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Column 513That is likely to endanger the democratic transition which has taken place as people see their living standards falling as the appalling legacy of apartheid takes its toll. That is the challenge to us in the United Kingdom, and to the European Union. After all those brave words--all those resolutions in the 1970s and 1980s--when it comes to the hard fact of market access, will we allow South African goods to enter our market? If we do not, we shall certainly endanger the democratic process.
We can hold as many seminars and workshops on good governance as we like-- of course those are important--but if the economic substructure fails, the great South African experiment will fail. That is the challenge that I present to the Minister in respect of our country, as an advocate for the new South Africa.
I believe that it is in the United Kingdom's national interests to act as such an advocate--not only because of our great historical ties, the large number of British people who live in South Africa and our investments there, but for sheer human and moral reasons: because of the way in which we have acted in the past, colluding with the apartheid regime in some ways. Along, I am sure, with the rest of the House, I welcome South Africa unreservedly as an old friend--a prodigal who now returns. The Commonwealth has played a vital and historic role in the past, particularly in the period of transition; I believe that it is now ready to play, at every level, an important and unique role that no other institution can perform.
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): Tribute has rightly been paid to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Westminster Foundation for Democracy for their practical help during the year or so of South Africa's transition. Tribute has also rightly been paid to individuals and institutions which have helped in the fight against white supremacy over the past 20 to 30 years. Many of those people have been named.
I agree with the tributes that have been paid to the South African Council of Churches and especially to Beyers Naude and his successors. Anyone who had the opportunity to listen to him during the years when he was under a banning order and one normally had to meet him in a church, would have been impressed by the way that one of the leading theologians and seminarians provided a spark which was equivalent to that provided by the young man who returned to South Africa to refuse to wear his army uniform.
When one sees the brightest and best willing not only to speak up but to sacrifice their future position and reputation for what they believe to be right, one appreciates the struggles carried out not only by the prominent examples but, as the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane) said, by the countless numbers of people who tried to work in the trade union movement and in other civic organisations. In looking forward I hope that people will support the work that will lead to local elections. I have a specific association with the Educational Trust for Civic Responsibility in South Africa. One of its leading lights is Mildred Neville, who for many years worked with the
Column 514Catholic Institute for International Relations providing unbiased briefings and information links with people in this country. One of the people who worked with Mildred Neville, Tim Sheehy, managed to return to South Africa to work in connection with the European Community aid effort, having had various other roles in the South African Development Co-ordination Conference and in Zimbabwe. When I was elected to the House nineteen and a half years ago, the then Leader of the Opposition, now the Baroness Thatcher, asked me what I was interested in and I said that I was interested in trying to persuade the white supremacists in South Africa and in the Conservative party that they were morally wrong and militarily losers. The positive side was to say that others could benefit from the democracy and the flexible economic system that we have built, which we protect, and from which we benefit. We have one person, one vote, and British Governments do not control as much of the economy as, sadly, the South African Government did.
The schedule deals with visiting forces. Some of the actions by South African Government forces during the years of apartheid were disgraceful and should have been more widely condemned. I draw the attention of foreign Governments to what I think are called the Whitehall guidelines, which are available in the Library. The protocol department of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office took the opportunity to express to embassies and high commissions assurances that they would receive the highest consideration. They were also told, "By the way, do not in this country go in for the bully-boy tactics that you use in other countries."
Some of the bombings, assassinations and intimidation were carried out by agents of BOSS, the Bureau of State Security. South Africa was not the only country guilty of such actions but it was more guilty more often, and the Government should have exerted more pressure to eliminate such activity.
Father Trevor Huddleston has been mentioned. Not just in this country but in Africa, people generally owe him a great deal. I link with Father Huddleston the name of Mrs. Jill Thompson who has worked with him over most of the past 30 years. I hope that Father Huddleston will enjoy his time in South Africa. What a blessing it is that he has lived to see his life's work reach a successful culmination. He was helped by the late Tony Rampton and Mrs. Rampton. People like that, prophets who preach often to an apparent wilderness, need support. I hope that many whose names have not been mentioned will be able to share in the tributes that have been paid by hon. Members.
Another clergyman who deserves recognition is Bishop Timothy Bavin, the Bishop of Portsmouth. He gave up his position in South Africa so that Desmond Tutu could rise in the Church and carry on his work more prominently. I hope that Bishop Timothy Bavin will accept the congratulations of hon. Members. They are well deserved.
