Tuesday, 23 June 2015
Watching the House of Commons
Yesterday I enjoyed the, sadly all too rare, opportunity of sitting in the public gallery of the Commons to watch a debate. The Education and Adoption Bill was having its Second Reading - and I could watch the Frontbench speeches followed by a succession of speeches from backbenchers - including a number of maiden speeches. It is good occasionally to watch a debate in the chamber - without the usual distractions. Normally when "watching a debate", I am multi-tasking - part listening to the debate; part reading something else - or writing; or carrying out some other task (downloading some material from the internet and so on). In the gallery one's full attention can be focussed on what is being said - and what is going on in the chamber. It's also good to be able to follow a debate over a number of hours! (Reading Hansard isn't quite the same)
I think that it is wonderful that we can now watch the live, un-interrupted feed from the Chamber. In the past - and when I first visited the House of Commons in 1975 - that wasn't possible - only the written report or a summary on the news was possible. Now with the internet it is possible to watch the television coverage on BBC Parliament or a live stream on Parliamentlive.tv. Podcasts are available of Today in Parliament. But the limitations of TV cameras only give you part of the picture - and there is much of interest to observe outside the zone covered. The interactions and reactions off screen are important too.