HC Deb 14 July 1997 vol 298 cc19-20 3.30 pm
Mr. David Winnick (Walsall, North)

On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I believe that you have on occasion expressed concern at the lack of media reporting of Parliament and, as hon. Members know, the press no longer report our proceedings. I should therefore like to draw your attention—because I believe that it is a matter of serious concern to the House—to the fact that it is widely reported that the BBC intends to drop "Yesterday in Parliament", replacing it, apparently, with some panel discussion. It would be extremely unfortunate if that report were true, and if a decision on those lines were taken soon. Would it be possible for you, as our Speaker, strongly to urge the BBC to reconsider any such move?

Decisions taken in the House affect millions of people outside. Those who listen to the programme—an audience, I understand, of well over 1 million in the morning—are surely entitled to know what went on during the previous day in the House of Commons and in the House of Lords. The broadcasting organisations at the time were very keen that this House should have broadcasting facilities, and, as we know, it has been in operation for some 19 years.

The BBC is a public service organisation—at times, of course, it gives the impression that it is nothing of the kind. It has a duty to continue to broadcast not only "Today in Parliament", but "Yesterday in Parliament". The people who run the BBC should not come to the view that what we do here is of no importance, that some panel discussion can take place, and that we should be satisfied with it.

Indeed, it is the public far more than ourselves who should decide whether they should be satisfied or not. There is a strong case that "Yesterday in Parliament", which, after all, a few years ago was drastically reduced in length, should continue. I hope that you agree, Madam Speaker, that that is the view that you would wish to express as the Speaker of the House of Commons.

Several hon. Members

Further to the point of order.

Madam Speaker

My goodness. I will take Sir Patrick Cormack first. We cannot have a debate on these matters. Members must put their point of order to me.

Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire)

Thank you, Madam Speaker. You will, of course, remember that, last year, you were the guest of honour at the 50th anniversary of "Today in Parliament", which was held in the House. Therefore, would you, on behalf of the House and representing Members on both sides of the Chamber, at the very least express to the BBC how much importance we attach to those two programmes, and how greatly they are valued by our constituents?

Several hon. Members


Madam Speaker

I will take one more point of order from either side of the Chamber. Mr. MacShane.

Mr. Denis MacShane (Rotherham)

Is not the point about "Yesterday in Parliament" that it is the only direct connection between Parliament and the people that is not filtered by the distinguished cohort of scribblers, sketch boys, soundbiters and spin doctors who sit above you, Madam Speaker? Were it to be axed, frankly, I wonder whether the House's support for the continuation of publicly funded broadcasting in the form of the BBC would not take a serious knock. That worries me considerably.

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst)

Further to that point of order, Madam Speaker. Is it not possible that the BBC's attitude has been influenced by the fact that, as Ministers now come to this House so rarely—and when they do, they do not answer our questions—covering the proceedings of the House, as the BBC has done for so many years, is a waste of its time, of taxpayers' money and, arguably, of the time of the House?

Madam Speaker

That is moving away from a serious point of order.

The concern expressed by hon. Members has been felt in all parts of the House. That concern is shared by millions of people; indeed, I share it myself.

The hon. Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) may wish to refer the matter to the Select Committee on National Heritage. Knowing the view of the House, I will certainly make representations to the BBC, on behalf of the House.

Mr. Winnick

Thank you very much, Madam Speaker.

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