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House of Lords

Monday, 2nd July 2001.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers--Read by the Lord Bishop of Wakefield.

Lord Chan

Michael Chew Koon Chan, Esquire, MBE, having been created Baron Chan, of Oxton in the County of Merseyside, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Dholakia and the Lord Parekh.

Lord Clark of Windermere

The Right Honourable David George Clark, having been created Baron Clark of Windermere, of Windermere in the County of Cumbria, for life--Was, in his robes, introduced between the Lord Carter and the Lord Hardy of Wath.

Several Lords--Took the Oath.

Football World Cup: Television Coverage

2.50 p.m.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to ensure that the football matches of the World Cup finals are available to viewers on a free to air basis on terrestrial television.

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): My Lords, the whole of the World Cup finals tournament is a listed event under Part IV of the Broadcasting Act 1996. Under that legislation the Independent Television Commission will ensure that a non-free to air broadcaster--or a free to air broadcaster which covers less than 95 per cent of the population--can show any part of the tournament live only if a free to air broadcaster with at least 95 per cent coverage had either acquired similar rights or been given the opportunity to do so on fair and reasonable terms.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. She is, of course, aware that for the first time the rights for the World Cup have been won not by the EBU but by a private organisation which has indicated recently that it intends to hold an auction of those rights in the UK. That organisation, Kirch, has further indicated that it is taking the UK Government to the European Court of First Instance because it regards the listing of all 64 matches as unreasonable. In those circumstances is the Minister confident that we have sufficient statutory backing for the ITC to enforce government policy in this matter?

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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I reassure my noble friend that the Government are confident that they do have sufficient legal backing. His comments contained one inaccuracy. Kirch, the media organisation that purchased the rights from FIFA, is not taking the UK Government but rather the Commission to the European Court. However, we and the ITC have made Kirch and potential UK broadcasters fully aware of the extent of our legislation and the ITC's code on listed events. That should be sufficient to guarantee that the legislation is adhered to.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, is the Minister aware that if neither England nor Scotland qualify for the finals of the World Cup in 2002, under the arrangements that exist at present with the German organisation Kirch it is likely that terrestrial viewers in Britain will see no more than four matches out of all those played? Will the noble Baroness make clear that the ITC is able to insist that the rights for free-to-view broadcasting will be retained with regard to the United Kingdom even if not elsewhere in the European Union?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, what my noble friend says is not entirely accurate. I understand that the BBC and ITV have bid jointly for the rights to broadcast the whole of the World Cup series and not just the final and semi-final.

Lord Brookman: My Lords, will the Minister agree that great sports are no longer able to be seen on terrestrial television? For example, the British Lions matches and Test matches are not available to the British public as they once were. Does the noble Baroness agree that that is not a good thing?

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, as a sports fan I am all in favour of as many of these events as possible being shown on terrestrial television and available to as many people as possible. However, as my noble friend is aware, a number of the major events are listed. Perhaps my noble friend is a rugby fan and wishes to watch the British Lions. In 1998 the previous government extended for the first time to Rugby Union football, although not the British Lions, listed coverage. It is now possible to see, for example, the Rugby Union World Cup. It is on list B.

Lord McNally: My Lords, is it not a fact that those who administer those sports would rather take the fast buck of pay-to-view television than make the sports a national, shared experience? However, they will be the long-term losers. Will the noble Baroness clarify the point about the rights being on fair terms? Who defines the fair terms? If the terms are not fair, will the British Government block pay-to-view television in this country? It would be unacceptable for terrestrial television to pay through the nose, distorting their finances. Although it would be a shame, but not a national disaster, not to get the World Cup rights, it would be a national disaster to pay through the nose.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I accept the noble Lord's tenor. I understand that the BBC and ITV have

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put in a renewed bid. They wish to negotiate with Kirch, the media company which holds the rights. They have offered somewhat more. However, I understand that they do not intend to increase their bid any further. They wait to hear from Kirch. It is possible that Kirch will want to proceed to an auction. I understand that it is very unlikely that any non-terrestrial company will want to bid in that auction.

Lord Luke: My Lords, I understand that in 1996 Kirch bought the rights for the 2002 and 2006 World Cup matches. Since 1998 negotiations have taken place between it and the BBC and ITV. Is the Minister aware of any progress on similar negotiations with other members of the EU? Surely we could get together and try not to be bullied into what has been suggested.

Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I confirm that Kirch purchased these rights from FIFA a few years ago; I am not sure whether the precise date was 1996. The noble Lord makes a good point about the possibility of getting in touch with other terrestrial broadcasting organisations in other European Union countries. I shall see what the position is on that.

NHS: Private Sector Involvement

2.58 p.m.

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What evaluation of past, and expected future, benefits of private sector involvement in the National Health Service they intend to conduct.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the Government's policy is that where evaluations demonstrate value for money for the NHS and the taxpayer, the private sector will be involved through, first, the provision of facilities and certain support services to the NHS through the private finance initiative and other forms of public/private partnerships; and, secondly, the concordat with the voluntary and independent sectors under which NHS patients will receive clinical treatment free of charge, where appropriate in terms of cost and quality.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. What evaluation is taking place? What services are proposed? The general secretary of the TGWU recently described the Government's policies as a cocktail of policy confusion. The IPPR has cast considerable doubt on the value of PFI for the NHS. The Minister is responsible for performance and quality in the NHS. Clinical doctors are required to evaluate their actions in terms of evidence-based medicine. If the Government do not have a proper system of evaluation, are there not double standards?

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, of course we have a proper system of evaluation. Every PFI scheme has to demonstrate that it is providing value for money. That is underpinned by the work of the National Audit Office.

On the general issue, it is clear that core clinical services will be provided and will be mainstream NHS services. However, in some instances the expertise of private partners can help the NHS to deliver expanded and improved services. That is the context in which we are taking the policy forward.

The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, will the Minister ensure that public/private partnerships remove some of the more ridiculous examples of restrictive practices in the NHS? Spanish nurses, who are sometimes employed in this country, have different skills from English nurses--and in some cases greater skills; for example, their Spanish qualification allows them to administer intravenous drips, but that is not the case in England. Furthermore, when English nurses in English hospitals qualify to do that locally, they have to get approval from London, even though they have been given approval by the local doctor in the hospital concerned.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, foreign nurses would be employed directly by the National Health Service, because they would be part of the core services that we offer. The recruitment of nurses from Spain and other countries has been very successful and has gone down very well with patients. The protocols under which those nurses operate must be agreed by the National Health Service as a whole, underpinned by clinical governance within every NHS organisation. I certainly accept that we need to do all that we can to encourage nurses to take on a greater clinical responsibility if they have been trained to do so.

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