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Mr. Gale : My hon. Friend says that that is peanuts and in news media terms it is. On an agency basis--the sort of system by which the newspapers, radio and television buy the Reuters service or the Press Association service--it is peanuts. The maximum cost of £3.5 million a year would be shared not only by the BBC, but every independent company in this country and among cable news network, C-Span, CBS, CBC, Australian Broadcasting and other organisations around the world whom we are told would want that service. Shared among all those organisations the cost, as my hon. Friend suggests, would be peanuts.
The money could be spent on astra transponders that are available now. We would then have not only the unedited televised proceedings of the Chamber but, for the same money, we could have up to 10 sound channels with still pictures with wiped-in inserts of the person speaking. That would enable us to carry, albeit in limited form, not only the live proceedings of the Chamber from, as the Americans say, "gavel to gavel" but the entire live proceedings of up to 10 Committees simultaneously.
The satellite service would satisfy the fears of those, such as our Scottish friends, who are genuinely concerned that their service will be elbowed out of the way. They are worried that when it comes to the crunch, when the deadline comes and it is five minutes to six and there is a major story breaking in the House of Commons, they will not get the line coverage. The satellite feed, however, would provide every regional station with the sort of service that they need. It would provide those that have the Amstrad dish for £150--those who want the full satellite service from the House of Commons--with that coverage.
It is technically possible now and it is affordable. British Aerospace told the Committee--the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) got this completely round the wrong way and he should
Column 628acknowledge that--that it could do the job in a specified time, that it had the technology for the uplink and that it could do so to an astra transponder immediately and probably to its own transponder in three years' time.
There is one additional asset that I believe some hon. Members will find interesting. With the satellite system it is possible to carry instant subtitles for the deaf. That can be done by the kind of machine that the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) uses day to day in the House. The satellite system would use a slightly upgraded version of that machine. Therefore, every deaf person in this country could have an instant transcription of our proceedings and that transcription could be instantly printed on a data basis as an immediate electronic Hansard that any person in the country with the dish could call up.
Tonight we have an opportunity to do one of two things : we can genuinely enhance democracy in a way that all those who sought to persuade the House back in February 1988 claim that they want to do or we can offer the country and the media a con trick--the edited highlights and lowlights designed, as I have said publicly, to tart up the "Nine o'clock News" and the "News at Ten", but not much else. I hope that hon. Members on both sides of the House will support the amendment that will be moved by the hon. Member for Workington and I hope that it will be carried. If it is not, I hope that the House will reject the report and that it will tell the Committee to take it back and get it right.
Mr. Brian Wilson (Cunninghame, North) : I regret the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) and particularly his reference to con tricks, as I believe that the proceedings of the Committee during the past year or so have been in a different spirit.
I pay tribute to the Leader of the House for the fair and open manner in which he presided over the workings of the Committee from start to finish. I approached the Committee as a novice in such matters as I had never sat on a Committee where the effort was on attaining consensus rather than emphasising division. I did not know how that could be achieved and I was interested to see how the Committee would work. Every Committee member, with the exception of the hon. Member for Thanet, North, would agree that the Committee worked well and constructively and that the report that was published, while not suiting anyone absolutely, was certainly the honest product of honest endeavour. For that we owe much to the Leader of the House. We also owe him much for the way in which he presented that report tonight.
