HL Deb 28 February 1994 vol 552 cc919-30

10.10 p.m.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

One thing has been proved tonight: that I am a pretty lousy tipster. I tipped that the other business would be concluded by about seven o'clock and that we should then start this Bill. I also tipped that my modest Bill, helpful and useful as it is, would be unanimously accepted almost at once. Neither of those tips have credited me as a worthwhile tipster.

However, I have benefited from the Bill in one respect. It has brought me in closer touch with the noble Lord, Lord Brain. We had the opportunity of exchanging views, which I found helpful. The contact was friendly and I hope that that will continue well beyond tonight.

I present the Bill with some confidence. The subject is ideal for the Private Bill procedure, which is an important part of our parliamentary proceedings. It enables the House to give a speedy decision on matters which may have been inadvertently overlooked. It also enables one to tack on to an existing Bill new terms without the necessity of giving details of penalties which flow as a result, and so forth. However, the Private Bill procedure should be confined to modest points. The minute that the issues move into the realms of high principle, Bills should go through the full parliamentary procedure. I claim that this Bill falls into the first category because it is modest, useful and the issue should have been dealt with previously.

In order to make the procedure work it was necessary to find an existing statute on which to tack on the new point. I decided upon the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The provisions of this Bill fit in well with that Act. People are entitled to proper privacy and I wish to gain recognition of the fact that anything that is likely to interfere unfairly with that privacy and to cause them damage should be dealt with. If people are being damaged by a written article, or even by words which amount to slander, they are well protected under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act. Provisions exist under that Act which enable them to apply to have the damage rectified, and they can be compensated if the courts are satisfied that damage has occurred. That is what my Bill tries to do in relation to photography and films. Therefore, the mechanics of the Bill and its presentation are my own, using my parliamentary knowledge. However, the principle on which it is based was inspired by Donald Sinden, the well-known actor, who showed by the way that he recognised it that the anxiety is felt outside immediate parliamentary circles. He impressed me by saying: "If I send you a letter, under the law as it is, the paper on which the letter is written and the envelope in which it comes are yours but the words on the letter are still mine, and I can protect those words as my own possessions. If they are misused in a way which can damage, then I can take steps through the courts to see that my damage is recognised and rectified".

I believe that we all recognise today that the photograph is perhaps a more potent messenger in terms of giving impressions than is the written word. A photograph presented in a certain way can give a deeper impression than a written article of 10,000 words. I wish to protect against the misuse of that impression.

The noble Lord, Lord Brain, is eminent in photographic circles. I am sure that all noble Lords recognise that; and I certainly do. I understand absolutely the noble Lord's wish to avoid the Bill reaching the statute book. However, I suggest that he sees the Bill in the wrong way.

The Bill as it stands, as I envisage it and as I want it to be will in no way interfere with people already taking photographs in the normal way. The Bill will in no way interfere with photographers going where they do now in the way that they do now. If someone takes a photograph and presents it so that it is unfair to the image of the person photographed, then under the Bill the person who has been unfairly damaged can go to the appropriate court for it to decide whether or not he was damaged; whether or not the photograph was distributed out of malice of greed; and for the court to take the appropriate action.

People exist— and we know they do— who take photographs with long lenses, or by boring holes in dressing-rooms in gyms and by contorting themselves so that those photographs are taken unbeknown to the people being photographed. They send those photo-graphs all over the world to make easy money. This Bill seeks to deal with those people.

The French provide a good example of how such matters can be dealt with. They have a privacy law. I do not pretend that this Bill goes an inch towards dealing with the privacy law issues which the Government should face. Until the Government find the time and the inclination to produce more explicit legislation to cover the whole privacy issue, people may suffer damage. This Bill merely aims to protect those people who may be damaged while the Government are preparing their own legislation to deal with such matters. After all, if you have a leaking roof and it is obvious that you need a new one but it cannot be done for several months, you put a bucket underneath it in the meantime to take the drops in order to avoid the damage that would otherwise be done to the contents of your house.

As I see it, the Bill is no more than a safeguard. That is all I want it to be. I believe that the words say that that can be done; no more and no less. However, if I am wrong in that and if under detailed examination it can be seen that the Bill is in danger of being unfair to other people — that is, the photographer or anyone else— then it must go before a committee where, under detailed scrutiny, it can be altered so that it does only what I want it to do.

