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House Of Commons (Microphones)

Volume 476: debated on Wednesday 28 June 1950

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I beg to ask you a Question, Mr. Speaker, of which I have given you notice. Would you be kind enough to explain the circumstances under which the microphone system was shut off yesterday during the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition?

It was brought to my notice that it might be more convenient if the microphone were turned rather low during the speeches. I think hon. Members do not realise how this thing blares during the two Front Bench speeches. I take full responsibility for it. All I can say is that I heard a great deal better than usual, and I think that hon. Members in several places in the House did the same. I know there was inconvenience caused, and I am sorry that upstairs they could not hear, but I ask hon. Members to remember that we are going into another place, our own home, before very long. Let us have the acoustics right when we go there. We never had microphones there, and perhaps it will not be necessary to have them, but let us not have something which makes a regular buzz and blare, and which sometimes really puzzles me very much.

May I be permitted to add that, personally, I was a little concerned in raising the matter. On Monday, I thought that the microphone was much more powerful than it had been before, and my opinion was shared by a number of hon. Members with whom I talked. It causes a reverberation which makes it very difficult for the speaker to modulate his voice in accordance with the accidents of Debate. Therefore, I asked my right hon. Friend the Chief Opposition Whip whether there had been any change, and he told me that the microphone had been geared up over the weekend and made more strong. All I asked was whether there could be a return to the normal practice of last week, and the previous week before I spoke. But, by some error, it was turned off altogether. I hope I made myself heard to the House, and I make my apologies to the "gods" in the Gallery for any inconvenience they may have suffered.

Whilst thanking you, Mr. Speaker, for your explanation, and the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) for the assurance that there was no plot to prevent his speech reaching the upper Gallery, which would be a grievous disappointment to this side of the House, may I take it, Mr. Speaker, that in future the system will operate as usual?

Yes, I hope so. I have been wondering in the last few weeks whether it might not be as well to make a few experiments, by putting it up or down occasionally, so that we can make certain that we get the right thing when we return to our home.

May I make one suggestion, Mr. Speaker, since you have said that. Those of us who were in the old House probably have the same feeling. I hope that under your guidance, Sir, the lesson of this will be that, when we start work again in our own home, we might also start on the basis so familiar to all of us. If we know that we have no outside help, we can perhaps manage to handle the matter quite well. Therefore, I think that this experience will probably be an advantage and a lesson to us when we go back to our own home.

On the other hand, Mr. Speaker, I think we would be very unwise to do that. May I suggest very seriously to the House that for a great time now, we have had the tremendous advantage of amplification which has enabled all of us to hear one another when we are talking, and that we may soon find that if we talk without the assistance of a microphone we shall go back to the conditions of the old days when we had to crane our necks and put our hands to our ears in order to hear what was being said.