§ 3.51 p.m.
§ Read a third time.
§ Clause 2 [Meaning of "cable programme service" etc.]:
Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 1:
Page 2, line 6, leave out first ("in") and insert ("at")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a technical amendment designed to achieve consistency in the drafting of the Bill. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, to show the reasonableness of the Opposition throughout this measure we have no objection to that amendment.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 4 [Power to license services]:
Lord Elton moved Amendment No.2:
Page 4, line 37, leave out from ("or") to end of line 39 and insert ("paragraph (a) of subsection (5) above, conditions included by virtue of that paragraph in a licence authorising a person to provide a licensable service may require that person")
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I welcome the way in which the noble Lord opposite welcomed the last amendment and I hope that he will agree with this one in the same reasonable tone, because this also is a minor drafting amendment designed to achieve consistency of drafting of Clause 4(6) of this Bill and Clause 7(6) of the Telecommunications Bill, which contains an equivalent provision dealing with licence conditions. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, in order to show consistency as well as reasonableness we have no objection to that amendment.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 3:
After Clause 4, insert the following new clause:
§ ("Publicity etc. with respect to certain licences.
§ .—(1) This section applies where the Authority propose to grant a licence for the provision of a prescribed diffusion service in any area.
§ (2) The Authority shall publish, in such manner as they consider appropriate—
- (a) a notice stating that they propose to grant a licence for the provision of such a service in the area and inviting applications for the licence; and
- (b) in the case of each application received, the name and address of the applicant and such of the information included in the application in pursuance of section 5(1) below as they consider appropriate.
§ (3) The Authority shall also take such steps as they consider appropriate—
- (a) to ascertain the opinions of the public in the area about the prescribed diffusion service and any related services proposed to be provided there; and
- (b) to encourage the making of comments and suggestions about those services by members of the public in the area,
§ (4) In this section and section 6 below "related service", in relation to a prescribed diffusion service, means a service (other than a telecommunication service) provided by means of the same telecommunication system.").651
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House if with this amendment I speak to Amendments Nos. 4, 6 and 10.
Amendment No. 4: Page 5, line 17, leave out subsections (2) to (5) and insert—
("(2) Before deciding whether or to whom to grant a licence, the Authority shall consult with—
§ Amendment No. 6: Clause 17, page 17, line 16, leave out from beginning to ("consult") in line 17.
§ Amendment No. 10:
§ The telecommunications Act 1984
§ Schedule 2, page 52, line 43, at end insert—
45. After subsection (10) of section 7 of the Telecommunications Act 1984 (power to licence telecommunication systems) there shall be inserted the following subsections—
(10A) Before the Secretary of State or the Director decides whether to grant or revoke a licence under this section which authorises the running of a telecommunication system to which subsection (10B) below applies, he shall consult with the Cable Authority established under section 1 of the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984.
(10B) A telecommunication system is one to which this subsection applies if—
§ All the amendments arise from an undertaking which I gave when we considered this Bill on Report. The main point of substance in this group of amendments is in Amendment No. 10, which will add two new subsections to Clause 7 of the Telecommunications Bill. Clause 7 of that Bill contains the powers of the Secretary of State and the Director General of Telecommunications to license the running of telecommunication systems. The amendment requires those authorities to consult with the Cable Authority before deciding whether to grant or revoke a telecommunications licence in certain circumstances. Those circumstances are where the telecommunications licensing authorities have been given notice of the fact that the telecommunication system in question is to be or is being used for the provision of a cable programme service which requires a licence from the Cable Authority.
§ It is necessary to define the circumstances in this way because, as I said on Report, much of the work of the telecommunications licensing authorities will be concerned with matters which do not affect the Cable Authority's functions.
§ The remaining amendments extend the Cable Authority's own duties to consult the telecommunications licensing authorities so that the respective duties of consultation mirror each other. Under Clause 5(4) of the Bill as it stands, the Cable Authority are to consult the telecommunications authorities before granting a prescribed diffusion service licence and, under Clause 17(2)(b), they are to consult those authorities before revoking such a licence.652
§ Under the amendment before us, the Cable Authority will be required to consult the telecommunications authorities before deciding whether to grant or to revoke any licence for a licensable cable programme service. The first two amendments also make some technical adjustments to make the Bill's drafting clearer. They separate out from the existing Clause 5 those matters which deal directly with publicity in respect of applications for prescribed diffusion services and they place them in a clause of their own. Clause 5 is thus left to deal solely with the details which applications must contain and the consultation procedures which the authority must follow before granting or refusing a licence.
§ In view of the considerable support voiced during the Report stage for the principle of reciprocal consultation between the Cable Authority, on the one hand, and the Secretary of State and the director, on the other, I believe that these amendments should be welcome to your Lordships. I beg to move.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, on behalf of myself and my colleagues here and my noble friend Lord De La Warr, who, regrettably, has not been able to be here for this debate, I wish to thank my noble friend the Minister for the trouble that he has taken to ensure that there is proper reciprocal consultation between the two authorities in the Telecommunications Bill and this Bill and to welcome the arrangements that he has made. I can do no more than thank him.
My Lords, I must apologise to the noble Lord for not having been in my place when he opened these proceedings this afternoon. I am beginning to wonder whether this is really your Lordships' House and not part of Looking-glass Land and whether the parliamentary draftsmen are not chessmen in disguise. To have an amendment to the Telecommunications Bill (which is what the consultation amendment in this Bill really is) seems to me to be both back to front and upside down. Having stood on my head to understand it, I can only thank the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for that very important amendment and for his patience and understanding of the problem that it takes care of. I hope that he feels the right way up at the end of it all.
§ Lord Campbell of Alloway
My Lords, may I be allowed to support this amendment and also to apologise for not having been in my place? Since the first day of the Committee stage of this Bill, my noble friend the Minister has kept an open mind as to whether, using his own words, it was necessary to introduce further statutory incentives as to good behaviour. Not only has he kept an open mind but he has stood by the concession made on Report notwithstanding the Division. As the mover of that amendment, which evoked the concession which is now faithfully reflected in these amendments, it gives me singular pleasure to be able to take part in this encomium, and to express a measure of gratitude which is quite sincere and in no way tarnished by my noble friend's inability to meet us on certain other aspects of such statutory incentives. But, as he must be aware, there is a measure of discontent over these provisional cable licensing arrangements. One can but hope that consideration may be given to the 653 introduction of some appropriate procedural safeguards before this Bill reaches the statute book.
My Lords, I think that the time has come when I should indicate that noble Lords on these Benches are as reasonable as are the noble Lords who sit with the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, although we have not yet heard whether the reasonableness which the noble Lord exhibited on Amendments Nos. 1 and 2 is to be continued on this particular one. Perhaps I should indicate that we are prepared to support these amendments.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, I should like to make my position clear. I cannot claim parentage of the amendments which led to this amendment but my noble friends and I claim to be members of the family who encouraged the birth. I do not oppose this amendment.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords, whether they are relatives or midwives, for the very courteous way in which they acknowledged the Government's approach to this problem. I understand the noble Baroness's difficulty; and the reason why we have to conduct ourselves in this way to achieve this result has something to do with the relative stages of progress of the two Bills through Parliament. I think what matters is that we have achieved as much as we can in line with what she and her noble friends and others wish. I am sorry we have not been able entirely to satisfy my noble friend Lord Campbell of Alloway but he has been most gracious in expressing his disappointment. I would hope to be equally gracious in acknowledging it.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 5 [Application for licences and prior consultation]:
§ Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 4:
Page 5, line 17, leave out subsection (2) to (5) and insert—
("(2) Before deciding whether or to whom to grant a licence, the Authority shall consult with—
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 6 [Matters to be taken into account]:
§ Baroness Trumpington moved Amendment No. 5:
Page 6, line 30, at end insert—
("() the extent to which the applicant or each applicant proposes to include in the programmes matter which is calculated to promote the understanding or enjoyment of the programmes by persons who are deaf;").
§ The noble Baroness said: My Lords, when we considered this Bill on Report the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, moved an amendment which was intended to add to the Bill a requirement for the Cable Authority to bear in mind the needs of the deaf. Your Lordships will recall that I somewhat inelegantly made it clear that we accepted that the deaf had a special claim in respect of television, and that we accepted the principle underlying the noble Lord's amendment, 654 and that we ourselves would bring forward an appropriate amendment.
§ Clause 6 deals with the matters which the authority are to take into account during the licensing process, and we think that is the appropriate place for a provision dealing with the needs of the deaf. Accordingly, the present amendment adds to the list in Clause 6(2) a requirement for the authority to take into account applicants' proposals to include in their programmes matter designed to promote the understanding and enjoyment of the programmes by the deaf. We believe that this will encourage applicants to think seriously about the special needs of the deaf in drawing up their plans. Once they have undertaken to take particular steps, the authority have it in their power under Clause 4(5) to write conditions into the licences to require the promises to be honoured. I am so glad that we have been able to meet the wishes of the House over this, and I beg to move.
My Lords, I have no wish to prolong these proceedings unnecessarily, but obviously it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge the efforts of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and those of the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in this matter. Your Lordships may recall that I moved a similar amendment originally and I think it is true to say that when the noble Baroness replied on behalf of the Government at that time most of us knew of her sympathy for the deaf. The work she has done on behalf of those with hearing handicaps is well known to all of us, and therefore I think we all regretted that on that occasion she had to display some degree of reluctance for not being able to help with the amendment as much as she might have wished. We are very glad indeed that she has been able to find a formula which will permit this provision to be appropriately inserted into the Bill in the right place. It meets the needs of a very large section of the public—one that is becoming increasingly larger—with hearing impairment and those who are disadvantaged in relation to television and broadcast services perhaps more than any other single group.
