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Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, to my knowledge it has been recognised since 1991 at government level that different models may be more appropriate for different authorities depending on the circumstances of those elected. A pattern which allowed a split in terms of an executive role, with a smaller number of full-time councillors, would permit the election of other people with fewer demands on their time during the day. They would be able to represent their communities in a different way. That could be a very good model for encouraging more women to become active in local government.

Earl Russell: My Lords, further to the question put by my noble friend Lady Hamwee, does the Minister agree that, pending the abolition of capping, central government limits leave local authorities no more control over their spending than Conservative spending limits leave this Government over their spending?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, it is because of the concerns we have that we have undertaken consultation on good financial management and arrangements between central and local government. I shall not trespass on national Treasury questions in the context in which the noble Lord invites me.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the trend over 50 years of diminishing electoral interest in local government is almost precisely reciprocated by a trend in the opposite direction of increasing moneys coming from central government so that there is less and less of a direct relationship between a local councillor and the taxes he raises? Does she agree that that is a deep, indeed fundamental, problem? I am aware that the Government are examining the question of capping in a marginal way. However, is there any strategic ambition to do anything about that fundamental problem?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: My Lords, I congratulate and compliment the noble Lord. I am aware of the many hours, indeed years, of his time that he has personally devoted to local government. It is precisely because of those concerns that the consultation

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on the future financing of local government is taking place. An evaluation will be made by the Government at the end of the consultation process.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, can the noble Baroness reconcile the answers given so far about power being in the hands of local government and the creation of organisational committees and an adjudicator as set out in the School Standards and Framework Bill?

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Yes, my Lords. As the noble Baroness is aware, the heresy--

Noble Lords: Oh!

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: Inheritance, my Lords. The inheritance and legacy of the present Government from the government of the noble Baroness was a fragmentation of the education service. The purpose of the proposals for the new committees is to bring together at local level all partners in providing education for children in that locality. My experience in Lancashire leads me to believe that the local partners will wish to work well together in the way suggested in the government proposals.

Feature Films: Lottery Funding

3 p.m.

The Viscount of Falkland asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are concerned about the performance at the box office of feature films which have received lottery funding towards part of their production costs.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am aware that there has been criticism of lottery film funding on the basis of box office performance, but I take the opposite, more positive view. Films which do well at the box office return money to the National Lottery, which can be re-used; films which have been less successful at the box office still extend the range of what is on offer to the public. In addition, films which have not attracted many UK cinemagoers may yet reach larger audiences through international sales and video and television exploitation.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I agree with most of what he said. Does he agree that the present programme of funding of film through the lottery is a complicated and long-term business, although the funding is obviously very welcome to the industry? It is probably inappropriate at this stage to comment on the success or failure of individual films. However, as the noble Lord said, there has been some critical comment in the press. Will he therefore reiterate the long-term aims of the Government in supporting the film industry and tell us how the Government would monitor that over that long period?

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I could make a long and positive speech in response to that question. The noble Viscount is right that we have yet to see, after less than two years, the full fruits of the lottery funding. But the thrust of our policy, through the film policy review, as the noble Viscount knows, is not so much support for production as support for distribution, which is the weak link in so much of the British film industry.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is part of the duty of government to supply finance for any area of the arts which is unable to sustain itself by box office alone?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the film industry is a curious industry, in the sense that it has enormous economic and commercial importance, as well as very considerable cultural importance. To that extent, my noble friend is right. It is right that, for both commercial and cultural reasons, we should continue to find ways to help the British film industry. These need not necessarily be directly through government funding.

