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House of Commons (Sound Broadcasting)

– in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th February 1978.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Oscar Murton Mr Oscar Murton , Poole 12:00 am, 6th February 1978

Before I call the Parliamentary Secretary, Mr. Speaker desires me to say that he has selected the amendments in the names of the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and Nottingham, West (Mr. English) for discussion and for separate Divisions if required.

The amendments are: In line 20, leave out from 'Committee' to end of line 13 and insert 'shall be charged with the appointment of a Manager of Broadcasting Operations, to supervise the preparation of the signal supplied to broadcasting organisations, and the compilation of the records of broadcasting material retained by the House'. In line 24, at end insert— 'That it be an Instruction to the Committee to set up, prior to any further broadcasting of proceedings, a House of Commons Broadcasting Unit akin to the organisation of the Official Report (Hansard), which shall supply signals to the broadcasting authorities or other broadcasting organisations or persons'.

7.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I beg to move, That there shall be a Select Committee to give directions and perform other duties in accordance with the provisions of the Resolution of the House of 26th July 1977 in relation to Sound Broadcasting and to make recommendations thereon to the House:That the Committee do consist of Six Members:That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records; to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; and to report from time to time:That Two be the Quorum of the Committee:That the Committee have power to report from time to time the Minutes of Evidence taken before them and any Memoranda submitted to them:That the Committee have power to appoint persons with expert knowledge either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity relating to the matters referred to them:That the Committee have power to join with any Select Committee on Sound Broadcasting that may be appointed by the Lords:That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House until the end of the next Session of Parliament. In view of what happened in the last debate I am grateful and relieved that it will be possible to come to a vote this evening. Of course it is right that we should consider not only the motion but the alternatives suggested by my hon. Friends.

There has been some criticism of the delay in introducing broadcasting, particularly in the light of our failure to reach a decision last time. Some hon. Members have been blamed for this. I should make it clear that I do not seek to blame anyone or to suggest that efforts are being made to put off broadcasting yet again. Perhaps for the first time in my life I was in agreement with today's editorial in The Times which I was glad to see. It is important that we should consider what The Times said: So the motion comes up again today when there will also be an opportunity for the Commons to pronounce on the idea of a broadcasting unit. It is neither a frivolous nor a wrecking proposition. It has been put forward by all but one of the committees that have recommended the broadcasting of Parliament. A little later in that editorial I was delighted to discover that The Times was supporting the Government's motion. It is right to get on the record that we do not argue that there is anything frivolous or that this is an attempt to delay broadcasting again.

I recognise that hon. Members on both sides were placed in a difficulty last time. Many of them were not opposed to broadcasting but they could not vote for it without the parliamentary oversight which they seek. They are entitled to their view. No doubt it will be deployed again tonight. All I hope is that we come to a decision—whatever that decision may be—which will enable broadcasting to begin after Easter. That is the timetable that we envisage.

Since the last debate I have endeavoured to achieve a compromise which will be acceptable to most hon. Members. It is not an easy matter. The House is conscious of the need to protect its interests. I have done my best to meet these arguments.

The new motion makes far more specific the right of the Select Committee to report to the House at any time and on any relevant matter. I believe that it had that right under the old motion but there should be no doubt about it. More importantly we have put a limit—if the House agrees—on the life of the Select Committee until the end of the next Session.

What I am saying to the House today is—put the joint Select Committee's recommendations to the test but not on a final and permanent basis. I recognise that we are on fresh ground. I cannot and do not attempt to guarantee that we have got it absolutely right. I understand that we cannot instruct the Select Committee to report at the end of that time, which will be about 18 months, but I should be surprised if it did not want to do so. Of course the House would take notice if at the end of that time it considered that some alternative form of oversight was necessary, and we should have a chance to reconsider the matter. For now, I am recommending to the House that we accept, with modifications, the Joint Committee's proposals which will ensure the independence of the broadcasters and protect the interests of Parliament.

This is perhaps where I enter into rougher waters. I wonder what the alternative of a parliamentary unit would achieve apart from heavy capital expenditure and administrative expenses which the BBC and the IBA are prepared to meet themselves. What would its function be? Is the suspicion about editorial control justified?

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

I hope that the Minister will assure us that no precedent is set for any future argument involving the possible televising of the House of Commons. I hope that he will stress that point.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I shall come to that at the end of my remarks.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

The Minister has asked a rhetorical question. He and I know what can happen in those circumstances. The answer to his question is to be found on page xv of the "Ben Ford Committee" which states: The Joint Committee was advised that copyright in the clean feed' would rest with the originator of the signal; under the Joint Committee's proposals this means the BBC. In the original Committee chaired by the late Lord Bradwell it was that which caused it to recommend a broadcasting unit and that the copyright should remain with the House.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I recognise that there is a dispute about this. My own view is that the copyright would remain with the House and must remain with the House. I shall deal with that at the end of the debate at greater length. That is my initial understanding. There is a dispute which should be cleared up before a vote is taken.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English) feels strongly about whether the broadcasting unit should be involved in selling the proceedings of Parliament or in recouping some of the finance. He believes that there is a lucrative market for this and that the BBC is likely to acquire substantial sums of money.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

My hon. Friend said that I believed that there was a lucrative market. I refer him to the Driberg Committee which quoted from the BBC's statement that the demand from other organisations at home and overseas was likely to be substantial, to be varied and to grow. The suggestion comes not from me but from the people who are resisting my suggestion.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

That Committee reported a long time ago. There has been another Joint Select Committee since then. I think that there will be a great demand, but whether people will be prepared to pay large sums is a different matter. Maybe my hon. Friend is right, but I doubt it. We give no instructions to anyone. I hope that the Joint Select Committee will keep that matter under close scrutiny and at the end of this period judge the matter and make recommendations if necessary.

I turn to the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead). His proposal has certain attractions and it appears to be a reasonable compromise between those who want a full unit and those who do not. I believe that he has sought a solution that will be generally acceptable, and I am grateful to him.

My concern is that we shall be cutting across the authority of the Select Committee to reach its own decisions. This is a clear and specific instruction. The real difference between my hon. Friend and myself is not so much one of principle as how we achieve it. I believe that if we are to set up a Joint Select Committee, we should leave it to that Committee to appoint advisers and to fix their terms of reference.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

Does my hon. Friend accept that where we take issue with him there is that accountability should be decided in principle by the House. not after the Select Committee has made its report?

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

The Select Committee will be reporting to the House and the House will make its final decision. There is a genuine disagreement between us here. Only the House can decide. I think that we have reached a fair amount of common ground so far, but I had a sneaking suspicion that we would part company here. I fear that, much as we should have liked a totally amicable agreement, it will not be possible. My hon. Friend will have to put his amendment to the House. and we shall accept the decision of this Chamber. I believe that if we set up a Joint Select Committee, we should leave it to that Committee to decide which proposals it wants to implement, how that should be done, whom it wants and the terms of reference of that person or persons.

The arguments are well known. We have been round this course a number of times. I do not want to detain the House for very long. We now have to come to a decision not on principle, because that has been decided, but on the narrow but important issue of how we protect the interests of Parliament. That is what the debate is about and, as I understand it, very little else.

Much depends on whether we trust the broadcasting authorities. It may be that I am more trusting than is good for me. Perhaps others are too suspicious. I can only judge the matter for myself. I believe that television and radio coverage of our proceedings is remarkably well balanced and objective and has been for many years. I think that Fleet Street has a good deal to learn from the broadcasting authorities.

I know that there is a view that this is the thin end of the wedge and that—I come now to the matter raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson)—we are paving the way for television without any more oversight than is suggested in the motion. I recognise that is a valid fear that needs to be dealt with in specific terms, and I shall try to do so. However, that just is not so. I think that my hon. Friend was right to raise that issue, but I am certain that most right hon. and hon. Members see real differences in the way that we should handle those two matters. If televising of our proceedings were one day to come, I am sure that the House would want to give that matter very careful consideration. I hope that my hon. Friend is satisfied with that assurance. This is not the way in for television without the kind of oversight that I suspect both he and I would want.

We are suggesting that there should be a trial period, that we should keep the matter under constant review and that, at the appropriate time, we should review the way that it has gone. If it were then clear that changes were needed—God forbid that I should still be in this job, but with my luck it is possible—I should not hesitate to ask my right hon. Friend to authorise me to recommend them to the House. For the moment, I am asking the House to give our proposals—those of the Joint Select Committee with the changes that I have explained—a chance to work. The House will in due course make the final decision.

7.24 p.m.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

Our debate on the Government's motion to set up a Select Committee on Sound Broadcasting on 26th January revealed considerable discontent among Members on both sides of the House, and it became clear that it would be unwise for us to reach a decision that evening on the issue as presented by the Government. I am glad that the Government have seen fit to initiate a further debate and that the Chair, in its infinite wisdom this week, has seen fit to call the amendments standing in the names of the hon. Members for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) and Nottingham, West (Mr. English). The Government have, as the Minister explained, changed their motion in two important respects which certainly make it more acceptable.

That there is a need for a Select Committee has been made clear by the Second Report of the Joint Committee on Sound Broadcasting which refers to a number of outstanding problems, such as copyright and the use of material in different contexts. A watchful eye needs to be kept on the use of broadcasting material, because the line between entertainment and information and news programmes is not as clear as is often supposed. Material can be used out of context to the detriment of the House and its Members. There is need for continuing vigilance. So far I think that the majority of Members will be in agreement. There are, of course, those who have a complete and absolute faith in the broadcasting organisations and do not believe that a Select Committee is necessary. I do not share that view. I believe that a Select Committee is necessary.

It is when we come to deal with the advisability or otherwise of the signal being originated by the broadcasting authorities or a broadcasting unit under the direct control of the House that disagreement arises. The Second Report from the Joint Committee, in paragraph 13, page viii, states: Previous Committees have differed in their views on this question. The BBC and IBA also differ in their views. The arguments for a broadcasting unit are reasonably summarised in paragraph 15 on the same page, and to my mind they are not totally disposed of—not by any means—in the succeeding paragraphs.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

It is true that there was disagreement between the BBC and the IBA, but I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the disagreement arose because the IBA did not want to meet the capital cost.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

I understood that there was rather more to it than that. Perhaps that will become clear during the debate.

Although the microphones in the two Chambers are to be controlled by Tannoy staff responsible to Officers of the two Houses, we shall be dependent for the origination of a clean feed on the staff of one broadcasting organisation—namely, the BBC. We recently had the experience of the staff of that organisation failing to televise the opening of Parliament on account of an industrial dispute. Such failure is less likely if the signal is originated by a compact broadcasting unit responsible to the House and supplying both the BBC and the IBA. At least, we would hope that there would not be a total failure.

We must also bear in mind the variety of demands for a clean feed.

