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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I am sorry that the noble Lord thinks my answers sound complacent. I can assure him that the United Kingdom takes a robust view. As I mentioned in my original Answer, at Maastricht we were much in favour of the kind of outcome which led the Court of Auditors to produce this report. The noble Lord should not perhaps be too extravagant in his condemnation. He will note that the report, after showing the concerns, says at Chapter 4.2:

Therefore, more than 80 per cent. has been given without error. Many of the other questions the court raised are not to do with honesty or dishonesty but with the way in which the procedures are carried out and recorded.

Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that efficiency as regards the accountability of the European budget would be greatly increased if the auditors in Europe were to copy our National Audit Office? Not only does it audit the public accounts; it also pays special attention to value for money. If value for money was introduced into the European budget, it would surely help all taxpayers throughout the Community.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, my noble friend makes a valid point about the National Audit Office. One aspect of its work is to look for value for money. The idea behind the statement of assurance, which is the subject of the Question, is along the same lines as the opinions on departmental accounts given in this country by the NAO.

Baroness Elles: My Lords, the Select Committee on fraud in the Community recommended strongly that the European Parliament budget control committee should have enough powers and the necessary documents and evidence to complete its task fully and properly, as it would wish. Will the Minister assure the House that the committee will be given those powers to enable it to decide whether or not to give a discharge?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the report before us is not specifically concerned with fraud although it may identify situations where there may have been fraud. However, I can assure my noble friend that we in the United Kingdom are aware of the need to ensure that the amount of fraud in the European Community is reduced to the absolute minimum. One of our problems is that it is for each member state to

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control the situation in its own country and to make sure that there is no fraudulent abuse of European moneys within its own borders.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that he stated that 20 per cent. of the budget is either fraudulent or "iffy"? If that is what he said-- I thought that he said that 80 per cent. was clear; so it follows that 20 per cent. was not--it seems a totally and utterly disgraceful state of affairs.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, my noble friend did not listen to the whole of my answer. I indicated to my noble friend Lady Elles that the report was not concerned with fraud; quite the reverse. It is far more concerned with the checks and balances in both the revenue and the expenditure systems. I recommend that my noble friend reads the report. The general conclusions in paragraph 3.1 state:

    "The Court's examination of the revenue entered in the accounts in respect of traditional own resources did not reveal any significant errors. In respect to the expenditure"--
this is where the point about the 80 per cent. comes in--

    "there are too many errors in the transactions underlying the payments entered in the be able to give a positive global assurance as to their legality/regularity".
Many of the points raised are to do with the way things were reported and signed off and the timescale in which they were reported. Those problems have rightly been drawn to the attention of the Commission and of member states to ensure that those aspects of the administration are correct.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that he has admitted to the House that one-fifth of the expenditure transactions referred to in the report are irregular, illegal or lack proper regularity within the terms of the Act? He recommended that his noble friends read the document; perhaps we may have the assurance that he himself will read an additional report, No. C/27, dated 31st January. That refers specifically to the European Parliament and the irregularities are extremely detailed. Would it not be unfortunate if the Minister were to give the impression that the United Kingdom did not intend to pursue matters with the utmost rigour at the core of Europe?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I thought I had given the noble Lord the assurance that we would pursue matters with the utmost rigour. The 14 per cent. of total payments, for example, on which the court could not obtain assurances include items in the United Kingdom such as the data in the prescribed form for the ewe premium scheme in Scotland. It was stated that the court did not have the data because they were not available in the form desired by the required date. I was asked earlier about the National Audit Office. In 1994-95, in its audit of Scottish agricultural spending, it checked 170 payments under the guarantee scheme. That is far more checks than the court would make, and no material errors were revealed in payments to farmers. That is an example of where we have checked and the audit office has put a question mark on

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it because of timescales. We have checked in greater detail, and there is no reason for concern. That is something the noble Lord should bear in mind.

Broadcasting Bill [H.L.]

3.12 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Inglewood.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Lord Howell moved Amendment No. 1:

Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Certain events not to be shown solely on pay-per-view or subscription terms

(".--(1) Section 182 of the Broadcasting Act 1990 shall be amended as follows.
(2) For subsection (1) substitute--
"(1) The Commission shall do all that they can to ensure that any programme which consists of or includes the whole or any part of a listed event being broadcast live--
(a) is not reserved exclusively for pay-per-view or subscription television; and
(b) is included in a television broadcast service which is for general reception, capable of being received in the United Kingdom.".").

