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Lord Bragg: My Lords, I should like to support my noble friend the Minister in his amendments which I think are very welcome and very well thought through. I should also like to support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester with regard to his remarks about religious programmes. Those of us who make them find them extremely difficult to make. They are extraordinarily valuable. They reach out across the community in ways that no other programmes do. It is very welcome indeed to have the Bill reinforce them.

In this supportive mood, I should finally like to support the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall. However, I should like to extend his definition which provides,


Why does that not apply to the arts, sciences, politics, documentaries and nature programmes which are often more distinctly for British public service broadcasting across the four channels than is drama? I know that this is a quixotic request and that the time is late. I am not going to press it. I nevertheless thought it worth burying in Hansard. Who knows, one day it could be excavated.

Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, I rise simply to support with great pleasure the amendment moved by my noble friend Lord Lea of Crondall. Having spent most of my life working in and around drama I find it enormously encouraging to see it put forward as an issue itself. It would also be particularly nice to imagine a future in which less of the drama that appeared on television involved police uniforms and white coats. Perhaps we were looking at a slightly wider range.

Viscount Falkland: My Lords, I am prompted to rise—and I had not intended to—to speak to the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall, Amendment No. 24A, concerning original theatre. Over the weekend, I was sitting in my car and I heard a radio broadcast by the celebrated actor, Tim Piggott-Smith. As many of your Lordships will recall, he was one of the stars of "A Jewel In The Crown". He spoke interestingly about his life in the theatre, but I was interested particularly in a remark that he made towards the end of that broadcast that is relevant to this amendment. He said that he thought that legitimate theatre in this country had shifted over the past 20 years slightly away from the centre of our culture. That rang a bell with me. As an impressionable young man, I worked for a theatrical agent and went around the country to repertory companies. At that time, theatre and drama were available to a much wider range of people. Nowadays, West End theatre relies increasingly on celebrities and star performers to draw audiences. Admittedly, there is interesting work going on in fringe theatre, but this amendment is absolutely correct. Television drama,

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which reaches large audiences, can explore areas which perhaps legitimate theatre is finding more difficult to address. It is important that that fact should be given recognition in the way that is suggested by the amendment of the noble Lord. I have no disagreement. I cannot follow my noble friend Lord Holme of Cheltenham on the drafting of it. "Issues" perhaps has some connotations which might be worrying, but I cannot think of a better word myself, so I shall not criticise it.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, perhaps I may speak to Amendment No. 133E. It is in this group, but it has so far been orphaned. I am not surprised, because it seems to be ill-grouped. However, it is there and unless someone speaks to it now, it will be lost.

The amendment would toughen up Clause 266, which is the enforcement clause in the Bill. That is a vital clause because, frankly, all of the laboured and intense discussion that we have had over many days, including the one just now about the content of Clause 260, which relates to public service broadcasting standards and the purposes of public broadcasting, would come to nought if Ofcom has such feeble powers to uphold those standards as to be, so to speak, honoured in the breach.

As it stands, Clause 266(1) states that if Ofcom is of the opinion that a licensed public service provider has failed to meet the requirements of Clauses 260 or 261, no action can be taken unless—and this is the rub—


    "Ofcom are of the opinion that the failure of the provider is serious"—

well, fair enough—


    "and is not excused by economic or market conditions".

Many Members of this House are of the view that that excuse does so much to weaken the enforcement test that it should be taken out. Ofcom has to be of the opinion that the provider has failed; it has to be a serious failure; and that is enough. As I have said on previous occasions, it is a little like saying that in future shoplifting will not matter if the person who has done it is hard-up on the day.

A further point to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention is that Clause 266(3) states that even if Ofcom is of the opinion that the failure of the provider is serious, it still cannot proceed unless it has regard to a number of further factors, one of which is,


    "general economic and market conditions affecting generally the providers of television programme services".

So, at any event, it is there later on in the clause. I wonder what power Ofcom will ever have to make sense of the key cause, Clause 260, if those words are not removed.

In closing, I ask a pregnant question. The enforcement clause begins by saying:


    "This section applies if OFCOM are of the opinion that the provider . . . has failed",

but can Ofcom come to that opinion at any time, or is it implied that the decision must be taken during one of the five-yearly reviews provided for in Clause 260? I sincerely hope that the Minister will say that Ofcom

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can come to such an opinion at any time. Otherwise, again, the whole mechanism vis-a-vis enforcement will be altogether too feeble.

6.45 p.m.

Lord Lipsey: My Lords, I rise in response to the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury. I understand why he is concerned about the economic tests, but they seem to offer a sensible flexibility for Ofcom. We may be entering a world in which ITV will be a much less economically healthy organisation, although I hope that that is not true. Inevitably, that would affect its ability to pay its way—which it must do—and also its ability to meet its public service obligations. If we are to future-proof the Bill, Ofcom must be able to make allowances of some kind for that. The Bill as drafted allows for that, but the amendment would not assist with it.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Lipsey, sits down, will he not concede that there is already a second provision, which I just read out? There is a double provision, so the first reference is not needed.

Lord Lipsey: My Lords, it may be otiose, but I would prefer to have belt and braces than neither.

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I rise briefly to welcome the government amendments. I also strongly support Amendment No. 124A, which was moved by the noble Lord, Lord Lea of Crondall. It is hugely important to include high quality drama in the public service remit, although I question the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Bragg, when he said, "Why should we stop with drama? What about arts and science?" The noble Lord, Lord Bragg, even mentioned politics, God forbid. It is certainly a good amendment and I hope that the Government accept it.

I also have a lot of sympathy for the amendments proposed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester. Although I accept some of what the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, said—such as his concern about the definition of "beliefs", which does present a problem—the spirit behind the amendment is tremendously important. The more that young people can be exposed to programmes containing discussion of different religions and beliefs, the more we support practical ways of breaking down barriers, so it is hugely helpful.

I am also very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Howe of Idlicote, for clarifying the intention behind Amendment No. 131, about which, as the noble Baroness quite rightly said, I was concerned in Committee. Now that I understand that the amendment would encourage original programmes for children and young people that have a high content of the United Kingdom's history, culture and tradition, I entirely support what the noble Baroness is trying to achieve.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I respond to the non-government amendments in this group. First,

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we have some difficulties with the wording of Amendment No.124A, including those mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham. However, I gladly invite everyone who put their names to the amendment—indeed, anyone who has spoken on the subject—to talk to me between now and Third Reading to see whether any progress can be made.

Amendment No. 129A, in the names of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester and the noble Lord, Lord Phillips of Sudbury, would amend the wording of our amendment to include a specific provision for discussion of different religions and beliefs. I can give an absolute assurance or an unqualified undertaking—I could use any of the appropriate phrases in such circumstances—that the provision of news and information, which is in our amendments, can encompass discussion, for example, by way of analysis and the presentation of different perspectives and points of view. The same could go for programmes about the history of different religions and other beliefs. So the additional wording proposed by Amendment No. 129A is unnecessary. I liked the example, on the definition issue, given by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Manchester involving Sydney Smith. My favourite definition is from Ernest Bevin, who said that socialism is the policy of the Labour Party at any one time.


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