§ [No. 42]
After Clause 16, insert the following new Clause—
("Section 9 of the Industry Act 1975 (the Board and the media) shall apply to the Agency as it applies to the National Enterprise Board with the substitution of a reference to section 5 of this Act for the reference in the said section 9 to section 3 of that Act.").
§ Lord KIRKHILL
My Lords, I beg to move that this House doth agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 42. This Amendment seeks to define the Agency's responsibilities in respect of the operation of the news media. It applies the equivalent clause in the Industry Bill. During the Bill's passage through this House, the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, inquired whether the Government visualised stocks and shares being taken in newspapers and television companies—which might prejudice the freedom of the Press. A similar point had been raised in relation to the Industry Bill in Committee in this House. My noble friend Lord Hughes replied that the Government's intentions would be made clear in the Bill by amendment in the Commons. I think that the Government intention is now made clear as a result of this Amendment to the Bill and I should emphasise that employment grounds would be the only justification for possible involvement by the Agency in a media concern. Even then, the involvement would only be on a direction from the Secretary of State under 691 Clause 5. I think your Lordships can be confident that the Government have again recognised the difficulty.
§ Moved, that this House doth agree with the Commons in the said Amendment.—(Lord Kirkhill.)
Lord CAMPBELL of CROY
My Lords, I am glad to see this because, as the noble Lord has recorded, it was I who raised this point when the Bill was going through your Lordships' House earlier this year. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, said then that it was something which the Government would look into and it has led to a new clause being added which I am sure has the right purpose. There would indeed be a difficult situation if the Government, in trying to assist part of the media in difficulties, found themselves in a controlling position and the question of the freedom of the Press came up. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, who I am glad to see here, as well as to the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, for bringing this forward.
In passing may I say this. It may be for another Minister to reply to this later. I give notice that I shall raise this point on the Welsh Development Agency Bill which I find myself dealing with this evening. It has a very similar provision to that in the Scottish Development Agency Bill. The interesting difference between them is that in the Scottish Bill there is a new clause of five lines, which we are considering now, which makes reference to the National Enterprise Board and applies more or less the same provisions, whereas the equivalent clause in the Welsh Development Agency Bill is about a page and a half and I presume that the effects are much the same. I do not expect the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, to be able to give an answer on this, but when we come to the Welsh Development Agency Bill later on the fact that I am giving notice about this question now may enable the reply to be given to your Lordships on this interesting difference in the way in which the clauses are drafted.
§ Lord KIRKHILL
My Lords, I can say that it was a splendid example of the consistently superior mode of education which pertains in Scotland that we can do this in five lines instead of a page 692 and a half, or something of that sort. I should say that the reason why the Amendment applies to the Industry Bill clause rather than reiterating the whole clause, which is the course of action adopted in the Welsh Development Agency Bill, and is the reply to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, is that it does not create imbalance in the structure.
§ Lord HUGHES
My Lords, regarding the point which the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, has raised about the difference, might I say that perhaps it is the natural characteristic that the Welsh prefer total clarity even if at the expense of a page and a half, whereas the Scots prefer total economy in five lines.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.