The central aim of those of us on the Committee who supported the experiment was to attain a consensus that would be acceptable to the House. We were not particularly interested in making gestures or in standing out for points of view that would be patently unacceptable to all the House. We believed that the exercise was far too important for such an approach. For that reason my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson) and myself were a little disappointed to find ourselves vilified in, of all places, an editorial of The Guardian. That editorial told us that we should hang our heads in shame for putting our names to the report. I do not know whether I greatly care for the reputation of my
Column 629hon. Friend, but I thought that that was a dreadful way for The Guardian to treat its former Scottish football correspondent. Those of us who worked in that spirit were prepared to accept a compromise. Of course, we knew that it would be easy for us to posture and come back to the House with a terribly liberal and radical report on how the experiment should be conducted. It would have been easy to divide the Committee. Frankly, I would have hung my head in shame if we had tried to play party politics with this and, in the process, lost the experiment. I hope that the fact that we were prepared to accept a consensus and bury our differences means that we have produced a report that will be acceptable to the House. All the Opposition Members and the great majority of Conservatives on the Committee approached the report with an open mind. There was a school of thought that the proceedings should have been cut short and that the BBC and ITN should have walked in, said what they were going to do and we would get on with it. However, after hearing the evidence of the BBC and ITN, it was not a point of view which I could share. Those of us who instinctively favour service broadcasting were persuaded that their evidence was not good enough and that we should explore other avenues ; we began to do that.
I think that everyone on the Committee would agree that technically, editorially and in every other way the Committee's work developed and improved, and new ideas were opened up as a result of what we heard from some of the independent companies which came to speak to us. On the other hand, some of them were total chancers and we were able to separate the sheep from the goats without too much difficulty.
On the Conservative side of the Committee there was, for some time, a heavy lobby on behalf of a large, independent private company. It was to the credit of Conservative Members that they did not simply lie down in front of the blandishments of the heavy lobby from that source. There was a spirit of compromise and consensus on both sides of the Committee-- [Interruption.] I shall not name it until after the vote. Both sides of the Committee were prepared to give ground which they could have been expected to hold.
We visited Canada, and I think that everyone who went would agree that it probably would have been better if we had done that at the start, rather than halfway through our deliberations. As a result of that visit virtually everyone agreed that we should aim for a unit of the House as it exists in both the federal Parliament and also the provincial Parliament which we visited in Toronto.
Most of us who visited Canada also preferred the more liberal regime applied in Toronto as opposed to the rigid one in Ottawa. The suggestions in our report lie somewhere between the two points. I agree with my hon. Friend the shadow Leader of the House that we would have preferred a more liberal regime in terms of rules of coverage, but we realised, once again, that if we were going to get the proposals through we would have to give some ground.
I say to those such as the right hon. Member for Shropshire, North (Mr. Biffen), the former Leader of the House, and others who criticised the report because it suggested showing merely head and shoulders that it is not that rigid. It contains the potential for a little experimentation. I believe that as the experiment continues common sense will prevail because the report does not
Column 630contain the total rigidity which some of the more hysterical leader writers have suggested. Apart from anything else, it is impossible to film nothing more than someone's head and shoulders because there is always something to the left, right, behind or below which will also come out.
Therefore, although we would prefer a more liberal regime, the one proposed is certainly acceptable to me for the purposes of the experiment and, I believe, it will develop according to simple common sense.
I was particularly interested to represent the Scottish dimension and that of the English regions and Wales, to ensure a balance of coverage. The Leader of the House will remember, I certainly well remember, the noise and clamour made from hon. Members on the Nationalist Bench because they were not given membership of the Select Committee. In future, the Nationalist Bench could perhaps be leased out to the public because it is certainly not used by the people who should be sitting on it. I can only assume that the reason for the total absence of the Scottish National party Members tonight is that they are rehearsing for after November, because they will also then be totally absent. I assume that there are no Scottish Tories present because they are rehearsing for after the next general election.
We were concerned to look after the Scottish dimension technically and editorially. For the purposes of the experiment, I would much prefer that the signal was transmitted by satellite so that regional stations around the country could pick up the clean feed and use it for regional and national purposes in Scotland and Wales, where programmes will clearly have a different emphasis from those of the south of England. In the report, we urge the broadcasting companies to do that. We urge them to send the signal around the country by satellite and I hope that our suggestion will be acted upon within the duration of the experiment. We did not, however, feel that we could instruct them to do that or that it should be written into the report, but the message is very clear.
