Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we do not accept the noble Lord's criticisms. But we are concerned to ensure that the benefits of the scheme as provided in the past will be more closely focused and carried forward into the future.

Lord Quirk: My Lords, while it is certainly true that the ODA review of last year drew attention to grave defects in the ELBS, and while it is good to know that alternative means will be found to get British books into the hands of those in the poorest countries, will the Minister agree that one of the main achievements of the ELBS has been not just to allow poor students to read books in libraries but also to be encouraged and enabled to buy their own copies?

Lord Inglewood: Yes, my Lords, but the problem is that the poorest of all seem to have been excluded. That is one of the matters that we want to try to address.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, will the Minister explain how he proposes to help the poorest of all students?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the scheme will be phased out over the next two years. We are currently seeking advice from the Chief Education Adviser. Research will be put in place leading to pilot schemes. Secondly, we are discussing the matter with the publishers of the books concerned.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, in that case, will my noble friend and his department consider the use of a

2 May 1995 : Column 1326

non-governmental organisation, which would by definition have its focus much more narrowly drawn in the way that the Government currently intend?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I thank my noble friend. We shall endeavour to use whatever instruments give us the best result at the end of the day.

Baroness David: My Lords, does the Minister agree that 78.5 per cent. went to low-income and very low-income countries, which does not fit in with some of the remarks that he has just made? Can he guarantee that the same level of benefit will go to the user in any new scheme that is proposed? Will care be taken to ensure that the structure of geographical desks at the ODA will not create a bottleneck preventing the proper uptake of the books?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, we shall endeavour to ensure that the kind of problems to which the noble Baroness referred in the last part of her question do not arise. We shall endeavour to focus the resources that we shall use for this purpose in the best possible manner. I cannot guarantee that everything will work out, but I can guarantee that that is our intention.

Lord Rea: My Lords, in view of the highly cost-effective short and long-term benefits of this scheme, both to this country and to the developing world, using only 0.08 per cent. of the ODA's budget, will the Minister agree to further talks with International Book Development, the administrators of the scheme, to discuss how best to take it forward?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I understand that the company is being consulted as part of the wider consultation exercise.

Noble Lords: Next Question!

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, we have one more Question to go and only six minutes, or rather less, in which to discuss it. Perhaps we should proceed to the next Question.

BBC Charter

3.2 p.m.

Viscount Caldecote asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that when Parliament debates the new BBC Charter and associated Agreement neither will have been finalised, and in particular that the Charter will not have been presented to Her Majesty for approval.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Viscount Astor): My Lords, the Royal Charter of the BBC will be laid in draft and will not be presented to Her Majesty for approval until after debate in both Houses of Parliament.

Viscount Caldecote: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that most satisfactory Answer. Can he give an assurance that the Bill amending Parts V and VI of the Broadcasting Act 1990 to merge the existing

2 May 1995 : Column 1327

Broadcasting Standards Council and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission will be passed before we have the debate on the new Charter and Agreement?

Viscount Astor: My Lords, the merger of the two bodies that my noble friend mentions, the Broadcasting Standards Council and the Broadcasting Complaints Commission, will require an Act of Parliament. I cannot bind the next Parliament to when that will be.

Lord Molloy: My Lords, will the new Charter, before it is debated, be published so that we can study and examine it and have a very useful debate in this House?

Viscount Astor: Yes, my Lords, it will be published before we debate it.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter: My Lords, can my noble friend say whether his Answer about the submission of the Charter in draft means that it will be open to this House to amend it?

Viscount Astor: My Lords, the BBC is not a creation of statute; its Royal Charter is granted under the Royal Prerogative and is not subject to parliamentary approval. The agreement will be laid as a signed document. However, that document will specify that it is not binding until it has been approved by resolution in another place. I expect that noble Lords will wish to take the opportunity for a debate before the agreement is debated in another place. That will enable the Government to consider any views expressed by this House before the agreement is finalised.

The Earl of Halsbury: My Lords, have the Government closed their mind on the whole question of whether the BBC should have a Royal Charter, when everybody else has to put up with an Act of Parliament?

Viscount Astor: My Lords, we believe that the BBC should be governed by Royal Charter. Indeed, that was the recommendation of the Select Committee in another place, with which we agree.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Agreement, and the Minister himself, will receive the warmest support from this side of the House provided that the Charter contains a few simple and sensible obligations? Is he further aware that by "simple and sensible" I mean: a commitment to public service broadcasting as a supreme priority; obligations to continue full coverage of the arts, education and parliamentary proceedings; and obligations to due impartiality, freedom of expression and the highest taste in programmes? Given those few simple commitments, the Charter will be in no bad form to go before Her Majesty.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, as I am sure the noble Lord will agree, documents and Bills laid by the Government

2 May 1995 : Column 1328

before this House are always simple and sensible. I am sure that the noble Lord will be able to agree with that when we bring forward the Charter and the Agreement.

Lord Orr-Ewing: My Lords, can my noble friend give some indication of whether this matter is likely to come before this House before we rise for the Summer Recess or afterwards?

Viscount Astor: My Lords, that is a matter for the usual channels. I shall make sure that my noble friend's remarks are brought to the attention of the Chief Whip.

Lord Elton: My Lords, did my noble friend notice an omission in the list of admirable characteristics that were read out—or rather spoken from memory—by the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue; namely, a strict regard for the truth? In answering, will my noble friend also clarify what he said about the procedures for making the document binding in law, which, as I heard him say, depends only on the views of the other place and not on the views of this House?

Viscount Astor: My Lords, another place has the ability to vote on the agreement under Standing Order 55. There is no such Standing Order in this House. That is why there is a vote in another place and not in your Lordships' House. That deals with the arrangements for communications overseas.

As regards the other part of my noble friend's question, perhaps it might help him if I say that the BBC, in common with other broadcasters, is required to observe due impartiality in dealing with issues of public controversy. We intend to include specific and clear obligations along these lines in the new BBC agreement. We have taken full account of the genuine and understandable concerns expressed by noble Lords. The guidelines will be very similar to the ones that are currently used by the ITC.

Human Tissue (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

3.7 p.m.

Lord Finsberg: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to require a person lawfully in possession of the body of a deceased person to authorise the donation of the body or any specified part of the body for therapeutic or medical purposes if the deceased person had requested such a donation. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Lord Finsberg.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Liaison Committee Report

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, perhaps noble Lords will permit me to observe that the Liaison Committee met shortly before the Easter Recess. The report before the House today sets out the recommendations that were reached at that meeting.

2 May 1995 : Column 1329

In particular, the committee recommends that the next ad hoc committee to follow that on sustainable development under the chairmanship of the noble Lord, Lord Tombs, which will report shortly, should consider relations between central and local government. In the usual way, the House will have the opportunity to consider and agree terms of reference for the proposed committee, and indeed its membership. I beg to move.

Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee be agreed to [HL Paper 49].—(Viscount Cranborne.)

Following is the report referred to:


    1. The Liaison Committee has given further consideration to a proposal for a select committee to scrutinise legislation for consistency with the European Convention on Human Rights. The committee does not recommend that the House should conduct the form of scrutiny proposed at the present time. We will invite the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee to reconsider the proposal when the impact of deregulation orders on its workload has become clearer.

    2. The committee has considered several proposals for inquiries by ad hoc select committees which were submitted following the notice to Peers of 12 December 1994. We recommend the appointment of an ad hoc committee on relations between local and central government; this committee should be appointed after the ad hoc Committee on Sustainable Development has made its report to the House soon after the Easter Recess. We will recommend appropriate terms of reference for the committee in due course.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page