Photo of Mr John Mendelson Mr John Mendelson , Penistone

On the last point, judging by the disappearance of Hansard at not infrequent intervals, the guarantee proposed by the hon. Gentleman would not exist.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

I think that the disappearance of Hansard has been due not to the journalistic staff—namely, the originators of the copy—but to the printing staff. That is precisely why I suggest we should have a broadcasting unit that is responsible to the House.

We must also bear in mind the variety of demands for what is known as a clean feed. We know that the Press Association requires one. There will be other demands, possibly from newspapers, some possibly arising from the Government's conclusions on the Annan Committee Report and future development in the cassette and other spheres of communication.

It is true that the Select Committee should be consulted on these fresh uses, but I believe that the Joint Committee and the Government have underestimated the demand, the use and the financial value of the commodity of which they are so ready to dispose simply for the cost of signal origination. If a broadcasting unit were to be established and copyright of the material vested in it, I have very little doubt that it would cover its costs in no time at all. As for the point made in our last debate about costs in general, the source of payment, be it the unit or the BBC which originates, will be the taxpayer, who is almost synonymous with the listener-viewer.

There should not be any delay in broadcasting the proceedings, because I am sure that the BBC would be prepared to second staff to the unit for a time and transfer equipment to it, pending the full establishment of the unit and the purchase or hire of the equipment.

It seems to me that the authors of the Second Report were at that time quite properly dominated by financial considerations and the need for speedy decisions. In the event, the Government have not shown the same anxiety for a quick start to permanent broadcasting, and it is now clear that investment in a broadcasting unit could well pay for itself in view of the extensive use that will be made of transmissions, not only at home but in the foreign services.

However, the main argument for the unit remains—that control of broadcasting should be vested in Parliament and that the exercise of that control should be before rather than after transmission. I would envisage that permission would have to be sought for broadcasting prior to the broadcast itself, or the repeat of material, or its re-use in a context different from that of the original broadcast. I do not envisage that the Select Committee could deal directly with all such requests, although ultimately it would be responsible for dealing with them. The Select Committee could only deal with the most doubtful things referred to it by the unit controller or manager. I need not hasten to add what has been asserted again and again in the Committee—that the existence of a broadcasting unit does not imply any editoralising on its part at all. Its function would be connected purely with a supply of a clean feed.

The amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Derby, North, I agree, is a very clever one, but he talks about supervision of the preparations of the signal supplied to broadcasting organisations. I hope that if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, the hon. Member for Derby, North will explain to us precisely who is doing the supplying. His amendment implies the existence of a broadcasting unit of some kind.

There are hon. Members who wish to amplify some of the points which I have touched upon and make fresh points of their own. Therefore, I shall take up no more of the time of the House, but simply urge the House to take the long-term view of the decision that we shall arrive at today. If it does that, it will follow the example of the Canadian Parliament, which has its own unit for broadcasting, under its direct control. We shall, of course, be establishing a precedent, which is bound to affect the decision of the House if the matter of televising the pro ceedings is raised again, as, no doubt, it will be. Should the House ever agree on that, the utmost care will have to be taken, because it is very easy to make a mockery of this place with television cameras.

The Government's argument that we must make haste to broadcast and make changes in the light of experience makes some sense. There is method in their madness, one might say; but, personally, I am sorry that we are starting on what I regard as the wrong foot. I am sure that we shall have to change step before we are much older.

7.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) has said. I thought that his analysis of my amendment and that of my hon. Friends pointed clearly in one direction. I will take him up on that.

I share more than some of his opinions. I also share in part his professional background in broadcasting. It is with that in mind, and identifying as much as any hon. Member of the House can with the broadcasts without as well as within, that I say this in all due seriousness.

I know precisely the worries of many broadcasters outside this place about the approach which they say hon. Members have brought to the debate. They say "Here are self-important, pompous, egomaniacs in the House of Commons once again attempting to impose some form of censorship on the reporting of their proceedings. Here we are, back in the days of 1771 and the debates about the admission of the Press to our proceedings." This is a fundamental misreading of what is intended in my amendment and that of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English).

What we are attempting to do is to ensure that the House takes tonight, with all due speed, its decision about acountability and where that accountability lies. We are not satisfied with the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Price) that the Select Committee, whatever its membership may be, shall at some later date take these decisions in trust for the House. We think that the House of Commons should tonight decide the means, having willed the end.

As one who has campaigned for the end for many years and who looks forward to some future Parliament voting for the admission of the television cameras as well, I want to see speed as much as my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby. In view of his friendly overtures, I wish to respond in kind and say that my amendment is an attempt to find common ground between the two imperatives in the debate. I refer first to the imperative of haste because of the massive expenditure and the need to get started within the lifespan of this Parliament, which will not be much longer. Secondly, I refer to the need for accountability which has been raised by almost all of the Committees except this large rather curious Joint Committee. I mean no disrespect to my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford), but the last Joint Committee got out of step with every previous expression of a parliamentary viewpoint on how accountability should be exercised.

So we have those two needs and we have to resolve them. My amendment is an attempt to do precisely that. Almost all Back-Bench opinion which has been expressed in these debates, where hon. Members have come to the debates speaking for themselves, having thought about the matter, rather than expressing the view of this or that organisation that has briefed them—there is no harm in that, but I am talking about the House of Commons view as it has emerged—has been to the effect that some form of broadcasting unit is needed. They do not speak in the obscurantist spirit of the last and most archaic parliamentary assemblies, which is wholly resistant to change.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that ultimate power should be held here because some sections of the media even find it offensive that we should have a view ourselves about how Parliament should be broadcast?

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I agree with him particularly about the editorial in the Sunday Times. I did not mind the one in The Times today, but the Sunday Times a week ago seemed to express outrage that hon. Members were at all concerned about the question of control over the origination of the unit. If one couples that with the occasionally intemperate claims of some broadcasters that all this is very unreasonable and over-fussy we have a right to express some indignation, because once the decision is taken tonight it is my contention that there will be no going back on it. Let the Select Committee decide as it wishes. Unless the House gives a direction tonight, it will be very difficult to turn around on this matter.

Let me now revert to what I was saying. The drift of parliamentary assemblies in the Western world is in the direction which is suggested, broadly speaking, by the amendments. In the last few months the two countries on the other side of the Atlantic which have a far greater exposure to and penetration by the electronics media—Canada and the United States—have both discussed, and in the case of the Canadians have introduced, television as well as radio.

The matter of how this shall be done is under intense argument in those countries, and I want to take a minute or two to explain how it is done there to illustrate to hon. Members that our concerns are in no sense uncommon even when one considers societies that are much more accustomed to, as we would say, the intrusion of the electronic media than is the British parliamentary scene.

The Canadian House of Commons maintains its own broadcasting unit. It has its own producer, and he is responsible to the Clerk of the House. All the personnel of the unit are employees of the House. They have been recruited or seconded from the CBC and other broadcasting organisations. The House owns the equipment, and the news organisations may use the service for their own purposes. There is no attempt to censor it, and in many cases edited extracts or the live feed on cable television is used extensively throughout Canada. There is an all-party broadcasting committee supervising the operation, which is rather like the Select Committee proposed in the motion. The Canadians, after due thought, have come to more or less the conclusion that every previous Select Committee before the Joint Committee has recommended and the one that is in principle put forward today.

The United States House of Representatives is also considering the introduction of radio and television into its proceedings. For those of my hon. Friends, such as the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson) who are averse to national television, I say that they might find some reinforcement in the initial reaction to the test in the United States Senate. I understand that something called "the racoon effect" has been observed amongst those hollow-eyed Members who are seen under heavy lighting. Indeed, Representative Shirley Chisholm, of the Black Group of Congressmen, said that under the lighting system that is used black Members of the House disappear altogether. We do not have that problem here.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I use that as an illustration of the fact that, were we to be grappling with the matter of television, more would be at stake than the simple question of censorship, which is how the media tend to present it.

I now consider whether the broadcasting unit as proposed, and more particularly the role of the manager of broadcasting operations as I have envisaged in the amendment, would be an instrument of censorship. I emphatically refute that, It seems to me that the over-insistence, both in the paragraph that has been quoted of the Joint Committee's report, and in some of the speeches in the previous debate and this one, on the roving commission of the Select Committee, on what it might do, on its need to come back to the House, on its need to report, or its ability ex post facto to investigate how broadcasting is being carried out, indicates a profound uneasiness on the part of the Joint Committee on the question of accountability which has so far been left unresolved because it took the path that it did in abjuring any notion of a broadcasting unit.

I see some dangers in a Committee of hon. Members who are looking only after the event at the broadcasting operation, who are constantly urged by their colleagues to look at this and that matter of which they do not themselves have any personal recollection, and who will then open up a whole can of worms. That is a problem, I accept, because we have taken this route, and can only amend it and not alter it and go back on first principles, that we must have a Select Committee.

To those who suggest that we are advocating censorship by keeping accountability within the House of Commons I say that we are not and that there are more possibilities lying along the route of an amateurish unadvised, irresponsible Select Committee than from the kind of professional advice of the experts, in the service of the House rather than of the news editors and broadcasting organisations, that I suggest in the amendment.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

My hon. Friend referred to amateur and unadvised members of the Select Committee. The motion makes allowances for advisers to be appointed.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I shall come to that in a moment, because the precise powers of the Select Committee to appoint officials or advisers, if we were to leave it to the Select Committee as the Government suggest, is a point at issue between myself and those who think like me and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

Does my hon. Friend agree that the wording of the motion, in so far as it permits advisers, permits them to be appointed on a part-time basis at the current hourly rates agreed by the Treasury for other advisers of Select Committees, and has no relation to any permanent employees?

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I am subject to correction and further intervention, but I understand that substantially to be the provision. If the Parliamentary Secretary wishes to intervene and say that it is not, he is at liberty to do so.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I am much more likely to intervene and say that it is. I wonder whether it would be for the convenience of the House if, without getting up too often when a point of this importance arises, I might be permitted to deal with them as we go along rather than seek to catch the eye of the Chair a second time.

I have taken advice on this matter, and there is a difficulty here. I want the House to be clear about this, because I do not want it to be alleged against me that I have misled hon. and right hon. Members. Some hold the view that the Select Committee could appoint people—because there is no mention in the motion of full-time or part-time staff—and that it could decide the terms of reference and the title of the broadcasting manager. Others take the view that the Select Committee could not do that.

My advice is that if the Select Committee runs into any difficulty at all, it will come to the Clerk of the House with a recommendation. The Clerk of the House will take advice from the Services Committee, and particularly from my right hon. Friend, and I can say on behalf of the Lord President of the Council that we would support any proposal that came from that Select Committee. But there is a difficulty, and it is right that we should consider it.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

What my hon. Friend has said reinforces the reservations that I have about leaving this matter to the Select Committee, in spite of the handsome undertaking that he gave at the end of his intervention. Many of us fear that if this is handed over to the Select Committee, whatever the personnel of that Committee, the Committee might be hamstrung by the kind of professional advice that it gets—I should say advice from officials of the House, and so on—as to what is in order for it to do and what is not.