I do not want the Bill to interfere with photographers. I do not want it in any way to step in to prevent people who are now taking photographs in any form from doing so. I merely want a Bill that will at any rate protect the interests of the general public. As I said, they have a privacy law in France which covers the situation. Indeed, we have the evidence regarding the Duchess of York, who had to withstand whatever flowed in this country and in other parts of the world from the long-lens photographs that were taken in what she thought were private. circumstances. However, in France the Duchess was able to get £ 50,000 in compensation and an injunction to prevent the photographs being circulated throughout that country.

We do not have a privacy Bill, nor do we have privacy legislation in the French form. We should perhaps get a step nearer to having just that. However, that may take time. In the meantime, I believe it to be right and proper that we should give people all the protection that we can. What I am suggesting is not new, neither is it ill thought out. When the noble and learned Lord, Lord Ackner, a Lord of Appeal, spoke on the third day of the debate on the gracious Speech at the beginning of this Session, he drew attention to the report of Sir David Calcutt on the matter of privacy. The noble and learned Lord pointed out to the House that one of the recommendations from that impartial Calcutt Committee was that: it should be a criminal offence to take a photograph without the consent of the person being photographed.

If members of that committee felt that that was the right thing to do under permanent circumstances because of all that has happened, then we should take this opportunity to do something under the Private Bill procedure (which means that it can be done quickly and with the minimum number of words) to tide us over. Indeed, there have been so many examples over recent months where people have been unfairly dealt with. That is nothing to do with me, but I am entitled to comment. I believe that the honourable Member for Bolsover was treated most shabbily in the way that photographs were taken of him under certain conditions in a motor car. That was not fair or right.

I have vivid remembrances of a photograph of the Prime Minister that appeared in the newspapers only a couple of months ago which gave the impression that he had given up the ghost. The photograph showed the Prime Minister with bottles in front of him as though he were an intoxicated clown-and-out who had given up the ghost. That was not a good photograph. It made no difference to his standing in this country, but who knows how it influenced the opinion held by people in other parts of the world, particularly those who might have to meet the Prime Minister at future summits? That matter in a word, is all that this Bill is about. Perhaps at some stage the Government— they may intend to do this eventually— will produce a privacy Bill which will include the measures proposed in this Bill, or similar measures. It may take some time for the Government to produce another measure to be attached to this statute which will enable protection to be given in the way that I seek.

I am delighted that my noble friend Lady Trumpington is to reply to this debate. It is worth a couple of lines in one's biography to state that even for 10 minutes one was led in the House by the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, on this or any other issue. There is no reason at all why any intentions the Government may have on this issue should hinder this Bill receiving a Second Reading. This Bill will in no way interfere with the Government's freedom to enact whatever they choose in another measure. However, those of us who know the length of time it takes to obtain a White Paper, a Green Paper and all the other paraphernalia one has to go through before producing a piece of legislation, realise that it may take two or three years to get a Bill through, even if it receives a smooth run in both Houses. In the meantime I believe that this Bill will be welcomed.

As I have already said, I have great respect for the noble Lord, Lord Brain. If he considers that the Bill does not constitute what I am now describing it to be, I say in advance that I will be the first to accept any wording which will make the Bill fit the description of it that I have just given. I want no more and no less than that. I believe that the existing wording fits my purpose but I have an open mind on this matter. The sharing of minds on this issue could well prove that other wording is necessary. It may be that some cowboy photographers want to make easy money out of someone else's discomfiture, and I want the courts to be able to compensate people who have been damaged by the actions of those photographers. With that general explanation, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time. — (Lord Harmar-Nicholls.)

10.29 p.m.

Lord Brain

rose to move, as an amendment to the Motion ("That the Bill be now read a second time") to leave out ("now") and at end insert ("this day six months").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have no major quarrel with the objective that the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, has just proposed, but I feel that his interpretation of this Bill is very different from mine. I think he was talking in some cases about libel rather than the use of copyright. I quite agree that Donald Sinden may own the copyright of a letter, but if the letter is malicious or spiteful or something of that nature, then the person offended has the right to take action under the laws of libel.

In the case of a photograph I agree that the situation is different and I shall discuss that later in my speech. I do not like remarks about general permissions to take photographs. I believe that that matter may be dealt with by one of the other speakers.

I have no objection to privacy legislation. Various photographers with whom I work have assisted in formulating a reply to the Government's consultation paper Infringement of Privacy. However, I am greatly against using the Copyright Act 1988 to introduce a very limited non-governmental privacy restriction.

