries, or on the economic crisis, but it was when the House was discussing the discipline to be handed out to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Brown). Television cameras would help to replace such a discussion with more important issues, would gain maximum attendance in the Chamber and would encourage a reversal in the decline of attendance in what should be the centre piece of Parliament.

One does not deny the importance of Select Committees and the cross-examination of witnesses. My hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton) said that the freemasons have been giving evidence this afternoon, which is a matter of great import, and that that would, no doubt, have been covered by television. The fact is, however, that the Chamber is one of the most important places in the building, where Ministers are called to account. If this place is packed, it is more forbidding for Ministers. They have to get the nuts and bolts of their cases much more ordered in their minds before they come here. As many hon. Members have said, the advent of television will, of course, increase the democratic relationship with people outside. It will also make Ministers that bit more fearful of this place, which will be all to the good.

I have strong reservations about the idea of a dedicated channel. It seems to be a recipe for undermining the proposals and not for adding to them. I do not want Parliament to be put into an electronic ghetto to be seen by everyone for about five minutes in their lives, then switched off to become a memory. If we have confidence in ourselves and confidence in this place as the forum for the exchange of views and ideas we should have the confidence to put ourselves on a par with the rest of the other events reported by the media electronically on television.

We grumble about the press and about the way in which it reports us because it does not report the words of the particular individual. None the less, the press has access to the House. There was opposition to the access of Hansard and opposition to the access of radio—I can recall the debates and anxieties then and I can recall the packed House for Welsh Question Time on the first day that radio was introduced to the House. Radio has taken its place in our proceedings and television will play its part.

I shall vote for the report because I see it as the beginning of television making a proper, adequate report of this debating Chamber, which should be the important focus of attention in the nation's affairs.

9.45 pm
Mr. Anthony Nelson (Chichester)

I concur with some of the sentiments expressed by the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer). This issue is one of commonality across the party lines and I welcome that as this is a matter peculiar to the House itself.

Although the Committee has come in for some fair criticism and comment this evening, I believe that it has had a difficult but important task in trying to read the will of the House as expressed in February 1988. It has tried to draw a line between those who wanted no television and those who wanted the most liberal coverage of the House and in doing so it has struck the right balance. Although the report may not have pleased everyone, the experiment is worth a try and it should be seen as an experiment.

Before we vote tonight we should recall the principles which have been enunciated by a number of hon. Members tonight and which led the House to support the motion in February 1988. Those principles were repeated by the hon. Member for Bradford, South. Televising the Chamber will have a demonstrable impact on the influence of Parliament over the Executive. To some extent that influence has slipped since the introduction of Select Committees, welcome as they are, in 1979. The power and influence of Government have grown. Why should we exercise a self-denying ordinance? Is it not somewhat patronising for us to say that politics should be left to us alone and that people outside are not interested? We seek their mandate and their support. We say that we should be accountable to the people, but we say that they should not be allowed to see what we do in this place.

There is a latent, pent-up demand—more so than some hon. Members have assessed—for televising the proceedings of the House. As has already been said, this matter should not be seen from the point of view of what the broadcasters wants to deliver as they may look at things in terms of the national numbers who watch their programmes. For the people of each region there are issues of great importance and those people should be entitled, not only to read and listen to the proceedings of the House, but to see and assess for themselves the mood of this place about decisions that affect their regions.

The guidelines that have been established and the rules of coverage proposed will enable a fair, true and balanced representation of this House to be shown. In Committee we sought to take account of the misgivings expressed in the numerous representations from hon. Members to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House as Chairman of the Committee. We have set up the structure for the House of Commons Broadcasting Unit and have proposed a director of broadcasting in this House to allay some of the worst fears expressed.

If the rules prove to be too restrictive, the monitoring facility will allow those rules to be changed. It is interesting that, from this debate, it is clear that it is thought that the rules might be too restrictive and that the Committee should have been inclined to be more liberal, but those rules can be suitably amended.

