HL Deb 12 July 2002 vol 637 cc902-16

12.17 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester

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

In doing so I want, first, most warmly to congratulate my honourable friend Rachel Squire on piloting this humane and long-overdue measure through the House of Commons with such skill and success. Speaking as a serial legislator in this policy area—both as a Private Member and a Minister—I hold her achievement in the highest admiration. By all my tests of the good MP, she is a parliamentarian par excellence. Rachel acknowledged, as I do now, the unfailing support of Caroline Ellis and her team at the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB); of the Government and particularly of Melanie Johnson; of the copyright directorate; and of parliamentarians of all parties in another place. I want also to acknowledge the invaluable help of Rhodri Walters of the Public Bill Office in this House and of Mary Robertson and Chloe Mawson of the office of the Leader of the House.

For me, this is a deeply evocative moment. It recalls the warmth of the all-party support I received, 33 years ago, after publishing my Private Member's Bill that became the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. The RNIB today describes the Bill as having, marked the beginning of a long revolution in the life chances of all disabled people". It was not a personal achievement. A wide fellowship of people worked with me to enact my Bill. They included many distinguished parliamentarians without whose unfailing help—notably that of my good and abiding friend Jack Ashley, as he then was, the late and much revered John Astor and the ever resourceful Lewis Carter-Jones—it could never even have begun to achieve its purpose. Naturally I am delighted that my noble friend Lord Ashley and I are as one again in this debate.

Of course, both of us well recall that the RNIB also played an important part in and after 1970 and I pay tribute today to two other fellow campaigners and longstanding friends of ours: Colin Lowe CBE, who now chairs the RNIB, and Professor Ian Bruce, its Director-General. To their kind assessment of my Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Bill, my response is that this Bill too marks an historic turning-point, one that will open up for visually impaired people throughout the UK—over 3,000 in every parliamentary constituency—a world of information and culture from which they are mostly and quite wrongly now excluded.

Visually impaired people cannot simply walk into their nearest bookshop and choose a book in large print or Braille. While there are a few commercial publishers of large-print and audio books, most publishers do not make accessible copies of works for people who are visually impaired. The most recent research shows that only 5 per cent of the 100,000-plus titles published in the UK in 1998 were available in formats accessible to Britain's 2 million visually impaired people a year later. The majority of accessible copies are produced by voluntary organisations or teachers of visually impaired students. Yet even their ability to make books, magazines and other materials accessible and readily available is massively constrained by current copyright restrictions.

Before accessible copies of a copyright work can be made the explicit permission of the right-holder is required. This is usually granted but, typically, there are significant delays of anything from a month to two years and, occasionally, some outright refusals. When permission is delayed or refused, visually impaired students are unable to complete coursework and members of churches, community and reading groups find themselves excluded from social and cultural activities. Visually impaired people are distressed and rightly feel aggrieved that this most damaging form of social exclusion is still allowed to happen.

One example of its effects is that of a blind choir member still awaiting her Braille copy of Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New. This is because the RNIB has yet to receive copyright permission. There are numerous contributors to the hymn book and chasing them all up is proving expensive. Yet until the blind choir member gets her Braille hymn book, she cannot play her rightful part in the choir's activities and is left doubly disabled and in double despair.

That is but one example of why Rachel Squire introduced her Bill in another place. It was debated there entirely without party animus and unanimously approved, as the speeches of Nigel Waterson, speaking for the Opposition, and earlier of his Front Bench colleague, Eric Forth, clearly demonstrated. Nigel Waterson said that the Bill had: the wholehearted support of the official Opposition. The principle that it involves could not be clearer: our visually impaired constituents should have unnecessary obstacles removed from their lives, whether in their leisure activities or their studies. They face quite enough obstacles in their lives already".—[Official Report, Commons, 21/6/02; cols. 572–573.] Eric Forth described the measure as: a model private Member's Bill. It is focused on a particular problem; it is relatively and properly limited in scope; it is, we now know, uncontroversial … Those are all admirable qualities in a private Member's Bill. The fact that the Bill seeks to correct something which is so patently wrong and does so in a businesslike way is an additional virtue".—[Official Report, Commons, 15/3/ 02; col. 1198.] The House of Commons was at its best in the debates there on this Bill and I am sure the response of this House will be no less worthy of its high moral purpose. Indeed, I see the presence here today of my noble friend Lady Andrews to speak for the Government and that of the noble Lords. Lord Glentoran and Lord Addington, to speak for the Opposition parties as a clear guarantee of that outcome.

