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The noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked about Ofcom derailing. We certainly do not share that view. The noble Lord referred to Europe and to Council recommendation 10141/09. The recommendation states that when needed and justified, and taking account of national arrangements for distributing spectrum, member states should allocate additional frequencies at national level in a co-ordinated timeframe in co-operation with CEPT-the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations. A working group has been established to look at possible spectrum requirements, and the UK will be fully involved. I note, however, that the recommendation clearly states that any requirement for spectrum should be based on an identified need and should be justified. The working group only recently met for the first time. How quickly it will carry out its tasks and what their outcome might be is unknown, so it is premature to determine at this stage any amount of spectrum that may or may not be required.

I think that we have already given an assurance on the Olympics. In response to the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, we can see the difficulties of dealing on a European level, never mind a global level. If we are serious in trying to ensure that we address the needs of the Olympics, we have to be aware of the timescales for achieving this kind of operation. I am not dismissing the need to do that; it is the time that it will take. On critical national infrastructure, at present there is no certainty on what, if any, spectrum might be required. It would therefore be inappropriate and inefficient to set aside spectrum for that purpose.

I repeat: the Government consider the safety and security of UK citizens-and, indeed, of the emergency services in executing their duties-to be of paramount importance. However, the Government's view is that established mechanisms exist for assessing and, if necessary, allocating spectrum for the emergency services' use. As I said, the National Policing Improvement Agency is already working on its future communications programme. I hope that, with those assurances, the noble Lord will feel capable of withdrawing the amendment.

6.15 pm

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: Before my noble friend withdraws his amendment, I was very interested in what the Minister said about the National Policing Improvement Agency, which is of course for one emergency service. However, I draw his attention to the report on communication that has just come out from the Royal United Services Institute. It referred to the critical national infrastructure and said that communication between the emergency services is the issue as well.

I think that the Minister was implying that because one emergency service sees the situation as adequate, it is adequate. However, I strongly refer him to that report from RUSI. It makes a strong plea for a vastly improved situation between the emergency services and, indeed, with other authorities such as local

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authorities. I apologise for not having contributed to the debate before the Minister replied, but I had not realised how relevant reading the RUSI report would prove to be.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: Perhaps I may reassure the noble Baroness that communications between the emergency services will be covered; I am getting an affirmative nod from the Box on that. If we can give any more explicit information on that we will communicate it in writing, because I share that point of view. We believe that it is covered and we will give her the detail on that. I agree with her that there would not be much point in the police examining their requirements if they did not also take into account the need to communicate with the fire and ambulance services and, perhaps in some circumstances, with local authorities, in cases of flooding or whatever. I take her point. We think it is covered, but we will be a bit more explicit in writing.

The Earl of Erroll: Unfortunately, such large departments very often do not necessarily look, in the remit of their reports, at all the issues regarding interoperability with the other emergency services et cetera. That was a police report and was therefore unlikely to try to take into account issues between, say, the fire and ambulance services and other such matters. I would have thought that, on the precautionary principle, it would be safer to reserve some of that spectrum and auction it later than to include it in the hotchpotch at the beginning. Once it has gone, it will be difficult to get it back. Therefore, it is much safer to hang onto it. Then, if the European ideal falls through, it can be auctioned later.

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I have already given assurances that the emergency services are working together and, as I said, we will give further details. We do not believe that reserving spectrum on an unidentified basis would be the right thing to do. We have always ensured that we have sufficient spectrum for the emergency services. That is still our intention and, as I said, we are involved in the working party in Europe. We believe that we have the necessary precautions and the right procedures to ensure that the emergency services are available to operate whatever requirements there may be. Once again, I hope that, with those assurances, the noble Lord will feel capable of withdrawing the amendment.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I, for one-not being endowed with the technological knowledge that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, and the noble Earl, Lord Erroll, clearly have-was strangely reassured by what the Minister said. The fact that he said we are doing this in conjunction with our European neighbours, I found doubly reassuring-a reassurance that he was not able to give me about the use of the rest of the spectrum. I do not know why he could not give me that assurance in previous answers. That we are making sure that the emergency spectrum is dealt with on a common basis with our European neighbours seems to be a good thing and is something that we should pursue perhaps in other areas of the use of spectrum.

