Orders of the Day — House of Commons Proceedings (Sound Broadcasting Experiment)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 11th December 1967.

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Photo of Mr Eric Ogden Mr Eric Ogden , Liverpool, West Derby 12:00 am, 11th December 1967

My apologies to the Leader of the House that I did not hear that explanation when he first gave it. I had anticipated that this debate would take place later than it has. I am very grateful for the explanation he has given and I am sorry he has had to repeat it. I accept entirely what he has said. All I can say is that it would be very easy to convert the one kind to another.

I concede entirely that the logic of the argument and the theory against televising or broadcasting is precisely the same as that of the argument put up against recording proceedings of Parliament in HANSARD or in the Press or anywhere else. The same argument applies, but I am entitled to ask, For what purpose? Then we come back to this point. I am told by one of my hon. Friends that "democracy is imperilled" unless the experiment goes through. Is it that 630 Members of Parliament are not able to convince people outside this House of the importance of Parliamentary democracy unless we have the broadcasting and televising of our proceedings? I cannot accept that explanation.

We are told that this is an experiment limited in scope, limited in time, for which we are to have the spectacle of television screens in Westminster Hall—and we criticise vandals outside. And there should be reporting of Committee proceedings, too, it is said.

We shall need Channel 1 for the House of Commons and Channel 2 for the Lords. If the Lords want to televise their House, let them do it. But let them also pay for it. Let them pay for it if they want to televise their House. Then, for the Committees we shall need Channels 3, 4, 5, 6—perhaps up to 13 to include the Services Committee. Who is going to listen to all this?

And what will be the cost? I am sorry I did not hear the figures which my right hon. Friend may or may not have given. —[An HON. MEMBER: "None of us did."]—But the suggestion apparently is that it will cost only a few thousand pounds. I am not a Scot, but perhaps the newest hon. Member, the Member for Hamilton (Mrs. Ewing), representing the latest opposition party in Scotland, would agree that "mony a mickle mak's a muckle"—every little bid adds up. So this may cost £6,000, £10,000, £20,000 at a time when the B.B.C. wants the licence tees to be increased from £5 to £6, or whatever it may be.

I agree with the hon. Member who said that it is never a good time to make changes—it is never a good time to raise the salaries of Members of Parliament, it is never a good time to raise pensions, it is never a good time to do anything eke; but I would draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to an article which appears in The Guardian this morning by Mr. William Davis, the Financial Editor, who has been right before! We a -e asked to tighten our belts, and Davis forecasts that before we are through this economic crisis there may be higher taxes, higher Purchase Tax, higher taxes on tobacco and drink, and higher Income Tax, hire purchase controls, with restrictions on overdrafts, and so on. With all this economic difficulty, are we going to spend £20,000, perhaps, on a limited experiment here?

If any hon. Members want to hear their own voices, let them buy a tape recorder. If they want to see their pictures, let them buy themselves a camera. This experiment can well be held over for another twelve months.