People have faced many difficulties, some of them arising from ignorance in the general community. Many young people in this country have been sensitised to world affairs by some of the struggles against apartheid. I fear that the Government are making a mistake in reducing funding to the Council for Education in World Citizenship. Work such as that carried out by the council, which provides material encouragement and holds conferences for children in schools throughout the
Column 515country, has helped to make people more aware that people in other countries cannot take for granted that which we in Britain take for granted.
I plead with the Government to reconsider their decision to cut severely the funding for the CEWC because that would be a mistake. It is even more of a mistake than the severe cutting of funds for the Commonwealth Institute, although that institute brings home to children what it is like to grow up in the world and not just in one part of it.
My final point is about family and personal connections. In this short debate and in others over the years, it has been quite clear that hon. Members have benefited from the opportunity to visit South Africa and the front-line states. It is a mistake to believe that we can be world citizens without travelling. One way or another we should add to the opportunities to go on Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegations. We should also take the opportunities that are occasionally offered by airlines or by other countries. We should be able to decide for ourselves whether to go on visits.
Most of my visits to Africa as an individual have been very productive because I have been able to move around and meet, as it were, non-legal people--those who work in townships or even in the more affluent suburbs of Johannesburg. One can also meet people in churches and sometimes in prison. Such opportunities are valuable. We cannot do our job properly in encouraging the Government or in speaking up as British Members of Parliament in other countries if we cannot travel with reasonable independence.
Even if the cost means cutting the number of Members of Parliament, we should provide a reasonable travel allowance to be used at one's own discretion. Those who use it for freeloading and holidays would be discovered, but those who would use it for detailed investigative work of the kind that I have mentioned deserve the opportunity to do that.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.-- [Mr. Wells.] Bill immediately considered in Committee; reported, without amendment; read the Third time, and passed, without amendment.
That this House approves the First Report of the Select Committee on Broadcasting of Session 1993-94, House of Commons Paper No. 112, on Developing the Parliamentary Broadcasting Archives.
I also move the motion in my role as Chairman of the Select Committee on Broadcasting. By way of background to the debate, perhaps I should explain that the master videotapes of all proceedings in the Chambers of both Houses, and of those Committee proceedings that are chosen for recording by the broadcasters, are transferred to the Parliamentary Recording Unit, which is located in the television control room complex at 7 Millbank. The tapes are retained by the PRU until the end of the Session following their date of origination, after which they are transferred to the National Film Archive, which is responsible for ensuring that the tapes are catalogued and stored in properly controlled conditions, in return for which it receives an annual management fee from Parliament. A substantial historical library is being built up.
Most right hon. and hon. Members will be aware of the existence of the broadcasting archives through the tapes of their speeches which they order from the PRU--mostly, I assume, for their personal use--but there is also a small and growing interest from individuals and organisations outside the House. They are making use of archive material for a range of purposes, some educational, some charitable and some avowedly commercial. Many of those uses were not and, indeed, could not have been anticipated when the original rules governing the use of archive material were drawn up. Our report, therefore, represents a modest and--with one possible exception that I will come to later--uncontroversial attempt to bring those rules up to date. The Committee's 16 recommendations are set out fully in the report, so I will do no more than refer briefly to some of the more important ones. The Committee was especially keen to encourage the use of archive material for educational purposes, both
"as a means of spreading knowledge of the Parliamentary system of government and as a vehicle for portraying some of the less glamorous but important aspects of the House's work".
This debate might come under that heading. It is certainly not glamorous or, I hope, controversial, although it has some importance.
The report therefore endorses the continuation of the existing concessionary rate for tapes purchased for educational purposes, gives the Supervisor of Parliamentary Broadcasting the lead role in regulating educational videos featuring parliamentary archive material, and accepts in principle the idea of a loans system, whereby video material could be hired by schools and other educational establishments for a small handling charge.
As I explained earlier, all non-broadcasting uses of archive material are governed by a set of guidelines, and those are published in an appendix to the report. Essentially, they are declaratory in form and, accordingly, considerable scope exists for their interpretation in specific cases--there is scope for judgment. The
Column 517Committee took the view that, as the permanent televising of the House's proceedings was firmly established, it was sensible to adopt a somewhat less restrictive approach to the application of the guidelines. As the report puts it:
"This implies a presumption that a particular use of archive material . . . ought to be permitted unless there is a compelling reason why it should not be".
