§ 3 p.m.
airman of Committees (Lord Aberdare)
move, That the Report of the Select Committee on Broadcasting on Future Arrangements for Televising Proceedings of the Housebe agreed to [1st Report 1990–91, HL Paper 31].
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the first report of the Select Committee on Broadcasting be agreed to.
In my opinion this House has a very proud record in the introduction of television to the British Parliament. Some of your Lordships may remember, as I certainly do, the first closed circuit television experiment that took place in this House in 1968, when cameras were rather more bulky and the equipment more primitive. Then in 1985 this House initiated an experiment in national television broadcasting, thanks to the help of the BBC and the ITN, who paid for the experiment, which proved to be in most people's opinion a great success. That led to the agreement to allow the permanent televising of our proceedings which we enjoy today. In 1989 a similar experiment in another place was instituted and now it too has agreed to permanent televising of that House. In the light of that decision, your committee has sought to achieve an integrated operation for televising Parliament as a whole.
The report is short, I hope to the point and, I believe, self-explanatory. But perhaps I should just briefly outline the main points. We worked in close collaboration with the broadcasters and with the committee in another place. We recommend the establishment of a company to be called the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Limited. It would have 15 directors: seven nominated by the broadcasters, seven nominated by the two Houses jointly and a chairman nominated by the Speaker of the House of Commons. Of the seven representatives of 1304 the two Houses three would be nominated by the Commons, three nominated by the Lords and the seventh would be the supervisor of broadcasting ex officio. The report proposes that the supervisor of broadcasting in another place, with the agreement of that House, should become an officer of both Houses.
The broadcasting unit would select a single independent operator to produce the clean feed of proceedings in both Houses under a contract. The costs of the equipment and the running costs would be met by the broadcasters, and any proceeds from the sale of the signal would be kept by them. Parliament would bear the cost of a central control room and any necessary alterations to the building.
So far as concerns this House, the proposal is that there should be five remote controlled cameras: two on each side of the Chamber, suspended under the Gallery, and one below Bar under the Press Gallery. However, that integrated system cannot be put in place until the siting and equipping of a control room is complete. At present various sites are under discussion and no final decision has been made. The result is that it will now be almost impossible to carry out the works required this summer and we shall probably have to wait until October 1992 before we have remote controlled cameras in this House. Until then we shall have to continue as at present with manual cameras on the Floor of the House, provided in future no longer by ITN but by the new operator selected by the Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit.
From time to time the broadcasters have televised some of our Select Committee proceedings. We recommend that that should continue on the present basis. The most intrusive feature in the case of committees is the additional free-standing lighting which is required; so I am glad to report that the lighting in four of our committee rooms should fairly soon be upgraded to a level adequate for televising. One committee room is now in the process of being so converted.
Turning to the use of the signal, the committee has recommended that any programme purporting to report the proceedings of Parliament should at least make mention of the business of this House. We had in mind programmes covering parliamentary proceedings on the previous day or in the previous week; and we felt that even when public attention was much more closely focused on the affairs of the Commons, at least there should be some mention of what this House was doing if it was sitting. Otherwise, people have the impression that Parliament consists only of the House of Commons. If your Lordships agree to this Motion today, the resolutions of the House which govern the televising of our proceedings will be superseded by the provisions of this report. I would therefore propose to bring a Motion for a fresh resolution before your Lordships in due course.
Perhaps I may end with some well-deserved thanks, which go first to my colleagues on the committee, whose contributions to our deliberations have been invaluable. Secondly, I thank the broadcasters who have made the televising of the House of Lords possible by carrying almost the entire cost, in 1305 particular ITN, which provided the cameras, and its cameramen who have fitted so unobtrusively into the Chamber. They have even gone so far as to wear ties!
Thirdly, I give thanks to John Grist, the supervisor of broadcasting in the Commons, and Robert Longman, its technical adviser, for their skill and assistance. Finally I thank our Clerk to the Committee, Mary De Groose, who has been a tremendous support arid without whose help our deliberations would not have been so well summarised in the report now before your Lordships. I commend the report to the House.
§ Moved, That the Report of the Select Committee on Broadcasting on Future Arrangements for Televising Proceedings of the Housebe agreed to [1st Report 1990–91, HL Paper 31].—(The Chairman of Committees.)
