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Division No.
Division No. 1


Addington, L.
Anelay of St. Johns, B.
Annaly, L.
Astor, V.
Balfour of Inchrye, L.
Beaumont of Whitley, L.
Belstead, L.
Bridgeman, V. [Teller.]
Carlisle, E.
Carnegy of Lour, B.
Chalker of Wallasey, B.
Chesham, L.
Colwyn, L.
Cope of Berkeley, L.
Cranborne, V.
Dean of Harptree, L.
Dholakia, L.
Dixon-Smith, L.
Falkland, V.
Fookes, B.
Gardner of Parkes, B.
Geddes, L.
Gray of Contin, L.
Grey, E.
Grimston of Westbury, L.
Haddington, E.
Hampton, L.
Hamwee, B.
Harmar-Nicholls, L.
Harris of Greenwich, L.
Harrowby, E.
Hayhoe, L.
Hemphill, L.
Henley, L. [Teller.]
Hooson, L.
Kimball, L.
Kingsland, L.
Lucas of Chilworth, L.
Ludford, B.
Luke, L.
Lyell, L.
Mackie of Benshie, L.
McNally, L.
Maddock, B.
Mancroft, L.
Mar and Kellie, E.
Marlesford, L.
Miller of Chilthorne Domer, B.
Miller of Hendon, B.
Monson, L.
Montgomery of Alamein, V.
Northesk, E.
Palmer, L.
Pearson of Rannoch, L.
Plummer of St. Marylebone, L.
Prior, L.
Rankeillour, L.
Razzall, L.
Renton, L.
Rodgers of Quarry Bank, L.
Russell, E.
Seccombe, B.
Skelmersdale, L.
Skidelsky, L.
Soulsby of Swaffham Prior, L.
Stewartby, L.
Swinfen, L.
Thomas of Gresford, L.
Thomas of Gwydir, L.
Thomas of Walliswood, B.
Tope, L.
Trumpington, B.
Vinson, L.
Vivian, L.
Waddington, L.
Weir, V.
Williams of Crosby, B.
Winchilsea and Nottingham, E.
Windlesham, L.
Wise, L.


Acton, L.
Ahmed, L.
Allenby of Megiddo, V.
Alli, L.
Amos, B. [Teller.]
Archer of Sandwell, L.
Bach, L.
Blackstone, B.
Blease, L.
Borrie, L.
Bragg, L.
Bristol, Bp.
Brooke of Alverthorpe, L.
Brookman, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L.
Burlison, L.
Carmichael of Kelvingrove, L.
Carter, L. [Teller.]
Chandos, V.
Christopher, L.
Clarke of Hampstead, L.
Clinton-Davis, L.
Colville of Culross, V.
David, B.
Davies of Coity, L.
Davies of Oldham, L.
Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, B.
Desai, L.
Donoughue, L.
Dormand of Easington, L.
Evans of Watford, L.
Farrington of Ribbleton, B.
Gallacher, L.
Gilbert, L.
Glenamara, L.
Gordon of Strathblane, L.
Goudie, B.
Graham of Edmonton, L.
Grenfell, L.
Hacking, L.
Hardie, L.
Hardy of Wath, L.
Harris of Haringey, L.
Hayman, B.
Hilton of Eggardon, B.
Hogg of Cumbernauld, L.
Hollis of Heigham, B.
Hoyle, L.
Hughes, L.
Hughes of Woodside, L.
Hunt of Kings Heath, L.
Janner of Braunstone, L.
Jay of Paddington, B. [Lord Privy Seal.]
Jenkins of Putney, L.
Judd, L.
Kirkhill, L.
Levy, L.
Lockwood, B.
Lofthouse of Pontefract, L.
Macdonald of Tradeston, L.
McIntosh of Haringey, L.
Mackenzie of Framwellgate, L.
Mallalieu, B.
Milner of Leeds, L.
Molloy, L.
Molyneaux of Killead, L.
Monkswell, L.
Montague of Oxford, L.
Morris of Castle Morris, L.
Murray of Epping Forest, L.
Nicol, B.
Orme, L.
Pitkeathley, B.
Plant of Highfield, L.
Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L.
Prys-Davies, L.
Puttnam, L.
Ramsay of Cartvale, B.
Randall of St. Budeaux, L.
Rea, L.
Renwick of Clifton, L.
Sainsbury of Turville, L.
Sawyer, L.
Sefton of Garston, L.
Sewel, L.
Shepherd, L.
Simon, V.
Simon of Highbury, L.
Stoddart of Swindon, L.
Symons of Vernham Dean, B.
Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Thomas of Macclesfield, L.
Thornton, B.
Turner of Camden, B.
Uddin, B.
Varley, L.
Walker of Doncaster, L.
Warner, L.
Watson of Invergowrie, L.
Weatherill, L.
Whitty, L.
Williams of Elvel, L.
Williams of Mostyn, L.
Young of Old Scone, B.

Resolved in the negative, and amendment disagreed to accordingly.

2 Mar 1999 : Column 1613

7.8 p.m.

