§ 3.3 p.m.
§ Lord SHEPHERD rose to move That this House would welcome the public sound broadcasting of its proceedings. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name on the Order Paper. It is now almost 10 years since the House debated a Motion moved by the late Lord Egremont on the televising of its proceedings. The House decided that it would welcome this, and the outcome was a short experiment. The reaction, taking the composition of this House, was mixed, although generally favourable. But it went no further, because the Commons were not ready to take any parallel action.
§ Now, however, circumstances are quite different. The Commons have had their own experiment in broadcasting; I think it was successful. Today they are deciding whether or not to agree a Motion supporting the proposal that their proceedings should be broadcast on a permanent basis. It is possible that we shall know the result of their decision before we finish our debate. If the House agrees my Motion today—as I hope it will—it will be possible for both Houses to go ahead together.
§ I know there are noble Lords on all sides of the House who view broadcasting of our proceedings with scepticism and, in some cases, with strong feeling on grounds of principle. It may be that they may feel inclined to vote against the Motion before the House. But I ask them to pause for a moment. If the House of Commons were to decide not to have broadcasting on a permanent basis in another place—and that would surprise me—would it be conceivable that this House would wish to go on alone and proceed independently? I wonder whether we would wish to see the House of Commons having their own broadcasting without ourselves proceeding alongside them. To me the essence, as I hope to develop in my speech, is that if you are to have broadcasting it should be broadcasting of both Houses, because that is Parliament, and not solely of one House.
§ When Lord Egremont's Motion was agreed to in June 1966, a Select Committee was appointed, under the chairmanship of the Chairman of Committees, 159 to recommend how the decision of the House should be implemented. The terms of reference were enlarged to include sound broadcasting. A closed-circuit experiment in both television and sound took place for three days in February 1968, and, later that year, the Select Committee recommended the basis for a public experiment of one year. They were in favour of allowing the BBC and ITA (now the IBA) to come to the House whenever they chose on a "drive-in" basis, to obtain material for broadcasting either in television or sound. The Report of the Committee, however, was never agreed to, although it was the subject of a Motion for Papers, moved in 1969 by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, whom am glad to see in his place this afternoon, and it was generally welcomed by most of the speakers who took part in that debate. Since then, two major changes have taken place. First, the emphasis has shifted from television to sound broadcasting. Many of the problems which exercised the House earlier do not arise. Sound broadcasting does not involve the introduction into the Chamber of elaborate machinery or special lighting. The most that might be required is a commentary box. Second, in June and July last year the Commons held a four-week experiment in the public broadcasting of their proceedings. This, along with the closed-circuit experiment in this House in 1968, has provided enough evidence for us to be able to come to a decision in principle on the question of permanent sound broadcasting.
§ Today, I am asking the House to decide the principle of permanent broadcasting. I recognise that there are many questions of detail, including some of major importance, which remain unanswered. But, as my right honourable friend the Lord President of the Council said in another place last week, once both Houses have agreed on the decision in principle, then a Joint Committee can be set up in order to consider the details. The Joint Committee would consider, among other things, issues of cost, acommodation, privilege, copyright and archives. These issues were elaborated by the Commons Services Committee in their recent Report on the Commons experiment.160
§ I believe that the introduction of broadcasting is a perfectly natural development. Two hundred years ago, Parliament was secretive about its proceedings. Reports of debates had to be carried out anonymously and in reported speech. But those days have long since gone, and most of us no longer want to be inward-looking. If the broadcasters have a wider audience than Hansard, we should not be shy of admitting them here. We should welcome new ways of reaching the public.
§ Television is, of course, the most obvious means of communication at the moment. I think that the televising of the opening of Parliament is particularly fine. It is a real spectacle, and I am glad that a much wider audience than the few who can crowd into this Chamber are able to enjoy the magnificent pageant of the occasion—and much of our Parliament and our proceedings is based upon precedent and, to a degree, pageant. It is a success, because it delights the eye. But I suspect that in our day-to-day proceedings we are not quite the spectacle—or, at least, not the kind of spectacle—which attracts mass audiences. I doubt whether either House is suitable for television, although I am still open to persuasion.
§ Television is not, however, the point at issue. This is important, because most of the arguments over the past decade have been complicated by justifiable fears at the disturbance which would result from the television cameras in the Chamber. The question which we have now to decide is only about sound broadcasting. My personal view—I stress that it is a personal view, because if there is a Vote it will be a free Vote, certainly so far as we on this side of the House are concerned—is that we should welcome it. We should grasp this opportunity to reach a wider public. If we have anything to offer to the people of this country—and I believe we have—then we should not stay behind closed doors. Some of our debates, although not all of them, deserve a wider audience than they now get from the medium of the Press.
§ Up till now, we have been arguing on the basis of assumptions about broadcasting—"Probably it would not work", or "People would not listen", or "It would be boring and might be subject to abuse by Members." But 161 Since July, we can work from facts. The Commons experiment—and, of course, it was different from the experiment in this House, because ours was done on closed circuit, whereas the Commons was done live and broadcast—showed that there was a demand for this kind of reporting on the radio, and I am sure that the demand will continue after the novelty has worn off. I gather that three-quarters of the BBC's listening panel wanted broadcasting of excerpts from Parliament to continue, and the IBA reported a very favourable audience response. There are some occasions which take on a new dimension from a broadcast. Personally, I thought that one of the most impressive incidents of my Parliamentary life was during the experiment, on the occasion when my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary went to the House of Commons late at night to make a Statement about Mr. Dennis Hills. This dramatic speech was not only heard here but was also relayed to Uganda. I was moved and impressed, as I am sure were many, if not all, of those who heard that broadcast.
§ I do not expect everyone to share my views. One of my noble friends, Lord Blyton, has said that if the House is broadcast it will sound like either "Children's Hour" or a morgue. I cannot agree with either of those descriptions, but I shall be interested to see whether the House develops into a kind of baby Frankenstein. I think we can rely upon the good sense of the House not to be affected by the introduction of radio. In my view, there is unlikely to be more than the present playing up to the gallery. After all, the conditions under which we hold our debates will not be so different from what they are now. There will be no heavy lighting. The microphones are unlikely to be very different from the present ones, if they differ at all. I admit that I am a little nervous about being followed home by the voices of noble Lords opposite or from other parts of the House, not to mention some who sit immediately behind me whose ringing tones will join me at home when I listen to "Today in Parliament", or "Yesterday in Parliament" if I am in my bath. But at least the expression, "Noble Lords on both sides of the House", will have added meaning if we go out in stereo!
§ One matter which may trouble the House is the selection of debates and 162 speeches to be broadcast. Following the Commons experiment, I think we probably have a good idea of the pattern which broadcasts would take. Even in the Commons, the number of live broadcasts is likely to be small and I suspect that the number here may be smaller still. The material will mainly be used as extracts for "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament", in national and local news, and in current affairs programmes. Both broadcasting authorities have indicated that they would like to follow the pattern of the June experiment. Bearing in mind the very fair way in which the programmes which I have just mentioned are compiled, we should be able to look for the same degree of fairness in the future. The kind of supervision which the two Houses should exercise over the material broadcast is one of the questions to be considered by the Joint Committee.
Then there is the question of who should, in the first instance, prepare the broadest "feeds" emanating from the two Chambers. The Select Committee of this House in 1968 recommended that this should be the responsibility of the broadcasters themselves, though this recommendation was made only in the context of an experimental period. The House of Commons Services Committee, in their recent Report, say that,
…the creation of a Parliamentary unit or authority as the body with responsibility for this technical operation merits serious consideration".
But, of course, the creation of such a unit may be costly. The Joint Committee would no doubt have to satisfy itself that any expense it recommended was justified, especially at a time when every effort is being made to curb public expenditure.
§ Perhaps I should mention here the differences of view between the broadcasting authorities on the financing of a permanent system of sound broadcasting. The BBC has said that it wishes to meet the cost of mounting a permanent operation from Westminster from its licence revenues. The IBA, on the other hand, takes the view that a Parliamentary sound unit, a kind of "Radio Hansard" should be established to provide a live feed for the broadcasts. While the independent companies would be willing to meet the ongoing editorial costs involved in their 163 broadcasts of proceedings, they consider that any additional capital equipment—apart from equipment in the House—which is required, and which is directly attributable to the broadcasting of Parliament, should be provided at Parliamentary expense.
§ I began by showing that this House has been interested—if I may say so, more in the forefront than another place—in the question of transmitting our proceedings, either by sound or by picture for many years. We have been anxiously waiting so that the House of Commons would be able to fall in line with our previously declared views on this matter. Now, however, the Commons seem likely to go ahead with permanent sound broadcasting, though of course I must not anticipate the result of today's Vote. But if they decide to go ahead, then we should not miss the opportunity to join them. I shall look forward to hearing and reading what other noble Lords may have to say on this matter, and will look at the points they make in regard to the proposal, bearing in mind the best interests of the House.
§ I hope that noble Lords will raise points of difficulty and details which they feel should be settled, although such points will, I believe, be far better dealt with by the Joint Committee of the two Houses, once it has been set up as a consequence of both Houses agreeing to Motions similar in nature. The broadcasting authorities have said that they want the opportunity to put the House on the air. I have no doubt that in the long term this will be an immeasurable gain both to Parliament and to our democratic processes in this country. My Lords, I beg to move.