In that context, of particular relevance is the use of videos for campaigning purposes, where the Committee thought it increasingly impractical to seek to uphold a rigid notion of political balance. The important point to emphasise, however, is that the Committee is not recommending a complete free-for-all. Important safeguards will remain in the form of a requirement on the part of video producers to uphold the dignity of the House and the rights of hon. Members. That does not mean that individual Members can exercise a veto over the use of videos featuring extracts from their speeches, but they will be protected against, for example, editing techniques that distort their speeches or that make them appear to express views which they do not hold.
In addition, the Supervisor of Parliamentary Broadcasting exercises a monitoring role and has the right, where she thinks it appropriate, to preview any video that has been the subject of an application to use archive footage.
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): One of the disgraceful aspects of American electioneering and, in effect, television party political broadcasts is the practice of picking up a sentence uttered once by a potential opponent and running it over and over again. We cannot do that in this country. I would be grateful to know whether a political party could take an expression by, say, the Prime Minister or the Leader of the Opposition and use it in a party political broadcast. Will there be any controls or regulations to safeguard against that?
Mr. Newton: If my hon. Friend will bear with me for a while, I am coming to the specific question of party political broadcasts, which is the area of controversy to which I referred earlier, and where the position is different from what I have just described.
There is one other important way in which the House's rights are protected. In the case of videos produced for commercial gain, a royalty can be levied following discussions between the supervisor and the producers. That provision has already been invoked in a couple of cases, but I would not encourage the House to look to this as a source of large windfall revenues. The market for such material remains relatively small, but it is right that the House should derive some return from whatever profits are earned.
I referred earlier to one possibly contentious recommendation in the report --this brings me to the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Eltham (Mr. Bottomley). It relates to the use of parliamentary archive material in party political and election broadcasts. Hitherto, that has not been permitted, but the Committee concluded, after some considerable discussion, that that was no longer a tenable position, especially in view of the proposed more liberal approach to the use of videos for non-broadcasting purposes. The report therefore
Column 518recommends that clean feed extracts--the pictures--may be used in party political and election broadcasts, but with two important provisos.
Those are that the material in question should be taken from a speech or other contribution by a member of the party responsible for making the broadcast, and that it should be included only with his or her permission. That would allow, for example, any of the parties to feature extracts from a parliamentary speech by their leader, but it would not be possible to show a clip featuring a political opponent. I think that that answers the principal thrust of my hon. Friend's concern, which I share.
Some Committee members wanted to go much further than that by removing all restrictions on the use of archive material in party political broadcasts and election broadcasts--which is what my hon. Fried would fear--but, as the House will learn from the minutes of proceedings, an amendment to that effect was defeated on the acting Chairman's casting vote. I was unable to be present at the sitting. If I had been present, there would not have been a need for a casting vote. The matter was settled in that way. I think that that was the right approach.
Perhaps I could briefly mention one other recommendation--that the terms of the licence granted by the Speaker to Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit Ltd.- -known as PARBUL--should be amended to make it clear that the right to exploit, or to permit others to exploit, the signals for non-broadcasting purposes remain with Parliament from the date of the origination of the material. If the House approves the report tonight, the change will probably be incorporated in the new licence, which will need to be issued when the current one expires in July 1996.
The report makes a number of useful, although quite modest, recommendations that should encourage the more widespread availability and use of the recorded proceedings of the House, but without permitting what many of us would regard as their abuse, which my hon. Friend was concerned about. I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members share that objective, and I therefore commend the report to the House.
Mr. John Battle (Leeds, West): As the Leader of the House said, the debate is perhaps non-controversial and less glamorous than others, but it is important--slightly more so than some people would imagine simply from reading the title on the Order Paper. It is about how we present our proceedings and how Parliament is interpreted and understood not only now, but well into the next century. New techniques are being used that have moved on a long way from pen and ink and newspaper reporting, and Hansard .
Some of us may recall the speech of the Secretary of State for Employment on back to basics and on fighting the "new British disease" of cynicism about institutions. It was delivered on 14 January last year at the annual dinner held by the president of the Conservative Way Forward group. He opened by saying that he would talk about one of the greatest threats that ever confronted the British nation. After seven pages of his speech he concluded by saying:
"Parliament was, I think, ill advised to let in the TV cameras in."