Many organisations and bodies outside the House are most anxious to see the Bill reach the statute book with no avoidable delay. In addition to the RNIB, which has long campaigned on this issue, they include the Disability Rights Commission, Rehab UK, Scope, St Dunstan's, The Royal British Legion, Sense, Deafblind UK, the Library Association, the National Library for the Blind, the Calibre Cassette Library, the Scottish Braille Press and the Talking Newspaper Association of the UK.

A very wide range of authors have expressed their support, including Philip Pullman, Jilly Cooper, Joanna Trollope, Harold Pinter and Nick Hornby. Many more, including a number of noble Lords, are actively engaged in promoting the right to read by recording Talking Books and by fundraising for RNIB's Digital Talking Book service.

Since last summer Rachel Squire has worked tirelessly with the Patent. Office and all of the interests involved to ensure that her Bill strikes exactly the right balance between the pressing needs of visually impaired people and the legitimate interests of copyright owners. Initially, right-holder groups had some concerns about aspects of the Bill. Responding to their views, Rachel amended her Bill to tackle them. The Minister gave further assurances at Third Reading in another place so that right-holder organisations are today generally supportive of the Bill.

I turn now to a brief explanation of the Bill's clauses, which the Explanatory Notes, prepared by the RNIB with help from the Patent Office and available in the Printed Paper Office, allow me to make all the more succinct.

Clause 1 provides the first new exception to copyright. This allows single accessible copies of copyright materials to be made for the personal use of a visually impaired person without infringement of copyright. A visually impaired person can only have an accessible copy made under the exception where they have lawfully in their possession or are lawfully able to use, such as in a reference library, what is called a "master copy" of the copyright material. Of course, the master copy will generally have involved payment of copyright royalties to the owners. It is not possible to make an accessible copy where these are already commercially available and any copies made under this exception must be accompanied by a statement that they are so made.

Clause 2 provides the second new exception to copyright, allowing multiple copies of a master copy to be made by either an educational establishment or a not-for-profit body. However, as with the first exception, there are a number of conditions. A body cannot make accessible copies in a form that is commercially available and cannot supply any accessible copies to a visually impaired person who would have no problem in accessing a commercially available copy.

Clause 3 states that bodies acting under the second new exception to copyright are allowed to keep an intermediate copy that was necessarily created during the production of accessible copies under the exception. This intermediate copy can be used, but used only, to produce further accessible copies in the future. An intermediate copy that includes the right codes in order to run off a Braille copy may have been expensive to produce, so this is a valuable way of saving money. Moreover, intermediate copies can be transferred to other bodies entitled to make accessible copies under the exception. Copyright owners must be notified of accessible copies made and intermediate copies transferred and must be given reasonable access to inspect records made of accessible and intermediate copies.

Clause 4 enables copyright owners to continue licensing the production of multiple accessible copies, and seeking a royalty for use of their property, the copyright, in this way if they so wish. It provides that the second exception is overridden to the extent that there is a licensing scheme to license the making of particular accessible copies. If such a scheme exists, then a licence must be taken out in order to make that type of accessible copy of the copyright material covered by the scheme. However, a licensing scheme cannot generally prohibit anything that would have been possible under the multiple copies exception.

Clause 5 allows the Secretary of State to make an order that would limit the scope of Section 31B, which allows approved bodies to make accessible copies of copyright material where she believes that copyright infringement has occurred on a scale that would not have happened but for activity under the second exception. An order could prohibit certain bodies from acting under the exception or a licence or limit the description of accessible copies that can be made. The Secretary of State must consult relevant interests before making an order. This offers a vital safeguard for copyright owners, but, of course, great effort will go into promoting compliance to minimise any need for resort to this power.

Clause 6 deals with the key definitions of visually impaired person and accessible copies. And here I am very pleased to say that, as well as people who are blind and partially sighted, the Bill will also help people who have a physical disability which makes them unable to hold a book or move or focus their eyes normally.

Clause 7 makes consequential amendments to the 1988 Act and Clause 8 specifies that the Act will apply across the UK since copyright is a reserved matter.