The 1988 Act establishes the protection of an author's intellectual property— in this case a photograph — by making him the first copyright owner. It gives him the liberty to control the publication of his work and be rewarded for his endeavour when he licences such publication. I accept that Section 85 places a "moral right" restriction on the use of a photograph which has been commissioned by a person under particular circumstances for private and domestic purposes. A photographer who takes that commission is aware of that restriction and can charge accordingly. That restriction was included in the 1988 Act to replace an established restriction of similar effect in the previous Copyright Act.

This Bill seeks to give the protection of privacy in a situation in which the person seeking the moral right has no connection with the person owning the copyright. Surely, at a time when the Government have completed their consultations for a general privacy Act, it would be better to wait for the next step from the Government rather than seek to make a tenuous extension to the Copyright Act in an area quite unrelated to copyright.

I ask the noble Baroness when she replies to give an indication of the current state of progress resulting from that consultation document Infringement of Privacy and perhaps when White Papers and Bills might appear. I know that she will not be able to give me that information, and I would be very optimistic if I suggested that it might appear in the next Queen's Speech.

I turn to what I consider to be the defects in the Bill. The Long Title of the Bill contains the words: to protect the privacy of individuals", yet nowhere in the text does the word "privacy" appear. Instead, the Bill refers to a person's "private life". A dictionary definition of privacy reads: Being withdrawn from society or public interest; avoidance of publicity". Thus, whether or not a person seeks publicity can be decided in many cases by their actions, the location of the photograph and, perhaps, by their standing in public life. I wish there were some lawyers present because I would ask them to advise us whether "private life" matches "privacy". I feel that it does not.

The words "consent or knowledge" are used. We can all agree that consent requires previous knowledge, but how can a photographer establish the state of a person's knowledge at the time he takes the photograph? What about the situation in which photographers are asked to leave some premises? Surely knowledge exists in that case. What about people in the public eye in a public place? They see photographers there. Surely they have knowledge that photographs are likely to be taken.

The noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, mentioned John Major and some bottles. I should be most surprised if he was not aware that that photograph was being taken. I do not know. I do not know the circumstances and I have not seen the photograph. Knowledge is an important factor. I would also debate with the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, whether the Duchess of York was not aware— and therefore had knowledge— that photographers were out to get her in the circumstances he mentioned. I wonder whether his Bill as drafted would provide the protection he seeks.

I shall speak shortly about "knowledge" in circumstances where a photograph is obtained from a library. Again, how can it be established whether or not a person had knowledge that the photograph was being taken?

Can merely the publication of a photograph intrude upon a person's private life? Does the manner of that publication have to be considered? Does the subsequent amount of publicity have to be considered? As the Bill is drafted the right of privacy would apply to any publication, exhibition or broadcast. That is a very broad form of publication privacy restriction.

Some factors may be found in law to be intrusive. Others may not. I regret that the noble Lord wishes the point to be settled by the courts. I should much prefer it to be relatively clear, as is the law of libel, so that people may decide whether or not they are intruding beforehand. I regret the suggestion that the issue should be decided by the courts.

The Bill as drafted does not provide any defence to the matter of intrusion. However, Clause 85, upon which it is based, provides for a restricted photograph to be used in certain circumstances. The consultation paper, Infringement of Privacy, suggests a wide range of defences against infringement. The Bill does not offer even one.

Taking the link between the Bill and libel a stage further, let us suppose that a journalist is investigating some matter. He decides, with perfect advice, that he is not libelling someone and therefore publishes the matter. During his investigation he has also taken a photograph. The Bill prevents him from publishing that photograph, which may well support his case and act as a defence against libel. The Bill presents an absolute ban. I do not believe that it is reasonable to allow that.

I suggest that there is a need to provide such defences as public interest, prior publication, consent, actual or implied by a person being in a public place, and the intrusive matter being only a part of the photograph. One has to take the whole subject in context. It is a difficult issue. The Bill does not define "privacy","intrude", or "private life". Those words and the thoughts underlying them and their use in privacy legislation are discussed at length in Chapter 5 of the consultation paper to which I have referred. That carefully thought-out and argued paper makes it clear that those areas are for debate and explains the problems behind establishing a workable legal framework.