It is the contention of myself and some of my hon. Friends that if it is an instruction from the House to that Select Committee that it shall appoint a manager of broadcasting operations and he shall be the instrument of the accountability to the House, no one can stand in the way of such a decision. I think I am right in saying that it is for that reason that have phrased the amendment in the way that we have, because we are alarmed by the notion that in these times of financial stringency it will be said that Select Committees can appoint advisers, that they can appoint people to do all these curious things which are mentioned—such as the elucidating of matters of complexity in line 12 of the motion—but they cannot do what we submit is necessary, namely to maintain a continual relationship with the broadcasting operation and a measure of supervision of it.

We believe that the operations manager should be more than a professional consultant brought in from time to time if Members of the Select Committee hap pen to believe that in any circumstances the broadcasters are having them on. That is the expected effect, but it is not what we want.

We want to see the operation of the manager used essentially as a small scale broadcasting unit. The hon. Member for Conway asked me to explain what I meant about the powers of the broadcasting operations manager. That is the essence of it. The operator of the microphones in the Chamber is an employee of the House. Not 100 yards away from here we have the sound origination unit. It has been set up at considerable cost, and there is absolutely no reason why that unit should not be under the control of the operations manager. Whether those who staff it are appointees of the broadcasting operation, are seconded to the House, or are those whom the Select Committee decides should be appointed by the House is a secondary consideration. The question is, who has the ultimate accountability? We think it should be with the operations manager.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West has raised the question of copyright. This is very important and it was a matter which decided the Driberg Committee that there should be a broadcasting unit. It is my understanding that, whichever of the three solutions offered to the House tonight is adopted, the copyright remains with the House of Commons.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I should be glad if my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North would give me the assurance that he understands by the amendment that this should be so. However, the Joint Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) thought the opposite and specifically stated this.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

If I may answer that point, I think I got this wrong before. The Joint Select Committee came to the view that, as things stood, copyright would in fact rest with the originators—the BBC—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh".] As I said, I got it wrong, and when one is wrong one gets up at the earliest opportunity and says so That is what I am doing. The difficulty here—and I have consulted on this point—is that if we cannot find anyone on the Joint Select Committee in whom we can vest this authority, we have a problem. Whether it should be the Commission to be set up by the Bottomley Committee is a matter which the House should look at tonight.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I think that that is a further reinforcement of my case that there is a need to proceed with caution. It must be made quite clear to the special Select Committee when it is set up, whether or not it has the powers that I am suggesting, that it acts on the presupposition that copyright should remain with the House of Commons unless an overwhelming argument can be made against it.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

This is a very important point, and I am glad that the Minister has clarified it. It is set out on page xv of the Second Report. Does the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) not agree that copyright must be vested in some part of the House or some institution set up by the House of Commons, otherwise the material emanating from this place for a broadcast can be used again and again in different contexts without any hon. Members or the House as a whole having any control whatsoever over its dissemination?

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I think that is substantially true. However, hon. Members should get it into their minds quite clearly that much of the material originating from this Chamber and from any other part of the Palace of Westminster that might be broadcast in future will be used over and over again. It will be edited again and again, and used in snippets as well as in long broadcasts. That is right and it is the way it should be.

That is not our quarrel with the broadcasters. It is our contention that there must be a master version of what is said against which any such broadcast could be compared, because there may be allegations of malpractices in the use of the tapes.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Newham South

Perhaps my hon. Friend would clear up another matter. It is clear that a lot of material will be used over and over again and will have an echo effect. Will that depend on the initial broadcast by the unit being picked up by people at home on cassettes? If a broadcast is not substantially broadcast at all, will it be possible for a member of the public to obtain a cassette or a feed-off from the archival tape?

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

It would be open to a Member of Parliament to ask for a check of the original sound tape in exactly the same way that many of my constituents write to me and ask me whether what I was quoted as saying in the "Daily Slurge" was really what I said. I then look my speech up in the Official Report, check what I said and send them copies of Hansard to see what the speech looked like in context. It should at least be possible for a member of the public to have that opportunity when the House is broadcast.

My hon. Friend is also asking this question: if a debate is thought to be of importance by members of the public but is totally ignored by the broadcasting organisation and is sought by outside agencies, will it exist or not? Will it be put on the record and prayed in aid? Yes, I think that this should happen. That is why I think that there should be a master tape of the proceedings. I do not think that we have yet taken a decision on the broadcasting of Committees upstairs.

There is a problem about the question of other uses to which the material may be put. If one allows one organisation to become the originator, lay claims to the copyright over the material and say that because it undertook the initial capital outlay it should decide what is or what is not history in the sense of what is recorded, the recording of material must have another arbiter over and above that organisation. I should like to think that a member of the public or a smaller broadcasting unit could have that kind of access. This might be one gesture to the pluralist philosophy of the Annan Report. I look forward to the time when there will be more broadcasting outlets, because this is very healthy in a democracy.

However, the more outlets there are, the more problems arise. The question arises whether those who have had no part in the origination of the material may get fair entry into the proceedings.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Ford Mr Benjamin Ford , Bradford North

Is my hon. Friend aware that part of the contractual agreement between Parliament and the broadcasters on the clean feed archival tape was that it was important that the records should be made available for research and that hon. Members and the public should have access?

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I am aware of that, the role of the manager of broadcasting operations, to whom I shall now revert and upon which subject I shall conclude, is partly envisaged with that in mind—for the preparation of the archival record, and clean-feed tape, or whatever. At least as important is the transient uses which may be made of this tape in other areas. I say this as somebody who has been involved for all his professional life in the compilation of historical documentaries. How often do we go back to records—to the old newsreels of the 1930s, to such records as survive, to radio broadcasts of the fireside chats, and so on, of the 1920s and 1930s—only to find that what is deemed to be important now and what with hindsight appears to be the most important part of the record was entirely disregarded by the predominant communicators of the time?

With that in mind, it is essential that we pay at least as much attention to the compilation of our records for the benefit of future generations rather than this business of keeping them for one year, as has been suggested up to now.

That, then, is the case as I put it for the appointment of a manager of broadcasting operations, both to apply a measure of professional control to the whole operation when it gets started and also to act as in one sense an arbitrator between the present and the future claims of all those, including our constituents and constituents' children, who will have some claim upon this material in the future.

8.2 p.m.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

At long last a glimmer of light seems to be appearing at the end of this broadcasting tunnel. I only wish that we had been able to make further progress 10 days ago when we started this debate. However, we continue it today and it centres round an immensely important point, which is whether it is necessary to have additional layers of protection for Parliament in the control of the radio wave that goes out from Parliament.

I remain unconvinced of the need for a parliamentary unit even after the debate of 10 days go and listening here this evening. I believe, first, that it could postpone broadcasting even further than has been the case up till now. It could postpone broadcasting because the unit will require staffing. It could postpone broadcasting because, whether or not either of the amendments on the Order Paper is carried, it will require a relationship to be built up between the Select Committee and the broadcasting unit or the manager of broadcasting operations. I hope that we shall get broadcasting of our proceedings quickly and efficiently.

Secondly, I do not believe that it is necessary, because it seems to be putting an additional expense on the Exchequer in an unnecessary way considering the good offer of the BBC to take on the task.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

Whether it will influence the extent of the licence fee request that will come through the BBC one of these days remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen how the BBC plans to manage radio broadcasting in the future, anyway. This will be a very small part of whatever plans the BBC has.

The proposal for the unit is unnecessary and unattractive because it seems to be yet again an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy. It is inserting some professional people—they are described as professional; I am sure that they will be professional people—as a buffer state between the operations of the House and the equally professional people who will be dealing with the live feed within the broadcasting companies.

The proposal will be worrying also from the aspect of career development of the people who might go to make up this broadcasting unit or fill the role of manager of it. It is interesting to conjecture who the manager would be either in the context of the amendment suggested by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) or in the context of the amendment suggested by the hon. Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English).

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

The hon. Gentleman should tell us the name of his candidate.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

I would not think of suggesting any candidate, but I could characterise three different sorts of individual. It could be somebody who was seeking to further his career by appointment to this managership. This would surely indicate, though, a quick move back from this position into the live world of broadcasting outside, probably just as he had started to learn the ways and the mannerisms of the House. He would therefore be lost just as he was, as it were, coming on stream to full effect. That would certainly be the case with somebody who was coming here to further his career, because he would have to go back to the outside world in order to improve his responsibilities and his pay.

Secondly, it could be somebody who was opting out of a career. In such a case we should not get the quality of person we wanted in an area where quality must tell crucially, not only in terms of technical expertise but also in terms of judgment and character.

Thirdly, it could be somebody who had reached a pinnacle in his career. If that were the case, we should either have running our broadcasting from the House a tired old man of broadcasting outside, or we should have somebody who would come into this position and become a tired old man of broadcasting inside the House. I cannot for the life of me find out any other characterisation for the manager of this broadcasting unit or the people who might make up such a broadcasting unit should we set it up.

I referred to the subject of copyright in our debate in July of last year. It can either be, as already, with Parliament, as the Parliamentary Secretary suggested, though I think that suggestion might be withdrawn later in the debate, or it can be vested in Parliament by a simple Act of Parliament, as suggested in the Committee's report. Either way it is not necessary to have a parliamentary unit to overcome whatever difficulty may exist in the ownership of the copyright of parliamentary proceedings.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

The hon. Gentleman said that something is suggested in the Committee's report. Will he direct us to the reference? Already in this debate we have referred to page xv, paragraph 42, of the recent report which said: under the Joint Committee's proposals this means the BBC would have the copyright. I do not understand where the hon. Gentleman gets the idea that the Joint Committee said that it was vested somewhere else.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

The hon. Gentleman misunderstood me, as he misunderstood me in July of last year. The Committee said that copyright might vest with the BBC.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

It did not propose it. It later proposed that copyright could be vested in the House of Commons by a simple Act of Parliament to vest it in it. I cannot put my finger on the reference now, but during the course of the debate I will try to find it and perhaps catch your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker, or intervene in the hon. Member's speech.

It could be a specific task of the Select Committee to ensure that the copyright in the broadcasting of the House rested with the House.

The most important point of the broadcasting unit is its need as a control mechanism—not, of course, control of editorial, which has correctly been denied by the hon. Member for Derby, North, but for technical control the preparation of the signal, whatever that may mean.

I believe that it is right to correct an assessment of the BBC's impartiality which was given by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Runcorn (Mr. Carlisle) 10 days ago. He used as support of the BBC doing this job our trust in the BBC's impartiality. I am not absolutely sure that that is a trust which is shared by all of us when it comes to the reporting character of the BBC. But I believe that the technical abilities of the BBC would be absolutely impartial, as was shown during the successful experiment many moons ago.

I do not believe that, as the hon. Member for Derby, North suggested, the Select Committee's role would be affected by the Committee's relationship with its advisers, any more than it would be affected by its relationship with the manager of the broadcasting unit or any part of the responsibility identified in the motion. I believe that, rather, the Committee could exert the necessary supervisory control, arm's length control, as a watchdog for Parliament, and we could avoid the need to set up a unit.