The other point about the hearing-impaired is that they can be assisted by the use of new techniques, and they are indeed being so assisted in broadcasting by the BBC and the independent companies. It would have been regrettable had some effort not been made to ensure that they are similarly assisted in relation to cable services as and when those services come forward.
I should like just to pay tribute to the excellent work of all those concerned with the Deaf Broadcasting Campaign, and in particular Mr. Austin Reeves, who has done so much to alert Members of your Lordships' House and of another place to the needs of the deaf in this regard. Your Lordships will recollect that when this matter was debated at an earlier stage we dealt with it very rapidly; first, because we were anxious to adjourn during pleasure for dinner, and, secondly, because we knew somebody was in the Gallery of your Lordships' House who was "signing" the debate for deaf people, and it would have been regrettable if we had not dealt with it during the presence of that person. It was for that reason that we dealt with it so rapidly, but I should like formally to extend my sincere 655 thanks to noble Lords opposite who have done so much to bring this forward. I welcome this amendment, and am very grateful indeed for it.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, my noble friends and I would like to join with the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, in thanking the noble Baroness for her part in obtaining this amendment, which is very welcome. The noble Baroness described her contribution as "inelegant". May I assure her immediately that we never see her in that light, nor do we ever so hear her. Mention by the noble Lord of the Deaf Broadcasting Campaign gave me much pleasure, because their literature was substantial in nature and, if I may say so, very sensitive in content and it reached all of us who are interested in this matter. My noble friends and I were delighted to support the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, when he moved his amendment and we are grateful to the Government for having accepted it.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 9 [General provisions as to programmes]:
§ Lord Mishcon moved Amendment No. 5A:
Page 9, line 21, at end insert—
(", the intention being that the maximum proportion is in each case so obtained regard however being had to availability, practicality and the desirability of maintaining standards.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the proceedings so far have been so harmonious that I am hoping very much that they will continue in the same way. There is no reason why they should not, because there was a common purpose at the very beginning of this Bill when the Second Reading debate took place. I ventured from these Benches in my Second Reading speech to quote from the report of the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and I did it in the following way:
At its best, cable can help both business and the individual by providing new methods of working, buying and selling direct from the home, increased facilities for education and training in the home, services like electronic mail and telebanking and a greatly increased and enriched choice of home entertainment".
The report continued:
At its worst, however, it could lead to a waste of resources, risks to privacy and a lowering of the quality of broadcasting. It is therefore crucially important that the right decisions are taken".
§ Throughout that Second Reading debate, and throughout the Committee and Report stages, from all sides of your Lordships' House anxiety was expressed at the possible—indeed probable—lowering of standards which would occur if imports of cheap programmes were allowed without any proper limitation. Certainly I remember the contributions that were made on that occasion, notably by the noble Lord, Lord Hill, from the Cross-Benches, which emphasised that it was not just a question of cheapening cable, with all that that might entail, but also something which would lead inevitably to the cheapening of the programmes of the BBC and ITV.
§ Therefore, we came forward at Committee stage with amendments which tried to deal in the main with specific proportions of the programmes which ought to be EEC orientated—or perhaps it would be better to describe them as originating in EEC countries with performers coming from the same countries. The 656 noble Lord the Minister replied perfectly fairly—as did others of your Lordships—that that was not a very sensible way of approaching a problem, which he agreed was a very real one. To put a proportion in an Act without knowing what the future might hold and what, year by year, might be the problems of programme production, and so on, was not a sensible way of dealing with this matter.
§ So we came forward at Report stage with another amendment. We dropped the idea of the fixed proportions, which had been negotiated by the authority with independent television. We came forward with an amendment which referred to the maximum practicable proportions and we left out the fractions. That was again answered by saying that there was a common purpose but we had not achieved it. because, apart from other things, what was the justice of making it the maximum, when one could not tell whether one was excluding by insisting upon a maximum in an Act of Parliament the most excellent material that might come from outside the EEC? Therefore, to leave it at the maximum practicable was not a wise way of getting over an acknowledged difficulty and a very worthy aim.
So we were all left to think again, and what we have tried to do by this amendment is to meet all the arguments that have arisen up till now, to try to give into them and to use the same words that the Bill now uses; namely, the words "proper proportions". Left on their own, they are meaningless. To whom are they deemed to be proper? What is a proper proportion? Must it have regard to various matters, and so on? But we have kept those words, we have not altered the Bill and we have added what I hope we were all trying to embrace, by inserting right at the end,
the intention being that the maximum proportion is in each case"—
that means in regard to the programmes and the performers—
so obtained regard however being had to availability"—
which means the availability of the programmes and of the performers—
that means that it all depends on the nature of the programme; there would be different considerations if it were a pure advertisement programme, if it were another type of pure film programme, and so on—
and the desirability of maintaining standards.
That covers the point about the extremely excellent product which is available from, for example, the United States and which is competing with another programme offered from inside this country. Obviously, there would be no desire, if it were a case of one or the other, to exclude the excellent American programme, if such it be, because of standards which we want to keep up.
§ I am hoping that at this the last stage when we can do it we put the imprint of this House upon the need to carry out what Hunt hoped would be carried out, so that we legislate for standards for a proper EEC quota of programmes and stop what might be a flooding of the cable market by cheap, insensitive and socially harmful programmes of the type which we have mentioned in our debates.657
§ I do not think that I can add to this speech by mere repetition, because your Lordships all know the arguments, and I commend this amendment to the House. I hope that the Government will find it possible to accept it, because this is what we have all been trying strenuously to achieve in the course of the passage of this Bill. I hope that your Lordships will feel we have now found a set of words which is truly applicable to what has been our aim. I beg to move.
§ Lord Aylestone
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon has said, this is the third attempt. The problem from the beginning was that we have not felt that the words "proper proportions" were adequate to cover what we really need. What we really need is the 86 per cent. of EEC material, which for this purpose includes the EEC, Britain, Australia and New Zealand. We appreciate that it is impossible to achieve 86 per cent. at the moment and we want to get there as soon as possible. I think that these words are the strongest and the best that we have yet had and we on these Benches have pleasure in supporting the Opposition.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Lord Hill of Luton
My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has said, this is the third attempt to secure something more precise than "proper proportions". The first attempt, if I may add this to his history, was an attempt to apply to the newcomer the restrictions that have applied since October of last year to independent television. If I may refresh your Lordships' memories as to what that meant, it did not mean an automatic application of a 14 per cent. limit on imported material. In October 1983, independent television, in the light of experience, issued this set of regulations covering certain exemptions. They exempt all material originating in the EEC; 1½ per cent. extra for Commonwealth material; all information, news, sport and educational material subject to IBA consideration; material of outstanding quality; material of cultural or educational value; and any programme originating in countries from which substantial ethnic minorities have come.
That is what was sought to be applied in the amendment which I moved in the Committee stage, but it was rejected. I suspect that it may not have been sufficiently appreciated—it is my fault if it was not so sufficiently appreciated—that what the amendment sought to do was not blindly to apply 86 per cent. and 14 per cent. Broadly speaking, it began with 86 and 14 and, in the light of experience, it was embellished in the way that I have suggested. That was rejected. But I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, for putting down this amendment today because it affords a last opportunity to do what we seek.
We now come to the final stage and I just want briefly to recapitulate the argument. The argument at the outset was that despite precise figures, there would, inevitably, be an inflow of foreign material, notably material that has earned its corn in the States and is now available very cheaply. Some of it is good; some of it is fair; and some of it is shocking. I shall not refer, because I suspect the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, will refer to it, to its effect on employment. In his speeches, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, 658 has emphasised that side of it, with which he is more fully acquainted than am I.
I want to dwell on just one problem: the effect of the unlimited importation of American and other material, but mainly American material. The advent of cable, with its dependence upon advertisements, obviously means that for some time the income of independent television will be reduced. I suspect that it will have to compete, as it competed with the BBC nearly 30 years ago when independent television was introduced, by emphasising and dwelling on the trivial. In my days at the BBC it used to be said that the way to win an audience and to defeat your opponent was to put on an American film. The trivial material which would flow in—this is the depressing part of it—would win an audience, just as rounded material wins today an audience in the press. To that extent, it would invite independent television, in competition with a new rival, to lower its standards, which have risen magnificently over the years since those early days, in order to hold the audience.
As to the BBC, the result would be—I am not in any way disputing the case for competition—a fall in the average audience. What does the BBC do in such circumstances? I hesitate to prophesy, but I know in my heart of hearts that it would go down market in order to compete, with more triviality of material, just as it competed with its original competitor, independent television.
My one concern is the effect that the absence of proper control over imported material will have on the existing services. We may criticise the existing services. When one has more time available for viewing one tends to become more critical, because one sees too much and exercises selection too little. When the income of the BBC goes down, it is all the more difficult for them to make a case for a wholly justified increase in the licence fee if standards have been lowered. If the audience went down to the level it reached at the beginning of independent television-24 per cent. of the whole audience—I believe that it would have a profound impact on the BBC. This is the one aspect of the Bill about which I feel competent to make an offering, and I say to your Lordships that I have no doubt that the absence of proper restraint upon imported material, other than that which applies to independent television, would, whether we like it or not, damage existing standards.