The Bill appears to be taking a shotgun approach to the people against whom action can be taken. Let us take a usual trail in the publication of a photograph. A photographer takes a photograph; he sends it to an agent who is authorised to license its use under the Copyright Act; the agent may then pass it on to a picture library with a sub-licence; the library may then sell it for specific use; it ends up on the desk of a newspaper or television editor, and is finally published or broadcast.

Who has infringed whose rights? Is everyone to be sued? Logically, from my reading, the Bill provides that that is so.

The Bill does not consider the need to amend such clauses as Clauses 88, 89 or 95. It does not bring in any commencement date or transitional provisions. Those clauses may need to be amended to provide the answer to such questions as how the Bill should apply to photographs or films where more than one person is depicted and they hold different views about the privacy factor. How would it apply if only part of the work were published? Should it apply after the death of the person photographed? If so, who should exercise the right?

I wish to emphasise that I am all in favour of a privacy Bill. I feel strongly that the present Bill cannot be amended. I shall listen with care to the remainder of the debate and then decide what action I shall take, bearing in mind the lateness of the hour. I beg to move.

Moved, as an amendment to the Motion ("That the Bill be now read a second time") to leave out ("now") and at end insert ("this day six months"). — (Lord Brain.)

10.39 p.m.

Baroness Wharton

My Lords, perhaps I may apologise to the House for not having my name on the list of speakers. I am a photographer. Most of my work deals with the acting profession and is for agents and for use in casting and trade journals. It is I who sign a piece of paper allowing them to use my photographs for publication or to promote their careers, although they may not sell the photographs.

However, I also photograph outside situations for exhibition, and they sometimes have close-ups of members of the public. I feel that I would not be able to do that if Clause 85A stands. The clause could also affect amateurs if their photographs of people appeared in exhibitions or magazines, and frequently they do. I only need to draw your Lordships' attention to the recent exhibition in this House. Many of those pictures would not have been allowed unless we had sought permission first.

Documentary photography has always played a powerful part in recording our lives, and much of it done by amateurs. I am sure that the clause is really meant to prevent the invasion of privacy by aggressive commercial photographers like the paparazzi who trade photographs for a high price because of the well-known nature of the subjects in them.

Finally, what about security photography in shops, where an innocent party could be part of a photograph shown on television in order to identify a suspect? I am afraid I cannot agree with Clause 85A as it stands unless it can he drastically amended at a later stage.

10.40 p.m.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, I shall not delay the House long. There appears to have been perhaps an excess of Welsh wind earlier and we are running late.

I begin by expressing my sympathy with the general objectives of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls. There have been far too many excessive intrusions into privacy both by journalists and by photographers in a quite appalling way. I have personally witnessed some of the photographers in action. They behave like animals and no civilised society should allow them to do so. The freedoms they claim to exercise are not true freedoms, they are not freedoms we should defend. They are all simply breaches of other people's legitimate freedoms. They are not liberties, they are abuses of liberty. The great philosophers of liberty in the 18th and 19th centuries always argued that no liberty should be exercised beyond the point where other people's liberties are infringed. That is basically what most of these people do, whether journalists or paparazzi. So I am very much behind the basic instinctive position of the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls.

However, there is one point I wish to raise with the noble Lord, Lord Brain. He mentioned knowledge and whether the subjects, such as the Prime Minister, had knowledge that they were being photographed, with the implication therefore that they should put up with it. It seems to me that the point now is that with the modern long-range technology of cameras, it is possible to photograph people without their knowledge in the most private of circumstances. That is quite outrageous and it is why the problem is now much more acute.

Having said that, I believe that basically we must wait for the Government's White Paper on privacy. If we are discussing privacy, that is due to be brought before us; and despite having listened to what the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, explained about his bucket under the roof, I do not think we should be second-guessing what we trust the Government will shortly do. We hope that they will be firm and clear and will come to us with proposals for clear protection of genuine privacy. Then we can discuss it on its merits in the proper context. I urge the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, to use all his influence with the Government to secure that that happens.

With reference to the Bill before us, I must say that I found it commendably short and I wish all legislation before us were broadly of that scale. The Bill has a number of technical defects which have been very well outlined by the noble Lord, Lord Brain. The scope of the Bill seems too broad and unspecific. There are no criteria for defence of publication on grounds, for example, of public interest as was set out in the Government's consultation paper on privacy.