Lord Puttnam: My Lords, does my noble friend agree with me that, implicit in the noble Viscount's Question, and in my noble friend's Answer, is the extraordinary chaos and confusion which exist over the collection and analysis of statistics related not just to the film industry but to many other related areas, and the equal chaos and confusion caused by ill-informed press speculation on matters which the press truly does not understand? Can the Government reassure me that a much better statistical base will be created for these industries so that the press can be dealt with effectively and policy can be created in an intelligent manner?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend is right, to the extent that the press comment about the success of lottery-funded films has been about the UK box office receipts. As has been clear from the previous questions and answers, they are only a very small part of the total receipts. There are also international sales and video and television exploitation. In many cases, receipts from those areas greatly outweigh the UK box office receipts, which are all that are available to us for the moment. In due course, because of the agreements which have been reached between the film producers who have received lottery funding and the Arts Council for England, we shall know more about the total receipts because returns will be made to the lottery funds. In that way, we shall achieve the objective to which my noble friend rightly draws attention.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind the lack of diversity of films available to the general public in the United Kingdom, the films available being predominantly American blockbusters, can my noble friend tell the House what action the Government are considering to introduce more diversity in the distribution and availability of films for the British public?

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, again, my noble friend is right, in the sense that a good deal of film production and a very high proportion of film exhibition in this country is in other than British hands. Even though there are more screens than previously, and box office receipts in this country have increased and our film industry is going through a very successful phase, it is still true that a large number of British films fail to find a distributor. That is why, as I indicated earlier, the film policy review is working urgently on the distribution side, to help with the production of copies of films and with advertising and marketing, which appear to us to be the greatest areas of weakness.

Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Bill [H.L.]

3.5 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.--(Lord Clinton-Davis.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

[The page and line refer to Bill (132) as first printed for the Commons.]


Clause 2, page 1, leave out from the beginning of line 21 to the end of line 10 on page 2 and insert--

("(2) In this Act "contract for the supply of goods or services" means--
(a) a contract of sale of goods; or
(b) a contract (other than a contract of sale of goods) by which a person does any, or any combination, of the things mentioned in subsection (3) for a consideration that is (or includes) a money consideration.
(3) Those things are--
(a) transferring or agreeing to transfer to another the property in goods;
(b) bailing or agreeing to bail goods to another by way of hire or, in Scotland, hiring or agreeing to hire goods to another; and
(c) agreeing to carry out a service.
(4) For the avoidance of doubt a contract of service or apprenticeship is not a contract for the supply of goods or services.
(5) The following are excepted contracts--
(a) a consumer credit agreement;
(b) a contract intended to operate by way of mortgage, pledge, charge or other security; and
(c) a contract of a description specified in an order made by the Secretary of State.
(6) An order under subsection (5)(c) may specify a description of contract by reference to any feature of the contract (including the parties).

10 Jun 1998 : Column 1008

(7) In this section--
"business" includes a profession and the activities of any government department or local or public authority;
"consumer credit agreement" has the same meaning as in the Consumer Credit Act 1974;
"contract of sale of goods" and "goods" have the same meaning as in the Sale of Goods Act 1979;
"property in goods" means the general property in them and not merely a special property.")

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I wish to speak also to Amendments Nos. 3, 6 and 7. Amendment No. 1 to Clause 2 is technical and the other amendments in the group are consequential. The changes ensure that contracts which are part service provision and part supply of goods are covered. We had been relying on the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 for our definition of

    "contract for the transfer of goods"


    "contract for the hire of goods".

However, we were advised that the 1982 Act did not foresee the possibility that a contract might be for supply of a good or goods, in the singular or plural, and the provision of a service. The amendment makes clear that such contracts will be covered by the legislation.

We also took the opportunity, in redrafting the clause, to make clear that contracts where the consideration is part money and part something else are covered. It will, of course, be only the money element of the consideration that will bear the interest. This idea is already in the Bill, expressed at Clause 2(3)(a). I think, however, that it is important that the Bill be as transparent as we can make it.

Amendment No. 7, in light of the amendments made to Clause 2, revises Clause 16, which provides definitions of terms used in the Bill. The definitions are now more free-standing and less dependent on other Acts, which makes for clarity.

Amendment No. 3 to Clause 4 and Amendment No. 6 to Clause 11 reflect the fact that the term,

    "a contract for the hire of goods",

is no longer defined in the Bill.

Although the amendments are somewhat lengthy, their effect is technical and they help to clarify the extent of the Bill. I hope the House will agree the amendments.

Moved, That this House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.--(Lord Clinton-Davis.)

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