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Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, 29th December is not very far away. Although many of us may think that the pre-scrutiny committee's proposed breathing space would have been safer, will the Minister commit to use all his and the Government's considerable powers of persuasion to encourage Ofcom to put the ITV situation right at the top of its agenda, possibly even before the date on which it begins its operation?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Ofcom comes into existence as a statutory body on 29th December, and all its powers and responsibilities, including those relating to ITV, will come into force then. There is no possibility of advancing or delaying that process.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one of the distinctive qualities of

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ITV has been its smaller regional companies? Will the Government therefore ensure that, in the merger between Carlton and Granada, the interests in the advertising marketplace of the smaller independent regional companies that remain will be properly safeguarded?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I think that I can just about bring that question within the scope of the original Question, by saying that there are provisions in the regime to be brought in on 29th December under the Communications Act to ensure that programmes are made both regionally and for regional audiences.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that, until Ofcom gets legal life on 29th December, responsibility for the goings-on at ITV rests squarely with the Independent Television Commission, under the terms of the licence that the ITV companies hold?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Yes, my Lords. I thought that I had just said that.

Lord McNally: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his right honourable friend Patricia Hewitt has given considerable praise to the way in which shareholders in ITV have behaved recently? Does he think that ITV has anything to learn in terms of corporate governance from its near neighbour BSkyB?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I appreciate that I answer for the Government and not for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. However, the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry having responsibility for corporate governance and having expressed her views on it, it would be impertinent of me to intervene.

Copyright Law

2.53 p.m.

Lord Lloyd-Webber asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to strengthen current copyright law, with particular regard to unauthorised exploitation of material which was not intended for the public domain.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, we have no plans to make further changes to copyright law beyond those that came into force last week. There are comprehensive remedies for copyright owners where protected material is used without permission. Use of

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material that was never intended for the public domain may, of course, additionally be a breach of confidence. Remedy exists in the courts as well.

Lord Lloyd-Webber: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his reply—a careful reply, if I may say so. Does he believe that there is any case to introduce an American-style law of privacy in the UK?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, as noble Lords know, that has been a matter for discussion over the years. However, the Government are satisfied that current legislation provides adequate protection to an individual's right to privacy and a private life. In addition to the common law, the Data Protection Act, the Computer Misuse Act and the Children Act are tailored to safeguard the privacy of an individual in particular circumstances. In addition to those protections, Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which was given effect in this country by the Human Rights Act 1998, affords a cross-cutting right to privacy.

Lord McNally: My Lords, does not the Question raise a wider issue that may also be of interest to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd-Webber, on the more general protection of intellectual property? With the advance of technologies, it is now increasingly easy to exploit other people's ideas and creativity. As we want to become a country of creativity with value added, surely there is a need for strengthening national and international laws against copyright theft and intellectual property theft.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, we acknowledge the work that the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has done in the area. He will remember that, in the 2001–02 Session, the Government supported his Private Member's Bill on video piracy. I assure him that the issues that he raises remain high on the Government's agenda. We have already made some progress to combat copyright piracy, and will continue to think about what needs to be done in future.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it may be sensible to revisit the law of confidence, and thereby in certain circumstances breach of confidence, rather than strengthening the law of copyright?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, nothing that has happened recently suggests to us that there is a need to revisit the law of confidence. Rights to confidentiality may arise in many situations—for example, where a breach of contract involves a confidentiality clause. Such clauses are normally contained in contracts of employment or for services. A duty of confidence may also arise where a person either knows or ought to know that another person can reasonably expect his privacy to be protected. A recent example of a successful case concerning breach of confidence was brought by Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones against Hello! magazine in

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relation to private wedding photographs. We are content that the law is there and can be used if necessary.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, in order to understand better the supplementary question of my noble friend Lord Lloyd-Webber, may I ask what is the American system of confidentiality that the Minister rejects?

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, someone behind me said, "Give it an hour and a half". I am not a lawyer, and am conscious that I speak to an audience in which there are many lawyers. I have only had practical experience of the American privacy laws. They are very much tougher than ours, to the point of being almost unmanageable. Many has been the occasion when I have had to deal with American privacy laws and had books rewritten to make absolutely sure that they do not fall foul of them. We do not want what we regard as a rather oppressive law here. We are happy and satisfied that our privacy laws provide remedy for those who feel that their privacy has been invaded.

Lord Acton: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that my American law professor wife has written an admirable book—sorry, a wholly admirable book—called Invasion of Privacy? I hereby undertake to get her to send the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, a signed copy.

Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for that incredibly helpful intervention.

Political Parties: Donations

2.59 p.m.

Lord Campbell-Savours asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the influence of individual and institutional donors on political parties should be more closely regulated.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): My Lords, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 established that donations must be from a permissible source and must be declared. That promotes openness and transparency in the financial affairs of political parties and is four-square with the recommendations of the Neill committee. The Electoral Commission is currently undertaking a review of all aspects of party funding. We shall consider its recommendations following publication.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, my noble friend will know that if a trade union leader were to seek to manipulate Parliament by telling the Labour Party to ditch its leader, there would be an outcry in the country from the general public and cries of "disgrace" and

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"abuse of power". In that light, and that being the case, why is it permissible for Mr Stuart Wheeler, a well heeled businessman, to seek to manipulate Parliament and the House of Commons by demanding that the Conservative Party ditch its leader, Iain Duncan Smith, as happened last week? Surely that is an abuse of power. Indeed, some would say that it borders on corruption of the whole political system.

Lord Filkin: My Lords, the Government have no particular view on that issue; it is a matter for the Conservative Party. I mark only that the fact that we passed the 2000 Act makes it clear and publicly apparent that these issues are in the public domain, and that is surely right.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that it would be good, in the public interest, to make it clear that trade union leaders will be given the powers to get rid of the Prime Minister?

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