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It is also proposed that the scope of the order that may be made under Clause 22 should be extended to cover contractors providing services relating to investigations conducted or persons detained by immigration officers and designated customs officials. There is an important distinction between the nature of the services provided by contractors and the exercise by immigration officers and designated customs officials of their functions and powers related to criminal investigations. Contractors are not charged with the duty of investigating offences, nor do they have the legislative responsibility of custody officers. The responsibility for those matters will lie instead with the designated customs official or immigration officer in charge of the relevant investigation or detention, as the case may be. Accordingly, the responsibility for ensuring that any services ancillary to the investigation or detention that a private contractor will supply will, and should, rest with the customs official or immigration officer concerned and not with the contractor. We do not agree, therefore, that this amendment is necessary or appropriate.

Most people detained by immigration officers are held in connection with administrative immigration processes rather than as part of any criminal investigation, and it would not be appropriate to apply the provisions of PACE or PACE Northern Ireland to those administrative processes or to any persons detained in connection with them, nor is it intended that any order made in due course under Clause 22 of the Bill should alter that position.

Arrangements are also made under Section 40 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act for the Secretary of State to authorise contractors to search ships, aircraft, vehicles and so on for the person subject to control by an immigration officer. Arrangements under Section 40 must include provision for the appointment of a Crown servant to monitor the exercise of the powers, inspect the exercise of the powers and investigate and report to the Secretary of State about any allegation made in respect of an authorised contractor. We consider that it is right to distinguish the limited operations of those authorised by the Secretary of State to search under Sections 40 and 41 of the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act from the activities of immigration officers who arrest individuals as part of their enforcement functions under their administrative and criminal powers.

In respect of customs functions, where contractors are used to provide services relating to custody or escort functions, the PACE codes make clear that the custody officer remains responsible for making sure that the procedures and tasks are carried out correctly and in accordance with those codes of practice. The

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lines of accountability are clear and remain with the law enforcement officer. In addition, many police forces already contract out these functions without any need for legislation, as does HRMC, at the Colnbrook centre, near Heathrow. In the light of this explanation, I hope that the noble Lord will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

7.30 pm

Lord Avebury: I am afraid that I cannot take great satisfaction in the noble Lord’s reply. Although he tells us that the PACE codes of practice are to be extended to private contractors, there are certain exceptions in his comments which cause me tremendous anxiety. In relation to the private contractors who are employed in escorting duties, many complaints have been made, as the noble Lord might be aware, about assaults on persons being deported under the care of private contractors who are acting on behalf of the Immigration Service.

In a recent report, it was found that some 3 per cent of all complaints by detainees related to assaults that were made on them during the process of deportation. Considering that it must be extremely difficult for someone who has been deported to formulate such a complaint, the true percentage is probably much higher. If the private contractors charged with those duties are to be excluded from the PACE codes, we would very much deplore it.

However, there is a more fundamental difficulty. The noble Lord has told us that the PACE codes of practice which relate to the UKBA will be brought together, consolidated and made available to the public. However, we have not seen it and if all that is on offer is consolidation of the existing PACE codes, we know that they are inadequate.

We were thinking of a set of codes that were far more similar to those that apply to the police, considering that, as I have already mentioned, so many powers that the immigration officers exercise are tantamount to police powers. Therefore, they need to be dealt with in a similar manner by the PACE codes of practice. If the Minister could let us have the consolidated PACE codes that will apply to the UKBA between now and Report, that would be extremely useful. We will then be able to take advice on them and see whether they satisfy those who are pointing us in the direction of much greater restrictions on the use of powers by immigration officers and more forceful scrutiny by outside agencies. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 30 withdrawn.

Amendment 31 not moved.

Amendment 32

Moved by Lord West of Spithead

32: Clause 22, page 15, line 42, at end insert—

“( ) An order under this section may amend or repeal section (Application of the PACE orders) (application of the PACE orders).”



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Amendment 32 agreed.

Clause 22 agreed.

House resumed. Committee to begin again not before 8.33 pm.

