HL Deb 09 October 1990 vol 522 cc240-68

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 15.

Lord Birkett moved Amendment No. 51: Page 13, line 48, at end insert ("and

  1. (h) a statement by the applicant that when proposing an original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work be created for inclusion in a broadcast the applicant will not require the creator to enter into a contract with a publisher nominated by the applicant.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment was largely debated earlier today. It would be intolerable for me to make a long speech at this stage although I promised to speak to Amendment No. 51 in its proper place in the Marshalled List. I am very conscious that it is just as possible for a small number of people to be wearied as a large number.

I need to say two things at this stage. Your Lordships will recall that the amendment concerns worries shared by a number of noble Lords about the practices of ITV companies which own music publishing houses which insist, when engaging a composer, that that composer's work shall be published by their own publishing houses.

I am well aware that the noble Earl believes that the amendment is unnecessary because there are other remedies for the composers either through the Office of Fair Trading or in the Bill. With his invariable courtesy he has pointed out exactly what those remedies might be. However, I do not believe that either of them will work.

In Clause 2(2) (ii) the Bill states that it shall be the duty of the commission, to ensure fair and effective competition in the provision of such services and services connected with them". The matter was referred to the Department of Trade and Industry and when the Director General of the Office of Fair Trading reported upon it he found no reason to conclude that the practices of those ITV companies amounted to anti-competitive behaviour. He further found that the bargaining power of the ITV companies was constrained by the presence of other potential buyers.

In both those cases competition is the nature of the thing. One would imagine from that that we were addressing a competitive issue: that an ITV publishing company was in direct competition with another publishing company willing and wishing to publish the music.

That is not the case. The principal problem arises when the ITV companies insist upon a publication clause and thereby are clawing back 50 per cent. of the PRS fees that they are obliged to pay to composers. The phrase "clawing back" is often used and was used this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Annan, when he graphically outlined the situation. That is the problem and competition does not enter into it.

The bargaining power of the ITV companies is not that against other publishing companies but the naked power of somebody enabled to say to a composer, "Will you write music for me but if you do it shall be published through our publishing company?". If the composer says no the company can find another composer. That is not strictly a bargaining power but it is a position of power that can be and has been used in some cases, though not in all, to bully the composers out of 50 per cent. of their legitimate PRS fees.

I have no complaint with what has been said by the Office of Fair Trading. I believe that it is wrong about this issue but I do not suppose that it has been lax in its inquiries. I do not believe that its offices or the Bill will cure the problem. Amendment No. 51 provides that the applicant for a licence—in other words an ITV company—will not require the creator, and in particular the composer, to enter into a contract with a publisher nominated by the applicant. The amendment states simply "will not require". There is no reason why, if the offer is made and the composer likes it, there should not be a perfectly amicable relationship. The companies should not have the power to insist upon it.

The amendment is exceedingly simple. It will cure an activity which is known to exist even if that is not large or wide enough for the Office of Fair Trading to make recommendations for legislation. There is an injustice which could easily be cured by the amendment with no damage whatever to the Bill. I hope that the Minister will agree to it. I beg to move.

9.15 p.m.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, having listened to what he said, I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Birkett. There is nothing that I can add, so I shall not take up the time of the House. I hope that the Government will look upon the amendment sympathetically.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I stated the Government's view about the matter when speaking to the earlier amendment with which Amendment No. 51 is grouped. I repeat that I understand the anxiety expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Birkett, that companies should not bully composers. There are some companies which have subsidiaries and others which do not. It may well be that it is perfectly fair that people who compose for a company should put those rights through the company's subsidiary. If it is fair there is no reason why it should not be done. If it is unfair there are provisions in the Bill for the Independent Television Commission to correct that.

The noble Lord, Lord Birkett, referred to Clause 2(2). It provides that the commission shall: ensure fair and effective competition in the provision of such services and services connected with them". It is clear that, if companies are by the nature of their business being unfair to those who compose for them, the ITC has the power to take the necessary action. That proviso is contained in the Bill and I suggest to your Lordships that it is sufficient.

Lord Birkett

My Lords, I hope that without discourtesy I explained to the noble Earl why I believe that it is not sufficient. If one could rely totally on either the Bill or the Office of Fair Trading I should no longer be worried. However, I remain just as worried and late though it is I have no option but to test the opinion of the House.

9.19 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 51) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 35; Not-Contents, 53.

Division No. 3
Airedale, L. Jenkins of Putney, L.
Ardwick, L. Kinloss, Ly.
Birk, B. Longford, E.
Birkett, L.[Teller.] Mackie of Benshie, L.
Bonham-Carter, L. Masham of Ilton, B.
Buckmaster, V. Mersey, V.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Morris, L.[Teller.]
Carter, L. Moyne, L.
Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Newall, L.
Craigavon, V. Raglan, L.
Darcy (de Knayth), B. Ross of Newport, L.
David, B. Seear, B.
De L'Isle, V. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Ewart-Biggs, B. Thomson of Monifieth, L.
Gallacher, L. Tordoff, L.
Graham of Edmonton, L. Walpole, L.
Hatch of Lusby, L. Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Arran, E. Johnston of Rockport, L.
Ashbourne, L. Long, V.
Auckland, L. Lonsdale, E.
Balfour, E. Lyell, L.
Barber, L. McColl of Dulwich, L.
Belstead, L. Macleod of Borve, B.
Blatch, B. Monk Bretton, L.
Boardman, L. Nelson of Stafford, L.
Borthwick, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Brigstocke, B. Oxfuird, V.
Butterworth, L. Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Caithness, E. Reay, L.
Carnegy of Lour, B. Romney, E.
Cavendish of Furness, L. Sharples, B.
Crathorne, L. Skelmersdale, L.
Davidson, V. [Teller.] Stanley of Alderley, L.
Denham, L.[Teller.] Strange, B.
Eccles of Moulton, B. Strathclyde, L.
Elliot of Harwood, B. Strathmore and Kinghorne, E.
Faithfull, B. Swinfen, L.
Ferrers, E. Swinton, E.
Glenarthur, L. Trumpington, B.
Goold, L. Ullswater, V.
Harvington, L. Wade of Chorlton, L.
Henley, L. Whitelaw, V.
Hesketh, L. Wynford, L.
Hives, L.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingiy

9.27 p m.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 52: Page 14, line 25, leave out from ("Commission") to end of line 27 and insert ("a specified amount of money in respect of the first complete calendar year falling within the period for which the licence is in force (being an amount which, as increased by the appropriate percentage, is also to be payable in respect of subsequent years falling wholly or partly within that period).").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 52 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 62, 68, 69, 72, 73, 154, 156, 160, 161, 189, 191, 195, 198, 199, 248, 250, 255, 256, 273, 275 and 277.

These amendments provide for the indexation of cash bids for licences in the relevant parts of the Bill. On 18th July during the Committee stage I undertook to consider a change on these lines if a detailed analysis of the advantages could be produced. I am most grateful to my noble friend, Lord Stockton—at least on this occasion—for providing such a paper. The essential arguments for indexation are that it makes the annual payments for the licence equal in real terms. It removes a major area of uncertainty in formulating a cash bid, and it prevents unintentional overbidding due to miscalculation of the rate of inflation.