These provisions rest on the twin principles of respect for intellectual property and the need to acknowledge the right of visually impaired people to read the same materials as everyone else without delay. They will make an immediate difference to visually impaired people in education, work and cultural life and will enhance their status and well-being by improving their life chances.

The good society for disabled citizens is one that strives to reduce the handicapping effects of their disabilities and vouchsafes for them the same rights as other citizens to grow and to learn, to work and create and to participate fully in the social and economic life of their communities on equal terms with everyone else. This Bill —the Rachel Squire Bill—contributes importantly to that end for at least two million disabled people in this country and hopefully, by its example and impact, millions more across the world. Yes, this Bill is also of considerable international importance and I commend it to your Lordships' House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Morris of Manchester.)

12.32 p.m.

Baroness Greengross

My Lords, I rise to give my strong support to this Bill. Before I begin, I have to apologise to your Lordships' House. A charity event means that I shall be unable to be here for the whole debate. I hope your Lordships will forgive me. I shall be brief because I know that, behind the scenes, much effort has gone into ensuring that this Bill succeeds. I have been very moved by the eloquent way in which the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, has introduced it.

As we have heard, this is an important Bill backed by many organisations: in particular, by the RNIB and by many professionally involved bodies, such as the Publishers Licensing Society, as well as by many authors. I am pleased that the Government are also hacking it. Successful legislation is achieved through a partnership. This Bill is a very good example of that.

A part of that partnership is Parliament. I pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, for introducing the Bill in your Lordships' House and to Rachel Squire for steering it through another place—not an easy task, given how few private members' Bills reach the statute book.

The Bill is important because it will massively increase the number arid range of printed material for visually impaired people and will speed up the process hugely. It will achieve that by simplifying the copyright process. I was depressed to learn from the RNIB figures that just five per cent of books published in 1998 were available in accessible format one year later. It was also shocking to read that it can take over a year to get the necessary permission for a student to get his/her course notes in audio format. I was also surprised to learn that, although many authors strongly support this initiative, some refuse to allow their work to be made into audio books, which is saddening.

Many people will benefit from this Bill. We have heard that two million people in the UK are blind or partially sighted and many, through physical disability, cannot hold a book. As sight loss is often age-related, it is not surprising that 90 per cent of them are older people. Unless we can prevent age-related sight loss, our ageing population could mean that as many as 2.5 million people will be affected by sight loss by 2025. Already one in five older people, aged over 75, suffer some form of sight loss.

Therefore, it is clear that older people will be the main beneficiaries, particularly those who prefer audio format. Reading for them is a major pastime. They use libraries more and take out more books. Why should they not be able to have access to the latest best-seller in accessible format? We need to ensure that those people, too, are part of the information revolution.

Many people with sight loss are older people who suffer from macular degeneration, affecting particularly the ability to read. That can lead to loss of job and some people retreat into depression, isolation and serious illness. Other conditions associated with ageing affect our sight, such as diabetes and cataracts. We know that the incidence of diabetes is increasing all the time, partly through success in enabling diabetics to live longer. But we have to ensure that the other aspects of life are also dealt with as this happens.

In some ways it is a pity that we need this Bill to speed the copyright process for accessible format printed material, especially for Braille. Publishers could co-operate more under existing law. A relatively small number of blind or partially-sighted people use Braille and 1 doubt whether there is much of a black market in "knock-off" Braille books.

As the Bill has already had considerable consultation and consideration, I wish it a swift passage through this House.

12.38 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke

My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to my noble friend Lord Morris. It is typical that he should introduce this Bill. He did so with great eloquence and very comprehensively. I am sure there can be no doubt in the mind of anyone listening to his speech about the importance of this Bill. The fact that my noble friend has proposed it is yet another laurel to add to the many he has gained in Parliament. I should like also to congratulate Rachel Squire who piloted the Bill in another place with great skill. That it was accepted on all sides was a. very welcome development.

Caroline Ellis at the RNIB does splendid work on disability. She and her outstanding team have been briefing and helping us on this Bill. I cannot let this moment go without saying how delighted I am that my noble friend Lady Andrews will reply to the debate. She begins a distinguished Front Bench career. We shall listen with great interest to her response and watch her future career with even more interest.

