HL Deb 12 May 1986 vol 474 cc977-1005

Debate resumed.

3.56 p.m.

Lord Aylestone

My Lords, perhaps we may now return to the debate on the televising of this House. The decision of the House in July of last year, which was probably the third or fourth debate on the televising of the House that we had had, was on a Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, who was merely in favour of continuing the experiment which had been going on for six months until such time as the Select Committee had reported, giving the House an opportunity to come to a decision.

Despite some opposition at that time (and so far as I can recall the amendment was in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Peyton) the House generally approved the continuation of the experiment. That was a wise decision because it enabled the Select Committee for a period of about nine months further to interview broadcasters and take evidence from those people who were interested in giving it to us. I was privileged to serve on that committee. I know how valuable to us was the information that we obtained during that period. Had the amendment been carried, the Select Committee under the noble Lord the Lord Chairman of Committees would have been doing its work in a kind of vacuum with no televising taking place in the Chamber. The House made a wise decision at that time.

During that debate in July the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, in his usual frank and courteous manner, made plain that no public money was to be provided by the Government for the televising of the House or even for a part of its cost. That was somewhat of a shock to those of us who thought that at least part of the cost of televising this House would be met from public funds. In fact, our work was overtaken at that point by the decision of the other place on 20th November. It decided by an extremely narrow majority not to have televising of the other place and its Chamber.

I would hazard a guess—in fact, it is more than a guess; it is almost a certainty—that had the other place decided otherwise and resolved that television should take place in that Chamber as well as in this, then public money would have been readily available. We might even have gone as far as having a broadcasting unit, mentioned by the noble Lord, the Lord Chairman of Committees. But that was not to be. The other place turned it down by, as I say, a very small majority, and that was the end of any idea of a broadcasting unit. The Select Committee had to work on the possibility of no money at all. This was a natural disappointment to the broadcasters, the BBC and the IBA.

Some noble Lords to whom I spoke made clear at the time—I was more or less inclined to agree—that this meant perhaps saying goodbye to cameras in this House; that it was the end of television here in this Chamber. It was felt, and stated, that the broadcasters were concerned, if not entirely then certainly mainly, with the broadcasting of the other place. Having had some experience of television I can assure your Lordships that it would perhaps have been rather more interesting on occasions. But it was not to be. Nevertheless, although we saw little of the cameras it would be untrue to say that the broadcasters lost interest completely in broadcasting this House. It is fair to say that at that point they had to take cost into consideration.

Our report says, as already mentioned by one speaker, that ideally the House should provide the necessary "clean feed", or signal, if that word is preferred, to be selected by producers for transmission in television programmes. Of course, a broadcasting unit of some sort, as envisaged by the noble Lord, the Lord Chairman of Committees, in his speech, would have been ideal. However, we have enough experience, as politicians of whatever party, to know what happens to ideals. They often get lost when no money is provided, as did that particular idea. I am really saying that we must take things as we find them, and perhaps not as we should like them to be.

There has been a problem in respect of lighting. It was mentioned in detail by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick. That problem, although not perhaps solved, is nearing solution. Noble Lords will have seen the experimental chandeliers above our heads, with greatly increased candle power, taking the place of some of the side lights. It one multiplies the two by five, that may be an answer to the problem. There were questions, too, about the level of heat generated as a result of the introduction of the cameras. If spring or summer ever comes we shall be able to make a judgment when the new lighting is installed. We are told, however, that the new lighting is not likely to be installed even on the basis of the current lighting experiment—it is still only an experiment—before the end of the Summer Recess.

Smaller, remotely controlled cameras are, in my view, and also in the view of my colleagues on the Select Committee, a rather long-term prospect. Such cameras would have to take their feed to units outside. There would be something like a desk operating the control of the cameras from outside the Chamber, with the cameras themselves slung perhaps under the Galleries. We do not know the cost, but it is fair to say that it would be something like £750,000. The question also arises as to whether these cameras are available. They are in fact more available than when we started talking about them, but even if we had the money at the moment I doubt whether they could be bought and put into position in less than 12 to 18 months. I am sure that the new chandeliers will not offend against our aesthetic sense, as the present scaffolding, which is ugly and horrible in every respect, does.

It seemed earlier this year that the most that we could expect from the broadcasters without any contribution from public funds would be the occasional "drive-in". While a drive-in during the early stages of the experiment was extremely useful and provided a great deal of news coverage, it did not, in my view, give sufficient regional coverage. Much more could be done in that respect. Regional television should be developed by the broadcasters, given the opportunities that exist, to a greater extent. What is a vital problem in one part of the country is not so important in another.

Appreciating that the costs of any television can be heavy, it is gratifying to know that the broadcasters have continued to examine the possibilities. This means that we now have the proposals before us that will certainly take us up to the end of the Summer Recess. I hope that, at that time, a Select Committee, if not the present Select Committee, will be ready for further discussions with the broadcasters, in the light of the knowledge that they have gained during the additional experimental period that concludes at the end of July this year to see what programes are worthwhile in the period beyond that.

One should bear in mind that taking the live feed out of the Chamber at present would cost something like £500,000 in a full broadcasting year. The arrangement at the moment is that the BBC and ITN between them meet the cost. The ITN part, we understand, is to be borne by the Independent Broadcasting Authority. In saying that the broadcasters, between them, meet the cost, I should make clear that it is probably divided according to the extent to which the feed is used by either of the two broadcasters. The clean feed (an expression that I find myself using again) or signal will be used by ITN for some live coverage. Such coverage is very important on special occasions. But the important additional programme is the one that has been transmitted since Easter—the late-night 15-minute programme on Channel 4 that is repeated in the afternoon on the next day. It goes out on the evenings of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and is repeated at 2.15 the next afternoon. The cost of the Channel 4 production is thought to be about £270,000 over the period. It is already drawing a remarkable audience. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, mentioned 300,000 watching at night and 200,000 the repeat the next afternoon. The BBC programme, called "The Lords this Week" is of longer duration, probably of 35 or 40 minutes, whereas the Channel 4 programme lasts at present for 15 minutes.

Given the financial circumstances, and after hearing the evidence, the broadcasters have in my view made a generous offer that we should accept. Of course, the House could change its mind at any time, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, mentioned. We could say that we have had enough; or the broadcasters could say that they have had enough. Let us hope that at least there will be no need for further experimentation. That is unnecessary. We now know what is possible in view of the finances available—which is almost nothing.

I believe that during the period since the beginning of last year television has led to a greater knowledge of this House than there ever was previously. It has been mentioned in one report from one opinion poll that while there had been a fairly high percentage of people in favour of the abolition of the House of Lords—the Second Chamber—that opinion has swung completely round. Perhaps I may tell your Lordships of one short, rather cryptic letter received by the committee which read, Dear Sirs, In making your deliberations you ought to consider the abolition of the House of Commons". It is worth recording that the smallest audiences that we have had in programmes covered in this Chamber since the experimental period started could completely fill our galleries for 25 years. That is why we are becoming fairly well known.

Today we can end the televising of the House more or less forthwith if we reject the Motion by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I think that we should accept the best that the BBC and ITN can offer us. I hope that the House will not feel it necessary to divide and I urge that we accept the Motion.

4.12 p.m.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, I was also privileged to be a Member of the Select Committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Aberdare. I must say that I regarded it as a privilege and an instruction. I learned a great deal from his lucid, balanced and statesmanlike chairmanship. I trust that if a Select Committee is set up for the future discussion of what form television in this House should take—as is proposed in the report—that committee might take its style and inspiration from that presided over by my noble friend Lord Aberdare.

The essential points in the report which we have before us are contained in paragraphs 28, 53 and 73. Paragraph 28 makes the fairly neutral comment that the committee felt that the experiment had been useful. I think that none of us was churlish enough to deny that the experiment had been other than useful. Paragraph 53 makes it plain that we have now before us a choice. Paragraph 73—the summary of conclusions—suggests what that choice might mean if we were to decide to continue to have television in the House.