Under these amendments, applicants for licences will bid a cash lump sum for the first calendar year of the licence. Where the bid is accepted, that sum would be pay able in the first year but would be increased in the second and subsequent years of the licence by a percentage representing the year-on-year rise in the retail prices index for the November preceding the year in question.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Stockton for drawing this problem to my attention and giving me details. I commend these amendments to your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 53 not moved.]

Clause 16 [Procedure to be followed by Commission in connection with consideration of applications for licences]:

9.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 54: Page 14, line 34, leave out from ("that") to ("he") in line 35.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment it will be convenient to take Amendments Nos. 153, 190, 249 and 272.

These amendments are concerned with the requirement on the ITC and Radio Authority not to consider awarding a licence to an applicant unless it appears to them that the applicant can maintain the service throughout the licence period. In meeting this requirement the authorities are obliged to have regard to the information supplied by the applicant. These amendments delete this proviso. We consider that the existing provision could limit the authorities' freedom of action where information which is not supplied by the applicant led them to believe that he would not be able to maintain the service.

This change in no way prevents the regulatory bodies taking fully into account all the information which is supplied by applicants in considering their applications, but it enabled the ITC or Radio Authority to look at any further information, whether or not supplied by the applicant, in determining whether he would be able to maintain the service for the whole of the licence period. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

The Earl of Halsburymoved Amendment No. 55: Page 15, line 33, at end insert: ("() that religious programmes maintain the centrality of the Christian faith, while still allowing opportunities for the views of other religious groups to be expressed;").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in Committee I moved an amendment requiring the ITC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority to maintain the immemorial tradition of Christianity in this country. In his comments on the wording of my amendment the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, took issue with some of my drafting and, with implied approval, quoted the draft guidelines on religious broadcasting composed by a working party of the IBA and the shadow ITC.

I therefore decided to take those draft guidelines as a model for my present amendment since we are, I thought, unlikely to disagree on the wording which the noble Earl had quoted in an approving way. I have in fact made only one alteration to the wording. For purely grammatical reasons I have replaced a pronoun with the subject to which it refers; namely, religious programmes.

The issue is therefore whether or not it should appear on the face of the Bill either as the amendment I now move or as an instruction to the future ITC to incorporate its substance in the guidelines which it must authorise and publish as required by the Bill.

Through the courtesy of the noble Earl I had a conference with him and his advisers at which I was accompanied by my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing and a representative of other Members of your Lordships' House, together with Lady Watherston, the chairman of the National Council for Christian Standards in Society, and her consultant, Mr. Littler. My noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing and I have been working together as close colleagues for a long time past on this matter.

I accept the noble Earl's argument that one should not give a statutory body responsibility for a particular action and then interfere with it in carrying out that responsibility. Therefore, my alternative proposal of incorporating the words quoted by the noble Earl as an instruction in the Bill is not for discussion this evening. The amendment in its final form is as it is printed on the Marshalled List.

My main reason for hammering away at putting it on the face of the Bill is that I am alarmed by the moral degeneracy of our increasingly secular society. I find secularist quislings at every level of government and administration undermining the only factor which can withstand the onslaught on our morals, and that is religion. Some secularists, I admit, are men of high character. I know them in this House. I am friends with them and admire them, but they are in fact living at second hand off the morals indoctrinated in them long years ago. I doubt whether they will be able to pass them on to their grandchildren. Therefore, I see a regression to the deplorable morals of the Roman Empire through which Christianity swept like a forest fire until it became the empire's official religion within a very few centuries of our era.

One reason for its acceptance was man's self-disgust with man's own corruption. Look at the achievements of the Christian religion. Has any other ethical religion abolished slavery? Has any other ethical religion emancipated women, children, the sick and the very old? Why does it have to be Mother Teresa who dedicates herself to the sick and the poor of Calcutta? Why cannot those who worship according to the doctrines of the Hindu religion or Islam do it for themselves? It is true that Christianity has taken us a long time and that we have made many mistakes on the way. It is imperfect and the work is not finished, but it will not be finished by uninspired secularism.

The noble Earl had technical reasons for not wanting the amendment on the face of the Bill. As they are technical I do not intend to argue them on the Floor of your Lordships' House this evening. I would be equally reluctant to divide the House at this late hour provided that I can get certain assurances from him as to the composition of the working party on the guidelines when the Bill vests. I remind your Lordships that the IBA goes out of existence when the Bill vests and the ITC and the broadcasting authority come into being.

In particular, CRAC (the Central Religious Advisory Committee) loses the statutory status conferred on it by the IBA and reverts to being a domestic advisory committee of the BBC. Its composition as being representative has been questioned from time to time but it has not been fully argued. I therefore hope that the noble Earl will be able to give me two assurances: firstly, that the shadow ITC and broadcasting authority have, with respect to religious broadcasting guidelines, undertaken to consult representative bodies of others interested in religious broadcasting and not only what is left of CRAC.

Such other bodies include the evangelical community represented in the other place by the right honourable Member for Selby, Mr. Michael Alison, and the Christian Choice in Broadcasting group, together with the conservative—with a small "c"—traditionalists represented in this House by the noble Lords who have put their names to this amendment, and the National Council for Christian Standards in Society. On that basis all those arguing about religion in broadcasting and putting forward arguments that have been voiced many times in your Lordships' House and another place will be satisfied that they have been heard. As a result, when the guidelines are finally published, they will represent the wishes of the Christian community as a whole.

Those were the undertakings that I hoped to obtain from the noble Earl. As I say, I do not want to divide the House. That was the speech that I drafted over the weekend and which I was hoping to deliver until noon today when there took place a most surprising denouement. Representatives of the National Council for Christian Standards in Society conferred yesterday with the IBA, the shadow ITC and the shadow Radio Authority. The meeting was a hostile one. They were told that CRAC was in and everyone else was out. As regards consultancy, they were told that those were the guidelines, but they are not such as the noble Earl referred to during the previous debate in this House.

Therefore, I find this very difficult. Unless the noble Earl and these ghostly bodies, such as the shadow ITC and the shadow broadcasting authority, get their act together and decide the guidelines and what authority lies behind them, I do not believe that I have the basis for a deal, as it were, with the noble Earl in which he will give me the assurances that I seek. Being a man of honour, if he gave me his word I know that he would comply with it. Is he in a position to do so? I do not know.

