§ ' .—(1) A person who dishonestly receives a programme included in a service to which this section applies with intent to avoid payment of any charge applicable to the reception of that programme shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale.
§ (2) This section and section (Proprietary rights in respect of certain programmes) below apply to—
- (a) any cable programme service;
- (b) any television or sound broadcasting service provided by the BBC or the IBA; and
- (c) any service (other than a television or sound broadcasting service) which consists wholly or mainly in the sending, by means of a telecommunication system, of sounds or visual images or both and is provided for a person providing a service falling within paragraph (a) or (b) above;
§ (3) Her Majesty may by Order in Council make provision, in the case of any country specified in the Order, for applying this section and section (Proprietary rights in respect of certain programmes) below to—
- (a) any service provided in that country which would be a cable programme service if subsection (7) of section 2 above and references in subsection (1) of that section to the United Kingdom were omitted;
- (b) any television or sound broadcasting service provided in that country by an organisation constituted in, or under the laws of, that country; and
- (c) any service provided in that country (other than a television or sound broadcasting service) which consists wholly or mainly in the sending, by means of a telecommunication system, of sounds or visual images or both and is provided for a person providing a service falling within paragraph (a) or (b) above.
§ (4) Her Majesty shall not make an Order in Council under subsection (3) above in the case of any country unless Her Majesty is satisfied that provision has been or will be made under the laws of that country whereby adequate protection will be given to persons making charges for programmes included in services falling within subsection (2) above.
§ (5) Any statutory instrument containing an Order in Council under subsection (3) above shall be subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament.'.—[Mr. Hurd.]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ 7 pm
§ The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Douglas Hurd)
I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Paul Dean)
With this it will be convenient to discuss Government new clause 3.
§ Mr. Hurd
The two new clauses deal with the problem of theft. Those who are taking a large commercial risk in offering new services to the public should have the reassurance that a solid legal framework exists within which they can try to ensure that people cannot enjoy the benefits of their services without paying for them. When we came to consider the existing safeguards that were available to the providers of pay television services, we discovered that in the case of cable they were only partial, 749 and in the case of satellites almost non-existent. That is why my noble Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State gave a commitment in another place on 2 February that during the passage of the Bill the Government would introduce proposals designed to forestall the growth of cable and satellite piracy. I am sorry that it has taken rather longer than we hoped, but it is a remarkably difficult legal problem.
New clauses 2 and 3 attempt to deal with those sorts of dishonest activities which the Theft Act 1968 and the Copyright Act 1956 do not cover. We considered whether we could build on the existing law, but we decided that the straightforward thing to do would be to create two new free-standing provisions in the Bill, one to extend the criminal law and the other to extend the civil law. New clause 2 creates a new criminal offence and establishes the scope of the services to which both the offence and the civil provisions in new clause 3 apply.
New clause 3 contains the more far-reaching provisions which are especially important if we are to succeed in heading off this new piracy before it becomes established. Experience in other areas suggests that it is essential to have effective powers which the courts can use against the suppliers and distributors before the material gets into the hands of the ultimate user. Criminal sanctions are not the best answer, because enforcement takes time and normally deals with unlawful activity that has already happened. Alongside the criminal provision in new clause 2, this new clause provides a comprehensive set of remedies available to an aggrieved broadcaster or cable operator in the civil courts. Where someone imports, sells or lets apparatus that is designed to defraud the aggrieved broadcaster or cable operator of payment for his services, or publishes information that is intended for that purpose, the aggrieved person can seek an injunction, damages and any other appropriate relief from the civil courts.
The new clauses and the amendments which flow from them introduce a set of safeguards which will enable the providers of pay services to combat the theft which could fatally undermine their business.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, Small Heath)
I support the new clause, but I take this opportunity to tell the Minister that all these amendments should not appear at the Report stage of such a Bill. As I said in Committee, the Bill now before the House is completely different from the one that was debated on Second Reading. Indeed, it is Bill No. 4, 5 or 6. We now have authorities for cable and authorities for DBS. The lives of all the independent television companies have been extended without proper safeguards for the public interest. Clause 47 provides a new national radio network, although that has not been explained to the House in detail. Now on Report we have two entire pages of amendments. Altogether, the Government made 200 amendments to the Bill, and few hon. Members will have experience of a Bill being so completely changed during its passage through the House.
In addition, the Bill might be a complete charade, because since the Home Secretary introduced his proposals for cable and DBS the Chancellor of the Exchequer has removed the capital allowances on which the cable companies had made their calculations. The result is that they are reconsidering their position. It is doubtful whether 750 these provisions will see the light of day or whether they will be financially viable. I hope that the Minister will say something about that later.
I have protested about the number of amendments to the Bill. The House should not have been treated like this by the Government. However, I support the new clause and, with a view to getting through all the amendments in a reasonable time, I shall not duplicate what the Minister said.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.