Before we make our decision we ought obviously to bear in mind one or two background matters. All inventions throughout history have had beneficial and adverse consequences. We can all think of disadvantages of almost every step forward. Let us take, for example, the invention of gas. There is no doubt whatever that gas lighting helped to make the streets of the cities of, first, Europe and then the world safer. It therefore helped the diminution of crime in the nineteenth century. On the other hand, gas also enabled factories to be run 24 hours a day and therefore made it possible for factory owners to overwork those who were employed within them. This is a point to be borne in mind in relation to television: the control of the invention is the essential question.

When we come to the question of televising the proceedings of the House, it seems to me, speaking generally, that the invention has not been with us long enough to make the rather extravagant claims made by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, a little earlier, when he said that he who turns away from television is turning away from life itself. We have often heard hyperbolic remarks in this House, but that surely must be one of the most extravagant. A recent opinion poll in France—a country which is twice as rich as ourselves, according to statistics—suggested that if there were to be a television-free day, 40 per cent. of Frenchmen would be quite happy; and a substantial number of Frenchmen would be quite happy if television were not to be available at all. I believe we are at too early a stage to make the judgment which the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick made so extravagantly just now.

I confess that I am prejudiced so far as television is concerned. I recognise that television is a comforting friend to those who live alone. It has marvellous programmes of an educational nature. Its entertainment is frequently stupendous. On the other hand, I think that it has emphasised the continuance of a decline in reading, particularly in schools. I think that it has had an ambiguous attitude towards crime. It has encouraged populations in the industrialised world to be sedentary.

With regard to politics and television, I am even more critical. Television has enabled many people to see what politicians are like, though very often what they see on television is not what they are really like. Many noble Lords will remember in one of our many debates in this House my noble friend Lord Ferrers contrasted a notable speech which was being made by the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in this House with the impression which that speech made when it was seen more or less at the same time on a video in the Moses Room. There is no doubt that politics have been enhanced by great television discussions and debates. On the other hand, most of us would feel that television has helped to destroy local constituency meetings. It has had a generally adverse effect on local politics—

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me—

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

One moment. It has—particularly in the United States—made politics a part of the media. I think that it has also had a "nationalising" effect. Those of us who have sought to try to bring this country to an understanding of the European Community of nations have had no encouragement whatever from television. This is the background against which we must consider whether to continue televising the proceedings of this House.

Lord Ardwick

My Lords, when I said that turning a back on television was turning a back on life I was thinking particularly in the context of a user. For example, if one turned one's back on television last week, one would have seen neither the very exciting Cup Final nor the terrible events in the Soviet Union.

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, it is also possible to read of these events with imagination in the press. However, I recognise the point of the noble Lord.

Coming to the question of whether we should continue the televising experiment in this House I have to recognise, as have other noble Lords, the tact with which both producers and cameramen have carried out their task. I also recognise that the lights today are a great improvement, and we have heard some encouraging news that they might continue to be improved.

So far as I have been able to observe, no noble Lord has sought particularly to change his personality because of the fact of television, though I must say that there is some question as to whether or no that will always be the case in future. Noble Lords present today have established their personalities over many years in the non-television age. Whether or not that will always continue in the future with new Peers in time to come is a different matter. So far as I know, no Peer has yet been created specifically because he is good on television. I am sure that noble Lords would agree with me in hoping that that will always be the case in the future.

It is also a matter of comfort that the committee felt able to say that the committees of this House did not alter their procedures because of the presence of television. There can be no doubt, as my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter said in his speech initiating the debate and as was also said by the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, that knowledge of this House has certainly increased beyond all belief since the introduction of television. I dare say that my noble friend is right in saying that that will be a useful barrier against any new consideration of early abolition. However, thinking in the long term, I must say that if abolition is no longer considered, I suspect that the question of the composition of this House may well be considered in consequence of the attention drawn to it because of television.

I have some other doubts about this innovation. I do not agree with the comparison which my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter drew between television and the agora of ancient Athens. After all, the average Athenian when he listened to the debates heard them from afar; he did not see them in his own house with the cheeks of the speakers exposed to him as if they were his own brothers. I think we all realise that we have television in this House not because of our beaux yeux, but because the television companies essentially want to have a foot in the door of the Palace of Westminster so that ultimately they can secure a foot in the House of Commons.

What will happen to the televising of the Lords after television is permitted in the House of Commons? That is a question which your Lordships must consider when debating this Motion. I do not think that we can always be certain that producers in future will conduct themselves with the tact that they have hitherto when, understandably, they have been on their best behaviour in the hope that they will be here permanently or that they will secure that entry into the House of Commons about which I have just spoken.

Because of those doubts—and I have some others—I think that there are likely to be long-term consequences for the character of the House that will be damaging to its peculiar blend of ceremony, intimacy and mystery. I would still vote against the introduction of television if that matter were put to the vote. Nevertheless, I have become, perhaps due to the influence of my noble friend Lord Aberdare, realistic and I would not initiate a Division on this question, not only for the reasons that I have just given, but also because I should like weight given to two suggestions in relation to the work of the Select Committee which is proposed in paragraphs 61 and 63 of the report.

First, it is important—and I am sure that noble Lords who may not necessarily have agreed with my argument will agree with the proposition that I am putting forward now—that the Select Committee should be as balanced as the Aberdare committee and should include sceptics such as, for example, the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart of Swindon. Secondly, the Select Committee should pursue all the possibilities, including financial possibilities not discussed in the report, whereby the superior recommendations made in paragraphs 36 to 45, which would give us our own system, could be introduced if necessary before the Commons have pronounced on the matter again. I cannot help feeling that in the future it would be thought surprising if this House, the senior House in the Mother of Parliaments—though not perhaps, as the King of Spain told us two weeks ago, the oldest of Parliaments; nevertheless one of the oldest Parliaments in the world—had on a permanent basis a system which was recognised by ourselves as being second best. Surely if there is to be television in the House of Lords, we should have the best type of television available to us.

4.26 p.m.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, it is a privilege to address your Lordships on a subject of this nature. I know that there may be some who would say that it is an impertinence for a new Member of the House to say whether or not the proceedings of the House should be televised. However, perhaps I may crave your Lordships' indulgence. I was for 36 years a Member of the other House and I had some experience of the debates which took place there about televising their proceedings and about sound broadcasting. It is as a result of that experience and also the experience which I have had since last July when I became a Member of this House that I intervene today.

First, let me put it on record that I am an enthusiastic supporter of the Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. If there were a vote—and I hope that there will not be—I should most certainly vote in favour of the Motion. Let me tell your Lordships why I would take that course. As I have said, what I am about to say is based on 36 years' experience in the other House and I believe that that qualifies me to take part in this debate.

Looking back on the attitude of Members of Parliament as opposed to Members of the House of Lords, the situation runs something as follows. A Member of Parliament is elected by his people; he is there as a result of votes. He is literally terrified of the future. Fortunately, I had a constituency where I had an overwhelming majority and so it never occurred to me. However, I remember that it certainly occurred to many of my colleagues at the time. They were appalled by the picture that would be presented because it represented crosses on a ballot paper. Indeed, that is still the case today as regards many of those people.

With great respect to the previous speaker, the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, the argument was never about the quality of television or the way in which it was carried out, the editing and so on. The argument was about their own fear that the television pictures might affect their own position regarding votes. I mention that because it has nothing to do with your Lordships' House. We are lucky because we are not here as a result of any votes. Nor are we bound by the views of others as to whether we continue our membership. To be frank, we are in a very fortunate position. No one recognises that more than I, because I took part in 12 general elections. Therefore, I am simply saying that, first, we are able to look at this matter in a way that is quite independent.

The one thing which I have learned about the procedure for televising our debates—and I also include sound broadcasting—is that some mistakes have been made. When Parliament was first put on radio we immediately set up a committee to see how it was running and what comments could be made. We were very keen to allow the BBC, as it then was, entirely to have control of the running of the broadcasting. However, very quickly and early on mistakes were made; one or two of the regional programmes—and it was only the odd one or two—made terrible blunders and expressed their own views. With great respect, we thought that that was impertinent.

