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Mr. Forth : I am glad that my hon. Friend has made that point because it gives me the chance to say that we are way ahead of most of the other member states on most of the directives, not just in that regard but also in effective implementation. We tend to differ greatly from most of the
Column 602other member states in the extent to which we comply with and implement directives effectively and in detail. We do that through our excellent system of trading standard officers who are independent of Government and report to local government. It is not always easy for central Government to deal with that system. Given his background, my hon. Friend well understands that our compliance with EC directives is certainly as good as that of any member state and better than that of most member states. In that respect, we are among the best Europeans, and we can be proud and happy about that. The hon. Lady asked for the speedy implementation of the product safety directive. She knows that a proposal for an EC general product safety directive was tabled by the Commission at the recent consumer council meeting in Luxembourg. The hon. Lady spoke about that. That was the first time that Ministers had been given an opportunity to discuss this very wide-ranging proposal, and it was clear at the meeting that much more work will need to be done before the draft is anywhere near ready for detailed consideration, never mind implementation. We and other member states expressed varying degrees of reservation about the scope of that draft and about the powers proposed in it. It is in the very early stages and it would be quite unreasonable at this time to expect us to approve it or seek to amend it in any detail. It has started its procedure, and we shall work with other member states to see that it develops in a workable and effective way.
I should like to make another point about general safety matters and about the sort of action that we can take when we think that it is necessary. I have mentioned the provision of information and the general legal framework. We take action against individual products or producers when a serious safety hazard comes to our attention and we are persuaded about the nature of the hazard. I shall give two examples. In recent months, we have banned, as we are able to do under the legislation, two products. One was called "Crazy Hands", a novelty toy. We thought that there was a danger that young children might swallow it and choke. We also banned three-wheel all-terrain vehicles which were imported from the United States where they had a track record of being extremely dangerous. We thought that we were justified in banning them, and we did.
Evidence shows that most accidents are caused not necessarily by faulty products but by people's behaviour. They sometimes use them in a wrong, ill -informed or occasionally irresponsible way. Therefore, we are keen to inform people of the hazards that they may face. As one of my hon. Friends has said, we have conducted and will continue to conduct campaigns covering toy safety, the safety of electric blankets and child safety. We also run an annual fireworks campaign and a Christmas campaign.
I was recently involved in launching a campaign housed in a hazard dome. It is an imaginative and sophisticated exhibition and it will tour the United Kingdom. We hope that eventually it will be brought to millions of people. The exhibition clearly illustrates in an imaginative and exciting way the sort of hazards that can exist even in the home and the measures that people can take to avoid them. That is the sort of positive and helpful contribution that we can make to provide information about hazards and the way in which we want to tackle them.
Column 603Department responsible for those while the Minister of Health is responsible for the hazard that I mentioned earlier?
Mr. Forth : I see that I have not deterred my hon. Friend. He well knows that the hazards I am describing can result in accidents in and around the home. Details of those accidents are provided by our excellent information system which is based on hospital figures. We take steps to inform people about them so that they may be able to avoid accidents.
Many hon. Members, including the hon. Members for Gateshead, East and for Gordon (Mr. Bruce) and some of my hon. Friends, spoke about environmental implications. Of course we recognise the importance of consumers being fully informed about the environmental effects of products and services in order, if nothing else, for the market to operate effectively. We are aware of the growing interest in labelling as a constructive way in which one can tackle the problem. We welcome the moves that industry is already making to provide and improve information about the environmental impact of its products. In the Government's view, the voluntary approach is the right one, but we are keeping the situation closely under review and looking carefully at the problems that labelling poses and at the experience of other countries which have set up national schemes.
We are discussing the level of interest in such schemes with representatives of consumers, producers and retailers, not least because of the need to respond to likely moves within the European Community. However, I stress that the issues involved are not simple. It is not easy to identify what is or what is not environmentally beneficial, not to identify straightforward ways to describe these problems to the user. It is not always clear how best to illustrate or describe these factors on packaging, sometimes of small articles. We are still at the early stages, and there are many ways to identify the best ways of communicating to the consumer the environmental impact or implication of the products that the consumer is being offered in the market place.
