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Dawn Primarolo: I was not aware of that possibility in relation to Consignia, but I am happy to confirm, as I did on Second Reading, that I am not against including mutuals or trust-owned businesses in the share incentive plan, if the right way of doing that can be found. I said that I would continue to consider proposals from trusts and employee-owned companies and from mutually owned organisations, but I return to the basic principle that I have maintained throughout our discussion of the Bill: those must be consistent with the provisions for a share incentive plan. Those provisions exist for good, solid reasonsto protect the employees in such an arrangement.
The Bill sets out to change the rules of share incentive plans to make them even more attractive to small and medium-sized enterprises. As approved in Committee, the Bill has two main objectives. First, it puts beyond doubt the ability of employee representatives to act as share incentive plan trustees. Secondly, it seeks to encourage the transfer of more shares into employee ownership. That will help with succession planning and in securing the future of small businesses.
The Bill does that by allowing a company an early corporation tax deduction on money that it gives to SIP trusts to buy a block of shares. The shares acquired in that way must be distributed to employees within 10 years. The new clause considered today is beneficial and now forms part of the amended Bill. It extends income tax and capital gains tax relief for SIP trustees from two or five years, under the current rule, to 10 years, to correspond with the time given in the Bill for shares to be distributed.
I am more than happy to support my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North and Leith in his aims of encouraging greater employee participation. As I said, research confirms that a combination of employee share ownership and employee participation yields the best results for everyone. The company benefits, the shareholders benefit and the employees benefit from the greater success of the company.
The proposal in clause 1(2) is that the deed of a share incentive plan trust must allow companies, if they so wish, to have at least one selected employee representative on the board of trustees. I am happy to support employee representation on the SIP trust. Strictly speaking, that can be done already, but I agree that, as many hon. Members pointed out in their contributions today, there is a case for that to be put beyond doubt.
As I said on Second Reading, I am happy for Inland Revenue officials to work with my hon. Friend's team on a trust deed that would provide for employee trustees. That could be offered on the Inland Revenue website alongside the existing model trust deed used by the Revenue. We are working on the draft model that has been provided by my hon. Friend's team and we look forward to offering both model deeds. We would like to make them known to companies and advisers in other ways.
At present, corporation tax deductions are given when shares in a SIP trust are distributed to employees. The Bill provides for the corporation tax deduction to be given earlier, when a company contributes money to a SIP trust to buy a block of shares. The trust must hold 10 per cent. of the ordinary share capital of the company before it qualifies for the deduction, and the shares must be distributed to employees through the share incentive plan within 10 years. That is designed to encourage the flow of shares from the trust to individual employees during the 10-year period. The objective of the share incentive plan is to improve productivity by encouraging employees to take a long-term stake in their company and to share in the rewards of its success.
I share my hon. Friend's aim of encouraging employee participation and employee share ownership. As I said, my officials met my hon. Friend and his team on three separate occasions to discuss the Bill.
I am satisfied, as I have to inform the House, that the amended Bill is compatible with the European convention on human rights. We have also assessed that it is unlikely that there will be any additional regulatory impact. The risks and benefits in the original regulatory impact assessment for the share incentive plan remain unchanged and there is no need for a formal assessment.
I hope that the other place is as pleased to receive the Bill as this House is now to conclude the debate on it. I give my heartfelt congratulations to my hon. Friend on successfully piloting the Bill through the House and I am delighted to join him in supporting it today.
I cannot name all those who have given their support because it would take too long, but I should like to give a special mention to the Government for their support, especially the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, my hon. Friend the Member for Welwyn Hatfield (Miss Johnson); the Royal National Institute for the Blind, and particularly Caroline Ellis and her team whose help and expertise have been magnificent; the copyright directorate, particularly Judith Sullivan; and the Public Bill Office. I should also like to thank my noble Friend Lord Morris in the other place.
I am pleased to say that the Bill has the support of the Disability Rights Commission, Scope, Sense, and Deafblind UK. It is supported by producers of alternative format materials, particularly the National Library for the Blind, the Calibre Cassette Library, the Talking Newspaper Association of the United Kingdom, the Torch Trust for the Blind, the Confederation of Transcribed Information Services, Share the Vision and the Scottish Braille Press.