I shall take up the point made by the hon. Member for Thanet, North--and doubtless it will be taken up by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours)--about the absolute necessity for a dedicated channel. There is nothing in the report to prevent the existence of a dedicated channel if a company wants to take the signal and show it around the country. The amendment before us is a wrecking amendment because the idea that the experiment should collapse because a few thousand people scattered around the country cannot receive the signal on their little dishes is farcical. The idea that it would be a con trick if 100 per cent. of the people watched the House of Commons under the terms of this report but a great advance for democracy if 99 per cent. watched under the terms of the report and 1 per cent. under the terms outlined by the hon. Member for Thanet, North is ludicrous.
This is a wrecking amendment. I am in favour of a dedicated channel, which will come, but it is totally irrelevent to this report and its spirit to insist that a dedicated channel should be included in it. Let us put it to the test : if any station or satellite company wants to include a dedicated channel, it can do so. Quite frankly, if the suggestion of the hon. Member for Thanet, North that there should be 10 dedicated channels, one of the Chamber and nine of Committees, on offer, even The Sun would have difficulty giving away 100,000 dishes so that people could watch them.
Mr. Wilson : I take the hon. Gentleman's point and doubtless my hon. Friend the Member for Workington will elaborate on it. I support the report in its entirety and will do so in the vote tonight. This is not the end, but the beginning, of a major democratic advance in this country--there is no doubt about that. I can understand why Conservative Members might vote against it, but I cannot for the life of me understand why any Opposition Members would vote against a report which allows the electors to see what is said and done in their name. I cannot understand how anyone who pays lip service to democracy can, in the last stages of the 20th century, deny the electorate the right to see what is said and done in their name. That is the bottom line of the report.
I am not interested in the party advantages that will come out of the experiment because no one can forecast them, and that is not the way in which this matter should be measured. It should be measured as a democratic advance and anyone who fears that is in trouble with his own beliefs and principles.
The proposals in the report, when acted upon, will expose fools, reward wisdom and rubbish morons. They might change the behaviour of the House, but nothing I have seen since I came here suggests that behaviour in the House of Commons is so perfect that it does not need a little bit of change. Let us have in all that is suggested in the report by the time of the Queen's Speech. I am sure that once the cameras are in, they will stay in. Tonight, we are witnessing an important democratic advance with which I am proud to be associated and I congratulate the Leader of the House on the way in which he has led it.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst) : I wholeheartedly support televising the proceedings of the House for the reason given by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson). The House of Commons is the heart of our parliamentary democracy. It may be a system that we sometimes take for granted, but perhaps events elsewhere in the world in the past two or three weeks will make us value it more. If the Chamber is the heart of our parliamentary democracy, it is surely important that people should see what goes on in it. There is clearly a demand that they should. We all know how many requests we receive for people to get tickets to sit in the Strangers' Gallery. Every day a queue of people waits outside to come in. With television, all our constituents will have a chance to follow our proceedings. I favour televising our proceedings, but they should stay as they are now. We should not change our procedures to accommodate television cameras. In that respect, I agree with the report of the Procedure Committee, on which I served. The House will recall that we agreed in principle to an experiment in February 1988
Column 632and the Select Committee was set up the following month. It has not produced its recommendations precipitately and there has been some criticism of the time it has taken. The Select Committee has gone into it in great detail and is to be congratulated on its thoroughness.
I have noted with interest the arguments in favour of a dedicated channel, which would be unedited, but I have no great enthusiasm for it--although I am not against the idea. Surely only a very small audience will want to watch continuous televising of the House. Most people will see what goes on here on news programmes and in programmes about Parliament. There is also the danger, with a dedicated channel, that word will get around that there is a sort of peak viewing time during which Members will jostle for position to make speeches, and that would certainly alter the character of our debates.
Of course, editing always takes place. We are bound to be worried about it, but the press and radio have always done it. We have often read reports in the newspapers which refer to every speech in a debate except the one that we made ourselves. We have often listened to "Today in Parliament" and heard about many speeches, after which the announcer informs us that three other Members also spoke, one of whom happens to be yours truly. Nevertheless, we have to live with editing.