The Committee gave proper emphasis to the importance of Select Committee work. Those Committees and the Standing Committees occupy much of the time of hon. Members, they are part of the proceedings of the House and they undertake important work. It is right and proper that coverage by the media and television should cover them as well.

The amendments which have been chosen by you, Mr. Speaker, the amendment of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), should not commend themselves to the House. The first is essentially a wrecking amendment and the latter—[Interruption] The latter amendment leaves the rules of coverage too wide to satisfy the House at this time.

Mr. Patrick Thompson (Norwich, North)


Mr. Nelson

I shall not give way at this time, but I will explain why the first is a wrecking amendment. We are concerned with an experiment and the House was concerned that the Select Committee should bring forward recommendations for its implementation. Not unreasonably, it has tried to impose it by the autumn of this year.

Whatever British Aerospace or the hon. Member for Workington may say about the provision of a dedicated channel, which I would support in the longer term were we to have permanent arrangements, it is not a practical arrangement for the short term. If it were made a condition of the package of the main motion it might result in the whole experiment being dropped. It should be seen for what it is: a wrecking amendment, which should be dismissed by the House.

For those reasons, I hope that the House will take further the step which it embarked on in February 1988. A historic step can be taken tonight and I hope that the House will not turn back from it.

9.51 pm
Mr. Wakeham

This has been an interesting and well-informed debate, with contributions from members of the Select Committee and other hon. Members, representing a wide range of views. If I have taken one message from the debate, it is that hon. Members from both sides of the argument feel that the time has come for decisions.

The House is not being invited tonight to reopen the principle of televising the House. That argument was settled, for the time being, last February. We are concerned with the machinery for implementing the experiment. The report ensures that the House will have the chance to vote for or against the permanent televising at about this time next year. That is a point which I make to my hon. Friend the Member for Halesowen and Stourbridge (Sir J. Stokes)—and I have a shrewd suspicion about the way in which he will vote.

I am sure that the House will forgive me if I do not attempt to respond to all the points made by hon. Members. There are a number of specific points and questions with which I shall seek to deal. I am grateful for the kind things said about me in various parts of the Chamber, particularly the comments of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson). I spend most of my time trying to put him right on one thing or another, but it was a great pleasure to work with him in Committee, as it was with the other Committee members, and the advisers and Clerks who served us extremely well. I agree with the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) that we learnt a lot from the witnesses who substantially improved our knowledge of the subject.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen) admonished us for attaching too much weight and seriousness to the proceedings of the House. He told us that we were theatre. I thank him for his entertaining contribution.

I feel like saying to my hon. Friend the Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) that I feel a bit like the Irishman and would not necessarily have started from here. I was against the experiment in the first place, and voted and spoke against it. I certainly did not persuade anybody to vote for it on the basis that the lighting would be one thing or another. The concerns which he expressed were directly expressed in paragraph 85 of our report, which stated that if any difficulties became evident during the experiment they could be looked at. We had a test of the lighting and were reasonably satisfied with the results, although, again, the experiment may offer us scope for changes.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire (Mr. Kirkwood) focused primarily on the iniquities, as he and his hon. Friends see it, of our electoral system, and made two points. He drew attention to what he called the Scottish dimension of the experiment. The Committee felt strongly that the Scottish affairs and concerns of other parts of the United Kingdom should be properly reflected, and we obtained assurances from the broadcasters on that point. The broadcasters specifically expressed interest in televising the meetings of the Scottish Grand Committee in Edinburgh.

The hon. Gentleman also spoke about monitoring the broadcast output. We are considering proposals for a comprehensive monitoring exercise during the experiment, which would include political balance and regional coverage among the items to be analysed.

My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South-East (Mrs. Currie) and the hon. Members for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) and for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) all accused the Committee of being too timid, but for different reasons. Being accused of being reluctant and slow by those hon. Members and by my hon. Friend from different viewpoints convinces me that we have probably not got it too far wrong.