Therefore, I must reserve my position until Third Reading. The rules of Third Reading are basically that the points taken at that stage should be the passing of a little sandpaper over drafting points on the one hand, or allowing the Government to comply with undertakings that they have given at earlier stages on the other. It is not to be used for introducing material that has already been settled at earlier stages of the Bill. But this amendment, together with any assurances the noble Earl can give me, is not a matter which has been settled definitively at any stage of the Bill prior to Third Reading. I must therefore reserve my position for Third Reading to decide what is best in the light of what transpires between us this evening. I beg to move.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, I am a loyal but rather bewildered supporter of the noble Earl. It is not clear to me whether he has done a deal, whether someone has defaulted on a deal or whether he has done a potential deal. Whatever deal he has done, I am sure that it has been arranged for the highest possible motives. My loyalty might turn out to be that of the men of the Duke of York who were marched up to the top of the hill and then down again but remained loyal to the end. I am loyal to him but I hope that he will be very firm, if not now then at Third Reading.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I support the noble Earl in what he has said. I, like him, attended the debate in Committee. We took a rather uncertain vote at a quarter to midnight. I am glad that on this occasion we have done slightly better and brought the debate on two hours earlier. It is a matter of great importance. We thought originally of putting the words "mainly Christian" in the amendment but it was felt that that was perhaps provocative in some way. I would not myself find it so but we were advised that it was. We have progressively backed down. This formula, which was taken straight out of what the Minister himself said, has the apparent approval of the ITC's religious direction.

What is disturbing is that it seems from the drafts we have seen of the ITC code that the ITC and the Radio Authority have already made up their minds. They have decided to use CRAC. I am not against CRAC but it is unwise to give one body control over religious broadcasting across the whole spectrum—public service, independent, satellite broadcasting and goodness knows what else.

I was speaking to the noble Lord, Lord Annan, earlier today. In his report in 1984—a very full report of 500 pages—he made the strong recommendation that as more and more channels came forward it was unwise that all of them should be controlled by one body, whatever its merits. From the discussions reported to me it appears that the Independent Radio Authority—I must not use the term "IRA"—said that it had made up its mind so there was no point in discussing it.

I hope that if we cannot write this provision into the Bill we can have an assurance that, before these draft codes become temporary tablets of stone, there will be an or opportunity for those of a different form of the Christian faith—Evangelicals and the more traditional conservative element of which I am a member and supporter—to be at least consulted to see whether the draft code as outlined by the two organisations is acceptable to the whole spectrum of Christian thought.

I hope that my noble friend will be able to reassure the House so that we can have it firmly inHansardthat there should be a freedom—he underlined that in his earlier remarks—for the separate organisations to have separate advisers. There is no reason why the whole thing should be dominated by, whatever its merits, the Central Religious Advisory Committee.

I should like to put on record that I wrote to George Russell on this matter and that in his reply to me he said: Proselytising has not been acceptable. Nor was it in the days of Lord Reith". I am afraid that there has been a good deal of distortion there. Lord Reith was a great and ardent Christian. In his day he was known as the "powerful man from the manse". He dominated the BBC in those days with the power of his personality. What has been said is not correct. I say that because I have the words here with me. Incidentally, they were also contained in the original CRAC manifesto, which was drawn up in 1948. Its task was: To provide opportunities for that challenge to personal faith in Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord which is the heart of conversion". That represents a very different outlook to the present terms of reference to CRAC.

I hope that that aspect will be looked at and that we shall have a more tolerant and firm belief in the Christian faith, which, after all, is the faith of most people in this country—I believe that the figure is 70 per cent. It is the established Church of this country, to which we all bow, and our Sovereign is Defender of the Faith. The faith is not any other faith. It is not a multifaith; it is Christianity. I hope that it will be possible to accept this amendment, but if it is not possible to do so then I hope that this will be written very firmly in the code of practice now being drawn up by the ITC and the Radio Authority.

9.45 p.m.

Lord Ashbourne

My Lords, this amendment highlights the argument between religious and Christian broadcasting, and it is not new. A BBC broadcasting policy statement in 1935 asserted that, while nothing could be less effective than a religious lowest common denominator, it has been found possible to disseminate a spiritual highest common factor from which the listener can profit and of which no church need be ashamed". However, what is new is the liberal/multifaith stance taken by those currently in charge of religious broadcasting at the IBA and CRAC. That is supported by an article in The Timesof 18th July which indicated that the original Christian broadcasting intention had been changed to, the Reithian principle that there should be a fair balance, carefully kept and monitored, representing religious bodies throughout the world". Is that not multifaith theology rather than a Reithian principle? I do not wish to stifle in any way expression of other religions, but surely we must allow freedom of expression for separate religions.

I too am unhappy to hear that the ITC has decided to take advice from CRAC. I trust that it will not take advice from this group and its own religious advisers alone. I agree with the head of youth programming at the BBC who, at the Edinburgh Television Festival, urged that CRAC be abolished in the interests of good religious broadcasting.

At the same festival, another voice of dissent came from the Reverend Gavin Reid, who is a former member of CRAC and a member of the General Synod. He said: The broadcasting authorities bring us together twice a year and wine us and dine us in style. They never allow us to discuss any programme in advance … I personally feel that there has been a degree of elitism in religious broadcasting under our present system and that this needs to stop". As I mentioned in Committee, I strongly object to the BBC producers' guidelines for religion containing the words: Guests invited to take part in religious programmes … may not use the opportunity to evangelise". So there we have it. Presenters, and guests likewise, are not allowed to evangelise. It sounds to me like a ban or censorship targeted at Christians who take the Gospel seriously.

Clearly, I do not want to interfere with CRAC's BBC public service religious broadcasting or to misrepresent the motives of those who work for religious programmes. However, I do not want the ITC and the Radio Authority to be prejudiced against Evangelical Christians while allowing liberal multifaith people to broadcast. I support the amendment because I believe that the centrality of the Christian faith is a Reithian principle which is already in danger of being compromised.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, I too am happy to support the amendment. I became treasurer, and subsequently patron, of the Christian Broadcasting Council in 1983. In September 1989 it was my privilege and pleasure to present the CBC film awards, among which there was one to Captain Brown of the Salvation Army for his film "To Poland With Love". In his speech of thanks the captain announced that on the same day the IBA head of religious broadcasting had banned the film because it, promoted the work of the Salvation Army". That should not be confused with the IBA ban on the 1987 evangelical Salvation Army film after it was advertised in the TV Times, which was mentioned on Second Reading by my noble friend Lord Halsbury.

Fortunately, "To Poland With Love" has now been successfully broadcast by Vision Broadcasting on cable television network, like other films banned by the IBA religious broadcasting department because they were evangelising or proselytising. Surely in a democracy it cannot be acceptable for certain people to have a monopoly control over the spread of ideas.

The Cable Authority operates under the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984 and CRAC is not involved. The man who regulates religious broadcasting is the authority programme controller, a certain Mr. Tony Currie, who happens to be an atheist. The authority seems to have no problems regulating religious broadcasting or advertising.

Christians must surely be allowed to determine their own programming without editorial censorship. The public can then choose what it wants. If it wants a clear expression of or insight into positive Christianity, that should be available; but if it wants establishment religious programming it should still be able to obtain that from public service BBC broadcasting.

In the face of the widespread moral decay that we see around us today, the break-up of family life and the escalating crime rate, it is my sincere hope that a new generation of Christians will have the freedom to preach the Gospel in broadcasting as in every other sphere of public life.