§ Moved, That this House would welcome the public sound broadcasting of its proceedings.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ Lord CARRINGTON
My Lords, your Lordships who were here may recollect that on the last occasion that I addressed your Lordships, which was last week when we were talking about our procedure, I ventured to suggest that your Lordships on the Back-Benches ought to intervene when anybody is out of order. On this occasion perhaps your Lordships 164 will be lenient with me if I stray for one moment. To me it seems to be wrong that one Chamber of Parliament should not comment upon the events that we have heard about this morning regarding the impending resignation of the Prime Minister. There may be those of us who differ about the Prime Minister's politics. Certainly there will be those who differ about whether or not he was a good Prime Minister. However, there will be nobody in this House who does not wish the Prime Minister well in whatever he chooses to do in the future, and I am sure that he goes, and will go, with the best wishes of everybody in your Lordships' House. It seems that possibly we are faced with two elections for Leaders of political Parties. This should while away the cold March evenings for those of us who are rather more neutral than others!
I shall be very short, for two reasons: first, because I agree with everything that the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said and, secondly, because we have had a great many debates on this subject before and all of us know almost what we are going to say before we say it. Indeed, I have re-read a speech of mine in 1966, with every word of which I agree, which shows consistency, if nothing else. Your Lordships ought to recognise that in the end it is not this House which will make the decision as to whether or not Parliament is broadcast. If, however—here I agree very strongly with what the noble Lord the Leader of the House has said—the House of Commons decide that their proceedings should be broadcast, I believe that we in this House should make the same decision. After all, there are two Houses of Parliament and it seems to me to be quite wrong that there should be no opportunity, outside the two Houses or the Press galleries, for the public to hear what is going on in Parliament. Although the political power and conflict and, I suppose, the political interest may lie in the House of Commons and although we may be rather dull, very courteous and perhaps rather long-winded, I think that we contribute to the debate on national affairs. On a number of occasions, due to our membership, I believe that we have better debates than those which take place in the House of Commons. We talk sense perhaps because we are less exciting and certainly because we are less purely Party political. I know 165 that there are a number of your Lordships who object to the proceedings of Parliament being broadcast by either television or radio. For those who object, I should have thought that there were fewer reasons if we are talking purely about radio.
There are just two aspects that I should like to mention. I am not quite sure what exactly is proposed: whether it is proposed that the proceedings of Parliament, of either one House or the other, should be broadcast for the duration of the sitting or whether it is proposed that there should be an edited version. Speaking for myself, I hope very much that it will be the latter proposal. Those of us who have listened to the Australian Parliament being broadcast—I mean no disrespect to the Australian Parliament—do not think that we should gain greatly by having the whole of our proceedings broadcast interminably for eight hours a day. If one listens closely to the affairs of the Australian Parliament, as it was my duty once to do, it is noticeable how during the peak hours, even in the most mundane debates on matters totally unrelated to constituencies, Members somehow manage to get in a "plug" and a "puff" for both themselves and their constituencies. I do not think that we particularly want that to happen here. I hope that we shall have an edited version of the proceedings. I do not think that we need to worry too much about whether or not the BBC are capable of editing the proceedings because they have proved that they can. Of course, we shall watch them very carefully and from time to time we shall all complain, as we already do, about the BBC. However, it is noticeable that both sides complain. Perhaps, therefore, on the whole the editing is not too unfair.
The other issue is whether or not, generally speaking, broadcasting will affect the atmosphere of this House or the nature of our debates. In so far as this House is concerned, I do not think that it will. In some cases I think that television might do so, but I do not believe that broadcasting will have that effect. On the whole, I believe that we conduct ourselves fairly well. I hope only that when the BBC edit our proceedings they will not unfailingly pick on the entertaining Peer and leave unheard the politically constructive Peer.
166 That is all I have to say, except this. The real reason why I am in favour of broadcasting is that I do not think that any Member of this House, or, indeed, of another place, should believe that Parliament is a private place which belongs to them and to nobody else. If we really want to make Parliamentary democracy work and make it understood, we should allow people to hear and, indeed, to see what happens here. And if they do not like it that is our fault, not theirs.
§ 3.27 p.m.
My Lords, as a very new recruit to your Lordships' House it is something of an embarrassment to me to have to ask for indulgence for a second time. Unfortunately, I have a long-standing engagement tonight in the North of England from which my absence would cause great inconvenience to many people. Therefore, I shall have to leave rather too soon after I have spoken. I hope it will be accepted that this means no discourtesy is intended to your Lordships' House or, indeed, to those noble Lords who are to speak after me. I assure them that I shall study their words with great care and interest tomorrow, and I hope that they will accept my apology. At least the House has a fairly firm guarantee that I shall be fairly brief.
I welcome an opportunity to speak on this subject, first, because it is one on which I feel deeply. Secondly, as a professional broadcaster of many years' standing, I have a personal interest in it. Thirdly, I have spoken on a number of occasions on this subject in another place. Indeed, the more often I spoke the more I became wholly convinced by my own arguments. Like the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, I can hardly wait to hear what I am going to say!
It seems to me that the arguments on this matter are already well known. Thus, it is high time that all Parliamentarians made up their minds about it. On the "plus" side of the argument, surely there is now agreement that anything which can promote public interest and increase public understanding of our Parliamentary system is for the public good and, indeed, for the good of our Parliamentary democracy. I believe in our democratic system. I believe that it is the only system 167 yet devised for creating some kind of order without tyranny. However, I do not believe that we can preserve it by preserving its remoteness from the people whom it is intended to serve. In this connection may I quote from what was said by the Select Committee of another place which studied this matter many years ago under the distinguished chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Bradwell, who unfortunately has had to leave your Lordships' House to go to hospital. Otherwise the noble Lord would have been here to take part in this debate. The Report said:…that the House suffers by comparison with other public bodies simply because its proceedings are never directly included in news bulletins, which are heard and watched, at one time and another, by most people in Britain. The nation's most representative assembly is thus also the most remote from the public: this remoteness could be diminished without loss of dignity.We already have something like three hours of broadcasting about Parliament on every channel of radio and every channel of television. To those who say that there is no demand for broadcasting our proceedings, I merely say that if there is no demand why indeed is there such a copious supply? Our proposal now is merely that we should add an additional dimension to what already goes on; namely, the dimension of actuality. Instead of having a report of what the noble Lord the Leader of the House said, or what the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said—and, if I may say so, they both said it most eloquently—we should be able to hear exactly what they did say. Instead of the leading speakers in debates being rushed in taxis to a studio to give a revised or a potted version of the argument, we should hear the actual argument as it takes place. In another place on Budget day, instead of having five or six pundits in a studio all discussing what a succession of messengers tell them the Chancellor has just said, or what they think he is going to say, we should be able actually to hear the Chancellor say it.
I accept that much that goes on in Parliament is boring—just as boring as many of the other things on television and radio—but I believe much of it is of very great interest indeed. As the noble Baroness, Lady Gaitskell, said in another 168 debate on this subject in your Lordships' House:We have many distinguished people in every field in this Chamber and they are much more independent than Members of the Commons can be. Our debates are less polemical and more factual."—[Official Report, 15/6/1966, col. 76.]Would it not be for the public good, and indeed for the good of Parliament as well, if those debates were heard and enjoyed by a wider audience? I believe that properly selected excerpts—and I will come to selection in a moment—on news programmes, documentary programmes and regional programmes would add to the interest, the accuracy and the general acceptability of those programmes.
As to selection, I think we should underline this point. Unlike the Press, the BBC, through its Charter, and the independent broadcasting companies, through the television and broadcasting Acts, have a statutory obligation to be fair and impartial and to give proper and effective representation to all shades of political opinion and to minorities. I believe that in this matter of selection we must trust the professions. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, has said, they have proved trustworthy in the past. The fact that we all criticise them frequently is proof that they are doing the job properly, and I venture to suggest that if we cannot trust the professionals it is just no good going on. It is no good saying: "Let them do it, but we will all have a good look at what they do and edit it ourselves". It is a professional matter and we must trust them to carry out that job.
Comments have frequently been made about this leading to exhibitionism. Indeed, when he was in another place, the noble Lord, Lord Pannell, said that it would reduce the House to the level of a music hall turn. I am bound to say that at the end of that day those who trooped into the Lobby against the proposal were frankly not noteworthy for their reticence or their restraint, but seemed to be people who on the whole did very well out of radio and television and were showing remarkable altruism in the way in which they voted.
The arguments against broadcasting seem to be precisely the same as those 169 advanced years ago against allowing the Press into Parliament to report our procedures. Those fears have been proved groundless, but in addition we have now reached a situation in which it is generally agreed that much of the power of Parliament—such power as it does possess—stems largely from the fact that our proceedings are held in public and are publicly reported by the Press. I honestly believe that if we ever moved to a situation in which our Government conducted their affairs secretly and not under the public scrutiny of Parliament we should then indeed have moved to a situation in which the nightmare of Solzhenitsyn would have become a reality.
If we accept the principle, I think we must apply it in practice. We cannot apply it in practice of we close our ears and our eyes to the medium from which so many of our people obtain all their information about the world in which we live. If we are to allow 300 people into our Public Gallery to listen to our debates, why not allow 3 million people to listen to them outside?
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
My Lords, I venture to support the Motion, and briefly, because I find myself in virtual agreement with everything that has been said. I am particularly grateful to the noble Lord the Leader of the House for introducing the Motion as he did. I think it is a valid argument that this issue of principle was determined many years ago at the time of the Hansard controversy and that what we are now considering is whether Parliament should be publicised through a newer medium. The printed word was accepted after a prolonged controversy, and what is now sought on the same principle of publicising the proceedings of Parliament is that it should be extended in this case to the medium of sound radio. It is a depressing fact that far more people listen than read, although one should add for completeness that far more people view than listen. Informing people of the proceedings of Parliament, as has already been said, is of immense importance, and of particular importance today. In a democracy, people are entitled to know what is said and done in Parliament, and to acquire that knowledge through a medium that they commonly use.