§ 6 p.m.
§ Lord Orr-Ewing
My Lords, I should like to endorse all the compliments that the chairman of our Select Committee so rightly paid to those who contributed to our work and who appeared as witnesses. They have been most helpful.
I wish to concentrate on one or two small points. As committee members will know, I believe that we tend to over-light the House. I am glad to say that as cameras become more sensitive that tendency is less pronounced. I always feel that we are very unkind to the monarch at the opening of Parliament. We pile on the light. Not only do we use the ordinary lights; we put spotlights on her. There is about five times more lighting on the monarch than is needed with modern cameras.
However, the situation is improving. We need to bear in mind that the modern camera is much more sensitive than even 10 years ago. I contacted Sony, who supply the cameras. I asked how the sensitivity of the cameras and therefore the need for light had changed. In the past 10 years three separate models have been brought in, each substantially more sensitive than its predecessor. Today one only needs one-third of the light to achieve the same quality of picture as 10 years ago. That progress will continue.
We have seen only recently what is possible with a very small amount of light. Research into television cameras all over the world—the military progress made in that field was of supreme importance in guiding our missiles operating in complete darkness in the recent Middle East conflict—helps the drive towards more sensitive and higher definition cameras. The cameras are also much smaller. That is an important point.
When such cameras are not manned, there is no great problem about long hours. It is very difficult to predict the length of our debates. Our Wednesday debates are general debates to which we sometimes bring greater expertise than is ever assembled in another place. Good speeches are made. The Minister who winds up takes an immense amount of trouble. However, we can all recall occasions when, after 8 o'clock, the cameras are covered with red cloth and the cameramen have gone home. The answers to the debate are therefore never heard by anyone except 1306 those sitting in the Chamber. It is pointless to spend hours building up video tapes when one never hears the answer to the debating points made. With unmanned cameras a relatively small number of people can continue the recording. The present broadcasting staff numbers five. When everything is in place, with modern equipment, that number might increase to eight, I am told. However, that is a very small number. The camera can record proceedings in both Houses for endless hours.
Much discussion is taking place about the siting of the control room. I endorse everything that is said in the report. It is necessary to have a joint control room for the two Chambers. From time to time there may be additional interviews in a small outside studio. It is highly desirable that the control room should be within the Palace of Westminster. Last week I spent a little time crawling around the attics of this great building. I was amazed at how many dusty little corners there are. I found on the old heating plan Plant Room P, which runs over the top of this Chamber. It was used to provide water cooling for this Chamber until relatively recently. I believe that it was installed about the time of World War One. It has been there for at least 70 years but has not been used for some 40 years. We now use more modern methods. It provides a space 70 feet long, 15 feet wide and about 16 feet high. There is therefore room for two floors.
Another strong runner is the dome over the central Lobby. There is considerable space which could be adapted. Even if it were not adapted for a control room, it must be of interest given the pressure within the palace for space. Taking into account the cost per square foot outside the building, it must surely be in the interests of everyone to make important use of every square foot available within the Palace of Westminster.
I have been checking the cost per square foot of space outside the palace. I had thought that it was about £40 per square foot per year. One is talking about very big money. That is £40 for every square foot that one uses. I am now told that in some places the cost is £60 per square foot. That is a very large amount of money. If we have to use space at Millbank we shall be spending a great deal of money. One of those sites is 400 metres away. Noble Lords will notice that I use metres since I was once chairman of the metrication board—one of my failures in life I may say. The liaison with the controllers, the technical people, is bound to be more difficult if we are situated 400 metres away. One cannot say, "Come and have a cup of tea and we can talk about the arrangements." I can imagine a Whip saying, "Business has had to be changed. You might like to know that X will not take place until tomorrow," or something of that kind. Close liaison with the broadcasters is important. It makes for a better relationship and better results.
I know that every one of the 650 Members of Parliament wants a private room, as do many people in this building. I have the honour to share a room with eight very active Peers. We are relatively quiet but when we all use a telephone it is not easy to concentrate one's mind on abstruse and difficult matters. Pressure is obviously great. We have moved 1307 out of a slightly larger room into a smaller one in order to make room for Cross-Benchers. There are now 240 and I can well understand that there is a demand for space.
