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Viscount Astor: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister. As always he put his case clearly and with great care. My noble friend Lord Colwyn raised a number of issues. With great respect, I believe that we dealt with them on Tuesday when we addressed the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Dean, which was fairly similar. I do not feel that it would be helpful to the House for me to go into those matters today.

I wish to make two main points. I do not believe that my amendment will damage investor confidence. I believe that it will improve competition. It is supported by those in the industry who wish to invest in digital. They want the amendment. If they did not want it, they would say so. I am not one to push it forward. I am very much against damaging any investor confidence.

I am a deregulator. I believe in deregulation and the Government's deregulation initiatives. But I do not believe that we should deregulate monopolies, and that is what we have at the moment. My amendment would benefit the industry and above all the consumer. It pains me to be at odds with my noble friend the Minister, but this is a crucial issue. I must test the opinion of the House.

5.36 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 164) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 101; Not-Contents, 103.

Division No. 1


Acton, L. Annan, L. Ashley of Stoke, L. Astor, V. [Teller.] Barnett, L. Beaumont of Whitley, L. Birk, B. Blackstone, B. Borrie, L. Broadbridge, L. Bruce of Donington, L. Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L. Carter, L. Castle of Blackburn, B. Chalfont, L. Chandos, V. Clinton-Davis, L. Cocks of Hartcliffe, L. Craigavon, V. Dacre of Glanton, L. David, B. Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B. Desai, L. Diamond, L. Donoughue, L. [Teller.] Dormand of Easington, L. Dubs, L. Falkender, B. Falkland, V. Fitt, L. Gallacher, L. Geraint, L. Gibson, L. Gladwin of Clee, L. Graham of Edmonton, L. Halsbury, E. Harris of Greenwich, L. Haskel, L. Hayhoe, L. Hilton of Eggardon, B. Hollis of Heigham, B. Holme of Cheltenham, L. Howell, L. Howie of Troon, L. Hughes, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Jay of Paddington, B. Jeger, B. Jenkins of Putney, L. Kilbracken, L. Kirkhill, L. Lauderdale, E. Lockwood, B. Lovell-Davis, L. Macaulay of Bragar, L. Mackie of Benshie, L. McNair, L. McNally, L. Mayhew, L. Merlyn-Rees, L. Mersey, V. Milner of Leeds, L. Mishcon, L. Monkswell, L. Montgomery of Alamein, V. Morris of Castle Morris, L. Nelson, E. Nicol, B. Norrie, L. Orr-Ewing, L. Plant of Highfield, L. Prys-Davies, L. Rea, L. Redesdale, L. Renton, L. Richard, L. Robson of Kiddington, B. Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L. Russell, E. St. John of Bletso, L. Saltoun of Abernethy, Ly. Seear, B. Sewel, L. Shannon, E. Shepherd, L. Smith of Gilmorehill, B. Stockton, E. Stoddart of Swindon, L. Strabolgi, L. Strafford, E. Tenby, V. Thomson of Monifieth, L. Thurlow, L. Tope, L. Turner of Camden, B. Wallace of Saltaire, L. Walpole, L. White, B. Williams of Crosby, B. Williams of Mostyn, L. Winston, L.


Addison, V. Ailesbury, M. Ailsa, M. Archer of Weston-Super-Mare, L. Ashbourne, L. Belhaven and Stenton, L. Beloff, L. Birdwood, L. Blake, L. Blaker, L. Boardman, L. Boyd-Carpenter, L. Bridgeman, V. Brougham and Vaux, L. Burnham, L. Cadman, L. Campbell of Croy, L. Carnegy of Lour, B. Carnock, L. Chelmsford, V. Chesham, L. [Teller.] Clanwilliam, E. Clark of Kempston, L. Colwyn, L. Courtown, E. Cranborne, V. [Lord Privy Seal.] Cumberlege, B. Denham, L. Denton of Wakefield, B. Dixon-Smith, L. Dundee, E. Eden of Winton, L. Elles, B. Elliott of Morpeth, L. Elton, L. Finsberg, L. Gisborough, L. Goold, L. Goschen, V. Greenway, L. Harding of Petherton, L. Harlech, L. Harrowby, E. Hemphill, L. Henley, L. Holderness, L. Hooper, B. Howe, E. Inglewood, L. Jenkin of Roding, L. Knollys, V. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Liverpool, E. Long, V. Lucas, L. Lucas of Chilworth, L. Lyell, L. Mackay of Ardbrecknish, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. [Lord Chancellor.] Marlesford, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Merrivale, L. Miller of Hendon, B. Milverton, L. Monteagle of Brandon, L. Mottistone, L. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Munster, E. Murton of Lindisfarne, L. Norfolk, D. Northesk, E. O'Cathain, B. Orkney, E. Oxfuird, V. Pender, L. Peyton of Yeovil, L. Pilkington of Oxenford, L. Rankeillour, L. Rennell, L. Renwick, L. St. Davids, V. Seccombe, B. Shaw of Northstead, L. Skelmersdale, L. Skidelsky, L. Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L. Stanley of Alderley, L. Stewartby, L. Stodart of Leaston, L. Strange, B. Strathclyde, L. [Teller.] Strathcona and Mount Royal, L. Sudeley, L. Swansea, L. Swinfen, L. Teynham, L. Tollemache, L. Trefgarne, L. Trumpington, B. Vivian, L. Willoughby de Broke, L. Wynford, L. Young, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

