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Lord Donoughue: My Lords, is the Minister aware that his Answer will depress millions of sports lovers who believe that the main priority should be universal access to live television coverage of the main sporting events? Is it not unacceptable that the great sporting events—the Derby, the Grand National and the Cup Final—should be auctioned off to the highest bidder, even to a minority channel, on subscription satellite? That is unacceptable, and was rejected in 1994 by the National Heritage Select Committee. Will the Minister agree to apply the simple solution—that is, to amend the Broadcasting Act 1990 so that the limitations that currently apply to pay-per-view channels may be applied to subscription satellite viewing? That would enable the poor, the elderly, the unemployed and all those who cannot afford the satellite channel to watch the great sporting events.

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, I am interested to hear about the full nationalisation of all our great sporting events that appears to be inherent in the noble Lord's

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question. When we consider the number of viewers of all sports on television, the first point that is apparent is that it is not a homogeneous group. Different people are interested in different matters. How does one define it? I said that I was not interested in golf but I rather enjoy football. As soon as one enters definitions to the sweeping generalisations that we have heard, a whole plethora of problems emerges.

To return to my original reply, the sports need the money to develop young talent, to improve facilities and make it easier and better for those who pay to view when they attend the sporting occasion. No, my Lords, we are satisfied with the position we have adopted.

Lord Donoughue: My Lords, will the noble Lord accept that, while the revenues to the sports are important, those revenues can be protected by unbundling the rights into current showing, later showing, extracts and so forth, thus protecting the revenues and leaving a wide choice on channels for a wide range of viewers?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the noble Lord describes exactly one of the ways in which those who control the rights could best exploit them. It is up to them to decide the detail of how to do it.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the ability of anyone anywhere in the United Kingdom to see major sporting events lies at the heart of our public service broadcasting tradition? Will he, at the least, give an absolute assurance to the House that in the forthcoming legislation he will strengthen the provisions on broadcasting to ensure that the present protected list of events is maintained and extended?

Lord Inglewood: My Lords, the analysis of the noble Lord, with all his great experience of the traditions of public service broadcasting, is slightly at variance with mine. However, we keep the matter constantly under review and will continue to do so.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, leaving aside for the moment the question of extra-terrestrial viewers (whoever they may be), perhaps I may ask my noble friend whether he will refrain from taking too much comfort from the words of the Independent and ensure that we do not drift into a situation of monopoly and restriction which would not be acceptable?

Lord Inglewood: Yes, my Lords.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware—

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I am as always in the hands of the House, but I observe that we have under six minutes left with one further Question to come. Perhaps your Lordships may feel that the time has come to move on.

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Cable Network Connections

3.4 p.m.

The Earl of Bradford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have plans to make it compulsory for cable companies to connect all potential commercial and private customers within their franchise area that wish to join the cable network.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, cable operators who were awarded their franchises under the Cable and Broadcasting Act 1984 are required to cable past a specified number of premises each year. The final total is intended to represent the total number of homes in the franchise area. Operators who have been awarded local delivery franchises under the Broadcasting Act 1990 and who are permitted to provide services using radio are required to serve a minimum number of homes within the franchise area each year.

The Earl of Bradford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. I believe that he is a country dweller, as I am. Does he therefore share the concern of those living in the countryside that we shall once again be disadvantaged, that we shall be pushed to the bottom of the list, that the cost could be unacceptably high and that we shall not be able to share in the cable revolution?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, there is no cost premium for living in the countryside as regards cable television. But my noble friend will have to be patient as to when services are available. Cable companies may not differentiate in their charging structure between rural users within a franchise area and conurbation users.

Lord Peston: My Lords, as someone who has a satellite channel, I find it difficult to be worried about the problem. All we seem to get these days are 40 channels on which nothing is worth watching. Therefore, I am not convinced that country dwellers miss that much. Do I understand the Minister's Answer to be that in the country as well as in the towns there is a definite target for numbers of connections that must be made per year once a company has been given the franchise and that the ultimate target must be 100 per cent? Were those the two central parts of his reply or did I misunderstand him?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, they were absolutely the central part where there are franchised areas. About two-thirds of the country is covered by franchised areas. It is obviously not possible to expect a commercial cable company to cover remote rural areas.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, while the obligations in companies' areas should be observed, can anything be done to reduce the effects of cable-laying roadworks which lead to traffic disruption by taking out at least one lane and sometimes half the road?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, the benefits of cable are substantial. Streets must be dug up, but it is vital for such disruption to be kept to a minimum. Cable

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operators are keen to avoid unnecessary disturbance. All cable companies are committed to best practice and the practice is improving.

Lord Strabolgi: My Lords, can something be done to protect the trees? Many trees have been destroyed in London by the operators' carelessness.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, the Government and the cable industry are committed to protecting trees and there are guidelines in place. For example, hand digging is required around trees now rather than mechanical digging. That should certainly help to protect the roots.

Lord Shepherd: My Lords, regarding the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Croy, the House passed legislation which required roadworks to be completed within a particular time. If companies failed to do so, they were to pay a penalty. Can the noble Lord assure me that that part of the legislation has been implemented by regulation?

Lord Chesham: My Lords, I cannot answer that question at the moment. I shall write to the noble Lord.

Lord Shepherd: My Lords, I suspect that although it was passed three years ago that part of the legislation has not yet been implemented.

Criminal Injuries Compensation Bill

3.8 p.m.

Report received.