Thirty years ago, disabled people were undoubtedly regarded as second class citizens. ln a sense they accepted it then because there seemed to be no alternative. The barriers were so enormous and immense and there was no move from any government—Labour, Tory, Liberal or whatever—towards significant advances to further the rights of disabled people.

There have been a number of developments since then. With the help of the All-Party Disability Group and many other organisations, we have made enormous progress for disabled people. However, that progress is not comprehensive and there are still many gaps in the provision.

The Bill fills an important gap. As the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, said in support of my noble friend Lord Morris, the Figures that we have heard on the treatment of visually impaired people are shocking. It beats me how we have neglected the problem all these years and Parliament has remained passive while visually impaired people have been denied books, newspapers and all kinds of publications. I do not know how we have overlooked it. It is a blot on campaigners and on successive governments.

I feel irritated when I go to a library and have to wait a week for a book. I almost demand instant attention. I feel slightly irritated when people say that the book will be along in a couple of weeks. The research for the Bill has shown that blind or visually impaired people have to wait for up to two years before they can get books. That is staggering. Where has Parliament been all this time? What have we been doing? Why have not the blind and visually impaired people been more vociferous—although RNIB does a good job?

The key figure, which was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Morris and by the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, is that only 5 per cent of books published in a year are in an accessible format for blind people. That is staggering. The best way to understand the significance of such a lack of provision is to place it in another context and imagine that all the people in British libraries were told that they could have only 5 per cent of the books on the shelves. That is the equivalent and shows the significance of the situation for blind and disabled people. It beats me how we have tolerated it.

Inevitably, there are fears of a conflict between visually impaired people and copyright owners, who are legitimately concerned about the diminution and dilution of their rights. Happily, because of the good offices of Rachel Squire and her colleagues in the House of Commons, those problems have been ironed out. I am very pleased that the Minister, Melanie Johnson, said that, after all the negotiations, the Bill now provides all the necessary checks and balances, while helping visually impaired people.

There we have it. We could not have a better Bill. It is uncontroversial. Long speeches are an awful bore, so I shall sit down now. I warmly commend the Bill to the House.

12.43 p.m.

Lord Rea

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester has clearly and eloquently described the purpose of the Bill and how the clauses will work. As he said, it was tweaked and improved before it went into the legislative process and during its passage through another place to satisfy the copyright holders, who I gather are now happy about the Bill and appreciate the need for it.

The Bill will greatly help towards including visually impaired people in—and keeping them abreast of—society as a whole, making them first class citizens rather than second class ones, as my noble friend Lord Ashley has just described. It follows a long line of legislation sponsored in both Houses over the years by my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester and his equally tireless colleague, my noble friend Lord Ashley of Stoke.

I plead with my noble friend Lady Andrews to arrange for this short but useful Bill to move rapidly through its remaining stages, without, it is to be hoped, amendment, so that it can reach the statute book before the recess if possible. I realise that whether amendments will be tabled is not entirely in her hands.

The Bill cannot be described as a giant leap for mankind, but it is an important step in the right direction for those men, women and children who have the misfortune to be visually impaired.

12.45 p.m.

Baroness Wilkins

My Lords, I, too, congratulate Rachel Squire on taking up this important Bill after her success in the Private Member's Bills ballot in the other place. I am delighted that, with his long and successful experience with Private Member's Bills, my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester is going to steer the Bill through this House. I also congratulate the team from the RNIB, whose work on the Bill has been outstanding. It is an essential Bill for visually impaired people and it has my wholehearted support.

This action to redress the appalling injustice faced daily by visually impaired people is long overdue. We have already heard examples of how damaging and demoralising this denial of the right to read generally available published material can be, excluding visually impaired children and adults from educational and cultural life. The Bill will go a long way to address that.

I know from my borough of Hammersmith and Fulham the frustrations that are faced by the visual impairment resource team and, most importantly, by each visually impaired child and their family. To get translations or adaptations for each pupil's work throughout their life, the team has to apply for permission from the publishers. This often involves significant delays and it can be months before they receive a reply. If a pupil is studying for public examinations such as GCSEs, this can mean that they do not receive their text books in accessible format until revision time. That is an appalling injustice.