We have two fine services. We can curse this or that programme hut, to use a hackneyed phrase, we have, without a shadow of doubt, the best television services in the world. Why risk their quality by failing to apply, not a severe restraint on imported material but the kind of qualified and modest restraint which has been imposed upon independent television? Left without proper restraint, 1 believe that, without a shadow of doubt, standards would fall, which would be a tragedy.
As to the amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has moved, he knows, as I know, that it is the best we can hope to get at this late stage of the Bill. During the course of the Bill the noble Lord the Minister has shown wit and charm and has brought delight to many of us. Therefore let him make a modest addition to the high reputation that the Bill has brought him by admitting these modest words. They do not do much. However, as the House has rejected 659 what I believe to be the right and proper course, let us grab at the thread which this amendment presents. For Heaven's sake, let us not ignore the argument of quality. Do not let the desire to make it pay be the basic reason for not applying a restriction of any kind, apart from the word "proper", to the newcomer. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord will make himself even more delightful now than he has been throughout the Bill by showing just a little modest reaction—no more than words, not even figures. At least it would be something with which to escape from the consideration of the Bill.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, the speeches which have been made so far will, I am sure, have the effect of persuading the noble Lord the Minister to accept Amendment No. 5A. Therefore I shall not stand long between your Lordships and the announcement for which we are impatiently waiting. If by any chance we should be mistaken. I would not wish to stand long between your Lordships and the Lobbies. I am quite convinced that, moved as they will have been by the previous speeches, noble Lords will seek to persuade the Government by these means if, by any chance, we have failed to persuade them already.
The only other point I have to make is to explain why there are two amendments on the Marshalled List which seek the same ends. It is due to a breakdown of liaison, for which I am responsible. Seeing yesterday that on the Marshalled List there was no amendment, I put down an amendment, only to discover that one had already been put down in advance. Therefore we discover two amendments on the Marshalled List. I hope that it will be unnecessary for me to move my amendment as a result of this one being either accepted or otherwise carried. Therefore I shall reserve whatever I might have to say on the general subject until we see the happy outcome of this amendment.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, brings us back to an important subject. I hope I made it clear on the earlier occasions when we discussed it that there is nothing between the two sides of the House on the desirability of securing the greatest possible benefit from cable for the programme production industry in this country and throughout Europe. That is why we have three specific provisions in the Bill to point the Cable Authority and its licensees in the right direction. At the licensing stage, the authority has got to take account of applicants' intentions with regard to the use of British and other EEC programming. The authority has then got to include in the licences whatever conditions it considers necessary to ensure that a proper proportion of such programming is actually included, and each year it has to tell the Home Secretary in its annual report how things are going.
The noble Lord's amendment arrived on the Marshalled List at the eleventh hour, and, uncharacteristically, I have to say that I have no complaint about that. The noble Lord consulted me as to its propriety, and I was glad to agree. Indeed, I had a secret hope that the noble Lord might at least have discovered a qualifying formula which would achieve what all of us want, which is a clear statement of what 660 the words "proper proportions" are intended to convey; not a static 86 per cent. and not a uniform proportion across a possible total of 32 channels, but a progressive preferment of EEC material such as the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, sought to achieve at Committee stage with his amendment. That is something which would require the Cable Authority to aim at what the words in the Bill have led the public service broadcasting authorities to deliver—and, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, has said, they are two fine services which without a shadow of a doubt are among the best in the world—using those words over the years.
Since I had that flutter of hope when we spoke, it grieves me to say that I have a difficulty with the noble Lord's amendment now, as I did with his amendment at Report stage. Although I very much sympathise with the spirit of the amendment, I have difficulties with the formulation. The noble Lord may say that if that is so I should at least accept the principle and agree to take the wording away for a later stage in another place. But our whole problem here concerns the drafting rather than the principle, on which we are broadly agreed. So I do not feel that it would be honest to give such an assurance.
The noble Lord's amendment seeks to qualify the word "proper". That is the long and the short of the problem, because "proper" is an absolute term and it cannot meaningfully be qualified. The words in the amendment either mean the same as "proper", in which case it seems more economical to have one word than 26, or they mean something different, in which case "proper" could not be left in the Bill side by side with these words.
I have a further difficulty in that the exact expression "proper proportions" is the one used in the Broadcasting Act for the IBA's duty in respect of independent television, Channel 4 and independent local radio. I believe it is widely agreed that the IBA have interpreted that duty in a most effective way, and that the term "proper proportions" has been highly effective in that Act. If experience is anything to go by, therefore, we do not need a better definition. If we start to qualify or depart from the idea of "proper proportions" in this Bill, there is a real danger that we shall cast doubt on whether it is appropriate in the Broadcasting Act.
If the words differ, the meaning must differ; if the meaning differs, the duty must differ. It must follow that the IBA are required to do something different—and presumably something less in value—than what we are demanding of the Cable Authority. If that happens, then it follows that by trying to raise the standard for one we risk lowering the standard for the other. In each case we want the highest standard consistent with the circumstances of each authority.
The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, has argued for a formulation that is very similar to the one rejected in Committee when considering an amendment from the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton. In view of what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney—and I hope he will not think I am being discourteous—I believe that I am right in thinking that he has now sworn allegiance, as it were, to the amendment of his noble friend, and that it 661 behoves me to address myself only to that amendment. Is he content?
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, I am content to address myself only to the amendment of my noble friend.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, it sounded like a catechism, but it has clarified my mind and I am grateful. I have to say that I find it very hard to maintain an unyielding line in the face of the eloquent enthusiasm and patient arguments of the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon. Indeed, we are toilers in the same vineyard, and I myself spent a good deal of time over the weekend and at other times considering alternatives and in discussion with those who understand parliamentary drafting much better than I do.
I have to say that I felt as disappointed as the noble Lord when others convinced me that both he and I have failed to improve on what is already in the Bill. My hands itch to do something better but, infuriatingly, I have not been able to devise the thing that it is better to do. We shall certainly go on thinking, but, much though we should like to come up with a formulation which everyone can rally around, we have not yet been able to think of anything which both makes good law and constitutes an improvement on what is already in the Bill. I cannot give an undertaking that we shall be more successful when the Bill is in another place.
Noble Lords who are in unison in support of this amendment are, I hope, assured that the Government have the same intentions as they have. They perceive the success of the formulation in this Bill as it has been used in the Act—and that, I believe, is a reassurance that the Government's perception is correct. The noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, asked us not simply to produce conditions—and he will forgive me if I am not exactly right—and suggested, using a slightly pejorative tone of voice, that we might be trying to make cable pay. We are not only trying to make cable pay: we are trying to make cable good. If we make it so constrained as to goodness that it cannot achieve what your Lordships want, it will not pay and there will be no cable at all.
The great difficulty I have had since we started debating this matter has been that if one puts too tight a ring-fence around British productions and around EEC productions, then the only way in which the authority could meet what would be a statutory and specific obligation would be to recycle ad infinitum inferior material from the British market. From that point we have moved steadily further to try to find something sufficiently flexible which will allow the authority to use only that material in the British market which is sufficient to satisfy what we all see as the optimum, but not so great as to drive out the necessary competitive ingredient from abroad and the necessary supply to keep up a new flow of good material on the screen.
At the end of it all I am deeply grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, who is tireless in his pursuit of an aim to a degree that I find admirable—particularly from his position on the Opposition Benches, where he does not have cohorts of people to support him in this respect. I am embarrassed by the support I have in the 662 face of the noble Lord's lack of support and the excellence of his amendments. The fact remains that I am convinced that what he has on the Marshalled List actually weakens the concept of "a proper proportion". That concept has been the touchstone of excellence for the IBA over many years, and I must advise your Lordships not to depart from it.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, to say that I am disappointed with that reply, despite the very kindly words which the noble Lord the Minister used at the end of his speech, would be the understatement of the day. I am hoping that in another place at this time certain more encouraging statements are being made on behalf of the Government.
I wonder whether I may answer the Minister's point. I shall do so as briefly as I can. I must confess—and the Minister knows me well enough to realise that I mean this respectfully—that I was reminded of a barrister who, having received his brief and having been paid his fee, says, "For this I must go on talking although I have a hopeless case, because I have a brief and I must do justice to it in the best possible way I can".
Reference was made to a previous Act and to the fact that these words occur there and relate to independent television. We have been told throughout this debate—not only today but on previous occasions—that cable must not be treated in the same way as independent television and that the separate proportion has to be achieved by one against the other. We have been told that they are not the same thing and that they do not have the same purpose. We have bowed to that, and we are bowing to it in this amendment.
The Broadcasting Act has been put before us by the Minister as being the absolute pillar of clarity. The fact is that the term "proper proportions" was used then—and if I remember correctly there was quite a debate about it—because, facing the unknown as they were and before any negotiations had taken place, nobody could think what words to use and so they hit upon the vague words "proper proportions". The reality is not that those words have led to a satisfactory conclusion but that the negotiations that have taken place have resulted in a proper conclusion.
The noble Lord may like to hear once again the description of the very Act which he held before us as the tablets of stone—and the great prophet Moses may have wanted to present them to his people if he did not have to break them when he went down. This is how the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, who was not then in that exalted position, described that Act. For all I know he may well have been thinking of the words that have been held up before us. This is what he said when that Act was a Bill before your Lordships:I think I can honestly say that since my father took office in Mr. Bonar Law's Administration in 1922 I have followed in record almost every major Parliamentary occasion in either House of Parliament. I must say that I can recall no occasion whatever in your Lordships' House during that period of time in which a major Bill proposed by a Conservative Government has met with such a chorus of opposition from quarters normally either independent or friendly to the Conservative cause, stretching from the most reverend Primate to noble Lords of unrivalled experience in public service on all sides of the House".—[Official Report, 22/7/54; col. 1336.]663 That was what the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hailsham, who was then, as I said, not occupying the great position that he holds now, thought of the Act which we are now asked to copy because it has worked out so well. I am not trying to criticise that Act. I am merely saying that there was severe opposition in all quarters to that Act that we are now having quoted to us.