Before I finish, I want to say a word about the two amendments that have been selected. The amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) holds out the enticing prospect of a dedicated channel providing continuous coverage of our proceedings. I know that that proposition will hold appeal for many Members. I for one would very much like to have a dedicated channel, but I ask the House carefully to examine what the amendment means. If it were passed, the experiment could not take place unless a dedicated channel was established. The report makes it quite clear that, as no public money is available for this purpose, the idea of a dedicated channel can be realised only as a result of commercial decisions by the broadcasters. That is the present position; I am not talking about a dedicated channel at some time in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) argued his case skilfully, as did the hon. Member for Workington, and gave the House figures which purported to show that a dedicated channel was financially viable. My hon. Friend's and the hon. Gentlemen's enthusiasm is not matched at present by the broadcasters. Even they would agree that it would be quite wrong for the House to seek to second guess their judgement—

Mr. Campbell-Savours

If the right hon. Gentleman had heard me move my amendment, he would realise that it did not relate to terrestrial broadcasters: it is to do with a direct transmission system.

Mr. Wakeham

I appreciate that, but if the experiment cannot take place unless we have a dedicated channel some broadcasters—commercial broadcasters, not necessarily existing ones—must finance it. If any broadcaster says that he wants to broadcast a satellite programme starting in October, I for one would be perfectly happy for him to do so. I am not stopping anyone doing so; anyone who wishes to apply can do so. I am suggesting that, if no one applies, that is not a case for not going ahead with the experiment.

Despite every opportunity, neither British Aerospace nor British Satellite Broadcasting came forward to us, or more importantly to the broadcasters, with a fully costed and worked-out formal position. To go broke on the basis of three letters to the hon. Member for Workington seems to me highly risky, to say the least. If the House passes the hon. Gentleman's amendment, it will in effect throw the whole experiment back into the melting pot of uncertainty and, possibly, of protracted delay. I therefore recommend that the House votes against amendment (c), although it is for individual right hon. and hon. Members to make up their own minds. [Interruption.] To answer the hon. Member for Newham, North-West, who asked me whether I would vote for the main Question if the amendment were passed, I still would. That does not mean that it would not involve risks.

The other amendment that the House must decide upon is that moved in a characteristically thoughtful way by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), relating to the rules of coverage. Here the argument is simple. The Committee has recommended a framework of rules which strikes a balance between the strict Canadian model and the somewhat relaxed regime which applies in the other place. My hon. Friend is proposing significantly to relax the rules proposed by the Committee in a way that I do not think would lead to the sort of coverage of our proceedings that most hon. Members would want.

There is a further practical point. It is very much wiser to start as the Committee proposes with a fairly strict set of rules and the prospect of some relaxation as the experiment develops. If a convincing case can be made in the light of experience, that is well and good. I do not think that it would be quite so easy in practice to tighten up the rules once the experiment has begun. Therefore, I advise the House not to accept amendment (n).

It is now 16 months since the House voted in favour of an experiment in televising our proceedings. The report offers a sensible, balanced and practical way to implement the will of the House, and I recommend it to the House as it stands.

It being Ten o'clock, MR. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to order [9 June], to put the Questions necessary to dispose of the motion and of the amendments thereto which had been selected by him.

Amendment proposed: (c), at end add 'provided that televised proceedings of the House are broadcast on a dedicated channel, unedited, from the start of the sitting to the rising of the House.'.—[Mr. Campbell-Savours.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 98, Noes 274.

