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Broadcasting Rules

Volume 405: debated on Tuesday 20 May 2003

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28.

What assessment the Commission has made of the effects of changes to the rules on broadcasting within the parliamentary estate. [114246]

The Commission is advised on these matters by the Administration Committee, which has approved a trial for this Session involving giving broadcasters access to live interview points in Central Lobby and the Committee Corridor, and to two areas in Portcullis House. The Committee will review the experiment at the end of this Session, taking into account all the views expressed.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that response. As he will be aware, most of the coverage of this place by the media covers the theatre in this Chamber. As someone who is about to descend into—and who is looking forward to—several weeks on the Finance Bill Committee under the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Sir Nicholas Winterton) and others, and who has served under his chairmanship in a Select Committee, I am keen that people should understand that a lot of work goes on Upstairs.

Is it the hon. Gentleman's understanding from the experiment so far that we are getting more coverage of Select Committees and Standing Committees, or is it just being used to give coverage to what the media might consider to be gossip in the Westminster village?

I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his question. I believe that the experiment has improved public understanding and accessibility. Some 658 booked interviews have occurred during this Session; that is quite a lot. There are very strict rules under which these interviews must be conducted: they are supposed to be specific interviews with Members of the House on specific issues that are before the House. Those rules need to be carefully monitored and established, in order that we keep control of what I think is an important part of our attempt to explain—rightly, as the hon. Gentleman says—what goes on here. This also gives me the opportunity to say that the Committee would welcome any views, positive or negative, on how the experiment has worked to date.