Reference has been made to the importance of informative food labelling to help consumers to choose a healthy diet. Food labels are already required to show the name or description of the food, an ingredients list, the date of minimum durability and the name and address of the responsible packer or seller. In addition, where appropriate, details of storage instructions for use and place of origin must be given.
Food labelling is kept under regular review and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food responds to the need for changes as they arise. For example, it has drawn up and circulated guidelines on nutrition labelling that aim to standardise the presentation of nutrition information on food labels so that consumers can compare products more easily and to help them to choose a balanced diet. The guidelines have been widely adopted and the Ministry will continue to encourage their use until EC-wide proposals are agreed. In many ways, these proposals follow closely the United Kingdom lead and the Ministry will be able to draw on the United Kingdom experience during negotiations in Brussels.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food also recognises the need to provide consumer informative
Column 604material about food and to help them make best use of information on food labels. In particular, it has recently issued a revised version of its free booklet called "Look at the Label", which explains the meaning of the terms used in labelling.
In all these ways we have provided a framework for the general approach that we are taking on consumer protection and, in detail, shown how some have been able to work, either in terms of provision of information or in terms of specific cases such as the banning of the products that are mentioned.
Mr. Forth : I was going to deal with the hon. Gentleman's point later, but I shall do so now. I listened carefully to his, as usual, impeccably researched and briefly presented case. I undertake to ensure that not only my Department but all other Departments involved look carefully at what he said and give a considered answer. I am sure that he would not want me to give an off-the-cuff answer. We have made careful note of what he said, and Hansard will be scrutinised carefully, so he will get a full and proper response.
Mr. Favell : Will my hon. Friend deal with the point about keeping information on food labelling to basics? I have already spoken about the Marathon bar label, which contains so much information that a safety warning would not be read by anybody. Most of that information is unintelligible, except to the most dedicated "muesli".
Mr. Forth My hon. Friend has made an important point of which we must not lose sight, which is that a balance has to be achieved--the hon. Member for Gordon used the word "balance" and I agree with him--between providing to the consumers usable and practical information that most would be able to understand and use, and overloading a product with unintelligible information. My hon. Friend gave a good example of something that came close to the latter description. We must be careful on what we mandate or regulate for. It is much better to leave the producers to make their own decisions about what consumers can use and make the product more attractive as a result.
The hon. Member for Gateshead, East asked about the Council of Ministers' meeting. She knows that the meeting of the Consumers Ministers covered a number of different issues, to one of which I was delighted to give my full support, that is, the effort to give consumers and their organisations a better voice in the European Community. I have met and continue to meet most of the main consumer organisations here in the United Kingdom, and we are better served than almost any other country by such organisations--a factor of which we can be proud, although we often take it for granted. It meant that when I went to the Council of Ministers' meeting I was able to support any moves--Commissioner Van Miert is interested in this--to promote the representation of consumer bodies in the European Community in the most effective way.
I was also able to reach agreement with the other member states on the directive covering consumer credit, which will be an important step forward in making the
Column 605information available right across the Community, to all of our consumers. We agreed on continued support into 1990 for the European level of the hospital information system referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Mr. Hughes) in order to provide, Europe-wide, a firm statistical basis for carrying forward the detailed consumer protection policy in which we are all interested. We are interested in a policy which is on a firm statistical basis, which is why we are happy to carry along with us the other member states of the Community in continuing to fund that policy. The hon. Member for Gateshead, East asked about something that I was unable to support, and I want to tell her why, because this is an important point. It concerned the draft resolution for the relaunch of consumer policy in the Community. There was much in the proposal that I was able to support, in particular the principle that I have just outlined--that consumers' views should be taken into account in policy development. I was also committed to the need for effective representation in all Community institutions. However, I was unable to support the resolution because of the one important point that the presidency insisted on including references to quality. The United Kingdom is fully committed to the principle that consumers have the right to effective and accurate information to ensure that they are able to make fully informed choices about the products and services available to them, but we cannot agree that it is necessary, practical or desirable for the Community to relaunch a Community consumer policy programme--
Mr. Frank Cook : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms. Quin), having given the Chamber the opportunity to discuss the subject, has the right to reply. As the debate has to finish at 7 o'clock, may I ask you to protect that right and ensure that she has sufficient time?