Division No. 232] [10 pm
Alexander, Richard Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Beaumont-Dark, Anthony
Ashby, David Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Atkinson, David Bidwell, Sydney
Blackburn, Dr John G. Kirkhope, Timothy
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Knapman, Roger
Brazier, Julian Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston)
Browne, John (Winchester) Lawrence, Ivan
Burns, Simon Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh)
Butler, Chris Lord, Michael
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) McNair-Wilson, Sir Michael
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Mans, Keith
Carrington, Matthew Marlow, Tony
Carttiss, Michael Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Martin, David (Portsmouth S)
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Moate, Roger
Clelland, David Moss, Malcolm
Cohen, Harry Mudd, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Mullin, Chris
Cox, Tom Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon
Cran, James Page, Richard
Cummings, John Pawsey, James
Dunn, Bob Pendry, Tom
Emery, Sir Peter Porter, David (Waveney)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Quin, Ms Joyce
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Rhodes James, Robert
Franks, Cecil Riddick, Graham
Fry, Peter Rooker, Jeff
Gale, Roger Sayeed, Jonathan
Gill, Christopher Shaw, David (Dover)
Glyn, Dr Alan Skinner, Dennis
Godman, Dr Norman A. Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Gordon, Mildred Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW) Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Greenway, Harry (Ealing N) Summerson, Hugo
Gregory, Conal Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Tracey, Richard
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Walden, George
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Hannam, John Wall, Pat
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Watts, John
Hawkins, Christopher Wells, Bowen
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Wiggin, Jerry
Holt, Richard Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hughes, Roy (Newport E) Wolfson, Mark
Irving, Charles
Janman, Tim Tellers for the Ayes:
Jessel, Toby Mr. Nigel Spearing and
Kilfedder, James Mrs Ann Clwyd.
Abbott, Ms Diane Boateng, Paul
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Boscawen, Hon Robert
Allen, Graham Boswell, Tim
Alton, David Bottomley, Peter
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bottomley, Mrs Virginia
Amess, David Bowis, John
Anderson, Donald Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard
Arbuthnot, James Bright, Graham
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Armstrong, Hilary Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Buckley, George J.
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Budgen, Nicholas
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Burt, Alistair
Ashton, Joe Butterfill, John
Baldry, Tony Caborn, Richard
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Canavan, Dennis
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Carlile, Alex (Mont'g)
Barron, Kevin Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Batiste, Spencer Cash, William
Battle, John Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Beckett, Margaret Chapman, Sydney
Beith, A. J. Chope, Christopher
Bell, Stuart Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Bellingham, Henry Conway, Derek
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bermingham, Gerald Corbett, Robin
Bevan, David Gilroy Cormack, Patrick
Biffen, Rt Hon John Couchman, James
Blair, Tony Cousins, Jim
Blunkett, David Critchley, Julian
Crowther, Stan Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Cryer, Bob Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Cunningham, Dr John Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Curry, David Kennedy, Charles
Dalyell, Tam Key, Robert
Darling, Alistair King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Kirkwood, Archy
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Knox, David
Davis, David (Boothferry) Latham, Michael
Day, Stephen Leadbitter, Ted
Dixon, Don Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dobson, Frank Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Doran, Frank Lightbown, David
Dorrell, Stephen Lilley, Peter