The public themselves used to speak about, and I believe are still speaking about, the noises and so on in Parliament, and there is some criticism. But I do not believe that anybody, even in the other place, would accept the argument that we should abolish sound broadcasting; they would not dream of it.

They just have not got the courage to do what, in my view, they must do, and that is to see that their proceedings are televised. Of course you can strictly control it; and here I put a suggestion to the Leader of the House, and I know he will agree with it. If the time comes when television is permanent in the House of Lords, we shall have to ensure that we have a first-class committee whose job it will be to oversee the way in which it is done, to deal with the complaints, the editing, and all the rest of it.

There is one other aspect I want to put to your Lordships, and again I am speaking personally. I am very much a new boy here. I came to the House of Lords with some deep feelings about parliamentary privileges and the rest. May I say a word about that? When I first entered Parliament 36 years ago I suppose I could have been described as a bit of a Left-winger, because I did all the Left-wing guff. I opposed tradition and parliamentary privileges. I though that it was rubbish and nonsense. I thought that Black Rod was just about the silliest thing I had ever heard of. But it is a fact that I had not been in the House of Commons very long before I became a very strong supporter of the privileges of the House.

I shall tell your Lordships why. Abolish them; abolish Black Rod and all that the Civil War meant; abolish the whole idea of the relationship between the Lords and the Commons, and the rest of it; abolish all that, and what have you got?—a local government chamber. Is there anything more dreadful? Is there anything more deadly? Is there anything so deplorable as to see a thick mayor? In fact some of them now refuse even to wear robes or anything of that kind. It makes them democratic, or is it Left; I am never quite sure.

I am simply saying that I became a very strong advocate of what I call the parliamentary privileges of the Palace as a whole. When I came into this House the one thing I learnt above all else was the quality of your Lordships. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, is listening to every word of this. The quality of your Lordships is not to be underrated.

There are people in this House—and I am not one of them—who have a lifetime of experience that has been obtained only through living it, and they are now in a position where they do not have to rely on the crosses of people to vote them in and out of office. It would be a tragedy if that is not exposed to the public as a whole. Let them see the quality of the membership and the type of people there are everywhere you look.

I recently took a party of Lords down to my beloved Docklands. What pleased me more than anything was that the officers of Docklands were quickly put in their place by the Lords who had gone down there because the Lords knew more about planning, about land, about procedures, than anybody down there. It did them a power of good. That is the sort of thing that your Lordships can contribute.

We do not have to apologise for being here; we are part of a Second Chamber. Whether the constitution or the membership are right are not for me to discuss or dispose of today, if I were able to. But to say that we shall not be televised, that we should be so reactionary as to say that the public must not see us—who is it who says that? Who gives them the authority in the 1980s to say that?

What we have to be concerned about is the way in which it is portrayed. We have to be certain that there is editing of the kind I mentioned earlier. A committee of this House must be in virtually permanent session to make certain that neither the BBC nor the ITA abuse their position. I repeat that I hope very much that it does not come to a vote, but by heaven if it does I shall certainly vote for this Motion.

4.34 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, already the mood of your Lordships' House appears to be in support of the Motion—a Motion which proposes to mark the end of the experimental period and to establish a provisional measure of permanency for the televising of proceedings of your Lordships' House. Like the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, whom I have the privilege to follow, I, too, hope that this will not be put to the vote. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, also expressed that view. As I understand the position my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, notwithstanding certain reservations that he has expressed, would not, as at present advised, wish to divide your Lordships' House.

As my noble friend Lord Aberdare said, these services are provided in various forms because of the grant of "drive-in" access. It is at no cost whatever to the Exchequer. The plain fact of the matter is that no television company could afford to apply to a continuance of that grant unless there were sustained public demand. Public demand, established by monitoring, that is viable and likely to increase, may not be rebuffed by any arbitrary refusal. These must be reasoned grounds of justification. Personal preferences; prejudicial preconceptions, however well motivated; inchoate fears of frivolity, however sincerely entertained; indeed, the doubts expressed by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton; and those unexplained long-term consequences—these afford no substitute for reason.

The reasoned realities of the situation in support of this Motion rest upon the assumption that, as other noble Lords have said, the experimental period has now already served its purpose without in any way operating to the detriment of the intrinsic value of the work of your Lordships' House, and indeed without any hint of conflict with another place because, by mutual accommodation, such matters as ministerial Statements have been arranged.

Therefore, the fundamental question is, as the report of the Select Committee recognises, whether we are to continue with television or whether we are not. If we are to continue, then the proposals as envisaged in Part III of this report are the only reasonable basis, the only acceptable basis, upon which one can continue. And this so that advantage may be taken of some of the trappings of provisional permanency. I refer to the removal of those monstrous instruments, those obtrusive obscenities, strung up on scaffolds, and that we should instead have modified chandeliers and low-light cameras with remote control. These would be a mere peck of inconvenience. We should also have some form of reasonable accommodation for the broadcasters and even restore Black Rod's garden to Black Rod.

But these are all domestic matters in which the public will have scant interest. Few of the public, of whom the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, spoke so eloquently, will read that admirable report of the Select Committee any more than they will read Hansard. Some will be content with their newspaper; some will be content with their radio; some will be content with their access to the Galleries. But those who watch by the twist of a knob or the touch of a button will not be content. And those who watch these proceedings will watch in wonder at why the continuance of what is to them a newly-found pleasure should even be called in question. Some will watch in bewilderment, remembering that on more than one occasion it was by their vote that they saved your Lordships' House from the threat of abolition. Of course, if there were some justified reasons which made sense to them, they no doubt would understand; they would accept the deprivation with good grace, albeit with reluctance. But they have heard no good justifiable reason and they shall hear none because none exists.

Dealing, as this is a debate, with the points made by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, those, I suggest to him with respect, are no reasons at all. First of all, he says that there is an inevitable disadvantage in any progressive step. That is very learned but I suppose that at the end of the day it means that we do nothing, anyway. Then he says there is a problem of control. Where is the problem of control? If the control as it has been exercised is satisfactory to the sense of your Lordships' House, though not perfect—and few things are perfect—then where is the problem of control?

Lord Thomas of Swynnerton

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving way to enable me to correct what was clearly a misunderstanding of what I said—which simply was that with most innovations there are disadvantages as well as benefits.

Lord Campbell of Alloway

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. That is exactly what I understood him to say, and I am content that Hansard should read for itself. He then went on to say, as a ground or reason, that we are not like what we really are. What, with respect, will those who watch these proceedings think of that explanation as a justification? Then my noble friend says that it destroys constituency meetings. I do not know much about it but I had an idea—and other noble Lords will know better than I—that they were pretty dreary affairs, anyway. But, in any event, what is the point? Before the televising of your Lordships' House I assume that they were pretty dreary affairs; and after the televising of your Lordships' House presumably they are equally dreary affairs. What has the televising of your Lordships' House to do with it at all? As I say, it is learned stuff, but what does it add up to?

Then my noble friend talks about the effect in the United States of America. They do not have a House of Lords, so what has that got to do with it? Then he talks about Frenchmen watching television. What are they watching on television? I do not know. Perhaps they prefer to watch things on television that television companies do not provide. But, again, they do not have a House of Lords, so what has that got to do with it? Then we get as the final, reasoned justification for opposing this Motion, if you please, that there is some fear that Peers will be created because they are good on television. Well, really, my Lords, I was about to say that the mind boggles; but somebody has said that before.

There is no reasoned justification. Those who watch have heard no reasoned justification and they never shall because there is none. Of course, it is a matter of conjecture as to whether this sustained public demand will remain if and when the cameras are admitted into another place. I concede that straightaway. If the public demand does not remain viable then cadit questio there is no basis upon which the television companies would wish to seek continuance of the grant of access. But we are not concerned today with matters of conjecture. We are concerned with making a practical decision on a matter of no little public consequence. My hope, as is the hope of other noble Lords on other sides of the House, is that your Lordships' House shall not divide on this subject today.