Mr. Forth : I will be guided by what you have said, Mr. Speaker. I wanted to reply to as many as possible of the points that have been made. It would not be ungallant of me to point out that the hon. Member for Gateshead, East spent 50 minutes introducing her motion, and I hoped to take full advantage of the time to reply.
The Government's policy is based on a firm, practical and pragmatic approach which strikes a balance between a legal framework, effective action within that framework and dealing with these important matters on a case-by-case basis. I shall look carefully at what has been said during the debate, but I hope that the House will agree that the motion is an unjustified criticism of Government policy. Therefore, if there is a vote, I ask the House to reject the motion.
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I have listened carefully to the various contributions and in particular welcome those of my hon. Friends who spoke in support of my motion. My right hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, West (Mr. Williams) gave the House the benefit of his experience of dealing with consumer affairs in government. I am glad that he reinforced the point that, under this Government, consumer affairs have been downgraded, a trend which Labour is pledged to reverse. I understand that the hospital safety certificates, to which hon. Members referred, were introduced by my right hon. Friend in 1975, not by the Government.
The Minister, not surprisingly, strongly defended his position, but I hope that he has listened to some of the comments made by his hon. Friends, in particular the hon. Member for York (Mr. Gregory) who spoke strongly in favour of the EEC package holiday directive, which the Government are blocking.
Consumers have a choice in what they buy, but they cannot exercise it properly in the absence of clear and helpful labelling. Such labelling should be independently monitored because voluntary self-regulation will not be good enough.
The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Favell) defended the Government's position on certain vested-interest groups and said that the Government were not in the business of votes. The Government will not get many votes unless consumers believe that the Government are taking their interests far more seriously than their record over the past 10 years suggests.
I have listened carefully to all the interesting contributions that have been made, but I still believe that my motion is valid. It being Seven o'clock, proceedings on the motion lapsed, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Arrangement of public business).
Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. May I seek your protection. I came third in the ballot for private Members' motions, but today Conservative Members have wasted time. Government Whips have been drumming up support. When I look about the Chamber, I see that there is a sole Scottish Minister and no pit bull terrier from the Scottish National party. Is this another example of the alliance between the blue Tories and the tartan Tories to keep issues affecting Scotland off the political agenda--
Mr. Speaker : Before I call the Leader of the House to move his motion, I should like to say a word about the procedure to be followed. Until 10 o'clock there will be a general debate, during which all amendments may be referred to. At 10 o'clock I shall call, first, the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) formally to move amendment (c) relating to a dedicated unedited channel, and, secondly, the hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims) formally to move amendment (n) relating to proposed restrictions on the type of picture that may be shown. I shall then put the Question on the main Question.
Many hon. Members wish to participate in the debate. I appeal for short speeches so that as many hon. Members as possible may be called.
That this House agrees with the Select Committee on Televising of Proceedings of the House in its First Report (House of Commons Paper No. 141).
In February 1988, the House voted in favour of the principle of an experiment in the televising of its proceedings. It set up a Select Committee, which I had the honour to chair, to consider the way in which the experiment should be conducted. The Committee's report, which is before the House today, is the product of a substantial measure of agreement within the Committee.
Mr. Robin Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton) : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I think it would be a great help for the House if we could know whether the Leader of the House, by leave of the House, will be speaking again at the end, because it could reduce the number of interruptions in his speech if it is known that he will be replying to the debate at the end.