170 It is often said that Parliament is slipping in public esteem. There is a feeling abroad today that extra-Parliamentary bodies are more powerful than Parliament itself and that the medium of broadcasting has usurped its role as a national forum. There may be some truth in this. In the Press reporting of what happens in Parliament, it is certainly true that the printed word is, so far as most newspapers are concerned, quite inadequate today. One remedy is to make it easier for more people to know about what is going on in Parliament; the use of sound radio will be a contribution to this end. As the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, said, in the case of this House, where so much of high quality—almost wholly unspoiled by Party dogma—is said, and virtually ignored by the bulk of the Press, it is unusually desirable that the extension to sound radio should be approved. I will venture one word after 13 years in another place and 11 or 12 years here: Parliament is a very much better place than most people are given to believe by such publicity as there is given to Parliament today. At least with this extension Parliament will be better known, and, I believe, more highly approved, than it is today.
Venturing perhaps a more controversial word, I think it is highly desirable to come to some practical points which will be considered by the Joint Committee, that editorial control should rest with the broadcasters. As the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, put it, it should rest with the professions. It is wholly undesirable, and would defeat in part the purpose of this extension, if Parliament were seen to be picking and choosing the material which it agrees is broadcast. The record of the broadcasters in the summaries "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament" is an indication of the standard which can be achieved, and is of itself a strong argument for giving the editorial responsibility for the selection of material to the broadcasters themselves.
My Lords, I hope—and this is a not unimportant detail—that when this matter is considered by the Joint Committee they will find it possible to recommend that the copyright should rest with the broadcasters rather than with the head of the Stationery Office, as is the case with Hansard. At any rate, whether 171 that is possible or not, I believe it to be very important that broadcasters should have access to all the material, present and past, without the need of securing official opinion of some kind for its use. It is the access to material, current and past, which is of great importance. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, that live broadcasting will be appropriate on only special occasions. We can all think of such occasions. I agree that it would be sensible to limit the use of this material to news, current affairs and such programmes.
An argument put forward by some is that too much will be revealed; that empty Benches will be exposed, that the broadcasting of Parliament will change the character of Parliament. I know this is an argument which relates predominantly to television, but to some extent it is relevant to radio. To those who say this, so be it. The public are entitled to see and hear Parliament as it is, and if it does succeed in filling the Benches, if it does moderate some behaviour, so be it. As for the extroverts who might be thought to command the air, I am sure we can leave it either to the professionals to sort out the problem, or to the public, which speedily tires of the kind of character that I am briefly describing.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, particularly bearing in mind his experience in fields other than the Parliamentary one, is it possible for any human being to be natural if he knows the camera is on him, or that the microphone is on the table?
§ Lord HILL of LUTON
My Lords, I will not go into whether Parliamentary behaviour is natural or something that is acquired, but I will say this. It is surprisingly easy for people to become accustomed to surroundings, to become accustomed to microphones, and to become accustomed to cameras. Even the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, himself would soon become unaware of the publicity poured on him and give his speeches in as natural a manner as he has always done.
I say to your Lordships that I believe the public is entitled to see Parliament as it is. I am trying to stop short of the argument that television will come. I 172 regard this as a first instalment in the further exposure of Parliament, but the simple point is the most commanding one. I believe that an increase in people's knowledge as to what happens in Parliament will strengthen Parliament and democracy.
I was very glad to hear the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, and the speeches that followed, because I believe that we should do this. I believe that the fears sometimes expressed will be rapidly dissolved by experience. I believe this is a time when we should take every possible step to reinforce the standing of Parliament, to remind the people of this country of the predominance of Parliament in our national life, and to discourage invasions of the authority of Parliament of one kind or another.
§ 3.47 p.m.
§ Lord FERRIER
My Lords, in addressing your Lordships, I take heart from the fact that so many speeches made so far have made the point that a great deal of the ground in this debate has been covered already. I intend only to pick out a few points which are new, for one reason or another, since we last discussed our experiment in 1969. First of all I recall an obituary notice for the late Richard Crossman, in which it was said that he admitted that when he was Leader of the House of Commons the greatest mistake he ever made was not to ensure there was a full House on the night when the other place rejected by one vote the Motion for a television experiment. I say that because I take the view that the House of Lords was then left out on a limb, which may be one thing; but I believe in the whole question of democracy and the contribution which Parliament makes to democracy—I particularly noted the words of the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. The whole question of democracy in this country suffered because we did not go ahead at least with that experiment for both Houses of Parliament.
My Lords, I will not go further with regard to our experiment except to mention a matter which the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, raised in his remarks about my interest and my promotion of the debate in 1969. I think the House should know that I was not really the promoter of it at all. The fact was that the Select Committee, presided over by the noble Earl, 173 Lord Listowel, had reported in 1968. I happened to mention it to the noble Lord the Leader of the House and asked him when we were going to debate it. He said, "We have debated it", and I replied, "I beg your pardon". So he sent for his secretary and asked, "When did we debate this matter?", and the reply was, "It has not been debated". The noble Lord the Leader of the House quickly, and I think wisely, took the view that this House, in the absence of support from the other place, could not take note of, or approve, our report and invited me to put down a Motion and gave me time so the matter could be thoroughly debated. I recommend to your Lordships the speech of the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, on that occasion, which went over the ground very thoroughly and is a first-class primer in respect of the whole matter.
The noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, referred to the late Lord Egremont. The last few years have seen developments which have increased the understanding to which the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, referred. Having joined this House in 1958, my earliest impressions remain the same as they were namely, that the process of Parliament is impaired by the limited understanding of the general public which arises from the limited reportings of its proceedings. To support what the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, said, I should like to refer to the speech of the late Lord Egremont in that early debate in 1966 because in a few words he condenses what I feel. He said:…we ought to do more ourselves to communicate, and to communicate more directly, with all the people of this country whom we seek, in our deliberations here, to serve."—(Official Report, 15/6/66; col. 66.)That goes for my feelings, and, I believe, for those of most of your Lordships.
Turning to the reporting of Parliament—I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has gone—it is only the BBC which is obliged by its licensing agreement to report the proceedings of Parliament daily. Of course, all the organisations are obliged to be impartial, but the BBC have this specific obligation, which they carry out, and I have nothing but praise for the content—I repeat the word, "content"—of the BBC's daily contractual programmes. I will not go 174 into the details of its content, but I think it is disastrous that "Today in Parliament" and "Yesterday in Parliament" are broadcast at hours which entirely exclude the bulk of the working population. There was an interesting letter in The Times today, which does not cover this point. The ratings for "Today in Parliament" are absolutely minimal, and the ratings for "Yesterday in Parliament" may be 20 times as much but the audience is an entirely selective one. People as a whole do not get what I believe they ought to get from the broadcasting of these fascinating programmes at these particular times.
The problem is a very selective one: there is the question of editing, and I will not do more than refer again to what the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, said. I think we would all agree with Lord Carrington that there is no question of all our proceedings being broadcast. There is bound to be an edited edition. I think the responsibilities that lie upon the parties concerned are very great indeed. It remains to be seen what the other House decides to do, and again I agree with what has been said; that is, that there should be no question of our going it alone.
Referring to the point which the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, took up with Lord Hill, it was interesting at the time of the Select Committee to find that your Lordships' proceedings had been taped for years and nobody even knew. The fact that people then got to know did not alter by one iota the attitude of your Lordships. I remember the occasion; the Committee were surprised to find that we were all the time being recorded. Of course, if the other place decides to go ahead, I think we should do the same. There are numbers of problems which have to be overcome. There are the editorial problems to which reference has already been made. There is also the problem of Parliamentary privilege. The complications are fairly extensive, but in my view the way to solve this is to start in and make it work.
Looking back over 10 years, there is another new factor which I want to bring to your Lordships' attention. Technically—I mean mechanically, electronically, photographically—though we are not talking of television—the developments have been remarkable. Just as 175 the TV cameras which were used for our experiment are completely out of date, as is the requisite lighting, so the progress of sound recording has been revolutionised by the cassette. I recall a speech by my noble friend Lord Selsdon in one of the debates, in which he forecast that with the increasing cost of newspapers it might be that we would be buying an evening cassette on our way home to play over if we felt so inclined. Of course this would be a very acceptable way of recording the proceedings of both Houses, provided one can afford the machine to play it.
My Lords, I am able to cut out a great deal of what I was going to say because it has already been said. But the situation today is interesting, in that a trade union is seriously impeding the Parliamentary process. Do not we know it? Fleet Street can no longer afford to give the space they used to do to Parliament. Some papers are hardly newspapers at all. Parliament is of interest to them, and presumably to their readers, only if there is a crisis or some sort of scandal. As matters stand, it is worth reminding ourselves that the principal dissemination of Parliamentary news and views is the "box"; this point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Hill; the newscasts several times a day, "Panorama", "Westminster", "Current Account", "Nationwide", "Newsday", and all such. Party political broadcasts are so necessarily biased that they do not seem to carry much weight. It is the commentator or the linkman who really counts; it is the linkman who is known to the public today, the Robin Days, David Dimblebys, Robert MacKenzies, Julian Havillands, Ludovic Kennedys, and so on; they are the people on whom responsibility rests for conveying what Parliament feels and what the nation feels, and it is that great responsibility which has to be watched. In their hands and in their voices rests the enormous responsibility, which today they discharge impeccably. My admiration for them is sincere. But will such men always be available, and if so will they be employed by the media? A safeguard, in my view, would be a broadcast, however limited, of the proceedings of both Houses of Parliament.