The real argument is—and I shall leave it at this—that at the present moment there is no guidance whatsoever to an authority, the personnel of which we do not know and the quality of which we do not know. There is no guidance to industry or to anyone else. There is merely the use of the term "proper proportions". The noble Lord the Minister says either that means something and you leave it on its own or it does not means something in which case you have to put something in its place. That is how I understood what he was saying. That is a tortuous argument. What you have to do if you are using vague general words like "proper proportions" is to give some guidance, to allow flexibility and to say to the authority and to everybody, "Look, 'proper proportions' ought to be the result of your exercise from time to time when you take into account all the things that the noble Lord the Minister has said—availability, practicability and the maintenance of standards". It is the very least that your Lordships can do before the Bill leaves this House.
The noble Lord the Minister was frank. He said that he had been trying to find words but he could not find them. At least we have found words. They are not objectionable; they are helpful, and I ask your Lordships to support them.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 5A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 99; Not Contents, 109.664
|DIVISION NO. 1|
|Allen of Abbeydale, L.||Glenamara, L.|
|Ardwick, L.||Graham of Edmonton, L. [Teller.]|
|Beaumont of Whitley, L.||Grey, E.|
|Beswick, L.||Hale, L.|
|Bishopston, L. [Teller.]||Hampton, L.|
|Blyton, L.||Hanworth, V.|
|Bottomley, L.||Hatch of Lusby, L.|
|Bowden, L.||Hayter, L.|
|Brockway, L.||Hill of Luton, L.|
|Brooks of Tremorfa, L.||Hughes, L.|
|Bruce of Donington, L.||Hunt, L.|
|Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.||Hunter of Newington, L.|
|Cledwyn of Penrhos, L.||Hylton-Foster, B.|
|Collison, L.||Jacques, L.|
|Dacre of Glanton, L.||Jenkins of Putney, L.|
|David, B.||John-Mackie, L.|
|Diamond, L.||Kalder, L.|
|Donaldson of Kingsbridge, L.||Kilmarnock, L.|
|Donnet of Balgay, L.||Kinloss, Ly.|
|Elwyn-Jones, L.||Kirkhill, L.|
|Elystan Morgan, L.||Lawrence, L.|
|Ezra, L.||Leatherland, L.|
|Fisher of Rednal, B.||Listowel, E.|
|Foot, L.||Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B.|
|Gaitskell, B.||Lloyd of Hampstead, L.|
|Gallacher, L.||Lloyd of Kilgerran, L.|
|George-Brown, L.||Lockwood, B.|
|Longford, E.||Shinwell, L.|
|McGregor of Durris, L.||Simon, V.|
|McIntosh of Haringey, L.||Stedman, B.|
|Mackie of Benshie, L.||Stewart of Alvechurch, B.|
|MacLehose of Beoch, L.||Stewart of Fulham, L.|
|Mar, C.||Stoddart of Swindon, L.|
|Milford, L.||Stone, L.|
|Mishcon, L.||Strabolgi, L.|
|Molloy, L.||Taylor of Blackburn, L.|
|Mulley, L.||Tordoff, L.|
|Nicol, B.||Underhill, L.|
|Northfield, L.||Wakefield, Bp.|
|Peart, L.||Wallace of Coslany, L.|
|Perry of Walton, L.||Wells-Pestell, L.|
|Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.||Whaddon, L.|
|Porritt, L.||White, B.|
|Reilly, L.||Wigoder, L.|
|Rochester, L.||Willis, L.|
|Ross of Mamock, L.||Wilson of Langside, L.|
|Sainsbury, L.||Wilson of Rievaulx, L.|
|Seear, B.||Winstanley, L.|
|Shackleton, L.||Winterbottom, L.|
|Abinger, L.||Liverpool, E.|
|Adeane, L.||Loch, L.|
|Alexander of Tunis, E.||Long, V. [Teller.]|
|Allerton, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Avon, E.||Luke, L.|
|Bauer, L.||Lyell, L.|
|Belhaven and Stenton, L.||McAlpine of Moffat, L.|
|Bellwin, L.||McAlpine of West Green, L.|
|Beloff, L.||McFadzean, L.|
|Bessborough, E.||Mackay of Clashfern, L.|
|Cairns, E.||Mancroft, L.|
|Campbell of Alloway, L.||Marley, L.|
|Campbell of Croy, L.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Cathcart, E.||Merrivale, L.|
|Cayzer, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Chelwood, L.||Milverton, L.|
|Clitheroe, L.||Molson, L.|
|Constantine of Stanmore, L.||Montagu of Beaulieu, L.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Morris, L.|
|Cox, B.||Mottistone, L.|
|Cranbrooke, E.||Mowbray and Stourton, L.|
|Daventry, V.||Northchurch, B.|
|Denham, L.||Nugent of Guildford, L.|
|Effingham, E.||Onslow, E.|
|Elgin and Kincardine, E.||Orkney, E.|
|Ellenborough, L.||Orr-Ewing, L.|
|Elton, L.||Peyton of Yeovil, L.|
|Enniskillen, E.||Polwarth, L.|
|Faithfull, B.||Portland, D.|
|Fortescue, E.||Quinton, L.|
|Fraser of Kilmorack, L.||Rankeillour, L.|
|Gisborough, L.||Rochdale, V.|
|Glanusk, L.||St. Davids, V.|
|Glenarthur, L.||Saltoun, Ly.|
|Gormanston, V.||Sandford, L.|
|Grantchester. L.||Sandys, L.|
|Gray of Contin, L.||Selkirk, E.|
|Gridley, L.||Sempill, Ly.|
|Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L.||Sharpies, B.|
|Hawke, L.||Swinton, E. [Teller.]|
|Henley, L.||Terrington, L.|
|Hives, L.||Teviot, L.|
|Holderness, L.||Thomas of Swynnerton, L.|
|Home of the Hirsel, L.||Thorneycroft, L.|
|Hood, V.||Trefgarne, L.|
|Homsby-Smith, B.||Trenchard, V.|
|Jessel, L.||Trumpington, B.|
|Kaberry of Adel, L.||Vaux of Harrowden, L.|
|Killearn, L.||Vickers, B.|
|Kimberley, E.||Vivian, L.|
|Kintore, E.||Westbury, L.|
|Lane-Fox, B.||Whitelaw, V.|
|Lauderdale, E.||Wise, L.|
|Lindsey and Abingdon, E.||Yarborough, E.|
§ Resolved in the negative, and amendment diasagreed to accordingly.665
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney moved Amendment No. 5B:
Page 9, line 21, at end insert—
("() The words "proper proportions" in paragraph (d) above mean such proportions as are comparable mutatis mutandis with those proportions included in the programmes of the BBC and the IBA.").
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, that Division result was such a close run thing that I have hopes that this amendment will command your Lordships' support. My reasons for that hope are as follows. It seemed to me that such was the eloquence of my noble friend on the Front Bench that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, had the most difficulty in persuading himself to the task of refusing what my noble friend was asking him to do. He obviously found himself most reluctant indeed to reject the amendment. I therefore feel that he may now be in the mood to say, "Well, I had to do that". He may be looking for a get-out, and I offer him that get-out in Amendment No. 5B. I offer him the opportunity of doing what I am pretty sure he wants to do, and that is to give the authority the little push, the little necessity, the teeth that it must have.
§ Why is it that the authority must have those teeth? The noble Lord, in reply to my noble friend, spoke of his good intentions. We all know what happens to good intentions. I have personally no doubt of those good intentions; but in politics we are not so much concerned with the intentions of the legislator, as with the consequences of the legislation. It is this with which I think we are troubled here. The consequences of this legislation, however good may be the intentions of the legislator, are likely to be disastrous indeed.
§ I do not think that we are exaggerating here. If the authority do not have the power and the intention to resist the onrush of foreign material with which they will be faced when coming into office, the onrush of triviality—and this is the problem with which they will be faced—if they do not have firm guidelines to resist that, if they are left with the necessity of deciding for themselves what is a proper proportion, they will be unable to resist the commercial pressures upon them. The reason they will be unable to resist is they are likely to be in the position of having either to give way or by not giving way possibly to close down one or more of their clients. That is the problem they face.
§ Triviality is popular, and a client may come to the authority and say, "Look, unless I am permitted to transmit 70 per cent. of this popular stuff—I know it comes from across the Atlantic, and I know that it is really the sort of pap which ought not to be fed to people—this station is going to be in trouble". The commercial pressures on the authority therefore to give way will be enormous. The words "proper proportions" are no protection against those pressures. It was only the negotiation of a fixed amount under those words which enabled the excellence of our present television stations to be established. Those having been established, if we now undermine them at this stage, we shall not only introduce something which we do not want, which will be very much worse than a "son of television", we shall be also undermining as the noble Lord, Lord Hill, has eloquently pointed out, the standards of the existing stations. This is our problem.666
§ How have I sought to get over that? I want to suggest in my amendment that the words "proper proportions" mean such proportions as are comparable, mutatis mutandis, with those proportions included in the programmes of the BBC and the IBA. With the phrase "mutatis mutandis" in the amendment, noble Lords might have thought it came from my noble friend rather than from me; but the purpose of those words of course is to say in shorthand other things being equal in the different circumstances. The object of the exercise is one which I think on consideration the noble Lord, Lord Elton, will find himself able to accept. What would be the position if this amendment was passed? The words "proper proportions" will stand; but then if the authority says: "What, then, do proper proportions mean?"—at the moment they mean nothing, no guidance at all. But with these words in the Bill they mean comparable proportions to those included in the programmes of the BBC and the IBA—but other things being equal.
