HC Deb 26 July 1963 vol 681 cc2019-22

Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [21st June], That the Bill be now read the Third time.

Question again proposed.

1.17 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

When the House adjourned on 21st June we had not completed our debate on this most interesting and, I think desirable small Bill. I am quite certain that we do not require much time today in order to complete the Third Reading debate.

The Bill was sponsored in this House by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) and we had a brief but interesting Committee stage, when no Amendments were made. The hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South hopes that the House will accept his apologies for his absence today. It is most unfortunate that he cannot be present. He has asked me to see the Measure through and the fact that he has asked me to do so proves that this is no party matter and that there is nothing contentious about this Bill.

On 21st June, the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South explained the substance of the Bill quite clearly. All hon. Members interested in copyright matters will have noted that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, gave a most learned and interesting description in another place of what is entailed by this Measure. In 1956,when we were discussing the Committee stage of the Bill which became the Copyright Act, we touched on the fringe of this matter. But we forgot, or we certainly omitted to give, the kind of protection which is now afforded by this small Bill. The protection is extended so that the definition of people needing protection when the word "author" is used includes the performer of a work as well as the creator.

The Copyright Act of 1956 and the consolidated Measure of 1958, The Dramatic and Musical Performers' Protection Act, if taken together, put Britain completely in the van regarding copyright law. The example which we provided then has been followed by at least 24 other countries which have amended their copyright law to fit in with what was legislated in this House in 1956. This small Bill is required in order to allow the Government to ratify the international convention and it is only on this very narrow issue that we need enlarge our own law. All the other signatories have gone a very long way indeed to meet the position that we set out and the example that we set the world in general.

That being so, I need say no more. On my left is my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley), who has a personal interest in matters of this type as a one-time performer. Now that he is in the House his performance may be of a different nature, without any copyright attached. I hope that we shall have no further difficulty today and that the Bill will receive its Third Reading expeditiously.

1.20 p.m.

Mr. Brian O'Malley (Rotherham)

I, too, support the Bill and sincerely hope that it receives its Third Reading today. In the interests of hon. Members who have other matters on the Order Paper, I shall speak briefly. There is little more to be said than was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross). The purpose of the Bill was explained by the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell) in the House on 21st June and in Standing Committee on 19th June. It is not a party political Measure. I believe that it is a Measure on which there can be little contention or difference in the House.

I stress that the Bill as it stands makes only very slight amendments to the existing law. The purpose of the Bill is to ratify the international Convention made in Rome in 1961. The Convention arose from the collaboration between various inter-governmental organizations seeking something which they had wanted for about thirty years. Other countries when considering whether they will ratify the Convention will in many cases require considerable changes and amendments to the law, whereas we are in the fortunate position that the Convention, if ratified, will in the main bring the law of countries ratifying the Convention into line with the law as it already exists here.

Article 32 of the Convention provides for the setting up of an inter-governmental committee to deal with the application and operation of the Convention and to prepare for any possible revision at any time in the future. I regard it as particularly important that this country should be represented at an early stage on this inter-governmental committee. I understand that a number of African States are to have a conference at Brazzaville in August of this year to consider the question of ratification. I suggest, with all respect, that, since the African States have less experience of the operation of protection and copyright laws, it would be unfortunate, both for this country and for performers throughout the world, if a number of States with little experience of this matter were represented but this country were not.

Therefore, it is important that the Bill should receive its Third Reading this afternoon so that this country may be represented on the inter-governmental committee at an early stage, in the hope that other countries will follow. I cite as an example the possibility that the Republic of Ireland will follow. I understand that this is likely. This country has led many Continental and other countries in protection and copyright.

The Bill does little to the existing law. The international trade union organisations of performers have been fully consulted and have taken part in all conferences leading to the adoption of the Convention. In Great Britain the Musicians' Union, the Actors' Equity Association, and the Variety Artistes' Federation have similarly been consulted and all have participated. The House can, therefore, have every confidence that all the people concerned with this kind of performance earnestly hope that the Bill will be adopted.

The Bill gives only very modest protection, precisely because of its limited object, which is the ratification of the international Convention. There are many problems which have arisen for performers in recent years with which the Bill does not deal. In the public interest, these problems must be dealt with at some time. One example is that, with the increasing tendency to use recorded music instead of live performers, it may be difficult to maintain a music profession large enough to ensure the emergence of suffi- cient performers of the highest standard. These problems cannot be dealt with in the Bill. They require treatment in a different way and at another time. I hope that on some future occasion when it will be possible to introduce broader Measures these problems will receive sympathetic consideration.

1.26 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. David Price)

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Buckinghamshire, South (Mr. Ronald Bell), who, as the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) said, cannot be with us today, on having brought the Bill successfully to its Third Reading. I congratulate the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central on piloting the Bill today.

As the Bill received its Second Reading without discussion, it may be convenient to the House if I say a few words on the Government's attitude to the Bill. I can say it in eight words; we are strongly in favour of the Bill. I can assure the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. O'Malley), to whom we listened with interest, that it is our intention to deposit our instrument of ratification of the Convention with the Secretary-General of the United Nations as soon as the Bill has received the Royal Assent.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read the Third time and passed, without Amendment.