In conclusion, there is another new point I should like to make, as a Scotsman, 176 and as a bitter opponent of any idea of separation or the like. I really do feel that the Scottish National Party would not command public interest to the extent which they undoubtedly do today if the BBC had been able to render regular reports on Parliament throughout the year, for years past, for Scottish consumption. I do not even confine my suggestion to the matter of Scotland. Indeed, had it been possible to communicate regional broadcast programmes all over the country I believe it would have been an advantage at the present time.
My Lords, we can wander off into the question of costs, to which I will not allude. But I would mention something the noble Lord, Lord Hill, said about the copyright resting with the broadcasters. One of the factors as the noble Earl on the Woolsack will recall, which came up so interestingly in our Select Committee's Report was the value of sound records in terms of the Archives, and how we wished—or perhaps we did not—we could have heard Gladstone in one of his long speeches. My Lords, I support the Motion as it has been put to your Lordships' House; that is, that if the other place take the view that we expect them to do, this House should go along with them and have a go at it.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Lord COLLISON
My Lords, while I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, support Lord Shepherd's Motion, I do not propose to be drawn into a further discussion about the freedom of the Press, which we have already discussed ad nauseam. May I relieve your Lordships' minds, if I can, about the possible danger of people becoming preoccupied because what they say is going out on the air. I, and some of my colleagues, have had considerable experience of the effect upon people at conferences where television has been present. I am speaking of course of the congresses of the TUC. I have attended many of them, both before and after the introduction of television. While people have to be, and cannot help but be, conscious of the very strong light and heat generated by the lights used, I am quite satisfied that it does not affect them. In the heat or the delicacies of debate they forget that the cameras are there. They do not preen themselves; they do not play to 177 the gallery. They behave as they would normally. I do not think that we need have any fear about that.
I am no more qualified to speak about this subject than, I think, most would claim to be, except that I was a member of the Committee on Broadcasting in 1960 under the chairmanship of Sir Harry, now Lord Pilkington. On that Committee we discussed political broadcasts. Strangely enough, the question of broadcasts from the Houses of Parliament did not arise directly, but we discussed political broadcasting in the sense that we discussed the place of Party political opportunities given to the various Parties. Here of course we found that there was considerable dissatisfaction among the Parties not so large as the two major Parties. The smaller Parties complained that they could not get sufficient television coverage (and particularly before a General Election) because the time was allocated on the basis of the number of candidates standing from each Party. The Pilkington Committee had sympathy with this complaint. On the other hand, we could see no way of allocating time other than by using the criteria which were already being used.
I think that this has a bearing upon what we are discussing today, because if one could broadcast debates live from both Houses of Parliament, then the speakers from the various sections of the House would be heard, and their voices at least, if not their faces, would be presented to the public. I think that this is an argument for broadcasting Parliamentary debates. However, Pilkington was a long time ago. The situation has now changed quite considerably, and I think advantageously, because more and more people are concerning themselves with matters dealt with by Parliament and with Parliamentary procedures. Most unfortunately, there is a good deal of cynicism expressed about what happens in Parliament and about the way we go about our work, and I think that this applies to both Houses.
May I say at this point that my noble friend's Motion is in these terms:That this House would welcome the public sound broadcasting of its proceedings.I have therefore thought largely in terms of this House. I know nothing of the other House. I have never been there, 178 and therefore I have thought it proper to give my views as I see this Chamber, and as I have seen the effects of words going out from this Chamber for public consumption. It is a great tragedy that the public are so cynical about us. Loss of confidence in Parliamentarians and Parliamentary procedures must lead directly to a disregard of the laws which are established through the Parliamentary procedures. We have seen far too much already of people (and, I am afraid, young people) ignoring the laws, behaving just as though the laws were not there, until in fact they are caught.
A failure to respect the two Houses of Parliament, and Parliament itself, must lead, as an inevitable consequence, to disrespect and disregard of the law. In the long run, no civilised society can tolerate that situation it just cannot be. We must have laws, we must have regulations, to protect individuals, sometimes against a number of people and sometimes against individuals. One has to have regard for the rights of others, and Parliament's laws are enacted to protect those rights. If Parliament is seen to be incapable of doing this, then something will happen which we shall all regret. This has been said many times before, and I am, in a sense, parodying what so many wise men have said. If we do not have Parliamentary democracy, then we shall lose democracy and we shall see the initiation of some form of control, either by a very small rump of people or by individuals, which amounts to dictatorship, and no one wants to see that. I believe that people have become cynical not because we failed to do what we should do, but because they do not understand how we do it and what goes on. I therefore believe that if we could broadcast our proceedings, and in particular those of this House, then there would be greater understanding not only of how we do things but of the way people do things when they get up on their feet, as I am on my feet today, and talk about matters of national interest.
This House is of course different from the other House. There was the experiment which has been mentioned. People listened to broadcasts from the Chamber of the other place and I, like all your Lordships, listened with interest to the comments made by my friends and others about them. Some people were shocked 179 at the barbed exchanges which went on there. I am quite sure that this was due to the fact that they did not understand that that kind of behaviour in the other place—I have never been there; I am speaking from what I have been told and what I can deduce for myself—is a convention which does not mean all that much. Others, having listened to what went on, thought that all this back-and-forth, backchat, and personal innuendo which went on between the two Benches was great fun, again not understanding that this was part of the convention, and failing to appreciate that beneath and behind all that very important decisions were being thrashed out on the anvil of debate. But others—and, I found, the majority—appreciated what was being done, in the sense that broadcasts were going out to which they could listen. It led them to understand and to appreciate.
Let us face the fact that this House is different from the other place. I came into your Lordships' Chamber in 1965 and have been here for over ten years. For six of those years I had to sit fairly quietly because of my job as chairman of the Supplementary Benefits Commission. The Addison Rules have prevented me from taking part in debates and my own sense of duty has stopped me from intervening on any matters which I thought were controversial. Nevertheless, I have been able to sit and listen and to appreciate the way things were done here.
I hope noble Lords will not think me maudling or starry-eyed when I say that if one really believes in democracy and the correct democratic methods of dealing with questions which need resolution by debate, if one believes that this is best done by reasoned argument, if one believes that there should be an air of calm rather than emotional excitement when such matters are debated, and if one believes that such discussion demands self-discipline and a certain amount of courtesy between those who may hold even vastly different views, then this House is the place to find it. I was thrilled when I first came here, and I still am by the encouragement I was given and by what I believe democracy really is in terms of debate. There are, of course, things about which one could complain. One has been mentioned, the question of behaviour. We have talked about that and I will not go 180 into it. As I say, in that sense we are a different place from the House of Commons. The courtesies are there.
I say that because we are, in a way, different people; we are a different sort of mix. Most noble Lords, like myself, are getting on in years by the time we come here; this is because we have spent much of our time outside Parliament doing other jobs. There are, however, younger people here because we are a mix of hereditary and life Peers. Many of us have done work in vastly different fields and there are people here whose names are household words, not in the political sense perhaps but in other connections, and I refer both to men and women. Our political activities have come later in life, and I am sure that the views of many noble Lords would be welcome in homes throughout the country, simply because so many of your Lordships have such tremendous reputations. We are described, I think sometimes cynically, as the best club in the world. Be that as it may, there is a great deal to be said for coming to a place like this. I have appreciated coming here and being met with friendship on all sides. I have received only help and consideration.
I was a trade union official, and in that capacity—as a member of the TUC and a number of its committees—I had the duty of meeting Ministers at all levels on both sides of the political spectrum. On my own Benches are friends who are ex-Ministers. In their days in office I talked, argued and negotiated with them. Likewise, there are noble Lords on the Benches opposite with whom I had the same relationship and with whom I remain friends. I have not always agreed with them and sometimes I have violently disagreed and argued against them; but I have respect for all people, whoever they may be and on whatever side of the political spectrum they may stand. So long as people do their jobs honestly and well and treat with fairness and integrity the people with whom they come into contact, that is fair enough. I could no more say personally harmful things to the men and women I have known than I could stab my own hand.
These remarks are not intended to indicate that we in this House are soft, or that we are simple folk who are unwilling to press our arguments and cases 181 to the best of our ability. What has all this to do with broadcasting? As I explained, Parliament is running into disrepute, largely because of misunderstanding. I hope that these remarks will not be seen as a criticism of what goes on in the other place; as I explained, we are different in that sense. But if the type of debate that we in this House engage in could go out to the public, and if the great ability of noble Lords was seen—name any subject and there will be at least one noble Lord who can speak with authority on it; it is difficult to think of a subject on which there is not an expert in this House—then, by listening to the way in which we conduct ourselves, the public would have a greater understanding of Parliament and it would enhance our prestige and standing.