4.45 p.m.

Lord O'Neill of the Maine

My Lords, at this stage in the debate most of the ground has already been covered but I should like to add a few words. Like everyone else, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for giving us this opportunity of considering this problem. I have no doubt that before too long all deliberations in the Palace of Westminster will be televised. I am glad to think that your Lordships' House has shown the way.

Most people supplement their news from the papers with radios and television. Not all that many read the parliamentary pages of those papers which have them. Indeed, I have often been surprised when talking to friends to find how little of the news in the newspapers they read. We who have been or are in public life tend to read our papers pretty thoroughly but a lot of people do not. They rely on radio and television for their news. May I suggest in this context that consideration should be given to a slight extension of the radio coverage of Parliament? Perhaps another five minutes on "Today in Parliament" or "Yesterday in Parliament" would be useful. Those of us who visit our Gallery in another place know from personal experience the noise that can go on, especially at Prime Minister's Question Time. It is open to argument whether television would have a good or a bad effect in this respect in another place. Though it has nothing to do with me or perhaps even with your Lordships' House, surely an experiment should be made to see how things turn out.

Lord Mellish

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way for a moment? There was a time not so long ago when Mr. Denis Healey was Chancellor of the Exchequer and it was decided that the day had come when the Budget speech should in fact be broadcast. He was under request or instruction not to speak for longer than one hour, not to be controversial, if he could avoid it, and all Members of Parliament were to keep quiet. That broadcast took place and was voted to be the dullest broadcast that had ever been heard from Parliament.

Lord O'Neill of the Maine

My Lords, nevertheless those of us who have attended Prime Minister's Question Time and have seen how the Prime Minister has to shout to make herself heard must question whether the way we deliberate is perhaps not a little superior. If I may mention the question of ministerial Statements, I appreciate the arrangements which have been come to under which the cameras in your Lordships' House have to be switched off when a ministerial Statement is made. But at the same time of course the television companies can get round this by interviewing the person who has made the ministerial Statement, perhaps half an hour after it has been made, and then the whole thing is played together in the evening and people watching do not realise that the Statement was not made in the House. I think that is something which should be considered. I realise, of course, that another place would be very sensitive about it.

Finally, like other Members of your Lordships' House, I think the change that has come about in this House in, say, the last 10 years is wonderful. Ten years ago if you hailed a taxi and said, "House of Lords please", as likely as not you would be taken to the House of Commons. Now that very seldom happens. What is more, I find that taxi drivers are very interested in what is going on in your Lordships' House. The status and position of your Lordships' House has improved out of all recognition, and television is merely the latest example of your Lordships' enhanced situation. Like everybody else, I hope we shall not divide but, if we do, I shall support the Motion put down by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, with all my heart.

4.52 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I think most of us would wish to congratulate my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter on a masterly introductory speech. It was full not only of good knowledge and good sense but good humour as well, and it set us off on what I think has been a most admirable debate. I think I am appointed in this position rather as a sweeper. Those of you who watched the Cup Final will know that the sweeper is behind the stars, picking up the odd ball here and there and making sure it is not too dangerous to his own side.—

A noble Lord

A wicket keeper.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, yes, I was a wicket keeper but I gave that up a few years ago. I wanted to pick up some of the points which have not been covered very fully and perhaps to touch on others and enlarge on them. I wanted to cover four points. The first concerns the lights. I was honoured to be the chairman of the sub-committee and I should like to say a word on that. Secondly, I should like to touch on what the rest of the world has done, because sometimes we seem to live on this island as a sort of closed circuit: we do not look sufficiently outside this island to see what is going on when parliaments are televised elsewhere. I also want to say a word on editorial control and, lastly, a word about the future.

I enjoyed working on the sub-committee, partly because I had tremendous co-operation from the BBC and the IBA; but there was co-operation and speed of action, which I had not expected, from the PSA. The very fact that they managed to produce today the restructured light so that we would at least have a chance of seeing what might come about, I think, reveals the speed of the action. They were fitting them up over the weekend so that your Lordships' House should be able to see them as they are likely to be. But of course it will take some time to replace all the chandeliers.

I joined the BBC in 1937 and I have always been haunted by lights. I was later in charge of outside broadcasts and of course in those days things were rather easier and the unions less tight. We were allowed into the theatres of London and I remember that we had to pile on a really enormous amount of light. It was very expensive to fit the lights and very unpleasant to sit under them. Television cameras have become much more sensitive and of course the better the camera the lower the light level it needs. Some of us who have had to sit for endless hours at party conferences were always being told that we were sitting under television lights: nowadays films need more light than television but that has not shifted the blame. It is getting better every day and I always found, if I may pursue the point a little here, that lighting engineers in the BBC and other organisations, when in doubt, just add light, because then the picture is clearer, just as the ordinary photographer prefers to take his photographs in sunshine. The colours are better, the grain is less evident and you have a better picture. Incidentally, I always think that we are a little unkind to Her Majesty the Queen. We really put a tremendous amount of light on the Royal Throne for the State Opening. In fact Her Majesty has to sit under three times as much light as we find necessary for the Chamber during television broadcasts.

The amount of light the television authorities say they want is that of 30 foot candles—that is roughly what we have got today—when not reinforced by daylight, by the way. At the moment the sun is shining, or it was a second ago, and so it would be rather a distorted measurement. But when there is no outside light they need 30 foot candles, or roughly 300 lux. It is a strange thing—we have only just become aware of it, I think—that when we are back under our normal lighting, this is rather a dreary and ill-lit Chamber. That is a shame, because it has been redecorated; it is a beautiful Chamber and in wonderful condition now, especially our ceiling, and we never see it at its best.

It is strange also that the standard for government conference rooms in the Whitehall area and elsewhere demands just twice the amount of light that we sit under here every day that we sit. That is why we find it rather dreary, so, even if we do not have television in the future, we shall have improved and updated the lights. What has been done is to redesign; to take the 200-watt bulbs out of each of those fittings (and there are six in each chandelier) and replace them by bulbs of 500 watts. These can be faded under control, so if it is too much for the general lighting when television is not taking place it can be reduced.

I should like to make one point about cameras, because in paragraph 46 of our report—and that went to the printers in March—a reference was made to new cameras. Something has happened since then, because these super-sensitive cameras were going to be supplied by RCA, and although, as we said in our report, they decided not to go ahead with it, Sony have now picked up the design. They tell me that they will soon have cameras which are called charge-coupled-device cameras. They are super-sensitive and need only half the amount of light as the present ones. They tell me that these will be available to be demonstrated in this country to European standards (625 lines and PAL system) this September. They should be on the market towards the end of the year. We said in our report—at that time we thought it to be right—that the cameras would not be available for two or three years. That invention is now coming forward, and we shall have less need of high light in the future.

Secondly, I want to turn to see what the rest of the world has done. If your Lordships look at the OECD countries, which I suppose epitomise the more highly developed and rich countries of the world, the vast majority of them have for many years allowed television into their parliaments. All members of the EC, with two exceptions—Ireland and Britain—have for many years allowed their parliaments to be televised. Strangely enough, although we initiated television—we had the first public service television in the world in 1936—we seem to be lacking confidence, although now, as a result of the experiment, I hope we have overcome that. Somehow we did not quite seem to trust the people involved, the producers and so on, enough. They have shown by their example and the people have shown by their enjoyment that the experiment has been well worthwhile. But it is strange that the Austrian Parliament has been televised for over 30 years; Denmark for 36 years; France for 22 years; Sweden for 28 years; Switzerland for 29 years; and West Germany for over 30 years. I hope that we do not have a Division, but if we do I hope the message will go out that at least we are joining the club and are going to have television in the future.