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I am not quite sure what the procedure is. I think that I should withdraw my amendment before the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, withdraws his, and so I shall do so.

Amendment 244 withdrawn.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, the noble Lord cannot withdraw my amendment. He can only withdraw his amendment to my amendment.

The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Geddes): I heard the noble Lord withdraw his amendment, not yours. Amendment 244 has been withdrawn.

Amendment 245 not moved.

Lord Lucas: I am very sorry, Lord Chairman.

I was carefully parsing what the Minister said. I am of course comforted by what he said about the priority given to the needs of the emergency services. He said that we are involved with Europe. Yes, I know that we are involved in Europe. I was taken to task quite severely by Ofcom for saying that we were not. We are just not co-operating. We are not doing our best to reach a resolution on this. It is going back to the days I remember from my early engagement in politics under different management. There is a great difference between being involved in discussion and working to bring the discussion to a fruitful conclusion.

I would very much like to know that the Government are committed to the idea of identifying common spectrum that the emergency services might use in the future. It seems to be a very important concept with a lot of benefits for us. I would very much like to hear the Government say that, rather than just getting involved in discussions which-looking at past discussions on this subject and the contributions made to it from the direction of Ofcom-have been singularly unconstructive. It seems to be a piece of co-operation which we should be encouraging. If the noble Lord cannot reply to me now, I would very much like to have it in writing that we are actively seeking to get towards the agreed goal of a common spectrum allocation for future use by the emergency services.

I do not disapprove at all of the basis that the Government have laid out regarding how the emergency services and others should acquire spectrum in essentially a competitive situation where they have to justify their use of the spectrum. We have been terribly profligate with it in the past. The Ministry of Defence still sits on about a quarter of the entire spectrum, which is a little excessive to say the least. What matters here is timing. The police will certainly develop a strategy. However, there is no way that this Government, or any other Government, will allow them a budget for the next three, four or five years to put in a new system or to begin work on a new system. We will come through a period where public authorities will have to be extremely careful about their budgets.

In that period, under the rubric set out by this Government, the key bits of spectrum will have been flogged off to mobile telephone companies. That is the problem which I seek to address in this amendment. It

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is not about the principles of the way that the Government are going at it; it is about timing. Because the Government are waiting for things to happen that necessarily cannot happen for five or 10 years before they will allocate spectrum to the emergency services, the other provisions of the Bill will result in the key bits of spectrum-the bits which would have worked on a European or an international basis-having already been allocated to other services. That is what I seek to avoid.

I do not seek some unjustified allocation of spectrum. I am advocating that we should be properly careful to make sure that a longer term objective-a five or 10-year objective-is not sacrificed in the cause of a more immediate gain. I have not had the answer that I am looking for on that. I suspect that I shall need to return to this at a later stage of the Bill. For now, however, I will withdraw the amendment.

Things were going rather fast but I see that we have comfortably gone back to the old pace of 20-minute groupings on this Bill. I shall absent myself from the next section, not least because my noble friend's amendment comes rather too close to my own school days for me to want to sit around and listen to it. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 243 withdrawn.

Clause 40 : Classification of video games etc

Amendment 246

Moved by Lord De Mauley

246: Clause 40, page 43, line 9, at end insert-

"( ) In subsection (2)-

(a) in paragraph (b), for "mutilation or torture of, or other acts of gross" substitute "graphic";

(b) in paragraph (c), after "organs" insert "anus, breasts or buttocks";

(c) in paragraph (d)-

(i) after "offences" insert-

"(e) dangerous behaviour;

(f) racist, homophobic or other discriminatory language";

(ii) after "paragraph (b)" insert ", (e) or (f)"."

Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I rise to move Amendment 246. This seeks to plug a loophole that the British Board of Film Classification and others feel remains in the legislation connected to the exemption awarded to certain video material. Indeed, I see that the names that have been added to the amendment are from across the political spectrum.