I have already talked for too long. I intended to be brief, and I suppose I have been over-long because I never know when to stop. This debate is much more important than might be realised, for people now want to participate much more than was the case in the past. At the time of Pilkington in 1960 we did not have a request from the public that the debates of Parliament should be broadcast. Now people are more interested and want to be more involved. By enabling them to become more involved, we—I refer to both Chambers—will help to restore the dignity and authority of Parliament to the position it should occupy.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Lord PLATT
My Lords, there has not been one speech against the Motion and I certainly do not intend to make one. If noble Lords like Lord Carrington, Lord Winstanley and Lord Hill of Luton can make splendid speeches, as they did, in a matter of six to ten minutes, then mine should be limited to about three. My only reason for putting down my name among those who wished to speak to the Motion was that I started with a good many fears and misgivings about the whole question of the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House. However, the more I have studied the subject the more I have become convinced that, if I said anything at all in this debate, it would be in support of the Motion. I thought that there might be a good many speeches against it and I therefore felt that if I stated the reasons 182 for my conversion, as it were, it might help others with theirs. In the event, this seems totally unnecessary and I will therefore limit my remarks strictly to the winding-up phrases of the speech which I might have made, and I will give the reasons why I support the Motion.
First, the experiment of broadcasting the House of Commons in June and July last year was an obvious success; this was proved by the public in general and by the broadcasting authorities. Secondly, the Select Committee of the House of Commons which reported at the end of January was strongly of the opinion that the experiment should be continued. Thirdly, it would be the greatest mistake if we held out against it and if the public did not learn for themselves the differences between the two Houses and the true value of the House of Lords. Fourthly, the House of Commons wants us to join in the venture and has suggested a Joint Committee of the two Houses; I appreciate, of course, that the final word may not have been said. Fifthly, the experiment as a whole pointed to a real sense of responsibility and neutrality in the editing of this kind of broadcast, and of course editing is bound to take place. This should allay any suspicion and fears of bias that we may have had. I therefore support the Motion.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ Lord PITT of HAMPSTEAD
My Lords, I thought that I should intervene in the debate because the Greater London Council has been having its proceedings broadcast for the last three years. Question Time is usually broadcast live and the broadcasting authorities tend to ask to be allowed to broadcast other suitable debates. Accordingly, I thought that I should give the House the benefit of our experience.
I begin by assuring the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, that, although I presided over the Council for 12 months and, as Chairman, was presiding over Question Time when it was broadcast, I was hardly aware of the fact that broadcasting was taking place. It in no way either hindered me or spurred me to any form of activity. I dealt with the House exactly as I should otherwise have dealt with it. I hope that that will 183 reassure the noble Lord that Members can feel at home while being broadcast.
Your Lordships may have noticed that I have been in and out of the Chamber several times. I have been ringing County Hall to get the general opinion. The opinion is that we have done a good thing to allowing the broadcasting of the GLC and that it has been a success in so far as it has made the GLC better known and has done good to democracy in London. I therefore want to offer that experience to the House.
We in County Hall work on the assumption that the broadcasting authorities are there; that, in effect, they will broadcast Question Time and that, if they want to broadcast any other debate, they will ask us. So far, we have never refused them, but we have always maintained that they must ask for permission to broadcast a particular debate. We have kept that power and will probably go on keeping it for a while because, although the broadcasting authorities have broadcast many of our debates—for example, debates on the Budget, on squatters and on the future of the GLC—they have also displayed a particular liking for our role as film censor. This worried us a little. They have always broadcast any kind of debate that we have had on any specific film. Recently, we had a licensing committee report which suggested that we should not permit women to box or wrestle and, again, they broadcast that. So we have been a little uncertain about the idea of completely relinquishing our right to say No when they wish to broadcast specific debates.
On the other hand, I do not think that this point need particularly concern your Lordships, because I take it that what will happen is that there will be an edited version of the debate. It will not be the same as in County Hall, where Question Time is broadcast and where we have an additional broadcast only if the authorities wish to transmit another debate. I imagine that the situation in Parliament would be different and, therefore, that the point which worries us will not need to worry your Lordships because there will be a balanced, edited version every evening. I take it that that is how it will be done. I imagine that the 184 authorities might wish to broadcast a debate such as the Budget from the other place live and at greater length than would be done in ordinary circumstances, but if we have a daily edited version I imagine that we shall be able to leave the selection of material to the broadcasting authorities.
In addition to my experience in County Hall, I was, fortunately or otherwise, ill last year. I underwent a major operation just before the experiment in broadcasting from the other place and was recuperating when the experiment took place. I had the opportunity of listening to most of the experiment and enjoyed it very much. I found it very useful, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Prime Minister's replies at Question Time. I must say how sorry I am to hear that, if broadcasting on a permanent basis is agreed to, we shall not be hearing the Prime Minister perform at Question Time, for he is quite a performer on those occasions. I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed the experiment.
However, I do not rely only on my own judgment. I have discussed the matter with many of my friends and most have also found it very useful. I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Collison, made the points he did, because I believe that the broadcasting of both Houses will be an improvement on the broadcasting of the House of Commons alone. Most of the criticisms I heard were about the "barracking" and background noise which are heard in the House of Commons, and these will not occur in any broadcast from your Lordships' House. Therefore, I should like to suggest to the House that, if the other place agrees that its proceedings should be broadcast, your Lordships should agree that this House should have its proceedings broadcast at the same time.
Reverting for a moment to my experience at County Hall, there will be one point which I believe should be considered by the committee. In County Hall, the member himself reads his question, and there is therefore no need for a link man to tell the audience about it. As Questions are not read here or in the other place, it was always necessary during the period of the experiment for someone to tell the audience what the question was about. It may well be that we ought to consider accepting that, if 185 we broadcast cur proceedings, Members should read their Questions. I believe that would be better. Having had the experience of listening to both systems, I feel that hearing the Member read his Question and receive the Answer, and then hearing the supplementary questions and answers is the best way. I should like the committee to give some thought to that innovation if we agree to have our proceedings broadcast.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Lord AUCKLAND
My Lords, it will generally be agreed that this is a very important debate and, at this particular time, a most welcome one. The fact that we and the other place are debating the subject of broadcasting simultaneously at least shows that Parliament itself has an interest in looking at its own image. I, like some other noble Lords who have spoken, have never been a Member of another place or, indeed, a candidate. However, I have been active in the field of politics for some 28 years. I have broadcast on sound radio in this country only once in my life and that was in no sense a Party political broadcast. Therefore, I have no particular axe to grind. There was a time when, like sonic other Members of this House, I had the greatest forebodings about Parliamentary proceedings being broadcast in sound, let alone televised, and it is sound broadcasting with which we are concerned in the Motion which the Leader of the House so lucidly moved.
We are living in an age when Parliament as a whole, not only in this country but throughout the world, is often the object of snide and cynical comment. There are many who say that politicians are out for their own ends, out to have a slanging match, out to make themselves noticed or wanted—or whatever term one cares to use. Perhaps it is the fact that there is all too little live broadcasting and live presentation of what is actually said in Parliament which ferments this view. As the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said, there are many feature programmes and tape recording of what politicians of all Parties have said in interviews in "The World this Weekend" and other such programmes, which could quite easily be taken out of context. One of the advantages of broadcasting proceedings live is that the public would hear the actual comments made in a debate.
186 Of course there is the problem of editing. There may be cases where those who are more florid and colourful in their expressions receive preference over those who make quieter, restrained, but probably far more sensible speeches. This is a problem which clearly will affect the other place, because there are now several critical Parties, and indeed minority Parties, there. Here we are an expanding House. This is a very different style of House compared with this House when I first entered it 18 years ago, and I believe that, on the whole, the changes made have been very much for the better.
At present there is in this country a multi racial population. People have come from many countries to settle here, and to make their livelihoods, and they are affected by the political issues of the day, whichever Party may be in Office. In these circumstances the broadcasting of Parliament becomes more vital. Those of us who move in public circles, and who meet members of the public of all shades of opinion and from all walks of life, may well hear the remark: "Of course, we see far too much of you on television." It may be said that there are far too many cheap political jokes and such-like. But in another breath people ask: "What is Parliament really doing? Why don't we ever hear what goes on? All we have is a quarter of an hour in the evening of 'Today in Parliament'." That is an excellently presented and edited programme. Perhaps one of the BBC's most difficult jobs is to present this programme of the proceedings in both Houses.
Obviously a major event, such as the Budget, would he an ideal opportunity for experimentation here, except that the opening 60 or 90 minutes preamble to the Budget speech may present problems because that contains expressions relating to "financial liquidity" and such which often can be understood only by economists and may baffle the public. When the meat and gravy of the Budget proceedings are reached, about an hour and a half after the Chancellor has risen to his feet, the important points begin to emerge and to generate interest. I certainly believe that it is in national and international affairs that the broadcasting of Parliament, especially the broadcasting of this House, would be particularly valuable, because we have on all sides 187 noble Lords and noble Baronesses with unique experiences in international matters, as Governor-Generals, diplomats, and so on, who can speak from first-hand experience. Clearly the best way to proceed will take much working out, but I believe that at this crucial time in the history, not only of this country but of the world at large, the sooner Parliament begins to communicate to the public in a live sense, the better for the country as a whole.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Lord PARRY
My Lords, the most encouraging, challenging and optimistic remark I have heard in public life for a long time has been made in this debate today. The remark by the noble Lord, Lord Collison, that people want to participate now is a challenge and an inspiration to us, even at this late stage in the debate. It is true that there is an awakening of public interest in public affairs, and I have sought the opportunity to come in at this late stage in the debate in order to express a number of points. Seven years ago the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, invited me to serve as a member of the general advisory council of the Welsh Independent Television Authority, and since then I have served as a member of the general advisory council of the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Therefore I observe the Addison's rules and point out that anything I say after this I say as an individual and in no sense to commit those who have served with me on those bodies.
