HC Deb 25 July 2000 vol 354 cc894-5
40. Helen Jackson (Sheffield, Hillsborough)

What further proposals she will bring forward to improve access to Parliament for the media. [130611]

The President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons (Mrs. Margaret Beckett)

The Modernisation Committee and the Administration Committee have worked together to remove restrictions on the use of tape recorders in the Gallery, end the ban on interviews in Members' offices and ease the restrictions on photography. In addition, there are now facilities close to the Chamber for interviews with hon. Members, as well as several more minor changes.

Helen Jackson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the House is best served not by the frothy, gossipy media reporting that often occurs, but by proper coverage of our serious debates not only in the Chamber but in Committee and in Westminster Hall? In the next Session, will she consider the way in which we can enhance facilities close to Westminster Hall and on the Committee Corridors?

Mrs. Beckett

My hon. Friend makes an important point. I know that hon. Members from all parties sometimes resent the fact that the more serious—and in many ways more interesting—part of our work gets the least coverage. I certainly undertake further to consider what we can do to extend coverage of, for example, Committees and Westminster Hall. I know that the Modernisation Committee wishes to do that.

I hope that my hon. Friend knows that we are reviewing the operations in Westminster Hall and that, as part of that review, we have received information from the BBC regional unit about how useful it finds those debates and the great use that it makes of them on regional television.

Sir Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

Will the President of the Council confirm that the prospects for further enhancing facilities for the media will be realised when Portcullis House is occupied later this year? Does the right hon. Lady find it as astonishing as Members of other Parliaments do that it will be possible for each Member of Parliament to have his or her own private office only when Portcullis House is occupied?

Mrs. Beckett

The hon. Gentleman is right. I am grateful to him for drawing attention to the media facilities that will be available in Portcullis House. He is also right to draw attention to the fact that the new building will make it possible for every hon. Member to have an office for the first time. Many people find it astonishing that that has not been the case hitherto. It is a pity that the provision of accommodation does not feature more in the coverage of Portcullis House.

The hon. Member for Roxburgh and Berwickshire, representing the House of Commons Commission, was asked—