§ I looked up the wording in a dictionary to make sure this would give the authority the necessary power to make a very different proportion from 86 per cent., which is the proportion on which the IBA and the BBC operate. One dictionary says, "with the necessary changes" or "the necessary changes have been made". Then the question arises: what, then, are the necessary changes which the authority would have to apply? They are very considerable indeed. I conceive that under this, the changes required would be so great as to bring about, if necessary, in the mind of the authority a total reversal of the present proportions, and that it might therefore permit the authority to say, in a special circumstance, even 86 per cent. of foreign material can come in; but they would have to think very carefully about that—very carefully.
§ The authority would have to ask, "Are these changes necessary? Have we got to go to this extent?" The authority would have to refer all the time to the existing 86 per cent. British proportion and ask to what extent was the change necessary in the particular case, so as to bring down the 86 per cent. to whatever proportion it judged to be necessary in order to enable the station to survive. In some circumstances the authority might take the view that the level to which it was necessary to reduce the proportion was so low that it was not worthwhile for the station to survive.
§ In other words, the authority would be placed in the position of taking intelligent decisions, but against a yardstick of some kind. At the moment there is no yardstick. What I am proposing is a very flexible yardstick and all it means is that the authority must look at the situation as it is at present in the existing stations before it makes up its mind. The authority can apply the proportion flexibly. There may be a certain proportion for one station and a different proportion for another station, if that is what the authority in its wisdom desires.
§ I recall that in the previous debate the noble Lord the Minister was so visibly moved in this direction that at one stage I thought that he might find himself almost inadvertently walking over to this side of the Chamber. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, was previously so visibly moved in favour of the general principle in the proposal that I hope he will now say, "This is the 667 answer I have been looking for, and I accept it". I beg to move.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I should have thought that my noble friend's earlier argument made it completely clear that he would not agree with the amendment that has just been moved. In addition to what my noble friend said earlier, I would add that I believe that the amendment is perhaps not being quite fair regarding the question of the reliance that should be placed upon the Cable Authority itself. It seems to me that there will be chosen for the authority the same kind of excellent people, such as the noble Lord Lord Hill, who were chosen to lead the other bodies such as the IBA, and I think that we should trust them a little to make a judgment on this particular point. To imply that they will need to have their hands held very tightly by Parliament in the ways that have been suggested, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins, is going a little far. I hope that your Lordships feel that this amendment needs to be rejected even more firmly than the previous amendment, which, looking backwards so to speak, was an improvement on it.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield
My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord the Minister would be willing to give an assurance to us, because over and over again at different stages we have debated this issue and have sought to find the right formula of words which has been so elusive. It may well be that in his heart the Minister cannot find his way to agree to the words put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney. Therefore I wonder whether in his reply the noble Lord can tell us whether or not the Secretary of State will be willing to give some guidance or code to the authority which will reflect the very considerable unease that has been expressed at each stage of the proceedings on the Bill in this Chamber, our very real concern for the maintenance of adequate and proper standards, as well as the unease expressed here that the words "proper proportions" are inadequate as we now have them. If the noble Lord the Minister is able to say that there will be an agreement to give a positive encouragement to the authority to look for the maximum practicable amount of British and EEC programmes, I think that that would reassure some of us, even in our disappointment at not being able to find the right wording all the way through in the actual amendments.
My Lords, I should like briefly to join the right reverend Prelate in his plea to the noble Lord the Minister to find some kind of formula which would enable us to leave this particular part of the Bill in a mood of total unanimity. It seemed to me that in his reply to the previous amendment the noble Lord, Lord Elton, really grasped the point. He said quite clearly that he wanted to do the kind of things which we said the amendment was designed to ensure were in fact done. But he placed all his arguments against accepting those words on the ground that the word "proper", according to him, was a word which was precise, specific, and capable of rigid definition. I feel that perhaps the noble Lord was mistaken there. It seems to me that what is proper to one person sometimes seems to be grossly improper to another, 668 and I should not have thought that the word "proper" was as specific as all that.
However, it is clear that the noble Lord, Lord Elton, really wants done the kind of things that we all want done. It is also clear that this amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, will not be carried; indeed I would doubt whether we shall even divide on it. So far, the mood in our debate on the Third Reading has been one of reasonableness. We have had reasonableness displayed by noble Lords on the official Opposition Bench. We have had reasonableness coming from the Cross-Benches. We have even had reasonableness coming from the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone. Since there is so much reasonableness about in your Lordships' House, is it not time that we had a little reasonableness from the Government? I hope that the Minister can make some remarks of encouragement. We acknowledge that he has not yet been able to find the proper words, or words which he would regard as acceptable. If he would undertake to make some effort to try to find better words, many of us would leave the debate happier than we shall otherwise do.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, obviously I did an amazingly bad job on the last amendment if I left your Lordships under the impression that I was not convinced by my own arguments. I can only apologise for what I hope was an uncharacteristically poor performance at the Dispatch Box. All that I was doing was expressing the temperate and reasonable way in which I was viewing the arguments of those who resisted me, rather than using the full fury of personal commitment which is necessary when perhaps issues are more burning in your Lordships' minds. But clearly they burn more brightly than I had appreciated.
I am, for most of the reasons which noble Lords have adduced in the course of four or five separate debates, wedded to the idea of seeing that there is in cable, as there is under the IBA, what we all regard as a proper proportion of material produced in the EEC and in this country. But when I say "what we all regard as proper", each one of your Lordships has a different solution as to how we can describe what we mean by "proper"; and the right reverend Prelate fell back on a term which we discussed in detail and at length at the previous stage of the Bill: the "maximum practicable". But the "maximum practicable" means incorporating every kind of moving trash that you can get on the screen, provided that you can have that before you introduce excellent stuff produced in America, South America, or Australia; and there are very good films being produced in Australia and America. I regret it if I cannot persuade the right reverend Prelate of what I am saying, but the fact is that the words "maximum practicable" would have that effect in law.
We are not now discussing conversations that the authority will have in the future with its friends; we are discussing cases that the authority will be fighting in the future in the courts. Therefore we must be precise in the meaning of the words that we use, and that is why I am defending the words "proper proportions", with I hope more convincing vigour than I did before. I believe that, if I were to yield in the way which noble 669 Lords now suggest, the authority would be in difficulty in the courts and the result of that difficulty could well be exactly the opposite of what your Lordships are seeking to achieve.
We do not want parity of hours of imported or EEC material. We have already discussed that. If there are 32 channels of completely different and specialist interests, the proper proportion will be different in each. What we are trying to describe is the kind of tension that there shall be in the mind of the authority when it is deciding what shall be the proper proportion, so that it recognises that it must always be as high as is fit, but what is fit will differ from occasion to occasion. The noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, suggested that, on some occasions, it might actually be an inverted proportion of 86 per cent.—was it?—imported and 14 per cent.—was it?—domestic products. That might be the case.
I am, however, anxious to see that the authority has a base that is familiar and understood on which to stand when it has to go to the courts. What do I find when I survey the field? What is familiar, what has been tested over the years, and what has produced, as the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, says, without a shadow of doubt, the best service in the world? The answer is the words in the Act. What are the words in the Act? The words in the Act are "the proper proportion". I am therefore not being unreasonable. I hope that I have demonstrated a certain commitment to the argument that apparently was not clear in what I said earlier.
I do not wish to spend long on the economic arguments for allowing into this country a proper proportion of material from outside for the health of the market. I am sure that my noble friends will be aware of this. I am also sure that noble Lords opposite, if they wish to, will be aware of it but that they will discount it if they want to. So there is no point in trotting that horse out again. And talking of horses, those of your Lordships who were engaged in the Data Protection Bill will know what I mean when I say that what we are looking for is a unicorn. We found it in the last Bill, but we have not found it in this one. The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, will recall that we were searching for a phrase. I wish that our hunt had been as happy.
I can say to the right reverend Prelate, not that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will publish guidelines, but that the authority will be required to report to my right honourable friend every year on how it is implementing this requirement. There will be an occasion to debate it in both Houses of Parliament. That seems to me a very adequate watchdog.
I should like finally to say this. There seemed to be a moment of amusing irony in the address that the noble Lord, Lord Hill, made in his speech on the last amendment. I should have acknowledged the almost embarrassingly courteous and kind things that he said about me on that occasion. I hope that your Lordships will see the virtue that I have in resisting him. The noble Lord said that there was a great danger of a flight—I think that was the phrase he used—to the trivial if we proceeded without a proper restraint. We are driven back to the word "proper" at every turn. All that I can say to your Lordships is that you know what 670 is proper, I know what is proper, and the Secretary of State will know what is proper. The authority will have to say what it has done and pursued, and that will be debated in Parliament. Then you will be able to see that it has been proper. If it has not been proper, you will know what to do about it. I hope, therefore, that you will manage without this amendment.