There was a substantial measure of agreement within the Committee. That seemed so unlikely when we started work that the fact is well worth recording. It was an unusually large Committee--of 20 Members--combining not only different political views but very different views on televising the House, yet we were able to agree our report with only one dissenting voice--that of my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet North (Mr. Gale), who wanted to approach the problem in a completely different way, which he will set out later if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. A wide range of views was expressed in the Committee about the rules of coverage, and I shall say something about that later.
The essence of our proposals is that the House should retain overall control, including control of the rules of coverage. The broadcasters will gain access to the signal at a fair price, and an independent company will be given a prestige contract to produce the pictures. The viewing public will be able to see the House at work, and the taxpayer will not have to pay for it.
The administrative arrangements may seem complex, but I will explain them as concisely as I can. The basic idea is a partnership between the House of Commons, the BBC
Column 608and the IBA through a joint company, which we have called the House of Commons Broadcasting Unit. The unit will provide the equipment for the experiment and employ an independent operator to produce the signal. It will recover its running costs by selling the signal to the broadcasters at a fair price. The Select Committee will monitor the experiment, and it will be assisted by an Officer of the House, whom we have called the Supervisor of Broadcasting, part of whose job it will be to ensure that these arrangements work smoothly. There will also be a "customers' committee", representing all the consumers of the signal, which will act as an informal channel of communication.
Eight remote-controlled cameras will be mounted just under the Galleries and will be as unobtrusive as we can make them. We went into lighting with some care, as many hon. Members feel passionately about the subject. Clearly, we shall need extra lighting or our constituents will see very unflattering pictures of us, with heavy shadows and bags under our eyes, but we must avoid intolerable heat and glare. We concluded that the best solution for the experiment would be to install eight space lights, which simulate the effect of chandeliers, and which would be suspended from the ceiling of the Chamber. A number of members of the Committee have seen the proposed lights in operation and have found them acceptable. We also recommend that the strip lighting under the Galleries should be upgraded to provide some additional light on the Back Benches.
The House will expect me to speak in some detail about the rules of coverage since our proposals have been given a hostile reception. Those who have expressed their views most vociferously are the representatives of the media, who can hardly be said to be disinterested observers. I say that not in any pejorative sense but am merely underlining the fact that the interests and perspectives of the House and the media are different.
Let me outline briefly the rules of coverage which we propose, the considerations which led us to our conclusions and why I believe that most of the criticism of them is misguided. We thought it right to lay down at the outset a statement of objectives to guide the director on duty. This, in many ways, is the key to an understanding of the rules of coverage, so I will quote it in full :
"The director should seek, in close collaboration with the Supervisor of Broadcasting, to give a full, balanced, fair and accurate account of proceedings, with the aim of informing viewers about the work of the House."
"a full, balanced, fair and accurate account"
were carefully chosen to describe the type of coverage which the Select Committee believed to be desirable. It is, of course, precisely in the interpretation of this phrase that the differences of perspective have emerged between the broadcasters and the Committee. The broadcasters--for perfectly legitimate and understandable reasons--see it as their right and duty to film what happens in the Chamber in exactly the same way as they would an election meeting or party conference, with full journalistic licence to cut away from the speaker who has the floor and to paint an impressionistic picture by the use of a range of different camera shots and editorial techniques.
By contrast, the Select Committee felt--some Members perhaps more strongly than others--that the purpose of television coverage should be to provide something like an "electronic Hansard ", designed to provide viewers with a
Column 609factual and objective visual record of our proceedings--of speeches and statements made, of questions asked and answered and of decisions taken.
I turn now to the detailed rules of coverage which we recommend to support and implement the broad statement of objectives. I think that even the broadcasters accept, albeit reluctantly, some of the restrictions we recommend, such as the ban on the filming of the public Galleries. We also propose a number of specific guidelines for the director to observe, chief among which are the designation of a standard head and shoulders shot, limited use of wide-angle shots, a strict limitation on the use of reaction shots and a prohibition on the use of split-screen and panning shots.