I add a final rider. As other hon. Members have said, it is necessary, in the light of the experience of radio broadcasting, to keep an open mind on the need for a parliamentary unit if television cameras are brought into the House. It has been the experience in other legislatures that a parliamentary unit is necessary in those circumstances, and it may be even more necessary here because of the habit in this place of speaking from where one sits. With a camera's roving capacity, which is essential for the proper coverage of business, it could rove in the wrong direction and give the outside world a mistaken idea of what was going on.

We are discussing a clean feed of the radio broadcasting of the House. I hope that we can quickly get on with it and hand that responsibility to the Select Committee on our behalf.

8.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

On the occasion of the immediate past debate, I had to remark upon the fact that it was impossible for the assurance of my right hon. Friend the Lord President, that we should be able to debate and vote on the issue of a parliamentary unit, to be carried out. That was through no fault of his own. I should like to say how grateful I am that it can now be carried out. We should be able to reach a conclusion on the whole issue tonight.

In spite of the beliefs of the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone), I was advocating broadcasting the House before the hon. Gentleman even entered it. 1 was on the first of the two Select Committees that advocated broadcasting and advocated a parliamentary unit. There have been various Select Committees, but for practical purposes most people who have studied the subject would agree that the Driberg Committee and the one chaired recently by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford) are the two main Committees on the issue. One recommended a broadcasting unit and the other recommended that there should not be such a unit. That is precisely why the Government motion will not do, though it will do to the extent that we all want some sort of committee to continue—I would not say "to supervise", as the hon. Member for Lewes did—to be concerned with this issue.

When the House is presented with two Select Committee reports it is no good our saying that we shall set up a Select Committee or Joint Committee to recommend yet again on the question whether there should be a broadcasting unit. It is time the House made a decision on which of the two Select Committees' views it accepts.

I think that on the basic issue there has been almost deliberate obfuscation by interested parties. There is no question in this context of the House wishing to exert editorial control, except in so far as, irrespective of whether we have a broadcasting unit, it is stated by both the Driberg Committee and the recent Joint Committee, and accepted by the broadcasting organisations, that broadcasts should not be used for the purposes of satire. I think that the Driberg Committee said that broadcasting should be used for bona fide purposes. Whatever the phrase, everyone accepts and knows what is meant. Therefore, in so far as there is any editorial control by the House in the negative sense, it is already agreed by the broadcasting organisations.

However, I suggest that if there is no parliamentary unit, any editorial control can be exercised in the negative sense by the originator of the feed—the BBC. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) said that the Press Association might want a feed. It is entirely possible that the BBC would accept that the Press Association should be given a feed free. I hope that it would, but there is nothing in the motion to say that the BBC should do that, that the BBC, the possessor of the copyright under the Joint Committee scheme, should give away free its copyright in part to the Press Association.

One could imagine circumstances in which the feed did not go out to other organisations from the BBC, as the originator. One example was given by the hon. Gentleman, who said that ITV did not broadcast the opening of this Session of Parliament because the BBC had an industrial dispute. That sort of situation does not seem entirely reasonable.

Therefore, any editorial control—if one should call it that—is likely to be negative and not positive. On the Driberg Committee we wished to see as many people in this country as wanted it to have the feed free. We said, for example, that we would not refuse a university or club that wanted it free. It was not merely a question of its going to broadcasting organisations. I am not sure how my hon. Friend the Minister will ensure that this is done. There seem to be no assurances that the feed will be given free to any legitimate person in this country. I do not think that the matter is mentioned in the Joint Committee Report.

I said earlier, in seeking to correct my hon. Friend, that the view that there would be a "substantial demand" for saleable rebroadcasting or for rebrodcasting by foreign organisations of broadcasts of this House was put in evidence by the BBC to the Driberg Committee. In its evidence to that Committee it spoke of a substantial demand, but I accept that in its evidence to the Committee chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Bradford, North it spoke of a "small demand". The difference may be because in the first case the BBC was discussing the possibilities of television and radio whereas in the second it was discussing radio alone. Nevertheless, the BBC's view has mysteriously changed in 12 years from a "substantial" to a "small" demand.

Nowhere in the BBC's memorandum is there mention of what would happen to any money it obtained from the sale of any tapes. We are entering a different technological age, and are talking not merely about the sale to, say, Mutual Broadcasting in the United States, which is primarily a radio company, but the sale of cassettes to any reasonable person in this country wanting a taped copy of a debate. Why should not such people have copies? They can obtain copies of Hansard. If the Daily Telegraph refused to print a report of a debate, anyone who was interested could obtain a copy of Hansard from the Stationery Office. Where does the report say that people will be able to go to the BBC, which is getting the feed free, and obtain a free cassette of a broadcast of a debate? If it is said that individuals should not obtain cassettes free, what shall we do with the income of the BBC, or whoever else receives such income? None of these questions seems to be spelled out and answered.

I do not wish to see editorial control by the BBC exercised in this respect. I should like to give an example. Through the grace of the Services Committee, we now have in the House a machine capable of showing us a videotape of a broadcast. It is said that we may obtain certain videotapes. Hon. Members will recall that a few weeks ago there was a famous set of interviews with Sir James Goldsmith. I asked for a videotape, but it was not provided and still has not been provided.

What will happen if ordinary, honest citizens want a copy of our proceedings, not in the form of a print of Hansard but in the form of a cassette tape? My view is that they should be able to receive it at a reasonable fee and that that fee should go towards the cost of providing it.

Photo of Mr Benjamin Ford Mr Benjamin Ford , Bradford North

If my hon. Friend looks at page xvi of the Second Report he will see that paragraph 44 says that the Joint Select Committee should consider the question of setting up a trust in which should reside the copyright of the clean feed archival tape. My view is that Parliament, a Department of Parliament, a public information department, should be able to take advantage of this to disseminate or disperse clips or cassettes for the benefit of the public.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for spelling that out. What he says is quite true. Paragraph 43 says that the Committee can see no pressing advantage to Parliament in possessing … the copyright". Paragraph 44 says: The Joint Committee considers however that Parliament may wish to possess the copyright of clean feed tapes preserved permanently in the archives. Paragraph 37 talks about: the retention … for a period of one year of a full master tape … In other words, my hon. Friend is suggesting that at some indeterminate time in the future, if the Select Committee so decides, the copyright of the tapes may be taken away from the BBC in which, under paragraph 42, it is to be vested. It is suggested that the copyright may then be vested in some body yet to be set up and then the recordings may be sold to the public.

What happens if I want a tape tomorrow? At the moment I can get Hansard on the next day. I do not have to wait two or three years for this long and complicated process. Nor do I have to rely on someone deciding whether a recording is to be kept in the archives. With the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, I do not think that his Committee's report has covered my point.

My point is that all questions of editorial control at this stage are vested, in a negative sense, in the owner of the copyright, namely the BBC. I trust the broadcasting organisations in the sense that I trust them to do what they have said they will do. I am sure that they will share the feed with, for example, Independent Radio News. They have said this and I have no reason to suppose that they will not, or that IRN will not share the costs. No one disputes that. What we are doing is asking whether those who hold the copyright will be equally generous with every other person in the United Kingdom. Or will they say "No, we shall give you something only if you pay for it, and if you pay for it the money comes to us."?

I shall deal with the technicalities of copyright although I do not think they are of any great importance. My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) has made it plain that if his amendment is carried he believes that it would be expressing the will of the House that the copyright should be vested in us. I believe that my amendment would have the same effect. On that basis I would be prepared to accept my hon. Friend's amendment. I would withdraw my amendment only if I received an assurance from the Government Front Bench that, should my hon. Friend's amendment be carried, it would be interpreted in that way.

The technicalities set out in the Home Office memorandum were, it seems, designed for a particular set of circumstances. We all know what they were. We all know that 18 months ago the Treasury did not want to pay. I will not go into what I said in the last debate, but under the Driberg proposals it was obvious that a considerable amount of capital expenditure would be required of the Exchequer, together with a considerable amount in running costs. That would have been partly recouped from any sales of the resulting material. But we would have given the results free to the broadcasting organisations. We all know that the Treasury had a great desire to cut public expenditure 18 months ago. I do not blame it for that. In certain respects I was one of its supporters, although I disagreed with some of its proposals.

The Home Office memorandum and the other memoranda on the purely legal point simply stated the difficulties of vesting copyright in anyone. One difficulty is that the House has no legal personality. That is in itself arguable, because, as I recollect it, A. P. Herbert once prosecuted this House and it is necessary for there to be a legal person before a prosecution can be mounted. A. P. Herbert prosecuted us for keeping our bars open after the normal licensing hours without the authority of any Act of Parliament permitting us to do so. The prosecution was held and the person who defended the House of Commons, then treated as a personality, was the Attorney-General. If the House can be treated as a legal person for the purposes of a criminal prosecution, I think that most lawyers would regard it as a legal person.

It is said that the House of Commons is not a corporate person. It is also said that we can do various things with this copyright. That is the point. It can be vested in the Bottomley Commission, when my right hon. Friend produces the measure which he has promised us for this Session, setting up the Bottomley Commission. The copyright can be vested in Mr. Speaker. We can do as Hansard does. The Hansard copyright is vested in the Crown. The Controller of the Stationery Office, by common tradition, can allow people to quote from Hansard. He is the man who controls the copyright, which is vested in the Crown. I do not mind the copyright being vested in the Crown in this context. I do not see the situation being any different from that of Hansard in that simple respect.

I do not think that we can rest upon technicalities. I would be prepared to withdraw my amendment if we can have a ministerial assurance that, in the event of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North being passed, it would be regarded as expressing the will of the House that copyright should be vested in this House, the Crown, or some equivalent body, such as I have mentioned.

The important point ultimately centres on this issue of copyright—around money. It can be put in the old Northern phrase that "You don't get owt for nowt." The original Driberg proposal was that we should spend a certain amount of money in producing the clean feed and that the broadcasting organisations would spend a certain amount of their money on editing it as they thought fit. If there were ally proceeds from sales, they would be split. We did not even specify how the money would be split, because we assumed that as reasonable men, especially if we had the copyright, it would be easy enough to negotiate that matter later, as is usually the case.

We have heard about precedents. Here is one. I would suggest that one good row in the House of Commons, where someone lifts the Mace and uses it to hit someone else over the head, is probably more saleable abroad than the average episode of "Upstairs, Downstairs". Lord Grade makes about £15 million a year profit for ATV, mainly by the sale of programmes overseas.