The site for the control room will be decided in another place very shortly. I hope that we shall give a fair chance to siting it somewhere in the Palace of Westminster. I hope that during a long recess—it will not be this year because I believe that that time is fully committed—some work might be undertaken. I was told that the Parliamentary Works Office is undermanned. Since there are a number of building firms which are overmanned at present and are longing for some work, it might be a good moment to place work with some of the building firms to clear out the redundant machinery of some 60 years ago. It is immensely heavy. It must be got out of the way for some good purpose.
I hope that those points will be borne in mind by the Select Committee in another place when a decision is made.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, it is remarkable that committees of both Houses of Parliament and the broadcasting companies should have reached such a practical, sensible and economical agreement about future arrangements for televising their proceedings. They are bargains struck between willing though not over-eager providers of the proceedings and keen though cautious providers and users of the signal.
I suggest that people interested in the subject should also read the stouter document from the House of Commons which complements our report. Our reports will be read with envy by parliamentary bodies in countries where the problems have not yet been solved to universal satisfaction. I hope that both Houses at Westminster will accept the reports and proceed to implement them as swiftly as possible.
We can at last accept that the great debate to televise or not is now over. Last July the other place came to the conclusion that we in this House had reached long before: that the nation should be able to see on the small domestic screen what happens at Westminster. It is remarkable that anybody ever held different views. Children of this generation will laugh when they read the history of the controversy in Parliament and about the wild fears and imaginings, just as we laugh today at the stories about a man with a flag having to walk in front of the first motor vehicles on the roads.
Legend has it that the proposal to televise the other place was rejected because the Prime Minister of the day uncharacteristically dithered and wobbled. Privately she came down firmly against it. Some of the young aspirants of her party thought of their futures and changed their minds at the last moment. That is ironic because television captured for history the Prime Minister's finest hour at Westminster; that was her brilliant and brave performance in defending a Motion of no confidence moved by Mr. Kinnock against the Government to which she was bidding a reluctant farewell.
1308 Readers of the reports will take careful note of the arrangements for the archive, which are not yet complete. We must safeguard it carefully. It will be a treasure house for historians, as are the sound archives which go back much further in time. We see the strength and weakness of the sound archives. They do not include Churchill's historic war-time speeches in the Commons. History is dependent upon his studio broadcasts. They do not include the enchanting cadences of Aneurin Bevan criticising Churchill's strategy; nor Leo Amery telling Arthur Greenwood to speak for England; nor, much later, lain Macleod obtaining an instant reputation with a speech on the National Health Service. Our own House has some historic records on television. I think of the Earl of Stockton at the age of 90 lamenting on the sale of the family silver and of Manny Shinwell speaking on his 100th birthday.
Former sceptics of television will read with care the provisions that are made and set out at length in the Commons' document to preserve the dignity of the House of Commons. They concern the rules of coverage and what may be shown to the viewer. The standard format for depicting the Member who has the floor should be a head and shoulders shot and not a close up. However, wide-angled shots of the Chamber may be used from time to time. When the Speaker or one of his deputies rises the director should switch the picture to the chair, especially during incidents of disorder. Viewers should never see an incident such as that when Miss Devlin crossed the floor and beat poor Reggie Maudling about the head or when a younger Michael Heseltine seized the Mace. However, I wonder whether shots which may not be shown to the viewers will be put into a secret archive and held for 30 years. I hope that they will because so many cameras must record what no one is allowed to see.
The broadcasters in this House work to the same rules but they are not codified. They are well observed and our dignity is well protected. However, one day the rules might be lightened, although I do not believe that that will be for some time. Except for the greatest of parliamentary occasions the viewer will see only severely limited episodes of life at Westminster. Nevertheless, he should be able to obtain a good impression in the weeks before an election is called. Democracy will be well served, and that is the whole case for televising Parliament. It is not for the fun of it, though there is fun in plenty, and not for the inflation of political egos, although there is also that. It is done in the interests of democracy.