On 10th February 1988 the then Home Secretary addressed the General Synod of the Church of England and challenged it to a, strong reassertion of underlying Christian values". So I applaud strongly those members of the Christian public who are increasingly expressing the Gospel with use of video, compact discs and other media. If the work of organisations like the Blackburn Diocesan TV and the United Christian Broadcasters on the Isle of Man, of which some of your Lordships may have heard, is broadcast it may improve matters. It can hardly make matters worse.

If we want Christianity to become a living, expanding faith in Britain today; if we want to uphold Christian morals against the overwhelming power of evil in our society of which the Strangeways riot is a fitting symbol, we have to give Christians the freedom to preach their message. That is why I support the amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

My Lords, when I read the amendment, I hoped that it meant that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, and his friends, as they probed into the ways of the IBA—CRAC and all—had discovered a rather better set-up than they thought. The amendment is word for word, as the noble Earl told us, what the IBA wrote and it was written on the basis of the three guidelines which CRAC put to the Annan Committee in 1977. I remind your Lordships that the first of those three guidelines was to reflect the worship, thought and action of the principal religious traditions represented in Britain, recognising that these traditions are mainly, though not exclusively, Christian. The second was to seek to present to viewers and listeners those beliefs, ideas, issues and experiences in the contemporary world which are evidently related to a religious interpretation or dimension of life. The third was to seek also to meet the religious interests, concerns and needs of those on the fringe of or outside the organised life of the churches.

I determined that I would sit and listen with the greatest care to what was put by the noble Earl and his noble friends. I heard first a moving defence of Christianity with which I identified wholeheartedly. I believe in a strong assertion of the Christian faith and of Christian living.

Alas, the debate has turned into another attack on fellow Christians which I regret very much. It has apparently not listened to a whole series of factual answers which have been given as regards CRAC but repeated some of the attacks on religious broadcasters who serve us in my view extremely well. An assertion has been made again, even though it has been answered before, that evangelicals need to be represented and are not presented on CRAC. Probably one-third of the membership of CRAC would call themselves evangelical Christians. The noble Lord shakes his head; alas, he does not respect their faith and position.

CRAC includes members of the Jewish, Moslem and Hindu faiths. I thought that the charge about censorship had been dropped. It was made in Committee and on Second Reading. The noble Earl himself said that he had a better understanding of the way in which CRAC works And that it never censors programmes before they happen. I know that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, wants to stand for Lord Reith's view of religious broadcasting and to carry that torch. I have much sympathy with that wish. The 1977 guidelines were a recognition of a situation in our country which had changed from Lord Reith's day. I do not believe that we can put the clock back, but we can and do argue for a thoughtful, vigorous exposition of Christian belief and Christian living, together with giving a proper place for other faiths.

The amendment, therefore, which uses the words of the IBA based on the three principles of CRAC, is introducing nothing new. That is what CRAC tries to ensure happens and I believe that it does happen. What is new is that these words should appear on the face of the Bill or as an instruction. We need to understand the case for putting them on the face of the Bill.

If I understand aright, the purpose is to put up a signal or some signals. It might be one of three or a mixture of the three. First, a signal to the nation that Parliament wants to see the Christian faith central in religious broadcasting. If that is the purpose, I would happily vote for the amendment, for it is what I personally am committed to and what I am committed to as chairman of CRAC. They have borrowed our words and that is precisely where we stand. Secondly, will the amendment be seen to put up a signal to people of other faiths? We need to tread sensitively here lest the signals say to them that we do not want them to have a prominent place in broadcasting.

In one breath we encourage people of other faiths to enter fully into the life of this country, not to stay in a ghetto-like corner. It would contradict all that if, with our next breath, we caused them to perceive a signal that we do not want to give them more than a marginal place in television and radio. However, I do not want them to hear this again as a signal of an attack on current religious broadcasting.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark said in Committee: We have a common conviction with people of other faiths about our humanity and our citizenship and we are able to welcome this without denying our faith". I am happy about the signal if it affirms our wish for the Christian faith to be strongly affirmed provided we intend to give proper space and prominence to other faiths.

Thirdly, in the light of the debates we have had on Second Reading and in Committee and the speeches we have heard this evening I am bound to ask whether the signal this amendment is putting up is really one of disapproval of religious broadcasting as it stands and of the arrangements that are made as regards advice. If this amendment were put to the vote, I should be obliged to abstain because of the way it has been presented. I could not vote against words that I profoundly believe in. However, if the intention of the measure puts up a signal I do not agree with, I should be bound to abstain from voting.

I do not want these words to be heard as an attack on current religious broadcasting. That broadcasting is not perfect but it is an honest and sensitive attempt to share the faith. I hope I can share with the Committee how this concept works out in the planning and scheduling of programmes. Last month, as chairman of CRAC, I spent an afternoon with the producers of the "Everyman" series of BBC television. In a little while I shall do the same with the producers of "The Heart of the Matter". Part of my reason for asking for the meeting was to encourage the producers to give time to examining where deep Christian motivation comes from and what its effect is in people's lives. I wished to encourage them not to be coy about that. One question I asked to which they replied with real seriousness was whether they thought exploring orthodox Christian belief might be interesting. We had a lively and, I hope, creative discussion. I believe those Members of the Committee who have spoken so far would have identified very strongly with the kind of points that I put to the producers.

Towards the end of the discussion the producers told me that the "Everyman" series has an audience of 3.5 million and that that figure is higher than that for all the "televangelists" in the United States put together. That illustrates what some of us mean when we talk in this debate about broad casting or narrow casting when church people may have the freedom to say whatever they like when they are watched by other church people and a few of their friends.

If, as the Bill requires, a sufficient amount of time is given to religious programmes on Channels 3 and 5, the question arises whether religious programme times will be scheduled when there is a large viewing audience. The controllers of television channels will understandably insist that religious programmes should be of a quality and an interest which will not lose them their audiences which they have worked hard to win. Religious people do not have a right to feel they own some slots with which they can do as they desire.

Years ago I recall criticising a producer of a programme I had appeared on for what I considered to be the shallowness of the debate which the format of his religious programme produced. His reply was, "You should see my ratings". I thought that that too was a shallow reply. However, now I realise that ratings are life and death to a channel. That will be even more the case in the broadcasting era which this Bill ushers in. If series such as the "Everyman" series or "The Heart of the Matter" became church magazine programmes they would almost certainly be rescheduled to a time when many fewer viewers were watching such as the time when "Visions" is broadcast at 12 o'clock on a Sunday. Those programmes would not gain the audience figures that their producers have worked so hard for were they to be broadcast late on a Sunday evening. That would not be a conspiracy of some supposedly dominant religious group setting out —I regret that those words have been used again—to ban or censor other traditions. It would be the controllers of the channel concerned insisting that religious programmes engaged the interest of a good proportion of those who watch their channel. As religious bodies, we do not own slots on channels. The challenge to us is to begin where viewers and listeners are, not where we might hope them to be.