I believe that the RNIB has received strong messages of support for the Bill from famous authors, including Philip Pullman, Jilly Cooper, Margaret Forster, Nick Hornby, Joanna Lumley, David Malouf, Rosamund Pilcher, Elizabeth Berridge, Harold Pinter, Claire Rayner, Michele Roberts, Eric Sykes and Joanna Trollope. Authors have been shocked if they have found that their agents had denied an organisation, such as the RNIB, permission to make accessible copies of their work. Those authors want their writing to reach as wide an audience as possible and appreciate that that can be achieved without compromising their moral rights or their livelihoods.
I am pleased to say that rights holders are now generally supportive of the Bill. They have been privy to drafts of the Bill, and it has been substantially rewritten since last autumn to reflect their concerns. The aim has been to achieve consensus about exactly what the exceptions should say. For example, I and other hon. Members supported amendments tabled in Committee that would require anyone acting under either of the two exceptions made in the Bill to put a note on accessible copies saying that they have been made under the exception and would require bodies making multiple copies to keep records and to make them available for inspection by rights holders.
All hon. Members have a direct interest in the contents of the Bill. We all have constituents who are visually impairedthere are around 3,000 in every constituency. Many of us also have friends, family members and colleagues who will directly benefit from the Bill. Throughout my life, I have had contact with children and
Touch primary school is an excellent example of the high standards and deep commitment of teachers, parents, children and the community, and the Bill will directly benefit all that they strive to achieve. In the kingdom of Fife, we are fortunate to have the innovative and impressive Fife sensory impairment centre, which represents a partnership between the health board, Fife council, the voluntary sector and those with sensory impairment. It provides an open door of opportunity that will be opened even wider if the Bill is given its Third Reading. The Bill is about opening the door of opportunity to those with a visual impairment by removing the barriers created by copyright law to their access to books and other reading material, while seeking to safeguard the rights of authors and publishers.
The reality is that there is an acute shortage of books, magazines, sheet music and other materials available to visually impaired people in a format that they can access. Only 5 per cent. of all the books published in one year are available in an accessible format one year on. Nearly half47 per cent.of blind and partially-sighted students in university and higher education do not usually get books in their preferred formats, and 33 per cent. of visually impaired children do not always get their textbooks in an accessible format when they need them. Some publishers have joined or set up licensing schemes to facilitate the production of accessible formats, but at the present rate of progress it would take 20 years to get most works covered by such schemes, and still many authors may not join. If the Bill is not successful, current problems will ensure that visually impaired people cannot gain full benefit from the information revolution.
In Committee on 1 May, there was a good and balanced discussion on a range of issues and interests. The Bill, as amended in Committee, provides a fair and proper balance between the interests of visually impaired people and copyright owners. Several hon. Members asked some detailed questions about that and I assure them that I have reflected on them carefully. Further consideration has been especially helped by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Further meetings have been heldthe most recent was last weekwith representatives of publishers' and authors' organisations.
I have always maintained that the Bill should take account of the legitimate interests of rights holders as well as visually impaired people, and that we must be sure that it has been properly drafted to achieve that. We all agree that copyright is a just concept and it is more than understandable that copyright owners view any new exception with extreme caution because it erodes a little the rights that copyright granted them. I am grateful that
Copyright owners have properly lobbied us on points of detail and I shall try to cover them. First, briefly to recap the Bill's purpose, it introduces two new exceptions to copyright for the benefit of visually impaired people. The first is the one-for-one exception in clause 1. Its essential feature is that a visually impaired person cannot have an accessible copy made under the exception unless he also lawfully possesses or can lawfully use what the Bill calls "the master copy" of the copyright material.
The exception does not make legal the production of accessible copies for differently visually impaired people when only one visually impaired person has a master copy. Transferring an accessible copy to a visually impaired person who does not have a master copy will immediately make the accessible copy an infringing copy. Those important points were raised at an earlier stage of our proceedings. Apart from the more general point about scope of the material that the one-for-one exception covers, I do not believe that hon. Members have other concerns.
Clause 1 will be invaluable to visually impaired people in many circumstances. For example, it will allow a neighbour who can read a book bought by a visually impaired person to put it on a tape for that person. It will allow a parent to put a few chapters of a school textbook loaned to a visually impaired pupil on a photocopier to produce an enlarged version. It will allow a book to which a visually impaired person needs to refer in a library to be scanned in a machine that will read out the pages to that person. I believe that we all accept that that is fair and reasonable.