7 Mar 1996 : Column 454

5.45 p.m.

Lord Barnett moved Amendment No. 165:

After Clause 69, insert the following new clause--

Provision of news on Channels 3 and 5

(".--(1) Section 31 of the 1990 Act (provision of news on Channels 3 and 5) is amended as follows.
(2) For subsection (2) there is substituted--
"(2) The Channel 3 licence holders shall appoint a single nominated news provider who shall be responsible for the broadcast on Channel 3 of news programmes which shall--
(a) be of high quality dealing with national and international matters;
(b) presented live; and
(c) broadcast simultaneously with the broadcasts of news programmes provided by the single nominated news provider which are made by other holders of regional Channel 3 licences in compliance with conditions so imposed.".").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, Amendment No. 165 is tabled in my name and that of the noble Lords, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, Lord Peyton of Yeovil, and Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare. I was asked to emphasise that they not only added their names, but also strongly agree with the amendment, as do others who unfortunately cannot add their names because no more than four are allowed on the Marshalled List.

It is clear from the words of the amendment that this is not a party political issue. The first part of the amendment substitutes a new subsection (2) to Section 31 of the 1990 Act--specifically subsection 2(c). As I said in Committee, without the new subsection a situation would arise which none of us want to see; that is, a fragmentation of news programmes on ITV presented by a variety of news providers at different hours. I hope your Lordships will agree that that cannot be helpful to providing high quality news.

The noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, was upset when I said that I did not watch "Gladiators". I do not have grandchildren who might otherwise drag me in to see it. It seems crazy to me that such programmes, as with comedy programmes, are always seen at the same hour, whereas without the amendment news programmes may be provided at different times.

7 Mar 1996 : Column 455

Subsection 2(c) is therefore particularly important; that is, that the broadcasting of news should be simultaneous on Channel 3.

There is anxiety in some quarters that the amendment may create difficulties. But it does not necessarily have to apply to all channels. For example, it would not apply to Channel 5, or to other channels if there were any. Even in relation to Channel 3, the Independent Television Commission could nominate more than one news provider, provided they meet its criteria. It is then for the ITV companies to choose one other than ITN. That would certainly be within the rights of the ITC.

I turn to the second part of the amendment. As I said in Committee, it may seem surprising that a recent deputy chairman of the BBC should move an amendment like this. I hope it is not surprising. As I emphasised in Committee--again I know that there is anxiety about the amendment--I do not want to see a monopoly of TV news, whether on the BBC or ITV. I know that the BBC does not want that either. What matters to me, and I hope the House, is the quality of the news programmes on both ITV and BBC, and who should decide on the news provider. That should not be decided by the government of the day; it should be decided by the Independent Television Commission, which is truly independent. It may choose ITN or some other qualified news provider. As the amendment makes clear, that would be decided by the ITC.

I say again: it will not be the ITV companies who decide; it is not a party political matter; and it is not a monopoly matter. We need this proposal or something like it. If the Minister does not want to accept the amendment, although he might, perhaps he will put down his own amendment at Third Reading. Without something like the amendment one could have a news provider who does not have the necessary ability to provide a range and balance of news coverage.

Perhaps it is worth quoting here what we said previously. No, it is not worth quoting because I want to catch a train. It is a long quotation but the Minister knows what I said. As the Bill stands, there is a lack of clarity, as I hope the Minister will agree. The amendment should not be controversial. It seeks to do what most people thought was always intended. I hope the Minister and the House will accept that. On that basis, I beg to move.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, if it is of assistance to the noble Lord, I willingly say that we would like to take away Amendment No. 165 and allow parliamentary counsel to work on it and table a similar amendment at Third Reading. We have certain objections to the second amendment.

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