I want to emphasise a point that others have already made about paragraph 59 and to express the hope that help will be given with televising for the deaf, who constitute a large minority of the population. There are in this country almost 4 million people who are hard of hearing and 50,000 who are born profoundly deaf. In recent years great advances have been made in the use of subtitles and sign language on television. Of course there will be difficulties about incorporting them into a television service, but they are not insuperable. I regret that the report merely expresses the hope that every effort will be made to meet the needs of the deaf. I want a stronger commitment. This is a wonderful opportunity to widen the world for deaf people and it should not be missed.
I also support the references to the televising of Standing and Select Committees. No doubt the two 15-minute Prime Minister's questions sessions will be fully televised each week, but they are not representative of Parliament. I should have liked some of my constituents to see the work of the Standing Committee on the Children Bill in recent weeks. In that Committee, on which I served, they would have seen Members of all parties working hard and well together to produce legislation on an important and sensitive area. It was Parliament at its best, and it is to be hoped that that is the sort of proceeding that the television cameras will cover-- although I regret that, for most of the Committee's proceedings, not a soul was to be seen in the press seats.
As for the rules of coverage, paragraph 5 states :
"We would welcome a degree of flexibility"
in the experiment. In paragraph 37 a statement of objectives is given, to which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has referred :
"The director should seek to give a full, balanced, fair and accurate account of proceedings".
Has the Committee got it right to ensure that that will be done? Do its proposals incorporate the degree of flexibility to which it refers? We do not formally recognise that we have a public Gallery or that there is anyone in it ; but we know that, except in the small hours, we are not alone. Surely the aim should be to allow the television viewer to
Column 633see what a person who is physically present would usually see. As my right hon. Friend said, that would not be exactly possible because the person in the Gallery can look around the Chamber, whereas the viewer will see only what the camera shows--but that is the whole point : we are discussing where the camera should be looking. Because this is a public forum, we must recognise that there will be a temptation for people to demonstrate occasionally because they will get publicity by so doing. Television cameras will create an even greater temptation. The Committee rightly proposes restrictions, but it is also important that our constituents should be able to see what is going on here and, as far as possible, get the feel of the place and absorb the atmosphere in which debates take place. In addition to what are described as restrictions in paragraph 38 there are specific guidelines in paragraph 39. Perhaps there is a subtle difference between them, but the directors would clearly be well advised to comply with the so-called guidelines.
Let us consider for a moment what the effect on this debate would be if it were being televised. According to the standard format, my head and shoulders would be shown as I was speaking--and nothing else. I do not profess to be the most photogenic Member of the House--
Mr. Sims : It is kind of my hon. Friend, of all people, to say so. However, even if I were, 10 minutes of head and shoulders of any one person would not provide the most riveting viewing and would not be the best way of assessing that person's contribution.
What about body language? In the course of making a speech most of us use our hands, as I am unself-consciously doing from time to time. I sometimes wonder whether some of our colleagues, such as my hon. Friend the Member for Harlow (Mr. Hayes), could be rendered mute by having their hands tied behind their backs. It is important that viewers should see whether Members are using notes and to what extent they are receiving the attention of the House. Are they addressing a packed House, hanging on their every word, or are just the Member and Mr. Speaker present? Anyone in the Gallery can see that, but the television viewer, under these restrictions, will not.
What about the effect of a Member's remarks? Even as I have been speaking some of my hon. Friends have been indicating assent, or otherwise, to my remarks, and that is all part of the debate. But under these restrictions the viewer will not be able to see that. I suggest that just as it is possible to allow a director complete freedom and the television cameras enough rope with which to hang themselves--so the experiment would fail--it is also possible to be so restrictive that the experiment will be judged to have failed. I am not sure that the Committee has got the balance entirely right between complete freedom and undue restriction. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the House has said that in Committee there were differences of view on that point. Therefore, it is right that the House should be given the opportunity to decide for itself on this point.