This exemption, set out in Section 2 of the Video Recordings Act 1984, to which Clause 40 relates, allows works to be exempted from classification if they are designed for educational purposes or are concerned with sport, religion or music, and do not depict, to a significant extent-and I paraphrase-sexual activity or gross violence. This threshold is very high, significantly higher than the threshold in non-exempted work. For example, it allows unsimulated, strong, bloody violence and the after effects of self-harm. It also includes topless lap-dancing, which is an activity

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the Government viewed as being equivalent to explicitly pornographic videos when dealt with in the Policing and Crime Act 2009.

We accept that there will always be a grey area in matters such as this. However, when many in the industry are voluntarily submitting exempted works for classification because they consider their material unsuitable for under-12s-even though it does not reach the threshold-there clearly is a problem. The Government appear to consider that there is sufficient legislation for using enforcement officers against such material, but we hear a different story from those same officers and agencies. The Government have also commented that the amendment would increase the regulatory burden. I cannot understand that argument. Certainly, more works might be subject to classification, but every individual work has to be assessed against a single threshold as it is, and that is not changing.

The Government also pray in aid the technical standards and regulations directive and the three-month consultation period. After our debates on Clause 17, I find that argument astounding. We would be more than happy to help draft a very precise power for the Secretary of State to take steps to ensure that the threshold for exempted video works is brought into step with that for non-exempted works.

Finally, let me briefly address the more specific arguments against my amendment. I appreciate that the wording is not sufficiently precise; the nudity must be more closely linked with sexual behaviour. The discriminatory behaviour needs to be more precisely defined, and so on.

However, the intention of my amendment is clear. We feel that the differences between exempted and non-exempted classes of video work are no longer sufficiently significant, and that steps must be taken to ensure that any loophole that allows unsuitable material to be completely unclassified is closed. I beg to move.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, has said, I have added my name to this amendment. I am equally pleased that it has secured support from all round the Chamber. Your Lordships may recall that it is an issue which I first raised at Second Reading following a rather gruesome viewing of some of the material that is available, on the high street, totally exempt from classification.

As has already been stated, the amendment seeks to update the current Video Recordings Act which currently allows too wide an exemption for music, sports and documentary videos. The exemption may have been appropriate in 1984 but appears out of date and naïve now. Most of us would expect boundaries to have been pushed to their absolute limits, and that is what has happened. The standards in the current Act relating to gross violence and actual sexual activity are way too high for successful prosecutions to take place, as the noble Lord said. I think the Minister in the other place suggested that prosecutions can already take place under the VRA. Indeed they can, but they rarely do so simply because the standard is set too high.

6.30 pm

The music and sports videos that a number of us have seen do not contain anything as strong as gross violence or actual sexual activity, but do contain graphic

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violence such as close-up hits to the head, with commentary glorifying the action and plenty of blood. Like the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, I have seen music videos which contain no actual sex but feature topless dancing. This is not something to which children should have access and, most importantly, it is not something that parents would expect children to have access to. I suggest this is why both the BBFC and LACORS support this amendment. Trading standards officers want to be able to take action to prevent such works being sold to children.

One of the things that worries me most about these exemptions is that the public are not really aware of them. Generally, consumers know the BBFC regime and expect it to protect them and their children. There is an assumption that such works will be classified and responsible members of the industry, generally members of the BVA, classify these works voluntarily. However, there is still a small but significant section who do not, and claim the exemption. This creates a parallel, unclassified market, which confuses consumers-the word "citizens" is very appropriate in this regard-still further. For example, would you not assume that a music video marked as exempt was less harmful than one that had voluntarily sought classification and been rated 15?