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Litherland, Robert
Dun woody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Durant, Tony Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Dykes, Hugh Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Eadie, Alexander McCartney, Ian
Eastham, Ken Macdonald, Calum A.
Eggar, Tim MacGregor, Rt Hon John
Fallon, Michael McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Fatchett, Derek MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire)
Favell, Tony Maclean, David
Fearn, Ronald McLeish, Henry
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) McLoughlin, Patrick
Flannery, Martin McWilliam, John
Flynn, Paul Madden, Max
Fookes, Dame Janet Mahon, Mrs Alice
Forman, Nigel Major, Rt Hon John
Forth, Eric Malins, Humfrey
Foster, Derek Maples, John
Fraser, John Marland, Paul
Freeman, Roger Maude, Hon Francis
French, Douglas Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick
Garel-Jones, Tristan Meale, Alan
George, Bruce Mellor, David
Golding, Mrs Llin Michael, Alun
Goodhart, Sir Philip Mills, Iain
Gould, Bryan Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Greenway, John (Ryedale) Mitchell, Sir David
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Montgomery, Sir Fergus
Grist, Ian Moonie, Dr Lewis
Grocott, Bruce Morgan, Rhodri
Ground, Patrick Morley, Elliott
Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Hague, William Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom) Morrison, Sir Charles
Hampson, Dr Keith Mowlam, Marjorie
Hanley, Jeremy Murphy, Paul
Hardy, Peter Neale, Gerrard
Harman, Ms Harriet Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Harris, David Nicholls, Patrick
Haselhurst, Alan Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Hayes, Jerry Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Hay hoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney O'Neill, Martin
Haynes, Frank Oppenheim, Phillip
Hayward, Robert Paice, James
Heathcoat-Amory, David Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Patnick, Irvine
Hinchliffe, David Patten, Chris (Bath)
Hind, Kenneth Patten, John (Oxford W)
Howard, Michael Portillo, Michael
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Prescott, John
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Price, Sir David
Howells, Geraint Radice, Giles
Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd) Rathbone, Tim
Hughes, John (Coventry NE) Redmond, Martin
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Redwood, John
Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Renton, Tim
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Richardson, Jo
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Ingram, Adam Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Irvine, Michael Robertson, George
Jack, Michael Rogers, Allan
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rowe, Andrew
Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn) Rowlands, Ted
Ruddock, Joan Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Sackville, Hon Tom Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Sainsbury, Hon Tim Thorne, Neil
Scott, Nicholas Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert Turner, Dennis
Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW) Twinn, Dr Ian
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Shore, Rt Hon Peter Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Short, Clare Waldegrave, Hon William
Sims, Roger Wallace, James
Skeet, Sir Trevor Walley, Joan
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Ward, John
Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E) Wareing, Robert N.
Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam) Warren, Kenneth
Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Soames, Hon Nicholas Wheeler, John
Soley, Clive Widdecombe, Ann
Speller, Tony Wilkinson, John
Squire, Robin Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John Wilson, Brian
Steel, Rt Hon David Winterton, Mrs Ann
Stern, Michael Winterton, Nicholas
Stevens, Lewis Worthington, Tony
Stewart, Andy (Sherwood) Yeo, Tim
Stott, Roger
Straw, Jack Tellers for the Noes:
Sumberg, David Mr. Anthony Nelson and
Taylor, Matthew (Truro) Mr. Austin Mitchell.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed: (n), at end add 'except for recommendations (i), (iv) and (vi) in paragraph 39.'.—[Mr. Sims.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 109, Noes 243.

