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Volume 130: debated on Monday 21 March 1988

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To ask the Lord President of the Council if he will make a statement on announcements about Government business on the House of Commons annunciators.

The Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons
(Mr. John Wakeham)

On Mondays to Thursdays the House of Commons annunciators display continuously, from fpm until the House convenes, any private notice questions and statements that are due to be taken at the commencement of public business. On Fridays any such announcement is usually shown first at 10 am and then at regular 15-minute intervals for a two-minute period until the statement is made.

I would be pleased if consideration could be given to keeping information about statements on the annunciators after 2.30 pm. Can my right hon. Friend say when he expects us to see that?

I hope my hon. Friend will recognise that there are physical limits to what can be done. However, it may be possible to accommodate the words, "Statement at 3.30 pm" or "Private notice question at 3.30 pm" on the top of the screen. In view of my hon. Friend's request I have referred this matter to the Accommodation and Administration Sub-Committee for further consideration.

While I would not necessarily want to hear every speech made in this Chamber if I were not present, is it not now technically possible to use the annunciator system to take a sound feed so that Members in their offices can listen to debates? When the Select Committee considers the televising of Parliament, could it consider the possibility of having pictures as well as sound on the annunciators?

I imagine that both those things would be possible, but they would require further consideration and decision by the House. I shall bear the hon. Gentleman's points in mind.

I appreciate that there are time restrictions with regard to private notice questions, but it is often the case that the Government know that a statement will be made, possibly even a day or so beforehand, yet no notice appears until 1 o'clock. Therefore, those hon. Members with lunch engagements go to those engagements without being aware that a statement is to be made. Is there any reason why, for example, the fact that there was to be a statement made today could not have been on the annunciator during the course of the morning?

First, there are questions regarding seeking Mr. Speaker's permission to make a statement and so on, but I will bear what my hon. Friend has said in mind. However, I believe that the present arrangements are the most satisfactory.