|Previous Section||Index||Home Page|
Mr. Don Foster: There is no doubt that this is a welcome group of amendments. As the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) and the Minister have said, there was from the beginning concern from the newspapers and broadcasters about the original provision. It is worth recalling what the Newspaper Society said in its letter to members of the Standing Committee. It stated:
"For a statutory body to have any role in determining the content of a newspaper's editorial material would be without precedent and would represent an utterly unacceptable incursion into the freedom of the press, and a breach of the Human Rights Act 1998 as being contrary to Article 10 of the Convention."
Similar concerns were expressed by many other bodies.
As a result, I tabled a number of amendments in Committee initially to expand the safeguards to cover criticism and review in addition to reporting. That was considered inadequate. At a later stage, I proposed that the provision include "any editorial usage" without limitation. That, too, was rejected by the Minister. In another place, my noble Friend Lord Clement-Jones, who is the Front-Bench spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, proposed an amendment that would have deleted the words "as a necessary incident of" and inserted the phrase "in the course of". Sadly, that too was rejected. However, I am delighted that we now have a Government amendment that deletes the words "as a necessary incident of" and inserts not the phrase "in the course of", but merely the word "in". That is clearly briefer, but makes exactly the same point. It is very similar to the amendment tabled by my noble Friend Lord Clement-Jones, so it is hardly surprising that we fully support it.
21 Mar 2006 : Column 208
Justine Greening (Putney) (Con): I briefly wish to take the opportunity to add my support to the amendments. We all recognise that, although some people will get to watch the Olympics live, most people even in my constituency of Putney, which is close to where some of the events will take place, will watch the games on television in the same way that we now watch Wimbledon on television. To be able to iron out the concern described is a real achievement. I am very pleased that we have been able to do it.
Lords amendments Nos. 12 and 13 agreed to.
Mr. Caborn: I beg to move, That this House agrees with the Lords in the said amendment.
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): With this we may discuss Lords amendments Nos. 15 and 16.
Mr. Caborn: This group of amendments relates to the status of the words and phrases listed in schedule 4. In debate, both here and in the other place, considerable concern was expressed about the "evidential burden" that we had created in relation to schedule 4. The evidential burden would have meant that the use in combination of the words and phrases listed in paragraph 3 of the schedule would, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, have been treated as constituting an association with the London Olympics. Although the burden was a light one, by which a defendant had to produce any evidence that an association had not been made, to shift the burden back to LOCOG to prove its case, we have listened to what has been said during the Bill's passage and have taken the opportunity to amend it by removing the evidential presumption.
We still feel that the list of words and phrases in schedule 4 is important in helping the public to understand what sort of activity may create an association with the London games, but we appreciate the concerns that have been expressed about the position in which we would have been putting advertisers and businesses by virtue of an evidential presumption.
The amendments will remove the evidential presumption attached to the use of the words and phrases listed in paragraph 3. Instead, we have suggested that when considering whether the London Olympics Association right has been breached, the courts would be able to consider, in particular, whether the defendant had used a combination of the words and phrases listed in schedule 4.
I hope that hon. Members will be able to support this approach. It removes the evidential presumption about which both Houses had expressed concerns, but retains in the Bill the list of words and phrases that provides greater clarity for the public about what the association right is about, and allows the court to take into account
21 Mar 2006 : Column 209
the use of those words and phrases when deciding whether someone has infringed the association right. I hope that the House will accept the amendments.
Hugh Robertson: The amendment addresses the use of presumption, in that a person is "presumed" to have infringed the London Olympics Association right by using any of the words listed in the Bill. It has become known, slightly unfortunately, as the reversal of the presumption of innocence, and it was one of the most controversial aspects of the original Bill.
As the Minister has said, we debated the issue at length both in Committee and on Report, and I warned him on Third Reading that I thought that it would cause problems in the other place.In Committee we discussed the defences that were available in the original Bill and the fact that the approach was consistent with Sheldrake v. DPP and the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. However, concerns remained, focused mainly on two areas: first, the fact that it is a basic principle of English law that one is innocent until proven guilty, and the regulation at least seemed to contravene that principle; and secondly, the fact that the Bill seemed to weight the dice firmly in favour of LOCOG.
We all accept that the marketing of major international sports events is now in a new era, and organisers demand exclusivity to derive the most commercially advantageous sponsorship deals. As a quid pro quo, we all accept that some of the money finds its way back to the grass-roots development of sport. I wholly agree with that principle. However, it is important to strike a balance so that the enforcement of the measures is not unduly heavy-handed.
The amendments represent a good compromise. LOCOG gets the exclusivity that it requires and the security of knowing that the regulations will take effect on Royal Assent, while on the other side of the fence, the industry gets some measure of protection from over-zealous enforcement. I therefore have no hesitation in agreeing to the amendments.
Mr. Don Foster: I, too, am delighted to say that we will support the amendments. This matter caused great concern during the passage of the Bill. I said in Committee that at the very least the presumption of liability, if not of guilt,
"goes against what everyone in this country and certainly our courts holds dear: the principle of innocence until proven guilty."
When the matter was first raised, the Minister said:
"it is appropriate, and indeed proportionate, that the burden of proof falls on the defendant in this case."
We argued strongly that the Government's view was incorrect, but the Minister tried to justify it by saying:
"we are not going after the little granny who owns the sweet shop at the bottom of the road, in order to haul her before the courts. That would be crazy."[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 18 October 2005; c. 9497.]
However, as the hon. Member for Faversham and Mid-Kent (Hugh Robertson) has rightly pointed out, it is crucial that we realise that we will be dealing not only with the little granny, but with local sports clubs and community bodies, which need protection.
21 Mar 2006 : Column 210
I was genuinely delighted that although the Government failed to accept amendments tabled in this place, progress was made when the Bill got to another place and was in the hands of my noble Friend Lord Clement-Jones. I noted with interest that Lord Davies of Oldham described himself as quailing in the face of Lord Clement-Jones on the matter. It was good to note that after Lord Davies had listened to my noble Friend's argument, he was willing to accept it and move an amendment with wording similar to that tabled by my noble Friend.
I am sure that the amendments will be accepted today, but I hope that the Minister will give thought on another occasion to the outstanding question of LOCOG's status in respect of freedom of information legislation. He will be aware that LOCOG is exempt from such legislation because it is a private body. I accept entirely that confidential business matters need to be protected, but that legislation already protects them. Although LOCOG will not be covered by freedom of information legislation, I hope that it will operate as if it was covered by that legislation, because it is important that there be absolute transparency whenever it acts and makes decisions, especially on the matter that the amendments address. Let me end as I began, by saying that I am delighted that we are considering amendments to the most controversial bit of the Bill and that we have found a satisfactory situation to the problem.
|Next Section||Index||Home Page|