Televised Proceedings

Oral Answers to Questions — Lord President of the Council – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1988.

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Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport 12:00 am, 29th February 1988

To ask the Lord President of the Council what representations he has received concerning the proposed televising of the House.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I have received representations from a number of sources, including right hon. and hon. Members.

Photo of Mr Anthony Favell Mr Anthony Favell , Stockport

During the recent debate my right hon. Friend said that he had had preliminary discussions with the broadcasters about editorial control. Have there been any further discussions with broadcasters on that subject? In view of the influence that television is having on the American presidential primaries, is it not clear that television is the most powerful medium of all and that the possibility of it slanting a debate one way or another makes it a powerful tool?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I am sure that my hon. Friend is right. These matters are within the scope of the Select Committee's remit, and obviously the Select Committee will want to address its mind to them. The House will have the opportunity to consider the Select Committee's recommendations in due course.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Is it not vital that sufficient time is made available on the air for coverage to enable professional editors fairly to represent the opinions within the House that are presented in debate?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The hon. Gentleman is right. I do not think that the amount of time the broadcasters choose to use for television broadcasting is a matter for me.

Photo of Mr John Stokes Mr John Stokes , Halesowen and Stourbridge

In spite of all the difficulties involved, does my right hon. Friend agree that now is the time for all hon. Members, whether or not they voted for the proposal to televise the House, to make the best they can of the new situation, or at worst to engage in damage limitation?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

As is so often the case, my hon. Friend speaks for the whole House.

Photo of Mr Roland Boyes Mr Roland Boyes , Houghton and Washington

The Lord President of the Council will be aware that many hon. Members believe that the absence of photographs in the House is deplorable. Now that television cameras will be let into the Chamber, will he consider allowing photographers into the Chamber to take pictures? If such representations are made, will he or the Select Committee consider them?

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

The Committee, in arranging for the conducting of an experiment in public broadcasting, will have quite enough work without considering the hon. Gentleman's point. Perhaps we shall have to consider that matter in some other way.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Has my right hon. Friend watched the televising of the House of Lords, and has he noticed that when controversial Bills are under discussion the commentators do not leave the viewers to decide for themselves, but add such comments as "This is the fifth speaker against the Government."? That is quite unnecessary—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Bernard Weatherill Mr Bernard Weatherill , Croydon North East

Order. The House must let the hon. Lady finish her question.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

The commentator may well say, "This is the fifth speaker against the Bill.". Is that not editing of the worst order? It should be up to the listeners to judge for themselves.

Photo of Mr John Wakeham Mr John Wakeham , Colchester South and Maldon

I am sure that if the House were to be televised the public would expect there to be a balance for and against the Government in any broadcast. Such matters are highly relevant to the work of the Select Committee.