The United States House of Representatives has been televised since 1979, and there they use six cameras. I sometimes wonder whether we are not a little bit under-camera'd here because we always get the same shots from the same angle, with the same people (either very lively or sometimes less lively) in the background. It would be nice to have a change of shots, and perhaps, in due course, we shall have rather more cameras. By the way, in the House of Representatives all the cameras are remote-controlled. My noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway said that they did not have television in both Chambers, but the Senate is starting a six-week experiment on 1st June.

Thirdly, I re-read over the weekend the report of the debate in the House of Commons when the Motion was only very narrowly defeated by 275 votes to 263. It was a very substantial vote, and there was just a dozen in it. It was evident in that debate that there was a good deal of anxiety on all sides of the House as to whether those in editorial control could be trusted to produce a true and fair political balance. I think that both the BBC and the ITA have done their very best during this experiment and have produced a good political balance. There have been glaring examples of where people who we know are leaders in their subject have been missed out of the summary, but somebody will always be missed out and it is only a question of experience. Only by experience does one know that somebody is leading a committee or is an expert on a particular subject, with something worthwhile to contribute. In the meantime, there are bound to be a few mistakes.

I very much like the proposed solution. I am glad that the committee did not favour the in-house parliamentary control unit. It is too small a unit to offer good career prospects. It may start very well, but I have a feeling that as it grows up people will be unable to get promotion or the opportunities they want, and they will soon leave it. You do not want a bureaucracy and you do not want the Civil Service doing this. I very much welcome the long-term idea that we should have a contractor or a facilities unit which comes and does it under contract to us and which we have an opportunity of changing if it does not meet the needs. We cover that in paragraph 39 of the report, and I shall not go into it more fully.

What worries me more is what happens when the Select Committee is set up. I hope that it will be set up and that it will be effective, because it has important duties; but what happens if the BBC and the IBA come under such financial pressure that they find it too expensive to carry on, if the House of Commons start their television and reverse the decision, or if the public do not show the interest which they have shown during the experiment? It will be a very difficult moment to say, "Enough is enough". Then, it may be that we feel that those two organisations, admirable as they are, are not spreading the sale of the output to the Commonwealth and to other English-speaking countries who could be interested in it.

Another interesting factor is cable, and I should have mentioned that C-span in the United States has cable television of their House of Representatives all the time, and has done for some years. Maybe that is a solution in the long term, when we have many more channels. But all these factors could vary the position, and no-one here will pretend that we have found the perfect solution which is written on tablets of stone and is not changeable. This is a flexible, temporary solution, not a permanent one, and I hope that the House will feel, as many of us do, that the moment has come when Britain can take the step of televising the House of Lords on a more stable footing and that we should not be overruled by the fact that the Commons is not doing it. It is a sad decision of theirs, but let this House go ahead on the lines that the Select Committee proposes.

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, who must have thought that he was the sweeper-up of this debate. I did not put my name down because I wanted to hear how the debate went. It has been very favourable to televising the House, and I am certainly not opposed to that. As more than 50 per cent. of the committee have spoken, or will speak before the debate ends, one should not be surprised that the debate is taking the shape of complete support for the committee's recommendations.

Some while ago I asked a supplementary question in this House, and, as some supplementary questions do, it did not relate to the original Question. But I prefaced my remarks by referring to a supplementary question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, and replied to by the Minister. The reply from the Minister seemed to welcome the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, that it was not a bad idea to have a London Docklands Development Corporation establishing—as Hansard stated—38,000 new jobs. So I asked the Minister whether he did not consider that excessive development of that kind would have a harmful effect on the rest of the regions in this country. The upshot of that was that the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, told me off in no uncertain terms. I had not the slightest objection to that, because I replied to the Leader of the House later in the debate last week on the same issue.

But that is not the point of my intervention, which will be very brief. The point is that I was asked when I arrived home what kind of a fool was I to ask a question which had no relation at all to the original Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. It was a very important question and it hinted at some very wrong malpractices in certain areas of London. I should have thought that television would cover that question, and would stick to it, but it did not. They saw fit to show on television that night merely the altercation between myself and the Leader, which had nothing to do with that important subject. All it had to do with was how this House is controlled, which I suppose is a laudable subject at the right time.

However, I am not allowed to take out of Hansard anything I say out of context. I am, of course, allowed to correct a slip of the tongue or to correct a few words in the wrong place, but, according to the privileges of this House I am not allowed to remove from Hansard a question that I have asked out of context. If I place a question in a certain context, that is how it will go in Hansard. Therefore, on seeing that what I had said had been removed from its context, I complained to the Leader of the House and we have him to thank for the fact that I am intervening. I did not particularly want to intervene in this debate, but he said that he had not seen the programme and perhaps I should complain here in this Chamber. Therefore, I am complaining, but please do not blame me.

I also wrote to the television people who were responsible, saying that they had taken my question out of context. They denied it. They said: I find that the only part of your remarks which we omitted, in the item we broadcast, was the following: 'My Lords, arising from the reply of the noble Lord the Minister to the noble Lord, Lord Mellish'.". They admit that they took that completely out. The reply went on: The reason we did not include these introductory words of yours were that neither the supplementary question by Lord Mellish nor the reply by Lord Brabazon of Tara were included in the broadcast item.". Because they were not in the broadcast item, the television people thought that something I had said should not be included. If that is not a frank admission that they will mould what is said here in order to improve their programmes, or to produce good television, I do not know what is. The reply continued: it seemed to us that it might be confusing to viewers if these initial words were included. That is just too bad. I was not speaking to viewers, I was speaking to the Chamber. If the budding Norman Tebbits on that side had allowed me to say a few more words I should have explained it that day, but they prevented me. The letter goes on to quote what was said on television—that, Lord Sefton complained that the South of England was getting more money at the expense of the North". I said no such thing. I pointed that out when I interviewed the person they asked me to interview. The letter then says: It, therefore, appears to me that your question was not taken out of context and was appropriately placed within a sensible framework". That is as good as telling me that I cannot place my questions in a sensible framework in order to get around this problem with supplementary questions that are not related to the original Question. I resent that personally but that is not important. The letter continues: If it would be helpful to reassure you on this point and then they ask me to meet a Miss Jackie Ashley.

I wrote again after meeting this person and said that I was not reassured and that I believed they had taken it out of context. I am still convinced that they took it out of context. My only reason for intervening today is that the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing, mentioned the question of editing. Another noble Lord had reservations. Another noble Lord said that we would have to be very careful. We shall become slaves to good television if we are not very careful.

As the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, pointed out, this Parliament has a long tradition of privilege. I share with the noble Lord, Lord Mellish, a growth of loyalty to the kind of tradition and to the kind of privilege that have established this Parliament as the best one I know. I am not opposing the Motion but I am suggesting that the next time the committee meets it should give some serious consideration to the editing of programmes and to ensuring that the BBC does not do something which we as Members cannot do with Hansard, and does not twist the programmes in order to suit what they consider to be a sensible programme or what they consider to be good television. We have to be careful, and if we are not careful the only way around it will be to have television here all the time, on tap, so that members of the public who want to see this Chamber and the other Chamber can look at it whenever they want—and they will pick the subject.

5.12 p.m.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, after that interesting unscheduled excursion I feel that I should say to the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, that I frankly doubt whether the British public would be willing to allow total, complete and continuous broadcasting of all the proceedings of your Lordships' House merely to ensure that the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, is not upset just occasionally. But I am sorry that he was upset; and I do remember—

Lord Sefton of Garston

My Lords, all the noble Lord would have to do would be to press a button or a switch.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, I recall the incident to which the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, refers. I was here at the time. I also happened to see the programme. I do not know whether it was the BBC or ITV (and I am not even sure whether the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, knows which it was) but I frankly doubt whether those hard-worked people went to all that trouble (and perhaps some expense) quite deliberately in order to damage the noble Lord, Lord Sefton. Frankly, I do not regard that as credible. I regard it as a mistake for which I am quite sure the broadcasters are sorry. As the experiment has gone, we have all lived and learnt.