I shall seize the opportunity to turn to another matter which has received little attention in the debates on the Bill; namely, religious advertising. There was no debate at all in another place. We had a short debate in this House when I put down some probing amendments. The landscape of religious broadcasting will change sharply in that respect. We have all assumed that religious broadcasting would reflect the worship, thought and action of the principal religious traditions represented in Britain.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, the right reverend Prelate used the word "traditions" in the plural. There is only one tradition in this country and that is in the singular. It is the Christian religion. It is agreed that Jews are the ancestors of the Christian religion, but it is the same tradition. There are no outstanding traditions in the plural.

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool

My Lords, I have made my position clear. I do not believe that that is the situation. There are other religious traditions which are part of this country. We want to encourage the followers of those traditions to feel that they are fully citizens of this country. I hope that we shall stand by that position.

Religious advertising will not reflect the position about the Christian tradition which we have all assumed that it would reflect—roughly speaking, the membership of churches and people at worship. I made the point in Committee that it will not be main-line churches which will pay for religious advertising. They are stretched to the limit to provide a ministry all over the country. It is much more likely to be fringe groups of all faiths—not just Christian—which happen to have some supporters with the wealth to be able to buy religious advertising.

When the subject is discussed, everyone says that they hope there will be restrictions to prevent some religious bodies from advertising. The difficulties to be surmounted in order to provide such restrictions may be greater than your Lordships think. I hope that there will be some careful debate before that new animal is set free.

There are those who argue that religious advertising should not be allowed at all. Some of your Lordships will have seen Metropolitan Anthony Bloom's letter in yesterday's Times. He asks why it is considered inappropriate for the use of financial strength to be deployed for political advertising, which is forbidden, but appropriate for religious advertising. I am not sure that that question has yet been answered. The Jewish community has expressed strong reservations about allowing religious advertising without some careful restrictions. The noble Lord, Lord Jakobovits, the Chief Rabbi, has told me that he regrets that he cannot be in his place this evening because it is the Feast of Succoth or Tabernacles. He has written to me saying that he wishes to support in every way my plea for further careful thought before restrictions on religious advertising are lifted.

I have approached the proposed change about advertising with a good heart, searching for some wise rules which would not ensnare the ITC in litigation if it refused an advertisement. The more I have looked at possible ways of providing clear, litigation-proof fencing, the more difficult it has appeared. I do not believe that it is possible to refuse some religious bodies on religious grounds while accepting advertisements from others. I hope that the Minister and the Minister in another place will take a careful look at the code which the ITC will need to draw up about religious advertising before it takes the brakes off that restriction.

Viscount Caldecote

My Lords, I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, that, due to a misunderstanding, I was not in my place when he moved the amendment.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about including a reference to Christian faith in the context of religious broadcasting. I should like to make just a few brief comments in support of the amendment, looking to the future and not to past problems.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool made some very strong points and, if I may say so, made them very fairly. He asked what signal we wanted this amendment to give. I believe the signal is that we seek to improve religious broadcasting within the context of Britain as basically still a Christian country with a Christian sovereign at the head of an established Christian Church. But I say very strongly to the right reverend Prelate that that in no way implies that those of different faiths should be discouraged, let alone prevented, from proclaiming their faith.

Any religious programme is governed by Clause 6(1) (d) which rightly prohibits abusive treatment of any religious views. Indeed, I am much in favour of the closest co-operation with those of other faiths or of no religious faith in the relief of poverty and help for the sick and aged. But such a wholly admirable objective should not in any way water down the affirmation of our own Christian faith. Those who support the amendment seek only the removal of any obstacle which stands in the way of proclaiming that faith kind the good news of the Gospel. Unfortunately, whatever the right reverend Prelate may say, in some circler. there is real concern—I do not know whether or not it is justified—that some of the existing guidelines on religious programmes seem to be at variance with the principles that I have mentioned.

I do not think that any of us believe that the vast majority of those who, like the right reverend Prelate, work so hard in this difficult and sensitive field want to obstruct the proclamation of the Christian Gospel because it might perhaps contain the risk of making a convert and therefore be a little embarrassing or unacceptable to someone else. I believe that it is of real importance to establish the position of the Christian faith in the context of this Bill and that of a basically Christian country so as to remove any misunderstandings that may now exist, looking particularly to the future and not worrying too much about the disagreements that we have had in the past.

What matters is the future of this country. We all want to live happily together. In this country there are many people with different faiths. However, that does not mean that we should not be proud, always ready and strong to proclaim our traditional Christian faith. For those reasons I srongly support the amendment and hope that my noble friend on the Front Bench will feel able to accept it.

Viscount Whitelaw

My Lords, I am activated in this matter by my very great support for the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. There is very good reason for that support. After all, I was Home Secretary at the time of the riots in Liverpool. I saw what the right reverend Prelate and, indeed, the Roman Catholic Archbishop, the most reverend Derek Worlock, did to calm the situation on that occasion. I shall not forget it as long as I live.

That is why I shall always give the utmost support to the sensible and straightforward views that the right reverend Prelate has put forward tonight. He has stated what he believes, and I believe it too. I fully understand the views of my noble friend Lord Caldecote. However, I remain one of those who maintain that we are a Christian country. I am a strong supporter of the Christian religion but at the same time I believe that there are people of other faiths who are also entitled to their feelings. In our society surely that is a reasonable position for everyone to take.

Looking at our situation, we can see what the right reverend Prelate, as the leader of CRAC, has done in the religious broadcasting field. I cannot see any good reason for changing what has happened in that field, when one considers what has been achieved by CRAC.

I do not see any conflict in anything that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has said. I do not believe that we have conflicting views in what we say. I feel that we can all unite to achieve something that is enormously important: to continue in the future with a religious broadcasting system based on much that has been done extremely well in the past.

It is a great tradition in this country that while many believe in one Christian faith we are prepared to be tolerant of others. If we can achieve such tolerance in this country—and that is something that all too few countries can achieve today—that is what we ought to be doing.

10.15 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I fully understand the desire of the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, to make explicit the central role of Christianity in religious programmes to be shown on Channels 3 and 5. I wholly agree that religious programmes on Channels 3 and 5 should maintain the centrality of the Christian faith while allowing opportunities for the views of other religious groups to be expressed, as my noble friend Lord Whitelaw said. I have no doubt that the Independent Television Commission will see that this policy is implemented in practice.

The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, made an impressive speech. He said that he was concerned about the degradation of humanity and lowering of morals and felt that Christianity was the only saviour for that. That is understandable. The noble Earl may well be right. If that is so, that is a matter for the Church. It is not necessarily a matter for Parliament to put in an Act of Parliament.

Much of the debate today has been about CRAC. I felt sorry for the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool, its chairman, as first one salvo and then another came towards him. If I may say so, he stood up for himself well and gave as good as he got. I do not propose to enter into that argument other than to say that by my reckoning the score was 30-all.