The noble Lord said: First, I must declare what interests I have which may be germane to the subject. I am a non-executive director of Birmingham Cable Corporation and also Wembley Stadium.

The series of new clauses which I shall be proposing are not purely about the economics or financing of sport, important though that subject may be. They also involve the ethics and the spirit of sport. I hope that the Committee will allow me to indulge myself on those matters for just a moment or two. I have a profound belief in the social purpose of sport. To me it is fundamental in the context in which this debate has to be considered. In essence, the social purpose of sport is best expressed through its spirit, commonly known as sportsmanship, in the way it inspires young people to take up sport, to develop their personalities, to face the challenges of life and to experience the joys and good fellowship which should be at the heart of all sport.

Those precepts are being increasingly undermined by the total domination within sport of financial considerations above all others. No wonder all the arguments put forward to oppose the new clauses concentrate exclusively upon the right to sell all sport to the highest bidder. All the letters we have received and

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all the statements which we have read deal exclusively with money. The protagonists never rise above the pure material: the price of the product. They have nothing to say about the worth and value of sport in the community. They ignore the 30 million to 40 million people who cannot afford or get Sky. They ignore the elderly and infirm who have supported sport in better days and who are now to be sacrificed apparently to the interests of one man--Rupert Murdoch. The protagonists write off their duty to the young who, in their millions, obtain their inspiration to take up sport, to have a go for themselves, because they see sport in its excellence in their millions in their own homes, on terrestrial television. Nick Faldo said that he took up golf because he saw Jack Nicklaus playing on television.

Nowhere in the letter to us, repeated in The Times today, from the Central Council of Physical Recreation--of which I am a senior vice-president--are those questions addressed which were raised in this Chamber, I remind the Committee, during the Second Reading debate on the Bill. The silence of sport on addressing social questions is deafening.

Though it has to be said that the terrestrial channels have also exercised their monopoly powers in the past and kept their prices down, that has to change. I am pleased that the new chairman of the BBC endorses the view which I put forward at Second Reading that the new digital channel will give an opportunity to the BBC and ITV to provide some form of pay-TV at reasonable prices which everyone in the country can afford if they wish to watch a particular match. Perhaps that is the future way forward, but it is not what we are discussing today.

We have all received a letter from Mr. Ken Schofield, of the Professional Golfers Association European Tour, responsible for the deal between the PGA and Sky, which covered the Ryder Cup. That event between the finest golfers in Europe and America proved to be one of the most sensational sporting events of the decade. Europe won with the last shot on the last green. When Sky was asked why it would not allow the BBC even to show highlights of the event, it inferred that the BBC would not buy them. That was totally incorrect. I have in my hand the licence agreement between Sky and the PGA which covered the Ryder Cup. It states in stark terms:

    "For the avoidance of doubt, there will be no BBC transmission of The Ryder Cup".
Sky deliberately set out to stop the broadcasting of highlights and prevent the BBC having any coverage of the event. Mr. Ken Schofield's letter to us all does not even begin to explain why he thought it right to prevent the nation, in its millions, from seeing anything of that great sporting triumph.

Sky tried to do the same about the forthcoming World Cup in cricket, as I disclosed to the House on Second Reading of the Bill. I rejoice that all the odium, and, no doubt, the proposed new Clause 2, which we shall reach shortly, have brought about a change of heart. The right of the BBC to show the highlights of the World Cup at a cost of £1 million, which was refused a month or two

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ago, was suddenly re-offered to the BBC last Friday and taken up. New Clause 2 has triumphed before I have even moved it!

We must put aside the black propaganda that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, will know something about. A spokesman for Sky alleged three times this weekend that the reason our football grounds have all been put in good order has to do with Sky Television money. That is a monstrous assertion. The £200 million spent on football grounds has come from the Football Trust, of which the noble Lord is chairman. It receives its money from the Pools promoters, who have been rather badly treated compared with other organisations such as the National Lottery. The money from Sky has gone to pay grossly inflated wages and monstrously large transfer fees. It has not been put into grounds. I hope that the noble Lord will give further details later.

The case for this amendment is irresistible. As the Select Committee on National Heritage in another place stated in a report in 1994:

    "The public policy objective for permitting satellite services is to expand viewer choice ... If it leads to the ending of free access to major sporting events, deemed by the public to be part of their birthright, then this is a narrowing of public choice".
As Stephen Dorrell said when he was Secretary of State for National Heritage:

    "Sport provides for the integration of young people into society. It allows young people to excel. It provides role models and the opportunity for their admirers to imitate them".
That is not possible on Sky alone.

