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Viscount Astor: My Lords, I do not know on what evidence the noble Lord bases his remarks about Mr. Green, the Chairman of Carlton Communications. I have absolutely no information that would corroborate anything that he said. It is important to remember that ITN remains statutorily obliged to produce high quality, impartial, independent news coverageparticularly in matters of political controversy or relating to current public policy. The Government remain committed to those principles. It is of course up to the ITC to enforce the 1990 Broadcasting Act. It can do so, and if it felt that ITN in any way fell below what is required it would enforce the restrictions.
Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, it is not a question of whether this power is or is not abused. The question is whether it is contrary to public interest that the power should be monopolised in so small an area. Will the noble Viscount address himself to that point?
Viscount Astor: My Lords, we are addressing ourselves to that point. As I said in my original Answer, a government review is taking place. Noble Lords will all be aware that the media industry is undergoing rapid technological change which is blurring the distinctions between different forms of media format. Our review has examined whether the current ownership rules strike a satisfactory balance. In doing so, it has looked at the need for diversity and choice for audiences while seeking to encourage UK interests to play an active and competitive part in national and international markets. That is why the ITC took the decision to extend the deadline by one year, to 31st December 1995.
Lord Richard: My Lords, does the Minister confirm the figures that were given by my noble friend? Is it right that two companies have 72 per cent. of ITN? If that is so, is it a percentage of which the Government approve; and do they intend to let it remain permanent?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, will the Minster give us an assurance that this situation is being frozen while the Government complete their review of cross-media ownership? Will he give the House an assurance that, once that review is over, this situation will not be allowed to continue, but that proper plurality of ownership in ITN will be restored?
Viscount Astor: My Lords, we have to remember that there is plurality in the new service. After all, Reuters already provides the new service for GMTV, the national morning ITV licensee. The ITC is empowered by the Broadcasting Act to review the performance of nominated news providers and to determine whether another body might qualify for nomination. It intends to review the performance of ITN towards the end of this year.
Viscount Whitelaw: My Lords, I hope that my noble friend will appreciate that this is not a situation which can continue. This is something which really has to be properly put right. The way matters are proceeding at the moment is not fair.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, I understand the concerns of my noble friend, but the matter of the shareholding in ITN is totally separate from the fact that the company has to produce high quality, impartial, independent news coverage. That is an entirely different matter.
Viscount Astor: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. That legislation was enacted, as indeed was another piece of legislation which said that the ITV companies as whole should not control more than 50 per cent. That is why we are reviewing the matter, and that is why the ITC has extended its deadline.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minster for that Answer. However, is she aware that a report in the press highlighted that those producing the report were meeting great reluctance from some trusts to provide the fullest information as to where salaries ended and expenses began? Can the Minister tell us whether there is a limit on expenses, a maximum, that can be drawn by the chairmen of the new health trusts and the chief officers? Does she agree that if there is not, it is about time that one was imposed?
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, there is not a ceiling. However, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has been very firm and has put out guidance to the service that, in future, health authorities and trusts must publish in their annual report the remuneration and expenses of managers in the National Health Service; and also that they should set up a remuneration committee to scrutinise terms of service in line with the Cadbury Report on corporate governance.
Lord Carr of Hadley: My Lords, given the fact that the driving energy of the present system of organisation depends on a high degree of decentralisation of responsibility, can the Minister assure the House that she will rigorously resist attempts to standardise the way in which the different trusts conduct their affairs? But at the same time, will she also rigorously insist that the trusts comply with the necessary corresponding discipline to report most fully and accurately on what they do? It is quite clear at the moment that they are not all doing so.
Baroness Cumberlege: Yes, my Lords. I can give my noble friend that assurance. I endorse his view that local decisions are much more pertinent: they take into account local conditions, and indeed the talents and expertise within an organisation. That is bearing fruit already; as we see, there is improving service in the National Health Service. Waiting-lists have almost halved in the past five years, and more and more patients are being treated every year.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, will the Minister accept, however, that this is a very disturbing reportnot simply in relation to the levels of pay for trust executives to which my noble friend referred, but also in relation to the points that were made by her noble friend about accountability? How do the Government respond to the following quotation from the report:
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, it is up to non-executives to ensure that those conditions are complied with. As I said, from 1st April health authorities and trusts will have to publish in their annual
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, from what the Minister has just said to my noble friend on the Front Bench, does she understand that some people have refused to do it and have got away scot-free? What sanctions can be used against those who dig in their heels and say that they will not do it? Does she agree that in the report there was an element which implied that that had in fact happened?
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the National Health Service is very extensively audited. There is not only the local audit, but there are also audits by the National Audit Office and the Audit Commission. In the final analysis, the Treasury also takes a very keen interest in the matter.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is very encouraging to hear the Minister speak out so sturdily for local discretion and local judgment. Bearing in mind the respect with which she is held in this House, will she use her influence to ensure that other parts of government, notably those dealing with local government, take the same view?
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that I am a staunch supporter of local government. I served in it for many years. But local government has to comply with the national policies of this country. I found it distressing in 1976 when I saw a whole change in local government and it declared UDI. I think that it went off the rails. I was very disappointed by that. I believe that local government has a role in this country, but once it tries to ignore what the national Government are doing, it runs into trouble.
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