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Television: Sky and ITV

2.56 pm

Lord McNally asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Truscott): My Lords, it is for the Office of Fair Trading to consider whether to conduct an investigation into the competition effects of this transaction. My department is in contact with both the OFT and Ofcom about the matter and will keep under review questions relating to the potential use of the Secretary of State’s powers under the Enterprise Act 2002 to require a public interest investigation.

Lord McNally: My Lords, while thanking the Minister for his Answer, perhaps I may ask him to look at Early Day Motion 309 in the other place. It is an impressively all-party Motion which, among other things, asks

says that that should be investigated, and

Is that not wise advice? In fact, should we not go further? Is it not time that Ofcom carried out a full public inquiry into Sky’s many anti-competitive actions which are distorting our broadcasting market?

Lord Truscott: My Lords, there are two separate issues here regarding the OFT and Ofcom. First, the DTI remains in contact with the OFT about the transaction and will keep under review whether the Secretary of State could or should intervene on public interest grounds. Ofcom is looking at the other issue. It has announced that it is inviting comments from BSkyB and ITV on whether the transaction has resulted in a change of control in one or more of the licences held by ITV. If Ofcom were to conclude that such a change had occurred, it would review its effects on the content of programming. Those are two separate issues and both are being investigated.

Lord Borrie: My Lords, does the Minister accept that even a stake in ITV of less than 20 per cent adds undesirably to the abundance and concentration of power already in Mr Murdoch’s hands? Does he recall that in the debates on the Communications Act in this House and, no doubt, in the other place, we were concerned above all to seek the objective of a plurality of news and views? That is endangered by this latest move.

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Lord Truscott: My Lords, I hear what my noble friend Lord Borrie says and very much take his views into account as he has such experience in the field. However, this is initially a matter for the regulatory authorities and we must let them conduct their investigation before we comment any further. The points which my noble friend mentions are initially a question for them.

Lord Watson of Richmond: My Lords, does the Minister agree that Mr Michael Grade may prove a more effective and rapid defender of ITV than Ofcom would be and that he is certainly the one that Rupert Murdoch did not foresee?

Lord Truscott: My Lords, I hope that noble Lords will agree that that is straying a little from the Question. What I can say is that I wish Michael Grade all the best in his new role.

Lord McNally: My Lords, the Minister has played a straight bat, as I imagined he would. However, as the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, indicated, the public interest part of the Act was put in, much against the will of the Government and on the insistence of this House, for just this circumstance. The noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, described BSkyB as having,

If we are going to defend our broadcasting ecology, we have to be able to defend it against brilliant stunts, and Ministers have to take their responsibility. So far there is no sign of them taking that responsibility and every sign that they are prepared to hide behind regulators.

Lord Truscott: My Lords, I do not agree. I do not know how other Governments would act but this Government abide by the law as it is set out. Let me explain to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, how it works. An intervention by the Secretary of State is available only if a relevant merger situation for the purposes of the Enterprise Act 2002 has arisen that is relevant to a public interest consideration specified under Section 58 of that Act. It would not be appropriate to comment further on whether those circumstances have been met in this case. That is the law and that is what the Government are abiding by.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that things have moved on in the world of broadcasting with all the changes going on and telephone, television, internet and 3G all coming together? Does he agree that, while that is going on, it is best left to the regulators and the market rather than to interference from the Government?

Lord Truscott: My Lords, the House will not be surprised to hear that I entirely agree with my noble friend—he makes a very fair and rational point. I only wish that more Members of your Lordships’ House would follow his example.

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Lord De Mauley: My Lords, the Minister rightly says that it is for the OFT to decide whether the deal is referred. This is a very important decision. Businesses frequently complain about how slowly the OFT moves. Of 37 inquiries under way at the end of last year, no fewer than six had been going on for more than three years and one for six. Can the Minister be confident that an investigation of Sky’s investment in ITV would report sufficiently quickly to be useful?

Lord Truscott: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a fair point. This is obviously an urgent and important matter. I can assure him that my department is looking closely at the matter and will try to get a resolution as soon as possible.

Lord Maxton: My Lords, given the sort of changes that my noble friend indicated, where advertising is flowing to the internet and there is broadcasting over the internet, why on earth do supposedly astute businessmen such as Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson want to invest their money in ITV at all?