The report looks forward to the time when there is a totally dedicated channel with continuous unedited coverage from the Commons from the start of business to the rising of the House. The Lords could be given similar treatment. But television will never satisfy the needs of people seriously interested in politics. They will have need of the written record but that is not easy to come by today. The best records are in government publications but they now bear a commercial and therefore heavy price. The slim report from the Commons that we are discussing today costs £12.30. This miserable little 8-page report from our 1309 House costs £85. A copy of the daily Hansardof this House costs £4. That is a heavy burden for the individual student of politics or for a voluntary organisation which needs to maintain parliamentary records.
There are of course the newspapers, but on the odd day a popular newspaper can get by without mentioning Parliament at all. What at various times have been called serious, quality, posh and heavy newspapers are immensely superior to those of 20 years ago. However, there is one exception and in that respect they are much worse; that is in the reporting of important speeches and above all of parliamentary speeches. Such reporting has gone out of fashion. I sometimes wonder whether the media today do not unconsciously regard themselves as an alternative political forum to Westminster. The great political debate is carried on not here by the Thames but in the columns of political commentators, leader columns, windy interviews, letters to the editor, searing dialogues between radio and television presenters and studio discussion groups. Radio and television take up the baton of the written press and use it to beat up the politicians. An electronic medium has discovered that politics is a human drama; that is the least costly drama that it can lay hands upon.
I welcome the politicisation of television. I rejoice that after holding out for years British editors have finally admitted the political columnists. At one time they regarded them as competing with the leader column and would not allow them near the place. Such an enormous amount of comment needs a substantial, solid and objective base of reporting. We do not find that base in The Times, Telegraph, Independent or Guardian. One can find a solid and objective base of reporting only on Radio 4 in a programme broadcast just before midnight. Do not praise the BBC for that. It has an obligatory task to report both Houses. The next morning, the briefer, less adequate and sometimes less objective reporting is wholly a matter for the BBC. That is the BBC's choice without any legal obligation.
It is not only Parliament which is neglected. All serious speeches are treated rather meanly. I do not know whether Mr. Major's critics are right that he is lacking in political philosophy. However, I know that when Mr. Major went to the North to give a keynote address to young Conservatives, no newspaper ran his speech. There were marvellous stories about his breakfast on the journey but the content of his speech eluded us. Although there were many interpretations of his television interview yesterday, which extended over 50 minutes, there are no extended verbatim reports. The Times and the Telegraph gave it a coverage of 300 or 400 words, and Mr. Major probably considered himself very lucky to get that. Mr. Kinnock speaking at length on the future of a Labour Government on the radio received even less coverage.
Fortunately the media, like the political parties, change their fashions. One day a revolutionary young editor will discover the importance of printing the spoken word and perhaps the BBC will then atone for its guilt in killing the listener.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, from these Benches we join with the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees in commending to your Lordships' House the report of the Select Committee on Broadcasting. Its principal recommendation for an integrated operation for the televising of both Houses of Parliament and committees should bring about a significant improvement in the technical quality of the coverage of your Lordships' House and should ensure a sound and stable structure for the future of parliamentary broadcasting.
At the time of the last report in the 1985–86 Session, I was in a sense on the other side of the fence in dealing with the question of broadcasting Parliament, as at that time I was chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority. Therefore, perhaps it is permissible for me to say that your Lordships' House deserves great credit for its role in bringing about the long delayed entry of the British Parliament into the broadcasting age. Not for the first time your Lordships' House gave a sensible lead in an overdue reform.
I am glad that the committee is able to report that the rather tentative and somewhat primitive arrangements for televising your Lordships' House have:on the whole proved most satisfactory
The committee has received few complaints. I know that ITN will greatly value the appreciation expressed to it by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees because it has served the House well.
From the broadcasters' side of the fence, I can report that the intensive surveys which are continually made about who watches what on the "box" show that the public have been impressed and perhaps rather surprised by the entertainment value of your Lordships' House on television, and more importantly by the way in which this venerable House makes its contribution to parliamentary debate.
That result has been achieved, as the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, remarked, without your Lordships' House laying down the kind of rules which govern camera shots in the other place. Paragraph 27 of the Select Committee report states:This House has … relied on the good judgment of the broadcasters … We have from time to time monitored the material produced and are satisfied that that confidence has not been misplaced".