§ Lord Jenkins of Putney
My Lords, so will the commerical interests know what is proper. Their idea of what is proper will be very different from the idea of the noble Lord of what is proper. To leave no control at all is something that should not be done. We have, however, heard in this debate words which, when they are read in another place, will result, I believe, in the other place carrying out what we here tonight have failed to do. It is clear that if at this stage I was to press the amendment the result might be that, instead of a victory, we should find ourselves, this being so much later, in a slightly more defeated position than we were before. Therefore, I do not think that we shall take the risk. Unconvinced as I am by the noble Lord, Lord Elton, whose last speech I liked rather less than some of his earlier ones, nevertheless I beg leave at this stage to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 17 [Power to revoke licences]:
§ Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 6:
§ [Printed earlier.]
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 3, which your Lordships received in a rather more friendly and welcoming manner. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 22 [Copyright in cable programmes]:
Lord Elton moved Amendment No.7:
Page 21, line 34, leave out from ("service") to end of line 35 and insert ("means a cable programme service within the meaning of Part I of the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984 or a service which would be such a service if references in section 2(1) of that Act and section 5(1) of the Telecommunications Act 1984 to the United Kingdom were omitted.").
The noble Lord said: My Lords, might I, with your Lordships' leave, speak also to Amendment No. 9.
Amendment No. 9: Schedule 2, page 42, line 44, leave out from ("in") to end of line 45 and insert ("the Copyright Act 1956").
§ These are technical amendments designed to ensure that in certain circumstances the protection conferred by the Copyright and Performers' Protection Acts can extend to cable programme services from outside the United Kingdom, I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 26 [Incitement to racial hatred]:
§ 5.17 p.m.
The Earl of Selkirk moved Amendment No. 8:
Page 25, line 14, after ("up") insert ("and in particular").
§ The noble Earl said: My Lords, I should first apologise to my noble friend for not speaking on this amendment either at Committee stage or on Report. It 671 was just one of those things. I am afraid that I was unable to be present. The clause with which I am dealing comes under the heading "Miscellaneous". I cannot understand why it was not associated with Clause 9 which deals essentially with the quality of broadcasting. I gain the impression that someone slipped it in at the last minute, although I may be quite wrong about that.
§ The point that I wish to make is that the clause creates a new crime for which a person might well be put in prison. That crime is stirring up hatred against a racial group. In order to get a conviction for that crime two things have to be shown—that you stirred up hatred and that it was directed against a racial group. Let us suppose that it is shown that you aroused hatred but that it is not shown to be against a racial group. What is the result? The result really is that one has a statutory indication that one is free to stir up hatred on any subject. That is the clear indication that emerges. To my mind, this means that hatred is perfectly permissible always so long as it is not connected with a racial group.
§ I do not wish to go into details. However, may I ask how this applies to religion? If you were to stir up hatred, for instance, against Christianity you would be perfectly safe because Christianity has no possible racial connection. If you were to stir up hatred against Islam you would be perfectly safe. The Moslems extend from Morocco to the Philippines and there is no particular racial connection at all. I suppose that if you stirred up hatred against Judaism it might get you convicted. If you stirred up hatred against Hindus, that would also get you convicted because there is a clear racial association. On the other hand, Buddhism has clearly no racial association. Shinto is, of course, closely connected with Japan. My amendment relates to hatred that is likely to be stirred up and in particular against a racial group.
§ I want to be clear. I am saying here that you could involve yourself in a crime by stirring up hatred in any circumstances. I think that that is right. Do we want the possibility of hatred being, if you like, bounced off satellites, put into tubes or cables and directed into anyone's bedroom, sitting room or kitchen? Do we really want that to happen? Or should we not make it clear that it is most undesirable? This provision is very nearly giving a statutory authority to stir up hatred. It is giving a statutory indication that hatred would not be a crime in many circumstances. I am not giving anything away on this amendment. I am merely broadening the clause to deal with what I believe most people in the House regard as an undesirable trait. I hope very much that the noble Lord will consider the amendment, or alter it so as not to allow the broad indication I have suggested to take place. I beg to move.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for his explanation of the amendment. I have been awaiting with some apprehension his words since he first put down the amendment. I wonder if I may say two things. First, let me get a drafting matter out of the way. It would not have been appropriate to put Clause 26 together with Clause 9, because Clause 9 comes in a group of clauses concerning the duties of 672 the authority in respect of programme standards and other matters. Clause 26 is the right place, alongside other provisions which amend the general criminal or civil law. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will accept that this was not slipped into the Bill as an afterthought. It was inserted in its proper place in the construction of the Bill.
What I think my noble friend is asking is why racial hatred has been singled out as so much worse than anything else. He asks, for example, why not add class hatred? I think in fact he mentioned religious hatred, but I have chosen class hatred as an example. I have great sympathy with that proposition, but I must point out the facts of the matter.
This Bill is addressed exclusively to a tiny area of human activity. It is not the proper vehicle for creating a new offence which in logic should be an offence in every area of activity and not just in one. Incitement to racial hatred is already an offence known to the law and I assure my noble friend that we are not creating a new one. If my noble friend will look at Section 5A of the Public Order Act 1936, as amended by the Race Relations Act 1976, he will actually find chapter and verse, and it is reflected also, for instance, in the Theatres Act 1968.
Incitement to racial hatred is an offence, but incitement to hatred generally is not an offence. The effect of my noble friend's amendment would be to make incitement to hatred generally an offence and, of course, it could be hatred of anything, not merely the type of theological hatred to which he has referred or the racist hatred which is incorporated in the Bill as drafted. It could be hatred of any person, thing or activity at all. I can think of many examples where, in fact, incitement to hatred may actually be a good thing—for example, hatred of litter, of sloth, or of greed. One can preach against those matters, and no doubt right reverend Prelates will have done so effectively on many occasions. But I am afraid we cannot legislate against them in general terms.
So there is an offence. The purpose of including this in the Act is simply to see that there is not an area of activity where there is an offence protected, as it were, from the effects of the law on proper human conduct. I hope that my noble friend will see fit to leave things as they are.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, if I may say so with great respect, I do not think that my noble friend's reply was very impressive. The point I was making is that I have no objection to the clause as it stands, but I have objection to the implication that it could extend hatred to any other subject. My noble friend says that it does not matter: we have no law against hatred. One can stir up hatred on Hyde Park Corner or on The Mound in Edinburgh or in other places. "I hate cruelty" and "I hate the bomb" do not stir up hatred.
We now have a new situation with information being bounced from all parts of the world. I see no reason why we should allow hatred of any sort to be transmitted in these cables. It is quite different from a general law against hatred. I can hate all sorts of things but that is entirely different from stirring of up hatred. My noble friend quoted the Public Order Act 1936. I am not sure whether that really deals with the public broadcasting of the stirring up hatred. This is quite 673 different from speaking in public or speaking from pulpits for one reason or another. We would be allowing hatred to go through a tube into people's bedrooms, sitting rooms, kitchens. My noble friend acknowledges that the Bill allows hatred in any form one likes as long as it does not have an ethnic context. I only ask him to look at the matter. I think these words could be used and, in fairness, I think that my words do, to all intents and purposes, cover the point. They would not permit hatred to take place.
I do not want to press the point further, but I ask my noble friend to look at the matter pretty carefully. I do not think he intends to give a semi-statutory authority, which this provision implies. It implies that if one does not have an ethnic side then one is pretty free to stir up hatred as one likes. In my view that is quite wrong, and I ask my noble friend to look at it again.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, I am in the obvious difficulty that this is a very late stage in the Bill and I cannot, therefore, undertake to take away and come back with a digested form of response to what my friend says. I find the concept that he has addressed in his speech an exceedingly interesting one. Indeed, I should add that I am speaking with your Lordships' leave because this is my second intervention. However, I fear that what I said previously, and perhaps did not sufficiently elaborate, remains the principal restraining fact in my mind; namely, that there are many things other than hatred which are deplorable, such as greed or envy, but which are constantly stirred up by the media, sometimes unintentionally. If we are to address ourselves to the task of defining that emotion and those aspects of it which could harmlessly he stirred up and those which could not, and to defining what is "stirring up", as opposed to accidentally producing in ways which may look less than accidental to some more familiar with the field than others, then we should be embarking upon a very large area of legislation and, indeed, philosophy.
I will of course read what my noble friend has said with the greatest care, and I will ensure that it is read by my colleagues as appropriate. So my noble friend need not feel that his words are wasted on this occasion if, as I believe he intends, he does not press his amendment. I am grateful to him for his explanation.
The Earl of Selkirk
My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. My own feeling is that a prosecution under this clause would be extremely difficult. However, it is the principle of allowing hatred to go through public channels like this that I find personally offensive. I will only say that I am grateful for what my noble friend has said, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Schedule 2 [Minor and consequential amendments]:
§ Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 9:
§ [Printed earlier.]
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 7. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.674
§ Lord Elton moved Amendment No. 10:
§ [Printed earlier.]
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 3. I beg to move.
§ On Question, amendment agreed to.
§ An amendment (privilege) made.
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Elton.)
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Hill of Luton, in the course of a very persuasive speech paid compliments to the noble Lord the Minister for his conduct of this Bill throughout its proceedings. I specially did not follow the noble Lord, Lord Hill, in the eulogies which he was uttering at that time, but only for one reason, and that was that I did not want the noble Lord the Minister to think that I, in moving my amendment about which I felt so deeply, was using corrupt means in order to get him to accept it. At this moment I wish that I had done so, because at least it might have had some type of effect; but knowing the noble Lord the Minister I doubt it.
