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19 Mar 1996 : Column 1155

Disabled Persons and Carers (Short-term Breaks) Bill [H.L.]

3.7 p.m.

Lord Rix: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to provide for assessments of health and social needs of disabled persons to include assessments of the need for short-term breaks for the disabled person and any carer. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Rix.)

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

Consolidated Fund (No. 2) Bill

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.--(Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish.)

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, yesterday the noble Viscount the Leader of the House staged what he described as a pre-emptive strike against his noble friends who traditionally hoped to discuss economic affairs under the heading of the Consolidated Fund Bill. I hope I may bring some solace to his noble friends by assuring them that they will have ample opportunity to expose the deficiencies of the Government's economic policies by participating in the debate which is in my name for tomorrow afternoon.

On Question, Bill read a second time.

Committee negatived; then, Standing Order 44 having been dispensed with (pursuant to Resolution of 18th March), Bill read a third time, and passed.

Sexual Offences (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.

Broadcasting Bill [H.L.]

3.10 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 1 [Certain events not to be shown solely on pay-per-view or subscription terms]:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood) moved Amendment No. 1:

Leave out Clause 1.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I indicated at Report stage that the Government proposed to introduce amendments to guarantee the availability of live coverage of listed events to terrestrial free-to-air television and to provide for a number of associated

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measures to secure the best deal for sports bodies, broadcasters and the public. The amendments which I am now presenting aim to do that.

The Government's amendments go fully with the grain of the amendment passed by your Lordships' House which now stands as Clause 1 of the Bill. They build on the thinking underlying the amendment and seek to put right some specific deficiencies to which I drew attention in Committee.

In place of Clause 1, the Government propose a series of clauses to protect television coverage of listed events. Our intention is that a terrestrial free-to-air service of universal coverage should be able to broadcast a listed event live, subject only to rights being available to a non-universal broadcaster, and vice versa. Inevitably the clauses are somewhat complex. That is, I fear, inevitable if one takes action in this area. It may be helpful to the House if I briefly summarise the purpose of each amendment in turn.

Amendment No. 1 leaves out Clause 1, to be replaced by a series of clauses designed to put its general intentions into effect. We propose that these amendments constitute a new Part IVA of the Bill to follow that part which comprises amendments to the Broadcasting Act 1990.

Amendment No. 20 rolls over the provision in the 1990 Act to draw up the list of listed events as a prerequisite to the protection of television coverage. Amendment No. 21 establishes two categories of television services. The first effectively comprises terrestrial free-to-air broadcasters with universal reach. The second covers all other broadcasters. There is a power to vary the composition of each category by order, for example, to reflect the development of digital broadcasting.

Amendment No. 23 sets an absolute prohibition on any broadcaster in either category acquiring exclusive rights to show a listed event live. Amendment No. 24 provides that a contract between broadcaster and a sports rights holder must specify the category of service on which a listed event is to be televised. Both these amendments are designed to ensure compliance with the main provisions.

Amendment No. 25 is the key clause. It obliges a non-universal broadcaster not to broadcast live coverage of a listed event unless the same rights have been acquired by a universal broadcaster, and vice versa. There is a provision for the Independent Television Commission to pre-clear broadcasts which do not comply with the terms of this provision--for example, if no non-universal broadcaster is interested in acquiring relevant rights.

Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 allow the ITC to impose penalties on their licensees who act in breach of the provisions, with maximum fine levels set by the Secretary of State by order, and to report any breaches by the BBC or S4C to the Secretary of State. In practice the ITC pre-clearance procedure makes any such action extremely unlikely.

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Amendment No. 28 provides for the ITC to draw up a code to specify the criteria which it will apply in exercising its functions in this area and to cover definitional issues. Other amendments with which these are grouped are consequential.

These amendments safeguard listed events for terrestrial television. They help in various ways to safeguard the position of broadcasters, sports bodies and viewers. As indicated at Report stage, the Government will keep the operation of the controls under review to reflect the need for flexibility in the fast-moving broadcasting sector. We believe that the amendments strike a fair balance between the reasonable interests of all concerned, and I hope that they will commend themselves to your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Lord Howell: My Lords, the House will recall that at the start of our deliberations on these matters a significant majority was in favour of maintaining the listed events. With his normal helpfulness and courtesy, the Minister indicated that the Government would seek to honour that decision and produce a suitable amendment. That is what they have done today. I express my appreciation and that not only of colleagues but of the millions of people outside this Chamber who are grateful for what the House has done to protect their interest.

The new part is five pages long. I calculate that it contains more than 3,500 words. It replaces some 50 words in the 1990 Act and the provision of about equal length that we put into the Bill at an earlier stage. I do not know what conclusion to draw from this extraordinary verbosity. I can only assume that every dot and comma, nook and cranny, has been explored and that the new part is therefore totally waterproof. No doubt the Minister will tell us why we have such a lengthy amendment.

I express appreciation that the excellence of British sport is to be retained in the shop window of British sport--terrestrial television broadcasting. In view of that, we shall, of course, support the amendment moved by the Minister.

Viscount Astor: My Lords, my noble friend's amendment goes slightly further than the amendment moved at an earlier stage by the noble Lord, Lord Howell. My noble friend's amendment also refers to the list, and the revised list, and the power which the Secretary of State will have to include or omit various sporting events from that list.

When the Minister replies, will he state the Government's thinking as regards the list? How often will it be reviewed? Once a year? Or every five years? To what decisions have the Government come? It is important that we establish what the Government are providing in their amendment. It will certainly affect opinion as regards the later amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Howell.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, asks a pertinent question. We await with interest the answer from the Minister. In the meantime, from these Benches I join with the

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noble Lord, Lord Howell, in expressing our thanks to the Minister for accepting the will of your Lordships' House when we voted on the matter by ensuring that your Lordships' House and not another place put the consequences of that vote into proper statutory form.

Like the noble Lord and the noble Viscount, I have not mastered all the small print of the rather long series of new clauses, but I am sure that it is necessary. It is, however, the principle which matters. We are grateful to the Minister for enabling the House to come to a conclusion on the issue before Third Reading is completed.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, having had some part in the amendment moved in Committee, I should like to say more than a word of conventional thanks to my noble friend. I express genuine admiration and regard for the way in which the Minister listens to what is said here and produces something sensible to carry it forward.

I regarded the original amendment as not very good but as a useful way of nudging the Government into action. That is exactly how my noble friend has responded. For that I am most grateful.

The noble Lord, Lord Howell, is a little unkind, I think, in referring to the verbosity of the amendment. For once, I accept willingly that the step the Government have now taken demands a quite complicated series of arrangements in order to make it work. I willingly forgive my noble friend for the volume of the provision.

I should like to say how much I welcome the role that is given to the ITC under the amendment, so far as I understand it. In the rapidly changing technology of the industry, there is a great need for constant oversight by people who are detached and neutral but well informed on what is going on. My noble friend deserves the full thanks of the House and he certainly gets mine.

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