That reflects credit on the judgment of both broadcasters and your Lordships' House. I am glad that, assuming professional standards continue under the new arrangements, the committee sees no reason to recommend any change in the present situation.
We are now recommending that the supervisor of broadcasting in the House of Commons should become a joint officer of both Houses. Perhaps it is permissible to express the hope that another place may now have sufficient confidence in the new integrated operation to adopt the more relaxed approach of your Lordships' House.
I hope that the new arrangements recommended for a joint broadcasting company and for the remote control technology will commend themselves to this House. I do not believe that the new camera positions 1311 under the Galleries will prove any more intrusive than the present man-manned cameras. Any inconvenience will certainly be more than compensated by the improved coverage, which will bring us up to the quality of picture already obtained in the House of Commons.
I am glad also that the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, mentioned that in the Select Committee report from another place a major proposal has been made for a cable and satellite channel dedicated to parliamentary broadcasting. An American organisation, United Artists, has put forward firm proposals for such a channel. As I understand it, that would be similar to the C-Span channel in America. Those who have seen that will regard it highly. It gives live in-depth coverage of the proceedings in Congress and other public events in the United States. In the beginning that would only be available to a growing minority of viewers who can only receive cable and satellite television. That would be a very important complement to the present coverage by BBC and ITV.
I very much hope that the remarks made in the Select Committee report of another place urging that the new proposal should use the ITC's Marco Polo satellite will be followed up urgently as is suggested. Following the merger of Sky Television and BSB, that satellite is now available at little or no cost for such a public service operation. It has the additional advantage of using the most advanced European technology, giving a higher definition picture. Britain played a large part in developing that technology. The Sky Television and BSB merger has placed at risk the future of that technology. It will be a very useful bonus if the new parliamentary broadcasting plan can act as a white knight to save that technology so that that is not left to the Japanese.
Finally, I hope that the House will fully endorse the Select Committee's report. Perhaps it is legitimate also to hope that once the new technology is in place and it is thought possible to broadcast from start to finish the proceedings in your Lordships' House, it may be possible to have a modest but slightly more generous share of broadcasting time for this House.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Lord Boyd-Carpenter
My Lords, I was not a member of your Lordships' Select Committee, but after the experimental period of seeing the outcome of broadcasting the proceedings of this House, it fell to me to move that Motion on which your Lordships decided to make permanent broadcasting of this House. Therefore, I have read the report of the Select Committee with particular and special interest.
It seems almost odd now to recall that at the time when I moved the Motion—and it was by no means certain to go through without a Division because there were rumblings somewhat to my left (not in any political sense)—there was real doubt as to the wisdom of the House in deciding to make permanent the broadcasting of its proceedings. Therefore, it is particularly satisfying to me, having had the responsibility of moving that Motion, that it is now 1312 generally acknowledged that the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House has been an enormous success.
That is largely due to the admirable behaviour of the broadcasters. At the time of which I speak there was fear that there might be some bias in the handling of the proceedings in the House; that some political bias might intrude. It is a tribute to those handling the matter that that suspicion proved to be wholly unfounded. There is general satisfaction with the fair and proper treatment given by the broadcasters to the proceedings of this House. It is right to pay tribute to them for the fact that their behaviour enabled those fears of some years ago to be proved quite groundless.
It is a fact also that the standing and reputation of the House was greatly improved by its proceedings being broadcast. Before the proceedings were broadcast there was considerable ignorance in the country as a whole regarding what was the purpose of the House and what it did. We were perhaps thought to be a collection of rather complacent old gentlemen with little experience of the real world. However, the broadcasting of our proceedings has shown that the House is full of people who, in many ways, are leading authorities on any subject one could mention; and that our proceedings are supported by knowledge of almost every aspect of public and world affairs represented by your Lordships.
I hope that the noble Lord who is to follow me will not mind me saying that I am sure that is the reason we now hear nothing from any quarter regarding the abolition of your Lordships' House. It is only too clear that to declare oneself in favour of that policy would be a vote loser. That is a satisfactory and direct consequence of the broadcasting of our proceedings.
