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Viscount Falkland: My Lords, while we may all agree with the sentiments behind the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, is not the reality that for many years the major public service broadcaster in this country--and the same situation prevailed in other countries--had a virtual monopoly and sports bodies were almost having to pay to be on television? The boot is now on the other foot and so we are all to blame--broadcasters and Parliament--for not having the foresight to see that that situation would arise. It will be extremely difficult to return to a position of equity in relation to sports coverage provided by public service broadcasters.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am not sure that I agree that we are to blame for what is an almost inevitable development, as the noble Viscount acknowledges. It is still the case that the BBC covers 50 sports. In addition to the listed events which it covers, it covers in football the World Cup and the European championships, the Olympic Games, the Grand National, in golf the Open. There is a tremendous amount of free-to-air terrestrial coverage of sport in this country. Clearly people want it and that is why it is so popular.

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, is not my noble friend concerned that the BBC recently lost the right to show Test match cricket? Also, it is now almost impossible to see live football on BBC. Matters will be worse even for those who have gone over to cable TV because

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pay-as-you-view is now coming in. In future, people will have to pay not only for a licence, but also a fee to Sky for many of the most important TV sporting events.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, my noble friend referred to cricket. In the cricket World Cup, which is taking place at the moment, three out of the four England matches are on BBC, three out of the four Scotland matches are on BBC as is one of the two semi-finals and the BBC also has a share in the broadcasting of the final. That is quite a lot of coverage. When my noble friend talks about other sports, I have to remind him that this is the first occasion on which both Rugby Union and Rugby League have been among the listed events.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, perhaps I can make a plea for the noble Lord to put forward a case for sport for the disabled. When the basketball World Cup for the disabled was being played, there was absolutely no coverage at all. It is extremely good viewing and the players are very brave people. Will the noble Lord put forward a case for at least some disabled sports to be televised in the future?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the noble Baroness makes a persuasive case, with which I am happy to agree. It is, of course, a matter for the broadcasters to decide what they put on air, but I am sure they will listen to what the noble Baroness says.

Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, in the list of sports outlined by my noble friend there seemed to be very little, if any, coverage of women's sports. Are the Government making representations to ensure that women's sports feature on television?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have the greatest sympathy with what my noble friend says, as I had with the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington. One of the features of popular spectator sports is that most of them are for men. With the exception of athletics, tennis and some other sports, it is difficult to find the same enthusiasm for sports played by women. I find that utterly deplorable and would like to see far more sport in which women participate on television.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, is the Minister aware that one way in which television viewers can defend their interests is by not subscribing to Sky TV?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that is a personal decision for the noble Lord.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, I understood my noble friend to say how much money was being spent by the BBC in order to secure sport on television. Can he tell the House how that compares with the amount paid by Sky and ITV?

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, offhand I cannot. I am not even sure that the figures are available. If they are I shall certainly write to my noble friend.

Lord Renton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a problem arises when there is a great deal of international cricket taking place and simultaneously a great deal of interesting football? It would be much better, as digital television develops, for those of us who are keen on cricket to be able to watch as much cricket as possible all the time and not have our viewing disturbed by football, which does not interest us quite so much. Therefore, will the noble Lord prevail upon the broadcasting authorities to develop digital television in a specialised sporting way?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not feel that I should intervene in a debate on preferences for individual sports. I see the noble Lord, Lord Cowdrey of Tonbridge, is amused by the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Renton. In fact there has been a huge amount of coverage recently of sporting events; for example, European Champions' League football, Formula One, the US Masters golf, the Davis Cup, as well as all the listed events. I seem to remember that both last summer and the summer before the media were talking as though it were an entire summer of sport. If that is to be the case, there has to be some sort of balance between cricket and other sports. Those who, like me, prefer music on Radio 3 have been offended to find it supplanted by cricket.

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, I was a little concerned to hear that the majority of the sports mentioned by the Minister are on ITV, which is funded by advertising, rather than the BBC. Is the Minister aware that a sport in which I am particularly interested--equestrianism--is very much female oriented, I am glad to say? Will the Minister therefore encourage more equestrian sports in which we are world leaders?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the original Question referred to sports being seen on television by all those who paid a licence fee. That applies equally to ITV as to the BBC and I do not believe there is any distinction in availability between them. The fact that one is supported by advertising does not affect the situation very much. I am glad to add equestrianism to the list of sports advocated so powerfully by my noble friend Lady Gould of Potternewton.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, how do the Government decide whether or not a sport is a major sport? Are they not likely to offend many people just to please a few?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, with great difficulty. The announcement of the new listed events in June of last year was achieved only after many months of negotiation between sports bodies and broadcasting organisations and having taken account of the substantial public debate which took place on the subject. There is no one good answer to listing events

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for free-to-air terrestrial television. It will always be a compromise and some people will always be dissatisfied.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, is it not the case that many of our fellow citizens will only be able to watch tonight's important game in which Manchester United will win the European Cup because sensitive legislation interfered with market forces? Should we not rejoice, therefore, that the Government are keeping this developing situation under very close review?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I shall not be drawn into speculation about anything that may be happening this evening, particularly as I shall be on duty at this Dispatch Box throughout the period when it takes place--to my great relief, as my noble friend Lady Hollis reminds me.

There is and always has been a case for intervention by the Government in the interests of those who are not able, for many reasons, to have access to any television other than free-to-air terrestrial television.

Incapacity Benefit

2.58 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What recent representations they have had about their proposal to change the rules of entitlement to incapacity benefit, and what action they are taking.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): My Lords, the Government received a number of representations about the proposals to restore incapacity benefit to its proper role as a benefit for people who have had to cease work because of illness or disability and to extend it to those severely disabled young people who have never been able to work. We responded positively to a number of points made to us and will continue to listen to representations.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, my noble friend is aware that my interest in this benefit derives from much involvement in creating it. Did not the Benefit Integrity Project, now abandoned after finding not one case of proven fraud, explode the myth that disabled people are benefit cheats as a crude and cruel insult? Is not the truth that £5 billion to £6 billion goes unclaimed in disability living allowance alone? When will improving the take-up of disability benefits be prioritised? And are Ministers publicising the Government Actuary's highly expert advice to them that, due to relatively low benefits here:

    "future costs of social security in the UK look much more manageable than in other European countries"?

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    Would it not be wise now to think more deeply, to distinguish between reform and retreat, and to do so in consultation, not conflict, with disabled people?

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