However, at this stage, on behalf of my noble friends and myself, I would like to do what I have done on previous occasions and that is to pay a tribute to the good humour, the tolerance, the patience and the broad-mindedness that the Minister has shown in dealing with a very difficult Bill. I do this in all sincerity and the noble Lord knows it.
I say that it is a difficult Bill because this is one of those occasions—and when the Minister mentioned the Data Protection Bill I thought this—when one would have wished to have some sort of expert evidence at the Committee stage in order to see what those engaged in this industry—whether they are engaged in cable-laying, programming or supplying—had to tell us about their aims, their possibilities and their limitations.
By this Bill we are unleashing upon the public a force which we cannot resist—a technological development that we ought not to try to force back but, indeed, that we ought to encourage. Yet we wonder where the authority is coming from, what sort of personnel will make it up, what sort of programmes we shall find, what sort of reception there will be from the public, how starved (if that be the right word) certain areas will be, and how over well supplied other areas will he. We did not have that expert evidence and we tried our best.
We on these Benches had some very major concerns. We wanted very badly—and we had support from many quarters of the House for this—to uphold standards; we wanted a minimum code, and we were especially thinking of those who might be applying for an area without facing any competition; and we wanted a quota. I ask for no forgiveness for repeating the results of two Divisions. The result of the Division on our amendment on the code was 107 against to 106 in favour. The result of the Division today on the quota amendment was 109 against to 99 in favour. Therefore, I hope that the strength of feeling 675 represented by those figures (which show a view expressed from all quarters of the House, meaning that there is no political content in that vote) is sufficiently telling in a democracy for the Government to take it very seriously. When this Bill goes to another place I hope that those figures will be altered, so that there is a majority for what those of us who proved to be just in a minority were trying to achieve.
We also sought to prevent this question of licensing being subject to any sort of wrongful commercial taint. Being able to see into the future in untried, uncharted territory is difficult to do, but we tried to do it by an amendment with which the Minister expressed himself in sympathy. The amendment copied the appropriate provision in the Broadcasting Act and it was to try to ensure that the Cable Authority would refuse the grant of a licence to someone who already had a licence, if it felt that that would be lawful, and would produce an undesirable monopoly. I think I am right in saying that the noble Lord the Minister thought that he might be able to produce a suitable amendment; he was kind enough to say that we on this side had the difficulty of preparing a rather awesome draft in order to cover that situation. I remember spending quite a few hours trying to adapt the provision in the other Act, which, of course, related to independent television in very different circumstances, because it is not a question of a licence there.
With his usual courtesy, the noble Lord the Minister explained at the Report stage that he had been inundated with promises that he had made—and he had brought that inundation upon himself—to reconsider and to prepare amendments, and he was not ready at the Report stage. I appreciate that the same reason may well apply, does apply, even now to the Third Reading. It is a shame that that provision will not be in the Bill when it goes to another place. I hope that it will be well understood in another place that the matter was well argued here and accepted on behalf of the Government.
I pay tribute to the occasions when the noble Lord the Minister has made concessions. As a result of amendments tabled by my noble friends and I and by those in other parts of your Lordships' House, the Bill has been improved by the Government either accepting the amendments or by tabling amendments of their own. On one occasion among other objects we were aiming at the involvement of the community and we wanted the authority to be open over publicity in regard to applications. The Bill has been improved by an amendment which we ventured to put down and which dealt with the particulars that would have to be publicised in regard to every application. The noble Lord the Minister quite rightly pointed to certain defects in our amendment, but he very properly, courteously and helpfully brought forward one of his own which is now incorporated in the Bill.
It would be selfish of me if I mentioned amendments for which other people were responsible which have been incorporated in this Bill, because it is for them to mention them. When we are leaving so much to another place to deal with I do not think that it is a very happy situation. This House, with its special expertise and its procedure, which does not have incorporated in it such dreadful instruments as 676 guillotines, from the point of view of time has an opportunity of giving as much consideration as our legislation deserves.
As a relative newcomer to your Lordships' House, it always makes me unhappy when I think that when we were responsible for a Bill first—as we are with this Bill—we leave it in a state that many of us regard as unsatisfactory. Perhaps I may give but one example of that. I know that the British Copyright Council, which is a very worthy and respected body, tried very hard to point out the lack of clarity which there was in the Bill relating to copyright matters. This was discussed and amendments were tabled, but unfortunately we have been unable to deal with them, certainly in a way which would satisfy the British Copyright Council and those learned and experienced in copyright law. Another place will have to do that job; presumably we were not able to.
However, I conclude as I started by saying that this Bill, which deals with a very important matter for the public, leaves this place with your Lordships having given as much consideration as they can to the protection of the public, their morals, their ethics and their commercial well-being. I would be the last person in the world to blame the noble Lord the Minister for any defects that there may be which I have tried to point out. I thank him again for the unending courtesy which he has paid to my noble friends and me.
§ 5.40 p.m.
My Lords, on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches, I wish to join the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, in the well-earned tribute he has paid to the noble Lord. Lord Elton. We would wish to support that tribute with all possible strength and sincerity. The noble Lord has been helpfulness itself at the various stages of the Bill. On these Benches we have supported this Bill, and not because we are desperately enamoured of the prospect of further entertainment channels on television, but because we have believed in the benefits which could flow to the community as a whole from the ultimate establishment of a cable communications network in our society.
Indeed we have some doubts as to the viability of cable. Bearing in mind that cable is being brought in on the back of an entertainment service with the ultimate aim of establishing a communication service whereby we could have interactive services, we wondered whether it was right to require the broadcasters, which is what they are, to be responsible for the costs of the whole infrastructure of something which is really for the public benefit. We should perhaps have liked to see that spread in another way, but so he it. it is being done in this way. Whether it will be successful we shall have to wait and see, bearing in mind that it will be seven or eight years before the investors get any return on their capital, and bearing in mind that the capital required for this venture will be very substantial. In addition, we now have to consider the possible impact of DBS—direct broadcasting by satellite—on the cable companies, which could be profound. But we have supported this all the way through because of the future value we see in interactive services.
677 At this point I should like to return to a matter I raised on an amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, at an earlier stage of the Bill, to which the noble Lord, Lord Elton, replied. At the time he said that he could not answer the particular point I had made, but that he would be willing to consider carefully anything else which I said about it to him afterwards. Accordingly I wrote to him in some detail on this subject on 8th March. I hope that, before we finally say goodbye to this Bill, the noble Lord will say something to me on this particular point.
The point I raised was that it was always understood, and it was implied, that the cable operator would be licensed to provide for entertainment and interactive programming exclusively in its franchise area. Providing the appropriate technology to accomplish this—that is, the provision of the cabling for interactive services as well as broadcasting services—required an incremental investment of some £10 million to £15 million over and above that required for the provision of simple entertainment services. When I raised this matter on the earlier amendment. it was said that there was now some doubt as to whether the franchise holder was in fact the holder of a licence for the future interactive services—and it is for that that much of their investment is being made—and the noble Lord at one stage in the debates on that amendment said that the interactive services were not licensable.
What does that mean? Does it mean that anybody can mount interactive services without a licence? Or does it mean that the franchise holders, when they have been awarded a licence for broadcasting services, may then find that somebody else is later given a licence to mount the interactive services for which they have already made a substantial investment? Or, indeed, what does it mean? It seems to me that, if we include it within the definition of licensable services, interactive services, with the exception of simple teletext services and interactive services designed solely for business use, we could deal with this problem.
There is some uncertainty about this particular matter. He was uncertain when I raised it before, when he said that the interactive services were not licensable. Could we now know where we are? Are the franchise holders receiving proper protection if they make this investment which they are now required to make in order to co-operate with, and further, the Government's information technology strategy, which is what this is all about? If they make that investment so that they can later mount interactive services, are they then going to find later that there is an obstacle to them so doing, or that a licence to do that is going to be given to somebody else altogether? I doubt whether it is the Government's intention that that should happen.
The White Paper underscored, as did the selection process for successful franchise applicants, the vital importance of the cable systems having the capacity to provide data and interactive services. But, as the noble Lord said, these are not licensable. They are not at the moment licensable. Are they going to be? To whom are the licences going to be awarded? Before we say goodbye to this Bill I hope that the noble Lord will be 678 able to answer that point and perhaps be able to assure us that it is a matter which will be looked at in another place, or that he can assure us that the point is adequately dealt with in the Telecommunications Bill, although I do not think it is. I should like to hear something about it.
I should like to join in the thanks which have been given to noble Lords on the Front Bench for the manner in which they have co-operated with other noble Lords in getting improvements made to this Bill. The Bill is much improved from the form in which it originally reached your Lordships' House. Again I should like to say how grateful we are on these Benches to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for his courtesy and helpfulness and his ability to listen, which is something we find very welcome indeed.
§ Lord Mottistone
My Lords, I too should like to thank my noble friend for the courtesy with which he has handled our various amendments and the way in which he has endeavoured to meet us when he can, and in particular for Amendment No. 10 that we considered today. He has reminded us of the unicorn in seeking a conclusion. There is one point about that. The unicorn was only eventually revealed because we had two stabs at the Data Protection Bill. I would not suggest that every time we want to solve a very knotty problem we should have a general election in order to make sure that it happens.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon—and I mean this with great seriousness, and it applied equally to the Data Protection Bill—suggested that we have a special committee to take expert advice from outside in this House, where we have, if you like, a somewhat more relaxed approach and a more general view about matters of technicalities than is perhaps the case in another place. We might with good purpose consider that more deeply. We are getting these Bills which are, in a sense, technically more than many of us can handle, and it would be helpful if we could have some sort of stage when all of us together can get advice from experts. Some of us get advice from some experts, and when we present it to the House we cannot be perfect in how we do it and we are always suspected by noble Lords opposite of being insidiously political, and we suspect them of the same thing. In some cases this is not so. For what you might call technical Bills dealing with new frontiers it would be a new procedure which might be worthy of consideration by your Lordships as a whole. I just back up what the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, had to say.