Mr. Dennis Skinner (Bolsover) : That sounds a bit like state censorship to me. Is the Leader of the House telling us that we shall not be able to have a three-shot of the Social Democratic party? Is he saying that if the Leader of the SDP decides to cross the Floor and join the Tory party the camera will not be allowed to pan across and show him disappearing into the arms of the Prime Minister? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if these restrictions had been applied to the Spanish Parliament some time ago we would have finished up with a shot not of the fellow with the gun in his hand but of the Speaker with his hands up?
Mr. Wakeham : That is a pretty old joke. The hon. Gentleman will make his speech in his own way, but the activities to which he refers do not seem to me to be the proceedings of the House of Commons ; at least I hope that they are not. This experiment is to televise the proceedings of the House of Commons.
I believe that these guidelines, taken together, flow logically from our broad approach to television coverage encapsulated in the statement of objectives to which I have already referred. It is only fair at this point to mention that some members of the Committee would have preferred tighter guidelines whereas the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and his hon. Friends argued for a more liberal regime. Nevertheless, I believe that what we have recommended in the report represents the closest thing to a consensus about the rules of coverage that it was possible to achieve among a group of 20 Members representing such a wide spectrum of views on the principle of televising.
I now turn to our recommendations for the treatment of incidents of disorder, which have been the subject of particular controversy. As we say in the report :
"Our overall approach to this matter is governed by our absolute conviction that deliberate misconduct designed to secure televised publicity ought not to achieve its aim".
I do not think that I need to dwell on disorder in the Galleries, as it is generally agreed that the Galleries should not be televised at all. Disorder on the Floor of the House is an altogether more delicate question. None the less, starting from the proposition which I have just quoted, I believe that it was right to recommend that, in cases of disorder, the director should not focus on the Member or Members involved.
Of course, as we recognise in the report, there will inevitably be cases where the director will be unsure as to what response is required of him in a given situation. That is precisely why we urge Members to
"exercise some tolerance whilst any initial uncertainties over the interpretation of the guidelines are resolved".
Column 610I am quite sure that, provided the director has attempted in good faith to apply the guidelines in conformity with the spirit of the statement of objectives, any misjudgments by him will be treated sympathetically by the Supervisor of Broadcasting and the Select Committe.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : The right hon. Gentleman should not make too much of this issue, because that is not really what it is all about. If an incident were taking place on the Floor of the House, for example, if the right hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Heseltine) had seized the Mace and was swinging it about his head, would the person doing the commentary say, "Although we cannot show you this, the right hon. Member for Henley is now swinging the Mace about and he has hit three Members"?
Mr. Wakeham : Overfamiliarity with the Mace by hon. Members on either side of the House would not be shown on television in the normal course of events. As for what the commentator says, I have no plans for any restrictions. The main point is that we do not believe that those who seek to engage in such activities should be seen on television if that is their objective.
The main aim of the relationship between the Supervisor of Broadcasting and the director is to ensure that any mistakes are not repeated. I should stress at this point that, as the report makes clear, we are dealing with an experiment, and the guidelines we have recommended are for the start of the experiment. They could be modified, subject to the Select Committee's approval, as the experiment evolves. If the broadcasters wish to make representations to the Committee, they are, of course, perfectly free to do so. Any such representations will be carefully considered.
Finally, on the rules of coverage, I should like to deal with one argument which sums up the opposition to our proposals--why will the television viewer not be able to see what a person sitting in the Gallery can see? My answer is that the television viewer is going to see only what the broadcasters choose to broadcast ; and, even if we had a dedicated channel, the viewer would see only the shot that the director selects. A visitor in the Gallery can allow his gaze to wander over any part of the Chamber, however irrelevant to the proceedings, or even out of the window. The basic premise on which this argument is based is, therefore, clearly spurious.
Mr. Jeff Rooker (Birmingham, Perry Barr) : My point is referred to in the report. Assuming that all eight cameras will be under the Galleries, does this mean that any hon. Member who, for whatever reason--this has happened during my time in the House--chooses to speak, within order, from the Upper Galleries will never stand a chance of being shown on television to his or her constituents?