Lord Truscott: My Lords, I am not sure whether I should thank my noble friend for that question. All I can say is that this sort of investment decision is up to the businesses concerned and it is best to leave it to them.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, perhaps I may offer one constructive suggestion and question to the noble Lord. Why does he not reappoint the noble Lord, Lord Borrie, as director-general of fair trade? In my time as Secretary of State I found that he dealt with all questions promptly, sensibly and reasonably.

Lord Truscott: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Tebbit, for that surprisingly constructive intervention. My noble friend Lord Borrie is a very talented Member of your Lordships’ House. There are also many other talented Members of your Lordships’ House.

European Union (Information, etc.) Bill [HL]

3.05 pm

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for information to be made available in various public places relating to the activities and organisation of the European Union; to make provision for the flying of the flag of the European Union on various public buildings; to provide information to further the establishment of twinning arrangements between towns in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in the European Union in accordance with the European Union’s Town Twinning Support Scheme; and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

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Bailiffs (Licensing) Bill [HL]

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make provision for the licensing of activities involving the judicial or quasi-judicial seizure and sale of goods. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.


Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, a Statement on the local government finance settlement 2007-08 will be repeated by my noble friend Lady Andrews after the contribution from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester, the fourth speaker in the Second Reading debate.

Privileges Committee

Hybrid Instruments Committee

Personal Bills Committee

Standing Orders (Private Bills) Committee

3.07 pm

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, I beg to move the four Motions standing in my name on the Order Paper.


Moved, That a Committee for Privileges be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees and any four Lords of Appeal be appointed to the committee:

B Amos (Lord President)

L Brooke of Sutton Mandeville,L Browne-Wilkinson,L Cope of Berkeley,L Graham of Edmonton,L Grocott,L Howe of Aberavon,L Mackay of Clashfern,L Marsh,L McNally,L Shutt of Greetland,L Strabolgi,L Strathclyde,L Williamson of Horton;

That the committee have power to appoint sub-committees and that the sub-committees have power to appoint their own chairmen;

That the committee have power to co-opt any member to serve on any sub-committee.

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Hybrid Instruments

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider hybrid instruments and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the committee:

L Campbell of Alloway,

B Fookes,L Grantchester,L Harrison,L Luke,L Quirk,L Sandberg.

Personal Bills

Moved, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider personal Bills and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the committee:

V Allenby of Megiddo,

L Geddes,L Greaves,V Simon,L Slynn of Hadley,L Templeman.

Standing Orders (Private Bills)

Moved, That a Select Committee on the Standing Orders relating to private Bills be appointed and that, as proposed by the Committee of Selection, the following members together with the Chairman of Committees be appointed to the committee:

L Geddes,

B Gould of Potternewton,L Luke,L Naseby,L Palmer,V Simon,B Thomas of Walliswood.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motions agreed to.

Mental Health Bill [HL]

3.08 pm

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. There has always been, and will continue to be, much debate about the purpose and balance of mental health law. This area is controversial, and understandably so, as it involves issues of personal liberty and intrusion into people’s lives. However, the Bill is a relatively small part of the Government’s agenda for mental health. Perhaps more important is our progress on improving the range and quality of mental health services available across the country. Nevertheless, we need to ensure that our legal powers are as clear and up to date as possible.

The Bill primarily amends the Mental Health Act 1983 to help protect patients and the public from harm and to modernise the legislation to reflect current mental health service provision. It introduces

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new safeguards into the Mental Capacity Act 2005 for people who lack capacity and are deprived of their liberty in their own best interests. We also need to bring our legislation fully into line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Although one in six of us suffers from a common mental health problem at any point in our lives, most of us will never need treatment under statutory powers. For instance, while over 900,000 people are seen by specialist mental health services at any one time, only about 15,000 of those are detained under the Mental Health Act. We do not need new legislation to go on improving services—we will continue to do so under general NHS legislation.