Column 519I do not think that we can be held totally responsible for the undermining of our institutions such as the monarchy, the Church and Parliament simply because the television cameras have been allowed in here. I welcomed and was glad about that decision. We need to move with the times, but we also need to shape the destiny of the way in which we are presented in televisual terms. I do not accept the melodramatic and pessimistic view of the presentation of our work held by the current Secretary of State for Employment.
As the Committee suggests and as the Leader of the House said, we need to be a little bit wary. Paragraph 62 of the report, under the heading "The Editorial Guidelines", states:
"This sort of material will be shown to audiences many of whom will be of an impressionable age."
I suggest that our debates are not a matter for the British Board of Film Classification. It is not for that body to decide whether our debates should be rated as 18, 15, or only to be watched with parental guidance. I do not think that parliamentary speeches could terrify our children.
I welcome the report's recommendations. There needs to be a record--a video record--to catch living history. In this short debate, we should support and encourage the wider use of the parliamentary broadcasting archives for two reasons: first, to enhance the understanding of our parliamentary democracy and increase awareness of its complexity; and, secondly, to earn revenue from our proceedings. There is nothing wrong with earning a return by allowing the material to be used. That implies that we hold the copyright for that material here. The idea that a video of parliamentary proceedings will be damaging does not reflect the fact that there has been a real change in technology with which we are obliged to keep pace. As the report says, we can enhance revenues, but that should be done without reductions in quality.
There is space to expand the scope and use of the archive, not only by Members of Parliament but to disseminate as widely as possible information about the working of the Chamber and the House of Commons. There are questions of royalties and copyrights and respect for the integrity of debate. But I hope that the House can call together the authorities of the House, the Library with its publicity role, the Public Information Office and the Parliamentary Recording Unit to ensure that we have the means to facilitate access to our material as widely as possible.
There is a shift towards seeing the video of our proceedings as a substitute for Hansard . Newspapers were first allocated seats in the Public Gallery in 1803. Two characters recorded events here. William Cobbett wrote for Cobbett's Weekly Political Register and wrote brief summaries for the first Hansard . He sold his interest to Thomas Curzon Hansard and, since then, we have had an official report called Hansard .
One of my great heroes, Charles Dickens, sat in the Gallery noting down our events. In 1831, he was helping with the task of recording debates on the first reform Bill. He took his place as a Gallery reporter working into the night. He commented that the work involved more stenography than creativity. In March 1832, he became a parliamentary reporter for a newspaper called, perhaps surprisingly now, True Sun . He continued to work for the newspaper called Mirror of Parliament . While trying to build up and organise an official parliamentary record, he gained recognition as the most rapid, accurate and
Column 520trustworthy reporter. He realised that it was about not just transcription but narration and interpretation. He said that objective dryness sometimes needed local colour.
Interestingly, he moved out of the Gallery to go round the constituencies. At that time, Members of Parliament realised that they could give speeches on soap boxes around the country. There are not many hon. Members here tonight, but tomorrow they will be in their constituencies visiting local events. There was a sense in which the debate moved outside Parliament occasionally. There still needs to be a focus on what happens here. Even now, just as in Dickens's day, there is a danger that the action is seen as "out there" and that what happens in the Chamber is simply the objective dryness.
During the war, I believe that Penguin published three volumes of reports from Hansard , covering the years 1939 to 1944. Just before my time, extracts of debates on the Falklands war were published in order to give people a better understanding of the debates. The Penguin publication was before the days when Parliament was even broadcast on radio, never mind on television.
In recent years, press coverage of our proceedings has diminished substantially. Between 1933 and 1988, parliamentary debates received an average of between 400 and 800 lines of coverage in The Times and 300 to 700 lines in The Guardian . By 1992, coverage had declined to fewer than 100 lines in each newspaper. There used to be separate pages in the main broadsheets. There used to be a page called "The Day in Politics". It has now shifted to "Policy and Politics". Political commentary, sketches and reports of other events around the country have replaced what goes on in the House. In Charles Dickens's terms, there is stronger emphasis on local colour. At the same time as the decline in parliamentary reporting, there has been a sharp increase in the cost of Hansard . A daily part cost 12p in 1970 and 40p in 1979, and now costs £7.50. That is a tenfold increase over 20 years. Because of the televising of Parliament, newspapers no longer feel that they have a duty to report our proceedings. There is a view that those who are really interested can catch Parliament on television.
Mr. Peter Bottomley: The Lord President said that there could be a lower cost for this material for educational institutions. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there should be a far lower rate for Hansard ? If we cannot have a lower cost for everyone, there should be a lower cost for libraries, schools and education researchers. To give those people access to Hansard shortly after it has been produced is far better than waiting until they might buy an annual CD-ROM.