Hammersmith and Fulham's resource team has recently noticed a tendency for permission to be given with more stringent conditions attached than in the past. For example, one publisher refused to allow illustrations to be described for a Braille reader, making it impossible for that student to access the work. Others have reminded the team that: Permission does not include any extraneous copyright material that may be incorporated in the work". Text books often contain a lot of extraneous material, such as quotations, poetry and magazine or newspaper articles. Under current copyright law, all those with copyright in such work have to be contacted before an accessible copy can be made available. This long overdue Bill will address that issue. It bends over backwards to meet the concerns of copyright holders. It is a wholly welcome, hut very modest Bill.

Almost four centuries ago the law established that a copy of every piece of published material should be deposited with the British Library so that it could be accessible to anyone who wanted to read it. Visually impaired people should have that same right.

Today's production processes mean that nearly all material is published from an electronic format. I look forward to a time when we pass a Bill ensuring that a copy of that electronic format is lodged with the British Library or an appropriate authority for access by visually impaired people, with thorough safeguards to address the copyright holders' concerns. In that way we might ensure that every visually impaired person has the same right of access to every published work in the format that they require.

In the mean time, I wholeheartedly support this long overdue and urgently needed Bill. I hope that we can ensure that it has a speedy passage through this House.

12.49 p.m.

Lord Addington

My Lords, reading this Bill gives rise to one of those occasions when one gets that horrible, sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach and the question occurs: why was this not done earlier? The delay in passing this type of legislation provides the best possible example of the cock-up school of history. Literature plays such an important part in our lives that exclusion from access to it effectively marks one out as not being a part of the intelligentsia or the mainstream of those who argue and are informed. Despite our best efforts to the contrary, we still pay far more attention to those who can quote someone who had a great thought in the past than we do to those who quite independently arrive at precisely the same thought in the present. It is just the way that we work. It is much easier to change the law than it is to change cultural tradition. So I think that those who have promoted this legislation deserve credit.

It is also nice that, because the other place has done all the work on the legislation and sent it to us, we have only to extend our congratulations. Indeed, I think that this is the first such occasion in my time in the House. I hope that this precedent will help ensure that our task is easier when we next consider disability legislation of any description. I say that more in hope than expectation.

The Bill nicely encapsulates the idea that, if something benefits most people, everyone should have access to it. I cannot see anyone fundamentally objecting to that, with the possible exception of a few lawyers who like drawing up contracts. However, baiting them should become a national sport. I suggest that the Bill will not hurt anyone.

The Bill also points up how much more difficult it is to legislate in the disability sphere because of the diverse range of needs and unintentionally erected obstacles. One idea currently in the air is to bring all civil rights under one heading. I would be in favour of that if it would encompass the great range of disabilities. Although this is not the time to go into that, there are many cases in which sheer ignorance leads to discrimination.

I see no conceivable reason that the Bill should not be passed quickly. As I said, the problems have already been dealt with in negotiations. If anyone on these Benches plans to move an amendment to this legislation, he/she will have to do an extremely good job of explaining to me why we should do so.

12.52 p.m.

Lord Glentoran

My Lords, I also support the Bill. For many years, my wife worked for the Royal National Institute for the Blind; ultimately she was the regional director for Northern Ireland. Perhaps I may detain your Lordships for a moment to relate the first time that contact with a blind person had a serious impact on me.

Sir John Wall, who was then chairman of the Royal National Institute for the Blind, came to stay with us at home one weekend. We live in a reasonable size farmhouse. At bedtime, I took John up to bed and said, "Everything all right, John? Goodnight". He said, "Robin, don't forget to turn the lights out because I don't need them". That had an impact on me. The next day we went for a drive across the beautiful Irish countryside, into Donegal. I had a great friend with me and we were attempting to describe this countryside to John. It was quite a long drive. When John later wrote to us to thank us, he said, "Arid I really did enjoy seeing your beautiful countryside". That really had a major impact on me and allowed me to have a small insight into what it might be like to lose one's sight.

When it comes to being able to read, both for education and for pleasure as one grows older, not to be able to have access to the world's literature or even to newspapers must be a serious handicap and a terrible thing. It is the sort of issue which people generally do not think about. When one goes to buy a book, one does not think 2.5 million people in this country do not have that opportunity.