I need say little in winding up this debate on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches. We have a free vote. My recollection of when I have spoken from this Front Bench on previous occasions when we have had a free vote is that my noble friends in the Liberal Party in their undying devotion to freedom tend to feel that a free vote necessarily means that they must automatically vote the opposite way to that recommended by whoever is speaking from the Front Bench. I hope that on this occasion they will perhaps follow my advice.

I must also make a most sincere apology to the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, for not being here at the beginning of his speech. I arrived at the very end of it, having motored more than 300 miles from the Lake District in order to be here. I always enjoy immensely the noble Lord's speeches—I do not always agree with them—and I was looking forward to an occasion when the noble Lord's well-known debating talents and his wit were to be used in support of my case rather than against it. I am so sorry that I missed what would have been for me a very happy experience. I hope that the noble Lord will accept that.

What are we doing today? We are not suddenly slamming any doors; nor are we suddenly opening the doors for ever. People have asked whether this is permanent. We live in a very impermanent world. Nothing is permanent. At any time the broadcasters could be free to say, "We want no more of this". At any time your Lordships' House is entirely free to say, "We have had enough; we do not like the way they do it". It can never be permanent. When finally centuries ago after much argument we admitted the press, it was not permanent. It has proved to be relatively permanent—they still come. They could go if they wished. When I look at the papers which some of them represent and I read through the columns in search of anything about either of the Houses of Parliament and find nothing, I sometimes wonder whether they have in fact gone, but at least they have to come along in order to provide stuff to be spiked—somewhere else, I understand. But it is not permanent.

At any time your Lordships' House could say "No" to the press and at any time the press could say "No". So what are we deciding to do? We are merely deciding to continue to do what we have been doing hitherto now for some months, during which time we have all learned a great deal. We have all come to terms with television in your Lordships' House. The public have learnt a great deal more about your Lordships' House and are better informed about it than they were before. And I am bound to say this—the broadcasters themselves have learned a great deal and have learned continuously. I do not want to comment on any particular programmes but I feel that, as time has gone on, the broadcasters, whether it be Independent Television or the BBC, have gradually found methods of reflecting more accurately the mood of your Lordships' House and its true role than perhaps they did initially. That will change and will continue to change, as indeed, as other noble Lords have said, the lighting will change.

One effect of the lighting—and I think the noble Viscount the Leader of the House referred to it at one time—was that once the lights went off some noble Lords were rather dissatisfied with the normal lighting. If noble Lords read the report of the Select Committee, of which I had the honour to be a Member, they will see in evidence given by the PSA in answer to a question that the normal lighting in your Lordships' House does not reach the standard required in a working environment by the Shops, Offices and Railway Premises Act. We are not prosecuted because we are exempt from the provisions of the law in those ways but there is no doubt that our own lighting has improved as a result of the additional lighting for television. Some of us whose vision is not quite as good as it once was have benefited therefrom.

We are in a rapidly evolving and changing situation in which new techniques arise constantly. We shall find presently that perhaps very little extra lighting is needed. I remember that your Select Committee saw some video tape taken with no additional lighting. To me it looked entirely satisfactory. It was not satisfactory to the broadcasters because they do not look at pictures. They look at meters which show them a level of lighting and when they see that it is not up to what it should be they say the picture is no good. They have other standards. It is right that they should all be, as it were, perfectionists, aiming for absolute perfection all the time. But sometimes they cannot have it.

When I asked why they needed this additional lighting and whether the pictures were not entirely unsatisfactory, they said "Yes, but very often these programmes will have to be repeated and recorded and re-repeated. That means we need a much higher quality of picture initially". I then reminded them of a clip of a television programme that has been repeated over and over again. It was, as some noble Lords will remember, the last over of the Gillette Cup semi-final at Old Trafford in Manchester. David Hughes scored 28 in the last over to win the match, almost in the pitch dark. I was in the pavilion. You could not see the match at all. You could just see it on television. That has been repeated over and over again. The lesson is that probably the level of lighting actually required by the viewer, though not perhaps by the broadcasters themselves, is sometimes rather less than the professionals in broadcasting would think.

Nevertheless, we are in a changing situation in which new technology is rapidly developing. As the noble Lord On-Ewing has said, new cameras are on the way. I have no doubt that the time will come when we shall have them. For the moment, I believe that the camera operators and cameramen have done a splendid job. They have been wholly unobtrusive and I do not imagine that any noble Lord anywhere in your Lordships' House has had any kind of complaint against anybody working for either of the broadcasting organisations during the time that they have been televising our proceedings. It is possible that there could be better cameras and better lighting. We must all wait and see. Things will change and things will evolve.

One noble Lord queried what would happen if another place began having its proceedings televised, and he wondered whether all broadcasts from this House would stop. Look what has happened with radio. Both Houses are continuously recorded for sound radio. The fact that the other place is recorded does not mean that your Lordships' House never receives any attention on sound radio. Indeed, an analysis of those programmes has shown that, despite the coverage of another place, your Lordships' House receives quite a lot of coverage on radio, because the broadcasters themselves find that it offers interesting material and because their market research shows that listeners like to hear it.

I suggest that we shall have the same experience in respect of television if another place is eventually televised as well as this House. We may not receive as much coverage, but, as and when the proceedings in your Lordships' House are of particular interest, I believe that the broadcasters will be sufficiently perceptive and sufficiently understanding to see that they have something that is of value and something that will be appreciated by the viewing public. I believe, therefore, that we shall continue to receive television coverage.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, was extremely suspicious of the broadcasters. He said that they had of course been on their best behaviour because they knew that they had to be—that they were on trial and that somehow we could bring the experiment to an end. The broadcasters will always be on trial. The noble Lord is quite right to be suspicious. If there was no kind of eye kept on on the broadcasters by anybody, then standards could change. I do not mean to say that they would change deliberately, but of necessity.

It is true that independent television is controlled by the Act and that the BBC is controlled by its charter, to present an impartial and wholly fair and balanced picture. Further, I believe that there might occasionally be lapses, although not deliberately. But, if we want our proceedings to be televised, we must accept that it is a professional job and that we must trust the broadcasters to do it. If we cannot trust them to do it, then we should say "No" and stop. It is not something that we can do ourselves.

I do not need to say any more, save to express the hope that so many noble Lords have expressed, that we shall not have a Division and that, if we do, it will be carried very substantially. In the very early debates that we had, I said that noble Lords were being asked to vote for an experiment and the fact that they were being asked to vote for an experiment in no way preempted their right to take a different decision in the future.

I repeat that, if there are noble Lords who still believe that it is wrong to televise our proceedings, then they would be right to say so. However, I think that the experience we have had of many months of televising your Lordships's House has done everything possible to allay anxiety. I myself do not believe that there is any noble Lord who would wish to say "No" here and now.

To say "No" in the first place to having television here at all is very different from the public point of view—having had television here for many months with obvious public appreciation of it—from suddenly turning round now and saying, "No more." That could be very damaging to your Lordships' House and I hope that we shall not do it.

5.23 p.m.

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

My Lords, perhaps I may, as on the occasion of the two previous debates that we have had on the televising of this House, start by saying that I am of course expressing from this Dispatch Box a personal view on this question and not an official view on behalf of the Opposition.

I should first like to add to the thanks that other noble Lords have expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, for his very skilful chairmanship of the committee, which managed to produce a unanimous report. I can assure noble Lords who did not serve on that committee that that required a considerable degree of statesmanship from the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare.

We have already covered most of the ground, if not all of the ground, in our debate this afternoon. Your Lordships, rightly, take the proceedings of this House very seriously. We believe that we have a heavy job to do in revising Government legislation. We believe that that is a worthwhile job, particularly when the Government listen to what is said. We do not believe that this House is a rubber stamp. Mercifully, there is a time in our proceedings for mirth and lightheartedness, but that should not belittle the main thrust of our work. We also perform the very important role of acting as a forum in which to raise issues of public concern.

