115 Clause 312, page 275, line 37, leave out "unsuitable advertising" insert "advertising which may be misleading, harmful or offensive
116 Clause 314, page 277, line 45, leave out
312(2)(g)" and insert "312(2)(a), (g)
§ The Commons disagree to these amendments but propose the following amendments in lieu thereof—
116A Page 275, line 37, leave out paragraph (g) and insert—
(fa) that advertising that contravenes the prohibition on political advertising set out in section 314(2) is not included in television or radio services;
(g) that the inclusion of advertising which may be misleading, harmful or offensive in television and radio services is prevented;
(ga) that the international obligations of the United Kingdom with respect to advertising included in television and radio services are complied with:
116B Page 277, line 45, leave out "(g) and" and insert "(a) and (fa) to
116C Page 278, line 4, leave out from beginning to "advertisement" in line 6 and insert—
(2) For the purposes of section 312(2)(fa) an advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is—
116D Page 278, line 8, leave out "any" and insert "an
116E Page 278, line 9, leave out "any" and insert "an
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, I beg to move that the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 115 and 116 to which the Commons have disagreed, but do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 116A to 116E in lieu thereof.
Amendments Nos. 115 and 116 concerned the scope of the codes under which broadcast advertising would be regulated. Many noble Lords expressed concern that the drafting of the Bill would widen the scope of the codes and proposed that the scope should be narrowed to cover only advertising which may be, in the all-hallowed phrase, misleading, harmful or offensive. The Government accept that amendment, hut the House will recall that we had some concern that the formulation would not embrace all the matters which it would he proper to regulate by way of the code, including matters subject to the current codes.
We had further discussions with the current regulators and the advertising industry, which have been helpful. We think that two specific matters should be added to the list of matters in Clause 312(2) to ensure that they could be regulated under the codes. They are the ban on political advertising provided for in Clause 314, and the United Kingdom's international obligations.
It was suggested on Report in this House that Clause 312(7) already provided for Ofcom to take account of the United Kingdom's international obligations. However, the scheme of the Bill is such that all matters subject to the advertising code must fall within the objectives set out in Clause 312(2), and Clause 312(7) applies only to matters falling within the standards objectives. We consider that it should be put beyond doubt in the Bill that the international 868 obligations can be met by way of the code, whether or not they appeared demonstrably to meet the test of being "misleading, harmful or offensive".
Amendment No. 116 added to the standards objectives specified in Clause 314 that the standards objective concerning the protection of children should apply to the specific provisions in that clause for advertisements and sponsorship. That proposal sought to meet earlier concerns expressed by the Government about the narrower scope of Amendment No. 115. Clause 314, as drafted and by way of Amendment No. 116B, picks out the standards objectives applying specifically to advertising, so the reference to the first standards objective—the protection of children—in Clause 314(1) is an exception in specifying one of the general standards objectives. I should make it clear that, in fact, all the standards objectives of Clause 312(2) apply to all television and radio programmes and advertisements, so far as they may be relevant. Amendments Nos. 116C to 116E are simply designed to tidy up the wording.
The Commons amendments accept the amendments made in this House, but go on to address two specific areas of government concern about the scope of the advertising standards codes. They reflect the wish of this House that matters subject to the advertising code should be more clearly specified in the Bill.
Moved, That the House do not insist on their Amendments Nos. 115 and 116 to which the Commons have disagreed, but do agree with the Commons in their Amendments Nos. 116A to 116E in lieu thereof.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)
§ Lord Thomson of Monifieth
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for what he said and to the Government for agreeing with this House on the immediate question to which the original amendment gave rise, which was the rather unsuitable use of "unsuitable" in relation to the regulations regarding advertising. I am glad that, on that narrow but very important point, the final Act will return to the now-hallowed words that have been used in the code for a long time.
With regard to the other matters mentioned by the Minister and the opportunity that the Government have taken to deal with some wider issues, for my part, I think the Government wise to propose what they propose. One of the most important aspects of the role of broadcasting in our society is that the use of money to buy political advertising is prohibited. That is one of the sources of very great health in our democracy. One has only to look at what happens in the United States, where the excesses of money collection have led to many abuses. It is important to regulate that matter properly.
As I understand it—I was not wholly clear about the full implications of the changes that the Minister mentioned—political advertising is now to be brought sensibly within the code of standards in advertising, whereas in my time it was curiously exempt. Although it is a delicate matter to apply standards of taste and 869 decency to political advertising, with politicians accustomed to getting away with things that the conventional advertising industry would never have dreamt of trying on, I welcome the concern that the Government have shown on the matter and the steps that they have taken.
§ Lord Gordon of Strathblane
My Lords, on Report I was persuaded—I am glad to say that so was the House—that the amendment to which I put my name along with the noble Lords, Lord Thomson, Lord Borne, Lord Saatchi, and others, was an improvement on the Bill as it had come to us from the Commons. I am equally persuaded that what the Government have come forward with now is an improvement on what we put forward then, so I am very happy with the Government's amendments and thank them for making them.
§ Lord McIntosh of Haringey
My Lords, in the absence of the noble Lord, Lord Saatchi, the world's leading expert on political advertising, I do not think that I should respond to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson. I make an exception to say that, as in the measure we accept that what we are doing is in conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights, we are grateful to have support for it from those on the Opposition Benches.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.