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Lord McNally: --that legalism in their answers is no response to genuine public and cross-party concern about the concentration of media power? Would it not be far better if Ministers left our Competition Bill unamended in another place--I hope that there may be an indication that this time we shall have the support of the Opposition Front Bench--or will the Government give time to Mr. Clive Soley to bring forward the Bill that he has proposed to deal with this matter, or will the Government pass the matter over to one of their many review committees? In any event, will the Government realise that the concentration of media power is of real public concern and that chirping "no, no, no" from Mr. Rupert Murdoch's top pocket is no ministerial response?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, the Government are certainly aware of the public concern about media ownership. Regarding the amendment to the Competition Bill, the Government will advise the other place of the content of that Bill when it is debated there. However, the Government have made it clear that in their view the amendment is not only unnecessary but, what is more, it is unworkable.
Lord Naseby: My Lords, in his Answer the noble Lord suggested that as only 16 months have elapsed since the passage of the last Broadcasting Act, there has been insufficient time to review the provisions, but the Government have now been in power for 11 months, so is the House to understand that the Government's present policy is that they are entirely satisfied with the current proportions of ownership?
Lord Haskel: No, my Lords. As I explained in answer to an earlier question, the Director General of Fair Trading is in correspondence with other newspapers, and there is currently a review of broadcasting and the cross-ownership of the broadcasting media. When that review is completed and when the DGFT has received a response from the other broadsheet newspapers, the Government will be able to make a more informed decision.
Lord Peston: My Lords, my noble friend referred to the independent directors of The Times. Does he by any chance have to hand a list of those independent directors and, if so, could be read it out to the House?
Lord Haskel: My Lords, the sale of The Times to News International took place in 1981 when the matter of editorial independence was addressed by changing the company's articles of association. Consent to the transfer of The Times was given by the Secretary of State on that condition. His consent was dependent on the articles of association being amended to incorporate provisions to protect editorial independence. The amendment to the articles makes it clear that, in the event of any dispute between the editor and the directors of Times Newspapers, the matter has to be referred to the independent national directors whose decision shall be final and binding.
Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, will the noble Lord assist in this matter simply with a stroke of the pen by changing what he has described as a "review" into a "full-blooded inquiry", as is merited by the amount not only of public concern, but also of public suspicion? There should be no further delays in instituting such a change.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that if this House decides in due course to insist on their amendment, the Competition Bill will be at risk of delay for a year? Is he prepared to contemplate that or would the Government then be prepared to accept the amendment passed by this House?
Baroness Miller of Hendon: My Lords, I totally accept what the noble Lord said about there being nothing improper about any telephone conversation regarding British business which the Prime Minister may make, but does the noble Lord nevertheless agree that having received a negative answer from the Italian Prime Minister to the effect that the company would not be interested in being sold to Mr. Rupert Murdoch, that
Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lord Dubs will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on the report of the Narey Inquiry on security at the Maze Prison. I take this opportunity to remind the House that the Companion indicates that discussion on a Statement should be confined to brief comments and questions for clarification.
Lord Cope of Berkeley: My Lords, the House has already discussed the specific clauses of this Bill. I shall not go into the specific details of the Bill. However, before this House passes the Bill, I believe that it is important to set out again why it is necessary. This is an emergency Bill. The powers contained in it have proved to be long lived in a succession of measures but they have never been, and should not be, accepted as a permanent part of our arrangements--hence the need for regular renewal of the powers as provided for in the Bill.
Whatever the results of the talks, it is certain that some terrorists of both extremes will continue their deadly operations. I have long thought, and said when I was a Minister in the Province some years ago, that the momentum behind the terrorism is both political and financial. The financial rackets, based essentially on the ability to place people in genuine fear for their lives, provide some of the momentum for terrorism these days. That part of the momentum will survive any political settlement. But political agreement between the two governments and the various parties will not entirely remove the political momentum behind terrorism; it will only weaken it. That will be particularly so if the results of the agreement build in uncertainty. I refer to the plan for regular future referendums which was suggested a few days ago.
A lasting agreement, if it can be obtained, endorsed by the people will help immensely in the fight against terrorism but it will not switch it off like a tap. I believe that incidents that have occurred in the past few days underline that point. The cold-blooded murder of a retired policeman reminds us once again of the exceptional service and daily bravery of the Royal Ulster Constabulary and of all the security forces. The interception of a big car bomb at Dun Laoghaire emphasises the very good work that has been carried out by the Garda in this respect as well as the dangers to Great Britain and the Province. These outrages, taking place as they do during an official ceasefire, are an attempt to throw the talks into difficulty. They also cast a shadow forward.
The powers in this Bill will, I believe, remain necessary in order to defend democracy. It is important to be clear about this, particularly as it appears that some people even within the United Nations do not really accept this. These powers are not anti-democratic; on the contrary, they are essential for the defence of democracy. The purpose of terrorism is to distort democracy by terrorising people. This Bill is not against the rule of law but is to protect the rule of law. The Diplock courts exist because of the terrorisation of juries and witnesses. Mr. Cumaraswamy of the United Nations needs to understand this, if newspaper reports of his recent comments are correct. He is reported to have recommended the reinstatement of jury trials in the Province. That is not realistic at present and that is likely to remain the position for the immediate future.
The future of Northern Ireland is a matter for the decision of the people of Northern Ireland. They should be allowed to make a free decision. This Bill is part of the background which entitles people to make a free
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