Let me be clear about the improvements we have put in place on mental health services, because this provides the context within which this legislation will be implemented. We are spending £1.25 billion more on mental health services than in 1999. That is an increase of more than a quarter in real terms. Mental health, at £7.2 billion, represents the largest single element of programmed budget spend in the NHS. There are now record numbers of staff working in mental health. Since we came to office, there are 9,400 more psychiatric nurses, 1,240 more psychiatric consultants and 3,080 more clinical psychologists.

We are improving access to mental health services through new outreach teams and crisis resolution teams to provide care in patients' homes, through new early intervention services for young people and by providing more secure places for people with personality disorders. During 2005-06, crisis resolution teams provided 84,000 episodes of home treatment for people who would otherwise have been admitted to hospital. By the end of March 2006, about 19,000 people were receiving care from assertive outreach teams.

I recognise that a small minority of people at risk of harming themselves or others are in circumstances that justify treating them under compulsion. In those circumstances, a measure of compulsion may be the most compassionate thing to do. I accept that a high threshold needs to be reached before a clinical decision is made to detain and treat a patient under compulsion. The thresholds created by such criteria are fundamental to the balance set up by the Act. They establish when it is right that a clinician step in because the risk of harm to a patient or others outweighs a patient's individual rights.

In any such legislative framework, we need to ensure that patients' rights are safeguarded and that clinicians are clear about the process that must be followed under those circumstances. It is essential that detention and treatment under compulsion is only ever for a proper clinical purpose. The current legislation provides a framework of the kind that I described, but the Bill amends that framework with a number of key changes. The legislation needs modernising, because society and mental health services have changed since the previous Mental Health Act came into force more than 20 years ago.

I freely acknowledge that we had intended to replace current legislation with the previous Mental Health Bill published in September 2004. However, many stakeholders cited the positive aspects of the

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Mental Health Act 1983 in their evidence to the Joint Committee in the pre-legislative process. We have listened carefully to those views and to those expressed by mental health organisations, patients, clinicians and the general public. That has resulted in a shorter, more focused Bill covering essential measures. We now have a Bill that will help to ensure that people who need to be treated for the prevention of harm get the treatment that they need when they need it. Secondly, the Bill will bring the legislative framework up to date with current developments in mental health services, and strengthen patient safeguards.

Supervised community treatment is probably the key change in the Bill and is an area of some controversy. It is important not just from a patient and public safety angle but because clinical practice itself has changed. At present, most patients treated under the Mental Health Act are detained in hospital. That reflects the fact that, in 1983, most acute mental health services were provided in hospital. However the world has moved on and we now have a wide range of community-based mental health services, some of which I mentioned earlier. We also know that some form of compulsory community treatment is established in jurisdictions in New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Israel, Sweden, Belgium, Portugal and Scotland.

It is clear that there is now scope for some patients to be treated under compulsory powers but to live in the community, not in hospital. For suitable patients, supervised community treatment meets the need for a framework for their treatment and safe management in the community, instead of detention in hospital. That modern approach strikes a balance between individual autonomy and protection of the patient and the public.

I hope that we will not hear arguments in this House that we should go back to the future and reserve compulsion for detention in hospital. We have made it clear that, to be eligible for supervised community treatment, patients must have had an initial period of detention and treatment in hospital. This means that their medical condition and treatment needs will be well established before they go into the community. Criteria are set out in the Bill on whether a patient is suitable for supervised community treatment. It will be for clinicians, working with approved mental health professionals, to determine against those criteria whether a patient should be put on a community treatment order. There is no question of supervised community treatment being imposed on people who have not been detained in hospital first.

We know that some patients stop taking their medication or treatment once they leave hospital, and so relapse and end up being readmitted. This detrimental cycle is often referred to as the revolving door. Patients on supervised community treatment will benefit from a structure designed to promote safe community living. This will reduce the risk of relapse and re-detention. They will be asked to comply with conditions to help prevent relapse, such as living in a certain place, attending an out-patient clinic and agreeing to take medication under the direction of their responsible clinician.

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If, despite all this, a patient’s mental health does deteriorate again, there will be scope to take action to prevent crisis. Under supervised community treatment, patients can be recalled to hospital, if they need to be, for treatment. This is important because the power of recall provides the means to tackle relapse, and to avoid its potentially adverse consequences for the patient or someone else. Recall to hospital allows patients to be treated quickly and to return to the community straightaway if it is clinically safe to do so.

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