Mr. Battle: We should let as many people as possible have access to what is said here. If it is not reported in the newspapers and is not covered fully on television, we should try to ensure that the information is available. It might help if we advertised and produced the information in a format that people would find attractive. In that way we could sell more copies. It should not be run at a loss. The cost could be recouped by pushing the availability through education establishments and, to go further, to local groups, pensioner clubs, history clubs and even local groups that meet for tea and coffee. In that way more people would find out for themselves what is going on.
The clips on television reduce our proceedings to Question Time, if not Prime Minister's Question Time. We see a spat of sound and fury. When I glance at the
Column 521news it strikes me that the way in which the images are presented on television creates an impression of the Saturday night programme called "Gladiators" which my children love and I abhor. We seem to be at odds with one another, swinging down to assault each other and then swinging back to the safety of a perch. I do not think that that image, with the notion of high drama, competing ideologies, for and against, should be the model--nor is it the model--for most of our proceedings. Of course, we have divisions, but it does not really reflect the nature of our debate.
I sometimes think that television now presents politics as a spectacle and, in order to attract the lights of television, hon. Members might sometimes be tempted--I put it no more strongly than that--to go in for what I would perhaps uncouthly call "political streaking". Streaking always attracts attention at cricket, football or rugby matches, but it does not lead to people taking the House seriously.
In other words, it sometimes seems that television has decided that ordinary debates on the detail of laws and budgets are not exciting enough for viewers and can therefore be bypassed and ignored, or that the Chamber is sometimes empty because there is more excitement outside. It thus becomes harder for Back Benchers of all parties to get any coverage of the detailed arguments that they make on behalf of their constituents and parties. If we could make use of the archive, the complex processes of Parliament could be more fully understood.
In his evidence to the Committee, Mr. St. John Parker, a headmaster, who is concerned with the teaching of general citizenship and other more specific academic studies of politics, said:
"When one brings students of any age to Westminster they cannot believe what they are seeing and hearing, and I say that in a thoroughly respectful way. It is a very disorganised experience they get, and a very ineffectual one. A suitably edited, and I do not mean faked or over-censored, video film can provide a truthful impression and that is badly needed."
I absolutely agree.
Mr. Sutton, the general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said in his evidence to the Committee:
"In terms of wanting to teach politics to young people one is concerned to deal with the highly emotive and popular topics of the day because they attract attention but there is also a case for looking at the way in which Parliamentary democracy works, the whole business of the Government and Opposition in action which may not be so much up front as looking at the latest controversial issue looked at by the politicians. Those who are practitioners in the business need to relate closely to what is produced so they get what they want and not what somebody else thinks they want as a marketable product. We are talking about youngsters' experience of Parliament. Most of them, if they watch the television news, will see Parliament but a small selection, a 15 second bite of Parliamentary Question Time or a Ministerial Statement. They will have no concept of the real work of the House for 90 per cent. of its time and it is this we can usefully put across to them by making adequate use of the archives to produce programmes of the kind being talked about."
I hope that that will be the use of the archive that we encourage, and encourage in a practical way. We want the Library, the Public Information Office and broadcasters to use the archive to make material available.
Column 522It is fair to say that such a move would not mean a monotone approach. I often think that if people sat in the Gallery, watched our proceedings, went for a quiet cup of coffee and then wrote a short account of what had been said, there would be as many different accounts as there are sketch writers. We should bear that in mind when we see our proceedings on video. In other words, there is not one simple and clear account.
My final comments relate to the over-attraction of putting everything on to video and new technology. We can now get Hansard on a CD-ROM that we can attach to our computers and thus call up immediately the most recent speeches made in the Chamber. That might enable us to dispense with the beautiful green bound volumes that some of us collect as a record of our proceedings--it would certainly take up less shelf space--but it is worth recalling that American computer scientists are now warning of the hazards of switching everything on to the new digital medium.
Replacing paper in an electronic record-keeping revolution may, in the long -term, mean losing the records entirely, not least because of the changes in hardware and software. It is possible that none of the information CD records may be intelligible in 50 years' time because we shall have forgotten the technology on which to play them. There may be no machine to access them, and the records may prove irretrievable.
