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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I hear my noble friend Lord Barnett as always helping me by urging that they might call the position a speaker or a Lord President or even a Lord Chancellor. I know that he is just being mischievous.

A noble Lord: Or even a Wolsey.

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Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, or even a Wolsey. To return to my earlier point, this is a possible way forward. It is a basis for the IGC, which will not report for a year. In the nature of things, if we are to have intensive deliberations for virtually a year, many of these questions will not be answered until that time.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, can my noble and learned friend give some indication as to whether any progress has been made and, if so, how much and in specific terms what, on the matter of the acquis communautaire? My noble and learned friend will be as aware as I am, or possibly even more so, that until the recent conference, the position has been that new joiners to the Community have been required to accede to the whole question of acquis communautaire. For example, countries such as Poland would undertake not to disturb existing arrangements by virtue of which the new member states assume all the responsibilities agreed up to that time by the remainder of the Community. That is my first point.

My second point concerns more particularly the common agricultural policy. Is there any firm undertaking, or any glimmer of hope that the proceedings between now and the next conference will result in drastic changes to the common agricultural policy? The continued imposition of that policy means that this country, among others, pays far more into Community funds than it really needs. It may well be that these issues have been solved. The House would be much obliged if my noble and learned friend could give an indication that, even if they have not been solved, specific steps are being taken between now and the intergovernmental conference to alleviate them. Otherwise, there is bound to be a profound scepticism that anything—but anything—at all will change.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, on my friend's second point, as I indicated to the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, I cannot give a categorical assurance or a timetable about the changes that are required. I do not think that there is a single Member of your Lordships' House who does not dissent from the proposition that change is long overdue. I come back to my point: if the issue is dealt with in the agriculture council there is much more hope—because of QMV—than the unanimity rule would have offered in the present session, which has just finished.

On acquis communautaire, of course any new country joining the European Union looks for transitional arrangements where appropriate. I do not see any difficulty in that. After all, Turkey, which at the moment is simply a candidate country and not an accession candidate, has made quite significant changes to its own domestic arrangements to meet EU standards.

Lord Williamson of Horton: My Lords, as regards the constitutional treaty, which will of course replace a whole clutch of other treaties that are going on the bonfire, is it not important to stress in the public debate that this new constitutional treaty arises from a convention on which we have a large input from

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national Parliaments; that is, from the voice of the public in Europe. That is a quite different situation from the past. It may be fully understood in Westminster, but I really doubt whether it is fully comprehended in the country.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, that is an extremely important point and one with which I perhaps did not deal sufficiently when I was speaking in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Maclennan, about the reinvigoration of domestic parliaments as well as the reinvigoration of the institutions of the community. There has been a substantial input, not least from two Members of our own House. There has been a significant change of thinking. The final outcome so far, which is only a basis for the IGC, has benefited enormously and demonstrably by the input not least from parliamentarians from Westminster.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, perhaps I could briefly commend what the noble and learned Lord said vis-a-vis Iran. Our policy of critical but constructive support for major advances in democracy which have taken place there in the past eight years are in marked contrast to the American policy, which seems wholly counterproductive.

Briefly, building on what the noble Lord, Lord Williamson, just said, does the Minister accept that—and I go a good deal further than the noble Lord—for the vast majority of the people of this country the EU and all its works is a closed book—actually, no, it is a closed library of books.

The Minister talked about us having the confidence to stride forward. That sentiment rings here, in Whitehall, Westminster and among the chattering classes, but, for the vast majority of people, there is no confidence about striding forward. They are fearful of yielding sovereignty. There is a sense of going deeper and deeper into a mire from which we will never emerge with our traditional democracy attached.

So I simply say: either we have, as my noble friend Lady Williams says, a referendum, or—and I think second best—the Government really do try and communicate with the very ordinary citizen, not in the language of a traditional White Paper but in a studious attempt to present in language that he will understand and want to read, what are the key issues around this crucial turning point—as I think it is—in the history of European Union development.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's remarks about Iran. I was responding to the noble Baroness's particular proposition that there should be a White Paper. I think I answered appropriately by saying that I would take that idea forward to my colleagues. That does not exclude the national debate. The national debate is very important indeed. I could not agree more. The noble Lord spoke about a referendum being his first choice. There has only ever been one national

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referendum, which was in 1975. If we cherish parliamentary democracy, I think that we should be quite sparing in the use of referendums.

Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, could I—

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, I am afraid that we have run out of time.

Communications Bill

4.53 p.m.

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 3.

[Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

Lord Phillips of Sudbury moved Amendment No. 2A:


    Page 3, line 7, at end insert—


"( ) It shall be a further principal duty of OFCOM, in carrying out their functions, to further the purposes of public service broadcasting where relevant."