In so far as the television producers reflect the balance of that work I believe that your Lordships should on the whole be happy with the experiment and should support the Motion that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has moved this afternoon. I may add—and I think this has already been said—that I found myself more in agreement with the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, on this occasion than I do normally.

If your Lordships were to find that the producers were trivialising our affairs, you would take a very different view this afternoon. Certainly there were times during the experiment when I was fearful that that might be about to happen, but I am satisfied that in recent weeks that danger has largely disappeared. The daily programme "Their Lordships' House" and the recently introduced weekly BBC programme are both responsible programmes that reflect well on the work of this House.

Although we do not have any figures as yet for the BBC programme, we know, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, has said in his opening remarks, that 300,000 viewers watch each evening and 200,000 watch on the subsequent day when the other programme is repeated. There is an obvious public interest in our proceedings. The noble Lord was right to frame his Motion in the way that he has done. If the programme makers should fall from their present high standards, your Lordships can reverse the decision that I feel sure the House will reach today.

It is perhaps ironic that one of the major problems that the television companies face in the televising of this House—and it is one that your Lordships face and are about to face with a vengeance—is the unevenness of your Lordships' programme of work throughout the year. Since the beginning of the experiment we have witnessed the intermittent televising of our proceedings during the autumn and winter months and the regular broadcasting of our proceedings during the summer months. I suggest that that is a pattern that is likely to continue in the future.

As I understand it, money has been provided by the independent television companies to continue to the Summer Recess, as has already been outlined by the chairman of the committee, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare. No doubt that depends on the public continuing to support the experiment by viewing our proceedings. We have no evidence that that will not continue to be so.

During the debate today several noble Lords have mentioned the question of bias. Certainly I am aware of many complaints made to me about that aspect. I am also aware that many complaints have been made by noble Lords on the other side of the House about the question of bias. If complaints are made about bias on all sides of the House, I for one take it that, taking one programme with another, there must be a fair degree of satisfaction that the programmes are being fairly edited.

We have today had many references to the question of lighting. The new lights are good and allow us, as the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, said, to comply for the first time with the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act. However, it is important that the temporary lighting be removed as soon as possible. It is offensive that a Chamber on which so many millions of pounds of public money has been spent should be rendered so ugly by the intrusion of these lights and the scaffolding. I think the preservationists need not worry about the new lights—that they are not fully "Puginised"—because no doubt they will recall that the original lights in the Chamber were gas lights which were very different in design from the electric lights which we enjoy today.

Another matter of concern to noble Lords has been whether the behaviour of noble Lords has changed with the advent of lights. For myself, I agree with those noble Lords who said that, by and large, since the experiment has settled down they have not noticed any particular difference in behaviour by noble Lords during debates which are being recorded and broadcast later. However, I would make a slight reservation about behaviour during live broadcasts. I may say that I have had frequent requests from noble Lords who wish to speak early when they know that the programmes are to be broadcast live for only a limited period of time. As to that, I take the view that I should ignore the fact that the broadcasts are to be live and arrange, so far as it is within my power, the speakers' list in the same way as if the debates were not being broadcast live. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Swynnerton, who I see has reappeared, questioned whether this would always be so. I have a marginal agreement with him when we come to the question of live broadcasts.

The noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, raised the vexed question of ministerial Statements. This is a problem which I know worries the producers considerably. We sometimes have ministerial Statements initiated in this House, particularly when statements are made by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, and I would have thought that on those occasions the broadcasters should have an opportunity of broadcasting Statements made in this House. Under the rules they are, of course allowed to do so. I may add that in this context I am sometimes slightly annoyed that when a Statement is made in this House by the noble Lord, Lord Young of Graffham, the sound broadcast programmes report the repeat of the Statement in another place rather than the original Statement being made in this House which, of course, can be broadcast and can be televised.

Another question not raised today but which has been raised with me on various occasions is whether it is right that this House should continue televising when another place has voted not to admit the cameras into its Chamber. There could have been something in that argument if the way the experiment was being conducted portrayed this House as a rival to another place. Fortunately, the good sense of all involved in this experiment has meant that that problem has not arisen. I believe that your Lordships, the television companies and everyone else involved have behaved very responsibly in this experiment and that it would be right for it to continue.

5.34 p.m.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, we last debated the televising of our proceedings in July last year. On that occasion I said that we would have a full day's debate on the question of whether or not to continue permanently with television once the Select Committee had reported. The Select Committee has reported, we have had our debate this afternoon and in a short time we shall reach a decision.

Before that, perhaps I should start by thanking my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter for the way in which he introduced the debate, which has been widely praised on all sides of the House this afternoon. I believe that the obvious success of the debate is due very much to the way in which he introduced it. I should like also to associate myself with my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter and with the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, in thanking the chairman, the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and the members of his committee for all their work. They have produced a report which has provided your Lordships with all the material which we needed to enable us to reach a decision on the future of televising. Whatever the result may be I think the debate this afternoon, which has covered nearly all the points that the committee put before us, has done a great deal to show the value of what the committee has done. I am sure the House would wish me, on behalf of all of us, to thank the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, and his committee very much indeed.

Noble Lords

Hear, hear.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, my own views on televising are well known to your Lordships as I have expressed them in debate on previous occasions. I can assure your Lordships that I am not going to bore you again with them except to say that I have for a long time wanted to see the televising of Parliament; and I say advisedly, of Parliament. Nothing that has emerged from our experiment, which has now been running for some 15 months, has led me to change my views.

Perhaps I may start by referring to one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. In expressing any views about another place, I believe that the less time you have been away from it the less you must say about it, or someone will take you up and complain bitterly about your behaviour. Therefore, I shall not do that except to say—and this they cannot complain about—that it is a very different place from your Lordships' House. It would create very much greater difficulties for televising for editorial control, and for many aspects of broadcasting than does your Lordships' House. I think that goes a long way towards making us realise that the problems of televising your Lordships' House and televising another place are, in my judgment, very different indeed.

I should like to turn from that aspect to one point raised by the noble Lord, Lord O'Neill of the Maine, and something for which I am largely responsible; namely, ministerial Statements. This point was also raised by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby. I am sure that your Lordships realise that if I were now, with some of my colleagues, to raise this question in general, in view of the decision by the other place about televising, I would, to put it mildly, be treading on delicate ground. It is sometimes necessary for me, on behalf of your Lordships, to do just that; but I prefer not to tread on delicate ground when I do not have to do so. The only way to avoid that difficulty is not to raise the question of ministerial Statements in general. However, I accept what the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby, said about the position of my noble friend Lord Young of Graffham, and I think I might pursue that point. The best way I can do that is to use that favourite phrase in politics and say, "I shall see how I get along". I do not see any reason in principle why that should not be the case and I should like to think that it could be.

The noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in a most amusing speech, raised some of the doubts and apprehensions that many people had at the start of the experiment. The question he first raised was that of different behaviour—a point also touched on by my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. One observation made by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, was that he had not noticed that attention to the clock had actually diminished or increased as a result of the televising of your Lordships' House. Had there been even less attention paid to clocks than before, I am not sure that my noble friend the Chief Whip would have remained quite so fervent a supporter of televising the proceedings of this House as I know him to be.

As regards the question of those who appear to have a major contribution to make to your Lordships' House on a very wide and extensive variety of subjects, I can only say that that is their affair and it is not a matter for the Leader of the House, unless they go further than the Procedure Committee or the House wishes. I think I should be wrong to comment further than that. I do not think that televising the proceedings of your Lordships' House has made the slightest difference, at least to my notice, to much of that. I think the position is very much as it was.

The lights have been referred to by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing and by the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley. I am glad to hear that your Lordships think that the new chandeliers are an improvement. I must say I feel that they are an improvement. As I sat here this afternoon, I found that I had more trouble from the sun shining straight at me than I had from the lights. Of course, as I come from the North of England I am not used to the sun, so I understand only too well that what I find something of a strain may be felt somewhat differently by other noble Lords.