Mr. Wakeham : I remember Mr. Speaker making a statement some time ago when he said that he would not normally call someone from an Upper Gallery. If there is a problem, we can consider it during the experiment. As it is envisaged, it would not be possible for such a person to be shown on television.
I believe that the rules that we have proposed offer a sensible middle path between the position in the other place, where the less-heated debate makes it possible not to have any specific rules of coverage, and the very much
Column 611more restrictive rules imposed in Canada, which we considered unnecessary. As such, they provide a scheme that reflects most Members' views of the purpose of television coverage.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : I am sorry to take up the right hon. Gentleman's time. Has he any idea of the costs of running the House of Commons Broadcasting Unit and the costs for the operators?
Mr. Wakeham : The cost to the Commons will be about £500,000, of which some £300,000 will be for the archives. The cost to the Commons of the broadcasting part will be relatively small. The other costs will be borne by the broadcasters. The figure is in the report, which I think shows that the cost of the experiment will be about £500,000 for each of them. That is the sort of amount that the broadcasters will contribute. It will depend on how they run and staff the operation.
Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington) : The Leader of the House will remember that paragraph 59 of the report refers to assistance for the deaf. Does he agree with me that every possible pressure should be put on those responsible during this experiment to have at least subtitling so that those who are denied access to so much of our television can share in this experiment?
Mr. Wakeham : There have been a number of representations on that subject by hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Torridge and Devon, West (Miss Nicholson). We are certainly doing what we can to provide that assistance. I entirely agree with that objective.
As I said, the rules provide a scheme that reflects most Members' views of the purpose of television coverage. In doing so, they cut across the desire of the broadcasters for a more liberal regime conducive to what they regard as good television, but the very phrase "good television" gives the game away as it accords a higher priority to entertainment than information. I cannot therefore recommend acceptance of the selected amendment relating to the rules of coverage. If it were agreed to, there would be no restrictions on the size of the shot that the director could use ; he would have complete freedom to take the camera off the Member speaking to show anything else that was happening in the Chamber, whether it was relevant to the proceedings of the House or not ; and he could pan along the Benches at any time to show which Members were present and which were not. These do not seem to me to be suitable guidelines to start the experiment with, and I ask the House to reject the amendment. While the rules of coverage are a matter for us, the use of the signal in programmes is quite properly a matter for the broadcasters, provided they do not use it in light entertainment programmes, political satire or party political broadcasts.
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South) : I do not want to delay the Leader of the House in respect of amendment (b), but does he agree that some hon. Members think that the availability of the signal is a matter not just for the broadcasters, but for this nation and this House, although the Select Committee may not have thought so? Will the Leader of the House at least concede that there is that point of view?
Mr. Wakeham : I concede, of course, that the coverage and the way in which it is shown are matters for the House at the right and proper time, but the task with which the Select Committee was charged was to draw up the rules for an experiment in the televising of the proceedings of the House. It was not charged with considering the whole question of the way in which the proceedings should be dealt with. When I say that the rules of coverage are a matter for us, I am referring to the Select Committee and to our debate this evening, which is dealing with the report of the Select Committee. The other matters are important, but we shall come to them at another time.
Mr. Merlyn Rees (Morley and Leeds, South) : In reference to the last point, I agree that the House could not possibly dictate to the broadcasters on the precise use they make of the signal coming from the electronic Hansard during the experiment. But how this House votes after the experiment will be determined, to a large extent, by the use the television companies make of the programmes and the use they make of the signals, especially regionally. Although we cannot control the signal, the television companies cannot ignore the feelings in this House.
Mr. Wakeham : That is absolutely true of various aspects of the experiment, especially the area with which I am about to deal--the use the companies make of the proceedings of Committees. Although we cannot dictate which parts of Committee proceedings they broadcast, the Select Committee very much hopes that the broadcasters will make good and adequate use of the Committee proceedings, as well as of the House generally, so that the experiment can be evaluated properly by all of us. Our role is to provide a signal and some guidelines, not to interfere or to attempt to dictate the way in which the signal is used.