Clause 1 [The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme]:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey moved Amendment No. 1:


Page 1, line 8, after ("include") insert ("the establishment of a body to be known as the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority ("the Authority") and").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall take my usual deliberate time in order to allow those who have no interest in this important matter to leave quietly and gracefully. Amendment No. 1 and the amendments grouped with it arise from an exchange between the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, and the Minister at the end of the Committee stage two weeks ago. The former pointed out that although the Bill is entirely concerned with the setting up of an authority, a body, to deal with a scheme of compensation for criminal injuries, it makes no reference to the authority which is to be established. The only reference to the authority appears in the draft scheme that Ministers kindly circulated to those noble Lords concerned. The contribution of the noble Lord, Lord Windlesham, in Committee was extremely valuable. The noble Lord said:


    "I have made some inquiries as to what form it is expected to take. Will the authority have members? ... The answer is that it will not. Will it have a chairman? The answer is that it will not. Who, therefore, will administer this huge undertaking? The answer is that civil servants will administer it. To whom will they be responsible? Nominally, there is an authority, but it is invisible. It does not appear to have any identifiable form at all".—[Official Report, 17/10/95; col. 731.]

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The noble Lord therefore invited the Minister to consider the matter and to make the position clear before Report stage. The Minister did so. She wrote a very helpful letter on, I believe, 24th October—my photocopier is not all that good—in which she explained that there is indeed no reference to the criminal injuries compensation authority because:


    "It is not necessary, whether for Parliamentary, public accountability or other purposes, for the Bill to create a statutory body corporate through which the Secretary of State's arrangements can be carried out. In law, claims officers will, unless and until a Scheme manager is appointed, carry out the functions conferred on them by the Bill with respect to the determination of claims and the award of compensation".

There are two problems with this question and with the answer given to it. The first relates to the transparency of legislation. Here I do not believe that I make a party political point. It ought not to be the case that legislation is placed before Parliament which has a hidden sub-text of this importance. We are after all dealing with some 500 staff and many millions of pounds of public money. There are precedents for non-departmental public bodies, as there are precedents for Next Steps agencies, although the recent history of the relationship between the Home Office in particular and these agencies is not particularly happy. There is of course to be an inquiry into the relationship between the Home Office and the Secretary of State and one particular agency, the Prison Service. It appears that in this area the role of policy and that of administration have, to say the very least, become confused over the past couple of years. Therefore it is not satisfactory simply to assume that everyone knows what is meant by an agency. Everyone knows what is meant by a non-departmental public body—what we normally call a quango—and what the actual effect on responsibility is.

The Minister went on to describe the rules, the management statement that such a body has to make, and the general financial accountability framework. I find all that very helpful. I am grateful to the Minister for spelling it out. However, we ought not to have legislation before Parliament which is based on a sub-text and which does not spell out what Parliament is doing in providing for a scheme of this kind. That is my first and perhaps more general point.

My second point relates to a matter which did not become apparent to me—it was entirely my own fault—until some way into consideration of the Bill. The Bill is drafted very deliberately not only to exclude statutory reference to the authority but to provide for the subsequent contracting out of the criminal injuries compensation scheme. Again, the Minister very fairly refers to this in her letter. She states that references to the scheme manager if appointed, which occur in many places throughout the Bill, are references to what would happen if the provisions of the Act and the scheme were to be contracted out. I am not sure whether the word "privatised" is appropriate in these circumstances. The possible degrees and variations are very great indeed. Nevertheless, without public recognition, the possibility of contracting out is written into this Bill. The Government tell us that they have no immediate intention of doing so, and I accept that that is the current

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situation. However, at least for the next 18 months this Government have the opportunity to change their mind. They are quite capable of changing their mind and have done so on many comparable occasions in the past.

Therefore, in these amendments we seek, first, to achieve greater clarity in the drafting of the Bill by writing the criminal injuries compensation authority onto the face of the legislation. That is what it will be, and everyone acknowledges that. It should be a statutory body, as indeed it would have been if the provisions of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act had been brought into force. The second aim of the amendments is to ensure no subsequent possibility, without reference to Parliament, of contracting out the functions of the criminal injuries compensation authority.

Why am I concerned in particular that this authority should not have its services contracted out? We achieved after all, by a government amendment in Committee, a very much greater degree of parliamentary control over the detail of the scheme, and indeed the tariff, than some of us had believed possible when the Bill was first introduced. The scheme is certainly very much more flexible and accountable than the one introduced in 1994 that subsequently proved to be illegal. All of that is to the good. And, presumably, the statutory controls, accountability and flexibility enshrined in the draft scheme would survive under contracting out. That is surely a function for the public sector rather than one for the involvement of private enterprise. It is a function that is inherently part of the criminal justice system.

Criminal justice systems have been a part of the public sector and part of government since the beginning of government. I cannot think of any example in this country, other than the recent privatisation of prisons, where significant parts of the criminal justice system have been contracted out to private enterprise. There were some ideologically based attempts, but they were very minor and very much at the fringes. I believe that the people of this country expect their criminal justice system, as they expect their police and all fundamental functions of the apparatus of law and order in our state, to be part of the public system and to be accountable to Parliament. For those reasons I strongly oppose the suggestion that it should be possible, and that this Bill should make it possible, for the criminal injuries compensation authority to be contracted out subsequent to the passage of this legislation.

Therefore, Amendment No. 1 refers to the establishment of a criminal injuries compensation authority. In Amendments Nos. 3, 8, 10, 19, 25 and 26 we seek to remove references to the scheme manager, if appointed, because those references, as the Government openly stated, are references to the possible contracting out of the scheme. I apologise for the fact that I was working when I produced the groupings on an earlier version, my own version, of the Marshalled List. Therefore, Amendments Nos. 20 to 22, which refer to the panel, should have been grouped with Amendment

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No. 2 rather than with this amendment. With that apology and that explanation of these amendments, I beg to move.


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