As David Mellor frankly confessed, as author of the 1990 Act that we seek to amend today, he made a mistake. He should have included subscription television when he prevented pay TV from showing the eight listed events exclusively. That is what this amendment seeks to achieve today. It does not seek to add anything to the existing situation. It aims to hallow the existing situation but to extend it to subscription television as well as pay television.

Fortunately, the International Olympic Committee last week rejected Mr. Murdoch's millions--£1.2 billion of them--and kept faith with the youth of the world. That is what we ask the Committee to do today. President Samaranch has a wisdom and a sense of duty that we must applaud. He said that the Olympic Games are a vital sporting festival and must be available to the people of the world--in Africa, Asia and eastern Europe, where no Sky dishes are to be found, as well as in this country.

We now have to consider two quite fascinating last-minute developments. The first is the consultation paper issued by the Government for purposes at which we can only guess. The Government need to consult the nation, they tell us. They had no intention of doing so at Second Reading. They had no desire to do so during the past six months while this matter was debated the length and breadth of the land. They did not take the matter up when the newspapers gave it considerable coverage. This is very much a last-minute dodge.

A cynic might believe that the Government wished to bypass your Lordships' House, where they know that opposition is strong. Well, we proceed with our

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amendments, which declare matters of principle. As our new Clause 6 proposes, when their consultation exercise has been completed and considered they can then come back to us, if they wish, to make any proposals for change at that stage.

Meanwhile they have the results of last week's opinion poll, which I hope they will feed into their consultation process. I hope that the Minister will assure us of that. The survey, by BMRB, disclosed that nine out of 10 people in this country believe that these listed events should be available to the widest audience; seven out of 10 believe that the Government should legislate to protect the listed events; and 66 per cent. of Sky viewers also hold that view.

It is not for me to come to the aid of this Government. However, even they must see that, if the strength of public opinion is against them in such measure and if they propose to deprive 30 million homes of the right to see the crown jewels of British sport, that is a hazardous and monumental electoral undertaking upon which to embark at this stage of this Parliament. However, the Government should not act for those reasons. They should act because it is right to do so, on the justice of the case.

I turn now to today's most extraordinary news. The Director of Fair Trading has become so alarmed about restrictive practices in football that he is to refer the agreement between the Premier League, Sky and the BBC to the restrictive practices court. That is on top of two other references he has before him to Sky. The first is from some of the cable companies. They have taken Sky on board and now find themselves squeezed more and more by Mr. Murdoch as prices go up and up. The second reference comes from the pubs. Mr. Murdoch persuaded publicans to install Sky Television, and now the prices are rising, as I read in one case, by 1,900 per cent. No wonder the publicans have approached the Director of Fair Trading as well! If the Director of Fair Trading believes that there is a prima-facie case to be answered, then our amendments are even more necessary than I previously thought.

Those representing some of the listed sports do not want to leave the BBC or ITV. They merely want to use Sky as a bargaining factor. As I explained, they will be gobbled up. If I may be permitted to say so, anybody who chooses to get into bed with Mr. Murdoch does not get out of bed the same man! Just imagine taking the Derby or the Grand National off television. These are the great betting races of the year. Racing would lose an enormous amount of income if that were proposed--and they know it.

In this amendment, we do not seek to add to the number of listed events. That is another piece of black propaganda that was put out. Nor do we seek to prevent Sky Television showing sport. To declare another interest, I have two Sky channels, one in London and one in Birmingham, and I like Sky Sport. However, that does not mean that 30 million other people should be prevented from enjoying the main sporting events. As David Mellor advises us--and we accept his advice--we must face the logic of his 1990 Act by adding subscription television to pay television. In so doing, we

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shall keep faith with the millions who have no access to Sky, who cannot afford the £300 that is necessary to plug into Sky and to receive Sky Sport.

In that way, we shall remain true to the heritage of British sport on television, and to millions of young people who need the inspiration of sporting excellence to take up and enjoy sport. I beg to move.

3.30 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: I rise to support the amendment so ably moved by the noble Lord. I congratulate him on his eloquence and envy him his knowledge and experience in matters of sport. In order to offer some shadow of competition with his knowledge and interest, I have, for the first time in public, dredged into my past. I am sure it will come as something of a shock to the Committee to learn that I was once appointed Minister for Sport. That is one of the very few occasions on which I feel able now to congratulate myself on having behaved with perfect discretion. I did nothing. As the result of masterly inactivity over the first 36 or 48 hours, that awful problem went away. So I do not have that shadow upon me.