As another noble Lord indicated, Parliament as a whole should be broadcast. If one goes back to the beginnings of democracy in classical Greece the proceedings of the leading men took place in the market place where citizens could go and listen to the speeches and decide how they felt about them. That was how democracy began. In a curious way the broadcasting of your Lordships' proceedings and now of the proceedings of another place has enabled the whole country to enter the market place and listen to the speeches. That must be good not only for your Lordships' House and for another place, but also for democracy.
It has already been pointed out that many proceedings in both Houses do not receive a full report in the press. It is now possible for proceedings in both Houses to be listened to by many millions of people, and that amounts to a considerable improvement in the working of our political institutions. It is therefore a valuable contribution. It is pleasant to reflect that nobody for one moment now suggests that there is any question of ceasing to broadcast the proceedings of the House.
The Select Committee report was referred to in some detail and I shall not go over it, except to say that I am particularly glad to see Recommendation 13. That is to the effect that the whole proceedings of a sitting should be included in the broadcast. I have been in the House on a number of occasions when, as 1313 the evening proceeded, the lights have suddenly gone dim, the cameras been abandoned and there has developed a slight feeling of anti-climax; a feeling that interest was waning. However, as the noble Lord opposite pointed out, often we were coming to the climax of the debate and the wind-up speeches of the noble Lords on the Opposition and Government Front Benches. Under Recommendation 13 the whole proceedings will be included in the broadcast. That is a considerable improvement.
I entirely agree with the proposal to integrate the arrangements for broadcasting the proceedings of this House with those of another place. It is obvious good sense; it is economic and is a good way of keeping the broadcasts of the two houses in line and fairly apportioned between them. I was interested, as I am sure were other noble Lords, in what was said earlier by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing regarding the necessity of finding proper accommodation for the headquarters of the integrated system. It is so important that that integrated system be introduced that it would be a great failure on the part of the Government and both Houses of Parliament if the difficulties of finding accommodation were allowed to frustrate that implementation. It should be a high priority even if other parliamentary interests suffer.
Another point I wish to make was borne out by what my noble friend the Chairman of Committees said in opening. It is that the idea that these changes should be brought into operation by the time your Lordships' House returns after the Summer Recess this year is over-optimistic. In practice these operations always take longer than one hopes or expects. It is more important that we get them right from the start rather than operating by any specific date. I hope the new arrangements, with all the manifest advantages—new cameras, lighting systems and so forth—will be introduced as soon as possible. However, I say to my noble friends on the Front Bench that it is more important to get the systems right than to get them operable by any specific date.
Finally, perhaps I may say that your Lordships' House owes a great debt to the Select Committee. It produced an extremely sensible report based on expert knowledge. It gives to the broadcasting of Parliament as a whole a new and effective start which will operate to the benefit of Parliament and of this country for many years. I should like to place on record my grateful thanks to my noble friend the Lord Chairman of Committees, whose work in presiding over the committee was of such importance, and to the members of the Select Committee. They have served this House extremely well.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Lord Graham of Edmonton
My Lords, as a member of the Select Committee It gives me a great deal of pleasure and satisfaction to be able to speak in the debate. I begin by taking up some of the points made in a wholly non-partisan way by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. At the end of the day not only has the House of Lords been served well by the committee, but also the House of Lords has served the 1314 parliamentary process well over the past 10 years in being willing to take the steps of which this report is part.
I very much liked the phrase of my noble friend Lord Ardwick in what was an excellent speech from a distinctive point of view. It was a point of view that the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said this House was unique in offering; that is, people with experience which is unique and which they bring especially to the service of the House.
My noble friend said that we were seeing history in the making. He was referring to previous stages. However, even at this moment we are taking part in a little bit of history. In 20 or 30 years' time historians of the day, when looking back over the previous 30 or 40 years, will see this particular moment in this specific debate—let us hope in a piece of television film. We are actually making history.
The debate concerns a Select Committee report. Although there have not been many contributors to the debate, they all speak from a distinctive point of view. I thoroughly enjoyed the contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Orr-Ewing. I know that his background as a parliamentarian and other interests in broadcasting of which I am well aware enable him to make the kind of contribution that he did.