When we talk about this new medium, which is so fascinating—and in terms of human history it is still a new medium—we must remember that the foundation Charter which was built into television, into the BBC and ITV, stipulated that it should be a medium which educated, which informed and which entertained. Since I have come to this House, I have seen it live up to all three of the foundation statements of the document. I have found it entertaining, very informative, and very edifying. One of the ways in which it has edified me has been in showing that some of the concepts of it held by the public—including those who have operated in public life—are wrong. Something about this House which needs changing is the image which the public 188 have of it. It is an image which this House too often conveys to the public outside.
I do not need to multiply words to underline what has already been said by noble Lords in the debate. But I say very sincerely that I find this a stimulating Chamber, a place where education takes place. It was Thomas Jefferson who said that education was two people sitting on a log. Perhaps some of the faults of our education system, particularly of our political education system, have developed because we have made the edifying process too complicated.
Where there is exchange of ideas between people, even when they sit on opposite ends of a log, both sets of people are modified. The good teacher—I have been a teacher, if not a good one, most of my adult life—knows that in a good lesson the teacher is as much modified as the pupil who receives the lesson. I was very glad to hear the emphasis which the noble Lord, Lord Collison, and other noble Lords placed on the fact that this medium would educate the public in what goes on in this House, and in the manner and the matter of our debates. I consider that to be very important, because the institutions that inform democracy have in fact not grasped the opportunities that the new media have presented. We assume that everyone reads; we assume that everyone follows avidly the reporting pages of the newspapers; we assume, in fact, that we communicate. I have discovered that if you do not intervene early enough in a debate in this House you do not get reported; that if you talk too quickly you do not get reported; and that when you think you are communicating clearly and well people who listen to you in fact do not understand what you are saying. I think it has never been more important that people outside this House should understand some of the things which are being said within it, in exactly the same way as I believe that it has never been more important that people inside this House should listen to what people outside it are saying, because too often we can insulate and isolate ourselves within the institutions of democracy and do democracy a disservice because of that.
My Lords, I want to introduce a particular matter into this debate. We are 189 a non-elected Chamber, and I do not say that in terms of criticism at this point, though there are those who would criticise it. I say that we are a non-elected Chamber of government because there is a whole dimension of government which too often is not mentioned in the Chambers of either the other place or this House. A great many of the processes of democracy are carried out in Committee, and at the end of their debates what they have decided is communicated to the public, but communicated almost always through an old-fashioned means of communication. I want to say in this debate that I welcome the opportunity of the continuation of an experiment in another place. I welcome what has already been said by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt, who has pointed out that experiments conducted elsewhere have awakened a new interest. I want to welcome the continuation of the experiment because I believe it coincides, as has already been said in this debate, with an awakening interest outside the other place in the way in which they conduct their affairs.
But it will have to be an experiment which imposes discipline. I return to my original point: to entertain, to educate, to inform. It will have to impose a discipline in the same way that a good lesson imposes a discipline on the teacher. We will have to discipline ourselves, as I am now disciplining myself by the clock above me. This media is attractive; it attracts people such as ourselves. There was a distinguished professor of divinity in Wales who was invited to contribute to a television programme. The producer who wrote the letter inviting him to contribute put as a footnote, and tactfully, "There will be a fee of 25 guineas for your appearance". He received a letter by return from the distinguished professor saying that he would be delighted to take part in the debate and that he enclosed his cheque for 25 guineas.
We are attracted by the media because we are communicators; but I think the experiment is much more important than the individuals taking Part in it. So I accept the discipline of this hour in the debate and say that I am quite sure that those who advise, those who participate and those who create in the communications industry, will be very grateful for a new opportunity to co-operate 190 with the Officers and the representatives of this House in presenting the debates from this place in a way which will communicate the sense of involvement that we have in democracy in this Chamber, which, though it is not elected, is nevertheless a vastly important part of the democracy within which it is set.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Lord BOOTHBY
My Lords, I do not propose to make a speech, and in consequence I did not put down my name on the list of speakers, but I should like to put on record one fact as one of your Lordships who has perhaps had longer experience of television and radio than any other. I have done it all my life; and all I want to say tonight is that if the proceedings of this House or of another place were ever to be broadcast it would be a disaster to Parliament and a disaster to the public. I give one simple reason before I sit down: the task of editing will be absolutely impossible.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Lord REAY
My Lords, although there are plainly others in the Chamber who would agree with the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, nevertheless to date he is, I think, the only noble Lord who has not welcomed the Motion which is before us, and I should like to join with the majority in welcoming the Motion which the noble Lord the Leader of the House has moved. As he explained, it is his intention that this House should be asked to give its approval to a proposal for permanent sound broadcasting, so that, should the other place take a decision to adopt the Services Committee Report, then this House will be in a position to act with the other place in together opening up their proceedings to sound broadcasting and in working out together the right means to do this.
But I must say that, although the discussion and the decisions are about sound broadcasting, what I wish they were about, and what I hope they soon will be about, is the televising of the proceedings of Parliament. For as long as Parliament 191 excludes television, in my view it has still not taken the decision to open up fully its proceedings to the public. Television is the medium of the age; it is vastly more powerful than radio; to me it makes no sense to keep apart this means of public participation from our legislative proceedings, particularly at a time when the threat to our democracy is not so small that we can afford to dispense with the support of the people for our democratic processes.
After all, as my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition said, it is not as if the proceedings of Parliament were thought in principle to be something which should be conducted in private. Far from it; Parliament accepted the principle that the public should be admitted—admittedly under pressure—two centuries ago. Where Parliament has failed, in my view, is in not adapting to changes which have taken place in the means whereby the public receive their information. The decision to let in radio will bring us forward, but it will not bring us up to the present day. I am not convinced that it is only a coincidence that the keeping apart of Parliament and the media of television and radio has been accompanied by a steady decline in the prestige of Parliament and politicians. My noble friend the Leader of the Opposition told us that he had treated himself to a rereading of the speech he made in this House 10 years ago on a Motion on this same subject. I may say that I did the same yesterday evening, and it made the same agreeable impression on me as it evidently did on its author. He said, in the course of that speech, that Parliament was losing in public esteem, and I think there are not many who would feel that that had ceased to be the case, or even that the situation had improved. This was very much the point that the noble Lord, Lord Collison, and the noble Lord, Lord Parry, made, and I draw the same conclusion from it as they did.
It seems to me that the introduction of television would give the public en masse a chance to observe, to appreciate, to criticise and to learn about the processes of Parliament. It may be that the public would demand changes in the procedure or in behaviour, and doubtless it is the fear of this which has been one of the 192 reasons why television has been kept out for so long. Nevertheless, in my opinion this is something which must come. For it is essential to make stronger the link between the public and the processes of Parliament, and what is risked by doing so is much less than what is risked by not doing so. It seems to me that all other considerations are subsidiary—and this is the case whether one is talking about television or radio. For example, on the question of editing, in parenthesis I should like to say that, despite what the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, said, there is far less concern with this question of editing than there was 10 years ago.
If I remember correctly the proceedings of the Committee of which the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, and I were both Members at that time, this is a matter which arouses much less anxiety than it did then. Nevertheless, in so far as it remains a question, the question of editing, the problem of the ways in which Members of this House or another place might be disturbed by the lights and other factors, are all subsidiary to the basic fact that the public should be admitted to the processes of Parliament. What I say with respect to the arguments for introducing television apply a fortiori to sound broadcasting.
So far as the real effects are concerned, I think that the decision to admit television would be more important than the decision to admit radio. However, politically, the most important step may be the one to admit radio; it is in the hope that this will be the first of two steps taken in quick succession that I will support the Motion this evening if it comes to a vote.
§ Lord BOOTHBY
My Lords, I should like to ask one question. When the lights go on, formal debate—which is surely the essence of both Houses of Parliament—would cease and the speaker would start addressing the nation.
§ Lord REAY
My Lords, so far as the noble Lord puts that in the form of a question, I am net sure that that would be the case. For the last three years I have been a Member of the European Parliament where television is given complete freedom, a freedom not necessarily recommended for a Chamber like this and which I do not think that Members
193 of this House would accept; but I do not see any distinction between the behaviour of Members when television is on and when it is not. So far as the lights may be disturbing, in the first instance that is a technical matter on which we would need further information.
§ 4.52 p.m.
§ Lord HARMAR-NICHOLLS
My Lords. I apologise for my name not being on the list. I must confess that I expected to listen to a balanced debate on this subject. I never thought that in this House the pass would be sold so completely as it has been. There is another side to this argument and I think it is an important side. From my point of view, it is the most important side. How, in view of all the evidence and experience over the centuries, your Lordships can welcome this, I do not know. I accept at once my noble Leader's point that if they broadcast from another place, we should have to broadcast from here. That is true; for this is part of Parliament. Both must move together. If one half is broadcast then the other half must. But for us to put on the record the words on the Motion that we "Welcome" it I frankly am amazed that the arguments seem, so far, to be so one-sided.
I cannot accept even from my noble friend Lord Hill of Luton or from my noble friend Lord Reay that any ordinary person is as relaxed and as natural or is as likely to be so forthcoming as to what he genuinely believes if the cameras are on him or the microphone is there. I do not believe that it is humanly possible. I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, says on this.