The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said that the Government were unlikely to disagree with the wording; that the only disagreement might be whether or not the wording should be put on the face of the Bill. The noble Earl is quite right. In both the 1984 and the 1981 Acts and in previous broadcasting legislation going back to the 1950s, Parliament has decided not to qualify the word "religious" where it occurred in statutory requirements. I believe that Parliament was right then and I think that it would be right to do the same now.

This has not prevented religious programmes on both the BBC and ITV from being predominantly Christian in tone and content in the past. I see no reason why the position should change with regard to Channels 3 and 5 in the future.

As the noble Earl rightly explained, the words in his amendment are taken from the IBA's own briefing document for the Committee stage of the Bill. The IBA briefing document clearly envisaged on behalf of the shadow Independent Television Commission that this policy would be carried out under the new regime.

I can repeat this assurance today. The shadow ITC has confirmed that its guidelines, which will be the subject of full consultation before they are finalised, will seek to reflect the words which the noble Earl has contained in his amendment.

I should point out to the noble Earl, Lord Longford, that that is not a deal; it is a fact. I know that he was worried about deals that the noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, has done. I can only assure him that I am not aware of any deal. I have never dealt in Christianity before, and I do not propose to start. That is a fact.

A theme which has already arisen is the need to achieve the right balance between the primary legislation and regulatory guidelines. As I have said, there is no question but that the ITC will use its guidelines to give effect to the aims of the amendment: there is a clear understanding to do that. A statutory formula must inevitably be less detailed and it could give rise to undesirable challenges. For instance, some potential future litigant might seek to argue that the noble Earl's formula, if it were included in the Bill, could mean that every religious programme had to give centrality to Christianity and provide outlets for other faiths. That may seem far-fetched but we are dealing with a subject of the greatest importance and sensitivity and I cannot help thinking that it would be better to seek to capture the policy intention—upon which everyone is agreed—in guidelines rather than in the confined space of a short statutory formula.

I hope that I can offer another reassurance to the noble Earl. I can report that the shadow ITC has given an undertaking on consultation about the guidelines relating to religious broadcasting. It has given an undertaking that it will make its draft guidelines available for comment before they are finalised or if they are later substantially revised. The consultation will certainly include organisations such as Christian Choice in Broadcasting and the National Council for Christian Standards in Society, among others, at the same time as CRAC is consulted.

The noble Earl was concerned that CRAC should be the body which the ITC consults. The ITC can take what advice it likes. If it wishes to take the advice of CRAC it is at liberty to do so. The ITC has said that it will continue to consult CRAC while the present ITV contracts are running; in other words until the end of 1992. However, neither it nor the Radio Authority have said that they will not let other religious bodies have the opportunity of commenting on their draft guidelines. Neither have they pre-empted the question of from where they will obtain their advice after 1993.

The shadow Radio Authority has now produced an early draft of its religious programming code and it is giving the three organisations that I have mentioned, among others, the opportunity to comment. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, said that there was an acrimonious meeting and that they appeared not to get very far. The noble Earl has an advantage over me because I was not at the meeting. I understand that at the meeting yesterday only the draft Radio Authority programme guidelines were available and that they were only an early draft. The ITC draft guidelines have not yet been produced. I understand that any group which wishes to see copies of the draft programme codes for radio or, when ready, television may do so and comment upon them if they wish.

I hope that the noble Earl will consider that the Government have gone a long way to meet the concerns which have been voiced about religion as regards the Bill. We have amended the Bill in four separate ways in an attempt to strike the right balance between freedom and responsibility in religious broadcasting. I hope that the undertaking which I have confirmed today will further reassure the noble Earl and your Lordships about the future. This is a Bill which opens up unprecedented opportunities for responsible broadcasting by Christians and other religious groups in this country. In the light of what I have said I hope the noble Earl will feel content not to press his amendment.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down perhaps I may be permitted to say that the uncharacteristic silence from these Benches does not mean that we are not deeply involved in the argument. We strongly support the position taken by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. When looking around the world at the present time one sees that one of the most explosive forces for evil as well as for good is religion in all its forms. Surely there could not be a moment when it would be more important that we should learn about and not merely tolerate other religions.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, listening to the debate to some extent I have been reminded of a line of T. S. Eliot: Words … slip, slide, perish, Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place". I have been much concerned with asking myself from time to time whether we are using the words we are talking about, about the same things and meaning the same things. I have never wished to launch any attack upon CRAC or the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool. I have never wished to attribute unworthy motives to anyone.

I was hoping to put—and perhaps this would have been of assistance to the noble Earl, Lord Longford —something like a clarion call on the face of the Bill. However, the Minister has convinced me that it would be inadvisable to press for that and that I should settle for a bleeper in the guidelines. I am prepared to do so.

I was greatly disturbed by the fact that yesterday's meeting seemed to have gone back entirely on a meeting which I had had with the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, last week and which presented us with an entirely different formula from that which he gave us in Committee. However, it seems to me that this evening he has explained the discrepancy between what happened between us last week and what happened yesterday. Under those circumstances, knowing that he is a man of his word and that he will implement what he promises, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

The Earl of Longford

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps I may ask him whether that means that he will move no amendment at all on Third Reading. I was attracted by the idea that he would move an amendment at that stage.

The Earl of Halsbury

My Lords, I believe now that it will be unnecessary to do so but perhaps I may reserve my position until I have read in Hansard exactly what the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, has promised to do. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 17 [Award of licence to person submitting highest cash bid]:

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 56: Page 16, line 38, leave out ("exceptional") and insert ("particular").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, with Amendment No. 56, I speak also to Amendments Nos. 57 to 61. This amendment returns us to the question of Channel 3 licences and the highest cash bidder. There is a substitution of words. Clause 17(4) defines the exceptional circumstances in which a licence may go to an applicant who has not submitted the highest cash bid. However, in ordinary or unexceptional circumstances Clause 17(1) states that the licence should go to the applicant who has submitted the highest bid.

While we welcome the compromise reached to address the anxieties of the industry about quality, the word "exceptional" is too heavily weighted to ensure that money has primacy over quality. The amendment replaces "exceptional" with "particular" to assert that quality can be considered as the key determinant of licence allocation in circumstances that are less than exceptional or unusual. That would not affect the thrust of Clause 17 that licences normally automatically go to the highest bidder. I beg to move.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth

My Lords, I support what the noble Baroness said. This is quite an important and significant amendment. Perhaps I may say to your Lordships that it is also quite an ingenious amendment. It goes to the heart of the question of the balance of quality and price. At present the Government have felt able to go only as far as saying that in exceptional circumstances quality can take primacy over price. We suggest that if the word "particular" is substituted, that would enable the ITC on a more general plane to give quality primacy over price.

Earlier this year Mr. Mellor, the Minister responsible in the Commons, said that it was the Government's intention to amend Clause 17 to override the highest financial bid in order to award the licence to an applicant offering a significantly higher quality of programming. Our amendment goes very close to the intent of the words of the Minister at that time. If the Government were disposed to accept this change in wording it would help to indicate that they consider the quality of the output of the new programme contractors to be certainly as important a factor as the price they were ready to bid for the contract.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the Bill provides for Channel 3 and Channel 5 licences among others to be awarded by the process of competitive tender. We believe that that is the fairest and most transparent way of allocating licences for commercial television. But we have always accepted that licences for Channels 3 and 5 should be awarded not just on the basis of the money bid in the tender but also, and most importantly, on the basis of the quality of service being offered. Hence the requirement that applicants for these licenses should first pass a substantial quality threshold before they are eligible to bid.