I really do think that Rachel Squire and the noble Lord, Lord Morris, have done a fantastic job with their team of helpers from across the board, whom the noble Lord, Lord Morris, mentioned. I am also grateful to the noble Lord for so clearly explaining how the Bill will operate. The Bill is a wonderful example of compromise. I suspect that there was also quite a lot of what we would call at home "wheeling and dealing" behind the scenes in order to get the Bill to this stage. All those who have been involved in that deserve our congratulations and thanks.

I certainly support the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, and the noble Lord, Lord Addington. One wonders why such legislation has taken so long to reach this stage. I also agree that it is great that all this work has been done in another place. The Bill is apparently in a very good state. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Addington, on another point. I shall do my best to collar any Members of my party who wish to interfere with the course and process of this Bill. I have absolutely no qualms at all about the Bill. In fact, I support it wholeheartedly.

12.56 p.m.

Baroness Andrews

My Lords, it is a particular pleasure to be able to welcome the Bill on behalf of the Government and to associate myself—bearing in mind our joint history—with my noble friends Lord Morris and Lord Ashley who have such an outstanding record. I was trying to think of a collective noun for campaigners. All I could think of was "a concentration". My two noble friends, therefore, with the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, might be said to constitute a concentration of campaigners.

Noble Lords have spoken with incredible passion and personal conviction and experience, led so notably by the noble Lord, Lord Morris. After his long record of commitment to and action for people with disabilities, his ability to champion this Bill so eloquently is extraordinary. The Bill matches his personal ideals and the collective values not only of the Government but of all parties in this House which have given it such a fair wind today. It is another measure to add to his outstanding record.

I thank all noble Lords who have spoken with such conviction and promised the Bill a swift and speedy passage. There have been some kind words today about the work of the House of Commons in relation both to the Finance Bill and to the sterling work done by Rachel Squire and her team. It is terrific to see a Bill come to this House and require no improvement. We are delighted by the partnership exemplified by this Bill, the support it has received, and the expert work of the RNIB to which noble Lords have rightly paid tribute. The RNIB has illuminated the Bill's spirit and detail. It has done a magnificent job.

The noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester, very clearly and deliberately took us through the Bill and I shall not rehearse his comments. However, the Bill itself answers the question about why such legislation has taken so long. Its virtue lies in uncovering and repairing this great wrong which has persisted for so many years. Noble Lords spoke of the fundamental human right to read. In a way, that right has changed in recent years. Now, we are talking not only about books or periodicals but about the maps and instructions in electronic format about which so many excluded people have been talking.

It is a catching-up time in many different ways. That has been achieved through the Bill. Visually impaired people have been at a double disadvantage to use the words of my noble friend. They have been unable to obtain, enjoy and make use of much of the material that the rest of us take for granted. The Bill will for the first time overcome the need to obtain copyright clearances to access appropriate formats of copyright material suitable for the use of visually impaired people whether they are students, readers, musicians or craftspeople. I refer to the range of creative activities which are uncovered by the Bill. Visually impaired people will now be able to access those resources in a sensible, timely and fair way.

We have heard examples from all sides of the House of what the provision will mean. My noble friend Lady Wilkins talked of the experience of students in Hammersmith and Fulham who waited a year—right up until their examinations—to get their hands on what they needed. The RNIB has informed us of how long visually impaired people can wait to obtain a library book in a suitable format. What student can afford to wait two years to obtain a key text in a suitable format? However, before the Bill was so ably introduced by Rachel Squire, that was the price that we expected many students to pay; namely, to put themselves at a disadvantage as they strove to overcome disability by ability simply because they did not have the right to access the fundamental material which everyone else had at their disposal. We are deeply indebted to Rachel Squire, to my noble friend and to the whole team. We are particularly indebted to the RNIB for its extraordinary commitment over the years to provide resources. It has been one of the few sources of help that has been available.