I think the other point I want to make is that what we are discussing is part of a combined operation. If we do not look after our own corner nobody else will. People down at the other end of the corridor—and that is not meant to be an offensive phrase—are certainly entitled to look at the parliamentary process but at the same time they say, "Let us make sure we get our share". What the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees has been careful to recognise is that the process we are involved in is history ma king because it is a combined operation. However, we must make sure that we look after our own interests as well.
Certainly I should like to endorse the remarks that were made not only by the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees but by others concerning our indebtedness to those who have served us. I call them "the professionals" as a collective noun, because we have been served by them as professionals in the service of this House. That is the first point. Secondly, from the point of view of television technique those professionals have made this to be a very remarkable and satisfying exercise indeed.
I believe that your Lordships' House can take some pride in recognising that this report embraces arrangements for the televising of proceedings throughout the Palace of Westminster. To me that is a significant phrase. Many times we find differences between ourselves and our colleagues at the other end of the corridor. As realists, we recognise, if I may use a clumsy phrase, our proper place in the scheme of things. Nevertheless, when it comes to a question of wanting the public to understand what we are about, I believe, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, has said, that a great many people have been surprised, pleased and entertained simply by seeing your Lordships' House going about its daily work. Certainly I think that we are entitled to make reference to that.
1315 Not only does the report help in marking out what our role in Parliament should be but also in emphasising what our rights should be. More than one speaker has pointed out, without being too churlish, that there have been times, especially since the Commons have been televised, when somehow or other the pre-eminent position that we enjoyed when we were the only House to be televised—that was because we had the good sense to say yes while the other House said no—has changed and we have seemed not to be getting a fair crack of the whip. I believe that the arrangements which are now being made will at least entitle us to make our case as regards the arrangements for the directors, the committee and so on. I think that is all to the good.
Paragraph 2 acknowledges that arrangements made hitherto have proved satisfactory and I would endorse the premise that the televising of this Chamber has won over many sceptics. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said he doubted whether there was anyone who did not accept that this has been a resounding success. I have to tell him, without mentioning names, that one or two of my colleagues who said at the time that they were unhappy are still not very happy about the televising of the House. But at least they have had the good grace not to make too much of a song and dance about it. I believe that, if one is looking at this in terms of a vote winner or a vote loser in the context of the performance of the House, the public would give us full marks for having carried out our role in a dignified and educative way. We have demonstrated what our role is.
Paragraph 4 tells us that there are economies of scale in integrating the televising of the Lords with the Commons. While it is right and proper that cost should be a factor, as the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, said, it is much better for us to get it right than that we get it now. If it is time that we have to buy, let us buy time. I believe that, although one cannot disregard cost, because that would be stupid, in the context in which we are talking—that is, making history, recording and preserving history—if the costs are sensible (although certain people might jib at going to some authority—ultimately the taxpayer), and we think this money should be spent, we should do it right even though it will cost more than some people think it should.
Paragraphs 7 to 10 deal with what I consider to be the crux of our new arrangements and I am very pleased that your Lordships' House and all its Members are fully involved and protected. We are now going to have joint committees and professionals who will guide us. We are entering into no man's land but, looking at the numbers, at least your Lordships' House will have representation from all sides of the House. I believe that we are going to be very well served indeed.
Paragraphs 13 to 16 deal with the most important aspect of the report: that is, not what we say but how we look. The noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter, also alluded to that point. I believe that it is right for us to be concerned about the image we present. There may 1316 have been some criticisms about the angles and the shots to be taken into account under the old system but, in my view, the new system must be better. I shall not be telling your Lordships a secret if I say that, by and large, comparing the televising of the other Chamber with that of our own, the mere passage of time and the application of improved techniques have demonstrated to me that if what we are going to get in improved technique and technical service is comparable to that which is enjoyed down the other end of the corridor, that will be a very good thing indeed.
I especially welcome the intention of eliminating the "lights out" syndrome, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. I believe it had created a distinction because, although we know we are all equal, some of us who speak later in debates are less equal than others. There is nothing more aggravating, as the noble Lord mentioned, than the lights going out. I think it is more a question of "the twilight of the Lords" rather than "the twilight of the gods". I believe that many people have resented the fact that if they speak late they do not get coverage. What we shall have is a system which, as I see it, means that the whole proceedings will be televised unobtrusively and then it will be up to the good sense of the editor and those who manage matters to make sure that the final speeches of the day are given some prominence and some publicity.