Division No. 233] [10.14 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Alton, David Grocott, Bruce
Armstrong, Hilary Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Ashby, David Hampson, Dr Keith
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Harman, Ms Harriet
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Hawkins, Christopher
Barron, Kevin Hayes, Jerry
Battle, John Haynes, Frank
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Holt, Richard
Bermingham, Gerald Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Blair, Tony Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Blunkett, David Irvine, Michael
Bray, Dr Jeremy Irving, Charles
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Janman, Tim
Caborn, Richard Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Canavan, Dennis Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Kennedy, Charles
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Kilfedder, James
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Kirkwood, Archy
Corbett, Robin Latham, Michael
Cormack, Patrick Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Cox, Tom Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Cryer, Bob McCartney, Ian
Dalyell, Tarn McKay, Allen (Barnsley West)
Darling, Alistair Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Moonie, Dr Lewis
Doran, Frank Morgan, Rhodri
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Morley, Elliott
Eadie, Alexander Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe)
Fatchett, Derek Morrison, Sir Charles
Fearn, Ronald Mowlam, Marjorie
Flannery, Martin Mudd, David
Flynn, Paul Mullin, Chris
Gale, Roger O'Neill, Martin
Gordon, Mildred Page, Richard
Gregory, Conal Prescott, John
Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E') Price, Sir David
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S) Quin, Ms Joyce
Rathbone, Tim Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Redmond, Martin Walker, Bill (T'side North)
Redwood, John Wall, Pat
Rhodes James, Robert Wallace, James
Riddick, Graham Wareing, Robert N.
Robertson, George Warren, Kenneth
Rooker, Jeff Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Sims, Roger Wiggin, Jerry
Skeet, Sir Trevor Winnick, David
Skinner, Dennis Wise, Mrs Audrey
Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury) Worthington, Tony
Soley, Clive
Steel, Rt Hon David Tellers for the Ayes:
Stradling Thomas, Sir John Miss Ann Widdecombe and
Summerson, Hugo Mr. John Bowis.
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Alexander, Richard Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g)
Allen, Graham Davis, David (Boothferry)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Day, Stephen
Amess, David Dixon, Don
Anderson, Donald Dobson, Frank
Arbuthnot, James Dorrell, Stephen
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Dunn, Bob
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Durant, Tony
Ashton, Joe Dykes, Hugh
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Eastham, Ken
Baldry, Tony Eggar, Tim
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Favell, Tony
Batiste, Spencer Field, Barry (Isle of Wight)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Field, Frank (Birkenhead)
Beckett, Margaret Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Beith, A. J. Fookes, Dame Janet
Bell, Stuart Forman, Nigel
Bellingham, Henry Forth, Eric
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Foster, Derek
Bevan, David Gilroy Fox, Sir Marcus
Bidwell, Sydney Franks, Cecil
Biffen, Rt Hon John Fraser, John
Boateng, Paul Freeman, Roger
Boscawen, Hon Robert French, Douglas
Boswell, Tim Fry, Peter
Bottomley, Peter Garel-Jones, Tristan
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia George, Bruce
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Gill, Christopher
Brazier, Julian Glyn, Dr Alan
Bright, Graham Godman, Dr Norman A.
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Golding, Mrs Llin
Browne, John (Winchester) Goodhart, Sir Philip
Buckley, George J. Gould, Bryan
Burns, Simon Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Burt, Alistair Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Butler, Chris Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Butterfill, John Grist, Ian
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Ground, Patrick
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hague, William
Carrington, Matthew Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Cash, William Hanley, Jeremy
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Hannam, John
Chapman, Sydney Hardy, Peter
Chope, Christopher Harris, David
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Haselhurst, Alan
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Clelland, David Hayward, Robert
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Heathcoat-Amory, David
Cohen, Harry Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Conway, Derek Hinchliffe, David
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Hind, Kenneth
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howard, Michael
Couchman, James Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Cousins, Jim Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Cran, James Howells, Geraint
Crowther, Stan Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Cummings, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cunningham, Dr John Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Curry, David Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Porter, David (Waveney)
Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas Portillo, Michael
Jack, Michael Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jessel, Toby Radice, Giles
Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W) Renton, Tim
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Richardson, Jo
Key, Robert Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield) Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Kirkhope, Timothy Rowe, Andrew
Knapman, Roger Rowlands, Ted
Knight, Dame Jill (Edgbaston) Ruddock, Joan
Knox, David Sackville, Hon Tom
Leadbitter, Ted Sainsbury, Hon Tim
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Sayeed, Jonathan
Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Scott, Nicholas
Lightbown, David Shaw, David (Dover)
Lilley, Peter Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Litherland, Robert Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Lord, Michael Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Luce, Rt Hon Richard Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Lyell, Sir Nicholas Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Macdonald, Calum A. Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Maclean, David Soames, Hon Nicholas
McLoughlin, Patrick Spearing, Nigel
McWilliam, John Squire, Robin
Madden, Max Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Mahon, Mrs Alice Stern, Michael
Major, Rt Hon John Stevens, Lewis
Malins, Humfrey Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Mans, Keith Straw, Jack
Maples, John Sumberg, David
Marland, Paul Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Maude, Hon Francis Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Thorne, Neil
Meale, Alan Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Mellor, David Tracey, Richard
Michael, Alun Turner, Dennis
Mills, Iain Twinn, Dr Ian
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Waddington, Rt Hon David
Mitchell, Sir David Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Waldegrave, Hon William
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Walden, George
Moss, Malcolm Walley, Joan
Murphy, Paul Ward, John
Neale, Gerrard Wells, Bowen
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Wheeler, John
Nicholls, Patrick Wilkinson, John
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Wilson, Brian
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Winterton, Mrs Ann
Oppenheim, Phillip Winterton, Nicholas
Paice, James Wolfson, Mark
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Yeo, Tim
Patnick, Irvine
Patten, Chris (Bath) Tellers for the Noes:
Patten, John (Oxford W) Mr. Austin Mitchell and
Pawsey, James Mr. Anthony Nelson.
Pendry, Tom

