|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Richard: My Lords, perhaps the Minister can help further. My noble friend asked whether there were any parallels to be drawn between the trickle--or, indeed, the flood--of arms which seems to be going into Afghanistan and the arms which appear to have got into Rwanda. Can the noble Lord tell us what rules there are in respect of British companies possibly selling arms to Afghanistan? Can he also tell us how the rules in respect of Afghanistan compare with those in relation to the sale of arms to Rwanda? Finally, have the Government any knowledge of the sale of arms to Afghanistan and Rwanda by British companies?
Lord Chesham: My Lords, the rules are exactly the same. We are talking about an export licence application. There has been no export licence application for any defence equipment for Afghanistan since 1992. We are not aware of any British company selling arms to Afghanistan, and we are not aware of any British company directly selling arms to Rwanda.
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): My Lords, my honourable friend the Minster for Corporate and Consumer Affairs gave an undertaking when the Arbitration Bill was being debated in another place to use his best endeavours to bring the new Act into force in January next year. That remains the position. Our intention is not to commence Sections 85 to 87 of the Act. After the rest of the Act has been commenced, an order will be laid before both Houses under Section 88 of the Act to repeal those sections. Assuming the order is agreed, the special provisions for domestic arbitrations will no longer apply.
Lord Hacking: My Lords, I thank my noble and learned friend for that Answer. Can he confirm he is saying that when the Act comes into force there will be no distinction between domestic and international arbitration? Has my noble and learned friend received any representations from any quarter relating to any section of this Act not coming into force at the commencement date? If he has received representations, what has been his response?
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, my noble friend is correct to say that on commencement--which we hope will be in January next year--there will be no distinction between domestic arbitration and international arbitration. As regards the latter part of his question, the only representations we have received concern Section 46 of the Act, which relates to the so-called equity or honourable engagement clauses. This provision will apply only to new arbitration agreements entered into after the Act has come into force. The provision will be different from the rest of the Act because it is concerned with the critically important issue of how the substance of the dispute is to be decided. Other provisions relate to procedural matters. Those representations came from the insurance industry, and the departmental advisory committee on arbitration law agreed with the view put to us.
Lord Hacking: My Lords, will my noble and learned friend give further consideration to that issue for two reasons: first, the Act, right the way across its provisions, will now apply equally to all arbitrations started after commencement date? Secondly, will my noble and learned friend consider whether it is in the best interests of the insurance and reinsurance industry that this delay is allowed?
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, regulations have been in place since 23rd August this year, well in advance of any manufacturing agreements for decoders for digital television, which deal with the licensing of proprietary conditional access technology. Additional regulations covering the supply of conditional access services, including subscriber management services, will come into force around the end of this year.
Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I apologise to the House for the complexity of the Question, which has certainly exercised my mind. This is a complex area. Will the Minister confirm that the August regulations relating to the European directive cover conditional access? Does the Minister agree with me that to ensure that there is no monopoly of this new technology it is also necessary to give the director general of Oftel full powers to deal with the other aspects of this matter, such as intellectual property rights at a fair price, the applications interface and, of course, the electronic page guides, without which we are in grave danger of allowing a monopoly situation to arise in this important developing area?
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I certainly congratulate the noble Baroness on her firm grasp of this extremely technical subject. I can confirm that the statutory instrument that was introduced in August implemented obligations under the directive. It related to the technology of conditional access. What we are consulting on at the moment relates to another part of the directive; namely, the conditional access services and the extent to which those should be regulated. I have indicated that we hope to introduce regulations in respect of that before the end of the year. The noble Baroness is absolutely right; it is not simply a question of leaving the matter there. Changes will be introduced in terms of the Telecommunications Act Licence which would be subject to the direction of the director of Oftel. We are determined to secure that broadcasters may gain
Viscount Astor: My Lords, does not my noble and learned friend agree that it would be preferable to have one box on the top of everyone's television to cover digital satellite television and digital terrestrial television as opposed to having many boxes? Does not my noble and learned friend also agree that the regulations should include conditions that satellite broadcasters should be made to license their technology to other manufacturers? If that does not happen, those satellite broadcasters with conditional access systems could block free-to-air television services, which would be detrimental both to the industry and to the consumer?
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I cannot offer a view about whether there should be only one box. However, if my noble friend has asked me whether I consider that there will be only one box, the answer is yes. It is for that reason that we must ensure that the arrangements for conditional access are properly in place. As regards technology, the regulations that we have already introduced cover the licensing of conditional access technology. As I indicated, that must be undertaken on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis. There will also be a further protection for manufacturers who wish to include what is described as a common interface, which can be either satellite, terrestrial or cable. It would not be permissible for one licensing body to exclude the opportunity for a manufacturer to include such a common interface. I hope that is reasonably clear to my noble friend.
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, is the Minister aware that under these technical matters there lies a serious public interest issue as regards the field of competition policy? We are dealing with one media group; namely, the Murdoch group, which at the moment owns 36 per cent. of our national press and has a dominant position in satellite subscription broadcasting. If the Government do not take sufficiently vigorous action, the Murdoch group could have a dominating position with regard to the new digital technology. Is it not necessary for the Government to take pro-active action here rather than wait to see what the Murdoch group does and then try to seek to deal with matters later? Is there not a real danger of the Murdoch interests becoming digital dictators?
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page