Column 634I hope that the House will support the report, but I invite it to omit the guidelines which confine shots to the head and shoulders of the Member who is speaking and preclude panning shots along the Benches.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : Over 12 months ago, I and other hon. Members were invited by Granada Television to the mock Commons studio in Manchester to debate the televising of Parliament. During those proceedings, I spoke against edited excerpts and in favour of a dedicated channel. I returned to my constituency after the programme had been transmitted and was confronted by people who said that I was opposed to the televising of Parliament. In so far as my comments had been edited, that served to confirm my reservation about the whole question of the editing of parliamentary proceedings. That is why I support a dedicated channel.
I want what Nye Bevan described in his last great speech in 1959, the re- establishment of intelligent communication between the House of Commons and the electorate as a whole. I might add that I do not want to see trivia. I have tabled three amendments, the first of which would block all transmissions from the Chamber apart from those on a dedicated channel. That amendment was not selected. My second amendment would permit edited excerpts to run concurrently with a dedicated channel over an experimental period. The dedicated channel was considered by the Committee and supported. The Committee report says :
"We believe that continuous coverage of the House's proceedings on a dedicated channel is a highly desirable objective in the public interest. The fact that we have not felt able to make any specific recommendations on the subject in this Report has nothing to do with the merits of the idea itself, which we strongly support ; it stems from practical considerations related to the timing and nature of the experiment."
British Aerospace and British Satellite Broadcasting gave evidence to the Committee. However, the Committee rejected their case and the proposals that they put forward for a dedicated channel. The problem, especially in the case of the submission by British Aerospace, was that it was based on funding the scheme from terrestrial broadcasting income and the use by the consumer of a dish costing more than £500 and a dish for professional purposes that costs £5,000.
British Aerospace was never asked a most important question. It was never asked whether it could transmit on a dedicated channel proceedings of the House to be received on a £150 to £200 Amstrad dish which is currently sold by Comet and Dixon's and a host of other retailers across the United Kingdom for receiving Sky television. The price of that dish is likely to fall and its use could bypass completely the terrestrial broadcasters because programmes could be transmitted straight from Westminster and received in people's homes on a cheap dish.
Mr. Dobson : Does my hon. Friend accept that even if his proposition went through the current viewing figures for Sky television are such that there are probably more people in the Strangers' Gallery watching this debate than would see it if his proposition were accepted?
Column 635Gallery for the debate, and that dishes are being sold. My amendment would provide the kind of support that is needed. As I say, the question that I have mentioned was never put to British Aerospace. I contacted the company today and it said : "British Aerospace Telecommunications confirms that it could provide satellite and uplink facilities for the televising of Parliament using the ECS low power satellite (needing a 1.2-1.5 m receiving dish) for about £1 million pa. Based on a usage of 32 week year, 37.5 hour week"--
that is equivalent to our proceedings in their entirety apart from debates that take place after 10 pm--
"which is equivalent to £833 per hour. Signals could be received on dishes costing about £500 for this service."
I am not putting forward that proposition. The letter continues : "If smaller receiving dishes like those used for ASTRA are the requirement then we could, in principle and subject to availability, equally well operate to that satellite from our earthstation here at Stevenage. However, the satellite transponder charges for that space segment"--
which is four times the power of the transponder that I referred to--
"are much greater and the BAe Telecommunications inclusive price for the same number of hours would be about £4m pa. This is equivalent to £3,330 per hour. It is understood that receivers from ASTRA are expected to cost less than £200 and many predict that within 12 months the price could fall to about £100."
Some people would argue that my proposition would delay implementation of the report. I went back to British Aerospace for another letter which I received today. It says :
"BAe Telecommunications confirms that it has reserved capacity on the European Communications Satellite for at least the following three years and therefore could guarantee coverage of Parliamentary proceedings from the October date which you identified in our telephone conversation.
