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Lord Bragg: My Lords, I support what the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, said. This provision should be in the Bill; it would provide a clear definition, and help, to community radio. Anything that helps community radio does great good for the duties and opportunities in this country of local communication. We can hammer on and on. We live in a technological world, not only at a massive level but also at a local level. Such local opportunities are golden. If we can get it right here, it will be a great help to many communities in this country. In fact, for what it is worth, I think the two great areas of technological growth in the future are global and intensely local.

Community radio in this country is encouragingly advanced. I think it is our duty to sow this marram grass and help prevent the shifting sands of merely global, national and moneyed technology from drifting around without roots.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I, too, strongly endorse this amendment. In many ways, it is as important an addition to the Bill as virtually any we are discussing. We have developed, and are developing, a society which is increasingly, as the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, has just mentioned, money-driven and top-down. This is the part of the broadcasting spectrum that is bottom-up—of the people, by the people, for the people. It surely must find a place in the Bill.

I refer the Minister to the fact that his own Government have placed huge store—rightly, in my view—on the 10th report of the policy action team which came out of the first initiative taken by the Prime Minister after Labour was elected to power in 1997. That action team encapsulates in its report perhaps the most important single insight of all 18 action teams: that social inclusion—and this amendment is about eliminating social exclusion—can come only from self-help and by communities doing for themselves what they think appropriate and what they want to do, rather than being told from on high. I very much hope that the Government will give this a fair wind.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, I, too, will be extremely brief. Everything that I have heard and seen about access radio—now renamed community radio—since debates on the Bill have begun has left me with the feeling that it is very worth while. As the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has said, it will certainly help regarding social exclusion. To be able, within a community, to help it communicate about the various issues that concern it is a crucial part of how communities and citizenship develop.

Lord Puttnam: My Lords, I add my support to a very important concept. I would go further—I would like to

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think that this is a beginning, not an end. The whole notion of community building is surely at the heart of Labour Party policy and, interestingly enough, was the theme the shadow Home Secretary, Oliver Letwin, used in an excellent speech in Brixton last week. He said:

    "I believe in the miracle of the establishment of a neighbourly society—the bringing about of sustainable social programmes in our inner cities".

It is surely beyond question that the ability of communities to talk to each other, to communicate with each other, to get to know each other better has to be the most fundamental paving stone towards better and more neighbourly communities.

I was very lucky a couple of weeks ago in Liverpool to be shown a facility that has been built whereby I was able to webcast question and answer sessions with elderly people trapped in tower blocks. The creation of this type of technology and this type of opportunity in the process of building communities in this country should surely be a priority for the Government, not an add-on to a very large and complicated Bill. I should have thought this could be central to the Bill and the beginning of something far more important than the brief discussion we have had this afternoon would suggest.

6.15 p.m.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, Amendment No. 124 seeks to replace the existing community radio clause and to bring community radio directly within the existing regulatory regime for applications for radio licences. There is a real problem with the amendment, as it refers to Section 84 of the 1990 Act, which is to be repealed. Leaving that to one side, we feel that there are very good reasons for rejecting the amendment.

Fundamentally, we believe that our Clause 258 is simply more effective. As drafted, it already gives Ministers the power to set up community radio regimes. All noble Lords who have contributed to this debate will be happy to hear that we plan to do this by introducing an order later this year, following consideration of Anthony Everitt's report, which the noble Viscount, Lord Falkland, mentioned.

The Government believe strongly—to echo the comments of every noble Lord who has spoken—in community radio and in the future of community radio. As I said when we considered the same amendment in Committee, the amendment also seems problematical in that it seeks to bring community within the mainstream radio licensing regime by inserting a reference to community radio into Section 104 of the 1990 Act. But Section 104 deals simply with the process of making an application, and would not allow us to introduce, for instance, specific content regulation. Were we to accept the amendment in place of the provisions in Clause 258, we would lose the ability that we have deliberately reserved to tailor the regulatory regime in a way that is more appropriate to

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community radio. The result would be that community radio would be subject to the same rules as commercial radio services.

I ask the noble Viscount to withdraw his amendment, recognising, I hope, that the Government believe very strongly in community radio and that, by introducing an order later this year for consultation and debate in both Houses, they will demonstrate their commitment to this extraordinarily important cultural and social matter, which my noble friend Lord Bragg described so eloquently.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, I thank all those who have taken part in this brief debate for the support which has been given to the amendment, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, and my noble friend Lord Phillips of Sudbury, all of whom added an element of their own to the argument. All those arguments added up, as I interpret them, to an agreement that there should be something on the face of the Bill. The Minister said that that was not possible; I shall look very carefully at what he said in Hansard—

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I do not think that I said it was impossible; I argued that the provision was already in Clause 258 and, in connection with the order which we wish to introduce later this year, that shows the Government's commitment to community radio.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, that is exactly the point. I would like to read carefully what has been said and to consult the authorities in community radio on their reaction to the Minister's remarks. They may well receive them more favourably than I appear to have done.

It is quite clear that we have moved on apace during the Bill's proceedings in accepting the importance of community radio, as has been said by those noble Lords who were kind enough to support the general drift of my amendment. Obviously reserving the right to come back should it be necessary, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 260 [OFCOM reports on the fulfilment of the public service remit]:

Lord Lea of Crondall moved Amendment No. 124A:

    Page 231, line 13, at end insert—

"( ) that sufficient high quality original drama is broadcast covering a range of issues in a variety of formats;"

The noble Lord said: My Lords, there was very wide support for the principle of this amendment in Committee. For example, people of the eminence and wide experience of my noble friend Lord Bernstein, who speaks with great authority, pinpointed exactly why it was important to have a specific reference to high-level drama. The spirit of Report stage being very brief and succinct, perhaps I may say that many of us

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have been very selective in the amendments that we have pressed. That is why I think this one is of considerable importance.

There is wide anxiety in the House, and in the country that the defining quality of British television, which is admired by people around the world, is very much bound up in drama—both contemporary and classical—as well as other facets of broadcasting, notably news analysis. It is a treasure and it would be an historic mistake and hard to put Humpty-Dumpty back together again if drama were to be abandoned.

That is the heart of the problem, from the informal observations of people in the industry, and those who are not in the industry but who are part of the wider cultural establishment, such as the British Council, television and drama critics, and so on. Superb, high quality drama is not a question of division between ourselves and the Front Bench, but there is division over whether, as the Minister said in Committee, it is necessary to include it in the Bill. The Minister said that it was a fair enough point, but that it was not necessary to add it to the Bill because drama is one among many other programme types referred to in the earlier recital in the Bill. However, the question needs to be discussed a little more face to face. We have not gone past the stage of discussion although it is becoming a little late in the day. We are not two ships passing in the night, with classical drama dying a death. International comparisons and research demonstrate unequivocally that simply having a list of programme types in the recital is exactly what will allow the removal of that sort of quality television. Therefore, general lists do not cut too much ice.

I am sure that my colleagues who support the amendment would think it timely if the Minister were to agree to meet to consider this question. I beg to move.

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