The quality threshold is designed to ensure that only those applicants capable of providing a high quality service are eligible to bid for a licence. Thereafter there is no need to make further fine distinctions on the relative quality of the applicant's proposals. The successful applicants should be, to use an expression used earlier, on a level playing field for bidding purposes and, in the normal course of events, the highest bidder should win. Nevertheless, we have accepted that there may be exceptional circumstances, which could include circumstances where the quality of programming offered by one applicant was exceptionally higher than the applicant offering the highest cash bid, when it would be justifiable for the ITC to award the licence to the lower bidder. We therefore included the provisions in Clause 17(3) and (4) for the ITC, in exceptional circumstances, to accept a lower bid.

These amendments—described as ingenious by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson—would enable the ITC in "particular" circumstances to disregard the highest bidder. As there is no full definition of what might be regarded as particular circumstances, one could easily imagine that the ITC could award the licence to a lower bidder in any circumstances provided that it could find some element of the favoured bid which it could particularise. I do not believe that it is necessary or desirable for the ITC to have that discretion. It is one thing for the ITC to judge whether applicants cross the quality threshold, but quite another for it to make fine judgments about relative quality differences, which might be quite small, in applicants' proposals. That would not differ significantly from the system which has operated hitherto and which has been widely criticised as being arbitrary and opaque.

Amendment No. 60 would give the ITC power to award the licence to a lower bidder in particular circumstances where the quality of the applicant's bid was significantly higher than that of the highest bidder. That presupposes that the ITC will be capable of making this level of judgment about the relative quality of different proposals. But I doubt whether any universal definition of quality could be determined. People's taste and interests differ and they are likely therefore to perceive differently the various programme promises which are made by applicants. I believe that it would give the power to the ITC to choose, and that is a very powerful power. It has been criticised in the past and that is what we have tried to move away from.

On the basis that the quality threshold will ensure that only those applicants who are capable of providing a high quality service should ever be eligible to bid, I see no reason why the ITC should need to exercise any further discretion on that awkward question of quality. Exceptional circumstances can be invoked where the quality of one application is head and shoulders above the rest, but thereafter I really think that fine tuning is not appropriate.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I am sorry that the Minister has taken that line. Words have different meanings; that is the whole point of language. It is a pity to be stuck with one word, especially in view of what the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, said in quoting the Minister of State in another place who used the words "significantly higher quality of programming". There is a difference between "significantly" and "substantial" just as there is a difference between "exceptional" and "particular". It is strange that it is thought that the ITC would be in some difficulty and unable to distinguish between these nuances, which are so important. I doubt whether that would be so, but it does not appear that we can take the matter much further tonight so I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 57 to 61 not moved.]

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 62: Page 17, line 28, leave out ("instalments of the amount specified in his cash bid") and insert ("any amounts payable by him by virtue of section 19(1)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment with Amendment No. 52. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 63 and 64: Page 17, line 44, after ("shall") insert ("(subject to subsection (14))"). Page 18, line 23, at end insert: ("(14) Subsections (1) to (9) shall not have effect as mentioned in subsection (10) if the Commission decide that it would be desirable to publish a fresh notice under section 15(1) in respect of the grant of the licence; and similarly, where any of the following provisions of this Part provides, in connection with the revocation of a licence, for this section to have effect as if the former holder of the licence had not made an application for it, this section shall not so have effect if the Commission decide that it would be desirable to publish a further notice under this Part in respect of the grant of a further licence to provide the service in question.").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, these amendments were spoken to with Amendment No. 11 and I beg to move themen bloc.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 18 [Revocation of licence where holder refuses to begin providing promised service]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 65: Page 18, line 34, after ("shall") insert ("(subject to section I7(14))").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment was also spoken to with Amendment No. 11. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 66: Page 18, line 43, leave out subsection (3).

The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment I speak also to Amendments Nos. 80 to 83, 136, 139 to 141, 145, 166 and 208. These amendments make clear that termination penalties under Clause 18 and 100 are payable whenever a Channel 3 or national radio licence is revoked by the ITC or the Radio Authority. I beg to move.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I am pleased to see Amendment No. 83 on the Marshalled List because in Committee we proposed an amendment to limit the time for which a Channel 3 licence holder could provide an adjacent service to a maximum of 18 months. At the time the Minister replied that the provisions of Clause 41(8) were only intended to be temporary and that he would bring forward an amendment on Report to clarify the position. He has done that, for which we are grateful.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 67: Page 19, line 5, leave out ("section 41,") and insert ("any other provision of this Part,").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I offer your Lordships an apology. I spoke to the wrong amendment. I confused the amendments. In fact, it is these amendments which refer to the termination penalties under Clauses 18 and 100. The previous amendments refer to the fact that the ITC may invite another licensee to extend his existing service to a certain area and may vary his licence conditions accordingly. I apologise for confusing your Lordships. Despite that, I hope that your Lordships will approve Amendment No. 67. I refer also to Amendment No. 254.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 19 [Additional payments to be made in respect of Channel 3 licences]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 68 and 69: Page 19, leave out lines 23 and 24 and insert:

Page 20, line 43, at end insert:

The noble Earl said: My Lords, both these amendments were taken with Amendment No. 52. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Cla use 20 [Duration and renewal of Channel 3 licences]:

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 70: Page 21, line 7, leave out ("but not beyond that date") and insert (`having regard to subsection (9)").

The noble Earl said: In moving this amendment I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 71, 74 to 76,157, 158, 162 to 165, 196, 197, and 200 to 203.

These amendments effectively make two detailed changes to the procedures relating to renewal of licences. There is a requirement that renewal must be made not later than the relevant date, or, if that is not reasonably practicable, then renewal should take place as soon after that date as is reasonably practicable. The relevant date is the latest date on which the ITC would have to begin fresh competitive tender arrangements to be sure of having a new licensee in place at the end of the current licence period. Clearly, if the renewal process were to extend significantly beyond this date, then there would be a danger that, if the renewal process were to fall through, the ITC would not have enough time to award the licence to a new applicant before the new licence period began.

It is made clear that the clauses relating to licence payments apply equally to a renewed licence as to an original licence except in terms of the amount of the payments. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 71: Page 21, line 8, leave out subsection (4).