I would also comment that the figures contained in our earlier letter from David Gregory"--
I understand that Mr. Gregory is here for the debate--
"referring to prices and availability for the use of the Astra Satellite"--
that is the Sky television £150 dish--
"were based on telephone conversations of today's date." I then asked for a further qualification and this also arrived today. It says :
"Further to Mr. Gregory's letter to you, I can confirm that BAeTel has both the necessary ground transmission equipment and the capacity reserved on Eutelsat satellites for the next three years and as such can certainly transmit parliamentary proceedings from October this year. We can also confirm from a telephone conversation today that adequate capacity is also available on the Astra satellite for a similar period."
I read that into the record to show that British Aerospace can provide the facility from October this year if Parliament seeks to resolve the matter in that way.
The examination of British Aerospace's option was based on the reaction of the broadcasters, who were fearful of the expenditure implications. They never considered direct broadcasting on cheap dishes running concurrently with the Committee's principal proposals. In other words,
Column 636they did not consider direct broadcasting dishes. They relied on discussion about terrestrial broadcasting being part of the process. I shall deal now with the cost. We have two options-- £1 million for a £500 dish or £4 million for £150 reduced-in-price Amstrad dishes, plus £200,000 for a sending earthstation near Westminster. There are four options for funding that. First, there is public subscription, which some hon. Members will reject. Secondly, there is the possibility of advertising, which other hon. Members will reject. Thirdly, we have specialist consumers, a number of whom were identified by British Aerospace in a memorandum to the Committee, which said :
"there is a market throughout the UK for information on the deliberations of Government in the form of continuous sound, television and text by businesses, local press, educational establishments and private citizens. The second group of users is important as a way of monitoring publicly the editorial decisions of the first."
We can also offer a service of electronic Hansard, and most town halls would want transmission and would pay for it. The public library system could equally subscribe, and I am also told that it is possible that the satellite companies, during this experimental period, might offer a concessionary tariff, if only with a view to getting the business long term.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : I am sorry, but it is 9 o'clock and I have given way once. Other people wish to speak in the debate. At the end of the experimental period, we could either throw out the lot--something that some want to do--or we could thrown out either the dedicated channel or what I call edited excerpt television. If we were to throw out the second, should we proceed in the way that I suggest, the effect would be to increase the number of satellite dish sales. I am not saying that that is necessarily a matter that Parliament should take into account, but it would be a factor. The fourth and final route that we may go down into the future is that of fibre optics. Along with others, British Telecom is advocating the principle of a fibre-optic network throughout the United Kingdom, on telephone lines. The cables will be capable of transmitting a television picture. In the longer term, those who do not take this service on a dish could take it on a fibre-optic cable.
Sir Anthony Grant (Cambridgeshire, South-West) : I entirely agree with what the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) said, and I shall refer to that later. However, first I endorse what the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) said about the work of the Committee, which was one of the most pleasant and happy Select Committees on which I have served. The work was rather harder and took rather longer than I had anticipated. I pay tribute, as he did, to the remarkable leadership of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House and to the amiability and good humour of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras (Mr. Dobson), the shadow Leader of the House, who also contributed to the work of the Committee. We were a diverse group, politically and in our views, and our discussions were vigorous but never rancorous.
Column 637Nothing that I have heard or seen since then has relieved the anxieties that I had when I voted in February 1988 against televising the House. I still retain anxieties about several points. The prime one, and the reason why I served on the Committee, concerns the rights of Back Benchers, which I wish to ensure are not further eroded. Every time we have had a so-called improvement in communications, or even in procedure, in Parliament, it has served to enhance the status and power of the Front Bench, no matter which party is in power. By definition, it has tended to diminish the influence of Back-Bench Members. There is a danger that television will accentuate this.
I put that point to a former Speaker and the present Speaker of the Canadian Parliament and they confirmed that such an outcome was a danger and had, to some extent, happened in the Canadian Parliament. Although the procedure there is different, Governments of all parties should be restrained, so far as possible, from hogging the Floor. The Select Committee on Procedure, which is well chaired by my hon. Friend the Member for Honiton (Sir P. Emery), should apply its mind to the problem, as no doubt it will in the near future.