Paragraph 24 deals in particular with the lighting. I would say that we do not want to spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of tar. Again, we have to get things right in that particular way. I was pleased to hear the noble Lord the Chairman of Committees draw attention to the intention to light committee rooms so that they are available at appropriate times. We all know in this Chamber that most of your Lordships' Committees are held in this Chamber as a full House, but those of us who have served in Committees in another place know—and this applies also when one sees them televised—that 18 or 20 colleagues in a real Committee atmosphere are able to convey a much better sense of a true debate than we are able to engender here. Therefore I am looking forward to that very much indeed.
My final point is that the modus operandi for a supervising committee to serve, as the report says, as a forum for complaints and representations from Lords or broadcasters is certainly right. We should never forget that television was made to serve Parliament and not the other way round. We have demonstrated that we can adjust and bend so that Parliament will be the ultimate beneficiary of modern, forward-looking televising of our proceedings. For the professional service and advice which we have received, I have nothing but praise and admiration; but it will be the viewing public, the electorate, to whom we must finally turn for a considered view on our changes. The jury on that one may be out for some time but I have no doubt what their verdict will be.
§ 6.50 p.m.
The Chairman of Committees
My Lords, this has been a fascinating short debate. I am grateful to everybody who has taken part in it. The noble Lord, 1317 Lord Orr-Ewing, was always our technical man on the committee and he helped us concerning lighting and cameras. I agreed with a he said today about the need not to go mad about lighting. There is also the intriguing thought of the greater sensitivity of cameras in the future. There is even the happy prospect, as I am sure the noble Lord knows, that one day the lens of the camera will be separate from the rest of the works. We shall then be able to have small eyes hidden behind curtains while the rest of the works are outside the Chamber. However, that is rather for the future.
The noble Lords, Lord Orr-Ewing and Lord Boyd-Carpenter, also mentioned the importance of a centralised control room, which is the key to the whole operation. It is completely agreed between the two Houses that there should be a central control room. There is not yet any agreement in another place on where that control room should be. The noble Lords mentioned one or two possibilities.
The noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, in a delightful speech, made particular mention of the archive. That gives me an opportunity to pay tribute to the Parliamentary Sound Archive. It is part of the House of Lords Record Office which has done a splendid job in the past. It was formed in 1977, following the decision of both Houses to allow sound broadcasting of our proceedings. It then became an archive service for the televising of the House of Commons and also for some of our television programmes. However, the time has clearly come when, with a co-ordinated system between the two Houses, it is necessary to look at its present arrangements. A working party of officials has almost completed its report, which will very shortly be open to view and ready for discussion.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, is a very great expert on television. I was happy to hear that he agreed with most of the report: so he should, as he was a member of the committee. I did not expect any terrible criticisms from him. At the same time he was extremely eloquent about what we were doing. He also mentioned the interesting subject of a dedicated channel and in particular the United Artists company. It has been to see us as well. I gather that, although it will concentrate on live broadcasting from the Commons, it will certainly include considerable extracts from our debates. That will be very valuable.
I was particularly grateful to have the support of the noble Lord, Lord Boyd-Carpenter. He was the only speaker who was not a member of the committee, and it was all the more important that he supported the report. I thank him very much for his kind words, not only about myself, but particularly about the committee. I know that the broadcasters will also appreciate the tribute that he paid to them. I thoroughly agree with him that television has done a great deal for the reputation of this House. In my part of Wales my neighbours saw this House only at the opening of Parliament. They thought that we always wore red dressing gowns. It was not until they actually saw us at work that they realised that we were a working House—and a very sensible working House.
Finally, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Graham of Edmonton. He also paid a warm tribute to the professionals, which was very welcome. He made 1318 particular mention of the Committee Rooms. Some of the televising from our Committee Rooms has been extremely interesting. I am sure that it will be valuable for the future. One day we shall perhaps have remote controlled cameras in our Committee Rooms. The Commons are already going ahead with that project, and they are paying for it themselves. At least we are able to go so far as to equip them properly with the lighting, which has always been intrusive in the past. I am sure that will be a great advantage. I should like to thank everybody who supported the report. I commend the Motion to the House.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to