Gerald Howarth – 1985 Speech on the Televising of the Commons

Below is the text of the speech made by Gerald Howarth, the then Conservative MP for Cannock and Burntwood, in the House of Commons on 20 November 1985.

Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Harrow, West (Sir J. Page), I did not take a bath last week or this week for the purpose of conversion. I took a bath to listen to “Yesterday in Parliament” to find out what had gone on while I was doing my correspondence.

I shall vote with great confidence against the motion. Although I have been privileged to be a Member of the House for only two and half years, I believe that the intrusion of the cameras would be a grave mistake and would destroy the essential character of this place. I believe that it would turn the House into a television studio and theatre. The microphones do not intrude, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) so ably explained, the cameras would intrude a great deal.

We should no longer be looking to you, Mr. Speaker, and we should no longer be looking to the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer). Some strange alliances have been formed today. I agree with everything that the hon. Member for Walton has said, which must embarrass the hon. Gentleman as much as it embarrassed my hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Sir J. Farr) to agree with all that was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup (Mr. Heath). The television cameras would intrude; the intimacy of the Chamber would be lost. It would become a studio or theatre. The press would interpret our proceedings. As the hon. Member for Walton so ably explained, it would choose the little nuggets that it wanted to televise.

This motion should be rejected out of hand. We should preserve the traditions of this great House. Those who want to hear our proceedings should listen to them on the radio. Better still, they should come and see us in action.