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Lord Evans of Temple Guiting moved Amendment No. 137:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, paragraphs 3 and 4 of this schedule, which were inserted on Report, provide a wider range of savings for agreements that are in some sense conditional on the holding of licences under the 1984 Act. However, the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, questioned whether they would be effective to save certain rights of Crown Castle, the transmission services company, which are expressed by references to licences held by other persons. Officials have discussed the situation with Crown Castle, and I am happy to table amendments that the company confirm will resolve their concern.

These amendments broaden the references to licence under the 1984 Act, so that licences can be held by any person. That will effectively save any rights or obligations expressed by reference to licences held by persons who are not party to the agreements. The consequential amendments clarify the rights and obligations in question for a person who is a party to the agreement. I should also like to move three small amendments correcting minor errors and omissions in these paragraphs. I beg to move Amendments Nos. 137 to 144.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord that he can move only the first amendment, Amendment No. 137, and that he speaks to the rest of the amendments.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Countess. That was pointed out by my noble friend Lord McIntosh as I sat down.On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 138 to 145:

    Page 538, line 40, at end insert "or electronic communications service"

    Page 539, line 27, after "person" insert "("the contracting party")" .

    Page 539, line 28, at end insert "or another person (whether or not a party to the agreement)"

    Page 539, line 34, leave out "that person" and insert "the contracting party" .

    Page 539, line 36, leave out "the case of a person who" and insert "relation to a case in which the person in question" .

    Page 539, line 46, at end insert "or electronic communications service"

    Page 550, line 21, leave out "or electronic communications service"

    Page 558, line 42, leave out paragraph 35 and insert—

"Continuity in relation to appointed news provider

35 Where a body holds an appointment for the purposes of section 31(2) of the 1990 Act immediately before the date of the commencement of section 278 of this Act—
(a) that appointment shall have effect in relation to times on and after that date as an appointment for the purposes of arrangements entered into in accordance with conditions imposed under section 278 of this Act;

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(b) the arrangements under which that appointment was made shall have effect in relation to such times as arrangements so entered into; and
(c) so much of the appointment or arrangements, or of any agreement to which the body is a party, as makes provision by reference to the body's ceasing to be nominated under section 32 of the 1990 Act shall have effect in relation to such times as if references to ceasing to be so nominated were references to becoming a body falling within section (Disqualification from appointment as news provider)(2) of this Act."

On Question, amendments agreed to.

Schedule 19 [Repeals]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendments Nos. 146 and 147:

    Page 574, column 2, leave out lines 29 and 30 and insert—

    "Sections 30 to 36."
    Page 580, line 7, leave out "and 75" and insert "to 76"

On Question, amendments agreed to.

In the Title:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 148:

    Line 5, leave out "newspaper mergers" and insert "mergers involving newspaper and other media enterprises"

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord McIntosh of Haringey.)

Lord Puttnam: My Lords, the hour is late. However, as I have spent two years of my life and other members of the House have spent significant periods of their lives on this Bill, it is important to make one or two small points before the Bill passes. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Fowler, did the House a favour in raising the issues that he did. I want to speak very briefly about the principle of pre-legislative scrutiny—about what I and, I am sure, the noble Lord, Lord McNally, have learned from it—and offer the Government a few observations.

I was delighted to hear the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, say that there was no question about the future of pre-legislative scrutiny, but that was not the story that we were being told two or three months ago, when the general word around my party was that we were seriously damaging the future of pre-legislative scrutiny by appearing to be so pernickety.

The Government would do well to look again at the report of the committee and reflect on the way in which they reacted to the initial recommendations a year ago. Hours and hours of legislative time could have been saved had the Government been more moderate and more thoughtful in their response. We have made enormous progress on the Bill, but a great deal of that progress could have been made by a more thoughtful response in the first place. I take some blame for that. It is important for me to say that I think I allowed an over-adversarial relationship to be created between the pre-legislative scrutiny committee and the Bill team.

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The lesson that I would offer to anyone chairing a pre-legislative scrutiny committee in future is not to allow that division to occur. It was unnecessary, but it has, I stress, caused this House many unnecessary hours of debate and dissent.

I have learnt an extraordinary lesson about the parliamentary process. It is fundamental that in any forthcoming discussions in this Chamber about the future of the House of Lords, someone must take into account who will do the job of scrutinising legislation. If one thing has been absolutely apparent, it is that no form of adequate scrutiny took place before the Bill came to this House. It has been a total disgrace. No one yet has been able to explain adequately why no proper scrutiny currently takes place in another place. That is a very serious issue. I hope that someone somewhere will read these remarks and address them in a serious way.

I would also suggest that any government tie pre-legislative scrutiny to a commitment to take Committee stage out of the Chamber. It would free up time in this Chamber; it would move government business along; and I do not believe that any damage would occur in the process. I pass that on as serious advice because, again, hours and hours of time could have been advantageously saved.

I shall leave the last word to a man I admire very much—the founder of CNN, Ted Turner. Why Ted Turner? Ted Turner is exactly the type of media entrepreneur that I think this Bill was intended to encourage into a possible interest in this country. On 30th May, he wrote in the Washington Post:

    "the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected to adopt dramatic rule changes that will extend the market dominance of the five media corporations that control most of what Americans read, see and hear. I"—

Mr Turner, and not me, sadly—

    "am a major shareholder in the largest of those five corporations, yet—speaking only for myself, and not for AOL Time Warner—I oppose these rules. They will stifle debate, inhibit new ideas and shut out smaller businesses trying to compete. . . . When the smaller businesses are gone, where will the new ideas come from? Nor does this trend bode well for new ideas in our democracy—ideas that only come from diverse news and vigorous reporting".

He continued:

    "Even more troubling are the warning signs that large media corporations—with massive market power—could abuse that power by slanting news coverage in ways that serve their political or financial interests. There is always the danger that news organizations can push positive stories to gain friends in government, or unleash negative stories on artists, activists or politicians who cross them, or tell their audiences only the news that confirms entrenched views. But the danger is greater when there are no competitors to air the side of the story that the corporation wishes to ignore".

Anyone looking at the news coverage of this Bill as it has gone through Parliament would have seen a marked difference between the coverage it got in certain publications and the almost complete blank it received from others. Ted Turner went on to say:

    "Naturally, corporations say they would never suppress speech. That may be true. But it's not their intentions that matter. It's their capabilities. The new FCC rules would give them more power to cut important ideas out of the public debate, and it's precisely that power that rules should prevent".

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I hope that through the amendments that we have recently attached to this genuinely excellent Bill, we have precisely addressed Ted Turner's worst fears, and as a consequence we may continue to enjoy the best and most plural broadcast environment in the world. We are handing the Bill on to the noble Lord, Lord Currie, and I am reminded very much of when my father taught me to ride a bicycle. He spent many hours running up and down the street, holding the saddle of my bike, until one day I turned around and realised that he had let go and was not there.

Tonight we have let go of the bike. The noble Lord, Lord Currie, will be asked to pedal away and all our best wishes and—speaking for myself—our dearest hopes go with him and with Ofcom. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. The Bill has been important. We have covered very interesting and important areas in a remarkably good spirit, albeit at great length.

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