One has had experience of this at the level of local councils. I am not objecting to the Press being in at the committees of local councils; but those of us who, apart from sitting in Parliament for a number of years, also have sat on local councils, see the difference in the contributions made by ordinary members of committees on the council once the Press were there taking notes and the verbatim report was a risk. You are not then in a position to change your mind. It is difficult in the face of people who voted for you and whose confidence you want to retain to start off a debate by putting a point of view, to be convinced by somebody else's argument, and then changing 194 your mind in the interests of coming to the right decision—which is what Committee work should be and what Parliament should be. If you are on record by camera or microphone of having stated one point of view, it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to change your mind and to come to the consensus which at the end of the day results in good government or good results.
I believe that that will be the effect if we allow even the beginning of sound broadcasting of either Chamber of Parliament. I do not accept that anybody can withstand that magical intervention that the camera and the microphone has on this matter. It may well be good for highlights in Parliament to be broadcast or televised on occasions—if there is some way of magically being able to pick out the particular ones: Budget Day or certain occasions when something important is happening and which will be well dealt with in Parliament. But you cannot do that. If you broadcast at all, you broadcast the whole. If you broadcast the whole—and I have to disagree here with the noble Lord, Lord Collison—through the broadcasting medium, then the standing of Parliament and its acceptance will be lowered. Broadcasting of highlights would raise it; but there are fewer highlights than there are the ordinary humdrum debates and interventions.
I do not know whether your Lordships accept completely the suggestions made in the speeches so far that the experiment of a few months ago was a great success. The opening of that experiment I put on record—and I still believe it to be true—that to me it sounded like a babble of a rabble. I knew that they were not rabble who were being broadcast; they were colleagues I had sat with, who, I knew, talked good sense. But when it came over the air it did not sound like that.
The babble of a rabble was a fair description of what happened. It improved a little as it went on; but it did not improve to the point where I believed that it enhanced the standing that Parliament ought to have. I have to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Collison on this. I accept the point of view that he put that we want the people to have regard for the legislation that Parliament passes. They have to accept it. Sometimes it is very unpleasant and they are often reluctant 195 to accept it; but it is vital if normal civilised Parliamentary procedure should continue that they should accept it. I do not believe that hearing arguments for legislation direct from the horse's mouth, direct from the legislators, would necessarily sell it. I believe that the way in which sometimes our debates come over would do the opposite.
It is not without significance, if one is using the argument of wanting to sell Parliament and to sell the legislation that comes from it, to realise that it is rare that people who use the media for advertising to use the head of the firm which makes the product they want to sell, to try to put over the advantages of that product. It is very rare that they think the same skills which can make a man a successful and a worthwhile businessman and producer of goods enable him to use the words and the mannerisms to sell his products. When the media want to sell, they obtain professional actors to put over the merits of a particular argument upon which they are the experts. That is happening today. I applaud the Robin Days and the Ludovic Kennedys and the Lord Hills of this world who are the professionals in this field.
If I have an argument to project which I believe is in the interests of my country I do not necessarily want my own bumblings to provide the means to sell it. If we have someone who is professional in selling it, then it could be that they could sell a good idea and a worthwhile piece of legislation much better than the legislators themselves. There are many in this House who have sat in the other place for a number of years who have had to recognise that the most articulate and the most attractive of our colleagues are not necessarily the ones who are the thinkers; they are not necessarily the ones who produce the good ideas and not those who necessarily are the genuine leaders in thought, or leaders of men. With me, they will have sat and learned that some of the most inarticulate, some of the most bumbling Members are those who have most to contribute. From that you are able to take all the advantages of what they have to sell, without the disadvantages (because you know them) of their not being really good salesmen. I believe you would rule out many of the people who have 196 a great contribution to make because they would be aware that they are inarticulate; they would be aware of their inability to present themselves in a way which would come over well on camera or in broadcasting. You would virtually force their evidence from having to be put in at all. We would not be aware of it; they simply would not be there to do it.
The reason why many people are not Members of Parliament today who have much more to offer than many who are Members of Parliament is that they do not feel that they can stand up to the rough stuff, the tumbling, pushing and shoving that goes on in the preliminaries to getting into Parliament. I believe the nation suffers as a consequence of that. If in this Chamber, or any other, we get to the point where everything you say is not only taken out and can be used in evidence against you, but virtually taken into the drawing-room of every house in the country, it would be a disincentive for people who have a contribution to make.
It is not illogical to put this alongside what would happen if you take the cameras and broadcasting into the jury room when a jury have heard the evidence and when they have listened to the case with the impartiality and objectivity that jurymen do. I wonder whether there would still be the same cut and thrust and eventually honest decision which is the consensus of that jury room, with people in the process of changing their minds and sorting things out? I do not think that would be so. For a number of years I have sat as a magistrate and when one has heard the evidence and retired in order to come to a conclusion, which was going to affect the life and comfort of somebody, I do not think there would be the same impartial, objective reaction that you get today, when you can change your mind among colleagues who understand why you changed it.
I believe broadcasting the proceedings of the House is bad. It may be inevitable. It may be that people say that because we have broadcasting and television we have to have this. But I do not sec the necessity of that at all. I believe the reason why people are cynical about Parliament today—and indeed they are—is that they feel that in some way we have played to the gallery too much. I believe even the extension of being reported on 197 "Today in Parliament", and the columnists giving either a satirical or personal view as to how one has operated, has caused people to be cynical about Parliament. If we place on the record some of the bumbling effects that even our most able colleagues sometimes produce, that will be produced as evidence not to support the strength of Parliament and the need for people to accept the legislation flowing from Parliament; it will be produced as evidence for the view: "What a bumbling group of people they are! How can they understand?"
I believe that the mystery of Parliament, like the mystery of the courts, is still rather important in getting people to accept the judgment of those who represent them, as distinct from coming to their own conclusions as to what they ought to do. I should like to feel that this point is on the record, and the only reason I wanted to speak was because the debate so far has been out of balance. I do not believe that your Lordships' House truly would have their views reflected from the speeches I have heard today. The speeches we have heard have been good ones, and the arguments have been sound, but I do not accept them. I do not believe they reflect the views of the majority of the Members of your Lordships' House, and I think the record ought to show that. To imagine for one minute that, because your picture or your voice is coming over with your argument, you automatically make a stronger or more acceptable argument, is to my mind showing a very superior outlook.
I am reminded of the story where King Midas was asked to adjudicate as to whom should have the Oscar out of two flautists. It was said that King Midas heard the first flautist and immediately gave the prize to the other one. I believe that if we think that our presentation is one which, unabridged and unpolished, is going to be more impressive for persuading people to accept our legislation than is the case today, when there is newspaper coverage of debates, we should appreciate that some of us are not grammatical when we make speeches. Sometimes in the flow of our argument we sound as though we have not been to school. That is polished up by the time it gets to the people; and it is right that it should be because the argument itself may well have been sound; it is 198 merely the presentation of it, because one is not a professional or expert in this field, that seems to have undermined some of its appeal.
Obviously, my Lords, we are not going to have a vote, and I would not think it right to call one in your Lordships' House. But I should like to have on the record that, whether or not we have sound broadcasting as a result of this debate, I do not think it ought to be welcomed. In the long run, I truly do not believe that it will be in the best interests of the continuation of Parliamentary Government.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Lady RUTHVEN of FREELAND
My Lords, I beg to apologise for not putting my name down to speak, but I did not realise what an absorbing debate this was going to be. I want to declare my interest, which is that I am neither a television nor radio fan. I only turn either of them on when there is a political broadcast or a television programme such as "Panorama". I speak purely from a Back-Bench attitude—I am a Back-Bencher of a very humble kind. But I feel so strongly that I want to say a word in support of what the noble Lord the Leader of the House and my noble friend Lord Carrington, the Leader of my Party, said. If the House of Commons is going to have radio and television broadcasting, this House must also have the same.
I think a great deal is missed by the public in not hearing what happens in this House. We are practically never mentioned in the Press. I am always being asked by my friends and relations: "What happened at that debate?" If they do not have a copy of Hansard, or are not able to get one, they do not know anything about what we have said. That is a great misfortune for the general public. I should like to agree with one noble Lord—I am afraid I cannot remember who it was—who said nobody nowadays reads; people only listen or look. That is true of a great number of our compatriots. I entirely support the Leader of the House and my noble Leader Lord Carrington in this debate. If it is decided in another place that they are going to have television and radio broadcasts, I hope we shall do so in your Lordships' House.
§ Lord BOOTHBY
My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lady to say that my argument was that neither place should be broadcast. If one, then both; but preferably none.
§ Lord BIRDWOOD
My Lords, may I add two sentences? I think we run one great risk and that is being proved to be boring.
§ Lord BIRDWOOD
Thank you. I know a letter has been referred to in this debate, and this is a quotation from the letter to The Times from Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen, which appeared in this morning's paper, in which he said, "Le mieux est l'enemi du bien".
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
My Lords, had it not been for the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Boothby and Lord Harmar-Nicholls, I would have remained silent. But I shall support the Motion moved by my noble Leader, and support it with enthusiasm. There have been suggestions in many of the speeches which have been made about the ability or inability of the professionals. I must present myself as one of the professionals, not a professional in the realm of radio or television, but in the realm of newspapers. Back in the 1920s I was working in the House of Commons producing a Parliamentary sketch. Then for seven or eight years in the 1930s I was working in a daily newspaper office as a political sub-editor knocking the Parliamentary report into shape three or four times a night.
The noble Lord, Lord Boothby, said that the task of editing is impossible. Well, for seven or eight years I was doing the impossible, and doing it to the satisfaction of both my superiors and my readers. It is possible to edit a Parliamentary debate and the professionals on the BBC, in their morning and evening programmes, do it very well indeed.
