Skip to main content

Televising Parliament

When Labour returned to government in 1964 a select committee began examining the case for televising the Commons. It recommended a trial period, with the results shown only to MPs for a final decision. The Lords had already decided to go ahead with its own trial and it was assumed that the Commons would do likewise.

But despite reassurances from the Government about the practical implications, most MPs believed the character of the Commons would be changed for the worse by admitting cameras and voted against. The Lords' three-day experiment with television in 1968, meanwhile, went no further.

Commons debates televising proceedings

The Commons debated televising its proceedings on an experimental basis again in October 1972, the main argument in favour being that it would make Parliament more relevant to ordinary voters. But old fears about television 'trivialising' Parliament remained and MPs voted to reject the experiment, as they did when broadcasting was debated for a third time in February 1975.

House of Lords leads the way

Finally, on 8 December 1983, the House of Lords led the way by voting in favour of a television experiment. Lord Soames, the former Leader of the Lords, explained that while in the 1960s colour television was in its infancy, by the 1980s it had become the: "most important and influential medium of communication - and certainly not one to be ignored if we wish attention to be paid by the general public to our business in this House".

The Upper House was first broadcast experimentally on 23 January 1985 when the Earl of Stockton (formerly Harold Macmillan, the Conservative Prime Minister) stole the show with a critique of the Government's economic policies. Broadcasts were made permanent soon after.

Related information

Live and archived coverage of all UK Parliament proceedings taking place in public, including debates and committee meetings of both Houses