However, the main issue here is, in simple terms: who owns these tapes? The Joint Committee, in paragraph 42, states quite clearly that under the Joint Committee's proposals this means the BBC". In the Driberg Committee's proposals it was equally clear that the copyright would be vested in the unit, the House of Commons, the Crown, the Speaker—however one cares to put it—but not in the broadcasting organisations. Owning that and retaining that on behalf of the Exchequer—because it boils down in some respects to money and not to editorial control—we would give it away free to the broadcasting organisations to use in this country as they thought fit, but we might well give it to people other than broadcasting organisations, such as colleges and universities. But people who wanted to use it for their own profit should pay some sort of royalty to the copyright owner, namely, to the Exchequer, which had paid for it.

Photo of Mr Wyn Roberts Mr Wyn Roberts , Conway

The hon. Gentleman has quite rightly emphasised money in the context of copyright, but there is also, surely, the wider theme in copyright, namely, that the owner of the copyright controls the use. The hon. Gentleman will know that when he does his broadcasts for the BBC he does so as the result of the contract between himself and the BBC. In this case there would be no contract, and he or any other Member of this House could exercise no control whatsoever on the use that might be made, not necessarily by the BBC but by some subsidiary user, of the material produced from this place.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I take the hon. Gentleman's point. I think that it has been said that if it is not controlled through copyright it could be controlled, even if someone else possessed the copyright, because a resolution of this House of Commons has the force of law, in that it can be dealt with under the law of privilege of this House. I do not think that we need go into that.

I have already stated what I believe to be the main issue here. The difference between the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North and my own amendment is minimal.

I am amazed that the Sunday Times, which floated this idea, should feel that we have some dark desire to infringe editorial control. It has perhaps forgotten that the original Driberg Committee was chaired by a journalist and that it included, apart from my right hon. Friend who is now the Secretary of State for the Environment, a publisher, the late Mr. Brian Batsford, and sundry other people with knowledge of the media and so forth.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

There is nothing "late" about Mr. Brian Batsford, who is now Sir Brian Batsford, and lately a Member of this House.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I am sorry. That is correct. It was the late Lord Driberg who was the chairman.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I am getting confused and would like to put a question to my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English). If the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) is carried, shall we not have vested two groups of people with the right to originate the signal?

I go back to the motion, which said that The British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Broadcasting Authority … be authorised to provide and operate singly or jointly sound signal origination equipment for the purpose of recording or broadcasting the proceedings of the House ".—[Official Report, 26th July 1977; Vol. 936, c. 539.] Have we not already decided this matter? If we pass the amendment, shall we then have two lots of sound origination? How does my hon. Friend view the position in that respect?

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

If the Minister is assuring us that that is correct, then no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North would wish to withdraw his amendment and allow mine to be pressed, because I am assured by the people who have vetted my proposal that it does not have the effect that the Minister has stated. I am sure that in principle my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North and I are at one, whatever the terminology of our respective amendments.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

My hon. Friend will recall that my amendment specifically says that the role of the manager of broadcasting operations shall be to supervise the preparation of the signal". The preparation of the signal will be in terms of the resolution previously carried by the House.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

My hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North indicated that the intention of his amendment is that the House, or some body other than the broadcasting organisations should have the copyright. Am I quoting him correctly?

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I am quoting my hon. Friend correctly. If either my right hon. Friend or my hon. Friend on the Front Bench will give us the assurance that, if that amendment is carried, they will accept that that is its interpretation—even if it might be worded technically in some way so as possibly to nullify that intention—and that the will of the House is to take the copyright away from the BBC, then I do not think that there need be much more discussion tonight. Most of us can probably get into the Division Lobbies and vote on the issue.

Photo of Hon. Douglas Hurd Hon. Douglas Hurd , Oxon Mid

The hon. Gentleman is obviously drawing his remarks to a conclusion. However, he has not dealt with a point that is of great concern to a few of us who think that the broadcasting of the proceedings of this House is extremely important for its future influence in our society. We have been very dismayed by the way in which the argument has dragged on night after night. We see in the hon. Gentleman's amendment—possibly wrongly, but nothing that he has said has in any way discouraged this belief—yet a further layer of debate, discussion and delay. It seems extremely important that we should not delay the start of this vital experiment, even though at a later stage, in the light of experience, we may have to change the way in which it is done.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I thought that it would help the House if I did not repeat what I said on the last occasion. However, very briefly, let me say that I then made the point that 13 years ago, I think, I was the first person in this House to raise the question of its proceedings being broadcast and to get the old Publications and Debates Committee, which turned into the Driberg Committee, dealing with this subject. We made a recommendation some 12 years ago. The delay has not been on my part. The recommendation of a broadcasting unit has always been generally accepted. It is even accepted—if it were the will of the House—by the BBC. It was advocated in the memorandum to the Joint Committee by the IBA. The delay was caused by setting up yet another Select Committee, the Joint Committee chaired by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Lyons).

I do not think that the Driberg Committee was packed by anyone. It had a considerable membership of both sides. For example, only three Labour Members were on the Joint Committee. Two of them were Ministers and one was a Back Bencher. One of the former was a Whip and the other was my hon. Friend who is now on the Front Bench, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Privy Council Office.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

This matter needs to be dealt with. I think that my hon. Friend will take it from me that in the initial stages the Member concerned was not a Whip. She was appointed a Whip during the sitting of that Committee. It was not packed in the early stages.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I see. She was made a Whip after she was put on the Committee. "It was not packed in the early stages." I accept my hon. Friend's statement, as do we all. We never dream of disputing his words, which seem quite precisely to make the point.

However, if the Joint Select Committee had not been set up and if the principles enunciated by the earlier Select Committee had simply been put to the House, we could have had radio broadcasting years ago. If it had not been put initially as radio and television, we would have had radio broadcasting 10 years ago. Therefore, to throw a charge of delay at myself and my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North is to choose the wrong targets.

To be quite blunt, different Governments of different parties have had different views at different times on this issue whether they wanted the proceedings of this House broadcast. Sometimes they have played hot and sometimes they have played cold. But just because one suddenly arives at a point at which one has a Government who are playing hot—and I hope that Conservative Members will do so as well and at which there is a reasonable coincidence of view, that does not mean that one should suddenly do it in the wrong way just because for 13 years various people—not including myself or my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North—have been delaying it.

However, I think that that has been a deviation from the main point at issue. I have stressed the money side, perhaps a little unduly, because I think that others have stressed the editorial control side and have suggested dark and devious motives for the House of Commons that do not exist. I do not know what anyone suggests can be the methods of editing a feed when one has said that one is going to send out the whole feed for others to edit, even if it were done by a broadcasting unit. The only editing that could be done is in the negative sense—by the originator of the signal, if it were the BBC, preventing other people from having a copy to use for themselves. Indeed, I believe that technically the BBC now possesses copyright of its own broadcasts which to a considerable extent prevents other people from using them.

What we want is a simple statement from the Government Front Bench that if either of the amendments is carried tonight the Government Front Bench will finally accept that the copyright should rest with someone on behalf of this House, or the Crown in the general sense, rather than with the broadcasting organisations. If the Minister will say that, there is very little to argue about.

8.41 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

One would hardly believe that it is nearly 20 years since the late Aneurin Bevan almost casually in a debate on the Gracious Speech remarked that he felt that this House should be televised. That remark caused a great debate throughout the country. One would have thought that at least within a decade this proposal would have been under way.

Listening to the various points that have been made about the intricacies and legalities of tapes and recordings reminds me of the story of the person who had explained to him the make-up of another person's watch. He was told that it had two hands, a main spring, a fly spring, so many rubies and diamonds, and that the case was made of silver. Yet the original question was simply "What is the time?"

We are behaving in a similar manner while ordinary folk outside are asking themselves why it is taking so long when all they want is to be able to switch on the wireless and listen to a debate in the House of Commons.

I fear that if some of the debates on this issue had been taped, no one would switch on at all. It would have been so boring. Part of that has been caused by the appalling attitude of some sections of the media which have suggested that the proposition of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) in some way implies that there will be a form of censorship or control over what is broadcast of what is said in this House.

The only thing that frightens me is the prospect of having something like a programme which lasts about 15 minutes called "Today in Parliament". If a programme has caused a great deal of trouble and strife for Members of Parliament, it has been that one. On the other hand it can be classed as a pioneer. That is a proper accolade to give it.

Here we are discussing how we shall set about letting the ordinary folk of this country have the right—which I believe they want—to switch on their wireless sets and listen to speeches and debates in this House. Many of the arguments about apprehension and concern can apply to any programme that is being broadcast at this moment.

All sorts of arguments are going on to the effect that when a person buys a gramophone record he is not allowed to tape it. Similarly, if a person listens to any programme, either from the independent broadcasters or the BBC, he must not record it. Does anyone believe that much notice is taken of those arguments? Nonsense. Of course people record programmes, because they want to listen to good music, pop music, or whatever.

I believe that in some respect we are making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill. We have arrived at the position of perhaps giving some credence to the saying that if Moses had formed a committee to discuss the crossing of the Red Sea, the Israelites would not yet have made the crossing. We are in a similar position today.

Let us consider the essential feature of this debate which is, I suggest, the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North. When I read it, I was not completely convinced. However, this is one of those rare occasions when it is of paramount importance to hear the speech of the hon. Member who has put down the amendment and, on the basis of what my hon. Friend said, I shall support his amendment.

The amendment should in no way be judged as a criticism of the BBC. In this House, outside it and in other countries as well, I have always been proud of the role which the BBC has played in the past 50 or so years in maintaining a high level of civilised broadcasting, which is recognised throughout the world as being probably the highest standard ever achieved. However, as with every other human organisation, the BBC has its faults, and some of us in this House are amongst its biggest critics. Some of us believe that the Press exists only to print our speeches, and we apply much the same thinking to the BBC. When we switch on, many of us believe that we should hear political discussions in which we have been involved. I suppose that that is human nature as well.

However, one of the attractions of the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North is that it could be argued "Why the BBC?". Why should it not be the IBA or ITN, or an amalgum of them all? If anyone put forward that argument, it could not be countered. Therefore, it seems to me that, even though there might be some difficulty in adopting my hon. Friend's proposal, it would not result in any form of censorship and editorial control along the lines suggested by some parts of the media.

If we in this House agreed, as I hope we shall, to my hon. Friend's amendment and there was the faintest suspicion that we were thereby establishing some form of censorship or editorial control, there would be the biggest bust-up that this House had ever seen. In their heart of hearts, those in the media who have made this suggestion know that that would happen and, indeed, they would make their own contribution to smashing such an organisation if it ever became a reality.

On the general aspect of administration, I do not think my hon. Friend's suggestion is a bad idea. After all, we have other managers. We have managers of our caterers, allegedly. We have managers of the people who keep this place warm. We have managers of all kinds in the Houses of Parliament. Why should not we have a manager of broadcasting operations, with the necessary technicians and experts to back him? Incidentally, such an arrangement would have the one great advantage that those involved would know that they were not temporary and that they could not be recalled by some high official of the BBC to be transferred, without knowing who exactly was their boss. When it is said that the House of Commons will be their boss, that is a way of saying that it will be the people of this country who are their boss rather than any other form of organisation.

