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House Of Commons

Volume 929: debated on Monday 4 April 1977

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asked the Lord President of the Council when sound broadcasting of the proceedings of the House will commence.

The Joint Committee which has been considering permanent broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings has completed its work and will shortly publish its report. If the Joint Committee's proposals are approved, broadcasting will begin as soon as the necessary arrangements can be made.

Is my hon. Friend aware that those boxes over there have been there for months and that many of us who voted against televising the proceedings of this House were equally keen on continuing to broadcast the proceedings as quickly as possible? Has my hon. Friend a date for this beginning yet?

I am conscious of the time that it has taken, but I have to deal with the Services Committee, the Treasury, the Joint Committee, Members of this House and the other place. It has not been easy, but we hope to begin broadcasting by the autumn.

Does the Minister feel that there is a grave dilemma on the question of financing the arrangement? Does he feel that, as a quid pro quo for getting the facilities here physically, it is the broadcasting authorities which should bear the whole cost?

We have never asked the Press or the broadcasting authorities to pay for their accommodation, heating and lighting, and I see no cause for doing so on this occasion. We are hoping to find an arrangement acceptable to the BBC and IBA, in which we shall provide at least the basic accommodation. The rest will be borne by them, and their annual costs will be much greater than our capital costs on a one-off basis.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the date for the start of sound broadcasting is being put back again and again? If it is not possible to have a definite arrangement for permanent accommodation, could not some temporary accommodation be given to both the BBC and the IBA, with permanent accommodation added at a later date?

We looked at that and, as I understand it, the Services Committee has said that Cromwell Green is not possible. We have now had to look at a permanent arrangement and we believe that we have found a solution which will be acceptable to the House and to the broadcasters. But I give the assurance that no further public expenditure and no arrangements will be authorised until the matter has come back to the House.

Did the Minister say that no public expenditure will be authorised until the matter has come back to the House? Surely some expenditure has already been incurred. How much has been incurred, and on what Vote? On which Votes, in future, will other expenditure be carried?

The decision to authorise the boxes was taken in the middle of the night on an occasion when the hon. Gentleman was obviously not able to be present. I said that no further public expenditure would be used on broadcasting as a permanent arrangement. If the hon. Gentleman would care to see me, I will give him chapter and verse about how those boxes were built by this House when he was absent.