Scotland: Public Service Broadcasting

Question for Short Debate

7.33 pm

Tabled By Lord Macdonald of Tradeston

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I hope that this debate will highlight some immediate concerns about public service broadcasting in Scotland and outline some of the options to secure its future. I declare my interests as an adviser to Macquarie Capital, whose funds invest in and manage Arqiva and Red Bee, companies supplying transmission and other services to UK broadcasters. In addition, until joining your Lordships’ House in 1998, I worked for more than 30 years in ITV, first with Granada and then with STV, from which I receive a pension.

Most of the regional licences for broadcasting and Channel 3 are now consolidated into ITV plc, based in London. The three remaining independent companies include STV with its two licences to broadcast on Channel 3 to the north and to central Scotland. For these commercial broadcasters, this is undoubtedly the most difficult time since the launch of the ITV network back in the 1950s. Satellite and cable channels compete strongly for viewers and advertising revenue is migrating to the internet. Share prices have fallen steeply, and programme budgets and staff numbers are being cut back ever further by the current economic crisis.

Sadly, but understandably, ITV plc wants to shed the cost of key public service obligations by reducing quotas for regional programming and independent production. In Scotland, ITV plc also wants to renegotiate the programme supply contract it has with STV. However a deal done on ITV plc’s terms could impoverish STV and undermine its ambition to restore to its schedules some of the specifically Scottish programming lost in recent times.

The other threat to STV’s viability is the warning from ITV plc that it might be forced to hand back its Channel 3 licences and relaunch itself as a purely commercial digital channel, free of all public service obligation. If this happened, and Ofcom took the warning seriously, STV would be cut adrift from the network schedule of ITV plc on which it currently depends. The existing contracts between STV and ITV plc are protected by the network undertakings imposed when Granada was allowed to merge with Carlton to form ITV plc in 2003. These could only be removed with the consent of the Competition Commission.

My noble friend Lord Carter of Barnes knows more about these contractual matters than any of us, having been chief executive of Ofcom around the time these undertakings were given. Would the Minister now encourage his successors at Ofcom to broker a fair settlement which ensures the continuing viability

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of the Scottish licences, along with the measure of public service commitment appropriate to a nation with its own distinctive traditions and politics—obligations also expanded ideally to deliver a better service to the Scottish border region?

Another service that Ofcom might do for network programme-making in Scotland is to reclassify the separate production arm of STV as an independent producer. This would remove an obstacle to its winning commissions from UK broadcasters which must satisfy independent production quotas, such as the BBC and Channel 4.

The importance of broadcasting and programme-making to the Scottish economy is perhaps best demonstrated by the BBC, with its 1,300 permanent staff in a dozen production sites across Scotland. The Highlands and Islands got a welcome boost with the recent launch of the Gaelic channel, BBC Alba.

However, the BBC is also planning a policy change of historic proportions for Scotland. Noble Lords will be aware that public service broadcasters spend most of their network programme budgets on their peak-time evening schedules, which attract by far the biggest audiences. These network budgets total several billion pounds a year and fund high-quality drama, entertainment, comedy and factual series—programmes that help define how the people of Britain see their society, tell their stories, share their cultures and shape their identities. Yet, remarkably, after half a century of state-regulated television in Britain, the overwhelming proportion of peak-time, networked programmes is made only in England.

Viewers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make up about 17 per cent of BBC licence-fee payers and advertisers’ audiences, yet barely 1 per cent of UK peak-time programming is commissioned from the three smaller nations. This arithmetic has denied Scotland the investment of tens of millions of pounds a year which would have supported a critical mass of talent, underpinned other creative sectors, and enhanced Scotland’s reputation for quality through a heightened presence on screens in the UK and abroad.

However, the BBC is now committed to giving Scotland a fairer share, a due proportion of its network programme budget: 8.6 per cent of about £850 million, which represents an increase from just over £30 million a year at present to more than £70 million a year. That is a huge increase for which all credit is due to the director-general of the BBC, Mark Thompson. My only concern is that the 8.6 per cent target will not be hit until 2016—surely too long a transition. Could the Minister please encourage the BBC to speed things up? While doing so, could he also invite Channel 4, which Ofcom suggests will be the core of a new, more robust public service entity, to adopt a new, more reasonable policy by commissioning a significant share of its future programming from Scotland?