The definition as to what is privacy is always a difficult matter. What are the subjects of intrusions, and the definition of intrusion itself, seem perhaps imprecise. Above all, I am not convinced that a copyright Bill is the best vehicle for privacy legislation. Basically, privacy has nothing to do with copyright. I therefore have reservations about the Bill, while I deeply hope that the basic problems that concern the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, will have been dealt with by the Government before too long in this Parliament.

This Government and this Prime Minister constantly complain about journalists, newspapers, the media, the paparazzi, and so forth, with good cause. But no one in this country has more powers to deal with that problem than the Government. They should stop complaining; they should put up or shut up; and they should come to us with very clear, firm legislation to cage these particular animals.

Finally, I must point out to the House that, as an Opposition, we do not take a position on this Bill at this stage, or on the amendment, so we shall not vote on it.

9.46 p.m.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls was so gallant to this old grey mare that I fear that when he hears what I am about to say he may feel for the third time this evening that his tipster instincts have failed him yet again.

The protection of privacy in particular from the unwarranted attentions of the press is one of the most difficult and intractable questions, but also one of the most important which confronts us. I thought it might help the House in its deliberations if I were to set out the Government's policy on this issue.

I should say at the outset that I fully agree with the strictures of the noble Lord, Lord Brain, about the use of copyright law as a vehicle for this amending Bill. As the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, said, privacy is not a copyright matter at all. The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 is concerned with assigning proprietary rights between those who claim copyright of original creations, including photographs and films. The general principle is that the author of a work owns the copyright. The Act does not give any copyright to those who appear in photographs or films, unless they happen to have acquired the copyright, employed the photographer or commissioned the work (or perhaps have photographed themselves with a time-delayed shutter).

However, in few if any of these cases would the photograph have been taken without the knowledge or consent of the subject. I note that my noble friend Lord Harmar-Nicholls has cunningly limited the application of the Bill to works in which the copyright subsists. But copyright subsists in any work created or published in this and more than 100 other designated countries, and thus his Bill, to all intents and purposes, is a protection of privacy Bill unaffected by the law on copyright.

I shall not weary noble Lords with a detailed history of the consideration which has been given over recent years to the question of press intrusion into privacy. Suffice it to say that, since the Second World War, there have been a number of official reports on the press or on privacy, and a number of Private Members' Bills. The reports have generally found newspapers in default, particularly by intruding into privacy without any justification in the public interest, and have warned that failure to make self-regulation work will inevitably lead to further calls for statutory intervention without actually recommending such intervention. The Private Members' Bills conferring a right to privacy or a right of reply have not made progress.

The most recent report, on privacy and media intrusion, was published by the National Heritage Committee on 24th March 1993. The Committee recommended a statutory press complaints ombudsman, a protection of privacy Bill with civil and criminal elements, and further improvements to press self-regulation. The Government intend to respond to the committee and to any outstanding recommendations made by Sir David Calcutt in his Review of Press Self-Regulation published on 14th January 1993 in a White Paper which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for National Heritage hopes to publish shortly.

Much as your Lordships would obviously like me to, I cannot anticipate the detailed contents of the White Paper. But I can say that the Government's overriding concern in this matter will be, first, to ensure that a proper balance is struck between the right to privacy and other equally important rights, including the right to freedom of expression, and, secondly, to ensure a proper balance between the use of criminal and civil remedies. We have made clear our reluctance to see any statutory control of the press, whether through a statutory tribunal or a press ombudsman, and we have accepted the case for criminal offences of intrusion. The White Paper will set out the Government's conclusions on the privacy tort.

The Government welcomed and will continue to welcome all improvements to newspaper self-regulation (including the recent appointment of Professor Robert Pinker as Privacy Commissioner) which have been introduced by the industry. The question that we shall be addressing in the White Paper is whether those improvements go far enough in the light of the criticisms of press self-regulation noted by Sir David Calcutt and the Select Committee.

I would only add that we would have grave reservations about any proposal to extend privacy rights in the way that my noble friend's Bill would require. We agree with the conclusion of the 1990 Privacy Committee (in paragraph 9.8) that, although the law of copyright could be extended to give each person appearing in photographs joint copyright with the photographer, this would be wholly impracticable, especially in relation to group photographs, crowd scenes or photographs including passers-by. The committee went on to note that, even if the photograph had but a single subject, his consent would be needed for any public use of the photograph, even if that involved no infringement of his privacy. Difficulties with films of, for example, a moving crowd would be proportionately much greater.

Added to that are definitional difficulties, the fact that the subject's right to protect a photograph of himself is not subject to any public interest defences or tests of harm and the many other matters to which the noble Lord, Lord Brain, referred.