We should not be frightened of the amendment tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North. A joint Select Committee on the subject will contain Members of another place, and in the end we shall arrive at the traditional compromise that is normally reached in this country. I hope that that compromise will soon be reached in the traditional way. We shall then be able to deal with the matter of tapes and who should be allowed to borrow them or to make recordings. The people who sit at home recording Beethoven symphonies, pop shows and all the rest of it will be able to tune in to this House. The only thing that will deter them is the fact that we take an unnecessarily long time to arrive at a decision. Let this debate be an example of the way in which the House of Commons gets on with things.

I believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North has put forward a reasonable proposition which is not very much at odds with what has been proposed by the Front Bench. It should be applauded as a reasonable compromise. That will take us a step nearer to what we want—that our people should be able to hear what is said in this House to enable them to take a closer interest in the proceedings of this democratic institution.

8.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

I am prompted to intervene in the debate solely by the speech of the hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy). I am often in the position, as is the hon. Gentleman, of being a debater of these topics. However, this evening I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, nor do I agree with the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead). Let me say briefly why I take that view.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North mentioned what the British public will want to do. He said that they will want to tune into the proceedings in this place and listen to a full day's proceedings from Question Time until midnight. I must put my dilemma to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House. I must inform him that if that happens I shall face a great conflict. Because I read Hansard in bed at night, I shall be faced with the prospect of also having to listen to the House of Commons proceedings on the radio.

I do not think that the public will want to switch on to the House of Commons proceedings as an alternative to a pop concert or a Beethoven evening or some other entertainment. The public want, as was proved by our sound broadcasting experiment, to be able to hear this place at work at certain times. They want to hear us debate matters, ask Questions, hear what is said in statements, and they want that material to be condensed by the editors of the sound broadcasting organisations. As was proved during that experiment, the public want flesh and bones added to the mere printed text which we are able to see in the heavy newspapers.

The debate is not about the fundamental question of what people want to hear or whether they want to hear Parliament broadcast; it is about the methods that will be employed—employed with some speed now—to get the show on the road, to get something happening. The House decided long ago that it should happen. There was public endorsement following the experiment. There has been acceptance of the idea. After initial reaction against it in the first week, it subsequently came to be accepted as a good experiment and something that should continue.

Photo of Mr William Molloy Mr William Molloy , Ealing North

I hope that the hon. Gentleman was not thinking that I was suggesting that all that will be heard on British radio when our proceedings are broadcast are our proceedings. I had in mind that all sorts of subjects are debated in the House and that some issues are so obscure that there is hardly any interest in them. However, there is always someone in this island who has an interest in whatever subject is raised. There is always a small minority. The rest of the nation might wish to listen to a pop concert or a play, but a small minority might desire to listen to something that is close to their hearts and of interest only to them.

Photo of Mr David Crouch Mr David Crouch , Canterbury

I accept that as a fair contribution. It is a question of how that small minority can get access to what might be called the signal. After the broadcast the records will be in the archives. How can they subsequently be used? There are provisions to ensure that the debates and records of events that take place in the House may be used only in certain circumstances. The provisions are designed to ensure that they cannot be used in any circumstances.

There are limitations on the use of recorded proceedings of this place in programmes of political satire. It has not been stated that they cannot be used. However, if a programme of political satire is to be constructed, reference must be made to the Select Committee to ascertain whether permission will be given. I believe that that is fair. It is not so much censorship as saying "We have an idea, we want to use it, and we shall put it to the Select Committee to see whether it is agreeable."

I hope that the Select Committee will be liberal in its approach. I hope that it will not mirror the image that we had cast by the BBC in its early days of being somewhat "Aunty" in these matters. It is on the whole question of the Select Committee's operation that I wish to say a few words.

There are two amendments on the Order Paper and the hon. Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead), with all his experience, knowledge and professionalism in the business, art and science of broadcasting, suggests and proposes in all sincerity in his amendment that we would do better to superimpose on the Select Committee, above the Select Committee, around the Select Committee and within the Select Committee a professional manager of broadcasting operations. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head in disagreement, but that is the only way in which I can read his amendment.

The relationship between the Select Committee, Members of Parliament and persons outside this House is extremely important. I should not like to do anything to introduce another tier of protection, as it were, around the Select Committee. That is wrong. Of course, we have managers within the Palace of Westminster for many of the functions that are performed within it. Reference has been made to catering. That is a very different business from broadcasting. There is catering provision for outsiders and insiders such as Members of Parliament, Clerks—in fact; the whole of the staff. That is a very different function from the signal of our proceedings and the spoken word in Parliament. That is not something for which we need a manager. A manager should not be allowed to come in here for that purpose, no matter how professional he may be.

By all means let us have professional advice. The Joint Committee recognised that that had to be considered, and it came down on the side of saying that we should be able to appoint the appropriate professional persons from time to time. I do not know, but it may be that that would be in perpetuity. However, I am cautious about the idea that the House should appoint a manager within or around the Select Committee. In that way I can see the Select Committee finding itself somewhat detached from the problem. There would be a feeling that it was not professional enough in itself. Various issues could be left to the manager because it would be thought that the manager knew best. Or perhaps the manager would not get on too well with the BBC, the IBA or the IRN. I do not want such a relationship to develop.

I want a relationship to develop between the Select Committee and Members of Parliament directly responsible for the marshalling of the signal that goes out from this place. I want the Select Committee to do this without superimposing upon it anyone who takes on extra responsibility. This is what I understood that the hon. Member for Derby, North was advocating. I do not understand why he advocates that if he does not want a professional person there and does not believe that the members of the Select Committee can safeguard our interests.

I think of the Select Committee as being similar to those on procedure and privilege. I do not see it as being similar to the nationalised industries or public accounts Select Committees which need professional advisers. I want it to have the status and stature to provide the essential link between what is said in the House and those who broadcast proceedings.

I am not unhappy that the signal should become the copyright of the BBC. I understand that that was accepted by a resolution of the House last July and that it would cover the IBA as well. The hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford), who was Chairman of the Select Committee, nods his head. I am not concerned that copyright should be vested with those two bodies. That does not worry me. I should be more worried if I thought that the controlling body that has to make these difficult decisions, respond to submissions from outside, consider whether mistakes had been made and whether there was a just complaint about the condensed version were not the Select Committee. By all means let the Committee have access to technical advisers and experts in the art of broadcasting. But I want the Select Committee to be above the advisers and to deal direct with the broadcasting associations.

Both hon. Members who have tabled amendments are advocates of the broadcasting of Parliament. We want to get on with the job. It is important that it happens under correct control, not under a control that might be in the wrong hands.

9.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Roper Mr John Roper , Farnworth

I declare an interest as a member of the General Advisory Council of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, although it is not relevant to the debate.

I should not be supporting the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) if I thought that it would delay the introduction of broadcasting. But I make a distinction between the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North and the additional instruction contained in the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West (Mr. English).

The setting up of a House of Commons broadasting unit would delay the introduction of broadcasting. On the other hand, the appointment of a manager could be done within the six weeks that remain between today and the time when we see the first signal sparking after Easter. If there were any delay, it would be a matter of days rather than weeks.

I shall return later to the point made by the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) about the character of the manager. His intervention raised some interesting issues. I confess that since the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) regaled us about his reading of Hansard in bed I have looked forward to his turning to his cassette recorder when the size of Hansard becomes too great for him to manage in his bedroom. Therefore, I felt that he should be compensated for one or other unfortunate decision—at least unfortunate in his mind—that the House took 10 days ago.

We have a responsibility as trustees of the House to ensure not merely that this is done but that it is done properly. Therefore, we need to look carefully at the two questions at the centre of the debate: first, the question of the manager or, indeed, of the broadcasting unit suggested by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West; and, secondly, the question of copyright.

The hon. Member for Lewes suggested three characteristics of individuals who might apply for the job. To my mind, they seemed somewhat unfair when we consider the authorities responsible for the signal for the Open University, because they are not altogether dissimilar. They have found people from broadcasting to carry out the technical and managerial functions. It does not seem that people doing that job in any way correspond to the characteristics or caricatures portrayed by the hon. Member for Lewes.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

I look forward to checking whether the hon. Gentleman is right in his characterisation of the Open University as I shall be paying it a visit tomorrow morning. I am interested that he should feel that he can find anybody with anything like the characteristics that I described within six weeks. Surely the quality of person we want will be subject to at least three months' notice with his present employer.

Photo of Mr John Roper Mr John Roper , Farnworth

The hon. Gentleman suggests three months. I assumed that it could be done in six weeks. In any case, we could consider starting and the appointment could follow when the decision had been made by the House to go ahead with broadcasting.

I turn now to the role of the individual, a matter referred to by the hon. Member for Canterbury. There is a difference between the function that we are asking the Select Committee to undertake—to consider points of principle that may come up from time to time—and the ongoing supervision of a technical nature regarding records that we are asking the manager of broadcasting operations to undertake. I do not see the conflict that the hon. Gentleman suggested might exist between the role of the Select Committee, which will be an ongoing central function on points of principle, and the role of the manager, who will have a technical day-by-day function which will be essential in order that we have some control by an official of the House over what is done.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary suggested that if we were to accept the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North we would conflict with the resolution of 26th July. I do not think so. The sound signal origination would still be the responsibility of the broadcasting authorities, as we agreed on 26th July. According to the amendment, we should be appointing a Manager of Broadcasting Operations, to supervise the preparation of those operations.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

Does not that mean that copyright would still remain with the originator of the signal—the BBC? Is that not where we get into difficulty?

Photo of Mr John Roper Mr John Roper , Farnworth

I shall deal later with the question of copyright. I am now dealing with the relative functions of the manager or supervisor and the Select Committee.

I turn to the question of copyright, the second major question that we are considering today. I confess that I am confused by the latest intervention by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary in reply to remarks made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nottingham, West, that, if the amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North were accepted today, he would interpret that as meaning that copright would come to the House. That was my understanding of what he said earlier, but I shall have the chance, as he will, to read Hansard tomorrow morning.

The matter of copyright is something about which we are still extremely unclear. I think that the hon. Member for Canterbury will agree that, in spite of what was said in the Joint Committee's report, whatever may or may not have been agreed by the resolution of 26th July, if we fail to pass the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North tonight there will be an urgent requirement for the new Joint Committee to prepare an early report to the House clarifying the question of copyright. The more that I have heard tonight from my hon. Friend, the more I have felt there is a great deal of confusion in a number of minds, including those on the Government Front Bench.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I very much support that idea and hope that that will happen if the amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead) is lost.

Photo of Mr John Roper Mr John Roper , Farnworth

I was trying to say, after my hon. Friend's last intervention but one, that it seemed that it would be necessary if it were carried. If it is not carried, I am very glad that we shall have the support of the Parliamentary Secretary in urging the Joint Committee, when it is set up, to prepare a report to the House. I hope that he will then ask the Leader of the House to provide an early opportunity for the matter to be considered by the House so that the question of copyright can, if possible, be cleared up before transmissions begin. I am glad to have that assurance from him.