It is worth mentioning that disks themselves are subject to decay, oxidisation and stray magnetic fields and may become unreadable faster than we think. We cannot simply switch to an electronic archive and dispense with Hansard . That is not what the debate is about.
I am told that magnetic tape has a five-year lifespan, as do video tape and magnetic disks. Optical disks are conservatively estimated to have a 10- year lifespan. However, they are comparatively short lifespans compared with that of the first printed edition of Shakespeare's 18th sonnet, which has now lasted for well over four and a half centuries. Therefore, we cannot assume that the electronic medium can replace the written word.
As the Minister said, the key issue in the use of the archive must be judgment. Judgment always operates in a context and that context will change as technology changes--and technology moves fast. Yes, we should presume a less restrictive approach, and we should presume that access is permitted, but we should also state clearly that with access come obligations. We do not want to follow the American model mentioned earlier of party political broadcasts and negative advertising with the use of replays and so-called damage videos. That should not be our intention. We should welcome a commitment to the maintenance of a full archive to enhance the dignity and reputation of the House and individual hon. Members.
Most people do not understand our proceedings, and most wonder why the Chamber is sometimes empty. They may not know that there are Standing Committees, Select Committees and Committees on Statutory Instruments upstairs. Most people do not even know what happens at Prime Minister's Question Time. People still ask me why the Prime Minister always says, "I refer the hon. Member to the answer I gave some moments ago."
It would be helpful if useful material was collected from the broadcast archive to explain how we work and if that material was made available across the nation. If the newspapers are not going to do it and if television is
Column 523not doing it, we have an obligation to enhance confidence in our parliamentary democracy and foster understanding of our procedures and faith in political organisation in action as expressed in the House.
The report contained a reference to the role of Hansard sub-editors. Yes, the Hansard office could oversee the new means of communicating our proceedings, but the broadcast archive should not be feared or erased. It should be used in the future to suggest that, although our way of operating may not be perfect and should be updated in time, it is a much better method than is available in many other parts of the world. That might encourage people to have more faith in our parliamentary democracy and support its institutions. 7.27 pm
Mr. Nigel Jones (Cheltenham): I read with some interest the first report of the Broadcasting Committee. As a relatively new member of the Committee, I found it a dry document but with some interesting passages. I knew that I was going to enjoy reading it when I saw the list of witnesses and found people whom I have never met but who have marvellous names such as Mr. Tune from Newsflash broadcasting consultants and, from the Public Information Office, a duo called Dr. Pond and Mrs. Weeds who, I am sure, gave wonderful evidence. I whole-heartedly support the commitment in the report to the maintenance of a full broadcasting archive. The report recognises the need to exploit this important resource and explore its potential for being opened to a wider market. At present, it seems predominantly to serve hon. Members seeking extracts of their own speeches. The unedited archive constitutes a key source of historical material. If we had the technology available and Parliament had passed the necessary orders 100 years ago, we might now be able to look at the speeches made by Gladstone and Disraeli. I suspect that most of us would be able to learn a lot about debating style from them. The archive is not only of educational importance now, but will leave a priceless legacy for generations to come. In the year 2095, people will watch the gladiatorial confrontations between right hon. Members on both sides of the House with some interest.
The archive also provides a testimony to the workings of British democracy, and it needs to reflect that democracy and to show the people out there exactly how we work. An important aspect of the record is that it is a record of Parliament working--it is not intended to be entertainment. Bringing the cameras into the Chamber so many years ago has affected the way in which the House conducts itself, which I find regrettable.
The report examines the potential for making more extensive use of the archive and maintaining it as a more financially viable entity, while putting it to educational use. While the nature and extent of the market for videos featuring archive material is still a subject for debate, the production of video tapes for educational purposes has already met with some success and provided insight into the market. The report mentions the video "Order, Order", produced by the Library's education unit, in collaboration with Force 8 Communications Ltd., which has sold almost 1,000 copies since its launch in September 1992.
Ventures such as that and the production of other educational, special and general interest tapes in conjunction with production companies could provide
Column 524more income and perhaps a viable commercial foundation on which to build. To that end, the Broadcasting Committee has fairly comprehensively tackled key issues of pricing, by reviewing the rate card and royalties.
While that will help to ensure that the unit is as financially efficient as possible, the Committee's report asserts the belief that
"the operation should be run on an efficient but not entirely commercial basis."
I am sure that if we had to run it on an entirely commercial basis, we would soon conclude that it was not possible to make a profit and it might disappear, which would be most regrettable.
