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Mr. Simon Thomas: Not only will it be possible in future—it is possible now. The whole point of digitalisation is choice. What is important is getting the whole of Wales switched on to the digital revolution and making sure that there is someone to represent Wales and ensure that it is switched on, rather than relying on general, UK-wide figures. I hope that the hon. Gentleman supports me in that.

Michael Fabricant: The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I believe that the aim even of digital terrestrial television is to give people access to S4C and to Channel 4. That is what the Bill is all about—diversity and digital access, not digital disability.

The Minister's position of insisting that the BBC should not be encompassed by Ofcom is unsustainable. If he does not grasp the nettle now, he will have to do it in 2005 or 2006, when the royal charter comes up for renewal—unless there is a general election in the meantime, in which case the task will fall to those who now sit on the Opposition Benches but who will then sit on the other side of the House.

The BBC enjoys a unique position. I have resisted quoting the famous letter from Michael Hastings. It is arrogance in the extreme for the head of the political and parliamentary affairs unit of the BBC, which is a publicly funded body, to write to Members of Parliament saying:

I almost wonder whether it is a breach of privilege for someone to describe the legislative process as "inappropriate". Can hon. Members imagine civil servants at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport writing to tell me that it was "inappropriate" of me to mention in Committee the comment made by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) to the effect that their Department is "dysfunctional"? They probably thought it was inappropriate of me to say so, but they would never write to me about it, because it would be improper.

It is equally improper of the BBC to write to Members of Parliament as Mr. Hastings did, and that is part of the problem. Some cogent points are made in other parts of the letter, but they are ruined by the arrogance that permeates the BBC because it is ultimately answerable to no one—and because it is answerable to no one, it thinks that it can get away with it. As I said, if the BBC fell under the auspices of Ofcom, it would find that Ofcom provided protection.

I wish the Bill a fair wind, but I hope that the main communications Bill will be scrutinised seriously. I hope that during that scrutiny the Government will listen and be prepared to accept amendments to that Bill. They certainly were not willing to do so in the Committee on this one.

9.49 pm

Miss McIntosh: With the leave of the House, I shall sum up for the official Opposition. I would hate to disappoint the Minister, who I am sure wants to keep the dialogue going a wee while longer.

6 Mar 2002 : Column 387

We have heard some interesting speeches on Third Reading. It is always a pleasure to hear the hon. Member for Milton Keynes, North-East (Brian White), who speaks with such authority and high regard for the technological ability of the industry. I regret that the hon. Member for North Devon (Nick Harvey) has again confused the role of the Office of Fair Trading in dealing with competition matters and the BBC, whose public sector responsibilities we want to be brought within Ofcom's remit.

Despite the comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Lichfield (Michael Fabricant), I hope that we have made Mr. Michael Hastings, for whom I have considerable affection, happy this evening, and that we have satisfied his

As I mentioned earlier, I continue to have the highest regard for the BBC, which can only be enhanced when we succeed in bringing its public sector provision, as well as its other provision, within the remit of Ofcom

My hon. Friend the Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson) spoke eloquently on the role of television and radio for the visually impaired. As the hon. Member for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) also said, although this is a paving Bill, it would have been opportune this evening for us to have regard for those with special needs.

In summing up, let me express the clear disappointment felt by more than one party. We should not only have considered the composition of Ofcom but have had the opportunity to consider its functions. It has been extremely difficult in Committee and during the Bill's remaining stages to consider Ofcom's composition and functions separately. Perhaps the Minister could now admit his regret that the Government did not make that possible.

9.52 pm

Dr. Howells: With the leave of the House, Mr. Speaker. I thank the hon. Members for Vale of York (Miss McIntosh), for North Devon (Nick Harvey) and for Ceredigion (Mr. Thomas) for being such courteous and erudite spokespersons for their parties. I agreed with almost nothing that they said, but they said it very nicely. The hon. Member for North Devon is a fount of common sense—most of the time, anyway.

It has been a real joy to watch the warmth and glow of the fraternal friendship that has developed between the Tories and the Welsh and Scottish nationalists. What a ménage à trois! I am only glad that it is after 9 o'clock and the watershed, such has been the passion with which they leapt into each other's arms.

The Bill was introduced in another place, where it was thoroughly scrutinised and debated, in July 2001. That thoroughness has been continued as the Bill has progressed through the House. Discussion of it has covered a wide range of issues and given us a foretaste of some of the variety of topics that are likely to be debated in much greater detail when the communications Bill is published in a few weeks' time. I am grateful to all right hon. and hon. Members who have participated in the debates, and look forward to their future contributions.

The Bill is in excellent shape and I commend it to the House.

6 Mar 2002 : Column 388

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:—

The House divided: Ayes 287, Noes 6.

Division No. 186
[9.53 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Bob (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Rt Hon Ms Hilary
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Baird, Vera
Barnes, Harry
Barrett, John
Barron, Kevin
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Margaret
Bell, Stuart
Benn, Hilary
Bennett, Andrew
Benton, Joe
Berry, Roger
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Borrow, David
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Cairns, David
Calton, Mrs Patsy
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Rt Hon Menzies
(NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Challen, Colin
Chaytor, David
Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Cotter, Brian
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr Jack
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Tony (Workington)
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
David, Wayne
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Dhanda, Parmjit
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Doughty, Sue
Dowd, Jim
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Fisher, Mark
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael (Worcester)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Francis, Dr Hywel
Galloway, George
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gidley, Sandra
Gilroy, Linda
Green, Matthew (Ludlow)
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grogan, John
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, David (Midlothian)
Hanson, David
Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)
Harvey, Nick
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hermon, Lady
Heyes, David
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hood, Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Beverley (Stretford)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Irranca–Davies, Huw
Jackson, Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Kevan (N Durham)
Jones, Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Joyce, Eric
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kidney, David
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Knight, Jim (S Dorset)
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lamb, Norman
Lammy, David
Lawrence, Mrs Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Rt Hon Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Lloyd, Tony
Love, Andrew
Lucas, Ian
Luke, Iain
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Stephen
McCafferty, Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
MacDonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
MacDougall, John
McIsaac, Shona
MacKay, Rt Hon Andrew
McKechin, Ann
McKenna, Rosemary
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahmood, Khalid
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Milburn, Rt Hon Alan
Miliband, David
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moore, Michael
Moran, Margaret
Morgan, Julie
Mullin, Chris
Munn, Ms Meg
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)
Murphy, Rt Hon Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Olner, Bill
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Sandra (Ayr)
Perham, Linda
Picking, Anne
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter
Plaskitt, James
Pollard, Kerry
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Prosser, Gwyn
Pugh, Dr John
Purchase, Ken
Purnell, James
Quin, Rt Hon Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rapson, Syd
Reed, Andy (Loughborough)
Reid, Alan (Argyll & Bute)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Salter, Martin
Sanders, Adrian
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheridan, Jim
Simon, Siôn
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Geraldine (Morecambe)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Spellar, Rt Hon John
Squire, Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Tami, Mark
Taylor, Rt Hon Ann (Dewsbury)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Twigg, Stephen (Enfield)
Tyler, Paul
Tynan, Bill
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watson, Tom
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Williams, Roger (Brecon)
Willis, Phil
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Woodward, Shaun
Woolas, Phil
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, David (Telford)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mrs. Anne McGuire and
Dan Norris.


Ewing, Annabelle
Llwyd, Elfyn
Price, Adam
Robertson, Angus (Moray)
Weir, Michael
Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Simon Thomas and
Pete Wishart.

Question accordingly agreed to.

6 Mar 2002 : Column 390

Bill read the Third time, and passed.

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