This is a critical and important decision for us. It has been said by many people that the broadcasting of the proceedings of the House is of great importance for the future of Parliament. I hope that the decision taken tonight will ensure that we have effective supervision by the House, acting through one of its Officers, in the traditional way in which it has operated in other spheres in the past.

9.12 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

The House has decided that its proceedings should be broadcast in sound radio, subject to satisfactory arrangements. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) and I are concerned that the proposed sound broadcasting should be of the highest quality and represent fairly the work of Parliament as a whole. I feel that that would be the wish of the whole House.

The BBC has been mentioned in the debate as the originators, but it would be acting only as the agent of the House. If the IBA had been prepared to do this job, it could have been given it. I am glad that the hon. Member for Bradford, North (Mr. Ford), who was Chairman of the Joint Committee, agrees. The IBA could be given this job in the future.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

The hon. Member will, of course, wish to remind the House that in its memorandum, which is Appendix 6 of the Joint Committee's Report, the IBA says in paragraph 2 that it would still prefer the creation of a parliamentary sound unit.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I shall come in a moment to the question of the unit and the hon. Gentleman's helpful amendment. I am not shaken in my belief, nor does the hon. Member wish to quarrel with the proposition, that the BBC would be acting as an agent of the House and that some body such as the IBA or the IRN could become an agent in the future. Furthermore, it is not for the BBC to decide what is done with the signal except when it is broadcast on the BBC. The House or the Select Committee will have to decide on all other matters, except that under the proposed arrangements the IBA will automatically get its signal from the BBC.

I do not want to go too far into the hypothetical, but it was mentioned in the debate and it must be a fact that should the BBC have an accident such as the non-broadcast of the State Opening of Parliament, to which so many looked forward in this Jubilee Year, the Select Committee, with its responsibility for the sound signal from this place, would be free to get somebody else to do the job.

A Select Committee is proposed, and it can sit jointly with the Lords. We believe that this Select Committee can provide the important, essential, administrative framework within which sound broadcasting can become a useful extension of the means by which the work of Parliament reaches the world outside.

My hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Oxon (Mr. Hurd) is most impatient that this new service should become a reality with all speed. I think that the general will of the House is that, having made its first preliminary decision, if we are to have sound broadcasting it should be come a reality with all reasonable speed. But many hon. Members who are not fully confident that a small, powerful Select Committee, however distinguished in its membership—and here I should perhaps pay tribute to the expert knowledge of the hon. Member for Derby. North (Mr. Whitehead) and perhaps even suggest that the Select Committee that is proposed would not be complete without his name amongst its members—

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

He was kept off the last one.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

It is not for me to respond to that interjection, but I shall be surprised if what has been said about the hon. Member for Derby, North in this debate falls on deaf ears. If, when the membership of the Select Committee appears on the Order Paper, the House considers the list to be unsatisfactory, it can, I am advised by our procedural experts, debate, name by name, the personnel of the Committee.

The House feels that perhaps this Select Committee, however distinguished, even with the benefit of the membership of the hon. Member for Derby, North, cannot on its own account ensure the success of sound broadcasting. I think that the hon. Member for Derby, North made a valid point when he said that the Select Committee would be able to deal with problems only after they had occurred. That was one of his main arguments, and the point has been made by many others.

The hon. Gentleman pointed out that a broadcasting manager would be able to act as an indispensable link between the Select Committee, as representing the House, and those broadcasters—whether the BBC or the IBA—whom the House allowed to come in and send out our proceedings via sound radio.

I sense that both those who are fearful of the unknown future and those who favour sound broadcasting, or even television at any price, draw together in assenting to the amendment tabled by the hon. Member for Derby, North, because it neither imposes a deadening bureaucracy nor leaves the Select Committtee unarmed.

I hope that I can help the House on one or two points of detail. We have the benefit of the Chairman of the Joint Committee here. I was privileged to serve with him and to try to unravel many matters, some of which remain unresolved, and that is why the Select Committee will have work to do in a number of respects.

Unless the Parliamentary Secretary disagrees, I assert to the House that the clean-feed archival tape—I use the hallowed words of the Select Committee's Report—will be kept by the House in a special archive department in the Norman Shaw building, where also there will be permanent accommodation for the broadcasters—temporarily in No. 1 Bridge Street and permanently in Norman Shaw. In addition, in that building there could be such other persons as the House or its Select Committee decides.

It is the duty of the Services Committee, on which I have the privilege to serve, to solve all the problems thrown at it by the House, and if the House decides to pass the amendment and this official is to be appointed, there need be no delay from the Services Committee in finding him a suitable berth close to the job that he will have to do.

My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch) has not as yet intervened in my speech. Before he does, perhaps I should emphasise that this is an important point as well as being one of those happy domestic exchanges that we often have. The important point—I should emphasise this, and I know that the Minister will confirm it—is that the printed Hansard will remain the official record of the House. Any sound archive, however hallowed, has not the standing that Hansard has and will have. My hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury is safe in his bed with his Hansard, because that is the Official Report of the House.

On the point about copyright, whatever it says in the report, the BBC and the IBA—if it is responsible—are simply the nominal copyright holders. If this is indeed the case—and there seems to be some obscurity here—and if the House so desires there would be no difficulty in vesting copyright in the House. The Government can easily provide the time to pass the necessary resolution or short piece of legislation. The Minister might like to publish that in Hansard.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

Will the hon. Member see that this comes from the Select Committee as and when it is set up?

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

No. Let us decide it now once and for all.

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

There would be no harm for the Government not now to give the Attorney-General's view of the law. We know that cannot be done and that, in fact, it might make it all the more obscure. But if the Select Committee thought that there was any difficulty over copyright, the Government would have the means by which it could be resolved.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

Will the hon. Member go further and recognise that we have had two Select Committees, one saying that the House, the Crown or some institution, other than the broadcasting organisation, should have the copyright and the other saying that it should rest with the BBC? It is time that the House made up its mind once and for all. Will the Government carry out the will of the House on this matter?

Photo of Mr Robert Cooke Mr Robert Cooke , Bristol West

I do not want to act as a referee between the House and the Government. The second Select Committee view about the BBC was purely for convenience. Clearly the House would wish to have command of its sound output so that it could be used for purposes that the House approved. Supposing that the House of Commons Library wanted, in the course of providing educational material, to use the sound track of the House, it would be right and proper—if the House wanted it—that this should be done without any difficulty over copyright.

Members of the Opposition will make up their own minds individually on this matter, as on all other House of Commons matters, but let us hope that, given the chance, we shall take another step forward—here I clash with my hon. Friend the Member for Canterbury—not towards getting the show on the road because very few people feel that way about broadcasting our proceedings, but towards the sound broadcasting of the balanced picture of the work of Parliament as a whole.

9.24 p.m.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

I had not intended to speak but I have attended all the debates on this matter during the past few years, and I wish to take up some of the comments made by the hon. Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke). He referred to the fact that the whole House would agree that if the BBC were not in a position to be in charge of this unit, the IBA could well take charge. That remark suggested that everyone was happy about the possibility of the IBA taking charge. It was even suggested that if there was a strike, as there was on the last occasion when Parliament was due to be screened, the IBA could take charge in these circumstances.

I want to put on the record the fact that the argument about commercialism versus the BBC may be dying on these Benches. I have noticed from many motions which have appeared recently that many hon. Members on this side seem to think that there is little difference between the two. It may be that the political complexion of the personnel on the IBA and those on the BBC does not differ. I assume that they must take a very conservative attitude towards politics, and that comes across in the news items.

However, there is a big difference in the way in which the organisations are run. The IBA is based upon commercial output. I have no doubt that its decisions on political matters, in particular, are influenced by the commercialism of its stations, just as with newspapers—Tory newspapers in the main—the reports are dictated by the advertisements they receive. When Alistair Burnett reads the news at 5.45 p.m. each evening, I do not doubt that he is reflecting the views not of Alistair Burnett, which are very Right-wing Tory, but also in part the views of commercialism as against what would be the BBC attitude.

Photo of Mr Tim Rathbone Mr Tim Rathbone , Lewes

The hon. Gentleman should be corrected on both those points. The Royal Commission on the Press and the Annan Committee have denied that advertisers have any influence on the editorial content of newspapers or on the editorial reporting of television.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

The hon. Gentleman should just consider the composition of those Royal Commissions and many others, including the Select Committee whose report we are debating. The Select Committee that brought forward this proposition did not have among its membership any members of the Tribune Group.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

That Select Committee comprised what the House likes to have represented in the consideration of all these matters—consensus views. The same is true of the body that considered the question of State aid for political parties, which we shall be considering later. The membership of that Committee, too, contained a number of consensus men. That is why these bodies reach these decisions. I am not surprised that the Royal Commission on the Press and certain other bodies have reported that there is no bias. The very fact that these bodies are so comprised means that they are bound to reach such conclusions. They have a vested interest in saying that everything is fair and that everybody is getting a fair crack of the whip.

Photo of Mr Stephen Ross Mr Stephen Ross , Isle of Wight

I support what the hon. Member for Bosworth (Mr. Skinner) is saying. I draw the attention of the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Rathbone) to the strange situation of the Daily Mail and its advertising of Debenhams, a matter which was pictured on the television screens not so long ago. At one stage Debenhams withdrew its advertising from the Daily Mail because it had a critical report, but more recently the Daily Mail has carried vast advertising by Debenhams and has withdrawn criticism which has appeared in other sections of the Press.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

That is bound to happen. There are many other examples.

Photo of Mr Max Madden Mr Max Madden , Sowerby

Would my hon. Friend care to add to the list of examples of interference with the freedom of the Press the activities of the new proprietor of the Daily Express who, as he will know, has most extensive interests and is busily engaged in writing memos to a number of senior executives and reporters in Beaverbrook Newspapers telling them what they may and may not publish?

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

It is now part of a giant concern known as Trafalgar House Investments. I will not go into some of the shady areas in which they are involved but it is bound to influence, as my hon. Friend says, what is written in that newspaper. That is why we see from time to time not only full-page advertisements for Japanese cars in these Tory newspapers but some so-called well-informed comment why the figures we see of our trade imbalances with Japan are supposed not to be trade imbalances or deficits for us. They go on to prove that in some obscure fashion Japan is doing us a favour by sending over 10 per cent. of the cars bought in this country.