Interested parties can gain easier access to parliamentary proceedings without being hindered by costs imposed by market forces, and the democratic spirit of the set-up is maintained in the report. As we heard from the Leader of the House and the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, education is a key sector that will benefit from the archive, but it is one that is relatively poor. I shall not deal with the crucial, and relevant, issue of funding of education, much though I am tempted to do so.
We need to look to the future. I was alarmed by some of the comments of the hon. Member for Leeds, West about losing the technology to read CD-ROMs. If we move to CD-ROMs, I do not think that that will happen, and I speak with 25 years' experience in the computer industry. Perhaps I should declare an interest in International Computers Ltd. while I am on the subject of computers, CD-ROM and technology. CD-ROM and the digital age are here and the information super-highway will be installed nationwide at some time in the future. I was concerned about some of the comments of the hon. Member for Leeds, West, although I would support him about keeping the archive in a readable format because tapes deteriorate. The hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. Coombs) was here earlier, and he and I exchanged grimaces about the football result at Bolton last night, which I hope is in order, Madam Deputy Speaker. We are both Swindon Town supporters and in my archives I keep a copy of the 1969 league cup final, which Swindon Town won 3:1 after extra time. It is a much-scratched version, and eventually I shall have to have it copied or I shall not be able to see it again. The match last night stopped Swindon Town from going to Wembley to repeat that great victory.
Video tapes require a lot of space for storage and, given the number of hours that the House sits in a year, they must take up a sizeable amount of space. As the hon. Member for Leeds, West said, video is not durable or stable, and that problem has to be tackled. I suspect that CD-ROM is the way forward. Its life expectancy has yet to be determined, but the prognosis is certainly more optimistic than that for video, and it is inherently a more stable medium. I envisage the possibility of a public service system similar to video on demand on the information super-highway, which will enable people to dial up the debates of their choice. They might even dial up this debate to find out what happened when we discussed the archives of the House.
With CD-ROM, specific debates will be easier to access, facilitating the editing and production of special interest videos. That process will go hand in hand with the computerisation of Hansard , although I support the
Column 525hon. Member for Leeds, West when he says that we must keep a paper record as well. It would be deplorable if we were to let go the paper version of what goes on in this place. There is a job for someone to do--comparing what the video shows and the way in which the good people from Hansard tidy up some of the events in this place. A fascinating exercise--one thinks, "I am sure it wasn't like that," but they do an excellent job.
The digital revolution will have profound consequences for the democratisation of Parliament. Those can be advantages only if we anticipate them now and plan for potential problems, such as the regulation of the use of archive material. The Leader of the House has already spoken about some of the regulations that we think appropriate.
Once the initial investment in setting up a system for the equivalent of video on demand has been made, the cost of maintaining the archive and of making it more widely accessible will be significantly reduced. One of the main problems for the education market is that many teachers simply record coverage of Parliament off television to illustrate a point. That is not only because of cost. Another reason is that they prefer to illustrate lessons with contemporary issues, to which their students can more readily relate. Thus a video produced and purchased in a given month or year is often of little use at a later date. The easier access to a debate facilitated by CD-ROM would obviously solve that problem. Use of new technology will put parliamentary debates on line internationally and I am sure that there is an export market because whenever I go abroad people tell me how much they enjoy watching our proceedings in the House--usually Question Time. They regard it as entertainment rather than the House at work. I am sure that there is a market to be tapped.
In terms of funding the digital archive, charges could be levied on a subscription basis if necessary--similar to the Internet or the Press Association wire. The charge could be made commensurate with the users' ability to pay, along the lines of the present rate card scheme, which is discussed in the report.
The archive has been set up. We have the resource. Let us continue in the spirit of the Broadcasting Committee's report, to keep it running and extend its advantages to everyone now and in the future. 7.38 pm
Mr. Peter Bottomley (Eltham): I shall be brief as I am conscious of having spoken quite often this week. I strongly support recommendation (x) in the conclusions on page xix of the Broadcasting Committee's report. For anyone reading the debate or the report I should explain that there is a slight slip-up on the contents page as the page numbers are given in ordinary and not Roman numbers, which is wrong.
It would be an abuse for slips or deliberate statements made in the House to be used by opponents for political purposes and it is getting away from the normal rough and tumble of election or party political broadcasts. It would be misusing the correct decision to bring television into the Chamber. I am glad that my right hon. Friend was able to report to the House the conclusion that the Committee reached.