The coverage of Committees is an important matter and I underline the importance our report attached to the work of both the Select and Standing Committees. We reached the conclusion--
Mr. Sydney Bidwell (Ealing, Southall) rose --
We reached the conclusion that Committee coverage could not be approached in the same way as coverage of the Chamber. The broadcasters are willing to finance complete coverage of proceedings in the Chamber from the end of Prayers to the Adjournment on every sitting day during the experiment, but they are not prepared to finance complete coverage of every meeting of every Committee during that period. As there is no public money available to subsidise Committee coverage, the only resources available are those that individual broadcasting organisations are willing to find to pay for coverage which they wish to use. The televising of Committees can, therefore, be organised only in response to demand from the broadcasters. That may be disagreeable--and I know that some members of the Select Committee would wish it otherwise--but it is a sad fact which we cannot ignore.
The report makes clear our hope that the importance that we attach to the coverage of Committees will be fully reflected in the broadcasters' programme plans, although realism lends us to warn the House not to raise its expectations too high, particularly as regards live coverage. What matters above all is that there should be enough coverage, of a representative nature, during the
Column 613experiment to enable the House to decide eventually whether televising of Committees should become permanent. On that, the broadcasters have at least said that they will try their best. If the House agrees to the motion we are debating, broadcasting will begin with the State Opening of the new Session. We recommend that the experiment should continue until the end of July next year, which is long enough to give television a fair trial. Shortly before the end of the experiment, the House will be invited to decide whether televising the proceedings should continue on a permanent basis.
Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop : Will the televising equipment be subject to the direction of the Chairman of the Select Committee, bearing in mind that it is essential that the Chairman can see all the members of the Committee and that the members of the Committee can see all the witnesses to whom questions are being put? If the cameras prevent that from happening, is it not essential that the Chairman of the Committee should have the power to give directions to remove cameras and lighting from their position, if they are preventing the Committee, in his judgment, from doing its job?
Mr. Wakeham : I cannot agree with my hon. Friend on that subject. As the House has approved this report and, therefore, the experiment in the televising of the proceedings of the House, it must be only in the most exceptional circumstances that the Chairman of a Select Committee would seek to put the cameras out. If the Committee went into secret session, the cameras would, of course, be put out. If there are any difficulties, we should remember that this is an experiment. The Select Committee would certainly look into any problem that arose to see whether we could find a satisfactory solution.
Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Port Glasgow) : I have a question about paragraph 87, which deals with the live coverage of Committees away from Westminster. Can we expect to see the televising of the Scottish Grand Committee sessions which are held in Edinburgh?
Mr. Wakeham : As I have said, the televising of Select Committees, Grand Committees and anything other than the proceedings of the House will be done on demand by the broadcasters who wish to do it. I understand that the broadcasters have said that the Scottish Grand Committee when it meets in Edinburgh is one of the Committees that they would very much like to broadcast. I anticipate, therefore, that that will happen and I hope very much that it will happen during the experiment. It is important that the House has the opportunity to see on television all the different aspects of our work, so that we have a better basis on which to make the final judgment, which is the most important judgment in a way, some time next year.
Amendment (c) tabled by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell- Savours) would prevent the experiment from going ahead unless a dedicated television channel were made available. I think that every hon. Member would agree that if the House is to be televised, the availability of a dedicated channel would be the best way of solving the difficult questions of editing, selection
Column 614and balance which trouble many of us. But the House must recognise that providing a dedicated channel on a high- powered satellite which could transmit a signal into people's homes would significantly increase the cost of the experiment to the broadcasters. To impose that requirement on them might well result in the experiment not taking place at all. So while I have every sympathy with the hon. Gentleman's objective, I do not think that we should allow the best to be the enemy of the good.