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Lord Thomson of Monifieth moved Amendment No. 218:

Page 82, line 5, at end insert--
("Exception from reservation
The Parliament may require the annual reports of the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Independent Television Commission to be laid before it.").

The noble Lord said: In moving the amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 219 and 220. They are simple amendments which do not arouse the moral dilemmas with which we wrestled on the previous issue. I hope that the purpose and language of the amendments are clear, even though they may well need revision by the experts if they are welcomed by the Government.

The Bill has a blanket reservation about the existing broadcasting Acts, as though nothing has changed or will change in broadcasting with the setting up of the

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Scottish parliament or the Welsh assembly. Unless we write something like the provisions of these amendments into the Bill, the Scottish parliament and executive will, in my view, be in a worse situation than the Scottish Secretary and the Scottish Office are at present.

My starting point is that broadcasting is an important part of what might be called the "cultural cement" that makes the three nations of mainland Britain a United Kingdom. But even the present situation is far from satisfactory. We are all intensely irritated, from time to time, in Scotland by the fact that if there is a breakdown in the London Underground which inconveniences the journalists that produce our so-called "national newspapers", that is main news. However, if the main east coast line in Scotland is blocked at Fife, that does not merit any coverage in the national news bulletins. So there is a problem there to be faced.

With a Scottish parliament and a Welsh assembly, it will be more difficult to get the balance of broadcasting arrangements right. It is vitally important that we should seek to do so. These modest amendments should help to bring that about. It is hardly a revolutionary proposal in Amendment No. 218 that the annual reports of the BBC and the ITC should be formally laid in the Scottish parliament so that Scottish broadcasting issues can be properly debated there. Then it would, I think, simply be daft if the funding of Gaelic broadcasting was to be determined in London--even in Dover House in London--and not in Holyrood.

Finally, on the issue of the Scottish Governor of the BBC and the Scottish member of the ITC, I am bound to confess that in my day, when I was chairman of the IBA, the way all appointments were made to the IBA and, indeed, to the BBC, remained a great mystery, though sometimes I was generously allowed a private comment on proposed membership. Certainly it was the case that the Secretary of State of the day was always consulted about the respective Scottish members of either the IBA or the BBC.

Now, thanks to the Nolan Committee, on which I had the honour to serve, we made recommendations about these matters and there is now a Public Commissioner for Appointments. There are mandatory advertisements for appointments and now there are rows about leakages of the appointment of the new Deputy Governor of the BBC whose speech we have just listened to on the previous amendment. The noble Baroness is no longer in the Chamber but we congratulate her on her post.

In the new situation it seems to us only common sense that the new Scottish executive and parliament should be consulted about these particular appointments to both the BBC Board of Governors and the Independent Television Commission. I beg to move.

Viscount Astor: I support the general tenor of the amendments moved by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth. We had a debate on broadcasting earlier on during this Committee. I feel, however, that the Government failed to answer the point of why broadcasting should be kept a reserved power. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, replied for the

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Government. I think that he did not consider what the difference is between the regulatory body that is the ITC, the Radio Authority and the BBC. They are different beasts doing different things.

The noble and learned Lord based his argument (at col. 492) on the fact that there would be a serious disincentive to companies investing in production in Scotland, and that the confidence of the industry is an important factor. Indeed, it is, but I believe that unless we establish a proper identity for Scottish broadcasting there will be very little investment in Scotland. I think that even the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth would agree with me on that.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, also said that the ITC is concerned with national broadcasting and, therefore, the same considerations apply to the ITC as the BBC. They are very different beasts. The BBC is a national broadcasting institution. It has local programmes--BBC Scotland--which cater for a local audience. The ITC is not a broadcaster. It is a regulatory body which licences ITV companies throughout Great Britain. There are separate ITV companies dealing with Scotland and, except for Border, they are all in Scotland.

The Radio Authority deals with local radio in Scotland. As the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, said, it really cannot make any sense that under the Government's proposals there will be less Scottish input into a radio station in Scotland than there was in the days of the IBA. This is a retrograde step. Local radio is for a local audience.

The noble Lord, Lord Gordon of Strathblane, spoke earlier in the Committee. He represents a radio station to which I was listening this morning, on the Clyde--and jolly good it was too. No broadcaster likes to think that there may be a body which will tinker with the licence conditions, which will make life more difficult. I accept that. The noble Lord supported the Government in a previous debate. But local radio is different. It is a very individual process.