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Deputy Speaker and to the Officers of the House for allowing me to rescue Amendment No. 2 on the Marshalled List in the form of what is now Amendment No. 2A. It was my own inadvertence—or lack of competence perhaps it is more truthful to say—which meant that Amendment No. 2 would fall because of its language if Amendment No. 1 was duly passed. The wording of manuscript Amendment No. 2A is indistinguishable, but, none the less, technically it means that the amendment survives; it can be debated; and, if necessary, voted upon.

I shall not keep your Lordships long because in Committee we had a debate of over an hour's length on a similar amendment also tabled in the names of the noble Baronesses, Lady O'Neill and Lady Howe, my noble friend Lord McNally and myself. The House will remember that a dozen or so of your Lordships spoke, and all were in support of the amendment.

I think that the reason can be put quite briefly. The Government passed the Competition Act in 1998 and the Enterprise Act in 2002. This massive piece of legislation provides a very fulsome competition set of arrangements and provisions which, I would say, rather dominate the Bill. It is the wish of those who spoke in Committee—and I would like to think that it is still their wish—that we should retain a balance in this keystone clause, Clause 3, between the commercial and the competition considerations and what one might call the "cultural" considerations. My amendment is based upon a common-sense proposition; namely, that these non-competition aspirations and considerations should firmly underpin the Bill no less than the competition ones.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I have no idea what amendment this is. Perhaps the noble Lord can tell us.

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5 p.m.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for saving me confusing everyone. Amendment No. 2A is effectively the same as Amendment No. 2 on the Marshalled List. I was trying to explain that, for technical reasons, Amendment No. 2 fell when Amendment No. 1 was voted upon and passed, so the amendment is in effect reconstituted. I shall read it in its reconstituted form. It states:


    "It shall be a further principal duty of OFCOM, in carrying out their functions, to further the purposes of public service broadcasting where relevant".

I hope that that is now clear.

The cultural goods at the heart of the Bill, which go beyond the economic goods, need to be reflected at the commencement of the Bill in the same way as the competition and citizen elements are reflected. I hope that the Government will give the amendment their full-hearted support because it swims with the tide of their own intentions.

Clause 260(4) defines "the purposes of public service television broadcasting". I have used that phrase in my amendment. The following Clauses 260 to 266 expand on the duties of licensed public service broadcasters in that regard as well as providing powers to Ofcom if any of those broadcasters fail to live up to the requirements of Clauses 260 and 261. Ofcom will have powers of enforcement, although I remind the House—and this underpins what I said earlier about the dominance of the Bill being in competitive terms—that Clause 266, the enforcement clause, sounds at best an uncertain note in that regard and explicitly puts economic and market considerations on a pedestal above all other factors.

At Committee stage, in responding to the hour-long debate on an equivalent amendment, the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, made two principal points. His first point was that there was no definition in my amendment of what is meant by "public service broadcasting standards". I said then and I say now that the language I am using refers directly across to the language in Clause 260, which is very well defined. It contrasts markedly in terms of interpretation with the other language in Clause 3, which refers to the interests of consumers in relevant markets, which is very vague, and the interests of the community as a whole, which is also very vague.

The second objection raised by the noble Lord, Lord McIntosh, was that Part 1 of the Bill is not only about broadcasting but telecommunications generally. That point is covered by reference in my amendment to its application being "where relevant". That is a more suitable phrase than "where appropriate". Your Lordships will note that the word "relevant" already finds a place in Clause 3 and cross-refers directly to Clause 260(11), which describes "relevant television services" to include Channels 3, 4 and 5, public teletext, Welsh services and the BBC.

Some have wondered why the amendment does not embrace the whole of broadcasting beyond the six prescribed services and channels. The answer is that it

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would have been much too ambitious to have sought to drag in the whole of broadcasting. But, given that Clause 260 requires those outlets to subscribe to the standards laid down in Clauses 260 and 261, it is wholly appropriate that this provision should be in the landmark or keystone clause, Clause 3.

Incidentally, Clause 3(6) gives Ofcom discretion to resolve any clash between its general duties under Clause 3 as it thinks fit. So, again, there cannot be any objection on that ground.

Without this amendment the balance of interests that the Bill should preserve between commercial and cultural matters will be tilted too far in the direction of mere competition. To use the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Puttnam, in Committee, we really must embed and make explicit at the start of this vital legislation,


    "which moral universe this Bill is intended to inhabit".—[Official Report, 29/3/03; col. 583.]

The amendment will go some considerable way towards achieving that. I beg to move.


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