Draft Broadcasting (Limit on the Holding of Licences to Provide Television Multiplex Services) Order 2001

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Mr. Ronnie Fearn (Southport): When I listened to the Minister's explanation, I realised that an error had been made. She has apologised for that, and we accept that apology. It is a complicated issue, and at first I thought that it was as clear as mud. However, as the Minister explained it and emphasised 20 or so words, which no doubt had been underlined, it became clearer, until she got to the part that mentioned 10 per cent. of a seventh or eighth licence that could not be held anyway. Why are we talking about a seventh or eighth licence? We are up to six; let us not go further. Will the hon. Lady please explain what was meant?

4.45 pm

Janet Anderson: I thank the hon. Member for Ryedale (Mr. Greenway) for responding in the spirit of Christmas, with much good will. I appreciate his understanding of this complex matter. He asked first where the error was spotted. I reassure him and other members of the Committee that the error was quickly spotted in the Department of Culture, Media and Sport after we debated the last order, which this one replaces. The Department has taken steps to ensure that there is no recurrence of the problem, although it is impossible to give a 100 per cent. guarantee. I remember that, when the hon. Gentleman's party was in government, we debated Government Bills which had hundreds of Government amendments, often introduced at the last moment. We try to avoid such measures and I apologise again for having to bring hon. Members back to the Committee. I have taken note of the hon. Gentleman's concerns and I apologise to the Committee again. We have learned lessons from the matter, which we shall bear in mind in future.

The hon. Member for Southport raised an interesting point; I shall try to explain it to him, and also write to him about this important matter. At first, I wondered why, under the order, a person will be allowed to hold six multiplex licences plus more than a 10 per cent. share in a seventh, plus a share of 10 per cent. or less in an eighth. The reason for that is because of the scheme of the original Act, which allows a person to hold a certain number of licences, then to go on to hold 20 per cent. or less of an additional one and 10 per cent. or less of another additional one. If we are to make it possible for a person to hold six multiplexes—although one is held by the BBC—we must, because of the scheme of the original Act, make it possible for that person to go on and have 20 per cent. of a seventh and 10 per cent. of an eighth, even though there are no seventh or eighth multiplex licences. I hope that that answers the hon. Gentleman's question; I have tried my best to give him an explanation and, as I said, I shall write to him.

I thank members of the Committee for their co-operation and hope that they will support the order.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee has considered the draft Broadcasting (Limit on the Holding of Licences to Provide Television Multiplex Services) Order 2001.

Committee rose at thirteen minutes to Five o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cunningham, Mr. Jim (Chairman)
Anderson, Janet
Davies, Mr. Denzil
Dobbin, Mr.
Dowd, Mr.
Fearn, Mr.
Godsiff, Mr.
Gray, Mr.
Greenway, Mr.
Griffiths, Jane
Jack, Mr.
Mactaggart, Fiona
Rammell, Mr.

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