Lastly, I come to the most radical proposal. The Minister, having published a bold and purposive vision in his Digital Britain report, will be aware of the equally well received vision of a new digital network for Scotland. The Scottish Broadcasting Commission was set up by the Scottish Government in 2007. Its choice of Blair Jenkins as chairman brought industry experience and ensured political impartiality, as did its

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well balanced membership of Scots distinguished in their own fields, none more so than the noble and learned Lord, Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, whom I am pleased to see in his seat.

The commission’s report, Platform for Success, has won the endorsement of all parties in the Scottish Parliament—indeed, I believe that its main recommendations are now Conservative policy north of the border. The key proposal is for a Scottish network, based around a linear digital channel and online platform. It would broadcast only high quality or innovative Scottish programming, becoming a secure source of competition for BBC Scotland and, one hopes, STV for many years ahead.

The unresolved question is obvious: how to pay for a new Scottish digital network that is estimated to cost between £50 million and £75 million a year. In its recent review, Putting Viewers First, Ofcom floated the idea of so-called contestable funding. This funding could come from the sums at present reserved inside the BBC licence fee pot for digital switchover. Another source might be a share of the income to the Treasury from the sale or lease of the analogue spectrum, which will be made available by the switch of broadcasting to digital. Ofcom suggests that producers and broadcasters might bid for this “contestable funding” to reinforce endangered areas of public service provision such as regional news on Channel 3, including Scotland, or programming for older children. Does the Minister think that a Scottish digital network could also be funded from these sources? Does he foresee any problems if the Scottish Government offered direct funding to support a new channel, as was done by the previous Scottish Administration to launch BBC Alba? In these hard times, of course, funding better broadcasting will not be the top priority of any Government. But it does seem to me uncommonly odd that a nation such as Scotland, after half a century of public service broadcasting, still does not have a television network it can call its own.

A broadcasting summit is being hosted in Glasgow next month by the Secretary of State for Scotland, Jim Murphy, and the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Andy Burnham. It is potentially a pretty valuable event, which I hope the Minister, with his unrivalled expertise in broadcasting policy, will also attend. I hope, too, that the noble Lord, Lord Carter, will also see the potential of the proposals made in this debate to contribute to his ambitious strategy for a digital Britain.

7.43 pm

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, it is something of a commonplace to compliment the chairman of a commission but, as the statutory Tory on the Scottish Broadcasting Commission, I compliment Blair Jenkins on an excellent task undertaken. It was not easy—predicting the future is never easy for anyone, particularly in the face of people who have diametrically opposed political views.

Prior to the setting up of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission by the First Minister, I am bound to say that I thought that Elaine Smith was a rather pretty face with a rather pleasing wit and strong political views.

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However, now I realise that behind that clever humour lurks a very real intellect. In fact, we all got on very well indeed. I recall her telling me that she was having a one-woman show; her character was an MSP from the Holyrood Parliament called Mrs Bridie from Forfar. Her philosophy of life was that, if you have driven a minicab in Dundee, there is nothing else you need to know about life. I tend to agree with that as a fine description.

I said to Blair Jenkins at the outset that I had no clear idea of what the future of broadcasting would be in five years, an even less clear idea of what it would be in 10 years and a deep distrust of anyone who told me that they knew the answer to either question. He said that that was exactly what he was looking for—someone who did not know just the technical arguments but was much more interested in what was going on in the living room at home.

What I would regard as being important in Scotland—I invite the Minister to take account of this in his assessment of what is going on in broadcasting there—is that, notwithstanding the fact that we had strongly differing political views, we came to the unanimity of view that there should be the maintenance of public service broadcasting and, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, indicated, a new channel. That is not just a sentimental recollection of a happy time on the commission. We were less clear about how that would be funded, but we will leave that to others. It is not that we were avoiding the issue; we saw a number of options that could be taken up by those who were better able to come to a conclusion.

The other important point that the Minister should take account of is that in the Scottish Parliament there was a unanimity of view that what we had suggested in the commission report was the correct way forward. I hope that he will appreciate that it is quite remarkable to achieve such a unanimity of view in television. Even though the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, was somewhat cheeky in saying that it was now Conservative Party policy north of the border, I confirm that it did indeed agree with us.