I know from the meeting that I had with the Minister last week, for which I am very grateful, that there is recognition that some of these works should be regulated. Therefore, I hope that the Minister will consider either accepting this amendment or, at the very least, as the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, suggested, proposing an alternative wording, as the Bill represents an ideal opportunity to plug an obvious loophole.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I have no objection at all to the purpose of this amendment but I quibble with some of the wording. As anyone with the slightest knowledge of Greek will be aware-Heaven knows, my Greek is sketchy in the extreme-"homophobia" does not mean a dislike of homosexuals. If it means anything at all, it means an aversion to one's own kind. The press love the words "homophobia" and "homophobic" because they are short and snappy and save them a lot of space when composing headlines. However, a bogus word like that should not appear in an Act of Parliament.

The Lord Bishop of Manchester: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, and the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, have already noted, this amendment has drawn support from all Benches and I add my broad welcome for it from this Bench.

As I think we all agree, it is important to bring the most unacceptable content within the scope of statutory regulation and there is a need to update the law in this area. However, I take on board the valid point made by the noble Lord, Lord Monson, about the need to use language carefully and to remember what it means in its original context. Ironically, the readiness of responsible film makers and distributors to submit any borderline content to the regulator on a voluntary basis, as some are already doing-as the noble Baroness, Lady Howe, indicated-makes it more confusing for parents and other consumers, who simply may not

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realise that other similar content has not been past by any sort of regulator or classification system. This move will inevitably increase the number of videos that have to go through the video works authority for classification. However, if that increases trust in the system, and therefore its effectiveness in protecting young people from exposure to inappropriate material, I for one think that is a price well worth paying.

That said, I have concerns that the proposed new paragraph (f) pertaining to discriminatory language could lead to some presumably unintended consequences for so-called comedy performances where there are references to religion, sexual orientation or gender issues. It might also mean that some video recordings of sermons or other evangelistic material would cease to be exempted works because, for example, theological views that were critical of other religions were expressed. Clearly, this would have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis and a judgment would have to be made on the age appropriateness of different types of content. However, on a point of principle, it would be a shame if free speech were curtailed when we already have a host of laws, which, of course, the church welcomes, on preventing the stirring up of hatred against certain groups. The guidance note prepared by the British Video Association in association with the BBFC as a draft framework for what sort of material would and would not become non-exempt if this amendment were accepted, does not immediately address that issue. Nevertheless, I am persuaded that the board would take a sensible view on this because its track record suggests that that would be the case.

Lord Addington: My Lords, I add the support of these Benches for the principle behind the amendment. I apologise for being the stand-in for my three colleagues at the moment. However, as my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones pointed out, last-minute changes of date occasionally lead to last-minute changes of personnel.

If you start to pull these things apart and suggest that there might be something wrong, you never achieve anything because you always have to rely on somebody somewhere having common sense. As regards going back to the original Greek, I suggest that that way madness lies. We have to rely on good judgment at some point. We need to have a system whereby people have a rough idea what it is and we need to let people know what is going on. I suggest that the measure is a sensible way forward. If the wording is not perfect we can debate it as we are in Committee, but we should have a good long look at the principle behind this.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this brief debate on this important issue. I am grateful for the manner in which the noble Lord, Lord De Mauley, presented his case. He indicated that he was not entirely sure about the drafting of the amendment. I shall trade on that a little as it reflects the difficulties we all face with regard to these issues. We recognise that this is a very significant line to draw, particularly given the need to protect children from potentially harmful material. The noble Baroness, Lady Howe, indicated her interest in this issue, which is long established in any case,

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when she spoke on Second Reading. We know of the position of the noble Lord, Lord Monson, with regard to these issues. I am grateful for his intervention in the debate. However, as the right reverend Prelate indicated, we have to be careful where we tread because we certainly do not want to inhibit free speech and the proper discourse in a free society of issues pertaining to fundamentally held belief systems and views.

I find myself in a position where I fully understand the views that have been expressed and I have considerable sympathy with some of the principles which have been expressed. However, I emphasise that certain types of video content are exempt from classification. They include those that, when taken as a whole, are concerned with sport, music or religion and include works that are designed to inform, educate or instruct. On the whole, we all expect such works to enjoy freedom of expression, because their intent is clearly benign and for the good of society.

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