Another of my inadequacies is that I am unable to fall back on any great personal experience as to what happens to those who get into or out of bed with Mr. Murdoch. I do not for a moment suggest that the amendment is either an answer to the problems of broadcasting sporting events or to the more general questions raised under the Bill. I very much hope that my noble friend--in fact I am quite sure of it, because I have great respect for him--will not yield to the temptation which sometimes catches unwary Ministers to say that the amendment is inadequate. We know that it is inadequate. But it is a nudge to the Government to produce something better to cope with some very difficult problems.

Indeed, if I may say so with due modesty, I would claim that the amendment, even at this stage, has achieved some modest success. It has prompted the Government into admitting that there is a need for consultation on some very sensitive issues. That should be very much welcomed. At this point I must apologise to my noble friend. Over the weekend I said that I regarded this consultation effort, coming, as it did, late in the day, as something of a grubby manoeuvre. I had suspected that it might have attached to it some unpleasant device for removing the matter from this Chamber's consideration. In that I was quite wrong and I unreservedly withdraw that terrible remark about a grubby manoeuvre.

In the consultation document which has so thoughtfully been provided to us, there appear the immortal words:

    "We must proceed prudently and with caution".
Perhaps I may go a little further and express the hope that the Government will accept that "proceed" involves some movement and that that would not be satisfied by a static condition of waiting courteously and politely upon the market. It does not need me to tell the Committee that the communications industry is very important, very fast moving and very much open to

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abuse. For those reasons I believe that competition has to be encouraged and any pre-eminence in that field avoided.

In sport, as elsewhere, there are conflicts. There are those who are responsible for producing the event but who do not quite own it; there are those who show it; and there those who very much want to watch it. We should do well to remember that there are many million members of the public who would find themselves very unhappy at being denied access to what are major national events simply because they could not afford the gadgetry necessary.

There are a number of points which we should all bear in mind. First, there is the quite unique position of the BBC, whose brief, by the way, I do not hold. The BBC once enjoyed a degree of monopoly and abused it. It ought not to be allowed to do so again but it should not be punished for ever by being shut out from events in which it is very experienced and to which it has some degree of right of access.

It is fair that we should also have in mind the difference in contributions made to the Treasury by the independent television companies and by BSkyB. The independent television companies pay an annual levy of £400 million a year (the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, knows more about that matter than I do). Not only do they pay that levy; in addition, they pay taxes on their profits. The contribution of BSkyB to the Treasury and to the taxpayer is almost negligible by comparison.

I want to dwell on one or two further points. In an imperfect world we still have national boundaries. I doubt whether there is any other country in the world that would have allowed a man who was a non-national to acquire quite the degree of eminence, power and influence that Mr. Murdoch has by his very great ability achieved for himself. This Bill may not give to either BSkyB or Mr. Murdoch all that they would like. But, unless I am very wrong, I suggest to the Committee that it most certainly will considerably enhance the position and power of a man who owes this country no allegiance and does not seem overwhelmed by admiration for its institutions or way of doing things but who finds it a very comfortable and profitable place in which to do business.

Let me go back for just a moment to the point I made earlier; namely, that communications is a very fast moving activity in which no one can foresee tomorrow's developments with any clarity. One thing is absolutely certain. All the arguments and difficult problems will not be settled in this Bill. I do hope for truly effective machinery of arbitration to be set up, so that there is some way for people with knowledge and experience to oversee the affairs of a vitally important industry and bring to bear their influence and knowledge to arbitrate in the very important and frequent disputes that will occur. Without that, I can envisage the balance of advantage going one way or the other or just being tipped over permanently into what the market dictates.

The market--I hope that my noble friend will take careful note of my remarks--is just as foolish as the rest of us and just as capable of making mistakes. But, if the

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market has any merit, it is very important that there should be--in that overworked and ghastly phrase-- a level playing field. That is not the case at the moment.

I feel that my noble friend has an extraordinarily difficult task in piloting this complicated Bill through this Chamber. I have no doubt that he will do it with skill and care. But I ask him to understand that, so far as I am concerned, this amendment is moved with absolutely no malice against him or the Government. At this moment I want to see it on the face of the Bill, with all its inadequacies, because I believe that it will serve as a very useful nudge to the Government, who will be obliged, because of its presence there, to come forward with something better in order to be justified in removing it. I have great pleasure in supporting the amendment.

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