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S4C: Independent Review

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Lord McIntosh of Haringey): My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell) has made the following Statement.

On 3 March this year, I announced the appointment of Roger Laughton, Head of Bournemouth University Media School, assisted by Meurig Royles as Welsh language assessor, to carry out an independent review of S4C.

I am today publishing Mr Laughton's report of his review and copies have been deposited in the House Libraries. I welcome this very thorough analysis of S4C's current position and the challenges facing the authority in the digital age. The report's conclusions and recommendations raise a number of issues relating to the Government's digital action plan, BBC Charter review and Ofcom's review of public service broadcasting, which will need to be addressed in the context of those initiatives. My department will liaise with the authority and with other interested organisations to consider Mr Laughton's recommendations in detail and I will notify the House of the resulting conclusions in due course.
 
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Digital Switchover

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (Tessa Jowell) has today made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

In my statement of 19 May I said that I would report further stages in establishing the plan for switchover. I am pleased to say that much progress has been made in the discussions between the Government, Ofcom and the public service broadcasters.

While the broadcasters have not reached a full consensus on the optimum timetable, some—including the BBC—have suggested that 2012 may be the most appropriate date for the completion of switchover. This could mean beginning the switching sequence as early as 2007. This would be subject to agreement on a detailed plan, including resolution of the remaining issues raised in the discussions. Ofcom plans to include reference to this timetable in the draft digital licences for Channels 3, 4, 5 and Teletext which they expect to publish for consultation later this summer.

We continue to believe that an ordered process leading to the earliest practicable switchover remains desirable given the advantages to consumers, the broadcasting industry and future growth of innovative new services. We believe that switchover should be broadcaster-led but that the final decision on timetable should balance these benefits against the need to ensure that the interests of the most vulnerable consumers are protected. I have therefore asked Ofcom's independent consumer panel to consider what measures might be necessary to ensure this protection and to report to me later this year with their advice. We will also take advice from leading charities. The Government's final endorsement of a timetable will be subject to being satisfied that adequate measures are in place to meet this objective.

The BBC, in its 29 June publication Building Public Value, proposed that 2012 should be the target date for switchover. The BBC made clear its willingness to be a "leader and co-ordinator across the industry" and to "take a special responsibility for bringing the final cohorts into the digital television universe". I have asked the BBC how it proposes to take this forward.

The Government remain committed to ensuring that switchover is planned and implemented in a way which is platform and broadcaster neutral. Consumers must have clear, unbiased information about what is available on each platform and from each provider so that they can make an informed choice. In particular, people who buy television equipment now should know that switchover will take place during the expected lifetime of television sets bought today. We are therefore engaged with retailers and manufacturers—who also need to plan ahead—to see that good clear information is given to consumers currently planning to buy a television or an item of recording equipment. We expect this information to spread through retail outlets from September, identified by the switchover logo.
 
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As an early step towards switchover, we are proceeding with a technical trial in two villages—Ferryside and Llansteffan—in south Wales. The residents have responded overwhelmingly in favour of taking part in this trial. If, as we expect, this switchover trial is successful, this community will be the first in the UK to go fully digital next spring.

We expect further progress on these matters in the coming months and I will report to the House on material developments as they occur.

Civil Legal Aid

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs (Lord Filkin): My honourable friend David Lammy, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State has made the following Written Ministerial Statement in the other place today.

With the agreement of the Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs, the Legal Services Commission (LSC) has today published a consultation paper entitled A new focus for civil legal aid—encouraging early resolution; discouraging unnecessary litigation.

The main theme of the paper is to refocus the civil legal aid scheme away from contested litigation and to encourage early resolution of disputes. With a limited budget, we need to ensure that legal aid funding is targeted on the most needy cases and in the priority areas. The proposed changes are also required to update the LSC's funding code in the light of new initiatives, for example, changes in handling clinical negligence cases and the new Independent Police Complaints Commission. The changes to family legal aid complement the proposals announced in our Green Paper entitled Parental Separation: Children's Needs and Parents' Responsibilities.

The main proposals are as follows:

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Copies of the consultation paper have been placed in the Library of both Houses. It is available on the LSC's website: www.legalservices.gov.uk.

MCSI Inspection of Courts Services: Annual Report 2003–04

Lord Filkin: The MCSI Inspection of Courts Services Annual Report for 2003–04 has been laid before Parliament yesterday. This document gives full details of the MCSI's performance for that year. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

Court Service and Magistrates' Court Service: Annual Reports 2003–04

Lord Filkin: The Court Service annual report and accounts for 2003–04 has been laid before Parliament today. This document gives full details of the agency's performance and expenditure for that year. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

The magistrates' courts' business returns annual report 2003–04 has been laid before Parliament today. Copies of the report have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.


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