§ Lord LEATHERLAND
No, my Lords. They do it better at some times than at others. On the nights when they mention me, perhaps they do not 200 do it so well as on the nights when they do not mention me. But the summarising and editing of those Parliamentary reports from the BBC are, from my point of view, excellent and they are a great education—contrary to everything that has been said in this debate—for the benefit of the ordinary people. Certainly I do not want to hear a verbatim recording of every word said in this House, including the interruptions, but we must allow adequate time for such summary as it is decided to give. I am not quite sure how many minutes are given at the moment, whether it is 5, 10, 15 or 20, but I think the time must be adequate if proper provision is to be made for the proceedings both of the other House and of this House. It is a difficult task, if 40,000 or 50,000 words are spoken in the two Houses during the course of a day's proceedings, to reduce them to 1,000 or 1,200 words, which are all that can be recited in the course of a five-minute report. I think that at least 20 minutes should be given.
There is another point which might make the Parliamentary sketch—if I may use the term—more useful and of more interest to people in all parts of the country. I remember that when I was subediting that Parliamentary report each night, I would have a special report for the Midlands, another one for the Bristol area, another one for South Wales and another one for Manchester and the North. Those localised editions were very valuable and far more interesting than a general report would be. They gave one the opportunity to incorporate the name of a certain MP who sat for a constituency in South Wales or Yorkshire, as the case may be, whose words one might not be able to accommodate in just one general sketch.
The noble Lord, Lord Boothby—and I took down his words—said: "The moment that the television or radio light went on Members would stop addressing the House and start addressing the nation." What is wrong, my Lords, with addressing the nation? I think its effect would be to stop many of those little, petty personal quarrels and a lot of the backbiting that goes on—not in this House, of course, but in the other place. We have to bear in mind that many noble Lords in this House work very hard at great inconvenience, sometimes 201 at personal financial sacrifice by neglecting their own professions or businesses, and i think the nation has a right to know what is said in your Lordships' House. Therefore, I most wholeheartedly support the Motion.
§ 5.14 p.m.
§ Lord STRABOLGI
My Lords, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to wind up in this important debate, which may have such long-lasting effects on the House. Before I reply in detail, there are two matters with which I should like to deal. First, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Carrington, the Leader of the Opposition, for his most generous tribute to the Prime Minister, which was greatly appreciated on this side of the House and which I shall certainly pass on to my right honourable friend. Secondly, I must say on behalf of my noble friend the Leader of the House that he is sorry he cannot wind-up himself today, but he has to take part in an important engagement very shortly. My noble friend is presenting an award to one of our senior Doorkeepers, Mr. Wager, formerly of the Life Guards, and he is taking part in the farewell for the Principal Doorkeeper, Mr. Reuter, formerly of the Royal Navy. Since these two Doorkeepers, who have been with us for just over 25 years, following gallant war service, are both retiring this week, the occasion is one which I could not allow to pass without this brief mention to say how sorry we are to lose them after all these years, and how much we have appreciated their wonderful courtesy and efficiency.
§ Lord STRABOLGI
For me they have been good friends and counsellors ever since I first took my seat. I do not propose to go over the arguments about broadcasting, because they have been given very fully in the debate. I began to think at one point that the debate would be completely unanimous, but then we had the speeches of the noble Lords, Lord Boothby and Lord Harmar-Nicholls. I was not quite sure which side the noble Lord, Lord Birdwood, was on; he has since departed. But I would say, in fairness, that the great majority of the speakers would welcome the public sound broadcasting of the proceedings of this House. My own view is that we should allow this, but here I 202 am, of course, speaking only for myself, because this is not a question where the Government are laying down a particular course of action. It is very much a House matter, on which every noble Lord will be able to choose for himself whether or not he thinks broadcasting is a good idea.
Several noble Lords have spoken about the need to improve our communications with the public, and I am quite sure that they are right about this. I have paid particular attention to what my noble friends Lord Collison and Lord Parry, and the noble Lord, Lord Reay, said about the necessity to enhance the prestige of Parliament. We are not supposed to be operating in a vacuum. Parliament draws its authority from the people and it must be willing to give an account of itself to the electorate. Parliament loses its influence if it ceases to speak both to the people and for the people. If we allow these proceedings to be broadcast, I am quite sure that this will increase our audience and will make it much easier for us to communicate with the public. I think this is true, first of all, because it will develop an awareness of what is going on in both Houses of Parliament. People will get used to hearing the voices of Parliamentarians, particularly of this House, at work. This will bring about a gradual change in the relationship between the people and Parliament—a change which will certainly be one for the better.
There will also, I am glad to say, be an absolute increase in time allocated to this House by the BBC. I am told by the BBC that they would like to continue their practice of last July and, once Parliament is broadcast, the "Today in Parliament" programme would be extended from its present quarter of an hour to half an hour. I have noted what several noble Lords have said about the lack of time given to reporting this House, and I am glad to say that, since the Lords will go on having the same proportion of the programme, the time on the air will double. I ought to say at this point how much I appreciate—and here I should like to join with what other noble Lords have said—the service which we get from "Today in Parliament". I find it a very skilfully prepared programme, which quite fairly sums up what both Houses of Parliament have been doing each day. This 203 is something which is not at all easy to do, so I am glad to be able to say these few words in appreciation. I always think those programmes are really the only true précis of speeches, because they attempt to give the content and not pick out just one or two sentences.
The late Lord Egremont, who has rightly been referred to in this debate, made his mark in this House in a number of ways, but I think he will be particularly remembered for the two Motions that he moved. The first, to which reference has already been made several times this afternoon, was a Motion for a television experiment here. I think the only noble Lord to mention television today was the noble Lord, Lord Reay. That is not, of course, the subject of the debate today, although he was perfectly right to touch on it. The second was a Motion urging that speeches in this House should be shorter—a debate which was made conspicious by the achievement of fitting in 21 speeches before five o'clock in the afternoon. I have not time to count the number of speakers today or to work it out, which I often do as the Deputy Chief Whip, but, if I may say so with respect, we have also done pretty well today. In fact, I am reminded of the comment which was made by the late Lord Brabazon of Tara, that if you cannot say what you want to say in 10 minutes you should go away and write a book about it.
The noble Lord, Lord Egremont, actually drew his two debates together and said that he thought television would make speeches in the House shorter. I cannot say that I think he was right, but of this I am sure: nobody will increase their chances of being broadcast by increasing the length of their speeches. It is much more likely to be the terse epigram or the memorable quote, even in French, which will secure time on the radio, particularly if one bears in mind what a small proportion of radio programmes is usually given to this House. If I may digress for a moment, I feel that we should pay attention to the lessons of our short Wednesday debates. We have had one or two short Wednesday debates of particularly high quality recently on subjects such as forestry and sea use planning. The speeches, I am sure, were good in themselves but they were also improved, I feel sure, by the 204 discipline of having to fit into a short space of time. For example, twice in one day we had a two and a half hour debate in which about 15 speakers took part, making 30 speakers in ail that day; and I have no doubt that the debates were better for it.
One question on which my mind is not yet clear is how far we should be thinking in terms of broadcasting the Committees of this House. Here we are different, of course, from another place where Committees represent a larger part of the House's activity. Most of our work is done on the Floor of the House. Almost all Bills here have their Committee stage on the Floor of the House. There is no such device in your Lordships' House as a Second Reading Committee or a Committee to debate Statutory Instruments. I am inclined to think that we should go slow on proposals to broadcast our Committees, though I realise that some Committee meetings would be of great interest to sections of the public. Some of the meetings of the House of Lords European Communities Committee are a case in point, because the seven Sub-Committees of this Committee are doing an enormous amount of valuable work which many people outside this building may not notice or appreciate. I am full of admiration for the part which these Sub-Committees play in our deliberations.
§ Lord FERRIER
My Lords, arising out of something that I said in my speech, the noble Lord has referred to Committee work. In the other place there is the Scottish Grand Committee, but we have not got a similar Committee.
§ Lord STRABOLGI
My Lords, certainly I take note of what the noble Lord has said. I do not mean to say that our Committees should never be broadcast, because there may be times when this would be a great pity. I suggest, however, that we should think in terms of broadcasting mainly from the Floor of the House—anyway, to start with—and only incidentally from Committees.
There have been a number of points of detail raised in the debate and I know that these will be very carefully considered by the Joint Committee when, as I hope your Lordships will agree, this is set up. First of all, the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, with all his vast experience, suggested that editorial control should rest 205 with the broadcasters. His suggestion was supported by the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier. This is a matter for the Committee. Then there is the question of copyright, which was referred to on page 23 of the Report of the Select Committee in another place where, so far as I can see, there does not yet seem to have been complete agreement even on what should be done or on what the law should be. Therefore, this matter will need to be considered very carefully by the Committee. I agree very much with what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Pitt of Hampstead, about the possible need for a link man. The question of the mechanics also needs to be examined. On the other hand, I can assure your Lordships and those of your Lordships who have undergone the experiment of being put on television that sound broadcasting will be much less obtrusive. There will not be the need for strong lights, which I found very tiring.
As I have said, these are all questions which can be referred to the Committee if your Lordships agree that it should be set up. If both Houses agree to the principle of broadcasting, I hope that the proposed Joint Committee would be set up very soon to consider the details of a permanent system so that we should be able to expect an early report.
Having said that, I now invite the House to agree with the Motion of my noble friend that we would welcome the public sound broadcasting of our proceedings.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.