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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am not aware that the Cabinet Secretary has ever upbraided Mr Alastair Campbell in the respect suggested by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition. As far as the Hammond inquiry is concerned, its terms of reference have been published in a parliamentary Answer; namely, to investigate the events of 1998 in relation to the application for a passport by the Hindujas.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, has Mr Alastair Campbell reacted in any way differently from his predecessor, Sir Bernard Ingham? Is it not a fact that hypocrisy surrounds this question?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, he does not have a knighthood like Sir Bernard Ingham. I do not know how Sir Bernard Ingham conducted himself. As far as Mr Alastair Campbell is concerned, he has conducted himself in accordance with the terms of his contract.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, if the Hammond inquiry exonerates the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, will the Government act in the way in which

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an employer would have to act in the case of an industrial tribunal inquiry and restore one of the ablest members of the Cabinet?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the inquiry has been set up into the application for a passport. The findings are entirely a matter for Sir Anthony. We should wait until they are published before we speculate.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, as it was confirmed in my debate three years ago that Mr Campbell is one of the two special advisers who have been given the full status of a civil servant, has he been asked to sign the Official Secrets Act and does he attend meetings of the Cabinet, as distinct, of course, from a kitchen cabinet?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, his obligations in relation to the Official Secrets Act are exactly the same as for any other civil servant. As far as meetings of the Cabinet are concerned, from time to time he attends but obviously as an observer.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, it is quite clear that Mr Alastair Campbell is a civil servant at the present time. What happens if an election is called?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, Mr Alastair Campbell has made it clear that when a general election is called he will cease to be a civil servant and will work for the Labour Party.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, having been a lobby correspondent throughout the time that Sir Bernard Ingham was in power, may I tell the Minister that I can never remember an occasion on which he criticised the--

Noble Lords: Question!

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether it would be helpful to be told that I can never recollect an occasion on which Sir Bernard criticised the Labour Party and that he frequently refused to take a line for the Conservative Party, although he was--as he properly should be and as Mr Campbell should be--totally loyal to the Prime Minister of the day? If Mr Campbell finds it difficult to combine the roles, would not a simple solution be for him to continue in his position but to be on the payroll of the Labour Party?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for telling me about Sir Bernard Ingham's job as official spokesman to the then Prime Minister. As regards the present Prime Minister's official spokesman, he is well able to operate within the confines of his contract, as the Cabinet Secretary made absolutely clear at the Select Committee hearing to which the noble Lord, Lord Renton of Mount Harry, referred. That involves robustly putting the

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Government's case and, where opposition attacks on the Government are absurd, he is able to point that out.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, can the Minister give the House any indication of exactly how many senior civil servants are allowed to take time off to work for their party in an election?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, special advisers are expected, if they are going to engage in party politics in the course of an election, to resign as special advisers and act as they see fit. That position in relation to special advisers was the same under the Conservative government as it is under this Government.

Noble Lords: Next Question!

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I can assure noble Lords opposite that I shall be brief. Am I right in concluding from the noble and learned Lord's answer to my noble friend Lord Campbell--a clansman of the person in question--that Mr Alastair Campbell has not signed the Official Secrets Act?

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I cannot be precise about the procedure but I make it clear that he is governed by the Official Secrets Act to the same extent as any other civil servant.

Television Subtitling

3.16 p.m.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland asked Her Majesty's Government:

What proposals they have to ensure the comprehensive subtitling of television programmes.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, on 29th January this year we announced plans to raise the target for the provision of subtitling on digital terrestrial television from 50 to 80 per cent of programming by the 10th anniversary of the start of the service. This matches the target for analogue terrestrial services. We also announced that the digital terrestrial targets for subtitling, sign language and audio description services would be extended to digital cable and digital satellite services when legislative time permits.

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am grateful for my noble friend's Answer. Does he agree that we should support the development of subtitling for two reasons: first, for the viewing enhancement of people who are hearing impaired; and, secondly, to provide a stimulus to British industry to be at the forefront of Smart voice recognition technology,

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which, linked to the ability to view simultaneous translation, is where telecommunications will be heading in the future?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, as my noble friend says, it is certainly the case that there is a technological spin-off into other fields. It is also right in itself that we should give deaf people access to a much wider variety of television programmes than has been available in the past.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House what plans the Government have to bring cable and satellite television under the remit of subtitling regulations?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the announcement last week was precisely to the effect that we are doing what we can by order. For digital terrestrial services we shall lay orders to increase the targets for subtitling. As I said in my original Answer, for digital cable and digital satellite services we need primary legislation. I hesitate to suggest that there could be any defect in the Broadcasting Act 1996 passed by the previous government but it appears to be more difficult to apply it to cable and satellite.

Lord Addington: My Lords, it costs up to 400 an hour to subtitle television broadcasts. Is that not a reasonable cost to make the service available to all those who want to use it? Does not the Minister agree that there is probably an argument for enforcing this measure under the Disability Discrimination Act?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not disagree that the cost itself is reasonable, but, of course, there are issues other than cost. There is the matter of the availability of the expertise and the equipment to implement subtitling. There is also the problem with regard to, for example, live programmes or late delivery programmes, of making this provision available at a time when it is relevant to what is being shown on the screen. The question of adherence to the Disability Discrimination Act is an interesting one which would have to be tested.

Baroness Wilkins: My Lords, will the Minister clarify why it is thought possible and right for the BBC to reach 100 per cent subtitling by the 10th anniversary of the digital channels' creation but not feasible for the other digital terrestrial broadcasters?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the BBC sets its own targets. It has set itself the target of meeting, matching or exceeding the targets set by the Independent Television Commission. The BBC has said that it aims to cover 100 per cent of all broadcasts within 10 years. However, the difficulties for the last few per cent are exactly as I described in my previous answer: live broadcast and late delivery programmes. We applaud the BBC for the efforts it has made.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, has the Minister made any representations to the BBC

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concerning the quality of programmes which have been broadcast by BBC television over the past two years? I refer in particular to the relevance and articulation--with the exception of one or two popular programmes which are very articulate and understandable. Will the Government take account of a growing dissatisfaction among the population generally about the quality of television which we are now condemned to watch?

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