Clause 22 [Screening witness from accused]:

[Amendment No. 33 not moved.]

Clause 23 [Evidence by live link]:

[Amendment No. 34 not moved.]

Clause 24 [Evidence given in private]:

Viscount Astor moved Amendment No. 35:

Page 18, leave out lines 40 and 41 and insert ("or
(d) bona fide representatives of newspapers or news agencies.").

The noble Viscount said: Amendments Nos. 36, 37 and 38 are grouped with Amendment No. 35. These amendments concern the press. I welcome Amendment No. 36 standing in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, which I believe addresses the concerns raised in my Amendments Nos. 37 and 38. If that is not the case, I am sure that the noble Lord will explain to me the way in which the amendments differ.

An important issue is raised in Amendment No. 35, which goes further than the amendments grouped with it. As currently drafted Clause 24(2) provides that representatives of newspapers and news agencies are included in the group that can be removed from the court.

The Guild of Editors and various other press organisations are concerned about this very general power. They feel that it is not consistent with the

2 Mar 1999 : Column 1614

principle of open justice and the long-standing exception to permit the press to be present as the public's representative when other members of the public are excluded in similar circumstances. There are plenty of circumstances in which the public are excluded but the press is allowed to remain. One asks why in those circumstances the press should be allowed to stay. At Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, cited the example of a hostile press, for example those who represented the National Front or something of that kind. There is clear evidence--no doubt the noble Lord will put me right if I am wrong--that if a reporter sought to intimidate a witness in court, in any court building, on the way to court, or in any publication or coverage of the case that affected the witness's willingness to testify or changed his or her evidence, the existing law of contempt and the powers of the court would be sufficient to deal with that problem.

The Government appear to take the view that there are exceptional circumstances in which the press should be excluded. Quite naturally, that has caused alarm bells to ring. I am aware that the Minister is concerned about this matter and has had meetings with representatives of the press. As he said at an earlier stage, he is a supporter of the press and its ability to report court proceedings. I believe that in this electronic age when there are cameras in court it is important that information technology should allow the press immediate access to transcripts. I should like the Minister to address that point because it would clear up confusion in the mind of the media as to exactly how the Government see the process working.

It is difficult to envisage a case in which media representatives should merit total exclusion and that the discomfort felt by witnesses could not be met by other means now within the powers, for example by means of technology. If the press lacks an absolute right to live links, transcripts and tape recordings, fair and accurate reports will be very difficult to produce. That is probably the most important issue that is raised by Clause 24.

While thanking the Minister for going some way to alleviate our concerns and also for the meetings that I know he has had with representatives of the press, I do not believe that this issue has been satisfactorily resolved. This is an opportunity for the noble Lord to explain the Government's thinking on this matter so that noble Lords can give the matter careful consideration. I beg to move.

7.15 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, this amendment is grouped with Amendments Nos. 36 to 38. I briefly repeat my comments of a few moments ago. I said in Committee that I would have further discussions with the media. We have had useful discussions with the broadcast and print media. I am particularly grateful to Miss Santha Rasaiah of the Guild of Editors and the Newspaper Society who has been very patient and extremely helpful in putting forward what I recognise to be genuinely held concerns within the press.

2 Mar 1999 : Column 1615

I do not believe that the noble Viscount is right in one respect. He gave the example of the presence of National Front reporters and said that that would amount to contempt. That is not so, unless they committed an act of contempt by way of harassment or intimidation. Their presence might in some circumstances disturb witnesses, but I believe that to be a marginal point. The amendments that I have tabled are designed specifically to make clear that the court should exclude the press only where it expressly wishes to do so rather than as a matter of routine or assumption.

The noble Viscount rightly pointed out in Committee that the very fact that the press was currently the only group specified on the face of the Bill perhaps suggested that it should be excluded more regularly than other groups. That is quite the opposite of our intention. I tried to give the press a safeguard that it could not be excluded without a deliberate decision by the court in particular circumstances. Undoubtedly, that would be a greater safeguard for our colleagues in the press. Whether or not that is sufficient for their purposes is another question. I am still in correspondence with them. Based on my latest instructions, I hope to have a meeting with them at 11 o'clock tomorrow morning.

The second amendment is a specific protection for the press. The noble Viscount is quite correct that its purpose is essentially that of his last amendment; namely, continuation of the protection by way of

    "privilege or exemption from liability in respect of fair, accurate and contemporaneous reports of legal proceedings held in public".
What I seek to do in that amendment has the same purpose as that which underlies his Amendment No. 38. Therefore, to that extent he is quite right.

My amendment is not set in stone. I want to assist the press as fully as possible. We had extremely good discussions in the context of the Data Protection and Human Rights Acts and were able to reach a compromise that satisfied all parties. I stress that I recognise the importance of a free press in reporting court proceedings. Any exclusion of the press should be extremely rare. I table these amendments at this stage, but I am still considering whether or not the present amendments in my name are as good as we can get them. I hope that on that basis and with fairly vigorous reassurance--however, there can be no promises--the noble Viscount will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

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