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 293, Noes 69.

Division No. 234] [10.25 pm
Abbott, Ms Diane Armstrong, Hilary
Alexander, Richard Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove)
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Allen, Graham Ashley, Rt Hon Jack
Alton, David Ashton, Joe
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Atkinson, David
Amess, David Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)
Anderson, Donald Baldry, Tony
Arbuthnot, James Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)
Barron, Kevin Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey
Batiste, Spencer Flannery, Martin
Battle, John Flynn, Paul
Beckett, Margaret Fookes, Dame Janet
Beith, A. J. Forman, Nigel
Bell, Stuart Forth, Eric
Bellingham, Henry Foster, Derek
Benn, Rt Hon Tony Fraser, John
Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish) Freeman, Roger
Bermingham, Gerald French, Douglas
Bevan, David Gilroy Fry, Peter
Bidwell, Sydney Garel-Jones, Tristan
Biffen, Rt Hon John George, Bruce
Blair, Tony Godman, Dr Norman A.
Blunkett, David Golding, Mrs Llin
Boateng, Paul Gordon, Mildred
Boscawen, Hon Robert Grant, Sir Anthony (CambsSW)
Boswell, Tim Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Bottomley, Peter Gregory, Conal
Bottomley, Mrs Virginia Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Bowis, John Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Braine, Rt Hon Sir Bernard Grist, Ian
Bray, Dr Jeremy Grocott, Bruce
Brazier, Julian Ground, Patrick
Bright, Graham Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) Hague, William
Browne, John (Winchester) Hamilton, Hon Archie (Epsom)
Buckley, George J. Hampson, Dr Keith
Burt, Alistair Hanley, Jeremy
Butterfill, John Hardy, Peter
Caborn, Richard Harman, Ms Harriet
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Harris, David
Canavan, Dennis Haselhurst, Alan
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Hayes, Jerry
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln) Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney
Carrington, Matthew Haynes, Frank
Cash, William Hayward, Robert
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Healey, Rt Hon Denis
Chapman, Sydney Heathcoat-Amory, David
Chope, Christopher Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L.
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Hinchliffe, David
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Hind, Kenneth
Cohen, Harry Holt, Richard
Conway, Derek Howard, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A)
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Coombs, Simon (Swindon) Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd)
Corbett, Robin Howells, Geraint
Cormack, Patrick Howells, Dr. Kim (Pontypridd)
Couchman, James Hughes, John (Coventry NE)
Cousins, Jim Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Cox, Tom Hughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Crowther, Stan Hughes, Simon (Southwark)
Cryer, Bob Hunt, David (Wirral W)
Cummings, John Hurd, Rt Hon Douglas
Cunningham, Dr John Ingram, Adam
Currie, Mrs Edwina Irvine, Michael
Curry, David Jack, Michael
Dalyell, Tarn Johnson Smith, Sir Geoffrey
Darling, Alistair Jones, leuan (Ynys Môn)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Kennedy, Charles
Davis, David (Boothferry) Key, Robert
Day, Stephen Kilfedder, James
Dixon, Don King, Roger (B'ham N'thfield)
Dobson, Frank Kinnock, Rt Hon Neil
Doran, Frank Kirkwood, Archy
Dorrell, Stephen Knox, David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Latham, Michael
Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel
Durant, Tony Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark
Dykes, Hugh Lestor, Joan (Eccles)
Eadie, Alexander Lightbown, David
Eastham, Ken Lilley, Peter
Eggar, Tim Litherland, Robert
Fatchett, Derek Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Favell, Tony Luce, Rt Hon Richard
Fearn, Ronald Lyell, Sir Nicholas
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) McCartney, Ian
MacGregor, Rt Hon John Rowlands, Ted
McKay, Allen (Barnsley West) Ruddock, Joan
MacKay, Andrew (E Berkshire) Sackville, Hon Tom
Maclean, David Sainsbury, Hon Tim
McLeish, Henry Scott, Nicholas
McLoughlin, Patrick Shaw, David (Dover)