7.46 pm

Lord Wallace of Tankerness: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, on facilitating this important debate on public service broadcasting in Scotland. It has already been made clear just how timely it is, given the publication last year of the report of the Scottish Broadcasting Commission and the fact that it comes just a few weeks after the publication of Ofcom’s second public service broadcasting review. It is timely because of the stresses and strains on the viability of the Scottish licences, as the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, indicated, and because it comes on the day when Border TV news, serving the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway, moved to Gateshead. As someone who was brought up on “Border News” and “Lookaround”, I think that that is a regrettable step. This reverse devolution reminds us just how fragile good local public service broadcasting can be.

That public service broadcasting plays an important part in the life of Scotland post-devolution is reflected in the fact that Ofcom’s second review paid specific

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attention to it. Indeed, it highlights the fact that what viewers want most from programming specifically made for the devolved nations and the English regions is news. It is also significant that the review concluded that there would not be one-size-fits-all approach.

For the most part, I believe that Scotland is well served by public service broadcasting. “Reporting Scotland” had a daily audience of 465,000 in 2008 and an average of nearly 2 million people weekly are unique users of BBC Scotland’s exceptionally good online news service. I probably could not go home at the weekend without reflecting that BBC Radio Orkney and BBC Radio Shetland, each of which broadcasts a weekday half-hour news programme, have a percentage penetration into the homes of the northern isles that would gladden the heart of any producer.

STV has seen a 13 per cent increase in its viewing share over five years. Importantly, it has honoured the commitments made when Grampian was subsumed; there are two distinctive regional services at 6 pm and four new localised sub-regional bulletins. I know that this regional service is particularly valued by audiences in the north of Scotland. It contrasts with the perception—right or wrong, fair or unfair—of BBC Scotland’s Glasgow-centricity when it comes to reporting Scotland, whereby a jobs announcement in Paisley will always command more attention than a jobs announcement in Aberdeen.

Noble Lords who have attended the highly informative briefings from Rob Woodward, chief executive of STV, will know of STV’s commitment to deliver quality public service broadcasting in Scotland as well as the precarious nature of doing so because of the increasing cost—a cost that is seen increasingly to outweigh the benefit of holding the PSB licence. Indeed, Ofcom has recently reduced the obligations on STV’s public service broadcasting licence.

When the Minister responds to the debate, there are three particular points that I would ask him to address. First, among its proposals, Ofcom has suggested that contestable funding might be made available for news services. Do the Government have a response to this and, if so, are they minded to consider it favourably? Will they also consider embracing current affairs output as well as news? I also acknowledge that, because of some of the considerations already mentioned, time is of the essence in coming to a decision.

Secondly, to reiterate a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, STV has for some time argued that its production division should be given independent status. That has frequently been acknowledged, both by Ofcom and by the Minister’s department, but the second review was silent on the matter. The increased commissioning by the BBC gives STV a chance if it is allowed to compete. I ask that the department acts promptly and favourably in resolving this matter.

Finally, will the Minister indicate at some point if not tonight that the Government will respond to the Scottish Broadcasting Commission’s proposals, albeit that the commission was set up by the Scottish Government? The value of the work and the contribution

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that it has made to the broadcasting debate in Scotland have already been referred to this evening. An exciting opportunity is presented, although the cost is very high. It would be useful to have the Government’s response, but that response in terms of cost should not compromise what we have already. We should secure what we have as good and then look forward to taking forward the proposals from the commission.

7.52 pm

Lord Wilson of Tillyorn: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, for launching this debate. I am conscious of the fact that we have only a limited time and that other noble Lords who are going to speak know a great deal more about the detail of broadcasting than I do, so I shall confine myself to some general points.

First, I share the view, which I am sure is common in this House, about the enormous importance of public service broadcasting. I see that as being at two levels: a local level and a national level. I was particularly struck in the happy days a few years ago when I had a job that took me fairly frequently to the northern isles and the Western Isles by what the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, has referred to as the quality of Radio Orkney and Radio Shetland and the significance of what they broadcast to the local communities. I was similarly struck by the Gaelic Service of the BBC in the Western Isles. That was of enormous importance. At a national level, public service broadcasting is very different, but it, too, is tremendously important in creating a well informed public opinion that knows not just about its own locality but about the wider world as well. I am sure, too, that most of us here would share the view that competition is important—it matters everywhere—and that monopolies are bad, but monopolies in the broadcasting of news must be a good deal more dangerous than monopolies elsewhere.


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