§ Lord Mishcon
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, is so kind to give way. I only want to make it clear that that was a personal observation. I have no authority to make it on behalf of my Front Bench.
§ Lord Mottistone
I am sure, my Lords, but I, speaking from the Back-Benches, can say what I think in this sort of respect. I hope that this Bill, which is much improved, will receive a fair run in another place, and that it will not be long before it reaches the statute book.
My Lords, I too should like to pay a final tribute to the noble Lord for his unfailing 679 helpfulness, courtesy and patience with amendments to this Bill. I shall not try that patience any further—on this occasion!
§ Lord Ardwick
My Lords, at the beginning of the Committee stage of this Bill I regretted that we were legislating in the dark, that we knew little of the concrete intentions of the would-be cable operators, and that it was a pity that the Government were reluctant to pass on to us such knowledge as they must have gained about their intentions from the 11 pioneers who had been, or were being, granted preliminary licences. The noble Lord, Lord Elton, who has shown us so much help and courtesy during the course of this Bill, nevertheless began by gently rebuking me for starting the Committee stage with Second Reading observations; but I do not think those observations fitted into that category. I was concerned that we were about to examine clauses and amendments about something which did not yet exist and could not be visualised with any accuracy. Even now we do not have an estimate of how many companies, in how many areas, would be offering how many channels in five or ten years' time. We do not know how many of those channels will be devoted to traditional broadcast entertainment and how many to new forms of communication. Will cable really give us local television and access television? Will there be sufficient revenue to encourage the programme providers to create new and original material? I have grave doubts whether that is imminent.
It is not only we, the legislators, who are operating in the dark, or, at best, in the twilight: I suspect that the Government and the investors, too, or the potential investors, are full of doubts and uncertainties about the future of cable. Nobody can be sure what the public response will be against a background of four broadcast television programmes which, by world standards, must be judged as excellent, plus the rich resources of video. Will a sufficient number of people feel the need for still more home entertainment which they are willing to pay for and to go on paying for? That is the reality.
It is the inability to answer these questions which, to me, made some of the arguments during the course of the Bill rather theoretical. When we were discussing, for example, the minimum standards which cable television should maintain or the proportion of British to EEC material which should be used, we had to assume that cable will become a large, mature and thriving industry. That was the only practical assumption that we could make. Yet one had the sense all the time that the Government had a fear of overloading the industry in its early years of struggle to attract a fee-paying audience of sufficient size. It was considerations of this kind, not of a traditional party character, which divided Government and Opposition. However, the Government have made some generous compromises, and the other place will start off with a better Bill as a result of our amending efforts and of the Government's own second thoughts.
One conspicuous weakness remains. It is the unnecessary ignorance that we have of the size and composition of the Cable Authority. I can understand the Government's reluctance. They see the danger of 680 the Cable Authority appearing to be a close parallel to the IBA. That is dangerous at this stage because the IBA plays a strongly positive role in encouraging programme companies to aim at excellence, even though excellence is usually costly and diminishes the profits of the company which practises it. That kind of directed aim is proper to a mature and profitable industry, but one can see the Government's fears of applying it to a new struggling industry which has to attract what may really be risk capital. So the Government have set out to make a sharp, clear distinction between broadcasting and cable television, even to the point of wanting to avoid the complaint machinery set up to judge the BBC and the ITV. Nevertheless, I hope that when we see the Bill again we shall have learned more about the authority, because the authority is a body which will require not only expert knowledge of several subjects but a good deal of wisdom, too.
The Bill is better than the one we received, but it is capable of further improvement, which I am sure it will receive elsewhere.
The Lord Bishop of Wakefield
My Lords, I speak very briefly and apologise for speaking so late in the debate at this stage. I should also like to add my word of gratitude and appreciation to the noble Lord. Many of us in many parts of the House have been concerned over the last 18 months, as this Bill has developed, that the invention and development of cable television should not be at the expense of the public service broadcasting and the standards of public service broadcasting which we in this country uniquely enjoy. Therefore, over and over again, we have heard speeches expressing concern about standards, about the desire to ensure that as many people as possible from the British television industry have opportunities to work in cable and to create programmes, about handling complaints and so on. We are grateful to the Government for the concessions they have made and for the way they have met some of these anxieties.
Like all your Lordships, I should like to express my gratitude to the noble Lord the Minister for the way he has helped us in the debate. He has lived with this matter now for 18 months, and we have all admired the grasp that he has of the Bill, the lucidity with which he interprets it and the care with which he has responded to all our debates. I should like to thank him warmly for his care and courtesy, and for the way in which he has listened to us as we have been trying to contribute to the debate; and I should like to congratulate him on the great achievement he has made in the whole process.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ Lord Elton
My Lords, your Lordships have been more kind than I could suspect or hope for in the remarks that you have made. We have here a piece of legislation dealing with the future which we can, as the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, has said, see only darkly. We are seeking in that future to protect the standards to which the right reverend Prelate properly directs our attention. Like the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, I have no authority to comment on the ideas espoused by him personally, and by my noble friend Lord Mottistone, for a special committee. However, I 681 know that the Whip on duty was paying close attention to the remarks and that the remarks of neither will go unheeded.
The noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, asked me one direct question. He will forgive me if I forbear to answer it on the record for the simple reasons that he wrote his letter on 8th March and, I think with commendable promptitude, we replied on 9th. He has not actually received it, but doubtless it will be sitting on his doormat when he gets home or wherever it should be.
§ Lord Elton
There is no accounting for taste, my Lords,
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, has mentioned some of the changes that the Government have not made to the Bill. I should mention briefly some of the ways in which they have changed it. We have given a licensee the right to make representations before the authority varies the licence and, in another place, we shall bring forward an amendment to make it clear that once a particular licence is issued the authority cannot vary its length without the licensee's consent. We have put the authority under a specific duty to make certain details of licence applications public so as to facilitate the local consultation process. We have responded to your Lordships' wishes by requiring the authority to have regard to the special needs of the deaf and the interests of the local voluntary organisations.
The Bill is now clearer on the question of recordings which the Cable Authority will be able to ask the operators to produce and I am glad we have been able to go some way towards meeting the anxieties which my noble friend Lord Glanusk expressed on Second Reading. I believe we have improved the drafting of the two key clauses which deal with the must-carry rule and protected and listed events. More remains to be done and I assure your Lordships that this is not the last that you will see of this Bill. There have inevitably been some points which we have not had time to get right, but where we have given undertakings we shall honour them in another place.
We shall give effect to the clearly expressed views of your Lordships and may I remind the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, that the Broadcasting Complaints Commission should be responsible for complaints relating to unjust and unfair treatment or unwanted infringement of privacy in cable programmes. We shall give the Cable Authority a duty to guard against accumulations of interests, which the noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, is properly concerned with, in separate cable companies which could lead to results adverse to the public interest. We shall introduce new provisions to guard against the dishonest reception of cable and DBS services. They do not look as if they will be easy to get right, but I assure your Lordships that we shall come up with something. We shall also be considering carefully what further clarification might be given to the application of the Copyright Act to cable. The difficulty about that has been alluded to this afternoon.
It is a subject of extraordinary complexity, but we now have four pages of text and another two and a half pages of schedule in the Bill which must improve the existing provisions considerably.
682 How much more we shall he able to do in the other place in this area in advance of the more general overhaul of copyright legislation remains to be seen. At this stage the best that I can say is that we are confident that we shall be able to deal with one or two of the more limited propositions which have been put to us, but less sure about those which raise rather broader issues.
The noble Lord, Lord Mishcon, wished that less might remain to be done. I agree with him. If on this occasion we were the revising House I would agree with a good deal more fervour, but we are not and we must have some confidence in the other place's ability to do the job which we have started. May I return thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Winstanley, for his support from time to time on the Bill? He made very clear our inability, as I say, to foretell the future and he was echoed in this by the noble Lord, Lord Ardwick, who very properly recognised the necessity of making cable pay if cable is to exist at all.
Your Lordships have been very kind and patient in your dealings with this Bill and I will not try your patience much further. I should like only to thank noble Lords who have taken an interest in the Bill for achieving a number of improvements to it and sending it away, on the whole, rather better than when it came here. I should like at this point to pay tribute to the hard work of all noble Lords—noble Lords on the Opposition Benches in particular but those on the Back-Benches around the House. I think that Ministers should recognise that while they are salaried and supported by an army of advisers, everybody else is unsalaried and unsupported. And the Bill is better for the work of these noble Lords as it is for that of the Government, and that is a service done to the country which ought to be recognised.
Not all of your Lordships who have been engaged in this work are here to see the completion of their task. I hope that they will have a chance to read my thanks to them in the columns of the Official Report, tinged faintly with jealousy, I should add, where they are read in sunnier climes. We must now possess ourselves in patience until we see what becomes of this measure in another place. Until we see that message, we must bid it farewell. My Lords, I hid it farewell with a word of gratitude. I cannot match the generosity, the excessive generosity, of the remarks that your Lordships have made about me but I do reciprocate them and it has been a pleasure, as they say, to work with your Lordships.
§ On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.