The noble Earl said: I have spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrersmoved Amendments Nos. 72 and 73: Page 21, line 36, leave out from second ("the") to first ("the") in line 38 and insert ("first complete calendar year falling within"). Page 21, line 47, leave out ("a cash bid") and insert ("section 19(1) (a)").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, both these amendments were taken with Amendment No. 52. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 74 to 76: Page 22, line 2, leave out ("not formally") and insert ("formally renew his licence not later than the relevant date or, if that is not reasonably practicable, as soon after that date as is reasonably practicable; and they shall not so"). Page 22, line 13, after ("holder") insert (", and subject to any determination made under subsection (7) (b) above;

Page 22, line 17, at end insert:

The noble Earl said: My Lords, all these amendments were spoken to with Amendment No. 70. I beg to move.

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Clause 21 [Restriction on changes in control over Channel 3 licence holder]:

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 77: Page 22, line 25, at end insert ("and the body to which a Channel 3 licence has been awarded or transferred").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to subject any potential takeover of a Channel 3 licence holder during the moratorium to the approval of the licence holder. The Bill currently prevents any change of ownership of a Channel 3 company during the moratorium period if the ITC has not previously given its approval. This amendment additionally requires the licence holder's approval to be sought before any takeover or change in ownership can occur. That will effectively prevent attempts at hostile takeovers during the moratorium.

During the period leading up to and immediately after the start of broadcasting in 1993, the programme makers and senior management should not be distracted by the threat of a hostile takeover of their company. Even during the period of the moratorium potential buyers of Channel 3 companies may make unwelcome and distracting attempts at takeovers. If, in addition to the ITC's approval, the licence holder is required to approve any change in ownership, then any attempt at a hostile takeover would prove pointless. I beg to move.

10.45 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, Amendment No. 77 seeks to ensure that the body to which a Channel 3 licence has been awarded or transferred, as well as the Independent Television Commission, is content with changes in its licence during the moratorium period, before such a change can be approved. This is unnecessary. It is designed, as the noble Baroness fairly said, to prevent a hostile takeover which the company wished to resist. But the approval of the company, in this context, means the approval of its shareholders; and if the majority of those were opposed to a hostile takeover, they would presumably not sell their shares. If they did, they would presumably be content with the prospect of a takeover.

Amendment No. 78 seeks to extend the moratorium period to the end of the second anniversary of the licence coming into force. The purpose of the moratorium period is to give licensees an opportunity to concentrate on their licence obligations without the potential distractions of takeovers. After one year of broadcasting, the companies need no further protection from the prospect of takeover, which is after all an important market discipline.

I accept that there are those within the industry who would find a longer moratorium very agreeable. But one has to balance that with commercial reality. In our view, it would be wrong to insulate licensees unduly from market forces. A one-year moratorium period will in fact give at least a two-year period of stability since it will run, for Channel 3 licensees, from the award of the licence—probably early in 1992—to the end of 1993. It is worth noting that the chairman designate of the Independent Television Commission is content with a one-year moratorium. After the moratorium ends, there will certainly not be a free-for-all for takeovers. Clause 5(4) and (6) continue to give the Independent Television Commission a locus regarding any change in control of licensees. This is bound to have a moderating effect on any takeovers after the moratorium period.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, it is late. I should like an opportunity to read what the Minister has said. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Baroness Birk moved Amendment No. 78: Page 22, line 39, leave out ("first") and insert ("second").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this amendment extends the length of the moratorium period by one year from the date of the award to two years after the start of broadcasting. As we all remember, at Second Reading a great many speeches were made in favour of a moratorium. But the matter rested there. In Committee, the Government came back with a period of one-year's moratorium up to the award of the licences and then a one-year period after the start of broadcasting. It is only fair to say that during the debate in Committee everyone who spoke, apart from the Minister, was anxious that the moratorium should be extended to two years after the start of broadcasting.

Although some reference was made to the views of the chairman designate of the ITC, there has been no public statement or anything on record that he is against this extension. I shall not say much more because we know the position quite well. We feel that there would be far greater satisfaction not only on these Benches but around the House if there were a longer moratorium period. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to say that the chairman designate of the ITC has not said that he is against these proposals. In fact, I said that he was content with the one-year moratorium. Obviously many people will think that a longer moratorium would be desirable. No doubt the noble Baroness will recall that originally the Government thought it would be inappropriate to have such a moratorium and there were also those who wanted quite long moratoria. We went some way in order to meet those concerns which had the approval of the chairman designate.

I should tell the noble Baroness that we feel that a one-year moratorium is appropriate. As I said, it gives a two-year period of stability. After that time, it is reasonable to suppose that companies should be subject to market forces, which are not always bad; indeed, on the whole, they are a good discipline. That is why we believe that a one-year moratorium is the best option.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, I do not agree with the Minister, but it is quite clear that I shall not get very much further in the matter. In the circumstances I shall not take up any more of the time of the House and, accordingly, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendment No. 79: Page 23, line 15, after ("shall") insert ("(subject to section 17(14))").

The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment when moving Amendment No. 11. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Earl Ferrers moved Amendments Nos. 80, 81, 82 and 83: Page 23, line 17, leave out ("to (8)") and insert ("and (7)"). Page 23, line 18, leave out ("and the revocation of that licence"). Page 23, line 19, leave out (", and the revocation of a licence,").

After Clause 21, insert the following new clause:

("Temporary provision of regional Channel 3 service for additional area

  1. —(1) Where it appears to the Commission—
    1. (a) that (whether as a result of the revocation of an existing regional Channel 3 licence or for any other reason) there will be, in the case of a particular area determined under section 14(2), a temporary lack of any regional Channel 3 service licensed to be provided for that area, but
    2. (b) that it would be reasonably practicable for the holder of a licence to provide a regional Channel 3 service for any other such area to provide his licensed service for the area referred to in paragraph (a) as well, 267 the Commission may invite the holder of that licence temporarily to provide his licensed service for that additional area.
    3. (2) If the holder of that licence agrees so to provide his licensed service, the Commission shall authorise the provision of that service for the additional area in question, during such period as they may determine, by means of a variation of the licence to that effect.").

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Lord Swinfen moved Amendment No. 84: Before Clause 6, insert the following new clause:

("Meaning of "Licensed Services"

For the purposes of sections 6, 7, 8 and 9 of this Act a licensed service shall include a teletext service within the meaning of section 48(2) of this Act, and programmes shall include pages of text shown as part of that teletext service.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is similar to one which I moved in Committee. At that time my noble friend Lord Ullswater undertook to look at the matter and come forward with alternative amendments. As this amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 93 and 239, I shall move it formally but I intend to withdraw it. I beg to move.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for moving this amendment which, as he said, has been grouped with Amendments Nos. 93 and 239.

The amendments tabled in my name are intended to meet the points which he made in Committee; namely, that the consumer protection requirements in Clauses 6 to 12 of the Bill should be applied to the designated teletext service which is authorised in Clause 48(2) of the Bill.

I am grateful to my noble friend for drawing the matter to our attention. I believe that the amendments I have put forward address the matter more appropriately than his amendment. If my noble friend feels able to withdraw the amendment, I hope that he will accept my amendments.

Lord Swinfen

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the work he has put into the matter. I am delighted to accept the alternatives. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne

My Lords, I beg to move that further consideration on Report be now adjourned.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at six minutes before eleven o'clock.