I think that I should now turn for a moment to the costs. The Select Committee believes that the cost of the clean feed method, which it describes in its report, is impracticable unless both Houses decide on the permanent televising of proceedings. I think that must be correct. I must repeat what I have said before: that there is, one might say, no extra money likely to be provided by the Government in the current circumstances. If I referred to treading on delicate ground so far as ministerial Statements are concerned, your Lordships can imagine my position if I were to raise with the Chancellor of the Exchequer the idea of some more money for the televising of your Lordships' House. I must say that I think I know what the answer would be and I do not believe in asking questions to which I know the answer, particularly if that answer is likely to be, no. I think we must accept that that is the position and that therefore we cannot go forward with the clean feed experiment, which would be costly if another place decided against it.

As set out in Part III of its report, the committee then turned to the solution, which of course is largely a continuation of existing practice at no cost to the House. Improvements that are still within reasonable finances can be made to the lighting of the Chamber, as I think we have seen this afternoon to some extent (I hope it can be continued) and to fitting out a committee room for television broadcasting. I found extremely interesting, as I am sure your Lordships did also, the report of the televising of the Select Committee under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Aldington, and I think it gave some lessons for the future. Speaking purely for myself, I hope that there will be opportunities to televise more of the Select Committees, as I think that is a very valuable part of the work of our House. Therefore I hope that this may happen.

Then there is the question of finding accommodation in the House for producing a signal and editing, so as to allow broadcasters to discontinue the use of the portakabins in Black Rod's garden. I did not know where Black Rod's garden was until it was suggested that I might go and make a television broadcast in one of the portakabins. As a result, I must agree with both proposals. I think that Black Rod's garden should be returned to Black Rod and be returned to its state of a garden again. I do not believe your Lordships would think it is that at the moment with the presence of the portakabins. As for the portakabins, the older one becomes and the larger one is, the more difficult one finds it to get in and out of portakabins. If I could make my broadcasts without getting in or out of a portakabin, I should be much happier.

I understand that the cost implications of the proposals before the House are modest and may amount to an eventual expenditure of the order of £100,000 at the outside. I understand that there is also the possibility of some contribution from the BBC and ITN toward lighting costs, and that some additional provision may have to be made in the future PSA estimates. However, I think one is here not talking of large sums of money and I think that that can be achieved.

I turn to a matter that has been raised by many noble Lords—that is, the question of editorial control. This subject was raised most particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede, at the end of his speech, where he stressed—very rightly in my judgement—the extreme importance of successful editorial control. In the course of our experiment I myself have received a number of complaints relating to edited material and the use of footage. One of the complaints has been given good publicity this afternoon: the one that I received from the noble Lord, Lord Sefton.

Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, that I do not think he came quite so badly out of that exchange as he thinks. Perhaps I may tell your Lordships my side of the story, which may make the noble Lord happier. I met a man in the North of England who said to me, "You interrupted that Peer from Liverpool". I said, "Yes", and he said, "You had no business to do that. He knows much more about Liverpool than you do"; to which I replied, "Yes, he most certainly does". My efforts to explain the position of the Leader of the House, the need to preserve the wishes of the House and the procedures of the House and to uphold the Select Committee on Procedure in your Lordships' House, did not have much effect on this man, whom I do not think I can describe as my friend. All he said when I had explained it all was, "Well, anyway, I would much rather listen to that man from Liverpool than I would to you". So I do not think that the noble Lord, Lord Sefton, can feel that he did too badly out of that exchange.

However, while of course I agree wholeheartedly with the Select Committee that there can be little dissatisfaction with the standard of editing and the balance which is achieved within specific programmes by those responsible, obviously if your Lordships set up the committee (a matter which I shall turn to in a moment) we shall there have the opportunity for that committee to keep considerable watch on complaints, particularly complaints about editorial control. I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Aylestone, about more regional coverage. I hope that the broadcasting authorities will consider this point, because I think that it will be extremely valuable. If the House decides to go forward and if we give them more stability, I think that is something they may be able to do.

I now turn to the whole question of the committee. The noble Lord, Lord Mellish, if I may say so to him in view of our past association in another place, in a typically robust and determined manner said that he hoped it would be a good committee. Both he and I have had in the past some experience in picking Members to sit on various committees in another place, and I can assure him that it is very important indeed—and I am sure the usual channels will make sure of it, as I think they did for the committee which produced this report—that there will be a balanced committee and that it will take into account the views of those people who are against televising just as much as the views of those who are in favour of it. So, if your Lordships agree to the Motion in the name of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter I shall in the near future—possibly before the Whitsun Recess—move the setting up of a Select Committee to supervise these matters.

I think that the suggestion of the Select Committee that this supervisory committee should look after both television broadcasting and sound broadcasting and take over the functions of our existing Sound Broadcasting Committee is a good one, and unless other representations are made for me to consider that is what I shall be proposing to the House. That of course is what was proposed by my noble friend Lord Aberdare and his committee.

Finally, I should like to say something on the permanence of the arrangements for televising the proceedings of our House. The Motion of my noble friend proposes that televising should continue until the House orders otherwise. Of course that power must always rest with the House itself. The House itself has the right to discontinue its broadcasting arrangements or to adapt them further in the course of time, if that is what the House wishes.

My noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls, who I think has left the scene, wondered how that would come about. If a substantial body of opinion wanted the matter raised again in another debate, I say to the whole House that it would be my duty through the usual channels to arrange a time. I give the House that absolute assurance.

There are those who wish that we had never embarked upon the endeavour, like my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. He referred to the decline in reading as a result of people watching much more television. I am sure that that is true. If everyone wrote as well as he does, the loss would be even greater, but, alas, not everyone does. I should prefer to watch television than read some of the things that I sometimes have to read elsewhere. But I understand his reservations and those of many others. That is why it is important that we should make clear, on the one hand, where the power of the House lies if the Motion is passed, and, on the other, what is likely to happen in the future. If the Motion is passed, your Lordships may feel that it would only be reasonable for us to give the broadcasting authorities a good run and thus some stability on which to plan their programmes for the future. That is a thought that I put before your Lordships.

It seems that your Lordships now wish to come to a decision. In view of my own feelings, I naturally hope very much that it will be in favour of continuing the broadcasting. But as Leader of your Lordships' House I hope that I have made it clear how we would seek to proceed if the Motion were passed.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, this has been a good debate and a particularly good humoured debate, with a large measure of agreement as to what we should do from noble Lords on all sides of the House. That, among other things, has the happy consequence of eliminating the necessity for me to inflict a second speech on your Lordships.

I wish to say only a few words in connection with the one doubting speech which was admirably made, if he will allow me to say so, by my noble friend Lord Thomas of Swynnerton. I hope that he will allow me to say that I believe that your Lordships generally liked the moderation with which he expressed what are undoubtedly strongly held doubts. I was glad to hear my noble friend the Leader of the House say that he would meet the point that he made about the composition of the Select Committee that is to monitor and supervise the broadcasting, if it continues. My noble friend asked for sceptics to be included, and I should have thought that that is sensible, practical and very much in accordance with the general practice of this House.

I hope, too, that the Select Committee will consider and discuss with the broadcasting agencies in particular the point that has been raised about facilities for regional broadcasts. In the nature of things people who live a long way from London have less opportunity to come into our Galleries to listen to our debates. Therefore the advantage to them of programmes dealing with their regional problems may be of special importance. I hope, too, that the committee will consider the broadcasting of Select Committees. The experiment with that presided over by my noble friend Lord Aldington aroused great interest. As your Lordships know, our Select Committees, particularly in the European field, do a remarkable job of work which I think it would be of interest to our fellow countrymen to see. Finally, I hope that the Select Committee will closely consider what was touched on in the debate—the possibility of cable broadcasting which, if the evidence of the cable authority is accepted, could be designed to provide a continuous programme on cable of your Lordships' proceedings. Having said that, I commend the Motion to your Lordships.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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