I stress the importance of media people attending to regional coverage, which will be the only way that Back Benchers will be able to circumvent the domination of Front-Bench spokesmen. That is tremendously important if Back Benchers are not to disappear into the background in the presence of the grandees of the Front Benches. My second concern is the quality of debate. We all know that apart from cross-party debates such as this or debates about sex, which are always very exciting, debate has been moving inexorably away from the Chamber. I fear that television will accelerate that movement. We shall, as I saw in the Canadian Parliament, cease to address each other and, increasingly, speak to the public outside, rather like party political broadcasts or horrible things like that. That was the experience in Canada, and unless we are careful the Chamber could ultimately become little more than show business, in which case we may as well hand over the presentation of Parliament straight away to actors and comedians and get on with the real discussion elsewhere. However, that is not why Parliament was formed and developed for many centuries.
Some hon. Members have expressed their concern about misbehaviour, but I feel that that worry has been exaggerated. Parliaments come and go, but exhibitionists will always be with us. Nevertheless, we shall have to watch that carefully. I do not believe that hon. Members will become much worse, but it is an illusion to suppose that suddenly their behaviour will be much better. In the sporting world, it was always said, "When the television cameras are looking on no one will be able to misbehave." The same argument has been advanced for Parliament. In truth, far from having curbed misconduct in sport, television has accentuated it. All the tomfoolery of running on to the pitch seems to be a feature of our modern sporting fields now that the cameras are on them.
I entirely understand the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Sims), whom I greatly respect. If everyone were as gentlemanly as my hon. Friend, there would be no need for any rules or laws, but they are not, either in this place or in the reporting and journalism world. My answer to my hon. Friend is that, yes, we hope to be able to liberalise and have wider coverage than we have suggested in the report, but I
Column 638always believe that it is far better to start tough and then see whether one can relax. It usually proves impossible to do it the other way round. It does not matter whether one is captaining a team or commanding a regiment, one should start tough and relax later.
Sir Anthony Grant : The hon. Gentleman is right about the federal Parliament, but that does not apply in the provincial Parliaments. I was not particularly impressed by that, but I hope that we can learn from Canada's experience and that in due course we will move more in the direction of the Toronto legislature than the federal Parliament in Ottawa.
I support the Committee's report in broad principle. As my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House said, it is a package. Predictably, it has been criticised by television people, who have a vested interest, and we must sustain their displeasure with fortitude. They are mostly intelligent and responsible people, and I pay tribute to them for the dedicated and interesting way in which they gave evidence to the Committee.
There was a time when it was said that Parliament was dominated by lawyers, but that no longer applies. Nowadays it tends to be dominated by journalists and media folk, and it is equally undesirable. It is essential, and the wish of an overwhelming number of Members, to keep control of the experiment ourselves and to ensure that the cameras show a broader view of Parliament than just the Chamber and the pantomime of Prime Minister's questions twice a week, which is so beloved of the BBC.
I agree with the hon. Member for Workington in his proposals for a dedicated channel, a gavel-to-gavel electronic Hansard or whatever it is. I should have liked such a system for radio. Many hon. Members who fear, as I do, the dangers of misleading or mischievous editing or selection in the hands of unaccountable people should support the amendment if, as the hon. Gentleman persuades me, it is a practical proposition.
The hon. Member for Workington need not worry about being ragged by his hon. Friends about fewer people in the Strangers' Gallery watching the proceedings. Not many people read Hansard, but it is available to them. That is the key point. I shall support the amendment. If it is lost, I shall support the report as a workmanlike and reasonable compromise in all the circumstances. I hope that we will not lose sight of the idea of a dedicated channel, which is the way forward.
Several Hon. Members rose--
Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) : The hon. Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) may like to categorise me as a journalist and media person, but in this matter I speak as a Member of the House of Commons who is concerned about the importance of this institution and this Chamber. It seems to me, as a Member of the House who is concerned with its interests, that the House is in danger of becoming an irrelevant, unimportant