In conclusion, the Government are not convinced that giving this disproportionate protection to a single aspect of privacy is the right way forward. As I said, we shall bring forward a White Paper setting out comprehensive proposals on press regulation and privacy very shortly. Meanwhile, we ask your Lordships to be patient a while longer. No doubt there will be opportunities to debate the White Paper proposals once they are published, but at present I would ask my noble friend to reculer so that he can mieux sauter at a later stage.

10.53 p.m.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, one thing that has come out of this short debate is how much noble Lords are in agreement with each other. Every speech has recognised that there ought to be some kind of control over the outrageous happenings that we have all witnessed even over recent months.

Having settled that, which is the main principle, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Brain, and particularly the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, whom I should like to thank very much for the explicit way in which he put into words what I felt. I also thank my noble friend for the: kindly way in which she tried to say no. There is nothing wrong with that.

I believe that the consensus that we have shown justifies giving this Bill a Second Reading so that we can see whether we can overcome in Committee some of the technical points, particularly the ones made by the noble Lord, Lord Brain.

That is what the parliamentary system is all about. As for the business of not tacking it on to a copyright Bill, why not? I examined all the possible alternatives and the obvious method available to do it in the form of a Private Bill, which did not need all the paraphernalia of the full compensat on, was the copyright Act.

When my learned friend goes to the market and buys a bread knife, that does not mean that she cannot cut sausage with it if she so wishes, just because it is called a "bread" knife. Copyright is one part of the legislation and this aspect can be added to it without in any way cutting across the message of copyright, but affecting only the part concerning privacy.

That is what the system is about. We have First Readings, Second Readings and then Committee stages. I want to say in advance that where people can produce words which will mean what I want them to mean— even though they are not the words of the Bill as presently drafted— I shall accept them. At the moment, people who would like to make outrageous, slanderous comments about other people, often do not do so because of the risk of their being brought into court as a result of their outrageous extremism. If some of the cowboy photographers faced the risk of a court action and all that flows from it, it may deter them also.

My noble friend made her brief sound rather more attractive than I suppose it is when she said "shortly" this would be done. I have been in Parliament for 43 years. In some cases in which I have had personal experience "shortly" has meant four, five or six years. What does it mean'? These events take place every day. At the moment Sara Keays is in court with somebody who produced a photograph taken 20 years ago when she was walking down the street in a rather friendly way with somebody, and that picture was taken with her own camera. She is resorting to protect herself from a picture taken with her own camera. As matters stand at present, all she can do is claim the copyright of the ownership of the camera and what came out of it. I believe that she should have extra protection if such a picture. taken with her own camera 20 years ago, is presented in a form which damages her in any way. She is entitled to that protection now; not to wait until "shortly", which may mean anything.

It is because I believe that this matter in no way cuts across what I hope the Government will do and what we all encourage the Government to do, that I propose the Bill today. These provisions can run alongside the government proposals; they will not replace them. It will not mean lots of words in new legislation; it is all there.

I suggest that we use the parliamentary procedures that have been built up, including the Private Bill procedure, to give the matter a Second Reading, and then discuss in Committee whether the proper criticisms of the noble Lord, Lord Brain, and others can be substantiated. If they can, we drop it. But to give up at this stage means that we are not doing our duty for the many people who are suffering because of the lack of privacy protection today. I therefore urge the House, even at this late hour, to give the matter a Second Reading, so that we can hammer out the differences in Committee. If we can, well and good; if not, that is too bad. Even if the Bill leaves this House, it must go through another place. By then more time will have elapsed, and we ought not to put people in danger of waiting that extra time when we are possibly in a position to prevent it. I therefore commend the Bill to the House.

Lord Brain

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Wharton, the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, and the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, for participat-ing in this rather short debate. Because I shortened my speech I may not have made myself quite as clear to the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue, as I intended to be. It was taking the point that the Bill indicated that knowledge meant that one had protection or did not have protection according to how much knowledge could be shown. I felt it was a difficult point. I used a bad example.

All noble Lords, except, I am sorry to say, the noble Lord, Lord Harmar-Nicholls, are agreed as to what should happen to the Bill today. However, the House is very thinly attended. While I should very much regret wasting a lot of time— I think it would be a waste of time having a Second Reading and further proceedings in the House— I feel it appropriate to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at eleven o'clock.