The Bill has been warmly welcomed by distinguished authors and librarians. As my noble friend said, a wonderful compromise has been achieved with copyright holders. We have overcome their reservations. The Bill maintains an appropriate and fair balance between the legitimate interests of copyright owners on the one hand and visually impaired users of copyright material on the other. Getting that balance right has been central to the Government's own ability to support the Bill in another place and to play a creative and constructive role in making it as good as it is now. Making sure that the Bill provides a fair balance between those interests also means that it is fully compatible with human rights law. I repeat the assurance given in another place; namely, that the Government are fully satisfied that the Bill is compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

My noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester took us through the Bill clause by clause. I wish to reinforce the two new exceptions to copyright now contained in the Bill so that everyone is clear about how they will help visually impaired people and the many charitable and voluntary organisations acting on their behalf. My noble friends Lord Ashley and Lord Morris described the range of organisations that are fully committed to the Bill. It is a magnificent range when one considers how many people will be able to help visually impaired people take advantage of the Bill's provisions. The Bill's provisions will also assist with the delivery of the curriculum to visually impaired children in schools and will remove barriers visually impaired students encounter on a daily basis.

The first exception is what might be called the one-for-one exception set out in Clause 1. That permits a visually impaired person who has already obtained a copy of a document which he or she needs but which they cannot actually use, to make a copy in an accessible format for their personal use—for example, in large print, Braille, audio tape or an electronic format. The condition is that there must not be a commercially available copy accessible to that person. That concept is straightforward. I understand that it follows closely agreed industry guidelines about reformatting materials. The exception essentially ensures that any copyright material that is not covered by those guidelines can also be made accessible to individual visually impaired people who satisfy the conditions set out in the exception.

The second exception, the multiple copy exception provided by Clause 2, has attracted more interest as it will deliver something which is not currently available across a wide range of copyright material. That exception will permit educational establishments and not-for-profit bodies to make multiple accessible copies of copyright material and supply them to visually impaired people for their personal use subject to a number of conditions. Those conditions are found in Clause 2 and in Clauses 3 to 5.

However, there is one important point that I should make clear. New Section 31B inserted into the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 by Clause 2 limits the exemption from infringement of copyright only to the situation where accessible copies are made and supplied for the personal use of visually impaired people. Accessible copies cannot be made under this new exception to copyright otherwise than in that example. Some of the following subsections narrow that further but do not broaden it. Thus, for example, subsection (7) provides that in addition an educational establishment must ensure that any accessible copy supplied by it to a visually impaired person is used only when that personal use can be considered to meet an educational purpose of that establishment.

The Government have already accepted that, in order to ensure that those acting under that exception to copyright understand the limits to what they can do and the conditions that apply, guidance would be useful. I am therefore pleased to repeat a government commitment to produce guidance that was first given in another place.

I conclude by thanking all noble Lords for the way in which they have illuminated the debate. Sadly, the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, is no longer present. She described the impact that the Bill will have and the benefits that it will bring to elderly people. I refer in particular to the audio formatting provisions in that regard. My noble friend Lord Ashley described how a blot on our provision for disabled people has been removed by the Bill. My noble friend Lord Rea talked of the need for the Bill to make rapid progress through the House and for disabled people to become first-class citizens. I believe that the Bill takes us a long way to achieving that step.

The Government will continue to offer their full support to the Bill. Everything we have heard today suggests that it will proceed swiftly and speedily with the blessing and support of noble Lords in all parties. Without the Bill we would still have a situation where months and even years pass during which visually impaired people are denied simple creative opportunities. We were told of the lady who was denied the right to sing in a choir because no copy of the Anglican hymn book was accessible to her. I refer to other situations: for example, learning a language; sharing in the discovery of a new author; a child being shut out of the inclusion that comes with reading the same books as other children in the class; and the sadness of a grandparent being unable to knit a garment for a grandchild because the knitting instructions are not accessible to them. Those and many other examples will now become things of the past.

We believe that the Bill will deliver real and long overdue benefits to visually impaired people. I congratulate my noble friend Lord Morris of Manchester once again on bringing the Bill before us today. On behalf of the Government I am delighted that he has done so.

1.9 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester

My Lords, I am deeply grateful to everyone who has spoken in this debate, not least my noble friend Lady Andrews, who spoke for the Government, and the noble Lords, Lord Glentoran and Lord Addington, who spoke with such distinction for their parties. Their speeches make my task in concluding the debate all the more facile. In Magna Carta it is written that justice delayed is justice denied. Let us all play our parts in ending urgently now a gross and centuries-old denial of justice to people who are disabled by visual impairment.

I think all I need do finally is to assure any noble Lord who may wish to raise any point whatever with me about the Bill that he will find my door not only open but off its hinges. I commend the Bill to the House.

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