The two things go together. Anyone on the Labour Benches who thinks that this is not true is kidding himself. I will bet that all hon. Members attending constituency management committees say the same as I am saying, but some of them when they get here—

Photo of Sir Arthur Irvine Sir Arthur Irvine , Liverpool Edge Hill

Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could say something about the motion or the amendments.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

I entered this debate on the basis of what was said by the hon. Member for Bristol, West, who has a vested interest in this business. He spends a great deal of time in the place next to the television room upstairs. Anyone would think it was his own. He raised the question of the BBC's giving way to the IBA in certain circumstances. I am trying to point out that it is not like that, though some people will not accept it, because commercialism plays a part and influences what is written in newspapers, and will influence what happens in this instance.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

It is only fair to say that the IBA would prefer a parliamentary unit rather than the BBC to be giving it the signal. The commercial interests in this case distrust the so-called non-commercial ones that would be securing a profit for themselves.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

I can well understand that. The IBA wanted a piece of the action. That is probably why it is influencing my hon. Friend, who has a vested interest in these matters. He is currently running a motion in the East Midlands to try to get another television organisation—

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

I have no financial interest, any more than my hon. Friend has.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

—to split up with ATV. Not content with the multiplicity of agents and organisations around the country, my hon. Friend wants more.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way, because I think that I am not getting my due meed of character assassination as his speech proceeds. I am having a little difficulty in trying to construe from his remarks whether he is for the amendments or for the motion. I should like to know before he sits down.

Photo of Dennis Skinner Dennis Skinner , Bolsover

I am marginally in favour of any amendment—and it is marginally—first, because I believe in gritting up the works on nearly everything relating to the Establishment. It is not a bad idea to be suspicious, to be sceptical, about what the Establishment is doing. I usually start from that position.

Secondly, I do not want to see a Select Committee having autonomous control on its own. Although my hon. Friend's suggestion may not be one that I would automatically support and be delirious about supporting, it provides another layer of organisation which can perhaps to some extent influence what the consensus Select Committee will do.

Like the last one, the Select Committee will by and large agree with the Establishment of the day. I have no doubt that it will include father figures. There is already one here, my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss). Perhaps that is what he has come in for. There may even be a member from the Liberal Benches, to pacify the Liberals once again—another sprat to catch a mackerel. I can see the hon. Member for Canterbury (Mr. Crouch), Mr. Wilfrid Hyde White, present. He looks like a possibility.

But there will be no mavericks on the Select Committee—that is for sure. There will be no one from the Tribune Group so that the Committee's content is balanced in such a way as to give us a fair crack of the whip. There will be members of the Manifesto Group for certain. Where is he? Has he arrived? I was looking for my hon. Friend the Member for Thornaby (Mr. Wriggles-worth), who I now see present. He has a fighting chance of being on the Committee.

That is why I tell my hon. Friend that I am prepared to back his amendment, because it helps grit up the works and helps to ensure that the so-called all-embracing but narrowly constituted Committee does not have it all its own way.

The hon. Member for Bristol, West spoke about Hansard's being the Official Report and only an official report. He must be living in Cloud-cuckoo land if he believes that. When I voted for sound broadcasting of our proceedings and subsequently for televising them, if that happens, I did it in the knowledge that it would change the nature of reporting in this place. If the hon. Member thinks of someone with a tape taking down every word that is spoken in all its various accents, in context—not being altered afterwards, as some of them are when representations are made to Hansard—and still thinks that the Official Report will remain the same as it is today, he is way off beam. This proposal will change the nature of reporting and, although the hon. Member may want to give it its fancy title for ever and a day, the fact is that it will change the way in which our proceedings are reported. The position of Hansard within that context will change, too.

That is my contribution on this matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker. It has given me an opportunity to explain why I agree, not wholeheartedly but reasonably so, with the proposal to broadcast our proceedings. I look forward to seeing this come about in the relatively near future. I am terribly worried about the cost because this is happening at a time when mental health facilities are being withdrawn throughout the country because of cuts made by the Treasury Bench, mainly at the urging of Tory Members. We have to look at the amount of money that is being spent. Nevertheless, I shall support the amendment.

9.36 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

I suspect that the House will now wish to come to a decision. It has been kind enough to listen to me once, and it has also been kind enough to allow me to intervene on a number of occasions in the hope that I would be able to offer explanations that would expedite the debate. That has left me with very little to say. There has been a good deal of movement on both sides of the argument. Each side has moved in the direction of the other and I had hoped at the outset that we might have moved far enough to have reached a conclusion without a vote. It is now apparent that that cannot be done.

I must say one thing about the amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. Whitehead). If it were accepted, I believe that we should be left with one body, the broadcasters. having already been given power to originate the signal and another body. the manager of broadcasting operations, who would supervise the origination of the signal. I wonder whether that is a feasibly administrative system. We are entitled to ask how and where would the line of demarcation and responsibility be drawn. I believe that the proposal would lead to friction, duplication and additional expense. As matters stand, copyright would remain with the originator of the signal, the BBC.

Photo of Mr Phillip Whitehead Mr Phillip Whitehead , Derby North

My hon. Friend will recollect, because he was on the Joint Committee, that it said in another context that the reporting of Committee debates should pass through the Hansard unit and should there be scrutinised by officials of the House. What is different in kind between that and what we are proposing for that which originates from the House?

Photo of Mr William Price Mr William Price , Rugby

Whatever may be the difference, there will be confusion. The system I am suggesting is the one which the House ought to accept tonight, for a temporary period. In 18 months we look at this matter again, and, if it has gone wrong, we can deal with it. I ask the House to support the motion and reject the amendment.

Photo of Mr Michael English Mr Michael English , Nottingham West

Before my hon. Friend sits down, may I ask him to answer this point? If the amendment is carried, will the Government accept that the will of the House is to have copyright vested by whatever legal means is necessary in some body other than the broadcasters?

Amendment proposed, in line 20, leave out from 'Committee' to end of line 13 and insert: 'shall be charged with the appointment of a Manager of Broadcasting Operations, to supervise the preparation of the signal supplied to broadcasting organisations, and the compilation

Division No. 98]AYES[9.40 p.m.
Allaun, FrankGow, Ian (Eastbourne)Shepherd, Colin
Atkinson, NormanHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)Skinner, Dennis
Bray, Dr JeremyHardy, PeterSpearing, Nigel
Brown, Ronald (Hackney S)Heffer, Eric S.Spriggs, Leslie
Buchan, NormanHunter, AdamSteen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Carmichael, NeilLangford-Holt, Sir JohnStradling Thomas, J.
Clark, William (Croydon S)Latham, Arthur (Paddington)Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Cowans, HarryLester, Jim (Beeston)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Dalyell, TamMacmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)Ward, Michael
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford)Madden, MaxWells, John
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMiller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)Whitehead, Phillip
Duffy, A. E. P.Molloy, WilliamWhitlock, William
Eadie, AlexMolyneaux, JamesWilson Alexander (Hamilton)
English, MichaelMonro, HectorWise, Mrs Audrey
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare)Morgan, GeraintYounger, Hon George
Ewing, Harry (Stirling)Parker, John
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Powell, Rt Hon J. EnochTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde)Rifkind, MalcolmMr. John Roper and
Glyn, Dr AlanRoberts, Wyn (Conway)Mr. Ian Wrigglesworlh.
NOES
Armstrong, ErnestGeorge, BrucePage, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Bain, Mrs MargaretHamilton, James (Bothwell)Penhallgon, David
Bates, AlfHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Price, William (Rugby)
Blenkinsop, ArthurHarper, JosephRathbone, Tim
Boothroyd, Miss BettyHarrison, Rt Hon WalterRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Boscawen, Hon RobertHowell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, S[...] H)Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)
Brooke, PeterHughes, Mark (Durham)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Hunt, David (Wirral)Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Buchanan, RichardHurd, DouglasSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Canavan, DennisJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Cohen, StanleyJones, Barry (East Flint)Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Coleman, DonaldKerr, RussellStewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Knight, Mrs JillStrauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Crouch, DavidLeadbitter, TedThompson, George
Cryer, BobLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyMcCartney, HughTinn, James
Dormand, J. D.Maclennan, RobertVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Emery, PeterMaxwell-Hyslop, Robin
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMillan, Rt Hon BruceTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ford, BenMorgan-Giles, Rear-AdmiralMr. Thomas Cox and
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)Noble, MikeMr. Ted Graham
Gardiner, George (Reigate)Orme, Rt Hon Stanley

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment proposed, in line 24, at end insert: 'That it be an Instruction to the Committee to set up, prior to any further broadcasting of proceedings, a House of Commons Broadcasting Unit akin to the organisation of the Official

of the records of broadcasting material retained by the House '.—[Mr. Whitehead.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 53, Noes 64.

Report (Hansard), which shall supply signals to the broadcasting authorities or other broadcasting orgaisations or persons '.—[Mr. English.]

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 49, Noes 68.

Shepherd, ColinThomas, Ron (Bristol NW)Younger, Hon George
Skinner, DennisWard, Michael
Spearing, NigelWhitehead, PhillipTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Spriggs, LeslieWhitlock, WilliamMr. Michael English and
Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)Wise, Mrs AudreyMr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop.
Stradling Thomas, J.Wrigglesworth, Ian
NOES
Allaun, FrankFraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St)Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Armstrong, ErnestGardiner, George (Reigate)Penhaligon, David
Atkinson, NormanGeorge, BrucePrice, William (Rugby)
Bain, Mrs MargaretGow, Ian (Eastbourne)Rathbone, Tim
Banks, RobertGraham, TedRoberts, Albert (Normanton)
Bales, AlfHamilton, James (Bothwell)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Blenkinsop, ArthurHamilton, W. W. (Central Fife)Short, Mrs Renee (Wolv NE)
Boothroyd, Miss BettyHarper, JosephSilkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Brooke, PeterHarrison, Rt Hon WalterSmith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)Howell, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Buchanan, RichardHughes, Mark (Durham)Steel, Rt Hon David
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Hunt, David (Wirral)Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Cohen, StanleyHurd, DouglasStrauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Coleman, DonaldJohnston, Russell (Inverness)Thompson, George
Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)Jones, Barry (East Flint)Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Cowans, HarryKerr, RussellVarley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Crouch, DavidLeadbitter, TedWainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Cryer, BobLewis, Ron (Carlisle)Walder, David (Clitheroe)
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreyMcElhone, FrankWhitelaw, Rt Hon William
Dormand, J. D.Maclennan, RobertWilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMillan, Rt Hon BruceTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Ford, BenNoble, MikeMr. Thomas Cox and
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)Orme, Rt Hon StanleyMr. James Tinn.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put and agreed to.

Ordered,That there shall be a Select Committee to give directions and perform other duties in accordance with the provisions of the Resolution of the House of 26th July 1977 in relation to Sound Broadcasting and to make recommendations thereon to the House:That the Committee do consist of Six Members:That the Committee have power to send for persons, papers and records; to sit notwithstanding any Adjournment of the House; to adjourn from place to place; and to report from time to time:That Two be the Quorum of the Committee:That the Committee have power to report from time to time the Minutes of Evidence taken before them and any Memoranda submitted to them:That the Committee have power to appoint persons with expert knowledge either to supply information which is not readily available or to elucidate matters of complexity relating to the matters referred to them:That the Committee have power to join with any Select Committee on Sound Broadcasting that may be appointed by the Lords:That these Orders be Standing Orders of the House until the end of the next Session of Parliament.