Before I turn to the second exception in the Billthe exception to copyright to be inserted by clause 2 into the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, part I of which provides UK copyright lawI would like to say something about the scope of the copyright material covered by the Bill. The Bill refers to
These terms are the ones used in the 1988 Act, and, to the extent that it is necessary, are defined in that Act. The term "literary work", for example, is very broadly defined, and is not limited to material of great literary merit. Scientific essays and articles can count as literary works, as can instruction manuals, information sheets and textbooks. Works of fiction, poetry, and so on, that are of great literary merit are, of course, also included.
Unfortunately, for the Bill not to contravene the EC database directive, it has been necessary to exclude any activity that would involve the infringement of copyright in a database. There are some very complicated issues to consider in that respect, and I am again grateful for my hon. Friend the Minister's advice on this point, which has helped me to ensure that my Bill is technically correct. I hope that, at some point in the future, there will be a change to the European legislation in this respect.
I appreciate that there could be confusion about whether only some of the contents of a database are being copiedit might still be all right to do that under the exception in the Billor whether too much is being taken from the database, and copyright is being infringed.
The second new exception to copyright is provided by clause 2, and subject also to provisions in clauses 3, 4 and 5. Hon. Members have expressed a number of concerns about that, which I shall mention briefly. Of most concern seems to be the concept of an "approved body" being able to act under the second exception to make multiple copies of copyright material in accessible formats. Such bodies, however, are neither subjected to an approval process nor restricted to ones that have as one of their main purposes the provision of accessible copies for other services for visually impaired people.
For the benefit of hon. Members who were not present in Committee, I repeat that it is essential that the Bill allow a wide range of bodies to assist visually impaired people. A number of bodies acting at local level, such as a local women's institute or church group, might wish to help visually impaired people in their area by reading local newspapers, for example, on to tapes. The Bill now provides that flexibility. It is inconceivable that it would not be one of the purposes of such organisations to help visually impaired people, if they are to understand and meet the rigorous conditions applying to activity under the second exception.
Churches are a good example, because they are not bodies devoted primarily to providing accessible information to visually impaired people, but they might want to create more than one alternative format copy of a hymn book for visually impaired members of their congregation. Indeed, the RNIB has given me an example in which a blind choir member is still waiting for her Braille copy of "Complete Anglican Hymns Old and New". The RNIB is still waiting for copyright permission, because there are numerous contributors to that hymn book, and chasing them all up is proving extremely expensive. Yet until that blind choir member gets her Braille hymn book, she cannot participate as fully as she would wish in church activities. That is one small example of why we must be flexible in defining approved bodies.
I emphasise that, although education establishments and not-for-profit bodies that fall within the scope of the term "approved body" may not be approved, such a process could be very regulatory with little or no benefit. Any approved body must notify rights holders of its activity under the second exception and must keep records that rights holders are entitled to inspect on reasonable notice, so that the approved body cannot act without rights holders knowing ultimately which bodies are acting.
Moreover, clause 5 allows the Secretary of State to make an order to "disapprove", as we might term it, an approved body or type of approved body if its activity, under the second copyright exception, leads to levels of copyright infringement that are damaging to rights holders. The latter will of course provide a considerable incentive for approved bodies to adhere carefully to all the conditions that apply.
I am aware that time is passing and that other hon. Members wish to speak, so I shall make just a couple more points about the efforts that have been made in the Bill to satisfy concerns that have been raised.
An education establishment that uses the second exception in the Bill is required to demonstrate that it is doing so for educational purposes, so it comes under a much narrower definition. I was concerned that the Bill should not restrict exceptions to copyright only to educational use, but allow individuals to obtain reading material for personal and other use.
The fairly complicated subject of copyright protection technology was raised in Committee. I hope that, when it comes to implementing the copyright directive, that will provide adequate coverage and agreements between rights holders and approved bodies on the whole issue, affecting a much greater area than that covered by the Bill.
I apologise for going into technical details, but it is important for all hon. Members to feel that we have given proper consideration to the concerns raised. I trust that all hon. Members believe that there has been considerable debate and much careful thought on a Bill that will help a particularly disadvantaged group enormously, but that will not be detrimental to copyright owners' legitimate interests.
The Bill's passage to the other place will give all hon. Members a sense of achievement and a cause to celebrate. It will provide an excellent example of our determination to offer 2 million people of this nation the opportunities to develop their potential. It will open the doors of the information revolution to them and make a real difference to their lives. I ask all hon. Members to support the Bill at its Third Reading.