I should not like to go further and devolve broadcasting totally to Scotland. I recognise that the ITC and the Radio Authority must have some rules which are national. Indeed, the BBC is a national institution. It binds this country together, although of course the Government want devolution. But those are important arguments.

Within that, there is a strong local input and we want that voice to be heard. My Amendment No. 217 took broadcasting out of reserved powers. The noble Lord, Lord Thomson, has been more modest in his proposal. He is trying to chip away at the Government's position by saying that the parliament will require annual reports of the BBC and the ITC. That must be good. The Scottish parliament must have a role in broadcasting. Independent production is extremely important in this country. We have quotas which we try to achieve as regards local content. That must be encouraged and the Scottish parliament should have a voice in that.

Also, the noble Lord's amendment deals with the funding of Gaelic broadcasting in Scotland and the appointment of the national governor of the BBC and a Scottish member of the ITC. Those are eminently

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sensible amendments. The Government were not able to accept my earlier amendment which provided that broadcasting should be devolved. I should prefer the establishment, as part of the ITC and the Radio Authority, of a separate office existing under national rules but dealing with local issues. That seems to me to be a sensible proposal. But the very least that the Government should do is to accept the extremely sensible amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, who has many more years' involvement in broadcasting than I have. I have sat on both sides of this Chamber when we have been dealing with broadcasting matters on different legislation and he has always made extremely sensible suggestions. I hope that the Government will accept these amendments.

Lord Gordon of Strathblane: I declared my interest when we discussed this matter last Thursday and some of the issues arose on that occasion, so I shall be brief.

I always hesitate to disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth, particularly as he was chairman of the Independent Broadcasting Authority and re-awarded our licence on one occasion, which was a very wise decision on his part. I hesitate also, to a slightly lesser extent, to disagree with the noble Viscount, Lord Astor, who was a Minister at the Department of National Heritage. Incidentally, in the press announcement from Downing Street today about the Cabinet changes, that department seems to have been renamed again, at least in the press release, the Department of National Heritage, which I would welcome. I prefer that to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. However, that may be a misprint. At all events, I recognise that the noble Viscount dealt with broadcasting and therefore knows the rules.

It seems to me that both the noble Lord and the noble Viscount have overlooked the fundamental point about broadcasting; namely, that governments do not regulate the content of broadcasting in this country. Unlike many third world countries and many eastern-European countries under a previous regime, we leave it to the broadcasters under the overall regulation of buffer regimes--whether it is the BBC's board of governors, the IBA or its successors, the ITC and the Radio Authority.

If we look at broadcasting legislation, it will be seen that we cannot devolve any of that; in other words, we cannot have a different code of advertising standards and practice in Scotland as regards programmes from that south of the Border. Similarly, we cannot decide to have a different pace of development of digital radio.

If we take the more modest approach of the noble Lord, Lord Thomson, there is really a difference of whether such matters are volunteered by the broadcasting authorities--I am quite sure that that will be the case; in fact, I know that it will be--or whether the Scottish parliament has the right uniquely to demand of a body that it lays documents before it, or has the right to summon witnesses. That would be the only case in which it would have the right to do so, as distinct from a simple request, when dealing with reserved matters.

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I believe that broadcasting should be a reserved matter. The people in broadcasting will willingly co-operate with the Scottish parliament whose main concern will be the content of Scottish broadcasting, not the regulation of it nor the legislation governing it. Indeed, there could be many more programmes on BBC Scotland which are produced in Scotland without any change in legislation. Moreover, no change in legislation could require the BBC to produce more programmes in Scotland. Likewise, the nature of independent broadcasting is determined by the people who win those licences. Therefore, there is no need for the amendment. I give way to the noble Viscount.

10.45 p.m.

Viscount Astor: I thank the noble Lord for giving way. I believe that the noble Lord is right to say that we do not want to have separate Scottish rules for the 1990 and 1996 broadcasting Acts. The noble Lord is also quite right to say that governments do not regulate broadcasting and that it is regulated by the ITC, the Radio Authority and the BBC under its Royal Charter. However, having said that, should not the noble Lord be supporting the suggestion that we put in the Bill an indication somewhere that the ITC and the Radio Authority should establish an independent body in an office in Scotland to deal with Scottish issues? That would mean that people who have such concerns in Scotland would be able to go to a Scottish office of the ITC to have their views listened to and not have to come all the way to London.

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