McWilliam, John Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Madden, Max Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Mahon, Mrs Alice Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Major, Rt Hon John Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Malins, Humfrey Short, Clare
Mans, Keith Sims, Roger
Maples, John Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Marshall, John (Hendon S) Smith, J. P. (Vale of Glam)
Maude, Hon Francis Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Mayhew, Rt Hon Sir Patrick Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Meale, Alan Soames, Hon Nicholas
Mellor, David Soley, Clive
Michael, Alun Speller, Tony
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling) Squire, Robin
Mitchell, Sir David Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Montgomery, Sir Fergus Steel, Rt Hon David
Moonie, Dr Lewis Stern, Michael
Morgan, Rhodri Stevens, Lewis
Morley, Elliott Stewart, Andy (Sherwood)
Morris, Rt Hon A. (W'shawe) Stott, Roger
Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Straw, Jack
Morrison, Sir Charles Sumberg, David
Mowlam, Marjorie Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Mudd, David Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Mullin, Chris Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Murphy, Paul Thorne, Neil
Neale, Gerrard Townsend, Cyril D. (B'heath)
Newton, Rt Hon Tony Tracey, Richard
Nicholls, Patrick Turner, Dennis
Nicholson, David (Taunton) Twinn, Dr Ian
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West) Waddington, Rt Hon David
O'Neill, Martin Wakeham, Rt Hon John
Oppenheim, Phillip Waldegrave, Hon William
Paice, James Wall, Pat
Parkinson, Rt Hon Cecil Wallace, James
Patten, Chris (Bath) Walley, Joan
Patten, John (Oxford W) Ward, John
Portillo, Michael Wareing, Robert N.
Powell, Ray (Ogmore) Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Prescott, John Wheeler, John
Price, Sir David Widdecombe, Ann
Quin, Ms Joyce Williams, Rt Hon Alan
Radice, Giles Wilson, Brian
Rathbone, Tim Winnick, David
Redwood, John Winterton, Nicholas
Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn Wise, Mrs Audrey
Renton, Tim Worthington, Tony
Richardson, Jo Yeo, Tim
Ridley, Rt Hon Nicholas
Roberts, Wyn (Conwy) Tellers for the Ayes:
Robertson, George 'Mr. Austin Mitchell and
Rogers, Allan Mr. Anthony Nelson.
Rowe, Andrew
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Gill, Christopher
Ashby, David Glyn, Dr Alan
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Greenway, Harry (Ealing N)
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Griffiths, Sir Eldon (Bury St E')
Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke) Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)
Blackburn, Dr John G. Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Boyson, Rt Hon Dr Sir Rhodes Hannam, John
Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's) Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr')
Budgen, Nicholas Hawkins, Christopher
Burns, Simon Hughes, Roy (Newport E)
Butler, Chris Hunt, John (Ravensbourne)
Carttiss, Michael Irving, Charles
Clark, Dr Michael (Rochford) Janman, Tim
Clark, Sir W. (Croydon S) Jessel, Toby
Clelland, David Jopling, Rt Hon Michael
Dunn, Bob Kirkhope, Timothy
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Knapman, Roger
Fox, Sir Marcus Lawrence, Ivan
Franks, Cecil Leadbitter, Ted
Leigh, Edward (Gainsbor'gh) Redmond, Martin
Lord, Michael Rhodes James, Robert
Marland, Paul Riddick, Graham
Marlow, Tony Sayeed, Jonathan
Mills, Iain Skeet, Sir Trevor
Moate, Roger Skinner, Dennis
Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Smith, Sir Dudley (Warwick)
Page, Richard Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Patnick, Irvine Summerson, Hugo
Pawsey, James Tebbit, Rt Hon Norman
Pendry, Tom Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Porter, David (Waveney) Walden, George
Walker, Bill (T'side North) Winterton, Mrs Ann
Warren, Kenneth
Watts, John Tellers for the Noes
Wells, Bowen Mr. Roger Sale and
Wiggin, Jerry Mr. James Cram.
Wilkinson. John

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House agrees with the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House in its First Report (House of Commons Paper No. 141).